The year is 1889 (Infini Calendar). 12-year-old Nelly Flowers is traveling with her parents from New York to Wichita to participate in the Land Run. However, things take a frightening turn when their airship is attacked by pirates. As Nelly and her new companions discover, this is only the beginning of an adventure which will determine the future of the entire human race. Note: Sorry for any formatting errors. Blogger doesn't always want to cooperate when pasting from Word.
Chapter I: A New Journey Begins
Nelly Flowers accompanied her parents through the
eighty-sixth floor. They checked in at the observation deck and then got into a
special elevator which they rode to the massive building’s 102nd
floor. Buroker Building
“Say goodbye to
George Flowers said as they rode up. “And good riddance.” Nelly’s father was a
middle-aged man with tiny spectacles and an equally small mustache on his upper
lip. His face could be described as slightly rotund but not exactly fat. He was
a little overweight but overall not in bad health. Also, he wore a nondescript
business suit and tie. New York
“I just hope we’re making the right decision,” Margaret Flowers said. Nelly’s mother had light brown hair with a hint of blonde, pinned up in the back of her head. She wore a simple white dress, and although she was starting to get wrinkles, no one would describe her as an old woman. To Nelly, she was the epitome of beauty.
“We both agreed: a new start is just what this family needs,” George said. Up until recently, he had been a banker, but economic difficulties caused him to be laid off. Because of this, he had become, in his own words, “dissatisfied with this whole blamed city.” In short: he no longer liked living in
, and wanted a change. So now they
were all going to some place called the Unassigned Lands to race for a new
home. Nelly didn’t really understand why she had to go—she wasn’t a
particularly fast runner—but she trusted her parents’ judgment. New York
At the 102nd their tickets were checked at a pair of doors which led outside to the observation deck. Once outside, Nelly felt the wind ruffle her short auburn curls and she took in the magnificent view of
. Although metal railings lined
the observation deck, she had no problem seeing the metropolis below them. All
manner of buildings spread out below them; offices, factories, banks,
restaurants and clubs were just some of the structures which made up New York City . New York
But it wasn’t just buildings that made the view so amazing. Countless airships filled the skies above the city. Speaking of airships—there was one docked at the observation deck, ready to take them to their new home. This one—a polished brown model—was one solid cylindrical piece, unlike the primitive vessels of the previous century which required a balloon for lift. No, the airships of today had much more sophisticated engines.
The Flowers family carefully ascended the ramp of the Manhattan Dream and entered the cabin. Each section of the ship had two rows of seats. The Flowers found theirs in the middle of the vessel. George and Margaret’s seats were on the left, while Nelly sat across from them on the right in an aisle chair.
As soon as she had her seat belt buckled, Nelly removed from her bag her most cherished possession. It was a book entitled The Amazing Story of Jeanne de Fleur. The book was about Nelly’s great-grandmother and
greatest hero. Jeanne had been a noblewoman who later become a knight and
served the king and queen. In a tragic twist, however, they were all betrayed
by bad guys. Jeanne was crushed, but persevered and managed to beat them with
the help of her friends. Later, she came to France America,
saved the world, returned to
and fought the injustice of Napoleon Bonaparte. Finally, fifty years ago her
family immigrated to France .
Nelly never got tired of reading about it, and had finished the book several
times. New York
A thought suddenly occurred to her. “These airships are safe, right?”
“Of course,” her mother replied. “It’s not like the old days, when these things crashed all the time.”
An alarm went off inside her. “Crashed?”
“Don’t scare the girl, Margaret. This is the safest way to travel.”
Nelly said, “I dunno if I can do this.”
Fortunately, her father knew how to calm her. “You know, your great-grandmother flew in the first airships ever built, and she never got scared. Don’t you want to be brave like her?”
He then said, “So how would Jeanne de Fleur handle this situation?”
Nelly thrust her index finger forward. “She’d say, ‘Celeste—fire up the engine! We’re going to stop Robespierre! Full speed ahead!’”
George smiled. “Atta girl!”
Nelly was now sufficiently psyched up to go ahead with this trip.
An elderly gentleman came down the aisle. He looked to be in his sixties, with a neatly trimmed grey beard, but he was physically fit. He wore a dark brown business suit similar to the one her father was wearing, although this man had a bowler hat atop his head.
