Bookworm fought beside Mariah keeping their opponents on the defensive. It had been a few years since she had picked up a sword, but her rusty training was better than her opponents. They were currently matching blades against a terrified youth who thought two ladies would be easy prey compared to the Brothers or giants. She lunged forward and disarmed the foolish boy and let Mariah deliver the haymaker. The lad fell over with an almost hilarious look of surprise covering his features.
Captain Dekkar and the local giant-men, women, and children were dealing with the clockwork threats and trying to take the brunt from the shock maces and sedative guns. The massive locals were unarmed, but lifted the clockworks and beat their enemies down using the automata as clubs. Some of their forces had fallen, though one especially determined fellow whose body spasmed continued to crawl after the group. Fortunately their losses were far outweighed by the enemies lying broken or bleeding behind them. Captain Heinrichs was looking forward to questioning them soon.
Their fight brought them to the prison Doctor Gammis claimed held the other scientists. The ones without allegiance to Progress and had been arrested. She could see between the bars, which had thick glass in between to keep the prisoners inside. The miserable inhabitants appeared malnourished and haunted to the point Bookworm entertained the possibility. She had several lectures on the back burner concerning their experiments.
She was surprised when Wright emerged from the cell with them. Why had they placed him with the scientists? And why where his clothes that required him to wrap into a blanket? He approached Bookworm and nodded gruffly. “Thanks for the assistance, Captain. I’ll make it up to you yet.” He glared at Doctor Gammis who cringed under his furious glare.
“Don’t worry about him,” Bookworm said hastily, they would have time to compare notes later. She suspected it would take hours to summarize everything that had happened since they had initially split up. “Where is Dr. Falcon? Is she with you?”
“No,” Wright replied dismally. “I don’t suppose you saw my pack somewhere. I could use an extra set of pants.”
“Per…personal belongings would have been taken to the incinerator,” Dr. Gammis offered quietly. His colleague Resh agreed. “Metal would be melted down, and cloth burnt, but I doubt they’ve had time to incinerate it. I can take you there.”
Wright nodded eagerly. Even if he couldn’t use his guns he’d be damned if they were turned into slag. He followed Resh while Bookworm upgraded to an abandoned tranquilizer gun. This was a weapon she felt more comfortable wielding.
“Right we’re going to clear this floor and fight our way up the stairs,” Dekkar turned to the Shores-men. “Leave no bone or machine uncrushed.” The mayor then spared a glance for the freed scientists. “And you lot had better stick near me if you don’t want to join these other fiends rolling on the ground.”
Dock workers were loading the large flagship at the order of Doctor Dupyre. The most important documents and artifacts were aboard, but they had more work ahead. They were armed with swords, shock maces, and the sedative guns for protection after the news of the jailbreak had sounded.
This was the situation that Loki saw when he glanced over the rails of the ship they’d acquired. The lad could fathom no way to sneak around them and Yang had become a liability. The soft-spoken gentleman had begun to cough and sneeze miserably. Even covering his mouth they would draw attention eventually.
“Now that we are inside the hangar, I have noticed a glaring flaw in our plan.” Beryl whispered to their friends. They turned to the feline wondering what they had overlooked. “Namely, we had no plan beyond get inside Aquila IX.”
“Oi, it werked! Wha’ more ya want?!” Loki declared proudly, louder than he should have. “Neow we jes rescew’ th’ oithahs’! Simple ‘nuff!”
Beryl grabbed their head and pushed as if trying to hold themselves together. The field generated by the aetheric dampeners was making it harder to think. “Yes. Simple.”
Yang tapped the side of the ship to get their attention, and pointed to himself. The chef struggled to resist coughing and giving away their position.
Beryl thought about it, something they regretted having to do. They wanted out of the reality enforcement field. It was less pronounced than the individual pack, but it would lead to the same result with prolonged exposure. “Do what you were hired to do when we first set out. Guard the ship.”
Yang frowned but nodded. They both knew he was in no condition to follow them, and they needed to move silently. He lifted the stick he had used to communicate and gave a brief salute.
Loki returned the gesture and jumped over the side with no warning to his companions. It was time for action, and he saw plenty of treasures in all these crates he could use to help. The loaders, who had thought they heard noises coming from the airship, spotted the urchin and readied their weapons. Beryl face-pawed and leapt after the boy.
The men let their darts fly as the two hid behind the wooden boxes. Cursing, the dock-men took out their shock maces and swords while Beryl drew their rapier. They intending to overpower the Moreau with superior technology and numbers. With the field active the handicapped Beryl had their skill alone to rely upon. The cat rushed forward swinging their sword expertly disarming the first two inexperienced attackers. Beryl didn’t have time to be showy or follow any kind of etiquette. She sliced one then the other with her blade and then focused on the other swordsmen.
The rushing loaders lunged together not trying to club Beryl with the maces but to send the electric aetheric shocks coursing through their veins. Beryl deflected one but was struck twice by the attack. The cat straightened from the discharge, but not in pain. The aetheric charge absorbed into the familiar spirit, into Beryl, counteracting the dampener slightly. They swung their sword with renewed clarity and fervor hoping that the loaders would keep trying that tactic.
