A Transdimensional
              Portal HUZZAH!

  by Van © 2021

Chapter 2



"So this is what the so-called 'Ship's Papers' look like," Mac said as she turned the sturdy pages of a portfolio with a soft leather binding.

The document detailed Spirit of Sky Woman's specifications, like her dimensions, gross tonnage, authorized cargo capacity, the maximum thrust rating of her main propulsion and auxiliary maneuvering turboprop units, etc.  It also specified which hard-points were to be used for standard line-handling operations like take-off, landing, rigging for towing, etc.  There was also page after page of dense paragraphs in fine print of stilted prose, carefully translated from Grand Alliance Standard English into "Legalese."  Towards the back were three pages of signatures, the official bureaucratic approvals required to operate any powered aeronautical vessel above a certain size in the skies over the Grand Alliance, as well any and all Kingdom's, Empires, Republics, Tribal Lands, or other recognized political entities with whom the Grand Alliance enjoyed diplomatic relations.

That's right, The Grand Alliance Exploration Ship Spirit of Sky Woman was now fully certified, and the proof was right there in Mac's hands!  Finally!

Bonnie, George, and Mac were together on Sky Woman's innovative bridge.   It was surrounded by a large, spherical array of windows, a glass dome of panes that provided as unobstructed a view as was possible in all (meaning most) directions.  Bonnie was at the helm, her hands on the airship's main wheel.  The ornately carved wooden post supporting the three-foot diameter wheel also mounted the attitude and trim controls, the master throttle, and the autopilot controls.  George was to her right, ready to throw the large lever that simultaneously released the docking clamps and cast off the aerodrome's mooring cables.  Mac was standing in front of the engineering control station between the chart table and the communications console.  The ship's papers were still open in her gloved hands.

Bonnie was wearing lace-up-the-front knee-boots—rather form-fitting leather pants—a long-sleeve, collarless blouse of white linen that could easily be mistaken for a man's shirt—and a long scarf of mulberry-red silk wrapped loosely around her neck.  A leather shooting-jacket matching the rest of her dark-brown ensemble hung among several long, heavy woolen coats off to one side, and her long, brown, gleaming hair was combed back and held in a ponytail by a truly exquisite beaded clip, a gift from one of her Tuscaroran cousins.

Mac was also in leather, but her boots were a dark shade of butternut, as was her one-piece leather "coverall."  A long-sleeve blouse of un-dyed linen was under the coverall, and her glorious red hair was braided, coiled, and tucked under a butternut leather flying-helmet.  A pair of stereoptical and polychromatic goggles (a gift from George, her fashion guru and Top Boffin rival) were pushed up on her forehead.  A tool-belt was buckled around her waist.  Mac never went anywhere without her tools, and between the belt's contents and the various gizmos and instruments secured in custom pockets conveniently placed on the coverall's chest, sleeves, and thighs, she could probably effect any adjustment or minor emergency repair to Sky Woman that didn't require a spanner.  (Luckily, spanners were readily available, mounted to a bulkhead in nearly every compartment, including the bridge.)  Finally, a long silk scarf of emerald green was wound around her neck and stuffed down the front of her coveralls, rather like an oversized ascot.

As for George, in light of the occasion, she had decided to daringly venture towards the masculine end of the spectrum (solely for purposes of freedom of movement in case of emergency, of course) and was wearing what amounted to a Woman's Bicycling Costume composed of oxblood ankle-boots—wool stockings—flounced wool pantaloons (rather like bloomers)—a tweed jacket with a narrow waist, flounced shoulders, and a high collar—and a lace-trimmed blouse of white linen.  There was an underlying corset, of course, but for what conceivable purpose Bonnie and Mac had absolutely no idea.  The wool was all in the same gray and burgundy hounds-tooth pattern.  Finally, George's gleaming brown hair was coiled and tucked under an oxblood leather flying helmet.  Her newest pair of stereoptical and polychromatic goggles were strapped to the helmet, ready to be pulled down over her pretty brown eyes if required.

Bonnie turned, smiled at Mac, and nodded at the portfolio still in the ginger's hands  "You should find the passage giving us the authority to request formal letters of marque," she suggested.  "It makes for interesting reading."

Mac frowned and started thumbing through the pages.  "Letters of marque?  We're authorized to act as a combatant in time of war?"

Bonnie and George exchanged smiles (and a wink).  Apparently busy scanning the pages of fine print, Mac didn't notice.

