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The Frozen North – The Stow Away

     Mr. Wright was holding Loki suspended from his coat several feet off the floor as Tepic and Beryl joined him in the cramped room.  The boiler filled the room, but they could maneuver inside.  Pipes and metal were sprawled on the floor near the coal, and the boiler engine was dormant.  “Oi kin fix ‘er!  Oi promise!  Jus’ lemme down an she’ll run like new!”  Loki pleaded, his hands pressed together apologetically.  

    “Keep dreamin’ kid.”  Mr. Wright replied gruffly.  He shifted his weight slightly and kept a close watch on the lad’s movements.  “We’ll wait till the others get here to decide what to do with you.”

   “I think you can put him down, Mr. Wright.” Beryl said calmly as they inspected one of the pipes on the ground.  “He has nowhere to run now.”  Mr. Wright grunted.  He allowed Loki’s feet to rest on the floor, but tightened his grip on the coat.

   “Cor!”  Tepic exclaimed, impressed with what Loki had managed, “How’d yer get the grunion pin out of the axle while it were still moving?” 

   Before Loki answered, Captain Heinrichs entered the boiler room with a stern look for the boy. “What are you doing here, Loki?”

   “Please, oi was jus’ trying to ‘elp!”  Loki tried to sound earnest and look pathetic with quivering lips and wide guilty eyes.

   Bookworm folded her arms and retained her stern expression. “Do your parents know where you are?”

   Loki looked even more guilty at the question, but then brightened, “Well ‘they don’t usually know where oi am, so ‘they should be fine.  An they’ll be proud o’ me when ‘they ‘ear ‘ow oi helped ya.”

   “If this is your idea of helping, young man,” Mariah said, assessing the deconstruction.  “I do not want to know what you could muster trying to harm us.”  She turned to Bookworm and muttered loudly, “Perhaps you would maroon this one?”

   “Oi!” Loki shouted as he tried to turn towards Mariah, but Mr. Wright’s grip reined him back, “Cain’t maroon meh if ya cain’t be movin’!”  

   “He has a point,” Mr. Wright responded as he looked to Bookworm.  “Unless you want to ship him off in a barrel we’re stuck with him.  ‘Less someone else is mechanically inclined, we might as well let him try.”

   “Dunno anyone as can take a machine apart when it’s movin, I reckons anyone as can do that can probably put it back even better…. now it ain’t movin..” Tepic grinned, hoping to see what Loki would craft.  Bookworm turned to Beryl on the floor, who shrugged and looked amused.  “He can’t make it worse now.”

    Unless he makes it explode, Bookworm thought to herself.  She relented and took on a more casual stance and Mr. Wright loosened his grip.  Bookworm approached and got to one knee to convey the importance of her plea, “We’re going to let you help, Loki.  We need to get to Dr. Falcon as swiftly as possible.  She’s lost out there and needs our help.  Can you insure we will have no more delays?”

   Loki nodded, his entire frame shaking excitedly, “Yer ‘elped me get them spiders out of me ‘ome so oi was looking fer a way to repay you.  I wanted ter help you find Miss Avariel!”

    “Reckon I’ll be cooking for one more a night then.” Mr. Wright made his way out of the room as Yang and the others allowed him to pass.  He caught Mariah’s distrustful gaze following him out of the door, but made no comment.

    “Oi pa’ched as weh!  Could use a drink neow.”

    “You have to fix the engine first,”  Bookworm reminded him as she followed Wright to the kitchen.  Loki’s face fell as he had forgotten his task for the moment.

    “Don’cha worry,” Tepic reassured his friend as he offered him one of the pipes,  “Got some vole milk yer can drink while we helps ya, right Beryl?”  

    Loki made a blegh sound at the mention of vole milk, while Beryl sat up looking uncomfortable at Tepics suggestion, “I shouldn’t help try to fix anything unless we want it to blow up.  Machines hate me.”

    As Loki began to tell Beryl and Tepic what he would need, Bookworm confronted Mr. Wright outside the kitchen.   He had informed everyone that he intended to cook for the group and was trying to set aside future meals.  He turned to greet Book with a brief nod, “Captain,”

    “Mr. Wright,”  She tried to sound pleasant.  “I hope that we’ll have enough supplies for our newest guest?”

    “Think we can manage.  I always pack a bit more than needed just to be safe,” Mr. Wright responded.  “Your friend does not appear to like me much.”

    “Yes, that is what I came to discuss.  I need to know about your previous association with Ms. Solano.”

    An uncomfortable silence fell between the two, broken by the repairs and arguments from the engine room.  Finally Wright sighed, “In my line of work, sometimes we play ‘the Long Game’.  I was using Miss Solano as a means to an end, a way to get closer to my real objective.  I was going to capture Mr Eliot and return him to you for a bounty. Her organization was the closest to him, and I felt that was the best lead. I performed two jobs for Miss Solano, each assigned by an underling, the second of which I never got paid for.  

    “And that was the extent of your association?”  Bookworm pressed.  “You haven’t had any recent dealings with her or mentioned where we were going?”

    “I was never contacted for another job, and I took that as a sign of a broken contract,”  Wright explained with a shrug.  “Cannot trust a person who will break a contract without first informing me, so I moved on. Tried to track Eliot on my own after that.”

   Bookworm was not sure if she believed Mr. Wright’s version of events, but she was convinced he had not contacted Ms. Solano.  She had to trust Mr. Wright for this mission and Mariah would have to understand that.  Book realized that the silence between them had gone on long enough, “Now that’s resolved, what will we have for breakfast?”

   “The ship was well stocked, so I’ll prepare a classic english breakfast.  Bacon, eggs, toast, and potatoes.  All high in fats and carbs that we’ll need when we start hiking.”  Wright grinned at her.  “Hope you like oatmeal, because when we embark we’re going to have plenty of that.”

   The engine sputtered to life briefly before shutting down again.  Bookworm sighed with relief at the speedy progress the lads were making.  Hopefully they would be underway again shortly.

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