Charles slammed into a wall as he rushed around a corner and another member of crew sent him off balance. He cursed loudly and imaginatively.
God damn it Skye
What are you playing at?
Escape, is it not obvious? Came a light German accent as a metallic hand closed around Davenports shoulder and helped him upright once more.
Swiss, whats going on? Davenport asked, having been reassembling his modified Vickers when the fireworks had gone off. He had moved as swiftly as possible to finish the job, which was carried out at impeccable speed due to training and continued practice .
A crazed grin was flashed by the Gunnery-Chief of the Valkyrie before he spoke, his accent causing each W to sound like a V. We go to war! Someone on board has set off signals to the enemy! We have a traitor among us, so maybe some interrogation later yes?
Charles shook his head at Bjorns sick sense of humour. The Gunner seemed all too willing to attack anything that he could get his hands, or explosives, on. He specialised in explosions, firearms andfrom rumours Davenport had heardalso torture. Quite how anyone on board would know that was beyond him, especially as the Count so abhorred violence. Then again, Charles had seen what had occurred when Louis had been faced with adversity on the German Destroyer and his faith in the Captain had been shot a little on that day.
I go to the first floor hatch to provide cover for you! If I know Louis, he will want you to assemble near the deck. Bjorn winked and slapped his good hand on Charles back, almost sending the Lieutenant stumbling forwards as the large-framed German left with a loud chuckle.
As if on cue, Louis de Theudubert could be heard through the speaking tube, speaking loudly and authoritatively.
Lieutenant Davenport, assemble in the front cabin. I will be down there shortly.
Charles shook his head again and straightened the pith helmet on his head, wiping some sweat from his brow before nodding to himself and turning back towards his quarters, and the quarters of his platoon.
As he entered, they were all applying the finishing touches to their kit, checking gas-masks or holstering their sidearms and a few were already stood at attention.
Stand to! Right men, you know the drill! Prepare for a boarding mission! We may need to defend our own ship. I want you all assembled in the foyer in two minutes! Remember, we dont do this only for this ship or for the Captain, but for Queen and Country! MOVE OUT!
* * * * *
It was far sooner than Louis had been expecting when the black ship came into their sights, a frigate on a direct collision course with them from the front, but moving far slower than the Valkyrie. They were only a few hundred yards from a large, dark cloud bank which threw bolts of lightning towards the ground as though it were eager to be rid of them. The Valkyrie was approaching the cloud even faster than they were, but both would be flying alongside it rather than through it, thankfully. A storm that fierce would be a serious risk to either ship, but the Darmanian one perhaps even more. Their ships were much like the German warships although with far newer looking weaponry, resembling nothing more than large iron envelopes with propellers to the rear.
They seek to sandwich us between them and the storm. We must reach them before they reach the clouds! Tabby, increase speed and Steven
wait, where the devil is Steven!? Louis eyes flashed with anger and he turned towards Skye.
He was ill Capn. He was sposed to be back by now
An air of understanding flowed around Louis as he growled and vaulted over the railings, landing with a wince as his right knee twinged, the lack of cartilage usually unnoticeable save a slight limp. He fell into Stevens chair and began pulling levers, pushing buttons and flicking switches, manning the thrusters and also increasing the propeller speed in Skyes place as she would clearly now be manning the helm. The ship lurched forward suddenly, speeding alongside the lightning storm until they were almost clear of it. Louis cut the thrusters and lowered the speed so that they would come alongside the Darmanian ship perfectly in time to loose their cannons.
They are no better equipped than we are and they are a little smaller than us. I must admit, I am disappointed
still, the information we can gain from their officers will be incredibly useful! Not to mention Genevieve will love the chance to study their tech- Louis eyes widened as from the starboard side, erupting from the cloud of electrical current came a larger warship. The Darmanian corvette began to pull alongside them and the Count cursed himself, knowing that he should have considered this before rushing in. His emotions were blinding his judgement and his famed intuition.
