Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Battle for Aquila IX – Wrath

   Yang huddled above the hangar, hidden in the rafters from the men searching below.  The chef had used Beryl and Loki’s escape to find better cover.  The nurse had told them to stop moving so freely, but staying in the airship would not have been wise. After the two fled armed soldiers arrived looking for the missing workmen.  They had searched everything below thoroughly, but without a ladder leading above their gaze rarely turned upwards.  

    With his prized knife buried within under the church ruins, the only thing he had to defend himself was the stick he had obtained to write in the snow.  It could work as a club, but he would rather not tax himself any further.  The only problem was his coughing was getting out of control, and the longer it continued the more intensely the searchers examined everything.  Yang hoped everyone else was faring better than himself.


  Jeffrey had warned everyone that the maintenance shaft would be a tight fit, but it was only that way for him.  Dekkar and the adult locals could not squeeze inside, even Jeffrey was unable to place both hands and feet on the same bar simultaneously.  Mariah, Bookworm, and Doctor Gammis followed the large lad with ample space.  After seeing the other local children Bookworm suspected that the Cortman family were uncommonly small for Shores-men.  She thought it wise not to mention her musings.

  “You okay down there Mariah?”  Book spared a glance for her friend, who was struggling with her wrapped appendage to keep up with the others.  “Didn’t you say you climbed with a broken hand before?”

 “Yeah, but rigging is curved,”  Mariah muttered.  She had to shout it again so that Bookworm could hear.  The ex-pirate put a balancing arm on the spoke above her.  “And we’re climbing a might higher than the crows nest.”

  “Well you’ll get a break in a moment,”  Jeffrey told the group calmly, and Book turned her head to understand him better. She really wished she hadn’t fried the hearing aid, or damaged her ear more. Turning up and down was getting tiresome.  “We’ll take this hatch on the right.”

  “A-are you certain, Jeffrey?”  Gammis asked sounding unsure himself.  He had never needed to use the maintenance tunnels.   

  “Do you want to crawl over me, Doc?” The lad snipped from above.  “Besides, you have no more clue where we’re going than I do.”

  Bookworm stared at Jeffrey far above her, mouth wide open in dismay, “I thought you said you knew the way!”

  “I didn’t tell you that,” He countered unconcerned.  “I told you there was a way.  We will figure it out eventually.”

  Bookworm facepalmed and let out a frustrated groan.  Sometimes she wondered if she was getting too old for this nonsense.  She immediately regretted those thoughts as a self-fulfilling prophecy.


  Beryl and Loki hid themselves in the short corridors leading to rooms as they attempted to navigate the halls, but witnessed the forces of Progress sealing doorways and breaking down stairwell catwalks.  The familiar was glad the enemies blades were not made of iron.  

  They had several close calls, but had incapacitated their foes. It would have been simpler if Loki was comfortable with the sight of blood.  Beryl rarely met a Babbage urchin who flinched from violence the way Loki did.  The two had paid for their restraint, Loki sported a nasty cut on his left shoulder though Beryl had taken the brunt of the attacks.  Their new coat was ruined, though it was too thick for Babbage winters.  

   While hiding in one doorway they overheard a villainous scientist giving instructions to a giant mechanical clockwork.  They avoided that room and moved onwards searching for some way to help their rebelling companions.  Unfortunately, they did not know how to reach them.  They wandered hopelessly until they came to a large set of open double doors.  

   Inside was a strange arena, which Beryl considered a dead-end, but Loki pressed forward, “Oi! This a Colloseam! Shore ‘nuff, thay keep tha prisona’s back ‘ere!”

  Unable to argue that logic, Strifeclaw followed the excited boy inside and saw the damage to the floor and garbage from a previous fight.  As they got closer to the end they heard the cries of a familiar and furious friend.  The two scurried across the torn ground and rushed behind the red curtain littering the floor.  They passed a larger set of doors and found themselves in a large prison with four unique cells.  Two of them were empty, but the other two bore familiar scenes.

  “Miss Falcon!”  Loki hissed in surprise at her awkward state, and her cellmates room covered in vibrant webbing.

  Avariel brightened as she recognized the urchin banging against her cell.  She was suspended haphazardly on the magnet.  “Loki!!  I’ve been shouting ever since I heard there was a breakout!” The child beamed proudly.  He was now able to repay Avariel for helping him with the spiders.  “Kitty!  That horrible doctor was lying!  You’re not a brain-dead vegetable at all!”  She looked suspiciously at Beryl thinking that perhaps a few pokes were in order.  “Or maybe you are hiding it well?”

