Today’s excerpt was inspired by my move. The fun part about renting a Uhaul truck is finding out what image is on the side. Some have local photos on them, but others have paintings showcasing notable things from each state around the US. You might learn something new–and I had a great one this time!
My truck had a painting of the H. L. Hunley, a submarine used by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. I wasn’t thrilled to get anything related to the Confederate Army, but I was interested in the technology used by a Victorian-era submarine. I borrowed the design for Riwenne and her friends to use in a sneaky mission across the bay. I also borrowed its nickname, “the fish boat.”
No doubt there are spoilers for both previous books in this excerpt, since so much has changed. Only read on if you don’t mind.
The Fish Boat
An Elder, a yellow-haired woman named Mayta who had taken over as the new head of R&D, leaned forward. “Is this one of Rennu’s prototypes that you showed me? The fish boat?”
“The submersible,” Nexita corrected the Elder in a soft voice. She opened her notebook and unfolded a large set of blueprints which were tucked inside the back cover. It showed a short and stubby tube, like a steam boiler, with a long metal bar down the middle and seats on either side. “Six people turn the hand-cranked propeller here, and a seventh person stands at the front to steer. We can all fit.”
It looked like a steel death trap. I shuddered and looked away.
Deryt consulted his own set of notes. “It says when Rennu tested this device, it sank. They rescued two crew but the other five drowned. If he wasn’t able to get it to work properly, what makes you think we can?”
“We have magic in case of emergencies,” Nexita said.
I didn’t like the idea of being stuck inside a tiny metal tube, but I guess I’d have to deal with it. Everyone else was nodding and agreeing with the plan.
“What do we name it?” Elder Mayta asked. “We can’t keep calling it the fish boat, and I’m not using whatever ridiculous name Rennu gave it.”
I raised my hand. “How about the M.S.N.?”
Nexita frowned, suspecting that I was about to make a terrible joke. “What does that stand for?”
I grinned. “My Sub Now.”
Elder Mayta chuckled. “I like it. We can always change it later if someone comes up with a better idea.”
It took several hours to make all the preparations. The submersible was too heavy to be transported by horse-covered wagon, so it was lowered onto the underground trains from the factory and taken to the new docks. I tried not to look at it too closely or think about what would happen. I kept Kyra’s hand in a tight grip whenever I could.
But looking down into the open hatch of the submersible M.S.N., all I could think about was drowning in the ocean.
“I feel like a sardine being packed in a tin can,” Vilqa muttered as they descended the ladder. The only lights inside were dim red, giving them an eerie glow.
“It’s okay,” Kyra said, squeezing my hand. “I’ll be right with you the whole time.”
I took my last breath of the open air and forced myself to move, concentrating on placing my feet on each step.
At last, I reached the bottom and lifted my head. There wasn’t enough room for me to stand up straight at my short height, and it was worse for my friends. Nexita was tucked neatly into the farthest seat, but Deryt was hunched almost double at the controls with Tika on his shoulder, and Janera’s knees were rammed into the wall across from her seat. The air tasted stale and metallic even though the open hatch was right above me. There were a few tiny portholes, those on one side showing the rocky foundation of the city, and the others showing open water.
I slid into my seat next to Vilqa. The propeller crank was stretched in front of us with a set of handholds for each spot, alternating high and low. Kyra came down the ladder and joined me on the other side. The last one was Amena, saying goodbye to Uqra.