As Isaac told her what he could rather plainly see and she couldn't, she felt herself relaxing a little, but at the same time, started to feel rather disappointed in herself. Isaac was right: She was going about this all wrong. And even flying blind as she was, she should have known these things.
After a few moments, she nodded, then sighed, putting her hand on her hip. "You're right, and I should've known that already. Damn it, I feel like an idiot.", she said, reaching up and scratching the back of her head.
"Anyway, thanks, Izzy. I'm sorry about earlier. I should have known better about that too, but I've just been off all day today.", she said, leaning against the railing again, this time facing Isaac so that it didn't seem like she was giving Beth too much attention.
"You're a good friend.", she added quietly, smiling a little as she felt calmer, more centered.
Things made a bit more sense now, and she could use that when she spoke to Beth again. There was still some turmoil between them, and they needed to sort that out.
"... and Dr. Roque is still seeing to the injured. From the looks of things I doubt we shall be losing any more men"
Lanester breathed a sigh of relief as the reports came to an end; they had been mostly good, which alleviated much of her worry. The way the fight had turned out was fortunate; which meant to say they were lucky. Before her untimely tumble from the rigging, she had seen enough of the battle to know the Imperial soldiers were largely overpowered by the enemy crew; something she was unwilling to see again. What more; their cannons had been far more effective and their "lightning gun" was a prime example of the worst kinds of threats an Imperial vessel faced against Sky-city pirates.
"Thank you for the report Ms. Baker-Cromwell; I will authorize any expenditures you deem needed to repair the ship. I do have another concern however; that encounter with the Mermaid was a travesty; it appears that particular ship was well prepared for "standard Imperial tactics and armory". Let me know if you have any suggestions to improve the ship; if we encounter another ship like theirs, we need to be able to gut them like the rotting fish they are." Adrianna said; a touch of malice in her voice.
She had seen the causality report on her desk; twenty-six lost sailors were far too many: one sailor was far too many.
"You're a good friend."
Isaac momentarily put the telescope down and turned to look at Sheska, smiling softly.
"Likewise. And don't worry about apologising, we've all been under a lot of stress lately."
He leaned against the railing.
"You're not an idiot, you're just not used to masking your feelings. Nothing wrong with that. And hey, you've respected my wishes to keep... the old job secret so far, so counts for something right?"
He was still keeping an eye out on the battle, but was now being much more open and communicative with Sheska. He'd notice if anything untoward started happening but right now he could manage being here to talk to his rather confused friend. She was always too hard on herself when it came to personal problems.
But hey, who was he to judge?
"Thank you for the report Ms. Baker-Cromwell; I will authorize any expenditures you deem needed to repair the ship. I do have another concern however; that encounter with the Mermaid was a travesty; it appears that particular ship was well prepared for "standard Imperial tactics and armory". Let me know if you have any suggestions to improve the ship; if we encounter another ship like theirs, we need to be able to gut them like the rotting fish they are."
"Speed." Annis said before Lanester was even finished.
"That's their main strength. They can out-manoeuvre us, because they're faster. We need to remove that advantage. Obviously we can't be faster without making some serious alterations to the ship, but we can adapt in different ways. Increase the range and angle of our cannons, stronger armour, any advantage we can wring out. If anything else comes to mind I shall return to speak with you."
Annis turned on her heel.
"Now if you'll excuse me Rear-Admiral, I must return to my rounds."
Annis left and headed straight back to the deck, overseeing the crew's work. She'd need to return to her quarters soon enough to take stock of the ship's itinerary, but for now she needed to make sure the repairs were under way.
Lanester was right, the crew had been tragically underprepared to deal with those pirates.
She'd have to make sure that next time things would go differently.
"Likewise. And don't worry about apologizing, we've all been under a lot of stress lately.".
She snorted and laughed softly. "That's for fucking sure. And I know that once things are back to normal in public with the Cap'n and me, we can always explain it as stress, having too much happen at once. Shit like that puts people off their stride.", she said, glancing back at the ship to watch the Captain.
"You're not an idiot, you're just not used to masking your feelings. Nothing wrong with that. And hey, you've respected my wishes to keep... the old job secret so far, so counts for something right?".
Sheska suddenly looked back at him with a stern look. "Now that's nothing to beat yourself up over, Izzy. From what you told me, you couldn't control yourself. They had a hold of your mind, there was nothing you could do about that. What you did was not your fault.", she whispered firmly, jabbing her finger into his shoulder to emphasize the point.
"Besides, you're my best friend. And best friends keep each others secrets, keep each other steady. So keeping it to myself is the least I can do.", she added, shrugging and going back to watching the battle.
God, she wished she was there, whole and healthy, cutting a swathe of blood around her like she usually did. It was better than feeling hurt about Beth, and being angry at the people who twisted Isaac against his will.
As the ship made contact with their target, Jason saw the familiar sight of boarding planks lowering and crewmen drawing their weapons. Ed had ran up from the gunnery to join in the fight, bringing most of his crew. While Jason couldn't fault the man for enjoying his work, he always found Ed's... enjoyment of mayhem and violence to be slightly offputting. Nonetheless, it was effective - the crew of the Skyfolk ship seemed taken aback to see Ed running up, cackling maniacally.
