Now that Anastasia obtained the third of her four shards, she stepped out of the Sentry's cockpit and moved her way towards the bridge of the SS Myrmidon. Her skin was pale and covered in sweat. She plopped onto the captain's chair upon the bridge in a sloppy manner with a little groan. "I would rather fight a horde of enemies instead of enduring that one more time," she stated plainly. Taliya, who had followed her back simply shrugged her shoulders. "Yeah, but that'd get a little boring, wouldn't you say?"
Anastasia grumbled and spoke up so that the on-board computer, the artificial intelligence on the airship named George could hear. "George. Plot a course to the Hunting Village. We need to get out of this place already," she said with annoyance in her voice.
"Compliance," replied the computer before a course correction was made, propelling the ship and it's crew towards the Hunting Village, where the last shard was supposedly held. The ship lurched forward as it made it's way towards the Hunting Village. The ship was a mere 10 minutes away from the Hunting Village. It was a blessing and a curse that the two ran across the aerial refueling vessel with the shard, otherwise the group would have been up the creek without a paddle when they found out that the shard was no longer where it should have been.
As Anastasia simply rested in the captain's chair, trying to recover from the fight at the refueling tanker not long ago, a prompt showed up directly in front of her from George. "Attention -- We have sails flying away from the Hunting Village. Their course is set to 182 from the village." This got Anastasia to sit upright and tilt a head a bit. "Any indicators on the flag?" Ana asked inquisitively. "No flag detected. It was unmarked. However, it is a Bosco model Triton."
The model that was told wasn't a ship design she had ever heard of before, leading to even more questions. "Well, let it go for now. Our job is in the Hunting Village for that shard," she said with the computer responding with it's usual, "Compliance." After the order was given, the ship quickly descended upon the village, parking itself just outside of the town. As the ship descended, Anastasia and Taliya simply looked on to see mass devastation and corpses strewn about all over the place. Ana's jaw dropped upon seeing all of this.
"This is horrible," Taliya simply stated, covering her mouth with her hand. Anastasia's look of amazement turned to anger as she closed her mouth and began to scowl. Grunting, Anastasia turned her back towards the computer. "Remain on high alert, George. I think I know who did this," Anastasia said as she stormed out towards the cargo hold, slapped the door-open switch causing the cargo door to slowly draw open.
Taliya made chase only for Anastasia to turn towards her with a look of anger. "Stay on-board for now. If this is what I think it is, then I need you to push out my Sentry and start pursuing those ships," Ana stated before quickly stomping outside. Taliya gave a nod of her head before returning to the bridge. Ana walked until she touched the ground and ran over towards a group of people piled up into a mound of corpses.
"Hello! Is anyone alive!?" Ana shouted out. What she saw here was horrible and only one person could be responsible for such an atrocity. "Yes! Over here!" she heard from a distance. An old man was left alive, bleeding out away from the pile of corpses. Ana quickly ran over to the man and hesitated. She looked over his injuries and began to apply pressure to the major points of bleeding. The old man shook his head and placed his hands upon hers.
"Please, don't bother. This is a fatal wound," the man stated before coughing up blood. "A man, Red Bart, came through and took everything. Took our young women, took our valuables, took our food. He even killed our people and stole our village treasure," the man said.
"The shard?" Ana asked before the man nodded his head. "Yes. Please rescue our girls and bring the shard back. Please, it's the pride of our village."
A smile came upon Ana's face; a forced one meant to soothe the pains and sorrows of a dying man. "Alright, I'll do what I can," she responded. The old man simply smiled as his eyes closed before his life faded away into nothingness. His hand grew cold and lifeless as it slid down off of her hand and onto the ground. A maniacal laugh came from Anastasia's lips as she stood up, leaving the old man upon the ground.
"Bart, huh? It's been 5 years Bart and you are already a Captain of your own crew? The clumsy, stupid Bart?" she asked rhetorically. She knew this boy when she originally joined the sky pirates before becoming a mage, herself. She continued to laugh hysterically at the thought of someone as stupid as Bart becoming a pirate captain; one that could become feared.
7 Years Ago...
Aboard the S.S. Penguin
A large man by the name of Chernoff walked on board the S.S. Penguin with a young 14 year old girl named Anastasia. "Lookie here boys! We have a run-away that wants to join our ranks!" shouted the captain of the S.S. Penguin. The men on-board were performing their duties for sending off their ship only to turn towards the captain with a little blonde with long hair in tow. They whistled and cat-called towards Anastasia, making remarks about her body and who would do what with her on the first night.
