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   Chapter 58 No.58

Free-Wrench By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5243

Updated: 2018-01-19 19:02

By the time he finished delivering the order, a spotlight cast its blinding light upon them. He pushed the turbines to life. Nita dashed for the hatch and navigated the halls of the ship. Lil waited near the aft magazine.

"Come on, we need to feed the firebox. A double load, " Nita said.

"He wants to overstoke? Must be something real bad out there, huh?" Lil said, running quickly toward the fuel room.

"A dreadnought."

She shot Nita a look that seemed wholly out of place. It was fear. "The dreadnought. I never seen it. I was always kind of glad about that."

"What is this overstoking?" Nita asked.

They reached the fuel room and began to load up. "It was something he used to tell us about. He got in a real bad scrape on his first ship, years ago. The Vanguard or something like that. A dozen wailers. He overstoked the boiler to squeeze some extra speed out."

"Did it work?"

"Well, he's alive, but he ain't got that ship no more, so yes and no."

They made their way to the boiler and began to feed in the coal. There was a distant thump, then the ship rocked violently to the side. The captain's voice came blaring out of the speaking tube.

"We are taking fire. Get that box stoked. Lil, you'll be on both fore and aft cannons. Keep them loaded. Grapeshot aft, standard shot fore. Nita, on deck. I want you on hand for repairs. I'm going to need everything this ship can give me. I can't afford to be coping with disabled controls, or we're through."

They finished their current task and Nita rushed for the deck. The ship lurched as

section of the envelope was compromised.

"Okay, we're going to run for it, " Mack said, angling the ship out over the mountains now far below them. "Let's see just how tough their ship really is."

The Wind Breaker roared as her rear cannon fired. At this range there was no missing the massive attacker, but despite the direct hit on the envelope, little evidence of any damage, beyond a barely visible plume of green gas at first, appeared. Then it became clear that the dreadnought, though still rising in pursuit, wasn't rising as quickly. They were slowly but steadily gaining a height advantage. After a minute they were well above the top of the enemy and still rising. Perhaps sensing that their quarry was on the verge of being out of range, the gunners intensified their attacks. A flurry of darts thumped against the belly and side of the ship, with a stray shot whizzing past and lodging itself in the harness of one of the pumps under the envelope. It began to vent gas freely, and The Wind Breaker swiftly started to descend.

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