2. Steampunk Trolling

The black umbrella shuddered when it was struck by the piston-sledge. Ms. Sage felt the impact translate through the crook and down along steel arm bones. The shade held together, though, and didn’t even dent. The ground beneath her heeled boots on the other hand cracked and started to splinter. She twirled off to the right with a dancer’s grace and snapped her weapon closed long enough to get a good gauge of how the troll was going to attack next. She was unsurprised to find out that it was cocking its arms back for another go at her tiny form. The Spanish woman smiled small. The longer she distracted it the more soldiers could get out of its reach. It was a plain fact that she’d be unable to do much damage to it alone.

Air whistled around the pneumatic hammer as the troll swung for the back wall. Ms. Sage snapped her umbrella open and let the shielding over cavorite open just enough to carry her up over the strike. The anti-gravity rock drew her skyward at a slow pace so she might sight down her dainty gun. It’s bullets had zero chance of penetrating the automaton’s armor but she emptied all her bullets across the sharp angle’s of the troll’s face – anything to keep its attention on her.

Which was not all that difficult to do. With dynamic movement the massive machine surged forward, its wrists twisting to try and swat the woman from the air as it swung back the other direction. Its whole metal body leaned into the attack, leading off with a bend of knee and plant of one four-pronged foot. The silver casing of its left hand glinted. If the blow had connected correctly it had enough force to sunder a hundred of years old tree too toothpicks. Instead, Ms. Sage shut off the miracle ore once more and let gravity pull her hard back to the ground. The piston-sledge smashed only the empty air above her. Their dance continued.

More doughboys scrambled away from where the black-clad woman and hammer-wielding troll fought. Some of them paused to snatch and drag their injured comrades. Captain Basil Redgrave and his best mate, Harper Carson, screamed orders and tried to get them all to fall back to a rallying point. The other two platoons didn’t dare rush into the fight. Instead they were hastily setting up firing lines and defensive positions. If the four trolls got free of the Thistle Sisters it was going to be a devil of a time taking them down. Man-carried artillery was prepared as well.

Speaking of which… Ms. Parsley watched the three of her sisters engage a troll each. As usual, though, Ms. Thyme was an emotionless over-achiever as she took on the two with ruined guns. Ms. Rosemary had been thrown away by the one armed fey but was again trading blows with it. Whenever either the redhead or the troll landed a punch the reverberations made the tallest of the Sister’s jaw ache. Her doe brown gaze was cast over her shoulder to see how Ms. Sage as doing, but instead it lingered on Basil. She couldn’t help but smile tenderly. Lord Above! The man was so very sexy no matter what he was doing, especially in that uniform. She shook her head hard to try and get her blonde head back in the game. Her mind was made up; Ms. Thyme would need the help most. She just needed to find a good weak spot to sink hot lead into. Her internal difference engine took a quick assessment of the damage done to pair fighting the swordswoman as her gaze slid over them. There had to be a few chinks in their armor now.

Ms. Parsley’s attention was forced back to the lead troll and Ms. Sage when a red flag on iron pole came tumbling down from above. The Gloriana was circling and banking so one side of its hull dipped toward the battlefield. The gunslinger knew exactly that that meant. One of her over-sized heaters was holstered. She sighed and rolled out the cylinder from the other revolver before patting here and there until she came up with a special service one. An idle whistle slipped between her thin lips as she pressed it into place, she hardly worried about the rolling chaos all around her. It would be ended soon. Ms. Parsley squeezed one eye shut and took the single gun with both hands. Pink tongue poked out of the side of her sweet mouth, she’d much rather have Basil’s tongue going into it. She aimed very carefully and waited until the hammer carrying troll’s back was to her. The trigger was squeezed three times in rapid succession.

She didn’t need to worry about the over-sized bullets actually penetrating. They were made to stick to flat surfaces such as the side of steam-coaches bunker walls; or in this case wide armor plates. The back end of the shells popped and blew out tall streamers of bright red smoke. “Take that you big son of a bitch.”

“Oh hell, they’ve lit one of them up.” Basil whistled through the gap in his teeth. He waved his arm in a strong manner. His sniper rifle was shouldered now. “Come on lads! Double time it before they blow us all to pieces.”

“You got to be kidding me.” A groan flew out of Harper as he took a look back at the now smoking troll. “Basil we need to find cover, now.”

