The House of Jacquarelle excerpt

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cover of The Kestral Voyages: The House of JacquarelleAs the mangled generator sailed through the cargo bay at Tirri, Danny tackled her from behind. The two of them tumbled behind the control pedestal as the generator flew over their heads, crashed into the bulkhead and bounced back through the bay. The mechanical monster turned back to the wreckage at hand, tearing another crate open and mangling the machinery within.

Danny scrambled to her feet, pulling Tirri up with her. “What is that thing?” she demanded, but Tirri shook her head in confusion. They went unnoticed by the giant robot… until they came out from behind the pedestal, dashing for the hatch out of the bay. It immediately flung an enormous gear it held in its hand. Fortunately, its aim was off, and the gear sailed past and embedded itself in the bulkhead wall less than a meter from Danny’s head. Danny yelped, and tugged Tirri through the hatchway. Once they were out of sight, the robot seemed to forget about them again.

As soon as Tirri was in the corridor, she headed for the nearest com panel. “Sarander!”

Hey, what’s going on back there—

“Babe, you know the cargo dump you wanted to do on the house? Do it now, right here!

Apparently Tirri’s tone of voice was enough for Sarander, because immediately, the Mary’s engines screamed to life. Tirri looked at Danny and said, “Brace yourself!” Then she moved back toward the bay and paused just inside the hatch.

Danny got out a single word, “What—” before the Mary heaved upward at a rate Danny would have sworn was not possible for a ship its size. She was immediately forced to her knees in the middle of the corridor. Tirri bent to her knees, as well, but caught herself with her hands on the deck before going completely down. Then she was up again, and dashing into the bay.

She stole a quick look at the robot, which had apparently also been taken unawares by the Mary’s motion… it must have been off-balance when the ship moved, because now it was on its side and pushing itself back onto its feet. As Tirri rushed into the bay, it reacted to her motion, and waved its massive mechanical arms at her with a roar of servos and hissing pressure. Tirri ignored it and skidded to a stop at her control pedestal.

She slapped at the com and yelled, “Dump to port! Do it right now!” And she grabbed the pedestal for support.

The world tilted and spun crazily, Tirri’s right suddenly becoming down. At once, everything that was loose in the bay began sliding crazily towards the port side of the ship, now the lower end, including the rampaging robot. At the same time, Tirri hit the controls on the pedestal that would open the port side cargo bay doors. Then she grabbed at the sides of the pedestal and hung from it, the only thing keeping her from falling out of the bay.

The doors opened, and Tirri could see the ground spinning crazily outside… Sarander’s tilting of the Mary could only have been accomplished by putting the ship into a tight spin. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Tirri reflected on how crazy the ship must look to anyone watching from outside. But she was more concerned about the robot, which was sliding with increasing speed across the bay, followed by the rest of their cargo. It shot past her, thankfully not close enough to reach her as it passed, its metal and carbonate body making a horrid screeching noise as it slid along the freighter’s bay floor.

Suddenly the robot threw an arm upward, and down, in a rapid motion. Metal fingers crashed through the bay floor, piercing it, and it came to a stop. As Tirri watched in shock, crates and smashed machinery pelted it, but did not dislodge it. The crates fell out of the now-open bay, tumbling down to the grounds beneath… but the robot was still there.

And it was moving. It used its leverage on the deck to pull itself up, looking like a strange metal simian clutching a cliff. Its other hand plunged into the deck, and it pulled; it had advanced on Tirri’s position, and seemed intent on continuing until it reached her…

 

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