The mountain side where the hangar sat, open and exposed, shuddered violently. The small ship the crew had hastily constructed teetered on the edge of the gaping mouth peering out into the darkness. The tremors were so violent that the crew had to huddle to maintain corporate balance. Each member found their post with some difficulty, and the captain manned the tiny vessel’s helm. He made a demonstrative motion with his hand and the tiny craft’s engines whirred in strain against the wind.
Buffeted by the icy gale the balloon jittered about until it finally filled with enough aether to hold it’s shape against the torrent. Up from the cement floor they rose, and through their masks the crew cheered despite the bitter cold.
Into the darkness they plunged, leaving the heaving vibrating mass of rock behind them. The wind carried them just a fraction of the way before the steering worked properly.
“What now?!” Called brother Luke over the wind.
“Watch the ground!!” Vale retorted loudly.
“This had better work!” Cedric added, “I don’t want to hit the ground in this thing!”
“Don’t hit the ground!” Attica reminded sternly through a scarf wrapped about her neck and face.
Within the mountain cavern the scientists and archeologists scrambled as rocks and minor debris clattered around their delicate equipment. Katherine stood at the epicenter with a strained expression on her face. Light shone around her arms as she held on for dear life to the glowing and pulsing box before her. The large projected screen above her had the pinpoint map of the world laid out in detail and certain segments highlighted in bright fluorescent green. They flashed as they continued to glow, the mechanics under and around her pulsed with quickening beats.
“Locations pinpointed, opening Sah, Welcome.” The voice echoed overhead.
From outside, Brother Luke could see the earth tremble in long lines, like shivering fingers reaching from under the covers of hard bedrock. Lights in the surface quickly illuminated and pulsed in the same quick beats they had under the complex.
Rocks cracked and shifted as the surface defaced itself with lights. The power lines, as that was all he could think to call them, were suddenly joined by pinpoint lights all around them. Spider Web like lines appearing like splinters across the surface of the world as far as their eyes could see. These lights began to disappear almost as quickly as they appeared as the sounds of metal scraping against rock echoed across the frozen stone landscape.
“What’s happening?!” Amelia Ruth asked leaning over the edge and looking about frantically, “It’s almost too dark to see!”
Rottger grinned and waved his hands excitedly. “Ground opens! Oh…uuuuhhhh…”
The pair stood in shock as the sliding plates began to rise towards them, piling one on top of the other.What had been tens of thousands of feet down was now half the distance. The small craft zoomed forward, catching the winds shearing off of the ever encroaching earth below. The fort before them as a lit spire in the darkness grew ever closer in exponential time. As each plate withdrew the space between the mountain and the far off military encampment grew smaller.
The warships encircling the high tower in the cold air suddenly were joined by a host of other smaller ships. Some fled, unsure of what was going on, disappearing behind the cliff face; and others came to the aid of the largest ship, manning them more fully, and even bringing lighter weighted crafts with guns blazing to light the fort up with hull mounted spot lights.
Cedric made a noise that was less than pleased, but onward they sped.
“Looks like the Order didn’t know the surface of the world could move either!” Luthiem cried as a small shipped whizzed past them unaware of their presence.
Javert had his long rifle in his hands, steadied on his target, the back of the small craft’s engine. A hand came up from beneath him and took the sight from him.
“Let’s keep it that way, shall we?” Amarante chided softly. “I’m sure there will be plenty to shoot at in the fort itself.”
Javert made a slightly irritated face but nodded to her.
Attica half leant over the edge of the bow made a displeased face, “How far is it to the fort?!”
“Another four miles at most! Why!?” Cedric called back.
“We’re losing pieces!!”
The underbow was breaking apart in the cold wind. Ice accumulated upon its surface and broke away as the weight grew too much to bear.
“Look out!” Audra cried as the ship veered out of the path of another small vessel.
The whole deck lurched, sending everyone scrambling for hand holds and bracing for the backwards swing. Cedric veered them back on target just as a pivotal piece of the hull broke away, clattering back along the side and out into the darkness.
“That’s no good!” Javert called.
“We’re losing altitude! Too many holes in the ship!” Audra exclaimed.
“Hold on to something!” Cedric ordered as he angled the ship as steeply as he could. The fort was just within reach, but they were falling too fast to make it over the wall. The tiny skiff jumped across the air like a stone across water barely holding together with each bounce.
“Seamus!” the captain thundered as the lights of the ships overhead whirled around them, “This next jump give me all that little engine has!”
The upward swing reached it’s peak and the engine whined in protest as the curve turned down. Like a bullet they fell hard and fast into the aether, striking with enough intensity that in the following moments the small ship’s hull burst into pieces and sent them hurtling upward and over the wall.
With an ear shattering crash, the crew and it’s now disintegrated ship arrived to a scene of utter chaos. Pulling themselves quickly from the rubble, bruised, but numbed by the cold to the pain it brought with it; the group moved to a dark corner to decide the plan of action.
The fort was definitely moving. The bedrock beneath them hummed deeply as they stood feeling the vibrations in the soles of their shoes.
“That little black box in the cavern packs quite the punch…I’ve never seen an Order military base scramble so fast.” Javert muttered to the captain.
“Yeah well, this was just the easy part. Now we find Amelia.”
The group broke away from each other, tactically to divide and conquer. Luthiem, however had a separate idea about why they split up…
“If one set of us gets caught…the rest can come bail them out.” She whispered to Rottger once the groups were on their ways.
“Mmmmmhhh….” he muttered, “Smart.”
“Yes, but let’s not get caught.”
The companion nodded enthusiastically in agreement. The pair silently maneuvered their way around a few dark corners until they came upon a small lit area. The soldiers who were there frantically attempted to guard the doors, all the while colored with the pallor of fear and impending doom. Luthiem grinned. This was her favorite kind of game.
These people, these men, had stolen their home, and that was not to be forgotten. She motioned for Rottger to stay where he was and silently slipped above him into the rafters. With quiet cat like agility, the clockwork assassin made her way over the awning overlooking the stationed guards.
The glint of her smile was all that was visible to Rottger, as he knew where to look. The assassin dropped effortlessly to her feet behind the first man and brushed the tips of his fingers with the lace trim of her sleeve. In fright the man jumped slightly, turning to see what he had touched. The soldier likely never saw the full silhouette of his attacker, as the bladed gauntlet she wore made quick and messy work of his face.
To his partner the scene was confusing. He heard the man jump, saw him turn, and the following shower of blood and dark viscera of facial tissue left him agape. The soldier was young, not even nineteen, and he had yet to experience anything remotely like this.
Luthiem phased out of the shadows like a mist, and as the young man wiped the blood from his face he began to shake as realization dawned upon him. The glint of red and metal sent him shrinking into the wall, his breaths ragged at first, quickly becoming sobs of fear. The assassin, however, was not moved.