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Nocturna league (episode.., p.5
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       Nocturna League (Episode 3: The Sunken Breath), p.5

           Kell Inkston
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  Chapter 4: The Interrogation and the Solution

  Grancis is taken to the infamous, mysterious room labeled 'interrogations' by the steel grip of The Captain. It’s a plain, windowless room with tables holding all manner of devices intended for effective 'human manipulation'. She’s commanded onto a table and is readily strapped down before he begins.

  He sighs. “Miss Vereyrty, I expected better from you. Kidnapping your fellow shipmate and cooperating on a degenerate experiment with Dr. Estradia? Truly shameful.”

  “Captain, I-”

  “I have not finished. Not only have you defied curfew, drugged and kidnapped one of our crew, and agreed to cooperate in backslidden scientific evils; you didn’t invite me!”

  Grancis furrows her dark brow. “Wait… what?”

  “I mean, kidnapping someone? That’s sounds like so much fun. How could you leave me out?”

  “We have more important things to do, Captain! Let me go!”

  The Captain raises his index finger in enlightenment. “Ahh! You’re absolutely correct, Miss Vereyrty. The interrogation must begin!” The Captain says as he cracks his knuckles.

  Grancis feels a deep, cold, sinking feeling— she’s not ready to see what lies beyond the door of a punishment by The Captain. “Please, reconsider! I did it for her! I was afraid you’d do this if I came to you after curfew!”

  He pushes a hand to his bandaged-over mouth and scoffs. “Oh, please. What sort of irresponsible commander do you take me for?” He turns about to the various racks and tables containing what could only be devices of horrible torture. “You can tell me anything, Grancis; and you will tell me everything.” The tone of his voice, usually collected and well-measured, becomes looser— crazier. He begins shuffling about the devices, all behind Grancis and out of her view.

  “I’ll tell you anything! You don’t need to hurt me for that! I’ll talk!” She’s trembling, but not struggling against the braces holding her down.

  The Captain releases a deep, malefic laugh. “Oh, lovely. Then I will give you this opportunity to state your case.”

  Grancis takes a full breath. “Okay. Colette’s been having weird dreams. The guy that disappeared was mentioning the same thing: bells. I think they’re connected. I think she’s going to disappear soon too, unless we do something! I snuck to Sampsaing to see if he could help. He said I should get her and split her dream. So I… I drugged her and took her up to the infirmary. I tried to scare her out of her dreams, but she… she took it all truthfully! I don’t know what to do! I think I made things worse!” She can clearly hear the movement and clicking of metal devices, and the sound of sputtering liquid. Whatever he’s preparing behind her must be something to give her pain beyond her wildest reckonings of what pain could be. “That’s the truth! I’m worried about Colette! I did it to save her! If you don’t like that, then go ahead and torture me. I won’t fight you. I know better. But please, don’t make it long, just make it painful and short. Give me two hours’ worth of pain in the next two minutes, because the sooner we get done, the sooner I can get back to Colette! I’m not going to give up, Captain!” She begins trembling as she hears more clinking and a pouring sound; it sounds like at least a cup’s worth of whatever liquid torment he’s going to inject into her. She takes this moment to completely clear her mind and prepare herself for the worst night of her life.

  The Captain is quiet a moment. “Is that all you have to say?”

  The cold-sweating Grancis pauses, tightens her fists and does her best to calm her breathing. “Yessir.”

  “Very well. Your method is quite clear to me,” he says as he steps over in front of her. The Captain has a newly-made cup of coffee in his hand and he pours a sip through his bandages. “It seems obvious that you won’t need to be punished. You were well-intentioned enough, so I don’t see any reason to hurt you for doing what you thought was right. Instead I’ll have you help me solve the problem. Would you like some coffee? I just brewed it.”

  Grancis releases a sigh of relief; among the multitude of sharp objects, clamps and drugs of all sorts, she failed to notice the coffee maker; of course there would be a coffee maker—there’s one in practically every room on board the Nocturna. “Yes I… Thank you. What do we do?”

