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   Chapter 22 No.22

Free-Wrench By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5670

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02

"It sounds horrible. Where did it come from?"

"Who knows? Before my time, but they say when it showed up, it took almost all the people from the lowlands with it. It ain't all bad. There's some fug in these lights here on the wall. You run some phlogiston through fug and it lights up good and bright. We call these phlo-lights. Even so, I hate the stuff. It's half the reason I'm out here in a ship. Good fresh air. Of course, the problem is Cap'n Mack takes such good care of his crew that I don't figure I'll ever get to move up higher than deckhand. Deckhand's just a fancy word for a person who does everything."

"Where I work, they call people like that a free-wrench. That was my job."

"So you and me are pretty much the same then. I feed the boiler when Gunner's on watch. I clean up the galley when Butch is sewing someone up. I…" Lil trailed off, her eyes turned aside as she listened. "Wailers."

"What?" Nita asked.

"Wailers! You'll hear them in a minute. We've got to get on deck!"

The pair dropped their buckets and rushed to the nearest ladder. Before they reached it, the ship changed direction suddenly and forcefully enough to throw even Lil against a wall. A steam whistle began to blare and the captain's voice bellowed out. "Wailers on port and starboard! All crew on deck!"

"What are wailers?" Nita asked, following Lil up the ladder.

"You're about to find out. Do you know how to use a rifle?"


"Well, then you're on hook detail. They're going to shoot grapplers at us. Don't let them get on board! And keep your head down!"

They scrambled onto the deck just as the captain heaved the ship into another tight turn. A distant moan filled the

ing part. There wasn't time for fear or reason, just the task at hand. Whatever that sound had been could wait. The hissing salvos of nails were a distant concern. The only thing that mattered right now was getting the grappling hook free. She slid to a stop where it had lodged itself into the deck, yanked one of the cheater bars from her belt, and wedged it beneath the rusted iron of the hook. The barbed thing was well planted, but she'd had more than her share of experience fighting with stubborn valves and levering sections of pipe into place. Three good heaves tore it free and sent it skipping up and away.

"There's still two of them! And keep your eyes open for the main ship, if these things are still buzzing this fast, the mother ship has got to be nearby, " Gunner called out. He planted himself and unloaded the second barrel of his gun, but failed to catch either of their remaining attackers. There wasn't any time to reload it, but for Gunner that wasn't a problem. There was always another gun where that came from. He threw open his coat and pulled two pistols with barrels nearly as large as the shotgun.

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