Krumer Whitehorse, first mate of the Brass Griffin, slammed a calloused fist against the rough-hewn table below deck. The opti-telegraphic on the table shuddered from the vibration, rattling its mainspring and battery connection. As if in protest, the brass plated device sparked and shuddered before its faceplate lights grew dim.
Tonks Wilkerson, the broad-shouldered pilot of the Brass Griffin with his distinctive thin face and hawk-like nose, put a firm hand on the first mate’s shoulder. “Don’t care a whit if ya are an orc or that Cap’n Hunter left ya in charge with him groundside. Yellin’ and beatin’ it won’t do ya much good. It’s got a short in the thing and ya know it.”
“Something’s wrong, I can feel it, Tonks.”
Tonks hefted the brass box and experimentally turned the ‘S’ shaped crank on the side. “Mainspring’s still good. Looks like it and a battery wire’s gone and got loose. I’ll pry it open and see if I can get it tightened down.” Tonks glanced at Krumer’s deepening frown. “Ya know the four o’ ’em been around more’n once.”
“Alright. We only took some glancing shots broadsides from that pirate or whoever they were. The starboard lightning net can’t be deployed until we get back ta a port for serious repairs and one boiler’s leaking more than normal. Fortunately, we didn’t go an’ lose anybody ta the broadside we took and we’re still mostly maneuverable. It’s just we’re not gonna be fast about it.” The young man scratched the brownish stubble on his chin and walked up the the ladder to the deck above. The sounds of cutting, sawing and other signs of repair were thick in the air along with fumes of tar, hemp rope and sawdust. Tonks emerged mid deck and shouted among the scurry of activity. “Come about and watch her trim, those bow lines are still frayin’.”
Tonks stepped aside then glanced back over his shoulder when Krumer emerged from below. “Setting course, Mr Whitehorse. Hope there’s no rough reception waitin’.”
Krumer sighed and glanced out across the billowing clouds, white and fluffy like so much mist on a cold winter’s day. The Griffin was higher up than before. She rode the top of the clouds that partially obscured the mountainside below, not to mention any usual flight path of other airships. In the distance he saw the tan, double bat shaped wings and box girders of two steambat aircraft dart up and through the gray and white clouds of a low cloud bank. When the aircraft vanished, his frowned returned.
“As do I, Mr. Wilkerson. Spirit’s willing.”