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This Seaport Town
Dashiell picked himself up off the bare ﬂoorboards of the tavern ﬂoor and wiped
away the blood from his lip with the back of his thumb. A lone drop fell from his lips and sank deep into the grain of the wood below him. He looked up from the blood on the ﬂoor and began to grin as the gorilla came towards him again. He was a deckhand from one of the larger supply ships, a backwards man child with arms the thickness of tree trunks and a face twice as ugly. He grabbed Dash by the collar and lifted him up off his feet. "Look it's not just me who thought it, that guy over there admitted he knew how your mother liked her eggs." Dash said dangling from the grasp of the giant man. He opened his mouth to speak again but was cut off by a melon sized ﬁst to the gut. Dash gasped and struggled for breath, he gasped again when the ﬁst pummelled him a second time. The deckhand swung his huge shoulders and tossed Dash across the tavern between two tables of men playing cards. Only one of the players looked up from his hand, a young naïve boy who didn't notice two of his chips snatched from his pile by the dirt covered old man to his left. Dash coughed a few times to clear his lungs then took a long deep breath followed by another, he was on his knees again and trying to compose himself. "You standin' back up? You should stay down lad." The deck hand rumbled though "Heh, but I d-don't want to keep your dear mother waiting." Dash grinned once more lips thicker than steaks. and looked up at the massive bulk of the deckhand, his shaved head was turning red and his knuckles were turning white. He stood there for a moment, shaking with rage. He was done playing around, the mouthy airship captain had crossed the line and insulted his good mothers name. He stomped across the ﬂoor towards the crumpled Dash and in his rage did not notice the captain reaching into his jacket pocket. Dash ducked under the ﬁrst outstretched hand then stepped inside the other getting close enough to the beast to force the knuckle duster into his wide jaw and sending him backwards. Dash followed up the ﬁrst blow with another quick strike sending the ape backwards another step before ﬁnishing him off with one ﬁnal blow dropping the deckhand to the ﬂoor. Dashiell chucked to himself as he pulled the brass weight from his ﬁngers and dropped it into his pocket. He looked up towards the bar where several stunned looking men stood. The scrawny barman kneeling on top of the bar was the ﬁrst to speak.
"Oi that's cheating, you can't do that!" "Said who Nigel? You shook hands that I couldn't take that lump down without
resorting to iron." Dash stepped over the unconscious body on the tavern ﬂoor and made his way towards the bar. "No one said I couldn't use brass." "You're a no good cheat Dashiell Adams! I'm not paying you a bean." Nigel the "Yes you will, I'd hate to have to embarrass you as well as him." Dash jerked his "I'm not paying you Dash, nuh-hur, no way!" Nigel stood looking at the body, he "Yes you are and you're going to do it quickly, he'll wake up any minute and I may barman dropped down from the top of the bench and walked out from behind the bar. thumb over his shoulder towards the defeated body. folded his arms, ﬂexing the slither of muscle in his scrawny arms. be in a bind but I'm not stupid. Now come on pay up." Dash moved in front of Nigel and the short man stared at the captains chest for a moment before caving. "Fine but I'll never make a bet with you again Dash." Nigel reached into his apron "That's a terrible shame." Dash took the roll of notes and buried it in his inside and pulled out a small roll of notes. pocket and patted the barman on the shoulder. "I'll see you around Nigel." Dash headed for the door and stepped straight though out into the street. Nigel walked over to the fallen deckhand and leant love over his face, he examined the marks left from the brass knuckles and tutted. "Yeh big girl." He said quietly looking over the rest of the mans giant face. A groan from deep inside the unconscious man startled Nigel and sent him reeling in shock and back behind the safety of his bar. The still stunned men at the bar turned back round and slumped back onto the polished wooden top and glumly drank from their glasses. The pleasant day had turned into a cool evening in the rustic port town and the breeze from the ocean ran straight up the cobble lined hill and met Dash head on. The fresh air made his lip sting he, pressed his lips together trying to clot the blood and continued his path from the tavern which was no more than few mufﬂed voices through the half open door and headed down the hill towards the docks. The street was full of people all glowing in the harsh sodium lights draped across every building lighting the way to the port, the annual festival was very much in full swing, sea ships lined the docks and their crews lined the streets. Months at sea farming the underwater creatures had created a powerful thirst and these sailors were going to quench it. Dash moved quietly through the crowds soaking in the atmosphere, he knew what he'd done was stupid but it had worked out so he held onto the positive and tried to enjoy the jovial spirit in the air. It wasn't his
