Guess what? Surprise second chapter! Don’t expect this, by the way, yesterday was my attempt at a double chapter day, but things happened and I had a very important message to say, so I couldn’t say it then. Anyway, enjoy!
Mary walked through the alleys that ran through the slums. Wearing a black trench coat, heavy pants, boots, and a white shirt, she carried a long rifle , almost as tall as they were, and a two-handed mace on their back. At the end of the handguard of the rifle, a straight blade was attached to the barrel, held in place by clamps. As she turned a corner she came to an alley that ended by opening up into the street. Sounds of machinery and industry still rang out, even right before dark, from the factory district. Most residents of the slums had either gone home or were in various establishments of their choice.
Looking across the street, Mary read the sign with the words ‘Gus’ Antiques’ and whispered into the collar of her trench coat, “That’s the place.” She studied the ramshackle, wooden building. The front was simply a barren wooden wall with only a sign and a scrappy wooden awning that ran across the length of the building to adorn it.
[Seems like it,] Abe responded, [As much as I hate to say it, listen to what D had to say on this: be careful. I may not like her, but she definitely had a point in warning us about this Gus guy. The only thing I am wondering about is whether or not Huk knows about how supposedly dangerous this guy is.]
She shrugged, “Dunno, but we have things to do and not enough time to do it. Let’s go.” Taking a look around, she quickly walked to the door of the antiques shop and opened the wooden door. Inside, the shop was well kept with dust and grime seeming foreign. Near the front of the store, shelves that ran along the walls and stood from the floor held various trinkets, baubles, and collectables were all lined up on display. From paperweights to snowglobes to pictures, they were all lined up for display with price tags hanging off of them. As she moved further into the store, she found less innocent items and more potentially dangerous items. Pieces of scrap metal, shards of mana gems, stray bullet casings, and weapon fragments were just a few of the items on display and they became more and more numerous as she walked further and further into the store.
Eventually, she reached an open area where the counter sat. Standing at the counter was the familiar green-plated demon, Huk, speaking to the storekeeper. “It’s for exactly that reason we need to— Ah! Speak of the devil, Mary! I was telling Gus about your little stunt over with the Sect; come on, introduce yourself!” Huk merily shouted as he saw Mary approaching.
Mary gave a curt nod, “I’m Mary Grant, nice to meet you So this is your friend, Huk?”
[Good politeness there. Keep what D said to yourself; on the off-chance she was right you don’t want to be in his sights.] Abe said.
‘I already knew that, Abe. Stop talking, I’m trying to focus,’ she thought to herself.
“Yeah he is! He’s a good pal I made a year or so ago after a little incident where he patched me up good,” he cheerfully said. After he finished speaking, he took a quick look around and beckoned her to come closer, “Y’see, he’s got a few demis downstairs he’s trying to help get out of here; we can trust him, is what I’m saying,” he said more quietly, but loud enough for the three of them to hear.
Gus smiled and nodded, “Yeah, I’ve got three demis and a couple of humans waiting to get out of here. Thanks for helping me with that, by the way,” he said with happiness.
Huk nodded, but gave a questioning glance, “I never knew you took in some humans. How’d that happen?”
“Sympathizers. I found them a few nights ago and took ‘em in. Kind fellows, too; they offered to help around the shop,” he said with pride.
Huk smiled, “Oh? Where are they? They doing something important for you?” he asked with a teasing grin.
Gus shook his head, “Not really. I was running low on product and ordered some from my supplier. They’re taking care of the more… delicate products. I’ll call them out,” he said as he turned to the back of the store, “Harold! Janith! Come out here for a second, I’ve got a friend who wants to meet you two!” Mary, with her enhanced hearing, heard some shuffling from the back. Soon enough, a young man and a young teen came out of the back. They both had scarlet hair and eyes and healthy faces with a bit of muscle on their bodies. “Come on, introduce yourselves! The handsome devil here is Huk and the scary lady over there is Mary,” Gus said in good humor.
They both nodded and the young man introduced himself first, “I’m Harold. This is-”
“I’m L-Janith! He’s my big brother!” the young teen cut in. She gave a teasing grin at Harold, who gave a flat stare back.
As they introduced themselves, she felt Abe’s focus go wild for a second before slipping into deep thought. She wanted to ask what was wrong, but had to stop herself from speaking to him due to the other people in the room. She smiled and looked at Gus, “They seem in decent spirits,” she said, “What’s their story?”
