Please enjoy this chapter of Lead Heart!
The cold sting of the blade caught her in the gut before she could react. Almost as an afterthought, her body went electric with pain.
DAMN that hurt.
The sword was a weird one. About 30 inches long and slender, it was…blurry. She couldn’t investigate any further before they were on her again. The three…men? Moved as one, each attacking in a blind spot created by another. Each protecting the other, wordlessly, moving in rhythm. Cheaters. She took another slice to the gut and gagged.
“What the f-”
Pain thundered through her tear-streaked face with the fist, and the wall to the driver’s den splintered when she flew into it.
Dammit. Her legs refused to hold her after that. The trio broadcast their moves loud and clear, but she couldn’t move fast enough to do anything about it.
Someone screamed as they flew in again, sinking the sword into the meat of her arm. She realized then that it was her own voice.
Then one of them went flying instead, tumbling end over end from the wrong end of one of Vea’s concussions.
Then it was just one bastard in front of her, the one with the blade. The other two held their own against Vea and the protector, while Carkus and Zimi took to the air.
Then sword-guy came at her again and the rest of the world fell away. The swish of the blade and thrum of the motors swelled louder and louder until it was all she could hear. Instinct and training slowly took over. Slide back, duck left, grab right.
I’m doing it!
Stars exploded as she took a boot to the eye.
No more thinking!
Blue guy snarled and surged in on her, blade whirling. Leliana caught the blow with a sheet of scrap and staggered backward. She heard the clunk of his boot before she registered any movement, denting the boiler with her head when his kick sent her flying.
This was getting real old, real fast.
She caught a glimpse of Vea face-down across the deck. At least she wasn’t the only one getting her ass kicked.
Her assailant stalked slowly over debris, his huffing reminding her of the time that panther chased her through the woods. His malice was overpowering. The cold air stung all over, and she couldn’t catch her breath.
She needed to calm down, focus. She knew she could win. She had to! Should she run? How would she even get away. Rudder, wheel, science junk… The ship’s propellers roared behind her. Where were the damn parachutes! Her mind slipped back and forth, out of control. She needed to block that damn mind-reading or whatever it-
Leliana’s heart skipped a beat. Pink pigtails bounced into view from where she lay on her back.
“You stay away!” Teena threatened, with an absurdly gigantic wrench. “Or I’ll kick your ass, you big ape!” The engineer took a menacing step toward the bemused behemoth. He stood a little taller, then laughed outright.
“Su dricka va DAT?”
He shifted his stance subtly, like he was about to –
Leliana blanked as the sword stabbed all the way through her arm, stopping inches from Teena’s face. That adorable, terrified face. Leliana’s protective grip tightened on the tiny woman. She bit her tongue to keep from crying out as she jerked the sword from its owner.
“Thanks,” she muttered to her brave friend.
She put everything she had into the quiet fury boiling inside of her, willing it at the monster in front of her. The satisfaction when he stepped back a pace was delicious. Now that it was out of his hands, the sword wasn’t blurry anymore either. It was oddly curved and etched up and down the blade, elegantly crafted and perfectly balanced. Not that she cared.
“Let’s try that again.” The void of pain in her left arm was all-consuming. She’d have to fight without it.
Blue guy lunged for his weapon. Leliana crunched her forehead into his face. He went down hard.
Teena bolted back to safety. “Get him! Bite him! Kick his butt!”
Leliana pinged his shaggy head off the boiler with a kick and jammed the sword into the floor before going after him. Didn’t want it over too fast.
The fighter flipped onto his feet and into a 2×4 she pried from the deck. Leliana wrapped a hand around his throat and squeezed.
Leliana yanked him face-first into the lit boiler. The sizzle and screams and terror coming out of the man, after everything he’d put her through, was delicious. She ripped him off the boiler to smash him back into it, over and over until everyone was staring. His teammates started tearing their way through her friends, but they were too far to save him.
A violent calm had overtaken her, absorbing all the panic and anger and confusion around her.
The maelstrom suddenly screaming as Teena kicked up the engines whipped her hair into her eyes, and she knew what to do. She ignored her prey’s feeble attempts at freedom, walking toward the rear of the ship. His panic was addictive, a feeling of power she’d never experienced before.
Jovi’s face frowned from a distant memory, shaming her for the wanton murder.
Who cared? This slag eating, scat sucking son of a pig tried to kill Teena. Chances were good that Jovi would’ve killed him too. Boards thunked as she approached the rotors. These things were steel, right? She wrestled the terrified blue man while he tried clawing his way free. Without her left arm, it was easier to just beat him against a wall until he stopped. Part of her knew she was completely and utterly under the influence of something else. Something sinister. Everything she felt was so foreign. Another part of her didn’t care. Most of her didn’t care. It was time to show these assholes what happened when she got serious.
The two others had closed half the distance and moved with a desperate determination. Vea was finally up, helping prot against one while Carkus and Zimi bit the other bloody and raw. She made sure she caught those wide, purple eyes, holding their gaze as she pushed their friend into the whirling blades of the airship. His cries were sharp, then cut short. The body was yanked out of her hands as the ship bucked and kicked and sent them all sprawling. Then he was gone.
A thought flickered across her mind about whether or not these things might have some world-ending technology on that huge floating castle. Hopefully not. Right?
The two remaining bolted. One covered for the other, who screamed out some nonsense language into a device in his hand. Leliana’s cold, calculating mind went to work as she took a step closer to them.
“GET DOWN!” Teena’s tiny voice pierced the chaos and Leliana hit the deck on instinct.
Iridescent blue light washed over the ship for less than a heartbeat, like looking at a blue sun. When it was gone, so were the blue men.
And so were Zimi and Carkus.
“What was that!” Karina slammed out of a trapdoor to the cargo hold.
Atreides and Vea scanned the skies above and below, their faces falling. “They were taken.” Vea said.
“Do we go after them?” Karina answered.
“I do not know,” Vea started. “Against this unknown foe, they could already be dead. Else, we may die.”
Leliana marched into their midst, holding aloft her mangled arm. “I didn’t survive ten years of Lilith for these bastards to come out here and gut me like a fish.” Not to mention the mind games. “I’m going to knock on that door, then kick it in and kill them all. Who do they even think they are?”
She couldn’t help but notice the distance everyone was keeping between her and themselves.
“I agree,” Atreides said finally. “They’ve stolen away with our friends, and I must follow no matter the consequences.”
“ME TOO!” Teena chimed. “Look how cool that thing looks OHMIGOSH I want a look at the engines!”
“Alright Teena,” Leliana laughed. “Let’s go say hello.”