See: The storm that lit Fires for events leading up to this story.
The Office was huge, and very different compared with most offices that Leo had seen. It looked like a rich man's office with a large carved mahogany desk in the center and matching furniture spread about.
The decor was nice, but messy. The large desk was stained with little drops of grease, much like the rest of the furniture.
Little robots and parts were scattered around the room, some moving in little functions with cogs turning, some just lying in a junk heaps spouting steam. Even with the robotic parts everywhere, the room itself retained a managed look.
From what Leo had heard about Lucas Merriwether Buford, the room was a perfect fit. Everyone knew tale that Lucas Buford was so obsessed with the mechanics of his dolls that he built a business devoted to automatons. People also say that Lucas talks to his lifeless robots as if they were his children; Maybe those rumors were true. Leo had to wonder though, what would a man of business in robots want with him?
As Leo got closer to the large table, he got a better look at the master engineer. He was a youthful adult of a man with short blond hair and a light golden goatee. He was dressed in a fine dress shirt with a dark purple pinstripe vest; his jacket was tossed over a chair on the right. He was sketching what appeared to be automaton schematics with his left hand.
Lucas was so drawn with his work that he did not notice Leo, as he stood by the desk. A long awkward moment passed before Leo faked a cough to reach for the man’s attention. Normally Leo would be more loud or obnoxious but he was trying to remain professional. Doing a job for Lucas could prove to be a huge opportunity.
“Wha’?” Lucas said as he looked up from his work.
He noticed Leo standing in front of him. He brushed away some smaller gizmos and a few other things from his desk and sat up from his chair.
“Apologies, I get caught up in my work. Captain Leo I presume?”
“Yes,” Leo said as he reached out his right hand for a handshake, “At your service-”
When Lucas raised his hand to shake, Leo noticed that it was no normal hand! It was large and robotic! Made of what appeared to be wood with springs and other assortments of mechanical engineering! Leo was so surprised he took a step back, clutching his own right hand to his chest, as if he were protecting it.
Lucas chuckled at this.
Does this happen all the time? Leo thought to himself but it seemed unlikely. Lucas was a man of industry, he must sit down with businessmen daily. Maybe his hand even helped his business by making an impression with those he does business with.
“Apologies, again,” Lucas chuckled, “It’s been with me for so long I hardly notice it, let alone remember that it might be strange and new to others.”
He then gestured Leo to have a seat. Which he did reluctantly, for he was still tense.
Once Leo was seated Lucas continued, “I Have a very important job for you. You see, I have been working on a lot of projects recently, like medical technology for example. Recently I’d unintentionally upset a few of my... customers. They went to the government and had them commandeer all of my prototypes and research.”
Leo raised and eyebrow, a subtle message for more details.
“A man by the name Charles Button,” Lucas explained, “has been a problem to my business for a some time. He works for the Engineers you see, strong ties to the government. He works a great deal in other industries. An inventor like myself, only he has more government pull. I am most certain that he got ahold of my prototypes and research notes! He built a machine using my prototypes and called it his own! You should of seen it, his 'auto-clinic' had my style all over it!”
Lucas slammed his robotic fist down hard on his desk in frustration.
"And what would you have me do Mr.Buford?" Leo said, cutting to the chase.
"I want him removed."
“I’m no hitman, Mr. Buford.” said Leo.
"Oh, I never said anything out killing him. Just... removed and gone."
"Do you want me to bring him to some isolated island? Maybe put him on Adele?" At this point Leo was being sarcastic.
"Listen, however you want to do it is fine by me! I just want the petty thief out of my life, and punished for thinking he could steal others inventions to call his own!"
“I see,” said Leo, “Alright, what else can you tell me about this man?”
Lucas gave all the information on Charles Button that he had. Leo found out that Charles Button was of a Knight of the Engineers.
Knights were a rank and a strong one at that. Not a Knight like back in the monarchy days, but simply a man with government honors. This man had so much power he employed bodyguards around the clock. Charles Button had more security than a god damn bank.
Getting at him was going to be hard. Leo needed to think of a time where Charles would have his guard down, where Leo could get to him easier. Leo noticed a colorful sheet of paper in a pile of more ordinary papers by Lucas’s robotic right arm.
“Would you mind if I see that paper?” he asked.
“Not at all,” replied Lucas. He handed the sheet to Leo, “It’s an invitation to Gearford’s big yearly ball, a month away.”
“Who is going to be there?” Leo stared at Lucas. Leo had a plan forming.
Lucas looked at the young captain, puzzled.
“It’s mostly going to be the old nobles, rich, men of industry, high upper crust intellectuals and Technocrats...” Lucas’s eyes grew wide as he caught on to Leo’s idea, “Yes, I see what you’re thinking. However, there is one flaw. You need invitation to get in.”
“I'll just take yours. A invitation to a ball for your rivals disappearance, it’s more than a fair price to pay; Is it not? Well that and my overall payment.”
Lucas nodded at Leo accepting the offer.
Leo stood up and began pacing back and forth in front of the desk, “With this I also get a guest, but I’m going to need at least one more invitation for a group of four... Do you know anyone else that would have an invitation for me?"
"Yes I know someone who might." Lucas said.
"And you want this done discreetly, correct?" Leo asked to which Lucas gave a nod, "I'm going to need to get ahold of some drugs to knock him out then."
Lucas pondered this in his head for a moment. He took hold of a pen and a piece of paper. He went to write on it but hesitated for a moment.
He looked up at Leo who was grinning at him. Lucas saw Leo better now. Not in appearance so much as spirit. Leo did have the look of passion and experience burning in his eyes. Years of training was visible. Leo did have a sort of swagger about him.
After this quick check of character Lucas wrote down information on the paper and handed it to Leo. “She might be able to help you out with both of your situations. I can trust that you can get this done?” asked Lucas.
