Okoa Landing was a good size settlement set at the edge of a large lake in a heavily forested valley to the north-east of the mountain range and the settlement they had just left behind. It was a well known town and owed it’s prosperity to the fact that it was the site of the largest and finest airship dry-docks. The artisans who crafted the finely styled and intricate wood-work of the airships that plied the skies worked their trade here.
Aaron stood at the wheel of his own airship, looking out over lake and the town as he made his approach across the lake, eyeing the skeletal hulls, half-finished on their dry-docks in the morning sun. His own ship had been crafted here as well, though when the time had come for the advanced technology provided by the Flying City that enabled the airship to take to the skies, Aaron had declined, opting for the FTL drive instead.
The next time the Flying City passed overhead, the hulls of the unfinished ships would be complete and they would receive the technology that would allow them to fly among the clouds.
Aaron sighed. He hadn’t been to Okoa for a long while, it would be nice to see the ship-works and dry-docks again. Maybe while he was here, he would be able to get the metal keel of the ship repaired. The large scrape running the length of the hull from his clash with the pirates days earlier was still there, clearly visible from the underside.
Shifting his gaze to his passenger leaning against the railing at he bow, Aaron reminded himself why he was here. He was on a job. It would take more than a single day for the metal workers to craft him a new keel for the ship and have it finished by the time his passenger was done with here in the settlement.
Not today, thought Aaron turning the wheel of the ship and dropping the charge on the FTL drive as they came in over the lake.
With a large splash, the hull hit water and the airship touched down, floating into the docks. It was a busy day at port and there were few spaces that were free, but Aaron found one close to the end of the pier and guided the ship in, stepping from the wheel to tether the ship as the sails went slack.
Tying off the last mooring rope, he turned to his passenger, standing out of the way, watching him silently with a smile.
“Okoa Landing,” said Aaron eyeing the man. After their discussion the day before, Jay had said little on the subject and had rested his eyes as he’d said. Aaron had provided him with a hammock in the hold for him to sleep in and since morning, he’d kept out of the way, quietly enjoying the ride.
Jay tipped his straw hat. “Thank you. I much enjoyed the ride. I have business in town that I need to attend to. I trust you’ll be able to take me back once I’m finished?”
“Considering you haven’t paid me in full yet, I will be here. Apples don’t cover my fee by themselves.”
“Haha! True indeed,” said Jay heading over and stepping onto the dock. I shouldn’t be too long. I should be back after lunch-time.”
“I’ll be here,” replied Aaron. He leaned against the railing and watched at Jay headed down the pier.
Tucked safely in his pocket, the pistol was silent. Aaron could feel the pressure in the back of his mind still, but it was slight. Not as it had been before. As he watched Jay, disappear into the crowd down the pier he felt the pressure increase slightly as it tried to reassert itself.
Frowning, Aaron focused his mind and forced his own will upon the pressure, trying to keep it from advancing. Through sheer force of mind and will he was able to keep it from reasserting itself his mind, but he knew that the next time he touched the weapon he would be overwhelmed.
Pushing off of the railing, Aaron decided what he would do. He needed to keep his mind focused, but there were things that needed his attention and his ship was one of those things. Stepping down onto the pier, he headed for the ship-works.
Busying himself throughout the day, Aaron talked to the metal-workers and got quotes on the repair work for the keel. All of the men he talked to would be able to do it and in record time, but he didn’t have the money to sate their steep prices up front. It seemed the ship would have to go without repair for a while longer.
Leaving the docks, he made his way through town and restocked his supply of food and other essentials as well as spirits to replenish his stash on board. He made it back to the ship just short of lunch-time.
Climbing on board the ship, he set the paper bag containing his new stock of alcohol down and pulled out one of the bottle to look at the label. It was a good brand and was going to enjoy it. It would go quite well with the crate of apples he had sitting in his hold.
Stashing the rest of the groceries and the other bottles, he took one down to the hold with him and grabbed and apple and his knife. Coming out onto deck, he headed over to the bow and popped the cork on the bottle. Digging his knife into the apple, he sliced off a section of it and popped it into his mouth, savoring the flavor and juiciness.
It was then that something caught his eye across the water. Something on the deck of the ships farther down moored to another pier. A flash of fiery color and a tail.
Not again! he cursed. Not here! Her and that damn cat again! They’re all over this damnable planet.
It had to be her, cat. There was no other explanation unless a ship captain had picked up an exotic pet in his travels, but that was less likely. Fire-cats didn’t come from his world. They were a unique breed only recently found on another lightly settled fringe world.
As long as they don’t know I’m here I should be fine. As soon as that man, Jay, get’s back, I’m leaving.
He took a swig from the bottle. He didn’t taste the sweet brew as he down a gulp and then proceeded to finish off the apple, his mind was on Mai and getting as far away from her as possible.
Picking up the bottle to take another swig he was about to swallow when a voice called out, “Ahoy, Captain! I’m back!”
Aaron nearly choked as he turned seeing Jay stepping up onto the deck of the ship. He swallowed and let out a sigh. It wasn’t Mai and her cat.
Corking the bottle, he stuffed it in his jacket and then tossed the apple core over the side. “Good, now we can leave,” he said making for the mooring ropes.
Jay looked after Aaron, he had a set of shopping bags that he was carrying. Aaron eyed them.
“Just a few necessities that I can’t get back at the settlement and a little something extra,” he said as way of explanation.
“Is that the only reason you wanted to come here?” asked Aaron as he untied the mooring ropes one after the other.
“No, I was also here to see a couple of old friends.”
“Well, get settled, cause we’re leaving again.”
“Aw, no lunch at the docks?” asked Jay setting his groceries down and sitting beside them cross-legged as Aaron pulled the ropes to unfurl the sails.
“Nope. I already ate.” With the sails open, he headed up to the wheel and the FTL controls. Spinning it, he let the sails catch the wind and take them away from the dock. Increasing the charge on the FTL drive, the guided the ship away from the docks and out over the lake.
He glanced back at the docks as soon as they were in the air. Another ship was making to take off and one more was leaving the docks as well. No sign of Mai anywhere on the docks or any of the other ships. He turned back to check their heading and then straight ahead past the bow.
Hoping to all hell that she hadn’t seen him, that he’d been able to lose her again, he set his mind to keeping the ship in the air. He knew better than to think that way though. He could feel that he wasn’t rid of her just yet.