Collection: Age of Youth//Elysian
Chronicled by: Valhel
Preceeded by: Tributaries
Black skycraft swept in though the shattered dome, two descended to the deck and the third remained to keep watch near the opening.
“Why are they here?” whispered Lacea, slipping a dinner knife into the sleeve of her jacket.
“Because I am here.’ offered Andrew, ‘You need to leave.”
“What do we do?” asked Merc as he rose to his feet.
“Make yourselves scarce, find cover” the Professor’s face turned grey, “do not let them find you.”
Lacea nodded and taking Merc by the wrist sprinted behind the strange tree. No sooner had they ducked out of sight two figures dropped from the Resistance skycrafts and began to approach the Professor.
They were tall, a man and a woman, clad in black coats and peculiar armor. Both wore a mask of black and green, a single chrome visor wrapping over their eyes. The man was unarmed, but the woman, walking a few paces behind, carried a rifle.
The Hesperides guests were horrified, the staff stood aside attempting to not draw attention.
Slowing his stride the man addressed his concerned captives, “Now, now...” crackled a gentle but heavy voice through his mask, “Let’s all play along and no one gets hurt.”
“Valjean!” shouted the Professor, “Conclude your business and be gone!”
Valjean spun on his heel toward Andrew, “Professor! You are my business.”
Now it was Andrew boldly striding across the deck, straight up to the attackers.
“Our business is over, there is no part for me in your campaign.” he spat.
“No?” leaned Valjean, “Equality for all classes. Freedom for all faiths. Means for those believed meaningless. Do these no longer interest you, my old friend?”
“These goals are mine as well, but you would use power and terror as your instruments.” growled the Professor.
“But that is why I am here, friend.” Valjean sighed, clenching a first, “I too wish I had access to alternative tools to grow our mission!”
“You would wield them as weapons. Thievery. Arson. Murder. Your pursuit of justice has left your justification wonting.”
Mercury and Lacea crouched behind the strange tree doing their best to catch every word between Valjean and the Professor.
“Who is that?” whispered Mercury.
Lacea’s voice turned cold and distant, her eyes trained upon the man in black, “Valjean. The one who took my family from me.”
Mercury said nothing as he watched a fire rise in the eyes of his friend. Looking over his shoulder he spied the attendant that had opened the elaborate elevator standing terrified and dutifully beside the contraption. His mind raced over the machine and he recalled how the thing could only be opened or shut from the outside, having no handles or buttons within.
Mercury’s brow furrowed as he hatched his hazardous plan, “Climb the tree.”
“What?” paused Lacea, but it was too late- Mercury had already begun to slink toward the lift.
Lacea, distracted from her vengeance by not getting killed in an ill thought out scheme, ascended the boughs of the breathing tree taking great care not to tear her new clothes.
Mercury kept low, checking again and again that his path was as well hidden behind the tree as he could manage. A truly desperate and hilarious sight as he slipped past baffled dinner guests and staff. He locked eyes with the mortified attendant who was making it silently clear through all manner of gesture and scowl that she wanted no part of whatever idea Mercury had planned to do.
Merc tried to smile reassuringly as he motioned for her to stay where she stood, “Shh! The key, I just want the key!”
“Go away!” she sputtered.
“Listen, I need the key and you don’t want to be here.” said Merc as he lay on the ground, “Give me the key and I will let you take the lift down, then you can get help, but you must send the lift back up!”
She remained rigidly opposed, “No, they’ll see!”
“Those pirates are here for that man over there, once they take him what do you think they’ll do to the deck of this ship when they take off?” Mercury motioned with his hands in a sudden fashion while flickering his fingers, “Do you really want to be standing here when that happens?”
The attendant shook her head side to side.
“Good, so I’ll need the key to get you to safety.”
The attendant slowly pulled an ornate turnkey from her pocket and gently dropped it into Mercury’s open palm, “Quickly.”
She remained facing the forward deck as she slowly stepped before the glass doors of the lift, “Turn the key to the right to unlock, opposite to close, and then the lever to lower.” she whispered.
“Right, left, lever. Got it, just remember to send it back up!” smiled Merc.
Mercury slid the key into the control column beside the elevator and turned it. Gently the doors opened and the the attendant stepped back within.
“Quickly! I don’t want to be shot!” she muttered.
Mercury looked up at her as he shut the doors, “Do you know how good a shot they’d have to be to-“
A shriek of air like some horrible insect whizzed overhead and the poor attendant screamed as she stared at a round lodged firmly in the cracked cylindrical doors.
A wide-eyed Mercury shared a glance of surprise and relief with the attendant as he fumbled for the lever and sent the lift down.
“Nice shot, Kate!” laughed Valjean from afar.
The marksman refrained from relaxing her weapon, the sights trained on Mercury.
“Leave him be!” shouted Andrew.
Valjean quickly closed the distance between he and Mercury, “I gather you two know each other? I would’ve thought you wiser than to involve someone so young.’ he mused, ‘Who are you?”
Mercury didn’t know what to say. He had been caught red handed plenty of times, but never once hundreds of feet in the air. “I...I’m Mercury, just on my way to...visit my uncle.”
“Mercury,’ Valjean shook his head as he passed under Lacea and the tree, ‘lying just isn’t your strong suit.”
“Neither is telling the truth.” bid Merc.
“Humor!’ laughed the pirate, ‘Now that’s more like it! You know-“
Valjean stopped mid-sentence and mid-stride. Beneath the dark lens of his mask sharp eyes glinted and a smile crept across his face, Valjean could sense a trap.
