Short - The Chalice - Part 4: The Airship

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The Chalice
Part 4: The Airship

Sam, Samuel, the boy she'd met only the night before, who she'd taken into her meager care, laid limply against her. As she reached out to him, she felt the hot stickiness of blood and her breath caught in her throat once more.

"Sam, you still with me?" She asked, her voice husky as she caught him under his arms. His head nodded faintly, and she caught a gurgle of words.

"Claire..." he sputtered, lifting his head. She gingerly lifted his thin, frail frame from the back of the bike as she dismounted. All he'd known from her was intimidation and commands and now, he would likely die in her arms. She clenched her eyes shut briefly as she composed herself, and evaluated his condition.

"It's okay, Sam.  I'm here." She soothed, laying him carefully down on his side. It didn’t take long for her to find the cause of his distress. There was a long, deep gouge down his back, and the blood seeping from it was dark. She pulled off her jacked pressing it into the wound, though she knew it would do little good. The blood stains traced down the back of her bike, and his pants were soaked through.

No one could lose that much blood and survive. "Claire, I'm sorry..." he choked, "please...."

"Shh... " she coaxed, "It's okay Sam, you're okay."

He tensed, and his eyes met hers. "No, I'm not," he choked out. "I’m sorry I led them to you." He gasped, and shuddered.”Don't worry..." He tried again. "I have no family. Don't worry about me."

The words caught in her throat, and she only nodded then taking his hand. “I’m so sorry Sam,” was all she could say. She hardly knew the kid, the best she could do was just be there with him. She sat silently beside him, his last source of comfort as he slipped into oblivion.

One of the ship’s crewmen cleared his throat after she’d gently pushed the boy’s eyes shut. She looked up at the large, soot covered man, thankful for the distraction. “We’ll take care of him, Miss,” he told her and put a hand out to help her up.

She nodded, taking his hand and climbing to her feet. She spared one last glance down at the kid she’d drug with her across the city and back, only to have him act as a shield for her. It had not been her intention.

“Go on up to the deck. Get some air,” the crewman coaxed, and she obeyed, finding her way to the stairs. Once on the deck, she stood at the edge, staring out over the landscape. They’d left the city behind, but the land still stretched out beneath them. It would be a while yet before they were over the ocean.

She watched the changing landscape for a long while, her thoughts going back to Leah, Sam, her father, in an endless cycle of regret. Her father, the man who had rescued her from the life of one of Madame Mercy’s assassins and brothel workers, was either dead or gone. Leah, she prayed Leah had survived, but that last glimpse she’d gotten of her childhood friend wasn’t promising. Then there was poor Sam.

The sun was soon setting in the west, painting the landscape in yellows and golds. The air was thick from the billowing smokestacks of the industrial landscape, but it made for an amazing sunset. She sighed heavily, and felt the metal curve of the Chalice against her ribs.

The Chalice, she remembered, had regenerative properties. Tugging the watch-like device loose from her clothing, she stared down at the carved surface. Could it possibly bring Sam back? She wondered, and flipped it open to study its inner workings. There were two small vials filled with a bright, translucent liquid. So immersed was she in studying her father’s master work, that when the ships engines faltered, she was nearly knocked off her feet.

The instincts honed from many years of work as a mechanic kicked in, and she pocketed the thing, heading for the engine room. What ever these fools were doing wrong, she could be of assistance.

It didn’t take long to find her way into the dark pit of a boiler room where men were scurrying about in a panic. She could hear the the source of the engine’s struggle, and headed in the direction of the sound to evaluate the situation. Flames from the giant coal heated monstrosity glinted here and there occasionally where ever there was a surface not completely obscured with soot. It was a hellish environment, smoke filled, hot and the only light was cast by glowing red embers.

As she neared her destination, she heard an all too familiar sound — a long, “shhhhhhink,” just behind her. It was the sound of a blade being drawn. Her heart leaped in her throat as she turned and saw the glowing red glint of the embers catching on the polished steel of a metal mask.

Then there was only darkness.

***

This story was written for a ForbiddenPlanet Sci-Fi smackdown. It is a steampunk story, or at least, was written with the intention of fitting the subgenre.

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