Posted on Sat Oct 20th, 2012 @ 1:17pm by Captain Daenelia Bradley & Master Brem de Berg & Master Rhiannon Poer & Mate Sahka Mounzouk Oarsman & Sailor Mei-Xiu & Sailor Azzo Weisse & Sailor John O'Leary Jack & Snot Rag Chops McGinty & Mistress Tanith Lars & Master Caroline Summers
Edited on on Sun Oct 21st, 2012 @ 6:25pm
Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Location: Rosita's bar
Little Josep was outside, playing in the heap of sand under one of the windows of Barnacle's Bar. Rosita, his grandmother, had given him some small pie shapes and cookie-cutters to make sand pies with. Josep wanted to be a cook, like his uncle. But he only wanted to make desserts. With chocolate. And apples. As he was building a huge shape of sand, a shadow fell over his work of art. "Well," a dark female voice said, "look at the little rat playing in the dirt",she couldn't help making a disgusted face.And when Josep looked up, the woman kicked the sand from the layered sand cake in his face. Josep screwed up his face, as the sand stung in his eyes and he started crying. "Let's go in and get this over with," the woman said to the men following her. The group entered the bar.
Aurelia frowned. It was quite easy to get in the bar. A little too easy. She looked left and stared at the tip of a sword mere centimeters from her face. Her men were almost surrounded too. But she had planned this well. One of Rosita's sons was in bed with the flu. Another's wife was in labour. And five of Rosita's Sons, those who were not really related to her, had been arrested over the last 3 days. By Aurelia. She figured there would be about six of Rosita's thugs to protect the bar, and that would mean a chance to finally get her to hand over the bar.
"Put that away, silly man," Aurelia said in what she thought was her sweet voice. "Rosita!" She yelled at the woman behind the bar. "I have here an eviction notice. You're not allowed to run a bar within 300 meters of the Governor's house. The law was passed yesterday. By my father. So you have to leave. Now."
Little Josep wasn't really strong, or proud to confront Aurelia and his man. But, he was small and smart, and didn't loose any time to ran out the place, and get some help. The fear was his enemies, not his own fear, but these of other. Closed doors, slamming shutters, shifty eyes, fleeting presence. But the little boy didn't stop. In his heart, he knew, he knew that if he stops seeking Rosita will die. And he ran, ran until he found somewhere some help, fatality upon his shoulders.
But fate and destiny are the keepers of the same door. And the erratic course of the child led him to the Steamhawke.
Sahka busy trying to keep his hat on his head while a monkey was bent to withdraw it. Suddenly Both, man and monkey stop their struggle. And before anyone could hear Josep, Sahka turn his face to the crew above him while pointing the child.
“Anyone know this boy? He came here to seek some help. I think we should help him.”
Azzo glanced up at the Skyreader's shout. When he saw the man looking down over the edge, he untangled his hands from the rigging and came to peer over the side. "That's Rosita's grandson," he said, bracing a foot on the rail and leaning over to call down to the boy. "Josep!" He cupped his hands to his mouth and let the sound carry down. "What brings you here, boy?" He was uncomfortably aware that the answer might be him. The little boy ran messages for his father from time to time. After the brawl Azzo had simply disappeared, leaving behind two bruised men, a rented room paid through the week, and a knapsack full of possessions. Of course steady, homegrown Leon would have questions.
"Azzo!" Josep's eyes riveted on the familiar face. He knew little of the strange, blond man with the funny way of speaking, but he recognized him as a friend of his father's and one of the Son's. "Governor's men. At home. I have to find Da." He shouted.
If he'd been a man more inclined to humor, Azzo would have smiled grimly. Ivan's wish for him, that he might have enough luck to leave his troubles behind, hadn't been enough. A plea from the needy indeed. "I'm coming," he called down to the boy. "Stay there." His sword was in his kip, his halfway mended coat too. With a decent run he could be at the Barnacle before the church bell chimed the hour.
To do what? Run into some thug's blade? This fight? Or the next one?
A plea from the needy. He pushed the thought away and turned to Sahka instead. "You know the Governor's Men?" he asked.
"I need to place an order" Brem said to Himuro as they both strode onto the deck, "I shouldn't be gone to long, keep things ticking over and if you see Erm give him a clout round the head for taking so long."
