(This is part of Tepic’s experience while searching out who was responsible for killing Dibbler, an urchin of New Babbage. There are events prior to this which have not yet been blogged. Currently, he is out to search for the Air Pirates who are ravaging commerce between Mondrago and the City, and who shot down his friend Leon and captured Leon’s crew and his passenger Cyan.)
There had been far too many discussions in Cuffs, Mr Melnik’s pub about what they were going to do, but Tepic now knew it was time to stop faffing about and take some action.
The plan had been to use Coleen’s airship with Tepic on board as bait, in the hopes that the pirates would attack them and in the confusion he would get aboard their ship, causing a distraction to allow Coleen to escape. With him captured and taken to their base, he would use the components he had hidden on him to make an aetheric radio and send a message to the City letting them know where he was so a full scale rescue of himself and the other prisoners could be effected.
Unfortunately he had not seen Coleen for a couple of days and he was getting frustrated by the delays, until he passed the Circus that had just set up on Quarry Hill. Something caught his eye and a plan formed quickly in his mind.
It was in the hours before dawn the next day that a small figure crept alongside the darkened showground until it was parallel with the small, tethered balloon used for giving a view over the City to showgoers. As had been observer the night before, the circus folk didn’t deflate the balloon but kept a small paraffin heater in the basket to keep it inflated overnight. The figure slipped over the fence, threw a bulging knapsack into the basket and clambered in. There was a brighter glow as the heater flame was turned up, then a hand reached over the wicker and severed the tether ropes with a sharp blade. There was the soft sound of the ropes slithering to the ground and the balloon silently ascended into the dark skies…..
Tepic munched on the remains of the chicken he had found left out for passing urchins the previous evening. The flight had been smooth and relaxing, and as the dawn broke he could see he was drifting out over the Vernian Sea, the lights of the Port still visible behind him. That had been a worry, how easy it would be to find an air current going the right direction, but in the end he had found one quickly. Now all he had to do was find and board a pirate ship, and until he did, breakfast would occupy the time.
Some time later he casually tossed the last of the chicken bones over the edge, idly watching as it fell to the water far below. To his astonishment, what looked like the entire contents of a waste bucket joined it in it’s plummet, narrowly missing his balloon. He looked up to see nothing but clouds around the edge of his canopy. Curious, he turned the heater up and rose as the air warmed. As he reached the clouds, water formed on the oiled silk, running round the balloon to drip into the basket. Letting the drops fall onto his hand, he was amazed that the water was actually hot, then the top of the balloon flattened as it touched something solid hidden in the cloud.
Quickly Tepic pulled on the emergency rope, spilling a small amount of hot air out of the balloon and his craft dropped down and away from the obstruction. Once clear, he let himself rise again, and this time, he could make out a huge, vague shape hidden behind what he now recognized as clouds of steam. This was no small pirate ship, or even an early migrating Air Kraken, this was a veritable battleship of the skies.
Letting himself drift closer, he was eventually able to snag a hanging rope, and after making sure his knapsack was secure, he swung over to the vessel and clambered aboard. His own, borrowed, balloon, bobbed away, free of his weight and guiding hand, to make it’s own journey to distant parts.
Thankfully, it was still early in the morning and the part he had boarded seemed to be deserted. In a corner behind some barrels he set up his aetheric transmitter and sent his report on the frequency he knew Miss Avariel’s automatons listened to and recorded. He was not quite sure where he was, but did give the time he had been aloft and the speed he seemed to be doing, along with the approximate height and that the place was shrouded in clouds of steam. Hopefully that would be enough for Coleen and all the others to mount the rescue.
Meanwhile, he hid the transmitter under some empty sacks and set off to find the prisoners and anything else worth discovering in the gradually awakening ship. As he explored, he stashed away various things he had brought with him, while storing anything interesting he found, including a couple of belaying pins, a nice length of thin rope, some apples from a barrel and a pouch of tobacco placed within reach by an unwary person as he slipped by.
It was a real adventure and very exciting dodging about as more and more of the crew went about their business, and Tepic was quite enjoying himself. Then he peeked round a corner only to see a pair of boots pointed towards him, above which were a set of legs and a person above, cutlass out, the tip wavering just in front of Tepic’s nose. He looked up at his captor without rancour, having expected this turn of events at some stage. Then his eyes widened and he let out a single exclamation, “You!”.