The Cannon and the Inventor

a story
2021-04-20 15:29:44,
2021-04-20 15:29:45
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The Battle

"Where are they?"

"I can't see 'em!"

"Come on, it's the biggest thing in the sky, where are they?"


Arnett looked down from the cockpit to see where Jules Chapman had pointed. Following his indication, Arnett stood in the cockpit to look around the side of the Landship to spot them.

The airship had rounded the rock formation. They were flying low, practically scraping the dirt, to avoid Arnett's gaze.

"Dangit!" shouted Arnett, "Shoot them!"

"They're too fast," said Gwen.

Arnett heard the roar of Cannons. He pushed the Scorpios II controls forward, bringing the lumbering Landship to a halt just in time for the shots to go wide in front, missing the landship but slamming into the ground ahead. The impact threw dirt a debris up onto the ship.

"Pirates?" shouted Chapman.

"They're playing it too safe, too cautious," said Arnett, "They would've boarded us by now if they were pirates!"

"Screw these guys," said Gwen.

"If they aren't pirates then what is their problem?" said Chapman.

"They could be Bounty Hunters," said Arnett, shifting some valves overhead, "I'm going to need to chance a shot, but I have to be out there. I can't aim it good enough from in here."

"Outside?" asked Gwen, "Where the guns are? Are you crazy!"

"Bounty Hunters?" questioned Chapman, "Whatever do they want?"

Arnett shrugged, "Me. Gwen. You. Our stuff. Maybe they don't even want us. Who knows. Pirate or Bounty Hunter they are here for profit and they have already fired."

"We can't stop, they'll pummel us," said Gwen.

"Time to learn a valuable lesson, pupil." said Arnett, "I have one shot, the cannon's primed. Let's do this!"

Arnett bolted for the bulkhead. He passed Jules Chapman, who held onto his top hat and kept staring towards the opening to the cargo hold nervously. Probably worried about his precious lab equipment or whatever. Typical scholar. Gwen poked her head in from the side cannon room, her face and goggles dusty from smoke and oil.

"I'll keep us moving!" she shouted, running for the cargo hold.

"Don't touch the controls," said Arnett, thrusting open the door, "I'll handle this!"

"We'll die!" shouted Gwen.

Arnett jumped through the bulkhead, out into the sunlight. Gwen sighed and turned for the cockpit. She had to do something!

"I need to get to my wardrobe," said Jules, "If they board-"

"If I take you down there there'll be no one left to protect your valuables, professor," said Gwen, "Stay put, we can handle this!"

Jules turned, and headed for the cargo hold.

Arnett's feet hit the deck of the landship, and he ignored the burning of his eyes as he ran for the stern of the Scorpios II. He could already hear the humming of his main cannon. It was warmed up and primed to fire. A breeze in the air threatened to take his hat due to the cyclone already raging in between the two rails of the cannon. Arnett could hear the engines of the airship. It was close. They would be spinning around to fire another volley. 

Gunfire filled his ears. The airship was coming up on their rear, and the front Gatling gun had already spotted him. Arnett dropped into a slid, pressing up against the cannon for cover as bullets whizzed past. The airship's engines thrummed overhead as the airship passed. Arnett looked up to see a few arms waiting to drop grenades from above.

The Landship Scorpios II jerked forward, suddenly. The airship was still in the process of slowing down and when they dropped the grenades, most dropped harmlessly into the sand behind the landship. Two made it to the deck, but the momentum of the landship caused them to roll off the back before they detonated. Arnett sighed, feeling the rocking of the legs working in unison as the ship sped ahead.

"Gwen!" Arnett shouted.

However he didn't have time to get angry. Rising to a stand, Arnett rushed for the cannon controls. The Gatling gun came back into focus for a moment as the airship adjusted its velocity. Gunfire rang out again, this time sweeping the deck sporadically. Arnett ducked down, but the rain of fire did not come near.

The airship veered off, listing to the side to probably get into a position to fire their cannons again. Arnett got up again, finishing the short distance to the cannon's controls. 

Arnett had precious seconds. He pulled back a lever closest to him and began furiously spinning a valve one handed. The cannon shook, before steam coursed through the hydraulic pistons and it raised from its position. The platform the gun was on began to spin, and Arnett turned his attention on the sights as they rose into view. He turned the cannon to find the airship.

