Hidden 12 days ago 12 days ago Post by Penny
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July 4th 1928, Atlantic Ocean, Seven Miles from the American Coast.

The dark shadow of the American coast sparkled in the distance, flickering with bursts of colored lights. The American’s were celebrating the Revolution with their usual gusto, launching thousands of pounds of explosives into the night, just as Washington would have wanted. Opportunity Knox smiled as she adjusted the trim control another point to compensate for the increasing tailwind. She couldn’t hear the booms of the distant fireworks of course, not over the roar of the twin Pratt & Whitney 9 cylinder rotary engines mounted on the wings above her. The Sikorsky S-38 was an American built machine and brand new. Money had never been a major interest of Opportunity’s but she could admit that, when it came to aircraft, it had its advantages.

“I see her,” Jack Buchannan called, speaking louder than necessary with the reflex of an aviator who had come up in the days before enclosed canopies had been the norm. The big Australian extended his hand to point out over the starboard wing. Opportunity followed the line of his arm with her keen eyes. Sure enough the zeppelin hung dark against the moonstruck sea below, her long black cigar like silhouette aimed towards the distant coast. The Graf Von Hiddleburg had left Hamburg five days earlier and was fairly placed to make a record for the Atlantic passage. Opportunity nodded and pulled back on the flight stick, setting the machine into a long sweeping turn. She didn’t bother to tell Buchannan to keep an eye on the airship, reminding a great war ace to watch another aircraft would have been like telling a fish to swim. She began to sing quietly to herself as she swung the big sea plane around behind the zeppelin, climbing as she did so so that they were nearly a thousand feet above the big airship. It would be difficult to hear the machine over the Zepplin’s own engines, but not impossible

“It’s a long way to Tipperary, its a long way to go…”

The Graf Von Hiddleburg, according to Opportunity’s information, was carrying a trove of artefacts which had been looted from a dig on the Greek island of Samos. Those items included, apparently, a journal that had been written by her uncle, Percival Knox. It had been three years since there had been any news of the old adventurer. Rumor had it he had disappeared somewhere in Central Asia though sources conflicted as to where. In the last eighteen months during which Opportunity had been searching for her uncle, this was the best lead she had encountered. Unfortunately the journals along with the rest of the artefacts, were on their way to a private collection of some shadowy antiquarian in New York.

“It’s a long way to Tipperary, to the sweetest girl I know…”

Opportunity looked over her shoulder at Chesa. The beautiful Asian woman looked alert, though whether that was because she usually was alert, or because she had followed the conversation between the pilots of the roar of the engines Opportunity wasn’t sure. Chesa had informed Opportunity that there were other parties interested in the journals as well. The name Moriarty was shrouded in shadows and deliberate mythmaking, but if the so called Napoleon of crime was interested in them, then Opportunity gave it long odds they would ever reach their American owner. Once the Graf Von Hiddleberg set down, the clock was ticking until the journals vanished. Which was why Opportunity didn’t plant to wait till the airship made its landfall. The other two members of her team sat on the passenger benches, awkward because they were already in their parachutes. Pierre was, as ever, puffing at his pipe, the soft red glow throwing his gallic face into sharp relief with each indrawn breath. Alcander looked nervous, which was probably a more reasonable reaction than either Pierre’s nonchalance or Chesa’s evident excitement. Opportunity grinned, she was excited too, if they pulled this off it would be a story to dine out on for years.

“Handing over,” she called to Buchanan.

“Taking over,” the Australian responded mechanically, his hands tightening on the controls as Opportunity’s released. She felt the usual twinge of regret, she trusted Jack Buchanan’s skills implicitly, but in her heart of hearts she felt that if there were flying to be done it should be she who was at the controls. This wouldn’t be an easy piece of flying either. The zeppelin was traveling at about sixty five miles per hour, perilously close to the stall speed of the seaplane. Jack would have to keep the machine’s airspeed matched to that of the Graf Von Hiddleberg, avoiding pulling too far ahead, or stalling out. A tricky business, but if Opportunity didn’t think it could be done, she wouldn’t have tried it. Jack was already beginning to throttle down, sinking by inches towards the top of the zeppelin.

“Alright, Chesa will go first and secure the line,” Opportunity yelled over the engine noise. They all knew the plan of course, but climbing down a rope onto an airship two thousand feet above the ocean wasn’t something so commonplace she didn’t feel the need to remind people. The slapped her hand against the parachute she wore strapped around her body.

“If anything goes wrong, get clear and pull your ‘chute, if anyone wants to back out, now is the time.” She rested her hand on the cargo door, ready to pull it open and begin.



