V.O.C. of the People

The Pertinent Excerpts of the Science Journals of Professor Benjamin Reilly, Ph.D

Day one: This journal shall henceforth chronicle my experiments with the remarkable material known as orichalcum, which I intend to prove, beyond a shadow of any reasonable man’s doubt, is merely a misunderstood mineral, and not a mythological, magical substance; that all of its miraculous properties can be explained, after a fashion, with nothing more extraordinary than mundane scientific principles.

Day thirteen: My first postulation to be affirmed, albeit not thus far proven, is that proximity plays a role in orichalcum’s ability to affect the world around it. Indeed, my time spent studying it this week seems to have had side effects upon my person; beneficial ones, to be sure, but side effects nonetheless. To wit, my eyesight seems to have improved considerably, and my musculature has reached heretofore unknown (to myself, at least) levels of definition. The ramifications of this change remain to be seen, though it has made my task of studying much easier.

Day twenty-seven: Those who hold the pursestrings here at the University have cut back my funding, meaning I can no longer afford to feed and keep the lab animals that served as my test subjects. Those that could be of further use to other researchers have now been distributed to colleagues of mine, and those that were too changed by their exposure to orichalcum were humanely disposed of. I will now have to seek out a new means of experimentation.

Day thirty-eight: The improvements to my own body have become even more pronounced since beginning to focus on myself as a test subject. This has emboldened me to magnify my time around the orichalcum. This may eventually prove to be fatal, but, if my hypothesis is posthumously vindicated in the eyes of science, then my death shall not be in vain.

Day fifty-two: An unfortunate… Complication, to put it mildly, has arisen. I awoke this morning to find my bedclothes largely in tatters thanks to what I can only refer to as the emergence of four new limbs, namely, arms, from my torso. Hiding them under my labcoat has thus far proven effective in concealing this change from anyone else at the University, though the black eye I sustained while disrobing is much more conspicuous. My own mortified interest in my new appendages swiftly preceded the stunning realization that I was not yet fully in control of them, lacking the muscle memory to effectively wield them. To put it in plain terms, I managed to punch my own eye in attempting to see how connected to my nervous system they truly were. Luckily, having had a lengthy reputation as a gangly and unathletic sort to date, my bruising has not proven overly suspicious.

Day seventy-seven: I believe the changes to my body have reached their zenith. No new mutations seem to have occurred in some time, and my eyesight and physical strength seem to have achieved a pinnacle. I feel confident that this constitutes brobdingnagian confirmation of my thesis, as magic would presumably cause further and unchecked transformation.

Day one-hundred-nineteen: This University is a rumor mill the likes of which would impress any high society gathering in the whole of Europe! My new form has become common knowledge, and the board of deans has called me in for what most believe to be a disciplinary hearing, though I have my doubts. As my tenure here is assuredly over in either case, I have begun ferrying my notes, journals, and other relevant belongings off-campus. Assuming that my meeting ends in a manner that allows for it, I shall away to Havana, to continue my research in secret isolation, and hopefully one day dispel the superstitions that have been allowed to fester in what one might otherwise call the civilized world.

Sound Description

I keep going back to this combination of song and sounds to sum up how Phillip would have felt at his happiest. I started trying to put together a combination for everyone, but I realized I don’t want to put words (sounds?) in anyone’s mouth. I have some thoughts, but I’d be curious to see how everyone would describe themselves.


The Ocean Calls
A Song by Avi and her Birds

The Ocean Calls,
Wind in Our Sails,
The Stars Beckon Us Home.

Gold Awaits,
Glittering and Old.
Treasure to Seek,
Life to Live.

Hand to Hold,
Side by Side we Sail.
The Edge of the World.
New Realms to Find.

Dreams that Haunt,
Only Alone can Hurt.
Will We Find,
The World Beyond?

The Ocean Calls,
Wind In Our Sails,
The Stars Beckon Us On.

Loved Ones by Our Side,
No Turning Back This Time.
Raise the Sails,
Lift Up into the Sky.

New Shores to See,
The Weird Awaits,
For Those Who Seek,

The Oceans Calls,
Wind in Our Sails,
Wherever We Go,
The Stars Beckon Us Home.

What Happened

Part I: Wednesday Afternoon

The sound of waves gently lapping against sandy shores filled the warm tropical afternoon. An occasional bird call emerged from the jungle beyond the coastline, muffled by foliage and distance. The water was a calm and soft blue, almost as clear as the sky itself, and the white sand beneath the ocean’s surface danced gently in the currents.

Philip Borrow, Captain of the Songbird, stood calf-deep in the water, his trousers slowly soaking through as the waves lapped playfully against him. Scratches and dings—all less than a few hours old—decorated the right arm Farrah had just given him, its sleek novelty disguised beneath a layer of blood and dirt. His clothes, though nowhere near as new, were just as worn, decorated up and down with rips, stains, and the same fresh blood that coated his arm.

His face was blank, save for the few lone tears rolling down his cheeks, cutting through the dust and smoke caked to his skin. His beard, still as trim and sharp as normal, seemed desperate against his chin, as if it had to fight the grime and blood for purchase, and it stood out in contrast; a well-groomed memorial to a man that its surroundings seemed to have left behind.

In his shoulder, a muscle tightened in just the right way, which caused the bracket on his side to shift. This shift led to a spring in the arm being released, which in turn spun a nearby gear. This gear prompted a piston to retract, a wheel to rotate, a lever to click, a switch to toggle, and a coil to slowly unwind. At the end of the arm, Philip’s thumb moved an inch-and-a-half up, rested on the hammer of the pistol he was holding, and pulled it back. Had he given it the thought, he may have marveled at the precision this new arm was capable of, but his mind was elsewhere.

With another tightening and another chain reaction, the arm raised, and in a truly effortless series of twitches and pulls, Philip placed the barrel of his pistol against his temple. His finger, seemingly unaware of the fact that it wasn’t truly part of his body, found the trigger. For a moment, he hesitated.

Part II: Wednesday Morning

Lyrah wasn’t mad. She found anger to be unhelpful, and she’d never really done a good job embracing the emotion in the first place anyway. This was something a bit different, though what exactly it was, she couldn’t tell you.

Mel was a good person. He could be a bit dense at time, sure, but he had a good heart, and his commitment was ironclad. No, iron could rust. Something better than iron.

But despite his good intentions, he was frustrating. His love for the sea made him incredibly easy to distract and manipulate. Fooling the boy was practically a guarantee. It was this very quality that led to where she was now, and why she was mad-not-mad. Damn that beautiful man.

Was she feeling something for him? He was just a colleague, and very emotionally unavailable at that. Why did she keep falling for men like that? The mercy, in light of these questions, was that it wouldn’t much matter soon.

Where would she go from here? She’d heard Vandagen described like the Christian hell, and wondered if maybe that was her destination. Though she had always tried to be good, religions were so capricious in their morality, and there were so many contradictory rules that it seemed she’d have been bound for hell no matter how she’d conducted herself. If she was bound for Vandagen, she mused, at least she’d be able to see it for herself. She had so devoted to studying it in her life, it actually sounded nice to finally visit it in death.

So no, she wasn’t mad, even as her vision began to blur. It would have been nice to stay around a bit longer, even to just see the end of this newest mystery, but getting upset about that now seemed to be a waste.

Part III: Tuesday Evening

Though night hadn’t yet fallen, it might as well have been midnight this deep in the jungle. The canopy was so thick, and the foliage so dense that, even in the height of day, this was a dark place. Seeing without fire was almost impossible.

His hands and legs were covered in small cuts, and small bruises decorated his legs—both souvenirs of attempting to navigate this jungle without light. That he had to move quietly had made the journey all the more agonizing. He was sure to have contracted something from all the bugs that had bitten him by now, and the constant buzzing of flies around his unwashed hair had been the moldy cherry atop this shit cake.

Oh, and the murders. Those hadn’t been that great, either.

He tightened his purple cloth mask, and adjusted it so that between it and his turban, only his eyes were uncovered. He’d debated ditching it so he’d be harder to identify, but then realized that if any of his allies had survived, he’d be killed for not wearing it. It was a great sin, to feel shame for the role one played, and must be punished. He knew this.

A branch snapped behind him, and his heart sank as he spun. He was not ready to die.

Birds of Paradise
A Confession

It was a lovely evening, spent in one of the local taverns, just the three of them, as it always was. Paradise was under the watch of the crew, all of whom they had come to trust. They had been enjoying a good laugh when Avi suddenly got to her feet. She pulled her hair over her shoulder, with it’s wild mix of sun and sky, and fidgeted with it for a moment.

“Smeb? Jamal.”

She adjusted her shoulders, her wings lowered and tucked close to her back. Her mismatched eyes drifting up to his face then down to the tankard in his hand, to make sure he had enough to drink, in case he did not like what she had to say.

“Captain?” he inquired.

Both sets of eyes were on her. “You are a great Quartermaster and Second Mate,” she blurted the words out, almost too quickly and had to catch a breath before beginning again. “Let me say this without interruption, please.”

She felt the heat rise to her cheeks, perhaps that was from her empty tankard, but she doubted it this time. She was trembling, her stomach dropping and rushing back and heartbeat was in her throat. She knew she needed to say it soon. Her eyes flicked up, again, to his face, a face she had grown fond of and it made her smile.

“You are,” she paused, she had not thought through what she was going to say. Perhaps she had had too much to drink. Her hesitation caused a worried glance between her two friends. “You have been at my side since I almost fled the Songbird.” She winced at the memory but pushed forward. “You have been a shoulder to cry on, and the hands that held me up.” She glanced at Charlie. “As have you, Charlie.”

Charlie gave her a grin but there was still worry set in the first mates eyes.

“N-now, I have been doing a lot of thinking, and I think I am right about this. I-I am still young and inexperienced, but-but-” she drifted off, lowering her gaze. She could see Smeb’s feet move as he stood up. He was going to comfort her, if he did that she would not be able to get the words out. She lifted her head, in the proud way they had come to expect. “I am falling in love with you, Jamal.”

He froze and the world felt like it was spinning around her, ready to crash and break, until a smile spread across his lips. He took her cheeks between his two hands.

“Fatat jamila,” were the only words he spoke before his lips caught hers.

“About time!” Charlie cheered, raising her tankard and taking another swig as she leaned back in her chair.

Sharks and Charcuterie

Gerhart DeWitt breathed in the fresh country air and let out a contented, if not overindulgent, sigh. “It was very generous of you to invite me to your lovely estate. It isn’t every day I get to dine with a member of the Board.”

Adam Van Hett allowed himself a gentle smile as he admired his surrounded. “You are very kind, Mr. DeWitt. But the honor is mine.” He took a small sip of wine and savored the flavor for a moment before swallowing. “The VOC’s chief enforcer is such a busy man, it is a rarity to get a moment of his time, let alone his presence at dinner.”

“You are lucky I was free, I won’t deny that.” Gerhart confessed with a smirk.

The two men sat in silence for a moment, feasting their eyes on the rolling hills before them, painted in hues of yellow and gold in the Dutch twilight. The small table between them was decorated in light snacks of bread, cheese, and cured meats, each of which had been picked at by Adam and Gerhart while they awaited their dinner. An early summer breeze crawled gently across the grounds, rustling leaves and blowing waves across the hills.

From behind them, the sharp clicking of hard leather on cobbled stone signaled the arrival of Christof, Adam’s butler. “Terribly sorry to interrupt, Mr. Van Hett, but a wire has just arrived.”

Adam let his gaze break away from the landscape, but he did not meet Christof’s. “Inform them we have gone for a walk in the gardens, and shall return within the hour.”

“Of course, sir, but the wire is actually for Mr—”

“Yes, Christof, I am aware. Please, inform them we have gone for a walk in the gardens. We shall return within the hour.” Gerhart stiffened a bit in his chair.

Christof hesitated for only a moment, his powdered wig rustling slightly as he fought the urge to protest further. “Very good, sir.” Without another word, he turned on his heel and excused himself from the two men’s company. Gerhart raised a questioning eyebrow.

Adam adjusted to face Gerhart more directly before speaking. “I suppose that is as apt a segue as I could ask for.” He took another brief sip of his wine before setting the glass down. “Mr. DeWitt, I was hoping to speak business with you for a bit this evening.”

Gerhart let his curious face drop, and replaced it with a more pleasant one. “As both your guest and subordinate, it would be horribly rude of me to deny you that, sir.” His smirk had returned, and his posture began to relax. “What is it you wish to discuss?”

“The wire Christof came to inform us of would be Carolien.”

Gerhart hesitated. “Carolien, my boss?”

“The very same,” Adam replied. Gerhart made to ask further questions, but Adam gently signalled to listen. “That she is looking for you here means that she is already on your trail, and will likely be sending a man on foot. I’d guess we have only a few minutes to speak before he arrives.”

Adam took a brief moment to spread some cheese on bread before taking a small bite, savoring both its delicious flavor and the tension he could see etched in Gerhart’s face.

After letting the man suffer for a beat, he swallowed his bite and continued. “You are going to be asked to head home immediately and pack for several weeks away.” Noticing the confusion on Gerhart’s face, he added “on a mission.”

Understanding washed over Gerhart as he leaned back, realizing he’d been on the edge of his seat. “I see.”

“Not yet, you don’t,” Adam interjected. “Carolien is going to give you detailed information on an A.L.A.N. unit. It was spotted attempting to infiltrate a VOC facility in the caribbean a few hours ago.”

“An A.L.A.N. unit? Aren’t black ops a bit outside of their wheelhouse?”

“This is no ordinary A.L.A.N unit. This one has a bit of a reputation as a troublemaker, and keeping other troublemakers as company. It’s also fully self-aware, and insists on being recognized as a person, not a gad.”

Gerhart felt his confusion wash away for the second time this conversation. “I am familiar with him. I haven’t interacted with him directly before, but he’s part of a group I’ve been tracking for some time.”

“Yes, I’m aware of this,” Adam said. “And that familiarity is exactly why this mission is being handed to you. Alan’s actions this afternoon earned him a VOC-sized target on his back, and you’re being sent to deactivate him by—”

“Wait, deactivate him?” Gerhart interrupted.

“—by any means necessary,” Adam continued, his voice stern. “Congratulations, in a few minutes, you are going to be a contract killer.”

Gerhart swirled his wine idly, his gaze unfocused as he worked his way through everything. After a moment, he drew in a breath to speak. “So, why are you telling me all this, if I’m minutes away from hearing it directly from Carolien?”

“Because,” Adam said, his tone calmer, “You’re not going to find him.”

Gerhart’s eyebrow shot up in curiosity. “I think you underestimate me, sir.”

“I do not,” Adam said reassuringly. “In fact, I think I know you better than anyone else on the Board. But you still aren’t going to find him.”

“And why is that?” Gerhart asked

“Because you’re not going to look for him.”

“I’m not?”

“No. You’re going to fall extremely ill upon your arrival to the caribbean, and will remain bed bound until the VOC gets frustrated and pulls you home.”

“How do you know this?”

Adam reached into his pocket and retrieved a small vial. “Because you’re going to poison yourself with this. One sip at dinner will have you looking nice and miserable by morning, and will keep you that way until bed the next night. Simply keep sipping at it for as long as you need.” He judged the vial for a moment before offering it across the table. “I’m told the symptoms are far more comfortable than they look.”

Gerhart looked at the vial for a moment, then back at Adam, utterly baffled. “Why, on heaven or earth, would I do this?”

Adam, shrugged a bit, placing the vial on the table in front of Gerhart before scooping up his wine. “Because you really like money, Mr. DeWitt, and this is an easy way to make a lot. By the time you get back, I wouldn’t be surprised if your accounts had an extra two-hundred thousand guilders in them.”

Gerhart blinked a bit in approving contemplation; it was a lot of money. “Won’t that look suspicious?”

Adam regarded his wine as though he hadn’t heard the question. “I work in mergers and acquisitions. If my team didn’t know how to cook books, the company wouldn’t function.”

Gerhart nodded, conceding the point. “Okay, I’ll think about it.” He noticed something over Adam’s shoulder, and Adam turned to see what he was looking at. An approaching courier waved at their notice, and picked up his pace.

