They had all been in the armoury, many times. It was where they were issued their weapons, where they first took new recruits. Not like the old days during the war, when the armoury was the tent next to the mess hall.
Didn’t mean planning was easy. There were guards, regular patrols. It was the one place that was still practicing military discipline, the one place that had soldiers who seemed to care, who polished their boots and made sure their weapons were stored correctly. It was the last bastion of pre-peace Iskengar.
On the other hand, it was a pretty simple job. They weren’t trying to steal the weapons, not anymore. All they were doing was destruction.
Tom and Charlie had decided they were doing the run without Gilbert, but when they told him he said, “No, don’t think so. You two morons will blow yourselves up, then I have to make more boom juice. You need me to handle the explosives.”
So, in the end it was the three of them, masks pulled over their faces, insignia removed from their uniforms, sneaking around in the dark.
They were forced to go slow, because of the unstable explosives. Gilbert assayed the building, seeing where the supports were and then directed them. He was also able to see the energy put off by the guards, even when they weren’t in sight. It occurred to Tom that sneaking around if there was a mage on site would be impossible.
The trio snuck through the bushes, keeping low to the ground. They were crawling as slowly as they could bear, and Gilbert kept motioning them to slow down even more.
Eventually they reached the walls, time to position the explosives. That was all Gilbert, with Tom and Charlie standing guard. Tom kept looking back, paranoid that they were about to be caught – and then they were. One of the guards made it to them while Gilbert was distracted by not blowing them up. He yelled, “You. Stop!”
Tom pulled out his wand and fired, moving as fast as he was able. He caught the guard in the shoulder, dropping him. Other guards came around the corner, running at full tilt. Charlie and Tom were in a full on firefight. The guards were running straight at them, just like they had been trained to do in battle. Tom dove for the ground, firing at the cluster of men on his right. Charlie slid behind a tree, also firing as he went. They had four down in a second, but there were more, a lot more. Tom wasn’t quite sure how many had shown up, he didn’t know how many were normally there, but all of them seemed to be shooting at him in that moment. Gilbert said, “Fuck it, let’s go. It’s set.”
Tom listened, mostly because he didn’t know what else to do. He ran, zigzagging as he went, trying to keep low while running as close to flat out as he could. He could hear Gilbert counting as he ran. When Gilbert reached one Tom dove, finding himself behind a large rock. A moment, and then there was a wave of pressure, a sound that filled the world, eclipsed everything, but was somehow muted. Then there was a ringing, and the rock had moved to the other side of him. He turned around and looked back at the armoury. It wasn’t there. Gilbert stood up and started running, so Tom did too. Charlie was next to him as well.
The trio ran, ran for all they were worth. They made it to their planned exit point, and dropped down into the basement of a building that had burned to the ground. It was pre-scouted, mostly because it had a tunnel that led into another building nearby, but further away. It wasn’t ideal, coming out of an abandoned building, but they wouldn’t be seen running from the site of their attack, and they could change clothes, remove evidence. They hadn’t anticipated being deaf or covered in ash and dirt… so maybe it was better to wait a bit.
The trio found a hidden corner and lay down, they decided to wait until the furor had died down before they showed their faces. They were all wired, and trying to talk to each other, but they couldn’t hear, and they couldn’t afford to be heard, then their adrenaline rush faded and they all crashed, within minutes.
By the time they woke it was morning, and they had no idea how they were going to make it back to the warehouse. Still, it had to be done. At least they could hear at this point. Gilbert said, “The streets are pretty empty. I can keep an eye out for life signs. We might be able to make it back, with any luck. On the bright side, if they decide to hang us, at least we gave them a good reason.”
“Okay, let’s do it. More carefully than last night though,” said Tom.
They set out into the pale morning light. The streets were silent. After a few blocks Gilbert said, “Checkpoint ahead. I don’t see an easy way around, and I’m pretty sure we can’t go through.”
Tom looked up. The streets were close here, and there were intact buildings, or at least the shells of buildings. “Okay, I have a terrible idea, but it might be the best option we have.”
“What is it son? And keep in mind, I hate it when you have bad ideas.”
“We jump the street, get past the checkpoint up there.”
“Fuck. Okay, yeah, that’s a terrible idea. It’s what five stories?”
“Yeah, about that.”
“Worst idea you’ve ever had, and yesterday you blew up an armoury.”
“That’s not fair, you didn’t know me when I was younger. I had lots of worse ideas.”
“How the hell did you survive into adulthood? Physical adulthood that is, obviously whatever you did stunted you both intellectually and emotionally.”
