((19 - Dreamgate))
Skunk stared down at the bleeding captain. "What. The. Fuck."
Owl pressed the palms of her hands to her forehead. The words on the walls spun and changed with extreme rapidity. 'Understand... can... remember... overload...'
Having exhausted all of the apparent jumping possibilities, Goat landed. "You okay, Owl?" he asked.
"No, I..." the woman answered. "There's too much to read." Tears spilled down her cheeks.
"Um, close your eyes?" Goat suggested helpfully.
"N-not helping," the older woman sobbed. 'Help me oh help me help me' plastered the walls.
Something lit up at the front of the room, on the control panel Jaz had been sitting at the day before, and made a quiet pinging noise.
Distracted by it, Goat leapt to the controls, staring at them curiously. There was a screen with lots of text, and an image of some large boxy thing with weird bits sticking out. "Hey, Jaz, what's this thing?" he inquired.
Owl tried to wipe her tears, and looked up at the console. "Oh, no, more, more words..."
Skunk had sagged against the wall, unmoving, and let out a sigh. "Well, that's nice," she commented dryly.
Goat finally seemed to notice that Jaz was still bleeding profusely, and began frantically looking around for anything remotely medical. Failing to find anything, he leapt to her side. "Jaz, wake up!" he said. "You're bleeding!"
The eldest passenger stood and turned towards the captain. "I-is she alright?"
Hesitantly, Goat reached out a shook her. "She's bleeding! Bleeding is bad!"
Jaz rolled onto her side and opened her eyes. "I'm what?" She stared blearily down at her punctured hand. "The hell?"
The control panel pinged again.
Skunk had been watching distractedly. "You stabbed your hand," she remarked. "There's a light and a noise. Over there." Skunk pointed to the screen.
Owl walked over, tearing off a length of her shirt as best she could. "We need bandages."
Jaz ignored her, blinking awake quickly. "I what? Wait, shit, what time is it?" She pushed herself to her feet with her healthy hand and stumbled over to the control panel, dripping blood.
"Hey, no, Captain Jaz!" Owl protested, holding up her makeshift bandage. "Don't hurt yourself further!"
Jaz stood over the console, scanning the screen. "Listen, either I hurt myself or we crash in a Sector where I have no idea what we'll find. I'd rather have a ship to escape with, should things go wrong."
Owl swallowed. "Oh."
"Yes, escape," echoed Skunk. She seemed to pull herself back together.
"From what?" asked Goat.
"Demons," Owl muttered, "I'd think."
Skunk scoffed. "Fuck that. From everything."
"What else do we have to escape from?" Owl asked, turning to Skunk.
"I don't know!" Skunk rolled her eyes in frustration at the pedantic older woman.
Jaz, meanwhile, tapped a few buttons and pulled one of the dangling strings, eliciting an answering clunk from Oliver, then sagged into her chair. "Usually? It's just demons." She grasped a wheel with both hands, gasped sharply, and gripped it harder, white-knuckled. She turned it slowly, and the crew could feel the airship coming about. She reached out a pushed a small button, and in response a small black box dropped from the ceiling in front of her. The pilot leaned forward and spoke into it. "Paging Sector Seven, this is Jazrill Quinn of the good ship Oliver. We've received your distress call." She panted for a moment in pain. "Respond."
After a moment's acceleration, the elevators door opened onto a new room. It was fairly large and circular, with the outer wall lined with glass--expansive windows out on to the empty fog. Before them were various seats and control panels, one of which was blinking insistently. The four got out of the elevator, heading out into the room, looking around.
Spider took a moment, and tried to concentrate. It wouldn't be a good idea to get gravity mixed up here. She ended up at a diagonal from a control panel to the floor.
Giraffe raised an eyebrow. "So what are we seeing here?"
"Welcome to the Observation Deck. Great for sightseeing," said Kasby absently, moving to the blinking console. "You're currently looking out into the Void Nebula."
