The Southern section of the city was abuzz the following morning. Their absence had been noted by the sentries during the shift change and things had taken a decided turn for the worse once the watch was put on high alert. Leliana, Teena and Karina crouched low behind a false wall; a thick sheet of scraps they cobbled together into something cohesive. The thing would’ve fallen apart in a stiff breeze, but it did the trick to hide behind.
Leliana’s body is taught, ready to spring. The intense charcoal smoke taking over the pleasant wood smoke tells her the city has shifted into work mode. Gingerly stepping over the sprawled forms of the sisters, she climbs to the top of the wall for one last look to the mountain pass. Soldiers swarmed the slope from the mountain down to the city gates. They were reinforced by a whirling fleet of airships hanging low in the sky and separated into squads of 25, each dug in and ready to fight.
She was impressed.
She’d only spent a couple of weeks with the monks. Watching the city take them as such a potent threat made her feel…proud. The feeling quickly passed when she remembered she was supposed to be making sure those monks weren’t slaughtered today. “Teena. Karina. Looks like they’re getting ready to start.” She prodded the other two to wake them up. “There’s a big cluster of ‘em testing Gungrave’s defenses.”
“Already?” Teena stretched and yawned, then bounced to her feet with a smile. “Wow is it almost noon? I feel great! What’s the situation Leli?”
Leliana groaned. “There’s law enforcement everywhere, they’re definitely looking for us. They’ve been banging up and down the streets for hours now, I’m actually impressed you managed to get some sleep.”
“An experienced woman of the world takes her sleep seriously,” Teena nodded. “It sounds like we’ll need you to run some interference once we get kabooming. Think you can handle it?”
“Of course,’ Leliana scoffed. “These guys are amateurs, they all look like children.”
“Aren’t you, like, a teenager?”
“I’m a professional” She sniffed.
Bangs and clangs closed in on either side of them as the army engineers pounded their way through the defenses looking for abnormal sound signatures. “Alright you two, what do you need me to do?” Karina cut in.
“You’re my escape plan!” Teena said. “You still have that grappling hook?”
“Remember all the times we used to go rappelling? This is the perfect time to do that!”
“That wasn’t rappelling, I was saving your life!” Karina whisper-shouted. “This is a terrible time to do that, every armed soldier on that field is going to be staring straight at us!”
“Hmm,” Teena stroked her pigtails, “I suppose you’re right. I wonder what the concussive force is like inside one of these barrels is? Maybe if we plug it with some debris and jump in the end…” Karina’s deathly glare stopped the thought in its tracks. “Alright, alright. We’ll revisit the idea.”
Distant pops and booms signified the beginning of a major conflict, stunning the girls into silence.
“Right. Shoot now, plan later.” Karina said.
“Let’s goooo!” Teena bounced into her springy sprinters and clutched the cannon controller she’d configured earlier that morning. “Go!”
The whir and grind of the gears pinning the giant guns to the wall was oddly satisfying, methodical and mechanical and chaotic all at once. The ground tremored with each cannon locking into place. Nine barrels spanning three hundred meters of wall stood at attention, awaiting orders. Pressure gauges flipped into the red all the way down the line as the steam chambers opened up, and the high pressure hiss elicited a squeak from the current operator. “Ohmygosh they’re so cool!”
The world fell into a stunned silence around them, all the search parties having stopped banging around to watch the guns curiously.
It was the single loudest thing Leliana had ever experienced in her entire life. She picked herself up off the ground, the world swimming in front of her like she’d had one too many to drink. There was a chorus of squeals and the sound of metal shearing metal underneath the city street they were standing on.
Leliana smiled as she managed to keep to her feet this time. That smile flipped upside down as a score of soldiers and mechanics tore around the corner toward their former hiding place. The scrap wall Teena had haphazardly welded together lay in a pile at their feet, and the trio of saboteurs were exposed for all to see.
Leliana kicked up pieces of debris from the cluttered ground and slung it at the newcomers, knocking more than a few to the ground as the rest tried to take control of the situation. Commands were issued and firearms were drawn, though it was no time at all before Leliana closed the distance to use their numbers and unwillingness to shoot each other against her foe. The air was thick with the smell of gunpowder and sulfur as she bounced between the upper wall and the lower streets, tossing soldiers and knocking around engineers like a demophant in an orphanage.
