-Exeter St John-
Exeter examined the ship, noting the old, yet servicable, appearance. "Interesting." He muttered into the wind. He continued to ponder as Lanester barked orders over the tumultous noise of the crew's preparations. Hearing his name, the First Mate tuned back in.
"I want to know everything you know about that vessel and her captain!" The ship was certainly familiar. He was still unsure, despite his vast knowledge of the current active vessels. He listened intently as the Admiral continued. "After which, I want you leading the aft boarding group." Exeter smiled, taking the looking-glass from his eye. "Coordinate your strikes; I leave the exact plans to your discretion." At the last remark, Exeter's smile deepened. No leash of orders to reign in his violence against the pirate scum. Just as well; Capricorn was in need of excercise.
"As you wish, Admiral." He pulled the telescopic baton from inside his jacket and grabbed a running crew member. "Take this," he said, handing the baton to the sailor. "Go down to the lower deck and bring up Capricorn." The sailor paled, hands suddenly shaking as he gripped the baton. "Don't worry," Exeter grinned, "he doesn't bite. Now get going!" He turned back to the pirate airship and began studying it through the looking-glass once more
"It's old..." Exeter mused in Lanester's general direction. Suddenly, the ship's name struck him. If he was correct, things could get ugly. "It's the Mermaid, Admiral. Unmistakable. I've not had the pleasure of facing the ship's current captain, but she was first mate to a traitor by the name of Bartholomew Roberts a year or so ago." He leaned to spit over the side of the Invincible. "A Misbegotten whore by the name of Winged Beth. From what I hear, the crew are loyal to the death, disciplined by another Misbegotten - a monstrous demon I've heard little about except that it's ferocious in battle." Exeter lowered the looking-glass and turned to Lanester, his face grave. "I wouldn't bet against us, Admiral, but if The Mermaid has retained any of Roberts' tenacity and cunning, then this won't be a simple boarding."
Seeing you die once was more than enough for me. So remember, between the two of us, I die first
The words echoed in her head. She might have said similar things under Captain Robert, but she actually believed it when Sheska said it.
You think you know someone, then your future self shows up and dies in front of them...
She wasn't sure what to think about it. Anyone could feign loyalty to get ahead and it wasn't that she had doubted the woman's loyalty before, but now it felt set in stone.
Isaac stepped over to her.
Pretend that you're actually useful in a battle.
She didn't speak her mind though, but asking for orders when everyone else knew what they were supposed to be doing got on her nerves.
"Keep an eye on the imperial ship and warn me if they change course."
Beth was moving her mermaid closer to the imperial ship, who was still higher up than them. It was far from her first fight with imperial frigates. Though she had only contributed in bringing two of them down before as acting captain, and that was with the help of other ships, belonging to the skyfolk or pirates. It wasn't what this about. Damaging an imperial ship and hoping that it would run into more pirates, who would notice that it was damaged, was the point. She knew that other captains hated them just as much as her, and hopefully the imperial swines would run into more of those, before it reached it's goal. Even if they didn't, she would feel better knowing that imperials died today. There would be casualties on both sides.
She looked at the crewmembers in front of her on the deck. Good rugged pirates, who were experienced veterans in fights by now. They shouldn't have that much of a problem protecting the deck, the main issue was getting overrun, but they knew what to do. Let the enemy board the deck, but quickly get rid off the grappling hooks. After that she would pull away or slow down. It would become a slaughter, which she would have a nice view of.
She had a firm and steady grip of the wheel, almost anticipating Isaac to shout that the imperial ship would change its course. If it did anything along those lines, it would mean that she needed to act fast to avoid taking damage or ending up in a position they didn't want to be in. It shouldn't be that hard, and they really just needed to get close enough to fire at this point. Avoiding damage altogether was tough, but avoiding stupid mistakes wasn't.
They had climbed a bit, and she thought that Sheska would be able to hit them with the lightning gun. She wasn't sure about the cannons, but the mermaid wasn't properly aligned to the imperial ship yet.
"Sheska, fire at will and let's fry some imp swine." Beth was about to turn the intercom off, but felt like she owned those who might die today more than that. "Remember this, anyone who dies after having killed imperials, dies a hero on this ship. Anyone else, well, I'll see you in hell."
Beth laughed loudly and turned it off, the pirates on deck laughed with her.
"Ain't no empire lapdogs putting their foot on this ship, without getting the whole leg chopped off." Farthing said where he stood among the others. She nodded, a grim grin spreading across her face.
Jessie had stepped back again after speaking up, the calm, detached expression and unconcerned posture further serving to help her blend back into the background.
"Of course not! We're pirates, and any self-respecting pirate can't resist the call of booty!"
She noticed the way Sheska looked towards Isaac after saying it, left eyebrow arcing up slightly. Huh. Wouldn't have guessed, those two... a faint grin played at the corner of her lips a moment, but it didn't last long.
As the meeting died down, she shrugged, waiting for people start moving away before making her own way towards the main deck. Her eyes and expression had the vacant, detached quality of one whose mind is traveling far, far away even though their bodies remain. It seemed to be only by chance that she didn't bump into anyone while walking away.
"Imperial ship to the north!"
The call brought her back to here and now. The sharp attentiveness immediately returned to her gaze, and she sprinted across the deck, dodging and weaving through the movement to get to the main mast. She set to climbing it, adrenalin and custom ensuring she made good time.
The shape was larger by the time she got there and nodded to the other pirate already manning the post. She pulled out her spyglass, pointing it towards the still-distant shape. With the spyglass, she could make out the colors, the size, the shape of the decks brimming with guns, she could even see some of the crew. That was an imperial frigate, alright. So much for this being the safer course.
"Taking over here, mate. Need the room." She didn't bother to check whether the man accepted the request, instead immediately employing her rope set to tie herself at the mast - for greater stability - before setting her gun.
The stock on her shoulder was the touch of an old lover, the vision down the the sights was his face. She breathed slow and deep, body calming down, mind slowing until the only movement was the sway of the deck, the only sound was the rhythmic thumping of her own heart.
