Doctor Falcon felt like the kid gloves were off between her and Mephistophicles. Now when she charged forward she pushed back with powerful electric shocks. Dupyre’s creation could also send bolts of force through his green horns, making Avariel wonder what material they were crafted from.
That was the first few minutes of the dampeners switched off. She soon manipulated her own center of gravity to maneuver faster through the hallways. That was how the clockwork swam rather than sunk to the bottom of the ocean or Victors pool like her counterparts.
Mephistophicles pressed forward undeterred, also becoming lighter on his feet from similar manipulations but to a less successful degree. Time and again Avariel would dash forward and retreat before her opponent could move his bulky form.
Doctor Falcon was enjoying proving that she was the superior machine, and would have continued to humble Dupyre’s creation when the station shook terribly. Avariel and Meph paused their assault, worried that their increasingly destructive battle was setting the angel off.
“Sorry Mr. Minotaur, but I don’t have time to play with you anymore!” She had already begun her final attack. Loki and Mephistophicles saw bright glowing rings forming around her horn. The construct amassed it’s own energy, its sickly green light overpowering her own as the corridor turned an ugly shade of emerald.
Doctor Falcon shot first, delivering a powerful purple blast with the strength of an aetheric cannon directly at the Minotaurs horns amassing energy. The horns cracked and shattered from the attack, and the stored power exploded with enough force to blow a hole in the automata’s brain.
The Professor pranced victorious for a moment, but she had forgotten the warning against using such forces. Her victory celebration stopped when the ground beneath her trembled. The glass broke around them and electricity flickered to full life in the hallway. She turned to Loki who had crept forward waiting to jump on the Minotaur and help Avariel. “Run!”
She took her own advice and tried to clear the passage and almost escaped when it collapsed burying Mephisophicles and pinning half her body under debris. Loki and Wulfy had been away from the collapse she hoped.
Avariel struggled to free herself, pulling forward as she attempted to shift gravity to make the items crushing her lighter when Doctor Gammis and a Progress soldier came running down the round corridor. Avariel stared at the scientist balefully, “Academic Traitor! What have you done to the angel?!”
The balding man winced as if slapped. His companion came to his aid, “He’s not a traitor, Professor. Not right now at least,” Mariah removed the hat and Avariel recalled that she had taken the uniform before, but Dupyre had said she was captured. “He only pretended to betray us a second time anyways.”
Avariel blinked, feeling very confused by that explanation. Unfortunately they didn’t have time to talk about it, “Help me get out of here then! The angel is going critical!”
Dupyre and Bookworm squared off against one another, the heroine holding her own against the villain, who was looking less neatly pressed than previously. He bore several cuts and scrapes, and his clothing was marked and torn in a few places. Bookworm was just as bedraggled bearing new lacerations and bruises over her previous ones.
Despite their bedraggled appearance both opponents were enjoying themselves. Neither one of them would surrender or give ground, and both were holding back. It was a game of cat and mouse, except both of them were felines.
Their game came to an abrupt end when the platform quaked shaking loose supplies. Book nearly hugged the floor as she felt the platform shake wildly. Dupyre slipped on his fine shoes and grimaced as he took a knee. A second quake soon followed more terrible than the first. Reluctantly, he knew it was time to end his fun. He had told the men to pull the evacuation alert if the station shook again. It rang throughout the base.
Dupyre bowed his head, though he kept his eyes on Heinrichs, “You’ve been a good adversary, Captain! The giants have no doubt taken back Aquila IX so it’s time Progress made its exit!” He got to his feet and ran for the nearest ropes. The pirates used them to swing below to the flagship. “We don’t need the location, after all we have the science!”
“I can’t let you get away with that, Dupyre!” Bookworm cried out as she chased after him. She was too late to stop him. He had wrapped the rope around his arm and swung his way down. Cursing, Bookworm looked for another rope, but then stopped. Numerous clockworks and men scrambled below making it impossible to locate Dupyre in the crowd.
The Heroine hit the rail in frustration. She couldn’t allow Dupyre to escape with all the secrets of Aquila IX. Yang above her watched helplessly, unable to even shout encouragement. She looked about for someway to prevent this travesty.
Bookworm looked the ship over and realized there was one way she could stop the airship. But she would be at the mercy of Dupyre and the soldiers of Progress. She weighed her options, thinking of the suffering that would come if they escaped aboard that vessel. The unknown many outweighed her own sense of self preservation.
Captain Heinrichs looked for a sword that may have been discarded by a previous soldier. She found one easily that had been abandoned when Beryl and Loki had fought their way out of the hangar. She took the silver edged blade in hand and ran to the ropes. Steeling herself she measured in her mind the height she would need and direction she would have to swing to perform this miracle. With a final silent prayer to whatever would listen, she leapt from the railing at an angle.
