|Bliss: Book Five of the Quirni Series
Author: Elldee PM
Erica might not want to be a High claimant but the job is hers. As Cyril guides her and Pearl watches her she develops initiatives and negotiates with Marril and Sirrus to rise Quirni to the power it ought to be. The BMC isn't happy about that. Before Erica sees her claim she falls to her old club but it isn't blackmail that they use again her. It is 'Bliss'.Rated: Fiction K - English - Sci-Fi/Drama - Chapters: 27 - Words: 173,294 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 12-26-12 - Published: 12-01-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3079093
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 13 – July 18th
The Furays and Marcus were scheduled to leave after breakfast. When they went to their helicopter everyone went along to see them off.
"I don't know when I'll see you again," Marcus told Erica as he gave her a long hug. "I'll miss you."
The rotors on the helicopter began to turn. "We will talk on the phone," she assured him.
"It isn't the same," he told her.
"No," she agreed sadly. "Tell Ella I miss her and I'll eat right."
He smiled then bent and kissed her cheek. "I want you to tell you, you really do remind us of our daughter. Sometimes you make it seem like she never left. You have healed our hearts." Erica could only smile at this. He touched her cheek. "The bruises are nearly gone." He kissed the spot that had been yellows and purples for so many days. "Any time I start to miss you too much I'll think of a reason to get a flight to Kinsley Claim."
"High Council members must have to meet all of the time," Erica told him. The helicopter turned louder. "James told me so."
"All of the time," Marcus agreed and hugged her again.
Erica left him to say good bye to the Furays and pet the puppies and dogs.
Before Marcus could board she hugged him one last time. As he climbed into the machine she had to wipe her eyes.
James took her under his arm. He squeezed Erica's shoulders tightly to reassure her. "They checked and rechecked the ship to make sure it is safe," he said loudly into her ear.
They stood with the rest of James' family. John rubbed Erica's back to comfort her as Eric barked from the crook of his other arm.
Erica stiffened as the helicopter lifted.
Marcus and Heather waved from the windows.
Everyone waved back and watched until the helicopter was out of site.
"When do we know if they get home safe?" asked Erica with a tremor in her voice.
"It's about a seven hour flight," Pearl answered. "And they have to stop a few times to refuel. It depends on how long they take at the depots."
"They won't be close to Pey when we leave will they?" she asked.
"Correct," responded Pearl.
Two more helicopters sat on the helipads. Matilda, Roger, Cyril, Ethan, and Cedric would be leaving in an hour, split between two ships so if the BMC took one down the other might get through or be available to help. Two more ships had just returned from an earlier flight. They were being refueled, cleaned, and checked. They would take James and Erica home.
A young agent approached Erica. "High Lady, do you have anything you would like me to stow on your ship?" he asked. "We are getting it ready for flight."
"Thank you," she told him. She took him back to the administration building to retrieve her things. She kept her backpack but gave him her briefcase. He hurried off with it.
"What is in there?" asked Matilda and pointed at the backpack.
"My pistol, ammunition, knife, and the stuff Levitus made me get at the cafeteria for lunch," said Erica.
Jesse was trying to pet Eric. When she heard what Erica carried she frowned slightly but almost smiled as well, amused yet perplexed. "Your gun and knife?" she asked. "Why do you have those with you?"
"Because I don't trust the BMC," Erica answered. She gave James a small smile. "He made me nervous this morning. He avoided me like bad news so I put on leather arm guards and kept my weapons." She tipped her head at Pearl. "She told why James acted so. Now I be keeping my weapons. Don't tell me different."
Jesse shrugged to say she wouldn't argue.
"If it makes you feel safer, then it is fine," Roger said and expressed everyone's sentiments. "We have a bit of time. Should we check on our orders?"
"Please," Matilda sighed. She led the way back to the Administration Building. "I'll do whatever it takes to get my mind off this flight," she told Erica. "I can't stand flying in helicopters. They are noisy, bumpy, uncomfortable, and the ride takes forever and then when they hit the wrong type of wind they go up and down and all over the place. It makes me sick."
"You can take something for that," Ethan suggested.
Matilda pulled a small bottle from her suit pocket. "It doesn't help nearly enough."
Erica looked sympathetic but she remained quiet. She had her own worries.
They logged into their computers and checked their orders. They were pleased to see all of them had cleared and were being shipped. Matilda and Roger had enough time to check that and nothing else. An agent came to get Matilda, Roger, Cedric, Ethan, and Cyril for their flights.