Louis grabbed a speaking tube and shouted into it, SWISS! STARBOARD NOW!
The corvette finally finished its emergence from the cloud, a large metal net-like construction on the back being continuously struck with lightning which seemed to filter directly into the ship. Much like the Valkyrie, the prow began to open and from it folded a large rod with a copper coil wrapped around it rather than the Teleforce Cannon that the Valkyrie was equipped with. The bulbous tip began to crackle as current began to flow through it.
Before the Count had managed to warn his crew, a large bolt of electricity burst forth from the tip of the corvette, slamming into the front of the starboard side of the ship, flames leaping from the wound which had been caused. He thought to alert the ships damage control teams, but he knew that his crew would know to put out the fire and seek to seal the gaping hole as quickly as possible, but that would be a major loss to resources and to his numbers. The enemy frigate pulled alongside the port just as a volley of fire erupted from the starboard, peppering the corvette with a few small holes but nothing substantial. Seeing the ineffectiveness of the last salvo, Louis knew it was time to change tactics and that mercy could not be shown.
Use explosive or pressurised rounds! Use deadly force! FIRE AT WILL! BOTH SIDES!
A few shots came forth from port, causing greater damage to the frigate than they had managed to the corvette. From the lack of damage, Louis could tell that the rounds had not been switched, so were less effective than they could have been. They had pre-loaded the cannons it seemed...
Despite the furious exchange of gunfire, both enemy vessels drew up alongside the Counts ship. From small, squat cannons on the opposing decks, grappling hooks were fired into the Valkyries hull from both sides. The cannons from the enemy vessels fell silent as they began to slowly pull themselves in tightly against the Valkyrie. If they had only kept the mini-dirigibles deployed they might have seen this coming, or if Louis had taken his time to move alongside the cloud-cover that the corvette had been hiding within
Orders? Skye asked, snapping him out of his thoughts.
Louis looked out over the ships as he realised the Darmanians were boarding.
Remain behind for a short while. When a few more of them have gotten on board, fire the thrusters. We might be able to break free and the more of their crew we have on board here, the fewer they have to effectively follow. As soon as we are clear of their hold, place another pilot at the helm and get downstairs. We need to defend our ship! The Count wasted no time in opening the hatch and sliding down the ladder, moving along the familiar corridors swiftly with his left hand on his Paralysis Pistol and the other on the hilt of his boarding cutlass. Being ambidextrous had its uses!
Two members of the engine crew ran passed him, heading for the hatch and he shouted to get their attention.
Get back to the engine rooms! Guard them with your lives! If they break the engines or get their hands on what Genevieve rigged, we are in extremely bad circumstances. Louis nodded as they saluted and ran back in the opposite direction and he continued on his way.
* * * * *
Prepare to repel boarders! Hold them at the doors! DO NOT LET THEM INTO THE SHIP! Davenport ordered the platoon in the main cabin, a line of ten men crouched not far behind the door with their main firearms pointed at their enemy, firing randomly as soon as their weapons were loaded. It was clear from the bodies outside the door that the first firing line had done their jobs effectively. Another line of ten stood behind them, now firing their first round. As the enemy vessels had drawn alongside, Charles had realised the chances of making a successful defence were slim with attackers boarding from both sides and he also had no wish to be caught in any crossfire. He had decided to form his men up around the main doorway to the interior of the vessel and hold the line there. That way his men were protected and could concentrate their fire.
Davenport aimed his Vickers carefully and fired, a chloroform canister sailing through the door and into the face of a Darmanian, knocking him back violently while the noxious gas began to spill onto the deck of the ship. The platoon were bottle-necking them, minimising the threat from the enemys far greater numbers. This would be the best way to hold them, but with the amount of Darmanians that were now pouring onto the deck, they would need to break formation soon or risk losing the entire front line to the sabres of the enemy.
Fall back! Line the halls at each corner and hold them off! Charles shouted, his men each firing a last shot before moving back, this giving their comrades cover before they broke in pairs and moved alone the corridors, reloading as they crouched around corners with only their rifles and faces showing to aim effectively and make sure they did not shoot their own men.
