This story takes place after A Leaf in the Wind found here

http://www.welcometosteampunk.com/profiles/blogs/a-leaf-in-the-wind

It's the story of inaugural testing of the airship Archimedes.

Concept of the Archimedes by Timothy R Harrison

Collaboratively written story by:
Maxamillian Drake and Timothy R Harrison

Special apperances by:
Alexander P. Baker, Captain Fox and Arabella Porter

Edited by:
Timothy R Harrison

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On the outskirts of London, mid-day, just a typical day by the ship yards, the hum of steam powered props on the outskirts, The Archimedes is seen over the horizon, barreling in towards the yards, the sun reflecting off the brass covered bow of the balloon.  Tim inside, wearing his usual leather top hat, black pinstripe lapeled double breasted vest, black leather gauntlets, white shirt and green tie at the helm, easing back on the throttle once reaching the outskirts of the ship yard, he flipped a switch to his left and and adjusted the dial to the frequency that the Captain had given him.

"Well I hope this won't amount to a hell of a debt I'll owe, that's just what I need", Lifting his pant leg and taking out  cigar from the silver case in his boot, placing it in his mouth and lighting it with a match be pulled from his vest pocket, he replaced the match box and engaged the comm system.

"H.M.S Wyvern, this is the Archimedes, do you copy?" he said puffing through his cigar.

 

The HMS Wyvern sailed slowly into the airspace around the private London docks and circled in a wide holding pattern over them.

“Aye, T.R. I copy”, replied Captain Maximillian Drake

The Wyvern measuring approximately 650 ft long and 90 feet wide with towers 100 ft up in the air, casting a huge shadow over the dockyard as it approached. It bristled with many guns on all sides, the most prominent being its four main turrets housing its large double 15 in. guns, common to the Royal class of Dreadnaught Battleship.

Captain Drake paced out on to the deck outside the bridge handing the wheel over to the first mate, "Keep her steady in this holding pattern", he orderd

"Yes, Sir!" the first mate replied crisply and snaps a salute.

Captain Drake lifted a pair of brass binoculars to his eye's and scaned the 300x100ft scrap air barges floating down range and droped the binoculars to hang by their string around his neck. He raised his left hand to mouth and spoke into the built in com unit residing there.

"TR, in position for observation", he said.

"Roger that Cap", Tim replied over the comms looking up towards the Dreadnaught. "Damn, that is one hell of a boat, you've got there, mate. I feel like a fly down here." He reached over and hit a button labeled VT.  The props on the four propulsion pods, stopped and simultaneously rotated clockwise till the blades were facing up.  Tim reached over and slid the throttle forward to 50%. The four pressure gauges dropped for a moment and the quickly climbed and the blades accelerated pulling the ship quickly upwards from its previous location about 50ft above the ground. Within seconds, the Archimedes was deck level with the Wyvern.  Once there, Tim throttled back and depressed the VT button, the props stopped and the pods rotated counter clockwise to their natural position.

"That's better", Tim said with a smirk, puffing on his cigar, comms still engaged. He saw Captain Drake on the deck of his ship. "Alrighty cap, would you like to start with some simple speed and maneuverability tests or offence and defensive systems first?, over"

 

"That is up to you. I know what this beast can do.", Drake replied. He scratched his pith helmet for a second and asked,  "Hmmmmm............well hate to ask this but how long have you been flying TR?”

Tim grinned with the cigar at the corner of his mouth, lowering his goggles from the brim of his hat to his eyes "Well cap, prior to the preliminary testing, it had been quite some time I'd been behind the helm of something larger than personal transport.  I know her inside and out, you you haven't a need to worry.  Let’s do some propulsion tests first, see what this beaut can do." 

"Okay, no problem just checking", Drake replied. "Well, I’d say why don't you try a few strafing runs at those heaps then get a run at them as fast as you can go and pull up or go under them, your choice. With the first run, do with just your props, try to max them out. I'll try to clock you on the ship's radar. Also, something to keep in mind for later, I suggest if you want test any of your lesser weapons, do it first. I'm not sure how those heaps are going to hold up under fire from your main cannon."

"Rodger that, Cap.  I'll head back a few hundr....wait.. What? How in the hell.." Tim paused for a second and said under his breath with a stern face and a slighty smirk "You royal navy bastard" He then spoke up, "Were you in my lab??" He said slightly agitated, "Never mind, you guys just have to know everything, don't know? Anyway, I'll head back a few hundred meters and open her up, I'm going to keep the main pressure valves at 75%.  I don't want to blow anything before breaking her in. Get  a few passes and them have some fun with those wrecks", he said shaking his head, puffing his cigar.  Tim throttled up the ship to 50% and turned her aft, made a wide turn about 400 meters and throttled back, facing the field of air barges. 

"Systems look good, ready when you are", Tim replied.

 

Drake pulled out his pipe, flipped open the lid and lite it with the blowtorch mounted on his left arm and took  a few leisurely puffs.

"No worries mate, I didn't have to break in to your lab, or pay someone to do so to know that you have secondary propulsion." Taking a few more leisurely puffs on his pipe “I evaluated your propulsion systems on our approach and figured it out. For someone doing this as long as I have, those are things you don't miss. Could be the difference between your target being caught, or simply getting away."

*The speaker crackled as Drake turned a dial on his comm unit, "Yes sir?" Said the voice of the navigations officer.
"I want you to track Mr. Harrison on the ship's main radar and start timing him on my mark.", ordered Drake.
"Yes, Sir. Very good sir"

Drake fiddled with the nob on the comm unit on the back of his hand again, “Ok TR start your run when ready. I'll be timing you from the time you pass by my ship till the time you pull up at the barges. So, try to get up to max speed slightly before you pass my ship." He pulled out large silver pocket watch and popped the lid with the left hand and pulled up his binoculars with the other

"I repeat proceed when ready, Over"

 

 

At the private docks below, a crew stirred in boredom as the preceding took place overhead. One of the crew nudged a young female as she was working. "Check it out, new ship." He said as the girl rolled her eyes and looked back to her Captain and the dock master. "Bells," He grabbed her attention again.

   "Ezra, I'm doing some busine-... My that's a beauty," She said, turning to face the horizon. She nudged the Captain who then turned to look at the ship.

     "It's next to an H.M.S" the Captain said nonchalantly, "So what?" She retorted as she turned back into her business with the dock master and the younger woman walked and sat on the edge of the dock.

"Stupid authority," She rested her head on her fist, "We'll loot you later" said the young woman looking at the new ship.

Aboard the Archimedes, Tim replied to Captain Drake.

"Well, I suppose I can't get agitated with a keen sense of perception, which I can respect. And I suppose the slightly bulbous hatches on her sides and bottom can lead way to a weapons system", he chuckled over the comms taking a puff on his cigar. "Well then, Cap.  She'll be a top speed when I reach you. That'll be a nice baseline for when I open the main valves up full on. Well, tally ho!"

With a grin, Tim flipped two latches on the wheel and it split in half. He pushed and pulled each side of the wheel and the corresponding propulsion pods moved up and down, independent from the other side. Bringing the halves of the wheel back to their natural position, he checked his gauges one last time and thrust the throttle to 100%, the pressure dropped and the props screamed, to life as the pressure quickly climbed back to 250psi and threw the ship forward.  Throw back slightly, Tim regained his balance as the Archimedes quickly gained speed and approached the Wyvern.

From his spot at the in the middle of the rail on the deck outside the Bridge of the Wyvern, Captain Drake quickly scanned the docks below. The crowd of onlookers on the docks was growing to see the impromptu airshow taking place.

The roar of the steam engines echoed through the air. TR had begun his approach so it was time to get down to business. Captain Drake swung the binoculars up and zeroed in on the fast approaching ship. As the second the nose of TR's ship crossed the line of the Wyvern’s prow, Captain Drake yelled "MARK", and simultaneously hit the button on the stem of his pocket watch. He had faith in the ship's head navigation officer, but he wanted to be sure that there were no mistakes.

Hurdling past the deck, the Archimedes headed straight towards the derelict air barges and continued on. About 50 meters from the first barge, Tim pulled back on the right side of the wheel and forward on the left, spinning the Archimedes on it's side, pulling the left side back, even with the right and guiding the ship around the left side of the barge and the bringing it right side up and in to a climb to the next wreck, holding tightly on to the wheel.

Drake then quickly swung his binoculars around and barely had time to get them focused on the mile distant barges before TR swerved the Archimedes just in time to miss the first barge. Captain Drake clicked the button on the stem of his watch.

While he waited for the junior radar officer to bring him the results, Drake repacked his pipe and did a few calculations in his head. "I'll be, that thing is pretty fast" "Hmmm........ let’s see, a mile in that kind of time............thats about 350 knots........hmmm.....thats 402 mph......not bad, not bad."

The junior radar officer came running and stopped abruptly clicking his heels, snapping to attention and saluting, as Captain Drake finished stowing his pipe tobacco. "The Radar results sir".

"At ease"........"What was your reading", Drake asked.

"402 mph Sir." he replied reading a few calculations scrawled on a piece of paper.

"Excellent! Right on the mark as usual. Give my regards to the head Radar officer and tell him to prepare for the next speed trial. Same deal as before but our friend might just decide to really put the balls to the walls this time." Drake said.

"Yes Sir!" The officer replied while clicking his heels and saluting. As the officer walked away, Captain Drake stepped to the rail and lit his pipe as the ship maneuvered the barges.

"Note to self, I need a way to secure myself in here”, Tim said with a chuckle, shaking off a slight bit of light headed ness and continuing on.  He nimbly navigated throughout the wreck yard and brought the ship about and back towards his starting point, leveling out, still screaming ahead at full throttle.

"How'd she fair?" he said, sharply turning the ship about and throttling her back down.

 

After a few puffs, Drake lifted his wrist com, "TR, not a bad run its lookin' like, radar confirmed 402 mph or 350 knots if you like. Good thing you’ve got some piloting skill too. Those were some nice maneuvers there at the end of your run. Great minds think alike TR, that thing has great dexterity." Drake replied

 

Watching the new ship finishing it’s run, "Screw this," The young woman said as she stood up and began climbing the ramp onto the vessel, "Mercurian, if the captain asks, just tell her I went to play," she winked at the old man she was sitting next to. The quartermaster sighs.

"You're so young, you still think you can conquer the world," He responds,

"Having a bit of nostalgia from the dinosaur days, are we?" She said walking up to a small life floater. She hoped in and adjusts some of the dials before unhooking it from the Widow and flying up. She steered it to be just above the Archimedes as it came to a rest from its run. "Ready or not, here I come," she giggled before pressing a button, causing a rope to fall on the ship. She dropped onto the ships almost nonexistent deck and opened up the main hatch, walking in to and quietly opening up the next door. "Where's the crew?" she asked herself looking around the ship a bit before entering the command console seeing the lone man at the helm.

"Let me know when you are ready for your next run. Over" she heard over the comms as she approached the man

"Solo," she giggles as she pressed the barrel of her gun to a man's head. "You must be as new as your wings or have the strength of ten men to fly alone in these skies."

Tim was startled at the break from the calming culmination of sounds that once only accompanied him aboard his vessel. He took a puff from his cigar and sighed, feeling the cold steal on the back of his head, looking down and seeing the blury outline of a pirate ship down below through the front window. He moved his hands off the wheel and crossed them in front of him, his right concealing he power switch to the reactor under his coat.

"Props, mate, quite the ballsy move boarding me the the dread out there, you're lucky I'm doing a systems test, you know that? I'm afraid you picked the bloke to hold up", he said as a smirk slid across his face.

Yeah, yeah, wrong bloke, I hear it all the-" she began to say.

Tim quickly flipped the switch on his hand, turning on his reactor, ducking and swinging his left hand around grabbing the gun wielding hand of his invader and in the same single motion, taking his right hand and unholstered his disruptor, powering it on in the pull, the unit already armed and swings it pointing the tip at the intruders face.

She gasped in at the abrupt movements and went to struggle. Upon seeing that it was Tim, she stopped and laughed, "oh, it's you,"

"ARA?!?!? What the hell is this??? What are you doing here?? Do you want me to melt your face???", He yelled in shock, holstering his weapon, still with an iron grip on her wrist.

"Ow! How was I supposed to know that this was your ship! I didn't even...ow! Tim, that hurts like a bitch!" She yelled right back at him. "I didn't know you finished the Archimedes!"

 

Captain Drake dropped his arm, with the comm on it, to his side and puffed at his pipe as he stood at the rail. He stopped for a minute, half expecting the roar TR's engines as he prepared for the next run. "Thats odd", he thought to himself, squinting at the Archimedes a little over a mile away as he reached for his binoculars. Just as he got the binoculars to his eyes and realized that TR's ship was stopped dead hovering when his comm crackled again with faint voices came though the link.

"Props, mate, quite the ballsy move boarding me the the dread out there, {static}lucky I'm {static} systems test, you know that? I'm afraid you picked the bloke to hold up." Drake heard.

Without moving the comm, now held at chest level, Captain Drake motioned to the junior officer on deck to come over while putting his other finger to his lips in a sign for quiet. When the officer ran over, Drake put his free hand to his ear and pointed to the officer. He then whispered, "Something is wrong here. Get the Radio operators to pick this up, I'm going to check this out. Tell the first mate the ship is in his hands. You know the drill."

As the officer ran off, there was more static and some very faint conversation coming out of the comm. Everything else was drowned out as Drake flicked the switch igniting his rocket pack with one hand while drawing his broom handle Mauser with the other, and jacking a round into the chamber. The Captain rose five feet off the deck and pushed the throttle to full power.

The Alicia Grey sailed into view. Flex watched the two ships, his own ship the middle sized one. "Hey Tim. Looks like you finally joined the air." The intercomm buzzed as Felix and Jack started bringing in the sails. He watched as the Man jetted across the bay.

Drake rocketed toward the ship, and in the 30 seconds it took to get there, he thought to himself, "Now this is what I live for."

Drake dialed down the power on the Rocket pack and coasted the last 20 feet, losing just enough altitude to be right in line with the small deck and main hatch. The captain powered down the rocket pack about 3 ft above the deck, landing taking the shock with bent knees. The Captain knelt down beside the hatch and prepared to open it gun in hand.

 

Tim still in shock, paused for a moment before realizing that he was crushing her wrist. "OH..hell..", he said, releasing her wrist. "Christ woman, you really need to be more care.."

At that moment a familiar voice cracked in over the comms, "Hey Tim. Looks like you finally joined the air." as Tim saw the the Alicia Grey sailing in off the port side lower window.

"Well son of a bitch" Tim said turning around and walking over port side looking up at the Grey sailing between Archy and the Wyvern. "You missed the maiden voyage, I called over when I brought her out but Phoebe was watching the boat at the time" 

 

At that moment, Tim caught what sounded like a brief rocket burst over the internal sounds of the ship and a light thud towards the back, pantry area, starboard side

"Huh, well that's not right..there is nothing in there to fall over..", Tim Said under his breath. "One second, Felix, I need to check this out"

Tim talked back towards Ara and rubbed her left should with a smile. "Are you alright blue eyes? It's good to see you. I'll be right back" he said, still wearing his goggles, not realizing how foolish he looked. Tim flipped on his reactor, just in case and began to exit the cockpit to investigate the sound.

"I need to be more careful?" She hid a smile, rubbing her wrist. "I'm fine, thanks. Good to see you too. Are you sure you don't need..,"  As Tim walked by, she laughs, "guess not," She looked at the Alicia Grey, "Hi, Felix," She waved before hearing a beep from her bag.

  "Ara, where are you?" Captain Bennett's voice asked, strictly through the talk box, "I just paid the dock master a lot to not put the Widow's name on the list and now you're playing around on an H.M.S?" 

 Ara giggled. "Nothing I can't handle, Captain, trust me!" She said back through the box. There was a frustrated sigh before the static stopped. Arabella laughed and puts the box back into her bag before staring out the window. "This would have been so fun to hijack," she sighed.

Captain Drake proceeded to open up the hatch from his crouched position against the frame, on the opposite side of the hinges. He slowly and carefully poked his head and the barrel of his gun inside. Quickly scanning the interior, he pulled back around the frame. “Good no one in there.”, He thought to himself. He stealthily moved around the frame of the hatch and closed it quietly, crouched and surveyed the scene cautiously. The room, more like a closet, not much wider than the hatch, looked to be a small pantry. Drake thought to himself, “Why the hell does TR have his main entrance hatch in the pantry?”