Loki would not leave their friend unaided, but he was still searching through the supplies for the darts to the tranq gun he had grabbed moments before. Unfortunately most of the cargo was filled with rum. He eventually realized the ammunition their enemies had fired could be shot back at them.
He dislodged a sedative just as a Progress loader attacked him with a shock mace. Letting out a quiet yelp he twisted and avoided a repeat of his meeting with Doctor Hartschlägel. He then leapt up and stabbed the tranquilizer into the man’s arm. The man was unprepared by the boys agility and tried to fight back, but the powerful drugs bowled him over.
Loki sighed in relief and returned to Beryl who had incapacitated all but four men, who backed away nervously. None of them felt comfortable with a blade, and the shock maces were shorter and less effective than hoped. Loki loaded the gun with an extra dart and gave his friend a little extra help, shooting a mace-weider.
His small distraction was the last straw for Beryl to finish the deed cutting into their opponents swiftly. Their enemies were mostly breathing, though trying to staunch blood flow and pray no vital organ had been ruptured. Loki and Beryl stuck them all with the darts before they continued across the metal walkway, leaving Yang alone to watch their ship. Even with his deteriorated health he knew they had assigned him babysitting duty in an empty hangar.
John Wright recovered his pack and weapons from an unsorted pile marked for destruction and quickly dressed himself more appropriately. He emerged from the room in his extra duster and sword in hand. Underneath he had his spare vest, shirt, and trousers but he was most happy to have his hat back. He would have to acquire more holsters, but he worked with what he had currently and placed the rest in his bag.
Everything seemed to be in order, but he could still feel the effects of the aether dampeners active throughout the floor. It was obvious the entire area, the ‘Menagerie’, had been designed with ‘monster containment’ in mind. Growling to himself Wright looked to Resh who nodded and was ready to lead him back to the group.
Wright was about to follow when he caught the scent of a man he wanted to confront. Sniffing to make sure he smelled right, John turned his head towards the source of the odor.
“Is there a problem, Mr. Wright?” Dr. Resh asked as he looked over the large wolf’s shoulder, or rather around him.
“Nothing is wrong,” John replied as he turned back to the scientist. “Just tell everyone I had to settle a debtor’s account.” With that cryptic response the former lawman dashed along the trail left by Benton Hartschlägel.
Tepic was getting closer, he could feel it in his ears and tail as he dodged and scarpered out of the way of men rushing about blindly. They were trying to seal off the stairwells and trap the rioters below. Under normal circumstances, the urchin might have tried to slow them down, but he didn’t think anything would stop the giants once they got going.
Besides, once he freed the cloud angel nothing else would matter. The villains would learn why nobody should ever meddle in the affairs of angels.
A shiver crept up Tepic’s spine as he heard a dog barking behind him which echoed in the halls. Turning back he found one of those abominable husky’s was tailing him. It must have his scent already, and he had used most of his oils to blow up the door.
“Bloomin heck!!” The urchin cried as he gripped his hat and ran. That, that foxhunter had sicced his dogs on him, while bigger beasts were threatening the lives of everyone in this station. “Don’t yer gots better things ter chase than a poor fox!?”
Tepic reached for his bag and shifted it over so he could get his supplies, but this slowed him down enough for the dog to tackle him. He fell over as he and the mutt skid on the floor slightly. The desperate lad recovered his pack as the large dog pounced on top of him snarling and barking.
Tepic loosened the sack and for once the fox was counting on Bunny to pounce on the unsuspecting dog. The clockwork thankfully followed through on its expected action and gripped the huskies head for its life. As the canine let out a surprised yelp and tried to throw off the terrified clockwork, Tepic picked up his pack and reached for his oilskin packets. He grabbed the one full of the grey powder and tossed it into the canine’s nose.
The dog sneezed horribly and Tepic made a break for it leaving Bunny to fend for itself. He didn’t want to abandon the clockwork, but the longer he stayed here where there was a commotion the more likely Progress soldiers or worse, the other dog and hunter would corner him.
Bookworm Heinrichs found she could cope with hearing only one half of the world, but she had missed orders bellowed and attackers approaching until Mariah alerted her. She was feeling unnecessary to the Brothers and Shore-men’s growing forces who were finding the stairs a bottle-necked nightmare to ascend.
She approached Captain Dekkar backed by Mariah Lanfier with her special request. He was surprised, “You want to go after Dupyre ahead of us? To what purpose?”
“While the two armies are occupied, we can disrupt the entire chain of command if we send a small group to subdue the Doctor.” Bookworm explained formally expressing it as a rational argument. She suspected he would be less likely to accept her request if she was completely honest. She wanted to confront Dupyre personally. “You have nothing to lose, Mr. Mayor.”
“Aye, you are right about that,” Dekkar admitted. He shrugged as his form of blessing. “Just leave a few bones for me.”
Bookworm smiled to herself and turned to the nearby Doctor Gammis, “Are there any maintenance tunnels or ladders leading up elevator shafts?”
The nervous specialist thought about it, “I…I don’t use them, but Jeffrey might know the way…”
Bookworm had suspected that, but she would take what she could get. Mariah nodded to her quietly, she still had her back. With that momentary reassurance Captain Heinrichs set out to break Progress chain of command.