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    Thread: WHISKY NOCTURNE - The Volumes

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      Post WHISKY NOCTURNE - The Volumes

      WHISKY NOCTURNE
      VOLUME ONE


      Dramatis PersonŠ


      The Misfits

      Isaac D. Locke (The Kit Carson)
      Aaron Clark (The Formorian)
      Missy Stream (The Hawksian Woman)
      Arthur Radley (The Miles Gloriosus)
      Jack Heflin (The Candide)
      Orlando d'Ariel (The Exile)

      The Agents of the Crown

      The Detective (The Unnamed Anagonist)
      Samyaza (The Captain of the Long-Necked Angels)

      The Men of the Company

      Sal Prospero (The Duke and Chief Investor)
      Dean Caliban (The Mad Manic Writersman)

      The Gods and Other-Entities


      Wendigo, Wihtikow (The Monstrous Skin-Taker)
      Creatures in the Dark Places (The Ones Best Not Yet Named)
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 03-08-2010 at 05:09 PM.

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      PRELUDE - NOMINATIVE DETERMINISM


      The Naufragium, transversing the Deep Dark

      In the Deep Darkness where nothing lives a great iron-clad steamer swirled and blurred as it rolled through on a thick cloud of smog that wasn't - and couldn't - be there. Interlopers in the incomprehensible, migrant vagrants in the impossible void of nothingness that ought not exist but does, because somewhere we know there to be a vaccuum to rival all other vaccuums, a deep, dark emptiness that is as unending as it is unbeginning. It is the place we fear as we cloak ourselves in shrouds of religion and ritual, the dark blackness that is without colour (and thus cannot be blackness) and without space or being or canny of reasonable mind. It is the place we delude ourselves with visions of paradise (or even eternal torment pits of fire and ice) for.

      It is the netherland, the hinterland of non-being.

      And yet here this iron leviathon ran, roaring slow and lazy on impossible currents.

      It was bloated. Not forged with grace or beauty in design, it was an industrious beast of strong blackened timbers and thick heavy plates of metal. All along the sides stout funnels protruded, belching out great swathes of black smog as blazing furnaces deep within the heart of the thing raged and spat, meaty sooted hands shovelling a constant rush of coal and sweat.

      It was a great, metal and imperious fist, jutting aggressively in the void-space where no ship was ever meant to tread, punching the aether in its brash defiance. An iron hulk of science and endeavour and furious manpower.

      And across its blunt prow it read Naufragium, and underneath, in a smaller and neater print, Empyrean Trading Company.

      The ship rolled on in the void space, and then slipped through a tall wobblying rift; a tear in the aether as incomprehensible yet as exploitable as the one it had come through.

      And it emerged floating high on lilac clouds about the New World.


      The Detective and Lemuel Carter, Captain's Quarters on The Naufragium

      "They're saying it's some sort of devilment on the part of the natives, you know."

      The captain mulled this over, carefully. He was a tall, broad shouldered man, with the same blunt look of muscle as the ship he commanded, and yet he looked painfully awkward stood pacing about his own quarters, hands clasped tight behind his back.
      The middle-aged man sat lounging on a velvetted chaise pretended not to notice his discomfort. Rather he 'hem'ed and 'hah'ed over his lengthy paper dossier, in what the captain felt could only be a pointedly exaggerated manner.

      "Well," the seated man said, throwing his hands up theatrically (Exaggerated, the captain was sure now. Mocking him?). "I suppose natives will be natives, savages will be savages. You needn't look so worried, captain. The Crown cannot hold you or the Company to blame if there are a few bad eggs about in the jungle making things a little...ah...difficult for the settlers coming over. Colonization never was a peaceable business, no matter how hard the civilized party may...try. Mm."
      The captain stopped, looking out through the grimy port-hole across the room. It was not large, as such, but was the largest window anywhere about the ship. Void-travel meant reinforcement everywhere, and a little light on the journey over could easily be sacrificed to keep the aether getting in...

