Two hours later, Emaria crouched in the corner of a lamphouse above an outer Whites street. The little room surrounding the flame was built to accommodate a single keeper, who Eventhe had knocked out and Wrest dragged into the stairwell before withdrawing to the roof of an ammo dump, awaiting her signal. She raised her claw above her head: all clear.

Eventhe scampered across the roof into the pool of light, where the brightness of the flame kept anybody from looking at them. Arcite faltered on the incline, weighed down by a heavy cylinder, but Wrest pushed him safely into the lamphouse. The four Cuttlefish crammed into the tight space.

“The shipyard has a private guard contingent, but our first problem is the wall,” Emaria looked at Wrest. “You said you had a plan?”

“Arcite’s the plan.” Wrest said. The demolitionist set his cylinder in a notch along the wall, pointing out of the room.

“It’s a trick I came up with as a lad,” he explained. “I burn a bit of yellow clay, here at the bottom–I lifted it while you were on watch–it works like a ship’s turbine, except instead of an engine, it moves red clay. It can take sand bricks apart at fifty paces.”

“Incredible,” Eventhe said. “The one good trait of red clay used to be that it could only cause destruction as far as you could throw it.”

Across the street, three lobsters stood around a corner of the shipping compound, betting driftwood pieces on who could throw more pebbles over the wooden barricade. A rock landed atop the fence, and the guards clumped around to argue over whether it counted. Arcite aimed the tube.

“Hold it!” Wrest said. “Wait until they back off. You don’t need to kill them.”

“I’m the one with the tube.” Arcite narrowed his eyes.

“I will throw you out of this tower and drop your tube after you.”

Wrest and Arcite stared at each other for several seconds, while below, the guards went looking for something else to burn. “Sea-damned stupid way to command a militia,” Arcite said.

“It’s how I wish I’d done it.” Wrest pointed at the street. “There’s your shot.”

Arcite slashed the yellow clay to ignite it. Spitting fire, the red clay leapt from the muzzle straight into the fence, tearing the driftwood in half. The blast knocked two guards unconscious right away. The third rubbed his head, searching frantically for the source of the bomb.

“He’s gonna raise the alarm!” Arcite hissed.

“Eventhe–” Emaria began, but Eventhe was already on her way. Her black shell cleared the parapet and sailed through the air. Wrest and Arcite followed, Arcite dragging the blast tube. Emaria landed next to the others in time to see Eventhe launch the guard into the wall opposite the compound, where he crumpled.

All of a sudden, she was the last place she liked to be: the middle of the job.

This can’t be worse than talking to Xander. The Cuttlefish donned their masks and made for the gap in the fence.

The shipyard was open to the air, except for an office and a bunkhouse for the security guards. Emaria calculated the time. “We’re ahead of schedule. Target’s coming up the ramp in five minutes.”

The silhouettes of desert ships rose in two rows of a dozen each. Quick as crabs, the four thieves slipped into the spaces between them, their black cloaks hiding them in the shadows.

A series of clicks resounded above their heads, moving down the row. The ships’ skeleton crews were locking themselves in.

“I probably woke up everybody in the city taking out the fence,” Arcite said. “Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but if we’re not locked out of every vessel by now–”

“I told you,” Emaria kept her voice low, “the one we’re here for hasn’t arrived yet.”

Wrest flexed his claws. “Arcite, with me. Eventhe, be ready to jump. Emaria, get on a deck so you can see it coming. Is your timing moon-synched?”

They both looked at the Star Moon in the sliver of sky between two ships. Emaria nodded.

“See you when she gets here.” Wrest drew his shell-blade and pulled Arcite into the central channel between the two rows of ships.

If you liked this chapter, check out the rewards available on my Patreon! I’m a self-supported writer, and even $1 a month helps.

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