A Town on the Edge of the Land
Lieutenant Joel Arnett smiled a brave smile. The Prushian guard was looking over his paperwork. Knowing that this search was just for looks, and more for curiosity of the Landship Scorpios II, Joel was laid back and cool with it. He had not, however, ever been questioned this far into the Prush Confederation. That combined with the vast amounts of illegal Prushian Salvage with Antiford destinations.
"So, Lieutenant Fleischer," said the guard, "What exactly possessed you to create such a machine?"
"An old friend," smiled Joel, "A mentor of sorts. It was his idea. I just saw it through."
"Never have we ever seen such a thing," said another guard, "It's just so... unique."
"Why a Scorpion?" asked the main Guard.
"You know... I don't actually know," smiled Arnett, "It just is."
The guard shrugged, giving Arnett back his Prushian papers. Arnett put them in his vest, then he tipped his hat to the guards.
"Never seen anything like it," said one of the guards.
"Good thing you're on this side of the canyon, ya?" laughed another guard.
"Those moles wouldn't even know what to do with it," chuckled Arnett, sharing a laugh with the group.
"Commandant," said a quieter guard, still over by the soldier's Paddock's Carriage, "We really must continue."
"Oh, all right," sighed the lead Guard, slinging his rifle over his shoulder, he extended his hand to Arnett, "Alright, Lieutenant Fleischer, it was a pleasure beyond words."
"I'll be sure to see you around," smiled Arnett, "Thanks for stopping by."
"And may the northern moles crumble in their sand!" said the lead Guard.
"Down with the Northern Moles," shouted the guards.
"Yeah," said Arnett, his fake smile spreading wider, "dehydrate and crumble."
The Prushian soldiers turned and headed back to their Paddock's Carriage and Arnett turned to go back to the Scorpios II. Arnett caught a far off sight. A trail of smoke leading up into the sky, a dark black kind of smoke rising right behind it.
"Hey," shouted Arnett to the guards, "Is there a town that way?"
"I believe so," said the head soldier, "A pretty decent size town."
"I think it is burning or something," said Arnett, "Shouldn't you guys help?"
The soldier shook his head, "We wasted enough time with you, sir. I'm afraid we must be back on our patrol."
The soldiers finished piling into the wagon and the twin engines fired up. Arnett furrowed his brow and shook his head as the Carriage was pulled by the two engines into the opposite direction. Arnett looked towards the smoke and pursed his lips.
"Here... I come... to save the day," Arnett smiled, climbing aboard his landship.
Arnett leapt over junk that he had stashed in the way and climbed over a few pieces of random equipment before reaching the cockpit. Inside he had garbage and leftover food lying around the consoles and everything and he wiped that all aside. Insuring that the engines were still running, he put the legs into motion and eased the Landship into a steady walk towards the smoke. Arnett grabbed a cigarette from below his chair and lit the end. Leaning back in his chair, he await the inevitable sounds of his apprentice.
Sure enough, the movement of the Scorpios II brought metallic footsteps of Alexander. Arnett decided he couldn't fully work out his new Landship alone the way he wanted, and a few missions had taught him having another body or two would be nifty. Under the guise of "apprenticeship", he had talked a lowly native of Astam Junction into cheap labor aboard the Landship. Alexander Nomaud was a Sparky young man, only about a year or two younger then Arnett, He had proven very useful and resourceful, and he even was handy on the Rail Gun.
Alexander appeared in the Cockpit, sliding into the Rail Gunner's seat and strapping in.
"That was really close," he said, chuckling off the experience, "I thought for sure that I was going to get arrested that time."
"Oh no, what a shame," said Arnett in a unenthusiastic voice.
"What's that?" asked Alexander.
"That, Alexander, is smoke," said Arnett, gesturing off into the distance, "There will be a test on this, later."
"Why are we going towards it? Are we... turning around? What happened to Antiford?"