If the imperials were any good, they'd need to maneuver a lot to keep up with the smaller, more agile Mermaid. She acted on that knowledge. Her attention roamed over what she could see of the imperial ship, seeking men working the sails or better yet, an officer coordinating them.
As soon as distance permitted, her finger would perform the slow, calm squeeze that sent death their way. Then she'd pick the next target and repeat...
Jason kept his spyglass trained on the Imperial vessel, carefully observing its movements. He knew a thing or two about airships, and about fighting with them - he was an engineer and pirate, after all. So he couldn't help but break into a grin when he saw them starting to list downwards. 'They're maneuvering to board us - just as I thought they would. They'll lose ship-to-ship because we'd just outmaneuver them - but they have boarding vessels, so they can try to overwhelm us with superior numbers. The operative word, of course, being TRY.'
"It seems they want to fight man to man. Fry, did you finish making those grenade cores?" Fry mockingly balked at this statement. "Of course I did! It was the only interesting thing you had me do this month. But I don't see why that's..." As he finished that sentence, his expression changed from one of confusion to one of realization. "Ah... I see."
"You know, Fry, it's a Skyfolk custom to give a welcoming gift to first-time guests to your ship." With a mischievous grin still plastered on his face, he turned to return to the lower decks. "Shall we go prepare one?"
With Fry in tow, they headed back to the engine room. "Listen up, you louts! Those Imperial pigs are finally manning up and are attempting to board us. Gather up your welding sticks and some engine oil - we're gonna give them a gift they won't soon forget!" Fry emerged from the back of the engine room holding a box of ceramic spheres, each with two holes drilled in them - one large enough for a welding stick. They inserted a welding stick in the larger, and poured engine oil into the smaller. They capped both with pitch, and attached a pitch-soaked rag to the top. Once the had hastily finished arming their makeshift grenades, Jason and Fry carried them to the deck, and set them on the ground.
"Oi, Beth! You know those incendiary grenades I was tellin' you about? I think now's a perfect time for a field test!"
"Make it so! You will board astern!"
Annis felt her heart soar a little at the command. She'd missed combat more than she thought.
"By your command, Rear-Admiral."
But then Lanester had to go spoil her fun by dragging Exeter into it.
"After which, I want you leading the aft boarding group. Coordinate your strikes; I leave the exact plans to your discretion."
Annis looked at Exeter. Well if they had to, they had to. The man was a competent enough soldier, so she could have worse watching her back. How he'd work as a team player though was something she'd yet to see. She didn't relish finding out.
She turned on her heel, and reached out and snatched a passing man by his shoulder. Sure enough, it was Dakin.
"Gather the squadron. You have one minute."
She released the man and he rushed off mutely. Annis spent a great deal of time with the marines on the ship. It was an environment she was familiar with, and since she was generally called upon to lead boarding parties it paid to have a small disciplined set of men ready to follow her orders in an instant.
Whilst Dakin was gathering her squad she turned back to Adriana and Exeter as they discussed the Pirate vessel.
"A Misbegotten whore by the name of Winged Beth. From what I hear, the crew are loyal to the death, disciplined by another Misbegotten - a monstrous demon I've heard little about except that it's ferocious in battle."
Annis' eyes flashed. Something in her became very cold. The quill tickled her throat.
"I can handle the Misbegotten." she found herself saying, cutting in on the conversation.
But of course, there was more.
"I wouldn't bet against us, Admiral, but if The Mermaid has retained any of Roberts' tenacity and cunning, then this won't be a simple boarding."
Damn. Still, this was merely a problem with a solution, like anything else. They just needed to work at it.
"Well Mr. St John, since we are leading the boarding parties, what tactics would your recommend?"
No, she didn't like the man. But if this was an area he knew well she'd be a fool not to defer to him.
"Keep an eye on the imperial ship and warn me if they change course."
Isaac could see the irritation in his Captain's voice, in her eyes. He didn't react, she required all of he crew to obey without question and he respected that. But what could he do other than ask? They both knew he couldn't manage a flat out fight.
The gravity blade sits heavy against his wrist...
Not without the element of surprise, and more often than not a little luck. And he'd been low on that lately. Still, he had to do his best to be useful. He nodded once and headed off without another word. He'd have headed up the Crow's Nest, but warning Beth would be more than a little difficult from the height, so he'd have to risk being up on deck. He headed to the back of the ship to get a clearer view, unfolded his collapsible telescope, and observed.
Lanester watched the movements of "The Mermaid" closely, waiting for just the right moment. As the moment approached she raised her hand slightly, giving Mr. Riley the signal the moment was close
As the Mermaid drew closer, the faces of the pirate hoard grew clearer in the spy glass. She could almost make out individuals, not that she would recognize them.
The ship sailed closer and closer, and as it did, time seemed to slow. Through her glass, the actions of the other ship became clear; they were- based on the gun position - going to fire their guns back at them after pulling out in front, while men and women atop the deck prepared to repel boarders. It was a good move, but it was doomed to fail. Had they not seen the ship coming, it might have worked, but they were going to be striking the Invincible's broadside; where her armor was thickest. She caught, with some regret, the sight of a lightning gun. Many an Imperial had and would die by that gun, and there was little they could do about it.
It was as her count was about to hit zero that she first caught glimpse of the the misbegotten at the wheel. "That must be the infamous Winged Beth... Well, we'll just have to make sure to clip those wings of hers." she thought; thinking of one there being one less pirate in the world was always a good thing for her.
"Now Mr. Riley!" she screamed, letting her hand drop. As she did, she latched onto the railing of the Invincible, as it lurched to the side, aligning it's starboard guns with the Mermaid.
She heard someone yell "FIRE!" - though exactly who escaped her - then all was lost to smoke and the roar of cannons.
"Sheska, fire at will and let's fry some imp swine.".
"You got it, Cap'n! BURN IN HELL YOU IMPERIAL BASTARDS!!", she shouted as she fired the charged Lightning Gun, aiming towards the cannons.
