Action, adventure, and mystery surround the Sunkers, a band of children who live in a submarine, as they try to survive a war in Sunker's Deep, Book Two of the Icebreaker Trilogy by Lian Tanner.
Sharkey is a Sunkerhe was born on a fortunate tide, and everyone in the giant submersible Rampart knows it. The trouble is his life is based on a lie. He's been a fake hero for years, but when tragedy strikes, he must become a real one. And he has no idea how to go about it.
Meanwhile, on land, Petrel, Fin, and the crew of the Oyster are on a mission to bring lost knowledge back into the world, a mission they have no idea how to carry out.
“Non-stop action against a magical backdrop; this is a wonderful world to get lost in.” Catherine Jinks, author of the Evil Genius trilogy
Complete the Icebreaker Trilogy:
About the Author
Lian Tanner is the author of Icebreaker, Book 1 of the Icebreaker trilogy, as well as the Keepers trilogy (Museum of Thieves, City of Lies, Path of Beasts). She lives in Australia.
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By Lian Tanner
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2016 Lian Tanner
All rights reserved.
THREE HUNDRED YEARS LATER
Sharkey squinted one-eyed through the thick glass porthole. He was searching for scraps of metal — metal that'd be covered in weed by now and colonized by barnacles, so that it looked no different from the rocks around it. But it was here somewhere, seventy-five feet below the surface of the sea, and he was determined to find it.
"Two degrees down bubble," he murmured.
"Two degrees down. Aye, sir!" cried eleven-year-old Gilly as she turned the brass wheels that tilted the little submersible's diving planes.
In the bow, eight-year-old Poddy's hands flew across the control panel, trimming the boat and keeping the direction steady as it sank. Farther aft, Gilly's younger brother, Cuttle, braced his bare feet on the metal deck, waiting for orders to change speed. Pipes gurgled. Dials twitched. Above the children's heads, the ancestor shrine maintained a silent watch.
"Ease your bubble," said Sharkey.
"Ease bubble. Aye, sir!" Gilly turned the wheels the other way.
Outside the porthole, the green light that filtered down from above touched thick strands of kelp and a school of codlings. The throb of the Claw's propeller was like the beating of Sharkey's heart.
He straightened his eye patch and sang the last part of an old Sunker charm under his breath:
"Below to find,
Below to bind —"
It must have worked, because almost straightaway he saw something out of the corner of his undamaged eye. "Starboard twenty," he said.
"Starboard twenty. Aye, sir!" cried Poddy, and the Claw began to turn.
When they were on the desired heading, Sharkey said, "Midships."
"Midships. Aye, sir!"
"All stop. Aye, sir!" And Cuttle threw himself at the motor switches.
Gilly came for'ard, ducking past the periscope housing and wriggling around the chart table. "Have you found something, sir?"
Sharkey wasn't sure, not really. But he always sounded confident, even when he had no idea what he was doing. "Aye. There, where the kelp's thickest," he said.
Young Poddy hooked her toe under the control panel and leaned back on her stool. "Adm'ral Deeps thought you'd be able to find it, sir. And she was right!"
"'Course she was," said Sharkey, hoping that the strange-looking bit of rock really was scrap metal from the giant submersible Resolute, which had broken up somewhere near here ninety-three years ago.
"Has he found the boxes?" called Cuttle.
"Not yet," said Gilly. "But he will." She bobbed her head in the direction of the ancestor shrine. "Thank you, Great-Granmer Lin Lin. Thank you, Great-Granfer Cray."
For the rest of the morning, the Claw cruised back and forth through the ropy kelp while Sharkey stared out the porthole, half-dizzy with concentration.
At the end of the forenoon watch, Gilly struck the bell eight times. Ting-ting ting-ting ting-ting ting-ting. "It's midday, sir. We're due back on the Rampart soon."
"Mmm," said Sharkey. "I want to find at least one of the boxes before we go."
From the helm, Poddy said, "You could ask Lin Lin and Adm'ral Cray where they are, sir."
Sharkey said nothing. His fellow Sunkers venerated their dead ancestors, but at the same time they seemed to think that the spirits were like some sort of boat crew, and all he had to do was whistle and they'd come running.
Poddy glanced out the helm porthole. "Look, sir, there's a dolphin! Maybe it's the spirit of Lin Lin! Maybe she's going to show you the boxes!" Sharkey sighed in a long-suffering sort of way. "Lin Lin talks to me when it suits her, Poddy. So does First Adm'ral Cray —" The younger children bobbed their heads respectfully.
