Friday, April 28, 2017

Valiance’s on Radish, Noc 4 for free, and the current progress – the late April update

Hi there friends,
It's been a rough and tough month considering I haven't written for only one of the days. Pushing out a novel at this speed is challenging stuff, but a rewarding experience. I don't think I'll be hitting the 60k word target by the 30th like I had hoped, but I was still miraculously-more productive than my usual "whenever I finish it" work ethic. I'm expecting around 46,000/60,000 by the time May 1st comes around, and I shouldn't need more than a week to finish it at that point.
This is working out. I'm really, really pleased.
Anyway, you can check out Valiance on the radish fiction app's sci-fi section. Just check your appstore on iOS or Android and search "radish fiction". A new chapter will unlock every week for free, or you can shell over a little moolah to read ahead, it's up to you. Also look forward to the full release, a sale of Noc 5 to celebrate, and much more.
In other news, Nocturna League #4: The Record of Ambition, will be free from April 30th to May 4th, so pick it up and consider leaving a review, because I need 'em and I'd love you for it.
Look forward to the Valiance cover reveal soon, along with Walking the Scar, a probable revival of Xtreme Force, and more!
All the best to you,
Kell

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Fastest I've Ever been, and the Early April Progress Report - Knowledge Dicerned from The Ether Edition

Hello, my friends,
Seeing as I haven't been in touch since The Black Eye's release I feel it only fair to crawl out of my cave and keep you all up to date with what's been going on.
The Black Eye sold roughly 20 copies since release, putting it at #287,292 on the kindle store as of this writing. Definitely my best launch yet, but I still only made like $15, *crying and laughing noises*. I suppose that's to be expected of such an experimental series in a hyper-niche genre (eldritch-inspired fantasy science fiction thriller?) with a handsome but genre-vague cover, all part of the writing/publishing life I suppose.
For those curious readers and writers reading, here are the main takeaways from Nocturna League Episodes 1-5:
-Making the first three episodes free was a good decision and increased my readership for the series a hundred fold. It decreased the risk of getting smashed with a bad review as the reader can simply move on to the next episode to further decide if they like it or not.  Thankfully none of the NL books have a 2 or 1 star as of this writing, only 3 and above with most as a 50-50 between 4 and 5 stars, so I think that making so many of the episodes free was a good choice, and definitely sold copies moving on in the future. So free=good when developing a sales funnel, though it may not work for everything.
-Pay your dues and get your readership before you branch out into exciting new genres and trope-defying stuff. I'm finally starting to realize that most readers tend to buy things they are familiar with when it's an author they're not well acquainted with. So clear, trope-obeying genre-fiction with a clear cover and a descriptive blurb is the way to go when attracting new readers. I'm going to give this a shot for my next project. Once I get more readers and a huge mailing list, perhaps then will be the right time to return to Nocturna League, which I'm placing on hiatus until either I run out of other projects in the docket (there are many) or I receive significant reader feedback (reviews and emails).
-Covers are way, way important. I kept phoning it out and slacking on my cover selection for book after book, not realizing the massive power of the cover. For a long time I thought just a good looking cover that vaguely suggested the genre was fine, but I realize now that this wasn't practical. My most successful short story (release, even) was Solution, which averaged 30 free copies a day for months. I only realize now that it's the only cover in my library with a decidedly-clear genre. I don't think it's coincidence that my most genre-specific cover was also my best-selling release. I think I'm getting the hang of all this madness, finally tearing apart the riddles and seeing the light.
-Freebooksy's a pretty great advertising service for the price. I would indeed recommend them. I should have tracked my sales through links better, but I'm pretty sure they were responsible for roughly 80% of my sales. <3
-Every time you release a new project, analyze, analyze analyze!

That said, this new project has me all in squiggles as I write it.
This new one's a military/adventure sci-fi that I keep jumping around with prospective titles for. I'm thinking of something like Outlaw, or Wanted, but those are pretty generic sci-fi book names, and it'd suck to have my search results colluded with competition... I'll think of something.
Anyway, this new project (We'll just call it Project 0) is slated at a 60,000 word goal, which is around the genre average. I've been on this project for nearly two weeks now, and have pushed out 23,000 words! With my mysterious job taking up most of my time, I'd consider that a very good speed. I've been getting into the habit of waking up early and smashing out those words before hauling off to the soul-gem mines at day and the divine scribery in the evenings, it's quite productive and you can definitely color me encouraged.
I've been trying my very best to mix in the familiar tropes of sci-fi while putting new and exciting spins on them

So let's do to projects reports like we used to:
Project 0: 23,000/60,000 - expecting it to be done by April 30th
Xtreme Force 1 Edit (probably my next project) roughly 1/2 done considering I have the sequel almost done as well.
Nocturna League #6: The Emerald Current (that was the name, wasn't it?) -hiatus-

Last thing: podcasts!
How do you folks like podcasts or youtube video readings? Email me at kellr.inkston@gmail.com or comment below to let me know. There's a part of me that wants to give it a shot.
As always, thank you for your support and I hope you have a wonderful day,
All the best,
Kell

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Nocturna League: The Black Eye!

Yes, the day is here. The eagles soar from the mountains, and screech in proclamation!
Oh, no, just me, screeching here.
Nocturna League: The Black Eye is now available for $0.99 until the 3rd! That's right: over 80,000 words of action, horror, rude quips and talking lobsters for a paltry sum! Pick it up with haste to get it for this special price before it goes up to the sitting price of $3.99. You have been warned.
Pick up your copy below:
Now, back to my next project! I hope you all are well and have a wonderful day. Email me at kellr.inkston@gmail.com at any time.
All the best,
Kell

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Day Before TBE's release, and chapters from the new project!

Greetings!
Yes, I'm back on the grindstone writing again as I simultaneously count down the days before The Black Eye's release. I can't rest on my laurels and wouldn't enjoy doing so, so write on I shall.
The next project, tentatively Sigma Gambit, is a military sci-fi filled with all manner of stupid humor and extreme situations. We'll be following the tracks of a daring, handsome ex-federation lieutenant as he climbs his way through the command structure of an alien race seeking fame and fortune. Of course, that's what the story's about at first sight. As usual I'll be tucking a little more in each chapter as I'm able to tell more than one story, especially if part of that story has talking lobsters in it.
You can read the first two chapters of the rough draft below. 16+ age advisory for naughty words.
Please enjoy~