He stopped next to Nelly. “Excuse me. Do you mind if I get through? This is my seat,” he said very politely.
“Oh! Yes,” Nelly replied. She scrunched into her seat so he could to his window seat. She noticed he was carrying a fancy wooden cane. Something about it seemed peculiar, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.
“Thank you, young lady,” he said.
“You’re welcome, Mr…”
“Lazarus,” he said. “Michael Lazarus.”
“That’s an interesting name,” George said.
Margaret asked, “Are you from
.” New York
Michael shook his head. “Actually, I’m from
“I visited there once,” George said. “Nice place.”
Michael, smiling, said, “I like to think so.”
A slightly tinny voice from the front of the cabin said, “This is your captain speaking. Today’s flight will take us from
New York to Wichita, with
a layover in .
Flight time will be…” Chicago
Nelly said, “Where’s
,” her mother
“Is that where the race is gonna be at?”
“No,” George said. “The race will be in the stretch of land between
Right now it doesn’t really have a proper name, so they call it the Unassigned
Nelly turned to Michael Lazarus. “Are you going to be running in the race?”
“As a matter of fact, I am. But I’m going to be using a horse.”
“Isn’t that cheating?”
Michael laughed, as did Nelly’s parents. “With that much land to cross, we can’t go on foot. So we’re also going to be using horses,” George explained.
Nelly was glad. She thought she’d have to pump her legs all across the Unassigned Lands.
“At this time I must ask you all to fasten your seatbelts for departure.”
A loud whine could be heard as the airship started up, followed by a rumbling. The Manhattan Dream slowly lifted off the observation deck and sailed into the
Nelly looked out the window as the buildings flew past them, slowly at first and then with gradually more speed. She silently said goodbye to her life in the big city, and tried to imagine what lay ahead.
She honestly had no idea.
* * *
The telegram read as follows:
PERSON IN QUESTION WILL ARRIVE TODAY—
LOOK FOR PRIDE OF
She folded the paper and put it in her pocket.
She smiled. Everything was lining up perfectly. There hadn’t been any changes to the airship schedule, so all she had to do was wait for the vessel to arrive and board it. Then, she just needed to stick close to the target and hope the rats came for their cheese.
Chapter II: The Hostile Sky
The Manhattan Pride landed on the observation deck of the fiftieth floor of the
Building in . Every major city had a structure for
airship docking, and Chicago
was no exception. Chicago
Most of the passengers took this opportunity to disembark and stretch their legs before the final journey to
Some got food from various vendors on the fortieth floor after taking the
elevator down, while others simply explored while waiting for the Manhattan Pride to finish refueling. Wichita
Nelly and her parents sat down at a table in the fortieth floor’s atrium, surrounded by food vendors hawking various dishes from their carts. George had gotten some meat loaf, Margaret a salad, and Nelly a slice of pizza (it was
, after all).
George sat across from Nelly, and Margaret sat to Nelly’s right. Chicago
They had scarcely sat down when a young woman (perhaps twice as old as Nelly) with short black hair approached their table. She wore a dark brown duster coat with matching cowboy hat, black pants and a grey buttoned-up shirt. Nelly thought the masculine outfit was unsuited for such a pretty woman. “Excuse me,” she said with an accent Nelly didn’t recognize. “Are you waiting for the Manhattan Pride to depart?”
“Yes, young lady, we are,” George replied.
“Can you show me where it is when you go back? I have a ticket but I’m afraid I’m not familiar with this building.”
George smiled and said, “Sure, no problem.”
The mystery woman smiled too, but it was the smile of a snake, Nelly thought. She was sure this person was up to something.
The cowgirl sat down at a table a few feet behind Nelly. The twelve-year-old whispered to her father, “Watch your wallet around her.”
George laughed. “Will do.”
Margaret whispered, “What was that accent?”
“I think it’s Austrian,” George said. “I worked with a man in
York who was from .” Austria
“Do you think she’s a Ranger?” Margaret said.
“I doubt it. I didn’t see a badge on her.”
Michael Lazarus came over and sat at a table a few feet behind Margaret. “Hello again, folks.”
“Hello,” Nelly said. George and Margaret also greeted him.
Michael began eating a baked potato. “They certainly have good food here in the
.” Windy City
“That they do,” George agreed.
