Gears of the Sparrow (Novel Excerpt)

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    Gears of the Sparrow (Novel Excerpt)

    Heya everyone, I don't remember if I posted any of my current works here. But below is a piece of the novel I'm writing, if I can make a habit of writing it'll eventually span a three book series but for now it is what it is. I hope it's readable, there's still some work that needs be done on general structure.

    ~H.T. Manner


    Skymaster Thornton was sore and irritable. He brushed brick dust and metal flakes off his coat as he made his way out of the rubble that HAD been his number four docking hangar. It was rainy, it was cold and the sun seemed to have resigned itself to hiding behind a flat gray sky again. He pushed his way over a pile of bricks and stalked angrily around the tangled mess of structure and iron support beams reminding himself of his good fortune to not be trapped under it, he paused to look over the remains of the building, hoping to see anything salvageable. It didn’t look like he was going to have much luck. “Damn that Bill…” he muttered. Now he’d have to petition the local government for funds to scrap the hangar and rebuild it, which meant months of bureaucratic wrangling, paperwork and ass-kissing. Pinching the bridge of his nose he exhaled and looked again at what had once been one of the best maintenance hangars in Chiselton. He wretched slightly knowing there were three lawmen under that wreck that were going to need to be pulled out, whether dead or alive. How he’d managed to survive he wasn’t sure but he wasn't going to spend time questioning his good fortune, instead he turned on his heel and walked across the airfield to the central offices. It was going to be a long day.

    Three Hours Earlier…

    “Three meters to latch” a smooth mechanical voice emitted over the intercom, Captain Bill watched the readouts from the control console as the Sparrow of Dawn backed slowly into the number four maintenance hangar on the northern end of the Chiselton air fields. He feathered the props as the engines spun down to idle and their progress slowed further. “Two meters…” the voice continued. Rather than pull in forwards the way most ships would, Bill preferred to back his in. Having fitted the Sparrow with a rear latch coupler, it made it much easier to leave if his luck turned sour as it often seemed to. Rather than muck about with reversing in a hurry, he’d made it a habit to always reverse in whenever he docked. “One meter to latch…” the voice continued. Shortly after, a loud “Clunk”, a hiss of steam pressure bleeding off, followed by “Docking Complete” over the ship intercom indicated the procedure was complete.

    “Power down all systems except our primary battery” Bill called from his seat. Behind him an S-Bot clattered across the floor, its rubber tracks squeaking as it rolled across the metal gripped floor, stopping in front of a large bank of controls that lined the aft of the bridge, it’s voicebox chattering; it flicked switch after switch off one by one, all around the ship the sounds of machinery whirring began to fade as it shut down. With a final belch of black acrid smoke all four engines on the ship shuddered to a stop. Around the docking area below, M-Bots stamped with the airfields logo zipped and whirred by, cranking elevating lifts to meet the passenger and cargo doors as they opened. A mechanical symphony ensued as cargo was taken off, loaded onto trailers and sped away. On the ground an M-Bot with a red stripe stamped down its back plugged a large cable into the under carriage, computer commands chattered between the main terminal and the ship as fuel and aerion requirements were fed to the service bots below. Refueling conveyor belts spun into life in response delivering the required amounts of supplies up to meet the waiting airship.

    Standing from his seat at the forward console, Captain William “Bill” Sraec looked through the forward windows, the hangar doors framing his view of the flat green airfield outside. Pulling his greatcoat on, he inspected his hat, brushing the bright blue feather he always kept tucked into it, “For luck, or something like that” he’d always mutter to himself. Putting it on his head, he strapped his Sprock & Welter sidearm around his waist, adjusted his collar and grabbed the intercom; “MARSHALL, Get up here!” he dropped the intercom with a flourish and turned to a full length mirror mounted on the wall by the door, admiring his dashing appearance. A hollow, monotone voice replied almost despondently. “Captain, give me a minute I’m finishing something…”, “I SAID NOW, bring your work with you!” Bill yelled into the intercom impatiently. A placid sigh echoed from the voice emitter “As you wish Captain…” the mechanical buzz clicked off as the receiver on the other end was hung up.

    A short while later, a bipedal S-Bot wandered through the door, carrying with it a small screeching M-Bot locked in a cage. The sound of the M-Bots screech filled the flight deck, reverberating off the walls. “What the hell are you doing with that in here?!” Bill yelled over the screeching. “Well I was trying to fix its primary circuit board but you demanded I get up here now and bring it with me” Marshall replied matter-of-factly. “Guh just get it out of here!” Bill yelled covering his ears. The screeches retreated out the door and down the hall before disappearing completely. Marshall returned about a half an hour later, this time devoid of bot and cage “What the hell is wrong with that thing?!” Bill asked. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen it but it seemed to be happening more frequently. “Circuit Rot” replied Marshall rather bluntly. “We seemed to have picked up a case of it somewhere on our rounds, my guess would be that Cretern drop outside Ferin.

