Finding out where the lifeboats were was tiring. Chan assumed they would be stored above decks, just as they were in any logical ship design. But apparently whatever idiot that designed the ship thought it would be better to put then bellow decks and out of enemy fire. Giant doors would open on either side and and the boats would be boarded and then lowered into the sea. When she asked the engineer who had told her all this at gunpoint why it was such a stupid design, he said it was because the Leviathan was unsinkable. That had gotten a laugh from Chan. In Joshua's collection of books there was one called The Unsinkable Ship. It was about a ship that was boasted to be unsinkable and then ran into an iceberg and sank on it's maiden voyage.
Chan was also getting sick and tired of running into guards. The whole point of her escaping while the ship was under attack was so she wouldn't run into guards. Let it seemed that around every corner a dozen men were all eagerly awaiting their chance to shoot her dead.
This is why when she came around the corner to a place she was almost sure was the lifeboat storage, it didn't surprise her that their were three guards.
In the brief time it took them to wonder who she was, two of them were dead. The last one was quick though; he dove into a lifeboat and started shooting back. Chan cursed and dove back around the corner just as bullets crewed up where she'd been standing.
They exchanged fire for awhile. But Chan didn't have awhile. She knew more guards would be coming, because no matter how many distractions you threw at them, such as the giant squid monster attacking the ship, the guards would always go after you first.
So she stopped and listened. And in response her opponent stopped and listened. Is he watching the corner? She thought. She waved out her hand and quickly withdrew it to avoid the hail of bullets. Yes, yes he is. But the guard was firing at full auto. Big mistake. She swung her leg out and once again he opened fire. He even managed to nick her shin that time. She then stuck out her hand again. He fired again. Then she glanced around the corner. But there was no burst of fire this time. Without wasting a moment, Chan tore around the corner, screaming a war cry and burst firing from the hip. She jumped onto the lifeboat and saw the guard fumbling to reload his weapon. She switched to full auto and mowed him down.
She turned in the lifeboat and looked for the control to launch it. After deciding it was probably the one that said “launch lifeboat” she hit the button and was relived to see the wall next to her open up to reveal the blue ocean. The blue ocean that wasn't filled with tentacles. The side she was on was opposite to the side on which the monster was attacking.
As the boat slowly swung out over the waves, Chan considered trying to rescue Derek. She decided against it, as there was a ninety-nine percent chance he was dead. Even if he somehow escaped the tentacles, he would still get shot by the soldiers. She felt horrible for doing it, but steeled herself. This is why Joshua is captain and not you. He can leave people behind.
Bullet's ricocheted off the boat, abruptly interrupting her train of thought. The guards that she knew were coming had arrived. She ducked and more bullets flew over her head. There were at least a dozen guys. It was time to go.
Chan braced herself and fired at one of the ropes. The moment it broke the tip of the lifeboat fell with nothing to hold it up. But before it could fire all the way she twisted around and fired at the second rope. The lifeboat free fell towards the water, and landed with a splash that soaked Chan through to the skin.
Chan hunched over and presented as small a target as possible for any shots from above. But no shots came. She was out. She had done the impossible. She had escaped the Leviathan.
She took up the oars and started rowing. She needed to get as much distance as possible between her and whoever won the battle. Although she didn't have any food or supplies, the lifeboat had an emergency store that could have sustained twenty men for weeks. And if worse came to worse there was always the soldier's bullet riddled corpse. It wouldn't be the first time.
But as she was rowing away she saw something out of the corner of her eye. She looked at it and realized a person was falling into the sea, barely visible through the fog. She wouldn't have given him a second glance if it hadn't been for the fact that this person was falling, but clearly not off the ship. It was as if God had simply dropped them from the sky.
And as Chan strained her eyes, she realized with a smile that she knew the falling person.
Derek knew his idea was stupid. Stupid beyond belief. It had maybe a one percent chance of success. However, it the soldiers managed to open the trapdoor Derek had a one hundred percent chance of getting shot and killed.
“Get that shell,” he ordered the gunners which he still held hostage, “But don't mess with it, just hold it.” They quickly obliged, two of them carefully holding it. Derek stood up slowly. The soldiers were still pounding on the trapdoor, and every now and then he would bounce slightly when they gave it a good hit. “This turret is pointed at the monster right?” Derek asked. One of the gunners nodded. “I want you to point it in the opposite direction. Away from the monster on the other side of the ship. Now!”
The gunner that nodded went over to a control panel and hit a few buttons. Large gears sprung into action and the floor shifted under Derek's feet. “Now you,” Derek addressed the two men carrying the shell. “You bring that forward and put it on the trapdoor.” They did so. The weight was enough that Derek was able to step off and move freely. He headed right for the loading breech. And then he climbed in.
Fortunately the other gunner's corpse had slicked it with blood, but it was still a tight fit. Unlike the unfortunate man, Derek was not being choked to death while entering. He compressed his chest and was able to slide in, just barely. It was extremely hard to breath and his gun was crushed against his body. He kept it pointed at the gunners, ordering them all to keep in his line of sight. “If you move I shoot,” he told them.
They waited like this for about a minute. Ten thousand things could have gone wrong in that minute. But nothing happened. They simply stood there, listening to the guards desperately try to knock the big thing that was holding the trapdoor off.
It was at the end of that minute when one of the gunners finally realized what he was up to. “Oh god!” he screamed, trying to take action before it was too late. But the moment Derek heard his scream he pulled the trigger and emptied the thirty round magazine in four seconds. He killed two of the gunners in his volley. The third never got a chance to do anything, as a split second later the soldiers finally forced the trapdoor open.
