The gurant are attacking.
Most of their shots are aimed at the docks on the assembly yard. Their barrage is still bouncing off, or exploding against, the hull of this ship.
What else are they attacking? The military base? Schools?
Probably not, but a shell could be wildly off target.
Is my wife safe?
Are my kids safe?
These thoughts bounce around my brain as I lead everyone through the hull of the tilted ship.
The insides are cold, dark, and unrefurbished. There’re exposed panels everywhere, wires and tubes hang from the ceiling or are sprawled out along the floor, and there’s no furniture or decorations to keep the crew happy on their long voyages. As the floors are in place and the ship is designed to be easy to navigate, we’ll get out of here no problem.
Despite the urgency of which I threw everyone down that hole, nobody was seriously injured. Everyone can walk just fine. The worst thing, I think, is that the echo from the artillery is starting to give me a headache.
But I can’t be bothered with that.
I have two children. A son and a daughter, 10 and 9 years old, respectively. They’re at school right now and, ever since the gurant landed, all schools have been under guard by a squad of soldiers. They should be fine. The schools have drills for these kinds of attacks.
My wife, ever since our children were old enough to go to school, got a part time job at the military base. The base has bunkers and is the center of the military in this region, so she should be fine too. All I have to worry about is my subordinates and myself.
Eka’s voice echoes in the cold hallway. “Thank goodness we had already completed the hull, eyy? Can’t imagine what the boys working on the other ships did.”
“They had enough time to run to a bunker, right?”
“We were on top of a ship though. They aren’t as far along as us so they would have been closer to the ground.”
I clear my throat, “it’s not worth thinking about right now. We’ll find out soon, you’re just worrying yourselves.” We all work for the same guild, it’s only natural that we’ve all made friends with the guys in other assembly zones. A lot of these men are younger too, so they don’t have kids yet.
We reach one of the main stairwells of the ship and slowly make our way down, we’re so deep into the hull that the artillery barrage is faint. The ship is still tilting forward so the staircase is far too steep to travel safely, even with our magnetic boots. As we slowly descend, a horrible noise rips through the walls, and the ship begins to shake. The rear of the ship suddenly falls, and my boots keep my feet planted on the stairs as it does. When the ship smashes into the concrete, the titanic bang rips through the metal hallways, and the moment of the fall makes my body smash into the unpadded stairs.
It hurts, but… I don’t think anything is broken. “A-are you guys okay?”
Hisses and groans come my way, but one by one, they all say they’re fine.
“I want off this ship…”
“Why can’t the gurant just leave us alone?”
“Ngh… if it makes you feel better, just think of how many of them have died against the ships we’ve built.”
There’s a weary, tired laugh that spreads through our group. Once we pick ourselves up and the pain subsides, we continue. The ship is finally level, so it’s easier to walk.
We reach the bottom of the ship and undo a few latches to open the air lock. The ground is just below us, but we extend a ladder to prevent further injuries. There’s no more explosions.
This is typical for these bombardments. The gurant forces hide in the jungles and set up artillery camps. They fire off rounds for as long as they can, then the peldaks send an emergency response force to fight them. When the peldaks get close, the gurant fight for a bit, but they can’t win a war of attrition, so they have to pull back before long.
“It’s over already? How long have we been in this ship?”
“Couldn’t have been more than, like, 20 minutes.”
“Did the peldaks arrive quick? Or maybe the gurant ran out of ammo.”
Usually, these bombardments last well over an hour. I guess that’s just proof our taxes are being put to good use. The sirens are still going off in the distance, so the threat isn’t fully over.
I climb down the ladder and wait for my eyes to adjust to the light outside the shadow of the ship. There’re craters all across the concrete assembly yard, the crane’s neck has been ripped to shreds and is now lying between us and the warehouse. If I look to the other docks, I can see they were blasted apart as well, their half-built ships now lying in great piles of scorched metal.
If nothing else, the gurant got what they wanted. Just a few artillery shells and the production of these ships will be delayed by months.
I know official Protectorate guidelines are to not step outside while the sirens are still going off, but there’s a bunker close by and the artillery has stopped. “I’m running over.”
“Gamon?” My compatriots look at me from up in the airlock. “Why? We’re safe in here.”
“But these sirens can last for hours and we didn’t install a radio. I want to know what’s happening, what was hit.”
Most agree with me, and the few who don’t are pressured in to joining. We get everyone down the ladder, wait a few more seconds to make sure we don’t hear any explosions, then we sprint across the dock towards the nearest bunker. We have to hop over a few broken bits of crane to do it, but it’s an otherwise simple sprint across open ground. My heart pounds from a certain excitement, that the bombing could restart at any second, but it never does. The entrance to the bunker is a small half-dome poking out of the concrete, with a door on the flat side. We reach the door, I hit the code on the pad, then it opens up I hurry everyone inside.
I’m the last in, and I close the door behind me.