Jason readied his pistol and ran to join the rest of the crew in their boarding. 'The leaders of most vessels don't want their crew to die, even if it means giving up their ships. Time for some intimidation tactics...'
"We're giving you boys exactly one warning - drop your weapons and surrender or Captain's Beth's bastards will rip them from your corpses!" He punctuated that call with a shot from his pistol, aiming it to the side of one of the vessel's deckhands. The shot ricocheted near his foot, causing the boy to jump with a yelp.
As Annis left her cabin, Adrianna was left to nothing but a mess of papers to deal with - primarily related to the deaths of the sailors. It would take some time to write out the formal notes to their families, but it would need to be done - preferably before they reached next port. That said; she was hardly in the right frame of thought to begin tailoring letters of such ill-news, and she had some time before they would reach helium. Beside all of this, she had her own health to think of; if she died writing passing-letters, it would be an unfavorable event to everyone (save perhaps Exeter); ironic, but unfavorable.
Grabbing the pulmometer, she finally began taking her readings. It was hardly difficult, nor was it the first time she had suffered an injury - her missing arm a firm piece of evidence to that, so she completed it quickly and without hassle. Adrianna supposed that Dr. Roque would not approve of her walking to his sick bay - he would no doubt insist on her continued bed rest - but she had been stuck in her cabin since her injury, and if he didn't like it, then he would need to sedate her to make her follow the command indefinitely.
Straightening her coat; she opened the door to the deck and made her way down ship toward the med-bay. The sailors were hard at work, and few noticed her passing through; those that did saluted, to which she did her best to reply. She didn't really care that few saluted; they were busy with their work and she rarely sat on formality; particularly after a battle. Everyone - sailors included - mourned when people they knew died. On a ship, if even a small number passed in a raid; it hurt. Those that died were drinking friends, bunk mates, soldiers-in-arms, and rigging-mates. No death on a ship went unnoticed, and everyone mourned - at least a little.
After a few minutes surveying the damage for herself - she trusted Annis's words, but some things required your own eyes to comprehend - she finally reached Dr. Roque's bay. She knocked on the door, hoping to give any patient inside the privacy they deserved should they need it.
Exeter sat as Dr. Roque cleaned his wounds. It took a little time; but it was worth it. Better to prevent sickness if he could help it. It just as the good doctor finished and he was leaving, that there came a knock at the door. Seeing he was on his way out, he moved to the door - he owed the doctor that much and it was no skin off his back.
As the door swung open however, and he came face-to-face with the rear-admiral herself; he found himself regretting the decision. Still, he didn't show it on his face, and responded quickly and elegantly. "Admiral: I was just going to see you to make my report. You have impeccable timing. The lower decks are-" he started to say before the realization that if she was at the medical bay, it was for a reason struck; so instead he said. "I'll tell you after you are done." he finished. Then he left, making his way to the Admirals cabin to await her return.
"We're giving you boys exactly one warning - drop your weapons and surrender or Captain's Beth's bastards will rip them from your corpses!"
Beth was in the middle of the fray, having just teared her fifth skyfolk man open, when she heard Jason's voice telling them to surrender. She didn't think it'd actually work though.
"Alright, alright. Enough!" She heard someone shouting above the fighting, her own men didn't stop though, they continued fighting.
"Mermaids, stop!" Beth shouted as well. They didn't need to cut people who surrendered down, it was just barbaric. She searched for their captain, or at least the one who had ordered the crew to step down.
It was an older man with a beard and black coat, probably ten years older than herself, but even if pirates didn't live long, the same couldn't be said about other sailors.
"What do you want?" He asked, and looked at Jason, which he must have mistaken for the captain. Maybe Beth seemed an unlikely captain in the situation, having jumped ship first without any regard for her safety.
"We're taking the ship!" She stepped forward, and placed herself in front of Jason. "That's not negotiable, and anyone with combat experience and who is willing to swear loyalty to me, will get the chance to become part of my crew."
The skyfolk captain stroked his beard, as if considering her deal. He was too old to become a pirate, and he would lose his ship if he surrendered, but he'd lose more than that if he didn't.
"Fine..." He said hesitantly, with a sigh. Beth smiled, well, it had gone better than expected.
"Alright, mermaids, we'll be commandering this ship until we get to Helium City where we can sell it."
Some in the crew cheered, others might still have wanted to continue fighting. She couldn't see that many dead from their side, but the skyfolk had been unlucky. Beth would stay aboard the skyfolk ship, with some of her own to fly the ship. Farthing or Sheska could command the mermaid in the meantime.
Vasco, was finished with tending to Exeter's wounds, thankfully. He sometimes wondered why he even helped the foul man with his foul wounds and his foul pet. The only answer to that, which came up every time, was his pride as a doctor. If Exeter was to mysteriously die of an infection or complications of an injury, Vasco's involvement would surely be investigated. But, just then, he was broken from his thoughts as the Rear-Admiral entered the room. Exeter excused himself as he realised that she was here possibly because of medical reasons. Dr. Roque quickly cleared the table of dirty equipment and turned her.
"What is it, Admiral?" He inquired.
