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   Chapter 55 No.55

Free-Wrench By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5851

Updated: 2018-01-19 19:02

"I'm not making any promises!" Nita said.

The chains reeled out more and more, then suddenly stopped, having reached their limit with a dozen feet to go. Nita eyed the looming buildings on each side of the street. The city obviously wasn't designed to have an airship touching down in its avenues. From rooftop to rooftop there was room enough for the gondola to fit, but with mere feet to spare on either side. To get close enough, the ship was going to have to thread a needle at top speed while being shot at. It was something a sober, thoughtful man would never attempt. Captain Mack, on the other hand, eased the nose of the ship right in.

"Almost!" Coop said, reaching out for the swinging chain as the gondola scraped off window boxes and tore free flagpoles from the fronts of houses. The first of four hooks was just inches from Coop's fingers now, but he couldn't reach it without letting go of the strap he'd been using to brace himself. Being Coop, the solution was simple enough. He let go. "I got it! Uh-oh…"

He barely managed to get his fingers firmly around the hook when Mack had to pull the ship upward to avoid a balcony. The motion pulled the chains five feet into the air, and Coop right along with them.

"Coop, you idiot!" Gunner growled, scrambling over the mound of loot and reaching for his dangling crewmate's foot. "Nita, bring us gently to the right!"

"I ain't so worried about gentle so much as fast!" Coop countered, his voice a bit more steady than it ought to be for a man racing over the street hanging from an airship.

Nita feathered the control stick and managed to move the cart in range of the steadily lowering Coop without dislodging Gunner. When the deckhand had been successfully hauled aboard ag

ngs and patrol ships nearly on top of them. Then came the sound, a roaring blast that made the detonation of the warehouse wall sound like a whisper in comparison. Captain Mack had fired both sets of forward cannons simultaneously. Their scattershot load tore effortlessly through the envelopes of the enemy ships, one with a direct hit that caused the gondola to plummet a short distance to the vacant houses below, releasing its load of phlogiston in one glorious green plume of light. The other strike was a glancing one, yet it pulverized the propeller on one side to send the ship in a slower but more erratic path.

The kick from firing the cannons cut the ship's forward speed drastically, causing the dangling load of crew and loot to swing forward. Nita, Gunner, and Coop hung on for dear life, time seeming to slow to a crawl as their suspended cart lurched forward and strained at its chains. Though the slowing effect of the cannons was enough for the ship and the payload to clear the roof, they didn't do so cleanly. The cart bashed like a wrecking ball through a stout chimney, dusting the crew with shattered masonry and nearly knocking them loose.

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