"...Samuel Garland. Please, feel free to join me. I wouldn't mind a bit of conversation actually."
Vasco shook the hand and stated his name in return, "Vasco Roque." The comment on his 'fashion sense' did stir up feelings of embarrassment that tempted him to shirk away, to the more secluded areas of the establishment. But at least this fellow was not arguing schematics. For Vasco, there wasn't any divide of sides. Just other people who got into fights who he had the responsibility of patching up. No more, no less. Sure, people could argue that he was deluded, however, how could a pirate argue the virtues of freedom when that pirate used his - or hers - to inflict pain and misery on others? The Empire was taking a stand against such behavior, and that was enough for the doctor. Nevertheless, that was enough thinking about the previous encounter.
"As long as it does not turn into argument, yes?" Vasco replied, "There are too many here as it is."
"I'm not much of the argumentative type. Though it seems my compatriots are more than willing to do so. Good thing I will have what I need to take care of them once one of them does something to get themselves hurt." Samuel said, more to himself than Vasco.
"But please feel free to sit. So what is it that you do? I myself am a sailor and doctor, though before you ask I do not sail or doctor for the Empire any longer. The Empire and I didn't quite see eye to eye on how medicine should be practiced. I preferred not just their traditional medicine but more experimental or untested theories in conjunction. The Empire disagreed and so I left." He said with a smile, there was no real hint of malice in his voice. He treated it as if it were a simple cause and effect, in his own mind it was much the same as a bone was broken so you put a cast on it to let it heal. However he knew that whether he was an imperial doctor and sailor or not could in fact determine whether a party-goer wanted absolutely anything to do with him, so best to get it out of the way.
"...The Empire disagreed and so I left."
Vasco sat down alongside Samuel while he went on about his profession and whatnot. It was curious, indeed. From Samuel's testimony, it sounded disturbing familiar. The stunning of newer practices, the urge to conform... Dr. Roque could easily see the parallels, but, unlike Dr. Garland, Vasco would never leave the vestige of civilization that was the Empire. Not by choice, anyway.
That talk of 'experimental' theories interested him more than the political side of Samuel's story, however. Seeing as the gentlemen was being quite open about his past, he decided to pursue that avenue further. But, for the sake of fair play, not without giving the other doctor a taste of his story was well.
"I happen to be a doctor who is still with the Empire." Vasco joked, then he took a deep breath and picked a knife and felt the blade, "It is a fine line; isn't it?" The doctor set the knife down on the table, almost precisely where it was before and quickly changed the subject back to Samuel, "You speak of 'untested' theories; if you do not mind, please tell me of them... I understand if you wish to keep them to yourself, but my interest is not lost that easily."
Samuel smiled a bit once the talk of theories came up.
"No no I don't mind sharing at all. I'm not a doctor looking for some award that only comes with being first or for some political allegiance. If it perhaps helps you save or improve a life then that is what is important, and why I left in the first place. I've been working on three things recently. The first is a possible connection between scents and overall healing and survival rates. It is hypothesized that the smell of our work spaces actually hinders the patient's ability to heal. So what I have done is actually masked the scent of the common antiseptic and blood with scents known to have a relaxing and calming effect. It seems to be quite effective at decreasing recovery times.
The second I have been working on is the connection between the mind and the body, as well as the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. I have started becoming something of a ship's therapist alongside my normal duties, reading up on the subject of course. Focusing on overall health of the patient rather than just curing sickness and actually working on a positive and charismatic bedside manner so as to make them feel more at ease. I've actually been able to make far more detailed and complete medical records with this method than when I was a Imperial doctor.
The last is probably the most interesting to a doctor like yourself. I have been working on a surgery to connect a fully articulate prosthetic arm and hand to the nerve endings and musculature of the site after amputation. While prosthesis currently exist this is a new method designed to completely replicate the way the arm used to move. The surgery was actually one of Skyfolk creation and with luck it could greatly increase quality of life for all those with a prosthetic." He gushed slightly. It wasn't often lately that someone was interested in his work, and especially one who he knew could actually understand every word of what he said.
"...The surgery was actually one of Skyfolk creation and with luck it could greatly increase quality of life for all those with a prosthetic."
He asked, and a stream of answers came his way. The first two were just an application of the placebo effect. Hospitals and sick bays were unnerving places for many and it was a simple case of remove the smell, remove the negative associations, remove the fear, and replace with happiness - which was a key part of well-being after all. Same with the other one, if the patient see the doctor as a trusted friend, then a lot of things became easier. He nodded, a holistic approach was a good approach. However, somehow Vasco could not imagine Annis or Exeter responding in a positive manner to that approach.
But the last one was the most interesting... and most disturbing. If prosthetic got that to that level of replication, then soon development would ensue and with that, prosthetics that would be more effective than the flesh-and-blood limb would come into the world. Dr. Roque had no objections will replacing parts with mechanical equivalents, or using mechanical parts to rectify a problem - just look at Annis. But, he had always made sure that the mechanical parts were as unintrusive as possible. The body was a perfect biological machine, who was he to throw a wrench in the works?
"Yes; indeed." Vasco began, "I have worked with prosthetics myself... and other related things, so there is that. Regardless, I can foresee many difficulties you may have with attaching the mechanical limb. Tell me, how do you plan to overcome them?"
"Well that's the beauty of it actually. Due to the total loss of the arm, we only need to really reattach those tissues connecting shoulder to arm. From there the machine takes over, responding to signals from the brain and left over muscle actions much like current prosthesis do. The only trick here is reattaching the nerve endings and muscular structure. But there is a stroke of luck, our engineer had been working on his own limb for himself. With simple modifications he was able to adapt it to the patient's specifications while leaving the underlying structure intact.
