excess baggage

Author: David VC / Labels: ,

The prisoner's attention shifted to a small vial of mercury dangling from a brass bar, hinged to the airship's console by iron brackets. It was swinging steadily forwards. Then to the steering column. It was risen to the level of his head, when before it was level with his waist. He wrapped his aching arms around the column's bars as tightly as he could and pushed downwards with all his weight. He grunted and grit his teeth from the effort. He stared at the vial as he did so. With agonizing slowness the bulbous end of the vial began to pull back towards him.

He looked down. Under his seat was a long metal bar, painted red with EMERGENCY dabbed across it in black letters. He leaned back, still wrestling with the column, finally able to feel it with his toes. He stamped down hard on the bar. There was a jolt in the machinery beneath the floorboards. A series of clicks. The balance measure trembled and swung closer a few more precious degrees.

He felt the howling winds in the cockpit become less violent. The front window was blown through and the cockpit ladder was kicked forward and broken! But now the wind was going straight behind him? A quick glance...


Beyond the cockpit's rear door was only the night sky and a glimpse of the underside of the airbag. The emergency pedal had jettisoned the entire prisoner's hold and all the victims inside it! Was this the guardsmen's answer to an "Emergency?" Hide in the cockpit and drop the rioting felons into the Unterzee in one giant coffin, chains and all?

He dared to take a deep breaths again. Mist was now flooding the cockpit from the front window. The smell of decaying plants on the hot wind assaulted his nostrils.

"A swamp?"

He held onto the column as the ship's gondola ploughed into the marshes. A wave of thick mud sprayed through the front window. He shut his eyes and mouth just before the impact threw him out of his seat.


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