The decks shook again as another thunderous roar echoed down the passageway. Cries and yells followed behind the blast while more footsteps stormed down the passageway and figures in red erupted out from the swirling smoke.
Puffs and pops of suppressed assault rifles greeted the charge of the Protectorate forces. Spent casings bounced off the metal decks as the men of the 101st ATI advanced through the Protectorate's decks in search of the airship's critical systems.
Tyrier's Claymore One had appeared at the upper levels of a cavernous hangar. Several strange teardrop shaped machines with folded wings sat at intervals all along the hangar bays. Dozens of bodies were laid out all over the deck in their own pools of blood as Claymore One took out any hostiles.
"Goddamn, this place!" Hitsu cursed as he retrieved a couple of boxes of cartridges from his backpack and started reloading his emptied magazines. "This place is a bloody maze!"
"Quickly refill your ammo!" Tyrier ordered from the side as he stood sentry. "We need to keep moving! Bastards won't be so nice to let us enjoy some peace and quiet!"
As if on cue, a group of Protectorate soldiers appeared from the other side. Tyrier hissed as he ducked behind some stacked crates. "Stay under cover!"
The group of soldiers wearing their trademark beetle like heads made a quick check of the dead before they rushed towards another hatch at the other side of the hangar, leaving Claymore One undiscovered. Suddenly, there was a shudder throughout the airship, and a strange wailing cry resounded through the decks, speaking in a strange language.
Tyrier and the rest looked up and they cursed as they recognized some of the words spoken. They had taken a crash language course by the Old World Professor. Tyrier quickly refilled his magazines and stood up, "Come on! The damn ship is taking off! We need to disable it now!"
Protectorate Flagship Aggression, Bridge
The bridge crew manned their stations nervously as the Lord Inquisitor General was in a very foul mood. Already a couple of their colleagues had met unfortunate ends in the hands of the agitated Lord Inquisitor General. The Lord Inquisitor General paced around the bridge while his commanders and aides stood at one side awaiting his orders.
"Cast off immediately!" Rism suddenly halted his pacing. "Order the ground troops to fight to their ends! Justice shall prevail to the valiant!"
The Captain of the Aggression quickly turned to his crew and passed on the order. "Make steam! Cast off the lines! Prepare for launch!"
The bridge crew jumped to their orders, passing the word down speaking trumpets, and orders to the entire ship started to be announced throughout the ship. Engineers in the boiler rooms started to shove fuel into the furnaces while water was pumped into the tanks. Clumps of processed aetherium were filled into the heating tanks while engineers start to check the valves and dials.
As steam built up and aetherium started to melt into gas, the manoeuvring airscrews on the flanks of the Overlord class battleship also started spinning, shifting the massive airship's facing. The escorts airships parked next to the Aggression were slower in making steam as the order came too sudden. Luckily the Aggression evaded the smaller escorts as it made its turn and its altitude rose higher.
Rism watched the view before he started to change as the Flagship did a hundred and eighty degrees turn. The Aggression's main engines started spinning, the massive spiral airscrews started turning faster and faster. Slowly bit by bit, the airship started drifting forward.
Protectorate Flagship Aggression, Unknown Deck
"Which way now?" Wolf asked as they secured a crossway. The dimly lit passageways looked the same no matter which direction they looked at. Somewhere in the airship, came echos of fighting. "The ship is starting to move!"
Tyrier crouched down and placed his ear against the bulkheads. "This way!"
He gestured to the left of their position, "The sounds of the engines seemed to be coming from there!"
They started advancing cautiously towards the direction where the noises made by loud machinery was the most prominent. Along the way, they took down groups of patrols and crewmembers who charged at them without any regard for their lives. After several twists and turns, the sounds of heavy machinery grew louder and louder and the appearance of the passageway changed with more and more pipes appearing on the bulkheads.
Wolf came around a corner and was nearly shot by another 101st ATI member. The two special operatives stared at each other with relieved expressions on their faces as they lowered their weapons. "Claymore One here!"
"I'm with Claymore Six!" The other 101st ATI operative replied before he gestured behind him.
Tyrier shook hands with Claymore Six's team leader and the two leaders exchanged information. Their comms with other units were blocked off by the maze of passageways, and only short distance comms among the teams were working properly, hence all the teams have no idea of one another's situation.
"You are bringing your guys to the source of the heavy machinery noises?" Claymore Six team leader asked Tyrier who nodded. "Same here!"
'Alright, let's work together!" Tyrier said. "We need to stop this ship from leaving this place!"
The two teams started working together, as they continued their attack towards the bowels of the airship. The further they advanced, the more and more guards and soldiers they encountered and suddenly the passageway widened out and the way ended in a massive vault like door.
The dozens of guards went down under the barrage of heavy gunfire and blood pooled around the thick bands of pipes that protruded out from the vault like doors. Hitsu stared up at the circular doors that were almost twice his height. "So... are we at the right place?"
Altied rapped his knuckles against the vault doors, hearing the dull clank from his knocking. "Seems pretty thick and the source of machinery noises appeared to be coming from behind the vault doors."
"Any way to enter?" Tyrier asked as he used the tip of his boot to flip over a body.