Put simply, he made a prosthesis that can work this way. I am simply attaching the nodes to the receptors as it were. Then the mechanical arm will respond to the electrical impulses like the ones we have now do. The hard part will likely be teaching the patient how to operate the arm and watching for complications that will most likely arise. Problems with experimental surgeries and all." Samuel replied. From there he got into more specific details on the surgery itself and what he had learned from the Skyfolk book on the applications of what they talked about.
Roy seemed to cheer up a bit, he shook his hand vigorously and said. "Well in that case we can be bored together; I'm Roy, pleased to meet ya." George responded with a smile. He then spotted that Roy poured himself another glass, and a feather fell out of it. He then put it to his mouth and finished it in one go, he had to admit he was curious as to what he was drinking. He then looked back up at Roy, to see him staring at his missing finger. "Cooking accident?" Roy asked in a joking tone.
George shook his head, as he brought his hand up. "If only, that would have hurt a lot less. No you see I am a bit of a gear head, and I learned not to mess with your gun the hard way." He then brought the drink up to his mouth and downed it one go. The cold liquid seemed to loosen his tongue as he asked for another. He wiped his mouth as he asked "So what are you doing at this party?" He then lowered his hand done wiping his mouth. He was handed another beer by the barkeeper, which he grabbed and began drinking again.
"No you see I am a bit of a gear head, and I learned not to mess with your gun the hard way," George told him while drinking his beer.
It took Roy's drunken tired mind a moment to grasp the meaning of what George had just said. "Wait, you tinkered with a loaded gun?!" he blurted, "That's...that's..." Roy wan't sure what to say. It was stupid, careless and irresponsible. You could just as easily shoot yourself or someone else like that. Roy had seen it happen more that a few times when he had been forced to work in the factory. He shook his head in disapproval and decided to let me matter drop.
George then said something but was wiping his mouth at the same time so Roy missed it.
"Eh? Could you repeat that?" he asked sheepishly.
"Izzy, you weren't yourself, don't you realize that? You weren't responsible for what you did. The Empire, they took away more from you than they ever did from me. Sure, they took what little freedom I had, my home, my family... But with you, they took away all of that, and your sense of self. They made you into a slave, Izzy, and you couldn't control what you did."
He wanted to protest. He was mentally screaming it's not that simple but Sheska was quite firm in her assurances. She was arguably right. But Isaac had been self aware in his time for the Ggun. Maybe not in a proper state of mind but he had still chosen his actions. There was programming sure, but it was subtle. He thought he'd been saving the world, one corpse at a time. Some here at the party would tell him he had been. Shaking these thoughts wasn't easy.
"What they made you do, wasn't on you. You aren't responsible."
Sheska moved the pair of them away from the dancefloor, towards the bar.
"Come on. Lets get you something to drink, even if it doesn't have alcohol."
He nodded gingerly.
"Sure. Tonic or something will be fine."
He leaned against the bar and watched the dancers idly for a while. He smiled.
"Is it bad that I kind of envy them?" he asked, gesturing at the dancers.
"The gentry lot I mean. They don't have all this shit boiling up inside them. Some of the folk that have lived here all their life will never know the conflict, the chaos. It's a life I'd sorta like. But... we're not really made for that are we?"
"Well, that's where you're wrong first, as you either are invincible or you aren't; there's no middle ground to be had there. Secondly, in regards to your previous point, I'd say that you're cherry-picking examples there. Sure, there are more than a handful of poor folk swearing up and down with the Empire, but the greatest threats are often external. Callous disregard of outsiders and blatantly xenophobic arrogance are some of the quickest ways to earn oneself a knife in the back, and all your size and power changes is the size of the knife needed to stab you with."
The merc continued. He picked up something chill and iced off the bar, taking short sips rather than downing the entire thing. "I apologize if I'm being too 'unpatriotic' or whatnot. I'm happy to camp with the Navy and all; the missteps of Imperial foreign policy just irk me severely. Say, have you been feeling a kind of heat recently? I ask because I'm not sure if somebody's burning down the building or if I just had a really bad drink this evening."
"I don't feel heat." Annis replied. It was true, temperature was rarely a factor for her anymore. The mix of chemicals in her system caused it. A side effect she wasn't too bothered by if she was honest, it made standing on deck during the harsher weather much more pleasant.
"What external threat? The pirates? They couldn't organise their way out of a paper bag without killing each other for the leadership role first. The skyfolk? Disparate factions, they ever decide to unite and actually build a military presence then they could be a threat I'll give you that but our spies ensure that will never happen. This city? What would be in it for them? They gain nothing by attacking the Empire and lose a valuable partner. And don't even get me started on the ground curs. Mr Cynwrig, this barbarians can loathe us all they like but they are in the way of keeping an ordered civilisation. They are the remnants of the old world and one by one they will cease to be a problem."
She folded her arms.
"You're very sharp for a mercenary. Who taught you? Where are you from, Cynwrig? Why are you here?"
When they reached the bar, she helped him sit down on one of the bar stools before taking one herself right next to him. He told her that he was fine with a tonic, which prompted him to take out a few gold coins and slap them onto the bar itself, jerking her chin towards the bartender.
"Tonic, no alcohol, plenty of ice. If there's alcohol, my friend will know, and I'll shove the leg of this stool so far up your ass your only thoughts will be what kind of wood it's made of.", she told him with a low growl.
When the barkeep took the gold and started to make Isaac's drink, she turned to glance at her friend as he said something and gestured towards the dancing upper class.