“You will never hear from him again. I promise.” With that Leo walked out of the door, through the building and out into the streets.
Aletheia Snow was waiting for him, right where he had left her when he walked into the building. She walked next to him as he opened the note Lucas had written for him.
“How'd it go?” Aletheia asked with a high and upbeat voice. That's what Leo liked about Aletheia, she was a big spurt of positive and high energy.
“Rather well,” replied Leo, giving her a smile.
Her smile brightened up even bigger, and, for a step or two, she skipped, “So? What are we to do now?”
Leo took one last glance at the paper, “We are off to find a shady seller of narcotics by the name of Abigail Beatrix Cromac. ”
The Doll with the Drugs
“Of course there's a Demon, why wouldn't there be a demon?” Leo, whispering his displeasure and irritation to Flint.
The junk store owned by Abigail was a sight to behold. There was a little bit of everything in this shop. Leo could take a week picking through the junk, finding pieces and parts to finish a few of his projects. The junk was almost enchanting enough to forget about the Vibranni. Almost. Leo looked through the junk trying to look as bland as possible to avoid the Vibranni’s attention. Alas, it did not work, the Vibranni walked up to Leo and Flint.
“Hello gentlemen.” Said the Varanni with a colorful smile.
“Fantastic the demon speak English.” Whispered Leo to Flint sarcastically.
Flint didn't look away from the Vibranni. He held eye contact. He had done articles on them for the Ticking Clock on the other races before. They were quick cheap and easy to sell, but not for much. Flint did not have a form of racism toward them but rather a sad feeling, a feeling of lost interest? The feeling of your favorite childhood toy that you find when you are twenty. You can remember how interesting and jubilant it made you in the past, but you can never recall the feelings quite the same as when you were a child. Those times of fun and interest with the toy died out and you can only recall the fact that it did amuse you in the past. These was Flint’s feelings toward the vibranni race.
Leo on the other hand was glaring at the demon. He was sheltered as a child, never seeing a Demon or a Yeti. When he first saw them they were so unworldly to Leo that he didn't know how to feel about them. When Leo started bounty hunting he noticed that most bounties were for Vibranni. Lots of city Vibranni were poor and had to resort to criminal activity.
Leo’s first actual difficult bounty was a demon. A hard one too. This demon had a hard life and let hate consume him, to the point where all he could do was fight and hate everything. He hated Humans for what they do to the world and his people. He went so far as to murder a few humans. Which is why Leo went after him, a hard life is no excuse for cold blooded murder. This demon shot Leo in the shoulder while trying to escape his capture. The Vibranni escaped that day in victory, but not long after Leo tracked him down in a tavern and brawled with him.
“My name is Dimitri, is there any assistance i may provide?” The bright red Vibranni asked. He had his colorful smile on still. His tail swayed controllably. He was dressed in a casual attire, with a puffy white shirt and vest, both opened up so his chest was visible, as if making an offer.
“AND he works here too!” Leo said allowed. Dimitri looked at him, his face suggests bewilderment and possibly offense.
“Excuse my Captain, he’s having a bad day,” Flint lied, “ We are looking for...” Flint dug around his pockets and pulled out his notebook and turned to a page and read it aloud. “A miss Abigail Beatrix Cormac?”
“Why, hello there.” a voice echoed in the store.
The source of the voice came from the countertop across the room. A girl was sitting on the countertop kicking her legs playfully. She was a short girl who was finely dressed. It reminded Leo of the little girl dolls, the ones with the puffy dresses with lots of frills. The girls hair was in a fancy bun in the back of her head with two braided strands hanging down. Even her face had a doll like quality. The only thing that was off-putting was her smile. It was sly. Dolls aren't sly. “Is there anything I may help you with?” She asked.
“Yes,” said Flint, stepping up, something he was used to as a photojournalist, “Are you the owner, miss Abigail?”
Abigail hopped down from the counter and walked over to Flint, standing in front of him. She smiled sweetly at him. “That would be me. Is there anything I can help you find today? Maybe some new parts for that camera of yours? That one looks like it could fall apart in a week!” She said, gripping his hand attempting to lead him away further into the junk store.
“Thats not why we are here...” Flint said. “We actually need help, Mr. Buford said you might offer us some assistance.” Abigail’s eyes grew wide for a moment but she forced them back to a normal look, hiding her surprise. She raised an eyebrow.
“Lucas? Did he now?” She walked over to the door to her shop and closed it. Then she locked it and gave a nod to Dimitri. He walked over and stood in front of the door. No one else was in the store, only Leo, Flint Dimitri and their “host” Abigail. She then walked up close to Leo and Flint and looked at them, taking in their character. “Who exactly are you two?”
“I’m Flint Focus and this is Leo Swift. He's a bounty hunter and the captain of the Caelum Navis,” pointing to Leo.
“See something you like Mr.Swift?” she said to Leo eyeing him. Flint turned and noticed that the whole time he had been talking to Abigail, he had been watching her with intense eyes. Constantly staring at this girl. “Just window shopping are we?” Abigail teased. “Well sorry, I'm not much help unless you need some parts.” she said, twirling around, her dress making a perfect circle.
“This is a front.” Leo said aloud and bluntly. Abigail stopped. She stood with her back to Leo and Flint for a moment then turned around.
"How? Why would you say something like that?" Abigail asked.
"Because I have a keen eye. I'm very smart." Leo said. He then took out the small bit of paper he got from Lucas and handed it to her. "And because Lucas told me so in this note."
Abigail looked over the note and crumpled it up. “Why is Lucas sending folks over here for...?” She said to herself. The friendliness left her tone completely. No more cheer girlish flirty charm. Leo obviously got under her skin. Leo had a knack for doing that. “What do you want?” She asked
"We are after a bounty that will be at the masquerade ball. Our client wants him removed but preferably not dead, that means we need to drug him."
"I see." Said Abigail. "So why should I help you?"
