[Taocow PBEM] [Alex and Vesper] Book 3 - Chapter XVIII

Aaron Clausen mightymartianca at gmail.com
Wed Oct 5 20:24:29 UTC 2016

Getting below decks is a bit tricky as the ship is listing quite 
heavily. Elevators are not in service, and it is a big enough ship that 
getting to the machine shop is a bit of a hike, or more like climbing a 
steel hill.

The shop itself is well provisioned; portable welders and other tools. 
There's also a map of the ship showing where spare hull plating is kept. 
This is clearly a ship that was meant for long voyages where a ship 
might have to fend for itself for long periods of time.

As they work their way to the machine shop, and indeed scour the shop 
itself for the necessary tools, it becomes increasingly clear that this 
ship was vacated in a hurry. No life jackets or life boats were taken, 
and in the machine shop there are the remnants of someone's breakfast; 
coffee, toast and fruit, lying on the floor where it landed when the 
ship began to list. There is no sign of any bodies, however, and no sign 
of any kind of struggle or firefight. It just seems the crew disappeared.

Closer to the hold now, the creaking and groaning of metal can be heard 
much more clearly. The ice is slowly but surely working to crush the 
ship, and most certainly when the breach in the hull gets big enough, 
the ship will go down.

Vesper finds a number of "hover trolleys", small hover vehicles narrow 
enough to move through small corridors, and meant to hold welders, 
torches, and other tools, and even come with several E-clips for an 
independent energy supply. There is also several canisters of something 
labeled "Hull Sealer" with warnings "Highly toxic, use respirator or 
environmental suit. Do not bring into contact with skin. Expanding 
megadamage foam, caution filling enclosed spaces."

The two companions are just loading up the trolley when they smell the 
faintest whiff of sulfur, and a very faint crackling sound, as if 
something is on fire. But it disappears quickly, and a quick search 
around the machine shop shows nothing burning, and no smell of sulfur.

Moving on to the damaged part of the hull means going through the hull. 
Most of the freight is in shipping containers, which remain upright even 
with the ship's list. However, there is less well packed cargo, and 
dozens of overturned crates block their way. It takes some doing to get 
around those crates, and tests the ability of the hover trolleys to go 
at inclines.

As they approach the crack in the hull, they find a thin skim of water 
on the deck. It is no more than an inch deep, but as they get closer, it 
gets to be about four inches deep.

Finally they reach the area where the worst break in the hull has 
occurred. Water is bubbling up through the deck plating in a steady 
stream, and in one spot that deck has been bent up. Fixing this is going 
to mean cutting that piece of decking out, likely using the Hull Sealer 
foam in the canisters, and then welding a new piece of hull plating. 
Alex suspects the sealer foam's real purpose isn't so much to plug the 
leak but to restore some structural integrity.

According to the map they saw in the machine shop, there is replacement 
plates of steel for the hull about fifty feet to their left, beyond 
several stacks of shipping containers. The plates are quite large, about 
ten feet by ten feet square, and very heavy, requiring the use of the 
hover trolley to move.

While they're loading the steel on to the trolley, they notice that one 
of the shipping containers appears to have been cut open. A closer 
examination reveals something much odder, almost as if the container was 
cut open by something very hot *from the inside*. Once again there's a 
faint smell of sulfur, and a strange crackling, and then nothing.

Aaron Clausen
mightymartianca at gmail.com

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