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   Chapter 26 No.26

Free-Wrench By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5580

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02

"Well, at least that explains why the captain would have made the armory officer the engineer. It struck me as rather questionable judgment to assign boiler maintenance to a man trained to make things explode. Let me see what I can do…"

"Don't do anything!" he said, pulling her back from the tangle of pipes.

"Why in the world not?"

"Do you know why no one knows how to fix these boilers? Because the fug folk don't allow anyone else to fix the boilers, or any of their equipment. If they so much as suspect you of doing work on their boilers, they'll refuse to service them ever again, and you risk losing trade rights with them entirely. That's the way things are done out here. This gadgetry is firmly in the fug folks' domain. We can patch holes in the gondola and rips in the envelope, but anything that goes clink when you tap on it is off limits."

"You make it sound like these people are your masters."

"Look. Life is just easier if we play by their rules, all right?"

Nita stepped out of the steamy room, already soaking wet, and pushed up her goggles. "What exactly do these fug folk allow you to do?"

"Well, they let us adjust the knobs and such, and they let us swap out these valves here." He reached inside and pulled their only spare valve from a crate just inside the door. "Everything else is done by them—or else."

Nita pursed her lips and thought. "Clearly some of the pipes are ruptured, we're wasting pressure. If we can shut off the pressure to the broken pipes, at the very least the intact pipes will have full pressure."

"And you can do that just by turning knobs?"

"Yes, " she said flatly.

"Do it."

She shook he

of life-threatening situations. They didn't look back upon what had happened on that deck and admit, even grudgingly and only to themselves, that parts of it had been fun. Of course civilized people, as she'd been taught to define the phrase, didn't fly through the sky in wondrous machines. They didn't concoct new types of fuel that let them cross whole oceans. She shivered at the breeze in a dress that wasn't quite adequate for the chill and wind of high altitude and wondered if maybe the time had come to update her personal definition of civilization.

Chapter 8

Her work suit hadn't dried yet when the time came to meet with the captain, so she reluctantly made her way to the upper deck in her dress. For better or worse the ship wasn't moving as quickly as it might, so the wind wasn't quite as vicious as it had been on her previous visits. It still required her to hold her hands strategically and angle herself with care, lest an errant gust give her crewmates a show. She made her way toward the bow of the ship, taking a wide detour around the wailer craft that was still lying on the deck.

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