While she was fighting with the second rope she was also pre-emptively getting annoyed with Monica who Lane imagined was already done. Probably back in the bridge drinking bubbly being amused by how slow Lane was. She felt like a proper dick-head when she returned to the bridge finding only captain Idris. She felt even worse when Idris told her not to stand around like an idiot but to go out to help her friend securing the ship. The captain had to explain to her how to get to the other doors as it was in a part of the ship she had not been yet. The other door was easily reached. To Lanes surprise the 1880s charm of the forward part of the ship stopped before she reached the door that was located in a corridor that was following the industrial brutalism tradition of the industrial part of the ship.
The gap was even wider on this side of the ship. At least there were no ropes involved this time. Lane focused on a point that was well within the secure realms of the platform in front of her and took a running jump. She did jumped to far again this time though she knew about the floor so she skidded it a halt that might have been though of as elegant by penguins. She did not fall though. Finding Monica was easy as she a magnificent stream of Spanish swearing flowed out of her mouth. 'When does she breath in?' Lane wondered as she wandered towards Monica. As there was only the rope in her hand in sight Lane assumed that Monica was working on securing the last one. With little success. She had tied the rope around a column trying to throw a kind of improvised lasso onto a protrusion of the ship. With little success.
"Can I help you." Lane asked. She had hoped to startle Monica this time but her friend did not even bat an eyelid.
"I have no idea if you can but you are welcome to try." Monica said.
Lane could help her. She untied the rope again as it was kept to short leaving it with almost no slack to work with. Now that they were two it was also easier to get the rope around a metal loop on the ships outer frame. Lane would hold her while she leaned forward. "What happened to you fear of heights?" Lane asked.
"Right now there is just me and that wall over there. You are holding me and everything else is golden light." Monica said her eyes glued to her target. "There is no height only the target." She stretched out a little bit further, shoving the rope through the loop leaning further forward as the ship gently swayed away from her. She grabbed the part of the rope she had just threaded pulling back.
"Almost done." Monica said pulling the rope back taking the other end from the floor she walked around several columns which she used as impromptu pulleys pulling the rope tight securing the ship to the frame of the dock. "There we go." she said as she finished a complicated knot.
With the Unconquered Sun fastened in place Captain Idris could leave the bridge and start the actual docking procedure. It turned out to be hard work. As the captain had said if there were automatic mechanisms for the dock the way to activate them escaped them. Instead there were levers involved and cranks. Lane had expected these to be made out of wood but like everything else it was cut out of the same white stone shining with what looked like golden water reflections. The instruments could be set to manually extend bridge like structures towards the ship allowing easy access to the out side of the hull and the envelope above. It took two increasingly excruciating hours to extend enough to work on the ship.
"I am going to take care of the hull. You can cover up the envelope. I'll come with you and show you how to patch it up. Then you'll do it. Once I know that you can do it alone I'll leave you to it, all right?" Idris said.
"Sure thing." said Lane.
"Yes." said Monica.
When captain Idris had said patching the ship up she had meant it. The process which Lane had imaged to be something like they had done inside the ship was far less exciting than expected. It was actually very similar to repairing a punctured bicycle tube. One of them (Monica) hat to roughen the outer envelope, the other (Lane) had to apply a glue with a big brush to it that smelled like a cheap high garnished with dead brain cells. Then both of them applied a patch. Sometimes, for the bigger holes they had to do it in stages.
At first Lane and Monica were talking while doing their work wondering how what they were doing could be seen as any kind of repair. The fumes mixed with the the utter dullness of the task killed the conversation. They spend time in that golden Limbo for what seemed forever. At one point Lane thought about the helicopters that had done this feeling sorry that she could not shoot them down for a second time. For a moment the thought that there had been people inside of the choppers crossed Lane's mind sending a shiver down her spine, making her feel a bit queasy. But she had never seen the people who had died. She had seen how they had fired with monstrously large machine-guns at them, she remembered that they had been sent by who ever had hired the Pale Man who had tried to murder her, that helped a lot with suppressing her feelings of guilt. An eternity after that captain Idris returned.
