V.O.C. of the People

Various Philosophies
Farrah's writing

Esteemed Dr. Crustevya,

Let us rest, for the moment, our political and philosophical debate. Your recent notes on internal surgery will take more time than usual for me to digest, if you’ll allow the small jest, and I have a more pressing need of your advice.

Namely, personal advice. As a woman, I feel that we could be confidantes, and through our correspondence I have come to trust your judgement. I will beg your judgement on a personal matter, though if I overstep the bounds of our friendship we may return to drier matters.

I am of a marriageable age, and though my family is obliterated and my fortune lost, I am not prospectless. Indeed, my position aboard the Songbird has put me in contact with a man suitable to both my station, and my person. However, though I think the partnership would benefit us both, I am unsure of how to arrange it, without parents or guardians of any kind to lead the negotiations.

If you were to marry, and had a suitor in mind, how would you go about solidifying the merger? Lacking any notable experience in this area, I throw myself completely upon your mercy. And I thank you with all the passion a friend’s heart can muster.

With best regards,
Farrah Al-Azar

Fel-ethet eilbee,

My eye’s light, I implore your kind guidance once more. Our ship, the Songbird, has gone through a realm of demons, and though I am in body and spirit safe, my mind is in turmoil. It is more pressing now than ever that the Al-Azar line be continued and strengthened. Please, heart of my own, send me word of how you fare. How are our people?

My soul aches to be reunited again, but until then let this correspondence remain unbroken and undelayed.

Farrah Al-Azar

From the journal of Farrah Al-Azar

No new advancements to engine. Seems to be unharmed from the recent journeys through the crossways.

Phillip’s arm has been corrupted. Must begin work on next prototype, perhaps with safety measures against the Orichalcum growth.

No response from correspondence. Will write again in two days time if no reply by then.

Avi and I are going shopping tomorrow. It will be good to speak with her on the matter of my plan. Perhaps she knows more about the customs than I do.

Though I remain logically committed to my course of action, it is strange that no new…moments have occurred since that night. I was led to believe being in love was more exciting than this. Perhaps I was mistaken, and this is how it always feels. Will ask someone if trend continues.

end journal of Farrah Al-Azar

Ranks and Regrets

Harken pushed the batwing doors open as he strode into the tavern, anger resonating with every step of his heavy boots. The building was quiet and calm, though not for a lack of patrons; nearly every table was full, and customers spoke softly with their company. The tables near the door took notice of both Harken’s arrival and his especially sour glare, and many of the heads that turned to acknowledge his arrival had since returned their noses downward, as though in anticipation of a fight they wanted no part of.

The carpeted flooring and gentle lighting painted this place as an uncommonly upscale establishment, especially for this part of the Caribbean. The few patrons that weren’t regaled in military coats were instead decked in the jewelry and finery indicative of great wealth. Powdered wigs were uncommon in this far-flung corner of the British Empire—and even more so in such a maritime province as Havana—yet even a few of those could be spotted in this crowd.

The muffled thuds of Harken’s footfalls were joined by the slight jingle of metal buckles and clasps rustling in his coat as he moved, swiftly cutting across the tavern floor to the bar. Halfway to his destination, three others treaded into the tavern—slightly behind him, but close enough to still declare themselves members of his party. Unlike Harken, these three quickly spread out across the floor, each heading in a different direction, and each moving with a different purpose. Scanning faces, windows, tables, and doors, they inspected the establishment with a level of scrutiny normally reserved for thieves and murderers.

Harken approached the barkeep, placing one boot up on the foot rail and leaning against the bar with the cocksure manner of a man who owned the place. “Your dryest vodka, please,” he barked, not bothering to wait for the bartender’s attention.

The barkeep, a slender-yet-tall man with evenly parted hair and a finely waxed mustache, turned gently to face the gruff fellow before him. A derisive smile flashed across his face for the briefest of moments before he adopted a compassionate face. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m afraid it’s terribly difficult to get vodka out here. Might I interest you in some rum instead? I have some selections that are quite difficult to find back in England.”

