Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blind Date - Part I

By Bettyann Moore

“You know, maybe if you fixed yourself up a little … some makeup, a haircut … maybe wear a skirt once in a while …. Pass the peas, would you, Jim?”

Kathie Hudson glared over the top of her granny glasses at her sister, but the look was lost on Marie, who continued to jabber on.

“It’s a new life, a new place,” Marie declared. “You can reinvent yourself! With the right look, the right attitude, you could make new friends.”

“The right friends, no doubt,” Kathie said, even though she knew the sarcasm would be lost on Marie. Her brother-in-law, Jim, gave her a look, but went back to shoveling food into his face.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Battle for October Sky – Part Five

They ran up the hill’s path pushing a cart laden with gas cylinders, disarmed rockets, and a crate of weasels. Sweat stung Beaumont’s eyes, and his gums throbbed as Ives cursed them for laggards. Beaumont’s pocket watch, secured to the cart by its fob chain, swung before him. The sweeping second hand told him that no matter how his legs burned, or his lungs ached, he would need to keep running for thirty more seconds. They needed to make it another hundred feet, and then he could rest.

Chevket pushed beside him, seemingly at his ease apart from casting nervous glances down the path behind them. Beaumont hoped his first officer’s luck would continue to hold. The man escaped the explosion that both knocked out Beaumont and Ives and claimed the lives of his crewmen, ironically, by hiding in the cave filled with hydrogen cylinders. In the ensuing chaos, he secured a fully-loaded hand cart from an unwary deliveryman, and circled back when he realized Ives and Beaumont were being held in the main building.

The cart hit a rock in the path and bounced, the cylinders jostling with heart-stopping clangs, but thankfully no sparks. The weasels chittered and snapped in their cage, which also mercifully remained latched. Beaumont was hunched forward as he pushed, and his face mere inches from the cage. It would be a particularly horrid experience to be swarmed over by their rancid bodies and sharp teeth should they escape. The weapons’ inclusion went against Chevket’s wishes, who had a heated, whispered argument with Ives when the agent insisted on including them. Chevket urged for immediate escape, citing the remaining crew of the October Sky relying on them all for getting the ship back to port, while Ives argued that bringing home this evidence of a new weapon of paramount importance. Beaumont reluctantly agreed with the agent only because the cold calculus of strategy placed this new weapon’s importance over the safety of an airship’s crew.

And so they ran, heedless of the shouts and rifle reports behind them, hoping that Ives assertion that they get to the top of the valley with their cart in eight minutes and not a second less was correct. The rifle fire fell off, and an ornithopter’s engine whined as its pilot prepared it for launch, doubtlessly with a rifle squad on board. Within minutes, they would be caught in the open.

“Fifteen seconds,” Beaumont hissed.

Ives cursed their collective legitimacy and speculated on their mothers’ improbable indiscretions with the animal world.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Battle for October Sky – Part Four

Beaumont woke up on hard-packed earth next to Ives, in the only cage not filled with weasels. To his left and right, the mangy creatures scratched and chewed at the wire mesh separating their enclosures from his own, their rancid musk adding to his blooming headache. Ives huddled in the cell’s middle, wiping at the dried blood at his ears and nose. From somewhere beyond their cage, the thrumming and buzzing of machinery filled the air.

“How long?” Beaumont asked.

“About an hour,” Ives said a bit louder than necessary.

“Any ideas as to where are we?”

Ives pointed to the cage’s door, where someone had obviously and hastily nailed boards to reinforce their enclosure to withstand escape attempts from larger occupants. Beaumont moved to peer through a gap to find that they were in a dark corner inside the wooden building housing the electrolysis plant. The true scale of the operation made Beaumont blanch.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Battle for October Sky – Part Three

False dawn’s light blotted at the darkness. The October Sky listed to its port side, weighed down by its flaccid envelope. Crewmen scurried over the craft’s superstructure like ants on a dying whale, shouting out reports of battle damage to their section chiefs below. Beaumont paced the ground from bow to stern, allowing the crews to see him as they went about their jobs. Agent Ives trailed behind him, saying nothing.

They had been fortunate to land in a pocket canyon; the enemy would have to be directly overhead to spot the October Sky. However, their hidden berth would only buy them a few hours extra should the Caliph’s airships discover the battle-wrecked ornithopters and begin an organized search. With steep walls lined with loose rock, the canyon would become an unescapable killing ground once under attack. Captain Beaumont checked the riflemen at the canyon’s rim, braced against the scree and ready to call out should anything approach.

“Captain,” Chevket said.

“How bad is she?” he said.

His first officer ran a hand through his hair and glanced back at the ship. “A dozen injured, but thankfully no lives lost. We have twenty cells holed beyond repair, twice that need patching to become airworthy again. The belly turrets are inoperable, and we have numerous twisted struts and popped rivets.”

Beaumont had feared as much. “And our helium?”

Chevket blew out and shook his head. “Mister Wallace is still making his estimate.”

“You’re quibbling, aren’t you?” Ives said. “You know, but you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news. Just spit it out, man.”

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Battle for October Sky – Part Two

Beaumont climbed the bridge ladder with Ensign Charles and nodded at Helmsman Docks, who stood from the captain’s chair and held it for Beaumont.


Docks looked nervous, and glanced at Agent Ives, who was studying the navigation table. “Craft secure, all sections nominal. We are tacking across a four knot wind along a heading of three-zero-four at five hundred feet.”

“What?” Beaumont roared. “What’s our speed?”

“Nineteen knots.” Docks steeled himself and shifted his gaze to Agent Ives.

“I see,” Beaumont said. “Very well, Mister Docks, you are relieved. Go find some supper.”

The normal murmuring of the bridge crew was missing, and all seemed abnormally focused on their stations. Beaumont composed himself and swiveled his chair around.

“Mister Ives, I imagine you dictated this course and altitude?”

Ives looked up, unconcerned. “I did, Captain. Did you have a nice dinner?”

“We’re heading into the heart of the Caliphate.”

“We came across a supply column heading back along the deaders’ path. They’re winding through a narrow pass that will take them most of the night. We’re going to be waiting for them when they emerge.”

Beaumont turned to the man at the damage control panel, Airman Tooley. “Battlestations. I want the gunnery crews ready to fire in two minutes. Helm, take us to altitude one-triple-zero and put her abeam the wind.”