Hidden 12 days ago Post by Xacha
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"Little chance of that, Opportunity," Chesa replied calmly. "Ten years ago, scouting the McMahon Line, your uncle made me swear that if something happened to him that I would keep an eye on you."

Opportunity waved the reminder away. "Nothing happened to him. You both made it back fine."

"An oath is an oath, Opportunity. Something happened to him, and so here we are."

Her dark eyes unreadable, Chesa produced a mass of silken line with a metal weight at the end. "Open the bay door. I'll cast the line and slide down first. After that, it will be hand-over-hand down the airbag to the gondola. You think you're up for that, soldier?" The last was thrown over her shoulder towards Pierre.
Hidden 12 days ago Post by BornOnBoard
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As they approached the target, Pierre thought. He usually did, and one could be forgiven for assuming he was reflecting on a life full of trauma and violence, as was often the case. But tonight, as they soared over the germanic zeppelin, Pierre found himself thinking of the finest meal he had ever eaten. Yes, the finest - though this meal had been devoid of the trappings of fine dining, yes, it had been purloined wurst, dug from the pockets of a dead Prussian, minutes after Pierre and his section had stormed the trench, burying it under a deluge of bullets and grenades, killing off everyone inside it. He had felt guilty, at first, a fleeting thing, but the sausage had tasted so fine, and they, he and his surviving squadmates, they had drunken deep of the wine stashed away under the firestep of the trench. Those men were all dead now, picked off by war's cruel attrition, and Lieutenant Boucher now only had that memory of them, smeared faces in the dark, none of them with the facial hair of a french veteran, laughing their heads off despite the strict night orders not to do so.

He supposed it was the shape of the blimp that reminded him of that night. The fat, oblong aeromobile looked exactly like the weisswurst he had stolen so many years ago. He had heard Ms. Knox speak, his employer, no doubt telling them they could cry off should this mission prove too daunting. As if! The poilu's smile was his first response. He was laden down with parachute, his rifle, two canteens, one of brandy, one of wine, a purloined M1911 pistol, and his 20 inches of good french steel - his good lady friend Rosalie, and he did not intend for his good lady friend to miss this dance.

"I did not come this far, mon cheri," Pierre shouted over the engine noise and wind shear, "To be shown up by the English."

He laughed, and stood up. Chesa would be first, small, aerobatic Chesa, who had the unenviable job of lashing Buchanan and Knox's plane to the far larger craft below, without the benefit of a rope to descend herself. Pierre had volunteered for the task during the planning, of course, but he knew as everyone on the team did that it would have to be Chesa - she was small, nimble, and he was large and loaded down with enough ammunition to fight the Ardennes all over again.

Pierre clapped a steadying hand to Alcander's shoulder, grinning down at the learned man with what Pierre hoped was reassuring bonhomie.

"A night to remember, eh?" He said to him, before finally deigning to respond to Chesa's jab.

"The question is!" He boomed to Chesa, Opportunity, and everyone aboard. "Is if this bloody blimp and every tas de merde on it is up for me! Bonne Chance, mademoiselle!"
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Chesa gave a tight nod of approval at Pierre's display of Gallic elan.

More gently now, she turns towards Alcander. "And you, professor? I will take the front and Pierre will have your back, but we will need your eyes in the middle. There's no telling what language this journal will be in. We will need to find it and get out as swiftly as possible."

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"It is getting stuffy in here. Why don't you open the door, Opportunity?"

With a nod and a heave, Opportunity Knox threw open the cargo bay door. Instantly cargo area was lashed by the frigid winds of high altitude. Chesa tightened the harness of her parachute one last time.

"A sherpa once told me, when crossing a rope bridge, never to look down. And when you have to look down, never look away. Let us face this together, my friends, and not look away."

Chesa raised the weighted end of the rope and marched towards the open bay. With a full-body twist, she flung the heavy end down towards the cruising zepplin. Somewhere down below came a faint *clank* as the weight snagged on part of the airbag frame. Chesa gives the rope one last yank to be sure that it is secured to the plane, then - with a trilling battlecry - slid down the silken length.

The rope swung and shook like a living thing in the high winds between the airship and the flying boat. Gripping the rope with both hands and toes, Chesa lowered herself like one of the macaques from her homeland. Hand over hand, foot by foot, the tiny woman lowered herself along the thrashing length. Finally he feet touched the airbag.

Fingers used to the Himilayas had no problem with the cold winds around the zepplin. In moments, the rope was securely fastened to a spar. Jack Buchanan's level flying and the steady pace of the zepplin kept the rope taut. With a shake, Chesa sent a signal back up the rope.

