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   Chapter 10 No.10

Free-Wrench By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5380

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02

"Haul it up. I'll pull in the mooring lines, and we can skedaddle before the fog breaks up and the Calderan scouts notice us. Once we're clear I'll hop down and hand up the goods, " Cooper said. He was tall enough that he had to slouch a bit to avoid scraping his head, but he did so with a practiced ease that didn't cost him any speed. "Oh, and this here's Amanita Graus. She'll be joining us for a bit."

"I know who she is. You think I couldn't hear you jawing back and forth?" said the woman as Coop hurried off. She pulled the lever, prompting a hiss that brought the winches to life, then extended a hand. "Pleased to meet you, Amanita. Did I hear your friend down there calling you Nita?"

"Yes. Most people call me that. Amanita can be a mouthful at times."

"Nita it is, then. I'm Chastity. Folks round here call me Lil. Short for Lil' Coop, seein' as how I'm Coop's baby sister."

"A pleasure to meet you."

"The cap'n will want to meet you before anyone else. He'll be at the helm on the main deck, so we'll just head up there when the gig is reeled in."

Nita stood, looking down through the larger hatch and listening to the click of the winch. As she did, two very distinct and very powerful feelings came over her. The first was an intense feeling of vertigo. The climb hadn't seemed terribly long when she was looking up, but looking down was another matter. The waves below made her head spin, and realizing that they were held aloft not by something good and solid like a building but by a tattered bag and some ancient rigging filled her with a cold, hollow anxiety.

The second f

ceiling, and tubes ran in sagging bundles laced between them. Here and there they would poke up to the next level or down through the floor, and valves and gauges seemed to be randomly scattered about their lengths. Again, it was not unlike the chaos she worked in every day at the steamworks, albeit in miniature. Having so much copper and brass around her made her feel a bit more at ease, like seeing a familiar face in a strange town.

Lil led the way to a ladder that brought them three decks up, where it emerged onto the open top of the ship. For a moment, any doubt she had was wiped away by pure fascination. The very top of one of the lower spires was at eye level here, giving her a point of reference of not only how high they were, but how much they were swaying with each breeze. Coop and another man were busy along the railing at the edge of the deck, tugging at small ropes to untie large ones. She could hear the peculiar fans turning above her, a regular pattern of squeaks, rattles, and hisses forming a sort of rhythm to which the deck crew worked.

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