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Steampunk fantasy: Nano18
Annora patted the tightly wound bun on the back of her head. It’d taken twenty some bobby pins to secure the thick braid of her mousy hair. Maybe she should have used more. But if she’d lingered in front of her mirror any longer, she would have been late. She crossed her fingers that it wouldn’t come loose. Messy hair would make a bad impression on her captain. As only the third woman to join the NavelAir, she could not present any weaknesses or failures. Female military, outside of secretary work, was a tentative thing, and many of the old admirals watch with eagle-eyes for any excuse to shut down the female recruitment.
She checked her pocket watch, two minutes to the top of the hour. No more time to dither. Snapping her watch shut, she dropped it to hang from her belt. Nora squared her shoulders and stepped out of the alley in a confident march. Her boots clacked a sharp rhythm over the boardwalk.
The Glorious Star, bobbed against her moorings as the air currents tugged at her. The airship was a corvette class sloop, certainly not the largest in the skies, but large, and armed, enough, that few would choose to confront her. Glorious was a patrol ship. She followed the ether currents, protecting the harvester ships, and now, it was Nora’s ship.
White, foresails unfurled with the snap of fabric as the breeze caught and filled them in a concave. Nora counted her steps to keep from stopping and tipping her head back to stare up at the towering masts and sails like an awestruck child. One, two, three, four, five. The sounds her boots made changed, going hollow as she stepped up onto the gangplank.
Nerves butterflied in her stomach. Finally, she had a ship, she was going to fly.
Someone met her at the top of the gangplank. “Private Armitage.”
She snapped to a salute. “Yes, sir!”
The ribbons hanging from the single leather spaulder over his shoulder marked the man as first mate. Crowfeet creased his skin as he looked her up and down, obviously searching for an error in her uniform. His neat mustache covered his lips as they thinned. “At ease,” he said, returning her salute with a curt gesture.
The butterflies in her stomach died, growing heavy and cold. Shit. The firstmate didn’t want a female on his ship. Did that mean Captain Gryffith had chosen her against his advice? Her presence would put the leaders of the ship at odds. Her first tour was off to a brilliant start.
She fell into a loose stance, clasping her wrist at the small of her back. She kept her shin steadfastly level as she stared at his ear. He wasn’t the first that thought she should be confined to the ground, and he wouldn’t be the last, but neither would she, she was here to continue the example set by the precious few women preceding her to the skies.
A smooth faced boy scurried over and saluted as he came to a smart stop. “Yes, sir?”
“Take Private Armitage to quarters. You’re bunking with the boys.” He cast a barely hidden sneer. “Hope you weren’t planning on a private cabin. That’s a captain’s privilege.”
“Yes, sir.” Nora saluted and held it, waiting for permission.
She bobbed her head and followed the boy. She felt like an old lady compared to Smithy. It’d taken her a couple years to prove her determination and wear down the superiors required to let her fly. Captain Keeves had been her greatest supporter, and sponsored her before the admirals. A captain who hated heights, he’d been content to make captain, and then claim the ground offices as his ship, and he ran a tight one. He expected everyone to step up and do their shit. He didn’t care if you were male, female, eunuch, or a monkey, as long as you did your duties to the best of your ability.
C. H. Knyght. author of fantasy and paranormal tales. Magic is creation.