A Tall Ship Tale: #21: Season’s Crete-ings

The timing is a little anachronistic, but this needs to follow quickly on Paul De Anguera’s previous chapter.

The First Mate and Kernel Sanders sat against a wall of the Labyrinth, exploring the depths of the green bottle while Almo Sather and Jim Dayman explored the wreck of the flying machine. Almo Sather had found the bottle on the beach at about the time Dayman had appeared. It had seemed to contain house wine at first, but as they drank more of it the flavor of gin stood forth.

“Ouch! Something bit me,” the First Mate complained. He reached quickly into his shirt, pinched something, and tossed it onto the ground.

“It looks like a louse,” Sanders noted.

“Well, it’s a Daedalus now,” the officer said. “Have you found anything we can use in there?” he called to the explorers.

“Some lengths of pipe. Maybe we could use them for weapons,” Almo suggested. The ruins reverberated with a distant roar.

“Let’s use our heads instead,” the First Mate urged. “It’s too risky to fight the Monitor. We need to distract him until we’ve gotten clean away.”

“We could make a decoy,” Sanders offered. “He’d think it was another monster, encroaching on his territory, and destroy it instead of us!” “Now you’re talking! Let’s get started.” The sailors dragged debris out of the wreck. They found a slanted table near the pointy end of the flying machine, and pried rectangular sections out of it with their dirks. These proved to be full of thin green wafers encrusted with bits of metal and plastic. They piled their findings on the pavement, and Almo took over the job of assembling the decoy. He ornamented the front of it with a bulging pair of storage drums. For a head he used a big box-shaped thing they had found; one side of it was made of glass.

The First Mate looked it over approvingly, and offered Almo the bottle. “We’ll call it MAC, for ‘Mannequin Almo Created,'” he announced. But the thin box covered with buttons which Almo had attached under the head looked like a mouth, so they ended up calling it the Merry Mac.

Almo took a long drink and regarded his handiwork critically. “I just wish it were more life-like,” he grumbled. Jim Dayman raised his wiry black eyebrows at the idea, but nodded. With a whirring sound the Merry Mac sprang to life, glyphs and pictograms flickering in its glass face. Just then, the Monitor burst through a nearby wall. He filled their ears with a terrifying roar, and the Merry Mac answered with an ear-filling roar of its own. The sailors snatched up their pipes and fled into the maze, digging out their ears as they ran.

They reached an area where the floor of the Labyrinth had buckled and subsided. Sea water was gushing through gaps in the masonry and flooding the passageways ahead. The First Mate climbed up a crumbling wall to check on the Monitor and the Merry Mac. “They’re advancing on each other,” he reported. “They’re wrestling. What a titanic struggle! Now they’re down. Now they’re … he’s taking … I didn’t realize … good grief!” A new, rhythmic sound throbbed through the ruins; bits of ancient masonry began to trickle down on them. The First Mate jumped off the wall and rejoined the men. “I don’t think we can depend on the Merry Mac’s loyalty any more. We’d better go on.”

They stepped fearfully into the lapping water. “How will we know where it’s safe to walk?” Almo whimpered.

“Watch those clusters of bubbles on the surface,” the First Mate advised him. “The current is stronger in the deep parts, so anything floating moves faster there. Stay where they’re moving slowly and you’ll be all right.” The Unix Kernel nodded in agreement and added:

“Good thing, scum, to those who wade!”

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