Read The Zeppelin Jihad Online

Authors: S.G. Schvercraft

The Zeppelin Jihad (6 page)

BOOK: The Zeppelin Jihad

Before we could enter, the last of the pocket zeppelins descended slowly towards some nearby tarmac. Speer called up to the pilot,

MacBride, get skyward again immediately!

But the zeppelin kept drifting down.

We ran to it where it landed and saw that both pilots were injured. It had to be shrapnel from when the Gatling was hosing down the sky with lead. One had a head wound and wasn

t even conscious. The pilot sitting in the lead position was alert despite the chest wound making a dark, spreading stain on his uniform.

Sorry, sir. I think we

re both in a bad way.

As Speer yelled for medics, Baylor

s voice was low to me.

I hope you report to your superiors the amount of good men

s blood we spent for them.

I will,

I said.



Fight the Sky


We didn

t find
Talib in the shattered building. But among the debris we found Korans, communiqu
s from Middle Eastern charity fronts, a smuggled-in satellite phone, and weapons.

We also found air route maps.

Look at these,

Baylor said, picking up one of the maps from the wreckage.

They must have been planning to hijack some of the industrial airships.

Are you sure?

I asked.

I mean, this is an airship yard. Couldn

t these just be maps from the building?

Oh, they have lots of maps in here, miss, same as you

d find in any yard office,

Baylor said.

Pointers don

t generally plot routes with hydrogen-filled airships over residential areas. Much less with their final destination being the nation

s tallest buildings.

They had been planning on destroying the Faced Towers.

Looks like we just avoided your 9/11,

I said.

Hopefully that will be some solace to our casualties


Speer said as he entered the room.

I don

t suppose you had any luck?

I asked.




s definitely not among the dead. Even the ones killed in the rocket attack weren

t burnt beyond recognition. None of them were

Any word from the patrols?

I asked. Speer had had more SIO men brought up to set up a cordon and search the area.

I still think he might have slipped out during the firefight. If that

s the case, he can

t have gotten far.

No sightings reported as of yet,


Perhaps the survivors will have some information on where he

s gotten to,

Baylor offered.

The few that we

d captured alive had been dazed. Blood was coming out of their ears, the hyper-compressed air having burst their eardrums.

Going to be hard to question men that can

t hear,

I said.

Baylor shrugged.

I have a feeling Deke Harker will find a way to make them talk.

I looked over at Speer with his shirtsleeves rolled up, tie undone, and his vest smeared with blood. Dirty-faced, hair a mess, he looked stylishly disheveled, like a hero at the end of an action movie.

That is, except for the frown on his face as he stared at one of the terrorists


Something wrong, Speer?

I asked, which I realized was a stupid question. With as many men as we

d just lost, what in the world could count as right?


. . . did you notice none of them were Arab?

I nodded.

Yes, you mentioned that.

That means they

re all Pointers. Native born.

He shook his head.

I don

t understand how they could join with something like this.

A Koran that had survived the brief battle sat politely on a fire-singed work desk. He picked it up, considered it for a moment, then tossed it on the ground.


m going out for some fresh air.

I sorted through more captured papers for a while before heading outside to take a break myself. I found Speer stretched out in the pilot seat of the still-functioning pocket zeppelin. He was smoking a cigarillo, looking up at the stars.

Nice night,

I said.

I suppose.

I would have expected it to be much colder.

There are many unusual aspects of Pointe Island

s geography. Our mild climate, notwithstanding the island

s latitude, is just one of them.

You people are lucky to have such a special homeland.

I used to think so,

he said.

If that

s the case, though, why did those men ally with a filthy foreigner? Supercriminals I can understand. The desire for money and power make sense. But to betray your nation? Your
? It

s beyond disturbing.

I can see why it would be,

I said.

Yes. A bitter lesson. Ideology trumps race,

he said.


I take it the patrols haven

t sighted Talib?

No, although I believe we

re still awaiting one

s return.

He tossed away the cigarillo and took a pocket watch from his vest.

In fact, they should have returned by now. Let

s check on them.

We walked towards the three massive airships that weren


They were probably going to use these for their attack,

I said.

No doubt. Perhaps that last patrol is still searching one of them. These industrial airships are so much larger than their civilian cousins.


d never given much thought to airships until coming here. The closest I

d come to seeing one in person was the Goodyear Blimp at a football game. My briefing packet had actually included diagrams of them; the part where passengers rode was called the gondola. The rigid outer structure contained the unceremoniously named gas-bag that made them float. Propellers were usually located aft of the gondola; rudders and elevator flaps on the butt-end made them look like fat torpedoes.

There was a stack of cargo containers obstructing our view of the airships

gondolas. We walked around them, and as we turned the corner into the shadows we came across the missing patrol.

The two uniformed men were lying in a pool of blood. Their throats had been slit, and their rifles taken.

Bloody hell,

Speer whispered.

Just then, I saw one of the airships move. It was the one furthest from us, and I couldn

t believe how rapidly

and silently

it drifted up. Especially given that beneath their gondolas, these industrial airships each had a huge cargo-carrying palette. The one taking flight was carrying a payload of I-beams. I could see its name on the top rudder:

Speer checked his pockets.

Dammit, I

m out of mercury rounds,

he said, as if he

d have been able to hit it at this range.

Once it was two hundred feet in the air, I heard its propeller begin to buzz, and watched as it changed direction towards Boothcross.

Come on!

he shouted, already running back towards the building.

Maybe Baylor can shoot it down!

I don

t think I

ve ever run so fast in my life. We were both shouting to get Baylor

s attention as we passed the pocket zeppelin. Baylor came out of the building.

What is it?

he yelled.

Before we could answer, he and every other man on the yard looked up at the zeppelin now above them. Suddenly, the palette holding all those I-beams was released from the

s body. Baylor and his men ran as, with a horrible series of clangs like gods chiming the end of the world, the I-beams fell to the earth.

Hundreds of I-beams and the palette itself carpet-bombed the area, crushing the office building and the Triclops.


Speer said after the rumbling had ceased.

So much for that idea.

What now?

I asked.

Now I ask if you

re afraid of heights.

Um . . . no,

I said, dread creeping into me about where this was going.

Well, you may yet be.

I followed him to the pocket zeppelin, and he quickly threw off the anchoring lines. Then he jumped into the pilot

s seat, and told me to get in the copilot

s seat behind him.

Are you crazy? I

m not getting on that,

I said. It wasn

t even an enclosed gondola. In fact, it wasn

t a gondola at all

more like a motorcycle chassis realized in mahogany and brass.


t have airships patrolling our cities. Neither the SIO nor the Army Aero Brigade will be able to scramble anything in time to intercept.

My heart was racing just thinking about climbing onto the thing. I took a deep breath.


Here, put these on,

he said, handing me a pair of goggles he

d taken from a compartment. He put on a pair too.


ll keep the wind from freezing your eyes.


I said. Speer released a few levers and the tiny airship came to life.

I had the handles in a death grip as we began to drift up. I felt sick watching the altimeter mark fifty, then a hundred, then two hundred feet.

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