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Ep1: Wrong package

Story by: Tom Goodfellow
Age:The First Maecenas -> Modern

Joseph Fearnon leant on the iron rails and sighed. Below him, there was only a dull mist, covering the ocean that he knew to be there. As far as he could see, the sky was deserted, and the only sound he could hear was the rough grinding of the engine situated in a room above where he was standing. Joseph stretched his arms, trying to relieve some of the tension in them. It was currently late afternoon, and Joseph had been awake since the early morning, tinkering with the Serpent's generator, and half the other systems in the zeppelin.

The airship, named the Sedales Serpent, had been captained by Joseph Fearnon for just over eight years, and it was beginning to age. When it was new, the Serro Airworks Model T5 airship had been modern without being impressive. It had few flashy gadgets, and was very much a basic, functional zeppelin rather than one of the luxurious and complicated airships favoured by the rich and powerful. In the eight years Joseph had owned her, he had replaced and upgraded a lot of the electronics and smaller mechanical systems, but some parts, like the generator, couldn't be replaced.

Not with Joseph's budget at any rate. Paying for any kind of generator maintenance or alteration was expensive, and if you factored in the near antique state of the Serpent's generator, the fees quickly became astronomical. So Joseph persevered with the old generator, even if it did mean a lot of extra work whenever the mist got in. Like today. Flying over the Daru Sea always meant mist, which was why Joseph tried to avoid it whenever he could.

However, the job today had been just too tempting. Joseph worked as an independent airship captain, and was willing to take on almost any job so long as it paid well. So when he had been approached in a drinking den in the city of Vel Kosa, and offered an exceptional amount of money to transport a crate of old paintings to the island of Egastas, which was nearby, he had jumped at the opportunity. He hadn't wondered why his employer hadn't just used one of the regular transport zeppelins to move the paintings, he just assumed that there was some kind of subterfuge involved.

A lot of the time, Joseph's clients wanted goods moved without any official record, and Joseph was happy to oblige. The Serpent had several concealed compartments throughout her hull, and could even conceal large items with relative ease. The extra fees Joseph charged were worth the extra secrecy to a lot of people, which was how Joseph made his money.

Just then an icy gust of wind made Joseph shiver, and shook him from his reverie. He turned away from the hand-rail and entered the interior of the zeppelin. Joseph was now standing in the Serpent's largest cargo hold, which was currently empty except for a pile of scrap metal and a few old crates. The Serro Model T5 was a civilian aircraft, but it was based off a military design. Joseph knew that this main cargo hold could carry four light tanks, or two heavy tanks with maintenance equipment. It never had while Joseph had owned the zeppelin, but it could do.

Joseph walked past the scrap metal and climbed a ladder to the second level, and into a smaller cargo hold. There was a lift platform for moving cargo from the smaller cargo hold down to the larger main cargo hold, but Joseph tried to avoid using it as it had become unreliable lately. On this second level, in addition to the secondary cargo hold, was the engine room and crew quarters. Joseph headed towards the engine room.

To get into the engine room, Joseph had to swing open a heavy metal door. As soon as the door opened, an overpowering smell of oil swept over Joseph. He wrinkled his nose and stepped inside. In front of him was the engine itself, but most of the engine room was taken up with related mechanical systems, and of course the generator just above the engine. There was a gantry way running around the upper level of the room, and Joseph climbed another ladder to get to it.

Once he was up, Joseph immediately went to examine the generator. He could barely hear anything over the noise of the engine, but leant in close to try and catch the sound of the generator. He could just make out a weak sounding hum. That wasn't perfect, but it would do. Ideally, a generator would give off a strong hum as it processed energy, but considering that the Serpent's generator had been buzzing erratically a few hours ago, a weak hum was a definite improvement.

Joseph turned around, and saw a man wriggling out from underneath one of the backup battery arrays. Joseph waited patiently as the man got out and stood up. He was a short balding man, wearing oily overalls and a cracked pair of goggles. As he got up, he took off the goggles and used a towel lying on top of the battery array to wipe oil off his face, and to try and wipe it out of his beard. Upon seeing Joseph, he scowled.

“This damn ship of yours ‘ought to be put out of commission!” He slammed his hand down on the battery array for emphasis. “These bloody batteries are only half charged and the linking cable's frayed, who knows how long it's been since you had them checked?”

“Stop complaining Galeo!” Joseph had to shout above the engine. “Will they work long enough for us to take down the main batteries?”