So, it was to be a jump. The building was more shell than building, but there were stairs after a fashion. They climbed, holding their breath the whole way, except for Gilbert who could see the weak points, and how much weight they could take. At on point he yelled, “Tom, not there. To your left, a bit more. Alright, that’s good.”
The climb continued, stair after stair. Finally they reached the top floor. The climb to the roof was even scarier. Even Gilbert was intimidated by that. It’s fine to know something will hold your weight, but it’s another to hang five stories above ruined pavement from that thing.
The roof was full of holes, but there was enough solid to get a good run up, and the next building was a little lower. Tom said, “Fuck it,” and started to run.
He picked up speed, until he was going too fast to turn. He was committed. At the last instant he launched his body into the air, thrusting his hips and legs up to gain as much height as he could. He was flying, flowing through the air, and then he hit the top of the arc and he started to fall. His breath caught in his chest, there was no way, he hadn’t made it. No chance at all. Then, by some miracle, he had made it. Just enough, barely, his toes hit the flat roof, and he collapsed into the force of his jump, rolling onto his shoulder. His head touched the ground, a tiny tiny impact, then his shoulder had his full weight, over onto his butt, then back up and running, trying to lose momentum. He heard an impact behind him and then Charlie saying, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”
Gilbert was next. The big man cleared easily, landing in an awkward roll that looked like it hurt like hell. He stood up and said, “Well, remind me to work on my landings. That sucked.”
The next few hours were spent moving from building to building until they finally reached the warehouse. Everyone was there. Charlie said, “Hey fella’s, anyone come poking around yet?”
“Nope, they have checkpoints everywhere, going building to building, but they haven’t searched this on yet. Let’s get you three cleaned up.”
The three of them ditched their filthy uniforms and cleaned themselves up as best they could. There were a few cuts and abrasions, but none on their faces, so they thought they were pretty safe.
The scroll was full, the handwriting started large and elegant, as it usually did when Adrian was writing, but as it filled up the writing got smaller, then the writing was in any spare inch, in any corner.
“How did it go? Were you able to get the weapons or just at least to destroy the armoury?
Where are you?
Are you alive? Please answer me.” The last in a different more feminine handwriting. From there it was obvious it wasn’t Adrian writing anymore, and Tom asked Charlie and Gilbert to give him a bit of privacy.
“I need you to be alive. This doesn’t work for me if you have to die. I didn’t expect this to happen, but Tom, I’m pretty sure I love you. Please, please don’t be dead.
Damnit Tom, answer me. You aren’t allowed to go and die.
Please, please write back.
Fine, fuck you for dying.
I’m sorry, you didn’t die right? Fuck, I’m so worried right now. Why did I have to go and fall for a soldier?
Tom, I love you.
I love you Tom, write back when you can. I’m sure you aren’t dead, probably just trapped.”
Finally Tom had a chance to write back, “I love you too. Got trapped away from the warehouse, had to wing it a little be we are fine. I can’t wait until I can see you again. Love, Tom.”
When the building did finally get searched the group who did the searching had a mage with them. Everyone in the squad was lined up, and the mage checked them all over. “Well, it’s not them.”
“How do you know?”
“None of them can weave. Gilbert there is from the Academy, but he’s a freak. Full sight, but can’t weave even a drop, he’s useless. The rest of them, if they had been able to weave they would have been lying on the ground in fear, I had a fireball aimed right at them.”
“Okay, let’s move on.”
It hadn’t occurred to Tom, but of course they thought it was a mage. Nobody knew that there were ways to wreak that kind of destruction without spellcraft. That gave them an advantage, at least for now. So long as the kings men didn’t know they were rebels and didn’t know about the new weapons they could wage war with at least some kind of stealth.
“Gilbert, let’s get the… I can’t bring my self to call them boom tubes, anyway, those, let’s get them working. Fast. I want to bring this fight to them, before they are able to figure out it’s us. If we have enough of them we can bring in some of the others, maybe get Adrian to do his coordinated strike like we planned originally.”
“We need more metal tubes, and I want to try Charlie’s ideas before we start making a lot of them, maybe a day to get that together, then we make a bunch of them, they don’t take a whole lot to make, it’s mostly unskilled labour. Hell, I think even you could do it.”
“Great, get it in gear.”
The next day was spent testing. The new modifications worked, incredibly well. Finally they had a working weapon. Mass production began that day. It was smelly and hard work, but nobody was paying any attention to them. They didn’t get resupplied at all, no food from the powers that be, no uniforms, no weapons. It seemed that after the mage cleared them everyone forgot they existed.