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Copyright 2005-2009, LeRue Press, LLC
The Ravager was dead in the water.
The afternoon sky was a deep blue with only several puffs of white clouds smudging the color above. The open ocean below was calm. Sun sparkled off the water, its bright prisms of light dancing about the ocean's surface. The large vessel stood like a floating rock against the calm waves that lapped against her dark hull.
"Well, at least weíre on schedule." Captain Weeds mumbled to himself as he stood on the upper deck and surveyed the Ravager.
The shipís hull flowed in a slick, aerodynamic design. The dark wood of the hull contrasted with the deep blue-green of the surrounding ocean. Three masts protruded from the deck in a triangular formation with a single mast toward the bow of the vessel and two side-by-side masts toward the stern. All three were angled backwards twenty degrees off vertical. Rigging stretched out all around the ship, creaking above Weeds' head.
The entire ship was destroyed. Two of the masts were broken off, pieces of the sails dangling above in tatters. Rigging hung in the air, tangled and knotted in chaos. The wood and metal of the hull was riddled with large holes that were partially patched. Splintered chunks of debris of various sizes lie strewn about the deck. The entire vessel was a chaotic wreck.
It was perfect.
Weeds' crew busied themselves with their work below him, oblivious to the surrounding clutter and damage. Some of them checked the damage making no effort to repair it, but to ensure its credibility. Others tugged and loosened clothing on their bodies to secure an appearance of distress. Powdered soot was passed around and applied to various areas of their bodies. True deception always found credence in the finer details.
Weeds wore a big grin under his neatly trimmed beard as he studied the men and women that served under him. A black quad-tipped hat laced in silver adorned his head. Dirty blonde hair mixed with a touch of gray flowed to shoulder length from under his hat. He wore a dark-blue-and-black outfit that was lined with silver-and-black trim. His small boltgun hung on his hip, loaded. Shining black boots finished off the outfit. Weeds felt good.
"Still no sign, sir," Gabe reported as he came up to meet the Captain.
"Theyíll be here," Weeds responded, looking to the man.
In his early thirties Gabe was all muscle. Standing six foot tall, he had broad shoulders and his chest stuck out with power. His dark hair was tied back in cornrows which kept it out of his tanned, stubble-covered face. He wore a rough dark-gray vest and loose dark-brown tactical pants that were decked out with various pockets and straps. A dagger was strapped to each of his thick biceps.
"The decrypted data sphere's said they'd be through here. The intelligence better not be faulty," Gabe said as he looked out to the horizon. "And itís hot out here."
"I should hope not. Your team secured it," Weeds said with a smile and a wink as he slapped Gabe on the shoulder. It was like hitting a brick wall. "So how does it feel to be back onboard?"
"Good. Real good," Gabe said. "I've missed this."
"It's been what, three, four months now since you got the Spec Ops command?"
"Three and a half."
Weeds nodded thoughtfully. Gabe was a former Ravager crew member and Weeds was glad to have him around again. Several months ago Gabe had been chosen to lead a Special Forces unit and hadnít been onboard since. His squad of eight was aboard the Ravager with orders to help achieve the ship's objective.
Weeds could see the frustration simmering in Gabe's eyes. He was second in command next to the Captain on this mission and didnít want to disappoint his old leader. The delay of their target was eating away at Gabe. Weeds easily picked up on the twinge of guilt that had befallen his friend.
"Itís good to be back, sir," Gabe said. Weeds always had a way of making people feel better. "Looking good today, I see."
"Always," Weeds said.
"And what about him? He all right?" Gabe asked, nodding to the bow of the ship past several crew members and wreckage where a lone figure was leaning against the railing.
"Rezen?" Captain Weeds asked, looking to the figure. "I think heís still sore you didnít recommend him for your team."
Rezen was a vael, a race not dissimilar from humans. This vael was young, only twenty years old. His back was turned to them, his attention on the calm sea. The Captain stared at him for a long moment, watching the vaelís bright green hair blow around his sharp ears in the faint breeze.
Rezen was almost six feet tall with a slim, toned build. Vaels resembled humans in almost every way except for their more angular features. The bottom and tops of his ears swept back into thin points under his wild, green-and-black-streaked hair.
Rezen wore a loose, dark, hooded sweater with one sleeve always rolled up around his bicep. Black baggy pants, with several pockets stitched into random spots, hung loosely off his waist with two equally loose belts. One pant leg was rolled up to match his sleeve. Several straps crossed his body, arms and legs, keeping his rapier and dagger in place on his lower hip. His skin, like that of the rest of the crew, had achieved a dark tan, earned from months at sea.
The vaelís shoulders were slumped and even though Rezenís back was turned to Weeds, the Captain knew the vael was bored.
"Heíll get over it," Gabe said.
"I hope so. I doubt it, but I hope so. You know how he is."
"I do. Which is why I didn't recommend him for the team. Rezen will understand one day. Maybe."
Weeds tilted his head. Maybe.
"Besides you need his ass here so you can keep an eye on him."
"You worry too much, Gabe."
"And you donít, sir?"
Weeds conceded the point with a slight nod.
Rezen had been transferred over to the Ravager seven months ago after recovering from an injury while serving on a different ship. Aside from recovering from physical harm the vael also suffered from a pre-existing mental condition. Something called severe repressed memory syndrome. Captain Weeds had been given a technical rundown from the doctors about the disorder, but most of the heavy terms and medical jargon had long been lost on him. Rezen was not crazy or lost. He just needed friends. Weeds was more than happy to help in that regard.
"Well at least he's still talking to you. Figured he would have either tried to knock you out or ignore you for passing him over for the promotion," Weeds said.
"Yeah, tough little shit," Gabe said with a respectful snort.
He had served with Rezen for only a few months before his transfer to special operations, but they had become good friends during that time.
"Your team ready?" Captain Weeds asked.
"Yes, sir," Gabe said. "Theyíre performing equipment checks now."
"Good, relax then. Just keep an eye out," Weeds said slapping Gabe on the back.
Captain Weeds took his leave of Gabe and went down to the main deck of the Ravager heading for Rezen. He had to step over several large chunks of wood debris to navigate the deck.
"Rezen!" Weeds called out in his joyful voice.
He strode past his crew, surveying the vessel, boots clunking on the deck as he approached the vael at the bow of the ship.
"Rezen," Weeds shouted.
The vael jumped a bit as he was knocked from his boredom fueled stupor. Rezen turned around and upon seeing the Captain he straightened up and gave a slight nod.
"Captain, sir," Rezen said.
"Your duties are done?" Weeds asked.
Rezen's grey-black eyes blinked several times as they shook off the rest of his bored expression. A thin scar running from his forehead straight down past his left eye onto his cheek was his only distinguishable feature.
"How are you feeling today boy? Lovely day, you know. Good day for clothes-shoppiní, donít you think?" Weeds said with a wink, folding his arms across his barrel chest.
Rezen smiled. Weeds had an insatiable habit of relieving enemy shipsí Captains of their well-crafted garments and adding them to his own collection.
"Donít think you need any more," Rezen said, running his hand through his hair. "The closets on the ship are pretty full, huh?"
"Never!" Weeds laughed, slapping Rezen on the back.
They fell silent for a moment, each one staring out onto the expanse of the open ocean. Regardless of the positive atmosphere the crew displayed there was a tangible feeling of trepidation lurking beneath. Everyone on board felt it.
"So, you ready? This one will be tough," the Captain said, his tone turning serious.
He leaned on the railing next to Rezen. The boat swayed gently in the docile waves, and the occasional ocean spray felt good on his bearded face.
Rezen was ready.
"Donít worry about it, Captain. With all the extra men weíve taken on, Iím sure weíll be all right," Rezen said as he straightened up and stretched his arms. "We have, what, sixty more men or something on board now?"
"This won't be a walk in the park Rezen. Just watch it."
"Just because you send the poor defenseless vael to the front line shouldnít make you feel bad," Rezen said cocking an eye.
Weeds shook his head and grinned.
"So where is this ship anyway? Weíve been sittin 'here for hours. Weíre gonna spend the rest of the day doing nothing," Rezen said as he slumped back on the railing. He had seen no sight of the vessel they were going to ambush and Rezen really did not feel like chasing the target through the night.
"You have something better to do?" Weeds asked.
"Sheíll come. Weíre in the right spot, sheíll be here," Weeds said.
"Cause Gabe said so," Rezen said, with a twinge of acid in his voice.
"Let it go Rezen. Your time will come."
"Whatever," Rezen mumbled.
Rezen was still angry at Gabe's decision to pass him up on the Spec Ops position. Gabe didn't think he was ready? Rezen would show Gabe he was ready on today's mission. That was a promise.
"So, why this one? Whatís the big deal?" Rezen asked. "I hate waiting like this."
The Ravager had left Kionic Island with orders to capture the vessel they were waiting for now. Weeds and Gabe were the only ones who knew anything about the assignment. The rest of the crew had been left in the dark.
"Hopefully this is nothing more than a false alarm," Weeds said at length.
Rezen cocked his head and looked to his Captain.
"Three point mast, southwest, two thousand and closingľ.slowly!" the lookout shouted from his perch in the crowís nest.
Rezen and Weeds walked to the other side of the ship, as did some of the crew, to get a glimpse of their target. A small dot had materialized on the horizon and Rezen knew it would be a long wait before the ship got anywhere near them.
Weeds looked at Rezen, his visage turning serious.
"This oneís important, Rezen," Weedís said, indicating the distant ship. "Keep your head about you. No foolishness. Oh, and donít go sinkin' her like you did the last one. Weíll be needin' this one seaworthy."
"Hey, wait, that last one was Exís fault," Rezen countered.
"Not according to her," Weeds said with a shrug, smiling.
Rezen dropped the subject in light of the worried demeanor his Captain was now trying to hide. There was something behind every word Weeds spoke that bothered the vael. Capturing and plundering ships on the Diaminican Sea was a risky business, but one that the Kionics did well. Most of the time ships would simply give up their cargo with little or no resistance and the Ravager would be on her way. They had experienced their fair share of scuffles and the occasional loss of life, but all of it had been well within acceptable limits.
"Whatís going on?" Rezen asked. He had never seen the Captain like this before.
"Just be ready. Weíve gone through the drills. You know what to do if anything goes wrong," Weeds responded.
"Planning on something going wrong?" Rezen asked.
"Wouldnít be much fun if it didnít, eh?" Weeds said with a grin, patting Rezen on the back.
Rezen tilted his head and looked out to the ship on the horizon.
"Fly the flag," Captain Weeds called out.
