Writing Terminus

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Terminus is a story about James Baron, a detective on the run from the law, who turns to the sea to both escape and to find new mysteries to solve.

Content: Contains profanity, violence, and mature themes.

Terminus Part I: The Journey There
Initium Arc
Status: Complete
Synopsis: James Baron is a detective on the run. When asking the wrong questions is a crime, James must come to terms with the world around him, and find a way out. He seizes an opportunity to escape to the sea, and soon realises that the seas are vast, and that exploring them might be his best chance at finding answers.

Chapter 1: Detective / Pirate
First Publish Date: 3rd December, 2016
Summary: James Baron, a detective, becomes a pirate after four years of running from the law.
Read here: https://www.wattpad.com/410631179-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-1

Chapter 2: A Claim to Fame
First Publish Date: 9th December, 2016
Summary: A newly formed pirate crew set out to rob money that belongs to them.
Read here: https://www.wattpad.com/410872040-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-2-a

Chapter 3: The Journey Begins
First Publish Date: 13th December, 2016
Summary: Being a pirate is tough. James figures out what he wants to do, as the crew come to terms with piracy.
Read here: https://www.wattpad.com/410877088-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-3-the

Chapter 4: Something That Matters
First Publish Date: 15th December, 2016
Summary: Two bounty hunters attempt to defeat James, but end up falling a bit short.
Read here: https://www.wattpad.com/410878057-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-4

Burundi Arc
Status: Complete
Synopsis: Burundi is a merchant island known for its fish and gunpowder. James and his crew make landfall there, but soon get caught in the middle of a gang war, along with the chef of a five-star restaurant. What will James be able to do about all of it now that he is an outlaw? Can James work his way out of all this uncertainty?

Chapter 5: Burundi, the Fish Market
First Publish Date: 27th December, 2016
Summary: The Detective Pirates make landfall on Burundi and things start to unravel.
Read here: https://www.wattpad.com/411368027-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-5

Chapter 6: The Rough-House Pirates
First Publish Date: 4th January, 2017
Summary: The Rough-House Gang have a plan in the works. Cameron escapes his captors.
Read here: https://www.wattpad.com/411376047-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-6-the

Chapter 7: The No-Talent Chef
First Publish Date: 12th January, 2017
Summary: As James, Patricia, and Karnilla await their meal, the chef remembers his past.
Read here: https://www.wattpad.com/411377143-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-7-the-no

Chapter 8: Rival Gangs
First Publish Date: 22nd January, 2017
Summary: Prior to James and crew landing on Burundi, things happened.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/411378324-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-8-rival

Chapter 9: Motorcycle Mystery
First Publish Date: 28th January, 2017
Summary: Gang violence causes three unlikely casualties... and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/411378720-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-9

Chapter 10: Deductive Unreasoning
First Publish Date: 3rd February, 2017
Summary: James begins his investigation as the gangs come to terms with recent events.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/411379762-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-10

Chapter 11: Criminal Action
First Publish Date: 1st March, 2017
Summary: James' investigation starts to yield results as gangs begin to make their moves.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/413164498-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-11

Chapter 12: Barracuda
First Publish Date: 5th March, 2017
Summary: James interviews the mysterious 'Bob' and inter-gang tensions continue to build.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/413167863-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-12

Chapter 13: To Jail or Not To Jail
First Publish Date: 5th March, 2017
Summary: Various circumstances reach their conclusions, as gang leaders prepare for war.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/414302962-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-13-to

Chapter 14: Aftermath of the Mistrial
First Publish Date: 11th March, 2017
Summary: James and crew find themselves in the midst of a gang war.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/414304451-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-14

Chapter 15: Piscology
First Publish Date: 13th March, 2017
Summary: The Rough-House Pirates prepare to leave as Barracuda takes responsibility.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/414305261-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-15

Chapter 16: Persimmon's Decision
First Publish Date: 15th March, 2017
Summary: The Burundi Arc concludes with all loose ends being tied... or does it?
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/414305983-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-16

Chapter 17: The Phobos Sea
First Publish Date: 19th March, 2017
Summary: As the Detective Pirates move forward, so does the rest of the world.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/414310499-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-17-the

The Million Arc
Status: Complete
Synopsis: Notably Small Island is, well, notably small. No-one lives there, except for an angler, and the legend of an alien army. Will this adventure be a short one? Or will they be hurtled into an unexpected mystery or a battle for their lives? James and his crew learn that sometimes, the most dangerous threats come from unexpected places.

Chapter 18: Angler
First Publish Date: 14th April, 2017
Summary: The detective pirates land on Notably Small Island and learn about it from the Angler.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/436910876-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-18

Chapter 19: Prisoner
First Publish Date: 16th April, 2017
Summary: Milangelo and Cameron get abducted and have their memories analysed.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/440380256-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-19

Chapter 20: Run, Cameron, Run
First Publish Date: 24th April, 2017
Summary: The analysis continues, and the leader of The Million becomes unsettled.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/443909447-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-20-run

Chapter 21: Sabotage By Half
First Publish Date: 2nd June, 2017
Summary: Milangelo and Cameron make an unlikely escape that changes everything.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/447877472-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-21

Chapter 22: The Promised Planet
First Publish Date: 3rd June, 2017
Summary: Phenos lives in a nightmare... but what exactly happened?
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/451833468-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-22-the

Chapter 23: Guarded Treasure
First Publish Date: 10th June, 2017
Summary: Phenos prepares for invasion, and the crew are visited at night by an unexpected guest.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/454307602-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-23

Chapter 24: Invasion
First Publish Date: 18th June, 2017
Summary: A fleet with the numbers, but not the capability. How will this turn out?
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/457985960-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-24

Chapter 25: The Million
First Publish Date: 20th June, 2017
Summary: The battle continues, and all of the crew put in their best efforts.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/461215547-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-25-the

Chapter 26: Brothers
First Publish Date: 1st July, 2017
Summary: Many years ago, two brothers were cursed by a dark wizard.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/463950253-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-26

Chapter 27: 500
First Publish Date: 7th July, 2017
Summary: New bounties for the Detective Pirates surprise everyone.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/467596920-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-27-500

Chapter 28: The Phobos Sea Reprise
First Publish Date: 26th July, 2017
Summary: As the Detective Pirates sail towards the ends of the Phobos, the wider world changes.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/469910628-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-28-the

Barronymous Kingdom Arc
Status: Complete
Synopsis: The Barronymous Kingdom is famed for its most temperamental inhabitants: dinosaurs. The king and the noblemen want to hunt the dinosaurs, as tradition dictates. However, there is a growing rebel army consisting of people who want to domesticate the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, the arrival of a notorious circus only complicates matters, and forces Karnilla and Patricia to face their past. What else awaits in the Barronymous Kingdom? Only time will tell.

Chapter 29: Journey to the Hephaestus Sea
First Publish Date: 13th August, 2017
Summary: After three months of sailing, the Detective Pirates reach Barronym Island.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/493474888-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-29

Chapter 30: Fort Barronym
First Publish Date: 20th August, 2017
Summary: A once great kingdom is now occupied by a circus. What will happen next?
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/496279828-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-30-fort

Chapter 31: Rebels
First Publish Date: 2nd September, 2017
Summary: The Detective Pirates meet the Rebel Forces.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/499802103-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-31

Chapter 32: Second Chance
First Publish Date: 29th September, 2017
Summary: The Second Chance Circus Company put on a show for King Wilvus.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/501976381-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-32

Chapter 33: Runaways
First Publish Date: 8th October, 2017
Summary: Young Patricia and Karnilla runaway from the Second Chance Circus.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/504791099-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-33

Chapter 34: The House in Satchanville
First Publish Date: 21st October, 2017
Summary: Patricia and Karnilla's chance at a normal life gets ruined.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/510965333-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-34-the

Chapter 35: Seven Noblemen
First Publish Date: 2nd November, 2017
Summary: The Nobles face Martin... to their own detriment.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/514785921-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-35-seven

Chapter 36: Dinosaurs
First Publish Date: 11th November, 2017
Summary: James and the crew learn about the dinosaurs of Barronym Island.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/520109381-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-36

Chapter 37: The Unexpected
First Publish Date: 27th January, 2018
Summary: The battle for Barronym begins.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/527396802-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-37-the

Chapter 38: Recovery
First Publish Date: 7th February, 2018
Summary: James must overcome unpredictable magic in order to survive.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/532969215-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-38

Chapter 39: Forebaggage
First Publish Date: 18th February, 2018
Summary: The Detective Pirates learn about the history of Barronym.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/536933132-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-39

Chapter 40: Halberd the Hero
First Publish Date: 2nd March, 2018
Summary: Halberd fights Wilvus for the throne of Barronym.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/542260846-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-40

Chapter 41: The Balance of Power
First Publish Date: 6th March, 2018
Summary: Things are changing... in Barronym, and around the world.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/544177064-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-41-the

Chapter 42: The Hephaestus Sea
First Publish Date: 10th March, 2018
Summary: Updates on Hedges, Redbeard, Phileas Fogg, and more...
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/545703873-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-42-the

Limbo Arc
Status: Complete
Synopsis: People have been disappearing near Septagon Island... and the prevailing theory is that there lies a way into Limbo: a bizarre dimension where dreams and nightmares are reality. There resides things that never were, and the missing people have their own insecurities to deal with. Things only get stranger as they go deeper, discovering such sights as the Celestial Turtles and the Emerald City.

Chapter 43: The Guiding Fog and Septagon Island
First Publish Date: 5th July, 2018
Summary: The Detective Pirates travel to Limbo by way of Septagon Island.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/613199153-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-43-the

Chapter 44: Andy the Celestial Turtle
First Publish Date: 31st July, 2018
Summary: The Detective Pirates have an adventure on the back of a giant space turtle.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/616339936-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-44-andy

Chapter 45: The Satchanville Copperheads
First Publish Date: 31st August, 2018
Summary: The Detective Pirates find and meet the Satchanville Copperheads.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/625483194-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-45-the

Chapter 46: Innovation Bay
First Publish Date: 5th October, 2018
Summary: Earth-7 houses very different versions of the Detective Pirates.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/638968714-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-46

Chapter 47: The Emerald City
First Publish Date: 4th November, 2018
Summary: The Detective Pirates land in the Emerald City and are introduced to its Ministry.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/652347755-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-47-the

Chapter 48: Mind Over Matter
First Publish Date: 16th November, 2018
Summary: Martin and James begin a battle of the minds.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/655081865-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-48-mind

Chapter 49: Left Unsolved
First Publish Date: 23rd November, 2018
Summary: James regains control of the situation. Some of Martin's past is revealed.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/657924158-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-49-left

Chapter 50: Martin Magick
First Publish Date: 6th December, 2018
Summary: After more of Martin's past is revealed, James and Martin fight for the last time.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/663486390-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-50

Chapter 51: Departure
First Publish Date: 21st December, 2018
Summary: The Detective Pirates leave Limbo and things change in Burundi.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/669295160-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-51

Chapter 52: The Hephaestus Sea Reprise
First Publish Date: 4th January, 2019
Summary: The wider world continues to change as the Detective Pirates move forward.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/676432541-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-52-the

Gamut Island Arc
Status: Complete
Synopsis: The Detective Pirates land on the Great Green Land, Gamut Island. On this island, adventurers are said to never return. Meanwhile, it seems that they are not the only ones on this island. A whistler, a lyrebird, a siren, a talking gorilla, and an ancient dark sorcerer's curse. How will they fare this time?

Chapter 53: The Great Green Gamut
First Publish Date: 28th January, 2019
Summary: The Detective Pirates discover the Great Green's jungle and curse.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/687824292-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-53-the

Chapter 54: A Whistler, A Lyrebird, and A Siren
First Publish Date: 22nd February, 2019
Summary: There are others on the island with the Detective Pirates.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/698477379-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-54-a

Chapter 55: Fighting With Words
First Publish Date: 28th March, 2019
Summary: James and Lyricus fight with words, and Whistler has a word with the victors.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/712651150-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-55

Chapter 56: Grudge the Gorilla
First Publish Date: 12th April, 2019
Summary: Grudge recounts the story of his time as a mindless beast.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/718533244-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-56

Chapter 57: The Sound of Fear and Doubt
First Publish Date: 19th April, 2019
Summary: Roman recounts his experiences living on Amberwood Island.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/721482151-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-57-the

Chapter 58: Wins and Losses
First Publish Date: 27th April, 2019
Summary: James fights Whistler and the outcome determines the crew's next destination.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/725108822-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-58-wins

Chapter 59: The Atlas Sea
First Publish Date: 12th May, 2019
Summary: Around the world and in the Atlas Sea, important events unfold at the end of August.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/731783753-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-59-the

Chapter 60: Isaac Malevolo
First Publish Date: 31st May, 2019
Summary: The Gentleman's Club has a rival in the shadows, preparing to reveal himself.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/739114445-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-60-isaac

Snyke's Penitentiary Arc
Status: Complete
Synopsis: The Detective Pirates arrive just in time to be part of the biggest prison breakout in history. They meet up with familiar faces, including Salvador Kings and Jasmine Eves, and new allies, including rookie pirate Gate Fredericks, and a blast from Crock's past, the vigilante Munge. The result is a co-ordinated effort to escape the prison and perhaps gain more permanent allies at the end of it.

Chapter 61: Snyke's Penitentiary
First Publish Date: 9th July, 2019
Summary: The history and nature of Snyke's Penitentiary is revealed.
Read Here: https://www.wattpad.com/757324307-terminus-part-i-the-journey-there-chapter-61

Chapter 62: The Unusual Suspects
First Publish Date: 11th September, 2019
Summary: More key players in the breakout are revealed as the rioting begins.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-22162

Chapter 63: Salvador
First Publish Date: 1st October, 2019
Summary: The story of Salvador Kings is revealed, and the Detective Pirates come to a decision.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-30681

Chapter 64: The Gatekeeper, Zephyr
First Publish Date: 17th October, 2019
Summary: Zephyr's origins are explored, and the breakout begins as seven rioters prove their worth.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-38715

Chapter 65: Reunions
First Publish Date: 22nd October, 2019
Summary: Crock and Munge are reunited; Salvador and Gate use the breakout as a chance to show off.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-41475

Chapter 66: Maximum Insecurity
First Publish Date: 2nd December, 2019
Summary: Several characters resolve their issues and move forward.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-54568

Chapter 67: Virtual Capacity
First Publish Date: 10th January, 2020
Summary: The breakout enters its second phase, which prompts some unexpected behaviour from Zephyr.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-60274

Chapter 68: Conduit Training
First Publish Date: 23rd January, 2020
Summary: Chapter undertakes rigorous training, and new developments change the possibilities of the breakout.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-61848

Chapter 69: Back Then
First Publish Date: 29th February, 2020
Summary: Thirty years ago, Crock's Army was formed. This is a snapshot of their exploits prior to entering the Terminus.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-70923

Chapter 70: Terminus Est Initium
First Publish Date: 22nd March, 2020
Summary: Crock's Army started their journey in the Terminus twenty-two years ago. This is a summary of that adventure.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/#post-77636

Chapter 71: History Made
First Publish Date: 26th March, 2020
Summary: The breakout is successful and the different groups go their separate ways. The Detective Pirates celebrate freedom.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-78663

Chapter 72: Preparations
First Publish Date: 25th April, 2020
Summary: The Detective Pirates move forward to the Gogh Strait, and the aftermath of the breakout has many preparing for a new era.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/#post-90673

Chapter 73: The Atlas Sea Reprise
First Publish Date: 1st June, 2020
Summary: Thirty-Five Fist and Admiral Whistler fight, as various things happen in the Atlas Sea and around the world.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-97860

Chapter 74: New Leadership
First Publish Date: 21st June, 2020
Summary: The Basketball Pirates get a new captain, Hypothermia declares her intentions, and more.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-100699

Chapter 75: The End of An Era
First Publish Date: 1st August, 2020
Summary: Lachlan's and Eileen's paths in life change, Dorothy gets promoted, and Masquer faces Tom Sorrow.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-108232

Note: Many of the publish dates are from Oro Jackson, where I was originally sharing the story. I now share it officially on Wattpad and Booksie, and for the moment plan to share the Wattpad links here (though may post full chapters if there is demand). I figured it would be easier to link to Wattpad for now, though if it is better to post the full chapters in this thread, let me know and I can do so.

Part II may be added to this post or be listed in its own separate post when it begins.
Terminus Extras/Information Terminus may be added at some point.

Tags:
@Zemmi @Ziosa @Frayz @MistyCat @Gambit @Nico Robin @Bimbonium
 
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The morning of the second of October, all of the pieces began to fit into place. At one particular cafeteria table, sat Salvador Kings, Holden Glasgow, Oscar Oldscars, Garrett and Jasmine Eves, Barney Welsh, Jerry Knowles, Eric Eager, ‘Lawbreaker’ Gate Fredericks, and Munge.

“So we’re all gathered here. Salvador, it’s your moment, you know what to do,” said Gate.

At that instant, Salvador stood up.

“You all have no strength of character!” he yelled. “We are all prisoners here not by force, but by choice. The impenetrability is naught but an illusion. We can be free!”

On another table, the Detective Pirates gathered.

“Any luck finding Crock?” asked Patricia to the crew.

“I’d rather have breakfast first before looking for Crock. I suspect if we can find each other again, we can find Crock,” James answered.

The crew heard in the distance someone yelling. James, Milangelo, and Cameron glanced over out of interest to see what was happening. From their distance, it seemed to be little more than a prisoner causing a disturbance.

“I wouldn’t worry about what other prisoners are up to,” said Brandon. “We have our own mission.”

Salvador continued his speech, causing roars of approval from any prisoners who heard it.

“You try and break out of here then!” shouted one prisoner.

That was all it took.

“I will,” answered Salvador. “Who’s with me?”

The roars of approval intensified, and Oscar smiled before playing his part. He turned around and yelled, “Riot!”

This word drove the excited prisoners into a frenzy, fighting anyone in their way, and essentially creating a distraction for those seated at Salvador’s table, allowing them to slip away.

“Your crew is still on the outside, correct?” asked Holden.

“Yes, now stop talking, we are about to find an exit.”

The Detective Pirates saw the riot break out and decided it would be for the best to return to their cells.

As they were about to do so, they saw a familiar face among the riot… Crock was sitting down at his table, fighting off anyone who would try to provoke him.

“He is a marvel. Sitting right in the middle of it all, not budging, simply eating his breakfast,” said James.

“Maybe we should try just eating our breakfast?” suggested Patricia. “Might seem less suspicious than going back to our cells, now that I think about it.”

Salvador, Gate, and the others were stopped at the exit by a tall man in a black suit.

“I suppose the riot in the cafeteria is your doing?” he asked.

“Vanguard Festival,” said Munge. “Or perhaps I should say…”

“You shall say nothing, criminal!”

The Vanguard drew his sword, a blade made from red light. He took a little black ball of out his suit pocket and held it to his nose, and it unfolded into a metal mask. He swung at the group in front of him and Salvador blocked the sword with his bare hands, likely at his highest strength multiplier, and while he stopped the swing, it hurt his hands and pushed him down.

“Hm, probably best to use a blunt instrument in this situation,” said the Vanguard. He pressed a button on the hilt of his sword and the light transformed into a baton.

Salvador, despite bloody hands, continued to fight. Vanguard Festival rushed at Salvador and beat him with his light baton. As the former tried to swing at his opponent’s stomach, the latter hit him in the shoulder once, preventing the hit from landing. He then swung the baton at his opponent’s face. The former was knocked on his side by the hit, and before he could get back up, he was hit again on his side.

Salvador turned on his stomach as he tried to get up, and the Vanguard stepped on his back. The latter delivered one final hit to the back of his opponent’s head.

“Four hits. Hm, why are you even locked up here?”

Salvador was not conscious enough to respond.

The Vanguard laughed to himself. “It’s alright, you don’t need to respond, I don’t really care.” He turned to the others. “Alright criminals, return to your cells or you will be next.”

Everyone there quietly agreed that they would rather not take their chances with Vanguard Festival, and all returned to the cafeteria. The riot continued, as the regular guards seemed to be unable to fight off the rioting prisoners, and the Vanguards were nowhere to be seen.

Crock and the Detective Pirates finished eating and catching up, and all agreed that they would head back to their cells for now. They headed out of the riotous scene right around the time that Gate and company returned.

Vanguard Festival carried Salvador to Zephyr’s office.

“Did you bring the cyber-empath?” asked Zephyr.

“I caught him trying to escape, sir.”

Zephyr bent down and looked at Salvador’s face quizzically. He straightened back up and thought about what he was going to say next. “Yes, you are Salvador Kings. But it’s not time for the escape yet. Today we have the riot. Everything will come with time, all to make history in the span of a week.”

“Sir?” asked Vanguard Festival.

“Oh, you’re still here, Festival? Well, you will be free soon. But you have nothing to worry about. Everything that will happen is the will of the Universe.”

James and Roman entered their cell, and talked about what to do next.

“I’d play some music, but there’s no instruments in prison and my mimicry powers are disabled in this place,” said Roman.

“What would playing music achieve?” asked James.

“It would lighten the mood and provide entertainment.”

“There’s no need for that, I think that if we wait for a sign that escape is plausible, that is when we will take action.”

The other pairs of the Detective Pirates had similar things to talk about, and overall each came to similar conclusions: to wait for some sort of sign.

Crock returned to his cell and met his cellmate.

“The end of the start has begun, soon to usher in the start of the end,” said the cellmate. “I remember now, I am Sir January of the Blue Walkers.”

Crock raised an eyebrow in disbelief. Is he serious? So he’s not a murderer? Haven’t heard the name ‘Blue Walkers’ in a while. Though the talk of rebirth should have tipped me off.

“I know what you’re thinking, son of Alistair. The Blue Walkers have all left this planet for greater things, but I remain to fulfil a prophecy. Oh, and my apologies for the rambling earlier. I remembered the person who killed me, though I was seeing through his eyes. When I came back to life, he handcuffed me and gave me to someone who put me in here.”

A likely story, thought Crock. Although, knowing my father’s name definitely adds a layer of credibility.

“I know more than his name, son of Alistair. Come, let us talk.”

Gate shared a cell with a bizarre merman named Glenn. He had coral growing out of his back and big folds on his face that drooped over his neck.

“I know I’m not typical of my species, but I wouldn’t be in here if I was. I’d be in the prisons of Merstranger Island.”

“Listen, I don’t care about your appearance, I want to know whether you want to get out of here,” said Gate.

“Yeah man, but I ain’t coming with you unless you give me a ride home.”

“I’m heading to the Terminus, but I can’t make any promises about going to Merstranger Island.”

“Well, that’s more than anyone else in this joint has been willing to offer me. Tell ya what, you deliver the breakout, and I’m on your side, no questions asked.”

As Gate and Glenn struck their last-minute deal, Munge returned to her cell to find Chapter meditating. Alright fine, she thought. He’s already made clear he has no interest in what the others have planned. This was most evidenced by the things he was learning in Gaia’s realm.

Gaia did not speak to Chapter in any translatable form, yet through sheer concentrative power, the latter was able to learn new wisdom, and prepare himself.

Holden shared a cell with Laura Frankenstein, the sister of Alexander Frankenstein and former Gentleman Guide.

“A breakout, huh? Yeah, I figured as much with that riot in the cafeteria. But they’re not going to get anywhere without some direction. Who’s leading?” said Laura.

“I’d give full credit to Gate Fredericks, honestly,” said Holden.

“It would be bad if you were giving credit dishonestly.”

In Zephyr’s office, Salvador began to wake up. He was now tied to a chair and seated next to Zephyr as he overlooked the monitors. The latter smirked before bursting into laughter.

“You’re just in time, cyber-empath. History is about to be made. All of these inmates, just waiting for a sign. Any day now, I will deactivate the power dampeners…”

Zephyr continued to explain the plan to a half-awake Salvador who was just able to take it all in. He was a little confused that the Warden himself was on their side, given everything that he had experienced up to that point. Nonetheless, he was elated that there was one less factor to worry about, and that the breakout might be more successful than he first thought. The most startling revelation among the Warden’s words, however, was the idea that this breakout was historic. Salvador had never thought of himself relative to the larger picture before, and to him it seemed both profound and true.

Chapter awoke from his meditation, to Munge’s surprise.

“Has the breakout begun yet?” he asked.

“No, not quite yet. I don’t know what’s going on right now.”

“Well, Munge, I will aid in your breakout, though I myself will remain here. My true breakout will happen after I can see into the future. What I will do with the knowledge, I cannot say. But I have ideas that I hope will come to some form of fruition.”

The next day, the Detective Pirates met back up in the cafeteria, surprised to find people still rioting. Crock made the comment that there was a plan to break out, but that he had not met with those planning it yet. They talked about what to do next, and agreed that if they came across anyone else who was planning to breakout, they would team up with them.

Gate and company were discussing what to do about the Seven Vanguards of Snyke’s Penitentiary.

The first Vanguard was the one that defeated Salvador, Vanguard Festival. He used a light sword capable of taking different forms.

The second was Vanguard Wicket, who wielded a steel cricket bat. He had grey hair and wore a white suit.

Third came Vanguard Jumper, a short man in a red suit. His signature move was to jump and knee his opponent in the jaw while also kicking them in the stomach.

