This is my next chapter in the steampunk-inspired story begun by Addy. Go here for all the links to the previous chapters.
Addy likes trying to paint me into a corner, so here’s my effort at doing it to him.
The breakwater was a large stone platform built to shield the coast from waves and break any Ruled ship that sailed within range. It has sonic cannons three times bigger than the conventional cannon and is powered by the vents below the water’s surface. Normally there are engineers and divers working to maintain power but today the only sound was the waves smashing against the rocks.
The captain left Musket at the helm and walked the breakwater with Schnee. She seemed tense, swords drawn and ready to shred anyone to pieces. The captain ensured his weapon was loaded and followed her.
They found the missing engineers in a small shelter, hunched over their playing cards as if they had all fallen asleep. Upon further inspection they were all dead. Pale, thin, and old, as if the life was sucked right out of them.
“What the hell can do this to a man?” the captain asked aloud. And his question was answered immediately. On the other side of the breakwater Kinētikos, the cogged giant, leapt out of the ocean, its armour plates burning red due to its new energy source. It stared right at the ship and then the captain with recognition before charging toward them.
The captain reacted with blinding speed. He pushed Schnee overboard and screamed for all hands to man their stations and get the ship the hell out of there. Stony-faced, everyone aboard pushed themselves to give the captain what he had ordered. They’d been in plenty of hard places before and they knew from those experiences that life or death hung on how quickly they came to order.
Black oily smoke billowed from the triple stacks of Nautilus as the re-engineered motors of a dozen high-grade sonic cannons burst into life and brought incredible power to the cogs and flywheels that powered the ship. The Nautilus almost keeled over as the captain hard turned the wheel, spinning the ship around in an extreme hard turn. The engines rumbled and boomed as they delivered full power and, ramming the air brakes off, the Nautilus shot forward with speed that had only ever been theoretically possible.
As the Nautilus rocketed over the water it began gaining height, and even at thirty paces above sea level the speed displacement shredded the water, causing plumes of hard spray on both sides of the ship. “All hands! Inside!” Pry yelled into the trumpet-like communication speaker. Everyone on deck disappeared, as if they had spontaneously fallen into holes in the deck. Smashing his fist down on a palm-sized brass plate, massive plexiglass screens shot up from recessed compartments, clanging together as they sealed above the ship.
Banks of lights glowed green in the command room, showing the status of the engines and hull integrity. Pry pushed forward on the double TT levers, unleashing maximum power to the engines, and the ship disappeared across the horizon in an eye blink, leaving a trail of smoke rings as evidence he had mastered the difficulties of pulse detonation engines.
Kinētikos had no chance of catching up with the Nautilus, but what it lacked in speed it more than made up for in iron and dogged determination. It would find the Nautilus and take back the Silver Knights’ coins, but first ….
Schnee sank to the bottom of the port, weighed down by heavy leathers, brass buckles, enough weapons to wage a small war, and the two coins Pry had given her in immediate payment of past debts. With only the lungful of air she’d managed to gasp before hitting the water, she worked hard to wrench free of everything that was now acting as an anchor. Shedding frantically, her panic began to rise. “I’m not going to make it!” she thought, and then a calmness born of a thousand fights and skirmishes overtook her. She began resolutely working the plan that would give her a chance to live.
She broke the surface with such speed that half her body cleared the water before sinking back into it. Sweet air filled her lungs, and she turned fully, treading water, looking for Pry whom she intended to murder. What she saw instead was the mass of Kinētikos, coming straight for her. Had she known its purpose she’d have dropped the coins in her pocket, but she was unaware of their importance. Turning quickly, with new panic raising bile in her throat, she made for the steps that would lead her up to the dock.
By the time she was out of the water and, dripping wildly, racing through the first streets of the town, Kinētikos reached the end of the pier.