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The Adventures of Solaire, Part X: The Archive Ship ii

The Incredible Yet Accurate Adventures of the Dread Pirate Captain Solaire Ravenheart

Otherwise known as…

The Adventures of Solaire


Part X:

The Archive Ship ii


Very few words have suffered the same amount of casual abuse the word “genius” has. “Love” and “blazes” spring to mind, but otherwise, “genius” is a truly battered term. Genius used to describe the intellect of men like Mr. Wiess, or contraptions such as the wheel that revolutionized human history. Nowadays, “genius” can mean anything from an insightful idea, a novel thought, a strange concept, or anything else the user wants it to convey, up to and including sarcasm.


You may think from my tone that I am upset at this turn of vocabulary, but I find it a positive change. Language is, after all, an ever evolving organism, and, as any farmer can attest to, it is far easier to shape an animal to your will after it has tasted the rod. I am all for language abuse.


However, there are lines that not even I will cross. True, those lines are few and far between, but they are there, and I feel the need to state one now: no matter how many facts are cited about Jacobs Von Bartlesby, the designer of the Archive Ship, and how many stories are told about his mathematical prowess, his ability to play multiple games of chess blindfolded, his near-eidetic memory and perfected logical arguments, the man should never be called a genius.


Argue with me all you want, but he refused to put an escape vessel in his ship. If that’s not stupidity, I don’t know what is.


***


Further into the bronze metal of the Archive Ship, the chaos was beginning to die down a bit. True, there were still signs: multiple pressure gauges held their trembling needles firmly in the red territory, and every so often a loud CLANG would resound against the metal hull. But at least nothing here was exploding, or on fire, or both at the same time.


Seeing the relative serenity, Solaire stopped for a moment and looked around. The ship was not designed for human occupation, he realized. The insides had hallways twisted throughout, true, but those hallways were chocked full of outreaching, interlocked pipes, spinning gears, and long, thin, metal arms that sprawled across the space and spun pieces of machinery out of view. Whatever navigational negotiating space there would have been was crowded out by the mechanisms. It could be spied in the darkness, amidst the hiissss of steam, the smell of copper, and the dull rotations, but it could not be traversed.


As he stood there staring, Solaire’s companions caught up to the man.


“Well, brave captain,” Skyler shot with words dripping in venomous sarcasm, “whatever in the blazes will the next step in your brilliant plan be?”


“I’m figuring it out,” Solaire replied, no evidence in his tone that the insult had landed.


Willaby simply fell over and collapsed. “Can you… die from… too much excitement?” he wheezed between breaths.


“I suppose that would be a heart attack,” Tomo replied.


The tweed baker closed his eyes. “A heart attack sounds lovely right now.”


“Everyone shut up and let me think!” Solaire shouted.


“Or what?”


“Or I’ll kill you, Austin!” Solaire yelled, spinning around to face the large man.


Austin held out his hands, a hard feat for the grunzen to achieve, as the man had to squat just to fit in the space. “Wasn’t me.”


Solaire raised an eyebrow, then turned and scanned the room. Once he did, he came face-to-face with a small, metal, worm-like instrument coming out of the wall and inches away from his face.


Solaire blinked, then raised a pistol. “Or I’ll kill you, you… strange metal eel!”


“It’s an audio tube,” it replied, voice dry and heavily accented with the tone of Dinan nobility, “and I’d prefer if you didn’t. These things are several hundred gold to replace, you know.”


“Great,” Willaby moaned, “now the constructs are aristocrats.”


A laugh came from the pipe. “Hardly. You have the pleasure of speaking to Sir Vastim Discopsy, Captain and Crew of the Archive Ship. Charmed, I’m sure.”


“Captain and crew?” Tomo asked.


“Yes.” The worm gave some kind of wiggle. “The ship only needs one living person to man it, so I am the only living man on the ship.”


Skyler blinked. “You’re… human?”


“Yes, and watching you from one of the many arcane eyes placed around the structure.”


