Friday, 29 November 2013

Project: Leftovers 015

Chapter 7
    "It has to be around here somewhere." said Idris.
    "Why can't we just stop over there." Lane asked. "Those houses growing out of the column would make it possible to reach the Zeppelin from outside."
    "Half arsed measure." Idris said. "I know a place that is almost perfect for our need. I've been there before and I know it is around here somewhere. Keep your eyes on the monitors."
    "You were the one insisting on not wasting more time that strictly necessary." Lane said.
    "I know what I said. This is important, the time we are losing now looking for the place we will make up in an under an hour once we are there." said Idris.
    "What are we looking anyway? And don't even think about telling us to wait for it. While these sudden discoveries are all very dramatic it makes it rather hard to help you find it."
    "You'll..." Idris started. Lane interrupted her immediately. "I'll know when you tell us."
    "It's a dry dock."
    "A dry dock? What good does a dry dock do us?" Lane asked.
    "First it is not on ground level." Idris said. "I is an extension of these random cities you see here, what more important is that it is a dry dock that is designed for air-ships. It is a bit on the large side but it is functional if primitive and the Unconquered Sun will fit."
    Lane was thinking about how to protest in away that would not set Captain Idris of when the ship rounded yet another corner revealing the hanging ship yard of the Temple.
    "I," said captain Idris, "told you."
    The structure was like everything else built out of bleached out stone. It formed a majestic bridge like structure closing the gap between two pillars. Lane had expected one structure into which they could fly the Unconquered Sun, some wildly out of place structure a dry dock for water ships with an arched roof that could be used to reach the outside of their ship. What she saw instead where tunnels of all sizes going on for nearly a mile. The Unconquered Sun would easily fit into the middle sized docks. What they had reached was a shipyard designed to maintain or maybe even build airships in a great scale. The thing that overwhelmed Lane the most that was that there were docks with enough space to house ships far larger than the already titanic Unconquered Sun.
    "What is this place?" Monica said out loud what Lane was thinking. Monica who usually was reserved even in the face of things like a temple the size of a city was gwaping now with her eyes almost as wide as her mouth.
    "No one really knows." Idris said. "Hardly anything is known about this cursed place. The Berber people have legends telling that one should never enter this valley. That those who do so do not come out alive. Most of the others that went in there to explore also never returned. It wasn't until the late 20th century that some clever bloke noticed that people only ever vanish during the day. A few years later another egghead discovered old myths and legends about a god or demon that hunted man only during the broad daylight." Idris voice changed swelling with pride that politeness was failing to suppress, "It was me who discovered the air docks over here and the eternal guardians."
    "You discovered this place?" Lane said mostly to keep her mind from going completely blank. As their airship was navigating into the docks entering one of the tunnels she had the same feeling that she had when she had reached the temple for the first time. The sense of scale as she got nearer was so beyond anything she had experienced that it was hypnotising. Her brain was so busy rewriting everything it knew about the world trying to keep up with reality that everything else was pushed away.
    "Yes. When I was younger and a bit more reckless I loved exploring this place. I had a ship and no fear. That I was surrounded by men who laughed at my ambition to become a courier pilot also helped I guess. I knew that during the night this place was safe. It is the prison of the Hunter in Daylight after all. Because of that I came to discover some neat things. Like for example this here."
    "It sounds like this isn't a big hobby of yours any more." Monica said sounding all business again but still having problems hauling her jaw back up.
    "I forgot the other hunters." said Idris.
    "There are other hunters imprisoned here that come out during the night?" Lane said with a voice that was a bit more shrill than intended.
    Idris turned around and smiled. "It's not what you think. See this?" she pointed at her eye-patch. "That happened here." she turned around garbing hold of the wheel again correcting their course slightly. "I started to turn my hobby into a business. There were enough parties interested in doing some research here. My ship was perfect. It acted as a base and point of retreat during the day and could take them almost everywhere in the temple including the underground parts."
    "This thing has a basement?" Lane asked.
    "And it is large enough that you can fly your ship into it?" said Lane.
    "In many parts yes. It is incredibly dangerous though." said Idris. "You lose track of time down there and clocks and watches don't work properly. But that's not the point. Where was I...?"
    "The archaeologists." said Monica
    "The archaeologists...? I guess you could call them that. Well the first group was a bunch of fucking tomb raiders. They had no manners and were mostly interested in stealing things from here. Luckily there isn't much here really. Almost everything here is just the stone you see and when you break it off it stops glowing in the night. With the second group I was more careful and had them show me their credentials."
    "What happened with them?" Monica asked.
    "Noting should have happened. They were doing proper work. Taking pictures and rubbing of relieves. That sort of thing."
    "But...?" Monica again.
    "But it turns out that at least one of them was possessed by a demon who was using the expedition for its own ends."
    "Possessed by a demon?" Lane asked more surprised that after all she had seen in the past day or two she was still being quite the septic.
    "I know! Right?" said Idris. "Who would thing shit like that actually still happens? What ever the case, I found out when the special forces of the Inquisition appeared demanding that he should come with them in peace so that they could sort things out like civilised people. The demon declined rather forcefully. The following battle turned into utter chaos. Severe other members of the expedition were also possessed and the demon had some weird abilities, the worst being able to jump out of his host who was still primed with commands to keep him going for anther minute or so, while the essence or whatever of the thing could posses statues. That day we were not far from here and the entrance to the docks is completely covered in decorative statues. In the end I was caught in the cross fire and lost my eye."
    "Who won?" Lane asked.
    "Not me. That's fore sure. a few demons escaped others were taken prisoners and only three of the hosts were killed. So in the end I would say that the Vatican troops were closest to a victory? They only had two heavily injured guys on their side. At least they had the decency tow me to Fez putting me in a Rosicrucian hospital. Which by the way was the beginning of my aversion to passengers. Death and calamity always seems to follow very close behind them and as nice as you are you don't seem to be any exception."
    Lane and Monica remained silent for a long while. Captain Idris concentrated on navigating her ship deeper into the ship yard, the golden light from out side washing over her face in waves. Despite what she had said she looked relaxed, almost happy.
     "I am sorry." Lane said.
     "We." Monica said.
     "Yes." Lane said. "We are sorry. All we wanted to do was just get out of Morocco, leave all the horrible things that happened here behind us. We just wanted to go home. I had no idea that I was even carrying that thing. I should have looked better."
     "You did not know." said Monica.
     "It's OK." said Idris. "I believe you. Had you known that people were coming after you with attack helicopters I guess you would have pointed that out when I shoved you inside a Zeppelin."
     "I guess not." Lane said.
     "I just wonder why they didn’t come after you earlier." Idris said.
     "It will have taken them a while to noticed that we had the thingy in the first place." Lane said. "After that we were already in the lower market. Deep underground surrounded by stone walls. No signal down there."
     "Makes sense." said Idris. "Right here we are. This is the point when things get a little tricks. there are some strong wind currents inside the temple, nothing serious usually but I can't leave the helm. Which would be fine if there was a place where I could safely fire the earth anchors into. This dock has mechanisms to latch onto airships, but they were of a different size than the Unconquered Sun as well as not being automatic as far as I can tell. So I need you two to get outside With some ropes and tie up the ship in the tradition way. One of you should go port the other starboard. Take two ropes each tie one fore the other aft. Once you are done with that I can come out and show you how to use the mechanisms that are installed here."
