“Well, Captain, I must say that I am most impressed with this New Babbage Spirit!” Dupyre bantered as they fought on the precarious catwalk above his flagship. The heroine, Bookworm Heinrichs retreated further as he punched low with his gauntleted fist.
The Captain was not relishing more blows from the device. His bulky equipment slowed her opponent down and made his strikes slower, but when they connected it hurt. She already felt bruises across her abdomen and arms. The catwalk also limited how she moved and countered but she had landed several blows. Dupyre took a moment to recover from his missed attack and she dropped down and kicked at his shin with her boot.
Dupyre shifted to the side enough to avoid a hobbling blow to his leg as he stepped back chuckling, “You fight dirty, madam! Good thing for me I spar against pirates!”
Bookworm’s lips set into a line as she hoped the surprise attack would catch Dupyre off guard. She regained her footing, “I’ve been trained by the best, and you aren’t the first villain I’ve fought against!” She grinned mockingly, “You’re definitely not the worst never-do-well New Babbage has encountered!”
Dupyre raised an eyebrow at her taunt and lowered his gauntlets for a moment, “Is that what you’re doing, Captain? Comparing me to other enemies you have encountered?” Dupyre let out a long genuine sigh.
“Yes. And sorry, but you don’t measure up.” Bookworm continued hoping she had touched a sensitive nerve.
She expected him to get angry and make a mistake, instead he seemed to pity her. “You live too much in the past, young woman. If you always compare things to the past, you can never appreciate the Beauty you experience right now. You’ll also underestimate the danger of the present.”
Dupyre raised his gauntlet above his head and aimed for the lights over Bookworm. He activated the magnetic force and Bookworm jumped as she heard the metallic projectiles being ripped from the ceiling and sailing towards them. Dupyre retreated several feet as Book ducked quickly. He kept the gauntlet raised as he ran keeping the metal coming towards him until he switched gauntlets before impact.
The projectiles were expelled, some sailing over Bookworms head, but the rest flew off in multiple directions like shrapnel. Dupyre smirked as he took his brief respite to retreat back to the main platform. Bookworm grimaced as she got back to her feet, arms raised defensively. Outside she could see the sky brightening. Dawn was approaching faster than she anticipated.
“You may have fought hundreds of ‘villains’ before, but never encountered me anymore than I have you,” Dupyre spoke from the edge of the catwalk with less the booming voice of a villain, but with the passion of a poet, “General Custer was sure of his victory having fought ‘superior’ foes previously. Any moment can be our last and against any enemy. If you learn nothing else from me take this to heart. Stop comparing previous experiences or people to your current situation. It can mislead you, but more importantly you’ll miss out on the Beauty that surrounds you this moment.”
With that statement he pressed a small button near him. Bookworm expected some nefarious attack, but felt the catwalk shudder as it rose separating herself and Dupyre like a drawbridge. The heroine had not realized how far back she retreated, but she could still jump the distance. Book ran forward leaping for the other side and grabbed hold of the railing. She pulled herself up and climbed down the ever rising platform.
Dupyre was giving orders to his men discreetly who ran off as Bookworm approached. Now they were no longer on the catwalk she was confident she would turn the tables on the doctor with increased mobility. “Trying to get rid of me Doctor?”
“Not at all, Captain.” He raised his gauntleted hand and showed the shock mace he gained in her absence. “I anticipated your feat of strength.” He grinned as Bookworm internally readied herself for another electrifying experience. “But perhaps you underestimated me? Or do you possess a few more surprises you have been hiding?”
“I guess there is only one way you’ll find out, Doctor.” She wished she did have more hidden weapons. His gauntlets had taken all her metallic surprises away. She would settle for Tepics sling.
Dupyre edged forward keeping a firm grip on the weapon while watching his opponent carefully. Book cycled through possible methods to steal the mace, though each was unlikely to succeed. Her plotting was interrupted as she heard a loud banging above catching both her and Dupyre’s attention.
“Mr. Moreau?!” Bookworm shouted. She had not expected the sushi chef’s presence high above her in the upper rafters. Yang couldn’t cry out, his voice failed him hours ago, but he was waving something over his head. He threw the item down to Bookworm hoping that she might use it to defend herself.
The wooden stick landed next to Captain Heinrichs and bounced several times. Book realized that it couldn’t be electrified or magnetized and leapt to take it in hand. She gripped it confidently, though it was hardly a proper sword as it curved awkwardly. She couldn’t resist taunting, “Well, Doctor it seems I’ve got friends in high places.”
Dupyre chuckled, amused by her joke. He charged forward swinging the shock mace, while Book deflected it with the insulated weapon. She then lunged forward catching the doctor in the gut, and while he was recovering from that round kicked him into a stack of crates.
“Still having fun, Doctor!?” She asked as she flourished the weapon for show. Dupyre turned back to her still grinning himself. “Don’t worry, Captain. You’ll know when I’m not enjoying myself anymore.”
Doctor Falcon found herself trapped between a tough clockwork and an unconscious ally unable to defend himself. Wright and Loki would be at the mercy of Mephistophicles if she retreated too far. Avariel would not abandon them, and until Beryl deactivated the enforcement field she could not fight Dupyre’s creation on her own terms. Unfortunately, In terms of brute force, her opponent was superiorly designed.
Avariel already suffered from numerous blows since the morning cannon attack, but even the strange deer-beast had not damaged her as badly as the mechanical minotaur. Several internal systems were compromised and leaking. The repairs would take time she did not have as her foe struck repeatedly.
Her opponent was not without his share of damages. She had impaled him with her horn and even knocked him flat multiple times, but failed to strike a vital system. She edged back and accidentally stepped on something squishy and jagged. It was the unconscious Wright’s broken leg.
“Oi!” Loki cried out and the professor quickly moved her hoof. She had run out of room to retreat without noticing.
“Don’t tell Wulfy,” she pleaded as she set herself between Mephistophicles and those she was protecting. “Stay back! Or else I’ll be forced to do something drastic and messy!”
“‘ellyeah! Roiyaleh messy!!” Loki added as he prepared his slingshot which only possessed a marble. He aimed it for the clockworks nose and hoped for the best.
Mephistophicles snorted out a jet of steam covering his opponents. It had orders to prevent their entry not kill every potential intruder unless necessary. Doctor Falcon believed she was protecting her allies, but the child and injured wolf were forcing the automata to hold back.
There was an awkward pause as the opponents glared at each other. Avariel found the clockworks sudden halt baffling considering nothing else made it pause. Most automata possessed simple programing and ignored multiple casualties while completing their objective. Either the construct before them had a conscience or elaborate routines it was evaluating.
While Avariel pondered the nature of her foe, Loki was the first to notice the change in the atmosphere, his headache had faded. “Oi! I fink th’ enforcer majigit’s off!”
Doctor Falcon let out a wild cheerful neigh as she jumped up on her rear legs, “I knew Kitty could do it!”
“I failed the Doctor!” Dupyre’s confused creation turned to the angel chamber sounding distraught.
The Professor took a chance, one based on an educated understanding of clockwork psychology, and hoped Loki and Wulfy would forgive her for later.
She darted past the distracted Minotaur heading for the chamber shouting, “I don’t have time for this! Chase me if you like but I’m going to free that angel!” The dumbfounded clockwork pursued her and left Wright and Loki safely behind.
Avariel’s hooves thundered down the corridor followed closely by the machine created to be her nemesis. She had no intention of running away from that fight. She turned about and skid on the floor to face Mephistophicles properly. “First we should bow, right?”
Kill everyone!? Tepic bristled as he understood the implication. The urchin was at a loss for words momentarily. He had thought nothing could be worse than a foxhunter, but Whitesmith proved that wrong. He would need to invent a word for her later.
The lad left his pack before the stairs. It was heavy and he carried enough supplies in his pockets to defend himself against any threat. Any threat but a clockwork hiding behind a false human skin. If he knew there would be another Man-in-Blue, he would have brought more cavorite bolas or arrowheads.
When Whitesmith had removed her eye she loosened the fake skin which exposed the mechanics within ruining the mirage of continued human existence. She still possessed one good eye which allowed her to set the controls to force a critical overload. The station would eventually explode taking out all life within three to ten miles.
Tepic did not know the full extent of her plans, but he had a knife and she needed both eyes to complete whatever she was doing. If he could still run he’d have darted for the clockwork aiming for her eye with his knife. He searched through his pockets for a paintball for his sling. The best he found was a straw and spitballs. Tepic considered his options and threw his blade at her eye. His aim was not as flawless as he would wish. It bounced off of her metal head with a loud tink.
The woman in red turned to Tepic with a fake half-smile, her left exposed eye making her face appear grotesquely misshapen. She slowly walked around the controls, “Don’t think I have forgotten about you, Tepic Harlequin.”
The urchin frowned, “Err…yer knows me name?”
“I know more than your name,” Whitesmith responded, she had studied the dossiers just like Leisig, Dupyre, and the others. Only Loki, the wolf, and Mr. Moreau were unexpected. “I know that you are living on borrowed time. You should have been dead years ago.”
Tepic did not like how the clockwork was looking at him. He tried pulling on the tube door to release the angel, but it would not budge. The hobbled urchin could not run, would not now, but he still had his razor hidden and marbles to shove in her mouth to mess up her gears. The boy set himself next to the angel and pulled out his weapon. He needed to get her last eye and she would be helpless.
