Aether Shanties RP (PM if interested/Started)

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"Remind me to make you some traditional Neovictorian cooking, and not the stuff the family puts out to impress guests. You'll have part of the answer as to why so many parties are thrown all the time." Samuel replied to Jason before taking another bite.

"Trust me. If this is the worst the Skyfolk have to offer, I will die a well fed and happy man. Just as soon as I can actually keep it in my stomach." Samuel couldn't help but laugh a bit at that statement.

Once the conversation turned to the possible trouble Samuel raised his eyes from the book for a moment to scan the room just above the line of the book. He noticed the woman before looking back to the book.

"We're pirates, when isn't there some form of trouble brewing? One of the reasons I love this job, so many opportunities to practice new and old alike." He said just loud enough for the table to hear. He made sure to keep the book obscuring the woman's line of sight to his mouth as he spoke.

-Exeter St John-

Exeter stood opposite the Invincible, admiring her beauty. It truly was a a fine airship, the best he'd served on for quite a number of years. He allowed a small smile as he slowly paced towards the ship's gangplank, weaving between the shuffling automatons, those useful - yet infuriating - homunculi.

As he allowed his eyes to roam, Exeter's smile dropped into a grimace when he saw Black Annis glaring at him. The woman was terse and easily annoyed, especially with regards to propriety onboard the Invincible. In a flash though, Exeter returned the smile to his face, making an effort to improve its size even more.

At the bottom of the gangplank, Exeter also noticed Lanester and her tame sky-pirate. He kept his smile fixed but couldn't help his eyes momentarily flashing hatred at Garrett. He thought back to the Lord-Governor's request - no, order - and wondered at the implications. If the Empire itself didn't trust her, why not remove her from command entirely? Why continue with the charade? Exeter was sure that the Lord-Governor must have his reasons but they needed rooting out... yet another task for Exeter to occupy himself.

Setting these thoughts aside for now, Exeter mounted the gangplank and took large strides until his boots felt the deck again. Exeter placed a hand on his sabre and gave a flourishing bow to the admiral, his smile dripping honey.

"Admiral." He intoned, voice sickeningly warm. "I trust you and..." Exeter hestitated slightly, eyes flashing to Garrett. "...And your, um, entourage had a pleasant trip? You have received our orders?" He stood at ease, hands clutched behind his back as the wind whipped at his hair and coat.

-Capricorn-

Faint sounds from above were keeping Capricorn occupied in the darkness of his lower-deck cage. The constant banging and echoed shouts of the crew reminded him of fighting. In his manacles, the young Misbegotten shuffled around his enclosure, occasionally sniffing at the bars of his cage and biting at various bits of metal found on the floor before spitting them out in disdain.

He didn't like that there was nothing to chew. There had been one time when Capricorn tried chewing his manacles but that had only earned him a beating. As resilient as he was - sword cuts and heavy blows didn't phase him - Capricorn was still fearful of his master's punishments; the blows needed to be heavier and for longer if Capricorn was to learn. He wanted to learn but sometimes he just couldn't do things right.

Capricorn stopped shuffling and peered through the darkness. His night-vision was extraordinary, a result of being confined in darkness often. He listened intently and heard something scrabbling close to the wall. He shuffled forward, eyes searching for the source of the noise. When he reached the bars, he pressed his face against them, grinning madly at the cool sensation against his scarred skin.

The scrabbling noise continued but Capricorn had found something else to occupy himself. He made satisfied moans as he rubbed his face against the bars of the cage.

Jason could see the the woman over which Beth and Sheska where worrying over the pages of his book. Another damn wannabe troublemaker. High Tortuga was full of them - newcomers to the piracy scene that had just cut their teeth on their first big haul. Brash and looking to pick a fight to stroke their growing egos. Well, they're going to be in for a rather nasty surprise if they continue annoying Beth...

He made sure to control his voice such that only his comrades could hear, keeping his mouth obscured by his book. "Beth, if we're to teach that lass a lesson, could we do it without too much blood? I just got this labcoat cleaned." He carefully made a motion to unzip his satchel, in which several welding sticks and a loaded pistol awaited...

Sheska glanced over for just a moment as Jessie rejoined them, leaning over Isaac and causing just enough noticeable color to make her want to frown, thinking, Why is it that every other lass on this boat manages to get a man to look at them like that? World just ain't fair to old Skulk-Hound Sheska. Then she locked her eyes back on the direction the two girls had walked off to. "Don't tease the poor man, Jessie.", she said, before looking back at the Captain.

"You want I should go and check it out, Cap'n Beth? I'm sure Jess and Izzy here can keep a firm eye on the crew while I do.", she asked her in a hush whisper, drawing her revolver entirely from its holster.

She felt on edge, now that she saw that something had bothered the Captain, and she instinctively wanted to go after whatever it was that was responsible. Whether it was a thing so she could smash it, or a person so she could gut it. Something disturbed their Captain, and as First Mate, she needed to sort it out, right and tight.

After Sam's and Jason's respective comments, however, she spared them a glance as well. "It's not as much fun without blood. Still, it's up to the Cap'n now, innit?", she told them, just before motioning with the hand holding her bottle for them to go about their business so as not to draw more suspicion.

Winged Beth decided that the women probably weren't looking for trouble, not yet. Maybe they were waiting for reinforcements, but why would they be targeting her? She couldn't remember their faces, though she could still have angered another crew and captain with her actions at some point.

"A very fine night indeed Captain. With a good and successful day looking for new texts. Still find it liberating that I can actually read these in public without it being taken from me and lit aflame." The ship's doctor answered her with a smile and continued eating. She was glad to have found a doctor and nodded at him. Not all pirate ships were lucky enough to have their own doctor and those who did could stay longer out of port.

Sheska had noticed the captain observing the two pirates.

"Something wrong, Cap'n?"

Beth saw her reaching for her revolver. It was a weapon she wasn't that great with herself, but she could shoot one. Her chain sickle, fastened to her belt, was more effective when she used it. Besides, almost everyone in her crew knew how to use a gun to some extent.

"I do not think they want trouble." The two women weren't paying attention to her anymore. They were happily conversing over some rum at the bar. What was it then? Beth made a discreet gesture to Sheska, with her left hand, to let her know that she should leave the gun alone.

"I'd be better if we weren't here Cap'n, We 'ave a set time of settin' off again?"

The cannon commander was as impatient as he usually was when they were in port. She could relate, as she found flying more fun. They were technically in the air and she better not forget that, lest she take a misstep and fall off the platforms.

"We'll be leaving again tomorrow. When most of the crew has had some time to sober up."

She looked at her own mug of rum. The captain should also be given time to sober up, she thought, before finishing her current mug.

The ship's navigator was studying a map he'd brought with him. It was uncommon with pirates who preferred doing their job, when they could be drinking, but those who did was often better at it than those who didn't.

Beth heard Jason arguing with the cook and was about to tell him to stop, or they might not be allowed to come here again. She did like The Laughing Gull; it was one of her favorite taverns in High Tortuga.


The band started playing another song at the same moment. The sound of it changed the atmosphere in the tavern from cheery to eerie. Maybe it wasn't only the song, but Beth felt cold all of a sudden.

