[This is based loosely on (oddly enough) an impromptu costume party that happened last Halloween. A few friends and I decided to go to a costume contest in their hometown, and being a bunch of nerds (i.e. awesome) my friends are the kind of people who keep a closet devoted entirely to costumes and props. I felt compelled to come up with a story behind our ragtag band, and I regret nothing. I’ll have to write more stories about this group to show off the intrepid captain who unfortunately does not make an appearance here and maybe characterize the crew a tad more.]
Prime Minister Andrew Harkins sat in his office, across the desk from a heavyset balding man in an naval uniform. Air Marshall Rawlin’s was shouting. Not at Harkins, he would never do that of course, but they were old friends and he felt comfortable shouting in Harkins’ presence. He was ranting about the Baltics. This past week, raiders had attacked the fifth supply ship of His Majesty’s Imperial Merchant Navy over Lithuania. These barbaric nomads had migrated down from the Urals in the past year, and were infesting nearly all of Eastern Europe. Intelligence from Russian claimed they had very nearly burned Moscow on their way west. Not that Harkins gave a damn about the Russian’s problems, but now the raiders had moved into to the Baltic coast. They were looting Imperial holdings, and fomenting rebellion among the locals. Harkins listened Rawlins rant intently.
“I know they’re receiving help from the locals now!” he bellowed, “I told everyone we were giving the Baltics too much freedom and here’s the proof of it! You can’t disappear a flyer squadron in a minute flat unless you have an experienced ground team. And where did these barbaric vagrants even learn to fly them!? I tell you they’re helping the raiders and we need to send them a message!”
“What message is that Air Marshal?” Though Harkins was sure he could guess.
“I want the Crown to untie my hands. There is an Eclipse class battle group over Finland, doing little more than terrifying Russian farmers. Let me take her down along the coast. Let me remind these inbred Baltic bastards what it means to aide enemies of the Empire!” Rawlins pounded the table, ostensibly for emphasis, but the gesture was too rehearsed to have the desired effect. Rawlins was making a show because he feared the King would eventually give the task of pacifying the Baltics to his favored Hussars, but the old airship commander was dying for action. He was feeling neglecting by the Crown, and by the Chief of Staff (who himself had come up a Hussar). This could be Rawlins chance to finally use his shiny new Eclipse battle group.
Of course, although his request was motivated by self-interest, he wasn’t wrong either. The airships would certainly achieve the desired effect once it darkened the sky like its namesake suggested.
“I will take the matter before His Majesty this evening when I see him,” Harkins said.
“With your support?” Rawlins asked hopefully.
“I think so,” Harkins said over a firm handshake, “How soon can you move the battle group?”
“I can send word right away, and they should be ready to move before the week is out. Within a fortnight from now they can be over Lithuania and ready to begin pacification.”
“Excellent. I think His Majesty will-” Harkins sentiment was cut short by an earth rocking boom that threw them both from their feet. Books and papers on the shelves lining Harkins’ office were ejected out into the center of the room by the shaking of the building. As Harkins collected himself and helped Rawlins to his feet, a dozen red coated soldiers burst in through the doors.
“What’s going on?” Harkins barked at the one in command.
“A gas explosion my lord, down in the basement, we have to-” The guard was cut off by another explosion. This one was closer. Somehow Harkins managed to keep his feet this time, and to support Rawlins from tumbling down again. The guards grabbed Harkins and Rawlins and began rushing them out and to safety. Three times they had to change route due to fires cutting off their normal escape routes. Fortunately, these types of situations were planned for. Even three cut off routes still left them with a perfectly safe route out of the building. Their path led them down a long hall towards the back of the building, lined with windows that overlooked the Thames. There was a stairwell at the far end that would take them out to the street, and to safety. The third explosion came from the windows, and while it wasn’t quite as large an explosion as the first to, it was close enough to knock all of them from their feet. The Guards recovered first, weapons in hand, as the small flyer that had fired at the window opened it’s hatch and discharged a band of attackers.
The first was clearly one of those damned barbarian raiders. All fur pelts and guttural battle cries as his disruptor spat fiery death into the hallway. He yelled and leapt from the flyers wing through the gaping hole to the hallway. The guards fired back with their own disruptors and hit the brute at least twice, which seemed to slow it only slightly. Three soldiers were down before the raider hit the floor. The second attacker was stranger than even the barbarian. Harkins thought he was imagining things when the slim man in full maille and tabard leapt across the gap and into the hall. Covered by fire from the brute, he landed unscathed and rushed to the closest guard. A war hammer crashed into the soldier’s head before his disruptor could be turned to the stranger in ancient armor. Third to emerge from the flyer’s hatch was a Hessian with an ocular prosthesis, a bushy beard and a mustache. Standing on the wing of the flyer, he lifted up a repeating disruptor to his shoulder and unleashed it upon the remaining guards. Between the two in the hall and the one on the wing, the guards were all dead in less than a minute.
Only Rawlins and Harkins were left alive, having taken cover behind some of the rubble that had been the wall. A fourth member of the motley crew of attackers emerged from the flyers hatch. A woman, dressed in immaculate coat and duelist’s breeches with knee high boots. He hair was cut short, and her demeanor as she passed the Hessian and made the short hop over to the hallway was one of regal patience. At her hip was an ivory handled rapier and similarly handled pistol. She approached Harkins and Rawlins where they hid.
“Minister Harkins,” she announced professionally, “You will come with me please.”
Rawlins stood. Placing himself between the woman and Harkins. He drew the sword he carried for decoration more than anything else, but he held it towards the woman with intent to defend the Minister. The woman frowned.
The barbarian grumbled something completely unintelligible to either Harkins or Rawlins
“I shall be quick,” the woman said, drawing her sword. She adopted a fencer’s stance and saluted Rawlins, “I already know your name, but I am Carol Lovac. Prepare yourself.”
Rawlins lunged at her. It was over in seconds. The woman shifted half an inch, let the Marshal’s blade slip past her, and took one step forward. Her blade went right between his ribs and into his heart. Rawlins went limp, and Carol pushed the Air Marshall off her blade and pulled a small handkerchief from her coat pocket.
“Take him,” she said as she cleaned her blade. The barbarian and the man in maille grabbed Harkins. They dragged him to the edge and tossed him to the Hessian who shouted back to them.
“See you again on Wight. Viel Gluck,” he called over the sound of the flyer’s engine spinning up. He shoved Harkins into the hatch, sealed it behind himself, and Harkins felt the flyer take off like a bullet.
I like the approach you take to telling the story, and the world sounds interesting. I also would like more stories set here. 🙂
That said, it felt like the story itself was less carefully put together than the Tale of Ayla stories I have been reading. I noticed far more small mistakes in spelling and grammar, and something about it felt technically sloppy, like you spent less time polishing it.
I do feel like the dialog was delivered much better here than in the Hole horror story.
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It’s true, this one was not a very polished story. The second part is much better, and the spiritual successor to the Raiders story, The Flying Squirrels, is a much Much better work in my opinion. Which is probably why I’m starting on part 11 of the flying squirrels story, and the raiders one has been left derelict after part 2.