The sound of barrels being shattered echoed dimly in Hunter’s ears. Metal rained down somewhere behind him while voices cried out in both pain and anger. Hunter rubbed his eyes and winced, his shoulder throbbing angrily, complaining about the abuse it had suffered of late. The captain of the Brass Griffin grunted in pain, fighting against the miasma of unconsciousness that threatened to swallow him as he struggled to rise.
In the direction of the stern, the captain heard a young girl scream. He shook his head again, finally dispelling the haze. His thoughts crashed in his mind like the surf against the rocks: Angela! The Fomorians! The Hellgate formula! Hunter glowered, forcing his body to obey as he scrambled to get his feet under him.
John Clark appeared at his side, gripping Anthony’s arm and hauling him upright. “What are you doing, eh? It’s no time to fanny about! Up you go!”
“What are you doing?” Hunter demanded, “where’s Moira?”
“Tossing out some rubbish,” John replied with a smirk, “she’ll be along straightaway.”
The captain eyed John suspiciously, then decided against asking any further. “Fine then, where’s the …” however, he never finished the question.
A blurred shadow of motion suddenly appeared at the corner of Hunter’s vision. The captain grabbed John, shoving the man aside before throwing himself down. Barely a second later, the broken section of an oar sailed right where they had stood like a spear! The large wooden paddle hissed through the air over Hunter, then slammed into the deck narrowly missing Clark’s knees!
“Oi!” John yelled angrily, “I’m bleedin’ fond of those!”
“Belay that, you’re fine,” Hunter said pointing across the deck before getting to his feet, “there’s the brute with Angela!”
John got to his feet, looking to where Hunter gestured. The Fomorian, a bestial, misshapen and intensely muscular frame with a nightmarish glare in his eyes, had just finished bodily stuffing a squirming Angela Von Patterson into a coarse hemp fishing net. The girl screamed, thrashing about and fighting desperately to free herself, but to little avail. Once trapped in the net, she yelled again, but the scream became a prolonged howl! Bones popped and claws immediately extended from her hands, while fur quickly grew on her exposed skin, a canine-like muzzle extending on her face.
“None o’ that outta you!” The Fomorian , cuffing the girl sharply across the point of her jaw.
Angela’s howl turned into a short yelp as she fell limp, tangled inside the netting. Roughly, the Fomorian tossed her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
“Blood and sand!” Hunter swore, bringing his revolver up towards the Fomorian. “Release her!” The captain barked, “Now!”
The Fomorian snarled at Hunter, then bounded off across the deck towards the stern of the Intrepid with Angela’s unconscious body slung over his back.
“Clark, circle around!” Hunter ordered before he bolted after the Fomorian. “Don’t let him reach the dock! At the least, don’t let him leave with Angela!”
“Aye!” Clark replied, racing off towards the gangplank and snatching up a rifle from an unconscious sailor along the way. John frowned as the realization of what he was being asked to do sank in. “Oi! How’m I supposed to do that to something that shrugs off gunshots?”
“Be inventive!” Hunter shouted back.
Clark rolled his eyes, then continued to run.
Captain Hunter’s boots pounded on the deck, his breath coming in deep gulps as he pushed himself to run faster. Ahead, the Fomorian bounded along, eating away twice the distance the captain could run with each massive stride. As the brute reached the stern, he turned, heading for the ladder ascending to the wheelhouse.
Hunter frowned, skidding to a stop. The ladder led to only two places: the Intrepid’s wheel and controls, and a longskiff. Given the Intrepid was already made fast at the dock, the captain knew the Fomorian had to be bound for the small emergency airship.
“No, Sirrah, not there,” the captain said as he took aim and squeezed the trigger. The pistol bucked in his hand and the bullet rammed into the railing between the Fomorian and the longskiff.
With a muttered curse and murderous glare, the Fomorian turned and raced away from the small airship. The brute tightened his grip on the net holding Angela, then leaped over the railing, dropping to the main deck again. With barely a heartbeat’s hesitation, he rushed off to Hunter’s right towards the port side of the ship.
Anthony smiled, satisfied, before he gave chase again, “that’s it, now to turn you a bit more to where I want you.”
The captain cut across the deck, seemingly in an attempt to get ahead of the Fomorian. Seeing the captain out of the corner of his eye, he abruptly turned straight for another longskiff. Hunter fired again, then a third time. Bullets hammered the railing, showering splinters in the face of the Fomorian. With an irritated snarl, the brute turned away from the barrage instinctively, batting aside two of the Intrepid’s sailors unlucky enough to be in his path. Immediately, he bolted in the direction where the bow and the starboard side met.
Hunter came to a stop next to the two sailors. “Are you lads hurt?”
“Bruised, eh? But nothin’s broke,” one young man replied. The other nodded in agreement.
Hunter clasped one of the sailors on the shoulder “Capital,” he replied.
“Sir? How do we stop somethin’ like … that?” one young man asked in stunned amazement, looking at the Fomorian. “We can’t shoot him, he’s got that girl.”
“Givin’ them what-for does nothin’ but leavin’ them spittin’ tacks and tossin’ us about like dolls!” the other sailor remarked.
Hunter smiled, “just wait for the signal, lads.”
The two sailors got to their feet with confused looks. One eventually asked, “What signal?”
As if in answer, one of the larger lockers – one typically used to store rope – burst open as the Fomorian raced past. With a blood-curdling yell, Conrad O’Fallon leaped out from inside the large coffin-sized locker, slamming the flat of an oar into the face of the Fomorian with a deafening crack! The brute’s eyes crossed as he staggered ahead and to the right, carried onward by nothing more than momentum and an animal-like desperation to escape.
