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Aquila IX – The Edge of Disaster

   Bookworm and her two companions were being led to the ‘Menagerie’, where Dr. Dupyre had suggested researchers would experiment on prisoners.  She grit her teeth knowing that she had to avoid that fate, but their old plan was ruined thanks to Doctor Gammis.  The spy was captured or working with Progress so they had to breakout on their own.  Surrounded by forty pirates she did not see how.  

   Things improved when they took the elevator to the lowest level.  Only twenty pirates remained with their leaders but that was too many for an impromptu escape.  When they reached their floor Book tried to memorize the passage to return.  

  Their travels were interrupted when the base equipment fluctuated insanely.  Lights turned on and off, alarms sounded and ended, lamps erupted into filament and glass.  Mariah looked to Bookworm in the confusion but the captain shook her head.  This wasn’t the time to escape.

  Ms. Whitesmith stood through the display with crossed arms while everyone else ducked to protect their faces from erupting glass.  She seemed emotionless, but when she spoke it was with fury that she had remained so rigid during the outage.

  The system stabilized leaving them in partial darkness with half the lamps broken.  The woman in red turned to Decagon, “Somebody was stupid enough to shoot a gun.  If they keep shooting it may be the last thing any of us ever do.”

 “Oui, madam.” The pirate admiral responded as he reached for his rum flask. “But it is likely the company of Dr. Falcon and her allies.  Our doctor will handle that n’est pas?”

  “And what if it isn’t him?” Ms. Whitesmith spoke with a growing sneer through unnaturally pearly teeth.  “Perhaps one of the small children snuck onto the base?  What if they inadvertently set off the ‘angel’?”

  “Angel?!” Bookworm paled as she shouted.  She had never imagined that the scientists had already captured a cloud angel.  “Are you all mad!?  Don’t you know what they could do to you!?  To us?!  You have no idea what you’re dealing with!”

  Ms. Whitesmith ignored Bookworms words completely, showing no sign she had heard her impassioned warning.  Ran Decagon considered her for a moment, but shrugged and took another swig, “C’est la vie de pirate!”  

  The buccaneers gave a cheer, raising their swords giving the same shout, restoring their humor.   However, Whitesmith was not finished with the Admiral.  Clearing her throat she stepped closer to him, “I want your men to search for other possible spies that may have infiltrated the base with Captain Heinrichs.  Or are my words too difficult for an illiterate inebriated pirate to understand?”  

  Ran Decagon frowned as he considered the small woman and then splashed her face with rum.  She clenched her fist while the pirates laughed as her makeup dripped.  “There mademoiselle, now we all look like drunken louts.”  

  Whitesmith glared at Decagon as she grabbed his coat and pulled him close.  She had a remarkably strong grip for a short woman, “Will you go or not?”

  The Admiral grinned and winked to the warriors, “What do you lot say?  Ready to hunt down a few intruders before they kill us all?”

 “Aye!”  All but five of his men departed heading back for the elevator.  Whitesmith released Decagon and ordered them to the stairs, but they boarded the mechanical lift.  Fuming, she turned to the Admiral showing her oddly clean teeth again.  He smiled in return.

  Bookworm struggled to hide her own amusement, “I take it that there is trouble in the ranks?”  


   Dr. Falcon and Wright smashed through another set of doors to be greeted by lanky clockworks that rushed to subdue the intruders.  Charging forward Avariel impaled the lead machine, and then bucked and kicked while Wright fought the machines with a crowbar.  She tossed the leader aside and crushed an incoming automata mercilessly.  Metal ripped apart in their onslaught and oiled gears clattered to the floor as the two figures tore through the cheaply made guards.  

  The area was a greasy mess, as were the six other rooms they had searched above ground. Now that they had cleared the upper halls they returned to the main building to search for the passage down.  They passed their victims without giving them much thought, most of the defenders had been machines, but a few soldiers had suffered their wrath.  Not all of them were breathing anymore.  

  The room they had initially entered had clear floors and metal rails preventing people from falling several stories below.  In the center was a large conduit for the aetheric power rushing to the antenna far above.  Wright and Avariel’s fur stood on end as they entered the field it generated.  Without the dampeners outside the energy was flowing uninhibited.  As Avariel felt her mane curl she realized why it was so dangerous.

  “There’s no aetheric regulators on this!”  The Professor was aghast at the lack of features that had made her own facilities almost safe.  “Although I created those and they never invited me here…”

  “So treat everything in here like it could explode.” Wright said sardonically as he searched for the way down.  

