Yorkshire State, New Britannia
“This here is a fine vessel, fine indeed. Top of the line craftsmanship. State of the art, new-age zeppelin technology. It’ll fly ya to the ends of the Earth if need be.”
A leather-gloved hand rested gentle on the steering wheel, while the other hand rustled around a breast pocket or a tattered old vest. The clicking of an old pocket watch flipping open and shut could be heard somewhere buried beneath the puffing of the engines below.
“She doesn’t need to fly me to the end of the Earth, just back to Queensland and back.”
“Oh, what’s your trade? Transport?”
“That’s the plan. Isn’t much need for us war-beaten types in any ground-based businesses. Figured I might as well take to the sky.”
“Well, there isn’t a soul in the sky who won’t gaze upon this beauty with some kind of envy. Now, if you’ll follow me back through here, we can take a look at the new pirate defense system, it was installed to…”
And once more, the wheel of the ship was left without a hand upon it. This was the most contact it’d had with human hands since it was manufactured three years ago. But that was all about to change, for better or for worse.
Footsteps sounded as the two men walked back into the room. The pocket watch clicking was more vocal now, as it had found its way out of the vest. The man holding it seemed to not even notice he was toying with it, almost as if it was a nervous tick of sorts. He found himself once more staring down at the wheel.
“I’ll take it.”
“Excellent! Mister Winston, no, CAPTAIN Winston. You’re truly a gentleman with fine taste. Now, have you thought of a name for…”
“She’ll be my Fallen Star.”
Somewhere Over The North Atlantic
“Fallen… Star? I like that, it has a certain elegance to it.”
The beautiful young woman ran her soft-skinned finger tips over the brass plate with the name of the ship that was latched to the center of the wheel. A gentle smile rested somewhere under her sleepy eyes.
“A lady would know.”
“I suppose my line of work does require a certain level of… respectability. Not that that’s what my customers look for in me the most. Mostly they seem to look for a more… tangible aspect. One that is accentuated by this here corset.”
“So, you’re a working girl.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s one way to put it. Prostitute is a bit more straight forward. I’d say ‘working girl’ almost sounds gentleman-like.”
“I wish people would stop calling me a gentleman. Isn’t anything gentleman-like about me.”
“Well, you allowed me passage on this ship out of curiosity alone. Or perhaps there was something more to it than that?”
“You paid for a ride, and you got it. Much like your clients, that is.”
“Ah, you fancy yourself insulting now? Perhaps to remove any notion of you being gentleman-like?”
The clicking again. For the thirteen years the Captain has stood in front of me, peering out across the vastness of the clouds, he would only fiddle with the watch when he was deep in thought. What was it about this woman that had him so on-edge?
“I mean no offense. Now if you’ll excuse me, the winds are shifting and I have to adjust our course.”
“Of course, I did not mean to intrude. I’ll return to my quarters. I thank you once more for your hospitality.”
“Well, old girl, there is something not quite right about this girl’s story.”
The smell of burning oil filled the control room as the Winston lit the torches on the walls. He rolled out the old tattered map of the Atlantic over the table nearby and stared at it without much intent. He returned to flipping the pocket watch open and shut, and out of the corner of his eye he caught the inscription on the inside of the cover.
“You shall always be my Fallen Star…”
A light smile covered his worn-out old face, which caused the scar running down the left side to shift slightly, making it look more sad than usual. It was a reminder that hurt a lot less than the one etched into the inside of that watch. But before he could think about either scar…
“Sir, we have a…”
“How dare you go through a lady’s things! How could you possibly… Captain…”
“I told him to.”
“Excuse me? Is that the length you’ll go to not be a gentleman?! I came upon this ship promised privacy and respect! The Transport Commission will hear about this outrage, they’ll…”
“Human trafficking is against the New Britannia Parliament’s law for transporting.”
“Sir, you were right, there is a young boy in the case she brought on board. We’ve got him in the hold. What would you like…”
Winston snapped the watch shut violently.
“Bring him to me. We’ll take care of the stowaway before anyone is any the wiser.”
“What is… you can’t harm the boy, it’s not his…”
With a single motion, the Captain slipped the watch back into his vest pocket, then tore his Colt out of its holster. The girl went silent.
The Queen’s Port, Great Britain
“I suppose a drink wouldn’t hurt, Winston. Of course, a few drinks would hurt even less, considering the look on your ugly mug right now.”
“The Unification war between New Britainia and Great Britain…”
“What about it?”
“Do you think it was right?”
Winston leaned in on the wheel, spinning it to and fro, knowing upon land it wouldn’t do any harm. The finished wood felt smooth, cool to the touch.
“Are you still wondering about the intentions of the Parliament of New Britainia? The Queen has full control over there…”
“Do you believe that? Really? Do you believe that one person, hundreds of miles away, separated by an ocean, can really have that much control over a body of government? Perhaps the Unification didn’t unify anything at all…”
“The boy, sir.”
Winston’s first mate tossed the boy roughly at the feet of the Captain and left the two alone. The boy was dressed far too nice for a common stowaway. Instead of running from something, like most people that found themselves illegally travelling across the ocean, he was dressed as though he had important business.
“So, you pay a whore to carry you across the ocean. That’s a might-bit of trouble you must have yourself in. Speak now, boy, or as sure as this world is spinnin’, I’ll put two in your head.”