"Ah, yes. You see, smoke means something is burning. Black smoke means something large and possible not supposed to be burning is burning," started Arnett, "This means there is a fire or something that should not be. Curiosity in my bones is peaked, Alexander. So... away we go to have a peek."
The Landship Scorpios II sped up as the engines resumed their usual activities. The ship cleared the horizon line and found itself on a small hill overlooking a large town. Arnett's eyes widened as he saw the smoke was a result of many burning things coming together. The town below showed obvious signs of being under attack. Refugees had grabbed some of their things and began running up the hillside. Buildings burned and showed signs of gunfire and cannon fire. A few explosions were still going off within the town itself.
Arnett saw a refugee who had fled early was gazing up and the Scorpios as it walked towards his location, his eyes wide and mouth agape. Arnett leapt up from the pilots seat and left the cockpit.
"Insure we don't crash, I'll be back," he yelled, heading down from the cockpit and leaping over junk to get to a bulkhead door.
Opening it wise, he pulled himself out onto the small deck of the Scorpios II. Waving his hands, he ran towards the front of the Scorpios II and leaned over the side.
"Hey, you there," he yelled, "What is going on, here?"
"I do not know, sir," yelled the man, his dazed look wiping away and he was running towards the ship, now, "A large land ship rolled into town and began shooting. Some of the men began firing back, but he has shot up most of the town. Look, there!"
Arnett followed his point back into the war-torn town. Sure enough, deeper into the town heading away from Arnett, a large Landship was spinning its turret wildly. Cannons and machine guns were flaring from its sides, and in its wake a trail of destruction was left.
"Wow, look at that," said Arnett.
"I need a ride out of here," said the man.
"You don't want this one," said Arnett, running back to the bulkhead.
"Why?" asked the man.
"This ship is going into that town," yelled Arnett, "It's not right for some big bully to shoot up a town like that!"
Arnett jumped back into the bulkhead and slammed the door. Seating himself back down in the pilot's chair, he strapped in and touched a ton of the levers and prepared to go in.
"Uhm... what are we doing?" asked Alexander, "Do you see the size of that thing. I can see it from here..."
"Yehp," said Flint, Pulling two levers towards him and sending the Landship into a sprint.
"So... why are we-"
"Adventure, Alexander," smiled Arnett, "Adventure."
Alexander gulped, and began preparing the Rail Gun for the attack.
Into the Town
Joel maneuvered the Scorpios II skillfully through the city. Over rubble and through the streets, he searched for the Landship that had torn through it not seconds earlier. Townspeople gawked at the Scorpios II, then decided that it must be a second Landship, descending onto the town for riches or ruins.
Alexander spotted it first. The large ship with its huge wheels and multi-cannoned turrets. Arnett looked it over while Alexander talked about how massive it was in the background.
"It's a Prushian model," said Arnett, suddenly, "Looks to be clockwork."
"How do you know this?" said Alexander, "You a landship specialist?"
"Sort-of," said Arnett, smiling, "You kind of have to when your choice in life is a landship. A great deal of libraries had to be searched to understand current Landship models."
"What's the Scorpios II?" asked Alexander.
"Uhm," said Arnett, leaning forward in his seat and squinting, "Complicated. Hey, is that the crew? What are they doing?"
The landship was stopped outside of a large looking building. Some of the crew seemed to be making adjustments to the ship. However, the ship was not moving, and Arnett wondered if the rest of the crew was inside the ship or not.
"A few of them went inside I think," said Alexander, shrugging, "I don't know. Why?"
"I think that's undermanned," said Arnett, smiling, "I think we can take it. See those there? They wind the whole... thing. Look! It's clockwork. You know what that means? Gears!"
"So?" said Alexander, "Look at all that armor."
"So let's give them some 'Antiford Hospitality', eh?" said Arnett, looking up at Alexander, then his smile disappeared, "There'll be a test on this later."