Next.
Hidden 10 days ago Post by BornOnBoard
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Pierre saw the rop move, and, glancing at the other two occupants, he decided. They had agreed for him to be the last down the rope, but, Alcander seemed to be frozen by the novelty of it, and Pierre didn't think his honor could sustain letting two women, even ones as capable as Chesa and Opportunity, beat him to the surface of the blimp. He strapped on a pair of leather aviation goggles he borrowed from Jack,and stepped out onto the rope.

His progress was much the same as Chesa's, although he had no battlecry. He simply inched down the rope, hand over hand, until he too set foot on the airbag itself. The cold and strangeness of this deployment made his progress slower than Chesa's, but, he consoled himself that it was all the extra gear on his back. Probably.

"THE OTHER TWO SHOULD BE DOWN SOON." Pierre said over the howling wind, "THEY DIDN'T SEEM TO BE MOVING SO HOPEFULLY MY EXAMPLE OF CLIMBING WHEN LADEN DOWN LIKE AN ARMY MULE SHOULD INSPIRE THEM."
Hidden 9 days ago 9 days ago Post by POOHEAD189
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While no stranger to peril, nor was he particularly squemish with heights, Alcander still felt a lump in his throat. God, he wished he stopped shaking. What he hated about it was the fact it was involuntary. He knew the mission would go well, and he wasn't even shaking to any great effect. But it was still there, taunting him. He could fight, fence, and shoot, but he had never trained in the art of plane hopping. He shrugged at Pierre's statement on the matter.

"That depends on if we get the job done," He replied, checking his M1911 .45 one more time. Doublesafe like his lieutenant had taught him. How Opportunity got him to do this was beyond him. She owed him, not the other way around! He must have gotten lost in thought, as he wiped the fringe out of his face, and he looked up to see all of the others had leaped out. "Oh, alright."

"Having some trouble there, Al?" Jack asked, smiling like the old wardog he was.

"Just reminded of a Greek Tragedy I know of. It's..." He paused, and then gave a final shrug, holstering his gun. "I'll tell you later!"

Alcander took a deep breath and gripped the rope, all but flinging himself out of the plane, treating it like ripping off a bandaid. Immediately he felt queasy, but as the seconds passed he got used to it. The wind slapped him with the force of a gale. It was exhilarating, he realized. He could tell why people got addicted to something like this. It was all of the thrill of combat, but with safety harnesses. "Fuck me, guess I'm a trapeze artist now." he whispered, before yelling down.

"WHAT'S THE HOLD UP, PIERRE!?"
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Pierre looked up at the sound of another voice, and grinned. The expression was one of genuine pleasure; Pierre had liked the scholar quite a bit from his first impression, and, watching the man fling himself from the airplane to the blimp with such verve had filled the old veteran with delight. Pierre loved to see people push past their limitations, and Alcander had conquered his fear - if one could even call it that - admirably.

"M'SIEU MIRES, WE WERE JUST DISCUSSING HOW WE WOULD SPLIT THE PLUNDER FROM THIS AIRSHIP!" Pierre joked, "I SAID YOU'D WANT THE BRANDY, BUT RATHER THAT WE SHOULD WAIT UNTIL YOU GOT HERE TO CONFIRM, NO?"

He laughed at his own jest, then gestured back up to the Sikorsky airframe above them.

"WE MUST SCALE THE NETTING ON THE BODY OF THE BLIMP, M'SIEU, UNTIL WE GET TO THE GONDOLA BELOW." Pierre pointed beneath them. "IT IS A HARROWING CLIMB, BUT I SUGGEST WE DON'T MOVE MUCH FARTHER UNTIL MAM'SELLE KNOX JOINS US, EH? SHE IS THE ONE WHO WOULD KNOW WHERE THIS JOURNAL MIGHT BE KEPT."
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Opportunity took last place in line. She gave Jack the thumbs up and then stepped into the icy blast of Atlantic wind. She crossed her legs over the line, letting the friction pull over her leather boots and began the slide down towards the zeppelin below. It was difficult to make them out in the dark but she could see the dark splotches of her companion against the moonstruck grey of the airship. With shocking suddenness a blast of wind hit her, buffeting her body against the rope, her aviators mind processed the implications instantly and her eyes flicked up in time to see the sea plane above her shudder into a stall. Jack dropped the nose instantly to maintain his airspeed and Opportunity plunged thirty feet like a bead at the midpoint of a necklace. Her hand grabbed the knife from her belt as Jack pulled up on the stick and the seaplane rose for a moment before stalling for real. Just before the nose fell he stamped on the right rudder pedal an the machine snapped over to the right and into a corkscrewing spin stall. It was a masterful display of skill in an emergency and kept the line from being ripped free just long enough for Opportunity to slash at it with her knife. Almost long enough anyway. Opportunity was being tossed around like a lure on a flyfisherman's rod. One moment she was hanging from the line the next minute she was upside down and plunging towards the sea. The knife strike was imperfect. The knife was sharp but it didn't bite cleanly through the twisted hemp line, parting only two of the three strands. The final strand caught the full weight of the plunging aircraft and snapped like a gunshot, audible even over the roaring wind. Opportunity was hurled into the air, the remains of the line snaking through her hands and catching her a whip strike across her left cheek that drew blood. She tumbled through the air in an inelegant half rotation, straining against the centrifugal force to reach for the ripcord of her parachute. Before she could manage it she slammed into something flat and yielding, she made a dazed grab but all she managed to do was sink her knife into the fabric cover of the gasbag. With a RIIIIPPP she began to slide down the side of the gasbag, her knife parting the canvas as she went.

