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Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (3/12)

Title: Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (3/12)
Rating: G
Challenge: angry, shoopuf, accident
Words: 3,402
Summary: While diving in the Moonflow, Rikku discovers something unexpected.
Note: Chapter 2 can be found here. Index of chapters is here.

“Nice place,” Rikku said, standing in the doorway of Gippal’s personal drafting room. The room was more like a small house made up of metal and glass, situated a mile away from the temple on the beach. It was actually kinda cozy; the many windows lent an airy, open feel and the dark wooden floors with their woven rugs grounded everything comfortably. Glass encased lanterns were mounted along the walls and large overhead lights were powered by the generator she had caught a glimpse of in the back of the building. There were wooden storage shelves that went from the floor to the ceiling, all full of neatly organized tubes – building plans and blueprints, she guessed. Books, newly bound by the look of them, were crammed into another tall case near a storage closet that she was really curious to see the contents of.

He must have had this built sometime recently, she thought, fingering the wood and paper wall partition that slid along a track set in the floor, creating a barrier between the small living space up front and the rest of the work stations further to the back. The sound of the surf crashing against the shoreline outside was soothing, though the rest of the scenery wasn’t as peaceful. The large picture windows near where Gippal kept his planning table looked out not to the water, but to the deep furrows of earth that had been carved into the landscape during the failed Operation Mi’ihen. “It could use a better view though.”

“I like the view as it is,” Gippal said, perching on the edge of a nearby counter. “Reminds me that even the best of plans fail sometimes.” He pulled out a leather blueprint case from one of the many cubbyholes and held it out to Rikku. “Here’s what we have so far. There’s not much, but that’s where you come in.”

Rikku unscrewed the cap and set it on the tilted drafting table, the metal pencil ledge keeping it from falling off. Rolled up inside were several pages of notes, all neatly written in Gippal’s slanting, bold hand. Alongside the notes were two maps, one of Spira with a red ink line going south around the peninsula from Djose and winding up north where one of the Moonflow’s tributaries met the sea. The other was a sketchier drawing, depicting the Moonflow and several ruins that lay beneath it. The margins were full of Gippal’s notes, detailing the depth of the river at some points and estimates on other areas.

“So you’re thinking of sailing from here and getting a salvage ship into the river?” She tilted her head and looked at the map again. “Wouldn’t it be easier just to set sail from Kilika?”

He shrugged. “Yeah, if you really want to spend a fortune for what they’re charging to charter a boat per hour. It’s highway robbery.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I’ve got it covered. I just had to mention the word airship to Cid and he donated one of his ships and a skeleton crew. All I have to do is give him a day’s notice and it’ll meet us at the mouth of the Moonflow.” He arched his eyebrow. “I’m thinking that he’ll want something back in return, but he hasn’t said just what yet.”

“Knowing Dad, he’ll save this favor until he really needs it.” She spread the notes on the table and sat on the stool nearby. “How big is this thing anyway?”

“Couldn’t really say. I tried a few dives earlier, but couldn’t make much out in the gloom. It looks to be a small passenger number; probably has the bare essentials, but that’s all I’m really looking for.”

“All speed but none of the baggage, huh?”

“And small enough that I won’t kill myself trying to dig out a hangar near the temple.” They both laughed, then he looked at her seriously. “I’m really glad you agreed to come here, Rikku.”

She blushed, mentally clamping a hand over the butterflies that suddenly sprang in her stomach at the sound of her name rolling off his tongue. “I’m glad you asked me,” she replied, putting the plans back in their case. It was getting late; if they didn’t head back soon, then they’d be driving their hover back to the temple in the dark. She slung the case over her shoulder, her hand holding onto its wide leather carrying strap.

As if he had been reading her mind, Gippal spoke up. “Come on,” he said, hopping off the counter. He reached out and held her hand, much like she had done in Bikanel when she had led him out of the workshop. “I really don’t want to dodge fiends this close to sundown.”

