Captain Cedric Whittaker stood at the bow resting his weight upon his hands. It was cold in the upper atmosphere of this small world. Snow was beginning to fall and the already grey skies were beginning to fill with a haze of white.
Flakes dropped into his eyes and melted on his clothes. He shivered to himself despite his coat and looked at his cuff with impatience growing in his eyes. The ship of soldiers that he had been hired to meet was late…and that seemingly never turned out well.
They had been called to meet Captain Chambers, a man of fair reputation as a goods runner and smuggler for the rebellion. He had brought weapons and food supplies to small and damaged ships under the nose of the Order vessels in his sector for months. His ship, the Charmelle, was a small single engined skiff capable of housing a twenty man crew. He and his men had requested an alliance, with the promise of a larger loot if they were to help them with an issue. But the ship was beginning to look as though it would not show…and Cedric was not about to be ambushed in a strange little uninhabitded world like this.
From around the bow, Amelia came towards him. Her head was covered in a large fur hat. The stole about her shoulders was made of a similar material and framed up her face in an off white mane of warmth.
“Any sign of them?”
Seeing the apprehension in her husband’s face she began again, “Well, Maybe they’re just late.”
Cedric would only shake his head, “I don’t like it. Call down to Wyatt and get the engines running.”
She felt the quiet of the air and nodded, “You got it.”
Amelia made her way as quickly as she had come back down into the hold. She shook herself free of the fallen snow and grabbed up the comm just inside her jacket.
“Wyatt, Seamus, Lets make tracks, Captain wants to move.” There was a moment of static and the hum of the aether engines started up in the background.
“Heard, Amelia.” Seamus replied.
“Anywhere in particular?” Wyatt chimed in only a moment later.
“Just somewhere hidden. Captain seems to think the meeting was fishy.”
The ship began to move slowly at first but turned quite quickly. Whittaker, then satisfied that they were making the safe choice turned inside himself. The entry was empty, but he didn’t stop to shake the snow from his coat. With a few strides he walked onto the main deck and looked about at the instruments.
“Where are we headed, Wyatt?”
“Uh, about thirty miles north of here there will be a series of mountains. I picked a spot between a few peaks where the wind won’t move us around too much.”
“Fantastic. Just keep us nice a steady…nothing out of the ordinary.”
The ship sailed on in the aether rich air for nearly twenty miles before the equipment in the warm room began to blip unexpectedly. Wyatt stopped his game momentarily and tilted his head making a sort of squeaking sound.
“Well, that’s odd.”
“What is?” Amelia looked up.
“Well, it seems my internal directional facilitator-”
“Yes, the compass…has stopped functioning…it can’t find a polarity.”
Amelia turned quickly to the panel and screen before her. The computer blipped loudly as she flipped and toggled a handful of switches.
“Don’t yell at me!” she smacked the side of the console enthusiastically, “Work!”
It took no time at all before the captain became aware of what was going on. Joining his wife they scrambled to get back on track.
“Just keep us right here, Wyatt. Seamus! All engines stop!”
“Aye, Sir!” A pair of voices echoed up.
Audra jumped from her sitting position to help Seamus bring the ship to a stop. Gears and pipes ground against one another as the levers that allowed the anti-gravity drives to spin came screeching to a halt. The ship lurched suddenly as they spun, the back end of the Isabella still carried by momentum.
“What the dickens is going on up there…” Audra wondered aloud.
No sooner had she spoken than the door to the engine deck flew open. Suzeaux Reyette stood huffing and puffing with a large pair of binoculars in her hand.
“Would it kill you to give those of us with explosives strapped to our bodies a warning when you stop?!”
“Cap’s orders…” Seamus replied pulling a fresh candy from a bag.
Suzeaux came down the steps and past her crew mates quickly not bothering to respond. She climbed a pair of crates and peered out the small window with the glasses.
“What are you looking at, Suzeaux? That window is horrible…” Audra watched her with mouth open slightly, waiting for an answer.
“I thought I saw something…and I didn’t have a clear view from the side deck and…Oh, we are in so much trouble!”
The Explosives expert rolled backwards nearly falling off the crate.
High above still dealing with the loss of direction the captain reeled with the volume his cuff produced.
