Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Battle for Aquila IX – Whitesmiths Solution

   Bookworm was once again surprised at the size of the airship dock inside the caverns.  She knew they had been constructing this base for over one hundred years, but it was an impressive feat.  Dock workers and soldiers were rushing to load a large airship far below her.  She could see they were getting prepared to evacuate. In the immediate vicinity she saw the familiar figure of Doctor Dupyre and four of his henchmen.  The henchmen were watching the skies as was the villain who stood far apart from them.

    Bookworm could not believe her luck as she raised the sedative gun.  They would notice her coming if she tried to get too close.  She took her time to aim her first shot as she laid flat.  The first dart fired true and hit one man in the lower neck near the shoulder.  He let out a grunt as the men watched him confused.  It was enough distraction for Bookworm to take a second shot.

    They cried out a warning to Dupyre who now knew of the situation.  She wanted to aim for him next, but he was the one that was unarmed.  She took her chances with the last two soldiers.  Her third dart sailed over their heads as they ducked behind some crates, which was much better cover than what she was using.

   Drat.  She thought to herself as she crawled forward, but Dupyre let out a laugh at her attempt to thwart him alone.

  “Stand down men.  You have a job to do,” He ordered and strode proudly forth adjusting both of his oversized gauntlets. The soldiers chuckled lightly to themselves as they stepped back to watch eagerly.  That was a poor sign to the heroine, “Captain Heinrichs.  I trust you can forgive me for not having a grand entrance prepared this time?”

  Bookworm could easily hear him in her healthy ear, she was grateful he projected so loudly.  She cautiously stood up, her tranquilizer at the ready as she watched the man’s hands.  “I think I’ll manage, Doctor.  I’ve received enough of your hospitality for one day.”

  “Are you quite certain?” Dupyre asked with only a touch of flair in his tone. The finely groomed man gestured down to the large airship below as he activated the device on his belt.  His gauntlets hummed as the two soldiers moved further back.  “There’s more than enough room on my vessel should you wish to evacuate with us.  I wouldn’t leave even my worst enemy to be consumed by the local experiments.”

  “Experiments?  You mean the poor souls you are holding captive within or the ones outside trying to break down the front door?”  Book flashed him a grim smile.  “It would not surprise me to learn those beasts were all escaped lab specimen.”

  “Escaped?”  Dupyre briefly chuckled patronizingly at the assertion.  “I’m afraid even that situation is putting too much naive trust into a fallen and desperate empire!”  He gestured grandly with his arms indicating beyond their immediate surroundings.  “Do you really think that the creatures of the Hildskal Mountains and its denizens naturally evolved into the gigantic beasts they are today?!  Every living thing in these mountains are part of an experiment!  Even you and I may have benefited from our short stays here!”

  Bookworm’s smile faded as she considered what this ‘benefit’ might be, but she hoped it was something she would not notice, “Yang Moreau stayed here before and he never mentioned any changes after his stay.”

  “Don’t worry, my dear Captain.  Most associate the effect with clean mountain air.” Dupyre assured her with a knowing, mischievous grin. “You and your family line would have to live here a few decades for significant changes. The Shoes-men changed so gradually they never noticed – no more than did the people living near the other stations.”  

  Bookworm straightened, both at the implication and offended for Doctor Falcon’s sake that he suggested the Babbage station was involved in such deeds,, “Avariel would never conduct secret experiments on the entire city!  And, if there had been previous endeavors, I am certain she would have discontinued them.”

  Dupyre openly laughed as if she had made a joke.  Bookworm noted that the soldiers had moved to a control panel and wished she had managed to subdue them. She suspected they were attempting to assist the doctor.  

   When the villain’s mirth eased he continued, “So there is absolutely nothing abnormal about New Babbage or its surrounding environment?  No giants or unexplained evolutions in your sewers?  No tears in the aether nor children developing abnormally or slowly?” Dupyre smiled at the militia captain whose shoulders sagged and then quickly straightened her posture.  

   “Judging by your reaction, there must be something abnormal or extraordinary about your city or its citizens!  Perhaps there are other forces at work, but these stations aided these developments even if they are not the cause!  The scientists were not content to experiment on captive beasts!  Centuries before we were born, they played with entire populaces as their guinea pigs and helped craft the world we know today!” Dupyre took a deep breath.  “It would be naive to assume that there have never been experiments conducted on the city, perhaps in the very air you breathe!”

