Valeria shrieked as yet another explosion rocked the ship, which for some reason could fly like an airplane. Once she’d gotten over the weirdness of that, which took her quite a bit, and that the ship belonged to a smelly old pirate named Boochbeard, which took her even longer, she’d actually started to enjoy the ride. Then she realized that all of those robots had ships of their own, and each ship seemed to have, like, ten thousand cannons, all of which were aimed at them.
Valeria would have liked to talk to somebody to calm her nerves, but everybody was busy. Malia was shooting a rapid-fire cannon (since when did they make those?) and yelling “DIE!!!” Wesley, surprisingly, was retching over the side of the boat. A guy who could do ten cartwheels in a row got airsick? Phoebe stood at the helm, handling the wheel delicately like it was a grenade. Boochbeard had put her in charge so he could talk with Quincy.
Valeria couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. “We have to go back for them!” Quincy screamed. He sounded almost hysterical.
“I’m afraid it’s too late. They’ve no doubt been captured by Kane,” Boochbeard said sadly. “Perhaps someday-”
“NO!” Every head on board shot toward Quincy as he let out that guttural, animalistic cry. “They are my parents! I’m not just going to let them be killed by those stupid robots!”
“Quincy, listen to me. I doubt the Armada would kill them straightaway. They are far more valuable alive than dead. Your parents are two of the most famous pirates in the history of the Spiral.”
Quincy suddenly stopped his shaking and crying and looked at Boochbeard. And he laughed. “My parents? Pirates? You’ve got to be kidding me. My dad is a soccer coach and my mom is a librarian. A librarian! They’re about as far from pirates as you can get.”
“You have no idea how wrong you are. Your father went by the name Screaming Jack. Never did a more fearsome buccaneer sail the skies. Your mother was Silver Alice, and her gift for healing was unrivaled by privateers across the Spiral. One day they met while searching for the famous treasure of Captain Blood, and they instantly fell in love,” Boochbeard explained.
“What are you talking about? That’s not how it happened. They met in college, in...in Mr. Treshure’s class. Studying the composition of blood. Blood...Mr. Treshure...treasure...Blood’s treasure...oh no. This can’t be possible,” Quincy muttered, shaking his head. “How...how can this be happening?”
“Your parents lived in a bungalow in Skull Island for many years before they gave birth to you fifteen years ago. Madame Vadima took one look at you and said, ‘This child is far too powerful. He will never be safe so long as you two are pirates’,” Boochbeard said.
“Zey left immediately.” Valeria did a double take as she realized the monkey who was standing next to Boochbeard was now talking in a thick accent that she couldn’t quite place. “Through ze hidden stormgate to arrive here, on Earth.”
“Stormgate?” Quincy asked, seemingly overlooking the monkey. Boochbeard pointed at the strange whirlpool of clouds they had seen earlier.
“That be a stormgate. It be a passage between the worlds of the Spiral. One of those world is Earth, but the stormgate to and from Earth appears only every fifteen years for one week in March. The Armada saw their chance to obtain the greatest untapped power in existence. It exists within the five of you.” Boochbeard put his hat against his chest and stared at each child in turn.
“Within us?” Wesley said, his skin a sickly shade of green. “What the heck does that mean?”
“You five have the potential to become the greatest pirates the Spiral has ever known and defeat the Armada for good. But to do that we’ll have to make it to Skull Island...” The green octopus figurehead shattered into smithereens as a cannonball struck it. “...in one piece, that is.”
“Where’s Skull Island?” Malia yelled over the sound of the cannonballs zooming past.
“Just through ze stormgate! Ze Armada wouldn’t dare to attack us zere!” the monkey shouted. Once they were safe, Valeria seriously wanted an explanation of that guy.
“Everyone grab a hold of something! We’re in for a bumpy ride!” Valeria and Malia hugged the mast, while Quincy, Boochbeard, and Wesley (the monkey as well) went into the cabin. Phoebe didn’t need to do any steering; the ship was pulled up through the stormgate without any input from her. She screamed and clutched the wheel with all her might as the ship flipped over and was sucked away.
