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Lady Blackbird: Flashback

The continuing adventures of Lady Blackbird. This is a flashback sequence I wrote, dating back to when Lady Blackbird first met Captain Cyrus Vance and the scrappy crew of the Owl.
Previous entries: Part I and Part II

The job should have been a simple one. Pick up a package outside Blackbird Manor at exactly noon today, and deliver it to the Remnants. Captain Cyrus Vance had communicated with the client by coded message for several weeks. The pay was impressive for a simple delivery, but not so enormous that he was suspicious of its nature. Whatever the contraband, he was well prepared to handle it. The shielded cargo hold on the Owl had taken on more variety of goods– some even legal– than there were outposts in the Wild Blue Yonder itself.

He stood outside the cast iron bars that surrounded the manor’s perimeter, peering intently in. Snargle had slipped through and was even now skulking up to the wall, scouting the place. They were an hour early. It never did to arrive at a job on time– you were always caught surprised that way.

A window on the third story opened. A white figure leaned out, then expertly grabbed hold of the ivy clinging to the sides of the stone walls. At first, he thought it was a ghost– the billowing white skirts and long limbs certainly had an ethereal grace to them that seemed almost unnatural. An updraft caught the skirt, billowing it and its frilly underskirt upwards. A pair of very shapely, feminine legs clad in white stockings and garters was revealed, and he heard the figure utter a small curse as she released one hand and swooped it down over the backs of her thighs, taming the skirt.

Unfortunately, that was exactly the wrong thing to do, for her remaining hand lost purchase in the ivy, and she began to fall two stories down the side of the wall.

Below, Snargle the goblin had been peering up at the wall… well, mostly up the lady’s skirt, if truth be told…. when an updraft apparently unbalanced her and she began her fall. As he braced himself to be flattened by a falling woman, a strong buffet of air slammed into him, cushioning her descentl. The woman tumbled the remaining three feet, rolling to the side in a jumble of satin skirts and lace petticoats.

From her prone position, she looked up at Snargle. “Mister Vance?” she asked querulously. Her hair, which was done up in some kind of impossible coiffure, was falling recklessly out of its pins.

“Ah, no, ma’am. Snargle.” He walked over and helped her stand. “You all right?”

“Oh, quite, Mister Snargle.” She immediately began straightening her clothes and hairpins. “Are you with the Owl, then?”

“Er… yes…. d’ye have a package for me?”

“For Mister Vance,” she said firmly. “You may take me to him now.”

Snargle blinked a moment, then shrugged. He was accustomed to being ordered about by figures in authority. Not usually women, but…. he gestured towards the fence.

They skulked over to it. The gate, guarded, had been deemed too difficult to overcome for a mere package, but Snargle could already guess: this was going to be more complicated than the captain had initially thought.

Vance stood at the fence. “Well?” he barked at Snargle.

Behind him, Snargle heard the woman’s voice again. “Mister Cyrus Vance?” She stepped forward, holding her white-gloved hand out, slipping it easily between the iron bars. “How do you do?”

Vance stared at her. The woman was elegant, beautiful, and…. wearing a goddamned wedding dress, complete with daintily buttoned gloves and 6-foot long veil. “Fine….” He thought furiously. Package…. one thousand crubits…. Package. Oh, hells. “Please say you have a package somewhere on your person,” he said, wearily.

“Oh, not quite. Circumstances have changed.” She smiled graciously. “The package is my person.”

Of course it was. He muttered a curse, then “Deal’s off, then– no way a thousand crubits is enough–”

She reached down into the bodice of her dress and pulled a small envelope out and handed it to him. It was weighty with crubit bills. “A thousand crubits– a ten percent down payment on the new arrangement. You will take me– and my bodyguard– to the Remnants. You’ll be paid an additional forty percent– four thousand crubits– once we’ve left orbit, and another thirty percent when we’re out of Imperial space. You’ll get the remainder when I’m safely delivered to my connection in the Remnants.”

Vance’s eyes bugged out, and not just from the sight of her fishing in her corset for the money. Eight thousand crubits just for getting her to uncontrolled space. Ten thousand for taking her all the way to the Remnants. For that price, she could buy a ship of her own. He narrowed his eyes. “Who the hell are you?”

“My name is Miss Natasha Syri,” she said primly. “I have a lot of money, and–” There was a vocal screech audible from the third-story window. “And no time. That’s really all you need to know, isn’t it?” She started looking at the barred fence. “Now, how do I get over this….”

“Captain–” a staticky voice sounded from some kind of device hanging from Vance’s jacket.

He lifted it and pressed a button, never once taking his eyes off of “Miss Syri.” “Yes, Kale?”

“Ready for go in three– two–”

“GET DOWN!” Vance growled at the woman and ducked down. Snargle didn’t need to be told twice, but dove for cover immediately. The woman stood stupidly and looked towards the gate even as a series of explosions rattled the entire foundation of the fence.

She reacted fast, he had to give her that. She jogged backwards as the entire cast iron fence listed towards her before falling over with a whump.

Gingerly, she stepped over the now-flat bars. Snargle leaped up, sliding easily through the bars, and grinning. He dashed off towards the Owl, which was landed in a small forest nearby, saluting the captain as he ran past.

She approached the captain again, noting an additional slim, nimble figure that was even now darting towards them. The fellow wore a voluminous jacket and… her eyes narrowed. Were those gas lamps hastily tucked into several of his pockets? They bore the sigils of House Blackbird and trailed pipe and hose from where they’d been detached from the guardpost walls.

“Do we have a deal, Mister Vance?” She held her hand out, expectantly.

He looked back at the manor. Guards and noblemen were swarming out of it like bees from a hive. He looked at her and tightened his jaw. “Captain.” It came out as a growl.

“I beg your pardon?”

Captain Vance,” he affirmed just as Kale Arkam joined them. “Not Mister. My ship, my rules. I’m in charge. You do what I say, when I say it, with no arguing, or you won’t make it to the Remnants alive.”

She cocked her head slightly, considering, then nodded. “Your ship, your rules, Captain.” They shook on it, his rough smuggler’s grip firm against her white, silken gloves. She decided it would be better to tell him later what she thought of his “no arguing” clause. They were, after all, a bit pressed for time at the moment.

They fled.

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