Bertha Ryder zoomed low over the Asphalt Sea, her nurse-white biplane Madame Stork rattling in the wind. She whipped off her cap, letting her short blond hair cool in the breeze. In the distance, the town of Melville loomed.
She checked her flaps, her speed, the wind, everything. Those whiteout cannons the town employed had taken down many a plane, and they didn’t always differentiate between friend and foe. She had to get in under fire, deliver her payload, and zoom away before anyone could stop her.
She was the only one in the entire corps that had ever successfully completed this mission.
The town rose over the edge of the horizon. Bertha noted that not a single boat was out fishing for glass bottles. No one scurried on the watchtowers.
Bertha groaned. Smoke rose from the bottling plant.
A large boat lay anchored in the bay. Shredded sails blew listlessly in the breeze. Well, that was a good sign, at least. Whoever attacked clearly had been punished severely for it if they couldn’t even get away.
Unless the raid was still happening.
None of the whiteout cannons fired. The attack must have been recent. Well, of course it was recent. The bottling plant was still smoking.
Bertha kept Madame Stork low. She didn’t want to spook the townsfolk. If anyone needed what she was bringing, it was now. A chance to have hope again. The Admiral Nurse had given her very specific instructions on who to deliver to, where, and when.
The biplane sped past the outer set of towers. Bertha yanked the stick back, sending her ride into a steep climb. She hovered above for a moment before spotting her destination.
There. A crowd of people gathered around a dead body. And there, the woman she was looking for. The one who’d be getting the delivery.
Bertha tipped the stick forward and let gravity do her work. The aeroplane rocketed down.
The townspeople glanced up at the noise. Not a few pointed and screamed.
Bertha smiled. She loved the misdirection. Everyone was scared of her, at first. It made the pleasure that came afterward so much worth it.
Some young men scurried toward the whiteout cannons.
“Too late, boys,” Bertha shouted. Not that they could hear her.
She punched the trigger for the bomb doors. The package dropped. A little parachute blossomed in the sky as she pulled back on the stick, sending her plane away and to the freedom of the open sky.
Bertha leaned over and saluted.
“Well, Blond Buccaneer, you got a little something to remember your man. Enjoy your baby. I hope she looks like him.”
She watched a startled blond pirate catch the package and open it up. Bertha was too far away to see the expression, but she imagined that it must be happy. Who wasn’t happy to see a baby?
A touch of hope on such a sad day.
Of course, Bertha wasn’t around to see what happened after. She didn’t know that the baby would change the course of her entire baby-delivering corps. But that… that is a story for later.
This is a Barrelbottom Tale.
Bertha was last seen in Payload.
The battle that Bertha observes was chronicled in Melville Falls.