Charles was doing all he could to cover his men, but as their number lessened, it was harder to keep the enemy at bay. He shouldered the Vickers and instead pulled a pistol from a holster at his hip, firing with incredible accuracy as each barrel of the Pepperbox turned, locking into place before the next shot was fired. He had six barrels before he needed to reload, but that was not enough for this position and as he stepped back towards the door, one of his men stood and turned away from the deck. He took one step before a blade suddenly erupted from his chest, breaking though his ribs with terrifying ease. His eyes widened and seemed to be staring almost accusatorily at Charles, but then, that might have been the commanding officers guilt amplifying the situation as one of his men slumped to his knees and then fell forward with a grinning Darmanian behind him. He placed a boot on the mans back and pulled his sword from the soldier before raising his face to the lieutenant. He wore a gas mask which surprised Charles as this meant they must have been ready for the chloroform. Clearly the informant had leaked more than just travel plans to these bastards!
The lieutenant lifted his pistol and a bullet tore through the gas mask in the centre of the forehead, causing grey matter to splatter over the clear window behind the Darmanian before he too fell onto the lush carpet.
Charles backed into the corridor, firing two shots quickly before he rounded the corner and threw himself against the wall, dropping down into a crouch behind one of his men who fired then charged around the corner. More than one Darmanian must have come through
Davenport reloaded quickly and leant around the corner, firing three times in succession with each shot counting perfectly and taking down three of their number before he ducked back into cover.
A member of his platoon covering the other side of the corridor turned to shout to him, his voice muffled behind his mask.
"Sir, what do we..."
The lieutenant flinched as a shot fired from a hidden assailant hit the young private between the eyes. The man slumped sideways to the floor without a word and did not move again. Charles swore loudly and looked around; he was losing men and ground, this was not going well and now he feared for the ship as he had not been able to cover the ladder and the hatch that led up into the floor above. He was angry now, very angry! The enemy would be loose now aboard the Valkyrie now having forced the doorway. It was up to him and his men to drop as many as possible!
Suddenly the entire ship lurched forwards, feeling like they had just hit a skystream.
In reality, Skye had hit the thrusters, tearing them free of both ships and away at high speed. She smirked as she watched more than one Darmanian fall over the edge of the railings, another few beginning to swing aboard only to be wrenched from their lines. The tethers held hard for a few seconds before some snapped and some simply tore panels from the HMS Valkyrie. She winced at the horrible cracking and the sight of broken ropes whiplashing back onto their respective ships, tearing limbs and ending lives from the violence. They would have enough fuel to keep this up for only a few more minutes, which would put them out of range of enemy cannon-fire at least. The goal here was not to destroy the Valkyrie, that much was obvious or they would have been blown out of the sky by now! The enemy sought capture and subjugation rather than destruction.
Louis had only reached the floor above the cabin when he was knocked to the floor by the thrusters of the ship, sending him sliding backwards into a wall which knocked the hat from his head. He lifted it and pulled it back onto his head as he drew his weapons, the corridor before him would double back on itself and then would lead to the hatch. He needed to get to the front lines! An explosion to his right sent Louis slamming into the left wall, his ears ringing as splintered wood crashed around him, smoke and dust clouding his vision. The Telescopic Diagnostician began to focus and unfocus rapidly, disorienting him somewhat before he heard a familiar cackle and realised that Bjorn must have been on the other side of the wall which was now virtually non-existent. That meant at least that Swiss had been guarding the way onto this floor at least.
With his ears still ringing, Louis stepped over the fractured wall and into the smoke, a metallic arm swinging through the air towards him only to be blocked by the blunt side of his sword.
Cease Bjorn! Louis shouted desperately.
Captain, my apologies. They are everywhere!