Harken let out a frustrated sound somewhere between a growl and the word “idiot,” then slapped a small coin on the bar and slid it forward. Tapping it pointedly with one finger, he locked eyes with the bartender. “I’ve come a long way, and I’ve had a very rough journey. Your dryest vodka, please.”

The bartender made to repeat himself, then paused, as a thought clicked in his brain. “Oh,” he simply said. “Oh, I see,” he continued, as his eyes fell to the coin. He inspected it for only a moment, then stepped away from the bar. “Yes, sir, I do believe that there might be a small bit stashed away. Please, let me show you what I have.” He strode around the bar and out from behind it, over to a door against the back wall. As he walked, he met eyes with each of the men that had followed him in, and nodded to them in turn.

Harken grumbled under his breath, pocketing the coin as he slid over to join the man. “Thank you,” he said as the barkeep pushed the door open, and passed through it. The latch locking shut made him look back for only a moment, but he quickly snapped forward to inspect this new room. Thicker, softer carpet, and a crackling fireplace in the back immediately lent a sense of luxury to this room. Paintings, framed maps, and thick bookshelves decorated the dark wooden walls, and model ships, antique sextants, and ornate compasses covered every flat surface. A faint smell of lavender even tickled Harken’s nose as he struggled to take in all the finery about him.

“Missing home yet, Colour Sergeant?” A voice rose from an overstuffed armchair a few paces to Harken’s side, surprising him. “I can’t imagine you’ve had much in the way of creature comforts these last few years.” The man had piercing blue eyes, which shone out through his bushy eyebrows, and his thick grey whiskers concealed his mouth. Though clearly at least a decade Harken’s senior, he stood tall in his officer’s jacket and ascot, and his epaulets bore the insignia of a Brigadier, which only surprised Harken further.

Harken snapped to a crisp salute, immediately regretting his gruff demeanor and poor grooming. He wasn’t expecting to be greeted by a Brigadier this far out from England, and his slipshod appearance was wholly unbecoming of His Majesty’s Royal Marines, even under current circumstances.

“None of that out here, son, especially not in front of me,” the Brigadier said gently as he stood. “We’re working quietly from here out, and there’s no sense in telling people more than what they need to know.”

Harken allowed himself to relax a bit, though a stiffness lingered in his spine, as penance for his oversight from before. “As you say, sir. You’ll forgive me my poor appearance, I wasn’t expecting to be greeted by anyone more than a fresh-faced lieutenant.”

The Brigadier grunted as he walked over to Harken. “It’s already forgotten, Colour Sergeant, though it does bother me that you were planning on asserting yourself over your superior.” He stepped in close and inspected Harken’s face. “That’s not going to be a problem, is it?”

“No, sir.” Harken responded crisply, trying to keep his eyes unfocused despite the officer in his face.

“Good,” the Brigadier replied, turning on his heel and stepping away. “The Falconers don’t have time to be measuring cocks out here. Which, while we’re on the subject of time,” the Brigadier turned to face him again, this time from halfway across the room. “Would you care to explain why you’re two months late?”

Harken frowned, confused at the question. “I’m sorry, sir, I don’t understand. We made excellent time, my men and I were onboard the Songbird for less than a week before we arrived.”

The Brigadier pursed his lips and made for a desk in the corner. “Colour Sergeant, my commission names me Brigadier Percival Patience. One thing you’ll learn quickly about Brigadier Patience is that I have none.” He grabbed the standing calendar on the desk and turned it to face Harken: June 21, 1718.

Harken felt his stomach flip as Brigadier Patience continued. “You were to report to my office in March. Your missives out of Manila led me to believe this would be the case. Even your letter explaining your departure across the Pacific sounded hopeful; I recall you mentioning a ship with Chaos Sails.” He leaned against the desk, rubbing his knee. “So why don’t you try that answer again?”

Scars and Stains
As They Once Were

“There’s a slight scrape with the breath. I’ll want to keep an eye on that, Dion.” Alan held his hand against Rosie McGann’s back, checking her breathing with his extremely sensitive fingers. Beside him, Dion Medina, his new assistant, nodded absently while taking notes on Alan’s examination.

