The Whistlock (piecing back together)

Reads: 237  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
((This was released in several posts over a couple days, hence the " ... " ellipses separating sections. Those were individual posts, but I put them together up here, and I'll knit them together later to form something less forum patterned and more reader-friendly. The rest are a few snippets I found, but I couldn't recover everything. I'll just rewrite it later, I think.))

Submitted: January 11, 2014

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 11, 2014

A A A

A A A


"The Whistlock - A Preamble"
© 2012 by Phillip M Roberts. All rights reserved
This: Meet The Admiral

Ah!  The open skies.  Never has there been experienced such a feeling of freedom as when you first set foot upon your ship...  <i>Your</i> ship, mind you!  Not just any ship, but <i>your</i> ship, with <i>your</i> crew, and <i>your</i> commission!  And this particular vessel which I have the immense pleasure of calling <i>my</i> ship is named The Whistlock.
I have been on ships most of my life, covering every job imaginable.  During my first stint in a military force I was on The Cloudburster, where I worked my way up from Deck Armsman to Chief Gunner.  When hired by the gaudy merchant ship Goldwings, I was first an Assistant Logsman, and eventually a Navigator's Secondly.  I was later hired into the crew of a perimeter-defense hulk misleadingly named The Fartrekker -- a terrible ship! -- as a Turnsman; I made my way to Engineer's Secondly on that blasted vessel, on which surviving may be my greatest accomplishment.  Some time later, I came across The Whistlock.  It is an amazing vessel!  Be it through serendipity or desperation, I fell in love with her at first sight.
I managed to make off with it when a ship I was working on, The Tinbear, was brutally shot down.  I needed a ship to make good my escape, so with what remained of The Tinbear's bloodied and battered crew members, we overthrew the guards and skeleton crew of The Whistlock.  We were ultimately successful in our capturing of the vessel, and in securing further means for our escape.  The Whistlock did, however, sustain particularly heavy damage in the process, and I've been paying for it in no small way ever since.

...

As I have not yet introduced myself, and yet you already know so much about <i>me</i>, I feel it is inconsequential to be just now giving you my name.  I suppose you will learn it if you need it, and I suppose that you will not if you do not.  For the time being, it is enough to know I am ranked not as a Captain, but as Admiral.  The reason for that, as with my name, is something you will either figure out or come across, but it is not, in truth, an issue of importance at this junction of time.  What <i>is</i> important is that I have my own ship manned by an extremely talented and capable crew, though stricken with indelible insanity they may be.  That said, I may well admit to accepting my charge's worth of the blame for their instabilities.
The acquisition of my ship cost more than a dozen rich and poor souls, and more than a few kegs of explosives, but The Whistlock has this year alone made open more horizons than any full fleet has in the past decade...and I consider that to be due justification!  This is no small feat, as you will come to find out just how difficult it is to keep afloat a vessel that is not properly endorsed by any one company or military force.  Still, our adventures are rich, as are their spoils!  So long as the skies hold their mysteries, I will be able to maintain this pace.
"Admiral!  The crushpod jammed, causing the catch-tray to back-up and now the powder-sift is emptying quicker than the container buffers can process!  The estimate is 83% chance against making land to our destination in time to safely set down."
I have just been informed by Engineer Tillett that my last assumption was incorrect!  Fuel is no longer being processed, and the back-up is over-flowing the chambers...which means we have to shut down our propulsion and lift engines mid-flight...<i>and</i> we are <i>quite</i> unlikely to make land at our destination in time for repairs, which will indeed make our pace difficult to maintain.  Landing in the waters below and manually powering our naval propulsion engines is the only sensible option...
<i>However...</i>
"If we land within these waters, Admiral, we are certain to be attacked by the Caleuche."  My navigator, Jarvis, took the thoughts from my mind and the words from my mouth before either were fully formed.  Which is, of course, his job.
"Well, Jarvis, just how large of an attack would we be expecting?"  Jarvis is the finest navigator I have ever come across.  I have come to realize that if it is between the grid lines of a map, he knows all there is to know about the area.  Still, he's an odd one, to no short end!
"Admiral, this area is noted for heavy aggression and a high disappearance rate, as applied up to entire fleets.  It may well be that this is a military point of interest for the Caleuche.  I would strongly urge we do whatever we must to remain airborne.  There is a mountain town ninety-eight miles from here at coordinates 96.12-ac/153.66-eq."
"Jarvis, isn't that Baowin?  When I first brought it up as a point to resupply when plotting our original route, you said that they are not particularly friendly toward strangers!  You'd attested that we would be fired upon as soon as we were within range since they'd been taken by slavers, and..."
"Sir, please, listen!  I--,"  Jarvis began, cutting into my speech.  I was not impressed by his attempt to usurp control of this conversation, and simply spoke over him.
"...<i>and</i>," I continued, "that's <i>if</i> we can even make it there!  We've handled the Aquarats before, and we can do it again, Mr. Jarvis."  I finished the statement with an assuring nod.  It is quite true that it would indeed be far from the first time we've had to hold off the Caleuche forces while making an emergency water landing for repairs.  Ah, repairs!  I suppose I should see how long we will be holding the enemy off, regardless of which front we find ourselves approaching.  "Engineer Tillet!"
"Yes, Admiral," Tillet said dutifully as he straightened his spine.
"If we land in the waters below, how long would it take your team of engineers to get us up and in ascent?"
Jarvis attempted to say something, but Tillet hurried his statement first.  There was a catty tone to his slightly elevated level of speech.  "No more than two hours, Admiral," he assured me.
I smiled at this.  "Excellent!  We've held sieges off far longer, and without casualty.  Make word to your team th--..." and then I was interrupted, again!
"Admiral," Jarvis shouted, "you don't understand!  We will be overwhelmed within mere seconds of touching down!  I beg you to take our chances at Baowin!  By blood and thunder, if worse comes to worse, we can barrage their town and requisition what we need for our own use!"  He finished his statement with the look of a man pleading for his life, which was not something which I'd known to be in his character.  No...it was more than that!  He was pleading for <i>all</i> of our lives!
Hm, interesting...
The mention of such a superior force <i>was</i> a bit worrying, but not enough to dissuade me.  However, what <i>was</i> a shock, and put my mind at quite a bit of distress, was his recommendation to invade a civilized (albeit overthrown) mining town.  Jarvis was not the type to cause local unrest where civilian towns were to be considered, and endlessly preached of maintaining a low profile.