     A few minutes later Lane was standing at the starboard exit, the one they had entered the ship through at the beginning of the journey. She was carrying to thick ropes she could hardly move with them slung over her shoulders, she never expected that ropes could be so heavy. At least with two of them she was well balanced. As the door opened the still hot night air streaming into the ship, she knew that her original plan of just walking out of the ship would need a bit of a reworking. The dock wasn't far away a meter at most. But between the ship and the dock was nothing. Well there was the gap and the drop which was an abyss without a bottom. When Lane looked down she just saw the nothingness turn into a golden glow. That the dock was not level with the Unconquered Sun but a bit higher with the ship gently swaying in the night air didn't help either. Not one bit.
     "Change of plans." she declared to the void. She let one of the rope bundles slide from her shoulder almost falling over as she was dragged down by the weight of the remaining one. Tottering towards the endless drop gave her a healthy shot of adrenalin which helped her jump back a bit, the weight of the rope be damned, back into the safety of the ship. Her heart still pounding hormone spiked blood through her body so that she could drop kick a bear out of its cave into the after life she took the remaining rope from her shoulder swinging it with force over onto the dock. It landed on the other side with a satisfying 'thump'. She took the other rope in front of her feet, hastily trying to return it to its originally coiled form. Her adrenaline seeing no cave bears to fight or flee from was already retreating, so this time it was harder to throw the rope. With an angry grunt she hurled the rope over. Which almost worked. This one was not as perfect a circle as the other one so a bit that was hanging over listened to the siren call of gravity sliding into the bottomless pit of golden light below.
     As Lane saw the rope unspooling into oblivion, her adrenaline instantly returned realizing that losing the rope and angering captain Idris was probably worse than the bear. She took three quick steps jumping over the gap. She had so much fear of falling to death that she jumped over the gap and past the ropes onto the very well polished floor starting to skid almost losing her balance. Lane fought against her forward moment feet sliding over the strange floor. She extended one arm to keep her self from falling using it as a pivot to turn faster. Two thirds of the rope were already gone. She grabbed the free that remained on the platform almost relaxing. She immediately turned around again when she remembered that that fucking rope would still be monstrously heavy no matter how much of it she could see at this moment. She did the first thing that came to her mind, grab tight and run in the other direction. The more of the rope she pulled up the less it would try to drag her down. The plan worked well until she had pulled away all the slack that was still left, the moment it was gone she felt the weight of the rope which pulled at her hard. She felt the kind of surprise some would feel when trying to catch a bag stuffed with 60 pounds of feathers. She leaned against the resistance she felt falling over. She stretched out her hands to cushion her fall. Which meant letting go of the rope. Cursing she scrambled back up ran after the vanishing rope garbed hold of it just waiting for her own inertia and the friction of her shoes on the stone floor to do the rest of the work for her. She then spent some time pulling the rope back up cursing. Not much later she was cursing even more when she tried to somehow tie the rope to the Zeppelin and the dock.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Project: Leftovers 014

Lane was surprised at how big the plane part of the ship actually was. She and the captain walked through what felt to her endless corridors which once they had left the residential parts were all metal walls, pipes, thick ropes of multicoloured wires. An oil refinery looked festive in comparison. For a change the passed through a large cargo hold that was mostly empty. There were a few crates and metal containers there fastened to the floor with thick cargo belts. Captain Idris interrupted their search of Monica to have a look at them. She asked Lane to help her with it. She was to look for any kind of damage. Especially bullet holes. Scratches were fine but as soon as you could look inside she should tell her. They spent the next twenty minutes doing a rather convincing re-enactment of two very forgiving art-critics visiting the worlds most boring contemporary art exhibitions.
    "Did you find anything?" asked the captain.
    "Not even a scratch really." said Lane.
    "Great. Let's try to find your friend again."
    They continued locking for Monica finally finding her in one of the upper decks. At least Lane thought they were in an 'upper' deck. They had climbed a ladder and some stairs to get here but by now she had lost all sense of direction. They might as well have left the plane part a long time ago and where now walking through some strange inner sanctum hidden away in the heart of the Zeppelin.
    Monica had a two large gas bottles slung over her shoulder a red one and a blue one, welding something in the ceiling above her being very careful to not stand directly under the seam. It looked as she had not noticed them approaching, the light of the welder was blinding surprisingly noisy. Before they could come close to touching distance she turned towards them, moving the welding mask up while holding the welder it's pilot flame dancing playfully in front of the main in their general direction. While Lane was still deciding if that was a good sign. Monica let the welder sink.
    "There were bullet holes up here?" Idris asked.
    "No." said Monica, "The hull was cracking here. So I closed the cracks and just to make sure I added some reinforcing metal strips. I'm not an expert but if this was a body that," she pointed at the ceiling, "was in need of some stitches."

    Captain Idris looked up and shook her head. "We need to get her to a proper airport soon or she won't be the Unconquered Sun for much longer. Can you keep working on the hull?"
    "I can. Most damage can be patched up easily. There a few bits were I will need some help. I also found several broken wires which you might want to check. Those you will have to repair yourself though, this is already outside my field of expertise," she gestured to the ceiling, "and the only thing I know about life wires is to never touch them."
    "Don't worry about that and continue closing all the holes. You're doing good work. Thanks."
    Monica just shrugged flipped her mask down again to continue her work.
    "I can help you with the cables." said Lane.
    "You can?" said the Captain.
    "As long as it is nothing to intricate but I did all the wiring in my apartment my self, I can even do some soldering." Lane said her pride making her almost an inch taller.
    Captain Idris arched the eyebrow under her eye patch to creepy effect. "Very well then, I think I have work for you too." She led Lane around again until the reached a very small utility closet which contained tools. The captain pulled out a tool belt and started handing Lane all manners of pliers, screwdrivers, a voltmeter, insulating tape in different sized and other things what would make working with wires easier.
    "Do you know how to reconnect a co-axial cable?" Idris asked.
    "Are you trying to insult me?" Lane asked back.
    "Follow me."
    A few corridors later they were standing in front of a bunch wires ripped out of a wall sending merry sparks all over the place. Lane examined the damage from a safe distance. After the captain had shown her where to find the circuit breakers she left Lane alone with her task telling her that she would be back in about half an hour. She also asked her if she knew how to get back to her quarters, when Lane shook her head Idris told her to stay there and wait for her to return in case she was done faster than that.
    She wasn't. There were to many cables that looked very much the same and she had to rip out quite a few of them just to see where they came from. So when captain Idris returned she was done with the most obvious and some more dubious options and asked the captain for help with the trickier ones.
     The next few hours she spend with wire repair in several spots in the ship. When ever she was done the captain would return sooner or later and take her to the next bit. The first task was thankfully the hardest. She had not done stuff like this for a very long time. She remembered how Martin had gone through several shades and flavours of hysteria when she had connected their new electric stove. 'Bad memory. Bad, bad memory' she thought deciding instead to focus on learning some basic electric engineering from her mother and watching her work building little controller units for the house. That memory made her smile making her work all the more pleasurable for it.
     "Ho long will that take to finish?" captain Idris asked who had somehow materialised right behind Lane startling her enough to drop the heavy pair of pliers she had been using to cut off the frayed end of a thick bundle of wires. It fell on her foot. Of course. It hurt. A lot. After she was done screaming and hopping around like an idiot she faced the captain who was pretending that nothing had happened. "This one is easy, just a lot of work. Maybe 20 minutes?"
