"Ye sure? Well, glad to hear. Seems we get something of a break after all, eh?"
She chuckled, stepping up closer so she could watch him at work. Isaac's heart started beating a little faster, something he'd just gotten used to when Jessie was around.
"So where do we start?"
"Erm..." where was a good place to start? The basics he supposed. Not quite what he was up here for but it wouldn't take long.
"Well the first thing you always do if you Crow-charting is making sure your map fits. That's why I come up here, gives you the best view of the ground below so you can make sure everything's up-to-date. I mean, I can do it from memory now but when you're starting out it's a pretty good idea to come up here at least once a day to make sure everything's where it should be. You'll never need to check that often but it's a good memory lesson. You can read a Skymap, right?"
He looked at Jessie questioningly.
When they took the shaking man into the room, he'd already soiled himself. Agent 4 didn't mind the stench, he'd seen prisoners do far worse before interrogation. When he'd whipped the bag away he'd seen the reeling, terrified eyes of a Misbegotten. How such a creature had become the First Mate aboard a vessel was only a testament to how vile the Pirates were. Agent 4 hadn't thought to question his superiors demand for answers from the thing. Nor had he protested when ordered to cut it's tongue out, slice by tiny slice...
The Nightmare was still heavy in Isaac's mind as he did his rounds. He'd awoken obscenely early that morning and was still suffering for it, but the steaming mug of coffee he clutched in one hand was doing the job. He just needed to make another couple of course corrections, because he was feeling fussy. Keeping the mind occupied was good for him, kept thoughts of the nightmare from returning.
But of course, this was not going to last.
"Attention crew of the mermaid, this is your captain speaking. All the officers and anyone that isn't busy with their work or asleep, should come to the helm within half an hour. I have plans to discuss with the officers."
Isaac sighed, drained the cup and made his way to the helm. As he entered he nodded to the other occupants before coming to a stop and leaning against the wall. Beth looked a lot better. He wasn't entirely sure if he should apologise or not for last night so he went with his old Imperial instincts of carrying on as if nothing had happened.
When the senior crewmen stepped up to the helm, Sheska lamented being unable to get that drink for the moment, but nodded. "Good to see you all could make it. And I'm fine Sam, Jess. You don't need to worry about me.", she told them both firmly, before glancing at Eddie, and Jason.
"At the moment, I know we're heading towards Helium City. As for what this is about, Cap'n called a meeting. Not sure why, but I'm hoping for some answers myself. After that, I'm taking a drink and a short nap if no one minds. At least, so long as there isn't more work to be done.", she added with a shrug, "Need to keep up with the crew and all.".
Turning back to the wheel, she made sure they stayed on course. "Right Cap'n, senior crew is here. Whats this about?", she asked.
She listened to his first instructions, moving over to the edge to lean on the railing and look out over the edge as he spoke, following the instructions as he gave them.
"You can read a Skymap, right?"
Turning back towards the Navigator, she leaned against the railing, seeming thoughtful a moment "suppose I can read any map. Have seen plenty of them, and used my fair share. Have one to show me?"
"Good to see you all could make it. And I'm fine Sam, Jess. You don't need to worry about me."
She nodded slowly, letting her gaze turn away. People continued to arrive, a fact she was thankful for. She slowly stepped off to a corner, settling for being mostly out of sight and - possibly - out of mind for the moment.
"Suppose I can read any map. Have seen plenty of them, and used my fair share. Have one to show me?"
Isaac smiled slightly. Well, it was a start. He reached into his jacket and pulled out the map he'd been using earlier.
"Well first thing's first, there's one key difference between a Skymap and a standard one."
Without looking, he tossed the map out of the crow's nest, not even watching as it was snatched up in the wind.
...and seconds later it snapped back against him. He help it up.
"Designed to be used up here. That's a proper tough fabric too. I'm doubtful you could even put a knife through it, not least without some effort."
He unfolded the map and held it out, so that Jessie could see, standing a little closer so he could show it from his perspective.
"Now here's the other big difference. Obviously you get a lot of it already, like how that's supposed to be the forest over there? But-"
He pressed his finger against a series of spirals, forming a stream right across the map, about 200 miles from their current location
"What do you suppose that is?"
"Besides, while I hope to eventually Captain The Mermaid myself, I'm not ready for that just yet." Beth raised an eyebrow when Sheska chuckled after having said that. "Oh! If you can, could you get me a bottle of my rum?"
"Let me get this straight, you plan on starting a mutiny one day and want me to get your rum? I'm not sure if I should punish you or applaud your audacity."
Beth left laughing and shaking her head, but ran into the doc on her way down below deck. She simply took the glass of water and the painkillers, before swallowing it all down. The rest of the officers arrived shortly after, which was surprisingly fast considering that she hadn't made it to her cabin and back yet. Beth ignored them and hurried to get the map from her safe. In her hurry, she forgot to get food, but remembered Sheska's rum at least.
She stepped back onto the deck and jogged over to the helm. It appeared that everyone that had been at her table yesterday was gathered. A few bystanders of the crew too, which were doing their work.
"Yes, this is indeed about what happened last night." She said, uncorked the rum bottle and drank some. The desert heat could be unbearable at times. Beth handed the bottle to Sheska, then opened the map. "I gave myself a map, with one place marked out."
She held up the map, so that they could all see what she was pointing at. It was the map of north america, where a spot had been marked in the northeast arctic corner.
"We're going to Helium City first, to stock up on supplies if nothing else. I don't expect this to be an easy journey to make and if we're to believe what happened at The Laughing Gull, it might already have cost us our lives."
Or was it going to cost them their lives?
Time traveling was confusing, but at least she had done it once. She rolled up the map again, certain that everyone had had a look at it.
"Samuel's autopsy of my body suggests that it is indeed my future self, but also that she will be killed by imperial swines." Beth spat at the deck after uttering the last words. "I'm very much looking forward to avenging my death, but if anyone has second thoughts about chasing after whatever is at this place on my map, then I suggest you step off this ship at Helium. Then again, we don't know what might be there."
Because I couldn't have the decency to stay alive for five minutes to tell myself what it was.
She sighed, and almost felt like spitting again, at the thought of her own selfishness. Well, she had been dying.
"It could be a map to our fortune and fame, or a map to our doom."
Beth hoped that she had sounded a little inspiring. It wasn't the easiest in the current situation.
When Beth got back, Sheska brightened at the sight of her rum, taking it happily after the Captain took a swig. She couldn't begrudge her, and when she took a deep sip herself, she sighed. "I'd never mutiny, Cap'n. I was thinking of taking over if and when you retire. I'm perfectly happy being First Mate for the time being.", she reassured her before Beth addressed the crew.
"I gave myself a map, with one place marked out. We're going to Helium City first, to stock up on supplies if nothing else. I don't expect this to be an easy journey to make and if we're to believe what happened at The Laughing Gull, it might already have cost us our lives.".
"Not If I have anything to say about it, Cap'n.", she said fiercely, baring her teeth as she said it.
Then she quieted down again whenever Beth continued.
"Samuel's autopsy of my body suggests that it is indeed my future self, but also that she will be killed by imperial swines. I'm very much looking forward to avenging my death, but if anyone has second thoughts about chasing after whatever is at this place on my map, then I suggest you step off this ship at Helium. Then again, we don't know what might be there."
Sheska merely quirked an eyebrow and scoffed. "Beth, you couldn't get me off this boat if you tried to throw me overboard here and now. Of course I'm coming with!", she told her.
Her mouth formed a deep frown as she glanced at the others, trying to gauge their reactions to all of this, and to see who didn't have the mettle to stand up to this. She knew she was going. After all, she believed in Beth as a leader: That meant she was willing to go down the Devil's gullet and out again through his asshole, so long as Beth was leading them, and that she had a chance to clean up afterwards.
"It could be a map to our fortune and fame, or a map to our doom.".
"Well, here's hopin' for the former. We'll need to get winter clothes, because its going to be colder than a witches teat up there. Not looking forward to that. And Sam, you'll need to stock up on stuff to treat frostbite. Don't want any of the crew to lose any of their hands and feet. Heard tell that fingers and toes are the first to go up in the cold.", she added to the doctor.
Jason couldn't help but let off a chuckle at Beth's rhetoric. She always had a flair for the dramatic, to say the least. Soaring speeches weren't his cup of tea, but if it got the rest of the crew off their lazy asses he could struggle through. Once the mood had settled down, though, he could feel the tension creep up. This was a serious journey - one that could(or had? Time travel is indeed confusing), in all likelihood, kill them all if they weren't careful.
"Beth, you transcended time and space to warn us of something the Empire wants. Whatever it is, it's bound to be worth something." He let off another chuckle, this time at the absurdity of the situation. They where pirates! Common thieves! What hope did they have against an empire hellbent on getting what they wanted, regardless of the costs? 'This is starting to sound like those old serials I watched as a kid. A hardscrabble group of misfits, fighting insurmountable odds to save the world...' At that thought, he couldn't help but break into a full laugh. Them? Saving the world?
He took another look around the room. Beth, one of the most talented - if most brash - leaders he'd ever met. Sheska, who could likely take on a half-dozen men and come out on top. Sam, a doctor as devoted to the advancement of his craft as he'd ever seen. Jess, the best shot this side of the Desolation.
He leaned back, a wolfish grin on his face. 'Well, it's as good as any team to try, I suppose.'
"It could be a map to our fortune and fame, or a map to our doom."
"Well,"Eddie said, rubbing his hands together gleefully,"One's as good as the other t'me, I'm in all the way. Imps are always the most fun anyways. Chain, grape,"He giggled insanely a bit,barely audible"Imp swine on a cannon line, line 'em all up and see 'em wiggle, then you give out a little giggle, pull the cord and see 'em fly, all that's left is their eyes..." He trailed off as he saw a few of the crew looking at him, but continued to hum his little tune to himself.
Beth'd let him on board in the first place, and although didn't share his aversion to ports, she at least trusted him enough to keep him on board anyways. And this kind of high-risk, possibly high reward situation rubbed him in all the right places, and Eddie was nothing if not a risk taker. He kind of wished he remembered what his home Skycity was from time to time, especially when going against the Empire, their armor may be thick, but he'd yet to see someone survive a direct hit from anything he shot.
"You couldn't throw me off this ship if you tried. So far I've been able to perform an autopsy on your future self. Which in itself could be put into a book on the implications of meeting future selves on preventative care for patients. If not for the fact the crew of this ship are my patients, the possibility of studying what changing the future may mean for treating patients would be more than enough to keep me on board." Samuel replied absolutely grinning from ear to ear at the mere thought of a once in a lifetime field study that could have major implications for his craft.
"In fact my only concern is making sure I stock up on enough citrus, preserved fruits and vegetables, and medicinal supplies to keep the crew healthy for the journey ahead. On top of what your quite astute first mate has already mentioned. Though hopefully if I can get enough blankets and winter clothing frostbite shouldn't be an issue."
Jessie watched Isaac demonstrate the differences between a common map and the Skymap. Her gaze snapped and followed the movement of the map to a tee, eyebrow arcing.
As he unfolded the map and held it out she stepped up closer, eyes moving along the map slowly and calmly.
"Now here's the other big difference. Obviously you get a lot of it already, like how that's supposed to be the forest over there? But-What do you suppose that is?"
She considered the question a moment, brow furrowing in thought. Eventually, she spoke in the casual, flippant way of one who doesn't know, but is willing to guess anyway.
