The days that followed Cornelia's encounter with Professor Ikonov were characterized by a flurry of activity in preparation for the departure of the Belle Marie. Food stores were stocked with a variety of perishable and non-perishable goods, fuel tanks were topped off, the airship was thoroughly checked for damage, and much to his satisfaction, Lucien was paid the rent that was owed to him.

The preparations were met with little difficulty, and on the third day Cornelia contacted Ikonov to inform him that if he wished, the airship could depart that evening. He agreed since his bags had already been packed and ready to go several days before. 

Ikonov arrived at the hangar around six-thirty. Cornelia could tell at once that his excitement was barely contained by his tall, slender frame. 

"Good evening, Professor. If you will wait a few moments a member of my crew will take your luggage to your cabin."

Cornelia awaited a response, but when none was forthcoming, she followed Ikonov's gaze to the thing that had momentarily stalled his enthusiasm. In Lucien's office there stood a tall, fair skinned man with long black hair that was tied into a loose ponytail on the back of his head. He was extremely well dressed for someone that had come to this particular hangar, for his suit appeared custom tailored. The outfit was completed with a silver-topped walking stick, an expensive item that served served no real purpose. 

Lucien and the man were having a rather one sided conversation, by the looks of things. The man would say something and Lucien would reply by either shaking his head or nodding it, occasionally adding some extra information. None of this worried Cornelia overtly much until Lucien raised his hand and pointed directly at her and then at the Belle Marie

"Professor, forgive my impertinence, but who is that well dressed man that has caught your attention?"

"That is Lord Alastair and by the looks of things, he has just been inquiring about your ship. I think it would be best if we left immediately."

Cornelia agreed wholeheartedly, for the entire situation made chills run up her spine. She hastily ordered her crew to prepare for departure and headed for the control room that was located on the underbelly of the ship, while a crew member escorted Ikonov to his cabin. 

"The ship is ready, Captain. The tethers have been released and we're only waiting for the order to release ballast."

"Have Johnson radio the office and request for the roof to be retracted. I want us out of here as soon as possible."

The crew member jogged ahead of her to the control room where Johnson would be waiting for her permission to request take-off. A few minutes later she arrived in the control room in time to hear Johnson cursing out the engineer in charge of opening and closing the roof. 

Cornelia settled herself into her chair and began powering up the engines one by one, her fingertips on the switch that would release the ballast and allow them to head for the skies. The cacophony of Johnson's expletives subsided as the engineer agreed to open the roof. 

The light of evening fell upon the Belle Marie and Cornelia released the ballast, enough for them to achieve lift, but not so much that the ship would be mercilessly blown about by the winds. Through the glass floor of the room, Cornelia watched the ground slide away. The ship was free once more.

The End

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