    “That’s the last thing we need” replied Bill, taking his hat off and brushing his hair back. Circuit rot could cycle through an entire bot crew in less than a fortnight, leaving every bot it infected a rattling mess; incapable of handling even the most basic function. “That is why I was repairing it…” replied Marshall. “Well… is it contained?” Bill cut him off. “For the moment” responded Marshall “But I don’t recommend leaving it for too long”. Bill nodded in agreement as he walked towards the door “right of course…”, pausing before ducking through the hatch he snapped a pocket watch open, regarded it, then closed it with a click. “Well, keep an eye on the ship, I’ll be right back” he deposited the watch back in his waistcoat before disappearing out the hatch, his footsteps clanking outside as he descended the stand in the hangar. Marshall looked around at the now empty flight deck and shrugged in a non-committal sort of way, “Yes I’ll just stay here then” he sighed, his leg servos hissing as he sat down.

    Striding across the hangar, Bill sidestepped a smaller M-Bot subsequently stepping into another’s path that was hauling a large tool box across the hangar floor, a loud commotion ensued as it crashed into his leg causing him to fall over with dull thud. “AUGH!” he cried in dismay, as his hat fell of his head. “Damnit all!” he got up brushing his backside off as the bot pulled itself up, chittering at him in anger. Putting his hat back on, he walked out the north hangar door with a huff and was immediately greeted by the straight, angry face of the one man responsible for the entirety of the airfield, Skymaster Thornton.

    “Thorny!!” Bill exclaimed, grabbing his hand and pumping it up and down, causing the man’s bowler to fall over his eyes. “Nice to see you!” he continued shaking the man’s hand before the skymaster forcefully pulled his hand back. “Don’t ‘thorny’ me Bill!” he replied, face turning purple, “Do you have any idea how much it cost rebuilding this hangar after your little stunt five months back?” he blustered. Bill held his hands up disarmingly “Whoa, Whoa, how I was I supposed to know that cargo was explosive?” he responded defensively. “It was stamped on the damn crates!” Thornton replied incredulously. “In Mavorian!” replied Bill stubbornly “It’s not like I can read that literary mess!” Mr. Thornton massaged his temples before responding “Just don’t let it happen again, it took me three months just to get the bots working again! Now what are you doing here? And where are your berthing fees?” he held his hand out expectantly. “Oh those… yeah…” Bill fumbled around in his pocket for a few minutes before withdrawing an envelope fat with bank notes.” Pulling a few notes from the evelope he dropped them it into the waiting hand of Mr. Thornton and smiled “that should cover it” and stepped around him, “Marshall has our fuel requirements already, talk to him if you have any questions.” He called back as he walked away. As Bill disappeared around the corner, Mr. Thornton paused; feeling the notes in his hand then realized he was now alone outside the hangar, sighing deeply he pivoted on his heel and walked away, he didn’t need this; he’d had big plans in his younger years… he paused his reverie to look down at the money in his hand, at least this time he had the fees up front. All he could hope for now was that the arrogant captain and his airship would be out of his hair soon, preferably with far less issues this time.

    Bill left the airfield and crossed the road as a minor rain squall descended overhead and began its daily downpour. He pulled his collar high, hoping to deflect some of the water and ducked into a service station surrounded by industrial buildings across from the airfield. A little bell rang out in the small station as the door opened and clicked shut behind him. Nodding to the caretaker he took a seat at a small table, ordered a coffee and pastry and waited patiently for his contact to arrive. Smuggling had become risky business in previous months. The kingdom had cracked down on illegal drug and arms smuggling with special emphasis on arms smuggling, claiming it went against their isolationist views. That all good Tralorians must consider the needs of their country first before those of others. But a good war can’t be fought without arms, and those who most needed them were willing to pay. How could he refuse another country their rights to wage a respectable war? That some of those weapons were going to arm separatists who fought the nation’s border troops was something he declined to think about. He nodded politely to the waiter as he dropped his order off and sat munching thoughtfully. Minutes passed by as he ate and watched the clock. At exactly eleven the clock chimed and a little bell over the door rang again as his contact walked in.

