Bookworm idly wondered how many times the doctor had rehearsed that stunt, but she had to admit it had been an impressive entrance. The scientist was younger than she had anticipated, probably in his late forties or early fifties and with a full head of greying hair. He wore a dapper suit which he was straightening carefully and insured a small device on his belt had not fallen.
While he prepared himself, Bookworm noticed he had a bulky gauntlet on his left hand which gave off a blue soft light. She wondered what it was, but after years encountering mad scientists she assumed it was not there for looks.
Satisfied that he was almost presentable, Dr. Dupyre took one extra moment to pin an orange nasturtium flower on his right side. With that completed he accepted his hat from Ms. Whitesmith who had joined him near the curtain. She did not seem amused, but Admiral Decagon grinned and quietly congratulated the doctor on his showmanship.
Dekkar grunted unappreciatively, “Was there a point to that?”
“Ah Mister Mayor this was entirely for your benefit and my own,” Dr. Dupyre continued to orate so that the chamber could hear him. “No one should feel that their defeat was just a matter of course. If you are victorious you should make an effort to let the defeated know you think it a special occasion. Everything should be done with a certain manner of style.”
Dekkar shrugged to imply ‘get on with it’ but the villain already turned back to the curtains. He returned to them and called out, “Dr. Winston Gammis! Join us! This is your victory as well!”
The doctor emerged timidly from behind the red drapes looking at the floor. He refused to raise his eyes as Dr. Dupyre joined him. Winston looked much younger despite his hair being decidedly thinner, but between them the bashful scientist seemed the old man.
“Come now, don’t you have a few words you’d like to say to the Mayor?” Dupyre encouraged his colleague with a pat to his shoulder. “I’m sure he would appreciate your honesty more than trying to hide what you’ve done.”
“N-n-n-no! Th-tha-tha-tha-that’s un-ne-ne-necessary!” The nervous scientist wriggled his hands as he turned back to the curtain. “You sh-should just s-send him to his ce-cell.”
Dupyre shook his head and crossed his arms, still projecting his voice, “Oh, you’d rather leave him with false hope? Allow him to believe his escape plans would actually work?”
Bookworm let in a sharp hiss involuntarily. Dekkar, stoic until now, went rigid. His knuckles turned white as he clenched his fists and stared balefully at Winston with a mixture of betrayal, hatred, and surprise. Doohan and Mariah were searching for a way out, Dr. Gammis had known about their ruse as well. Unfortunately, all the exits were blocked.
“Don’t be shy, my good fellow, you’re making him feel worse,” Dr. Dupyre turned to Captain Dekkar and posed dramatically in his stead. He ignored his colleagues attempts to stop him. “Doctor Winston Gammis never intended to betray us! He has been revealing your plans for the past three weeks! I know about your ‘spy’ releasing your men! And now-”
The villain was not given the opportunity to finish. Captain Dekkar, the Mayor of Wuldram Shores, shouted wordlessly and charged the scientists. Gammis shrieked as he fell to the ground and covered his head, but Dr. Dupyre looked disappointed. Dekkar was impeded by clockworks and armed men that jumped between him and the villains. He thrashed through them as they latched on striking him repeatedly with shock maces.
His attack had caused the lights to fluctuate throwing everyone into darkness and back again. Doohan took advantage of the confusion and activated his own weapon. He struck the nearest pirate hoping to make room for Bookworm and Mariah to escape.
He managed to fell one before the pirates swarmed them. The three fought valiantly but were outnumbered and overpowered. They were forced to their knees by dozens of hands while Ran Decagon loomed over them. He removed Mariah and Bookworms face scarves bringing the charade to an end.
The room and floor quaked violently as Dekkar pummeled anything in his path, but the repeated mace strikes felled him eventually. He crumbled to the floor from the onslaught, though he kept crawling towards Dr. Gammis. Dr. Dupyre approached the giant and borrowed a shock baton. He delivered the last jolt directly to the back of Dekkar’s head. The lights oscillated rapidly for a few moments and then finally stabilized.
“Well that was minutely disappointing, but not completely unexpected.” Dr. Dupyre shrugged as Ms. Whitesmith called for two men to escort the mayor to his new holding cell. “Still, we musn’t forget Jim Doohan and his allies!”
Admiral Decagon and the pirates forced the three to their feet. They brought them to Dr. Dupyre who waved them aside after the buccaneers frisked the trio and removed their weapons.
“Greetings heroes,” Dr. Dupyre gave a half bow while he tipped his hat. “Welcome to my facility! It shall be your new home for some time I imagine!”
