The story so far…
Tom Cain rescued sisters Nikki and Willow Keats from psychotic Draggers and a Mist infestation with the help of sharpshooter Agatha West. They fled Milton on the apparently deserted airship Hecate. As they were pulling out of Milton, a young woman appeared at the door to the bridge, but she ran away before any of the crew could ask her what had happened.
They came to the town of Havenvale looking for repairs, but ran afoul of the local syndicate, had their drinks dosed and wound up in a cell. When we last saw them, the crew of the Hecate had managed to escape their cell, but fell straight back into the hands of the Ponderoy Charkart, leader of the syndicate.
Tom grinned. “I don’t suppose you’d like to give us a do-over on the whole escape thing would you?”
Charkart shook his head. “I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me who helped you?”
Willow whispered out of the corner of her mouth, “Push me down by the side of the road.”
Tom frowned. “What?”
Charkart looked at him, questioningly. “The name of the person who helped you? Otherwise my boys will be forced to play rough with you and your friends.”
Willow hissed, “Push me.” Then aloud she said, “I’m going to tell him if you don’t.”
“No you’re not!” Tom had no idea what her game was, but any plan was better than no plan, which was what he had at the moment.
“It was—” Willow’s words were cut short as Tom slammed an open hand against her chest. She was surprisingly light and flew through the air a lot further than he’d intended, landing in a heap in the gravel at the side of the road. When she got up she didn’t use her hands normally, she clutched at them as though her wrists were injured. Whatever plan she’d had, he must have just ruined by pushing her too hard.
Charkart waved his men forward. “Cut her off from the others. Let’s hear what she has to say.”
The thugs moved in from both sides in a disorganized mass.
Just before they reached her, Willow shouted, “Run!” She turned her hands upwards to reveal two rocks. The first shattered a pane of glass and missed the flame of the lamp, but the second impacted square-on.
A gout of orange flame shot upwards, and in an instant the light was extinguished, leaving a bright afterimage on Tom’s retinas. He grabbed Nikki and Agatha by the hands and propelled the three of them towards Willow. They brushed past someone big, and heard a grunt. A moment later, a man’s voice cried in pain.
In the darkness, Tom heard Willow’s voice. “This way, come on!” He followed it through the crowd, brushing past men, and inducing havoc as the blinded men attacked eachother. He heard Nikki squeal in pain, and a moment later caught a grazing blow to his left ear. The impact deafened him on that side, and he could feel a trickle of blood flow down and over his shoulder. He stumbled and fought off a wave of dizziness.
Finally they were free of the melee. The four of them dashed around a corner to a well-lit thoroughfare. A few late-night strollers were out on the boardwalks.
“Excuse me,” Said Tom, trying to appear calm. “Which way to the airship port?”
A startled young man stared at Tom. “You’re bleeding.”
With supreme effort, Tom refrained from shouting. “Yeah, I know. The port?”
“Five blocks that way, hang a right and go another seven. Can’t miss it.”
“Thanks!” The crew rushed up the street.
Behind them they heard a shout. “This way lads!” A moment later a gunshot shattered the night air.
A small explosion of wood chips flew from the railing beside Agatha. She shouted over her shoulder, “You’re a lousy shot, you know that?”
Tom glanced back and saw Charkart lining up for another shot. “Duck!”
Charkart fired and the shot shattered a window they were passing.
The four of them ran as hard as they could, with Tom and Agatha helping Nikki and Willow to run faster, but the men behind gained. No more shots were fired, but by the time they’d cleared the first five blocks and turned the corner the thugs were right on top of them.
“This way!” Tom led them into the front entrance of a building without looking at the sign. Inside, an array of beautiful women were busily entertaining the establishment’s male clientele. Most of them were barely dressed.
Tom stopped and stared.
Agatha smacked Tom on the back of the head. “Move it, idiot!”
Tom closed his mouth and gathered his wits. He pushed one of the women off a heavy chaise and jammed it under the doorknob just as a heavy weight hit the door on the other side.
A large elderly woman came from the back room and shouted, “Get out! Charles! Get your lazy ass out here, you got some evictin’ to do!”
Tom turned to the young woman he’d just dumped on the floor. “Back exit?”
“That way, hon.” She pointed to a door behind the bar, just as the biggest man Tom had ever seen emerged from it, carrying a large club.
She pointed to the left. Tom led the others for the stairs. Behind him he heard the young woman call, “Y’all come back when you’ve got a bit more time, ‘kay love?”
They charged up the stairs to the sound of splintering wood below. By the time they reached the first floor, they heard heavy boots hit the stairs below.
“Up, up!” Tom shouted.
“Up where?” said Agatha.
Tom didn’t answer, mostly because he had no idea. Running made more sense than stopping, as long as they kept running there was still a chance they might get away.
They reached the top floor panting for breath.
Agatha confronted Tom. “Now which way genius?”
“That way!” Tom pointed to a ladder at the end of the hall. He pushed Nikki and Willow up through the trap-door to the roof while Agatha tipped a wardrobe she’d found down the staircase. Shouts from below told him she’d had perfect timing.
“Go!” yelled Agatha as she tore up the hallway.
Tom scrambled up the ladder with Agatha close behind. He rolled on to the roof and slammed the trap-door shut. “All of you, sit on this!”
