The Adventures of the Inkstained Succubus, Chapter Two:
Gabriel groaned as he awoke upside down. Well, he reasoned, on an incline to be fair, but with a terrible headache nonetheless. He tried to raise his hand to his eyes only to find it stuck tight, and he desperately tried to reorient. Last night had been a blur of skin and sex, drink and debauchery. Lucas had consumed his every desire and produced it tenfold, a Tesla coil of passion arcing into his subconscious. He’d felt fuzzy as he’d been bound and used, and had finally fallen asleep in the gentle arms of his suitor.
Here, however, he was trying to make sense of being upside down. As he turned his head painfully, he realized he was suspended in rigging of some kind, his posterior high in the air and his ankles bound apart. This hadn't been part of the deal, and he didn't remember this at all. The deep thrum of engines echoed around him, and he finally located his Captain, spread-eagled and as naked as he, clad only in boots, chained to a wall below him. “Captain!” he tried weakly.
She blinked and stretched in a way that should have been luxurious, but was sorely hampered by the chains. The morning air turned blue with profanity as she cursed Cole, Lucas, the airship, the chains, her own desires, Gabriel and her boots with no regard for guilt.
“Captain!” Gabriel finally cleared his throat. “Where-”
“Ah. You’re both awake. Splendid.” Cole’s languid voice cut Gabriel off just as the man himself walked through the portway. His brother entered behind him, saying nothing and looking markedly displeased. “Welcome to our little enterprise, Inkstained Succubus crew. I’m sure you've noticed your supplies disappearing. Well...we had to do something with it all.”
Gabriel finally looked directly below him and saw the gnashing teeth of a large press. It smashed together beneath them, printing several pages at a time. The level of mechanization was astounding. He wasn't certain whether he should be impressed or terrified, as his mind quickly calculated his survival if they dropped him into the fray. It was a depressingly low figure.
“NIce work,” the Captain conceded. “So what are you printing, with all the ink in four states?”
“Oh, most of the work you haven’t been able to find.” Cole flipped a switch on the wall, as the mechanized conveyor belt spat out a mass production book. It made something in Gabriel’s stomach rebel. The title wasn’t even spelled right, and he could see the shoddy binding.
“And doing it badly, I see.” She gave a wicked grin. “After last night, I’m not surprised.”
Lucas walked over and leaned on the railing over which Gabriel was suspended. He said nothing, though his eyes played over the scientist’s body. Gabriel turned his head. “Are you proud of yourself? You couldn’t have your way and now you’ll become murderers as surely as you’re profiteers,” he spat.
“It...would not be the first inning of that game,” Lucas said simply and turned to leave his brother to bantering with the Captain. Things had devolved into cursing and innuendo. The crew got an earful of Cole’s shortcomings as a lover, a seducer, a drinker, a speller, an editor and a printer.
“And I’ve seen dead shrew-mice with bigger pricks!” she shouted before he shoved a gag into her mouth.
“And I’ve heard factories make less noise,” Cole grumbled. “We don’t have to kill you. But after all that, it might be just as easy. Not to mention a public service.”
“Take your hands off my Captain!” Gabriel struggled. He couldn’t get any one of his limbs free.
“And you make up my mind for me. Lucas, wave goodbye to your little prize. I have no further use for him.” He threw a lever and turned to leave. He paused. “Now, brother.”
Lucas sighed and seemed as though he would say something, but didn’t. He bowed his head and followed his brother.
The portal slammed shut as the engines roared to greater life and the press continued its clanging rhapsody underneath Gabriel. He traced the lines of gears and chains connected to the lever, and froze. His Captain couldn’t see as well as he could. He called out. “The floor! The floor under you! When you drop, I drop!”
She looked at him in confusion. The chains held her firmly to the wall and she struggled to spit out the gag. She yanked on the wrist chains and looked at him expectantly.
“The panel you’re on!” The first link of the large chain clicked over through the gear as the entire panel she was on sank a few inches, the steel flooring her boots had been standing on withdrawing. He cried out as it dropped him a few inches closer to the teeth of the press. “Oh, holy hell. I knew we were eventually gonna go out...” he gasped.
Even with the gag, his captain still managed to scowl somehow. She waved her hands back and forth in the chains, left and right, left and right. It wasn’t a panic wave. She pointed at him and then did it again.
Another link in the chain dropped them both a little farther. Gabriel nodded and started to try to swing. It wasn’t easy, trying to think through the spots starting in his vision. With a groan, he finally managed to get himself swinging. “What now? I can’t exactly hang onto something!”
The next link gave him more slack and his arc grew wider. The question was whether he could swing away from the great gnashing press beneath him before he ended up in its maw.
He started to spin a little and finally saw it - a broken beam he could probably snag with a leg. With a monumental effort, and after two more harrowing drops, he managed to get his leg over it. He reoriented for a moment, and looked down to see the Captain’s fate. He gasped as he saw what awaited her - a vat of boiling ink, black and tar-like. “Can you get your boots off?” He asked, as he began bending his body in ways it probably shouldn’t to get to his own.
