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Nocturna league (episode.., p.7
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       Nocturna League (Episode 3: The Sunken Breath), p.7

           Kell Inkston
 
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  Chapter 6: Grancis is Made Aware of a Particularly Precarious Situation Concerning Herself and her Friend, Colette Ketiere

  Grancis draws waking air into herself just minutes later. A concerned-looking Colette is looming over her. “Eh, hey there, Gran,” Colette says, squinting a hazel eye as she inspects the waking Grancis; there’s a notable hole in her eye in which the needle was inserted, causing the eye to run over with a bloodied tint.

  Grancis gains the singly most charmed look she’s made this past month. “Oh~ Colette! Are you okay now?”

  “Yeah… yeah I’m pretty sure it’s good— not sure if I’ll see out this eye again, but living is more important. Listen, Gran, I’m sorry,” Colette says with a look of complete resignation.

  Grancis giggles in response. “You shot me in the foot, nothing to apologize for,” she says with a facetious grin; it still hurts terribly.

  Colette shakes her head. “No… No, that was crazy… it was,” she takes a breath, “like, something Ol’ Salt would do.”

  Grancis’ smile is more genuine now. “You know he wouldn’t shoot someone in the foot unless they really needed it.”

  Colette turns her head away. “Then maybe I’m worse.”

  Grancis buries her head into Colette’s chest. “No, you’re fine. I’m sorry I had to do that with the needle…” Grancis looks up in alarm. “Wait, the thing… the thingie! Where is it?!”

  Colette inhales through her teeth. “Yeah… about that. It sort ran off.”

  “Wha-… Ran off?!” Grancis mutters. Colette nods in response as Grancis continues. “Well, we gotta find it! Who knows what it’ll do!”

  Colette nods again. “You’re right… Oh, and Gran.”

  “Yeah?”

  “This is going to be sorta complicated. The Eldritch looked exactly like me.”

  Grancis squints an eye. “Oh, so we just find the fake and throw it off? That’s not hard at all!”

  A look of relief washes over Colette. “Heh, well if you think it’s simple, it is. Let’s go get us a monster.”

  Grancis nods and she takes to her feet. “Gimmie just a second,” she says as she limps over to a medicine cabinet. She takes a few minutes putting into use her knowledge of medicine in order to bring down the pain, remove the bullet, and properly disinfect her injury. Upon close inspection she finds that the bullet only went through the side of her foot, meaning most of the muscles and bones are perfectly intact. She assumes that, so long as she can keep down the bleeding and bear the weight of the pain, she can walk relatively unhindered; she relays this to Colette, who only nods again. It’s strange though; Grancis remembers her father’s lessons— this much force from a gun of that caliber should have shattered her bones; and yet they’re fine. She chalks it up to dumb luck.

  Colette rubs the side of her face thoughtfully. “Damn, Gran. You know a thing or two.”

  “Thanks, but I don’t know that much in comparison to a real doctor. My daddy was the best.” Grancis stands back up, taps her foot down a bit and nods in assurance. “Okay, I’m ready. Let’s get ‘em.” She looks confidant.

  Colette nods and they exit through the now-unlocked infirmary door, onto the second-level deck. It’s still as dark as the void of the sea, with the exception of the deck light’s electronic salvation shining down upon them from above. Colette shifts her gaze about cautiously as she draws her revolver. She gestures for Grancis to follow along and they begin the search. They both keep quiet as they inspect the entirety of the upper deck, with the exception of the always-locked Captain’s Quarters and the never-opened Enforcement Closet. The duo takes an additional quick minute to go to the top deck, look through the helm, The Captain’s Secret Coffee and Alcohol Corner, and his stash of questionable fishing and sailing magazines that he thinks no one on the ship knows about. They then descend to the broad first deck— lined with ropes, netting, gun emplacements, and signs warning against various degenerate activities, as mandated by The Captain.

  “Okay, Gran,” Colette starts.

  “Yeah?” They get back to back, scanning for any movement.

  “If it went to bed in place of me it might be a problem.”

  Grancis furrows her brow in thought and nods. “Right, if we went in it would cause a ruckus.”

  “Yeah— people would wake up, make things difficult. So let’s look around the other rooms first. Maybe check the bar for The Captain.”

  “Got it,” Grancis says, squinting an eye. Somehow Grancis isn’t sure about all of this; it seems to her that waking up everyone would help them find the creature, but perhaps Colette knows best.

  The two go clockwise through the ship’s rooms— first the kitchen, complete with a gurgling, snoring Boris, and then to the recreation room, connected by a small window to the kitchen and bar rooms. They move on to the bar, and Colette turns to The Captain’s usual seat— at the very end of the room; nothing.

  “Huh, doesn’t The Captain usually sit here?”

