Chapter One

"Angela, how much longer do I have to hold this open? My arms are getting tired."

Angela wiggled out of the hatch and pushed her hair out of her face, leaving a streak of grease across her forehead. "Sorry Tom, it should be good to go. Thanks for helping me."

Tom dropped the hatch lid with a loud clang. "Hey, no problem. I helped you haul most of this junk here, I'm not going to abandon you right before it's finished, I just wish I could do more than holding stuff for you."

Angela laughed. "Hey, someone needs to be here to do the grunt work. If you didn't do it, who would?"

A loud chirp was heard as a small mechanical bird flew around Angela before settling on her shoulder.

"No Tweeter, you couldn't have held that hatch open and you know it."

Tweeter chirped indignantly and took off again, flitting about the small clearing where the teens were standing beside a collection of random parts and a small metal craft.

Angela glanced at Tom. "I think the skiff is done, you ready to try it?"

Tom looked nervously at the machine. "I think that's your job. I'm still not sure what half this stuff is."

"I was hoping you'd say that. Give me a boost."

Angela stepped on Tom's clasped hands and climbed over the railing of the skiff. She walked towards the bow, leaning against the angle of a deck not designed for being on land. She reached the pilot's wheel house and quickly checked the coal reserves. She lit the coal box and fastened the box tightly, allowing the pressure to build up. She took a glance around the wheelhouse, nodding to herself as she saw that everything was in its correct place. She held her breath as she grasped the lever attached to the coal box and pushed it forward, feeding power into the machine.

The metal shuddered and screeched as it began to move. The skiff rose into the air slowly, first righting itself, then rising off the ground completely. Angela pulled back on the power once the craft was a few feet off the ground and finally let out her breath in a loud cheer as the skiff remained stationary in the air. She left the wheelhouse and leaned over the railing. "Tom! Get up here!"

Tom jumped and grabbed the edge of the railing and pulled himself up and over the rail. He stood up and brushed himself off, looking around with a smile. "Well, what do you know, you did it!"

"We did it silly." Angela skipped back to the wheelhouse and nudged the throttle forward. "And away we go!"

Tom joined her in the wheelhouse. "And where are we going exactly?"

"Anywhere! Everywhere! The sky is no longer the limit, no time like the present to see how far we can go."

Tom's smile slipped a bit as he realized where the craft was heading. "Angela, you're not planning on taking this off the isle are you?"

"We have to test it sometime."

"Yeah, but-"

"Don't worry Tom. My father says that he used to sail around in a skiff just like this with nothing but his dreams and the clothes on his back." She glanced at her friend. "His words, not mine." She throttled down as the small craft approached the edge of the isle.

"Angela, I'm not sure that the stories your father used to tell you as a child are the best guide for sailing this thing." Tom said softly.

"I know Tom, but I trust him. And I know he's out there somewhere, and there's a good reason he hasn't come home. I keep thinking that if I could somehow fly off this isle I could find him, wherever he is, and bring him back."

Tom was silent for a moment, then sighed. "Alright, I'm in. But if we die, you're going to live to regret it."

"Deal," Angela said with a smile.

With a gentle push on the throttle, the skiff moved right up to the edge of the isle. Small bits of dirt disturbed by the engines fell over the edge, disappearing into the clouds below.

"Here goes nothing." Angela muttered under her breath, pushing the throttle all the way open. The skiff jumped off the edge and soared into the sky, quickly leaving the land behind. "See Tom!" Angela yelled over the sound of the engine. "Nothing to worry-" she cut off as the engines coughed once and suddenly fell silent, "about."

The skiff wobbled in midair for a second before dropping like a rock. Tweeters let out a loud screech and Tom yelled and grabbed the railing as the skiff fell through layer after layer of clouds, each layer darker and thicker than the one before it. Angela threw herself out of the wheelhouse and crossed the length of the skiff in three long leaps.

"I'm pretty sure it's just a loose connection, nothing to worry about!" She shouted back to Tom. She pulled the engine cover off and ran her hands over the pipes that fed steam from the coal box. She flinched and pulled back as her fingers came across a crack in the pipe which was releasing a jet of hot stream into the engine compartment. "Uh oh." She reached into her pockets and began pulling out a collection of pieces of loose metal. "Tweeters! Torch please."

The bird tweeted and grabbed the small cylinder which had fallen and was rolling around the wheelhouse floor then flew to Angela, dropping the tool into her hand. Angela pulled a pair of dark goggles onto over her eyes and flicked the torch on, holding it away from her as one end lit up red hot. She grabbed a long piece of metal from the deck and held it over the tear in the pipe then held the end of the torch to where the metal met the pipe. The metal began to join as the superheated end of the torch liquefied the edge of the metal and Angela ran the torch around the length of the metal. With the metal patch in place she dropped the torch and stared at the engine which remained quiet. She gave it a swift kick and said. "C'mon, start you piece of junk."

The engine spluttered once, then roared to life. Both Angela and Tom slammed into the deck as the ship immediately stopped its decent.

Angela gave Tom a weak smile. "Like I said, nothing to worry about."

Tom just groaned as he pulled himself off the deck.

Angela stumbled back to the pilot house and eased the throttle open. The skiff began slowly accelerating upwards. Tom made his way much more slowly towards the pilot house.

"How far down are we?" He asked hoarsely.

Angela checked the gauges and shrugged. "No more than a couple of miles. We'll be back on land in half an hour."

"Thank goodness," Tom said. He collapsed against the side of the pilot house. "Tell me when we get there. I'll be busy down here trying to stop my heart from jumping out of my chest.

Angela laughed and steered the craft in a looping course back to the isle.