Still in a crouch, Captain Drake moved stealthily ahead to the door, just a few feet ahead. As he began to turn the brass knob to open the door, he heard approaching footsteps on the other side of the door. Drake tensed, dropped to one knee and brought the long barrel of the broom-handle Mauser up and pushed the door open. The footsteps kept coming, as Captain Drake released the safety on the large pistol.

 

Tim stepped up in to the next room and paused for a moment when he heard the outer door open and noticed a small amount of light peak it's head under the pantry door for a moment. He sighed, and pulled his disruptor from the holster, turning the armed weapon on in the process, it sprang to life with it's light and hum. He took a few more steps as the door began to creak open towards him. He paused and turned sideways, cracking his neck, puffing from his cigar taking aim and waiting sternly for the second intruder to show it's face around the corner.

Ara watching behind him,"The captain wouldn't have sent anyone up here.." she said under her breath.

 

The heavy door finally swung to a stop. Captain Drake had been careful not to push it too hard so it would open slowly and be an obstacle to an enemy who might be on the other side. The muffled footsteps outside had stopped somewhere close by. The seconds ticked away and felt like an eternity. All was silent, but for a new strange electronic whining noise and the sound of the ship. He thought, “That can't be the engines, we’re not moving.” He certainly didn't want to give away his position.

Tim stood, still waiting puffing on his cigar with a ridged stance as the door creaked to a halt. The room tense with anticipation, onlythe sounds of the ship and the high pitched whine of his disruptor could be heard.

Finally, after a minute went by, Tim was starting to get annoyed. He had a lot of work to do, data to collect, and now he was standing there waiting for someone who might just be as patient as he was. This had to end, time was being wasted, and he needed to get on with the testing.

Finally, Tim said in a gruff voice, "Alright chief, I don't have all day here, I need to finish these system tests before dusk. I don't know who you are or why you're here but if it’s to try and take my ship, you've got about a snow ball's chance in hell in doing so. If you don't show your cheeky little ass in the next 15 seconds, I'll blow my new mahogany door, you, and whatever the hell else is behind there with you in to molecular dust. That door is custom made and part of a matching pair so you damn well better not make me make that choice. It'll put me in one hell of a sour mood."

“Wait a minute”, thought Drake, that's TR's voice. He replied, "Ah, so it’s you and not some wanker trying to hijack your new ship. It's me Captain Drake. Boy am I glad to hear your voice."

Drake stood up, thumbed the safety of the Mauser back on and let it drop to his side. "No worries mate. I don't know what it was I heard coming out of the comm unit, but I trust it’s been taken care of. I'm sure glad I waited to come around that door frame. I'm coming out so don't let your trigger finger get itchy."

The Captain stepped out the open door, saw Tim there with his disruptor powered up and at the ready. He extended his hand in greeting as he dropped the Mauser back in its holster on his left hip.

At the sight of Drake, Tim eased up and holstered his gun, powering it off in the process, Drake with an extended hand. Flipping the switch on his power module, turning off the reactor, he walked up and shook the Captains hand.

"Christ, mate. What the hell wa....", he paused for a moment. "Oh" looking back and glaring at Ara. "Well thanks for coming to the rescue, that's two people I know that were almost vaporized today." Tim replied with a smirk. "So, Cap, how about we get on with this second run, eh?" He turned to look back at Ara, "Are you going to stay here for the next test, trouble?" Tim walked back to the command console in the cockpit, the comms still on. 

Drake ran his eye over the over the command console and the ships wheel as Tim asked him about getting on with the tests. Captain Drake replied jovially, “ My ship and I are ready when you are, just as soon as I can wrap things up here, call my personal air launch and get back aboard the Wyvern.”

Drake glanced at the command console again and noticed for the first time the blonde adolescent girl, whom he guessed to be in her late teens or very early twenties.

 

"Yeah, I guess so," Ara said as she stuck her tongue out as he passed by her before rolling her eyes and following him with a giggle, before going into the command console.

 

Drake noticed that, surprisingly, for the very fast and maneuverable ship that it was, it lacked a pilot's seat with a proper harness to ease the rigors commonly faced by those who partake in sort of flying. He was about ready to chalk it up to a slight lack of experience and let it pass. However, when Tim asked the girl, “Are you going to to stay here for the next test, trouble?”, Drake thought better of it because this girl could easily get hurt during these tests, especially while testing the secondary propulsion and made a mental note of it for later.

"Felix, you there mate? Sorry about that.  Ara tried to commandeer Archy and then the RAF had to save the day" Tim said smirking at Drake.

 

Drake continued to watch as the girl responded to Tim by sticking her tongue out at him and rolling her eyes. He gave TR another good natured chuckle and a toothy grin when he mentioned the RAF saving the day. All this as Tim summed up the recent events for someone on the comm named Felix.

 

 

"First off," Ara paused before processing exactly what Tim said, "RAF..."  She looked to Drake, smiling nonchalantly, she said "I'm not going to say that it's a pleasure yet, but Hi, I'm Arabella Porter," she looked back to Tim, "Didn't tell me you were friends with royal dogs. Now I know you'll have my bounty," She giggled again, "So what's next on the testing list, Oh captain, my captain?"

Tim turned and looked to Ara, "You know I could have had that bounty by now it I wanted it", He smirked turning to Drake, "You'd be surprised what the crown want's for her head, Cap.  Her and ole Queeny don't get a long too well"

Tim puffed on his cigar and looked back  at Ara, "I figured it would be easier to ask Captain Drake and the Wyvern here to assist than to have them get word of a strange new, rouge ship running about blowing things up. I don't feel like having a a fleet of Dreadnaught class air ships on my ass running all over hell and back, isn't that right Cap?", continuing to check a few things on the console "Well, Arabella, dear, next on the list is a secondary propulsion run and I really don't know what to expect." He looked over at her with a grin.

 

 “Knowing you, that’s probably making you just as excited as a little boy on a Ferris wheel,” she responded to Tim after he told her that he wasn’t sure what he was expecting.  

 

The regal, British officer was thrown back.  He wasn’t used to the outright disrespected that the young woman had just presented him. He wasn’t even giving the chance to properly introduce himself before the service he had devoted his life to, was belittled again and she continued on. Waiting patiently, for Tim to finish, he finally responded to Ara's comments. What first began as an introduction, quickly turned in to a lecture that only a regal, veteran'd britsh officer could retort.

He hooked his thumbs in his pistol belt, looked Arabella straight in the eye, and in a smooth dignified manner took a step towards her and planted his feet about a foot apart. He held her defiant gaze and said in a calm steady voice, “I'm Captain Maximillian Drake of the HMS Wyvern.”

 

He paused for a moment and gave a slight nod in her direction before continuing with a hint more menace in his voice, “First, young lady you should be ashamed of yourself for addressing a highly decorated officer of the royal Air Force in such a disrespectful manner.” He paused again as the metals on his chest jingled almost on cue.

 

As Drake’s response continued, Tim decided to pause his work and enjoy the show.  He leaned against the command center, smirking, puffing at his cigar watching him elegantly verbally assault Arabella, eagerly awaiting her response.

"Oh, this is just going to be great" Tim said under his breath watching away.

 

 

 “Secondly, you should be grateful that I don't have you clapped in irons and thrown in the brig for what you have done today. Third, I certainly don't have time to play your childish games. I have better and far more important things to do, like helping TR here with the testing of his new ship. Again the captain paused to let this sink in, his gaze not wavering a bit still staring her straight in the eye. “Furthermore, Miss, I would have you know that the bounty for you is probably miniscule at best. Certainly nothing any serious person like myself or TR here would even bother collecting, considering you proven yourself a very impulsive and foolish pirate.”

Captain Drake then turned to Tim without giving Ara the slightest chance to respond and said, “As I mentioned before we can start as soon as you are ready and I get back to my ship. However, I would personally prefer not to continue testing until I know this young lady is off this ship.” He paused pulled out his pipe, lit it and took a few puffs before continuing, “My main concern is for the safety of the young lady, I don't want to be responsible for allowing her to be thrown around and hurt when you continue the tests.” He paused again to take a few puffs and continued, “ I would recommend installing a pilot's seat with the proper restraints before we start again. I have one back at the ship that will work till you find your own. I can have it sent over when I raise my ship on my com and tell them to to pick me up. Honestly, with the kind of maneuvers you were doing earlier, excellent flying by the way, such an item becomes a necessity not a luxury even for the stoutest of men.”

