As the wagon bumped, and trundled along the road, its four new passengers collectively exhaled their exhaustion. Of the two women who sat in the cargo space, the smaller one tried feverishly to ignore the repeated stares of the other. Her hands laboured with an oild rag to rub and clean her disassembled rifle. This was the third time she took it apart.
Cassie felt the weight of Thandi’s stare again. She didn’t look back, but knew that the Genii would have the same sharpened look of concentration. She tried to ignore the thought of the arcanist’s mind using tens of thousands of nanomachines to poke, and prod at her. Tens of thousands of nanobots ordered to poke, and probe in her. The thoughts made her skin crawl, the thought of invasion brought with them flashes of pain. To think it was hours ago that she, that they had all been exposed to that thing. How are they affected?
The spy could hear the old mechanic Leonard continue to flirt with the equally old lady who ran the wagon. No noise came from Ryogan, and that meant he was asleep or in wait for his next opportunity to thieve. While the Genii, Thandi, alternated between seated positions, and scratched notes into her overly large journal. Finally, the one who vanished, the Gobber. Cassie wasn’t sure what happened to the trigger happy runt.
Only three days ago they had been complete strangers en route to the town they were currently destined. Three days ago their wagons were stopped abruptly…
A small caravan of carriages trundled one by one down the dirt road. The creatures that pulled them were large flightless birds, four to a carriage. The birds had a dim look to their eyes that spoke to their level of intelligence, or lack thereof. Possibly among the dumber creatures on the planet, but their stupidity was their savior as the settlers arrived. Those pioneers had needed to domesticate local life, and these birds took to the job quickly.
The carriage ground to a sudden halt, and the sounds of the driver cursing was heard through the walls. Cassie glanced at the three professional ladies who shared her passage, and they all seemed equally oblivious to the sudden stop. The raven haired woman bumped a fist on the roof, and called to the driver.
“There’s somethin’ block’n the road, ma’am,” the driver responded.
Cassie didn’t wait another moment, her rifle was quickly loaded, and as she readied herself she peered out the side window. A cry rang out from one of the rear carriages, then a loud thunk on the carriage hull. Cassie saw the driver of her carriage topple from his perch. On her side there was a hill, and on its crest stood a blue hulk.
It was obviously the attacker’s leader, as it wore a headdress of sorts. In its hands it wielded what appeared to be a large re-curve bow, its length equaled that of ancient longbows, only this one was fit for the size of a trogg. The giant pulled another of the long alloy shafts from the sheaf at its side. With a precise, almost gentle movement it drew the bow, and loosed the shaft which blurred into a reflective line towards its target.
She pushed to the door, past the ladies, and swung it open outward. The outswinging door saved her, as a black blade cleaved through the opening. Cassie narrowly dodged the sword that had swung through the air where she had been, and she tumbled forward. Her roll brought her back to her feet, she ran and didn’t stop as she belted for the opposite treeline. She didn’t stop when the women behind her barely had time to cry, as they were hacked on their attempts to escape. Once she hit the treeline, she spun about, planting herself in a firing position with one knee on the ground. The blue warrior, now several meters behind her had finished with the ladies of questionable repute, and turned to face her.
A shot from her rifle split its face at the jaw. It staggered a step forward. Click, boom. The second shot rang out and spun the Trogg around, it landed upside down. Click, her hands were mechanical as they reloaded the rifle. She swung around, drew a bead on another target and opened its back. Click. A burst of flame drew her attention, two pairs of legs underneath a wagon. One human, and the other not. Her fourth shot blew out the Trogg’s knee.
With no apparent hostiles nearby, Cassie stood, and raised her rifle, she motioned to the possible leader.
“[You will not find your vengeance here, warrior!]” The planet native looked at her surprised, and the other carriage survivors quieted from the action.
“[If you leave now, you will leave with your honor and lives intact. And I will promise you the vengeance you seek another day.]“
Her words in the native tongue put the war band leader to consider the situation, his gaze clearly surveyed his party’s current losses. The war leader roared; the remaining Trogg warriors picked up their injured and deceased, and drew back into the woods. His two piercing, dark eyes met Cassie’s, and he pointed at her with a gesture full of promise. A pact was made.
The standing survivors gathered together, each of them sweaty from the fight’s exhertion. As they finished introductions one of the carriages in the line exploded outward. Ryogan, the alchemist laughed at the sight. Cassie wondered if the man was either insane, or just unhinged from the recent fight.
Together they worked to scrounge what useable materials remained. Only one of the beasts of burden survived, Leonard and Ryogan worked to fit it with a makeshift saddle. The Genii, Thandi, moved about surprisingly light-footed, and collected fallen weaponry from the guards and what was left behind by the Troggs.
On closer inspection the large black blades wielded by the troggs appeared to have been shorn from some otherwise metallic construct, then sharpened.
Cassie checked the bodies of the three bordello destined women and their madam. One of them groaned, she dropped her bag next to the only living victim, and brought out her medkit. The woman was still stunned from the blow, and obviously in pain. A shot of morphine relaxed the fallen whore.
“Are you… a doctor?” she mumbled.
“Just a nurse,” Cassie lied.
“Grrreat…” the injured woman’s words began to slur as the drug took effect.
Removing the woman’s bodice revealed a glimmer underneath. It was the reason the woman survived; she had been wearing an advanced metalic fibre armor weaved into her jacket. The kind of armor employed by spies and assassins. Grey Blade Company is wealthy enough for this tech, Cassie thought. She stitched and bandaged the woman to the best of her ability. She folded the armor jacket into her pack. If the woman died from her wound she wouldn’t need it anymore, if she survived Cassie could always return it no questions asked.
As Cassie strode to the others, a suitcase from one of the carriages bumped, and fell off its place. Guns swung in the suitcase’s direction as it fell. It spilled open when it landed clothes, private items, and a gobbler rolled out onto the ground. The gobbler stood, brushed himself off, and offered a wide mouthed smile that revealed his rows of crooked, but sharp teeth. An elaborate pair of revolvers were strapped to the short creature’s hips. He walked forward on his two small feet, clawed thumbs hooked in his gun belt, with the confident swagger of someone who was very confident in their ability.
Pike, as he introduced himself, was friendly much to everyone’s relief. Though he made no apologies to his lack of assistance in the earlier fight.
“Leonard, we have an injured woman back there. Could you give me a hand in making a stretcher?”
Leonard the letcher they must have called him in his previous life before landing on this planet, because he gave her the one up with a smile. She returned what she hoped was a flattered smile.
It took another hour, and the sun was now nearing high noon, but they were as prepared to complete the journey on foot as they could be.
Cassie had shouldered to rifle carbines that had belonged to the caravan’s guards, and two sets of new clothes folded in her pack. The second being the madam’s spare outfit, as she could only wonder whether such a disguise might be needed in the future. She helped Thandi carry the stretcher containing the injured woman. The Genii herself had two of the Trogg swords strapped to her back. Ryogan led the remaining animal that now served to carry what he had loaded onto it, and the gentleman who refused to walk.
Surprisingly in their little troop Leonard had taken the lead. The old man had fashioned himself a hat, and made good pace despite his heavy looking armor.