“Mr. Lazarus,” Nelly said, “why are you going to the Unassigned Lands? Did you lose your job too?”
“You could say that,” Michael replied cryptically.
George finished the last bite of his meatloaf. “What kind of work did you do?”
Michael was silent for a moment. Finally he said, “Management.”
George said. New York
“Here and there.”
“Huh.” Nelly’s father was obviously put off by the other man’s way of dodging the question of what exactly he had done for a living.
“Are you going to become a rancher once you’ve staked a claim in the Territory?” Margaret said.
“Perhaps. All I know is, I won’t be in management anymore, and that suits me just fine.”
The PA system in the building suddenly came to life. “All passengers on the Manhattan Pride, please return to the airship for final departure to
“That’s us,” George said.
“Nelly, you didn’t eat the crust on your pizza,” Margaret chided.
“I don’t like the crust.”
“That’s no excuse. George, tell her to finish her crust.”
“Finish your crust.”
Nelly stuffed the remaining food into her mouth. It wasn’t very lady-like, but she didn’t have time to practice proper etiquette.
The cowgirl joined them. “Good—now you can show me where to go.”
George motioned for her to follow. “Right this way, young lady.”
“Much appreciated.” She was all smiles, but Nelly didn’t like her. Ever since she had arrived, Nelly couldn’t shake the feeling this strange woman had had her eyes on the pre-teen. Of course, why that would be, Nelly had no idea.
The flowers, Michael Lazarus and the cowgirl went back to the Manhattan Pride. The latter checked in at the gate under the name Cherry Bishop.
“Are you also looking to stake a claim, Ms. Bishop?” George asked as they walked up the ramp to board the airship.
“Oh, no; I’m here on official government business?”
“You work for the government?”
Michael asked, “Are you in law enforcement? Judging by your outfit—”
She cut him off. “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say what exactly I do.” She game him a sly look. “You are in the same position, I think.”
He seemed to be caught off-guard by her comment. “Me? I’m retired.”
Cherry Bishop said something under her breath. No one else seemed to hear it, and even Nelly wasn’t quite sure what she said. But it sounded like “We’ll see about that.”
They returned to their seats, and Cherry Bishop found hers, coincidentally, directly behind Nelly. The twelve-year-old was uneasy at having the mystery woman so close to her for the duration of the flight, but there was nothing she could do about it but sit there.
* * *
At around 1:30 p.m., the captain informed everyone they were now above
and would arrive on time in . Wichita
However, in the cockpit the co-pilot, Mike Falksen, suddenly said, “There’s an unidentified airship heading towards us.”
That was never something a pilot wanted to hear. “They’re not transmitting an ID signal?”
He looked at the radar screen. The unknown vessel was about the same size as them, and approaching on an intercept course.
He tried hailing them on his headset. “This is Captain Reynolds of the Manhattan Pride. Please identify yourself. Over.” Several moments passed in silence. Captain Reynolds repeated his request, but to no avail.
“You think they’re pirates?” Falksen asked.
Ever since airships became had become mainstream, pirates had been using them to commit heinous crimes. Fortunately, commercial vessels were usually sufficiently equipped to deal with airborne villainy.
“Should we increase speed?”
* * *
Nelly was thrust into her seat as the Manhattan Pride suddenly accelerated. “What’s going on?” she yelled.
“It’s probably nothing,” George said, although he didn’t sound very convinced. “They probably just want to make sure we get to
on time.” Wichita
“This is your captain speaking. A minor problem has forced us to pick up speed briefly. There is nothing to worry about.”
Margaret said, “See? Everything’s fine.”
Nelly may have been just a kid, but she wasn’t buying it. She turned to Michael Lazarus and asked him, “What do you think is going on?”
He shrugged. “It’s probably just what the pilot said. I wouldn’t worry.”
“It’s no good! At this rate, they’ll catch up to us in a few minutes,” Falksen said.
Captain Reynolds was beginning to sweat. “These guys are fast for pirates. All right, tell Gunnery to get ready for some action.”
Falksen nodded. He tuned his headset so he could speak with Gunnery below deck. “Guys, we’ve got an unknown airship inbound. Probably hostile. Gear up.”
“Roger. What’s the ETA?”
“A few minutes at most. You’d better hurry.”