Suddenly, a staticy voice filled the room, coming from various speakers. "Paging Sector Seven, this is Jazrill Quinn of the good ship Oliver. We've recieved your distress call." A brief pause. "Respond."
Giraffe leaned on a nearby console. "Distress call?"
Kasby paused, almost not knowing what to say. "...The distress call I sent out one hundred and fifty three days ago..."
"Ah." Giraffe turned her attention to the windows, trying to see anything outside.
Kasby stopped... and pressed the button on the radio. "This... this is Kasby Bellwood of the Corkscrew. Do you copy?"
"Jaz, what the hell is happening?" Skunk took a step towards her seated captain.
"Distress call?" Owl questioned. 'Danger oh no distress call distress?' was scribbling itself on the walls.
The pilot barely turned her head. "I'm trying to establish radio contact with the Sector Base."
"The what?" The rememorist looked very confused.
"Say... how close are we to them?" Goat asked, a gleam of mischief in his eyes.
The control panel crackled, and a mildly distorted voice came through. "This... this is Kasby Bellwood of the Corkscrew. Do you copy?"
Out the front window, something enormous came out of the fog. It looked quite a bit like the Oliver in basic elements, but that was where the similarity ended. It may be made of wood and gears and brass, but the only adequate way of describing the behemoth would be a flying castle. A massive, mobile fort, almost the size of Face.
"Oh." Owl's eyes went wide, and the writable surfaces went totally blank. "What. What is that?"
Goat, however, was feverishly estimating the distance between Oliver and this new thing. "Hmm... mile... maybe two..." he said to himself.
Jaz smiled, not paying him any heed. "I copy, Captain Bellwood." She stared with admiration at the massive floating construct. "You have a beautiful base..." She reeled a bit, blood gathering at the lowest point of the steering apparatus. "What is the situation here?"
Kasby waited, visibly tense and bewildered, for a reply. For now, at least, the magic powers seemed to be the last thing on his mind as he stared intently at the monitors.
The woman's voice came through again. "I copy, Captain Bellwood. You have a beautiful base... what is the situation here?"
Spider slid along to the wall by the elevator, looking slightly sick and shaken by her nerves. "Helloooo?" she called, to try and calm herself as much as anything else.
Kasby's voice quavered, unsure of itself, unsure of anything. "My... my crew has been slaughtered. No traces. I returned to find every scientist and crewman gone. Signs of a fight. Demon magic. The expected." Kasby's face was grim and pained. "It's... it's been 153 days since I sent out a distress call, Captain."
Skunk stared out the window, one eyebrow quirked up. "So... that's a ship too?"
Goat continued to talk to himself, still grinning. "I'm not sure how great I am at leaping... but there's only way to find out!"
Out of the corner of her eye, Owl saw the captain's pooling blood. She sucked in her breath, not knowing what to be most concerned about, the metal behemoth or the injury.
A second, more familiar voice came through the radio. "Helloooo?" It was clearly Spider.
Owl's eyes widened. "Spider?!" 'Spider cave where voice' appeared along the walls.
Skunk looked at the radio console. "I thought they died..."
Jaz looked back at her, leaning away from the transmitter. "Who? Who died?"
"Our... our..." Owl looked for the right words. "Our companions."
"The others in our group," Skunk added.
"Ah. More of you." Jaz swallowed, then looked back to the radio.
Goat, meanwhile, leapt to the ladder up to Oliver's upper deck. He climbed up, and clicked the hatch open, pulling himself out into the howling wind. Hair blowing around his face, he clutched the top of the ship with both hands and feet.
The wind from the hatch stirred Owl's hair and she looked up. "Oh. No. Goat...
From the radio, the first voice came through again, quavering, hesitant, unsure. "My... my crew has been slaughtered. No traces. I returned to find every scientist and crewman gone. Signs of a fight. Demon magic. The expected. It's... it's been 153 days since I sent out a distress call, Captain."
Jaz closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them again, and spoke into the transmitter. "Unfortunate, I'm sorry. But it would be better if we speak on the base. Is it safe to land?"