“Breathing otherwise seems normal,” Alan continued, moving his hand up to Rosie’s jaw, and gently placing two fingers beneath her neck. He stood for a moment, motionless and silent, before removing his hand. “Pulse is a bit rapid, but seems otherwise normal.” He moved a light close, and began examining her eyes. “Do I unnerve you, miss McGann?” he asked calmly, focusing intensely on her pupils.

. . .

Rosie slammed her back against the brick wall, trying hard to muffle her sharp, desperate breaths. She’d never run so hard or so fast in her life, and, though she’d known the streets of Dublin since she was a child, fear obscured her memories. She was hopelessly lost now, and prayed that her pursuer had likewise lost his way.

The MacTavish’s gad had always been the sleekest model in town. So helpful, so trustworthy; she had no reason to worry about borrowing it for the day to help with some errands. The last thing she expected was for it to push old man Murphy down some stairs and start chasing her with a hammer. She’d learn later that it was malfunctioning something awful, but, for the time, all she felt was fear.

. . .

“Not at all, Doctor,” Rosie responded through her thick Irish accent. “Your touch was just colder than I expected, is all.”

“Apologies for that, my circulation isn’t what it used to be.” Alan paused and searched her face, as though awaiting a chuckle at what he believed to be humor. She smiled appeasingly. He nodded in appreciation, and resumed examining her eyes.

Johann Lindemann smiled at Alan’s observation. “Well, I enjoy the sport, doc. Boxing might not be the most gentlemanly of pursuits, but I think it keeps me in good shape.”

“Be that as it may, Mr. Lindemann,” Alan replied, unamused, “I must advise against doing so bare-knuckled. Your hands are already showing the wear and tear of a man twice your age. Just look at this scar,” he tutted, pointing at a large gash along Johann’s inner left forearm. “This could have killed you.”

. . .

“Get that damn compressor plugged!” The Chief’s voice carried over the din of the engine room, while Johann wrestled with the white-hot steam now belching out of the compressor tube. Waist-deep and rising in briny seawater, he struggled to keep his footing with the shifting currents and slippery floor. Outside, the cannon-fire had stopped — or maybe he just couldn’t hear it any more, he wasn’t sure — all he knew was that he was going to die in this half-sunken ship, trapped in an engine room.

With a loud pop, the compressor tube in his hands ripped itself open, gouging his face and leaving a huge chunk of metal embedded in his left inner forearm. He screamed in anger and pain, furious at it all. “Dammit, Lindemann!,” the Chief shouted, wading over to him. “If we don’t die today, I’m gonna kill you!”

. . .

Johann smirked. “You’re right, doc, I shoulda been more careful with that one.”

Alan nodded, apparently proud that his patient was heeding his warning. “Good. Now, remove your shirt, please. I need to check your breathing.”

“My Dutch not good,” Selene Berger struggled out, trying to explain her condition to Alan. “Doctor told me, little girl, I have… uh… tired blood?”

Alan held a hand to his chin, pondering for a moment. “Anemia? You’re anemic?” Selene nodded furtively, recognizing the word. “Well, that’s no problem, miss Berger. Just maintain an iron-rich diet, and make sure you get plenty of sleep when you’re off shift.” Alan continued, apparently unaware that most of his words were sailing right over his patient’s head. “Now, tell me please,” He continued, studying her left eye from afar, “should I be concerned about that wall-eye of yours?”

. . .

The sound of pebbles being piled together always filled young Selene with fear. Even as a grown woman, she would always flinch at the sound, and the sight of a sock with a heavy weight in one end.

. . .

Missing the words, but noticing Alan’s attention focused on her left eye, Selene tried to casually brush it off, not interested in opening those old wounds. “Have had since child, doctor. Sometimes not so bad, sometimes so bad. Never big problem.”

“Yes, well,” Alan hesitated, not sure if he should press the matter. “Please come visit me if it ever starts to bother you.”

“Ja doctor.”

Alan repositioned himself to get a better look at the scar on Agarwal Dopinder Singh’s obliques. It was a horrible scar, sick with poorly-regrown muscle and flesh. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for, Mr. Dopinder.”

“No, no, I see it,” Dion, chimed in. “That is a very nice, scar.” Dopinder beamed at the praise.