A bright orange and yellow flag shot up the mast as the crew fell into their practiced routine. Men and woman slumped their shoulders appearing drained of energy while others sat on the deck displaying looks of exhaustion. Several of the crew took to limping with imaginary injuries. The now weary crew mixed with the damaged condition of the ship finished off the scene.
"Here you go," Weeds said as he took off his hat and plopped it onto Rezenís head. Rezen grimaced as he felt the weight of the large hat land on his head. It began sliding down, covering his face.
"Looks good on ya' boy. Donít get it dirty."
Weeds walked off laughing, having other business to attend to. Rezen hated the stupid hat. It looked so bad on him and it didnít fit at all. The hat was made for a fat human head, and Rezenís smaller vael head was no match for the attire. He was standing there, struggling with the hat, when he heard more laughter. This time it was female.
Rezen recognized the sound and looked around for an escape, but the hat fell over his eyes and blocked his vision. He was going nowhere, and Exphasiaís irritating laughter was close now.
"Damn it," Rezen muttered under his breath. He folded his arms and braced himself for the mockery he was about to receive.
Exphasia laughed even harder when the hat engulfed Rezenís entire head and he made no move to fix it. With Rezen standing up straight and his arms folded, he reminded the woman of a toothpick with a piece of cheese on the end of it.
"Oh, poor Rezen," Exphasia tisked as she came closer.
Rezen still didnít move. He could feel her staring at him.
She walked right up to Rezen and tilted the front corner of the hat up, just enough to let her see his face. Rezen didnít move and just glared back at her with his dark gray, unblinking eyes. Her face was only inches from his and he could feel her soft breath as she chuckled at him. It was hard for Rezen to hold such a stern face in the light Exphasia's attractive features.
Exphasiaís tanned skin matched her brown eyes. Her slender figure moved with an edge to it that was accentuated by her youthful curves. Hair bleached by years at sea emphasized her darker skin tone. Her body, standing a few inches shorter than Rezen's, was lightly corded with delicate muscle. She wore a light-blue-and-black striped sleeveless top that openly exposed her midriff. Light green pants, with two black stripes zigzagging down the left pant leg hung loosely at her hips, accompanied by several small belts that hung even looser. Her delicate black sandals were open at the end to expose her tiny toes. Several thin black straps wrapped across her left biceps. Various piercings in her ears added to the intricacy of her style.
Rezen slipped the hat off his head and re-crossed his arms.
"In a mood today, I see," she purred, giving him a curt smile.
Rezen never fell for any of her seductive undertones that so easily caught most others off guard. He could not deny her beauty, but damn, did she irritate him.
"Iím not in a mood," he grumbled.
"You're always down about something," Exphasia said.
"Well, youíre always bitchiní about something," Rezen mumbled.
"What was that?" Exphasia asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Stupid vael, I come over here to be nice, to tell you good news..." Exphasia began.
"Good news? Youíre leaving the ship?" Rezen asked with an evil smile.
"You wish," Exphasia retorted. "Hatís still too big for you." She ruffled his hair with her hand and Rezen jerked away.
They stared at each other for a moment.
"Then what is it?" Rezen said breaking the silence.
"Figured out that new enhancement," she said, changing the subject. She folded her arms across her chest and stuck her hip out to the side.
"Here it comes," Rezen said, turning away from her and returning his focus back to the approaching ship.
"No, no, itís not like the last one," Exphasia countered.
"I doubt it."
Exphasia was only twenty years old, but she was a very good spherist. She had tricked Rezen one too many times into being her test subject on some new spell or enhancement she had learned.
"So damn ungrateful," she said with a grunt.
Rezen rolled his eyes.
"Itís hot today," Exphasia said.
Rezen turned to her, his gaze flat. "Itís always hot."
She stared at him for a moment longer and Rezen met her gaze full on, though not quite the way the young woman wanted him to. A call from the lookout broke the silence.
"Eighteen hundred," came the distance call, "and closing!"
They both turned their attention back to the water as the rest of the crew continued to scurry about the decks.
"Here we go," Rezen said and began to step away.
Exphasia took a step to the side and intercepted the vael. She unsheathed the dagger that had been hanging at her side.
"Here, I finished the enhancement for you. Itís got some heavy encryption on it. Should be tough to braek," Exphasia said, her tone now carrying a more businesslike quality. "I customized it just for you."
He paused and didnít respond at first. She gave him a sidelong look, puffed her checks out with air and blew out a long sigh.
Spherists channeled power from the different Spheres of existence beyond their own world. Rezen knew nothing of the art, but Exphasia was good at it and had used Rezen and his stuff more than once as test subjects for newly learned powers. His dagger was Exphasiaís latest victim.
"Thanks," Rezen said.
The blade was seven inches long and the handle was wrapped tightly in black leather. Now there was also some sort of very fine writing engraved on both sides the blade. He recognized none of the marks.
"Whatís it do? Whatíd you encrypt in it?" Rezen asked.
"You donít know what you did to it?" Rezen asked, hardly surprised. He knew the ability to enhance an item was difficult and he was skeptical she had done anything to his weapon at all.
"Iíll let you know if it works. Besides, you need all the help you can get," Exphasia said, smiling. She left him then and headed for the Captain, ready to tend to her duties. Rezen watched her leave.
She was graceful when she walked and Rezen was sure she was adding an extra little seductiveness to that walk right now. He turned away from her and looked out to the approaching ship. It was getting closer and adrenaline was slowly beginning to course through him. He looked down at the dagger again and hoped that it wouldnít explode when he used it.
"Second ship!" came the call from above.
"What the fuck?" Rezen mumbled to himself as he stretched his neck out, looking to the horizon in the direction of the first ship.
"Thereís two!" the lookout shouted.
Rezenís adrenaline began to pump. There shouldnít be two ships. The Ravager wasnít equipped to take on two ships for this mission.
The reaction of the Ravager's crew mirrored his thoughts as a sense of urgency sent everyone into motion. Rezen pushed himself away from the railing and went over to Captain Weeds, who was now standing with Gabe amidships with Gabe.
"The logistics said nothing of an escort ship, sir. They were supposed to be traveling under cover as a simple trade vessel," Rezen heard Gabe say in irritation as the vael came up to the group.
"Ex!" Weeds shouted to the helm, where Exphasia was posted.
"Sir?" she called down.
"Get down here please!" Weeds called back.
Exphasia ran down the stairs from the helm and met up with the small group that was forming on the deck.
"Are your scramblers still up?" Captain Weeds asked.
"Yes, sir. No way they're braeking my encryption to deactivate them," Exphasia said with confidence.
"Keep the spells up Ex. We donít need them looking in on us," Weeds ordered.
"What about theirs?" Weeds asked.
"Still up and theyíre still too far away for me to do anything," Exphasia said.
Weeds' mind spun into action as a million choices were fired up and shot down in the blink of an eye. They did not have the man power to take on two crews and running was not an option. it owuld take too long to put the Ravager back together and get her underway.
"Gabe, the escort ship -- it has to go down. No excuses. Can your men do it?"
Gabe tilted his head in the direction of the incoming ships. The lead vessel, he knew, was the Yummeril; it was their target ship. The escort ship was trailing behind by at least a thousand yards. The Ravager couldnít attack the ships outright; they had to board and gain control of the Yummeril in order to secure her cargo, which called for the plan of deception. They couldnít allow the Yummerilís crew any time to destroy what the Kionic's were after.
"We can do it," Gabe said, studying the lagging escort ship. "Iíll split my team up. Five of us will go and take down that escort. The other four can remain here and carry out the original mission on the Yummeril."
"That leaves our main boarding party leaderless," Weeds pointed out. The mission had called for Gabe to be in command of the main boarding party.
"Iíll lead!" Rezen burst out.
Captain Weeds, Gabe, several crew members and Exphasia all turned and looked at Rezen. Exphasia smirked.
"I can do it sir. Iím always right there in front anyway," Rezen said.
"No way, Rezen. You canít. This isnít a standard run," Gabe began.
"Gabe," Weeds said, interrupting Gabe. "You want this one, Rezen?"
"Yes sir," Rezen said, looking from Weeds to Gabe.
Weeds locked stares with the vael. The Captain's experienced eyes were met with a burning fire pouring out from Rezenís. The vael wanted this one.
"Who's dying with Rezen today?" Weeds shouted overdramatically to the surrounding crew.
The entire crew cheered and laughed. Weeds joined in with a grin.
"The commandís yours," Weeds said with a nod to Rezen. Their time was limited. "Gabe, what can your men do about that escort?"
Gabe locked his hardened stare onto the vael. He didnít like this one bit and Rezen knew it. Gabe shook his head as he shifted his gaze back to the Captain.
"Iíll split up my team. We brought extra charges just in case. My team will intercept the escort from behind. Disable or destroy it, weíll do what we can," Gabe said. "Rezen, if we fail, you guys wonít have much time to secure that cargo and get out of here."
"Weíll get it, Gabe," Rezen said, his voice dripping with determination. "I can do this."
"Get your team out of here, Gabe," Weeds ordered.
Gabe took his leave, disappearing through a door on the first deck level.
"Theyíre trying to braek my encryption, Captain," Exphasia said, her voice strained.
They looked over to the spherist, who had her eyes closed and her fists clenched down at her sides. Exphasia was breathing deeply, every subtle movement of her body under perfect control. It always looked awkward to Rezen. Her vision had shifted into the sphere spectrum, where she was able to physically view spell energy within the world around her.
"They have a good braeker?" Weeds asked, concerned.
The term "braeking" was associated with those spherists who had the capability to decrypt the security encryptions that were placed around spells. Encryptions kept spells safe from being dispelled, reversed or otherwise twisted. Spell encryption was an extraordinarily tough skill to learn and few spherists devoted time to the art. Braekers were often looked down on in most societies, as the skill was usually associated with criminal activity.
Like other braekers, Exphasia had created her own style of braeking which had served the Kionics very well. Right now her scramble spells would cause any enemy spherist trying to spy on the Ravager to blur and dissipate, making it impossible to see the activities on deck.
"Yeah, they do, shit," Exphasia growled, as a bead of sweat rolled down her cheek. "Itíll hold. I donít think they can get through."
"You sure?" Weeds asked.
"Itíll hold, sir," Exphasia reassured him.
"Good," Weeds said shifting his attention to the vael. "The aft caste and the helm, those are your goals Rezen. Lock them down fast. That ship cannot leave. You know the drill. We will provide ranged support, but these warships are no pushovers. Get to that helm fast and don't stop for anything. Understood?"
Every word Weeds spoke dripped with a profound hardness. The responsibility that Rezen had just volunteered for hit him like a ton of rocks. The emotional impact felt good.
