Hello, Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here!
Gather ‘Round and I will spin you a tale!
The leak of hydrogen resulted in a lopsided craft, necessitating rebalance.
This was not going to go as planned and whatever caused the leak was not a product of nature. In slow motion, Petra watched in horror as she saw a glint of oxidation.
It was a lose-lose and she pushed herself from the wicker basket. The explosion was deafening, but the second and third were not so bad for She had other concerns; She was falling.
Petra analyzed the situation.
h = 1/2gt2, m
v = gt, m/s
At 7000 or so feet, she rounded her weight to 120 pounds. Not taking into account air friction, it would take about 20 or so seconds to hit the ground at a terminal velocity of roughly 120 miles an hour.
This took Petra around five seconds to calculate as she was under a little pressure from the current state of events.
Checking her harness, she pulled a spring-loaded cord and fabric unfolded, much like an umbrella, but with support straps on the ends.
200 square feet of linseed soaked fabric (see Issue #01)
was adequate air resistance to slow her fall to a survivable descent speed.
The fabric caught the air and it felt like she was ascending but only for a second.
It was soon apparent that she had not applied enough linseed oil to the canvas and her descent was going to be fine, but her landing rough.
What just seconds before looked to be the Heron foothills in the distance looked a lot like a stack of hay.
With wicked impact, she was grateful for the goggles JB had manufactured to reduce the sun glare. She was wedged right in the pile and they protected her face. She smiled thankfully.
She was such a girl.
Carefully, she moved her neck. All was well. Rolling her shoulders and moving her limbs, she determined that she may have lost the military contract but she was going to live another day.
Pulling off the harness, she left it where it lay. There was no way she was going to lug it around.
She wasn’t sure how her gas bag caught fire, but she hoped the aluminum melted on the descent. There was a significant technology aboard that would be best out of some hands.
From the distance, she could hear men shouting and dogs barking. Her head was not particularly clear, but something told her to keep moving and get away from the landing apparatus. Her pace quickened from a fast walk to a jog. She might be paranoid, but those barking dogs didn’t seem friendly.
Making good time, Petra figured she had run two miles in an indirect route towards La Longi proper. She didn’t hear the dogs and she might get back before dark.
It was when she stopped running that she became erratic. The adrenaline of falling out of the sky was done flowing through her veins and she was exhausted. Why she ran was unclear to her, but it seemed a good idea at the time. “Perhaps I should take a break,” she told herself.
“Ouch!” Petra yelped. She was sore all over like she crashed into a wall of straw.
Someone was kicking her.
“Hey, are you ok? You are laying there like you fell out of the sky! What happened?
Petra brushed the hair from her head so she could see. It was a woman, about Petra’s height with red hair like hers.
Petra was wary. She didn’t want everyone to know that she was working on a government contract, but just about everyone in La Longi knew a woman made a solo flight. That was newsworthy on its own.
“I am a little sore, and thirsty. I think someone was chasing me, but it is likely paranoia from dehydration or something. I just want to get back home to La Longi.”
“I’m Stephanie Mae, here, let me help you. I’m not too far away, come to my place and we’ll get you cleaned up.”
Stephanie Mae’s head was on a swivel, alert for every movement. Raising an eyebrow, she looked Petra up and down.
“You look like the Erratic Engineeress.”
“You are! Wow, Petra the Erratic Engineeress. That’s what everyone calls you. I bet you were on a secret mission or something! Don’t worry, I am more than happy to help! “
In the distance, dogs howled. Both ladies looked back nervously.
“Someone is looking for someone or something Petra, and I am worried. Is it you?”
“I am not sure. I have no reason for anyone to follow me.”
“You were the fireball in the sky, weren’t you?”
Petra was reluctant.
“Yeah, they are looking for you.”
“A rescue team? “
“No.” Stephanie Mae looked terrified. “Ernest Kenyon.”
As they approached a small cabin, the howling drew closer. “Petra, come here, we have to bury you so the dogs don’t find you!”
“Yes!” She pointed to a barn stall. “There is good!”
Petra, quite disoriented from the crash lay down and the smell was awful. Quickly, Stephanie Mae shoveled cow manure all over Petra and smoothed it all out with a rake.
Stephanie Mae stepped out of the stall and right into a man’s chest, nearly falling over. It was Kenyon, with dogs, and a lot of men.
“I’m looking for Petra, a ginger about your height. Have you seen her? “
Stephanie Mae tried to remain calm. He was one of the sickest men she had ever met and some of her girlfriends had disappeared after going to dinner with him.
“No sir,” she replied, trying to look him in the eye. “I’m just out here feeding my cows and cleaning the barn stalls a bit. “
Kenyon was abrupt.
“Well hurry and clean yourself up. My men need some food and entertainment while we figure out what to do next.
Shivers ran down her spine. “Why of course, Mr. Kenyon, I’ll be right in to accommodate you all, and I think there are some drinks in the icebox.”
Stephanie Mae wished she had her Theodore.44 pistol about now. This was a nasty turn of events. She washed the muck off her face and brushed her clothing off, fixing her hat and corset just so.
“Hey, boss! The girl has a mechanical bull in the back of her house! “
Kenyon went to see.
Stephanie Mae smiled as she entered the yard “Hello boys, I see you like my bull, let me show you how it works…but first, drinks!
Running inside, Stephanie ran to her room and opened up a drawer. Placing her Theodore .44 in her waistband, she slipped a coat on to cover it.
Returning with an armload of drinks,
Kenyon and his boys relaxed, and Stephanie Mae began her demonstration.
Shoveling coal in the bull’s rear end, all the men laughed. “Be right back, the bull needs water.”
Returning with the water and a funnel, Stephanie Mae filled it up and fired the coal.
Exhaust exited through a horn that sounded like a cow. Are you ready for a try boys?” Kenyon and his men agreed.
Mounting, she pulled a lever. The bull bucked, once in the back, and once in the front. Tipping her hat, she yelled,
“Yee hah! “
“Whew! That’s a scary ride!”
“It doesn’t look so bad, let me try.”
One of Kenyon’s men hopped on. “Where’s that lever? “
Stephanie Mae engaged the lever and the bull bucked this way and that, but did not throw the rider.
“That was easy , and this is boring. There are all kinds of other things we could be doing instead.”
Stephanie fought hard to keep her cool. Her pistol had 6 shots and she would surely miss even if she had the resolve to squeeze the trigger. This was a bad fix she was in and she was desperate.
“Oh nonsense,” she said, hopping back on. I didn’t show you all the settings!”
You know what is scary, boys?
Flipping a switch, the bull’s eyes turned red and began running in circles in the yard, knocking men down. The crunch of a ribcage under the weight of the machine accompanied by a scream made one thing certain; to stick around was to be trampled to death.
Stephanie Mae taunted them as they fled but she knew they would return and it would not be pretty. It was a great distraction she may pay for later.
Stephanie Mae trotted the mechanical bull out of the front door and to the barn stall. “Petra! What are you doing in the cow pies?” “Hop on, we have to get out of here!”