way to dupe people out of money and embarrass a hard working man, no matter how much of an obnoxious ape he was, but the choice was simple, earn some money or be in Fingers' pocket forever. He pushed the lecture he would get when he returned to the ship to the back of his mind and focused on the pair of ancient tumblers jumping and ﬂipping over each other to a group of drunken ﬁshermen who clapped and cheered with each movement. Dash watched them as he passed and enjoyed the huge roar of laughter they received when a clown stumbled into the routine perfectly getting it all wrong. Dash turned his head to the opposite side of the street and found the ﬁrst of many street vendors selling a plethora of meat cooked over an open ﬂame. The smell was incredible although he doubted the quality of beef found inside a town by the ocean. The smell was inside his head now and it reminded him just how hungry he actually was. He stepped though to smoke of the make-shift grill and continued on down the hill. The front had a more relaxed atmosphere to it compared to the madness of the street on the hill. More families were here enjoying a larger brand of everything, the street performers had a small stage set up against the backdrop of a clear nights sky, ﬁshermen hard larger grills burning, selling papers full of fresh ﬁsh and molluscs topped with butter and lemon and children ran everywhere giggling and pointing at all the decorations and lights strung up overhead. Dash stopped and looked for the clearest path to the airport, as he scanned the sea front looking for the thinnest collection of people he saw a familiar face coming moving through the crowd from left to right laden down with paper wraps in a thick waxed paper box, it was Abigail, his pilot and surrogate sister. He couldn't mistake that leather cap and goggles she insisted on wearing. He pushed his way though a passing group and joined her near the jewellery stall. "Here give me some of those." He said bending low to scoop the box form out of "Oh Cap'in, where did you come from?" She saw his dark lip as he lifted his head, "It's nothing Abi, what did you get?" He peered into his newly acquired cargo but her arms and hiding his lips. he hadn't disguised it very well. "What happened to you?" saw only paper. The smell was even better than the charred mystery meat at the top of the hill. His stomach growled with hunger, or pain from the beating he wasn't really sure. "I got us the works, got a tip from the promoter for ﬁxing their lights on the stage so
I'm treating us all. What happened to your face?" She asked picking up her pace so she could keep up with him. "It's nothing, I got us some money is all." "Yeah but look at--"
"It doesn't matter and besides, your grandfather will give me enough lectures when
were back on the Hawk so leave it alone. Are we fuelled up and ready to go?" He did not look at her when he spoke, he kept his eyes straight forward focusing on his route. "Yeah we can take off when you want." She looked at him, craning her neck to look at his mouth. "You didn't rob anyone did you?" Dash stopped and turned to look at her. That comment had made him angry but the sight of her bright wide eyes dissolved the feeling instantly. He knew she was only concerned for him. "No I didn't rob anyone, I made a bet with the landlord of the up scaly dog and won. We might be down on our luck but I've yet to resort to skulduggery and murder." He watched as she looked over his lip and the lump that was just beginning to show on his head. "How big was he?" She asked after a moments pause. Dash laughed and began "Huge, it was like ﬁghting a boulder." Abi relaxed a little now and so did Dash, they walking again. had been together for most of their life and she looked up to him as most little sisters tend to do. He knew when she was on edge and visa versa, they also knew how to make the other laugh too. The pair of them walked the length of the front to a large iron arch that lead to the airport, few people were around with the festivities in town and the port was quiet except for the breeze and the buzzing of the standing lamps between the berths. The Aurora Hawk was docked in the middle of the strip on its own, Zeke and Bernhard were sitting outside the ship when they got there. "There you are. I knew I should have gone with you." Bernie grumbled through a thick cloud of cigar smoke. Zeke stood up and took the food from Dash, he looked at his captains face and received a