Chapter 66:

Chapter 66 - Journey to the West


Roulette awoke in her cabin aboard the Skywind. Sunlight was streaming in through its small, circular window, and the sound of wind gusting across the deck filled her ears. It didn’t seem like the vessel was moving yet; they’d all agreed to talk over their next move before taking to the skies, given the significance of the night’s events.

The girl sat up on her cot and stretched. It still didn’t feel real. Had they really killed a Gun Czar? She had trouble believing it, even though she’d seen him plummet from the cliff with her own eyes. The last thing she’d expected was for Mimi, of all people, to be the one to bring him down, but she supposed it was better that way–despite everything she’d been through, Roulette still wasn’t sure she had the gumption to actually kill someone.

She rose to her feet and started getting ready, losing herself in the rhythm of her morning routine. She reassured herself that, if nothing else, she’d been instrumental in saving Morgan. It had taken some time, and a lot of trigger pulls, but Lady Luck delivered in the end. She smiled at her reflection in the little hand mirror she used for gussying up, and for the first time in a long while she felt truly confident.

She really could do it. She could master her weapon. She could turn her flaws into advantages.

She could save the people she loved.

With her preparations complete, the girl stepped out into the hallway and made for the deck. She climbed the stairs to find the ocean stretching out before her. Clear and tranquil, it lapped softly at the airship’s hull. High tide, she reckoned. Good thing the ocean’s calm today, or we might’ve been pulled out to sea! Roulette suspected that this little detail had slipped Morgan’s mind, but she could hardly begrudge him for it after yesterday’s showdown.

“Roulette!” she heard someone call from the bridge. She looked up and saw Beretta there, waving to her with a big grin on her face. “Come up! We have been waiting!”

The girl happily obliged, taking the steps to the upper deck two at a time. Sure enough, Morgan, Mimi and Marka were already chatting away in the navigation cabin. “Everythin’ alright?” she asked, striding over to the little girl’s side.

“Yes. We are planning what to do next, and we wanted to know what you thought.”

Roulette nodded and allowed the girl to lead her into the crowded cabin. Mimi waved from her place by the wheel, having obviously been tapped as their head navigator in light of Morgan’s injury (which, incidentally, he saw fit to complain about the moment Beretta reentered from the deck):

“Hey, Berry, we were just talkin’ about how you always seem to run out of healin’ juice right before I get banged up. Why d’you think that is?”

The little girl blushed and stared down at her feet. “Sorry… I found Father first, and he was very hurt… I had no idea–”

Marka crossed his arms and fixed Morgan with a steady glare. “Do not tease her, Morgan. She has done her best–I am certain it is not personal.”

“Just seems a little suspicious is all. Hard to think straight, I guess, with my hand throbbin’ like this…”

“Thinking straight isn’t your strong suit even at the best of times,” Mimi interjected. “Try to keep the bitterness to a minimum, hmm? You may recall that we all pitched in to save your life yesterday.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he drawled, waving his good hand dismissively.

“Morgan, you’re bein’ a… A baby,” Roulette added, reminding herself of Beretta’s presence just in time to censor what she really wanted to say. “I get it, though. Turu probably broke a bone or two. If it were me, I’d probably be pretty cross myself. Maybe that should be our top priority: gettin’ our boy here some medical attention?”

Morgan nodded enthusiastically. “I’m for it.”

“Of course you are,” Mimi said with a roll of her eyes. “Fortunately for you, I am too. Whatever our next move is, it couldn’t hurt to take on some more fuel, and we’re likely to be able to do that in any town that has a proper doctor.”

Marka knitted his brow and stroked his mustache, apparently considering their options. “I do not know Southern Truvelo as well as I would like, but I do know that one of its largest settlements, Trumbash, is somewhere along the coast. If we fly north from here, we should come across it eventually.”

Mimi looked to Beretta. “We’ll need someone watching the coast, then, so I have some idea when to land. Can I count on you Berry?”

