Ashes of peace

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When it happened, Kaido Ghent was sipping tea in the site office at the edge of the shipyard. It began with a flash, followed by a thundering ripple of pressure as the windows of the office shattered inward, spraying him with shards and tiny slivers of glass. He had been looking away, fortunately, so his eyes were spared, but his left hand and the side of his face stung as if he had been attacked by a thousand insects.

There was little time to consciously observe the splinters of glass or the streaks of blood flowing from where they had cut him. His attention was occupied instead by the billowing smoke and fire that had enveloped one of the Mountain Breaker's support mounts.

Dropping his cup, only then noticing that it had also shattered in his hand, leaving only the handle, he wrenched open the door of the office and strode out into the smoking warehouse, the air thick with shouts and scream and the deep, ominous creaking of metal and wood. The Mountain Breaker remained in place, though to judge from the sound being produced by the forward mount that wouldn't be the case for long.

Kaido knelt by the body of a fallen worker, whose face was burned red and raw. He was still breathing. Debris and more bodies fanned out in a semi-circle from the site of the explosion. He recognised the unmoving body of Meder, one of the new recruits. There were no dangerous or flammable substances in the shipyard; he grimaced as he realised the implication.

Others were approaching now, all of them seemingly woken simultaneously from the imposed stupor of the detonation. Anyone on the factory floor was running around the half-clad skeleton of the ship, towards the fire. Kaido saw Bursk, his assistant, among them. Alive, then.

"Bursk!" Kaido stood tall, ignoring the pain in his hand and face.

"Boss! Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Kaido shouted. He pointed at the fire. "We need to put it out. Break the water pipes. Rip up the floor boards if you have to - flood the floor."

"Yes, boss!" Bursk ran off, grabbing others to help as he went. Kaido knew he could rely on him to get the job done.

More shouts drew Kaido's attention up, to the deck of the ship, where construction cranes were mounted and the focus of their efforts had been for the past two weeks. The fire had demolished part of the scaffold attached to the side of the ship, in the process destroying the ladders that were the quickest way up and down. Through the smoke he could see figures of workers on the deck, though he couldn't make out what they were saying.

"Stay clear of the smoke!" he shouted up, unsure of whether they could hear him, either. "Don't breathe it in!"

More creaking. From within the burning flame something collapsed and tumbled down to the floor. The mount would not hold for long. The heat prickled on his skin.

"Where's my water?" he shouted.

"Here!" returned the shout. Bursk was there with ten others, now armed with axes and saws. They dug into the floor of the shipyard, tearing at the boards, revealing the pipes beneath. Bursk and two others swung their axes at the pipe with almighty power, driven by a ferocious urgency that they were later unable to fully explain. The rest of the group were hammering together a series of boards - including those recently prised up - into a large, U-shaped funnel the length of two horse and carts. They were stonebreakers: they could do this in their sleep.

With a crack the pipe burst, water pressured up through the hole in a thick jet, straight into the air. The funnel was positioned over it, redirecting the water in a great arc which splashed down onto the fire. Steam gushed into the air, then the fire began to be smothered, and reduced.

"I've never been more proud, gentlemen and ladies," Kaido shouted.

The fire smoldered still still but the flames had gone. Now that the crackle of burning had subsided the creaks seemed yet louder. Another wooden part of the mount splintered and fell away. The entire floor rumbled and Kaido thought he saw the Mountain Breaker shudder. Cries from the deck confirmed it.

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