"Let me tell you this right now boys, she is to be treated just like you. You wouldn't violate one of your brothers would you? If any of you clumsy shits want to make an advance on our new mate, Anastasia, you will find yourself in a world of hurt. Do you understand?" Captain Chernoff addressed in his extremely thick russian accent. A resounding and collective groan could be heard from the men of the crew with an 'aye, captain' ringing through the air.
There was an awkward silence in the air as Captain Chernoff scanned the ship. He looked at every face in attendance before pointing out one in particular. He pointed his large hand towards a scrawny, sickly looking boy about Ana's age. "Bart! Come here!" the captain demanded. Finding this strange, Bart simply pointed at himself with an inquisitive look on his face.
"Yes, you scrub. Get over here, right now!" the captain shouted. This caused Anastasia to flinch a little bit from the loud yelling. Bart quickly stumbled, tripping a couple times causing the rest of the crew to laugh at his expense, before making his way over to the Captain and Anastasia. "I-I-I'm here, Captain." The Captain looked unflinching and unwavering at Bart's clumsiness.
"I have already told the rest of the crew, but I'm going to tell you directly. Keep your hands off of Anastasia, alright? I'm going to task you with protecting her from the rest of the crew. You are also tasked with showing her the ropes. Do you understand?" the Captain said. There was murmuring from the rest of the crew before Bart nodded his head and went for a salute only to accidentally poke himself in the eye. This caused the rest of the crew to erupt in laughter.
"Now, you two get acquainted," he said in a lowered voice before raising his voice to the rest of the crew. "Now the rest of you Sky Dogs, get back to work!" Without ceremony, the rest of the crew returned to work leaving Bart and Anastasia alone together.
Anastasia turned to look at Bart. "Well, I hope I'm in good hands. Please teach me well, alright? My name is Anastasia."
Bart, with a chuckle, rubbed the back of his head. "And I'm Bart. I'll do my very best! I won't let you down, Miss Anastasia!"
"Oh, just Anastasia would be fine."
6 Months Later...
The airship, the S.S. Penguin was caught in the middle of a massive storm. The ship swayed from side to side as one of the main sails collapsed. The First Mate pointed at both Anastasia and Bart. "You two! Go get that sail and rig it up!" he shouted through the storm. Anastasia gave the First Mate a thumbs up and looked to Bart with a big grin on her face. "C'mon, Bart! This shouldn't be a problem!"
"I'm scared, Anastasia! What if I fall?"
"You're not going to fall! If you do, I'll catch you!" she shouted, shielding her eyes from the rain that was punishing her face. Since there wasn't any time for hesitation, Anastasia grabbed Bart's hand and dragged him towards the mast. The sail rested behind the sail. The two of them retrieved some rope and lashed it to the cross-beam of the sail. After lashing it on, Ana and Bart began to ascend up the mast to utilize the pully at the top to bring the mast back up. The boat rocked to the side, causing Anastasia to hold on tight as well as hold onto Bart so he didn't fall.
"Thanks, Ana," Bart stated only for Ana to give him a smile. She looked upwards and continued up the mast until the two reached the top. "Alright. Now hold onto the rope and help me pull up the mast, alright?" Ana asked with a nod. Bart responded with a nod as well as the two then began to pull at the rope, slowly moving the mast up. The two brought the mast up half-way, leaving enough rope at the bottom for the men to start pulling as well. Once the mast was all the way up, it was up to the two of them to use another length of rope to secure it. After securing it, Ana pat Bart on the back.
"Good job, man!" she said as the two of them laughed. However, a quick jolt of wind caused the main mast to shake violently, forcing Bart off of the boat. Ana reached for his hand only to touch his fingertips. She watched as the boy that she had began to like as a friend fell off into the abyss. Anastasia cried out in agony upon seeing him fall to what should have been his doom.
After the storm subsided...
Ana could be seen sitting on the deck hugging her knees. A look of sadness was written across her face. "He wanted to be the captain of his own ship, you know?" she asked as the Captain approached her. "He didn't want to be the captain of a pirate crew. If anything, he wanted to captain a little tug operation," she said as her voice cracked a little as she spoke.
