Aether Shanties RP (PM if interested/Started)

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"Some of you try and fight your way towards James otherwise he'll be over run."

James raised an eyebrow at this, currently sparring with some poor sap and his friend. James was not as good with a blade as he was with his fist, the enemy realized this fact soon. They had him pressed up against the railing of the ship, even!

"Tch, ye of so little faith." James lashed out with the sword, and somersaulted to the side, knocking some bastard on his face. James stabbed this bloke in the upper spinal area, he didn't really know or care. He left the sword in, though, and looked at the rest. He had managed to kill 3 more before the cavalry showed up, one of them were stupid enough to bring a gun. A gun James had stolen, of course, he was not a fool. That left 10 people, and James was carrying a 6 shooter. He was not a marks-

"Oh come on, wait your turn!" James ducked the blade, and brought himself forward for a devastating headbutt. The mans nose shattered, leaving quite a bit of blood on James' face. He wiped it off in disgust as another charged. James grazed him, with a shot near his inner thigh. Whoops, James clonked the guy, and he fell before him. Back to 8 people, though a few had run to intercept Garrett. James would not count this as a kill steal. He grabbed a nearby sword, tucking the 6 shooter in his belt. He wasn't getting bored, at least. Though he was vaguely disappointed he wasn't kicking the most ass here...

"Is that a mad priest?" James' opponents quickly glanced over at Santiago, and James quickly slashed the few closest to him, after a lunge. Damn, he was wily. James waved to the newcomer, and went back to fencing some brave, stupid bastard.

Zach's smile didn't fade, but his eyebrows raised just a little.

"I'm sure our Honoured Guest can speak for herself. Rest assured I don't mean to pry. In the mean time, on the subject of 'doing my job'...

While we've been speaking I've been constantly monitoring several different factors that allow me to determine and assess risk. The direction of the wind, the positioning of the Sun, and the areas of most cloud cover, all come together to tell me where a threat will most likely come from. By listening very carefully, and by looking out for small, anomalous vortexes within cloud formations, I can be warned of the turning prop blades of a encroaching vessel before I can actually see it. By listening out for the beats, inflation of deflation of its gas bags, and feeling the wind speed and direction, I can even tell you, roughly I admit, how fast it's going, in what direction, and whether it's gaining or losing altitude. Some might even say that asking questions is another part of my job. I four Honoured Guest is ever inclined to tell me who's pursuing her, I may be able to take measures to better prepare myself and others to detect and defend against them if necessary, thereby protecting this ship.

Now, it's true that I could still do all these things from up in the Crow's Nest, but consider... in the unlikely event that we're being hunted by someone talented enough to evade the gaze of both Oswin and myself, their top priority would be to take out the ship's eyes and ears, which also happen to be my eyes and ears, before anyone else knew what was going on. The first place they'd look for such a person would be up in the Crow's Nest. Down here, the ship's eyes and ears are inconspicuous.

It's quite fascinating really, that a lowly grunt like me can do all this, while you yourself do such a good job of remaining standing whilst holding on to a very large wheel."

Zach had lost interest by this point of proving himself to Beth, and realised that any conscious effort on his part would likely be a self-defeating prophecy anyway. However, at the same time, obeying direct orders from her did not mean he was going to be patronised.

"I already advised you to alter our course Captain. You either pay attention to how I conduct my duties, or you don't. It's none of my concern, and, as Captain, it is of course your right to ignore everything I say and do if you so choose. Just so we're clear though, you never need to worry about my ability to do my job."

With that, he gave another courteous bow to their foreign guest, and went to see who else was about on deck.

Drustan was not in a good mood when Exeter roused the ship into action. He was making the climb up to the crow's nest in the meantime, more then a little irked at the Admiral's decisions. All he wanted to do (and was doing) was his job, but it seemed the forces up above planned things differently. Those guys were jerks. Speaking of jerks, at about this time "Pirates! 5:30 at -45!" rang down to Drustan's ears from the tube at his destination.