Confused, Alan stood back up properly. “It looks like nothing but injury and pain to me.”

. . .

Dopinder felt the breaths deep in his chest as his heart thumped mightily in his throat, his back to the ground. The bandit’s lifeless body fell at his side, kicking up dust as it thumped to ground. Letting the battle rage on around him, Dopinder laid there for a moment, catching his breath. This was a good death. This was a noble death. He might not die today, but if he did, he’d be okay with it.

Lifting his head slightly, he could still see the jagged knife sticking out of his side. Buried all the way to the hilt, no less, he knew that taking this thing out would probably make things worse. But he couldn’t keep fighting like this, and his brothers needed him — the village needed him. Jamming a strip of bloody cloth in his mouth, he put both hands on the dagger’s handle, and pulled.

. . .

“I like it,” Dopinder replied gently, a note of self-satisfaction in his voice. “It hurts sometimes, but its a good pain. Reminds me of a very good day.”

Alan nodded as though understanding, the gears in his neck whirring softly as he did. “It would be a lot of trouble to fix up, anyway. I see no reason to operate on it unless it starts being more trouble than it’s worth.”

“You’re wasting your time, doc, I’m fine.” Charlie complained, knowing full well that her complaints were falling on deaf ears.

Alan swirled his hands around in a basin of hot water, his back to her. “Again, miss DuPont, this is just a check-up. We’re establishing a baseline of the crew’s health, so its easier for us to spot when something is amiss.” He wiped his hands on a towel Dion offered him, then turned to her, extending an arm. “Now, please relax, I’m going to check your pulse.”

“I really wish you wouldn’t,” she said, softly, recoiling a bit.

“Is something wrong?” Alan asked.

“I just… I don’t wanna, is all.” Her voice carried a hint of hesitation that both Alan and Dion picked up on. The two physicians shared a puzzled look, then turned back to Charlie.

“Charlie,” Alan began, “It’s just a simple check, nothing serious. I’m just making sure everything’s okay.”

. . .

“Please” crossed her pink lips. “Please, please, please.” It seemed so empty, so meaningless. It was all she could say, even though every inch of her longed to say more.

Like a spring never ending. Wasn’t there a dream last night? None of it mattered, and none of it ever would.


. . .

“Patient um…” Alan hesitated, balking at the weight of the words he knew he had to say. “Patient has no pulse.” He stood in silence for a moment, Dion’s furtive pen scratches making the only sound in the infirmary.

Charlie, her back slouched and her head slumped, locked eyes with Alan as a single tear rolled down her cheek. “I see you, Alan.”

To be a bride

Mind in turmoil, Farrah still presented a poised demeanor to the world. Life on the Songbird was not what she was raised to expect from her future, but it was a good life. It led to certain opportunities. Opportunities like inventing a new hybrid fuel sky ship engine. Improving dorsal prosthesis coupling so that Captain Phillip’s arm wouldn’t chafe him.

But she could not deny that her life had changed. She had changed. Uncle Chakroun had spoken about the wisdom of her actions, and Farrah was ready to take that advice to heart. Perhaps the best thing for her passions would be to share them with a…partner.

Captain Phillip was trustworthy, powerful, responsible. Captain Phillip trusted her, letting her operate on his arms at all hours. Who was it who took care of her during her grief? Him. Who was it who stood by him through the many fiascos that seemed to follow the ship? Her.

After talking about what becoming a bride meant, what would happen, Farrah felt prepared for the decision already made. Of course she knew what came after, many of the women she educated were in harems. But despite knowing how distasteful it could become, Farrah was making this decision. She wanted a partner, and all that entailed. That meant she would have to become accustomed to being a good partner herself. Serving the Captain in any endeavor, even before he knew to ask her. No matter how difficult. Farrah trusted completely in herself, her ability to become whatever she needed to be.

And when she remembered how terrifyingly quick this decision was made, the moment alone in the Captain’s quarters when her heart fluttered like a bird against a cage, Farrah trembled again. Was this how her mother felt? Irrationally, completely his? Farrah would never have the answer to that, now that her parents were dead. But perhaps…maybe it would be more cautious, wiser, to not question this. Instead, Farrah would try her hardest to become a good bride.


