Swamped Chapter 10 Page 20

You decide to see how things are going with the boat.

The prisoners are gone now, taken to the hold. But the maintenance crew seems in good spirits. At least, as good as can be when two of them have casts on their legs and another has his arm in a sling.

“Thanks for the assist,” the one with the sling says. He’s rather pudgy. “At least, I heard it was you. Wasn’t exactly conscious when you showed up.”

“Yeah, I was going to check on what supplies you needed,” you say. “Heard some noises, couldn’t figure out what they were. So I took a look, and found the mess.”

“Still don’t know what happened. Then again, I think they knocked me out before the fight really began. Best guess is, they snuck in when pest control took the barge out last night, probably without any particular plan. Then, when we came to check the hold, they figured we’d catch them sooner or later so they tried to fight us off and then escape. Or maybe they were thinking to steal the barge once the coast was clear. They’ve tried that before.”

“If they did, would we be able to get another barge?”

“Not easily. You have any idea how much it costs to make a boat this size that handles the swamp this well? I’ll tell you how much, a lot more than the annual salary of a whole maintenance crew.” He laughs. “So if they actually did steal it, we’d have to get it back. Happened once, and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. And I don’t even want to think about the heads that are gonna roll if this barge sinks.”

He gives a smile.

“But here I am, talking your ear off without introducing myself. I’m Lou, squad leader. Or at least, I was when I got up this morning. Might not be after the officers wake up and hear I led my team into an ambush.”

“It’ll be fine, Lou,” says another one. You recognize him as the knight who asked you for the rope earlier. “This is the sort of mistake that can happen to anyone, and we’re not primarily fighters. They’ll understand.”

“Maybe. But fact is, your safety is my responsibility, and I let you down. Especially Leanne and Mel.” He looks at the two knights with casts. “Gotta tell you, it breaks my heart to see you hurt. I can’t believe you’re insistin’ on going back to work in your condition.”

“You know boat squad’s work is never done, Lou. Besides, you’re one to talk.”

“Hey now. This was my screw-up. ‘Course I’m going back to work to fix it.” He chuckles a little. “Besides, my arm’s in better shape than our little hero here, right?”

You feel a bit embarrassed by the word.

“I just figured I should help out,” you say.

“Yeah, well, I’ve seen plenty of newmucks that just fall to pieces in a crisis. They don’t tend to stay here long, which is probably best for everyone really. But you seem to be doing all right so far. I hope you’ll stick around.”

“Thanks,” you say awkwardly. “So are you all holding up all right?”

“Better than the prisoners, probably. Thanks for the concern.” Lou smiles. “Hope you still feel as good about us the day you get shoved on maintenance duty. Always happens sooner or later.”

This might be a good time to ask some questions of the boat squad, if there’s anything you want to know.

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Suggestions:

How long have you been working on boat squad? what’s the coolest/strangest thing you’ve had to fix?

Questions:
“When did you start this job?”
“When did you acquire the barge?”
“Do you have a good map?”

How do boats work?

how many people can fit on one boat