"Is it bad that I kind of envy them? The gentry lot I mean. They don't have all this shit boiling up inside them. Some of the folk that have lived here all their life will never know the conflict, the chaos. It's a life I'd sorta like. But... we're not really made for that are we?".
She frowned and watched as they danced, and after a moment she shook her head. "No, it's not bad. There's nothing wrong with it at all.", she told him quietly before putting her hand on his shoulder.
"You're likely right, Izzy. They don't have to go through the things that we do. They haven't waded through the blood and gutter mud like we have. Haven't had to go through the pain, the despair, the chaos that we have. Haven't lost all that we've lost, or fought the way we've fought.", Sheska murmured, then she shook her head again.
"Me? I don't envy them at all. But I can see why you do. Lets face it, Izzy, we're both broken people. You just hold it together better than I can, so you should be able to have that kind of life. But me, I'm a killer. A rabid dog that mauls on command and stays on her masters leash. I don't think there's much else I can be.", she said.
She shrugged then, and she looked at him with a small smile. "Still, I'm glad you're here with me Izzy. There's no one I trust more, and I don't think anyone can keep me as steady as you can. Besides, their lives are probably boring as shit and dominated by tedious paperwork.", she added with a smirk, putting her arm around his shoulders.
Frustratingly, it seemed Zach's conversation with Garrett would soon become a dead end. While he may have been able to wheedle something useful out of the Skyfolk given enough time, it would appear from the look of the Admiral Zach got from across the ballroom that the Imperial party would soon be leaving. Still, there was time at least to plant just one seed.
"Aye, but here's the tricky part Garrett..." Zach responded "What separates us is not just the path we choose, but what we allow others to believe we chose."
Zach leaned in closer, his voice just above a whisper.
"The Imperials think you chose the life of an honest man, service and subjugation, but we both know that that's not entirely true, don't we. You saw something you wanted, and you're playing the long game to get to it. I approve, but play your part too well and even you'll forget your playing it until it's too late. They think you a willing pawn, and themselves the masters; and as such they'll think nothing of sacrificing you when the time is right for them. Watch out for that day Garrett, because when it comes you'll need to have struck first, and make sure that there's nobody standing between you and your prize that you'd even hesitate to remove.
We're all liars here Garrett. Even the ballsiest, most cocksure bastards; in fact especially the ballsiest, most cocksure bastards, are all hiding something they don't want the rest of the world to see. We're all liars, and everything liars build is a mirage. You think some treaty locked up in some glass display case somewhere keeps the war outside the docks? You're standing in the middle of the worst battleground of all. The kind where armies and fleets don't matter, but one individual can bring down a dynasty. Nobody is untouchable, and everyone's fair game. Remember that."
Roy blurted out "Wait, you tinkered with a loaded gun?!....that's..." He then shook his head. "Well not like that" George though of how to best explain his story, meanwhile he finished his beer and asked for another. "Basically I made something which made my gun shoot faster. The downside was that it was highly explosive, something which I only noticed when it was too late. Someone shot it, and it exploded in my hands." He said clenching his right fist, he could still remember the pain clearly.
He sighed and grabbed the next beer he was handed by the barkeeper. Roy didn't seem to get his other question though, he seemed to look at his mouth and somehow didn't understand him. "Eh? Could you repeat that?" Roy asked clearly more then a bit tipsy. Suddenly George realized something.. Roy hadn't heard him when he talked to his back... and now again when he covered his mouth. He placed his hand on his mouth and once again asked. "So why are you attending this party today?"
"Basically I made something which made my gun shoot faster. The downside was that it was highly explosive, something which I only noticed when it was too late. Someone shot it, and it exploded in my hands." George explained and from his expression it was clear that the memory was still fresh on his mind.
"That must have been painful," Roy said and cringed as he imagined it happen, sharp metal tearing through skin and bone, "Very painful. Still, if you wanted to get it to shoot faster you could have just used a smaller calibre. That way you would have also had increased accuracy. But on the other hand it would have reduced the range," the gunsmith explained and then went on to tell George about all the pros and cons about different sized calibres, whether the other was interested or not.
He only stopped his rambling to down another glass or "wine" and would have gone on for who knows how long if he hadn't noticed George say something but he had his hand in front of his mount again. 'Damn it, he's doing it on purpose,' Roy thought angrily. He didn't want to ask George to repeat himself for a third time so he did the next best thing and ignored it, pretending he hadn't heard, asking instead, "So what do you do for a living besides inefficiently tinkering with guns?"
"...Problems with experimental surgeries and all."
Vasco nodded as Samuel answered his query. While the surgery was a matter of joining up the pieces together, according to what the other doctor had said, it still would not be easy. The patient would have to get used to the prosthetic. Similar or not, flesh is not the same as metal. The weight is different, the texture is different and the patient's gait would forever be affected by a lump of metal bolted to flesh.
Therapy would be in order. But then again, Samuel gave the impression that he would have no problem with that. Nevertheless, Dr. Roque's thoughts turned to the engineer that was mentioned in the reply. It would be interesting to find out more about this individual. It would be nice to know more than what could be inferred from what was said about him. But surely Samuel was growing tired of talking about himself? Well, it would be the polite thing to do.
Vasco steepled his fingers as he considered his reply, "I see... This Skyfolk engineer sounds like an interesting man." He took a deep breath and pondered on whether to mention the matter of Annis or not. For one, it would be a breach of patient-doctor confidentiality. Best to make vague references rather than state it outright. He unsteepled his hands then clapped them together. A change of subject was in order.
"Thank you for being so open..." Vasco began with a slight bow, "Have you ever thought about augmenting respiratory function?"