     "Right. I will send Monica to look for you in 15 minutes in case you are done early. The sun is about to set, we need to hurry. I'll be in the bridge we need to fly into the temple."
     "Why can't we just stay outside?"
     "Right now we are taking the smallest risk. Most sane people would never enter the valley of the Hunter in Daylight during the day. In the night the temple is safe as far as I can tell. We will go and hide inside. If any of our friends are looking for us they might have a peak in here after nightfall. They will probably not dare to enter the temple and even if they do we have the advantage. The Unconquered Sun will be well camouflaged in there we also have to option to fly almost silently at least compared to the helicopters who would be able to come after us. The most important part is that we need to repair as much of the Envelope as we can and for most of that work we need something to stand on outside of the ship. Something that we will only find inside the temple. Now work. Chop chop. The day is always over." Idris turned around walking away not even waiting for an answer.
     Lane kept working on her cables thinking unhappy thoughts remembering the dark opaque colour of the light of her little torch. She suspected that that was the equivalent of a Geiger counter not making a crackling noise but instead starting to hum the tune of Once Upon a Time in the West.
     "Are you done?" asked Monica. Lane shrieked another smaller pair of electronic hands slipping from her grasp, this time she jumped back a bit so that instead of her foot only her dignity was hit. "Why," Lane asked, "do you all keep doing that!"
     "Force of habit I guess?" said Monica.
     "No it's not." said Lane. "I always heard you approaching in the corridors back in the office, I can actually tell you apart from other people just by your footsteps."
     "This here feels like a mission." Monica said. "So I guess that triggers my training, especially when walking through metal corridors. They make so much noise if you aren't careful."
     "Aren't they?" said Lane. "How great that you instead chose to go all silent running and scare the shit out of me."
     "Sorry? I will try to be more hippoish in my walking habits the next time I approach you?"
     "It's OK. Just try not to startle me like that."
     "So how long?" asked Monica.
     "Preferably until the day I die." said Lane.
     "No I meant how long until you are done."
     "Oh." Lane looked at the wires. "Not long only two left. A couple of minutes."
     "Cool. I'll wait."
     Lane felt Monica staring over her shoulder. At first it annoyed her having that other presence lurking behind her, but this was not the gaze of someone waiting to let go some snide remark. It was a gaze of curiosity. So Lane started to explain what she was doing. She was half way done with the last cable, having just fitted a short piece of wire to it after she had cut of the frayed ends when the turbines of the Unconquered Sun came to life. She paused for a moment but then kept going just raising her voice so that Monica could hear her over the noise of the engines.
     When they walked towards the bridge they felt the ship start rising slowly and then shaking slightly when the earth anchors broke free of the ground. Reaching the bridge they saw that the ship had covered about half the way to the temple.
     "You haven't missed anything interesting yet." said captain Idris who was steering the ship using the large ship's wheel again. "Dusk is almost over, as long as it'S not proper night we don't need to hurry."
     Lane craned her neck looking out of the window trying to catch a glimpse of the sky above. "How do we know that night has fallen."
     Captain Idris grinned broadly. "You will know. Trust me." she said.
     As the Unconquered Sun approached the temple the structure kept expanding until everything they could see out of the bridge's window was a forest of columns. Now that they were high in the air Lane could also see that inside the temple was filled with giant statues, platforms, stairs, all manner of structures. Some of the pillars inside looked lie they had buildings carved into them complete with windows and sometimes entire terraces of houses carved into them. While other columns had buildings growing out of them, sometimes like tiny barnacles on the hull of a super freighter, sometimes resembling the crowns of cubist trees. The temple looked like it was filled with villages and cities stretching in all three dimensions. The styles in which they were built were wildly divergent, the only things they had in common was that they were all built out of the same pale yellow stone and that there was no sign of life anywhere.
    As the ship approached the outer limits of the temple captain Idris slowed it down until it came to a stop, drifting ever so slightly back.
    "Why are we waiting?" Monica asked.
    "It's not safe yet." Idris said. "It is no proper night."
    "Is there some kind of secret signal we are waiting for?" said Lane.
    "You could say that. Yes." said captain Idris.
    They waited floating in front of the temple as the remnants of sunlight slowly disappeared from the valley, taking the view of the temple with them. It was when Lane wasn't sure any more if she could still see the building in front of her or was just imagining things that the temple reappeared. Every surface of it started to glow in a rippling golden light.
    "Night," Idris said, "has fallen." she pushed the throttle forward the Unconquered Sun lurched forward gaining speed by the second vanishing inside the Temple of the Hunter in Daylight.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Project: Leftovers 013

Chapter 6
    The Unconquered Sun floated slowly into a maze of canyons and narrow valleys. The envelope of the Zeppelin was in tatters in many places from fore to aft, the rags flapping in the head wind. Inside Lane and Monica had crawled back out of the weapon pods returning to the bridge where captain Idris had refilled their champagne glasses and was now standing behind the large ship steering wheel directing her wounded but not beaten ship through stone labyrinth in front of them.
    Monica drained her glass in one go and went to the bottle to get a refill. Lane only drank half of hers before she regained control over herself again.
    "Where that also friends of yours?" Lane said.
    "The helicopter guys? No. None of mine. I would say that those were actually friends of yours." she said turning towards Lane eyebrows raised.
    "Friend of ours? Nooo. Monica?"
    "Not that I know off. It could be. But very unlikely. How could they have found us? No one knew we were going to fly away in your ship."
    "You said that you were in trouble with Khalid El Harrak." said Captain Idris.
    "We were also seen by a few people who saw us walking with you to your ship." Lane said.
    "Possible. But I don't think so everyone knows I don't take passengers." said Idris.
    "There were people in the restaurant when you decided to take us with you." said Lane.
    "You're paranoid." said Idris.
    "Yeah, that's kind of her thing." said Monica. "But her paranoia is usually well founded."
    "While I do have some people who'd love to see me resting forever none of them could get three combat helicopters launched on a moments notice much less without making the Moroccan military extremely angry. El Harrak that deformed dog afterbirth does have contacts to the police and the military and you told me that at least the police was also looking for you... so that would bring us back to you."
    "But how could they have found us?" Lane asked.
    "The only people that attacked us in the under market where Brynjar's pyjama brigade, who were after me not you. The fuckers did appear quickly but where not waiting for us at the entrance to my underground hanger. It took them a while to find us, which they did in the open desert out of line of sight to the city. This means one of you idiots is carrying around a tracking device..." captain Idris said crossing her arms and resting her case.
    "But I'm paranoid?" said Lane. Monica just shrugged and nodded.
    "Captain Idris," Monica said pointing behind the captain that was enjoying her moment of smugness, "there is a cliff in front of us." Idris turned around rapidly remembering that they were not flying through the open sky.
    "Look for the device, break it and we'll be out of trouble." said Idris.
    "Maybe during the fight with the three stooges back in the hotel?" Lane suggested. Monica made a 'could be' gesture with her head and started searching her cloths for anything that shouldn't be there. "could you check my back?" she said to Lane.
    "Nothing." Lane said.
    "Your turn." said Monica.
    Lane patted her pockets, taking out her things. "Keys, phone, wallet nothing in my pockets." Something fell out of her wallet. A small black square thing that looked like it was made of plexiglass.
