The outskirts of the City were as dark and industrial as his own City was, though Tepic was in no doubt that this was not New Babbage, or at least not his one. It was as busy and bustling a place as he had seen in a long while, but when he came down to the Docks, he was suprised to see the huge number of ships and boats of all sizes standing at anchor. It looked a bit like they were expecting a hurricane or some sort of bad weather, rather like the time he was down in New Orleans, but the weather, through the smog, looked to be fair, and the sea as calm as a milstone.
Being of a curious disposition, Tepic strolled along the harbour, stopping to listen in to the conversations of the dockers and sailors loafing on the quay. It seemed that there was some monster attacking shipping just off the coast, an enormous electric eel, and all the ships had docked for safety. There was desoultory discussion between merchants, who had goods, some perishable, stocked high and going nowhere on the Portside, old salts regaling anyone who would listen with tales of monsters past, who were of course much bigger and more feroucious, and there were groups of men listening to brave or possibly foolheardy Captains trying to recruit crews to go out and hunt the monster down! It was all very exciting, and Tepic munched down on the tasty mutton pie that had been left out by some kind person for any passing hungry urchin, as he listened in, wide eyed and enthralled. This was better than those cold and dreary places he had been passing through, this was a real adventure, and what a tale he would have to tell when he got back!
He squirmed to the front of one crowd, joining the other urchins gathered there, then, realising there was something familiar about the lad beside him, he glanced up…
“Ello Jimmy!” he exclaimed, “what you doing here, yer want some pie?”
The lad looked down, a puzzled look on his face.
“Pie? Course Oy will, thanks!” he replied, taking the chunk of pie being proffered, “errrr… do Oy know yer?”
“Course yer do, it’s me, Tepic!”
“Don’t fink we have, though yer a nice cove, must be mistakin me fer someone else…”
“We been friends fer ages, back in New Babbage, yer can’t have fergot.”
“Ain’t never been there, ain’t never been out the city, yer must be addled!” the older boy said, though a mouthfull of pie “Hey! Look! One of them hunters is going out after the monster!”
Sure enough, one of the Whalers had got up a head of steam, and was gliding swiftly out to sea, a huge man with the harpoon gun on the front, and others lining the rails with an assortment of spears and guns.
The boys all rushed to the edge of the Dock, cheering and waving. Tepic tried to stay with Jimmy, both joining in the hullaballoo with gusto. At the other end of the Port a Brass Band played stiring music, and the crowd sang along as the ship shrank towards the horizen. A shout went up from the balcony of one of the warehouses lining the Dockside, where a group of well dressed gentlemen had set up a long sea telescope, “Thar she blows!”
Not the most accurate cry to describe sighting the eel, but to was one the inhabitants were familar with, and it brought forth a tremendous cheer from the crowd.
“She’s closing!” the men yelled down, reporting the action blow by blow. Oohhss and ahhhsss rose at each twist and turn, till the ship lined up the creature for a fair shot of the main harpoon! “The’ve hit!” came the cry…….
On the distant horizen there was a blue-white flash, followed a few seconds later by a buzzing, cracking sound, then the distinct boom of a large explosion. A plume of smoke with red and yellow flame at it’s centre showed where once there had been a proud ship.
“Oh…..” came a subduded voice from the balcony, “they blew up!”
The crowd slowly drifted apart, gathering in smaller goups to discuss this new turn of events, and how unwise it had been to fire a harpoon with a metal cable at such a beast…..
Tepic looked about for his friend, but could not spot him in the mass of people, so with a shrug, he sauntered off, finishing the rather delicous pie.