“Right behind you mate… grab that kid right there would you?” The captain just grinned crooked. He bent and leaned a shoulder to another solider that was limping along. The private was thankful for it and hobbled along as fast as he could. Harper didn’t complain and picked up the incapacitated fellow Basil had pointed to. Everyone put in a second effort to try and get out of the danger zone. They knew what was coming.

Up above the airship continued to bank and turn. Mr. Thistle felt the angle of the deck changing beneath his feet and leaned against The Gloriana’s rail. He listened to radio communications as they were relayed to him by various handlers but his gaze was fixed on the woman with the umbrella. Air tugged and played with his dark brown hair. Beneath him the vessel’s starboard gun ports shuddered open. He already knew how everything was supposed to play out and had complete faith in the girls. As long as there were no unpleasant surprises the four trolls would be dealt with in the next few minutes.

Even though Ms. Sage was just a dark spec to him he squinted as hard as he could to gather every detail, going as far as to bend down on both elbows. They could start firing now but… she was still in the way so he didn’t respond when the request to do so was given. Instead his clock-work fingers started to patter with impatience. He drew in his lips to a thin line, his jaw twitched. Why was she taking so long to get out of the way? Surely the ace tactician knew that the airship’s guns were trained and ready. The tapping of artificial digits sped up. His tie felt uncomfortably tight against his neck and he had to swallow hard.

“Sir, we’re going to need to take the shot soon.” One of the ship’s officers called out to him.

Roland lifted his real hand. “One moment, lieutenant.”

“Sir.” Even if the man was displeased with having to hold it didn’t surface. He was of the British Air Navy after all. They were not like the colonial rabble.

“Come on, Isadora.” Roland Thistle muttered under breath. “Disengage already.”

The Gloriana continued to turn and was rapidly losing its firing arc. If it did they’d have to take several crucial minutes to make a final pass. Yet Ms. Sage still had yet to break off. She rolled and jumped, floated and swerved while turning the automaton around and around. The ground about the two combatants was visibly smashed to pieces even from Mr. Thistle’s vantage point. His gaze strayed further away from them. His smile was small and worried, but there none-the-less. She was buying every last second she could so more of the routed platoon could get out of the blast radius. Alas she didn’t have as great a sense of timing as the Ms. Thyme. Vaguely he realized he should be paying attention to the other three girls as well and keeping abreast of how they were faring. Every time he tried to look away from the small shape of Ms. Sage, though, his stomach knotted up with worry. He kept his hand raised. The cuff of his suit ruffled with the breeze.

“Steady… steady.” He knew that the last seconds of a fair field of fire were slipping away. His smile disappeared and back molars ground against one another. Suddenly Ms. Sage shot up into the air born by the scientific wonder of her umbrella. “That’s my girl. Fire at will, lieutenant. “

For her part Ms. Sage wished she had another few moments to keep the damn troll distracted. As she soared up the first rain of shells came screaming down. She was sure among the bodies scattered around the troll there were those that were still living. As much as she wanted to turn her gaze away she had to make sure the war engine went down. The lead troll stumbled forward when the first shell struck its wide back, losing both its pistol sledge and a great deal of both shoulders. The second cannon shot tore right through armored spine and blew the robot’s central frame apart in a shower of splinted metal, dust and crimson motes. The rest of the airships shots peppered the area around it reducing everything to a mishmash of mud and body parts.

Ms. Sage’s eyes clenched shut and she looked away from the resulting carnage. There were still three more trolls to deal with, and she had an idea. She unhinged all of the plates around the glass tube of her umbrella’s shaft and rocketed up toward The Gloriana.

Down below Ms. Parsley squinted and waved debris clogged air from her face. She didn’t worry about getting back in the fight as soon as possible. First she needed to know that Basil had gotten away from the blast radius. She logically knew that he had but coiled copper and crystal heart ached. She dashed along the edge of the crater in the direction she’d seen him last while loading in a fresh revolver chamber. Her sisters could take care of themselves for a few seconds more.

Like a prize fighter Ms. Rosemary absorbed another harsh blow from the one-armed troll by keeping her hands up. The two of them had continued trading punches from the moment she’s smashed it down to the ground. Not even the thunderous roll of explosions less than a hundred yards away gave either of them pause. She took another shot to her forearms before jabbing out into the automaton’s breast plate. The black metal gave just a little bit more.

