In the Mind of PizarroBy jazzdog
…an odd wind rises beyond the hills. A storm rolling down the mountainside? I turn to shout another command, when the wind grows to a rhythmic thwump, thwump, thwump, like huge birds of prey catching Andean air in their massive feathered wings. An Inca monster has been awakened? Over the crest behind the remnants of the Emperor’s force, huge beasts ply the air, thwump, thwump, thwump, a steady drone. For a moment, everyone around me stops to take in a sight like none they have ever seen.
I can’t believe what’s coming toward us. Giant floating beasts with cauldrons spewing black smoke fly over the battlefield. Atawallpa has accessed the tech. Pizarro’s consciousness chokes back terror. Men on deck fall to their knees, crossing themselves, begging for mercy, while others point to the sky, cursing the flying demonic monsters bearing down on us. What the hell? The Inca have created hot air balloons? Yes, giant balloons from some kind of woven fabric brought together in a triangular shape with reed baskets large enough for a crew of ten. Something juts out the sides. Wings? A version of the Wright brothers’ wing extends from each basket’s sides, while a rudder, like that of a ship, comes off the stern. A flying balloon is bad enough, but the thwump, thwump comes from a propeller mounted on each basket’s bow, cranked by her crew, driving the behemoths through the air. A fiery glow makes the crew look like demons from hell. In the center of each basket, a hearth heats air, which rises into the airship’s cloth envelope, while her crew hurls stones of fire with large mounted slingshots. A hundred death angels travel the skies above, raining down hell upon Pedro’s men on shore. How can this be? Pizarro’s consciousness rages out of my control.
“Fire! All cannon, fire!”
The fleet’s cannon loft balls skyward, but the projectiles arc below the pagan king’s airborne army, crashing through Inca and Spanish flesh alike on shore, screams echoing to me across the water. Atawallpa’s air armada moves across the water toward my fleet. I command every man with a harquebus above deck. Men position themselves along the railings, loading their guns with powder and ball. They heave the weapons up on wood forks, taking aim at the enemy. With cannon thundering below, my top deck gun men fire, the harquebus sending small balls of lead toward the approaching baskets. Damn. The beasts fly too high.
“Reload and fire. Fire, dammit!”
Lifting my eyes, I know my command comes too late. Just beyond our ship masts, hoards of Inca warriors drop from grass ropes, deftly slicing the tether with a blade to roll into fighting position on our decks. Hernando at my side, our swords drawn, we desperately swing blades at Inca warriors, their blood covering our arms and chests. I look across the fleet. Three ships, their decks in flames, while a fourth, a direct hit to its gunpowder magazine, explodes into a fiery ball hurling thousands of wood splinters, the concussion reverberating in my chest.
I fight to regain control, Pizarro’s adrenalin and fear surging.
Hernando screams above the cacophony. “Francisco, we must retreat!”
If we run I may never restore the continuum. Or save Jules. “To where, Hernando? No, we fight.”
“Francisco, we did not count on these demons hurling fire from the sky. We must retreat or all will be lost.”
Hernando, covered in Inca blood, struggles to keep his calm in the chaos. I can’t let him retreat. Without Atawallpa, Jules will be trapped here and the time continuum will be forever altered.
“We stay. God will not abandon us.”
A fiery ball flies over my shoulder, its heat and flame hissing past me. The object slams into Hernando’s chest, hurling him to the deck, flames engulfing his convulsing body. His desperate blood-curdling screams and the stench of burning flesh fuels a rage deep within. I turn in time to meet an attacker, driving my sword deep into his chest, twisting the blade, then push the now dead warrior off my steel. Men, Spaniards and Incas, lay dead, cut open, burned alive, all across the deck. My God, what have I done?
I make my way to the stern when three warriors corner me at the officer’s quarters. Nothing is happening to plan. I raise my sword in anger at my attackers, at whoever has given them this technology, at my failure to make things right.
“Come on you bastards. Come on!”
Fiery stones slam through the deck behind them, igniting caches of gunpowder below deck. The explosion slams me through a door and down some steps. For a moment, I don’t know how long, the roaring fury of battle is muffled and my vision blurred, until I hear screams, several smaller explosions and smell burning wood and gunpowder.