"Because we are getting money." Leo said and then got close to her ear and whispered. “Lots of money....” and took a step back.
“And how much would i get?”.
Leo put his hand out. Flint took a small bag out from one of his pouches and tossed it to Leo. Leo opened it for a moment and peered inside. Then he tied a string around the bag and tossed it to Abigail. She weighed it in her hand for a moment then placed it on her counter.
Abigail walked over behind the counter and pulled out a small vial. She placed the small object on the counter’s top. Leo walked over to investigate the Vial.
“This,” Abigail chimed, “is a drug that can not be tasted or traced and can put a man to sleep for a long while,” she held the vial up to the light. “I’ll go to the party and offer my “Services” to your target and his “friends”. That will give you time to snatch him up? Sound like a deal?”
“I take it you have an invitation then?” Flint asked. Abigail held up her ticket, for the night of fun.
“Capital,” Leo said. “I have someone to be your plus one. I'll need another one of my crew there in the event things get bad.” Plans did have a tendency of going horribly wrong after all.
“Tomorrow you will need to leave with us. We need to go over the plan, this is a big job after all.”
“Where did you even find such a thing?” Asked Flint to Abigail. He was holding up the tonic looking at it curiously. He set it down and held his camera up to get a picture, but Abigail walked over and stood in the way.
“Well darling, we all have our secrets don’t we?” She said as she placed a hand on Flints chest. Right where a key on his necklace hung, he always had that necklace on him. Leo assumed that it meant a lot to Flint. A family heirloom perhaps. Whatever it was, Abigail’s comment made Flint uneasy.
“Come along Flint, we must be off.” Said Leo as they walked out the door. Abigail waited a few seconds to make sure they were gone before diving for the phone. As quick as she could, she got ahold of a dear friend of hers.
“Put me on to the captain please!” moments passed, before a voice came out of the phone device.
“Abigail?” Said the voice from the phone.
“Phinneus” Said Abigail. something is going on, come to Gearford as soon as possible.”
Elegant music, decorations of every color, the aroma of delicate food and desserts circled the room. The masquerade ball was full of cheers and laughter behind masks of extraordinary creativity. If it wasn't for all the rich pricks Leo could imagine himself enjoying this party, but that would have to be a fantasy tonight. He was not here on pleasure, he had a job to do.
Lucas Buford had given a special job to Leo a week ago to dispose of a man by the name of Charles Button. Not only a scientist with a high technocrat job but a man who had stolen secret blueprints to a project Lucas was on, intending to claim the invention for himself. Lucas would've gotten them back using his robotic servants but if they were caught or found then it would give an excuse for the Technocrats to investigate Lucas Buford and his business for a second time.
Charles Button was turning out to be the hardest target Leo had ever hunted. Button had bodyguards around the clock, ones that would just love bashing Leo’s skull in with a ratchet. The bright side was that all this intimidation gave Leo an opportunity to try something new, something he'd never done before. The very thing that would shock and surprise his crew! He made a plan.
Leo had acquired two tickets to this evening’s masquerade ball. One for himself and one others for his crewmates Dr. White and Nigel Hoffman to attend. Because this party was for the rich and the powerful, Leo needed a team who would be able to play the part. Leo himself had spent his childhood in the kings castle back when the government had been monarchy; he was brought up with all the rich cocky walk and talk.
The same went for William White, or as his professional name: Dr. White. He was the son of Rupert White, the mayor of White Haven. Dr. White would not have to act rich this evening because he was rich. Leo would even bet that Dr. White would see this party as refreshing. doctor White did not get many interactions with the rich after he joined the Calum Navis.
And then there was Nigel, who was not rich. At least he had the discipline and manners of a military man. It was the better choice given the alternatives: Flint, who would be blinding everyone with his camera at the party. Or the ships mechanic, Octavius De Winter, who would have most likely been rolling around in the food while gargling the wine. He was quite the classy man.
Leo walked over by the bar and looked across the room for his two crew members. Dr. White was in his usual attire but with a big white plague doctor's mask. It was his mask for the masquerade ball. How ironic. White found a group of people and began socializing with them to pass the time.
Meanwhile, Nigel was standing by a wall playing with his blue and red mask, being his usual self and not socializing. Leo only hoped that he would not gather suspicion by loitering.
As Leo stood at the bar, he took out his pocket watch and checked the time. 11:20. The plan would go into action at 11:25: that was when Abigail would get here. Leo ordered a drink, a light one, just to give him something to do for the time being. Leo took a sip and then spun the liquid around the inside of the glass amusing himself slightly. He took a sip. He was glad that his golden tinted mask did not cover his mouth.
Leo glanced back at his pocket watch a few minutes later. Now it was 11:26. Leo looked around the room for Abigail, and spotted her over in the far left corner. She was by a table that had around eight men sitting down and making conversation. One of them, sitting down in a chair, was Charles Button.
Charles looked to be only in his early thirties. His black hair was slicked back, complimenting his long, thin face and his sharp nose. He had a pair of small glasses on, apparently too high and mighty to partake in the masquerade theme. Oh well, his funeral. He was wearing a black suit with a brown vest.
Abigail was taking money from one hand and slyly handing something to the men with the other. Leo knew it was spiked Opium, that's what they planned anyway. Abigail turned around after the transaction and walked to another group, then over to Leo. He turned back and faced the bartender. When Abigail came over she did the same, next to Leo.
“So, are they all drugged?” Leo asked.
“Yes, they should fall asleep in about thirty minutes or so.” Abigail said, turning her head to Leo to present him a smile. Like they say, service with a smile. She was obviously proud of her part that she had played and executed so well. Or at least that's how she appeared. It was hard to make a precise judgment on Abigail.
