2 9

Among all the urchins and old Chinese merchants of the old town, reigning at the pool hall with one iron cue ball — it's Cogs!

Newton Falk: "Ok, so we've been flying for a week now. We've back tracked over our trail six or seven times now, and I'm not too good with maps, but it looks like we're heading south over Wales toward the Channel. Our rations stand at half a box of Belgian chocolates left over from that merchant we rai- er, I raided, and we have nothing to drink but cheap wine taken from the same merchant. We’re nearly out of fuel and the ship log says we’re 84 nautical miles over due for standard engine maintenance.

I’m your pilot Luka. Tell me where we’re going.”

Luka Arlexi: "I told you that you wouldn't want to know: Cardiff."

Newton Falk: "No. Radio whoever the hell we're after. Tell him we need to kick his ass somewhere else. Anywhere else. France is lovely, we could kick his ass in France."

Luka Arlexi: "We're headed for the premier base of operations for the Gentlemen and the personal office of the head of the EE's eugenics department. It's not going to be lovely. It's going to be in Cardiff."

Newton Falk: "We could call ahead and say we're going to be in Newport. Bring them to us?"

Luka Arlexi: "Cardiff."

Newton Falk: "Really?"

Luka Arlexi: "Yes. Really. I don't think Luitpold will move out of his underground laboratory just because we invite him to tea next door. Cardiff is where he is, so Cardiff is where I have to go. If it's any comfort, we'll probably end up setting quite a bit of it on fire."

Luka Arlexi: "You know, if we survive long enough."

Newton Falk: "Huh… You know, you're talk of wanton destruction may be swaying me to the idea of going to Cardiff. If I have your assurance that there is nothing left when we leave?"

Luka Arlexi: "Not a single tree."

Newton Falk: "I want to burn it to the ground, then find the Docand have her devise a device that will re-burn it.”

Luka Arlexi: "Deal."

Marshall Briggs: CUT TO: The Aether.

Roland Devlin: "Oh. Goodmorning, Captain." Roland steps onto the bridge of the Aether wearing his now customary slippers. "A lovely day to comtinue to hunt our friends and associates, don't you think?" Roland takes a sip of coffee and gazes out the window at the smoking wreck of the merchant ship they are now passing. The word "hlep" can just be made out on the tiny flag being waived.

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling regards the merchant ship through one of the mounted spyglasses on the bridge and adjusts the controls. "Lovely in that the sun is up, I suppose," she says by way of greeting, "and we can surmise that our friends and associates have changed course." She feathers the controls in an attempt to collide more gently with the battered merchant ship.

Roland Devlin: “Perhaps they left some clue as to their final destination?” Roland says as he idely waves back at the stranded merchant. “Let’s give the man some tools and be on our way. I’ll pay you for them, I just don’t wish to take that teadious looking man onboard. I do so hate the Belgians….” Roland finishes the cup. “More coffee?”

Captain Genevieve Sparling: "I'd rather start the day with whatever monastery-brewed beer and pastries he has on board," Sparling says. She locks down the Aether's controls, takes a spare toolkit from a compartment on the bridge, and steps out onto the observation deck to secure the rope the Belgian has just tossed over.

Roland Devlin: "You are the Captain. I hear, and my staff obeys."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling glances back to regard the one lone pirate not tied up in the cargo hold, furrows her brow, tries not to consider the other meanings of "staff," and turns back to greet the Belgian with the words, "Which way did they go?"

Marshall Briggs: "Thank you, thank you," says the merchant gratefully. "I've been stuck hovering here for weeks after those tw——enty air bandits sabotaged my ship and made off with my best chocolates!"

Marshall Briggs: "Yes, *twenty*. Much more than a simple merchant like me would be expected to fend off. I could easily take on, say, a hungry looking pilot and a girl dressed in overalls."

Roland Devlin: "Ah, good. It isn't one of those honest Belgians people insist on telling me about."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling glares at the little man and holds out the toolkit. "Nasty looking bruise," she says, nodding to his head. "That's such a distinctive pattern—like a piece of bent rebar. For all that, you seem to have patched yourself up rather nicely, ship aside. I don't suppose you have any medical supplies to spare? Or, barring that, a doctor?"

Marshall Briggs: "Ah, yes! A doctor. We have one of those. No mechanic though, sadly, as you can see."

