Wrong hands on deck
Chapter 5: Into the Fire
Location: Sky Tiger
"They're slowing down, captain. We'll be on them within minutes" reported the navigator of the Sky Tiger. Perhaps sending the lookout over with the boarding party was a poor choice, but Jack Stallion knew that Fergus knew just as well which end of a telescope to look through. "Very good mister Farlow. You've never let me down over the years." The captain came down from the forecastle with a hop and a jump, his long overcoat flaring out behind him as he landed on the deck.
"Captain on deck" mewled the cabin boy, rubbing both sides of his neck where one of Steamhawke's pirates had bruised him. "Sam" said Jack as he looked down at the boy, "I told you to go down below decks and rest. Don't worry about those fools," he smiled warmly, referring to the survivors of the Steamhawke's attack group that retreated below decks, "they went down the ancillary hatch. They've blocked themselves into a dead end and we'll deal with them later."
Jack Stallion stroked his mustache and looked out at the rabble of pirates standing to attention. Once they were alongside the Steamhawke, everyone would be sent over, and this time the fighting wasn't going to stop until Jack got what he wanted.
What Jack didn't know was that two of the particularly grubby-looking pirates in the group were actually Wren and Ashrieda, having been mistaken for engineers while planting an explosive device on the engineering deck. What Jack, Wren, and Ashrieda didn't know was that Ciprian, Coriolix, Mei-Xiu, Nate Winters, and the remaining handful of the Steamhawke's boarding party were hidden from sight behind some barrels, having just emerged from a second hatch on the ship's deck.
Mei looked at the cabin boy with concern,she knew she did what she had to but still felt a little regret.What she was more worried about was what would happen to him if they defeated the crew,he was young,unarmed and strangely sympathetic,at least to her.Then she saw something that surprised her,Stallion was being affectionate towards the boy.What did that make him then? After all,he must not be all bad... 'Organics are incredibly confusing',she thought to herself.
Had this not been a matter of life and death, Ashrieda would have found the whole situation hilarious. She stood with her arms folded across her chest, anxiously glancing around and pretending to be annoyed that she and Wren had been hauled up on deck when they could have been, ahem, working on the engines. In reality, she was glad for the free trip upstairs -- she, for one, did not want to be down there when Wren's device did whatever it was it was supposed to do. Ashrieda had never gotten along with things that went boom. Of course, if what Stallion had said was true and that some of her fellow crewmates were trapped...well, that turned her stomach a little. Maybe she could insist upon needing to help with the engines, and quite possibly try to rescue her comrades, but then she might give herself away, and then she (and Wren too, quite possibly) would get killed. Or get blown up, and thus be killed. Both of which weren't exactly her idea of a good time.
She made another grand show of looking around the deck, and saw what seemed to be movement from a large pile of barrels. Instinctively, she put her hand on her gun. Had she and Wren been detected? Was this some sort of ambush? Whoever they were, she thought. maybe she could get to them first, and then take them out and frame them as a traitor -- it would be obvious that they were trying to take out the Captain, hur hur. Plus, that would be one less Sky Tiger pirate for the Steamhawke to have to deal with. Two birds with one stone! Catching Wren's eye, she inched ever so slowly in the general direction of the barrels. Reaching into his coat, Wren was reassured by his grip on his pistols as he walked up alongside Ashrieda.
Nate Winters swallowed hard at the sight of the Sky Tiger's engineers closing in on them. "There's just two o' them" Carol said almost under her breath, "an' plenty more of us. We'll gut them two at a time if we 'ave to!" Nate supposed that he should be happy that their fearless leader wasn't suggesting springing out from behind their cover and going in for a suicide charge. Of course, every pirate they killed would be one less
that could board the Steamhawke. They had no idea how many of their friends and crewmates had already died back on their ship. Nate could see the smoke from here. "Here they come!" whispered Carol, gripping her weapon tightly.
Wren and Ashrieda suddenly found themselves surrounded and for a brief moment everyone was stood pointing weapons at each other. It was only once the pair were recognised that weapons were tensely lowered. They were dragged behind the barrels lest someone spot the group. "What are you doing walking around in the open?" Nate asked tersely. "I'm glad you're alive too," said Ashrieda, "but our mission was a success, and we need to get off this ship before the bomb goes off."
"Regardez!" exclaimed Ciprian, pointing to the open sky. The Steamhawke was close, the distance between the two ships narrowing, and it looked like Jack Stallion was planning to pull the Sky Tiger alongside their ship and take it by force.