Chapter Seven

"Hold there, stranger!", a voice shouted. There was a bright light in my face, so bright I needed to hold my arms up to shield my eyes.

"Cursor et Amicus", I replied, weakly, with the code. I was struggling to stand by now, my knee throbbing uncontrollably. The light was directed away from my face.

"Ana? Ana! Where's Sigur?"

"He didn't make it, Thom. Sniper got him," I said, my voice quiet. This time I couldn't hold the tears back.

I collapsed there, in the mud, crying.

I woke up on a bed in the aerodrome's infirmary, cold and naked, with a thin sheet covering me. I felt a good deal better, and that immediately set me wondering how long I had been out of it. I called out, and Ian, our medic came to tend to me. Ian didn't talk much, only asking necessary questions, like the obligatory "How do you feel?". He informed me that my knee wasn't seriously injured, just a light sprain that would take a few days to heal. He handed me some clothes and left so I could dress in privacy.

After dressing myself in trousers and a loose-fitting blouse, I went about tracking down where the satchel had ended up. I assumed it had been secured on board the ship, but I needed to be sure to put my mind at ease. I went to find Thom.

I found Thom in the old break room, drinking coffee and chatting with several of the younger messengers. I tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention.

"Thom, what happened to the satchel I had with me when you found me?", I asked him.

"I had it sent to the ship's quartermaster. Are you alright to be walking around, Ana?", Thom said.

"Ian said it's just a sprain. I'll need to keep it bound for a few days, but I'll be fine."

"Right, well you take it easy, Ana. With Sigur gone, you're our most experienced runner. We'll need you if anything big comes up". I bid Thom a farewell and left with that sobering thought in my head. He was right; even though I was one of the youngest in the group, I'd made more deliveries than anyone else. In our profession, people tend not to live very long.

After grabbing a bit to eat, I headed out into the main hanger, which had been tunnelled out of the side of the mountain. The hanger itself was impressive; over a thousand feet in length and nearly three hundred tall, it was an absolutely cavernous space crisscrossed with catwalks and electrical conduits, all in various states of disrepair. But in the center of the enormous space was an airship that was magnificent in it's own right, taking up almost half of the available space.

The Belle was a rigid airship of Arcadian build, displacing over four million cubic feet. She was exactly six-hundred and three feet long and her envelope was one-hundred ten feet across. When she was built, the Belle had a useful capacity of just under forty-five tons, but had been reduced to approximately thirty tons by the extra equipment we'd added in the form of weapons, ammunition, and armour plating in critical areas. With the modifications that had been made to the boiler, her four steam-turbine engines could push her to a speed of thirty-four knots and keep her there for almost twenty hours, or twenty-six if the speed was kept to twenty-eight knots. In the weak electric light, her canvas skin looked a dull yellow-grey, but in the light of day was a bright silver.

Seeing the Belle again was a welcome comfort. One which was shattered violently by the air-raid siren shrieking into the early morning sky.

Author's Note: Sorry I'm uploading a bit late! School kept me very busy all week, but I finally got some time today to write a new chapter. For those of you who are wondering, "Cursor et Amicus" translates from Latin to "Messenger/runner and a friend". I felt it was appropriate as a bit of a secret code between Messengers. Anyway, enjoy and please review!