...

In the past, Jarvis has actively plotted us through combat zones of Caleuche sky-controlled territory.  In the end, we turned up richer for the looting, but that was not his intent on plotting us through the hostile zones.  It was later revealed the route was planned just to avoid disrupting a string of small mining communities.  He defended his decision by stating that our appearance would cause civil disputes for them should we be seen flying too close to any one town.  Instead of risking political dispute within an area we were not likely to revisit, his recommendation caused us to engage in bloody warfare with the Caleuche's sky patrols.  To note, these are the qualities which have kept this man sturdily affixed in my employ for these past years.
And yet here we are, today!  I am faced with Jarvis trying <i>desperately</i> to avoid a fight, even at the cost of murder, piracy, and a small-scale invasion of a mining community, albeit one which is likely in the control of slavers...  Could it really be that the waters beneath us were that terrifyingly bad?  I was suddenly given over to the idea of listening to my navigator...!
"Right.  Tillet, can we make it the next hundred miles to Baowin?"
Tillet looked agitated, but nodded in a stubborn, reluctant way.  "It's possible, but I'll be putting the engineering crew at risk to do so.  The machinery is extremely volatile and very dangerous to operate manually while in its current state.  I would highly recommend against this course of action, Admiral."
Jarvis turned to him.  "Engineer Tillet, it is either that, or we will all be wiped out.  Not just put at risk, but exterminated.  I think you all fail to grasp the severity of where we have found ourselves!"  He wiped the sweat off of his cold forehead.
I threw my arms up and grinned at the seriousness of this occasion.  "Nope!  Got it: we land, and die; we live if we fly.  Engineer Tillet, I have the fullest confidence in you and your team's capabilities.  Mr. Jarvis, accompany Engineer Tillet and help him accurately adjust our manual propulsion systems to get us to our destination as quickly as possible.  On your way, now!  I will fetch Mr. Tobman and ready our communications array to signal Baowin for a pleadingly peaceful arrival...  Failing that approach, I'll alert Mr. Gadbi to prepare for the possibility of the coming assault.  Gentlemen, get to work."

...