“I wouldn't like to say!” Galeo shouted back. “Most of these reserve batteries are working, but only just! Could give out at any moment!”

“Damn.” Joseph muttered, looking down and tapping his fingers on the side of the generator. Then he turned back to Galeo. “Try and fix the backups as much as you can, see if you can get them in better condition! Then come find me at the bridge!”

Galeo smiled broadly at Joseph, displaying the several gaps in his teeth, before giving him a mock salute and ducked to crawl back under the battery arrays, replacing the goggles on his face as he went. Joseph walked along the gantry way to another door, and with some relief stepped out the dingy, oily engine room into a supply room.

He was now on level three of the Serpent, which was mostly supply rooms, but it also had the crew dining area, which doubled as the general rest and relaxation room. The supply rooms contained all the food, drink and miscellaneous items that the zeppelin needed for a comfortable voyage, as well as spare parts, ammunition and weapons in case of disaster or attack.

Joseph passed through all the supply rooms, and walked up the stairs to the upper access chamber. This was just a room that allowed crew access to the top of the Serpent's gondola, so they could observe and repair the lift-balloon. It also allowed access to a machine gun turret mounted on top of the gondola.

The fourth and highest level of the Serpent (except the top of the gondola) consisted of the bridge at the front of the zeppelin, the upper access chamber, the docking chamber, the rear anti-aircraft machine gun turret, and the cannon chamber.

The bridge was the brain of the airship, and all her systems could be controlled from the single room. The docking chamber served two purposes. The first was simply as a location to attach the landing ramp if the airship was stopping briefly at an airdock and not offloading cargo, and the second was to allow airship to airship midair docking. A risky procedure even in good weather, getting two zeppelins close enough together to launch a landing ramp across the gap was unnecessary in civilian operations, and the docking chamber in the Model T5 was a leftover from the original military design. Joseph had never used it for midair docking, but had taken the time to learn the procedure, just in case. The appropriately named cannon chamber contained the Serpent's anti-airship defences, a pair of Kahv 60mm SP Cannons. The rear machine gun was mounted in a ball turret, like the upper machine gun, enabling good AA cover around the rear of the zeppelin.

Joseph went straight into the bridge. The only occupant was a tanned, muscled man standing at the ship's wheel. He turned around as Joseph entered, and nodded silently in greeting, before returning his gaze to the front view-port. He was clean-shaven and had his brown hair cropped short.

“Hello Barald. Everything all right up here?” Joseph asked. Barald Teller didn't look away from the front view-port, but nodded again. “Good, good. Hopefully we'll be getting closer to land soon, maybe the weather will improve.” Joseph talked without really concentrating on what he was saying.

He was busy inspecting the several panels of instruments and gauges around the bridge. Barald was unlikely to say anything in reply anyway. He was a man of few words, and that was that. Joseph spent a lot of his time trying to engage Barald in casual conversation, but never managed it. Barald would only speak when it was strictly necessary, otherwise he would remain silent. Joseph finished checking the instruments, and walked out of the bridge. He felt at a loose end. Really, he should be in the engine room with Galeo, but he couldn't be bothered. Galeo would do just fine without him anyway.

Suddenly, Joseph heard Barald's deep voice from the bridge:
“Captain! There's an airship approaching!”

Seeing other airships around the skies wasn't unusual, but Barald calling out to inform Joseph about it certainly was. It meant that Barald was either very worried, or very sure that the Joseph would want to see. Normally it was the latter. Joseph swung around and jogged back into the bridge. As he reached Barald's side, he felt his heart race. He knew why Barald had called him out.

Through the front view-port, Joseph could see a single small airship. It was painted white all over, and was quickly dropping out of a thick cloud where it had been concealed and moving towards the Sedales Serpent at some speed. Joseph guessed what kind of ship it was, but waited for the final confirmation of its purpose. The confirmation came as Joseph saw a large black banner with a red sword over a white cloud emblazoned across it unfurled over the edge of the airship's gondola.

Pirates. Joseph immediately leapt into action.

“Barald, you know the drill. Evasive action until we start shooting! Speed and altitude! Go!” Joseph was shouting instructions, but he was perfectly aware that Barald knew what to do better than he did. Joseph was a good pilot, but not a patch on Barald.

Leaving Barald to fly the ship, Joseph sprinted out of the bridge and leapt down the stairs to the second level. He felt his stomach drop as Barald threw the ship into a sharp climb, and ran through the supply rooms. He had just reached the engine room door when it swung open and Galeo stepped out, still wearing oily overalls. He looked concerned but not worried.

