I only spent one night with Carrinne. Well actually it was one full day. From 9 o’clock one morning till 9 o’clock the next morning. Her long dark hair disguised her stunning figure. Maybe she wore her hair that way to keep the men away. When she was busy working you probably wouldn’t give her a second glance. It was only when you stopped and really looked that you noticed her full breasts and firm buttocks. The problem was, if she noticed you looking, she’d twist your arm up your back in a way that guaranteed it would dislocate. Then you’d be pushed through the bar doors so fast your feet would never keep up and you’d break your face on the hot concrete outside. Luckily for me, she found me funny. That meant I wasn’t a threat.

We had just finished unloading the livestock  and the seed bags were being craned off one at a time when the accident happened. There was a creaking noise that grew into a loud thunderous roar. Then PING. A huge, car size bag of seed came falling towards the deck. It missed the main living quarters but found the main lift blade. If you haven’t seen a cargo Skyplane before, the main lift blade provides upwards propulsion, or, lift. The bag didn’t snap the blade but it managed to split the wood from spring nut to tip. The wood used to make the blades are from a tree that only grows in three forests worldwide. It’s common in those forests but hard to get to. Long story short? Spares are hard to get and expensive to buy. Unless you know people. Luckily, Renus has the largest black market north of the Firestone region. Some of the best carpenters and “specialist dealers” frequent that shit hole. Captain Williot tasked me with getting the necessary supplies and craftsmen to get the job done. Price wasn’t a problem, he’d just run some ammo and weapons. There was money to be made outside the law.

Even though I spent a bit of time on Renus, I never really got to know the place properly. I needed to find someone who knew the people, the places and, more importantly, the secrets. The best place to find a guide in any town is the bar. I rarely needed an excuse to visit Saddlesore but it was only nine in the morning.

As soon as I knocked on the door I knew I’d made a mistake. I heard something slide, click and crack. Before I knew what had happened, the door had opened, I’d been dragged inside, spun around and my face was being pushed hard against the door. I felt the cold metal of a blade against my throat. It was a pirates blade. They’re  a curved steel blade that’s a sharp as sin on the inside but have a serrated outer edge that would carve though rock if it needed to. I could feel her breathe on my neck and feel her heart beating against my back. If I hadn’t been so scared this would have been a turn on. Even though my mouth was dry I still had an urge to swallow, as I did, the blade opened a tiny slit on my skin and the blood trickled down onto my shirt. As sharp as sin. At that instant she let me go, turned and headed into the empty bar without saying a word. I took a deep breath and followed.

After she’d finished laughing she asked why I was knocking on her door. It was hard to concentrate as she was wearing a black vest, knickers and nothing else. Her hair was tied back and you could see her full devastating beauty. After explaining what I needed she agreed to help. With one phone call she managed to cover the bar so she could spend the day helping me get The Valiant back in the air and us back home. I could never work out what Carrinne thought of Lucille. She knew she existed but chose to ignore that side of my life. I never led a double life. I just kept my work away from my home.

We walked back to the stricken Valiant and I showed her the damage. Barnes had removed the blade and tried to straighten out the bent spring nut. I’m sure he only did this much because his gambling debts were starting to build up! The sooner we were on the move the sooner he could leave behind his worries. That was Barnes’ strength, he didn’t care. About himself or anyone else. You were either a source of money or a person that he owed money to.

We needed to find a carpenter and  a length of timber long enough to make a replacement blade. At nearly fifty foot it was going to be expensive and hard to find. There was only two carpenters in Renus, one was Chris “The Bird” Walker and the other Carlton Sefton. The Bird wouldn’t have been my carpenter of choice on account of him being drunk, violent and lacking in personal hygiene but as Carlton was out of stock and unwilling to use dodgy suppliers we had to find The Bird. Finding his shop wasn’t a problem but finding him was always going to be a challenge. We set off for the market to see if we could find him there.