Eddie jumped across the space between the ships, not waiting for the planks or even the ropes to be thrown. His left foot caught the railing and it sent him spinning, luckily cutting a man open as he went past, letting him regain his footing on the deck, he'd just fired off a shot point-blank, which tore through three of the men before falling out into the sky. He continued to fight, taking a minor cut on his coat for his troubles.
"Alright, mermaids, we'll be commandering this ship until we get to Helium City where we can sell it."
Eddie had been in the middle of a duel with a particularly skilled crewman, but the captain's words stopped him from striking the final blow. He sighed and wiped his sword on a fallen man's shirt before sheathing it and walking back to the Mermaid. So much for a post-Imperial victory.
"What is it, Admiral?" Dr. Roque asked as she entered the medical bay.
Adrianna pulled a small piece of paper from her coat, upon which she had written her Pulmometer results. "These are the pulmomenter readings you requested Dr. Roque." she said without much grandeur. "I'm merely giving you the medical report as you requested." she said, holding out the small slip. She didn't claim to understand the details of the paper, but then she was no medical professional.
"I also wanted to hear your report on the injuries from the last battle. Particularly if you need any additional medical equipment or supplies in Helium - it will be among our last chances to resupply on any difficult materials." she said, hoping to complete her list of requisitions. Until they had a new Quartermaster, the duty had fallen into her hands. "I was also hoping you might lead the resupply team in Helium; you know what to look for in medical equipment better then anyone, and I'm sure with the help of Mr. Corvus you will be able to find the other supplies we need without much difficulty. If, however, you feel you need to stay with the ship, I can arrange for someone else to go; so feel no obligation." she said, qualifying he statement at the end.
Vasco nodded as he took the results and plotted them on a chart. Nothing could be seen as of yet, there would have to be at least three readings before a trend could be seen, and after all, this was only to prevent fluid build-up. Nothing more, nothing less. She went on and on about reports and such and what was that? Head the resupply team with Mr. Corvus? A charming opportunity. Dr. Roque had some questions regarding Skyfolk medicine and the neutralisation of poisons. He handed her the many-amended report of the battle and any other incident requiring medical attention.
"Long story short: cuts, gashes and burns." He curtly replied as he put the graph paper away, noting the lack of ink in his pen and then gloomily continued, "More deaths than usual with these skirmishes..." Vasco then concluded his rather brief report, after all, most of the details were in the written one that he handed over and moved on to the matters of the resupply team, "Unless my doctoral duties excuse me, I will be glad to lead the team. After all, I have some concerns I need to talk about with Garrett." After that mouthful, he took a deep breath and awaited her reply.
Samuel walked up on deck to see that the fighting had ceased just as quickly as it had began. He boarded the other ship knowing the if there were wounded from either ship, chances were it wasn't on the Mermaid.
"I'll tend to any wounded from this ship, no need to waste time trying to move everyone across." Samuel shouted to Beth as he set to work on finding the wounded on the captured ship and move em to somewhere at least out of the way of the rest of the crew. By the time they made port he should have fixed up everyone as best he could or have lost them.
Jason watched as the Skyfolk ship's officers made their surrender formal. Laying down their guns and filing over to the Mermaid in chains, they gave their remaining former crew a bow and continued to move off, their head held high.
"Wait." Jason headed over to the boat manned by the ship's former captain - an older man. By the tattoos he wore, Jason guessed he was from one of the northern cities; likely Thunder Sky or Sentinel Bay. Even if they where greedy, thieving pirates, it didn't sit well with Jason that they'd just dump this man in a strange city so far from home without anything at all.
The man looked at Jason with a mixture of apprehension and anger. "What else, boy? Come to rob me of my fillings, too?" Jason couldn't help but chuckle at his moxie. You didn't captain a Skyfolk vessel without some, he supposed. "Fortunately for you, nothing so brutal." He fished around his pockets and produced some coins, at first glance, it looked to be enough to charter a few people on a cheap ship up north. "Take this. You look like you'll be needing this far more than I."
The man balked, pushing Jason's hand back. "I don't need charity, least of all from somebody robbing me blind." Again, Jason couldn't help but laugh - he couldn't help but respect somebody capable of sticking to their principles in such an unpleasant situation. Looking the old man over, Jason saw he had... a pack of cigarettes. 'Perfect.'
Jason, with a deft flourish, snatched the cigarettes from the man's coat pocket and replaced it with the coins. "Then consider it a trade." The old man moved to protest, but Jason raised his pistol and shook his head. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist. Besides..." Jason removed a cigarette from the pack, lighting it and taking in a deep draught. "I'm doing you a favor. These things'll kill you." With a self-satisfied chuckle at the old man's mixed expression of indignation and gratitude, he turned back to the Mermaid. If they where going to dock in Helium City by nightfall, the ship would need some preparations done.
Before Sheska could hear Isaac's reply, she saw the fighting on the Skyfolk ship stop. Leaning against the railing, she watched as Jason called out to them, ordering them to surrender. Then Beth stepped up, completely unscathed, and gave the old captain her terms.
When they accepted, Sheska simply grinned and stepped back. "Well, that was easy.", she said with a soft chuckle.
"Alright, Mermaids, we'll be commandeering this ship until we get to Helium City where we can sell it.".
