Scene Three

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Templeton rushed to find his stash of linen bandages, fretting over how little he knew of medicine. For Elson to be as coherent as he had been, the wound couldn't have punctured a major chest artery, but it had probably hit a lung, and Templeton was sure that was more than he could handle with first aid. Elson would need surgery, and he would have to survive to get that surgery. Bandages would NOT be enough.

As Templeton yanked the first aid kit from its shelf, a round, iridescent box clattered to the floor. As he picked it up, he realized there was some hope: Elson had a box of stasis bugs leftover from his own old medical packs. He opened the lid and poured about twenty of the tiny round balls into his hand, closed the box, then carefully unbuttoned and peeled back the cloth of Elson's shirt to pour them into the wound. As soon as they touched the blood, the little machines unrolled, shivered their tiny, silver wings and got to work, stopping the bleeding and injecting medicines to let Elson rest easily before he could get to an operating theatre.

Over Templeton's shoulder, a small round window showed a cliff rushing by as the pair's luck narrowly held.

Templeton wrapped a bandage over the wound. He could hear Elson's voice in his head even as he watched the Skyrine's face go pale: "Now remember," Elson had told him as he treated a would on Templeton's leg, "even if you don't know what to do with it, cover the wound with a soft, clean bandage. That'll keep it protected and clean so it doesn't get worse. Plus, if you've got stasis bugs on it, the bandage will keep them from getting brushed off."

Templeton blinked back a tear and stifled a rueful laugh. Elson was always taking the time to show Templeton how to do what he was doing, just in case the inventor had to do it on his own, some day.

Good thing, too.

His friend stable, Templeton started to think about how to get away from the air-pirates. Fortunately, they seemed to want his ship intact. Frankly, at this point his was willing to give it to them as long as he could get away with Elson.

Then again, even if he got the both of them safely to the ground, he couldn't just carry Elson to the nearest town. He would need transportation.

Just then, a screw rolled by along the deck. Templeton looked out a porthole to see the horizon at a tell-tale slant.

His ship was in a dive.

He pulled out his remote and fumbled at the controls, only to discover two connections had been torn loose. Repair would require time and tools, neither of which was handy. Templeton cursed as he realized his carefree cockpit fire, while contained, meant the secondary controls were probably out, and certainly too hot to handle.

They would have to abandon the ship. All his modifications and improvements, the money and time he had invested in it... he shook his head. If it was all going to go up in smoke, he'd just have to make sure he and Elson would survive to make something better.

The escape glider in the engine room was up against the wall at the very aft of the ship, folded to allow access to the cockpit with seats for two. He pulled Elson into a secure position and strapped him in, seated himself and hit the release. The glider seem to fall through the wall and into the open air, and suddenly the sticky heat and noise of the airship's interior was consumed by the rush of cold, clean air and serene silence of high altitude. Templeton felt the strange, breathstealing experience of freefall - of all his organs being lifted inside him - for a long few seconds before the glider's great wing snapped open and he was wrenched back into his seat. It caught the air, and they floated away from the lost battle. He quickly steered the glider the side side of his vessel opposite the pirates so they wouldn't see him leaving. Looking back, he saw his airship blocking his view of the air-pirates. His faithful, tough old ship was rendering him one last service in covering his escape.

Templeton sighed. "Thanks, girl," he said, then he turned to look at the Alps spread out below him. The view would have captivated him if he weren't so desperate - sharp slopes covered in shining white snow and dark evergreens rising and falling all around him. He pulled Elson's map out of his friend's backpack, approximated their position, and angled west, towards the nearest town.

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