 

 

Finishing up taking in the sails, it was quiet enough to once again hear the comms on the Alicia Grey.  "What the Hell is going on?" Felix said to Jack as he took off his jacket. Before Jack could say anything there was a splash off the side of the ship. A little while longer and Felix used the steam jets in his legs to get a boost up to Tim’s ship and climbed over the small rail. He heard an unfamiliar voice inside towards the bow of the ship. He took off his shirt and wrung it out as he walked in the main hatch towards the noise.

 

Yes, a bit of an overlook on my part. No need to worry about it Cap, I am going to work on some kind of mechanical or magnetic foot restraints in.  I have been enjoyed standing at the wheel. I still need to put in another console or two was well. As far as Ara's safety, she is a tough little thing but stubborn as all hell. If it comes to it, I can just fold her up in the bunks" He smirked at Ara puffing at his cigar. “Felix? You there, mate?” Tim said over the comms, hearing nothing but silence and a grunt from Jack. “Jack? Is that you?? You giant s.o.b. I take it Felix ran off in his normal fasion?” A grunt of affirmation was heard of the radio as Drake continued his monologue.

 

Still facing Tim, Captain Drake thoughtfully puffed on his pipe then addressed Arabella again this time with a with the same confidence and dignity as before he said, “As lacking in manners and apparently in a proper upbringing as she is....” He paused, softening his tone a bit and now with a gleam in his eye he said, “If she likes, she may of her own free will, accept my offer to come aboard my ship and observe the rest of the tests from the bridge.

 

At that moment, the pantry door thrurst open as Felix charged in.

 "What the hell is going on?" looking at the RAF Captain. At the sound, Tim stood, powered his reactor, drew and powered his armed gun in a single motion as Drake turned and drew his Mouser.

“Felix??” Tim said raising his goggles from his eyes for a moment then seeing the sky captain, dripping water, “Awww….the floor…” He sighed out holstering and powering off his weapons “Stand down Drake, he’s fine. Captain Maxamillian Drake meet Captain Felix J Belicose, of The Alicia Grey”

“Ah” Drake said, holstering his pistol, “Pardon my rudeness, but excuse me one moment while I finish this”

Tim looked at him, puzzled and shook his head walk over to Felix in the hallway.

 

“Welcome aboard the Archimedes, mate. I’d offer you a towel but she’d pretty bare bones right now. I wasn’t expecting this kind of crowd, I would have made punch if I’d known” he said with a grin.

 

Drake then turned and actually faced Arabella and added, “Very possibly against my better judgment”, he said with a wink, “I would hope that you will accept my hospitality, with the hopes that you will think better at least of me and maybe even the Royal Air Force from now on.” He paused again puffing on his pipe, then continued, “I ask you to trust me on my honor, as my name is only as good as my honor. I will do the same for you as long as you act in an honorable fashion and respect my ship and its cargo. I will personally assure you are not harmed or molested in transit and while aboard my ship. I ask that you either except or decline my offer by the time my personal launch gets here and if you decline I will personally drop you off on the docks or anywhere close by within reason before I head off to my ship.” He bowed slightly withdrew slightly and raised his comm unit and proceeded to call for his personal launch The HMS Stormcrow.

 

Arabella listened as the British Captain spoke, chuckling to herself at what he had to say.

 I don’t mind your talking as long as you don’t mind my listening”, she thought. She perked up when he called her a lady and upon finally finishing with his offer, Arabella only shook her head and giggled.

 

     “The way you’re patronizing me like a child could lead one to believe that I’m a lady. However, I’m not, and right about now, I could be waiting,” She pauses, stands, and picks up her bag, “eagerly to see what happens on the next test. But my imagination is ruined, sir, because I keep, involuntarily, visualizing duct-tape over your mouth. Now, if you’re done, instead of taking you up on your degrading offer, I’ll be leaving.  Tim, Felix, it’s been good seeing you. Now I think I’ll get back to the Widow.  I was really hoping to stay for the tests now that I’m on board but as I said before, Tori’s old dog here is just, not what I need to be listening to right now.”

She began to leave but stopped next to Felix, “You amaze me, you know that?” She grinned to him before heading back towards the hatch where she would find her life floater waiting.

 

"Good," Captain Drake responded non-nonchalantly as Ara walked out the door, "One more annoyance out of the way. Someone that disrespectful and rude doesn't deserve my hospitality anyway."

Drake thought to himself, "For a bit I actually respected her bravery, but now I see it’s nothing but childish and impulsive foolishness. Ungrateful Tart! And to think I actually felt a bit sorry for her. There are plenty of better people out there far more deserving of my kindness." But something he couldn't quite put his finger on still bothered him about the whole thing. She was too young to understand the motives behind his offer. It felt like that something had to do with the few things he, Captain Maximillian Drake, was lacking in life. Something had stirred in him that drove him try to get her to trust him. She was too young and naive for her to be a love interest. Captain Drake prided himself on the fact that he knew himself very well, or at least he thought he did. Those foundations had been shaken just now and this was a matter that would bear more thought in the future.

"Oh well!" He said as he repacked his pipe and turned to face Tim and Captain Felix J. Belicose. He put his pipe in his mouth, lit it, and puffed a few times to get it going and extended his hand towards Captain Belicose and said, “An honor and a pleasure to make your acquaintance Sir."

Felix watched the discourse and shook his head when Ara walked by. As max extended his hand he took it and returned the handshake. "And who might you be?",he asked

"Captain Maximllian Drake of the HMS Wyvern", Drake replied shaking Captain Belicose's hand. "I've heard a bit about your exploits Sir. This as I'm sure you are aware is no simple task considering the nature of your work. That is unless you know the right people, and even then information is scarce, but that is how it should be. Regardless of what anyone says or thinks, I gotta respect a man in your line of work. I prefer to form my own judgements of people Sir, based on my experiences not that of others. You and I Sir I suspect probably have much in common and may very well see eye to eye on many things."

Drake paused for a minute listening, as a loud hum resonated through the hull of the ship. "That sounds like the engines on my personal launch outside. I'm going to have to get going here so TR can finish his tests. In fact you look like you might be in need of a towel. I'm pretty sure we have a few on the launch. If you'd like, feel free to stop by the ship to observe the rest of the tests, and for that matter, any time as long as we're in port."

Captain Drake paused raising the com, "Lieutenant, the main hatch is on the starboard side. Please dock and extend the gang plank and send in a sergeant with a towel or two. Over."

Captain Drake looked over a Tim for a second, "You sure you don't want that pilot's seat to use for now, so we can get on with finishing the tests as soon as possible?" Drake unbuttoned his jacket sleeve on his right arm to the elbow revealing what appeared to be a power tool built into his metal clockwork prosthetic arm."I can install it in 5min. or less."

"Thank you for the offer, Cap but I think I will manage, and well, if I don't, it’ll be my own damn fault now won't it." Tim responded and chuckled as he patted Felix on the shoulder and walked back to the Command Console. Tim checked a few things then headed back to the hallway. Just then, two Royal Air marines walked into the cockpit threshold, stopped, snapped to attention and saluted. The Sergeant had two clean towels neatly draped over his arm. Drake walked over and took the towels from the Sergeant and offered them to Captain Belicose.

 

"Do you think your men would mind tending to the puddle on the way out, Drake? Since they are heading that way? Should be ready for the next line of tests, I may run in the back and check a few things for good measure.” Pausing for a moment in thought, “ I think I'll shoot for a nice open stretch of sky for this one", he said as turned and walked back

"Boys" He said with a grin, tipping his hat to the two sergeants and heading back to the engineering hatch passing the two Captains. Tim cranked the wheel clockwise and opened the hatch, a green glow and the sound of a highly pressurized steam system escaped as it open.

Captain Drake looked at the two Air Marine Sergeants, "Sorry to do this to you guys," nodding at the puddles on the floor, "but I'll make it up to you. A bottle each of my best brandy when we get back to the ship," he said.

"Now that's sight for sore eyes… Beautiful" Tim said grinning stepping over the threshold and to the propulsion console. "Should just about be set for the next run. Felix, you're welcome to stick around if you'd like too. Not sure how she's going to react on secondary, it's exciting" he yelled looking back down the hallway towards the two with a grin on his face and the cherry of the cigar reflecting off his goggles. "Hit me on the comms when you're ready, Drake", Tim continued checking a few more things.