Chapter One: First Contact
The bar’s atmosphere is cool, relaxed, and filled to the brim with alcoholic stench and has been so since opening, until he walked in. Someone steps in through the bar’s entryway, right under the blaring neon sign reading “Rider’s Bar and Grill”.
A stalk-eyed creature at the bar-side spots the establishment’s new guest, and nudges his friend with urgency. “Hey.”
The giant friend moves a lazy eye from the lone ardian in the bar to look at his companion. “What.”
“Don’t you ‘what’ me. Did you see what just walked in?” The small, stalk-eyed space creature motions its head over, and the big, gray one looks. He jolts in shock when he sees the figure coming their direction.
“W-why didn’t you tell me.” The ten-foot Ganar asks.
The short, sharp toothed Akinlin scowls. “I did. I’d bet you anything his target’s in here so we better jet! It’s only a matter of time before-”
“A human!” Screams the bartender over every conversation happening right now. Everyone in the bar looks to the figure. Concealed by a white and blue atmosphere suit, the outline of a human is unmistakable. Yelps of terror and the sounds of shattering glass fill the small establishment as everyone, even the bartender, scrambles for escape. Rows and rows of people pass the human, who tries to speak.
“Uh, what’s-” The last alien passes him as it runs out into the gallery, “-up…”
Other than the human, only one person is left in the bar, and that person raises his carapaced hand. “Right here, Mister Outstar,” the tall insect creature, an ardian, speaks with a young, smart voice through its translator using the beating of its wings to communicate.
Ardians are just as the human expected them to look like, tall, gleaming insects, like a cross between a locust and a preying mantis, just a lot taller than humans and the sort that lay eggs in rotting flesh.
The man in the atmosphere suit hesitates a moment, nods, and then steps right up. He pulls out a chair and takes a seat opposite to the insect guy. “Do aliens always treat humans like that?”
The insect’s many eyes fluctuate a bluer color. “Aliens, Mister Outstar?”
The human clears his throat. “Excuse me. Individuals have been running from me the second I got here. Not even the security detail would search me. I read up about the Nautus System while waiting for the interview, but it doesn’t give mention of human presence anywhere.”
The insect hums. “Well, let’s just say we have just one human, and he’s not exactly the sort people mess with, but don’t worry about that — the reputation should help you.” The insect offers his hand. “I’m Opsone Eqarne from The Bar of the Lascardian Royal Space Navy, I expect you to be Lieutenant Cole Outstar?” Cole takes the hand and shakes.
He feels Eqarne flinch on contact. He’s horrified too. “That’s right,” Cole says, deciding to take his time before asking questions and looking stupid.
“So,” Eqarne continues, “you can understand that we were all… mostly thrilled to recieve a application from a human, recently separated from the… U.P.M.F., I believe…” Eqarne says as, with a slight gesture, sends an image of Cole’s dossier up to Cole’s Glass System, elevated in integrated reality and visible only to him.
“Correct,” Cole says, opening the file and seeing his sad mug taken from his discharge report.
“Wonderful.” Eqarne steeples his hardened, chitinous hands “The L.R.S.N. would expect nothing but the best from you despite your… past decisions, and would look up to you as the human leader you are, so long as you respect the command structure and do your job to the best of your ability.”
Cole smirks as he pushes aside the dossier in his glass screen. “I should have no problem with that.”
Eqarne hums again. “It appears that ‘following orders’ is precisely the reason you were discharged.”
Cole clears his throat as he scans his gaze about the dark, cozy bar through his helmet. “Uh, yeah.”
“But I’m sure you’ve learned your lesson. I found out only good things after that one caveat.”
Cole swings one leg over the other. “Did you?”
The bug nods as his eyes starts going down the list, invisible to Cole as it’s being read on Eqarne’s glass. “Best rifleman in your class, natural leading ability, eye for detail, wonderful fitness score- you definitely have the makings of a commander if I do say so myself. You’ll be starting at our lowest officer tier out of tradition and precedent, but I’m certain you won’t be there long if you’re anything like our other human.”
Cole grins sheepishly. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Absolutely, to be quite honest our interviews are usually far more in-depth, but you really already have the job,” Eqarne says with a stretch of the mandibles to poorly mimic a grin.
The human raises a brow. “That so?”
“Well, yeah. Humans are infamous around here. Lascardia’s the only one in the sector that has one, and soon we’ll have two.”
“…So, other factions in the sector haven’t hired any because they don’t know where to get us, or-”
Eqarne looks at Cole with his thousands of eyes. “Uh, I think it should be obvious, Mister Outstar.”
Cole shrugs. “Not really, sorry.”
“Well, aren’t humans feared everywhere in the universe?… with all due respect, of course.”
Cole searches the bug’s features, unsure how to take the directness. “Uh… yeah, yeah we are.”
“Ahh, just as we studied, then. Other factions don’t want to recruit humans because they’re famous for killing their own allies… is it true that you have a ravenous taste for the spirits of other creatures, and that your saliva contains digestive enzymes and can spread diseases?” Eqarne asks, leaning in slightly in fascination.
Cole looks aside as he thinks on it a moment. “Uh, don’t… don’t most individuals have that?”
“By the hive, no! Everyone on this station would be dead the second a person took their helmet off!” The slender insectoid says with a dismissive wave.
Mister Outstar was just about to explain to the ardian that germ theory, at least for humans, don’t work that way, but just as he takes a breath, the station-wide alarm sounds. The two turn to look out of the bar as a series of quakes tremor through the station.
Eqarne folds down his antennae and reaches for his helmet. “Looks like we got company,” he says, the translator picking up the movement of his wings beating against the inside of his suit.
“Wh-” Cole whips out his ywnaho M.2 from his hip and points it to the entrance. “Is this normal around here?”
Eqarne sighs as he slaps his emergency beacon. “For us ardians out in rim space, it is. Someone must’ve heard about our meeting,” he explains as shouting civilians flood to their left to escape. “But you got this handled, right?”
Cole is quiet a moment as his mind grinds through the concept. “…Eh, sure!”
Eqarne nods. “Good, cuz’ I’m unarmed.”
“Great.” Cole says, the sound of kinetic weapons discharging wildly from the establishment’s right side overpowering his words. Cole kicks over their table and Eqarne joins him in cover as the murderous laughter of a group approaches.
“This is the place!” A four armed, rock-heavy argonite says, flipping up the scanner from its featureless face. A team of four outlanders file into the room and establish security over Cole and Eqarne’s table. “Clear,” the argonite says, keeping its rifle trained on the table.
“As perceptive as always, Zirco,” a stout, many-mandibled bug alien of a different species as Eqarne says as it saunters in professionally on its ten legs. “Now then, what do we have here?”it asks.
“Pretty sure it’s an ardian and their newest little recruit, sir. Weird heat signature, pretty sure they’re both suited up,” the argonite by the name of Zirco says.
The large isopod crackles in thought. “The master will be most pleased. Alright, you two best show yourselves or I’ll have you blown to smithereens.”
Cole looks to Eqarne, and Eqarne shrugs. “You’re the human, sir!” Eqarne says over direct-link comms, audible to none but Cole.
“So you expect me to do miracles? What the hell do you want me to do?” Cole asks.
“My patience is short,” the isopod-looking one says with a yawn as it flips a pistol up and about.
“Couldn’t we just talk it out? Are they understanding?” Cole asks.
“They’d probably walk us out and sell us for parts, or me, at least. Ardian flesh is a… well, a delicacy throughout the galaxy.”
“D-” Cole sighs as he flips off his pack and starts jostling through it. “Get ready to move on my mark.”
Eqarne nods as the gang leader stretches his four sets of arms. “I’ll give you fine lads a count to 3.”