"Sure" Himuro said with a smile. "Hey, isn't that Rosita's kid?" he said nodding towards Josep.
"Owner of the bar"
"No, her kids are grown now."
"Maybe" Brem took a moment and then shouted "Kid! Are you one of Rosita's brood?"
Mei wondered who Rosita and the Governor were,why they didn't like each other, and if every enemy they came encounter with would have a long,complicated past that was somehow entwined with that of one of the crew.Incidentally,she also noticed Kichi was pulling up and down on his pants and shooting the middle finger,which she learned was Organ Grinder Monkey for,"Please change my diaper"."Excuse me,I have to change something on someone",she went swiftly to the nearest suitable area,muttering about "tact","retraining" and "Are human children this hard?"
Josep quickly turned his head towards the much taller man,"She's my grandma."
Brem nodded, and sent a cabin girl to relay the message to Daenelia. He didn't wait for orders, because he was pretty sure the captain would not mind if the better part of the crew went to see if Rosita needed help. Once he organized the crew into a group to follow him ashore and a group to stay behind, he said to the latter group: "Better make the ship as ready as possible for take off." He'd been part of the crew long enough to suspect that they might need to fly off sooner than planned. The other group was grabbing weapons, lacing up boots and finishing off a last bite to eat, before they all ran down the gang plank on to the dock. "Make haste, but stay together, people!" Brem yelled at a few fast runners at the front.
Azzo of course was almost out of earshot by that time.
At Barnacle's Bar Rosita was getting into a shouting match with Aurelia, her voice high pitched but strong. Aurelia simply nodded to one of the men, who stepped forwards and hit Rosita across the face. That was enough to spark one of Rosita's sons to jump in front of his mother, hitting and punching the man who attacked her. It was the start of the fight. And just then the first of the crew arrived, as well as some of the men and women Rosita could usually rely on to stand by her.
Mei overheard the group as she changed her monkey and joined the others,walking swiftly and cautiously.She was careful to stay with the group as she was worried about Elizabeth when she heard footsteps,finally arriving to see Josep."She's in there! Aurelia! Grandma's in there! Please!",tears formed in his eyes.Looking at this sobbing little boy created both empathy and awkwardness inside the frequently seemingly cold former assassin.
"You let the kid go!"
"It was either him or Rosita, Rodrigo!"
"You know Aurelia hates loose ends almost as much as she hates dirt!"
Mei's eyes widened with anxiety,she knew exactly who they were talking about and grabbed the kid's arm and ran. "What are you doing?!"
"A favor for your grandmother, I think?" She led him a grimy area full of trash bags that she knew someone as compulsive about dirt as Aurelia would hate. He quickly hid and she then felt something cold and hard on the back of her head, "Where's the kid?"
Mei-Xiu looked around and gulped, she was surrounded by armed men.
Stood in a doorway, just down the road from the bar stood a hunched over man and a young boy, they had seen the governors people arrive and thought not much of it, it wasn't their business. When the crew of the Steamhawke started appearing though, they both took a little more notice. The boy, eyes wide said "We should go and help!"
"Help who? The governors men? Then we will be shunned by the people we need, or the people of the bar? We would be hunted down and killed, no, we won't take a side in this fight, not just yet anyway.
Inside the bar, it was chaos. Azzo, who had vaulted the fence around the back chicken coop and slipped in the back door just before the first punch was thrown, was in the thick of it. He'd dropped two men as he came in, but in close quarters the broom he'd seized from against the chicken coop was proving more of a liability than an asset. Even as he raised it again, a Governor's Man beside him grabbed it and tried to jerk it away from him. Twisting it out of the man's grasp, he flipped it up into both hands, set the bar of it across the man's chest, and shoved. The man went over backwards, lost in a tangle of overturned chairs and feet, and Azzo turned to face his next assailant.
Instead though, it was Tomas, Rosita's youngest son and Azzo's closest companion during his time on the island. Tomas flashed him a quick, worried grin before they turned their backs to each other, Azzo ready with his broom and Tomas brandishing what looked to Azzo like a leg from one of the tables.
