The ship gave another lurching jolt and I whimpered from my hiding spot back in my chambers. I hated storms on a regular day, but flying high above the safety of the ground this tempest took on an even more menacing face. It was strange that it should terrify me when I spent almost every day surrounded by bolts of lightning.
There was a sense of security in that those bolts were man-initiated. The ones up here were far beyond my control, and it was that feeling that broke me down.
I heard the door crash open. I was picked up and carried out of the room; I didn’t need to open my eyes to know who had come.
“I’m here, Eddy,” said Jacer, setting me down lightly on the bed in his own quarters. Gazing at me anxiously, he sat down on the floor facing me so he could continue his perusal of my facial expressions. “I was going to see if the captain needed my help, but I heard a strange sound coming from your room and the thought of you being afraid made me uncomfortable.”
“Oh Jacer, you didn’t have to stop for me, I’ll be fine,” I said in a shaky voice. “I can tell you’ve got a love for the way this ship works and I wouldn’t want to deny you a chance to see it how it handles a storm.”
It was amazing to see the conflict in his eyes. He was struggling with his instinctual need to protect me, and his own personal desire to master the mechanics of the Heliopause. Where had this protection intuition come from? As far as I was aware, there wasn’t a scientist alive who could synthetically recreate such a thing.
“I don’t think I can leave you when your heart sounds like that.”
His statement startled me. “What?”
“I wasn’t sure when I was passing by, but now that I’m closer to you I realize the strange noise I heard coming from your room was the erratic beating of your heart. Your fear response to the hurricane is strong.” He placed his ear to my heart and it was only then that I became aware of how hard it was beating.
If he could hear my heart, it was only a matter of time before he figured out that his own wasn’t human.
“Jacer, there’s something I’ve been meaning to explain to you.” I put my hands on his shoulders and gently pushed him away from me so he could see my face.
Just then, Aster came crashing into the room, her hair ripped free from her bun, her eyes blazing with panic. “Eddy, there’s a Royal Airship hot on our trail. Jericho says he needs Jacer’s help manning the cannons with the rest of the crew.”
“I’m sorry, Eddy, the intruding airship threatens your safety far more than the storm,” said Jacer, immediately standing up and heading out the door.
“Did I interrupt something?” asked Aster.
I shook my head and stood, smoothing out my dress. “I just never thought it would be so hard to tell Jacer where he comes from. The hundreds of times I pictured bringing him to life and not a single one played out like this.”
“Hey, there’s a time and a place for everything.”
I smiled at her, grateful for hearing my father’s mantra even if it was through someone else’s mouth. “What exactly did our dear captain say we should be doing while they prep for an attack?”
Aster sighed. “He said we should stay put and let the men get their hands dirty.”
“Like hell we will,” I said, linking Aster’s arm with my own and steering her into the hall. “Don’t ever let a man tell you your hands are too pretty for a little grit. You’re going to see what you can do with a cannon, and I’m going to help the captain whether he likes it or not.”