Intermission: Tales from Cliffside – The Skyrail 6

Image: Steampunk Battleship
by jbrown67

Mrs. Jennings ducked inside the closest hatch. She always left the worst of the fighting to the others–she wasn’t one to shy away from violence, but the unbridled raw passion of it was unbecoming. Calmly, she strode through the twisting hallways of the merchant vessel, glancing left and right until a clatter of running boots directed her to the Kapitän’s room. She disposed of the two guards, and politely knocked on the door.

“Was willst du?!” came a loud bark from inside. The Kapitän was obviously upset at the ruckus the Skyrail was causing. She smirked. Yet another instance where cooler heads would prevail over unchecked emotion. She pushed open the door, and closed it behind her with a loud bang.

The Kapitän had his back to the door, hunched over a cluster of maps and charts. A long rifle and a half-eaten sandwich on a small plate kept the papers from fluttering everywhere in the stiff breeze from the open stained-glass windows that dominated the far wall. Mrs. Jennings coughed politely.

The Kapitän turned, jumping up when he saw Mrs. Jennings standing calmly in front of the door, her hands clasped in front of her. Surprise became confusion on his face, and then a wry smile as he shook his head.

“Ein Arab,” he chuckled. “Ich könnte gewusst haben.”

“Meine Eltern sind aus Arabien,” Mrs. Jennings smiled blandly. “Ich wurde auf London geboren.”

“In London,” the Kapitän corrected. “Then you are English?”

“We fly under no flag,” Mrs. Jennings pulled a small brass fan from her blouse and flipped it open. “I apologize for my German. I’m afraid I could never master prepositions.”

“Not at all,” the Kapitän smiled. “I am pleased you made the effort. And quite impressed, too. You have come to steal the Kaiser’s property then?”

“My captain prefers the term liberate,” Mrs Jennings allowed herself a small grimace. The Kapitän’s smile turned into a grin.

“And what term do you prefer?”

“Take,” Mrs. Jennings said, shrugging her shoulders. A loud bang rocked the ship, causing the stained glass window to quiver.

“I’m afraid we will have to cut this conversation short,” Mrs. Jennings sighed, moving closer to him. “Did you notice something about that last explosion? I wouldn’t have two years ago, but spending so much time around Dorathy has forced me to learn a few things about demolitions. That last explosion had a distinct bass echo to it that sounded more like a cave than a grenade. I hate to state the obvious, but I hear on good authority that your navy still uses Jurgen’s Augmentative Accelerator mixed in with your engine fuel. Quite spontaneously flammable when it mixes with water, isn’t it? And I’m afraid there happens to be a small crawlspace between the fore and aft below decks that brings the fuel line fairly close to the base of the hull. Not the most intelligent design, but well protected by several feet of tempered steel–but not protected, I’m afraid, from a sturdy metal-drill.”

“I’m sorry?” The Kapitän looked bemused. Mrs. Jennings snapped her fan closed.
“Do you feel that?” she whispered. “The shaking of the ship? A ship always shakes when there’s an explosion, but then it stops. This one hasn’t, because we’ve placed a Shaker on the large steel spine that runs the full length of your ship. And I suppose you know about the rather large hole we put midships. With your engine burning and a weakened hull, I’d say you have about ten minutes to abandon ship before it cracks open like an egg.”

A knock on the door was followed by two sailors rushing in, desperate to make their reports. They paused briefly to take in the surprising scene in front of them, and then pulled their guns from their shoulders, aiming them at the strange woman who stood so calmly with her back to them.

She didn’t even bother to look. Her hands stretched out and she spun about like a dancer, graceful and elegant even in her large dress. The first soldier was disarmed and brought low with a sharp blow to the back of the neck. The second found himself flying through the air to land head-down in the Kapitän’s chair, only to be knocked out as he stood up by a kick to the face.

It was done in less than three seconds. Mrs. Jennings smiled mirthlessly, and offered her arm to the Kapitän.

“Would you like me to escort you to the lifeboats?”


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