She stretched, then glanced over at Isaac and smirked. "Well, looks like the Mermaid is in our hands for the time being. Hope that ship has some valuable cargo, maybe something we can sell off on its own for extra profit. We can use all the money we can get for this venture.", she said, before striding confidently to the helm.
She felt better for talking to Izzy, and for seeing Beth take over a ship with naught but a scratch. That, along with the plan she had in mind for talking to her, made things clearer and eased her mind.
So when she got to the wheel, she was feeling more like her old self. "Alright Izzy, make sure we're still on our heading. Farthing! I want to be separate from the other ship in an hour at the longest. So, make sure the crew on the capture that are staying there get it ready to separate, and everyone staying on the Mermaid is on deck. Lets get to Helium City and make us some gold, gentleman!", she shouted, grinning widely as she grasped the wheel.
Things were starting to look up, and she hoped they stayed that way. Even if they didn't though, things were working out now at the very least.
Even from the depths of the hold he could hear the clamour of the tumultuous battle above him; the ring of steel flashing against steel, the deafening cracks of pistols and the boisterous cries of battle. He wanted to see it, wanted to experience it, he wanted to be there on the deck. Seeing for himself what the Adventure's of Trilby were like in real life. Did it match the romantic splendour of the penny novels he had read, or were they more brutal than fantastic? He needed to know.
Fumbling in the dark he gathered his meagre belongings, the penny novels, any pins that may have fallen off his raggedy suit and made sure not to forget what made the ensemble complete: his hat, and made his way up from the hold in a clumsy ascent.
He found his way into one off the upper decks. Dim but still dark there was just enough light for him to make out where he was going, the light that did make it through the tightly packed wood guided him further up, until all he could was go along. His lofty height did not help, his head kept bumping into the eaves. Unable to put up with the constant knocks and the damage it might be doing to his hat, he elected to crawl, his slender stature and green suit made him look reminiscent of a snake slithering across the floor.
The light guided him to an opening where he could the battle. Real pirates were boarding the ship! They weren't dressed in the splendiferous rainbow coloured outfits with peg legs and parrots on their shoulders like they did in the tales he had read, but that was beside the point. Real life pirates! He was bursting from the excitement. Not only had he managed to escape Desolation when everyone else were busy mocking him undetected, he had snuck onto this ship so far undetected and now he was seeing real life pirates. Could it get any better? Would there be romance and intrigue as well? He was bubbling at the thought.
In his excitement arm and leg and two other arms spilled out from the opening, which he now discovered to be a door, and he tumbled out landing on his back in the middle of the deck. Most people looked surprised, others looked bemusedly at the strange creature that had rolled onto the deck. Unsure what to do he did the only thing he could think of. He introduced himself.
"I'm Hector" He announced, beaming unsurely.
Lanester glanced at the reports; not giving it much attention at the moment. There would be time for a more details analysis later. For the moment, she was awaiting Mr. Roque's response on whether or not he would lead the resupply team. When he answered however, the response was not what she had been expecting.
"What does he need to speak with Garrett about?" she wondered; her more paranoid nature taking root. "Did I say something under the effects of the Morphine?" she wondered, more then a little concerned. Despite this, she managed to keep her face (mostly) unrevealing. Getting passed the sudden case of paranoia, Adrianna responded how she had originally intended. "Very good Mr. Roque. I will see to it you are in charge then; failing any sudden medical emergencies."
"On which note,-" she said, before turning toward the door, keeping the important documents in hand "-let me know of any specific requisitions you have and I will see that they are funded. Unless there is anything else, I'm afraid I have several difficult letters to write." she finished, looking down at the list of casualties. Thereafter, she made her way to the door.
Samuel watched Hector fall out of the room and instinctively drew his pistol on the man, before he explicitly enough made it known he wasn't a threat. He then put the pistol back in his holster calmly and set back to getting a bullet out of a sedated man's chest.
"Samuel, a pleasure to meet you." He said as he was finally able to pull the round ball out of the man and began to sew him up after cleaning the wound.
"So what has you falling out of a door Mr. Hector?" he asked.
Beth saw Eddie and some of his heading back to the mermaid, Jason helped the old captain and the doc showed up to treat the wounded. She heard a door opening and drew her weapon again, when a misbegotten fell onto the deck next to her.
Beth stepped away from him, since he was laying on his back, looking up and she was wearing a dress as usual.
"I'm Winged Beth, the second captain of the Mermaid." She said, before turning away from him, having lost most of her interest in him for the time being. He appeared to be a stowaway. "I want the ship searched, and check the cargo. I don't want any unexpected surprises before we get to Helium City."
Six pirates went off in pairs, to search the ship and check the cargo. Beth herself climbed up to the wheel and put her hands on it.
"Alright, good work men. Let's celebrate in Helium tonight!"
Some cheered, and the Captain realized why she had thought she would wake up with another hangover tomorrow. Third time's the charm, so maybe it wouldn't be that bad.
A few days later:
It was early morning; the sun bright in the low sky, barely cresting over the horizon, on a clear, cold day when the distance glimmer of Helium City came into view.
