The Battle of Charmelle: The Vhaen Project | 15

Descending a long ladder the crew found themselves in a tunnel. The elderly man with the lantern smiled absently at them as he lit the way from the trap door area out to the main platform below the surface of the fort.

 

“These are your crew mates then, Miss Amelia?”

 

She nodded, “Yes.”

 

“And we need to board her quickly.” the captain added eyeing the old man with suspicion.

 

“The floor of the fort is the ceiling of this tunnel…though…I’ll admit I’ve never seen it so…active.”

 

The tunnel around them was more like an air vent than an actual tunnel, ribbed with highly articulated steel structures to support the weight. It was warmer down here than they had thought…quite warm actually. There was no denying it, they were of the same make they had seen in the chambers under the mountain and as it shuddered, lights began to twinkle in the far reaches of the darkness leading down the tunnel.

 

The elderly man shook his head and shuffled on quickly leading the crew to a series of ladders  that scaled up the distance to the surface. “These ladders should bring you up close to your ship.” Whittaker didn’t wait long to begin the climb himself, kneeling in a service bay at the top of the climb just below the surface. Amelia turned to her newly found ally and watched him a moment as the last crew member scaled the height. She motioned for him to go ahead but the elderly man just shook his head.

 

“You’re not going?”

 

“Oh don’t worry about me, my dear, I’ll be fine. Go save your ship!” He handed her the lantern and smiled as she thanked him, ascending the hand holds to the top.

 

~*~

 

Above on the opposite side of the fort, the soldiers swarmed like masses as they searched for the missing attackers. Seamus, Audra, Wyatt, and Brother Luke, had found a precipice from which to watch the ongoing chaos. They could see the ship from where they were, but there was no clear way down to her.

 

“Even if we get to the Isabella, there is no way around that war ship hovering above her…” Wyatt mused to the others softly.

 

“Anybody have a plan?” Audra asked looking around quickly. No one answered.

 

“Well…that depends on what you consider a plan…” Brother Luke said after a moment running his fingers through the scratch beard he kept.

 

“That…sounds less than comforting…” Audra muttered.

 

“We can’t get the ship out of the courtyard without that warship gone right?” the robed man replied with a twinkle in his eye.

 

“That would seem to be the case.” Seamus replied.

 

“Then it seems to me that the only way to her, is to take the warbird.”

 

“And how, exactly, do you suppose we do that?” Audra questioned him with a tone of disbelief.

 

Within minutes the four were trudging through the lit corridors with Brother Luke at the head. Luke had cleaned himself up nicely despite the rough few months they had had and genuinely looked like any Order chaplain. He stood before a door and allowed his crewmates to disappear inside. Within, they found lengths of tables and seats, obviously some sort of mess hall. There were loud rumblings from within the adjacent kitchen area… like that of a large animal.

 

Audra slid around the doorway silently peering in to ascertain what exactly was going on. As she looked on the familiar form of Rottger showed itself, face full of food.

 

“Audra?” a voice called from the back of the room.

 

“Lulu!” The tinkerer cried, “Good, i’m glad we found you both! We need some coats, order jackets or something have you seen any like that?”

 

Luthiem tilted her head to one side and didn’t respond. Turning to a table she dug into the sack larger than her that lay on it’s corner. “Will these work?” She held out three orderlies jackets stolen from the dormitories.

 

“Yes! Actually, that’s perfect…where did you get these?”

 

“The soldier dormitories…” Luthiem grinned. “Along with enough money to keep us for a month! These new recruits are pretty green, leaving their wallets in their beds.”

 

“I hate to hurry you, but we have a ship to move!” Called in the brother.

 

“Moving ships! Come on, Zombie!”

 

Rottger appeared again and groaned in sadness. “But food!”

 

“Food later, help now!”

 

The mass of them quickly departed the mess hall and approached the courtyard. As they made their way, they too began to run as all the others were; seeming frantic and hurriedly on their way to a destination. Adorned in their  newly confiscated jackets and the confusion of the situation, these six had little trouble making their way into the tallest of the buildings and up to the tiny docking station above the fort.

 

Soldiers stood in formation all along the walls leading out to the runway where the warship was docked and prepped for flight. They came running up pressing past soldiers, apologizing for being late. Only lieutenant Michael, the worn and weary aid to the general stopped them.