"I don't mind. It has been a long time since interest in my work was expressed." Samuel replied before thinking over Vasco's question. He sat back as he mulled over the question and thought back over a bit of it.
"I've though a little on it, read up some too. Though for myself to consider it the problem would have to be pretty extreme. You'd have to have a way of transferring the gasses from the lung to the blood and back without filling the lung with blood. You'd also have to be careful of blood and respiration within the surgery itself and have someway for the lung to properly 'breathe' as it were. An interesting problem to be sure. Tell me, what have you been working on and what are your thoughts on the question you asked me? It is far too specific to be a mere generality." Samuel said back to the man, and personally he didn't want to just blabber on about his side of things.
"Besides I've spoken my own piece enough. I'd rather pick your brain about all of these things as well."
"That must have been painful," Roy said cringing, George nodded without saying anything in response. Roy continued by saying "Very painful...But on the other hand it would have reduced the range," He began explaining about all kinds of different calibers, though he already knew most of the things Roy said. He had to admit that Roy really knew what he was talking about though, George was almost certain that he was a gunsmith. After a while he finally stopped rambling, when he drank some of his wine.
He looked annoyed when George tested his hypothesis. "So what do you do for a living besides inefficiently tinkering with guns?" Roy asked him, obviously still angry about him covering his mouth. "Well I used to be a air marine for quite a while, and I was just reassigned to a ship laying in the docks here. I am quite happy about that, since I have always wanted to serve on a airship. So my deaf friend, what do you do for a living? Are you a gunsmith perhaps?" He asked turning to Roy, as he slowly drank a bit from his beer.
"I don't feel heat."
"Hmm" Drustan's initial reaction was a simple grunt of interest, but that evolved into a proper response when he gathered his thoughts. "Remind me to ask you about that sometime. As interesting as the story behind that sounds, I doubt it'd be anything but lengthy." He began to shake his glass around in smooth circles while still gazing at Anastacia, allowing her to rapt his attention.
"What external threat? The pirates? They couldn't organise their way out of a paper bag without killing each other for the leadership role first. The skyfolk? Disparate factions, they ever decide to unite and actually build a military presence then they could be a threat I'll give you that but our spies ensure that will never happen. This city? What would be in it for them? They gain nothing by attacking the Empire and lose a valuable partner. And don't even get me started on the ground curs. Mr Cynwrig, these barbarians can loathe us all they like but they are in the way of keeping an ordered civilisation. They are the remnants of the old world and one by one they will cease to be a problem."
Setting down his refreshment, Drustan slid his face into his hands with a sigh of near hopelessness. He kneaded his forehead in frustration before finally indulging Anastacia in the thoughts swirling around in his head. "Thank you, Miss Baker-Cromwell, for the supreme example you prepared for me. You claim dominance and assert your authority, and these actions are doing nothing except giving people more reasons to burn the Empire to the ground. That's the most dangerous person: one with a vision. Your whimsical dismissal of all these possible threats may not be entirely unfounded, but you are turning your nose up too high to properly watch your enemies."
After finishing his mildly controversial statement (considering the company he was in) Drustan straightened up and looked at Anastacia. Not one of hostility, he was just taking in the scene and the large masked woman he suspected that he just pissed off. Unconsiously swirling his cup, Drustan lifted the tasteful beverage and gently tipped a sip down his mouth, savoring the rush of relief it brought him.
"You're very sharp for a mercenary. Who taught you? Where are you from, Cynwrig? Why are you here?"
As Annis crossed her arms at Drustan, the mercenary couldn't help but chuckle, despite the fact he was in the middle of a drink. After the following sputtering and coughing, a smile stretched up Drustan's face, like a sun rising across the sky.
"Why all the sudden questions? You think me a spy or enemy agent?" The big man paused for a second, contemplating. "Or, perhaps, this conversation took a different tone than you first expected? Nonetheless, you asked politely; I will answer." He took one last draught before laying the empty glass on the empty table.
"My name is Drustan Cynwrig, as you know, and I was born some ... thirty years ago on the floating isle of High Haven, a nice little hamlet lurking northeast-ish over the ocean. It's small compared to the airborne monstrosities that are the larger cities, but you might like it, assuming you're not as xenophobic as you sound. Anyways, when asking how I learned what I have, most of it comes from experience. I never had a typical tutor or dedicated educator up in Haven, if that's what you're asking. My parents were quite wise, as all are, and the foundations of my beliefs were certainly molded with their hands."
At this point, Drustan leaned against the bar with a good portion of weight balanced on his right elbow with evidence that he was enjoying this conversation scribbled over his visage. "Now, my dear Annis, your last question is quite broad, so I'll break it down into several small questions with smaller answers and let you pick one for me to expand upon."
"Why am I at this ball for important people? The lovely Admiral Lanester asked. Why am I serving on the Invincible? The Skies wanted me to. Why am I on this miserable scab of a city? My profession took me here, as it has before. Lastly, but hardly the least: Why am I here, and not still on High Haven, with a loving family, perhaps one of my own, the finest folk you've ever met and the loveliest scenery this side of Heaven? I was bored."
The razzmatazz inside the party shocked him, the part hall was full, full of music; fresh out doldrums of the Blocks it was all too much for him to cope with. He had expected something special when he arrived at the party, but this was something else. Everyone was dressed in the most extraordinary clothing, he forgot the backhanded comment from the Sulk-Hound right away, here he felt he fitted in with the clothes he was wearing and in terms of personality, but in an odd six-armed kind of way. Even though here was wear he had felt most at home during his 'travels' with his odd, misbegotten appearance he still felt out of place. Perhaps, the blocks were the best place for him. At least there he was a freak amongst freaks.