At the time of this, Adrianna was on deck, her spyglass to her eye, watching the city. The route between Desolation and Helium was well traveled and timed; so she knew to expect the city around this time given wind speeds and delays. While she had visited Helium many a time before, she was keeping a close eye on it this time for a single reason; the Mermaid. If her suspicions were correct, it was likely the Mermaid was in port. If that were the case, hey would need to be wary in the city, but it also gave them an edge. If they knew where it was, they could keep an eye on it; maybe even gather some useful intelligence. She was half-way tempted to seek out the now infamous (to her) Beth and meet her properly like a real captain.
Not that Beth was anything like a real captain.
Several days has passed since the attack by The Mermaid, and the crew had managed to weather that particular storm; though their pride had taken a hit. Garrett had mostly been spending his time helping out wherever he could above or below deck, wanting to appear as useful, though he did make sure to spend some time with Adrianna. It was roughly the third or forth day into the journey, when news was heard of Helium City being spotted on the horizon, with any luck, they should reach land soon.
After helping out down in the cargo hold to make sure everything was in order, Garrett made his way up on deck, and yawned as the crisp, cold morning air hit him. He then noticed the Admiral was out on deck as well, looking through her spyglass and no doubt having a better view of Helium City than some of the others could. Garrett had been to that place a couple of times in the past, as a few of his mercenary contracts had him end up there. He respected that it was really the only place where people of all nations and creeds could meet in some relative form of peace; a part of him wished all the land was like that, but he realised that people couldn't get along everywhere. Making sure he looked respectable, he approached Adrianna.
"Morning m'lady." Garrett said in a courteous manner. "How fare you this morning?"
"Well, looks like the Mermaid is in our hands for the time being. Hope that ship has some valuable cargo, maybe something we can sell off on its own for extra profit. We can use all the money we can get for this venture."
Isaac smiled and nodded briefly. Sheska looked like she was snapping out of her gloom a little.
"No kidding. If this job is as big as I think it is... fingers crossed and all that bollocks." The crew started to return and Sheska headed off, busying herself with prepping the ship for disengagement. Isaac walked off his own way, to get his bearings. He had to admit, the atmosphere after a successful raid was infectious. He couldn't help but grin.
Maybe, just maybe things will turn out alright.
As usual, he awoke crying.
The dream faded quickly this time, but the sight of blood on his hands never went away. Isaac stumbled to his basin and washed the sleep from his eyes, studying the haggard face in the mirror.
How could he already look so old? His scant few years had not been kind. He left the room and headed back about his usual tasks, tracking down coffee in the process.
They should be approaching Helium, and sure enough as Isaac reached the top deck he recognised the familiar outline of the free city. He smiled. He'd spent time there before, in all three walks of life. Spy, escapee, navigator... no matter what Isaac always seemed to find his way back. He loved the city. The promise of it. There was something about Helium that not only showed up the oppression of the Empire but the instability of the sky cities. A few other crew members were up and about and soon enough somebody would have to alert the captain. He'd do it himself but he needed to be up here keeping the city in sight. And they had a while yet, as always Isaac was up abominably early.
Plenty of time to relax and watch the sun rise.
Helium city. Annis had never loathed a place more. It was chaos out there. Factions from all across America met in some farcical truce and pretended to be civilised to one another, it was no wonder the city was impossible to control. She snorted with contempt at the supposed "law and order" of it. No, Helium would be far better under Imperial control, or even better, wiped off the map completely.
But they needed to resupply and refit. Something Annis was keenly aware of. She was sat in her office, making last adjustments to the quote the dockside crew would need to go out and fiil - fresh water, food, ammunition... everything they'd been expending since the voyage began. She'd also made a note of reading up on all the materials needed for Lanester's "adjustments" to the ship so she could add those to the shopping list. She'd really rather not venture into the city herself to pick them up, but if no other option presented itself she would volunteer. Those materials were absolutely necessary, especially considering the likelihood of coming back into contact with The Mermaid.
She scratched the back of her neck irritably. Doctor Roque had done his best to make the mask as comfortable as possible, but she somehow always managed to find something wrong with it. Maybe it was him.
She'd have to go and talk to him about that upgrade soon.
Maybe after finishing the work here.
Samuel woke up and checked on a few patients he had before walking up on the deck. He stretched his arms as he climbed the stairs leading up onto top deck and then leaned on the railing to watch everything while it was still a tad quiet. This time was useful for him in order to think and relax before another hectic day was coming. It also gave him some slight chance to make sure he kept up his own physical fitness to keep up with the rest of the crew. He saw Isaac ad simply waved to the man, he wasn't in the mood for spoiling anything for another at the moment.
It took longer than they thought before Helium City came into view, but Sheska had to smile when it did. For all its flaws, like allowing Imps to roam free and having laws against openly killing them on the streets, it was a good city. She knew she was there once before, but had a feeling that she had actually been there several times. Then again, the other times she may have simply drank too much and was in a booze-induced stupor for the entire durations of those stays. She could never tell half of the time's she made port because of that.
Farthing had done an excellent job of making sure the Mermaid and the capture separated, and while Beth maneuvered it right where she wanted it, Sheska got busy making a course for the Chase Tower.
