The First Bad DecisionJoel Arnett was a man not well known, although those who knew him will never forget him. However, he was not always this way. You see, out of his entire life he has made some decisions. We all make decisions. However... few have ever been made like these. Some of the worst decisions that had ever been made in his life were made in the time Joel Arnett was becoming a man. However... one decision... one decision was the best choice he ever made in his entire life.
And it turned a boy, into a man.
Joel Arnett was not a special kid. A mere nineteen years old, he grew up in the small mining town of Sorditudo. Sorditudo was a lot different from Argenstrath. Argenstrath had some of the best forms of public transportation out there. Arnett could almost completely lose himself in the amazingness of the big city. This is where he was meant to be.
Joel’s eyes shot open. A glint in his eye showed he was well awake. Leaping from the large Vibranni powered trolley he dived into the crowd of Argenstrath. So many people. The streets were just as busy as the stations and shops. It didn't stop Arnett. Arnett nimbly leapt through the crowd, dodging people.
His first stop was a good friend of his. Well, not really a stop. Arnett needed to avoid the Yeti bakery so he took a long way round which brought him by his buddy’s fruit stand. Kasey’s Place was a very good Fruit Stand by many people’s standard, especially in a place like Antiford. However, it was often overlooked.
Kasey’s smile could be spotted from halfway down the street. His teeth stood out against his black as night skin. Kasey was always smiling, and that didn't change when his eyes landed on Arnett. Kasey was good like that; he always remembered you. A city of hundreds of people and he would always remember you.
“Well, I’ll be darned, Joel,” he yelled and waved.
“Morning, Kasey,” said Arnett, “And how is business.”
“Steady as usual,” said Kasey, “Now where on Orr are you off to at this time of day, Joel?”
“Why… you know. For company!”
“Oh, Joel… not again,” Kasey almost lost his smile as he shook his head, “Miss Badger’s Bunnies will throw you out one day when they've had enough of you, boy. You need to give them a rest sometime.”
“Oh, I highly doubt it,” bowed Joel, “With a face like mine? Come on.”
“Oh, Joel… can’t you find yourself a nice girl,” said Kasey, “With the right girl to put all that energy into you could-”
“Don’t have time, just need a quick pick up and lay down, mate,” said Arnett, “Catch you on my way back, Kasey.”
“Wasted talent, Joel,” yelled Kasey, “You could get out of this city, you know, if you tried!”
“Just practicing,” Yelled Joel, “Besides, I got out of one small town. Why would I ever leave this one!”
Joel took off once more into the crowd, and headed towards his true destination. Argenstrath Medical College, the premier medical school in all of Antiford. Medical students from all around the country ensured that they tried to get into this school to ensure they would become the greatest doctors in Orr. Unfortunately, this gave birth to two needs in Argenstrath. Money, and Companionship when away from home.
Thus the most successful brothel in all of Argenstrath was born. The locals didn't like to admit it existed, but all flocks of society, from Pirates and Bandits to Students and Aristocrats found their way through its doors.
The “Badger’s Den” was run by a woman known only as “Momma Badger”. The sign out front guaranteed a “refreshing dip into fresh water”. The “Badger’s Bunnies” were females, sometimes the very students you might go to class with, that insured you were refreshed after your visits.
Joel was eagerly making his way through the city towards this refreshing den. In the distance he could see the towering pillars and large stone walls of the Hospital. The giant statues of the Paorrian Sloth marked it as a medical school, and they held out their healing claws to the sick.
Many well-dressed students and teachers and doctors rushed around the streets to get in and out of the large building. Carts and carriages painted white demanded a path through the crowd as they tried to enter the large garage openings in the front of the building for them. One of them gave up on the crowd and pulled aside, almost hitting Arnett.
The doors opened wide and the doctors inside leapt out, demanding a path through the crowd. They dragged out a stretcher and carried it on their shoulders. On the stretcher an elderly man lay quiet. He seemed to be hurt, and his brown suit looked worn and beaten. A wool coat was folded up next to him and a strange brown hat rested on his chest. After he was taken through the crowd two men leapt out and turned to Arnett, one of the men stepping closer.
“Who are you looking at?”
“Enough, come on,” said the other man, helping a woman out of the back of the ambulance.
Then the three disappeared into the crowd after the stretcher.
Arnett didn't need to gawk at them, however, and he ignored the statues’ healing gaze as he hurried past the crowds and around the back of the massive structure. Along the side street, Arnett spotted the doors to the Den. Arnett wasted no time ducking inside, running his fingers through his short brown hair.
Inside, the atmosphere was vastly different. Through the door was an immediate small staircase leading down to a vast structure. The lighting was dimmed and his eyes had to adjust. Thanks to his many trips here his eyes had learned to adjust faster than a normal visitor.
A large, beast of a woman waited down by a desk next to one of the most beautiful girls in the city, her daughter. They gave blank stares to Arnett as he made his way down the stairs.
“Arnett, you bastard,” scowled the woman, her shotgun’s safety switching on as he was deemed not a threat, “Weren't you just here?”
“You complaining, Badge?” asked Arnett, his greatest smile being put on for her, “I’m paying for your retirement, aren’t I?”
“What you looking for now?” asked the large woman, placing her gun down on the table, “How about some Native pleasure this day? I have some nice Demons who’d be your angels. How about you conquer some Prush lands this day? I’ve got a special.”
“Naw, actually… I was thinking Linda,” asked Arnett.
“Hip deep in business.”
“Laura?” asked Arnett.
“Why don’t I surprise you?” said the woman.
“Want to truly surprise me? How about Irene?”
The woman’s face changed, and she stole a glance to her daughter, who was showing no emotional reaction to being talked about. The woman, however, her face turned into a glare and her hand went for her shotgun again. Arnett’s hands raised, his smile growing.
“Ha, ha,” said Arnett, “Surprise me. Someone small.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed, and she pulled out a room key and tossed it to him. Arnett caught the key, and nodded to the woman.
Once again Arnett’s eyes adjusted as he stepped out of the den. He smiled at the reduced crowds. The morning rush was dying down and everyone was either home, at work, or in classes. The streets were still what he would consider busy, but he could manage through it without much fear of running into too many people.
A beautiful lass carrying an armful of books walked past Arnett, and he smiled, bowing low for her. She hurried away, shooting him a worried look. Arnett shot out an over-pouted lip before allowing his usual smile to spread across his face. Running his fingers through his unkempt hair, he gazed around the street, unsure of what to do with himself.
A commotion sounded and broke through the crowd, and Arnett could see a crowd backing away from the front of Argenstrath Medical College. Arnett decided to check it out. Keeping by a public trashcan, he looked over the crowd that was pushing back from the scene unfolding.
An older gentlemen was in the center of it all. With a pair of handcuffs on his right hand, the other cuff dangling at his side, and a large metal poll in his hands, he swung at a group of men and women forming around him. He had on a long brown overcoat and he wore a strange hat on his head, the large brim tucked over his eyes. His eyes were dark under the brim, but Arnett could see them shift from person to person. The only other distinguished feature was a large mustache, salt and peppered with age.
One of the men surrounding him yelled out at him, and rushed forward. The old man swung the bar with such skill, side-stepping the man and slamming the bar into his back. Another man rushing from behind him met a similar face as the old man turned around and slammed the bar into his face, causing his head and neck to fly back as his feet shot up from underneath him.
Arnett gawked in amazement. Maybe this man wasn’t as old as he thought. He was taking on at least four or five other men. One of which Arnett recognized. Arnett snapped his fingers and pointed as he remembered the strange man who yelled at him in the crowd earlier, from the medical cart. Then Arnett looked at the old man. He was on the stretcher… hurt. Damn, thought Arnett, he could fight after that?
The woman from the cart was making her way down the stairs, her head looked bruised but not bad.
“Mr. Flint, please!” she yelled, “Al, don’t you dare hurt him! Step away! Flint, please! Listen to reason, sir!”
The man who Arnett recognized pulled a pistol on the old man, and he yelled out, “Drop it, man, or I’ll drop you!”
Arnett didn't know why…
Maybe he thought it was an unfair fight. Arnett liked a good fight. Maybe his recent display of testosterone fueled him with a lust to prove himself. Maybe fate knew better. Maybe Arnett knew…
Arnett barely had time to think as he brought the trashcan down on the man with the pistol, and the trashcan broke under the force. The man dropped his pistol, and slumped to the street. The pistol skidded across the ground, to the old man’s feet. Immediately the other guards, or whomever, rushed forward at once. The old man ducked down for the pistol.
One of the men came at Arnett, who dodged his punch and slammed his knee into the man’s stomach. Arnett used the adrenaline and ran forward to sink his foot into the side of another man.
A shot rang out. Arnett’s heart seemed to stop. He raised his hands and stepped back. The other men did the same, and the woman was screaming something inaudible. The old man, however, rose from the ground and pointed the pistol at the group. Rushing forward, he pushed Arnett forward.
“Move, boy, before they draw on us,” The man spat.
Arnett was about to object but the man gave him another shove. Arnett ran forward, further into the street. Arnett could hear the men shouting orders, and the old man fired another shot into the air. Arnett found himself running down the street, the old man running beside him.
“Here” Arnett yelled, spotting one of the city’s trolleys.
The trolley man saw the two running towards them, and he shook his head. The old man pointed the pistol at him. The Vibranni and the man dived out the side of the Trolly. Arnett was running alongside the trolley and leapt up to the door, opening it. Just as soon as he had the older man leapt inside, and dragged Arnett inside after him.
Shutting the door, Arnett was suddenly thrust into reality, and threw up his hands.
“Woah, old man, I’m not comfortable with this. That was an unfair fight and all but I don’t know who you are.”
“Shut up,” ordered the old man, “I need to get home. They’ll be after my family next.”
“That’s cool,” said Arnett, shrugging, “I just think you got yourself a nice trolley now… and a gun, and I don’t see why you’d need a man like me.”
“I don’t, you got yourself into this,” said the man, cranking up the Trolley’s throttle and allowing it to jump forward on the tracks.
“Yeah, well. I’m not too interested in dying or anything,” said Arnett, who could feel the heat under his shirt as his heart raced, “You don’t want me to get… angry… or anything. I’m the son… or the… police chief… of Argenstrath! And… there will be hell to pay!”
“Oh, good, a cop’s kid,” said the old man, “When we’re out of this I’ll need you to help me. Wait… where are we?”
Just then a back mirror got shot out, and the passengers in the Trolley screamed, several jumping off the trolley. The old man looked back out the window and saw two steam-biked speeding down the street after them.
“What? Come… on!” said the old man, “Look, kid, these guys don’t care about police. I need to get home. These guys are bad news. I’ll need the help of the police to get back to Grindton and get to my family.”
“Grindton? Never heard of it,” said Arnett, looking back out the window.
The steam-bike riders were gaining on them, and they had rifles this time. Arnett’s eyes widened.
“They have big guns, governor,” said Arnett, “Who the hell are these guys?”
“Bad guys, they tried to kill me not too long ago,” said the man, “Looks like they want me alive. They would have blown more holes in this little Trolley if they didn't. Get down, boy.”
The steam bikes could be heard getting closer when Arnett followed instruction and ducked down. The old man threw back his overcoat and stuffed the pistol in a holster strapped to his leg. The old man picked up a crowbar leaning next to the controls and ducked down by the door.
In a few seconds, the door to the drivers place opened, and one of the steambike passengers jumped in. Before they could raise their rifle, the old man hit them with the metal crowbar and tossed them out of the trolley. On Arnett’s side, the window burst as the other passenger of the steambike broke through the window and lunged at the old man.
The man stepped aside, throwing a punch directly in the man’s face. The man grasped at his nose, stunned. The man used this time to swing the crowbar, knocking him back onto the floor.
“Who the hell are you?” asked Arnett, “You’re no old man I know.”
“I’m not old yet,” said the man, “And the name’s Lieutenant to you. Lieutenant Flint. Now, we got to get out of here!”
The man, now known as the Lieutenant, walked up to the side Arnett was pressed against, and looked out of the window. The other steambike was pulling up alongside the trolley again. Lieutenant aimed the pistol out the window at him, causing him to break quickly and pull to the other side of the trolley, dipping out of sight of his gun. Flint smiled, holstering the pistol once more.
“Jump,” he demanded, “Quick.”
“What? Out of a moving Trolley, are you mad?” asked Arnett.
“I don’t have time for this shit anymore,” said Flint.
He knelt over and grabbed Arnett by the collar. Arnett tried to fight, but in a few seconds he was tossed from the Trolley. Falling towards the earth, Arnett could see that the trolley must have just been on one of the bridges of Argenstrath. Arnett could see him falling, the trolley getting farther away. Right behind him, the old man, Flint, leapt out of the window, and glided through the air behind Arnett.
Arnett had the wind knocked out of him as he landed, hard, into something. A few seconds later he could hear the Lieutenant landing somewhere further back. After he gasped for breathe, Arnett rolled over and got up. He could see they were on some sort of train car, and he had fallen into a mass amount of sand.
“Sand?” asked the old man, “The hell you need a train car full of sand for?”
“Huge sandstorm a few days ago,” said Arnett, still gasping for air, “They’re removing sand from the city still.”
The Lieutenant began to cough more heavily, his body shaking from the fits. He stood and looked around.
“I’m a bit farther from home then I thought,” said he, “Where am I? You said something?”
“Argenstrath,” said Arnett, shaking his head, “Man, how do you not know that? Everyone’s heard of us.”
“Not me,” said the Lieutenant, “What country am I in?”
“Wow, you really are lost,” said Arnett, trying to stand, “Hey, that’s a nice hat. Where’d you learn all those… moves.”
“Not my first rodeo,” said the Lieutenant, fighting another coughing fit, “Man, I don’t feel so good.”
“Yeah, that tends to happen with age,” said Arnett, “You begin forgetting things… you get older… you can’t do a bunch of cool shit without SOME sort of side effect.”
“Shut up, kid,” warned the Lieutenant, “I just need to get back to Grindton.”
“Now you’ve got me confused,” said Arnett, “So. Cool hat, again.”
“Yeah, it’s a Fedora.”
“Whatever… Where’s Grindton, ‘Lieutenant’?”
“Outside of Chicago.”
“Chicago? Where’s Chicago?” asked Arnett.
The man threw up his arms, “Illinois, the United States of America. Ever heard of that?”
“United States of America?” asked Arnett, his eyebrows rising, “Is that so…”
“Oh… don’t even!” the man began to pace, looking around him, “There’s no way a big city like this hasn’t heard of the United States. Come on what country is this?”
“Damn…” spat the man, putting his hands on his hips, “I am a long way from home. Where the hell his Antiford?”
“Araz… ok, man, now YOU are worrying me.”
A noise cause the Lieutenant to flinch. Arnett turned around, but he couldn’t hear anything over the coughing fit the Lieutenant broke into once more.
“You going to make it?”
“Told you I didn’t feel well,” said the man, walking closer to Arnett and pointing towards and alley, “Come on, we got to get out of here before they turn back. We caused enough trouble today.”
“Nuh-uh… you did,” said Arnett, following the man off the car, “This is all you… crazy old man… from the Ungaurded States.”
“United States of America!”
They leapt down from the train car, and they disappeared back into the city.
The Second Bad DecisionArnett was beginning to second guess himself, but the old man was beginning to entrance him. Arnett loved a good story, and he couldn’t help but follow him as he slumped through the city.
“What’s your name, kid?” asked the Lieutenant.
“I’m not a ‘kid’,” shot back Arnett, causing a smirk from the old man, “And my name’s Joel Arnett.”
“You live here, ‘Joel’?” he asked, looking cautiously around a corner.
“Not really,” answered Arnett, “Look, Mr. Lieutenant.”
“Jesum. Just Lieutenant,” said the man, “The Mister is… for… something else. Makes no sense. Just… Lieutenant Flint. Or just Flint.”
“Lieutenant Flint, huh? In the Military? Is this all some kind of cover up?”
“No. I’m… I’m a Lieutenant of a Landship. I’m kind of a freelancer. The Lieutenant is… nevermind!”
“Well, ‘Flint’,” said Arnett, “Who were those guys?”
“Unsure. All I know is they broke into my house and beat me up. Left me for dead… threw me in the lake.”
“A damn lake? Where did you say you were from?” asked Arnett, “Those guys must be bad ass. Drowning someone like that…”
“I didn't drown, kid,” said Flint.
“That’s true,” said Arnett, “So how’d you end up here?”
“I woke up and they were questioning me. I don’t know what they want, but they’re not getting it.”
“Well, what do you remember?”
“I don’t know, kid, I was pretty beat up.”
“I’m NOT a kid, old man,” said Arnett.
Flint turned around and got into Arnett’s face, “Listen, when you reach my age everyone’s a ‘kid’, got it? You’re young. Stupid. Childish.”
“You don’t know me!” spat Arnett, upset at being talked down to.
“I don’t have to,” said Flint, his eyes looking over Arnett, “Messy hair, no care for how you come across, untidy clothes. What’s your job?”
“Rub off, Flint!”
“Nice, so unemployed,” chuckled Flint, “Oh, and you took on a crowd of strangers to help a crazy old man with a metal stick. Nice move. Good life decisions… Those’ll see you grow up.”
“A simple ‘Thank you’ would have been great. But you know, don’t even worry about it, mate.”
“It was foolish,” said Flint.
“So, back to YOU, gramps,” said Arnett, “What do you remember? You got pushed in a lake and… what?”
Flint gave Arnett a stern look, before rolling his eyes, “I was thrown into the River. Feet and legs bound. All I remember is struggling against them… until… I don’t know. I was in a river or something. Then I fell. Some sort of waterfall. I awoke in a forest.”
“Waterfall in the forest?”
“You asked,” said Flint, “My bonds broke and I escaped into the woods. I don’t remember much… just this… creepy dread or something. Then those thugs came and… took me off what I figured was an island.”
“An Island? Your story is getting weirder and weirder.”
“Good thing I didn't tell you about the monster, then,” said Flint.
Arnett’s eyes widened and he stopped dead in his tracks.
“What did you do?” asked Arnett, then he shook his head, “Said… say. What did you just say? An Island with monsters?”
After a coughing fit, Flint pointed at Arnett, “There you go, kid. I’m not crazy? There’s an island with monsters? That’s probably heading back where I am. That thing is my direction. Where is that?”
“No… that island… that island is bad news,” said Arnett, “There’s no way… you… you can’t be. You pulling my leg, old man.”
“Look, if you or this damn city doesn’t start making sense, I’m going to dangle you from a bridge!”
“Too late, old man,” smiled Arnett, “You already threw me off one today. Dangling isn’t really a worry of mine.”
Flint threw back his overcoat and showed his pistol, “I’m not playing.”
“Are you hot?” asked Arnett, “Are you warm in that coat? Should be. It’s a damn scorcher today.”
Flint sighed, rolling his eyes, which brought him into another coughing fit, “You bastard. Didn’t your parents ever beat into you some manners?”
“Maybe,” said Arnett, “Maybe I’ll ask them next time I’m back in that shabby old town!”
“You better,” said Flint, pointing at Arnett, “Or one day you’ll wake up and-”
Flint stopped, suddenly, and stared at his hand. Arnett looked too, then he stepped closer and almost reached out for it. Flint opened his hand up, and looked at the back of his hand. His hand had a large red rash upon it. At the corner of the rash it was beginning to bleed.
Arnett found a cloth in a nearby trash can and after sneering at it, he tied it around Flint’s hand, who did nothing to stop him.
“I don’t remember cutting it… or anything that bad,” said Flint.
“No, I bet you didn’t, old man,” said Arnett, “Despite all those moves back there. I think your sick, old man.”
“Sick? I believe it,” asked Flint.
“You are… from the island, aren’t you?” said Arnett, “I always thought it was some sort of ghost story or something. “
“What do you mean?” asked Flint.
Arnett thought a moment, before looking up at Flint again, “Could you do that fighting moves stuff if it came to it again?”
“Yeah, sure,” asked Flint, “Why?”
“We have to find someone smarter then me,” said Arnett, “Someone who can explain a lot. Someone I trust. Come on!”
“Well, smarter then you isn’t hard, kid,” yelled Flint, taking off after Arnett into the public street, “You brought a trash-can to a gun fight today, remember?”
Arnett had to do some digging. Sending a wire back to his home town to one of his professors sent him to a contact of his in the Capitol City of Gearford. After the wire returned from that contact, Arnett had the name of someone who could help who was conveniently in the City of Argenstrath. It took some work, but they were eventually able to track him down.
Flint proved a very helpful old man, walking and demanding information with an air of superiority that Arnett found confusing. He was polite, for the most part (he did practically mug a post man for an exact door number) and he was very rude in the sense of it was difficult for him to take 'No' for an answer to his demands. However, people generally seemed to like him and were more helpful then they would be to Arnett.
In a matter of hours, late into the evening, Arnett found himself ducked behind a bench outside of an apartment building looking at the landlord's house. The Contact in Gearford assured Arnett that this man was once a scholar of some renown, and a teacher at many universities. He had studied the island with other scholars years back and claimed to know a few things of the strange island. Arnett decided that if anyone could help them, and decide who Flint was, it was probably this man.
"If not," Arnett had said, "He will definitely know who could help us."
"How on earth does nobody else know about this damn island?" asked Flint.
"Don't you mean Orr?" Arnett had said, before saying, "Anyways, it's a... freaky Island. Rumor used to be it moved... and there were monsters and creatures roaming the island!"
"Dark ages shit," spat Flint.
"Maybe. But the Prush Confederacy has a ban on all travel to the Island and it is generally frowned upon by everyone else. The place is apparently really freaky. Sends out bad waves or something."
"I'd agree with that," said Flint, shaking his head.
Now the two were outside this land lord's door where he was said to live. Flint looked up and down the street, and pulled down the brim of his hat. He clasped his hand on Arnett's shoulder before standing up and trotting across the street. Arnett nervously looked around the street while Flint examined the door.
"You sure about this, kid?" asked Flint.
"That or the police," said Arnett, "But the police won't be helpful. Not if what I think is true. And if what you say is true then odds are these people might own the police."
"Didn't think about that," said Flint, "But that is a true assessment."
Flint reached the door first, and he pulled out the pistol he had stolen. Arnett gasped and stepped back. Flint gave him a weird look.
"What are you going to do?" asked Arnett.
"Talk to him," said Flint, gesturing to the gun with a nod, "And taking precautions."
"Why don't we try a friendly 'hello' first," said Arnett, moving around Flint to stand in front of the door, "Why don't you put that away before you got the bobbies down here, yeah?"
Flint rolled his eyes, but a sudden coughing fit forced him to holster the pistol and turn away, coughing into his arm. Arnett smiled, and knocked on the door. Flint regained his composure and stood next to Arnett.
A shadow appeared behind the door, and after several locks moved, it opened a crack. Standing at the door was an older man. He was balding with white hair. He wore elegant robes that were out of place among regular society. He was cleaning a pair of spectacles as he greeted the two, and then he placed them on his narrow nose.
He gasped, "You!"
"Greetings, sir," said Arnett, his voice sounding a little forced, "I was told through a long list of people that you can help us."
"You?" asked Flint, his eyebrows narrowing.
The old man cut them off however, "Help you? What sort of help? I'm just an old man. I'm sure two gentlemen like yourselves can solve your own problems!"
"I have reason to believe that you know about the Island," said Arnett, then he leaned closer, "I think he's from there. He's a... 'visitor'."
The old man looked Flint up and down, and then pointed, "The island, eh? How do you feel?"
"Look, man, I don't exactly have time for this," struggled Flint against a coughing fit.
"Are you sick?" demanded the old man, "Let me see your hand, now! Show me!"
Flint was obviously taken back by his stubbornness. Even so, the old man reached out and grasped Flint's hand and turned it over. Flint pursed his lips and Arnett cringed. The rash had become a nasty lesion. The old man grasped the sleeve of Flint's coat and pushed it back. The same lesions and rashes could be spotted down his arm.
"What the hell," said Flint.
"You..." said the old man under his breath, looking up and down the arm, then his eyes widened and shot up to Flint's, "Quick, both of you. Inside. We have a great deal to discuss."
The three were rushed into the house and the door shut and locked behind them. Arnett looked around the room. Loads of books lined the walls and in some areas photos and newspapers were stacked in heaps along the floor. The old man shuffled past them and led them through the small rooms. Towards the back was a kitchen-like area with a few chairs.
The old man immediately ran to the kitchen and immediately began to pour cups of liquid.
"Oh, water. That'd be great," smiled Arnett.
"Stupid boy, this is Anti-Juice."
"Never heard of it," said Joel, making Flint's eyebrow raise.
"Cactus juice, Chanka juice, and Caloric Oil," said the old man, smiling to himself, "The older one needs these."
"Chanka... juice?" Arnett squirmed in his skin, "I won't lie, I didn't know they made juice."
"Try not to think about it," said the old man, handing a cup to each of his visitors, "So, you. You I am interested in. Tell me your name and origin, stranger."
Flint went to sip out of the cup, and the look on his face showed immediate regret. Arnett smiled awkwardly and sniffed the contents of his cup.
"Well," started Flint, looking down at the cup, "I don't know what you want to know exactly. My name is Lieutenant Nathaniel Flint. I am the commander of the Landship Scorpios."
"Where are you from," interrupted the old man, "Tell me everything. names, time, etc."
Flint sat up straighter, "I've been to a lot of places. However, what feels like ages ago, I was in a town outside of Chicago, Illinois. Located in the United States of America."
"What world?" asked the old man.
"What WORLD, man. Where is the United States Located?"
"Geez... this world," said Flint, "North America. The Earth!"
"Not necessarily," smiled the old man, "Earth... my friend... you are on Orr."
"Bull spit," said Flint, "How can a man leave Earth? What kind of trick is this?"
"Stop, Lieutenant," said the old man, "You do not understand the situation. Tell me, exactly, what happened the last few days. When did things start being... different?"