Leo set his glass down and gave Abigail a nod. Now all he needed was something to kill time for thirty minutes. Couldn't be that hard to do, after all they were at the party of the year. Leo turned away from the bar and looked over to Dr. White who was now not socializing, but looking out the large wide windows of the ball room. Leo walked across the room to Dr. White and stood next to him.
Dr. White did not turn his head to acknowledge his presence, instead he kept holding his gaze over the vast city of Gearford. A city that is an oasis in the desert. It also was symbolic of the strength of the people, no matter how harsh the desert is, no matter how hard things get, people can persevere. This city was living proof.
“Are you enjoying your time?” Leo asked. He was grinning, Dr. White knew this. He didn't have to look at Leo to know what his face would be. It was usually a grin, or a smirk.
“I was.” Dr. White said.
“Was? What happened? I thought you would be happy to be reunited with your social class?” Leo said. Leo was concerned with White’s tone of voice.
“I got a bad feeling about tonight Leo, I can feel it in my bones.” Dr. White’s hands were shaking slightly. He also had a sad look in his eye.
“Let’s not ruin our evening yet, try to enjoy yourself!” Leo turned around facing the party, he leaned to Dr. Whites ear and whispered. “Beside, everything is going according to plan. When they pass out all we have to do is grab Button and run. In the meantime do try to enjoy yourself, find a....” Leo looked over towards the dance floor while he was encouraging White to enjoy himself, a sight caught his eye.
There was this lone girl dancing by herself gently. Swaying. She had short red hair and an elegantly curved figure. On her face she had a gold and red mask that matched her long red dress that was grazing the floor. Leo’s heart skipped a beat. This woman enchanted his thoughts. Dr. White wondered why Leo suddenly stopped in the middle of his sentence, he glanced over his shoulder and caught on instantly. Dr. White had seen this happen before. Leo got distracted easily, and quite often. More so when it was a woman.
“Have fun, but we have a job to do, don’t forget.” Dr. White said. Leo gave Dr.White a wink and walked off. “He just has to make things difficult, doesn't he,” Dr. White mumbled to himself. “I need a drink.”
When Leo approached the girl, she stopped dancing and looked him over once. Leo took a step closer and when he did he held his hands out, inviting the girl to dance with him. She took a moment more and took his left hand and placed her right on his shoulder as he placed his own on her waist. And they danced to the music. Gently he would turn and sway with her as they both gazed at each other.
“So,” Leo started. “What’s your name?”
“My name..” She said. She stalled a moment and looked into his eyes deeper. Leo could see her slowly blink, almost like time slowed down to enjoy the serenity of the moment. “Rose.” She said.
Leo grinned. He dipped her over his arm. “My name, is Leo.” he replied. He lifted her back up. Rose let out a small giggle and wrapped her arms around him closer.
“Well then, Leo, what does a charming individual like yourself do for a living?” Rose asked. Leo was caught a little off guard. He could not possibly tell her his job, otherwise she might know what he was to do tonight. But at the same time he did not want to lie to such a lovely girl. “I’m a collector. I get hired to find things of high value that my clients want.” Leo took a small pause, but not long enough so that Rose could respond. “What about you Rose? What does an angel like you do?”
“I’m just here for a friend.” Rose respond. Well doesn't that just burst the boiler, Leo thought. She is already here on a date.
“My apologies.” Leo said as he tried to let go of Rose and exit the dance floor and go get another drink to wash his disappointment down, but Rose held onto him before he could do so.
“Its not like that, he’s not even a friend to be honest.” Leo was still reluctant, not sure if he could trust her words. “Dance with me a little longer? Please?” Her words were mystical and luring like a siren. Leo wanted nothing more than to continue dancing. And so they did, but only for a short time.
Not long after Abigail came over and taped on Leo’s shoulder. Leo and Rose ceased their dancing so Leo could turn around to see what Abigail wanted. She waved for him to get closer so she could whisper in his ear.
“We got a problem.” Whispered Abigail. Fantastic, Leo thought sarcastically. The only thing worse than being interrupted was to find out that there is problem with their carefully crafted plan. Leo gave Rose a apologetic look and escorted Abigail off of the dance floor and over to a empty space by the corner.
“What's the problem!” Leo demanded.
“Those people around Button were not his bodyguards!” Abigail respond angrily but in a quiet tone, she did not want to bring attention to them from the other party members. But they were all too busy enjoying themselves, other than Leo, whose mouth dropped so low in shock it almost hit the floor. It was not in anyway an overreaction though, Abigail did give sleeping poison to all those guests and very soon there were all going to pass out to sleep and possibly not wake up. A dark detail that Abigail “forgot” to tell Leo.
Leo’s mind was racing, there were quite a few ways this situation could go horribly wrong. “Wait,” Leo said. “Does it even truly matter if they were his bodyguards or not? They will all just drift to sleep after inhaling that drug?”
“That brings up our second problem.” She gestured to Charles who was sitting like he was not long ago, although his friends already started to fall asleep and drop. His dose of opium was not touched! He had not participated in their smoke! He watched as his friends passed out and fell on the floor and each other. He stood up and began walking quickly to the door to leave the party.
“Damn it!” Leo cursed. He was NOT going to lose this target! He charged by the bar and vaulted right behind it. Leo scavenged a revolver that was hidden by liquor bottles on the bottom shelves. He quickly checked that there was ammunition in the gun. Seeing there was, he aimed it at Charles Button who was making his exit. As Leo fired his shot, his hand was suddenly forced upwards by a pair of hands so the gun was pointing to the ceiling when he fired.
Everyone in the room panicked, the music stopped, the ladies and the gentlemen gasped in shock at the fired gun. Leo looked over to what would have caused this aggravation. Next to him was a girl in a long red dress with short red hair holding his arm up. Leo tried to make a word but failed, it was like the wind was knocked out of him, which was appropriate because not a second later Rose swung Leo around and threw him at the bar top, making him slide from one side all the way down to the other, all along the way making him crash into bottles and drinks. Broken glass was cutting into his body.