As the door slammed behind Farrah, Phillip slumped into his chair and reached for the bottle. No need for a glass tonight.

Phillip’s mind swam, but he didn’t let it bother him. No one else seemed to give a damn about the state of his mind or anyone else’s, so why should he? You could delve into someone’s deepest secrets, enthrall a crowd, even rewrite someone’s life, and somehow Phillip would still be talked down to like a child for objecting.

Enough was enough. Damn his mind, damn everyone and everything…

Phillip passed out, half-formed curses echoing silently through his mind.

Letter to a Friend

Avi collapsed onto the floor of her room, which caused alarm with Tip and Kharrakh, both moving to her side. The flock fluttered around her, chirping until Little Tip scolded them. She did not rose at first, to their chatter but after a moment, lifted herself up enough to look at them. Her tears glistened in the lamp light, as they slipped down her cheeks. Her azure and gold eyes stared, desperately back into the void of Kharrakh’s. There had to be something else she could do. Her heart ached with grief and fear. If it had not been for the Captain, she could have been like that woman. Her gift was so similar, and she had need to use it to save Phillip from the siren’s spell. She felt dirty, and flinched away from Kharrakh’s touch as he tried to pull her into his arms. He wanted to comfort her but she did not want the feeling to just go away. She needed to do something first.

“Avi?” his voice sounded in her ears, instead of her mind, and she was grateful for that. He was learning quickly, picking up the words necessary to speak with her or the limited interactions he would have with the crew.

“I must,” she began. “I must do something. I can not let her hold them like this. It needs to be their choice. What can I do?” With her question, she looked helplessly into his eyes again. He did not respond at first, he did not know of what she was speaking.

“Shall I kill them?” his question made her flinch again.

“No, no, I do not want her blood!” she responded with vigor. She lowered her head, wishing that he would have a different solution that death. He was a being made for war, and some days she worried that she was no different, or the woman she was before she was Avi. “I will write a letter, maybe, maybe he can do something to fix this.”

She lifted herself up and moved to her collection of belongings, most being shiny rocks and shells, with a few small pieces, to small to use, of Orichalchum. Within the pile, however, she was able to draw out a quill, ink, and paper. The words came out quickly, messily, as she was not use to the format.

Dear Adam,

I feel that you may be able to help, with a problem that we recently came across in Manila. To my great grief, Captain Phillip made us leave without this woman understanding. Sanna Marina is a Stranger, with a gift that, since discovering, I have learned not to use, unless in the most dire of circumstances. With sadness, I used it for the first time on your brother, to break him from this woman’s hold. I cannot bare to think what may have occurred if I had not been resistant to her weird to her siren’s song.

While I was able to save Phillip, I mourn for the men and women under her control. Oblivious to the weird that holds them, but their happiness is false and comes at the expense of their freedom. They have been stolen from their homes and families, as she tried to take me. I only wish for them to be free to choose. If they wish to stay with her, without the weird, I will not pursue the topic.

My point, dear Adam, is that Sanna Marina needs to understand that those that join her, should do so of their own will. I do not want harm to come to her, I just hope you have a way that can help these victims and prevent future cases. Again, please avoid harm! And do not subject her to prison, in jail or on an island. She only needs to understand and stop what she is doing.
I know this may sound like a desperate plea or a waste of VOC time, but I do not know who else to turn to. Your brother did all that he felt he could.

She stopped to stare at what she had written, and only after she felt she had gotten her point across did she return to the letter.

Since, I am writing, I would also like to thank you for delivering my feather to my sister. I hope she is well, I do worry so, for her. I hope this letter finds you, too, in good health. My bird will stay if you wish to send a response, she will be able to find me. Her name is Ouluck, and she likes it if you rub above her beak and the shoulders of her wings. Thank you, once again, dearest Adam.

Your Friend, Avi

She rolled up the letter and tied a ribbon around it to hold it together, then attached it to Ouluck’s leg. She stroked the sea bird’s beak.

“I will return after I send her out, Kharrakh.”