The market isn’t the sort of place you go for a stroll. You go there with a clear view of what you need. You buy what you want then you leave. We knew where we had to go and who we needed to speak to, the problem was, Renus’ market was never set up the same way two days on the trot. It meant that the supplier we wanted had set up right at the back. Walking through the endless stalls we saw just about anything you could ever want or need and equal amounts of stuff you’d never want anything to do with. We were offered pistols, rifles, machine guns, army-grade explosives and blades of every description, we’d only stopped to grab a coffee. It was in the coffee shop that Carrinne showed what she was capable of. A kid had made a grab for the bag she had slung across her shoulder, without blinking, she’d grabbed the child, pulled out her blade and held it tight against his throat, just as she’d done to me. As soon as the kid squealed a “minder” came in off the street and went to pull out his gun. She kicked away the child, and threw her knife at the beast. I’m not sure how but it found his eye and popped it like a grape under a boot. For a man of his size and age, he screamed like a girl. Carrinne walked over, retrieved her knife from it’s temporary home, wiped her blade clean on his shirt and left. I paid the bill and followed.

Renus doesn’t have a police force as such. Each business pays private firms to deal with problems. They then deliver any trouble makers to the port for collection by the proper authorities. It doesn’t work but Renus is outside The Aerians jurisdiction.  The beast that’s now writhing about and screaming will be sent to the medical bay for patching up and no one will have seen a thing.

From that point on nobody seemed interested in selling us anything. We had to get to Planks, pick up the timber and find Bird, fast. The beast will have friends and they’ll be nastier than him. Not much goes unpunished here. As we left one  commotion  at the coffee shop we noticed another one over at Planks. There was a lot of shouting and swearing, people were jostling for position around two men squaring up to each other. Barnes and The Bird. Of all the gambling drunkards it had to be these two. I didn’t have time to settle the argument or wait at a medical bay for any repairs. I grabbed Barnes by his huge forearm and Carrinne grabbed The Bird. Thinking back, we probably should have   grabbed the opposite people. Barnes might be a drunk but he can still swing a punch like a sledgehammer. Time seemed to slow as his massive, brick sized fist came rushing at my chin. I managed to pull my head away slightly but only enough for him to land the punch on my nose. Crack. My nose collapsed, blood pumped and I let go. As soon as the punch connected he seemed to snap out of his rage. He realised who it was and made a grab to catch me. We didn’t have time for this. I straightened my nose and stopped the blood.They both owed us and they knew it.

Barnes tried to explain how he’d asked The Bird for his help and how they’d decided to play cards over the price. Bird had lost but accused Barnes of cheating. Then my nose had become a brake for Barnes’ fist. I didn’t know who to believe and I didn’t care. I needed the wood for the blade and I needed a blade making and fitting. Ideally I’d need them both sober but I couldn’t go back to the coffee shop. We’d have to make it back to Birds shop and wait for the timber to be delivered. It cost two thousand pounds for the timber and delivery. That’s twice the price of legitimate suppliers but it would be three hours not weeks for delivery.

All we had to do was make our way out of the market and back to Birds workshop. Shame the beast and his family had other ideas…..

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I need to remember how I came to be here. My life before Aurora is becoming harder for me to recall. I need to write this before it fades completely. I don’t think I’ve been here that long but my mind is spinning, twisting, like an old, gnarled oak tree. I used to be able to recall the name of a person I hadn’t seen for many months, now I’m struggling to remember the name of my favourite bar.

The Singing Hangman. Possibly the greatest bar ever built. Unusually, for a quayside bar, it was clean and well-kept. The food was cheap and the beer was cold. The clientelle were the usual mix of sky-sailors and regular “wet-heads”. I got on with both. I could never understand why any man would want to spend his days rocking about in a steel hulled death trap. The constant motion would surely turn your stomach into a washing machine. Give me a wooden hulled cloud surfer any day of the week.

She was a thing of beauty, the Dr Valiant, just over a hundred and fifty foot in length. The wood that made her main deck was a deep chocolaty brown with long thin planks that reflected the sun in a way that never hurt your eyes but always made you feel warm. By using the inside of the hull entirely for storage the upper deck ended up three storeys high. This gave it a very strange top-heavy look. It looked like it would topple in the slightest breeze but it never did. It barely wobbled even at top speed. We once made a run from Breezehome to the Isle of Sanctium in under two days, fully loaded and with half the crew missing. I can’t remember where the crew were on that run.  But I do know that under Captain Dean Williot, we could pick and choose the runs we went on and the money we earned.

