Of machines and men
Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Timeline: Engine room
The Steamhawke was ready, or at least: the repairs had been done. The Captain stood at the back of her cabin, on the brandnew aft-balcony, just below the giant iron and brass propellers. The morning sun made them look even more shiny. Daenelia sighed with contentment and walked back into her cabin. She ducked her head as she walked through the door into the narrow corridor. A few steps further she emerged from the aft deck on to the main deck. The wheel was kept in place by ropes, but strained against its constraints as if it just wanted to get up and go. The ship was ready, she thought. But she had not been able to talk to Brem much about the engines. He seemed to duck away everytime she wanted to ask him. And she had not seen the apprentice engineer either: Erm seemed to have disappeared. That was another thing she needed to talk to Brem about. Where was that man?
Down in the engine room the newest engineer was hard at work replacing any piece that looked like it was ready to fall apart. "I should just replace this whole unit! This is like a whole no'ther world to me!" Frustrated from all the return trips to port for more parts the engineer a young Irishman wiped the grease and ash on his shirt and walked onto the deck for a quick breather. Noticing the captain he went to introduce himself. "Greetings Captain, I'm your new engineer Johnathan Fitzpatrick O'Leary but, please I'd prefer it if everyone called me Jack," he gave a salute.
Daenelia jumped back a little when the young engineer saluted. She cautiously held out a hand for him to shake. "Pleased to meet you... Jack," she said. "Have you seen Brem around? I need to talk to him... How are the engines doing?" She asked.
"Evething is running in full force Captain Daenelia though I'm a bit new to these particular units, and don't worry just because I saluted I'm not a spy from the royal navy I've got a bone or two to pick with them me self". He assured. "As for Mr. Brem I was looking for the fellow also I'll give you a ring if I see im' ". He said. As he was about to wander off he gave a quick mention. "I'll be in the engine room a lot I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and if you hear some small explosions you might want to check with me first, chemistry is a hobby of mine". He said as walked off the deck.
Daenelia looked on approvingly. Good man, she thought. But where was Brem? She stalked off after Jack and followed him to the engine room. Brem wasn't there, and oddly enough neither was Erm. There were some people doing clean up and maintenance, and Jack was doing his job, but she had to ask someone about the state of the engines. Jack would do, he knew what he was talking about.
"Jack?" She walked up to him and asked again. "Jack? Since Brem isn't around... can you tell me if the engines have had that minor upgrade that Brem promised? I want to plan our departure." She didn't mention that staying in Seaport always felt dangerous to her, in that she knew she'd run into Elias Ambrose sooner or later. And though the man had left her alone after giving her the money to repair the ship and pay the crew, she did not want to run the risk of seeing him again.
"Sorry Captain, like I said I haven't even met the man yet so I wouldn't know of any upgrade". Jack was a bit disappointed since he couldn't give the Captain any information especially on his first day. "I'm sure he'll be along directly Master Engineers don't just vanish"! He laughed hoping to cheer his commander up since she looked a worried Captain Daenelia began to walk away when he called her. "Oh ugh, Captain just a minute I've been working on a formula that will be contained in a cannon shell and when fired will melt any metal in comes into contact with". He began to explain now the Captain had a confused look. "So if we can aim at our enemies props we can leave them stranded or even drop them from the sky if necessary". He finished "I know you think I'm a nutcase but it was a notion I had a few years ago as I was running from the Royal Navy draftboard back in Dublin". He finished.
"Praise to the machine"
"To be with the machine is to be with the god"
"Praise to the machine"
These were the words Erm had been taught and the words he muttered under his breath as he made his way back to the steamhawke, they comforted him in the sense that they would shield him from any criticism his crew mates may have over his newly found god. To say he was nervous about telling Brem was somewhat of an understatement, if Brem was mad at him then it could break what was new. Faith, a simple thing but fragile none the less.
Brem meanwhile, had been busy with this upgrades for the ship, he had left orders with his crew to tidy while he made his was inside the pipes to 'fix' what he needed to. He was on his way back to what could only be called the normality of the engine room when he heard the captains voice. "Why's she here?" he muttered "to see me? Damn that woman, dosn't she know the effect she has"
Jack was walking along the engines making various last minute adjustments and checking the different pressure gauges. He was just passing the pipes where Brem was working, he noticed a gauge was stuck and went to the nearest bench to grab a new one. "Damn just imagine if that gauge stayed, the whole engine might have went up then I'd be out of job" he laughed to himself. The old gauge was stuck so Jack grabbed the small grinder from his tool belt and hooked it up to the pump in his boot heel. He replaced the gauge and it was just at that instance he saw the order on the bench Jack started to leave when Brem was getting out, he had a little trouble so Jack went to help him out. "Well Mr. Brem tis' a pleasure to meet ye sir" he greeted as he helped Brem out. "Your new engineer Johnathan Fitzpatrick O'Leary at you service". He greeted with an open hand.