He had laced his fingers with hers, and neither of them let go until they reached the hover.

***

“So where is it?” Rikku asked, looking over the side of the basket. After looking things over and estimating the number of people and equipment needed, she had drawn up a schedule of the salvage phase. She’d left all the other things to Gippal, such as juggling overtime pay, crew wages, equipment costs and whatnot. She liked working in broad strokes, letting him fill in with the finer details.

She and Gippal had decided to travel via the faster land route and ride a shoopuf to meet the salvage ship at the site. It had been tricky maneuvering the large vessel through the Moonflow’s many tributaries, but they’d made it somehow. Gippal wasn’t lying when he said that Cid had supplied them with a skeleton crew; there was only the captain and an engineer aboard the vessel. She’d recognized them both from the Fahrenheit’s salvage team, so she’d instantly gotten along with them, chattering on like long-lost teammates. Their crew of four was also familiar with salvage boats, so they took up the slack. The plan was to use the ship’s pulleys and crane to get the sunken airship to the surface, then, depending on size, haul it to the bank where a large transport vehicle would then take it back to the temple for repairs. If the airship was bigger than Gippal had estimated, they would put it aboard the salvage ship and then try to find a way to sail around the Djose coastline for a better loading area nearest to the temple.

“She.” Gippal corrected.

Rikku rolled her eyes. “I never really got what the whole deal is with guys referring to their ships as women.” She shaded her eyes with a hand and peered over the water, the sun making the surface sparkle brightly.

“You try working on something for a long time and not start talking to it like a person.”

Well, that’s kinda true, she agreed. There were a couple of times I wanted to tell Buddy to get a room when he was working on the Celsius’ engines. She wrinkled her nose. “Okay, fine. Where is she then?”

“Over there,” Gippal pointed. “You see that building that looks like a bell tower? She’s right under it.”

Rikku leaned against his arm, trying to get a better viewpoint. She could see the vague outline of the building he was talking about, guessing that the ship would be somewhere deeper underneath. “Oh yeah, now I see it. Huh, there may be some structural damage if the building fell on top.”

He leaned back against the seat, rubbing his chin in the way that signified he was going into ‘engineer mode’. “Building a city over the river must have looked like a good idea on paper,” he mused. “Maybe it would have worked if they had kept buildings only two stories tall, worked across the water instead of towering over it. Scaled it down, you know?”

“My friend Wakka used to say they got what they deserved, building a machina city over the water. People shouldn’t have defied the laws of nature and stuff.”

He snorted. “No offense, but your friend Wakka sounds like he’s blowing a lot of hot air.”

She grinned. “Yeah, but that was before I got him to see the error of his ways. He’s a lot more tolerant to machina nowadays.”

The afternoon sun sparkled over the water, reflecting over their faces. “We should start setting up. Hopefully this won’t take long and we’ll be finished with anchoring the ties before sundown.”

“I thought that’s why we brought all those big lights.”

“They might work, but I’m thinking that the moon lilies are going to mess with the lighting underwater. We brought them just in case that wasn’t the deal.”

She slung her arm over the seat’s backrest and stretched out her legs. “Nighttime here sure does look pretty though. I haven’t been this way in years.”

Yeah, Gippal thought. I know. “What, you never took Tobli up on those offers to make you the next big singing sensation?”

She waved a hand. “No, he got really busy with the attractions in the Calm Lands. Besides, Yunie’s a tough act to follow and I’m more of a dancer than a singer.”

“So I take it you still sound like a dying Zu whenever you open your mouth?”

Mock-angry, she made a face and smacked his shoulder. “Do not!” she squawked, shoving him again. Okay, so maybe I could stand to use the songstress dressphere more often, but I definitely do not sound like an oversized killer buzzard.

“Keep making that face and it’ll stick that way.”

“So that’s what happened to you, I always wondered.”

“Hah, very funny. You’re just jealous that I’m so gorgeous.”