Cole moves like rapid fire as he puts aside his ywnaho and pulls out a small metal cube with a link port.
“One…” the leader says, signaling a weird scaly one to bring up a rather large rifle with a faint green glow along the exhaust ports.
“Whoa, human tech?”Eqarne says as Cole establishes a link with the device and reaches up to his helmet with his left hand. He makes a twisting motion with his hand at the base of his helmet, as if turning a switch, and flips up from his wrist a small suit-bound keyboard.
Eqarne shakes his head as if Cole’s actions had no meaning. “W-why would you-”
“Turn off your Glass,” Cole interrupts.
“Two…” The leader says amidst chuckles from the gang members.
Eqarne pauses, and makes the same switch-turning motion. “I can’t see anything,” he says, muffled under his now-dead helmet.
“Then take it off,” Cole says, now holding his finger over the enter key on his wrist-bound as he takes up what looks to be a grenade of some sort with his other hand. He pulls the pin.
“…Two and a half…” the leader says as the lizard man begins charging a shot.
Eqarne finishes working off his helmet. “Okay, now what?”
“We move, go!” Just before exiting cover, Cole hits his key and tosses the grenade over to the middle of the group. Like a flash, the bar is filled with light and the screams of the gang. Some fire in confusion as others buckle over in pain, but both bar-goers are quickly around and out of the establishment.
“Nice job!” Eqarne says as the two rush down the gallery and through the station.
“Eh, thanks, now where’s your vessel?” Cole says as he pulls out a hand-held scanner and holds it near his helmet off and on.
Eqarne coughs. “I… took public trans-”
“Shit,” Cole interrupts again as he ducks into cover in the form of a pleasant shrubbery and seating arrangement, Eqarne following closely along. Just a second later a backup squad of gang-members storms around the corner from the hanger, but the second they get within fifty meters of the two, they all start screaming as well.
Eqarne stares on in awe from the corner as Cole taps him along. “We’re moving.” The two exit their concealment again and pass across the group. Cole spots out one who isn’t totally incapacitated, and flicks up his ywnaho just as his foe reaches for his pistol. With a single shot, a bang, and a smoking blue glow, the gang-member is splattered across his trembling, screaming comrades.
“Shit! This is crazy!” Eqarne shouts in half-excitement as he aptly swoops past the group and grabs a pistol from one of them.
“It’s about to get crazier if all goes as planned,” Cole says as they escape the gallery and file into the elevator at a rushed, though quieted pace. Cole links with the elevator as the doors slowly close. “So the last visited floor was eighteen, eh?” And he taps it, sending them on their way.
“Turn off your damn Glass’!” the two hear one of the gang members shout from back down the gallery.
Chapter Two: A Shot from the Ether
Cole and Eqarne point down the opening of the elevator as cheerful pop-idol music hums over the speakers.
“Whoa, Lunar Reef!” Eqarne exclaims as he jostles his head along with the feminine voice singing the tune.
Cole’s helmet turns slightly in his companion’s direction as if to address him more personally. “Focus, dude.”
“Ah, but Mister Outstar, it’s from their new album! Been topping the charts on Arda for weeks. You can’t not find it catch-”
*ping!* goes the elevator, causing both to focus back on the doorway. Cole leads out as the two gain a sight on both sides of the hanger hall.
“Empty,” Cole says, relaxing his stance a few degrees, “let’s go before they catch up… actually.” Cole reaches into his bag once more and pulls out a small metal cap with an L.E.D..
“Wow, how much you got in there?”
Cole tosses the cap into the open elevator just as the doors start to close to travel to another floor. “A bit, just some things I got from my old command.”
Eqarne hums. “Do they usually send their discharges out with explosives and jammers?”
“Not really…”Cole says with a sheepish tone as he taps a button and detonates the charge, blowing the inner circuitry of the elevator to bits. “That’ll should buy us maybe five minutes. They’ll have to go through the access ducts to get back up here.”
Eqarne nods, his antennae bouncing with the motion. “Very smart, where next?”
Cole looks down to his scanner for only a second. “Number eleven.”
“Cool,” Eqarne says as they move through the hall with caution. “So is that where your vessel is?”
“Naw.” Cole moves to the side of the hanger #11 port, just as the two hear screams from inside. “Its where theirs is.”
Eqarne stutters in thought a second just before the doors open to reveal a duo of guards, in incapacitated on the floor. Behind them is a mid-sized squad ship, tagged up with profane graffiti from the engines to the meager weapon racks, to the cockpit. “Classy ship,” Cole says, sparing the grace to the two gang-members to charge his taser and shock them both unconscious rather than projecting them across the floor.
“Eh, we’re not killing them?” Eqarne asks? “These guys are probably dead or alive.”
Cole scoffs as they move up near the open ship, a single stairway leading out the side. “A waste of ammo if we’re going to be opening up the hatch anyway.”
Eqarne sighs. “Kind of cruel, don’t you think?”
“Give’s ‘em time to think — now get frosty,” Cole says as the two lean into the sides at the door before peeking in.
The bug nods, and the two swing in together.
The interior of the ship looks as though its been lived in for months, and though Cole’s helmet is on and Eqarne’s race has an innately terrible sense of smell, they’d be knocked off their feet. It’s filled with all sort of substances contained within a long stack of jars taking up a good third of the main cabin. Only a second’s inspection and Cole finds the word “Void Ash” on one of the bottle’s labels.
“Smugglers,” Cole says under his breath as the two quietly point their way straight up to the cockpit.
“Uh, what about the other sections of the ship?” Eqarne asks, “There could be someone in here with us.”
“Then keep watch,” Cole says as he reaches into his bag and pulls out a little shard of what looks like glass, but is actually trillions and trillions of bytes of physical storage.
Eqarne glances briefly at what Cole’s carrying. “A Glass key?”
“Yeah,” he says as he easily works into the lower console, already spilling forth with connectors and relays.
“Pretty retro, sir. Aren’t humans supposed to be the most technologically advanced race in the outer cluster?”
“Apparently, though I don’t consider myself a very ‘high tech’ dude when it comes to that,” Cole says as he clicks through the chips below his feet.
“That so? I wouldn’t thought the U.P.M.F. would outfit you with the latest.”
“B-b-b-budget cuts,” Cole says, mocking the popular Federation line among soldiers as he links his key and runs the program.
“Well you seem worth is, Mister Outstar. You definitely know how to deal with,” Eqarne pauses as he thought he saw something move in the back, “… typical assholes.”
“Sure thing,” Cole says as he ignites the engines and raises the door hatch. “Alright,” Cole turns off his little jammer box and flicks on his Glass. “Vessel eleven to Control, this is a… repurposed Lascardian trader vessel, requesting access from eleven, over.”
The other line is only static as Eqarne relaxes into his seat on the right side of the two-man cockpit and gets his helmet on.
Cole tries again as he lifts the ship in the hanger. “Vessel eleven to Control, how copy, Over.”
Still nothing.
“Looks like the gang hit them too, probably to keep a hold on the station.”
“That’s insane, they were going for the whole station?”
“Who knows, but they wanted to keep things under control until they got you, I guess,” Cole says.
The two hear muffled screaming from below. They simultaneously peek through the bottom glass to spot one of the two mercenaries guarding the bay, already back on his feet with the other one stumbling back to readiness. He points his gun and yells as loud as his little lungs will aid him, but the many-gilled mercenary is drowned out by the ship’s engines.
“They don’t want to shoot because it’d ruin their ride out of here,” Eqarne says bemusedly.
“I’ll send them on their way. Weapons online.” He places his grip upon the firing stick.
Eqarne snaps his head to Cole. “M-Mister Outstar, you don’t actually mean to suggest we’ll b-”