Leo could not believe that girl he took a liking to was now kicking his ass around the bar.
“I'm sorry Leo, this sucks but it’s only business.” Rose said as she walked over to where Leo was. He was laying on top of the bar in a sore state from the throw and the glass. He had been tricked and betrayed. Rose was here for a friend, Charles Button. Rose must be his bodyguard. Besides the bloody injuries Rose inflicted on him by throwing him across the bar, his first thought was that he was impressed. The second one was to light a bottle of gin on fire and toss it at Rose. Which he did. The bottle hit Rose in her left leg with a crash, exploding upward in a cascade of fire. She was fast though, heading immediately to where the bartender kept the water.
As big a threat as Rose was, Leo had a bigger task. He had to make sure Button did not get away. The door that was to be his escape had a big decorative statue blocking it now. Right next to it was Nigel, who Leo could only guess had moved the big statue over there, blocking the door.
There was a crowd of people surrounding Nigel. The people were in a panic, the area was chaos. A few charged at Nigel trying to get past him to the door. Unlucky for them, Nigel had arms as thick as bears and strength to match. Nigel was throwing punches at the attackers that knocked them right out. Leo noticed that one of them was Charles Button who ran quickly up to Nigel and landed a kick to his gut. Nigel recovered quickly and responded in kind, with a swift uppercut that knocked Button to the floor. Button crawled back for a moment and rifled through his jacket.
Leo got a bad feeling and swiftly ran to Charles. It was not fast enough though and Charles pulled out a knife and threw it right at Nigel. Time was slow for a moment, as Leo watched the knife penetrated his friends chest. Leo called out for Nigel. A small amount of blood spurted out of his chest. His mask came undone and fell. He got pale in the face and then dropped to his knees, then to the floor. More blood poured out from him to the floor. Leo quickly moved over to him. Leo could hear nothing around him, only the echoing sound of the knife hitting Nigel. Leo grabbed Nigel’s body and shook him, trying to wake him in Leo’s moment of panic.
A swift pain was brought to Leo’s face that snapped him back to the world around him, there were screams and yells, fire and pure chaos infected the masquerade ball.
Standing Next to Leo was Dr. White. His knuckle was red and sore. It registered to Leo that White was the one who had hit Leo in the face.
“Snap out of it Leo! They're getting away!” Dr. White shouted at Leo. Leo snapped at White and punched him in the chest.
“Screw you, White! Look at Nigel!” Leo shouted in his rage and sorrow. Leo hugged his bleeding friend until White grabbed Leo’s shoulders and forced him off. Dr. White got into Leo’s face angrily.
“Do NOT let them get away with this Leo! It is not in anyway justice if they get away with this!” White could see the fury in Leo’s eyes but also the look of not wanting to abandon Nigel. White took out a syringe from his coat. “Look, Nigel’s not lost to us! I'll help him while you go do what you have to.” White pleaded.
Leo gave a nod to White, and then hurried back into the mayhem that was the ballroom. Leo rushed around people, looking for Charles and Rose. He spotted them by a big broken glass window on the right side. Outside of that window was a large airship made out of wood and steel, obviously some government ship, lowering itself by the building to pick up Charles Button. Leo charged the ship just as Button and Rose got boarded the ship.
The ship was turning itself around fast attempting to get as far away as possible. Leo was lucky enough to be able to jump from the window onto the back on the medium sized ship. Leo climbed his way into the back window of the ship and hopped inside.
To blazes with Button and all that would protect that snake, Leo thought! This ship was not going to land! Leo was going to make sure that it was going to crash and Charles Button would die!
The Storm of Beginnings
Leo glanced around the room where he ended up. It was a supply room by the look of it. To his left were barrels full of food and other assortments, and to his right was a rack of tools. Leo was weaponless but grateful for the assortment of tools around him, they allowed him to improvise. There was no time to dilly dally, he quickly scrounged up a few items to help him fight his way to the ships helm.
A few of the blunt objects looked promising: a ratchet, a hammer and a saw. All very charming contestants. He also found a few matches and rope on the workbench below the tools, both were always nice to have around. Upon further investigation below the workbench, Leo found an object that piqued his curiosity. Sweeping away the dust Leo could make out that it was a nicely crafted box. It had curved trim designs and in the middle of the box was a family crest, a flying bird with a sword in one hand and a book in the other. Leo lifted the cover off and inside was a preserved rapier. Leo unsheathed it and admired the hilt, it was solid gold with designs carefully carved around it. The blade itself was light as a feather and was solid steel. Leo took it and hooked it to his belt.
Before exiting the room Leo grabbed a bottle of wine that was on one of the barrels on the left, and then proceeded to exit the room.
Upon entering the next room Leo made the deduction that he was on an Executive Sand Slicer. The Executive Sand Slicer was a specially designed airship the government made for any situation that required a fast ship. The ship was built to make quick trips. The body itself was thin and shaped like a stretched out triangle so it could cut through sand storms.
Leo could tell it was an Sand Slicer because no other ships had designated storage so close to the sleeping quarters and suites. Normally the utility room and storage area were close to the second floor where the guns were, for easy access to the ammunition.
The Executive modal made some sacrifices for the sake of style. Rooms and floors were mismatched oddly to anyone who’d piloted a ship before. Valuable rooms had to be pushed further down to the lower part of the ship. The perks of this were that the bar was close to the captain's quarters and steering wheel. This meant that this was the path He needed to go.
Leo looked down the hall. It did not seem like anyone was in their rooms, or at least not walking about. Leo made a quick dash from the hallway to the stairs, praying that no one saw him just yet. His arms and back were still in pain from the glass shards, he couldn't handle a fight with a group of people all at once.
As Leo approached the stairs, he noticed a shadow approaching. He hid behind a wooden pillar to his left and peeked ever so slightly to watch who was coming down.
