The Battle of Charmelle: The Vhaen Project part 16

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 war bird.”

“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.

~*~

The service bay below led up to the courtyard where the Isabella lay hidden under Order ships close watch. Cedric peered up from the hatch door just under a heater. Those stooped there warmed themselves in preparation for the exit. The captain’s communicator buzzed with static. Katherine’s voice cut in and out for a moment before calling in loudly.

“Captain, status report… The Sah is open…the Vhaen can’t recoil the base any closer to us…have you made it?”

“That’s an affirmative, Mrs. Tellius. How are things on your end?”

“The…box…let go of me…but just before it did…I recieved a message…” the static rose and fell as she spoke. “You must hurry.”

“Mrs. Tellius?! Katherine!” Cedric recoiled quickly. “we have got to get those guys out of there. Now. No more waiting.”

The hatch came open and the crew came flying from it with weapons at the ready. Dozens of armed soldiers were packed around the bow of the Isabella waiting for her owner’s to attack. The hail of bullets began. Kitty, ready for another brawl made use of the cover of her crew to launch high above them and sweep into her enemies like a dervish. Amelia and Cedric fought back to back, cutting a path with bullets and blades through their opponents. Projectiles whizzed past them but thankfully found no mark. They were hard pressed to move as they stepped towards their home as the enemies fell in behind them, attacking with whatever seemed to be at hand. One woman even came after Javert with a wrench which did not protect her from the butt of his rifle.

Then they saw the ship. High above them the warship Argon floated from its high precipice down to the top of the isabella and readied its guns. As they turned to look up, the hearts of the crew sank, knowing that there would be little to do if the ship were to fire on them now. The fort cheered with success lowering their weapons to raise their hands in victory. The general leaned over the railing from high above them on the docking tower, hurling obscenities at the Argon and down to the courtyard below.

“No! you fools shoot them now!!! Shoot them now!”

The Argon turned as it hovered, firing rounds upon the horde of soldiers gathered near the ship and raising nearby buildings to the ground. From the overhead loudspeakers aboard the Argon came a familiar voice, “Howdy Capt’n! Need a little back up?”  Brother Luke boomed. With simultaneous grins the crew was refreshed, and charged forward into the fray yet again. From cobble stone to gangplank they rose. Javert was first onto the Isabella’s deck, met with a slew of soldiers.

“It’s just too clean!” The blade of his sword  splattered the innards of a man unto the deck as he shot another.”Have to start all over!”

“What is all this crap on the front of my ship!?” Cedric cried hacking at a soldier who was fairly light on his feet. Cedric took a deep breath, the adrenaline may have still been there, but his body was fatigued. The younger soldier took the opportunity to strike back, brandishing a sledgehammer in his wake.  One blow, two, three, they were moving ever closer to flesh, even grazing the captain with their close proximity.  The last stroke, Cedric couldn’t dodge, and he knew this was going to hurt.

The hammer thudded to the floor, blood spraying as the body collapsed amidst the noise and clamour.  Amelia stood squarely behind him with the pistol she had taken off the Order soldier on her flight there.

“Don’t touch my stuff!!!”

For half a second, Cedric smiled with deep affection at his wife, and turned to knock another soldier from his feet. Only a short distance farther until they were home.

At last, the doors into the first deck flew open.  The crew plunged down the stairs and into the depths, back through the hall and up into the command deck. “Javert, Amarante, engine duty! I need vitals now!” He rushed forward to the helm and gripped it with such certainty that the ship jarred in it’s place. The pair he called rushed in after him and down further still into the engine room.

“Captain! Uh… Everything is working perfectly…It’s just really clean.”

“Good, let’s keep it that way!” He chuckled to the intercom.

“They’ve got us on a gravity lock, Captain. We aren’t going anywhere till that’s been removed.” Amarante replied the sound of switches and mechanics thrumming in the background.