She didn't bother checking to see if she hit, because she was too busy getting it charged again. Regardless, at this range, she hit them somewhere, that was no question. After all, the few times she had been on the Lightning Gun, Jason had drilled it into her head that the armor of most ships would attract the electricity, making a hit at close range a guarantee. It was where she hit them that was question, but that wasn't something she was worried about.
In the time it took to charge it, the frigate had managed to get within range of their cannons, and once the Lightning Gun was ready again, she heard their cannons ring out.
"Shit!", she cried, staggering back before rushing forward and aiming the main weapon up at the frigate, firing it as soon as she was able, before looking back and motioning to a crewman.
"You, if you can fire the Lightning Gun, do it. I need to repel boarders and keep the Captain safe. MOVE IT!", she ordered harshly, drawing her cutlass with her right hand, and her revolver with her left.
Then she stormed her way to the uppermost deck, ready and willing for the fight.
The roar of the Imperial cannons sent Eddie into his element, his face contorted into a smile almost splitting his face in half and he began cackling, his eyes wild. The dedicated cannoneers knew that look and made their partners keep alive, and one of the new recruits they'd picked up somewhere looked around to see the madman on deck, a cord in one hand, his pistol in the other.
"Aheeheheehehaa!,"He began,"The Imps wanna be above us? Clear their decks! GRAPESHOT CANNONS, EVERYONE ELSE, CENTER MASS! FIRE!!"
Four of the thirteen cannons on the port side fired on the Imperials clustered above them, unleashing their cargo of death, the rest all fired at roughly the same area, hoping to get through that damned Imperial armor, nine cannons unleashing hell should get at least one through, right?
"Kill 'em boys! Reload, normal cannonballs!"
Isaac frowned at the imperial ship. It looked familiar... He'd not served aboard any in quite some time but you get to know the more infamous ships after a while. But that wasn't what was important. He looked to Beth and cupped his hands to his mouth.
"Captain! She's moving! We'll only be hitting her broadside!"
Of course, he wasn't sure how to deal with this. This was going to be one hell of a stand-off. People were going to die.
He shuddered and awaited Beth's response.
"Oi, Beth! You know those incendiary grenades I was tellin' you about? I think now's a perfect time for a field test!"
She nodded at Jason.
"Aye, if we do end up being boarded, they'll come in handy."
"Captain! She's moving! We'll only be hitting her broadside!"
Beth kept the ship steady, to try to minimize the area they could hit of her own ship. They would only hit the imperial ship's broadside as they were now, but the imperials should only be able to hit them in the rear with a few cannons. A white flash of lightning escaped from her own ship, as Sheska fired, then she heard the roar of cannons, and another white flash. Cannonballs came flying around the ship, and some hit the ship in the rear, but it was impossible for her to know the damage they had done. They may have gone through the armor. She didn't notice any smoke or decrease in the ship's capabilities though.
A couple of cannonballs hit the deck, and killed at least one person on the aboard. They may have done more damage below, as they went through the deck. Beth turned the mermaid to face the imperial ship with the port side, and was about to order Eddie to fire, when the cannons went off with a roar.
She made the mermaid turn back to facing the imperial ship with its rear. It should allow them to make a break for it. Helium city was in that direction, and maybe it was a good idea to lure the imperial ship to follow them, to a place where there would be more pirates. The city itself was a neutral area, but the sky between here and there should be filled with somewhat friendly ships. In a worst case scenario they'd run into another frigate, but she hoped not.
Samuel heard more than saw a cannonball slam into the deck. He immediately ran in the direction of the sound until he saw the hole where the cannonball had landed. He could see a few crewmen running on the top deck and he waved at one of them who turned to him.
"How many wounded up there?!" He shouted up. He watched the crewman look around before responding.
"One dead, doctor! Other than that nothing bad!" was the response shouted back at him. He waved the soldier off and as soon as he had made the motion the crewman ran off to attend to his other duties.
'At least I don't need to go up top yet.' Samuel thought as he surveyed the wounded below deck. The wooden shrapnel from the deck had caused a few injuries but luckily the ball had gone into a passageway instead of an important room. He immediately set to work moving the few injured men off to the side and dressing their wounds. He made sure that they weren't too woozy or blinded before setting about tending to their wounds. All three of the men had taken some splinters so he knew he would have to dig them out. Luckily he was sure he would be done before the imperial ship fired again.
"FIRE!" Someone called out, and Garrett could feel the recoil from the cannons as they spewed they contents towards the Mermaid. Through the scope of his rifle, he could see that several of the shots shots had made their mark, splinters of wood were cast over the side. But then it was the pirates made their move.
First came a blast from their Lightning Gun, which had made impact, but seemed to just arc off into another direction. Next came the cannons, but looking at it, he could see what they were loading it with. A blast later, and the grape shot came hurtling towards them.
"Grapeshot, everyone get down!" He shouted, before leaping towards Adrianna, forcing her to the ground as a means to protect her from the attack. The miniature cannon balls flew across him as he made the jump, missing him by barely an inch.
"Apologies for that sudden leap at you admiral." Garrett remarked as he helped Adrianna up from off the floor.
"But it was the only way I could see to protect you from the grapeshot. Hope you are not damaged in anyway."
The ship shuddered as the cannons found their mark. Jason whirled around, seeing them impact the deck with a sickening crack. One poor sod was blown clean in half, his gore flying clean off the ship. More importantly, however, he heard several impacts near the stern - where the engine room lies.
'The ship isn't listing, which means both propellers still have power - at least for now. Good news where we can get it, I suppose.' He turned to Fry, who had just lifted himself off the deck after a nearby cannonball impact had knocked him on his feet. "Head down to the engine room and assess any damage. I need to make sure these idiots don't set this ship on fire with their latest toys." Fry, in an uncharacteristic display of respect, saluted. "Aye aye, sir." He bolted down into the hold, his tools in tow.
