Wednesday, July 31

The Challenge

It was foolish to try and scale the cliffs of the Crater. I decided to take Yagi with me in the ornithopter. I equipped myself in my old Dominion uniform with an array of equipment. Aether sabre. Bonesaw. Shears. Reanimation serum. Inoculation pistol. Yagi had...a pink dress and matching colored katana with sheath. I’m not even going to ask.
Just before daybreak we hovered from the roof of the Consulate in our aircraft and rose towards the smog-smudged morning. As we soared over the edge of the crater we were greeted with an array of flashes from below. I took some evasive maneuvers but soon realized this was not the first weapon in Hans’s arsenal. They were cameras. Mr. Hans invited the press.
They were lined up all along the edge of the crater. Adding to the chaos was a spotlight blinding me from above. A dirigible! Hans wanted to make a public spectacle of this. Such a glory hog! Fine then. So much for the element of surprise.
As I struggled to maintain control of the ornithopter the tip of my right wing clipped a spire of melted steel. I made an abrupt landing, bouncing a few times before spinning to a halt. I climbed out of the cockpit and passed Yagi the blueprints.
“You seemed to show some Spark talent on the tests...see if you can fix this.”
She unfolded  the paper until it covered her completely.
“But Doctor...?”
“Just see what you can do, my dear.” I slid down the wing and  
Ah yes, there he was. Just as described. If not uglier. It looked like he's welded on more boilerplate than...Boilerplate! And yes, he was leaking liquid nitrogen. It was like he brought his own fog machine. Well, lets get this over with, I thought. The zeppelin had arclights aimed at both Hans and myself, so the challenge was navigating the ruins instead of actually finding him.
"Cold Dead Hans, I presume?"
"None other! Oh and you brought one of your little DOLLS with you! How pathetic!"
"What's pathetic is you being so hopelessly insane that you can't admit the limitations of your own invention, even after it kills you! Look at yourself! You're a one trick pony...just like the Deadly Ringer! And the same way I smashed his Sonic Neuron Disruptor I’ll leave you in a pile of useless scrap!”
“Now THAT sounds like a challenge! Now, just to make things fair...”
A detonation. A flash. A crushing pain in my skull.
“It’s just a Reality Enforcement Device, Doctor. I’m sure you’re quite familiar with them. This will be purely a battle of our Sparks, not muddled by your demon-worshipping sorcery!”
“I’ll have all the time in the world to lecture you on the false dichotomy between Science and Magic after I extricate your cortex from that walking junkpile you call an exoskeleton! And by the way...why the HELL did you invite the media?”
He pointed his elongated gauntlet at me. “I want the ENTIRE Steamlands to witness your defeat! Once I rid the world of you, the rest of your family will fall one by one! Even the mighty Bloodwing!”
“You really ARE a narcissist aren’t you? Are you trying to make this into one of those dreadful so-called ‘reality shows’ that the mainlanders...”
“ENOUGH!” he bellowed. It’s RUMBLE!
The sounds of drums and horns echoed through the crater. It was coming from the zeppelin.
“You’ve got to be kidding me...”
Another voice boomed from the airship.
I rolled my eyes. “Oh for the love of...COPYRIGHTS, man! COPYRIGHTS!”



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