Random Wednesday: “No Boundaries”

I got a little behind with this week’s Random Wednesday post… But at least I got to it before the day was over! lol

Thanks to my good friend and fellow author Gail R. Delaney for today’s inspiration, in a Latin quote:  Quod licet ingratum est: Quod non licet acrium urit. (What is permitted does nothing for me; What is forbidden arouses me fiercely.)

And off we go! :)

“No Boundaries”

copyright 2010 by Esther Mitchell

Some things just aren’t meant to be.  Kata LurAine had heard the phrase her whole life.  Sitting at the knee of her stern, proper grandmother as the old woman taught her to stitch the painstaking designs into the coverlets for her hope chest was the first time.  Or, more properly, just after she’d about turned the white silk red with her blood from pricking her fingers.  That was when Granddam Maralaese decided that Kata was a lost cause – destined to never marry.  A failure.

Kata snorted to herself as she dropped the faceplate of her welding mask back over her face and lit up the torch.  Like she needed some dainty little cross-stitch pattern to make her life whole.  Like she even needed a man.  She was content here in her workshop, surrounded by metal that hummed and whirred with a life dear Granddam would never have understood.  Never mind that metalcrafting wasn’t a woman’s world.  And, okay, so most men turned their noses up at a woman with grease smudges and soot on her face, and sporting helmet-head hair from her welding mask.  But she didn’t care.  She couldn’t pretend to be something she wasn’t.  And it wasn’t a big deal, right?

The torch lowered, and the flame clicked off as Kata rested her palms flat against the scarred steel of her workbench.  She had to quit lying to herself.  It did matter.  It mattered a lot that no one saw Kata – not the real Kata, anyway.  Not that being seen was her goal in life, she told herself stubbornly as she flipped the mask down again.  But it would be nice.

She kicked the torch back on, and let the flash of flame against metal soothe her as  the machines in her shop hummed and whirred on.  If this was her lot in life, she could live with it…

A sound startled her out of her zone, and the torch flame skipped up, searing a long line of sooty copper along the face of the steamship she was working on.  Irritated, she shoved up the mask and whirled toward the source of that sound.

“You should know better than to sneak up on a woman with a torch!”  She glared up into the face of the stunned-looking gentleman – he in his just-so waistcoat and gloves, a dark cane resting between his arm and side that she’d bet any of her machines he didn’t actually need – standing in the stable doorway that served as entrance to her workshop.

He blinked again, clearly nonplussed, and she was left to wonder if he was a little thick in the head.  Then, he opened his mouth, and she was certain he was.  “You’re a woman!”

   She rolled her eyes and muttered, “Thought we’d established that, already.”

   He shook his head, and stepped forward.  “No, you’d don’t understand.  I was told this was the place to go to commission an airship.  They said you’re the best around.”

   She peered at him through narrowed eyes, assessing if he was pulling her leg.  She stalled on his face, again.  He had angular features with just enough smoothness to blend them together, dark hair cropped to his collar in current high fashion, and forest green eyes that were arresting in their intelligence and perception.  Something twisted in her chest, and her throat closed up for a moment.  She hated that feeling – the attraction that zinged through her – knowing there was no future for it.  There never was.

   “They talk a lot,” she managed gruffy, yanking the mask back down to conceal her face.  “Just who are they, anyway?  For that matter, who are you?”

   “Jarath Pherson.”  He doffed his Homburg and strode further into her personal domain, raising Kata’s hackles. 

   “Never heard of him.”  She set her jaw, determined to ignore him.

    He coughed.  “That would be me.   Tarsak Memkno recommended you.”

   She froze.  Tarsak?  The little gnome was her idol, her mentor – the man who knew everything there was to know about airships and landracers.  Adrenaline rushed through her.  Tarsak really thought she was good?  A grin spread over her face, and she turned toward Jarath as she lifted the mask again and shut off her torch.  Finally, her chance to prove herself once and for all – convention, and what she should be doing, be damned.

    “Well, then, what are we waiting for?”

Random Wednesday: “By a Breath”

Wednesday has become Random Wednesday, here on my blog… Every week, I’ll be posting a line from a different source that stirs my Muse to work.  And, from that, I’ll craft an original short piece of fiction for your viewing pleasure, right here.