Jason took this lull in the battle to address the survivors of the salvo. "Alright, you morons! Listen up! Those Imperial pigs can't maneuver like that forever, so they're gonna move to board if they're smart. Now, it's a Skyfolk custom to give a welcoming gift to first-time guests." With a wicked grin, he raised the box of grenades, showing its contents to the gathering crowd. "These grenades contain a half-liter of engine oil each, with a full welding stick. To use them, simply ignite the wic at the top, count to three, then throw. Do NOT count to two, four, five, or any other number! I've carefully metered out the length of the rags used in the wics to burn at a consistent rate, so if you throw them too early or too late, you're gonna set yourselves, and far more importantly, this ship, on fire!"
He gestured to the bags of ballast lining the sides of the deck, several of which had been split open by the cannon barrage. "If one of you fails to follow this simple set of instructions and manages to set this vessel on fire, DO NOT DOUSE IT WITH WATER. These bombs start chemical fires, so water will only spread it around. Take a knife or cutlass, slice open some ballast, and smother it with sand. Get it? Good. Now, let's show these Imperial shitheads some of Captain Beth's famous hospitality, huh?"
No doubt there were injuries. The ones with minor ones had already been discharged and Vaso waited for the unlucky ones to stroll through, or rather, be carried through the door. The battle between Imperial and Sky Pirate had hardly begun, but the influx of wounded had and so had the shaking, both from their cannonfire and from the pirates. It didn't matter, Vasco carried on with his work regardless. Even in the middle of a battlefield - especially in the middle of a battlefield. The dance of assessing, cleaning and treating was accompanied by the cacophony of moans from the wounded, punctuated by the blasts of battle. Out there it was chaos, but there would be order in his sick bay - medicines and tools still held their ground in the cold storage cupboards and in the trays. Vasco easily settled into a state of utmost concentration, now was not the time for other concerns. No-one had died, not just yet and Vasco intended for it to stay that way.
"I don't like it down here...."
"Quiet! Exeter will have our hides if we upset the poor thing."
"Poor thing!? Poor- you're kidding right? This thing's a vicious monster!"
Capricorn listened with his head cocked as the voices drew nearer. Since the doctor had treated his wounds, the misbegotten had spent time just sat staring into the darkness and slowly swaying with teh movements of the ship. He had noticed for the past few minutes that the ship's movements were becoming more erratic. He had no idea what that meant other than it was becoming increasingly difficult to sway in time with ship; this made Capricorn anxious.
"You go get him."
Capricorn looked up dumbly as two men huddled outside his cage. With the grace of a cat, Capricorn unfurled orm his sitting position and stood erect, head held high. Although Capricorn was unwaveringly loyal to Exeter, others had little power over him unless explicitly stated by his master.
"He doesn't look happy."
"You wouldn't be happy if you had all those wounds. Shit, look at 'em all."
The two men nervously opened the cage, causing Capricorn to bleat sharply and shake his manacles in warning. The two men shuddered at the noise but one of them pulled something from his belt and with the flick of his wrist, snapped open Exeter's baton.
At the baton's snap, Capricorn's eyes widened and he shied back, lowering his head in deference. He knew the weapon well.
The man holding the baton looked down at his weapon worriedly. He took a deep breath and then looked straight at the scarred misbegotten before him. "You will come with us." Despite his best efforts, the man's voice quivered violently. Capricorn merely glanced up, his vulgar eyes staring blankly. After a moment of silence, he offered his hands to the men.
Capricorn allowed himseld to be led through the ship, seeing nothing along the way. His instinct told him that violence was needed, that his master required a job to be done. As they made their way onto the deck, Capricorn squinted into the setting sun and opened his mouth to the rushing wind. He felt happy.
-Exeter St John-
"Well Mr. St John, since we are leading the boarding parties, what tactics would your recommend?" Exeter suppressed a smile at the question. From all his years fighting pirates - from both sides of the law - he knew that tactics counted for nothing when standing toe-to-toe with a group of unpredictable, lawless cutthroats.
"Tactics? How do you plan against a rabid dog?" Exeter shrugged dramatically. "The same principe applies to pirates. They don't do things we expect, they don't have a plan themselves. They just... do." He grimaced at Annis' look and sighed. She was a good officer despite her injury; often exceptionally well disciplined and - from what he'd heard - a talented fighter. She liked doing things properly too, by the book. Exeter had never always agreed with the proverbial book. "You talk of tactics. Here are my tactics: we focus on cutting down the leaders. A ship that loses its leadership, loses the battle. To be sure of a swift victory, we can't use standard military practices - from what I know of The Mermaid's past, Winged Beth will be privy to a lot of what we could throw at her. However," he paused, a sly smile on his lips. "She won't be expecting us to fight dirty, to just go straight in without a concrete plan. She'll think there's an angle to our attack, think there's a broader scheme she needs to figure out. There won't be." Exeter patted his sabre and flintlock afffectionately. "There will just be our blades and our pistols." He raised his head reverently, face becoming serious once more. "And of course, the Emperor's will behind us. Never has the old adage 'take no prisoners' applied so readily to a siutation. Those are the tactics I plan on administering. I have no doubt that you will have my back, as I will have your's." Exeter nodded his head to Annis and turned to see Capricorn being lead across deck by two sailors. "Excuse me a moment," he intoned, walking in the direction of his misbegotten pet.
As he walked along deck, Exeter felt the rumble of the cannons firing on Lanester's command and heard the screams of Imperial crew members as The Mermaid return fired. Despite the lurching of the ship and men tumbling under the cannon-fire, Exeter remained his footing easily. He thrived in the heat of battle, but cannon-fire didn't interest him much; it was the aftermath, the boarding, that excited him.
He reached the two sailors and took his baton back, thanking the men before issuing them orders. "Gather a boarding party. The time is almost upon us." They saluted and disappeared into the cannon-smoke. Exeter pulled a small key out from inside his jacket and dangling it in front of Capricorn. The misbegotten gave a hideous grin and began bobbing its head and grunting excitedly. "That's right," Exeter crooned, "it's almost time." His mood was begining to lift considerably.