Skewing the ardian’s sentence, Cole fires a barrage of shots into the space door, tearing it from its hinges and opening the room to the vacuum of space. The two smugglers are the first to go, then the ship boosts out of the doors and to the black empty.
“See ya, nerds,” Cole says with a chuckle as he sees the two soar off to see many wondrous and beautiful things while they starve, freeze, and/or suffocate, depending on the quality of their atmosphere suits.
Eqarne hums. “Do humans… enjoy killing?”
Cole shakes his head as he pushes forward the thrusters to escape the station’s immediate space as soon as possible. “Well, no… I mean, some of us do, but not many.”
“You seemed to find their deaths funny, I suppose. Just seemed like what I heard about the other human. You two seem different than what I’ve studied.”
“You’ve studied humans? Then you should know we’re not that bad, like at all.”
“Yes! I love human culture! I assume the stuff is all old, but your historic texts are not only wholly educational, but quite entertaining.”
Cole leans back from his seat a bit. “…Our texts? You know humans are like… everywhere, right? You have us in like every dimension, I hear. What kind of ‘texts’ are we talking about, exactly?”
“Oh, just the standard. Called anime in your language, I believe.”
Cole pauses in disbelief, and after a few seconds comes to a nod. “Anime.”
“Yes, Mister Outstar. Fist of the North Star was an incredible resource when it came to understanding unaltered human combat abilities, and Ghost in the Shell was a riveting look into human-machine evolution.”
Cole stifles a laugh. “So… you’ve learned all you have about humans… watching anime?”
“Well, yes, sir. It’s the only texts I’ve seen of your race on the GlassLine. Everything else is too diluted and doesn’t make much sense.”
Cole leans into his hands. “And you’re an ambassador?”
Eqarne nods aptly. “That’s right, Mister Outstar, or if I may, Mister Starwind-Sama. I’m the one race ambassador for humans. The authority on your fascinating species for the whole of the ardian race!”
“Oh my fucking Goddess,” Cole says in a mix of ecstatic humor and absolute disgust.
“What’s the matter?” Eqarne asks with a tone of innocent curiosity.
“Okay,” Cole looks over to his tall companion. “There is absolutely no way in hell that-”
*ping*
Both look to the control panel. “The hell?” Cole says.
“What is it?”
“There was a huge spike in volt use, but it’s back to normal.” He draws his ywnaho.
Eqarne is much slower on the draw, almost relaxed. “Maybe an air conditioner or something. M-maybe we’re live streaming!”
Cole gets up and looks down the long hall of the ship’s interior, there’s four smaller rooms in the back, probably just quarters, storage, and hopefully a sanitation bay. “Live streaming?”
“You know, the human sensation of recording them playing games!”
“No idea that was a thing,” Cole says as he downs the hall, his pistol at the ready.
“All in the ancient records. I’m surprised, Mister Outstar. It seems like there’s much you don’t know about your kind’s heritage.”
“Quiet, please,” Cole says calmly.
“O-oh! Sorry, Mister Outstar!” Eqarne steps out from his seat and takes a relaxed aim down the hall, flagging Cole. “Got your back.”
Cole continues down the corridor to the first room. With a tap it slides open: a quartet of stacked bunks, each one sporting a different, very questionable drug set up. “Looks like these guys cooked on their downtime,” Cole thinks to himself as he does a quick spotcheck for any machine that would cause the spike. On the third bunk is a running crystallizer, whirring noisily as it slowly churns out void ash from obsarnium.
He turns and goes for the second door. He flinches and raises his pistol.
“What?!” Eqarne shouts from across the ship.
Cole holds his aim through the door a second, and lowers it to his hip. “A droid.” Sure enough, sprawled lazily over a chair is an shining white android, showing no signs of life and with its head box opened up. Like all O.E.L. make androids, its tall, of a roughly human frame, androgynous and without a single facial feature or depression in sight — like a physical tabula rasa.
“Is it… on?”
“Naw,” Cole says, “Face plate is open. They were probably repairing it.”
“Ahh,” Eqarne chuckles nervously. “Good.”
Cole looks over the sight a bit more, and spots a tactical knife sheathed in the machine’s left forearm. Holding his pistol at the ready, he slowly slips the knife out and, seeing it makes no reaction, relaxes as he tosses the blade aside. “Looks like a drug runner. The kit is super light and the movement hardware is definitely military spec. This bastard probably cost them an arm and a leg. O.E.L. make, too.”
“O.E.L., the Librarium?” Eqarne asks as he lowers his firearm and leans back.
“So you do know of them?”
“That they’re sworn enemies of her fertileness and the Ardian people, yes; also that they’re thieves of technology, and backwards engineer everything they find. They’re a menace to everyone they meet and travel both realms and stars for new knowledge to copy.”
Cole clears his throat as he moves to the third door. “Right.” He taps the panel, and the door opens to reveal a sanitation bay. Dirty is an understatement. “Nice,” Cole says with no small amount of sarcasm. There’s a thin caking of body hair, oil, and soap scum all across the room, in fact the shower seems to be the cleanest part of the entire room. “Yeah, this one’s a fixer for sure. They haven’t taken very good care of the ship.”
“Well its of no worry to you once we’ve charged the B.D. and warp to Arda and get you assigned. It’s going to be so awesome, I can’t wait!”
“Eh, alright, thanks,” Cole says half heartedly as he moves to the last door. It slides open noisily to reveal a storage room, just large enough to fit about four people standing. It’s filled with garbage. “Wow. I guess this ship doesn’t have a jettison so they just let it all pile up here.”
“Well, can’t blame them for holding to the stereotype,” Eqarne says. “Most races in this sector are of the less agreeable sort, anyway.”
“ ‘Spose not,” Cole says as he returns to the very end of the hall and starts working off the floor panel to get into maintenance. “Well I doubt there’s much to worry about for the engine room, but I’ll check just to be su-”
*Click* comes a sound from the robot’s room.
Eqarne flinches. “Was that-”
“Fuck!” Cole turns and raises his ywnaho just in time to have his weapon smacked aside by the android. The robot, armed with the knife dropped aside by a careless Cole, delivers it straight into Cole’s helmet, piercing in half an inch and pressing in as the two tangle. “Aggression code eight eight five, neutral!…” Cole says, speaking a little known command. The android scoffs.
“I’m a jailbreak, motherfucker,” it says with a superior, deep, cruel voice. As the two wrestle back and forth through the cabin, the synonymous three pings of another ship entering radar distance sounds off over the ship’s speakers.
“Shit, help!” Cole shouts as he tosses on the floor with the robot, trying its very best to shove the heated knife into Cole’s skull.
Eqarne screams as he unloads his entire clip of kinetic ammunition into the machine, but the spray hits Cole once or twice, smashing and cracking his suit.
“Shoot the machine, dammit— Aim!” the now-pinned Cole screams as the knife slowly descends into his helmet and starts frying the skin of his forehead with the blade’s tip.
“I’m out of ammo!” Eqarne yells frantically.
“Then do anything! Fuck!”
As Eqarne struggles to think or find anything to fight back with, the android’s volcano-heat knife is just to the tip of Cole. Just then, Cole receives a Glass comm from an unknown sender, and Cole knows well that it’s set to private.
“I’m about to take the shot. Are your suits pressurized?” Speaks the voice, deep, calculating, refined.
Cole mutters in confusion before he realizes what’s going on. “Put on your helmet!” He shouts with all his breath.
Eqarne stumbles and slips it on, pressurizing his suit just in time as a high-cal bullet pierces the ship through the cockpit glass, skewering the android and spinning both it and Cole to the end of the corridor. Everything’s a wild blur for Cole as the entire cabin’s emptied out, including himself. His last moments of consciousness are of the cold blackness and the endless stars. Briefly the irony crosses him that this is much like how he doomed those two smugglers just minutes ago. “Damn,” is his last thought before he surrenders to the blackness.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The First Three Chapters of NL:TBE