She continued up, to the deck, and let Ouluck go, this was the most she could do, hopefully Adam could do more.

The Mind

In the dim light of the captain’s cabin, the guilt returned.

Phillip hadn’t asked for help; he had repeated that fact to himself every day since Livingston had made use of his oddity. It felt true enough, though most truths didn’t require constant repetition to remain so. Livingston should have said more; he should have explained first. Nonetheless, Phillip was complicit now. And it weighed on him.

There was no denying Farrah was easier to handle now. Phillip hadn’t felt he’d deserved the princess’s ire, but nonetheless it was hers to feel. She was young and naive, and she was grieving. He had dealt with worse without turning to magic.

Phillip had long since given up trusting his own body to carry out his wishes. The metal device strapped painfully to his side was reminder enough of that lesson. He had met a girl who could exsanguinate him with a thought, but even she could not touch his mind.

For so long, he felt sure that his mind was his own. But Avinia had found her way into it. A man he hardly knew had rewritten his friend’s memories. The arm he had trusted for so long, that had saved his life, had been warping his mind for years.

Could he trust his crew? Could he trust himself?

Phillip finished his drink and poured another.

The Freya
Aleid searches for her lost sister

I wonder how much of the world Avi has had the chance to see, wondered Aleid Elon.

Aleid stood at the bow of Freya, the grand ship that was built and gifted to her. Freya was a fine ship, her father had hired men who excelled in their fields to build a ship worthy of the new head of the Elon family.

“It is like you, my child, strong and smart, yet sleek and elegant,” he had told her. She could not disagree with him, and she found herself longing to be at see with it.

Aleid’s hand traced a carving that ran the length of the railing. These little details were what her father had meant. They made Freya more than just another ship from Iceland. However, if Ewald ever knew just how magnificent his daughter and the ship he had bought for her, he would bulk in fear, like the coward he was. He feared the weird. He feared strangers. That was why he had tried to kill Avi and that was why their mother, Janneke, had made sure he never knew of Aleid’s gifts.

Soon, sister. Soon, we will be together once more and the Elon name will be known for us and not our cruel father.

“Lady Elon, we will be seeing shore in a days time. What are your orders?” Captain Amberth asked.

Aleid looked at the man she had chosen as captain. He had years of ship-work experience, even being a captain of one of her father’s ships, though he had never known that Amberth was a Stranger. All the strangers that had worked under Ewald had known to hide their abilities from him.

“We will make port. Send out men to resupply and have them ask for word of my sister. We will not return to Reykjavik until we find her.”

The captain bowed to her, and she watched his dark curls slip from his shoulders. He moved from her almost as fast as he had approached and she could hear him shouting orders behind her.

Her eyes returned to the see and she pulled a feather from the breast of her dress. When she had received the feather she had crafted a necklace for it. The feather meant her sister was alive. The man who had sent it to her, Adam Van Hett, had sent the letter from Batavia, but it was unlikely that her sister would still be there. Batavia was a long way from the Americas, but without knowing exactly where her sister was, she could not order her crew across the ocean. They would look for rumors until she knew where her sister would go. It would take time, but Avi would be found.

Don't Look Down

Looking back, Farrah might even admit that Allah must have meant her to find the Songbird. Life aboard this ship gave her so many new opportunities to advance her work. She was meeting biological mechanics from all over the world, maintaining a network of correspondence that shared ideas between those mechanics and enriched her own projects. She had challenging projects at her fingertips, and of course the funds and workspace to complete those projects.

And despite all the setbacks, she felt more focused and productive every day. Losing her people would never stop being torment, but she could become someone that would never let the Al-Azar name die. Her parents would be proud.

However, some matters were still not clear. The new crew member was untrustworthy, and Captain Phillip seemed to meet with him quite often, discussing something troubling. Avi had found family and then…lost them again. Alan was acting erractic and quiet. Mel’s strangeness was changing in unpredictable ways. Farrah wasn’t blind to these issues and sometimes when she could spare a thought from her work and her letters, the lack of answers troubled her greatly.

