Sunday, November 25, 2012

Orphans of the Celestial Sea, E-5, C-5

The story so far…

Tom Cain rescued sisters Nikki and Willow Keats from psychotic Draggers and a Mist infestation with the help of sharpshooter Agatha West. They fled Milton on the apparently deserted airship Hecate.
In the town of Havenvale they nearly lost Hecate to a crime-boss, Ponderoy Charkart, but a vertically-challenged mechanic named Shorty came to their rescue and joined the crew. They did lose what they thought was a near-worthless cargo of lead bars. It turned out the ‘lead’ was actually gold, with a thin coating of lead to disguise it. Now the crew is trying to recover their lost treasure. Nikki, Shorty and Willow are scheduled to rendezvous with Tom, Dog and Agatha at Charkart’s warehouse in the middle of the night.

Episode 5
Chapter 5

Two blocks from Charkart’s jail they heard shouts for help behind over the rumble of their stolen wagon’s wheels.
Tom broke stride and let go of the wagon’s harness. “Oh hell. Somebody’s gonna hear pretty quick.”
“Should we go back and shut them up?” Agatha fingered her revolver.
Dog pushed Agatha’s hand away from her sidearm. “No killing.”
Agatha raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have to go. I can get the job done.”
Dog took her by the shoulders. “You do not know what you are saying, Agatha. Every man you kill… it changes you.”
Tom frowned. “It’s okay Dog, I don’t think she has the stones for it anyhow.”
Agatha turned angrily on him. “Wanna bet? I’ll go do it right now!” She tried to turn, but Dog held her firmly.
Tom shook his head. “Gunshots would be worse than yellin’ anyhow. Best we just make tracks for the warehouse and hope Hecate gets there before Charkart’s men. Let’s get movin’.”
Agatha slipped the leather retaining strap back in place over her revolver. “All right, fine. But don’t doubt my nerve. Not either of you. Killin’ ain’t no big thing.”
Dog let her go. “Do not take that path Agatha. Anger and killing will lead you down a course you do not want to follow.”
Agatha grunted and shrugged past them. She picked up the harness for the wagon and began to pull on her own. “Of all people, I never took you for a pacifist, Dog.” She said the word ‘pacifist’ like most women would say, ‘rapist’.
The cherry of a cigarette flared in the darkness.
“That’s number three.” Tom hissed.
The three crewmates had hidden their wagon in an alley a block away and scouted around the warehouse. Every entrance was guarded.
Agatha shrugged. “He’s probably got some expensive stuff in there. Lowlife like Charkart’s always got more irons in the fire.”
“Roof looks like our only option then. Up where there’s no guards, then down through a top-floor window.” Tom clapped Dog on the shoulder. “You think you can climb that drainpipe?”
Dog eyed the indicated route. “I am willing to try, but I am no great climber.”
“All right then. Me and Agatha will go that way, you wait around the corner here. When we get inside we’ll open that door, and the three of us jump the guard.”
Dog nodded. “That is probably safer. If you can distract him from inside, I can catch him off-guard.”
Tom took the lead. The solid, cast-iron pipe was just right for a hand hold, and in minutes he was dangling clear over the eaves, three stories above the alley below. A quick swing up and over, and he scrambled onto the sloped roof.
A moment later he heard a grunt, and Agatha’s hand came scrabbling at the edge of the roof. Tom lay down and took her hand to help her clear the eaves.
Together they crawled to the front of the building. Tom leaned over as far as he dared. “How about I take you by the legs and you see if you can jimmy the window?”
 “There must be another way.”
Tom shrugged. “Maybe, but we don’t have time to look. This is the easiest way in.”
Agatha peered over the edge. “I just don’t like it is all.”
“You afraid of heights?”
Agatha snorted. “No… I ain’t afraid of anything.”
“What then?”
She hesitated. “Fine, lower me down.” Agatha shucked her gun belt and glared at Tom as if he’d done something wrong. She lay on her stomach at the edge of the roof. Tom lay between her legs, took her knees against his shoulders and wrapped his arms around her legs, then they inched forward.
When Agatha’s waist cleared the edge she took in a sharp breath. “Wait… you sure you got me?”
“Yeah c’mon, let’s go.” Tom tipped her over the side, sliding her thighs against the corner of the roof until she was hanging straight down.
He could feel her moving around, then she twisted sharply, almost out of his grip.
“Agatha, I’m losing you, come back!” Tom hissed.
She squirmed more and kicked him in the face. Before Tom knew what was happening she slithered free from his grip and fell.
Tom scrambled forward and peered over the edge. The window was open and Agatha was nowhere to be seen. He quickly slipped her gunbelt over his own and turned to hang, legs down, from the edge of the roof. His legs slipped through the window, and Tom lowered himself as far as he dared, then swung up, and let go.
He landed on the floor with a grunt. All around him were corridors of shelving and crates, dimly lit by oil lamps at the intersections.
“Hey, who’s there?” A man’s voice.
Tom rolled over and was caught in the beam of a hand-held lantern. Before Tom could do anything, the guard inhaled sharply, grunted and fell to the ground.
Agatha lowered the book she’d hit him over the head with, and glanced at the cover. “Hmm, Crime and Punishment… fitting.”
Tom rolled the man onto his stomach and began to tie him up. “Does it ever seem to you like we’ve been doin’ this a lot lately?”
When the man was securely bound, Agatha strapped on her revolver. She and Tom snuck down to the ground floor, but didn’t see any more guards.