      "You are with us to make an inspection of the Company's stations in the New World...Detective. We are coming out of the entry point now, somewhere over the inner jungle of the territory the Company is looking to make base on. Perhaps you'd like a brief look from the window to get a better idea of where you'll be visiting..."
      The captain spoke formally, but tentatively. As an agent of the Crown, the 'Detective' (as his supercargo had asked to be addressed) was of ambiguous but certainly threatening authority. Quite where he stood in relation to a steamer captain of the Company was not clear, but the seated man's confidence gave reason for the captain to suspect it was only unclear to the captain.
      "If you would be so good as to describe our position, I believe I have a map here. Aha. Yes. It was under another despatch from our journalist friend Dean. Perfectly insane, poor fellow. Spent a little too long in the jungle, one suspects. Aha. Mm. You will describe the ship's current locale, please?"
      The Detective sat with map on knee looking at the captain expectantly.
      The captain looked to the narrow porthole and coughed, nervously.

      "Well...we're coming in over the inner jungle. On the ground there's the River Whisky-"
      "Such a colourful name!" the Detective thrilled. "No doubt a moniker attached by your cheery privateer army boys, yes? Aha. Missing home comforts, I'd imagine. Aha."
      "I...yes," the captain agreed, slowly. "On the north bank of the river we have our Inner Station, where most of our privateer armed forces are currently engaged establishing a clear ground. Further south, which is where we'll make landing in a few days, is the coastal region, with the civilian colonies along the bay and the Company head-quarters of Keruwark...you'd see the golden dome from here if you looked-"
      "Some sort of...mm...leftover from the native settlement there before you chaps built up your pretty camp over it, yes?"
      "An altar to a savage god, I believe. Yes. And between where we are now and the southern coast and our base, miles and miles of thick inner jungle. A few Outer Stations, which you can reach by following the river up from the coast before it bends, but otherwise rough going indeed. Sir."

      The Detective nodded, smiling. He wore a simple suit affair, in dulled tones and styles, while the captain wore the usual steamship officers' attire in the Company, a wealthy array of golden piping over a deep navy blue jacket. He had his elaborate tricorne under his arm, and fiddled with it, occasionally.
      Both men carried sabres strapped to their one thigh, and a revolving pistol on the other. But whilst the captain's was more ornate than usable, the Detective's was plain and without finery.

      "And to the north of the Inner Station and the Whisky River, captain?"
      "Nothing. Nothing but endless jungle wastes. And savages we haven't even met yet."

      "A horrifying prospect," the Detective said, simply. He was smiling. Broadly.

      And then the ship juddered. Suddenly. A grinding and screeching of metal and rope and timber strained and waning. And someone began to shout.
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      CHAPTER ONE - DE ORBO NOVO


      Arthur Radley, the Inner Jungle (Soon-To-Be Landingpoint)

      There were ants. Hard-shelled bulbous off-purple abdomen. Legs like jointed needles click-clacking about in myriad complex wild ordered patterns about his face. Marching concentric about his torso, fitting neat to his frame and coating him like funeral shroud or baptismal splattering.

      Hands press jungle undergrowth flat and push self upright and ants fall away, still click-clacking. Sleepless machines. Their world can shift and fall apart and still they go click-clacking along, click-clack.

      Click-clack.

      The man looks up one-eyed to an alien mauve sky and watches a great, grey metal air-steamer begin to buckle and fall apart. There are winged figures - like ants at this distance - who flit about it, like swarms about a nest.

      The man stands, impassive and light-headed, and lifts his hand to his face. An ant, as fat and a long as his thumb, sits perched there, legs still whirring and antennae stil waving in the fetid warm breeze that rustles the jungle undergrowth.
      They stare at one another, for a moment. The man is dizzy, and struggles to focus on the ant and his hand, but is sure for a moment that he sees bone, bleached and open, before suddenly it is gone, sewn away by thin jointed needles, and his hand is whole and nothing is certain.

      He shakes the ant off, and it falls away, and disappears into the ground.

      The man feels old; old and weary and disconcerted. He is wiry, the wrinkles about his body making it look almost as though what there is of him has been wrapped tight about a skeletal frame. Lank yellowed-white hair falls about on a pale, yellowed-white face. There is a leather sling about his face, that covers one eye, and under it the man is sure that there is nothing but twisted blackened scars and dried, withered remnants.