Gus’ grin turned to a frown in nearly an instant, “A pretty sad tale, to be honest. They moved here from the warring kingdoms a few years ago, but fell into the slums after their dad died. Their mother was friends with a lot of demis, so when purity day hit… It didn’t go well. I probably shouldn’t be the one telling the story, but…”
Harold shook his head, “Don’t be like that, Gus. We should have seen it coming, especially after those weeks leading up to the whole thing. Growing up out in the kingdoms makes dealing with death a daily thing. We’re still living better lives than we would be if we stayed out there,” Harold reasoned, Janith nodding with him.
“Yeah,” Janith said, “Our town was in the middle of a warzone out there. Watching armies marching was a normal thing. So was a stray bomb landing in the town square.”
Huk looked at them saddened, “Damn… that’s rough,” he said, but they shook their heads. He shrugged and walked toward Mary, “Well, we should get going. Clock’s ticking, you know?”
She nodded and followed behind him. Before they left, she turned and nodded, “It was nice meeting you three.” They gave their well-wishes as she followed Huk out the door.
Walking into the street, Huk quickly walked further into the slums as Mary hurriedly followed after him. After turning a few corners, Huk slowed and turned his head to her, “Mary.”
“Yeah?” she asked.
“Never trust that guy. He’s a damn psycho,” he answered.
She raised a quizzical eyebrow, “Funny, I’ve heard the same thing from an old friend of mine. Come to think of it, she wasn’t supposed to know about this whole thing, so I wonder where she heard it from,” she wondered aloud.
Huk gave her a glance and put his helmet on, “She a part of the Auvi ring?” he asked. Mary nodded, to which he sighed, “No wonder, then. The Auvi ring is in deep with S&G. They gave each other info before the Day of Purity, but it only became more intense after it. I’m sure the little thing about you joining with us reached their ears and, eventually, hers. What’s her name, by the way?”
“She never told me her name, but she was always called D,” she replied.
Huk stopped for a moment but continued before long, “Damn, your friend is the head of the whole thing?”
“Pretty much. I’m pretty sure she just liked hanging around me ‘cause people would leave her alone if she pretended to be training with me.”
“That so? You are a Grant, after all,” he laughed, “Anyway, we’re getting close to the pick up point,” he said as he pointed forward. Mary realized that they had reached the docks in the slums district. They eventually reached the waterfront, filled with the decaying shells of sunken boats, and Huk pointed outward to the ocean, “See that over there? That’s our ride,” he said.
Peering through the darkness, Mary eventually spotted a small speedboat racing toward the docks. Before long, the small boat pulled up to the dock and she saw three others in the boat. Before she could say anything, one of them waved her and Huk in, “Leader, new girl, you’re right in time. We should be able to make it there in a few hours, max,” he said.
Huk jumped in and Mary followed her; once they were both in the boat, it sped away from the dock as fast as it came. Finding a place to sit down on the small speedboat , she was finally able to speak, “So, does anyone want to tell me the details on this whole thing? All I know is that we need to steal some metal.”
The woman driving laughed and turned, showing that she had a metal mask on her face without any features, “We have a few minutes before we need to get past the submarine blockade, so we can talk. Leader Huk, you want to do the honors?” she asked. She wore a long, flowing robe that looked at home in a fantasy setting.
He nodded and looked at the water with a critical eye before turning his attention to Mary, “Alright, here’s the basics: we’re raiding a cargo boat to find a big amount of water-attuned steel. As you know, ‘big’ is a relative term, so it should be small enough to fit in a backpack. From what S&G were able to tell us, all of the crew is armed and prepared for combat, so no prisoners. You good with that?” he asked as he looked at her.
She nodded, “You know what I’ve been through. A bit of killing won’t make me queasy.”
[It should though,] Abe said.
The woman in the mask laughed, “Those’re famous last words right there.”
“For anyone else, maybe,” Huk replied, “But she’s taken down an entire squadron of elite enforcers. By herself. The only thing that’d make it better would be if they were crusaders in disguise,” he laughed. The other two men laughed as well, their identical helmets making their voices sound echoey. “Anyway,” Huk said, “We only need to take steel, but anything else on that boat is fair game to take; find something you like once we’re done, okay? That goes for the rest of you as well,” he said with a grin, “Alright, let’s-”
“Quiet time, kids,” the masked woman said. The boat slowed and continued at a crawl for a few minutes, speeding up after they crossed an imaginary line, “Whew, alright, we’re in the clear for now. So, leader, you were saying?”