Teena used the cover to make some adjustments to the enormous cannons currently shelling the battlefield. She modified the angle of attack on each until there was a solid wall of explosions a scant hundred meters from the base of the mountain. Panting, sweating, and covered in grease, Teena returned to where she’d left her sister. “I think we’re ready. You still got it?”
Karina retrieved the flare gun Leliana entrusted to her earlier that day and pulled the trigger, shooting the projectile high over the wall. The dark-blue ring was dazzling against the smog hanging over the city. “The rest is up to them,” she said. “What do you say we get out of here and grab some ice cream?”
Protector Atreides’ eyes flew open when the flare lit up the city below. They’ve done it? Cannons exploded over and over, though he was slowly coming to realize they weren’t shooting at him. Uniformed soldiers below cried out, in pain and confusion, as they were attacked by their own town. The cannon-fire gradually shifted until it formed an explosive barrier fifty meters wide. Atreides leapt into a tree for a better vantage point. There was just enough room between the mountain and the explosions to get his people out of the pass and into the foothills.
“Brothers!” He raised his voice, quieting one hundred others. “We are blessed today. Our friends have provided us a boon. Let us guide the people to safety beyond the walls.” Men and women split neatly into two groups, bisecting his small army into two bands of nearly three score each.
Warrior talents and soldiers went first as the Alpha band. Electricity crackled and heat shimmered as dozens of warriors flew down the slope in the blink of an eye. Almost literally, in a few cases. Vea was the first to the bottom, and he was happy to see it. She was a master of herself, and a guiding force for the more volatile troops. Vea plowed through the vanguard of the city’s forces with a sonic boom, men and their weapons scattered in the unexpected assault. Sergeants bellowed and soldiers rallied and soon the rest of the band clashed with a chaotic front line, throwing the pitched the battlefield into disarray.
Gungrave didn’t have as many talented as he did, the Protector knew, but the war brothers were vastly outnumbered. Attrition was his friend today. He grit his teeth. This was it. “Omegas, take your people and keep to the base of the mountains. The foothills become passable just a few miles East where we can take refuge from the city.
I only pray those guns will remain on our side.”
“What do you mean, the wall is shooting our army? Then STOP IT!” Mortimus screeched.
The aide dared not wipe the spittle from his face. “W-we’re trying, Overseer. They don’t respond to remote shutdown, the COD has no idea what’s going on. We-”
“Then get boots on the ground?!” The words echoed around the empty war room as the building itself lurched with another volley of cannonfire.
The aide opened his mouth, then closed it as an older gentleman sprinted through the door. He sported a long, gray beard, braided and tucked into his undergarments. “M’lord, we can’t get control of the South wall. The reports are that they’re being rebuffed by a…a woman? Requesting authorization to mobilize the suits, sir. We need to stop those cannons.”
A crystal chalice exploded into pieces beneath the overseers gloved fist. “Do it! Do it immediately!”
“Not so fast, Gregory.”
Silence fell like a blanket as Lilith sauntered into the room. “Soldiers beaten by a woman, you say? Sounds like my cue.” She snapped, and the two brutes behind the war table fell in step behind her. The overseer caught up to them at the stairs to the roof.
“Lilith! You can’t just up and leave when the going gets tough. Isn’t this why you’re here?!”
“I’ll take care of that big, bad girl for you Gregory, don’t you fret.” She smiled. Mortimus stepped up the stairs, bouncing off the well-muscled chest of a brute. Lilith flipped a parting wave without bothering to turn around.
Five minutes later, her polished chrome spacecraft hummed smoothly into the air. She was getting fond of the smell of ozone that permeated the cockpit when the vehicle whirred to life, but the taste of victory on her lips was suddenly overpowering.
This was the end. This was the day she’d lay so many problems to rest.
It was time to go back to making money hand over fist as humanities champion. “We have unfinished business, girl.” The shiny vessel crept forward until she could hit the throttle without boiling the roof of the Overseer’s mansion, and then she was suddenly over the battlefield.
“There you are.”