The Praedian Records

J.G. Phoenix

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Fleeing Victory #14

by | Dec 9, 2021 | FV, Pinned, Short Stories


Even with the small workshop in the Blue Ghosts’ mobile HQ, Sable was having trouble mending his damaged mask. He spent the last twenty minutes before sunrise removing a large metal shard from the mask’s left eye. He had to laugh at how close he came to losing his own eye in the artillery strike. The mask’s eye was scarred above and below, and the lens was broken in half.

The damage wasn’t quite as bad as it looked. Thanks to its design, the lens didn’t shatter the way normal glass would–that would have cost Sable his left eye–but instead its outer coatings held the fragments together like strips of clear tape, preventing a direct hit on the eye port from sending fragments into the wearer’s eye. The mask’s designers knew what they were doing.

While Sable did manage to bend the edges of the port back into place, he couldn’t do anything about the deep crevices carved into the plate without reforging the whole thing. They just didn’t have the facilities for that.

“It’ll be fine,” Sable told himself. His mask had a new battle scar, nothing more. The look quickly grew on him, and as long as the replacement lens for the left eye would fit, the mask was perfectly serviceable.

The lines running from the induction ports under the face plate to the ports on Sable’s harness were a simpler problem than the eyes. There was a line on each side of the mask, one to deliver mana to the wear’s lungs in aerosolized form, and the other to power the helmet. The power line had been severed a few inches down. Sable counted himself lucky the debris responsible for the damage just barely nicked him. The power line had to be replaced at both ends, and it took Sable around ten minutes to finish.

Once Sable was done replacing the power line for the mask, he took a spare lens and worked it into the left eye socket. A perfect fit. Sable was almost satisfied, but he had to know he could use it in a combat situation. He tested its various functions, tried it on, and went through a few combat motions. He tried to mind his injuries for the tests but wound up having to sit himself down to recover, not once, but several times. He knew the other ghosts wouldn’t be as sympathetic watching him try combat roles and backflips, but Sable wanted to know he could push himself if it was necessary.

“I think we’re good,” Sable said, taking off the mask and setting it beside his helmet on the workbench. “Now I just have to hope the situation hasn’t gone completely south for us.”

If the Blue Ghosts were ordered to take out Sandoval to cover up their involvement at Fort Baldi, they were going to have to move quickly.

When  the others arrived, Sable was expecting everyone except for Red to start changing into civilian clothes. He didn’t know why Red was always able to get away with staying in his combat gear, but it never caused any problems. It just meant they had to pretend he didn’t exist while they were incognito.

“That looks like a quick repair job,” Shark said, walking up to Sable and picking up his mask.

“Save for the beauty mark, good as new,” Sable smiled up from his chair.

“We made it to Port Barbate,” Vesper said, reaching up to unlock his mask, “I’m going to contact Command shortly, but there’s something I want to look into first. We’ll move out after that.”

“Something wrong?” Sable cocked an eyebrow.

“There are five warships anchored out on the water,” Shark explained, only pausing when Sable flinched, “They’re Calman, not Cordaean. Four escort frigates and a heavy cruiser. It’s hard to be sure but it looks like they’re flying House Krieger’s colors.”

Vesper set his mask and helmet down and moved onto his armor, unfastening his braces and greaves. “Command didn’t send them to pick up the doctor. That’s what the merchantman is for. They’re here for something else. I want to make sure we don’t get in each other’s way.”

“I’m glad Barbate is part of the Free States. May as well ask the higher ups about the ships,” Sable shrugged, “They can check for us.”

“Shark,” Red joined the discussion, taking a spot beside Sable, “Did you get a good look at the gun layout of that cruiser?”

“Only a glimpse, but it’s definitely an old ship.”

The ghosts waited while Shark thought back on the profile of the heavy cruiser he spotted. It was clear he was having a hard time comparing it to any modern ships in Calig’s arsenal.

“The gun layout … doesn’t make a lot of sense. It reminded me of a pocket battleship. It has one forward battery and two aft. The main battery has two battleship sized guns. I don’t know how many guns are on the back but they’re the normal size for an older ship. Probably two-o-threes.”

“It’s the Schultz,” Red said, with the kind of surety no one could question, “A one of a kind experimental cruiser from the Founding.”

A long sigh left Vesper. “The Schultz, is it?”

“So those ships are with House Krieger,” Sable said. He decided to get on his feet. Chances he would need to be moving around soon. “All of our missions fall under their umbrella. It’ll take some convincing for me to believe they aren’t here for us.”

Shark shook his head, not disagreeing with Sable, but being able to find a reasonable motive for Krieger to send a small fleet. “Even in neutral waters, they wouldn’t be that conspicuous. We don’t need a fleet to escort the doctor.”

“Alright,” Vesper interjected, “It’s time to get Command on the line. I want you all on your best behavior.”