The Captain always managed to balance the needs of his business with the needs of his crew. There were many times when he’d step in and pull Lazenby off whichever poor bastard had dared to question his culinary skills.  Lazenby was possibly the hardest person on earth to work with. He’d never allow anyone to question his abilities as a chef but he’d always be there to help change a broken prop shaft or clear a jammed air-plate. Jobs like that were meant to be done by the engineer but he was normally too busy losing his wages in a game of cards up on the top deck.

That’s how we worked on the Valiant, each of us knew our job and place within the hierarchy. It just worked. I’d lead the other deck hands when we were loading the cargo then I’d watch over the cargo en-route to our destination. Sometimes we’d be hauling crystals to various energy plants and other days we’d be moving livestock and plants to the barren islands north of the Deathzone Line. The Deathzone Line sounds so exciting. It isn’t. It’s a line that runs around Earth and  marks the start of a huge desert. Nothing lives there but due to demands for more food and places to live, companies are paying billions to try to make it hospitable. We’ve transported tonnes and tonnes of livestock, plants and equipment and I’m yet to see anything grow.  I think thats what we’d dropped off when I ended up here.

It was, I remember counting off the cattle. Twenty five cows, twenty sheep and four tonne of a new super tough grass. The live stock was crated in the usual fashion. I’d walked over each crate in turn and checked they were all alive and well. The run would take us five days in total. Two days to get there, one day on Renus, then two days to get home. We’d set off at nine in the morning, climb to twenty-five thousand feet and full throttle until we got to within a hundred miles Renus. Unless we ran into pirates it would be easy.

There isn’t a greater sight than the towers of Renus. They seem to rise out of the desert like a pair of nails hammered into a log. Renus itself isn’t a big place. It’s called a city but it’s just a big town. Completely surrounded by sand, it seems to  be growing outward in perfect symmetry. The attempts at farming and crop growth are always in perfect squares. But as each one fails it leaves behind a slowly fading patch. These patches turn from green, to brown, to purple and then back to a brick-red, the original colour of the sand it attempted to replace.

Renus itself is the definition of a concrete jungle. There is one road in and out. The fastest and safest way to get there is by Sky Ship. If you choose to try to drive, it’ll take nearly three days. You need enough fuel and water to make it without stopping. There isn’t a single town from the edge of humanity to Renus. Just sand.

Saddlesore. My second favourite bar. It is the polar opposite of The Singing Hangman. Filthy, loud, expensive and hot. So very, very hot. It’s frequented by some of the most clichéd and stereo typical men you’ll never want to meet but the manager is the second best looking woman on earth. Her hair was as dark as her eyes. You could see the years of dealing with scum and blaggards was starting to take its toll but she still had a youthful edge and a smile that you could frame and use to keep warm on the coldest of nights. My god I miss her. I miss them both.

This island is getting more comfortable. I’ve  found a fishing rod so I’m able to catch fresh food. I can’t say fish because the creatures I’m pulling in are far too vicious to be counted as fish.

Giant squid, sharks and huge eels. Catching them is easy but killing them and not getting bitten is a major challenge. They don’t taste too good but I only need one to last me a week.

I caught a cooking pot yesterday. An actual, metal, cooking pot! I recognise it from the  Valiant. I’m not crazy, it’s etched into the base. “PROPERTY of Chef Lazenby” Chef! Ha. He was barely a cook. Although he probably would be able to do more with these eels than I can. I wonder where he is? What happened?

Is it possible the pirates have got hold of sleeping gas? It would take a LOT of gas to create a cloud as thick and endless as the fog we sailed through. That’s not the answer. In all my years  skyshipping I’ve never heard of a fog that kills. I’ve heard of ships getting lost and crashing into other ships and mountains but never entire crews just vanishing.

How can a crew just vanish? I’m here. Some of the ship is here. Strangely the top of it is missing. No wheel house, no crew quarters, nothing. Just the main deck. I’ve looked many times. There isn’t a single sign of damage. Just nail and screw holes where things used to be. It’s as if a team of VERY talented carpenters, just, lifted it all.

