A Tall Ship Tale #42: An Awk-ward Moment

The series by Paul de Anguera continues.

(Thanks to Liquor of alt.callahans for technical assistance.)

Lost in a booby-trapped ruin, the search party retreated from the deadly avenue of collapsing columns and took refuge in a stairwell. “Awk!” Sanders, the Unix Kernel, exclaimed. They followed his pointer and saw that each step ended in a semi-column; more danger here! The sailors arrayed themselves as far from the threat as they could, against a stone wall upon which various birds were carved, and felt a vast relief.

Kernel Sanders looked around curiously. From his position part-way down, he could see that an ornate, curly brace supported the top of the steps. Presumably, there was a second one further down. Then Sanders tilted his head back to study the birds. He took the First Mate aside and indicated two of them. “We’re between pair wrens,” he pointed out.

“Fascinating!” The First Mate exclaimed. Hoping to see them better, he struck a match. Instantly they fell through the steps! They picked themselves up from the rough stone floor. Above them, the steps rumbled shut; evidently this platform had a high overhead.

The Bach brothers, Johann and Wilhelm, settled wearily against the wall. But they could not resist the lovely echoes which the vaulted ceiling created, and were soon trying to outdo each other in whistling. Perhaps in time they might have whistled up a canon cycle and thereby obtained both armament and mobility. But Sir Hillary interrupted the impromptu concert with welcome news. “I found a big pipe between those two things,” he said, indicating some square brackets protruding from the wall.

“You characters, follow Sir Hillary through those brackets!” the First Mate ordered the men. The pipe was nasty and dark, so they all lit matches. But then they found that they could not squeeze into the pipe. Kernel Sanders snarled “Fools! Only one character within brackets can match!” So, one at a time, each man lit his way.

They emerged in a room that was clogged with debris. The sailors started looking it over in hopes of finding something interesting. “What do you think this is — a fill tour?” the First Mate growled. “Come on!” Then a much deeper growl shook the room, and over the top of the heap a tawny yellow lion appeared! They hurried back to the pipe, but a grating had dropped across it. Now they heard from a Norwegian seaman who was normally too shy to say much. Stan dared “Input!” A hasty survey of the room revealed two other pipes — one in the ceiling and one in the wall beyond the lion. Again Stan dared “Air-er! And output!” The lion growled hungrily and advanced on the party.

The men spread out in front of the lion. While it was trying to figure out which sailor to eat first, Johann and Wilhelm circled behind it, then leapt upon it with their dirks drawn! Ponderous but methodical, the musical brothers made short work of…

…the two-Bached beast.

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