The sharp copper tang filled his nostrils, and the entrails set his breakfast churning.  His uncle knelt by the corpse and checked the brand.  Edmond strained to see what had been written in the dirt with the blood from where he stood.  ‘N*gger Lover’

“Get on back to the house now, boy.  When you get there, saddle up your horse and wait for me.”

Tears fought their way past his resolve into his eyes.

Edmond lowered the telescope and glanced at the compass.  “Signal to the ground: Cavalry advancing from the south southeast.  Bring the ship around to-” The explosion threw a whirlwind of splinters and pain.  Had the hot air bag been hit?  He looked up-

The brown canvas was there above him, lit by smoky oil lamps.  There were shapes above him, and a dull feeling that something was gone.  He tried to ask them- but his tongue was too heavy.  They were leaning over him, putting more weight on his heavy head.  Why were the lamps going out?

He was standing at attention while Sherman explained how the airship corps would be refueled and resupplied so far from safe landings in the Mississippi.  Their target, the city of-

“The air corps would be an excellent place for you to serve!  The federal government understands that many feel a duty to their country as well as an obligation to follow the peaceful commandments of God.”  The recruiter was explaining how Quakers could serve in the army.  “The air corps serves in a purely scouting and reconnaissance capactiy, most airships are not even armed.”

The deck was growing slippery, despite the sand.  “LOAD!  Johnson, take the sergeant below.”  The whole gun crew was being unnerved by the bloody body.

“No-” Edmond pushed feebly against the straps holding him down.

“More morphine.  We’re almost finished.”

Edmond turned his head to the side, but the nurse held the mesh over his mouth and drowned him again in darkness.

Sweat ran into his eyes as Edmond looked down the long gun.  The air above the gun was hot and wavy, but he could still make out the distance markings and the front sight.  He coaxed the grinding gears into movement and when the gun had swung in front of the enemy airship he yanked the firing cord.  The cannon should have fired.  He had an instant to realize that it had not, and then look at it, before-

Now there was only the beetles.  Their sharp pincers deep in the flesh of his arm and leg.  Slicing and pinching.