Soaking wet, we climbed aboard the Thinker.
I’d had a hell of a time keeping the pistols dry, and Zhao had carried the rifle and its ammunition. Liu had led us straight on and helped us get up the side and over the gunwale.
As soon as I stood on the deck, I could feel the vibration of the ship.
It might be made of wood and tar and iron, but it was a living creature I had climbed aboard. Of that, I had no doubt.
Liu reached out and rested his hand on the gunwale, motioning for me to do the same. I did, and I felt the pulsating life against my flesh.
“Hello, Thinker,” Liu whispered, and he introduced us all.
A slight voice, hardly more than a bit of whistling wind, reached my ears.
“A Blood?” the voice asked. “It has been a long, long time since I’ve had a Blood aboard me. Welcome, friend. Will you do me a kindness?”
“If I can,” I answered.
“Beneath my deck, there is a room, my mistress,” the ship spat the last word, “resides within. She knows something has happened, but I feign ignorance. She is fearful and will not leave.”
“We’ll take her out,” I stated, drawing my knife.
“She is strong,” the ship warned. “Be wary.”
I went to take the lead, but Zhao moved in front of me and hurried to the ladder that led below deck. Liu and I hastened to keep up with the man.
Zhao reached a closed door, grasped the handle and threw it open.
He staggered back, a long, graceful knife protruding from his chest.
As Zhao crumbled to the floor, I sprang forward, my own knife in hand. A woman sat in a chair, a look of hatred and disgust upon her face. A powerful scream struck my mind, caused me to stagger, but it did not stay my hand.
She tried to rise up from her seat, and I caught her by the front of her shirt. The woman reached up to one of the ornate buns on the side of her head and drew a knife. No sooner did the metal gleam in the well-lit room than I buried my blade in her neck.
The woman stiffened, the knife fell from her hand and clattered to the floor, and I cut the rest of the way through her throat.
Blood spurted from the wound, and she toppled over to the floor.
We left her where she lay.
We had a friend to bury.