She sighed dramatically. “Can you be any more full of yourself?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know; give me a while to find out.” He reached out and tugged on a strand of her hair. “I’ve missed this. I’ve missed us.”

Her smile faded and she glanced down at the bottom of the basket. “I’ve missed us too. Gippal…”

He shook his head and changed the subject. “Hey, looks like the crew is in position.” He stood up and cupped his hands over his mouth to shout directions to the hypello steering the shoopuf. The large animal lurched into motion, taking them towards the salvage ship’s deck.

“Okay, we’ve got air tanks ready over here,” Gippal was saying to everyone on board, holding out his hand to help Rikku out of the basket. “Since we don’t know how deep this is going to be, I say use them. There’s about two hours’ worth of air in each tank. Make sure you come up before then.”

“Gotcha.” She grunted as she strapped the heavy tanks to her back, weaving backward as she tried to redistribute her balance. Pulling her goggles over her eyes, she looked at the four other people that were already geared up and ready to dive. “You coming along too?” she asked, noticing Gippal was checking the last set of tanks.

Gippal smirked. “Yep. This is buried treasure here, kid. You think I’d miss out on an opportunity to find it?” He handed her several underwater flares. “Use these to mark places we can attach chains to. They’re designed to stay lit for a long time, so swim and mark as many spots as you can. Ready everyone?”

Rikku nearly swallowed her tongue when Gippal peeled off his shirt, watching muscles smoothly flex as he pulled the material over his head. Oh yeah, his shoulders really did fill out. His arms too. Nice. She shook her head and looked away, hoping that her face didn’t resemble a tomato too much. Gah! Focus, girl! Ignore the abs in front of you! Bare-chested, he hooked the twin tanks onto his back as if they weighed nothing and snapped on a pair of goggles.

“Race you to the ruins!” he told her playfully, diving backwards from the ship deck. Four other splashes signaled that everyone else was in the water while she was still at the starting line. Tugging on her boots to make sure they stayed in place, Rikku inhaled through her mouthpiece and jumped in after them.

The water was darker than she had expected. From the surface it had looked clear in some parts and only partially opaque in others, the moon lilies the only things obscuring the view. Down below, it was nothing but murky darkness. Switching on the light she had attached to her arm earlier, she swam deeper. Ghostlike columns stood out in the gloom, the plants attached waving in the current like fingers. It was eerie swimming through long abandoned buildings. There was a certain stillness that she didn’t like, as if something was waiting in the depths, ready to spring into action.

Stop it, she told herself. There’s nothing down here but a couple of crumbling ruins, some fish and an airship. You’ve got an overactive imagination is all. She swam through the bell tower and dove down, wondering just how far she would have to go before they found what they were looking for. A school of fish scattered as her light pierced the darkness.

Ah hah, looks like somebody found it. Brilliant green light flared up ahead, pointing her in the right direction. Within minutes, she could see the other members of the crew swimming around a hulking metal object. It was smaller than she had anticipated; looking like it was designed to carry a crew of three. The lines of the ship were blurred out by invading flora, but she had a feeling it had been a beauty in its heyday. And it’s going to look great again, if I have anything to say about it.

She swam around until she saw Gippal. He was busy finding anchor places for the chains that would drag the ship up to the surface. He happened to look up as she approached, his hair waving around in a halo over his head and a boyish grin on his lips. She gave him a thumbs-up which he returned before swimming over to mark another place.

By that time there were already numerous flares being lit. It gave Rikku an idea of where the next flare would go and work was quick. Before long three of the salvage crew surfaced to bring the chains down which were easy to attach. Things were going smoothly. She and Gippal had estimated that they’d have to take at least two days to bring the ship up, one for the prep-work and another for the actual resurfacing, but it looked as if they could get it done in one. That was good; that meant they could start the rebuilding phase sooner.

