Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Sandflea makes a border-crossing

The year according to European reckoning is 1855. The thick summer twilight was disturbed by the sound of a propeller. The airship came in low over the tree line without snagging any branches and then hovered over a clearing. A hatch sprung open on the underbelly of the ship and a rope ladder fell down from the opening. Quickly a slight figure climbed down the ladder and then hung there, one foot on the lowest rung and one arm slung over a higher rung. The figure peered into the surrounding woods as it hung about 4 feet above the ground.

Her propeller stilled, the small airship drifted slightly but was far enough into the open to not be in danger of entanglement. Suddenly, a solitary figure dashed into the clearing.
“Tira?” he whispered. “That you? You’ve gotta take me with ya. They’re on to me.”
Tira hissed down at him, “What in hell is the matter with you? You know we can’t do that!”
“They’re onto me, Tira. I’m dead and done for if ya don’t get me outta here. I don’t need to go far, just a bit over the border and then a bit, just to be sure. Ya can let me off anywhere.”

In the time he took to tell his tale, the man had gasped and panted his way across the field and to the bottom of the dangling rope ladder. Tira sighed as she stretched forth her free hand and grasped his arm as he struggled to pull himself up the rope ladder.
“Up ya go then. But you can explain to Captain Willie just why you don’t have his supplies.”

A bloodhound bellowed in the woods entirely too close for comfort.
“Told ya they were hot on my trail!”
“Up, up, up,” yelled Tira in the direction of the hatch. She turned to her unexpected passenger, “Climb on up then. I’ll be right behind ya!”

Tira waited until the man had scrambled up the ladder and through the hatch before starting her own ascent. Meanwhile, the bloodhound’s bellowing was becoming louder and more excited.
“Get us up and outta here now!” she howled. “I’m on my way!”

Once safely in the belly of the craft, Tira lay on the floor, practically on top of the man in the crowded crawl-space. Her shipmate pulled hard on a lever that closed the mechanical hatch door and then sealed it. Kennia jerked her thumb in the general direction of the man lying crumpled on the floor, still trying to catch his breath.
"Who's the extra weight? And where's the package?"
Tira shrugged, "This is Old Toby. He was supposed to deliver the package and then some but doesn't seem to be doin' too well just now." She pressed her lips tightly together. This trip was dangerous, crossing the Carolina border into neighboring Virginia and now the risk was for nothing. Captain Willie was really going to love that!

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