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Aquila IX – The Ruined Celebration

  The mess hall had been constructed with the proud Victorian sensibilities of the upper class.  There was a long table capable of seating seventy people and fine dishes were on display. Every kind of spoon, fork, and knife was available and separately designed for their own specific use.  There were over fifty different types of silverware and each one was a necessity for someone of taste or class to comprehend.  Without the knowledge of which knife one used to eat peas you could be ostracized from polite society. A method of keeping out the uneducated and new money.  A world of us versus them.

   The pirates were throwing most of them against the walls where they had drawn a crude target board.  Ran Decagon, the bearded admiral with his lavish coat stood on the table and pulled back his plate, and then threw it like a discus towards the center.  He missed by a wide margin, but he howled with joy even as he threw up his hands in defeat.  

  Almost no one was following the rules of polite society, nor was anyone concerned for the others lack of decorum.  Dupyre sat at the head watching the festivities with an entertained grin.  He had changed into new garments for the celebration though he had kept the same flower and hat.  He clapped as men got drunk and danced on the table.  They even had a few fellows bring up their instruments.  

  Doctor Gammis sat next to him looking down and tracing patterns in the wood, clearly regretting what had transpired.  He had not touched his wine or the pre-meal salad. The balding scientist was the only individual displaying a frown.  Even Ms. Whitesmith watched the revelry with a half-smile.  She ignored calls for her to throw off her red coat and dance for everyone.  Gammis blushed and hid his face under the table when he had heard that request. He went completely crimson when the plate of oysters arrived that Dupyre had ordered for the Gammis.

  Dupyre laughed and winked to his colleague.  “Come now, Doctor.  You can afford to live a little.”  He had made it part of his life’s mission to break the poor man out of his shell.  

  Dr. Hartschlägel, seated to their left watched their display with disgust, which transformed into a cheshire grin.  “Yes, tonight you have been freed from fear, Doctor Gammis.  Free of the terror you may not have the Builders favor and know for certain you do not.”  Dupyre glared at Hartschlägel, however he persisted.  “The resistance has been crushed a mortal blow, and that sanctimonious den you frequented has been dealt with permanently.”

  “Wh-what?!”  Dr. Winston Gammis sat upright as his tired eyes widened. “What happened?”

  Dupyre raised one of his gauntlets warningly towards Hartschlägel, but the larger gentleman scoffed at the item.  “The Church was harboring Captain Dekkar and the resistance within their tainted walls.  They were also sheltering the Babbagers that we were sent to hunt down.  I told them that everyone must surrender or I would raze and purify their halls with cannons.”  He allowed the scientist time to understand the desecration he was reporting. Cheerfully, he concluded, “Father Walstrand was among those who refused to leave.  That broken fool now has an entire Cathedral acting as his tomb.”

 “No!”  Gammis screamed as he interrupted the festivities with his outburst.  He hyperventilated as he stood up shaking as he backed away from the table and ran out of the room.  

 “You should send someone after-”  Whitesmith began but Dupyre cut her off with a wave of his gauntleted hands.  He had just activated and primed them.  

 “He will need his space.  I already know where he is going.” The villain turned towards Hartschlägel who appeared unrepentant.  “That was uncalled for Doctor.  The destruction of the Church and the murder of Walstrand is senseless.”

  Whitesmith stepped forward to defend the actions, “I think that it sends a message of strength, Doctor.  A message you desperately need to start conveying to your enemies.” Whitesmith nodded to Admiral Decagon.  He was no longer smiling or throwing plates at the wall.  The festivities had come to a halt. “Those heroes who you allowed to live almost escaped.  It took me and the admiral to subdue them, but not before they wounded five of his men.  Two of them are in critical condition.”  

  Dupyre scowled angrily learning what had transpired.  Whitesmith continued more resolutely, “You need these so called heroes, that protect the status quo, to know that we are ruthless killers.  An organization that should be feared and nothing will stop us.  We should congratulate Dr. Hartschlägel’s initiative.”

