Friday, October 25, 2013

Day Five-Hundred-Sixty: Onward!

None of us realized that the Dauphine was moving until it was too late.

We've lived in this transport for more than a month, now. We're all quite accustomed to the rumble and jostle of its movements. More, we're quite accustomed to sleeping through the rumble and jostle of its movements. Guard duty at night has ensured that we've all slept through the motions of the day at least once or twice.

Not once - not ONCE - has everyone been asleep simultaneously. And, in fairness, after lunch this afternoon, at least one person was not asleep.

The day started off inocuously. No word at all from Grylock, which, I have to admit, I expected. Not wanted, but expected. We toiled away the morning, everybody still feeling and acting tense, and by lunchtime we'd worked up a vicious appetite. Bora served a massive meal of tomato gruel and cheddar loaf, with a side of penguin sorbet. Quite delicious… and we all took special pleasure in gobbling the sorbet. Stupid penguins.

The sleepiness didn't hit us for maybe twenty minutes. Then, in a wave, it hit us all.

Morris was the first to fall. He's a skinny bugger, but Morris loves his food, and he took double rations of the sorbet. Gulped it down with great relish… and promptly passed out, face first, in a bucket of water. We all watched, smiled, laughed…

… until Celine passed out, too. Not as abruptly, nor as volently, but she fell asleep all the same. Curled up on the decks of Subsistence and stayed there.

Then her ninjas fell out of the rafters beside her. Asleep.

More followed. Bora went next, slumping over the bar. Libby nodded off in a rocker, and Fynn, at one moment on a sugar high, immediately descended back to earth and flopped over his mother's knee. Ed stopped mid-song and dropped his lute, Jeffrey nearly tumbled down the stairs to Engineering, Daena carried on kicking as her head drooped. 

As far as I know, I fell asleep last. Too sleepy to panic, mind, but I knew that I'd have to investigate. Immediately after my nap.

Time passed.

But not much time.

I was not awoken by the rumble of the decks, nor the tell-tale sounds of gears clanking in Engineering. No, I was jolted back to wakefulness by an explosion, a deep, unnatural rocking in the hull that spoke of wood splintering and flying outward. And another, and another, and another, bang, bang, bang, sounds so familiar and horrible that I had to take stock.

Eyes struggling to close themselves I shambled about Subsistence, attempting to maintain my footing as the Dauphine rocketed forward at an incredible speed. Libby, zombie-like in her movements, joined me, and so too did a few others, all of us trying to shake off the fatigue.

I couldn't figure out much, my brain clouded as it was, but I did notice one thing almost right away: Daena's moveable platform, normally such an obvious fixture in the Neo Beefiary, was gone. It'd been moved up to Command.

Suffering a few more explosive bangs to the hull, I yelled at the crew to man the guns while I went to Command. Everyone else took up their posts as I stumbled up the stairs -

- and found something I'd not expected. Not from such a timid guy.

Amid broken glass and chunks of flying wood I spotted Plato, wide awake and very alert. He was furiously steering, eyes wide, leaning over Daena's prone form to get at the controls. The queen herself was still asleep, though Plato had pulled the pedals up to her legs to get the Dauphine running at full power. All constraints disabled, he was guiding the Dauphine through the Imperium checkpoint.

I forgot about the stupor affixed to my brain. "STOP!" I shouted, dashing towards him, cringing as a cannonball smashed through a window and decorated the limbs of Daena's tree with glass. Through the open front of the great machine I saw Imperium troops scrambling far below, obviously panicked, doing their best to fight back.

I also felt the Dauphine rise and fall countless times as it ran over big clumps of those same troops. Ouch.

I restrained the crazed Plato moments later, but by then it was too late. The Dauphine had cleared the checkpoint and was charging across the plains of the Imperium, shedding bits of metal and wood everywhere. Somewhere below us I heard Libby below "I HAVE TO FIX THIS FUCKER AGAIN?!", which, in retrospect, was pretty funny. At the time, though? Not so much.

After practically knocking Daena awake (I did not enjoy it, trust me), I ran to the other end of the Dauphine and stared out the window. A fair distance behind us was a tiny, green figure on a boar… behind him, a scrambled-but-reassembling mass of troops…

… and, beyond the mangled checkpoint and the fallen blue banners, a wave of black. A much bigger wave than the one which swallowed Villeinville.  The troops turned back to counter it; I don't envy them their chances.

Shaken and angered, I picked Plato up off of the floor and slapped him in the face. "You FUCK! What the hell were you thinkin'? We coulda all been killed!"

Plato stared at his feet. Tears dripped off of the end of his bill. He said nothing.

"Fuck." I shoved him away, then pointed to Ed, who was just coming up the stairs. "Get him outta here. Lock him up somewhere. Away from Command."

Plato went of his own accord. Ed tailed him. As far as I know, Plato hasn't made any move to leave his room since. I don't know that I'll be letting him go anywhere for a while, and I doubt he'll press the issue.

We're across the border. The Dauphine's in terrible shape. We've taken shelter in a canyon; Libby isn't optimistic about the chances of getting us running at full speed again. Grylock - who took a while to catch up, and whose first words were "What the shit, ye fuckin' gits?" - assures us that the checkpoint has other things to worry about before it sends troops after us. (Though he was oddly upbeat about their chances of holding back the Non. Guess the Imperium's got good training programs.)

If Plato can sense the Non, then, I guess he did the right thing. I guess. But he also somehow drugged us and made a heavy decision for us, and nearly got us killed in the process. Hell, he has no practice driving the fucking Dauphine. He could've driven us into a canyon by accident. Lotta good that would do everyone.

I don't know what to do with him. He's timid, yeah, but he makes some pretty fucking bold decisions when he feels the need. He may have delivered my son… but if he puts Fynn in danger again, or Libby, or… or…

I just don't know what I'm gonna do.

At least we're across the fucking border,

Dragomir the Aggrieved

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