"Good news. The damage to the hull is mostly minor and you have sealed most of the damage outside, it is very important that you close all the holes, it ruins the aero dynamics of the ship. Not only will it slow us down but we are risking that our fuel will not last until Fez." said captain Idris.
"Really? What about that trick you pulled of earlier when you said that you made the wind resistance go away?" Lane said.
"That's actually not something that we can do all the time. Telling the laws of physics to go and fuck themselves comes with a high price tag." Idris said.
"Do we need to sacrifice someone to reactivate the system?" Lane asked her eyes widening in horror.
"What?" Idris said. "No. Why would you even think that?"
"Didn't you say something about black magic?" Lane said.
"No. I said something about ancient magic. Well whatever. I need to get inside and see if I can repair some of the vacuum cells. Do not stop working. Under any circumstances. Once dawn approaches we must leave. We probably should also move onwards. hanging around here for another day isn't a good idea."
"Why? Are you sure that our enemies will come here?" Monica asked.
Idris shook her head. "Instinct. We should move on soon. Now less arguing. Get to work."
It didn't take long for Lane and Monica falling back into their trance of boredom, the only things that kept them going was when they had reached the point where they could count the final holes. Suddenly sealing one of them felt like incredible achievement. With the end in sight they shook off much of their drowsiness. They decided to leave the biggest hole that was more like a long diagonal rip in the envelope as the last one, closing the smaller ones first to be able to regain some of their strength to close the last big one properly.
Time refused to fly it was however willing to start crawling again. When there were only five left Lane and Monica started shouting out the numbers. When they had reached "FOUR!" and moved to three Monica started to sand the envelope of the Zeppelin with renewed vigour.
"You are really getting into it again." Lane said.
"Yes." Monica said. Her eye deadly serious signalling Lane to come closer.
"Wh..." Lane started to say but Monica stopped her with a hard stare signalling her with again with a motion of her eyes to come closer to the gap.
"First." Monica whispered "Do exactly as I say. No sudden movements. At all. Blink twice if you got that."
Lane blinked twice.
"Do not look around. Blink once."
Lane blinked once.
"Good. If you have a weapon with you rub your chin if not wipe away the sweat from your brow."
Lane swiped away the sweat of her brow. She would have loved to wonder what this was all about but she was very sure that this was serious and horrible.
"There are people coming. They are being sneaky. So probably enemies." Monica said then raising her voice again. "Great! This one is ready to. Can I have the brush and the glue? I really want to close this one my self." Lane had to work hard not roll her eyes. What Monica had just said made hardly any sense and her acting was wooden. It may have been enough for the unseen lurkers. Even now as Lane was paying enormous attention to the corners of her eyes she didn't see anything suspicious. She did trust Monica's judgement though, she could not remember a time when anyone had managed to sneak on Monica, ever.
Lane put the patch over the hole while Monica pretended to watch her how she was smoothing out the wrinkles from the fabric that now covered the hole. Monica moved her head shifting it a bit to the left and the right like she was appraising Lane's work. Lane looked back at her friend smiling nervously, Monica's eyes were unfocused focusing at no particular point instead they were absorbing everything around her.
"Almost done here." Lane said mostly to tell Monica that she could not pretend to be busy for much longer.
"Cool." said Monica with her hard on the rocks voice that she used only when she was in tense business meeting or getting ready to kill people. "Go ahead, let's get ready for the next hole." Lane walked towards the next tear in the envelope trying very hard not to start shaking while walking. She discovered that it was incredibly difficult to control shaking by tensing up it just made it worse. She has just passed one of the many ring shaped ribs that made up the dock tunnels when she saw a shadow that was hiding on the other side, the shade flung it self towards her, it was to fast, she had not even half turned around to face her attacker before it... it did not striker her. When she was expecting to be pushed into the Zeppelin she just heard a muffled gurgling. A snarling Monica had appeared between them and had appeared between them stopping the attacker with a hard punch to the throat with the handle of the brush. The man tried to scream but his broken throat only produced broken noises. He had some kind of rifle slung over his should which he tried to grope. Monica slapped him with the glue brush one, two, three times and followed by an open palm strike with which she attached a patch to his face. The man tried to rip off the patch from his face giving Monica enough time to grab the rifle and kick him in the shin. He made more crushed noises of pain pulling his leg up. Now that he was unbalanced Monica hit him with the butt of his own rifle sending him tumbling over the railing of the work platform, he missed the lower part of the support ring by hairs breadth and continued his log journey towards the ground in silence.