"Well... I don't know exactly," said Flint, "I was... well I was home. And these men attacked me in my house. Beat me up and bound me. They took me out to the lake, asked me a bunch of questions. They threw me into the lake. After a little while... I was in a river... and my bounds broke. Then there was a water fall and I was flying through the air."
Flint took a swig of the contents in his cup this time, and clenched his teeth as he swallowed.
"So, do you know who these men were?"
"I don't know. However I've made quite a name for myself back home. Maybe I made an enemy who grew the balls to come at me."
"So, let's continue your story," said the old man, "You said you fell out of a waterfall from a river. Did you see... say... a bright light? Maybe blue? Maybe orange in color?"
"Couldn't say," said Flint, "I was in a rough state. I hit the ground hard, too. It was weird. Like... the Waterfall just disappeared. I know it sounds crazy but-"
"Nothing sounds crazy," said the old man, "Now I need facts. I need your story. What happened, man? What did you see? Silver Pools?"
"Well, I got up... and it was night time... like it was when I was thrown in. I looked around, and I noticed there were a lot of trees. And it was cold. Really chilly. I could almost feel it in my bones. I could almost feel like..."
"You didn't belong," said the old man.
Flint nodded his head, his eyes fixing on the old man, "I wandered around in the woods or swamp for a little while and saw things in the mist. They didn't exactly give me weapons when I was tossed into the drink so I grabbed a tree branch and used it as a weapon. I swatted away a few creatures I have never seen before... large... monstrous creatures. I ran... and then... and then that airship picked me up."
"Tell me about that," said the old man.
"Nothing much. Just those greasers pinned me to the ground and threw me aboard. They knocked me out and I awoke in that hospital, being questioned. I figured it was the same guys, and they wouldn't explain what was going on."
"So you escaped and shot up half of Argenstrath?"
Flint's eyes narrowed and his hand itched to reach for his pistol. The old man noticed the change and raised his hands.
"News travels fast in the city, Lieutenant. Besides, sounds like you already made up your mind on those thugs," said the old man, "Now, you, what the hell are you doing involved in all this?"
"He's a dumb kid and he got in over his head," said Flint, suppressing another cough.
"Not true," said Arnett, "Maybe I'm just a fan of a fair fight. One of those goons drew a pistol and the old man was outnumbered."
"I think that the Lieutenant is right," said the old man, "You are in over your head. But it does not matter! What matters is you, Lieutenant. And what you are doing here. How long have you been in Orr."
"I have no idea," said Flint, "I don't even believe that 'Orr' is another place. It doesn't even exist on a map!"
"Your map, perhaps," said the old man, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall, "No... but here, it is our world. Lieutenant Flint, I think it is time to open your eyes."
The old man cleared his throat, and paused while Flint entered another coughing fit. Flint grabbed the cup eagerly and downed the rest of the juice, wincing as he swallowed.
"Lieutenant Flint, of Earth," said the old man at last, "You are dying. You are suffering from a disease described only as the 'Traveler's Disease'. If we can not get you home in a suitable matter of time... you will die. Do you understand that which I have told you?"
Flint paused a moment, "No, not at all. What do you mean, 'sick'? Why will getting me home help? I don't understand."
"Ok, let me explain," said the man, looking towards the ceiling, "Here, on Orr... there is a place no one goes. It is an island. We have come to call this... Well Island. Well Island is a dark and mysterious place. It is where we find a phenomenon that we have come to call 'Wells'. These 'Wells' act as a doorway... a doorway into another... existence. Another world. There are thousands of them. More then we can count. So many worlds... so many opportunities."
"Wait, wait," stopped Flint, "Wells? Worlds? Are you saying I have somehow been taken off Earth itself?"
"Most likely," said the old man, "But you must understand, our understanding of it is incredibly small. However, we do understand that these Wells act as doorways. People, animals, objects, things... they all come through the wells... and they can all disappear into them."
"Everyone who goes there is never seen again...." mumbled Arnett.
"Children's stories," spat the old man, "An exaggeration. Well, now a days. But it does hold some truths. Many who go to the island and who do not know might find themselves in one of these Wells. Sometimes they never find their way back out, and thus are lost. Mostly, though, people are spooked away. Things coming from the wells are often creatures and beasts we do not understand, or objects of great power. These either kill or scare away anyone who doesn't understand the wells."
"I don't understand," said Flint, "Monsters and doorways and worlds... how do you know all this? Actually, wait... why do we care? Didn't you say something about dying?"
"Lieutenant, patience," said the old man, "How do I know this? Because I am a seeker of knowledge. I... appreciate the things unknown to others. I know a very fine group of folks who do as well. That, and I have studied these wells in my youth, or as much as one could study them. I also know people who study them... and some who use them."
"Use the doors?" Arnett had a smile growing to his face, "You mean peaking into other worlds? Other realities?"
"Some are explorers... many do not return. However, a very nasty group of people have taken to using these wells for gain. These 'Well Pirates' are a nasty sort. They seek to profit from these worlds... and they have a nasty knack of surviving their adventures. However, I assume it is all for not. The riches never last."
"What do you mean?" asked Arnett, now sitting forward in his seat.
“Well, Lieutenant, sadly, anything that enters our world is doomed,” continued the old man, “Gold turns to ash, water disappears, and people and creatures get sick. They will, eventually, die.”
“Why is that?” asked Flint.
“We don’t know,” said the old man, “The Well Sickness does not have prejudice. All who travel through the Wells and into our world will die.”
“What about these Well Pirates?” said Arnett, “What sort of treasures can they plan to keep if everything they bring back dies?”
“Knowledge, mostly,” said the old man, “But if they are quick enough they can trick merchants and guardsmen with the riches before it turns to dirt. Technology could be brought over but they are made of material that will not survive in our world.”
“But can be recreated,” said Flint.
“Indeed,” said the old man, “Or they can hide their treasure in the other worlds in order to retrieve them later for comfort.”
“So why aren’t they dying?” said Flint.
“Well, some of them do,” said the old man, “But it appears as long as you return to your own world, you will get better or avoid the Visitor Sickness all together.”
“So, I’m going to die,” said Flint, closing his eyes, “Great.”
“Wait a minute, you don’t have to,” said Arnett, pointing at the old man, “You said that all we have to do is get him back to his world and he should be alright, right?
“I would hope so,” said the old man, “However, we don’t know what he’ll be going back to. Sounds like he wasn’t the most popular back in his world.”
“I have to get back to my family,” said Flint, “Point me to that island and I’ll go right now!”
“You’ll need a strong pair of legs to get there in time,” said the old man, “Or a airship. I could hook you up with somebody if you would like.”
“You’ve done enough,” said Flint, rising, “Besides, I don’t trust airships.”
“What about a good steambike?” asked Arnett, “One of those could take you across Araz and back.”
“I wish I had my landship,” said Flint, who began coughing into a great fit.
“What’s so great about this stinkin’ landship, anyway?” asked Arnett, “Landships are stupid and slow. There’s no way you could argue a good airship.”
“Mine, could,” said Flint, “The Scorpios is the best landship. That baby is the work of years of minds and good deeds working together. That ship could shoot down ANY airship for miles.”
“Oh yeah? Good design. Think you could build it again?” said Arnett.
“Well, if you only want this precious ship of yours and you think we can rebuild it then maybe that would take the cake,” said Arnett, “I used to work for a junk shop and fix up old vehicles. I think if you are sure, I could hook you up with a bloody landship.”
“A Bit risky, don’t you think?” said the old man, “Why don’t you just allow me to hook you up. I know a man, a Commodore of all things, he owes me a favor or two… and I owe him a few things. He’ll see to it you get to Well Island, I promise. He’s there often enough.”
“You sure you want to do this, kid?” said Flint, “There are people after us. There are Creatures on that island. We’re gonna need a real mechanized war machine. With cannons, and guns.”
“Lucky us, I know a a place with a few loose cannons.”
“Please, you can’t hope to build this… land ship in enough time. We really should consider getting an airship. You don’t have to be so mistrusting, Lieutenant. What if you die?”
“Everybody dies, sir,” said Flint, tipping his hat, “I prefer it to be in my own doing.”
A knock on the front door made everybody jump. The old man leapt from his spot and left the makeshift room.
“Stay calm, boys. The Bobbies are the least of your worries,” said the old man, “For all you know, it could be the best help you’ll get all day!”
The old man disappeared from sight, and his last remarks caused Flint to stand up, his eyes watering as he held back another cough.
“So what do you think?” said Arnett, “A walker? A Rail Engine? Something I’ve never seen?”
“The Scorpios?” said Flint, peering around a bookshelf.
“A Walker,” said Flint, his eyes getting larger and he turned.
Flint walked into the Kitchen, and he looked around, spotting a window.
“Good, there’s a great deal of ‘Kovy’ rusting in a pile in this place,” said Arnett, smiling, “Oh, this could be SO COOL! Can we write it down?”
“Later,” said Flint, he opened the window and peered about, before smiling and climbing onto the counter.
“What are you doing,” asked Arnett.
“If you stay, I cannot promise what will happen,” said Flint, “You’re not with me, and you can still smooth talk your way out. However, if you climb out this window with me, there’s no turning back. You’re with me, got it.”
“Are you climbing out of the window?” asked Arnett, his smiling disappearing.
“I’m going home,” said Flint, “I have a family, friends, a ship. If people are in my way, people will die. This is going to be dangerous. And if I fail… I will die.”
Arnett peeked around the corner of the bookcase. The old man stood in the first room, talking hushly to two large men in suits, pointing towards the room. He ducked behind the case and gasped.
“Those guys are here, how did they know?”
“That’s the deal, kid,” said Flint, now hanging out of the window, “Make your choice, kid.”
“I’m not a kid,” said Arnett, “It’s Joel… or Arnett… or BOTH! Never kid!”
Flint pushed off, and he disappeared from the window. Arnett gazed behind the bookshelf once more. The men were carrying guns like he had never seen. Even the old man was wielding a gun, and ushering in another two men.
Arnett ducked back behind the book case and thought it over once. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath. Rushing to the window, he leapt onto the counter and swung into the window after Flint.
Blood, Sweat, TearsArnett closed the door to the lavatory behind him and made his way back through the Train Car. Luckily, most of the benches in the car were empty. Besides the two of them, one family and a couple of women occupied the car meant for thirty passengers. Not many people could afford the ride now a days. Flint actually figured out how to fold one of the benches into a makeshift table (no one onboard could tell if this was by design because nobody had ridden very often) and set up an array of papers and designs and makeshift blueprints.
Flint was just finishing up a sketch of the fabled Landship, drawing what appeared to be a very large cannon of sorts on the back.
"It's too big," Arnett commented as he took his place across the table.
"It needs to be, the size of the shells as well as the distance they need to go requires it," said Flint, "The Scorpios is one of the best Anti-Airship Landships ever designed. It took years of work and many more intelligent minds then mine to ensure this baby would earn its place in history."
"I meant the Ship," said Arnett, leaning back and crossing his arms, "The Whole damn thing. If it is steam powered we'd never get the fuel or water to run it properly."
"There's always a way," said Flint.
"And there's only two of us," said Arnett, "We expected to build the whole thing on our own? We expected to pilot the behemoth all the way to the Island? Why don't we just walk?"
"Obviously there would be modifications... we'll have to tone much of it down."
"I expected a Kovy or something... This is a really weird design," said Arnett, pointing at the Ship, "The Legs are not an issue... but I think we'll have to find a boat or something for the Body."
"Hey, Joel," said Flint, dropping the quill and sitting back, twisting his wrist, "Let me ask you something, are you absolutely sure you can do this? If the old man is right, I could be dying. I'm relying on this."
"Yeah, I'm sure we can," said Arnett, smiling, "It's not going to be pretty, or very powerful, but I know a place where alot of this stuff is already working and lying around."
"We're going to steal it?"
"From a junkyard," said Arnett, "Barely even constitutes."
"How'd you learn to put together a landship?" asked Flint.
"It's not that easy. I grew up in a junk heap of a town. My parents were adamant I get schooling... so... I didn't have much else when school was done."
"Schooling is good."
"Well, it was hot and murky and depressing," said Arnett, "But I liked it. Anyways, I went to the local junkyard which was mostly used by the Mining companies and picked through by everyone. I spent alot of time amongst machinery. With mining equipment, there's alot of moving parts and steam parts and cogs..."
"So what are you doing now?" asked Flint, "Why risk losing your job and your life helping a crazy old man?"
"Oh, it was no problem like that," said Arnett, "I kinda... drift."
"Drift?" Flint cocked one eyebrow, but tipped his head so his eye accused just barely under the brim of his hat.
"Yeah, I do odd jobs. Sometimes it's fixing up stuff. Sometimes I'm just planning up some stuff."
"Planning up some 'stuff', huh?" said Flint, "Who do you work for?"
"Me, mostly," said Arnett, "I don't really have a set in stone job."
"So," said Flint, sighing, "Why is that? If you have these skills, why-"
"I DO have these skills, old man," said Arnett, getting angry, "Let's see YOU make it."
"Why, then, are you hopping around?" asked Flint, "Are there no industries in this world?"
"Are there no businesses? Militaries? Needs?" asked Flint, "Why can't someone with your skill of digging through the trash and making something of value is stuck drifting?"
"I don't know," said Arnett, shrugging, "I guess I was just a little too afraid at getting stuck somewhere again. For years I was stuck in my home town... I never wanted to be stuck again."
"That's stupidity talking," said Flint, shaking his head, "No... that's not stupid, that is inexperience talking. That's a child."
"No it is not!" said Arnett, "Is it so wrong to want freedom? To want more?"
"Wanting more is what drives us forward through life, kid," said Flint, "But aimlessly throwing yourself into the future creates a shackle you can't run from. You need to think, plan, anticipate. Every move you make needs to have a purpose. You don't get freedom, you are not given your life, your career. You carve it out of the tree... you chisel it from the mountain. Only after you have a solid base and a knowledge of your craft can you know how to wield the freedom into an actual work of art, into real freedom."
"Yeah, yeah. Sounds like a whole lot of uselessness," said Arnett, picking up one of the blueprints and looking it over.
"So, I'm hungry," said Flint, "When will we get to this... uhm."
"Gearford," said Arnett, before he cleared his throat, "Actually, outer Gearford."
"Gearford," said Flint, "What a... name? Is it shaped as a giant cog or something?"
"There's a junkyard there which holds alot of the immediate junk from most of the mills, including some of Buford Automatons' junk. They are temporarily held there," said Arnett, "We should be able to use that area as a temporary base to quickly build something that can get us to that island."
"Sounds great," said Flint, "I have some real faith. And hunger... I'm gonna head to the lunch cart or something."
"Food. You in?"
Arnett grabbed a few of the papers and began to examine them, "Actually, I'd like to look over your ideas a little more, if you don't mind."
"Sounds good to me," said Flint.
"Hey, Lieutenant... man," said Arnett, "Why does your Landship, built to resemble a Scorpion, only have one cannon?"
"What?" said Flint, "That was there first... I don't know. Scorpions have a stinger."
"Scorpions have two tails," said Arnett, "And two stingers. Wouldn't it make more sense to have two cannons?"
"Look, I don't know, alright?" said Flint, "This is what I have had for years, alright? Don't... ask stupid questions. The Scorpion aspect isn't the most important thing."
Flint turned and left the car. Arnett leaned across the table and grabbed the quill. Looking at the plans, he began to scribble on them.
The gunshot ran right through Arnett, who jumped back. The lock had disappeared, but the chains had to be tugged a few times by Flint to be tossed aside.
"The hell, Man," said Arnett, "We could have climbed over."
"Maybe years back," said Flint, "I just don't have the damn time these days. Grab that pack and let's go."
"We're going to need to replace that," said Arnett.
Flint pushed the fence aside and entered the Junkyard. For a Junkyard, this place was pretty nice. The "junk" was nicely stacked and organized. There were several shacks, and a large building in the way back. The mounds of actual trash made up rolling hills for the stacks of metal, copper, tubing, and other parts could be seen.
"Wow," said Flint, walking up to the closest shack, "This is one hell of a junkyard."
"Yeah, it's alot nicer then I thought," said Arnett, "Look, we're gonna need to find a way to grab what we need and go."
"Woah, cool your jets, kid," said Flint, walking up to the shed which had alot of paper notices on it.
Besides the normal safety and regulation and scheduling notices, one stood out in bold letters and Flint tore it off to read it. He smiled, and tossed it to Arnett.
The Twelfth of Skia, 1891,
Attention, all personnel. Due to the Holidays of the Yeti and
VibranniDemon workers during these next few weeks, we have decided it would be more efficient to close down operations until the end of the events. Please be ready to work extra hard to keep up with demand upon your return to work.
During this time there will be no pay, and NO use of the company's water well. The grounds will be put under lock-down.
And please stop using the lavatories for social meetups.
"Huh, looks like we got some time, then," said Arnett, "How lucky. We can throw this together... look at all this buildup of stuff. This is lucky."
"It's 1891 here?" mumbled Flint, shaking his head, "None of this makes any sense. Anyways, that is good. So let's set up somewhere and get to building. What will you need for tools?"
"You really think this is ok?" said Arnett, "You think they will find us?"
"Maybe," said Flint, "Not our problem. Our problem is getting started. I'm on a ticker, remember?"
Flint had to rest for another coughing fit, Arnett went ahead. As he kept going into the yard, he noticed a few large mechanical legs usually used by landships of a small scale. As he looked closer at them, his mind exploded. He saw how they could go together. He saw their parts... he saw the landship. He was smiling. Farther down the path, he almost jumped for joy. Lying conveniently was a series of parts, however one was a large construction vehicle. He noticed the body of the vehicle was the only thing of use left, but if he could dig out most of it, and replace the rail wheels it used with mechanized legs... adding onto its size... maybe he could turn it into the landship.
Flint caught up shortly after Arnett dropped most of the bags.
"What's going on?" said Flint.
"This is it," said Arnett, "Let's set up in that shack, looks like a bunk house for foremen. We can build the ship here."
"Well, this looks great," said Flint, "How are we going to get this started?"
"First, I need a measuring tape," said Arnett, "Next, measure! Next... draw. I need to draw up some plans. Then I shall show you my vision."
"Can't you just rig something up and-"
"It has got to work," said Arnett, "Please, Flint. Let me do this!"
"Alright," said Flint, "I'll let you go about it. But first, let's set up, batten down, and get our bearings. But you got to be quick about all this stuff, we don't have alot of time, here."
Arnett was putting the finishing touches on welding the body together and Flint was going through parts for one of the legs they had found. The body of the new landship was beginning to come together rather nicely. With it being slightly larger the Arnett had ever expected it to be.
Arnett jumped down when he was finished with one of the last few sections. He had noticed Flint had stopped working so he decided a break didn't sound too bad either.
"What's the issue, Gramps?" asked Arnett.
"My button," said Flint, showing whatever he had in his hand, "It just fell off... you know it is very rare that I lose something off these coats of mine."
"It's just a button," said Arnett, who crinkled his nose while patting down Flint's coat, "No offense, but these clothes look like... old... like some sort of dirt suit. I mean, you got enough browns here?"
"Earth tones," said Flint, "And these clothes shouldn't look this.... crumbly."
"Looks like you crawled out of your grave slightly early," said Arnett.
"I'm gonna need new clothes," said Flint, "Not going to have my image like this."
"Well I'm sure there's some overalls or something in the-"
"Nope, not going to do," said Flint, "You ready for a break? We need to go into town."
"What? For some clothes... aw, come on," said Arnett, "Look, I thought we were on a ticker or whatever."
"It's not just clothes, kid. The right set of threads says alot to other people, it speaks to other people. Look at mine. What does it say?"
"Dirty old man," said Arnett, "And... Brown."
"See?" asked Flint, "However, you wouldn't help a dirty old man. No. Clothes can tell people you are proper, you are mature, you are smart, you are dignified... you are tough, you a smooth.... anything. It's helpful."
"That is a load," said Arnett.
"Come on, let's look around for some cash and go," said Flint, "Besides, you look like crap. If there are cops and stuff after us, we may need to consider getting new threads just on the basis of looking different."
Arnett hadn't changed clothes since the morning of meeting Flint. It was for this reason he closed his eyes and sighed.
After searching many of the shacks and sheds in the area, Flint and Arnett had dug up around thirty Ciams of cash. Arnett was so shocked that he suggested they break into the main building where they would most likely find safes containing the payroll and holiday cash funds. Upon breaking in, they did find several safes, and Flint was able to teach Arnett how to crack a safe. After grabbing about a hundred or so Ciams in the safe (to Arnett's dismay, they left a great deal behind) they headed into town.
Flint finished buttoning up the new shirt and he began looking through the ties that were on the rack the attendant had brought over. Arnett was sitting down, wearing a new shirt and looking at a pair of pants.
"So... you have a family, Flint?" asked Arnett.
"Yeah," said Flint, looking at a bow tie and struggling with tying it, "Wife... Kids... it's great."
"Back home, huh?" said Arnett, "So... Your Wife."
"She's smart," said Flint, "Prettiest girl who ever walked the Earth."
"Right, right," said Arnett, "How'd you meet her?"
"You know, I'm not so sure I feel like talking about this," said Flint, who was frustrated with the bow tie and he took it off, tossing it aside.
He wanted a necktie, but it crumbled when he took it off after entering the store. Actually, sadly, the dressing room has a pile of dirt, dust, and old looking clothing on the floor. The staff didn't look very happy about it, but with Flint at least buying them out of basic clothing they did not argue.
"So you think we'll make it?" said Arnett.
"You are one for conversation, aren't you?" asked Flint, shaking his head and coughing slightly, "I think we don't have a choice, Joel. My family, my friends, my ship... they all need me. I'm not ready to die, yet."
"Are you sure?" asked Arnett, "Your... mustache is a little grey."
Flint smiled and began to chuckle, which turned into a cough into the tie he was about to try on, "I hope you get half my age and your hair turns white as snow. Honestly..."
Flint gave a disgusted look. The tie he had coughed into was now covered in blood. The Attendant also had a horrified look. Flint handed him the tie carefully and smiled.
"Burn it, put it on my bill," said Flint, "Sorry."
"SO why is this old hat still hanging around," said Arnett, picking up Flint's hat and fumbling with it in his hands.
"Careful!" said Flint, pointing at Arnett, "That hat is older then you are, Kid. It's my soul. My entire life force. It lives on because I haven't died yet. it is... me."
Arnett and Flint shared a pause. Both looked at one another. Arnett's eyes seemed to slowly grow and his eyebrows raised. Flint smiled and began to laugh.
"Nah, I'm just kidding. I have no damn idea why the damn hat won't die," said Flint, "But don't play with it. I like that hat."
Flint gave up on a Bolo and tossed it aside, rummaging through the racks.
"Tell me about yourself," said Flint, "How about your parents."
"My parents," said Arnett, shaking his head and gently putting down Flint's Fedora, "Now we're on something I don't want to discuss."
Flint said nothing for some time. It was Arnett who paced up and down the shop before returning to Flint trying on an Ascot.
"My dad worked all his life in the mines," said Arnett, "He got out of it as I started growing up. He wanted to... be around or something. He became the Deputy Sheriff of the local police force. It's kinda a good deal, sure. Not many towns have private Police Branch in Antiford... so technically he is just as big as any other Deputy Sheriff in all of Antiford. But... it's just... he could be doing a lot more."
"Can he, now," said Flint, "How old is your dad?"
"I don't know," said Arnett, "Forty Something... I haven't really talked with him in a while."
"A while, huh?" asked Flint, "How come? Don't write home often? Can't pick up a phone?"
Flint shook his head, removing the Ascot and tossing it aside. Arnett leaned against a shelf and debated trying on a pair of pants.
"Why should I?" asked Arnett.
"You know... I'm not sure, Joel," said Flint, "Maybe I'm just crazy."
"You think something happened?" asked Arnett, "Like... to him or something? It's just a small town, not alot happens. Maybe a Mining fight or breaking up strikes or something."
Flint smiled, winking at Arnett, "Never mind, I do know. That is why, Joel, right there."
Arnett just rubbed his arm and looked away. Flint grabbed another bowtie and tried to tie it like a necktie.
"Your Mother?" asked Flint.
"She's nice. She helps alot of the town people with their laundry and stuff... she doesn't really work much," said Arnett, "She's a Prush. My dad used to always call her his 'Prush Princess'. There's no royalty in her blood or nothing... just... you know."
"Prush, huh," said Flint.
"Prush Confederacy," said Arnett, "Nation to the south of Antiford. They don't really like us... but they aren't too bad. Just old Fashioned..."
"Good," said Flint, his nose turning at a Cravat, tossing it aside, "Tell me, what is your excuse for not contacting her?"
"I don't know," said Arnett.
"You don't know? or You don't have one?"
"Both, I guess," said Arnett, frowning, "Why you riding me old man? What does it matter to you? Why are we all talking about me? What about you, Flint? What about your dad?"
"My Dad..." said Flint, shaking his head, "My father was a great man."
Flint found a wide-necktie that suited him, and he cut it up to look closer to the one he had before. Neither of them spoke to one another. When Flint had finished the necktie, he smiled and nodded to the attendant, then telling him they could bring brown vests in his size.
"That's all?" said Arnett.
"That's all to describe him," said Flint, "My father was a man who did great things. What did he do? He was an adventurer and explorer in a time when there was nothing else to explore. He went to jungles... he met natives... he went to ruins. He even began one of the greatest expeditions to explore the bottom of our ocean."
"WOW, really?" said Arnett, pulling up a chair, "The bottom of the ocean... sounds fantastic. He did all that?"
"Everybody liked him," said Flint, "Everyone... but he didn't like everyone. In fact, he overlooked many."
Flint's head ducked, and his eyes closed. Arnett watched him for a few minutes, then nodded and crossed his arms. Flint opened his eyes and buttoned up a vest and starred into the mirror.
"He was a great man," said Arnett, "Doesn't mean he was a great dad, huh?"
Flint did not say anything as he displayed the vest
"What about your mom?"