O’Fallon glanced down at the oar with a wide grin, then at the stumbling Fomorian. “Och, now that be a wee bit o’ all right. Come ‘ere ye bastard, we not be done!”
The captain chuckled, and gave the two sailor’s a grin. “that signal,” he explained, racing off across the deck towards O’Fallon and the Fomorian.
O’Fallon closed on the Fomorian as the brute regained his senses. The misshapen monster yelled in pain from the feeling of a broken nose, lashing out with his free hand as O’Fallon rushed in. Conrad raised the oar just as the Fomorian’s fist crashed down. The oar cracked, but despite the force of the blow, the Scottish quartermaster firmly held his ground. Surprised, the brute backed away a step, blinking back pain and shock. He was used to breaking through doors with his strength, knocking aside full grown men. Yet, here was a man – a seemingly, painfully normal man – who shrugged off nearly his best punch with barely a comment.
The Scotsman grinned, brandishing his oar like a quarterstaff, “didn’t be expectin’ that now, eh? Aye’m still standing! C’mon ye big bugger!” O’Fallon whirled the oar about, slicing it through the air towards the Fomorian.
Slicing the air, the oar swung once, then twice, missing the first time as the brute dodged aside, but connecting on the second. The fire-hardened wood of the oar slapped the shin of the Fomorian with a sharp crack! Howling, Angela’s captor staggered back, then fell to his knees, grabbing at his leg. Without warning from the other side, Clark raced in with another oar, slamming it down against the Fomorian’s hand like a mallet striking a wooden peg!
Immediately, Hunter raced forward, shoving the pistol into its holster. Without a moment’s hesitation, he leaped forward, catching Angela as she, still trapped in the net, slid from the Fomorian’s grip. The captain hit the deck with a hard grunt, then rolled to absorb the force of the fall.
As they rolled over, Angela’s eye fluttered open, clouded with confusion. “Where am I?” she asked, her voice slurred. Then, realization dawned. In seconds bones popped, claws extended and fur sprouted forth as she changed to her wolf-like form and tore at the net holding her.
Quickly, Hunter set her on the deck and yanked the net open. “Hush, Angela! Hush!”
Angela, scrambled backwards to free herself, horrified at even contact with the thing. She looked over at Hunter, suddenly smiling in relief. However, the grateful look quickly turned into one of horror!
“Captain!” the girl rasped, eyes wide in panic.
Hunter spun around just as a fist smashed across his cheekbone, splitting his lip. The captain’s head snapped back as the world clouded over. Dimly he felt himself fall hard to the deck. Gunshots that thundered in the air, Angela’s howls of pain, sailors yelling in alarm; all of those seem very far away as darkness threatened to wash over him.
“Guten tag, Kapitän. Did you forget I was aboard, too? Don’t worry, we won’t harm das mädchen … much. You see, we need her,” a rough, smelly voice sputtered in his ear, “and the formula.”
“Bauer!” Hunter growled through bloody and swollen lips. With a white fury as hot as the sun itself, the captain clawed his way out of the fog, pushing himself back to consciousness. At the end of the gangplank, Peter Bauer – transformed into his monstrous Fomorian shape – smashed a barrel of metal shavings into O’Fallon, knocking the Scotsman off his feet. Clark was already laying on the deck, shaking his head from having already been struck. Angela, still transformed into her werewolf form, hung limp in Bauer’s arms, a nasty welt on the side of her head!
The German turned and shot an ugly grin at Hunter, then pulled a modified opti-telegraphic from a pouch at his belt. The eight inch-long box was littered with a haphazard array of extra wires along the top. The device was like a child’s toy in the large hand of the German. Bauer’s thumb hesitated over the ‘send’ button. “At last Kapitän, auf wiedersehen!”
“Bauer!” the captain yelled, the word ripping from his throat like a battle cry. His hand flew to his holster while he quickly pulled himself up into a gunman’s crouch, his eyes locking onto Bauer’s with a hot glare.
“Leave her be!” Came another voice, followed by a sharp hack of metal against metal as Moira rammed her newly procured fire axe down against a thick metal gray pipe. Salt water, under pressure for the lightning cannons, erupted out like a geyser, slamming into Bauer and making the gangplank slick.
Bauer grunted as the water hit him. He stumbled, losing his footing against the deluge as he and Angela fell roughly to the gangplank. Angela crumpled into a heap while the German fell face first. When he fell, the opti slipped from his grasp, sailing up into the air and towards the deck of the Intrepid. With a wordless cry, Bauer lunged for the device.
Hunter hastily drew and fired, clipping the edge of the railing to force Bauer from reaching for the modified device. “Keep that opti away from Bauer!”
“Oi! On it!” Clark replied, shaking his head again to clear it. He lunged for the device as the Fomorian – the one who had originally had custody of Angela – hammered Clark in the ribs with a forgotten oar! John gasped in agony as his bones snapped. He flew backwards, slamming against the railing while he turned a ghastly shade of white.
“Do it!” Bauer cried out, dragging himself and Angela down the gangplank away from the quickly freezing water.
Immediately, the Fomorian sailor dropped onto the nightmarish opti-telegraphic, and slammed a bloody thumb down on the switch.
Bauer spit out a mouthful of the cold salt water, then gave Hunter a smug smile as he reached the safety of the dock. “Did you think the bomb we put on Clark was alone? See you in hell, Kapitän!” the German shouted over the water.
The Intrepid shook violently as gouts of flame vomited forth from beneath her deck! Hunter scrambled to his feet. “Abandon ship!”