The neobedouin stood off to the edge of the group, closer to the crewmen working their watch than to the officers and the discussion. She was present for it, of course, but apparently convinced she was more of an informal guest.
People traded words, and her gaze moved about, from one to the other, hearing of the autopsy, the nature of what had been given by the other Beth, and the current plan. Jason's laughter brought her usual smile back to her lips, and people came up to give their agreement to the course, one by one. Eventually, with a shrug, she stepped up closer to the group.
Her voice was calm and level. More woman than girl, more veteran than free spirit. It carried more strength than she usually allowed herself to show. "The way I see this, chief... That other 'you' never got this message, so out of all courses she may have taken that night in High Tortuga, this is the only one we can be absolutely certain she didn't - not at this point in time, anyway. Means this is the smartest, safest course for us all: the alternative got her killed."
She was quiet a moment, then shrugged, voice slipping somewhat back towards the usual. "'sides, not like any of us can resist biting that bait, can we?"
"Now then, what are we going to do after this mission is over?" Garrett asked, the emphasis making his meaning clear. Adrianna continued to stare out at the fading city, but she turned slightly, so Garrett could make out her face; now adorned with a coy smile. "I don't know; assuming we reach Old Borealis, I'm going to have a lot of time on my hands. Have any... suggestions Mr. Corvus?" she said, keeping her smile cocked; the universal sign of her amusement.
She quickly glanced out once more, but the city was now gone from view in its entirety; lost to the distance, leave not even a gleam on the landscape. Seeing it was finally gone, she turned to deal with one final piece of business. "Well Piloted Ms. Baker-Cromwell; I'm glad to have such a skilled Second-Mate aboard." she yelled over the wind, her face serious. Deciding to promote her hadn't been a difficult one - Annis was a good officer and one of the few on the ship that took her posting with the utmost seriousness. She wondered for a moment if Annis had expected such a development; but dismissed the idea. Though it was true she had left the position of Second-Mate open before sailing, Annis was far too focused a person to even notice.
"Well, maybe..." she thought to herself, retreating into her cabin without another word, save, a small utterance to indicate Mr. Corvus should follow. As much as she would have liked to have celebrated with the new, upper officer, she had logistics to see to that could not wait.
Well, those and a few more private minutes with Garrett.
Sheska grinned widely at the responses from the crew, particularly from Eddie. He was the only one on the crew who came close to being as crazy and bloodthirsty as her. Sam was right along with her in that he wouldn't walk away for anything, and Jason and Jess both pointed out one of the other reasons for them to go to where the map was leading them to: Treasure.
"Whatever it is, it's bound to be worth something.".
"'Sides, not like any of us can resist biting that bait, can we?".
She chuckled and leaned over, smirking wickedly. "Of course not! We're pirates, and any self-respecting pirate can't resist the call of booty!", she said, glancing over at Izzy with a knowing glint in her eye.
Then she tipped her head back and took another swig of rum. When she swallowed and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, her gaze turned back to Beth. "Well, Cap'n, looks like you won't be getting rid of your crew anytime soon. The lot of 'em are crazy, but loyal with it, so that's just fine with me, being one of the craziest of the bunch! So, hell or high winds, we're going to get you to where that map is leading us.", she said, nodding once firmly.
"Attagirl, Jess. Right first time. Those're always the main feature of a skymap. Darker colours mean stronger winds, right? So as you can see-"
his finger traced along a small patch of pale yellow spirals.
"We just actually passed through some. That's back-currents created by High Tortuga. Don't know the actual science behind it, but you'll see that around any fixed cities. Hmm, now here's a little test for you,"
Isaac leaned back against the boards of the nest and looked thoughtful before asking.
"So if I've got wind currents on my map, why do I need to be up here at all?"
Isaac listened calmly to the captain's speech, keeping his thoughts to himself as he did so.
"-if anyone has second thoughts about chasing after whatever is at this place on my map, then I suggest you step off this ship at Helium. Then again, we don't know what might be there."
He watched as the other members of the crew sounded off they're loyalty, how they'd stay with the ship and so on. When it came to his turn he looked up for a minute, looked around the ship and met the captain's gaze, face calm and neutral.
"Kinda like it here cap'n."
She carried on talking about the map, and what it could lead to. Isaac wasn't personally sure if that was even important. The future captain had given them the map, so whatever was there, they had to go. How the future captain herself had come across the map though... interesting.
"Of course not! We're pirates, and any self-respecting pirate can't resist the call of booty!"
Isaac looked up and saw Sheska's knowing smile. Spend enough time around Sheska and you learn they can communicate almost entirely in silent stares. Isaac felt a little hot under the collar and shot her a reprimanding look.
There was just no dealing with her sometimes.
"Well Piloted Ms. Baker-Cromwell; I'm glad to have such a skilled Second-Mate aboard."
Annis looked over to the captain, frowning slightly. Had she just said...?
Well, Annis hadn't been expecting that. Not for at least another day at any rate. She'd known the position was open, she made it her job to know everything that went on aboard the ship. And could Adrianna have named anyone else, really? She was already more competent than the first mate in her own opinion, it had just made sense that she'd end up as second.
She hadn't expected it. Even with all her experience and discipline, Anni was damaged goods. She'd never return to her physical prime and she knew it. The Rear-Admiral knew it too, but clearly she saw some use in Annis.
She nodded a polite thank you to Adrianna as she left the deck with Corvus in tow. Annis hadn't been paying much attention to them as her mind needed to be focused on the task at hand, but she couldn't help but shake a feeling of unease at seeing an ex-pirate so close to her superior. Old habits died hard after all. Whether she was thinking of Corvus or herself at this point was a matter of debate.
And then the revelation hit Annis properly. She was Second Mate. Her mask moved in unusual and unpleasant ways. She frowned. Had she started grinning? Her mask wasn't designed to allow more than a slight smile. Not that she'd thought that would ever be a problem
But that feeling wasn't one she could shake. Second Mate. Things were looking up. Who knew, maybe she was even on the rise again.
