by Sophronia Belle Lyon
|Airship on the Long Course|
"Hey, you! Catch me if you can! Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah!"
I brandished my coat at the flier. It came even closer; yet, not quite near enough to identify any of us. But it dared not get too close lest we take an easy shot. We could still only intermittently see the thing. The fuselage seemed transparent and above the pilot's back, clockwork gears turned a rotor.
Suddenly the thing banked and flitted away from the roof. The guard with us got off a few hopeless shots. It was clear now the pilot of the spy craft had spotted the airship and was making a run toward it. Some sort of disk-like objects erupted from the shimmer that was the spy ship.
"If they hit the airship they will puncture the skin."
"Is it really just a balloon?"
"It has a lot of steam-filled chambers. We’ll have to break a few of them open. I should think a spinning disk, with a sharp edge, is just the tool to skim across the surface and do it a mischief."
Instead of continuing down, Twist's airship veered to one side. A flicker of cloudy blue revealed the spy craft glancing off its side, while discharging more disks.
"The airship's taken a hit!" Steam erupted from the port side. We could see Tod struggling to control the vessel. It yawed, labored into a half-turn, and floated, listing badly, right toward the house.
"It's coming this way! He can't control it!" The airship half-turned again and the steam-leak seemed to be lessening. Tod clamored over the leather skin and threw his flight jacket into a hole, stuffing it to gain some altitude.
"There it comes again!" The spy ship attacked with a half-dozen disks. Again Twist's ship sank and lurched, only a few hundred feet from the house. But as Tod spun it around the air ship struck the spy craft and knocked it downward. The thing nose-dived as the guard on the roof took another shot. We heard a ping and watched as the small ship pitched sideways.
"Hit it again! Hurry!"
But the woman’s gun was empty. The airship was still descending. Steam burst from the holes. Tod could not get it aloft. The damaged spy ship had more maneuverability but both came too close to the house.
"He's going to ram Twist's ship." Kera found it hard to breathe. "They'll both crash into the house and Mrs. Rose just might have her bomb going off."
I ran along the edge of the roof as if I were looking for a shot, though my pistol was empty. I had come to that conclusion a moment earlier but dared not say it out loud lest he be grabbed and thrown down on the roof by both women.
Just as the spy craft hove around the corner of the house, only a few feet away from the airship, I launched myself off the roof. The smaller ship disappeared and my heart leaped in panic at the thought of being sliced into quarters by the tail rotor. But my fingertips found the fuselage of the spy ship and I wrapped my legs around it. The thing slewed and spun and fell tail-first toward the green lawn.
The pilot's boot struck my face. Stunned, I managed to hang on and got onto the top of the machine. He twisted, still strapped in, brandishing a disk in either hand. I jammed one foot into the gouge, made by the guard when she shot at the wing, and hung by one hand on a wing strut, lashing out with my fist. The pilot tried to block the blow but his arm snapped back against his body. The disk he held sliced through his harness belt and my counterweight threw the ship into a spin, all in the same moment.
The pilot was wrenched three-quarters out of his harness, screaming, dangling, spinning. I lurched, grabbed hold of the handrails, and puzzled over the controls while trying to keep the man from falling. For my altruism I was rewarded with the flat of a razor-edged disk across the face. It glanced along my shoulder and carved through my waistcoat and shirt. Seizing hold of the disk I cut the last of the harness holding the man to the spy ship. His shriek was brief, interrupted by the thud of his body against the ground.
Tod had managed to get Twist's airship down, though it lay at a disturbing angle. The hatch opened and he hastily pulled the passengers out with a wary eye on the sky. Unable to right or keep the spy ship aloft I settled for learning how to slow its already sluggish descent; guiding it onto the half-deflated surface of the airship. It made a reasonably soft landing, though it tipped over at the last minute. I bounced and rolled to the turf.
People converged on the airship from all directions. A shaky but resolute Elinor Ferras led Tatiana by the hand away from the area and Uncle Vanya immediately engulfed his daughter in his thick, floury arms. Doctor Mac and Tod, however, headed straight for me.
"Oy 'ad you pegged f'r a Toff, Prince Charming." Tod reached out a hand as I lay on the ground. He grinned. "Thanks for proving me wrong."
"Lie still," Doctor Mac exclaimed. "I need to check you out before you move a muscle—"
Tod made a rude noise as he hauled me to my feet. "'E's a' roight, ain't you just, Princey?"
|by Sophronia Belle Lyon|
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