He cut the thought off before it let it dampen his mood, if he kept thinking like that then he would never find his place in this new world. He had just discovered it after all, it would take a while to adjust to it's nuances and become comfortable enough in it to feel like it was his world as well, not something he had read about.
There there were people he could socialize with instead of constantly worrying if he was good enough to be on board the ship. Only problem was the difference between knowing how to dance, and reading about it. Hector knew that each foot went in a certain place and that he was supposed to lead, but he didn't know to move to the upbeat tempo of the song. It ended in a mess of gangly limbs and trodden on toes. With a hushed and embarrassed apology he excused himself from the dance floor trying not to look as flustered as he felt and headed over to the bar.
It was a frivolous thing to do and it would probably land him in trouble with the captain, however pirates were known for their enthusiasm for alcohol and this was probably the best time to find out why. Leaning over the bar he perused the bottles, liqueurs ranging from a subdued dark coffee coloured black to a vibrant, unnatural green. They all looked so interesting, arranged row on row, with their intricate labeling. He wondered why the crew had such a fancy for rum, out of the lot it seemed the most boring.
He picked out the bright green one, it had taken his fancy as soon as he saw it and the barman got to preparing it. First he poured a small amount of the vibrant liquid into a small glass, then he placed a peculiar looking spoon on top of it and on top of that a cube of sugar. The barman asked if he wanted it the cube set alight or just have iced water poured over it. Of course Hector would choose the more flamboyant of the two and asked for it to be set alight. A moment later it was done and he quickly downed it.
"Another" He told the barman
Five minutes later he was out a light collapsed over the bar top.
Adrianna made her way through the crowd, looking for her crew - specifically Exeter. Despite her best efforts, she couldn't find him. Realizing she didn't have the time to wait, she made her way over to Annis instead. Glancing around, Adrianna found Annis was in an apparently deep conversation with Drustan. Though she didn't want to interrupt the conversation, she had little choice. If the Mermaid was indeed headed in the same direction, they would need to leave port as soon as possible.
"Ms. Baker-Cromwell." she said, injecting herself into the conversation as soon as she could find a break in it. "I'm afraid we must leave shortly. I need you to gather the crew as quickly as possible." turning to Drustan, she added "Mr. Cynwrig, please aid her however you can. And if you find Mr. Saint John, tell him to find me."
She waited for any questions they might have had - answering them in turn - then moved to find others.
"Oh, believe me Zach, there are those that I would simply love to remove without hesitation; people that have become obstacles in the path to my happiness. That doesn't mean though, that I will lack a sense of honor when ending them, I shall give them a worthy death. However, we must bide our time, and lay in wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. We must plans our moves accordingly, lest we be discovered, and enter a whole world of issues." Garrett said with a serious and determined look on his face as he downed the remainder of his drink. He looked across the bar, and noticed a six armed man that had sprawled out over the top of the counter.
"Well, someone certainly can't hold their drink it seems." Garrett said to himself as a smile escaped his lips, as he stifled a chuckle that was deeper down.
"True, no man is immortal, no man is untouchable; they are just as frail as everyone else, even the Emperor himself is vulnerable, despite him thinking himself to be a god. A man who surrounds himself with others to protect him, is one of the most frail. It will be a joyous day when that man falls." Garrett took a moment to look around the room, and saw that Adrianna was back inside, and from the looks of it, looking for the crew. He sighed a little, shamed that this conversation was coming to a close.
"Well, it looks like I'm back on duty. I must say Zach, it has been a pleasure talking to you, there is a certain degree of intelligence about you that I like. If we ever get the chance to speak again, I would very much enjoy that. I wish you both good weather, and safe travels, wherever the winds take you. By the way, have another drink on me." Garrett said with a definite smile, as he shook Zach's hand, before leaving the bar, and back into the crowd.
'There is no "worthy death" you idiot, nor is there any honor in killing! Were you even listening to what I just said? No, of course you weren't. Trust a romantic who grew up in the clouds to hear what he wants to hear, and to never look beneath the surface. It makes no matter, be a good little turncoat and go cause some trouble for the Imperials. Do that, and maybe I won't kill you the next time we meet... only hurt you, badly.'
The longer he stayed here, the more Zach became utterly convinced his instincts were right. However, he'd assumed that if an assassination was being planned, the agent would have struck by now. It would have been absurdly easy to poison a drink, or lead someone of into a deserted side room for a private embrace with piano wire. Soon, both parties would be out the door and the chance for a covert kill would be lost. Perhaps this particular assassin just didn't care about finesse, or perhaps they were determined to do exactly the opposite of what someone like Zach would expect them to do. The first explanation would mean he was dealing with a fool. The second, something else entirely. Either way, Zach wasn't going to wait around to walk into a trap.
'Time to go hunting.'
Once Garrett had rejoined the rest of the Imperial contingent, Zach made his move. He weaved his way through the crowd, waited until he was certain he wasn't being watched, and then slipped though a side door, out of the ballroom. From their, he took a flight of spiral stairs that led up to some of the estate's private quarters. On his way down the corridor he passed one room where two guests had retreated to to make some entertainment of their own. They were both too busy to see him pass by. At the end of the hallway their was a window. Easing it open, Zach climbed outside. He'd spotted an old drainage pipe round the side of the building when they'd first made their way to the estate, that ran from the roof to the ground below, and Zach had calculated that this path would take him as close to it as possible. Sure enough, the pipe was in arms reach, and a quick test reassured him that it could take his weight. From there, he made his way up to the roof.