simple nod from Dash, Zeke left it at that and placed the food on the fold out table he and Bernie had been sat round. Bernie peered through his smog and wafted the smoke curls out of his way. "What the hell you been up to?" Said Bernie straightening up in his seat. Abi pulled "Leave him alone gramps." She gave him the look, the one he knew not to argue up one of the vacant chairs next to him and scooted up close to the table. with so he dropped what would have been an interrogation and took the wrapped meal from Zeke. "I'm not proud of it alright, I'm not a hustler and I'm not risking my life for for a ﬁst full of cash but we've got no other choice." Dash took his own wrap from Zeke and tore the parcel open stufﬁng a large prawn into his mouth. "We owe Fingers for that last shipment--"
"Which his men lost not us!" Said Bernie spraying ﬂecks of butter and ﬁsh
everywhere. Dash held up his hand to holt his mechanics tirade and to give him chance to swallow. "That's besides the point, he blames us and we're having to pay for it." Dash picked up a ﬂake of white ﬁsh and dropped it into his mouth. "It's not right but what do you expect from a gangster?" "One of these days someone is going to show that cretinous little dwarf the wrong end of a barrel and I hope I get to watch when it happens." Abi said shooting her meal with her index ﬁnger. When she looked up the three of them were staring at her. "What? You were all thinking it." She dropped her chin onto her ﬁst, pulled the goggles down over her eyes and picked at her ﬁsh supper. "We can live in hope, what I've got tonight its enough to pay off Fingers and leave all this behind us. When we get to Lunar Bay we can ﬁnd a legitimate job and put some distance between us and them." The four of them sat there and ate their meal quietly. Bernie got up half way through and returned with four brown bottles dripping with condensation, he had a stash of beer in the cooling system and thought now was an appropriate time to share. The mood lightened when the bottles arrived but they were never far from the subject of Fingers and his extortion tactics.
The corner of the warehouse was quiet, the side door was open and voices could
be heard on the breeze from the neighbouring yard. Dash and Zeke stood near a tower of packing crates with a leather satchel resting on a slight ledge at Dash's elbow. They had been waiting ten minutes when Fingers ﬁnally showed with two of his attack dogs at his ﬂank. "Terribly sorry boys, business." He said. Arms wide open in a grand gesture. He was cretinous as Abi had said, his thin limp hair slicked back away from his face and down his neck, a crooked nose and even more crooked teeth did nothing but make him look more like monster from story books. He walked with a swagger even though he did not have the long legs to pull it off. "Is that my money?" "No it's our money, but you seem to think you have claim to it." Dash pulled the satchel from its resting place and tossed it towards the closest dog. He sneered at Dash as did his partner. They both stared at the captain who seemed unfazed by their posturing. "Gentlemen, lets keep it civil shall we." Fingers said stepping forward leaving his
men behind him. "What happened was a mistake, but now we're all square. Aren't we Dash?"
"Yeah, clean slate." Said Dash taking his eyes off the two goons and turning his "Excellent!" Fingers placed his arm around Dashiell's back and walked him away
focus to Fingers. from the others. "Now I've got some items that need to go to their new home, a gentleman who lives in the sun has grown bored of the beach life and wants something new to amuse him." Dash pushed he arm away from his back and looked down at the horrible little man. "No, clean slate, fresh start. I've paid the debt you say I owe and that's me done. You'll get no more work from me or my crew and I see any of your thugs, even out the corner of my eye you'll be spending all that money putting them in the ground." Fingers looked up at the captain, words had escaped him for the moment. Dashiell motioned to Zeke and the two of them headed for the door. "You don't get to tell me when you're ﬁnished working boy. Now you'll get you're rust bucket of a ship down to the wharf at midnight and you'll leave the cheek at the door do you understand me?" Dash looked back then continued on to the door, both he and Zeke had to push past the goons who wouldn't move until shoved. Fingers followed them and stood next to his men and glared at Dash and Zeke as they left. "I hope you've got a decent shovel Fingers." Dash said as he disappeared out of view into the bright light of Lunar Bay. Fingers did not move, he watched the open door and listened as their footsteps moved further from earshot. His rage was just beginning to build, he was a treacherous man but a patient one. The cogs in his head were already turning at great speed.