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Daireem - Cerania
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QuantumTroll
Street Fighter/Space Station
8/3/2008 6:26:57 PM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 181
Fighting Skies

The Werrington Express Dirigible #9, 250 km out of Falun en route to Avesta Ruin

The best part of dirigible flights is the scale at which it can be done.  Even a small dirigible on Cerania can usually carry a hundred passengers in comfort, and that means someone wants to drink and gamble.  If you can get the exclusive contract to sell their booze and deal their cards, you'll be a rich man.
- Noord Erlicht



"Hugo, WAKE UP!", a voice, disconnected.

Hugo falls out of his dream and the crumpled sleeping pad underneath him makes its presence known as a knot in his back.  "Not my shift yet", he groans.

"You need to get up right now. That's an order.", the voice says.

"What?" That jolted him awake, and now he recognizes the source of the voice. The first mate!  "Sorry, Mr. Rote *cough* I'm awake. Are the passengers getting rowdy or something?" Hugo gets up in the cramped alcove and starts pulling on his socks and shoes.

Rote replies "No, we need your flyer to examine a distress signal. The Werrington jetglider lifeboat is in for repairs and yours is the only other craft on board."  

Hugo says, "And you're not altering course because... ? It's not like I could much good with one small 'thopter. "

The first mate grimaces, and says, "We're worried about bandits. A dirigible was attacked and downed in this area last month, all hands lost.  The terrain is pretty rough, so the captain has ordered us down fast. We are going to try to hide and prepare countermeasures while you check out what is out there."

"Oh frak, we're going to hide?" Hugo stops and looks at Mr. Rote.  "And countermeasures?  I didn't even know this ship had 'countermeasures'."  He looks for and finds his small rock pendant, puts it on, and heads past Rote through the door.  

"We sure do," Rote says, "But it's suicide to use them unless we know for sure it'll scare them off.  Better give up easily and live, I say, but the captain... I guess it's his frakking decision but still.  Just find out if they're hiding somewhere and let us know what you find."

Hugo and Rote reach the lock that leads to the skin of the dirigible, and Hugo straps on his padded helmet and puts on a sturdy vest to keep warm in his uninsulated 'thopter.
"This is not what I signed up for, Mr. Rote.  I'm doing it because we're sitting ducks, trying to hide and defend a lone dirigible. But I expect to be paid, too, if we live."

The first mate nods. "Yeah.  Good luck.  Remember to keep radio silence, we don't want to announce our presence."

As he closes the airlock door and levers it shut, Hugo thinks, "What is the captain thinking?  This is so stupid, and now a lot of innocent people and me are going to die because of it. Forget it, I'm bailing."

Hugo turns and grabs the large lever that closes the air-tight seal to the pressurized interior. Giving it a turn, he was expecting a bunch of suction and blue sky, so the sight of sharp black crags poking through verdant green hills throws him backwards a step. Volcanic activity in this region has extruded giant vitreous shards that cut a jarring contrast with the rolling grassy landscape, and the dirigible's descent looks mad until they silently sink below the top of the shards and into a strange twilight world. Hugo climbs out onto the long ladder to the landing rail on top of the dirigible frame and starts making the arduous climb up.  The pilot was expertly maneuvering the ship in wide, swooping turns, deeper and deeper into a clearing or valley among the obsidian peaks. Direct light from the sun is blocked by the black volcanic glass, and so it looks black in sunlight, but in shadows they become translucent, milky, and soft, shapes smoothly flowing.  

With a heave and a sigh, Hugo makes it to the narrow platform that runs along the spine of the dirigible. The rapid descent of the dirigible reduced the wind on top to almost zero and made it easy for him to get to his flyer.  

"I can't bail on all these people.  Maybe there aren't even any bandits.  Maybe hiding here will work.  But I sure as heck can't just fly right into a nest of armed outlaws either. Why did we not simply run like the other times? Frak, I have to go check out this signal."

QuantumTroll
Street Fighter/Space Station
8/6/2008 3:59:09 PM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 181
RE: Fighting Skies

The Obsidian Sea

Info-Node Brief: Some call it the Interpower S/7 Ornithopter, just one in a series of toy airplanes that some people never grow out of. Enthusiasts call it the Albatross, one of the most elegant flying machines ever invented.  The 'thopter is said to present the same flight profile as a native Ceranean seabird, with exceptional aerodynamic efficiency when soaring and a precise dive.

