The helm was actually quite light. Alex carried it over his head as David opened the elevator door and Josh stood at the ready with the probe. When the door opened, Josh let out a cry and lunged forth with his weapon, bludgeoning the lizardman inside repeatedly before recalling that he had already killed him once before. Josh stood back, panting, and let David and Alex enter the elevator.
"Sorry," he grinned. "This place has me a little on edge." He stepped nimbly inside, straddled the deceased operator's head and pushed the 'down' button. Alex let the helm rest on the top of his head for the 20-second descent. He looked at Josh, who was clutching the anal probe and trying to move his feet away from the pool of congealed blood on the floor, then at David, who was looking at his phone and chuckling silently at the pictures Alex had taken of him with his doppelgänger.
"This is without a doubt the weirdest elevator ride I've ever taken," he mused.
The elevator came to a stop and door opened with its usual 'bing'. Josh led the way, probe at the ready, but nothing much had changed in the ten minutes they had been at the top. The door was still bolted from the inside, and Josh peered out the tall, narrow wired glass window. An empty white sidewalk divided the even emptier green lawn into two halves. He noted that the trees that were at the far end of the walk were different. They had either been totally replanted since the early 21st century, or a lot of time had passed. It made him feel more uneasy than he anticipated.
"These lizardpeople have fucked with just about enough," he seethed into the glass. His breath temporarily fogged up the window and obscured his view.
"Do you see someone? Should we wait?" David looked uncharacteristically worried. The idea of combat was a lot less appealing when you figure you have about seven hit points, if you're lucky.
"No, the coast is clear. I say we just do this. Besides," he looked up at the sky as he slid the bolt back. "It looks like it's about to start raining."
The smoldering remnants of what was The Apple Barn rained down upon the shell and deck of the turtleship beneath which David and Karl had taken refuge. David craned his neck out as far as he dared to look up at the sky. "I don't think the heavy stuff's gonna come down for quite a while." Karl turned to stare at him, his face a mixture of calm resignation and deep, mortal panic.
"Have you ever thought about what happens if we die in our real bodies, as ourselves???" David turned to face Karl. The air smelled deeply of burnt sugar and cinnamon.
"Every damn day, Karl. Every damn day." Somewhere above them, Kate could be heard shouting.
"If you two are quite done blowing up things, there's something happening in the sky over to the northwest. You might want to check it out." As long has DCM had been together, nothing good had ever come out of the sky - including them. They both crawled out from under the turtleship, stood to the sound of creaking bones and looked up at the sky. There was no need to check which direction northwest was, as the low ceiling of clouds overhead was moving at a fair clip in the direction of Bennington. Considering there wasn't even a hint of a breeze, the movement looked eerie and unnatural. Adding to the surreality of it all, the clouds were turning salmon-colored as they reached the horizon. A more paranoid person might inquire as to wether or not the clouds were moving in a vaguely circular motion around a central point.
"Do the clouds look like they're circling around a central point to you?" David looked up at Karl, eyes squinting against the sweet-smelling smoke.
"Hmmm, maybe. Kate?" Karl turned to look up at the deck of the turtleship just as the business end of a wire rope ladder came tumbling over the railing and plummeted straight for his face. Karl dodged as nimbly as he could, getting out of the incident with nothing more than a slightly bruised shoulder.
"Sorry," Kate's head popped over the railing, a barely-suppressed smile on her lips. "What were the chances you'd be standing right where I dropped the ladder?!" David grabbed an aluminum rung and muttered to Karl while looking up the ladder. "Oh, about ninety-nine percent, at this point, don'tcha think?" He swung a leg up and started an awkward ascent. Karl followed suit as the clouds sped up their movements across the sky.
The three cautiously exited the monument and crept down the sidewalk towards the memorial park. Alex looked around nervously, expecting to see a family of lizzies at any moment, but there were no cars in the parking lot, no one milling about the laboratory. No soldiers. No birds. No breeze.
"Hey, guys? Does anything seem strange to you?" Josh didn't appear to hear Alex's question; he still held the probe at the ready and was leading the way towards the wrought-iron gate that led to the memorial park where Der Mobile lay. David, however, fell back to Alex and said, "Strange? I mean, other than the fact that we, having been sucked into our own game of D&D, find ourselves labeled war criminals in a future Bennington populated by lizardpeople?" David gave one of his peculiar chuckles. "Other than that, I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"I mean, it's way too quiet. Especially since, not fifteen minutes ago, there were a bunch of soldiers coming after us from the lab." Alex, still balancing the helm on the top of his head, nodded his head in the direction of the lab as they reached the low gate to the park. "You hear anything now? I think something weird is happening." Josh held open the little iron gate to the park. They were now less than 30 yards from the shell of Der Mobile. As he gently closed the gate behind him, his eyes wandered skyward. It looked to him like the cloud cover above was thickening and swirling somehow.
