Chapter 35

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It doesn't take long for the port to transform into a scene of organized chaos.

Soldiers swarm over the deck of the airship, loading their weapons and hauling provisions for the journey. The radio at my hip crackles with last-minute communications, the operators and Technicians struggling to put together a plan for how Babel will be run in my absence. I listen with half an ear as I dart amongst the airship's rigging and make my inspections, wrenching violently on the knots in an effort to forget the hole in my chest. The red has remained firmly in place since letting Luca go.

"Are the other ships ready?" I shout down to the pair of engineers below me.

"Just loading the extra canisters of helium, now!" One of them bellows back. "And forty crewmembers for each ship are accounted for."

"Make it fifty." Given the amount of Brutes that Luca warned about I don't want to take any chances. Picking my way across the rigging I grab a length of rope and swing down onto the deck. "How soon can we launch?"

"Within the hour." The captain has come over to join us, tipping her cap in greeting. "And the god of luck seems to be on our side: I've just received a report that the Vane is detecting a westerly wind."

"Excellent." I turn my face up to the breeze, breathing in the metallic scent of coming rain.

"I'm receiving more news from the hangar, Captain." The radio operator seated at the switchboard behind us speaks up. "There's a storm brewing in the direction we're headed."

"Keep us updated as to it's whereabouts." I tell him, knowing with a sudden certainty that I'll find what I'm looking for in the center of that storm.

"Yes, Mistress."

A shrill signal sounds from the smaller radio attached to my waist and I bring it up to my ear, not bothering to hide my irritation. "What?"

"Apologies, Mistress. Detention wants to know how they should handle the offenders taken from the laboratory."

A pit forms in my stomach. The captain and engineers are watching me expectantly, brows raised while they wait for me to give an order and get back to planning our hunt. I exhale a sigh through clenched teeth, allowing the red to provide it's numbing effects as I press down on the trigger.

"Let them take the place of the Brutes they stole from me." I say darkly. Switching the device off to silence the distracting chatter I nod to my crew. "Let's go catch us a Madam."

One hundred and fifty well-armed men and women are assembled in record time. I plant myself at the fore of our fastest ship and look out across the rows of grim-faced soldiers. Frye's sentiments about my army being made up of lowlife savages has some truth to it now that I see them all gathered in one place.

Out on the pier the stationmaster blows his whistle. The ship shudders, coming to life while a whirring and humming stem from the panel at my back.

"Prepare to cast off!" The captain shouts and I spring into action, taking up the rope nearest me and beginning to unwind it, My hands shake as the distinct thrill of adventure courses through me.

"Mistress?" The operator calls out. "The control tower wants to speak to you."

I wave him off, making quick work of the knot and pulling loose the cords that bind the ship to the ground.

"Halt takeoff procedures!"

I freeze at the captain's command, the rope pulling taut in my hands.

"Mistress?" Her annoyed expression mirrors my own as she gestures me over to the switchboard. "They're saying it's urgent."

A growl escapes me as I retie the knot and stalk over, wrenching the speaker from the hand of the ship's operator. "What is it?"

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