"— and that is just an ordinary dolphin."
"Oh," said Poddy, disappointed.
The dolphin swam idly away from them, and Sharkey watched it go. His eye flickered downwards. There was something —
"There!" he said. "Port full rudder."
"Port full rudder. Aye, sir!" Poddy's small hands brought the Claw around, as smooth as sea silk.
"All stop. Aye, sir!" shouted Cuttle.
"Hold us right there," said Sharkey, and he gripped the lever that worked the retrieval device.
Like the underwater vessel that housed it, the device was called "the claw." Sharkey pulled the lever back, and it ratcheted out from the side of the little submersible and spread its talons. It wasn't easy to use with only one eye; Sharkey had to compensate for the fact that he couldn't judge distances as well as he'd been able to before the accident. And he didn't want to wreck the box. Now that he'd found it, he was sure it'd be a good one, crammed full of surgeons' secrets, with not a drop of water seeped in to spoil it.
Gilly eyed the chronometer. "We're due back on the Rampart now, sir," she said.
Without looking up, Sharkey said, "Send a message turtle. Tell 'em we'll be late."
"... Aye, sir."
There was no argument, of course. Discipline on the submersibles didn't allow for arguments. But as Gilly scratched out a note and took one of the mechanical turtles from its rack, Sharkey knew what the middies were thinking.
He won't get into trouble. But we will, even though we're just following his orders!
It was true. Because of who he was, Sharkey could get away with being late, whereas the middies couldn't.
Still, that was their problem, not his.
It took him another ten minutes to juggle the box into the side air lock. As soon as it was secure, he murmured, "Mark the position."
Gilly squeezed past the ladder to the chart table. "Position marked, sir!"
"Half-ahead. Take her up to periscope depth."
As the Claw moved forward again — the planes tilting, the bow rising — Sharkey sat back on his stool, pleased with himself. He knew what the other Sunkers would say when they heard about the box.
Sharkey can do anything. Sharkey can find anything. Sharkey's a hero, a future adm'ral, born on a lucky tide and blessed by the ancestors. Thank you, Lin Lin!
The submersible leveled out, and he grinned. "Up periscope."
There was probably no danger from their enemies, not so far from terra. But caution was drilled into the Sunker children from the day they could crawl. Gilly crouched, her face pressed against the eyepieces, her feet swiveling in a circle.
Halfway around, she stopped and rubbed her eyes. "Sir, there's something strange in the Up Above. Like huge bubbles —"
Sharkey was already moving, snatching the periscope handles away from her.
"Sou'west," said Gilly.
The breath caught in Sharkey's throat. Gilly was right. There were three enormous white bubbles floating through the sky with woven baskets hanging beneath them! And figures leaning over the edges of the baskets, pointing to something below the surface. And lines tethering the bubbles to —
To skimmers! To a dozen or more skimmers with billowing sails and their hulls low in the water, following those pointing fingers with a look of grim purpose.
"It's the Ghosts!" cried Sharkey, and his blood ran cold. For the last three hundred years, the Sunkers had dreaded this moment. "It's the Hungry Ghosts! And they've found the Rampart!"CHAPTER 2
EARLIER THAT SAME DAY
As dawn broke, twelve-year-old Petrel leaned against the rail of the ancient icebreaker Oyster, staring into the distance. Somewhere over there, beyond the horizon, was the country of West Norn.
"Will there be penguins, Missus Slink?" she murmured.
"Probably not," said the large gray rat perched on her shoulder. A tattered green neck ribbon tickled Petrel's ear. "But if my memory serves me correctly, there will be dogs and cats. And perhaps bears."
"Bears is farther north," said Mister Smoke, from Petrel's other shoulder.
"Don't you worry about bears, shipmate. There's worse things here than bears."
"You mean the Devouts?" asked Petrel.
"Don't frighten the girl, Smoke," said Missus Slink.
"I'm not frightened," said Petrel quickly. But she was.
For the last three hundred years, the Oyster had kept its course at the farthest end of the earth. Its decks were rusty, its hull was battered, and its crew had broken down into warring tribes and forgotten why they were there. All that had remained of their original mission was the myth of the Sleeping Captain and the belief that the rest of the world was mad and therefore best avoided.