The girl gave a little salute. “I can do that!”

“Good,” Mimi replied. “That’s settled, then. But the question remains: what happens after that?”

The group fell silent. Marka looked anxiously in Beretta’s direction, while everyone else’s eyes went straight to Roulette. Thankfully, she’d spent some time thinking about what would come next for them before sleep took her.

…The only question was whether or not they’d all be coming along for the ride.

“Marka. Berry. I know this is your home, and I couldn’t rightly ask you to leave it,” she began. “But you should know that I plan to go back overseas. I’ve got unfinished business in Wesson, and going back home to set things right is important to me. So I’ve got to ask you to choose: come along with me, or part ways with us in Trumbash.”

She tried to keep the waver out of her voice as she continued: “Just know that, whatever you choose, I’ll respect it. And no matter what happens, you two will always be my dearest friends.”

Beretta met her father’s eyes, plainly aware of the deep concern everyone could see within them. “Father?” she asked in a small voice.

He shifted his gaze to Roulette, sighing uneasily. “Will it be dangerous?”

“Yes. Definitely,” she answered. “More dangerous than anything we’ve been through so far. I’m going after Gun Czar Gunn, and he’s got a finger in every pie in Wesson. I reckon we’ll be hunted every step of the way.”

Marka exhaled slowly, as if the blunt honesty of her reply pained him. “I am trying to decide what a good father would do here,” he chuckled, gazing back his daughter’s way. “What do you think, Beretta? What would you like to do most?”

A momentary lull in the conversation ensued. And then:

“I want to go!!” she exclaimed, her hair flying every which-way as she jumped in place. “I want to go so bad!!!

That shattered the tense atmosphere of the exchange in an instant; everyone laughed–or at least smiled–to witness the joyful energy of their youngest crew member’s response.

“Well, alright then,” Marka declared after recovering from a particularly robust bout of belly-laughing. “Who am I to stand in the way of such certainty? We will go with you, Roulette–we will join you on your journey across the sea.”

Roulette’s ensuing smile was so wide, she worried it might split her face in two. “Glad to have you aboard, then, Marka and Berry!” she announced, turning her attention to Morgan and Mimi as a matter of course. “I take it you’re both game to head back to Wesson, too?”

“Nice to be asked,” Morgan replied, setting aside his demeanor of pain-induced moodiness just long enough to smirk, “but there’s really no need. There’s nothin’ for me here except a long chain of dive bars to waste away my life in… And let me tell you, that old song and dance is gettin’ mighty played out by now.”

Mimi nodded in agreement. “Provided we can avoid my parents, I suppose I can be persuaded to stick around and continue offering my expertise. And who knows? If we’re to be taking down another Gun Czar, you might need me, given I’m the only one among us who has managed to do the deed so far…”

“We’re never gonna hear the end of that one, are we?” Morgan groaned.

“No,” she said, fluttering her eyelashes mockingly. “No you won’t.”

“It’s settled then–we’re all sticking together!” Roulette announced. She smiled at each of them in turn and exchanged a look of utter glee with Beretta, the only crew member who looked to be as excited about the development as she was. “Let’s get to our stations, then! Beretta will watch the coast from the foredeck, Mimi’ll be driving, Morgan will be tryin’ not to annoy her so much that we crash, and Marka will stoke the engine.”

“What about you, Roulette?” Beretta asked. “What will you do?”

“Me?” Roulette replied with a wink. “I’ll be drawin’ up a map for our adventures in Wesson. It’s a big place with a lot of ground to cover, and nobody here knows it better than me!”

With that, the members of her posse split off to perform their various roles, leaving her free to go back belowdecks. Before she did, though, she turned from the steps and stared off toward the western horizon.

“I’m comin’ for you, Gunn,” she said to herself, fists clenching at her sides.

“And this time, I’m bringin’ company.”

Patreon iconPatreon icon