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Part II - Old Friends
Dashiell and Bernhard sat waiting in the tiny, cluttered ofﬁce at the end of the wharf
in Copperheads airport. Dashiell sat slumped in one of the wooden ofﬁce chairs, he swung himself gently from side to side until his knees wouldn't twist more. Bernhard perched on one of the few surfaces not covered in papers or spare parts. He rolled a tumbler around in his ﬁngers and stared out of the window through the slatted blinds into the port outside. The sun was setting over Copperhead and everything was awash with a strong orange light, the airships docked there left deep, dark shadows on the ground completely blacking out some areas on the wharf. Ships crews still ran around their crafts, some unloading fresh supplies others loading ready to leave the mining town and head back west to the coast or north to the mountains. From out of one of the shadows cutting across the concrete jetties Frederick trotted holding up his oversized trousers with one hand while his other clung to a folded piece of paper. Frederick wove his way through the crowd of dock workers and ship crews calling out to people he knew arranging drinks and card games, his smile held up even as he burst through the door of his ofﬁce. "Sorry to keep you boys, got jawin' with the captain of the Clipped Pigeon. Owe him a bottle of sting." Frederick sidled round the edge of the desk and dropped into his chair. In its day it must have been exquisite but now it was worn and haggard, the leather was cracked and the stufﬁng escaped at any opportunity. Dash sat up in his chair and straightened his shirt. "Does he have what we need?" "Aye he's got your..." Frederick unfolded the note and held it away for his face, in
favour of ﬁnding his spectacles. "Power converter and injector housing but the pump itself is on another transport." "How long?" Dash asked. "Tomorrow morning, Pigeons sister ship is due to dock here at ﬁve thirty a.m." "You said it'd be here today Fred." Bernie took a sip of the home brew called sting "It should have been but they had some repair issues of their own." Frederick
and could not help but grimace slightly as it went down. poured himself a drink and swallowed it down in one, sting had little affect on him after all
the years of consumption. Dash and his mechanic let it sink in for a moment, they were desperate to get out of Copperhead and back in the air. A week had been too long in the hot mining town. "One more day won't kill us I suppose." Dash took a mouthful of sting and instantly regretted it, it burned from the instant it hit his tongue. He swallowed it down hard, trying to stiﬂe the coughing that followed. "Well if the wait is getting to you I do have a job that needs looking at." Frederick "What is it?" Dash said his voice raspy from the sting. "I need you to ﬁnd someone." Fred ﬁlled his glass again and knocked it back, the poured himself another drink and swallowed it whole again.
top of the bottle was at the glass as it touched back down onto the desk ﬁlling full of the coppery liquid once more. "What do they owe you, money or blood?" Bernie came off his perch and sat down "It's not like that Bernie." Fred poured Bernie's drink, he ignored Dash's gesture in the empty chair besides Dash and held his glass out for a reﬁll. resisting more and topped up his glass before pouring another for himself. "My god it was easier when it was." Fred stared into his glass, light streaming though the coppery liquid making it glow. "Just start at the beginning Fred." Bernie took a sip and settled back into his chair, it creaked under the mechanics bulk. Fred lifted the glass to his lips and drank, this time he just sipped at the home brewed alcohol before setting it down on the desk again. "About a month ago a survey team came through here saying they were looking for minerals out in the desert. They were out there two weeks then sent word back that they had found what they were after. They came here and recruited whoever they could to build them a camp and a reliable power station." "You get a lot of people out here contracting don't you?" Dash took a sip of his drink, sting must be affecting his memory as he forgot how harsh the brew was. He ﬂexed his jaw down and round, the muscles in his cheek spasming. "But those people always come back." Fred took another sip, his nerves weren't as strong as he'd hoped. "A friend of mine, Bill Taggart, he was killed last year when one of the tunnels off shaft three collapsed. I took in his lad, kept an eye on him, gave him a job, looked after him like he was my own. He was in the last lot to sign up since he left there has been no word from that camp." "Did you hear from them often?" Dash said taking another sip of sting. Regret sank in quickly again.
