14th October 1972
Did I Mention I Hate Bremerhaven?
My life has been one boring bout of waiting after the next. Waiting for supper, waiting for permission to use the loo (not a pleasant experience), waiting for the day to come that I could be free of that monotonous hell they bothered to call an academy. The only reason I endured those three years of doldrums was to get a proper piloting license and the permits for international work. I was raised in the sky, you see? Taught all the necessities about aeronautics, chart reading, engineering and the like, by my father, Holden, and step-mother, Kayl. (Not that I ever called her that––step-mother, I mean––she was always just Mum to me.)
I'm sorry. I've been so addled lately that I suppose I completely forgot to introduce myself. I'm Krys. Well, Krylsorta Milse, actually, but don't ask me why my mum named me Krylsorta. I honestly have no idea where it came from. Dad said it had something to do with an ancient Egyptian name. But, my honest guess is that she was as high as a kite when she gave birth to me, tried to name me Krystal but it came out Krylsorta. Dad doesn't like me talking ill of my mum that way. He's never really seen a woman give birth before. He even had to leave the room when my two littlest siblings were born. (Blood makes him sick.) I was there though, and I know from visual experience, birthing takes a lot out of you. And, even though I normally don't get along with my father's latest wife, that was one of the few days that Regina and I actually got along and it was in part to her being totally drained after birthing twins.
That was another time of waiting. Do you know how long it takes to give birth to twins? Well, I can tell you, it can take quite a while. Nearly two days in fact.
I suppose I owe you an explanation about that as well. Mum, my first mum, was a beautiful woman with flowing red hair, sparkling blue eyes and a smile that could make sunshine jealous. My dad says she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I tend to believe him, especially seeing as how he also says that I look just like her. (Which is strange, seeing as how the appearance of Regina is nothing like my mother. I've often wondered why that is.) She died when I was a very small child, my mum. Came down with some fever... and then it wasn't a fever. All I know is that one day I was holding her hand and the next they were putting her in the ground. I try not to think about it.
Kayl came next, but not right away. About two years after Mum died, Dad took up a job as Senior Engineer aboard this big junky zeppelin called Teal Morning. Kayl Torrent was the captain. All fire and Scottish spirit, Kayl had flaming red hair, livid blue eyes and a smile that would make sunshine jealous. It's no wonder my father fell for her.
They married quicker than you can spit. The marriage ended just a quickly. Four years, actually. I still called her “Mum,” though. Even after Dad remarried, I called her “Mum.”
And then Regina. Lovely, talented, perfect, blonde Regina. I don't know what my father sees in her, but he must see something because she make him happy and they've been together for the last four years with no talk of divorce. I keep my fingers crossed for them, even if Regina doesn't like me.
Now, when I say she doesn't like me, what I really mean to say is that she loathes the very thought of me and wishes that her own daughter, Amelia, were oldest instead of me. Funny thing about that is that Lia and I are the best of friends. You'll probably hear more about her later.
Anyway, Regina brought with her two daughters and three sons. Add in there the twins and that makes me the unwanted eldest of eight. Let me tell you, I wasn't the only one singing praises and celebrating from the highest mountaintops when I shipped off to the academy at thirteen.
I waited with anticipation for my acceptance letter to come in. When Regina finally handed it to me I was ecstatic. I suppose that's when the mountaintop rejoicing started. Lia was bobbing over my shoulder insisting that I read it aloud. I didn't. Who wants to read something like that aloud?
All I actually managed to say was, “I got in.”
When Regina demanded, “How?”
I came back with, “Kayl wrote me a recommendation letter.” She always told me that she would. The dean of the school one of her old shipmates. I just didn't expect to that to be enough to get me in. The Academy of Aeronautics on the Transatlantic Island was one of the most prestigious sky schools in the British Empire, but she got me in.
Without that letter I wouldn't have stood half the chance I did of getting in. Without Kayl, I wouldn't be a pilot on WindSong, one of the most beautifully junkers I've ever seen, and I for sure wouldn't have been waiting in that stinking town for nearly two weeks longer than scheduled. And yes. I wouldn't know Jel'Dhen either.
I know, another weird name. First time I saw it written was when I signed the contract to be his pilot on the crap hole little ship he bought on his pittance of a salary––WindSong. I thought it looked like “jelled hair”. Truth be told, it's Jeldan and don't let anyone tell you differently.
Jel'Dhen, however, was the plonker that left me stranded in Bremerhaven, Germany in the middle of October with a bunch of poxy sky-stranded pilots that could lift off in the cold seasons better if they were trained monkeys. Which left me, a somewhat attractive red-headed seventeen-year-old with the pilot skills to scrap with even the best of them, to fend off wandering hands that belonged to crewmen so manky I'd swear they hadn't seen a decent shower in months, despite being grounded since the beginning of Fall.
Fall is usually a difficult time of year for freighters. Most freighters pipe adelaide through every spare inch of the hull they can which, as we all know, defies the laws of physics and buoyancy in such a way as to make the great Archimedes want to drown himself in his own bathtub. That's all fine and dandy when one is trying to make an enormous wooden sailing ship that should never be seen in the sky soar like some hydrogen-filled whale, but, when it came to the cold, adelaide looses many of its perks.
You probably know this already, but adelaide gets very very cold when you pass electricity through it. And electricity must be passed through it to return it to liquid state and use it as a fuel source. But when you recharge your engine the adelaide most ships pipe through their absurdly huge hulls gets a little nippy. We're talking ice age cold. The entire hull freezes over if you aren't in a warm environment. On a nice sunny summer day recharging adelaide works as a rather inexpensive cooling system, but as soon as the temperature drops, so do the airships. In the cold seasons adelaide was every captain's downfall. Well, every captain's except mine.
My captain had picked well. At my advice, he had selected a classic vessel, running on pretty much the same physics that airships had run on for centuries, lift and thrust. Granted, we had an adelaide-fueled engine, but finding a warm port of harbor to recharge the thing was easy enough when you were small enough to fit inside a hangar.
So, as I looked out over my steaming cup of tea at the quaint Tudor-filled skyline on that particular day it didn't surprise me that the only ship I could see was a familiar silver envelope. I watched from my seat at the top of one of Bremerhaven's tall red towers as the little metallic ship passed through the city's perimeter of docking pylons and cargo cranes to the south. It rode on the air like a lost balloon, drifting through the sky nearly void of tall buildings––except that this particular sack of hydrogen was far more determined in course than any child's toy.
I could always tell when Jel'Dhen was at the helm, as the ship tended to fly in straight lines. Flying in such a mathematical movements didn't sit right with me. A ship was supposed to move with more grace and sway. I suppose that's why I was the pilot and he wasn't. I only hoped that he hadn't forgotten that little detail.
I took another sip of tea and set it on the saucer. My waiting had finally come to an end. Every evening for the last two and a half weeks I had waited at that particular coffee shop at the top of that particular building to wait ever so patiently for my daft git of a captain to remember to pick me up. Alright, so he was only a git for two weeks. The other half a week I was biding my time hoping he'd rush his job and get back early so I didn't have to feel so bad about getting my half done early. No such luck.