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Ammo (Dark Aether)

 

The congregants filed out of the
Cathedral of the Builder, shaking hands with the Brother who
delivered the service and gathering in little groups there in the lee
of the chapel. Many talked quietly about the strange goings-on in
town, or the more nervous folk who decided to evacuate. One attendee
had another plan and another reason for sitting through the sermon.
The man slipped into the alcove of the chapel, and there found the
object of his attention, a crate marked “For Clerical Use Only”.
The crate was filled with squarish parcels wrapped in brown paper and
string, and as he lifted it the contents made a muted metallic click.
He slipped the package into his coat pocket and he joined the group
outside, shaking the Brother’s hand and complimenting him on the
logic of his sermon.

The man walked off towards Ruby’s Pub
to see a friend, collect a debt, and have a pint.

………………………………………….

The deliveryman stood smiling, hand out
at the door of the office as the tall redhead fished in her purse for
the correct change. She looked at the large silver coins and was
struck with a sudden pulse of generosity. Dropping 6 coins in the
courier’s hand, she smiled and cradled the bundle he had just brought
to the door.

“Thankee mam.” He smiled and headed
back towards the Post Office.

Jed opened the package, and after
undoing the careful wrapping and the layers of crumpled sheets of
newsprint, found what she had been waiting for…5 metallic
cartridges of a caliber she couldn’t recognize and with an oddly
formed bullet protruding from the end. Smiling, she placed the
cartridges in her pocket, stuffed the box into the stove, and headed
back to the building that housed Ying Research. She walked in, kicked
the snow off of her boots and looked around the shop for signs of
what Kimika was working on today. The submarine was still in the
main workbay and as Jed walked closer she saw a booted leg and the
hem of a skirt protruding from an access panel on the aft quarter of
the boat.

“Hello dear. What are you up to in
there?”

The leg promptly disappeared into the
access hatch and a few moments later the raven-haired head of the
former Miss Ying appeared out of the hatch.

“Hello love. Remember how we were
discussing the descent issue over supper? I had an idea to increase
the flow rate to the ballast tank, so I’ve been working on the
valves. How has your day been so far?”

Jed smiled that crooked little smile
that indicated that she was up to something. “I need you to take a
look at something for me. It’s a specialized cartridge that I would
like to make in a caliber I can use. I need a full metallurgic
breakdown, design analysis, and an estimate of how hard it would be
to reproduce. I’ll just leave them on your desk.”

Kimika looked up at her, and nodded. “I
should be done with this in a bit, and I’ll let you know what I
find out.”

“Thank you dear.” Jed said, bending
to kiss her forehead. She turned and walked back over to the office
to continue sorting through the mass of paperwork associated with the
matters at hand.

………………………………………….

Later that afternoon the entry bell on
the entrance rang, and Jed saw a very welcome sight. Kimika walked
across the workshop floor, carrying a tin lunch pail in one hand and
a box in the other. She had that look on her face, so Jed stopped
working and waited for her to walk into the office.

“There. I brought you some food
since I know you haven’t eaten, and I have a surprise for you as
well.” Kimika sat the box on the desk, and pulled off the slip-fit
lid to reveal 25 large brass cartridges.

“I found the unloaded casings you
bought for the Greener, and used them. The bullets themselves had a
few curious features, and a few extra things added to the lead, but
it wasn’t anything that took too horribly long to figure out. The
physical design of the bullet itself was actually more difficult.
Each one of them has writing on it. Almost a sort of incantation…I
assume you’ll want to test them, and I also assume you’ll try to
insist doing it alone, and of course you know I’ll not let you go by
yourself.”

Jed looked into Kimika’s eyes and
realized that this was going to be a no-win situation, and despite
the fact she had worked very hard to keep her partner out of harm’s
way, it was apparent that there were two risk-takers in the Dagger
house now.

…………………………………………………………

Jed decided to do the test at the pod
in the old cemetery behind the Academy. This would give them a good
route of egress should the rounds not work. Kimika stood back at the
gate as Jed walked up to the cylinder and gave it a solid kick with
the sole of her boot. The kick was rewarded with the appearance of
three of the cyclopean little crabs, who rushed to defend the pod
from the intrusion. She ran back to the gate, where it was quickly
closed. She knew she’d only have a short time to shoot, because the
crabs would use the bodies of their cohorts to climb over the fence
to get at the two women.

Jed leveled the Greener at the first
creature, the steel nosecap of the heavy police shotgun just inches
away from the beast. The sound of the shot was punctuated by the
scream of the creature, who lurched as the heavy slug punched through
it is shell. She reloaded and fired again, the creature screaming as
it evaporated into a cloud of slimy smoke. Jed fired and fired until
the creatures were all gone, the barrel of the shotgun too hot to
hold.

“Well, that proves they can be
killed, and if they can be then maybe we still have a chance” Jed
said. Kimika smiled, and nodded. “A chance is all we need.

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