At the end of his upward odyssey, Drustan clambered up to his perch and swiveled his head around, gauging what was going on. He spotted a shadow creeping towards the ship, like a shark without subtlety, and he spun around and gripped the mast as he leaned back to get an eyeful of the aggressive miscreants.

The skiffs were approaching, and Drustan needed a rope.

Diving up into the crow's nest, Drustan spied the upcoming skiffs make way towards the Invincible. He guessed they were trying to bomb the frigate; his primary evidence being the explosion a short distance from where he stood. Peeking up from his hiding place, the big man sized up the small vessels and grinned an evil grin.

Reminding himself to profusely thank Wilhelmina later, Drustan picked up the long length of rope at his feet and started with a sheepshank knot. He guesstimated how long the rope needed to be before wrapping the end around the mast in a clove hitch. Profusely securing his arm and the rest of his body to the rope, Drustan stood up, cleared his throat, and prepared to leap away from the skiffs. He pumped his legs against the wooden floor like an overworked engine, then pushed off the guard rail and into the sky, shouting a battle cry of "BOOORN FREEE!" to those few who could hear it above the clamor of battle.

The rope reached its full tautness parallel to the ground far, far below. Drustan's mind stopped for a minute. Everything he could hear he couldn't anymore. His ears were drowned under white noise, a pulsing thud, and silence. Reality came back. Like an insane, ginger pendulum Drustan swung on his lifeline up and towards the skiffs, this time momentum threw him up and above the enemy vessels by ten-ish feet when he promptly unraveled his right arm and stuck his left in a coat pocket. He landed on the edge with a muffled knock, and withdrew his flask-grasping left hand from his coat. He took a few reserved steps forward, letting the pirates realize what's happening, brought the flask to his lips, and uttered an entry line: You're never stronger when *gulp* -k you're weak."

With that he wiped his beard of stray whiskey splashes, swapped his flask for an axe, and set himself in a wide and low stance. Then he rushed the ugly one.

The battle was a scene of barely organized chaos, though Garrett tried his best to lead the boarding party in a successful assault, each one dueling with specific targets to help divide the opposing force into more manageable pieces. Garrett had to admit that James appeared to be handling himself well given the numerical disadvantage. Just as he had finished putting down another foe, three more took their place in front of him.

One was wielding two hefty looking axes; the second was lugging around a cutlass; finally the third was using a rifle with an attached bayonet along with two revolvers. Each of his opponents provided an interesting challenge.

"Now this is the kind of fight I enjoy. En gardé!" Garrett said with a wide smile as all three attacked him at once. First came the axe-man who was forcing Garrett into a more defensive role than he would have liked; rapidly having to block or deflect multiple blades at once. However, his luck won out in the end, with an underhand swing, Garrett managed to relieve the axe-man of one weapons, not before causing some blood to flow which distracted his comrades; obviously these ones worked well together.

Using this brief opportunity, Garrett caught the blood stained tomahawk in one hand, and then threw it into the large man carrying the great-sword, sending him crashing to the floor. One down two to go. Next came the lanky looking rifleman, who looked as though he was in just as good a shape as Garrett was. Whilst the axe-man dealt with the loss of his comrade, the two gunmen began taking shots at each other, using what limited cover they could find amidst a battle such as this.

To say there was no clear winner would be true, each proved they were capable with a gun. Whilst Garrett might not have had as many bullets with which to shoot, it meant that he would take less time to reload. Waiting for a moment to hear the sound of a gun being loaded, Garrett pulled out his rifle and aimed it at the gunman's head.

"Hey you! Listen to the howl of Cerberus!" In an instant, three bullets came hurtling towards their target. One went down in mid-flight due to colliding with a nearby crate, but the other two hit home, with the pirate gunman falling down with his arms out. Two down one to go. It was at this point that the axe-man turned to see his fallen comrade.