The decks of the Hesperides began to rumble and the low growl of machines began to grow loud.
“What were you planning to do?” smirked Valjean.
Golden wheels and pistons stirred behind and the now empty lift rose from below deck.
“Well,’ said Merc nervously, ‘I was going to shove you in the lift.”
Three things then occurred all at once.
The doors of the lift chimed and opened.
And the rumble gave way to the sound of cannon fire and shattering glass as the shadow of an airship clipped across the skylight and circled back.
Kate began to return fire only barely missing the exposed cockpit of assailing craft. Valjean attempted to return to his own ship but Lacea leapt down from the branch and knocked him to the floor, “Kate!”
The marksman turned back and began to fire upon Lacea who again ducked behind the tree.
“Get us out of here!” snarled Valjean into a comm.
A whirl of engines and fire streaked down from the sky as one of the Resistance craft tumbled down into one of the Hesperides’ vanes and the steep and weathered hull of a twin sand bore hovercraft smashed into the arboretum, and none other than Pandora herself swung down to the deck.
“Lacea, get the Professor on board!” she roared, returning fire to Kate.
Shots rang out, civilians darted beneath tables holding bags and tablets as shields against the singing bullets while the Hesperides began to list.
“Wrench!’ bellowed Pandora, ‘Their ship!”
Wrench could not hear Pandora over the din of fire and machine but her violent gestures made clear the expectation. Easing back on the yoke Wrench pivoted around to disable the enemy craft. Unflinching beneath an iron mask the pilot let fly a small, well placed explosive crippling the repulsor plates of the vehicle.
The light craft began an unbalanced spin. Kate had to roll beneath the ship just to keep her head, while the Professor threw himself headlong narrowly missing injury himself had not Lacea caught his arm. Pandora let up on her barrage as she attempted to predict what would happen next. Valjean stood defiant, formulating a new escape.
And both had the same thought.
“Kate!” barked Valjean.
“Lacea, now!” shouted Pandora.
And all five dashed toward Wrench’s skycraft.
The Professor clambered on board and Lacea gracefully stepped into the hold as if it were an ordinary staircase.
“Where’s Merc?” yelled Pandora and Lacea pointed down toward the Hesperides’ stern. Turning, Pandora saw Mercury sprinting at them and then suddenly stopping wide-eyed before spinning back around and running away.
“What are you doing, you idio-“
Pandora heard a crash behind her and the guttural rasp of engines as her ship began to pull away from the deck. Behind, the Resistance craft tumbled down and began to roll uncontrollably toward them all. Pandora jumped up and pulled herself barely into the hold as Wrench smashed the vessel up through the ceiling.
Pandora pulled a comm from the wall down to her, “Swing about! Mercury’s down there!”
A garbled aye aye crackled back through a speaker. Again fire and smoke billowed over the Hesperides, but this time around it’s was a Resistance craft that had lit up their canons. Several rounds raked through the ship, one grazing Wrench’s shoulder and others striking the top engine.
Wrench’s voice buzzed out again, “Bore- gone. I’m hit. -blood.”
Lacea and Pandora exchanged a panicked glance before ascending the deck ladder to check on Wrench.
“Wrench!” yelled Pandora into the comm.
Lacea dropped back down into the hold, “It’s bad. He needs to get back now!”
Kate and Valjean barely kept ahead of the tumbling hovercraft before it smashed into the strange tree at the heart of the garden. Flames licked at the recoiling branches before a burst of pearlescent light threw all three to the floor. Struggling to crawl to her weapon Kate tossed a hidden blade to Valjean who had already picked himself back up.
He marched toward the retreating Mercury, “Clever brats!”
Valjean swung the blade down upon Mercury who tumbled out of the way.
Again Valjean hacked at Mercury and the scoundrel caught his assailant by the wrists. The sword glinted gold and chrome in the blistering sun. Mercury held his grip but his footing began to give way, dress shoes made for poor swashbuckling attire.
Kate leveled her sights across the deck and Valjean remained unrelenting, “One less of you will just make the job easier next time, I suppose!”
Shots crashed through the dome again and down from the skylight in a rain of glass with the choked growl and sputter of an engine barreled Pandora aboard her treader.
The machine slammed into the deck, crushing Kate’s rifle beneath it. The marksman swung at the rider, but Pandora retaliated with a kick to her helm, throwing Kate back to the floor.
Distracted, Valjean relaxed his hold and Mercury wrested the sword from his hands. He grabbed the pirate by the face of his mask, spun them both about, and using the width of the blade shoved Valjean with all his might. Stumbling back the glass cylindrical doors of the lift closed on Valjean before he had even realized what all had happened.
The pirate looked up at Merc, his hand on the turnkey.
Valjean nodded, “Not bad.”
The Hesperides lurched port as the damaged vanes tore apart.
“Time to go!” shouted Pandora.
Mercury took a few hurried steps backwards as he smiled back at Valjean before saddling up beside Pandora on the treader.
“Hi? I just drove this- never mind, hold on.” spat Pandora.
Mercury hesitantly attempted to hold Pandora around her waist, deciding instead to hold onto the pockets of her coat, “Where are they picking us up?”
Pandora threw the treader into high gear and launched over the side of the Hesperides into the air and with a terrific blast of sand and smoke down upon the dunes below, barreling West.
To Be Continued. . .
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