0.4: Unknown Pirate

“This world is mine to explore!”

Maria Gloria-Fernandez

“Pirates!” the man cried as he dragged himself across the forecaster deck, gripping his bleeding side. The sun beat down on his brow, and he gagged on the heaviness of the salty air. His words, however, were lost to the slap of ocean waves against the hull and the thump, thump, thump of rubber shoes against the hollow, wooden floorboards.

“Pirates?” Maria laughed as she walked alongside him. “My darling, we are adventurers, not pirates!”

The man paused in his scramble and looked up at her. He was sweating and stains seeped into his elegant white uniform. His dark gray hair had fallen loose from its ponytail and strands now clung to his pallid face. “You’re not adventurers or pirates,” he spat. “You’re monsters!” He spoke Common with a thick accent she couldn’t quite place.

Maria pulled back and glanced at the mousy-haired woman who stood behind her. The woman merely shrugged and offered the man a sympathetic look. Nothing to be said, it seemed. Maria threw her head back with a loud and musical laugh that rang across the ship. The sound bounced off the torn sails of the ship, twirled around the mast, before sinking down to the main deck.

She skipped past the man toward the railings just behind him. She peered over them, down to the main deck. There, right before her, was a battle for the ages. Blade clashing against blade. Gun against gun. Fist against face. Someone was even throwing barrels around.

There didn’t seem to be a Conductor on this ship, however, which was quite a downer.

Regardless…

Maria hopped up onto the railing, spread her arms wide, and took in a deep breath.

There was ash in her hair, the dried crumbles of black and red caked onto her face, and icy droplets dripping down her arms. The sky—once an unblemished and endless stretch of blue—was scarred by a pillar of black blossoming from a mountain of flames and ashes. This burning pyre, as well as clusters of wood and cloth, littered the stretch of sea that unfolded into the horizon.

Maria took in the entire scene with a wide smile. From here, the view was wondrous. Every detail, every flickering ember, every lapping wave was laid out right before her eyes!

“Such a shame. It really was a pretty ship.”

With that, she reached for her sheathed blade hanging at her side and drew it out into the light.

“Wait, Captain―” the woman behind her began.

But it was too late. Down Maria dropped onto the shoulders of an unsuspecting man below. He barely had time to register her before she kicked him in the face with the back of her boot and launched herself at another. She knocked this next man in the face with the hilt of her blade before reaching for his shoulders and lifting herself up in the air while using his body as an axle. She swung her legs forward and used the force of her fall to bring the man up over her shoulders. For a moment, he was in the air. In the next, his body was crashing into another.

Several onlookers gazed at her in horror while others only offered expressions of exasperation. Some, admiration. But she didn’t dwell. Instead, she relentlessly tore through the ones she deemed her enemies with a smile of exhilaration gracing her face.

She paused in her almost manic stampede only to wipe the blood from her blade and the sweat from her brow. It was then that a movement from the corner of her eye caught her attention. It was a boy. Amidst the chaos of clashing blades and colliding fists, a boy stood there huddling a cylindrical object close to his chest. His eyes—they glowed with an inhuman red-orange light.

A Conductor?

How amazing―

Maria barely had the time to finish the thought before the boy rushed at her. The object in his hand gave out an unearthly copper glow that expanded outward and consumed his body―and then hers.

She heard it more than felt. A resounding boom that drowned out the chaos of battle and the calm of lapping waves. It rang so loudly in her ears that, for a moment, she almost thought it was the only sound that ever existed.

When the sound faded, she was in the air. Falling swiftly with the ocean opening up below her.

“Captain!”

She didn’t hear the rest because she broke through the barrier of water below her. The cold gripped her tightly and dragged a trail of blood from her, which rose up to the surface like smoke alongside air bubbles.

A minor injury, surely, Maria thought as she sank deeper and deeper into the frigid dark. All she needed to do was kick her legs a bit, and she’d break through the surface to rejoin her men. Surely, this would be an exciting tale. And onto the next adventure they would go.

An intrusive thought invaded her mind as black dots pricked her vision:

Was this—

conductor: a device that channels vitae and allows manipulation of vitae particles.  It falls into several categories: weaponized, generator, and general. Licenses are required for individuals operating weaponized and generator conductors. Their manufcaturing is highly regulated by Ophiuchus.

Conducting 101 by L.B. Ran

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