Flint sighed, closing his eyes again. He shook his head.
"I never knew my mother," said Flint, clearing his throat, "Or I don't remember remembering... I'm at that age, Joel. But I am told she was a strong woman."
Silence filled the room once more. Flint sent away the Attendant with measurements and a design for a coat. Arnett almost let loose a chuckle at his ridiculousness. Flint turned around, however. His eyes were read and watery, and his nose was beginning to turn red. Flint began a small coughing fit. Turning to Arnett, he showed off his new suit.
"You look weird," said Arnett, "People don't normally wear that with a gun."
"Oh, the gun... right," said Flint, "I still need that."
"Or we don't," said Arnett, "It's not THAT important."
"We shall see," said Flint, "Now... let's talk... about all this."
Flint gestured to Arnett's clothes. Arnett raised his eyebrows and shook his head no. Flint smiled awkwardly, shrugged, and nodded.
Arnett stepped out of the clothing store. He adjusted the Cravat he had around his neck and smiled. He strolled out onto the Gearford streets and did a spin for Flint, now wearing his new suit with matching overcoat. Flint flipped his hat onto his head and ran his finger down the brim.
"Feel better?" asked Flint.
"A little," said Arnett, "Maybe a little ridiculous."
Arnett saw a group of women pass. One was absolutely gorgeous, smiling at him from behind her fan. Arnett smiled and saluted, causing the entire group to burst into laughter and scuttle away, the main girl blushing and waving. Flint crossed his arms and smiled.
"You noticing the magic already?" answered Flint.
"Oh, yeah," said Arnett, stepping closer to Flint, "Let me tell you something; Give me some time and I wager I can get her. Things I would do to that body. She wouldn't see straight for a damn week. MAN! And her little friends? Hey, you want one?"
Flint's backhand was barely seen by Arnett as it wiped across his face. Arnett was pushed back and he held his face. After he recovered he looked up and Flint, shock on his face. Flint had a glare, and he stared at Arnett just below the brim of his hat, a look Arnett had to admit was incredibly unsettling to receive.
"The HELL, old man!" yelled Arnett, looking around at the other pedestrians catching glances of the situation.
"How DARE you speak like that about a lady," said Flint, "Damnit, kid. Ain't you ever been taught about manners?"
"You old bastard," said Arnett, "You got to go off and hit me. If it's that bad we can go back to the junkyard and stuff."
"Junkyard and stuff?" said Flint, "You kid... you have no idea. You need to change your attitude. Or you'll ALWAYS be a kid and alone and a loser!"
"The hell," Arnett wiped away the blood beginning to seep from his mouth, "That was..."
"Embarrassing," said Flint, "Grow up. Women are not things. I didn't buy you new clothing and a new look so you could entrap women with your... ness. Don't you want to be a man? Then act like it!"
"You hit me again, and I'll drop you," said Arnett.
"Will you, now?" asked Flint, standing up straighter, his hand resting by his thigh holster.
Arnett didn't say anything. He took a few steps back and just stared at Flint. There was a silence, until Arnett blinked prefusly and then looked away all together, wiping at his face.
"Alright then," said Flint, "Now do you need any supplies or anything before we head back?"
"Food, drink, some basic stuff... Yeah," said Arnett, "Why don't I draw you up a list or something?"
"Why don't you do that," said Flint, giving him a stern look, "Then get back there and get to work. We're running out of time."
Arnett nodded, looking away in embarrassment.
Shiny New Toys"What the hell are you doing?" Flint had just rounded the corner.
Arnett had disappeared into the Scrapyard for parts and inspiration. He eagerly waved Flint over and displayed what he had found. It looked like some sort of lump of metal... like an exotic engine.
"The hell his that?" asked Flint.
"Well, I didn't know what we are going to use for weapons and stuff... so I found something," said Arnett, smiling at the metallic thing.
"Is it heavy?" asked Flint.
"Uhh... Yeah, a little bit," said Arnett.
"So we're gonna throw it... not sure how effective it'll work... and we only have one shot."
"No, no, Flint... this is awesome," said Arnett, "It's a piece to an old rapid window maker. It's kind of a... construction tool that ran out of style. Look, look look."
Arnett ran around the large engine-like object, explaining how it worked, "You see, it sucks up sand through the use of a hose or intake somehow, then this is running and super heats the sand, turning it into glass. Now what it is supposed to do is compact it and spread it with the use of a few more parts. But what WE can to is use it to keep on compressing and heading. We can make giant glass shards to use as bullets or shafts or knife or something."
"Interesting..." said Flint, "But I don't see it working..."
"No, look," said Arnett, starting up the machine, "It runs like this... a little power. You turn it on, select a group. Then... we need some sand."
Arnett began scooping up sand into one of the ends and it disappeared into the machine. The engine began to shake and sputter, and Flint nodded, taking a few steps back. Suddenly, the machine glowed, and it fired out a shard of glad. Arnett dived to the ground, and Flint threw up his arms.
The shard slammed into one of the shelves, making it teeter. The shard itself shattered on impact. Flint and Arnett shared a look.
"It needs working out," said Arnett, "But it could work."
"All we need it this thing to move and work," said Flint, "We don't even have the boilers in yet, kid."
Suddenly the teetering shelve tipped over fully, and crashed to the ground. Parts and scrap went everywhere, and Arnett turned to look.
"Let's keep destroying property," said Flint, "That will conceal our being here."
"Holy coward," said Arnett, pointing beyond the shelf, "Look at that, Flint!"
Arnett walked over to the pile of scrap that fell over, and crawled on top of it. Flint reluctantly followed. Over the scrap shelves was a small valley like area, much like the one they had set up in. Inside it a large airship sat. Obvious damage to the hull as well as to the balloon suggested it may have been left there. Arnett had a smile spread across his face while Flint just shook his head.
"You think it has cannons?" said Arnett.
"It doesn't look like it has markings... maybe not military based."
Arnett was already making his way over the piles of scrap, "Come on, let's look."
After making their way down they were at the ship. Arnett wasting no time pulling himself inside. Flint was shouting some sort of warning outside, but inside the damaged section of the hull Arnett lost his warnings.
Inside the ship, Arnett could clearly see a line of cannons.He was almost giddy with delight. Lying around the floor were shell casings for the cannons, and in the back a small refilling dock with black powder used to remake the shells. Arnett's heart jumped. He noticed a half-emptied weapons locker towards the back. As he made his way up to the main deck he listened for footsteps or whispering. All he could here was Flint outside, talking to himself or something.
On the top deck, Arnett's mouth was agape. Looking at the top deck, Arnett could see a large contraption that took up most of the deck of the ship. It had two long parts with strange metallic probes in the middle of each one, facing into each other. A box on the end held them "together".
"What is this?" came Flint's voice.
Arnett turned to see Flint had made it onto the ship.
"I believe it is called a 'Railgun'," said Arnett, smiling, "They were using them as prototypes during the war with the Prush... but they were just not... right. They just weren't developed or useful. However this just.... this blows away all Antiford's prototypes."
Flint took a second to look over the railgun while Arnett continued, "So, you see all those cannons? I bet we can fit a few on the ship. Alot of stuff from this ship could be helpful."
"Pirates?" asked Flint.
"Maybe," said Arnett, "But I've never seen regular pirates with technology like this. And they were in some heavy fighting. Why dump this in a scrapyard like this?"
"Maybe they don't see the potential," said Arnett, smiling, "Flint, this is JUST what we need. And that sand thingy... and... OH MY! Flint, I need you to get back into the executive offices and see where they keep any mining equipment. I have a grand idea to throw together. I'll start dismantling and moving this stuff over to the ship."
"What's your plans, kid?"
"Well... Let's just say I am taking inspiration from your plans, Ol' Man," Arnett gloated, "I think I know how we can rebuild your Scorpios in enough time to head to that blasted Island."
"Look at all this," said Flint, looking at buckets of sand and dust, "Why would they need so much of this? Ballasts?"
"Look!" shouted Arnett, running across the ship to a different part, "You know what this? This is a condenser. This is... really rare. And Illegal. However, I think we need this, badly."
"Sounds great," said Flint, peeking into an area of the deck, "What can we use on this ship, huh? The legs are almost on."
"It's fine," said Arnett, "Not all of it, but there's enough here for us to make full use."
"Fine, I'll go find a cart," said Flint, holding back a cough, "We got to keep moving."
"I need to draw up some plans too," said Arnett, the smile not disappearing, "You are going to LOVE it!"
Flint was putting together one of the machines Arnett designed for transferring water that was stored as well as condensed and getting it to the boilers. While he was doing this, a smile was on his face. He was now able to stand in in the shadow of a newly constructed landship. After a day or two of working, Arnett was full-blown ready to finish this crawler, and he was working full steam throughout the day. Flint was glad, because as Arnett worked longer and harder... he began to slow down.
Arnett was up top the landship now. The Ship's body was whole as far as he could tell, and it was currently standing of its own power on six new legs. He was supposed to be adding the boiler to it and beginning work on what he called the "cockpit", where the ship would be controlled by a one or two man team. Instead, Arnett was measuring for the Drill arms he had designed.
"These drills you found look a little small," yelled Flint.
"Nope," said Arnett, the two day old smile still strong on his face, "We don't all have the massive drills you have in your world, there, buddy."
"I understand, but I feel as though you can't have found any smaller ones?" said Flint, "These are just so..."
POW. The thing Flint was working on malfunctioned. A Rubber plug at the end of one of the hoses popped out and disappeared. Flint clenched his mouth, examining for damage on the machine. A second or so later, Flint heard a thump from behind him. Turning around, he saw Arnett had fallen off the landship, spread out on the ground moaning. Flint squinted in pain again.
"Opps," he said, under his breathe.
"My head..." said Arnett, "What was that?"
Flint looked around. Not seeing the rubber plug, he just shrugged, "What was what? Did you trip?"
Arnett rolled over, coughing, giving Flint a very confused look.
Arnett's nerves were on edge. The crane's controls were very touchy, and the parts for the Rail Gun were way more fragile apart then he was prepared to deal with. In two days they realized they needed to completely redesign the whole way the railgun worked in order to fit it on the Landship. Now their highly unstable rig needed to be lowered onto the deck of the ship where it will call home before it could be worked on further. Flint stood on the small compartment towards the bow, trying to direct Arnett, while Arnett was left in control of the crane.
Arnett pulled on one of the levers, sending the whole rig to the left. Slowly, the gun was moved left.
"Alright," said Flint, "That's good. Stop."
Arnett's eye squinted. There was no way the gun could sit that far back. No... not that far back. He kept the lever pulled and allowed it to keep going a ways.
"Hey," yelled Flint, "Hey, stop! Stop!"
"I got this," yelled Arnett.
Arnett allowed the rig to move a little farther. When he pulled up on the lever, he noticed the whole rig seemed to swing farther, and he winced.
"You gotta listen," yelled Flint, "Now you are too far, pull back!"
Arnett tapped the lever again, bringing it back slowly. Flint began waving towards him, calling Arnett to now bring it forward. Arnett grasped another lever, pushing it forward. The rig began moving closer to the landship. The rail gun moved above the ship, creating a shadow over the body.
"Alright, now," said Flint, "Stop here a second, let it settle, there's only a little bit to go."
"But I don't see why we can't just go that little bit," said Arnett, "I got this under control. It's just a little farther."
"No, no, Joel," yelled Flint, waving his hands, "Joel, stop, JOEL! Arnett!"
"Shush it, I can control it," yelled Arnett, "You don't know everything!!"
Arnett pulled down on the lever and immediately regretted what he had said. He saw the shadow disappear on the landship and he winced. The Rail gun swung on the line, slamming into a tower shelf of parts and scrap. As the shelf clattered to the ground, the rail gun swung back around. Thinking quickly, Arnett jammed a different lever, pulling the Railgun into the air. As it swung back around, it barely missed the cockpit of the Scorpios, and Flint had leapt off, so it missed him completely.
Moments passed and the gun teetered on the line. Arnett breathed heavily, leaning back in the chair. He watched as the rail gun teetered back and forth.
Suddenly the door opened up, and before Arnett could look to see who it was, a hand grasped him and yanked him out of the cockpit, and he found himself falling through the air and landing on the ground beneath. He was about to cry out in pain, but his own anger kept it back.
"The hell do you think you're doing, Arnett," yelled Flint, climbing off the crane while coughing violently, "You need to listen to me, God-damnit!"
"I don't NEED to, I chose to," said Arnett, gasping for air as well, "You need to take a breather, Flint."
"Listen to me, you little shit," yelled Flint, pointing at Arnett, "Your pride and cockiness almost cost us the railgun and the god-damned ship! Not to mention my life."
"How was I supposed to KNOW that was going to happen," argued Arnett, "I mean, seriously."
"Seriously? Seriously? You want to know?" said Flint, making his way closer to Arnett, "You need to take a step back, BOY. You need to LISTEN! You know what your problem is? You think you know everything. You think you are so... damn... SMOOTH! You aren't anywhere close to it, boy."
Arnett was quiet as Flint doubled over, another violent coughing fit taking over his body. Afterwards, Flint took off his hat and threw it on the ground, cursing.
"Joel Arnett, you have a lot of growing up to do," said Flint, trying to to yell as much now, "You need to accept the fact that you are not always going to have all the information. There are other people in this world, ALOT of other people, who know a crap ton alot more then you do, kid. The issue is, they are not always going to be around. You are gonna know a metric elephant's dung load more of information then HALF the people you will meet in your lifetime. Sometimes, even, people are going to know stuff YOU don't, and you are going to know stuff THEY don't. That's called being a DAMN TEAM!"
"Well, how am I supposed to learn with you yelling all the time," said Arnett, "You're always so secretive, and you're quick to call me 'boy' and 'kid'. I know a heck of a lot more then you give me credit for."
"Incorrect," said Flint, wiping at his mouth, "I think you are very information based. I think you have street smarts and attitude and your little noggin is chock full of book learnin'. However, what you LACK is common sense. Humility. Patience. Experience. You have a long way to go to go through everything you know, have learned, or will ever learn, and realize HOW to use it and what is useful and what is just CRAP!"
They were quiet for some time afterwards. Flint coughing and hacking until he gave in and went to retrieve a cup of tea and Arnett silent for some time. When Flint came back, he sat down next to Arnett.
"This crane is old, and I'm not sure how things work in this world but in mine, this would be a relic," Flint said.
Arnett was silent.
"Now, I'm down here, on the ship," said Flint, "And you are way the hell up there. Now, you have alot of responsibility and foresight up there. However, you lack alot of KNOWLEDGE. What you gain is control."
"Now, you have to rely on me to get you through this," said Flint, "You need to rely on the fact that I am closer, and have a better vantage point then you so I can accurately inform you of what your choices and decisions are doing. That's called Team-Work, kid."
Arnett looked up at Flint, his eyes furrowing, "Why me? Why did you chose me?"
"Because I can't control this thing so well and you don't know how to direct-"
"You know better then I," said Flint, smiling and patting Arnett's shoulder, "I didn't chose you. More like you chose me. You were dumb enough to chose me. And through a series of bad decisions... I'm stuck with you."
Flint got up and walked to where his hat lay on the ground. He picked it up and brushed it off.
"We got two days to finish this before we absolutely must get on the road," said Flint, "Now I NEED you, and you NEED me. We're almost there..."
Arnett nodded, but didn't move. Flint turned to him and put his hands on his hips underneath his coat.
"Joel?" he asked, catching Arnett's attention, "Please... will you help me finish this so I can get home? To my family? To my world?"
Arnett stood up and nodded, heading towards the crane again as Flint walked back to the land ship. Arnett turned as he was climbing the ladder.
"Flint," he said... struggling with the words, "I... didn't know."
"That's an excuse, Joel," said Flint, shaking his head, "One day you'll find the strength for an apology."
Scorpios IIThe candle was still flickering away when Arnett was roused from his sleep. Turning over, he saw Flint was hard at work at something. The desk hadn't been that full of paper since the beginning stages of the Landship. Arnett stood up, and walked over next to Flint.
"You think about a name for it?" asked Flint, not turning away from his project.
"For... the landship?" said Arnett, rubbing the sleep from his eye, "No. Not sure it mattered."
"It always matters," said Flint, "The ship must have a name."
"What are you doing?" asked Arnett.
Flint sighed and sat back in the chair, putting down the quill, "I have been looking over our work, and out plans... and I am geniunly impressed. This might work, Joel. This might actually work. And better yet, it might last!"
"What might last?" asked Arnett.
"Oh, Joel Arnett... you never look that far ahead, do you?" asked Flint, a smile on his face, "One way or another, this will end."
"Don't think like that," said Arnett, "We're gonna make it through."
"You need to listen more," said Flint, holding out a finger, "I will either die, and the mission will fail... or we will make it to this Island and... well... I will go home. And I am never coming back."
Arnett nodded. He felt surprisingly low about this ultimatum. The idea that at some point, this journey really would be over.
"So... I'm writing up some paperwork," said Flint, turning back to the paper, "Something you will grow good at over time. I'm giving it all to you."
"What?" asked Arnett, looking surprised.
"The ship," said Flint, smiling, "I'm writing paperwork, giving it to you. I don't know how helpful it'll be, but I figure it could help you on your journey. I'm giving you the rights to the design. I'm giving you my clothes and money, if I should fall over dead along the way. The weapons... everything. It is yours."
Arnett smiled, nodding his head, "Thank you, I guess. That's... amazing."
"Don't get too excited, there wasn't much choice," said Flint, laughing, "I'll be gone or dead with no control over you. Anyway, I thought I would teach you about how things work where I am from and hopefully I can teach you how to make something of yourself here in Antiford with a ship like this."
"And the name?" asked Arnett.
"Well, you don't have one," said Flint, leaning back and smiling, "And I figured... well... you followed my original plans and worked around them SO well... that... well... this is worthy of a title of mine."
Flint took out another paper, the letterhead of all the paperwork. Arnett read it allowed.
The Rights to the Landship Scorpios II
"The Scorpios II," said Arnett, feeling how the words worked in his mouth.
"You like it?" said Flint, "It was so different from my original ship I couldn't exactly bring over the name. But it is a continuation... so... There you go."
"Flint... I don't know what to say," said Arnett.
"'Thank You', would be a good start," smiled Flint, "But this only means there's more work to do. Let's try to get some sleep so we can begin our journey, eh Arnett?"
The candle may have been blown out, and Flint and Arnett did get back into their bunks and close their eyes; but Arnett didn't sleep a single bit for the rest of the evening.
Arnett was grinning ear to ear. He had bypassed Flint's eye and made sure to stash away a few hundred Ciams from that vault they had opened earlier while he went back to grab some smaller welding tools and other supplies they might need. They had hidden the Scorpios II under a giant sheet and were bringing up supplies from the bottom hatch. The ship was as done as it was going to get. After one or two test runs they decided it would be able to go from there to the coastline in No-time.
Flint was making a list of everything they would need for thee journey. He looked up and spotted Arnett's smile, but returned it instead of asking questions.
"I can get the rest, there buddy," said Flint, gesturing to the pile of supplies gathering under the compartment, "Why don't you get started on that bit there. I'll go make sure we scrounge up some more water."
"Good luck with that," said Arnett, "We've been running this condenser all night because we don't have enough. I bet you'll find a few bottles back in one of those safes."
"Naw, no more stealing," said Flint, "We need to start thinking about honor and all that. I'll teach you about it later."
"Great," said Arnett, rolling his eyes, "More lessons."
Arnett climbed into the ship with his stash, and began maneuvering the supplies up into the ship, slowly. The ship was beginning to feel cramped. What was once an empty husk of machinery was now an engine room, supply room and cargo room, a small passenger space (which could be converted to more cargo room), four bunks, a commander's room, and alongside those were cannon space, ammunition and weapon locker, as well as emergency blast pods.
Filling the cargo room was not going to be hard at all at the rate they were going. They needed to pack heavily so they could keep on the move once they head out.
Arnett was busy stowing away some of the supplies when he heard some commotion outside. He quickly finished up stowing what he needed and he headed back down to see what was up. As he approached the hatch, he could hear that Flint was talking with someone. Arnett shut and sealed the hatch quickly, then he rushed over to the one of the cannons and opened one of the hatches. Taking out a utility knife Flint had given him he cut a hole in the tarp and peered out.
Flint was standing outside, hands raised, as six men surrounded him. They looked dirty and tough, and they were all armed to the teeth. The leader was easily identifiable, with a long raggedy coat and great big hat. He also didn't have a weapon trained on Flint. Instead he flashed a pistol from the holster and had a sword hanging from its hilt on his belt. The other five held pistols or rifles and had them trained on Flint.
Arnett strained his ears, trying to listen carefully.
"I told you, I work here," said Flint again.
"Bollocks, nobody who works here has been here for MILES!" yelled the leader, pointing a long, bony finger at Flint, "You're a scraper... or some sort of pirate. What are you workin' on, here?"
"You gentlemen don't appear to be employed here either," said Flint, slowly stepping back.
"Oi, there, you! I said no movin'," yelled one of the thugs, "Hands up!"
"Who wears a coat in this weather, I ask?" said the leader.
"You," said Flint.
Arnett's heart skipped a beat a second. Pirates! Pirates had found them, and for some reason they were pissed.
"What's under the tarp, mate," asked one of the men.
"Teeth cleaner," said Flint, "You should try it, bud."
"So what are you building out here?" asked the leader, "A Ship? A machine? Where did you get the parts!"
"The town of Nonya," said Flint, "I gave them some Nonya Business."
"Cheeky," smiled the leader.
"Thank you, I pride myself in wit," answered Flint.
"Does it shoot?" asked the leader, "Does it fly? Does it have cannons... maybe a very interesting one... one that's unlike other cannons."
"I don't have to answer this," says Flint, "Keep speaking and I'll get some of the Bobbies down here."
"Don't play rough with me, mate," said the leader, "Now call out your men. All of them, now."
"I work alone," said Flint.
"Bollocks!" yelled the Captain, "Nobody builds ships alone. Call them out now or I'll kill you and question THEM when I find 'em!"
"No one would be that stupid, sir," said Flint, standing more upright, "Especially if we had some sort of fully functioning ship... with cannons."
"Where'd you find the parts?" asked the captain again, "Let me guess... a conveniently crashed ship not too far away, eh?"
"Trust me," said Flint, louder, "If I was standing at gunpoint, outnumbered, and I had friends... around here... and a conveniently working ship... don't you think they would be doing something right now?"
"Did you think I wouldn't find you?" yelled the man, "Did you think I was STUPID!"
"Like... anything, really," said Flint, louder, "I would even go for a bird call..."
Arnett snapped out of the trance, shaking his head. He had to do something. He shut the cannon flap and ran through the ship. Reaching the interior entrance to the cockpit, he lurched himself up. The newly and haphazardly constructed cockpit looked just as he had left it. He checked his gauges. Yehp, they had left the engines on and running for the condenser to run. Setting himself down in one of the two seats, he began adjusting knobs and pulling levers, setting up the ship to move before he turned it on. Once he had everything ready, he looked out of the double thick glass of the cockpit window. The tarp was still on. Crap!
Arnett thought a moment. What could he do? Sure, he could really make an entrance... but how could he fight back with the tarp the way it was? He thought.
"I'm going to count to three," yelled the leader from outside, "And then my boys are gonna head under that tarp, and MAKE SURE we get what we want. While they do that, I am going to slit your bloomin throat!"
"I'll save you the time," said Flint, "One, two, three."
"You cheeky bastard," yelled the leader once more, "ONE!"
Arnett reached down and yanked the pull cord. In one fluid motion, the cord set off a chain reaction and turned the main engines into overdrive. They roared to life, and he could feel the entire ship shake and vibrate underneath him. Grabbing the two main levers, he yanked on one and pushed the other. He could feel the Scorpios II lurch forward and spin.
In one fluid motion, The Scorpios Two came to life and spun in its place. The two main drills lifted, allowing the tarp to catch the small breeze in the air. The tarp found itself flying through the air, shrouding the whole scene in its shadow. The Pirates were all looking up at the Landship, some of their weapons even pointing at it. Flint dropped his hands, pulling out a the pistol they had grabbed from the guard. Aiming it, he fired at the leader, hitting him in the shoulder. Quickly changing target, he shot another guard in the neck, before turning the pistol on the closest of the guards and getting him in the chest.
The Scorpios II moved majestically. One or two guards began to shoot in response to Flint's firing, but they fired at the Scorpios and not the Lieutenant. Arnett pulled some levers quickly and brought down one of the drills. It slammed into the dirt a foot or two away from one of the pirates. Another lever pull turned on thee drill, kicking up dust and debris into the air.
Flint ran back underneath the ship, yelling up to Arnett. Arnett pulled back on the lever, the cogs and gears in the legs reverse spinning and walking the giant ship backwards. The Tarp passed by the window once more, and it landed on the Pirates, covering them up in more confusion and darkness.
Arnett abandoned the cockpit and opened the bottom hatch. He had to leap back as supplies began to get thrown up.
"We got to work on that timing," yelled Flint from below as he tossed up the supplies.
"I was 'thinking ahead' about my actions or whatever," yelled Arnett, "That isn't easy under pressure."
A few gunshots sounded off, and Flint took cover behind some boxes. Looking again, however, he saw they were all still trapped under the heavy tarp, and they fought to get free, firing blindly with their weapons."
"The police should be drawn to the fire any minute," yelled Flint, "Come on, how does she handle?"
"I don't know," said Arnett, "But I forgot how the cannons work, otherwise I would've just shot through the tarp at them."
"Would've never worked," yelled Flint, throwing up the last box, "Now come on, grab me and lets go!"
After yanking Flint up into the ship, Arnett returned to the Cockpit and strapped in. Yanking the levers, he aimed the Scorpios II out of the junkyard. The legs stomped the ground and stepped over and onto junk like nothing. They make their way to the same gate they had entered through, and they ran right through it. Once in open ground, Arnett pulled back on both leg levers, and allowed the legs to scuttle forward as fast as they would take them.
