There was a sudden explosion of smog that filled the area of the battlefield, but the Propagator didn’t bother to pursue the gene fodder that fled away from it. To its surprise, the three that had been present within its Domain survived, and had enough strength to walk away. Even the intriguing one amongst them, that was able to directly resist a portion of its Domain, moved with surprising quickness.
Through the smog, the Propagator’s focus narrowed on that individual. The Propagator could feel his bare feet slapping against the ground. A group of Wights stumbled upon him, but they were basic drones that were incapable of threatening him. With surprising grace, he dispatched them without losing any momentum.
In the chest of its arcbody, the Propagator rubbed its antennae together. Instantly, the Wights shifted, parting before the escaping forces. The spear users were profoundly foolish and almost superstitious about the existence of the Propagators. This was purposeful on the part of the Wights, of course. It was easier to have them jumping at shadows than addressing the real threat.
Plus, this meant that this group would flee directly back towards the position of strength of the spear users. They would be traced, and then the true offensive of the Wights could begin. The Propagator was relatively low in influence among its class, but that still was far above these toys.
Thinking of their soft bodies and inefficient construction, the Propagator felt a flash of hunger, but it restrained that impulse.
Then, just to check, the Propagator rubbed its antennae together in a different manner. A much higher pitched noise emerged. A noise so high on the frequency spectrum that it was almost impossible that any of these spear users would be able to detect it.
The intriguing gene resource stumbled as the fragments of crystals in his body vibrated in response to the high frequency. Would he notice? Well, even if he did it would be difficult to remove; even the smallest bit remaining in his body would allow the Propagator to track the gene fodder across the world.
That was a great weakness of those empowered by the System, and why the Propagators developed the way they did. It was difficult to remove tiny debris that became a part of the body from a deep wound. The body would naturally heal around the wounds, but that ended up being a detriment in this case. Part of the healing process was the allowance for items like these to be expelled.
The fleeing spear users made it to their boat and began to sail quickly away. Altogether, only 7 of them had made it. Sparing a longing glance for those that escaped, the Propagator moved towards the bodies of those that had died here. It wasn’t the genetic material that it desired, but it would have to suffice.
Drake knew that this was the worst week of his life. The journey towards the World Crater from the floating city was a slow one. The captain of the skyship assured him that this was just because of the season, and the winds were almost directly blowing out of the World Crater.
“Honestly,” The captain said in a cheap attempt to comfort Drake. “Be glad the wind is blowing this way! During other months, the thing acts as a giant whirlwind; nearby vessels are sucked right into it. That’s why it is sometimes referred to as the Maw of the Sea.”
Not comforted at all, Drake maintained his firm grip on the heavy wooden railing.
The skyship that Drake was on was called Slipstream, and like all the other skyships that Drake had seen, were relatively small. This vessel could comfortably fit a dozen people and could make do with as few as four. The ship was made from a wooden frame that was something akin to the skeleton of a whale with a platform on top. The top platform was where the deck was, as well as the three sails: one straight upward and one to the left and right.
Below that, in the ‘ribcage’ of the whale, were the sailors’ cabins and other assorted rooms that were necessary for this many people grouped together. Below that was a small cell for the rare prisoner and the cargo hold. The hold took up most of the space of the ship and gave the lie of the large size of the skyship.
Drake had been on the ship for two days now and had only access to a space about the size of the basketball court.
Still, it wasn’t like he wanted to wander around. It would have been interesting in an abstract way to see the Aviator and his Skills at work, but Drake didn’t care so much. The Aviator was a Class, or a variant type, that provided most of the lift for the skyship. The process seemed to be a mixture of ionizing the strange fabric that was covering the skyship and controlling nearby winds, but it worked.
Well, after a fashion. Their flight was remarkably loopy. One sailor assured Drake that this was simply them riding up on columns of hot air and gliding downwards to save energy, but every time they shot upwards on the air currents his stomach did flip-flops. During that time, Drake was careful not to go towards the edge of the boat.