"You feckin' wastrel. You'll pay for this!" The axe-man shouted as he charged with his remaining tomahawk, a foolish error on his part, but at least his heart was in the right place. First shot went into the right kneecap, making him fall to the floor. Second shot went into the left shoulder, the tomahawk merely tumbling out of his hands. Third and final shot, right between the eyes, death almost instantaneous.

It wasn't much longer before Helium City faded from Oley's view, and he finally turned away to head back to his quarters. There wasn't much else for him to do, other than perhaps try and start up a conversation with one of shipmates. However, there was the matter of actually having to initiate it. How he would manage that, he hadn't a single clue. The automaton was hardly an expert in socializing, though he knew it was something that he would have to work on if he was to get anywhere in his life. Before he descended into the lower levels, something, rather someone, had caught his eye. Standing beside the captain at the helm was a person like he'd never seen before. Hardly clothed in any sense he knew, and covered with strange markings - she most certainly stood out from every other member of the crew he'd seen. Oley wanted to learn more about this stranger, though he felt he might set a bad impression if he were just to approach them without invitation, especially with the Captain present.

Oley almost continued on his way, a little defeated that it seemed his curiosity would go unabated, until he noticed a more familiar crew member walking away from the small group. Perhaps there was opportunity here. Surely the man must have acquired some information on the strange woman, and Oley intended to find out. The automaton was nearly overcome with a feeling of shyness. He didn't want it to be so apparent that he was trying to learn as much as he could about the stranger, though he couldn't quite pinpoint why that was. Whatever the reason may have been, he still intended to ask about her. In his usual almost-clunky gait, he approached the man he'd noticed and spoke with his normally gruff voice, "Hello. Zachary...isn't it? How is everything...well...going?"

The massive automaton had been one of the party recruited in Helium alongside him, Zach remembered. It's not like the guy was exactly hard to find in a crowd, even if most paid automaton's no mind. Zach's curiosity had long ago helped him discover, through serving alongside them on ships, or in the underbelly of Helium city, that automatons, or some of them at least, were much more than the masses assumed them to be. It was a little strange, considering mechanical prowess was not something that could ever be considered within his skill set (although growing up in the badlands usually meant making the most of the scrap you could find), but the automatons were often the group he found himself identifying with most, more even than his own kind. They were seen as naught but tools as he had once been. Resources that were given no credit for their accomplishments, and discarded as soon as they became inconvenient.

"Hey... Oley. Oley, that's it! And please, just call me Zach." Zach replied cheerily "Let's see... Gunshot wounds, dangerous cargo, and a race against the Empire to change the future. Y'know, same old same old. How about you?"

"Okay, just Zach," Oley said. He found it odd that this man should find so much joy in what seemed to be daunting and dangerous work. Perhaps he would learn to enjoy such things as the man before him had appeared to have done. Though now wasn't the time to stand there and ponder - he engaged in a conversation and he needed to follow through with it. "It sounds like you have plenty of...excitement in your life. From the look of it, your wounds have not been too serious. I am...relieved."

Oley did what he could to form something of a smile, though it was a mystery to him as to how it really appeared. Quickly realizing that his expressions may need some work, he put the smile to rest. "For me, things are very good. I feel free. I am relieved. I...I was made for carrying great weight but...the weight of not being in control of what I do is more heavy than I am...comfortable with. But that is all over now. I am better than I have been in years. Now, I am sorry if I am being too...forward here, but who is that person next to the Captain?"

"It sounds like you have plenty of...excitement in your life. From the look of it, your wounds have not been too serious. I am...relieved."

"It's a good life if you've got the aptitude." Zach said with his usual, easy confidence. "I like to keep a clear distinction between 'excitement' and 'stupidity'. Most fools wear their battle scars with pride, while I consider it a matter of pride to live such a life of danger with so few scratches on me. I'm sure plenty of dead men have lots of impressive war wounds, but in the end, I gave them the only one that mattered."

