A Wren in the works
Chapter 5: Into the Fire
Location: Sky Tiger
Wren was greased up and not very happy about it. Ashrieda was in a similar state, but didn't seem to mind as much. By the time the two of them had crawled through the ventilation system, the pirates had been covered in so much grease and soot that they were barely recognisable. The layer of dirt did however help the pair stay concealed in the shadows, which is where they were now.
Somehow they had found themselves in the dead centre of the engineering deck of the Sky Tiger. The place was large and rusty, with long pipes running along the corridors. There was no trouble identifying which way to go to reach the engines, as the noise coming from the rear of the deck was incredible. There were however plenty of engineers dashing around.
The noise of the engineering deck was the best cover the two of them had. Wren waited until the particular corridor he was looking down on seemed clear before pushing the maintenance hatch to the side and quickly lowering himself down. The blond (though the color was impossible to see in his greased hair) looked this way and that, spotting some engineers focused on something at the end of the corridor. It was now or never. He gestured for Ashrieda to follow before setting off in the opposite direction and ducking behind the large machinery and gears. The corridor split off in three directions, and from all three of them came the clanging sound of tools on metal and the hiss of steam. But it was from the center path that the large noises still emanated. That was their destination.
"Guess we'll need to find a way to duck all the engineers," he whispered to Ashrieda, eyes scanning back and forth. "I don't think they'll be too happy to see us."
“Oh, but it would be a blast,” Ashrieda replied wryly. She squinted at the engineers and grimaced. The very easy thing to do would be to run out, guns blazing, and be done with it. But that would also be the very end of their stealth mission. Oh yeah, and their lives too. Those were kind of important, or at least Ashrieda thought so. She wiped her brow with her sleeve, but all that accomplished was to smear more grease on her face.
“Do you think that they would notice if we just … sort of walked in there, like we’re engineers?” she asked. “Look at them, they’re not thinking about anything else than keeping those engines going.”
If the engineers were as distracted as she thought they were -- and they did seem singularly focused on keeping the engines running on full blast long enough to withstand the battle with the Steamhawke -- or if they were simply stupid -- she thought the idea would work. Besides that, she and Wren were so filthy that they looked like they belonged. Perhaps. She still deduced that their potential for success was only around eighteen percent, but she kept that sentiment to herself. She secretly hoped that Wren had a much better idea.
The central path was not a long one, and it suddenly opened up into a chaotic furnace room. Men and women were dashing to and fro and nobody was paying Wren and Ashrieda much attention. The mechanisms strewn around the room seemed improvised, thrown together at short notice just to get things working properly. "You two!" came a gruff voice from right behind Wren and Ashrieda, as a pair of hands came clapping down on their shoulders. The pair instinctively reached for their weapons. "You're needed up top! The cap'n's lookiing for more able bodies!"
"Now look here!" yelled another man who pushed out of the crowd, removing some kind of gas mask from his face. "You can't go taking my engineers away! Do you have any idea how hard we're working to keep these locomotives working together?" "Cap'n's orders!" shouted the man from behind Wren and Ashrieda, letting go of the pair to point angrily at the chief engineer. "If I go back up empty handed, he'll have my guts for garters!" "Yes, and it's the captain who ordered us to work our hands to the bone! How are we supposed to keep the engines going if we're short handed?"
Ashrieda and Wren were bemused as the men contined to argue. Many of the engineers stopped what they were doing to watch the argument, and this revealed some clear targets for the Steamhawke's tactician and combat engineer. They nodded to each other and silently stepped up towards one of the more complicated-looking machines. While Ashrieda looked over her shoulder, Wren removed one of the explosive devices from his tool belt and adjusted the clockwork timer. He leant as far into the mechanism as he dared to, his fingers mere inches from all manner of rapidly spinning cogs. "Got it" said Wren under his breath. "Placed it where nobody will see" "You two!" a voice yelled, once again from right behind them. This time it was the chief engineer. "I've made a deal," he muttered through clenched teeth, "he can have you two, but nobody else."
Wren and Ashrieda had no choice but to follow the pirate up through the decks of the ship. All the while the time bomb on the engineering deck counted down, with no chance of anyone hearing the rapid ticking.