The occupants of Wall Town’s nineth story balcony watched in silence as an enormous form rose from the turbulent waters of the bay like a prodigious coelacanth. Frothing foam spilled from the emergent shape’s contours as gannet and albatross fled over the seawall in shrill terror. The breach disgorged a wave to the marine fortification of a height to shroud the lofty onlookers in brackish mist. When the saliferous haze cleared, the observers discerned the character of the thing from the depths. A seacraft, over a mile in diameter, composed of layered metal the color of bituminous coal, with long spine-like protrusions draped flush on its smooth surface about all visible length. The metal barbs unfurled to forty-five-degree angles and jettisoned thick shafts of steam. Thereafter, hundreds of nimble argent forms debarked the spines and flew cloudward until they were swallowed in albescent radiance.
On the seawall, one of Sonderon’s men rushed through the door of Alder’s quarters, huffing and pointing excitedly behind him as if to some trailing spectre.
“They’re here. The Consortium.”
Scarcely had the words left the man’s mouth than a voice boomed through the panel display upon Alder’s desk. A man’s voice, business-like but roughened by agitation.
“Port Authority, this is Commissioner Vogel. Do you copy?” A pause. Alder remained still. Vogel resumed, anger bruising his tone. “Hostiles inbound. Do not open the sea gate. I repeat. Hostiles inbound. Do not open the sea gate.”
Eidos Kryos’ voice emanated from Alder’s desk-bound panel display.
“Open the gate.”
Alder hung in a pendulum of indecision.
“Go on,” Straker encouraged.
He bent to the control panel. A rumbling sounded.
The enormous iron gate that secured the harbour parted and as it did the front of the vast vessel before it opened and expelled a smaller seacraft that cut across the azure expanse like an obsidian arrowhead. Swiftly it forded the watery reach and passed the vaulted arch of the gateway and moved to the barren quay where stood an armed Consortium detachment with Vogel at its head. The uniformed men raised their weapons and prepared to fire, but Vogel threw his hand out. “Hold. Let them disembark.” The men obeyed and the huge obsidian freighter grew still in the waters before the uncluttered concrete landing. The front of the vessel opened and loosed a heavy, pitch colored gangway, fifty three yards wide and one hundred yards long. Despite its considerable bulk, it touched down with the lightness of a feather.
Footfalls resounded from the opened dark.
Vogel’s men tensed.
From the shadow of the ship, Eidos Kryos emerged, garbed in lamellar sable vestments trimmed with gold. His gait unhurried. His black-gloved hands gingerly held before him, one against the other above his waist, fingers moving rhythmically, as if weaving invisible thread, his auric eyes fixed upon Devik’s skyborne fortress above the distant towers of the city-proper. To the army assembled before him, he spared no attention.
Vogel trudged to meet the man before the base of the mechanized plank.
“Turn around. You have no authority here.”
Kryos scanned the decimated shipping yard and the flames consuming the distance. Only then did he bring his gaze to Vogel.
“Neither, it seems, do you.”
Vogel stepped forward, hands primed to draw the cutter at his waist. “I’ve authority enough to have you and all your men arrested, here and now.”
As if to mirror his opponent, Kryos walked forward until he stood only four feet before the new Commissioner.
“And this would profit you?”
“I have my orders.”
“But not your reason.”
Vogel frowned. “I’ve no desire to do you an injury.”
“Nor do I.” Kryos spread his hands. “So have your men step aside.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“Disappointing. I was under the impression our aims aligned.”
“A false impression.”
“Much like that which I have given you.”
There sounded an inorganic humming from above. Silvery forms descended from the glaring sky with meteoric speed and brought low the Consortium troupe. Vogel drew his cutter and leveled it at Kryos. The small panel above the grip of the weapon read “Invalid target.”
“You wax forgetful of the manufacturer of your weapons.”
Vogel cursed and swung wildly at Kryos’ impassive face with a hard right hook. The black-garbed man back-stepped and the blow went wide.
“Come on!” Vogel bellowed and threw a left hook, but before the blow connected one of the silvery aerial machines swept upon the assailant and affixed itself to his arm with its centipedal legs, then went still. The momentum and weight of the mechanical addition brought Vogel’s blow short and straight to the ground, before his right knee. He groaned and attempted to rise but the machine proved too heavy. His armor made him tetter unsteadily and he struggled to keep from toppling to the concrete quay.
Kryos strode forth, gently placed a palm upon the Commissioner’s armored shoulder and, with minimal application of pressure, pushed the fettered man face-first to the ground. Before Vogel could rebound, three more argent ersatz insects descended from the sky and secured his free arm and both legs.
“You approached us head on so the sun would be in our eyes. So we wouldn’t see them above us.”
Progenitor soldiers emerged by the hundreds from the yawning cavity of the obsidian freighter as Kryos’ shadow fell over the Commissioner.
“Due your valor, I shall grant you the honor of observing the reconfiguration of this ugly chimera you and your masters failed to secure.” He turned toward a soldier in vermeil plate. “Colonel Vorstahl.”
Kryos looked to the massive ship floating above the city. “Release the cloud planters.”
“All of them.”
Vorstahl bowed his head in acquiescence. Kryos’ dactyl gesticulations grew more rapid.
“You can’t,” Vogel pleaded. “The Chancellor and the Convention are in Devik’s ship. If you start a storm it’ll be torn from the sky.”
“Only if they choose not to land,” Kryos replied diffidently.
Far from the chaotic quay, a new set of the Progenitor’s previously unraised spines disgorged thousands of machines the color and texture of smokeless ovoids, that whirred westward to the burning heart of the city and the airship that crowned it.