After about a mile or two, Flint found his way to the cockpit and reported that the mechanical legs were holding better then planned, and that the Buford Automaton parts were working like a charm. They both strapped in to the Cockpit, and enjoyed the ride for the rest of the day as they headed out into the Antifordian Desert. Flint had mentioned something about leaving the city, but Gearford was the last thing on Arnett's mind as he though about how they would get to this mysterious floating island of monsters and mystery.
The DesertFlint was standing on the small forward deck when Arnett found him. He was staring out into the desert. He held his coat over his mouth, stifling another cough. The coughing was getting worse. Arnett cringed at the sight of the stain that was forming in the elbow of the coat. Flint was definitely not well, and the idea of the other world visitor was becoming scarier to Arnett.
He approached Flint and stared out into the Desert.
"So, where to now?" said Arnett.
"Well, I was looking at the map and trying to think about this Island," said Flint, "It appears we will need to cross that Canyon thing into the country of the Prush Confederacy. That will be the closest way we can reach the Island."
"Jeeze... the Prush, huh?" said Arnett, "That's not going to be easy."
"Well, we are running out of time," said Flint, turning around and gazing at their ship, "This didn't turn out to be too bad of a ship, did it?"
"I guess not," said Arnett, smiling, "I'll need to work out something to make it continue to walk on its own. I had to tie down the controls."
"That sounds safe," sighed Flint, crossing his arms, "So how does this Rail Gun thing work, huh?"
"Well, according to the paperwork and stuff we found for it on the Pirate ship, it's a piece of stolen Well technology, "Said Arnett, walking towards the back of the ship where the Rail Gun was, "Apparently, it uses the heating pads on the lower half of this side and the upper half of this side, and the vice-versa cold pads, to super heat and super cool the air running through it, creating some sort of sand storm funnel thing."
"Like a tornado?" asked Flint, "I've seen such a machine before."
"Well, it creates an incredibly strong current. It is this current that throws objects at an extremely high range. Like a gun," said Arnett, "I don't know how all the little doodads go, but this is the bit of information that I understand. All I did was hook up this makeshift glass shard maker to make glass projectiles and distribute them into this end here."
"Sounds impossible," said Flint.
"Sounds really cool," Arnett, "I mean, this thing is amazing. Nothing better break on it."
"So are you sure all this works," said Flint, "I was not here for the test run."
Arnett looked to Flint and smiled.
Arnett yanked down on the right drill lever and squeezed the clutch on the lever. The right drill fired to life, splitting down the middle and lowering towards the sand below them. A powerful vacuum came to life, twisting the soft sand of the desert and pulling it into the now open drill like a tablecloth ripped from a table. Arnett waited a few seconds before releasing the clutch and allowing the claw to drift back up into its resting position.
He leapt from the cockpit and ran through the ship. Jumping out of one of the Bulkheads he rejoined Lieutenant Flint by the massive rail gun, which was now on and pointed off the side of the ship. Flint decided he wanted to see it in action, so they were manually controlling it from the deck instead of using the untested automatic clockwork parts which would have allowed them to use it from the gunners position in the cockpit.
"Alright, kid," said Flint, "Your oven is on and the Sand is getting super-melted. What's next."
"Well, it'll need some time to superheat the glass we have gather and compress it, forming it into a solid, sturdy bolt of glass."
"Why did you think glass was the best thing to shoot at your enemies?" said Flint, crossing his arms, "Any cannon would've done... and shells would fly easier through the air. Can we really hurl this at a damn airship? I think you are missing the point."
"Look, Flint," said Joel, "Look around us. Do you see an armory? How about cannons? Shells? No. What DO we have alot of here, though? Sand. And everyone knows that when Sand gets melted it turns into super glass."
"That sounds ridiculous. 'Super Glass'?"
"Look, Flint. The world is my ammunition!" said Joel, spreading his hands around, "Does that not sound scary? or... something?"
"It is clever, and a good use of your surroundings," said Flint, crossing his arms, "I'll admit that. But I just don't see how it's going to do much damage."
"Alright, watch," said Joel, who took over for the controls and fired up the railgun.
At first it hummed slightly, then it began to whistle as the inner workings of the gun began to work. After a minute, the entire machine went quiet besides a very low hum. At first Flint just rolled his eyes and Arnett scowled at the machine; however after two minutes of apparently nothing a breeze began to form. Between the two "rails" of the gun a small funnel began to form, only visible because of the loose sand in the air. In a matter of minutes it grew to a large funnel, taking up the entire space between the two rails. The breeze picked up, and Arnett could see Flint grabbing onto his hat for safekeeping.
Then the funnel dissipated slightly, almost fading from view, however the breeze still felt powerful as ever as the rail gun sucked air from one end and shot it through the other.
"Alright," yelled Flint, "So it turns on. Let's see what this baby can do!"
Arnett checked the crystalizer, and it was on and hot, almost done cooking up some of the glass they had gathered. Waiting a few moments, he decided the machine had cooked long enough and he pressed down a button, stopping the process, and he pulled on a spring-lever. The machine opened, releasing a burst of hot air, and ejected a large shard of murky glass out of it like a shell casing. The glass shard landed inside the stream of the rail-gun and was shot off faster than Arnett's eyes could follow.
It didn't take long for the shard to disappear from view. Flint and Arnett cupped their eyes from the sun and tried to follow it as it flew into the sky and disappeared into the horizon. Flint huffed, shaking his head.
"It shoots far," said Flint.
"Yeah," said Arnett, "I don't know where it went."
"We need to find something to shoot at," said Flint, "We can't tell how it works like this. Shoot at that rocky cropping over there."
"Where?" asked Arnett.
"Over there, look," said Flint, "That's far enough away. Shoot at that."
Arnett fiddled with some of the controls and brought the Rail Gun down and to the right, aiming at the rock formation. He shrugged, the system says that is as good as it is going to get. The crystalizer started up again and cooked up another shard.
The shard was launched into the rails, and it spun around and slammed into the two rails as it was flung. Spinning, it was tossed into the sand and shattered.
"Oops," said Arnett.
"What was that?" asked Flint.
"It's ok, I got this figured out," smiled Arnett, cooking up another shard, "I think I'm going to design some sort of containment or something into this so it will hold the shards after making them. What do you think?"
"This time is the charm?" asked Flint.
"I don't know what that means," said Arnett, "Alright, here we go!"
The crystalizer again spat up another shard, and tossed it into the stream. The Shard flew immediately out of the gun. Arnett could almost hear it whistling as it soared through the air. The shard was like a glint as it disappeared into the rock formation. Almost a second later, the formation broke apart. The sound of breaking stone reached the Scorpios II a few seconds later. The formation threw up dust and sand as it toppled over and shattered from the force.
Arnett clapped and began to yell in excitement. Flint cracked a smile, nodding his head and surveying the formation's wreckage as the dust and sand began to settle.
"Alright, you win," said Flint, stepping closer to the side of the landship, "That had enough force. I could see an airship hurting after a hit like that."
"That was amazing!" yelled Arnett, "Totally worth it. Did you see that?"
"Yes," said Flint, "Good work, Joel."
"We have to do it again," said Arnett, rubbing his hands, "Find something else to shoot!"
"Joel, what is that," asked Flint, the smile dissipating.
"Another target," said Arnett, sticking his head further into the controls, trying to heat up another shard, "I think we're going to need to get more sand."
"Joel, I meant out there," said Flint, "What is that?"
"Sand, dust, rock, that's all that is out here," said Arnett, smiling, "We're going to shoot it either way. What's to worry?"
Arnett looked up, his smiling failing with Flint's harsh tone. Following Flint's pointed finger, Arnett was directed to where the formation had crashed. Now that the dust had settled, Arnett could see a figure moving around on the now pile of rocks. Some sort of small creature. It was sickly looking, small and bony. It was a grayish hue in color. It had a limp tail following it around. It couldn't have been more then two... three feet tall. Every so often it stood upright, on two hind legs, and gazed around.
Arnett's heart stopped, and he cupped the sun out of his eyes to get a better look.
"Oh no," said Arnett.
"Joel, what have you done," said Flint, "What is that thing?"
The creature had appeared to have spotted the landship now, and it crawled off of the rocks and dirt to the sand to gaze out to it. It's back seemed to ark, and even from the distance Arnett could see its large, inhuman mouth opening wide and its diaphragm squeezing in. It took a few seconds, but a harsh thrill of a scream filled their ears from the creatures howls.
From the rocks more of the creatures appeared. And in a matter of seconds the entire desert seemed to swarm with the creatures fighting to get a glimpse at the landship.
"Goblins!" yelled Arnett.
"Oh, no," said Flint, "You're pulling my leg!"
"No, but they'll eat it," yelled Arnett, fighting with the controls to aim the rail gun, "We have to get out of here... or shoot them. Maybe we can scare them off!"
"Do both, kid," yelled Flint, walking up to the controls, "I can't work this contraption. You go and get us moving. I'll fire what we have at them."
"Barely one shard!" yelled Arnett.
More screams filled their ears, and Arnett spotted the small frenzy of Goblins now begin a daring trek into the hot sand of the desert. After a few cautious steps and more howls at the large landship, the goblins must have decided that it was worth the risk. The horde began to leap towards them, and like a wave of gray mesh they began a rush at the landship.
"Kid, go now," said Flint, pushing Arnett aside to work the controls, "GO!"
Arnett ran, leaping into the bulkhead door and sprinting the fastest he could across the landship's interior. The engines were already on and ready to go when he reached the cockpit, and not even strapping in he pulled on the two leg levers and sent the landship into a determined crawl. Pulling harder, the legs revved and the engines whined their protests, but it kicked into a determined strut and then worked its way into the equivalent of a landship run.
Attempting to peer out of the windshield, Arnett could see the horde of Goblins as they closed the gap between the Scorpios II and themselves. Arnett herd the sound of the crystalizer heating up and then he saw the railgun fire a shard. The shard slammed amidst the flood of ravenous Goblins, but besides kick up sand and projected screams from the creatures, Arnett could not tell if it had actually done anything to slow them down. The rail gun could be seen as it swung back to a resting position and Arnett expected to be seeing Flint any time soon.
They rounded another dune in the desert and the Goblins were temporarily out of sight. The Scorpios II was beginning to reach its peak speed, but the sand was beginning to slow it down greatly. The Goblins rounded the dune, the gap considerably smaller. Their webbed feet and hands allowing them to propel themselves greatly in the sand.
"No, no, no," said Arnett, attempting to pull harder on the controls, "Not like this."
Outside, Arnett heard the pops of gunfire. His eyes widened. Flint was staying outside, trying to fight them off. Arnett tried to think. He couldn't do anything. Thinking about all he knew about Goblins, he tried to find a way that the larger armies and Antifordian groups scared them away in these situations.
Arnett closed his eyes, thinking. He reached up to the cannon controls and pulled, hard on them. He knew the flaps of the cannons would be thrust open, and the cannons would automatically be wheeled up to the cannon ports. Reaching for the gunner's seat, he grasped the broadside lever and squeezed it with all his might.
The Scorpios II shook with the might of the cannons. The sound of them firing off filled Arnett''s ears. Off to each side, two shells streamed into the desert. Some slamming helplessly into the dunes and some screeching off into the horizon. The entire hull of the ship shook and whined, the force too great for the ship. Arnett could feel the legs tripping up, the combination of the sand and sudden force stalling them for a second. Fighting with the levers, Arnett righted the ship and kept it stomping through the desert.
Looking around, Arnett could not see the swarm. Fearing the worse, he decided he needed to arm himself and fight. Tying down the controls, he grabbed a rifle from the interior gun rack and headed for the bulkhead. As he was about to climb out, he almost bumped into Flint who was stumbling in.
Flint held that stolen pistol he had from earlier and he was coughing hard. Arnett helped him down, then he shut and locked the bulkhead door.
"Are you alright, Flint?" asked Arnett, turning to Flint, "Did we lose them?"
"Quick thinking with that cannon," said Flint in between coughing fits, "I think we lost them. They held back for the time being."
"I think we exceeded the size of their den," said Arnett, "We are lucky. If the queen was after us they might've chased us another two or three miles!"
"What are those things!" said Flint, "A Nightmare!"
"Oh, yes," said Arnett, "Goblins. Terrible creatures. Some say they are like us but screw them. Those things are more animal than the Skuttlekovy."
"We need to train," said Flint, "Everything in this blasted world wants us dead. And I need to trust you."
"I'm a good shot," said Arnett.
"The Rail Gun and the Cannons are not meant for a swarm like that," said Flint, "And firing wildly into their midsts isn't the way to go. The only way to faze them is as a group or to kill them. If they can swarm the ship we both are dead."
"We can run."
"They run faster," said Flint, "And can they pry into this ship?"
"They've been known to rip apart wooden ships and bash doors wide. There's a chance-"
"There's a chance, then there is no way we're going to trust it," said Flint, "We have to get to the damn island. Understand? We don't stop, we don't disturb our surroundings, we do not chance it. I have to see my family!"
"Alright," said Arnett, shouldering his rifle.
"Let's get out of here and see where we are going," said Flint, pointing to the Cockpit, "And can we, please, ensure you know how to shoot!"
Skills and Lessons
Flint had also kept an eye out for anything of use. Glass bottles, a few pieces of wood and thin sheet metal scrap had makeshift dots painted onto them. He also used leftover scraps found in the desert, a log here and some burlap sacks there, to make some makeshift people dummies.
Flint was adamantly trying to spit out as much tips and know-how as he could while he walked back and forth trying to make sure the make shift firing range held with the constant sway of the landship.
"Alright?" asked Flint.
"You know, in a sleepy little mining town, there isn't much to do," said Arnett, shaking his head, "All I had time to do was stupid stuff. And shooting at cans and spare parts was apart of that."
"Shooting to kill is alot more then shooting at cans and 'stuff', kid," said Flint, "And shooting properly has nothing to do with knowing how to shoot."
"Oh, don't worry," said Arnett, "Someone gets in my way, I'll shoot them."
"It's not about that," said Flint, getting agitated, "And killing someone is a lot harder then you think. You have never killed someone before."
"True, I have never had to," smiled Arnett, "But that's because it's not necessary."
"Alright," said Flint, stepping behind the table next to Arnett, "Now, this gun is like the one I have been using. It is some sort of magazine fed one. It's nice, and can shoot a lot of powerful rounds quickly and reload quickly."
Arnett shot Flint an un-amused, bored look, which Flint ignored.
"This is a revolver. My favorite," said Flint, "Where I am from, the power of pistols had never been harnessed by the magazines, so revolvers were always dependable to ensure you got the kick you deserved."
"Wow, this is just sad," said Arnett, shaking his head, "I know about guns, gramps. Can I just shoot some things and prove I'm not worthless?"
"Sure," Flint lifted his head and took a step back, "By all means, fire away!"
Arnett picked up the pistol that matched the one Flint carried and he quickly aimed it down the makeshift range and pulled the trigger. the gun just clicked. Flint winced and rubbed his face, shaking his head.
"Too soon," said Flint.
"I didn't know it was empty, not my fault," said Arnett, pulling back the receiver and sliding the first bullet of the clip into the chamber, "Don't worry."
"But you physically shot too soon," said Flint, "What if you had missed? What if that bottle was trying to kill you?"
Arnett raised the gun and fired. He chipped the glass bottle, the bullet barely skimming it.
"And now you are dead," said Flint.
Arnett continued to pull the trigger. The second shot shattered the bottle. The third shot slammed into the bottle next to it, obliterating it. The fourth shot missed its target, flying under the bottle and slamming into the metal deck, ricocheting into the air.
"Stop," said Flint, "It's just too sad, it hurts."
Arnett fired off two more shots. The first hitting the fold up table, the second hitting another bottle.
"Arnett, come on!" yelled Flint, covering his mouth to cough.
"Ok, what is it now?" said Arnett, smiling, "I got, like, three or four. It's fine."
"You got, maybe, three," said Flint, scowling, "And you spent more shots then that. You shot wildly, and recklessly. Be honest, if these were people you would not have killed them."
"Oh, come on, of course I would," said Arnett, "I shattered at least four. That's a kill shot."
"Your first shot would have set them off," said Flint, "There would've been diving and shooting and you couldn't concentrate enough to see through the craziness. You would have died."
"Whatever," said Arnett, shaking his head, "You think you know more then me. You aren't even from this world!"
"And you think you know everything!" said Flint, "And you got your head in the clouds. Now listen, kid, what If I told you: you could break all the remaining vases with one shot?"
"I'd say it is impossible," said Arnett, "Especially with the motion of the landship."
"Not impossible," said Flint, "Just take your time, think it through. Problem Solve, boy. It isn't hard. But it will keep you alive."
Arnett thought a moment and sighed, just shaking his head. Arnett lifted his pistol and fired. He had shot at the metal deck. The bullet did ricochet, but it missed the bottles entirely and flew off.
"Impossible," said Arnett.
"Creative," said Flint, smiling, "But you are trying to take out a group of bottles by taking out all the bottles together. Why not think about taking out what supports the bottles instead."
Flint raised his pistol and shot. One of the legs of the fold up table splintered and buckled. The entire collection of bottles on the table slid and fell, many shattering on the deck of the ship. Arnett smiled, before frowning.
"Not fair," said Arnett.
"No, not for the bottles," said Flint, "And not for you as long as I was the one shooting them. Don't root for the bottles. They are trying to kill us. If you think of them as enemies then you need to be unfair in order to survive."
Arnett watched as one of the bottles rolled down the incline of the deck. It went passed the shooting range and towards the end of the ship. Towards the edge of the deck, a gray, discolored hand grasped it and lifted it up to sniff.
"Goblins," said Arnett, raising his pistol to shoot at it.
He pulled the trigger, the gun clicking as he did so. Arnett's eyes widened.
Pow! The Goblin's head exploded with the power of the bullet. Arnett turned and saw Flint had taken the shot. Flint immediately turned and fired another shot, shooting another Goblin crawling over the side.
"Reload," commanded Flint, grabbing another gun from the table, "Shoot something!"
Arnett grabbed a rifle from the table and spun, finding another Goblin behind the rail gun and he fired at him. Looking around, Arnett could see Goblins were swarming the ship, lashing out and screeching at the two humans. Arnett aimed and took another shot, the bullet ripping right through the frail Goblin and into a second.
Flint raised the guns so he could look down both sights. He fired the right gun, then the left, and continued in a steady stream. Each bullet found its mark. Goblin after Goblin fell to his practiced skill. Arnett tried to copy him, pressing the trigger each time his sights lined up on a Goblin. Instead, he ended up taking two to three shots to kill each of the little creatures.
"We need to run!" yelled Flint, "There's too many of these animals!"
"We'll never make it," said Arnett, "They'll rip this ship apart!"
"I refuse to be eaten," said Flint, firing off another round of bullets, "I refuse to die here!"
Arnett turned and saw the rail gun. One of the Goblins tried to leap through it at the two armed men. He got caught in the stream and was hurled off the ship, its screeches being heard as it flew away. Arnett smiled and ran up to the gun, firing at Goblins as he did so. Reaching the controls, Arnett shut down the crystalizer but slammed the rail gun into overdrive. After turning the lever so that the rail gun began to spin, Arnett turned and ran for Flint, aiming and firing at a few Goblins. It looked like the sand around the Scorpios was alive with Goblins, now.
"Let's go," yelled Arnett, "Inside!"
"We need to go!" said Flint, throwing the pistols aside and grabbing the Sword Pistol from the table, "We need to get to the bridge, now!"
Flint was not very skilled with the sword. Swinging wildly, he slashed at the Goblins and only killed a few, however his swinging was keeping them at bay. Arnett raised his rifle and fired. The bullets pinged and panged off the metal of the ship as they ripped through the Goblins.
"Aim, breathe," yelled Flint, running behind Arnett, "You're just shooting wildly."
They made it to the bulkhead, and the Goblins were beginning to get more brave with their growing numbers aboard the ship. Flint learned how to operate the pistol portion of the sword and fired two shots at some Goblins. Arnett tossed the rifle to Flint, who expertly began to shoot some of the closest Goblins, and he pried open the bulkhead. Before the disappeared beneath it Arnett checked to make sure the rail gun was still spinning and he ducked inside. The Goblins rushed forward with the two of them hiding inside and they barely had time to shut and seal the bulkhead door. The Goblins were mercilessly banging and scratching at the metal.
Arnett ran inside and decided to run for the cockpit. Flint dropped the rifle and took out his pistol.
"What's the plan, kid?" said Flint, glaring at the door, "I don't think we're going to make it."
"The plan is simple," yelled back Arnett, "They are animals... so I think I can scare them away!"
Arnett entered the cockpit and looked around. He could see Goblins crawling around the ship, but they hadn't noticed him yet. Flint came up behind him.
"This glass won't hold them back," said Flint, looking around, "Actually, they could probably rip this entire ship apart!"
"Let's hope we can last!" said Arnett.
He got into the driver's seat and put the legs to full. The Scorpios II began to walk forward and move fast. Then, Arnett went to the drill controls and got them to open and the vacuums to suck up more sand. As the drills began to pull sand in as they walked, Arnett and Flint noticed that some sand began to stir around them, and then a great deal of sand was getting tossed around, and landed on the glass cockpit window.
"What are you doing, kid?" asked Flint.
"I'm picking up the sand and tossing it into the rail gun," said Arnett, "So I'm trying to create a sand storm. Hopefully that will scare off the Goblins!"
"Will it work?" shouted Flint.
As the gun continued spinning, Arnett saw some Goblins fly through the air, probably picked up by the gun. He then decided to use the drills to suck up a few of the Goblins, which then got shot out of the spinning rail gun. Arnett managed the controls and dipped the drills into the sand, sucking up a massive amount of sand. In a few moments sand and dust began to rain down on the windshield of the cockpit.
"This is not going to work," said Flint.
The sand was flung in the circular motion, and soon all of outside was masked by a layer of flying sand. Arnett and Flint could not see, and, to them, they couldn't tell whether or not they were really in a sand storm. As the winds seemed to pick up, they could tell a great amount of sand and small stones had been picked up in the wind, and it was flying and battering against the side of the Scorpios II.
After a few moments, the banging stopped from the Goblins outside, and the ones that could barely be seen through the windshield of the cockpit disappeared in the sandy storm. Arnett kept the Landship moving, and they continued to go through the desert. After a while, Flint grabbed a pair of goggles that were hanging by the cockpit and strapped them on, leaving his hat on the gunner's seat.
"Where are you going?" asked Arnett.
"To see who's left out there," said Flint, "Keep the sand blowing, kid, I'll need all the help I can get out there!"
Flint made his way back through the ship and opened the bulkhead door. Arnett wanted to help, but instead has to concentrate on controlling the large hulking landship that they were half-piloting through the desert.
Flint disappeared outside, and after a minute or two Arnett heard one gunshot. A pause, then another gunshot was fired. Silence followed, and Arnett sat uneasily inside the cockpit of the Landship. It was a good five minutes before Flint splattered against the cockpit window, startling Arnett. He indicated Arnett to cut the Sandstorm and come outside, so Arnett pulled up the drills and stopped the intake of sand. He stopped the Scorpios II and began to prepare for outside, grabbing a secondary pair of goggles for himself.
Climbing outside, he saw the Rail Gun was still throwing sand into the air, and was still running. Arnett turned to look around. Two Goblins lay dead on the deck of the ship, and in the sand he could see the creepy silhouette of Flint as he looked around, trying to find if any more Goblins were still around. Beyond the bounds of the ship Arnett could not see a thing, as sand still continued to swirl and fall with the breeze.
"It worked," said Arnett.
"I found a few who managed to stay aboard," said Flint, "But I can't see far enough to tell if it really worked or not."
"The fact we are not dead right now says that it worked," said Arnett, smiling, "See? They are more animals than anything. They sense a sandstorm and their hive becomes more important. It must be a good ways from here, otherwise they would've still considered us a threat."
"Like god-damned Bees," spat Flint, looking around, "I can't see too far out and all this sand is pissing me off!!"
"I'll shut down the rail gun and secure it," said Arnett, smiling, "Grab the guns and stuff and let's bring them inside. We got a ways to go and we should really be hurrying!"
"Agreed," said Flint, smiling, "I hate this place. Let's get moving!"
A Prodigious BridgeArnett sat out on the deck of the Scorpios II. Flint was right beside him. About fourteen meters away was the lip of a grand canyon Arnett had called the "Prodigious Canyon". They could see the vast distance between them and the other side, and Flint had taken a great deal of pains to ensure Arnett knew exactly how far down it was to the waters below.
Beside the ship was a railroad track. It stretched as far as the canyon, straight across it. Flint and Arnett had starred at it for close to an hour now. On their side was a small station, with only two buildings. One was an Antiford military building with three soldiers in charge with guarding the pass from anyone attempting to illegally gain entrance into Antiford. The other shack was one worker, a toll collector who would accept payment from the rail road companies who would use these tracks to get over the canyon.
Neither had anything to say about the Landship and its two strange inhabitants asking about passage across the canyon. So they sat and waited.
"No way, kid," said Flint, finally, "Couldn't pay me enough to walk it, little less expect a damn steam engine to carry me across... look at it!"
"Oh, come on!" said Arnett, "These rails are famous. They extend the WHOLE WAY! And trains travel across them often enough. I mean, there's no way that they are unsafe. Out of all of them these are the least used, too!"
"So we can be waiting forever for a train to come who MIGHT be able to carry us across?" Said Flint, shaking his head, "Why don't we just jump now? Why didn't we just build an airship..."
"Something about death and inexperience," said Arnett, "Come on, there are no trains. Why don't we just pay the toll and walk across the damn thing."
"Are you mad, kid?" asked Flint, practically yelling, "Walk across? With this thing? You are mental. I'll never do it!"
"Come on, it'll be fun," said Arnett, "And fast. We'll get there quicker!"
"So why are we going this way?" asked Flint, "Why the Prush Confederacy? Aren't they not nice to your little Country, here?"