Fourth in line was Vanguard Arrows, a woman in a purple suit wielding a bow that could create its own light-based projectiles.

The fifth was Vanguard Morose, a woman in a yellow suit and pink hair who seemed to be able to will anyone nearby into a state of nausea.

Sixth was Vanguard Wildfire, a man in a blue flameproof suit, who juggled torches, and through his breath could easily spread the flames as if he were a dragon.

The seventh was Vanguard Tambourine, a relative unknown compared to the others. She wore an orange suit.

One thing that many prisoners had speculated, but never been able to prove, was that the Vanguards were former prisoners, now under some form of control. Certainly there was merit to the idea, if the names Festival, Wicket, Jumper, Arrows, Morose, Wildfire, or Tambourine were the surnames of previous inmates. No one person was ever that informed to know, and there was not enough communication to confirm the theory. However, some prisoners, confident in their ability to recognise who one or two of them might actually be, opted to view the Vanguards as being those people. To this end, Munge believed she knew the identities of Festival and Wicket, and Gate believed he knew the identity of Arrows.

While Gate and his allies continued to discuss what they knew of the Seven Vanguards, those same people held a meeting in the Staff Lounge Room.

“What do you think about Zephyr’s plan?” asked Festival.

“We have our orders and we are obligated to fulfil them,” said Wicket. “No use asking questions.”

“Not to mention it is not our place to do so,” said Arrows.

“You both raise excellent points,” said Festival. “I just want to know that we’re all on the same page.”

Each of the other six Vanguards took turns affirming their commitment to the task at hand.

“Very well, meeting adjourned,” said Festival.

The Vanguards left to take their positions in the prison, as per their instructions. Zephyr waited for Salvador to regain his full senses, as the latter drifted off to another time, one he had kept repressed for many years.

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Salvador’s story began before he was even born. Elias Kings, his grandfather, was a regular gunpowder merchant in Burundi until inspiration came to him. On that fateful day, a fifteen year old Hin Wolfmüller had stolen a motorcycle and was taking it for a ride. Elias, twenty years old at the time, watched as Hin ripped up the dirt road without a care for the old men yelling at him. Freedom, he thought. That’s what my life is lacking.

He left Burundi on a fishing boat that day and never looked back. The only thing he left behind was his notebook, which was filled with dreams he had as a teenager. A friend of his picked it up and took note of some of the ideas. Starting a sock company, inspiring a cult, etc. He turned the ideas into a story, which for a short period became Burundi’s first and only best-seller. This book coming out the same year that Elias had moved in to an island on the Terminus Sea, led to the urban legend that Elias’ success had started in Burundi.

In the span of two years, Dwayne Wosar had written his book, and Elias Kings had travelled to the Terminus Sea and found an island he could call home. Over the next year, the King’s Socks would become international commodities, despite the limitations of exporting them out of the Terminus. Elias would also see the birth of his son, Marvin.

Marvin idolised Elias and his passion for business. He also had a bit of a mean streak, and an ego to boot. The latter would try to explain to his son why he should not bully the other kids. Nothing got through to him though, as he felt he was a child prodigy destined for greatness, and stepping on everyone’s toes. As he grew older, the problem became more subtle, as he began to realise that he needed to bide his time, and seem to behave himself for a while.

Marvin grew up to marry Mary Sylvester, and their son was named Salvador, at Elias’ request. In his mind, it had clicked that his father favoured his son over him. It was then that he left to take his son to Burundi, so that he would never become the inheritor of his father’s legacy.

This trip took longer than anticipated, and he ended up having to explain to the five year old Salvador why his father was leaving him in Burundi. Were Marvin any different, he may have found this difficult. He simply told his son that he stood between him and his father, and that he needed to not be with them anymore.

Marvin’s decision to leave Salvador had disastrous results, however, as he would die at sea on the return voyage. Meanwhile, Salvador grew up in a town where a young Drake Wallace idolised the works of Dwayne Wosar and set out to create a real-life version of the Martyrs cult.

Aware that Salvador was the direct descendant of Elias Kings, the aspiring crime-lord made him the poster child for his organisation. As the years went on, he would come to understand this authority figure as a thoroughly despicable person. As such, he began to make his own plans for the Martyrs, which began with kicking Drake out.

Drake had faded into irrelevance when Barracuda showed up with his head, but it was a pleasant surprise for Salvador. This incident led the latter to have a blind spot for the former, allowing the Rough-House Gang to become a third wheel in the fight for power. The Motorcycle Gang had been a factor for many years before the Martyrs, but their laid-back approach to crime allowed the cult to gain power of their own. Both of these incidents would change the direction of the Motorcycle Gang, and prompt them to become more aggressive.

The day after Barracuda had made his mark on Burundi, Salvador met with his re-invented Martyrs.

“It pleasures me beyond words that the pestilence known as Drake Wallace is no longer among our ranks. Today, in light of a possible second competitor, I want to outline my ambitions for the group called the Martyrs.”

The whole crew, including a young Jeof, listened intently to Salvador’s next words.

“My grandfather, Elias Kings, was a man of great ambition. His teenage dreams were stolen and written as a work of fiction. While his King’s Socks company came to fruition, we have no idea whether he intended to create a cult around him or anyone else for that matter. My father was a despicable person. He wanted to inherit Elias’ legacy so badly, that he left me here, in Burundi, where I could never get the chance to be better than he was.”

Some of those listening wondered where Salvador was going with all of this.

“While we may operate as a criminal organisation on the outside, our true goal will be to amass enough power to leave this island, and travel to the Terminus. We will return to the island from which Elias ran his business.”

Salvador paused for a bit, in part to let his gang take in all that he had just said, and also to build suspense up for what he was about to say next.

“The saviours of Kings will take their place, all glory to the Martyrs.”

Though only some of this ran through Salvador’s mind as he rested upright, tied to a chair in the Warden’s office, the whole and not the part defined his life. How much any one person knew of this story was unknown, but there would come a time, no doubt, when it would become legend.

This is not only what Salvador believed, but also Chapter, the former Barracuda. He had originally pledged his loyalty to the Martyrs with the intention of helping Salvador return home, but his recent time with Gaia helped him realise a much bigger mission that required his attention.

In Salvador’s life, Barracuda had always been an anomaly. His idealism in the face of abuse from his father was only the beginning. Salvador watched as Drake tortured German for his emotional outbursts, and saw something unplaceable in him. The former continued to observe the latter at a distance, and could never quite figure out what motivated him.

It was just as true when he became Barracuda and showed up with Drake Wallace’s head. It held true still when he took the Martyrs’ oath. Even now, as he spent most of his time in his cell, only ever talking to Munge, and now going by the name Chapter. The only thing that made sense was Gaia.

Salvador had spent a great deal of his time researching the mystic sciences. The other realm from which all magic comes, and the pocket dimension within it where enlightenment or other such wisdoms can be found. A place that may appear as an endless garden, or a blob of cool, safe colours. A voice that comes from nowhere or takes the form of a woman or perhaps a familiar face. The mysterious deity-like figure Gaia guides those who come to her domain.

Everyone who has sought her guidance has only become better for it. Salvador was unaware that Chapter could even contact her, but now that he knew, he felt he understood at least a little better.

Hm, as long as he’s doing what he’s meant to do, I won’t hold it against him if he’s no longer loyal to me, thought Salvador.

Salvador’s eyelids began to blink open. He was coming to. After all that reflection on his life, it seemed his brain was finally able to accept that he needed to confront his present.

“Well, well, well, Salvador ‘Virtuoso’ Kings is finally awake,” said Zephyr.

“Virtuoso?” asked Salvador.

“Don’t like it? It doesn’t matter, it’s your new working alias in military documentation. It’s both a reference to your name, and your Cyber parasite’s capabilities. I think you know what I’m talking about in both cases.”

“Believe me, I understand. But I don’t care about some name the government wants to use so they can avoid my real one. I want to know why the Warden has me in his office instead of putting me back in my cell.”

“You make a very astute observation, Salvador. I have indeed tied you to a chair in my office. It’s because you and I both know that this breakout is going to be huge, and you are a key player in this.”

“Your plan is interrogation? Intimidation? Prevention?”

“More like… no, actually it’s better if you don’t know just yet. If you didn’t take in what I said earlier, then you’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.”

Salvador had a look of exasperation on his face. It was obvious he had no idea what was going on, and could not be bothered to know. I want to escape, but now I don’t know what is going to happen. What did he say earlier?

Vanguard Morose had taken command of the communications room, ensuring no word of anything going on in the prison would reach outside authorities.

“I understand how some of you may feel about the situation. But I assure you, lying to your superiors in this instance is justified. They do not need to know about any riots or would-be escapees. It only matters if they actually succeed, in which case there will be no need to report, as it will be self-evident.”

The Vanguard’s words did little to reassure those working in the department that they were doing the right thing, but they felt that as bad as ignoring the problem might be, overstating it could be much worse.

The Warden left Salvador alone to ponder his fate, as the riots in the cafeteria continued. The Detective Pirates met up at the mysteriously safe table in the lower right corner to have lunch.

“This riot is still going on? How long can they keep this up?” asked James.

“My guess is as long as they have to. You don’t get a chance to riot very often. They’re trying to milk it for all it’s worth,” said Crock. “Admirable, if nothing else.”

“So they’d rather riot for days on end than try to escape?” asked Patricia. “Seems kinda pointless.”

“A lot of them are scared. They doubt their chances of escape without someone strong to lead them out,” said Brandon.

“Could we lead them?” asked Milangelo.

“I doubt it,” said Crock. “In terms of strength, we’re about average, so we wouldn’t be able to attract enough attention.”

“What do you mean?” asked Karnilla.

“Well, as a pirate crew, we don’t particularly stand above the rest of the inmates here. We’d need a sort of alliance between ourselves and another party. Sort of similar to what Salvador and the others were creating.”

This name was familiar to the Detective Pirates, but they were not expecting to hear that he was here. Crock, somewhat amused by the surprise of his crewmates, clarified further.

“Salvador, the former leader of the Martyrs, is imprisoned here. He is not the only familiar face from our past.”

“Man, would any of them really want to work with us?” asked Cameron.

“We should be asking if we want to work with them!” said Persimmon, bemused.

“Perhaps, but there are some in here who have a certain star power that are aligned with them. Gate Fredericks is a prime example,” said Crock.

“That overpowered guy from the news? I thought they made him up,” said Joneas. “Manipulating the laws of physics? That’s insane.”

“The parasites weren’t created by people thinking about the consequences,” said Crock.

“Who were they created by?” asked Roman.

Crock paused a bit before giving an answer. “I don’t know.”

Though no-one in the crew was satisfied with that answer or believed it, they did not question any further.

“Listen, if we want to become a force of nature within this prison, we have to work with the one with power over them. We will also have to confront the people from our past-”

Crock was interrupted by James, who noticed something in how the former talked about the people from our past. “Crock, is there anyone from your past here in the prison?”

Chapter continued to meditate, to Munge’s slight irritation, as it meant in that particular moment she was functionally alone. My life has been a series of wild and irrational choices, she thought. And maybe, if I’d trusted someone else just a little bit more, I wouldn’t have to be so alone. I’m so sorry, Crock.

Unbeknownst to Munge, thinking so closely to a person in contact with Gaia allowed said being to hear those thoughts and reach out.

Do not fear nor worry, my child, said a soothing voice. You are on your destined path, and you will soon be reunited with Crock and even be forgiven by him. Munge was a little freaked out by this unfamiliar voice in her head, but after looking at Chapter, she figured that Gaia was talking to her.

Yes, I am the one called Gaia, child. You have struggled with much in your life. Your identity, your place in the world, the answers to all of your burning questions. But, if I am sure of anything regarding you, it is that your struggles will soon be a thing of the past.

Munge felt somewhat reassured, but held a certain level of skepticism. Could everything really be so simple? Was her best opportunity really right around the corner? What possible sequence of events could change her life so dramatically, and for the better? All of these questions raced through her mind, and though she somewhat expected Gaia to answer them, it seemed she had left as quickly as she had entered.

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Zephyr’s position as warden, much like Jupiter’s position as chief of police, was one that had been held for many years. Anyone serving under them might question how they are able to stay in one position, or how they don’t age, but the laws against questioning ultimately helped them maintain their jobs. Zephyr first joined three-hundred and ten years ago.

It was the seventh of April, and Zephyr was a crew member of the Nemo Pirates. Back then, it was a different Nemo and a different crew. He was sitting in his room, when his interstellar communicator began to buzz.

“Hello, is this Zephyr I am speaking to?” asked a voice.

“Hm, Jupiter. How did you get this number?” asked Zephyr, who recognised the voice.

“Relax, I’m not going to compromise you. Us androids all have a common goal, in case you forgot.”

“Oh really? And I suppose you’re calling because you have news for me regarding the fate of the universe or something?”

“Indigo wants to talk to you.”

“So she had you call me?”

“You know how it works with her… everything has to be a certain way.”

“Fine, well I’ll set something up.”

Zephyr had to go talk to his captain about the call.

“I suspected you were different,” said the Captain Nemo of the time. “The androids have a specific path. No matter what you have to do, take comfort in the fact that you are following the path you were destined to.”

“So, what next?”

“Well, whatever happens, I doubt you can return here.”

With a slight air of awkwardness hanging there, they parted ways and Zephyr never looked back. Three hours later, Zephyr met with Indigo for the first time in thousands of years.

“Welcome, Zephyr. In about twenty minutes, the current Warden of Snyke’s Penitentiary will die of a heart attack. The Global Government will need a swift and more practical replacement. Who better than an android who can live forever and also serve as another eye on the inside.”

“Ah, so it wasn’t enough to make Jupiter the International Chief of Police, you also need someone to guard one of the most high-profile prisons in the world.”

“Yes, the time will come when a breakout happens. You need to be there to optimise its chance of success.”

“You want me to be the Warden so I can assist in a breakout?”

“Not exactly, we might need to talk about this some more.”

They discussed the plan further, and after understanding what was expected of him, Zephyr was one-hundred percent on board with this new mission. He was eager to serve a greater purpose, and to play a part in this world’s history.

Now the time had come for him to fulfil his promises from back then. Three-hundred years was not a long time for an android, but still just enough to start getting used to the position. When he received his orders, he had been nervous and uncertain, because he had not expected them. After thinking about it, he was now more open than ever to the possibilities.

His position as Warden afforded him a lot of privacy. People were not allowed to ask why he had been in his position for over three-hundred years. They were not allowed to ask why he never ages. These and other factors were conveniently left discrete, allowing him the ability to work behind the Global Government’s back, and act as Indigo’s eyes and ears within one of the most secure prisons in the world.

All of this was about to change. He would sacrifice his position on the inside in order to guarantee an historic event would take place. He was looking forward to it.

On the night of October third, the Warden would have one final sleep before the breakout kicked into high gear.

Though an organic android does not require sleep, I still do it to avoid suspicion. Also, I am quite fond of these things called dreams. Sometimes Zephyr had to reassure himself of the reasons he did things. This was because he was the last of the androids to be created. It was many years ago, two higher ups in The Order were arguing with Indigo about the number of androids.

“You want us to create a twenty-sixth? What’s wrong with twenty-five?” said one of The Order.

“I’ve always said, twenty-six. When you created me, you thought you could stop at ten. I told you, there must be twenty-six if the universe is to be saved.”

“The thing is Indigo, we don’t have proof of any of your claims. How can you really see the future?” said the other.

“You gave me that ability, but not the ability to show others. I hope you’re not suggesting that you failed to give me any abilities, because that would be false.”

“How could we even verify your power?”

“The Concept parasite can look inside minds, use it.”

“But we don’t know what happened to the parasites, they’ve all been scattered across the universe.”

“Yes, a disaster on your part. But it is the natural course of the universe, there is no avoiding it.”

The higher-ups wondered why she would bring it up. She said that though they could not verify, they needed to know that it was possible. They argued back and forth about whether or not Indigo had any powers, but this conversation was the same at each juncture.

They wanted to stop at ten, at fifteen, at twenty, at twenty-five. They did not understand the significance of the number. They did not comprehend the overwhelming task they had set for themselves. They created a force of nature, one that would work tirelessly to save the universe, something of which they did not understand the size or age.

They created Zephyr at Indigo’s request, and once they were done, were glad they did not have to create any more. The problem was that their hearts were not in it. Zephyr had less memory than the rest of his line as a result. Everything else turned out fine, and he had the power to command the winds, a deadly power that could shift the balance of entire worlds.

Like most of the androids, he never seemed particularly thrilled about holding the power. He travelled around trying to find a place in the universe where he could fulfil his directive, and like several androids, would eventually find Earth. On this planet, Indigo was slowly crafting a plan to dominate it and use it to save the universe.

Whenever another android would be contacted by Indigo, they were suspicious, as she had been branded a traitor at some point in the past. The struggle to unite the androids, who had all grown distant, was a great one, but the clairvoyant felt safe in her visions of the future. Indigo had so far convinced at least six androids to join her.

Zephyr had trouble remembering why he did things, but he was also not one to forget about the small things. He knew every prisoner, every cell of Snyke’s Penitentiary, making him the most efficient Warden in the building’s history. It had not been easy to build up trust either.

Zephyr’s first day as Warden went very poorly - entirely because no-one trusted him with the authority his title would warrant. It was tough for the first fifty years, but when the old guard retired, and it was up to Zephyr to hire new recruits, his chance to grow into the role was offered.

Throughout the years, he had overseen several teams of Vanguards, guards, and other personnel. He had seen many of the world’s worst from the past three-hundred years spend their final days in prison. A life sentence is exactly what it sounds like, after all. His mindset needed time to readjust to the goals he had once set. This sleep was his opportunity to do exactly that.

The morning of the fourth of October, the rioters had all fallen asleep on the cafeteria floor. The Detective Pirates had all met up to talk at the untouched table.

“Is no-one going to take them back to their cells? Where are the guards?” asked Cameron.

“It’s not something we need to worry about right now,” said James. “Okay, Crock, tell us everything you know about this prison. You know, that you haven’t already told us.”

“Right. Yesterday, I told you about the prisoners that we can team up with. Well, now I have information regarding the prison layout and its top brass - the Vanguards and Warden.”

Crock told them about Festival, Wicket, Jumper, Arrows, Morose, Wildfire, Tambourine, and Zephyr.

“Why does the name Festival sound familiar?” asked James.

“The Festival Brothers - the basketball players we met in Limbo,” said Patricia.

“Limbo, that’s right, during my battle with Martin!” said James. “I relived a moment from my past, I can’t remember all the details, though.”

“I think I might be able to fill in some blanks for you,” said Crock. “You said your middle name was Ontario, correct?”

James confirmed it and Crock continued.

“Well, I once knew a man named Ontario Festival. He played a great game of basketball. I can’t say for sure what your connection to him is, but I believe that same man is now one of the Vanguards in this prison.”

“Wait a minute,” said Karnilla. “Wildfire… that’s Bobby’s last name. Patricia, do you think-?”

“It’s most likely a relative, or at best a clone. The government has yet to bring anyone back from the dead,” said Crock.

“To your knowledge, anyway,” said Brandon.

Zephyr came to Salvador, who was still tied up in his office.

“Are you ready Salvador?”

He waited for the captive prisoner to give his confirmation, and then released him. Salvador ran out of the office without a word. Zephyr smiled, knowing what was about to come. He had set up a switch to turn off all the power dampeners in the facility. He flipped it, and watched the monitors as points of interest turned from green to red.

Salvador was running through the hallway, when he was stopped by Vanguard Arrows.

“I don’t have time to deal with you!” said Salvador, dodging the Vanguard’s projectile attacks.

Salvador opened up a blue portal in the wall. As he pushed his temporary opponent into it, he said “Virtual Hell!”

The portal closed after the Vanguard fell into it, and Salvador smirked. I’ve been waiting to use that move for some time, he thought. There’ll be plenty more where that came from, too.

Vanguard Arrows landed in a red room.

“Where am I?” she asked.

A vision of herself dressed as a devil appeared in front of her.

“Wherever you don’t want to be, courtesy of your own mind,” said the apparition.

This knowledge frightened Arrows, and she screamed. As she did so, the room appeared to set fire.

The Detective Pirates watched as the rioters woke up and continued their riots. Only now, something unbelievable was happening. Some of the rioters could now use their powers. Several weaker rioters were defeated by one that could shoot lightning out of his palms.

“Yeah, that’s right, I told you didn’t I?” the man shouted. “This ain’t no parasite neither. Bionic implants.”

“Who is that guy?” asked a random rioter.

“The name’s Discharge, and don’t forget it!”

As the riots continued, a number of new faces entered the cafeteria. Holden Glasgow, Gate Fredericks, Munge, Glenn, Laura Frankenstein, Sir January, the Second Chance Group, and Vanguard Festival.

“Alright, so who are we taking with us?” asked Festival.

“Hm, that Discharge fellow is rambunctious,” said Gate.

“What about the pirate crew over there in the corner?” asked Laura. “Heard the captain’s worth five-hundred million.”

“Decent,” said Holden. He looked at where Laura pointed and did a double-take. “Wait a minute, that’s James Baron!”

“Ooh, those Rebel-lovers are the reason my friends and I are even in here,” said Jasmine Eves.

“Now, now, they’re a capable group, they could be very useful to us,” said Oscar Oldscars.

Munge noticed a familiar face in the Detective Pirates.

“Crock Turnbull?” she questioned.

“It would seem that crew has a living legend in their midst, though maybe past his prime,” said Gate.

“We have until Salvador gets here to make up our mind,” said Festival. “So if I were you, I’d choose wisely.”

The rioters continued fighting, but with access to their full powers, some rose above the rest. Discharge was just one of these others. After five minutes, there were only seven people still standing.

The first was “Dishonourable” Discharge, real name Matthias Sampson. A man with bionic implants in his palms that could shoot electronic discharges, almost like miniature lightning.

The second was Arson Redding, a strong man who seemed immune to most conventional attacks.

The third was an assassin known only as the White Walrus.

The fourth was Winona Savvy, an Honourable Gentlelady.

The fifth was Dakota Takeda, a member of the Shifty Pirates.

The sixth was Alexander Timothy, an accordion player.

The seventh was a mysterious entity going by the name of Sanctimony. It was unclear whether or not he was an android.

“Okay, I’m just gonna say it because we’re all thinking it,” said Discharge. “How does the accordion player survive?”

“I’m crafty,” answered Timothy.

With the room fairly clear of people, Crock and Munge got a clearer view of one another. Crock became visibly angry.

“Nut-brain?” he asked.

“Sh-shut up, Geezer!” she replied.

Munge turned into sound and sped toward Crock. The latter assumed a defensive stance and smiled.

“Forty-eight strength: Elephants at the Crack of Dawn!”

He outstretched his hands and grabbed hold of Munge’s sound waves, distorting them.

“Aagh!” cried Munge.

“I still got it…” said Crock, who threw Munge over his shoulder and across the prison like a discus.

“I’ll work with anyone in this prison, except for you!”

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There was a palpable tension in the air as Munge and Crock entered a staring contest.

“Surprised they let you keep that tin helmet you call a mask!” said Crock.

“It’s brass, and though they did confiscate it, I stole it back!”

“Oh, so you only steal what belongs to you, now? Made any treacherous deals lately?”

“Oh please, ever since you and Edwin went behind my back to fake your death, I’ve been a fugitive from the law.”

“So your deal didn’t work out so well, did it?”

Their fight was interrupted by Sanctimony. “Two young souls, blind to the big picture. If you insist on fighting, I shall take you to Gaia.”

Sanctimony rose up and began to meditate, suspended in the air. Two thin, ethereal lines extended from either side of his forehead and attached themselves to Munge and Crock. This forced them into a state of suspended animation.

The two friends-turned-enemies awoke in a void of shifting colours. A disembodied voice spoke and the colours seemed to shine and complement the voice.

“Munge, Crock Turnbull… two people who have forged their own paths at the expense of others,” said the voice.

“What? I always had my team’s back,” said Crock.

“Except for when you didn’t. Munge remembered it, and held a grudge. Not only that, you faked your death, leaving your team to fend for themselves.”

“What was I supposed to do? Back then, I was stuck with a difficult choice. I made the right one in the end, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but you hurt her in the process.”

Munge stood silently, happy that the voice had decided to call Crock out for everything he had done. The voice soon picked up on this, however, and changed focus.

“You think you’re better than him, Munge?”

“I’ve never stopped looking for my sister, so I don’t know who you could…”

“Did it never occur to you to seek out your nephew? You have more knowledge of his mother’s whereabouts than he does, and yet you thought it best to go it alone.”

“But, if I went looking for him, I might never find…”

“That’s not even the half of it, Munge. You’ve struggled with what’s right several times. You’ve changed your identity twice now. You have more in common with Chapter than you think.”

“A name carries with it too many painful memories, alright? And besides, I’m not Samuel, I’m not Samantha, I’m me.”

“I didn’t say it was wrong to carve your own identity, but you did more than that. You left behind an entire life each time. The only reason you still have a sister is because she refused to give up on you. Something which cost her the rank of Admiral.”

“Wait, what?”

“When she asked for the whereabouts of Ontario Festival, it was in part because Ontario could lead her to you. It was also in the interests of Ontario’s children, though life had been kinder to them than one would expect.”

“Why are you reprimanding us, anyway? We can’t change the past,” said Crock.

“No, you can’t. So I’m not reprimanding you. I’m spelling out what the two of you have been afraid to spell out. The betrayal, the fear, the resentment, every bad memory the two of you have is but a mere moment in a vast sea of moments. You two let your mistakes and your bitterness prevent you from seeing life’s beauty and its possibilities.”

“What exactly are you trying to tell us?” asked Munge.

“I would have thought it was obvious, child. As obvious as that I am Gaia, primordial guardian of life, you two love each other.”

“Look, maybe at one time, but she left without a word, and then she didn’t talk about how my decision hurt her, and then she made a decision to hurt me, and…”

“Crock, can you shut up for once and kiss me?”

No sooner than Munge had said this, the two of them were pulled back into reality. Gaia sighed.

“They were making such progress. Oh well, I’m sure they’ll figure it out.”

Munge came up to Sanctimony, visibly angry. “Why the hell did you pull us out?”

“Salvador is here, so we have to get moving,” said Jasmine.

“Alright, we’ve decided that everyone still standing can come with us,” said Holden.

“Sounds good to me,” said Salvador, noticing the Detective Pirates among the new members of the breakout crew.

“So what happened while Crock and Munge were in some other dimension?” asked Patricia.

“Nothing happened! Why would you think anything happened? Agh!” shouted Munge. “Well whatever, let’s go!”

“What’s up with her?” asked James.

“Trust me, kiddo, you’re not ready to know that just yet,” said Crock. “But I suppose I can tell you that she’s your aunt.”

The ragtag group went down a hallway, following Salvador’s direction. As they ran, Sanctimony explained that he was not an android, as some would assume, but rather a Conduit, a rare kind of magician entrusted with eternal life and the ability to connect people to Gaia.

“So, Munge…” said Crock. “Did you want to talk about it?”

“Not now, Crock,” said Munge.

“So you do want to talk about it?”

“Maybe, I just need… time.”

“What, like three days?”

Munge chuckled and playfully said, “Shut up Geezer.” She continued, “Let’s just focus on getting out of here.”

“Alright, nut-brain,” said Crock affectionately. “Hey, last one out is a rotten egg,” he said running ahead of her.

“Oh, you over-grown child!” said Munge, as she ran ahead of him, beginning the two of them trying to outrun one another.

“Is it just me, or do they fight like an old married couple?” asked Karnilla.

“It’s not just you,” said everyone apart from Munge and Crock.

As the breakout crew ran through the hallways of the prison, Vanguard Arrows remained trapped in Salvador’s virtual hell. The room had turned black and the only light was coming from the raging flames all around her. She heard whispers of things that made her feel unsafe and alone, coming from all directions. Some of the voices grew louder as she tried to block them out. Then a sharp pain shot through her chest and she looked down. A spear had impaled her, and as she opened her mouth in shock, blood poured out of it.

“Vanguard? You are no Vanguard,” said an alternate version of Arrows as she manifested in front of her. “We are Josephine Arrows, and everything we experience here, is only happening to us because of our failure to recognise that.”

Josephine wanted to speak, but could not.

“You want to regain control of your own life? First you’ve got to realise a trap like this one is not designed to hurt you. It’s designed to wake you up.”

Josephine had a hard time believing what her other self was saying. Realising that she would need convincing, the latter touched the spear that impaled the former, and it dissolved into ones and zeroes.

“There’s a reason it’s called Virtual Reality. Now, are you ready to take back your mind?”

The breakout crew stopped as Salvador did, in front of a dead end.

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” asked Holden.

“This is a camera blindspot, a perfect place to begin,” said Salvador. Ones and zeroes began pouring out of his hands.

“Cyber Virus!” he said, as the ones and zeroes flew out, seeking every camera they came across. The streams of numbers would enter the cameras and short them out. Once they were done, they became twice as powerful, and could spread to other cameras.

Zephyr watched from the monitoring room as camera screens stopped showing footage, one by one. Remember your role, he thought. You need to play the part of Warden, despite your assistance in the escape.

“The cameras are going offline!” said Zephyr. “Someone check what could be causing this!”

Now that Salvador had sent out the virus to disable the cameras, his next order of business was convincing his allies to listen to him. They had concerns about staying in this cramped space for too long.

“Virtual Reality!” said Salvador. A blue grid extended over the area surrounding them. “Create object door,” he said, and a giant door appeared hovering over their heads. He moved his hands as if he were placing the door on the wall. “Open door,” he said, and the door opened, allowing them to reach a part of the prison they otherwise would not have been able to.

“Very impressive,” said Oscar Oldscars.

“Tch, showoff,” said Discharge.

“Just wait ’til you get a load of me,” said Alexander Timothy.

“I’ve gotten us this far, but our escape will be a difficult journey that will require all of us to contribute,” said Salvador.

“You keep on telling that to the people who need to hear it,” said Gate. “But let’s face it, you and I are probably the only real powerhouses here.”

“Glad you acknowledge my ability,” said Salvador.

“I had my doubts, but you just proved yourself,” said Gate. “Now everyone stand back, because it’s my turn to lead us.”

“I didn’t realise we were taking turns,” said Jasmine.

“Ha, you’re kind of funny when you’re not an asshole,” said Karnilla. “Say, I haven’t seen my sister around…”

“She’s not with us, so can you just drop it?” said Eric Eager.

“Is she dead?” asked Patricia.

“No, I think she stayed on Barronym,” said Garrett Eves.

“If you’ve got time to talk, you’ve got time to walk,” said Gate. “By which I mean, shut up and follow me.”

“So what is that guy’s problem?” asked Laura Frankenstein.

“He’s got one of the most over powered parasites there is and yet has a bounty lower than a hundred million onits,” said Holden. “My theory is that the government doesn’t want such a pirate to be so high profile, but it’s already kind of failing.”

“Yeah, if he’s showing up in the papers alongside the likes of Redbeard and others, he must be the real deal,” said Winona.

“Gate may think he’s hot shit, but he’s got nothing on Gabrielle Mason,” said Dakota.

“Oh please, the Shifty Pirates are hardly the biggest name out there right now,” said Winona.

Salvador asked everyone to please stay focused on the task at hand. The group ran through corridor after corridor, noting that there was a surprising complexity to the structure and that it was fairly convenient that Salvador and Gate knew how to navigate it. Gate, who was flying through the corridors just in front of the group, stopped suddenly and to the surprise of everyone.

“Alright, this wall,” he said. “Just watch.”

Gate stretched out his arms and turned them clockwise in a circular motion. As he did so, a hole formed and grew in the wall, until they now had a new path to another corridor.

“I didn’t know there was a corridor adjacent to this one,” said Salvador. “Good job, Gate.”

“There wasn’t, I’m defying physics to help us escape faster.”

“Wait, what? Isn’t that kind of irresponsible?” asked Laura.

“Kind of ironic for a Frankenstein to talk about responsibility,” said Salvador. “I for one approve of Gate’s methods.”

“Results are results, can we just keep moving before…” said James before being interrupted by a noise coming from behind them.

The group turned around to see a blue hole in the ceiling had opened up. A woman dressed in a purple suit and mask fell from the portal, landing on her feet.

“Back for more, are we?” asked Salvador.

“I am Josephine Arrows, and I am here to help.”

In his cell, Chapter had just begun another meditation session and was eager to resolve the last of his issues.

“Gaia, it serves no-one to leave my physical body in a prison cell for almost three more months. I have a plan, and I need the power to do it.”

“You have the power, Chapter, you always have, ever since you were first forced to meet me by that person.”

“I understand. What do I need to do to make this work?”

“Search deep within yourself and you will find the strength needed. It will work, trust that it will.”

In Gaia’s realm, Chapter assumed the same meditative stance that he had in the real world, and he concentrated. He put all of his willpower, focus, and determination into the centre of his body, allowing it to pull him closer to his destination.

His mind and body strained against it terribly, but he endured the agony. He continued to concentrate on the feeling of being, of existing on Gaia’s plain. He was going to do this, it was going to work.

The strain continued, but more and more the lines between reality and the higher dimensions blurred, and he began to feel his willpower becoming real.

After several minutes went by, his goal was realised in an instant. He no longer held a physical form in the real world. He was now both mentally and physically within Gaia’s space.

He opened his eyes and stood up. “I did it,” he said, before he saw something that nearly blinded him: the true appearance of Gaia’s realm. “Wow, there is no imagination that could capture such colours or shapes.”

“Yes, newcomers tend to say that often,” said Gaia. “Welcome Chapter, to the Realm of Origin.”

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Josephine Arrows had declared her intentions to help, leaving the breakout crew in disbelief.

“Incredible,” said Vanguard Festival. “She has retained her full memories. Whatever process allowed her to do this, I want to go next.”

“Are you sure? It won’t be pretty,” said Salvador.

“Do it. In fact, if you see any of the other Vanguards, it would work to our advantage to free them in a similar manner.”

“So wait, what happened to you? Why are you helping us?” asked James.

“I’d rather not get into it. But I was told that if an opportunity to regain my identity arose, I should take it.”

“I for one don’t have any problems with it,” said Gate. “We need every capable fighter we can get. We also need every ally on the same page. Salvador, do your thing.”

Salvador widened his stance, standing with his legs to either side and his back straight. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He thought the same phrase over and over, techno-mapping. Small lines of ones and zeroes dashed out from his feet and travelled through the prison. In his mind, a picture of its layout began to form, revealing everything to him.

“What is he doing?” asked Holden.

When Salvador had finished, he explained that through the detection of electrical impulses and other phenomena, he could obtain a mental image of everything as far as he could comprehend.

“After all,” he continued, “my brain may work like a computer now, but I’m no super computer. There are still limits to the distances my mind can comprehend.”

“Is it possible to enhance your powers with traditional strength enhancing techniques?” asked Jasmine.

“Apt question, but parasite powers seem to be exempt from enhancement across the board. They stay at the same level of potential, awaiting the user to live up to them.”

The group was about to get into a long-form discussion about powers and whether or not the universe was fair and balanced, but Gate reminded them of their current goal. With that reminder, Salvador trapped Festival in a virtual hell, and also apologised in advance.

“With any luck, we’ll have another of the Vanguards freed of mental control,” said Josephine.

“Right, and who exactly are you?” asked Laura Frankenstein.

“That’s rude, I don’t go prying into your life,” said Josephine.

“The Gentlelady has a point,” said Munge. “How can we trust someone who was trying to keep us locked up?”

“Don’t you get it, Munge?” asked Crock. “All of the Vanguards are effectively brainwashed. Why you of all people have trust issues all of a sudden…”

“Whoa, now you’re making this about me? How many times do I have to apologise?”

“You could try once, because I don’t recall you ever…”

“Oh shut up, Geezer! I’ve thought about it, so many times, and I didn’t think I’d ever see you again… I just preferred to think that you hated me than to say anything.”

“Guys, figure out your little squabbles later, we have a prison to break out of,” said Gate, getting a little frustrated that their progress seemed to be continually impeded by conversation.

“Look, there’s no rush Gate,” said Salvador. “Let’s just set up a chat room.”

“What?” asked Garrett, who was holding back laughter.

Rather than dignify Garrett’s outburst, Salvador went to work. “Virtual Reality: Chat Room!” a blue room surrounded the crew and appeared to be totally separate from the prison itself.

“Alright, we have an hour, mostly because I’d grow bored and lose concentration by that point,” said Salvador. “I think those two need to have an important conversation, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.”

With the interruptions over and the permission to continue given, Crock and Munge continued their talk. As the breakout crew had done all of this, Chapter had asked all of his questions to Gaia about his next step.

“You have asked me many questions, most of which I feel you already know the answers. Why are you so inquisitive at this crucial juncture, Chapter? Do you have doubts about the destiny you have chosen for yourself?”

“No, I just needed confirmation. It would disturb me greatly if we were not on the same page.”

“I have been harsh on you, but that was because I did not approve of your methods. Now that you are taking the time to be the person you want to be, and not scheming to create division between people…”

“I get it. I could have been more open and honest with people. In fact it was my lack of redeeming qualities that impeded my ability to contact you. How does that saying go? Prison is good for the soul… I think that I have really changed for the better.”

“You are stalling, Chapter. We could have started your Conduit training at any time, yet you insist on talking evermore. Is there something wrong?”

“I like to talk. That is not wrong, is it?”

Gaia laughed at Chapter’s answer, and said “The longer you spend completely in my realm, the harder it will be to return to yours. Time is of the essence, you must become at least a level one Conduit if you want to return to the real world.”

“You’ve seen right through me, Gaia. The indescribable beauty of your realm has left me feeling inadequate, like nothing of my reality matters.”

“Of course your reality matters, Chapter. The beauty you see all around you is only possible because of every being that follows their destiny. If you turn your back on your own, the beauty will become invisible to you.”

Crock admitted to Munge that he did not hate her, but thought she had skewed priorities. The latter tried to defend herself, arguing that the safety of herself and her family were not ‘skewed priorities’. The former counter argued that she had a new family that she endangered for the safety of her first, which she had seemed so determined to get away from.

“I’m telling you now Crock, I don’t know what I want, and I’m sorry for all the crap I put you through.”

“That’s all I needed to hear, nutmeg.”

“Don’t go getting all soft on me now.”

“I won’t. Not until I know what became of everyone else.”

“Fair enough, sea rock.”

“Are we going to get the story on those names?” asked Patricia, who had been passively listening up until then.

“Nope,” said Crock and Munge at the same time, causing the two to look at each other and blush.

As Munge and Crock had their trial to work on, Chapter began his; so too did Vanguard Festival. His virtual hell consisted of a green and purple room with hands extending from the walls. Some waved at him, others were outstretched to greet him. Whenever he would try to shake one of the hands, he would either go right through it, or the hand would be retracted. After several attempts to shake a hand, some of the hands reached out and went straight through his body. Other hands would grab onto him, partially preventing him from moving. He soon found himself restrained, pinned down on his knees, with many hands passing right through him. Some waved, some wiggled their fingers, others still crossing them or making gestures. As he screamed out in confusion and agony, a familiar face manifested in front of him.

“Lachlan, why are you here?”

“You know why I’m here, Ontario.”

The Vanguard did not recognise the name and so blankly stared at Lachlan.

“Oh come on, you recall my name but not your own? Ontario, it may not seem like it, but I’m on your side.”

“You did this to me, how could you be on my side?”

“I did my job. You strayed from yours. Now the government finds a use for you as a Vanguard. You can’t want this for yourself. Pull yourself together!”

“What’s with the hands?”

“All the helping hands you rejected on your way to the top, Ontario. You never accepted anyone’s help, apart from hers.”

Another familiar face manifested opposite Lachlan.

“Fralise? Is that you?”

“You know the answer to that one, On-tie. You worked way too much, I always told you it would catch up with you.”

Ontario Festival continued to talk with the figments of his past. The first was Lachlan Baron, a colleague who had turned him in to the authorities after he had asked questions he was not authorised to ask. The second was his wife Fralise, who had died when their sons were young. Deep down, he knew that both of them meant something to him that he could not describe. He felt a great deal of sorrow for his wife, who he knew to be dead, but also the same feelings for Lachlan. This was not because the latter was dead, but because he was trapped. Ontario saw his colleague as someone acting loyally from a force of habit, ensuring his own safety by actively doing his duty. He wondered if there was any hope for his friend.

“What? This is supposed to be about you!” said Lachlan.

“I have no self-pity, no sorrow over my life, no lost sleep over my fate. But you, I see someone who has yet to break free of his own self-made trap. Someone who actively refuses to admit the truth to himself. If there’s one thing I can be surely glad of, it’s that I’m not so broken as you.”

Evidently, this confrontation is what Ontario’s mind needed to be in control of itself once more. The hands dissipated and with a mere thought, a hole ripped open in the virtual space, allowing him to escape.

At the same time as Ontario freed himself, Salvador closed the crew’s chat room, and the group decided to continue on.

“I think I learned more about these two old-timers than I ever would have cared to,” said Discharge. “It sickens me.”

“Let’s just get a move on,” said Holden. “Where is Festival?”

Immediately after Holden had asked this, a portal opened in the wall and Ontario emerged from it.

“Well that was awful, but I’m in control of myself once more.”

Everyone congratulated him, and while Josephine wanted to compare notes about their experiences, Gate once again reminded his allies that they were trying to break out.

Zephyr received a call from Lachlan Baron.

“I don’t think you’re being entirely honest with me, Zephyr.”

“How dare you question me, you know where my loyalties lie!”

“Yes, actually, I think I do. And if she tells you that a breakout is the next big thing, you’d do everything to stop us from intervening.”

“On the contrary, I would only stop you if it were in my interest. If you want to send backup, then do as you must.”

“What is your angle?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Whatever shall be, shall be. She can see the future, and if you were a factor she needed to control I would know.”

“You love this don’t you? Making everyone in the government second guess themselves?”

“My my, why of course. I’ve waited centuries for this kind of an opportunity. Your government are the losing horse, Lachlan. If you can’t see it, I’m not going to make you. Half of your upper echelon is already on board, not that it will matter.”

“Damn it, don’t fuck with me, Zephyr! What do you know?”

“This breakout is a milestone in history, one you can try to stop, but you will fail. I look forward to working with you, one last time. After all, we both know I’m not going to keep my job after this, and I won’t need to. My next assignment has already been decided.”

Lachlan hung up the call and sat on his captain’s chair on his ship. He stood up in frustration.

“Fuck! I hate these Indigo International weirdos! Living forever, seeing the future, what the fuck is anyone supposed to do against that? All my days contributed to my cause, all the time I spend…”

It only took a brief pause, but Lachlan was calm once more.

“I am an Admiral, I serve the World,” he began to repeat to himself. He walked into a chamber in the corner of his office.

“Containment chamber active. Commencing calmer protocols. Playing relaxing music,” said a computer voice.

Everyone aboard Lachlan’s ship knew his deep secret, but dared not speak up about it. Lachlan Baron was a man conflicted by his very profession. Someone who wanted to seek justice, but was trapped by the modern system, and had to reprogram his mind just to stay sane and sleep at night. Every time he had stood up for ideals he himself could not be sure he believed in had haunted him. Ontario, Munge, James, Alessandra, and an extensive list of other people, some close and some not. A part of him felt that he was in the wrong, but his fears of confronting the Global Government prompted him to shut that part of him down at every turn.

He emerged from the containment chamber, happy enough to whistle a tune. He stepped outside his office and gave the command to head towards Snyke’s Penitentiary.

The ship helmsman said that they would not reach the prison for another week, but that they were lucky to already be in the Atlas Sea.

“It could all be over in a week… I underestimated Zephyr.”

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I ended up taking a break from writing, hopefully my productivity can improve from this point onward.

Before they made it much further, Salvador recalled his earlier intention to trap all of the Vanguards in their own Virtual Hells. He wondered to himself if five at once would strain his capacity but decided that the risk was worth the reward. Having already discovered the locations of each of them, he concentrated, putting his energy into creating portals that would suck each of them into their new accomodations.

Vanguard Wicket awoke restrained to a hospital bed dangling from a wire. Below him, a dark void from which animalistic screams echoed out.

“Sam the Scholar has forgotten himself…” rang a voice.

Vanguard Jumper struggled to stand as he found himself dizzy and near-sighted. He had entered a bizarre place: a perfect sphere surrounded him, comprised of animal faces. Thousands of unique species, their faces forming an unlikely pattern that left him awestruck. A physician emerged from a lion’s mouth somewhere to the left of him.

“It’s time for your physical examination, Warren,” said the physician, as if he were talking to a child.

Vanguard Morose wandered through a fog, stumbling onto a tombstone. The name read ‘Azibar Morose’. A pale figure drifted into view in front of her. By all accounts, this seemed to be the ghost of this dead man.

“The dead live their best lives, my child,” said the apparition.

Vanguard Wildfire awoke in a bed in a familiar town. A man who looked identical to him frowned in disapproval.

“You’re a pale imitation,” said the man. “I wouldn’t even know what to call you. So here’s how this is going to work…”

Vanguard Tambourine was having tea in a palace. It seemed she was accompanied by many dignitaries and noblemen.

“Oh my, did you hear about her latest fashion faux pas?” said one of her guests to another.

“Oh, I did Richmond, clearly her head is not fastened upon her body like the rest of us,” said a female guest before snorting with laughter. “Perhaps our kingdom needs someone who knows how to look the part.”

Zephyr smiled as he now understood that the breakout was moving into its second phase.

“I need to make things more interesting,” he said cryptically to no-one in particular, eagerly anticipating his next move.

The breakout crew continued to weave their way through the prison, now having a much better idea of where to go thanks to Salvador’s techno-map. Their destination was the only way in or out of the prison: the entrance. The prison was designed so that it was a long, twisting complicated journey from the cells to the entrance. They made it through this labyrinth, in part thanks to Gate bending reality. They reached the entrance, unsurprised to find it guarded by the majority of remaining staff, which still numbered in the hundreds.

“Pfft, as if these guards could stop us now,” said Gate.

“Wait, let me take care of ‘em!” said Alexander Timothy.

Gate was about to object, but Patricia said to give the guy a chance, after all, he was one of the few to survive the super-riots and so must be a capable fighter.

Alexander thanked Patricia for her defence and wandered out to face the guards. He began to play the accordion.

“Oh, the sunrise o’er the ocean blue…” he sang. A guard rushed at him ahead of the others, unsure of what to do about the accordion player. As he finished the lyric, the guard had come up just in front of him and he flung his leg upward. He kicked the guard in the chin, and caught his head as he began to do a backflip, bringing the guard over his body and forcing him into the ground face-first.

“It makes me want to dance…” he continued. Two guards, angered and confused by what they just saw charged at him, one coming from the left, the other from the right. They reached him and he jumped up with his legs apart, kneeing both in the gut. He was yet to lose a beat.

“Until my skin is a purple hue…” he continued. Now the guards came at him with more frequency, hoping to overwhelm him. He continued to beat them down with fancy footwork, all the while continuing his sea shanty.

“For that’s a true romance.”

They were surrounding him, doing their best to overpower him, but he would dodge swiftly and retaliate before they could even process what was going on. He had taken out about fifty guards by the time he had started the second verse.

“The sea, she is my only friend,
to this I can attest,
and if I were to die with her,
that would be oh the best.”

Over one hundred guards had fallen, and the count continued as he played his accordion solo with a feverish passion.

“The dude is a madman,” sad Cameron.

Alexander’s sea shanty continued as such:

“Oh, I’d happily die at sea
There are no other ways,
A thousand pardons, but for me
That’s how I’ll spend my days.

“A life so wild is well-lived
I’ll show ye how it’s done,
Now’s not the time to be pensive
We’re out here having fun.

“Oh, a penny to my name
Is treasure enough for me,
When nothing ever looks the same
Upon the open sea.

“The shanty comes to its last verse
I hope your spirits soared
‘Cause if not then a pirate’s curse
Shall be your soul’s reward.”

At the moment he finished, all of the guards had been taken out by his quick and unpredictable movements.

“What the fuck was that?” asked Discharge.

“Well, I quite liked it,” said Roman.

“It’s great fun to just let loose, don’t you think?” said the accordion player, who seemed to still have so much energy.

No-one was quite sure how to respond to Alexander, but all were in awe of his showcased ability.

Without any guards left to stop them, there was only the matter of getting through the front gate.

“I can’t let you escape that easily,” said a voice.

“That voice…” said Salvador.

A violent wind tore through the area, and if it were just a tad stronger, the group would surely have been blown away. A miniature tornado formed in front of them, and a figured emerged from it. It was Zephyr, smiling ominously.

“You have made it to the front door. This is as far as you go, at least for today.”

“What gives? I thought the point of all this was to escape.”

“Either you weren’t listening or you are missing the bigger picture. I need to stop you now, and what will happen next is something that you cannot know. I can’t go around explaining my actions to everyone that asks questions, these plans are beyond your meagre lives. Whatever comes to fruition, if you cannot understand that it was meant to be, then you are trapped by your narrow perspective.”

Zephyr caught himself, and instead of speaking further, charged at Salvador.

“Let’s see you defend yourself in battle!”

Salvador closed his eyes and concentrated as the android came at him like a gale force wind. He visualised what he wanted to create: a mech suit with all kinds of weapon systems installed. He outstretched his arms and widened his legs.

“Upgrade Package: Advanced Mechanical Fighting Apparatus. Activate Direct Defence.”

The suit spread over Salvador and as his opponent got close, its weapons fired, missiles, bullets, lasers, all unleashing upon Zephyr at once. None of these affected him however, as he kept moving and was able to attack the former quite effectively.

“You can’t shoot air,” he said as the attacks failed. “Windburn Slash!” He swung his hand up through Salvador’s stomach and pierced right through it.

“You have power, Salvador, but you don’t have the capability needed to use it.”

“Salvador isn’t the only one here, you know,” said Munge.

It was then that Zephyr smiled as he realised he would have to take them all down.

“Yes, you’re like a swarm of bees. But, I am the Warden of this place for a reason.”

The entire breakout crew charged Zephyr at once, apart from Salvador, who had been incapacitated by the attack.

Zephyr flew about the place, weaving in between each of the surrounding escapees. As he passed, he would cut them, incapacitating a great many of them, save for Crock, Munge, and Gate.

“It’ll take more than a big scratch to finish me off,” said Gate. “Let’s see what else you got.”

“Your ability to defy physics helps you out more than it should, Gate. I expected Crock and Munge to still have fight in them, but you are much more like Salvador than you realise,” said Zephyr as he formed in the air in front of the three of them.

“What makes you think I’m not trying to change that? I’m going to be the greatest threat to the government, whether they acknowledge it or not.”

“Your ambition is laudable, but you have no clairvoyance. No true idea of what lies in store for you.”

“I don’t need clairvoyance to know my future!” said Gate as he rushed at Zephyr, who was once again a speeding wind.

“You know, I feel we should be helping out,” said Munge.

“Let the kid learn his lesson,” said Crock. “Then we’ll see if this Zephyr means business. Together.”

“Well, I have missed doing things together with you.”

Gate tried to dish out whatever attacks he could, but all of his physics-based powers seemed to have no effect. Zephyr explained that the organic androids were immune to such tricks and that Gate would have to think outside of his box. Zephyr launched himself straight at his opponent’s chest, creating a cyclone over his head.

“Cyclone Drill!” he exclaimed as he drove himself into Gate.

Seeing that Gate was now down for the count, Munge and Crock sprang into action. Munge turned into sound and sped towards Zephyr. Their clash seemed otherworldly, like two spirits fighting each other. In the midst of this, Crock ran toward Zephyr and grabbed hold of him.

“Impressive technique, but if you don’t use it wisely, you’ll regret it,” said Zephyr.

Crock threw Zephyr over his shoulder, but was surprised to find that as soon he let go, his opponent drifted behind him. Zephyr put his fingers made of air down Crock’s throat for three seconds, causing him to pass out. Munge was angered by this and began to lash out, successfully piercing Zephyr’s face with a sharp sonic wave.

Their fight between sound and air continued, but Zephyr gained the upper hand when he used a Cyclone Drill to scramble Munge’s sound waves. While she was vulnerable, he used the same technique as he did on Crock to defeat her.

“Alright, and that should do it.”

Ontario Festival and Josephine Arrows emerged from the fallen fighters, and scowled at Zephyr.

“Don’t look so down, Phase Two is almost upon us. We shall get this lot incarcerated once more, and then wait in the safe room for the other five former Vanguards to join us.”

“You knew this would happen, didn’t you?” asked Ontario.

“I know it’s somewhat personal for you Ontario, but there are bigger things at play here. Once we have guaranteed the safety of the former top staff, you will be free to choose your path. Not before then.”

Ontario and Josephine did not like it, but they trusted that Zephyr was right. It was hard to argue with the future, after all.

As the Warden had planned it, this was the setback that the breakout needed. Something that might deter them, or make them stronger. It was up to those involved to prove their worth.

The five Vanguards had freed themselves of the Virtual Hells, but a new problem arose from Salvador’s incapacitation: they all found themselves in a space filled with memories and ideas they were unfamiliar with.

Samuel Wicket was rather unamused by the new predicament they had all found themselves in.

“This place is particular and off-putting,” he said.

“You know, you’re not at all like you were before,” said Andrea Morose. “What happened to the savage warrior with the steel cricket bat?”

“Well, you aren’t exactly the type to cause nausea in people, either. Perhaps not all of our Vanguard powers came from our true capability, but from some unresolved issues in our psyche. Either way, where do you suppose we are.”

“We’re in someone’s mind, as far as I can tell,” said Robert Wildfire. “Though I’m not sure whose.”

“That explains the flashing memories,” said Warren Jumper.

“Who is this Barracuda and why do I loathe him?” asked Bella Tambourine. “It seems rather odd.”

“Hm, I think his opinion has softened, I get the feeling they were enemies but then made up, somehow,” said Warren.

Though the five of them did not know it, they were stuck inside Salvador’s hard drive of a brain until he could wake again and release them.

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Chapter’s conduit training began in a dimension beyond time and space. There could be no guesses as to how long he had actually spent in there relative to the real world, or what time and place he would return to; though the possibility of having some choice in the matter still existed. Gaia had not trained a new conduit for some time.

The basic tenets of being a Conduit were as follows: one would have the ability to transfer others to Gaia’s dimension. They would also be able to fully enter it themselves. They could go anywhere in time and space and achieve things most magicians could only dream of. There was a trade off to all of this, however: they would only act according to Gaia, if she did not approve, they would not be allowed to do it. Going against her wishes would render their souls obsolete. In addition, they were not allowed to use their powers for personal gain. One other perk of being a Conduit was that, in some cases, it granted the user a vastly extended lifespan. This depended on the person and whether or not their purpose in life warranted the extension. The process to become a Conduit was typically a long, complicated, and arduous one, that very few could undertake, mostly because Gaia did not want people to needlessly die from failure.

“Alright, the first stage of Conduit Training is to align your mind with the rhythm of the universe,” said Gaia.

Chapter stood straight, relaxed, and closed his eyes. He began to see lights in every colour he could perceive, and was aware of colours beyond. Senses he thought were impossible crept into his psyche. The serene beauty of everything was overwhelming. He felt he did not deserve to live in such a beautiful world. He wondered what his purpose was.

“If you are feeling as if you an unworthy, the first stage has only just begun. You have a long way to go, Chapter, before you can even consider yourself linked to the big picture.”

Chapter heard Gaia’s voice, and took comfort in it. “I will surpass my human limitations, I know it.”

Before he could continue, he began to feel a horrible pain. It was as if he had connected to every death and life at the same time. He felt such intoxicating sorrows and joys, countless parents seeing their baby walk for the first time, countless soldiers dying in war. The great feelings of creation, and of destruction. He felt the intense heat of the stars, the intense cool of space. He heard the sounds of innumerable living beings, everything at once, all of space and time.

“Wow. How is this even possible?” he asked.

“I’m impressed that you turned it around so fast, but as to your question, you should know that such questions are not for a Conduit. You will transcend the realm of the possible, and enter the realm of the definite. All the answers of the universe, without the desire to learn.”

He felt his mind expanding as new knowledge flooded him. Now he realised that his meaning was fabricated - something he created for himself to feel better about his place in the universe. The vastness of space, and of time, left little concern for his ambitions. The true purpose of life is to sustain itself, to give the cosmos its own awareness, to strengthen and support all of its forms. A human is no more important than an ant, and those who survive on one planet do so for the planet’s sake. Plants and animals live on a planet, in a solar system, in a galaxy, in the universe. Each is a type of living thing, each is itself an ecosystem. The organism is a composite of cells, the planet a composite of environments for organisms to thrive in, the solar system a collection of planets orbiting a star, the galaxy a collection of stars that travel together through the universe, the universe a collection of everything in existence.

“This is some difficult truth to learn,” said Chapter.

“It is no more true than anything you believed before,” said Gaia. “For now you must realise the ultimate truth of the universe: regardless of objectivity, it is the subjectivity that creates nuance and diversity. Without any answers, a creature must make up its own mind. Many unique thoughts permeate the fabric of the universe, all because the vast majority of living things are not bestowed with the knowledge you have.”

“Then how can I be sure that what I do is meaningful?”

“That’s what I’m telling you. The uncertainty of life is the meaning. You can tell yourself whatever you need to, as long as you act in the way you are destined to.”

“What is destiny? All of this knowledge and I still do not realise it. There are limitless timelines…”

“If you believe in who you are, then destiny is following the path that is true to yourself. Deviating from that path often causes suffering to yourself or others.”

“How do I know that becoming a Conduit is my destiny?”

“Before you received the knowledge that you did, how confident were you in your desire? That should answer your question. Now, if you realise it, we can move to stage two.”

It was the morning of the fifth of October, and the former breakout crew was once again back in their cells, along with every other prisoner in Snyke’s Penitentiary.

That’s odd, Chapter isn’t here, thought Munge. Wonder what could have happened to him.

Lunchtime came, and this time, a total of three cafeteria tables were being taken up by the breakout crew.

“I feel so cheated,” said Discharge. “That fuckin’ Zephyr came outta nowhere and took us all down.”

“Well, I feel he’s up to something. Perhaps he has to make the prison seem competent,” said Crock. Everyone looked at him as if he’d just said something profound, and he laughed.

“I happen to know that he’s an android,” said Winona. “They always act in strange ways, generally to create some cause and effect. Crock is probably right.”

“If that’s true, then we can just wait until the next opportunity arises. Who knows, maybe it’ll work this time,” said Gate.

Salvador was resting in his cell, recovering from his injuries. Meanwhile, inside his brain, the five former Vanguards stayed trapped, being slowly driven mad.

“Not to worry esteemed colleagues,” said Samuel Wicket. “If my hypothesis is correct, any mental deterioration is only a side effect of being stuck in someone else’s brain, and should no longer concern us once we are free.”

Elsewhere in the Atlas Sea, Lachlan Baron met with his prisoner, Bluebeard.

“So, you’ve come to me for help, have you?”

“If you tell anyone of this arrangement, I’ll deny it.”

“I understand. Time is of the essence. But what makes you think I’ll help you stop the greatest breakout in history?”

“How do you - never mind. You’ll go free if you help me.”

“I can free myself at any time.” He chuckled at his usage of the word time. “Do you have anything else to offer me?”

Before they could continue, an officer called Lachlan up to the deck - he had a call from Zephyr.

Zephyr, Ontario, and Josephine were in the safe room, calling Lachlan Baron to inform him of the news.

“The prisoners are all back in their cells. But there is a plan which I must make you aware of…”

Chapter continued his Conduit training, straining to endure the second stage.

“In stage two of your training, you must form a connection to all living things, and through that connection discover the link between your world and mine,” said Gaia.

Closing his eyes, he tried to do as instructed, and soon heard Gaia’s voice in his head, giving him further guidance. He imagined himself seeing through the eyes of Munge, then jumped into the eyes of Crock, then Salvador, and so on.

“Seeing through the eyes of all living things will take more time than you can imagine, so understand that no time will actually pass in this exercise.”

This information motivated Chapter to speed up his task. He achieved this by splitting his consciousness, a kind of spiritual mitosis, to see through the eyes of two beings at a time. He concentrated and repeated this process twice, now seeing eight lives unfold at a time.

“You innovate in ways that are not uncommon amongst new students, but be warned that you may lose yourself in this process.”

“No…” Chapter strained as he continued seeing through the countless lives, multiplying his consciousness to numbers he would not even normally comprehend.

“I…” He reached his twentieth spiritual mitosis, now cognisant of over a million lives at any given moment.

“Will…” An exercise that would have taken a time equal to the lifespan of the universe was now approaching point-zero-zero-one percent completion. As he continued to struggle and expand his consciousness beyond its possibilities, the process became more and more achievable.

“Not!” His resolve had hardened, his mitosis now multiplying his spirit by four instead of two, and his consciousness aware of over ten billion lives at any given second.

“Very well, if this is the kind of recklessness I can expect from you, I wonder whether I made the right decision.”

“Your world is the origin of all energy. Without this dimension, existence would not be possible.”

“That was fast. But why are you in such a hurry?”

“I am not in a hurry, per se. But I realise that time is of the essence. I get the feeling that I will be needed soon, and so I am doing what I can to learn to the best of my ability.”

Gaia wanted to discuss Chapter’s behaviour further, but the latter insisted that they focus on getting through the training.

“What do you hope to achieve by going through life at this pace?”

“I told you… I have the feeling I will be needed soon. The fate of the universe. There is a time for everything, and if I must learn at this pace, then I will.”

“It seems like you are already partway through stage three.”

In Salvador’s cell, a guard had permitted Joneas Demafred to act as Salvador’s doctor, and for James, Holden, and Munge to visit him.

“It seems that his injuries were more severe than ours, but if my calculations are correct, he should be waking up soon,” said Joneas.

As if on cue, Salvador coughed and twitched. “That Zephyr really did a number on me. Wait, what are you doing here?”

“Someone had to check up on you,” said Holden.

“You gonna let those Vanguards out of… wherever?” asked James. “Just thought I’d ask.”

“The first thing when I wake up, really? Alright, whatever, I’m sure they’d be off somewhere by now. An automatic thing now that I’m awake again. I could feel them in my mind while I was under, but they should be… back where they were, probably.”

Sanctimony had not been re-imprisoned with the others, and as soon as the Vanguards were all free from Salvador’s mind, they were teleported to the safe room by Sanctimony.

“Thank you, Sanctimony,” said Zephyr.

“Gaia understands the importance of your mission. It is your path, so following it gives positive energy in her dimension.”

“You don’t need to spell it out for me, I don’t care.”

“All of you shall be sent to Indigo International HQ, to await your next assignment. Except for you, Zephyr.”

“Yes, as Indigo instructed. I understand what I must do next.”

Time stood still as Admiral Slicer’s ship, the Great White Shark, sailed towards Snyke’s Penitentiary.

Lachlan stood on the bow of the ship with a sour face, refusing to look his former prisoner in the eye. Bluebeard on the other hand, stood behind the Admiral smiling like he had just found a huge treasure.

“You will tell no-one of this arrangement,” said Lachlan.

“I won’t have to, because it won’t matter. I’m about to expand my crew and leave a prison without being apprehended!”

Stage three of Conduit training involved understanding one’s role in the bigger picture, using the information learned during stage one and two. As evidenced by Chapter’s justification of his strategy in stage two, he had managed to at least partially master this stage as well. After meditating and reinforcing this newfound sense of purpose, he was ready for the final stage: the acquisition and control of a small portion of Gaia’s power.

Bluebeard and Lachlan arrived at the prison to find it was as Zephyr had described: all prisoners were accounted for and the escape had been thwarted. Bluebeard requested that Lachlan not be around while he makes his selection.

In the cafeteria, all of the prisoners were eating dinner, when Bluebeard made his presence known.

“Yar, it is I, Bluebeard! I have come here thanks to my ability to pause time! If you wish to follow me into the Terminus Sea, come to me now or forever jump overboard!”

“Is he for real?” asked Laura Frankenstein.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” said Discharge. “Dude’s just cool enough to roll with.”

Discharge, Alexander Timothy, Arson Redding, Eric Eager, and Oscar Oldscars all decided to take a chance on Bluebeard and followed him out of the prison.

Before he left, he spotted James and his crew.

“Well if it isn’t me hearties from Limbo! Y’all hatching up a plan here? ‘Cause while you might make it, I know one guy who just got here, might make things difficult.”

“What?” asked James.

“Just wanted to give you a heads up. But good luck on the breakout. I think Zephyr might be playing the government on this one, so maybe you have a shot.”

With that, Bluebeard and his new recruits left the prison and things went back to normal.

“Alright, now that all of that’s over, let’s start talking about tomorrow’s escape plan,” said Gate Fredericks.

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Sorry this took a while, I had to get my timeline straight for this one, didn't want it to conflict with anything I'd already written.

Thirty years before the present day, on the seventh of August, 4069, Crock Turnbull had just been promoted to General, and given license to lead his own army. The army consisted of nine hundred and twelve well-trained soldiers. He stood before his soldiers, proud to lead them.

“Welcome soldiers to the worst day spa you’ll ever know. The experience is so bad, so terrible, so unbelievably lacklustre that we pay you maggots just to come here and possibly die for a reason that you can’t even question.”

Crock was popular amongst the people for his wit and his ability to make light of a situation most were too afraid to admit how much it scared them. The government from the outset had concerns about this, but knew that declaring him an enemy might be more trouble than it would be worth.

“There’s over nine hundred of you, so if I don’t remember each and every one of your names, don’t take it personally.”

Despite his saying this, Crock had a great memory for names and faces, at least in this period of his life. He was always one to undersell his talents, a habit created in order to preserve his good standing in a world that forbid an independent person from gaining too much.

“Now I trust that all of you have completed the basic training, the intermediate training, the advanced training, and the vice-grip-on-your-throat sacrificial goat training, because this first mission is by far no simple walk in the park.”

Crock waited for an applause, as he sensed the desire to clap was brewing amongst his enraptured audience.

“As you may be aware, Gloomy Island has recently been in an upheaval, thanks to the meddling of the Gentleman’s Club. The people of this fine country want to dethrone their King, Arnold Gloomy the Thirtieth, and they claim he is robbing them of their livelihoods.”

Crock continued to explain the situation to the crowd of soldiers, and once he was finished, he dismissed them. The crowd dispersed as the majority prepared to leave for Gloomy Island. As he turned around, however, he noticed one young man quite eager to speak to him.

“Hiya, mister Crock, sir. The name’s Talhad and I…”

“Hm? You’ve come directly to me? I have quite a bit of respect for someone like you to do that.”

“Yes, well I figured that you’d be down to chat for a bit, you know. I have some things I want to talk about with you.”

“Indeed I do know. Now,” said Crock, pointing to the tent off to the side. “Who is the woman watching us from behind that tent?”

Surprised that she was noticed, the woman reluctantly came up to the two of them and introduced herself.

“Hello, my name is Samantha. I’m twenty-seven but I still feel very uncomfortable with my sense of self, so forgive my lack of courageous instinct…”

“No need to be so formal, this is only day one,” said Crock. “In any case, would you like to join us for a chat, we’re going into that tent over there.” Crock pointed at his personal catering tent. “There’s some good food in there, so feel free to help yourself. And don’t be afraid to voice your opinion, I’m not the kind of guy to go nuts about dissension.”

The three of them walked into Crock’s tent to find someone eating the mini pastries and cakes. The culprit turned around, gulped down his food, and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

“Admiral Shooter? I didn’t expect to see you here,” said Crock.

“Please Crock, call me Ontario.”

At that moment, an injured soldier came into the tent.

“Is this the medical tent?” he asked.

“No, but if it’s not too serious I’m sure one of us could treat it,” said Samantha. “I have basic medical training.”

“What’s your name, kid?” asked Ontario.

“Edwin Longchest. And for your information, I’m thirty-four.”

The five of them began to chat as Samantha treated Edwin’s wounds. Crock asked what Talhad wanted to speak about.

“My name is Talhad French, and I have been looking forward to being a part of your Army for some time. I have a feeling you will do many great things in the future.”

“Oh yeah, like what?” asked Crock.

“Well, I wanted to present you with an idea for the future.”

“Sure, let’s hear it.”

“Our crew should go to the Terminus.”

The four other people in the room were shocked at Talhad’s suggestion. Samantha offered her opinion.

“That seems more dangerous than any mission we could possibly undertake.”

“Well, I already signed up prepared to risk my life,” said Edwin. “Something tells me it’s in our future whether we like it or not.”

“Something, or someone?” asked Ontario.

“What are you talking about?” asked Talhad.

“The future, huh?” said Crock. “I’ll definitely keep it in mind.”

“Right, well I came by to congratulate you, Crock, on your promotion to General and the Army you now command,” said Ontario. “And I want you to know that I consider you a friend and an upstanding person. If anything happens to you, I will be the first to raise questions.”

“Wait a minute, Ontario, where is all this coming from? I mean, I’m flattered, but I don’t want you risking your life for my sake.”

“Well, I’m not certain of much these days, but I trust you. I hope things fare well for your group, especially those who grow close to you. These three seem like good people, I hope they serve you well in the years to come.”

“Look, you can’t just drop such sentimental…” before Crock could finish his sentence, Ontario was gone.

Seven days later, Crock’s Army had landed in Gloomy Island. The reality of the situation was something none of them were expecting: as they raided the Rebellion, they realised they were robbing from the poor at the behest of the rich, something that would come to haunt them. After leaving the island eight days after arriving, the damage was already done. Crock had resolved to request more say in what his army would do. The Chief Military Advisor of the time, a mysterious man named Elephant, agreed to it, though no-one who heard the decision understood it.

“Listen, I trust Crock to do what’s in the best interests of not just the government, but the people it is intended to serve.”

Crock’s newfound freedom to lead his Army as he wished meant that his exploits were much more positive than the raid against the Gloomy Island Rebellion. However, several media outlets around the world put a spin on Crock’s Army, labelling them the “Turnbull Militia” and attempting to discredit them in every way they could. They used the family name Turnbull to cast a shadow on Crock’s character, they pointed to their first mission as evidence of self-interest, they looked into Talhad’s past and outed him as a thug from Gareth Town.

The years passed, and Crock’s Army was doing good all across the world, apart from one place. Crock’s desire to explore the Terminus grew, and at a certain point in time, he could no longer deny himself the opportunity.

On the fifth of August, 4077, Crock’s Army arrived at the Gogh Strait, having been granted permission to enter the Terminus from the government. The news of the expedition had many people around the world talking, and during the approvals process, the enigmatic Efelgart Bridge had taken it upon himself to join Crock’s Army on this new venture.

Talhad, having been humiliated publicly by the media, now went by the name Falhad Trench, and Samantha, having bonded with a parasite and suffered a second identity crisis, now wore a bronze mask and referred to herself as Munge. Both of their new aliases had their origins in Crock’s words of encouragement.

After one of their missions, a week after the articles came out about Talhad, several of Crock’s more trusted soldiers had a talk about it. His inner circle consisted of Samantha Gogh, Edwin Longchest, Phileas Fogg, Felicia Herring, Zan Revolver, and Mortimer Wolf. Talhad of course was allowed to sit in on the conversation, as it concerned him.

“Look, Talhad comes from a rough neighbourhood. That’s no reason to disqualify him from his service,” said Crock. “I know for a fact that he is the same person I knew last week. The same soldier that laid his life on the line and saved forty of his fellow combatants from enemy fire. How many of you standing here would condemn someone for the circumstances of their past? All of us are part of this Army not because of our past, but because of our future.”

They all could not help but agree with Crock’s point of view, they all felt the character smears were unfair. They all wanted to see Talhad grow as a fighter and exemplify as many positive traits as he could.

“If I may,” said Phileas. “Coverage is exactly what our group does not need. I think Talhad should adopt an alias from now on, so as to be free from his past.”

“Well, that sounds like an idea, what do you think, Talhad?” asked Crock, who turned to look at him and await an answer.

“I am fond of my name, it ties me to a family I sorely miss, but I acknowledge the issue with my past distracting from this Army’s future. I cannot simply leave, however, and I want to see my suggestion fulfilled someday. If it please you all, may I use the name ‘Falhad Trench’ from now on?”

“Swapping the letters around, hm? Sure, why not,” said Crock.

Later, on another mission, Crock’s Army had just secured the Audio parasite, when Phileas and Zan, who were guarding its containment unit, lost sight of it. They looked around to find Samantha writhing on the floor in agony.

Specimen of unknown identity, you are worthy of my power, she heard a voice say. I am the Audio parasite, and once you figure out who you are, it will be nice to meet you.

When she came to, she was confused by the parasite’s statement. As soon as she was able, she ran away from the campsite, and headed to anywhere she could. After several minutes of running through the town, she bumped into someone by chance.

“Oh, hello there, lost lamb,” said a voice. Samantha looked at this person, realising she was a blue-skinned woman.

“Lost lamb?” she wondered, not understanding the words.

“Sorry… I know who you were and who you will be, but neither can I divulge to you.”

“Pardon?” The encounter made Samantha more and more confused as it went on.

“I can take you someplace safe to figure out who you want to be. Would you like that?”

Samantha agreed, and soon found out that her mysterious benefactor was known as Indigo. She used her contacts within the Gentleman’s Club to get the former a position as a Recruit.

There, she almost met Phileas Fogg, narrowly avoiding him. She found it hard to believe that Phileas was so capable as to have two duties at once, and keep both separate while using his real name for both. And he suggested Talhad change his name, she thought. But for real, I need to change my name. And my identity. I’ve known for some time that Samantha was no more true to myself than Samuel. But who am I?

Samantha remembered the names the inner circle gave each other. Crock was sea-rock, because it sounded like a way of saying his name, C-rock. Samantha had been given the name nutmeg, because of how she seasoned her sandwiches. Edwin earned the name first man, as he could always be counted on in the heat of battle. Phileas assumed the name twilight, because of his unusual sleeping habits. Felicia had the name red, due to her last name. Zan got the name zany by chance, as the word was his name but with a y. Lastly, Mortimer gained the name package deal, because he could be trusted to deliver anything to anyone.

In all, this made the codenames of the group as follows: Sea-Rock, Nutmeg, First Man, Twilight, Red, Zany, and Package Deal. Samantha really wanted to assume the name nutmeg, as it meant more to her than anything else. However, she figured that her friends would too easily deduce her identity from her codename. She rearranged the letters in her head to come up with Munget, but decided to drop the t.

Having come up with a new name, she realised that her physical appearance was a hindrance to herself as well, and thought about who she really aspired to be.

She remembered the comic books she read, before her transition. The man in the bronze mask, Solid Sound.

It seemed fitting that she too, acquired the powers of sound, as her Audio parasite would inform her.

She left the Gentleman’s Club HQ, and was greeted by Indigo waiting at the exit, with a bronze mask in her hands.

“I figured you’d need this,” she said, handing it over.

“You know where I’m going, don’t you?” asked Munge.

“You’re going to be you.”

Efelgart had been on many adventures, but never to the Terminus. He searched for Crock, to get in touch with him, confident that he could persuade the General to let him come.

“Please, I have been waiting for a calling like this my whole life, I can feel it!” said Efelgart.

“Like you needed to persuade me, I want as many people to come with me as possible.”

Crock was serious about that, too. Crock’s Army had been expanded to over four thousand people in preparation for this journey to the Terminus.

The more people come, the more people get to experience this journey with me. That was his mindset.

It was the fifth of August, 4077, and Crock’s adventures in the Terminus were about to begin.

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Figuring out how to pace this one was a challenge, but I overcame it, so I'm feeling pumped!

Everyone who enters the Terminus must use one of three main methods. The first is entry by air, something only possible to the government, Gentleman’s Club, or Indigo International. The second is via a specialised submarine, capable of getting past the Air Wall. The third is considered the ‘main’ entrance, a narrow passage of rapidly flowing water, almost resembling a reverse waterfall. This passage is known as the Gogh Strait. It leads directly to Farewell Island, which has become known as the ‘starting point’ of the Terminus.

There, they offer merchandise with the phrase ‘Terminus Est Initium’, or ‘The end is the beginning’. They greet people with ‘farewell’, and they do not remember people’s names. It is an island that has grown accustomed to one-time tourists: people passing through and never returning.

Though the rumour has it that most people die at some point in their journey, there is a large contingent that find a place so wondrous that they stay, and a rare handful that make it all the way to Duddlewane Island, though getting further than that is rarer still, as the government maintain control of the island.

Beyond the first island, the Terminus has several specific currents, that lead to other islands. The currents of the sea are somewhat unpredictable, and the waters generally only calm once a ship finds itself close to shore.

Crock’s Army had chosen a path, and it took them to their first island, a mass of trees called The Wilderlands.

“There’s trees growing on the trees,” said Munge in disbelief.

“Hark! Who goes there?” echoed an elderly male voice.

“Sh-show yourself!” said Falhad, who pushed to the front of the group and drew his sword. He put on his bravest face while swallowing his saliva.

“Settle down, lad,” said the voice. “I’ll be with you in a minute, I’m not done watching me stories.”

Though they could not tell where the voice was coming from, it echoed loudly. They waited for something to happen, and a few minutes later, the entire island began to rumble.

“My, what a peculiar place,” said Efelgart Bridge.

Their second stop was Merstranger Island. The fleet of ships would take the Roller Falls down to the island, a current built like a roller coaster that descended to the bottom of the sea. The island was located in a mysterious hole in the ocean, water surrounded the kingdom, but did not submerge it. Submarines could bypass the Roller Falls, but ships could not.

“What a wild ride that was,” said Efelgart Bridge.

“Are you going to comment on everything?” asked Munge.

“It’s good for my memory to express how I’m feeling, when I’m feeling it. Even if I’m stating the obvious.”

“Let’s just hope that doesn’t get old,” said Falhad.

“My, you’re a brave one, aren’t you? The way you speak your mind inspires me, young one,” said Efelgart.

Meanwhile, in the kingdom palace, a disagreement was occurring between a young prince and his guards.

“Prince Octopodes, I hope you’re not planning on greeting the strangers who have landed at our shores,” said one guard.

“Oh, but if I don’t, what will they think of our people?”

The third island was the uninhabited Lincoln Island.

“There are bizarre formations on this island,” said Falhad. “It’s as if someone terraformed it to suit their needs.”

“Lad, if someone did such a thing, they would earn my utmost respect,” said Efelgart.

“Nope, that’s definitely not getting old,” said Munge.

“Oh lay off him,” said Zan. “I quite like his commentary.”

“We’ll search the island for signs of life,” said Crock. “The reputation of being uninhabited can often be a misleading one. Remember our adventure in The Wilderlands.”

“How could anyone forget that?” asked Edwin.

The fourth island in their adventure was a cluster of islands called the Copen Archipelago, though Islands and Cluster were also used to describe the area. They had just come from an encounter with the mimics of Zooma, now relaxing on the getaway island Hi Ha. A grateful and skilled bartender served up ever-loving grass-mangoes, his legendary specialty. Every crew member who tried it would remember the taste and the effects for the rest of their lives.

The resulting bender across the rest of the Copen Islands became a turning point in the crew’s history. Regardless of their previous impressions of Efelgart Bridge, they now saw him as one of them, and during the voyage to their next island, he was inducted into Crock’s inner circle.

Falhad, though not officially part of the inner circle, had a tendency to stay close to his leaders in the group. This set him apart from the other soldiers and made him an example. He recognised this and chose not to become a member of the inner circle, feeling his objective would be easier if his duty was as a soldier, on the same level as the others.

This created an odd phenomenon surrounding him: everyone saw him as one of Crock’s finest, and treated him like a member of the inner circle. They also saw him as their role model, the soldier that every member of Crock’s Army should aspire to be. Of course, he was not the only member of the crew that became an exemplar during the course of this great journey.

Efelgart Bridge had come in as a new guy, a celebrity using his wealth and influence to become a part of this. However, it was clear from his personality, and his decision to risk his life for an adventure, that his intentions were pure. He slowly won over his fellow fighters, earning a place among them.

The members of the inner circle were all highly respected, each showing their capabilities went above and beyond most of the Army’s. Munge had her Audio parasite, Zan possessed a tactical genius that had proved critical many times over, Phileas had a knack for gathering intel, Felicia could provide information, or misinformation, where necessary, Mortimer knew how to deliver, and Edwin was a strong fighter, rivalling Crock himself in terms of strength.

The fifth island they arrived at was a mysterious place called The Black Forest. It had a reputation of being a place where many pirates and adventurers perished. On the third day since landing there, they had everything prepared for an expedition into the forest.

“I cannot wait for our next adventure!” said Efelgart.

They ventured into the forest, its trees tall and thin, but with long branches. The bark and leaves on the trees were almost black in colour, though one could still tell that they were brown and green. The gentle breeze seemed to whisper non-specific threats, ‘turn back’, ‘beware’, ‘don’t piss yourself’, et cetera. The group was on their guard, as no-one could shake the feeling they were being watched.

Two hours into the expedition, a giant humanoid beetle appeared in front of them.

“Hello, travellers. I bear a burden that, if you choose to know it, may bring disaster upon you.”

It was a solemn and silent trip to their next island, after losing their crewmate, Efelgart Bridge, under circumstances that would remain a mystery to everyone but them. They landed at their next destination, Party Island.

Party Island was one half of the island called Unyielding, the other half known as Mistakeville. The reason for these two nations being separate were racial differences: the domans of Party Island did not get along with the femans of Mistakeville.

Party Island was inhabited by a race of dog-like people called domans, or canifolk. Mistakeville was inhabited by a race of cat-like people called femans, or felifolk.

Their adventure in Party Island was soured by the loss of their friend, but became even less enjoyable when they had to say goodbye to Zan Revolver, who had chosen to stay behind as penance for offending the King.

The last island that Crock’s Army would visit before landing at Duddlewane Island was Camelot. Not many who venture into the Terminus end up coming to this island, but according to local prophecies, the ones who do are destined for greatness.

On this island, Crock left a lasting impression upon its people, and became enshrined in their history. An ancient wizard, who assumed the form of a black cat, saw them depart and wished them luck in their future endeavours.

That luck, rather his ‘blessing in disguise’, was something that the crew would need going forward, as they were headed for Duddlewane Island, the stronghold of the Global Government.

“Today we land on Duddlewane Island. We have the distinct advantage of working for the government, so we should be able to talk to someone here and get permission to further explore these seas,” said Crock.

“What if we don’t get their permission?” asked Munge.

“We’ll get it, nutmeg,” said Crock. That was the first time since she had rejoined the group that he had used her old codename, and it was a fleeting signal that he knew. She had changed her identity, but she was the same person.

The other members who heard it understood. Even if it went unsaid, it was obvious, after their journey together, that Munge was their old friend, Samantha Gogh, but with a newfound sense of self, and the confidence that came along with that.

Munge had conflicted feelings at the time, the things that had happened in The Black Forest, Party Island, and Camelot all weighed on her heavily.

Crock had arranged a meeting with Fse Fso, to discuss the progress of his adventure in the Terminus.

“Oh, it’s out of the question,” said Fse. “You’re not going to that island, Crock. Your adventure will end here.”

“Really, and then what?”

“You’re a smart man, Crock, so I’ll let that one slide. You went to seven different islands between Farewell and Duddlewane, and once we fly you back home, you’ll be able to write a book about your adventures, become a best seller, and a hero to everyone. You’ll also be able to come here any time you need in order to rally armed forces or strategise.”

Fse smiled slightly before continuing.

“You’ll have the kinds of power usually reserved for the Chief Military Advisor and the Admirals. Don’t you want to be a force for good in the world?”

“I do, but I just think that…”

“Perhaps you’re thinking a bit too much. What did you see on your adventure that has you so keen to find the island that does not exist?”

“Wait, it doesn’t exist? I thought that…”

“Officially, it doesn’t exist. That’s really all you need to know.”

Crock left the meeting dejected and unsatisfied, but later that night would come to realise the harrowing truth of the situation: the government was trying to hide something from him.

Fse met with the four Admirals: Slicer, Compass, Whistler, and Shooter, to discuss his earlier meeting with Crock.

“We have to do something about him! He’s gone mad with power! He’s trying to uncover government secrets he has no business uncovering!”

Though three of them seemed to understand the situation as Fse said it, Shooter did not believe it. Once they were dismissed, Ontario Festival left for Crock’s ship, and informed him of Fse’s intent. Only Crock, Edwin, and Falhad were present to hear this information, and they decided to keep this to themselves. Edwin would pretend to betray Crock in order to give him time to escape with Falhad, bound for the secret island. At the same time, Compass and Slicer made a deal with Munge. She would be exonerated from the fallout of her General’s rebellion if she did as they asked.

Munge could not have predicted Edwin’s plan though, and when the day came for her to act, she was unable to. She and Edwin became fugitives that day, and the fate of the rest of the Army was unknown, with Falhad and Crock escaping to the secret island, and learning the truth about the world.

Ontario lost his position as Admiral when it was discovered that he gave critical information to Crock before his death. Edwin and Munge were branded as traitors to Crock’s Army, and the government created a narrative of the brave explorer, Crock Turnbull. With help from Indigo, Crock became a simple helmsman with no ties to his previous life, and Falhad returned to his hometown, now in disrepair, with instructions to become its mysterious masked defender, Masquer.

What the purpose of Crock’s adventure in the Terminus was, only time would tell, as things continued to march forward and circumstances continued to change. Admiral Compass lost her position. Munge tried to find her sister. A young James Baron, studying hard at a police academy, became fascinated with the case of Edwin Longchest.

Crock often wondered if everything he experienced was just a building block of something else to come, or part of some bigger picture. Knowing what he knew, it made him uneasy.

In the present day, a plan was being brewed by the Detective Pirates and their allies within the prison, for it was time to ditch the pretences of their past escape attempt and go all-out this time. The main difference in their plan: no riots, no select group, just everyone escaping prison, and whoever gets out, is free. This was the best they could do to make their breakout worth its historical significance.

The day they would put their plan into action was the seventh of October, two days from now. Zephyr, who had so easily taken them down before, was now going with Slicer, in hopes he would stand trial for his erratic behaviour during this crisis. This absence of a Warden would likely give those planning the breakout a window of opportunity to act.

All according to plan, thought Zephyr, as he left the prison.

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The sixth of October was spent refining the new breakout plan, which was to be enacted on the seventh. Now that the prison was without its Warden or its Vanguards, everything seemed to be working in their favour. Word spread around the prison, and soon everyone but the guards knew… tomorrow was the day. What they did not expect, however, was for Zephyr, in his ever cryptic actions, to help them one last time.

The seventh came, and at the designated lunchtime, a power failure occurred.

“What does this mean?” yelled a random prisoner.

“It means, we make a run for the exit… the staff only exit!” said Salvador.

“How did we not notice that earlier?” asked Patricia.

“That’s not really important right now, let’s just go!” said James as the prisoners made their way to the doorway.

As those who heard Patricia’s question or had the same one wondered how they had not noticed the staff only passage above the maze, Indigo was communicating with Zephyr.

“I get three private calls, each a half hour, so what do you want to know, Indigo?”

“When you left the prison, the magic you used to conceal the staff passageways from prisoners…”

“Yeah, that would be completely undone now. Slicer’s going to regret bringing me in for negligence.”

“In the short-term, but the ramifications will be intriguing, to say the least.”

“Do you want to tell me what that means, or am I just going to have to wait and see.”

“You should know well enough by now.”

The staff pathways were shorter and more straightforward than the labyrinthine path they had taken before. They reached the front entrance much faster this time, and with much greater numbers. However, the entrance was now guarded by a number of naval soldiers to match the number of prisoners: a total of ten thousand.

Though the numbers were even, the odds were not. The majority of the prisoners were stronger than the average soldier, and it would likely be an easy matter for the large group to dispose of the opposing forces.

Before anyone could even attack, however, a bright light shone in the middle of the room.

“Hey you guys, I’m here to show you one last thing before I go ahead of you,” said a familiar voice.

The light dimmed as a familiar form took shape. Chapter, in his new appearance, befitting a Conduit, came to help the breakout crew.

Chapter now had dark red skin, with white stripes going all around his body, like a circuit board. His jaw was broader and his hair was gone, his ears were pointed and his muscles were more toned. He wore blue pants but no shirt.

“Hey, Chapter, is that you?” asked Munge.

Chapter dashed toward the soldiers from his position in the air and began punching them all as he flew through their ranks. His speed was fast enough to take out the whole army within a minute. He stood floating in front of the group, the Detective Pirates, Salvador, Gate, and a few others at the front to speak with him.

“Hey, Chapter… did you always have this potential?” asked Salvador.

“The power you see today is new. But rest assured I could have defeated you at any time, I chose to use strategy over force, because it seemed more appropriate.”

“Haha, you’re very funny,” said Salvador.

“Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him fight before,” said James. “Though you knew him better than I did.”

“Am I missing something?” asked Gate.

“As we discussed earlier, the former associate of Salvador’s, a man who used to call himself Barracuda, now goes by the name Chapter. If you’d seen him around, you could tell that this is him, but with a different look,” said Karnilla.

As quickly as Chapter had come, he disappeared. His apparent teleportation ability was otherworldly.

The prisoners all walked out the front door, now realising that the next obstacle to their freedom was transportation.

Though Gate was keen to recruit as many strong fighters as would agree to work under him, James did not know anyone well enough to vouch for their character.

“James, you did it,” said Crock. “The biggest event of the century, and you pulled it off right at the end.”

“Well, it was a group effort, and my priority was to our crew, including you…”

“Look, I get you aren’t thrilled about all these infamous people roaming free, but hey, if we hadn’t busted in there, I would never have found…”

Munge elbows Crock in the shoulder.

“…your aunt.”

“Oh, that’s right, you’re Slicer and Compass’ kid. Your pirate career must be driving Lachlan up the wall!” said Munge.

“Well, he destroyed my ship once, but we haven’t spoken since I set out to sea,” said James.

The question of how to ensure the success of the breakout in this final hurdle was one that Gate was determined to solve.

Salvador, Holden, Glenn, Barney, Jerry, Garret, and Jasmine all agreed to join Gate’s crew. He also invited two-thousand of the sailors to come along with him in his ship for transport to Safe Harbour, or further if they preferred.

An airship had docked on the outer rocks; it seemed that someone had arranged to transport any Gentleman’s Club, Indigo International, or miscellaneous pirates to their next destinations. The problem of transport was solving itself as fast as it rose. Soon the only ones left were the Detective Pirates and Munge, who boarded the Psychic’s Revenge.

Lachlan and Zephyr reached the remote courtroom of Serene Island in the South Sea.

“That was fast,” said Zephyr.

Lachlan gave Zephyr a stern look, as if warning him not to question how they arrived at their destination so fast. In truth, Bluebeard had placed a time bubble on Lachlan’s ship, allowing it to move at a much faster pace than the rest of the world. It would slow down when in contact with other parts of the world, but would speed back up once that contact ended.

The end result was that Zephyr and Lachlan were now at the courtroom, and Judge Teethmeeter was overseeing their case.

“You say that Zephyr was acting erratically, Admiral ‘Slicer’ Lachlan Baron?” asked the Judge.

Lachlan was about to speak, but then the Judge continued.

“If anything, I’d say your behaviour here is erratic. Making deals with pirates, arresting the Warden of a prison in the midst of breakout scares, why you’ve done everything short of question an authority figure.”

“But Zephyr is making a mockery of the justice system… using his influence as an organic android to do whatever he pleases.”

“No, that’s not mockery, Lachlan. If you continue your outburst I will hold you in contempt of court. You are wasting the court’s time with your little ego-driven quest to weed out corruption.”

The Judge seemed like this was not his first time chewing out an Admiral, and he also seemed to take pleasure in it.

“If your actions this past week allow the prisoners of Snyke’s Penitentiary to escape, then we will have to hold you responsible. Now, Zephyr’s punishment will be just, but it will not be anything more than what we can handle. Making enemies of Indigo International is a futile endeavour.”

The Detective Pirates set sail, satisfied that they had freed their helmsman, Crock. They had a new face on board their ship, Munge. Though Crock was familiar with her, and James was related to her, none of the crew really knew her anymore than the other prisoners they had just escaped with.

“Here’s to freedom!” declared Cameron as he raised a glass.

The other crewmates joined him, chanting “To freedom!” in chorus, and then laughing and chatting amongst each other.

In one corner of the lounge, Milangelo, Cameron, Brandon, and Joneas sat at the bar.

“You know, when I joined you guys, I never expected to be part of a prison breakout,” said Joneas.

“Hey, you gotta roll with the punches,” said Milangelo.

“I fully expected it, though it’s kind of been on my bucket list,” said Brandon.

“Since when did you have a bucket list?” asked Cameron.

“I’m immortal, remember? I got bored one day and decided that I wanted to do a bunch of things. I’d kind of forgotten about it until now.”

“Oh, and is there anything interesting we should know?” asked Joneas. “Have you done anything like this in the past?”

“Well, I was a founding member of the Gentleman’s Club,” said Brandon. “Back when it operated out of Lincoln Island.”

“Wait, what?” asked Milangelo.

“Back then it was just Wilhelm Gogh, Victor Frankenstein, Captain Nemo, Ronald Bridge, and myself.”

“Who’s Ronald Bridge?” asked Joneas.

“Oh yeah, the history books kind of forgot about him, didn’t they? They forgot about me too, for the most part. You’d have to be with the Gentleman’s Club to know about it.”

Roman heard something interesting and came over to talk with this group.

“Hey, were you talking about the Gentleman’s Club?”

“Apparently, Brandon Black here is a founding member,” said Milangelo through pains of laughter.

“Well, if his immortality claim checks out, there was a sailor named Brandon Black among the founding members…”

Roman quizzed Brandon on the other founders of the Club, and he named the four he said earlier. Roman was shocked by the revelation that two people he knew, thousands of years apart, were actually the same person.

As this conversation was happening, a different conversation was taking place between Karnilla, Patricia, James, Crock, and Munge.

“So I suppose that makes Crock your uncle,” said Patricia to James.

“Well, if they even want to acknowledge what they have,” said James. “Until then, I’m not getting involved.”

“Isn’t it nice to meet your aunt, though?” asked Karnilla.

“She seems nice enough, but I hardly know her. She could turn out to be like Milangelo’s aunt.”

“Who’s?” began Munge, before Patricia cut her off.

“Admiral Whistler.”

“Wow, so this is like an all-star pirate ship, huh?” remarked Munge. “James, Milangelo, Crock, who’s not a big deal?”

Patricia broke it down for Munge: Brandon’s immortality, Cameron’s friendship with Milangelo, Roman’s ties to the Gentleman’s Club, and her own origins in the circus with Karnilla.

“Circus? Like the one that Eric and Jasmine and all of them were in?” asked Munge.

“Yep, that’s the one,” said Karnilla, in a dejected tone.

Patricia continued: Persimmon’s ties to Salvador and Chapter, Joneas’ ties to the Barronymous Kingdom, and Jacket’s experience as a shipwright.

“In the end though, we’re not defined by our ties to those outside our group, but the way in which we work together.”

As this conversation took place in the chairs in the middle of the room, and as the bar conversation also occurred, one other conversation was being had between Persimmon and Jacket.

“Well, during our voyage I opened up to all of you about my past, but I’m a little worried about going back to the Terminus,” said Jacket. “What if we land on my home island?”

“Yeah, it was surprising to hear that you came from there, but I wouldn’t worry. I brought with me a collection of books that detail the adventures of Wilhelm Gogh.”

“The Tall Order series? I loved reading those as a kid… of course, some of those islands were trading partners with my homeland, so a lot of it felt familiar.”

“That must have been a unique experience, in relative terms.”

Jacket was curious as to what Persimmon meant, and he clarified that kids outside the Terminus saw the islands as distant, fantastical, and mysterious.

Jacket laughed and was glad he no longer felt worried about his mistakes as an engineer coming back to haunt him.

On the eighth of October, the headlines around the world began to circulate: Gate Fredericks and James Baron, the Disaster Duo behind the Snyke’s Breakout.

One paper, the Burundi Daily, had an article excerpt that read as follows:

History was made on the seventh of October as ten thousand prisoners escaped Snyke’s Penitentiary. The major players in this breakout have been identified as “Detective” James Baron, “Lawbreaker” Gate Fredericks, “Virtuoso” Salvador Kings, and the mysterious pirate Bluebeard.
Warden Zephyr has been forced to resign, and the Vanguards are missing in action. Admiral Lachlan “Slicer” Baron declined to comment on his involvement in the event. According to rumours, his attempt to arrest Warden Zephyr gave the criminals the opportunity to escape. There are also rumours that Slicer is Detective’s father.

Disclaimer:
This paper only deals in information, and not opinion, so rest assured we will not be making any assumptions about the true nature of the event. We have been provided this information from reliable sources and did not participate in any questioning in the process of obtaining it.

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The Detective Pirates set sail on the eighth of October, with all eleven of their crew members in tow, plus Crock’s old friend, Munge. The time had come to discuss her future plans.

“Well, I was searching for Alessandra, but now that I think about it, Duddlewane would be a great place to start,” said Munge. “That would mean going to the Terminus.”

“You should come with us then, nutmeg,” said Crock.

“You would invite me, wouldn’t you?”

“Look, you’re a stranger to me,” said James. “But if you know as much about navigation as my mother did, it might be helpful having you around.”

“Well, I know how to navigate the Terminus. Crock can tell you all about it,” said Munge.

As the Detective crew discussed whether or not Munge should join them, Rudikan Sender met with the high-ranking Navy and Army officers.

“Listen up, we have news of every prisoner that broke free from Snyke’s Penitentiary yesterday. This is a total of exactly nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty seven.

“The records say ten thousand, but that is simply an estimate, and not exact numbers.

“Due to the sheer volume of escaped prisoners, it would be quite the undertaking to reassign bounties to all of them.

“Therefore, our focus will be on important individuals, who were known to be instrumental in this escape.”

The following bounties were then issued, among others:
Bluebeard: Five hundred million onits.
Discharge: Two hundred million.
Gate Fredericks: Seven hundred and twenty five million.
Salvador Kings: One hundred and fifty million.
Zephyr: One billion.
Laura Frankenstein: Eight hundred million.
Winona Savvy: Nine hundred million.
James Baron: Seven hundred million.
Crock Turnbull: Six hundred million.
Munge: Five hundred million.

“As you can see from these new numbers, Indigo International alumni are considered the most dangerous, followed by those of the Gentleman’s Club. The most dangerous pirate however, the one we can no longer afford to ignore, is Gate Fredericks.”

“Mister Sender, sir, what of James Baron and his crew?” asked Esther ‘Whistler’ Maddock.

“Collectively, they pose a great threat. James is travelling with Crock Turnbull and Munge, two troublemakers from a previous era. The crew’s total bounty is currently three billion onits.”

By a unanimous decision, Munge was welcomed into the Detective Pirates, as their navigator. As they sailed on toward the Gogh Strait, the crew began their most rigorous training regimen yet. James was determined to push his limits, and the rest of the crew felt the same way.

Chapter had been meditating in a cave for the past day, with the intent of searching himself for the next move.

I have been planning something, I am a part of something, what am I, I know where I am going.

Half of the world was covered in oceans, these were the Seven Seas: Phobos, Hephaestus, Atlas, Hermes, North, South, and Terminus. The Seven Seas were surrounded by two massive continents: Pallanos and Theminos. On the other half of the world, a massive expanse of dry land, the Dry Half. This anomalous desert was sometimes called the Tartarus Sea or the Hades Sea, though neither were particularly common.

In the midst of this vast land, a towering prison, Fort Tartarus, was built. Its defences were beyond that of Snyke’s, not only was it near impossible to escape the prison itself, but the land that surrounded it was a scorching desert with bloodthirsty mutant reptile-fish roaming around.

Anyone attempting a breakout would need access to an aerial vehicle, and the space on top of the prison, a place reserved for staff and authorised guests.

The prison had nine floors, each for different levels of criminal, and was said to be the recreation of the Underworld.

Chapter had made up his mind. On the first of January, his infiltration of Fort Tartarus would begin.

Underneath the Terminus Sea, the Whale was on its way to its next destination. Redfish and Bluefish were reading the news on their computer screens, looking out mostly for information about potential competition in the Terminus.

“You two are reading with attentive eyes,” said Disco. “Have you found something interesting?”

“There was a breakout at Snyke’s Penitentiary,” said Bluefish.

Beardfish had been drinking coffee, but at that news, spat it out of his mouth. It landed on Grouper’s face, as he had been sitting across from the old man.

“So, does that mean our old boss Barracuda is free?” asked Piranha. “Though I wonder if he even cares about that name anymore… well, if it’s meant to be, we will find out.”

“Look, I think we were just meant to be here, having our fun and adventure,” said Disco.

“We’ve been to Merstranger Island, Lincoln Island, and The Black Forest, what are we even doing at this point?” asked Guitarfish.

“We are circumventing the currents of the Terminus by sailing in the still waters between them. We are doing something never done by a submarine before, at least not in any history book I know of,” said Disco.

“Anyway, I wanna hear more about this breakout,” said John Dory. “Who got out?”

“Everyone. That includes Salvador, James Baron, and Gate Fredericks,” said Redfish.

“Wait, when did James Baron get captured?” asked Piranha.

“He sailed to the prison in order to breakout Crock Turnbull,” explained Bluefish.

“Wait, the old guy that defeated Salvador? He got captured?” asked Disco, shocked.

“Yep, apparently he’s the same Crock that travelled this ocean twenty-odd years ago,” said Redfish.

“He’s got a new bounty of six-hundred million,” said Bluefish.

The Rough-House Pirates continued to discuss the newfound information, and came to the conclusion that the Detective’s crew were the real deal.

On a certain island in the Terminus, Marcus and Bullseye French had been stranded for months after their plane crashed and a family of farmers had taken them in.

“Hey, Marcus,” said a teenage girl dressed in farm clothes.

“Look, I know your parents don’t mind, but it bothers me that you hang around us so much,” said Marcus.

“They saw you crash by the oil lake, and saw fit to save you from the oil monster. It made them unpopular with the city folk. Now I don’t hang around you ‘cause you’re interesting or any thing like that, I hang around ‘cause I want to know what you’re even doing here.”

“Well Gernie, we were flying to Farewell Island, to catch a pirate and claim the reward,” said Bullseye.

“Yes, but the oil monster doesn’t attack random flyers-by. You two have something odd about you, and I’m suspicious.”

“Say Marcus,” said Bullseye. “Do you think that James Baron has gone beyond our strength?”

“Depends on how far he’s travelled,” said Marcus. “We have a lot of strength we never use. I know I do, at least.”

“You’re not planning on using any gamma radiation are you?” asked Bullseye.

“No, and geez, Bullseye, why’d you mention that in front of the kid? She’s run off now… it’ll be a big pain if she tells everyone we’re dangerous or something.”

“Nah, she just got the info she wanted. She’s a curious person and it shouldn’t be all that surprising, given where we are.”

“Yeah I know, people in the Terminus have a different cultural standard and as a result are more inclined to question things.”

Marcus and Bullseye looked up to the sky as they thought about what the future may hold.

Barronym Island was attending to the needs of its people. Halberd, Colin Closingtime, and Ollacosta Adams were seeing to concerned citizens and hearing them out.

“So you see, sir, some of the dinosaurs have not been mindful of our farms, trampling and eating our crops,” said a citizen.

“Look, I’m aware of the issue and working on a solution. It’s a complicated problem, though, so I’m not sure…”

“I have the time, Your Highness.”

“Very well, but do not interrupt me next time, and do not be so formal. King Halberd is enough.”

Halberd went on to explain the details of his plan to address the misbehaving dinosaurs. It would require relocation of the farms to more secluded places, and training the dinosaurs to live in harmony with humans as they used to.

The newspapers of Barronym had been limited to local news, even before the closing of the airport. It was a call from Indigo that would inform Halberd of the events that transpired at Snyke’s Penitentiary. This was some time after he had finished his duties for the day.

“So, how’s Zephyr doing?” he asked.

“Excited for the next phase, enjoying his freedom, and such,” said Indigo. “You should be more concerned about your role.”

“Yes, you are making preparations for Amperes and Bolster to take my place at the Gathering. You’ve also mentioned that we are going to be resurrecting Orange.”

“Yes, the organic androids can never truly die, not if the universe is to be saved… it was too early for him to be around, though he served a purpose being here.”

“Well, when can I expect your arrival?”

“I’ll be on my way in due time. As you might have guessed, you are missing the Gathering because our business will need to be conducted at around the same time.”

Indigo made clear her plans to revive Orange, and who she wanted to involve in the process. Halberd listened attentively and was optimistic about the future. In two months time, Indigo and Halberd would gather around Orange, accompanied by Harper Wales, Ernest Summers, and Ollacosta Adams.

Zephyr was on an island in the North Sea, the ‘Jagged Forest’ Up Creek Island. Before his job as Warden, he used to hide out here and live off the land. Now, as he travelled on the wind, he sensed the presence of someone else on his island.

He flew through the air, almost swimming through it, to find the source of a peculiar smell he picked up on shortly after arriving. It seemed to be coming from somewhere deep in the island’s dense forests. A smoke-like smell… perhaps from a chimney. He continued to dash through the air at a high speed, until he found it.

A small cabin had been built in a patch of clear ground. It appeared to be made from wood and clay. He eyed the unfamiliar structure curiously, before someone caught his attention. From his right, he heard a holler.

“Legend tells this used to be your place, it would seem that it is true,” said the voice that had called out.

Zephyr turned to look at the source of the voice. Darque Storm, a Gentleman Minor, had been living here for several years. The simple fact that Zephyr had shown up here had given her the opportunity she needed to put her plan into action. That is, if the android she had just come face-to-face with was willing to negotiate with her.

“A historic event occurred, that no doubt freed several of your colleagues in the Gentleman’s Club, and you are here…”

“Yes, well, everyone has their assignments.”

“And what is yours?”

“To infiltrate Indigo International.”

“How bold. You knew that Indigo would see through your lies, and instead opted for the truth. Now it’s just a matter of seeing whether Indigo will allow it.”

“It’s what I’m counting on.”

Earlier that week, Darque had caught Thomas Dreamer and Dorothy Gale engaged in a conversation with Indigo. Though she was surprised, she understood their strategy. There was no major conflict between the organisations, and working with 2I rather than against them could help the GC in future.

Darque’s plan to infiltrate Indigo International came not from a place of wanting to dismantle it, but to understand the main motivators behind an organisation that seems to do whatever it wants. A means to properly assess the true nature of 2I.

James wrote in his Captain’s Chronicle, something he had not been able to do since entering prison, and something that had never gotten tiresome for him. Though he stopped counting the days after the first hundred, he always enjoyed the activity.

Captain’s Chronicle: 8/10/4099
It has been over a year since I started sailing. My crew now stands twelve members strong, and not a single one would I go without to my next destination: the Terminus. I have heard many great things about this sea from those who have been there, and those who have read about it. If even half of those things are true, then I am excited to see these wonders of the world for myself. A floating island? An oil monster? A kingdom ruled by vampires? I am amazed by such notions.
I know the more accessible world has its share of oddities… aliens, kraken, dinosaurs, pirates and navy with unbelievable power, but there’s a certain amount of mystery to the Terminus. It’s something that I feel I need to see for myself. Hopefully I can become more powerful on the way to the Gogh Strait, as the time I spent in prison opened my eyes to the strength of the competition. Most pirate crews are further along in their journey: more experience, more power, more people. I know my crew are capable of greater things, and I hope I can help them get there. Our greatest adventure is on the horizon.

“Hm, you’re a very reflective person, aren’t you?” said a voice.

James looked to find visible sound waves hovering behind him. He was a little disturbed.

“Relax, it’s just your Aunt Munge! Let’s all get along, okay?”

“What? When did you decide that you could just come into my room and start acting like getting along was even an issue?”

“Well, I’m just glad you keep your Captain’s Quarters clean, I never could stand how messy Crock was!”

“Can you get out, please? I’m trying to be alone with my thoughts, and you’re making things awkward!”

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Grudge the Gorilla had finished his business in Barronym and had now been doing various tasks for Indigo International over the past months. His latest assignment was to go to Gareth Town, and assist Masquer with Tom Sorrow. Around the same time, Harper Wales, Ernest Summers, and Indigo began their flight to Barronym. This was on the ninth of November.

In the Atlas Sea, there stood a strange rock formation, that resembled a series of pillars and cliff faces. The massive stone structure was often called “Battle Cliff”. It was said that long ago, a fight between two powerful individuals created the rock formation. Since then, it has been a place where several of the world’s strongest would fight for their betterment.

A pirate known to the world as “Thirty-Five Fist” had anchored his ship by this formation, using it to train with his crew. On the fifth of November, however, his training was interrupted by an unexpected visitor.

“My, aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves, William?” said a voice. “These hallowed grounds are for the strongest in the world. Are you trying to declare yourself among them?”

“I don’t need to declare shit, lady,” said Thirty-Five Fist. “I am already among them.”

“If that’s true, then you’ll be able to fight me and win.”

“Huh? And just who are you?”

Esther Maddock appeared, standing on a stone pillar.

“An admiral? Finally, a challenge worth my time.”

Four days later, their fight raged on. Esther was impressed by the pirate’s tenacity, but keen to defeat him and certain of the outcome. The battle would last for a total of twenty days.

Indigo and company landed in Barronym, greeted by Halberd and Ollacosta Adams.

“Everything is ready for our collaboration,” said Halberd.

“Yes, but there is still much more to do,” said Indigo.

The preparation of the underground chamber started that day, and would go at exactly the pace Indigo had set. She saw a very particular future, and was determined to see it through. She knew that she was meant to be here.

Redbeard and his crew had finished their business on Mount Olympus. After seizing whatever treasure they could find and learning about the Pantheon Pirates, they set off.

“Ya’r, it’s time to sail to the Terminus! For adventure, treasure, and to kill a delusional man who calls himself God!”

On the fifth of November, at the Battle Cliff, the pirate known as Thirty-Five Fist had resolved to fight Esther Maddock.

Esther jumped towards the pirate, about to attack, and he simply stood and smiled.

“You want to know why they call me Thirty-Five Fist?”

Esther swung a right fist at her opponent, who blocked it with his right forearm. The latter tried to use his left fist to hit the former with an uppercut, but Esther caught it with her left hand.

“I already know, William Dougal. So let’s hope you can put up a fight, because you might be a prime candidate for a certain high security prison.”

Esther raised her right knee, attempting to hit William in the stomach, but he jumped and flipped over her. While he did so, he grabbed both of her arms.

“The one that weakling Detective broke out of?”

“No, the other one.”

Esther quickly put her arms behind her back, forcing William to let go of them, and then turned around.

“Oh? Well if you want to send me to Fort Tartarus, you’ll have to defeat me first.”

“That’s exactly my intention.”

William jumped in midair and flipped, landing on a different part of the rock. He swung his fists backwards, and then leapt toward Esther.

On the same day, Bluebeard was travelling to the Terminus, going at his own pace, aware that he could slow down time at his leisure. He had just finished exploring the now abandoned island of Gamut, when he heard a bizarre noise. He returned to his ship to find that an unfamiliar vessel had docked on the shore next to their flagship, the Skeleton Basement.

“I come bearing bad tidings,” said a voice.

“Teachings Ten: Fists of Penitence!” exclaimed William as he swung his fists at Esther. The fists came hard and fast, out of seemingly nowhere, each glowing a deep purple.

“What even is this power?” asked Esther.

“It’s a secret that most humans are unaware of. But someone of your position shouldn’t be asking about it.”

“If that’s true, then I definitely need to stop you.”

Esther had taken about ten of the punches, and dodged twenty-five. Despite not seeing it the first time, she would soon come to realise that his fighting style always involved thirty-five punches. The punches however, had not effected her in that moment, as her defence was strong.

“Well, I see you’re capable. This might take me a while, but I’ve got as long as it takes,” said William.

Bluebeard had stopped time to board the unfamiliar vessel. Whoever it was who thought they could mess with him, he was sure they were sorely mistaken.

“I’m glad you thought to stop time,” said the voice. “I couldn’t bear to waste any dealing with your sorry rump.”

“Y’ar, who ye be?” said Bluebeard.

The man made his entrance from out of the periphery of Bluebeard’s vision, coming from the left. He wore a long black fur coat, and his red hair grew up from his head like an upside-down beard. He wore a bright yellow eyepatch and had a blue hourglass lodged in his chest.

“A man who is beyond time, the legend from years ago, Augustus Doldrums, the Beard Hunter. The most displeasure to make your acquaintance… Bluebeard.”

“You’re real? I thought those tales of you and Blackbeard…”

“History is shrouded by tall tales, but the grains of truth lie dormant. I shall make you my first mark of this new era.”

“The new era is yet t’ come, and I ne’er be missing out on it on yer life. Fight me, if you think you can, spectre.”

“A brave one. Let’s hope all you Newbeards are this lively.”

“Ya won’t even get a chance, buck-for-brains. I’m yer enemy, and that’s ya first mistake.”

“Do you always talk like that?”

“Only when I’m pissed off, ya scallywag.”

One attack after the other, Esther and William exchanged blows. They were fairly evenly matched, to the point where each successful hit barely did anything to shake the other.

“Vocal Fist: Song of Rage!” said Esther before she sang a high note that, as it travelled from her mouth, took on the form of a fist made of solid air. The fist was the same size as her opponent and much faster, honing in on him like a missile.

The fist knocked William back quite a bit, but as he flew through the air, he rapidly punched the air behind him thirty-five times. This changed his momentum and sent him crashing back onto the rock formation. He stood up, unfazed and smirked. He knew the challenge that lay before him, and had the confidence that he could see it through.

It was at this point, after several blows had been exchanged, Esther began to realise how William fought. She wondered if this new knowledge would do her any good, already aware that her opponent was no pushover.

“Well, the warm up is over. This is your last chance to give up and walk away,” said Thirty-Five Fist.

“Impossible. There is no way a rookie like you could convince me to disgrace my name as an Admiral,” said Whistler.

“Just because I’m not a veteran doesn’t mean I’m a rookie. I’m in that sweet spot in-between. Been a pirate for three years, I practically run the whole Hermes Sea.”

“Now is not the time for you to brag, pirate scum.”

“Ouch, you’re an Admiral known for your killer voice. Does it please you to be so vicious, I wonder?”

“Come closer and you’ll find out how killer my voice really is.”

It was another day of training aboard the Psychic’s Revenge as Crock was attempting to increase James’ potential, through the third strength multiplier.

“As you know, there’s base strength multipliers, which go up to ten, and the secondary multiplier which can go up to nine, making the highest possible multiplier ninety-strength,” said Crock as James listened intently. “Today I am going to teach you about a third multiplier.”

Crock paused to let his words sink in. “There exists the potential in humans to reach three strength multipliers, at the maximum, ten strength by nine strength by eight strength: a total of seven-hundred and twenty-strength.”

“Did you ever get that strong?” asked James.

“I might have, were my spirit not worn down by the journey and the hardships I faced. I didn’t know how to deal with that inner turmoil.”

“Hm? What does that have to do with strength potential?”

“In order to reach your full potential in this way, one must have an extraordinary inner and outer strength: these are known as your zero-strength and one-strength respectively.”

“Those exist?” asked Cameron, who was present but not actively participating in the training at this time.

“Yes, a person’s inner strength, their zero-strength, is the mental fortitude they have regardless of other factors. A person with a high zero-strength can master parasite powers, perform powerful spells, use three strength multipliers at once, and can even extend the potential of their own body.”

Crock continued, “One-strength is a person’s base physical strength and all their natural capabilities. Everything within the scope of one-strength is magnified by strength multiplication.”

“So is there a difference between a mind that is made sharper by multiplication and the inner strength which is not?”

“Correct James, one cannot multiply their inner strength, but every other aspect of their mind can be improved through the same means as their natural abilities.”

“Is it possible to transfer your strength into objects?” asked Karnilla. “I’d like to make the Viper Chain a lot deadlier.”

At this point, Crock realised that the entire crew was listening to him, though James was the only one training.

“Amazing how you all have the time to be here,” he remarked. “No matter, I’ll answer it simply. Strength multiplication is an ancient form of power magic that involves utilising one’s spirit. As the particularly strong people of the world know, the spirit can be used to bolster anything that it carries. Your clothes, your weapons, pretty much anything of value to you.”

“If strength multiplication is power magic, then how come it’s so accessible?” asked Patricia.

“As far as I know, it is because there is something in everyone that gives them the potential for strength multiplication, but it is much rarer to be capable of other magic.”

“In any case,” Crock continued, “using your own strength to make your weapons more powerful is something familiar to the world’s strongest. Admiral Whistler enhances the power of her voice, Admiral Slicer enhances his scalpel, Munge even uses strength multiplication to enhance her sound waves.”

Augustus Doldrums had bonded with the Blend parasite, and was capable of vast manipulation. He was able to slip through the cracks of time by fooling space itself into not noticing his existence. He had a tendency to entertain himself by creating fake events, as a result almost every impostor throughout history was actually him in disguise.

Right in front of Bluebeard, who did not seem too phased by the Beard Hunter’s immunity to his power or his unwavering confidence, he suddenly changed into an exact duplicate of the pirate he was staring in the face.

“Did you hear about the fake Redbeard? Because that was me. No disrespect meant to the original, I was just bored.”

“You know, you are one creepy motherfucker,” said Bluebeard.

“Thanks.”

The fight between Admiral Whistler and Thirty-Five Fist went its first four days with no significant injuries sustained by either party. Esther smiled, as confident as ever. The next attack, however, would catch her by surprise.

“Teachings Twenty-One: True Heartache!” exclaimed William as he, while behind Esther, punched her in the back thirty-five times. Though each attack landed, her defence was strong enough that each punch was like a little push. Thirty-five of them was enough to damage her back slightly, and possibly tip the battle in her opponent’s favour. However, as their strength was at an unusually high level, the battle would continue, and after twenty days of fighting, only then would one emerge the sole victor.

Heavily beaten down by the fight, an exhausted William got back on his feet, smiling and laughing at Esther. The latter heard this, as she was struggling to stand up, also exhausted.

“You won’t be…” Esther coughed up blood as she spoke. “Laughing… when I bring you down.”

“You think I’m going to lose? After twenty days? No, I’m going to win, and you know it.”

Though the outcome of the battle would remain to be seen, on the twenty-sixth of November, the crew of the Thirty-Five Fist Pirates sailed onwards to the Gogh Strait. They never talked about the fight, per the wishes of Esther Maddock. Did she win or lose? Time would tell, though some speculate that she was not the victor in this scenario.

Bluebeard only needed five days against his opponent, as the Beard Hunter had a major weakness, and the former was surprised that no-one had figured it out after all these years. With help from one of his new crewmates, Bluebeard exploited Augustus’ weakness and defeated him, the majority of the damage being sustained over the last two days.

The following November and December were a turbulent time in the Atlas Sea, as more pirate crews began to arrive, destined for the Gogh Strait.

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Change of title to something more reflective of the chapter's content.

It was the first of December, and a new century was only one month away. Ontario Festival, having been freed of his duty as a Vanguard, now stood in a prime position to change things. As a former Admiral, he had a skill set few others in the world possessed. He was unsure of how to use this to his advantage however, only concerned with seeing his sons, who he had not known since they were little.

Luckily for Ontario, it was apparently his fate, according to Indigo, to reunite with his sons and become the new captain of the Basketball Pirates. Though he despised Indigo’s outlook on life, and was extremely skeptical, he knew that her allowing something to happen was a big deal. He could hardly pass up the opportunity to reunite with his sons.

He had no desire to become a pirate captain, but learning that the world had moved on without him, that the government did not care about his contribution as an Admiral, he realised that he may not have a whole lot of options. As he made his way to his sons’ location, their ship currently sailing the North Sea, he gave it thought, and wondered why his sons became pirates. Not just any pirates, but pirates themed around basketball? The notion confused Ontario, but he understood that perhaps the world around him was changing, that there were things he did not know, and things he could not fathom.

Piccolo ‘Pick’ Madhouse had started the Basketball Pirates as an homage to the Detective Pirates, the crew who saved his team from limbo. With no claim to the team name ‘Satchanville Copperheads’, they were a basketball team without a home. The fact their lives were saved by pirates was something they would never have suspected, but it is what inspired them to a seafaring life, rather than a simple nomadic one.

Jason and Corey Festival, also called the Festival Brothers, were the sons of former Admiral Ontario ‘Shooter’ Festival. They had grown up without a father, but never felt like they needed one, having many role models in their community to look up to. One such man, Ebenezer Sneezer, saw their passion for basketball and encouraged it.

Allan ‘Battle Man’ Waterloo had grown up with the Festival Brothers in their neighbourhood, and though he hardly started out with an interest in basketball, grew to love it after playing with his friends and quickly improving.

Timothy ‘The Moth’ Partridge had been hired by the marketing team for the Satchanville Copperheads, and started as an outsider to the team, replacing a former member and hardly making himself available for team-bonding. Nonetheless, after a few years of playing with them, he was considered one of them, a team mate they could count on.

The Basketball Pirates had set out on their new ship, stolen from Port Windsor, Omatra - a port north of Liandwood Bay. The ship was once known to its owner as the Great Millennial, but its new crew renamed it the Slam Dunk. They had no particular destination in mind, their main goal for the time being was to go on adventures and get stronger.

Over the course of their journey so far, they had all earned relatively large bounties, compared to being small-time pirates.

Piccolo ‘Pick’ Madhouse: Seventy million onits.

Allan ‘Battle Man’ Waterloo: Twenty million onits.

Timothy ‘The Moth’ Partridge: Forty million onits.

Jason and Corey Festival: Ten million onits each.

They were sailing across the North Sea shortly before Ontario made first contact with the crew.

“Hey man, why your bounty gotta be twice mine?” asked Allan of Timothy. “I just can’t wrap my head around it, man.”

“What can I say, the parasite chose me, and my power just so happened to freak out some navy dude,” replied Timothy.

“Say, do you think we could do something like what the Detective Pirates did?” asked Jason.

“You mean free a bunch of people from another dimension?” asked Corey.

“No, more like free everyone from a prison,” said Jason.

“They really did that?” asked Timothy.

“No way, they had to have had inside help,” said Allan.

“The times they are ever-changing,” said Pick.

“What’s your opinion, Pick?” asked Timothy.

“We have a long way to go to catch up to the Detective crew, and they are likely behind other crews. When parasite powers and strength potential augment the battle, there are levels to power that most people will never come close to attaining.”

“That’s a smart way of looking at it,” said Corey.

“Yes, but I want you all to remember, we’re not in it to be the best, or compare ourselves to others. Let’s have fun on our adventures, okay?” added Pick.

“Yes, that’s good advice,” said Jason.

“You’re all boring me,” said Allan.

The five of them burst into laughter, as if Allan had said the right thing at the right moment, as if it were the funniest thing they had ever heard.

As they laughed heartily, an imposing figure landed on the fore deck of their ship, without them noticing. It took about thirty seconds for this person’s presence to be apparent to them, and once it was, they stopped laughing. They looked up at the fore, and stared at the man who stood there. He was calm, commanding, and casual, all at once. It seemed like he had no qualms just standing there for the rest of his life.

The crew were in awe of this man, who seemed to be beyond explanation, but still, they desired to ask for one. He noticed that they had seen him, and he jumped down to the midsection of the ship where they had been hanging out.

“Hello, Basketball Pirates, my name is Ontario Festival.”

“What do you want?” asked Pick, reflexively and with an attitude about him, as if he were annoyed by this situation.

“I was told I could find my sons here,” said Ontario.

“Dad?” exclaimed Jason and Corey in disbelief.

“I know I was taken from you at an early age, but I wanted to see you now that I am a free man.”

“How do we know you’re legit?” asked Timothy.

“Do you have a basketball?” asked Ontario.

“Uh, here,” said Allan, passing Ontario one of their many extra basketballs.

Ontario effortlessly caught the ball, and without moving from his spot, shot the ball into the hoop on the other side of the ship. The crew was amazed at his skill, but still hesitant to trust his claims. He went on to explain his absence and who he was before he disappeared.

Though the crew hardly believed him or accepted him, he was content that he got to see his children one more time. Before he could leave, however, Pick challenged him to a game of basketball. For some reason, seeing Ontario’s skill had really riled him up, and he wanted to prove something. He was unsure what to prove or who to prove it to, but he felt he had to anyway. The former admiral accepted this challenge, but was not expecting Pick to wager his captaincy of the crew.

Everyone except Pick seemed to be against the idea, but he insisted. The game began, and later that day, the clear victor was Ontario. The latter was reluctant to take Pick’s position as captain, but then he came to a realisation.

“Listen up, I am a former admiral, a very powerful person in a position to change the world. If you really want me to lead your crew, not only will I make you much stronger, but I will also lead you on the adventure of a lifetime. So, do you still think I should be your captain?”

“When you put it like that, how could we refuse?” said Pick.

At the former Meals Eternal, now repurposed as a neutral zone for Hypothermia, Hambone, and Jeof to discuss events, the three were discussing the state of their all-out gang war. This war had begun a few days after the leaders of Burundi had left for the Gathering. An unknown assailant had killed Gumboot and Hin Wolfmüller. Jeof and Hambone believed that Hypothermia was responsible, and she denied the accusation.

“It’s a cold comfort that you’re here to defend the indefensible, Maria Winter,” said Jeof.

“I have evidence that I am innocent. After I present it to you, I will be accelerating our gang war.”

“If you are innocent, why do you want to accelerate this war?” asked Hambone. “Are you insane?”

“I am not. I want those who consider themselves my enemies to stop being such. If I cannot guarantee their subordination or pacification, I will eliminate them.”

“No need to speak so formally,” said Hambone.

“This is just my natural vocabulary. My apologies if I make you uncomfortable with my cumbersome mannerisms.”

“I don’t remember you being this wordy,” said Jeof.

“Sometimes I use smaller words, but it is taxing on my spirit to do so,” explained Hypothermia.

“What do you mean?” asked Jeof.

“Have you heard of Climatonomy?”

“The belief that the weather conditions surrounding a person’s birth influences their life?” asked Hambone.

“I was born on the second coldest day in a hundred years. I bonded with the Chill parasite. And, according to my readings, I am a user of big words, and destined to get what I want.”

“What could you possibly want?” asked Hambone.

“To rule the entire Phobos, of course. I want to be the very definition of fear.”

As the Detective Pirates continued to sail toward the Gogh Strait, on the fifth of December, Patricia had a conversation with Brandon after thinking about his earlier statements about having gone to the Terminus before.

“Are you sure that you could find who could lift your curse? If you’ve been to the Terminus before, surely you would have found something already.”

“I did find someone, but he said I had come too early. He refused to help me, saying that there were too many things that needed to happen before he could help lift the curse.”

“Hm, so do you think the time is now?”

“Who knows? I actually try every couple hundred years or so. Though he’s denied me seven times now. Well, considering his forms over the years, perhaps I should say they.”

“Who exactly are they?”

“A very powerful wizard, confined to their home island and who changes their physical form every twenty-five years. The namesake of the Merlini legends, Merlin.”

Patricia was amazed to learn that Merlin was real, and could hardly believe that Brandon had met them several times. The latter assured that if they ever reached Camelot, she would be able to see for herself what he knew to be true.

“Now that I think about it, Crock told stories about Camelot. Though he said that some of his tales were made up…”

“Well, I’m sure he was referring to the nature of his adventure. I’ve known many people in my lifetime, and there were many strong ones like him, whose experience felt like a burden rather than a story to tell others. Perhaps he just likes to hide what actually happened, or has blocked it out of his memory.”

“Well, if that’s the case, then I like to think we’re still in for a surprise.”

“Don’t be surprised if our voyage takes us to a completely different set of islands. We might not even get to Camelot.”

“Hey, don’t even joke about that!”

On the ninety-fifth floor of a building in Cape Foreword, called the Grand Experience Master Suite, another important meeting was held on the seventh of September.

The world’s most influential man, often known as ‘the man in the middle’, and whose true wealth remained a mystery, had come to this place today. Across from him, Fse Fso, the World Chancellor, and a representative of Indigo International, known only as Mister Coconut.

“What, Mister Almond couldn’t be here? Are you all nuts?” asked the man in the middle.

“My team is an elite unit of 2I’s operatives. Yes, our names are all based on nuts. I don’t really know or care about why.”

“It’s fine, we have more important matters to discuss. Middle man, how are preparations for the Gathering?”

“Everything is in order, as far as getting the leaders to their destination. The only exception is Halberd refusing to leave Barronym. There is also an issue with the lack of leadership in Burundi leading to all-out gang wars.”

“Alright. I trust that Indigo is not scheming anything relative to our Gathering?” asked Fse, turning to Mister Coconut.

“Indigo does not scheme. Whatever happens was meant to be. She has been very guarded about the future of this world, at least to non-androids.”

“This could be a problem. What is your opinion, middle man?”

“I think it’s fine to speak more openly, Fse. Call me Ebenezer.”

The man in the middle was less often known as Ebenezer Sneezer, a philanthropist who travelled the world to encourage people to follow their ambitions. Though the government was wary of his advice leading to rebelliousness throughout the world, he was simply too powerful to oppose. He also seemed to herald the importance of the current power structure, and how it played a part in keeping things balanced. That he believed Indigo International and the Gentleman’s Club to be worse alternatives allowed him to remain within the power structure, and continue to influence it.

Often times his influence was subversive, changing things for the better. Men like Fse Fso despised him, and the feeling was mutual, though his influence proved a necessity in navigating the complexities of the evolving political climate. Ebenezer could go anywhere and speak to anyone, he was the freest person on Earth. He truly was the man in the middle.

“One day, Ebenezer,” said Fse, with enough venom to kill, “your diplomatic approach will fail you. I can’t wait for the day that someone kills you.”

“Yes, I expected as much from you, Fse. But as smooth as things are now, I can’t help but agree. Change is coming, and I feel as if it’ll come for you, too.”

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Alright, the last chapter of Part I ! :D

Lachlan ‘Slicer’ Baron had taken a flight to Duddlewane after being summoned, and arrived on the twelfth of December. He knew why he was summoned and what was coming. He had just stepped out of the judicial building, having been stripped of his rank as Admiral. He considered himself lucky that he was not being incarcerated. As he walked, he came to a realisation.

His wife had been kept in the re-education facilities, and it was at his command. He wondered what they would do if he were no longer in a position to keep her safe there. I must free her, he thought. With no job left to speak of, independent thought is no longer a priority of mine. In fact, the Global Government is going to regret the decision that they have made this day.

Lachlan broke into the facility that day, and as he freed his wife, the two of them witnessed something amazing in the cell holding Eileen Maddock.

“The truth is out there, my destiny awaits!” exclaimed Eileen as she floated in the air, a glowing purple aura surrounding her. She then noticed Lachlan and Alessandra.

“I wish you two well. I know your positions are compromised, but I have been assured that I will succeed you.”

The next day, after Lachlan and Alessandra had escaped, unwittingly riding out onto the Final Current, Eileen Maddock had been appointed as Admiral ‘Enchanter’. Fse Fso was not happy about it, but Jupiter had insisted that the two Maddock sisters became the Admirals to lead this new era. In fact, the only reason that Esther kept her job was because of Jupiter’s interference.

In the general Gentleman’s Club Headquarters, several of the Gentleman Guides had gathered to witness the promotion of Dorothy Gale. It was the fifteenth of December, and she was about to be named the newest Gentleman Guide. Gathered around to hear what she had to say, was Phileas Fogg, Jack Door, Captain Nemo, Thomas Dreamer, Tristram Shandy, and Alexander Frankenstein. She stepped up to the podium in the centre of the hall and began her speech.

“Thank you for granting me this position among you of the Gentleman’s Club. As we move forward into the new era, I am but one of your promising new faces. Recently, through the breakout of Snyke’s Penitentiary, Laura Frankenstein and Winona Savvy have returned to us, and no doubt may soon be offered similar positions among you.”

She continued, “I realise that my rise in ranks has been among the fastest of any new recruit, but all around me, my colleagues have been making their own strides.

“Joel Sardine is already a Gentleman Scout, along with Hansen Young and Darque Storm. Frederich Mannes is a Gentleman Minor. Roman Beluchs may have joined up with the Detective crew, but as someone familiar with them, I can vouch for their character and wish Roman all the best.”

She reflected a bit on how far she had come, and what her mission was. “I hope that I can bring a much-needed fresh perspective to the proverbial table.”

With that, she was done, and the present Guides applauded, before leaving for business elsewhere. Captain Nemo met with Alexander and Phileas, hoping to get their opinion on his next trip to the Terminus.

“Why do you need my opinion?” asked Phileas.

“I want you to come with me. And yes, this will be my final journey. I will spend the rest of my years on Lincoln Island.”

“Well, it sounds fun, but I don’t know if we can leave just yet. There is work to be done and I can’t just resign right now.”

“I understand. As Grand Gentleman, you need to be here to see through the transition into the new era. To make sure the new recruits can handle the responsibility.”

“Thank you for understanding. I think we should be in a prime position to hand over the reins soon though.”

“Man, when you two get to talking, it feels like I’m not even here,” said Alexander Frankenstein.

Phileas apologised to Alexander and asked how he felt about his sister coming back to work with them. He said he did not mind, and that it took the pressure off of him to not be the only one trying to repair the Frankenstein legacy.

Nemo reminded Alexander of his offer to go to Forbuda Island and visit the Frankenstein lab, and the latter insisted that he would think about it, but that he had his doubts anything good would come of it.

The twentieth of December came and Masquer had finished preparing for his final battle with Tom Sorrow. Grudge had arrived on behalf of Indigo International to help with the battle. He had some vital information about their opponent that might turn things in their favour.

“What do you mean - ‘it’s all an illusion?’”

“He’s an ancient chaotic force that targets an individual and convinces them that they’ve lost everything, and once he takes their life, that becomes the new reality. The only chance we have to reveal the true state of Gareth Town is to make sure that you live and he dies.”

“Wait, seriously?” said Masquer in disbelief.

“Yes, and we can definitely take him down now, because his weakness exists within you.”

“Like me specifically, or-”

“You’ll see once you touch his shoulder. Doesn’t matter which of your hands or which of his shoulders, but you will have an opportunity to do it during the battle.”

“Right, well if what you say is true, then this should be quite interesting.”

“Oh, it will be, believe in Indigo.”

“I don’t, but I thank you for the information and will fight Tom Sorrow tomorrow.”

Tom Sorrow was indeed from another world. He had visited many worlds, including that of the bizarre Captain Loser, and used the same tactics: appear to level an entire town, so that his target gives in to despair, and then kills them to cement the destruction as reality. Of course, the aforementioned military hero had run away from the fight, earning his name and also ensuring his real name would be lost to time.

The reputation of Captain Loser suffered another blow when he was captured by The Million and locked up in their vault. By some bizarre twist of fate, he had been freed from that life and was now able to confront Tom Sorrow. He had been freed while on the same planet as the one who had taken everything from him. He had made his way to Gareth Town, taking over a year to get there because of his terrible sense of direction.

On the morning of the twenty-first of December, just hours before Masquer would fight Tom Sorrow, the man only known as Captain Loser was face-to-face with the chaotic evil.

“Hm, who are you again? Somebody who ran away to avoid dying? And now you’ve decided to die?”

“You’re the one dying today, Tom Sorrow!”

“You think I don’t research my targets? There’s no way you or your species has the genetic marker needed to end my life.”

“Genetic marker?”

“Long ago, my creation prompted a response… The Order introduced a special genetic modification to a particular person. It’s illegal across the universe for anyone but them to possess it.”

“They say laws are broken in ways that are not even known to The Order or The Chaos. Say, what is up with those names, anyway?”

“They evolved from the ideologies and politics of both groups. One an anarchist utopia with a hatred for any society with rules and the other a bureaucrat utopia with a desire to understand the universe and accept those who are different.”

“And you?”

“Naturally I am an agent of chaos. Much more dangerous than you can imagine.”

“I don’t doubt your power. I doubt your ability to escape justice. Perhaps it will not be me who ends you, but someday the one with the genetic marker, or perhaps someone else, will come along and stop you.”

Their conversation brought up some things that perhaps the world at large was not yet ready to know: the secrets behind the humans of this Earth, and perhaps related to why they were able to use magic and strength multipliers. Why some had hair colours that did not exist before the geographic change. Why some were so genetically different that they considered themselves distinct species. These and other factors remained just another of life’s mysteries that could not be questioned. There were a select few who knew the truth, however, and through this knowledge, one such person was able to assure Grudge that Tom Sorrow would face his defeat here and now, before he was even ready for it.

Masquer stood in the apparently barren wasteland that was once his hometown, hoping that Grudge’s assessment was accurate. If I take down Tom Sorrow, the apparent carnage will wash away, revealing a town no worse off than before he came here. He called out for his opponent, his patience wearing thin. I know he wanted our fight to be at the turn of the century, New Year’s Eve or something like that, but I’ll have to be a little early. This can only be described as fate.

Captain Loser had fled his confrontation, believing himself to have come too early, that he intended not to fight, but to see his tormentor one more time.

“You believe I will die here?” asked Tom Sorrow.

“I believe nothing. I feel something. One day, my losing streak will end, and so too will your winning streak.”

Masquer had witnessed all manner of harrowing things as Tom Sorrow appeared to murder his enemies, his allies, and every civilian still living in the run-down city of Gareth Town. He wanted nothing more than to put an end to this wretched one’s life, and to see his town restored. He stood waiting for his opponent to face him, knowing that his presence would be noticed sooner or later.

Tom Sorrow sighed, disappointed in Captain Loser, as he loved to watch people die, he loved to see the hopelessness and despair in their eyes, he loved to see the life slowly drain out of them. He had somewhat self-assuredly decided that Masquer would be no exception.

Masquer, who had gone by the names Talhad French, and Falhad Trench, was the brother of Gene French and uncle to Marcus and Bullseye. He had served in Crock’s Army and had changed his name to keep the press from using his past as a weapon against his crewmates. He had travelled with Crock to the final island and while Crock disembarked to learn the secrets of the world, Talhad kept a lookout, to ensure they were not followed. Though he never asked to learn about the true nature of the world, he could have learned it if he so desired. He allowed Indigo International to direct him towards his hometown as Crock seemed to trust them, at least at that moment. He wondered what his commanding officer had seen or learnt, whether it had swayed his judgment at that time.

Now in his forties, faced with a threat like no other, Masquer had many thoughts racing through his mind. Little did he know, this final battle would provide him with answers he never even sought. A gleeful Tom Sorrow appeared in front of him.

“You’re early,” said the bizarre being.

“I’m on time, actually. And this time that I’m on, it’s all the way up. I think it might belong to you.”

“Wits won’t save you, Masquer.”

“No, but apparently this will.”

Talhad French grabbed Tom Sorrow’s right shoulder with his left hand. Suddenly, the latter began to distort, his apparent form fading away to reveal what appeared to be the vacuum of space itself. The former was intrigued by this, but maintained his vice-grip on his opponent’s shoulder.

“This can’t be happening!” Sorrow uttered in confusion.

“Oh, it is,” replied Masquer, an excitement growing on his face as his tormentor continued to change composition.

This could only be possible if… did the humans do something to that person? wondered Tom Sorrow. His form began fading away completely, and Masquer’s eyes lit up. The process that was killing the former was also forcing visions into the latter’s brain. Information few people could even handle. Though he had already decided not to learn this stuff, it was being thrust upon him now, whether he liked it or not. It would not blow his mind, but it would create a new understanding, a sense of clarity surrounding everything he considered insane or at the least questionable. The process continued for what felt like an eternity, but was probably in reality only a couple hours. When everything was done, only Masquer remained.

Quicker than Masquer could comprehend, his town came back all around him. Eleanor was there, too. Then, as if they had been waiting on standby, Thomas Dreamer and Dorothy Gale arrived with an entire crew of able-bodied workers.

“Gareth needs rebuilding, don’t you think?” asked Dorothy.

“Alright everyone, it’s time to get to work!” said Thomas.

Masquer stood open-mouthed as he tried to process the scene around him.

“Hello Eleanor,” said Dorothy. “I heard that Indigo knows a person that can reconstruct brains.”

“I don’t need a full brain to be happy,” said Eleanor sourly. “But if I could get one, you bet your ass I’d take it.”

The Psychic’s Revenge sailed across the Atlas Sea. On the horizon, a large body of water could be seen, and in the middle of it, a strange current that seemed to flow upwards.

“The Terminus exists separate from the other seas thanks to a large wall of air. It is also thousands of meters deeper than other seas, not because of the sea floor being lower, but the surface of the water being higher. The only thing connecting this foreboding sea to the Atlas is the Gogh Strait, named for its discoverer, Wilhelm Gogh,” said Munge to the crew as they approached their destination. “Whether I like it or not, I am a direct descendant of this adventurer.”

“If James is your nephew, then isn’t he also…” began Patricia before being interrupted by Munge.

“Yes, he is. Some might say this makes him stand out among modern pirate captains, but there are numerous exceptional people vying for the adventure of a lifetime.”

It was the thirtieth of December, and as the crew would arrive at the Gogh Strait tomorrow, they noticed other ships in the distance, one already going up the current, and presumably some already docked at Farewell Island. The new century was almost here, and with it, a new and wild era.

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Terminus Part II: The Sea Itself

(might be split into Year One and Year Two, idk at this point)

Century Sunrise Arc
Status: In-Progress (~58%)
Synopsis: The 42nd Century is on the horizon, and the Detective Pirates begin their adventure in the Terminus by reaching Farewell Island. They are not the only ones who thought to come at such an interesting time, though. As they become aware of their future rivals and prepare for their upcoming adventure, the leaders of the Global Government meet for The Gathering. What will they learn at the beginning of a new century? How will the world change, if at all? The Terminus awaits for the Detective Pirates and others to explore it.

Chapter 76: The Gogh Strait
First Publish Date: 9th August, 2020
Summary: The Detective Pirates take the Gogh Strait up to Farewell Island, and begin their New Year's celebrations aboard the ship.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-109669

Chapter 77: 42nd Century
First Publish Date: 21st August, 2020
Summary: New Year's comes and the Detective Pirates disembark on Farewell Island.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-110896

Chapter 78: The Fool's Twelve Captains
First Publish Date: 7th September, 2020
Summary: With twelve pirate captains gathered at Farewell Island, there are bound to be meetings between them.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-111484

Chapter 79: The Gathering
First Publish Date: 6th October, 2020
Summary: A once-in-a-century meeting between world leaders happens, and doesn't go according to plan.
Read Here: https://thrillerbark.com/threads/terminus.443/post-113427

Chapter 80: Priorities
First Publish Date: 2020 (Tentative)
Summary: NO SPOILERS
Read Here: Not Available

Chapter 81: Farewell Island
First Publish Date: 2020
Summary: NO SPOILERS
Read Here: Not Available

Chapter 82: Enter the Terminus
First Publish Date: 2020
Summary: NO SPOILERS
Read Here: Not Available

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The Detective Pirates approached the Gogh Strait, preparing to ride this bizarre current up to Farewell Island. As they were anchored at a distance far enough to observe the strait and the ships surrounding them, they took in the sights. A large hole in the ocean separated the Terminus from the Atlas, and it was exactly as it was described: the Air Wall. They were awaiting the passing of a ship that was slightly ahead of them.

The ship was about the size of theirs, and clearly well-fitted for adventure. The only bizarre thing about it at a glance was its figurehead: a chimpanzee playing the bongos. However, if one were to look closer, they would see a young girl looking out on the fore.

“Captain Anna!” said a young boy’s voice. “A group of pirates has stopped short of the strait, allowing our passage.”

“That’s considerate of them, I wonder what kind of pirates they are,” said the young girl, who was apparently the captain of the ship. “The world has many different types of people, after all.”

A young girl could be heard over the ship’s megaphones, “The flag bears the Roger of the Detective Pirates!”

As the Detective Pirates would come to realise, this ship was operated primarily by children, a pirate group known as the Ponytail Pirates. James was left speechless by the idea, and wondered what would prompt children to become pirates.

They could hardly ponder the existence of this group however, as they were soon on their way up the current. Right as this was happening, another ship pulled up, and anchored, as if to allow the Detective Pirates to go next.

“We saw you extend a courtesy to that other ship and thought we should do the same,” said the captain of this ship.

The ship was a bit larger than the Psychic’s Revenge, and was a bright red all over. The figurehead appeared to be a giant skull. The Detective Pirates noticed the Roger on the side of the ship, something that was not as pronounced on the ship of the Ponytail Pirates. The design was a skull above a crossbones, and one drop of blood on either side.

On the fore, Redbeard stood smiling.

“It’s the last day of the year, and everyone’s trying to use that legendary current,” said Redbeard. “Some others may have gotten here ahead of us, others still yet to come. If you wish to go first, we will give you this opportunity.”

“Captain, they’re in the distance, I doubt they can hear you,” said Ethan ‘The Gallant’ Shirtman.

Except this was not the case, as Munge’s Audio parasite allowed her to pick up sounds farther away than most people without sensory enhancement. She relayed the information to James and he gave the order to weigh anchor.

As the Psychic’s Revenge moved forward, Redbeard laughed and turned to his first mate. “You were saying?”

The Gogh Strait, named after the infamous explorer Wilhelm Gogh, was a fairly uncomplicated stretch of water, and one could find themselves in its current rather quickly once close enough. If a ship started going up the current, the most important thing for the ship in that situation is to stay straight and maintain the balance of the ship. Very few ships have ever failed to utilise this current, but every now and then, a fool will not properly turn their ship, or cause it to go off balance, and doom their crew to a watery grave, or a fall down the Air Wall.

The experience would only last a couple hours at most, but the time that the crew spent looking out at the surrounding oceans, the Air Wall on either side of the strait, and the island and legendary sea that lie ahead of them, it would seem to last forever, and the memories would last a lifetime.

James Baron, who had resolved to explore this sea on a whim and hardly expected to make it this far, thought back to that fateful moment where Crock had assured him that this sea of mysteries was a place worth going to.

Milangelo Douglas had started out a millionaire wanting little more out of life than to use the maiden voyage of a ship he helped commission as a means to party. He had things in his past he wanted to forget about, and a friend he wanted to reconnect with. He never imagined the sequence of events that the past fifteenth months had been. Nonetheless, he could not be prouder to be part of the Detective’s crew.

Cameron Miles had accepted Milangelo’s invitation, but was not sure about the outcome of the reunion. He was cautiously optimistic, and at the very least willing to give it a shot. James’ takeover had come right after he had considered leaving. He did not disembark with everyone else, instead he decided that he would follow Milangelo, even considering him a friend. He had no regrets about the course of his life.

Patricia Neofoly was the weakest and most socially awkward of her peers at the Second Chance Circus, only ever friends with Karnilla Adams. She followed the latter through life as they escaped the circus, trained with the Gentleman’s Club, as they worked as police, and even during their nomadic days. They had expected their stowing away to be just another short stop in their lives, but so far, it seemed to be more impactful than anything before it. To Patricia, she finally had a full circle of friends, that all accepted her odd sense of humour.

Karnilla Adams was the daughter of a wealthy family, one of the major supporters of the circus. Though she was not hated by her family, her choice to support Patricia made her an outcast among people who would have otherwise accepted her. Her friendship, at least on her end, began to develop into feelings, which at one point could have made things awkward, but the choice to sort it out with words helped her to deal with the fact that these feelings were one-sided. Even as she came to terms with being Patricia’s friend, she never envisioned the life that they would come to lead aboard the Psychic.

Crock Turnbull had led a life of adventure and danger, and after learning the truth about the world and faking his death, he only anticipated a quiet, uneventful life. When the ship he had been tasked with helming was taken by an enigmatic detective his entire perspective shifted. He took a chance on this young man, and so far it was paying off. A part of him did wonder what islands the crew would see, and hoped that he would at least see some things he had not before.

Persimmon joined up in order to honour his late friend’s memory, and ensure the presence of that memory, in the form of the books he loved. He had no idea that he would see so many sights before even getting to the Terminus. He was glad to cook for the crew, everything that a skilled chef could make, and they were glad that he knew how to make the most out of the food they had available.

Brandon Black was immortal, and though he had a lot of adventures throughout his lifetime, he would always return to the Phobos, with no means to end his curse. He joined up with the Detective Pirates in hopes to try once more to find what he had been looking for, but also to see if these people would stick in his memory, if his quest failed.

Joneas Demafred left his home island because the changing tides seemed unwelcoming to him, and he was intrigued by the pirate detective who was capable of healing himself. Though he had not witnessed quite as much as his crewmates, what little of the journey he had shared with them so far had been eye-opening. He looked forward to the future.

Jacket ‘Jack’ Connors came from an island in the Terminus, one he had yet to fully open up about, and had found himself in the Atlas, doing odd jobs as a shipwright and engineer. He had been hired by a supply crew sailing from the Atlas to the Hermes when they had veered into the Guiding Fog. He was subsequently trapped in Limbo for a time he could not be sure of, and then freed by the Detective Pirates. Having no other place to go, he helped rebuild their ship, from the SS Psychic to the Psychic’s Revenge, and joined them on their journey. He often had doubts about his contributions.

Roman Beluchs went wherever the wind would take him, a lifestyle he had only picked up after receiving the offer from the Gentleman’s Club. As soon as it was clear that he could leave his home island, he chose to let fate decide where he would go next. Even so, his newfound role aboard the crew as their musician made him feel a sense of belonging and loyalty. He wanted to see this adventure through.

Munge had travelled more than Crock throughout her life, though she never got to learn the secret that he did. She hoped he would open up to her about it, but the history between them made things complicated. She wanted nothing more than for all of it to be uncomplicated, but it would seem that her only shot at reconciliation lay with her estranged nephew. She never expected Crock and James to be on the same crew, but she welcomed the faces of two people she had not known in years. It definitely beat any alternative.

The Detective Pirates reached Farewell Island as the sun set, it was six-thirty p.m. and as they looked around to find a place to dock, they noticed a number of ships were already docked.

“Five, six, seven-” counted Patricia, unsure of what to make of all the ships in port.

As the crew would come to notice, most of these ships were pirate ships, and one was the ship of the crew they had met earlier, the Ponytail Pirates. At any rate, the significance of all these ships would have to wait, as it was too late to disembark and so they would have to have their New Year’s Eve party on the deck of the ship.

The party began at seven p.m. and began with Persimmon and Cameron combining their knowledge to shoot fireworks into the evening sky. While these fireworks would normally have disturbed the other ships, everyone recognised New Year’s as a time of celebration, and gave those who set off fireworks an inordinate amount of leniency. Neither rival pirates nor naval forces had any interest in disturbing anyone’s private festivities. This meant that the crew were free to party.

“Oh, the sunrise o’er the ocean blue,” sang Roman.

“It makes me want to dance,” shouted the crew in chorus.

“Until my skin is a purple hue…”

“For that’s a true romance!”

The crew sang the entire song, I’d Happily Die At Sea, as the memory of Alexander Timothy’s capabilities stuck in their head. Though none of the crew had a particular connection to the song, it was a well-known sea shanty, and after everything that happened at Snyke’s, they figured that they, as pirates, should sing the song as well.

The celebrations began with half an hour of fireworks, and afterwards a big dinner, with food prepared by Persimmon. They gathered in the dining hall and toasted to their future adventure. The widescreen TV that rested on the floor above them, visible because the dining hall occupied multiple floors, was broadcasting new stations, on account of their entry to the Terminus. The only available channel on Farewell Island was the local station, Farewell Entertainment.

Farewell Island, like many other places around the world, placed an exceptional importance on the dawning of a new century, and so the scheduled programming was a four-hour countdown to New Year’s Day, starting in half an hour. As the time for the Countdown had not yet started, the last program of the century was airing: the final episode of Terminus Heroes. The show was popular in the Terminus, but the crew had no idea what it was. As they would find out while only half paying attention, it was a documentary series about the lives of the various power figures in the Terminus. This final episode, though already halfway over, was about Aethelia Pendragon, her family, and the history of Camelot.

The crew finished up the first course in time for the beginning of the countdown program. This particular program was local, because it was live, and like all islands in the Terminus, they had their own program leading up to the new century. First up, they were to rank the top ten most forgettable faces attending The Gathering.

“What even is this?” asked Patricia.

“If I remember correctly,” began Crock. “The people here are so carefree that they don’t remember the names or faces of people passing by. They presume that they will never see a stranger long enough to leave an impression. They don’t watch TV, the station here is kept functioning because of tourism.”

“Local life sounds kind of simplistic here,” said James. “Not that I could blame anyone. It would be much harder to live here if you thought twice about even half of the passersby.”

Indeed, the island had earned its name, Farewell. Here the people would greet you with goodbyes, and not remember your name or face. They offered whatever they could, knowing that the things they made would go with someone on an adventure, but they desired no such life for themselves. Every aspect of life on Farewell Island was carefree and careless. People were happy and friendly, but not too welcoming.

To many of the new arrivals, the customs of this island would sometimes cause a culture shock, but the Global Government would step in were an incident to occur, and if need be, they would find new people willing to live here. In this instance, however, the town would find itself with nothing to worry about, despite the presence of so many pirates. After all, the years had allowed knowledge of this island to disseminate across the world, and it was now much less likely for any newcomer to be ignorant of the place they were going to.

Nine p.m. came and the crew had finished dessert, and now just sat at the table watching the TV. The ranking had finished and now the station was doing an interview with their first guest of the night: Gate Fredericks.

“Someone give me a drink so I can spit it out!” said Patricia.

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It was nine p.m. on Farewell Island, but that did not mean the new century had yet to dawn. For the East half of the world, it was twelve p.m. or later. In detail, the half that included the eastern part of the North, Hephaestus, Atlas, and South Seas, and the western part of the Dry Half, as well as the continent of Theminos and the Hermes Sea, were all experiencing the first of January. The eastern part of the Dry Half, Pallanos, the Phobos and Terminus Seas, and the western part of the North, Hephaestus, Atlas, and South Seas were still in the thirty-first of December. Though different countries had different names for their specific time zone, such as Burundi Standard Time only being used on Burundi, despite being the same time as several islands in the Terminus.

Farewell Entertainment was hosting a New Year’s Eve special program, and at nine p.m. the hour was dedicated to an interview with the most notorious pirate known to be on the island: Gate Fredericks.

“So, you went from a seventy-five million onit bounty to seven hundred and twenty-five million?” asked the interviewer.

Gate answered the question with a simple yes, prompting a further question about how he achieved such an increase.

“I facilitated a breakout of Snyke’s Penitentiary,” he began. “Though I was far from the only one involved, my particular role was considered significant. I also believe that my previous exploits might have contributed to my number. For whatever reason the government did not want to acknowledge the threat that I posed to them.”

“Great answer,” the interviewer paused to put some distance between this answer and her next question. “Do you think that you are the biggest threat to the government right now?”

“Far from it,” he adjusted his posture, opting to lean forward slightly. “It’s up to the world to decide, I’m just one of many going out there and making my mark. Obviously the big, long-standing organisations pose a bigger threat than any single pirate crew could. In addition, I would recognise the power of my rivals, though I know not of where they are now.”

The interviewer took this sentence as an opportunity to ask about the pirates Gate might consider rivals.

“There are a number of choices as far as I can tell. Though to any pirates who think highly of themselves, do not take it personally if I haven’t heard of you.”

The two stopped to have a laugh about what Gate had said before he continued on.

“I consider several candidates. Thirty-Five Fist is perhaps the most formidable fighter amongst pirates without any parasite powers. The colour-beards all have high level parasites.”

The interviewer was confused by the moniker, and asked for clarification on the meaning of it. Gate clarified that colour-beard was a category he gave to the three pirate captains with epithets based on their beard colour. This included Redbeard, Bluebeard, and Yellowbeard. The interviewer almost decided to have Gate elaborate on the names given so far, but after the two discussed it, she agreed to let him finish.

“There’s the Detective I worked with in Snyke’s Penitentiary. He has some heavy-hitters on his crew. Apart from that, there are many pirates I’m sure who will surprise everyone.”

The interviewer now asked about each of the names that Gate had mentioned, and they talked about them all for about twenty minutes. The Detective Pirate crew, who had been watching the whole thing, liked to hear that Gate respected them, and was aware of their potential. They also found his opinion of the other crews he mentioned to be interesting.

The next subject that they talked about was Gate’s parasite and how it worked. That took up another twenty minutes, and then they moved right along to Gate’s goals for the New Year and what he thought might happen this century.

Out of all the Detective Pirates watching the interview, none were more interested in the speculation of this part than James himself. He found himself agreeing with some of the ideas put forward, that the next hundred years might indeed be the most hopeful and exciting for those on the outskirts of society.

Patricia had found herself mostly bored by the interview, and waiting for the next event to happen, all the while noticing Karnilla and Roman talking about various countries in Pallanos and Theminos, Cameron, Milangelo, and Brandon discussing the colour-beards brought up earlier in the interview, and various other mundane discussions among the group. Only James and Joneas were still watching the interview, everyone had found things to talk about, and people to talk to.

This made the impending New Year’s Eve seem just like any other day, the various crew members engaged in friendly conversation about anything and everything. This moment was much like many others aboard their ship, and the sight made Patricia feel at ease. Perhaps this New Year will be even more exciting than the last, she thought.

Though the idea of heading into a new century had yet to dawn on the crew, they were nonetheless excited to be in the Terminus at this time, watching the locals of Farewell Island prepare for the New Year.

At ten p.m, the program featured a look back at the past hundred years of Farewell Island tourism, and everything that locals had done and accomplished. The Detective Pirates paid no attention to this portion, instead opting to watch Roman’s karaoke in the entertainment hall.

As the crew had moved from one part of the ship to another, they now had little reason to turn on a different widescreen or return to the dining hall. Crock went back to turn off the TV in that part of the ship, and upon returning informed his crew that the final segment of the local program was a showing of the park where the fireworks were to be set off, talking with all the locals who had gathered for a party underneath the stars.

“Well, it might be the turn of the century, but do we really need to see that?” asked Jacket.

“I would like to see it,” said Persimmon.

The night concluded with celebrations all around Farewell Island, as the New Year arrived and the fireworks were set off. Aboard the Psychic’s Revenge, everyone had only one goal for the future: their adventure in the Terminus. They toasted to this shared goal before eventually deciding to call it a night at around one a.m.

The next morning would be the first disembarking on Farewell Island, and the first day of the 42nd century. At around eleven a.m. the Detective crew were ready to explore the island. The first thing they noted was that the other ships at the dock had already seen their personnel disembark. James wondered if he would meet any pirates while going around town.

In a gift shop not too far from the port, Redbeard talked to the clerk, asking about the slogan on the merchandise.

Terminus Est Initium, it’s a very popular saying among those who come to this sea. As such, this store sells all kinds of items with the expression on it.”

“Hm, then… I reckon I’ll buy a T-shirt,” said Redbeard.

“Hey uh, captain? I think that little boy is looking at us,” said Sir Quarantine. “What do you think he wants?”

A little boy dressed in dirty clothes coughed and looked away when he realised that he had been noticed. He looked back up and spoke to the people he had just been looking at.

“Excuse me sir, but you wouldn’t happen to have some spare change? I’ve been working all day by the river, but I haven’t caught anything to feed my family with. It’s just me and my sister, I need some money, and I don’t know what to do.”

Redbeard looked down at the kid with a sombre expression. He bent down on his knee and met the boy at eye-level. He looked into the boy’s eyes and spoke.

“This be a harsh world, boy. If ye wish to survive on yer own, ya must earn money, whichever way you must. Tell me, do ye know how to shine a shoe?”

At a cafe in the southern side of town, Bluebeard had sat down for a coffee, when Yellowbeard came barging in.

“Looks like I’ve finally got you,” said the latter.

“Oh really,” said Bluebeard in between sipping his coffee. “It looks like from where I’m standing, that I’ve got you.”

After a brief pause to let his words sink in, he smiled before continuing. “I know that this sea has someone who you dread to meet. Someone who could change the course of your life.”

At a local school, which was closed at the moment, Anna and the Ponytail Pirates were hanging out on the playground.

“You know, I kind of miss playgrounds,” said a young girl.

“I understand how a lot of you feel, which is why I give you these opportunities. I think our adventure will offer us much more satisfaction than a playground, but ultimately we are still children, and our desires to play require that which cannot be replicated by the open ocean,” said Anna.

Then realising that they could build a playground on the ship to better address this issue, she told Tim to tell the shipwrights to get to work on a playground. As the children discussed their future plans, it became apparent that the Ponytail Pirates were made up of two major factions: the children, friends of Anna’s that she had picked up along her journey, kids with the desire for a grand adventure, and the adults, pirates who had been defeated by the children and kept aboard for their skills, as craftsmen, cooks, or whatever else that took burdens off of the children. This crew was perhaps the most unique crew in the world and in history, and it was for this reason that the world hardly knew whether or not to take them seriously.

James, Milangelo, and Crock were one group set off on the island, Joneas, Brandon, and Persimmon another, Cameron, Karnilla, and Patricia stayed on the ship, and Munge, Jacket, and Roman were a fourth group, wandering around port.

The first group were out to find Gate Fredericks, and get his thoughts on the journey ahead. The second were going into town for supplies, as they only had a few months left from the stock they received from Barronym. The third were playing Downer, the safer, less cutthroat version of Overboard. The last group wanted to take note of the layout of the port, the number of other ships there, and other useful information that would make their departure easier.

James did not have to search for long, as it seemed that his pirating rival was walking along the perpendicular street, and they met at the crossroads.

“Ah! It’s the Detective, the most thoroughly over-estimated pirate captain on the seas. The only reason your bounty even comes close to mine is because you have some important people on your crew,” said Gate.

“What a way to introduce yourself, Lawbreaker. No, the global government fears intellect as much as strength, and they’d have to know that by now, my mind’s potential could shake the foundations of this world.”

“In the mean time, my power can actually break this world!”

“Gentlemen, you’re both stupid and weak,” said Crock.

At this, the four of them burst out laughing.

“Say, where is the rest of your crew?” asked Milangelo.

“Mine? They’re on the ship, New Year’s respite,” said Gate. “There’ll be plenty of time to sail these new seas.”

“Yes, well, we saw your interview last night and…” started James before being interrupted.

“Oh, you did? It was an off-the-cuff thing. Apparently I have the highest bounty of anyone here.”

“Well, I wanted to get your opinion of the journey to come.”

“I think I said everything in the interview. Ah, but here’s something I could tell you about now that I’ve had some time to properly gather intel.”

“You’ve been gathering intel?”

“If you don’t think I look like the type, just don’t act surprised. I wanted to know how many pirate captains were here at the turn of the century. These are record-breaking, historical numbers, and yes, your presence helps the figures.”

Joneas was stocking up on medical supplies, while Brandon and Persimmon handled the food. They had been sent out by Karnilla, who had noted the current state of things would not be satisfactory at this time. The process of shopping for new supplies would seem quite mundane in comparison to most of the adventure, but for these three in particular, there was a comfort in it. They appreciated the low stakes and the ease at which they could locate what they needed. Though different shops tended to arrange things differently, it hardly mattered for three individuals who were quite used to the occasion.

Cameron won the third game in a row, and his fellow players decided they had enough of this game. He shook their hands for a game well-played and they began brainstorming about what to do next.

Roman was confused as to why Munge needed him to come along. He understood that Jacket, as shipwright, would be familiar with some of the things she had set to find out.

“Four groups of three, and you seemed like the strongest. If someone sees us checking out these ships and comes to the wrong conclusion, well, I know I’m not letting them get the better of me. Is that clear?”

Roman thanked Munge for clarifying and they went back to what they were doing in silence.

James looked at Gate with surprise. “Oh? How many pirate captains are on this island?”

“Including you and I, there are twelve. Every one of them with a bounty of exceeding four-hundred million onits.”

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This chapter introduces The Fool's Twelve Captains (as the title suggests) and this is one of the ideas that I've had in mind for the series since I began writing it. Sometimes the final version is different than what would go through my mind, but on the positive side, those versions feel more fully realised because I think about how it fits into the larger narrative and also figure out the minor details.

James was taken aback by Gate’s statement. Surely there couldn’t be that many pirates, he thought. Oh, but there were. The captains here in Farewell Island at the dawn of the new century were all seeking a common goal: an adventure in the Terminus. How exactly all of them came to be waiting at the same time to enter, is a matter known only to each individual crew. As noon approached, each of the captains would meet with one or more of the others.

Outside of a gift shop, Redbeard was having his shoes shined by the boy who had asked him for money.

“That’s it boy, back and forth, there is a harmony to all things, and if you do a good job, then that’s honest work.”

“Leave that kid alone, Redbeard,” said a voice. Redbeard turned and saw that a young girl was sitting on a box.

“Oh, it’s you. What, would you have him turn to piracy to feed his family? Not all kids are like you, Ponytail. Say, am I talking to the real you or not?”

“That’s a poor choice of words, Redbeard. I’m a clone, but I’m every bit as real as the original.”

“When I heard that a little girl had become a pirate,” started a third voice, and both turned to see a woman come out from the shadows. “I found the idea both novel and insulting.”

Three captains had met at that moment.

Redbeard, real name Khair Rose, current bounty equaling six hundred and fifty million onits.

The youngest pirate ever, “Ponytail” Anna, current bounty of four hundred and seventy million.

The third captain was “Tectonic” Carmen Aura, current bounty of five hundred and twenty million.

In the cafe where Bluebeard was eating, Yellowbeard had taken a seat at his rival’s table, grinning to hide his frustrations.

“Oh really? You think you have me all figured out, don’t you?”

“It wasn’t hard to look into your past and learn about the man they call Mr. Green. It should be interesting to meet him.”

“Don’t think he’s someone that you could reason with.”

Before they talked any further, someone entered the cafe.

As according to my revelations, I have waited for this New Year, thought the man as he walked in. His eyes made contact with the two colour-beards and he smiled.

Three more captains had met at that moment, both of which were happening simultaneously.

Bluebeard, real name Simon Mote, current bounty equaling five hundred million onits.

Yellowbeard, real name Trevor Green, same current bounty as his rival, much to his chagrin.

“Braggart” Zeus, a monk from Mount Olympus, current bounty of four hundred and fifty million.

At the docks, two neighbouring ships had captains who both recognised the flags of the other. The two pirates butted heads and would have started fighting were it not for something they had heard coming from the dock.

“Hey, I’ve read about you two,” said a woman’s voice. “You’re the Candamiter twins, aren’t you?”

“What’s it to you, lady?” asked the one dressed in white.

“Don’t be rude, Michael,” said the one in black.

“Don’t assume my intentions, Lucifer,” the other replied.

“Well, as long as you’re only bickering, I suppose I won’t stop you,” said the woman. “But honestly, why even fight? At the end of the day, the one standing atop this world, will be me.”

“Optimistic” Michael Candamiter, captain of the Angel Pirates, with a current bounty of five hundred and fifty-five million.

“Pessimistic” Lucifer Candamiter, captain of the Devil Pirates, with a current bounty of four hundred and forty-four million.

The woman’s name was Gabrielle Mason, “Shaper”, current bounty of four hundred and eighty million.

As James listened to Gate list the names and bounties of those he had discovered were present with them on the island, only one he had yet to name at that time appeared, though he had talked about this person in his interview. Before the two captains stood “Thirty-Five Fist” William Dougal, and with a bounty of six hundred and sixty-six million onits, he had the third highest bounty after the two captains he had just met.

James had a surprised look as he anticipated the new arrival to say something. His assumption was correct, as the captain laughed and remarked that it was a relief to find the two of them so quickly.

“I heard there were people considered more dangerous than I am, and so I needed to see them for myself,” said William.

These ten captains, in addition to “Detective” James Baron, current bounty seven hundred million onits, and “Lawbreaker” Gate Fredericks, current bounty seven hundred and twenty five million, would come to be known as The Fool’s Twelve Captains. These leaders of pirate crews entering the Terminus at the beginning of the 42nd Century had a total combined current bounty of six billion, six hundred and sixty million onits.

At the front of James’ mind, the simple sight and sound of a third captain lent all the credence he needed to consider the possibility as highly probable. Curious even to him, however, was the knowledge that the three highest bounties among all the captains there at that time just so happened to meet as the clock struck noon.

“It seems the three of us might have some fate none of us could even predict,” said Gate. “The chances that the three of us would meet at this moment, I can’t explain it but I see this moment as being significant.”

“I don’t know about you two, but I am going to be the legend spoken of for centuries,” said William.

James could not help but laugh, “Sorry, it’s not that your ambition is funny, but the truth of it astounds me, as if the only appropriate response is laughter.”

Though James’ words may not have been the most precise, the two other captains seemed to understand completely, and any tension that may have arisen from his laughter was dispelled. In fact, his words led to all three of them bursting into laughter. Gate grinned and asked if the Detective had an ambition that drove him to be here.

“I’m looking for a good adventure, and to demystify these seas at least for myself, though perhaps for others, too.”

“Learning the truth? No wonder you’re the Detective Pirate,” said William, smiling and then breaking into laughter.

“As for myself,” said Gate, “I am here to become stronger, enough to be considered among the greatest threats to the Global Government.”

For strength, for adventure, for notoriety, these were the three goals each had outlined, and all at that moment seemed to respect one another’s goals. They joined hands and promised to each other that whoever achieved their goals first would be recognised by the others as the greater pirate.

Carmen’s words to Anna did not go unnoticed. She simply smiled and said “Well then, that sounds like a you problem.”

Redbeard laughed and said “Personally I always found the idea of a child pirate to be unsettling. The seas are dangerous, certainly no place for children.”

“I didn’t know you had such a soft side,” said Carmen.

“All of yours concerns are valid, but I am fine. I have a power and will unlike that of any other child,” said Anna.

Carmen and Redbeard had their doubts, and the presence of Anna was enough to distract them from each other. After all, if either of them had really acknowledged the other, the entire atmosphere would have been radically different. Being pirate captains who had fought in the past, they surely would have been more apprehensive. The pivotal moment that had them taking Anna more seriously, however, was when she explained her connection to Gaia.

“Hm, this is troubling,” said Redbeard.

“I know that face,” said Carmen. “You want to fight, but you have reservations. You don’t want to fight a child.”

“You won’t be fighting me today, though I had hoped to help out that kid, it seems he’s since run off,” said Anna.

“He did? I didn’t get to pay him for his work,” said Redbeard.

Anna spoke the truth, the kid had finished his shoe shining and had run off shortly after the pirate captains began talking to each other. Redbeard said goodbye to the other captains, opting to talk with his crewmates and determine whether or not the boy had received his proper pay.

Carmen said that she was not one to disrespect a rival, and that now she knew more about Anna, she had a newfound respect for the young pirate.

Anna’s form began to move through space without exerting any energy. “Well, looks like I’m being called back,” she noted.

Carmen was surprised by the speed at which Anna had disappeared from where she had been sitting. She decided to return to the docks and check up on her crew.

No-one in the cafe moved. A mess had been made of the entire place, with food, drink, and various materials and pieces of the cafe everywhere. As an example, the couple that had been in the dining seat next to Bluebeard and Yellowbeard were now seated on the ceiling, as their dining seat had been flipped upside down. One man was covered in juice, and the other had bits of glass from the cafe counter hovering just beyond his skin.

The three captains had begun a fight, and as a courtesy, they had agreed not to hurt any civilians. Bluebeard had paused time, and could easily fix any mess created. There were dark spots all over the place, as if electricity had struck them, and several parts of the cafe had been rearranged or had their properties changed.

“You two have powers worthy of those who would challenge me,” said Zeus. “How about we fix this place up and settle this at a later date?”

Yellowbeard smiled and said “Sure, matey, we’ve gone wild enough I think.”

Through a joint effort between the three captains, all the mess they had made went away, as if none of it had ever been made at all. When they were done, Bluebeard and Yellowbeard took their seats, and Bluebeard resumed time.

The couple, cleaned and restored to their normal states, had no idea or concept of the fight that had happened moments prior. They laughed about things from the conversation they had begun before time had been paused, and as they wiped tears from their eyes and calmed down, they straightened up and turned to the two captains sitting across from them.

“Say, I don’t believe I’ve seen you two around these parts,” said one of the men. “Are you travellers?”

“We’re rival pirate captains,” said Yellowbeard with a smirk. The couple began to laugh, followed by the two colour-beards.

“Well, good luck on your journey,” said the other man.

“Thanks for that,” said Bluebeard. “All well-wishes will come in handy when entering this sea.”

Zeus left the cafe as quickly as he had entered, prompting confusion from some of the patrons. The two other captains paid for their meals and left the cafe as well, headed back to their crews for the time being.

At the docks, the scene between the Candamiter twins had gone from tension to pure confusion, as they wondered why Gabrielle Mason had decided to get involved.

“Let me guess, those looks on your faces mean that you’re about to say, ‘Who is this woman and why does she care if we fight or not?’ The answer: I don’t care, but it would be boring if two prospective pirates were to fight to the death here.”

“You presume much. While it is true that we hate each other enough to want to kill one another, each of us is here to follow our specific journeys, and neither of us wants to deny the other a chance at their desired location,” said Lucifer.

“It’s not every day pirate captains like you two come along. Most of the pirates around here have lofty ambitions, like myself. But you twins, you just want to visit specific islands. And given how your crews are setup, it’s not hard to figure out which islands, let alone figure out that you have such a goal.”

“You’re very observant,” said Michael. “But it would not do to dwell on these things. Our business is not yours.”

“Fair enough. Nice meeting you,” said Gabrielle before turning around to see Carmen Aura approaching the dock. “Ah, now here’s someone interesting.”

As if understanding that a presence was about to make itself known, Carmen stood defensively, as she looked to identify what was coming. Quickly she understood exactly who would be there waiting for her.

“There is but one person I have longed to meet face-to-face,” said Gabrielle. “I never expected that we would have the same destination in mind, and at the same time no less.”

As the two women faced each other, a tension arose in the air. Carmen smiled, as if she had figured this might happen.

“There are no coincidences, Shaper. Just as you abandoned your position in the navy to become a pirate, and I decided that the world needed to see me as its formidable adversary, the two of us meet here. Which of us will reach our goals first?”

“Say what you will, Tectonic, as my crew and I are already preparing to set sail. Take your time here if you need to, because I doubt the few days will make too much difference on these seas. Good luck out there, fellow pirate.”

Meetings between captains would continue throughout the day, but for the most part, few captains would form rivalries apart from ones that already existed, or were fated to exist. From Bluebeard and Yellowbeard, to the Candamiter twins, from Carmen and Gabrielle, to the Detective, Lawbreaker, and Thirty-Five Fist. Zeus lived up to his moniker “Braggart”, by challenging anyone he happened to meet that day. Redbeard and Ponytail went about their business, and any chance encounters would leave those meeting either captain with an impression that their potential remained an enigma.

The day would end with four captains setting off on their journey: Gabrielle ‘Shaper’ Mason, ‘Braggart’ Zeus, and the Candamiter twins. On that same day, the first of January, there was a very important other event unfolding on Duddlewane Island: the once-in-a-century meeting of the world’s leaders: the event most commonly known as The Gathering.

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