"'Oy, boys, girls. Chief does choose her waterholes well, don't she?"

The woman had put on quite the show before. Beth gave a weak smile in reply to Jessie, when she winked at her.

Her feeling of unease remained. She was prepared to blame that on the rum as well, and stay off the liquor for a week or less, when someone appeared in the entrance. It was like looking at a mirror, which distorted reality, because Beth at the table wasn't as roughed up as Beth in the entrance.

The conversation at the table about trouble and the women continued, but Beth didn't listen to it.

Winged Beth at the entrance had relief written across her face, when she saw herself sitting at the table she thought she would be sitting at. The hell she had lived through had finally come to an end. She was bloody tired, her right hand was pressed against her stomach and in the left hand she was clutching a rolled up piece of paper.

She staggered across the floor towards herself, who stared at her with an expression of disbelief. Well, it's not every day you meet your future self. Beth looked at the rest of the crew sitting at the same table. It hurt to look upon most of those faces. So many dead, but that was one of the reasons to why she had come back.

She saw her loyal first mate; a part of her wished that Sheska hadn't been here this night. There was a lot left unspoken, but this wasn't the Sheska that she had known. If she succeeded tonight, they may never truly be the same.

Beth stopped in front of herself sitting at the table. She put the rolled up piece of paper down on the table.

"Get there first..." Her voice failed her. "The... consequences will be... dire."

That was all the energy she had left. She collapsed onto the floor.

Time's up.

It was, but hope had been lit again. She died knowing that, a puddle of blood from the wound in her stomach formed under her body.

Beth was speechless. She had just witnessed a replica of herself stagger across the floor and put a piece of paper in front of her, then collapse next to her chair. She opened the paper and had a glance at it. It was a map. She closed it quickly again, but now there were more than the two women staring at her in the room.

"Right." Beth took the tankard placed in front of Eddie, since she doubted he was going to drink it anyway. She downed it, as she found drinking the only reaction worthy of what had transpired. She put it down again. "Eddie, you'll have your wish fulfilled sooner than planned. I think we've overstayed our welcome"

She stood up too fast and felt dizzy.

"Every pirate under my command is to report to The Mermaid within the hour!"

The room was quietly observing her. She stepped away from her chair in the direction of the door, but she couldn't walk straight and accidentally bumped into someone. That was enough for a fight to break out. The man swinged at Beth, but missed and hit a pirate of her crew.

Beth turned back to her table, after noticing herself dead on the floor.

"Could someone carry me to the ship?"

She laughed and made a beeline for the door.

"Protect the captain!" More than likely the pirates of the other ships wanted to know what the paper she held was, because they were soon trying to get to her, but her own crew stopped them. The automata at the door couldn't throw all of the people fighting outside. There were too many.

Samuel closed the book and quickly threw it into his bag before slinging it over his left shoulder. He quickly got out of his chair and checked the pulse of the captain lying on the floor, as shocked as anyone else he was basically on autopilot.

"She's dead Captain. If you wouldn't mind I'd like to perform a simple autopsy once back on the ship. It may get us a bit ahead of what killed you in the future." Samuel said as he hefted the body up. By the time he had looked up the Captain had already run out the door without a word.

"If I get lucky may even be able to find something telling us when or where she came from. Though the chances of that are...unlikely at best." He said more to himself than anyone else. Something like this was greatly irregular, but the chance to study the captain for possible future ailments was exciting to him. Luckily he had used most of his money on more than medical tomes. He had made a place for himself to work on the ship, and most of his cut went towards medicine stock and new equipment when the chance arose. Though with only a few months it hadn't amounted to much yet.

'I'll have to ask the captain about that autopsy once we get her future corpse back onto the ship.' He thought as he himself began to walk the body out of the bar.

Sheska was about to holster her rifle when she noticed someone enter the tavern. Someone that looked extraordinarily like the Captain. She slowly stood up as she stared at the second Winged Beth, the look on her face one of confusion and horror. There was another Beth, and she was bleeding. But she didn't rush over like she normally did, simply because shock took quick hold of her. "Cap'n?", she asked quietly, the horror seeping into her tone as she glanced between the wounded doppelganger, and the Captain still seated at the table.

When the doppelganger slipped a folded bit of parchment on the table and said that consequences would be dire, she frowned and started to step around the table. Only to rush forward when she collapsed, dropping her rum bottle in the process. "Captain!", she shrieked, kneeling next to her and rolling her over, a look of pained sorrow on her face.

She was dead, and there was nothing she could do. But, more importantly, while she may have been Captain Beth, she wasn't her Captain Beth. So after a short moment of silence, she stood, then looked over at her Captain and the piece of paper. "Orders, Cap'n?", she asked shakily, putting one hand to her uneasy stomach.

"Every pirate under my command is to report to The Mermaid within the hour!".

She nodded, feeling easier having orders to follow. "You heard the Captain! Every man under The Mermaids colors get back to the ship!", she bellowed, quickly taking her place at the Captains side.

When she did, she was the unfortunate recipient to a fist to the face. She staggered back once, then leaned forward and landed a savage headbutt onto the culprits forehead, knocking him out. Placing a hand over her left eye, she looked over at Isaac. "Carry the Captain, Izzy. I'll cover you both.", she said.

Then she turned and drew both cutlass and revolver. "Any man who wants a bullet in the belly or a blade in their chest, come and stop us.", she snarled.

Isaac slid to his feet, moving surprisingly lithely.
He moved quickly over to the Doctor and took the corpse's legs.

"We don't want this fight." he said as firmly as he could.
"Quicker if I help doc."

The gravity blade shifted an inch or so closer to his palm, ready to throw at the slightest provocation.

But... he slid it back. No killing. The people here had just been here for a drink, they didn't deserve death for being in a tavern brawl.

The two of them hustled the body away from the tavern as fast as they could, all the time Isaac eyeing the tavern patrons and really hoping he was right to keep the blade out of reach.

What on earth...

Jason was utterly speechless. Was that... really Beth? What's going on here!?

"Every pirate under my command is to report to The Mermaid within the hour!"

'Fucking hell, Captain. What have you gotten us into this time?' Jason, keeping his hand on his pistol, stood with the rest of the crew and motioned to leave. As he hurried out the door, he heard a fight break out, but he paid it little heed. All that mattered was that he had to get The Mermaid ready to leave IMMEDIATELY.

He broke into a run down High Tortuga's dingy streets, eventually arriving at the dock they had moored their ship. Two of the engineers he had left to perform maintenance on her in his absence, Fry and Jake, where smoking on the dock as he approached. They turned their heads in surprise, quickly snuffing out their cigarettes. Fry was the first to stammer out an apology. "Uh... sir! I thought you said you'd be gon..."

"Shut the fuck up, Fry. I'll chew you out for this later. Jake, start up the engines. NOW." The emphasis he put on that last word jumped the boy out of his stupor and he scurried onboard. "Fry, help me unmoor the ship. We're leaving as soon as the crew gets on board."

"We'll be leaving again tomorrow. When most of the crew has had some time to sober up."

Sober up, my arse. Give me a ship and a heading and I'll be good the rest of my life.

Then all hell broke lose, a second Cap'n stumbled onto the table, giving the first Cap a map or sommat, then fell over dead. So much for her plans of leaving tomorrow, looks like they were leaving tonight. A fact that brought an ear to ear grin to his face and a spring in his step, he didn't even notice his rum going down Beth's gullet. He lept to his feet before she even gave the command, tucked the coin he'd been rubbing back into his clothing, and headed straight for the door.

"Every pirate under my command is to report to The Mermaid within the hour!"

"Whooo-hoooo!,"He screamed to the night as he exited the dive before sprinting straight for the docks, where the Mermaid sat,paying no heed to the increasing sounds of grumbling coming from inside,"Get the barrels stacked, the cannons secured, and lets get ourselves ready for sailin'! Cap'n Beth said we're setting off tonight!"

Paying no heed to the skeleton crew on-board, he rushed to his little slice of the ship, the cannon hold, where he proceeded to make sure of pre-cast-off duties. They were secured, the barrels of gunpowder were netted, and the cannon balls were stacked, not much else he could ask for, right? He'd done his part as a part of the crew, time to get back deckside. Which Eddie did with his particular brand of gusto, involving a bit of whooping and pacing the decks, waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive.

After a few moments as the rest of the crew poured out of the Laughing Gull, Sheska nodded and holstered her weapons. "Good then. Sorry about this Frank, but we can pay you for the trouble when we make port here again!", she called out, before turning and breaking out into a run.

She practically flew her way across High Tortuga, climbing up the side of one building before leaping from rooftop to rooftop, foregoing the crowds on the streets. It didn't take very long for her to get to the airship, and she promptly dropped down onto The Mermaids deck, glad to see the crew was already bustling and getting to work. Still...

"Move your asses, you filthy dogs, and get to work!", she called out, just before jabbing a claw at a crewman, "You, make sure the Captain is in her cabin, she looked ill. Izzy, see if you can get us a heading.", she yelled, going from place to place, giving out the proper orders.

It was after a moment she decided they needed something else to get them working. What better than a good song? "Hoist The Colors, men!", Sheska shouted, just before starting to stamp a foot onto the deck itself. The rest of the men started to join in as they worked harder, making the ship reverberate somewhat.

And she started to sing with grim determination as she got to work herself, prompting the others to join in: "The Emperor came, and took all but name... And threw us out on the streets! But the skies be ours, and by the powers, where we will, we'll roam!".

Once Samuel and Isaac had gotten the body of future Beth out of the tavern, they followed some of the others who had already gone back to the ship. It was merely following the city streets until they came upon the ship and walked the body up the gangplank onto The Mermaid. The two of them carried the body down a few flights of steps until they reached Samuel's makeshift sickbay.

He kept it as clean as possible and also tried to keep the smell of the various chemicals down by keeping flowers in the room. One of his books had said that patients responded better to examinations and other procedures if the room didn't smell like alcohol and other chemicals. Samuel planned to test that theory.

"Thank you, if you have anything you need to do I can take it from here." Samuel said to Isaac as he placed the body on a bed.

"Now if you'll excuse me I need to talk to the captain about opening up her future self." He said with a smile before leaving the room. He walked through the ship knowing it was likely she was either at the ship wheel or in her cabin in all likelihood. He figured he would start with her cabin Samuel quickly moved to the door. He knocked on the Captain's door, hoping that he wouldn't have to look much farther than that.

"Excuse me Captain, are you in there? I'd like to request permission to perform an autopsy on your future self." He was sure his excitement shone through his voice.

Jessie's mouth hung open, the jaw working up and down for a few moments, just a faint mumbling sound coming out. Her eyes couldn't possibly be any wider. The captain had a double... And she was dying.

Eventually she looked down at her own hands, closing and opening, counting fingers. She'd eaten the wrong mushrooms before, but this didn't feel anything like that. Could it be something in her drink? She quickly looked around the room, but nothing else seemed to be going insane.

Shock passed by the time Sheska and Samuel leaned over the body. Realizing how long she'd just stood agape and stared, she forced herself to move fast, pulling herself to her feet even while the corpse was hoisted up and people started making their way to the door. She took the back of the group, weaving and dodging her way through the increasingly rowdy crowd as the brawl built up and spread all across the bar.

She wasn't fast enough, though, and things just got messier and messier - keeping the back clear so the two could drag the corpse wasn't getting any easier. A big, meaty fist clocking the side of her head is what finally got her through being patient.

"Ye like yer brains?" She screamed up at the top of her lungs - which, incidentally, was quite high from being a lookout so long. Her gun was in her hands in an instant, pointed straight up. She fired a single warning shot, the big gun's blast disturbingly loud in the tight space of the bar "outta the way or ye bloody lose 'em!" A few pieces of ceiling fell around her, significantly damaging how dramatic her pose looked.

It did the trick anyway - or at least did enough to get them out the door no worse for wear. As soon as everyone was out, she turned around, walking backwards so as to keep her eyes on the door, making doubly sure no one was following. She kept the rearguard all the way to the ship, climbing onboard only after every crewmember was in - and only then did she shoulder her gun again.

Sheska had been getting the people working for a moment by then, and she promptly joined in the labors, and in the singing. It was something of a relief, really. A busy body and a song on your lips works wonders to dispel the shock and horror of what just happened, and it wasn't long before her usual smile was forming again.

Isaac nodded to Samuel.
He turned away and headed back up on deck, making his way towards his cabin.

""You, make sure the Captain is in her cabin, she looked ill. Izzy, see if you can get us a heading."
At this order from Sheska he nodded, inwardly groaning. He rolled his eyes as he walked away.
"It's Isaac, for the six-hundred-and-fifteenth time Sheska" he muttered under his breath.
He walked back towards his cabin, eyes already on the clouds. He wasn't sure of their direction at the minute but could get some ideas just letting the wind wash over him.

Isaac loved navigating from the deck. You could plot and hum and move compasses around all you wanted from some damned cabin but it was nothing compared to being out in the world you were trying to move through. All he needed to do was grab a couple of things and he'd be right back up on deck.

In his cabin, Isaac brushed aside some items and poured through his maps, thoughts on the captain.

He was generally a pretty unfazeable guy. You sort of had to be, when trying to chart your way through a howling storm when suspended miles above ground. But this Second Captain that had shown up... well, he had no frame of reference for it. How could she even exist? A twin? An exceptionally good disguise? He didn't think so - Isaac knew disguises fairly well and was certain this hadn't been one.

But these were questions that'd surely be answered eventually. He had no reason to dwell on them. Maps and sextant tucked under his arm, Isaac marched back the way he came and up onto deck.

Oh gods she's got them singing again. She'd better not make me join in this time.

And there was Jessie. She'd been clocked during the escape, Isaac had seen her but hadn't been able to act. Not that he felt too guilty, she was plenty capable of looking after herself. But...

"Erm... are you alright Jessie? L- looked like he hit you pretty hard."

Jacob walked at a brisk pace down The Mermaid's lower deck, frustration and confustion painting his features. 'Who was that? It couldn't be Beth, could it? I know my old friends in the Skyworks physics department said something about how time travel was theoretically possible, but this is just too outlandish to be true...'

He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. Now was not the time to dwell on this mystery. He had to focus on getting this rustbucket in the air above all else. Beth's interrogation can wait.