“Lovely.” he growled. “Where are the rest of my crew?! Luke, role call!”

“I have Seamus, Audra, Wyatt, Rottger, and Luthiem, Captain.” The man in the warship called over his radio happily as he sent bullets hailing down over the crowd.

The static cut into Luke’s sentence. “I have Amelia Ruth, Vale, Suzeaux, and Attica…” Fox added drolly. “We’re in the control tower just above you to your right. DId I hear something about gravity locks?”

“That’s affirmative, can we get that taken care of!”

“Vale?”

The doctor nodded and called back, “I’ll have you loose faster than a–” the sound of gunfire cut him off. “If people will stop trying to shoot me with bullets!”

“Give us a minute.” Fox replied dropping his wrist to his side and moving himself out of the way of an oncoming attacker. “It should be that computer on the left!”

Suzeaux shot the man before he could try for Fox again. “These folks just don’t know when to quit.”

“Well, we did wander into their briefing room.” Fox muttered.

“Good thing I brought these!” Suzeaux exclaimed holding up two chains of hand grenades.

“You brought those on a tiny, dingy that crashed into a wall….”

“Oh relax, mister worry wart. They only blow up if you pull the pin on them.”

Attica took one from the chain and quickly drew a chalk circle onto the exterior of the device. It buzzed with a short flash of light and she pulled the pin, hurling it back down the corridor where a new wave of attackers emerged. Instead of a loud boom, electrical static buzzed violently, shutting the metal doors emphatically, and dropping the soldiers into contorted shapes up the hall.

Suzeaux frowned, “Hey!”

“It shut the door and saved bullets…” the alchemist replied with a slight smile.

“So would have a regular grenade!” Suzeaux whined.

“And taken out the only exit with it!”

“You’re no fun at all.”

Fox pushed a body off the edge of the balcony with his heel. Spinning around to aid the doctor with the computers but was met with a confusing sight. “What are you doing?” Amelia stood with Vale watching the computer run through a variety of files. “The grav locks need to be turned off, remember?” the cook restated.

“Yes, yes, right. On that!” The doctor quickly tapped away at keys and the power of the entire facility flickered. “ I was just running a backup of these files…good for some light reading…Hm. Oops.” The power flickered again with more definite results, “Not that code.”

Attica rolled her eyes violently at the doctor, “Genius.” She folded her arms across her chest.

“Says the scientifically inaccurate chemist.” He retorted.

“Oh, like that’s new.”

“You would know! Your practices haven’t evolved past the dark ages!”

Amelia Ruth watched them banter back and forth as Vale typed faster and faster. Fox’s face had a less than pleased look on it .

“Fox! I need those locks lifted!” The captain roared.

“I’m working on it!” He replied gruffly and glared at the pair, “Any day now, Vale.”

As he spoke the door up the hall fell in on itself and soldiers rushed the computer control room. Vale entered the final strokes of his code slipping one hand from the keys to pull a pistol from his gun belt and fired. The alchemist simultaneously moved around Amelia Ruth and grappled with a woman, breaking a vial over her head and scattering a toxic smelling liquid across the entryway. The man behind her attacker caught an unfortunate eyeful of the substance before falling to a second bullet placed by the doctor. Suzeaux shot at the man who was chasing her, but missed twice before the grenades came back out.

“Say bye!”

The soldier turned to run as she tossed the grenade into the hallway, but he tripped over a fallen body and disappeared in the blast. When the smoke and dust had settled the sloshing liquefying sounds that remained were less than pleasant. They turned to look at the source and simultaneously grimaced. Amelia Ruth covered her eyes.

“That’s nasty…” Vale muttered.

“I disagree…” Attica panted as the corners of her mouth turned up into a smile.

“You would.”

Behind them the computer beeped, accepting the doctor’s code. The deep resonance of gravity locks falling from the bow of the Isabella to the pavement followed shortly after.

“Right! Everybody to the ship!”

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