As the Werrington Express Dirigible #9 starts to slow down and close in on a cluster of obsidian shards, Hugo pops the hatch to his 'thopter and gets in.  He had still not quite gotten used to the spartan and cramped cockpit, but it looks worse than it is.  Quickly, he unfolds the wings and ignites the engine. With one sweep of the wings, Hugo drops the Albatross off the Dirigible and into the open air.

Silently but for the rushing of air, the tiny gnat falls from its former host, faster and faster until, with a sharp hiss, it begins to lift out of its dive and begins a shallow rising spiral up out of the obsidian canyon.  

Hugo took bearings of the radio beacon on the way up and used his nav computer to triangulate the location.

"Alright, that's maybe about half an hour from here, to the north west."    The right wing smoothly dips into a wide turn.  

Hugo squints and frowns. "This sun is totally in my eyes. I'll have to circle around low and out of sight and come from the back."  

After stretching a little and firmly grasping the controls, Hugo brings up the engine power and starts to duck and weave among the glass mountains, aiming to circle around to the beacon from the north.  The bottoms of the giant shards are now all in shadow, and the shaded obsidian shimmers and undulates like a cold fire as Hugo makes is way forward.
Valerie Fas'nvak
Ex-tournament fighter/
ninja accountant

Dominion Master
8/6/2008 9:52:18 PM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 126
RE: Fighting Skies

The pilot was showing his ignorance. He tried to mask his pride about his "extraordinary" landing under fire, but he kept bringing it up. It was pretty obvious to Valerie, however, that he didn't pull off anything incredible; the bandits now surrounding them quite intentionally didn't slaughter them. The plane certainly wasn't big enough to hold any valuables—an elegant two-seat, open-air biplane.

Too elegant, of course, out here in the glass canyons in the middle of nowhere.

It was like some greater being was writing her life and arbitrarily created this situation to make it more interesting.

The pilot had the common sense, at least, to hit the emergency signal as soon as they started getting shot at, but it didn't ease Valerie that much. Not out here.

The landing was performed on crook between an inactive volcano crater and a plume of igneous rock. They were effectively walled in on all sides and the only aircraft they could see from here was the bandits' base zeppelin, high and in the distance, but they could hear the plane engines. Strange that they hadn't approached yet.

There was a deafening crack—sounded like something hit the rock—followed very shortly by a boom from the direction of the zeppelin. Valerie looked to her right, ahead of the plane.

Part of the sheet of glassy rock had exploded into pieces, and inside the impact crater was a deformed shell, now spilling thick smoke.

Her eyes widened. It was either a simple smokescreen to cover the bandits approach, or the other, much more nefarious thing that crossed her mind: poison gas so they wouldn't even have to put themselves in harm's way. Gas the plane's occupants, head in with gas masks, voila, new plane.

Valerie: Hey, uh, could you maybe reverse the prop or something and blow that slag away from us?
Pilot: Umm... Yeeeeah.

Frantically, he fiddled with the controls and the propellor began to rotate. The smoke had already been drifting vaguely away from them in the wind. Valerie's concern came to a plateau.

BANG.

She looked to the left. Another one. Behind them. Her concern resumed its rise.

She frowned.
QuantumTroll
Street Fighter/Space Station
8/10/2008 5:22:17 PM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 181
RE: Fighting Skies



When he was about three quarters of the way to the beacon, Hugo rose up out of the valleys to sneak a peek.  The flying made him calm and thoughtful. "Of course, the sun is right in my fa... no it's not, there's a mountain blocking it.  A cinder cone, by the looks of it and judging by the volcanic surroundings.  I bet I'll find the emergency transponder in the crater."

Hugo peered into the distance. He could just spot a dark shape hovering off to the side, a dirigible!  Was it in trouble?  Hugo couldn't see.  He ducked down into the valleys again to consider.  After a moment, he rose again and simply increased speed. He's in the shadow of the volcano, there's no way anyone could spot him visually, and he didn't think radar could pick him up out of the crazy background, either.  

As he watched, the dirigible moved up above the crater, and soon thick, tarry smoke began to billow and roll down the slope.  Something told him that the dirigible was not a geology expedition, and that meant the smoke was bad news for whoever set off the alarm.  Good news for Hugo and his crewmates, because these bandits were already distracted.  The smart money was on zipping back to the Werrington #9 and getting out while the getting is good.

