My head bolts up at the sound of an explosion coming from the direction of Bootleg Pass. A cloud of smoke ascends quickly into the sky.
Are you kidding me?! First Aislinn and MANY other Resistance members disappear, then Xonos is apparently dead, then a new make of automatons starts prowling around No Man’s Landing, and now this! I shake my head and adjust my glasses.
I’ve restrained my curiosity for long enough. I need to investigate.
I finish making my umpteenth gyrostabilizer (those things always come in handy) on a crate in the Grotto, and stand up. “Irving, how’s the Cogsworthy telegraph coming along?” I called behind me.
“Aye, it’s coming along fine, Pip! Should take another ‘alf an hour, I reckon.”
Half… an hour… I resist the urge to groan. Last time I had left Irving something to fix, it took him a month to bring it back to me. I’m not mad or anything, but he is quite busy running the Resistance in this corner of Aethasia, and I don’t blame him. But anyway, this time I’d rather not leave so I can pick up the telegraph right away. Despite my fiery curiosity for the explosion…
Wonderful time to have accidentally dropped the telegraph down a shaft in the mines…
“Quite the explosion, eh, Pip?”
“Yeah, what was that??”
“’Ave no idea. I s’pose it was one of ‘em new autos. Sleek little guys! Seen ‘em yet?”
“They’re crawling all over No Man’s Landing. Of course I’ve seen them.”
“Aye… They easy to tackle?”
“I actually haven’t tried yet. I’m a little concerned about them…”
“I don’ blame you. Well, lemme finish the telegraph and then you can explore!”
How considerate… “All right, thanks.”
I craft three more gyrostabilizers, six accelerating apparatus, four sticks of dynamite, nine bottles of dye and an aether boiler, then take a look at my pocket watch.
All that crafting… and it’s only been seven minutes.
I sigh, walk around the corner, adjust a switch on my bracelet so I have paws for hands, and scratch a wall impatiently.
An agonizing twenty-or-so minutes later:
I walk past Lukas’ hideout and check my telegraph. Six missed messages.
Note to self: Don’t wait three weeks to fix a telegraph.
I’ll come back to the messages later, I suppose. There are more pressing situations at hand.
I hear voices coming from above me, and I turn my head to see a crowd of youngsters descending the staircase beside the Beacon.
Aislinn!! Ariella! Gloria! I beam and gasp in delight at the sight of my friends which I haven’t seen in such a long time. I sprint a few steps in their direction, until…
“Please halt for interrogation…”
Fifteen minutes, many hammer swings, numerous pistol shots, and seven felled automatons later…
Lost sight of them. Brilliant. That’s just one more downside to the sound of barking automatons, protests and fights being a regularity on No Man’s Landing. A troop of automatons arriving in town exactly when I don’t need them… It has to be luck. Perhaps literally.
I sigh and shake away my bitterness and frustration, and continue toward the fading pillar of smoke.
The first thing I do as the crashed airship comes into view, is dive into a bush, as one of those new automatons stomps by. It looks pretty beat up, but otherwise operational. I almost dive for it and finish it off, but I hesitate for fear of making a scene, thus encountering more of those sleek, black little guys.
I start tentatively crawling my way out of the bush to proceed on my journey when a scream, coming from deeper into the wood, pierces the air.
I then hear cries of “Aislinn!” and “Miss Mollisong!” I see Aislinn dashing from the tree line on the other side of the airship, the beat-up, black automaton hot on her heels.
My heart drops to my stomach.
I HAVE to help her!
I can’t, I’m too far away!
I HAVE to!
I can’t run that fast!
Not on legs maybe, but on paws…
Times like these when experience racing with dragons back on the Kingdom of Pen comes in handy.
I hack my way out of the bush, crouch, shut my eyes, put my hand on my bracelet, and gradually start moving the largest of the switches.
I picture the automaton in my head. Darkness. Evil. Darkness. Evil.
I open my eyes, which are now glowing green with beastly rage. My tail thrashes furiously like a cat’s. A snarl escapes my peeled-back jaws. My pointed ears are alert, and trained toward the danger. My four paws dig into the earth, poised to pounce.
And so I do. In three precious seconds from the time I touch my bracelet, I begin my hunt. Moving on all four paws, I can run exceptionally faster than my newfound two feet.
I was born this way – this is me.
I leap onto a piece of airship debris, spot my target several feet away, and spring on top of it. My eyes, now much stronger than before, pick out the weak spots of the automaton even in the blur of it all. I swat at these weak spots with my claws, tear at the armor with my teeth, and strangle and squeeze off the limbs with my tail.
The automaton destroyed, I roll onto my four paws and huff for breath, blinking and shaking my head trying to clear out the fury from my brain. Familiar voices surround me.
“What is that?!”
I stand up so I’m erect on my hind paws, and beam at the party with a fanged grin. “Greetings!”
“DEKREEL!!” The girls all shriek a once. Iliara and Gloria simultaneously tackle me with hugs. “Boy, am I glad to see you!” exclaims Gloria.
“Her and all of us!” agrees Ariella.
At last, I get to ask the question that’s taunted me for days: “Where have you guys been?!?!”
“Ohhhh, DON’T even get us started,” says Aislinn shaking her head. She is sitting down, rubbing her ankles from the attack.
“Hospital and Snowmoors and Zaul and Xonos and junkyard and Emmalee and Magnus and Rose and Lily and Matt…” Ariella rubs her forehead and sighs. “In other words, CHAOS.”