“What's happening Joe?” He asked, swinging the engine room door shut.

“Pirates! It's a small zeppelin.” That was all the information Joseph needed to give Galeo. Together, they both hurried through the airship's corridors up to the cannon room. As they ran, Joseph ran various plans through his mind. The Serpent was relatively fast, but a pirate zeppelin that size would easily outrun her. They could just stand their ground and fight, the pirates wouldn't expect that. However, there was the possibility that the small airship was only a scout for a group of pirates, in which case the others would be getting here soon. They could of course give up, but Joseph wasn't willing to lose his ship.

He decided on a combination of running and fighting. They weren't too far off Egastas, and it was unlikely that the pirates would follow them there. As Joseph and Galeo reached the cannon room, they heard a dull thud against the side of the airship. A dud shell had just hit them. This was either because they were lucky, or more likely because the pirates were intentionally firing duds to scare them into surrender.

“Not today scum…” Joseph muttered as he unclipped the safety bars on the port cannon. Galeo was already sliding a shell into the mechanism and locking it in place. Joseph kicked the fire port hatch open and starting winding the cannon around to face outwards. Both men stumbled sideways as the Serpent leapt upwards and sideways, and they heard a shell whistle past beneath them. Quickly returning to the cannon, Joseph took a closer look at the pirate airship. It was smaller than the Serpent, and had an unusual bulging gasbag. He guessed it would be a Fliessmat Aerial Observer, an old design. His suspicions were confirmed when he saw a gunflash from a circular section on top of the main gondola. That would be the cannon room, containing a single cannon mounted on a ring of rails. It meant the one cannon could fire in a 360˚ arc around the gondola, but it was slow to turn and it was, at the end of the day only one cannon.

Joseph quickly wound the cannon barrel up to aim roughly at the gasbag of the other zeppelin. With Barald's manoeuvres he would be unlikely to hit anywhere else, and the initial shot was important psychologically. If the first shot hits, you look professional, dangerous. If you miss, you look amateur and unthreatening. Joseph grasped the firing lever and pulled it back, then quickly ducked down and covered his ears. With a loud crack the cannon fired, and the empty shell casing clattered onto the metal floor of the cannon room. Joseph watched the shell fly towards the pirate zeppelin, and then smash into the gasbag, tearing some of the padded outer coating.

“Gotcha!” He smiled and started winding the cannon to a new bearing. Meanwhile, Galeo had locked another shell into the cannon, and tossed the empty casing into an empty crate by the gun.

“Good shot captain… ok, you're good to go again!”

They both ducked briefly as another shell flew towards them, then passed by just above the cannon room. The two airships traded fire for a few minutes, with neither making a successful hit, but the distance between them was steadily closing, and the shells getting closer and closer each time.

Finally, the pirates scored a hit on the Serpent. A shell flew into the side of a cargo bay, and exploded with a blast of metal fragments and flames. Hearing the sound of the fragments pattering against the hull of the gondola, Joseph and Galeo looked at each other and cursed.

“They're bloody using bloody rippers!” Galeo shouted.

“I know, I know.” Joseph replied. “I'm going to aim for the cockpit, see how they like that.”

‘Ripper' shells were feared among zeppelin gun crews because of their contents – many shards of metal or other materials, that are sent flying when the shell detonates. They got their name because of the effect they had on gunners if they exploded anywhere near the fire ports, sometimes literally ‘ripping' them to pieces. It was generally considered unfair conduct to use rippers in non-military conflicts, and most civilian captains wouldn't even carry rippers. However, if rippers were used against them, most captains would use the other taboo tactic in airship combat; aiming at the cockpit of the opposing craft. The Serpent's cockpit was well concealed from enemy fire unless they were almost directly ahead of the zeppelin, but the pirate Observer's cockpit definitely wasn't.

Joseph adjusted the cannon's aim to the left, and pulled back the firing lever. The shell tore through the metal wall of the pirate gondola to the right of the cockpit. Quickly loading and firing again, Joseph's next shell smashed the glass of the cockpit and passed through the metal ceiling. They were close enough to see the pilot dive from the controls and roll under the instruments desk.

“That ‘oughta put ‘em off.” Muttered Galeo.

Then the pirates fired another shell, this one slamming into the side of the cannon room a little way to the left of the fire port. Galeo, on the right side of the gun, dropped down against the wall, while Joseph had no choice but to dive and then roll towards the opposite wall. Joseph heard tiny objects zipping past him, and then felt a sharp pain. Glancing at his right hand, he saw a metal fragment had clipped him and left a nasty cut. Fortunately it wasn't bleeding badly. He sat up, and saw Galeo look towards the pirates, then turn to give him a thumbs up.

