Tradewinds 18: Skeleton Crew
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Wherein a passenger ship becomes a cruise ship becomes a cargo ship becomes a pirate ship becomes a prison shipâ€¦
Chapter 1, Interlude: Triad IV
“Hey! You!” A female voice shouted from farther down the dock. “What do you think you’re doing!?”
Chase Spencer looked over his shoulder from picking the lock on the ship’s cabin, seeing a couple Cyexian pirates rushing their position. As he figured. It would be either them or the Alta port authorities.
“We’re busted!” he called out. “Move your ass!”
“I’m working on it!” Kato shouted back, even as she continued cutting away the mooring lines with Chase’s dagger, cursing herself for still getting caught in that light blue hoodie she should have ditched weeks ago. “Just make sure we’re ready to go!”
Cutting more smoothly than any metal blade she had ever seen, the ropes melting away at the weapon’s slightest touch.
“Got it!” Chase crowed, opening the cabin door to let George scurry in, followed by Kato, who immediately made a bee-line for the helm. Chase, meanwhile, laid down a heavy cover fire as Kato fired up the engines.
He managed to hold them at bay long enough for Kato to get them underway, and out of reach of the pier before he hit the deck to avoid the Cyexians’ return fire as the ship picked up speed.
Once they were past a couple ships that obstructed their shots, he slipped inside, as well.
In order to see better, Kato slipped off her hood, trying to get the ship’s handling down even as she maneuvered her way out of the harbor.
Thus it was George who spotted it first, jumping up and down and frantically pointing at the large cruiser moving across the outer harbor to intercept them.
“Dammit!” Chase cried, getting a glimpse of the name <i>Cruel & Unusual</i>, as well as Captain Striker’s crew colors flying, as they crossed paths. “It <i>is</i> them!”
He and George hit the deck, and even Kato slid down in her seat, as they opened fire.
Gunning the ship’s superior speed, they managed to slip past by a short margin, but the Cyexian ship was already turning to pursue them, guns blazing.
“I told you I saw her!” Kato retorted. “Why the hell does this keep happening to us?”
To think they finally thought they lost Striker when they arrived in Alta about a week ago. Ever since their first run-in with Striker, those Cyexians kept turning up, like a bad penny, often within a day or so of their arrival anywhere. Making the acquisition of supplies, as well as any other business they may have had, a race against time, everywhere they went. Leaving the <i>Triad III</i> a perpetual shadow of her former self, barely seaworthy.
None of them had ever heard of a ship, once left behind, repeatedly arriving at the same destinations, and Kato was fast starting to wonder if it wasn’t some sort of curse in spite of herself.
In addition to scrounging for compatible parts, when they could barely afford food and skimped on docking fees whenever they could get away with it, they were also collecting junk for George’s attempts to rebuild his armtop. Poor kid had been utterly despondent since, mostly moping and tinkering, and hardly eating most of the time. And they figured he would continue to do so as long as his screen remained dark.
Chase, and sometimes Kato, finishing his portions to keep it from going to waste, though sometimes he was afraid to ask, despite the way she glared at him when he ate it all himself.
There was no way their old ship would have been able to escape this, even if they hadn’t returned from their little underground expedition to find Striker’s crew sitting on it. Four days, and most of their remaining coin, spend hiding out in some fleabag harbor boarding house, trying to keep a low profile even as Cyexian pirates prowled the port, with not even any coin to pay people to not see them. Finally left with no choice but to risk looking for a way off the island, since the Cyexians didn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.
Should have known it was too good to be true when they spotted a ship sitting unattended like this, but so far their luck was holding as they were gaining enough of a lead to get out of range before Striker could bring out the big guns.
And so the chase continued for a piece, as the coast of Konosha thinned and vanished behind them, before Striker relented.
“They’re turning back?” Chase remarked, looking back with the binoculars he found on the table, observing their movement distinctly.
“Probably realized they lost us!” Kato laughed. “This ship’s pretty damn fast!”
“Well duh,” Chase replied, “but it still doesn’t make any sense. Won’t the Harbor Patrol want to have a word with them after that?”
“Who cares?” Kato shrugged. “It’s not our problem, and we sure as hell ain’t goin’ back to watch.”
“Still,” Chase said, “it’s a pity we won’t be able to go back down there again. I think that’s where my knife came from…”
After all, he had taken note of how the symbols on his dagger matched some of the ones on not only Kato’s Tri-Medal, but also Max’s and Shades’ from the brief time they were in their possession, as well as that mysterious journal they found in the Undercity. To say nothing of how unnaturally sharp it turned out to be, able to cut through things he had never seen a metal blade cut before. And showed not the slightest hint of dulling, either. Was extremely glad he’d thought to pinch the sheath while he was at it, as it seemed to be the only thing that could contain it.
“I hate to say it,” Kato leaned over her shoulder, “but it’s way too dangerous down there, even though it was the best lead we’ve found since Centralict… Underdwellers! Why <i>the fuck</i> did it have to be underdwellers?”
And somehow being smaller only made it worse than the models from the Harken Building.
“Well, at least we managed to save that Edric guy’s journal,” Chase pointed out. “To think, it actually has symbols from the Tri-Medals.”
“I know,” Kato groaned, “but it sounds like all the treasures of that place are long gone. I’m starting to think there might be more than one treasure out there, ya know?”
“Could be,” Chase admitted. “After all, what little the Centralict Museum had about it never said anything about Konosha or Alta…”
Meanwhile, George sat at the lounge table, snickering silently at something in the ship’s log.
“Hey! What’s so funny?” Chase demanded, reaching over to snatch the book.
After flipping through the most recent entries, he started howling with laughter.
“What?” Now Kato wanted in on the joke.
“Man,” Chase laughed, “you’re not gonna believe whose ship this is!”
“Was,” Kato corrected. Still, something had seemed oddly familiar about this ship the moment she spotted it, and only now was she finally able to put her finger on what it was. “Don’t tell me…”
Though she figured that would at least explain Striker’s redoubled fury.
“I can’t believe they left such a sweet ship unguarded like that!”
“Yeah, well we’re not goin’ back for ’em!” Kato told him. “Not with Striker on their ass!”
They all had a good laugh as they sailed off into the sunset, and Chase scribbled across the whole next page: <i>HA! HA! It’s OUR ship now!</i>
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