Especially after he had already looked off the edge of those sky docks and saw the distant ground… Even remembering it now, Drake couldn’t help but shudder.
Stilling himself with an effort of will, Drake admitted to himself that it wasn’t all bad. Due to that fearful fall, he had met Mieu. After a quick glance around himself, Drake reached into his pocket and removed a piece of paper that had been carefully folded in half. Most of the 8 person crew was below decks for the meal, with only two remaining up here to watch their course and steer the ship. Both were seemingly consumed with their tasks.
Drake unfolded the paper.
A quick sketch stared back up at him with his own eyes. Although it was done quickly, his own face and upper torso were cast in sharp relief in graphite or some charcoal variant. Drake would have appreciated knowing what it was made of so he could take better care of it, but he hadn’t known to ask.
The artist, Mieu, had taken a few liberties with the way Drake looked. His brows were heavier and more stern than he would have believed about himself. His chin was raised, almost defiantly. Or perhaps the better way of saying it would simply to say he looked… angry.
Most of all though, his eyes were almost mesmerizing. Drake couldn’t believe that she had done it, but he found looking at his own eyes to be intimidating, reassuring, and calming all at the same time. It was clear that almost half of the time for the whole drawing had been in finishing up the details that she had wanted for his eyes. There was a sense about him that seemed to say that he was a dangerous enemy, but a steadfast friend.
Which, Drake supposed, rubbing his chin, wasn’t
a bad way to describe him…
A gust of wind brought him back to awareness of his surroundings, and he carefully folded the paper back up and stored it within his interspatial ring. It was… a strange gift. And one that Drake couldn’t help dwelling on-
The ship lurched strangely to the left as if hit with a battering ram. Drake surged to his feet, looking around wildly. His elemental condensed on his shoulder, bristling with anxiety and panic. “Are we under attack?!?”
Drake looked sharply up. A young woman, Moniky, was staring down at him with apparent amusement. Drake took a deep breath and said, “I just mean we seemed to be hit by something so-”
“Ha, that was just a bit of rough wind. And if that was enough to get a jump out of you… the rest of today will be pretty eye-opening.” She flipped as she dropped down and landed next to him on her feet. “Heh, better strap yourself in tight. There’s a storm ahead. We will ride right over it, but it won’t be peaceful.”
That turned out to be the understatement of the century. What followed was his worst nightmare. By the end of it, Drake tied himself to the wooden beam in his private cabin, praying for anything to get him out of here. He couldn’t stop thinking about how fragile the craft was, and how any sort of untoward wind would spell their doom.
Six hours later, Drake stumbled out of his room with a pale face. “Is… is it over?”
“Aye,” The captain answered, sharing a grin with the Aviator at his expense.
“I don’t get it,” Drake said, and halfway through speaking, he realized his mild shock was making him a bit more candid than he would have preferred. “Why not make the vessels bigger? Like a cruise ship from the old world; enough size to make sure it isn’t like a hellbound roller coaster.”
The Aviator answered, rather than the Captain. “Two reasons. First, we have to admit… skyship technology is relatively new. It was based on the old designs of course, but the Buoyancy and Lift Skills were only obtained after the System hit and Avrail Silver obtained his Class. It is hard to scale up size wise currently. The weight becomes too much for your average Aviator.
“And second,” The Aviator walked to the edge and gestured to the clouds below them. “One of my Skills is reading the wind. It lets the ship flow through the really powerful gusts without being damaged. That only works if the vessel is small. Too big and we take those directly on the chin. To survive that, we would need-”
“Stronger wood, bigger boats, and suddenly they are too heavy to float,” Drake said, waving his hand. “I get it.”
What he also now got was that he was on a vessel that was the cutting edge of research in the field of skyships. They were all guessing here.
Drake said another prayer to a god he didn’t believe in, just in case it would help.