DISCLAIMER: I own no characters, contraptions, or beasties mentioned in the Leviathan series.
Alek wasn't sure when he came too exactly, just that the dull ache in the back of his head gradually became a steady aching in his whole body, and the became the unmistakable sound of steady mechanical legs. He groaned and tried to stretch his cramped limbs, only to find he couldn't. When he couldn't role over on to his back, he realized he was trapped in some kind of small pitch black space that was bumping up and down. As his mind began to clear the memory of what had just happened came to him. CAPTURED!
As he tried to move more he realized his legs were tied together and his hands tied behind his back. When he tried to call out, he realized there was something stuffed in his mouth. Panicking he started struggling to get out throwing, himself against the sides of his prison. All he accomplished was adding to the beating he got from the bouncing.
Finally giving up Alek lay still and tried to make sense of what was happening. He had been captured obviously, by mercenaries. He must have been in some storage space on a walker, that explained the noise and the bumping. It couldn't have been very big, it wasn't loud enough. Little good that knowledge did him. For all he knew they were out of Turkey and into the Balkans already. One of the attackers had said something about a port in Gemlik, but were was that?
Alek felt panic come over him again but he pushed it down. He couldn't allow himself to be caught by the Germans. He would die. There was no denying it. He was nothing but a threat to them, the only person who could interfere with there conquest of Austria-Hungary. The only person who could expose that they killed his father.
He would have to escape!
Volger peered through their one pair of field glasses, scrutinizing the port below them in the dim moonlight. Gemlik was a prosperous fishing village on the south eastern corner of the Propontis. It had taken two hours to get here in the American's four person walker. Now they were scanning it from the hillside, trying to find were Alek might be.
Jones squeezed in from the back seat and reached over to took the glasses from him. "No obvious signs of Germans, but it could be only a few of them, and if their mercenaries or bounty hunters they could be from any nation."
"Boat," Piped up the loris, as if to remind them. Aleks absence seemed to have it agitated, it hoped from one shoulder to another as if it couldn't find a spot it liked. Finally it settled on Jones's, sense the Austrians were a repulsed by it.
"That is right," Volger nodded. "We need to go to the harbor and check the ships."
From the drivers seat Klopp glanced skeptically at him. "You seem to be putting a lot of faith in this creature."
"There was another one of those beasts on the Leviathan." Volger answered, seeming annoyed at having his decisions questioned. "When ever it repeated anything it was always to the letter. It had a perfect memory."
Klopp turned back to the controls and began heading into town, muttering under his breath. "To much time on the godless ship, becoming one of them."
"What was that?"
"Nothing, nothing at all."
"One of them," the Loris said happily, earning a scowl from both of them.
They made there way through the streets taking as many back roads as possible. Even though Volger and Hoffman had exchanged there airmen uniforms for common cloths they received many curious stairs.
"This town probably doesn't get very many foreigners," Jones commented. "All it really has is fishing, and all the tourists go to Istanbul. It will make it easier to find them."
"It will also make it easier for them to see us coming," Klopp observed.
"I thought the proper name for the city was Constantinople," Hoffman asked from the back.
"Hmmph," Jones replied. "Go to any train station in this country and ask for a ticket to Constantinople, see what kind of service you get."
After twenty minutes of riding they arrived at the main dock. The shore and out stretching peers were crowded with fishing boats of every conceivable kind, from small row boat, to large fuel powered trawlers. Few were around at the late hour.
"Focus on the ones with engines," Jones said, as they all climbed out. "They'll want a faster getaway then they'll get on sails."
Volger gave him a questioning look. "I thought you were just here to look after your walker?"
The American gave him a sly grin. "My most recent orders stated I was to, quote work to undermine German activities and interests in any significant way unquote. I'm certain this will put quite a thorn in Willies side, almost as much as losing this country.
"Willie," The loris giggled
Volger scrutinized the man for a moment. He distrusted strangers as a rule, foreigners especially. But he really didn't have time to worry about him.
Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible they moved up and down the docks looking for anything promising. Volger kept one eye out to sea, to spot any ships leaving the dock. They'd gone off the roads to get here quicker, but they could still be to late.
The walker finally screeched to a halt. Alek groaned and once again tried to shift to a more comfortable position. His whole body ached from bumping in the cramped space. He wondered if they did that on purpose, so he couldn't fight back.
Without warning the hatch on his storage compartment was opened.
"Enjoyed your ride your Serene Highness," He recognized the Italian who first captured him. The man grabbed him and pulled him out grinning from ear to ear. Alek saw they had come to a port. Gemlik!
"I still don't see why we didn't just take the boat to Istanbul," His Spanish companion asked, taking Aleks other arm and lifting him just off the ground. They both carried him off down the dock. The tall Spaniard lifted him effortlessly while the short Italian huffed and puffed the whole way.
"Because my ignorant employee, this boy has friends among the anarchists that just took control of the city! When they found him gone they probably closed down the ports and the channel. But it's inconceivable that they could follow us here.
"I thought the fire was supposed to keep them busy while we got away."
"Am I mistaken or did the words 'I thought' escape your lips? You were not hired for your brains you second rate swords man."
Alek struggled vainly to get out of there grip, to dig his feet into the dock. The mercenaries had to set him down and drag him to keep there grips. Alek threw himself to the right hoping one of them would step on a broken bottle head someone had littered there.
"Your a stubborn one," The Italian grunted irritably. "But it's to late now. There's our boat down the dock." He pointed down the dock toward a boat the size of a fishing trawly.
His hand was nearly shot of his arm.
The three turned to see Volger and Jones standing on the opposite pier, brandishing pistols, with Klopp, Hoffman, and Bauer stood behind them.
THEY FOUND US!" The Sicilian yelled. "INCONSIVABLE!"
"Let him go," Volger shouted. That was all he got out before a bullet whizzed passed his head. Someone from the ship was firing on them.
Alek took advantage of the confusion and threw himself to the right pushing off of the Spaniard's leg. He knocked the Italian over and then rolled off of him. He tried to sit up, only to be knock down again by a blow to the head.
The men both grabbed him and dragged him to the boat through the exchange of gunfire.
"START HER UP," The Italian yelled to a man untying tether lines. He ran of to the pilots house, as they dumped Alek over the side. The Spaniard cursed as he took a shot to the side, and grabbed for a rifle leaning against the side as the Sicilian ducked for cover.
"GET US OUT OF HERE," He yelled and the ship lurched forward. "Your men are good your highness, but there not good enough.
Alek didn't respond. His head was still spinning from the hit, and all his attention was focused on the broken bottle head he held behind his back.
"There's no time to call the authorities," Volger said, already moving. "We have to take a ship." He started toward one that looked fast when Jones grabbed his arm.
"This one," He pointed to a fishing trawler.
Jones pointed to the back. The ship had two fishing arms, one which ended in a claw, like a kraken fighting arm, and another that ended in something like a giant butterfly net. Volger smiled.
"Soon we will reach Greece," The Italian exclaimed, leaning against the side, with a gloating tone, rubbing his right arm again. "Then we turn you over to the Germans, get our reward, and I take great pleasure in imagining what happens to you next."
Alek could only glare at him. It was enough effort not to move his upper arms. He'd managed to get himself seated and backed into a corner, and behind his back he was using the broken glass to cut at the ropes around his hands. If one of them noticed that would be the end. Even if he somehow overpowered them later, he couldn't pilot a boat by himself if they got to far out to sea.
"There isn't supposed to be someone following us, is there," The Spaniard asked looking behind them.
"I told you," The Italian replied condescendingly. "I had the men sabotage all the local law enforcement boats while they were waiting. And even though his friends seem to have found us, any authorities left in Istanbul wouldn't have enough time to make a rescue effort. It would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable. Why do you ask?"