"Hope you are not damaged in anyway." Garrett said, helping her to her feet. To be completely honest, the action had caught her completely unaware. She had been too busy trying to determine the damage to the enemy vessel to notice the incoming attacks and Garret's save until the events occurred. "Thank you Gar-" she started to say before catching herself, instead saying "-Mr. Corvus." Still shell shocked from the event, she turned and called out her order.
"Mr. Riley, a damage report." the order rang, meeting only the chaos of the deck. Turning to the wheel, she found no sign of the man save half a body; the rest scattered across the deck from an impact. She wanted to avert her eyes, but could not; to do so would devalue his death. Turning to the panicking crew; save thankfully her officers and the automatons, and gave her next orders. "ORDER! All CREW, BACK TO YOUR POSITIONS - THIS IS AN IMPERIAL VESSEL AND YOU WILL ACT AS IMPERIAL SAILORS: WITH COURAGE AND STRENGTH!" The crew quickly quieted, and returned to their positions; Lanester rarely raised her voice, so when she did the crew knew how serious the situation was. It wouldn't be long before the feelings of wasted lives set in.
"Mr. Williams; congratulations, you are now Third Mate." she called out at one of the nearby crew. He wasn't the best person for the position, but Mr. Riley was no longer around to fill that slot. "I want a damage report; both our vessel and theirs."
Mr. Willaims, a somewhat shocked look on his face, answered none-the-less like a proper Imperial. "The Invincible has taken minor damage to the starboard hull; but remains in fighting condition. The enemy lighting gun melted some of the outer armor; but the damage is mostly superficial. I know of three top side crew dead, Mr. Riley included." he answered, before turning to the crows nest for a report. From there, they received the only good news so far.
"Admiral-" the crew mate in the nest called; his name a mystery. "-the Mermaid looks mostly undamaged. Only a few of the balls impact-Wait!" he called, returning to the scope. "They took damage to their Rear propeller-Ma'am! We can still catch them!" he screamed. At the sound, the faces on the crew turned from despair, to shock, to that mix of anger and excitement that could only come from the promise of a vengeful fight. Riley had been a well liked officer; his death would cost the pirates a hundred fold if they had their way.
A fire in her eyes, Adrianna bolted to the wheel and turned it hard to Port, setting about matching their heading. "I want every ounce of speed the Invincible can muster!" she called to the runner closest to the tube to engineering; which set him off down below deck. To the next runner she called out "I want those starboard cannons loaded and ready to fire within the minute, and every cannon we have pointed forward!" The runner quickly shot below deck. "All boarding parties; prepare for battle!" she called out, keeping an eye on the Mermaid, still not far in the distance.
As Williams took the wheel, Lanester made one final addendum "For Riley!"; eliciting a loud yell of concurrence. There would be blood; and much of it pirate.
"Jason, what the fuck is going on!?" Beth shouted, as she noticed their sudden decrease in speed. "If that's not fixed as soon as possible, we'll be overrun."
She tried not to panic, but her voice was still cracking up. They needed their superior speed. The crew on deck didn't pay her much attention, some of them had been listening to Jason explain his grenades and were now picking them up.
"Don't worry, Cap'n. Jason'll get her up and running in no time. Meanwhile, we get to try out his grenades and kill some more imperials." Farthing said, studying the grenade in his hand.
Beth took a deep breath, to calm herself down.
"Aye. Keep your positions. This doesn't change anything."
The pirates on deck listened and remained calmer than her. They weren't afraid of being boarded, and had confidence in both their captain and their engineer's abilities. She kept her hands on the wheel and reached for the intercom again.
"Attention, Eddie and Sheska, fire at will." The lightning gun went off as she spoke, hitting the imperial ship again. "No need to stop. The rest of you, protect the ship and the deck. We'll hope to lure as many as possible of them over to our ship, before pulling away."
When they did get their engine working again, she would pull away and observe the slaughter ensue in front of herself. No need to worry. She grinned again.
The moment she got to the top deck, she noticed the damage to the deck itself, thanks to Imperial cannonballs. Damn them. Damn those Imps!, she thought, growling a little louder in her throat. This was almost as much her ship as Beth's, and she hated to see it torn into like this. What was worse, that volley managed to kill a member of the crew. Damage to the ship could be repaired: Lives couldn't be.
After a short pause, she stormed up to the helm and took her place at Beth's side as she called off orders.
"Attention, Eddie and Sheska, fire at will. No need to stop. The rest of you, protect the ship and the deck. We'll hope to lure as many as possible of them over to our ship, before pulling away."
"Cap'n, Cavanaugh is working the Lightning Gun. Thought I'd come up here and watch your back, make sure no Imp's get close. We can't afford to lose you.", she said, holding up her pistol and cutlass as she nodded firmly.
Then she looked at the pirates on the deck and thrust her cutlass in the air. "Men! Hold your heads up, and hold your swords high! LETS SLAUGHTER US SOME IMPS AND SEND THEM TO MEET THEIR OLD EMPERORS IN HELL!!", she roared, grinning widely as she looked over the crew.
After hearing the uproar coming from the Imperial ship, Eddie's cackling raised in pitch and intensity. The crew knew that they'd killed a few Imperials, but it still wasn't enough for the mad Skyfolk commanding them.
"We got a few of 'em, now the Imps are getting closer, another volley'll break through that armor. Ain't nothin' that can stand two shots from our lightning and cannonballs, eh?" Another cackle followed.
Eddie then pulled the cord again as the Imperial ship came close again, aiming for the weakened area hit by the lightning gun, and the port side cannons responded as soon as they were finished being loaded. He then drew his pistol and awaited the chance to shoot some more Imps, cackle continuing.
"All right boys, there ain't enough time left to reload, port-side cannons make way for the starboard side!"