Zach was faintly amused by Oley's attempts at a smile, with so few movable features with which to convey expression. However, unusually, his empathy won the day. The guy couldn't help it and he was trying his best, so Zach would let it pass without comment, neither scorning or patronising.

"who is that person next to the Captain?"

"Well, she's from nowhere around here, I can tell you that much." Zach replied. "Easy on the eye I'll give her that, but something about her seems... off, and I'm not just talking about the obvious. She's got lots of shiny looking jewelry, but no real money that I can see. For all we know, the Captain could just be taking a load of pretty junk as payment for her passage; but then I supposed if whoever we sell it on to is no more the wiser than we are what does it matter? Anyway, she seems to me like one of those people who could be a lot more dangerous than they look. The other one she's with is her 'friend', apparently, but I don't believe the half of it. She seems more like some sort of escort to me, and a hard as nails one at that. Question is, is her job to protect the other one from the likes of us, or to protect the likes of us from her? Maybe both, but I'll be keeping my eyes and ears open."

*On the skiffs*

To say Jacob was surprised by the sudden arrival of an enemy combatant was an understatement. They'd still been well above the deck and away from the nests, but the madman intruder had overcome this obstacle via extremely unlikely acrobatics. Still, unexpected annoyance though it was, he hardly feared it. What more, the unlucky gymnast had picked perhaps the poorest choice of skiffs. The one with him on it.

As the interloper rushed forward, aiming to kill or maim him in some no doubt impressive way, Jacob merely said to his crew "Continue boarding" as he took his stance and unfolded his mouth. Then he waited.

Just as Drustan reached him, Jacob twisted out of his direct path in his inhuman way and set to bite him. A moment later, the skiff crashed into the side of the Invincible, attaching to the top deck.

*On the Invincible

After dropping their bombs, the enemy skiffs moved toward the Invincible with surprising speed. The skiffs closed quickly, slamming into the side of the Invincible with enough force to shake the mighty Imperial vessel. The bows of the small ships quickly latched onto the sides of the Invincible - locking them in place - and opened to allow a surge of pirates onto the deck. Dozens poured from each little ship, engaging everyone on the top deck in no time.

*On Hell's Harbinger

Captain Ironskin was displeased. Here he had some of the most ruthless pirates in the sky and they were falling prey to one worthless little Imp. It was easy to see what he was; a beast dancer - no one else could move like them. Meanwhile, some mercenary wasn't doing half bad either. In all truth, he was somewhat surprised how few actual imperials seemed to be aboard the vessel. He wondered if it had already been claimed by another pirate; not that he really cared.

Seeing the swarm of Imperial pawns swarming over his deck, he quickly ordered the rest of the enemy crew forward - keeping only a handful of his officers behind - and marched to confront the Imps himself. If things went south... well, they had their orders. Besides, it had been some time since he'd had a chance to let loose.

Walking forward, he reached out grabbed an Imperial who'd been too far out, held the man up by his neck to stare into the mans terror-shaken soul, then threw him across the deck, aiming to hit the Skyfolk mercenary with his ally. Then he drew his gun - a massive hand-cannon of a weapon - and pointed it at the beast dancer and fired; eager to see if he could dodge a pound of lead.

Whilst it appeared that the battle for Hell's Harbinger was going well for the Imperial boarding party, Garrett knew that the outcome was still undecided, the tide could change at any moment. As he was fighting some more pirates, Garrett could see an imposing figure moving across the deck, obviously this man was the Captain. Garrett thought that if he could get one good shot, the man would fall, and crush the morale of the pirates.

Before he could take aim though, one of the boarding party was thrown at Garrett, with the crewman's head to impact with his chest, causing the Skyfolk mercernary to come crashing to the ground, dropping his revolver onto the floor in the process.