* * *
Below the passengers, on a separate deck, not quite big enough to stand up straight in, was Gunnery. The men down here were busy setting up the weapons needed to defend the airship: Gatling guns. The four chain-fed monsters had to be unboxed and put together only when the need arose, as it was dangerous having them prepped and loaded during flight.
Once the Gatling guns were assembled, the barrels of each one were inserted into matching holes in the walls. This allowed the guns to fire outside without compromising the air pressure inside the ship. The holes had gears which allowed the former to rotate with the barrel.
Soon the ammo was loaded and the guns were ready to go.
* * *
They all saw it about the same time: A beast of an airship, vermillion, with bulky engines on either side roaring to catch up with their prey. Plastered on its hull was a black skull, cracking and about to fall apart. The pirates’ emblem.
“Dear Lord,” Margaret whispered. The other passengers echoed her fear.
Nelly sat agape, unable to take her eyes on this vessel that hovered menacingly out the window to her right. “What’s going on?” she asked, unable to contain the alarm that was running rampant inside her. “Are we going to be robbed?”
“I-It’ll be fine. These passenger ships have enough firepower to fight off pirates,” George said.
As if to back up his words, a thunderous roar erupted below their feet. A blistering shower of bright metal exploded from the Manhattan Pride, its target the enemy airship.
Her father came alive with equal force. “Ha! I told you. Those pirates don’t stand a chance.”
But Michael Lazarus said, “No.”
“What?” Nelly replied. She didn’t know what he was trying to say.
However, within moments the source of his disappointment became painfully obvious. Except for chipped paint, the pirates’ airship appeared undamaged. “That’s impossible,” George gasped.
“Believe it,” Michael said. “That’s an irodium hull.”
“It can’t be! Only military vessels are allowed to use irodium.”
“Those Gatling guns can fire off a thousand rounds a minute, and that airship out there simply shrugged it off. It’s irodium.”
“What’s going to happen to us?” Nelly repeated, louder this time. She got out of her seat and buried herself in her mother’s arms.
“Everything’s going to be fine,” Margaret said. “We won’t let anything happen to you.”
A stewardess walked down the aisle. “Everyone, please remain in your seats.”
Margaret said, “That’s a good idea, Nelly. We’ve got to buckle you back in.”
“I want to stay with you!”
Her mother nodded. “And you will. We’ll be right here with you.”
No sooner had Nelly gotten her seat belt back on then the Manhattan Pride suddenly banked left. Margaret lost her balance and fell sideways, but George managed to catch her, and she was able to get secured back into her own seat.
“This is certainly a bumpy ride!” Cherry Bishop said cheerfully. What’s wrong with her? Nelly asked herself. We might all die up here and she actually seems happy about it! Nelly, however, did not voice these thoughts, because the stress caused words to fail her.
The airship climbed higher into the air for what seemed like minutes, and then dove sharply, and then banked right, all in an attempt to shake off their pursuers. It was all for nothing, however; the mystery airship stayed with them no matter what they did. Nelly, meanwhile, felt increasingly nauseous with every maneuver and change in acceleration.
Michael Lazarus put a hand on her head. “Are you all right, child?”
No, she wasn’t. She was scared out of her mind and sweating profusely. However, she knew she had to be strong like Jeanne de Fleur. “I-I’ll be fine,” she managed to say.
There was an abrupt impact as something struck the hull. “What was that?” Margaret said.
* * *
“Docking clamps,” Captain Reynolds said. “They’re going to board us now.”
“Helm’s not responding,” Falksen said.
“Magnetic interference from the docking clamps. Just enough to keep us from moving around. Auto-pilot will still work.”
“These guys are well-equipped for pirates. Only the military is supposed to have that kind of tech.”
Reynolds sighed. “Lock the door.”
“But sir—the passengers…!”
“Are on their own. We don’t have any weapons in here. The idea is to stop the pirates before they come aboard, and clearly that’s failed.”
But Falksen wasn’t so easily discouraged. “There must be something we can do!”
Reynolds lit a cigarette and took a nice, long drag. “You want to go out there and fight them with no guns, be my guest. For all intents and purposes, this vessel is theirs now. Anything we try would only endanger the passengers further.”The co-pilot clearly wanted to argue further, but he knew Reynolds was right. The captain could see it in his eyes. So Falksen locked the cockpit door, and fell into his chair to await whatever fate had in store for them.