The Battle of Charmelle: The Vhaen Project | 9

Amelia rocked in the free swinging ship high above the sharp jagged rocks of the planet’s surface. She had been hiding now for more than an hour maybe two…and there had been no response to her call for help. Several decks above, unbeknownst to her, a small force from one of the attacking ships lowered themselves to the outermost deck heavily laden with weapons. All together they moved with intention to take or kill any they found on their search. One, two, three, they filed in one behind the other, moving together as a group. Several of these sets moved into the body of the ship overturning furniture and debris as they went searching for the illusive crew of the Isabella.

 

One group of soldiers made their way past the decks of repaired damages and radioed back to the ship above that there was little to be seen, aside from a rushed and somewhat botched repair job. Amelia could hear the sounds of their boots across the floors above her and quietly she pulled the hiding space debris closer in around her.

 

A young man, Jareth, was newly recruited to the “scouting” division cast his eyes over the layout of the ship, in its jumbled condition no one would have believed it would have been so threatening to anyone. He saw the cups and plates overturned and made a funny face as the realization dawned upon him.

 

“They’re just people…”he muttered edging his toe against an overturned frame that had been tossed in the ship-napping.  “Don’t see what the big fuss is about.”

 

Jareth continued through the room and passed the place Amelia kept herself hidden. He crunched broken and overturned glass in his wake. Amelia eyed him silently as he passed her watching his every move and drew short shallow breaths.

 

In the young man’s search he stooped to view something and the hidden woman strained her neck to see what he was doing. When he erected himself he had a simple silver cup clasped in one hand and a small smile on his face. The young man cast his eyes around the room and stuck the engraved cup into a bag at his side quickly.

 

Amelia inhaled sharply as her mouth drew into a tight line across her face. How dare he!

 

Jareth continued through the far side of the room where a great deal of debris had fallen. In and amidst the rubble he could see a matching silver platter to the cup he had procured. Maybe this would have some value as a set..  So with a measure of quietness the young man began to uncover his latest prize.

 

When he pulled it free from its entrapment, Jareth held it up into the light reflecting the image of the room in the lightly tarnished surface. The last thing he saw was the enraged face of some twisted figure in the metal surface before all went black.

 

Amelia stood over the fallen man with the end of a wooden beam clutched in her hands. ” Don’t take my stuff!” She mouthed angrily. She glowered over the now unconscious young man and removed their things from his bag simultaneously rifling his pockets and spotted the pistol in his holster. An easy means by which to arm herself. She turned away to retreat back into her hiding place, when a thought occurred to her.

 

If the young man downed in an odd spot in the ship was even remotely suspicious, they may return with more men and really give the ship a thorough going through; and that was less than desirable. The ship creaked as it gently tilted to the right, they were turning rather sharply.

 

With a measure of strength Amelia threw a pile of fallen debris on top of the still fallen man creating a loud crash that echoed through the doors and open spaces in the Isabella proper. When the two soldiers finally found their companion buried beneath a pile of debris they moaned to themselves.

 

“I wish they would leave these greenhorns at base. Never can do anything right.” The senior officer said pulling the bleeding young man from the wreckage.

 

“Tell General Liam we’ve been through the ship and found no wounded or otherwise. He may not have the crew yet, but they’ll be coming for their vessel. No doubt about that.”

The soldiers radioed back to the ships above that the vessel was clear and their injuries were fairly minor. Dragging the fallen man with them they exited the ship by the way they had come.

 

Amelia had only been settled into the hiding place she had created for a short time when the ship jarred violently. Bracing herself on the walls around her she waited silently. Her breath was calm but her heart racing in her ears. There were sounds of deep tremulous metal on metal contact. Voices shouting far away and high above her the sound of boots on deck. The gentle swaying of flight had vanished, replaced with she stability that only being moored to the earth can bring. Amelia pulled the pistol closer to herself and slid the chambered mechanism open, ten shots, not a lot but enough should the need arise.

 

Outside, the hard and dark stone grounded the lighter than aircraft with clamps that ran the length of it’s keel. Soldiers in the familiar colors and regiments, though still dressed for the cold climate, that were common to their enemies scurried about the grounds in securing the ship. Those who commanded, sent smaller groups to man the entrances and exits of the base they had set the Isabella into the center of.

 

Specifically, the courtyard of the only Order base in the sector; Fort Samthane. An old and appropriated building left from ages long past. Stationed here, in this empty world were soldiers and scientists alike seeking the truths of the world that once had held over a million inhabitants but now hardly even gave signs that life had ever existed there.

 

General Liam Coult was highest ranking here in the rock wastes. A short, wide man with deeply cut features and twisted sense of humor. He was his subordinates worst nightmare, often resorting to leaving his men on the cold faces of cliffs for disobedience. It was this man that tread heavily onto the deck of the Isabella.

 

“Real shame the tin can is empty.” He exclaimed filling the courtyard with his voice.

 

“What are your orders now, General? Do we fortify against attack?”

 

The general smiled a sort of half grin that almost made him pleasant, “Attack? Are you kidding? With what kind of ship? They’d have to grow wings to get here without the Isabella. No, make sure the fort is secure and bring the Argon over the courtyard here. Block out any chance our little catch here can escape.”

 

“Yes, General.” His orderly nodded quickly.

 

“And Michael…I’ve been thinking just now…”

 

“Yes, Sir?” The young man beside him looked up rather wearily.

 

“Since we had to waste such a fine ship as the Charmelle as ammunition…I rather think the Isabella would make a fine addition to the fleet here, don’t you?”