“They're turning away! We spooked their pilot good eh?” He gave a gappy grin.

Joseph got up, and went cautiously to the fire port. He saw that the pirate zeppelin was indeed turning away, quickly rising back into a cloud. He gave a sigh of relief, and was about to start winding the cannon back into a safe position, when he heard a noise in the distance. Like a group of giant flies slowly getting closer. Joseph's heart sank.

“Galeo, do you hear that?” He asked.

“Hear what…” Galeo stopped mid sentence, and listened for a second. “Oh, damn. Yeah, I hear it all right. You want the top gun or the back?”

Joseph indicated over his shoulder towards the back of the zeppelin. Galeo nodded and headed for the upper access room and the top machinegun turret, while Joseph headed for the rear gun. The sound had got louder now, and was unmistakably the drone of biplanes. It seemed the pirate zeppelin was part of a group after all. And biplanes meant a much larger pirate carrier, or a hidden pirate base. And Joseph didn't think there was going to be a pirate base in the middle of the ocean.

* * * * *

Inside the cockpit of the leading biplane, Marcus Sellia wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand, and shouted back to his gunner:
“You comfortable back there?”

The gunner, crouched awkwardly in the machinegun recess, gave him a rude gesture in reply. Sellia grinned, and then immediately his expression turned to a grimace as a blast of hot air and oil sprayed over his face. The biplane's engine had leaked some more fluids. He decided he was going to give the mechanics one hell of a chewing out when he got back to the carrier. Wiping the sweat away again, he focused on the target; a smallish transport zeppelin. He could see at least two machinegun turrets on top and at the rear, and there could be more underneath or at the front of the airship.

Sellia decided to surround the zeppelin, hopefully confusing the machineguns. He let go of the control stick for a moment, and stood up in the cockpit, waving his arms to the left and right as a signal to his wingmen. Dropping back into his seat before the plane dropped into a nosedive, he spat oily saliva onto the cockpit floor, and tensed himself for the approaching battle.

* * * * *

Joseph rechecked the ammunition feed into the machinegun one last time, and gave the ball turret controls one last test. There were five biplanes bearing rapidly down on the Serpent, and if they realized that there were no machineguns on the front or underside of the airship, Joseph might only have this initial chance to fend off the attack. If the pilots were smart, and took advantage of the Serpent's anti-aircraft blind spot, the only defence Joseph would have was one of the rifles in the storage rooms. Not ideal to shoot down biplanes.

Both of the machinegun turrets in the Serpent contained twin Palenn EX-9s, belt fed fast firing anti-aircraft weapons. Like most things in the Serpent, they were well maintained and good quality, but getting old. Taking aim, Joseph fired a short burst towards the biplanes to judge the range. His bullets flew short by some way, but the biplanes still took evasive action. The five planes flew in different directions, and Joseph saw several flashes from their rear mounted machineguns. As bullets started contacting the Serpent's hull around the ball turret, Joseph squeezed the trigger again, sending a long stream of fire towards the nearest biplane. At the same time, he heard the sound of the top machinegun shooting as Galeo opened fire.

Joseph got lucky with his first burst. The bullets caught the biplane across the engine and wing, sending sparks flying from the former and tearing holes in the latter. The biplane swung away from the battle, and flew back the direction it had come trailing black smoke. Galeo was less lucky, only managing to put a few bullet holes in the wing of another biplane. But now the other biplanes had caught up with the Serpent, and were close enough to fire accurately at critical exterior systems.

One biplane went by to Joseph's left, and he saw the gunner firing relentlessly into the atmospheric monitor, which subsequently caught fire. That instrument gave the pilot important information about atmospheric conditions vital to pilot a zeppelin efficiently. Another aircraft flew past so close that Joseph could make out the style of the pilot's moustache, but their gun seemed to be jammed. Hurriedly, Joseph swung the turret round towards the third plane, firing a line of bullets as it passed by, but all he got for his efforts was a series of cracks in the turret glass as the biplane returned fire.