Adam turned back to Gerhart and lowered his voice. “You will do no such thing. I only have room on my team for men of action, not hesitance and contemplation. You will answer me now.”

Gerhart’s eyes widened slightly at this new intensity. “Why do you want this?”

“Because, the VOC is—” Adam straightened up slightly as he heard the courier come within earshot. He frowned briefly at the new member of their conversation, but quickly adopted a more genial facade. “Simply put, the bitch was too old and sick to keep living a life of comfort, and keeping her around was making everyone else miserable.” He paused for a moment, and waited until Gerhart’s gaze had locked with his.

“So I decided to put her down.”

When no one is listening

Across the sea
My Songbird sings to me
I feel her heart beat
When we’re apart
She’s a part of me


Beyond the sea
My Songbird, she sleeps
Out of reach
We’re apart
She’s so far from me

She’s a part of me

A Reason to Stay

Avinnia’s cabin was not much to look at, particularly now as she had packed up all of her belongings. She was sitting with a few candles lit on a little table. Beyond the table there was no furniture in the room. Not a bed, nor a chair. There were blankets beneath her, likely where she would sleep and a pillow, that she had left out, not having room to take her bed with her.

There was the briefest knock on her door before Smeb entered. It was late into the night, the morning sun likely to rise soon. His eyes darted around, pausing on the many birds and their nests, before stopping on Avi. “Spymaster,” he greeted her.

Avi’s head lifted enough for her too look at him with red and swollen eyes. She pushed her golden and blue hair away, it longer than it had been when they had first met. Her belongings are still packed, tucked away in a bag pressed into her hip. She glanced at him, apprehensively.

Coughing briefly, to clear his throat, he lifted a dark glass bottle that is stained with dust and fingerprints. “I, uh… grog?” he asked, expectantly and with a look of hope in his eyes.

She answered his question with only the smallest nod. “I hope you do not mind sitting on the floor. I’ve never had much use for personal furniture.” Her eyes slipped over to her sleeping birds. “My father would disapprove greatly.”

He pulled two tin tankards from no apparent place and set them on the floor, in front of him, as he fell into a cross-legged position on the floor. He uncorked the bottle and poured two generous portions, before he picked one up and offered it to Avi.

“Your father? What was he like?

“He tried to have me executed,” she responded as she took the mug, her sullen expression was unchanged.

“Yes, fathers will do that.” He paused to take a hearty swig, then wipes his mouth with his sleeve. "In my case, it wasn’t my father, but hers, but execution was on the plate all the same.

“Her’s?” Avi’s gaze had lifted to look at him, a familiar spark of curiosity returned to her sad eyes..

“Sajida.” His eyes fell to his tankard for a moment. “She was my friend. She was of higher birth than I, and it was not my place to keep her company as I did. When he father learned of me, he was most displeased.”

She lifted her own tankard and finally took a small sip. “How did you survive?”

“I found a ship, and hid. When they found me, they were too far at sea to turn back, so they made me work.” His gaze drifted around the room with a glimmer of affection. “I have come a long way from that first job.”

There were a few scatterings of letters that she had written on the floor.

“You do a great job.”

He let a broad smile run across his face and the look in his eyes deepened, before he turned his gaze to Avi. “I do try.” He took another sip, much smaller this time. “I remember hearing you were from Iceland. Is it true that it is always winter up there?”

“It was colder than places we have seen.” Her lips grew tight at the memory. “It was cold in my room at least.”

His gaze narrowed and his eyes focused on her. “Do you miss it?”

“Miss it?” the words left her lips with a bitter laugh that she had not expected. She stared away from him and took another sip. “Miss the gilded cage? The weeks in isolation? The poking and prodding of my father’s doctors looking for a way to cure their mormel of a daughter?”

“So do you?”

“No. Even my sister thought I was a monster. Dashiell was the only one who still cared and he set me free. My father ordered him to kill me and he set me free.” The tears had returned to her, streaming down her cheeks.

He noticed the tears and pulled his head back a bit, but did not withdraw. “So someone did care for you. This makes you a lucky girl. There are many who are not born with your wings or your feathers, but who still do not have any to love them.” He breaks his gaze and notices a finch on Avi’s shoulder. “Even though my family had no love for me, and would do nothing to save me, I still felt pain when we saw Cairo that day.”

She lowered her tankard. “…Cairo…” her voice was only a whisper. “I sent Kharrakh home. I set him free.”

He studied her for a moment. “Kharrakh loved you too, I think, in his own way.” He took another heavy swig. “This evening got sad quickly.” He gestured to the finch. “Where did you find this one?”

She seemed confused by the change of subject but turns her attention to the finch. She stared at it for a long moment, silent and recalling. “They show up everywhere I go. I do not even need to offer to them anymore. This one was not here until after we arrived in port.”

He was quiet for a moment, drinking in Avi and the room, and all the space in between. “I do not wish for you to leave, Avinnia. You are kind, and you are sweet, and you remind me every day of all that is good in both this world and my life.” He breathed softly, for only a second. “And if you leave, I fear others will leave as well. One by one, I will lose everything I have ever wanted, and the best life I have known will slip away from me.”

“They believe I am a mormel, Smeb.” She looked at him with a soft but heartbroken expression. A few strands of her hair slipped into her face. “I thought I had found a family.”

“And what makes you think you have not? Alan is a walking piece of metal who can bring soldiers back from death. Farrah was betrothed to an actual demon. Mel has nam mae with the Ocean, by Allah. This is the greatest family in the world for you, fatat jamila, and they love you more than the sky loves the sea. So what if they think you are mormel. You are mormel, and that is what makes you so special. Like this ship and her outlandish crew, you are from beyond the horizon itself, and it is that very strangeness that makes you beautiful.”

He looked down, suddenly aware that he was standing and breathing heavy. He took a moment to look embarrassed before swallowing it.

“And besides, fighting and hating each other, this is what families do. You hear every story from every family, how they squabble over dinner, how they slam their doors. But you also hear the stories of how they pick up the pieces every time, and come to help when they are needed.” He took a big swig and finished his tankard. “You are needed Avinnia, just as much as I am.”

She watched him, in silence, but with all her attention. She did not know how to respond, or if she had ever been told that she was needed. If she had it had been lost to her. Smeb was not the only one that wanted her to stay, Charlie would too. But she was so sure that the Captain would want her gone after what had happened. And Farrah’s drunken words still pierced her heart.

“I do not want to go, Smeb. I never wanted too. I am so afraid.”

“Then stay, fatat jamila, stay here with your friends, your family. I swear on the ashes of Cairo that If the Captain wants you gone, that I will leave with you.” He paused, reading her. “But he will not.”

She lowered her gaze to her tankard which was only slightly empty. “You are so sure.”

“Sure that you have found a family? Yes, upon this I would stake my life. The Captain is a quiet man, and is slow to make his decisions, but he is not unkind. He-like you, like everyone on this ship-has suffered a great loss, and he is not so callous to send those who need him most away. You will stay. And if you will not stay here, then neither shall I.”

“I do not understand why you would give up your life on this ship over me.”

“I do not believe I will have to.”

Her face crinkled as she wanted to understand but found no answers in his words She sighed ever so softly before taking a larger swallow. “I will remain on the ship.”

He sat back down and refilled his tankard before offering it up for a toast. “I will drink to that.”

She looked at his tankard before lifting up her own. “Thank you, Smeb.”

How My Heart Breaks
So hard to say goodbye

Everything came crashing down around her, first Farrah had called her a monster, and then the Captain had referred to Kharrakh as a pet. Mel had once named Kharrakh a monster. They were beasts to the people she had thought were her family. She had ignored the knowledge as long as she could, but she knew that Farrah wished to eliminate all like her. Her sisters, her mother, and Kharrakh alike. It was all too familiar. Her human parents and sister had thought of her in such a way. They had ordered her executed. She had run then, she would run now. What choice did she have? She was about to disobey they Captain again, and the last time she had done that he had warned her that he would have her off the ship.

