Spirit had to wait. Before leaving their rooms, Miriam suggested that everyone make use of the private shower and dress in their clean clothes. An hour later, Lil’Sune was tugging at the uncomfortably stiff collar of his new shirt. It was not like any shirt he had worn before and had too many buttons and was saggy on the arms. His new pants fit in a similar way. The cloth was stiff and a little itchy.
“You’ll get used to it.” Miriam grinning brushing her hair and trying to fend off a nosey little dragon who also wanted her fur brushed. “They get softer when you break them in.”
Simeon grumbled something about it taking a couple of weeks while unbuttoning the top button of his shirt. Lil’Sune did the same and found it much easier to breathe. Spirit held still just long enough to have her mane brushed down to only half a mess, then she clambered up the girls arm and made herself comfortable around Miriam’s neck like she was a living stole.
“Remember, quiet.” Miriam tapped Spirit’s nose with her fingertip. Spirit grinned and nodded. She was quivering with excitement that she was actually being allowed to accompany the children.
The hallway was busier than it had been when they arrived. There were several kids younger than they were running up and down the hall with a small rubber ball and loaders attempting to carry luggage through the narrow corridor without stepping on a child or a rubber ball. Miriam managed to navigate easily enough to the end of the hall where stairs led up to the next deck and down to storage. They took the stairs up after a brief conversation with a loader. Engineering was located closer to the rear of the ship and they’d be able to reach it easiest at that time by going up to a less busy deck and taking the stairs down marked engineering. They were further informed not to go into engineering without someone escorting them. There would be someone at the doors to take them on a quick tour. Everything was running smoothly on the ship and at the moment, they wouldn’t have anything else to do.
Lil’Sune followed Miriam and Simeon down the halls, keeping a close eye on Spirit. So far, she had kept her mouth shut, even when a very portly woman on an upper deck had fawned over her ‘gorgeous coloring’ and inquired if she were for sale. Miriam had laughed at the offer and Spirit had gotten a very perplexed look on her face over the question.
Soon, they reached their destination. A wide set of stairs led down into an area where they could hear a steady whirring sound. They had noticed it before while they were boarding, but far below the decks, it was much louder and even caused the walls to shake a little. There was an opening at the bottom of the stairs where a table had been set up near a round double door. Sitting at the table were a group of dirty men and teenaged boys playing a game of cards. The men were all of a muscular build and the boys getting there. Some of them wore glasses that looked out of place on dirt and oil grimed faces.
“Hey, hey… Brychan, you have company.” One of the men grinned shoving one of the boys out of his chair and almost onto the floor. “You can stop taking all our money now, take theirs.” The boy laughed and was on his feet grabbing for the chair before it hit the floor.
“He’s joking.” The teenaged boy walked toward Miriam with a grin. He was a couple of feet taller than she was, probably seventeen or eighteen years old with a jovial expression and dancing brown eyes. His jet black hair was cut short, but long enough to be completely unruly and like the other engineers, he was covered in smears of oil. “I’m Brychan. You come down here for a tour? I’d shake your hand, but you know… wouldn’t want to get anything on you.”
“He’s a good boy, smart one too… just watch your purse.” One of the other men roared with compliments and laughter. “Might be a good catch if you can get him cleaned up. He could use a good girl to write to.”
The boy’s pale face flushed slightly red under the oil. “Don’t mind them, come on. Don’t touch anything and you won’t get anything on you.” Brychan turned and pushed the doors open. The whirring sound increased suddenly and Lil’Sune felt a little apprehensive about going inside. He was curious about how the ship flew, but at the same time, the loud noise was frightening. He walked inside anyway.
“Keep a hold on that dragon, wouldn’t want it getting loose in here. We’d never find it!” Brychan closed the door behind them and walked on ahead down a wooden catwalk. It bounced with each step and while Brychan didn’t seem to care, everyone else clung to the railing and followed him cautiously. “There’s too much science to explain and you wouldn’t catch it all over the noise anyway, so just look and be amazed that all these machines work together for one cause.” Brychan bounced, “They generate the electricity that lights all the lights and lifts us in flight!”
There was a giggle and the walkway bounced more. “Brychan has a flair with words, doesn’t he?”
Lil’Sune turned to find himself looking into a pair of captivating brown eyes that seemed to sparkle with a golden light. A girl, a little shorter than he was, stood smiling in front of him. She was just as oily and smudgy as Brychan, but her reddish black hair was pulled back into two braids and was neatly brushed. The girl had on a dirty pair of overalls and had a tool belt strapped around her waist.
“This is my little sister, Morgan.” Brychan grinned. “Are you done playing engineer today, Morgan?”
“Playing?” The little girl sniffed disdainfully, “I just fixed that annoying little knocking sound in the tenth coupler. Let’s see any of you do that.” A look of worry briefly passed over Brychan’s face, then it was replaced by a cocky smile.
“Morning shift’s over.” Brychan turned back to Miriam, “If you haven’t, you should get breakfast before we lift off. The onboard cooks make some of the best banana nut bread! It’ll also help keep you from being too airsick.”
“Airsick?” Lil’Sune swallowed hard. Now he had something else to worry about.
The banana nut bread was really good. There were piles of little loaves of banana nut bread, apple nut bread, apricot pumpkin bread, zucchini bread and other breads Lil’Sune had never heard about. There was also a huge selection of freshly cut fruit, jars of jams, jellies, marmalades and apple butter along with ceramic crocks filled with fresh creamy white butter.
Spirit ate far more than her share, wanting a bite of ever bread with a little bit of every spread. She only made it halfway through the selection when Miriam decided she had eaten enough. The little dragon’s stomach was distended and her eyes half closed even as she whined for more, but she was very careful not to talk out loud. She did whisper a few things close to Miriam’s ear, but nothing that could be overheard.
When breakfast was over, the children went out on the deck. The last of the passengers had boarded and there were many families gathered on the deck watching as the work men went over their check lists and prepared the ships for departure. Lil’Sune clung to a rail that he could barely see over, daring himself to look over the edge. Instead, he found himself clinging to Miriam as the ship gave a great shudder. The mooring lines had been released simultaneously and the ship was now free of the dock.
Miriam found herself hardly able to move with Lil’Sune gripping her left side and her right arm taken up by a sleeping Spirit. Simeon waved gleefully to the people left at the docks as the ship rapidly moved up and away. It swayed with a disconcerting smoothness, first one way, then the other. Simeon hung onto the rail, but Miriam found herself moving back toward the interior of the deck and the entryway leading down. Lil’Sune was frightened out of his mind and just wanted to get back to their room where he could not see just how high they were and he might feel a little more secure.
“Simeon!” Miriam cried out in annoyance to her brother. He laughed, took one more look over the rail and ran to his sister.
“We’re so high!” He tripped and stumbled into Miriam, sending all of them down into a pile. Lil’Sune squealed in terror and scrambled on all fours for the stairs while Miriam and Simeon giggled and followed after him.