Arnett dropped the crate of cargo on the goons feet. While he let out howl of pain, Arnett ducked the grasp of the second goon and turned and booked it for the docks.
Careening passed an old lady, Arnett took the steps two at a time as he ran up to the landship docks. He was sprinting down the docks. His lungs began to burn.
A quick movement in front of him barely registered before he was hit in the face, As his head jerked back, his foot missed the step and tumbled out in front of him. Arnett’s sight went black and he saw flashes of light. He hit the dock, and the air was knocked out of his lungs.
Arnett spat out the blood beginning to pour down the back of his throat, and he gasped for air. He laid his head on the dock. He could feel the foot falls of men running up to them. Each step was like tiny hammers on his head.
As his sight returned so did his hearing. Arnett could hear someone tutting and walking around his limp body. A cling could be heard of a piece of metal being hit.
“Why do they always run?” asked the figure above Arnett, “They were going to bring you hear anyway.”
Arnett spit another mouthful of blood. His nose was screaming at him.
“Pepper, I should have known,” came Arnett’s hoarse response.
“Time’s up, Jay,” said the figure above him, “You know who wants her money.”
“Yeah, Lieutenant-needle-dick,” said the man, “Her money.”
“Pepper,” Arnett tried to lift himself up, but a surge of dizziness hit him hard and he tumbled to the dock once more, “Listen, I already told you-”
“Not our problem, bub. The O’Tanners say they never received the shipment and that puts us in a bad spot.”
“I delivered that shipment,” coughed Arnett.
“Come on, Jay.”
“At least find the breath to make it to the end of my name, Pee,” said Arnett, regaining his breath and blinking, “Tanners are lousy cheats and you know this.”
“Ah, come now,” sighed Pepper, “We’re well passed the whole thing. Now, money. Pay up or you lose a knee. Come on.”
“Oh, sure. Check my coin purse.”
“Come on you winy tit,” said the man, lightly kicking Arnett in the side, “You know we don’t give a toss about you walking.”
“How much?” said Arnett.
“Hmm?” asked Pepper.
“How much, Pepper?” asked Arnett, “You’re extorting me you might as well give a number.”
“Why don’t we drag the man back to his ship, boys,” said Pepper, “Perhaps we’ll find enough there. If not, we’ll see how much broken bones are worth to him.”
“Not very businesslike of you, Pepper,” wheeze Arnett.
A figure swooped in. In a flash of two legs, one of the goons was knocked squarely in the body, and he fell over the rail of the landship dock. The second goon had more time to react, but he didn’t. A rifle butt was across his face in moments. As he turned to retaliate a second jab of the gun into his gut caused him to lean over.
Pepper was on them, the metal pipe raised and coming down in a powerful swing. The figure blocked the blow with the lever action rifle in their hands.
Nina stood above Arnett’s head. She held back Pepper’s blows, but the second goon was recovering, and drawing a pistol.
Arnett’s foot lashed out in a burst of energy he didn’t know he had. It landed squarely in Pepper’s crotch and he kneeled over with a squeak of pain. Arnett barely had time to let out a grunt and Nina spun around, swinging the rifle by the barrel like a dirtball bat. The rifle opened the goon’s nose and send him against the railing. Flipping the rifle around, Nina pulled the trigger and released a bullet into his gut, causing him to groan in pain and sink to the floor.
Arnett was struggling to get on his feet when Pepper recovered. Pepper was grasping the railing trying to get up himself, and Arnett lunged forward and tackled him with his uneasy bodyweight. The blow was enough to push Pepper straight over the railing.
Pepper only had time to let out a grunt before he hit the ground below. Arnett gasped for breath, leaning on the railing. Nina peered over the side, sneering.
“Friends of yours?” said Nina.
“You cut things a little close,” Arnett wiped his nose, looking at the blood, “My face hurts.”
“Well you got hit with a metal pipe,” said Nina, “This is the second time in as many weeks. Is this all you do is upset people?”
“It’s been a busy time,” said Arnett, “That’s what you are here for.”
“I was hired to help.”
“And you did. Top marks, Nina.”
“Ninatovich,” corrected Nina.
“I think we need to leave,” said Arnett, “I think I saw him twitch.”
Nina rolled her eyes.
“So in conclusion,” said Captain Brown, “My offer is really going to set me back and raise you up.”
He stood in front of three tied up Vibranni women. They were strapped to chairs and they leaned uneasily on their bindings. To the Captain’s left is a Vibranni alpha female. He picked her up outside of astam. She is a Vibranni activist, fighting for her tribes’ rights in Antiford.
Between the two was a vibranni beta female. She shivered on her chair, and pulled away from the Captain. He wasn’t sure where his men had picked her up, but she must have put up a good fight to get the bruises she had.
On his right was a second Vibranni beta female. She was a legend in her own right. A known crew member of several notorious airships and landships. She put up the biggest fight. Brown’s quartermaster has already stopped her escape attempts twice and suffered a knife wound. She killed two of his crew already. Her eye was almost closed from the injuries his men had inflicted on her.
She was a warrior woman.
And now she was glaring at him with contempt and hatred.
“If I say yes, will you untie me?” said the one on the right.
“Come on, Ninatovich,” said Captain Brown, “You’re saying that from a place of anger. I am not a fool, either. That is why I sent invitations to y’all.”
“Armed gunmen are not invitations,” spat the alpha vibranni.
“They wouldn’t need to be armed if you weren’t so insistent on refusing them, Tatiana,” Captain Brown continued, breaking to sip from a cup, “Besides, I’m not stupid. That is why my gift to y’all still stands. We all stand to benefit.”
