Centurion Chronicles #5: Piracy in the Skies
The Story Continues…
After the Centurions earned the gratitude of the 2nd Battalion, Manchester Regiment and the survivors of Beni Suef (Dr. Adelaide Swann, Kafele Neferet, Sabah Neferet) for depowering the Heart of Hakkar; Jack Scaper, Lady Laura Bancroft, Mokgosi Ramotswe, and Jeeves Cutler board the Areo Nautillus to take the Heart of Hakkar back to Henry Smith in New York City. (Dr. Joseph Kenrick and Dr. Wyrd remain behind to continue studying The Tombs of Aratakumba). The Centurions reunite with Laura’s other areonauts, Ishmail and Nemo Homer aboard the zeppelin and begin their journey across the Atlantic Ocean back to The United States of America.
As they fly over the Atlantic, Jeeves notices three aircraft set on course towards the Areo Nautillus. Every time he attempts to change course, the aircraft correct to continue the intercept. Jeeves lets the Centurions know. Laura, Mokgosi, and the areonauts take a defensive position in the cargo hold of the zeppelin. Jack disappears to get into disguise. The voice crackles across the loudspeaker and Duke the Daring warning that he and the Sky Pirates are planning on boarding the Areo Nautillus. Soon the signs of a blow torch are seen cutting into the hold. The crew takes defensive positions, with Mokgosi angling to the sidewall to ambush the boarders. Unfortunately, a second torch begins to cut a passageway into the hold right where Mokgosi is standing!
The pirates carve through the hull of the Areo Nautillus and enter into the Cargo Hold. While Duke appears to be a human with some kind jet pack, the rest of the pirates appear to be utopian combat automatons. (It is unclear what involvement Dr. Jonathan Mathias and Utopia has with the Sky Pirates, it is possible they stole some of his technology or they are related.) Duke demands that the Centurions turn over the Heart of Hakkar to him. Mokgosi responds, “Fine, take it” and tosses it out into the open sky.
Duke goes to dive after it, but Mokgosi fires his rifle, damaging the Jet Pack. Laura fires her Grappling Gun and snares Duke, entangling in the grappling line. The Automatons close in on Mokgosi and Laura, their hands transforming into blades and and torches. Outside of the aircraft, an Utopian Wasp piloted by Automatons dive bomb after the falling Heart. The Duke draws his blade and slashes at Laura, a blow she is able to nimbly avoid. The battle inside the Areo Nautillus grows more furious. Laura further entangles Duke up, while he attempts to slash at her with his sword (A blade he stole from an Ottoman Sultan, or so he claims), but Mokgosi is able to cause Duke to bury the blade into the wall with a well time shot. As the conflict in the ship continues, an Automaton from the diving bombing wasp is able to secure the Heart.
Laura sees this, and with Jeeves, she jumps out of the cargo bay into the sky and onto the wing wasp below. (Two other Wasps have been secured by pirates with magnetic landing gear on the side of the Areo Nautillus.) Duke cuts his way from the grappling line, while Mokgosi guns down some of the Automatons. Duke then jumps out, with Mokgosi firing behind him. The remaining Automatons on board the Zeppelin cut and burn at Mokgosi. Laura is able to gun down two of the Automatons on the Wasp, but the Heart falls out into the open sky again.
Suddenly, Jack appears at Captain Stomcrow, Sky Pirate Extraordinaire on the wing of one of the Wasps. He boards the airplane and decouples the landing gear. He commandeers the aircraft and plummets to the ocean below to power up the Kinetic Engines. Duke dives after the Heart and secures it. Some of the Automatons leave the Areo Nautillus and are able to walk outside of it, magnetizing themselves to the hull and go towards the remaining Wasp. Jack is able to power up the Wasp and flies it up to the Areo Nautillus, allowing Mokgosi to jump onto the turret gunners seat. Mokgosi misses the jump, but is able to hook his foot into one of the Kinetic Cannons. The remaining Automatons attempt to jump aboard, but Jack is able to veer the plane away quickly, causing them to fall into the empty sky below.
