The Scar

The Scar by China Miéville Read Free Book Online

Book: The Scar by China Miéville Read Free Book Online
Authors: China Miéville
predatory shapes: ironclad ships patrolling. Lights flashed in a complex staccato from the deck of one of them, and there was a corresponding burst from the bridge of the
Terpsichoria
.
    From the deck of the fabulous structure, a klaxon sounded.
    They were passing away from it now. Bellis watched it dwindle, venting flame.
    Johannes remained still with astonishment.
    “I have no idea,” he said slowly. It took a moment for Bellis to realize he was answering her question. They kept their eyes on the enormous shape in the sea for as long as they could make it out at all.
    When it was gone they walked in silence toward the corridor. And then, as they reached the door into the cabins, someone behind them shouted.
    “Another!”

    It was true. Miles in the distance, a second colossal platform.
    Bigger than the first. It loomed on four legs of weatherbeaten concrete. This one was sparser. There was one fat, squat tower rising from each corner, and a colossal derrick at its edge. The structure growled like something alive.
    Again came a lightflash challenge from the thing’s defenders, and again the
Terpsichoria
responded.
    There was a wind, and the sky was cold as iron. In the shallows of that bleak sea the edifice roared as the
Terpsichoria
slipped by in darkness.
    Bellis and Johannes waited another hour, their hands numb, their breath coiling out of them in visible gusts, but nothing else appeared. All they could see was the water, and here and there the Fins, serrated and unlit.
    Chainday 5th Arora 1779. Aboard the
Terpsichoria
    As soon as I entered the captain’s office this morning, it was clear that something had angered him. He was grinding his teeth, and his expression was murderous.
    “Miss Coldwine,” he said, “in a few hours we will be arriving at Salkrikaltor City. The other passengers and crew will be granted a few hours’ leave, but I’m afraid there’ll be no such luxury for you.”
    His tone was neutral and dangerous. His desk was cleared of paraphernalia. This disturbed me, and I cannot explain why. Usually he is surrounded by a bulwark of detritus. Without it there was no buffer between us.
    “I will be meeting with representatives of the Salkrikaltor Commonwealth, and you will translate. You have worked with trade delegations—you know the formula. You will translate
into
Salkrikaltor Cray for the representatives, and their translator will render their words into Ragamoll for me. You listen carefully to make sure of him, and he’ll be listening to you. That ensures honesty on both sides. But you are
not
a participant. Do I make myself entirely clear?” He labored the point like a teacher. “You will not hear anything that passes between us. You’re a conduit, and nothing more. You hear
nothing
.”
    I met the bastard’s eye.
    “Matters will be discussed of the highest security. On board a ship, Miss Coldwine, there are very few secrets. Mark me.” He leaned toward me. “If you mention what is discussed to anyone—to my officers, your puking nun, or your close friend Dr. Tearfly—I will hear of it.”
    I am sure I do not need to tell you that I was shocked.
    Thus far I have avoided confrontation with the captain, but his anger made him capricious. I will not appear weak to him. Months of bad feeling is a smaller price than to cower strategically whenever he comes close.
    Besides which I was enraged.
    I put frost in my voice.
    “Captain, we discussed these matters when you offered me this post. My record and references are clear. It is beneath you to question me now.” I was very grand. “I am not some press-ganged seventeen-year-old for you to intimidate, sir. I will do my job as contracted, and you will not impugn my professionalism.”
    I have no idea what had angered him, and I do not care. The gods can rot his bastard hide.
    And now I sit here with the “puking nun”—although in fact she seems a little better, and has even simpered about taking a service on Shunday—and finish

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