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Endeavour’s Fall #22: Jack the Lad

Apr 23, 2017




…I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments…

-Baron Tennyson, Ulysses


Even in the narrow cobblestone streets, the town’s lights were scattered and dim.  The darkness worked in Jack’s favor.  However, he missed the close comfort that came aboard the Endeavour, where even in darkness he knew what each footstep would bring next.  He also missed the sounds of his ship: the creak of cables and beams, the hum of the wind on the hull. 

 Jack had never intended to be anything but a good airman.  Captain Lockhart had botched that by losing his airship.  Even though Jack was no politician, he did not want to be on the wrong side of a long war, fighting against the Imperial Navy.  He had to get away from these pirates and their crazy dreams of revolution. 

 Jack knew he needed to stay focused.  His first problem was that he was too near Boston, which had always been a rough town, and was never known for its loyalty to the Crown.  Jack could not trust anyone on the street, especially after dark. 

 He had a vague idea that an aerodrome tower sat in Boston itself.  He had seen a lit tower across the river.  He was miles from it now in this small red brick town. 

 Jack’s second problem was that he did not know his way around the streets of Boston, or this sleepy town outside Boston, at all.  From years of experience, he could still instinctively disappear on a crowded street, but the clean open spaces and empty streets around him made him uncomfortable. 

 Finally, Jack heard the all-clear of a night watch from a square ahead of him.  He approached slowly, and in the shadows.  He ducked behind a rain barrel and watched the dark shapes approach. 

 The patrol’s oily torches barely lit the streets around them.  Finally, Jack could see the small patrol wore dark coats of local militia, not the red coats of regulars.  Jack silently stood and backed away from the patrol, looking for a way around.

 “Hold there!”  The words rang out in the darkness behind him.

 Jack turned.  Another patrolman had appeared behind him.  Now the main group approached quickly with torches. Jack searched the shadows around them both. 

 “Good-day fine sirs!”  Jack said confidently.

 The night watch approached.  The captain was a middle-aged man with a skeptical tone. 

 “I don’t know you,” he said slowly as he peered at Jack in the torchlight.  He held a crude blade in his hand.

 “Of course not.  I’m a looking for an inn where I can spend the night.”  Jack had never stayed in an inn, but he thought he could act the part of a traveler. 

 The captain looked over at his companion, who shrugged her shoulders slowly.

 “Well, why don’t you come with us then?  We can certainly find a place for you to spend the night.”  The Captain smiled and lowered his weapon.  

 “That’s very kind of you, Sir.  Ma’am.  I hate to put you to any trouble.  If you could just point me in the direction of the nearest inn or public house, I will be on my way.”

 The Captain put his arm roughly around Jack’s shoulder.  “No, my boy, we insist.  We will take you directly to the finest accommodations in Cambridge.”

 “No need to torment the lad, John.  Listen boy, what are you really up to out here in the dark?  And save us the nonsense about travelling.  You have no bags, and you are much too young to be travelling alone by foot.”

 “I am travelling.  On Newton’s grave, Ma’am, it’s the honest truth.”

 “Do you hear that accent, John?  Not a local burglar, this.”

 “You’re right about that.  A spy then?

 “He’s a bit young to be a spy, isn’t he?”

 “I dunno, better safe than sorry, though.”  The Captain hefted his blade.

 Jack said, “I am not a spy.  I am an airman on the Imperial Airship Endeavour.  You must take me at once to the nearest military outpost.”

 The Captain smiled.  “Well, now, that’s a new tune, isn’t it?  I am not sure you are old enough to be any kind of a man, but if you are an air-man, then what are you doing down here on the ground?”

 Jack turned to the more sympathetic guard.  “Listen Ma’am, I need to report to the Imperial Airship Navy.  An entire airship has been captured by revolutionaries.”

 “This is getting more interesting all the time.  For a young street snatch, we have really found us a tale-spinner, haven’t we, Martha?”  Said the Captain.

 “It’s true, Ma’am.  A pirate named Norris commandeered the Endeavour.  He has been sinking cargo ships with it.”

 “Norris?”  The third patrolman jostled Jack roughly and sneered.  “I like a good pirate yarn, but shouldn’t you give your pirate a more colorful name, you know, like Blue Nose or Yellow Teeth or something like that?”

 “I told you, it’s Newton’s own truth,” said Jack quietly. 

 “If you were aboard this airship that is sinking cargo ships, then what are you doing here in our quiet little town?” The guard, Martha, peered intently at Jack.  Now all three stood close around.

 Jack was suddenly more afraid that she believed him than not.  “I’ve said enough.  Do your duty and take me to the Airship Navy!”

 “Our duty?”


 When the man looked away, Jack bit his solid, dirty-tasting hand and slipped between the guards.  It had been a long time since he’d failed to talk his way out of trouble, but he was glad to find that his feet still knew how to skip lightly over fences and cobblestones.  The sounds of shouting grew closer, died out behind him.

 There was some kind of stairway up through a stone wall where no lamps disturbed the shadows.  Jack crouched down next to the stone staircase, so that only someone walking up the right side of the stairs and looking down into the shadows might be able to see him.  He waited a few long minutes.  When he heard no one, he stretched out his legs and took a seat on the ground in the darkest part of the shadow.  He would rest here and catch his breath. 

 With any luck, he could hide in the dark until the patrol moved on and sneak past them before first light.  Truth be told, he’d slept in worse places, and he was not going to be able to find his way around in the dark. 

 Jack was finally drifting into a restless sleep, when he was awakened by a quiet shuffle of footsteps.  He climbed onto his feet and listened intently. The footsteps didn’t sound like the Patrol because they were quiet, light and definitely from a single person.  They also had a strange rhythm to them.  Jack listened for a minute and popped his head up to confirm his suspicions.

 “Sam, whatcha doing here?” 


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