"Me? I don't envy them at all. But I can see why you do. Lets face it, Izzy, we're both broken people. You just hold it together better than I can, so you should be able to have that kind of life. But me, I'm a killer. A rabid dog that mauls on command and stays on her masters leash. I don't think there's much else I can be."
Sheska, and she looked at him with a small smile. "Still, I'm glad you're here with me Izzy. There's no one I trust more, and I don't think anyone can keep me as steady as you can. Besides, their lives are probably boring as shit and dominated by tedious paperwork."
Isaac held out his hands as if weighing two options.
"Boring paperwork. Being shot at and thrown from burning ships. One of these is ideal for somebody."
"I appreciate the trust. Seriously. You have no idea how hard it is to have people trust you, really after doing my line of work. I got your back, Shes."
He took a sip of the tonic. And something caught his eye.
It was discreet, hardly noticeable but Isaac had been trained to watch for the discreet. Zach slipped through a door he shouldn't have done. Had he seen something? Someone? Isaac hadn't, but he hadn't exactly been attentive in the last few moments. He didn't like the idea of Zach pursuing this on his own. The guy was cocksure and confident but those were qualities that got you dead.
"I'll be back in a moment, just something I need to see to." he said to Sheska, and once they parted ways he slipped after Zach as quickly as he could without raising attention.
He reached the cool evening air just as Zach was scrambling up a pipe. He didn't want to follow immediately in case Zach accidentally figured him for an enemy or guard, but calling out would be dumb. For now, he just watched.
Watched and waited.
Annis raised her eyebrows at Drustan's accusations, and his story. There was more to be said, but it was here that the Rear-Admiral made an appearance.
"Ms. Baker-Cromwell." she said. "I'm afraid we must leave shortly. I need you to gather the crew as quickly as possible." turning to Drustan, she added "Mr. Cynwrig, please aid her however you can. And if you find Mr. Saint John, tell him to find me."
"Rear-Admiral." she said in ackowledgement of her orders and made her way through the crowd. She wouldn't have a hard time finding most of the officers, as she'd at the very least seen all of them before they left even if she didn't know all their names. Vasco would be easiest to locate, he'd found a quiet area to sit and drink almost as soon as the ball had begun. She looked around to Drustan.
"This will be quicker if we split up. You recognise the head mechanic and her assitant, start with them. If you find St John send him my or the Rear-Admiral's way, whichever is quickest."
"...Besides I've spoken my own piece enough. I'd rather pick your brain about all of these things as well."
Vasco smiled. It should be obvious to a person of relative intelligence, and especially to a fellow Neo-Victorian. Surely, he had breathed in the polluted air? Surely he had heard tales of sick children gasping for breath in the night? Maybe this one had been with pirate company too long and had forgotten about the grand cities across the continent. Who knew what pirates got up to, anyway? Vasco briefly frowned, though it wasn't directed at Samuel. It was directed at himself for letting thoughts like that pollute his mind. They had chosen their side, and he had chosen his. Both for valid reasons. There was no need for hate. He relaxed a little and settled into the chair. Regardless, he was obliged to relieve Samuel of his ignorance.
"Pollution." Vasco began, "Which weakens respiratory function... I find a discrete, non-invasive approach is best..."
When Izzy held out his hands and pretended to weigh the two, Sheska had to laugh.
"Boring paperwork. Being shot at and thrown from burning ships. One of these is ideal for somebody.".
"Ok, ok, maybe I'm the only one here who needs to have their blood pumping at least once in awhile, but you have to remember, most days on the Mermaid are pretty relaxed, so long as we have all our duties taken care of.", she pointed out with a smile.
A small part of her missed days like that, right about now. As much as she wanted to gut someone and revel in their pain, just relaxing on the deck of the ship and playing her accordion appealed to her more. Just lounging in the sun, the cool wind on her face, in her hair. The sound of a good shanty carrying across the ship with a few of the crew singing along and drinking.
She shook her head once to break out of that line of thought when Izzy spoke again.
"I appreciate the trust. Seriously. You have no idea how hard it is to have people trust you, really after doing my line of work. I got your back, Shes.".
She nodded and leaned against the bar. "I know you do. And I have yours.", she said softly, only to blink as he glanced away and looked troubled.
Or suspicious of something.
"I'll be back in a moment, just something I need to see to.".
"Alright. Be careful, Izzy.", she said, her voice a mixture of confusion and concern.
But she let him go, knowing that he had taken care of himself long before she came to the Mermaid. That didn't stop her from worrying, however.
As she turned back towards the bar, she caught a glimpse of someone she hadn't spotted for most of the gala, and now she saw why. Hector, the colorful six-armed misbegotten had passed out, sprawled across the bar, and was looking quite pitiful to her eye. She had to smirk. The boy was a lightweight it seemed, but a few weeks on the Mermaid with some wretched dogs like Beth's crew would change that. After all, she had gone aboard without having had a single drink in her life. It was a few months after that she ended up getting one of the best tolerances for alcohol on the ship.
Standing up and striding over, she flipped him over as gently as possible so that Hector laid on his back, then lightly slapped both of his cheeks to try and wake him.
"Hey, Hector. Wake up, boy, you need to be ready to go at anytime.", she said, just before she felt a surge of curiosity.
Looking up at the bartender, she jerked her head towards the unconscious Hector. "Oi, barkeep. What exactly did this boy have to drink, eh?", she asked.
"Well I used to be a air marine for quite a while, and I was just reassigned to a ship laying in the docks here. I am quite happy about that, since I have always wanted to serve on a airship.