 

“A fine Idea, Sir, I’m sure.”

 

“Good, splendid. Get the repair crews out here pronto. Do whatever repairs are necessary. I want this ship in the air by morning! Oh…and bring the craftsman in…I have a few changes to make…”

 

“Yes…Yes, Sir.”

 

The Battle of Charmelle: The Vhaen Project | 8

“The Vhaen?” Vale’s head twisted sharply around the corner of a fallen structure. “Do, ah, do you mean to say you know how to use the device in that underground chamber? I thought you said it was an artifact of unknown function and origin.”

 

“Well,” Katherine began, “We lied.”

 

The scientists and historians now moved about the enclosure quickly and erratically, collecting as many papers and boxes as they could.

 

“What does the Vhaen do then?”

 

“Doctor Vale, the Vhaen is an ancient computer of sorts… A hub connecting a large network of points gridded across something they called the Sah. Its connecting points lay over the entire surface of this world. We believe it to be a transport or network of some kind.”

 

“Transport…That’s not that uncommon for worlds like this. What’s with all the secrecy and the hush hush..” Vale stiffened slightly, “and all those bodies in the chambers near it?”

 

Katherine flicked her hazel eyes from the file in her hand to the doctor and back. “From what we can tell, it’s a side effect of prolonged use of the Vhaen…”

 

“Well that doesn’t make even a lick of sense, now does it…A badly set up teleportation network that poisons it’s users…it would be pointless research.”

 

The woman set her file down and faced the doctor quickly. “Doctor Vale, the Vhaen has shown signs of not being a transport through space but something wholistically different. We believe that the Sah was something unique. The box was used as a rite of passage by these people, the young were taken and given to somehow open windows into the Vhaen and thus the Sah. We believe the tattoos on the skin of the bodies down below are actually imprints of whatever the box uses to interface; perhaps even evidence of issues in the participants rites because it left those you see in the chambers…The toxin on their decaying skin is the residual breakdown of what we believe to be physical substances that this “Sah” used in the flesh as a bio connector. We think…these people may have been able to use it to their advantage…but there is no way to really know until we test it.  Completely unorthodox… But we know how to make it work…theoretically.”

 

Vale took a breath to ask a question or argue, but was cut short.

 

“There are unstable processes going on in that box.” Attica remarked coming alongside the lady and the doctor with a large box in hand. “When we went down before, when I got near the box it gave off an odd presence. Something right out of the labs in the capital.”

 

“That doesn’t surprise me.” Katherine said shaking her head, “It’s been speculated by my head archeologists that the technology originated in an old world, something likely incompatible with the biosoftware your people call alchemy. We still don’t understand the full implications of it’s use.” She cast a glance up at the young woman, “I wouldn’t go back near it if I were you.”

 

“All I’ll tell you is there are voices in the box, Lady Katherine.”

 

Katherine made a face and turned back to her work. Vale watched them both a moment before carrying on.

 

“How does it work then, this ceremonial computer box that can open windows into some unknown void?”

 

She drew a deep breath and laid out a series of schematics not unlike the art they had seen in the catacombs far below them. “The central box, must be manned by a user of 15 years or older, they insert their arms into the front of the device. These black indentations have handles on the inside to grasp from what documentation we have uncovered tell us. There is no way to see them in ordinary circumstances as the box is protected by an inner shield that drinks up light. From the contents of the stomachs of the bodies in the tombs, we have concluded; that the manning party must drink this drink, a mix of electrolytes and proteins, and create some mental connection to the machine, and theoretically, allow it to access the Sah.”

 

“That’s a lot of theory.”

 

“It would worth attempting instead of letting the Isabella and the captain’s wife end up like the Charmelle.”

 

“But there is no guarantee what it will even do!” The man in grey’s brows were furrowed,”I’m not usually the one to say this, but haven’t you lot lost enough in the name of science today?”

 

Katherine looked at him sharply, her steely eyes and fair windswept hair tossed about her face made her look quite severe. “ I don’t need your approval to attempt anything, Doctor. My life was caught up in this project. My husband died protecting this rock, And I’m going to pretend I didn’t just hear you say that…So if you’re going to stand around help me get this generator into the other transport and down into the chamber.”

 

Vale was handed a large box all at once, and reluctantly followed the woman across the stone floor and to a transport vehicle. It took all of minutes to get it loaded and the majority of her people ready to head down into the chamber.

 

Brother Luke had managed to strip the vehicle, and the engine to the most necessary parts. Audra and Seamus had rebuilt the gasoline engine to accept the Aether filters and run on a small magnetic gravity displacer.

 

“Childsplay…” Seamus said at length, candy hanging from his bottom lip.

 

The wings were coming together quickly as Luthiem and Kitty cut thin strips of copper and pipe as fin like protrusions. Attica was bent over the body of the makeshift plane fixing the plates to each other with short bursts of high intensity heat with a lighter. Upon its surface was scrawled an algorithm.

 

Cedric eyed it warily, “tell me again…”

 

“It will fix the plates together in exchange for the density of the metal, Captain,” She replied continuing her work. “Basically, it’s going to be tinfoil. Just keeps the air out.”

 

“Right. So don’t get shot.”

 

“Good plan any day. “ Javert crassly remarked, hauling a large bundle of rope into the bed of the now ship looking shape.

 

Amelia, Amarante, and Rotger all worked simultaneously with needle and thread with shreds from the damaged Isabella’s balloon to make a smaller version. Within a half an hour’s time, the balloon could hold air and even withstand the tugging of the new netting being woven to hold it.

Cedric was impressed, but the time for pride would have to wait.