“You’re not going to sneak another peek at the cruiser, first?” Sable smirked,” See why they’re here in Barbate?”

“It’s the Schultz. I already know who’s on it. I might even be able to guess why they’re here, and if I’m right, Command has no idea. We’ll see what they’re doing after we report in.”

Sable tried his best, he really did, but he was certain the Blue Ghosts’ handler heard him snickering at least twice during the call. He always found people like that amusing, unable to directly affect a situation themselves, but still trying to pull everyone’s strings, and barely keeping their composure all the while. They were some of the most entertaining.

“I agree with Agent Sable’s assessment of the danger,” the handler’s voice came back over the speaker system, “though not at all with his sense of humor. I’ll sanction a recon mission into Fort Baldi to ascertain the fate of the Municans. You needn’t worry about the other field agents; they’re accounted for.”

“That’s good news,” Vesper said. Depending on what ‘accounted for’ really meant.

“The details of the mission are up to you, Agent Vesper, though I suggest extreme caution. Sandoval is the only one who saw any of you last night. You had best keep it that way, or this could turn into a self fulfilling prophesy. If you are discovered, eliminate all witnesses.”

“Understood, Sir. There’s one more thing I thought you should know.”


“Were you aware that the Schultz and an escort of four frigates were anchored here at Port Barbate?”


As Vesper thought, Command didn’t know about it. He hadn’t told his fellow ghosts either, so Sable was as in the dark as their handler.

“Are you sure it’s that ship?”

“Positive,” Vesper replied.

“Blast it, Helena!” Sable could hear the handler’s fist strike his desk. “What is that girl doing here in our AO?”

Helena Schultz. She was the youngest daughter of the current head of House Krieger, and the eighth or ninth in line to lead, by Sable’s estimate. While more modern warships in Calig’s military were reserved for more modern operations, the Six Houses kept and privately maintained an alarming number of the older vessels. To date, there were approximately one hundred and fifty privately owned warships in Calig, most of which were owned and operated by the Six Houses. It was no surprise that some of the noble brats inherited a gunboat or two.

“Would you like us to make an inquiry?” Vesper asked, admittedly a little tongue in cheek.

“I’d like you to keep your heads down while we look into this. That’s an order. Until we know why the Schultz is there, the doctor is to be kept out of sight. We’re ending transmission, agents. We’ll resume in one hour, so standby.”

“Resuming in one hour. Understood. Vesper out.”

“That went well,” Sable tried and once again failed to hold in his laughter.

“Theories?” Shark asked, making eye contact with Vesper.

“She’s butting into our business,” Vesper said, “probably just out of curiosity, but with House Krieger, you never know.”

Anyone and everyone in Krieger’s line of succession outranked the ghosts, as well as their handlers, so depending on how things went, Sable suspected Helena could make their lives even more interesting–and frankly more difficult–than the mysterious bomber at Fort Baldi.

“Normally,” Red spoke up, “the younger ones take their ships and go ‘fishing’ for crimsons. Command would expect the Schultz to be doing that. If the ship is here then it’s here for us. It’s no coincidence.”

“You’re right,” Vesper nodded, “Maybe she wants to help.”

“This isn’t helping,” Shark scowled.

“Agreed, but we have our orders. We lay for now, try not to stand out. Red, watch the doctor. Shark, you’re on lookout duty. Sable, you’re with Jason.”

“Understood,” the ghost said together.

Sable headed straight for the front of the trailer. If he was staying with Jason for the next hour, that meant sitting up front and helping him dissuade the curious if they approached the truck directly.

“Sable?” Jason had probably been expecting someone else to hop into the seat beside him. “Don’t you need your rest?”

“Orders. I’m with you until we figure out what’s going on.”

“What’s wrong?”

“A Krieger brat just-” there was a knock on the passenger side door. Sable slowly leaned over and looked down out of the window, but the first thing he saw wasn’t the person knocking. The two men he saw first were standing a few meters away from the truck, looking as stiff as steel and ready to pounce. Bodyguards, Sable figured.

That meant the person knocking …

Sable saw a nothing but a sun hat below. There was another knock.

“You’ve got to be joking,” Sable muttered to himself. He let down the window. “Can I help you, Ms …?

The woman stepped away from the door and lifted up the rim of her hat. Jet black hair fell endlessly down her shoulders, partly obscuring both her dress and coat, as well as her gaze. Many vas nobles had red eyes; it was a trait that was sought after near to the point of obsession, but this woman’s eyes were closer to maroon, an even rarer hue.

“Johann, surely you recognize me.”

She just had to use his real name. It didn’t bode well that she looked so amused with the situation. Sable didn’t like being on the receiving end of surprises. Every time it happened, he and his team either wound up in more danger than they were prepared for, or someone was toying with them.

“Who is she?” Jason looked to him for answers.

“Helena Schultz of House Krieger,” Sable said dryly.

“Please, just Helena.”




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