"Who are all these people?" Tomas shouted above the shouts, thuds, and crashes of breaking glass. The crew of the Steamhawke had indeed arrived and the war dogs in their leathers were proving more organized fighters than the Governor's brawlers and the shopkeeps and dockhands that man up the Sons. "And how did they get here?"
"Josep brought us." A Governor's Man rushed Azzo. He brought the broom up and jabbed it sharply, sending the man staggering back with a face full of the unspeakable grime from the chicken coop floor.
A bottle skittered across the floor and broke, sending the sharp smell of alcohol into the air. Tomas cursed, invoking the names of several saints. "And he'll have followed you back to make sure his folk are safe too. Azzo, this is no place for a boy." On the floor, someone grabbed at his ankle, and Azzo trod on him instead. "We sh--"
A thin scream cut the air, cutting off Tomas' sentence and making them both turn their heads towards the bar. Their line of sight was blocked by people and overturned tables, but they both heard the louder crash of glass and the triumphant female yell a moment later. The crowd split and parted for a moment and Azzo caught a glimpse of Rosita, disheveled but proud and angry as her Sons gathered around her. Next to him, Azzo sensed Tomas hesitate.
"Go," Azzo said, nodding towards the bar. "I'll find Josep." Tomas gave him a look of thanks, then shouldered into the fray, brandishing his table leg at anyone foolish to get in his way. Azzo sidestepped two grappling men, gave a boot to a third, and slipped out the door he'd come in.
After the wild fray of the bar, the back of the inn was oddly quiet. Around the corner, at the front entrance, he could hear the shouting of more Men and Sons who had rushed to the bar as word of the brawl spread. He hoped Josep had enough sense in his head to avoid them. Instead he kept the back, treading carefully around the side of the stables where a scared boy might be likely to wait and listen and hope. The broom he left leaning against the coop where it belonged, loosening the ties on his scabbard instead. A sword would have done as much harm as good in the crowded bar, but it would be as dangerous in the open air of a stable as on a battlefield.
The scuff of boots on cobblestones reached him at the same time as the smell of muck and rot. He drew himself up into the shadow of a stack of crates and waited. As he watched, the fragile looking mechanical girl from the ship appeared, drawing Tomas' nephew along behind her. Azzo relaxed. He was about to ease out of his shadow and return to the bar when the shouting of men from around the corner suddenly grew close. Four men ran past him, to intent on their quarry to notice the shape in the shadows, and turned down the alley.
Azzo cursed silently. He and Tomas had gone into fights with worse odds, but that was Tomas; big as an ox and with a canny knack for where to send his fists. He'd heard the mechanical girl was one of the Steamhawke's war dogs, but all his instincts told him "slip of a girl," rather than "seasoned soldier." Sliding his sword from its scabbard, he moved cleanly into the alley.
There were indeed four of them, two with knives, one with a cudgel, and the last with knife in one hand and a derringer to the back of the mechanical girl's head. Mei-Xui and the man stood at the mouth of the alley, facing down it and away from him. Azzo took the only chance he had, moving before the others had a chance to call out a warning to their companion. Grasping the haft of his sword with both hands, he brought the pommel down on the back of the man's head. He dropped like a stone and Azzo scrabbled the derringer out of his hand.
Mei hoped someone would save her but wasn't exactly sure they'd come in time,so when Azzo swopped in, she felt deep relief. Whoever was up there be praised! She took a deep breath and tried to cease the panic and dropping of her mechanical heart and stomach. However as it was not over yet, she stayed aware of her surroundings as well as a bit anxious.
"Back!" He commanded, keeping the gun in one hand and the sword in the other. The men eyed him speculatively. They had no way of knowing Azzo was as terrible a shot as he was, but they likely knew a pistol as small as the derringer wouldn't deal significant damage at any distance from its target. He stepped away from Mei-Xui, giving himself space to swing a sword. The alley was clear but for them. Josep, he hoped, had found a way to edge out, or a child sized space to hide.
The men edged in, sizing up their targets; a wiry, grim looking man with a fighter's bruises and sword in hand and a pretty woman without any visible weapons. Azzo shot a sidewise glance at Mei-Xui. "Could you take the man with the cudgel?" he asked in a low voice.
