Writing project that I've been working on for my Realms of Darmonica/Frozen Skies setting.
Still incomplete, but I'm slowly getting it done.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Tales of the Grey Bonxie
“I’ll pay! I’ll bloody pay!” I screamed as the spinning propellers loomed mere inches away from my head as the two thugs held me fast, one of their comrades sat in the cockpit of the aircraft with a hand on the throttles as he watched the proceedings. Their boss, a crime lord known simply as ‘Ferret’, was sat in his trademark suit on a nearby crate munching on an apple as he watched me beg for my life. His face was emotionless and so I could only guess what he was thinking behind that ugly mug of his.
“Well Tem my lad...” Ferret spoke with a sigh, something that led to a sinking feeling deep inside me. “Yer not the first bugger to say that this week.”
“Ah...” I muttered. “Surely we can work something out?”
“Maybe we can...” Replied Ferret with a grin as he whistled and gestured for the engine to be cut, thus easing my worries about an impending decapitation for the time being as the two thugs also let me go. “It just so happens I have a job fer ya.”
“What sort of job?” I asked a little warily, knowing full well the sort of business that Ferret usually dealt with.
“It requires that plane of yers, whatever ye call it...the Grey Bonnie or something?”
“The Grey Bonxie.”
“That’s it, named after some sea hawk.” Ferret continued. “Need it to runs some cargo up to Alyeska.”
“Cargo? What sort of cargo are we on ‘bouts?” I asked. “The Company won’t be took happy ‘bouts me being yer flying delivery service.”
“Tem my boy, the Company won’t be a problem.” Grinned Ferret as he took a bite of the apple. “As fer the cargo, suppose ‘passenger’ would be a better fit.”
“Not some stiff is it?”
“Nah, she’s still alive and kicking. Her old man is some rich toff, though he ain’t long fer this world.”
“Right, so where did ye come into it?”
“Well the toff has a brother, a brother who stands to inherit the lot when the toff kicks the bucket.”
“And the girl messes up his plans yes?”
“Ye catch on quick, I’ve always liked that even if ye let yer debts slip.” Ferret grinned. “But yeah, the toff’s brother approached me and made an arrangement fer the girl to be dumped somewhere out of the picture.”
“And I’m the poor bugger who’s flying her to Alyeska?”
“Got in one my boy!”
“So...would this square things off regarding the debt I owe?”
“Only partially Tem, but mess this up and ye better watch yer step. Savvy?”
“Yes, savvy.” I hastily replied, Ferret never made empty threats and in most cases probably had a longer reach than even the law. Plus the job sounded relatively easy and I rather avoid being shook down by his thugs, something I’m sure the brutes were looking forwards to more than I was. “Presumably I can leave now right?”
“Of course, Brutus will show ya the way out.”
“Yes, Brutus.” Ferret answered as the floor shook with heavy footsteps as what could only be described as a giant slab of meat stomped into view, grinning with a mouth full of crooked teeth.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Good dust bath skipper?” Chuckled Midnightte, a former army sergeant and one of my crew on the Grey Bonxie. “Ye look like ye took on a dust devil and came off second.”
“Nah, I was shown the door by one of the Ferret’s brutes.” I sighed as I sat down on the tavern stool next to Midnightte and dislodged a cloud of dust, my joints still cringing from the brief moment of unpowered flight thanks to Brutus. “He’s got a job fer us.”
“Oh good...” Muttered Midnightte in a less than enthusiastic tone, he was an honourable man who’d found himself surrounded by thieves and cutthroats. In a way I kinda felt sorry for him, he’d been through hell during the War a couple of decades earlier and given a few shillings and a demob suit fer his troubles. He’d came over here to New Garrack after the War’s end in search of work, he said he’d managed to get by with a few odd jobs here and there. We actually met by chance, he saved me neck during a bar brawl and we both had to leave town in a hurry...though I doubt he knows the bar brawl resulted from cheating at a game of cards.
Still then he has saved me neck quite a few more times, typically when either air pirates or bandits try to take our cargo. I do wondered whether he’s the only person on the Grey Bonxie that the Company even remotely trusts, it’s gotten to the point where he’s the only one who gets briefed on what cargo we’re actually carrying. Given that the other crewman, Gervase, has bit of a shady past and connections I can’t really blame them. Gervase says he’s a former army corporal, a driver or quartermaster or something along those lines. Gervase has certainly saved out bacon a few times, but I’m not certain that I can trust him with me own life just yet.
Finally there’s Kaya, a red-haired lass and one heck of a mechanic. I swear here in the Territories that ye won’t find anyone as skilled as she is, I mean she could probably get an engine going again with a bit of spit, a few choice curse words and a few whacks with a tool of some description. Though she’s a little rough around the edges from her upbringing and more than a little naive around people, it’s a near constant worry when we hit the taverns for a drink and more than one drunkard tries his luck. Thankfully me and Midnightte managed to handle things when that happens, but Gervase remains a big concern.
Alas, I’m rambling.
Midnightte was less than happy at the prospect of doing a job for Ferret, so I figured filling him on the details may put him at ease. “Tis simple, we’re to pick up a passenger and fly her up to Alyeska.”
“Her?” Asked Midnightte, a wary tone in his voice. “Wot’cha mean her?”
“Some rich lass, Ferret wants us to take her to Gravenburgh.”
“Right...” Midnightte sighed after a while. “Best if we go and find what hole or gutter Gervase is laying in.”
“Yeah, probably an idea.” I mumbled by way of reply, anxious to get airborne and get the job done before any more trouble arose.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
We left the tavern and headed out onto the street, well it was more akin to a dirt track given that this was a township in the New Garrack Territories. It is pretty much the frontier here, across a vast ocean from the rest of the Commonwealth and the other great nations of Darmonica. There was dozens of towns just like this one with single story wooden buildings and a general lack of telephones, electricity and even running water. The march of progress was slow here, the Commonwealth was more concerned with the Home Isles and threats much closer to their doorstep.
Out here it was a vast land, split into three Territories stretching from the frozen skies of Alyeska in the north, through the valleys and virgin forests of New Garrack down to the swamps of the former Tylander colony of Pamayan in the south. I’ve probably seen all of it at least two or three times, all when flying for the New Garrack Aerial Corps or the ‘Company’ as everyone seems to call it. Though whatever you want to call it, there is no understating just how important it is to the Territories. Roads and railways are still pretty scarce here, the latter only exists in the form of a single line known as the Grand Trunk that runs the entire length of the Territories from north to south. Roads only exist on a more local level, typically linking township to township rather than a grand route. So the aircraft remains the best way of getting people and goods around the Territories, a simple dirt airstrip is all that is needed to link some communities to the outside world.
We were heading to the town’s airfield when Midnightte grabbed my arm and halted me, which was when I noticed a large amount of static in the air and the taste of ozone. Glancing round I saw sparks on various metal surfaces such as drainpipes or overhead wires, sparks that grew as I felt a rumble in the ground beneath me. Then suddenly a few foot in front of us a burst of electricity erupted out of the ground and the static in the air was discharged. What we had just witnessed was called a ‘Spike’, it had started not long after the War. I don’t know the exact details but there was this mysterious explosion that apparently altered a previously unremarkable mineral, the mineral builds up an electric charge until it eventually discharges it at random. Believe it or not, there is actually some people who want to harness the mineral and create weird gizmos from it. Spikes had now become commonplace so much that people paid them little heed and accepted them as a force of nature.
“Thats becoming a little too common these days.” Midnightte muttered as we resumed walking. “At first tis used to be once in a blue moon, now tis half a dozen times a week.”
“Ah c’mon, don’t ya think ya over exaggerating just a little bit?”
“I’m just saying!” Midnightte said defensively. “But even ye can’t deny we’re getting more and more Spikes.”
“Ye got a point, but the eggheads say it’ll blow over.”
“Maybe, maybe not. But what happens if it keeps happening in a more frequent basis?”
“Let’s just find Gervase.” I sighed, though even I had to appoint he did have a point. “Then get Ferret’s damn job done.”
“Yer the boss skipper....” Replied Midnightte as he walked ahead.
~ ~ ~
We ran into Gervase after a short stroll, rather he ran into us after literally being thrown out of a cathouse by the doorman as me and Midnightte walked past. Seemed Gervase had a spot of bother with the house’s madam as he explained. “She wouldn’t let me use me tab!”
Ye see Gervase has a notorious habit of demanding a tab wherever he goes rather than actually coughing up a few measly coins, though with some reluctance he pays fer the odd round of drinks after enough pressure is applied. Course his shyness of spending has caused problems, namely with various taverns round the Territories, though thankfully we managed to smooth things over for the most part with slipping irate barkeeps a couple extra coins to avoid being barred. Admittedly it has gotten to the point where we leave Gervase to his own devices whenever go fer a night on the town, fer all the good and bad tidings that it entails.
“Perhaps ya should pay up once in a while.” Suggested Midnightte, though with a noticeable tone of disapproval in his voice. “Least ye be barred from every tavern and house of ill repute in the Territories.”
“Perhaps we can discuss this later...” I quickly interrupted in attempt to forestall an argument that we didn’t need. “We gots a job from Ferret.”
“Don’t ye owe him money?” Gervase asked as he rubbed his shoulders.