"Goat!" Owl called up through the open hatch. "What are you doing?"
"Getting to ready to jump!" He called back. "Got distracted, though. Look!" The teen pointed off into the Void.
((20 - Freak Freak))
Something came swirling out of the mist, between the Oliver and the bulk of the Corkscrew. It was quite visible to everyone, looking out of their respective windows.
It was a long thin shape, orange and gold, spiraling around itself. Great wings propelled it forward, several trios down its length, sticking out at odd angles. At the tip of each wing was a pale eye, milky-white.
The creature slid through the air towards the Sector Seven base, about half a kilometer away. Suddenly, though, its attention snapped back behind it, into the fog. It doubled over, flipping back the way it had come, as if watching.
Something a bit smaller floated out of the fog, and came roughly level with it. A gray shape, maybe ten meters long, wide at the middle and tapered at the ends, with huge leathery veined wings.
One of the larvae, from Face, still glowing with that red light. Its wings beat slowly, casually maintaining position in the air.
The other demon flew through the air, making a lazy circle around the larva. After two full revolutions, the demon came to a stop, its white eyes seemingly fixed on the larva.
Giraffe watched out the window, eyes wide. "Shit! Kasby, what is that!?"
Spider was busy freaking out. "PLEASE, GET ME ON GROUND! REAL GROUND!"
Kasby ignored them both, clicking the radio on again. "It'd certainly be safer than in the Void! Captain, you have some nasty looking demons up ahead! Get inside the base!"
A point in the air in front of the snake-like demon began to glow white, and then a blast of golden fire burst out towards the larva.
Just as fast, a disk of red light materialized in front of the larva, funneling the fire into it. As the last of the flames vanished into the circle, it shifted colors to match the gold for a moment, before melting back into that same red.
The winged demon paused in the air, flapping all of its wings, clearly confused.
A second later, the disk belched flames, sickening bloody red flames.
"What is that, exactly?" whispered Skunk. "I assume it's a demon, but..."
Owl couldn't break away from staring at the battle outside the window. "...but it looks like the ones from Face," she continued quietly. The walls slowly began to be covered with a simple refrain: 'no no no no no no no no no no no no no.'
Jaz gripped the steering controls, and spoke into the transmitter. "Preparing to take evasive action as necessary, Captain... and thank you." Face calm, she pushed hard to one side. Oliver lurched, accelerating around the fighting demons, and the passengers, for the first time, could really tell that they were in a moving vehicle.
Atop the ship, Goat held on for dear life, still grinning maniacally as he watched the spectacle unfolding in the fog before him.
The red flames leapt from the larva's circle, searing the thinner demon viciously. It let out a horrific shriek from a dozen previously unseen mouths, and its dozen wings stopped beating.
Before it could even begin to properly fall, though, a half-dozen tendrils of soft red light slipped out from the disk, and caught the burnt demon. They drew the demon almost gently into the portal, which vanished behind it.
Slowly, the larva began to crack. A split appeared down the length, letting out just a bit of that red glow. Then it shattered, thrown open from within by the winged snake-like demon.
But the demon... was different. It was black down its entire length, the color of the larva, and its eyes held that now-all-too-familiar red glow. A small burst of red flame flickered about in front of it, as if it were testing its powers. Then it slithered off into the Void, leaving the shreds of the larva to fall away into nothing.
"Did. Did you all see that?" Owl asked, sitting down where she stood.
Skunk stared at her. "Of course."
"Okay, good. I thought maybe I was crazy."
"But what... what the hell?" Skunk said.
"Lang--" Owl started, then stopped. "Oh fuck, it's called for. Swear away."
Jaz led Oliver in a tight, wild spiral downwards and around the Sector Base, her lips pressed tightly together. She ignored the chatter around her entirely, focused on not passing out again before she got them safely down.
Owl put her hands on her head, trying not to throw up as they spiraled down. Skunk grabbed at the walls for balance, but accidentally gouged chunks out of the wall with her steel nails.