"And considering there isn't any wind," Josh had caught them up as they approached the turtle. "How is it that the clouds are moving at all, let alone rotating around the top of the monument like that?" David had already made it up to the deck of Der Mobile, and was helping Alex hoist the helm topside. He glanced up at the clouds while giving Alex, then Josh, a hand up. He scanned the sky in all directions. Yep, there was definitely something paranormal going on. It looked like a hurricane was forming, and its eye was almost directly overhead.
David turned to follow the others down to the helm room, but a last glance at the sky revealed a group of dark dots silhouetted against the reddening clouds. He paused, and picked out a handful of objects low in the southern sky. They had the look of vague, weighty malevolence. "Flight of the Valkyries" popped into his head for some reason. He hurried to catch up to the others and called out to Alex in an uncharacteristically tremulous voice. "Didn't we seem to think the forward ballista looked like it was in working order?"
David sat at the forward machine gun station, gritting his teeth against the growing wind and hoping he looked like a fearsome bringer of hot death. Kate sat at the other gun turret and wondered at how a cyclonic atmospheric disturbance could exist inside what looked like a pretty stable artificial environment, as well as whether DTA was suffering from some sort of intestinal duress. But she had seen enough in the past five years of hanging out with DCM to understand that if the worst thing that happened in the next fifteen minutes was David shitting himself, they'd be getting off easy. She glanced back at the four other turtleships in tight formation behind her, each of them bristling with enough firepower to mow down a tiny village. She thought back to the plaques that detailed their so-called war crimes in the attack on Hoosic Falls - an attack that came from the sky in a turtleship... Was history repeating itself? Is this what karma was really about in a multidimensional universe? Kate had a flash of presque vu, the terrible feeling like the answer to the whole bloody thing was on the tip of her tongue, that all the familiar names and places were part of a pattern, part of an intentional plot binding them all together. If she could just figure it out in time, she'd save everyone and everything a whole lot of trouble.
"There's someone down there," David snapped to attention, thumbs at the ready. Kate's thought her epiphany would have to wait, but wouldn't you know it - they were descending upon the Bennington Monument again, and the remains of Der Chelonian as it lay in the park behind the old gift shop. Why were they here again, and who was actually down there? She sat forward in her seat. The turtleships slowed their approach.
"It's David!" cried DTA as he hopped down from the turret. "And Alex! And Josh!" He moved to the railing and began waving his arms down at the three figures moving about on the deck of Der Mobile. They seemed to be hauling something out from an opening in the hull. David and Josh hoisted a long metal object up and out of a hatch, and were hastily moving it to what remained of the forward ballista. DTA's eyes widened in horror.
"Oh god all stop turn around shields up abandon ship!" Karl snapped out of the intricate daydream he'd been having while having a smoke at the back of the ship with Ted, the assistant gunner. Throwing his butt down at his feet, he gave Ted a perfunctory nod, then turned on his heel and slid cautiously around the ship's curved hull towards the front of the ship. He saw David scramble up and over the railing and hurl himself overboard. The brief interlude between his shrieking exit and the damp thud (also accompanied by shrieking) told Karl that his injuries were most likely not fatal. Karl briefly wondered how many hit points David had. He sidled up next to Kate while at the same time taking in the scene down below.
"What's got him all in a tizzy?" Karl nodded down at the group on Der Mobile. He recognized David and gave a brief wave.
"See that thing they're loading onto the ballista? It has a portable hole and a bag of holding hidden in its shaft. If they manage to fire it and actually hit us," She made a loud explodey noise while flashing Karl with her jazz hands. "We will cease to exist!"
"I see." He moved to the front of the ship, and cupped his hands around his mouth. "Ahoy there! David! Is that really you?" The figures below paused, then turned to regard Karl more closely. The man that now appeared to be David looked up at Karl and replied, "Why, yes, it is! Are you really you?" Kate let a short burst of laughter escape her lips. She gave David two thumbs up, while turning to Karl. "Tell the helmsman to set her down, and to try to avoid landing on DTA. It would be a shame to lose him now..."