Daenelia heard Jack talk to someone and caught sight of Brem as she peeked under the pipes. "Ah! Brem! Those upgrade...?"
"Yes, Captain. Done as agreed. I sent Erm to tell you that. Yesterday. Didn't you get the message?" Brem didn't look at either Jack or Daenelia but tried to find Erm in the group of engineers working on tidying up. That boy was nowhere to be seen. Then he noticed the open hand Jack offered him. He grunted and shook it. "Good. At least someone dependable." he grumbled.
The captain ducked under the pipe to get to Brem and Jack. "No, I haven't seen Erm, Master de Berg." She thought for a while, trying to recollect when she had last seen the apprentice. Days ago, surely. She chuckled. "He better be on board soon," she said. "Or we leave without him!" She turned around and headed for the stairs to go back up to the deck. A though struck her.
"Maybe he found his true love!" She shouted at Brem, and then laughed loudly. The thought of shy Erm even talking to a girl was a joke to her.
"... Maybe he did," Brem muttered. Then he looked at Jack. "We seem to have lost our apprentice, Jack. Care to help me look for him?"
Jack grinned, "You lead the way Mater de Berg you know the lad better than I do." He chuckled. They walked out of the engine room to look for Erm, Jack kept wondering about his superior "Why didn't he seem to thrilled to answer the Captain Daenelia's question?" He murmured.
"Whats that?" Brem asked .
"Ah nothing sir." Jack quickly replied a little nervous.
"Jack, I'm happy to have another engineer on board we could use the help, but when we say something even if don't intend to you have to say it. Now what did you mumble?" He asked.
"Oh er What were the engine modifications to the engines you and the captain were talkin' about?" He asked quickly.
"Improvements to the turning ability and a way to get more speed in a emergency." he replied "Ways and means of doing what we can do but in a quicker fashion."
The pair walked swiftly through the ship, searching for any sight of Erm without much luck. One crewman said they thought they had heard him muttering something about machines and praise but he wasn't sure.
Meanwhile Erm had found what has was looking for. He knocked on a door and said "Mei-Xiu! You are the god made machine, come out, please I need to worship you!"
Mei-Xiu wasn't in the room, and Erm sighed, turned around and left the ship to go out on to the docks. He needed to find Brem, but maybe later. Right now, he wanted to look for Mei-Xiu, and if she was not on the ship, maybe she was on the docks. As Brem and Jack turned a corner, they just missed Erm going up on deck.
"I have a mind to fire that boy," Brem said to Jack. "He is never there when you need him, he can't even lift anything heavier than a spanner and he has the wits of a mouse!" Brem conveniently forgot how bravely Erm had fought on many occasions. But Erm had been absent a lot lately, and to be honest, it just worried Brem.
"Better go and get some coffee," Brem muttered.
Jack walked off too grab a couple of mugs he tried to think of other things but he could'nt shake his worry for Erm. "Boy I hope the lad is not in danger." He mummbled to himself, since his first voyages he always considered whatever crew he was on to be his family and he believed that the best years of his life are meant to happen on the Steamhawke. "Prasing machines? What kind of buffoonery is that?" He questioned to no one imparticular. He was in the kitchen when he saw Ed Marketh's cat Copper with his mechanical leg, Jack laughed. "Maybe he's prasing Coppers leg!" then "BANG" it hit him. "He isn't in the engine room, he hasn't been on the ship so he must be in the port," then he remembered seeing Mei-Xiu leaving the ship for some business. He ran to the main decks to tell Brem.
"Where's the mugs?" He asked a little irritated he thought he was really another Erm.
"I got one better Masta' de Berg, I think I know where Erm is you heard the sailor say he talking about prasing machines right?" He explained. Brem let him go on.
"Well I believe the lad went into town to look for Mei-Xiu she went into town earlier and if he is treating machines as gods, well what better the such as an advanced automanton as Mei?" He finished panting.
"Jack you just made this search easier, find Mei-Xiu we find Erm." He patted Jacks back and they left the ship. "Bless me mama's soul I think I'm gonna like it here". He thought.