    "What's that?" Monica asked pointing at the thing.
    "No idea." Lane said she was trying to come up with a rational story how that thing had entered her pocket. Maybe something she put in her pocket when she was roaring drunk after the Vodka and gherkins? But that couldn't be, she had taken her wallet out after wards. Several times and there certainly hadn't been that thing there.
    "Throw it out of a window and be done with it." said Captain Idris.
    "OK." said Lane scratching her head.
    "No. Wait." said Monica. "We should better keep it for now."
    "Are you crazy?" Lane asked.
    "If she insists you can throw her out of the window too." said captain Idris.
    "I know where that thing comes from." Monica said.
    "Really..." said Lane.
    "The man who was hunted down by the Pale Man. He was running away, but he was not only running for his life he was also running away with something. That thing. When he died he put it in your pocket. I guess he hoped that maybe that way it would not come into the hands of El Harrak."
    "Can't have been then. I paid for my amulet with my money from my wallet." Lane said holding up her hand showing her jade bracelet."
    "It wasn't in your wallet. It fell out when you took it out of your pocket. The thing was there the whole time. At some point you pushed your wallet back into your pocket shoving what ever that is into the fold of your wallet." Monica said extending her hands out wards palms held upwards in a 'and there you have it' gesture.
    "Fascinating Mrs. Holmes." said captain Idris. "Can you throw it out of the window now?"
    "That would not be prudent." said Monica.
    "That's not what prudent means." said Lane.
    "Do you know how we say prudent in Spanish? 'Prudente'. I know very well what it means." said Monica. "Captain how well do radio signals travel here?"
    "Down here in the labyrinth? Like shit." said Idris.
    "As we have not been attacked again we I would guess that they are not able to locate us. We are going to land soon enough for some repairs, right." Monica said.
    "I need to assess the damage, yes. Repairing the ship properly will be impossible out here but we will fix what we can."
    "Which will give us enough time to find out what that thing down there is." said Monica.
    "You may be right. The dead guy risked his life to get that thing out of El Harrak's hands and El Harrak in turn went through a lot of trouble to get it back." Lane said. "That also mean that we are still being followed, the moment they see that we have the thing we are probably dead."
    Monica thought for a moment in silence. "You are probably right. It's what I would do. They might think that we know what it does so they will try to capture and torture us first for information we do not have."
    Lane started to fidget with her phone. "So why are we keeping it? We could destroy it or at least throw it away."
    "Right now," Monica said, "we are just reacting to a situation we hardly know anything about, that makes us weak. Right now there is no one attacking us, so I assume for the moment at least, that they can't detect what ever signal that thing is giving off. If I had to guess I would say the mountains are blocking the signal." Monica picked up the little square. "I would have expected some blinking lights, or something. But there is something embedded into the resin."
    "Do you know what it is?" Idris asked, gently pushing the Unconquered Sun past a sharp corner leading to a a broad valley that lay mostly in shadows as the cliffs on both sides stretched towards each other leaving only a narrow opening between them.
    "I have no clue. It seems to be a technical device that is able to transmit its position to those who know what to look for... Do you have a safe, captain?" Monica asked.
    "Yes. Several. We can put that stupid thing into a secure lead box and put that inside of a large safe, that way we should be able to block all kinds of signals." Idris said.
    "You have a lockable lead box?" Lane asked.
    "Yes. Several actually."
    "Why?" Lane asked."
    "Because I sometimes need to transport things that are better kept sealed away and there are some business partners that I trust, but I don't trust their partners. Especially if all I have to transport is a small thing that is of course completely harmless... Let me put it this way my Geiger counter was one of the best inventions of my life."
    "We will probably need that too. Just in case." said Monica.
    "And I think I might have to give some courses in moral eduction..." Lane murmured.
    "What was that?" asked Monica. Before Lane could come up with an excuse the captain interrupted them.
    "We have reached our destination. We will be safe for the night."
    "Really? How so?" said Lane turning around looking out of the bridges window.
    "That in front of us is the Temple of the Hunter in Daylight." said Idris.
    "Great. How does that help us?" said Lane.
    "It helps us because this is a forbidden place, no one in their right mind would come here. It isn't really a temple but a prison. Built millennia ago. It is where the Hunter in Daylight is kept prisoner."
    "So we can hide there and who ever is looking for us would prefer to look here last?" Lane said.
    "Pretty much also the temple is very large, the Unconquered Sun can be parked inside it. It remains better hidden and all the columns and galleries inside will help us with patching up the ship.
    "Cool." said Lane. "So what are we waiting for?"
    "Dusk." said Idris.
    "Why don't we fly in now? We could start assessing the damage faster and repair more that way. Couldn't we?"
    Captain Idris turned around her eyes wide. "Are you insane?"
    "Wh..." Lane attempted to say.
    "It is the prison of the Hunter in: Day Light. An ancient monstrosity that relishes bright sunlight, stalking its price for all to see. If we go in there now we will not come out alive. Do you understand? The 'temple' is built to confuse it, within its walls there is a maze of light that it can't escape and at night it sleeps. So we have to wait for the night to come."
    "You can't be serious." Lane said.
    Captain Idris shrugged. "If you feel so sure about yourself then go have a look around inside the temple. If you come back out again I will make offerings at the altar of modern science and renounce my silly superstitious ways. Maybe after I am done fixing the incantations in the frame of vacuum bags above which would collapse without them. Come on go ahead. And take that fancy torch of yours with you in case there are some shadowy corners in the temple."
    "Fine." said Lane her eyes throwing sparks.
    "Really?" asked Idris with genuine surprise.
    "Yes. I will take my torch and have a look." Lane said.
    "Are you crazy Lane?" said Monica blanching slightly, "Didn't you hear her?"
    "Yes I did and she also dissed science. Which is not going to happen on my watch." Lane said.
    "Since when do you care so much about science?" Monica said.
    "I always cared about sciences." Lane said. "I always read the articles about mice with ears on their backs and about the galaxies in the Hubble deep field and things like that. Just because I work in an office doesn't mean I can't be into science. You... racist."
    "Racist?" Monica said. "What you say makes even less sense. Why would that make you walk into a death trap?"
    "Because" Lane started pointing her finger at captain Idris, "she just said some bullshit about an ancient thing that eats people and only comes out during the day and that creature is kept in that... ruin over there."
    "I still don't get the science part." Monica said.
    "Just because someone tells you that something exists doesn't make it so. What I will do is take my torch, walk over there and shine it at the temple. I know that my torch changes the colour of its light. It reacts to something, that we know by now and that something might be effective. So if I shine the light at the temple and it changes its colour I will know that there is something there something strange going on there. If that is the case I will give the captain the benefit of doubt if not we will know that it's just a legend and just fly in saving giving us a significant amount of extra hours. What do you say to that."
    "What if your torch does not detect the kind of magic behind the temple or the Hunter in Daylight? What do you say to that." said Monica crossing her arms.
    "Shut up." Lane said. "What do you think captain?"
    "I think I that I should have gotten some popcorn." Idris said. "Wait until we have made landfall and then you can go ahead with your plan. I like it."
    "How do you land a Zeppelin anyway? I thought you needed someone on the ground to pull you down." Lane said.