"Not automatically," George responded.  "Letters of marque are issued by the Grand Alliance War Office, but any vessel wishing to apply for privateer status must be certified as eligible for consideration by the Aeronautic Board and must have proof of insurance against loss or damage from a recognized company, like Lloyds of Londinium."

Bonnie took up the lecture.  "Otherwise, half of any and all prizes we seize would be confiscated my the Office of the Privy Purse to pay down the general war debt."

"Oh, here it is," Mac said, squinting at a page.  She pulled down her goggles, dialed them to 3X, and began reading in earnest... to herself.  "Hmm... interesting."

Bonnie and George exchanged another look, this time one of amused puzzlement.  They'd been making up the whole letters of marque thing as a prank.

Mac continued.  "It says here Sky Woman is not only authorized to accept letters of marque issued by the Grand Alliance War Office, but also those countersigned by at least two different Allied governments."

"What?" Bonnie and George demanded incredulously.

Mac slammed the portfolio closed, secured its retaining cord, tucked it back into its weather-tight leather pouch, then returned the pouch to the appropriate slot in the base of the chart table.  "Do I look like I was born yesterday?" she demanded, favoring her partners with a rather condescending dimpled smirk.

"Well, now that you mention it..." Bonnie chuckled.

George, however, was not amused.  "Such disrespect.  Is that any way to speak to your Captain and First Officer?  And just when we were about to promote you to Third Officer.  Now you'll have to remain Third Mate for at least another six months."

"Horsefeathers!" Mac huffed.  "I'm Chief Engineer, and you know it."

Actually, all three partners were fully qualified on all of Sky Woman's watch stations, and had hours of experience conning the ship during test flights.  And, as at the moment, they comprised a skeleton crew of three, that was a good thing.  The plan was to hire three or possibly four additional permanent crew members before they began making actual voyages.  There was more than enough room.  Sky Woman had twelve spacious cabins, as well as a galley, wardroom, and a tea-parlor/library (with giant circular windows dominating the port and starboard bulkheads).  And all the crews' quarters and living spaces were fully equipped with the latest luxuries, like hot and cold running water, flush toilets, built-in teacup holders on gyroscopic gimbals, etc.  And as she was an exploration vessel, there was a well-equipped research lab.  Finally, there was a compact machine shop for repairs and fabrication and several generous and well-stocked storerooms.

Anyway, Sky Woman had comfortable quarters ready and waiting for the envisioned crew, as well as accommodations for six additional explorers, scientists, guests, and/or passengers.

At the moment, Spirit of Sky Woman was about to embark on what Bonnie, George, and Mac had logged as a "preliminary shakedown cruise," to be followed in three weeks by Sky Woman's official shakedown cruise, which would also satisfy a commission from the Foreign Office to survey the area between the Gaulish, Tyrrhenian, and Northern Junn-Junn borders, using the latest stereoscopic aerial photography to resolve longstanding minor disputes over the precise placement of a handful of boundary markers.

They would rely on Sky Woman's extraordinary speed to escape any attacks by the Junn-Junn's infamous giant pterodactyls, in the unlikely event one of the "Sky-God Honkers" (as the Sand Amazons called them) wandered that far north; but as an added precaution, they were planning on mounting two obsolete anti-air Tesla field-pieces on swivel mounts, one in front of each of the port and starboard cargo-doors.  Their pulsed electrical bolts should serve to discourage any flying dinosaurs who proved to be unusually fast and persistent.

Unfortunately, the light artillery pieces and their caisson power-units had yet to be delivered by the Grand Alliance Armory at Fareham, but Bonnie, Mac, and George saw no need to let that delay their post-certification cruise.  Such weaponry was exceeding unlikely to be needed in the skies over Britannia, and they had abundant pistols and long guns in Sky Woman's armory, including a Sharpe's Rifle designed to punch large holes in large predators and a shoulder-held Tesla "Monster Sparkler" that discharged massive energy bolts from single-shot capacitor-cartridges carried in a bandoleer.

Truth be told, Bonnie, George, and Mac were about to depart on a three day celebratory joyride!  Why not?  Sky Woman was their airship and they'd worked very hard during her completion.  Why not drift in the skies far above all regular air traffic, give the station-keeping programs of the navigational difference engines an extended test, and enjoy a little well-earned leisure?  The galley storerooms were stocked with fresh, tinned, and jarred gourmet delicacies, vacuum-packed pastries and biscuits, as well as cases of fine wines (including champagne) and tea.  (George loved Madeleines, Coconut-Ginger Shortbreads, and Palmiers.)  It would be a party... at least until somebody had a brainstorm that sent everybody crowding into the laboratory to start working on their new idea.  Anyway... three days of relaxation... maybe five... then they'd descend and return to terrestrial concerns.