"The side door appeared to be bolted from inside," Altied said as he inspected a side hatch next to the vault doors. "Breach it?"
"Breach it!" Tyrier replied and Hitsu dug out a breaching charge from his bag. He slapped the charge against the hinges of the hatch before backing off to a safe distance.
"Fire in the hole!" Hitsu yelled and he ignited the charge. Instantly the side hatch vaporish into flames and smoke.
Kosom was a junior engineer of the Flagship Aggressor. He was a faithful believer of Ramuh, performing his day and night prayers devotedly. He was inside the main boiler station when the alarm went off, and his superior gathered everyone and informed them that the ship has been boarded.
Weapons were issued out and the main boiler station was locked down. Not long later, another set of new orders came from the telling trumpet, and the superior ordered all the boilers to be lit, and make steam as the ship was leaving.
The junior engineers including Kosom pushed carts of coal along tracks towards the waiting boilers. There, other teams of junior engineers shoved the cartloads of coal into the hungry maws of the furnaces. As Kosom stoked the flames, an engineer priest walked alongside the carts of fuel and chanted, giving his blessings to the fuel and sanctifying the boilers.
Kosom chanted with the rest as they worked in tandem, shoving coal when suddenly the side hatch exploded. The thick metal hatch flew back as the hinges shattered and dropped with a loud clank that bought an instant halt to all work inside the main boiler station.
All eyes turned to the smoke shrouded hatchway as they stared in confusion at the commotion. Suddenly several black canisters rolled out from the smoke. Kosom's eyes followed strange objects and screamed in pain with the rest as the strange objects suddenly gave off a thunderous crack that magnified within the enclosed deck and the blinding white light that burned his eyes.
"GO! GO! GO!"
Both Claymore One and Claymore Six rushed into through the breached hatch when the flashbangs thrown inside went off. They split off left and right, sweeping their weapons to cover their sectors and dropping anyone in their sights with a single well placed shot.
Tyrier lowered his smoking weapon and observed his surroundings. Eight huge ball shape structures with lit furnaces covered both sides of the cavernous deck. Carts full of black coal were parked before the open grates of the furnaces while pipes thicker than a person's body ran out in all directions from all the giant boilers.
"Secure the hatch!" Tyrier yelled to Claymore Six. "Claymore One, sweep the whole place! Make sure there are no surprises!"
Claymore Six members took up positions and guarded the breached hatch while Claymore One spread out and started checking the bodies and surroundings. Pops of gunshots came from deeper down the deck as surviving Protectorate crew were flushed out.
Tyrier walked up a raised platform that was located in the middle of the deck between the giant boilers with what looked like a control panel. Rows and rows of meters and gauges covered the panel with dozens of levers and dials attached.
He looked at the complicated and unknown controls with a frown, wondering which lever should he pull to shut down the entire contraption. Hitsu joined Tyrier at the platform as he came to report, "All clear, found two other hatches in and out of this place. The rest are blockading those hatches."
"Good," Tyrier replied before he asked as he stared at the numerous levers and dials. "Know how to shut this down?"
"Blow it up?" Hitsu suggested.
Tyrier raised an eyebrow at Hitsu's suggestion and shook his head. "I don't want to accidentally vent the steam out into this deck and cook all of us!"
"Oh..." Hitsu gave an awkward grin. "How about putting out the flames in the boilers?"
"Works too," Tyrier nodded. "Do it."
Carrying a bucket filled with water taken from a water tank. Hitsu and the rest took several trips to put out the flames of each boiler and the heat and humidity increased further inside the boiler station.
Seeing all eight of the boilers turned cold, Tyrier grinned as he could felt the slight trembling of the decks had ceased. "Looks like its working!"
"Contact!" Claymore Six's team leader yelled out as figures started to appear at the breached hatch. "Beetle heads!"
"Engaging!" Claymore Six's operatives hidden behind overturned carts and machinery fired at the Protectorate forces that forced their way through the hatch, the enemy's magical barrier flickering madly as bullets impacted the lead enemy's barrier.
The barrier popped and the enemy soldier fell back with a hole in his back while another took his place. The hatch was only large enough for two people side by side to pass through and with bodies starting to litter and block the hatchway, the Protectorate could only fall back to replan their attack.
"We need to hold this location!" Tyrier said. "This should either the main boiler room or one of them."
Tyrier pointed to his men, "You and Hitsu cover the rear hatch."
"Young and Altied, take the second storey hatch," Tyrier ordered. "The rest will support the breached hatch with Claymore Six!"
Protectorate Flagship Aggression, Bridge
"What is happening?" Rism pointed to the outside of the crystal windows of the bridge. "Why have we slowed?"
"M... My Lord Inquisitor General..." The Captain nervously made his report. "We lost contact with the rear main boiler station... Steam levels have fallen..."
"W- We suspect that... boarders have overrun the boiler station..." The Captain said.
"OVER RUN?" Rism's expression was a mix of anger and disbelief. "WHAT IN THE JUSTICE ARE THE PALADINS DOING?"
"A BUNCH OF USELESS FOOLS! YOU ALL SHALL FACE THE JUDGEMENT!"