Anna drew in a sharp breath as the man in the black hood raised his dagger. He sliced open her shirt revealing the corset underneath, specially designed to flatten her chest and disguise her curves.

“He’s a woman!” he grabbed her arm and made her face the crowd which jeered and laughed. But despite their noise, Anna could still hear the slow click of the execution device drawing its blade up to the top. Once the clicking stopped, her life would end.

“It cannot be!” someone exclaimed. “The pirate captain Travers, the man who has plagued our skies for so long, cannot be a woman!”

Anna almost smiled. The pirate captain Travers was indeed not a woman but as he always wore a mask he was easy to impersonate. And he would continue to plague their skies, relieving the rich of their excess wealth, freeing those who would be traded as slaves and fighting to bring justice to this corrupt world. He was ready to die for his cause, and she was ready to die for him.

Behind her, the officer finished reading the list of her crimes, and the monk stepped forward to her side; “Any last words?”

The clicking stopped.

Anna closed her eyes; “I regret nothing.”

“Really?” the monk snorted, “Then you should come out drinking with me!”

That voice! Anna stared, startled. She knew that voice and he was certainly no monk! The executioner realised this too but too late. He found a flintlock pistol mounted on a spring aimed between his eyes.

“You do not execute the Pirate Captain Travers today!” the monk declared throwing off his hood. He pulled on a mask. “For I am the great Captain Travers!”

“Rhys! What are you doing?” Anna hissed. He was as much Captain Travers as he was a monk! She heard the officer drawing his sword but, hands bound, could do nothing! “Look out!”

But before the officer could strike he found a blade at his throat, wielded by another masked man, this one the real Captain Travers; even masked Anna recognised him.

“The officer wants Captain Travers!” he shouted. “So let him see the real scourge of the skies!”

At his cue, others ran forwards, pulling on masks and subduing the guards, each one declaring “I am the real Captain Travers!”

Anna laughed. There was Katrina, her long blonde hair flowing free, no attempt made to disguise her womanhood, and there Boxy with his beard showing under the edge of the mask and his goggles over the top, and even Tom although no one would believe the dreaded pirate was a boy of barely 15.

“Time to run!” the real Travers grabbed her arm and pulled her through the crowd, masked figures clearing their way. Noting her surprise, Travers explains, “You did not expect all your friends to attend your execution?”

There were horses waiting. Pausing only to cut her wrists free, Travers helped her up and they dug their heels in as the first charge in the square exploded – lots of flashy flames and sparks but no real damage. Rhys knew how to put on a show.

They charged through the streets until they reached their airship, The Vindicator. As soon as they were aboard, she took to the air.

“What about the others?” Anna had run to the deck to look back the way they had come.

“They have places to lie low, they’ll meet up with us later. Are you all right?”

“Why did you come for me?” Anna reached up to remove his mask. “That was very dangerous.”

“Why did you let yourself be captured in my stead?”

“Well obviously I assumed they would realise I was an imposter,” Anna lied. “But your actions were very deliberate and reckless. You endangered everyone.”

“You’ve always been by my side,” Travers said simply. “You are, essentially, as much the notorious Captain Travers as I am. Everyone wanted to help. You may have been willing to die for our cause, but I wasn’t willing to let you.”

“It wasn’t for the cause,” Anna said.

Travers ducked his head. “Is that your way of saying you love me?”

“Is ‘you are as much Captain Travers as I am’ yours?”

“I staged a very elaborate rescue to save you, doesn’t that mean more than words?”

“Perhaps. But I know a way that’s a little more concise.”

And so it was there, on the deck of The Vindicator, the wind tugging at their clothes, that the real Captain Travers and the woman who would die for him shared their first kiss. Their love would become as legendary as the scourge of the sky’s reputation.

About the Author

“Hello, relative newcomer to steampunk here. I don’t quite know what first drew me in – it crept up on me. I love the idea of grand adventures with one’s own ingenuity to win the day – beautiful outfits, amazing airships and all with the class of a bygone age. This is my first completed steampunk story.”