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   Chapter 43 No.43

Free-Wrench By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5160

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:02

"So what will you do?" she asked.

"I ain't decided yet, and you don't want to rush me. Not so soon after dealing with the fug folk. Them folks boil my blood."

"May I ask you a question?"

"Seems you might not have too many more chances. May as well."

"Do you follow their rules because you want to or because you have no choice?"

"I got no problem with following the rules of people I respect… but that ain't the case with these folk. They got us under their thumbs, and they know it. You think it's bad what they're willing to do to your mother? That ain't the half of it. They've sat idle while whole cities starved because their ships were too beat-up to pick up supplies, and the fuggers wouldn't budge on the price of repairs. They've choked off shipments of coal to places in northern Circa because they found out the locals were mining their own seam to top off their supplies. The fuggers demand reliance and will punish anything that threatens it. Most times I'd say they want profit above all else, but sometimes it seems to me they want one thing even more. Power. Letting your mother die. Letting them folks in them cities die… They throw away plenty of good business just to make sure we know who's in charge. If I could get out from under them, I'd… well, best not to say what I'd do."

"So it all comes down to whoever has been giving them their information."

"No one is telling them. They just know. And you aren't earning any points suggesting one of my crew would have ratted the rest out."

"I apologize. I s

d, he never meets the fug folk face-to-face. They have me take him off the ship when we send it down for repairs."

"You don't need to speak—or even meet face-to-face—to communicate, Captain. Back in the steamworks, we worked out a tap code to hammer out messages along the pipes. Wink does something awfully similar whenever you get close to the fug, doesn't he?"

"The strut check…" He looked down to the beast. For the first time, genuine fear replaced the vague distrust in its eye. The captain held Wink's pelt tight and stood him up. "Let's just test this. I'll make it simple for you. One tap for yes, two for no. Do you want me to give you to Glinda to see what sort of stew she could make of you?"

The creature's head darted back and forth, looking the two humans in the eye. It was telling enough that he wasn't frantically tapping his fingers as he usually did when something had him agitated. He struggled a bit more, then seemed to give up. He extended his spidery middle finger and gave two deliberate taps.

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