Monday, April 6, 2015

Scout's Law - Chapter 4

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A huge windstorm hits our heroes’ airship and the airship topples over!

I just managed to grab hold of Callan before we fell off the tilting deck of the tumbling airship. We fell for twenty feet before our safety lines snapped taught, stopping our fall with a painful jerk. I did my best to cushion Callan from the effects of the drop, but I felt the breath go out of her.

The wind howled around us as I tried to see what was happening. We hung between the airship’s hull and its envelope, but that wouldn’t last long. Even as I got my bearings, the envelope spun out from under us as the airship tried to right itself. More by luck than anything else, I was facing in the right direction as the ship’s wooden hull spun out of the darkness at us. I just managed to bring my legs up so they took the brunt of the impact and kept the hull from smashing into Callan and me. One thing was certain—we would get battered to death if we couldn’t secure ourselves somewhere.

“I need my hands free,” I yelled at Callan. “Can you hold onto me?”

She nodded, tightly wrapping her arms around me. Once she was secure, I hauled hand-over-hand on my safety line and walked up the side of the hull. The airship continued tumbling as I did this, but the spinning actually helped me maintain my footing on the side of the ship.

Just as I reached the railing, the ship plunged straight down for a few seconds and we found ourselves dangling again. I didn’t lose my grip on the safety line, though, so we found ourselves hanging five or six feet from the deck. Once again, the envelope pulled the ship back around and we crashed to the deck. Even as my breath blew out in a whoosh, I grabbed an inner railing. Holding us in place with one arm, I wrapped the other around Callan and pulled her to the railing, also.

The world continued spinning and the air was filled with flying debris. A belaying pin bounced painfully off of one of my kidneys and the tattered ends of broken ship’s lines whipped at us, but at least we weren’t out in the middle of it all.

Then Callan yelled, “David! Look aft!”

Rising flames lit the back of the airship and I realized the fire in the boiler had spilled free. I felt sure we’d be smashed into the ground before the fire reached us, but that wasn’t exactly a comforting thought. I needed a chance to get my bearings so I could concoct some kind of plan, but the world was moving too fast for me to do that. So I decided to slow it down.

Boost!

My implant flooded my body with adrenaline and time slowed. All about me, bits and pieces of the airship flew as the ship continued it’s uncontrolled tumble, driven toward the ground by the raging windstorm. The fire, hungrily devouring the dry timber of the hull, cast illumination into the deep darkness of the desert. The ground was no more than a hundred feet below us and rushing up fast. But, if the ship kept tumbling the way it was, the envelope should hit first and cushion our landing. If I timed things just right…

“Grab onto me again!” I yelled at Callan as I drew a knife.

She did as I asked without question. Meanwhile, I threaded my left arm through the railing, more or less maintaining the hold anchoring us to the deck, then grabbed both of our safety lines with my now-free left hand. With a quick glance at the ground—no more than ten feet below the envelope by this time—I sawed through both safety lines.

Then the envelope hit the ground. The lines connecting the hull to the envelope—previously held taught by the spinning, slackened as the hull dropped and the envelope bounced up. I dropped my knife, jumped to my feet, and wrapped an arm around Callan. I dove for the outer railing and caught it with my right hand. With Boost-assisted strength, I swung the two of us over the railing and away from the tumbling, burning airship.

We plunged fifteen feet to the ground below. Boost gave me plenty of time to right ourselves, catch Callan with both arms, and land feet first. Letting my knees buckle—not that I really had any choice—I dropped and we rolled. And rolled. And rolled. My back smacked into something hard and rough. A few sharp points scraped my skin through my shirt.

Dropping Boost, I pulled my head back and examined Callan—only to find her doing the same thing to me.

“Are you okay?” we both asked and smiled in response to each other.

Sand and dust blew all around us, but we had managed to end up sheltered by the rock painfully jutting into my back and a small rise behind it. Grit still scoured our exposed skin, but it was nothing compared to the flaying we’d get if we moved away from our rock.

Through Callan’s wildly blowing raven hair, I saw the last of the lines holding the hull to the envelope break. Freed from the weight of the hull, the envelope quickly swirled into the sky and out of sight. The hull continued rolling across the ground, scattering flaming wood all across the desert. Within seconds, our little airship was reduced to scrap.

We were stranded in the desert without food or water and hundreds of miles from the nearest city.


Can our heroes survive in the desert? And what caused the windstorm and what happened to the other airships? Find out more in Chapter 5, coming Wednesday!