Agatha hiked up her gunbelt and pulled her jacket down to conceal it, then walked up to the door leading outside. “Hide, I got this one.” She flung the door wide. Tom barely had time to duck behind a row of shelves.
The guard on the other side turned and stared at her in surprise. “Who are you?”
Agatha rolled her head to the side. “Why, hello there. I’m looking for my Dog, have you seen him?”
“No ma’am, there ain’t any dogs ‘round here. Who let you—” An arm snaked around his neck, the guard’s eyes bugged, out. He struggled for a moment, then went limp. As he fell, Dog caught him under the arms, and dragged him into a dimly-lit corner.
As he was binding the man, Dog looked up at Agatha. “Looking for your dog?”
She grinned at him. “Worked, didn’t it?”
Tom checked his pocketwatch. “Hecate’s due in about an hour. You two see if that trick will work again to disable the guards on the main door, then get the wagon. I’ll look for the gold.”
The ground-floor search turned up a large shipment of fuel barrels, an array of antique furniture and other miscellaneous items, but no gold bars. Tom did find a large diesel-driven lift however, which meant the gold could be anywhere.
He found it on the second floor at about the same time Dog and Agatha returned with the wagon, and ran down to meet them. He and Dog manhandled the wagon onto the lift. It barely squeezed in after Dog hacked a few extra bits off with his sword. Then they piled crates in front of the downstairs doors so they wouldn’t be caught unawares if Charkart and his men showed.
Half an hour later, they were almost done loading the wagon when they heard the sound of splintering wood below.
“Ah hell! Agatha, you watch the north staircase, I’ll take the south. Dog, keep loading, then get the wagon into the elevator!”
Tom was just scrambling into position, prone at the top of his staircase, when he saw a shadow move. He snapped off a quick shot.
There was a scramble of activity below. It sounded like at least a dozen men.
“Hold fire! Surely we can talk this out.” Charkart’s voice floated up from the ground floor.
“Like hell!” Tom called back. “Last time you tried to sell us off as slaves. If I were a bettin’ man I’d guess you’ve got worse in store this time.”
“Perhaps we can work something out, no need for violence, right?”
A shot from Agatha’s side of the warehouse betrayed Charkart’s words. Below there was a grunt of pain, followed by a low moan.
“I think I winged one!” Agatha called. “How’s that for some violence, you trumped up goose turd!”
A moment later a gun opened up below, six shots in rapid succession on Agatha’s side of the warehouse.
“You okay Agatha?” Tom called.
“Yeah, just grazed me.”
“Enough of this deuced business Charkart! Any one of your men opens up below and you’re going to lose your entire warehouse of goodies!”
Charkart laughed. “Oh yes? And how will you manage that?”
“I was hoping you’d ask!” Tom blasted eight quick shots from his volcanic pistol on the fuel barrels below. The smell of diesel fumes quickly filled the building. “You gonna risk ignitin’ that mess?” Tom shoved fresh cartridges into the pistol’s magazine.
“You heard him men, hold fire…. What do you want? We have this establishment surrounded. There is no possibility of you getting out without going past us!”
Dog came up behind Tom. “The wagon is loaded and on the lift. Do I take it up, or down?”
“Up I guess… We’re going to have to figure a way out from up there. Windows aren’t big enough for Hecate’s lift.”
“I will see what I can do.”
Charkart’s voice came from below again, “What is it going to take to get you out of there?”
“Well now, let me think. Perhaps your boys could all lay down their weapons and let us take them prisoner?”
“You know that will never happen right? Stop playing bloody fool games!”
The lift engine kicked to life as Dog moved it to the higher level.
“What are you up to?” Charkart called. Then, to someone below he said, “Shut down that engine! No not with your rifle idiot, you’ll set the place on fire, take that crowbar!”
Soon after, the clang of metal on metal sounded, and a moment after that, the diesel engine sputtered and died. There was no way of knowing if Dog had made it to the top floor or not. Tom checked his pocketwatch. Hecate was due in another five minutes.
“I am finished toying with you boy!” Charkart sounded anxious. “You surrender now or I will burn this place to the ground myself!”
Tom snorted. “You’d torch your own stuff? Not likely!”
From above came a crashing noise, repeated several times, then a crushing, rending noise, followed by a karumf of heavy weight falling into the street outside. Tom hoped that was Dog working on the escape route. The smashing noises continued.
Now Charkart sounded frothing mad. “You’re tearing my building apart, I see your stratagem now. Well, your precious airship won’t save you! Everyone fall back, outside, and bring those useless guards with you!”
Tom grinned. “Aww, don’t be like that! We were just getting friendly, you gonna run away?”
“If you come down now, I promise I will not kill you!” Charkart sounded composed again, his words clipped and precise. “You have ten seconds.”
Tom checked his watch, Hecate was due in three minutes.
“You’re bluffing!” Agatha called.
“He’s bluffing, ignore him!” she called again.
Tom wasn’t so sure. He got up and ran to Agatha’s position.
“I think he’s serious Agatha. Let’s go help Dog.”
Tom gave Agatha a hand up, and they ran for the staircase.
They reached the top floor and saw Dog had collapsed a large section of wall using what looked like an antique warhammer.
“So be it!” Charkart’s final words were followed by a gunshot and a woosh of flame as several-hundred gallons of diesel caught all at once.

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