An Unlikely Crew (Part Two), By Nate Miller

Check out part one of Nate Millers story at https://thenumber26.net/2019/03/27/an-unlikely-crew-part-1-by-nate-miller/

The fuselage shuddered and shook as the wind and rain slammed against it, forcing a side-to-side movement that troubled even the most iron-clad of stomachs.The Twenty-Six dipped in and out of the clouds as it navigated the storm. Within, stuck in an aisle seat and fighting overwhelming anxiety at his present situation, Ryman Feldspar clasped a small silver pendant around his neck, muttering prayers to Ceres, the goddess of air; as he listened to the structure of the plane groaning overhead. Wiping sweat away from his forehead, he quietly swore to never make a deal with the Buckthorn Syndicate again, he couldn’t imagine having to make another trip like this one.

    He cast a look around, hoping the other passengers were having as equally a rotten time as he was, misery loves company after all. Then allowed himself a brief smile when it seemed everyone felt the exact same about their flight. They’d only been in the air an hour and everyone was white faced, still soaking wet from boarding, and just miserable. The addition that they’d have to fight of air pirates was something he desperately hoped to avoid and certainly hadn’t planned on! Sitting back in his seat, he risked a glance outside; dark, streaming water flooded the window and he chose instead to quietly resume dry heaving as opposed to getting his bearings.

    “Position lights off?” Brock asked as he checked the gauges to the number six engine. Ever since they’d taken off, he was certain he heard something off in her rotation.

“No, why would they be?” Lucy looked up, a smirk on her face.

“Because we’re trying not to announce where we are” he tapped the oil pressure gauge.

She paused, allowing the smirk to leave her face and nodded “Good point,” she replied, then flipped the switch on the panel above her and the outside lights blinked out.

    “Reg you there?” he keyed the receiver.

“Aye cap, what’s up?” the engineer asked,

“I need a condition check for the right-wing oil lines” Brock replied.

“Standby” the receiver went quiet as the engineer walked away.

    “Something amiss cap?” Lucy asked, sitting back and placing a foot on the center console, watching him.

“Not sure” he replied, he scrutinized the dashboards many dials and switches, there were no alarms, no caution lights blinking, the engine RPM gauges were all nominal. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. He tapped the fuel gauge quizzically, it remained steady.

    “’ey cap” Reggie’s voice hissed through the intercom.

“Go ahead” Brock replied.

“Oil lines look good, pumps sound fine too” the engineer replied.

“Rog, thanks” Brock sat down in his seat, still staring at the gauges.

“Cap… what’s wrong?” Lucy asked, her face serious, watching the gauges as well.

Brock pulled the flask from his coat and took a swig “Probably nothing” he swallowed, squinting as the burning liquid crawled down his throat, but experience taught him to listen to his gut and his gut was telling him something was wrong. Coughing as he put the flask away, he sat back quietly, eyes still locked on the number six engine gauges.

    The plane started shaking violently, “S..s…s…sir?” Lucy asked,

“Just turbulence, this is a wicked storm” Brock replied as he leaned forward, wrestling with the controls. “Should see sunrise soon, hopefully the weather starts to clear out” he grunted, the aircraft fighting with him every step of the way.

Elise Torion sat in her seat, seatbelt securely fastened around her waist; arms tightly grasping the bag to her chest, the last of her payment to the Rotwood Syndicate. Grateful that this would be the last time she’d have to make this miserable trip, but this was the first time she’d ever made it in these conditions. The strict travel limitations to Whiteboar hadn’t made travel to the floating merchant hub the Syndicates called home easy. Seems every government in every country was attempting to distance themselves from the floating city.

Panic suddenly gripped her chest as turbulence lifted the plane up and dropped it the way an errant wind gust grips a child’s kite, the structure overhead creaking ominously. She squeaked and grasped her pack even tighter, afraid it was going to fly out of her hands as the plane continued its roller coaster flight. She tried to catch a glimpse out the window, but the man next to her was asleep against it, face plastered against the glass; snoring soundly, a thin spittle of drool running down his chin. She gagged as the stench of Greenweed drifted off his clothes; yet quietly she considered that maybe she should have lit up a roll of it herself prior to take-off, maybe it would’ve calmed her nerves.