Hah. As if that was even a "maybe". If Annis had anything to do with it, she would be on the rise.
All the way to the bloody top.
Adrianna still looked out over the sky in front of her, but turned her head slightly so he could see her face and its expressions; it being adorned with a coy little smile. "I don't know; assuming we reach Old Borealis, I'm going to have a lot of time on my hands. Have any... suggestions Mr. Corvus?" She said, keeping her smile cocked a little; a sign of her amusement. Whilst Garrett began thinking it over, Adrianna continued with another piece of business.
"Well Piloted Ms. Baker-Cromwell; I'm glad to have such a skilled Second-Mate aboard." Adrianna yelled over the wind, her face bore the look of seriousness. She then retreated back to her cabin, with a subtle gesture for him to follow. As he entered, Garrett closed the door; not only to keep out the wind, but also to make sure no one was watching them.
"Hmm, I'm not sure. Perhaps we should find a nice quiet place to settle down, and get to know each other in ways, that until now would be considered impossible; maybe even if we both wanted to, start a family. Or, if you're not up for that, we could go down the path of adventure, sailing the skies and discovering the secrets that still exist on this world. Although, I am open to suggestions. Whatever path we take, all I want is to be with you." Garrett remarked, showing that smile of his that made Adrianna blush on occasion.
Adrianna blushed lightly at his implication. It wasn't that the idea itself was so alien; it was hardly the first time she had thought of such a... togetherness, nor was it rare to be mentioned in the Empire; it was expected that all patriots would raise more patriots for the continued success of the empire. It was however, the first time such a... suggestion had been given voice, which left her with a face showing her embarrassment.
His smile didn't help any.
Of course, the ideas was far from unpleasant; she, like most people; hoped to raise a family one day. That it might be with Garrett made the idea seem more appealing, though remarkably more difficult. While their current relationship was more then enough for charges of treason, there was a distinct lack of evidence. Children, however, would be much more obvious; particularly from a high profile, supposedly single, Admiral with few male corespondents. Even their relationship, without the excuse against suitors that she would be constantly away on duty, would become exponentially more difficult to maintain and conceal.
His other suggestion had similar difficulties, as 'sailing the skies in search of adventure' would not be tolerated by the empire; even should they leave the Empire alone, it was akin to piracy. Both suggestions required the same, extremely difficult, step; leaving the empire - the only life she had ever known - behind. She took one more look at Garrett's face, and she knew what she wanted; and Adrianna always got what she wanted.
When their mission ended, her duty to the empire complete, they would disappear - maybe they would continue to adventure, maybe just find a quiet corner of the world and raise a family; or maybe a little of both. Either way it would be together.
"Whatever we do, it will be an adventure. There's no place I want to be but with you." she replied, a jovial smile on her face.
Thereafter, she moved to her desk, hoping to get some of her logistical work done (and hide her beet red face.)
The sick bay was in the same state as it ever was, except the patients were looking a bit better after. Vasco had finished his little inspection, adjusting bandages and whatnot as needed, but not too much to interfere with the natural healing process of the body. Even the poor ensign with the ruined face looked like he could crack a winning smile. The only complaints were the same ones as ever, a lack of fireplace or other heat source to keep the patients warm. Dr. Roque shook his head. Fire in a place where there was flammable chemicals and materials? Surely they wished to burn to death. Let them moan under their thick woollen blankets while sipping a warm portion of loblolly. They had enough to keep them warm, much more would be overkill. Just like the fact that you bandaged a wound tightly, but not too tightly, to let the wound breathe, as crushing it under gauze and bandages wouldn't do it any good. They were distracting him from updating the medical records and writing up the medical report for the Rear-Admiral anyway. He sighed, there were times when even he was tempted to harm those he had sworn to heal.
Frustrated, he took himself to his quarters and stood for a minute watching the sky move along, Desolation was far over the horizon now. Somehow he had always had thoughts of skimming stones in the sky - a foolish folly, how could should a thing be possible? But resumed his work in a somewhat more quieter atmosphere. Vasco hated it when patients got rowdy. A sawbones, now a scribbler of words, it was funny how the dexterity required for delicate movements of the scalpel and needle carried over to produce delicate handwriting. Was this the source of what the commoners called 'doctor's handwriting'? Well Vasco would ensure that the words were legible, as he didn't want the incident where he had to read out one of his reports to the Rear-Admiral when he was still a fresh face on the Invincible, one containing a report of a patient with a rather... embarrassing disease. His stutter didn't help either. Vasco could have sworn that at least fifty faces, including his and the Rear-Admrial's turned red then. Well, at least that broke the ice. Finished with reminiscing, he resumed his work and the pen scratched at the paper once more.
"I'd never mutiny, Cap'n. I was thinking of taking over if and when you retire. I'm perfectly happy being First Mate for the time being."
Beth hadn't thought much about retiring. It would be preferable to getting killed by some imperial swine or dying in general. She would miss the life of a pirate and some of her companions, but maybe there were other places which still needed someone like her. A revolution would be nice and perhaps there would be enough loot for her to retire at the end of this trip. She chuckled and blushed, it was a childish thought.
""Beth, you couldn't get me off this boat if you tried to throw me overboard here and now. Of course I'm coming with!"
She wasn't surprised by Sheska's answer.
"Beth, you transcended time and space to warn us of something the Empire wants. Whatever it is, it's bound to be worth something."
Jason started laughing after expressing his opinion, which she found odd, as there were nothing worth laughing at in the situation. She didn't pay it much attention though, even if it was hard to not notice.
"Yes... It better be."
"One's as good as the other t'me, I'm in all the way. Imps are always the most fun anyways. Chain, grape,"
Beth grinned when she heard Eddie's answer.