Will they be ok? What hope does a son have without his father? I wouldn’t be who I am today without my fathers help.  What would he do, if he was here? Here, on this god forsaken, floating, endless and noisy, piece of shit of a prison. I can’t write anymore. I need to sleep.

I get so frustrated some days. I can feel a rage building inside me that I’ve never known before. I think it’s because I don’t have any sense of time. There is no clear day/night cycle. I seem to be passing the same mountains. It’s what I now call a day. When they pass on my right. The sun isn’t relentless it just never really sets. Some days the clouds block it and that’s the closest I come to a night.

I feel better today, like I need to achieve something. My ultimate goal is to escape. To find a way to the mountains that drift passed us every day. It won’t be today though. Today I need to find out what is through the portal I opened.

I didn’t mean to open a portal. I found it. When I first started digging I thought I’d found a well. It was only after I dug it out and stood it up that it became obvious what it was. I don’t know how it’s powered and I’m not sure where it leads.

The tunnel of light suggests that I might land on another island. So far I’ve thrown two buckets and a semi conscious Storm Shark through. If I’d thought about it, I’d have attached a rope to measure the distance. There again, maybe I should have thought for longer about signing up for the merchant navy!  Concentrate man.

I went through. I did it. It felt like, going through a portal. If you want a better description you need to find a portal of your own. It takes away your breath and leaves you dizzy. It also wakes up semi conscious Storm Sharks. And it makes them angry. Luckily the buckets were in one piece and now the shark has a flat, dead, head.

The portal does  lead to a smaller island than the one I’m on and it might be better for me to sleep on. More shelter and no noise from the main power source. I can see my main Island from here but I can’t see this from there. Weird. I need to start naming things. I need to name my Empire.

I know I’m on Aurora. That is the name of this mythical collection of skybound islands. Palloncino. I shall call my day time home Palloncino. It’s not original but it’s mine.

I thought I saw another person yesterday. It was like a shadow. But it wasn’t cast on the floor or walls, it was stood upright. I swear I’m not crazy. Just an outline of a human. It wasn’t a ghost and it wasn’t aware of me. I feel like I’m not alone. I don’t feel scared, just surrounded. Like I’m in a maze. I know other things are here but I can’t quite see them.

The sense of being surrounded is helping me to cope with the loss of my friends, my family and my old life. The loneliness hurts, it slows time and has driven me to think of ending it all. The only thing keeping me going is the thought of getting off Aurora. I need to find a way to the mountains, to seeing my wife and child again. Lucille, baby, i’ll find a way………

I hope I’m doing this right.

I have never seen a machine like this. Hello?

I don’t think anyone can hear me.

I’ve been here nearly a week and I still don’t know where “here” is. I think it’s been a week. The days don’t seem to pass here. There is no clear night. The best I can do is shelter near this pulsing light that seems to give off an “energy”.

I don’t know why I’m typing this. The machine doesn’t speak. I’m lucky if it turns on some days. The typing helps to keep things ordered in my mind.

I’m sorry if this seems out of order but I just type as I think. Maybe I should start from the beginning…..

 

I was, or am, a deckhand on the airship Dr Valiant. The ship was crewed by 15 other men and women.  We set off on a standard drop off and collection of supplies from Fort Carrymore. In these times of peace our ship was only lightly armoured, to scare off any attempts by pirates to board us.

All was well, we had dropped off our cargo and were returning home. That’s when it descended, the fog, so thick you couldn’t see the wheelhouse from the crew quarters.  It felt, heavy, like all the life around us was being drained. After that my memory fails me. I woke up, alone, drifting through the sky. For 3 more days I drifted in and out barely able to rouse myself enough to drink but then it came into view, my saviour, my hope.

I managed to dock the ship and drag myself onto this strange land.  So here I am. I found a camera and managed to take a picture of my surroundings. The only explanation for this place can’t be true. It’s a myth. A fairytale. Even as I type the words I can’t believe it to be true.

Have I landed on Aurora?

 

 

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