“Wonderful,” Solaire growled, then swung his head around, looking at the various corners of the room and waving about the Ivory River, “you have been boarded by Captain Solaire Ravenheart and his crew of bloodthirsty pirates!”


“Pirates?!” Willaby gasped, poking his head up.


Solaire pointed the Ivory River at him without looking.


“R-Right! Bloodthirsty pirates!” Willaby affirmed in a cracking voice.


Solaire returned to pointing the gun at the various edges of the room again. “Surrender now and you’ll be spared. Refuse, and you will die!”


There was a half second of silence.


Then the tube laughed in his face.


“My what bravado!” Vastim’s voice declared. “I’ll take option three please.”


“There is no option three!” Solaire shouted.


“Yes there is,” he replied calmly. “It’s the one where I stay where I’m at and let the five of you drown where you stand.”


Tomo gripped the hilt of his sword. “But then, you would drown too. Do you plan to allow yourself to be taken by seppuku?”


The tube jolted back, as if surprised. “Good heavens no! You gentlemen really don’t know what you’ve gotten yourselves into, do you?” A sigh came through. “This is the Archive Ship, the most fortified and well defended transport ship in all of Lorian. It contains some of the most precious artifacts in all the world, artifacts that simply can not fall into the wrong hands. Should the wrong hands attempt to… I don’t know, blow a hole in the side and march in, the ship will sink, killing all bloodthirsty pirates and allowing the pilot to stay nice and dry in his sealed cabin.”


Tomo nodded. “So you will slowly starve to death. Honorable.”


“No you psychopath!” the tube spat. “I have enough supplies to last me a month, far long enough to send a distress message and wait to be reclaimed, along with all of the artifacts.”


Austin raised an eyebrow. “You think they’ll be able to get you off the ocean floor?”


“The men who built this ship are very clever,” he assured him. “I’ll be safe.”


“Then I’ll find you and kill you!” Solaire declared, marching off.


KER-LANG!


The pale noble immediately hit something and fell over. After rubbing the growing red welt on his forehead and allowing the stars in his eyes to clear, he glared at a large and solid pipe outstretched across the hallway he was attempting to storm down, set at perfect head-hitting level.


The tube gave a hearty chuckle. “Good luck. This place was a maze even before they put the guts of the ship where the hallways used to be. I’ll see you gentlemen at the bottom of the sea!” it cried, slinking backwards into the darkness.


“What do we do?” Willaby practically shrieked.


“We start tearing it apart!” Austin yelled, grabbing a thick pipe with both hands.


“Stop!” Tomo yelled.


Austin paused.


“We don’t know how this mechanism operates,” Tomo explained. “We could damage a vital section of the engine, sinking ourselves faster than we can react.”


“Solaire,” Skyler yelled, “you got us into this mess, you get us out!”


Solaire turned to the man. There was no anger in Skyler’s words, or in his eyes. It was just panic.


Solaire chewed his lip and went over his options. They couldn’t just lay into the ship. If they did that, there was a good chance that they would trade sinking slowly for sinking instantly, as Tomo had explained. Repairing the ship seemed impossible; the hole they had blown was just far too large. Vastim was obviously not threatened in the least bit, so there was no way to con or intimidate him into helping, and worse yet, even if they could think of something, the isolated pilot could most likely thwart their plans from afar.


In the back of his mind, frantic, frightened thoughts began combing through Solaire’s memories, trying to find a useful piece of information to act on and save his life. He had a plan before he boarded, didn’t he? Of course he did. The plan was to get on the ship, capture and/or kill the crew, then repair the ship. How? Well, he’d figure that out once there.


Which is where the plan had fallen apart. He hadn’t expected the inside to be so bafflingly complicated, or the crew to be so well-protected. The actions he had been counted on were taken away from him. So then what was he supposed to do then?


A small, calm voice spoke over the din in his head and let Solaire know what his only option was:


Drown.