But the Devouts, fanatical descendants of the original Anti-Machinists, had traced the Oyster to the southern ice and sent an expedition to destroy the ship and everyone on board. Thanks to Petrel, they had failed, and the Sleeping Captain had woken up at last.
The Devouts thought the Oyster's captain was a demon. But really he was a mechanical boy with a silver face and a mind full of wonders. He knew sea charts, star maps and thousands of years of human history. He could calculate times and distances while Petrel was still trying to figure out the question, and he could mend or make machines and lectrics of every kind. On his orders, the Oyster had left its icy hideaway and headed north.
"We are going to bring knowledge back to the world," he had said.
The voyage had taken more than twelve weeks, with several engine breakdowns that had tested even the captain. But now Petrel was about to set foot on land for only the second time in her life.
She heard a rattling in the pipes behind her and turned to listen. It was a message in general ship code. SHORE PARTY PREPARE TO BOARD THE MAW. SIGNED, FIRST OFFICER HUMP.
With the rats clinging to her shoulders, Petrel slipped through the nearest hatch and onto the Commons ladderway, which took her from Braid all the way down to Grease Alley. She ran past the batteries, which were fed by the Oyster's wind turbines, and past the digester that took all the ship's waste and turned it into fuel.
And there was the rest of the shore party, making their way towards the Maw.
"Here she is!" boomed Head Cook Krill, in a voice that was used to shouting over the constant rattle of pots and pans. "We thought you must've changed your mind, bratling."
"Not likely!" said Petrel, putting on a bold front. "Don't you try leaving me behind, Krill."
"We would not go without you," said the captain in his sweet, serious voice. "I knew you would come."
Fin just smiled, his fair hair falling over his eyes, and handed her a woven seaweed bag.
"Ta," said Petrel, and she smiled back at him, though her heart was beating too fast, and her mouth was dry at the thought of what lay ahead.
The Maw was an enormous fish-shaped vessel set to watch over the Oyster by its long-ago inventor. It traveled underwater, and the only way onto it was through the bottommost part of the ship. As the small party climbed through the double hatch, Chief Engineer Albie was giving last-minute instructions to his son, Skua.
"No mucking around, boy. This is a big responsibility, taking the cap'n and his friends ashore." In the dim light, Albie's eyes were unreadable, but Petrel thought she saw a flash of white teeth through his beard. "You set 'em down nice and gently."
It wasn't at all like Albie to be so thoughtful. By nature, he was a cunning, evil-tempered man, who until recently had made Petrel's life a torment. But Petrel was so excited and nervous that she didn't think much of it. Not until later, and by then the harm was already done.
"Aye, Da," said Skua.
"And come straight back when you've dropped 'em. You hear me?"
"Aye, Da. Watch your fingers, Da!"
There was a clang as the double hatch was clamped shut, and a moment later the Maw's engines roared to life and the interlocking plates of its hull began to move.
Thanks to Albie's instructions, their passage towards land was smooth and uneventful. Skua brought them right up close to the headland, where the drop-off was steep, and they jumped onto the rocks without getting wet past their knees.
"I'll be back at noon," said Skua as he stood in the mouth of the Maw, tugging at his sparse red whiskers. "Watch out for trouble, Cap'n. And the rest of you!"
His expression was suitably serious, but it seemed to Petrel that as he stepped back into the shadows, it turned into something else. A smirk, maybe. Mind you, that was normal for Skua, who smirked at everything, and once again she thought nothing of it. A moment later, the Maw's huge mouth closed, and the monstrous fish dived below the surface.
Petrel felt a tremor run right through her. We're on land! She took a cautious step forward, and the ground seemed to sway under her feet.
"Mister Smoke," she hissed. "The ground's moving!"
"Nah," said the old rat. "It's because you've been on the Oyster for so long, shipmate. It'll stop soon."
Fin had been staring at the surrounding countryside with uncertain pride. Now he turned to Petrel and said, "This is West Norn. What do you think?"
The landscape stretched out in front of them, muddy and inhospitable. There were patches of snow on the ground, and the air was cold, though not nearly as cold as Petrel was used to. A few straggly trees were scattered here and there, with a bird or two huddled on their branches, but there was no other sign of life.
Petrel would've liked it better if there'd been a good, solid deck under her feet, and the familiar rumble of an engine. But she didn't want to hurt Fin's feelings, so all she said was, "It's big, ain't it. Reckon you could fit the Oyster in its pocket, and it wouldn't even notice."
Behind her, Krill said, "What now, Cap'n? We head for the first village?"