"Thanks for the towels" Felix said as he wiped his face off. "I think stay here with Tim, he needs someone to save his ass if he goes out in flames." He turned and jogged down to where Tim went.

Captain Drake took the damp towels from Felix as he heard Tim decline the offer of the pilot's seat. Drake shot Felix a knowing look and shook his head.

"Ok," Drake replied, "Call me on the com if you guys need anything. you know where I'll be. And Captain Belicose, the offer still stands, stop by the ship some time.” He said as the Air Marine Sergeants had finished mopping up the puddles. "Ok boys, nice work, time to go," He said as he turned and strode out the door with the Sergeants right on his heels.

"You know building an airship from scratch is pretty ballsy.", Felix said once he reached the hatch in engineering.

Tim looked over at Felix at the threshold to engineering with a grin.

"You know me, mate. I can't do anything easily, plus, It gave me the chance to do her up with my kind of style. What do you think of the gal? Speaking of style, how's the Grey doing?" He said as he turned back to the console the checking a few other things between it, the reactor and some interfaces leading out of the room.

"Alright, the AER is purring away, the conduits to the pods look good. I think we are all set", turning a full spin, making one last check and squeezing out past Felix back to the cockpit. 

"Oh hell, you mind sealing that back up for me", he said as he turned back.

 

Sealing the hatch, "Sealed." Felix said as he followed Tim. He turned off the comm and turned on a jammer. "Tim the comm's are jammed, only for a moment. There is a lot going on, I have an invitation to an air battle. It’s for you." He pulled out an envelope and hands it to Tim. "It contains the coordinates of Avalon, the sky city."

"Thanks, mate" Tim Responded and then paused at hearing the name Avalon. He turned, slowly to Alex and lifted the goggles from his face, to the brim of his hat. 

"Avalon??? I've heard stories here and there, but.." he paused again. "Avalon...huh..." scratching the back of his head. "So she does exist? Just the engineering aspects....gives me chills" he continued on with a smile.  "Tell me about this battle.", Tim asked

 

"All I can tell you is its real and that the coordinates are in that envelope." He said walking behind Tim.

"Well then" Tim said twisting the envelope in his fingers. "That is just vague enough to perk my curiosity far too much. Probably shouldn't put something of this nature off, eh?" he said as he quickly walked back to the command console, tucking the invite in to the left breast pocket  of his coat and tapped on the vocal input. "Oh, Felix, mind deactivating the jammer? I say it's time we get on with the show" Tim asked, grinning as he pulled his goggle back down over his eyes.

“Done”, Felix responded and stood by the back wall.

Having gotten back to the ship and having squared away the fallout from the earlier debacle, Captain Drake checked the coordinates, handed over the controls to his first mate and strode out on to deck outside the bridge again. He lifted the comm unit on his arm, "Ok, TR The Wyvern is in position at exactly a mile to the target. If you are testing your secondary propulsion systems, then it might be better for me to move another mile from the target. Either way, it’s my guess that you are going to come up on the target so quick that only the radar is going be able to clock you accurately."

Captain Drake barked an order over his shoulder telling his First Mate to take up a new position 2 miles down range from the target. "Yes Sir," was the response, as the giant airship's engines thrummed louder. Drake lifted his comm link again, changing the channel, and ordered the Senior Radar Officer to be ready to clock Tim's ship speed as soon as the Wyvern was in place.

A minute went by and the ship came to a stop parallel to the floating junk air barges 2 miles away. "Hold steady this position," Drake barked as he again raised the comm unit and fiddled with the frequency dial. The com crackled and he said, "Ok TR, the Wyvern is in position and ready to clock your speed on radar. Proceed with testing when ready, over."

"Roger that, Captain Drake." Tim replied over the comms and paused for a moment, "You know what, I think I'm going to take her back a bit more, just to be safe. I'll head to the back edge of the ship yards."

The Archimedes, still hovering at its starting location where it came back to rest after the last test, came to life as Tim slid the throttle forward. The four large propulsion pods roared and bellowed steam exhaust, pulling the Archimedes to 50% throttle.  Tim maneuvered her around and headed back then slowly acceleration her to 100% throttle. He soon was about a mile further back from his previous position and decided to head back one more, once there he turned the ship around with the Wyvern in view about 3 miles ahead and throttled her down to a halt.

 

“Alright Drake, do you still have good visual from back here? Figured I better be safe than sorry, not quite sure how this is going to back out.” Tim asked over the comms.

 

Captain Drake raised his binoculars and focused on where Tim had come to a stop. He switched his com link to another frequency, "You guys in Radar have him on your scopes?"

"Affirmative Sir."

"Ok, I want you to track him on Radar like he's a target. You pick him up as soon as he passes our bow. Make sure you switch off the speed compensator for the guns, we're not loaded and we're certainly not firing. With any luck when he does it will be fast," Drake replied.

Drake then switched the frequency back and put his binoculars back on Tim’s ship. "Ok Tim I have visual and we have you on radar. I should hope you aren't paying any attention to the 15 inch guns on my ship to begin with, because the front 2 will be locked on to you the whole way, but the part of my radar best suited to this sort of reading is wired through my guns. They will track you like they would a target, however we are not locked and loaded so there is no chance they will fire on you. I just didn't want you to be alarmed. Begin when ready, and may the winds be in your favor. Good luck. Over"

 

"Well that'll be something to see" Tim chuckled over the comms "Thanks for the heads up Cap. I need to engage the systems and I'll let you know when I'm ready for the run"

Below the throttle were two toggle switches with two corresponding buttons underneath. Tim flipped both switches up and pressed the first button on the left.

A loud mechanical noise rang through the hull as clamps disengaged the gondola, not a moment later, the entire gondola shook for a moment, followed by the sound of gears cranking as it retracted in to the balloon.

Once the brass tip of the gondola was almost flush with the bottom of the balloon, the gears stopped cranking and the locks re-engaged the gondola with a shimmer, loud clank and a hiss of steam. There was just a small sliver of the once encompassing front view window, now available for use. Tim grinned as he pushed the second button.

The sound of steam from the form main engine pipes hissed as corresponding valves redirected the pressure.  Outside, the spinner of the propeller extended forward on the propulsion pods simultaneously. The four blades of each propeller disengaged and pivoted towards each other. Once parallel with the spinner, they retracted in to the pod as the spinner itself did the same, recessing itself about a foot in to the pod from their previous locations. Then with a hiss of steam, the four propulsion pods retracted themselves on their support struts till they were flush with the ballon and locked in place.

Tim reached over to the throttle and flipped up a hidden latch on the side, exposing another switch, flipped it and then closed the latch. A loud, low, electrical hum slowly rang throughout the ship raising a slowly in pitch accompanying a growing white glow, coming from the clear rings on the front cap of the propulsion pods and was also visible around the recessed spinner on the back. Once reaching its peak, it held its low cycling tone (wah wah wah, kind of like the pod racers in episode 1) and was faintly audible on the deck of the Wyvern.

Tim turned back to Felix with a grin, “You here that, mate? She’s singing to me” Turning back, “Alright Drake, ready to commence testing. Hold on to your hat, I’ve got a good feeling about this” Tim said over the comms.

 

Felix silently, reached down and flipped a switch as his stance became a little stronger. The electromagnets in his legs had started to fire up, securing his feet to the deck.

Captain Drake watched TR's ship transform into something quite a bit more aerodynamic. "Good," Drake thought, "Now the drag won't tear it apart."

"Nice work TR," Drake said over the comms, as he watched the Archimedes finish its transformation through his binoculars. "The transformation is no small feat in its self. Now, let’s see how she flies, over."

Captain Drake put the binoculars down for a second and reached into the pocket of his uniform jacket and pulled out a set of small rubber earplugs and inserted them into his ears. He then picked up his binoculars and focused in on Tim's ship again with one hand while he moved the other to the rail in front of him. "Brace yourselves boys and hold her steady, we're in for a bit of turbulence," Captain Drake barked over his shoulder.

 

Tim took the wheel of the Archimedes in his hand and moved the halves, checking the movement on the propulsion pods.

“Well, here we go” Tim said, puffing on his cigar and then slammed the throttle to 100%

Without hesitation the now glowing rings on the front of the pods shined like a bright star in the daylight and the ship launched forward at an insane rate with a low deep, rumble, returning the favor to the unsecured scientist, shooting him backward through the air in to the hallway behind him.