    "Pff. That was true for the old Zeppelins of the 20th Centruy. This thing might look like the ships of old but that's mostly style. Among other things the Unconquered Sun has four harpoon cannons that shoot earth anchors into the ground, they are connected by thick metal cords to a winch systems. It anchors the ship in place and through some high-tech wizardry it will keep the ship in place even during high winds." Idris activated the landing system arming the harpoons, aiming them through a strange targeting device resembling a binocular telescope and two control wheels to choose good spot for landfall. When she was happy with her choice she secured the wheels and pulled a big metal lever. Lane and Monica expected a sound. But heard nothing. They only noticed that it had worked when the airship began to sink slowly to the ground. After a while they felt a slight bump.
    "Landfall." said captain Idris. "You can go now an shed some light on the temple of the hunter in Daylight, while your friend and I have a look at the ground-effect vehicles hull."
    When captain Idris opened the pressure door to the outside Lane was almost pushed back by the hot dry air that flooded into the plane. There was a very well behaved air-condition she had not noticed active in the airship.
    "How did it suddenly become so hot?" Lane asked.
    "The valley of the Hunter in Daylight is always blistering hot. IT gets cooler in the night but those walls capture the heat and only let go of it grudgingly." captain Idris said.
    "So what are we looking for?" asked Monica who was again all business now that she had a task at hand. She had only looked briefly at the temple most of her attention now was focused on the captain.
    "We look for damage. Big things are obvious, but we are looking for small things. Single bullet holes, cracks, even scratches. The Unconquered Sun needs to go into a proper hanger for proper maintenance, but this has to do for now. Later we go upstairs and look how much damage was done to the vacuum bags and see what we can do there."
    "Have fun." said Lane who had decided that going to check out the Forbidden Temple of Death was way more interesting than looking at scratches. She waved at them with what she hopped looked like friendly encouragement and not delight and stalked towards the supposedly ancient building. 'Ha' she thought, 'older than history my arse, those columns and that architectural style looks like classical Greek style to me. And to think that Martin was making fun of me because I liked to read those books and watch my documentaries. Not proper education. Stupid fuck. But then when was he not sneering at me...' as she kept on walking she noticed that the temple was much further away than it had looked at first. It looked like a large temple all right, it turned out to be a gigantic temple. While the building kept growing in her field of vision it never felt like she was getting significantly closer. She looked back, the Unconquered Sun still loomed behind her but was now a just an airship in a large desert valley. Monica and captain Idris just small figures looking up at the flying leviathan like ants discussing a daring monumental statue of their queen.
    The temple in front of her was still far away and covered most of the ground. A Cyclopean structure built by giants for what they imagined Giants to be Like.
    When she finally arrived she was incredibly thirsty. She had noticed that she had not brought any water with her when she was maybe three quarters there. She had considered for a moment to walk back but then decided that it was a stupid idea and a waste of everybodies time. She tried to use her little torch a few times but even in the shadow of the mountains above her the light of day was far to bright outshining her poor torch into insignificance. When she finally had reached the temple, ever step bringing its walls closer, she was day dreaming about could mountain springs and considering liking the sweat of her arms. It was only when she looked up that she was pulled out of her dreams of cool refreshments. She had concentrated on just moving forward mostly looking at the sand in front of her feet that she had not noticed how close she got. The structure was far larger than she had expected. The stone base alone was more then twenty stories tall. On them stood pillars as large a skyscrapers. Lane had to actually bend over backwards to see the top of the temple. When they had arrived she had thought that the Unconquered Sun might have to squeeze through the large open middle of the temple, but now she realized that the air ship could enter the building between any two columns. Once inside it could manoeuvre between the inner structures without much difficulties. She tried to swallow but that only created a strange rasping sensation in her throat.
    "Time for science." she said instantly regretting it. Breathing in the dry desert air made her mouth even dryer than it was. Her tongue now feeling like a sock stuck to the roof of her mouth. She pulled out her little torch and shone it at the temple. She did not expect to see much as the sun was still high in the sky. The glow of her torch could hardly be seen at first but the light turned instantly a deep verdant green. She was still dealing with he surprise when she saw that the green intensified and darkened until the entire beam of the torch looked solid dark cobalt green. She turned away pointing the light away from the temple, it instantly lost its colouring, then when Lane thought it could not get any creepier she noticed that waves of greenish colour still washed through the light of her torch when pointed into the direction of the ship. She decided that this was the perfect moment to walk back to the ship. Maybe she could help find some scratches on the hole or glue together some vacuum tubes. Or what ever you did with these things to repair them. Despite her thirst she found a new spring in her steps and hurried back, she would have to have something to drink sooner rather then later. No sense in delaying that. As Lanes curiosity was stronger than most of her fears she turned on the torch again holding it in her hand while she was walking pointing backward. It took a while yet again the beam turned deep green. She kept walking, now with the feeling that something was watching her with hungry eyes. She turned her head every once in a while sometimes slow with terror then fast with curiosity but there was just that gargantuan structure which was mostly filled with air. The light of the torch remained green. As she moved away from the temple the colour grew lighter. She was half way back to the Unconquered Sun before she could not see the change of colour any more.

    "So how did your little expedition go." asked captain Idris who was waiting for her at the entrance to the ship.
    "Thirst." croaked Lane.
    "You didn't take any water with you?" the captain asked?
    Lane just shook her head.
    "Son of a dog." Idris cursed. "Well come with me then and let's see if we can get you back to the world of the living."
    The captain took Lane to the music room, where there was indeed a pool table covered in red felt, a pipe organ and a bar. Idris walked to the bar took out a clean neatly folded white cloth towel. She then took a soda bottle and soaked the towel in water. "Here suck on this." she said.
    "Are you fucking with..." Lane tried to push an angry protest through her brittle vocal cord and her parched mouth. The captain silenced her with a sharp motion of her hand.
    "Do not talk. Suck the cloth. If you start drinking now you will have the worst stomach cramps of your life and as dried out as you are you would do more damge to your body than help it in any way."
    Lane took the towel glowering at the captain. The second the water passed into her mouth she forgot everything she wanted to say to the captain lost in the moment of tasting a bit of water. She almost ate the towel but her mouth was still to dry.
    "More?" captain Idris asked,
    Lane nodded vigorously. When the captain took back the towel Lane lunged forward trying to grab the bottle. "Oh no!" said the captain shoving Lane back with force. While lane was still stumbling she soaked the towel with water again. "You can have the towel back or I can hit you with the bottle." Idris said the dripping towel held towards Lane, the bottle in her hand held high ready to strike. Lane looked with greed clouded eyes at the bottle for a moment, tensing ready to lunge for it. "Careful Lane." said the captain in a voice painting consequences holding the towel again in Lane's line of sight.
    Lane snatched the towel out of the captains hand.
    "Good." the captain said. Now sit down on chair put your hands on your lap and promise me that you will not make me knock you unconscious turn you into a rolled joint for roasting, I will keep that towel filled with water at a sensible pace. Is that OK? Lane nodded her eyes still showing a bit to much animal cunning for the captains taste. She walked back to the bar never turning her back to Lane. She took a glass and filled it with tap water, put the soda bottle out of sight and came back with the water glass to soak Lanes towel before it was completely dry.