"Smoke equals bad and we're going to clog up their gears," nodded Alexander, "Wait, are you serious about the test?"
"I'll get the dirt, you bury them in SAND!" said Arnett, facing forward and pulling the movement levers towards him, "Now, battle stations, everyone!"
The Scorpios II almost leapt from its position behind a partially burning building and started its scuttle towards the unknown Landship. Before the crew had time to think, Arnett was already sucking up a large amount of sand into the Scorpios II.
The Scorpios II's drills opened, and Sand was sucked inside. Arnett pulled on the controls, and the landship made its way closer.
"Douse them in sand, Alexander," said Arnett, "Let's clog them gears!"
Alexander pulled on his own controls, and the rail gun was up and ready to fire. Opening up the bypass valve, he sent the incoming sand around the crystallizer and into the stream of the heated up rail gun.
The workers on the landship raised their heads. They saw the incoming landship, and they pointed and yelled. Before they could take cover or make it inside their own ship, sand was hurled out of the Scorpios II's rail gun, and it flew through the sky and slammed into the hull of the opposing landship, the sand covering some of the workers and even pushing some of them clean off the landship.
"No, not the people," said Arnett, "You got to get the gears. Aim for the openings!"
"I'm trying," said Alexander as he fought with the controls, "The sand is heavy!"
"Try harder!" said Arnett, then his eyes widened, "Oh boy... now it starts."
The gears on the inside must have already been spinning. Their surprise attack had barely begun and the large turret was already spinning. A few shots were being fired off, but Arnett assumed they were small arms, since he didn't notice the Scorpios II being hit at all. Arnett maneuvered the Scorpios II sidewise, sidestepping as the great turret turned slowly to fire on them. Arnett frowned, turning to Alexander.
"Should we start firing upon them?" asked Alexander.
Arnett only shrugged, yanking on the controls.
The Scorpios II hastily turned to the side, standing parallel to the large landship. Arnett pressed a few buttons, listening as the broadside cannon hatches were unlocked and opened, and the cannons pushed out of the small ports. Arnett smiled, thumbs-upping Alexander. Alexander flipped a few switches, then looked out the side of the cockpit window, glancing at the Landship. He had turned the main gun to stream sand on the other landship still.
Alexander flipped a switch, priming all the available cannons. Grabbing hold of a trigger by his side, he squeezed tightly. The Landship shook with the vibration of the cannons firing off. Arnett frowned as he realized he could not spot the rounds leaving the cannons. He swung around, checking the opposite side of the Scorpios II. The cannon's had smoke rising from them, and the rounds screamed into the town. They slammed into buildings, and exploded in the streets. Arnett cringed, and frowned out the window.
Turning his head to Alexander, Arnett gave a very disappointed look and rolled his eyes.
"Did we get them?" asked Alexander, "Looks like we didn't even scratch them!"
"Other side... Alexander," stated Arnett, "You broad sided the innocents out of this town!"
Alexander gasped, "Lieutenant! They found us!"
Just as the large cannon on the turret squared in on the Scorpios II, Arnett yanked on the controls. Rolling the right side legs inward and pushing the left sided legs outward, Arnett threw the Scorpios II into a roll. Just as they entered the Roll the large Landship fired, and the round screeched over the bottom hull of the Landship as it rolled. Curling the legs inward, Arnett landed the roll on all legs. The shot from the large Landship ripped a hole into the ground, and disappeared into the ground. The sand around the entrance whole began to fall inside, and Arnett had an idea.
"There are caverns beneath us!" Yelled Arnett, smiling, "Quick, Alexander. Prepare to dive!"
"I hate this, Lieutenant," said Alexander, "I don't like the idea!"
"Diving in three," said Arnett, watching as the landship's engines fired up and they began to roll farther out to meet the Scorpios II, their turret once again turning slowly to meet them, "Two.."