Ebook_Cover_Kellinkston (2)
I hope the day finds you well, I have a little gift for you,
I figured now that Nocturna League Episode 5: The Black Eye is only 3 days away it would be prudent to release a teaser of sorts. I present to you the first three chapters in Nocturna League's very first full-length novel! Enjoy!

Chapter One: The Point of No Return
This longer story of The Nocturna and her crew begins familiarly enough. Colette and Dunks are sparring in the ship’s small, gray gymnasium.
Colette, soaring with momentum, slides across a wall and pushes off to aim another hit. Dunklestein is just standing, one arm at his hip and the other with a pint of lager.
“How about this?” Colette flies forward with trained, acrobatic poise, her fist raised high to grand-slam her opponent.
Dunklestein only needs to raise his leg to intercept her and impact her speed against his knee. “How about what?” he asks as Colette buckles over in pain. With a desperate rebound, she tosses onto her back and shoots a foot in-between his legs. Again Dunklestein only needs to move his knee to the side to block the hit and follow up by weighing his foot down on her leg, locking her in place. Colette kicks with her other leg again and again, but it seems like nothing can move him. Dunks crosses his arms with a smile as he watches Colette flex up, wrap her arms around his leg and attempt to move it that way.
You’re…” Colette hisses. “You’re too fat, Dunks! Dammit!” She falls back to the plush floor, exhausted after ten straight minutes of this maddening exertion.
Dunklestein shrugs as he takes a gulp of his beer. “I’m not sure how much this is helping.”
“What?” She says between pants.
“I mean, this: our sparring. It helped you alright for a little while. You’ve gotten way better at fighting and you’re as fast n’ strong as most any man on board, but you’re just about at your limit, I reckon.” He takes his foot off her.
With a burst of energy, she shoots back up to her feet. “No! Not even close to it! Come on, another round!”
Dunks shakes his head. “I can’t be standin’ around hours each day kicking your pa’toosh, kiddo. I actually do have a job on the ship, and you seem to have gotten to a point where you can’t get any better.”
Colette tightens up in exasperation. “Don’t do this to me, Dunks. I’m trusting you… The Captain’s trusting you to do your job training me!”
“Yeah, but some of the boys on board have been getting a little rowdy when I’ve been gone.”
“The Captain can take care of them.”
He takes another sip. “He’s way busier than either us, Colette. All that nonsensical stuff he does from day to day is actually saving our lives without us knowing it.”
“Yeah, so what do you mean to say?”
Dunklestein finishes his pint, places it aside and addresses her. “He can’t be bothered with petty trouble like whatever-” he raises his hands to make quotations, “degenerate activity the other jobbers are getting themselves into. It’s all fun and games until someone loses their soul or gets split in half, except the boys do think that’s fun, so I gotta keep th’ peace.”
Colette points her finger as if she has the perfect response, but she lowers it back in line. “So you’re saying we’re done.”
Dunks shrugs again. “I’m saying I’ve taught you all you can learn from me. Maybe you should talk to The Captain about learning under someone else. Maybe Estradia.”
Gross.” She scowls.
“Or Boris.
“I don’t need to learn how to cook.”
“As a sparring partner.”
Colette cringes. “Thanks, but I think I’ll skip that.”
Dunklestein nods with a superior grin. “Then that’s that. If you really want to keep sparring, maybe learn a few pointers from some of the other folks on the ship. If you’re looking for a sounder kicking that I can give you, I hear the dude in Enforcement’s a right good fi-…” Dunks inhales sharply.
Colette’s indignant expression melts into a sort of blank curiosity. “Wait… Enforcement?”
Dunklestein flinches, realizing he said something he shouldn’t have. “Uh, nevermind.”
“You mean that room labeled ‘Enforcement’ on the third deck?”
“Nevermind, lass.”
Her features sharpen with intrigue. “The one that’s always locked, just like the lower decks?”
Dunklestein takes a deep breath. “You didn’t hear it from me, got it?”
Colette raises a blond brow and comes to a slow nod. “What guy in Enforcement?”
Dunks’ smile returns as quickly as it had left, and he bumps her on the shoulder with his fist. “Right. Now I’m going to hang with the boys. It’s usually around this time that they’re up to no good anyway.” He puts one foot out the door. “Bit of advice: even if you know about the guy that doesn’t mean he could help you. If you ask me you’re as far as a human girl can get.” He disappears out the door, leaving a contested Colette.
She tugs up the sleeve of her work clothes. Compacted, thick, trained musculature- the signs of a body put through incredible stress. She approaches the mirror and hums. Gone is the feminine softness she had only a small bearing of growing up, and to stay are the fruits of her training. Her fitness has gotten to a point that she’s rounding out like a bear. If someone didn’t inspect her closely enough, they might think her an effeminate male, or if they noticed her as a female, just overweight, when quite the opposite is true. She looks over the weight racks, those now-familiar tools of strain, wondering if she’s really at the peak of what her body will allow. Benching a grown man’s weight in kilos is more than a little impressive for a girl her age, but she must admit that her growth has slowed. A few weeks after the mist gauntlet incident she reached her physical max, a level that most would consider Olympian. Yet its been months since then, and she’s seen minimal improvements in comparison to that first month.
Colette can’t bear to think of the possibility that this might be as far as she can get. If she’s going to kill the overlord and save her town, her friend, and herself, she’s going to need something more. She thinks back to all the relics and magic and monstrosities she’s seen on The Eversea, and then she nods. She knows she’s going to have to go beyond a point of no return to get the power she needs… but how?
Colette leaves the gym and notices something gross that had flopped onto the deck and died some time ago- exuding a wonderfully-terrible stench. She gets her mop and starts cleaning when an explosion comes from the kitchen.Running from the event is a coughing Grancis, her hair tied into a messy, smoked bun.
