Jasmine Silver gave me a hand up and I settled the cross-piece of the crutch under my arm. I hadn’t used any sort of crutch in so many years it was an adjustment, to say the least. “Thanks for your kindness.”
“It ain’t kindness!” she squalled. “I expect you two to do your part to man stations. This is a small ship, but it’s not one I can run alone. It was set up to be crewed by automatons but for some reason they are not working.”
I took my first good look around the small, bowl-like vessel and was stunned to see half a dozen smooth bronze bodies standing motionless around the soft-surfaced center. They were kinda built in place, and clearly supposed to be operating solar sails or shoveling coal or any number of things that would keep the ship flying.
“What happened to them?” I asked.
“If I knew, would I be asking for your help? We are far off course. My instruments are frozen or spinning, and the only thing keeping us in the air is the Aether Beastie, but she doesn’t understand much I say. Just come, or go, or eat, or up, or down.”
I risked a look over the side and saw an immense creature beneath the ship. I could mostly see through its bluish-pinkish hide, but its tentacles hung far below us and its multiple crests bobbed us up and down like swells on the ocean. Wherever we were, I couldn’t see any land. No Europe, no British Isles, no nothing.
“How long has the ship been stalled?” I asked, stumping my way to what looked like the main instrument panel and pushing an automaton aside to get a look. I had to ignore the way it rocked and went over ninety degrees, then just stayed that way.
“Almost since I cleared land.” From the look on her face, it plumb galled Jasmine to make that admission. Immediately it crossed my mind that Ollie Twist could have figured out there was an airship in the game and begun to jam the controls. I risked a glance around at the cloudy sky but saw no sign of pursuit. We’d learned a few tricks about stealth ourselves, so that didn’t necessarily mean a rescue wasn’t being attempted.
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