    After a while Lane got her first half filled shot glass with water which she inhaled more than drink it. Ten minutes later Idris trusted Lane enough to give her a small bottle of water and refill her glass on her own. "You'll still get some glorious cramps in a while but while you lie on the floor rolling around in pain I hope you remember that I did my best from preventing you from doing worse to yourself."
    "I'll live." said Lane who by now was thinking more sane thoughts than lizard brain thoughts of acquiring water with no regards to the consequences.
    "You will." said Idris. "So how did your expedition go?"
    "If my torch is right than it is more ancient magic than stone."
    "I told you so."
    "And now I know." she said in between downing shot glasses full of water. "Where is Monica?"
    "Welding holes shut. She is pretty good with it, although she told me that she isn't really used to use to weld things shut."
    "She has strange hobbies. Why aren't you helping her?" Lane asked.
    Captain Idris gave her a 'you didn't just ask that, did you?' look. "Because you came back with a serious case of dehydration?"
    "You could have told her." Lane said looking down at the little shot glass in her fingers. Her shame tried to stop her from refilling it that instant with water, her thirst won.
    "Yes I could have wandered the ship looking for her with you in tow. So that she could have stopped patching up the ship so we can both watch you trying to kill yourself with water after you did not manage to do it without." said Idris.
    "It's OK, just try to be less of an idiot next time." said Idris.
    "That was uncalled for." Lane said now looking the captain straight in the eyes again. The two women stared at each other for a while until the captain relaxed. "No offence intended. Next time you do something in a dangerous environment that you do not know that well, pause to think and maybe if there is someone around who knows about these things asked them if they can help you out. All right?" said Idris.
    Lane's expression softened. "Yes captain. Sorry. When it looks like people are trying to push me I have learned to push back."
    "No worries. I like your spirit. I think you need to learn how to better gauge who your are trying to push and what situation you are in." Idris said when she saw that Lane's eyes were growing hard again she arched her eyebrows. "This is just friendly advice, no attack. Trust me with me you will always know the difference."
    After a deep breath Lane relaxed again. "Sorry captain. Bad habits die hard."
    "As I said you are doing well already, work on it and you'll be doing even better. Now come, take a water bottle with you and we go looking for your friend." Idris said. As she led Lane towards the back of the craft she asked Lane: "Do you know how to weld?"
    "I wouldn't know where the burny bit of the welder is."

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Project: Leftovers 012

Chapter 6
    The Unconquered Sun soared into the Sky. Inside, on the bridge three people screamed all for their personal reasons. Captain Idris screamed in exaltation. Lane screamed in fear of crashing and burning to death, now slowly changing in to the scream of elation given off by creatures noticing that they had just given death the finger and gotten away with it. While Monica was screaming in defiance, right into the face of inevitable ruin screaming to make its move and take its best shot.
    As the Unconquered Sun stopped climbing, so did the screams.
    "Actually having guests on take off has its charm." captain Idris said. "Cheers!" she sipped her cava.
    "And..." croaked Lane, she cleared her throat and tried again. "And now, what do we do now?"
    "Now we are going to fly into the Atlas mountains for some privacy and from there work our way up to Fez." Idris said.
    "Fez? You said you would take us to Europe." said Lane.
    "Yes and Fez is to the north. It's on the way. Also before you even think about protesting," she put a finger up in warning as Lane was opening her mouth, "you were the ones who burst into my life demanding that I take them away immediately. While you are paying me I am doing you a favour here. I still have regular cargo that needs transporting. I will not break a contract made. Not with the people who entrusted their things to me nor am I going to break my contract with you. The cargo, though, it came first so it will be delivered first. Any problems with that?"
    "No." said Lane. She wanted to protest but she had to admit that the Captain had a point. Also this way they still had a nice holiday before returning to England and punching Martin until all his small minded viciousness was pounded out of him or his life. Both were equally valid outcomes.
    Captain Idris went through a few more checks seeing that everything was OK she activated the auto-pilot and got up from the pilot seat.
    "Can you just get up in mid flight?" Lane asked.
    "She just did." said Monica.
    "Obviously." said captain Idris. "There is no deed to worry the autopilot is able to fly this thing in a straight line and follow some simple instructions. She walked over to the communications station, turning it on, listening in to various conversations with one ear over a set of massive headphones. She nodded to herself putting the headphones away again.
    "All clear." Idris said. "We now have a bit of time on our hands before we reach the mountains so I can show you your quarters."
    "You have cabins for us?" asked Lane.
    "You said you never took any passengers." said Lane.
    "Sometimes I have guests. Besides back in the day I thought that it would actually be a good business idea to also take the occasional passenger for some extra money."
    "What changed your mind?" asked Lane.
    "My first passenger. He was an insufferable piece of shit."
    "Some sort of criminal I guess." said Lane.
    "Worse. Come with me we don't have all day to get you in your rooms." Idris lead them out back to the gallery walking towards the door opposite to the one leading to the bridge. "The guy was some kind of musician. No that would be to kind. He was a conductor, so someone who tell real musicians how to do their job. An insufferable piece of shit, named Kane. I was transporting some rather sensitive material from Ethiopia to Egypt, normally a rather easy thing to do with the Unconquered Sun. Turned out that this Kane person was running away, not from just anybody bot from some of the political leaders of the country whose wives and usually also daughters he had shagged, a fact which he used to insult said leaders during a party... Well long story short, he was not just running away from some angry men but from an angry country."
    "I assume," Monica said, "that led to some complications."
    "Nice way of putting it." said Idris. "The fallout of that was massive." past the other door was another short narrow corridor held in the same style as the rest of the ship so far but without most of the baroque decoration every where else. "Apart from the guy being insufferable in person the Ethiopians quickly caught wind of how he escaped making me and the Unconquered Sun, very conspicuous which in turn made my job almost impossible. I should have thrown that fucker out of the ship..." she stopped in front of a narrow door unlocking it then walking to the door next to it looking for a different key. "It took me quite some time to make up for it to the Ethiopians and longer still to convince my business partners that I was still able to make discrete deliveries." she unlocked the second door. She started removing the key she had just used and handed them over to Monica and Lane. "These are the keys to your rooms. For the rest of the voyage those are your private spaces unless there is an emergency or you behave like dogs in which case I will kick in your door and take care of the situation."
    She opened the door to a small, slightly claustrophobic cabin. To the left was a small hardwood desk with a cushioned chair in front of it. The right wall was covered by closet doors,while the door opposite to the entrance held another smaller door. "Here you go. The desk can be converted into a small bed, there's the closet and back trough that door you'll find your bath which contains a proper shower, washbasin, the works. While we do have running hot water we also rely on water tanks, keep that in mind while taking a shower. The waste water of the basins and the showers go to a special tank which is connected to a filtration system if we should need it. You can drink the tap water. If the water gets recycled a yellow light will shine in the upper corner of your mirror to warn you. It will be clean enough to wash with but I would not necessary drink it any more. So who want this room?"
    "Can we see the other one first?" Monica asked. Lane looked at her friend for a second wondering what that was all about.
    "Sure" Idris said squeezing past them leading them to the other cabin which looked exactly the same the only difference being that the bed was on the right and the closets where on the left.

    "I'd like this one." Monica said.
    "I don't care either way." Lane shrugged. "Just out of curiosity why this one and not the other one?"
    "I'm left handed." said Monica.
    "That makes sense..." Lane said debating whether she should ask why it did or not doing so for the sake of her sanity.