"Yes, sir," Rezen said, with a dark grin
"Get your teams ready. Move," Weeds ordered.
"Sir," Rezen said, turning about to several crew members. "Ben, Hess, letís go!"
"Yes, sir," Hess said, and Ben turned around.
"Let's move," Rezen ordered, and the three left.
"What are they running, Ex?" Weeds asked.
While in the sphere spectrum Exphasia was in a realm of her own, one where she was able to identify different energies and encryptions visually. They appeared in fine detail, the particles of energy so clear she could almost reach out and grab them. Microcosms of symbols and streams of energy coursed over everything in a plethora of colors. It was a chaotic dream that only spherists were capable of translating. As if leaving her body and flying, she threw her vision out the approaching ships, trying to garner any information she could.
The ocean screamed underneath Exphasia as her vision rushed for the Yummeril. In the sphere spectrum the ocean looked like a rolling sea of purple-and-silver molten metal where trillions of symbols swarmed around in the swells. In just a few seconds the blurred image of the Yummeril was in front of her. A torrent of dark green and black ribbons of energy raced around the vessel obscuring her view.
As she had expected, she ran into an intricate set of scrambling spells, with deep sets of encryption embedded in the spells' energy fibers. Just as her own scramblers did for the Ravager, the encryptions around the Yummeril blocked her access to the vessel visually and spherically. Exphasia located fragments of the encryption as it twisted around the scrambler. They were woven tight using several different spherical algorithms, which were expertly fused into the scrambling shield. The scrambler lashed out at her scrying energy and annihilated it.
A whirl of shattered colors and symbols flashed before her eyes as she was returned to the deck of the Ravager.
"Damn it. So quick. I donít have time to braek their scramble, sir," Exphasia said. "This spherist is good. Really good."
"Thatís fine, Ex. Go get yourself ready," Weeds ordered. "So long as your scramble holds we will be fine."
Exphasia opened her eyes and looked around. She knew this fight was going to be tough. With a long sigh she made her way for the armory deck below.
Gabe and his Special Forces team emerged onto the deck, passing Exphasia. The four men who would accompany Gabe each had several packs strapped down around their legs or arms. The packs were spherically enhanced explosive charges, normally used for scuttling ships. Each man, including Gabe, had a cutlass or short sword strapped to their backs and small supply kits wrapped around their arm.
"Will they float? They look heavy," Weeds commented as Gabe met up with him.
"Should. Set 'em to full charge gentlemen," Gabe said, slapping one of the explosive charges while looking over to his men.
"Alright, get moving. We donít have much time," Weeds said and broke up the huddle.
Gabe and his team went over to the port side of the ship and double checked each otherís gear. Each man then took a seat on the edge of the railing.
"Rezen!" Gabe shouted to the vael, who had just finished organizing his four squads.
"What?" Rezen asked as he went over to the Special Forces leader.
"Still mad at me?" Gabe asked.
"I should be going with you, Gabe," Rezen said.
"No, you shouldnít," Gabe said, the stone cold tone killing the subject. "How're you comin' with that?" Gabe asked nodding to Rezenís dagger.
Rezen pulled the blade out and twirled it skillfully around in his fingers. As he spun the blade around the back of his hand, he lost control and it fell to the deck with several clanging sounds.
Gabe raised an eyebrow and grinned.
"Shut up," Rezen said in irritation as he picked up the weapon.
"Youíre made of some tough shit, vael," Gabe said. "Secure that cargo. I donít know if this plan is gonna to work," he continued, indicating his team and their current positions on the railing. "This mission is important, but donít get yourself killed. And watch out for Ex, too, huh?"
"Yeah, right," Rezen said with a snort, looking out to the specs on the horizon. "Current's with you. Youíll get there quick."
Gabe stepped forward and grabbed Rezenís shoulder with his powerful hand. He looked into the vaelís eyes.
"The mission is priority one, Rezen. It must be completed at all costs," Gabe said, his tone deadly serious. "All costs, Rezen. You get my team in there so they can secure that cargo. All other concerns are secondary. Understood?"
The grave words hit Rezen with a weight of responsibility he was not prepared for. Rezen knew what Gabe meant by the term "all costs".
"Yes sir," Rezen said.
"Donít fuck up," Gabe said. "Letís move!"
"Yes, sir!" his team shouted back.
Gabe shouted the order. The five men fell backward off the ship, flipping into the water below. Rezen looked over the side to make sure they had splashed down without any problems. After a few seconds he counted five heads bobbing in the water. The current picked them up and rushed them away from the stationary Ravager.
"Boarding squads are ready, Rezen," Ben said as he came up to vael.
"Tell Hess his team is in charge of getting our Spec Ops guys down into that cargo hold," Rezen said. "Get your men into position, Ben."
"The helm is our priority, we need to gain control and shut it down fast. They canít have any time to get away from the Ravager," Rezen paused and locked eyes with Ben. "All costs, Ben. We canít fail."
Ben gave a hard nod.
"Yes, sir. See you on board," Ben said and went back to his squad.
A wicked smile crossed Rezenís face.
--- --- ---
"Distressed vessel, we are here to help! Please have your entire crew come on deck," came a shout from the deck of the approaching vessel.
Rezen walked over to the starboard side of the Ravager and stopped just short of the railing. The other ship, The Yummeril, was pulling up cautiously to starboard. On her deck stood at least forty crew, all of them studying the Ravager. Although they were dressed in civilian clothes, Rezen knew each one of these people was a soldier in disguise. The crews body language betrayed their combat training.
"Captain, whatís left of us are what you see now," Rezen shouted to the other ship, which was drifting to a stop about fifty yards away.
The Yummeril was an Class Six Anciaun Annihilator class warship. The vessel stretched one hundred and ten yards from bow to stern and forty yards from port to starboard amidships. A forward sloping aft castle towered over them. She sat low in the water reducing its bulky profile. There were no guns visible on deck, but lining the hull on either side were at least twenty gun ports, all of which were closed at the moment.
The triple masts were tall and each held large canvas sail, which had been raised to stop the ship. The Yummerilís hull was made from a sort of golden brown wood that contrasted with the dark wood of The Ravager. Rezen noticed that all designation signs of the ship had been removed.
Rezen couldnít believe this ship was trying to pass itself off as a merchant vessel. He looked past the Yummeril to the escort ship, which was still lagging far behind. Good, Rezen thought.
As the two ships maneuvered closer together, the crew of the Ravager began to act out their roles of the wore out sailors. Captain Weeds and his squad of snipers were hiding in the aft castle and below deck along with three of Rezenís squads. Rezenís men, squad two, were on deck.
The crew of the Yummeril were being cautious, but still they greeted the Ravager with several friendly shouts. Rezen saw two children being herded off the deck and inside the Yummerilís hull. They had brought children along to help with ruse of the Yummeril being a civilian ship. Rezenís stomach twisted. These children shouldnít be here.
Once the gap had been closed, each ship tossed several grapples across to each other to secure the vessels. As they pulled each other in, Rezen studied all the actions of the crew. He needed to make sure that everything was in the Ravagers favor and not the Yummerilís. As he scanned the deck he noticed a slender women walk up to the Captain and begin talking to him.
She was dressed in a sleek, dark outfit accented with black and greens. Parts of it were skin tight and revealed a toned body underneath. Several slits across her tight shirt exposed her muscled midriff. She had shoulder length, curly brown hair streaked with black and purple.
Both the woman and the Captain paused, turning to eye the vael. Then the woman walked away from the Captain and up the stairs to the top deck, where she leaned against the railing and watched the grappling procedure with more than a passing interest. Her movements were very precise and that bothered Rezen. He already disliked this woman.
"Well met, Captain," Rezen shouted," As you can see we are in desperate need of repairs."
The Captain of the Yummeril was a short man with a gut. His face was cleanly shaven and his black hair was slicked back. His eyes darted around the Ravager and back to Rezen.
"Yes, looks as though you have lost a fair bit of canvas," the Yummeril Captain called back as the two ships bumped into each other.
"Yes sir, Captain. we would be grateful for any repairs you can help us with," Rezen said.
The Captain of the Yummeril surveyed the Ravagers decks. The hull was badly damaged, the masts were broken off, rigging looked shot and the crew appeared beaten and tired.
"What happened here? Pirates?" the Captain asked.
"No, nothing like that. A freak wave caught us off guard. We were slammed into a small reef just west of here. Tossed us around good. Almost capsized. I lost half the crew and one of my main masts. Weíve been stuck out here for a week," Rezen explained, striking a posture which conveyed that he retained his dignity, but was badly beaten by the sea.
"We have some spare supplies. It should be enough to get you along to the closest port," the Captain of the Yummeril replied.
The Ravager groaned as the two ships lightly bumped into each other, the water between them lapping at their bows. The size difference became very real then. The Yummeril had almost twice the bulk of the Ravager. Welcomes from the two crews were exchanged, as well as several more lines securing the two ships.
"Thank you, Captain for stopping. I feared you would have thought us pirates and changed your mind," Rezen said to the Captain who had come up to the railing of his ship to better inspect the damage.
"Yes," the Captain replied, his tone slow. "These waters are dangerous. Youíre lucky the Kionics didnít pick you off. Iím told your scrambling energies are still up."
"I take my precautions, Iím sure you can understand that," Rezen said.
Some crew members of the Yummeril brought forth several thick boarding planks and began to lay them out across the gap between the ships. Rezen studied every movement of the Yummerilís crew. There were at least twenty men on deck, possibly more. He figured the woman had to be the spherist. His attack strategy began to form.
"Permission to board, Captain?" Rezen asked.
--- --- ---
The water was cold.
Gabeís eyes never left the escort vessel. It was an Anciaun Justicator class warship. The shipís eighty foot long hull ran high on the waterline. From this distance Gabe could already make out several large swivel guns on her bow, pointing in the direction of the Ravager and Yummeril. Running along its port and starboard sides were at least twenty gun ports. The Justicator class was known for its excellent fire support. From his vantage point Gabe could see the crew on deck was having trouble with the sails.
Having dodged the distracted Yummeril, Gabe and his team pumped their powerful arms as they swam with the current. It was swift and they were having little trouble clearing the distance to the escort ship. The Ravager was now far away from them as they swam through the open ocean.
Their movements were graceful as every stroke was made with a sense of stealth. His team kept low in the water as every stroke they made sliced through the water expertly so as not to make any splashes.
Their objective was now less than five hundred yards away.
