Chapter Thirteen: The Captive
Burns turned around just as the autofficer burst through the door. The pacifiers came soon after. They were trapped! Unless...
Burns wasted no time in raising the weapon he held in his hands. He addressed the autofficer. "Not. So. Fast." He looked at her as if to say, "See? It's my line!" then he continued. "If you move as much as a finger, I'll blast you, your automatons, and take the whole airship down while I'm at it!"
The autofficer didn't look like she cared. She just wanted revenge for her fallen automaton, but she knew what that weapon could do. What she did not know, however, was that Burns was bluffing, for he still hadn't figured out how to fire it. Besides, he would never purposefully put himself in danger.
The autofficer seemed to calm down slightly. "My automatons could easily take you down at my order."
Burns raised the weapon a little higher. "Do you want to take that chance?"
The autofficer thought for a moment before sighing with frustration. "Fine. What are your demands?"
"They're quite simple, actually. Just drop me and my comrades off in No Man's Landing and leave us be."
The autofficer thought this over. She had been ordered to deliver this weapon to the Empire, but now she had to let it go with this man that had destroyed her beloved automaton. She knew the price of failure in the Empire... but she didn't really have a choice. It was this or everyone died. "Alright... I accept."
"Delightful. Now, go and alter the course."
The autofficer grudgingly left, and a few minutes later the airship changed direction. Burns couldn't believe it. That actually worked!
One of the pacifiers slowly began to raise its pistol. Burns noticed this and directed the weapon to the pacifier. It seemed startled by this and lowered its arm.
Hmph, it even keeps the automatons obedient.
It was only a few more minutes before the airship was just outside the port town of No Man's Landing. It landed on the outskirts of town and lowered a docking ramp for the former autofficers to depart.
"Done," the autofficer said, reappearing. "Now, get out of here! I never want to see your face again!"
Burns took personal offence at this. He thought his face was rather handsome. Still, he kept quiet and left the airship, Jim and Clinton in tow.
"That was easy." Burns said, hefting the weapon over his shoulder.
Clinton tilted his head. "Yes, but what are going to do with it now that we have it?"
Burns froze. He had planned to give the weapon to the Emperor, but now when he thought about it, Lucky would just say, "But you stole it." No, that would not work. He knew that he would need to prove himself another way. He thought himself so close!
"Now we go back to the radio," Burns said sadly. "We listen, and we wait. And I figure out how to fire this confounded thing!"
Several hours later...
The three former autofficers sat in their hideout in complete boredom. Jim and Clinton were listening to the radio for something big while Burns sat in the corner, attempting to figure out how to fire the weapon. (He never thought about this, but it probably was not the wisest thing to do while inside their hideout.)
"Hm, maybe it's this trigger..." Burns said, pulling a part of the weapon backward. It snapped back into its original place immediately, pinching Burns' finger in the process. He stood up and cried out in pain. "Why. Won't. You. Work!" Grabbing the weapon, he raised it into the air, fully intending to smash it into the ground repeatedly. He slowly turned his head, noticing that both Jim and Clinton were staring at him. He lowered the weapon, shrugging. "Don't look at me. The stupid thing won't fire."
Everyone slowly turned their heads back to the radio, dismissing the fact that Burns could have just damaged what they spent so much time on acquiring.
"Wait," Clinton said, hushing the others. "I think we've got something!" Everyone leaned towards the radio to listen.
"Sir," came a women's voice. "I... I lost the weapon."
There was silence for a long time before another voice spoke. It was the same one from the previous radio call. "Very disappointing. I will deal with that problem another time, however. Right now, I need you to go to the Snow Moors. There is a... problem that must be solved."
"Sir... I can't do that. My airship took heavy damage during the large resistance assault." At that, Burns stifled a chuckle. Jim and Clinton hushed him at once as she continued. "I was able to fend them off, but the airship took a hit to its fuel lines."
"Then fix it."
Burns could hear a sigh before the radio went silent. "Interesting," Burns said sarcastically. "However, I fail to see how that pertains to our current situation!" he changed the channel a few more times before an urgent voice came to their ears. Burns continued past it, cutting it short.
"Turn it back!!" both Jim and Clinton yelled. Burns thought of making a snide comment but didn't. He changed it back, and the urgent voice continued.
"This message is directed to any and all imperials in the area of No Man's Landing. A high ranking imperial operative has been captured by the Resistance scum. Get him back before he spills all our secrets!"
"This is an opportunity," Burns said, turning to his comrades. "If we capture him, then we can..."
"Use him as a bartering chip!" Jim continued. "You're a genius!"
Burns smiled to himself and turned back to the radio. "I know."
"We know where they have taken him," the radio continued. "Sending the coordinates to the Resistance base now..."
"What do we do?" Clinton asked. "We won't be getting any coordinates, so how are we going to find the operative?"
"That's simple." Burns said with a grin. "We just go where everyone else does."
As Burns predicted, once they left their hideout they could see imperial transports going down the streets. Civilians jumped left and right out of the way, for the transports did not stop for them.
"Follow those transports!" Burns ordered. "They will lead us right to our prize!"
The former autofficers were lucky that the Resistance base was not far away, for if it was they surely would not have been able to follow for long. A winded Burns, Jim, and Clinton hid behind a nearby building as automatons began to pour out of the transport and enter into a worn house. The three men caught their breath as they waited for the transports to empty. As soon as they did however, they made their move.
