He awoke with his face pressed against a cool, flat ground. The light blinded him at first, and his eyes watered; but as his vision cleared, he saw the bars of the cage that held him, and beyond that, the orange-haired marauder who was screaming at him.
‘HEY, MISTER!’ she screamed, a gloved hand clutching on to the bars of her own cage, ‘Get your arse up and help me, will you?’
The Swordsman rolled onto his back and stared up at the dull grey iron ceiling in reply, blinking rapidly as he tried to make sense of it all. The ground beneath him hummed and vibrated with a life of its own. Electricity underneath, running an enormous magnet.
His lips were dry, but not parched as he remembered them. His mind, though lost in a dizzying, turning sort of confusion, was quick and sharp, not muddy and stuffy as it had been while on his way through the desert.
He got up and found that the iron ceiling of the cage was too low for him to stand inside it, so he sat cross-legged on the ground. A quick examination of his inventory told him that he had lost both his guns, his sword, his hat, and his longcoat. Opposite him, the marauder was insistent on getting his attention.
‘Lo, you speak English, don’t you?’ the girl prodded. ‘Help me out over here; I’ve got to get off this ship and back to my camp!’
A ship. The Swordsman glanced up at the girl in the cage opposite his own and saw that she could not have been any older than twenty. A look of dismissive contempt was over a face, like the Swordsman had intruded into her personal space, and she wanted him out of it.
‘Where the hell am I?’ he asked, and as his vision cleared further, he could see the youthful freckles over the marauder’s face. She pointed around with her other hand – one that wasn’t gloved – and following her finger, the Swordsman saw an assortment of boxes and crates with highly technical drawings and specifications written onto their sides. Most of these looked like they contained weapons.
‘Back in the land of the living,’ the girl said, ‘And on His Majesty’s ship. You’re lucky someone’s paying some good money to see you alive, for better or for worse.’
‘Where are my weapons?’
The girl folded her arms across her chest, looking slightly amused as she spoke. ‘You’re a wanted man, it seems,’ she said, picking at a loose strip of bandage that had come loose underneath her vest. ‘And in the way the world works, wanted man who are captured don’t usually get to keep their weapons. Bastards took my gear too, if that’s any comfort.’
The lock to his cage was a primitive one, though one that proved highly effective when it came to disarmed men. It ran on a simple bolt-lock system, requiring the turning of a simple key to unlatch it. A crude lockpick might have been ineffective against it, but it certainly was no match for the clever magnetic ones they had out in the market these days. Of course, their captors have went through the effort of relieving them of anything that could have helped in any remote way.
‘C’mon, MacGyver,’ the girl began again, ‘You look the resourceful type. Figure something to get us outta here!’
‘Try harder, you lazy ass!’ she snapped, scowling as she did. ‘Every minute, this flying dungeon gets closer to the main base; and soon we’ll be–’
The sound came from the darkness to his left, and a dim blue light came fading in over the heavy-looking door.
‘Shit. They’re here,’ the marauder said, biting the inside of her lip. ‘Look docile.’
With a hiss, the hydraulic doors came open, and light streamed in from the room beyond their prison. In strode two men – one in a military uniform, his automatic rifle held casually before him; and the other dressed in what looked like a mix-and-match of all sorts of combat gears. This one had a revolver tucked into a holster slung across his chest – a revolver that the Swordsman recognized very well.
‘-cking ghost town, Germany these days,’ the second man said as he came walking in beside the military man, ‘That’s what I hear.’
Beneath the visor of his helmet, the Swordsman saw the military man smirk. ‘So I guess hell’s finally frozen over, huh?’ he said, laughing at his own joke. ‘Bloody arctic wasteland, that’s what it is. Nothing lives there anymore. Nothing above the surface, anyway.’
‘Hey. HEY!’ the Swordsman called to them as they passed, ‘Excuse me!’
The military man paused to look at him. ‘Think we should do something for that guy?’ he asked his companion, who shook his head in response. Opposite the Swordsman, the marauder girl mouthed the words that she had heard when she first found herself aboard the ship:
‘No talking to the goods.’