    She pulled her focus from the almost overwhelming scent and looked across the aisle attempting to get a view through that window on that side, a flash of lightning responded by illuminated an angry cloud bank, barking a rumble of thunder back at her. “Okay… I don’t need to see anything.” she reasoned to herself and looked down. In the back, the man who’d thrown up even before departure was now clinging to the toilet dry heaving, refusing to let go; Reggie stood behind him trying to remove him out of the bathroom. If he was concerned by the turbulence, he wasn’t showing it.

“Ey sir c’mon now, any more n’ you’ll clog the damn thing” he bent over and grabbed the man’s leg, struggling to pull him from the commode.

    Suddenly the turbulence stopped as the aircraft crested the top of the storm, her attitude leveling; flying as if everything that had happened previously was nothing but a bad dream. The passengers looked up slowly, many still ashen faced and groggy, more than half clutching bags of vomit, a sheen of sweat covering their faces. Reggie walked up the aisle between them and pulled a trash bag from a compartment in the back, then held it out to the last passenger in the left row

“Pass it along, ain’t no way I’m holding that bag for you.” the man stared at him grumpily, burped, grabbed the bag and tossed his contribution in, passing it along.

“and you” he pointed at the man who’d been holding the toilet.

“There’s a bucket and a mop back there, grab it and clean up your mess.” he pointed at the pile of vomit that had now spread across the aisle.

    The man stood up, straightening himself and clearing his throat. “I’m not sure who you think you’re talking too” He coughed.

“But I didn’t pay for this flight to mop up vomit, do it yourself” he brushed himself off.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wash up.” He turned haughtily on his heel to walk into the bathroom before a calloused and dirty hand grabbed his shoulder, a vice-like grip digging into his collar bone.

“Alright pretty man” Reggie stood behind him.

“I’m going to give you a second chance to rethink your choice” the man cringed under his grip, protesting in pain.

“We’re not in your comfortable mansion in Gildshire” Reggie continued. “Clear?”

“These hands will not touch that filth” the man spat stubbornly, now practically kneeling underneath the engineers grip, attempting to wrench himself away.

    With his hand still firmly clamped to the man’s shoulder, Reggie dragged him backwards towards the front of the cabin and pulled a receiver off the wall.

    Brock, who’d just stood up to stretch, leaving Lucy with the controls, cast an eye at the receiver when the intercom buzzed. “Ey cap?” Reggie’s voice crackled through.

“Go ahead” he replied scratching the back of neck.

“Got us a gentleman here to good to clean up his own mess” the engineer sounded angry.

“Well… what do you need me for? Handle it!” Brock replied, there was always one.

“Aye cap.”

Lucy looked at Brock quizzically, “He was just looking for permission” Brock grinned. Somewhere below them a scuffle ensued,

“Clean…” CRASH…. “Your…” THUD “Mess…” CLANG.

“What the hell was that last sound?” Lucy asked looking over her shoulder as exclaims of surprise drifted up the crew ladder.

    “Where’d he get a skillet?” a woman’s confused voice drifted up.

Brock slid down the ladder and walked into the passenger cabin to find the man sprawled down on the floor, his face inches from the vomit pile, his hat flattened and lying next to him “Everything sorted?” Brock asked the engineer.

“Aye, when he comes to it’ll be handled.” Reggie twirled the heavy iron skillet in his hand.

    Brock wrinkled his nose as he realized what the cabin smelled like then stepped over the man and disappeared into the cargo bay. He returned shortly with a bucket of water that he unceremoniously dumped over him. The man came to instantly, sputtering and coughing “        

“What… I…. Who dares…I never…” Brock didn’t give him time to finish, instead he pulled him up roughly by the back of his shirt.

“Alright… I don’t have time to wait, it smells, and you’re going to clean this mess” he swiveled the man around and looked him in the face, gripping him by the collar and slamming him bodily against the wall.

“or I’m going to toss your monied ass out my door” he gestured to the passenger door at the front of the plane.

“You’re not at home, we’re not your servants, are we clear?” he growled. The man didn’t say anything,

“Answer me… now.” Brock stared at him. The man stared back defiantly before breaking and looking down.