The trio of men ran towards the Resistance base and entered in after the automatons. They ran down a long hallway with books on either side of them. There were no sounds of battle, which was odd. They did hear talking though. They moved to one of the bookshelves and removed a few books from it, giving them the perfect view at automatons surrounding a man wearing a humble librarian getup.
The "librarian" looked at the autofficer leading the automatons. "Good evening, sir. What can I do for the Empire today? I've got a wide variety of books in stock." He paused. "Say, do automatons read?"
"Do not toy with me," the autofficer responded. "I know you are harboring resisters here in this very building."
"I'm not only harboring them," the man said. "I'm one of them." The librarian pulled a Resistance cap out of nowhere and slapped it on his head. He flashed a smile as a battle cry sounded from somewhere. At once, one of the bookshelves flew open and resisters began to pour out, surrounding the autofficer and his automatons.
The autofficer was clearly startled by this. He began to shout out orders to his automatons, and then people started firing their weapons.
"Ah," Burns said thoughtfully. "There are the sounds of battle." He turned to his comrades. "We'll use the battle as a diversion. Behind that bookshelf is most likely where the resisters are keeping the autofficer. Follow my example!" Burns left his cover and charged straight into the fray. An automaton extended its arm seemingly out of nowhere, and Burns couldn't stop himself. He ran straight into the metal appendage and fell to the ground with a thud.
"Oh, okay!" Jim said, leaving the bookshelf and running straight into the automaton's arm as well.
Burns slowly turned his head to look at Jim. "I hate you. You know that, right?"
Burns rolled his eyes and got back to his feet, continuing his charge towards the bookshelf. He dodged a troubleshooter's mortar arm and then a pacifier's bayonet, and before he knew it he was face to face with a set of stairs. He looked back to see Jim and Clinton weaving their way through the battle. To all three of their delight, no one seemed to notice them. Together, all three walked down the stairs side by side.
The stairway was not wide enough for all of them and they got stuck.
"Oh, come on!" Burns shouted. "One at a time! Me first, naturally." he quickly added, going ahead of the others. It only took him around fifteen seconds to reach the bottom. He looked around to see a rather large room. It was fairly empty with only a few chairs - some sprawled across the floor, probably caused by the resisters when they realized the Empire was here.
Burns saw directly in front of him another small room. It was perfect for holding captive imperials! He ran up to it and saw that there was indeed an autofficer on the other side. Victory was near for Burns! He tried the door but was dismayed to find that it was locked.
"Well, that's just great!" he tried to bash it with the prototype weapon but the lock held.
"Burns!" Clinton shouted over the bashing. "Automatons coming down the stairs! Lots of them!"
Burns gasped and spun around to see more automatons than he could count coming down the stairs. More must have arrived from other transports! There were pacifiers, troubleshooters, technomites, and even bombardiers rolling down the stairs. How they would get back up again was beyond him.
"What do we do?!" Jim shouted, firing off a few expert shots. An automaton or two went down, but more just came to take their place.
Burns shook the weapon. "Work, work, work!" His hand flitted past the smallest button imaginable, and the gun immediately began to glow green. His worried face slowly turned into a pleased one. "Finally!" He pulled the lever from before, and a stream of concentrated fog launched out of the weapon. Burns had to steady himself, for if he hadn't he would have surely been knocked off his feet.
The stream of fog hit the first pacifier. It was swiftly sliced in half, the upper portion of its body sliding off of the legs. The stream didn't stop there though. It continued up the stairs and eliminated every single automaton it hit. Burns laughed maniacally as all of his opposition was quickly destroyed. He reversed the lever, and the fog ceased. Only one pacifier remained. Burns charged forward and smashed the weapon into its head. It spun around a few times before falling off.
Burns was in awe of the awesome power he held. He deftly turned and pulled the lever again, cutting a square in the wall the imperial operative was locked behind. He turned the weapon off and blew the lingering fog from its barrel as the wall fell down. The operative stood up, also obviously in awe of the awesome power Burns held.
"I'm here to rescue you," Burns said, hefting the weapon on his shoulder once again. "Follow me."
The operative nodded and walked over to Burns, and together, the four advanced towards the stairs.
"Not. So. Fast." Burns said, turning to Jim and Clinton. "Not you two. I no longer have any use for you."
The two looked at each other, stunned. "What do you mean? We're coming with you." Jim said.
"No. I only ever intended to use you for my own means. Now that I have what I need to get back into the Empire, I no longer require your services."
"I knew all of those mistakes in your wording wasn't a coincidence!" Jim shouted.
"But," Clinton clenched his fists. "We've helped you from the beginning, and you're just going to throw us to the side?!"
Burns thought a moment. "Yes, that would be about it."
Clinton put a hand on his pistol.
"Ah ah ah," Burns said, lowering the weapon again. Clinton halted his attack. "I'll just leave you two here for either the Empire or the Resistance to do with you what they will."
"You'll regret this!" Clinton called after Burns as he and the operative ran up the stairs.
"Stay close." Burns warned the autofficer as they passed the ongoing battle upstairs. He didn't care who was winning, he was just glad that he had achieved his goal - finally. He could almost feel a clean uniform on his back once again!
He left the library with little difficulty and entered into one of the transports parked outside.
"What you did back there..." The operative began. "That was truly devious of you." He smiled.
Burns smiled as well. "I know."
Only a few moments passed before the transport took off down the street and in the direction of Evercity.