"Now I have a rifle." said Monica. "Now they are all dead. Amateurs. Here Take these." Monica said to Lane handing her the brush and the bucket full of glue."
"You can just put them on the floor." Lane said.
"No. Take this too." Monica said handing lane a long narrow lighter. "I can only cover one side. There is still one of these fuckers behind us. Walk towards him. But do not pass the fourth ring. Stay there and be ready to throw the glue on him when he appears. He will when I start shooting the other two who are going to attack us from the other side. It will not distract him forever. The moment the glue hits him set it on fire, he will do the rest."
"Set him on fire?" Lane said.
"Do it or we will die." Monica said her voice still cold but now far more commanding.
"OK. The brush?" Lane said.
"In case everything else goes wrong you can use it as a weapon. Now go. Go!" Monica said.
Lane walked away from Monica, now she was not shivering any more. She was probably shivering so fast now that she did not even feel notice it any more. She thought she was afraid or shocked but she was mostly numb now. So she moved forward bast the support rings carefully counting them. She reached the fifth, stopped, waited. She wanted to turn around to see what Monica was doing she could not though if she turned around now it would be the moment when the first few shots fell the man hiding behind the stone ring would appear, see her and kill her.
She decided instead to pull up the bucket into position. Faster that way. She twitched slightly as she waited for the fight to being. Seconds seemed to stretch into languid eternities. This was even worse the patching all those stupid holes. Then a loud shot.
A curse in Spanish. Someone crashing to the ground. There. Behind the circular support structure a man appeared ducked low with his rifle in hand. He was looking down the long narrow platform almost looking through Lane, his eyes were still refocusing surprise still crawling over his face when the splash glue hit him. He started to scream in alarm. He tried to clean the glue away from his face. Lane could not bring her self to use the lighter. The the man started to fire his gun blindly. Some bullets flying past lane others deep into the temple and one or two puncturing the envelope of the Unconquered Sun. That was enough for Lane. She pressed down the button of the lighter creating a small flame. She carefully hunkered down still looking at the man how was still busy screaming and firing wildly in very direction. In front of her was a narrow puddle of the glue growing broader as it reached the flailing figure, she held the flame against it. With a deep 'fwoomp' noise the glue caught fire. The man now looked like a dancing bonfire, his screams eaten by the flame he started to run disoriented towards Lane. She took a few steps back wards but the man was faster and she was afraid to stumble, so she did the thing that seemed like the best idea at that moment. She swung the bucket hitting the man with full force on the side of the head. This sent him falling over the handrail as another offering to the endless pit below her.
She heard another shot behind her. Whirling around she saw a man falling backwards a fountain of blood gushing from his forehead as he fell. It looked like she had gotten rid of the attackers on her side. It appeared that they had survived. Lane was not sure what exactly it was that they had just gone through or who these people where in the first place. But it was over now. Lane walked over towards Monica, brush and bucket still in hand.
"Any idea who those people were?" said Lane.
"You guess is as good as mine." Monica said.
"Did anyone of them survive?"
"I'm not good at taking prisoners." Monica looked back surveying her work there was the body that had just fallen with a neat entry wound on the brow and half the head missing on the back. A few meters further was another one is a very similar condition.
"Maybe we can find something on them to give us a clue. This looked more like an ambush and I somehow doubt that who ever is after us got this far ahead. We must really have personalities that inspire murder in people..." said Lane.
Monica was turning back to her smiling. Her smile faded. Lane was still wondering why when she heard the clunk , clunk, of heavy boots landing on the platform behind her. Monica's expression flowed from amused to cold anger, he rifle moving up pointing right past Lane towards who ever was behind her now.
"Drop you weapon or die." Monica said.
"You drop your weapon missy or your friend here's dead." a raspy male voice said behind her.
"If you kill here you have noting to bargain with and you still die." said Monica her expression hardening further.
"Or I could shoot your little friend here killing you too darling, because my bullet will travel through her right into you." the male countered.
"You will still die." Monica said.