Swiss right eye glinted in the faded light, glowing blue suddenly to illuminate his own vision. The Telescopic Diagnostician did not have such a function, but did suddenly begin blinking as a cross-hair appeared on the lens to his right. The Count threw his entire weight to the right suddenly, crashing his shoulder into the face of a Darmanian wearing a gas-mask who stumbled back and fell into the darkness. Louis could only see the mans legs so without thinking, stabbed his cutlass into the tender calf, before pulling it free to slam it into the mans throat as he stepped forward. This was not the way he operated, but he could not see to aim the Paralysis Pistol well enough and to only wound one of these men would mean they would still be a danger to him and his crew.
Gunfire erupted near Louis head and he realised that Swiss had fired his four-barrelled shotgun ahead into the gloom, causing a loud grunt to come from somewhere in front of them followed by two bodies slumping to the ground. Swiss rotated the barrels and fired again, causing a loud scream and another dead Darmanian. The cartridges ejected as he snapped the shotgun open and began to reload it, clearly not with the rock salt that he usually used when on a mission with the Count, but desperate times called for desperate measures and the Count had given his permission.
Captain? Amelia rushed along the corridor from behind them and Louis turned to stare at her.
Amelia, get back to your room, lock and barricade the door! You cannot be here! This is no place for you!
This is no place for anyone, yet you are all here! She shouted quickly in return, lifting the front of her skirts a little to pull a small Deringer flintlock pistol from a red leather thigh-holster concealed high upon her leg. She lifted it and aimed it at the Counts face, her eyes narrowing in anger at him. So, was this their betrayer!? Louis had not been expecting this in the slightest but neither he nor Swiss had time to react as she pulled the trigger with a small yell.
Louis blinked and then turned around, watching as an assailant slumped to the floor, a single gunshot through the centre of the forehead ending his life.
I know how to use a pistol Count! She told him, causing Louis to let out a small chuckle.
Indeed! You have earned your keep today Miss Hawkesworth, but that pistol carries one round and I doubt you have spare ammunition concealed anywhere within those skirts. Go back to your room and do it with pride! The Count smiled warmly and it was perhaps that last gesture that broke down Amelias defences. She opened her mouth to say something before she nodded and turned, running back as best she could in her boots.
I think we just had our lives saved by an accountant
a woman accountant! Swiss stated with distaste as he finished reloading the shotgun and snapped it shut before looking to one side. This corridor ran in a large square around a storage room, meaning that from the hatch, there would be this corridor and another on the other side.
Do it, I shall remain here. Louis nodded to him and Swiss grunted in reply before following the hallway around a corner.
* * * * *
Genevieve smashed another man in the face with her wrench before using its immense weight to her advantage, continuing the arc so that she span on the spot and the blade slashed through a mans thigh, sending him crashing to the floor writhing in pain. A dagger flew through the air past her head and landed in a mans throat with enough force to cause him to buckle behind it, his legs lifting into the air almost comically as he fell to the floor.
Dont get me wrong, Skye said, pulling two more throwing knives from the belt at her waist, I aint got no love for you. Youre a stupid little rich bitch who pretends to be lower than she is. You aint got no clue what its like to be on the streets, to be wivout anyone ta care aboutcha.
Skye leant in dangerously close to Gen and scoffed.
But youre still a member o this crew. So try ta keep yourself alive aristocrat.
Im not a bloody aristocrat anymore! I gave that shit up ages ago! Gen spat back, the handle of her wrench ploughing into a Darmanian womans stomach before she twisted her hands, sending the head into her opponents nose, shattering it.
It aint a choice! Skye shouted back, slashing through the air to slice a mans throat open before kicking him aside and throwing the dagger into another mans chest. She pulled her prized knife from her boot, the serrated edge suddenly coming up to Gens throat. Youre a toff, yalways will be. Ive eard you wiv the Captain. His lovely little rich girl aintcha? Then a street rat when he aint here? Ha! Youre a spoilt little brat wiv daddy issues who ran away from home an almost cost Louis his arm!
