Winds of Aerathiea

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Chapter 47: Dragons Requiem

They could see the new moon hanging in the sky from time to time. Normally it just mingled in with the other points of light near the central sun. It seemed to be on a very erratic orbit – highly elliptical – that brought it dangerously close to the central sun, or Sirath as the native races called it. Jonathan had gotten some more of his equipment working and was reading back through a year’s worth of data.

He owed his life to that moon. While he had been rotting in a dungeon awaiting sentencing, the church leaders became increasingly worried. Being an apostate and tampering with laws of nature- which included trying to interpret the signs in the heavens by any other than an official priest- always carried a death sentence. However, the church was so busy trying to interpret the meaning of this new object in their heavens that all other business of the church had come to a grinding halt.

Jonathan received the message from Sydney. He and Zak finished their work with the reactor and backed away, giving the computer the all clear. They put in earplugs as the reactor, with all its pumps and turbines came to life. Jonathan always thought the mixtures of sounds from dozens of well-constructed machines were the closest thing to a symphony to him. This reactor had been one of his greatest accomplishments so far. He was very sad to see its life cut so short. He reached up and touched some of the pipes that fed it, knowing which ones were safe. It really was a shame. It had been him, of course that had suggested the Steampunk look for the entire ship. It was after all, the romanticized version of the era that he had grown up with- that strange blend of Victorian and high-tech fantasy. Even though he owned one of the most technologically advanced companies in the world, he yearned for the more innocent golden age that the fantasy period represented.

They inspected the emergency rockets that would fire and the locking pins that would shear and propel the entire reactor assembly out the hatch two decks below. Everything seemed in order, so they gathered up their equipment and out of the reactor room, closing the door behind them.

In the theater, Gus was putting the finishing touches on one hundred seats. They now all had complete racing harnesses. It reminded one of the 3D simulators that had been popular at the amusement parks for a while. He saw the extra three seats, the extra-large one had been brought down from the back that had been designed for those with extra girth and the two seats that had an extra set of cushions added to them to support the smaller bodies of their Grommon guests. Gus had been surprised to find out the three had opted to stay with the ship rather than be dropped off somewhere. All three were refugees; both of the Grommon had witnessed their homes destroyed by the Empire through its Casteen Warlords and they had been taken as slaves. They were naturally curious and were willing to live anywhere as long as it was free from the oppression they grew up with. Gus didn’t know what Roon’s story was, but he had been assured that the eight-foot tall walking carpet wanted to stay and go anywhere Jonathan went. Three of the seats were rigged with pads so that Sydney, Jonathan, and Zak had some means of input and control during their harrowing descent. Everything appeared to be ready. All the harnesses had been tested. Gus left the theater to join everyone in the mess hall. Someone had called it their “Last Supper.” Gus was not an overly religious person, but he certainly hoped it didn’t come to that.

Everyone had finished their assigned duties or otherwise finished securing the ship and were starting to assemble in the mess hall. The kitchen staff run by Mac Davison had gone all out. They had food out that needed to used up because it didn’t store well. It was a classic Thanksgiving Day feast and it reminded Liam of the spread he had been offered as soon as he came on board. There was turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, baked yeast rolls, vegetables and fruit of all kinds, and last but not least, pumpkin pie. Liam was pretty sure no one was raising pumpkins on board, so it must have come from a can, but it was pretty much the most delicious meal he had ever eaten. He just hoped it wasn’t his last.

He looked around. He was eating with Rebekah, Jackson, Carol, and Jonathan. Marcus, Ethan, and Aaron were sitting at the table next to them and engaging in the conversation.

Aaron spoke with his mouth full, “Do you think they will at least pin a medal on us?”

Rebekah answered “What for?”

“…for saving the earth. Of course, they would pin a medal on us. We will probably get a reception and be asked come to the White House and everything.”

“Reliving your glory years, Aaron?” Liam asked.

“A man can dream, can’t he?” he said between bites.

“This all, of course, depends on us getting back in one piece.” Jonathan piped in. Jackson Peck wasn’t saying much. He seemed to still be brooding over the Jonathan’s revelation of his invention being used for the military good. Jonathan vowed to never speak of it again. Rebekah spied Gus out of the corner of her eye.

“Gus, how goes the seating arrangements?”

“Don’t worry princess, you have a reserved seat. It even has your name on it.”

“Pfft… I was merely asking about the engineering. Do think it will hold?”

Gus replied, “Well, we reinforced all the bolts to hold several hundred pounds more that they were rated for. They’ll hold. We weren’t entirely sure about Roon, so what we used for his seat should hold up a bridge.”

Everyone at the table except Jackson laughed at the statement. He was still completely in his own world. He had not been himself since the first dragon attack and had been obsessing over his material and details ever since. Everyone knew it spooked him and they tried to make light of it the best they could. Others simply chose to ignore the situation altogether.

When Liam had finished, Rebekah turned to him and said “Shhh… I think Sydney is going to say something.”