"Oh, so you're an imp then?" Roy asked, grinning, "There seem to be quite a few of you here tonight. But then again, there are quite a few pirates here as well. This is a strange party we've been invited to, don't you think?" The thought hadn't occurred to him before. Why would anyone want to invite pirates to such a extravagant party? Maybe the captain had some friends in high places. He made a mental note to ask someone about it later.
So my deaf friend, what do you do for a living? Are you a gunsmith perhaps?"
"Yea, I-wait what?! How did you..." Roy stammered but then shook his head. It probably wasn't very hard to figure out, drunk as he was right now. "Yes, though not by choice at first," he admitted.
Creeping, low and quiet, Zach scanned the surrounding area. His gaze spied someone on the street below. It was the officer from before, making his way back to the gala. That wasn't good, but at least the man was officially representing the Empire, so couldn't cause any real trouble down there. However, looking back up the direction he had come from, Zach saw the horse, then the ladder, his eyes travelling up back to the rooftops before...
'There you are, you son of a bitch!'
The agent had his eyes trained on street level, more specifically, the stairs leading up to the entrance to the hall. Cradled in his hands was a long-barreled rifle.
'So, you wait until we all come staggering out drunk, shoot a guest right on Ms Remington's doorstep, and then jump on your horse and ride off before anybody figures out what happened. Not exactly what I'd call subtle, for a spy, but I thank you. You just made my job a lot easier.'
Zach considered just killing him right then and there. At this range he'd prefer his bow, but his knives would still serve. That wouldn't be the wisest move in any case. This was just one man. He might be working alone (with the exception of that Imperial grease-ball) or he might be part of a team. He could have backup all over the city for all Zach new. After all, he didn't even know for sure who this agent was going to be aiming at. His instincts said Sheska, but Issac was just as much a defector, and Zach had an inkling that he would have been the far more valuable agent. Zach himself was also a potential target. During their purge, Zach and Solomon had crossed off a lot of important names, people far further up the pecking order that your common or garden field agent; and while they'd been careful to keep their identities concealed (in order to protect the rest of the tribe), doing everything they could to make the killings look isolated, even taking out a few people that had no involvement in what had happened, just to throw anyone who might look for connections off the scent, nothing was ever certain. If the Chuno Ggun knew about him at all, Zach reckoned he would probably be one of the most wanted men on the continent right now.
Better then, to take this one alive, and get as much information out of him as possible.
Zach heard Issac's approach long before his head poked up above the gutter, and for a second Zach flushed in anger.
"Issac, go back!" he whispered. "I can handle this. I need you to stall Beth in case she tries to leave right after the Imperials. I'm gonna have a short window here as it is."
That was true enough. He needed the Imperial contingent to disperse before he struck. He couldn't guarantee the take down being quick and quiet, and as good as he was, he didn't fancy his chances against the entire crew of an IAN frigate all at once. However, leave it too long, and the assassin might have time to get a shot off before Zach could reach him.
Roy grinned as he asked "Oh, so you're an imp then? There seem to be quite a few of you here tonight. But then again, there are quite a few pirates here as well. This is a strange party we've been invited to, don't you think?" George slowly nodded his head. Did this mean Roy was a pirate? Too bad, he had seemed like a nice guy but if he was a pirate.... "I am indeed an imperial, and I am proud to be one in fact. I mean I couldn't care less about who the emperor is and such." George said pausing for a moment to catch his breath.
He then continued "But what I do believe in is protecting the weak and the innocent, and making sure pirates and the like don't kill, rape and plunder wherever and from whoever they please. So Roy how do you know there are pirates here? And why are you at this party? You don't seem like the kind of guy who usually goes to these kind of parties, no offense." He drank some more of his beer, he could feel it slowly taking its effect on him.
Roy seemed shocked by his other question, as he responded with "Yea, I-wait what?! How did you...Yes, though not by choice at first," He looked up at Roy, what did he mean by that? he wondered. "What do you mean not by choice at first? Were you forced into the position?" He asked curious about what he had said before.
Samuel couldn't help but smile and laugh a bit.
"Oh yes silly me. It had been so long I had forgotten. I've been a ship's doctor for far too long. Good to see at least one of us still has an eye to the Earth though." He chuckled.
"I never much faced the effects of the pollution. Once I had left the academy my family had already placed me on a ship. I do apologize for my ignorance however. It is rather unbecoming isn't it? Now if I had a patient with respiration problems I would have to try some therapies and offer them preventative measures to try and lessen the pollutants they were inhaling. If the situation got worse I would probably start to put them on separate oxygen. Try to give them something that the lungs can process more easily. Unfortunately to my knowledge there is little to be done for reversing the damage done by the pollutants sadly. Though with the fact you have more of an ear to the ground on it than I would love to know if you have any advice for me. Or perhaps any other problems that I may have fallen into ignorance on with my time away.
At the very least I should try to find some reading on the subject and study up on it again, thank you for reminding me of it. Abhorrent that I should forget in the first place really. It is sad that we must be on two different sides of this whole political hullabaloo. I get the feeling I would have enjoyed being colleagues in another life." He said to Vasco. He honestly wished that perhaps this whole pirate and empire unpleasantness might pass one day. For now though being a pirate was his best chance at perhaps being able to make a book that would prove helpful for other doctors in time.
Adrianna made her way through the crowds hoping to find more of her crew. Mr. Saint-John still hadn't shown, much to her annoyance, but she let it go in the hopes of finding the others. By the looks of it, Drustan and Annis were gathering the bulk of the crew, which left her with only the stranglers to find.
