The 60 caliber twin chain fed Gatling guns had jammed a long forty seconds ago, Artemis stood with blood oozing down from the deep gash along her left shoulder, as the strap on her tank top hung impotent where the shell had sliced it in half, the brace of five Colts and the Blunderbuss lay fully loaded and ready on the short fused keg of powder that she braced her damaged hip against, the yard arm above swayed drunk in the becalmed air, Artie’s lion paws, bare for the traction, flexed torturous claws in and out of trenches dug deep in the deck from the frustration of a warrior, her right claw grabbing a rag of a once proud flag, and wiping the blood of someone from the sweat and raw cannon soot her make-up de la guerre, as she thought ‘blast it all, I wish this battle would hurry up and start’.
The barquentine was making a fourth run at her little corsair rigged sky schooner. She wished she could get some more altitude to have some stooping room which could give her some real competitive and deadly maneuvering speed, placing the schooner at a more deadly level than the over-gunned straight sailing dreadnaught coming at her on the left and weakest side. They had caught Artie and her Sky Raiders affecting some critical repairs in the light winds of the dogged afternoon. With a steam engine belching cinders and a volcano’s worth of foul air, the propeller allowed them to move in the becalming stagnation and cloudless sky. It wouldn’t be the first time the feisty griffin had sworn at the new fangled metal crap fouling the open clean skies, and she knew it wasn’t going to be her last, a her attach fovea shifted in her right eye and she spied salvation, or at least retribution in the fashion of metal begets metal and may they all go hand in hand to the hell from whence they came.
“Garth, Wheeling you cholera mangled heathens; unpin that rake chain and drag it here.”
The two able bodied raiders jumped to their mistresses bidding as they too saw the Barg and its infernal propeller and its eight whirling tines of death in the sky. Two sweeps of two hands and the cotter bound pins were sheared and flying as the men dragged the heavy string of links toward the poop deck and salvation for the day.
“Bind one end down fast about the capstan mister Wheeling. Get ready to throw the rest at the Medusa on yon pirate’s face.”
Four raiders stooped low behind the gunwale, hidden from the oncoming view till it would be too late to shear the fat tub of a ship off and out of harm’s way. The thrumming of the steam engines walking man pistons pounded in the chests of the heavy breathing griffins, the Scorlion named Corwyn with old scars running patchworks about his face and body, attesting to no lack of fight in the beast, crouched in the shadow and coached, “steady, hold . . . steady as she comes . . . make ready boyOs, make ready . . . three . . . two . . ..”
“Foul away!” Artie commanded as two Colts in her hands roared with flames and death leapt out to search for receptive flesh.
Eight arms, four bodies exploded as one and in the flash of much white feathers, and tawny bodies three hundred pounds of instant death to the whirling blades shot from the side of the tiny schooner, shearing four blades and fouling in three of the other four instantly suckering the schooner to the barquentine like a remora to a shark; only this remora was a lot more deadly.
The lightning flash of tawny death cleared the heads of the four griffins but close enough to ruffle the feathers inside their ears. “Come on you sky scum; you want to live in trees?” Corwyn’s hallmark battle cry to the favored crew that leapt the chasm between the two with a painful thousand feet of heart stopping fall between glory and honor, death and disgrace. Claws forward and giant scorpion tail whipping at the ready as he shot between swung sabers and pistol blasts, his focus was on the uniform of the master. The Regulator; and sworn enemy of all free flyers in the Southern Reaches, Captain Isaiah Belford, commander of the Royal Control and Revenue Service.