"Because the famous moving island is closer to them than us this time of year," said Arnett, explaining it for the umpteenth time this hour, "And we are going to need sea passage, and the closest Antifordian Port town is back that way, and we are not too popular there, remember that?"
"Yeah, yeah," said Flint, "Whatever. But there has to be a better way, kid?"
"Nope, none," said Arnett, "Besides, there are never any trains coming this way. We've been here wasting time for a while now. And even if there is, they need to stop and pay the toll before they cross!"
"Do you think that a little man in a box is going to stop a train from not paying the toll?" said Flint, his eye brows cocking.
"You obviously don't know about the people who built these bridges," said Arnett, smiling, "Don't be on the bridge when someone doesn't pay the toll. You don't want to get stuck out there when the toll person hits a red button.... and no train alive is fast enough to test what'll happen. All the company who's in charge of these said that the loss of one bridge because of the loss of a single toll will only make the other bridges more valuable and the tolls triple in amount. So... All rail companies don't take a chance."
"Comforting," said Flint.
"You know, you worry too much. I'll be right back."
"Where are you going?"
"To pay the toll," said Arnett, "I'm bored of sitting around here. We got shit to do. let's GO!"
Flint made noises of protest, but Arnett had already leapt over the side of the landship and climbed down one of the legs. He jumped and rolled on the ground, and stood upright. He brushed himself off as he walked the length from the ship to the small station once more.
He approached the small box where a little lanky man sat inside, reading a newspaper. The little man looked up, sighing as Arnett waved.
"For the last time, we are not in charge of the railroad schedules," said he, shaking his head, "We have no clue when they will be here!"
"No, not this time, buddy," said Arnett, "Need to know how much the toll is."
"Thirteen Ciams, bub," said the man before he shook his head, "What? Why do you need to know?"
"So we can pay and cross, mate," said Arnett, winking, "Here you go, Thirteen."
"No, no, no," said the man, standing and shaking his head, "We cannot allow your contraption to cross, this is a rail road. We cannot permit you to pass."
"Yes you will," said Arnett, smiling, "There's your toll, I paid. We're crossing. Don't have time to wait all day."
"I will not allow it," said the man, pushing the Ciams back at Arnett, "I cannot allow you to cross!"
"Ok, how about this," said Arnett, leaning over the counter, "We have guns, lots of them, and cannons aboard my 'contraption'. And If need be, I can smush this sad excuse for a railroad station into RUBBLE! So... why don't you try and stop us? Oh, and here's the toll," Arnett pushed the Ciams back across the counter, "Don't blow up the bridge, thanks!"
Arnett walked away as the man shook his head and cowered behind the sad little counter. The outburst got the attention of the three Antiford Soldiers, who watched from the small shack they were forced to live in. Arnett walked back to the ship and climbed inside. Flint was already inside, ensuring everything was ready for the trip across. He was upset about it, but he said nothing to Arnett as Arnett made is was down to the engine room to begin turning on the boilers and stocking the fuel. Afterwards, he made his way to the cockpit to roar up the engines and begin running the Landship.
In a matter of minutes, the Scorpios II had launched and rose into the air, and its legs scuttling forward towards the beginning to the rail bridge. Arnett made sure to open the cannon ports and allow them to point to the side, a move he imagined frightening the four onlookers at the station below. Flint came in the cockpit as well and strapped himself in, sighing audibly to show his unhappiness with this decision.
"I hate this," said Flint.
"It'll be safe," said Arnett, smiling, "Look how wide these tracks are to ensure trains get through ok. We'll be fine!"
Arnett pulled on the leg controls, and the Scorpios II started its slow and deliberate march across the bridge. Once the sand and dirt disappeared from below them, Flint and Arnett both tensed with the sudden feeling of vertigo. However, the ship was fine, and the bridge made no noises that were audible from the cockpit of the Scorpios II. Each leg firmly found a hold on the bridge and they continued to march across the bridge.
Flint let out a long gasp of air, and he coughed profusely because of it.
"Here we go," said Arnett, smiling, "Just a few more... uhm.... spaces to go before we are across!"
"I hate you," sputtered Flint, still coughing, "You can never imagine the things I would do to you if I didn't need you to get home!"
"Oh, you don't mean that," said Arnett, coldly, "Although it does seem to be the way things are going. I think the kindness of your heart is deteriorating!"
They continued across the bridge, and they were doing fine. They had made it roughly half way across.
"Well, the bridge didn't blow up," said Arnett.
Flint slapped him over the back of the head, "You paid the toll?"
"They have the money for it, if that is what you meant to say," said Arnett, "I wouldn't attempt to outrun them across death with this thing?"
"I hate you, Joel" said Flint, shaking his head, "Hey, speed this up. I don't want to be here anymore!"
Joel pulled slightly harder on the controls and the Scorpios II scuttled along a little faster. Suddenly, a distant sound of a whistle could be heard. Arnett winced, and he could hear the long, slow flow of air leaving Flint's mouth. Sure enough, as they inched along the bridge they heard it a second time, this time it was impossible to ignore.
"See anything up ahead?" said Flint.
"Why, you're eyes can't see?" said Arnett.
"One thing that hasn't gone with age," spat Flint, unstrapping from the chair and getting down from the chair, "My God-Damned, bad LUCK!"
"Think positive," said Arnett, "They need to stop at the station... and we're already over halfway across! No worries. We still got time."
Flint was gone from the cockpit for about five minute. In that time Arnett continued his trek across the bridge, but he pulled a little harder on the controls, and again the Scorpios II trotted slightly faster. With the increased speed he began to hear the bridge moan audibly, and each step of the giant machine seemed to strain the boards in a way they were not designed for.
"Go, Arnett!" yelled Flint, suddenly appearing on the windshield and waving his arms, "Go, go! They aren't stopping! They're going to ram us!"
"What?" Arnett said, almost losing control of the ship.
"Go, go!" yelled Flint, "Open her up! Pull it! We got to get off this bridge!"
Arnett heard the train blast again, but this time it was audibly closer, and it shook the bridge. The bridge started to rumble as the train chugged along. Arnett's eyes narrowed and his heart stopped.
Yanking on the controls with all his might, the Landship Scorpios II lurched forward, and began accelerating across the tracks. Flint nervously peered over the side of the ship. He exclaimed his disdain in their plight. The train blew it's whistle again.
Arnett could see the other side of the Bridge approaching, and two or three people on the other side waving their arms in disagreement and cheering them on. Arnett could feel the Scorpios II getting harder to keep steady as it picked up speed on the tiny tracks. The vibrating of the ship became worse. Arnett could feel the bridge shaking as the massive train approached.
Flint's cries became more frantic. He urged Arnett on from outside, screaming and waving, begging the train to stop. Arnett could still not see a damn thing. As the seconds dragged on, Arnett began to be able to hear the chugging of the engine as it drew closer. He almost thought it was the sound of the Prush Confederacy as he urged his ship onward.
The train's whistle blared. It sounded as if it was inside the cockpit of the Scorpios II itself. Flint took off his hat and closed his eyes, pressing himself against the Cockpit windshield. Arnett took a long, deep, breath and yanked the Scorpios II hard to the right. As he did so he pulsed the controls once.
The Scorpios II lurched off the bridge. The little pulse Arnett had done caused all the legs to push at once. While they were careening over the bridge and All Arnett could see was the sheerness of the cliff and the water below, Arnett felt it. They hadn't made it. They were going to die. CRASH!
The train hit the back of the Scorpios II, and gave it the push it needed for it to lurch forward. Instead of the side of the Cliff and the water below, The Scorpios II suddenly saw sand, and then wood. CRASH! Arnett struggle with the controls as the Scorpios II slammed into the toll house on the Prushian side and sent splinter of wood and paperwork everywhere! The legs whined and Arnett's controls were stiff as the Scorpios II slammed into the sand and skidded to a halt. The whistle from the train could be heard rising as it passed, however it suddenly peaked, and then began to lower in pitch.
In a moment, they were still. Sand and dirt covered the Windshield, and the Scorpios II was still. Arnett sat in the darkness and waited, looking from side to side. It was quiet outside, and everything seemed to be so still. Some sort of repetitious hum could be heard somewhere off in the distance.
Arnett unbuckled himself from the drivers chair and stumbled out of the Cockpit. He fell, face first, onto the cold floor of the Landship interior. The Scorpios II was slanted. Arnett's leg felt wobbly from the close encounter, but now he felt out of breath from the fall. Arnett stood and made his way to one of the bulkhead doors. he attempted to open it, but it wouldn't budge, dirt making its way in from the outside. He climbed the slant of the Landship towards another bulkhead. This one giving way to sunshine and bright light.
Arnett made his way out of the Landship. The outside looked battered and damaged, but nothing major appeared to be broken. One of the legs buckled strangely underneath the ship, but Arnett didn't see any clear signs of damage or anything leaking from the ship. As Arnett tumbled from the deck of the ship and onto the dirt and grass below, he looked around and noticed that, all-in-all, the Landship took the brunt of the impact with dignity. The back end of the ship was a little dented but none of the exhaust or rear legs showed signs of serious damage. Looking around the other side, the Landship had skidded into the dirt, and a few of the legs stayed in the regular position, just the knees bent. The Drills were dug, heavily, into the dirt and the front of the ship, tapering into a slight point. They did not appear to be hurt. The front lights were completely smashed and the windshield, although covered in dirt, appeared to have only suffered some scratches.
Arnett sat on the ground, letting out a large sigh of relief. It was still very possible that he had not died. Looking around, he surveyed the outcome of the land. The edge of the cliff had been scuffed up bad where the Scorpios had hit it, and a large drag trail went from it to where the Scorpios II laid now. Scattered around the land was wood and bricks as far as the eye could see. There was no sign of the small toll house, which had stood somewhere in the Scorpios IIs crash path. Arnett spotted a few of the figures who had stood in the way before, brushing each other off and ensuring in their own well-being. Arnett winced when he noticed at least one of them was wearing Prush Confederacy Military garb. Ouch! Behind them, Arnett spotted the source of the repetitious hum. The train, a very large model, was still going past them, holding at least forty to sixty train cars behind it, which were still making their way pass the scene of the crash.
Arnett frowned. He figured that's why they couldn't stop, but he wondered why Antiford and the Prush Confederacy had started doing more business together. A train this size had to be industrial if it was carrying this much supplies, and across the border at that.
Arnett gasped suddenly, his eyes opening wide. He began frantically looking around the wreckage. He couldn't find Flint.
"Flint?" said Arnett, standing up wobbly and searching around, "Mister- er... Lieutenant Flint! Hey! Lieutenant?"
"Hush!" yelled a voice from behind him. Coming around the side of the Scorpios Flint was hastily making his way towards Arnett.
"Flint? You're ok," said Arnett, smiling, "Good, because I thought you were SPLAT!"
"Shut up, you buffoon," said Flint, "We just splattered an entire toll house. The ship looks great, nice piloting."
"Really?" said Arnett, looking it over.
"Yeah, I've limped a much bigger ship away from alot worse, trust me," said Flint, smiling, "Anyways, don't worry about me, I was just looking for my hat. Thought I lost it."
Flint displayed his hat, which he was clutching in one of his hands, and he placed it atop his head. Arnett glanced at his other hand, which held a burlap sack of some sort.
"What's that?" asked Arnett.
"What? Oh, it was in the rubble back there," said Flint, opening the bag, "Prush money. Isn't that great? Now let's go! Limp this thing away!"
"But, Prushian Marks are crap," said Arnett, "Why are we stealing it?"
"Because, Arnett, we are in Prush, aren't we?" With that, Flint scrambled up onto the deck of the ship.
Arnett shrugged, and looked around. Scrambling up into the ship, they shut the bulkhead behind them. Arnett wondered if the ship would run alright, and Flint urged him to try it. Strapping back into the driver's seat, Arnett pulled up on the levers and the Scorpios II wined and shuttered forward. The legs struck out forward and dug into debris and dirt, pushing the Scorpios II off its own hull and wobbling forward, righting itself on its own legs. After a few meters of stumbling, the ship works itself out, and Arnett felt like they were back to their old ways.
Pulling back hard, he took off into the Prushian land leaving the crash sight and the canyon far behind them.
SustinanceArnett bought a pack of paper rolls and some tobacco from a seller. Heading back to the bar he rolled himself a cigarette and realized he didn't have any way to light it. Frowning, he looked back at his shaking hands. He needed to calm them, badly. He continued to walk through the town, looking around at the Prushians that surrounded him.
This was the first time Arnett had ever been outside the country. He felt like everyone could tell he was a foreigner. Like they could see it, smell it, on him. The police officers looked tougher then any Bobbies he had seen. Instead of pastry bellies and Billy clubs they had tight-muscled shirts and rifles. Their harsh, mustached and bearded faces glared at civilians instead of watched over them.
Joel avoided their gazes, and hurried through the small street. He almost bumped into another group of giggling Prushian women. They wore very tight blouses with bustling skirts, the contrast making them look like a group of walking bells. He caught the eye of one who had amber-brown hair tied into a cute bun with a single stand curled down her face. She made a point of smiling and curtsying to Arnett, who smiled and made a show of bowing to her. He pretended to remove his hat as well, which sparked another round of giggling from the group.
He turned and continued walking down the road, leaving their giggles and hushed voices behind him. He found the bar where Flint was hiding out in and ducked inside. Inside, the lights were real dim, and the room had people sitting throughout it. In the distance Arnett picked up the sound of hacking. Flint was hunched over by the bar and coughing into a napkin that was left near him. His hat was propped on an empty bottle. He still wore that damn jacket, despite the heat really being unbearable this far south.
Arnett walked towards him, pulling up a chair and sitting next to him next to the bar. Flint was mid-conversation with the bartender.
"Is there any way we can get more citrus in this?" asked Flint, lifting a strange drink.
"There's no way we can get more alcohol in it, sir," said the Bartender with a small accent, "I'm not sure it's considered a real drink at this point."
"That's fine, this is close enough," said Flint.
"Who would drink this?" asked the bartender.
"It's big where I am from," said Flint.
The bartender turned to Arnett, who said, "I'll get what he has."
"You foreigners," said the bartender, sneering.
He walked away and Arnett turned to Flint, "So, feeling better?"
"The drinks seem to calm my coughing fits," said Flint, "It's nice."
"Spoken like a true drunk, Sir," laughed Arnett, "Alright, the Scorpios II is down and out of sight, and I got some basic repairs done. Picked up a few more things but we'll be out of Prush money soon."
"That's fine," said Flint, "We have fire arms."
"Not sure that's the best attitude," said Arnett, smiling, "So, you want a smoke?"
"Do I want more trouble breathing?" asked Flint, smiling, "I was never one for the habit."
"No, it's a cigarette," said Arnett, smiling, "Better for you."
Flint shook his head, a crackling chuckle escaping his lips, "No thank you. I was always a pipe guy."
"Fine, be that way," shrugged Arnett, turning to a nearby lamp, opening it, and leaning in to light his cigarette.
When he got a smoke going, the bartender snapped his fingers and shouted out at him.
"No lighting!" he barked, pointing at Arnett, "Don't you know that is bad luck!"
"It couldn't get any worse, mate," smiled Arnett, accepting his drink from the bartender, "trust me. We could use a bit of bad luck."
"I can't," said the Bartender, scowling, "Knock it off, you!"
As the bartender walked away, Arnett smiled, and looked to Flint, "Superstitious bunch, eh?" when Flint gave him no response, he took a sip from the drink, and coughed and spit the sip everywhere, "What in the Gods' names?"
Arnett began to breathe heavily, and looked in horror at the cup to Flint and the bartender. The bartender shrugged, and so did Flint.
"It's popular where I'm from."
Arnett put down the drink and shook his head, "This is bullshit. So what's the plan?"
"The next town over is a port town," said Flint, "We must be careful. From what I understand, the pitiful Prushian Navy is there for a short time. However, there is also a large fishing operation. Many are out of work because these 'superstitious' sorts don't like the island. So a few of them might like the idea of some extra cash."
"We don't have a great deal of cash," said Arnett.
"Won't matter once we're on the island," said Flint, smiling.
Arnett took a drag of the cigarette. The tobacco seemed to calm the shaking of his hand. He smiled. Those train tracks really shook him, and he'll be alright. Looking around the room at the people, Arnett was surprised to find that the group of girls from earlier had found their way to a table and he was being watched by the girl he flirted with on the street. He smiled at her, and saluted. She smiled and blushed.
"You going to drink yourself to death here for a bit?" Arnett asked.
Flint coughed, grabbing the napkin and hacking into it. Arnett smiled and nodded.
"Sounds like a plan. hey, don't go back to the 'S-Two', yeah? I'll pay you back for the room. It'll do you good to have a real bed," said Arnett, getting a glare from Flint, "I... just.... need some time on the ship is all."
Arnett motioned to the girl, and walked out of the bar, Flint raising his eyebrow to him and watching him as he left the bar. Outside, Arnett walked down the street a ways and leaned against a shop. Sure enough, he spotted the girl in her bell-dress coming out of the doors and checking around the street. Upon spotting him, she ran up the road, her dress impeding her progress.
Arnett smiled at her, and again bowed graciously. She curtsied, and smiled at him, then stepped closer.
"Hello, darling," he said.
"You're not from around here, are you stranger?" she said.
"No, I am but a heroic adventurer on a quest, dear lady," smiled Arnett, "To concur a mighty beast over on... the Island of Monsters!"
"Oh, you mean the Island?" said the girl, covering her mouth, "You jest, sir. No one goes to the island!"
"I do!" said Arnett, smiling, "Would you like to see my... mighty ship. And with it, it's big gun?"
"Oh, sir," she said, fanning her face as she blushed, "You have a ship?"
"Come, leave your friends behind," said Arnett, putting his arm around her, "I shall take you to it. Follow me!"
Growing PainsArnett had the girl in the room where he had haphazardly set up the "bunks". It wasn't much, be he knew she was so amazed and in shock that such a ship existed and that she was on it. He figured she would see past the less-then-suitable circumstances and the suddenness and allow her self to be taken away. She was laughing and giggling, but when her eyes looked at him, they looked deep and hungrily into his. Arnett smiled. No Bunny ever did that. This was the look of true desire.
A look that Arnett was sure had always been on his face. A look he had given multiple times.
She smiled, and cleared her throat, standing a little straighter.
"Dear, Sir," she stated, lifting her hand to her neck, "I do believe these are the gentlemen's quarters, yes?"
"Indeed, they appear to be," Arnett smiled.
"Then, dear," she said, bowing slightly, "I suggest it is late, and it would be every so gentlemanly and Antifordian to warm a dear lady through the night."
"I do believe it would be," smiled Arnett, practically ripping the buttons off his shirt, "That is one thing us desert boys know. How to stand the heat!"
"Oh my," was the last thing she said as she tried to get out of her dress.
The door was burst open faster the Arnett could react. He grabbed the revolver stashed under Flint's bed and rose, aiming it towards the door, but he had the revolver kicked from his hand and he felt himself being shoved backward. The girl screeched, but was yanked up, half naked, and pushed from the room.
Flint stood, coughing up a storm, and grasped for the dress on the floor. He tossed it to her.
"Get out," yelled Flint, pointing past her as she wiped the sweat from her brow and gathered up her dress, "Go, sorry about your trouble."
"Aw, come on, Flint," said Arnett, pulling up his trousers from his ankles and he began buttoning up his shirt, "I gave you the hint to not come back, why you got to do this?"
"You, shut up," said Flint, fire showing in his eyes, "You, get out!"
The girl half-smiled and ran from the ship, her bare feet softly patting against the metal floor. Arnett smiled as he put on his boots, shaking his head.
"I shall call on you, m'lady," he said, a goofy grin on his face, he turned to Flint, the smile disappearing and he began to shake his head, "No. Bad idea. She wanted to, but there is no way she could've been-"
Arnett didn't have time to block the angry fist that slammed into his cheek. He wheeled back into the bunk, and hit the wall hard. He grasped at his face and let out a pained moan as he turned back to Flint.
"It's Lieutenant Flint to you, you little shit," spat Flint, suppressing a rising cough in his throat, "What the hell is the matter with you? You think this is a game? You just going to sleep with her and dump her into the sand?"
"What the hell is your problem?" asked Arnett, rubbing his chin.
"You! You're just so... selfish! You don't think about anything but yourself," said Flint, "What if you get her pregnant? What if she gets offended and gets the police, huh? What if your actions put the ship and everything we have done at RISK!"
"You know, I've put a great deal on the line for you," said Arnett, "You think you can just pop into my life and start bossing me around. I am helping YOU!"
"You got yourself involved in this," yelled Flint, pointing at Arnett, "You chose your paths, and now you don't get a choice. I need to go home, boy. I do not belong here, I am dying! Every second it takes to get my ass home my family is left alone, in my world, where there are PEOPLE who attempted to KILL ME!"
"You, will not hit me again," said Arnett, "You listen here you bastard, I am the only reason you even have a shot to get home. You owe me you bastard! And I swear, if I-"
Flint's fist connected with Arnett's jaw once more and sent him reeling back into the bunks. Flint felt his hand, bloody knuckles showing the damage taken by the blow. Arnett nursed his jaw on the bunk.
"You," said Flint, his voice getting angry, "You're still just a kid! You have so much potential! Why can't you just see that?"
"You!" yelled Arnett, leaping from his position and throwing his body into Flint.
The tackle sent them both back into the bulk of the landship. Arnett got on top of Flint and raised his fist back, yelling out in anger. Flint's fist, again, came up and knocked Arnett in the face, Flint pushed up and threw Arnett off. Arnett rose off the ground, Flint doing the same. Arnett punched out, his fist connecting with Flint's stomach. Flint pushed back on Arnett's shoulders and threw another punch across his face.
Arnett picked up a wrench and swung it out at Flint, who stepped back, dodging it. His hat fell off in the movement, and he threw off his coat, putting up his fists ready to fight. Arnett took another swing, Flint, again, dodging. Flint stepped in and kicked, his boot slamming into Arnett's stomach. Arnett doubled over, and Flint reached in and took away the wrench. Tossing it aside, Flint made himself vulnerable for Arnett to wrap and arm around his neck from behind, attempting to squeeze the air out of Flint.
Flint stumbled back, accidentally falling into one of the cannon bays. Flint rose off the ground, fighting to breathe against Arnett's attack. Arnett held on. He screamed as Flint managed to stand despite his weight. Slamming Arnett against the cannon, he loosened Arnett's grip enough to turn around and begin punching his gut.
"You," said Flint, emphasizing each word with a punch, "Little. Shit. You. Need. To. Wake up!"
Flint didn't notice Arnett had lifted one of the cannon shells up over his head to bring it down on Flint's head. Flint stumbled back, cradling his head. Arnett re-positioned the shell to take another swing at Flint. Flint kicked out, connecting his boot with Arnett's gut. Arnett stumbled back into the cannon again, dropping the shell.
Flint got up, and grabbed Arnett as he hunched forward. Flint directed him towards the cannon's bay doors and pushed him at it. Arnett's head banged against the doors, and pushed out the hatch. Flint pulled him back in, then sent him out again, with more force this time. Arnett once again slammed into the hatch, and the door opened. Flint let go, and Arnett's body was carried through the hatch, and tumbled out the side and out of the ship.
The hatch slammed shut again. Flint stood in the cannon bay, breathing heavily. He leaned against the cannon, looking towards the hatch. He closed his eyes, wiping his brow.
"Joel?" Flint asked. looking towards the hatch, "Arnett, you alright?"
Flint poked his head out of the hatch, looking out into the night. Looking down, he could see the Prushian landscape, and the legs of the Scorpios II and even some of the supplies and trash they had left around their waiting area. Flint looked, but he could not see Arnett, or his body.
"Joel? Hey, Joel!" called out Flint, "Arnett, you alright? Arnett!"
Flint ducked back inside, and decided to head back through the ship to the outside. He went through the bulkhead and onto the deck of the ship. He made his way to the side to peer over. Just as he peered over the side, he saw a branch swing out at him. He was hit square in the face, and he was knocked back away from the side of the ship.
Arnett leapt up on the deck, brandishing some bush or tree branch in his hand like a club. He looked angry and feral, and his face and shirt were scratched and bloodied. He pounced on Flint while he was recovering from the surprise blow.
"This ship is MINE," yelled Arnett, pounding on Flint's back, "I built it, ME! You are dying, YOU ARE DYING!"
"You're dying, and you haven't even lived yet!" yelled Flint, throwing a punch and connecting to Arnett's shoulder, causing him to stagger back, "This ship, this heap of shit, is your image, Joel. It's MY image. It will be recognized for its actions and its uniqueness as my ship was in my world!"
"You don't think I can be great?" asked Arnett, taking the time to breath.
"I KNOW you can, god-damnit, I know you can! But violating young girls for a quick tryst and tossing them to the curb isn't the way to greatness!"
"Who the hell are you to tell me what to do, you old rag! You my father?"
"No, but your dad isn't here to give you a beating so I'll have to do," Flint pointed, his hand covered in blood, "You need to grow up! Be more, do more. This world needs more gentlemen."
"We have enough gentlemen," said Arnett, "They spit on enough of us to remind us!"
"Well, Jesus Christ, Joel, you don't have gentlemen," said Flint, wiping his mouth, "In my world, gentlemen are different. They are nice, they are helpful, they are to be looked up to-"
"This is not your world!" yelled Arnett, rushing forward with fists flailing, "It's not your bloody world!"
Arnett slammed his fists into Flint's arms as Flint attempted to block as he coughed. Arnett struck out with his foot, causing Flint to buckle over. Arnett's fist connect with Flint's left cheek, reeling him around. As Arnett stopped to breath, Flint pushed up on his arms, throwing both his feet into Arnett's groin. Arnett doubled over, crying out in pain, and he found Flint's right boot in his face in seconds.
Arnett fell back as Flint staggered to his feet, a coughing fit causing his body to shake. Arnett struggled to get onto his feet as well. They both eyes each other from across the small deck of the ship.
