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A hell of a thing

This is a hell of a thing… embarrassing, Tane thought, shaking his head as he went around checking the knots that joined the strained ropes holding what was left of the boiler room in place. Hoping they hold, Tane thought, it’d be a shame to make it this far only to fall out of the sky over the port. Tane shouted to trim the sails even further. Let’s just drift slowly in, no hurry. The less strain on what’s left of the ship, the better. The whole ship creaked wildly as the levitron engines brought them down. To stiffen the superstructure, the vessel now appeared held together by a web of macrame. Every inch of rope they had was employed in various ingenious ways to hold the hull together – maybe just long enough to make port.

Tane could see a crowd gather down below, looking up in awe at the spectacle of the skeleton of a ship, gradually descending towards them. He was sure that from below, the people could plainly see the boiler, pipes, fly wheel and large belt that ran between the fly wheel and the generator, the girders that ran the length of the ship, sprouting perpendicular at four points, holding the levitrons and…not much else. People pointed up from below, talking excitedly, while some laughed at the odd sight of Tane’s misfortune. Meandre came up, walking carefully on the single plank that came to the wheel, taking Tane’s arm as he steered the boat into the sky dock.

“You did it!” she said, encouragement sounding in her sweet voice.

Never going to live this down

Tane, grimacing, replied, “I’m not going to live this down.” He looked at her and added,”I’ve already got a plan, though. See, I promise to be of good nature at first, I’ll tell a long yarn of how lucky we were to be spared after the Marauders plundered us. Then, if they continue to rib me, I will say how proud I am of the crew.” He winked at Meandre who had done an excellent job under the most trying circumstances and miraculously held everything together until they reached port. Out of the side of his eye, he saw her looking up at him with that, here-it-comes look. “Then if they continue to rub it in, I’ll ask them politely to leave it lay and if any leadass dare adds some version of “you mean in pieces?” I will beat the holy hell out of him, and bring the conversation to a proper ending, making myself feel a whole lot better. Simple.”

Turning serious again, Tane said, “Meandre, have everyone ready to jump ship the moment we’re close enough to the ground to do so. I’ll give the order, then everyone off.”

“What about you?” she asked, looking worried.

“I have to be here, someone has to shut down the boiler and disengage the fly wheel. I don’t want to cause a fire and I’d like to save the engines, if possible. It will be quick, I’ll be off in a flash.”

Hesitating, she finally said, “Aye Aye, Captain,” then went to spread the word to abandon ship on his order. He watched her shapely legs carefully balancing on the plank path. I love that woman.

50 feet from safety

“One quarter power now, steady as she goes!” Tane shouted. Not fifty feet above the dock, half the city gathered outside the gates, as Tane eased the carcass of a ship down, ever so careful, grateful for the slight breeze at his back. He could see the ground coming up through the ribs of the ship. Another twenty feet. Fifteen, ten, “Jump! Everyone Jump!”

Like rats leaving a sinking ship, every man and woman hung at first over the side, then jumped down to the dock below, scurrying away as fast as they could to get clear in case what was left of the ship gave way.

Grating on the stone, the keel skidded to a stop, and Tane sprang to life, running carefully along the lone planks, hopping down every other step, rushing towards the boiler. At the controls, he trimmed the starboard engines to list the ship to its side, hoping it would hold together. With a jarring thud it settled, nothing buckling yet. Flipping the main contact, the great levitron engines wound down, and he threw the lever to disengage the whirling fly wheel, cutting power to the generator. “Hold together, just a little longer, Baby” he spoke to the ship. Racing down through the hull, he twisted and squeezed between boards and down onto the stone of the port, then straightened up and walked as confidently as he could muster towards the port controller, knowing that all eyes were on him. He lifted the bottle neck to his teeth, removing the cork, then lifted it back and drunk a big swig, feeling the familiar burn as it ran down his parched throat.

Snap, pop, twang

After he had reached about fifty feet from the boat, Tane heard a snap, then a twang, then a loud pop, then a whole series of twangs and pops along with whipping sounds. Wheeling around, Tane saw, to his dismay, the whole structure of the ship crumble, masts and all, into a pile of twisted wood and metal. He stood there, dumbstruck, finally exclaiming, “My bed!” Then took another long drink.

The port controller walked up, saying, “Captain Tane, I see you’re in need of a few repairs.”

Looking at the wreckage, Tane said after a moment, “Salvage what you can and build a new ship, this time add more cannons, and figure out how to put a couple that shoot down through the bottom. I don’t care what it costs, just bill it to Alethea as you did last time, I need it as soon as possible – within a month if you can manage.”

The controller smiled a wide smile. Tane knew that would motivate him; Althea’s emissaries were always paid handsomely and on time.

“Yes, sir, me and my workmen will get right on it, no problem.”

You can’t win them all

Tane sighed, you can’t win them all, as he drank more whiskey and began walking towards the gate where his crew waited. All in all, no one died so they’d live to smuggle wood another day. As he came to his crew he said, “Don’t feel bad, mates, the only thing that is really important to me is that you are alright. We’ll get another ship soon enough. Go to the nearest tavern, first round’s on me!”

“Aye Aye, Captain!” Cheers rang out as they celebrated making it alive.

Just then a big bystander from a rival ship shouted, “Hey Tane, I heard you couldn’t hold it together and your ship went all to pieces!”

Meandre stopped without turning around. “Oh shit.” Then she tugged at his shirt. “Tane… Tane, it’s not worth it.”

Tane felt his face reddening, as he went over to the big man who stood a half head taller than him. “What did you say?”

Looking around and grinning, he said, “I’s say you can’t hold it together, and your ship went to bloody pieces.”

‘I thought that’s what you said,” as he lifted up the bottle and broke it against the side of the man’s face like he was launching a ship, then decked the staggering man until he was out cold. Then with curses and cheers, the whole dock erupted into a proper brawl.

Two Hornpipes