"At least once a day, they'd ask for tools or equipment. If the wind picked up and a "Could be faulty gear or damaged to their radio." Bernie killed his drink and rested "They would have been back by now, no ships went out they all used tortoises and
storm blew in sand killed their antenna but we've had clear skies for the last ﬁve days." the glass on he knee. those things never break. Something happened to them Bernie." Fred poured himself another drink, the bottle was almost empty now. "I hate to ask this of you but I made a promise to keep that boy safe, I need to know he's alive." Dash could see Bernie looking at him out of the corner of his eye, he knew the old man wouldn't leave this ofﬁce unless he agreed to help his friend. Bernie should have known Dash needed no coercion to agree to this. "Bernie, I want you and Abi to get to work on the Hawk as soon as the new pump "I think there's something more-" "I'll head out to this outpost with Zeke at ﬁrst light. I can't promise he's alright Fred arrives."
but I will ﬁnd him." Dash ﬁnished his drink and pushed the glass onto the table. He masked his hatred for the home made booze as he stood up. He held out his hand and Fred took it as he in turn got to his feet. "Thank you Dashiell. You ﬁnd him you consider your bill payed for." Fred's smile that "I'm not doing it for that Fred." Dash released his hand and left the small ofﬁce, a left him as he entered the ofﬁce retuned. breeze ﬁlled the room through the open doorway. Bernie placed his own glass on the desk as he stood up. He took Fred's hand and shook it. "You're right Bernie he is just like his old man." "Just a shame he ain't around to see the man he's become. I'll see you in the
morning Fred." Bernie pulled the door shut as he left, leaving Fred alone with his almost empty bottle of sting.
Dashiell backed out of the tent slowly the barrel of the shotgun less than an inch
away from his face. He removed his hand from the grip of his revolver and raised his arms up so his palms were level with his face on either side of his head. "You got me square in your sights now how about you give me a little breathing
from from that twelve gauge?" Dash cocked his head slightly trying to peer over the barrel of the gun, it moved with him not giving him any room. "Oh easy now." "Y-you killed them all!" The voice behind the gun said.
"I haven't killed anyone, I just got here. Looking for a guy named Willie Taggart."
Dash stopped moving once he was clear of the entrance of the hut. Hunched down behind the shotgun a dirty, disheveled ﬁgure stared down the iron sights, he looked both furious and terriﬁed in equal measures. "You wanna kill Willie too?" "I've told you, I haven't killed-" Dash was interrupted by the harsh click of the "Any last words before I gun you down you murdering son-of-a-bitch." The voice
hammer being pulled back on the shotgun. croaked down the barrel of the gun. Dash thought this over for half a moment before answering. "Yeah. You met my partner?" A head popped up from behind the rear sight and turned as Zeke stepped in and lifted the barrel of the gun into the air away from Dash's head. For such a tall man he was fast and light on his feet. Dash wrestled the gun wielded to the ground as Zeke yanked his weapon from his hands quickly turning it back on their would be executioner. "I got him." Said Zeke cooly, pointing the shotgun down to the two prone bodies on "Alright, ok, just get it over with." The body lay in the sand with his eyes closed, the ﬂoor. Dash rolled off and jumped to his feet still ready incase of another assault. Dash and Zeke appeared above him as two silhouettes with the harsh yellow sun behind them. "I told you already, nobody is going to kill you, we just want to ﬁnd Willie Taggart. That's all." Dash reached down and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, pulling him to his feet. Standing straight he wasn't as tall as Dash and no where near the height of Zeke. "Now do you know where Willie is? Where anybody is?" Dash adjusted his gun belt, it had twisted on his body during the tussle. "I'm Willie Taggart." The boy said squinting at them still. "What's left of everyone else is in there." Willie pointed toward the entrance of the mine.
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