The girls sat, while Tom went to survey the surrounding buildings. He could hear thumping noises from below, but the girls were too heavy for the men below to lift. All of the buildings around were too far away to even consider jumping.
“No way out. We’re stuck here,” Tom reported.
Agatha growled angrily. “What now?”
>Boom!< A shot came from below, punching a neat hole in the trap-door, sending splinters into Willow’s arm. The three girls dove off the hatch just as a second shot drilled through where Agatha had been sitting a moment before.
Tom dove forward. “Grab the edge!”
He managed to get his fingers on the lip of the trap-door just as a heavy weight hit it from below.
>Boom!< >Boom!< >Boom!< Three more shots pierced the wood hatch, one narrowly missed Tom’s hand.
“Surrender, and I might decide to let you live!” said Charkart’s voice from below.
“We’d like some guarantee of that before we give up!” Nikki shouted down.
Tom heard a hiss of moving air overhead and looked up. There was a zeppelin, gliding in just above rooftop height, headed straight for them.
“I could give you my word as a man of commerce?” said Charkart.
“Are you serious? I’d rather have a thief’s word!” said Nikki.
“I heard you fellas could use a lift?” Tom turned to see the Hecate’s freight elevator bearing down on him. Shorty hung off one of the ropes, waving his cap at them.
Tom scrambled to his feet just as it reached them. “Grab on!” He neatly swung aboard the leading corner of the elevator.
Shorty grabbed at Nikki, and hauled her into the cage, Agatha jumped nimbly aboard, but Willow missed her grip and fell.
Nikki ran to the rail. “Willow!”
Tom jumped off and ran to the girl. The elevator was moving about ten miles an hour, they could still catch it. He picked Willow up to her feet and propelled her forward. Grasping hands caught her as they neared the elevator. As she cleared the rail, she kicked out and caught Tom in his wounded ear. He tripped and fell on to the gravel roof.
A rectangle of light behind him appeared as the trap-door opened and men came spilling out.
Tom shook his head and got to his feet. The blow to his ear had thrown his balance off. He tried to run, but kept stumbling to the side. Finally he got a pace going, but he was well behind the lift.
The elevator cleared the side of the building just as Tom got up to speed. He ran as hard as he could, but it seemed like it was getting further away. Still, there was nothing for it but to jump. Charkart would surely kill him if he stayed.
Tom leapt harder than he’d ever strained in his life. For a moment it was like he had wings. The elevator swung back in his direction and he landed hard on his chest against the lip of the doorway. It knocked the wind out of him. He scrabbled for a hand hold, but slid backwards, legs pumping madly over empty space. Helping hands pulled him aboard and Tom collapsed. His chest burned where he’d slammed into the elevator and every breath was painful.
Shorty pulled a lever and the elevator began to lift into the belly of Hecate’s gondola, at the same moment all four of her engines kicked to life. The elevator swung alarmingly as she accelerated.
Tom got unsteadily to his feet. “Who’s flying?”
Shorty glanced at him with a puzzled expression. “Who do you think?”
Tom looked at the other three, their expressions reflected the confusion he felt. They were nearly to the cargo bay.
“Wouldn’t be asking if I knew.”
Shorty smiled and shook his head. “You didn’t know she could fly? I thought she was your pilot, way she handles herself on the bridge. That was very clever of you to leave someone behind, but tell everyone it was just the four of you. I couldn’t have come got you without her.”
The elevator halted in the cargo bay with a clang. Shorty opened the door and stepped into the bay. All the lead bars were gone, apparently Charkart had stripped their cargo.
Tom turned to the others and mouthed, “Who?” They just shrugged in response.
“I can see why you left her aboard though,” Shorty continued. “She’s exotic and damn pretty. Liable to attract a bit too much attention in a town like Havenvale.”
The others followed Shorty up the companionway to the bridge. When they got there it was empty.
Shorty turned to the others. “She’s gone. That’s odd.”
“Why, Ishara of course. Is it that strange that she’d help rescue you?”
Ishara, the mystery passenger. In all the excitement Tom had forgotten about her. “Oh… Yeah, I guess.”
Nikki quickly slid into the pilot’s seat and shivered. She ran her hands over the freshly repaired controls. “Looks like they did a good job fixin’ her up. We’re headed due east.”
“Right, Willow, have a look for someplace we can go to find work.”
Willow sat down at her station, gave Sir Furrybottom a hug and went to work.
Tom grinned. He’d won Hecate back, and he was Captain again, no matter what Agatha said. “Shorty, get your gear stowed in the machine room, and then Agatha’ll show you your quarters.”
Shorty nodded. “Aye Captain… You got a first mate?
It didn’t take Tom two seconds to decide. “Agatha’s first mate. Any time I’m not around, you get your orders from her.”
“Aye Captain.” Shorty saluted and left for the machine room.
“Me?” Agatha turned to Tom. “Why’d you pick me, we can’t agree on nothin’.”
“Exactly, you’ll keep me honest, I want you to argue with me when I’m being pig-headed. Just… one favour?”
“Try not to enjoy it too much.”
Agatha grinned and walked away. “I’m afraid I can’t do that… Captain.”
End of Episode 2