The cannons were moved in an intricate dance, grunts accompanying the cacophony of squeaks and a newbie having a cannonball fall on his foot. While it happened, Eddie stood on the stairs and waited for his men to finish their reorganization. They were close to the slaughter-fest it was about to become, and Eddie was
almost giddy with anticipation.
"All boarding parties; prepare for battle!"
Annis turned slightly to look at the men gathered behind her, their faces still. She'd picked her boarding party personally over the months spent on the ship, weeding out any weakness as she went along until all that was left were the coldest and hardest killers aboard the vessel.
She'd used to live for this.
And yet... she was tired. The excitement had turned cold in her stomach, and now she just wanted to get this damned battle over already. Just another Pirate ship to strike, break and capture. The sooner they could finish this and be away on their suicide mission the better.
"You heard the Rear-Admiral. With me." she said, her voice low and calm. The men nodded, readying their weapons. Annis stared at the approaching ship, readying to jump aboard.
She almost pitied the pirates. But only almost.
Isaac looked on at the damage around him. Another ship, another battle.
How did he always end up right in the middle? Up on deck there wasn't a whole lot he could do, fighting wouldn't be a good idea. And if he died, they'd be down a navigator.
He was frozen on the spot, unsure of what to do. Did he run? Should he pick up a gun and try to fight?
What was he supposed to do?
-Exeter St John-
With a boarding party gathered, Exeter joined Annis' group. He scowled at her selection of some of the best fighters the Invincible had to offer. Exeter's were a group of ruffians; not as well-trained but they had heart. And the fear of death kept them alert. It mattered little. With Capricorn by his side, Exeter needn't worry about a thing.
The misbegotten was crouched low at Exeter's side, shackles finally off. He gazed up at his master anxiously, the prospect of battle sending excited shudders through his body. Exeter patted his shoulder. "Be calm Capricorn. The time is almost upon us." The words did little to placate the misbegotten's rising bloodlust.
"All boarding parties; prepare for battle!" At Lanester's words, Exeter's men drew weapons, the swish of steel and the click of firearms being cocked sending a shiver down the First Mate's spine. Watching The Mermaid stoically, wind whipping around him, Exeter drew his flintlock and slowly unsheathed his sword. "For Riley!" Lanester's cry of vengeance sent a tumultuous roar back from the crew in response.
Exeter remained silent, face passive as he recalled - like he did before every battle - his purpose in life. "For my father," he murmured before raising his voice, sabre pointing to the sky, "FOR THE EMPORER!"
"Jason, what the fuck is going on!? If that's not fixed as soon as possible, we'll be overrun."
There was panic evident in Beth's voice, and Jason couldn't blame her. They where screwed if they couldn't outmaneuver this frigate. 'The ship still isn't listing, so it's not a total power loss... should be an easy fix.'
"Don't worry Beth. I'm very good at my job." With that confident statement, he dashed to the engine room, seeing his team worked up into a near frenzy. Jake, on the edge of panic, was the first to approach him. "S..sir, I..I don't know what's goin' on! There's no response to shims from the starboard propeller, but we're still reading steam pressure out that way, and..." The poor boy seemed on the edge of a full panic attack. "Jake, stop. Deep breath. No shim, still reading pressure, recent attack. What could that mean? You know this. For fuck's sake, even Fry would know this."
"Uh... um...i..it's jammed?"
"Right. So all we need to do is go onto the maintenance deck and fix it. If we're still reading a pressure, it can't be that bad. Come with me and we'll get it done. Fry, keep order around here." With Jake in tow, they headed onto the maintenance deck and shimmied up to the starboard rotor, and upon examination, they saw a cannonball lodged in the crease separating the propeller from its shaft. "Well, there's our problem. Jake, help me out here." He pulled a crowbar out of his satchel, and they both took a position to lever the cannonball out of place. With a heave, they forced the munition loose, which landed at their feet with a dull thud. As soon as it was pried loose, the propeller groaned and resumed spinning. "Jake, head back to the engine room and help however you can. I'm likely needed on the deck." They returned to the engine room, but Jason stopped his underling before he left. "One last thing, kid - if I don't make it out of this battle alive, you and Fry are in charge."
"I... uh...aye aye, sir. Good luck." With that, he returned to the deck, his hand on a loaded pistol.
Annis didn't shout. She didn't raise her pistol in solidarity or revel in the rush with the rest of the crew.
She just jumped. Her men rushed to follow. Battle cries were wasted breath, breath that was sorely needed. And Annis always carefully spent her resources.
Her boots hit the deck and she swiped her cutlass across a man's neck within seconds of landing. Her pistol raised swiftly and with a crack another man was down. She marched forwards, a woman possessed, casually dispatching pirates who approached her. When she was provided with an actual challenge, she stood her ground and wove around in a lethal, punchy fighting style that swept her opponents off their feet.
She was lost to the world. She was lost to the marines desperately trying to keep up with her and keep flankers off her.
Only the mission mattered now.
Samuel heard the battle begin to rage on the deck above him. He already knew they had been boarded. Samuel had just finished up the last man when light thunks started sounding over him.
"Alright boys, go back to your workstations and stay off the top deck." He said as he put his things back in his satchel.
"Not a chance, come on men." One of them said before the three of them grabbed their weapons and went to the top deck to fight.
"Then at least try and get some of the wounded out of the fight!" He shouted after them before he went to the ladder to the top deck in the bow of the ship. He got the hatch open and stuck his head out with his pistol out. He was just in time to see one man get his throat cut open by an imperial. He stayed in the hatch and took aim, hitting a rather burly imperial man who was grappling with one of the crew.
She saw the moment the boarders got on board, and within a few seconds knew that they were in for a fiercer fight than they were used to with Imps. She could see a woman wearing some kind of mask who was cutting down pirate after pirate with a chillingly familiar efficiency. Sheska was about to wade into battle to confront her when a pair of larger Imps charged up at her, each with a determined grimace on their face.
She promptly raised her pistol towards one, firing a bullet into his right eye as she parried the downward slash of the other. Then she stepped forward, jammed her knee up into the mans crotch, heel-kicked him back, and with a final sideways stroke, lopped off his head.