  “No,”  Beryl replied sullenly as Loki used their tools to break open the gear lock.  “How are you hanging up there?”

  “A villainous magnet,” Dr. Falcon responded fiercely while Loki worked his talents. Beryl sheathed their rapier and moved farther away. “I was stuck here so long I went into sleep mode and dreamed.”

  Loki paused his activity hearing Dr. Falcon’s unexpected claim, “Clockworks kin dream?”

  “Well, most automata do not have that functionality,” She admitted. “It was a good dream with the sheep at first, but then this terrible construct descended and scared it away!”

  Loki cheered as the cell opened for him.  He then rushed inside and tore apart the console to the aether magnet.  Avariel shouted encouragingly to the urchin to rip it to pieces, leaving no component intact, until Avariel dropped to the floor ungracefully.  She straightened from being unceremoniously plopped and gave a happy neigh and put her neck around Loki, who hugged her back.

  “Right kitties,” Avariel said with mounting confidence.  “Where’s Captain Heinrichs?”  The professor was disappointed to discover they were even more befuddled than herself.  The duo had found her by aimlessly wandering for almost an hour.  Avariel stepped forward taking charge, ”We’ve got to find the others and rescue the cloud angel!  Follow me!”

  Avariel charged off, though she had no clear direction.  Beryl and Loki were forced to pursue wondering what she meant by rescuing a cloud angel.


  Doctor Hartschlägel knew his way around the underground tunnels of the ‘Menagerie’ that would be overlooked by the other scientists.  He avoided detection by cutting through two sealed specimen wings.  Long forgotten skeletons of discarded experiments decorated the cells where they had been abandoned.  He had already manually connected the instruments and all that was left was to throw the switch.

  His anticipation of victory soured as a harmonica played hauntingly behind him.  He turned with his shock mace prepared and his other hand clutching his dagger.  The enigmatic silhouette of John Wright approached the scientist producing a soft requiem. Save the theatrics for Doctor Dupyre, the scientist thought to himself as he resumed his walk but kept turning back to see if the wolf was walking faster.

  John noticed his mark moving away and stopped playing, “Hello, victim.”  He again refused to refer to him as a doctor.  “Black Jack has come to collect your debts.”

  Hartschlägel considered his response, and smiled as he bolted for the door.  “You will have to elaborate!  Soon I will owe more than you could possibly imagine!”

  “You can’t outrun the reaper, Benton!” Wright growled as he bounded forward sword in hand.

  “Lucky me! I only have to outrun you!”  The doctor shot back, but the wolf closed the distance between them. Even limited as he was, John was significantly faster than the thick scientist.  Using his lead the villain barely reached the door ahead of his pursuer.  Wright followed hoping to make his target beg before he was through.

  The shock mace was thrown expertly as Wright entered, catching the wolf on the shoulder.  He winced as the familiar jolts ran through him burning the hand bearing the metal sword.  He refused to drop it, though the strike had weakened him there were no sedatives this time.

  Hartschlägel only needed a brief moment of weakness.  He bounded forward with his silver dagger intending to run the wolf through.  John recognized the threat and pulled the door hatch half closed between him and his opponent.  He waited until the initial shock passed, switched sword hands, and launched himself through the entryway weapon first.  

  The doctor was standing at the far end of a long control room filled with several instruments and machines that monitored the Menagerie.  “Come to rob me of my enjoyment have you?”  Hartschlägel stood with one leg on a chair and a hand on a lever watching Wright intently,  “I don’t suppose you would be reasonable, and seal the door with us inside?  Fight me alone.”  

  “No, I want everyone to hear you scream.” John snorted in response and kept a sharp eye for the dagger and other weapons. The shock mace had been retrieved and placed near the console.  The blade was hidden in the doctors other sleeve. As his opponent had already proven he could throw, Wright remained wary as he shifted his backsack.

  Hartschlägel paled as he evaluated the situation.  He started to pull the switch blade down warningly, “Not one more step, beast, or you will hasten the death of every mortal creature in the Menagerie.”   

 “You’re bluffing, little man,” Wright said as he narrowed his gaze and edged closer. “But if you are not, know that for your debts against Beryl and the others under my protection tonight your fate is already sealed.  If you step away from that switch I’ll only kill you…slowly.  If you do not and it does hurts someone, you will pray Black Jack had granted you death.” He took another intimidating pace towards his opponent.  “The curse I’ll pass will make your own men turn on you.  You’ll be Progress’s newest specimen.”

  Hartschlägel paled even further as he evaluated the threat, but he narrowed his eyes at the wolf.  “Why don’t we find out which of us was truly bluffing!”  The desperate man slammed the knife-switch down and then snapped it off.  “Now no one can stop it!”

  Wright snarled and moved for the kill, but the villain threw his dagger at his attacker.  John had expected the attack, and shifted his backsack using it as a shield.  The weapon pierced the cloth but bounced off the metal weapons lying within. Wright heard the turbines come to life in the distance, louder than the small ones that had filled his cell with pepper hours ago.  He growled at Hartschlägel who raised his shock mace to meet Wright’s blade.

  Wright let out a surprised growl as the electricity coursed through the blade burning his other hand and shocking him at the same time.  He dropped the sword to spare himself worse torment and edged away angrily.  Wright felt a growing desire, a need, to savage his opponent and rip him apart with his claws, but was unable to unleash the suppressed horror within.  

  He dodged repeatedly as Hartschlägel tried to force him out of the room swinging his weapon with the fervor of a zealot. His life depended on taking down Wright and sealing the hatch.  As John backed away he realized fighting Hartschlägel as a monster would not work, but the former Pinkerton was more than just a mindless beast whatever the scientist thought.  He waited until he was almost out the door then adopted an Eastern martial pose.  The man swung his mace but Wright caught his opponents arm with an overhook.  

  The scientist was shocked by the sudden reversal, aware that he was too close to the deadly beasts claws.  Wright didn’t use his claws to press his attack. Perhaps he had been accused of being an animal once too many times, but now he used techniques he learned for basic defense and meditation. 

  Wright twisted Hartschlägel’s arm forcing him to drop the shock mace.  The doctor let out a shout as it clattered to the floor and rolled behind him.  John followed by smashing his elbow into his opponents gut.  Wright continued his assault beating the struggling doctor who tried to fight back, but was helpless against Wright’s superior skill.

  “This may wound your ego,”  Wright said as he reached down for the Doctors own shock mace.  “But some killers are just better trained than others!” He finished his opponent, swinging the mace directly for the villains most tender area.  

  Wright thought the look of pain crossing Benton’s features was almost sublime, “Yes, that’s the face of a victim.”  He taunted as the man fell over.  The wolf appreciated it for a moment more until he could smell the gas entering the room.  John coughed as his eyes watered and shut the door sealing it.  After it was sealed he ran to the levers and attempted to undo the damage Hartschlägel had wrought.

  He was not sure what agent had been used, but it was potent and he needed to flood it back out quickly before the effects grew more pronounced.  Already he could see in his minds-eye the locals falling over coughing the tainted air.  The children would go first followed by everyone else as they suffocated to death.

  The controls were not unlabeled and possessed similar colorations.  There was no indication of what button or lever affected what devices.  Wright hit the machines in his frustration and turned to Hartschlägel baring his teeth viciously. He pounced on top of him and tried to slap him awake, “How do I turn it off!”

 The assault didn’t stir the man.  Wright considered the only thing he could do to wake him.  He opened his jaws ready to clamp down on the man’s neck and pass his curse, when the entire station shook violently.

 Bookworm and her team clung to the ladders knowing that any moment they could break, Doctor Gammis lost his footing, his fancy shoes slipping on the rungs.  He screamed as he dangled by his arms, Mariah trying to help him.  Tepic nearly fell on his face he was so close to the source of the disturbance. Yang clutched the side of the rafters as the men below abandoned their search for him.  Beryl and Loki steadied themselves as Avariel paused her assault of the enemy soldiers to wonder what was causing the quake.  In the reactor chamber, one man tried to sooth the mad creature back to sleep as it wailed in dismay.  

  Emergency lighting was replaced with active power returning to the station.  Turbines hummed dangerously as energy flooded into them.  The massive machines overloaded within moments and exploded into shrapnel breaking the ceiling and room apart.  The rip continued to spread through several floors as the noxious agent began to disperse leaving the prisoners retching, but alive.

  Wright exited the room, but not before smashing all the controls and restraining Doctor Hartschlägel.  This was one villain he hoped would suffer for a long time to come.  He went to find Captain Dekkar and Heinrichs hoping that they were still breathing.

Spread the love

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply