Tepic knew how to get back to the supply closet, but had been out cold during his trip to the lower levels. If his nose was working properly he could have followed his own scent, but thanks to that dog-loving hunter everything smelled like his own blood. The fox had vague ideas where the exits were located. The retreating clockworks metallic feet resounded down the halls and he was now trying to follow where he thought they had gone. He soon discovered the elevators, which he would not chance in the station running on backup power.
The nearby stairs were labeled however, and a sign said to use them during emergencies. Running up the stairs, Tepic found something he did not like. A crossbow bolt and husky hairs, but no sight of the hunter or his dogs. Tepic grimaced, but he could hope the bloke was out dealing with the Koudra. Maybe the mutts would get eaten.
Bookworm took the sword Jeffrey had thrown her, but she was uncomfortable with accepting his aid. Memories of her past altercations with his grandfather had never been pleasant. She could not leave without finding Mariah Lanfier and Jim Doohan. Her allies were easy to find in the crowd, Doohan was carried by several brothers, his legs and good arm a bloody ruin thanks to Whitesmith. Mariah was holding her boot-knife with her left hand due to the burns on the other.
“Brothers, we cannae let the fight anger the cloud angel!” Doohan tried to warn them, but he sounded half crazed. She was not surprised the Brothers tried to reassure him that was a fever dream.
“Progress is bluffing about angel, Master Doohan. How can they possess one? It is improbable beyond the point of believability.”
Bookworm left them to see to Doohan’s injuries turning to her friend. Mariah joined her quietly, “Remember when I said it had been too long since I had seen you in action?” She adjusted her hair after accidentally tasting her burnt grey-black follicles. “This is your chance to make me proud.”
“Gladly,” the heroine grinned to Mariah before looking towards Jeffrey, “But if you kept an eye on that one for me I would feel more comfortable.”
Admiral Decagon eyed the chronometer hoping for dawn to come swiftly. If they could keep the beasts occupied until dawn they would depart with the rising sun. Unfortunately daylight was still several hours away.
They had to keep moving and changing their tactics as the beasts continued to adapt. First they threw rocks at the gasbags and now they had just thrown something bigger though furry. Decagon and his men watched it bounce onto the deck and then let out a surprised yelp as one of the large squirrels uncurled.
It attacked Decagon at the helm, and he surrendered the wheel to his allies while he tore the creature from his face. He struck it with the shock mace and then noticed that it wasn’t just him having this problem. The other ships were all being boarded by smaller creatures throwing them into chaos.
The helmsman brought them out of danger and circled Aquila IX high in the sky. Only one ship following him had made it. He sighed at another lost ally, but mentally promised to raise a toast in their honor later.
Their current tactics would never work. He needed a new plan fast. Something definitive that would rout the horrid beasts and leave them ineffective. The only thing that could drive them off was fire and silver, but their hatred of the station appeared greater than their fear of death or pain. They needed something bigger to terrify the massive beasts.
Decagon looked at the station and the beasts surrounding it, trying to break inside the metal barriers, and pushing on one side of the building to make the whole structure buckle.
The Admiral had an idea how to stop them, but it was risky. They would have to fly close and spray the doorway with the flaming tar and kerosene. The beasts wouldn’t push against the entrance if it was on fire.
Decagon paused as he realized the solution to their dilemma. Tapping his comrade on the shoulder he took the helm again. He ignored the claw marks the squirrel had left on his face for now, his new mission could save everyone. He told his men what to do and they engulfed the building in flames using the ‘Angel’s Breath’. Grabbing the megaphone to his ship he gave the first orders of the battle over the loudspeakers, “Attention scalawags! This is Admiral Decagon! Whitesmith is a bitch!” He hoped that would prove his was the real voice. “We have to set Aquila IX on fire! Every inch must burn! Don’t worry about the building! It’s made of metal and old stone! The beasts won’t be able to touch it though! Again, Whitesmith is Progress’s bitch!”
Flaming tar and kerosene shot out of the flamethrowers and covered the building with their conflagration. The other surviving pirates broke away from the battle to join them. They were running out of the precious liquids they needed to perform this miracle, but soon half of the building was ablaze and it was slowly leaking down below.
The beasts watched them angrily, and attacked trying to prevent the pirates success. More ships were brought down but one group of buccaneers aimed for their fallen comrades airbags bringing destruction for everything beneath them. The Koudra and their allies were forced to retreat from the growing blaze of downed airships and burning gasbags.
As Aquila IX blazed the beastial denizens of the Hildskal mountains departed reluctantly. The pirates were under no illusions that the beasts would not return when the blaze died, and it was hours until dawn.
Bookworm and Mariah followed by the able-bodied Brothers and Doctor Gammis as Jeffrey lead them to their next destination: The prison block for the local giants. From a window she could see the area was built for massive creatures and possessed extra open room. The clockworks guarding these cells reminded Bookworm of the Smashingtons from her old nemesis. Everyone crouched down hiding from sight except for Jeffrey who could look through the window freely.
“There are four monitors in the cellblock. Two on either side of the station.” The leading monk murmured as he examined the scene. “They appear to be eating, but once the fighting starts they will pull the alert.”