He entered the main engine room, surveying the progress his team had made since he'd come aboard. 'Engines fueled, steam pressure at full capacity, ship unmoored... all we need is to shift it into gear, and we're ready to go.' He turned his attention to Jake, who was monitoring the pressure of various steam outlets throughout the ship. "Jake, keep your eye on the steam pressure to the main rotors. We'll be moving out of port quite a bit faster than usual, I think."

"Aye aye, sir." Jason then turned his attention to the intercom wired to the wall. He pressed the button to broadcast it shipwide. "Beth, Issac, the engine's ready to fire. Cast off at will."

The hustle and bustle of getting the ship ready to sail had slowly driven the doubts and worries from her mind, helped her forget about what just happened and focus on the moment. The music helped immensely, too, and for that she was very thankful.

She'd been right among the men, moving from one task to another and singing all the way through when Isaac came up. The slight smile that had already formed on her lips widened somewhat.

"Oy, I'd forgotten all about that." Her hand came up, touching the right side of her head. There was an angry bruise right at the cheek, it looked like she would be carrying it for a while. "Suppose I'm alright. Not hurting unless I touch it." She grinned as she spoke, not bothering to stop her work to talk - she just did both at the same time "guess the sod didn't know how to throw a punch, eh?"

She finished pulling the length of rope up to the deck from the berth, and set about tying it to the bitt for safety. "So, what about you?" She nodded his way, making doubly clear she was still talking to him. People were coming and going busily, after all "looks like you got out smooth as silk."

A couple of deckhands jostled Isaac and he stepped forwards to avoid them, bringing himself a little closer to Jessie than he'd intended. He took a hurried step back, carefully avoiding colliding with anyone.

He nodded and a slight smile finally reached his lips.
"Yes. Can be a right sneak when I want to be."
Suddenly the self-consciousness came back with a vengeance. Hell, that sounded stupid. What are you thinking Isaac?
He started to scratch the back of his head and all of a sudden his shoes were looking very interesting.

"Not that I'm, y'know, a sneak."

"Permission granted. Rear Admiral on deck!" Annis called out as she and Garrett boarded the ship. As a result of the call, each of the men and women on deck stopped and saluted, until she returned the greeting.

Adrianna had to wonder about that particular tradition. She understood it was designed to show and teach the hierarchy with the greatest speed, but it always seemed like a waste of effort. How many man hours had been lost to saluting on the Invincible? How many in the Empire. Over all, it was a relatively minor inefficiency however, and it at least served a function.

As she reached the top deck, she was assaulted by reports, about the state of the ship. Annis was the loudest, clearest, and most brief of the reporters. "The resupplying has gone well, Rear-Admiral. Save for a single incident - one of the automatons dropped a cannon. Minor scuff damage to the deck, I've had two of my men clean and wax the location. I am attempting to track down the Automaton and have it reprimanded." Adrianna listened intently to all the words of all the reports, but Annis had a way of making them short, sweet, and too the point. There were never attempts to hide errors behind countless details - only cold, hard, facts.

"When I'm finally relieved of Mr. St. John, I will need to give her first-rank; no other officers are that good" Clearing her throat, she answered the reports one by one. "Ms. Baker-Cromwell, please see to it at your discretion; though if its a first infraction, please use a lighter, more productive, punishment such as rigging work - enough to get the point across, but nothing to horrendous; we can save the lashes for mutineers and brigands." she said, moving on to the next topic.

When they were finished, she intended on gathering the rest of the officers for the heading and course, but found Exeter missing. She had barely begun to search, before Annis found her goal. "Is that Mr. St John I see? He's late." Breaking out her pocket watch, she checked: he was, if only by a few minutes. Another minute later he was up the gangplank and aboard; all aboard.

"Admiral." He intoned, voice sickeningly warm. "I trust you and..." Exeter hestitated slightly, eyes flashing to Garrett. "...And your, um, entourage had a pleasant trip? You have received our orders?"

If there was anything to admire about Exeter, it was that he - like Annis - was straight to the point. He dispatched with the pleasantries quickly, then asked the most important question; their orders. Unfortunately, his pleasantries only ever seemed to drip with sarcasm and contempt. She had to bite her lip at his comments regarding her and her "entourage" as he so eloquently put it.

"I do indeed have our newest orders - I will share them at the navigation table post-haste" she said, letting the message sink in. She rarely explained the orders so formally these days. Most times the invincible was given a pirate hunting mission, which entailed little but skirt the boarders around Tortuga, sinking vessels until supplies ran low. That she kept her orders close to her chest for even this short a period of time was a sure sign of their importance and secrecy. Though she felt the mission was deserving of neither of these, it had been signed into law by the emperor himself, so it had to be handled as though the fate of the Empire were on their shoulders.

"Mr. St. Johns, Ms. Baker-Cromwell; please gather the ranked officers within the hour: discretely if possible." she said, confirming any suspicion they might have had regarding the contents of their orders.
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When the staff had been gathered, she laid out their orders. Despite the fact he already knew the orders, Garrett had to remain outside; he wasn't a Ranked officer; he had no right to be there.

"Our orders are as follows:" she began, tracing the map as she spoke. "We are to sail East to Helium city, where we are picking up a new engineer to replace Mr. Edeson; Emperor rest his soul. Following this, we are to sail for Neo-Atlanta where we will refill all supplies to their fill. Finally, we will sail North-Northeast, skirt the ruins of the Old New York necropolis, and eventually reach..." she said, tracing her finger to a large star mark she had made on the map. "...here. Imperial intelligence has reported that a set of Old-world ruins is located at this residence. It is believed to hold the a piece of ancient-technology of some potential. Our mission is to acquire this device and return it to Old Borealis before the pirate hoards catch wind of it. The Invincible has been chosen for this mission by the emperor personally; citing Mr. St. John's and my own knowledge of the sky-city and pirate holding in those areas." she finished, laying out the now completed map before them.

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"Are there any question?", she asked, ready to answer most that came her way. She just hoped no one thought to ask why a ship was sailing from Desolation, when Old Borealis and Everglade were so much closer.

Sheskas left eye was starting to swell shut thanks to the punch she intercepted for the Captain, and the pain spread to her entire skull. As an added bonus, her head felt like it was throbbing in time to the song, but she kept singing, and kept working. That is, until she spotted Isaac and Jessie talking in the middle of the deck, which made her frown just slightly even as she strode over.

"Guess the sod didn't know how to throw a punch, eh?"

"You're lucky. The bastard that got me had a fist like a brick. Then again, I'm used to taking hits to the face, and it shows. So, Izzy, you talk to the Cap'n, get us a heading? I'm not setting the ship sail without direction from her, since she seemed to have a mind about where to go.", she said, crossing her arms over her chest and tilting her head to one side.

Then she glanced between them both and quirked an eyebrow. There was something between those two, though she supposed it was stress. "Tell you what, once the Cap'n gets us to our heading, you two take a break in the hold. Have something to drink. You both earned it, s'far as I'm concerned, and it looks like you both can use it.", The First Mate told them out of uncharacteristic generosity.

Then she turned and started to head toward the Captains Cabin. "Gods know that I could, but there's work to be done, and rest can wait in my case.", she called back to them with a vague wave before opening the Captains door.

"Cap'n Beth?", she said quietly, stepping just inside the threshold.

Feron-12
It was dark, and he was alone, save for the constant scuffling that echoed somewhere between conscious thought and subconscious meanderings. In the half-light from the twisted portholes he glinted, repetitive motions again and again repeating themselves. Scrub the deck scrub the deck scrub the deck. A sold mantra to follow. Something to work on, to hold, to give himself handle.

He muttered lowly to himself as he worked, echoing the voices that reverberated around the ship. Keeping time with his soft words. "Emperor.... name.... streets...." It would be cathartic if he'd been able to comprehend such a thing. As it was, he couldn't, and just figured that is was something to keep his mind occupied...

Not that it needed occupying. He was perfectly happy to follow orders. He was made for it after all. His purpose. "Admiral.... Resupply.... Automaton."

He looked up, ringed eyes scanning the half-light. The scuttling from below was louder again. He could make out no more. The creak of the wood and the slap of the wind against the hull was enough to drown out the noises from above.

It would soon be time for him to meet the new stock. The others who were like him but not. Odd bunch, like the last ones he was sure, who would whisper to each other when there were no humans around; who would exchange furtive glances before boarding; who would crawl to embrace each other as they were run through or shot down.

Those who would look at him and try to talk and he'd look at them blankly, unseeing. Eyes staring past at neither the future nor past. Only the present. And if they weren't here to relay orders then he could say nothing to them. Soon enough they gave up. Soon enough, they were decommissioned, violently.

"Secrets..." he muttered, not wanting to enrage the scuttling beast below. Nor also to let it know that he talked to himself. That would end badly. He was not to speak unless spoken to. "Secrets and orders and we'll be hauling off soon. Then we will see."

-Annis-
"Ms. Baker-Cromwell, please see to it at your discretion; though if its a first infraction, please use a lighter, more productive, punishment such as rigging work - enough to get the point across, but nothing to horrendous; we can save the lashes for mutineers and brigands."
Annis nodded. She'd have preferred to move straight on to the lash herself but the Rear-Admiral was talking sense - no point wasting time and effort on a failing automaton.

She hated that they only seemed to get the off models. It just showed the ship for what it was - the Navy's dumping ground for misfits and outcasts. Like Vasco. Like the Rear-Admiral and that scoundrel of a bodyguard. Like herself.
As St. John arrived Annis stood dutifully and silently to the side, towering over all except Garret. She glared at Exeter's ill-kempt uniform as always, but had given up on making comments about it long ago. If the man simply refused to keep to uniform standards there was nothing she could do - he outranked her.

Her train of thought was cut off as Lanester spoke again. A meeting at the navigation table? Almost unheard of, unless the mission was of the utmost secrecy. Annis had to admit she was curious. Not that she was in a position to ask questions, but there would be time enough for that later. For now, she had officers to collect.

"Your presence is required in the navigation room." she hissed as she entered Vasco's pristine little dungeon.
You could say what you liked about Dr. Roque - and Annis often did - but his was easily the tidiest work space in the entire ship. And Annis could respect that. She waited barely seconds to see if the Doctor was coming along before turning on her heel. She didn't want to miss this briefing for the world.

After Adrianna had finished her briefing, Annis stared dumbfounded at the map. This was it then. The Admiralty were sending them to die. She could not accept that.

"Only one, Rear Admiral." she said, the mask twisting the anger rising in her voice to something inhuman.
"We are being sent across the breadth of the country... for buried treasure? Is this a joke?"

-Isaac-
"So, Izzy, you talk to the Cap'n, get us a heading? I'm not setting the ship sail without direction from her, since she seemed to have a mind about where to go."

Isaac damnit, Isaac.
He thought to himself, but ignored this and replied promptly.
"Not yet. Getting a read on the lay of the land first. Makes it quicker once I know where we're going."

The Captain liked Isaac to be quick with his work. He'd sort of earned his place on the ship by doing so, and now pre-planning potential routes before he even spoke to Winged Beth was second nature.
Speaking of which, he licked his thumb and held it up. Well, it seemed the wind would be in their favour regardless, it was already pushing out away from High Tortuga. An easy sail to begin with then.

"Tell you what, once the Cap'n gets us to our heading, you two take a break in the hold. Have something to drink. You both earned it, s'far as I'm concerned, and it looks like you both can use it."
What?
Isaac looked nervously at Jessie, waiting to see how she'd respond. Calm yourself you idiot, it's not as if Sheska just commanded you to share a bunk or anything. Gods, but she would if she thought it'd help wouldn't she?
"Erm... thanks, Sheska. I still don't drink though." he said, shooting a please DON'T leave me alone in a room with her! look Sheska's way.
Of course, Jessie might be too busy to take a break anyway. Probably. Hopefully.

What the hell is wrong with me?

"Yes. Can be a right sneak when I want to be."

She chuckled at Isaac "that y' can, mister. Could make a proper outrider out of you, I could." She set the rope she was handling in a great, big knot, then put a foot among the coil and pulled the end with her whole body to set it. In a moment it was done, as secured as it could be. She stepped away from the rope, making room for the bustle of the crew, a satisfied smile on her lips.

She'd heard Sheska coming up, and for a brief second seemed concerned. She'd just finished a task, but wasn't too sure the first mate realized that, or would just think she was slacking off. A faint breath of relief escaped her lips when it became clear that wasn't the case.

"You're lucky. The bastard that got me had a fist like a brick. Then again, I'm used to taking hits to the face, and it shows. So, Izzy, you talk to the Cap'n, get us a heading? I'm not setting the ship sail without direction from her, since she seemed to have a mind about where to go."

She grinned wider. "Bar brawl's no fun if we all come out in one piece, aye?" A half-step closer and she leaned in a bit, eyeing the bruise with clear interest "that's a beaut! Musta been a boxer or beast dancer got you."

Tell you what, once the Cap'n gets us to our heading, you two take a break in the hold. Have something to drink. You both earned it, s'far as I'm concerned, and it looks like you both can use it."

"Won't say no to a drink, but are you sure it's not you who should be getting a rest? That bruise looks--" She stopped in mid-sentence. There was not much point arguing, and Sheska was clearly busy. Instead, another tactic was called for "y' drop in after you're done?"

She shrugged and whirled back to Isaac, the smile even wider . "A drink it is! So, what's your poison tonight?" As she spoke, she set a hand to Isaac's shoulder, both in a friendly way and just to walk him a bit further from the railing. There was still a lot of work going on about them, and standing around so long had made them something of an inconvenience for other crewmembers.

"A drink it is! So, what's your poison tonight?"

That smile...
Isaac obediently moved where Jessie was guiding him without thinking, still a little lost in thought. He looked around, a little nervous before meeting her gaze and smiling, guiltily.

"I still don't... really... drink, Jessie."
He clasped his hands together nervously.
"You know how it is..."

But of course she didn't. Unlike himself, Jessie wasn't ethically opposed to the idea of fun. She actually cut loose and tried to have a good time when she could. Isaac had grown up under the impression that having a good time got you dead, sharpish. You take a bad risk, you drink from the wrong cup, meet the wrong girl...

Of course, now he'd met the right girl (as far as he was concerned anyway) he was more terrified than he'd ever been working for the Chuno Ggun.

-Exeter St John-

Exeter stood on the deck watching the Admiral and Annis wander below deck. He wondered at the sudden formality of Lanester. Since he'd been designated to the Invincible, he had never known her to do this. Was the Lord-Commander's visit and this incident a coincident? Exeter decided that the answer would likely be illuminated during the briefing. For now, he would content himself with a visit to Capricorn.

He made a detour to the mess hall on his way to the lower deck, deciding to feed the beast now. The kitchen staff gave him nervous salutes as they sorted through the new stock. Exeter gave them cold nods and inspected the crates. He paced down the line, peering at the vegetables and fruit before stopping at the final crate. He wrinkled his nose at the foetid smell and turned to one of the staff.

"What is this, Stokes?" He glared menacingly.

"T-the remains... of-of our p-p-previous trip, sir." The man named Stokes stuttered, his hands wringing desperately.

Exeter took a heavy step towards him. "It should have been gone well before now. We'll be preparing to leave soon..." Stokes shrunk under Exeter's gaze. Sweat was beginning to break out on his forehead. Exeter clicked his tongue, whirled around to the crate and lifted it. "No matter, these will do for Capricorn." He said briskly.

Just as he was about to turn, Stokes placed a hand on the crate. "Sir, I don't think those would do him any...." He trailed off under Exeter's withering stare. The First Mate's face was beginning to turn red with anger.

Stokes stepped away with his hands up in defence as Exeter banged the crate down again. He didn't look at the man and his hair shielded most of his face as it was lowered. The voice that came from it was cold and had the undeniable promise of violence in it. "If you ever think about contradicting me again," he paused, "I will beat you myself. It will be highly unpleasant." Stokes made a small noise from the back of his throat as the First Mate stalked out of the Mess Hall, crate in his arms.

Exeter shook his head in disbelief as he descended down to Capricorn's enclosure.

-Capricorn-

The bars still felt good against his skin, each one seemed to offer an entirely new experience although they were all exactly the same. Capricorn was so enthralled by this new sensation that he didn't realise that his master had entered his area of the lower deck. The Misbegotten was still moaning in satisfaction when the lights flickered on.

"Stop that noise Capricorn!" Exeter yelled, his words echoing around the lower deck. Capricorn started in surprise and shuffled away from the bars, his head lowered in obedience; his eyes were shut because of the light but he heard his master's steps and something heavy being placed on the floor.

"Don't stand there with your eyes closed." Exeter's voice dripped disdain. Capricorn didn't undertsand the words but knew the tone was usually followed by punishment. A sudden banging on the bars made him jump. "Open your damn eyes!" Capricorn's head shot up and he forced himself to look at his master. Exeter was outside the cage, feet wide apart and baton in his hand. Capricorn knew what that meant....

He watched as his master fiddled with the cage's lock and then picked something up from a crate. Capricorn shuffled forwards slowly, his curiosity making him bold. Exeter tossed an object into the cage and gestured for Capricorn to pick it up. He crouched down and inspected the object. It was round and squishy. Black with little white hairs sprouting from it. Not that Capricorn knew any of this of course; to him, the entirely rotten potato was simply interesting. It looked interesting and smelled incredibly interesting.

"Eat." His master's tone expected instant obedience. Capricorn grabbed the onion and took a large bite. He chewed on it for a few moments, his face contorting between intrigue and disgust. He opened his mouth and let the mushed pieces fall onto the floor. He looked at Exeter as a puppy looks longingly at its master.

For a long time, Exeter stared at the kneeling misbegotten, hand clenching and unclenching the baton in his hand. Without warning he picked up another mouldy vegetable from the crate and ran at Capricorn. The misbegotten didn't move as the beating began....

-Exeter St John-

Why did everyone insist on disobeying or questioning orders? First that little gremlin, Stokes, and then Capricorn. Clearly Exeter wasn't enforcing discipline nearly enough. He had calmed down a little from before though. The beast had eventually learnt to appreciate what was given him, and Exeter had worked out some of his frustration. The beast would be alright in an hour or two, when he eventually woke up. He allowed himself a brief smile as he walked to the navigation-table ready for the briefing.

When he arrived at the room, Garrett was standing outside. Exeter felt satisifed at this. For all her flouting of the rules, Lanester still didn't allow her tame pirate to be included in important meetings. He gave Garrett a stern look before pushing through the door.

As the Lanester related their orders, Exeter's mind was racing. They were as far from that location as any other decent airship, so why send the Invincible? No old-world relic could be worth such trouble... But if it was as important as implied - important enough to ensure any pirates don't get hold of it, then why send - of all airships - the Invincible!? It just didn't make sense...

After Lanester had finished she offered the opportunity for questions. Exeter was staring down at the map in thought, a frown creasing his features. He glanced up slowly as Black Annis spoke:

"We are being sent across the breadth of the country... for buried treasure? Is this a joke?"

It suddenly made sense. The Lord-Commander's visit and these orders 'straight from the Emperor' were no coincidence. This was a test. A test to guage Lanester's loyalty to the Empire. There was no relic. Or, if there was, it was useless. All of this was to test Lanester. Exeter was loathe to admit it, but the Empire had often used strange and unorthodox tactics in the past. This, though - this was unprecedented; using so many resources just to test the allegiance of one officer; she was obviously valuable in some way. Clearly there were things about her that Exeter didn't know. He smiled narrowly, relishing the thought of more puzzles to solve. This voyage was going to be interesting - Annis was certainly right though, the orders sounded like a bad joke; Exeter looked forward to hearing the punchline.

He stepped back from the table and addressed the quartermaster. "You, of all people should realise, this is no joke, Annis. To question orders from our esteemed Admiral," He inhaled gravely, "from the Emporer himself is so unlike you." he cocked his head in mock concern. "Perhaps you should go and lie down for a while, hm? Get the doctor to take a look at your vitalvbreathing apparatus." The corners of his mouth twitched up in a smile.

"I still don't... really... drink, Jessie."

"Ye... Don't? Not ever?" She blinked, shook her head, seeming almost as bewildered as she was when the captain's body-double walked in on them. There was a brief pause, her gaze drifting about without really focusing on anything, as if she was making a mental map of how to proceed into this particular piece of unmapped territory.

"Oh, well..." She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, actually flushing a bit as she realized that she'd just put Isaac on the spot for a choice that he probably was entirely alone on. Not nice, not nice at all. When she spoke again it was slowly, carefully, gauging his expression with each word as if she was talking with someone who just revealed a terrible childhood trauma "is there a reason? Ye had a bad experience, or a bad dad, or some spirit told y' not to..." She shook her head again, focused her eyes on his. It was just too perplexing, and the words were suddenly just blurted out "Not even a beer?"

It was quite clear that the thought itself was preposterous to her, and having lived her whole life either among Neobedouins or with airship pirates, it wasn't surprising she hadn't ever met someone who doesn't drink.

Jason could feel his underlings stare a hole into the back of his head. Normally, he'd chastise them for such disrespectful behavior towards a superior, but in this case he couldn't blame them. He was pacing back and forth, trying to calm his shaken nerves.

