Spire’s small personal airship, the Magpie, darted into daylight in it’s newfound reality. The sun glowed brightly here, but was obscured by a smoggy haze. Down below him where normally the fields and plains of north Palisades would have been, sprawled a city, ahead of him, a ghastly firefight ensued.
Several airships were circling what, through a spyglass, looked like a glowing humanoid being with six wings. She darted trying to avoid wire meshes that the airships seemed very handy in manouvering about her. From her hands occasionally darted yellow lightning. When it erupted it invariably struck one of the nets, to no avail. They in turn would shoot her with small arms fire, and she’d scream, her glow flickering.
The largest of the airships had a cylindrical airbag shape, but also wings arrayed amidships, and at least 8 engines, though he did not recognize the sort of propulsion method. The skin of the gasbag was covered in all sorts of arcane symbols. As an amateur occultist, Spires recognized some of them, but by no means most. Her tailfin read simply HMAS 2791.
Legends of a civilization that once used and abused the helpful angels to obtain their power, before being overcome with that power and destroying itself. But what if they hadn’t. Or what if they hadn’t entirely succombed to their own greed. Would they thrive still? Would they somehow still wage war with the only enemy an empire of their might could have left; heaven itself? All Spires saw at that moment was a lonely being being attacked at all sides with no help.
“I’ll miss the absinthe at Loki’s,” he said to himself, then reignited his rockets and aimed the Magpie directly at 2791.
He’d expected a fireball of death when Magpie ripped through the gasbags of the mightier vessle, but these enlightened folk used helium, and the Magpie itself, though sustaining damage and nearly dislodging its occupant, got tangled up in the Imperial’s rigging. Both ships started descending noticably, as 2791 poured out her helium from multiple chambers. Crewmen in strange high pitched voices tried to patch what they could, but found themselves plucked off here and there by yellow lightening as the angel outmanouvered her netting. Gunmen tried to answer back, propelled by orders from their captain. Even with a crippled flagship, it seemed as if they would win out by strength of arms and numbers alone.
Spires had managed to jump down onto the deck of the Imperials. He had to nearly crawl as she was listing badly to starboard. The captain’s voice sounded familiar, but over the sound of thunder and automatic rifles, he had little time to think about it. The ship had a power source. Had to have one. He’d heard no engine, seen no exhaust fumes. The control room was nearly empty, everyone moving to the gunnery deck. Spires drew his howdah pistol and walked in. The few crewman who looked up looked at him curiously but did not impede him. If anything, it seemed like they were trying to figure out his clothes.
One simply asked, “Sir, change of orders?”
Spires stared at the man. Trickier and tricker. “Yes.. I .. need you to come with me to the engine room.”
“Engine room, sir?”
“You know what I mean, damnit!”
They arrived in a small chamber, all shiny steel protected by some kind of flat panel the size of a human hand.
“Open it.” he ordered.
“Captain, it’s handprint keyed, only you or the first-mate can..”
“I know that! Get back to your station, mister.” As the crewman wandered off at an odd angle in the ships listing, Spires tried pressing his hand to the plate. The door opened.
Inside was a small steel cube with little windows at all sides, glowing from within faintly of that same yellow he’d seen in the angel’s lightning. It was held by a kind of quick release system readily understood and had handles. Clearly they had to replace these cubes once in awhile. What was in it? Tincture of angel? Spires released the cube and pulled on the handles. The airship went dark as a cavern inside the chamber. Then there was a horrible yellow light, and a melange of a 100 different burning odors, followed by sounds of the dying.
Spires carried the heavy cube in his right hand, his left holding the howdah gun. The corridor was at first pitch dark but coming up he could see daylight through the shattered and burning control room. Burnt bodies lay about.
“Abandon ship!” someone called. “Abandon ship!”
‘I really should have brought a parachute.’ he thought to himself.
Now in daylight he moved as fast as he could back to the Magipe. It was still there, still tangled, though less so. held only by a small bit of rigging. Spires climbed a rope with great difficulty. Someone was up there cutting lines, already.
Nearly at the top, the last of the 2791 was blown away by angelic fire, causing the injured Magpie to cut loose. Whoever was trying to fly it, wasn’t used to this sort of craft, but they were learning quickly.
The angel flew by as Spires struggled up the rope, still lugging the cube. He stopped, in awe of the beauty of the thing. Suddenly a feeling of calm, of rightness, the like of which he’d never felt in his life came over him.
He held out the cube. “Something tells me this belongs to you.”
It smiled, nodded, and seemed to absorb the energy within. “You answered My call. I will now return you.” it said in a whisper that he still heard with great clarity.
Looking beyond he saw the rift open up again, a void surrounded by a corona of glowing energy.
“Thank you.” Spires started climbing. The airship was going the wrong way. Over the gunwhale, he drew his gun. Seated in the small space of the pilot’s chair the man in the silvery gray uniform didn’t see him.
“Turn about, 90 degrees.” Spires said.
The other stood up and drew his pistol. For a moment they both stared at each other. They were the same person to all apperances, though this captain had a sterner face and a few scars where New Babbage Spires did not.
“I think not, you foul imposter. You are in league with the angels. I thought the last Emperor got rid of your kind. No matter. We’ll get you to the capitol and find out your true face and true name as well as your associates.”
That feeling of calm, of rightness was still with Spires. But monolouging in a situation was just bad form. He shot his doppleganger in the shoulder. “Right handed.” he commended, as the pistol fell from the captain’s hand. “Well I never!”
The void was closing. Injured and limping as she was, the Magpie had only one chance to get through it. He set the engines to crossfeed, knowing they wouldnt survive the heat of this last full burn, and set the triger on lock. They ignited as he turned the airship to aim directly for the void, using the controls over the slack body of the Imperial captain.
He was going to make it. Suddenly the captain became ridgid in his chair, and arm-barred Spires with his one good hand, using the lock to throw him over the side of the gondola. Spires clung to a bit of cargo netting for dear life, the city a thousand feet below him.
“I can’t die yet. I haven’t seen Doc Ob’s new theatre!” He let go of one hand, reached for his knife, and cut the external cable for the rudder control. They were going where he wanted to go.
“You fool, we’re off center!” the Captain yelled to Spires. “You’ve killed us both!”
The airship hit the edge of the void, and lurched into nothingness.