Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Location: Steamhawke Deck
Timeline: Day 4
Tags: Cult of the Machine
Daenelia was leaning with one elbow on the steering wheel, which was held in place by ropes. The ship barely rocked and she sipped her hot chocolate in peace. The gulls over head squeeked, the hushed voices of some deckhands playing a quiet game of cards soothed her, as she contemplated where they were and how lucky they were to have survived the fight. And how lucky they were to have the money Elias gave her to fix the ship up. Of course there was something in the back of her mind that warned her she might have to pay him back, somehow. But for now, she had a sound ship, engines in excellent condition and a crew who wouldn't mind sailing west. Life was good. She peered over the side on to the docks. A procession of four men in a row. They almost looked like monks, except that they did were not dressed like monks. In fact, Daenelia realized they wore simple townsfolk clothes. But the way they walked, in a row, silent and steady, made her think of ... monks.
Both Daenelia and the odd men on the docks were visible from Ivan’s vantage point on the corner of the deck. He seemed to have a knack for unintentionally going unnoticed in dark spots on the ship, though it wasn’t something he discouraged either. The large man couldn’t help but notice Dae’s interest in the row of strangers. They certainly were curious with their odd manner of behavior; perhaps the captain knew something about them. Ivan silently made his way from his corner and approached the captain from behind. He gently patted her on the shoulder as he spoke. “They’re certainly... odd... aren’t they?”
Daenelia jumped at the sound of his voice and spilled most of the hot chocolate over her white blouse. Ivan always made her jump, sneaking up. Though how such a big and unmissable man could ever sneak, was beyond her. And she trusted him, knew he was a good crew member, so she chided herself for jumping. "Yes. Yes, very odd. Look at what they are doing now," she said as she pointed.
The four men walked up to a man who was sharpening knives on a dextrocite operated machine. Sailors where gather round the mobile machine on a cart, to pay to get their knives back in shape. The four men gently pushed the knife sharpening man out of the way and stopped the machine from working. Then they seemed to chant: "Praise the machine, to be with god, praise to the machine." One of the men opened a back pack and distributed cans of oily lubricant, wrenches and cloth. The four men set about servicing the machine, while the knife sharpening man looked on in amazement. But when they started to take the machine apart, he started shouting.
"Hey hey hey!" He pulled on one of the men's sleeve. "That's my machine! You bastards!" The sailors crowded round a bit closer. Chance of a fight to entertain themselves with looked appealing. But the men seemed to listen and put the machine back together, polishing up bits and tightening bolts. Then the bowed to the machine in the cart and turned around and walked in the direction of the Steamhawke.
The man at the cart looked at his livelihood, carefully checking settings and turning the machine back on. He seemed to be happy with the result, or at least happy the machine was working still. But Daenelia saw the four men walking up the gangplank of the Steamhawke. She looked at them suspiciously. No one seemed to stop them. She made a mental note to tell the crew about ship security. Ivan however was moving towards them, looking over his shoulder at the Captain. She nodded.
"Would not like to see them get their mucky hands on our engine, Ivan," she said, as they both walked down the narrow stairs to the main deck to see what was going on. The man nodded in agreement as his pace sped up. Swiftly the large slavic man had placed himself at the top of the gangplank, blocking the odd men from proceeding further.
Ivan raised his good arm, palm outstretched; a clear sign telling them to halt. “This here is... a private ship.” he huffed. The jerky, mechanical tint to his voice made it all the more threatening. “I’m afraid I’ll... have to ask you... head back where you came.”
The first man lifted his head, showing parts of his face had been replaced with metal bits; his nose, his left eye, his lower jaw. His left cheek, which was still flesh, was stitched to the jaw, or the other way around. The flesh bit looked infected. He had a little trouble when he spoke. "Wwee meeen noh hhharm," he said slowly. The other three men walked up to stand beside him, but none of the four moved forward. They just stared at Ivan.
Ivan stared back, observing the features of the metal faced man. His appearance certainly made the old soldier appreciate the skill in which his own clockwork had been installed. While it certainly caused him a great deal of trouble from time to time the process was at least seamless and not this... patchwork. Daenelia quickly stepped up to stand next to her War Dog. It seemed safe enough. "Then turn around and leave. There is nothing for you here," she said sternly.
The four men exchanged glances. A second taller man stepped forward and addressed Ivan, ignoring the Captain completely. "You are like... us," he said, as he held up his right arm, a heavy looking iron limb with cogs whirring as fingers moved. "You are closer to the Machine God." Then the four intoned: "Brother."
Ivan scoffed. Machine god? What kind of nonsense was that? It sounded like some kind of cultist gibberish. Perhaps that was why the men seemed so odd and monk-like. Ivan shook his head in response. “My brothers... have been gone... a long time... and I’m not looking to get more... this late in my life.” The tainted soldier pointed down the gangplank. “Now... harm or... no... you’re still... going to have to... leave.”
The tall man who had spoken looked a little surprised, and the first speaker turned to him and whispered in his ear. The then both looked at the docks as if they where looking for something, or someone. The two men then looked at Ivan again, and nodded. The tall man then said to the captain: "We really mean no harm, Captain," he nodded to his half-metal faced companion. "We are simply keen to bring more of our kindred into the fold." He held his right arm up for a moment, then folded it with his other arm under his robe, much like a monk.
"Wweee will leavvve no-ow," metal-face said. The four men scuttled quickly to the gangplank and were off the ship before Ivan could threaten them.
"Well," said Daenelia as she stood next to Ivan, watching the men disappear in an alley behind the docks. "What do you make of that?"
Ivan kept his eye on the alley the men had retreated to briefly, just to make sure they were really gone. They’d certainly had a strange air about them, though they rubbed Ivan the wrong way. Still keeping his eyes on the alley he spoke: “I don’t... like it.” The man coughed slightly. “I get... a bad feeling... off of them.”
Daenelia's eyes looked at the dock as the men departed. She had a feeling someone was watching her, but nothing looked out of place. Still, she took a step closer to Ivan, feeling safer with this giant standing next to her. Shivers ran down her spine, and she squinted at the docks one last time. A dark figure in a long coat caught her eye, but when she blinked it was gone. She rubbed her eyes.
"Me too, Ivan," she said. "Let's get some better security on deck."