   “I may mention this to Doctor Falcon,” Bookworm replied with a dry mouth as she inched forward while Dupyre spoke.  She was interested, but not enough to forget her purpose. She also realized that his men had turned off the strange machines in the roof. “But I doubt she’ll find anything.”

   “Oh, it shouldn’t be difficult to find detailed notes if they were not intentionally destroyed!  I haven’t even had a chance to peruse everything we found here!” Dupyre gestured down towards the flagship with a single hand.   “Every nasty secret, every monstrosity they unleashed, every covered up experiment conducted here spanning over two hundred years has been carefully catalogued!  We will be able to recreate everything they have done here and improve upon it!”

 Bookworm raised the sedative gun and fired, “Not if I have any say about that Doctor!”

    She’d aimed for the center of his chest and the villain only moved his gauntlet under the path of the dart.  Bookworm thought she had him, not even Tepic could have dodged quickly enough, but the projectile landed nowhere near Dupyre.  She blinked in surprise wondering where it had gone.  It had moved too fast to be seen, but she knew her aim had been center.

   The dart clattered to the floor uselessly  behind the doctor.  Bookworm could not hear it, but Dupyre had been waiting for that metallic click as his cue, “Tell me Captain Heinrichs, after shooting me what was your plan exactly?”  

  Bookworm kept a stony silence trying to determine how Dupyre protected himself.  The villain did not appreciate her reticence.  “You aren’t being the most considerate of guests interrupting our chat with a sudden attack.  Do you want me to be a bad host?”  He straightened his suit and pointed the other glowing gauntlet at Bookworm.  She stared at it apprehensively, hoping she was not about to get shocked. Again. “I suppose you wouldn’t be a heroine if you didn’t stand in the way of what you believe is evil!  Just remember you’re the one who chose to spurn my hospitality!”

   He activated the gauntlet’s magnetic force and the sedative gun, the extra darts, everything was ripped from Bookworm’s surprised grasp as her ear suddenly ached painfully.  She felt the metal on her person, including her boot knife, trying to fly towards Dupyre.  Even the secured catwalk groaned slightly at the magnetized force as she lost her footing.  The hidden weapons went flying towards the villain who raised the gauntlet above his head angling their trajectory over him.

  Dupyre deactivated and ducked to let the metal sail over him, leaving the heroine nursing her dignity as she scrambled back to her feet. She hoped her ear wasn’t bleeding, but she did not have time to check. The villain was approaching her, his fine shoes echoing on the metallic catwalk.  

  Bookworm set her teeth as she gripped the railings to steady herself.  “Don’t think you have won yet, Doctor Dupyre!”  Captain Heinrichs raised her fists and adopted the Queensbury boxing stance Mariah had taught her years ago.  Dupyre paused momentarily as she continued, “I think it’s time I educated you on ‘New Babbage Spirit’!”


  Leisig the Hunter had departed through one of the side entrances not wishing to encounter Mephistophicles.  He desired only a swift departure as he made his way along an empty corridor.  This hope was dashed as Beryl Strifeclaw turned the bend. The sad hunter sighed audibly as his pet growled defensively, hackles rising as the threat approached sword in hand.

  “Hold, Heroine,” the hunter had read the dossier on them and the other likely visitors. He doubted that they would listen anymore than the child had so they raised the crossbow.  “We are leaving.  There is no need to fight.”

  Beryl grimaced as if insulted, and paused their stride as they evaluated the hunter and his dog, who had a bloody gash on his nose and stains on his teeth.  The unpleasant smell of dogs blood was overpowering other scents.  The feline kept their sword ready, “If you don’t want to fight then put down your crossbow and go back the other way.”  

  Leisig realized the cat was reluctant because it would leave them open to an attack from the rear.  They hefted their weapon to remind them,  “I could shoot you now,”

  Beryl pondered that possibility and considered complying with their request, when a second, feminine, voice called out calmly.  “Yes.  Shoot them now.”

  Leisig cursed internally as he winced, his eyes closed for the moment.  Whitesmith had walked quietly along the hall, while the sound of her shoes had been muffled by the clockworks rampage nearby.  “Unless you really were thinking of abandoning your post, which would be a very unwise decision for everyone in your family, Slayer.”  