“Five Order warbirds at six o’clock, Vertical descent. Repeat, Five war birds coming in hot!”
There was a moment of registration between the three in the main deck and the three in the engine room.
Amelia wasted no time in flipping the automated system attached to Wyatt to manual.
“We’ll get you sorted later, Wyatt. Seamus, give me everything!”
The engine room whirred higher and hotter than it had in several hours. The ship suddenly straining at the air for movement. It took off, and Amelia banked hard.
Whittaker, still dressed in his coat, set his jaw and stripped the scarf from around his neck. With precision the captain position the rotary lense towards their oncoming enemy. And just as Suzeaux had said, five large dark masses floated high above them. Beneath one such ship, floated a craft of rebellion make and design. No…it was being drug. The ship in tow was the Alliance ship Charmelle.
As the captain watched he reached across the desk to a switch on the wall. He pressed it firmly never taking his eyes off the the suspended ship.
The alarm sounded loud in the speakers that ran across the ship. Like a spark in a nervous system the sound brought the crew of the Isabella to its feet and all at once from their places of refuge and work like bees disturbed within a hive.
Fox looked up calmly from a book he was reading and applied his thumb to a keypad near him. The kitchen cabinets locked themselves in place, and those who were passengers aboard found shelter with the cook as the doors slid shut with a resounding thud. From rooms far below the sounds of metal on leather could be heard, as armor slid over bodies and boots as they rushed from their places. The tip tip tap of leather soles on rafters high above sent a pair of agile runners to their places beside the captain before anyone else had even cleared their doors. Kitty stood at the ready beside Whittaker grinning. The captain would look at her with a touch of melodrama.
“Don’t look so happy about it.”
She would rock back and forth on her heels and shake her head grinning all the wider.Luthiem on the other hand,
who had landed only a moment after Kitty was quite unhappy at the prospect of being on deck.
“Wasn’t this supposed to be an easy sort of mission?”
“Have we ever had one of those?” Kitty asked less sarcastically as actually curious.
A number of faces appeared on deck as the moments passed. The tall couple dressed in dark attire, sporting the scent of incense arrived. Javert cocked his rifle in anticipation.
“Five Order war ships?”
“They have our rendezvous.” the captain nodded.
“Dragging a ship at that velocity must mean the engines are dead.” A thin southern accent interrupted.
Vale walked onto the deck followed by Rottger. The ambling fellow was nervously watching the viewing windows as the ships leered ever closer.
“That…can’t be good…” He muttered pointing up.
The mass of eyes turned back to the windows to see the largest of the ships stretch the cables that held their suspended captives in place.
The radio before them snapped and buzzed.
“This is Order warship 13B, the Argon. This is General Rush speaking; By the authority of the Father you are commanded to stand down.”
The captain picked up the microphone with haste. “And this is Captain Cedric Whitaker of the Isabella. I request the immediate release of our contact ship. Or are these not neutral skies?”
“All skies are Order skies, Captain. You should be well aware of that.”
“Here is what I have to say about that…” Cedric looked up and called over the comm, “Suzeaux!!””
As was her wont, Suzeaux made a made dash at the aether cannon, sending a blast of iron and energy hurtling up towards the war bird farthest from the Charmelle. Upon contact the Order ships began to fan out.
“If that’s how you feel, captain, here is my rebutle.”
The large Order vessels separated farther allowing for a clear view of the ship they had captured.
The radio buzzed only once more. “Release the Charmelle.”
All at once the radio danced about the channels, a male voice boomed in over the speakers, “Isabella This is captain Chambers! Retreat! For god’s sake retreat!”
The ties that bound the small craft to the larger birds snapped in timed precision.
All at once in as graceful a maneuver as they had witnessed the dead craft slingshoted from the bows of their enemies and hurtling towards them in a perfect arc. The disbelief in the faces of the crew was palpable in the small room.
“Oh god!” Amelia exclaimed.
“Fly!” The radio screamed out as the falling ship’s engines whined as the air ripped her apart.
“Get us out of here!!” Amarante cried.
Amelia was frozen for only a moment. She hit the console as she forced her body to respond and yanked hard on the controls. The ship lurched to the starboard side nearly capsizing the Isabella they spun in place unable to gain the thrust needed to clear the site. The Charmelle careened towards them as fast as any bullet, and the Isabella groaned as it attempted to press hard enough to avoid her.