Felix swayed with the launch, the electromagnetics holding him in place, as he shook his head watching the cackling man fly backwards through the air. Tim touched down, landing on the reactor on his gun belt and slid to the engineering hatch.

Captain Drake watched as the propulsion pods on Tim’s ship shined brightly as the engines emitted a long low rumble. The Archimedes rocketed forward, Captain Drake mumbled, "That's gonna hurt," as he imagined the unsecured TR being thrown across the cockpit of his ship.

“Son of a bitch..” He said as he looked up seeing he has almost approached the Wyvern. He got up and sprinted back to the console, fighting he acceleration as he ran.

From the Wyvern, a pressure cloud could be seen building up at the front cap of the Archimedes. As Tim jumped down in to the cockpit, the cloud broke, releasing a loud shockwave throughout the ship yards as the ship continued accelerating.

An airship not much larger than The Archimedes emerges from the north, its fins on the tail and balloon the ship turning slightly as she drifts in ,  her captain at the wheel of the spoke in a thick Russian accent  into the comm unit “ Greetings comrades, could any of you provide some fuel?” suddenly a large crash was heard “ and some supplies…”  she smiles, steadying the jet engines so she floats at a rest above the Alicia Grey.

Captain Drake was glad for the earplugs, the bullet proof windows on his ship as well as the size of his ship as Tim whipped by the decks of the HMS Wyvern at supersonic speed. The shock wave rocked the deck of Drake's ship up and down by five degrees despite its great size.

Tim reached the command console just as the Wyvern flashed by on the port side. He grabbed the wheel and braced himself on the console as the ship began to shake, rapidly approaching the barges. He eased back on the wheel and moved Archimedes to the left of the derelict ships without a second to spare. The shaking becoming ever more intense, Tim eased down to 50% and it subsided, though she was till traveling at an insane speed.

Drake hoped that someone had reached the helm because The Archimedes was nearly upon the heap of the first air barge. He exhaled, when at the last possible moment Tim's ship banked left going around the barges, and disappeared from view.

Tim made a wide, but quick turn and headed back towards the Wyvern, now miles way.  He throttled up to 75% and another shockwave burst through the yards. Passing the starting point, he throttled back to 10% power and made a sharp turn and headed back to the Wyvern. He slowed her to a stop, just before the deck where Drake stood, the engines still emitting their deep pulse.

Seeing a similar sized ship rearing back, the Russian Captain stepped out onto the bow, sitting on the thinnest beam as she watched the events curiously and listening to the ship sing as it springs to life. The large red flag with the ‘never-ending compass’ branded brightly flutters in the wind, identifying her as ’the Golden Compass’.  Her traditional structure mostly of steel and wood fashioned with brass fixtures shining slightly, a large balloon on top with copper and brass fins on the tail hanging above. The forecastle covered in Plexiglas as an observation deck to see all around, a handful of plasma cannons on each side, looking more like a fancy boat than a war vessel. The structure shuddered again from the second shock wave as some of the wooden structure fell away, revealing a large hole and damage around the keel.  “By the gods !” she said as she momentarily lost balance running to the back trying to make repairs that last long enough to make it home.

Drake again heard a loud rumble as Tim's ship began its return trip back and the decks of the Wyvern again rocked as his ship swept by. Captain Drake reached up and removed his earplugs and replaced them in their small Ivory decorated box and put it back in his pocket as Tim's ship came to a stop even with the Deck of the HMS Wyvern. The built in com unit on Captain Drake's arm crackled as Drake spotted TR's grinning face through the now slit of a windscreen.

“Well then” shaking himself out a bit and rubbing his back “That went bit better than I’d hoped.  She got a little shaky there but I think I can remedy that if I engage the protection barrier to increase structural integrity. How’d she fair, Drake?” He said over the comms, peaking at him through the slit of a front window.

 

Captain Drake lifted the com and replied, "Not bad from what I saw. You definitely broke the sound barrier for sure. Now the question is by how much? I haven't gotten the official radar results back yet. I expect them any moment."

Drake turned to face the fast approaching footsteps of his Junior Radar Officer. The officer stopped and saluted, "The radar results you asked for Sir," He said handing Captain Drake a slip of paper.

"Excellent," Drake replied, "go back and prepare the targeting systems for the next battery of tests."

"Yes Sir," replied the young officer saluting and hurrying off.

Captain Drake turned back to face the Archimedes hovering off the bow, "Well TR not bad indeed. Looks  about  515 meters per second, or 1,152 mph, that's just short of Mach 1.5. I don't doubt you could go over that if you engage your shields as you suggested. Room for improvement I guess." Drake said as he read from the paper in his hands. He added with a mischievous grin and a glint in his eye, “How was the ride Mate? Comfortable?"

Tim smiled as he rubbed his back looking out the windows, "Not too bad, a little....elevating" Tim said with a chuckle. "Felix got quite the show" Tim paused and looked over towards the barges. "Well, I would say propulsion checked out quite well. What do you say to me helping you clear out some of access barge inventory, eh?" Tim then saw the unfamiliar vessel starboard and remembered the wide band communication that came through during the run and switched to a multichannel broadcast.

"Sorry about the delay, mate.  My mind is preoccupied over here. I'm afraid I won't be any help with fuel, Archy here is all electric. You don't alright over there?" He replied

“Dah, Commrade, just a long journey”, replied a woman’s Russian accent after a few moments “Would you happen to know where we could refuel? We still have quite a journey ahead of us”

“I would check out the main docks, they aren’t traveled much but a bit more so than here.  I think a few supply ships should be in the area within a day or so. The dock master should be able to help you out a bit more. Safe travels”, Tim replied.

“Thank you Commrade”, she replied as the ship turned and left the private yards.

Felix listened to the conversation with the strange Captain then disengaged his electromagnets.

“Nice run, Tim. I’m looking forward to seeing what else she can do. I need to get back to the Grey, I wouldn’t keep the sky city waiting”, Felix said walking down the hallway to the outer hatch.

“Thanks, mate and I won’t”, Tim replied as he heard the hatch open and seal. Felix was visible in a dive off starboard, flipped and fired his steam jets just before he hit the water and swam back to the Grey.

Captain Drake glanced over at the hulking junk air barges and said, "This is the part I've been waiting for all day." He raised the com unit and fiddled with a switch changing the frequency. "Sir this is Captain Maximillian Drake, we will be commencing the gunnery live fire exercises I mentioned the other day in the next few minutes. Just so you know that we aren't being attacked. Over"

"Noted. Clearance to proceed with gunnery trials when ready Captain Drake," the old Admiral replied.

Captain Drake switched the channel back to the Archimedes and continued, "I just notified the Admiralty that we will be commencing the gunnery exercise., standard procedure with such things. We have been cleared to do so. I haven't run a battery of tests on the Wyvern's guns for a while so I'll give it a go on the farthest barge with my 15 inch guns. There is a wheel house over there marked for destruction. This will give you something to compare the damage of your guns against."

Captain Drake walked into the wheel house and faced his first mate, "I'll take the helm. Work with Radar and get me a lock-on to the wheelhouse of the farthest barge."

The First Mate stepped away from the wheel and saluted smartly, "Yes Sir," and went to work.

Captain Drake took the wheel and moved the throttle levers slowly down till they were up to cruising speed. "Heh heh.......hitting a stationary target while at a standstill is too easy, so I'm going do it while moving and give those barges fighting chance. These guns, if used properly, are capable of hitting a target up to 18 miles away. We are only 2 miles away so I'm sure I'll hit the target with ease still."

As the Wyvern swung into position and began its cruise down a parallel path with the floating heaps, the giant 15 inch turrets swiveled to the side with the target. Captain Drake switched on two green back lit screens in front of him. The First Mate reported back shortly after, "Locked on to the target sir, all guns ready to open fire at your command Sir."

Captain Drake glanced at the additional 2 targeting screens he'd turned on seeing that the directional indicators on the bottom were tracking the target in both the fore and aft guns. At this point the ship had made its first pass by the heaps. Drake wheeled the ship around expertly and set her back on a parallel course. "Forward Guns........Commence Fire," Drake yelled.

