Chapter Twelve

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'Oh goodness, oh goodness,' she stood, hyperventilating, struggling to breath as voices echoed around her. Someone sat her back down and forced her head between her knees. She started to breath a little easier but when she tried to sit up, Pat held her head down, 'Keep breathing,' he told her.

'Oh goodness, I can't let her do this,' she spoke into her knees. 'I won't let her do this. He is my friend, my best friend.' She kept breathing, speaking under her seat until she was the only one talking.

She sat up suddenly to clarify, 'Next to all of you, of course. Oh goodness,' she started hyperventilating all over again in front of seven sets of eyes. Pat pushed her head below her knees again.

'We can't let her do this,' she said.

'We can't let her do this,' Pat repeated, She sat up, 'I just said that,' and he pushed her head down again. 'Honey, I know, but no one else can hear you speak from down there,' he replied.

'There's a first,' one of them yelled out.

She giggled and then tried to calm down her breathing, even as her racing heart betrayed her thoughts. She sat up, hair all over her face, dark against her pale skin.

'We can't let her do this,' she repeated, stronger again.

'Its like a phonograph in here,' the same voice yelled again and they all chuckled.

'She has been taking away people's freedom for too long now. We have to set Hunter free and find her ledger. Many lives depend on this and not just in this city. We can't let her get away with this.' She looked around the room, at each man with a conviction in her heart that she could actually do something.

'Who is with me?' She asked. One by one each coalie nodded his head, smiles breaking out all around.

'All right then. Where do we begin?' she asked with a smile.

They took a week to plan their 'jail bust' having found out Hunter was being held in The Tower. They bought equipment, built gadgets, and collected supplies in aid of getting in and out and off the cloud city. It turned out that Book wasn't just a boiler coalie, he was a mechanical engineer who had helped Snow's father maintain the engines. He designed personal gliders that would allow Hunter and Snow to escape the floating city's parameters.

Everyone of the black faced crew had a part to play. Snow built herself a harness she could wear on the glider without falling out, and she built herself a new dog collar cuff, with a few modifications.

In the final hour before they set their operation in action, Snow sat at the kitchen table with Pat and a coal pen. He was drawing a temporary tattoo over her shoulder and down her left arm. Snow sat in sombre silence, knowing full well the significance of the moment. She was being initiated into the crew as one of them. The artwork was one she had designed and depicted birds flying through the clouds over Skylands.

Pat finished off the tattoo as the rest of the crew filed into the room for the last time. They had their gear packed and ready to go. She stood before them, pulling the modified cuff up her right arm, and tucked her hair under an engineer hat. Googles sat atop the hat, keeping her hair in place.

'Ready?' asked Pat, checking everyone over. 'Book, you got the birds ready?' he asked meaning the gliders. Book nodded, yes.

'Alright. You know the drill. Word has it that the ledger is off city, but we need to check Raena's drawing room to be certain. Tom and Hic, you set up the diversion and head over to the gliders and set them up with Book. Low, you and Nik go with Snip and the rest, you follow me. All clear?'

'Yes sir!' they all replied, like some kind of regiment.

'Good.' He turned to Snow. 'You wanna say anything, lovey?' he asked her.

She shook her head, then nodded furiously.

'Make up your mind lassy,' came a cheeky reply from the end of the room, which caused a few chuckles.

Snow smiled. 'You all saved me, protected me, and kept me safe. If it wasn't for all of you here, I would probably be dead.' She looked them each in the eye. 'I love you all, you mean so much to me. OK, I'll stop now,' she smiled, and the joker at the back yelled 'Finally!'

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