The way he had looked at her, when she had only been trying to prove Kharrakh was defending himself, was enough to tell her that she had to do this. No, she knew before that, as the words slipped through her mind, from Kharrakh. He hated it on Earth, he didn’t belong, he hated not fighting, not being with his people. She had let her desire for family imprison him. She had to let him go, but she had to do so before Phillip would act.

She said nothing as she returned to Kharrakh. She remained silent as she tugged him to his feet. Her steps were hurried, she did not want to be stopped, she did not want to be questioned. She had to do this now.

“Mother,” her mind rang. “Mother, I need you.” She heard Kharrakh question what they were doing but she was silent. She could not tell him, it hurt to much to say goodbye.

“I am always here for you,” her mother’s voice returned to her.

“I need a favor,” she replied, already far into the city.

The harpy that she had learned to be her mother was at their side in an instant. The sky above them darkening with her sisters. Kharrakh was questioning again.

“I need you to take Kharrakh home,” the words slipped out of her lips, her voice cracking with pain. For a moment she could feel him thinking, hesitating, and then he understood and stepped to her mother’s side.

“I will take good care of him,” was all her mother said. Then they were gone, and the dark above her head disappeared as her sisters left as well.

Avi did not move, the tears streaming down her cheeks, her heart had never ached so, she thought perhaps it had vanished with him. It was several minutes before she turned to go back to the Songbird, there was more to do.

Avi went straight to her room, she had much to do. The dinner bell sounded and everyone was headed up. She needed to hurry, the distraction of the meal was what she needed, or she would have to wait until after everyone went to bed. Little Tip was snuggled up into her neck as she began to scrawl her farewells onto parchment.

Dear Charlie,
You have been a dear friend. I never thought that you judged me for what I am, or where I must have come from. Perhaps Farrah is right, perhaps I was never human, and if that is true then I never belonged here. But, I thank you, Charlie, for never making me feel that way. I hope that you never step foot in Van Dagon again. I wish you the best of lives.
Love from Avinnia

I wish it wasn’t true, but I know how much you despise my kind. I am sorry for what happened to your family and your people. It was horrible, and I know how hard it has been for you to have Kharrakh aboard this ship, but worry not, as you will, hopefully, never see him again. If marriage is what you wish from your life, I hope you find it. I hope, that for a moment, we were friends.

Dearest Captain Phillip,
You welcomed me aboard your ship, unafraid of what I was, until the day I learned I was telepathic. I listened to you, obeyed your commands to only use my powers when it was needed. The night of the opera I had to go against your wishes, and I felt horrible, but I could not let that woman cast her spell on you. Tonight, I tried to show you what happened so you would believe what I was saying, none of it a lie, but the eyes that I saw look at me…Well, you do not have to kick me off your ship, I will already be gone. I really looked up to you, I really thought I had found a family, but I can not bare the looks of fear and the words of hate that tare at my heart. Thank you, for everything you have taught me. There were days where you made me feel quite special. Goodbye, Phillip.

Avi finished off with short messages to Mel,_ ..I hope you are always with the ocean_, and to Alan, …you are the kindest doctor I have ever known, with the rest to the other crew that she had known the most. She left these letters sprawled across her floor and gathered up her few belongings.

“Come along, my sweets, it is time to fly.”

Her birds fluttered up and the smallest of which gathered in her wings. She made her way to the deck. The hardest part was going to get off the ship without being stopped.

It was not as easy as Avi had hopped, to leave the ship. Smeb had noticed her and cut off her path. She looked at him, the tears still fresh in her swollen eyes, her face damp.

He spoke first, “The Captain says you need to stay on the ship.”

Avi’s head shook, side to side, as she responded. “Tell the captain there are letters, that will explain, in my bunk.”

“If you leave, like this, the Captain’s not gonna let you come back.”

“I do not plan to come back, Smeb,” her voice broke.

Smeb’s expression changed to one of sadness. “You’ll be missed,” he spoke slowly.

“Only by a few,” she barely got the words out, as a few more tears slipped down her cheeks.

“I don’t think so,” he began but she was beginning to walk past him. “Can we get drinks first? Just you and me, Avi. We’ll talk. There are a lot of people that will want to know where you are going, if you go now.”

