Aimee shrugged and looked ahead of her; the bowsprit was doing a splendid job parting the ragged clouds. The night breeze swept her hair gently; they had reached the lower level of the Lights and her sister was bathed in warm radiance. Her emerald eyes were fading in and out the different colors of the Aurora and, for a minute, Daniel thought it was his mother standing next to him, and not his sister.
“The spirits,” he murmured and smirked at his foolish idea.
“We are up to one-hundred and fifty miles in altitude!” Exclaimed Aimee, apparently she did not hear what her brother had said. “Isn’t it amazing Daniel? Green lights everywhere, which means that the oxygen concentration is stronger than the rest of the gases in the atmosphere.” The Harvester was already gleaming green as it absorbed the Light with its open mouth to the sky. The tubes snaking to the gatherer were quietly stirring and whispering. The night air up here was colder, thinner, and less dense. Normally, the hull and deck of the Light Chaser would have been covered in ice frost, but the special Dust paint Joseph had developed kept the ship in optimal conditions. Losing breathe was normal, in these situations, they smeared cream mixed with a bit of Dust on the rim of their noses.
“You’re the little genius, I’m just the guy that steers the ship,” said Daniel. “With today’s economy and increasing competition by the corporations, we must take advantage of the beautiful Lights that appear in our zone. True, they aren’t as bright or powerful as the ones in Europe or the Southern Rings, but it will suffice to get us past another frosty winter.”
“Things seem to be changing to our favor,” Aimee pointed out, “compared with last year, this year’s Lights started earlier. Look at the magnitude, dimension, and length of the aural oval, I think it has stretched.”
“I was in the Southern Trade last month,” Daniel said grimly, “I heard that Southern Corporations were heading our way soon to strip our skies of small Dust Chasers like us and keeping everything to themselves. That seems unfair for the locals; we own this land and therefore its skies. However it is just a rumor, nothing has been confirmed and the traders wouldn’t say anything else about the matter. I haven’t told dad, Aimee, he wants badly that we take over when he retires.”
Aimee understood Daniel’s preoccupation, he didn’t want to fail father. “If nothing has happened yet, nothing will.” Even though she tried to sound reassuring and confident for both, there was some hesitation in her voice. She had heard of the big corporations in the south and across the ocean, they outstripped local competitors fairly easily, their Dust tanks were bigger, and their gatherers worked efficiently because of the integrated steam-power in their machines. Steam was not affordable to anyone other than magnates and businessmen.
Ever since the discovery and further explorations of the Northern Lights and its multiple uses began to shape the world around them, it had become a great investment for many people. Scientists discovered some time ago that the electrons of the Light could be processed and turned into another physical form of energy as opposed to just Light. Following the Law of Conservation of Energy, the scientists developed several studies of transforming the Light into Dust. Energy was neither created nor destroyed, it had just been changed into a material form. The Dust proved to be a very useful material that had many properties and qualities. It was an outbreak for transportation, building, manufacturing, medicine, etc. The demand for Dust was great but only few rich hands had the means of getting the Dust. Local Chasers, like the Wilkers family, had their own small airship to gather Dust and sell it at lower prices in the markets or to their community. It earned them little profit but that was enough for their small families to survive.
“How about you explain to me what you have read from your books about the Northern Lights?” Daniel suggested, seeing that her sister had a worried face on her. “I am sure you’re eager to boast of your superior intellect to common mortals like myself.”
Aimee smiled, happy that he changed the subject as swiftly as if he had just turned a downturned smile upside-down. The waves of lights revolved around them; there was still some time before the gatherer tank was full and they had to store the Dust in baskets and sacks. As Aimee talked, they noticed other local airships gathering Dust like them. They friendly waved at them as they passed by and resumed their conversation. Aimee was enjoying the role as “knowledge relater” and Daniel was trying his best not to doze off at the droning and academic voice of her sister.
“It is all very interesting Aimee,” Daniel protested at the sudden anger his sister had for him. “I honestly was listening to all you said for the past hour.” He knelt on the deck to shovel more Dust into the engine. They had finished depositing the first round of fresh Dust into the chests and sacks and Aimee was storing them in the cabin. She narrowed her eyes at Daniel every time their gazes collided.
“How come you cannot remember what gas concentration each light represent then?” Aimee shot back. She clearly didn’t enjoy being ignored after her hour-long monologue. She had hopes of inspiring her brother into loving science and astronomy as much as she did, but her efforts were evidently futile.
“I cannot believe,” Daniel cried exasperated, “my own sister is testing me and doubting my attentions to her! Are you serious Aimee? We’re going to quarrel because I couldn’t answer your questions? Geez, please grow up.”
Aimee stuck out her tongue in rebellion, “make me. I have all the right in the world to be immature and mad at you. You’re the big, airhead brother I have and it is your job to be my object of hatred and argument.”
“Come on Aimee, you’ll be seventeen next year and I’ll be eighteen,” Daniel continued, “I think our minds deserve a bit more maturity.”
“Why do you always do that? Digress in our argument, I mean,” observed Aimee, “we were talking about you not being able to answer my questions and now you’re talking about maturity.”