"Don't worry, Anastasia. You'll see him again another time," the captain simply stated. This caused Ana to turn her head up towards the captain with an inquisitive look. "What do you mean?"
"There's a lot of work that needs to be done. So get up and get to it," Captain Chernoff said before walking off. Anastasia quickly rose to her feet. "Right. As you say, Captain."
Anastasia stormed back towards the Myrmidon with Taliya following shortly behind. The Cargo Door quickly closed as Anastasia barked out orders to the on-board computer. "George. Begin pursuit of those ships we saw earlier. They have the fragment," Ana said as she jumped into her Sentry and began pre-flight checks. She kept the hatch of the armor open while she did these checks. Taliya climbed her way up the mech and looked into the armor as the humming of it's engine could be heard.
"What's up?" Taliya asked.
"I need you to stay on-board the ship and control the grappler arms. There's only 1 ship and we need to get the cargo from there. They also have the shard. I'm going to go out and forcibly take over this ship. They have hostages on-board, so be careful to not puncture the hull. We can't down this ship," Ana simply relayed.
"Okay, it doesn't explain why you're so upset."
"I know the captain of the ship. Someone from a long time ago," she said before shooing Taliya away and closed the hatch. "Go man the grappler arms and stay close. This ship probably isn't equipped with heavy artillery. "I'm going to disable the mast," Ana stated before standing up in the Sentry and slapped the cargo door open. Taliya quickly ran through the ship towards the Grappler Arm control, taking her seat.
"Anastasia Isayev, Fafnir, Launching!" she said as she ignited the engines in her suit to propel her forward and out of the ship. After launching herself out of the ship, she flew out and passed the Myrmidon in the direction of the other ship that she had once said to ignore. Without hesitation, Anastasia approached the opposing ship and with a quick jab, Anastasia sent out her Dragon Fang to sever the large metal mast with a single closing of the Dragon Fangs. After the fall of the mast, Anastasia shouted out over her short-wave radio, "Grab it!" to Taliya. As if on queue, Taliya crept up in the Myrmidon, unleashed the grappler arms of the ship and grabbed Bart's ship, causing it to come to a jarring halt.
This caught the attention of those down below in the opposing ship with everyone in the crew surfacing along with a large built man with long flowing red hair. Strange horns protruded out of his head. Even though the man looked different, Anastasia knew exactly who it was. "BART!" she shouted out as she circled around the ship in her large mech. A smirk came across Bart's face.
"Ah! Anastasia! Long time no see! I see you've given up on singing and decided to play with toys. How are you, little lady? Still with the pirate outfit, I see?"
"Bart. What happened to you? I thought you were dead. And no, I'm not with the S.S. Penguin. I killed the Captain. He attempted to start up Operation Celestia with the rest of the Pirate Kings," Anastasia responded, this time over the intercom system, just so Bart could hear her speak.
"Yes, I know of Operation Celestia. But it's a pity, the Captain was a strong part of the plan. But it seems that you had other plans."
"Of course I do! You slaughtered an entire village and took their women and children. And you have something that no person should have in their possession. Hand over the shard," Anastasia demanded with Bart digging through his pockets to pull out a shard of metal from his pocket.
"Oh? You mean this little thing? Actually, I planned on using this to cause even more havoc. I guess now is the right time to do that, isn't it?" he asked before taking the shard and plunging it directly into his sternum. "Bart! You idiot! That thing is cursed with Death Magic," she shouted out. A laugh came from Bart's lips as blood forced it's way out from nearly every orifice. "I know! And I shall become one with death! Fitting, wouldn't you say? One who cheated death now becomes one with it!"
"God damnit, Bart!" she muttered under her breath. It was at this moment that three spirits had spawned from Bart's body. One familiar spirit that she had been wailing on this entire time and 2 other, stronger spirits. Before the spirits had the chance to coalesce, Anastasia opened up the mouth of one of her Dragon Fangs. A strange blue light began to glow before a dragon made of pure energy shot forth, slamming into the weak and stronger spirits, completely vaporizing the weak spirit. The strong spirits, however, appear to be unhindered as they went through the entire crew of Bart's ship, consuming their lives.
Screams could be heard throughout the ship before Anastasia lashed out with both of her Dragon Fangs, one at each of the spirits. Each of the fangs crashed into a spirit before Anastasia reeled the dragon fangs back in. With a quick flash step forward, Anastasia darted off towards the ship. The Wraiths appeared to be waiting. As Anastasia approached closer, the wraiths held their blades up as if to invite her into the strike. With a quick boost, she stopped just outside of their blade's range.