Bookworm sailed through the air as the rope brought her around to the flagship. She feared losing too much altitude, but she was quickly approaching the gasbag. She held the line with her legs tied around it, and let go with her sword arm. The heroine stabbed forward cutting a deep gash into the airbag and releasing pressurized helium onto herself which blew her off course.
The rope spun as she struggled to hold on as she dropped the sword. She crashed into the lower wall and then dropped to the floor like a bag of rice. The evacuating men, the few capable of retreating quickly, looked at the broken gasbag with dismay as it leaked slowly. They would never get far with a hole that big leaking the precious gas.
The Captain would have tried to hide, but there was no point. Everyone had seen where she had fallen, and she no longer had a weapon. The men cleared for Dupyre who strode forward with orders ready, “This is still an evacuation! There are plenty of emergency airships in the hangar we can use. Save as much as you can and abandon the rest! Leave no one behind that makes it here!”
His loyal men departed following his suggestions and informing the newcomers, while Dupyre and the clockworks remained behind. “Sadly my creations won’t fit on any of the ships, but the lives of my men are more important than that. Well played, Captain.”
Bookworm grinned weakly, she suspected he was about to order them to end her life. “That’s what you get for crossing Babbagers, Doctor Dupyre!”
“I shall have to cross you more often,” Dupyre returned with a small chuckle. “I must be sure to leave my future flagship hidden where determined Heroes can’t reach the gasbag so easily.” He shrugged slightly as if this was not the worst set back he had encountered.
“So what will you do now?” Bookworm asked, hoping to keep him talking till the Shores-men or someone arrived to help.
“Do you want me to reveal all my plans to you, Captain?” Dupyre chuckled quietly as he turned to look at the morning sun rising. He could see Decagon was hovering nearby with a rope ladder ready for him. “Sorry, but I’m saving the best monologues for when I meet my true nemesis.”
After everything she had done he did not think it worth gloating at her? She wasn’t sure why but she felt mildly slighted. “I think that I more than proved myself a match for you, Doctor Dupyre!”
“Your victory this day is yours, Captain Heinrichs. You put up a good fight, and outwitted me, but I was not putting my all into it.” Dupyre commented quietly, dangerously, “If I had, well…you would be dead, Captain.”
Now who’s underestimating his opponent! Bookworm shot back, “You didn’t see everything I could do either.”
“No. You were enjoying the Game, just as much as I was,” Dupyre replied with a soft edge hidden in his tone. “But if you insist on one final demonstration Captain, I have a moment to show you just how bad of a host I could have been.”
Dupyre raised his gauntlet to one of the lanky clockworks and activated the aetheric pull. It and several others were flung towards the force but he only needed one for his demonstration. He stepped back to get the right angle and then used the repulsing magnet to push the clockwork back. Sending it flying towards Bookworm at an angle where it would miss her.
The Captain pressed herself against the wall as she watched it uncomfortably. “Lets say that clockwork is you!” Dupyre shouted as he then retrieved the shockmace and pointed it with the repulsor gauntlet. He shot it forward sending the electrifed mace flying into the clockwork like a bullet.
Book grimaced but Dupyre wasn’t finished, he switched gauntlets pulling back the mace and the automaton though Book would not have been pulled. He then sent the mace flying crashing back into his target repeatedly switching gauntlets, first pulling then pushing with unnerving speed.
When Dupyre was satisfied with that he finished by pulling a new clockwork before him and sent it flying forward to crush the first. Then again, another clockwork pulled out in front and then sent to bury the figure that represented Bookworm. She watched the display nervously as he sent the last machine dangerously close to crushing her where she stood.
Dupyre smiled at his adversary and tipped his recovered hat. She did not even know when it had fallen below. “Goodbye Captain! Enjoy your victory!” He laughed and ran for Decagons airship, who gave a cheerful salute to Bookworm from the helm.
Bookworm pondered chasing the villain, all of his men had already departed in other ships and he’d discarded his clockworks on his own. She felt the station shake again however and thought it best to see if Doctor Gammis had successfully calmed the angel, or if everything she had just done was for naught.
Loki could not rouse Mr. Wright, but he needed to check on Doctor Falcon and ensure she was alright. He figured no one would hurt the wolf in his state, not with an evacuation being ordered. He hustled down the hall and tried to find an alternate route to reach Avariel.
The boy took his journey at a run, breathing heavily when he reached the caved in area where Avariel had just gotten herself loose with the help of Mariah. “Miss Falcon! Yer awright!” He ran and hugged her leg relieved that she hadn’t been crushed by the collapse.
“For the moment!” The excited unicorn exclaimed as she shook herself clean, or tried to. “Hurry! Doctor Gammis may need our help letting out the angel!”