--- --- ---
Exphasia was crouched down in the gunnery, feeling more comfortable hiding near big weapons. Her eyes were open, but her vision had shifted into the sphere spectrum. Her scrambling spell was holding, as was the illusionary spell that made the Ravager appear destroyed. Her kinetic energy absorbing enhancement embedded into the Ravagers hull was also intact and remained untested.
She gritted her teeth in frustration as the spherist onboard the Yummeril repeatedly attacked the encryptions surrounding her scrambler spell. She could see the enemy spheristís braeking energy lashing out at her encryption. It would take a lot of time to braek through her security; it should keep the spherist busy. It was Exphasiaís turn for some braeking.
Her vision warped to a profile view of the Yummeril. Its scramble spells were still up, but not encrypted. That was odd, but not uncommon. Exphasiaís body tensed as she summoned Disfraction energy from the Negosha Sphere. She congealed the destructive power from the sphere with her own braeking skills and unleashed an attack on the enemy's scramble energy.
Exphasiaís spell slammed into the scrambler. The energy rippled out and around the ship as it was decimated by her attack. The scrambler energy evaporated. She now had a clear view of the Yummeril.
The hoisted sails had a faint yellow glow to them as protection energy swirled about them. The spell was designed to keep the material safe from fire. Encryption particles wove in and out of the spell's energy. From this vantage point she could tell the encryption was weak.
She waited for the signal.
--- --- ---
Rezen looked over to the woman and made sure she had not done anything to hinder this operation. She was still leaning on the railing of the upper deck and Rezen could tell she was studying the Ravager's condition.
The crews laid out several thick planks of wood, connecting the two ships. The Yummeril sat higher on the water than the Ravager forcing the planks to rest at an angle. Before the Yummerilís Captain could cross over to the Ravager Rezen hopped onto the plank with perfect balance and walked over to the other side.
"Impressive," the Captain said as he took a step back.
Rezen and the Captain looked each other over once and then came the Yummerilís men.
"Not impressive enough Iím afraid, Kionic," the Captain said as four men drew their swords and surrounded the vael. Other crew members drew boltguns.
Rezen didnít miss a beat. He tilted his head slightly to the left for a split second, giving the signal. In the same movement Rezenís dagger shot out from beneath his sleeve. Using his inherent agility he lunged forward faster than the four crewmen surrounding him could react.
Rezen twirled his dagger around in his hand as he cleared the short distance between him and the Captain. He sliced the weapon diagonally across the Captains face, cutting open his left eye and right cheek. He reversed the momentum of the blade and slammed it into the side of the Captain's skull. Still driving forward, he retracted his blade and pushed the Captain into one of his men as bright red blood poured from the wounds like water. Rezen ducked low to avoid any possible projectiles. He spun around unsheathing his rapier and deflecting the first series of strikes from the closest Yummeril soldier as he fell low to the deck. The battle exploded around him.
--- --- ---
Exphasia, still locked in the sphere spectrum, unleashed the Disfraction energy she had been holding back for the past several minutes. All in one blinding flash of dark purple and black, she decrypted the sails' protection spell and ignited the material. The sails burst into an explosion of bright white flame.
"Go!" Exphasia heard one of the gunners shout from the real world.
In the gunnery two simultaneous blasts exploded out from the Ravager. The sound was deafening as two guns fired powerful metal grapples into the Yummerilís hull. Each thick grapple had a massive chain attached to its end. The sound of the chains grinding along the edge of the portholes was intense and caused the entire ship to rumble.
The thick grapples collided with the Yummerilís hull, shattering through the vesselís reinforced armor. The grapples shot straight into the ship, tore through its inner decks and exploded out from the other side in a cloud of debris.
Exphasia shook herself out of the spectrum. She was behind the line of twelve guns that stretched out before her in single file. The first and last gunís portholes were the only ones open at the moment. She saw the powerful chains sliding out of their openings.
"Bring 'em in!" the gunner shouted.
One of the gunners manned the control system next to the spool where the stern chain was located. The slack on the chains disappeared as they began to retract back into the Ravager.
"Did it stick?" the controller shouted.
"We got her!"
The two ships were now locked onto one another. The Yummerilís guns would be useless.
Exphasia turned and ran for the main deck.
--- --- ---
The loud explosions echoed across the open water. Gabe signaled for his men to stop as they all looked back at the entangled Ravager and Yummeril. They saw the grapples that had penetrated the stern of the enemy ship slip back up its hull and lock into place, securing it to the Ravager.
The escort ship was less than two hundred yards away and her crew had just fixed their sail problem. Gabe watched the sails drop down and instantly balloon out as they caught the wind. The only problem was that there was no wind, at least none that would cause the sails to fill with air with such intensity. The sails were spherically enhanced and the escort ship accelerated.
Gabe and his men waited.
--- --- ---
Just above the row of portholes from which the chains stretched out was another set of portholes. From these hidden openings Squad One and Four poured out. They leapt onto the chains with lightening speed, using them as bridges. The grapples had created two large holes in the bow and stern of the Yummeril.
The Kionic teams had infiltrated the bowels of the Yummeril in only seconds.
--- --- ---
Rezen felt a blast of heat as the sails were engulfed in a flash of fire. The bright light distracted the soldiers surrounding Rezen for a split second. The vael rolled out to side lashing out with his blade slicing one of them across the shin.
All around him he heard the shouts of the Yummerilís crew bracing for the onslaught.
--- --- ---
The air around the Ravager shifted and the vessel's form became wavy. A rush of cold air flowed over the ship and shot down into the ocean as the rippling of the ship's image intensified. Every particle of the ship morphed in and out of view as the Ravager began to reconstruct itself. Her tangled rigging disappeared and her masts spiked upwards as they regenerated themselves. The debris on the deck vanished. The damage to the hull liquefied and melted back into the sides of the ship, reforming the sleek curves.
A wicked grin crossed Exphasiaís face as the Ravager emerged from her illusionary spell. She took great pride in watching the crew of the Yummeril become disheartened.
The Ravager was in perfect condition, its polished black wood casting a grim presence over the Yummeril. Gun portals were now visible on the sides of the Ravager, and her crew went from looking beaten and tired to menacing and frightening. Carved into the ship's bow was the head of a sharp toothed demon, its slanted eyes glaring forward.
She was in killing condition.
--- --- ---
Captain Weeds led the sniper assault. His team of seven emerged from various ports along first and second tier decks. Without missing a beat all of them began to pick off the Yummerilís crew with their slick boltguns.
Weeds and several others locked onto the men that were encroaching on Rezen. The vael had scurried behind several crates and thick rigging with the Yummeril's soldierís right behind him. Weeds couldnít get a good lock onto any of the men who were now engaging Rezen.
"Dam it Rezen," Weeds whispered to himself as he squeezed off a shot, catching one of the soldiers in the neck.
--- --- ---
Rezen sprung from his crouched position just in time to see one of his assailantsí necks explode in a mist of red. The soldier lurched forward awkwardly as he dropped his sword, his hands clasping for his exposed neck.
"Get that fucking vael!" shouted one of the Yummerilís crew.
"Here they come!" Rezen heard another shout.
The other two soldiers came charging in, weapons leading. Rezen leapt forward between them before they could retaliate. As he passed by the closest soldier, he let his rapier slash into the manís torso. Rezenís blade sliced through skin and muscle, drawing a thick line of blood across the soldierís stomach. He smashed his rapierís hilt into the soldierís head, sending him, doubled over, to the ground.
Rezen spun around just in time to repel the fury of attacks launched by the second soldier. He wasnít ready for the speed this man possessed and quickly lost ground. Their blades met and pinged off one another in a flurry of strikes. Rezen was getting backed up into the railing.
The vael lunged forward in a feint, bringing his dagger around, trying to stab at the soldierís weapon hand. The soldier moved to the right, avoiding Rezenís attack, which left the vael open. The soldier stabbed forward once, twice, and slapped away Rezen's blades. Then came the manís fist, which connected with Rezenís head.
Rezen went stumbling backward as he brought his weapon back up in front of him for defense. The man charged in, this time recklessly. Rezen regained his bearing and stepped to the side with his rapier swinging out, catching the soldier's own blade and throwing it out wide. Rezen stepped in with his dagger and stabbed the soldier in the chest in rapid succession. He could feel warm blood erupt from the soldierís chest and cover his own hand. After the last stab he pushed the bloody man away, letting him crumple to the ground.
Looking across the Yummerilís deck he watched as Squads Two and Three fought their way onto the ship under cover of Weedsí snipers. The Yummeril soldiers were trying to push the gangplanks overboard as the Ravager's vicious crew boarded. There was shouting everywhere now as each side communicated with their own troops, the sounds of battle filling the air.
Looking out beyond the battle Rezen could see that the escort ship was closing in fast, but it wasnít firing. He smiled. It wasnít going to risk any collateral damage by opening up on them.
--- --- ---
The escort ship rushed right into their path as Gabe and his team bobbed in the water unnoticed by the distracted crew making boarding preparations. The swimmers were spaced roughly forty yards apart; each one had his explosive charges in hand. Within seconds the vessel was upon them, its dark brown hull overshadowing them.
It was sailing faster than expected, and as the hull passed by the first of his team, the bow crushed the man, shattering his body and dragging hum under the keel.
"Shit," Gabe cursed through grinding teeth.
The chopping waves didnít afford him the best of views as the ship roared past his second and third men. They were better positioned, and as the ship passed by, they each set their charges on the port side of the hull, one amidships and one just barely slapping his charge onto the stern as it passed by. His fourth man was unable to attach his charge as the ship passed him by.
It was Gabe's turn. The towering hull bore down on him. They needed at least one charge on the stern. Gabe swam forward with the explosive pack in his left hand, pumping his powerful arms as he tried to catch its stern. The waves pushed him back just as he was about to place his charge and he bumped off the side of the hull. He swam forward again, pushing with all his might as the stern passed him by.
"Fuck," Gabe growled. He was now amidships.
Placing a charge here with the other one would be better than nothing. Gabe reached out with his left hand to plant the charge. He hadnít noticed the thin netting on the side of the ship as he stuck his black charge to the hull. As he pulled his hand away, but the netting caught him, entangling him by the wrist. Gabe grunted as he tried to free his wrist and water was forced into his mouth. The ship continued forward dragging him through the water.
--- --- ---
The soldier dipped in low and swung for his legs. Rezen jumped the attack and spun in midair, lashing out with his rapier. The blade cut straight across the manís eye line, slicing open each eye ball. The soldier fell to his knees, shouting in pain, blood and mush pouring from his eyes. Rezen had no time to admire his work, though, as the battle around him thickened.
Another soldier came at Rezen, but this one's style seemed more conservative. The manís short sword was held before him, keeping the vael at bay. He was obviously a veteran fighter, as he came in skillfully swinging his sword in a rhythmic dance.
