Episode 39( No Comments! )

Scribed by: CB Ash in The Seventh Knife

While RiBeld fell quiet, Captain Hunter’s mind raced. A flurry of questions sprang to life. He sorted them out and selected what he felt was the most pressing to ask first. That was when Hunter realized Duke RiBeld was staring at him, expecting a comment.

The captain blinked. “My apologies, but I’m not accustomed to this level of,” he hesitated while he searched for a word. Hunter chose what seemed appropriate. “Civility from you. Why tell me any of this?”

RiBeld smiled at the captain. It made him look diabolical. But as Hunter knew that was the man’s nature, the captain went out on a limb to assume that the duke was playing the moment for the drama.

“Simple,” RiBeld replied. “The explosions and other problems? Those were not the primary means to gain possession of the daggers. Those were an emergency method. Something she and I quarreled over after the initial explosion in the Britannia’s engine room. If she continues on this path, the Britannia will not survive. She will make good her escape while the Britannia, and all aboard her, go up in flames.”

“Leaving you here,” Hunter added.

“Quite,” the duke confirmed. “If she’s pursuing this plan, then she’s convinced the rest of my people she’s working in ‘our’ best interests. My death would mean her assuming control over my resources.” He shrugged. “Which brings me to why I’m telling you any of this.” He gave Hunter another of those piercing looks. “You are quite possibly the only person who could believe my story. Especially given your unique dealings with the Duchess Von Ferrin.”

Hunter thought that over. He realized that RiBeld had a point. He said as much, and RiBeld continued.

“We need to derail her plan, at least enough to keep our hides intact while we manage an escape from this entire unpleasant situation,” he explained at last. “I doubt this offer of cooperation sits any better with you than it does me. We dislike each other. It’s in our natures. But in this unique situation we face a larger threat than our need to end the other one.”

Hunter grimaced as though he tasted something sour. The discomfort of having to work with Duke RiBeld made the pain from the burn wounds pale by comparison. But the duke had made his point about what the duchess sought to do. Despite that, there was one last question that stood out in Hunter’s mind.

“You do realize we are in a hospice? You from being carved upon like a Christmas goose, and I from being roasted like one,” Captain Hunter said. “If you know of this ‘emergency plan’, why not tell someone where all the explosives are planted? That would leave the Duchess with her clockwork servitors, but she should only have a finite number of those. Her capture would simply be a matter of time. My crew is already working with the Britannia’s officers to settle this.”

RiBeld shook his head in dismay at Hunter’s remarks. He looked as if the captain had missed something obvious before he slipped out of bed and onto his feet.

“You’ve a competent and able crew, Hunter. I don’t say that lightly, either,” He pushed the sheet aside and crossed over to a wardrobe. RiBeld glanced towards the door to the room before he opened the cabinet. “I’ve no doubt they’ll locate her. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already found her. But, I also believe she’ll kill every last one of them. Either one by one or in groups using those servitors of hers.” He pulled his clothes from the wardrobe, then hesitated. “I would if I were in her place. I’d then take your ship as a method to leave.” RiBeld resumed dressing. “Yes, she just might try that.”

“Which is why she left me in the half-dead state she did,” Captain Hunter snarled. He hated it when RiBeld was right, and the duke’s logic was too sound for him to refute. Hunter’s crew would resist the duchess’ attempts to board, provided they realized she was a threat. As of right now, only a handful knew. That handful was running about the Britannia trying to find her.

“Damn it to bloody hell,” the captain swore before he climbed out of bed. His wounds protested, but Hunter ignored them as best he could. He hurried over to the wardrobe next to his own bed.

Duke RiBeld smirked. “It seems we’ve an agreement then?”

Hunter glowered at him. He hated the thought of agreeing, and told him so. RiBled simply chuckled and ignored the captain’s comments.

While they both dressed Hunter asked, “Her servitors, they’ll need to be dealt with. She’s ‘augmented’, like my own clockwork hand. Is there a way to short circuit the seamstress spider’s themselves? Something that could be used on her spiders when they appear?”

RiBeld shook his head. “I don’t fully understand the work she had done, but I do know It’s the other way around. Disrupt one or more of the spiders, and other spiders servitors replace them. One set cannibalizes the others. In that way the hive ‘self-repairs’. It also prevents directly disrupting the spiders for longer than a few seconds. The spiders act as an extension of her. Extra eyes and ears. So to truly ‘disrupt the spiders’ you have to sufficiently distract her that she cannot direct their actions.” The duke sighed and glanced at Hunter. “The duchess believes we are no longer a threat, so her plans won’t account for us. It’s a unique flaw I’ve noticed in most of her strategies, and our greatest advantage.” Once dressed, he reached for his black frock coat from the wardrobe. “But, I’m not certain how to find her at this moment. We need to be free of this hospice first. Perhaps lie in wait by your ship?”

By the time Captain Hunter finished dressing, he heard a commotion from the outer room of the infirmary. It was a flurry of alarmed conversation, of which he only caught snatches. Hunter rushed to the door, but found no one there when he peered around the frame. He explained what he had heard, or at least what part he understood.

“A passenger hurt in the reading room?” RiBeld echoed what Hunter told him. “Tempting, but that wouldn’t have any benefit to the duchess, or what I know of her plans. It’s probably one of the Britannia’s dilettante sheep suffering a paper cut. I doubt it’s our concern. Have you any idea how to track her down?”

The captain eased his long coat over his battered frame. His common sense raged that with both himself and RiBeld wounded, they would not make for formidable opponents. But Hunter could not refute the duke’s logic about the Duchess’ plans. At the least, Hunter needed to warn the Griffin, then send word to the Britannia’s officers. After that, the explosives could be located and defused. If the duchess had not destroyed his opti, he could have used that. First, they needed to leave, as the Britannia’s medical staff would be back any second and stop them. Captain Hunter slowly walked toward the main door of the infirmary.

The captain started to explain the idea to RiBeld of warning the Griffin first when an odd sight caught his eye. It was a clockwork spider. The device was on the hallway floor where the far wall met the carpet. If it noticed him, it gave no outward indication. Instead, it scurried along the carpet away from the infirmary. Hunter watched it in silence for a second, then indicated it to RiBeld.

“See that small mark on the side? It’s one of hers.” The duke indicated a small maker’s mark Hunter had missed earlier in the confusion of being electrocuted. “Other than passenger staterooms, can you think of anything sensitive in that direction?” he asked.

“Engine room, aft crosswalk to the Griffin, Britannia utility rooms, aft storage of longskiffs to disembark in an emergency,” Hunter recited from memory. “I believe at least one access to the cargo hold as well.”

RiBeld frowned. “Curious. I wonder what she wants from there? She wouldn’t send one alone without a good reason. I think we may have our way to locate her.”

Hunter’s common sense nagged at him once more. They needed to warn the Griffin, but they also needed to know more about what the duchess was up to so they could properly derail it. Since ignoring his common sense had become a habit of late, Hunter chose to do that one more time. “Then let’s see where it leads. After that, we warn the Griffin to make sure the duchess won’t somehow find a way aboard.”

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