Note: Collaboration with Strawberry-Chappy Forever

Chapter 1- Three's a Crowd

I gazed out into the endless night, the stars singing their infatuating hymn to me. It wasn't audible anymore, as it had been inside the deep folds of outer space, but I could still remember the sound, hypnotizing, reverberating through my skull, whenever I saw those distant points of light.

It had been years since I met Kate, and was pulled into a clash of pirate fights, scientific breakthroughs and even space travel, and, somehow, through all that we had managed to fall in love. It had been an awkward relationship to be sure, in fact my good friend Baz had once described our relationship as having as much chance as a fish and a kangaroo. I asked him whether I was the fish or the kangaroo. I'm fairly certain that I was the fish. Fish and kangaroos aside, we fell in love. I can still recall our exact conversation after our ship had landed back on earth, when I, for the third time, had asked her to marry me. 'Yes,' she had said 'but it will be horrible.' 'Probably.' I had admitted. Well, we'd had our occasional fight, but the 'horrible' part hadn't set in yet. I'm sure we were both glad for the peace.

Looking out into the night, I drew a deep breath and let it out again, glad that tomorrow morning, I would once again be sailing the skies in the small ship that I had acquired as soon as I was able to make enough money, of course with Kate's help, due to the proceedings from her scientific exhibitions. The Borealis, we called her proudly, as a namesake of the Aurora, the ship where we had first met. She was a small thing, to be sure, but the little airship floated across the skies like a dream, with some help from a former schoolmate of Kate's, Greggory Donovan and his younger sister, Maxine. I hadn't met the sister yet, but I had met Grey on a few occasions, and he seemed extremely competent in his knowledge of airships, as well as zoology, his main area of expertise.

We would be taking the Borealis to follow the flight patterns of the cloud cats that Kate and I had played a large role in discovering some years ago. Kate wanted to get off the ground as soon as possible. I told her that our cats wouldn't just disappear, but she insisted on taking to the skies before Sir Hugh Snuffler or any of his associates could snap up her precious research. I wasn't really much of one to complain. I'd been spending far too much time on the ground for my liking, lately.

Suddenly, I was jolted out of my reverie by the loud slam of the hotel door. We were staying just outside of Lionsgate City for the night, to be close to the aerodrome, for tomorrow's big trip. The place that we had bought was out further in the country, where we could see the stars, an unobstructed view. Kate, it seemed, did not care if she disturbed the other visitors.

"Matt!" She exclaimed. "I'm back! Are you ready yet?"

I very nearly said 'You were gone?' but decided it would be a bad idea. Kate might take offense at that. Instead, I said, "Kate-"

I was cut off as she flung herself onto the bed beside me, kicking off her pointy-toed shoes with a vengeance. "I HATE those shoes," she said, venom spiking her voice.

I winced as one of the shoes flew dangerously close to my head.

"Anyway, Grey and Max have just finished packing the ship, so we can take off immediately. Oh, there's a telegram for you." She tossed the folded slip of paper onto the bed beside me. Picking it up, I scanned the message, then stopped abruptly.

"Uh, Kate, we may have to... er, postpone the trip." I gulped. My stars were being taken away even before I got to them? "Tobias sprained his ankle. And we need a navigator. I can't do every task on the ship at once."

Kate grinned her devious grin, and I knew trouble was coming. That look never boded well. "I read that already. So I took the liberty of hiring us one for the trip!"

"Hunh? Who?" I asked in surprise. I didn't have any contacts in Lionsgate City that could navigate, and neither did Kate as far as I knew.

"You haven't noticed him yet?" she motioned towards the door and I nearly jumped out of my skin. An enormous man with salt and pepper gray hair and intimidating brown eyes stood in the doorway, having to stoop slightly to avoid hitting his head. He wore a slightly sour expression, as though someone was holding something rather unpleasant under his nose. "This is Mr. Wallace Davies!" Kate bubbled. "We met him down at the aerodrome looking for a job on a cargo ship, so I snatched him away before anyone else could get him!" She seemed extremely proud of herself, as though she'd brought us a new puppy, or one of her 'scientific discoveries' which usually tried to eat, electrocute, or otherwise mutilate me.

"A-all right." I stammered. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Davies."

"Please," He growled, in a gravelly voice that could cause a landslide, "Call me Wallace."

"Well, Wallace, then." I said, recollecting my nerves. "Welcome to the crew of the Borealis."

"Enchanted" he said in that same, heart-stopping voice.

"Well then!" exclaimed Kate, oblivious to the mood that our new crew member had brought upon us. "Let's get going."

I wondered how Tobias had sprained his ankle. He'd probably sat on another girl or something, I thought wryly, that or 'Wallace' had tripped him so he could get a job... I'd keep that in mind as a possibility. But first... "We're leaving now?"

"Why not?" Asked Kate. "It's a lovely night, and Wallace doesn't have a place to stay until morning."

"Fine, alright." I grumbled, getting up from the bed. Good thing I was still wearing my clothes from that afternoon. Pajamas would have been slightly more awkward. I grabbed the bag of equipment at the foot of the bed and stood, looking at Kate questioningly. She got up and led the way out the door, with Wallace following, and me trailing along afterwards, still feeling slightly bewildered.

It wasn't until we had taken a cab, with Wallace hunched over awkwardly, and got out at the aerodrome that I noticed that Kate had left her shoes in our room. The grin on her face as we walked into the terminal told me that she had done it on purpose.

I sighed inwardly. This would be a long trip. Our odd, mismatched trio made its way through the various docks until I could see Grey and a smaller shape I assumed to be Maxine waving at me from the dock of the Borealis. As soon as we boarded, I immediately loosened up, glad to once again be held up in the air by hydrium gas. I performed all the necessary checks, and then we were dumping our ballast and heading off into the deep blue night.