      He wears a loose fitted cotton tunic, and over it a thin gauze-like cloak, a tilma. His leggings are, like the rest of his attire, the same deep black off-purple as the ants.
      On the ground, almost hidden by heavy-leafed lurid green plant-life, there is a short, stubbed black rock knife with a curved handle of antler. He crouches, pulls the weapon free, and tucks it into the thin twine cord about his waist.

      He stands about some more, still looking out of place in his savage attire with his too-pale face.

      First he looks around. The clearing he stands in, in admist the tall thick woods of the jungle, is painted red by the setting sun. He thinks a moment, and decides.

      His name is Radelega. Radley. It makes sense, somehow.

      He is ARTHUR RADLEY.

      Then he looks up once more, and throws himself towards the trees. The great steamship in the sky is falling.


      Aaron Clark and Isaac D. Locke and Jack Heflin and Orlando d'Ariel and Missy Stream and Paul Garcia, The Naufragium in the Brig

      The seven sat while the two stood in the cramped lower hold of the great steamship of the skies, Naufragium.

      Wooden, dark and all too hot. The prisoners sat and sweated while the guards paced and sweated. Both groups sweat, but only one group sits behind bars of wood and iron grating.

      One prisoner sits with chains about his wrists, pale-skinned and with a thick head of unruly blond hair. His face is cut, slightly, under one eye, and he winces every so often as the room shakes and judders. He sits accused of some very bad things, that he may or may not have done.

      He is ISAAC D. LOCKE.

      He watches the guards distantly, a vacant look to his face implying the noise and sound of his surroundings are passing him by, but all the while his eyes follow the slinking movement of the guards and their rifles.

      One prisoner sits with chains about his wrists, thick-set body hunched and sullen in quiet concentration. He sits accused of very little, but the ebony shading of his skin allows that he sit in chains on an airship to an alien world.

      He is AARON CLARK.

      A guard, dull eyed and with puffy cheeks, gives him a glance every so often. On his shoulder he carries a standard revolving rifle, and about his waist a gun-belt lined with brass-cased bullets that wink and shine in the light of the swinging gas-lamp hanging overhead.
      This guard is reading a dog-eared collection of badly pulped papers, and chewing idly as he does so.

      Aaron Clark ignores him, but the guard talks to him, poking at the papers as he does so.
      The papers are headed Treatise on a Dream.
      "What's the wyrm doing in this bit?"
      Aaron Clark ignores him.
      The guard chews some more, pensively. Then prods at the papers again.
      "What's this about naked children and the end of civilization?"
      Aaron Clark ignores him.
      "That your civilization, darkie?" the guard presses. "Or mine?"
      Aaron Clark ignores him.
      "Heh," the guard nudges the pacing guard beside him. "See this bit? Where he's put 'purple bubble' in big letters? Think that if we dropped him over the side he'd end up being a purple bubble on the ground too. Wheee, splat. Purple bubble."
      Aaron Clark ignores him. He sits quiet and cool, as though oblivious to the humming of the creatures around him.

      One prisoner sits with chains about her wrists, grassy green eyes looking out through a veil of deep chocolate hair. She sits accused and probably justly.
      She watches the guards and the other prisoners with equal suspicion. Some watch her back, with more than passing interest.

      She is MISSY STREAM.

      Her hands angle around the chains that fix her wrists together, measuring the length of the chain and estimating. If it came to it, she decided, then it would be wild improvisation. And I would not lose. Or scream.

      One prisoner sits with only rope about his wrists, fey and blotchy face looking nervous from the one cell-mate to the next, his ragged shirt just that little bit nicer and finer than the rest. He sits accused of something ambiguous and distant to the other prisoners; some noble scandal or mischief that left him exiled and forgotten on a steamer to the New World.

      He is ORLANDO D'ARIEL.

      He worries somewhat about the state of the room after the weeks of travelling, but know better than to ask for anything more.

      One prisoner sits with chains about his wrists but still smiles. He talks to the two prisoners beside him - the one a sallow-faced lanky youth with owlish rimmed glasses, the other a dark-skinned runaway slave sharing the convicts' shipment to the colonies of the New World - with a meek but personable patter, guessing at the time and nature of the ship's journey, and carefully not talking about their pasts.
      He leans back, lifts his bondaged hands to rub at his rounded jaw, and gives another wan smile.

      He is JACK HEFLIN.