 

“Hang on, stop there. I need your identification cards and numbers before you can access the Argon.”  The soldiers nearest them turned to look as the six order personnel stammered a moment.

 

“Lieutenant Michael. Let those people through! I want my ship fully staffed with these pirates on the loose! At all costs I want Cedric Whittaker’s head on a plate!”

 

“Yes sir!” the six pirates responded with a forced salute.  

 

The lieutenant stood completely beaten, yet again, by his commanding officer. His shoulders sagged a moment, but tightened back up and he turned with aggression in his voice. “You know, Sir, you’re breaking every rule set forth by our legislation. Security and command are tools that must be utilized properly!”

 

“Do I sense a hint of mutiny in your voice, Lieutenant Michaels!?” The general thundered.

 

“You’ve wasted good men’s lives, and spent valuable resources in this foolish witch hunt for these pirates, when you should be outfitting and training new recruits for efficient lives as soldiers and workers for the betterment of the people we serve. Now we have this…earth shaking event and you won’t even let us run our computer systems to find out what’s going on!!”

 

“Serving people, Michaels?” Liam laughed at the young man as he drew a pistol from his belt. “The only person you serve is me! Now get back to work, the lot of you!” The man in the opulent jacket stared into the face of his taller subordinate anticipating a cower. The six turned away to board the Argon, their mission still at large, but the young man and his general were still face to face. Luke peered back for a moment watching them from the catwalk.

 

“Your commanding officers will hear of your conduct, Sir. Mark me.”

 

Coult shook his head, “That’s a crying shame, Michaels, I really liked you.”  The general reared back and socked the young man in the mouth knocking him to the floor. “If you think for one moment I don’t know why they sent me out here to this god forsaken little spit of a world, then you’re dead wrong! I have the tactical mind of a computer and they waste me on sniveling runny nosed brats and weak minded fools like you?! I will have that pirates’ head and  gain back the recognition I deserve even if it kills me!” The pistol in his hand leveled, rage boiling in his beet red face,”And I can certainly do it without you!”

 

Before he could fire, the pistol flew from his hand; knocked away by a shot that clipped the general’s arm. His cries of pain were answered by the soldiers both rushing to his aid and others readying to fight the attacker. Luke, large a man as he was, rushed this grouping of soldiers throwing them off the sides of the walk. His pistol fired four more times before he reached the tall man who the general had knocked down. Luke grabbed him by the shoulders and quickly hauled him down the catwalk.

 

Luke tossed him onboard and locked the entry gates behind him firing several more shots. He drug Michaels into the main control deck of the Argon and dumped him like a sack of potatoes..

 

“Luke, what the…What’s he doing here!?” Wyatt yelled.

 

“Never you mind, get  integrated to the system and lets move this puppy out of here!”

 

“Michaels?” another officer asked eyeing the people who had just barged into the deck unannounced.

 

Michael, suffering a broken nose could hardly see. “I’ll be fine.” He waved the officer’s concern off.“You six are the pirates!?” the young man beamed through blurry eyes.

 

“Well a few of them,” Seamus replied.

 

“Now, Mister Michaels, is it..” Luke began picking the man back up from the ground, “I just did you a great service in saving your life…an’ to pay me back, you’re gonna tell all your friends on board to stand down or jump ship, do I make myself clear?”.

 

“And what if I don’t!” the private retorted, “What then!”

 

“Well…knowing me an’ my friends here, we have to move this ship and get our home back, so anything you don’t agree to help us with earns you a ticket overboard. But seeing as how I did just save your life…I’d prefer not to have to do that.”

 

The tall man’s eye were beginning to clear. He looked at his people on deck and at the pirates who had saved his life for no reason other than they needed help.  This moment lasted what seemed like an eternity. He made his way to a PA and dialed into it. “This is Lieutenant Michaels, all personnel are to abandon ship! Repeat, Abandon ship!”

 

Lights overhead went off as alerts rose to full alarms. The ships around them seemed to scramble in concern for the warship’s safety as officers rushed the gangplanks and catwalks in a dash to exit the ship. General Coult turned from his place at a medic’s table to see the ship float free of it’s magnetic docks and turn its guns upon the base itself.

 

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