Bonnie turned back to the wheel.  "Status!" she barked.

"Engineering board shows all green," Mac responded, referring to the rows of indicator lights on the station's main panel.  "Maneuvering units at full idle.  All lifting modules at full neutral.  Pitch and yaw indicators show zero bubble."

"Aerodrome signals we are clear to get underway," George reported.

"Cast off all lines," Bonnie ordered.

George threw the Master Mooring System lever, Sky Woman's clamps released the aerodrome's mooring lines, and they retracted into their mechanized housings down below in the hanger.  The ship was now more-or-less hovering in her berthing cradle, shielded from the wind by the walls of the hanger.  The roof was already fully retracted, leaving the airship open to the sky.

The full ground crew was in attendance, of course, as well as scores of engineers, mechanics, airship-fitters, clerks, computers, and team managers who had worked on the Sky Woman Project.  They all cheered like they'd just received huge cash and stock bonuses for their months of hard work (which they had).

Bonnie, George, and Mac smiled and waved... then Bonnie expertly eased back several levers that controlled the airship's attitude with one hand while doing the same to the maneuvering throttles.

The maneuvering units' pusher-puller propellers revved... Sky Woman slowly lifted free of her cradle... and began to ascend, maintaining a level attitude.  The cheering continued as, with deft adjustments of the controls, Sky Woman cleared the hanger... then began a slow, horizontal rotation to port, her nose and tail still perfectly level.  Simultaneously, she continued her ascent.

Heads lifted all over the aerodrome when they heard the drone of Sky Woman's maneuvering units.   Experienced airship officers and crew smiled.  The maneuver Bonnie and George (and Mac) were accomplishing with such flawless ease was exceedingly difficult to pull off in "conventional" airships, even those of the latest design.  They knew they were looking at the future.

"Main propulsion to ready-idle," Bonnie ordered.

Mac threw a series of switches.  "Main propulsion at ready-idle."

"Open the iris," Bonnie commanded.

Mac pulled a lever, watched as a series of lights winked from green to red, then gave the lever's handle a half-turn and it locked with an audible click.  "Iris open."

"Standby for aerial maneuvers," Bonnie announced.

"Ready," George and Mac responded simultaneously, planting their feet and grabbing hold of one of the many convenient handrails mounted around the bridge and its workstations.

Meanwhile, Bonnie was throwing various switches on the wheel-post.  Then... slowly and gently... she pulled back on the wheel.

Observers on the ground noted that Sky Woman's nose was pitching up... the crystals lining her exterior drag-reduction rings had begun to glow sapphire-blue, evident even in full daylight... her upwards rotation was turning into an ever widening spiral, and she was picking up speed.  The airship completed a full, counterclockwise spin... another... then shot towards the stratosphere like an arrow loosed from a bow!

A spontaneous cheer erupted from the entire aerodrome.  "HUZZAH!"

 Chapter 2

Bonnie was grinning like the proverbial fool as she clutched the wheel.

"Slow down," George scolded, desperately clutching a handrail with both hands.  "You're going to get somebody hurt!"

Mac's reaction, who was also holding onto a handrail with a firm grip, was somewhat different.  "YIPPEEEEE!"

"Silence on the bridge!" Bonnie barked (with a huge smile).  "The captain is having fun!"

The maneuvering units had swiveled ninety-degrees and the turbo-props were more-or-less spinning idle with the blades at neutral pitch.  Sky Woman's main propulsion was eerily quiet.  Air surging down the tunnel could be heard from the bridge, but just barely.  The wind whistling past the window-blister was louder, and they couldn't feel any significant vibration in the air-frame or the deck under their feet.  Much like Gwendoline, the prototype hover-yacht they'd used to cross the Junn-Junn Wastes, traveling in Sky Woman was more like a voyage in a waterborne vessel under sail than in a conventional airship.

"Bonfilia Plantuckett!" George scolded.

"Uh oh!" Mac chuckled.  "You're in serious trouble now!"

"Who, me?" Bonnie demanded, grinning back over her shoulder at Mac.  "I'm still the captain, remember."

"Shut it!  Both of you!" George ordered.  "And slow down!  Now!"