Cursing loudly, Joseph craned his head around to try and see what was happening behind him. He could only hear the sound of machinegun fire and the drone of the biplanes. Suddenly, a biplane appeared from underneath the zeppelin in front of Joseph. It had several tears in the fabric of both wings, and the gunner looked injured. Pushing any thoughts of pity out of his mind, Joseph fired straight into the undercarriage of the biplane. He watched as the oil storage beneath the engine caught fire, and then exploded. The whole aircraft disappeared in a ball of fire, and when the smoke cleared there was only wreckage spinning down towards the sea. Two down, three to go, thought Joseph.

* * * * *

Marcus Sellia winced as he saw the plane in front of him explode. Quickly swerving to the right, he looked to see how his other wingmen were doing. He knew one of the remaining pilots was a veteran flyer, but the other was a rookie, on his first mission. Sellia had hoped a transport zeppelin would be an easy assignment, but it was clear the airship's crew knew what they were doing in a fight. The main problem was the zeppelin's damned pilot. Most airship pilots got panicky in a fight with planes, and forgot the advantages of their craft. Not this pilot though. Sellia's biplanes couldn't get too close, because the airship pilot would swing towards them. In a collision, the airship would be damaged, but not as much as the hapless pilot who hit it. On top of this, the pilot was keeping track of the biplanes movements, and moving the airship to get his gunners the best shots possible.

Coming round in a slow circle, Sellia took a close look at the airship. It had to have a weakness somewhere, a design flaw, a poorly maintained engine part, something. He simply had to find it. Just then, Sellia saw one of the other biplanes try to climb a little too steeply, and lose their speed momentarily. But the moment of reduced speed was too long. The zeppelin swung to the side, and narrowly clipped the biplane's wing. It wasn't much of a contact, but it was enough. The aircraft fell into a nosedive, and as the pilot tried to pull his plane up the whole top layer of the clipped wing came off. Sellia watched in dismay as the plane went spiralling down towards the sea below.

He decided there was no time to find a weakness. This battle had to end soon before his whole squad was lost, either with the destruction of the airship or the retreat of his planes. He had one last secret weapon to try out before giving the order to fall back though…

* * * * *

Joseph clambered out of the gun turret. The planes had found the AA blind spot, they wouldn't come in range of the rear turret again. It was time to get a rifle and head out to the forward observation platform.

He had just picked up a rifle from a storage room when he heard footsteps behind him. Turning, he saw Galeo enter the room.

“So we're onto the rifles then, eh?” Galeo said.

“Mmm.” Joseph nodded assent. “I hope your shooting skills haven't got rusty.”

“You don't forget how to shoot.” Galeo shook his head. “It's like pullin' a man's tooth, you never forget.”

Joseph frowned at the image of Galeo playing dentist, then started jogging down to the forward observation deck.

When he and Galeo emerged onto the platform, Joseph saw that one of the planes was moving away from the Serpent, but the other was still circling, and firing into the vulnerable exterior systems on the airship. Joseph brought his rifle up and started aiming at the circling biplane. He and Galeo were using A-Pac 822 8.22mm Pump-Action Rifles. The weapons could be bought cheaply as military surplus following the Sassoryan War, and Joseph had taken advantage of this to buy a large number of the highly effective and powerful rifles. The pump-action was unusual for a rifle, but allowed faster fire than with bolt-action rifles. They were easily maintained and ammunition for them was easy to find.

Squeezing the trigger, Joseph almost fell over backwards as the rifle fired and slammed into his shoulder. He had forgotten the heavy kickback that was possibly the A-Pac's only serious flaw. Galeo chuckled and patted the thick layer of cloth that he had wrapped around the butt of his rifle, before he started firing. Joseph took off the woollen hat he was wearing, and placed it around the butt of his rifle. It wouldn't do much, but it would help. Aiming briefly, Joseph fired two shots. It still felt almost like his shoulder was being dislocated with every pull of the trigger, but it was bearable.

As both men started firing in earnest, the circling biplane's pilot noticed that he was under fire and turned towards the observation platform. Joseph and Galeo dropped down to lie flat on the deck as the biplane's machinegun started firing at them. They crawled to the safety rails at the edge of the platform, and kept firing as machinegun bullets started ricocheting all around them.

Joseph's shoulder was starting to ache, but he couldn't afford to stop firing for a second. It would only take one lucky shot from the biplane to incapacitate him or Galeo, and it would only take one lucky shot from the rifles to knock out the biplane's engine. So he kept on firing.

* * * * *

As he turned the biplane to face back towards the zeppelin, Marcus Sellia felt around by his right foot until he touched the smooth metal of his secret weapon. He hauled what looked like a large metal plate onto his lap, and then focused on getting a good approach to the airship. He could just see two men on an observation platform with some small arms firing at his only remaining wingman, but decided they wouldn't be a serious threat.