One of the airship's cannons went off, the shell streaking below the landship, tossing debris up into the hull. Shortly after another cannon fired, missing the nose of the ship but spraying debris over the windshield of the cockpit. Arnett could feel the jittering of the accelerator as Gwen struggled with continuing onward of slowing down to avoid the shots. The airship must've got the answer they wanted as a third shot screech in and slammed into the side of the landship. The shell shattered, sending debris scratching off the armor and sparks and smoke obscuring the area. The ship was pushed sideways with the force of the blast. 

Arnett didn't have time to judge the damage, the airship had zeroed in on them, and the hit was too much for Gwen, who had slowed with one of her hands on the accelerator controls, and slowly the Scorpios II began to turn towards the airship, losing speed.

Arnett, however, needed the slight pivot to quickly get the cannon into place. The sights lined up, and he had the airship where he wanted them. 

Arnett's hundreds of practiced shots took over. He felt the movement of the landship. He watched the speed of the airship against the still background. His eyes trailed the shot, moving the cannon up slightly. His eyes focused on a point just below one of the sight's metal indicators. He saw the armored balloon, the sheets of metallic armor glistening and the soft, red fabric of the balloon showing through the major spaces between each plate. 

And his foot pushed forward on the foot trigger. A shard of crystalized sand was ejected cleanly into the cannon. The cyclone roaring inside instantly grabbed hold of the meter-long projectile, slightly spinning it.  The shard was propelled through the cyclone, building speed until it was ejected out of the other side, past the two rails. It soared through the air, spinning and whistling very slightly. The airship enlarged as it approached, and its course seemed to veer, from the bow of the ship over toward the stern. One of the engines was spinning away, and the shared struck it, hard. It easily sliced through the housing, and jammed into the machinery. It cracked and split and clogs up the workings, the projectile turning to dust. However the sparks it created, set off a fire in that propeller engine. 

From Arnett's perch on the Scorpios II, all he saw was a puff as an engine slowly coughed smoke and debris and died. In the time it took for the engine to die Arnett had already readjusted and fired a second shot. This shard slammed into one of the armor plates. It his at such an angle it veered upward, scraping the harness and lodging under the plate above it. The straps holding the plate in place were frayed, and they snapped under the weight of the armor and fell. 

This shifting of weight combined with the loss of the engine veered the airship. Finally the volley Arnett was waiting for fired, only they came up hopelessly short, the rounds creating a wall of dirt and dust between the airship and the landship.

Arnett took aim again, and fired his third round. The projectile was easily aimed at the now vacant opening on the balloon. It tore through the balloon, ripping through the light supports inside, and bouncing off the armor on the opposite side, ripping the fabric further.

The airship was a mess, and began to drop. An alarm was raised after a moment or two, and Arnett watched as they released ballasts of sand and dirt in an effort to stay afloat. By the time Arnett landed a fourth shot into the hull of the ship, piercing the armor and disappearing inside, it was over.

The airship was already veering off, and it began to more rapidly careen to the dirt. Arnett followed it with the cannon, however he was wary of using his fifth and probably final round. It had been a while since his last airship battle, and he had not been prepared to use the main cannon at all.

The airship could be heard scraping the dirt, as the would splintered, the metal crunched, and the dirt creaked and rumbled.

The Scorpios II slowed to a walk, and Arnett glared over at the cockpit before leaning down to grab the speaking tube that connected to the cockpit.

"What are you doing? You've brought us this far," said Arnett, "Let's get out of here!"

"What about the airship?" she asked.

"They won't bother us anymore, they have bigger fish to fry," said Arnett, "No chance of us getting overrun by survivors if we're not around for them to overrun. Now pull back on those controls and take us south west, towards the rail lines! Go!"

Arnett moved the controls, turning the cannons back to the resting position and prepared to reenter the Landship.

Upon his reentering, he was amazed to see that Jules Chapman had emerged from the cargo hold. He now dawned a leather duster and goggles. He appeared to have cast his top hat aside and he looked nervous.

"The Bounty Hunters?"

"They are gone, for now," said Arnett, "What are you doing?"

"Preparing," answered Chapman.

"For... a job offer?" said Arnett, "A change of outfit won't stop Bounty Hunters, or pirates for that matter, there, mate. I told you we could handle it. Their airship is grounded and we'll be long gone by the time they can start to chase us."

"I see," said Chapman, who took his seat at a chair they had placed in the common area, leaning on a box.

"You... you have reason to fear Bounty Hunters?" asked Arnett.

Chapman weighed his response before answering, "When you know what I know and make what I make you are always weary of who is out to take what isn't theirs."

Arnett sighed, before turning his attention to the cockpit, and he walked over to congratulate Gwen.