The wind whipped through the air in a large gust, filling the white sails of the ship. Aaron heaved at the rigging, trying to keep the ship under his control as he shifted the sails to catch more of the wind.
With a grunt he brought the ship under control and tied down the lines he’d been pulling at. The day was a bright one, but in the upper atmosphere, the wind was always blowing, steady and strong. With the sails set and the sky clear, he would be able to sail steady until he hit port.
Crossing the deck of the airship, he ducked under one of the billowing sails and settled in at the aft of the ship by the wheel. Touching the smooth wood beneath his hands he let his mind wander out into the vast openness of the sky, taking everything in. The fluffy white clouds in the distance, the cool feel of the wind, the ship beneath his feet and the thrum of the jury-rigged FTL drive that kept the ship aloft in the upper atmosphere.
He loved every bit of it and knew that he would never leave it behind if he had the choice. It had been his choice in the first place to come out here; to buy the small skiff and rig the FTL drive himself.
The skiff itself had not cost too much. It was a slim thing, made of a solid wood reinforced with metal bracings and keel. Like the other airships that plied the skies of this world it was solidly built to withstand stormy weather. It was the FTL drive that had been the expensive part. Most airships fed off of the magnetic and gravitational field output from the flying city, but Aaron had not wanted to rely on the city for his freedom. Thus FTL technology worked just fine, creating the very same fields to keep the airship flying.
He closed his eyes, feeling the wind across his face. Two days and he would be in port. One new cargo later and then he could shove off again for the next settlement. It sounded promising.
Aaron cocked his head, listening. There was something off about the roar of the wind around him. It was a roar with a subtle whine to it. The whine of a thruster in atmosphere.
His eyes snapped open and he scanned the sky, turning he followed the sound and there, behind him, rising up out of the clouds no more than thirty meters off, was the dark hulking form of a spaceship.
How had he not noticed it before? He’d been too wrapped up in his thoughts.
Turning he pretended to have not spotted it. Vagabonds like this one were usually just ships coming from a settlement and were working their way towards the heavens. Usually. There were times though when ships like this one were looking for an easy source of income during hard times out in the galaxy.
Unfortunately, as Aaron watched the ship from the corner of his eye, there were no settlements around for kilometers. That meant they were the latter type. And he was the easy source of income.
Sighing he, pulled out a bottle of liquor that he kept stowed under the FTL control panel next to the wheel. Popping the lid, the took a long draught from it and then stowed it again. He’d never heard of an airship being shot down. At least there was no one to tell the tale, but he wasn’t going to be that easy of a target for them. And it was harder to do that with a sober head in his experience.
Feeling the wind start to gust up in a different direction, he spun the wheel of the airship and hung on as the sails billowed out in a new direction, swinging the boat sharply onto a new course.
Inertia and wind pulled at him as he hung on for dear life as the boat tipped violently to the side. Loose objects on deck started to slide. Just before they hit the railing on the opposite side of the deck, he spun the wheel again righting the ship and bringing it up to speed.
Taking a glance behind him, he saw the black hulk of the ship slide through the clouds and out into the open, firing it’s thrusters with a loud roar. It vectored toward him coming up to speed as well.
“That’s not good,” sighed Aaron. He reached for the bottle again and took another swig. Spinning the wheel, he juked the airship around. Placing the bottle back, he danced his fingers over the FTL controls and dropped the drive to a lower power setting.
The wood groaned as the bow of the ship swung along with the boom as Aaron tipped the ship into a dive and into the could bank beneath him. The blue sky vanished into a sea of foggy white and water droplets started to build up on the sails and deck. Diving into the cloud was like a slap in the face. A soggy, wet slap. It was cold and not all that smart an idea. He would loose speed rapidly as the sails got bogged down with water. But he couldn’t be seen as easily. And that made it harder to board his ship.
He squinted through the fog, catching sight of the spaceship coming up along the starboard side. Their thrusters glowed a soft orange in the thick cloud.
“Come on,” Aaron mumbled watching them.
The ship started to vector in, it’s hulking form growing much larger than the airship.
“That’s right.” Aaron spun the wheel and upped the FTL drive’s charge. The airship slowly leaned to the starboard side just enough to set it on a collision course with the spaceship.
Maneuvering room started to get tight as the two ships closed in distance. Aaron narrowed his eyes at the rushing of the turbulence air coming off of the ship. They were almost hull to hull now. This would be the moment of truth for both ships.
The spaceship fired it’s maneuvering thrusters, trying to match Aaron’s closing course as best as possible.
Aaron waited until he saw a hatch on the hull of the spaceship open and the figures of two boarders in the white fog appeared, ready to board. Aaron smiled and spun the wheel further, driving the airship right toward the hull of the spaceship.
The pilot of the spaceship reacted just as Aaron expected, veering away, not wanting to crash into their quarry.
Aaron smiled, keeping the airship on course. The air flowing between both ships buffeted and jostled him about, but it lifted the airship up. The hulls of the two ships hit with a grinding screech of metal on wood, then metal on metal as the keel of the airship scraped along the back of the spaceship.
The screeching ceased as both hulls broke contact and the airship sailed up and over the spaceship, breaking from the cloud into the bright sun, rising and catching the wind at the same time.
They would have heard the ear splitting noise of the two hulls contacting throughout the whole ship. It would either anger the crew or annoy them enough to dive them away. Either way, Aaron had made his point. He was not going to be an easy target for them. They would have to chase him down or shoot him from the sky. But from the up close look of the ship he’d gotten, it didn’t seem to have any weapons. It was just a light cargo ship. And that was a lucky break.
Aaron watched the cloud over the aft of the airship as he rose up and away from it, angling the bow and sails for best speed.
The spaceship didn’t reemerge. They were giving up. Aaron nodded, satisfied with himself. Patting the wheel of the ship, he looked out to the horizon and then checked his baring.
“Looks like it’s going to be a little more than two days now.” He pulled out the bottle again with a grin. “Well, that just means a day less in port and more time in the open air.”