  “Right you are!”  A voice echoed from below, carried over the hum of the machine.  Dr. Falcon and Wright turned to look down at a figure watching them from a catwalk.  He escaped into a room opposite the duo abandoning them.  

  “Get back here you coward!”  Wright called after him, reaching for his pistol before he remembered and uttered a slew of curses.

  “He’s not getting away that easily!”  Avariel shouted.  They hadn’t found the way down but she would not let them escape.  She prepared herself and rammed her horn into the glass below them.  The floor shattered beneath a surprised Wright who plummeted with the professor in a sea of glass debris as they fell towards the platform below.

  Wright and Avariel hit the ground rough as the shower of glass covered them, but they were both intact.  The gruff wolf didn’t even ask her for more warning next time as they chased after the figure.

  They found themselves in an area filled with large clockworks.  These looked thicker, tougher than the automatons on the previous level.  These were closer to Doctor Obolensky’s Smashingtons that turned towards the duo as they entered.  At the far end of the room the man who had called out to them smiled in welcome,  “Greetings Dr. Falcon and her esteemed guest!  I am the new Master of Aquila IX and Wuldram Shores, Doctor Dupyre!”

  “Only a Master of evil, you fiend!”  Avariel countered before Wright could retort. “You have besmirched the name of Science with your reckless disregard for life and sound engineering principles!  This place is a death trap!”

  “You wound me madam,” Doctor Dupyre replied from behind his mechanical monsters.  “I have a deep respect for life.  You can’t banter with the dead yet.”  

  “You will when I’m finished with you, Mr. DupyreWright snarled menacingly as he brandished his crowbar. He refused to call this man a doctor. “You can meet them all in Hell and tell them Blackjack sent you!”

  “Oh?  Do you fancy yourself a killer, Mr. Jack?” The scientist seemed to appraise Wright for a few moments, and then looked away disappointed. “Sorry, but I just don’t think you’re my type.”  With that confusing retort he ordered the clockworks to seize them.  The machine’s closed on the intruders.  

   Wright had choice words for this ‘doctor’ but he saved them for after he ripped his creations to pieces.  He swung the crowbar but this time the machines didn’t break apart easily.  They pressed forward slowly cornering him while Avariel charged forwards and struggled to disable one after another.  Feeling he had no option, Wright painfully unleashed his inner beast.

  The automatons expressed no surprise at Wrights transformation.  They were doing as programmed and it did not concern them their opponent shifted or grew.  When they closed on the figure they grabbed him and tried to force him to the ground.  Wright soon towered over them and attacked, tearing off their mechanical limbs and heads with raw strength.

  The villain had already retreated to the room beyond by the time they finished, but before Wright could pursue him Dr. Falcon came between him and the door.  She seemed excited to see him there as her tail flicked, “Big Wulfy!”

  He wasn’t sure if this reaction was better or worse than the one he feared.


      Yang Moreau trudged behind the mobile cannons as they made way along the snowy road to Aquila IX.  The combined weight of Beryl tied to his back and Loki in his arms was more than the chef could manage.  He had faltered and fallen into the snow every few yards, and none of the soldiers offered him any aid.  They repeatedly ordered him to keep up with the caravan.  

  Yang was grateful that their tools, weapons, and pockets were searched and confiscated before departure.  He could not have supported their supplies, but even now he could feel his exhaustion growing. He had lost track of how many times he had fallen when Loki finally woke up and rubbed his eyes.

  Feeling his head he sat up looking at Mr. Moreau blinking wearily, “Coroi…did yerja get a numbera on thu tram that struck me?”  

 “Master Loki!”  Yang hugged the small child, happy that he was recovering.  “Now we may have a chance at getting out of this alive.”

  “Gettin’ outta wut?”  Loki was having trouble remembering the events of the day as he felt at his sore head.

  “Keep moving!”  One of the men kicked snow at Yang.  Loki caught a face full of it, an awful reminder they had been captured.   He wiped his whiskers wondering what had gone wrong.  Seeing Beryl strapped to Mr. Moreau reminded him that much quicker.

  “Keep your head down and follow me.  We’re in the territory of the Koudra now,”  Yang breathed quietly hoping that the man wouldn’t overhear.  “Remember, we can be rescued if we stay alive.”

  Loki nodded as they gripped their head and stood up.  Together they trudged next to the soldiers, while the urchin whispered questions to his companion starting with how they got here.

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