"Yes,I can and will." Mei knew she couldn't just run into this wildly, she'd better think her next move through. The enemy men outnumbered the two but also had crammed themselves together, not taking advantage of the little room they had. The mechanical woman reached into her sleeve and pulled out a small, bronze-colored, clockwork bomb perfect for such a situation and tossed it into the small crowd, careful that it was out of Azzo's line of fire.
Of all the things Mei-Xui might have done, Azzo had not been expecting that. He'd seen explosives used on the battlefield before, but those had been shells the size of a man's head that screamed down from the sky and blew dirt and shrapnel over an entire regiment. Mei-Xui's bomb fit inside her fist. He watched the ball make its slow arc across the alley, land, and roll before his mind caught up with him and told him what it was. It was then that Josep, curious about the sudden silence, poked his head from his hiding place.
Azzo was closer to him than Mei. Governor's Men forgotten, he sprinted the few steps between them, dropping his weight over the child just as the small device detonated. Given its size, the concussive force of the thing was minimal, but it was enough to send chips of cobblestone and splintered wood flying about the confined spaces of the alley. Something small and sharp hit the back of Azzo's head, and he felt the familiar wet trickle of blood down the back of his collar as debris pattered against his coat. Underneath him, Joseph struggled, panicking at the confinement and the noise and the smoke that filled the alley. Azzo fought him, shoving him farther back into the gap between two crates. "Stay there," he growled and the child, either finally registering the familiarity of the accent, or simply to scared to disobey, went still.
The smoke filled the air around him and Azzo's chest tensed, lungs threatening to rebel. He'd struggled with them all across the cold damp of Prussia, struggling for air in smoke and haze and dust. He thought he'd left it behind in the warmth of the Old West and Seaport, but now with a lungful of smoke, it all rushed back. Clambering back out of Josep's refuge, leaned his back against the wall of the alley, fighting to draw in as much air as his lungs cried out for. Through the haze of smoke, he could see the outline of one Man, unconscious or dead, a and another slumped against a wall and either wounded or disoriented past being a threat. Forcing down the urge to cough, Azzo brought his sword up cautiously, eyes searching for the third man.
News of the fight spread across the port and the newest engineer grabbed his special revolver and ran as fast as his legs could take him. Jack ran into the alley seeing Azzo still wheezing from the smoke, he reached down his boot and turned on its pump and grabbed a handmade respirator. "This might not be completely fresh air but its better than nothing now hold still man and try to breath easily". The young Irishman commanded while holding his gun set on 45 caliber and keeping an eye out for the enemy.
Mei-Xiu,being an automaton,was less effected by the smoke and able to make out the appearance of a blue-eyed,gun-wielding man of average height.Staying beside the wheezing man,she looked on cautiously yet with trust as the newer man seemed to be helping.
If Azzo was surprised at the sudden appearance of the young man, he didn't show it. Instead he clasped the mask to his face and eased a breath into his lungs. "One man," he wheezed. "Knife."
Jack chuckled a bit in relief. "You still among the living, thank goodness". He kept pumping his boot heel to keep the pump operating and asked. "What do you mean "One man, knife". He asked keeping an eye out for the "One man". "Where is that lad you shielded? Is he well"? He asked a little worried.
Mei looked at the first man, between his scars and build (not to mention his uniform), he seemed to be an experienced fighter,yet like many (such as herself) had a certain frailness to him. Or was that just because of the state he was in now? She rapidly noticed something else about him, "You're bleeding!" she said with concern. Despite being distracted,the automaton picked up on a few words of Jack's."We should find him once we are sure everything has died down." The woman then turned to Azzo and smiled, "Thank you for helping me back there." She gently touched his back.
"Good thought Mei, sorry I could not I have introduced to the rest of the crew under better circumstances". He said. "Here help me get Azzo to a safe place then look for that last man before he can get others, Jack O'Leary by the way". He added. Jack cut some of his smock with his knife to cover as much of Azzo's wounds as he could. "Good thing I had some clean spots". He thought.
