Once I’d finished checking over the pipes, tightening a few of the valves here and there, I walked back over to where Earls stood. I smiled tentatively at the man who was standing next to him, and then flicked my gaze over to Pat. I was surprised to see him there, but instead of questioning his presence, I just shot him a grin.
“Pipes are all good for now.” I told Earls, pulling off my thick gloves and tucking them into the waistband of my trousers.
“For now, ‘e says!” Earls boomed, smiling widely as he clapped me on the back. I winced at the force of the gesture, before returning his smile. “Now, Allerton, this’ll be Dixon. ‘An he’ll be helpin’ out with engineerin’ and the like.”
“Hi, Pat.” I greeted him, he nodded in acknowledgement of my words.
“‘An this is Footer. We’ll be workin’ with ‘im a lot, too.” Earls informed me. Footer stuck out his hand, and I shook it, pleasantly surprised by his loose grip. I was getting used to the rough-and-tumble attitude the other shipmates had, so it was nice to have a crew member who wasn’t intent on breaking my bones with subtle contact.
After Footer and Earls had exchanged a few quiet words, and Pat and I had just laughed nervously, the pair of men led us towards what I could only assume was the engine room judging by the racket that came from the direction we were walking in.
We entered the room, which was a constant cacophony of whirrs and clatters, and Footer swept a dramatic arm. “This room’ll be your life! Youse two’ll live and breathe for the upkeep of this room for as long as you serve The Voyage.”
I nodded; my ears had already begun to ring. Pat look distinctly unruffled by all the noise, and I couldn’t help but admire him for keeping a straight face after all this time. He caught me staring at him and visibly bristled, “what?”
“Nothing, nothing,” I said, turning away from him before he could start a fratch between the two of us. I bent down and fingered one of the tightly screwed copper pipes which sliced through the planks of the floors, recoiling in pain as the hot metal seared my skin.
Earls laughed at my hiss, “best wear yer gloves, Ash!”
I chuckled along with him, nodding in agreement. “I think that’s a good idea!”
The pair of men gave Pat and I the rundown of how things worked, where things were and why they would be should we ever need them. They left us just as we picked up our spanners and got to work on tightening the valves and screws of the complex machinery.
Airship parts had always fascinated me. Everything was so intricate, and the cogs seemed to work themselves. It was like one giant clock with wings.
I moved over to the other side of the room so I could stand next to Pat. He looked up at me in surprise, and I beamed down at him. “I guess we’ll be working together a lot from now on.”
“I guess so,” said Pat. He didn’t sound as thrilled to have a constant companion as I felt. Company was important to me, and social contact kept me feeling sane. In all honesty, the fact Pat wasn’t keen to befriend me just made me all the more eager to win his trust. His abrasive, almost confrontational, attitude reminded me of one of my younger sisters, Askini, and it was a sweet reminders that family always existed no matter how far away they were.
“Stop staring at me!” Pat quipped, and I laughed freely, patting his head. He was a tall lad, but I was much taller. I reached up and loosened one of the bolts on the highest pipe, which looked suspiciously golden and I didn’t even want to consider that The Voyage was special enough to have gold-plated pipes because I think I would probably cry out with joy.
“I wonder what we’ll be doing once we’ve checked everything over in here?” I mused allowed. Pat made a noncommittal noise, and continued to wrench the bolt he was working on tightening. I watched him with pursed lips. “Maybe you shouldn’t do it that tight.”
He shot me an exasperated look. “I know what I’m doing, Allerton.”
“Okay. But if I can’t loosen that pipe next maintenance check, I’m going to call you out on it.” I grinned, sauntering over to the other side of the room. He didn’t say anything in return. “Sorry.” I added, “I’m just teasing.”
“I know. It’s okay.”
“How did you come to know so much about engines, anyway?” I asked.
“Worked at an airship field.” He replied, shrugging. “I got taught as I went along.”
“Ah, I see. I learnt everything I know from my Ma and Pa. Family business.”
“Nice.” Pat nodded.
I was just about to open my mouth and make another attempt to scrounge out some info on the kid, when Earls stomped back into the engine room, his heavy boots making the planks shake. “If you two don’ wan’ all the good stuff to be gone, yeh better get up on deck for food now.”
Yes! Food! I cheered inside my head.
Pat and I yanked off our gloves, and he shot me a sheepish grin when we both tried to squeeze through the door at the same time in a desperate make for the deck. I silently prayed that the food we were to eat wasn’t going to be what my Pa would refer to as “ship grub”. Bread and soup would do me, but from the horror stories I’d heard about sloppy stews and stale loaves, I wasn’t feeling as eager to get up on deck as I had when lunch had first been brought up.