The old monument stood tall above most of the city, and she carefully brought the ship alongside one of the upper rungs, barking out orders to the men to moor them to the 'airship dock'. After taking care of the necessity of setting a watch for the ship and threatening to skin them if anything happened on their watch, she leaned against the nearest railing and stared out into the city.
As she did, she let the troubles at the back of her mind come to the forefront. Like the fact that the ship was going to have new blood before they cast off again, and how she hated breaking in new crewmates. Most took awhile to really get how things ran on that ship.
Or the fact that she was certain, and hoping even, to see the Imp crew that they faced off against just before their arrival. She wanted the chance to pay them back, for her arm, as well as every other crime she felt the Empire committed against her, and her dear Captain.
And of course, speaking to the Captain herself about how things were going to work, between them. But, she thought as she pushed back from the railing, I suppose I'll burn those bridges when I get to them.
As the sun rose, Jason could see the outline of Helium City's skyline appear from the horizon. He couldn't help but sigh - it was a nice city, to be sure, and its technical academies where some of the best in North America. But Jason knew that given what happened in High Tortuga, the time the Mermaid spent here would likely be the last reprieve they'd have for a long, long time. And he'd be spending it working.
'Typical.' He spat out his last cigarette with a grimace, letting the butt fall overboard. 'At least I'll be able to get some more smokes.'
Getting bored with the view, Jason returned to the engine room. He gathered up his tools and other supplies he'd need for his journey into the city and started packing them into his satchel. "Jake, Fry, the two of you are in charge while I'm gone. You know the drill - I expect one standard-issue ship when I return." With a half-cocked wave, he headed to his cabin and gathered up the prosthetic arm. Satisfied he had everything he need, Jason returned to the deck to await the ship's arrival.
She had been overly optimistic about how long it would take to reach Helium City. Nonetheless they did arrive a couple of days later, most of which she had spent behind the wheel of the skyfolk airship. She had gotten little sleep, and combined with the lack of drinking it had made her grumpy. The city should allow her to get both.
Beth smiled as she saw the mermaid flying above them, and dock at the tower. It was a sight she'd never get tired of. One that held dear memories for her, even if she prefered spending her time on the ship. She steered the capture towards the tower as well, but not as high up, since she didn't enjoy walking these stairs. She had gotten sick of it the first time, the other times it had been a slow torture.
She shouted out her orders to the crew on the ship, which were few in comparison with those on the mermaid, but a smaller ship didn't need as many anyway. Eventually they anchored the ship to the tower, and she breathed in relief. Not because she had been worried, but because she was finally free of this damned ship. She didn't care about it, she couldn't if she wanted to sell it as soon as possible. The cargo hadn't contained anything exquisite, just the average goods which you could sell for a decent enough price to consider the journey worth it.
Stepping off the ship, she sighed as she remembered the stairs. Well, better get trudging and pay Jack for two ships. His prices for one were already trying to rip her off.
Beth told the crew to guard the ship, then turned to Hector. She didn't trust him yet, and would rather have him where she could see him.
"You're with me." He hadn't been locked up, because he didn't seem to be part of the old crew. Beth headed for the stairs with Hector, and began the descent. "How did you end up on a skyfolk airship?"
Even if she didn't trust him now, he was still a misbegotten, which she had considered her own.
She made her way through the crowded city, towards the docks, or tower in this case. In one hand she was carrying a black suitcase, and in the other she clenched a letter. She had been told by Jaqui to find some imperials to give the invitation too. Her own people would handle the rest of the guests. At first she had been surprised, but Jaqui was one of the few people she thought of as a friend, so obviously she would help her.
Her business in the city of Helium had been private, but she had been waiting for a frigate to arrive. In the meantime, she had been living as a guest in the mayor's house. It had been a few weeks now.
She stopped at the foot of the tower, and watched the airships come and go. She kind of missed being onboard one, but at the same time she had a better life while she was on ground, and not in the air.
Wilhelmena checked her pocketwatch, a gift from a friend. She thought the frigate would arrive any moment, and when she looked up at the sky again, she saw it break through the clouds.
When she turned, she spotted not only Isaac, but Jason and Samuel as well, and she smiled. She was hoping to set foot on dock with at least Izzy, but Jason and Sam would be welcome to come with. She needed to regroup with the Captain and see how things were going to go with the capture, and then the new recruits when it came to that.
Putting her hand on her hip, she called out to them. "Oi, you three. You care to come with me and find Cap'n Beth? Need to find what the take was for that Skyfolk ship, what supplies we need and the like. May as well come along with me. It's Helium City after all.", she pointed out with a smirk, striding over to them.
When she looked at Izzy, her expression changed to one of resignation. "Damn, Izzy, you didn't get much sleep last night? Again?", she asked with exasperation, but she patted his shoulder out of sympathy.
She had been having the same problem with nightmares. All of them involved Capricorn, and some of the worst started out nicely enough as a dream about Beth. But even they twisted so she had to watch Beth get torn apart, limb by limb, before suffering the same fate herself. She would be glad once she was rid of that monster, preferably by killing it herself.
But she shook her head and sighed, looking at the others and pushing her dreadlocks out of her face. "Well, lets get to movin'. Cap'n's sure to be at the bottom of the docks, so we can meet her there, so long as we're quick about it.", she told them, before striding off of the ship and starting down the long flight of stairs.