Arnett pulled up, hard, on the controls, thrusting them forward with gusto. The Scorpios II snapped it's drills shut, and they began to rapidly spin and whine. In one motion, the Scorpios II dug its drills into the sand. As the drills disappeared, they caught hold of the ground and tugged the rest of the landship down with it. Arnett felt his organs being pushed back into the seat. The Scorpios II slammed into the sand, but thee newly loosened sand from the drills engulfed the hull, and Arnett saw the sand spray over the windshield of the cockpit as they sank.
"Depth counter, now!" yelled Arnett.
"Uhh... yes... well... we need more 'down'," sputtered Alexander.
"Come on, Alexander, I need more then that."
"Uhh... level one, Lieutenant Arnett. Hull's not submerged yet!"
Arnett held the drills steady, and lightly pumped a pedal on the floorboard. The sand began turning into loose dirt as it passed the windshield. Arnett began to bite his lower lip in anticipation.
"Level two, sir," said Alexander, "We are submerged!"
Arnett tugged up on the controls, eyeing the level on the cockpit controls to watch as the Scorpios II tried to level itself out underground. Alexander was white knuckled, and he seemed to be holding his breath.
"Remembered to shut the hatches?" asked Arnett, changing the subject.
"How about the rail gun?"
"Locked, off, and in position," said Alexander, "I got it all in time, Lieutenant."
The levels were registering roughly in synch with level, so Arnett decided to level out and press an accelerator lever on the floor. Although he couldn't see it happening, Arnett knew that the legs would be locking into place, and then the bottoms would be pushing forward, skuttling and propelling the Scorpios II through the ground like a torpedo.
"Where are we," stated Arnett.
"That never gets old."
"Lieutenant, according to our instruments we are now heading towards the enemy landship," said Alexander, "Arnett, are you planning on 'sand worming' them? They're a bit big for that."
"No, I'm getting out of that line of fire," said Arnett, "We cannot go against that. Hey, reload the cannons while you're there."
Alexander fumbled with the controls, but he soon activated the reloading processes. Arnett waited as the Scorpios II dug through thee ground.
"We can't take that hit," said Arnett, "However, we haven't completely lost the element of surprise just yet! We're closing the distance."
"I don't like this idea," said Alexander.
"Let's try not to miss this time, eh Alexander?" smiled Arnett, "This time, we'll give them a reason to fear the name, 'Scorpios'. Ha ha!"
Arnett nodded at the controls, and he yanked on the controls once more. Alexander felt back inside his seat, but this time it was because they had started an incline to the surface. Arnett grabbed hold of the controls and tensed his body.
"Be ready with your moves, kid," said Arnett, spitting thee cigarette out of his mouth, "This time, I want to be ready."
Arnett felt the drills loosen as they hit the soft sand, and he thrust the two most forward legs forward to help drag the Scorpios II out of the sand.
The large landship didn't even notice thee mound of sand being pushed up from behind it, so the Scorpios II was able to break from the sand without being noticed, even pulling itself out of the sand like a fish jumping out of the water, throwing sand and dirt everywhere. The Scorpios II quickly closed the short gap between it and the large landship.
Arnett pulled back on the controls before throwing one forward like a punch. The Scorpios II reeled back its right drill and spun it. As Arnett threw the controls, the drill swung out like a fist, and it slammed into the barrel of the great landship as it tried to turn it around on the landship. The drill bounced off, but left a slight dent in the barrel. The Scorpios reeled as it threw the second drill like a punch, slamming it into the barrel's open end itself. Arnett fought with the controls, spinning the drill and pushing it into the barrel. The metal whined, but soon gave way to the drill as it ripped through the opening of the barrel, splitting it's end wide and peeling the metal aside.
Spinning the drills once more, Arnett pulled the drill out of the barrel. Stepping back to admire his handwork, they could hear a creaking and whining, and the barrel of the great landship stopped spinning. Arnett smiled.
"YES! The sand is doing it's work! They can't spin their turret!"