She glanced down at her boots. The thigh-length one bagged out from her leg and had slouched. The over the knee one had slipped to bunch at her calf. She started working her right leg, understanding what he was planning. The boot slid down further. She bent against the chains, trying to get her sole to the wall for a second.
Gabriel saw her snag a fold of the boot under than ankle cuff. She wiggled one foot free of the leather and shot him a “now what?’ look, followed by a disgusted one as her boot slipped out of the manacle and dropped into the vat of ink. One leg free didn’t equate to an escape.
“Brace against the wall. Buy me some time. You can still get yourself hung up on the grating floor!” He finally worked his own boot free and pulled his holdout knife up with his toes. His hands finally found the blade and a few slashes later, he was pulling himself up on the beam.
She kicked the grating, the wall and fought to get her other leg out of its boot. She tried swinging the wall she was tied to, but it didn’t move, even under her strength and size. She stretched for the grating around the boiling ink. Her hair started clinging to her back in the steam.
Gabriel finally found his feet and looked around. The beam wasn’t connected to anything he could climb down. He was here, and the rope was loose in his hand. A small smile crossed over his face. There had always been a small part of him that had wanted to do this. “Hang on!” He wrapped his arm in the rope and pushed off the beam, swinging out over the cacophony of evil press towards the grating with a mighty yell.
The ink fumes made him cough as he reached for his captain. He didn’t want to overshoot the wall and end in the ink himself. She looked hopeful as he caught hold of her, but the weight made the wall sink faster. The distinct clicking of each link being taken up was a sound Gabriel knew would haunt his dreams.
When he ignored her chains and started carving at the wood behind her head, he heard her gagged protests. He had an idea.
He grabbed up a crowbar and jammed it in the mechanism’s access panel. With a shout, he levered it into wrinkles and bashed it off. “Hang on, Angelia!”
He ripped out gears and springs frantically, finally exposing the main mechanism. He looked down. “This is going to release the chains, but it’ll stop the drop! When I say, grab ahold of the panel, or you’ll fall. Got it?” He looked over, his face and chest cut and grease-stained.
She nodded and tensed for action. Gabriel set his feet and jammed the crowbar into the main mechanism. Something grumbled and groaned before a loud crash heralded the destruction of the main engine. The large press ground to a stop and the chains popped free from the hoist, leaving his Captain free from the large panel of steel. He held his breath, hoping she’d managed to grab ahold and not fall into the ink.
No splash came, just heavy breathing from the panel. He looked up to see her climb over the panel and drop to land on the deck near him, unbuckling the gag. Once it was free, she gagged a bit, but didn’t hurl, and drew in a deep breath.
“No time for that. Clothes and escape,” Gabriel said, cutting her tirade off. He wrenched the crowbar free and went to work on the bulkhead. “Remind me to give you a great big hug when we’re free of this.” Metal protested under his ministrations, though he didn’t spare a glance except to appraise her status.
‘Save the hug,” she said, casting about for any kind of cloth. “I just want boots.” She pulled off the one she still wore and stood barefoot. “And no more of those escapes. Hell on my knees.” She grabbed a nearby metal rod and started working it into the opening he had made, helping him pry the door open.
“Would you prefer we didn’t escape?” He ground out before the door popped open with a metallic scream. He took a moment and caught his breath, looking over. “We need to get out of here. We’re naked, injured, and at a distinct disadvantage. Lisa and Cat won’t have a clue what to do.”
“I’d rather we not get into these messes to start. We’re going to kill these bastards, right? Nice and slowly, without needlessly elaborate deathtraps. Just me and the chains and a knife.” She followed him through the hatch, and he saw her knuckles were white on the metal rod.
“Captain. While I’m aware the situation calls for a bit of ultra violence, may I take just a moment to caution you that rash action would be a bad idea? Not that you’ll listen to me.” He sighed and held up a hand as they came to a door. He pushed it open to find a storeroom. Their clothes had been thrown in a pile in the corner. “Ah. Now we’re talking.” He ran over to start digging his out and finding another pair of boots.
She yanked on her pants and shirt and vest, then shook out her duster. “Still lost my damned boot.” Once her hat was on, she looked much more herself, and Gabriel could see the tension starting to ease out of her.
“Alright. Plan of attack. We need to figure out where we are.” Gabriel finally managed to find a set of boots that would suffice in the storeroom and pulled them on. He strapped his gun to his thigh, grimacing as it tightened over scored skin from the ropes.
Angelia nodded. “So follow me.” She pulled her gun, checked its ammunition, and headed out.
Gabriel sighed a little. “Yes, ma’am.” If there was one thing he’d give his Captain...she was good in a tight spot like this. Unreasonable, excitable, and overly caustic at times, but when it came to adventures, she was about the best one could ask for.