“Ye punch like a wee Frenchman.” She snarled with a rip-torn smile. The horned droid, of course, didn’t respond to her insult. She didn’t expect it would. As soon as she started brawling the taunts always rolled out. The troll swung at her with a vicious backhand, which she ducked. Full of poise and fancy footwork under primrose skirts Ms. Rosemary took two quick body shots to its side and tried to collapse one of the plates at the seam. For her effort she got caught by one of the troll’s armored knees and was lifted off her feet. She landed a short distance away and didn’t as much as cough before stepping back in and catching its next punch with both her hands . One of her eyes squinted shut and her face tensed up, but she held fast and squeezed the silver inlaid fist.

“Let’s see who’s gears give out first, eh boyo?” She growled out. The fey was content to accept the challenge. The Irishwoman squeezed while the cogs within her over-sized gauntlets squealed, she could feel the internal workings of her arms straining. On the other side the troll leaned its considerable weight and power into trying to crush her. An occasional puff of red sparks came of its chest grating – hinting at the extra effort it was putting into it as well.

Not too far away from the contest of strength Ms. Thyme was her best to keep from being chopped apart by the twin trolls. At that exact moment she was skidding along the ‘bayonet’ attachment of one of the guns using the flat of both of her swords to do so. Her small body curled into a ball as her blades struck ruined barrel. To her perception the two robots were moving in slow motion, they had no real intelligence, animal cunning at best. Thus as the second ticked way she could already accurately predict their movements. She pushed off of the first’s weapon with a hard pump of her arms and crossed the small distance between to the other. The heels of her thigh high boots along with hem of ragged skirts and frills caressed the hilt of oversized axe already lodged in one of that troll’s arms. The pistons in her heels discharged and off she jumped. The weapon was driven just a bit deeper and searing hydraulic fluid sprayed out. Its arm wasn’t useless yet.
he duelist’s eyes narrowed as she sailed and twisted over the other troll as it tried to gore her with its twisted horns. With any luck with a few more kicks would finally break that appendage. She raked her blades down the hulk’s back as she came back to earth only to catch an elbow in pert chest and be bounced off along the ground. She was up to her feet before she stopped moving – and rushed right back in. She wasn’t sure if she was going to pick them apart before they ended up demolishing her though. A few cables and the vat-grown muscles they supported had been torn with that hit. She was going to need backup very soon. By her calculations it was going to be several long minutes before The Gloriana was going to be aligned for another shelling.

The question was could the four… no three… no two of them last that long. Mr. Thyme’s eyebrows crushed together with agitation. Where the devil had the other two gotten off too now? They best not be snogging their respective paramours.

“Incoming!” Ms. Rosemary shouted as she twisted her body and used the one-armed troll’s strength and weight against it. She was pretty sure she felt one of the gears in her left leg snap as she managed to throw the steel behemoth for a short distance. She had full faith though that even with that little of warning her raven haired sister would get out of the way. As usual the Irishwoman’s faith was rewarded. Ms. Thyme jumped straight up into the air and took skipping steps off of the tumbling troll before adding her own piston-aided strike to its momentum. Her arch took her sailing over to Ms. Rosemary’s side as a most thunderous collusion ensued. Two of the three trolls went down. The other stumbled to the side and winged his rifle after the Thistle Sisters like it was a javelin.

Both Ms. Rosemary and Ms. Thyme took weaving steps away as the oversize axe-head with gun attached flew past them and stuck deep into the ground. Neither took their eyes off of the trio of fey as they struggled to get their footing again. The one with an hand axe in its arm pulled it free, now that it had thrown its own weapon.

The Irishwoman was the first to speak. “I’ll hook that one’s injured arm and try to pull him forward into the other two? Hell I might even get the blighter’s arm clean off you think?”
“Acceptable plan. I am unsure about any other course of action. I do not think we can keep them occupied for long enough for the airship’s guns to be in position again.” Ms. Thyme’s expression was traced with a frown. “I will see about trying to disarming the other with blade and gun.”

“Good luck to ya then, lass. Keep your head on.” The redhead planted a boot hard down into the ground and took aim with one arm. She squeezed her hand into a fist. Steam erupted out of the sides of her bracer and off shot the miniature harpoon on its length of chain. The rose embossed wench spun as it let the high tension links fly. While Ms. Rosemary’s aim wasn’t as preternatural as Ms. Parsley’s the metal barb plunged into the troll’s injured arm more or less where she wanted it too. She snatched the attached chain with both hands and wound it around one of her elbows before pulling. The automaton resisted immediately but neither it nor Ms. Rosemary was pulled off of their feet. Instead the lower half of the arm popped right off with a shower of rent cogs and oil. The Irishwoman stumbled back even as the swordswoman drove forward into the fray again.