“BE OF THE TAKING OF THE BREAK, APPRENTICE MEAT, AND AS FOR YOU, DEMON OF THE COOKING, YOU SHALL BE OF THE LEARNING TO BE OF THE RESPECTING!” Screams Boris from inside the kitchen just as flames spew out capable of cooking any fleshly creature.
“Burn in the fires of vengeance, crustacean tormentor scum! I’ll show you what real cooking is!” Another voice sounds from the kitchen as the flames rage out.
Grancis wipes her face of soot as she steps over to Colette.
“Having fun?” Colette asks as she wipes away a dozen-so eyes into the water.
Grancis giggles. “Yeah.” She stretches with the railing. “The flame… demon… thing that Boris trapped in the stove to cook with finally got out and-”
“LOBSTER IS NOT OF THE COOKING, DEMON OF THE COOKING, YOU ARE OF THE COOKING!” Boris yells out from within the flamethrower that is now kitchen
“For the last time, you bastard. I’m a fire elemental!” the other voice responds just as the fire blazes out like a geyser of death.
Grancis nods as the sounds of crashing and smashing ring out from the kitchen. “It’s been an eventful morning. How’ve you been?” She asks with a smile.
Colette nods as another explosion bursts from the kitchen and Boris starts screaming in aquatic anger. “I don’t know. Dunks feels like I’ve gotten about as good as… a girl can be, I guess.”
“Oh! That’s quite a compliment.”
She shakes her head. “No. Like, I’m not strong enough to kill the overlord, not yet; and if Dunks is right and I’m as far as I can go… like this, then I’ll have to find some other way.” Colette looks out to the shifting Eversea, continuously confounding and terrible to her.
Grancis’ smile dies the moment she hears Colette say “like this”. She knows where this is headed. “So… What do you intend to do about it?”
“Well, Dunks told me abo- uh, well, about a way I might be able to get better by training under someone else.”
Grancis hums. “Do I know this person?
“No, probably not.”
“Are they… on the ship?”
Yes.” Colette looks aside, hoping with every part of her that Grancis doesn’t pry further.
Grancis gains the sort of face an interrogator would have when testing for the weaknesses of a new captive- a very Captain-like look. “Oh?
Colette sighs. “Y-yeah.”
“Okay, Colette, but I don’t want you to give up something important just so you can get a little more strength… It’d be better to be the overlord’s wife and still human, I think.”
Suddenly, a spark lights in Colette’s eye and she looks to her friend. “Are you kidding me? I’d sooner die than be that bastard’s plaything. Why wouldn’t I sacrifice a part of myself, or even all of myself to kill him? Don’t you think it’d be worth it to spend one person to save hundreds more?”
Grancis bites her lip. “N-no, Colette. The people of the village were fine.”
Colette’s glare becomes considerably more vindictive. “Yeah, until I fucked it all up?”
Grancis takes a deep breath. “I would be lying if I said you weren’t the cause of a lot of the town’s problems.”
The ocean waves sing as the fire from the kitchen die down in the silence.
Colette puts her mop aside and leans over the railing. “Then… If I really am that much of a bother to everyone… why would you care that I decided to risk my life for ‘em?”
Grancis weighs her words a moment. “People are in charge for a reason, Colette. The overlord… may have… hurt us in the past, but as bad as he might be, at least he lets us live our lives.”
Colette stare on blankly. “You’ve lost hope, haven’t you?”
Grancis focuses her gaze on Colette, who only stares out to sea. “Colette, we’re best friends. I know I’d want you to talk me out of a bad decision. I’d rather live with you as a slave in that guy’s castle than see you turn into something like the guys on this ship.”
“…What do you mean?”
“Like, part animal, part human. A monstrosity. It’s unnatural.”
“So is slavery,” Colette says, peeking at Grancis from the side.
Grancis looks down in thought. “You don’t care that much about what you become, so long as its still you, do you?”
Colette thinks on it, and nods. “If you did it to save the people you love… wouldn’t you?”
Grancis sighs, scans her eyes over the ocean, but can’t quite find the words. “Be careful… Okay?”
Colette stares out at the misted horizon, scoffs, and finally turns to her friend. “Of course I will. Someone like me better stay on her toes if all she does is screw others over.”
“C-Colette! I didn’t mean it like tha-”
“Then how did you mean it? Was it a problem I was born… or that my mom got sick… or that I decided that I was tired of seeing you get bullied and that you needed a friend?” Grancis inhales with a skewed sob. Colette ‘s gaze is mercilessly direct, with absolutely no room for empathy. “Well?” Colette adds.
Grancis takes labored, poisoned breaths. “I-”
“APPRENTICE MEAT! I AM OF THE TAMING OF THE DEMON OF THE COOKING!” Boris yells out loudly enough for the whole ship to hear it.
“I told you I’m a flame elemental! You will rue this day!” Yells the now-muffled voice of the re-imprisoned elemental.
Grancis, the beginning of tears on the brim of her eyes, straightens up. “I… I have to go and clean up.”
Colette stares Grancis down for a few bitter seconds. “Yeah, fine.”
Grancis turns back to the kitchen and Colette back to the ocean. Colette leans into herself spitefully as she mutters to herself. As she wonders just how much of what Grancis said was true, the side of a ship appears in the mist a kilometer out. She fails to register just what this appearance means for a second, and then her anger flashes into horror. She runs for the deck alarm and hits it for the very first time.
A blaring, alien sound spouts from The Nocturna’s speakers, and crew-members of all sorts peek their heads from port-holes to behold the ship approaching rapidly. Colette looks forward at the new vessel. Made of wood, unlike the metallic Nocturna, and with a sinister red glow. Colette pulls in a long breath of eldritch sea air, equal parts salt and blood, and reaches for her revolver.
“That will be quite unnecessary, Miss Ketiere,” a measured, refined voice says from behind. Colette checks and spots none other than The Captain, a bottle of Dugal’s scotch in one hand and two glasses in the other. “Shooting one’s guests is usually considered bad form, though I’m sure a lady of your abilities could make it the new hot thing if she really desired to.”
Colette looks back with The Captain as the ship pulls up to the side and a floating aberration hails the two.
“Ahoy me hearties! I trust yee have the libations prepared?”
The Captain raises the bottle and clinks the glasses together. “As always, Captain Livingstone.”




