Monday, November 7, 2011

Two Whistles

            Poe blew his whistle and it made no sound at all.
            Tam cringed back away from the man as he huffed and puffed into the little sliver of metal, ready to pop his knife out if the whistle produced anything dangerous, like, say, carnivorous beetles, or jets of fire, or flying poisonous serpents to make even St. Patrick cry himself to sleep.
            But Poe screwed up his face in concentration and wheezed in and out and nothing happened.  Not even a sound, much less anything that would actually knock down the door or kill Pinkertons or get them out of the locked room.
            “If I tell you I’m disappointed,” he grumbled, “will it hurt your feelings?”
            “Obviously the whistle is ultrasonic,” Burton snapped.  The others all nodded their heads and Poe kept contorting his face around the whistle.
            “Does ultrasonic mean broken?” Tam persisted.  “Here, I’ll show you how to fookin’ whistle!”  He stuck two fingers in his mouth and blew—
            hyoooooo, whup!
            Something loud happened on the other side of the door, and Tam yanked his fingers from his mouth.
            “What in Brigit’s knickers was that?”
            “Apparently, your whistle just killed our guards,” Burton said dryly.  “Go on, whistle some more.  This time, why don’t you cut out all the intervening steps and just sink Pratt’s air-ships?”
            “Ha ha,” Tam said, and got ready to spring out his knife.
            Poe coughed long and hard.  The gob of blood and mucus he spit on the floor was the size of a baby’s head, and Tam retched at the sight and smell of it.
            “Get away from the door,” Poe suggested.  He leaned on both Roxie and Burton to limp across the room himself, and Tam retreated into the far corner.  Whatever was happening was beyond him, and sounded dangerous.
            Then Poe blew his silent whistle again.
            The plascrete door snapped in half and something big and shiny and metallic and monstrostastic, the size of a small horse but with a strange head not quite like a dog’s, punched through and slammed into the room.  It landed on its four claws and stopped, staring at Poe.  Tam thought he could see and hear the thing breathing, and he shook himself.  It’s your imagination, you idjit, he told himself.  The thing is obviously clocksprung, like any plantation worker or twenty-four-hour-mule.
            Still, it made an impression.  “Bloody-damn-hell,” he observed.

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