Fenway’s small bombs didn’t explode as Khell expected. Instead, they burst upwards as pillars of white fire between the Cogstables. Only a few of the Cogstables were caught in the waves of heat; they toppled backwards and clattered to the floor. The others backed away from the explosions, and from their falling comrades. Fenway grabbed Khell’s hand during the confusion, and pulled her back towards the center of The Library.
“This is where we came from,” Khell protested. She heard the yell from the distance again, this time in the form of a dull roar, followed by a grinding of metal. “Are we going to your friend?”
“Nah. He’s coming to us,” Fenway replied, still pulling at Khell’s hand. “But we couldn’t stay where we were.” Fenway looked over his shoulder; the Cogstables had recovered from his attack, and were close behind. “Never let ‘em pin you down,” he explained. “Never get cornered.”
It seemed like good advice, Khell thought, though she hoped to never need it after today. She couldn’t imagine a time when she’d need to worry about dozens, if not hundreds of people trying to surround her. Khell wondered what type of world this was that made Fenway need rules about multiple attackers. The same sort of world where you take advice from flying talking dogs with bombs in their pockets, Khell decided.
Khell was shaken from her thoughts as a Cogstable closed its metal fist on her shoulder. She gave a shriek, and waved back at the robot in an attempt to brush it off. The rings on her fingers glowed white, and her bracelet spun around her wrist. There was a loud bass drum thud, and a wave of blue energy fired from her outstretched hand. It knocked back not only the Cogstable that had grabbed Khell, but all the ones behind it in a domino mess. The concussion also threw Khell forward. She tumbled to the Library floor, taking Fenway with her.
Fenway stared wide eyed surprise at Khell, though he reined it in quickly. “That was something,” he commented in strained indifference.
“Yeah.” Khell stared at her hands in shock. “I don’t know what that was,” she replied.
Fenway fluttered back into the air, and brushed himself off quickly. The closest Cogstables had been battered beyond repair by whatever Khell had done, but the others were getting shakily back to their feet. The Cogstables didn’t advance on Khell and Fenway. The gauges in their eyes wavered uncertainly as they looked at Khell, and they seemed wary that she’d bash them again.
“They won’t hold back for long,” Fenway muttered. “Whatever it is you just did Kid, you may want to do it again.”
Khell didn’t know what she’d done. The light was fading from her rings, and she had no idea how to make them flash again. Still, surrounded by grabbing robots didn’t seem the time for doubt. Khell thrust her hand purposely towards the Cogstables and gave a determined yell.
Nothing happened. Khell tried again; this time flaring her fingers out wide. Still nothing happened. The gauges in the Cogstables eyes pointed suddenly outward like angry eyebrows as the robots stormed forward. Fenway and Khell turned to run deeper into the library, but there were Cogstables there too; blocking their escape.
Khell jutted her hands out at the advancing Cogstables, and let out a cry somewhere between terror and frustration. Still there was no flash. Fenway tossed a few more of his bombs into the crowd, this time making alternating pillars of fire and ice, but still more Cogstables piled towards him and Khell. There seemed to be endless numbers of the robots.
“This doesn’t look good,” Fenway admitted while shoving a small bomb through the chest grate of a Cogstable nearby. Another grabbed him by the coat tails even as its comrade exploded.
Khell didn’t reply. A Cogstable had grabbed her by the arm, and she was trying to kick it away. She agreed though. This looked pretty bad. She didn’t know what the Cogstables would do to her or Fenway, and she couldn’t find her voice to ask.
Even over the clicking and grinding of the nearby Cogstables, Khell could hear the sound of tearing metal nearby, and the inhuman roar. The Cogstable that had her arm let go suddenly; as did the one that had Fenway by the coat. All of the Cogstables looked up with wavering gauges towards the noise.
Fenway flew close to Khell. “Look, kid,” he said. “You’re going to need to put your hands at your side, and go limp when I say, alright?”
Khell nodded, but only before she thought on it a moment. “Why?”
Fenway didn’t answer. He flew above Khell and the Cogstables, and pointed down. “She’s coming with us,” he yelled.
The grinding metal noise grew louder, and Khell could see Cogstables being tossed through the air. The robots in front of her parted in attempt to clear a path for whatever was rag dolling them. Khell understood why they wanted to be out of the way.
The thing charging through them looked something between a man and a grizzly bear. He was covered with thick brown fur, and wore a hardened leather breast plate. Long rope like braids hung over his shoulders like a mane, and Fenway hung tight to one of the braids.
Fenway waved at Khell, even as the big guy batted a few Cogstables aside. “Now!’ Fenway yelled. “Now!”
Khell stood stunned in the path of the oncoming monster. She watched as it tilted a shoulder towards her without losing speed. It reminded Khell of a football player going in for a tackle. The reason for this of course is that was exactly what was happening. Khell, in her bewilderment, almost forgot that Fenway had warned her to go limp. It took everything for Khell to will her arms to stay at her sides as the beast slammed his shoulder into her.
Even with precautions, the wind was knocked clean out of Khell. She gasped for a breath as she was shoved up to the giant beast’s shoulder. Despite his size, and the fact that he was still fighting Cogstables away from the trio, the big guy had a very gentle touch.
“My name is Urrah,” The bear-man introduced with a thick accent. “Is nice to meet you.”
“I’m Khell,” Khell gasped. “Thank you for saving us.”
“Don’t thank him till we’re actually safe,” Fenway stated. He tugged Urrah’s braids like reins, and pointed at ahead. “Quick exit,” he suggested.