"They are indeed." It was one of the things she loved the most about being a pirate. That she was able to kill imperials, as an agitator she hadn't dared to dream about it. Now she could, and did, thoroughly enjoy it. "As if I didn't have enough reason to hate them already. My future corpse is another wrong that needs to be righted."
"You couldn't throw me off this ship if you tried. So far I've been able to perform an autopsy on your future self. Which in itself could be put into a book on the implications of meeting future selves on preventative care for patients."
Why did the doc have to bring that up again? His enthusiasm gave her a conflicting feeling of disgust and happiness.
I could throw anyone off this ship, if I really wanted too.
They'd be a doctor short if she chose him, and it wasn't that easy to find someone with medical experience, who was willing to work on a pirate ship.
"The way I see this, chief... That other 'you' never got this message, so out of all courses she may have taken that night in High Tortuga, this is the only one we can be absolutely certain she didn't - not at this point in time, anyway. Means this is the smartest, safest course for us all: the alternative got her killed."
I wouldn't be so sure about that.
All of the courses, even this one, could lead to death. Not to mention that they had just as many alternatives as her future self had. Then again, there was nothing that proved that she hadn't taken this exact course of action. After all, she did come from the future.
"I'm glad to hear that you're coming with us anyway, Jessie."
There would probably be other individuals among the crew that did opt to step off and join another crew, and serve under another captain. She couldn't blame them, but she was glad to hear that all the officers were coming with her.
"Of course not! We're pirates, and any self-respecting pirate can't resist the call of booty!"
She had been about to leave the helm, when Sheska made a passing remark about booty and looked at Isaac. Beth understood what she was implying, since Jessie was there, but she didn't like the thought of someone being made fun of under her command. Not in front of everyone at least.
"Sheska, there's no need to be jealous of others because they get more booty than you." She stole the rum bottle from her, drank some and started heading below deck to return the map to the safe. "Maybe you just need to try harder, and no excessive drinking at the helm. Not after what happened last night. The rest of you can return to your posts."
They all got the chance to view the pyramid and its surrounding skyscrapes closer, as they now passed by them. It had once been a great city, but that was long gone and replaced with ruins inhabited by beasts. When they had flown by the ruins, she heard shouting from on top of the ship, but couldn't make out the words at first.
"Imperial ship to the north!"
The ruin could have made it hard for them to spot each other. Well, either way, it seemed like she would get a chance for revenge sooner than expected.
"Sheska, there's no need to be jealous of others because they get more booty than you. Maybe you just need to try harder, and no excessive drinking at the helm. Not after what happened last night. The rest of you can return to your posts.".
Sheska knew what the reprimand was really about and smiled just a little awkwardly. "Right, Cap'n. Won't happen again. Farthing, take the helm! I've other business to attend to, and would like to speak to the Cap'n.", she said, waiting for the old pirate to come over and take the wheel before letting it go and following Beth.
"You know I was just teasing Izzy, Cap'n. I'm honestly hoping he and Jess have something together.", she said, just before trailing off as someone shouted at the top of the ship.
"Imperial ship to the north!".
The First Mate blinked, then a slow, sadistic smile spread on her face. "Imp swine? Running into them already? Oh good, I can't wait to gut some of them like pigs for what they did to the other Beth. Permission to board and slaughter them, Captain?", she asked.
As she turned to look at Beth, her expression had changed dramatically. It wasn't embarrassed or amused anymore, but excited, anticipating the opportunity for cruelty and brutality. The look in her eyes was clear: She was bloodthirsty, and was already itching to spill Imperial blood especially.
"Well now if you'll excuse me it seems I'll need to be ready." Samuel said before sprinting out of the room. He returned to his little area and grabbed his pistol and medical bag that he kept stocked with first aid supplies. He made sure the revolver was loaded and that ammunition was also in the bag. With that done he moved the captain's body to a far bed before covering it with a sheet.
Eddie just sat at the table until the Captain left, humming his little ditty and generally enjoying himself. Not a care in the world, at least until they reached Helium City.
"Imperial ship to the north!".
The pirate jumped up from his seat and rushed out of the helm. Iron-shod boots clacking on the wooden deck, he made his way to the stairs leading down to the cannon hold, smacking the rest of the dedicated cannon crew that weren't already down there, urging them down quickly.
He prepped a cannon chosen at random from the guns down there along with another crewman, or woman, he wasn't really paying attention to that little fact.
"Whatever we do, it will be an adventure. There's no place I want to be but with you." Adrianna remarked, a rather jovial smile on her face. Soon after, she moved to her desk, hoping to get some work done; but also to hide the rather bright red face she had. This caused Garrett to chuckle under his breath.
"Well, glad we share the same desires." Garrett remarked as he slowly walked towards Adrianna's desk.
"However, there is at least one thing I wish to do before I leave." He added, gently holding Adrianna's head in one hand, before giving the admiral a kiss on the lips. This lasted several seconds before he let go, and made his way towards the door. As Garrett left, he gave Adrianna a roguish smile.
"Should you need me for something, I shall be in my quarters." Garrett then left the room, allowing the admiral to get on with her work.
Back in his room, which whilst not as big as some of the others, was still large enough for his needs. He sat himself at a desk, and unholstered Cerberus, laying it flat on the table; then proceeded to remove a small assortment of tools from one of the draws, and began making some modifications to the rifle, having this feeling it would be put to use soon.
"Imperial ship to the north!"
Jason didn't need to think twice - as soon as the call went out, he was bolting down to the lower decks. Any member of his team he saw along the way he ordered to follow, and soon they where all grouped up in the engine room eagerly awaiting their orders.
"Jake, stay here and keep the engine running. Be careful - if something goes wrong, you'll likely be on your own until this dies down." He turned the rest of the crew, his expression grim. "Keep your weapons on you at all times. We're likely amongst the first targets if we're boarded. Fry, gather your tools and follow me. You're on damage control."
"Aye aye, sir." He did as he was told, scooping up a pile of tools into a bag and slinging it over his shoulder. Jason did the same, also making sure to sweep in a handful of bullets for good measure. With Fry in tow, he headed back to the helm.
After Garrett left, Adrianna returned to the pressing matters her Admiralty duties required. Looking over supply lists, memorizing command structure changes, new tactical plans and Imperial Intelligence memo's: all of it took time. So, for several hours she sat at her desk doing just those that were most pressing. She presumed she would be working on the information through the evenings end. However; around 4:30, as the sun was beginning it's descent below the horizon, the signal rang from the nest.
"Foreign Lines! Due South!"
It was a signal few captains liked to hear as, invariably, it meant pirates or worse. Adrianna was no exception. Though it was her duty to sink pirate and foreign ships within Imperial air-space, there were more important tasks to deal with. None-the-less, they would need to watch it if nothing else; and prepare for battle as well.
Standing quickly, she grabbed her greatcoat from the back of her chair and threw it on to give her some protection from the elements. Walking out of her cabin, she could see that many of the crew were already rushing to their stations; manning cannons, preparing to repel boarders, pulling the rigging into battle position.
Turning to the nearest officer; her third-mate, Mr. Riley, she began her orders. "Mr. Riley, sound the general alarm; I want the crew battle ready in five." She called out to several others, giving similar orders - to batten down loose rigging and gear, take gun positions, etc.
Pulling her arm up, she used the spyglass atop it to stare in the direction indicated by the original command. It took her a moment, but she eventually spotted the ship for herself. It was still too far out to make any detail of it, but then that was no surprise; they hadn't seen it until moments ago. Judging from the flags, the ship was most definitely not Imperial; and the lack of Imperial lines only underlined the fact.
The ship was traveling east; much as they were; a fact that gave them a slight edge. It would mean their port-side guns were aligned, and few ships could boast more firepower then an Imperial Frigate. Still, she wanted every edge; she did not become a Rear-Admiral by allowing pirates any advantage. Turning to the crew member at the wheel, she gave out her orders. "Cut speed by three, four to port, and increase elevation by thirty. Should they attempt the same, compensate.
"Foreign Lines! Due South!"
Despite these words coming from one of the highest points on the Invincible, they were loud enough that it reverberated throughout the vessel, causing Garrett to awaken from an impromptu slumber, the hood of his coat fallen over his head. After checking the clock, he saw that several hours had passed, his gun was almost fully reassembled, and that a bottle of rum lay at his desk, with a small glass nearby.
"Well, best go see what the situation is up top." Garrett said to himself as he finished with the modifications and repairs, along with the reattachment of Cerberus's scope; before holstering the rifle and acquiring a sufficient supply of ammunition. After readjusting his attire and making sure that his sword was with him, he hastily left the room, and made his way up on deck. He didn't bother with lowering his hood.
Garrett could see that everyone was getting battle ready, with various crew members dashing about making sure that everything was secure and everyone was armed. He skillfully moved his way around those on board, till he could see Adrianna giving out orders and looking through the spyglass that was built into her automata arm.
"What is the situation m'lady?"
"You know I was just teasing Izzy, Cap'n. I'm honestly hoping he and Jess have something together."
It was hard for her to imagine Jessie and Isaac together, but maybe not impossible. She smiled, seemingly unconcerned by the imperial ship, who was still quite far away.
"What makes you think I wasn't teasing you?" It wouldn't be the first time.
"Imp swine? Running into them already? Oh good, I can't wait to gut some of them like pigs for what they did to the other Beth. Permission to board and slaughter them, Captain?"
The look in the woman's eyes would put fear into most, but she didn't feel like she had anything to fear from her first mate. Beth shook her head, put her lips against Sheska's bottle for the third time and drank some more.
"As flattering as your concern for my dead body is, I am still very much alive. There's no need to board them yet. Besides," She pointed at the imperial ship, which was rising slowly. "I think they'll try their best to prevent us boarding. Which, granted, is fucking cowardly, considering that they most likely outnumber us."
She handed the bottle back to Sheska.
"We'll use our superior speed and maneuverability, to cut in front of them and avoid taking fire from their port side. That should still allow us to fire at them, if we align some of the cannons and the lightning gun towards the rear."
Beth stepped back up onto the helm again, and gestured for Farthing to leave the wheel to her.
"Sheska, if you want something to do, get on the lightning gun and punch some holes in whatever armor the may have." She reached for the intercom, to broadcast a message across the ship.
"Attention, all crewmembers should prepare for battle. Eddie, make sure you've got some cannons pointed to fire behind us. Full speed ahead!"
She steered the ship in the direction of the imperial frigate, but tried to stay outside of their range, until she could get the ship in front of them.
"As flattering as your concern for my dead body is, I am still very much alive. There's no need to board them yet. Besides, I think they'll try their best to prevent us boarding. Which, granted, is fucking cowardly, considering that they most likely outnumber us."
Sheska pouted a little, the fire in her eyes dying down a little to embers as she watched her Captain. "Better stay alive, Cap'n. Seeing you die once was more than enough for me. So remember, between the two of us, I die first, preferably so that you can get away and kick their asses another day.", she pointed out as she followed dutifully behind Beth.
It was then that she had a moment of self-reflection: She hadn't really changed much from her time in the Chuno Ggun in terms of what she was. She was a killer, and really, a rabid dog to be unleashed whenever the time was right. Its just that now, she was a loyal dog, and this time chose her leader. With a small smirk, she nodded as Captain Beth handed her back her rum and gave her her orders.
"Sheska, if you want something to do, get on the lightning gun and punch some holes in whatever armor the may have.".