Farrah’s breath hissed through her teeth as a plug slipped and a jet of superheated steam seared her knuckles. She was becoming distracted and cloud-headed again. Perhaps it would help to discuss matters with someone, try to find answers to put these issues to rest. But who? Avi was a trustworthy friend who might be in pain, but also she was not human. Who could say if Farrah could offer any comfort there, where her pet monster could serve better perhaps. Captain Phillip would be open to talking, but his decisions for crewing the ship would be beyond question, even by Farrah. Alan then? Also not human, but if he was experiencing difficulties perhaps Farrah would be the perfect person to offer guidance. She certainly knew enough to offer insight to particular issues a sentient machine might face.

“Miss, the steam is making it quite difficult to breathe in here now. Might I open the door?” Farrah blinked out of her reverie to find a red-faced sailor tugging at her sleeve. What was his name again, Titus? Timothy? The man was useless except for his brute strength and doggish obedience to Farrah’s direction but now that he brought her attention to it she really ought to replace that plug.

“Yes, fine Toby. Open the door if you must and bring me another pair of clamps for this joint. The large ones from the engine I think should do.”
“Very good mam, but…not the big clamps on the main valve? Those are there in case it needs an emergency systems purge you said. You were quite specific.”
“Tanner, we are in dock. The engine will be fine, now just do as I ask!”

Farrah returned her full attention to the gleaming appratus before her on the desk. Who could have dreamed that she would have access to all the necessary parts by the end of the week? This arm would be the envy of all the Captain encountered, and advance prothetesis studies by leaps and bounds. If only she could keep her mind cleared of all the other distractions…

Death and Determination
In which a Dragon meets its end.

“So, we just let them go?” The first mate’s voice was gruff and indignant, almost disbelieving. “Just like that?”

“We aren’t in a position to cause any trouble,” Ju-Long, captain of the Superstition, replied, his voice measured and calm. The two of them stood atop the deck of their ship, watching a potential future rival leave their failed parley. “We are here representing the VOC.”

“Aye, Cap’n.” The first mate replied, resigned, as he watched the Songbird turn away. “I just don’t get why the VOC sent us to help defend this shitty town.”

“As the missive said,” Ju-Long began, “We are the closest VOC-sponsored vessel in the area.” Noting his mate’s sour response to that, he continued: “And it pays remarkably well. One week here will be—”

The world shifted around Ju-Long. No longer on the deck of the Superstition, he was now suddenly inside a wooden room. “…very profitable,” he whispered, finishing his thought. With no windows, a lone door, and only a single candle resting in a wall sconce for light, the room was quite dark. The ceiling, walls, and floor were all wooden slats, like the inside of a ship, though the lack of any decor whatsoever made it feel more oppressive than spartan.

A thunderclap sounded from somewhere outside, and the room shook, nearly knocking Ju-Long to his feet. His sailor instincts kicked in quickly, however, and he was able to keep his balance despite not being able to see the sky. A moment later, another, harder rumble jostled the room, and Ju-Long recognized the sound: a magazine explosion. This ship is going down, he thought. I have to get out of here!

Granting himself as much of a running start as the small room would allow him, Ju-Long threw his shoulder into the door. The door didn’t budge, and he fell back, clutching his shoulder in pain. Outside, cannon fire rang out. A battle. After a moment of letting the agony subside, however, The Dragon inside him took over, and he tried again. And again. And again, and again, until, on the fifth time, the door finally swung open as splinters of a door bar fell to the ground outside.

He stood in a hallway. Similarly wooden to the room he’d just been in, the gentle sloping of the walls confirmed in his mind that he was definitely onboard a ship; though from the angles of the slopes, this ship had to be massive.

He pushed the thought out of his mind — he didn’t have time to marvel at the vessel. From down the hallway, he heard rustling. “What’s all that noise?” A woman’s voice called out in Dutch.

The Dragon commanded him to run, and so he broke into a run towards the voice. “Hurry,” he cried out to the other voice. “The magazine is exploding! We need to get off the ship now!” He reached the end of the hallway to a loud bang. There, just around the corner, was a young lady with a flintlock pistol leveled at Ju-Long, a small wisp of smoke rising from the end of the barrel. Her face was a combination of surprise and worry, though as her gaze met his, he saw no regret behind her brown eyes.

