Daggers of Donaldham
Vivus Goes Down
Vivus Goes DownIn a sprawling field of clover under a clear blue sky, a curl of black smoke floated upwards. The trail of the smoke traced back to a steam-powered DG-209 Pseudodragon, the trademark steamglider of the Donald Guard. One of the double stack of wings had been hit by a fireball spellgun, and it burned hot in the midday sun. Below the smoldering wing, Private-First-Class Archibald “Archie” Vivus sifted frantically through an emergency toolbox, trying to find the spanner. His co-pilot and batsman, Yonder Rumplebump, had removed his shirt and was swinging it at the flames.
“I say, Archie old boy, what the devil are you searching for?” he called out through the choking haze.
Private Vivus considered a hammer, then discarded it balefully. “Need a spanner. Must find it.”
“But the flames are spreading! What say you help pat them out?”
Vivus finally gripped the spanner and set his jaw. “Yonder, by chance were you sleeping during our orientation course?”
The co-pilot paused and a sheepish look slipped through. “I-I might have counted a sheep or two, Archie…”
Private Vivus sighed and set about loosening a bolt on the steamglider. “Then I suppose I shall have to – if you will pardon the pune – give you a ‘crash course’. The DG-209 is known as a steam glider, why is that?”
Yonder smiled. “Why, that’s easy, sir! She runs on steam, she does!”
The bolt came free. Archie tossed it aside and started in on another as the fire spread to the second wing. “Correct, Yonder. Now, in order to generate steam, the Pseudies have an on-board turbine connected to the front prop. The steam turns the turbine, which turns the prop. But, my dear batsman, something has to make the steam, and that comes from…?”
“Coal! Of course!”
Vivus removed another bolt. “On the nose, lad. Pseudies have a coal box, which feeds fuel to the burners, which create steam for the turbine. But in order to keep the glider light enough to fly with a two-man crew and guns besides, the shipyard chappies go light on the materials used to construct the coal box.” Another bolt comes free. “They use elven steel, strong and light, but notorious for its high conductivity. It will heat up at quite a clip, and then the coal will burn. Soon, the box will slag, and the whole glider will burn like a bad steak.”
Yonder threw his now-flaming shirt to the ground and stamped it out. “Right, but Archie, she’s already on fire…”
“The wings are. I can fix those, but if the coal box slags, the whole engine’s a write-off. Good job getting that into the air again.” Private Vivus strained against the final bolt, but it refused to budge. He wiped the sweat from his furrowed brow. “Yonder, I daresay I could use your hands on this.”
Yonder, chest bare and reddened, glistening in the midday sun, moved quickly to take position behind his pilot. He reached around and gripped the shaft.
“Like this, Archie?”
“Just right, lad.” Vivus closed his eyes and concentrated. “Now, when I give the word, I want all that you have. Do not hold back, Yonder!”
“I’m with you, Archie!”
The two men worked as one, hands held tight, muscles straining, the bolt screaming for release. Then, the spanner went slack in their hands. The bolt was out. Vivus and Yonder collapsed in a heap on the grass. The coal box fell next to them, and with the impact on the ground, sprayed a cloud of ash all over them.
“Guh, it got in my eyes!” Yonder wiped at his face with both hands. Meanwhile, Private Vivus stood and collected the coal box. Stowing it under one arm, he reached out and snagged his batsman’s collar with his other hand. With a last burst of adrenaline, he dragged Yonder clear of the burning glider. Vivus set the coal box down and sat on the cool grass next to his co-pilot, and together they watched the wings burn. As he had expected, the fire eventually ran out of the canvas on the wings, and though the metal of the Pseudie heated, it was made of sterner stuff than the coal box, and would soon cool. A few repairs, and some new canvas, and she’d see action again.
As the adrenal rush subsided, Vivus began to feel pain. He looked down at his right arm. It was red and hairless, in places charred with black. It must have gotten too close to the fire. He hadn’t even noticed. Without a word, he removed his pack, retrieved his medical kit, and began to field-dress the burn.