Black Heart: Mai’s Return

The wind plucked at Aaron’s shirt as he kept hold of the airship’s wheel with one hand.  In the other, he had the bottle he’d opened earlier.  He’d finished off half of it so far and it seemed to be helping to calm him.

He gazed out at the sky beyond the bow of the ship.  The mountains were just starting to come into view again.  It had taken over a day to get from the settlement where he’d picked up his passenger to Okoa Landing.  The winds had been against them the whole way.  Now though, with the wind at the back of the ship, blowing strong, they would make good time.

In the far distance Aaron could make out the dark clouds of the a storm heading their way.  They would make before the storm hit, but it would be a close one.  He was just happy that the sun was still out at the moment and the sky was clear.

Jay yawned and stretched from where he was sitting with his back to the railing, his hat tipped over his eyes as it always seemed to be.

The bags of groceries that he’d picked up in Okoa were sitting safely next to him still.

Stretching his arms high, he groaned and rolled his shoulders, getting more comfortable.  When he was settled, he asked, “How long have they been following us now?”

Aaron twitched slightly, surprised.  So he knew all along.  How?  “Since we left the docks,” responded Aaron.  He lifted the mouth of the bottle to his lips and took a draught of the warm liquid.

The airship was less than a kilometer off the stern and was making no effort to hide that it was following them.  It was a small craft, very similar, only with an extra set of sails on it.  Aaron had noticed it right off the bat when they’d taken off.  Two other ships had taken off from the docks besides them.  One had peeled off some time ago, but this one had stayed firm on their tail.

“I’d have lost them by now, but there isn’t enough cloud cover today,” said Aaron, taking another swig.

“Hmm,” mumbled Jay in response.  “Pirates?”

Aaron shook his head.  “Only spaceships have that kind of brute strength, not airships.”

“Ah, what about speed?”

“That airships do have, when the wind is at our back.  They will be on us soon, nonetheless.”

“I guess it can’t be helped,” said Jay with a yawn.

Aaron glanced at the man, his thoughts straying to the pistol and it’s curse and how Jay fit in with all of it.  The man was a mystery.

The noise of flapping sails on the wind suddenly grew loud and Aaron turned in time, looking up to see the other airship that had been tailing them fly overhead, casting a shadow over the deck.

Releasing the wheel, Aaron corked the bottle and shoved it back in his coat.

A single figure dropped from the deck of the other ship, followed shortly by the form a large cat.  The two landed on the bow, out of Aaron sight past the sails.  He knew who it was anyway.

She just doesn’t know when to quit.

Aaron stepped away from the helm and grabbed the ropes to the sails, pulling them back toward him.  Releasing another of the ropes, he let the wind take the sails and swing the boom they were secured to around, sweeping across the deck and the bow at shoulder height.

The sails settled into their new position still driving the ship forward with the wind billowing them out.

Mai had ducked just in time to dodge a blow to the head and was now in full view of Aaron.

“I told you to stay the hell off of my ship,” he growled.

“Are you trying to kill me!” Mai snapped back at him as she stood up, her fists clenched.  Her cat stood at the ready behind her.

“If it keeps you off of my ship.”

“This time’s different.  I’m here on that job I mentioned,” she shot back, giving him a glare.  “And I haven’t forgotten how threw me off your ship last time.  That’s not going to happen again.”

“The hell you’re here on a job.”

“I am,” she raised her arm and pointed toward Jay, across the deck from both of them, here eyes still on Aaron.  “I’m here for him.”

Aaron eyed her suspiciously.  “And what do you want with my passenger?”

“He has information I need.”

“Do I now?”

Both Aaron and Mai turned to look in Jay’s direction.  He’d tipped his hat back and was looking quizzically up at both of them.

Out of the corner of his eye, Aaron saw Mai tense and reach for her pistol in her jacket.  “You!” she shouted.  “It’s you!”

Jay pointed to himself casually and cocked his head to one side.

“I recognize your face from headquarters.  On the wanted list!  You’re Jayko Troven!”

Aaron’s eyes went wide and he slowly turned to look toward his passenger sitting on the deck as if nothing had happened.  Jayko Troven?  He’s supposed to be dead…

Mai pulled out her pistol in one swift motion and aimed it at Jay.  “Jayko Troven.  A legend and a man thought dead many, many years ago.”

Jay sighed and tipped his hat forward on his head again, shading his eyes.  “That’s no good.  Why’d you have to go and use my full name.  I was getting used to just Jay.”

“How are you alive and not an old man?” asked Mai, her voice deadly.

“And how do you know who I am?” he asked in return.

“You’re a known and wanted man by many.  Come quietly and I’ll let you live.”

Jay sighed again.  “I’m not going anywhere.”

Aaron saw Mai’s muscles tighten.  His eyes shot to her, but before he could say anything to stop her, she pulled the trigger on her pistol.

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