Ju-Long had shot many people in his life. He’d even killed a few of them. He mostly disliked killing, but understood it as an occasional necessity in his line of work. However, for all the pitched shootouts he’d been in over the last three years behind the mast, he’d never been shot before. He’d certainly been shot at, but the Lord had never allowed a bullet to strike Ju-Long.

He was surprised at how little pain he felt. Getting socked in the stomach — having the wind knocked out of him — that was painful. He’d always imagined getting shot in the gut to feel a lot like that, but he’d honestly hardly noticed this. Had he not heard the shot, he might not have even acknowledged the possibility.

A small step back was all he allowed himself. The woman, still frozen in surprise, hadn’t even finished processing what had just happened. Ju-Long needed more time himself, but The Dragon was not going down with this ship. His shirt growing sticky with what he assumed was blood, The Dragon guided Ju-Long’s gaze to the cutlass at the woman’s belt. In a flash, the blade was in his hand, and she was crumpled at his feet, trying to gasp for air as blood poured from her throat. He stepped over her calmly, whispering “sorry” in Mandarin as he moved.

It wasn’t until he was in the next room that he fully realized she’d been wearing VOC colors.

He moved with speed, The Dragon leading him through rooms and halls like a snake through a mouse’s burrow. Bodies crumpled around him, and though he felt sad for their slaughter, he knew it wasn’t truly his fault — their blood was not truly on his hands, but The Dragon’s. Nearly a dozen men and women laid at his feet when he finally reached the deck, and he squinted to let his eyes adjust to the light of day.

Only, it wasn’t bright out. The sky was dark, as though in a pitched storm, although the ship had felt steady. Was this vessel so massive that it could just plow through a storm on the open ocean? Did such ships even exist?

Ju-Long looked across the deck, trying to find some answers. Deckhands scrambled in a panic, ignoring him completely. Their hurry was genuine, but not the kind of fear that came after a magazine explosion. Had he been wrong about the ship going down? Cannon fire sounded in the distance, and the ship jolted, hit hard. If he was wrong, he wouldn’t be soon.

Ahead of him, the ocean defined the horizon, but it felt, somehow, more distant than normal. I’m in the sky? He thought for a second. This is an airship. He balked, looking around. They were above a harbor. A VOC warship, he realized. That explained the size, and the sailor’s uniforms, but now how he’d gotten here. Or what had happened to—his heart froze in his throat.

The Superstition.

In a panic, Ju-Long ran to the port railing, and looked over the side. Flaming debris slowly crashed to the ocean 300 feet below. His life’s work, his crew, his legacy… reduced to floating, burning wreckage.

Ju-Long sank to the deck as The Dragon subsided. The pain of his loss and the pain of his injuries mixed, and agony overcame him. The salty wind mixed his blood and tears together beneath him, and the weight of his failures crushed down on him like a lead weight. He’d built his life on pursuing the devil’s abominations, and he’d tried to show them mercy, but they’d only ever hated him in return. He’d spared them from the headsman’s block, and taken them all to their own island home, but they saw him as the monster. In later years, he tried to stop caring, instead immersing himself completely in the relentless pursuit of perfecting his ship. The Superstition was the ship to end all ships, a feat of engineering and Weirdcraft that was unparalleled the world over.

Except, the Songbird was better. In the distance, he could still see it gliding away, the mysterious ship no-one had ever heard of until a few years ago. Faster, nimbler, and capable of sail and flight from the beginning. Ju-Long had spent nearly a half-million guilders just trying to keep up with that blasted schooner. Now, debris, in a harbor outside Batavia.

Was he really almost 60? A daughter that hated him. A crew he couldn’t protect. A ship he’d lost. A career of sacrifice, for which he was hated. And a bullet in his gut. A life: wasted.

He rolled over on the deck, looking up at the stormy sky. The jet-black clouds rolled and boiled angrily, crashing into each other. No, he realized, not clouds. Harpies. Above him, they circled, then made their descent. Talons extended, their screeches filled with the anger and pain of loss. A sound he’d known well all his life.

He closed his eyes, and awaited his final judgement. He did not expect it would be kind.


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