  The Captain unbraces Grancis and offers her another cup filled with caffeinated delight. “I have heard of this sort of condition, and while a person can attempt to enter another’s dream to change the events, it would be very difficult to change the context of the dream— the ultimate end; especially when there’s an eldritch presence hunting about. I’ll deal with Estradia later— this is quite unlike him to put people in harm’s way for the sake of science.”

  Grancis takes a sip from her cup, her heart rate steadily slowing down. “Alright, Captain— how will we fix this?”

  The Captain hums melodically for a moment. “We’ll have to gate it.”

  Grancis furrows her brow. “Gate it?”

  “The act of drawing out a spiritual apparition through the psyche of the afflicted person. Rather like an exorcism, but potentially messier.”

  “How would that work?”

  The Captain takes another sip and gestures her to follow with him. “We would, for all intents and purposes, open her head. This eldritch creature does not have a physical form, and is usually only released when it perceives that the host is dead. We’ll need to cause Colette’s subconscious to presume she’s dead, tricking the creature to emerge.”

  “So, it’s trapped inside of her?”

  “More like waiting. There’s a great big unkillable something below us that instills these thoughts like parasites in its victims. Once the person is either dead or deluded enough, the body walks into the ocean, and that’s how the big scary whatever it is feeds its monthly hunger of souls.”

  “So there’s no way to kill it?” Grancis asks, finding the thought hard to take in.

  The Captain nods. “Many, many people have tried— there is not a single report of a person successfully killing a true, full blooded eldritch god,” he says, looking away for some reason. He snaps back. “Anyway, we need to draw out this parasite from the host, throw it in the depthy drink, and go full speed. There’s no fighting the greater creatures, just running and hiding from them; the parasites, however, can be dealt with in relative ease.” The Captain explains as he leads her outside, down to the main deck and around the quarter tower to a certain locked door.

  Grancis tenses at the sight. “The door to the lower decks?” she asks.

  “That’s right.” He unlocks the door with a silver key as he takes a final gulp from his cup of joe; the door swings open, leading downward into a strange, arcane, filtered light. The Captain invites her down and he closes the door behind them. The light is of an eerie sepia, and Grancis gets the feeling that all the talk of the Nocturna having a slew of horrible secrets below deck might actually be true; she begins to feel afraid— and this time not by the hand of The Captain. The two step through the hall, passing doors containing unspeakable, otherworldly noises and shifting, terrible figures outside of the common human’s comprehension. They reach a door midway down the hall that’s labeled 'Office'. “Please, come in,” The Captain says, opening the door. It’s a very normal-looking office, with the exception of the sepia tint.

  Something still feels wrong though, Grancis is sure of it— there’s something to this room.

  “Thank you,” Grancis says, stepping into an office that, out of all the sailors upon the Nocturna, she’s the only one among the lower and mid ranks to bear witness to. There’s a fan overhead, moving silently and with certainty. “So… This is your office?”

  “One of them; this is where I do most of my real work.” The Captain ruffles through his metal desk drawers looking for something, and then he pauses ceremoniously as he locates it; he chuckles darkly. From the depths of his drawer, he takes up a small, black needle, reflecting no light. “Here we are,” he says with an awe-struck tone, “The closest gat
e to a human’s soul is through the lips. You’re going to have to get closer to Colette than you ever have in your life to succeed in expelling the parasite.”

  She squints an eye. “Through… the lips? What are you talking about?”

  The Captain turns to her and notches his glasses down a bit as if to simulate an implying stare. “I think you know what I’m implying, Miss Vereyrty.”

  Her face flushes red. “C-Captain! You can’t really expect me to k-… kiss-” She’s interrupted by a broad laugh from The Captain.

  “Of course not! I don’t allow that sort of thing on this ship- allowing human mating activity? Simply disgusting. Besides, that was a lie: the closest gate is actually the eye.”

  Grancis flinches. “Wh-… the eye?”

  “Correct- we’ll need to restrain her and put this into her pupil in order to expunge the beast inside of her. Then it will be as simple a matter as kicking the ruffian overboard as best we can— I can handle that part; the needle will be up to you.”

  “S-” Grancis takes a labored breath. “You want me to stab her in the eye?”