Winston pointed the Colt at the boy’s head, but he didn’t flinch. He stared up at the Captain, as if trying to read his face. He had the look of someone who wasn’t afraid to die, but yet, there was still fear…
“Sir, you will not shoot me here, for you will put a hole in your precious ship.”
The Captain smiled, lifting his gun away from the boy’s head, and slowly returning it to the holster under his coat.
“Well now, you’re a clever lad, aren’t you. But here is the real question: can you also fly? I may not be too keen on shooting you here, but that doesn’t stop me from sending you over the edge of the ship to live comfortably with the fishes, now does it?”
“Please… I need your help.”
“Help, you say? Funny way of asking a fellow’s help, sneaking about like a mouse. I’m not in the business of helping people, my boy. Why should I help you?”
“Do you know… Hudson Hughes?”
“Yeah, sure, I’ve heard the name. Member of the Parliament of New Britainia, took ill a few months ago, passed on. What of him?”
“What if I told you he didn’t take ill. He was poisoned, assassinated, sir.”
“If you told me that, I’d probably tell you not to call me ‘sir’, because that’s the only part of that story that doesn’t sit well with me. Keep going…”
The watch again. Clicking, faster than ever. The story was not sitting well with Winston, not at all.
“He was killed… because there is unrest amongst the Parliament.”
“There always is.”
“Not like this. You see… the Parliament has… intentions.”
“Intentions, you say?”
“They are at odds with one another over the Queen’s rather liberal allowance of foreign bodies to do as they please. They wish to step in, but she continues to refuse their call to arms.”
“They’re a war-like lot, they are. Where do you fit into this?”
“I was Hughes’ aide, sir. Before he died, he gave me a written message to deliver to the Queen. But the Parliament sent people after me, and I had to take into hiding. They are planning a Civil War, sir… they wish to separate from the Queen so they can finally have control over their own armies.”
“That’s some accusation… and you needed us to get you to Great Britain, I take it?”
“Yes, sir… I…”
“Say no more. We’ll get you there, true enough.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“Why would you be so charitable to a stowaway, knowing full well the Parliament is after me?”
“See this watch? I carried it with me in during the Unification War. It belonged to my darling wife, Etta. She was a medic for the new land, and was hit with a musket round, died right in front of me. I know the terrors of war, my boy, and I’d wish it on no one. More so when the war is as unjust as the ones those men wish for. I do not serve anyone but the peace and safety of…”
But before he could finish, a loud blast send the ship lurching forward, the wheel spinning wildly, causing the ship to shudder. Winston grabbed hold of the wheel and steadied the Star.
“Damn, Guess you weren’t as sneaky as you thought. I need you to do something for me, boy.”
“What is it, sir?”
“There is a new weapon on board this ship, for protection against pirates. I need you to learn real quick-like how to fire it. It’s the cannon-like thing up topside, it uses pressurized air to fire all kinds of unpleasantries at people you don’t much take a liking to. I suggest you do your best to keep us flyin’, so we can deliver that important message of yours…”
“Yes, sir… I’ll tell your crew to…”
The boy had left the room before he could finish the thought, his voice trailing off down the hall. The Captain stared down at the wheel in his hand, a tear forming under his eye. He knew the Fallen Star couldn’t fight off the air brigades of New Britainia.
“Well, Etta, I guess your fallen star is about to burn out. It’s alright though, at least I can do something worth while.”
The Captain exited the room, as the sounds of cannon blasts rattled the walls, the wheel flying back and forth with the force. It wouldn’t be long before the ship was brought down from the sky, to a watery grave.
Shore Of The Atlantic Ocean, Great Britain
“Look at this piece! Daddy, daddy, what is this?!”
“That, my boy, appears to be the wheel of an airship. Must have gone down somewhere off the coast. It’s not often you see debris such as this in such decent shape. Must have been a strong ship.”
“What’s this say?”
“Hmm, must be the name of the ship. Let’s see here… ‘The Fallen Star’. I recognize that name… now wait, it couldn’t be!”
“What, daddy, what is it?”
“Why, this must be from the Fallen Star that once brought word of unrest in the New Britainia Parliament, a couple of years back. You see, an aide to Parliament carried important word of possible upheaval amongst the members of Parliament. The young boy prevented civil unrest and allowed the Queen to keep the war-hungry government of the West lands from putting countless people in danger over their false ideals. The ship was under attack and the boy just barely escaped before it went down, or so the story goes.”
“How did he escape?!”
“Word has it that the Captain, Winston I believe was his name, piloted the ship directly into the advancing forces of the air brigade, as the boy escaped on a lifeboat. He went down with the ship to buy the boy enough time to get away and deliver the message! It is quite the tale.”
“Oh… what’s this… wrapped around the wheel…”
“It appears to be an old pocket watch. What a strange thing to have attached to the wheel of a ship. I wonder if it was…”
The watch clicked open. The man and his boy sat in silence, reading the words carved into the back of the lid.
You shall always be my Fallen Star. Cast from the sky so far away to the Earth so close to my heart. I make wishes, upon your kind, that you can forever keep peace where you land. So, Fallen Star, may these words give you the strength to always fight for that peace. Love, Etta.