As Sheska felt the euphoria of killing wash over her, she looked over her shoulder once. "Farthing! You and I will defend the Captain with our lives! So long as either of us live, no Imp reaches the Captain!", she called over, just before locking blades with another boarder.
Cocking her revolver, she simply shot him in the foot, then ran him through as he staggered back. "Stupid Imperial sons of bitches. Do any of you think you can take the Skulk-Hound on?!", she called out, a sadistic grin on her face.
The sound of battle had reached a crescendo, but Vasco had always found music distracting and was engrossed in the medical measures that these military men needed. Word came that the Third Mate had died, cut to pieces by cannonballs. The masked doctor sighed, such an injury was beyond his abilities, Mr. Riley would have died in seconds from the trauma and blood, and Vasco had yet to find a way to bring back the dead. Still he did what he could to prevent more deaths; the sick bay was a conveyor belt of wounded going on one side and the healed coming out the other, injuries permitting of course. The room was thick of the smell of blood, one thing Vasco wasn't particularly fond of, the ferric scent cutting the air like an iron blade.He mentally pushed his thoughts to one side, best not to have distractions.
If Vasco had but one weakness, it could be said that he cared a little too much for his patients, especially Annis, whose face was trapped beneath a brass and copper mask for the rest of his life. The treatment, for her affiliation had been particularly hard to swallow for both patient and doctor. In a way, she was his greatest success and greatest failure, her survival proved his rather intrusive treatment to be a success and yet he had failed to cure the root of the problem - the toxin from the Misbegotten quill still there in her body. But enough of that, now he had other lives to save. He adjusted the lenses in his mask seeing the foreign bodies that plagued his current patient. In the efficient but delicate manner of his, he quickly liberated the patient's body from such nuisances, all the while in a little insular bubble of concentration that kept out from the world from interrupting him from his duties.
"Thank you Gar-" Adrianna started to say, before catching herself mid-sentence, and carried on saying something a bit more formal. "-Mr. Corvus." She then rushed to the wheel, and started giving out orders to all around her. Engines were being powered with great haste, the starboard cannons were loaded and primed for a full on broadside, and the crewmen were getting ready for boarding.
It was soon enough that Annis's boarding party made the first leap into battle, cutting several down in her first pass. Garrett meanwhile scope out the situation, picking targets for his rifle, and began loading bullets into the three chambers. One pirate had the guts to try and leap over to the Invincible, but Garrett slashed at the mans chest with his sword, causing him to hit the deck without much struggle.
'Hmph, that will show you what it means to cross me or the "Invincible".' He said to the deceased pirate, sheathing his sword, and then he re-aimed with his rifle. His sights were set on several pirates, and he pulled the trigger, letting all nearby hear the howl of Cerberus as all three were fired.
Lanester smiled as the boarding party crossed over; the pirates were done for, it was only a matter of time. They had superior numbers, with soldier training, and led by the most ferocious commanding officers in the fleet. They had little chance of surviving the destruction of their ship.
No matter what action they took.
Still, Lanester was an admiral, and any chance they had was therefore unacceptable. Taking to the rigging, she started to climb, ignoring the kerfuffle on the pirate vessel, until she'd reached far enough into the heights to get a solid view of the battle. From there, she took stock of the situation. As expected, the Imperial forces were advancing; more slowly then she would have liked, but advancing. Annis, Exeter, Capricorn, and Garrett were each pushing the forces forward, carving their way through the pirates. By the same note however, some of the pirates were unexpectedly skilled at the art of war. All in all, from up above, she could see the battle quickly turning into a battle of attrition; something they had not the time to deal with.
Raising her arm, she peered through the scope, searching for her target. The chaos of the battle did little to aid her, but after a short time, she found her. Putting her other hand to the trigger, she took her shot at the enemy "captain": Winged Beth. "for the empire." she said without emotion, then began to reload.
Feron lingered for a while after the doctor had finished tending to the misbegotten, eyes forward facing and unseeing. He remained out of no obligation to the animal that lolled before him, but more out of a lack of anything else to do. The good doctor had declined to give him any further orders and he had only been swabbing the upper hold out of a necessity to do something while the ship was in port.
While in the back of his mind Feron figured he should in some way associate himself with the beast before him, he found the very idea to be somewhat repulsive from a hygienic standpoint, not that he really had to worry about that, but the smell was still something he took into-
He stopped himself. Mindless wanderings. Unnecessary. Return to work.
Everything stayed the same for a while, but soon enough Feron was caught up in the rush that was the sighting of the pirate ship and the subsequent call to arms. He assembled along with the rest of the new automata and was designated to one of the main boarding parties, the one led by the owner of the misbegotten.
Feron stared blankly forward. His aptitude for fighting essentially didn't exist. The only reason he was used for boarding was because he was small and quick and often went unnoticed by the opponents. His standing orders on any raid was to do whatever he could to disable the ship from the inside out, acting like a standard automaton should he be seen, and should he be discovered, attack and give no quarter.
The cannonballs flew, crushing through decks, spreading death and destruction through both ships. The floor shook, and the noise assaulted her ears with full intensity, despite having her far higher ground. Crushed wood creaking and breaking, men screaming, the ship complaining as something at the back suddenly failed.
It all only barely registered. She'd been hard at work, with the calm precision of one who once stared into the eyes of giant lizards before firing. She'd sent bullets one after the other, spreading the fire over the work crews on the deck. She wasn't hitting that many fighters, and the influx of injured and dead crewmen would be gradual, hard to find unusual - perhaps that is why the call of sniper hadn't gone up, perhaps that is why there had been no return fire yet. She didn't linger long in that thought. There were men to kill.
After the initial exchange of cannonballs, the Mermaid started to lose speed - Jessie could see the imperials catching up, and knew what that would mean. With an advantage in speed, they were almost certain to board, making the loss of mobility she planned to cause by cutting down their deck crew not very significant at all.
