The sky over the dark and silent city is crystal clear. the stars are painfully bright.
On nights like these, when the air is so thin, it seems that a man could drag a great armfull of these sparkling treasures down and make them his own. If he could find a landing tall enough...
If he could keep what he had long enough to profit from them...
The new moon is a great dark disk in the sky. Hanging like a huge hole in the brightness of the jeweled night sky. The majority of the buildings are tumbled ruins of brick, concrete, and shattered glass. Twisted , blackened beams of rusted steel reach toward the the sky like like arthritic fingers - knotted by pain and tortured by age.
The jagged spires of a few ancient towers grow from the rubble heaped around their bases. The blasted holes of their empty windows and hollow interiors appear as blackened skulls with broken tarnished crowns atop empty ribcages.
One tall, lean obelisk dominates all the rest. No mounds of shattered building material crowd it's base. The masses of runined structures have been bulldozed from the foundations surrounding it. The concrete and asphalt appear to have been swept clean by a gigantic broom. The windows have been screened with heavy steel grates. Shutters have been bloted closed against the night.
Twisted razored wire coils around the first level of the tower like a hungry watchful constrictor about the base of a tree, waiting for prey to stray within it's fanged, choking grasp. Spikes of reinforcing bar as long and as thick as a man's forearm, ground to a point, jut out from the sides of the building at irregular intervals above the wire. A winged raptor glides out of the night and lands on one of the sharpened projections. It's great taloned feet grasp the iron as it bends and pulls a gobbet of meat form the cheek of an eyeless corpse that adorns the tip of it's perch.
Large funnels that look as if they have been transplanted form the deck of an ocean liner draw air into the depths of the building. The blocky shapes of machinery squat beside the funnels. Oiled cables on huge reels gleam faintly reflecting the light of distant stars.
Among the machines moves the dark, barely defined shape of a man. His clothing is dark, matching the night sky and the black circle of the moon. His boots make no noise as he silently moves across the roof. The equipment on his harness is carefully taped and cinched down and does not betray him by clattering or jingling as he makes his way to a railing that runs around the edge of the roof. His nostrils flare briefly as he tests the air. He inhales the scents of the silent blasted cityscape. He smells a faint whiff from a scavengers cooking fire - the evasive elusive aroma of cooking meat. A gust of wind brings the sharp smell of a methane engine to him for a moment.
From a large pouch on the back of his harness he pulls a device that resembles a squat heavy video camera. He snugs the cracked rubber cup to his eye and triggers a toggle on the underside. He slowly scans the ruins, the horizon and even the sky as he gradually turns the lens in a sweeping arc. As he pulls the scope away from his eye a faint green light from the eyepeice breifly illuminates his face - for only a moment his features are washed by the ghostly verdigris hued light. Concern can be read in the gathered attitude of his hairy brows and the set of his pinched lips under the oft broken shape of the nose.
He lightly touches a small plug set inside his ear and cocks his head as if listening to an unseen speaker. He then subvocalizes a brief reply and returns to his survey of the dark tortured landscape.
High above the skyscraper in a thinly starred portion of the night sky a small constellation is slowly eclipsed. A stout shape, like the sillohette of a shortened cigar drifts across the firmament, it's outline only visible as star after star blinks out and then reappears in it's wake.
As the cigar shape sails across the milky way, which bisects the dome of the sky like a sparkling river, a radio signal is sent. In response to the transmission red lights in the shape of an X show the location of the roof of the fortified tower.
As the dirigible descends toward the brilliant vermillion cross, running lights on the craft are switched on and reveal it's true outline. Dim yellow bulbs illuminate the interior of the control cabin. A search light beam sweeps across the top of the tower and skims across the ruins, briefly picking out ruined buildings.
A shudder is felt in the bowels of the building as generators growl to life. With a clatter of solenoids transplanted football stadium lights mounted around the periphery of the roof's edge snap on as power surges through thick cables. For blocks around the tower the inky blackness is transformed into sharply accented and brittle edged daylight. The winged night hunter is startled from it's gory perch. In a panicked flurry of feathers it flees it's drowsy feeding and wings into the ruins with quick strong strokes of it's mighty wings.
As the armored zepplin lowers toward the tower men boil out of stairwells. Their heavy steel capped boots beat an urgent drumroll as they thunder across the roof of the structure. The sound of their boots is lost in the crescendo of noise that blats from the airship's exhaust.
Cables are dropped from the the underside of the gasbag and are quickly caught by thick muscular hands protected by sturdy work gloves. Muscles strain and bunch under oil and fuel stained overalls as the dangling cables are connected to the hulking machinery that sits idling among the air intake funnels.
The winches whine and bearings smoke as the hundred yard airship is snugged to it's berth at the top of the tower.
A selected short
From the postholocaustic tales of Jason Ironjaw
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