The sun was setting and the Burning Duchess's Curse was high in the sky biding time for it's target to come into range. Captain Morlock stood in his wardroom look over all the blueprints and lists spread all over the table. He looked up at his second in command who was reading a scroll list filled with names.
“Commander Scipio,” said Morlock.
“Yes sir,” Scipio replied.
“Did you assign men for the boarding party?”
“Yes sir, the men are ready to go.”
“Very good commander, call them up if you will”
Scipio walked up to the speaking tube that was mounted to the room and flipped the cover off. Blowing into his bosun pipe he sounded a strong bosun's call which made all chatter onboard the ship to cease.
“Attention this is the first officer speaking, will the boarding party come up to the captain’s wardroom,” echoed Scipio’s voice throughout the ship.
The boarding gathered before the entrance of the room within moments.
“SIR, The boarding party has all arrived as ordered” called out a lieutenant.
“At ease, come in and gather round,” Captain Morlock said.
The men filled into the room and stood on the opposite side of the table form the Captain.
“Gentlemen, This will be a raid unlike any other that we have embarked on before,” Morlock said. The Captain pulled up a diagram of a small warship.
“The ship we will be boarding first will be one of the four escort ships that will be safeguarding our main target. Upon boarding and the normal takeover of this vessel two of you will stay behind. The rest of us will put on some of their uniforms and head over to the mainliner where all the valuables will be held. There will be a party being held so most of the guest be out of their rooms.”
“Who here can’t pick locks?” Scipio asked.
Three of the men raised their hands.
“You two will stay on the escort and you ensign Harper will join the captain and I. The rest will loot the most valuables goods you can carry” The commander said.
“The party will end around midnight and we will be heading back as soon after that,” Morlock said.
Just then a bosun’s call sounded on the speaking tube.
“This is the forward watch speaking. We’ve spotted the five ships coming off the coast line now," the voice from the speaker said.,
Captain Morlock grabbed his coat from the chair and put it on. He walked up to the speaker tube and shouted, "Alright men this is the Captain, All hands to station and fire the forward furnace. We're beginning our approach now."
The ship opened some vents under the bow and a thick dark smoke billowed out masking the ship in a cloud of their own making. The captain and the rest of the boarding crew went to the main deck. There the Quartermaster was waiting with weapons and kitepacks. The men armed themselves as the Quartermaster fastened their packs on.
"All you have to do is pull this cord and pull up SLOWLY. If you pitched the kite too fast the pack might fail and you'll be back to free falling," the Quartermaster explained.
After all the kitepacks were fastened the boarding party walked up to the starboard edge of the ship.
"Captain, we are over the rear escort ship now," the helm officer said.
"Thank you lieutenant, The ship is yours," Morlock said.
The boarding party dove off the ship into a three hundred foot free fall. Deploying their kites swooping under and around to the other side of the ship. The crewmen were on the far side wondering what fell from the sky. The boarding party opened fire and took the main deck within seconds. The boarding party split up securing the bridge and lower decks with in minutes. The escort ship was completely taken by surprise and the plan was working perfectly as planned. With their newly borrowed uniforms they steered escort ship ascending to a high for the boarding party to glide over.
"Is a lieutenant's uniform the highest rank you could find?" Morlock asked.
"I'm guessing all the higher brass are attending the party" replied Scipio.
The boarding party took off with a running jump and gliding over to Mainliner.
The airship was massive and the closer they got the more they knew that is job was going to pay well. The outside of the ship had gilded trimming upon its ivory hull and a faint sound of music echoed throughout the ship. The boarding party landed on one of the balcony decks and headed to the living quarters. Captain Morlock, Scipio and the ensign walk down the passageway taking up most of the room. They bumped into a gentleman who was fixing his mask.
"You lousy oaf! Look at all that dirt you got on my lapel. As the most prestige clothing designer I can't go to a ball all dirty. Now I have to put on another coat top," The man said all frustrated.
Morlock looked at the mans size and figure that he's clothes could fit the three of them. they followed the man to his room and waited for him to open the door. With a quick palm strike to the side of the head, the man fell back into Scipio's arms.
"Good hit, Scipio." said Morlock.
"Thank you, Captain."
They dragged the man into his room and tied him up. His room was full of all different suits and dresses. It looked like he had been held up from going to the party because he was fixing clients clothing before hand. It was hard to choose from all the fancy suits that were hanging up. Anyone of them were fit for a prince. Morlock end up putting on a golden coat with a black mask.
"It fits you well, sir." Scipio said. Him and the ensign both wore blue coats with white masks. They started to head over to the masquerade ball now that they were dressed properly.
"Why are we attending the party?" asked the ensign.
"Because young lad, we here to get something more precious than coin or jewelry," Scipio said.
"And what is that?" the ensign asked again.
"Information. With all the rich and powerful attending, we're going to find out the best times to go hunting." Scipio answered.
"How do we do that?"
"We boast or lie rather about how well off we are and future plans. They do the same only they'll be talking mostly of the truth. "
The three men arrived at the grand ballroom trying to act like proper gentlemen. They slipped in from one of the side entrances and began to mingle with the other guests. The music was calming and all of the attendees separated into small groups having hor d'oeuvres and champagne. The Captain budded into the company of a couple royals and a very wealthy businessman.
"A very lovely night tonight. Almost as lovely as you m'lady" Morlock said with a bow a kiss upon the Baroness white slick gloved hand.
"Thank you, I'm not sure we've been introduced sir," the Baroness said.
"Appleseed, Johnathan Appleseed owner and regent of all the orchards of the Crimson forest" lied Morlock.
"So, that makes you what, a duke?" the Earl scoffed in a conceited manner.
"Nothing that prestigious, just a Marquee." the Captain claim with a convincing smile.
The Earl bite his lips knowing that the Captain was certainly not a duke but his knowledge of the Marquees was lacking except that he was outranked. The young Baroness stepped closer to the Captain twirling her long blond locks of hair.
"So, what brings you here aboard?" she asked.
"I'm here to do business and enjoying the company of fair maidens like yourself," Morlock said.
"And what business do you do?" the businessman asked.
Captain Morlock looked at his first mate and gave a nod. Scipio brought a bottle of sparkling sweet apple cider he had hidden.
"I sell the finest products that my land has to offer, would you like to try some?" Morlock said gesturing to have some poured.
Two servants came over and distributed glasses of the cider. They all drank it and were shocked on how sweet it was.
"Oh my, this cider is very sweet and bubbly." the Baroness said.
"Careful my lady, with all the alcohol in there it'll make you become all bubbly as well." Morlock flirted.
The Earl still had a bitter expression on his face.
"Well I have a fleet of ships transporting machinery from AntiFord next week and they are going to be used on my new diamond mine," the Earl boasted.
"Well, congratulations are in order," the businessman said.
"Yes indeed, another round," Morlock said raising his glass, "To new opportunities and soon to come by a greater wealth.".
The music's tempo picked up to a happy waltz. Most of the guest circled around the dance floor to watch younger couples dance. The young ensign spent his time mingling with them while also pickpocketing some of their valuables. He was going through an older noblewoman purse when he pulled out a hand. It was a dainty and soft belonging to a young woman in a black dress with lots of ruffles.
"Oh my, don't you two look like a lovely couple," the noblewoman said as she noticed the two holding hands. "The next song is going to begin", she said ushering them onto the dance floor.
The two stood there awkwardly and the music began a new song. The young woman grabbed the ensign hands and moved into a dancing position. As to not to make a seen, the ensign followed along with her.
"What were you doing in that woman's purse?" she asked.
"I could ask you the same," Harper said.
"Sorry but the lens is mine"
"The what? I'm sorry but I don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't give me that, you're telling me that you board this ship to commit petty thievery?"
"No, the Captain is gathering information from the rich folks as well."
Just then the sound of a glass shattering quieted down the party. A voice in the back of the crowd shouted, "That is the last insult I'll hear from you, draw your sword, sir!" The guests parted away from two men with sabers at the ready. It was Morlock and the Earl.
"Who is that?" the young lady asked.
"That would be my Captain and some very upset nobleman," Harper said.
The two me began to clash swords and shuffle their fight into the center of the dance floor. The Earl was no novice when it came to swordsmanship but he could not keep up with Morlock's footwork.
Scipio was unsurprised by the turn of events. "Sir, I'd hate to ruin your fun but we are on a tight schedule," he said.
Morlock parried a lunging thrust and gave nice slash over the shoulder of the Earl.
"Yes of course, and it looks like I lose another duel to father time yet again. Lords and ladies I wish you a wonderful rest of the evening," he said as he sheathed his sword. The three men joined back up with the boarding party who were posted up with their rifles and in cover.
"Did you run into any problems?" the Captain asked the men that were going through the rooms.
"Nothing that we couldn't handle, Sir" One of the men said just before he fired his steam powered rifle at a soldier coming around the corner. It didn't take long before the ship's alarm to sound. All of the boarding party put on their kitepacks and jumped off the aft of the ship. The other two on the escort ship did same after receiving a signal lighted by the first officer. The Burning Duchess was barely skimming the waters as the boarding party safely glided onto the main deck.
"Set the ship to full lift lieutenant, take us away," Captain Morlock commanded.
The airship quickly rose up passing just by the mainliner. The was making a clean break from the group was one deck crew notice a grappling hook embedded into the starboard hull.
"Sir, It looks like we picked up something," the crewmen yell.
Ensign Harper dropped his kitepack and walked over to investigate.
"What did you find, crewmen?" he asked.
"Sir, there is a rope attached to the ship were there shouldn…" the crewmen was trying to say when he got knocked out by a shadowy figure. The figure lunged at the ensign take him down to the deck. Everyone one the top deck had a firearm pointed the two causing their tussle to come to a screeching halt. Harper something familiar with the masked assailant.
"You know if wanted another dance, you could of just asked," Harper said.
The stowaway was the young woman from the party only instead of a ballroom dress, she was in a blacked out jumpsuit like a ninja would wear. The Captain walked over to introduce himself.
"Hello, I'm sorry but I don't remember giving you permission to board my ship. Which begs the question as to why you are here?" he said.
"Why? because you sounded the alarm and my cover was blown due to that." she answered.
"Your cover was blown?" Morlock said puzzled.
"She's a pickpocketing thief like me, sir," Harper said.
"Well I suppose I could let you buy a room aboard if you have something worth barter with. If not we'll have to dump you near the shore." the Captain said.
The masked woman thought intensely as to what she could offer.
"How about a job?" She blurted out.
"A job? what kind of job?" Morlock asked.
"One where we uncover a lost treasure that would make a king feel too gluttonous." She answered.
The Captain extended his hand to help the young lady off of the ensign.
"Welcome aboard the Burning Duchess's Curse, I am Captain Horatio Morlock and who might I be offering passage to?" Morlock said
The lady took his hand and stood up on the deck.
"Maria Incantasha, It's a pleasure to meet you Captain."
The ship was far behind horizon from the mainliner and was already set out on a new quest.