Matilda and Erica hugged tightly as their helicopter engines ramped up. Neither one of them could say anything. Tears rimmed their eyes. As the helicopter grew louder Matilda said something into Erica's ear that caused Erica to actually begin crying and laughing.
Erica then hugged Cyril. She said nothing. She choked on her words and wiped her eyes. She hugged her brothers last and received their kisses on her cheek.
They boarded as Erica and James watched. The helicopters lifted, one with Matilda, Roger, and Cedric, the other with Cyril and Ethan. They were the only flights that would carry more than one Kinsley. Soon they were out of sight. James and Erica's helicopters were all that were left. They sat on the far side of the runway under guard.
Erica sighed at them. "'Tis soon and we will be claimants on our own land, James."
"But not overseeing it," he reminded her. "I am amazed Cyril offered such help."
Erica smiled and started to do her odd laugh and cry again. "Because I did not know about Xixom."
"What did Matilda say to you?" he asked as they turned back to the administration building to wait their turn. "She put you in an odd mood."
"She reminded me about helping." Erica's eyes began to brim with tears. She bit her lip until she managed to control her tears. She smiled at James. "She was right. Hadn't believed it could be so." James had no idea what she meant. "'Tis hard to explain. She be right though."
They returned to the computers but this time Erica looked up information about dogs, their training and care. She printed it until their escort arrived then placed it in a folder and put that in her backpack.
She would have four agents with her; Elsbeth, Vincent, Lynsey, and Mark. James would have three; Sati, Paul, and Phillip. Samuel and Kate would also travel with him.
The pilot and co-pilots had begun their pre-flight checks as soon as the mechanics finished refueling and checking the ship. The rotors were already turning when the passengers walked across the runway. Only SDD were left to see them off.
"Have a safe flight," James heard again and again in far too serious a tone to make him comfortable.
"We will," he replied each time and hugged his mother and father.
James hugged Erica tightly and kissed her. "If anything happens you have to stay safe," he reminded her. "You first. Got that? Be careful when we land for fuel. Do everything you are told to do."
She tried to smile but couldn't. "So," she agreed.
He took her to her helicopter and helped buckle her in. She sat behind the door at the window.
He took the opposite side in the other ship so he might see her when they were in flight. James had hardly buckled in before the door closed and the rotors turned faster.
His pilots, Fran and Terrance, gave thumbs up to the ground crew standing outside and lifted off.
James waved to his parents as the helicopter tipped forward and sped away.
After ten minutes in the air Paul released his breath. "So far so good," he said beside James. He looked as tense as James felt. They sat behind Erica's mother and father who stared straight ahead and didn't speak a word.
The pilots had chattered with the base for the first five minutes. They called out numbers and times and let the base know everything was in working order. The response from the base came over the speaker, calm and reassuring. Everything seemed fine.
James kept expecting to hear something about Erica's helicopter going down but it didn't happen at takeoff, which was the most worrisome part of the trip, and it wouldn't happen now. They had three refueling stops to make. Those were the next times they could be attacked but SDD were on alert there. They would be protected. At least that was what he tried to tell himself.
The pilot stopped talking to the base for only a minute then spotted a fire and the chattering began again as she reported it.
"It must be some kids camping," Terrance remarked as they slowed to get a look. "It's gotten a little out of control."
"All the ships are being used," Fran noted. "They won't be able to do anything about it for a while."
"We've had rain. It may go out," Terrance replied and Fran continued flying northwest.
James relaxed when they finally stopped talking. Erica's helicopter flew beside them but they were too far away to see in the windows.
"Base, this is Alpha One," the pilot called again. James felt his heart skip. "We have another fire. It seems the locals are out in force." She read off more coordinates.
Paul glowered at James. "If you intend to jump at every conversation they have then why don't you move into the back seat."
James tried to relax. "It shows huh?"
"Yeah," Paul told him. "Boy, she's really something. I never imagined a girl could get you tied into knots. I never thought any girl would get you all. You are about as picky as Ron you know?"
James tipped his head towards Samuel and Kate. He didn't want this conversation with them there.
Paul shrugged and fell quiet.
About ten minutes later the speaker crackled.
"Base, this is flight Beta One. We have a code eleven."
James sat straighter. Erica's ship was Beta One. "What is a code eleven?" he asked tersely.