“The constructs are formidable, but there are multiple weaknesses we can exploit to increase our reasonable probability of success.” A young brother said while examining their opponents intently. Bookworm turned her head so she could hear more clearly, “Their armor acts like exoskeletons, for want of a better term, and each limb possess several breaks in the metal to allow freedom of movement. Without those they couldn’t bend knees and other important appendages. With enough leverage we will get under the armor to the more vulnerable mechanics beneath and break them. Their eyes should also be targeted and the neck to remove their heads.”
Bookworm and the Brothers nodded along following the plan quickly. Jeffrey looked confused, unable to hear their hastily whispered plans, “What was that about treads?”
The Brother took a calming breath and then tried to explain louder, “If we attack the joints we stand a chance.” Jeffrey clapped his hands together and readied himself. Everyone got their weapons ready knowing that this would be a much tougher fight. One they might not win if reinforcements arrived quickly.
Dr. Gammis coughed into his hand slightly, “I-if I may? I…have a suggestion.” The brothers turned towards Gammis wondering what the guilt ridden traitor was going to suggest. Moments later, Jeffrey Cortman entered the giants holding block alone.
He walked unhindered by the automata, something the Brothers had not expected he could do considering his actions in their own cellblock. The clockworks regarded him as maintenance personnel and were programmed to ignore him. Even when he unlocked the cells this was not viewed as problematic. They turned their attentions to the inmates he was unlocking but as long as the prisoners remained in the cell they did not attack.
The monitors continued to eat their cake, if they had looked up they could have seen Jeffrey’s actions and stopped this dangerous gambit. He moved on to the next cell and the next uninterrupted, freeing his people as the clockworks followed their set instructions. Mayor Dekkar laughed softly as Jeffrey unlocked his prison last. “So that traitor Gammis didn’t know about you after all, boy!”
“We’ll talk about that later, Captain,” Jeffrey responded as the keys opened the last cell door. The monitors still had not noticed the spy’s actions, believing their job was to watch over the clockworks that would attack any intruder instantly. The one monitor who had seen Jeffrey had assumed he was checking for spills and ignored him. “Everyone awaits your orders.”
Bookworm and the Brothers watched the mayhem from the window as the giants emerged as one from their cells. The Heroine had to admit there was something satisfying about a plan coming together smoothly. Their attack did not go unnoticed. The surprised monitors sounded the escape alerts and cursed their own complacency. The intercom broadcasted the jailbreak.
Men scrambled for their with shock maces and swords. Bookworm grinned to Mariah as she prepared her blade for round two. This time they would be ready for the villains tricks.
The pirates entered the hangar fewer in number but still possessing over two-dozen airships. Doctor Dupyre welcomed Ran Decagon’s return warmly, congratulating him on his triumph, but Whitesmith and the Admiral had to disagree. “He set the building on fire. If the ‘Angel’ hadn’t been incapacitated it would have killed us all.”
“Then it is lucky that it was incapacitated, oui?” Decagon chuckled. He did not know how right he was, neither the Doctor or Whitesmith had given that order. “Unfortunately, the beasts will return. The building cannot burn which means no fuel for the flames. Once the materials exhaust themselves we shall be at their mercy again.”
Dupyre nodded his head in agreement, “Yes, and this means I’ll need you and your men airborne until dawn with every Angel’s Breath and flammable liquid we have available.”
They were halfway through loading the ships when the prisoner alert blared across the loudspeakers. “Damnation!” Dupyre cursed. It seemed everything wanted to go wrong this evening.
“The Heroes!” Whitesmith snarled. “I told you to kill them!”
Dupyre turned to the woman annoyed by her berating attitude. He waved his hand in dismissal, “If you are so eager to educate me on these matters, go! Show me how it is ‘done’!”
“Glady,” she turned and walked out of the room confidently. Dupyre regretted his part in her creation. Progress choose the wrong candidates for that special procedure. After she left the scientist turned to Decagon and spoke confidentially.
“Given that we are being assaulted on two fronts we need to be ready to evacuate.” Dupyre whispered to his old rival. “Can I count on you to back me up, Admiral?”
“Oui, Doctor,” Decagon winked to his friend and patted his shoulder. “I won’t speak for all of my men, but I’ll be here to help you.”
“Good, then get out there. I need to get Mephistophicles prepped for battle.” He ran out of the secret hangar leaving the pirates to finish loading and return to their mission. No matter who won the fight below nothing would survive if the Koudra broke into the facility with their own army.
No one noted the extra ship that had flown in with the returning pirates that had been suspiciously devoid of buccaneers docking. Loki peeked over the edge after the last of the airships departed. The urchin grinned, there were only a handful of dock workers left.
Doctor Hartschlägel heard the alert and gritted his teeth. He had known this day would arrive, but failed to expect it today. Running on emergency power he would be limited with his ability to control the situation. The turrets would have dealt with this uprising otherwise.
A few things still operating were the elevators and environmental pumps. Those would be all he needed to contain this situation. He activated the lifts for their most ‘special’ guests which would remove any chance of Dr. Falcon being rescued or their other guest.
Hartschlägel smiled to himself confidently. Without their clockwork ally free there would be no one standing when he flooded the detention floor with toxins.
When he was satisfied he shut down the elevators. The stairs would still be usable but they would quickly become bottlenecked. His containment plan had only one flaw, it was impossible for him to fill the entire area from the safety of his master station on emergency power. He would have to do it manually and return. He grabbed his shock mace and dagger and rushed out the room.
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