The captain waited in a cold rain by a mound of fresh-looking trash. The pile had very little plant growth on it, otherwise it was indistinguishable from the rest of the landscape. But between the coordinates her contact had sent her, and an eye trained by long experience, she knew this would be the spot. Here was the entrance to the revolutionary Moonies’ underground base.
There was a quiet rustling, then an awful sound like a broken foghorn, and some hissing. A hatch opened in the rubble and out stepped a young person, cursing. Their clothes were stained with — grease? or ink? The captain couldn’t be sure.
“I told her to get that fixed! How are we supposed to have a secret base if it calls like that?”
The captain watched with a small, indulgent smile. Her crew and she dealt with the Moonies for fuel distribution, but she’d seen enough small hiccoughs like this to doubt their ability to execute larger projects.
“I’m sorry about that, Captain, we’re normally a bit more together. My name’s Luisa…um…the path’s a little rough, Captain…I don’t think I can get your chair down it…”
The captain grimaced.
“It’s real twisty — makes it harder for unprepared people to get there…”
“Makes it harder for some folks who could really use your revolution too.”
“Find someplace to hide my chair.” The captain released her wings, rising from the chair with a gust that staggered the Moonie and blew trash down the hatch. Luisa piled some trash on the chair to hide it, and then gestured to the Captain.
“Watch your head…and your wings, I guess? It’s really rough there’s like stalagmites or stalactites or whatevers. Um…it’s really cool that you’re here? Like I remember my mom telling me about what you did to the mozzies and…. like I thought of you when I went out to find my friends here! Like you really — we just, we’re not part of them, you know? Like earth and shit that’s not us, you know they’re just like, using our natural resources for their own gain and leaving us—my abuelo was a prisoner here you know and like we’re still kinda prisoners! And — and we just, we oughta be free! And you did a lot of that and I can’t wait for you to see what we cooked up, like when I first saw it? I thought of some of the stories I heard about you n your partner and all the pirates…”
The Captain stopped listening and lost herself in memories. The kid’s excitement and zeal reminded her of some of her crew when they were young – of her old partner, too – Luisa had stopped walking. The Captain made herself listen again.
“The drop is right up ahead. It’s about fifty feet down. Um…give me a bit of space, if you’re flying down there?” The captain nodded, and Luisa jumped, cannonballed, and wahooed down the pit. The captain waited a moment, and then dove down after, wings tucked in tight like a peregrine. Just as she dove, she heard a sproing. They had a spring at the bottom? The old pirate laughed at the crazy kids.
image She landed next to Luisa at the bottom, and the Moonie showed the captain through a door and into a ragged lab, haggard people working on assorted computer terminals and dirty mugs everywhere. As the wind from the captain’s wingbeats disturbed loose papers, some of the Moonies scrambled to put everything in a safe place, and others gaped at this terrifying woman who frightened the earth below. No one had ever thought they’d meet her.
A squeaky door opened, and a familiar voice called out. “C’mon everyone, get the presentation together. Let’s not keep our guest waiting. Khayrat, you ready to go?”
The Captain stuttered in her rhythm a moment, forcing a couple extra beats to keep hovering. She hadn’t expected to see her old partner’s lover Seahorse here - nor that they would be running this cell of the revolutionaries. She knew that they had frequent contacts with these folks to distribute and test her old partner’s plants - but this was a real surprise.
Seahorse turned to the Captain as a young woman with hair spiked up on her head gathered up charts and diagrams. “I’m really happy you reached out to us. We’ll keep this meeting short, and we can talk more about it somewhere more comfortable for you. But I think our pitch is quite compelling. Are your ready, Khayrat?”
“Yes! Here’s the big one!”
Seahorse took the chart from Khayrat and unrolled it. “Captain, we’re going to steal the moon. We’ve turned the whole place into a rocket. And with my partner’s plants, and the fuel in the core, we’ll be self-sustainable.”
“We’re gonna be free! We’re gonna be free!” Luisa and Khayrat giggled together, and watched the hovering Captain with hopeful eyes.
“Captain, there’s a lot still to be done,” Seahorse said. “And all of it’s gonna go faster with your help. You have a lot of clout, and a lot of connections, and a lot of people owe you a favor. If we can get everyone up here on board, we could launch in two weeks, when the other trashmoon’s gravity will give us a boost. But we’ll have to be quick and ready – even one informant could send the whole of the mozzie fleet up to stop us, maybe even turn us back into a penal colony again.”
“We basically are one!” one of the Moonies chirped.
“We’re not,” the captain said. Her wingbeats had slown now, an undertone of feathers rustling reverberated through the lab. “But the other moon still is. I want to hear more about this plan, Seahorse. And then there’s someone we need to talk to. I think we can do something even bigger,” she pointed to the blueprint, “than this.”
The kids started singing something. The Captain remembered it, but couldn’t place it – oh dear. It was that hoary prerevolutionary classic, “Fight the Power.” The Captain sighed. These people were exhausting.