Solaire hung his head.


“So this is how I die,” Tomo muttered, “still dishonored, standing in the company of thieves and murderers.”


“Oh gods,” Willaby sobbed.


“Solaire, stop playing around!” Skyler demanded, shaking the man. “You’ve got to have something. You always do!”


Solaire didn’t hear him. In his mind, he was mourning River. With him gone, there would be no one to search for her. No one would even know. Even his last chance, his last Will and Testament stuffed in his jacket pocket, would sink to the bottom of the sea with him, only to be read by fish and crabs. He had failed, end of story, and now River was forever consigned to slavery.


Solaire’s mind began to fall backwards, into the safe clutches of happy memory. What the hell, he figured, might as well surrender one more time…


***


Solaire, or at least, memory-Solaire, was back in Verdune Isle, near the docks of Taspen. These were the Ravenheart docks, gigantic monsters of wood that held uncompleted ship frames that lay beached on shore, slowly being dressed with long planks and rigging, anticipating the moment they could be pushed into the sea.


“And there’s the rudder!” nine-year-old Solaire exclaimed, running back and forth on a nearby grassy hill, jabbing his finger at various ship parts. “And the mast! And the bow! And the… the kiln!”


“The keel,” River laughed. She was seated underneath a tree, pencil in hand, sketching the massive forms. “Goodness Solaire, you really are excited about ships.”


He nodded happily. “Yep. I want to sail my own someday.”


River smiled. “Really?”


“Yeah, so I started learning parts, and crew names…” he pointed over to another ship, not a skeleton under construction, but a small schooner maneuvering around the waves, crates of supplies on its back. “See, there’s the first mate, he steers the ship. And the boatswain tells the deckhands what to do. And there’s the captain! You can tell ‘cause he’s yelling at everyone.”


River frowned, but the amusement on her face lingered. “That’s not exactly what a captain does.”


“Yes it is!” Solaire interrupted. “And someday, I’ll be captain, and I’ll yell at people, and they’ll say ‘yessir’ and ‘nossir’ and ‘please don’t whip us again sir, we won’t make you do more vocab lessons.’” He grinned and began to thrash his arm this way and that, punishing his imaginary crew.


She sighed and put the notebook away. “Solaire, that is not what a captain is.”


“It’s what a captain does!” he protested.


“Maybe, but what a person is and does are two different things.”


Solaire just looked at her confused.


River thought for a moment, then began again. “Solaire, why does a captain do those things?”


“Because he’s in charge!” the boy answered brightly.


“Yes, and why is he in charge?”


“Because… somebody has to be?”


“Then why isn’t everyone in charge?”


Solaire bit his lip, obviously stumped.


“A captain is in charge because somebody has to make the decisions nobody else wants to make,” River explained. “It’s not because it's fun.”


“I don’t get it,” Soliare admitted. “Isn’t it a good thing to order people around?”


“Well, what if you told your first mate to steer North and he steers too far North, and you hit a rock and start sinking? And then you have to decide who gets to go onto the lifeboats, and who has to stay behind? No matter what, people will be upset at you for making those decisions. The crew gets to say that they were just following orders, but all the mistakes are the captain’s fault, no matter who does what.


“That’s the difference between ordering people around and giving orders: one is just yelling at people and being mean, and the other is accepting responsibility and blame. And while anyone can order people around, only a captain gives orders,” she finished. “That’s the difference.”


“Oh.” The boy sat down onto the grass, glumly tearing pieces of it out. “I guess I don’t want to be a captain, then.”


“That’s a shame,” River said, picking up her sketchbook again. “I think you would make a great captain.”


Solaire looked up. “Really?”


“Of course. Good captains are fierce, and brave. Good captains don’t let other people tell them what they can and can’t do, and what is and isn’t impossible. And good captains never, ever give up.” She gave Solaire a smile. “Those are all things I know you can do.”


Solaire frowned. “Even when the ship is sinking?”