It was a guard. He wore a brown military uniform with a jacket and an ammo pouches across his chest and belt. With his scarf around his mouth like most men in the military, though this kind of uniform was for the soldiers made for actual combat, unlike the more common blue uniforms that are fancy just for show.
Leo realized he was definitely messing with a very important person. Was he just a Technocrat’s puppet or was he something more?
As the shadow approached the bottom step Leo crept a little closer to the edge. When the opportunity was at its best Leo grabbed the man by the neck and squeezed. choking the man to the point where he passed out.
Leo placed the passed out man behind the pillar and continued to move forward in the ship. He snuck past a few other guards and maneuvered himself over to the the door that leads to the bar room. Leo opened the door and stepped inside. The door closed behind him.
The bar room was decently large and decorated with blue and yellow rugs, curtains, bar stools and small tables. The room was mostly empty but over by the main bar there was a figure sitting; Barely moving. As Leo got a little closer the figure spoke up.
“Captain Leo, you don’t give up easily. You leaped into quite an adventure.” The figure turned lightly, Leo still could not make out who this person was. The bigger question was, how did it know his name? Leo noticed the figure had a glass of some kind of drink. “Cheers to you, you adventurous and persistent man!” The figure brought the glass to its mouth and downed it and then tossed the empty glass once more to Leo. The figure turned to the point where Leo could see the face.
“Rose.” Leo said. The ever so charming girl at the dance turned out to, not only be a badass girl, but his targets bodyguard. Tragic. Rose stood up and walked to him. She had changed out of her red dress and now was in white pants, a dry brown shirt and a leather jacket with a bandoleer filled with bullets across her jacket. Leo could not deny, this girl gave him thoughts of a more provocative adventure he would rather be on.
“Its a shame.” Rose continued as she looked into his eyes. “A shame I have to kill someone so cute."
“I'm flattered.” Leo said. “Although this is not business for me anymore, Button made it personal! I'm going to bring Button's head on a silver platter to my own client. We will make a dinner party out of it! Would you like to be my date?” Leo amused.
"I don't think so darling." Rose said as she went behind the bar. She rummaged for a second then hopped out with a sword of her own.
“A sword fight sounds pretty good right about now.” she said. She had a scimitar. A classic Antifordian weapon. She held it with two hands and tilted to the right. Leo recognized this fighting style, It was named western long arm Antifordian style. Leo knew almost all the sword fighting possessions because of Odysseus’s lessons in the past.
Leo positioned his rapier in front of him but with the tip pointed to the ground. A style that was a good counter for hers.
The skirmish swung exactly as Leo had figured it would, with Rose charging and doing a diagonal slash to the right. Leo only had to flick his sword up to parry said attack, but Rose was swift at the recovery. She swiped her arm horizontally attempting to hit Leo’s chest, but Leo was quick himself. He swished his rapier at her face and made a slight cut that put her off balance. Leo took the opportunity to make a fast puncture with the rapier, aiming her chest. Leo did not cause too much damage to her, and Rose only looked up and smiled.
She charged forward again but this time she was holding her sword upside down, the way one would hold a knife in a fight. This was known as Southern Antiford anti push blade style. It was known to blow right through Leo’s style. All Leo could do was block.
There swords collided. Leo was having a hard time having his rapiers sword block against her scimitar.
“Well Leo, Looks like I can get right past your Sword style!” She mocked. She knew the name of his sword fighting style. Leo would have would have to switch sword styles. But he knew that she was an even match for him. She had as much fighting experience as him and a lot of knowledge to go on top of that. “So is this what its going to be?” She said, Pushing harder on her sword, causing Leo to do the same. “Holding each other off? I hate to break it to you dear but I'm better, and I will fuck you up love!"
“Not tonight dear, You have a headache.” Leo coyly said, as he reached in his back pocket where he had the bottle of wine and smashed it over Rose’s head.
Rose was knock out instantly, not anticipating the action. Leo checked he heartbeat to make sure she was not dead. she wasn't. Good thing, of there was one person he wanted to be alive after this trip, it was her. Leo quickly scribbled down a message for her on a piece of paper at the bar and then ran off.
Leo rushed to the deck, trying to make up lost time but when he got up there he was greeted by the night sky and armed guards pointed their guns at his head. Leo found no good way out of this, he raised his hands and surrendered. He would think of something. He had to think of something, he told himself.
Two guards pulled Leo by the arm and forced him to kneel in the middle of the deck. The rest of the guards formed lines to Leo’s left and right, making a pathway for Charles Button to walk from the ships steering wheel, to him. Charles look exactly the same, he made no clothing change, unlike Rose. He still had that goddamn creepy look in his face. As if he owned the world and he had some nasty plans for it.
“Well bounty hunter, hit-man, assassin, whoever you are. I guess you I have you to thank for that Madness at the Masquerade? Who sent you?" Leo did not reply. "It's sad to see that out of all the bounty hunters in the world, whoever they were, sent you?! You're what? seventeen?” Charles said with a dark chuckle.
He passed left to right once getting to the last guard. Grinning and playing with his cane. “Now I just have to figure out, how I'm going to kill you.” He said as he pulled the top of his cane off to reveal a long blade.
“Funny.” Leo smirked. Charles attention was caught when Leo spoke. He bent down to look into Leo’s eyes. Leo returned the gaze. “I was just thinking the same thing about you!” Leo said as he shined a big crazy smile at him. Charles got furious and backhanded Leo across the face.
“What a pathetic attitude you have! You would talk that way to a man of my stature?!” Charles let out a sigh. “We need more gentlemen in this world. But for now it helps just by taking out the filth.” He raised the tip of his blade to Leo’s neck.
Leo looked out to the night's sky. He would never be afraid to face his death, but not by this Buttons hand. Being killed by Button seamed like the worlds last horrible joke for Leo life.