Smart money or not, that didn't feel right. At the very least, he should find out what he could about the bandit airship, and that meant getting closer to get a better look.  Before he got very far, however, Hugo spotted the fast-moving metal glint of an airplane on its way down the cone of the volcano and quickly dove deep into the obsidian canyons. Did it see him?  That plane was moving awfully fast... If the bad guys have jetplanes then the Express in real trouble, they'd be able to cover a huge area pretty easily and a dirigible the size of the Express would stand a slim chance of getting away.  

Hugo flips through the comm frequencies, wishing he had a decrypter but hoping that the bandits were using an open band.  None of the FM spectrum was carrying anything, and the AM channels were all doing talk radio... rats, it would have been nice to listen to their chatter. Soon Hugo came to the base of the cone of the volcano, and he had lost sight of all bandit craft.  

"Woah!" Hugo exclaims, as his HUD blinked red he threw his ornithopter into hard left bank, rolling over and pointing the nose screaming downward for a second before pulling up in the reverse direction, a missile blowing past mere inches from the soft Albatross body.  Now facing an armed jet, Hugo had no time to think but flew purely on instinct, dodging behind crag after crag as a hail of gunfire rattles past.  "Well, I'm pretty sure they saw me now."  

In a straight fight in open, he would stand no chance. Hugo would have to trick the other pilot somehow. The great mass of the obsidian towers that made up the canyons would offer temporary protection as they shattered under the autocannon fire from the jet, great shards of glass sparkling in the evening sun.

The maze of obsidian formations led higher and higher up the volcano, and Hugo began to suspect there was more than one plane against him.  They were herding him, playing with him.  Well, that had to stop, so the next time he dodged into apparent safety, he beat the mechanical wings of his ornithopter and flipped himself around, readying his grappling hooks.  When Hugo flew out from behind his cover in the wrong direction the other pilot had to pull up hard to evade.  Hugo rolled over and released the grappling hooks, which flew up and out, striking the wing and fuselage of the enemy craft.

As soon as the grappling sensors blinked to green, Hugo folded his wings and cranked the engine to max, trying to make his little hitch-up as gentle as possible. For a moment, nothing happened. Then a sudden jerk and the sound of tearing metal, the little thopter started whirling through the air like a ball of crumpled paper. Controlling the thopter was all but impossible, but Hugo managed to extend the wings again and got the crazy spinning under control with the help of thrust vectoring and creative flapping of wings. Hugo shook his head and took a deep breath. "Wargharble, what am I doing engaging a fighter jet with an Albatross?  What's worse is that I can't believe it's working!"
Valerie Fas'nvak
Ex-tournament fighter/
ninja accountant

Dominion Master
8/12/2008 11:04:09 PM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 126
RE: Fighting Skies

Pilot: Uhh...
Valerie: At this point in time, I have determined that foot-based locomotion would be optimal.
Pilot: Yes. Yes.

He pulled a long, black case and a plastic shopping bag from beside his seat and climbed out of the plane. Valerie followed. She found she was already holding her breath, and just hoped that he was smart enough to do so as well. She ran in the opposite direction of the grounded plane, into the wind; regardless of other dangers, at least they wouldn't be chased by smoke.

Valerie caught a glimpse of motion above them. It was fast, and had disappeared from sight before she could see what it was. Shortly after, through the terrible silence cut a loud boom—not very near them, but it was an explosion, and simply within earshot is "too close."

Following that roared what was unmistakably gunfire, at a very high rate. Probably a plane's autocannon. But it definitely wasn't shooting at them.

Perhaps help was here? She decided she'd better not get her hopes up.

They had already passed through the cloud of smoke. She made another twenty yards on the shell before daring to breathe, though her partner had already begun breathing—quite audibly—and didn't seem to be having too much trouble.

At a tall mound of rock, the pilot stopped and set the case and the bag down.

Pilot: Wait!

He hurriedly opened the case. Valerie could see his hands shaking, fumbling with the latches. She dashed over to him and hunkered down behind the rock.

Inside the case, as she suspected, was a firearm: a Remington 870 with an extended, eight-round magazine. He jacked the forearm to the rearward position, locking the bolt open, and checked the chamber. He glanced up toward the sky.

Pilot: What do you think? Double-ought or triple-ought?
Valerie: Um,
Pilot: Er, you're probably not a gun person.

She pulled the SIG from her shoulder holster.

Pilot: Oh.