Rezen blocked the manís first two attacks, jumping back a few feet to get some distance between himself and his opponent. The soldier charged in, his sword coming in low then sweeping high. Rezen parried the attacks and launched his own. He feigned an attack with his dagger and thrust in for the manís chest with his rapier. The man recognized the feint and easily countered the blow with a strike of his own. Rezen got his dagger up in time to repel the incoming blade from reaching his heart, but the blade nicked him on the left side of his ribs. Rezen winced as the the metal ricocheted off his bone and he felt warm blood starting to flow.
Rezen was overmatched, and he knew it. The battle was raging around them. He didnít have much room to negotiate with. He was stuck between the ship's railing and his opponent, so he charged full into the soldier, who smiled as their blades met again.
This time they held each other at bay, the ringing of the connecting blades barely audible over the battle. Rezen was becoming increasingly irritated as the soldier continued to block both his dagger and his rapier with nothing more than a little short sword. It was a reminder that Rezen had much to learn.
"Fuckin' Kionic!" the man yelled and pressed in even harder, scoring another minor hit.
Rezen growled as the stinging blow bit into his right leg, opening a large gash in the muscle. Rezen could feel hot blood running down his flesh underneath his pants.
His adrenaline kicked into full gear and all thoughts of skillful swordsmanship disappeared. Rezen got his rapier up to block an incoming blow heading for his throat. He simultaneously flipped his dagger in his hand, so that he held it by the blade and launched it straight for the soldier.
The vael's speed caught him off guard. Rezenís dagger found its target, the soldiers open mouth. The blade cut straight through several teeth and sent them flying. The blade thudded into the roof of the manís mouth, opening a river blood opened up.
The soldier groaned and gurgled in horror. Dropping his sword, his hands went for the dagger as he fell to the deck. Rezen followed with his rapier. The weapon cut through the manís chest with a sickening crack as it hit bone. Rezen ripped his dagger out.
Rezen took cover behind one of the thick masts as a bolt whistled by his ear. He surveyed the scene to pick out his next target. The Kionics were almost in control of the main deck, but the two upper decks still harbored soldiers and several snipers. He also saw the woman on the bridge. She stood with a calm arrogance out in the open. He wondered why Weeds hadnít taken her out yet.
Squad Three was in charge of securing the bridge, but to do so they would have to get past the soldiers up there. Through the collage of the fighting, Rezen could only see four of his own men down on the decks of the Yummeril. The bodies were beginning to pile up, but most of them were the enemyís.
Looking back to the woman, he watched as her left hand began to glow with green and black fire. Dark green halos formed around her forearms as the flames curved down beyond her clenched fist. The fire flowed around itself as it took the shape of a wicked, glowing blade.
With perfect balance the woman leapt from the bridge and down onto the deck, where she sliced through a Kionic's skull, exposing the grey brain matter. She reared around to dodge an attack from another Kionic, her movements were precise as she ducked low avoiding two quick slashes.
The spheristís energy blade that extended from the tip of her elbow to two feet out beyond her fist slashed through the Kionicís sword, melting it in half. The Kionic spun to the side, trying to dodge the glowing blade as it made for his throat. The weapon missed, instead cutting deeply into his shoulder. He grunted in pain as the woman grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him toward her.
"No," Rezen breathed as the woman reared her sword arm.
She struck the man in the head, but not with the blade. As her fist slammed into the Kionicís head, the blade retracted so that she could pummel him with her knuckles. She lashed out repeatedly with her fist, its deadly precision connecting with the Kionics nose, forehead and left cheek causing them to burst open in an explosion of blood.
With the next strike the blade shot out as it struck straight through Rezenís friendís neck in an explosion of gore, nearly severing it. The spherist pushed the Kionic aside as his mutilated body hit the deck in a mush of gore and blood. An animalistic grin of pure arrogance spread across her face as she wiped some of her opponents blood from her brow.
"Fucking Spherist!" Rezen shouted as he tried to get to get up, the pain in his leg assaulting his body. "Kill that bitch!"
Before he made it more than a few feet another soldier intercepted him
--- --- ---
Squad Four, lead by Hess, charged in through the cramped corridors of the bow of the Yummeril. They could hear the battle raging above them and echoing within the hull as Squad One penetrated the stern of the ship.
They had already suffered one death and two casualties as the close quarter fighting degenerated into hand to hand combat. They had just finished off two enemies and were heading for the cargo level.
"Stay down," Hess whispered to the man behind him as he crept forward to peek around a corner.
A blade lashed out and caught Hess across the chest, sinking deep into his flesh, slicing into his heart. Hessís face froze in surprise as his body twitched and drained of life in a torrent of blood.
It happened so fast that no one was able to do anything to stop it. Hessís men shouted in anger as the Kionic behind Hess pulled his limp body back and the squad charged forward to engage the soldiers around the corner. The hallway exploded into cramped chaos as the two sides clashed, slamming each other into walls and weapons.
The Special Forces team was right behind Squad Three with their explosive charges. They had to make it to the cargo hold and blow it open.
--- --- ---
The attack came swiftly and Rezen rolled to the ground to avoid losing his head. Rolling back to his feet, he met the next attack with one of his own. His new opponent's sword came swishing at hom from the side. Rezen parried the blow and went to attack with his dagger. The soldier got his sword in front of the dagger, sending the blade down and wide.
They fought for a moment on even ground, each testing the otherís fighting style and looking for a weakness. The ringing noise from the swords and dagger clashing began to quicken. Rezen scored two minor hits to the soldierís left arm and shoulder, but that hardly slowed him. The soldier exploited a hole in Rezenís defenses, punching him in the head.
The soldier slapped Rezenís rapier to the side and kicked him in his right leg, hitting his wound. Hot pain shot up through the whole right side of Rezenís body. He nearly fainted as he swooned from the blow. The soldier saw his chance and dove straight in for the vael, sword leading. Rezen braced for the attack.
A loud cracking noise and a flash of light appeared over combatants, blinding Rezen temporarily. When his vision returned, the soldier was no longer bearing down on him. He rubbed his eyes and looked over to his right. There, on the deck, the soldierís body lay twitching, with smoke flowing freely from a black hole in the side of his chest. The smell of charred flesh filled Rezen's nostrils. He looked over to his left, toward the Ravage, and saw Exphasia smiling at him.
"I couldíve taken him myself," he grumbled silently, thankful for the help.
Shouts from the deck forced Rezen to turn away from the spherist and look out beyond the sterns of the two ships. The escort ship was speeding in towards them. It almost looked as though it were out of control.
"Shit, Gabe, kill that thing," Rezen mumbled as he slid back against a crate, holding his leg.
--- --- ---
Looking to the escort ship Exphasia already knew something was wrong. Her gaze went void as she shifted into the sphere spectrum. She threw her vision out beyond the battle around her and toward the Justicator class warship. The vessel had several spherical protections on it, all encrypted. The only things not encrypted were its enhanced sails.
The energy signature on the sails forced them to glow a light blue, but the blue was flickering from light to dark. The enhancement was malfunctioning. She knew the encryption had been lifted so that the escort shipís spherist could try to fix the problem.
Watching the energy signature in the sails twitch erratically, she knew that there was no way the enhancement could be fixed. It was too badly damaged. The deteriorating enhancement was forcing the ship to increase in speed. The glitch in the enhancement must be why the ship had been trailing so far behind. This was the exact reason she never used such enhancements on the Ravager. They were too unreliable.
Exphasia shook herself out of the spectrum as she felt her stomach sink. The escortís bearing was propelling it directly at the Ravager and the Yummeril.
--- --- ---
Gabe knew the other charges on the stern and midsection of the escort vessel would go off at any second. Fighting against the raging water slamming into him, he struggled with his stuck hand, trying to free it from the tangled netting. The water rushed by and shot into his eyes, making it hard for him to keep them open.
He reached up with his right hand and grabbed the dagger tied to his left bicep. He ripped the dagger out and began sawing at the net. Ahead of him he could see the two intertwined ships fast approaching. He hacked viciously at the netting.
The last chop cut his wrist free. His body bounced off the hull, his head slammed against the wood and he was sent spinning away from the speeding escort ship. Water was forced down his throat as he slipped under the water. He pumped his strong arms and resurfaced, coughing violently, just as the charge on the stern exploded.
--- --- ---
As Rezen finished tying off his leg with a piece of material ripped off a dead body, as he saw the escort ship screaming toward them. At less than two hundred yards away, it was going to collide with the entangled ships. Then the entire area shook from a deafening explosion.
The charge on the escort's stern exploded. Its anti-encryption energy chewed through the hull's security to allow the explosive energy to get inside. The explosion tore into the hull with a massive burst of energy forcing the stern of the ship out of the water. Enormous volumes of seawater sprayed out as the stern of the escort ship launched out of the water and pivoted hard to starboard. The hull skidded sideways across the surface of the ocean, throwing off many crew members.
The escort was less than fifty yards from the Ravager and the Yummeril when the last two charges placed amidships detonated.
"Shit, get down!" Rezen shouted to several of his men in the immediate area as the escort ship was about to slam into them.
The middle of the hull exploded with tremendous force as the two charges detonated. The force of the blast tore the ship completely out of the water as the hull bowed under its own weight. It fractured and then shattered into thousands of pieces, ripping the vessel apart down the middle in the fiery blast.
The extreme inertia of the escort ship sent the now separated stern and bow careening forward with intense speed. The huge stern of the ship was sent spinning in the air as it passed over the top of the Yummeril raining down men and debris. The bulk of the bow roared over the Ravager snapping off the top of one of its masts. It was spinning much faster than the stern. The munitions from the broken Justicator spilled out into the air from the exposed hull and ignited in chaos.
Rezenís body was jerked awkwardly to the side as a piece of debris slammed into his shoulder, sending him hard into the deck. His head bounced off the deck as he hit, and his vision blurring for a second. He twisted his head and looked at his shoulder, where a foot long piece of wood had embedded itself. Rezen ground his teeth in pain as other large chunks of debris crashed about him. Several other men were taken out by falling wreckage.
"Shit. Shit," Rezen said between his teeth. He covered his head as one of the airborne soldiers from the escort ship hit the middle of the Yummerilís mast, snapping the manís body in midair.
The explosions above him erupted in many different colors as he felt the hull of Yummeril shake violently under him. There were crackles and whistles as the various munitions ignited all around them. People screamed and shouted for help as men on both sides were cut down by the chaotic explosions that hit the deck and by the shrapnel that rained down on them from the air.