“Especially when the ship is sinking,” River confirmed.


“But… what is a captain supposed to do then?”


“Easy,” she answered, a twinkle in her eye. “Keep captaining until the ship unsinks.”


***


A sudden BANG! interrupted Solaire’s trip into memory. Austin was pushing out a nearby wall, forcing it to bulge outwards and groan in protest.


“Stop it!” Tomo pleaded. “You will sink us!”


“You said it doesn’t matter, and if it doesn’t matter, I’m going to have fresh air in my lungs one more time before I die!” Austin growled.


Solaire looked back up to the scene, and muttered “no you’re not.”


Everyone stopped and turned to Solaire.


“You’re not dying,” he said, pointing to Austin. “And you’re not dying,” he continued, pointing at Tomo, then Skyler, then Willaby. “Or you. Or you.”


“I’m not?” Willaby asked.


“No, you’re not,” he confirmed.


“Oh good.” Willaby looked visibly relieved.


“That’s a great pep talk,” Skyler grumbled darkly, “but you don’t have a plan.”


“Didn’t have a plan,” Solaire corrected him. “I have one now.”


“You do?” Austin asked.


“Of course I do! Wasn’t it obvious that’s what I was doing? Devising a brilliant plan?”


“It looked like you were giving up,” Tomo replied.


“Well pay better attention next time!” Solaire quickly scanned the room. “Tomo, which one of these pipes has steam?”


“Steam?” the samurai questioned.


“Yes steam! All these constructs seem to have steam in them!”


Tomo looked around, then pointed to a pipe. “This one has a gauge measuring pressure. It contains steam.”


“Break it.”


Tomo looked doubtful, but Solaire shot him a look and the warrior jammed his katana into the small space where two joints connected and twisted, forcing the blade to work as an improvised lever. As he did, there was a grrrrrooooooaaaaaannnPOP and the pipes separated, spraying hot steam into the air.


The sound of quiet waves joined in. Skyler looked down, noticing the sea water collecting at his boots. “Er, Solaire, the boat’s sinking faster now.”


“It is? I mean, of course it is.” Solaire looked at the gathering water, now close to a foot high, and turned back to Austin. “Grab that steam pipe and bend it under the water.”


Austin curled a massive hand around the tube expelling hot air, then yelped and pulled away. “It’s hot!”


“So?” Solaire asked.


“I’ll burn myself!” Austin protested.


“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that I was dealing with a spineless child!” Solaire shouted. “Is that why you bend over backwards for Wiess?”


“You know nothing about me and Wiess!” Austin yelled back. He grabbed the burning metal and shoved downwards, bending it with protest and dunking the head of it under the surface of the water line, now chest high. As it did, the liquid around the head began to boil and Austin pulled away a welted-red hand, satisfied.


The entire structure lurched forward, like a drunk man in a race, and everyone stumbled about for a bit, trying to stay standing or afloat in the waves. After everything had settled a tiny bit, the waves stayed at chest level, going no lower, but also going no higher.


“What on earth have you done?” the outraged voice of Vastim sounded from somewhere in the ship. “We’re going close to twice the speed we were!”


“I gave you a chance to surrender!” Solaire shouted back.


“Idiot. You’ll crush yourself to death against the machinery!” Vastim protested.


“Solaire,” Skyler gasped, “air!”


Solaire tried to respond, but all he could manage were a gasping series of coughs. The room had become thick with steam, some of it the hot, dry variety pouring out of the metal pipe buried under the waves, and some was the new cold and salty flavor caused by the boiling sea water. Both did an excellent job of crowding out the available oxygen and replacing it with unbreathable water vapor.


Solaire squinted through the haze and spied Willaby trying to wave the cloud away. He reached out and jammed the man’s head underwater. Willaby immediately began to thrash, clawing desperately to get back to air, but even though Solaire wasn’t strong, he was at least as strong as a baker. He continued to hold the poor man’s head down until Willaby’s mind went into a pure panic, opening his mouth and screaming into the cold sea.