"You can be better then them," coughed Flint, blood sputtering from his mouth, "You can be so much more. I see it in you."
"See it? You want to see it?" said Arnett, standing and taking a few frail steps towards Flint, "I am better, old man."
Arnett's leg came out, and Flint didn't have the will to stop it. It connected with Flint's chest, throwing him back. He lay, coughing on the deck of the ship. Arnett leapt forward, ceasing his chance, as he began to wail angrily with his fists.
"I am better, 'Lieutenant Flint'," said Arnett, punching at Flint's face any chance he got, "You need me! YOU need ME! You need me!"
Arnett repeated his chant as he slammed his fist into Flint's face time and time again. Flint began to cough up more blood, which only slowed Arnett down slightly. Finally he stopped coughing, and Arnett stopped. Falling back onto his butt, Arnett sat next to Flint's still body, and he rubbed his bloodied hands. He just kept repeating his mantra.
"You... you need me," he said, quieter and quieter until it was a whisper.
No cough came from Flint, and he just lay there on the deck of the ship. Arnett reached out, pushing on Flint's body. Flint didn't move. Arnett's heart raced.
"Flint," said Arnett, getting to his knees hurriedly and pushing Flint, "Flint, get up... get up, man. We need to get you to a doctor."
Flint did not move. He lay still on the deck. Arnett felt his eyes sear with a sudden heat, and he shook Flint's body, pushing his head aside to drain the blood from his mouth.
"Come on, Flint," said Arnett, his voice cracking, "Come on, man, I didn't mean it. I didn't mean it!"
Hurriedly he began pushing on his chest, as he had seen his dad do on coal miners. Pushing down, pushing the blood out of his lungs and mouth. Arnett's could feel the beginning of tears.
"Come on, Flint, breathe," said Arnett, begging barely under his breath, "Come on, Flint. I need you. You can't die now, we're so close. We're so damn close! I need you!"
Arnett thought back to his dad and the coal miner. His dad had given him air. AIR! Arnett looked around, trying desperately to find something. Finally he just moved Flint's head and squinted. He bent down and blew into his mouth, watching as his chest inflated with air.
Jerking back, Arnett began to push on his chest once more.
"Come on, you old bag!" said Arnett, "I need you... come back. Don't you die, come back!"
Flint coughed, blood spattering into the air in a cloud from his mouth. Arnett shut his eyes, a disgusted look on his face. Flint rolled over, having an intense coughing fit. After a while, Flint rolled back, looking at Arnett.
Arnett sniffled, and wiped at his face, trying to get the blood off him, "Welcome back, Lieutenant."
Flint looked around, then looked Arnett up and down, his face turning to a scowl, "Did you kick my ass, kill me, then give me the kiss of life?"
Arnett's eyes bulged, looking around, "Woah, what the hell? Kiss? What kiss? I gave nobody no kiss! I will... kill you again, old man."
"No, by all means," said Flint, falling back and resting his head, "Never again... let's do that never again."
They sat in silence for some time. Arnett sniffled again, watching as Flint slowly recovered, his breathing audibly haggard.
"You want so much...," said Flint.
"My father," said Arnett, his eyes still welled up, "He was an ass."
"Why?" asked Flint.
"He never did anything!" said Arnett, breathing heavily, "He never wanted more, he never dreamed! He stifled it. Same old town.... same old life. He NEVER LEFT! He brought my mother there and kept her. His father lived there, his father. Miners, bloody miners, all of them!"
"And what is so wrong?" said Flint, coughing up some blood, "Why is he an ass?"
"Because he made me believe I'd be a blank grave!" yelled Arnett, tears streaming down his face.
There was silence. Arnett breathed heavily, his strain going into an attempt to stop from crying. Flint just closed his eyes, breathing heavily.
"Where I'm from, we have one grave yard," said Arnett, breathing heavily, "and in the event of a collapse, they can't always identify you. So they have blank graves with no names. You're only remembered by your family and a handful of people. But the town is practically built of graves. Mines, roads, buildings. People die in that town. They DIE! And he wanted me to stay. He wanted me to work hard. He wanted me to learn. He wanted me to be more like him, more grown up. But he wanted me to stay! Find a girl as soot covered as I am and stay until I join thousands who came before me in an unmarked grave."
"He was worried about you," said Flint, "He didn't want you to leave because he couldn't protect you."
"Yeah, well to hell with him!" yelled Arnett, "I'm not dying there! I'm not dying there. I won't do it. I'm... going places. I'm going to be somebody. I'm going to... get into fights, I'm going to buy things. I'm going to... screw dames and get into the newspaper!"
"Get into the newspaper?" croaked Flint, his mouth unable to keep the quivering smile he tried, "What are you, a movie star? Maybe your dad had bigger goals, eh? Maybe he loved his family, and knew he'd be able to provide for them there. Maybe... maybe he wanted better for you, but couldn't."
"Well, I did better," said Arnett.
"By screwing dames? By buying stuff? You think your dad is proud of you getting into fights?"
Arnett said nothing. Crossing his arms, he looked away. He didn't feel like getting scolded by a man who had almost died moments before.
"You want to know how you make a name for yourself, kid?" asked Flint, leaning forward, "You do something worth remembering. You save people. You protect the weak. You be kind. You... you build a name for yourself. You build an image worth remembering. Where I'm from, it's rare an outlaw or an evil man gets remembered for anything at all. However... we always remember the heroes. Every single one of them."
Arnett and Flint sat, breathing heavily. Arnett looked up and down his clothes, blood still covering most of it. He looked Flint over as well.
"We look like a bunch of fools in a butcher's shop," said Arnett, "We need to get cleaned up before walking into town like this."
Flint smiled, but said nothing else. He looked in bad shape, and Arnett tightened his lips. He knew he had screwed up. Flint didn't look so good, and it was Arnett's fault.
Arnett stood, and helped Flint to his feet. With Flint leaning heavily on him he helped carry him back into the Scorpios II.
HeritageArnett parked the Landship closer to the town this time. This little port town in the Prush Confederacy had a variety of ships in the dock, and the ocean view was clear of sails. Arnett smiled. These superstitious people refused to sail while the island was near. However, they thought nothing of the Landship as its steps rumbled closer, and as it pulled just outside the town, and came to a stop and lowered, nobody even batted an eye or came forward to greet them.
And not a word was said as the two men exited the contraption, one supporting the other, as they went into town. They stumbled through the street, the one supporting the other looking around frantically from building to building. He blinked, the strain of the other man heavy on him.
"I need help," he cried out, suddenly, and he fell to his knees, the other man slumping next to him, "I need a Doctor," he cried again, "Or a boat... I need a doctor or a boat!"
The door to the pub was kicked open, the patrons going silent. Arnett stumbled in with Flint over his shoulder, and they stood in the doorway. All eyes on the pub turned to them. Arnett was breathing heavily, but he straightened up, and looked to Flint. Flint tried to stand on his own feet, nodding to Arnett to go.
"We are looking for a boat," said Arnett.
The pub ignited into laughs, some of the patrons turning back to their drinks or their card games.
"We need to go to the Island," said Arnett, this stifled the laughter and returned some attention to them, "We will pay handsomely, but we must go to the Island that moves."
"That Island is death, boy," said one man.
"If we do not go there, then it will be us who are dead," said Arnett.
"HA! Islanders," said another man, spitting.
"You are cursed. No one who comes from the Island is meant to live," said another, "You are doomed to death!"
"Please," said Flint, raising his hands and fighting for breath, "I'm not some sort of monster. I'm just passing through. We have money... all of it is yours!"
"Not enough," said a voice.
"We can get more!" yelled Arnett back.
"You will never have enough," said one man by the bar, standing up and taking a step towards the two, "No one here would risk their boat for you. The island is unnatural and dangerous."
"You don't know," said Flint, coughing, "You ever been?"
"No one goes there and lives!" spat an old man.
"You heard the man," said the man, raising his hands, "No one who goes there lives. It is cursed."
"What do you know, huh?" said Arnett, taking a few steps towards the man, "Screw you! You're just scared. You're just afraid!"
"I may be," said the man, smiling and running his hand through his big black beard, "And I have reason to be."
"A humble water merchant," scoffed another man, standing up, "But it is no matter. He is wiser then you, child! That Island is too much. No military tries to take it. No country claims it. That Island is cursed. My brother sailed there... and his ship barely returned with two men! He was never seen again!"
"NO!" said Arnett, pointing, "It's not that bad. We need to get there... and we are going there if we have to get a hunk of wood and swim there!"
"Hey, kid," said the water merchant, lifting his hands and walking forward, "You don't get this, but you aren't getting help here. Now your friend looks pretty bad. Maybe you should just go find a room."
"You... you cowards!" spat Arnett.
The man walked back to the bar, shaking his head, and he put on a top hat and lifted his mug. However, Arnett lost him in the crowd. Several men had stood and began walking toward Arnett menacingly, cracking their knuckles and snarling at the two.
"What did you do?" asked Flint, squinting in pain.
"Cowards, huh?" said one of the men, "How DARE! You!"
Arnett was quick to pull his gun, cocking back the hammer and pointing it at the closest man. His face was twisted in anger.
"You draw gun like a child," said the man, punching the palm of his other hand, "Go ahead, child... shoot. No? Then it's time to get back in line!"
Flint was easily tossed out the door and onto the street, he rolled on the ground, and came to a painful stop. Arnett was throwing punches, but he had already given them a run for their money and had gotten beaten for his trouble. With a quick toss, the Prushian men tossed him into the road. They laughed and scoffed at the two lying in the street, and one of them waved at Arnett, his hand still holding his gun, and they walked back into the bar.
Arnett got back up, shaking, and cursing in rage, and he picked up some dirt and tossed it at the pub. Spotting Flint's hat in the road, he glanced over at Flint and noticed he wasn't doing so well. He leaned over and snatched up his hat, but the piece of hat he picked up chipped off, and the hat crumpled onto the ground once more. Arnett gasped, looking over at Flint, still lying on the ground. Examining the hat, Arnett found that it was breaking apart before his eyes, and as he turned it over in his hands, the hat was breaking apart, his fingers punctured holes into it without much effort. Dropping it into a crumpled pile of dust, Arnett ran over to Flint.
"Lieutenant, are you ok?" said Arnett, trying to pick Flint up, "Come on, we can go somewhere else.
"No," said Flint, his voice sounding raspy and frail, "I need rest... let me rest here."
"No, no... we're running out of time," said Arnett, shaking Flint, "You can rest when you are home. We need to get a doctor. We need to get you to that island!"
"No, Arnett," said Flint, pushing Arnett back once more and falling back to the ground, "I need this..."
"Flint, come on, old man, We are not there yet," said Arnett, trying to pick Flint back up again, "We are so close. All we need is some driftwood and the Scorpios II could swim out there."
"Joel," said Flint, his voice a whisper an his eyes closing.
Arnett stopped and knelt by Flint, Flint's eyes were weak, and only the whites dimly showed beneath his lids. Even his skin seemed to be getting pale and clammy, the dirt and sand showing the contrast had grown greatly to his skin. Even his arms and legs and body looked thinner, and his clothes sat eerily on his frame as they would a mannequin or an automaton.
"Joel," said Flint, again sounding weak, "I feel like we came so close... you know, we did alright."
"Should've gotten an airship, huh?" said Arnett, looking desperately around.
The street was deserting, people glancing over and they were actively avoiding the eyes of the two men kneeling in the street. Arnett wanted to curse them. This was probably why his mother left Prush. For being from the south, they were really cold people.
"They would've expected that," said Flint, "These people... they were bad. Bad people..."
"Well, it was fun," said Arnett, a quivering smile fighting against the tears rising, "But it's time to be serious now, ok? We're almost there and we can do this."
"No, Arnett," said Flint, his head lightly shaking, "It's done. We've made it... I made it..."
"Come now, old man," smiled Arnett, fighting back the heat of his eyes, "We're not even on this blasted Island yet. We haven't made it anywhere."
"No, Arnett, this is it," said Flint, smiling weakly, "This is my grave. This is the end. This is recollection."
"No, don't say that," said Arnett.
"Shh, kid," said Flint, "you must let me think. Look back... on my life. I did good. I love my family. My kids grew up... strong. They are... good kids... you know?"
"You'll have to introduce us," said Arnett, again trying to stand and lift Flint up, "You know, when you introduce us. Because you're going home!"
"You know... I never left them anything," said Flint, "My will... was never finished. All my life I was close to death. I never thought to actually... make it anything real."
"So you have one?" said Arnett.
"Stupid one... it says something like... 'It all goes to her.', or something..." whispered Flint, his whisper getting weaker.
Arnett held up his head, trying to keep the blood from gathering in the back of his throat.
"You did good, kid," said Flint, his eyes opening more and he looked at Arnett, "You're brave... and you... and you stand up to people. You... you don't stand for anything, though. You need to... you need to stand for something."
"I... do," said Arnett, "I helped you."
"You made a mistake and got stuck with me," said Flint, "It's not the same, Joel. You need to... stand for something. Otherwise you'll just keep feeling the way you do. You have a ship now... you have... an image."
Joel looked away from Flint, unable to look as he realized Flint's eyes were going red from blood. It bothered him to look into his dying eyes.
"You drift around, looking for a means to make something of yourself," coughed Flint, "But... but now you have it... now stand for something... make... a name. Make... a reputation by which you will be remembered."
"I will," said Arnett, nodding, "I will."
"And don't be... so angry," coughed Flint, closing his eyes again, "Your dad... he's a good man... he just... wanted you safe... and... he wants what is best for you."
"But he kept me there... wanted me to stay," said Arnett.
"No... he let you go..."
"How do you know that?"
"Because... if my kid left... and I didn't think it was best," Flint went into a coughing fit, fighting to keep air in his lungs, "I wouldn't let them leave... I would've followed you... gone after you."
"How do you know he didn't?" asked Arnett.
Flint was quiet for some time before whispering his answer, "Because he didn't find you. If he had looked, there would be no where you could go... where..."
Arnett and Flint were silent for some time. Arnett's face twisted in anger as he looked around at the empty streets. Flint began coughing again. His voice rasped and wheezed with every breath.
"Joel... I never... got a chance... to pass on... my legacy."
"Yeah, because you'll have many more chances to come, mate," said Arnett, looking around, "It's going to be fine. You're ok."
"Listen... you... you have to continue on," said Flint, shaking his head, "You... you are in charge now... the Scorpios II is yours... Lieutenant... Joel... Arnett."
"No, no it's fine," said Joel, "I... It's still yours. I don't want it..."
"Don't worry about the island... kid," said Flint, closing his eyes, "If it's dangerous... leave it... Go make your life..."
Flint's breathing slowed, and Arnett began to panic.
"Help," Arnett yelled, "HELP! Somebody! Doctor! Can I get a Doctor!"
Flint curled his body, but he did not open his eyes or speak again. Arnett grasped harder, and he began to yell.
"I need help! Anybody! He's DYING!" he yelled, blinking against the tears welling up inside him, "SOMEBODY!"
Arnett barely noticed the trio of people running up to them, but he knelt over Flints body, and kept checking his pulse.
The Best Decision
Arnett stood outside, looking out over the ocean. The waves were calm, and empty. An unusual sight for the town. All the ships were docked at port or even removed from the water all-together. The sails were pinned up, tight. Dimitrius was rising slowly, casting the night sky back into colors of orange, and red. Lilith could barely be spotted at the edge of the horizon.
And somewhere, just out of sight, was that damned Island. It existed, Arnett knew it, he just never actually thought about seeing it. It was always this goal... this thing. Now they were so close, and he would never lay eyes upon it. This mystical and dangerous island where other worlds awaited. This strange island of mystery and wonder. Where pirates and new technologies and travelers awaited.
Arnett's gaze shifted to his ship... his new ship. Rust beginning to form, battered and bruised. It sat awkwardly over to one side. It was beginning to get notice from the townspeople, but it otherwise just cast a shadow over men and women bustling to and from their morning activities. The glass was cracked... the deck was messy... and that mysterious gun just looked like scrap when it was turned off. But he had built it... under pressure... out of time... he had built it.
A door closed behind him and Arnett turned around, seeing he was no longer alone on the Inn's second story balcony. A man had walked out and closed the door. It was one of the men who had helped bring Flint in with the doctor, and he removed his top hat and solemnly looked at Arnett. Arnett's eyes narrowed as he recognized the Water Merchant from the bar.
"You," he said.
"Are not the Doctor," said the man, standing a little straighter, "However... the Doctor did all he could do. Your friend is stable, but he is in danger of falling into a coma and never again awakening. He is dying."
"I know that, and you know that because I TOLD you," said Arnett, turning around and leaning against the balcony railing.
"You know he is in real rough shape," said the man, sitting down on one of the benches outside and leaning back, "He is in the late stages of the Traveler's Disease. If he slips into a coma he will most likely be dead one way or another."
Arnett spun around, pointing at the man, "Traveler's Disease. How do you know that?"
"You, however, show no signs," continued the man, "Not even moderate discomfort. I'm going to go out on a limb that you are from here. Your accent makes you Antifordian without a doubt."
Arnett reached for his gun, but remembering that it was taken from him instead turned to pick up a chair. Before he could, the man had a pistol pointed at him, and he rolled his eyes.
"Very impulsive," said the man, "Sit down, man, or your dear Mister Flint will be dead."
Arnett hesitated, but he lowered the chair and sat on it, arms crossed, "Who are you?"
"I... I am a simple water merchant," said the man, before lowering his voice, "To everyone not on this balcony. To you, however, I shall add another layer to my character. I know more about that island then anyone else you are likely to meet in these lands."
"Unlikely," said Arnett, "We met the man who knows the most."
"So I have heard..." said the man, "Look, you have no idea what you are dealing with. He is in the late stages and should have been through his Well days ago."
"There were some set backs," said Arnett.
"Like that metal Skuttlekovy you got out there?" asked the man.
"It's no Kovy, that baby's a Scorpion," said Arnett.
The man looked and squinted at the Landship. His lips pursed and his head nodded, "Oh... ok. I see it. Cute," then he turned his head, pointing at Arnett, "But not my point. If you were in such a hurry why not take an airship? Why not make one?"
Arnett's eyes rolled, "We... are being followed. Flint was attacked and these people know stuff. They kept finding us... so they would be expecting us at an Airship Port or looking for a ship to cross the Ocean. We needed our own form of transportation to get us far away from them."
"Are they from this world or... his world?" asked the man.
"I don't know, but they had these cool pistols," said Arnett, "We've been using them and they were all... creepy."
"So what's your plan?" said the man, nodding his head, "You've made it this far."
"What do you want," said Arnett, glaring at the man, "You berate us and get us kicked out of a bar and then you're asking me questions about my life's story?"
"I did not get you kicked out, that was your own doing," said the man, "Look, all I want to do is ask."
"You going to help us or not, Captain?" asked Arnett, "Because as you said, we don't have a whole lot of time."
"Woah, wait a minute there, hot shot," said the man, throwing up his hands, "The North Star can't carry that hunk of garbage. You have to think, kid. That island IS dangerous... and you will not do well to be on it. You need to find HIS Well, not just any Well that is convenient. And... well... that could be impossible! He's also not the only thing to get onto that island, and he is by far not the most dangerous. Even with that walking crab you won't be the biggest thing on the island."
"We're not?" asked Arnett.
"It's better you go on without it," said the man, leaning back, "And even then... you're carrying a wounded man through a battlefield. You are not ready for that."
"How do you know?" spat Arnett.
"Look, kid, don't get snappy with me," said the man, standing and pointing at Arnett, "You have NO idea. You from a little town? You from Astam Village? You might even be a Gearford kid but... I'm doubting it. Your dad a merchant? A Bobbie? No... a tinker. You didn't have a great life but you didn't have the hope beat out of you, so he wasn't a Mill Worker and you're not a Mill Rat."
"You shut your mouth," said Arnett.
"You are not prepared for what lies out there, kid," said the man, "I'm just trying to protect you. He is dying. You are just going to risk yourself bringing him to that island... that is all you will gain. Your own death. I'm just saying you are going to have to think about this."
"But... you will bring us, Captain?" asked Arnett.
The man sighed, his brow furrowing, "Look, boy, I'm a Commodore. Just because I'm a merchant doesn't mean I can't have a proper rank."
Arnett said nothing, and the man rolled his eyes and sighed.
"How serious are you about getting on that Island?"
"I'm going to strap driftwood onto my ship over there and we're going to Chanka-Paddle our butts over to that Island if it kills us," said Arnett, not even skipping a beat.
The man sighed again, and rolled his eyes in a giant show of annoyance, but he smiled at the end of it and said, "Look, if you are serious about this... then Commodore Phinneus Cromwell will be at your service. And the North Star will ferry you across the Ocean to Well Island. However, I have ONE condition. You really must... think this over. Take some time... think about how death looks to you right now."
Phinneus turned around and walked back through the door leaving the balcony. Arnett just learned against the railing, thinking over his new situation.
It had been a long time... but Arnett's reflection on the whole adventure brought him home. He retraced their steps, from their fight aboard the Scorpios II a few days earlier, to their near death train experience, to the Goblin fight, to the fight with the pirates and building the Ship. He even thought back to the first time they met. Jumping through the city and fighting off strange suited men. Before all this craziness... he had been a normal guy. He was just trying to make a living, and survive. A Tinkerer and thief. Someone whose only interactions with people had been casual hellos and conversations and his trips to the Badger's Den.
It seemed like a life time ago, even though it couldn't have been a month just yet. So long ago. Never has a month been so life changing. Not since he left home. Home... it seems like several lifetimes ago he was home. His mother... his father...
Arnett found himself down by a telegraph station as Dimitrius rose into form and the town began to awaken. Arnett got a piece of paper and a pencil and began to write out a letter to his parents. The first time he had communicated with them in a long time.
To Mr. and Mrs. Arnett of Sorditudo,
It's been a long time since I have left home.
Arnett paused. He never considered what to say to his parents. He had never written them before. He furrowed his brow and crossed his arms. What do you say to them?
Mother, I miss your warmth, and your caring words. I miss your cooking, even if we didn't have much by the way of meals. I think you would like the city, and the beautiful buildings, but you might not like the people. You know... I never learned as much about your native land. I should really consider visiting there sometime. Maybe you could come with me, show me around.
Arnett sighed, smiling to himself at his own joke. He then frowned again, and continued writing.
Father. I know you're really busy. I also understand how much it took to raise a family in a town like ours. I wish you could've really had a chance. The world was just so great.
Arnett cringed, deciding maybe that was a little rough. He didn't know what to say to his dad. What do you say to your dad?
I know we didn't leave on the best of terms. The city was everything I hoped it would be. I just needed some time to find a purpose, I guess. I found this guy... he's really something else. I think you would have to meet him sometime. I think I get on his nerves. Anyways, yeah. So... it's been wild.
Arnett wondered how he put the next part into words. Leaning back on the stack of crates he was sitting on, he looked into the sky and then towards his Landship, which was now gaining the attention of the local children.
Father, there's something I need to do. It'll probably be the worst idea I have ever had in my life. However, I have to do it. Don't ask me why, but I know I have to. I don't know what is going to happen, but I know I have to do this. Someone is counting on me. Several weeks ago, I would have never gotten into a fight if I knew where it would lead. Today, as I write this, I think that fight was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. So, Father, I am sorry for all I have done. I am sorry that I have given you no reason to be proud of me. Just know that I decided, today, to change that.
No matter what the outcome, Father, just know: I love you. And I love Mother. I will never purposefully try to do anything that will hurt either of you ever again.
≈Lieutenant Joel Arnett
Arnett paid the man at the Telegraph to send the message to Sorditudo. With that, Arnett leapt out of the shack, and ran towards the Scorpios II.
Arnett got into the Scorpios II and fired up the engines, then rushed to the cockpit to start up the Scorpios II. He looked up and spotted that man, Phinneus, shaking his head from a group of people he was standing with. Arnett shook it right back, and grabbed the controls. With that, the Scorpios II turned and scuttled out of the city.
Just out of the city, the desert was just infringing on this area. It wasn't like in Antiford, but Arnett figured it would do. He lowered the drills and began digging into the ground around the area, loosening up the dirt. He activated the vacuums and the sand and loose dirt began to be siphoned into the Scorpios II. Arnett didn't know what the Island would be like, but he allowed the Scorpios II to continue this while he went back to the Crystalizer. He was going to make some shards so they would be ready for whatever awaited them.
Follow the StarArnett moved the Scorpios II right up the the dock. The Vibrations of the steps rattled through the wood. Cromwell turned from talking to two members of his crew and gave a strange look to the landship. Arnett leapt from the cockpit and headed through the hull, heading to where Flint lay on the deck. He helped lift him up, and Arnett walked to the door, pulling down one of the levers by the door so the legs would buckle and the Landship would descend towards the ground.
Arnett and Flint limped off the ship, and walked up to the group on the dock. Cromwell put his hands on his hips and walked a few steps to meet them.
"I thought for sure you took off," said Cromwell.
"I couldn't," said Arnett, shaking his head, "My ship doesn't float.We need a ride."
Cromwell shook his head as well, looking over his shoulder at his crew, "Well, I never expected this."
"Neither did we," called out a man from behind Cromwell, who stepped out and crossed his arms, "Boys!"
A few suited men stepped out from behind boxes and crates and the dock houses. Arnett recognized some of them, including one who was the man he had fought from Argenstrath. These were the guys! Flint gave out a moan and went limp, and Arnett allowed him to drop to his knees on the dock as he drew his pistol. The men drew theirs, and bared down on the two. They were outnumbered.
"You sold us out," called Arnett.
"Now, now, Joel Arnett," said Cromwell, "Lower your weapon and let's talk about this. There has been a huge misunderstanding."
"Why not go ahead and drop that weapon," said the man behind Cromwell, an older man with a stern look, "You have given us one hell of a chase, BOY!"
"Yeah, that's what happens when you mess with the Bull," said Arnett.
"You get the horns," smiled the old man, chuckling to himself before growing stern, "But when said bull messes with the Steirkämpfer, then it's a whole different story."