“Tch. I’m fine.” Basil tried to bat his blonde bombshell’s hands away even as he grinned crooked with a face full of dust. It wasn’t much use though; Ms. Parsley had to make sure that every piece of him was still intact. He fought down a squeak as she checked the front of his pants. “I thought you were a fine and upstanding woman.”

The gynoid purred and let her smile spread. Distress fled from her coiled copper and crystal heart. “Liar.”

With a cough Harper turned away from the amorous pair and went back to checking on how many man remained unharmed or lightly wounded. While Basil should be bellowing order he was distracted by woman. So he took in a great deep breath and started shouting. Hard gestures were used as he got the men around him going. Those that couldn’t move needed to be carried off to the backlines so medics could get a look at them. What remained of their platoon was to retreat and focus on regrouping. The men weren’t used to taking orders from the mountain of a man so it took a tick for them to start moving, but they did so once he picked up a poor kid with a shattered arm.

“We need to get moving, Captain.” Harper cleared his throat.

Basil did as well and gave Ms. Parlsey’s hip a tap. “That we do. Right lads, you heard Mr. Harper. Let’s double time it and get our wounded some place safe. We’ll send out runners to fetch the rest here in a moment. We’ll leave the ladies to their dance. Be careful out there, Blondie.”

“You too, Captain, you too.” The gunslinger gave them all a salute by tapping one revolver’s barrel to her slim brow. Then back up over a small hill she went as she scanned the ongoing battle. Not much had changed and she was fairly sure that her shooting into the melee was only going to complicate things. She cast her doe-brown gaze up into the air to judge where the airship was and then over to the two lines of manned light artillery. This was going to be on her and the other girls, at worst they were going to have to wear the trolls down so the soldiers could finish them off or keep them tied up until The Gloriana had a firing line once more. She spat to the side and stalked forward with both guns extended out and the tail of her officer’s coat flapping behind her. For now she’d have to take what shots she could to help the other girls. Where was Ms. Sage anyway?

Ms. Thyme was silently asking the very same question as she vaulted backwards over the swing of a troll-sized gun turned axe. Her dark hair fluttered with the movement as she brought her humming blades down into the wooden stock of the gun. While woodchips indeed flew up and her swords sank deep nearly a whole tree had been used to fashion the alien weapon. She didn’t disable it by the time she landed on her feet and was forced away. The troll followed after her with at harsh stroke of his rifle butt. She bent backwards at the middle with the muffled squeal of metal spine. An augmented kick drove the gun upwards as Ms. Thyme somersaulted away. She ended up in a crouch with skirts spread around her hidden boots and the bronze vertebra along her neck exposed. This was getting her nowhere. Not more than a dozen yards away Ms. Rosemary was trading blows with the two one-armed titans. Despite the redhead’s skill and power she was starting to sway and was focused more on defending herself than anything else. A few bullets came whizzing from Ms. Parsley’s position, finally. They did little to distract either brute on Ms. Rosemary, they just kept pummeling away.

Thirty feet up, once Ms. Sage was sure she had the right angle, the team leader pressed the hidden emergency button her umbrella which immediately slammed lead covering back over cavorite. Her other hand was occupied at the moment, holding the crackling rune spear, which had been finally released into Mr. Thistle’s custody. She plummeted, spear first down onto the troll attacking Ms. Thyme. Its sparking point, wide enough to split a horse’s side, shore the troll head nearly off as it plunged down into the robot’s chest. The weapon didn’t stop until Ms. Sage’s black boots settled delicately on the automaton’s spiked shoulder plates. In the meantime there was a burst of red motes that fluttered out of the troll’s chest grate. The bespectacled woman road the inert fairy as it fell forward, hopping off before it crashed. The black umbrella was moved over one shoulder and rolled along it for effect.

“I think that will be best used in your hands, sister. I do have to admit that was rather exhilarating though.” The Spaniard’s lips lifted in a pretty smile that made her cheeks a bit rounder.

Ms. Thyme didn’t echo the expression, though the edges of her green eyes crinkled at the prospect of using the rune-spear. She collapsed her swords and slid them back into the compartments of her forearms while heading over to the fallen troll. “Help out dear Ms. Rosemary, would you? I will be over in a moment to assist.”