There was a sudden FOMPH as a massive air bubble manifested from the lips of the sorcerer with such force that it caused the whole structure to rock upwards, standing upright with the blown-out portion of the ship high in the air, like an amused dolphin swimming upright, demonstrating tricks for fish.


Everyone instinctively grabbed the nearest outcropping and hung on for dear life until the ship held relatively steady and they could hang on the sides of what looked less like a boat and more like an empty wine bottle, bobbing in the water.


“HA! Way to go Willaby!” Austin cheered.


Willaby vomited salt water.


Solaire tried to regain his bearings. The layout of the ship had changed drastically; the area that was behind them was now above them, and the area in front of them was now below. At the very top was the blown-out compartment of the engine, now leaking in sunlight instead of the sea. Beneath them was the maze of hallways choked with engine parts, now submerged in five to seven feet of standing water.


As he stared, the metal audio tube popped out of the water. “You morons!” it squawked. “You’re going to destroy the ship!”


“Thought you weren’t worried about that,” Solaire replied.


“I-I’m not,” the voice in the tube stammered, but as he did so, a sharp pop! resounded from the tube, reporting that, wherever Sir Vastim Discopsy was hiding at, the room was beginning to strain.


“Solaire! You beautiful bastard!” Skyler shouted.


“We are not safe yet,” Tomo noted. “The ship is stuck, and this system of pipes is convincing me that, under the weight of the sea water, the contents inside are getting backed-up inside the engine. We are riding the equivalent of a bomb.”


“One sinking ship at a time,” Solaire muttered. Then he stopped and turned to Tomo. “Wait, a bomb?”


“That is what I said,'' the samurai confirmed.


“Perfect.” Solaire turned to Skyler. “Climb to the top of the ship,” he commanded, pointing up to the open edge streaming in sunlight.


Skyler manipulated one hooked blade upwards and caught it on an outstretched pipe, then hauled himself up and caught another outcropping, then put a foot on a stuck gear. Inch by slow inch, wriggling back and forth like a worm, he finally managed to reach the top and heaved his torso over the side. “Now what?”


Solaire took off his top hat and threw it up to Skyler, who caught it in his hands. “Do you think you can hang that over the side and bail water into the ship?”


Skyler smirked. “Have a change of heart about fashion versus death?”


“Shut up and answer the question!”


Skyler peered over. “Yeah, should be able to.” He stopped, then turned back to Solaire. “Wait, bail water into?”


Solaire pointed the Ivory River up. “Do it! That’s an order!”


Skyler turned a bit white, but he obliged, stretching to reach over the side and fill the hat up with sea water, then dump it in, showering Solaire, Tomo, Austin, and Willaby in a rain of cold salt water.


“What in all the created worlds are you doing?” Willaby cried in terror.


“Yes, what are you doing?!” Vastim’s audio tube demanded. “You’re going to kill us all!”


“Well, seeing as how we’re going to die anyway, I figured we might as well take your smug ass out with us.” Solaire stopped to let another deluge of water fall over him, then continued. “And besides, the thought of several priceless artifacts rolling along the ocean floor give me a warm, tingly sort of feeling in my cold rock of a heart.”


“You’re mad!” the tube spat. “You’re… you’re bluffing!”


“Maybe. But we’ve got nothing to lose, so feel free to keep this little game of chicken going as long as you want.”


The ship bobbed a bit, and at this point it was so close to the water line that liquid dribbled over the sides, stopping after the ship managed to bob back up with a struggle.


“Alright stop!” the tube pleaded.


Solaire held a hand up, and Skyler threw the hat back down to him. He put the sopping wet fabric on his head and grinned. “Good. Now, how do we fix this thing so that it’s seaworthy again?”


“I, uh… give me one second.” The sound of banging and crashing was heard over the tube.


Solaire motioned for Skyler to come down. Once he did, he leaned over with him and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper.


