Author : S. Clough

Guy Daschien released the breath that he’d been holding. The seal between his helmet and collar snicked shut, and a little hiss announced that it had become airtight. He gripped each of his wrists in turn, pulling his gloves on tighter, making sure that the burrs caught on the fabric of the cuff. He knelt down, and likewise sealed his boots.

The chameleonfabric operated at a low level even without power, and so the suit took on an ethereal quality in the harsh light of the bay. A tracery of burnished orange lines dragged your attention up to the faceplate, as well as emphasizing Guy’s impressive height.

The faceplate was opaque. Depending on the light, it could shine anywhere between a smoked black and an infernal orange. Around the faceplate there was a crest like that of a lizard but rendered into metal, all sharp spines and stretched metalskin. The back of the helmet extended upwards from the reverse of his skull. The whole ensemble gave Guy a distinct, nonhuman aspect.

He walked towards the hatch. Now that the c-fabric was drawing power, he grew ever more translucent. Even the fearsome faceplate faded somewhat. He unlocked the hatch, and wrenched it open. Heaving the cover aside, he glanced down into the expanse of sky below the belly of the ship. Completely without ceremony, he jumped.

He fell. High above, the launchship silently motored away. Down below, a convoy of dirigibles formed a sparkling chain, their armoured envelopes glinting in the afternoon sun.

The range ticked down deceptively slowly. Forty meters above the slowly oscillating carapace of the last airship, the agrav panels in his suit sprang to life. Instantly, Guy’s descent slowed. Not by much, but as his fall ate into the distance, the panels ramped up the power. He stepped onto the upper surface of the envelope with barely a smattering of momentum. There was no-one on the observation platform. There was a weapon mounted on one of the railings. That was new.

Down through the hatch, into the cool, inner space of the armoured envelope. He ignored the walkway, and instead swung out into the webwork of internal supports. Twisting through, he worked his way towards the tapering rear of the envelope.

Just before the end of the space, he paused, and pressed his hand against the material of the envelope. Through it, he could feel the thrum of one new engine this bird was sporting. From a small pocket, he withdrew two small disks. These self-adhered to the wall. Slowly, he crossed the width of the envelope.

He took out a blade, punctured the envelope and opened a horizontal gash, and then a vertical one. He pushed through the envelope, braced himself, and gave the second engine a good solid kick. A second kick sent it flying. He let himself topple out after it. After seven heartbeats, he pressed the detonator. He twisted around against the buffeting wind to watch his handiwork.

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