The problem was how tall she was and his limited mobility. His burning side protested crawling this far and the wound was not closed. He would need her to stoop to his level or raise him, “Oi, clank-girl! I reckon yer head aint screwed in right considering yers about ter kill yerself too! Maybe yer should get a mechanic ter check out yer brain cause its gone more numpty than the scientists! Least they wasn’t dumb enough ter try ter kill the angel! I’d say you were a Rust-brain, but that would be an insult ter folks named Rusty!”
The clockwork smiled as the boys insults continued. The pirates had also come up with interesting names for her and it always amused her more than anything. She came to a stop in front of Tepic who retreated as far as he was able, and then swung her hand slapping the urchin to the ground.
He rolled with the blow, but still groaned as he hit the floor landing on his torso. His neck and cheek bones ached, and what was worse he was not facing his opponent anymore. Before he could roll over he felt the pressure of Whitesmiths foot on his back pressing down on him. “I have the time to finish you properly. You walked away from too many explosions in the past, Tepic Harlequin. I’m going to crush the life out of you. Good night, child.”
Tepic felt his spine threatening to break as she increased the weight put on him. He grit his teeth as he felt something about to snap, when suddenly a shadow passed overhead and the foot was removed. The surprised urchin looked up seeing the moving red drapes billowing as Beryl charged through and tackled Whitesmith forcing her to stumble.
The hissing guardian clawed at her face trying to tear out her last eye, ripping at the fake flesh and exposing the metal beneath. Ripped strands impaired the clockwork woman’s vision as she could not see everything through the hanging flesh. She felt no pain from the attack, but was surprised when the cat resisted attempts to remove them physically.
Whitesmith stumbled as she tried to buck the feline off of her, throwing her weight about as Beryl hung on and reach for the eye. Tepic watched the two struggling, but knew he couldn’t leave his friend to finish the battle alone. He looked over to the railing and had a moment of inspiration. The urchin signaled Beryl towards it pointing.
Beryl noticed the lads movements and did their best to twist the clockworks head in the direction they needed to go. The assassin stumbled towards the railing crashing into it quickly. Her own momentum aided in her almost flipping over the short barrier.
The guardian feline set their feet on Whitesmiths back and tightened their stranglehold of Whitesmiths neck. Beryl flipped while still holding on to the clockwork. The construct was already overlooking the rail, the added weight toppled the surprised clockwork as she flipped over dangling over the precipice as she grabbed the bars.
The floor underneath them was three or four stories high. Like the Man in Blue, her human brain would not survive a fall from this height. The stabilizers threatening to bruise the human mind within even when running.
Beryl crawled up Whitesmith who had to hang on with both hands to the railing. Her clockwork body weighed too much to risk letting go to grab her opponent. She looked down at the death beneath her and struggled to lift herself. There was not enough strength in her arms alone.
Desperately she turned back to the feline, “Wait! I know how to stop the angel from erupting!” She could not see them, but she no longer heard them moving behind her. “And only I know where all the Progress bases are located!”
“Oi! Don’t listen ter her!” Tepic warned. “She’s just trying ter trick yer Beryl!”
“It is no trick! Only I and Doctor Dupyre possess all of Progress secrets! Without me you’ll never discover everything about them!” Whitesmith said as she heard the railing above her groan in a disturbing way. “You won’t know how to reverse what I did to the ‘Angel’!”
“We can’t trust yer!” Tepic shouted from above. “Yer’d try ter kill us again!”
“Not if you stab out my last eye and ears!” She thought quickly. “If you do that you’d have a prisoner who can’t hurt anyone!” The silence on the other side meant the two were considering her suggestion, but the groaning metal started to bend leaving them little time.
“You’re a Heroine aren’t you? I have a human mind in this clockwork form! Doctor Dupyre performed the integration! I’m one of the only two surviving units. If you let me fall, you not only lose all that information, but it would be murder! Are you ready to kill a begging woman, hero!?”
Beryl appeared beside her grabbing her head. Whitesmith prepared herself to lose her sight and possibly her hearing, she doubted they’d know where to find her proper ear drums.
“I’m a guardian,” Beryl whispered darkly into her ear. “I don’t recall ever calling myself a hero!”
The feline pushed putting all their strength and weight into riding the world of the woman who had tried to kill Tepic. The added pressure ripped apart the metal railing not meant to handle that much stress. Whitesmith fell, a feeling of butterflies in her stomach where her human mind was located. When she hit the ground the stabilizers couldn’t compensate and her brain crashed out of the glass. She laid unmoving on the flooring as the fluid leaked out of her unmoving form.