A Cold Bird is a Dead Bird

Tully stood on the deck of the Aquamarine looking down upon the once dark city. It was dark no longer, with its entirety covered in knee deep snow. The glistening white blanket seemed to defy the darkness of the Maelstrom, a soft white counterpoint to the churning black clouds above, but in its own way it was just as deadly.

There had been two topics of conversation this morning in the Crazy Cog. The first of course being the terrorist attack in the east twins last night. Yet more dead and dying at the hands of revolutionary do-gooders. Tully wan't judging, he had been known to "do good" himself from time to time, but he was growing tired of the constant butchers bill with no sign of any real change at the top. In fact with the arrival of the Elesians things at the Roost had got decidedly worse.

The second subject on everyone's lips was the cold. It was killing people, especially in the Sprawl surprise surprise. Dusk just was not prepared for this kind of weather, it had been a generation since its people had seen snow and as far as anyone could remember it had not been this bad. Roads were blocked, heaters were failing, not to mention the cost of trying to keep warm and fed out there in this. The City was grinding to a halt and worst of all the Flagesium could not be delivered. The Green Line was down and flying in this nightmare was more than most were willing to risk.

Despite the lull in business the Roost was busy. The airships needed constant clearing and the pipework and hydraulics needed maintenance lest they freeze and burst. Crews were active on most vessels and the lifts were working overtime.

"Nice morning for a stroll on the deck."

Tully turned to see a figure standing on the fore-deck looking up at him. The man was of an impressive size and shrouded in a thick woolen blanked and knee length jacket with a hood pulled up to hide his features. Tully recognised the voice and he cocked his head trying to place the stranger. It suddenly clicked and he cried out,

"Phineas!" both he and his visitor flinched and looked around, the surprise had overtaken his caution and he was just lucky there had been no-one around to hear him.

"Pleased to see you too Tully," Phineas said with a toothy grin as he approached, "but a little discretion, I am a wanted man."

Tully stepped up and hugged the fellow Skyrider, receiving a slap in the back in turn that jarred his bones.

"How did you get out of the compound?" he asked Phineas and for a moment a shadow passed over the mans face.

"I'm not sure you would believe me if I told you... not sure I believe it myself truth be told, but gods man its good to see you."

"Did you hear about Lina?"

"Damn shame." Phineas growled, "thought about going up there and trying to spring them, but I'd need a ship for that and mines chained down."

"I am going there myself... once this blasted weather clears."

"Not turning hero on us are you?"

"No," laughed Tully, "Nothing like that. There are some others with friend and family down there and they are fixing to do something about it. I am just playing taxi."

"Still enough to get you sent down yourself if you get caught."

There came a loud snapping sound from the centre of the Roost and suddenly the platform to which the Aquamarine was tethered lurched.

"What the fuck was that?" Phineas cursed, just as Tully saw the steam rising from the central lift shaft. He ran over and stared down the ledge.

"Looks like the mechanism is locked up down below." he saw men beating against a last iron piston that would normally be moving at pace to maintain the hydraulics pressure. The great machines that kept the central tower running were fed by steam from the Underworks and if that had been cut off somehow...

"We need to get an engineer down there." Tully called to Phineas. "We need one now or the damned core will back up and blow. We have steam going into only half the system and the other half is jammed up with ice. It could tear the Roost apart.

"Release anchors." Phineas roared, "We take the ship down and land her in the yard below."

"It'll take too damned long to get to the Gutter from there." Tully called back as he set about firing up the ships engines and releasing the clamps.

"So we head for the Steamworks and drop near the maintenance shack." The ship lurched and a spray of snow and frost burst outwards as it tore free from the platform. As they began to descend the Roost groaned and cracked behind them as the partially working mechanisms within warred against each other. There came a loud explosion as a steam cylinder below became overloaded and burst outwards knocking several frantic workers to their death.

The ground sped up towards them as they tore across the space between the Roost and the Underworks entrance. The area around the shack was crowded with low buildings and piles of debris.

"There's nowhere to land." Tully called over to Phineas.

"Then just get us low enough and I will jump." the Skyrider called back as he started to clamber over the edge.

"You are fucking crazy!"

"I wont be the one flying this tub on my own in a snow storm."

"Good point! We are both fucking crazy!"

The ship dropped down as close as Tully dared bring her and Phineas gave a whoop of sheer terror as he flung himself overboard. Tully did not have time to check on his companion as he was immediately concerned with trying to rescue the Aquamarine from an imminent collision with a nearby warehouse. When he finally regained some altitude he was relieved to see Phineas running headlong towards the shack.

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