    He stood up in respect, gestured to the seat across from him and grinned at the red haired woman who sat down. “You’re a long way from Whiteboar Melana” he sat back down, “How’s the garden? tending well?” She smiled a tight lip smile and nodded curtly in response. “A few new varieties, they’re settling nicely.” She rested her hands in her lap and waited. The silence grew awkward as they stared at each other, “Oh! You’ll be wanting this” he pulled a thick envelope from his coat and slid it across the table. “All accounted for.” She pulled the envelope across and opened it, finger tips grazing the notes within. Satisfied that it was all present, she tucked the envelope in her cloak and nodded. “Your supplies are being loaded as we speak, same run, same contact, any questions?” he looked off into the distance, eyeballing the clock. “Wha..?” he snapped from his stare, “Oh.. no, we’re good” he smiled as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. “We done here?” he stood abruptly, donning his coat and hat; “great, same time next week then?” he nodded his head in a respectful bow and strode out through the kitchen. She stood abruptly, about to stop him when the front door slammed open.

    A thick, muscled man in the uniform of the local Constabulary strode in, flanked by two junior regulators. “Nobody move!” he yelled, what few patrons there were including the store owner all turned to see what the commotion was. “Sir, out the back!” one of the regulators pointed and yelled as the kitchen door slammed shut, “Bill Sraec!” the constable roared, “By order of the Tralorian Department of Justice you’re under arrest!” he shouldered through the same kitchen exit with a speed that seemed impossible for a man his size. Melana looked after them as all three of the lawmen bolted through the kitchen exit, the door swinging back and forth on creaky hinges. “How does he do that…” she mused. Throwing a few coins on the table, she nodded to the perplexed proprietor before walking out. “Good day sir.”

    Bill rounded the corner as the lawmen burst through the back exit, “HALT BILL!” yelled the constable. Bill ignored the order and continued running, the feather in his hat bobbing up and down like a pigeon. He cut across the road and fired his sidearm wildly at the air field guard shack causing the guard to drop to the ground. Taking advantage of the opening, bill tore thrugh the gate and ran into the number four hangar. Sprinting across the hangar floor he cleared two maintenance bots in a single jump and took the steps up the stand three at a time before careening into the bridge. Marshall stood up as Bill came panting into the bridge, “I see we’re doing this again” he remarked dryly. “Shut it and close everything up! Get us out of here!” Bill responded irately. Marshall sighed and walked back to the primary control panels, casually flicking switches, all around the ship; engines and gears spun to life. Jumping into the pilot seat, Bill looked at his fuel loads; “damn it all, we’re only three quarters full!” he pounded on the panel. “Abort refueling procedures!” He yelled at Marshall. “Aye sir” Marshall replied and tapped a red button on the panel nearest him. Outside, the conveyors spun into silence as the refueling hoses disconnected with a loud HISS. “Clear!” Marshall called, “About time!” Bill yelled as he slammed the engines to full power, gravity forced him back into his seat and caused Marshall to trigger the magnetic grip in his feet to keep from falling over as the engines belched thick white smoke from their startup, the airship accelerated forward, but his elation turned from sighs of relief to panic as their movement was immediately arrested.

    Skymaster Thornton sat in his office, looking over shipping manifests, convinced that something was off with the Sparrows weight loadout, there seemed to be the added weight of an additional four crates that couldn’t be accounted for. He looked up in time to see the giant airships engines suddenly spin to life, Thornton got to his feet and looked out the window, confusion gave way to laughter as he realized what was going on. That fool of a captain forgot to disengage the docking coupler. That airship wasn’t going anywhere. He continued to laugh before looking down at the ground, three lawmen had sprinted through the north door following Bill and were now crossing the hangar floor in hot pursuit, “Oh great, not again” he muttered before gathering up all the days work and dumping it in a box. “They’ll be wanting to see those” he thought to himself as he turned back again to watch the drama unfold beneath him.

    “Bill! The docking coupler is still engaged!” Called Marshall, noting their lack of movement. “Fire the booster rockets!!” Yelled Bill in response, “But sir that’ll wreck…” started Marshall, “Damn Skymaster Thornton and his bloody hangar!” yelled Bill, “Just do it!”. “Aye sir.” Responded Marshall. He turned to the control panel again and turned a small yellow knob to “Ignition”, outside the ship four doors opened along the undercarriage. Followed by four large rockets that clunked into place. A low whine immediately increased to a high-pitched scream followed by a reverberating BOOM that shook the entire hangar as all four of the rockets ignited. The docking coupler strained with the added force, cracks appearing around its mount bolts attached to a support beam. Suddenly the whole apparatus gave way, and still attached to the airship, shot away from the beam as the airship burst out of the hangar with a deafening roar. As the rush of wind subsided the entire building groaned and creaked before it collapsed suddenly in a billowing cloud of dust and debris. Beneath the wreckage, Skymaster Thornton coughed and groaned, “maybe now’s a good time to retire” he thought to himself as he started extricating himself from the rubble.
    -You gotta be so good that they can't ignore you-
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  2. #2
    He wretched slightly knowing there were three lawmen under that wreck
    Did he feel wretched, or did he physically retch slightly?
    The only nit I saw.
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