Valeria didn’t remember much of the next few minutes, just a lot of tossing, twisting, pretty colors and bioluminescent creatures. Also vomit. Before she knew it, the ship was doing a corkscrew upwards into what looked like the Caribbean. It took her a minute to realize that all of the tropical islands surrounding her were floating in midair, and that colorful ribbons of wind formed snaking patterns through the landscape. Phoebe groggily stood up and steered the ship toward what she assumed was Skull Island given that there was a giant skull carved out of rock on top of a mountain on the island. Was it carved? It almost looked natural, but that would be impossible. Then again, she was on a flying ship in an alternate universe with an old pirate and a talking monkey while being chased by an army of robots. Suddenly it was a little easier to believe.
The first of the Armada ships started to come out through the stormgate behind them. Valeria suddenly noticed several prisoners on the decks of the ships. One stood out to her: a tall lean extremely pale man with a nose like a beak wearing a wide chinese hat. She suddenly felt compelled to rescue him. She grabbed a piece of rope that was miraculously still sitting on a barrel despite the ride they had just taken. She quickly fashioned it into a lasso and tossed.
It was an impossible shot, especially since she had never thrown a lasso before. But somehow, Valeria’s instincts took over, and she had impeccable aim like she had never experienced before, as though she were destined to be a sharpshooter. The rope met its mark and the startled man was dangling beneath Boochbeard’s ship squawking within seconds. Valeria painstakingly pulled him up (she had good aim, but she wasn’t strong by a long shot) and at last he was sitting on the deck. Valeria suddenly noticed a very important detail about him she had missed.
“You’re a bird,” she whispered. Indeed, the man’s beak-like nose was actually a beak, and his pale skin was stark white feathers.
“A crane, to be exact. Thank you for rescuing me,” the creature said. “I am Wing Chun, a crane student from Mooshu. I will join you in your fight against the Armada!”
Valeria took a step back. “Join us?”
“Yes! I will fight every battle at your side in return for rescuing me. I will be your fearless protector, your...companion. Yes, I shall be your companion,” Wing decided, standing up.
“Um, I don’t think that-” Valeria started, but suddenly Phoebe screamed as the ship rammed into the docks extending from Skull Island. Wood flew in every direction and Valentina was flung to the deck.
The hull of their ship screeched and howled as it plowed ever forward toward the the stone walls that surrounded the island. The octopus figurehead shattered as it slammed into the barrier.
All of sudden the ship came to a startling halt. Valeria shakily stood up and was shocked at the strange green aura that surrounded their ship. She looked behind them and she winced.
The docks were in ruin, shards wood floating everywhere except where they ought to be. She saw the torn sails and smashed rudders of unsuspecting ships that had been completely decimated by their arrival. The only good news was that the Armada ships in the distance were retreating to some other part of the world.
“BOOCHBEARD!” someone yelled from the fortress. Valeria spun and saw a man dressed like a pirate, decked out in green, with curled brown hair tumbling down the sides of his head and a white beard. A white cockatoo rested on his shoulder. Totally stereotypical.
The interesting one was the woman standing next to him. She had light brown skin and raven hair cascading down her shoulders that almost appeared violet in the lighting. Her clothing reminded Valeria of the stories of voodoo magic, sort of tribal and spooky. She had dark spots tattooed around her eyes that brought out the piercing green of her eyes. Her hands, which she held in front of her, exuded a faint green glow. When she lowered them to her sides the green light surrounding the ship faded. Valeria realized with a start the woman had stopped them with some kind of magic just before they were killed by the crash.
“Boochbeard!” the man called again. “You bumbling idiot! You had better have the gold to fix this!” He ran away to the right down some stairs, which presumably would lead him to the wreckage of the dock.
“Yeah, this could be bad for me,” Phoebe said with a gulp.
“Nay, nay, not to worry,” Boochbeard said, having emerged from below decks unannounced. “As long as you kids get off the ship right now, I can sail away and no one will have to pay for anything. Except Captain Avery, the man up there. He’ll have to pay for everything.”
Quincy and Wesley now groggily emerged from the cabin. Boochbeard ushered all five of them off of the ship. “Good luck. Go talk to Avery. He may seem tough, but he has a soft spot for kids like you. You’ll fully fledged pirates in no time.” With that, their only friend in this strange new world sailed off across the sky.
Valeria sighed, turned around, and walked away into her destiny.
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