Cornelia traced her way through the tangled web of back alleys and cobbled roads, heading towards the hangar, just a mile north of the academy.
The sky was an earthy brown and bathed the city in a rusty colour. Dirgibles bobbed in the smog filled vault, bloated like dark blisters on the surface of the sky. Although the sun couldn't be seen, the light filtered from the clouds, twilight was draped over the city in a veil of half-darkness. Cornelia was eager to return to the hangar before sundown.
The hangar was a cheap looking building, a thin skeletal frame arced over the airships inside, protecting them from little more than rain. Cornelia was aware of the importance of her airship, and would have liked to have found a safer storage place for it, but she was also aware of the importance of cost, and certain things did not come at economy prices in the city.
As she arrived, an airship was departing through the huge hangar doors, the ship was significantly larger than hers but looked about as worn down. On the side of it's bulbous mass, the remnants of an old advert remained, the colours faded and dull.
When Cornelia passed the threshold she was instantly intervened by an incredibly tall, thin man. His skin almost appeared as though despite his tiny frame, that it was too tight for his skeleton; his bones seemed to almost protrude through his pale flesh.
"Ms. Harper." The bone man's voice was about as terrifying as he was.
"Good Afternoon, Lucien" Cornelia replied, softly.
"Hardly." His thin lips barely moved as the word came slithering from his mouth.
"You're late on your last payment... Ms. Harper."
Lucien Scurrel was the owner of the large neglected hangar, he ran a tight business - he took as much as he could and gave as little as he could in return. His appearance was not deceptive, he was exactly as everyone thought on first impressions - a greedy, bitter man with a thirst for money.
It was well known that Lucien wasn't poor, he had a great deal of money and could have easily improved his business but he much preferred to overbook spaces, and leave things unfixed, until he absolutely had to do something about it and even then he would do it on the cheap.
"The money will be on your desk tomorrow morning." Cornelia smiled back at his deathly glare.
"Not good enough Ms. Harper, not good enough at all. I don't provide shelter as a charity, Ms. Harper. This is a business."
"I'm aware of that, Lucien, I am. I can assure you the money will be there, I've just been commissioned on a very well paying trip..." Cornelia realized immediately that she had said too much.
"Oh? Is that so, Ms. Harper? Why don't you tell me about it? You're aware that I have airship staff that you may hire for such a journey."
"You know I have my own crew. I... really must be beginning preparations, I promise you that money will be there in the morning." Cornelia begun to edge away in the direction of the Belle Marie where a handful of her crew gathered at the base, waiting to see if the news from the academy was in their favour.
"It had best be... Ms. Harper." Lucien's stare was ice cold. As Cornelia edged away, Lucien turned and scuttled away on his cocktail stick legs.
The Hangar was full of different aircraft, some that Cornelia didn't even recognize. Some had moving wings and some had bizarre propellers thrusting out of them.
A constant bustle moved around the space, people carrying large cogs and bags full of coal.
Pirates used this hangar also, much to Lucien's displeasure, they came in armed with all manner of weaponry, demanding a space to shelter for the night. Lucien was always too scared to ever inform the military.
At the entrance to the Belle Marie, Cornelia's crew waited impatiently. As she arrived they stared at her, arm's crossed, expectantly.
"Well?" One of them said.
"We set sail soon, we will be joined by the well respected Harold Ikonov, I expect you all to treat him with respect also. You will all be paid in the morning." Cornelia was beginning to work up a sweat about how much money she would be parting with in the morning, especially with fuel costs on top of that.
"It's time for us to make preparations, we don't know what we're in for, so prepare for everything. Hot, cold, dangerous. We don't know. Bring weapons, bring warm clothes. We need to be ready to leave as soon as possible."
The crew seemed somewhat happier, though they wouldn't be entirely at peace until they finally had a wad of currency tucked neatly in their wallets.
Cornelia didn't know where they were going and for the first time since she could remember, she felt anticipation, a cold steely anticipation. She was at unease, she stared up at the Belle Marie, hoping once more that this wouldn't be her last flight.