To start things off, this week, I’ve chosen a quotation from a famous author.  This week’s quote comes from Helen Keller, in her 1957 work, The Open Door.  It is:  “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. “

Random Wednesday:  “By a Breath” — copyright 2009 by Esther Mitchell

        Great job, Ardines.  You’re a real hero, now.  Toni cursed herself roundly as she stared at the ground, wavering some seven hundred feet below her.  She felt a tug, and a slip, and her heart slid into her throat, where it pounded frantically.  Sweat stood out on her brow, and she prayed to anyone listening that the already-torn harness wouldn’t decide to let go under her weight.  She loved the Earth.  Just not enough to meet it in a high-velocity embrace from the side of a mountain, thanks a lot.

     A weak squawk from the ledge ten feet above her drew Toni’s gaze for a moment, and she remembered why she’d insisted on this climb.  There was an eagle’s nest up there, and the fledgling was in trouble.  She swallowed hard, and drew a careful breath.  She had more important things to worry about than the ground.  Somehow, she had to right herself and get to that baby bird, before it died of starvation and exposure.

   Normally, she wasn’t stupid enough to tangle with a golden eagle.  But that was before she watched a poacher shoot the mother bird out of the sky just above the nest, four days ago.  The injustice of it all brought her rage and determination seething to the surface, and she’d ignored Brandt’s entreaty for her to keep her feet firmly on the ground and leave  rescuing the baby bird to the authorities. 

     Like hell.  She wasn’t about to sit around on her ass and do nothing for a week, until some paper-pusher in some government building decided it was a worthwhile investment of manpower to rescue one tiny, helpless bird.  She’d told Brandt as much, even as she harnessed herself into her mountaineering rig this morning and kissed him good-bye.  She was her mother’s daughter, after all, and Stacy Red Eagle wouldn’t have sat around, waiting, either.

    A sharp upper-mountain gust of wind caught Toni, and slammed her against the rock face of the mountain, just then, nearly knocking the wind from her as it set her careening wildly on the climbing harness that had suffered an unexpected malfunction.  Damn it.  She really should have let Cody check the rig over when he was here, last week.  Her brother was a professional mountaineer.  He would have caught the flaw in the harness straps she’d clearly overlooked.

    Shaking her head carefully, to clear it from the fog caused by her impact with the mountain, she used her new facing to assess her options.  Falling wasn’t one of them, as far as she was concerned, and neither was leaving that little eagle up there, to die.  Her gaze skimmed the face of the mountain, and she picked out teh large seam, or crack, running parallel to her position.  She’d never done a crack climb free of protective belays, before, and she wasn’t sure she was up to the task, but there really wasn’t any other choice.  At least, if she fell from there, she’d die doing something more than hanging in the air like a fleshy pinata. 

   An indrawn breath for courage later, Toni narrowed her gaze on the crack, and swung her body slowly that way, careful to not impact the rock too hard, lest her weight break off rock she’d need for grip.  Her hand grasped the lip of the crack and held, even as she felt the sickening tug and drop of the harness leaving the one outcrop that had, until just now, held her suspended in the air.  Balancing her weight carefully into the edges of the crack, she heaved herself upward, toward the outcrop where the nest was.  If she could reach the bird, she could mark the spot, and ascend to the top of the mountain a short distance above that.  From there, Brandt could bring the helicopter in, and they could finally get the baby golden eagle to safety at the sanctuary.

    Her hand slipped, and her heart bounced rapidly around in her chest as she barely caught herself from falling.  Pay attention,  Ardines, or the only thing they’ll be doing is sweeping your carcass off the forest floor!

   With that stern admonition, she pressed on, her entire focus narrowed to the mountain beneath her hands, and the tiny cries coming from her destination.  She refused to feel the burning of her muscles, the pain that shot through her hands when she grabbed wrong and the jagged rock tore them open and bleeding.  She could rest, and treat her wounds, later.  Then, with a final heave, she was within reach.  Carefully loosening one hand from the crack, she levered her arm onto the outcrop ledge, hooking it around a craggy jut of rock.  Then she let herself dead hang for just a moment while she shifted her weight and center of balance.  She let go of the crack completely, and inched her way up onto the solid outcrop in a belly crawl.

    The fledgling flapped its still-useless wings in the nest, screeching in a protest for its mother to come and deal with this unwelcome intruder.  Toni, panting from exertion, wiped one bloody arm across her sweaty forehead, and sat back against the mountain’s face to catch her breath.  She glanced wryly at the indignantly screaming bird.

     “Hey, kid, I’d rather not be up here, myself.  We’re in this, together, so you better get used to the idea.” 

     Tilting her head back, Toni closed her eyes and let the sunlight bathe her face.  She’d done what she set out to do, and she wouldn’t apologize for that.  After all, her mother had taught her that life was all about the adventures, not the risks.