The falling ship collided with the Isabella. With something that sounded like thunder, the badly damaged hull of the Charmelle exploded against the wood and metal surface of the Isabella. Screams of crew and passenger alike echoed over the Isabella as the Charmelle exploded into a fiery mass.The bodies aboard the Isabella floated upon impact for a mere second, battered by the intensity of the blow they flew like pool balls struck by the cue.
They careened downward, but they did not break apart. The ship’s engine on the side where they had been struck fell away in mass as did a portion of the keel. They were dead on one side, and the Isabella began to spin.
Whittaker blinked his eyes heavily groaning as he peeled himself off of a destroyed console. His back and side pained him sharply, but he would not stop. The ship would surely go down if he didn’t.
Gaining his footing, the captain pressed a series of levers upwards as they spiraled, and the hatch before them on the deck began to open. With a stretch he pulled a large brass lever. It strained, the metal bent from the impact. He could not move it, even with all of his strength. The large and thin hand of Javert closed over his captain’s own. WIth a glance to him the first mate and the captain pulled the misaligned switch into place sending a shower of sparks across the room. Cedric watched in anxiety as the balloon housing groaned and began to open slowly. His heart leapt into his throat as the seconds ticked by and the ship spun wildly. The housing refused to move. All at once, the glass and metal cage that were the doors flew off their hinges and the cream colored thing lept from it’s bed. The balloon began to inflate and the aether engines began to quiet. As the canvas orb cleared it’s housing and expanded the deck creaked in protest. The lines that held it in place were poorly arranged from the impact and only held a portion of the monstrous balloon. The descent began to slow as the Isabella hit the cloud line.
All at once the peaks of mountains were all around them. The spinning was slowing as they slowly began to stabilize.
Amelia, finding herself overturned in her chair, could feel the sting of blood in her eyes. She brushed the hat from her head and attempted to stand as they began to level out. The doctor, seeing her need, helped her to her feet and to the console.The glass across the front was badly shattered and the view out into the white air was nearly impossible.
Bullets and cannon fire began to rain down from above as the navigation officer found it hard to focus on anything for more than a moment. Her head was spinning and the fog in the room was making her sick. Vale held her in place.
“I can’t…” She scrubbed her eyes furiously, “I can’t see the controls!”
“Tell me what to do!” Vale yelled back.
“Turn the dystic converter to five and the block cell subset to auto!”
Vale searched for a moment and did as she asked. “I’m rebuilding these controls to make sense as soon as we aren’t in mortal peril!”
“Yeah, you do that!!” Amelia agreed as she gripped the helm. The Isabella narrowly missed a cliff face as they continued to descend.
“Are you sure you can do this?!” Vale asked her gripping the console.
“It’s fine! I see big light shapes and big dark shapes! I’m not gonna hit the big dark shapes!”
“Good idea, honey!” Cedric added.
The crew had found their feet again, and most were beaten and battered. The broken glass in the room had filled the air with the scent of blood and sweat. As the large war ships over head continued to rain down fire the Isabella was just managing to avoid falling to her death. The white fog that hung about them provided enough cover to keep the ships from gunning her down easily. The balloon was losing air quickly as it was being riddled with holes. The fog grew so thick they could no longer see the mountains or the Order fleet behind them.
The radio snapped to life as a voice pierced through to them.
“This is Research base Vhaen: Airship what is your destination?”
Vale snatched the comm, “Mayday. Mayday. This is the Airship Isabella requesting emergency landing! We have injured men and women aboard!” he cast his eyes to the captain and Amelia.
The static jumped heavily as the sound of many voices could be heard.
“Landing request permitted, Isabella, By all means!”
“Copy, but where are you?!”
Cedric lifted himself to look. In the side of the dark peak a large gap formed. Black and gaping a fissure seemingly opened out of the rock. As they approached the mountain side that black shape clearly became a cleverly disguised hangar door. There was little time to debate it.
“Amelia! take us in!”
The Isabella slid within the dark mouth and beached herself with forceful impact upon the hangar floor.Sparks shot out in all directions as the momentum carried the ship forward. As she ground to a halt the ship turned over onto it’s side and rocked as it finally ceased its run.