"Joel... no..." said Flint, his words barely a whisper in between breaths.
Flint had barely stayed conscious, and even now he looked as if he would pass out. Arnett cringed, and he looked around, but he did not lower his pistol.
"We trusted you," said Arnett, his gaze burning into Cromwell.
"Phinneus can be trusted, but he his loyal to us," said the man, "Besides, you have no reason to mistrust us. All we have ever been trying to do is get Mister Flint back home to the world of the United Americas or something. He must go back through his Well or he will die."
"He would have died back on Well Island if it wasn't for us getting him to Argenstrath," said one of the men, the man from Argenstrath, "He would have succumb to his wounds. We were trying to figure out how to get him home when he went mental!"
"And You... Joel Arnett," said the old man, his eyes narrowing, "Had to go and screw everything up! What were you thinking?"
"And THIS," said the other man, walking forward and pointing at the Landship, "This is an abomination! This is why he must go home!"
"I don't see why," said Arnett, "And You're just jealous you didn't think of it first. Pretty sweet way to sneak into Well Island."
The old man shook his head, "Really? You busted out of a Gearford Junkyard and stole and destroyed countless ciams. What about the amounts of damage? You disturbed a known Goblin's nest and have since made two, TWO, complete trade routes unusable until proper Goblin extermination measures could be put into place. You have illegally broke into the Prush Confederacy in such a way to DAMAGE Conwell's relations with the two countries in which supports it, literally, as well as destroy a Prushian military outpost. Do you know how much cover-up had to be done to convince the Prush Confederacy that Antiford was not slowly invading? Ludicrous! These Prushians are incredibly blood-thirsty and slow learners. You almost started another war!"
Arnett cringed and shamefully looked at Flint, who shook his head and pointed at Arnett weakly.
"Traitor," spat Arnett.
"You two are going to listen to me," said the man, "The Brotherhood is DEMANDING that you are going to that bloody Island, and Phinneus Cromwell, here, is going to ensure you reach it. Once on the Island, we don't care. You can't hurt anybody there."
"We don't care if he makes it home or not," said the other man, walking up to Arnett and pointing, "And we sure as hell don't care about you!"
"Back off," said Arnett, "I am just itching to put a bullet right through you, 'Tin Man'!"
"And I'll see your corpse being nipped at from the bottom of this port," said the man, taking a menacing step forward.
"Mr. Quin, that is enough," said the older man, his voice reverberating off the ships of the dock, then he turned to Arnett, "Quite the contrary. If you make it out alive, we would LOVE to see you again. There's a great deal to discuss about this little romp of yours, Mr. Arnett."
"Alright," said Arnett, lowering his weapon when he heard a pained moan coming from Flint, "But we can't risk it. Our ship is coming with us."
"Ha, ship?" laughed the man named Quin.
"There is no way the North Star can carry that thing," said Cromwell to Arnett, then leaning to the old man, "Not without, uh... extra power, of course. That was NOT part of the agreement."
"Enough," said the older man, "The ship goes to the Island. It shall STAY at the Island. it is Well Technology and should be treated as such. Allow it to get smashed and rust and crumble on the shore. We have made up a barge to ferry it over. I do not think this will be a problem for you, Phinneus."
Cromwell's face contorted in anger, but he huffed and allowed his face to return to normalcy before replying, "Fine, but he is on his own on that Island. The North Star is not for every single imbecile who gets into trouble!"
The old man stepped forward, giving Arnett a stern look, "For your sake, Mr. Arnett, I hope you built that thing sturdy. The Island is no place for children or their toys."
"It's no toy," said Arnett.
"Just remember: all of this could have been avoided," said the older Gentlemen, who walked past Arnett and off the platform muttering, "Good Day, Mister Arnett."
"It's Lieutenant!" said Arnett.
"We don't recognize child's ranks," said the other man, who was obviously upset, "You and the old man better get aboard that ship! You only have until nightfall, and then you will be truly gone."
"I am not afraid," said Arnett.
The man leaned forward, getting closer to Arnett, "You are ignorant. I still get shivers as we fly over it. That Island is no good. It's right where you belong!"
A few burly men stepped forward and picked Flint up, and one more took Arnett's pistol away from him and pushed him towards the ship. Arnett mumbled to himself, but he tried not to fight them as they were lead on board the North Star.
The North Star was a grand ship. It had massive masts with large, white sails. The hull looked incredibly sturdy for a Sea Ship, and Arnett wondered if it was thick enough to take a cannon blast. On board, a large muscled man and a few deck hands waited. They held their hands out for the group to stop.
"We will take the 'Guests' from here," said the man.
"Move aside, Boric, you know we need to shackle them in your hold," said one of the guys, "You know Quin. He wants it done now!"
"This is my ship," said the man they called Boric, whose chest puffed out with the challenge, "Commodore's Orders! They are to be handed over to me before heading any further."
The men looked at each other, before one of them huffed and pushed Arnett towards Boric, "Your choice. You screw up, you'll never have existed."
The men turned over Flint and Arnett to the crew before leaving the ship. Arnett could spot Cromwell arguing with the one called Quin on the docks, still as he was lead back near the inside of the ship.
"Welcome to the North Star, gentlemen," said Boric to them under his breath as he lead them on, "The Commodore will be with you, shortly."
The Island AwaitsAn electric bulb lit the room. It smelt of old wood and sea. Arnett looked over at Flint, who was lying still on the bed. Arnett crossed his arms, his brow furrowing. They had been betrayed. That is how it felt, anyway. Sure, they were going to make it to the island, but they had been betrayed. Now Flint was sleeping, but it almost felt like he was beginning to slip away. He wasn't in the coma yet, but Arnett could sense that it was looming.
The door to the small cabin opened, and Cromwell's face peeked in, and he grinned. Arnett sent a scowl towards him, and he nervously shuffled.
"Well, we have, uh, begun our departure," Cromwell said.
Sure enough, Arnett felt a pull as the North Star's sails caught wind and begun its travel out of the dock. A moment afterward, a second jerk noted that they were now pulling the barge holding the Scorpios II. Arnett rolled his eyes.
"He'll be alright," said Cromwell, stepping into the room, "He will be stable while you traverse the island, or he should be. Now, if you would come with me, I think we have much to discuss."
Cromwell disappeared out of the door, and Arnett glanced at Flint. Seeing that he was still ok, he decided to follow Cromwell. Once outside the cabin, Cromwell lead him back onto the deck of the ship. It was already pulling out of the harbor, leaving the town behind. The two massive masts held giant, white sails that pulled the ship forward. Crew scrambled around the deck.
Cromwell had a smile on his face, and he raised his hands, "Welcome: to the North Star! Isn't she just majestic?"
Arnett raised an eyebrow, Cromwell's face shifting under the gaze.
"Alright, well you haven't really seen her in her full glory," said Cromwell, "But she is just great. Stupendous!"
"You are one of them," said Arnett, not even as a question.
Cromwell's smile died off and he sighed, "Look, Lieutenant Arnett, it's not what you think."
"Really? Because I don't know about you... but I feel sold out to market," Arnett said.
"Really? Because it looks like you are getting a cheap ride to an impossible destination," said Cromwell, "Do you think there's a fish's chance in Antiford that any ONE of those superstitious meat-heads back in that port would have chanced everything to bring you to the most dangerous location on this entire PLANET? The way I see it, you're making out pretty good."
"Feels like we just got arrested," said Arnett, "So if you think otherwise, Commodore Water Nut, you might as well start talking!"
"You're not arrested," said Cromwell, crossing his arms, "It's just... difficult to explain."
"Your boss doesn't seem to think so!"
"Alright, well let's separate some boundaries, yeah?" said Cromwell, "Those guys? They are NOT my boss. Nobody tells Phinneus Cromwell what to do!"
"Sure seems it," said Arnett, walking to the edge of the boat and leaning over the side, starring down at the flowing water.
Cromwell sighed again, joining Arnett by the side of the boat, "Look, the Brotherhood of Dimitrius operates a little differently then, say, the Government of Antiford."
"Who are they?" asked Arnett.
Cromwell thought a second before continuing, "They are an organization older then you or I will ever know. They are... creepy to say the least. They have some sort of fascination with technology and knowledge. Let me tell you, Arnett, they have things that will take your sad peach-fuzz right off your face. Sadly, some things literally will do that."
"So... they're some sort of secret police?" asked Arnett.
"Oh, no," said Cromwell, waking up from stroking his beard, "Not at all. Not unless you mean the most secretive of polices. They are not under the Technocrats... they are not under any monarchy or nation. No, the Brotherhood is more like a.... Society. An all-knowing Society."
"And they just control information," said Arnett, thinking it over, "Like the truth behind the Island. Like... Travelers like Flint?"
"Getting much closer, but yes," said Cromwell, "That is one of the things they do. Also things, say, like that Landship of yours. Operating on God-Knows what, spreading a travel path of destruction where it goes."
"Oh, that's not Flints," said Arnett, "I built that. And that destruction, is mainly me."
"Not helping your point."
"What gives them the right to do so?" asked Arnett.
"The right? Who says they have the right?" asked Cromwell, almost laughing, "They just... have the power. The knowledge. All of the knowledge, actually. Kind of... fantastic if you think about it. An entire society with a vast horde of technology and knowledge. Can you imagine the library? OH! The day I would give to be in there..."
"Yawn," said Arnett, rolling his eyes, "So where do you fit in? Why work for them?"
Arnett's comment seemed to hurt Cromwell, but he continued, "I do not 'Work' for them. They sort of just show up on your door and begin bossing you around. And, to be honest, it's not I who is doing the work most of the time. Sure, they need things brought from here to there, or an annoying duo with a Landship to hunt down, but It's the Order who usually needs THEM."
"The Order?" asked Arnett.
Cromwell winced again, looking at Arnett, "That is truly on a need-to-know, Kid."
Arnett rolled his eyes, "More need to know then a secret organization hoarding portals to another world?"
Cromwell winced again, "Actually... 'worlds'. But... I don't know. It's just the Order of the Badger. You wouldn't be interested."
Arnett nodded, "Nope, not at all. So, why pick us up?"
"Again, your friend is a traveler, you built a... thing, and the Brotherhood doesn't like you," said Cromwell, "But... you might have peeked my interest. So... how on Orr does a kid like you get wrapped up in all this, huh? What's in this for you?"
"Well," said Arnett, "It's a long story."
"Island is still a ways off," said Cromwell, "And maybe I fancy a story."
"Fancy a story?" chuckled Arnett, "Alright then. Well, it all started in Argenstrath..."
Arnett recounted their adventure through Araz. Cromwell said very little, getting really involved with the story as it progressed. When Arnett caught up to current events, Cromwell still urged him to recount it, as if to see how Arnett was seeing things.
"Well, that's it," said Arnett.
"Absolutely unbelievable," Cromwell said, shaking his head, "I am impressed. Explains the state of that piece of crap landship. But it has survived so much? No wonder you want to bring it with you."
"Yeah, I won't lie... I really love it," said Arnett, crossing his arms and looking back, trying to catch a glance at the barge being towed behind the ship, "Probably going to find a way to come back for it after all this."
"I wouldn't count on it," said Cromwell, "Leaving it on the island is bad. It won't survive a day. I barely expect it'll survive your journey. Besides, who knows what'll happen to you if you survive."
"Oh, I'll do what I do best," said Arnett, "I'll cause trouble, maybe escape.Probably escape. Let's bet on me escaping."
Cromwell smiled, "Well, maybe we don't have to find out whether or not you could. I think we could work something out."
"Oh?" said Arnett, rolling his eyes, "Do tell..."
"Well, the Brotherhood is my problem," said Cromwell, "But if you can pull this whole thing out of your ass, I might be able to get you off the island, no questions asked."
"And my ship?"
"Is dead to me," said Cromwell.
"I'll just come back for it," said Arnett.
"Then that's your choice," said Cromwell.
"Come on, you did it once! You got to go back anyway!"
"You really are a pain in the ass, huh?" said Cromwell with a chuckle, "Fine, if you survive we'll figure out a way to get you off the island."
"You sure this ship can do that?" asked Arnett.
"Of course it can, The North Star is an amazing ship," said Phinneus looking around, "There's no other boat like her. She's so... fantastic. I guarantee you It'll take the wind, right out of you!"
"Alright, alright," said Arnett.
"Look," said Cromwell, gesturing to the distance.
Arnett followed, and his gaze set onto a little dot in the distance. His heart almost froze, and he realized that his goal was already in sight. Cromwell put his hands in his pockets, his eyes narrowing.
"What's your plan?" Cromwell asked.
"Hit the beach, go onto the island," answered Arnett, "Shoot things."
"Terrible plan," said Cromwell, shaking his head, "I meant about finding which Well is actually his? There'll be... many, many Wells."
"I... don't know," said Arnett, "He talked about riding a Waterfall in. Maybe a river or something. His Well was at the bottom of a lake, so maybe the water from his world is getting in?"
"If it is, it's not staying in," said Cromwell, "But looking for a river would be a start. I don't think it's his Well, specifically, which is creating the river. There are only so many rivers on the island. You should be able to find a waterfall, and then the river attached to that. Be careful, though. There are no natural things on that island. Everything you see on there, everything, is foreign. The trees are not natural, the creatures are not natural. I would doubt even the sands on the beach."
"Sounds creepy," said Arnett, thinking, "I'm going to need to find a way to get him home..."
"Listen, Arnett, you are going to need to be fast," said Cromwell, "The Island is so much worse then it appears. Do NOT, under any means, be on that island during the night. You will want to be back on the beach in the evening, before nightfall. Once you get lost in there, you won't make it through the night."
"Creepy," said Arnett.
"I'm serious," Cromwell repeated, "As soon as you deposit Flint or lose him, get to the beach. There's no promise I'll see you once nightfall hits."
Cromwell gave Arnett a giant red stick. It looked strange, and Arnett gave a quizzical look at Cromwell.
"Light the end," said Cromwell, "Do not look directly into the flame."
"You make this?" asked Arnett.
"No, but I enhanced it," said Cromwell.
Arnett smiled at the stick, then he looked at Cromwell, "Got more of these gizmos?"
Cromwell cocked his eyebrow, Arnett twirling the red stick in his hand, "I have an idea, Phinneus, and I think you could help me!"
"What sort of idea?" Asked Cromwell.
"One that could save our lives," said Arnett, "Maybe even save his."
A Terrifying New WorldArnett sat in the Scorpios II. Flint was settled back in the bunks. Arnett watched as the large island loomed closer, and the Barge was almost washed up upon the shore. The island was massive. The shore in which he was to wash upon looked to be a small Bay. The Barge had already made it into range, but Arnett wanted to make sure that they were close enough to shore before moving the Scorpios II.
The island truly was unsettling. A vast beach ran into a dense fog, the like Arnett had rarely seen. In the distance further inland Arnett could scarcely see the tops of massive trees, but the Fog seemed to stretch to the clouds, and visibility was limited.
Arnett got out of the cockpit and made his way to the engine room. Firing up the engines, he made his way back to the cockpit and started up the Scorpios II. The barge lightly began to drag on the beach, and Arnett grabbed hold of the controls. The Scorpios II sprang into action. It's legs pressed onto the barge, lifting the hull off the deck and into the air. The drills lifted as well, one even spinning as Arnett checked to see if they were functional.
Arnett pulled back, and the Scorpios II Stepped forward. It was an awkward beginning as the barge fumbled and the Scorpios II haphazardly stepped forward, but Arnett finally heard the splash of the Scorpios II walking into the water. Arnett smiled as the Scorpios II nimbly made it's way up the beach and began to disappear into the fog. Arnett only turned it around once to look back at the North Star. Arnett raised one of the drills like a hand and had it wave. He smiled to himself, wishing himself the best of luck.
Arnett turned the Scorpios II around and furrowed his brow. The fog just made everything worse, casting the Island into an eerie shade and making everything look eerie. Pulling back on the controls, the Scorpios II entered the fog and began it's trip into the island.
The landship stomped its way into the fog. Arnett sat, his nerves begin to build. His hand shook, and his stomach felt queezy. Checking that the Cannons are ready to shoot, Arnett closed his eyes for a brief prayer then continued into the Island.
It was a milky sea of fog, and the wind made it swirl into shapes and creatures. A chill fell down Arnett's spine. He should've considered putting damn lights on this ship. The swirls in the fog created eerie figures. Snakes, dragons, hands, blank white faces, demons, skulls...
Arnett shook his head. It's just the fog. He grips the controls tighter. He can't get spooked now. The faces seem to watch him through their life, from swirling into existence until they swirl away. Arnett breathes harder, noticing that the cockpit windows are beginning to fog. Maybe he wasn't scared, maybe it was actually getting cold.
A Skeleton is formed in the fog, a scary tree, a sickly dog. Arnett shutters. He closes his eyes and shakes his head. Arnett tells himself he cannot get scared now.
Opening his eyes again causes him to jump back. A tree trunk comes out of the Fog, and Arnett jerks the controls to pass the trunk. Arnett slows the Landship, peering harder through the Fog. He has found himself in some sort of Forest. His eyes widen as he raises his gaze towards the sky.
Large, thick tree trunks unlike he has ever seen stretch far above the Landship. Arnett couldn't even see the branches of some of them, but a few has canopies that stretched out, covering the sun from view. Arnett looked around, noticing that Smaller trees also littered the ground, and strange plants could be seen through the fog below. The Landship Scorpios II easily made its way through these plants, however. Arnett had to maneuvered his way around these massive trees.
They seemed to stretch on in every direction, and as Arnett continued through the fog, he saw they were space a ways out, allowing enough room for the Landship. The fog began to thin, and Arnett pushed onward into the Island. A few moments later, Arnett thought he saw a Skeleton pinned to one of the Trees, high above the small Forest below. Arnett shook his head, thinking that maybe his mind was playing tricks through the Fog.
"You got to see this, Flint," said Arnett, "It's as if someone littered the ground with mirrors."
As the Scorpios II continued. Arnett shook his head. This must be them. He saw one or two ripple, and his eyes widened. Wells. These silver disks must have been Wells. Wells, as far as Arnett could see. They created a sea of Silver. The light reflected off them seemed to cut through the Fog. Arnett avoided stepping into them with the Scorpios II, and maneuvered his way through the forest. Although he could see many Wells, he didn't spot anything coming out of any of them. They seemed... inactive.
The Scorpios II passed the area and walked into some sort of Field. Arnett could only spot Wells. As they continued, the land seemed to be at a slight incline. Arnett gazed up past the window, looking into the thinning Fog. The air seemed clearer, but he could see shadows moving through the fog. He shuddered.
The Scorpios II made its way underneath an overarching structure. Arches came out of the dirt on either side, and spread wide into the air, meeting with some sort of support structure up top. The Scorpios II walked through it, and down the makeshift tunnel they created. Arnett squinted at it, and shook his head. It looked like some sort of massive rib cage of some massive beast, but Arnett could not think of such an animal which would have belonged to it.
On the other end of the rib cage, Arnett saw sparkling. Peering through the Windshield, Arnett could see some sort of shadowy animal scurrying away from the approaching Landship. In between the Wells in this area, Arnett could see what looked like a bunch of rocks. He realized they must have been the same size as his fist, or bigger, if he could see them, but the way they captured the light and seemed to emit it made him wonder.
The Scorpios II continued forward into the island, and Arnett decided to go around all the funny rock-like objects on the ground. He maneuvered around the area carefully and avoided the items. They could barely be seen from where he sat, but they were easily avoidable.
However, he wasn't good enough, and the Scorpios II slammed down, hard, on one of the items. There was a flash of light, and Arnett jumped as a beam of light flew from the Scorpios II's metal foot and cast into the air. The beam got really bright before ending in a flash, and a giant item grew from the flash. Just as fast as the flash, a large round ship appeared. It was unlike anything Arnett had seen. It tripled the length of any kind of ship he had ever seen, and it hovered in the air for an extended period of time. Lights shined brightly from it, the top disappeared into the fog. Arnett looked on in wonder. He couldn't find any sign of balloons or anything that kept it afloat.
Suddenly the ship began to fall, and it drifted slowly towards the ground. Arnett yanked the controls the the Scorpios II scuttled away from the ship as it slammed into the ground. Suddenly, the ship exploded. Flames stretched across the ship faster then a bullet could fly. The island seemed to light up as the fire engulfed the massive ship. Its fire seared the air, clearing fog and cutting through the clouds. Arnett could almost feel the heat from the burning ship. Its iron frame slammed into the ground, shaking the Scorpios II.
Arnett only took a few minutes to locate the waterfall he saw earlier. Staring up at it through the windshield, Arnett couldn't see the top. Looking from side to side, he decided he had a better shot finding a way around. Steering the Scorpios II, Arnett continued through the fog for another way. He wove through the trees that would appear.
Finally, Arnett found a hill leading up to the cliffside. Arnett smiled, knowing he would be able to find the river and, thusly, Flint's Well.
In the distance, Arnett heard a rumble. In the back of his mind he tossed it up to distant thunder. The rumble happened again, this time Arnett could swear he felt a vibration. Trying to peer out the windshield of the cockpit, Arnett could see that flashed of light were seen in the fog. With another rumble, the sky lit up once more, and the image of an airship with a giant balloon could be seen through the fog. A moment later, cannon shells tore through the fog, and slammed around the landship.
Arnett's eyes widened. He didn't even have time to brace. One of the shells slammed into the Scorpios II's legs. The shell ripped right through, scattering metal and springs everywhere. A second shell slammed right into the hull of the Scorpios II, causing Arnett to Yell as the landship vibrated and shook with the impact.
The airship was upon them in seconds. It made a large pass over the landship, ducking low view its deck. Arnett grasped the cannon controls and tried to fire, but only the left ones had shells ready to go, and they fired off into the distance, into the fog. Cursing, Arnett threw the Scorpios II into a run, but the landship only awkwardly hobbled along without the use of that third leg. Arnett feared they would fall over.
"What's going on out there!" yelled Flint from the back.
"Just a small chance of pirates," said Arnett, "Nothing I can't handle. That big balloon is a target!"
Arnett could feel his hands beginning to sweat. He couldn't keep attempting to load the cannons and fire them. They would run out of shells before he got a shot at even hitting them. Cursing, he found himself thinking about the rail gun. Eyeing the airship as it made another pass, Arnett decided to quickly take action before he regretted it.
Grabbing hold of the rifle and sliding in a round, Arnett made his way through the landship once more. He grabbed the makeshift string-belt which held several of the glass shards he made up earlier and Arnett prayed nothing happened to the box he left on the deck. That box also held glass shards.
Arnett raised the rifle, and tried to ease the bulkhead door open. Almost immediately the door was ripped from his hands and thrust open. A large, muscular man stood outside, glaring down at Arnett. Arnett fired off a round instinctively, the bullet ripping right through the man's dark skin and into his arm. The man gritted his teeth, stepping back.
Arnett wasted no time. He rushed forward, slamming the butt of the rifle into the man's stomach. A second man held a small rifle in his hands. He cocked the rifle and barely had time to aim it. Arnett swung his rifle like a club, knocking the other man's rifle away as he pulled the trigger. The man's small riffle let out a "rat-ta-tat" as it automatically let loose a flurry of bullets.
The larger man reached in, grabbing Arnett and tossing him out onto the deck. The big man then stepped forward, allowing a third man to slip inside the landship. A small group of men had made it aboard the landship. Three men worked on the rail gun, however, attempting unbolt it from its place on the ship's deck. They were cursing and swearing as they tried to figure out the Scorpios II's schematics.
Arnett swung out with the rifle once more. The butt of the rifle cracked against the smaller man's head, sending him reeling away. The larger man reached out and grabbed the rifle, though. He seemed to be snarling at Arnett as gripped the rifle. Arnett wasted no time.
Letting go of the rifle, Arnett drew a pistol and cocked back the hammer. Before the goon could react Arnett fired off a shot into his stomach, causing him to grunt in pain. Arnett made a run passed him to the front of the ship, firing another shot into the back of the smaller man on the deck of the ship. The gunshots had already attracted too much attention. A fourth man had Arnett made, and he opened fire with a revolver of his own. One of the three men working on the rail gun also pulled out a pistol and cocked it, taking cover behind the rail gun and prepared to fire. Arnett barely had time to slide behind the front of the landship as bullets began to ping off the metal around him. He used the landship's bulky hull as cover as he layed his body on the windshield.
Even from the airship, Arnett could hear orders being yelled and hooting. Gunfire erupted from a few more rifles and an automatic rifle as the Airship hovered towards the back of the landship. Arnett peered over, watching as they began making another circle around the landship. That Airship will be able to shoot him soon.
Arnett pressed his back against the windshield. His heart was pumping harder and faster then he had ever felt and his lungs were on fire. Bullets were pinging off the ship as the pirates on deck fired off their weapons. He looked down at his revolver. Two shots, gone. He hat lost the rifle. The Airship was on its way around the Landship.
Crawling up the windshield, Arnett raced across the landship. He raised the pistol, taking aim at one of the shooters. He squeezed off a few rounds, two of the three hitting their mark. Jumping off the top of the Landship, Arnett slammed into the other gunman by the rail gun.
Hitting the ground, Arnett gripped his rifle with all his might. The pirate tried to push him off, but Arnett gained traction quicker and held on. One of the men working on the rail gun looked up and scowled. Wielding his wrench like a club, the man stepped toward the two men struggling on the deck of the ship. Arnett saw him approaching. Hooking his hand underneath the rifle, Arnett fired off the last shot in the revolver. His shot went wild, pinging off the rail gun.
The grunt on the ground kicked out, knocking Arnett's revolver free. Arnett held tight with the rifle, pointing it at the direction of the wrench wielding pirate. Reaching for the rifle, Arnett tried to squeeze the trigger. Moving to bat away Arnett's hand, the thug ended up squeezing the trigger. The rifle fired off. A bullet pinged off the other pirate's wrench, however the wrench did nothing to prevent the rest of the bullets fired from the automatic rifle from entering his body.