    "It's settled then." Idris said handing over the keys to the rooms.
    "If something happens how do we know." Monica asked.
    "Define 'something'." said Idris.
    "Something like a fire or failing engines or being attacked by enemy forces." Monica said.
    Idris smiled half a smile. "The you would hear an alarm and depending the circumstances you would also feel it."
    "Can you demonstrate the alarms? I don't like to be unprepared." Monica said.
    "Fair enough." Idris said. Followed by the howl of a soft deep siren a sound that was more apprehensive than alarmed.

    "How did you do that?" Lane asked.
    "That is the alarm that sounds when unknown crafts or objects close in." Idris said her half smile twitching slightly. "I also didn't do that. Since the mountains are still far away I would guess that we have visitors." She turned around walking hurriedly back towards the bridge. It was just then when the ship started to shake, the low siren being replaced with a much more urgent, faster high pitched one. "And that means that the vacuum envelopes of the Zeppelin are filling with air." Idris said now with a hint of panic in her voice. Now she started to run.
    Moments later she sat in her pilot seat again, furiously pushing buttons.
    "More old friend of yours?" asked Lane trying hard to keep calm.
    "No. None that I know of." Idris said switching on a monitor next to the controls. It came to life showing six different pictures. "Those are attack helicopters. One aft and two port and starboard." They could see on three of the screens large helicopters firing at the airship with large heavy machine-guns mounted to the tips of their winglets. "Hold on tight." said Idris giving full throttle. "One good thing is that they are not trying to kill us."
    "Really? They could have fooled me with those machine-guns." said Lane holding tightly to her calm.
    "If they wanted us dead," Monica said with the perfect calm Lane was striving for, "they would have fired their rockets at the plane part of the ship. They are trying to force us to the ground."
    "You need to man the guns." Idris said. She pushed button, the envelope of the Zeppelin above them for a moment was sheathed in green eldritch fire, once the flames started to fade the ship rushed forward.

    "What was that?" Lane asked.
    "Magic." said Idris. "It reduces the air resistance of the Zeppelin, we can outrun the helicopters. But you need to man the guns now. You have to distract them before the do to much damage."
    "But didn't you say..." started Monica.
    "This is really not that time!" Idris shouted. "Run back past your quarters to the end of the next corridor. Then one of you runs left the other right, climb the ladders continue down the corridors until the very end and you will enter the weapon pods. Go. Run. Now!" As lane and Monica ran, Idris pulled a lever, turning her head from the window closing her eyes tight, a moment later outside something burst outside in the desert air flooding the area in blinding light brighter than the sun. Even through her closed eyelids Idris could still see the bright flash. She opened her eyes again. She looked at the monitors, which were still white. She pulled the controls up sending the Unconquered Sun higher into the air and Monica and Lane sliding, half falling down the corridor. When she had gained 300 feet of altitude the monitors started to clear, now the three helicopters were visible in the sextant of the monitors that showed what happened below the ship. "Still to close." Idris said. 'Let's hope the Zeppelin has not lost too much buoyancy.' she thought. She activated the ships com system. "Hold on very, very tight, we are going to go through thrust reversal better yet find your self a wall facing in flight direction and press against it. You have five seconds." She checked her seatbelts. "Four." she placed her hands over the thrust reversal controls for all six engines. "Three." She tensed up her body reading for the impact. "Two." And exhaled "ONE!"
    The ship now pushed hard against its forward momentum, slowing down by hundreds of miles an hour in seconds. Captain Idris was pressed into her safety harness, breath crushed out of lungs she did not know were still there, her entire torso being crushing against her restraints. While Monica and Lane Who had not come that far were pressed against the door to the corridor leading to their rooms, both of them where flattened painfully against the door behind them their bodies being softer pushed painfully into the decorations filling out the free spaces between them and the wall and door. When all of then thought that any moment now something inside them would break in the most horrible way possible, the force that held them faded, gravity taking over its usual duty, leaving Idris slumped and gasping in er chair, while Lane crumpled to the floor, Monica sinking to her knees at her side.
    "No time to rest." Monica forced herself to say. "We need to get to the weapons. Come Lane." she grabbed her friend by the arm pulling both of them up channelling all of her highly trained willpower to do so. "Come. We have been just gifted with a few more minutes. Let's not waste this gift. Move." They did not manage to run but they achieved a hobbling version of a sprint towards the far door. As Monica opened it she discovered that it was far heavier than she had expected. IT look like the other doors but it was actually a heavy bulkhead decorated with a wooden finish. Cold air and the almost deafening roar of the engines flooded in from the metal corridor behind the bulkhead, it branched almost instantly to the left and right and further down to the aft end of the airship.
    "You." she said to Lane, "go right." she gently shoved her friend in to the corridor, hard enough to keep her stumbling on but not hard enough to risk her falling over.
    "I fell like all my insides have turned into gravy." Lane said.
    "Sounds delicious Lane. But right now you have to move forward. The feeling will fade, the attack helicopter won't. Move, Lane, move!" she waited for a moment to see that Monica was stumbling forward before turning around telling her gravy filled legs that there where still bones in them and that they were also all pointing in the right direction. With grim determination she planted one foot in front of the other, ignoring her dizziness, she knew that the world was not spinning and kept pushing that signal into her body that was pretty confident that there was a lot of circular motion going on.
    Lane had not that kind of experience with feeling dizzy, for her everything seemed to spin like crazy and her mind was not fighting her inner ear on that matter. She did hold on to the railing though, pressing her body against the cold metal wall. That was the spinning world pushed her into the wall and she could slide forwards. It took her many revolutions until she reached the ladder. She was not quite sure how many there had been. She had lost count also the stupid world was pinning slower with each step. At least that would make climbing the ladder easier.
    Actually climbing the ladder was far less of an effort than she had thought. It helped to grab something tightly with her hands and press her feet against unyielding metal. While most of her torso hurt now it was floating freely in the air with no pressure from any direction, while she could push her self upwards with the help of the relaxing solidity of the ladder.
    Matters went worse when she past a very thick solid layer that turned out to be the ground-effect crafts outer hull, finding herself inside the envelope of the Zeppelin part. It was a big open place with the outer skin of the not quite plane as a rounded metal floor extending beyond even that where the plane parts were replaced by metal gangways. The envelope was ripped to shreds in many points the fabric flapping furiously in the head wind of the airship. The sunlight, the moving shadows and the dim greyness of the rest of the hull were disorienting and for a moment. But there was her friend the railing again, showing her the way forward. She held it again in its her hand and moved forward again. Walking. That worked. So she walked faster, ignoring the light, and the noise just moving towards the end of her path which was still 20 feet away from the outer envelope. Lane wondered for a moment where she was going and if that was another strange magic trick that was built into the craft but she realized that in front of her on the floor was a squat, very robust looking hatch or airlock. 'I hope it hasn't got another one of those rhythm action locks like the entrance had...' lane thought. What ever locks it had they seemed to be disengaged. There was one of those large wheel things that you turned to open hatches and airlocks, with a little window under which there was a green panel. 'How do you call these things?' Lane wondered as she turned the wheel counter clockwise to open it.
