Thievery Of The Sword

Chapter 9: In The Air

Written By Illuminet

Disclaimer: Characters from the Guilty Gear series are the rightful property of Arc System Works.

:xXx:

Sol slept on board a Zepp Mecha transport airship. He was a stowaway upon this ship, hiding out by some oil drums which would hold the fuel that powered the Mecha themselves. The airships of Zepp were not really any different in appearance from the magical powered airships of the Order or private civilian liners. There was also the occasional sky pirate ones as well. The main overall difference in Zepp's airships was that it ran on solar energy which could be stored as extra electrical energy to power the ship if it needed to mobilize at night when the sun was not out. This concept for the early airships as a source of air transportation running on a more cleaner energy solution was also what would eventually prompt the creation of the man made floating island that would be known as Zepp.

Originally made to be a massive flying storage unit for Black Tech, there were still many Humans who clung to the now outdated appliances and equipment that once was so dominant in Human society. Considered outcasts for the longest time, Zepp's people carved a level of respect for themselves near the beginning of the Crusades when Gears became the rampant enemy of mankind due to the rising of Justice as a sentient Gear who also happened to be armed with the Command Ability, allowing her to assert her will upon the Gears. While the Assassin's Guild was one of the strongest organizations as far as able combatants for the Gears thanks to the Forbidden Beast Magic, the unforeseen side effects didn't make them reliable in the long run of the war. Despite being older technology, the Black Tech still had a decent effect at stopping some of the Gear forces. A good portion of Zepp citizens were mainly from military backgrounds during the times when A-Country was know as the United States, allowing them to be in the action easier and with less training involved to get them up to speed.

However, even with guns and other firearms of various types and sizes, Zepp was soon outclassed by the Gears thanks to their Magic enhanced abilities. Mecha suits were created at an astonishing rate and armed with similar weapons. Slave Soldiers came to be as a result of enslaving some of the hulking large Humans that had been bred on Zepp originally as heavy duty construction workers. The creation of the DDD(Death Dealing Device) allowed for these powerful but low mobility units amongst the army, several against their wills but had to do it to try and survive the battles the Gears waged in the war. They did eventually meet with better success then the original conventional weaponry of the Zeppian field Soldier.

'Annoying sound...' Sol's ears kept hearing the grinding and turning of wrenches and other tools from the mechanics that maintained the Mecha suits one floor above him. It didn't really help that he was already a light sleeper to begin with. He got up and stretched his limbs for a few moments before sitting back down to avoid anyone spotting him if they decided to come down to the bottom of the ship. He pulled his cloak more tightly around him as to not draw any undo attention when he heard two mechanics coming down to the bottom floor where he was situated.

"I guess I can breath easier now that the Assassin Guild's leader was caught. Hopefully like a chicken with it's head cut off, the Guild crumbles. Damn bastards have been around long enough if you ask me." One man said to another.

"Right. Though it had to be the Knights called in so that they used their binding Magics to incapacitate the Eddie so Zato-1 could be rendered powerless. I heard he did a number on most of our normal units. Guess it's to be expected with his Forbidden Beast Magic. Shit's powerful enough to contend with Gears on some level. So what did the Knights do with Zato-1 after he was caught?" The other asked, fixing a hose on the top of one oil drum before turning a nozzle to extract it. Sol figured it must have put fuel into the Mecha suits. He listened intently as the mechanics continued to converse.

"They'll put him in some high level security prison, most likely. You know the higher ups won't say anything further to the little guys like us. Heard that one Assassin chick escaped during the commotion to apprehend Zato-1. She was also one of the higher ranked Assassins. Heard she was hot, like international super star model material hot." The one laughed.

"Yep, yep. Bet she takes both the Ass's out of Assassin!" The other joked. Both shared a laugh at that one.

"Nice one, bro! Well, let's move on to the next." The hose was moved to another oil drum.

'So the Order had to come in to render the Eddie powerless in Zato. Guess Millia was sort of able to get what she wanted. Those two...a heavy relationship. Loving yet hating each other...not sure what really happened between them, but no use thinking on it. I'd better get out of here. These guys might find me if I stay put.' Sol stealthily crept by the two mechanics before sneaking up one floor higher. Here was the docking bay for all the Mecha suits. Sol stuck to the shadows as best he could, so far evading most of the activity going on and around the enormous room. Sol had eventually found an exit door but couldn't proceed just yet since two individuals walked into the docking bay from the very door Sol was about to use. Luckily a cluster of mechanical parts and other junk made a small hiding spot for Sol to hide around. One of the men was of a regular Human build and dressed in a uniform that shown him as a Sergeant by the chevrons on his collar in the Zepp military. He had a sharp nose and a thick mustache. The other was a Slave Soldier, garbed in similar clothing. He had the rank of Corporal.

"Potemkin, I wanted to discuss something with you." The man addressed the Slave Soldier.

"Yes, Sergeant?" As Slave Solders bodies were not accustomed to going into the position of Parade Rest, the usual stance the junior armed member takes when superiors of the Military address them, Potemkin took a knee and bowed his head in a gesture of compliance that held the same meaning. He still towered over the ordinary looking man regardless.

"I went over the security feed from the scout mecha when it was monitoring New York in A-Country. Good work on obtaining them by the way. Take a look at this picture...does this man behind Zato-1 and Millia Rage look familiar to you?" The Sergeant handed a photo to Potemkin. The words made Sol's ears perk up.

"Hmmm...there is something vaguely familiar about him. I'm not sure what it is though, Sergeant..." Potemkin mused as he stared at the image. The Sergeant nodded.

"I see. Let me tell you then to shed some light...you see, Potemkin, you may not recognize him that well but he was there in the Battle of Ukraine. Then he was an enlisted like us, the rank of Lance-Corporal. It would be his battle prowess which would eventually earn him both a place as an officer and a leader of his own platoon rather quickly despite originally being one out of a large force of grunts and other field related MOS(military occupational specialties) on top of lacking a further education of higher learning. His name is Sol Badguy. You've probably caught him in passing when you were still a Private, two years ago." The Sergeant explained. Potemkin gave a small nod where his slave collar allowed.

"Sol Badguy...he wasn't dressed for duty, so I can only assume he must have been on Leave. New York is a rather popular area for Knights of the Order to relax when cycled out of the war effort to relax while another takes his or her place." The Slave Soldier spoke.

"Your correct about Knights taking their leave in New York most of the time. But Sol Badguy was not on Leave." The Sergeant said, crossing his arms.

"What? What do you mean Sergeant? Unless...was he UA?" Potemkin's eyes had gone wide. UA(unauthorized absence) was a big deal in the military since it was the manpower that kept them running after all.

"I keep well in the know how of both Zepp's military and the Order...and I recognized seeing Sol's name on the list in one of the Zepp Army newspapers I read. He was amongst 13 platoons of Knights mobilized at the A-Country Order HQ in Volvania, in the west coast. They had all the able bodied people they needed for the deployment over there from the Order HQ in Paris, France. No one was going to be allowed Leave and Liberty out there at least for another three to six months. Yet Sol happens to be in the east coast only about a few days after the deployment began and the mission kicked off, not to mention in the boondocks of New York city where not too many law abiding citizens occupy. So..." Before the Sergeant could say anything further, a voice on an intercom interrupted.

"We will be arriving on Zepp shortly. ETA is twenty minutes. Also, Sergeant Gabriel, your presence is requested. I repeat, Sergeant Gabriel, your presence is requested. Please make your way to the bridge." The intercom fell silent.

"This discussion will have to be postponed, Potemkin. Proceed back to your unit. I'll pass word when I get it from the higher ups if it's pertinent to all of you." Gabriel gave a nod and then left, Potemkin not far behind him. Sol's keen ears heard when the two took their separate ways in the hall. Sol made his own way out. Better find a hiding spot that was much more lightly occupied.

'So, that Sergeant served in Ukraine, as did that big guy. They were able to recognize my face from the security feeds...must not have passed word yet to the Order, or if so, it would have to go up the Chain of Command first on both ends. Buys me a little time to make myself scarce for a few years and really get familiar with using the Fire Seal...or rather, the Magic I can conjure up with it.' Sol thought to himself. The Fire Seal as a weapon wasn't the issue, as Sol was well versed in physical combat with blades and other weapons for as long as he could remember, even despite his lazy attitude. One had to be able to fight to survive as much travel and Bounty Hunting as he did. Or fight in the war which was still going on. It was the amplified Magic aspect Sol had to get used to, since his limiter had made it difficult to channel the true extent of his Magic abilities without charging to gain focus and power.

The Fire Seal eliminated this with it's amplifying properties, allowing Sol to channel what he truly wanted from his Magic power without having to resort to charging or having to take off his limiter. He had kept his true nature as a Gear from the rest of the world already, and the Fire Seal would help ensure he didn't need to rely on it quite as much as far as channeling Magic. A win-win situation for Sol all the way. He would need to train and become more effective with the weapon's abilities to be able to stop Justice once and for all. It was the most realistic solution to end the war, but would require some time. Just having the Fire Seal right at this moment wasn't going to mean he could fight Justice and kill her in the blink of an eye.

:xXx:

Sol had created another hiding spot for himself on the airship by sneaking around the wide air ducts of the flying machine. Though some areas had a tight fit due to his brawn, he none the less made his way off the airship via it's underbelly. Luckily the airfield that housed the Airship cargo bays was near the end of the army base Sol was on. Before the airship landed within the barbed wire fences of the base, Sol dove from the still airborne ship and landed on a rather large pile of junk. Sliding down the junk heap, Sol touched down on solid ground soon enough.

"Great...from one concrete jungle to another...meh..." Sol made his way through the area, The Zepp island was home to many a scrap heap where the old Black Tech was situated, and so their junkyards were scavenged many times a day. There was never ever knowing of what exactly one might find in the Zepp junkyards, for even civilians threw away all sorts of things just waiting to be fixed up and restored by new owners and tinkerers. Zepp was always in constant motion, massive solar panels maintained daily in order to produce a livable city with electricity that they needed both at work and home. Zepp always followed the sun, and was thus almost never caught without it being daytime even during nighttime hours. The industrial look and feel of the city allowed many shade screens and tinted windows to be implemented in a moments notice. There had once been an amazing tinted glass dome of massive proportions that allowed for a nighttime environment on Zepp several years ago, but the Gears had succeeded in destroying it in an attempt to knock the floating country down. Zepp had luckily endured. Still, massive fragments of the black tinted glass lay about, though most had been moved to the junkyard areas. Sol passed by quite a few that were jutting out from amongst the other filth that surrounded him. The former Knight ended up running into a particular person he hadn't initially expected to see but knew he probably should have.

"What the...ah geez, what were the chances? I'd know that hair from a mile away even with it covered. I thought I had overheard you had become a Knight in the Order some time ago...so why are you all the way out here dressed all creepy like, man?" The person that addressed Sol wore all black. His wide rimmed hat had a skull and cross bone ornament on the side. His shades kept his eyes from view, and a long trench coat hung on his tall and shirtless frame.

"I could say the same...but pirates will be pirates. Just hiding about, huh? Tell your entourage to come out. You and I both know an ambush on me would be pointless." Sol lowered his hood from his face to peer fully at the other man, who was tapping his cane in thought. Sol knew there was a hidden blade there, as the man who stood before him was very proficient in the Japanese sword art of Iaido. The style called for a blade to be quickly drawn from and retracted back to the sheath. Such styles of swordsmanship were considered valuable due to the Gears raid on Japan about thirty some years ago, which put the Japanese race on a near endangered species list. Colonies were erected mainly in areas around the Asian continent to keep them all together and promote breeding to restore their lost numbers of pure Japanese. Some portions of the populace of Japanese remained in the protection of a Colony while others were restless and sneaked themselves out of them to be among the real world as a Colony could be considered nothing more than a glorified prison.

"Geez...ain't a damn thing that get's past you, man. You really should loosen up and live a little, Sol. Being serious all the time will turn you into an old man in record time." The man said as he removed his hat and combed his long blond hair back before placing the cover back on his head. Sol sneered.

"Your not serious enough, Johnny." The former Knight stated as he took some steps closer to Johnny. The girls that came out of hiding were armed with long ranged weaponry, the older of the girls were equipped with crossbows while the younger ones were armed with sling shots. A few had the occasional stolen Zepp mecha, though the paint jobs done to them were atrocious to Sol's eyes. All the girls wore sailor styled clothing and had pirate miters and bandannas upon their heads. Most also had rather short skirts on, but there were some with long stockings and others with the occasional pants or coveralls.