He decided quickly, pulling a green and yellow box from his shopping bag and ripped the cardboard flap clear off, throwing it aside.

The piece of cardboard on the ground read "Express® Buckshot - 12 GAUGE - 2 3/4 LENGTH - 00BK - 9 PELLETS" and emblazoned with the REMINGTON logo. He grabbed a handful of the rounds and began jamming them into the magazine. He only managed to insert three before he grew too uncomfortable and decided it was time to move. He dropped one last round directly into the ejection port, threw the box back into the bag, and handed it to Valerie.

Pilot: Carry this, will you?

She obliged, taking the bag, while he slammed the round home and shouldered the shotgun.
QuantumTroll
Street Fighter/Space Station
8/15/2008 4:12:43 AM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 181
RE: Fighting Skies

The Albatross was hanging on to a severely damaged jetplane, and they were headed straight up into the open air.  The chain of one grapple had cut into the right wing before the hook settled, rupturing the fuel tank.  The other grapple had struck the fuselage and tore a deep gash through the armor that gushed fetid smoke.  Hugo's 'thopter appeared fine, except the grapple launch rails were completely bent over.  *click* The winches somehow still worked.

"That gives me a crazy idea. Let's see if I can use this to teach these kids a lesson about messing with the wrong man."

The other jetplanes were not in sight, so Hugo actually grinned as he started to reel in his catch.  The jet was apparently trying to get some height and head out of the volcanic badlands. The pilot appeared to be unaware of what exactly had happened and had no way of looking down and back, because he made no attempt to get rid of his tormentor.  Hugo gunned his engines, shot forward underneath the jet, and pulled himself up right against the bottom. Then, like the palm of one hand forcing the other to turn, Hugo turned the airplanes around to bear on the bandit dirigible.  "Your number is up, scum! Let's see some fireworks."

The hijacked jet went into bucking rage, but damaged wings are no match for ornithopter wings, and Hugo kept them going.  Finally the jet pilot cut in the thrust reversing "air brake". The grapple had torn through several struts and weakened the entire engine compartment.  With a loud bang, the air brake blew out the side of the plane, destroying the engine completely.  The explosion shook the Albatross and several chunks of shrapnel managed to tear through the light outer skin and lodged in the steel and circuitry of the flyer's interior.  

Shaken, Hugo pulled back and let out the grapple chains.  The jet was now on fire, and Hugo's own flyer was trailing smoke.  Desperate to save his gambit, he flew up and placed himself right on the jet's nose and guided the disabled jet. When he got it pointed the right way, Hugo released the grapple winch locks and sent the jet on a smooth trajectory ending right on the expansive form of the bandit dirigible's buoyant frame.  Finally released from its heavy burden, Hugo's 'thopter leap over the dirigible in an eye-blink.

With a resounding crash, the jet plowed into the metal struts.  Looking back, Hugo saw flaming chunks of wreckage came shooting out the other side of the dirigible, leaving a gaping hole going straight through. Helium quickly scattered, and the huge structure began to resemble a sail more than a buoyant object.  Emergency ballast was dropped in moments, but it only slowed gravity's inevitable triumph.  Faster and faster, the dirigible began to spin and tumble as small forms jumped and blossomed into round parachutes.

"Whoooo! Yeah!" Hugo looped up and rolled in joy, but stopped when he noticed that he'd actually taken some damage.  There was a burning smell coming from his computer, and sure enough it didn't respond to any commands.  Holding back a curse, he switched reached for the power bus and switched it off hard.  Everything except crucial flight controls runs through the computer.  Finding his way back to the Express would be impossible without radio or navigation.  And somewhere out there were the rest of the jetplanes that were chasing him.  Why did they run off and where did they go?  

The wreckage of the bandit dirigible finally reached its resting place with a loud *CRUMP* and the reduction of an obsidian monolith into a shower of obsidian shards. With that, Hugo finally pulled his eyes away from the spectacle long enough to look at the area where the emergency beacon had been.  If he can find it, he could call the Express and be able to get away.
Stasis
Hey Claudius...
You killed my father.
Big mistake.

Dominion Master
8/30/2008 8:55:02 PM

Level: 25
Experience: 65000

Total Posts: 678
RE: Fighting Skies

Valerie looked skyward at the carnage.

Pilot: ... You think somebody got the distress signal?
Valerie: Maybe. Or rival pirates reaping the rewards of their efforts.