"We'll, I just looked back and there's a ship there."
"WHAT," the would be master mind jumped to his feet. There was definitely a ship there. He found a pair of field glasses and raised they to his eye's. He spotted two familiar figures on the bow.
"THEY'RE FOLLOWING US! INCONSIVABLE"
"You use that word a lot. I don't think it means what you think it means."
Jones peered through his glasses at the name printed on the back of the ship they pursued.
"The Shrieking Eel. Charming."
He and Volger both stumbled and braced themselves against the side as the ship lurched again. Klopp was a brilliant all round pilot, but he had little experience with boats.
"FASTER!" Volger yelled at the pilot house. "We have to catch them."
Klopp made an undesirable response and the boat suddenly reversed then surged forward, nearly knocking them off there feet.
Jones pulled himself to his feet, grinning. "I'm going in back to check on our armament, try not to go over the side."
Alek felt a surge of relief as the glass finally cut through the rope around his legs. He'd had to sit on his legs and move his arms a lot to get at them. He probably won't have gotten away with it, but the princenapper was busy yelling at his one remaining henchman who firing on Volger's ship.
"Come on, HIT one of them," the Sicilian yelled. "You were not hired for your brains, pull your weight"
"Me gustaria que usted saque su propio peso por una vez," The Spaniard muttered, taking another shot at Volger's ship, which was almost on them. "Si se puede levantar mucho."
When he started to reload Alek tackled him grabbing the bayonet from his belt, and knocking him backward. The Italian had time to shoot at him, missing entirely, and curse loudly before Alek smashed the handle into his face, sending him to the floor. The Spaniard didn't bother to try and reload but grabbed the rifle by the barrel and swung it at Alek's head. Alek ducked and tried to strike the man's leg but he dodge quickly. Alek rose and began taking jabs at the man, who grabbed the rifle with both hands and use it to block Alek's blade. They moved back and forth trying to get a hit at each other, the Spaniard began using his strength to gradually push Alek back toward the edge.
I have the advantage, Alek thought. They want to take me alive. He jumped back as the rifle butt whizzed by his face so close he felt the air move. Probably.
The Spaniard made two quick strikes at either side of Aleks head. He blocked them but failed to see the man kick at his legs, knocking him over.
Alek looked up, saw the man raise the rifle over his head and closed his eye bracing for the blow.
He heard a single shot ring out and opened his eyes again. The man fell back on the deck, dead. Alek just lay there and starred for several seconds, before a voice broke through his thoughts.
"If you had not insisted on getting in the way I could have hit him sooner."
Alek stood up and saw his guards ship had pulled up right along side. Volger stood just five meters away looking smug, as usual. "Now if you can avoid putting yourself in any more danger we can get out of here."
Before Alek could think of a witty response, a bullet grazed his arm. He cried in pain and fell against the side of the ship, turning as best he could to see who shot him. The Italian had come too and lay propped up on the deck, a revolver in his hand, his nose broken and bleeding.
"You have one choice, your highness, tell your men to turn around or I will shoot you now." The mans glare offered no mercy.
"Your making a mistake." Alek pleaded, trying to ignore the pain in his bleeding arm long enough to think of what to say. Perhaps the man could be reasoned with. "Germany is conquering Italy, your going to help them dominate all of Europe."
"First of all I am Sicilian." the man responded haughtily . "Second of all, I do not care about flags, or languages, or lines on a map. This war will bring chaos all across the globe, and men like me thrive in chaos." He raised his pistol and cocked it. "Now if you won't compl-
A large mechanical claw smashed into the side of the ship, ending the tirade. Alek saw a blur and something swept him of his feet and lifted him from the deck. He found himself in a fishing net on a mechanical arm on Volger's ship. They had turned away from the bounty hunters ship, which was beginning to sink from the hole the other arm put in it.
As he was brought down to the deck he used his good arm to saluted the man at the controls.
"Good catch Hoffman."