  Grancis shrugs. “I wouldn’t know, I’m too young to dri-” Grancis jolts in realization and nudges Colette.

  “Wh-what’s up, Gran?”

  “Have you been drinking?”

  Colette immediately gains a sheepish expression and begins skidding with her hands. “Well, you know. It’s just. I spend a lot of time with him, you know? I just thought it’d be… Well, he did offer me some drinks. He is The Cap after all, couldn’t rightly refuse something like—” Colette stops once Grancis turns away back to the search. “Look, I’m sorry! I just thought it would make me a saltier sailor! You know, just something to pass the time, between traini—”

  Grancis releases the snootiest, most princessly “hmph!” Colette has ever heard from her. “I thought I smelled something on you! No wonder you’ve been acting so weird. It wasn’t coffee at all!”

  Colette raises her hands. “N-no, look, Gran! 90% has been coffee. But I wanted to know what that stuff tasted li—”

  “My dad told you that alcohol was no good for the young— it’s meant to take away pain, not cause it. It’s for people who are suffering and I don’t think you’re having such a bad time. Besides, your liver couldn’t possibly-” Both shut up the second they hear a glass clink from behind the bar. Colette and Grancis exchange nervous, focused glances as they start sneaking toward it. Both are quite accomplished sneakers, so it’s not hard for them to get up to the side of the bar without startling whatever’s on the other side. Now close, they can both hear labored, pain-racked breathing at the other side. Colette turns to Gran and they both nod. In a split second, they both hurdle to the top of the bar and Colette aims her gun down to a tipsy, angry, bitter-as-hell Colette. The second Colette was ready, and smashes a mostly-empty bottle of vodka into the aiming Colette’s face, botching her aim and causing her to fire into the booze shelf. The second Colette bolts out from the bar and in the same movement, takes up a bottle of Dugal’s Scotch and hurls it again at the face of the first Colette; her aim is once more absolutely perfect, smashing it into her face and temporarily blinding her before she could get a second shot off.

  Grancis hastily takes up a cloth from the bar and cleans up Colette’s face. “It’s fast.”

  Colette nods, crimson trailing down three different lacerations on her face. “Son of a bitch— and good aim,” she grumbles, cleaning herself and taking a moment to check her gun. “We can’t let it get away next time. If I’m down, chase it, alright?” Colette instructs, presenting Grancis with a sharp, glinting tactical knife.

  Grancis looks at the knife with awe and takes it into her hand, a look up purpose on her features. “Okay. Let’s go.” The two creep, Grancis up front, out from the bar and forward to the maintenance room— finding nothing, and then moving to the showers. Just as Grancis eases the door open, the second Colette strikes from her place at the edge of the door inside; she pulls Grancis in and bolts to the side before the First Colette can fire. In a blink, Second Colette smashes the door closed with her weight and locks
it just as Grancis regains her balance and slashes forward with the knife, slicing into Second Colette’s back. Second Colette hits the lights and the dismal gray shower room is illuminated.

  “Gran! You dumbass!” Second Colette says, her face curved intensely in disgust. First Colette smashes on the door to get in, yelling something imperceptible.

  Grancis draws back a moment. “Wha… Wait, you talk?”

  “Of fucking course I talk! Dumbass! Shit! How dumb are you?!”

  Grancis looks over Second Colette thoughtfully— precisely the same as the first, but with different injuries, and no hole in the eye. “Nice try, creature. I won’t be fooled by your trick.”

  “You idiot!” Colette extends her hand and displays a small, black, glintless needle.

  Grancis jolts at the sight and takes a deep breath. “The needle.”

  “That’s right! The Colette you’ve been helping is the fake! But obviously my best fucking friend couldn’t even see that!” Colette yells as she approaches Grancis indignantly; Colette stops as Grancis raises the knife, just the way she saw Colette do it days ago. Colette scoffs. “Really? Really? You don’t believe me?”

  “No!” Grancis responds.

  Colette takes long, deep breaths. “Fine. Why?”

  “Where’s your gun?”

  Colette freezes— realizing Grancis noticed. “Look, Gran. The thing stole it from me. I couldn’t deal with all that pain, but once that thing jumped out of my eye, it grabbed my gun and then took shelter somewhere, I think.”

  “You think?” Grancis aims the knife right at Second Colette’s neck, only a meter away.

  “Y-yeah! It was just waiting for me to get up and leave… I got up and was looking for The Captain. Then it dropped down or something… and woke you up? That’s how you met it first instead of me,” Colette almost smiles.

  “Sure, but the real Colette would have cared enough to wake me up, would have known where The Captain was, would have forgiven me for trying to help her!” Grancis says, a drop of spite falling from her words.