Tatiana spit at his feet. His knuckles tightened around his cup and he shook his head. The spit disappeared in the grates of the metal grated floor they were on. Three of the guards stepped forward, raising their heavy revolvers. Captain Brown raised his hand, calming them down.
“It’s nothing to scoff at,” said Captain Brown, “You each would be gifted and captain your own airship. Top of the line. Fully armed. You would have safe haven at my palace and access to every man and woman under my command.”
“We would be slaves to your lust,” said Tatiana.
“You would be the wives of a powerful man who sees you as more than demons and filth. You are powerful, smart, and vicious,” Captain Brown paced in front of them, “I understand you. I respect you. I… dare I say it? I love you. Only I can give you the life you deserve. Pick you up from the sands of the desert and soot of the mill.”
“I am not interested,” said Nina.
A rumble shook the room. Captain Brown sighed, rubbing his head.
“I really wish we could track down the source of those tremors,” said Captain Brown.
“We can call for a geologist in the morning, sir,” said a goon.
“Perhaps there are greater forces at work here,” said Tatiana,”Perhaps they frown on your engagement practices.”
“Please, see reason,” said Captain Brown, “As my brides, you will terrorize the land and bring riches untold to us.”
“Drop dead,” spat Nina, “Kill me, because the second I’m released I’ll slit your throat and fight my way out of here.”
Captain Brown sighed again. Another rumble shook the room. Brown squinted his eyes.
“Goodness, can someone…”
He left it open ended, but two goons stepped forward towards the Vibranni. One lifted his hand, revolver gripped tightly, and struck Nina across the face. She slumped to one side.
The goons looked to each other. The one with the revolver smiled and raised his hand to strike again.
A blast rang out. The goon was lifted into the air like a jump before crumpling to the floor. A second blast rang out, the second goon who stepped forward was hit in the chest, flinging backwards with such force to knock one of his shoes off.
Captain Brown and his two remaining goons drew their weapons. They spun around the room, looking for where the shots had come from. Captain Brown leveled his pistol at the Vibranni.
“What treachery is this?” Spat Captain brown.
Another blast sent a goon flying, but this time it could be seen it came from below. A smaller gunshot followed, hitting the fourth goon’s neck, causing him to drop him pistol and stagger back, hand to his neck.
The grate beneath the Captain’s feet gave out. He found himself falling into the blackness below and he tumbled. When he landed, a crate fell on his leg and he heard a crunch. He let out a scream.
“My leg!” he screamed.
A figured stood before him, “Aw, let me help you with that.”
A revolver was pulled and a gunshot blasted out. A shot went firmly into his broken leg. The Captain let out another scream.
A man stood above him, and he tipped his hat before walking up the ramp to the floor above. He had ripped out some supports and created a ramp. It now looked like the Captain was in some kind of sub-basement forgotten to him.
“Why shoot my leg,” shouted Captain brown up after the man, “It was already broken.”
“Shut up,” said the man, before he turned to the Vibranni, “Ladies, your chariot awaits!”
“Piss off, Arnett,” spat Nina, “Untie me.”
“I just saved your life,” said the man, “Do you know how hard it was?”
“There are more men with guns coming,” said Nina, “Cut me loose.”
“Don’t you dare! They are my betrothed!” yelled Captain Brown.
“Shut up,” yelled Arnett as he sawed at Nina’s bonds, “Or I’ll shoot the other leg.”
“Don’t bother,” said Nina, “I’ll beat his nose in. Can you hurry it up, Joel?”
“You don’t sound very grateful,” said Arnett, who elbowed the Vibranni next to Nina and raised his eyebrows playfully, “Eh? Grateful. Anyways, it’s not like I saved your life or anything.”
“Add it to your tab,” said Nina.
He bonds were cut and she rubbed her wrists. She stood up and stretched as Arnett moved on to the next Vibranni.
“Little man,” said Tatiana, “What is your plan of escape? We are surrounded by pirates and thugs.”
“Well mean lady,” said Arnett, “I have a bunch of guns and a grenade and we’re going to just do our best. That, or we go on the horse I rode in on.”
“How did you find me in this labyrinth?” asked Nina, pulling a dagger from one of the fallen pirates.
“No clue, quite lucky, actually. I figured the deepest, darkest basement would be it but there was just a lot of rum barrels in there. I left the engines going and I think they are cracking the foundation.”
Arnett moved to the last Vibranni as the middle vibranni began to sob silently. The Alpha female rolled he eyes, snatched the knife from Arnett’s hands and cut the bonds in one fluid motion.
“We need to go, now,” said Tatiana, rushing to a downed pirate grabbing his revolver and a scimitar.
“Wait,” said Nina. She walked down the ramp to Captain Brown, “My dowry, betrothed.”
With one motion she caught his hand in hers and stabbed the dagger right through the palm. Captain Brown let out a massive cry.
Overhead Arnett leapt across the gab, tossing a wooden beam across the door just as a heavy knock pounded.
“Captain? What happened? We heard a noise?” came a gruff voice.
“You’re fired,” said Arnett in a gruff voice before leaping back across, “Time to go.”
“Let us move, lead quickly little man,” Tatiana bent and in one motion scooped the sobbing vibranni girl onto her shoulder and drew back the hammer of the revolver.
“I need to cut off his manhood,” spat Nina.
“We’ll come back,” said Arnett, “Butt the plan involved not being crushed by an old fort. Let’s move.”
“Get bent, Joel,” spat Nina, “I’m not done with him.”
“Ninatovich,” said Arnett, “You’re on the clock, move out!”
“Damnit!” swore Nina, “Yes, Lieutenant.”
Arnett lead them back down the ramp. He rushed to the back of the dark room and opened an old wooden door.
Nina pushed past him, angry and scowling. Tatiana stopped at the door and motioned to the door for Arnett. Arnett nodded and headed through.