A brief sigh escaped her lips, a single instant of thought outside of the action of shooting. Her attention roamed the other ship's deck, watching as the boarding parties organized, trying to get a sense of who lead who, and how. Eventually, her gaze fell on one of their officers, a brief appreciative whistle escaping her lips as she caught sight - however vague - of the triple-barelled gun he bore. That would be fine spoils.
She set the gun to her shoulder, calming her mind and body as she'd done before in preparation of the shot... But a sudden light just off the corner of her vision brought her attention around. Someone had just fired a weapon, and in that direction Jessie's attention went. There was no mistaking it this time- that woman was definitely an officer: she wore the odd, uncomfortable-looking clothes she'd come to associate with the imperial warriors. Their chief. An even better mark.
Breath slowed until it stopped completely. Thoughts ceased, she forgot even why that woman had been chosen as her target: All that existed was the gun's long barrel, and the target at the end of it. A single exhalation, and she pulled the trigger.
It was as she was reloading her rifle that she saw it; or rather heard it. first came the shot. It wasn't particularly surprising; it was a battle after all. However, the loud clang as the bullet impacted her metal arm was surprising.
She watched as the upper part of her metal arm bent inward, then felt the force of the blast as it knocked her back. The dent was hardly a problem; but the unbalancing effect was. With only one arm to hold her steady, there was little she could do to stop herself from tumbling from the rigging.
"Cap'n, Cavanaugh is working the Lightning Gun. Thought I'd come up here and watch your back, make sure no Imp's get close. We can't afford to lose you."
She couldn't complain, even if Sheska had disobeyed her order and left her post. The cannons were fired again.
"A captain is only as valuable as his crew thinks he is. Anyone can actually do it. Anyone with basic leadership skills and an understanding of how to fly an airship. Very few have an absolutely loyal crew, and even then they may only remain loyal as long as you lead them to their fortune. You watch your back, Beth, I would hate to hear a knife in the back ended your life."
It was the last advice Roberts had given her, before stepping off the ship in Isla Aether. As he walked away, with a bag across his shoulder and disappeared in the crowd, she had saluted him. It was the first and only time in her life she had saluted anyone, but it felt strangely appropriate.
"It's probably better if you're up here when they board."
Everything went fast after that. The imperials jumped aboard the mermaid and the fighting began. Pirates were rushing up from below deck to replace those who fell, while the imperials continued jumping over to their ship.
Beth kept an eye on everyone around her, and cringed when someone tried to jump over to the imperial frigate. Damn rookies.
"Isaac, get down below deck if you're not going to fight!" Beth stayed at the wheel and her crew did their best to keep the imperials away from her. She needed to speed up and pull away when Jason had fixed their little mishap.
She felt a pain in her arm, as a bullet grazed it. It started to bleed, but the pirates around her were taking worse damage. Beth searched for whoever had shot her, it might have been a stray bullet, but she did see someone climbing the rigging of the frigate. Someone who looked a lot like a commanding officer. Farthing looked at Beth, probably wondering if she was alright.
"Don't worry, it's just a scratch, their captains couldn't aim even if their life was on the line." Neither could Beth though.
"You reminded me of someone for a second there. I hope I'm around to see you surpass him one day."
She doubted she could surpass Roberts, which they had both been sailing under, but it was something to aspire for. Roberts must have seen something in her, as he had chosen her as his successor instead of Farthing or anyone else.
"Quite a goal that."
Farthing nodded, and then they both laughed as the one who had fired at Beth fell from the rigging. She saw Jason back up on deck.
"I take it you're done then? Farthing, you know what to do."
The older pirate put the grenade he was holding behind his back, and gestured for two others to follow him.
"Aye, just a little welcoming gift."
"I take it you're done then?"
"Aye. The ship should be back to full capacity as soon as the steam pressure builds back up in the starboard rotor. That should be any minute now." Jason unholstered his revolver, a furious glint in his eye as he cocked it. "Those shitrags fucked with my ship, Beth. Remember what I said I'd do to anybody that fucks with my goddamn ship?"
"Farthing, you know what to do."
The older pirate put the grenade he was holding behind his back, and gestured for two others to follow him.
"Aye, just a little welcoming gift." Jason cracked into a fiendish grin at those words. "You know, Farthing, I hear third-degree burns are in vogue at the Emperor's court. When you think about it, we're doing these bilgeswallowers a favor. Got to be presentable when you're kissing Viccy's ass, right?"
"Isaac, get down below deck if you're not going to fight!"
Isaac nodded quickly, eyes still on the battle.
He turned and ducked down below decks as fast as he could. It wasn't that he was cowardly (thought being afraid was his main state of existence), but quite frankly there was nothing he could do. Maybe he'd take one or two of the Imps down if he put out all the stops but what then? He'd get lost in the melee and Beth would be without her navigator.
Not sure where to head, Isaac decided he'd get to the engine room.
There was always a small chance the boarders would try their hand at sabotage, and if they did then somebody needed to be ready for them.
That somebody may as well be him.
A flash of light, a single bullet as it danced through the air, the impending clang as metal made contact with metal. What pain must she be feeling? Then Adrianna falls from the rigging. And then I see it, the one who pulled the trigger; a pretty woman no older than twenty five, her garb shows her to be one of the Neobedouin, and judging from her skill with a rifle, an Outrider. All these actions happen in a few brief moments. Regardless, she hurt my beloved, seems only fair that I return the favour so to speak.
Garrett steadied his aim as he looked down the scope of Cerberus, three fresh rounds were loaded into its chambers. His left thumb pulled the cocking mechanism back as he aimed at the woman's head. But then he moved his aim slightly to the left.
'No, I don't want to kill her; I wouldn't want the world to lose someone as pretty as you. Instead however, I'll make it so you were found. Apologies, but I have a duty to perform.' Garrett said to himself, but his words directed towards the Neobedouin, a brief smile being shown towards his opponent as he pulled the trigger. Anticipating a counter attack, he took cover, and began making his way towards a more defensive position on the Invincible.