"Spoilsport," Bonnie chuckled, but she did ease back on the master throttle.

Sky Woman was still climbing, but the wind noise around the bubble-windscreen had significantly lessened.

"Setting autopilot to a level starboard turn," Bonnie announced as she threw a series of levers and switches."  There was an audible click as the wheel locked in place.  Sky Woman continued to slow for several more seconds... accompanied by a further lessening of the wind... then a second audible click sounded.

"Altimeter shows 22,140 feet," Mac stated.

George was at the chart table, scribbling a series of calculations on a clipboard.  "I estimate the diameter of the turn at two-point-three nautical miles," she said after several seconds, then turned to Bonnie.  "We could go higher."

"We're already 4,000 feet above the commercial ceiling," George responded,  "Only the Navy cruises around up here, and only with good reason."

One of the countless innovations of Sky Woman was pressurization of most of her interior spaces, thanks to a ram-scoop inside the thrust-tunnel's exhaust aperture.  If the crew needed to visit the non-pressurized interior spaces, they'd resort to bottled oxygen and face masks (like the Navy).

"I'm going up to the crow's nest for a quick look around," Mac announced.  Sky Woman's crow's nest was a pressurized glass bubble at the very top of the fuselage.

"I'll be in the galley," George said, "brewing tea."

"I'll be right here," Bonnie purred, then gave the wheel an affectionate pat.

George favored her senior partner with a disdainful pout and rolled her eyes.  Clearly, she hadn't forgiven her Captain for the unnecessarily rapid ascent.  "Of course you'll be right here," she muttered.  "It's your watch."  She then turned and stomped aft, towards the bridge door.  "Don't break anything," she called back over her shoulder.

"Yes, ma'am," Bonnie chuckled and winked at Mac, who was already climbing the ladder to Sky Woman's interior catwalks and passageways.

George had completed her Dramatic Exit, so Bonnie faced front and struck the classic captain-on-the-bridge pose: feet apart, hands clasped behind her back, and a ghost of a smile curling her lips.

 Chapter 2

Sky Woman orbited the sky high above Boscombe Down for about five minutes... then suddenly began to accelerate!  At the same time, the crystals lining the exterior draft-reduction rings began sparkling with flickering tendrils of blue energy!

"I don't believe the drag-reduction crystal arrays are supposed to be doing that!" Mac shouted as she climbed down the ladder onto the bridge and took her place at the engineering station.  "What did you do to my airship?"

"I haven't done anything!" Bonnie shouted back as she flipped a switch and released the autopilot; however, the wheel remained locked, as did the throttle and attitude controls.

George entered the bridge carrying a tray with three steaming mugs of tea and a plate of biscuits.  "What have you done?" she demanded, glaring at Bonnie.

"Nothing!" Bonnie responded.  "Honest!  I haven't done anything!"

The blue lightning intensified, becoming a web of energy linking all the exterior crystals.

"I smell ozone!" George stated, then set the tray down on an unused table protected by low rails and bolted to the deck.  (Officially, the table was the "Auxiliary Plotting Table."  Unofficially, it was the "Bridge Tea Table.")

Mac was staring at the flashing lights of the engineering board in wide-eyed alarm.  "This doesn't make any sense!"

"The helm is still locked," Bonnie said, tugging on the wheel, "and the autopilot is frozen."

Meanwhile, Sky Woman was losing altitude... slowly... but she was definitely spiraling downwards.  Also, it was becoming difficult to see anything beyond the windows through the scintillating sheets of sparking blue light, and a crackling cacophony was making it necessary to shout to be heard.

"Altimeter!" Bonnie yelled.

George turned to the chart table.  "The needle's spinning!" she shouted back.

"I should go to Main Control and try and ease back on main power!" Mac suggested.

"Do it!" Bonnie confirmed, "but be careful!  We'll drop like a rock if we lose power completely!"

"Shall I help?" George offered.

Mac shook her head.  "Stay here and tell me on the voice-tube if anything changes on the bridge repeaters!" she answered, pointing at the still randomly flashing engineering panel, then scampered up the ladder and was gone.

Meanwhile, Sky Woman continued spiraling downwards.  And then...

▓█  FLASH!  █▓▒░

The blue sheets of energy winked out as if they'd never been and Sky Woman lurched to a complete stop, more-or-less level, and accompanied by (of all things) the sound of snapping tree branches!

"What the hell!" Bonnie gasped.  Through the bridge windows they could see the giant trunks of coniferous trees, the kind mostly found in western Iroquoia!  The Spirit of Sky Woman had settled into an impromptu cradle of colossal branches, some of which had cracked on impact.  Whatever damage Sky Woman had suffered remained unknown.  Beyond the immediate branches, Bonnie and George could see a vast wooded landscape and the slopes and peaks of some impressive looking mountains.  Inexplicably, they were no longer in Brittania!

"Language," George whispered in the sudden silence, scolding Bonnie for her discourteous exclamation.

"I don't think we're in Wiltshire anymore," Bonnie stated.

Suddenly, they heard a crash and the crunch of wood splintering from somewhere aft of the bridge... followed by the sound of thundering feet!

Bonnie and George exchanged a startled look.

"I told you we needed a bridge armory," Bonnie sighed.

"It just isn't done," George countered.

Then, the aft bridge door flew open with another crash and several ginger-haired women charged onto the bridge!

The attackers wore breastplates, brown knee-boots, metal greaves, kilt-like skirts of woolen cloth with dangling strips of brown leather, sleeveless linen tunics, brown leather wrist-bracers, and metal helmets with nose-guards and cheek-plates.  The impression was that of a very determined force of athletic, red-haired, female, Roman legionnaires!  All had determined green eyes, and despite their armor, were showing considerably more peachy-pink, freckled skin than George considered entirely proper.

Lethal-looking short-swords in scabbards dangled from their belts, but in their hands were wooden clubs, quarter-staffs, lassos, and rectangular shields.  Bonnie and George were unsure what alloys comprised the amazons' armor.  The metal was clean but not polished to a high gloss.  The steel or whatever it was might have been waxed or lacquered to combat corrosion.

And speaking of combat, the first wave made contact!  Both Bonnie and George were armed with knives, and they knew how to use them (especially Bonnie), but after noting the sheathed swords, they independently made the decision to do nothing to encourage the "legionnaires" to draw their longer, heavier blades.  Bonnie and George's knives remained in their hidden sheathes.

George put up a reasonable fight, but she was quickly pinned against the chart table by a shield, two lassos dropped over her shoulders and tightened around her upper-arms and torso, and her part of the battle was over, not counting the squirming, whining, and complaining.

"Oh, bother," George muttered as her wrists were crossed and tied behind her back and the lassos used to bind her body from her shoulders to her booted ankles.  "Please!" she pleaded with her captors, "hostilities are uncalled for!  We're peaceful explorers, and—mrrpfh!"  A knotted cleave-gag put an end to her objections and she was carried aft from the bridge.

Meanwhile, Bonnie was holding her own, and she'd reached three conclusions: (1) the ginger warriors knew their business; (2) they were trying to capture but not kill her; and (3) George was already captured and was totally in their power.

Bonnie succeeding in punching one of her attackers in her armored jaw and knocking her off her feet.  "Ow!"  Bonnie shook her hand.  "Lucky I didn't break it," she muttered, then mustered a smile and offered her hand to the legionnaire.  It was accepted, Bonnie assisted the ginger warrior back to her feet, then raised her hands in surrender.  She was quickly bound, cleave-gagged, and carried away like so much looted cargo.

Bonnie's immediate destination was Sky Woman's port cargo door.  Then, again like cargo, she was lowered several hundred feet to the forest floor via an expertly rigged system of very long ropes.  At least a platoon of ginger warriors were waiting down below, milling about in the organized chaos typical of any military operation.  George had already arrived, was lying on her side in the carpet of dried needles, and was being lashed to a long pole.  She blinked her big brown eyes at Bonnie, then heaved a tragic sigh.

Bonnie was lashed to a pole of her own, then (continuing the cargo theme) the captured adventurers were hefted onto the shoulders of legionnaires and carried from the scene of the crash.  Looking up, the captives noted that Sky Woman appeared to be only slightly damaged.   The damage to the trees appeared to be worse.

Their amazon baggage-handlers trudged through the forest of towering tree trunks, which Bonnie strongly suspected were mature redwoods.  Oh-by-the-way, now that she had the leisure to notice, and despite their partially obscuring helmets, Bonnie decided their captors were collectively quite beautiful... in addition to being very physically fit.  Also... George was holding up rather well, of which Bonnie was glad.  She gave her friend a wink of encouragement... and George rolled her big brown eyes in response.

Yes, the legionnaires were beautiful, and were all redheads with freckled skin, all of them.

And speaking of gingers... there was no sign of Mac.  Had she escaped the Ginger Legion's boarding operation?  They could only hope.  But where had she escaped to?

 Chapter 2

Mac couldn't believe her luck... she just wasn't sure if it was good or bad.

She'd arrived at Main Engineering Control just in time for the blue lightning scintillating across the panels to stop flickering, the randomly flashing indicator lights to all turn green, and the dials to stop spinning.  In fact, everything had returned to normal; and as the systems were designed, had reset themselves to standby mode.

Almost simultaneously, the deck lurched under her feet and Sky Woman came to rest.  Mac heard the crash and creak of what were probably snapping timbers... then nothing.

Mac examined the panels in detail, but no immediate explanation for the system-wide failure or what she should do about it was apparent.  "Time to report," she muttered under her breath, opened the cover of the speaking-tube linked to the bridge, and was about to blow into it to attract George's attention... then paused with a frown.  She could hear riotous noise coming from the bridge.  "What the hell?" she whispered under her breath, then put her left ear to the mouthpiece and heard a cacophony of thuds and grunts, the sounds of a fight!  A donnybrook had broken out on the bridge?  Bonnie and George were battling each other?  That didn't make any sense.

Mac closed the speaking-tube cover and left Main Engineering, intending to return to the Bridge—but as soon as she entered the central catwalk running the length of the ship, she realized something was very wrong.  Specifically, Sky Woman had been boarded!  Ducking into the shadows behind a vertical cabling trunk off to the side, she leaned over the rail and beheld several female warriors in armor and carrying cudgels, staffs, shields, and/or coiled lassos climbing down ropes between decks or running along the other catwalks.  There were at least a dozen of the invaders—two dozen—more!  Clearly, getting to the bridge without fighting an unwinnable battle would be impossible, and she probably only had seconds to act before she was discovered.

Abandoning Bonnie and George was out of the question, but assuming they were about to be captured (or had already been captured) it wouldn't do any good for Mac to join them.  Hiding was a possibility, but none of the hatches providing access to Sky Woman's voids were designed for quick access.  ("Voids" are the unoccupied and usually oddly shaped spaces between the interior bulkheads and the hull found on any large vessel.)  The only thing was to abandon ship, but not abandon her partners.  That is, Mac decided she should escape to the outside and find a place to hide where she could gather intelligence, determine what was happening to her friends, and mount a rescue.

She'd never make it to the armory, but there was an Abandon Ship Station just down a side passageway.  Mac grabbed a survival pack, armed herself with a medium-size spanner, dropped a pair of coiled rappelling ropes over her head and across her body like crossed bandoliers, then threw the quick-acting handle and opened the escape hatch.

Sky Woman was cradled in the crowns of a grove of giant redwoods.  The sky was a brilliant, cloudless blue and a light wind was blowing, but now was not the time for sightseeing!  Mac climbed out onto a large branch, muscled the hatch closed behind her, and with great effort, managed to close the flush-mounted exterior handle and secure the hatch.

Obviously, the convenient branch had been a stroke of luck, and it would allow her to climb onto other branches and put some distance between herself and the ship.  So, unless one of the mysterious armored amazons had been right on her tail, it would take an inventory of the abandon ship equipment to discover that she'd made her escape.  That gave her a little time to act... probably.

Mac heard the faint shout of orders being given, somewhere down below.  She carefully leaned to the side and looked down.  On the forest floor, Bonnie and George were being lashed to poles.  Mac was at a dizzying height, but she could tell her friends were already bound and gagged.  This was reassuring, as the armored amazon pirates or soldiers or whoever the devil they were wouldn't have bound and gagged a pair of corpses.  Sky Woman's Captain and First Officer had been captured... and now they were dangling from poles and being carried away!  They had an escort of about two dozen ginger warriors.

Mac heard more shouts and realized additional armored amazons were scrambling up and down ropes and rigging rope ladders at Sky Woman's now open cargo doors, as well as pitching tents in the clearing below.  Luckily—Yet again with the good luck!—none of this activity was happening in Mac's immediate vicinity.  She carefully eased along the branch, over to a branch of a neighboring redwood, then slowly, silently (she hoped) worked her way around the trunk to another tree.  She repeated the process three more times to put distance between herself, Sky Woman, and the amazons... then began rigging her ropes to ease herself to the ground.

Obviously, it was going to be up to the Chief Engineer to pick up the departing she-soldiers' trail and effect a rescue of Bonnie and George... somehow.

 Chapter 2


Chapter 1
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