Emma Foster, in the cockpit in the lead ship in a pair of Falcons, grinned. Decorum be damned. She lived for these moments: careening toward danger, itching for a fight, tearing through the sky in search of the unbeatable rush.
She didn’t tell many others about that motive, though. For all the rest of the Long Nines knew, she was in it for the money. She could hardly deny that the payday was worthwhile on its own. It was a new golden age for piracy; Emma could retire to the Australias a wealthy woman, if she so desired.
Few among the Long Nines knew that, though, and today they all chased fortune. Past her gunsight, outside her windscreen, past the disc of her propeller, two zeppelins grew ever larger. The one in front, Majestic, was a merchantman, formerly British bound to Auckland, briefly a Long Nines prize headed for Darwin, and presently under the control of the Devil’s Daggers, a small-time pirate gang local to the East Indies. Their zeppelin, Swiftsure, was the second in line ahead.
The Devil’s Daggers had broken the rules by taking a Long Nines prize as a prize of their own. Nor were they merely unwritten rules. The Long Nines and Devil’s Daggers both were part of the Brotherhood of the South Seas, whose articles proscribed exactly the course the Devil’s Daggers had charted. The articles also described what the Long Nines could do in response: retake their prize, and disable the zep which stole it.
Emma glanced over her shoulder. Today, she flew a Falcon, her preference. In a fistfight, she had no choice but to use her speed and agility to win. She enjoyed the contrast in the air. The Falcon could take a punch and hit right back.
Rockets hung from their racks beneath her fighter’s wings. She had pulled out the safety pins herself. Further back was Takahashi, her wingman for the day; behind his Falcon were four more, then four Vultures. The ungainly little bombers each slung an aerial torpedo—a little more firepower than the situation called for, but useful in the event Emma and her mates missed with their rockets.
For her part, Emma rarely missed. The zeppelins grew larger before her, and a half-dozen silver specks surrounding them raced toward the Long Nines. Emma looked up to see the Kestrels fall into looser combat formation and tear off to meet the enemy.