Loki heard whispers about the cloud angels in Babbage, but knew nothing about them. This would be his first, perhaps only opportunity to meet the legendary creature. Everyone rushed into the reactor room trying to fit through the large doors together. They saw the wicked machine bearing the glowing cloud angel as it gave off a growing incandescent glow.
Below it at the control panel, Doctor Gammis was struggling to force the controls back into place that Whitesmith had destroyed. Beryl tried to help while Tepic spoke encouragingly, but neither of them had the skill to piece the machine back together. Strifeclaw managed to break the instruments even worse than Whitesmith originally managed and gave up.
Doctor Falcon joined them, taking a moment to hiss at the awful state Tepic was currently in, before she returned to the angel “What’s happening?!”
“Miss…Miss Whitesmith,” Gammis stuttered. He tried not to think about her prone form below and squinted his eyes shut.
“She smashed the controls after setting them so the angel would explode!” Beryl explained in a worried shout. They pointed at the machine to Loki and Avariel, “Fix it!”
Avariel inspected the unlabeled and smashed controls. She shook her mane and turned to the readouts and instruments to divine what Whitesmith had done. “I see what she did! She set the angel to constantly build energy then shut off any way to funnel it out and destroyed the controls that could fix it! We can solve this easily if we can drain the energy and put it to use in the station again!” Avariel looked at the current energy built up and let out an undignified yelp, “There’s no time to make repairs! The energy will explode long before we can fix the controls for the central pod!”
Loki didn’t allow this to prevent him from making the attempt. Breaking machines and putting them back together were his talent, but even he did not think he would make it in time.
Mariah noticed two sides of the control panel were untouched on the left and right, with identical controls. “Why don’t you use the spare controls?” She pointed to indicate what she meant.
“Tho-those are for the other two generator pods!” Gammis explained trying to get his words out quickly. He still tripped on his own tongue but tried to be coherent. The m-machine was designed for three manufactured angels to share the burden and t-to take in excess energy running out of control! But they were too dangerous and never made another creature!”
“Can’t we move it to one of those?” Mariah asked, hoping that they had been overlooking something simple.
“Not without releasing the angel, which we could not do now, and should not do ever!” Gammis shouted, louder than intended. Tepic snarled at the doctor quietly. “It can communicate well enough that we know that it will unleash its wrath on everyone! We have to keep it contained!”
“So we need something that can absorb a significant amount of aetheric energy?!” Avariel had that ability, but she couldn’t fit into the tubes. She turned to the only other candidate cheerfully, “Kitty!”
Beryl looked at the professor wildly, afraid to touch any machine lest they break it more, “What?”
“Doctor Gammis, open the pod on the right!” At her continued insistence the scientist opened it, and Tepic noted the control used to operate the doors on the panels. Doctor Falcon prodded Beryl with her horn leading the familiar spirit to the tube, while they protested loudly. “What do you think you’re doing!?!”
Avariel realized in her excitement she hadn’t explained her plan yet, “Kitty, we don’t have a lot of time and we need you to be the Hero-kitty we all know you are!”
Beryl growled low, not bothering to correct Dr. Falcon, who had not been here minutes before. “And what do you expect me to do? Technology hates me!”
“Oi! Yer ain’t throwin Ms. Beryl in there is yer?!” Loki cried out as he grabbed his hat looking worried. Beryl and the crowd looked at the unicorn as if she had lost her clockwork mind.
Doctor Falcon realized that to anyone who did not suspect Beryl’s nature this would sound rather insane if not icky or murderous. But she would do her best, “Beryl will be perfectly almost safe! They’re a very special kitty who can absorb the aether! I zapped them earlier just as a test!”
Beryl glared at Avariel their growl getting louder, but the Professor was trying to save everyone before it was too late. The angel was illuminating the entire room on its own. Doctor Falcon indicated the open pod door she had pushed Beryl in front of, “Listen carefully kitty and we’ll all come out alive! We need you to get in the pod, then we’ll attach all the necessary needles, wires, and giant tubes into you and shut the device! Then we can flood you with the excess energy of the angel and funnel it properly into the station!” Seeing Beryl’s growing incredulous look she added sweetly, “C’mon kitty! It’ll be almost safe!”
“What are you talking about?!” Strifeclaw looked at the mechanical needles and wires waiting to impale them if they sat down. “Hell no!”
“Oh,” Avariel responeded disappointedly. She had been sure the heroic kitty would have agreed readily to save everyone else but would never force them to do it. “Well, we have to get inside the machine and fix it manually then!”
Mariah Lanfier was not patient enough to wait for another solution. She walked beside Avariel and pushed the distracted cat through the door shouting, “Oops!”
“What are you doing?!” The startled cat fell into the pod which slammed shut the moment Beryl touched the back of the device. The feline struck the thick glass of the tube angrily.