"With pleasure, Cap'n.", she said, nodding before heading down below.
She shouted various orders for men to be ready for battle as she weaved between the bustling crew, just before getting to the lightning guns controls and speaking into the intercom. "Ready Cap'n! Lets fry some Imps. I prefer them 'well done'.", she added in a purr as she charged up the ships weapon.
"Eddie, make sure you've got some cannons pointed to fire behind us. Full speed ahead!"
"What d'ya take me for?," He yelled out from the cannons,"Some first month bilge rat that don't know port from starboard?"
The rest of the hold was crammed with the rest of the cannon teams, the more experienced partnered with the lessers, with Eddie in the center of it all, just waiting for the right moment to fire. They may be outgunned, but how many of these Imps knew how to bust open their can as easily as himself?
"What is the situation m'lady?" Garrett said as he arrived on deck. Adrianna had hardly a moment to respond, as she kept watch over the ship. "Enemy vessel inbound. It looks pirate, but I don't recognize the flag; they must not be well know and not very successful"** she said, not looking at her companion. Instead, she called out to the nearest runner. "Some one find me Mr. St. John; I want to know everything about that ship and her captain." the runner took off toward the nearest possible location he might be found.
"Be ready for a fight though." she added with a slight grin, seeing the enemy ship begin its jump to attack speeds. From the looks of the movement, they were trying to take advantage of their ships mobility; no doubt to get out of line of fire from their port side guns. Glancing though the spy glass, it appeared they were changing the alignment of their guns; which made sense; better to minimize our ability to target them, while firing in their own right. The solution however, had a flaw. They would need to pull out in front at great speeds to escape their guns.
It was a perfect chance for the Invincible to prove its name.
"Mr. Riley-" she called out to her third mate, now manning the wheel until either the first or second mate arrived. "-when the enemy makes to pull out in front, hard to Starboard." she finished, smiling. Mr. Riley was an old sailor with her, and he knew her moves well. She hadn't even finished the statement, and Riley was already calling down to the Starboard gunners to ready their shots.
Lanester had learned long ago the disadvantages of Imperial Frigates. They might out gun every pirate the Empire had ever met by half, but they were slow by comparison. The only solution was to turn their speed against them; the brigands would fly into a storm of Imperial brimstone and iron; every pirates worst nightmare.
Save perhaps; the rum being gone.
Jason arrived on the deck just in time to see the Imperial vessel come into clear view. It was several hundred yards away, and massive - much larger than the Mermaid. 'Something that large must be a frigate. I'm not sure we should be picking a fight with something that large and heavily armored.' Seeing a crewman run with a spyglass at his hip, he called out to him. "Oi, you, lend me your spyglass. That's an order!" The man tossed it over, and Jason pointed it at the Imperial ship and peered through it.
'Definitely a frigate, alright. That armor looks thick - I'm not sure we have shot that could pierce it.' He swept the ship's length, making note of the guns he saw - at least a dozen in view, likely more being brought to bear. 'I'm not sure this is a fight we can win... I hope Beth knows what she's doing.'
"Fry, judging by its list, we're about to take a salvo. I'm not sure it'll hit at this range, but get ready to duck."
Samuel had gathered his things and was now staying on the deck just below top. He also made sure to stay at center ship so that way he was equidistant from anywhere he might need to be and just below deck.
"I hope none of this cuts into my experiments." Samuel muttered to himself as he took an out of the way position.
Isaac was out on deck, watching in horror as the Imperial vessel came into view. They shouldn't have been here. There were no Imperial patrols out this way, it was precisely why Isaac had picked the route. What the hell was going on?
Easy, no reason to lose his head. There were here, so something needed to be done.
Isaac wasn't a fighter. Oh, he'd fought and he'd killed but not in an all-out scrap like the kind they always seemed to run into aboard this ship. He wouldn't be much good defending. If he had a crossbow or a sniper or something scoped then maybe he'd be able to contribute, but he didn't like those odds. Well, he knew what to do. The captain would have orders and he'd follow them.
He marched as quick as he could over to Beth, stopping stock still in front of her.
Annis was out on deck, watching in glee as the pirate vessel approached. She'd ordered one of the crew to take the wheel about an hour ago and had been marching back and forth impatiently since. But this, this was something she could deal with.
She almost felt like her old self, eagerly awaiting the din of ship-to-ship combat. But of course, she was not that person anymore. Things had to be dealt with efficiently. Effectively. They needed to cut the pirates down before they could become a real threat.
She barged her way through the hurrying crew, leaving a wide trail in her wake as the ordinary sailors all but dived out of her way.
"Rear-Admiral." she hissed, a violent edge to her voice that she couldn't quite control.
"I can have a boarding party ready within moments, are we to require one?"
Of course, she probably needed to check with Vasco if she was able to engage in combat, that was sort of the rule he'd imposed on her after a very narrow escape from the jaws of death not long after their assignment to the vessel. But she didn't feel like looking for him. Of course she was combat ready! She felt it in her bones. The sword at her hip felt light, and thirsty. She wanted to draw it already and lay into the pirates.
But not without Adrianna's consent. Perhaps if they played this right, they wouldn't even need to board the ship.
Which would be a shame, but one cannot have everything.
-Exeter St John-
Exeter's cabin was cramped and cluttered, only big enough for one person to stand in between the door and his bunk. He wasn't too far from the engines and the noise was incessantly loud. He'd been offered much bigger, better situated, quarters but this was the way Exeter liked it, this was comforting - another aspect brought over from his former life. The First Mate was lying on his bed, thinking on the meeting a few hours previous.