'None of this makes any sense. Get to what? A weapon? Treasure? Information? And where? Why is this so urgent?' He bent over the workbench he had claimed as his desk, taking in a deep breath, attempting to collect his thoughts to no avail. It was no use - his curiosity had gotten the better of him. 'My team can keep an eye on the engine. Right now, I need to find out what the flying fuck is going on.'

"Fry, you're in charge. Keep an eye on the engine. I have other work to do."

"Sir, if you don't mind me asking... what's going on?"

"That's an excellent question. One I intend to answer..." Sam said he'd be performing an autopsy of the second Beth. That might be the place to start. He broke into a brisk walk through the ship's lower deck, arriving at the entrance to the sick bay and knocking on the door. "Sam? You in there?"

-Annis-
"You, of all people should realise, this is no joke, Annis. To question orders from our esteemed Admiral, from the Emperor himself is so unlike you. Perhaps you should go and lie down for a while, hm? Get the doctor to take a look at your vitalvbreathing apparatus."

Annis' eyes narrowed and she turned her head as much as she could in the mask to glare at Exeter.
She couldn't help it. The man was loathsome. Sloppy, arrogant, and worst of all, those snide, self-satisfied asides. If she was ten years younger she'd have cut him down where he stood. But she was not, and there was always a chance that Rear-Admiral Lanester would complain. Though that was a bit of a stretch of the imagination.

"I am merely expressing concern. Of course it is not my place to decide our orders, but when a ship that is probably the furthest from Old New York in the entire fleet receives orders to travel there, it is only intelligent to wonder why, Mr. Mate." She said, her voice returning to it's usual low hiss. It took a special kind of soldier to turn a Rank into an insult, and Annis had grown up serving alongside them.
The only way she could have fitted more venom into her words was if she had ordered Vasco to start pumping some into her veins.

-Isaac-
"Is there a reason? Ye had a bad experience, or a bad dad, or some spirit told y' not to..."
Some spirit? What on earth did she believe about him?
She shook her head again, focused her eyes on his. And he was a little lost again.
"Not even a beer?" she suddenly blurted, and Isaac forced himself to focus, for more than a minute for crying out loud.

Oh. What reason could he give her? My superior in the Spy Network died coughing up blood after trying a sip of wine. Did I mention I was partially responsible for the massacre of a Neobedouin tribe? How the hell did you manage to get aboard this ship, Isaac?
And then his lips started moving of their own accord.

"I just... it was how I was brought up. In the Empire. That I'm from. Yeah."
Well it was somewhat plausible. He had told most of the crew that he used to be an Imp, and they did have a bit of a reputation for being stick-in-the-muds.
"You know how most families just work around the notion that certain activities are Very Bad Things?"
He shrugged and smiled nervously.
"Alcohol was kind of mine."

Garrett noticed the stern look that Exeter gave when he walked passed and entered the navigation room for all ranked officers aboard the Invincible. It was a place that he had been into, on occasions where his particular knowledge had been required by Adrianna. Fortunately, since he was with her earlier, he already knew the mission brief, and had no need to enter anyway. His thoughts turned to the route in which they would be taking both coming and going from the relic site.

'Lets just hope we don't fly near Sentinel Bay; given their defenses, the ship would be shot down, even with its armour.' Garrett said to himself, remembering that he had helped with the designs of the turrets that defended his home. They were essentially cannon sized versions of his Cerberus rifle, and to a ship like the Invincible; they would make short work of it. To take his mind off of things, he unsheathed his sword, a smile formed as he gazed upon the blade's red colour.

'Besides, someone has to keep an eye on the crew whilst the officers are away.'

Just as Vasco was finishing sewing stitches into another patient in his efficient, yet delicate manner, Annis strode in, announcing that he was needed in the navigation room in her sharp, but short manner. He finished the last stitch and turned to tidy up the little mess left on the tray. In his little lair, everything had its place. The medicines in the secure medicine chest, the refrigerator for those that needed cold storage, and the locked cabinet containing the more un-beneficial substances like morphine and medical alcohol. The smoke and the chill from the refrigerators swept through the sick bay, giving the impression that this place was more of a morgue than a place of recovery, the only warm things you would find here would be the thick blankets, placed there to give some comfort to those that lay on the cold metal beds, and Dr. Roque's bedside manner, cordial, but concise.

With the paitents seen to and the place tidy, he left and Vasco sighed as he realised that with his little tidying session, he was a few steps behind Annis and she wasn't the type to stop for well... anyone. Not even the doctor with bad lungs that had saved her life and risked his rank in defending her. Then again, being a doctor was a thankless job, and the talk of the 'Squawking Sawbones' who said little and did even littler among the lower ranks didn't help. It was just another insult from the ensigns, there often was a new one every year. While Vasco didn't pay any heed to such babble from those who had yet to require his services, he often smiled at the imagination of the lower ranks. He strode onwards with his ever steady, calculated pace: Cane down; step; cane up; step. On reaching the steps, he sighed again as steps were anathema to those with chronic bronchitis.

Nevertheless, when he overcame his nemesis and reached the navigation room, just in time to hear the new orders, he saw something; or rather, someone, who he hated more: Exeter St. John. For all the respect he expected from officers, he was not a respectable figure with unshaven face and askew uniform. No wonder many of the crew gave him the opposite of what he expected, it was like worshipping a splintered wooden idol. One was that rotten to the core. As the raggedy appearance reflected the poor mortal character of the man, one that beat the helpless and forced his way through everything and everyone. Vasco had first accepted that as a leftover from his pirate days, but as Capricorn needed more and more treatment, Vasco didn't take kindly to the fact that this man was so willing to undo all of that hard work, not to mention poor Capricorn's suffering.

And right now, he had gone for Annis, "...Perhaps you should go and lie down for a while, hm? Get the doctor to take a look at your vitalvbreathing apparatus."

Vasco had remained silent as he didn't care for the details of their orders, it didn't particularly affect him or his work. However, Exeter had insulted Vasco's work, and his patient.

"I am not just the 'doctor', Exeter, j...j...just as you are not just the 'ex-pirate'." Vasco fiercely rebuked, "Besides, the m...m...maintenance was done but a few minutes ago and I shan't see my work insulted."

-Exeter St John-

Before Exeter could respond to Annis' veiled barb, Vasco - the bird-masked doctor - spoke up.

"I am not just the 'doctor', Exeter, j...j...just as you are not just the 'ex-pirate'. Besides, the m...m...maintenance was done but a few minutes ago and I shan't see my work insulted."

Today was turning out to be a bad day for hierarchy and obeying orders. Exeter allowed himself a moment to think, exchanging glances between Annis and Vasco. He had the urge to draw his sword and slay them all there and then, be done with the farce. But he knew it couldn't be; He had to play out his role in the performance, for the Emperor's sake. For his father's sake.

He allowed a smile to drift back onto his lips, his head bowing in apology. "I am sorry if I caused offence, Vasco, but I was merely concerned for our quartermaster here. We are all aware of how important your skills are. Especially for keeping her alive."

He turned to Annis, a look of genuine concern and regret on his face. "I apologise if I offended your loyalty to the Empire. I was genuinely concerned." He looked down at the map, nodding thoughtfully.

