Artimesia

New Beginings

Milka wakes to pain in her chest as she wakes against the wheel of her ship. The smell of burning wood washes over her as she feels the heat of the flames in the wheelhouse. She rises up to shake the cobwebs from her sore head. Strange colored lights flicker around the wheelhouse blending with the light given off by the flames burning in the room. Broken cement lies on the shattered deck of her enchanted ship. She can see steel I-beams spearing the vessel, showing Milka it will never fly again. Sparks fly around from what she recognizes to be neon fixtures where they dangle from the ceiling of the multi-floor building the ship has crashed into. She hears a blood-curdling scream unlike any she has heard since those first days in the caves of Killian after Tawny lost her husband and baby. As the screams stop for what she assumes to be a breath, thunder strikes shaking the building causing more rubble to fall.

‘Well, this is unexpected,’ she thinks to herself. She cautiously stands, cataloging all of the various pains and aches in her body, but finding none that are in dire need of aid.

She wipes the blood dripping into her eyes away, and starts to make her way below deck, towards the direction that the screaming had come from.

‘Need to get off this damn ship, before the whole building comes down.’ Thoughts about what building it is, when there were no buildings from where she had just come would have to wait.

She moves through the darkness, hoping that there is enough time before something even worse happens.

A loud explosion outside the building rocks the ship as Milka makes her way through the ship’s corridor. Fire licks along some of the walls. She passes a couple of her men lying dead from whatever happened to her ship.

As she reaches her friend’s cabin she can hear the sounds of scattered gunfire as well as much bigger weapons. As she opens the door of the room, she recognizes the sounds of fighters flying overhead in their life or death struggles.

Austin is lying on her bunk with Torres across her lap. They are covered in blood from his many wounds that appears to be from some kind of black lacquered wood, a piece of which seems to have cut his jugular vein.

Milka surveys the room quickly and spots another person in the room on the floor that she does not recognize. The woman is very much nude and covered in some very bad burn scars. Her hair is wet with blood making it look a blackish red. At closer inspection, Milka realizes the woman is unconscious and also coated in cuts from the same black blackened wood as Torres. There are also larger chunks of the wood lying around her. She is holding a couple long round pieces of what looks like it used to be a black lacquered staff, which must be where the splintered pieces came from. Somehow all the shrapnel missed Tawny Austin all together. Milka notices the silver etchings on the staff are glowing faintly.

“Milka! They are gone. I don’t hear them!” Austin cries. “Carter and the baby are gone and Torres is all over.”

“It’ll be ok, Tawny. But we have to get out of here now.” The deranged woman still had ghostly memories of their friendship, which had made her Milka’s shadow for quite some time now.

Milka made her way to the bed, and even though she knew it was a lost cause, checked for Torres’ pulse. Finding none, she closed her eyes for the briefest of moments. ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t get you home. Dosvidanya.’

She pulled his body off of Tawny, visually checking her friend for any significant injuries. “Can you stand, honey? We need to go.” As if punctuating her statement, another explosion rumbled through the ship.

Milka helped Tawny to her feet, and then turned to check on the unconscious stranger on the floor. As she draws closer she can see that the woman’s skin looks almost melted in places. Her pulse was thready, but her wounds didn’t look too serious at first glance. Milka sighed as she picked up the other woman, slinging her over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry. The flesh along the stranger’s body feels strange from the scaring under Milka’s hands. ‘No time to check for head or neck injuries. If moving her kills her, oh well. If I leave her here, it’s a certain death.’

“Follow me Tawny,” she says in the falsely bright tone she always takes with the woman. They make their way through the adjoining door into Milka’s room. She drops the woman off her shoulder and onto the bed, and gets on her knees to retrieve the Bug-Out Bag stored underneath. The female lets out a small moan as she lands on her back.

“Tawny, I’m gonna need you to carry some stuff for me.” She goes into the closet and grabs the larger Go-Bag she has stored in there, helping slide it onto Tawny’s back. She slings the BOB onto her own back, checks her pistol to make sure it’s loaded and ready, and then slings the unconscious woman back onto her shoulder.

“Ok Tawny, let’s go. Why don’t you hold onto the back of my belt, ok honey?”

Making sure that they’re together and ready, she moves through the shattered halls of her ship, hoping to get them above-board, and somewhere safer.

The three women move through the burning ship, flames now spreading trying to cut off their escape. Milka, knowing her ship like the back of her hands, makes a few turns most people would have missed at their speeds and somehow they are able to outrun the flames. Milka can see their exit just a few yards from her when Tawny stops short.

“Milka where are we? This place feels different less somehow.” Tawny looks around and Milka can almost catch a glimpse of the light that has left Tawny’s eyes once more.

Outside of the ship, Tawny sees something and goes into a low squat as if hiding from something she saw. Milka looks and sees human men in urban camos go by, as well as a few suits of what appears to be power armor. There is another explosion and some of the men fly into the building their ship is in. Others turn and catch sight of the ship inside of the building, moving towards it. They fan out and cover the opening, as well as the area the explosion must have come from. The power armored men begin shooting at a strange looking, fast moving fighter plane that is black with white spots, mimicking space. Milka realizes the fighter plane is just that – some kind of fighter, streamlined and deadly, and fully armed.

“Shit. We’re not in Kansas anymore… again!” she curses to herself. She makes sure Tawny has a good hold of her, and starts moving as fast as they both can in the opposite direction of the troops, looking for any available cover.

They get to a torn up hulk of a building, and dart inside. Milka rushes them through and out a back entrance, trying to put as much distance between them and the fighting. They continue moving for as long as possible, doing everything they can to avoid being seen.

Finally, they find a place to stop. Milka tells Tawny to rest, and checks all three of them for injuries.

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