"Morning m'lady." Garrett said in a courteous manner, appearing behind her "How fare you this morning?" Adrianna was a bit shocked to hear the voice behind her; the ship was mostly running on skeleton crew at this hour, which meant most of the main crew were either still asleep or just awakening - except Annis who never seemed to sleep despite Dr. Roque's protests. "Quite well Garrett." she said with a smile. She put down the spyglass and looked at him in the morning light; happy for the company and happier still it was him. "And yourself?" she asked, staring into the rising sun; a simple pleasure she had taken to enjoying. When she had joined the IAN, she'd spent all her time focusing on advancement and goals and the "good of the empire." Since then, since she'd meet Garrett, she'd taken to enjoying the reason why any of that was worth it. The sun, the sky, the people. It was good; why change it.
At the sight of the rising sun on the horizon, she was reminded of her dream some nights ago and lightly blushed. She felt thankful the rising sun covered the change in color well, else she'd have something to explain. she took a moment to stare around; no one within sight. She pushed herself up on her toes to make up the difference in height and kissed Garrett on the cheek; now it was a sunrise she could really enjoy.
Meanwhile; Helium City and all its problems was approaching at a slow, steady pace. Who knew what it would bring; and that was what made it exciting.
Inside the bounds of the city, from a window in a castle in the sky, a lone figure stared out away from the sun, roughly in the direction of a barely visible imperial frigate. The figure smiled and stretched; today would be the day. Packing up a large bag of supplies - mostly mechanical and clockwork components and tools to fix and repair them - the figure stepped out of the room, the smile in full bloom.
"Today's the day."
"Oi, you three. You care to come with me and find Cap'n Beth? Need to find what the take was for that Skyfolk ship, what supplies we need and the like. May as well come along with me. It's Helium City after all." Jason turned to see Sheska approach him, gesturing alike to Isaac and Sam. He instinctively reached into his coat pocket for a cigarette, and silently cursed when he realized he was out.
"Well, as much as I'd love to, I don't have much time to run inventory." He unzipped his satchel and showed Sheska the prosthetic arm to illustrate his point. "If you really need somebody from the engineering department, just head to the engine room and drag Fry with you." He closed his satchel, securing its contents and hefting it fully over his shoulders. "However, I do need a brief word with Beth. So, lead on."
After the rather precarious introduction to the Captain, landing wear he had, looking up , he had expected less amicable treatment. Instead once he had got up, straightened his hat, patted himself down and stifled a blush, he had been escorted to a rather nice room. Well anything would have been nicer then the blocks or the snug little hidey hole he had been nestled in and was allowed to come and go as he pleased. His only complaint was the bed was too short; is legs uncomfortably dangled over end, leaving them stiff when he woke up that morning.
He stretched himself awake and sauntered onto deck ins search of some food, instead he found something much more glorious and found himself, jaw agape, leaning against the bow of the ship and admiring the wonderful vista of Helium City - only to be interrupted by the captain.
"You're with me. How did you end up on a skyfolk airship?"
He followed her down the stairs and wondered how to answer, well hopefully this time he could make a better second impression.
He dug his hands into his pockets and brandished six spoons, "By digging"
"Quite well Garrett." Adrianna said with a smile. She soon put down the spyglass and looked at Garrett in the morning light; looking happy for the company and even happier still it was him. "And yourself?" she asked, then staring into the rising sun.
"Last nights sleep was enjoyable, so I feel rather refreshed. Thank you for asking." Garrett said with a smile. Adrianna then took a moment to look around the immediate area, after noticing that no one was in sight, she pushed herself up on her toes and kissed him. Garrett responded to this by standing behind Adrianna, and putting his arms around her, then kissing her passionately on the lips. There were some other things he wanted to do, but thought it best to play it safe... for now at the very least. He then whispered something into her ear.
"You know, whilst this sunrise may be beautiful, its nothing in comparison to you. I'll always defend you, no matter what." Garrett then kissed Adrianna on the lips once more before letting go, and standing to one side.
"So, how came your up early then? Come to get a gorgeous view of Helium City before we dock?" Garrett asked casually.
Samuel looked at Sheska when she addressed him.
"No time like the present I suppose. I've been keeping track of what we need and what we could use more of." He made sure to follow as Sheska began back down into the lower areas of the ship. Already going back over his mental list of all the items he needed and wanted for the health of the crew.
Isaac nodded once as Sheska gathered the group together and stepped forwards to fall in with them.
As he drew closer Sheska frowned and put a friendly hand on his shoulder.
"Damn, Izzy, you didn't get much sleep last night? Again?"
Isaac smiled faintly.
"Oh, you know how it is. Mug of java I'll perk right up." he held his tin mug up for emphasis and took another gulp.
He wasn't entirely sure why Sheska had asked him to come along. He wasn't exactly the first crew member you'd come to to assess a ship or its take. But hey, he didn't exactly have much to do until they knew their next heading, so he might as well try make himself useful.
She glanced back when they each responded and huffed. Isaac was amiable enough, as was Samuel, while Jason promptly brandished the prosthetic arm they were planning on grafting onto what used to be her left shoulder.