"Don't do a thing, girls. None of you are a match for him." Johnny warned, holding up his arm in a gesture to tell the girls to stand down.

"But Johnny, if he's a Knight..." One of the girls asked. Johnny shook his head, walking towards Sol himself. The two twisted into a spin, mimicking each others motions as they stepped in deep. Johnny drew his hidden blade from his cane sheath while Sol swung the Fire Seal in a similar fashion to Johnny's own attack. Their blades met with a crash of sparks. Johnny gritted his teeth, well accustomed to Sol's strength. He absorbed the recoil well by following his attack with a side step in his spin to sheath his blade quickly. He sent out another attack as his sword flashed out from it's sheath, but Sol already swung the Fire Seal downward to catch the blade and steer Johnny back again. Johnny swerved to a stop, his sword back in it's scabbard.

"That's an interesting sword. Looks more advanced than the usual things I've seen you make." Johnny said as he moved his free hand to rest against the large buckle of his belt, musing over the weapon Sol had in his possession. Sol did not respond with an answer regarding the Fire Seal, steering to another topic he felt bared more discussion.

"Where's the airship of the infamous leader of the Jellyfish Sky Pirates? I know your not stuck on this hunk of scrap by choice. I'm getting on that ship." Sol stepped forward, noting Johnny to have shifted his stance with his hand situated just above his sheathed sword.

"Whoa now...I don't swing that way, Sol. Can't take you on board, only the ladies get that luxury." Johnny said as he sidled a bit further back from Sol, his hand lowering ever so slightly upon the hilt of his sword.

"Ladies, huh? All I see is a bunch of underage girls. I'd take a real woman any day of the week, but unfortunately I can't be picky about it given the circumstances. Better just go with the flow of things and save yourself an unnecessary beat down." Sol's pace was steady, shifting to the right as Johnny released his blade from it's sheath with so much speed and power that the blade seem to shoot out like a snake striking upon it's victim but missed taking out Sol's legs from under him. Sol swung his blade forward lazily, the attack evaded as Johnny shifted back and placed his weapon back in it's sheath and resumed his stance. Sol guarded as Johnny sent his blade out again at waist level. Johnny attempted a more aggressive tactic as he propelled himself forward with a tremendous burst of speed towards Sol. Hardly visible to the Human eye, Johnny swung out his blade and slammed into Sol's own while also getting behind Sol's unprotected back, getting a good cut in at Sol's right bicep before the former Knight was able to react. Johnny thought he had a good chance to surprise Sol once more. Or so the Pirate had believed until his stomach caved in from the impact of Sol's elbow shooting out to strike there and knock the wind out of him.

"Johnny!" A rush of young girls called to their leader in worry. Johnny had some spittle leave his mouth from the unexpected strike. Sol twisted to build momentum as his free arm came forward, fist impacting with Johnny again and sending him back. Johnny retained some clarity while in mid air and performed a nifty spin. Sol noticed a liquor bottle leaving from within Johnny's coat.

"You..." Sol paused upon catching the spark from within the sheath of Johnny's weapon that ignited the edge of Johnny's sword just before slicing through the bottle itself and creating a decent explosion of flames to catch Sol off guard. Almost anyway. Sol hopped back and swung his blade to slam the debris away from him. Johnny landed on his feet. He held out his hands to halt the girls from rushing Sol, knowing Sol was indeed too dangerous for them to even try and gang up on.

"Really want to prolong this? Don't be an as..." Before Sol could finish swearing, the Pirate Leader interrupted him.

"Now, now...there are some children present, Sol. I don't need bad habits starting to set in when the youth are still so impressionable. Look, I know we go pretty far back...and yeah, I probably do owe you from that one time seven years ago...unfortunately, I'm suppose to be meeting someone relatively soon. I'm in a bit of a fix and only this guy can help. It will be the deciding factor if my crew even get's to leave the rock as you call it." Johnny explained sheepishly.

"Your ship's busted?" Sol questioned, his eyes shaded from his limiter as he lowered his head and crossed his arms, feeling annoyance starting to build in his head.

"Sort of...so I was traveling the same blue water, blue sky..." Johnny began with a dramatic sweep of his arm as he started to tell his tale.

"Spare me that and get to the point!" The former Knight scowled.

:ToBeContinued: