Mission: Chapter 5: Into the Fire
Ashrieda and Wren sat staring at one another in the clockwork lifeboat. The motor was running, and they were waiting for their cue. The boarding party was going to swing off the starboard side of the Steamhawke, while Wren and Ashrieda would leave off the port side. Somehow they would have to get aboard the Sky Tiger. The two-pirate team had with them the old schematics of the Sky Tiger's ship class, which indicated some vents along the underside of the engineering deck. Maybe that's how they could get inside.
Ashrieda took a quick note of their inventory. Or hers, rather -- besides the schematics, there was a grappling hook, an axe, and a pistol she had conned off someone on deck. As for the rest, that was Wren’s territory, and she couldn’t know what half of it was. Really, Ashrieda was mainly here to be bossy. Wren was the one who knew about all the technical stuff.
“Do we have everything?” she asked absently, studying the old, crumpled papers one more time. Likely the Sky Tiger would be laid out virtually the same, of course, no matter how much it had been modified. Unless it had been taken apart completely and then rebuilt from the bottom up. Which surely wasn’t the case, because that would have been foolish.
"We'd better have everything," the young man returned with an absent-minded smile. There was a thrum of excitement running through him, brought about by their special mission, the chance to play with some new toys, and really, it was just a lovely and dangerous game they were about to play.
"We could be leaving any second now, so no more trips back." The blond gadgeteer/war dog glanced up and over the side of the lifeboat, as if searching for some sign that it was time to head off now.
"The hard part will be getting to the engine room, but once we're in there, I have a few explosives that will do the trick," he offered with a toothy grin. The man liked his explosives. He also liked his pistols, his tools, and whatever gadgets he had managed to stuff into the satchel hanging across his body. They were mostly small, single-use items designed for diversions if needed. Leaning forward, he traced a finger over the schematics of the Sky Tiger, following the path of the vents that would be their ticket in, trying to commit the twists and turns to memory. He wasn't exactly willing to stop mid-mission to pull out the schematics as if he was some tourist on holiday.
A sudden shout pulled Wren's attention up and there was the Captain, shouting at them to make off already. Moments later, they were off, the clockwork lifeboat sailing silently through the sky, propelling them towards their dangerous mission. Wren hastily folded up the schematics (though it looked a lot like just crumpling) and tossed them over to Ashrieda for safe-keeping.
"Vents on the port-side look like they'll be closest, hm?" he questioned, eyeing the swiftly approaching Skyship. Though there was always the possibility the engine room was not quite where it was in those outdated schematics.
Ashrieda, carelessly stuffing the schematics down her blouse, nodded in agreement. "That sounds about right."
The lifeboat passed under the Steamhawke, and the pair of pirates looked up past the sky ship at the sight of their boarding party swinging over towards the Sky Tiger. As both ships fired, the chorus of explosions threatened to knocked the lifeboat out of the sky. Wren managed to wrestle with the steering mechanism and somehow they managed to keep on course. Fortunately their approach on the Sky Tiger would be easier now that they were obscured by the smoke of the gunfire.
It seemed only a few minutes more when they arrived on the far side of the Sky Tiger. The sound of the lifeboat was drowned out by the roar of the Sky Tiger's engines. They steered the boat close to a nearby vent, letting it idle. They were out of the way of where the engine room was supposed to be, at least according to the schematics, but it was also well out of view of anything going on above them.
On a more modern ship, the vents would have been better protected and much less conspicuous. But the Sky Tiger, at least on the outside, was still a very old ship. Apparently, the crew thought that the vents weren't significant enough to require major upkeeping, because they were antiquated, slightly patinated, and also small. And there were a lot of them -- the Sky Tiger seemed to need more ventilation than a ship of comparable size would have normally required, which gave credence to Master Brem's conjecture that the Sky Tiger was running dual locomotives.
Ashrieda grabbed the pistol, axe, and grappling line and tucked all three into her belt. Then, standing unsteadily in the boat on tiptoe, she peered down into the vent to see if she could see anything at all. Nothing. But she assumed that most of the crew, apart from the engineers, would be preoccupied with the battle above. And the engineers would be so preoccupied with the engines that they could be dispatched quickly and perhaps even painlessly. It was wishful thinking, but it sounded pretty in her head.
The two of them getting in was going to be the easy part. If she could at least climb into the vent on her own...but no such luck. Between the shaking of the boat and being short, she was getting nowhere quickly.
"Hey," she said to Wren, "Give me a leg up."
That was easy enough. Wren knelt down behind her, holding his hands out for her to use as a step. And then with a struggling push upwards -- really not his strong point -- Wren shoved Ashrieda towards the opening, struggling to hold her there long enough for the girl to get a grip.
Ashrieda crawled into the vent and then, with a jump and a helping hand lest he take a long fall to his death, Wren clambered up and in after her. With a last mournful look towards their clockwork lifeboat, Wren followed Ashrieda into the Sky Tiger. He doubted they'd be able to exit as easily as they'd found a way on board. Good bye little lifeboat.