Of exciting men, few possess as little charisma as Signal Master Tobman.  His appearance is an interesting enough sight to behold, with metal wires and glass bulbs twisting in and out of his ears, eye and skull.  The state of his sorely unpolished social skills are in no part due to a failing of intellect, as he is the single entity responsible for the entirety of my vessel's communications systems through an array he designed and implemented himself.  The entity that is my Signal Master is truly inspiring and ingenious, and yet at the same time is equally as horrific and unnatural.
He spends most of his days in the communications hub, identifying signals and passing messages through the ship.  It is no simple task!  Throughout the globe, there does not exist any standard among communications outside of flagging, although light arrays are widely accepted within reasonable standards.  This has Tobman constantly and emphatically rebuilding and restructuring his machinery to be compliant with all the communication equipment and systems we come across.  That alone keeps him in his transmission station for the majority of his time.
This particular moment of this particular day, however, Tobman was on top deck, rectifying an issue with his flagging components.  He lumbered down from the flag-lines, and began to lurch his way toward the manual pull cables for a quick operations test just as I came on deck.
"Ah, Mr. Tobman!  How fares the flagging array?"  Moving is not easy for my Signal Master, so I try to make the effort to quickly close the distance between he and I.  It is a small courtesy, but one he has earned!
"It fares well, with all systems correctly functioning and operable, Admiral."  As he spoke, the bulbs protruding from his head gave off varying levels of different colored light.  The glow they gave off tended to be perceived as eerie to most, and Tobman liked that about it.  He's not much of a small-talk kind of man.
I clapped Tobman on the shoulder.  "Very good, Mr. Tobman!  Very good, indeed!  Will you be returning to your transmission station, then?"
The bulbs again shifted in color as Tobman spoke.  "I was making my way back to the transmission station just as you came on deck, Admiral.  Do you have a task of which I may be some assistance?"
"Indeed, Mr. Tobman, I do!  I do, indeed...  I need to find a way, by <i>any</i> means!, to open a line of communication with the town of Baowin.  We will be setting down there for repairs and supplies.  Are you up-to-date and familiar with the region's affairs?"
"Aye, Admiral, I am aware of the slavers' occupation and their communication standards.  I can get us at least 10 minutes of unchecked ground time, or 3 minutes of flight time over the settlement."
"Well, Mr. Tobman, we'll be quite lucky to make it to the crash-pad, as it is.  We may face the rocks!  But use that!  We will be quite literally requiring crash landing clearance as we close in.  Please take care of all changing-over of colors to allow us as much a ruse as we can muster, eh?  Right!"
After little else to be said, we parted and I left him with a message to put out, ordering Shipmaster Gadbi and Chief Engineer Tillet to be called by name and rank to the War Room.  And then, I ran into Engineer Gordon...  Always with these damn engineers!

...

((the scene before this was of a confrontation in which a boarding of the Whistlock takes place and a large deck fight ensues.  The Admiral alone personally dispatched near a dozen.  Afterward, Gadbi approaches the battle-worn Admiral who is hefting the dead bodies of their assailants overboard*

"This is MY ship!"  The Admiral hefted another body over the railings and past the safety-catch net.  He stumbled forward, clasped the guard-rail, and begrudgingly regained his composure."
"Admiral!  Please leave the rest of the clean-up to us."
"Ah!  Gadbi, Gadbi, Gadbi...  What did I say about this mountain pass?"  The Admiral pointed a finger almost comically at Gadbi.  "I <i>told</i> you the time saved would <i>not</i> be worth the time spent!"  The Admiral swayed a bit, removed his cap, and fell hard on his haunches, slumping forward.  After a deep breath, he wearily looked up with one eye straining to stay open.  "I...  Wait, I did say that, didn't I?  Oh, proof in Hell, I don't know anymore."
"Admiral, I believe you had said, 'time is not with us, but our weapons are.'"
"Shut it, Gadbi.  Just get me the numbers."
"Yes, Admiral.  We will have the numbers for you, momentarily, but it would be helpful if I knew how many you'd already hefted over."
"What?  No!  I mean our numbers, how many of us did we lose, and whom?  The only number I want to hear about the beast-loving techno-monkies that attacked us is, 'All of them, Admiral!  All dead, Admiral!  Whoops, missed one, BANG!  All dead, Admiral!'"
"Yes, Admiral."
"Oh, no!  Gadbi...  They broke my glasses..."
"Terrible that, Admiral."

...

"No survivors!  No salvage!  But goodness, save time, men!  The world has plenty of ships and men, but time, now time is a commodity we connot risk running short on!"

...

"God help you if you have not tested my sanity!"

...

"Ah!  I mean, good sir, you can see right through her midsection!  Now that can not, in all fair logic, be a healthy device, my friends!"
"Quite right, I do believe she has estimated it should cause her death in a mere ten years, maybe eight, perhaps even seven."
"But why on Cinna would you devise and wear such a...  such an...  uhm, what is it?"
"It's a thing, man!  A thing, that does wonderfully marvelous tricks and can make a full man vanish without warning!  Why would she not have such a device in our line of work?  You must surely be mad, or at the least impractically minded."
"I concede to madness, but not ever to impracticallity.  For a woman to trade good long years for a device which...  well for a device which does something...  I...  Well, I concede to madness, none the less."
"Ah!  Good, so it is settled, then!  You are mad, she is correct, and I am famished.  Why don't you fetch Gordon and take care of the rest of this work for me?  It's really quite finished besides a few whacks of a mallet and a kick here or there."


© Copyright 2019 Phillip M Roberts. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments: