Intermission: Tales from Cliffside – The Skyrail 7

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Beechums’ single quartz photoreceptor focused in on the silver sliver of metal below the Skyrail. Slowly, the merchant vessel seemed to crack, splitting itself neatly down the middle. Small black dots leapt off the side of the ship, into the ocean, frantically swimming away from the metal monster.

Beechums zoomed in onto the rear of the ship, and saw the slowly spreading black ichor that flowed outwards from the fuel-tanks. Spontaneously, the brackish water burst into flame, spreading across the ocean like a brushfire. Deep in its brass head, a series of levers and gears clicked into place, triggering another series of springs to start quivering as they slowly unwound. Beechums extended an arm, and pulled hard on the levers that controlled the Skyrail, gently forcing it to come about, and hover over the burning water.

Beechums could feel the Skyrail. He was attached to it in every sense of the word. He could feel it strain against the hot air-currents that struggled to shove the massive air-ship aside. Tenderly but firmly, he held the ship in place, his whirring brain clicking away as he twisted knobs and pulled on wheels until the Skyrail was finally stable.

Beechums felt Gillingsworth moving about, strapping himself into his mechanical Aqua-Diver. It used to be a simple diving-bell, before he had added a clever network of gears, pedals, and valves to make it a fine under-sea capsule. Beechums felt the last bay-door open, and the Aqua-Diver dropped like a stone into the ocean, to strap a line onto as many goods and valuables as possible.

Beechums eye panned the sinking ship. There was Dorathy, wielding a long rifle and firing into the water–picking off survivors, of course. Lincoln was pulling himself out of a small port-hole, his hands starting to shake as he reached for his hip-flask. Vandergaard was lying down, picking his teeth with a dagger while Mrs. Jennings was kneeling next to him, her parasol open like they were on a picnic.

And there was Tomas, laughing as he stood on the top of the sinking ship, his cutlass and automatic raised over his head like trophies as he gloried in his victory. In a few minutes, all six of them would be back on board, crowing over their spoils, and bickering like children. Then Tomas would shout and drag everyone off to find another ship, or perhaps to sell what goods they had, and the whole story would start all over again.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the ticking springs and gears wound to a halt in Beechums mind.

It was silent on the ship. There was no one. No heavy breathing from the bunks. No singing from the bar. No clashing metal from the training car, or arguing from the bridge. Everything was silent, and still.

In a few minutes, everyone would be back. But for now, Beechums was alone.
With a gesture that no-one would ever see, Beechums gently reached his metal arms out to tenderly caress the shiny brass levers that were his world.

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