"No need." Azzo explored the back of his head gingerly with his fingers. "Scalp wounds always bleed more than they're worth." The air had cleared enough that Jack's respirator was no longer essentially and aside from a faint wheeziness and a cough that threatened after more than a few words, he felt close to normal. Stifling a grown, he pushed himself up off the ground. After a moment with his hands on his knees, he was able to straighten himself out. When he spoke, his voice was clipped and brisk. "Jack is right. He's likely run and I don't want the boy here when he brings back friends." He coughed, shook his hair out of his eyes, and turned to the mechanical girl. "He trusted you enough to come this far with you. Take him and keep him safe. There's a church down the alley and a few streets west," he nodded, pointing out the appropriate direction. "They won't follow you there. Jack," he turned to the man. "If you've a mind to be a part of this fight, the backdoor the Barnacle will let you see them before they see you. It'll be close fighting though; you'd be as like to kill friend as foe with pistols. These aren't military men; they don't know how to stay out of the way. Understand?"
"Azzo you best go with Mei you'll at least have help if things get iffy". He said taking off his gun belt. "Take tis, when shook you can go from 22. to 45. caliber rounds, you can fire a center pin when you press down the hammer and fire a 16 gauge buckshot round". He gave the gun to Azzo and took out his knife. Jack slid through the back door to still hear the fight inside and broken bottles where everywhere the very smell made the hairs on his mustache stand on end. "Damn they wasted all the good stuff". He mumbled. One of the Governors men attempt to sneak up on Sahka who was just getting back up after getting the wind knocked out of him when he tapped the mans shoulder. "You mess with me mates yo mess with me". He warned taking a broken chair leg and hitting him on the head. "I think I'm going to like the Steamhawke". He said smirking.
Meanwhile,in the bar...
Aurelia realized that her pistol was to aim, let alone shoot without hitting an ally.
[i] 'If I shoot one of our men, I'll lose moral,resources,and worst of all,my father's respect', the strawberry blonde woman thought to herself,'Stupid street filth,starting this all!',she screwed up her face. 'There has to be some way to get to that scum without getting my hands all bloody...Where is that boy?' [/i]
"You're right,let's get him," Mei replied. Under a gray sky, the woman walked purposefully toward area previously covered by fog where she had seen the boy last and saw a pair anxious darting eyes between the barrels.She lowered herself to the boy's level, "It's alright," she said as possible. "You can come out now,just stay with Azzo and I."
"What about Grandma?"
"The Steamhawke's looking out for her now."
Azzo stared at the heavy gun Jack thunked into his hand, then shrugged, checked the safety, and stuck it through his belt.
Back at the bar...
Aurelia was still wondering what to do when Jack snuck up behind her and saw her hesitate. "So the little girl is worried about daddy finding out huh"? Jack taunted. "Underneath all those fine silks your no different than the rest of me mates you call us stupid street filth well mam while you sleep under three pillows in complete safety and comfort folks are stayin' up late into the night just wonderin' when their next meal is coming". Jack wasn't being nasty as much as he was trying to give Aurelia a sense of what life is really like it always came naturally since his mother taught him to try to the find the good in all people. "Now you come in and try to throw people who are tryin' to make an honest livin' out of what is very much their lives,and on top of that you kick sand into an innocent lads face ain't tat a pity now come give me that gun before you make things worse your ye'self lassie". He ordered but he was prepared to counter if she tried anything.
Mai helped the boy out of his hiding space while voices sounded in the background.
"Wait,I think I know where to look for the kid now." Oh,pigeon stool!
"Come on,we have to go now!",Mei told the other two hurriedly and putting emphasis on the last word.She took the boy's hand and ran as fast as she could before realizing she didn't know where she was going.As silly as it sounded,Mei didn't know what a church was.Sure,there were some churches in Gamshan but not many,besides why would an assassin automaton be in a church?
"This church thing,I know those are places of worship but...what do they look like?"
Azzo, preoccupied with the lingering effects of his asthma attack, had let Mei take the lead. The boy, Josep, seemed to have decided to trust her, and when she took off at a dead sprint, he was glad it was so. As it was, it was all he could do to keep up. He doubted he could have if he had to carry the boy. Instead he focused his energy and his mind on keeping pace with her. When she turned to him with a blank look on her face, he was almost startled.
He recovered quickly however, and pointed at the small stone building up ahead. "There. We'll be safe there," he paused. "For now, anyway."