“Don’t count on it,” Bookworm muttered defiantly. “You haven’t beaten us yet, and New Babbage will retaliate eventually.” That was probably not true, but she would not let the doctor sleep easily if she could help it.
“I welcome their attempts! I’m sure there must be many willing to undergo the arduous journey to get here that you have endured!” Doctor Dupyre grinned as he watched Bookworms confidence falter slightly. “As I was telling Mayor Dekkar, thanks to Dr. Winston your well-laid plans have been thwarted!” He gestured to the curtain where the doctor retreated. “Despite your best efforts there is not going to be a jailbreak or a last minute uprising! We have already arrested the spy and taken them to the Menagerie where our scientists will be using them as research subjects!”
“Doohan has escaped from Progress’s clutches twice before, Dr. Dupyre.” Ms. Whitesmith interupted as she inspected the old engineer, and then Book. Her words were hollow and emotionless, “His other companion is Captain Bookworm Hienrichs of the New Babbage Militia. I suggest an immediate execution of them both, or at least once we have gotten them to a better location.”
Bookworm blanched slightly, but kept her head high. She could retain her dignity if nothing else. Mariah grit her teeth and remained silent, but looked to Bookworm with concern in her gaze. Doohan stared at his accuser meeting her eyes and showing her his courage.
“Your suggestion has been noted and overruled, Ms. Whitesmith.” The scientist responded with a strained cordial smile to the woman in red. “Call it ideological differences, but I find no honor in killing helpless men or women on their knees.” The trio relaxed slightly at his words, while the cruel woman scowled. Dupyre wasn’t finished though as he turned to Admiral Decagon, “Take them all to the Menagerie while we get our traps ready for Dr. Falcon!”
“Traps?” Bookworm was brought to her feet, but she struggled to stay in the room for a moment longer. “What traps?! What are you going to do, Dr. Dupyre?!”
The villain responded with an eager smile, as Ms. Whitesmith and Admiral Decagon led her away, “You will see, Captain Heinrichs!”
Yang bit his tongue out of bitterness that he could not do anything to help Beryl or Loki. Dr. Hartschlägel escorted them off the frozen church steps and out of the direct line of fire. He forced Sister Pankirst to carry Beryl, and Yang bore Loki so that they could not run away. The chef hoped that they would not have to endure any more torments, but that dream was dashed as Hartschlägel ordered the men to open fire on the Cathedral.
“What are you doing?” Yang asked as he shifted Loki’s weight. His sore throat was ignored in his outrage, Father Walstrand and the patients were still inside. “How could you do this?! There are people in there!”
“There are?” Dr. Hartschlägel responded with good cheer. “I had no idea, but did I not warn them to come out or I would seige the building?” Yang grimaced recalling the messenger’s words.
“They failed to present themselves and so their lives are forfeit. Additionally, I find this building an eyesore and their religion a drivel filled cesspool. These halls were used to house a rebellion, spies, and other fell creatures.” He looked at Beryl whose eyes were still unblinking. “I would say it is our sacred duty to purge these tainted halls. With cannons.”
Leisig noticed a heavy stench when he entered the cavern that had never been present before. The huskies whimpered and sneezed, their sensitive noses affected negatively by the thick aroma. His quarry had undoubtedly created this odor, but he was not going to subject his prized animals to it. Perhaps the child had seen him coming and done that intentionally.
He would need to keep his wits about him for this prey. Watching the walls he went to tie the pure-breeds to their pole.
The trail of fire caught his attention as he was about to form the knots. It spread quickly along the edge of the cave and reached the entrance. As he watched, he grabbed his crossbow and ducked to the floor.
“Regretfully this will be the end of Father Walstrand,” Dr. Hartschlägel spoke with a mocking false ceremony. “As all the other priests and nuns have been arrested for treason it shall fall to me to recite his benediction. Now, everyone bow your heads and pretend like you care.” He raised his hands into the air and looked towards the stars, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Father Walstrands death, shall be uproarious.”
His inappropriate speech was met with scattered applause and mirth from his men. These brown coated assistants had been working with him in Aquila IX for years and shared his personal dispositions. They were only too eager to watch him work and to lay waste to the sanctuary.
On his order they opened fire at the highest point of the structure. Ancient stone and chiseled murals were crushed, sending debris and stone raining down to the steps below. As the first volley brought destruction to the Cathedral an eruption resounded from the cave. Rubble and metal became shrapnel as everyone jumped at the sudden attack from behind.