“You do realize he’s just going to tell us how to right the ship, sinking it and killing us, right?” Skyler mummered.


“Exactly,” Solaire confirmed. “That’s why we’re going to the top. When the ship tips back over, we’ll flip with it so that we’re standing on top of it. Then we’ll make our way to the front and force our way into the cabin room.”


“Isn’t that where the cannon is?” Skyler asked.


“What, are your swords suddenly just for show now?”


He gripped the hilt of his blade tighter. “Just checking.”


Solaire listened for a minute, confirming that the rustling sound of desperate searching was still going on, then slid downwards to where Tomo was.


“I do not like this plan,” Tomo complained. “I suspect dishonor on the part of the tube, and that he will simply sink us once he knows that he is safe again.”


“I know,” Solaire whispered. “Skyer and I are going to the top to climb over and force our way in once it tips. I’m putting you in charge of carrying out Vastim’s instructions and, more importantly, keeping yourselves from sinking and drowning.”


“How do you expect me to carry that out?”


“You have Willaby, if need be.”


Tomo looked over to the soaked and shivering baker, clinging onto a pipe like an orphaned puppy clinging to the leg of a disinterested stranger. “To force the man through a simulated drowning like that again would be most unpleasant for him.”


“If you can find a way to do it that doesn’t involve him, great,” Solaire replied. “But just make sure that you all don’t die.”


The samurai gave a nod. “I understand.”


“Alright,” the tube returned, “Can you find intake pipe seven?”


Solaire nodded to Skyler, and the two men climbed up, ducking and weaving around pipes and machinery until both men were at the top, hands gripped around the sharp edge and feeling the cold ocean lick the ends of their fingers.


A moment of silence passed between them.


“You know, you never answered my question,” Skyler said.


Solaire rolled his eyes. “About what?”


“About your family. I know about Tomo, and a lot about Willaby, and Austin’s… well, Austin seems pretty transparent. But you’re still an absolute mystery.”


Solaire sighed. “And why exactly should that matter?”


“Because, well, you can’t get to be good friends with someone until you know something about them.”


Solaire turned to Skyler.


Skyler stared back with a stupid, hopeful smile on his face.


“I don’t need friends,” Solaire clarified in a cold, dry tone, “I need crew.”


Skyler drew back as if he had been bit and the two continued to hang in silence.


There was a sudden GGRRRROOOOAANNNN and the ship began to lurch backwards. “Go!” Solaire shouted, and the two men hauled themselves over with the motion, landing on the top side with a gigantic SPLASH! They rode the downwards motion with knees bent, then straightened once the boat had settled.


In front of them stretched the smooth, glittering bronze topside of the ship, unbroken save for the two holes right in front of them. One slid forward another long, spindly audio tube while the other expelled a long metal arm broken at the end.


“ATTENTION:” the tube shouted. “YOU ARE ON TOP OF DEFENDED CARGO. PLEASE DIE.”


The metal arm clicked and shuddered a bit, trying to operate the cannon that was no longer attached to it.


“Guess the cannon blew itself off when we made the big explosion,” Skyler observed. “This should be a whole lot easier.”


The tube turned to its other appendage, appearing to stare at it, before it flexed and whipped itself at Skyler’s head.


Metal collided with skull in a dull thunk and Skyler staggered back, stunned. “Ow!”


“PLEASE DIE,” the tube repeated, and this time it raced towards Solaire. He barely ducked under it and slipped, almost falling into the sea before gaining his balance again. He withdrew a pistol and fired it in the same motion at his thin adversary, but the tube seemed to anticipate this, fenting left then ducking right to avoid the shot.


Skyler’s eyes went wide with panic. “What in the blazing hell is going on?! Constructs aren’t supposed to adapt, they’re supposed to be dumb… things!”