  “Yes,”  Benton Hartschlägel added calmly.  “They would kill us and call it justice.  Even now they plot their escape and to enact their vengeance upon our persons.  We need to show them how vulnerable they are.  We must show them they are nothing more than victims.  They must accept that we are the killers and they are but our victims.  The only language any of these beasts, heroes, and prisoners speak is pain.  Everything else is just noisy wind and moot mockery.”

  “And you accomplished this by speaking to Doctor Gammis the way you would a prisoner, Dr. Hartschlägel?”  Dupyre asked dangerously as he approached his colleague who was now reaching slowly for his shock mace. “Where there are no inmates to impress?”

  Dupyre raised the gauntlet he and Gammis had crafted together.  The aetheric magnet ripped the mace free of its holder and flew towards the gauntlet along with the other metal and silverware the Benton was trying to hold.  Hartschlägel was now defenseless as Doctor Dupyre pointed the bloody mace at its owner.

  “Is this what you do, Doctor?  Make someone helpless and then beat them?  Kill them?” The villain edged the electrified edge closer to Benton’s face.  “Do you consider yourself a killer?  Have you ever imagined being one of your victims?”

  Benton Hartschlägel refused to back down from Dupyre, though he knew the man held all the cards in Aquila IX.  The pirates under Ran Decagon had no love for Benton, “This is what you must do to maintain control.  In this world there are only killers and victims.  The ‘angel’, the spiders, the beasts, all of the experiments are waiting only for their chance to be the killer.”

 “Possibly doctor, but if so that is all you educated them to be.  You are lucky that some of us choose to hold themselves to a higher standard.”  Dupyre deactivated the shock mace.  The blue warning light faded but the scientist kept the weapon ready.  He sneered at Hartschlägel as he would dog refuse.  

  “It takes no effort to resort to brutality, or to become a killer.  Life is an easy thing to take away or lose without warning.  If I were to give a baby a gun, the most dangerous thing in this room would be the baby.”  Dupyre flexed his finger in a way that would deactivate the magnetic pull and the mace fell to the mess hall carpet. “It would be a danger to itself and everyone else.  The ability to take life is not special.  Any simpleton can take away life.

  The villain realized that he had been monologuing, revealing more about himself than he had intended.  Undeterred he tipped his hat and smiled cheekily, “I strive to separate myself from the common rabble.  To do things that no other man is capable of accomplishing.  I defy the gods, governments, and their champions to bring about the world I desire and to have fun doing it.”

  “But remember this Hartschlägel, and you too Ms. Whitesmith.”  Dupyre stared at her.  She was not pleased at suddenly being included.  “I prefer not to kill, but if I wanted to destroy either of you…”

  “You would both be dead where you stand,”  Dupyre reactivated the aetheric magnet within the gauntlet.  He gestured to the silverware that the pirates had been using for darts.  The knives and forks came rushing out of the wall and towards him.  He directed them so the stream of silverware passed over the pirates and Hartschlagel as they were thrust into the wall above them.  Most bounced off, but others penetrated the barrier effectively making the villains point.

  Hartschlägel retained his dignity as he bent down slowly to retrieve his weapon and departed without a word.  He ignored the pirates laughing at his departure and made his way down to the Menagerie.  Dupyre could think what he wanted, but their prisoners needed to have the hope beaten out of them.


  Leisig had almost completed his journey down the long stairwell when he heard someone above him called down.  They were wearing a brown coat signifying a member of Icarus Research, but it appeared to be a light shade.  The coloration for maintenance workers.  He shouted his reply, “I have prisoner to incarcerate.  We speak later.”

  “Stay right there!”  Heavy boots stomping on metal ran down the stairs.  The huskies barked as they stood next to their master protectively.  Leisig prepared his crossbow, but he lowered it as he recognized the lad coming towards him.  It was not another Babbager in disguise.

  “What is important?”

  “I had a message to give you from Doc Dupe,” The large local boy said gruffly while he puffed on his cigar, which filled the room with a nasty stench.  “But we need to talk about something more important.”

 “What could be more pressing than message from Doctor Dupyre?”  Leisig asked, ignoring his insolence. Many of the pirates had adopted nicknames for everyone and the hunter had gotten used to disregarding them.

 “Three things,”  He breathed smoke into the worn hunters scarred face intentionally.  The local boy raised his hand and counted down with his fingers, “First your dogs are my problem.  They are shedding and drooling all over my clean floors making more work for me.”