With the way she was held, Khell could only see over Urrah’s shoulder to the mess of Cogstables he’d left in their wake. Bigger, meaner Cogstables were joining them now; and these ones were carrying large ornate looking rifles. She was quick to mention this to the others.
Fenway nodded. “We’re almost out,” he assured Khell. He smiled as he added: “Hey, you’re not afraid of heights are you kid?”
“Heights?” Khell questioned cautiously.
Urrah shifted Khell further up his shoulder, and held her tight. “Do not listen to Fenway; he is trying to scare you.” Urrah grunted as he shoved a few more Cogstables aside. “We are professionals,” he continued. “We do this sort of thing all the time.”
Khell wanted to know what sort of thing they were doing, but she didn’t want to distract anyone with conversation at this point. Already, the big Cogstables were readying their weapons. She could feel Urrah twist his body, as he put his un-Khell-burdened shoulder forward. There was a loud crash as Urrah smashed through the window, and leapt into the sky outside.
Khell watched as The Library flew away from them, or more correctly, they fell away from The Library. Like she’d thought earlier, it was on a floating island of rock like the ones Khell had seen through the window earlier. Chains thick as houses hung off its side to the ground somewhere far below. With the way Urrah was holding her, Khell could only see up. She wasn’t upset not seeing the ground rushing up to greet them.
Fenway held one of Urrah’s braids in one hand, and his cigar in the other. He smoked casually; as if they weren’t falling out of a flying building. “You doing ok, kid?”
“Don’t worry,” Urrah yelled over the wind. “This thing; we do this quite often.”
“This is the second time!” Fenway corrected.
“Don’t worry,” Urrah repeated to Khell. “We’ll get it right this time, you’ll see.”
“How will this be right?” Khell yelled. “We’re falling!”
“Yeah, but not as far as you think,” Fenway replied. He rolled a paw, suggesting that Urrah spin to show Khell.
Khell didn’t want to look, but she forced her eyes to stay open. Beneath them was the kilometers of open sky that she’d expected, dotted with a few low floating islands. Her view was partially blocked by a small flying boat.
The ship’s deck looked somewhat like that of a sailboat, only with sails coming out from the sides instead of from the deck. The bow was covered by a large copper plate with rounded windows. Two rounded copper shields jutted from the sides of the deck as well, covering half of the sails. In all, the ship resembled a beetle in flight.
“That’s the Copper Cicada,” Fenway introduced. “If we’re lucky, we can land right on the deck.” He gave Urrah a knowing look. “But we can’t land like this,” he added.
“No,” Urrah agreed. “We need slight change for landing,” he told Khell.
“A slight change?” She repeated. “A slight change of what?”
“Position,” Urrah replied. He gently shoved Khell away from his shoulder, letting her to freefall alone.
Khell flapped her arms madly, uncertain of what to do. She screamed at the sky around her, but that did little to help. Fenway tried to yell something to her, but Khell couldn’t hear him over the rush of the wind. She watched as he let go of Urrah’s hair, and with the help of his wings, easily glided over to Khell.
Fenway gripped the back of Khell’s shirt, and flapped his wings frantically. He didn’t stop her freefall, but he did slow Khell enough for Urrah to reach her, and scoop her to his chest like a baby. Khell gripped madly to Urrah’s chest plate. She wanted to be mad at him, but couldn’t find the energy yet.
“Ok. Next bit is little tricky,” Urrah declared, as though the last bit had been easy. “Don’t worry though,” he added for Khell’s benefit.
Khell could feel the sudden jolt as Urrah touched down feet first on the deck of the Copper Cicada. He folded himself around Khell, and rolled along the deck. It was a rough landing, and though he kept her safe, Urrah lost his grip on Khell in his second roll.
She tumbled along the deck, coming to a stop at the feet of a silver Cogstable with red piping. It looked slimmer than the ones at The Library, and pretty beaten up. Khell backed away from it quickly, and bumped into a girl that had been sitting in the captain’s chair till recently.
The girl didn’t look to be any older than Khell. She wore a vest made entirely out of tool filled pockets, but nothing much else. Though she looked the most human Khell had seen all day, the girl was different. Her ears were long, and ended in black tufts of fur. She had thick black paint around her eyes, and black leathery lips. From navel down the girl was covered in course grey and brown fur. Her legs bent weird behind her knees; like an animals hind quarters, and ended in black over sized paws. The girl had a bushy black striped tail that swayed lazily as she stood staring at Khell.
“Range is with us,” The raccoon girl stated with a thumb jerk towards the silver Cogstable. She gave Khell a scrutinizing look. “Who are YOU with?”
“Sprogs: this is Khell,” Fenway introduced. “We found her in The Library. She seemed very out of place.” Fenway put a very heavy emphasis on ‘out of place’.
“Wait,” Sprogs contemplated. “Are you saying she’s what we were paid to find?”
Fenway rubbed his temple in aggravation. “Yes Sprogs; that is exactly what I was saying. Only I was trying to say it a bit less conspicuously.”
Urrah looked at Fenway in shock. This was news to him as well. “Is supposed to be item. Like book or something,” he complained. “Is not supposed to be little girl.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Fenway snapped. He paced, or at least he flew in a tight circle. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” Fenway looked at the crew of the Copper Cicada. “What am I supposed to do here? You know what’ll happen if we don’t deliver!”
“I don’t understand,” Khell interrupted.
Sprogs smiled wide. “Fenway’s thinking about selling you,” she stated matter of fact.
“No I’m not,” Fenway barked at Sprogs. He turned an uncomfortable smile to Khell. “I’m not,” he repeated.
“Then what’s going on?” Khell demanded. “Who are you people? Where am I?”