Aria looked over her shoulder at Jay standing on the stairs. “Dinner’s ready.”
The sound of food shoved all curiosity from Aria’s mind about a problem and a solution to a vampire venom anecdote. Instead, she scrambled to her feet and all but ran to Jay who led Aria to the deck.
The night sky greeted Aria inviting a clear view of the stars. Aria gasped at the sheer volume of light that speckled the black canopy.
“It took some getting used to,” Cin chimed in. “When the invasion hit, we lost power within the first week. The silence that followed… the lack of city light…”
Jay opened the kitchen door and the smell of roasted pork hit Aria hard. Her stomach tightened as she gulped down a mouthful of saliva.
“We’ll eat,” said Angela. “And then we’ll review the plan.
The moment Aria stepped into the kitchen, Stanushka swept her into a chair at the table as plates filled up with pork and the brew was passed.
The Professor carefully shifted his microscope to the nearest counter, while Adam failed to pull his attention away from his work even for a moment to realize food was served.
“Adam!” Angela called.
“Yo!” Adam answered, not looking up from his work.
“Eat! Take a break!”
Cindy shoved a plate of pork beside him as she unstopped one of her flasks. The joyous clatter quickly filled the room as everyone dove in. Aria wasted no time filling her belly, and only when she forced herself to slow down did she glance around the table at the myriad of faces. A captain donned with a tiara, a purple haired boozer dressed in leather, the blond with bubblegum pink tips… even here, an automatic flint lock had found its place at the table.
The Professor at once launched into his most recent findings while the warrior swapped brews with Cin Dixon who laughed easy. Through it all, Adam had found time to shove a bit of pork in his mouth despite his eye still glued to his gadget. For a moment, Aria watched him reach a pair of fingers into a small pocket and pull out a gizmo she couldn’t quite identify. Half tweezers, half magnifying glass, or perhaps a screwdriver… she couldn’t tell.
He adjusted the monocle secured to his eye and kept working.
In less than twenty minutes, the pork had vanished. Save for a separate platter Stanushka was currently filling up, no other food remained. Aria watched Stani carry the plate to the counter.
“Now then,” Angela continued. “The solution to our current dilema—”
A cry cut the air and every cutlery froze. The crew exchanged silent glances. At the second distinct cry, everyone took up their nearest weapon and charged for the door. Too curious to inquire, Aria jumped to her feet and followed.
“Back! Back!” a man’s voice screamed from the shore line where only a black blur could be seen from a collected group. The gurgles and growls carried over the river from the bank.
“Away!” the man called.
A female voice screamed over the growls.
“Chess,” Cindy said, queuing the crew into action.
As smooth as glass, Adam casually kicked the side of the ship. A floor board sprang up as the metal clank of anchor being dropped obeyed. Before Aria could inquire, Adam was down on a knee, withdrawing a large rocket launcher styled something-turned-gadget from the ship deck. On beat, Adam aimed for the bank and squeezed the trigger sending a grappling hook into the river’s edge all as the ship came to a full stop.
As Aria collected her wits about the situation, Stani, Cindy, and Angela all had equipped themselves, and already were dropping a pulley-like contraption onto the rope that Adam had fired into the bank. With three zips they were off. The subtle light of a match drew Aria’s attention back to Adam who lit a gentleman’s pipe and tipped his head back as if enjoying a calm evening on the river. Aria looked to Jay who was already leaning against the cabin wall nursing a water skin she suspected was something stronger.
“What are you doing?” Aria said. “Aren’t you going to help them?”
“What for?” Adam asked as if he was asking a student a pointed question about physics.
“Relax, Aria,” Jay called. “They’ll get pissed if we steal their fun.”
* * *
From the zip line, Stani fired her automatic flint lock, pelting the Weeches with buck shot. They took they hit, shuddering under the fire and falling buying the group time to touch down on shore and releasing themselves from the zip ties. Cindy turned with her daggers leading the way. Weech guts spilled all over her hands as Angela unsheathed her swords and sliced her way into the crowd. Behind them, Stani fired off another round of buckshot.
As the Weeches took the hits, Cindy and Angela made their way into the crowd.
“There!” Cindy cried, burying her dagger into a Weech’s skull and drawing Angela’s attention to the Chess Cut Lass carving out a hole around her.
“Who is that?” Angela asked as she took the head off a Weech. Cowering behind Chess, wearing nothing but a loin cloth and black leather boots, crouched a scrawny man in the darkness. Aside from his index fingers positioned so as to form a cross, he seemed to do little else, but release the occasional scream.
“Back!” he shrieked no and then gathering enough courage to poke his head over Chess’ shoulder.
With a new direction, Cindy and Angela made their way toward Chess and the wild man. More Weeches swarmed, and Cindy drove her daggers into necks, spilling cold spoiled blood over the ground. Stench engulfed them as Angela cut the legs out of another, driving her blades into skulls and guts. More came until a sounding pulse, released through the crowd, knocking Chess, Angela, Cindy, and the wild man to the ground.
As the smoke cleared, all they could make out was Stanushka patiently waiting for everyone to rise. A bazooka nestled affectionately on her shoulder.
“What?” Stani asked, smiling. Cindy and Angela climbed to their feet with Chess. Angela scrunched up her face.
“What smells like garlic?”
“Him,” Chess said, pointing at the wild man still flat on his back, muttering madness beneath his breath.
The pale moonlight reflected off his chest that shone out like a beacon in the middle of the night.
“What is he?” Cindy asked, studying the wild man still laying flat on his back.
“Madness,” he muttered. “Must… fight the madness.”
Stani made her way through the Weech limbs and came to stand beside Chess donned in 16th century pirate garbed from buckled cuffed boots to pirate hat poised perfectly on black hair set with streaks of white.
“What is this, Chess?” Angela asked.
“Not sure,” Chess said. “I found him on my run. He was stuck in a tree shouting stuff about the madness and the dark. It was all I could do to get a name out of him.”
“Matt,” Chess said. “But I’ve taken to calling him Mad Matt.”
Angela nodded approvingly. “It suits him.”
“It does, doesn’t it?”
“What’s wrong with him?” Stani asked.
“Not sure yet,” Chess said. “When the Weeches found him in the tree he was crossing his fingers at them shouting some crazy shit.”
“He stinks like garlic,” Angela said.
Chess frowned. “Yes. It’s his loin cloth. I think he dowsed it in garlic butter.”
Mad Matt simply gazed at the stars muttering as they spoke.
“The darkness,” he muttered. “Darkness… the madness… and the darkness.”
“Right,” Angela said. “So what do we do with him?”
“Well, we can’t very well leave him here,” Stani said.
“You aren’t seriously proposing that we bring him on board the Slush Brain…”
“Well, look at him,” Stani said. “He’s kind of sweet.”
In unison the girls gazed down at the garlic-infested near naked male splayed on the ground still panting to himself.
“Right-o,” said Angela. “Bring him.”
Last edited and updated 15 August 2016
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