To Drown in the Sky

The president-general of the Terran Colonies wanted Captain Corbeau and his crew to scout the Freckles, an archipelago of sandy red islands due south of Terra Continenta. The crew were anxious about this mission, for the freckled inhabitants of the red isles were defensive, quick to assault, and savage combatants. Their allegiances changed on a whim, such that approaching allies were occasionally brutalized for the slightest offense, whereas offending enemies might be treated with tranquility.

As Corsairs, Captain Razo Corbeau and his crew flew no flag of allegiance, whether to Terra or her Allies (unless the mission called for it–the Revenant  had a hidden store of flags for various camouflage purposes), and they were often sent to scout skies and waters that belonged to those who might not appreciate Terra’s snooping, whether allied or not. The Frecklers were a part of the Allies–technically–but their suspicious nature and tendency to assault Terran seamen (seemingly more commonly than those of other Allied factions) looking solely for rest and resupply meant they were allies in name only, at least to Terra. The president-general liked to know the weaknesses of the Allied chain, so if it came time to break a link, he could do it himself with minimal damage to the chain as a whole, and especially to the link called Terra Continenta.

Razo flew the flag belonging to the Open Sky Traders’ Guild–a factionless company with sea and sky vessels that traded goods to Allied nations, such as weapons, sugar, tea, or blue matter. If there was one thing the Frecklers were consistent about, it was their desire for Terran firearms.

Taking extra precaution, Razo sailed high over the flying Freckle islands. The scouts could peer downward at the islands, and if they were attacked, the balls would punch into the Revenant’s wooden underbelly rather than tear her sails.

Soaring over the red masses of land, most connected by rope bridges, Razo’s crew saw little of use down below. Frecklers lived in sand castles cemented by the red clay of their island cores, and rarely risked the burn of the sun by venturing from beneath their sands. After a couple flights from Freckle to Freckle, Razo gave the order to descend to the island hub.

But when the ship ventured inside musket range, bayoneted rifles bristled from beneath the red sands and burst forth a volley of smoke and steel. Balls cracked like thunder into the Revenant’s hull, and Razo snarled at Mister Mason, the engineer, to flush the bloom tank (that is, the blue matter tank, which, when filled with water, caused the blue matter’s antigravity capabilities to go dormant but, if “flushed” free of water, triggered an ascent of the ship frame). Maurice Mason barked an Aye and yanked the tank control lever to the bottom.

Alrik Magnar ordered the crew to take up arms, a rifle already in hand, but Razo ordered them to belay. “We’re merchants, not warriors,” he said, musket balls whistling by.

The Revenant managed to get out of firing range, but oxygen was growing thin. The sails caught the heavy skyward wind and pulled the ship clear of the Freckles.

“Drown the bloom, Mister Mason,” Razo ordered at last. He called for a damage report, and the brave boys (not all boys, but midshipman trainees with the role of “boy”) of the Revenant swung over the frame onto the rope netting below the hull to climb under the ship and inspect the damage.

The ship continued to ascend. “Mister Mason,” said Razo from his position at the wheel. He looked behind him to the engine control lever, half-expecting Maurice to be shot, but he was unharmed, worriedly examining the tank meter. Razo could see that the lever was at its top.

“I have drowned the tank, Cap’n,” said Maurice, “but she won’t fill. I fear the tank’s sprung a leak, Cap’n.”

Silence fell over the crew who heard. They were already shivering from the altitude–an inability to lower the ship would soon cause the death of them, whether by lack of oxygen or the sails freezing or any other number of hazards. Their choices were to repair the tank, which would take time, and hope that the backup water supply wouldn’t freeze or spill or have its own leak before the bloom tank could be refilled; or they could jettison enough bloom to trigger a feather-fall descent, which would see them reach sea level in time, and might be disastrous if the hull breaches proved difficult to repair.

To drown in the sky or drown in the sea. Those were the options.

Razo’s crew waited expectantly for its orders.

 

 


 

 

Day 275’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Sky Trek,” “Freckles,” and, “The worst thing to say.”

Cap’n Razo’s got himself in a dilly of a pickle, hasn’t he? That seems to happen a lot.

– H.

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