They came for me just after midnight. Three rough city guards and the captain. They hovered over me as the healer finished the last of his spells; I felt that disgusting surge of energy and excitement that comes from healing, but looking up at the guards reminded me that it was just a little electric high.
Gods above, I wish I was back in my sewers.
A tenth of a second after the healer stepped back, rough hands grabbed me and yanked me out of the bed. I screamed out and buckled as my shoulders almost ripped themselves from their sockets. The big, stupid guard punched me before the captain glared at him and started to remove the straps. Big and Stupid actually looked sheepish before yanking off the other one.
This time, they managed to get me out of bed and halfway down the hall before my feet touched the floor. I saw the nurses and doctors peering from the door frames and behind the desk, a dead man walking. I could almost imagine myself on death row, but the idea of prison made me stick to my stomach and I quickly found something happier to think about.
Mmm, rebuilding engines.
Outside, they had a Gibson-West-Filler waiting for me. A relatively new carriage with an engine rumbling underneath. Gouts of black smoke rose up from the steps leading into the back and my eyes teared up as they jammed me inside. The engine turned over twice and soon we were bumping along the cobblestones.
Released from my confines, I didn't have much to do besides stare out of the back window. The bars were cool in my palm, the price of fall and an early frost. I watched the cobblestones racing by, the occasional mark or smear of horses. Times like this, I can see this world struggling with the idea of engines and I could imagine we were right on the edge of something amazing.
Or, at least I hoped so. I heard a thrum of something and looked up to see a Zeppelin floating across the sky. It looked like a Rass, but the cabin and bow looked more like a Tucker-Mith. I wondered who made that one, Tucker and Mith were still showing off their most recent designs and last I heard, Rass and his wife were "rekindling" their relationship. Still caught my breath as it gracefully floated through the air. No doubt heading in the opposite direction for the landing fields.
I let out a disappointed breath and watched it fog in the air. Then I caught sight of a street urchin I knew. I tried to call out to him, but my mouth wouldn't work fast enough. But, just as we raced around the corner, he turned to me and smiled.
A few moments later, I saw another kid I used to feed my scraps (okay, share since I didn't get the choice bits). He waved to me and gave a palm up.
Okay… not creepy. Actually, two kids looking confident means…
It took me only a moment. Dropping back, I sat heavily down in the bench of the carriage and held on tight. I heard the roar of an engine coming up hard and fast. Closing my eyes tightly and tried to imagine some car racing up.
Then it passed us. The rumbling of the engine and the smell of burning oil teased my senses, the only little taste of freedom I let myself hope for. Damn it, some of my confidence came from knowing someone would break me out. I mean, that is what friends do, right?
Apparently, Bonnie changed everything. She always did.
I worked myself into a funk when the carriage flipped completely over. Unprepared, I rolled around like a doll and twisted my ankle hard on the bench. There were screams and then the sharp sound of gears being stripped. A moment later, that sickening feeling of being airborne.
Then being not airborne as the vehicle crashed into the ground. The impact slammed into me, driving the air from my lungs. I gaped like a fish as I tried to scramble to my feet.
Lights flashed over my face, then strong hands grabbed me from the torn open van. I flailed uselessly as they dragged me to my feet, then someone stared at me. I tried to blink, my minds not quite focusing.
My savior helped by slapping me hard across the face. The sparks that shot across my vision gave me something to latch on and I shook my head.
They slapped me again and I cried out before falling back from the third one that brushed my nose. I looked up at the nastiest, smelliest woman known to man.
Erin grinned–she lost half a dozen teeth over the years and relished the picket-fence look she had–and held out a hand. I grabbed it and she easily pulled me up, her muscles not even bulging as she set me down like some sort of toy.
"Heard you did something stupid. Decided it was a miscarriage of justice."
When she spoke, Erin sounded like she smoked half a ton of tobacco and rinsed it down with moonshine. A sultry voice, if you didn't look at her face. I chuckled while rubbing my shoulder.
"Ever thought about just going to court for these things?"
"Got my court," she said plainly while shoving me toward her vehicle. Two of her assistants (thugs) were trying to pull the cars apart and not having the best of luck. Both engines still ran, but Erin's old monstrosity sputtered while trying to catch across stripped gears.
Erin slapped me on the back.
"Like I would let my best mechanic go to prison."
Reaching the car, I flipped open the mangled remain of the cover for her engine. Erin got behind the driver's seat and looked at me expectantly.
It only took a few short seconds. She stripped a few gears, nailed one of the belts, and twisted two of smaller gear rods. I dug into my pocket and pulled out the pens. With a little twisting, managed to get the gears back into position. Used some pins as a cotter and held them in place. I tried to find something to repair the belt quickly, but didn't find anything. The sirens got much louder when I started to give up, but Erin surprised me by handing me a leather belt.
I looked at her, then let my eyes drop down to her pants on the ground.
Okay, didn't need to see that.
Closing my eyes tightly, I repaired the engine that has earned me my livelyhood for ten years and slammed the door down. Racing around, I threw myself into the passenger side of the car as Erin gunned it forward. Smoke and oil choked us, and her car shuddered but my repairs held and we escaped before the guards could come.
I caught my breath before speaking.
"Thank you, Erin."
Erin shrugged, then grinned.
"You have a retainer, this is what I do to earn it."
"Ever tried the actual court system?"
"Never been in court a day of my life."
But, freedom has its own price. I leaned back and stared at the starry sky through the smoke of the engine. And caught sight of that Zeppelin circling the city.
It was turning into a good night.