Upon returning to Parrotopia after his adventure on the high seas, Baron walked briskly across the landing pad, followed by Soupcup, Sleiphner, and Sir Chompsalot. Time, he knew, had a tendency to fly faster than the swiftest bird.
After making the initial descent into the sprawling complex that was the Iron Solari Labs, Baron stopped and turned to face the group. A large monitor on the wall of the antechamber flickered to life.
“Brace yourselves, gentlemen. This…is my lab!” Baron declared as a video of an adorable Labrador Retriever appeared on the wall monitor, barking happily.
“And THIS….IS MY LABORATORY!” he yelled, activating the lift to Sector Four. The group descended into a great room, filled with innumerable experiments, designs, monitors, and the like.
“Oh…and have I shown you my record player?” Baron produced an antique phonograph, laughing manically as dramatic music flowed from the tarnished horn.
Soupcup, Sleiphner, and Sir Chompsalot stared blankly at the laughing man and his machinations, unsure exactly what to think of this new development. After a few dwindling cackles, Baron sighed and resumed his usual demeanor. As the group continued on through Sector Four, however, a thunderous roar shook the very air of the laboratory, threatening to steal the party’s resolve. A pile of equipment ahead of them virtually exploded, as a gargantuan figure crashed into view, its shoulders heaving with each laboured breath.
Unleashing another tremendous roar, the beastly thing proceeded to pound its fists into the ground, twisting what passed for a face into a terrifying sardonic expression.
Baron glared at the creature, withdrawing a wrench from one of his many pockets.
“Cletus, I TOLD YOU NOT TO RAMPAGE AROUND THE LAB! Do you want me to get the hose again?!”
The creature merely snorted, unmoving.
“Back! BACK, YOU DIRTY APE!” Baron yelled, chucking his wrench at the great creature.
Upon being whacked squarely in the face with a wrench, the creature gave one last defiant roar, backing up slowly. When Baron produced another wrench, stepping forward as if to throw it; the creature grunted and reluctantly dragged itself away. The group continued on.
Upon arriving at a lower level of the laboratory, Baron stopped again, this time in front of what appeared to be a shiny new set of armor and several shiny devices.
“Sir Chompsalot,” Baron said, “how would you like some new toys?”
Sir Chompsalot glanced at the shiny devices, then made a happy face and proceeded to om nom nom on a desk.
“…Okay!” Baron declared, slightly taken aback by the flying shark’s voracious nomming.
Less than ten minutes later, Baron had finished. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he stepped back to observe the flying shark. Sir Chompsalot proudly hovered in midair, his armor gleaning in the fluorescent light of the lab. Several peripheral devices were attached to the armor, including a formidable apparatus adorning the crest of the flying shark’s helm.
“Sir Chompsalot,” Baron explained as he led the group through the last of Sector Four’s corridors, “is now a frickin flying armored shark, with frickin laser beams attached to his frickin head.”
Baron’s speech was interrupted by an impromptu declaration of “HOOPLAH!” from a small robot on the other side of the corridor. Baron, furiously whirling around, picked up a brick and lobbed it at the robot’s infernal head. The robot, upon being whacked with a flying brick, promptly fell over. Baron shook a Fist of Science at the blasted contraption, before continuing on to the skyport.
As the group arrived at the Laboratory Skyport, an armada of airships lay stretched out before them. Most of the ships weren’t outrageously large or powerful, but they would make great reinforcements. The grey armored forms of war dirigibles scudded overhead, and squadrons of Hyacinth fighters zoomed about in a whirling metal swarm. In the middle of this massive industrial colony, Soupcup noted several kinds of specialized vessels, bolstering the main fleet. Smaller, rounder ships that radiated with luminescence and sparked with energy followed behind some of the larger, more heavily armed ships. Long, narrow ships with spiked armor housed equally intimidating cannons.
As the group approached the focal point of the Skyport, he could see legions of Iron Solari troops pouring into the area, formation after formation preparing for the launch.
The group took a lift up to the main stage, and stared, wide-eyed, at the most massive airship they had ever seen.
This ship put everything else in the Skyport to absolute shame. At a distance, the troops that hadn’t yet boarded the massive craft looked like ants in comparison. Two triangular spikes jutted forward on each side of her bow, and a magnificent figurehead, crafted in the likeness of a Parrot, gazed sternly from between the spikes. A great envelope partially rose above the top of the deck, with gun emplacements along the top surface of its armor. Midway down the ship’s hull, the elegantly curved wings of the ship shot outwards, lending graceful form to the ship’s hull and peripheral engines.
Cannons, gun emplacements, and other armaments bristled along the entire ship. A single gun barrel, incredibly long and marked with dark, linear etchings, was frontally mounted to the underside of the bow, and was flanked on each side by similar, but smaller cannons. The ship’s underside soon developed into a main launch bay, with two smaller bays further down on each side, protected by heavy armor and various gun banks. Toward the back of the main deck, a raised wing provided support to the structures on the main deck. The ship’s bridge sat on top of the ship, overlooking the wing, and heavy cannon banks dotted the main deck and respective broadsides.
Suddenly putting on a dashing cape, Baron declared, “Time to make an appearance!” and walked over to the formation of troops and officers in front of the ship’s loading bay.
“Gentlemen,” he began, stepping onto a podium, “You are some of the finest members of the Iron Solari military. As such, I’d like to introduce you to the IsC Albion. As the flagship of our military effort in this war, she represents the very pinnacle of techmaturgy. Specially engineered Vortex Engines allow her to take off, fly, and land without the need for a conventional runway. The Albion is also armed to the very teeth with the most cutting-edge technology, such as Arcanus Siege Cannons, Hellfire Cannons, heavy flak and antipersonnel guns, and the usual refinements. She is heavily armored, can activate magical shields, and can deploy squadrons of Hyacinth mechabirds and troops in battle.”
“But sir,” a random soldier interjected, “Doesn’t that seem a bit over-the-top? I want more conventional weapons!”
Baron narrowed his eyes. “You know what you get? A BOOT TO THE HEAD.”
Out of nowhere, a large flying boot struck the man squarely in the face, silencing him.
With all dissent silenced, Baron took out a bottle, breaking it against the side of the ship. As the troops filed into the Albion, an officer approached Baron.
“Sir! Helmsman reporting for duty, sir!” he declared.
“Ah, Valkyrie’s man. I’ve been expecting you. What’s your name, soldier?”
Baron blinked in surprise. “….Okaaaay. Let’s, uh, get underway then…”
After everyone had boarded the Albion, Baron made his way to the bridge with the helmsman and the rest of the group, and put on a feathered pirate hat and coat. As the Albion’s engines shifted downwards, the airship lifted into the sky, before flying forward at the head of the fleet. Soon, they would be in Nikopolis…
~(one flight later)~
As the Albion and the rest of the fleet came upon the ensuing battle of Nikopolis, Baron gasped. Staring wide-eyed at the chaos and carnage of the battlefield below them, he stumbled backward with fear.
“JESUS, TAKE THE WHEEL!” he yelled, frantically rushing to a nearby terminal and picking up a communicator.
“All hands, battle stations! We give no quarter! Soupcup, prepare to deploy alongside the other bearatroopers! We’re putting you down alongside Valk and the main battle line! Red Squadron, prepare your fighters for launch, and standby!”