In the backyard
Mission: Chapter 9: Steam City
Faizel had taken to helping Blazingtail with the cooking, now that supplies were low and not very diverse anymore. He showed the kitling how to make cheap bread, how to make the most of the little meat that was available at extortionist prices and was there as backup when dealing with merchants. Blazingtail was a willing student, but not the brightest.
Brem sat down at the table and watched the duo stir in pots and pans. "What you cookin' today?" he asked as he pulled out a small contraption from his pocket and started fiddling.
Blazingtail turned around and grinned a toothy grin, his one lower fang poking over his lips. "Broth!" he exclaimed.
Faizel steered the kitling back to stirring and sat down opposite Brem. "It's filling enough with some bread. I am already hearing mates saying they'd leave if the food gets any worse. Better to take your chances either in the factories, or leaving town."
The boatswain watched Brem work on the intricate little machine. "What's that?" he asked.
Brem looked up. "Oh, just a little thingamabob. Nothing to worry about. Say, I hear you made some strong stuff to drink. Mind sharing some? My own stash of brandy has vanished."
Faizel smiled and beckoned Brem to follow him. "It's not much," he said, as he pulled up a bottle from his bag. "But it tastes alright. There is some strong stuff out there, in town." He pursed his lips. "I don't trust that."
Brem grinned. "I know what you mean, my friend," he said. The alcoholic drinks in Kanesville were an aquired taste. Rough, harsh, meant to burn the lining of your stomach, it was not what the sailors were used to. It got you drunk quick enough, but the hangover had side effects that crippled a healthy man.
The two men drank in silence, as the kitling continued to cook and chatter happily to whomever entered or left the room.
"Any idea when we're getting out of here?" Brem asked the boatswain.
Faizel shook his head. "No, not a clue," he said. The silence continued for a while.
"Why?" asked Faizel at last. "In a hurry to get out of here?"
Brem shrugged and adjusted his eye patch. "Just that the air is foul here," he said.
Faizel nodded. More and more crewmates were coughing at night. And more and more crewmates were openly discussing leaving the crew. It was only through Faizel's reminders of the treasure that awaited them, that they seem to stick around. Some day, that would not be enough, Faizel knew.
Some day, all the beds would be emtpty and it would be just a handful of sailors left over for the Captain to take with her to the next destination.
"Have you seen that sludge outside?" Faizel said. Brem turned around in his seat to look out the window, which was covered by a make-shift curtain. "No," he answered.
Faizel nodded as he lifted his mug. A fuzzy sort of warmth was coming over him, relaxing him just enough to become quite chatty.
"They say it is leftover waste from when the factory was still active. It's been bubbling now and then. I bet that is where the smell comes from."
Brem slowly swallowed the last mouthful of his drink. "Could be."
"Someone should investigate," Faizel said.
"Yup." Brem reached over to grab the bottle, but Faizel was quicker and put a stopper on it, returning the bottle to his bag.
"Yes," he smiled at the chief engineer. Brem sighed and stood up. Grabbing some equipment, he walked out into the courtyard.
Brem poked the dirt with his booted foot. It bubbled and moved, until a blackish goo bubbled slowly to the surface. Brem pulled his boot back in disgust and got his dextrocite meter out. "What the hell is this?" he said in a low voice. The dextrocite meter only shot out to a bare minimum, meaning it was safe to be around. Brem took a deep breath and couldn't identify the smell of it. Not knowing better, he thought it resembled McGinty's burned pigeon stew in smell. The texture though, it was strange.
The stuff bubbled up and one of the bubbles popped, releasing a strong nauseating smell.
"Bwoargh!" Brem exclaimed as he pulled his vest up to cover his nose. "Smells familiar. Alchemical waste from cheaply made materials. Black market stuff." He took a few steps back.
With his free hand he felt around in his pocket for something to poke the black stuff with. He found a pencil stump and leaned in again to stick it in the black gooey stuff. He was careful not to touch it with his bare hand.
"Hmm," he said to himself again as his mind went over what he could do with it now. The factory had obviously turned to cheap materials to keep production costs low. The waste that resulted from it may have been the reason the factory was closed down.
There was always someone who paid the price for cheap goods for the masses. Usually the masses themselves. But Brem's immediate thoughts were not so much for the greater good of the people of Kanesville. He was more concerned with his health. Oh, and that of the crew. And having been around this stuff for a few weeks would not be advisable for the healthiest of people.