Spying land, Goat tensed himself. It was time to test his power. He stared at a place on the floating base, and leapt.
Watching him go, Skunk commented, "You know, I wouldn't even be surprised if he makes it. Not after all this shit."
"Makes what?" Owl's curiosity got the better of her and she looked up, watching as Goat sailed through the air, pulling himself into a ball in mid-air. "Oh my... he didn't!" The walls flashed with 'danger idiot danger idiot.'
Skunk flashed a wry grin. "Yeah. He did. Idiot."
"That was... unsettling," Spider muttered, rolling around on the wall.
Kasby rushed over to another control panel to begin twisting nods and flipping switches, targeting the demonic larva and the draconic creature, but by the time it had all happened they had slipped away. Kasby stared for a long time into that fog. "...What in the name of the Templar is happening in the Void?"
Through the windows, they could see the Oliver coming closer, spiraling down towards the Corkscrew. It was oblong, a bit longer than the Archimedes, and looked much more hodgepodge. The massive bulging engines in the back looked as if they had been tacked on very much as an afterthought.
Kasby pushed down on the radio again. "Looks like you're clear, Captain. I'll-I'll meet you down in the docking bay, then." He turned back to the others. "I.... I can't really say I know what's happening. At all. I'm sorry," he said, half there and half in thought.
((21 - Too Far Away))
Suddenly, something flew towards the Observation Deck windows, coming in at very high speed. The four inside only had enough time to register that it was humanoid before the windows shattered inwards in a shower of glass. The lanky teen hit the metal deck rolling, his long brown hair flying wildly around him. He stood slowly, examining his body for damage, his grin unfazed. "Sorry about the window!"
"GOAT!" Giraffe yelled, running towards the teen. "I missed you, man!"
Kasby yelped and pulled out his wooden dart-pistol. "Holy shit!"
Zebra stared open-mouthed for a minute. "Goat!?" She saw Kasby drawing his weapon, and motioned at him. "Stop! No!"
At the sight of his companions treating this newcomer with friendship, Kasby put away the weapon, and returned to staring in confusion.
Spider spoke up with genuine surprise from the opposite wall. "Oh, you're alive!" She held onto the control panel for dear life, seeing as her legs were dangling towards the ceiling. "The others?" she asked him.
"...Probably in the docking bay, with the Oliver," said Kasby quietly, nodding.
"They're in the other clunky thing," Goat said, over him.
Kasby still seemed absorbed in thought, but at least it was with a small smile. "Yeah. That thing."
Giraffe smiled at Goat. "So where did you come from?"
He shrugged. "Jumped."
Zebra still seemed to be processing. "You all survived..." She smiled genuinely, for the first time in too long.
Kasby climbed into the elevator. "You guys coming? You too... Goat, right?"
"Just wondering," Giraffe asked. "Can you do any cool stuff?"
"Let's... not talk about that right now," Kasby said, a little uncomfortably. He was still trying to get people into the elevator.
Ignoring him, Goat grinned even wider. "I can leap!" As if in proof, he leapt across the room, skidding into the elevator next to Kasby.
Spider began to float to the ceiling, and landed on it with a thud as Goat shot past her. "Bloody hell!" She clawed her way over to the elevator, and managed to land on her feet. "He could always jump," she said cockily, very proud of herself for being right side up again.
Laughing, Giraffe and Zebra followed their companions into the elevator.
Still clearly somewhat uncomfortable, Kasby pushed a button. "Down we go." The doors slid shut.
Jaz circled the Oliver closer to the Base docking bay, then hovered at its entrance for a minute, groping upwards for a long lever with her injured hang. She stopped and just stared at the blood for a long moment, as if she'd forgotten it. She reached farther, tremble-handed, and yanked hard on the lever. Oliver swooped gracefully into the docking bay as Jaz sagged over her control panel, dead-eyed with relief and pain.
Skunk, meanwhile, glanced at the gouges she'd left in the wall. "Uh, sorry, I guess. About the wall?"