Leo looked out into the sky, his home away from home, he saw a star. It was not a normal start though, It looked darker than the rest. Leo liked it, because it looked like it was moving. And close... In fact it was moving! Leo was going to look at it harder but it proved difficult because at that very moment the star grew bright! Very bright, but it went dark right after. There was a noise, then a BANG! The ship shook!
Leo turned around to look behind him, towards the head of the ship. Guards were running to the location. Something had hit the helm. The guards got close to what looked like a hole in the ship but with a large burn mark. After a few seconds a second Leo saw a lightning bolt hit! Shrapnel went everywhere! Guards all around it when flying back. Well.... the lucky ones.
“What the devil!?” Charles said, a horrified look was across his face. “Is that airship firing lighting!!!” Charles yelled turning every direction, red in the face.
Lighting? Leo was sure that no one could fire lightning as if it were ammunition.
Leo looked back at the light in the sky, It was no star It was a airship. The ship got closer and turned to the right side. A volley of lightning shot out of the mysterious ship, impacting the Sand Slicer. The top side of the Sand Slicer was completely blown off. And from the ships rapid deceleration the lower belly of the ship must of been hit as well as the engines.
Guards were scattered. Some finding cover and firing at the ship. A few were running around trying to repair the ship or simply keep it afloat. Leo noticed that even the guards that were keeping him kneeled down had left. Leo took the opportunity and moved for cover behind a pile of rubble.
What was Leo’s next move? He wanted this ship to go down but not him with it! That sounded horrid. There was also that scummy smug Charles Button to deal with. Leo glanced down the deck and spotted him. He was right at the point of the ship down deck giving orders, turning red in the face from all his yelling.
Leo looked back up deck where the wheel of the ship was. It was still intact. This was good! Leo then looked over the edge of the rail of the ship, being careful not to fall off due to the ships nose plummeting angle. They were over water. Were they heading for Kuu? The land all away across the ocean?!? They must be mad! It would've been highly logical to flee to a city rather than across the world! And now they were going to crash in the water instead of the desert! Lovely! This day got better and better!
All seemed hopeless to Leo until he spotted something at the edge of his sight. It was land. Some island by the looks of it, not too far away either! This was his only hope, his only chance.
Leo rushed up the steps to the top deck and took the wheel in his hand. Pulling hard, fighting the plummeting ship, trying to give its crash some direction. He angled the ship to the spot of land that was a large Island as best as he could! Parts of the ship were flying everywhere! The lighting of mysterious ship still firing on the Sand Slicer! Everything was going so fast. Leo could only hold the the ships direction as best as he could with his diminishing strength. The island approached closer and closer.
One hard hit and five hundred bits of shrapnel was the result of the crash. Time did not have the courtesy of slowing down. Those who were lucky died on immediate impact. Leo was not one. He was tossed off the ship and hit the beach of the island upon crash landing.
He blacked out only for moment but when we regained his consciousness he saw that the ship was torn in four large chunks, with shrapnel from the ship in bits and clumps all around the beach and forest of the island. The men on this ship were scattered all around. Dead as doornails. Lifeless figures in red stains on the ground all around him. Everyone was dead. There must of been a hundred military men and women aboard that ship. This is not what he wanted. Most of the time you need to see your mistakes to understand the full impact of them.
Leo got up. Nothing was broken to his surprise, but each movement felt as though his limbs were being crushed in between two cogs. Leo walked to the west side of the beach, where the front of the ship lay in wreckages. The tip of the deck was pointing up at a forty five degree angle in the air.
The Island had a cold feeling to it. It felt even darker with the crash sight. As Leo walked along the side of the islands forest he noticed that the trees and plants were different. Not that Leo was much of an expert himself being from the Istoki Desert but Leo was sure that trees were not supposed to have a slight glow of greens and blues. He must of hit his head hard.
To make matters worse, Leo tripped and fell on the sand of the beach. Leo felt a razor sharp pain in his left arm when he fell. When he looked over at it he saw a glowing plant popping out of the beach sand. It was a odd looking flower with diamond like leaves and thorns around it, one of which had poked Leo right into his left arm. He pulled his arm away quickly once he noticed but then felt even more light headed. All he wanted to do was pass out.
No. No, He did not have that luxury right now. He needed to find Charles Buttons body, even if it was quite possibly the last thing he would do. Leo eventually made it to the front wreck of the ship. Leo carefully walked up the deck that was at a forty five degree angle pointing out into the ocean. When he was halfway up the pile of wreckage when a figure caught Leo’s attention. There was a body under a large piece of the Sand Slicers rubble. He limped over to the wreckage and lifted if off the body. He looked down. He was right. It was Charles Button. The best word to describe him was broken. his limbs looked to be bent in un-humanly ways and he was bleeding from the skull. Leo bent down to drag him out from the spot when a noise came out of him. It sounded like a chuckle, a muffled one. Charles eyes opened up suddenly and he turned his head and coughed up a mouth full of blood. Once he did his chuckle was more clear. It was unnerving. The bastard even spoke.
“Well bounty hunter.” Charles began but stopped to cough out more blood. “I underestimated you.” He turned his head to look straight into Leo’s eyes. “You're quite the ball of rage and destruction like myself.”
Leo’s blood boiled. He grabbed Charles by his blood stained shirt and pulled him up to Leo’s face. “I’m not like you.” Leo spat. “You're a corrupted crook and a murderer!”
“Look around! I don’t see many survivors do you! That's your own doing!” Charles shouted. He was grinding his evil smile. “Was it worth it? Is killing me and my men worth that money you were promised? Does that justify your actions? That sounds like a played hitman to me.”
“No.” Leo said. “Bringing filth like you down is justice! Your a thief and a killer! And I was going to bring you in alive, but after what you did to my friend... your going to pay!” Leo yelled! Leo then punched him right in the jaw.