Chapter Two: The Invitation and The Really-Quite-Obvious Trap
“Salt,” Colette addresses as the man of the other ship, looking like the ghost of a skeleton that was at one time a ship captain, floats down onto the deck equal the others.
“Cookie,” The Captain responds.
“Who’s this?”
“Allow me to introduce you to him.” The Captain places the two glasses atop the neck of the bottle and takes the ghost skeleton’s hand. “Captain Russhaw Livingstone,” The Captain says, shaking hands with the ghost like any mortal would to another.
The Captain,” Russhaw says with a distinctively ectoplasmic accent.
It may just be her imagination, but Colette has a hunch that this ghost captain is at least a little bit afraid of The Captain- the aberration seems uneasy.
“I trust you’ve come here to exchange more than simple pleasantries.”
Russhaw releases a hearty laugh, sounding like the screams of a city being drowned in the sea. “Of course, me hearty! Seems our beloved mayor’s been sending out a missive bounty for ye.”
The Captain hums. “I see… an attempt to have me put down and brought to justice, perhaps?”
Russhaw shrugs. “Ay cannah say f’sure.” He pulls from his ghostly bounds a nice-smelling pinkish envelope with The Captain’s name on it, written with flowing, graceful penstrokes.
The Captain takes the letter and shrugs. “All to be disclosed once we go up to the study, enjoy a few drinks, and read the letter together, yes?”
Russhaw laughs again and takes up The Captain’s shoulder as the two ascend the steps to his study and open the door.
“Captain!” Colette shouts up before he closes the door behind him and Russhaw.
“Yes?” he calls back down.
Colette shrugs out her arms as if she’s supposed to be let in on something, like just what the guy’s doing here, what she should be doing while they’re talking, or what Boris is cooking for dinner tonight - anybody’s guess.
The Captain shrugs back, and closes the door without a word.
“The hell,” she mutters under her breath as a few other crew members congregate near the side of the ship.
“Outta’ the way!” Engineer Luisoix yells as he hauls a huge bin of random crap that he got from under his bunk. “Outta’ the way!” He says again in desperation as a small skull peeks out from the tall side of the other ship.
“Ayyyyyy-” starts a small skeleton with his own bin full of crap.
“Ayyyheyyyyyy!” Luisoix responds in an equally annoying manner. The skeleton comes down with all sorts of other creatures, both living and dead, each with something to trade.
The unsure atmosphere shifts instantly to mercantilism as sailors from The Nocturna rush off to go get things of their own to trade, but Luisoix was ready the moment he spotted the ship.
“Tell me you have it,” Luisoix demands as he pushes his bin in front of the skeleton and Colette.
The small skeleton chuckles and digs around through his goods. “You mean…” with a flash he pulls out the latest issue of “Omniverse Biology” Magazine. This issue devoted entirely to beautiful pictures of aquatic life. “This?
Luisoix’s angler-fish lure perks up in a way Colette could only describe at the moment as “sketchy.”
“Th-that’s it! Oh yes! Yes!” A foaming Luisoix grasps for the magazine just as the skeleton pulls back with a grin.
“Gonna cost ya’.”
“Y-yeah, of course!” Luisoix desperately piles out all sorts of baubles, items of magic, a folder of Omni-deck(TM) trading cards, rare foods and medicines and a few magazines containing some especially questionable material that the narrator would not be all that comfortable describing.
The dwarf skeleton coos in wonder as he looks through the mountain of stuff in front of a confused Colette who is unsure if she should be fascinated or disgusted. “This stuff’s sorta normz,” the skeleton says with an unimpressed tone as he finishes his initial observation.
Luisoix trembles. “Come on! This stuff is priceless!
Sure, but I know how much you want it, right?” The skeleton opens the marine biology magazine just enough for a poster flap to unfold and float from the pages enticingly. Colette hums as Luisoix gasps in adoration: it’s a poster pin up of a colorful fish laying eggs in a smoothed out nest- it really is a pretty picture, Colette thinks, but it’s not that pretty. Several of The Nocturna’s sailors nearby exclaim in shock upon seeing the image- as if some priceless work of art is being displayed to a crowd of cultured onlookers. Colette assumes she just can’t understand the taste. It must be some pretty high-class art if they’re reacting this way. “I’m waiting,” the skeleton says.
Nice!” A salivating sailor from behind Colette says.
“All those eggs!” Another one says in a frustrated tone that reminds Colette of some of the boys back at the village when discussing Grancis.
Luisoix takes a deep, finalizing breath, and opens up the card folder. He pulls out a card that has the likeness of an angular, blacker-than-pitch figure that Colette thinks looks sort of like it has sharp, thin bunny ears- “a book character?”, she wonders as she looks over its wide, senseless smile and its glowing, soul-imprisoning gaze. There’s no way something like that could exist in real life.
The skeleton flinches and looks on in awe. “No shit… This real?”
“See for yourself!” Luisoix hands the skeleton the small, shiny card.
“I never thought I’d get to see a third gen Chaos… That is, if it really is legit… May I?”
Luisoix nods, and the skeleton slowly folds the card. Colette looks on in curiosity, assuming that the skeleton would rather keep the card undamaged, but after the skeleton crumbled the card into a ball, the card unfolds by itself, eliminating any creases and looking as good as the day it was enchanted with preservation magic hundreds of years ago.
The skeleton grips the card like the deed to a well-earned home. “Yeah, it’s real alright… This for the mag? Really?
Luisoix nods with a sobered up tone. “Like you said, I want it bad- besides, I’ve quit playing.”
“My man…” The skeleton scoffs, nods and hands over the marine life magazine. Luisoix’s composure erupts back into perverted euphoria as he takes the magazine, packs up his stuff and rushes off back to his bunk.
Colette watches Luisoix shut the door behind him and she turns to the skeleton.
“So people trade things between vessels.”
The skeleton nods with a few satisfying *clack* sounds. “Yeah. Luisoix and I trade each time Ol’ Stones and The Reaper have a drink to exchange news.”
Colette squints an eye. “The Reaper?” She asks in an amused tone.
The skeleton chuckles. “ Yeah, you know: “The Nocturnal Reaper”? What do you call ‘em?”
“Uh, The Captain?
The skeleton shrugs. “Yeah, makes sense I guess… So do you want anything or are you just gonna hold up the line?”
Colette looks behind herself and finally notices the four other sailors that have their arms filled with stuff for bartering. “Uh… what all do you have?” she asks, looking over everything.
“Well,” the trader starts as he begins pointing things out, starting with a bunch of vials filled with suspicious-looking fluids and dried things, “I got you month-long supplies of hash, rickity, deadeye, and a single shot of weir for the same value.” He points across a row of baubles next, “soul gems, filled or empty, last names, first names, eye colors, most any body-transfigurator short of seasortage, enchanted bullets for any thirty cal-”
“How about… that?” She points at a small, unassuming octopus plushie, smiling brightly as it wraps around a stuffed anchor.
The skeleton pauses amidst his exposition of wares, and sighs. “Ahh, you just want this?”
Colette looks to the kitchen and spots the bare silhouette of a bleak-faced Grancis wiping down sooted cookery. “It’s kinda… cute?” She asks as if it were a question. Colette’s not exactly sure what cute is per se, but she’s pretty sure this is it.
“Uh, yeah. Yeah I guess it is, but more importantly what do you have for it?
Colette looks to the side in thought and then reaches for her coat.
Half an hour passes, and finally Captain Russhaw Livingstone exits The Captain’s study with The Captain himself and they break up the parlay. The ghouls and ghosts return to the great wooden ship and they turn off back to the mist. Colette waves them off with a couple of the other more less-macho sailors as The Captain steps up next to Colette.
“Made some friends?” he asks, watching the vessel leave.
“Made some contacts,” she corrects.
“A most captainly way of putting it, my croissant.”
She looks over to him. “So, what’d captain calcium want?”
The Captain scoffs. “He wouldn’t appreciate such a nickname, I assure you. He’s quite sensitive about his non-mortality.”
She raises a brow in humor. “Terrifying.
“Most other captains would agree, though I find him a good drinking companion… He wanted to deliver a message from the Mayor of Wreckwind Port.”
Colette’s brow squints down in suspicion. “Wait… What? Isn’t that-”
“It is indeed the same mayor that took flight in her airship some months ago and attempted to blow us to smithereens as we made our daring escape.”
Colette hums the way one would when hearing about a scheming ex’s latest depravities. “So…—”
“So?”
“What is it?”
The Captain nods and turns to the others. “Sailors of The Nocturna. I have an announcement to make.”
A few doors along the various deck floors crack open to listen as others fly open to allow the flood of attentive crew members to get a good spot to hear from. Colette snaps around and sees, just barely, a scant line of darkness revealed inside the enforcement closet on the third floor deck- someone really is in there, and they just opened the door a sliver.
“Judging that this message I’ve received from captain Livingstone is true, Mayor Irefall of Wreckwind Port wishes to administer us a pardon. She desires I meet with her personally to discuss things formally during the Irefall Manor Ball. I’ll be attending this ball, will work out the negotiations, as assure our safe travel to and from the port from here on. We set our course for Wreckwind, do you understand?”
Salutes across the board.
“Yes, sir!” is the resounding response from the majority of the sailors in uncanny unity.
The Captain nods. “Very good then. Any questions before we set off?”
Itrim Kalamest slowly raises his hand, only to be given a dirty glare from Hoqq Lorenzo, that one constantly angry dude that has a harpoon gun for one arm and a wriggling, biting shark for the other. Itrim lowers his hand as quickly as he had raised it, figuring he’ll ask someone when the time comes.
“Excellent!” The Captain exclaims, “Then we’re off. Carry on.”
There are cheers and agreements abounding among the men as they go off to either go back to napping or ensure the ship’s readiness for departure, depending on their job.
Colette and Captain are left watching the scores of men meander off to their day-to-day activities.
She addresses him. “So… She wants to apologize?”
He straightens his cap. “Probably not the term she would use, but yes.”
“And you believe her?”
The Captain smirks, his bandages curling up slyly around his mouth. “Not in the slightest. I’ll have you to my study, Miss Ketiere.”
“Sure.”