Gens eyes widened as she heard that. She had always felt extremely guilty about Louis rescue of her, when he had caught that rope and it had torn through his skin, it had also wrenched his arm from its socket and damaged the muscle a little. He was lucky there hadnt been permanent damage. They had been unable to pop his arm back into place because the effort needed to do so might have done more damage to his forearm. It had been days that he had suffered with that pain and he still had scars from it as a constant reminder
Which was probably part of the reason that he wore the vambrace on his right forearm that connected to the Telescopic Diagnostician.
Gen could still hear Smith, the then first-mates voice, I hope you were worth the trouble girl!
Tears welled up in Gens eyes now and she slashed through another man, severing his trachea before she forced Skye against the wall.
I cant help where I was born! It wasnt my fault you werent born into the same kind of family I was! Its not my fault that I was born into a well-off family! What do you want from me!? Gens eyes narrowed and she breathed heavily.
Skye stabbed her blades into the wall behind her and grabbed Gens waistcoat, throwing her backwards before she caught the handles of her knives once more and stepped toward the engineer.
I want ya ta be thankful for where ya came from ya stupid bitch! Skye erupted suddenly, anger washing over her features. Ya pretend youre like me! I didnt want ta fend for myself! I didnt want my mum ta die! I didnt want my dad ta beat me day after day after day! I didnt want to have to run away cuz I feared for my own life from a man what I loved more than anyfing else! But here you are, pissing off from a real family, a rich family, a family that coulda offered you everything!
Gen was taken aback and her mouth hung open in surprise for a minute before she spoke, I
I didnt know, I
Skye looked up at Gen, tears filling her own eyes now.
Just stay the hell away from me. ALWAYS stay the hell away from me! An maybe someday youll realise how terrible a mistake ya made running away from a family that actually cares about whether ya live or die!
Skye kicked a chair, sending it crashing into the wall as she pulled a previously thrown dagger from a dead mans chest, sliding it back into the holes on the belt at her waist as she walked out of the room, leaving Gen feeling less than three inches tall.
* * * * *
The smoke was now beginning to clear and Louis knew he needed to get further ahead of Swiss as being this close to him would only impede the Germans firing capabilities with such a large weapon. He tried to assess the situation as best he could. Garbled reports were coming in over the speaker tubes, the enemy were inside his vessel and Charles platoon was taking losses trying to stem the tide. Much more worrying to the Captain were the damage reports that were coming in. With all of the crew repelling the boarding action, there were none available to put out the fires and repair the damage threatening to overcome even this sturdy vessel.
The Count ducked down and rounded a corner, seeing the hatch open in front of him with only the light of the lamps on the floor below to show him where it was. Still yards from it, Louis knelt, holding his right arm horizontally in front of him, cutlass still in the hand so that he could rest the pistol on top of it, steadying his shot. As a Darmanian rose through the large hole, Louis pulled the trigger and nothing happened. His eyes widened and he pulled harder, aiming steadily before the side of the gun exploded, pressure having built up within it. The barrel was clogged and the paralysing agent within it had now splashed all over the Counts forearms and left leg, causing him to slump over against the wall before he forced himself to his feet. He was now almost entirely reliant upon his right leg, the damaged leg, and his arms were quickly becoming numb and useless to him.
The Darmanian charged at him and Louis lifted his right hand, blocking a slash from the mans sabre before the blade was knocked from his grasp. Even through the gas-mask, the Count could have sworn he saw his opponent smirk as he plunged his blade through Louis abdomen, twisting before he pulled it back, wrenching it free from the Counts flesh. Louis eyes widened and his vision blurred as he feebly lifted his hands to the wound in his stomach before the paralysing agent combined with his quickly draining strength caused his hands to fall to his sides. He fell to his knees, looking up at the man in front of him who pulled off his mask and was grinning broadly. His long, single braid of hair was freed from the straps at the back of the mask and hung down limply on his shoulder.
The last thing Louis saw before his vision faded to black was that the man was clearly British, not Darmanian.