Laura and Jeeves take the commandeered wasp and begin to chase Duke as he flies away, engaging in a vicious dog fight. Mokgosi rights himself as Jack begins to pursue the other wasp. They fire upon him, but Jack easily avoids them. Mokgosi is able to open up on the Wasp flown by the Automaton Pirates, blowing them out of the sky. Duke proves more adept at flying and begins to get distance on Laura and Jeeves.
The two Centurion piloted Wasps continue their pursuit after Duke, exchanging gun fire back and forth. The chase is interrupted though when the Centurions are fired upon by the Utopian Dreadnought, Morning Red from a barrage of cannon fire. The Duke flies quickly towards the aerial battleship. The Centurions begin to dive in, dodging another barrage from the Red Morning. Duke lands atop the airship, his boots magnetically clinging to the side of the aerial battleship.
Jeeves and Laura dive bomb the dreadnought, damaging the behemoth airship. Mokgosi overloads the Kinetic Cannons and Jack rams the side of the airship. Jack is able to eject him and Mokgosi before the Wasp collides with the Dreadnought. Mokgosi lands atop the Dreadnought, facing off against Duke. Jack misses the landing and ends up tangling from the rear prop of the battleship, hanging in the sky with the blades turning above his head.
The Morning Red continues on firing the remaining wasp flown by Jeeves and Laura, Jack and Mokgosi’s wasps slowly building energy, buried into the hull. Mokgosi faces alone against Duke and attempts to shoot the Heart from his hand. Duke flings a knife at Mokgosi wounding him slightly. Jeeves and Laura fly below the Dreadnought and let Jack fall into the open co-pilot seat. The Wasp buried in the Hull explodes, sending the Dreadnought into a spiral.
Jack screams, “Captain Stormcrow commands the skies” and pulls Jeeves’s eject lever, parachuting him out of the aircraft. Jack then commandeers it. The roll of the Dreadnought causes Mokgosi to lose his footing and he begins to slide down the side of the hull. Duke loses his grip on the Heart and sends it down the side of the hull after Mokgosi. Mokgosi is able to reach out and grasp the Heart. Duke hurls a knife deeply wounding Mokgosi as he tumbles down the side of the airship.
Jack maneuvers the wasp about the listing Dreadnought. Laura fires her grappling gun and snags Mokgosi. The dreadnought lists even more wildly, shuddering its death throws. Mokgosi continues to struggle to maintain his grip and wraps the grappling line about a metal pipe and ends up hanging in the air as the entire ship capsizes. Duke clambers down a hatch into the ship. Laura jams her grappling gun into her seat and slides down the rope meeting up with Mokgosi at the hatch.
Explosions continue to wrack the Morning Red, causing it to shudder. Jack strafes it with the Kinetic Cannons, but is unable to penetrate its armor. The grappling gun breaks free of the wasp and Laura reels it in. Mokgosi sees an open hanger bay and swings into it, intent on grabbing a parachute. He looses his grip and finds himself pinned by some crates. Three Automatons enter the bay and descend upon Mokgosi. Laura fires a grappling line to create a trip line and Mokgosi is able to trick the Automatons into a charge. They trip over the line and tumble out the bay doors. Jack flies the wasp by the hanger deck, allowing Mokgosi and Laura to both jump on board.
The Centurions fly away, with the Heart secured, watching as the Morning Red, covered in smoke and shuddering, disappears beneath the white clouds. They find that the Areo Nautillus has been following them and has already picked-up Jeeves. The Centurions secure the captured wasp. Laura and Jeeves tell Jack, with a fist, what they really think of his whole ejection seat plan. The course then continues to New York City.
Upon meeting Henry Smith in New York, he indicates that he plans on keeping the Heart of Hakkar along with the Tears of Anubai, locked in the Secret Vault to keep them from falling in the wrong hands. Henry Smith also indicates that The Centurion Club is interested in Utopian technology and he would be interested in securing the wasp they procured. Jack, Laura, and Mokgosi agree and turn the wasp in, earning the gratitude of the Centurion Club.