They hadn't really caught sight of the battle between their savior and the pirate fighter, so erring on the side of caution was the safe and wise decision. They remained ducked behind a rock outcropping.

Valerie: I guess we wait for now. Whoever it was will probably land by our plane.
Pilot: I guess we'll see what they want then.

Still, they were visible from the sky, but there wasn't much to do about that. They stayed close to the rock and waited, watching their plane.
QuantumTroll
Street Fighter/Space Station
8/31/2008 6:42:59 PM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 181
RE: Fighting Skies

After some false starts, Hugo figured out that the beacon must have been coming from the side of the volcano, not the crater.  He flew over, and sure enough there was a small biplane awkwardly parked among some large rock outcroppings.  It must have been an absolutely harrowing landing, but the pilot had completely cornered himself.  Didn't seem to make much sense, but on the other hand there were precious few alternative places to land.  The bandits had probably planned it that way.

As he closed in, flying conservatively, he noticed the biplane was empty. Piloting took all his concentration, so he did not see the two curious figures peeping around one of the outcroppings at how he rather roughly plunked down his strange flapping flyer next to the biplane and turned off the engine.  With a certain finality, Hugo flipped the latch to his cockpit and opened it.  Things had changed, somehow.  It felt like years had gone by since the time he stepped into the cockpit. How had he done all that stuff? Ah, now came a slew of aches and pains, like a miniature orchestra in its complexity and variety. But nothing broken, nothing bleeding. Very hungry, though.  He grabbed a couple of nutribars from the stash he kept under the seat and climbed out of the cockpit.

Munching all the while, Hugo looked over his poor flying machine. It would take months to restore it to proper working condition!  I'll make either Werrington or the biplane guys pay for the shop time, Hugo thought to himself, By Jove I deserve it. As long as the wings don't seize up, it looked serviceable, but that's always a risk with ornithopters.  Satisfied, Hugo looked around again for his would-be rescuees. He saw none, so he walked over to biplane and reached into the cockpit. With the flick of a few switches, he turned on the radio, dialed a frequency, and tried to call the Werrington Express.  He wasn't having any luck, and then he sensed the presence of someone behind him.  Slowly, he turned around and sized up the people approaching.

They both had guns. The woman actually looked dangerous, and Hugo paled and flushed at the same time. All that work for this?  Let's hope I read things correctly, and these are not bandits.

Hugo showed his palms and said, "I'm unarmed. My name is Hugo, and I think I just did you a favor."  
Valerie Fas'nvak
Ex-tournament fighter/
ninja accountant

Dominion Master
8/31/2008 11:44:42 PM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 126
RE: Fighting Skies

The pilot stayed slightly further away than Valerie, shotgun shouldered and pointed unprofessionally close to Hugo. Valerie held her pistol low; not directly threatening, but could be deployed quickly.

Valerie: If you shot down that zeppelin, I think you did us a favor too.

She replaced her pistol in its shoulder holster to ease the tension. At this distance she felt she could deploy any of her bladed weapons more effectively than the pistol anyway.

The pilot had turned his attention to the ornithopter.

Pilot: The poor thing... Hey... You're a bit far out for a lone... uhh... yeah, whatsicopter, aren't you?

This from a man out here in a lone biplane. He looked the craft over for a few more seconds, then judgingly at Hugo.

Pilot: And no weapons... how, pray tell, did you take down a dirigible and not get slaughtered by its escort?

He was obviously not taking Hugo for a friend. Valerie reflexively took a step back, seeing the pilot's point. Her brow furrowed.
QuantumTroll
Street Fighter/Space Station
9/1/2008 4:16:28 AM

Level: 1
Experience: 0

Total Posts: 181
RE: Fighting Skies

Hugo relaxed, but remained wary of the trigger-happy man.  These people had reason to be suspicious, but he could tell they weren't about to gun down an unarmed man in cold blood.

"Well, it turns out that 'unarmed' is a little overstatement."

He started to tell his story, about how he was sent to check out the beacon and the bandits got the drop on him. Then he grinned and pointed to a part of the twisted undercarriage.  

"See that?  I dropped the tow hooks on a fighter jet coming at me. The hooks held, and I got pulled along as the jet got to emergency altitude. It was pretty messed up, so I managed to wrangle it straight into the dirigible. I'm, uh, more than a little surprised it actually worked... now will you put your guns away? I have no idea where the other jets are now, but I have a hunch they'll eventually be back to check out the area."

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Daireem - Fighting Skies
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