“I don’t think this one knows that,” Solaire grumbled. The construct rushed for him again and he withdrew his cutlass in his other hand, holding it outright to stop the metal form. It CLANG!ed against the blade and reeled back, wrapping around the sword like a snake, and attempted to jerk the weapon out of Solaire’s hands. Solaire grimaced and leaned backwards, prompting an awkward tug-of-war between the two. “Skyler!”


Skyler fully unsheathed both hook swords and charged at the thing, managing to clip both curved sections around the thin body. In response, the tube stopped, uncurled itself from Solaire’s cutlass, and re-curled itself around Skyler’s swords, twisting in such a way that the man began to spin off-balance.


“Keep it off of me for a second!” Solaire shouted, running back across the boatside. He slid down on the panels and began banging them with the palm of his hand, listening to the thud thud thud thud thuds returning to him.


Skyler struggled and managed to force the thing down, then pulled in opposite directions with the swords. Seemingly sensing the death blow this would have given it, the pipe stretched upwards, giving Skyler a solid uppercut that forced the man back, then began to race for Solaire.


Solaire saw the movement in his peripherals and brought his pistol up just in time to fire. The shot BANGed against the top of it, denting it, and the tube slithered back as if it was in pain. Solaire turned back to the panels and continued the thud thud thud until he heard a barely audible “eek!” underneath him.


“There you are…” he hissed, taking out the Ivory River and aiming it with both hands at the spot.


Before he could fire, the tube snaked back and around his ankle, rearing upwards and taking the poor noble with him. Transferring the River to one hand and withdrawing a regular pistol in the other, Solaire attempted to aim his less-powerful gun at the tube whilst it held him suspended upside-down in the air. “Skyler! I thought I told you to take care of this!”


“Trying to!” the other man shouted back. He was further up, sword clipped around the dented area near the head where Solaire had “injured” it.


Solaire closed an eye and aimed down at the base, where the tube slinked out of the hole, waited for a moment where he was being held relatively still, and fired. The tube gave a sound not unlike a dog’s yelp and dropped the two. Both fell onto the metal deck with heavy thuds and groaned in pain.


“I hate constructs,” Solaire moaned.


The tube writhed back and forth for a bit before straightening out and charging. Solaire looked up and shouted “Skyler, left!”


Skyler did, running past the charging tube as it snapped towards him.


“Hey!” Solaire shouted, and aimed the pistol at it. It turned, ‘saw’ the pirate’s gun, and jolted away to the left, away from the barrel of the gun…


...and right towards Skyler


Lunging underneath, Skyler held both of his swords out above him, letting both his own momentum and the opposite momentum of the panicked tube collide together, slicing the curved cresents through the metal tubing and cutting it into three neat pieces.


It all dropped, floundering on the deck of the ship like fish or cut up-earthworm. “DIE,” the pipe whined. “DIE, DIE… PLEASEEeeee…” The sound slowly faded away and the two men stared at the now-lifeless pieces.


“That was… oddly disturbing,” Skyler said.


“Whatever.” Solaire walked over to where he had dropped his cutlass, picked it up, and aimed the Ivory River down at the deck. A massive BOOM sounded over the waves and, once the smoke had cleared, the fresh hole showed a small pilot’s cabin, gizmos, gauges, and wheels of all kinds inside. Seated next to them, mouth near a metal tube, was an older, pasty white man done up in a fancy uniform of leather armors.


“I… er....” Vastim tried.


“Had your chance,” Solaire replied in an almost bored tone. He put away the Ivory River and the cutlass, then took out his regular pistol and studied it in the light.


“Alright, you win,” Vastim sighed, putting his hands up. “Take me as your prisoner. I won’t fight it.”


“Talk about stupid last words.” Solaire muttered.


Vastim’s eyes went wide. “W-what?”


“I told you, ‘refuse and you’ll die.’ Doesn’t anyone listen anymore?” Without anymore ceremony, Solaire swung the pistol downwards and fired, blowing the man’s head apart and spraying blood all over the cabin walls. Admiring his handiwork, he nodded and turned back to Skyler. “Man, he was a real genius, huh?”

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