"Well, as much as I'd love to, I don't have much time to run inventory. If you really need somebody from the engineering department, just head to the engine room and drag Fry with you. However, I do need a brief word with Beth. So, lead on.".
She shuddered once and rubbed her wound, which was more than a little sore at the moment. "I'm not looking forward to what it'll take for you two to get that thing attached to me. Anyway, Jason, Fry is your lackey. I'm the First Mate, so I might as well go to the top of the engineering food chain as it were. Besides, I figure you already know what you need. If you don't, you'll find out regardless. You have initiative.", she said with a small smirk.
"Oh, you know how it is. Mug of java I'll perk right up.".
She stopped on the stairs and looked back at him, an eyebrow quirked up. "Izzy, that stuff can't possibly be good for you. What you need, is rum. Proper pirates drink.", she said, jabbing her finger in his direction before continuing down the stairs and murmuring to herself, "Of course, I'm not one to talk when it comes to shitty sleep.".
"You know, whilst this sunrise may be beautiful, its nothing in comparison to you. I'll always defend you, no matter what." Garrett whispered in her ear before returning her kiss. She smiled in return, playfully jabbing her elbow into his side, whispering back "Quite the romantic aren't we Mr. Corvus. I knew I kept you around for a reason." she offered back. There were plenty of reasons she kept him around beyond the one mentioned and he knew it. She would list them, but she wanted to dock the Invincible sometime today.
She glanced around; still safe. It was a dangerous game they were playing, but at least it was fun. none the less, the crew would be awake soon, so getting back to business seemed a prudent choice of actions. Besides, their game could wait a bit.
"So, how came your up early then? Come to get a gorgeous view of Helium City before we dock?" Garrett said, after making a more personal statement. Adrianna sighed at the reminder, then began her explanation. "Hardly. I'm trying to keep an eye out for the Mermaid; it was headed in this direction and I don't want to have another conflict in Helium airspace; the Helium trade is too great a risk. There's a veritable ships graveyard on the ground due to Imperial laws forbidding conflict in Helium airspace." she said, a definite annoyance in her words. Too many privateers used the less-then perfect relations between the Empire and Helium to raid Imperial ships. Admittedly, they were mostly cargo ships (not IAN Frigates) so there was less of a threat to them, but it was one of the many reasons trade in the Empire was so limited. With the Empire all but declawed in Helium space, the flight into the city was always a headache.
Adrianna, always the type to try and turn a weakness into an advantage, was also looking for another reason. While they couldn't fight the Mermaid directly, they could track it, watch it, gather info, and sabotage it with almost supernatural ease in Helium; so long as the citizens of the city remained unaffected. If Adrianna wanted anything, it was information on the ship that dared attack an Imperial Frigate and escape. Information won wars and battles, on the sea, in the air, on the ground. It gave the weaker combatant every advantage.
And Adrianna wanted every advantage.
Time passed as the ship made its final approach. By this point, the crew was in full force, alive with excitement at visiting the city (read: tavern); even if it was a dirty Sky-city by trade. Through it all, The Invincible and Adrianna kept an eye on the city for the Mermaid. She'd thought she'd spotted it some time ago, but couldn't be certain until they came around again. Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the approach would take them well within eyesight. Knowing the way Pirate leaders thought, even if they were out trying to sell their ill-gotten loot or sleeping, there would be a skeleton crew protecting the ship. If they had any sense, they would be keeping as much an eye out as she was, meaning there wouldn't be much of a surprise. Still; if nothing else, they could confirm if the ship WAS the Mermaid or not without the shadow of a doubt.
The Invincible came around the tower at a slow crawl, losing speed so they could dock safely. As they made the turn, Adrianna spotted it; the lightning gun, the cannon damage, the ugly figurehead; all identical. It even looked to have the same gaudy paint job from their battle before (clearly no proper maintenance done since the battle). Adrianna couldn't help but smile in contempt of the ugly little vessel. It had given them a run and taught her a few lacking elements of her own ship; for that it would receive an "honorable" sinking
In the very near future if she had any say.
"Anyway, Jason, Fry is your lackey. I'm the First Mate, so I might as well go to the top of the engineering food chain as it were."
"I'm serious, Sheska. If I'm gonna have this arm done on time on top of overseeing repairs and upgrading the ship, I don't have time to go traipsing around a new ship when one of my subordinates would work just fine." He jabbed his thumb over his shoulder, gesturing to their capture with annoyance starting to show on his face. "Look, Fry may be a lazy, insubordinate shit, but... Well, let me put it like this - I; the most anal, finicky, and competent engineer you've EVER had the pleasure of working with, frequently leave him in charge of MY engine room. That counts for something - at the very least, it counts for being able to tell you what's what with a ship that small."
"Besides, I figure you already know what you need. If you don't, you'll find out regardless. You have initiative."
Jason couldn't help but crack a smirk at that. "Really? YOU are lecturing ME about initiative? I'm sure the Captain would have plenty to say about your initiative." With a laugh, he gestured to the galley plank, making a point to keep eye contact with a smug grin. "Well, with all that initiative, lead on, First Mate. In either case, we don't have all day."