Owl managed to stand again. "Captain? Captain Jaz?"
Skunk sighed. "CAPTAIN?"
Jaz slowly turned to them. "What?" She looked very, very tired.
"Nothing, really." Skunk shrugged.
"Are you alright?" Owl asked. She shot Skunk a glare.
The metal woman raised her hands defensively. "Hey, you wanted to talk to her."
'Wouldn't care if she was the last one left' appeared on the walls behind Owl, who seethed.
Jaz stared at the older woman. "...What?"
"Your hand is bleeding horribly," Owl replied, calming. "I mean. Shouldn't you wrap it?" She offered the piece of shirt she was still clutching.
"...Oh." Jaz took the shirt and tried to tie it around her hand one-handed, but it slipped from her blood-wet fingers. She stared at the mess she'd made of the control panel.
Skunk watched, eyes half-lidded. "I have bandages, you know," she casually remarked.
"Oh really? And would getting it out be too much trouble for someone else's good?" Owl snapped.
"You didn't ask." Skunk looked almost confused by the obviousness of this.
"Well, then, young lady. Will you PLEASE get your bandages out?!"
Skunk blinked. "Uh, sure."
"Good." Owl glanced back at Jaz. "Here, do you want help cleaning that up?" she asked, indicating the blood puddles.
Jaz shook her head violently, making her wild blonde hair even wilder, and stood. "Please, if we could do it quickly. I need to talk to this Captain Bellwood."
Skunk retrieved her pack and unzipped one of the money pockets, pulling out a tidy bandage wrap. "Yeah, I want to get out of here."
"Well, let's bandage you up and then go," Owl suggested, crossing the floor to take the bandages from Skunk, who handed them over mutely.
The captain held out her injured hand to Owl and bit her lip at the rest. "I suppose Oliver can wait, yes," she said, reluctantly. "I don't know how safe we are, here, and I'd like to find out."
"Thank you... who is Captain Bellwood?" Owl walked back to Jaz and began wrapping up the hand.
"And I wonder what happened to Goat..." Skunk mused. "... whatever."
Jaz shook her head. "I don't know. That voice, before, that was him. Kasby Bellwood, of the Corkscrew, that's all I know."
Skunk rolled her eyes. "What kind of name is that?"
"Oh. You haven't met him?" Owl finished winding the cloth around Jaz's injury and tied it up neatly. "There."
"It'll just bleed through and get infected," Skunk remarked to no one in particular.
"Would you hold your tongue for five seconds? We're heading... somewhere. They might have things."
Jaz shook her head. "He's not from my Sector. Thank you." She picked up her crystal sword, wiping it on her leg before sheathing it, and strapped it and its partner to her back before popping the hatch to the outside.
The elevator doors slid open, revealing the docking bay. The wide room was open at one side, out into the Void. It was fairly spacious, with a half dozen ships--all in ruins, though, save the Oliver. It had landed near the edge, in a wide open space. The walls were covered with huge scratch marks, and everywhere tubes and wiring had been ripped from from protective coverings.
Kasby took the first steps out of the elevator, walking with nervous anticipation. He was glad he had remembered to grab his coat out of the observation deck... his hair was already a bedraggled mess, and...well, this was a big deal to him, and all. He wanted to look at least a little snappy.
Spider followed him carefully, trying to keep her concentration on being on the ground.
Goat leapt through the elevator doors and began exploring the docking bay with his eyes, scanning over the wreckage.
Kasby noticed Goat looking around. "This is where alot of it went down. The fight that cleared this place out. I still haven't fixed the walls, and it's been half a year," he said, a little absently. It might not have been something he would have said, were his attentions not divided a thousand-fold.
"Fight? With who?" Goat cocked his head to one side, hair swishing.
"Demons, n'such," said Kasby, eyes fixed entirely on the Oliver.
Spider swayed as she stood, and held out her hands for balance. "Really, really want to get to land," she muttered to herself. Giraffe offered a hand to help her, but she shook her head.