Garrett was the first of them she encountered. Wasting no time, she hurried over the the merc-turned-lover and began speaking. "Garrett. Sorry to say, but we're going to need to cut the party short. Remember that woman I was speaking with? She's the Pirate... leader of the Mermaid." she explained quickly, refusing to refer to the drunk excuse for a commanding officer as a captain. "In any event, please find our new Engineer and any other crew you encounter to the carriages and make for the ship - we're setting sail tonight."
Not pausing to explain any further, she quickly went about finding the other missing officers - Dr. Roque and Wilhelmena - before anything went terribly awry. She found Dr. Roque first who was having a conversation with a fellow medical professional by the looks of it. "Dr. Roque." she interjected when there was a break in the conversation so as not to draw suspicion. "I'm afraid there's been a bit of an emergency and so I'll need you back at the Invincible post-haste." she said, trying to speed things along.
"Hopefully one of the others can find Wilhelmena" she thought to herself as she waited for the good doctor's response.
Ciel and James continued to dance awkwardly for several minutes before the buzz of the crowd alerted them to something going wrong with the Imperial guests. Ciel stopped dancing and raised an eyebrow at the sight, but hesitated to move until she had more information. For once, she had no idea what was going on.
And she didn't like it.
Garrett was busy traversing the crowd, looking for any signs of the other crew members from the Invincible, when he caught sight of Adrianna rushing over to him with a look of desperation on her face. "Garrett. Sorry to say, but we're going to need to cut the party short. Remember that woman I was speaking with? She's the Pirate... leader of the Mermaid." She said quickly, refusing to call the drunken woman she was talking to earlier a Captain. "In any event, please find our new Engineer and any other crew you encounter to the carriages and make for the ship - we're setting sail tonight." Before he could ask a question, Adrianna rushed off to continue her search.
"Well, it looks like we're not the only ones heading up North; seems as though we have some competition on our hands. Best get to finding the others, and fast; don't want the Mermaid getting to whatever relic from the old world before us, it may cause problems for myself and Adrianna. I'll go after George first, since I at least know where he was." Garrett said as he made a heel turn back towards the bar, waited for a break in the conversation George was having to make his move.
"Ah, Mr. Maelstrom, sorry to be interrupting the conversation; but I'm afraid the Admiral requests our presence back at the ship. Certain factors have come into play, and we need to setting sail sooner rather than later. Make your way back to the carriages, and I shall explain more once everyone is on board. Should you happen to find another of our crew, be sure to inform them about the situation and direct them to the exit. I've got to go and find our engineer now, so I shall speak with you later." Garrett then left the bar and headed out into the crowd, keeping a look out for Ciel and anyone else that came his way.
"Ugh..." And a few other pained moans were the only replies Sheska got from the befuddled misbegotten as she tried to shake him awake, no luck in that department, whatever the loon had drunk hadn't good for his system. As his eyes squinted open letting the bright lights from the gala tumbling through his eyelashes Hector couldn't help but notice the Skulk-Hound looking a tad different: she was as green as he felt.
"Oi, barkeep. What exactly did this boy have to drink, eh?", she asked.
The barkeep smirked as he polished the glistening glasses, he set the one he was currently cleaning down and replied as the gangly misbegotten threw up on his counter, "Absinthe ma'am, not that it did him any good"
The only thing she managed to get out of Hector as she tried to shake him awake was a few groans of misery, and then a bar covered in puke, which she managed to back away from in time so that none of it hit her. She sighed heavily, then glanced up at the bartender smirking at her.
"Absinthe ma'am, not that it did him any good.".
Her eyes widened at that, and she shook her head slowly as she let out a low whistle. "Well shit, no wonder he was out this whole time. Absinthe'll hit you like a cannonball, and burns nearly as much going in as it does coming up. I won't even touch the stuff.", she murmured, before looking at Hector with a combination of wry humor, and sympathetic pity.
"Boy, you should've started with rum, or even a mild ale. Absinthe is for real heavy drinkers.", she said quietly, hoping she didn't exacerbate the headache he had to have had more than she needed to.
Then she looked back at the bartender. "I don't suppose you'd have some sort of remedy for what he's sufferin from, do you?", she asked with a quirked brow.
Roy listened, or pretended to, as George explained why he was a Imp.
"Well good luck with that. One thing this world never seems to run out of are criminals," Roy said, grinning, "At least you'll never run out of a job, right?"
So Roy how do you know there are pirates here? And why are you at this party? You don't seem like the kind of guy who usually goes to these kind of parties, no offence.
Roy shrugged meaning no offence was taken. "I 'overheard' some of them talking," he lied. "In a way I can hear better than anyone in this room, as long as I can see them talking that is."
He was trying to think of a way to answer (or not answer if possible) George's next question when another Imp walked over to George and told him it was time to go.
"Nap time already?" Roy asked, chuckling.
"I get the feeling I would have enjoyed being colleagues in another life." He said to Vasco.
Vasco chuckled and turned around in order to disguise a cough, but happened upon the Rear Admiral. "Dr. Roque." she interjected. "I'm afraid there's been a bit of an emergency and so I'll need you back at the Invincible post-haste." she said. This was quite curious, an emergency? No doubt a medical professional was needed. He pivoted on the walking cane and with a bow Vasco said his goodbye to Samuel, "Filtration, my friend... As long as there is a good supply of clean air, the lungs will recover. Now, as you can see, my presence is needed. Goodbye and safe travels." Hopefully the emergency did not involve Annis. If she had imbibed, there was a possibility that the alcohol would upset the delicate chemical balance, but surely she was not so stupid. Then he remembered how stubborn she was. One could say that she was a patient that refused to be cured...
However, that was enough with simple chatter and conjecture. He was needed.