“Of course.” With a flick of parasol Ms. Sage strolled over to where Mr. Rosemary was holding off the other two trolls. She made a small gesture to the gunslinger of where to start placing shots; in turn Ms. Parsley stuck out her tongue in a petulant way. That was already the pattern she was using! It just wasn’t working.

After a roll of her thin shoulders forward and back Ms. Thyme wrapped both of her hands around the haft. It took two good tugs for her to pull the weapon free. Galvanic energies cascade angrily around its point and she took a very long few moments to study it. The weapon had once split her open, nearly ended her utterly. Now it was something for her to use against the enemy – the wicked ingenuity of humanity at its finest she thought. She spun it slowly between her fingers, which felt tiny compared to the thickness of its core. If not for her internal gears and artificial muscle it would be too heavy for even Harp to wield effectively. She had no idea how to switch it from one mode to the other like Stag’s Helm did; no time had been spent learning how to use it.

Right now it cut through trolls and cut through them damn well. That would be enough. She gave it a testing swing before huffing it across her shoulders. Her green gaze flicked to the melee not too far off. She stilled save for taking out her cracked pocket watch. In between the chronometer’s ticks she drank in the timing of the dance – her artificial core harmonized with it. She was going to need to be precise with so heavy a weapon. She mouthed her count down this time as she slipped away the time piece. As it hit zero she was off at a run. One arm rotated at the elbow, whipping the lance around and aligning it forward. As moments ticked by one by one, Ms. Rosemary held up both her arms and gritted her teeth as another first slammed into them. The troll assaulting her, as expected, lifted one leg to try and kick the beautiful brawler off of her feet. Ms. Thyme’s other hand caressed along the underside of the rune-spear’s haft and braced it artfully. Moments kept slipping way and troll turned its back to her perfectly.

Ms. Rosemary prepared for impact, to try and keep righted. Instead she was pelted with slivers of ruined metal and twinkling red fragments. Even as she peered through her crossed forearms the Irishwoman leaned forward. She caught the dead weight of the troll with the spear sticking out of its chest by its remaining arm before it could crash backwards on top of Ms. Thyme. “That showed the bastard bucket of bolts! Fine show!”

“Language.” A tut escaped from Ms. Sage, even if she felt much the same. She was in the process of spinning. Her shade kept every blow that the last troll threw at bay, not that she was cocky about her movements. Just as with the airship’s guns the graceful guardian was buying time for Ms. Thyme to be ready again. Ms. Rosemary pulled one way and Ms. Thyme the other to get the lance free. In the meantime Ms. Parsley picked her way closer with a cheer and shouts of encouragement. Finally everything was going right.

This was, of course, the moment where everything usually went terribly wrong… but it didn’t. The spear finally came free, tearing out more foreign mechanics as it did so. Ms. Thyme whipped it around over her head, more clumsily than she liked. On the down swing she took off the last robot’s left leg at the knee. It toppled forward even as Ms. Sage skipped away from its bulk. The pistons in the swordswoman’s boots fired, She went almost straight up and then rapidly down. The troll didn’t have a chance to try and stand before the rune spear plunged through its hell stone core and deep into the ground below. Ms. Thyme landed with a grunt.

“Now why the bloody hell didn’t we bring that with us in the first place?” Ms. Rosemary thumbed at the side of her nose. Ms. Parsley agreed with a light giggle. Ms. Sage responded with a grim look and Ms. Thyme not at all.

Within minutes the remaining platoons moved to help recover the remnants of Basil’s as well as cover the fallen fey. The heavy weapons were moved to cover the entrance to Melrose fortress directly, just in case anymore of the brutes came storming out. One of the radio men made his way over to the four sisters as they inspected the ruined juggernauts.

“Mr. Thistle on the horn for you.” On reflex the soldier offered out the transmitter to Ms. Sage as he set his backpack down and crouched. He’d handle any of the dial work that was necessary. One had to wonder if technology would have advanced as far as it had without perpetual war.

Being a bit backwards would be a small price to pay for millions of lives restored, Ms. Sage always felt. She curved her lips to a smile and spoke. “Ms. Sage here. We are all well and more or less intact ,sir. How is everything looking from your vantage point.”

“A bloody mess if I do say so. I am glad though that you and the others are fine, Ms. Sage. I am going to order Captain Redgrave to pull his men back away from the front line so we can pick them up. He will be taking a squad with you four into the fortress though as an extra pair of eyes.” The radio crackled with static as Roland responded.

“He is going to be so pleased about that.” Sarcasm rippled from Ms. Parsley as she rolled her eyes. Ms. Rosemary gave her an elbow nudge and an agreeing smirk.