"Yay, we win, let's leave," said Alexander.
From the front of the landship, two volley guns lit up. Arnett's heart dropped, and he quickly slammed the controls. Before he could move out of the way, one of the volleys slammed into the hull of the Scorpios II. The blast from the volley so close pushed back the Scorpios II, and Arnett was rattled as he fought for control.
"What the hell was that!" yelled Arnett.
"We're hit," yelled Alexander, "Are we ok!"
"They have more guns," said Arnett, tugging down his hat, "That's it, let's get them. Ready the guns!"
Arnett tugged on the controls, and the Scorpios II lurched forward once more, and the drills fired up again. Arnett began to throw the drills forward as it like punched. They slammed into the hull of the landship, denting and sparking off the metal plating. One of the "punches" punctured, and the spinning drill grabbed hold, digging through the metal armor into the bowls of the ship, the Drill sand and ripped through the internal workings. Throwing it in reverse, Arnett pulled it out again.
A second drill was thrown, smashing and denting the wheel of the landship. Again, the drill caught hold, and Arnett drilled it into the ship, pulling it out again. Arnett decided to use this. Slamming the drill into one of the Volley Guns, he drilled. The drill dented the gun, and as it drilled, it broke right through the armor through the opening, burrowing deep into the ship.
The landship fired off it's cannon, the projectile soaring away from the fighting, as well as the second Volley gun. Both attempts didn't come near the Scorpios II.
"Yeah, we did it," yelled Alexander, "Hey, it looks like they might be bailing?"
"I don't know," said Arnett, "Hey, look!"
Through the final gash in the Landship, Arnett could spot the boilers. One of them appeared to have been punctured. However, Arnett assume that was a direct shot into the fuel-section of the ship.
"Prepare for a broadside!" yelled Arnett, "I got an idea. Fire into that gash!"
The Scorpios II backed up and turned to broadside the landship. Arnett watched as Alexander took aim and readied the cannons. Arnett waved as it looked like a few people were abandoning the ship. Arnett frowned.
"No wonder we beat them," said Arnett, "They weren't just undermanned... there's no way this is the main crew. They couldn't have shot up the town with so little crew."
"Doesn't matter," said Alexander.
The cannons flared, and the Scorpios II vibrated with the power. It was a good shot. The rounds converged onto the tears in the metal. Although one shot slammed into the armor, the three got close enough they entered the whole together. A great explosion shook the giant beast, and fire burst from the great Landship's openings.The metal hull held, however, and despite a few metal pieces flying off the landship and debris landing in the sand, the landship stood firm and resolute. Large amount of black smoke began to billow into the sky.
Arnett crossed his arms and smiled.
"Our work here is done," said Arnett.
"Boo-Yeah! Now let's get out of here, quickly!" Alexander panicked.
"Fine," said Arnett, "Besides, it's beginning to bother me. Where on Orr did the rest of the crew go?"
"I don't care, let's move!"
Arnett grabbed the controls once more and yanked the Scorpios II in a course out of the city. They reskuttled through the wreckage of the city, now noticeably more barren then when they had passed through before.
"Alexander, we need to talk," said Arnett.
"Black smoke is bad, and... uhm.... crap!"
"No, not that test," said Arnett, rolling his eyes, "I'm not sure this partnership is really going to be working out..."
"Oh, it isn't?"
"Yeah, no, it's not," said Arnett, rubbing the back of his head, "I think I'm gonna have to let you go... back in Conwell..."
"I'm not from Conwell," said Alexander, his voice carrying a hint of sadness.
"Yeah, I know," said Arnett, "But in Conwell, you're no longer my problem. So... You're fired as of Conwell. So... yeah. Sorry to let you down so easily."
Alexander leaned back in his seat and sighed, disappointment in his voice. Arnett shrugged. The Scorpios II continued on, leaving the city and its frightened inhabitants behind. He never looked back on the smoldering wreckage of the Landship.