The first turret in the in the bow opened up with the two loud booms of the twin 15 inch guns followed by a loud whistling sound as the rounds whistled down range. Then another two loud booms as the second forward guns fired in quick succession followed by a whistle. The first shell hit the wheelhouse of the dilapidated air barge dead center and sent shards of shrapnel and wooden decking everywhere leaving a gaping hole in the roof. The second shell hit more to the left destroying the whole front wall of the wheel house causing it to begin to topple forward. Before it could hit the deck though the third shell landed this time further right just short of center blowing the majority of what was left of the wheel house to pieces. The fourth shell landed further to the right of center, and exploded leaving a gaping hole the size of what used to be the wheel house in the deck with billowing clouds of black smoke coming out of it.

 

After tooling around in the small vessel for a bit, Arabella climbed back onto the S.S Silver Widow and upon entering, Mercurian stood waiting.

  “She wants to see you,” Mercurian smiled.

 “You remind me of my mother when used I come home too late,” she said quietly through a grin as Mercurian walked away. “Except older and uglier,”

“Shouldn’t you be in school?” the quartermaster responded, evoking a laugh out of the first mate as his steps knocked down the hallway. She walked quickly to Captain Bennett’s study and entered without knocking.

“It was Tim’s Archimedes,” she plopped herself in the chair in the corner.

 “You’re going to get yourself killed like that,” the precocious younger girl looked up at her without moving her head from being parallel from her paperwork. “Even if that ship had one person aboard, it had a backup.” There was an explosion and Ara went to the giant window. “That ship is new. Just weapon’s testing,” Her captain responded nonchalantly. “I got a letter calling for a battle royale.”

“Are we,-“

“No. It sound like fun but quite frankly, I don’t see a point.”

“Captain, we’re pirates,” Ara said excitedly, “Since when do we only do things only when they have a point?” The sky captain rolled her eyes.

“Sometimes I think that you’re trying too hard. Then I remember that you don’t try at all,” Ara frowned as Charlotte Bennett grinned, looking up from her desk and paper work.  “My best friend,”

“I’m not your best friend?”

“No. My best friend, Captain Virote of the P.A.S Suchin is going to that battle royale. He recently lost his first mate and since we won’t be doing much in the next few months,

“Where are they from?”

“Thailand. You seem eager to go to that battle so I’m sending you.” As the captain told her the details, Ara looked to the intercom and had an idea. The captain stopped and waited for Ara to share.

“Bells, is there something on your mind?” She leaned back with impatience as Arabella arranged a few dials and pressed the red button.

“S.S Silver widow to Archimedes, are you dead? Over.”

The static was faint before nonexistent. Ara felt her eyes roll impulsively almost before adjusting the dials again.

“S.S Silver Widow to Archimedes. How are the guns on that girl,Tim? Have you blown yourself up yet? Over.”  She laughed. Captain Bennett’s facial expression seemed to shrink with annoyance. Ara looked behind her and winked. “You love me,” she told her captain before turning her attention back to the intercom.  “Tim, want to see if your ship can stay in the air when being attacked? Over.” She joked.

“Porter!” Charlotte yelled.

“What? He’ll know I’m kidding!” She said with her hand still on the red button, “He knows me,”

 

"Hell, well look at that", Tim said shaking out his ear with his finger after the blast from the 15in guns. "That should be quite the control to compare with. Thanks Cap." A message then came through on the comms, static y at first and Tim reaching over twisting some dials on the comm panel, "One moment, Drake, message coming in" as he made a couple more adjustments. "Ah, there we go" Tim said.

“...idow to Archimedes. How are the guns on that girl,Tim? Have you blown yourself up yet? Over.”  As the message barked over the comms, some chatter heard in the backgroud “Tim, want to see if your ship can stay in the air when being attacked? Over.” 

"Well hey there blue eyes, you did make it back down alright I see." He said with a smirk, puffing on his cigar "I haven't started testing yet, the Wyvern was doing some control shots for comparison. Hold on for a tic, would you, good lookin? I need to get going with this. I will need to do a quick test of the protection barrier though. Don't underestimate this beaut" He said with a chuckle "Over and and out" Tim said tuning back to the Wyvern.

"Alright Cap. Let's do this. I'm going to keep her in secondary propulsion and she how she fairs."

Tim turned to the weapons console and flipped a red toggle switch cover and flipped the switch underneath. It was labeled with a B. He then leaned over the wheel and flipped three switched under the 3 consecutive screens and then glowed to life with an almost, sepia hue. The two on the ends were view screens currently displaying directly off the bow and the center was a radar screen, actively sweeping. He then flipped open a flush cover in thumbs reach on each half of the wheel.

“Alright Drake, I’m going to commence the first pass”

Tim casually throttled to 25% on secondary propulsion and was hurdling towards the barges, a bit faster than under the steam system. He throttled to 35% upon nearing the wrecks and focused on the view screens and the radar. He closely passed the first and second wreck and lining up with the third, depressing each button on the wheel twice and launched 4 beacons from the top two tubes on the bow of Arch that hit a small area on the hull of the air barge and magnetized while simultaneously digging 4 claws in to it. Tim pulled back and the Archimedes climbed vertically in to the air just before colliding with the wreck. He turned back to the Wyvern and away from the barges.  He reached over to the weapons panel and flipped the cover on the switch next to the one previously used, labeled R. Still heading towards the ship, Tim depressed each button once, launching two rockets from the bottom tubes on the bow of the ship, cruising forward for a moment, then a quick beeping on the radar and the rockets quickly turned and began heading behind him. Tim thrust the wheel forward, plunging the Archimedes in to a dive and the depressed the buttons, again launching two rockets straight ahead before the radar beeped and they quickly turned and gained altitude and headed towards the barges.

Tim pulled back on the wheel and brought Archy around to view the wrecks just as the first two rockets hit.  A fiery, green explosion sent shards of wood and steal in to the air, destroying the front ¼ section of the hull. Just as the fire began to clear, the other 2 rockets traversed through the newly created whole and did the same about of damage on the back side of the ship, the bow creaking and sagged as it lacked the support it once had. Tim smiled, turned the ship, accelerated and brought it back up parallel with the deck of the Wyvern.

Captain Drake stood with the binoculars to his face on the bridge. The rockets and their homing mechanisms worked quite nicely. "That's A heck of an improvement over dumb rockets," he thought to himself.

“Alright Cap, I’m going to test the main guns now.” He said as he flipped a red cover labeled MG and closed the covers on the other two switches, deactivating them in the process.

As he flipped the MG switch, the two bulbous appendages on the side of the ship cracked open at the center and slid open, folding in to itself. From each of the bays extended two tesla plasma capacitance disruptors similar looking to Tim’s side arm but about 3ft in length, the plasma chamber visible at the back just prior to the capacitance chambers in between it and the tip of the weapons. The chambers began to glow green as the weapons charge with an electronic hum. The tips had three curved arms, meeting at a copper, coiled ball attached to the chamber by a tesla coil like shaft.

Tim flipped a switch just below the view screens and the switched from the bow of the ship to what looking like a view from the center of each weapon’s cluster. Just below the buttons under the panel on the wheel were two recessed spheres reachable by his thumbs. He moved the spheres as each gun pod rotated back and forth with 360 degrees of movement and 45 degrees of horizontal movement, the view windows showing their respective cluster’s view.

“Commencing run” Tim said over the comms as he throttled to 40% rocketing towards the barges. As the barges came in to visual, he plotted for a course in between the first and second. He maneuvered the spheres so that each barge was visible in either view screen. He depressed the sphere’s and the top disruptor tips glowed and then released a stream of bright light interlaced with red, blue and purple plasma about 2ft in diameter as the bottom disruptors repeated the same process, and then the pairs fired in succession. As each plasma stream landed, they blasted clean through each side of the ship blasting the wood and metal apart, leaving scorched wood and melting some of the metal as it dripped to the earth below.

Tim pulled up, turned and then headed towards the ship he hit with the rockets, aiming both weapon clusters just to the rear or the damage and opened fire. As the plasma hit, it blew through the deck and the rest of the hull and the front ¼ of the ship finally buckled and broke off from the ship, plummeting to the ground. Tim pulled back and turned sharply towards the Wyvern, descending to a parallel altitude

“Do we need to worry about that Drake or is it clear down there? Sorry about that, wasn’t quite expecting that. I think that went pretty well. Just need to check out the big guy and the barrier now” He said throttling back and swinging the Archimedes around to face the air barges.