Finally, a small circular hatch on top of the Oliver popped open. Goat immediately leapt across the room to it, landing atop the ship. "Jaz! Owl! Skunk!" the teen exclaimed happily.
"Goat?" Owl gasped, as she climbed out to join him. Her dark hair was ruffled by nervous hands and wind, but still tied back in its tight bun. Letters covered every inch of her short, tan body. More wrinkles than those granted by her age appeared on her face as she took in the world before her.
"Oh, joy." A tall, muscular woman stepped out of the ship, crimson eyes scanning the dock. Her skin appeared to be made of shimmering metal.
Kasby walked across the floor of the docking bay towards them, tan longcoat flaring slightly as he did. The coat was criss-crossed with straps and buckles and the occasional armored plate, but under that he seemed to be wearing relatively casual clothing. He was a young man, probably somewhere in his earlier 20s, who looked both tired and disheveled, but his eyes had an energy and strength that couldn't be missed.
Spider, behind him, continued to try to balance on the ground. "Wow, guys...." She was thin and lanky, and had a dizzy look of concentration on her pale face, which was covered with a web of thin cuts. "It's great to see... you..." She began to tilt towards the Oliver, and then with a yelp she fell towards it. Cursing like a sailor, she plummeted towards the opening, then managed to land on the ceiling. Her hair and clothes fell naturally towards the ceiling where the squatted. "Bloody hell, this is going to get annoying."
"Wow. I'm guessing some kind of magic attached itself to you guys too?" Owl put in, staring, halfway down the ladder on Oliver's side.
"Is that what happened?" asked Kasby.
Skunk jumped down to the deck, landing next to Owl, sending out a resounding clang. "Hell if I know."
Spider muttered to herself, as she jumped up and down the ceiling, trying to reach for the floor but with no such luck.
Goat grinned up at her. "I'll get you down." He leapt up to the ceiling with ease, and grabbed her arms.
"No, Goat!" Her weight pulled against him, and the two fell sideways, arcing strangely in the air before crashing to the ground.
Finally, Jaz pulled herself up and out of her ship. She stood atop Oliver like a statue, careful not to sway from shock, her swords strapped to her back. Her right hand was wrapped in rapidly-reddening bandages, and her short blonde hair was intensely mussed. Her feet were spread below her broad shoulders for maximum stability. She surveyed the room for a moment before quickly coming down the ladder.
Kasby quickly walked up to the blonde woman. "Captain Quinn, is it? Welcome to the Corkscrew," he said, not trying terribly hard to conceal that genuine smile.
Jaz glanced down at her hand. "I guess it is." She shook her head and looked at Kasby, meeting his eyes and his strength.
"We... we have a lot to talk about," Kasby said, eyeing their strange companions.
"Yes. We do. I'd offer you the hospitality of my ship, here, but...it's a bit of a mess at the moment." She smirked slightly. "Had a long morning."
Kasby gave a deft nod. "I understand. You're bleeding, alot, though. You might want to follow me to the medical center," he said, raising an eyebrow.
Jaz nodded, briskly, but almost off-handedly. "We'll speak on the way."
Owl turned to Skunk. "See! They do have stuff. Nothing's going to get infected."
"I remain unconvinced," Skunk replied. "It could still get infected."
"But it's less likely now," Owl shot back.
"Let's get out of this place, please," Spider said, annoyed, as she walked on the wall towards the elevator.
Kasby turned to the others. "We can't all fit in the elevator, so I'll take it down first with the Captain. Spider, Zebra, Giraffe... I'm sure you have alot of catching up to do with these guys. Why don't you take them to the mess hall?"
The six stared at each other, then at the doors.
Kasby led Jaz into the elevator and turned back to Spider. "Just push the button on the side to open it, than the green button to take you to the mess hall. You'll get it fast. We'll talk soon."
The teen sneered at him, but the doors slid shut in her face, and a whirring noise filled the air as the two captains made their exit.