Fiddlestix and her friends haven’t had a very good day. On the way out of Harlich territory, they’re ambushed by the Château Noir. Fortunately, the attack is unsuccessful & they all escape without injury. Dirk leads them to a special, hidden place and presents them with a prize, a zeppelin.
“If you two are done over there,” Dirk called. “She’s about ready for take off. Come aboard!” His proud grin nearly split his handsome face in two, green eyes jumping with lively light.
Buzzard and Blacksmith took seats far aft, out of Dirk’s way. The ungainly craft rose slowly through the opening roof, taking to the sky. They saw the roof slide shut again as Dirk’s men waved up at them.
The sturdily built Harlich man handled the zeppelin like a pro. From time to time, he checked a compass, adjusting their speed and direction slightly.
“What’s the range on this thing?” Fiddlestix asked after about an hour of flight.
“She’s got a solar cell for power to the motor. As long as the sun shines, she’s got unlimited energy. Once it’s dark, we have about twelve hours in reserve, more than enough.”
“Where are we going?” Blacksmith still looked a little pale. The movement of the gondola had an alarming effect on the short, Hispanic man.
“We’ve got all the comforts of home,” Dirk continued, as if he had not heard Blacksmith’s question. “Plenty of food and water, got a lav on board, hammocks for sleeping. Fancy a ride to Tennessee? Shine territory is easier to reach by air.”
Blacksmith looked appalled, but Buzzard liked the idea. Fiddlestix was unsure, until she looked at the map Dirk was using and saw how far they had come.
“We’re already in Georgia?”
He grinned proudly. “Wind moves at a fair pace up here. By this afternoon we should be coming close to their line. I can’t take you in, but I can land you nearby.”
“No, I don’t suppose Deacon would like you landing this on his mountain top,” Fiddlestix mused, conjuring up a mental image of what Deacon Scott would do if Dirk set down on top of his underground domain. “He’d probably shoot us down before we got that far.”
She and Dirk consulted the maps for a good landing spot, while Blacksmith huddled in the stern and Buzzard dozed on a hammock aft. After deciding, Fiddlestix went into the galley and found a few dehydrated food packets. She brought them and a bottle of cold water to Dirk. He accepted it gladly.
“Care to drive a bit? I could use a break.” He shrugged his broad shoulders. “Gets tiresome when there’s a crosswind.”
“Sure, I’ll take the wheel a little while for you, Dirk,” she told him quietly. “Just tell me what to do.”
“You ever drive a flitter in the military?”
“It handles much the same way, only it’s not as light a touch. To keep her steady, prop yourself on the gunwale and stay on that heading.”
He stood behind her, muscular body pressed against hers as she took control and got the feel for it. She found a comfortable angle for her hips and shoulders and settled down for a quiet flight.