She hesitated and half turned back to him. Her head bobbed in a nod, unable to speak.

“Just stay, for now, I’ll come by when my watch is over.”

Her head dipped again and she squeezed her arms around the small bag she was holding.

“I just hurt, so much, Smeb.” She did not wait for him to respond, before she moved back down the steps and headed for her room.

Phillip's Night

Knock knock

Phillip rapped a knuckle on Farrah’s door and paused to listen.

“Yes, come in,” came the muffled answer.

He pushed the door open, and found Farrah in bed studying some sort of document. He hesitated in the doorway, momentarily concerned about impropriety, before shutting the door and taking a seat at her desk.

“Here, drink this. It will help.” Phillip extended a cup toward Farrah. She eyed the brown sludge in the cup, but took it nonetheless.

“Thank you, Captain.”

“I know how it looks, and it tastes even worse. But Fabio makes it for me when morning…disagrees with me.”

Farrah took a sip and grimaced, but choked it down. Phillip waited for her to finish the concoction.

“What happened?”

“I had a…delicate matter to discuss with Avi. Things must have gotten out of hand.”

“Whatever you said to her, I don’t think she took it well.”

“Oh?” Farrah’s brow furrowed, struggling to remember the day’s events. It was almost cute, Phillip thought. He tried in vein recall to his own first hangover.

“I do seem to recall the end of the conversation getting a bit derailed. Talking about humans and Strangers and the other world…”

As she spoke, Farrah’s fingers curled, crushing the document in her hands. She didn’t seem to notice.

“In either case, I’m sure it will be fine now. Alcohol is like a demon. It makes people do strange things.”

Phillip rubbed his eyes and sighed. "And sometimes it makes you hurt people. I don’t know what you said to Avi but you hurt her.” Phillip’s face grew serious.

“If you want to drink, that is your business. Lord knows you’ll be in good company. But this crew has been through enough these past few months. I can’t have any more problems.”

Phillip braced himself for an argument, but none came.

“Of course, Captian!” Farrah leaned forward, taking his hand in hers. Her skin was soft, in spite of her frequent work in the engine room. “I never want to drink again. It is unclean and it clearly has unintended repercussions. It has made me feel horrid, though this drink has helped.”

Farrah stared into Phillip’s eyes. "You have led this crew through hell and back. You never left anyone behind. That takes great courage and strength. I would never want to cause you any problem.”

Phillip smiled, surprised and relieved.

“Now, how is that arm feeling?” Farrah’s attention turned to Phillip’s other arm as he knew it eventually would.

Phillip laughed. “If I had a gilder for every time I swore off drinking I would be richer than the V.O.C. Just be more careful in the future, Farrah.”

She giggled. “If you stopped drinking you might sleep more, Captain.”

He sighed. "Sometimes it helps the sleep come.”

They sat in silence for a moment.

“The arm is…functional. A little sore.” She didn’t need to know how much it hurt.

“Oh! I might be able to help with that!” Farrah hopped out of bed and reached for a small pot. A pleasant smell filled the room and Phillip relaxed slightly.

Farrah pinned up her hair, and for a moment Phillip was entranced by the ritual, and by the smooth skin of her exposed neck. She moved behind him.

“Relax, Captain. This could even help the arm move more smoothly.”

Phillip felt the gentle pressure of Farrah’s hands as she worked them from his neck down his shoulders and back.

“You know, my mother used to do this for my father.” Phillip tensed, though he wasn’t entirely sure why.

“He would get so stiff from sitting in negotiations all day," she explained. "She would spend hours massaging him. Like he was the sultan himself.”

Farrah ran her hands over the strap that kept the mechanical arm attached.

“Maybe you should leave the arm here with me. For adjustments.”

Phillip helped her remove the arm, struggling to mask his discomfort. As Farrah began the massage again, guilt began to creep into Phillip’s gut. Their relationship was easier than ever now, but it was only an illusion. He made a mental note to speak with Livingston again.

The guilt had not left him as he laid in bed that evening. With a sigh, he walked to his desk, retrieved a bottle, and took a swig. It would help the sleep come.


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