“Oh, I am Much more than that kid. And what are you going to do? Kill me? I’m powerful, whoever told you what I was is wrong! I'm much more powerfully than them, you and EVERYONE!” His breathing slowed down. His next words were icy and sharp. “If you kill me, you're going to set off rings of chaos and change the world forever. Is that a choice for you to make? Who are you?!!?”
“Shut up!” Yelled Leo, his fists tightening the grip on Charles chest.
“Just some Kid!” Charles yelled back! Spitting blood on Leo’s face.
“I said SHUT YOUR GOD DAMN FACE!” Leo yelled!
“Just some kid leading a group of children to their pathetic little deaths! WHO ARE YOU, WHO COULD NOT EVEN HELP YOUR FRIEND!” Screamed Charles!
Bloody murder was this pissing Leo off! Charles knew what buttons to press to anger Leo!
Leo cracked. He stopped his screaming and yelling. He went emotionless and released his grip on Charles's chest. Grabbing Charles by his hair, Leo dragged him to the top of the broken deck! All the way Charles was laughing like a mad man coughing up blood on his clothing. Leo’s body burned in pain from every step, each muscle feeling as though it would rip! Once Leo got to the top he took out the rope he had tied around his chest and made two knots. One went around the long skinny piece of metal that was conceded to the tip of ships deck. It stretched out horizontally like a branch from a tree. The other went around Charles's neck. Once it was tight around his neck Charles stopped his laughing. Reality seemed to hit him like it did for Leo. Leo leaned over his shoulder and whispered in his ear.
“I hope your powerful friends find you, and I hope they like your display.”
Charles took one last look into ocean. He saw the beach and the sun just now rising over the ocean casting light onto the shipwreck where the body's of the crew were scattered. Then Leo kicked him off the ships deck and he fell until the rope snapped his neck. Then the powerful Charles's Button got to stay swinging suspended in the air one hundred and fifty feet above ground. It was a sight to see, and one that would be hard to miss if you got anywere near the island.
Leo felt a mix of emotions right after. Mostly pain. The strong feeling overwhelmed him. He fell unconscious, sliding all the way from the deck to the ground. Leo looked up to the sky and saw a bright light. And it was getting closer to him. Then Leo closed his eyes and passed out.
Leo awoke in his bed aboard the Caelum Navis. He took a moment to make sure that this was reality and that he was still alive. He had no memory of what had happened after he hung Charles Button. Leo rubbed his eyes with his left hand forcing himself awake. He noticed that his arm was heavily bandaged, along with a lot of his body.
“You're finaly awake.” A voice said. Leo looked across the room over by where his desk was. There was a man sitting in his chair with a newspaper out. It was lowered past his chin so Leo was able to look at the man.
The man looked to be in his late thirties, maybe even in his fortys. He was a bigger fellow with a dark thick beard. His hair on top was short and he wore a light brown shirt and vest.
The man spoke again, but getting up and walking over at the same time. “We were worried at first, your body was badly beaten up. I had my doubts you'd make it, but you have one hell of a doctor.” The man gave a smile. You don’t see the rare golden smiles often. Four or five in your lifetime if you were lucky. This man had one. One that had a form of self relaxation that reassured Leo that he was going to be alright, and that he meant no harm or ill will. “Fantastic doctor, White. You should feel proud to have such a good friend and a man who know’s his science well. And Your other friend, Nigel. He is well. He required recovery time as well but he is living."
“Who are you?” Leo crooked. His voice feeling very weak
"I didn't exactly leave any survivors myself." Leo said with a guilty tone.
"Things can go unpredictably. Things happen and people die, just be glad they were not exactly innocent." Phinneus said.
“Right. How long have I-” Leo started.
“Been out?” Phinneus asked. “Around a week. And we have to have a chat about that.” Phinneus took a moment to collect his thoughts Leo guessed. Leo was quite interested to know what was going on. What had happened since Leo was out? Why was Phinneus here? Leo had plenty of questions.
“Lets start with who that man you killed. Charles Button.” Phin started. "Did you know who he was?"
Leo shook his head no.
“For starters he was a Technocrat! From the Technocratic council!"
A Technocrat!? Leo thought to himself. No one in all of Antiford knew who were the mysterious Technocratic leaders were. It has been ten years and no one could find out even one name.
“How do we know this you might ask.” Phin said as he dropped a newspaper on Leo’s lap. The front Headlines were “Technocrat Councilman Charles Button Assassinated!” In big bold letters. And there was a photo of Charles hanging by the ship wrecked deck where Leo left him. Leo then looked back up at Phin knowing there must be more he was going to say.
“You not only killed A Technocrat but also hung and displayed his body like that!?! What on Orr were you thinking?" Leo could not speak. He certainly did not like the scolding he was getting from this Phinneus man. Leo was no child.
"The Technocrats took it as a threat. As a 'message'. They've been cracking down recently, on everyone. They have taken a special interest in finding out who killed Button. You're lucky my ship picked you up from Well Island when we did." Phin said.
"Wait, that was Well Island!?!" Leo asked, baffled.
"Quite. Honestly Leo, you caused quite a epidemic, we were even talking about killing you!" Phin said. He looked at Leo's horrified reaction and added. "It was only a joke."
"What do you mean by we?" Leo asked.
Phin picked his coat up from the chair and walked over by the door.
"I hope you will be willing to repay me for saving you're life. When I need you, I'll send for you."
Leo gave Phin a smile and Phin gave a nod. Phin headed for the door but before he left Leo asked one last question. "So if Button was a Technocrat who is your enemy, then what dose that make you?"
Phin never gave a response. He just nodded once more and shut the door.
Phin looked back at Leo.
"Antiford is going to change drastically soon. Years from now we'll all look back and say that the death of Button was the start of it all." Pinn said. Then Left.
Next in the story: The Aftermath, The Eye of the Storm, and others...