God's Fury, Mortal Hands
Chapter 2: The Map says 'Go Here'
Location: Steamhawke, Lower Decks
Timeline: Day 5, Midday
Julian mopped his brow as he descended from the ships deck, the sun beating down on what was the first really warm day since they had left port. The old man wasn't a fan of the heat, never had been, but his retreat downstairs wasn't cowardice, bowing to the sun; no, this trip, he told himself, was all business.
Earlier that morning, just after breakfast and his morning stroll, Julian had bumped into the Captain. A brief, direct chat, the kind he often shared with her, resulting in a new task for the Master Gunner now that he had settled into ship life; liaise with Sailor Marketh, an 'engineer or something'. Julian's words.
So he had made it his duty to head straight downstairs and find this man, a crewmember the old man had yet to meet, and found the room locked. Most who already knew Ed would have just knocked or called out - Julian, on the other hand, was far too traditional for that. He just shook his head, grumbled a little about lazy sailors sleeping in, and headed off to inspect the gun deck.
Now he'd returned, half because he had to and half because it was getting too hot upstairs, and the lazy thunk of his cane in rhythm with his heavy, boot clad footfalls echoed down the lonely hall as he approached the young sailors room. The door - still closed, still locked. Julian rolled his eye and slammed the cane against the wooden frame a few times.
"Sailor Marketh?!" Julian shouted. A loud crash rattled out from behind the door, which seemed to be a common occurrence when a knock was made on this door. As always it was followed by a brief pause and finally the click of the lock. Edward cracked the door slightly and peered out at the old man in front of him through his thick goggles.. He stared at him for a moment, piecing together in his mind who it was. He wasn't sure why but Julian gave him the oddest sense that he was forgetting to do something.
After another second Ed swung the door open fully, scratching his head slightly as he put a name to the face and figuring out just what he was forgetting. "Master... Julian, correct? You're the Head Gunner, if memory serves. Perfect timing, actually, I was about to go look for you." Ed's wavering tone implied otherwise.
Before receiving an answer Ed retreated into his workshop, leaving the door gaping as he began rummaging behind boxes in the corner. Through the doorway a large hole was visible in the wall over the worktable, along with a large note exclaiming in large letters "Captain is not happy. Fix hole before starting next project.". Both the hole and sign looked fresh, less then a day old.
A small whine could be heard from the boxes Ed was searching behind, and out popped Copper the cat. Apparently disturbed by the commotion he stretched out across the floor before suddenly noticing Julian in the doorway. Startled by the new face, Copper bounded off into the space between the door and the wall and stared at the old man through the crack in the frame.
Finally Edward lugged a large trunk out from the corner off the room. His small frame struggled to hold the large box as he dragged it to the door. Dropping it on the floor with a loud thud, Ed turned his gaze back to Julian after ignoring him for so long.
"Ok, sir. I should be able to give you a full test firing up on deck. I don't think the Captain approves my use of these things down here."
Julian didn't say a word the entire time, nor did he intend to now. His single eye examined the messy quarters from the doorway, lingering for some time on the large hole in the wall , before finally resting on the blustering fool in front of him. The Master Gunner still hadn't taken a step into the room, leaning on his cane and staring down the young man in front of him.
Then, finally, he fixed his eye on the small creature that had gone bounding across the room, the two of them now staring at one another.
"Sailor? That's a cat, no?" The words were basically grumbled out and Salazar, eye fixed on the small feline, almost took a step into the room. He stopped himself though, luckily for all involved, as he re-assessed the messy assortment of gears and spare parts he would be stepping into. Instead he just looked back at the young man in front of him. "Oh. That's Copper." Ed replied. He didn't bother with any further explanation.
"Right. Firing test up on deck. Come on, then." Julian just stared expectantly, waiting for the young man to ready himself. Edward lifted the large trunk with a grunt in response and slowly began to shuffle down the hall. He looked back for a moment and opened his mouth, almost as if to ask for help. He quickly caught himself and continued shuffling, slowly hauling the heavy case up the stairs and to the deck.
By the time he reached the final landing Ed was out of breath and sweating heavily. He wasn't used to lugging heavy things up and down stairs, preferring to simply slide them across the floor from one place to another. It didn't help that he hadn't eaten or slept much for a couple days either. Julian didn't pay much, if any, heed to this fact. He just hobbled on behind the young man, watching him struggle and ensuring he had room to jump out of the way if Ed dropped the case back down the stairs behind him.
With the trunk on the top level of the ship Edward quickly slid it across the deck and off to the port side. He laid it down on its side and popped the top open, then sat down in front of it. The inside of the case was mostly filled with spare gun parts, as well as what appeared to be some portable alchemy pots, glasses, and other such supplies.
However, one section of the case had been cleared out and filled with padding. Carefully placed inside the soft cushion was a gleaming silver rifle, obviously modified. The most glaring difference was that the chamber had been replaced with a bit of piping that appeared to accept something being screwed into it.