Rezen caught a glimpse of one of the Justicatorís crew slamming into the Yummerilís deck, snapping his head backwards and ripping open his neck. His legs pivoted over his head, flipping him back into the air and out of Rezenís view. Rezen moved his head to the side and saw another flying man crash into a Kionic. They flew backwards, twisting in the air, until they hit the bow of the Yummeril. A soaring chunk of fractured wood followed right behind, colliding with their torsos in an explosion of blood.
Several deafening blasts rang out in succession just above Rezen. A projectile screamed downward and exploded into the deck directly before him, opening up a large hole in the deck. A loud ringing erupted in Rezenís ears as the closest blast went off and covered him in more debris. He saw a bit of water spray up from the new hole.
An anchor swung wildly at the end of its chain, which was connected to the airborne stern of the escort ship. It bounced off the top deck of the Ravager, ripping off hunks of wood before it whipped around and smashed into the deck of the Yummeril. The ends of the anchor bit into the wood, then bounced up and dug itself in again as it tore through the deck.
Several men were in the path of the flailing anchor. Rezen watched as a soldier's leg was cut clean off. The anchor ricocheted off some stairs as it hit the bow of the ship, catching a Kionic in the side of her chest and ripping out the entire left portion of her upper body in an explosion of gore. Her body spun around in the air before landing on the deck with a sickening squishing sound.
The two separated chunks of the escort ship soared over the battle as a wall of water spray from the charges washed over the stern of both vessels. The flipping bow crashed into the ocean just ahead of the Ravager throwing a giant spray of white water into the air. The stern of the escort ship cleared the Yummeril and flew a hundred more yards before slamming into the ocean's surface.
Rezen growled and grabbed the chunk of wood embedded in his shoulder. He gritted his teeth and yanked the wooden shard from his flesh. Rezenís eyes grew even bigger when he saw the size of the projectile, with his blood covering at least two inches at the tip of it. He almost fainted again. Warm blood ran down his back.
Rezen tried to get up, but fell to the deck and rolled onto his stomach, his cheek resting on the blood soaked deck. Bodies, blackened wood and hunks of meat littered the deck, explosions having mutilated body parts unrecognizable. Those who had survived came out from under cover and the battle flared up again.
His ears stung with an intense ringing. The noise of the combat raging around him sounded so distant, as though he were in a quiet cave. He lay very still for a moment, trying to compose himself and deal with the excruciating pain of his many wounds. The smell of salt water and the coppery scent of blood his nose.
He rolled over and came face to face with a corpse. A dead child lay only a foot in front of him. It was a little girl. Her body was contorted in a grotesque position, with her back arched so that one of her feet was touching the back of her head. Her left arm was twisted backwards, the white bone of the elbow exposed through red muscle tissue. Rezen knew every bone to be broken in that little frame. What remained of her face was covered in blood and grime.
Half of it was missing and her brain matter was oozing out of a large hole in the cranial cavity. Some of her brown hair was matted against her cheek with blood. Bright red blood ran over her white teeth. A thick puddle of gore pooled around the little girl. One blue eye was still open and it stared blankly at Rezen. Rezen stared back, his gaze just as cold as the dead childís.
The deck shuddered violently underneath him as the sea smashed the two ships' massive hulls together. Rezen watched as several men stumbled and lurched in mid combat.
The air all around him was thick with the familiar smell of smoke mixed with fresh salty sea air and dead bodies. Through the haze Rezen watched as Dabby, one of his crewmates, stabbed a soldier repeatedly in the chest and stomach. The soldier cried out in pain and terror as the blade slid in and out of his body. He was helpless against Dabbyís attacks, and that helplessness echoed in his cries. It was amazing how much damage a body could sometimes take before it finally gave up.
To any onlookers Rezen was dead. A few soldiers had walked by him and not given him a second thought. They were coming out of several hatches on the bow to reinforce the enemy. The ringing in his ear began to fade as the muffled shouts and cries of battle became clearer.
"Get a med on him!"
"Two on the left!"
Rezen looked over the Ravager to see how his ship had faired. It was still floating. The deck looked battered and had some large pieces of the escort ship on it, but was otherwise in good condition. The second he spotted Exphasia on deck he felt a million times better, but something else was off. The Yummerilís railings were much lower now than the Ravagers were. Rezen remembered that the Yummerilís railings used to be a bit higher.
"Great," he muttered under his breath, looking at the hole that had been blasted in the deck.
The ship was sinking.
--- --- ---
Exphasiaís back and right leg burned. She had been blasted through the air and slammed into the bottom wall of the Ravager's aft castle. She clenched her fist, pushing the pain out of her mind. Looking down to the Ravager's deck and across to the Yummeril she was surprised to see so many survivors. The battle had already reignited as a fresh batch of soldiers from the Yummeril emerged from below decks.
Rezenís teams had still not taken control of the helm. The battle raging on the upper decks of the Yummeril had become fierce.
"Rezen!" Exphasia breathed as she scanned the battle for the vael.
She couldnít find him. It was getting harder to see anything now as a light haze of smoke had settled over the two ships. Exphasia desperately searched for her friend, but instead found the spherist. The woman was busy killing another Kionic with her synth blade. Exphasia knew the spell and the talent required to control such energy was beyond her own. The woman was acting as the main defense for the helm of the Yummeril.
Exphasiaís eyes went blank as she switched to the sphere spectrum. Several vibrant purple and red halos of color orbited the other woman. Her blade arm radiated with sharp green and black light. In the sphere spectrum she was an explosion of spherical energy, all of it expertly controlled.
The halos around the woman were energy dampening spells. Exphasiaís heart sank as she realized that she could do nothing to stop this woman's to stop her killing spree. Another Kionic went down as Exphasia caught a glimpse of Rezen out of the corner of her eye.
Rezenís men would have to take this spherist out, quickly. Exphasia wouldnít be able to help them.
--- --- ---
Rezen shrugged away all the pain that was surging through his body as he staggered forward. He held his rapier poised and ready as he picked his way through the carnage, his glare fixated on the woman spherist at the helm.
Rezenís head twitched to the side as a slight burning sensation singed by his temple. Glancing over his shoulder he saw Exphasia across the way on the first deck level of the Ravager. She looked beat up.
"I canít do anything. Get her!" Rezen read her lips as she pointed to the spherist.
"No shit," Rezen mouthed back. "Cover us!"
A soldier backed into Rezen, not seeing the vael as his blade slid into a Kionic's stomach. Rezen stumbled a little as he watched his crewmate force the blade out of his body and come back in with an attack of his own. The two men shouted and their weapons clashed. Rezen drew his dagger, grabbed the man on the shoulder, pulled him back and forced the blade into the his kidney.
the soldier's body lurched as Rezenís weapon sank into flesh and organ. The wounded Kionic then finished off the Yummeril soldier off, his blade slicing through his throat.
"Rezen," his crewmate said, nodding his thanks as he stumbled backwards. Rezen pulled him down behind a chunk of the escort ship that had landed on the Yummerilís deck.
"Damn it. Got your kit Dwain?" Rezen asked, looking to the wound in Dwainís stomach. The vael was referring to the small med kit all Kionics carried with them.
"Yeah," Dwain said, as a stream of blood ran down from his mouth.
He was already pulling out the small kit from a side pocket on his pants. From the dark pouch he produced two pills which he quickly swallowed.
"You?" Dwain asked, nodding to Rezenís wounds.
"Ben!" Rezen shouted as he saw the leader of Squad Three with several other Kionics, retreating from an attack on the second tier of the Yummeril.
The main deck of the ship was almost secure again. The fighting had been pushed back either down into the hull or up on the second tier and helm. The upper decks were littered with debris where both sides had taken cover, having reached a stalemate.
"Rezen, we're gettin' tore up!" Ben shouted as he ran up to the vael, several bolts whizzing by him. "That bitch up there ainít lettin' anyone up."
"Ex is gonna provide us cover fire. Maybe she can open up them up enough for Weeds to knock some of Ďem out too," Rezen said. The soldiers were offering no targets to Weedsí snipers if they remained behind the wreckage.
"Theyíve got us locked down, Rezen."
"Then we rush Ďem," Rezen said looking Ben in the eyes. "Itís an order. Letís do this."
Ben nodded and turned back for the upper decks.
Rezen began to follow behind Ben just as several more soldiers burst out from a trap door on the deck behind him. The men all shouted as they charged for Rezen, Ben and several Kionics.
The fist smashed into Rezenís cheek, knocking him to the deck, where he quickly rolled to the side dodging two thrusts of a weapon.
--- --- ---
The stern of the escort ship pitched in the water in a mess of bubbles and white foam as it began to sink beneath the waves. Inside her hull, the gunnery was a disaster and several barrels of volatile chemicals had spilled to the ground. Yellow and orange gels crept toward each other until they met right next to the main munitions cache.
--- --- ---
A hundred yards off the bows of the interlocked Ravager and Yummeril the severed stern of the escort ship vaporized. A blinding flash of light appeared all around the combatants as the deafening sound of the explosion filled the air. A shockwave thundered through the two ships' hulls, causing them to vibrate and rock in the water. A split second later came the forty foot wall of water.
Rezen was kicked in the back as he tried to get to his feet. He fell forward, catching himself on his hands and knees. He found it hard to keep his balance as the ship was rocking out of control. All around him people were shouting to each other to hold on.
The enormous wave slammed into the two ships, their keels slicing through its face of the wave as it lifted them into the air. Water exploded all around them and swept several overboard. All hands were thrown backward as the two ships began to rise upwards almost vertically with the wall of water.
Rezen was knocked flat against the deck as the powerful wave washed over him. He could feel the ship lifting upward. With his free hand he desperately scrambled for some sort of handhold as he began to slide down the deck with other men and debris. The ship rose almost vertically and the large hole that had been blasted into the Yummerilís deck earlier was fast approaching. Rezen found a small notch in the deck to grab onto just before he tumbled into the hole.
The Yummerilís lead mast snapped under its own weight above him. The twenty-foot chunk of mast free fell over Rezenís head as he dangled against the hull, flipping over itself as it sliced through rigging and bounced off the helm before splashing into the ocean below him.
The spherist had leapt onto the side of a railing and was keeping her balance as she dodged falling debris and men. She even cut a Kionic in half with her synth blade as he fell by her. Looking over to the Ravager, Rezen saw his crew holding on for their lives. Several fell into the churning ocean below. He saw Exphasia holding onto some rigging, where she and several others were swinging around erratically, trying not to fall.
The chains that connected the Yummeril and the Ravager groaned horribly. As the two ships rose in the air, the chains sliced through the Yummerilís hull, tearing several large gashes in her side. The ships shook violently as they were tossed in the air.
Rezen held on with all of his strength as his feet dangled just in front of the large hole. The wave passed under the ships and they broke the crest. He felt a bit of relief as the shipís bow lurched downward and began to level out. His relief was short lived. A solider above him came sliding down the deck, kicking the vael in the forehead. Rezen's head snapped back, his vision exploding into a multitude of colors as he lost his grip. He slid down the deck and into the hole with the soldier right behind him.
The hole had been blasted all the way down to the keel. Rezenís shoulder and ribs slammed against the edge of the third level and some protruding wreckage sent his body into a spin. He smashed onto the bottom of the cargo hold, where he was met by a rush of cold water and floating debris.
Rezen tried to stagger to his feet. His left arm was shaking a little. As the ship went over the wave, rocking back and forth, the water shifted and rushed over him, keeping him down. Rezen coughed as he breathed in a lungful of water.
The cargo hold was almost empty, save for a dull green glow twenty feet away from Rezen toward the stern. Rezen could make out an intricate crate no more than three feet across, suspended in mid air. It was silver with dark green runes etched all over it. Orbiting the box were three sets of chains.
"Got ya," Rezen coughed.
Before Rezen could get up, the man who had kicked him down into the hold crashed on top of him. Rezen was slammed onto his stomach and under the water. The manís weight kept him pinned down and Rezen felt a sting of panic surge through his body.
Everything was so much quieter underwater.
Suddenly all of his pain disappeared and breathing again became his only reason for existing. Rezen was still holding onto his dagger and lashed out in several desperate strikes. The water slowed his movements, but his blade cut awkwardly into the manís leg.
The cuts werenít deep at all, but they caused enough pain for him to relinquish his hold on Rezen. Rezen shot up out of the water, gasping for breath. He swallowed more water and choked. He looked over to the soldier, who was already in motion.
Rezen wasnít able to get out of the way quickly enough, and the manís fist connected with Rezenís head. They both stumbled forward with the blow, water rushing in around their feet as the ship rocked hard to port, throwing off their balance.
Rezen fell back and to the side, striking out with his rapier in one fluid movement as he unsheathed the weapon. The blade caught the soldier across his arm and chest as he came around for another punch. He grunted off the pain and charged Rezen. The vael charged in too, his blades leading.
The soldier was much larger than Rezen and, the vael figured, slower in his movements. Rezen was wrong. The soldier moved out of the way of Rezenís rapier, grabbed his wrist and twisted the vael around. He landed several punches into Rezenís back.
"Fuck!" Rezen growled as the blows connected.
He went with the twist, though, and swung around, his dagger slamming into the manís upper shoulder. Rezen twisted the blade with all his might and heard the muscle sinew cut as his blade dug in deep. The man released his grip and Rezen swung around so that he was now behind the soldier.
Rezen was losing time. That spherist back on deck had to die. They had to secure this ship.
Without missing a beat Rezen pushed the man forward using all his weight. He pushed the dagger in further as they both fell into the rising water. Rezen grabbed the back of the manís skull and forced his head underwater as he pulled his dagger out from the manís back. He slammed it into the back of the soldierís neck with all of his strength. The blade sunk into the spine.
"Fuck you!" Rezen shouted as the manís body twitched wildly beneath him. He twisted the blade in the bone until he heard several snaps. The manís body went limp.
Rezen rolled off the body and into the cold water, which was turning red. He got to his feet and felt his head where he had been punched. He brought his hand in front of him and saw that it was covered in blood. He could feel a that huge gash had been opened from the blow.
Rezen sheathed his weapons, reached into one of his pockets and pulled out his med kit. He produced a pill and a tiny packet of healing salve. He ripped the packet open with his teeth and squeezed the ooze out into his hand. He rubbed it into the gash on his head as he wiped the blood away from his eyes with his other hand. Rezen could feel the healing energy flow into the gash and through his body. A surge of energy washed over him and the cut almost completely closed up. He popped the pill next and drank a handful of bloody seawater to wash it down.
"Rezen!" someone shouted above him.
The vael looked up to see several members of squad four and one of the Special Forces men poking their heads over the lip of the hole. They were in one of the middle decks, looking down at him.
"Itís down here!" Rezen shouted back up to them. "Get Gabeís men down here!"
"We're comin' down!"
Two of the Kionics above Rezen looked to each other and then back to Rezen. One of them shook their head.
"Were runnin' out of time. Letís go!" Rezen shouted back. He began to pick his way up through the hole as Squad Four and the Special Forces unit climbed down.
As the Kionicís climbed in their respective directions they could hear people talking and shouting to one another within the hull. Rezen was surprised no one had come to the hole to pick them off. Among the combat chatter all of them heard something about firing the guns. That didnít sit well in Rezenís stomach.
"Weíre gonna take the helm, secure that cargo and letís get the fuck outta here," Rezen said to the squad as they passed by each other.
--- --- ---
"Hold Ďem down Kris. Heís going into shock!" Menry shouted to Kris, directly across from him.
The two men were crouched down, attempting to secure their violently convulsing friend on the Ravagers deck. The color of his skin was draining before their eyes. His chest and stomach had been ripped open by debris and he was bleeding profusely.
"Whereís his med kit?" the other man shouted, gripping his crewmateís shoulders hard.
"Shit, he doesnít have it!"
All Kionics carried a med kit, but he couldnít find his injured crew matesí anywhere in his pockets.
"Use yours!" Menry shouted to Kris over a large explosion.
Kris was way ahead of Menry and was already reaching into his pants pocket, from which he produced a dark green, rolled up cloth. The cloth was soaked in a healing mixture that could heal wounds quickly, or at least stabilize them. In this case, if Kris could just wrap the bandage around Deak, maybe he could secure the manís intestines.
"Lift him," Kris ordered calmly.
"Youíre gonna be all right, Deak," Menry said, trying to lift Deakís upper body off the deck so Kris could get under him.
Kris reached under and struggled to wrap the bandage around Deakís chest just as his large intestine spilled out.
"Oh, shit," Kris mumbled.
"Ex! Get over here!" Menry shouted to spherist, who had just run by them.
Exphasia stopped at the call and saw her crewmates huddled on the deck. A mess of blood and gore was pooling under them.
"Put it back in!" Menry shouted to Kris, indicating the organs as Exphasia slid to their side.
"Damn it," Exphasia breathed as she saw the mess.
"Heal him up!" Menry shouted.
Exphasia shook her head and attempted to connect with the healing energies of the Echo Sphere. The chaos going on around her, though, did not disappear; it interrupted her thoughts, skewing her ability to connect with the Echo Sphere and call forth any sort of healing energy.
Deakís body convulsed. She couldnít focus. She couldnít do it.
"Ex!" Kris shouted.
The deck underneath them shook violently as several shots rang out from the Yummeril. Her guns had opened up oat point-blank range.
"Broadside! Sheís firing!" someone shouted on the deck of the Ravager as plumes of smoke erupted between the two ships.
There was an explosion several yards from the four of them, and force of the blast scattered them into the air and across the deck. Exphasia smashed into the base of the mast, the air forced from her lungs. Her vision went blurry and her ears rang with a high-pitched whistle.
She doubled over, trying to breathe. It took her a moment to regain her senses and, when she did, she saw Deakís entrails spread out across the deck. She couldnít see Deakís body anywhere. Menry and Kris were already up and had returned to the fight.
She hadnít been able to save Deak.
"Ex!" came her name again. This time it was Captain Weeds shouting for her.
She felt guilty, she hadnít even had a chance to try to save Deak. She cursed under her breath as her stomach wrenched. She had never been good at any of the healing energies and, once again, another one of her crewmates had paid the price.
"Ex!" Weeds shouted over the noise of combat.
"Sir!" Exphasia shouted back, bringing herself to her feet.
"Port side, knock Ďem out!" Weeds shouted his orders as his snipers took aimed shots at the Yummerilís crew.
Several more of the Yummerilís guns went off, vibrating the hull of the Ravager. The pirate ship was built with this style of combat in mind. Its armored hull absorbed the shot and Exphasiaís protection enhancements deflected most of the destructive energy. But they wouldn't hold forever.
"Ex! Shut those guns down!" Weeds order.
"Iím on it!" Exphasia shouted.
Anger rose inside the young woman. This battle was going wrong. Never had she been in such a brutal fight. The Yummerilís crew would have to die. All of them.
Exphasia fell into the sphere spectrum and called upon the Multi Sphereís energy essence. Using the sphereís inherent powers she conjured up a schematic view of the Yummeril which revealed the surviving gun placements.
She locked onto the guns and shifted her focus from the Multi Sphere to the Negosha Sphere, summoning the destructive Disfraction energy with frightening speed. The guns were laced with typical security encryptions, which she ripped through in a heartbeat. Her eyes shot open and she stood up, her fingers and wrists popping in erratic motions.
An evil smile crossed her lips.
--- --- ---
As Rezen pulled himself back onto the deck of the Yummeril he heard a low hum echoing below him in the depths of the ship. There were several cries of surprise and pain. Rezen heard a sizzling sound and the guns went silent.
"Their melting the fucking guns!" he heard a soldier cry out.
"Repel it!" he heard another shout.
It was too late, though. The Yummerilís guns were now just large pieces of warped metal.
Rezen poked his head up out of the hole and surveyed the battle. Everywhere he looked he saw only chaos, blood and destruction. Benís squad had somehow regrouped and was now encroaching on the helm. The enemy spherist was still on top of the aft castle with at least ten other soldiers fending off Benís squad.
Rezen pulled himself up and made his way for the battle on the upper decks, his eyes never leaving the spherist. The woman was finishing off a Kionic as she bounced the pirateís head off a railing and sliced him through the back with her synth blade. Rezen drew his weapons and made his way for the woman.
A soldier jumped into Rezenís path, desiring revenge for the deaths of her friends. Rezen continued to walk forward as though the woman werenít there and brought his rapier into a ready position as the woman charged in. The soldier about three feet away from Rezen when her body convulsed. Two bolts sunk deep into the side of her head and shot out the other side in a mist of blood and bone. One bolt had gone straight through one ear and out the other. The womanís eyes froze in a horrid expression and she fell to the deck.
Rezen, never even breaking stride, caught the falling corpse, plunged his rapier through the dead soldierís belly and pushed her aside. The woman landed with a thud on the deck. A pool of blood circled out around her to join the numerous other blood stains saturating the Yummerilís main deck. Rezen reached the stairs that led to the upper decks and broke into a straight sprint, using all of his adrenaline to fight back against the pain of his wounds.