Two more slams of the Dragon Fangs were delivered towards the Wraiths. One of the wraiths were completely smashed into the ship, causing it to instantly vaporize while the other quickly dodged, appearing directly behind Anastasia.
"Oh shit!" she shouted out before the blade came crashing down only to be blocked by a field of Nanomachines. The sword, however, instantly shattered the field after being deflected. Anastasia reeled her Dragon Fangs back in before flying straight up, hoping the Wraith would follow her upwards and leave the women that were kidnapped alone. Thankfully, her redirection worked as the Wraith followed her upwards only to vanish once more. A blade was send into the gut of Anastasia's armor. "Crap!" she said as alarms started to blare.
"Sustained Moderate damage. Sustained Moderate Damage," the on-board computer verbally stated while there was a prompt on her screen that flashed on-and-off as well as red lights blaring. While the Wraith had it's blade inside of Anastasia's armor, she grabbed the wraith with her armor's hand and used the Dragon Fang and continued to smash the wraith on the head until it wisped away.
"Shit. That kinda hurt," she said before clearing her throat. "Get the girls, Taliya," she said as she landed her mech upon Bart's ship. Her mech was in some REALLY bad shape, however, it worked well enough to continue fighting so it can't be discarded. She opened the hatch of her suit and climbed out to see Bart laying on the ground, bleeding everywhere. A large pool of his blood began to seep into the ship, itself. Anastasia took a knee next to her old friend and placed a hand upon his chest.
"Oh, Bart. Why? You wanted to help people, but you resorted to becoming a murderer," she stated.
"It's not different than you, is it? You and the other mages kill people for direct profit. You mages don't care about the lives of others, but you do it to feel morally superior to everyone else. Oh, I knew you were a mage when you first boarded our ship. Nobody else had songs that could do what your songs could."
"But you resorted to being a Pirate King? Why, Bart?" Ana asked as she was on the verge of tears.
"Don't be stupid, Anastasia. I'm not a Pirate King. I don't even work for the Pirate Kings," he said laughing out loud which lead to him coughing up more blood. "Who I work for is even scarier than the Pirate Kings. I work for.." Bart said before growing silent. A look of dread came over his eyes as he looked straight up. He reached for something in the sky and grasped for air.
"Bart? What's wrong?" she asked. The fear in his eyes continued to grow more and more. His grasping turned into him pointing at the sky.
Anastasia turned her head to try to witness what Bart did, only to see a silhouette due to the sun being in her eyes. What she did see, was fairly disturbing as the man upon a horse trotted across the sky before disappearing. "What the hell is that, Bart?" she asked before turning back to look at the man. The look of horror frozen on his face. Ana took a moment to let this process before she began to sob into the man's bleeding chest. "Why, Bart? You had potential! What about your dream of becoming a captain and helping others? Why?"
It was then, that Taliya showed up and whistled. "Anastasia! All of the.. Oh," Taliya said as she just noticed Anastasia was sobbing over the body of a dead man. "Ana," she said as if to interrupt her. "We need to go. We still have a job to complete," Taliya said. Ana nodded her head, cleared her throat and pulled herself away. She wiped both tears and blood away from her eyes before plunging her hand into Bart's chest and pulled the shard out. This shard, unlike the rest, didn't hurt her.
Ana stood up once again and looked over Bart once again and gave Bart the same salute she saw from him the first time they met. She let out a little laugh and nodded. "This time, may you sleep softly," she said. She was wishfully thinking that the man would finally be able to die in peace. Clearing her throat, she turned to look back towards Taliya. "Alright. We're going to drop these girls back off to their village and book it back to the rendezvous location," she commanded.
"Well, what about this ship?" Taliya responded.
"I'll take care of it," Ana replied. Taliya nodded her head and returned to the Myrmidon. Ana, on the other hand, returned to her Sentry and closed the hatch. As soon as the Myrmidon let go of the enemy ship, Ana deployed her Dragon Fangs to the ship's engines, causing them to catastrophically fail, causing the ship to sink to the ground in an explosive blaze of glory. Thankfully, like with the tanker, where this ship landed was completely uninhabited. With that burial, Ana returned with her suit back to the Myrmidon so that the job may be completed.