Along with the gun there were several glimmering, pale blue cylinders, each packed just as carefully. Edward gently pulled one out of it's bed along with the rifle and quickly screwed the cylinder into the piping on the side of the gun. He inspected it carefully for a moment, then twisted a few knobs on the side of the gun.
He gave it one last glance over and offered the rifle to Julian. "It shouldn't have much kick. You should be able to fire it easily." Edward said as he offered him the gun. Julian took the rifle with obvious reluctance and held it steady in two hands, studying the surface of the shining weapon. He hadn't seen anything like it and while he could guess the answer, decided he better be sure.
"So what's it shoot, sailor?" The old man squinted a little, examining the fine detail of the thing, specifically the cylinder Ed had just screwed into it and the small knobs that ran along one side of the weapon. It hadn't even occurred to Edward that Julian would have questions about the weapon, although he probably should have. It had simply slipped his mind completely.
Ed adjusted his goggles slightly as he began his explanation. "Simply put, it's an alchemical lightning rifle. Surely you're aware of the amazing, near mystical properties alkabellum displays when properly mixed with various other substances? Unfortunately, producing meaningful effects under most circumstances requires years of alchemical experience. I've devised a system in which magical effects can be prepared ahead of time and wielded by someone with little more training beyond basic weapon handling skills."
Pausing momentarily to catch his breath, Edward continued. "The gun has a range of roughly thirty feet, discharging a consistent stream of lightning either continuously or in bursts for a total time of about ten seconds altogether. It has a... stunning effect on targets, preventing meaningful muscle movement for around three seconds per second of time exposed to the stream. The beam is lethal after about three seconds exposure and capable of knocking a man unconscious after about two. Combined with this effect is the stream's tendency to arc between targets, causing each target standing within roughly three meters of the original victim to suffer the effects as well. This also allows the beam to effectively ignore metallic and other conductive forms of cover and armor.
Scratching his chin slightly and rubbing a hand through his hair, Ed began to finish his perhaps overly detailed explanation. "Although I'm not an expert on the subject of actual tactics, if I was to hazard a guess I'd say the weapon would be best used in boarding actions or other forms of in ship fighting. While devastating to live targets the discharge proves relatively harmless to the frames of most modern skyship designs, and considering the moderately close quarters most deck combat takes place the shorter range compared to pellet based firearms should prove inconsequential."
Julian grunted, not necessarily understanding what the young man had just said, but nonetheless was aware that this gun wasn't like anything he'd ever fired before. He was intrigued, curious one might say, but nothing was getting in the way of this traditional soldier's intuition, which was to rely on the bullet and leave the rest for the engineers. With one final look at the weapon, running his hand down one side, Julian offered it back to the maker.
"Why don't you give the demonstration, sailor?" he said. Ed paused for a brief moment and adjusted his goggles, then gently accepted the weapon back. "Fair enough, I just thought you'd like the inaugural shot." Ed replied, hoisting the weapon against his shoulder and raising the tip of the gun over the railing towards the sky.
Ed squeezed the trigger swiftly, and suddenly an intense purple and blue beam erupted from the muzzle of the gleaming weapon. Sparks flew every which way as the intense discharge rocketed at a massive speed away from the weapon. The dazzling beam twisted and turned beautifully as it moved, occasionally arcing back a foot or so backwards before continuing forward. Edward kept the trigger held down, allowing the beam to reach its maximum distance and vanish from the air thirty feet away. Flashing light danced within the fuel cylinder as it slowly seemed to drain of its color the longer the trigger was held down. The air seemed to crackle, both men's ears were filled with a sharp hiss, and the smell of ozone filled their nostrils.
Finally the stream abruptly ceased, the parts already in the sky continuing on their way until hitting their limit and vanishing. The cylinder attached to the gun no longer glowed, having turned to a dull grey as all its fuel was used up. Ed coughed a bit and lowered the weapon.
"And if I might add, I think it may just put the fear of the gods into our foes."
Julian was fascinated, never having seen something like this before, and stared off into the sky until the lightning disappeared into nothingness, leaving the clear blue sky and an odd smell in the air. A few other crew members had stopped to watch and most of them were equally intrigued, if not slightly concerned.
"Well then... I'll say it will, sailor." Julian finally stopped staring off into the sky and turned to the sailor, examining the spent weapon in his hands. Salazar gave a nod of approval and muttered something under his breath before finally looking back up with the slightest hint of a smile.
"Very good. I'll report it to the Cap'n." And with that he started to hobble away across the deck, leaving Ed standing alone as the small crowd of onlookers dispersed, the excitement over. Julian halted for a second, an afterthought, and without turning asked a question to which he didn't want an answer.
"You'll be making more, yes?" And then he was gone. Though he couldn't see it, Ed answered with a smile.