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Endeavour’s Fall #21: Adams Aweigh

Apr 11, 2017

 

 

 

In the air all directions lead everywhere.

Admiral Herbert G. Wells

 

The Endeavour dropped low to the ocean near Marblehead late in the afternoon and turned inland.  The plan was to make a moonless approach on Boston after sundown.  Once back over land near the outskirts of Boston, the Iroquois requested that a scout be dropped off to report back to Onondaga.

 The Iroquois stuck together as usual, crowding into the loading bay. The colonials stood by in awkward silence as Sam handled the winch controls.  His hands and feet flew over the controls fluently and the large man landed softly in the dark forested hills north of the city.  The Iroquois captain nodded his approval and the braves went off to their corner of the airship, leaving just Jack, Sam and Adams in the loading bay.

 The edge of Boston Harbor glowed orange with the light of hundreds of gas lamps.  As they crossed over the city, Adams stood near the open hatch, lit from below.  Jack crouched on the deck near the edge watching the buildings go by. 

 “I’m glad to have you on those controls, Sam.  I wouldn’t want to be dropped into the harbor. I think you have a knack for it,” said Adams.

 Sam smiled.  “I don’t know about that.  Just a lot of practice, I guess.”

 “When we get closer, I will point out the commons where I’d like to be set down.”

 “It is much simpler without any waves to worry about,” said Sam.

 “Now who’s getting a big head?”  scoffed Jack.

 “The city is beautiful from up here, isn’t it?”  Adams spoke softly, even though her voice would never be able to carry to the ground far below. 

 Jack said, “Aye.  It is.  I’m glad we’re not dropping bombs on them.” 

 “We would not bomb colonials, Jack.  I just need to pay a visit to someone.”

 “You’ve got your calling cards then, maybe some flowers?”  said Jack.

 “I wish it were that kind of visit.”

 “What would Norris think if you were calling on a gentleman?” Jack asked.  Adams scowled.

 “It doesn’t matter what he thinks, does it?” she said.

 They crossed the harbor.  To the right lay a hill with a commanding view of the water.  To the left lay the city itself. 

 “Do you see that steeple there on the left, Sam?”  asked Adams.  “In the beginning of the Henry Revolt, that steeple was used as a signal.  They were to light one lantern if the Imperials were sending land forces through the neck from Boston, and two if they were coming by air.   Of course, the aerial attack was so severe that no amount of warning would have helped.  But that was the plan.”

 “We don’t study colonial history in school,” said Sam.  “How do you know so much about it?”

 “My family had some history with it.  We tell those stories to each other, to remember,” said Adams.

 Sam wished that his family had some part in a revolution, history, or in anything really.  His parents never spoke of politics except to tell their sons to keep their heads down and keep out of trouble.

 Adams continued, “My family lost everything in the Henry Revolt of 1776.  They had an estate not far from here.  It’s been a long time now.  Since then we’ve moved around a lot,” said Adams.  “On the bright side, living further from the city meant that I could learn to shoot.   I don’t think there are many colonials with guns near Boston anymore.”

 “No colonials need any guns,” murmured Jack.

 “Aye, that’s what they say,” said Adams.  “But it didn’t stop them from enlisting me and giving me a rifle when I volunteered.”

 Soon Endeavour floated close to the crowded city streets of Boston itself.  A stench of tidewater mixed with human waste drifted into the loading bay.

 “We are going to cross the river to the north to a small town of brick buildings.  There is a church and a square, and I want to land in the commons just to the north and away from the road.  They should both be much darker than Boston itself,” said Adams.

 “I’ve asked Norris to circle around, but he can’t get too low. The Redcoats have been quick to fire lately,” she continued. “Not to mention that the locals might mistake me for an Imperial and string me up themselves.”

 Sam considered that quietly.  He had heard that Boston was dangerous, but did not know it was violent for Imperials too.

 Adams turned to Sam at his controls and nodded.  Sam’s hands massaged the controls and he dropped the end of the line at her feet.  Adams expertly twisted it into a loop.

 “Jack.  Keep a sharp eye out for me.  No running off to your hammock.” 

 “Yes sir,” muttered Jack.  He eyed the line carefully, and turned to the open hatch.

 “There, can you see the church spire?” asked Adams.

 The river was not visible except that the glow of orange lights suddenly stopped and there was a strip of blackness.  One or two dimly-lit rail bridges crossed the black river.  On the other bank Sam could see a few scattered lanterns, but not nearly as many as in the city.  A white steeple was visible to the north. 

 “They say a cow laid out the roads around here,” said Adams.

 “A cow, in the colonies?” said Sam.

 “Not likely,” said Jack.

 “It was a long time ago, back when there were cows and even horses all over the colonies,” said Adams.  “Before all the rails were put in and the livestock slaughtered.”

 She pulled her black coat tight around her neck and secured it with a dark scarf.  She pulled a black knit watch cap on in the place of her lookout’s hat, and with gloved hands, grabbed the main line and stepped into the loop. 

 Adams pointed into the darkness.  “Drop me in the middle of that field just north of the church.  Remind the Captain that I’ll light two torches or lanterns as a signal nearby for you to pick me up.  If there are no signals or there is only one light, make sure Norris gets out of here immediately. “

 “I see, like the North Church,” said Sam.

 “That’s right,” said Adams.

 “Got it.”  Sam lifted Adams gently over to the hatch.  It was a long way to fall.   “Good luck.”

 “Thank you!”

 Adams waved, and Sam dropped her down into the darkness, slowing her well before she neared the ground.  Adams struck the ground and stepped off the line smartly.  She did not pause, but walked briskly to the east.

 It was always strange to Sam: suddenly someone was there, on the ship, and then in a blink of an eye they were in a different world.  A world closer to his home.  Sam had not pulled the cable back and was still focusing intently on the ground below when suddenly Jack leaped out into the blackness.

 “Jack!” 

 Sam peered down through the hatch.  There was a loud crack as Jack whipped a belt around the cable and slid down the slack line.  Sam started to pull the cable back up, but he soon felt a sharp tug that let him know there was nothing on the other end.  Jack had escaped into the night.

 

© J. O. Evans 2017. All Rights Reserved.