The guard who was leading the way pushed the shell onto the ground, and then gleefully slammed the door open. He let out a brief cry of victory. It was all he had time to do before the shell exploded in his face.
Derek was surrounded by flame. His clothing and then his skin would have burned up instantly if it weren't for the fire resistant clothes of the Great Foundry that Derek still wore. The force of the explosion broke both his legs instantly, and sent him shooting up the barrel. He closed his eyes and let it happen. He could feel the friction burning his skin, even though the fire couldn't. Every hair on his body aside from the stuff at the top of his head was burned, or torn off by the stress. He let go of his gun, it would do him no more good.
And suddenly he was in the open air, and falling towards the ocean. The energy of the blast dissipated the moment it was no longer confined to the barrel, and he was now free falling to the ocean. It's very blue, he thought in a haze of pain.
He slammed into the water and became instantly aware of just how hurt his body was. There was a piece of shrapnel in his chest. One of his ribs broke when he fell onto the deck. The hit from the water had broken two more. He had serious burns on his face and any of the tiny cracks where his clothing did not protect him. Both his legs were broken. He beat his arms, trying to stay above the water. But he didn't have the strength. He gave up and let his body slowly sink.
But then someone yanked him out.
Derek didn't really have any clear memory of what happened in the lifeboat. There was a full medical kit on the lifeboat. He vaguely remembered Chan putting both of his legs in splints and rubbing some burn cream all over his face and body. She removed the two inch piece of shrapnel from his chest. She fed him and slowly nursed him back to health.
He dreamed though. He dreamed about what had happened in the Well Well, about beating Mozart to death. About the hungry, hungry flies. He dreamed about all the other people he'd killed. He'd never killed anyone before leaving The Sphere. And let now he seemed to be doing it all the time.
It was three days later that Derek really woke up. He woke up and was immediately staring into Chan's midsection as she worked the oars back and forth. A stench of rot and decay hung in the air.
Derek tried to speak. But he vomited instead.
“Oh well,” Chan said. “It's not like it can stink any worse. Feeling any better?”
Derek didn't know how to answer. He couldn't remember how bad he'd been feeling before. “I dunno,” he moaned. It hurt to talk.
“You were damn lucky. How the hell did you get off that ship?”
Derek tried to arrange his confused memory. “I think... I think I shot myself out of a cannon.”
“Really? Out of a battleship cannon? I think you just trumped about every good survival story I have. Also explains why you were all but dead when I found you. I used up all the burn stuff on you. I kept finding burns in the most bizarre of places.”
“It hurts to...” Derek trailed off, hoping Chan would get it.
“To talk? Explainable. That shrapnel probably pierced your windpipe. I hope your up to listening though. I've been going stir crazy in this boat. There isn't much to do aside from row and eat. I'm trying to conserve food, and rowing is kind of pointless since I have very little idea where we are. Up North. Near the Scheldt, but not actually in the Scheldt. We'd know if we were in the Scheldt.”
Chan glanced at Derek. He didn't say anything.
“You know, I've never really had a chance to tell you all that much about myself. And I really don't know all that much about you. I mean, your from The Sphere right? But I don't actually know all that much about The Sphere. Joshua spent a considerable amount of time there, but he only ever really saw the development and science areas. But aren't you one of the industrial workers?”
“I've was born in a southern island. I was, and I suppose I still am, part of a tribe known as the Gelts. We were extremely hostile to any outsider, and I remember lots of rituals involving human sacrifice and crucifixion. We killed any outsiders that came along, including a few White Fleet guys who came to be friends if I remember right. But the only people that we couldn't beat was The Sphere. When I was about sixteen, a few scout parties discovered us and we attacked, but we didn't have any guns, and dozens of warriors were slaughtered before we beat them. And we knew more were coming. That's when Joshua arrived. He offered to train us how to use guns and help us beat back The Sphere. We attacked him and killed about half his crew. He started sailing off, but I knew what would happen when The Sphere came again. I chased after him, and nearly got shot for my trouble. But something made him stop and spare me. I became part of the crew, got trained how to use a gun, and added some rank and file to his ship. Haven't seen the Gelts' island since. My money's on them all being dead. That would make me the last of the Gelts. Some might still be alive though, you never know.”
Derek's throat was starting to feel a little better. He decided to try talking. “You follow a man who nearly killed you? I don't see the logic of that.”
“Well, I don't really think about it that way. I think of him as the man who let me live. And besides, he needs me. Joshua lost his faith in people a long time ago. He's a good man, but he doesn't want to be. Thinks it makes him weak. I'm the one person he's allows himself to be weak around. No one knows him better then me. Except for maybe the doctor.”
Derek felt an urge to roll his eyes. Chan must have had a very loose definition of “good man.” “What's the story with the doctor anyway? He's got the same scars all over his body that Joshua does. What happened to them? And doesn't he have any name other then the doctor?”
“The doctor is a coward, traitor, and asshole. The only reason Joshua doesn't kill him is because he knows medicine and for that we need him. The moment anyone else who's as skilled as he is in medicine joins the crew, the doctor will get a bullet to the brain. If Joshua doesn't do it I will. That's all you need to know.”
“Right,” Derek said, pessimistic about his company. But he got a shot of optimism when he looked behind Chan. “Hey! That's an island, isn't it?”
Chan glance behind her and suddenly had a smile on her face. “It is! Never seen it before, but who cares?” Without another word she started rowing as fast as she could for the island visible through the mist.