  Colette raises her hands and steps back. “No, Gran. This is me. I’m Colette. Come on… That thing’s just buttering you up… I … I’m not a good enough person to…” Colette looks to the side in shame. “Gods, I’m sorry, Grancis. I’ve been a shit friend recently. All the fake had to do was act better and you’d believe her.”

  Grancis smirks, a look of violence glinting in her eye— something Colette’s never seen in her— horrifying. “Yeah?” Grancis steps forward, and Colette steps back.

  “Y-yeah! Grancis, come on! There’s no way you actually believe that thing is me!”

  “Colette would never treat me like you did.” Another step forward.

  “What?! Hell yeah I would! I shot you in the foot! I-I’m sorry about that, by the way.” Another step back.

  Grancis continues forward, backing Second Colette into a corner. “Sure you a-” Grancis thinks on it for a moment. “Well, okay, yeah, Colette would shoot me in the foot, but at least she didn’t try to kill me!”

  Colette squints as Grancis closes in. “I didn’t try to kill you, idiot!”

  The First Colette, still outside, is making headway in breaking open the door; she bends it slightly ajar with a crow bar and yells “Don’t believe it!” inside.

  Grancis pauses again. “Well…” She steps back. “That’s because you were going to trick The Captain and get real Colette killed!”

  Second Colette draws into the wall, squishing herself as Grancis pushes back in. “Don’t be an idiot, Gran. Don’t you think The Captain would be able to tell a real from a fake?”

  “You saying he knows Colette better than I do?” Grancis asks.

  Second Colette smirks and makes a shot for the knife. She reaches forward, but Grancis slices across, cutting her hands and sending her back to the wall. Colette takes a deep breath, and nods. “Apparently he does.”

  Grancis stares deep into Colette’s eyes. “I know a fake when I see it.”

  Second Colette’s cold sweat picks up and her body tenses for immediate, life-saving movement. “Yeah?”

  “I shoved a needle in your left eye— but it’s obvious that you’re just fine. I’ll fix that,” Grancis cries a second before she thrusts forward at Colette’s eye.

  Second Colette throws herself out of harm’s way just in time to evade Grancis’ knife, barely scratching the side of her ear.

  “Are you nuts?!”

  “No, I’ve never been clearer!” Grancis yells as she leaps for Colette with her knife at the ready yet again. Colette dodges swiftly, and while Grancis restarts to her feet she makes her move. Just as she’s learned, Colette grasps Grancis’ knife hand with her arm and smacks into the back of it with her other hand. The knife flies out of Grancis’ grasp and Colette tosses her aside to get it; she’s successful and takes up the blade. With a dash, second Colette poises the knife at Grancis, but pauses.

  “Tell me, if I was the eldritch, would I stop myself?” Colette asks, holding the knife high over the struggling Grancis.

  Grancis tries to justify it in her mind, but from the door comes the first Colette. The notch she made is just wide enough to point her gun straight for the second Colette. “Get your hands off her!” First Colette yells. Second Colette spares no time to respond, but leaps aside out of the opening’s pitch and runs along the wall to the door. Second Colette unlocks the door, kicks it in, and strikes for the first Colette. The first’s aim is true, and shoots the second in the shoulder just as she stabs into the first’s right arm. The first drops the gun and the second slashes forward again to get at the first, but Grancis tackles the second aside to the railing.

  “Gran! You’ve ruined this!” The second Colette says, leaning back into the railing and kicking Grancis square in the face. Just as the first Colette retrieves her gun and takes aim, the second slips around the side of the deck to the back.

  “I can’t…” First Colette takes a deep breath. “I can’t believe it. It’s way faster than I expected,” she says, holding her arm to cease the bleeding. Just as she starts forward to chase the second Colette, Grancis pulls her back.

  “Chill out. You’re way too hurt to keep going— come on.”

  “No,” Colette pulls at Grancis’ grip. “I can do it, we gotta finish it now.”

  “Don’t be an idiot!”

  “You’re an idiot, Grancis. If it finds The Captain before we do, we’re done for!”

  Grancis tugs Colette on. “You’re right, but I’d rather risk that than lose you here,” Grancis says, pulling the bloody Colette up to the infirmary. Grancis patches her up and lays her down. This time, Grancis takes up the gun with a fresh set of ammunition. She turns to the door, and nods. “I’ll see you soon, Colette.”

  Colette sighs and nods. “You too, Gran— be safe.”

  “I will.” Grancis stops a moment at the door. “So, I’m worried.”

  “About?” Colette asks, staring up to the ceiling.

  “How do I really know you’re the real Colette?”

  Colette scoffs, a smirk across her face. “Please: your favorite color’s gray— and you actually like bugs. The other one’s a good actor, but it couldn’t know that.”

  Grancis grins. “Yeah, that settles it.” With that, Grancis steps out and locks the door behind her.

 
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