 

"No worries on what’s below mate," Captain Drake replied as Tim finished unleashing his disruptors on the derelict air barges melting holes right through them, dripping molten metal to the ground below and shearing off part of the front of one of them. "Heh, I positioned the ships over the scrap yards, and paid all the workers to take the day off. Considering you are melting a good bit of those heaps you've already made less work for um tomorrow when they come back to work."

Captain Drake paused and puffed on his pipe, then added, “If I'd known the disruptors were going to be that efficient, I'd have used all explosive shells instead of just on the last one but have at. I'll finish off what you don't. Over"

"Hah, well then, I'm glad I can help the boys out." Tim replied over the comms with a chuckle. "On to the cannon then I suppose. You wouldn't happen to have anything smaller than the 15's to test the barrier with, would you? Not quite sure how much stress it's going to put on the AER"

"Well T.R," Captain Drake responded, "Most of the smaller stuff I have is on my personal launch, The Stormcrow. I do kind of want to try her out." He thought for a moment and said, “I’ve got twin fire-linked .50 Cal machineguns mounted on the tail, we could start with those and step it up to the 30mm. auto cannon in the front. Oh, and if that isn't nasty enough I have rockets, but we'd be wise to save um for last. I don't doubt that the shields will stop the .50s, and the 30mm shreds regular armor pretty nicely."

Tim thought to himself for a moment before responding, "I think either of those would be fine. Up to you mate. Let's go ahead and get past the cannon tests and if I don't overload the AER, we can go ahead with the barrier test and wrap it up." He said with a chuckle. "Thanks again for the assistance Cap, extended my gratitude to your boys for me as well."

"Ok that sounds good to me TR. This is the part I've been looking forward to all day. I'll have my crew ready and launch the Stormcrow. In the meantime let’s see what that beast can do," Captain Drake responded.

Drake turned briefly and barked a command, "Have The Stormcrow ready to go in 5 minutes. Full load out on weapons, 10 crew aboard and await my command."

"Yes, Sir," the Royal Air Marine officer replied saluting and racing off. 

Captain Drake turned to face the Archimedes again, "Proceed when ready TR. Over."

 

"Sounds good, Cap. I'll commence the run"

Tim throttled up the Archimedes and headed towards the barges. About a 1/8th mile from the barges, Tim throttled the ship down to a stop. He checked a few gauges on the center console and then reached over the weapons console, flipped 2 switches and then opened a cover marked C and flipped the switch underneath.

The large hatch on the bottom of the Archimedes began to open, splitting in to 3 parts as the front slid towards the bow and the two halves to the side. Once fully retracted, a large plasma cannon descended. A large plasma core at the rear, about 5ft in diameter with a brass cap on the back and tubing stretching around the plasma chamber to the next part of the weapon. On the edge of the cap were three anti mater particle resonators, similar to those on the reactor in the engineering room. There was a large capacitance chamber slowly rotating, emanating a green and purple glow. The tip was similar to those on the much smaller main guns.

Tim flipped a switch under the displays and the right monitor switched to show a straight on view from box but a bit lower. He took flipped another switch and the viewer zoomed in on the wrecks. Taking the wheel. Tim throttled to 1% and maneuvered so there was a ship directly ahead on the view screen.

With the barge lined up, Tim flipped open two hidden button covers on the and depressed them both simultaneously. The Tubes on the cap on the back of the plasma core began to glow brightly as the the core became more active. The capacitance chamber began to spin faster and hum, increasing in pitch as the green and purple chambers blurred in to two distinct rings. The tip began to glow, the corona increasing in size as the chamber spun faster. As the corona almost reached the hull of the ship, an immense stream of super-heated plasma and light almost 10ft in diameter exploded from the cannon traveling towards the wreck in a blink of an eye, slightly increasing in size as it traveled. At the release of the energy, a shower of sparks travelled the main conduits .As the stream hit the bow of the ship, it tore right though the bow and to the aft of the ship, dispersing it's energy throughout the surrounding material as it exploded out the rear of the ship. The dispersed energy traveled outward from the center liquefying the metal hull and scorching the wood. A few moments later the buckled outward from the center and broke in to halves and it continued deteriorating on its plummet to the ground.

Captain Drake watched as Tim targeted the remaining air barge with the large disruptor cannon on his ship. The 10ft diameter beam lanced clear through the barge like a hot knife through butter. "Pretty impressive, TR, definitely not something you would want to get hit by even once." He said to himself.

"Son of a bitch.." Tim said as the lights flickered as the final sparks rained in the corridor behind him and a few warning lights flashing on the main console. "Huh, that stressed the A.E.R a bit.." He turned and jogged to the engineering hatch and opened it, some smoke escaping from the hatch. The porthole around the core on the reactor a dim green glow and slowly reclaiming it's full glow and size. A few shorted conduits visible but still in working order.

"Damn, I'll have to reinforce those. Everything should be alright once the extraction catches back up" He said to resealing the hatch and heading back to the cockpit. Tim flipped two switches and depressed the corresponding buttons on the propulsion console and the gondola descended to it's normal position and the propulsion pods did the same as the spinners extended and the 4 prop blades were visible again. Tim engaged the steam props as the engines screamed to life bellowing steam exhaust as the reactor regained full charge. He turned the ship and sped back towards the Wyvern.

Captain Drake watched as a few whiffs of smoke emanated from the Archimedes as she converted back to its normal layout.

Tim reached the deck and throttled to a stop "Well, I sure as hell wasn't expecting that, but I don't mind. I think I'll have to hold off on the barrier testing till I do some repairs. I'm not too worried about it though. Propulsion and weapons were what I were most worried about and I think they performed pretty decently." Tim said over the comms. "Well, I sure as hell wasn't expecting that, but I don't mind. I think I'll have to hold off on the barrier testing till I do some repairs. I'm not too worried about it though. Propulsion and weapons were what I was most worried about and I think they performed pretty decently."

Captain Drake replied, “No worries mate. The last thing we want are the shields failing at a bad time, like in the middle of a 30mm auto cannon burst for example. I'll have the boys stow the Stormcrow in her berth in the hold." Drake took a few puffs on his pipe and continued, "Overall, pretty impressive for a first run TR. That disruptor is truly impressive. Give it its own power source and it would make quite the stand alone weapon. Even if you only get one shot before it has to recharge, looks like one good shot is all you need. I can think of a few missions where something like that would have come in quite handy. Anytime you need anything just ask TR and I'll see what I can do. Been a pleasure. Over."

 

“Aye” Tim said with a chuckle. “That would be a rather unfortunate time for a failure. I think it would have been ok, I just need to reinforce the conduits and it’ll be good.  I’m sure having the secondary propulsion engaged had a little to do with it as well, those systems don’t slack when it comes to power consumption.  It wouldn’t be difficult to mount the cannon and the large scale A.E.R on its own platform, more of a matter of me wanting to take on a government contract again and then mass produce my work.  Had a bad experience with some other folk trying to do that.. I could water it down for you guys if you’d like.” Tim smirked and chuckled over the comms.

“Well Cap, I do think that is about it. Again, the upmost gratitude to you and your men, Drake.  I think I can dig up a barrel of scotch to send over for you guys. I have a few kinks to work out but she performed better than I thought. Archimedes, over and out”,  Tim said and then reached over and disengaged the comm system.

Tim walked around the command console and raised his goggles to his hat brim and walked to the front window, the sun beginning to set in the horizon.

“Well, gorgeous, you did damn well today.” Tim said with a smile. “A few tweaks and minor repairs and you’ll be good as new” Tim reached in to his left breast pocket and pulled out the envelope the Felix had given him earlier.

“Avalon, eh? What do you think?” Tim said looking up before he turned and walked back to the command console. “I think we’d have a pretty good chance, worst case, it would be a hell of a good time, don’t you think, Archy? ” He grinned puffing on his cigar as he throttled up the Archimedes. The pressure dropped on the gages and rose with the song of the accelerating props on the outside, the steam exhaust leaving a short trail before dissipating in to the air. “Let’s get you patched up and see what this fabled city is made of.”

Tim latched the two halves of the wheel back together, increased the throttle to 50% and sailed the Archimedes off in to the horizon towards his makeshift warehouse as the sun glistened off the brass of the ship as it disappeared in to the sunset.

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