“Sorry Beryl, but the needs of the many outweigh the discomfort of the cat!” Mariah replied with a shrug as she shielded her eyes from the angel’s radiance. “Besides, if this doesn’t work we’re all dead anyway!”
“I can’t allow this! Besides, we can crawl in the machine-” Avariel started, but the generator shook and the entire facility, all the tunnels, tremored dangerously. Mariah looked back at Gammis, “No time! Doctor, the wires look automated. Are they?”
“W-well, yes, th-they assumed that the occupant w-would not be entering willingly when designed,” Gammis replied timidly. It was the reason there had been a pressure switch to close it instantly.
“Then stop wasting time and save us!” Mariah shouted, but Avariel and Tepic interjected. “Not without kitties permission!” Loki was growling at Mariah from his side of the control panel. Mariah growled back, “Ignore them doctor! Throw the damn switches!”
Gammis winced torn between them and looked to Beryl. The cat sighed while looking to Tepic and Loki. The urchins would not ask it of them, but they could not let them die. They sighed and lowered their head, which Gammis took as ascent.
“They agreed!” He shouted and started to work. The main tube shot out and impaled the cat in the back, making them yowl pitifully as it pulled them back into position. Their friends looked away not wanting to watch what happened next. Doctor Falcon stayed close, though this was her idea she knew things may get out of control. The station shook again and the angel became blinding to behold. Gammis shielded his eyes and moved the controls to connect the two entities.
The scientist worked as the companions watched their friend fearfully. Beryl’s protests faded as they straightened and gripped their surroundings for support. Avariel watched carefully prodding her horn against the tube. The familiars eyes had glowed incandescently. She tried to be encouraging, “You’ll be okay, Kitty! I am almost certain you will not overload and explode into a horrible mess of kitty bits!”
Gammis was less confident about the feline’s chances. He suspected the angel would fry the feline alive aetheric creature or not, but he had to cling to hope. “I’ve connected them! Now we can funnel through from one pod to the next then through to the station! I’m about to throw the switch…now!” Gammis announced ecstatically, now talking so fast he could barely be understood.
He flipped the final breaker and the power rushed into Beryl’s tube, which was set to flow out through to the facility and beyond. The familiar let out a grunt as the energy flowed into them but lighting and power returned to Aquila IX. Lights that had gone dark on emergency power surged to life and the alerts and alarms were canceled.
The scientist grabbed his head astonished, “By the Builder that actually wor-” Gammis would not finish his statement as the reaction between the two aetheric creatures changed. Beryl screeched which turned into a wordless howl. Avariel tried their best to assist using their crystal, but she couldn’t determine the nature of the problem.
“I can fix this! I can fix this!” Gammis shouted nervously as he tried to regulate the power flow, but that was flowing perfectly. Gammis wondered if they had overloaded the poor cat, or if something worse was happening. The two were bound with more than wires and plugs. The mad angel was connected to Beryl feeding energy and taking something, but what could the familiar offer that the angel needed?
It was becoming easier to behold the angel, its radiance slowly losing its brilliance as it returned to more normal levels. The quaking generator slowly stabilized and Mariah breathed a sigh of relief. Beryl’s eyes had closed and they curled into themselves as they lost consciousness. Fortunately, Gammis thought privately, like the being it was connected to they did not have to be conscious to be used.
When the station started broadcasting aetheric energy to the surrounding area Gammis was content to declare success, “We’ve stabilized! We’re finally in the clear!”
“So ain’t nuffin’ gonna explode now!?” Tepic asked quickly raising himself up to the panel with difficulty. Gammis nodded. “Once we fix the controls we can let Beryl o-”
The scientist gasped as Tepic quickly hit the switch opening the mad angels lever and Beryl’s shouting, “Oops!”
The fox smiled smugly as Dr. Gammis began to panic. “What have you done?!”
“Done what yer shoulda done a hundred years ago! I’m lettin’ it out!” Tepic knew that if the angel was loose that the station would not overload, so there would be no need for either to remain trapped anymore.
“You fool!” Gammis shouted as he tried to reseal the doors, but the angel had already been released and the trap would not reset. It was already holding the path open. Everyone turned to look at Gammis who spoke quickly tripping over his own tongue, “Don’t you think thatthe Deans wanted to releasethe angel!? Do you really think noneof them for one hundred years knew?! There arefew alive that know the secret! They can’t release the angel! It vowed to unleash its wrath on everyone and everything involved in its captivity! It won’t rest until every Tesla powered station in the world is destroyed!!”
“But New Babbage has a station! If it were destroyed the entire city would be leveled!” Avariel shook her mane in disbelief. “It can’t intend to destroy that much innocent life!”
“What innocence?” Beryl asked with an ethereal voice. The unconscious feline spoke the words within the mind of the angel. “I see no innocents here.” The radiant and hairless creation lifted a single hand and the companions shrieked as it returned its torments upon them.