Liam looked surprised. “Why?”

Rebekah just looked him with that you can’t be serious look.

Liam responded, “Oh, yeah, He’s the captain. Duh.” He watched Sydney stand up.

Sydney said, “Can I have everyone’s attention please?”

Rebekah started clinking her water glass with her spoon, suddenly others began to follow. Very quickly the murmuring died down and everyone was looking at the person standing.

“I… um… wow, I didn’t know how hard this was going to be. People, even though Artemis Grumm and Kyton only left a few days ago and surprisingly left me in charge of the ship, I hope they are all right and I hope that Artemis gets the help that he desperately needs. I’m actually guessing he put me in charge because there was nothing else I was qualified to do. Seriously, never put me in the kitchen if you want to live to see your next meal…”

Several people laughed at that. “I’m sure everyone is as anxious to get home as I am. This has been an interesting adventure to say the least. I’m indeed fortunate that we were able to rescue Jonathan from the insanity that appears to be slowly destroying this beautiful world and I am grateful and happy we have new friends that have opted to join us on our side. Maybe they will become the official ambassadors from Aerathiea to Earth. Thank you all for your support and hard work.

I can’t deny that the next few hours will be scary, maybe downright terrifying, but we will get through it. We have gotten through everything so far because we work well as a team and I never want that to change. Thank you.” He sat down as everyone applauded.

Sydney heard a chime from his commlink. “Go ahead Jules.” The commlinks of a dozen different people went off simultaneously.

“I hate to rain on your parade, but the dragons have sensed us. They are on their way.”

Liam jumped in. “How long?”

“Not long at all, I’m afraid. They sensed us at a good hundred miles out and we are flying against the wind. They are flying with it, so they get a huge boost.”

“How long?”

“Maybe twenty minutes.”

“Wow. OK” Sydney turned to everyone else. They could already tell what he was going to say from the ashen look on his face. “The dragons have sensed us early. We have about twenty minutes. Everyone, I know there are no non-essential people on board, but if you are not involved in dragon slaying, please take your seat in the theater and buckle up. Jules is going to be taking some evasive maneuvers to try and shake these creatures. You’ll be much safer in the theater.”

Liam and about forty others ran to the hangar deck to quickly suit up. Using Aerolon and other tricks of the trade, Jonathan and Jackson had managed to work together long enough to put together fire and hazmat suits that could stand up to the dragons. The suits waiting for them on the hanger deck.

They had only practiced this a couple of times so getting the suit on was still a little awkward for Liam. Zak and Ethan had obviously practiced more and slid right into theirs. Liam took comfort when he saw that Marcus was having more trouble than him getting the layers zipped up and attached. They were still two hours out from their drop point and just passing the first ring of mountains that bordered the open maw of a hole they would be hurtling into.

Some of the fighters were being outfitted with a modified version of the glue guns that they had used once before. Zak and Ethan and a couple of others were given a much larger caliber gun than what Liam had seen before. The rest were given long spears that were connected to a very flexible cable that Jackson promised would deliver plenty of current. It probably wouldn’t kill the dragons, but it would make them think twice. Because they were flying at thirty thousand feet, the suits had respirators but the temperatures were bound to get a little sticky.

Special magnetic boots and gloves completed the ensemble. Because of the magnetic flux, they would stick to anything made from Aerolon and stick tight until released.

“Well done Doctor Peck,” Liam said over the commlink. This stuff looks really professional.

Jackson replied “Well I do still have a few tricks left I guess. Just go out there and kick some dragon ass.”

“Ha ha. Do you let your daughter hear you talk like that?”

“I’m standing right here Liam. I think he’s taking after me.” Rebekah leaned over all the equipment and kissed Liam right in front of her dad.

Liam started to protest. “Beka, your....”

“Shhh. Don’t ruin it.” She parted from him. “Please be safe?” Her eyes betrayed more than her voice.

“I’ll be fine I swear. Please go and get strapped in. I’m thinking this is going to get a little rough.” Liam turned to the others as they all began walking towards a topside access door midship. “Ok, the good doctor says these suits will withstand the heat. They will even withstand a couple of direct hits from that fire breath of theirs. Aim for soft spots. I’m assuming these are all males so there will be a least one prominent soft spot I would think would be a primary target.”

They reached the door. Marcus put his gloved hand on the emergency release and pushed. He said, “Ha. That will put a damper on their love life!” The door opened to a sky that was frighteningly similar to the one they left in St. Louis.

Looking around him, Liam replied, “That’s the idea at least. Jules, can you give me any kind of tactical?”

“I can show you a small one in your visor. I’m afraid my holographic cameras don’t work as well out there on the outside the ship.”

“That will be fine.” A tiny display popped up in the top of Liam’s visor. From the looks of things, he had mere seconds to get used to the distraction of the information.” He turned his attention to the rest. “Incoming guys. You have seconds, one minute tops.” Everyone checked their weapons and prepared, watching the skies.

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