Soon, the distance between the biplane and the zeppelin had closed to only a few hundred yards. Now, Sellia stood up and grasped the metal plate in both hands, while keeping the aircraft flying vaguely straight with his knees. They wouldn't be expecting this.

What Sellia was holding in his hands was a Garodosian A1-AT bomb, basically a large magnetic explosive. Originally designed as anti-tank defence for infantry, it had become obsolete a long time ago. However, it was still a devastating anti-armour weapon, it was just too heavy for easy use by infantry in a combat situation, especially when ranged AT weapons were available. But the A1 was perfectly suited for Sellia's plan, which basically involved blowing a huge hole into the airship's cockpit and drive systems.

As the airship came into throwing range, Sellia flicked the switch to arm the explosive, flexed his arm muscles, and then hefted the bomb towards the airship. Quickly dropping back into his seat to swing the biplane down and underneath the zeppelin, he saw that the bomb had landed and attached to the sloped surface just below the bridge's viewing window. Perfect.

Sellia was congratulating himself, when he realised that he was about to fly directly under the observation platform, where he could see a tall thin man and a shorter man aiming rifles at him. Cursing, Sellia was about to twist the plane sideways to put the floor between him and the riflemen, but before he could move the control stick he saw a flash from a rifle and felt a sudden pain in his shoulder. A second later, the second rifle flashed. All Sellia saw was a few sparks appear in the engine assembly in front of him, and then an explosion of fire…

* * * * *

Barald had watched the biplane's pilot hurl some kind of metal disk onto the hull of the Serpent's gondola, and though he wasn't an engineer or a soldier, he could recognize an explosive when he saw one. He activated the control lock to keep the Serpent flying straight, and ran to the glass at the front of the bridge. He could see the ugly metal thing clinging to the metal some way below him. Without thinking, Barald launched a kick at a glass panel near the floor. The glass cracked, but didn't break. A second kick sent glass shards flying out towards the sea. Barald quickly dived through the broken window pane, cutting his arms on broken glass as he went.

Landing on a small ledge running below the bridge outside the hull, Barald looked again at the bomb. It was still there, unexploded as yet, but there couldn't be long left. It was just out of reach of Barald's arms while he was crouched on the ledge, so he took hold of the edge and let his lower body drop off the edge. He could now touch the bomb with his feet. Just then, Barald heard a loud click from the inside of the bomb. Wasting no time, Barald wedged his foot into a gap between the bomb and the hull, and swung his leg outwards. The bomb disconnected from the hull and started to drop away. Barald was about to haul himself back up when the bomb detonated in mid-air.

Joseph had just swung the bridge door open when he heard a loud roar outside. He entered the room, and quickly registered the lack of a pilot and the broken window pane. Stopping only to kick the glass shards away from the frame, he slid through the broken window and landed on the outside ledge. Below him, Barald was hanging by one hand, his back blackened by smoke. Joseph reached down and carefully pulled him up; Barald was grazed, cut in a few places and covered in black dust, but he was in one piece. They both climbed back into the bridge, and Galeo helped them in, before opening the medical kit he had brought up. Joseph turned to Barald.

“What were you doing out there?”

“Some kind of sticky bomb.” Barald replied.

“A bomb? You're lucky to be alive…” Joseph muttered.

Barald nodded silently in reply, as Galeo applied antiseptic to the cuts on his arm.

“You aren't hurt too bad though, nothin' serious here.” Galeo said. “These cuts on your arms are the worst, glass cuts I suppose?”

Barald nodded again, as Joseph started going over the instruments to see how much damage the Serpent had taken. At least the pirate carrier had never materialized. Looking though the cracked and damaged glass of the bridge windows, Joseph noticed a solid mass start to emerge through the mist. He almost gave a cheer as the coastline of Egastas appeared out of the fog, with the bright red light indicating the airship landing ground. Despite the best efforts of the pirates, they had made it.

Joseph felt a tap on his shoulder, and stepped aside as Barald took control of the airship again. He could see Galeo gesturing that he should come over.

“Come on captain, it's your turn with doc Galeo…”

“I can't wait.” Joseph said wryly. “Barald, take her in, and make sure the landing's gentle, I think the Serpent's feeling a little fragile at the moment. Once we get on the ground, I'm buying everyone drinks!”
A story by Tom Goodfellow, set in the Iron Grip universe.

For more information about Iron Grip, please visit: [link]
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