  “That is unfortunate.”  The hunter could hardly believe he was being accosted by what amounted to a glorified janitor.  However, Leisig had lived in Wuldram Shores long enough to know not to scoff.  “But you are compensated for your efforts.”

 “Second, I found a pile of garbage littering the floor near the trains,” The large lad raised his last finger as he concluded,  “Third, the only reason I discovered any of this while looking for you is because you left a long trail of blood I will have to clean up.”  

 “Apologies, comrade,” Leisig replied insincerely. “But taking prisoners is bloody affair.”  For the first time the boy examined Tepic closely. He saw his bloody nose and limp body dangling haphazardly over the hunters shoulder.

  Jeffrey Cortman, the local giantlad, stared at the child’s pitiful state and then turned back to Leisig.  The huntsman was already tensing, sensing the change in the janitor.  He tried to raise his crossbow but a fist that compared well to Leisigs skull broke his nose and sent him to the ground moaning in pain.  

   The two dogs jumped to their masters defense, but Jeffrey grabbed them and repeatedly rammed their heads together till they ceased to move.  He tossed their limp forms aside then did the same to Leisig to be complete.  It was only after Leisig was down that Jeffrey removed Tepic from under him.  He threw him unceremoniously over his own shoulder and continued down the stairs to the rendezvous point.  Whatever that meant.

   Before he left he turned back to the unconscious hunter, “Oh right.  The message.  Dupe wants you to come to the victory celebration.”  


  The soldiers fired at the Koudra prowling atop the ravine with their cannon balls and advanced weaponry, but had failed to account loose rocks and snow that came tumbling down to bury them.  Soldiers shouted and tried to clear a path as an avalanche of debris resounded down the walls and buried soldiers and mobile cannons alike cutting the convoy in two.  

   The soldiers repeatedly had to scatter while the Lieutenant tried desperately to get control of the situation.  The Koudra swarmed down the ravine edges moving and jumping as they stalked their prey.  They knew the danger of the silver weapons and the flames, which kept them at bay.  But the weapons of men were limited.  The beasts only needed to make them waste it.

   The Lieutenant froze hearing his own voice crying out false orders to retreat.  To cease fire.  He countermanded them but more were bellowing in the confusion.  There were reports the fighters across the divide were already dead.  But they could hear and see shots being fired through the snow and at the ravenous monsters.

  The flamethrowers were causing the most damage as the tar clung to the ground and melted everything it touched.  One of the Koudra was completely covered with the sticky tar as it sizzled the creatures flesh and burnt it down to ashes as it gave off deafening shrieks.  But for every one of the monsters hurt seven or eight brown-coated soldiers vanished into the snowy night.  

 It was chaos as men were picked off slowly, but Yang Moreau and Loki Gearhead could not afford much thought for their overwhelmed capteurs. They needed to escape or they would join the doomed guardsmen in death.  

  Yang retreated with Loki to the center where the soldiers were forming a circle.  He placed Beryl against the lead tank and tapped her chin twice trying to wake them.  Loki also tried to shake their feline friend awake, but they had just deactivated the reality enforcer recently.  

  Yang pointed to the mobile cannon, which had been abandoned after it had been buried.  “Our equipment is in here!  If we’re going to escape we’ll need it to survive!”  He knew that was ridiculously optimistic but he had to cling to hope.

 “Oi gots it!  Leave it ter me!”  Loki nodded and went to the door, it had not been sealed in the confusion, and wondered at the interior of the device.  There was a glass window to see outside and several instruments he could not divine a purpose for, but he was determined to find out later.

  A quick search found all of their packs and Beryl’s sword.  He took them in a hurry and went back to discover Beryl was awake, and holding Yang’s throat with their claws.  The poor chef was gasping for air helplessly in their paws.  “Ber…it…s…me…”

 “Beryl!” Strifeclaw turned towards Loki with the weakened Yang still in their grasp.  Their eyes were not the familiar orange and teal.  They were both red-orange with a tinge of crimson hinted within their slit pupils.  Loki could see in them the hunger and hatred that drove the famished devils surrounding them.

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