Relic Knights: Calamity Comes, Chapter 5
Calico Kate watched as Harker’s flagship translated into slip-space. “Just what does he think he’s doing?” Her relic reached out a hand to snatch a struggling corsair from his feet and pulled him level to her. “I said, what does he think he is doing?”
“Begging your pard’n, Cap’n, I don’t rightly know what Cap’n Harker is about.” The corsair’s feet thrashed as he fought the massive relic’s grip on his shirt.
Kate’s scowl deepened as she watched a small corvette-class ship bearing the personal crest of Sebastian Cross, the First Paladin and Lord of the order, detach from The Sword of Roland and head off in pursuit of Harker. “You have got to be kidding me!” She glared at the struggling pirate in her grip. “Harker has obviously stolen my prize! Why else would Sebastian leave his flagship to pursue them himself?” Her relic shook the corsair for emphasis. The corsair looked about, panicked, hoping one of the other pirates would provide an answer.
“Useless,” she sniffed before casually tossing the corsair aside. “Where is the chef?” she asked nobody in particular. “Damn, this went poorly.” Flicking a switch on the ship’s control panel, she opened ship-wide communications. “Hello paladins, pirates, and poor, poor, victims. We will be leaving this ship now. I recommend anyone who does not want to be part of the fireworks evacuate. I’ll give you....oh, let’s say five minutes.” She flipped the comm switch off. “Skully, sweety, what is Harker doing leaving my party with all my presents?”
The skull-faced cypher looked up at his mistress, a bomb, fuse lit, gripped greedily in his arms. “He’s gone in search of richer ports mistress.” Kate stiffened, her face contorting in rage. Skully cackled. “Never fear mistress, the port he visits next holds naught but death.” He casually tossed the bomb aside, its explosion tearing through the navigation panel.
Kate beamed. “You say the sweetest things. Let’s get out of here. I need a drink and something to punch for Harker’s insubordination.”
Vance roared his approval as another blast from Cordelia’s rifle sliced through the cargo containers behind him. The chee maid’s thrusters engaged, blasting her sideways behind the cover of an overturned cargo loader. Around them the cacophony of battle echoed through the starliner’s cargo bay. Vance and his corsairs had pushed the small force of Cerci Pit Crew and ship security steadily backwards through the coach sections into the rear of the ship, where they’d finally been pinned in place.
The pit crew had rallied to starboard around a hulking, simian-looking chee work-bot called Lug, and a screaming blond woman, whom Vance assumed was the chief. The crew had managed to unlimber one robotic exoframe and were feverishly uncrating a second. Meanwhile, the chee maid bounced around like a gnat, her rifle unleashing searing lines of death. None of them realized yet that she was his true target.
It was a battle the pit crew couldn’t win. Vance had called his entire force to join the battle, causing his crew to grow larger by the minute as corsairs streamed to his flag beacon. He was surprised to see none of Harker’s crew, since Kate had tasked him with securing the cargo hold. No doubt the tight-assed noble was disobeying orders again. Vance didn’t particularly care, he preferred Harker out of the picture.
With a bellow he ordered his corsairs to charge the pit crew, a vicious grin leaping to his face as he watched them get tossed about like rag dolls by the exoframe and Lug. “Now then, where did you get off to, my little maid?” As if responding to his question she flew out from behind the loader, her gun aimed for the corsairs assailing the pit crew. He watched as fins popped up around the barrel of the gun. The corsairs began to spin like a windmill, creating an air vortex that began to suck them back from the pit crew toward the maid. Vance saw his chance and launched himself into the vortex’s path.
He was surprised at the force of the vacuuming effect. He felt the air rush from his lungs and he lost his footing, toppling end over end until he smashed into the cargo loader the maid had taken refuge behind. His nose broke and he spat blood as his tongue wiggled a tooth the impact had knocked loose. Though he couldn’t see her, already he could feel his cypher mending his wounds as the bleeding stopped. He regained his footing and in two quick steps had launched across the overturned cargo loader and was face to face with the chee maid. “Never a good idea to bring me closer, love.” He flashed her a predatory grin. “You and I have business to discuss.” His machine arm shot out toward Cordelia, the clanking appendage wrapping around her entire torso. “Lads,” he called into his comms, “it’s time to exit this sinking ship.”
Hydra’s Will, Dragon Fleet To Flagship
Zineda’s claws traced the flesh of the slave brought before her. A thin line of blood followed the path taken, the slave’s head rolled unresponsively, her eyes already plucked from her skull.
“Stop playing with it,” a voice like thunder rumbled. Zineda turned to see Mamaro To, Supreme Warlord of Dragon Fleet To, in her chambers. She pursed her lips as though pouting, though the gesture could hide none of her malice. With a practiced flick of her wrist she slit the slave’s throat, allowing its blood to run down her arm. She stood, her naked violet flesh sparsely covered by only long prayer scrolls with devotions to the Hydra God Nozuki.
