The small boiler in the back of the tram ranted and hissed vengefully at the demands Krith was putting on it. A relief valve on top of the copper tank jumped several times before remaining open and letting vent a steady stream of whistling air.
“Open the valves,” he shouted back at Deev. “We need to go faster.”
The acolyte had never operated a steamer though he was well aware of the science behind the boiler. There were three gauges, needles quivering in the red end of all the dials. Three copper pipes merged into one and there was a small wheel in the center of the main pipe. Deev turned the wheel to his right and there was a jerk as the tram sped up.
“The dials look like they are at maximum, Master Bascot.”
The platform appeared to rush at them and Krith stomped hard on the foot brake. Sparks shot up and Deev turned the valve wheel the opposite direction, feeling relieved to see the needles quickly moving back to green end of the dials.
By the time they had reached the crowd that had gathered to watch, most of the fire was out. The roof of the warehouse had collapsed as had one wall. Smoke and dust lingered over the now calm mob. Whispers passed forward and they parted rapidly as Krith pushed his way to the gates.
“What happened here,” he demanded, turning on the crowd.
There was mumbled silence until one man, short and barrel-chested, stepped forward. “I know you and we know what you were planning here, Master Bascot, and we won’t have it. We won’t be helping you to kill us all.”
“Who said I was going to do that?′ his eyes scanned the crowd.
“We heard all about your plans Going to puncture the sky, are you?” the man looked about, gaining courage from the nodding heads of his neighbors. “I said before, we won’t have it.”
Krith Bascot was a tall man, had spent many years of his youth in the orchards harvesting vindot fruit, running the presses and the whipcord muscles in his arms evidenced the years of labor. He stripped off his topcoat, revealing the pistol stuck in his waistband and rolled up his sleeves. “Who are you to decide what happens at Lord Duke Tachon’s property?”
The man hesitated, unsure of challenging a Lord Duke. “There was a man who came and told us of what you were planning. He said the sky will collapse if you are able to climb the world.”
“Was this man from the Council or one of the Ministries?”
“He did not say, merely a traveler who had heard of your plans and thought we needed to know the truth.”
Krith looked out at the expectant faces in the crowd. “I disagree with some of the theories of the Ministry. I only seek to prove what is indeed the truth.”
“Gah,” an older lady lost in the mob challenged him. “I think the Ministry knows the truth.”
“I refuse to blindly follow anyone or any ministry.” Krith swept his arm over the smoldering collapse of the warehouse. “I’ll not let fear stop my quest.”
“Spoken like a true gentleman,” another voice muttered from further back in the crowd. “Always willing to sacrifice the lower class.”
Krith was not used to being such disrespect. In his own lands, the people that lived and worked in his lands and town were treated fairly, his family was known for crossing many societal boundaries. They had even opened the hospital to anyone of any status, something unheard of even in Kadenbite.
“I sacrifice no one to my adventures other than myself, such is the only way for a gentleman to carry himself,” he said directly to the barrel-chested man. His eyes still locked with the man’s he called out for the Acolyte.
Deev had been lingering on the periphery of the crowd, eying the blackened steel of the warehouse warily. He jump slightly when Krith called for him and inched his way to where he was standing at the front of the crowd.
“Yes, Master Bascot?”
“I sense the hands of your teachers at play here, I have no more time to waste undoing their work. You talk to them while I deal with the mess they have made.”
Krith left the unprepared Acolyte stumbling over his words and surveyed the smoking ruins of his warehouse. The men who had rushed to fight the fire had left and the water that had been pumped from the river had collected in small pools, moats surrounding blackened crates. He kicked at one of the wooden shells and it collapsed.
“Don’t know how it happened, sir,” said the warehouse foreman, emerging from the wreckage, his face covered with soot. “We were trying to get the latest delivery off the train as quickly as possible. I heard a little grumbling from the group outside the gate but they didn’t seem particularly violent or nothing. Next thing I know the whole building on fire, just smoke pouring out the windows.”
“How many men were inside?”
“I can’t really say, my lord, maybe four.”
Krith sighed and glared at his mud smeared his boots. “To the wall with the Ministry.”
“You think it was they that did this?”
“I’ve no evidence to show for it other than my suspicions. They’ll do what they need to do in order to stop me.” He started suddenly, long strides towards the train. “Let’s see what we have left to salvage. These were supplies for the first half of the climb.”
“I don’t suppose you were privy to their plans here,” he asked as the Acolyte was finally able to escape the crowd and joined them at the train.
“No, Master Bascot, I don’t think the Ministry would commit such an act of violence.” He cast his eyes to the ground, nervously pulling his robe up from the mud. “If they were to, I doubt they would let me in any such plans.”
Krith watched the acolyte thoughtfully, wondering how innocent the young student really was. “Who can really know how the Ministry thinks.”
Deev turned to hide his own misgivings and watched the men stacking the salvageable crates back onto the train. In the cool halls of the Ministry, he was confident in it’s purity in the pursuit of science. The sight of a Ministry airship tethered just beyond the edge of town had begun to show a small spot on that purity. There was much he did not understand, did not grasp the actions of gentlemen and Master Teachers, did not see all the machinations of politics the way that the council did. As a small boy he had known of the chasm that existed between his small village and the polished world of the Council. There was a great disparity between the impact the actions of the villages had on the Council and that the Council had on the villages.