Chapter 99:

Temples and Puzzles - Part 1


Since there wasn't that much to learn there, Anna only knew the basics about warships. The Navy wasn't something that the Federation cared about a lot and so, few books on the subject were around. Still, she could see that this one frigate was way too undermanned.

Just how frantic the short colorful mariners were at the 'set sail' order would already be enough for this conclusion. And the fact that the whole area prepared for officers was empty only cemented this.

How the medical bay attached to the wardroom was empty was a little worrying though. From what she remembered, this was the place where you would take wounded during a battle, so if it wasn't functional...

Either way, no officers using their own amenities was a giveaway that, either this place had officers that didn't use their position or that it had almost no officers at all. And it was obvious that the second option was more likely and weirder too.

In fact, even entering this empty wardroom didn't feel right.

“This place’s kinda depressive, ay? Was expectin’ a li’l more from an officer’s room…” Anna spoke after a small glance around the room. It was a decently sized one, that's for sure, but the furniture was a little lacking for her standards. Only a long table with some dozen good-looking chairs, an old-fashioned radio, and a couple of empty cabinets. And on the opposite wall, the medbay annex and the door leading to the officer's kitchen, both empty as mentioned before.

“Looks quite decent to me. A little dusty, but more than I was expecting from a wars… vessel.” Karim answered her partner, almost letting the word ‘ship’ escape in the meanwhile. “It’s more than enough for the four of us.”

“I would like some entertainment, but it would be asking too much in this kind of place...” The kitsune was the next to say something, approaching the radio as she did so and trying to make it work right after. “Resting and eating seem like an important matter, but this place is boring.”

“These are padded chairs, so it’s more than I usually have… I should ask for a promotion later." Col started to think, going back to some faraway quarter and then gazing at her current mission. "Or maybe three…”

Their arguments were all valid but didn’t have much with what Anna was trying to convey. In the end, though, the redhead couldn’t be bothered to explain a minor comment she did, so she gave shoulders and took a seat.

“Good room or not, It’s time fer a discussion.” She opened with, using her phrase to try and set a more serious mood in the group. “How yer feelin’ ‘bout this place and out li’l captain? I don’t know how good this vessel works, so I feel we’ll need to decide how cooperative this'll be.”

As she was speaking, the other girls took their seats around the table. Minako by her right, Col by the left, and Karim on the other side of the table. The usual configuration.

“I knew you couldn’t just ‘work together’ like a decent person…” Karim sighed before staring with her usual cynical glare. “Can you tell how exactly you roped Alya into helping even? She’s not weird like Minako there and neither is there something bigger forcing her like me. And that girl is even older than Col…”

“The Archipelago’s a pedophile paradise, ain’t it…?” Anna mumbled in a barely audible voice without thinking too much about it. By the mild confusion on the other’s faces though, her words were hard enough to comprehend. “Aham! I mean… I only made a fair proposal, ‘kay? She keeps an eye on me and I keep an eye on her. Whatever else’s open fer negotiation…”

“It still doesn’t sound like a ‘you’ thing, but I don’t want to lose time digging into this.” The only girl on the other side of the table said so as it would really be a pain to both sides. “And since we’re at it already, I vote to act together. But we should avoid taking risks until we’re sure she’s an ally.”

“And you two?”

“Let me see…” The kitsune answered first, summoning her tarot deck as she did so, and starting to draw cards from there. “One white and two greys… I say we’ll be fine as long as we don’t push our luck. And I’ll prepare the ritual tonight to be on the safe side…” The final bit of Minako’s answer was no more than a muffled whisper, even if this much was still more than enough for Anna, but she had no reason to call her out right now. This ritual matter had to be investigated at some point still. She already had some theories as to what these weird things Minako spoke about from time to time were. But they sounded too absurd to be taken lightly. Anna would even prefer if this 'ritual' was some useless faith-related matter.

For now, though, hearing the last answer of the group and setting their act moving forward was more important.

"And ya, Col? Any thoughts on our li'l captain and her ship?"

“As long as we can drop over the target, I don’t see a reason to leave the airship.” The less committed of the four answered last, which had even less weight when considering the hypnosis. “And if she’s a rat and we’re ambushed, then you can do the same thing from the temple, right? If you can go all-out that easy, then we’re in a perfect state.”

Either way, it was more important to set their ‘diplomatic policy’ to put it in an interesting way. Another way would be only calling this discussion as if they were going to actually help Alya until the end or only pretend to.

“Then we’re playin’ by the rules...” Annabeth concluded, changing the ‘less savory’ bits of her original plan to act more in line with the view of her companions. “Better start gettin’ ready then. We can’t waste a useful ally.”

“And what we’ll be getting ready exactly? We didn’t even leave the port yet.” The short girl asked in confusion, especially because they had just left whatever place they could prepare anything. It was still somewhat of a baited question, so Anna only smirked at it.

“That’s simple… We’ll need to find our enemy before findin’ our enemy!” She exclaimed, getting up with her overconfident smile and throwing the map she had worked with Karim a few days ago. “Or ya thought I’d lose a day workin’ on somethin’ I’d not use?”

“But that was only to hunt the artifacts, how could we…?“

“We predict how far they went. Simple as that, ay?” The redhead went on, although it made no sense at all for everyone else, her tone changing mid-sentence as to explain it all. “Actually, I’m lyin’. It ain’t simple at all, but still… It’s either this or wanderin’ without aim ‘til we find ‘em. And we’ve enough clues to try.”

“Oho! It’s a puzzle?! I love these. Never managed to solve one, but they always look so smart.” Minako leaned on the map with her eyes shining due to the prospects of having fun with a ‘game’. On the other side though, Col seemed only marginally focused on the situation. 'Seemed' being the keyword here.

“I see… All we know are the locations of the attacks, the intersections of the ley lines, and that they have missiles, right? Do you think we can crack something like this?”

“Hmmm… Who knows, ‘aight? Better try than not.”

“And it’s a lot more fun too, Karim! Like a detective novel.”

“Seems like a good enough plan." The cop agreed, giving a good glance at the huge map dotted with small islands and landmarks.

"Although I don't think we'll get anything from it...”