      "Okay, so you have this sandwich, right?" the sallow-faced lanky youth said, gesturing frantically with his bound hands.
      Jack Heflin nodded, slowly.
      "And it's the best sandwich. Like, the greatest possible way that that sandwich could have been made. Right?"
      "Right," the dark-skinned runaway grunted. He seemed uncertain as to what the sallow-faced youth was talking about. Jack Heflin continued to watch with a politely blank smile. The rest of the prisoners ignored them.
      "Right! So the real question is, and this is important: what sandwich would you pick?"
      The sallow-faced youth stared at Jack and the runaway, wide-eyed, expectant.
      The runaway frowned.
      "Like what filling? I mean. We had these cheeses. Back in Canterbury. Great cheeses! Like, all different colours. Well, not all different colours. But alot of different colours. Like yellows and oranges and whites and blues-"
      "Blues?" the runaway said, looking lost.
      "Ya, ya, blue cheeses!" the sallow-faced youth agreed, poking a finger in the air to demonstrate his point. "Blue cheeses! Oh man, you haven't had blue cheeses? I mean, they aren't great, but they're alright, you know? Not fantastic, per say, but certainly worth trying. You ever fucked an animal?"
      "What?" The runaway looked panicked.
      "Fucked an animal? Like, if you HAD to, which animal would you pick? I mean, there's alot to consider if you think about it."
      The runaway sat back and closed his eyes. "I don't want to think about it."
      "You're boring. Jack. Jack. Jack, isn't he boring?"
      Jack shrugged. The sallow-faced youth was annoying, truth be told. Jack wasn't sure whether the youth much cared what they replied to his questions and assertions. It seemed more that he just wanted them to say something. Like he needed them to react.

      It was irritating, and had been going on since Jack first tried talking to the sallow-faced youth, about a day or two in on their journey.

      "I mean-" the sallow-faced youth began.
      "Goddamnit, shut the fuck up in there," the reading guard growled. He snapped his papers shut. "Just be fucking quiet or I'll start squeezing some shots off and claim there was a misfire. Can happen real easy on a shakey old ship like the Naufragium, real easy."
      The other guard, who had said nothing, tapped on the iron grating.
      "What's your name, anyway?"
      "Mine?" the sallow-faced youth looked up. "Si-"

      There was a sudden rushing of sound and noise and of metal screeching and of timber splintering and suddenly everything went upside down.


      The Detective and Lemuel Carter, Captain's Quarters on The Naufragium

      "Good God, something's hit us," the Captain yelled. "We're actually going down!"

      "Interesting fact...mm...about my man Samyaza. You remember him?" the Detective said, buckling a short black cloak about his shoulders.
      The Captain stared, blinking, as the ship rolled and shook and the Detective stood up, unconcerned, in the midst of it.
      "He's one of the Anakim. They're a...aha...off-shoot of an experiment the Crown played with some centuries back. When they were trying to take apart a creature...mm, Eloa I think, or somesort...they salvaged from some ruins. It died on them, eventually, but not without some rewards."
      The ship shook, and a man screamed on the deck above their heads. Something splintered and cracked with a resounding BOOM and through the porthole the Captain watched an iron-cast cannon torn and scattered over the rapidly rising jungle.
      "Deafening, no? Quite lost my train of thought. Ah yes, this Eloa died but the remnants of a breeding program the Crown engaged it in paid off. I can't say the women we found to take part were very happy when Samyaza's ancestors emerged, but we certainly called it useful. Why, I don't go anywhere without Samyaza, truth be."

      There was a BOOM again and a CRASH and suddenly the room was torn asunder. Lemuel Carter - a man of some philanthropy back in London, and of considerable acclaim as a steamship captain - was thrown like a rag doll from the wooden flooring and sent tumbling into the open air.
      The Detective followed suit, slipping and rolling away, only to be snatched up again in the embrace of some diving winged figure.