The captain pushed back his sealskin hood and nodded. "Once we have introduced ourselves, we will explain the workings of water pumps and other simple machines that will make their lives easier. We will find out what they want most, and go back to the ship for supplies and equipment." He paused, his beautiful face gleaming in the early-morning light. "Of course, I will ask them about the Song too."
Krill scratched his chin until the bones knotted into his beard rattled. "Now, this is where you've lost me, Cap'n. I still don't understand this stuff about a song."
"There is nothing mysterious about it," said the captain. "Serran Coe, the man who made me, must have programmed it into my circuits. As soon as we crossed the equator, I became aware of its importance."
"But you don't know why it's important?"
"I know that it will help us bring knowledge back to the people. I know that I will recognize it when I hear it — the Song and the Singer. If I do not know more than that, it must be because my programming has been deliberately limited, in case I am captured."
He pointed due west. "Three hundred years ago, there was a prosperous village in that direction. We will start there."
* * *
Everything Petrel saw that morning was strange and unsettling. She was glad of Mister Smoke and Missus Slink, riding on her shoulders, and of Fin, who walked beside her, naming the objects she pointed to.
"That is a fir tree," he said. "It does not lose its leaves in winter, like the other trees. That is an abandoned cottage."
Petrel clutched the seaweed bag, which contained dried fish in case they got hungry, and a telegraph device that the captain had built so they could talk to the ship. "Folk used to live in it?"
"What happened to 'em?"
"I do not know. They probably got sick and died."
The mud slowed them down, and the village they were heading for seemed to get no closer. But at last Fin nudged Petrel and said, "That is a tabby cat."
Mister Smoke's whiskers brushed Petrel's cheek. "You sure it's a cat, shipmate? Looks more like a parcel o' bones to me. I can see its ribs from 'ere."
My ribs were like that not so long ago, thought Petrel, and she took a scrap of dried fish from her bag and tossed it to the cat.
"Captain! Krill!" called Fin. "If there is a cat, the village is probably close by. Beyond that row of bare trees, perhaps. But we should be careful. There might be Devouts."
The captain nodded and waited for them to catch up. "That position accords with my knowledge. Mister Smoke, will you go ahead and see if there is danger?"
"Aye, Cap'n," said the rat, and he leaped down from Petrel's shoulder and scampered away.
"D'you really think there might be Devouts here, lad?" Krill asked Fin. "We're a good hundred miles or more from their Citadel."
"They have informers everywhere," said Fin. "And there are always rumors that someone has found an old book or unearthed a machine from the time before the Great Cleansing. The Devouts travel the countryside, trying to catch them."
Petrel listened to this exchange carefully. Fin knew all about the Devouts. He used to be one of their Initiates and had traveled to the southern ice with his fellows to destroy the Oyster and her crew. But Petrel, not knowing who he was, had befriended him, and bit by bit Fin had changed.
Now he's one of us, thought Petrel. And we're going to find his mam.
Her heart swelled at the thought. She knew that the main purpose of the Oyster's voyage north was to bring knowledge back to a world that had sunk deep into ignorance and superstition. But as far as she was concerned, the search for Fin's mam, who had given him to the Devouts when he was three years old to save him from starvation, was just as important.
Excerpted from Sunker's Deep by Lian Tanner. Copyright © 2016 Lian Tanner. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Three Hundred Years Later,
Chapter 2: Earlier that Same Day,
Chapter 3: A Duty to Stay Alive,
Chapter 4: The Hungry Ghost,
Chapter 5: Rain,
Chapter 6: The Last of the Sunkers,
Chapter 7: We Should Never Have Left the Ice,
Chapter 8: Terra,
Chapter 9: If I Live,
Chapter 10: It's Them!,
Chapter 11: Lin Lin and Adm'ral Cray,
Chapter 12: Without Poddy,
Chapter 13: The Great Puddle,
Chapter 14: Nowhere to Hide,
Chapter 15: "Who's your Captain?",
Chapter 16: I am not Like The Hungry Ghosts!,
Chapter 17: Hope ... and Despair,
Chapter 18: Captured,
Chapter 19: Brother Thrawn,
Chapter 20: Uncle Poosk,
Chapter 21: The Punishment Hole,
Chapter 22: "Are we Friends, You and Me?",
Chapter 23: We knew You'd come for us,
Chapter 24: Execution,
Chapter 25: The Balloon,
About the Author,