“I see. A wise decision, Mr. Thistle. We still have no idea as to what may have started the fires. None of them were carrying any sort of flame thrower.” Ms. Sage adjusted her spectacles quietly.

“There is one consistent oddity, though.” Ms. Thyme carefully spun her new weapon over head before using it to point to one of the troll’s silver hands. With a swipe of the pilfered weapon she severed it from wrist.

Ms. Rosemary stepped over and lifted the extremity. She hauled it over to Ms. Sage so she could have a closer look. “Aye, that be a bit strange.”

The leader of the Thistle Sisters leaned in and looked over the top of gold rims. She wet her lip with tongue before describing it into the transmitter. “Yes, very strange indeed Mr. Thistle. All four of the trolls had a silver gilded hand. The work is quite exquisite I do have to say, from a detached point of view. We should have a professional jeweler look at the work, see how it was done. There are small Fomorian letterings along the grooves of each joint as well. I have not the slightest what they mean. Have we gotten any reports of such a motif?”

“Yes.” Even garbled it was easy to hear the dread in Roland’s tone. “We shall discuss it at a later date. For now secure the hand you have with some of Redgrave’s men. They can bring it onto the ship with them. Did the trolls display any… odd… abilities?”

“Besides being tough as feck? Nay.” Ms. Rosemary piped up again.

Their willowy blonde sister, on the other hand, was silent for once. She was thinking deep on Mr. Thistle’s question. After all Ms. Parsley had had the best distant view of the whole battle. Her lashes flicked down and pretty lips pressed to a fine line. “Ms. Thyme, is it just me or were they more cunning than before. I’m used to the brutes being effective shock troops but they fought close to one another, using teamwork. More than a few times they even threw their weapons hoping to sore a better hit. Usually they just tromp forward and try to smash everything in their path.”

Ms. Thyme closed her eyes as well. She quietly reviewed the conflict over through her imagination and analyzed ever second of it. Now and again, her fingers twitched as if she was ready to reenact it physically. Her oversized spear was lifted and she let it sit across her feminine shoulders once more. Her arms curled over it in a languid fashion. “I think you are correct. I chalked it up to animal cunning at first. On further review they did seem smarter.”

“I see.” Roland was not all that surprised. He cleared his throat on the other end and tilted back. After a long stretch he looked toward the Scottish Gray Zone to the north. The Gloriana turned slowly, its hull shuddering as it eased to the earth once more so it could pick up the wounded. He frowned and brushed a hand through his windblown hair. “Proceed with upmost caution then. I am going to leave investigating of the bunker network to you four alone then. Sending in Captain Redgrave would be an unnecessary risk. Please be careful, Ms. Sage.”

The four gynoids shared a confused look with one another. First Captain Redgrave and Mr. Carson was going with them and now with this new information it was clearly too dangerous? None of them would dare contradict Mr. Thistle’s order though. The Spanish Rose cleared her throat, nipped her lower lip. “We shall. Is there anything else, sir?”

“Like some idea what we might be walking into?” Ms. Parsley muttered under breath. She rubbed at her exposed neck bones in agitation. Was it odd that she’d feel safer if Basil was going with them? Very odd considering he was squishy meat.

The receiver crackled. “No. Best of luck. Take the radio pack with you and keep us informed. I recommend heading straight for the command center in the middle of the mountain.”

“Of course.” Ms. Sage said and the other three chimed in. She passed off the back pack to the redhead as the radio operator jogged off to join his unit. The Sisters shared another uneasy look with one another.

It was the raven- haired Ms. Thyme that spoke up first. She started walking toward the wide open doors as she did so. “He is not telling us what we need to know on purpose.”

“I know.” The reply that came from Ms. Sage was just as blunt. She snapped her umbrella closed with a hint of agitation.

Ms. Parsley was busy affixing electric torch attachments to her pistols. Harper had suggested the idea a few days back during a general discussion about the incident. The Widow had delivered on them. They were a fine idea! “The question is why.”

“It’s not our place to ask questions, lass. Be seen and not heard, ya know that.” Ms. Rosemary teased as she adjusted the radio bundled against her shoulders. She damn well made sure that the transmitter was off. Then she ground one metal fist against the other palm. “Let’s jus’ focus on bustin’ fairy heads n’ getting to the bottom of this.”

“Well said,” Ms. Sage smirked, “Well, almost.”

To be concluded

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