Terrance, the co-pilot, looked back and answered over his shoulder. "Low fuel."
"How could that be?" asked Paul under his breath. "I saw them fueling that ship less than an hour ago."
A few more minutes passed. "Base, this is Beta One we did a manual check and the reserve tank is nearly dry. I repeat the reserve tank is nearly dry. It appears we have been running on it since we took off.
"Understood, Beta One," base replied. "Did you copy that Alpha One?"
"Copied," their pilot, Fran said stiffly and tipped her head towards the back of the ship.
The co-pilot got up and moved some bags to get behind Sati's seat. James heard him open a compartment. He closed it again and returned to his chair. "It's only half full," he announced angrily.
"I saw them fill it. I saw them filling the main tanks," said Fran. "They were filling that and then the reserve while we were in here starting the check."
"It's half gone," Terrance repeated. "Either we are running off it or whatever you saw they didn't fill it all the way."
"Then why don't we have a low fuel light for the main tank?" demanded Fran.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Terrance muttered darkly.
"Was anyone odd by the ships?" asked James.
"There are so many God damned different mechanics I have no idea," Fran told him worriedly. "Damn it," she cursed. "If I-"
"We have to find a clearing," Terrance interrupted. "We've come out too far to get back on half a reserve tank if that is all we have."
Fran bit back a reply as the other ship spoke.
"Base, this is Beta One. We have to land this ship soon. "
"Beta one copy. Turn north five degrees. There is a clearing less than five miles away. It's big enough for several ships. We'll get the medical ship ready. That is the only one we have left here. We have to check the tanks first."
"Copy base. Be advised the dip used to check the reserve tank has some sort of gel stuck to it and it stinks."
"Copy, Beta One."
The co-pilot immediately got up and pulled the dip stick again. He returned to his seat. "Nothing unusual except for being half gone."
"Alpha one, turn five degrees. Follow Beta One in."
"Will do," Fran replied.
"There is our low fuel light," Terrance remarked and pointed when it came on.
"If I get my hands on the bastards that did this…" Fran started but the radio interrupted her again.
"Alpha one, do you have fuel?" base asked.
"Base, it seems we are running off reserve as well. I have only half of a reserve tank left. Our low fuel indicator for our main tank just came on. It should have been on before this since we are running off our reserve."
"Understood," base replied.
They flew tense and silent until the clearing came into view.
"Base, this is Beta One, I see the clearing."
James watched Erica's ship from his window.
Her pilot chose a level spot to one side. As they hovered the engines began to sputter then stopped. The rotors slowed and the helicopter dropped hard.
Metal crunched and screeched as the ship hit the ground. It fell sideways. The rotor blades whacked into the ground and the whole thing lurched. A blade broke. It sliced through the nose of the ship, caved in the windshield, and then danced along the side, cutting through the metal above Erica's head. James watched helplessly. His heart stopped in his throat.
"Beta One. This is base. Have you landed?"
"This is Alpha One. They're down. They crashed," Fran said with no emotion as she began her decent. She lowered their helicopter far too slowly for James. "One of their skids has collapsed," Fran told base as she worked the controls. "One of the rotors broke and caught the side of the ship. They're canted to the side. Their antennas are gone."
"Copy," base replied calmly. "Be advised you may have company out there. We'll come as fast as we can. "
"Copied," Fran replied tersely as they settled to the ground. They faced the other helicopter. They could see the pilot and co-pilot rise from their seats and retreat into the passenger compartment. "We're down," she announced and started flipping switches. "We can see Beta One's pilot and co-pilot are moving."
"Hold tight," base replied.
James was out of his buckles before the engines were cut.
Sati grabbed his shoulders from behind while Paul held his arm. "Not you," Paul told him. "Stay here."
"Damn me if you think I can stay here for a moment," James growled and tried to get up but they held him.
Samuel and Kate turned in their seats and watched.
Fran hurried back. "Claimant Kennedy, I have strict orders to keep you safe. Stay in your seat," she ordered.
James started to rise again but Sati and Paul both pushed him down.
"Do I have to stay here to keep you safe or do I get to go check on her?" Paul demanded.
They all jumped in surprise when something thudded on the side of the helicopter. "You inside!" a man yelled. "Come out now or we'll drop a stick of dynamite in your God damned fuel tank and be done with you!"
James looked out the windshield and saw horses galloping past their ship to Erica's.
"You have thirty seconds," the man called and began his count down.