Chapter Three: Kolette’s allowed into The Kaptain’s Klub 4 Kool Kidz
Colette’s let into the cool, dark study of The Captain, rich with the scent of wreathed pipe smoke and some other imperceptible scent Colette seems to only recognize in this one room - like something from far off childhood.
“A drink?” He pops open a bottle of some caramel-colored fluid.
She squints an eye. “Didn’t you just have one?”
“That was scotch, this is rum- wildly different drinks. You support a properly rounded-out diet, don’t you?”
“Sure.” She takes a glass. “Now what d’ya need?” She leans into her chair with a satisfying, leathery *puff*.
The Captain pulls down his spectacles a slight as if to assume an incriminating glare. “You really have grown quite friendly with me. Allow me to remind you that you are still but a jobber upon this crew.”
She takes a sip. “And?”
“And as such you should address me with the respect owed to one’s superior. Do you understand?”
“We’ve been over this. I’m not being disrespectful, just friendly! You know, keepin’ it light.” She says this with a decidedly comfortable smile, as if this were her study, rather than his.
The Captain takes his own seat. “Light on proper formality, for certain.”
She smirks as she takes the glass to her lip. “So, sir, what did you need me for?”
The Captain raises his glass and puts down a decisive gulp. “While you are but a jobber, you are also my apprentice. I feel it’s right to let you in on our plan.”
“Plan. We’re going to Wreckwind Port for a specific reason other than receiving the pardon?”
The Captain scoffs with the lightness of a feather. “The pardon is intended to bait us, my dear. There is simply no way in or out of The Eversea that Miss Irefall would actually pardon me.”
She leans forward. “You have a history?”
He takes a long sip. “ ‘Epic saga’ would be more accurate.”
“So… a long history?”
“Precisely; the amount of stories I have of her and she has of me could fill volumes I’d imagine, but that’s beside the point. She’s has something up her sleeve and will definitely pull it out the moment it suits her best. She’ll likely see my sailors behind bars, and my head on a stake.”
“Whoa.” Is all she says.
The Captain nods. “Indeed. Once you get to know her she’s… an ambitious lady and is not quite so interested as you or I might be about making lasting friends.” he chuckles for some reason. “So don’t be deceived- she’s as captainly as they come… in comparison to other captains, that is, not in comparison to me- I’m far more captainly.
“Obviously.”
Obviously. So I fully intend on taking this pardon, if she does in fact intend to give me a temporary one just to have me lower my guard, but I won’t be led along like some fool. I’ll take the opportunity at her abode and steal her most prized possession. Something far more valuable than all the port and all its exports.”
Colette leans in a bit more after taking another sip. “Go on.”
“Pertalaine thinks she’s a clever one, as if no one would notice, could notice; but this upcoming week will be her downfall. In the end— ” He leans back into his chair, flipping one leg over the other. “She’s a degenerate like all the rest- only grasping for what she feels will fulfill her ambition… I suppose I shouldn’t step on her too much. We have many similarities, She and I… ” He scratches his chin. “But then again… Tell me, Colette, would you rather be wise, or be powerful?” He looks forward, to and through her.
She flinches.
He hums softly. “Something the matter, Miss Ketiere?”
She decides not to say it, but this is the first time he’s used her first name in a long time, if ever- she can’t remember. It sounds strange coming from him, anyway. “Uh, no, nothing… I think I’d… I’d like to be wise.”
The Captain pushes his glasses to the bridge of his nose, the spectacles glinting grimly in the porthole light. “Would you?
Colette looks aside in thought. “No. No I wouldn’t. I’d rather be powerful. If you’re powerful you can gain wisdom, but not the other way around.”
The Captain smiles. “So you think it would be easier to be strong and become wise, rather than to be wise and then become strong?”
She squints as she looks deep into her glass. “I… yeah. Yeah, that’s how it would work, I’m sure, because you would be strong enough to get any kind of knowledge, right? I mean, you could just smash into a library and read if you started strong, but if you started wise, you couldn’t guarantee getting as strong as the person who started strong… I guess.”
The Captain coos softly and thoughtfully, manifesting one of those rare moments that makes Colette feel like she’s just answered to seal her fate forever, and she may have chosen the wrong answer. “I expected that would be your answer.”
She draws back. “…Is that a… good answer?”
He nods. “It is an answer, certainly. We’ll see in time if it’s the correct one or not.” The two listen to a pair of eldgulls screeching outside on top of the deck. Colette never thought she’d find the sound of them comforting. “Thank you, Miss Ketiere. I think you really are ready,” The Captain adds. “While I’ll be taking you and Miss Vereyrty along for the party, you will be one of the few that will know my plan at length.”
Colette tenses. Finally she’s really on his side. “Thank you, sir.”
He puts aside his glass upon the chair-side table, carved with a curling, angry depiction of a kraken-beast. “We’re going to steal an object in her possession called the Black Eye of Vathhl the Beholder, said to be able to empower the bearer with the abilities of most any seasort.”
“Seasorts… like Boris and Dunks?”
“For instance, yes. It imbues, or perhaps more accurately, corrupts the bearer with the soul shard of… I suppose the patron of the seasort desired. Everything from the lowly starfish to the heraldic eldritch gods are offered up to the bearer, giving him a devious tool for any situation. What’s more, the shards offered by the eye are only temporary, and thus do not fully corrupt the wielder, unlike folks like Boris, who are overtaken and transformed completely by the thing affecting them.”
Colette hums. “Boris was human once?”
“Probably. Could have been born that way as well, or perhaps some other race that was corrupted. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, but for every day you spend on The Eversea, your perception of what is, or is not becomes… foggy. That said, this relic is what Pertalaine’s used for decades to stay at the top of both the official bureaucracy and the criminal underbelly of Wreckwind, The Eversea’s most profitable port by far.”
“So she can basically use the power of any seasort.”
“With some limitations, yes. We have little to worry about though, because once someone other than herself bonds with it, she will lose the gifts of the eye until she can retake it, which we will not allow. On the night of the ball, I plan to make a distraction that will draw the attention of both friend and foe with such ease that they will be helpless to ignore it. You will then make your way through any defenses she might have up to her bed chambers. It is there you will bond with the eye, take it, and we’ll make our escape. That is, unless you’re capable of getting The Eye earlier by some means.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small jar filled with clumpy white crystals, along with a smaller parchment with a strange inscription. “Here you are.”
She takes the thin, unlabeled jar and the paper slip. “What is it?”
“Occult salt- far better than regular salt when it comes to dealing with the unknown. Think back to when you were in the sewer with Engineer Luisoix. Remember that he was spreading something out to ward off the beast?”
Colette hums. “That morning was… I dunno, blurry. I don’t remember much of it…” She places a hand on her forehead. “Now that I think on it… yeah, Luisoix was real pissed when he found out it was sugar. So this is the salt stuff meant to ward off things?”
The Captain, his composure professionally measured, nods. “It works well on creatures of overwhelming evil or incorporeality. Demons, most undead things, spooks, spirits, phantoms and whatnot. The slip is to be attached to them to neutralize their anchoring to this plane of existence. She’ll likely have more than a few spirits serving her in her manor, so if you find yourself haunted, consider spreading a line between yourself and your hunter. Ideally you’ll trap them in a circle of the salt, carefully attach the slip, and that should take care of them. Just keep in mind that if your opponent is fully phantasmal it can just travel around the line and through the walls and floors of a place; something to recall if you ever find yourself chased by a ghost. Just be fast and remember that your opponent will not have to worry about the walls you do, and you should be fine.”
She rolls the slip along the small jar in her hand a moment and then tucks them away into one of her pants pockets. “Got it. I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Glad to hear it. Any questions so far before we go across the rest of it?”
“No. Fill me in,” She says.
“Glad you’re engaged; allow me to give you the details then… Aren’t you cold?”
Colette folds her arms; she doesn’t have her coat on. “No, please go ahead.”
The Captain shrugs. “Suit yourself. Here’s how it’ll work—”

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Kell