With a serpent’s grace, she pressed herself against the warlord, drawing her blood soaked arm across his face. He clutched the arm with a single hand, his tongue lapping the blood off her skin. He shuddered as he felt her infuse the blood with esper. It burned and empowered his limbs as he consumed it. The burning sensation increased and his vision swam. “What have you done to me, priestess?” he muttered as his knees buckled.
“Hush, lover,” she soothed, cradling him in her arms as he fell, “Nozuki wishes to to speak to his Warlord.”
Mamaro woke with a start. The air hung heavy with incense. His armor had been removed and his body had been washed and scented with oils. He sat up, his mind still clearing from the visions Nozuki had granted him. “Zineda,” he called out, “where are you, priestess? Where have you put my armor?”
Zineda appeared from another chamber, pulling aside the blood red curtains that separated them. “Has Nozuki shown you our path?”
Mamaro nodded as he located his armor. “Assemble my regalia.” Zineda moved to his side, assisting him as he became Hatriya, a warrior, once more. “The Serpent directs us to the Star Nebula, to a pirate woman. She will have the answers we seek.”
Rapturous Booty, Star Nebula Corsair Flagship
“I tell you, Chef, it’s insubordination. Running off in the middle of a raid like that. I should have him shot!” Kate stared at her grog, convinced that if she only looked hard enough, she would find the answers she sought.
Iron Chef busied himself in the kitchen, categorizing the new ingredients they had liberated from their latest raid. He hummed happily to himself as he worked, each of his four limbs working independently, with surprising speed and accuracy. “Have you not given Harker free reign to do as he pleases?” he asked, never ceasing in his work.
“Not when we’re in the middle of serious cutthroatery!” she exclaimed, slamming her mug to the table. “What was he thinking anyway, kidnapping the princess? That’s the sort of thing that brings serious Alliance and paladin attention with it. Attention we can’t afford.”
Chef had swapped from categorizing to chopping and frying. Two limbs chopping and delivering the contents to the frying pan as the the other two flipped and stirred. “The man has always had secrets, you know that. I suspect he has more planned than simple kidnapping.”
Kate fumed. “If that’s the case, he should have told me. I’m the Pirate Queen! I get a cut of any underhandedness that goes on in this nebula!” She stopped. “Do you smell something?”
Chef raised an eyebrow inquisitively, “You’re kidding right? I’m cooking, right in front of you.” He rattled several pans for emphasis.
“No, not that, stupid.” Chef’s fur bristled. “Which smells delicious, by the way,” Kate quickly corrected, “something like...like ozone.” Realization dawned on her the moment she said it and leaped to her feet, kicking back her chair and drawing her blaster. “Alarm, Chef!”
With a wet tear, a portal ripped through reality, appearing before Kate like a gaping wound. A cloying scent of spice and blood wafted from the tear and Kate saw ranks of demonic Noh warriors assembled in two lines. Between them strode a Noh larger than them all, his armor more elaborate than any. At his side was a female, scantily clad but for bits of ceremonial garb and prayer scrolls that darted through the air like serpents waiting to strike, marking her as a priestess.
The two stepped through the portal. While both were armed, neither made any move to draw their weapons. The largest of the two assessed Kate impassively, taking stock of her worth. Behind them, Iron Chef had taken up his massive two-handed frying pan and was circling around, preparing to strike on Kate’s mark.
Kate looked the two over and motioned for Chef to hold. The priestess cast a casual glance at the marmod and whispered to the warrior in the Noh’s harsh tongue. The warrior glanced at the marmod dismissively, then returned his attention to Kate. “I am Supreme Warlord Mamaro To of Dragon Fleet To. You are the pirate, Kate.” He stated it matter of factly.
“Calico Kate to you,” Kate said warily, “or Pirate Queen Kate. Or, get the hell outta my nebula Kate, if you want to be formal.” Kate smiled, her confidence returning with her display of bravado. “Now which one of you heads of hair is going to tell me what you’re doing here?”
Zineda bridled at the insult, but Mamaro’s lack of response to the jibe caused her to stay her tongue. She would kill the human for her insult after they were finished with her.
“Nozuki, the Endless Hunger, has gifted me with a vision of the Calamity to come. An artifact of great power has come into the possession of one of your servants and I am here to collect it.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Kate scoffed, “If I had some all-powerful artifact, I would know about it and I certainly wouldn’t give it to you.”
“You do not possess it. It is in the possession of one of your captains.”
“Harker,” Kate glowered, “it has to be Harker. That good for nothing—”
“Then you know of whom I speak,” Mamaro continued. “You will take us to this Harker and deliver the relic to us. In exchange, I shall grant you your life.” As if to emphasize his point, the assembled warriors in the portal turned, in unison, to face the portal.
Kate threw her head back with a groan. “Oh, ceevle dung. What am I getting myself into?” She looked Mamaro in the eye, unflinching. “You have a deal, but I get to kill Harker.”
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