Roland Devlin: "Make sure his doctor isn't a detective as well. Hottible little egg-shaped homicide magnets. Terrible luck to let one on your ship, causes the death of someone on any vessel they board."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling ignores Roland. "If you could spare him for a moment, I'd be much obliged. We've had a bit of trouble with air bandits ourselves. You're welcome to our engineer in the meantime. Hell, you could keep him."

Marshall Briggs: The Belgian doctor boards the Aether, and begins to look Felix over.
"You don't happen to have any spare rations, Mdmlle?" asks the Belgian captain. "We're all getting rather sick of chocolate."

Roland Devlin: "He's not dead yet, so please don't concern yourself with who did it."

Marshall Briggs: "I've found the problem!" exclaims the doctor. "This man has been shot."

Roland Devlin: "Coffe for me, yes I think it may take me some time to aquire it."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: "We may have a few eggs left in the galley that haven't gone off yet." She goes to check, finds a couple, then returns with them and the mutinous engineer (forgot his name), his hands still bound, and shoves him over the rail onto the Belgian's ship. "You'll probably want to untie him before you put him to work, as comical as that could be."

Marshall Briggs: "Aha! I've got it!" says the doctor. "….He was shot in the *torso*."

"He's slow, but he's thorough," mumbles Felix.

The Belgian captain leads the engineer back into the depths of his ship. "Now get to work, air pirate, or tonight you will sleep with the *birds*," snarls the captain.

"Good news, everyone!" says the doctor. "This man is still alive."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling re-enters the ship just in time to hear that, and facepalm. "Such a pity that the best doctor this ship has ever had was a bloody lycanthrope."

Roland Devlin: "Did I miss anything?" Roland looks down at Felix and the Belgian doctor, and throws his coffee overboard. "Oops. Better go get another cup."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: "One for me as well. I don't believe they had any beer on that ship at all."

Marshall Briggs: The doctor packs up his physicians' pack and walks back over to the other ship. "There's nothing I can do," he tells Sparling. "…because I'm all finished and he's going to be just fine."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling was just about ready to shoot him, but she relaxes her grip on her pistol. "Ah… I see. Er, thank you, then. Have a lovely day." Once he's back onto the merchant ship and the rope is untied, she mutters, "Bloody Belgians."

Marshall Briggs: Someone throws a waffle at the Aether's observation window.

"Let's get out of here," says Felix.

Captain Genevieve Sparling: "That's going to attract gulls," Sparling sighs as she directs the Aether after Luka and Newton.

Roland Devlin: Roland comes back with two coffees, thinks the better of saying he told them so. But his face screams it.

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling takes her coffee and scowls at him.

There is a small base above ground, but Luka knows that underneath are miles and miles of tunnels and rooms.

On the ground below, someone is using semaphore to hail the Lightning. "Identify yourself, unknown ship."

In the base: "What's going on, commander?"
"I don't know captain, there's an unknown ship landing. They haven't responded to hails, and they have no identifying marks, unless — ha ha — you count that skull and crossbones crudely painted on their hull."

The Lighting begins picking up speed after leveling out with the top of the tower. It's moving quickly towards it and shows no sign of stopping.

"unknown ship, slow down at once," the guy with the signal flags says

Newton Falk: The Lighting continues to barrel toward the tower becoming larger and larger in their view.

Marshall Briggs: "Captain, that ship with the funny skull and crossbones is heading straight for us. You don't think they're pirates or outlaws, do you?"

"Nonsense, commander. Pirates and outlaws tend to hate Cardiff."

Newton Falk: The Lightning advances with a profound inevitability. The sun will rise tomorrow, someday everyone you know will die and it is only a breath away from hitting the tower.

Marshall Briggs: "Perhaps we should lea—" begins the commander, and then the inevitable happens. Everyone who knew the commander is waiting for one less person they know to die.

Killing two birds with one stone, as it were, the Lightning also hits the tower.

Newton Falk: The fireball is a visible from the moonbase that doesn't exist.

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Around this time, the Aether shows up. Enough of the Lightning is still in one piece to be identifiable, though it is rapidly being consumed by flames.

Sparling regards the fireball. "I am going to kill them. Then I'm going to make Higgenbotham bring them back. Then they'll work off their debt. Then I am going to kill them again."

Newton Falk: From serveral hundred feet away from the growing fireball, Newton and Luka emerge from the brush that broke their brief parachute assisted fall. Newton stands up, "That was an awful experience. Man should never jump from an aitship without apprpriate rigging to catch him." He looks approvingly at the destruction, "That's coming along nicely. So we're going to duck into the access tunnel on the airstrip, and find the dickhead so we can kill him and get back to burning Cardiff to the ground right?"

Luka Arlexi: "Right."

Newton Falk: "Alright the- Oh shit."

Luka Arlexi: Luka pulls out a folded bit of paper, which she examines. "What is it?"

Newton Falk: "The Aether."

Luka Arlexi: "Oh shit."

Newton Falk: "Do you think the Captain knows that was us? Do you think Roland knows?"

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling climbs down the rope ladder from the anchored Aether and approaches them, Roland in tow. Her pistol is out, though one can only guess at how she intends to use it. "What. In the bloody hell. Do you think. You are doing?"

Luka Arlexi: "Burning the seat of the Enlightenment's operations to the ground. …Well, sort of. It's underground, so I guess the goal is to burn it even deeper into the ground, and…" she falters slightly under the Captain's gaze, "…and hopefully kill the man behind the department that's been hunting me since I was born. Captain."

Newton Falk: "What she said."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: "And you thought it would be a brilliant idea to steal, and then destroy, Captain Devlin's ship in the process? A ship meant to be used in a *coordinated attack* against the Enlightenment? A coordinated attack that could be happening right now if you both weren't so bloody careless and impatient?" Sparling trails off a little, pinches the bridge of her nose. "Hell. There will be time for lectures later. We can't exactly drag you two off now. Let's burn the fuckers."

Luka Arlexi: Luka eyes Roland. "You were planning to use that in the attack? With a faulty fuel line? What is wrong with your engineer?"

Captain Genevieve Sparling: "He's a mutinous slug," Sparling supplies. "But that's probably not what you meant."

Newton Falk: Newton and Roland have locked eyes. After a moment they speak…
Roland: “Newton.” Newton: “Roland.” Roland: “Was that my ship?” Newton: “Could be.” Roland: “Was that entirely necessary?” Newton: “…” Roland: “How could it have been necessary to destroy my ship?” Newton: “…” Roland: “This is a military airstrip, we’re standing on it. You couldn’t find anything else to blow up?” Newton: “…” Roland: “Granted, everything does seem to be blowing up as well. But you couldn’t have assumed that after destroying your only way of escape, your Captain would have arrived just in time to pick you up from the smoking ruins you’ve made of Cardiff?” Newton: “…” Roland: “You would assume that. But now we’re here early… and it seems your Captain is seriously considering joining you on this mad quest. What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Falk?” Newton: “Good to see you too, Roland.” Roland: “Go to hell, Newton.” Roland says calmly, “While you’re at it, explain why you’ve stolen my fiancee.” Newton: Big smile, “I did? Great, I’ve been working at that for two seasons.”

Luka Arlexi: "Mr. Devlin, I gave the ring back after you made an ass of yourself at the hospital and I beat you into unconciousness with my IV stand. I believe that constitutes a fairly blunt breaking of the engagement."

Roland: "I don't recall that. The doctors mentioned though that it could be a result of head trauma."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling pauses, something dawning on her at last. "Wait. You two were…" She glances from Devlin to Luka. "Oh, hell. That explains everything."

Luka Arlexi: "I wasn't intending to blow up his ship. I am sorry about that." She looks at least a little sorry.

Captain Genevieve Sparling: She stalks off toward the nearest entrance to the underground compound, muttering something derisive about romantic entanglements.

Newton Falk: "I was."

Luka Arlexi: Luka grabs Newton's arm and moves to follow the Captain.


Pursuant the recent assault of their tower, the alarm has been sounded, and indeed is still sounding. Though the initial attack could have been described as an ambush, the element of surprise has now been lost. Consequently, the guards have been called out. Most of these are experimental genetorqued, hydrorg or eugengineered creations; talking apes and other animals, monster-sized human things with too many arms.

Leading the way, taking point, is Pvt. Simeon Hoffenstein, who has been further demoted it would appear, and any damage to his body has been repaired by adding further hydrorg equipment. He has a gun instead of a right ear, for example.

Newton Falk: All of these are avoided however, by the crew taking the underground passage from the airfield while the security teams rush to guard the hangers and consequently make difficult the efforts to contain the ever growing fire.

Without much trouble at all they make their way to the secret lair of their target. Where we catch up with them now:

Marshall Briggs: True, but the sounds of hot pursuit follow close behind them, so they'd better not linger here for long!


Luka Arlexi: Karl Luitpold, head of MIGDMP and the European Enlightenment's Eugenics division, is sitting in a spiderbot. Sitting is something of a strong word, as the lower half of his body consists *of* the spiderbot, but he does look somewhat relaxed even after the arrival of our heroes. Dismembered and preassembled Gentlemen in Black are scattered around his workshop, along with several standard models, which are eyeing the intruders coolly. One of them is especially familiar, and he tips his bowler hat at the Captain.

"SO!" Luitpold booms. "The intruders are here!" One of the gentlemen behind him faceplams.

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling tries to put some distance between her and her Gentleman, but can't seem to stay more than a meter from any other Gentleman.

Newton Falk: "Luka, take care of whatever you need to. Me and Roland are gonna rip us up some of these overdressed motherfuckers."

Roland: "We are?"

"Oh yes. Don't be a asshole, kick some ass it'll make you feel better."

Luka Arlexi: Luitpold chuckles. "I am amused, Miss Sparling. One of my creations seems to have taken a liking to you." His mechanical spiderlegs unfurl slowly, creaking as they stretch. "But how will you kick MY ass, when there is NO ASS TO KICK!" He raises his arms high in early triumph. The Gentlmen carefully avoid making eye contact with each other whenever Luitpold speaks.

Newton Falk: Roland: "He has a point, Newton."

Newton: "Damnit, I think you're right."

Marshall Briggs: "Ah, captain Sparling," says her gentleman, trying to change the subject. "I've been so hoping you would join us. I wanted to thank you for delivering those plans last year. They've been ever so useful to our construction of a gigantic aerofortress-powered doomsday weapon."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: "My pleasure," Sparling lies, attempting to position herself so she can keep an eye on Luitpold simultaneously with the Gentlemen. "I hope the construction is going apace. No saboteurs sneaking into your base? Aside from us, I mean."

Newton Falk: Newton: Standing on nearby table and kicking an independantly grasping gentleman arm onto the ground, "Alright, everyone on this side of the room from spider dude to One-eye is fighting me and Roland. Spider guy, Luka's gonna kick your ass. Captain, you got your guy and Sticky over there behind him."

Roland: "Who?"

Newton: "Sticky, the face mety one. He looks like a sticky."

Roland: "Fair enough." Unbuttons his cuffs and rolls up with sleaves.

Newton draws the Autopilot.

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling gamely cocks her pistol. "I do hate to waste time skirmishing when you're all about to burn to death anyway, but this could be fun."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling turns to her Gentleman, who raises his cane to zap her, and smirks just a little as she pulls on a pair of heavy, slick black gloves. "Doctor Higgenbotham told me about a lovely, insulative new substance known as rubber. You should look into it." She reaches for the cane with one hand and raises her pistol with the other.

Luka Arlexi: Luitpold's spiderbot legs scuttle around as he and Luka circle each other. "Miss Romanov, you've been quite a bit of trouble, you know?" "It comes naturally," she concedes, stepping down hard on a grasping, disembodied Gentlemen hand. It crunches noisily beneath her feet. Luitpold's smug grin twitches slightly. "That sounds like… rust, Mr. Luitpold. Is something the matter, here? The Gentlemen are said to never break down, never rust…" "They are PERFECT!" he declares. "But you…" she adds quietly. His grin widens, and it is now obviously one not only of bravado, but of madness. "Did you guess?," he asks. "Did you figure it out? It was always there, of course. All there, in the blood." Luka nods. "You didn't mean for them to make Danny into a werewolf, did you? He was supposed to be your back-up." Luitpold waves a hand dismissively. "An imperfect back-up. Yours was the most resilient sample. You are the one I need—" "To be immortal," Luka finishes. Luitpold lashes out with a clanking leg, pinning her to the wall. She struggles to get free, and he leans a bit more weight into the leg. She knocks open a panel on it, though he doesn't seem to notice. Instead, he tears open his shirt, revealing a pulsing mass of metal and wires surrounding, presumably, flesh and bone. "So little of me is left that can die," he cackles, "but chemical warfare is the future, you know. You were a wonderful little disease culture. I need you a little longer, you know. But not all of you." He swings another leg out and hooks it onto a clumsier-looking version of the hydrodynamic incuvac, which he admires briefly. "Prototypes are never very pretty, I'm afraid. And the alpha version is a bit messier than the ones you've seen. But it is, of course, just as effective." He turns back to see Luka frantically pulling at a large power cable running behind her. It comes free, sparking, and she considers, very briefly, saying "Who wants to live forever?" Panic forces her hand, however, and she simply winces as she jams it inside the open panel. There is a loud BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZRAP as he is thrown across the room, and they both crumple to the ground, twitching.