"You really want to make that gamble?" the voice asked. Lane was thinking furiously about what she could do but apart from turning around quick enough hoping to hit the man's rifle maybe giving Monica enough time for a clear shot she could not think of much. The biggest problem with that plan was that she really did not like the odds of it. There was also the crippling fear that made breathing hard.
"How about this." said the voice of Captain Idris. "You let that gun fall so I don't need to shoot you through the arms holding the rifle. After that I will shoot you through the hip shattering it along with the upper ends of your thigh bones to make it harder for you to escape. "Give up or die slowly."
Lane heard the rifle clatter to the floor.
"Hand behind your neck. Make any kind of silly motion and I will shoot you. Somewhere where it won't kill you and then I will drag you away to put ants into the wound. With my friend over there you had your chance for a quick death. With me you have the choice between absolute obedience or a slow week-long death filled with agonies which will become legend once you finally arrive in hell." Idris said her voice was not cold like Monica's but filled with a malevolent viciousness that made Lane's skin crawl, she could feel the grin on the captains face, one that was there to show teeth. "You can turn around Lane."
Lane turned around. Behind her stood a large short haired man who looked like he could win a bar brawl all by himself. Apart from his face that looked terrified. Captain Idris was hanging out of the large tear supporting herself on a beam holding the envelope of the Unconquered Sun, the other arm holding her heavy revolver that was pointing at the man's head. Behind her Monica shifted in her position to have a clear shot at him.
"Lane." the captain said. "This piece of dog shit wanted to murder you. If you want you can show him how much you appreciate that plan, for some reason he mistook you for someone that could be simply used like that." Idris's expression changed after she had said that, he smile vanished nodding towards Lane. Lane did not even think about what she was doing. She swung her friend the bucket hitting the man in the face with it. Her target didn't have time to react, still dazed from the hit he didn’t see the second swing coming.
"You fucking piece of SHIT!" Lane screamed pounding him with the bucket. Her fear for her life turned into fury which she channelled completely into her blows. "How fucking dare you," the man had fallen to the floor his right hand lading suspiciously close to his rifle. Both the captain and Monica instantly moved forward, the captain pulling up her revolver again, Monica just making sure that her target would die the instant that hand touched the weapon. It was not necessary as it turned out. Lane stamped on the arm with her foot, something in the man's arm cracked and splintered. He howled in pain. "You bloody bastard. How often have you done that before." She threw the bucket at his head bouncing of, she took a step forward and kicked him in the stomach stopping his scream. "How often," she kicked him again turning him around with the force of the kick, "did you get away with this." and she stamped his stomach.
"Lane," the captain said with half a smile on her lips, "leave him alive we still need to talk to him."
Lane took a step back , screaming to vet her aggression that was still raging in her. She felt a hand on her shoulder. "Not like this Lane." it was Monica. "Nver like this."
The Captain jumped out of the ship onto the platform crouching next to the wriggling man. "How many of you were there?"
The man just made grunting sounds. "Do not taste my patience." the captain said. "The pain you feel could go away or become much more horrible. Trust me."
"Five." the man wheezed. Captain Idris looked up. Monica held up three fingers and then pointed at the man lying on the ground lifting a fourth finger. Monica had never stopped surveying their surroundings but now was intensifying her efforts.
"Where's the last guy? Did he just abandon you, you little shit?" asked Idris.
"b... base." the man gasped.
"You have a base here?" Idris asked?
The man shook his head. "Base-camp."
"He's guarding you shit?"
The man nodded.
"Great. Lead us there. Don't worry you are cooperating now which means no more pain and no death. Which makes me a much better person than you, you realize that?"
The man didn't say anything.
"The least you can say," Idris said her voice harsh, "is thank you, dog son."
"Thank you..." the man whispered.
"Much better." Idris said. "Lane take his rifle, we will need it when we get to this miscarriage's camp in case he was lying or in case his idiot friend is more competent than he and his friends were and he is actually guarding their base-camp."+
"But I have no idea how to shoot one..." Lane said. Idris rolled her eyes and sighed. "You didn't need to tell that to our guest though."
"Don't worry." Monica said. "Just shooting is easy. I can teach you in a few minutes."
"Well let's go and find the stray dog then." Idris said.