    Beryl readied themselves for the hunters strike, the man lifted his crossbow and whistled for his dog to attack.  The cat got to all fours while trying to keep the blade pointed at the crossbow to deflect the bolt, the bigger threat.  

  The hunter surprised Beryl when the grizzled man re-whistled and turned on the woman in red. His well-trained animal stopped and the surprised woman took an involuntary step back as Leisig aimed and fired.  The arrow flew straight and true into her widened left eye.

  Beryl kept their sword ready and legs ready to dodge any way should the hunter attempt to try the same on them. They surprised the cat by yelling, “Run!”

  The confused feline soon saw why, the woman in red was still standing and she did not look pleased at his sudden betrayal.  She reached up and pulled the arrow out, dragging her metallic eye with it.  She did not seem at all deterred that she had just lost one of her ‘orbs’.  

  Beryl winced as memories came flooding back to them. They took Leisigs advice as they quickly fled together running down the halls. The dog chased them barking, but the hunter told them to heel. They heard the forbidding footsteps of Whitesmith pursuing them as they tried to outpace her.  Beryl turned two corners before they stopped and realized the clockwork was not following them anymore.  “Isn’t she going to chase us?”

  “Her design does not allow her to run,”  Leisig explained as he slowed to a halt, the dog set itself between the master and the cat growling fiercely.  “She did not pursue us far knowing this.  She will inform others of our movements and continue to original destination.”  The hunter sighed to himself shaking his head.  “Only one location she would be attempting to reach.”


  Tepic sat up gingerly and dropped his pack to the side.  He hadn’t been sure if those would be his last words, but the fox considered himself victorious.  Albeit a painfully won victory.  He took his ripped trousers and cut off the ruined material.  He made a quick tourniquet for his leg and a makeshift bandage over his hip.  The lad then downed the last of his prepared spirits after cleaning his hands with them.

  The urchin still had an important job to perform.  Retrieving his flute from the bag, the boy scooted across the floor towards the red curtains.  He needed to ascend a few steps, but the child did not find this an impossible feat.  Tepic passed the drapes and stared at the imposing reactor connected to the central turbine.  

 He could see dozens of secondary machines which reminded him of the Reality Enforcers attached to the main reactor, and in the center were three tubes which were empty save the middle one. The small lad noted the wires, tubes, and vents interconnected across the device but was more concerned about the old webbing covering the machine.

  Bloody scientists!  I knew they was using it on cloud angels!  Tepic tried to snort but his air passages were still blocked horribly.  Bookworm and the others would settle Progress affairs soon and send them to the mines or lock them in their own cages.

  There was a central control panel just ahead of the boy, but the levers, dials, and buttons were unlabeled. There were no indications about how to operate or open the machine.  Crestfallen, Tepic examined the three glass tubes.  They were taller than Tepic, but shorter than Bookworm, and only one bore an occupant.  A glowing, hairless entity curled up in the center of the pod, wires attached to their body, eyes closed and form shaking.  There was a giant tube attached directly to their back.

  Tepic snarled at seeing the poor creatures torments, which were far worse than he had anticipated.  The urchin placed his flute aside to keep it clean.  He pressed a finger to one side of his nose and blew strongly clearing his airways.  Dried blood and other materials were expelled and wiped carelessly on his coat when they didn’t fall to the floor.

  Once he had wiped his nostrils, the boy picked up his instrument and approached the tube bearing the cloud angel.  He bowed his head respectfully and played a tune he had not performed for a very long time.  

  It was a sad and haunting melody, one that would have made his former ally in the sewers weep, that brought joy and sorrow to the ears of those that could hear.  It was a song only the angels could properly sing and that Tepic could only emulate poorly.

  He heard footsteps approaching, but he continued to play the music, hoping that it would stir something within his audience.  Two metallic hands clapping interrupted the song, “A lovely dirge for an ‘angels’ funeral.”

  She has no soul! Tepic thought bitterly as he stopped playing and turned with disgust to Whitesmith, who was at the control panel moving levers and dials and then breaking them to pieces.  “What do yer think yer doin’?!

  “Showing Dr. Dupyre how things should be done when a facility is compromised,”  Whitesmith smiled in response as she deactivated the aetheric dampening field, “I’m killing everyone.”

Spread the love

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply