A Star-Spattered Sky: Part Three
"It was pretty awesome that you took down Max like that," an admiring Skeith said to Jessica as she was dishing up her lunch at the cafeteria which was below decks in the hold where they would keep prisoners if they had any.
"Uh... sure," Jessica said uncertainly, taking a Red Apple from a tray.
"No one else has ever done it before," the Skeith continued. "It's pretty impressive."
"And no one has ever lost as many times as I have," Jessica said, smiling sweetly. "Well, I'm going to go and eat my food, and you're going to go and eat yours. Bye, bye."
She turned away and sat down at an empty table. Red sat down next to her immediately. "Wow, I didn't think you had it in you to take down Max of all people!" he said excitedly.
A green Lenny sat down on her other side. "Good job on Max, by the way," he said. "No one's taken him down."
"Go, Max-Fighter!" a Kyrii said when passing.
"Ah!" Jessica screamed. "Stop saying things relating to my beating Max! Just... stop!" She stood up and walked to another table, sat down and munched a hard, rather brown roll.
"What's her problem?" someone muttered. Jessica continued to savagely rip through her roll. A bell softly rang.
"Lesson time!" Silver yelled, clapping his hands. "Breakfast's over, people!" Jessica stood up, her chair's legs squealing against the floor.
"Jessica," Silver said to her, putting an arm around her shoulders, "we both know you need some serious training. I thought perhaps you might like to work with me."
Jessica looked up at Silver in alarm. "Uh... if you don't kick my butt?" she asked nervously, making Silver laugh.
"As long as it doesn't improve your skills, I promise not to kick your butt," he vowed, grinning. "Although you'd do best not to trust a pirate's promises or oaths."
"I don't know why everyone is so nice to me," she said with a worried look. "I know I should be glad they are but... I want to be equal, not special. Just because I'm a girl I shouldn't be treated nice."
"Well, I'll treat you as meanly as I do all the other boys, alright?" he said with a smile. "Now hurry up or I'll throw you overboard, you rascal!!"
Jessica laughed. "Good try, but I don't think I'll be scared of you anymore, Silver. You're too soft to be scary. Or at least, to me anyway." She grinned at him before running off to join the mob of boys bustling to get to the deck.
"Such a nice girl," Silver said, shaking his head. "Such a good pirate."
Pirouetting away from a blow, Jessica grabbed her partner in a head-lock and held her practise sword to his throat.
"Good work, Jessica!" Silver said. "Finally getting the hang of things." Jessica let go of the unfortunate boy and walked to the tray that contained the water bottles. Taking a swig of one, Jessica was confronted by Teair.
"Hello, Jessica. It seems you're doing quite well for yourself," he said coldly.
"Teair, don't pretend that you haven't seen me every day," Jessica said, giving him a look. "It's kind of embarrassing to hear, actually."
"Jessica, stop thinking so highly of yourself," he snapped, looking at her malevolently. "It's not becoming."
"If you're just going to be mean, Teair, don't talk to me," Jessica said angrily, walking away. She picked up her practise sword once more, facing her new partner.
"She's a tough one," Red said cheerfully, holding a water bottle. "I can barely get her to talk to me. You have no chance, Teair. Maybe you should back off, give her some space." He patted Teair on the shoulder before going back.
Teair gaped. Red never had been very clued-in. He obviously didn't know what he was talking about.
Jessica was losing. Hewie beat her. She smiled at him and shook hands. "Good game," she said. Then, with a wicked glint in her eye she said, "What about a re-match?"
"Sure," Hewie said with the same wicked glint. "But you have to pay me ten Neopoints if you lose."
"Of course," Jessica said calmly. "You wouldn't have a re-match for nothing. But," she said, her plan growing, "if I win, you have to pay me ten Neopoints."