"Bloody buggering hell," she screamed into the wind and made a grab for one of the wooden support strakes coming to a jarring halt a few feet above the point where the gasbag curved underneath her. For a moment she just clung, the wind whipping in her hair, chest, cheeks and hands all burning like the very devil. Gritting her teeth she pulled herself into the interior of the gasbag, pushing aside the ballonets as she went before climbing carefully down the wooden framework to where the gondola could be seen below. She hoped that Jack had been able to pull out of the spin stall in time. He had flown Camels during the war though, so if anyone could manage the task it was he. All she had to do was meet up with the others and... she froze as she dropped down onto one of the maintenance catwalks which paralleled the gondola. A figure in the Prussian looking uniforms affected by the Graf Von Hiddleberg's crew lay sprawled across the aluminum gangway, his white neckerchief and drooping mustachios stained red by blood from the long slash across his throat. Blood dripped down towards the roof of the gondola, each drop whipped away by the wind that roared between the gasbag and the passenger compartment before it could land.

"Bloody buggering hell," she repeated to herself. Someone else was on the airship, and they didn't look to be taking prisoners.
Hidden 3 days ago Post by POOHEAD189
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Alcander had felt helpless during the whole debacle, holding on for dear life and watching Opportunity get jerked back and forth violently. The wire whipped Alcander in his face, snapping away his concentration for a moment. He had to slide down, and quickly. The next thing he knew, he saw Opportunity falling and the airplane perilously close to snapping the line. He opened his mouth and screamed "Opportunity!"

He knew the others wouldn't dally, so he steeling himself, he slid down the line just before it was cut and torn from the pressure of the plane. Alcander hit the wooden paneling of the dirigible in a roll, that last bit of acrobatics was all he had left for a lifetime, or at least he felt that way at the moment. It took him a good few seconds before he would realize Opportunity had survived, and that coupled with his own survival calmed down his speeding heart. His uncut, dark mass of hair shoved over his face by the wind. He slid his hand through it to let him gaze around, seeing his teammates in one piece.

"Fucking shit, nearly had a Dry-Gulch there." He breathed, referring to when he hit the deck. The wind still shifted around them uncomfortably, so he took to his feet and began striding forward, checking his sidearm. God was with him, because if he was a betting man, he would have thought it had been thrown into the drink. "Alright, let's see this through. I can hurl when we make it to the ground."

The dead body below them was news, the blood was bright, indicating an artery had been cut. He wasn't a doctor, but he had seen war-time injuries. This was definitely done recently. Hands in his pockets, he glanced at Opportunity. "Next time I have to worry like that, I'm decking you across the face." He said, smirking. "Did you kill this guy or is there another wild card on board?"
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"Bloody buggering hell,"

"I believe your uncle would be horrified to hear you use such language ..."

Chesa came around Opportunity's side and caught sight of the bleeding remains.

"God of Cathay ... Killed by a single slash to the throat. This doesn't bode well. We're not the first -- although, judging by the wound, we're not far behind. We must hurry now. It's almost certain that whoever did this is after the journal as well."

Chesa waved Alcander and Pierre onto the catwalk.

"I will climb down the netting to the control car, that's the easiest way into the main areas of the zepplin. The rest of you follow me as soon as I get the door open. I will be sweet-talking the pilot, and I may need the back-up."

Chesa deftly swung herself over the catwalk railing and seized the netting with one hand. Once again more monkey than woman, Chesa ignored the howling winds and scampered down and under the gasbag to where the control car jutted out. With two hands gripping the netting, Chesa applied her feet to the great handle of the door. Twisting and shifting, she finally gained the proper leverage, pushing the far end down with one foot and pulling with the other. The door flew open, caught by the winds. Chesa flung herself inwards ...

... only to tumble head over heels when her feet came down on something slippery. She came to a stop as her shoulder slammed into a console, and she shakily looked around her. The floor of the control car was slick, and red.

She found herself staring at the remains of a pilot. He would not require sweet-talking after all.

"... we may have a problem."
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