He was surprised when the spy Jones appeared to untangle him from the net.
"This ones rather scrawny," the American grinned. "We should probably throw it back."
"Do that and I will send you over with him," Volger appeared hauling Alek to his feet. "Get use back to land as soon as possible, I'll take his highness below and do my best to dress the wound."
Bovril appeared at there feet and began climbing up Alek's leg. "Guten Tag," when he reached Aleks shoulder he settled down smiled like a lost child just reunited with his parents. Alek reached over to scratch him behind the ears and he purred contently
Alek winced as they descended into the lower deck, but the pain from his arm was almost forgotten when the smell hit him. This small room was evidently used to butcher the fish the ship caught, and the work table, cupboards, and multiple rags and knives carried the overpowering scents of fish, blood, and alcohol.
"So now we are trusting foreign spies?" He asked, sitting down on a worn stool by the bloodstained work table.
"Why not, sense you seem to enjoy the company of strangers, enemy soldiers, and anarchists," Volger searched the room for any thing that he could use to clean Alek's wound. He found the cleanest (least filthy) rags and a bottle of rum alcohol that would have to do. "We needed his walker, our faithful lizard disappeared after the explosion.
"How did you find me."
"It was that beast actually," Volger seated himself on another stool, rolled up Aleks sleeve and began mopping up the blood. "he heard your captors say where they were taking you."
"Gemlik," Bovril chirped happily.
Alek ground his teeth as Volger applied a rag wet with alcohol to his wound. "They were not german but they were expecting to be paid by them."
"The Kaiser probably put a price on your head." Volger rapped a rag around Alek's arm and tied it tight. If word is out that you help this revolution and kept the Ottomans neutral, it will probably increase significantly. We are going to have to be mare careful." When Volger finished he leaned back, appraising Alek. "Do you still have the letter?"
Alek pulled the metal cylinder out of his coat pocket. "I spent most of the trip stuffed in a storage space, and they never had time to search me. They couldn't have seen it."
Volger was silent for a long moment, as if he were carefully measuring his words. Finally he spoke. "I believe it is time to return home."
Alek gapped at the Count, sure he'd heard wrong. "You want to go back to Austria? When the Germans control it."
"I am afraid if you ever intend to claim the throne then it must be soon. Your great uncle the Emperor is dead."
Alek didn't know if he could take anymore surprises in one night. "How can you know that."
"Dr. Barlow informed me," Volger replied. "The Germans have been trying to keep it quiet, but British intelligence found out somehow and she was good enough to to tell me."
Alek was skeptical. "She just told you confidential information about the war?"
"She is probably hoping you will try and take power. I am confidant the British no nothing about your fathers contract with the Pope but she is smart enough to know in these unstable times government could change very easily. Having an Emperor who tolerates darwinism on the throne would be very advantages for her. At the least we could cause the Germans trouble."
"But how could I even claim the throne with the German occupation."
"I have heard there is growing discontent among the people over the annexation and the war both of which they do not want. In the east some are already up in arms over part of the country being given away to appease the Russians"
"Your suggesting I lead some kind of revolution."
Volger rolled his eyes. "Of course not. We would be reestablishing the true government, not overthrowing it."
"But do we stand any chance against the Kaiser's army"
"That army is spread thin and can't afford to take pressure off its Darwinist enemies. But with the success they are having that could change if we do not move fast."
Alek took a deep breath and tried to clear his thoughts. Was it possible? Did they really have a chance to take back there country, to help end this war.
"Ultimately it is your decision your highness," Volger stated seriously. "What will you do?"
Alek looked down at the letter in his hands. As a decree from the Pope it meant God favored his cause. It also represented everything his father had done to protect him. If he died in some foolish revolution then all that work would have been for nothing. But his father had always honored his duty to the Empire. He had always worked for peace. At this point, with just a letter, a few men, and a fishing boat, what more could he do to bring peace from the sidelines.
What would father have done?
Steeling his determination Alek looked up. "We are going home."