“I was going to say we should go around and tell each other about our loadouts. I’ll go first. I’m more familiar with wind and air mana, so I have a few wind blade weapons, an air blast, and can pretty much fly. I will need to take a few minutes to recharge on mana, though, if I use my stuff too much. Mary, I see the… interesting stuff you’re carrying. Want to tell us about it?” Huk offered.
Nodding, Mary took out her rifle, “This is, actually, an ‘armtaker,’” she said. At her words, everyone else looked at her like she was crazy, “Calm down, I came up with something good here that, I hope, can kick the recoil down to a manageable level.”
One of the other men shook his head, “Everyone says that, you know. Do you at least have a backup in case it goes predictably?” he asked.
She gave a muted laugh, “Yes, I do,” she said as she took out a metal rod, “Blood-stopper. Put it on a wound and the blood stops flowing. I have a few, so we can use them if anyone else needs it. Anyway, I have a few dozen bullets for the thing, a few with a fun surprise if we need it. Other than that, I can take the sword out of the clamps of the gun and I have this mace,” she said as she pointed at the two melee weapons, “The sword is a bit bland, but the mace has a shockwave enchantment on it.”
The woman at the front nodded, “Alright, that’s pretty decent. I would take something else ranged, but that’s just me. For my part, I have fire.”
“On an ocean,” Huk laughed.
“Napalm, to be specific,” she said, “Oil is pretty cheap, so why not use it to burn stuff with? I’ve got a cannon and a sidearm that uses it, so I’ll rarely run out of fire to throw. Ah, people call me Fuel, in case you were wondering.”
The boat nodded and the men with helmets spoke next, “We don’t really have a specific gimmick,” the one on the left said.
Huk scoffed, “You’re saying that like what you two do isn’t a gimmick.”
They shrugged, “Maybe,” the one on the right said, “But basically, we have a few guns we’ve been slowly upgrading over the years. That, and our armor has a pretty strong mana shield. I’m Cody, he’s Rick,” Cody said. Mary studied their outfits, both of which were dark raincoats over their upper bodies and scrap armor strapped to their legs.
Huk nodded and turned to Mary, “So, you have a mana shield?” She shook her head, “Alright, I have a spare we were able to find in the armoury. This one is decently strong, but it’ll collapse if you hit it with something stronger than a shotgun blast. Got it?” he asked as he passed her the shield.
She looked at the belt-like shield and wrapped it around her waist. She clicked it on and felt the mana drain from the air and fuel the shield that began building layers of protection around her. She nodded and sat back, becoming comfortable. Everyone else did the same, and silence reigned on the boat. Before long however, Mary heard Abe’s voice in her head, [Mary, I’ve got to tell you something. Tap your knee if you want to hear it now.] She tapped her knee. [I think… I think Harold and Janith are… from Earth. I think that those two are the extradimensionals.] Mary’s eyes widened in the darkness as she looked up at the sky, but she lightly shook her head. [Yeah, I know. We’ll talk about it later, okay?] She nodded.
After a couple of hours, Fuel spoke to them in hushed voices, “I can see it. Over there.” She pointed at a dimly lit boat that stood out with its massive profile. It slowly floated forward in the darkness, making steady progress forward. It was over 700 feet long, with a width of about 60 feet, and towered 60 feet above the water on each side. Its lights were dim in the cloudless night, but they could still see people walking around on deck. “Alright, the steel should be somewhere near the front of the boat ‘cause that’s where the lifeboats are; they’ll try to get the metal out if it goes down. All we have to do is figure out how to stop it,” Fuel said.
They looked around at each other, and Mary spoke up, “I could hit the propeller with my gun, if that’ll work.”
Huk shook his head, “If you’re going to hit something, hit something above water; we don’t want it to sink on us. Can you hit the bridge and knock out the whole navigation crew?”
She nodded, “I can. Just give me a minute to aim it up.” She stood and held the ‘armtaker’ up as she aimed at the ship. Breathing deep, she lined the sights of the rifle up with the bridge of the ship that stood tall above the rest of the ship. Breathing deep once more, she placed her finger on the trigger, held her breath, and pulled.
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