“Yes” he whispered.

    “Good!” Brock’s smile returned.

“We got us a happy little crew here” he nodded to Reggie.

“Show him where the mop and bucket are, anybody else not on board with cleaning their own mess?” he fixed each person in the cabin with a stern glare as the bag Reggie had passed around earlier had now made it to the front of the cabin. Nobody spoke. The only sound came from the drone of the engines.

“No? Alright, enjoy the rest of the flight” he walked back to the galley. “Coffee reg?” he asked.

“That’d be great cap!” Reggie replied as he picked up the mans hat off the floor, straightened it out and placed it on his own head.

    “Get back there you” Reggie shoved the man towards the back of the plane where the cleaning supplies were stored. He stumbled forward wobbly, rubbing the back of his head.

“Hey that’s my…” The man protested, pointing at his hat

“The mop and bucket are back there.” Reggie interrupted him and gave him a final push through the door. “Yeeaaghh!” the man cried as he stumbled through the door, there was another crash as he fell into something.

“And you’re cleaning that up too!” Reggie yelled as he stood by the door, a pocket mirror in his hand. As he gazed at his reflection, he idly remarked through the door “Mighty fine hat you got here, might have to keep it!” Somewhere beyond the door, the man grumbled.

Brock peered through the door, handing the engineer a steaming mug; grinning at the engineer “nice hat” he smirked. He turned and grabbed a second mug for Lucy, then started back towards the flight deck.

Glancing out a nearby porthole, the sun was just starting to peak over the horizon, a thin gray strip hovering over the massive storm system that extended to the horizon.  

    Returning to the flight deck, he held the mug out to Lucy, she accepted the proffered cup excitedly, “You read my mind” she held the mug with one hand, her other still holding onto the yoke. With her nose buried deep in the mug, she took a long, satisfying drink, wisps of steam curling up around her hair.

“I was dying up here” she set the mug down next to her, returning her hand back to the controls. “Everything good down there?” she asked.

“Nothing more than the usual, always one thinks he’s better than the rest.” Brock replied as he sat down, running his fingers through his blond hair. The sunrise now a soft orange, blue strip and getting larger.

“How much time we have left?” she asked. He looked at his watch, then the map display that tracked their position.

“Looks like we lost time on climb out, so we’re about an hour behind schedule, that was some nasty headwind.” He took a drink.

“Should put us into Whiteboar just after seven this morning”

She nodded and flipped the autopilot on, then leaned her seat back. “How long we docked?” she asked, lifting the mug and taking another drink, watching the myriad of gauges across the control panel. He sat down with his mug, and propped a foot up on the dash, looking out the window.

“I want to have a certified Mech Guild Gearman inspect that number six engine, I’m not certain those blowhards at the Chiselton dry dock knew what they were doing, so a couple days probably.”

Lucy looked up confused and listened to the drone of the engines outside, then looked towards the engine gauges, “seems fine to me” she mused.

“When you’ve done this as long as I have, you learn not to rely on systems and indicators to tell you when something is wrong.” He set the mug down.

“Sounds, lucy… when your girl has something wrong, she’ll speak to you. She’ll stir something in yer gut.” He patted the control panel and looked down, his gaze once again falling on the number six oil and RPM gauges.

“But for now, the rest of the journey should be smooth…” His words interrupted as his mug suddenly exploded, bullets riddling the windshield, thin cracks crawling across the glass.

“What in the gods name…” he swore as they both dropped out of their seats. A small, single propeller aircraft screamed over the top of the plane, twin guns spitting fire across their ship as it arced away. Screams echoed up from the passenger cabin

    “Are you okay?!” he looked at Lucy in alarm, the dash riddled with smoking bullet holes.

“Aye cap, what the hell was that?” she asked as they both sat up and peered out the windows.

“We’re about to find out” he grabbed the receiver as he peered out the windows trying to spot the aircraft.

“Reg!” he yelled into it. The engineer responded instantly.

“Aye cap I heard it, I’m gonna issue the weapons, it’s the Scrims!”

Check out Nate Miller’s website at http://www.steamblogger.com

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