"It is, of course, intelligent to wonder at these orders. After all, you dance with death everyday." He pointed to her mask. "I was just making sure the machine is in exceptional working order. Which-" he turned once again to Vasco, "after good Dr. Roque's assurance I now know is the case."

Exeter's voice now took on a listless quality as he looked down at the floor. "It would just be a shame if death suddenly decided to stop allowing you to live..." He raised his grey eyes at Annis' own and gave a warm smile

After Beth rushed out of the tavern first, she went towards the ship with the crew following her. It soon became apparent to her that she had had too much to drink. She did eventually end up at the ship, but she wasn't sure which way she had used to get there. All that mattered was that she was there now. She walked up the gangplank and realized that she must be one of the last to come aboard the ship. There were a few stragglers behind her, but the ship seemed ready to fly and the crew was working hard while singing.

"But the skies be ours, And by the powers, Where we will, we'll roam."

Stepping onto the deck, she raised her fist above her head and sang together with her crew.

"Yo Ho, all hands, Hoist the colors high, Heave Ho, Thieves and Beggars, Never shall we die!"

Fighting could be heard from the streets of High Tortuga, but those who didn't make it to the ship in time would have to be replaced. She wasn't sure if they actually were missing anyone. It could just be that the pirates in Tortuga had seen it as a great opportunity to start another brawl.

She headed for her cabin, as it was the only safe place to keep the map she had been given. Beth wasn't sure what to think about what had happened earlier. Was it real? If it was, should she force her crew to fly to the place indicated on the map? There was no telling what they'd find there.

She passed by Isaac talking with Jessie and stopped to listen to them, but their conversation had nothing to do with what they should be doing.

"Isaac! Is she your job?" Beth placed herself between them and looked at him. "No? I didn't think so. Do your job and chart us a course for Helium City."

Even when she was drunk, she needed to be able to order her crew around. She continued below deck in the direction of her cabin. A few pirates acknowledged her by nodding, when they met in the hallway.

"Excuse me Captain, are you in there? I'd like to request permission to perform an autopsy on your future self."

The doc was waiting outside her cabin. She felt sick thinking about her replica. My future self? Was that it? Sheska passed by the doc and opened the door to her cabin, neither of them had noticed her yet.

"Cap'n Beth?"

Beth stepped up behind them and cleared her throat.

"What are you doing sneaking into my cabin, Sheska?" Trying to sound serious while drunk wasn't the easiest and a grin spread across her face, because she had caught her in the act.

"Doc, the thought of having an autopsy performed on me before I've passed away is disheartening." She didn't like his tone of voice either, it sounded too excited. It could be useful though. It may tell them something about the replica, like if they were really the same person. It was hard to believe anything of this was happening, but until she awoke from this nightmare, she would have to act as if it were. She couldn't appear weak or useless if it really was happening. "But, I'll allow it."

"Beth, Issac, the engine's ready to fire. Cast off at will." The intercom crackled, carrying Jason's voice up to her.

She checked her pocket watch. The clock was four in the morning. This wasn't what she had hoped to be doing at this time.

"Sheska, make sure everything is ready for us to fly, by the time I get to the helm."

Beth entered her cabin and closed the door behind her, pushing Sheska back out again. It was a small cabin, with a bed and a desk. Her predecessor had been of the opinion that a captain that lived better than his crew had to fear mutiny. She did have a few books and a log on the desk. It was the safe she needed right now, in which she kept most of her possessions. Opening it, she put the map in and paused for a moment. She hoped that someone would walk into her room and tell her that it hadn't happened, or anything to make her feel better. There was a bottle in the safe. She closed the door to it and turned the handle to lock it again.

I'll be damned if I let this turn me into an alcoholic.

She left her room, it was time to get them out of here. Hopefully they could return soon.

"Yo ho, hoist the colors..."

-Sheska-

Sheska nearly jumped and had to suppress a yelp as she turned to see her Captain. She had no idea how Beth had gotten behind her, but she had to admit, the surprise did help ease some of the tension she still held. "Cap'n, I was looking for you. I thought that you were in your cabin, resting off the rum.", she said before standing a little straighter as she was given an order.

"Right you are Cap'n.", she said, then she paused before adding, "If you need to talk... Well, let me know Cap'n. Right men, be ready to cast off! We fly the moment we're able, so get to moving!", she bellowed the last to the crew, striding up to the top deck of the ship.

She couldn't afford to show much concern or unease around the men. She was known to be a hardass, and a tightass when it came to the ship and its functions. They didn't like it much, but the fact they were used to it meant that if she eased up much, or looked distracted, it would only draw them away from their work. They couldn't have that.

But the Captain worried her. She needed to have a talk with her once they were on their way. Answers to what was going on would have been nice, but she had a feeling the Captain didn't know much more than she did. Her main goal was to help set the Captains mind at ease and allay any worries she had.

"Isaac! Is she your job?" Beth placed herself between them and looked at him. "No? I didn't think so. Do your job and chart us a course for Helium City."

Isaac's face went bright red but he managed to keep his expression under control. He nodded to the captain.
"Helium City, aye-aye Captain."
Ah, that shouldn't be too hard at all - simple heading of south,south-east. He could already picture a couple of sensible routes in his head but he'd need to check the wind-maps before he could plot a decent course. If he was going to stay up on deck to plot it he'd need to get a bit higher - the helm or the crow's nest. And since nobody was up in the 'nest currently that would be the best bet.
As he started to move off, he caught himself and spun around to face Jessie. He smiled apologetically and forced some words out.

"Better go do that. Guess we'll... finish this later?" he tried to meet her eyes whilst he was saying this but it was hard. Once he got some sort of response from her he was up the rigging faster than a gecko.

The wind snatched at his hair and his maps from up here, but experience and and a firm grip kept Isaac's control of the situation as he consulted the fluttering papers. He matched them eye-for-eye with the landscape below him and mentally calculated distances, directions and weather patterns. After about half an hour he was decided, and clambered back down. Now all he needed to do was plot it against the ship's main map and they could be away.
It'd be for the best if the captain was around when he did, so off to her cabin he went.

He only hoped she was in something of a better mood now.

"Isaac! Is she your job?" The captain placed herself between them and looked at him. "No? I didn't think so. Do your job and chart us a course for Helium City."

Jessie's left eyebrow arced slightly, but other than that her expression was almost completely unchanged. The smile slipped minutely, but it was such a tiny change that most would never notice it. She said nothing, nor did she stare at the captain as she gave the order and then moved on, instead just taking a single step further out of her way.

Her gaze drifted about while Isaac addressed the captain, looking for work left to be done, watching the crew go about it. Pretty soon he was done, and turned back to face her.

"Better go do that. Guess we'll... finish this later?"

The smile returned, though somewhat less boisterous "aye. 'Nother time." She winked as he turned, then set off to work the mainsail, blending in with the people already at that task like one more productive cog in a big machine.

"Thank you captain." Samuel said in reply before going back to the room. His walk was quick and it was obvious he was still excited about the possibilities of this. When he reached his room he saw Jason standing outside.

"Ah Jason what brings you here? Please come in." He said as he opened the door and walked back into the infirmary.

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