Summer heat grips Savannah in an iron fist. Even with the wooden doors at the back of the zeppelin hanger opened wide, it's sweltering under the metal roof. Willa wipes a dribble of sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand. The fans turning overhead barely move the humid air and her shirt's already soaked.
She glares at the guts of the tension-triggered, chain transmission lying on the crate that doubles as a workbench. “More like tension fucked.” The derailing arm is sticking at all the wrong points, dropping the chain every time she attempts to change gears. She gives it another prod, prompting it to fold at the appropriate joints, but it moves as a whole and the chain snarls.
“Fire and damn.” Resisting the urge to whack it with the spanner, she reaches for the screwdriver instead.
The money had been good. If it hadn't, she'd never have taken the job running rifles down to the Gulf in the face of a storm. Trouble with good money is it never makes up for the trouble that comes with it. Now all four props on her air-ship are wracked and need new parts before they'll run smooth again.
The bell at the front door jangles. Then heavy footsteps.
Willa doesn't even bother to look up. “No trips today.” Likely no trips this week.
“I'm looking for Captain Arch.” The voice is deep, with a rough edge.
“You've found her.” She waits for the muttered apology, the hasty retreat. A quarter turn on the middle tension joint and another prod at the derailer. Better.
“You're Captain Arch.” The stranger's tone is a mix of disbelief and amusement.
She stands up, wipes the grease from her hands. “That's right.” He's dressed like an Amerigish trader, but his hands are not those of a merchant and his accent is a blurry Imperial. She fixes him with a hard stare. “You're not from these parts.”
He shakes his head. “No. I'm far from home.” Something about that makes him grin, dry as dust, and it catches Willa off guard. There's a rawness to him she recognizes. The sense of never belonging.
She clears her throat. “Can I help you with something?”
His grin softens. “Maybe. I understand the sly-like smiles now. The lack of a first name.”
“It would have spoiled the joke.” She hooks her thumbs into her belt. “As it is, it don't matter much if what you're looking for is transport. Squirrel is down for repairs.”
He rubs his fingers through his hair. “A shame. I've plenty of coin to spend on the right pilot. Every man in town says that's you.”
Willa frowns. He's clever, holding out the promise of good money, but she's just about had her fill of that. Besides, if every captain in Savannah is pointing him to her it can only mean one thing. “You're headed for Lake Ponchartrain.”