Happy 4th of July

Happy Independence Day! As a bonus to celebrate the day I have a second bonus flash fiction story for you all. Enjoy a tale while the sky lights up tonight.

The sun disappeared below the ground and the sky erupted with light. I and down the street I saw people turn to look up, pointing and smiling. If the Engineer Corps had any say, and we did, tonight’s display would be amazing. I refused to look up though. I should have been with them. Not stuck down here.

Still Father and Mother had disagreed, and their opinion trumped my own, again. Happy Independence Day to me. Ordered about and ignored.

I tensed when the shrieks changed pitch, moving from delighted, to a hushed confused, to shrill horror. Pushing from the wall I’d been leaning against I raced to the middle of the street. They couldn’t have been hit. Their flight path was well away from the fire zone.

The ship hung in the sky, double balloons keeping it aloft and yellow lantern at the front to mark its path. But the light was wrong. Sparks flew off trailing toward the ground before fizzling out. “No,” I shrieked as the fore balloon burst into flame.

I gathered my skirts and sprinted after the ship. Futile, I knew. Still I ran headless and stumbled hitting the ground as the ship disappeared beyond the roof line. “No,” I said again forcing the word out through lungs that burned for air.

“Ms. Knighton,” Lewis Dering said rushing toward me as I was escorted into the offices. He stopped paces away and twisted his hands nervously. “Oh Ms. Knighton, I’m so sorry.” He continued a cacophony of noise I didn’t bother to try and decipher. He was barely intelligible at the best of times and this wasn’t that.

A hand touched my elbow, a feather of a brush only. “Emma,” the voice was quiet. A rumble I would normally appreciate and today broke through the haze.

I turned my head and gulped pushing back the tears. They could engulf me later. “Peter,” I said and glanced behind him as a throat cleared. “Mr. Adams,” I corrected taking a step away back.

His hand fell away as he turned gesturing for me to proceed him. Walking next to me he spoke clearly enough for those behind us to hear. Government Officials, couldn’t they tell when they weren’t wanted. “I apologize for calling you in, but with Mr. and Mrs. Knighton. . .” he faltered for a moment. “There’s none better to discover what happened, and that is critical.”

I nodded. “The skirmishes are increasing then?” I asked. I sounded sufficiently animated even to myself. Hopefully they bought it as well.

“Indeed,” he said slowing his step. They could think it was because of the gravity of the conflict. I knew it was because we’d just rounded a corner and my parent’s laboratory’s doorway had come into view.

I gulped straighten my shoulders as I pushed forward. “Then making sure the ships function to expectations is vital,” I said. “Calling me was logical.” I reached forward and opened the door. My hands were barely trembling. “I’ll inform you when I have result for you.” I begged him to catch my meaning. I didn’t need them following me into the room. I wouldn’t be able to keep up my even demeanor.

“I’ll leave you to your work then.” Peter turned away and I felt the hand touch my shoulder. It was the briefest touch, but that alone nearly sent me over. He understood and would ensure I received the peace I needed. Turning the knob, I pushed open the door and stepped into the room, closing the door quickly behind me. I twisted the key in the lock sealing myself in.

Debry was strewn across the floor. An initial sorting had obviously already happened during the night before they’d come to retrieve me red eyed and sleepless from my parent’s home. There had been as silent as a tomb. Here were the bones of their lives, the air ship we’d spent years perfecting. There shouldn’t have been an error, but there had been.

Stepping forward I circled the room, surveying the damage. I shuddered at the glass melted over the wooden deck. The wood was barely scorched. Odd. I stepped forward lifting my skirts and pulling them close as I examined the lantern more closely. If the glass had melted, presumably from whatever had caused the mechanics at it’s core to malfunction, the deck should have caught fire, but it hadn’t.

Twisting the fixture, I noted that the glass had melted from the top down. Odder. I screamed as a brilliant yellow creature emerged from the fixture skittering over my fingers. Throwing the light away, I stumbled backward hastily.

Tiny wings extended, and the creature hovered in the air where I’d held the lantern. I pressed a hand to my heart trying to slow my breathing. “Ms. Knighton!” a voice cried ponding on the door. “Ms. Knighton!” I rolled my eyes at the screech. Dering was the last person I needed right now. Of course, he’d hovered outside the doorway. “I’ll getting help,” he cried after rattling the doorknob had no effect.

The creature darted toward me. The form glowed, but somehow every scale was distinct. A dragon. Not possible they didn’t exist, but there is was hanging in the air before me trailing yellow sparks. I lifted a hand to shield my face. The creature darted forward and landed on my finger heat dissipating quickly as did the sparks.

I inhaled as it curled around my finger laying its head against me. “Where di you come from?” I asked. I lifted my other hand to prod it gently when banging returned to the door behind me. Twisting I groaned as the corps shouted beyond the door: clear, loud, calm, and completely unwanted. I moved toward the wreckage and grabbed a bit of the fabric left from the rear balloon.

If they saw the creature they’d take it away. I’d never see it again. I needed it. Wherever it had come from, this had caused the incident and I would know more of why. Draping the cloth over my hand I turned as the smashed inward and men poured into the room. Dering at the lead, stumbling and crashing over debris he hadn’t bothered to avoid, and Peter at the rear his face red with frustration.

“The was a commotion?” the Corps Commander said stepping around Dering still struggling to regain his feet.

I tutted. “I wouldn’t say commotion so much as normal examination.” I ran my hand over the balloon fabric as claws scratched along my finger. “I thought I was to be left alone.”

“What I tried to tell them.” Peter said letting the disapproval fill his voice and the scowl on his face.

“Perhaps, Commander,” I said turning toward the man. “You should learn to listen. This is critical work”

“But I heard you scream!” Dering said.

I raised a brow at him frowning. “Are you claiming I am incompetent in my work?” The man sputtered turning toward the engineers, but the commander just huffed. Nothing was burning or threatening to explode that he could see. He bowed an apology and shuffled his men form the room, dragging Dering with them.

Peter hesitated. He had seen through my act. I shook my head. He glanced about the room and nodded pulling the door closed behind him. I heard him noisily direct the men to stand guard outside and see that I was not disturbed again unless there actually was a fire.

Removing the clothe I looked down at the creature. Its head was raised as it looked back at me before dipping its head to nudge my skin. Yes, there was work to be done.

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