    The hatch was incredibly heavy and it took Lane three attempts to find the right angle to open it, but then it gave way to a tiny opening with an almost equally tiny ladder leading into a dark space lit by a red light. She climbed down finding to her great relief a button which automatically closed and locked the hatch above her. One loud clank later it was almost completely silent and dark. Lane did not move for a few seconds wrestling with an animal fear of constricted dark places in which her own breathing was the loudest noise. She envisioned the attack helicopters and the large surfaces of shredded Zeppelin to give her fear a better target. The animal fear agreed that a dark quiet place that was mostly metal walls more than one foot thick and the promise of weapons was actually better than standing in a wide open place with no where to hide and just a bit of thick cloth standing between it and a machine-gun with a barrel so large that it could as well have fired squirrels.
    She moved down for longer than she expected until she reached a cramped cabin. It had an enormous metal and leather control chair that was connected to a ceiling mounted swivelling point always facing a battery of monitors mounted into a special frame in front of it. There was a small door in the back of the room leading to a tiny bunk room that somehow managed to have a field bed a little stove a shower and toilet and what was probably a small cupboard crammed into it.
    Lane sat down in the chair, found a large headset which she put on and then started to wonder how the heck she could activate it, or anything else in the room for that matter.
    She put on the headphones and sat down. There was a metal flip switch on the right hand side of the chair sitting under a glowing red light. "What's the worst that could possibly happen?" Lane said as she flipped the switch and imagining a trap door opening under her. Instead the little light now glowed green and she heard Idris talking. "... and that activates the rocket bay. They are heat seeking, but pint only fore and aft and are fucking expensive. So try to just use the chain guns."
    "Roger." said Monica over the radio.
    "Um... Hello?" said Lane.
    "Lane?" said captain Idris. "About fucking time you appeared. Idiots in the helos have noticed my little trick and it won't take them long to find us again. Are you fastened into your seat?"
    "Almost!" Lane said stretching the truth only a little bit, while she was fondling for the belts and buckles that explained why the seat was not as comfortable as it first had looked.
    "Good hurry up." as soon as you are ready we are going to drop like a stone out of the sky, while we fall I will explain to you how to use the weapons. It's easy. But once we are down there we won't be climbing again for a while you you will have to concentrate and make those shots count. Right?"
    "Aye, aye sir." Lane said.
    "I beg your pardon?"
    "Better. How are those seatbelts doing?" said Idris.
    "All secured."
    "Good. Now prepare for a free fall and then..." 'Free fall?' Lane asked herself, she was answered by her internal organs all trying to escape trough her throat into the open world and the blood shot into her head.
    "Scream quietly!" shouted captain Idris. "You are bursting my eardrums." Lane had not even noticed that she was screaming. When she did so she stopped. She attempted to stop but the falling sensation was so strong that the scream did not want to stop. She had to force it back down her throat. For a moment she though that she had still not succeeded, it turned out that that was Monica's scream over the radio. "So what buttons do I need to push?" she asked, concentrating on the controls in front of her shoving fear and panic right out again. Out side her fear and panic had a short cigarette break complaining to each other how little respect they got from Lane despite their invaluable work towards her continued survival. Lane did not pay any attention as she was turning on screens, arming weapon systems and making joysticks appear from the ground covered in enough buttons, hats and switches to indicating that they had led a wild life with not enough antibiotics. She also discovered that once activated the footrest was actually a pair of paddles with which she could turn around her chair. In a way Idris was right. While there were tons of controls they were actually rather intuitive to use. The monitors in front of her flared to life showing her everything around, above and below the airship. She swivelled the chair towards the front where the three helicopters where hovering in the air. The one to the right was swivelling around to face them. Sparks flew over the body of the helicopter, followed by some missiles. The helicopter exploded.
    "OK. I think I can work with this." said Monica over the intercom.
    The other tow helicopters started manoeuvring the second the first one went up in flames.
    "Careful now." Idris said. "Now they will probably be more aggressive.
    Lane was about to ask how they could get more aggressive than before when both the helicopters started firing a barrage of missiles towards their ship. Monica stared firing the chain guns at the incoming rockets, shooting a few out of the air the explosions pushing others off course. But there were enough left for the Unconquered Sun to catch. The airship fell for another dozen feet in one swift motion now powering forward again.
    This time Lane caught the scream in her throat. She tried to put the cross hairs over the helicopter to the left. "I'm concentrating on the one to my side." she said.
    "OK." answered Monica who opened fire on the other helicopter.
    Lane had expected for this to be over soon but it turned out that her target could move in the strangest ways never having the good grace of staying in one spot for even a single second. She kept firing her chain gun at it but most of the time she was just firing in front of it or after it. She even tried a few of the missiles but they too were dodged rather easily while her target came closer and closer shooting back mostly at the envelope at the Zeppelin. With some success as it seemed because the Unconquered Sun plummeted a few dozen feet without warning every now and then. The cursing of captain Idris indicating that this wasn't all part of her plan.
    "Monica?" Lane asked.
    "Yes." said Monica calmly.
    "Can you get your target to get in line with mine?"
    "Captain?" said Lain while trying to force her target further up.
    "What?" shouted Idris.
    "How much faster can we fly?"
    "Much faster."
    "When we get near enough to those helicopters could you give us as much boost as possible leaving them behind us?"
    "Sure thing." said Idris.
    "Monica, I have a plan." said Lane.
    "I know. Just tell me what to do."
    "Keep your guy in one horizontal line with mine."
    "OK" said Monica.
    "And when I say fire fire those fast rocket thingamajigs, OK." said Lane.
    "OK." said Monica.
    "Captain how long..."
    "Almost there..." said Idris. "Keep those fuckers busy for a while more and do not let them sit still long enough to fire those missiles or you are dead."
    "Doing our best captain." Lane said noticing a number on her display going from amber to red. As she kept firing the number started blinking and moving very quickly towards zero. "Now would be a great time captain."
    "Almost there... almost... THERE!" Lane heard the engines crying out over her headphones the airship jumping forward with a surprising speed. The helicopters on her screens flashed forward and vanished out of side. Lane turned her seat around as fast as she could, which now seemed slower than the continental drift. Until she over shot her target and hat to compensate.
    "Target acquired." said Monica.
    'Over achiever.' thought Lane as she worked the pedals furiously trying to put her cross hairs over her new target. The helicopters had been also been turning towards them and where now almost facing them again. Lane could almost see the gunner in the other ship getting ready to press the trigger.
    "Fire! Fire! Fire!" Lane screamed while she also unleashed a stream of rockets to wards the helicopter in front of her targeting a bit further right than necessary. Monica's missiles were already under way flying with pinpoint accuracy towards the helicopter in front of her, it tried to evade her shot but it was to late for them they were hit by several of the missiles. While Lane's target was faster, seeing her attack approaching it strafed away. "Got you YOU MOTHERFUCKER!" Lane screamed as the chopper flew into the burning wreck of Monica's target that was spiralling towards it. The ammo in the right winglet of Lane's target exploded shoving the helicopter back into the stream of Lane's missile fire.
    Lane started laughing in elation. For overcoming her enemy for out smarting him and first and foremost for surviving.
    "Both targets destroyed." Monica said still perfectly calm. "Well done Lane."
    "Very well done, both of you." said captain Idris "You have our lives and thanks to you the Unconquered Sun remains unbeaten. I hereby up-grade your status from passengers to guests."
    "Does that mean we need not pay you any-more?" Monica asked.
    "Fuck no. It means I will regard you as human beings and not as cockroaches on the rest of the flight."