"That Garrett Corvus has the better knowledge of the northern territories," he mumbled to himself, "but I'll have to keep a close eye on him. The bastard can't be trusted to steer us away from Sentinel Bay safely. A few minor miscalculations here, a bit of 'forgotten' intelligence there and we'll take a few hits, probably lose a few men." Exeter locked his fingers together and placed them on his head, his teeth clenching slightly. "And Lanester will allow it, too. She'll claim that we're all human and let him off with a warning. 'These things happen', she'll say." He sat up slowly and grabbed the small tumbler of brandy resting on the floor. "Bitch." He spat, knocking the drink down in one go. "I'll ensure they both do their jobs and don't put us into any danger..."
As he reached for the bottle of brandy, a loud rap sounded on his door. "Come," he yelled, puring himself another glass.
The door opened to show a relatively young, nervous-looking sailor. Exeter noted his impeccable salute. "Admiral Lanester requires you straight away sir!"
Exeter cradled his glass and smiled softly. "But the good Admiral Lanester gave me leave to rest." He casually took a sip of his drink, cursing the woman inside.
"But we seem to have run into...um...pirates sir." The young sailor was frightened. Of the pirates or simply Exeter, he couldn't say.
At the mention of pirates, Exeter's face clouded and he aimed a kick at the young sailor. Luckily it missed, crashing into the door instead. "Why didn't you begin with that boy!?" Exeter roared above the engine noise. "Go back to your post dammit, I'll be there directly!" The sailor left Exeter alone. After downing his brandy, the First Mate gathered up his equipment and made his way up to the Admiral, humming under his breath. "But the skies be ours...And by the powers...Where we will...we'll roam."
On his way, he noted the efficiency of the crew. The ship was a hive of activity, everyone was doing something to prepare for the confrontation that was surely inevitable. Exeter had to admit: Despite her liberal views on officer discipline, Lanester ran a pretty tight airship. She was a good Admiral, without a doubt. It would be a shame if her allegiance to the Empire were to be compromised by ill-judgement on her part. A small shame, but a shame nontheless.
Exeter came arrived on the deck with the wind whipping his jacket behind him. He squinted across the horizon and could just about make out the pirate ship in the distance. Weaving expertly through the throng of people scuttling across the deck, Exeter made his way towards The Admiral, her tame pirate and Annis.
"Admiral." He said gravely as he gave a low bow, making his jacket whip back even more violently. "What are the orders?" As he said this, Exeter pulled a looking-glass from a jacket pocket. It was old and little rusted, but still worked well. He put it up to his eye in order to inspect the foreign ship better.
Lanester didn't need to give Annis's suggestion a second thought; yelling "Make it so! You will board astern!" over the roar of the ship's crew. Their little maneuver would likely put them in a position where boarding was the best option; not a good option, but the best. Though they had the numbers advantage, pirate vessels had the speed edge; should the escape the encounter, the crew would be effectively stranded aboard an enemy ship; never a good place to be. None-the-less, it would likely need to be done.
It was about this time, that Exeter arrived on deck. Lanester wasted no time bringing him up to speed. "There's a ship off to port-" she called out, tossing him a spyglass. "-it looks pirate; I want to know everything you know about that vessel and her captain!" she continued, trying to get whatever information she could from her first-mate. "After which, I want you leading the aft boarding group." she finished with the first-mate, then continued between he and Annis. "Coordinate your strikes; I leave the exact plans to your discretion." she said, turning back to the task at hand. Though she would have preferred to take command of one of the boarding parties herself, or at least given the tactical goals for the boarding parties, Adrianna knew such steps were unnecessary; both Exeter and Annis could more then hold their own in any situation.
"Mr. Corvus-" she said, turning to her bodyguard and secret lover, "-please see to it that anyone not in Imperial attire who steps aboard this ship, does not live long enough to reap the benefits therein." Rightly, she should have chosen another officer to lead such an action, but between Mr. Riley's presence at the wheel, Mr. Roque's medical duties, and their lack of engineer and quartermaster, she had little choice in the matter. Not that it really mattered; even if they did, Garrett would outstrip them in ability and, though they would never know the reason, loyalty.
The ship shook, the shaking caused by many feet rushing to grab munitions. It caused the pen to slip, leaving a jagged line on the page. Vasco scowled. He was just about to finish up with the paperwork and had been interrupted at a time like this. He sighed, you could never catch a break here, he had assumed that with their mission - retrieving a relic from the cold mists of the Arctic - that there would be more time for more things other that sink pirate ships. At least the commanding officer here was not as aggressive as his previous one, but no doubt the sick bay would be oversaturated with patients and blood after this encounter. From his window, Vasco could discern that boarding the tiny vessel would be the order of the day - no doubt to Lanester playing it smart and using the Invincible's superior numbers to win. Well, Vasco would play it smart and hurried down to the sick bay - his home away from home - and prepared the room for the guests to come; laying out tools, ethanol and other disinfectants, gauze, bandages, measuring out syringes of morphine... If it was one thing Vasco believed in, it was being prepared. After all, he was confidently assured that at least one person would need his services. Annis was always the eager one...
Exeter soon arrived on deck, offering a quick bow then standing to the other side of Adrianna. "There's a ship off to port-" Adrianna called out, tossing the man a spyglass in which to view the ship. "-it looks pirate; I want to know everything you know about that vessel and her captain!" She continued with, wanting as much information as she could from the admiral. "After which, I want you leading the aft boarding group." After which, Adrianna spoke to both Exeter and Annis. "Coordinate your strikes; I leave the exact plans to your discretion." Her thoughts soon turned to Garrett.
"Mr. Corvus-" She said, turning to face him. "-please see to it that anyone not in Imperial attire who steps aboard this ship, does not live long enough to reap the benefits therein." This caused Garrett to usher in a little smile, glad that his sword would hopefully taste action.
"Of course m'lady, should any happen to pass over the threshold of this vessel; they shall either taste the cold metal of my blade, or if I am feeling extra generous, a bullet from my rifle." Garrett remarked, unholstering the weapon with his free hand, as the other clutched onto his sword.