"You're on!" Hewie said, shaking Jessica's hand enthusiastically. Jessica dove into an arcing attack, and Hewie's sword clashed with hers. She noted that her plan had worked. When he'd reached up to defend himself, he'd left his side open. She arced her sword back down, hitting him gently in the ribs.
"You'd be hurt badly," she told him. "Act it." Hewie limped, groaning as if in pain. "Much better." She grinned.
In the end, Jessica won, the tip of her sword pressed against Hewie's furry, Island Kougra throat. "Good game," he gasped.
"You don't have to act so hurt," she said casually. "Game's over now, Hewie." She dished up some strange pasta and mystery meat combination onto her plate as it was dinner-time.
"Jessica, you really scared me then. You looked like if you'd had a real sword, I wouldn't be talking to you right now."
Jessica just laughed. "I'd never do that to you, Hewie. You're one of my only allies on this wretched boat." She sat down at a table and plunged her fork into the food.
"Allies? You sound like this is a battlefield." Hewie chuckled. "And if you weren't so darned mean to everyone, you'd have nearly everyone on this boat as your 'ally'."
Jessica hit him playfully. "Shut up with the ally thing. I just think that way."
"You have a twisted mind then, Jessica. I have to admit it, even as your -- dare I say it -- friend, Jess."
"If you don't shut your mouth, you'll be black and blue in a minute," Jessica warned, waving her fork at him.
"That Jessica is getting dangerous," one of the cooks whispered to the other. "She's learning much too fast. If the Master knew of this." The cook drew his finger along his neck.
"She doesn't know her own power." The other blew the warning away. "She's inexperienced; she doesn't know any magic. She is not a threat."
"Have you seen her training? She's a machine! She's better every day! I don't mean just slightly, almost insignificantly like most people. I mean, she literally goes up a level every day. It's insane!"
"Shut up, would you? Someone will hear you and then it'll be over," the other growled. "We must wait, Simon. Our time will come, our time will come." The Krawk nodded serenely.
"The Master will reward us," the Bruce agreed, folding a large pile of Neopoints up in a dish towel. 'Or we'll reward ourselves,' he thought malevolently, his grin widening.
Deriun gazed out the porthole again. Jessica's progress really was alarming. She could already beat most of the boys and on the off chance she lost, she had a re-match, usually gaining Neopoints in the process because the boys had a bad habit of betting their wages to useless things. In this case, winning against Jessica.
Soon, the ultimate test would have to be enforced. Usually, this didn't happen to young crew members. They could never make it to that level of skill and finesse. Only a handful of people had ever made it that far. Many were lost in the challenge. If Jessica made it, she would be the first faerie to make it to the end.
He sighed. She was going to leave much too soon. If she passed the challenge, she would leave, because it would not be right to her to stay. If she did not make it to the end -- she would be no more. It was hard for Deriun to think those words, but he had to face facts that that's what would happen. She was oblivious to her own power, he was sure.
Her friend, Hewie, he thought his name was, was dead right about nearly everything he'd said about Jessica. She had a charm about her, an attitude as well, but that could be cute -- in a certain light.
"Captain," Silver said, making his presence known. "I know I'm coming into your quarters quite often now, but I must talk to you about Jessica."
"Yes, I have noticed her rapid ascent in skill," Deriun confirmed grimly. "Silver, I'm worried about her. The challenge can't be far off."
"No. She will have to take the challenge sooner or later. She has far too much skill for her own good. No faerie has had such... mastery. I show her a new move, by the end of the day, she has it completely down-pat. It's amazing to watch."
"Yes, I've seen."
"Captain, have you been peeking again?" Silver said with a sigh. "You always were the curious type.”
Deriun grinned wickedly. "I couldn't resist, Silver. Jessica's process really is an amazing thing. At first I was only watching to see the humorous side of it, now I watch because I want to see how much she learns daily."
"How do you watch, Captain?" Silver asked curiously.
"Now that," Deriun said, straightening the many knickknacks collected from different voyages, "is for me to know, and you to never find out."
To be continued...