Newton Falk: The crowd of called out gentleman look from one to the other for a moment before realizing that the two charging figures really intend to fight them. They stand 6.75 against 2; and yet, each has the nagging feeling that fate is not on their side.

Newton closes first, catching the punch of a semi-complete gentleman and gabbing him in the face with the Autopilot. Bleeding from the face it staggers back, Roland literally running up it’s falling body to deliver a jumping kick to the gentleman advancing behind.

Newton: “Show off!”
Roland: “I paid for your classes,” backflip into fighting stance, “Do you know how hard it was to get an Eastern Master of Martial Combat,” round house kick to the rising gentleman,”to open a school aboard a pirate ship in Europe?” backhand punch to the gentleman sneaking up behind.

Newton: “He wasn’t so great,” brings the Autopilot down on the first gentleman’s head with a wet crunching noise. “I kicked his ass, so that makes me the master, right?” Throws the Autopilot, it sails out and lodges itself in the chest of another gentleman who was about to charge Roland.

Roland turns and grips the Autopilot, then kicks the gentleman, severing it’s arm and a section of chest around the Autopilot, which he wields like blood-spewing flail to take the head off a gentleman who has no legs and attempts to render Roland into the same state. “It doesn’t work that way Newton.” Calmly pulls the Autopilot from the arm and tosses the Autopilot to Newton as they stand back to back. “And it doesn’t count if you ambush him while he’s sleeping.”
Newton: “He was awake in the shower, that was fair.” Swings the Autopilot at the severed arm from the table and sends it bouncing ff another gentleman.

Roland: “Hand grenades are never fair,” Tosses the severed arm to a gentleman who catches it, only to be shot three times in the chest with the pistol Roland has drawn from his coat., “And that was my favorite bathroom. The windows had a lovely view.” Empties the clip into the recovering gentleman, then swiftly reloads.

Newton: “This isn’t about an old Asian guy I may or may not have caused to be thrown from your airship, Roland, and you know it.” Reaches into Roland’s coat and draws his backup pistol, “You’re sore about Luka, and I need to you to know that I had no idea.” Fires two shots from the derringer into a gentleman’s head, pulls the trigger a few times and sneers, “Not that it would have mattered. I’m serious about Luka, and you have no idea who she is. Give me the big one.”
Roland: “No.”
Newton: “Asshole.” Throws the holdout away and brings the Autopilot up sharply into the gentleman’s crotch as it looms over him. It’s eyes roll back and crumbles to the floor. “

Roland: “She was always… difficult. I gave her whatever she wanted,” Unloads another clip into a gentleman trying to get up off the floor, “but she never wanted anything. She was always grateful, but I never felt like I was giving her the right things.”

Newton: “Roland…” Newton turns around and looks at his friend, his expression is one of exasperation. “You can’t have been that dumb, can you?”
Roland: “You are an ass, Newton Falk.”

Newton: “So I’m told by the worlds most elligable idiot. Don’t worry though, we’ll find some gold digger who’ll love every second of the pirate life and the two of you can settle down and have lots of legal actions.”

Roland looks over at Luka and sees that she’s been thrown to the ground from an explosion. “You should look to your girlfriend, Mr. Falk.”

Newton: “Aww, shit.”

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling wipes her pocketknife off on her trousers; her gentleman lays, dismantled, at her feet. She fishes his pocketwatch out of the mess, regards it appraisingly, compares it to her own, finds it lacking, and tosses it to Roland. Then she notices Luka. "Oh hell."

Luka Arlexi: "Ouch." She is still twitching slightly.

Newton Falk: Roland reguards the watch while Newton looks over Luka.

Newton: "Are you alright? I was all killing those guys, what did you do?"

Luka Arlexi: "I-i-i-i electrocuted him. And me. Us. Is he getting up?" Luitpold seems to have been crushed beneath his convulsing spiderbot-for-a-butt legs.

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling walks over and locates Luitpold's head, then shoots it. "No."

Newton Falk: Roland: "He smells like bacon… and he looks like Sticky. I think you may have gotten him."

Luka Arlexi: "Captain? C-can we go home now?"

Newton Falk: Lifting Luka up, "Wow, you're all tingly."

Captain Genevieve Sparling: Sparling calculates the time it will take them to get out of the complex versus the speed of the approaching flames. "If we run."

Marshall Briggs: They do.

The Aether takes the hell off and flies away. Beneath it, everything burns.

Luka Arlexi: And collapses. And burns more.

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