      "Samyaza, my boy," he breathed, panting in the thin strain of the high skies. "I was just telling my unfortunate friend the captain about you. You Anakim have wings, you see. And are ever so strong. It's remarkable."
      "Agreed," the be-goggled, long-necked Samyaza grunted, his dove-white wings open and soaring on fast warm thermals as they tore away from the crashing steamship. "I am remarkable. What happened?"
      "I haven't the faintest, actually," the Detective gasped, adjusting himself in Samyaza's grip. "One minute up up and flying, the next everything goes hell-wise. Can we get a salvage vessel on the way? I'd hate for the Company to lose such a lot of material to the natives."
      "I didn't know the Crown cared so much for private ventures," Samyaza muttered. "My brothers have told me there is another iron-clad in the skies not far west of here, The Belantof. I have already sent my fastest to warn them."
      "Good boy, good boy..." the Detective closed his eyes, and allowed his captain of the Anakim to carry him southwards to safety.

      Another ten winged figures joined them, and moved easily into a casual formation.

      Behind them The Naufragium tore apart, and fell.


      Aaron Clark and Arthur Radley and Isaac D. Locke and Jack Heflin and Orlando d'Ariel and Missy Stream and Paul Garcia, Landingpoint

      The sallow-faced youth's body twitched on a long jutting timber embedded in the undergrowth. The wood ran right through his middle, and let him flop limply either side.

      Some way away, the runaway was there, splatted crumpled among the trees. Like his body had concertinaed to a bloody pulpy mess.

      The guard with the papers rose, coughing blood and heaving from amongst a mess of iron plates and wooden planks. He tilted his head up, bleary, to look around him, and had it snapped back by an extended foot.
      Isaac D. Locke snatched up the revolving rifle from the guard's hands, and pulled off the gunbelt onto his own waist. His wrists chafed and ached with the movement, and he hurriedly searched the unconcious man for the loop of keys he had had in the air. Looking up, he realised where they were.

      Aaron Clark stood, his face glistening with sweat, massaging his wrists. He dropped the unlocked chains and twirled the keys about his hands.
      He noticed the other - living - prisoners around him in the wreckage, all with bound wrists. It gives a man an edge, he thought.

      Missy Stream sawed at her chains with the bayonet-knife she'd found in confusion of the ship's downing, and swore as it failed to break them.
      She looked up, and saw admist the chaos of the crash, the ox-like black man with the keys about his hands.

      Jack Heflin swayed, all medical knowledge bewildered as he surveyed the scene of the ruined ironclad of the skies.
      He was unhurt. Where all about him bodies lay heaped and scattered and broken and all, all dead, he was alive and unscathed. And, nearby, his fellow prisoners were too.
      He noticed the chains about his wrists, too. They needed to go. And, like the other prisoners, he began to edge towards the man with the keys.

      Arthur Radley crouched, eyes closed. He opened them, slowly. The world around him was one of torn iron sheets and splintered tall lumber. The jungle clearing he had been stood in was churned and bloodied with corpses.
      Somehow he had not been brained by the falling ship. Somehow it had torn apart above him, and the ruins scattered just so as he wouldn't feel a scratch.
      It perplexed him. As did the living that surrounded him.

      On one side a sturdy black man stood, eyes flickering about those that edged towards him.

      On the other side, three men and a woman bound with chains about their wrists moved closer. One held - awkwardly - a revolving rifle, and had a gunbelt slung over his hips. The woman clutched a bayonet-knife in a similarly restricted fashion, and all looked to one another, without a word.

      Aaron Clark facing down Missy Stream, Isaac D. Locke, Jack Heflin and Orlando d'Ariel. And Arthur Radley caught in the middle.

      Then a body at Arthur Radley's feet rose, spluttering. He jumped.

      The risen body was a young man, neatly shaven and with tanned foreign skin. He wore a loose white shirt, under a leather duster, and wore a gunbelt, knife and revolver on his hips, and a rifle on his shoulder.
      The attire of the Company's more wealthy soldiery, perhaps a lieutenant in the sky-ship division, or a freelance infantry captain.

      He is PAUL GARCIA.

      And he was one of the guards in the brig.
      Last edited by Siиdяed; 03-13-2010 at 08:02 PM.
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      CHAPTER TWO - AND SO MISERY ACQUAINTS A MAN WITH STRANGE BEDFELLOWS


      Wesley Deighton, Keruwark

      The man in the weathered frock coat dipped a hand into a pocket to fish out a battered carton of cigarettes, raised it to his mouth and drew one out with his teeth. The movement, like the cheaply bought soldiers' cigarette brand (Conrad's Smokes was printed in a lurid purple type above a line drawing of a jungle scene, beneath which a slogan read Never face the horror of the New World without your packet of Conrad's Smokes!) and the dirtied and thread-bare suit he wore spoke of an ill-paid man's confidence, and everything he did he did with a jovial certainty only the truly down-trodden can muster.