Things were going so smoothly in fact that her curiosity got the better of her. She wanted to see the inside of the ship while it was still underwater. One of the large windows on the side had been blown out; she figured that the pressure of the water had forced the glass from its casings. It was big enough for her to wiggle through, but her tanks got stuck halfway. Taking a lungful of air, she unhooked them from her shoulders and let them rest inside the ship with a thump that stirred up the rust and plants that had taken up residence inside. If she needed air, she would swim back to them.

It was darker there in the cabin than it had been outside. She adjusted her flashlight and wandered. The room she had swum into looked to be sleeping quarters. She could see the skeletal remains of three metal bunks covered in plant life. Finding nothing of interest there, she went on through.

The tiny galley was empty, any pots and pans and other kitchen paraphernalia that would have hung on the walls had long since floated or rotted away. I wonder just how old this thing is, she thought. For something that’s been down here forever it still looks to be in somewhat good shape.

There was a small lounging area between the galley and the cockpit. A booth was built into the wall, a table next to it. All that remained of the table was a tiny portion of the metal leg and the plate it was bolted to the floor with. Two other seats lined the opposite side of the room, probably for whatever passengers the ship was built to carry. Knowing Gippal, he would probably refurbish the area as party central. She just hoped he didn’t want any lurid upholstery or cheesy decorations, much like Brother had been dead set on for the bar area of the Celsius’ cabins but had been outvoted two to one by Rikku and Buddy.

The engine room was a loss though. The water had ruined everything; rust covered every available surface and it looked as if they would have to gut everything and start fresh. The power source looked strange; it wasn’t like the ones on her father or her brother’s ships. She put a finger against the odd looking panels and wrinkled her nose at the amount of slimy algae that rubbed off.

She made another circuit back to the sleeping quarters to grab another breath of air before heading to the bridge. The feeling of being watched grew stronger with every kick of her legs and stroke of her arms. There was the usual equipment: the navigational computer, the co-pilot’s controls, and a teleport pad, among others that were so covered in plants and such that she couldn’t make them out properly. Even with fish swimming in and out of some of the components, everything looked to be in better condition than the engine room, which was good. Just needs a little bit of love and a whole lot of elbow grease. We’ll get you looking pretty all over again, just you wait. They could update a few things, but she’d decide on that later.

Looking around more, she came to the realization that the ship’s location was a complete accident. Crumpled up metal was everywhere around the nose of the ship, signifying a crash landing. She circled the pilot’s seat, ducking under a huge metal spike that had come through the front window, breaking the glass. The end of it pierced the seat right around chest level and came out through the back. A gristly image flashed in her mind; if somebody had been sitting there, she thought, they’d have to have died instantly. She jerked her hand off the head rest of the seat and rubbed it against the outside of her thigh. Oh don’t be silly. If there was a body, then it would have already disintegrated by now. She hoped that no one had been sitting there. If the spike hadn’t killed them outright, then they would have been pinned in place, unable to escape. They’d have sat there as the water rose in the cabin, slowly drowning. It made her shiver just thinking about it.

Just then, the ship lurched. Above her, she could hear the groaning sounds of gears running. Gippal must have already secured everything. Okay, time to get out of here. She was swimming towards the now glass-free side window when something flickered in the corner of her eye. She figured it was the play of shadows from her light and the flares around, but she still turned around to investigate. Finding nothing, she turned towards the window again.

A man floated in front of her, dark hair obscuring most of his face. Startled, she screamed, sending bubbles of air floating around her head. He was definitely not one of the salvage crew: his eyes were clouded over and looked as if they belonged to a dead fish in the ray of her flashlight, his skin a mottled grey wherever it happened to still be attached to his body. She kicked backward when he reached out for her with a skeletal hand, but was stopped when the back of her head hit the pilot console hard enough to make her teeth rattle.

This is going to hurt later, she thought, her vision getting fuzzy. If there is a later. She felt a hard tug at both of her arms, but she couldn’t bring her hands up to defend herself. The last thing she saw before everything went black was a bright flash of green at her side.

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