Aether Legions (Rough Draft) Regina’s Captors Briefly Bamboozled

From the diary of Regina Wells:  I once read of how Julius Caesar, as a young boy, was kidnapped.  First he convinced the brigands they’d asked too low a ransom.  Then he regaled them of his family’s influence and power.  Eventually, out of fear, they released him.  Without any other weapon, I hoped to talk myself into freedom.

Regina looks up to find Douglass staring at her, smiling as their eyes meet.  Wilson twirls a knife in each hand, hypnotized by their dazzling dance.

“Your brother will thank you some day,” Douglass says.  “Play along and the whole world will thank you too.”

She shakes Cameron’s letter at Douglass.  She says, “This is an offer, a suggested partnership.”

“What of it?” Douglass asks, grinning.

“I choose to take his offer,” she starts angrily.  “That means we’re on the same side.  That means you’re to escort me, with proper respect becoming a lady, not drag me about like so much luggage.”  She gasps.  “Speaking of which, you didn’t allow me to pack anything.”

“We’ll buy you whatever you need,” Douglass replies, frowning.  He turns his attention to the cityscape passing by out the window.  As he mutters to himself, Regina holds back a smile.

“Where are we heading?” asks Regina.

“What’s it to you?” Douglass grumbles.

“Many factors go into a woman’s wardrobe selection,” she begins.  “Certain styles are seasonal, while others regional, and then there’s the climate to consider.”

Douglass turns and glares, arms firmly crossed.  “We’re not going on a shopping spree, at least not until we’ve cleared out of England.”

“Wales,” She says laughing.

His brow furrows.  “Come again?”

“We’re not in England,” she explains, “we’re in Wales.”

Again he turns his attention out the window, his grimace more pronounce, his breaths huffing out his flared nostrils, steaming the glass.

*****

Down at the Cardiff docks, Regina drags her feet as they approach the docks.  She sees the Comet.  Her bright white hull, adorned with blue piping and an orange fireball comet alongside the bow, briefly leaves her breathless.  Sharp uniformed crewmen dot the vessel, fully focused on their work.  As she studies her trans-Atlantic transport, a blur of action crosses in front of her as Wilson and another man tumble to the ground.

The stranger rolls over, Wilson in hand and hurls him over dockside.  With a splash, he screams.  With an agile flip, the doppelganger of young Henry stands before her, panting.  “What happened?  We were to meet.”

“This lady’s with us,” Douglass growls.  “Go get your own.”

Douglass charges with fists drawn back, coiled to strike.  As he launches a double fisted attack, young Henry throws up both forearms to block.  The sheer momentum of the attack pushes Henry back, but he remains standing.

“You’re strong for a little skinny guy,” says Douglass.

Henry charges, throwing a barrage of swift jabs.  Douglass deflects each blow with less and less efficiency.  Finally, between jabs, Douglass dives into Henry and grapples him to the ground.

“Now you’re mine,” Douglass roars as he pounds blow after blow into Henry’s kidneys.

Regina rushes to a dock worker and snatches a wrench from his hand.  Racing back, she takes a deep breath and swings the iron cudgel at the back of Douglass’ head.  Though she only manages a glancing blow, the cast iron titan falls limp.

Henry looks up at her and smiles.  “I worried when I saw you leaving your house with those men.”

“So did I Henry,” she says with a winded sigh.  “So did I.”

*****

After beating a hasty retreat, Henry helps Regina climb across the brow of the Enviado.  Her battered hull, weathered decks, and ragtag crew cause her stomach to tighten.  As she and the young doppelganger board, the men on deck hasten their pace.  Henry fires off several orders in another language, and the ship hums with activity.  Once Henry gets the crew moving, he ushers Regina below.

Inside the cramped ship’s galley Henry stops and fishes a small shining box from his coat.  He sweeps the remnants of the crew’s last meal aside, sets a small tool kit and the mysterious box down.  As he sits and tinkers, he speaks rapidly.

“I cannot lose you again.  I’ve an idea that will help.  I have this… this thing.  If I can just… there.  I can always know where… ah, there.”  He holds up a tiny circular object covered in etched patterns of silver, bronze, and onyx.  “Take it,” he says with a timid grin.  “Osashar gave me this aether-vox to talk with him, but I’ve modified it.  Now I can use this,” he lifts the shining box, “to find this,” lightly touching the engraved disk.  He stands and places a hand on her shoulder.  “I’ll never lose you again.”

Elsewhere, the ship rumbles and shudders to life.  Men shout above.  The floor beneath Regina’s feet wavers.

“We’re leaving,” Henry says with a nod.  “We’re going to see Osashar and come up with a plan to set everything right.”

“Yes,” Regina says, returning his smile.  “We must preserve our oath.”  She sighs.  “Or else face Osashar’s wrath.”

Henry examines her, studying her.  “I must go ensure we depart smoothly.”  And then he races up the stairs.

Regina looks at the little disk between her fingers.  ‘I’ll never lose you again.’  Seemed so strange looking into Henry’s eyes and the words he chose.  Then she laughs to herself.  He’s not Henry, I shouldn’t think of him so.  But it is nice to see him… alive, happy to see me.

A loud crash startles her and she gasps.  Henry stumbles into the room, half his face ripped open, bleeding.  One sky blue eye looks at her, pain, fear, despair, all in that brief moment before he falls to the floor.

Douglass marches into the room.  “You forgot something,” he hisses.  In his left hand he holds a bloody wrench.  As she stares at it in horror, Douglass’ right fist flies in and crashes into her gaping jaw.

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