  “Naturally. Worry not, the damage won’t be permanent, but it will certainly hurt just as much… I think.”

  She grits her teeth at the mere thought of it. “Y-… You think?” she asks. The Captain nods. Grancis turns, takes another breath and exhales, this time expunging her doubts alongside her oxygen. She turns back to The Captain. “I’ll do it.”

  He coos in amusement at her declaration. “Excellent— being able to stick a needle in the eye of your best friend is a mark of true friendship.”

  Grancis looks aside and responds with a half-hearted agreement. She extends her hand, and the black, glintless needle is bestowed upon her. “Gah!” she flinches a moment, almost dropping it. “It’s cold!”

  “Very cold. This needle is designed to be an absolutely unprecedented psychological experience in pain. When plunged into the eye, this needle, composed largely with the essence of pure Nihilism, will create a mental environment so absolutely devoid of hope within the body, that there’s no way this parasite could feed off of any common sense or reckonings of sanity at all. We could just act like Colette’s dead, but that won’t force the parasite out— this will. What’s more, this needle damages the spirit, not the body, so, surprise: it actually hurts far more. These two factors together could cause the host to be so inhospitable for the parasite, that it would be forced to vacate. I definitely do not envy Colette— she’s going to remember this one. What’s worse is that nulling the pain for her would defeat the purpose of the treatment; we’re meaning to cause pain to both her, and the parasite— I look forward to it,” The Captain explains with a hint of conversational lightness.

  Grancis just stares for a bit, dark needle clutched in her hand. She has an expression commonly expected for one staring at an oncoming train. “But… Colette will be okay, right?”

  The Captain nods. “At least in body. Whatever the outcome, it is certainly better than death.”

  She tightens her grip. “Alright. L-let’s do it!”

  The Captain leads her back through the hall of horrors, back above deck, and up into the infirmary. A woozy Colette is gaining her senses, and Grancis immediately leaps in.

  “Wow… the hell?” Colette asks outwardly, her eyes flinching to achieve some sort of orientation.

  Grancis smiles and cups the needle in her hand. “Hey, Colette!”

  Colette’s expression is confused, and then stern, and then soulless for just a second, and finally, a smile. “Heya, Gran- what the hell’s been going on? Why are we up?”

  The Captain adjusts his glasses as he inspects the room. “Something’s wrong here...” he mutters to himself, noting Estradia’s disappearance.

  Grancis ignores The Captain and responds to Colette. “Well that’s just it. You’re sick, and The Captain said the only way…” She takes a breath, “the only way we’ll be able to make you better is if I stick this needle in your eye,” Grancis says, displaying the needle plainly.

  Colette just stares on with a smile as The Captain peeks around, still trying to place what’s wrong.

  “Yeah, good one- so what is it, really? Was I just exhausted and didn’t know it?” Colette asks, friendly smile still on her face.

  The Captain flinches and Grancis grins sheepishly. “Well,” she says, “that’s just it. I’m not joking. You have a thing in your head, a parasite, and this needle’s the only way to get it out. If you don’t do it you’ll die.” Grancis steps forward.

  “What’s missing here…” The Captain mumbles, stroking his chin in thought; suddenly it hits him. “Grancis, Colette,” He says in a calm tone, but both are preoccupied.

  “Salt told you to shove a needle… in my eye?” Colette raises a brow and her smile becomes indignant.

  “Well, yeah. You gotta do it, though, you must,” Grancis attempts to ease Colette onto the operating table she was sleeping on. Colette grasps Grancis’ wrist— her grip is hard, efficient. “C-… Colette?”

  Colette’s grin widens. “Are you nuts? There’s no way in hell I’m going to let you put that shit in my eye.”

  “Colette, Grancis!” The Captain speaks again, louder this time. Both look to him. “Estradia hasn’t left. He’s here!”

  There’s a paralyzed second as both girls feel that silent, mighty fear that flows forth when danger and mystery meet face to face: dread. Neither notice it in their peripheral vision, but one of the medicine cabinets has been emptied out, and its door is slightly cracked. A wide, serpentine eye is peering at the three with crimson intent.

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