"Fuckin' spherist," Rezen growled as he reached the top of the stairs, rushing past several soldiers, Hess and some of Squad Four. He emerged onto the helm, slamming into the woman with his right shoulder, using all of his gained momentum.
She was caught off guard and took the full impact of the blow in her chest. Rezen charged so strong and quickly that he lifted her off the ground and carried her all the way to the back railing. They slammed into the wooden railing, squishing her between it and Rezenís shoulder, but her tiny muscled frame withstood the impact. With a searing sting, the wound on his shoulder opened even further, and he felt an increased flow of warm blood run down his back. He growled away the pain and continued to pin the woman down.
"Little shit," the woman spat as she bashed Rezen in the mouth with her elbow.
Her hands moved with precision as three more strikes connected with Rezen's head and torso. The fluidity of the movements were frightening.
"Fuck you!" Rezen grunted as he accepted the blows and spit out blood.
Pain surged through his body. He couldn't take anymore of this. He pushed off of the spherist while simultaneously smashing her in the face with his right fist once, twice, the last blow connecting with her temple. He was too close to pull off any effective attacks with his rapier. A splash of blood shot out of her nose and splattered across her face. Rezen geared for another of his anger driven blows, but this time she was ready. She quickly dodged Rezenís fist, slammed her forehead straight into his face and spun around the vael, grabbing his left arm and twisting it. Rezenís head slammed back from the impact, and he felt warm blood run down his face from a new gash as he was spun around.
"You wanna play, you little bitch?" the caster snarled in anger.
Rezen knew the synth blade was coming. Instead of trying to stop the spin, he went with it and fell low. The spherist didnít release her grip as the synth blade came screaming in for Rezen. It missed him by less than an inch. In the same motion Rezen pulled out his dagger with his free hand and slammed it straight through the womanís right forearm that was connected with the synth blade.
"Fuck," the spherist grunted as she lost control of her synth blade. Its energy twisted and evaporated.
"Sloppy," Rezen said with a bloody smile as he spun around to face her.
A scowl exploded on her face as she lunged for Rezen, her hands lashing out with deadly speed. Five rapid punches connected with Rezenís chest and gut, stealing his breath. A sixth and unbelievably strong blow to the ribs picked him up off the ground and sent him crashing to the deck, where he slid straight into the base of the ship's wheel. His rapier flew out of his hand and went skidding across the deck.
Rezen knew he was far overmatched now. She hadnít even bothered to remove his dagger, which was sticking straight through her right forearm. The spherist had landed her punches in less than a second, and he could tell this speed was not some artificial spherical enhancement, but was due to her own physical prowess.
He sprung to his feet only to be met by a roundhouse kick to the face. Rezen stumbled back, tears welling up in his eyes, feeling more blood freely running from his nose.
"You want it like that, huh," Rezen taunted as he stumbled, spitting blood. "Letís do this."
She followed her kick with two more strikes. Rezen dodged the first and brought his arm up to block the second. He barely deflected the blow as he did a half spin around the fist grabbing onto the hilt of his embedded dagger. He wrenched the blade free in one sickening motion, drawing a long line of blood from her forearm.
The spherist hopped backwards, clutching her forearm as she tried to subdue the pain. For a split second Rezen got a glimpse into this womanís bright green eyes. Those eyes were filled with extreme frustration and uncalculated anger.
Rezen rushed the woman. He couldnít give her an inch in this fight. The spherist met him halfway. Rezen slid to the deck as he avoided a burst of kicks. He stopped himself and reversed his momentum, coming up at the spheristís side.
He struck out with his dagger, but the womanís hands lashed out again with crazy speed, sending his attack out wide. She landed several more punches to Rezenís head and chest before Rezen got in a blow of his own. Rezen closed the gap, grabbing onto her shoulder and pulling her close as he tried to get his dagger into her torso.
The womanís hands worked methodically as she twisted his dagger hand into an awkward position and latched onto his other arm, bringing herself together with Rezen in a strong lock. Their faces were only inches from one another.
"Itís no fun Ďtil someone dies," she whispered, eerily calm and perfectly in control.
Rezen caught the glint in her eye. She was going to cast a spell. He pushed forward and slammed his knee into her stomach twice. The womanís grasp loosened just a bit, but that was all he needed. Rezen pulled his left arm free and grabbed her by the neck. He gritted his teeth as he squeezed with all his strength.
The woman released the arm lock, flattened out her hand and chopped it into Rezenís neck. His eyes went wide as the powerful attacks closed his windpipe and robbed him of oxygen. Rezen pushed the woman away as he stumbled backward, his hand going to his throat as he tried to cough.
She was on him in an instant. Choking, Rezen stepped to the side, dipped low and tripped the woman up as she descended on him. He caught a knee to the side of his head as the two fell to the deck.
They wrestled for a second on the ground, the woman scoring more of her quick punches. Rezen landed a few, too, but on his last strike she grabbed his fist and threw it to the side. Still holding his punching hand firmly, she grabbed his biceps with her free hand and snapped her hands in opposite directions, applying tremendous pressure to his right arm.
Rezenís mouth opened wide in horror as he heard the bones in his forearm snap in two. His vision blurred as pain and rage flooded through his body. He tried to move his arm, but it did not respond.
"Fuck!" Rezen shouted as he found a new source energy boiling inside him, ready to explode.
He smashed his forehead into her left eye with all his might. He did it again and again until he bought himself a little room in which to maneuver his good arm. Using his inherent agility he wriggled his dagger arm free, faster than the caster was ready for, and slashed wildly at her head.
She tried to jerk out of the way, but Rezen was quicker. His blade missed his intended target as she jerked her head to the side. Instead, the blade sliced down through her ear, lengthwise across her jaw bone and down the side of her throat. Her flesh opened up and blood began to pour out.
Once again they looked into each otherís eyes and saw the most intense hatred for a living being either one had ever witnessed.
The caster positioned her feet under Rezenís stomach and kicked him off her, sending the vael flying through the air. Rezen had no hope of landing on his feet. He smashed into the hard deck, his right hip absorbing the fall. The caster flipped onto to her feet. Rezen could see an evil grin form on her face as the blood from her vicious wound flowed freely. Her hands began to glow with black smoke.
A ball of dark purple energy screamed in behind the spherist catching her in the back and causing the black energy around her hands to vaporize. The inertia of the attack sent her body spinning in the air. The oxygen was blasted from her lungs as she fell to her to her knees. Rezen looked past the downed spherist and saw Exphasia on the Ravager's helm, which was now higher than the Yummerilís, grinning and holding up two fingers.
Rezen didnít have time to contemplate that. He rushed at the spherist, kicking at her head. Her hands flashed out with amazing speed and she caught his foot and twisted it. Rezen spun in the air and landed face down, his head bouncing off the deck.
Coughing up blood, Rezen staggered to his feet.
Dagger in hand, he was ready.
Placing her hand to her neck, the caster looked around, noticing for the first time that the ship was sinking and that the Kionics had almost complete control of the Yummeril. The vesselís deck was now in line with the middle of the Ravager's hull. Her teeth clenched in rage as she felt her warm blood oozing from the side of her head and neck between her fingers.
"Itíll be fun next time, I promise," she said, motioning toward Rezen with both hands, her index and middle fingers pointing to him as though she were aiming a boltgun at him.
Behind her the air ripped open in a haze of purple and black smoke. A black void expanded out from the center of the smoke and the spherist stepped back into darkness, her eyes remaining locked onto Rezenís. He returned the glare, a newfound intense hatred coursing through his veins like venom. The spherist mirrored that emotion perfectly in her own icy, dead stare.
It was all over in flash, though, as she was engulfed by the spherical energy and disappeared before him through the portal. He coughed hard as he propped himself against the wheel, watching the portal energies vaporize.
Rezen panted hard. The fight had been extremely taxing. He wiped off some of the blood that had leaked into his eyes and looked down at his broken forearm. Unable to move it, Rezen could see the bones sticking up, stretching his skin, but not penetrating it. The world around him phased in and out, becoming surreal.
He could feel the ship sinking under him. He was on the bridge and it was now almost even with the Ravagers main deck. He had a high vantage point on the Yummeril, though, and now got a full view of the battle that had taken place.
Thick smoke hung over the two ships, the haze blocking out the beautiful day's warming sun. The deck was black and red. Bodies, body parts and wreckage covered almost every foot of it. There were a few deck fires that no one was bothering to put out.
Taking in the scene, Rezen knew the battle was over. They had won the ship. The rest of his crew was finishing off the stragglers and helping their wounded off the ship onto the Ravager. He knew there would be no prisoners taken this on this mission, no survivors. The spherist had gotten away though.
All around him on the helm lay wreckage and bodies, both Kionic and of the Yummerilís crew. The smell of charred flesh, smoke and blood permeated the air. One body just a foot away from him had been sliced almost in half. The manís mushy, multicolored organs lay strewn about. Benís team had just finished off the rest of the helm's opposition.
"Shit, Rezen. Shit" Ben said as came up to the vael with several others behind him, his face scrunched up in concern. "You all right?"
The voice was so distant, it sounded like he was underwater again.
"Secure the helm," Rezen ordered between coughs.
Rezen sheathed his dagger, picked up his rapier and began to stumble down the stairs. He had to step over someoneís dismembered arm and several bodies to get to the bottom. He coughed a few times from inhaling the smoke. His whole body was numb, but he could still feel his warm blood running down his skin and dripping on the deck.
A wave of nausea overcame him as he walked across the deck. Rezen swooned, but continued on toward the Ravager where Captain Weeds was negotiating a plank that bridged the gap between the two ships.
"Letís move! Sheís going down," Captain Weeds shouted to the men on deck.
"They almost have it, sir," a Kionic shouted as he looked down the large hole in the deck of the Yummeril.
"Hustle up! Whereís Squad..." Captain Weeds began, but trailed off as Rezenís limping figure became clear through the light haze.
The vael looked like the walking dead. Rezen was covered in blood and lacerations. His clothes were sliced up and his skin was the palest white Weeds had ever seen. A stream of blood ran down his broken arm and was dripping onto the deck. Weeds' stomach twisted at the sight. He couldnít believe Rezen was able to move in his current condition.
"Rezen. Damn it, Rezen," the Captain breathed as the vael stopped in front of him.
Rezen stood very still, just staring at the Captain, ignoring his wounds and the streams of blood coursing down his body.
Rezen's lips moved as if to say something, but instead his eyes rolled backwards and he collapsed down to one knee. His weight shifted and he crumbled to the deck, out cold in a pool of his own blood.
Copyright 2009-2010, Sean Kinsley, All rights reserved
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