As the wrench wielder slouched to his knees and coughed up blood, the other pirate let go of the rifle in surprise. Arnett turned the rifle around, squeezing the trigger quickly. The gun fired off a round before clicking. The one round was enough to lodge itself in the pirate's chest.
Arnett swore. The rifle was out of bullets. The last pirate emerged around the rail gun. Arnett held the automatic rifle like a spear and tossed it at him. The force of the gun made him step back. The pirate tripped over a box on the deck of the ship, and he couldn't recover before he hit the rail of the ship. Tipping over and falling back, the pirate barely had time to fire off a shot and scream as he fell over the side into the fog.
Arnett was grabbed by the back of his shirt and belt and lifted into the air. Arnett yelped as he slammed against the rail gun. Raising to his feet, Arnett saw the muscular pirate limping his way over to him. The pirate was clutching his injured stomach. Arnett stepped away trying to gasp for breath. He backed up into the rail gun controls.
Arnett thought quickly. Arnett turned around, mashing buttons on the rail gun controls. The rail gun came to life, the generator below warming up and the heaters and coolers around the rail beginning to heat up. The controls kicked in just as Arnett needed them. Grabbing onto the controls, Arnett yanked the levers to raise the rail gun slightly.
He looked over at the pirate, almost making it near. Arnett grinned sadistically.
"Care to ride the rails?" asked Arnett, throwing the controls.
The rail gun's mechanics were tossed into motion. The rail swung around and slammed into the pirate. The pirate attempted to hang on, however he was tossed over the side of the landship. When the rail stopped, the pirate slipped off, grunting and yelling as he tumbled into the fog.
Arnett slouched against the rail gun controls. Breathing deep, he eyes the deck of his ship. A few bodies lay around, some of which groaned into the fog. Arnett let out a smile. His head felt like it was pounding and he was pretty sure his eyes had never been wider in his life. Arnett felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his chest.
Letting out a sigh, Arnett remembered the airship. His eyes scanned the sky, but he couldn't see it around.
Arnett grasped the controls again, aiming the rail gun up and around. He scanned the sky, unable to see the airship through the fog. Looking at the rail gun, the air stream was beginning to pick up speed. Arnett grabbed a glass shard off the sling he had, getting it ready to toss into the rail gun.
Suddenly the fog above began to swirl. Arnett looked up in time to see the hull of the airship come falling from the sky. Arnett leapt aside as the hull slammed on top of the Landship. The sound of splintering wood could be heard as the rail gun's rails cracked through the airship. The Scorpios II buckled under the weight of the airship. The legs gave way, and the Scorpios II dropped to the ground. Arnett could feel his stomach enter his mouth with the drop.
All was still, and the only sounds were the Scorpios II's engines, the rail gun's hum, and the Airship as it began to rise again. Arnett got back up, checking to make sure he was ok.
Wood and metal shards covered the deck from the Airship. Looking up, Arnett could see the rail gun survived the impact, and was currently blowing a strong stream of air up into the hull of the Airship. Judging by the debris and junk raining down around the two intertwined ships Arnett assumed that it had broken through the Airship's deck and was throwing the debris everywhere.
Arnett smiled as he noticed a few of the debris had caught fire, and the shouting he heard above were calls of men trying to keep the fire contained. Arnett grabbed a glass shard. Now he could finish them off for sure. Walking towards the rail-gun, he decided it was time for him to fire.
Arnett heard the sound of boots hitting the deck of the Scorpios II behind him. Reeling around, Arnett barely had time to lean back as a sword was thrust at him. Knocking the sword aside with the glass shard. Glass scatted across thee deck of the ship. Arnett held up the remnants of the glass shard and frowned, tossing it aside.
Standing in front of him was the pirate captain from the junkyard. He glared at Arnett, his massive cutlass pointed at Arnett from across the deck.
"You lil' pain in my arse!" swore the captain, taking a step forward, "You thought you could steel from me, mate? You thought I wouldn't findja? Well, I'm no dummy you fool!"
"Oh yeah... well," said Arnett, looking around, "I... think you picked the wrong day to mess with me."
"What?" asked the Captain, "That's all you got, mate? That's not banter. That's rubbish, that is."
"I'm sorry to disappoint," said Arnett.
"You better, mate," said the Captain, "You stole my equipment. I'm a right bit pissed, matey. I knew you'd pop up here sometime. Only a true Well Pirate would understand the value of such a machine!"
"Oh, yeah," murmured Arnett, "Sure."
"Now, I am not just about to be ripped off by some cheeky kid," spat the pirate, "I expect some witty banter worthy of an adversary worth my time!"
Arnett stumbled on a piece of wood by his feet. He immediately ducked down and grabbed the wood. The Captain wasted no time swinging his sword at Arnett. Arnett brought up the wooden scrap. The two locked immediately. The wood groaned, but held firm against the sword. The Captain raised the sword again to swing, but Arnett stabbed out quickly with the wooden piece, jabbing it into his stomach.
The Captain knelt over. Arnett raised the wooden piece like a club. Bringing it down on the Captain, the Captain blocked with his sword. With a splintering crack, the sword dug into the wooden piece. Arnett attempted to pull back, but the sword was stuck. The Pirate Captain attempted to pull back as well, glaring at Arnett.
Arnett smiled, letting go of the wood piece. The piece fell to the deck, and the Captain almost lost his sword in the process. He attempted to shake the wood free as Arnett turned his back and sprinted down the deck. Kneeling down, Arnett grasped another rifle from one of the pirates lying still on the deck.
Arnett turned around. The Captain was standing. He had abandoned his sword, and he held a large-barreled pistol at the ready. Arnett watched as the hammer closed and the barrel flared. Arnett's shoulder screamed in pain and his vision turned red. Arnett let out a scream and he fell backward, onto the deck.
The Captain cackled and tossed his over sized pistol aside. Arnett grasped his shoulder, screaming in pain. He was shot! The pistol hadn't fired a bullet, but a cloud of bullets. A few ripped clean through his shirt and into his arm. He began to bleed heavily.
"Harr, harr," said the Captain, kneeling down to pick up a revolver lying on the deck and cocking back the hammer, "Nice try, but I've been around a long time, boy!"
"I am so sick of that," snarled Arnett through clenched teeth, "Get off my ship, you bastard. Before you regret it."
"Oh, come now, that banter, matey," said the Captain, shaking his head, "You were an annoyance. Sadly, you were never worth it. I'll be taking back me equipment for my ship, mate. You and your friend are going to dye here, however."
Arnett reached for his belt of glass shards. Instead, he pulled out one of the red sticks Phinneus had given him aboard the North Star. Arnett peered over, seeing a burning piece of wood nearby.
"Tell me one thing," said the Captain, eyeing Arnett down the sights, "What be this ship supposed to be?"
Arnett looked up at the Captain. He had a confused look on his face.
"It's a Scorpion," said Arnett, "With the drills... and the tails."
"What?" said the Captain, shaking his head, "A real waste, mate."
The Captain pulled the trigger. Arnett flinched. The chamber clicked. Arnett looked up, and saw the look of surprise on the Captain's face. The Captain began to rapidly pull the trigger. The revolver cycled through the chambers.
"Found my gun?" smiled Arnett, his heart beating quickly, "My turn."
Arnett leaned over, shoving the end of the red stick into the fire. After a few seconds the tip began to spark, and a fierce bright, white flame lit up the area. It was so bright it hurt Arnett's eyes. The intense glare from the flame even cause the Captain to squint and raise his arm. Arnett held it aloft, showing the bright flame as it burned off the stick.
"Feel the scorpion's sting," yelled Arnett, "You pretentious prick!"
Arnett tossed the stick into the air. The stick landed in between the rails of the rail gun. In a second it was picked up by the stream and was catapulted through the hull of the airship. For a second, the light disappeared, and the Scorpios II was plunged into darkness. Suddenly the airship engulfed in flames and light up the sky. The airship was lifted into the air with the sudden surge of hot air. After a few moments, Arnett could see the airship begin to drif and crash to the ground. It veered off, barely missing the Scorpios II for a second time. It slammed into the ground next to the landship. The fireball shot up into the sky, cutting through the fog.
Arnett closed his eyes, leaning back. He could almost feel the heat of the burning Airship beside the landship. He wondered if the landship would catch fire.
Arnett lost all his breath as a knee was firmly planted into his stomach. Arnett gasped as the Captain's ringed first slammed into his face. The pirate Captain has him by the collar.
"You blasted little bugger!" yelled the Captain "You want to play Scorpion? Then I will squash you like a bug!"
"HEY! Captain Bullshit!"
The pirate captain and Arnett turned their heads. Covered in blood, Flint leaned against the bulkhead opening with one leg out. A revolver in his hands, he lifted it and aimed it.
"Get off my ship," said Flint, closing one eye.
The gun fired off. A bullet slammed into the pirate's chest. Arnett pushed back hard, the pirate tipped over. Arnett struggled to get up. He stared at the Captain as he struggled to get up.
"Flint!" called Arnett.
Flint tossed the revolver. Arnett almost dropped it, but managed to get control of it. Raising the revolver, he aimed it at the Captain.
"Scorpions have two tales, matey," said Arnett, squeezing the trigger.
The round slammed into the Captain's chest. He fell backward, grasping at his chest. The Captain gurgled to himself. Arnett dropped to his knees. He looked up to Flint. Flint was breathing heavily with his eyes closed.
"You alright?" asked Flint.
"Yes," said Arnett, "I got shot."
"Good," said Flint, "It's about time."
Flint fell forward onto his knees as well, and gasped for breath. Arnett looked around. He could hear the sound of the river nearby. Arnett fought to right himself.
"Come on, ol' man," said Arnett, "We're so close."
All is Well that ends Well
Arnett could feel each breath as if a thousand knives stabbed into his chest. Flint hung off his good shoulder, avoiding touching Arnett's hurt shoulder. Arnett was dragging a satchel with some equipment inside of it. They had been walking away from the wreckage for a few minutes. Arnett was trying to avoid the silvery pools of liquid around him.
Through the fog around them Arnett could hear howls and screams deep in the fog. He tried to distance himself from the beacon of fire he left behind him. The airship continued to burn behind them. With every crackle of the fire or explosion of the ammunition through more burning debris into the rail gun, which tossed it yards into the sky.
Arnett hoped the light show would distract the creatures of this island. Still, every so often he found himself once again seeing shapes in the fog, and he couldn't help but raise his pistol and fire off a shot, blindly.
"We're almost there, Lieutenant," said Arnett, "We're so close."
"How's the ship?" muttered Flint through a groan.
Sweat poured down Flint's face, and even his hair looked whiter. His eyes were only open a slit when they weren't closed. His breath was coming in raspy intervals. Arnett eyed the river. He needed to find that Well. He eyed all the wells near the river, but none actually seemed close enough to toss a man in.
"It's, uh, hit," replied Arnett, "Look, I need you to help me, pops. I can't find this Well, ok? Do you recognize any of this? Huh?"
Flint said nothing, instead his eyes opened slightly and he looked around slightly. Arnett continued to drag them further up the river.
"How are you... going to get back," said Flint.
"How are YOU going to get back?" asked Arnett, "One problem at a time, old man."
Arnett's head snapped across the river, his skin beginning to crawl. A Well on the other side of the river opened up. A large figure rose out of the silvery pool. He had super long, green arms that looked armored. His head had large mandibles. His eyes were abnormally large. He stepped out of the pool and walked around the area.
"Holy hell," said Arnett, raising the pistol.
The mantis man turned, quickly, towards Arnett. Kneeling down, he stared down Arnett and Flint. Arnett dropped Flint, aiming the pistol and squeezing the trigger. He had to stop and take a breath. Too Soon.
Finally squeezing the trigger, Arnett shot the figured in the knee. The creature hollered out in pain. Extending its long arms, it crawled into the river towards Arnett. As it sunk into the river water the current proved too much and the creature was swept down the river. Arnett closed his eyes and let out the air he was holding.
Picking Flint up again, he continued further up the river. Every step hurt more then the last, and Arnett could not spot an area of the river that had a Well close enough to have tossed Flint into the river. Arnett shook his head. He couldn't find it.
"What if I don't find it in time, Lieutenant?" said Arnett, "What if I fail?"
Flint said nothing, his eyes shut. Arnett furrowed his brow. He couldn't see through this blasted fog.
Suddenly, Flint raised his head and opened his eyes. His hand wavered as it rose, but Flint managed to point into the fog.
"There," he said.
Arnett followed Flint's finger into the fog. Arnett dragged Flint further through the fog. Arnett continued up the river, scanning the area around him. After a few yards, Arnett spotted a Well that could just work.
On the other side of the river, Arnett could see a Well right on the bank of the river, facing into the river. Arnett smiled, turned to Flint.
"Is that it?" said Arnett, "Did we make it?"
Arnett dragged Flint to the river's bank. He starred across the river at the Well. He eyes the fast moving current. Arnett cursed to himself. He looked further up the river and down back where they had come. He couldn't see any sign of a bridge or a boat in either direction. He cursed. He doubted there would be one.
"You'd think we'd catch a break," spat Arnett.
Grasping the satchel of equipment tighter, Arnett grabbed hold of Flint.
"Under no circumstances to you let me go, you understand?" yelled Arnett, shaking Flint away, "Don't you bloody let go!"
Plunging into the river, Arnett immediately regretted his decision. The water was like ice flowing right through his bones, and the current was just strong enough to start tugging at his knees. Flint popped down next to him, and instantly shivered. Arnett lifted him with one shoulder.
"Ok, we just have to get to the other side," gasped Arnett, eyeing the opposite bank, "It doesn't matter where we end. Just... just make it to the other side."
Arnett took the first step, going deeper into the river. In a single step, the water was right up to his waist. Arnett let out a surprised yelp. He dragged Flint alongside him. The walked into the river, each step more defiant then the last. The water was like ice. Step by step the water rose. Before they were even halfway, the river bottom plateaued so that the water level was just at Arnett's armpits. He could feel the power of the current as Flint was pushed against his body. Flint began to dip, and Arnett tried to keep his head above water.
Arnett's arms screamed. One allowed his blood to be washed away, the other fought against fatigue to hold Flint aloft.
"Almost there," grunted Arnett, "Just one more step."
Arnett started losing his focus. His eyes no longer concentrated on the opposite bank or the Well. Instead, Arnett watched as the water level seemed to rise, lapping at his neck and wetting his hair. Arnett lost his footing and plunged into the water, struggling to jerk himself back above the water line. Flint was coughing next to him, and Arnett stretched his neck to stay above water.
Arnett's heart sunk as he realized the water level wasn't rising, but he was losing strength and was allowing himself to sink beneath the waves.
"Flint," gasped Arnett, losing sight of the man, "I'm-"
Arnett felt his arm fail. Flint disappeared beside him. Arnett closed his eyes as he sighed. His knees gave way. Arnett found himself plunged into the icy depths. He opened his eyes. The cold waters were eerily clear. A few fish and floating debris made their way by, dragged on by the current. A white skeleton laughed at Arnett from the river bottom, the current finally ripping off its jaw and carrying it away.
Arnett saw his feet lift from the river bottom, and he was weightless. His eyes closed. His lungs let out the last of his air. Arnett could almost feel his heart stop beating.
A firm hand grabbed his collar. Pulling hard, Arnett was yanked out of the water. Arnett began to sputter and cough, gasping for air. A firm hand beat his back. Arnett cough and spluttered. His cheek broke out in heat as he was slapped. Pushing away, Arnett regained his footing.
Flint stood before him. Flint's glare peeked out from underneath the brim of his hat.
"Come on, kid," yelled Flint, "We're so close! Don't let me die!"
"I can't," yelled Arnett.
"You can't? Bullshit!" yelled Flint, slapping Arnett in the face once more, "Look how far we come? I am not going to drown! Not today! Now get up, and pull me out of this damn river!"
Flint began to disappear, breaking up like smoke. He reeled back and slapped Arnett again. Arnett jolted awake, gasping for breath. The piece of wood that hit his head continued down the current, and Arnett managed to deflect the next one. Pushing against the river bed, Arnett thrust his head above the water.
Arnett gasped and cough for air. Looking around, he barely caught Flint's body floating past him. Arnett reached out and grabbed him, yanking him back. Firmly continuing onward, Arnett coughed up the rest of the water from his lungs. With this second wind, Arnett could spot the opposite bank. He quickly tried to stomp his way there, dragging Flint beside him.
In the haze of the effort, Arnett barely noticed as the water receded from his neck, and he found himself walking up-hill to the bank. When Arnett reached the bank, he threw Flint against it. With his other arm, Arnett tossed the satchel of equipment onto the land. Beating Flint's chest, Arnett tried to get him to breathe.
A stream of bloody-water shot out of Flint's mouth as he began coughing and gasping for air. Flint reached out and grabbed onto Arnett for support.
"Breathe, Flint," said Arnett, "We made it. We made it!"
"You almost drowned me, kid," sputtered Flint, "I can... I can feel it. It's so warm. It smells of my wife's pastries. I can smell the Scorpios' exhaust! I just know it. I'm close. I'm almost home!"
Arnett eyed the sky. He couldn't tell through the dense fog, but he could tell it was beginning to get extremely dark. Nightfall. Cromwell had told him to do everything in his power to be off the Island by nightfall. Time was running out.
Using the bank for support, Arnett and Flint made their way further up river. They had drifted a bit since making it across. However, Flint was begining to gain a second wind. He no longer hung off Arnett, instead he marched on defiantly towards the well. It didn't take long for them to reach the spot they had seen before.
A small beach meant the river was only ankle deep by this Well. Arnett and Flint knelt by it, staring into the metallic reflection of their eyes. Arnett scowled. The metal surface was downright creepy, and Arnett felt like the well was releasing a cold breeze. He began to shiver uncontrolably as he stared at it. It was not right.
However, Flint was smiling from ear to ear. His coughing fits and blood couldn't keep down his spirits.
"We did it," said Flint, clasping Arnett's shoulder, "You did it, kid. We made it."
"Are you sure this is it?" said Arnett.
"I feel... warm, Arnett," said Flint, his breathing becoming heavy, "I feel hope. I can't explain it. Every part of my body hurts. I'm drenched. I'm cold. I can barely breathe. Yet, I feel hope and peaceful. Arnett, this is it."
"But," started Arnett, "What if this isn't? What if you're dying."
"I am dying."
"No. What if you are dying," said Arnett, "You can barely stand. What if this is it? What if I failed?"
"Joel," said Flint, looking at Arnett.
Arnett felt heat behind his eyes. Flint just nodded to him. They knelt there, in the cold, looking at one another.
"Let's get me ready," said Flint.
Arnett reached for the satchel of equipment. He strapped on a harness onto Flint, whose breathing began to rasp again. A backpack-like settup with equipment on his chest. Arnett secured the rigging and strapped them in. Lacing a tank to the front of the apparatus, Arnett gave Flint a hose. Turning the valve slightly, a steady stream of oxygen began to escape the tank.
"Don't blow up," joked Arnett.
Pulling a tab, Arnett inflated the equipment. Flint puffed up, looking like a large obese man. Sucking on the oxygen, Flint began breathing better.
"Never," started Flint, "Never hesitate to help someone in need. It's good form. Never take money over morals, kid."
"Ya, ya," said Arnett, "Now you are good. Let's go."
"I lost thousands helping people," said Flint, "It was worth it. I lost them all."
"Look, a little late for life changing advice, Lieutenant," said Arnett, who began dragging Flint towards the Well.
"I hated my father," said Flint, which caused Arnett's heart to jump, "But he was never there for me. However, when he was taken from me I never had so many regrets."
"Good-bye, Lieutenant Flint," said Arnett, setting Flint up to travel.
"Lieutenant Joel Arnett," said Flint, "There is goodness in you. You made this happen, kid. You did. I will never forget you."
Pushing Arnett back, suddenly, Flint allowed himself to fall back into the Well. Arnett's heart sank. There was no spectacular light show. There was no sound. Flint's legs just disappeared into the metallic water of the Well.
And just like that, Arnett was alone.
Arnett dragged himself onto the shore. Sitting in his wet clothes, he eyed the Well Flint had disappeared in. He wanted some sort of sign. He wanted some sort of closure. He sat there for some time. He could hear engines moving above his head. He didn't bother looking up. He watched the river flow by.
Suddenly the Well opened up. Spewing out some water, the Well was silent again. Arnett sighed. He had gotten excited for nothing. He was confused as to what that was supposed to signify.
Down the river, beams of light descended on the ground. The lights began to weave through the fog, scanning the ground. Arnett sighed. An airship was looking for something. Arnett was cold and creeped out.
Grabbing the satchel, Arnett pulled another red stick. Placing the stick on the ground in front of him, Arnett pulled out some flint and steel. Striking sparks on the end of the stick, the red stick again ignited into the brightest light Arnett had ever known. Closing his eyes, Arnett picked up the stick.
Standing, Arnett raised the bright stick into the air, lightly swinging it back and forth. After a second or so, the lights began to move. A few disappeared, but the others swept the ground until they were near Arnett.
As if like a heavenly light, the pillars of light all converged on Arnett, standing alone. Arnett waved the bright torch back and forth. The fog began to swirl as the columns of light disappeared. Out of the fog, Arnett spotted the hull of an Airship descending.
Arnett tossed aside the bright stick and crossed his arms. He was shivering too much to care. He waited for the Airship to descend.
Rise of the Scorpion
Arnett sat in the dimly lit room. A blanket was draped around his shoulders. He had stopped shivering. Setting down the mug of hot tea that had been prepared for him, Arnett made his way out of the room and through the corridor to the deck of the Airship.
Outside, he quickly found the Captain, who was standing by the edge of the deck with a bunch of weapons and Pirate carcasses. Looking up, the man smiled through his black beard and raised his hand.
"Well, well," said Commodore Cromwell, "You're not dead! Who would've thought!"
"Commodore," said Arnett, stepping forward and gripping the wool blanket tighter to protect against the cold.
"That was quite a mess you made," said Cromwell, "I could see some of the explosions from the ocean. So, I decided to drop in on you. Have you been hiding secrets from me?"
"You shouldn't talk about hiding secrets," said Arnett, "An Airship?"
"And the true secrets are yet to come," chuckled Cromwell, "So who are these poor souls I found on the deck of your junk heap?"
"Pirates, I should think," said Arnett, "The former owners of my new favorite landship cannon."
"You did not!" smiled Cromwell, "Well, they're going into sea. Them and their automatic rifles. Don't need all this well technology getting around."
"Automatic rifles are Well technology?" asked Arnett.
"No, but ones of this expert style must be," said Cromwell, "That's one thing I can agree with the Brotherhood on. We kill each other good enough as it is. No need to add to that with Well tech."
"So, going to give it back to your buddies, then?" said Arnett.
Cromwell shook his head, "A burial at sea is my thinking."
Cromwell turned his back, walking around the massive pile of guns and bodies. Arnett leaned forward quickly, swiping up a revolver quickly, and shoved it beneath the blankets. Cromwell reached the other side and fiddled with a control panel. The part of the deck then rose up, causing the pile to dump into the sea. Arnett peered over the side, watching as the guns fell through the sky and plummeted far below into the sea.
"So, I'll drop you off," said Cromwell, crossing his arms, "What are you going to do from here?"
"Well, my ship is in a bad shape," said Arnett, "I'll rebuild it. Slightly bigger, definitely stronger."
"Rebuild it?" asked Cromwell, "How are you going to do that with your junk-heap smoldering back that way on the island?"
Arnett grinned, his eyebrows raising as he looked towards Cromwell. Cromwell let out a laugh, shaking his head with the thought.
"Some pair of gonads on you, Joel."
"I can rebuild it and make it work again," continued Arnett, "Then what I do with it is my problem."
"Look, the Brotherhood of Demitrius is none too happy with you," said Cromwell.
"Nor you, pretty soon," said Arnett, "I believe you were instructed to leave me in that foggy hell to rot."
"So imagine the trouble I'll be in when I bring back two out of the three things I was ordered to leave there," said Cromwell, "Instead of just the one."
"Come on, I won't hurt nobody," said Arnett, "I'm not out to rule a town or anything. You wouldn't have saved me if you thought I was any harm to the balance of the world."
"Look, Joel," said Cromwell, "Are you really serious about remaking that piece of crap?"
"If you don't help me, I'll just make another one anyway," said Arnett, turning up his nose, "Steal some more stuff, kill more people. Then find my way back onto that island all by myself just to get out that rusty old carcass of a dream."
"Ok, ok, I'll stop you there," chuckled Cromwell, "I suppose I could help you out, Joel."
"Lieutenant Arnett," corrected Arnett, "If you don't mind."
"Ha, alright then, Lieutenant," scoffed Cromwell, "I'll help you. I can get that pile of cogs back to Arazian soil. I'll let you figure out how to get home, though. I'll let you worry about rebuilding it. I'll have no more part of your antics."
"Deal," said Arnett.
"However, if you ever cause any trouble," said Cromwell, "I'll deal with you myself. Understand? I'm watching you, Lieutenant Arnett."
"Just don't scratch or dent my baby getting it back home," said Arnett, "It's brand new."
Turning around, Arnett began making his way back to the cabin. He left the Commodore shaking his head and chuckling to himself. The Commodore's first mate walked up beside him, crossing his arms and glaring at Arnett.
"What are you going to do about the Brotherhood?" asked the man.
"I'll deal with them," said Cromwell, "This is my decision."
"I can see why you would rescue a little snot like him," said the man, "But I don't see why you're doing him so many favors."
"Boric," said Cromwell, "He just traveled across miles of desert, across two countries, half an ocean, and the most dangerous stretch of land in this plane of existence just to return a stranger back to his realm. If we can convince him to give us half of that devotion to one of our causes in the future?"
Cromwell slapped the man's shoulder, nodding and pulsing his eyebrows. The man shook his head and smiled.
"Now, let's figure out how to get a salvage ship to that island," said Cromwell, "And let's keep an eye on our new, cocky friend."