      Flicking a lazy salute to a company of crisp white uniformed men marching past - the latest addition to the Empyrean Trading Company's military assets in the New World, come fresh off a floating steam-runner - the man, whose documentation named him as Wesley Deighton, looked the grand construction before him up and down before giving a low whistle.

      Tall beyond comprehendable perspective and wrought of great mossy granite blocks and dazzling gold-plated frames the golden dome of Keruwark stood glistening as a second sun surrounded by the Company's absurd city of mish-mash native architecture (be it angular and of stone, for the older dwellings long since abandoned when the Company arrived to the world, or be it squat and of clay and wood, for the meek natives drawn in from around the settlement to aid the running of the settlers' head-quarters) and Company buildings (refined wooden mansions and brick barracks to name a few).

      It was stunning, and it was awe-some. Alien and impossible. But there it was. A great golden dome held aloft by over-large stone staircases coming up from every direction, seemingly at random. And all ascending within the vast dazzling globe itself.

      Wesley Deighton lit his cigarette with a tinder-box, and took a slow and thoughtful drag. Those who hustled and bustled about him might have stopped to notice him, but it was unlikely. Wesley Deighton looked like a down-and-out former soldier, still wearing the remnants of some mercenary dress uniform, long since faded out of recognition. The three stripes on the arm of his frock coat could have been any colour in the past, and everywhere were signs of repair and restitching.
      There were plenty of ex-soldiers in the city of Keruwark, hiring themselves out as caravan guards to the civilian settlers arriving and looking to set up along the coast. Or perhaps looking to set up a place of their own, somewhere in the vicious jungle to the north.

      What Wesley Deighton was doing in Keruwark, however, was not nearly so unremarkable. Wesley Deighton was a spy. A good one, at that. Coming close to his fifties, he was a swarthy and uncouth veteran of the game, and all the more dangerous than the pasty youth that had started off playing espionage all those years ago in the Araby Gulf.

      He had worked for the Crown (much as his travelling partner pupported to), some time back, but had since taken up a more freelance approach.
      The Empyrean Trading Company had taken a stranglehold on the economy with the iron grasp of a vast private army. The chief investor commanded priority access to the ear of the Crown itself, and outside the Empire its personal iron-clad armadas of the skies ensured no other trading company came close to competition.
      Wesley had been employed by the coalition of rival merchants during the pitched battles of the air over America some years prior, when the Company flushed out the colonist-traders who had begun to settle there.
      Now that the Company had found a New World entirely, ripe for harvesting, it made sense that the Coalition would send its agents along to try and push for a downfall in a world the Company could barely control.

      Wesley Deighton blew a mushroom cloud of smoke above his head, looking up at the mauve sky.

      His partner - a man of fealty to the Crown who had not been cheap to buy over to their cause - was somewhere up in that alien sky. Known only as the 'Detective', he carried a dossier with the directions needed to tear the Company asunder. An occult rite that would eat up the Company's new base in this world from its very core...

      Wesley Deighton looked from the sky back to the golden dome.

      An altar to an old, savage god of this world...

      Deighton's contract was high for this mission. To have the Detective fail to meet him here would be tantamount to professional suicide. There was honour and money involved.

      And the Detective was late. Deighton did not like this.


      Aaron Clark and Arthur Radley and Isaac D. Locke and Jack Heflin and Orlando d'Ariel and Missy Stream and Paul Garcia, Landingpoint

      They stood apart once again now, all with hand-cuffs unlocked and all with red raw wrists.

      "There," Aaron Clark grunted. "Not so difficult. Nice and calm and you all got unlocked."

      The survivors began to spread out, slowly. Some stayed in pairs, but others drifted and scavenged through the debris of the Naufragium.
      Jack Heflin - who had slipped neatly away from the group once the sturdy black man had freed his bonds - fished through what seemed to be the splintered remains of the captain's quarters. Strewn here and there were what was left of a fine oak chest of drawers, and Jack busied himself with retrieving a near complete uniform. The slate blue jacket he found felt tight around his shoulders, but he guessed the badges of rank sewn into it would pass him off as part of the naval fleet were he to encounter the Company once more. He also found fine black gaiters, which were notably better suited to the jungle ground than his convict's cloth foot-wear, as well as a strong leather belt with a (only partially bent) sabre attached.
      About to dart for the treeline, his eyes ever flashing back to where the others were trawling through the wreckage, Jack hesitated to stoop for a paper folder wedged between two planks jutting from the dirt.

      Reading what he could of it with a stumbling grasp of the written word, he found an illustrated map that he checked against the sun for direction before turning and running south into the jungle.

      Elsewhere amongst the shipwreck Missy Stream edged about, furtively casting glances to where the guard - Paul Garcia - stood idly, her eyes ever moving to the rifle on his shoulder and the knife in his belt. He seemed to have little interest in provoking the aggression of his former prisoners, and when the only other man carrying a firearm - Isaac D. Locke - stopped to say a few words with him, he did little but peaceably agree.

      Finding a rough sack-cloth bag, Missy began collecting what she could of the fallen ship. A hunt for medicines came up with nothing more than a bundle of cocaine sachets for anesthesia. For clothes she managed to drag an unspoilt loose sweater from the broken body of a deck-hand (whose head was nowhere in sight, yet not a drop of dark crimson touched the striped clothing itself). This she pulled over her own head and rolled the sleeves up, before pulling the heavy boots from the deck-hand's feet and sizing them favourably to her own. Taking a mottled water skin and adding it to her bag, she moved on to what had to have been the remains of the ship's armoury.
      Stacks of revolving rifles lay scattered about the ground. Gleaming bullets were about in card cartons or else strewn loose. Taking a rifle and filling the rest of her bag with ammunition, Missy Stream stood over the rifle haul and contemplated telling the others that went unarmed.

      The main grouping of the survivors, Aaron, Paul, Orlando and Arthur, stood about listlessly. The guard held his rifle lightly on his shoulder, careful not to look as though he were making a threat.
      Aaron cast an eye about for his book, without much thought. Orlando retrieved a revolver from the bodies about them, and slipped it into a belt. A long, ill-fitting coat was found and he pulled it about his shoulders.
      Arthur did nothing more than watch, as though intrigued by the situation and potential for conflict that had unfolded around him but uninterested by the apparent calm that had fallen over the wreckage and its orphans.

      Isaac stopped by Paul briefly and said a few words as to working together. Paul made an agreeable noise that seemed to satisfy Isaac.
      Isaac nodded, and began to say that he was moving out into the surrounding jungle to find some firewood or shelter.

      He was cut off by the roar that shook the trees all about them. An animalistic bellow, that seemed to echo in the sudden rush of birds screeching as they flapped upwards in great clouds and waves from the tree-tops.
      Something coming from the north. Something close and something big.

      Those still in the wreckage of the clearing - Missy, Paul, Arthur, Aaron, Isaac and Orlando - stood stock still for a beat.

      Something coming. The pulp fantasies passed around London train station libraries of weird and terrible creatures of the New World suddenly seemed less absurd.

      They were standing in a clearing of iron-clad debris. A rag-tag band, some armed, some not, put to fight or flight, together or alone.

      The jungle was welcoming its guests.


      Jack Heflin, The Jungle (Just South of Landingpoint)

      Jack stopped, taking a moment to breath. The jungle felt tight and fetid all around him. Trees loomed and undergrowth snared. He staggered through a blurry mess of an environ, all browns and greens and exotically coloured flowers that snapped or spat as he trekked onwards.

      Behind him, back towards Landingpoint, he heard a roar. Some giant, lumbering animal was closing in on the others from the north.

      But before him there was a yell. A gunshot. Not far ahead. He thought he spied smoke somewhere ahead, but the canopy overhead bewildered and confused him.

      Roaring to the north. Gunshots to the south.


      Dean Caliban, The Jungle (Somewhere)

      The man spattered in thick, gloopy lashings of red red blood smiled manically and all too wide a smile as he wrote, his hands moving fast in great swings and stabs of the pen all across his tattered, loose-leaf journal.

      o jungle jungle jungle i will defeat you in the end

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