The Imperiled Actress
Celeste slammed the door closed as she and Thelonius took cover in a tiny room. The chimp-man proceeded to the small window but she stood, frozen, as she realized where they were.
The desk, the charts, the microphone—this was the commandant’s office. This was von Wartenburg’s abode.
“Quickly, quickly,” Thelonius fumbled with the latch of the window, finally managing to it with his long, hairy fingers. A cold burst of wind filled the room and tossed Celeste’s hair back from her shoulders.
“There is the tether,” the chimp-man said, leaning outside and pointing. “Come, quickly, and tell me whether you can make that climb.”
He moved aside so that Celeste could take his place at the window. Immediately, she was seized by vertigo: the zeppelin hovered more than a hundred feet above the ground, anchored by only a single thick chain bound to a massive obelisk projecting up from the city below them.
“Are you out of your gourd?” she shouted over the wind. “I can’t climb that. There has to be another way. We can circle back to the hangar and lower the cargo winch. Or maybe we can steal the scout plane.”
Thelonius shook his head urgently. “I’m afraid we don’t have time.”
“Why? What’s the hurry—” her question was cut off by a bright flash and a rending shudder that traveled through the deck and up to her stomach. She turned her head to see that the side of the zeppelin had been punctured by an explosion. Ragged metal pointed out from the airship and black smoke, pots, pans, and assorted kitchen items had been flung through the hole. For a moment, all of the flotsam now seemed to hang in the air as if suspended on strings. She watched a sack of potatoes turning lazy circles, a rip allowing its contents to come loose and orbit their container. Only then did gravity seem to seize them, and suddenly they mashed into the side of the obelisk and on the ground below.
Feeling shell-shocked, she turned her eyes back to the hole and saw what she had dreaded: fingers of orange flame now crawled from the gap in the zeppelin’s hull, snaking their way up upwards towards the rounded canvas that contained the explosive hydrogen gas. They had a minute, maybe less, before this airship became a burning meteorite.