Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day Eight-Hundred-One: Evasive Maneuvers

The Sky Bitch arrived in the combat zone before anyone was prepared to fight. Having consulted carefully with the rats via Dragomir, as well as through their map, Libby expected to have two more hours before she ran into trouble, and remained in the clouds to keep out of sight. She was deprived of the extra time when the first Non flier hit her airship on the port side.

Caught entirely off-guard, Libby slammed into the control panel in front of her, the wind knocked out of her lungs by the buffet to her stomach. Gagging, she slumped over the controls as the Sky Bitch tilted ponderously to one side. Judging by the shocked gasps and groans from all around the command deck, Libby suspected that everyone else on the ship was faring no better.

The Sky Bitch rocked again, harder this time, and slipped out of cloud cover. Libby clung to the console, her gloved fingers biting hard into the wood as she fought against the urge to throw up and the gravitic compulsion to fly into the glass canopy surrounding the deck. Twisting, she slid to a crouch and rode out the smacks, wincing as the Non flier assaulted her airship over and over.

It took twenty seconds of non-stop attacks before Libby got her voice back. “R… OW… REPORT!”

“We’re bein’ attacked!” Morris yelled as he scrambled to remain upright.

“TELL ME SOMETHING I DON’T FUCKIN’ KNOW!” Libby pointed at the helmsman, a technician from Pubton who had no great aptitude for flying. “TO PORT! SWING US AROUND! GET A LOOK AT THE FUCKER!”

“I…” The helmsman struggled with the wheel, though his thin arms seemed incapable of lugging it in the proper direction. “I… the wheel is locked, ma’am! I don’t think - “

Deciding to take a page from the man’s problems, Libby didn’t give much thought to her next actions. Ignoring the swell of nausea in her gut, she launched herself across the listing deck, knocked the technician aside, and grabbed the wheel. Biceps straining, she wrenched the Sky Bitch around in as tight an arc as she could manage. Shouts of surprise floated up the stairs from engineering as crew members throughout the Sky Bitch’s guts flew into bulkheads and tumbled about in their quarters.

I should install harnesses in this fucker, Libby thought, the sketched plans of her beloved ship floating to mind. Some kinda… I dunno… belt. Keep you in your seat. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea for later.

Though the sky beyond the Sky Bitch’s command enclosure was both dark and cloudy, Libby had no trouble spotting the Non as it came around for another pass. It looked absolutely massive, with a wingspan almost twice as wide as the Sky Bitch itself. Baleful green eyes peeped out of the silhouette of its body, and Libby wondered if everything it saw was tinted emerald. She wondered, too, if she would ever get an answer to that question.

Reaching for a comm tube jutting out of the deck beside the wheel, Libby bellowed. “GUNNERS! MARK IS DEAD AHEAD! PRIME YOUR CANNONS AND BE READY FOR THE NEXT PASS - “

The Non rocketed towards the Sky Bitch, almost eclipsing the canopy before Libby could finish her sentence. She wrenched the ship to starboard, grimacing as the Sky Bitch shrieked in structural pain. Something long and incredibly sharp scored the airship’s side as the Non flitted past, and Libby wondered if her precious transport was venting cargo. She brought the Sky Bitch around again, satisfied that the Non had not damaged the rotors, ready to shout another command - 

- and the Non, flicking upward, came down at the Sky Bitch’s massive balloon. The impact knocked the Sky Bitch downward, its nose pointed towards the ground. Libby’s stomach lurched at the motion - and the sensation only got worse when she spotted the army far below, milling along in huge columns. She only caught a quick glimpse of what lay below the Sky Bitch, but that was all Libby needed to realize that they were floating almost directly above enemy lines.

We shouldn’t be here, Libby thought, gripping the wheel with all her might. They shouldn’t be here. This ain’t right. The fuck have the rats gotten us into?

Though he didn’t say the same, the sentiment was mirrored by Dragomir as he stumbled onto the command deck, a flurry of parchment following in his wake. He staggered against Morris, nearly knocking both of them off their feet, and catapulted himself towards Libby as the Sky Bitch’s helium sloppily balanced the ship.

What the fuck?” Dragomir cried, collapsing at Libby’s feet and clinging to her leg. “What the fuck is going on, Libby?

“DON’T ASK ME, THIS WAS YOUR IDEA!” Libby growled back. She reached for the comms tube, watching as the Non pulled away and wheeled around in the distance. “GUNNERS! FIRE ON THE MARK!”

A chorus of panicky voices acknowledged Libby from various parts of the Sky Bitch, and the thunder of the ship’s innards was abruptly, deafeningly replaced by the roar of a dozen cannons going off in concert. Streaks of smoke erupted from the front of the Sky Bitch, and before they reached their target Libby was already screaming for her gunners to prep their cannons for a second volley, nevertheless praying the first would be enough.

It wasn’t. Though massive the Non was also agile, and if any of the cannonballs actually met their mark the ebon avian showed no signs of slowing. It hurtled towards the Sky Bitch’s canopy at a suicidal pace, growing so large in the viewport that Libby wondered if she’d simply gone blind. Refusing to close her eyes, Libby gritted her teeth and prepared for impact -

- but it never came. Before the Non hit the canopy it seemed to ooze around the Sky Bitch, its body compacting into a sleek bullet that slipped through one of the gaps in the Sky Bitch’s superstructure. The ship shuddered, as though hit by a vicious breeze, but the Non apparently left no damage behind in its wake.

Libby’s eyes twitched. She couldn’t help it. She was faintly aware of Dragomir’s grip on her leg, and of the pinpricking nails of a rat crawling up the arm of her uniform. Temporarily numbed, Libby tried to shake the rat off, but it continued to climb, its presence warming her left side. She abhorred the sensation.

It took a few seconds, and one quick kick, before Dragomir released his wife’s leg. Libby thought she detected the tang of urine on the air, a scent she knew quite intimately, but given the events of the last minute-and-a-half she suspected anyone on the command deck could be to blame. She peered down at her husband, and he peered back, his face surprisingly unafraid. Alert, yes, but not that fearful.

“Uh…” Dragomir gulped. “That… was that… strategy, or…?”

Libby shrugged. “If… uh… if it was, I dunno what the point was…”

But by now the Sky Bitch had quieted, the furor of the action reduced to the dull roar of the engines and the rotors, and Libby noticed the quiet click of sharpened nails on the wood-and-steel deck. They climbed the stairs into command slowly, deliberately, almost gleefully.

“Howdy, boys and girls,” Kierkegaard said as he climbed onto the command deck, the wisps of a green portal clinging to his tail. “Penguin in da house.”  

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