"Bloody hell!" Garrett shouted at the sky above him as he regained consciouness, his eyesight slightly blurred due to the force of impact; but he could make out the Captain firing what looked like a small cannon in James's direction, who he could see dancing about as he took out pirates one by one. At least he knew what the man was now.

He helped up the crewman as he regained consciouness, but both stumbled a bit to support one another.

"Are you alright man?"

"What the hell... whose that talking? Ah it's you sir, sorry about that, some blasted pirate picked me up and threw me somewhere; I felt like a ragdoll being tossedd about in the wind."

"That is alright, the main thing is that your alive." Garrett said as he picked up their repsective weapons.

"Now then, enough talk, we've got a ship to attack." Garrett said with courage in his voice, as he fired a single shot straight into a pirate was coming up behind them, knocking him down instantly. Then took his sword out as another pirate came at him from the side, blocking the cutlass swing, then booting the pirate over the ship's railing and into the sky below.

"An escort? To protect us from her?" Oley asked as the shutters over his eyes blinked then narrowed as he focused on the jeweled woman. She seemed more odd than dangerous, though perhaps her oddities were what made her dangerous, in a sense. After all, there was a great deal he didn't understand about the woman, and she may very well be as much of a threat as the idea of needing a handler, so to speak, implied. Perhaps, he considered, prying at the matter would do him no good. But he still couldn't shake the feeling that he needed to know more about her, his curiosity practically fighting his better judgement to inquire tooth and nail. "Do you think she is that...capable? I do not wish to question the judgement of the Captain, but do you think there is reason to...worry about the chance of trouble?"

"I tend to assume everyone is trouble until they prove otherwise." Zach responded "She seems like she's just trying to keep her head down, and in that case I don't think we need to worry about what she could do personally unless somebody else tries to start something. However, what she could do is only half the problem. Dangerous or not, she's valuable. That much is clear; and valuable people tend to have trouble following them around wherever they go.

If I were you though, I wouldn't worry about it. We're pirates! Trouble is what we're good at."

Good at trouble? Oley wondered. There was certainly a lot he needed to learn about pirating, though from the tales he overheard at the docks, pirates were unruly people and often brought trouble with them. He supposed it would make sense that they were good at everything to do with trouble - bringing it, starting it, and likely even ending it, though perhaps when it was convenient for them.

For us, Oley had to remind himself. He was one of them. Wearing the title of 'pirate' will take some getting used to...

"Yes...I guess it is," he said, trying a smile again. Once more, he found himself hoping it didn't look nearly as awkward as it felt.

"Hell, you're the last person who should be concerned." Zach reassured him "You're a man-mountain of cast iron violence. Any Imps or mercs we might have on our tail are gonna shit themselves after one look at you!"

That was when Oswin returned, perching on Zach's shoulder like he always did, and further nipping his ear to get his attention. Whatever it was, it must be important.

"What is it?" he asked seriously, getting out a treat from a pouch around his waist. "What did you find?"

Oswin then launched in to a sequence of chirps, whistles, and bobs of his head that only Zach could interpret.

"Duty calls, excuse me." Zach said to Oley, before marching off to the starboard side of the ship, unsheathing his collapsible telescope as he did so.

It wasn't in visual range yet, not with the cloud cover to the east. However, Zach found the shadow, and tracked it, until eventually their pursuer revealed itself briefly though a small gap of clear sky. The vessel, of a similar size to the Mermaid, was not of a design Zach recognised. This was no Imperial vessel, but it flew no other colours either. A bad sign. It wasn't moving to intercept them yet. It was shadowing them from a distance, waiting for the opportune moment, like a Sabre Cat, slung low in the long grass. No guns had been rolled out yet, but from its port-side hatches Zach could tell it carried firepower to match the Mermaid's.

"Captain!" Zach yelled "Unidentified vessel, extreme range, 4:30/25 degrees. They're not... wait... ok, now they're moving to intercept!"

Zach unsheathed his bow, and smiled. It was time to go to work.

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