“Don’t remind me.” I replied. “Tis a simple cargo run, though all our heads are on the line if we screw up.”
“Ah, nothing new there then...so wots the cargo?”
“Some crate Ferret wants taken up to Alyeska.” I replied, figuring a half-truth would do fer the time being in the hope that it would stop Gervase from getting too curious. Though then again I was also hedging me bets that mentioning Ferret would be enough to deter Gervase, after all not many who cross the Territories’ premier crime lord survived fer long after doing so. It remained to be seen whether or not Gervase’s curiosity would get the better off him, I sincerely hoped that it wouldn’t.
“Probably booze that he doesn’t want the taxman finding out ‘bouts then.” Gervase muttered, thus relieving some of my anxiety. Though there still something about Gervase’s tone that kept me on edge, would he still try checking out the cargo under the assumption that it possibly contained alcohol within?
“We best get moving,” Suggested Midnightte. “Ferret’s men won’t be too happy if they’re kept waiting fer long.”
“Yes, yer right.” I conceded. “The least trouble we have with this job the better.”
~ ~ ~
“Yer late,” Grumbled one of the thugs when we reached the town’s airstrip.
“Lay off,” I protested. “Still a good hour or so ‘fore we’re due to takeoff.”
“OK, later than we’d like.” Corrected the thug. “The law’s been poking its nose in and we don’t like to hang around fer long.”
“Wot, two outstanding gentlemen such as yerselves fearing the law?” Jested Gervase before he was scowled by both me and Midnightte. Thinking quickly I half-suggested/half-ordered, “Midnightte go give the Kaya a hand and take Gervase with ye.”
“Aye skipper,” Midnightte nodded before he half-dragged/-half-led Gervase towards the plane, leaving me with Ferret’s men. With a possible case of gratuitous violence successfully avoided, I turned to the thugs and asked. “So, where’s the...cargo then?”
“Right here,” One of the thugs replied as he whipped a cloth off a chest like a magician on stage. “Though not as docile as we wish.”
“Watch,” Said the thug as he kicked the chest with his foot. Something inside thumped back and I swore I heard a muffled scream of frustration. “We had to gag her so she wouldn’t raise a ruckus.”
“I see...” I muttered, beginning to wonder whether I’d bitten off more than I could chew this time before remembering that I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Telling myself that it was too late to back out now, least I incur Ferret’s wrath, I sighed and simply said. “OK, just get it loaded onto the plane.”
Now the Grey Bonxie was my pride and joy, a twin engine medium cargo plane that I had won in a game of cards from its former owner who’d had a bad run of luck. It was the closest thing I had to a long time companion, my crew just formed over time as fated dictated. There have been many a time when I’ve almost lost her, the plane that is, yet by dumb luck I’ve always managed to keep her. She may have had more than a few miles on her clock, but she still looked fairly modern with her all-metal monoplane design and retractable undercarriage. She was also a class ahead of most of the planes that were flying in the Territories, aside from the military ones of course.
Right now Midnightte, and a reluctant Gervase, were helping our mechanic Kaya out by getting the Grey Bonxie ready for the flight ahead. Ferret’s thugs were carrying the chest over, though rougher than I’d liked and with no care for the occupant inside as was proven when they just dumped the chest onto the plane. Midnightte slid the chest with a great deal of care into the aft cargo compartment, located in the plane’s tail section, which was normally claimed by Kaya. I would have some explaining to do when we landed at our first refuelling stop, but at that moment I was more worried about putting some distance between me and Ferret’s thugs.
“Kaya!” I called out as I climbed aboard the plane, looking round for our resident fitter. “We pukka fer our sortie?”
“Just ‘bouts skipper,” Answered Kaya as she stuck her oil stained face and red hair through one of the mid-section hatches. “Checking the oil levels now.”
“Good good.” I nodded before making my way to the cockpit before slumping down into the pilot’s seat and started going through pre-flight checks, which Kaya joined me in doing after she’d finished checking the oil levels and then sitting down in the co-pilot seat. Once all the checks were done I radioed the airfield’s tower and soon we were rolling towards the runway, I swung the aircraft round onto the runway’s end before applying the brakes. There was a moment as the engines were revved up before I offered a prayer to Taran, the deity of the skies and whom most aviators invoked for a safe flight, and then released the brakes. The Grey Bonxie rolled forwards, slowly at first until she built up speed until she roared down the runway. Gradually I felt the tail lift as it bit the air, then gently pulled back on the stick and made the aircraft lift upwards into the sky. After we’d built up a good enough airspeed I retracted the landing gear and soon settled down for the flight ahead, wondering how I was going to explain our ‘cargo’ to Kaya.