Lady Ink? What Kind of a Name is That?
Flesh collided with bone with a sickening crunch as someone's nose collapsed under Deb's fist.
"Ow, what the he-"
"Shut your god damn mouth," Deb snarled, eyes flashing dangerously. Cowering before her was a man in a crisp Naval uniform. His nose was bleeding profusely. He glared at her.
"Miss Grierson, you of all people should know-"
He was interrupted quite rudely by her fist slamming into his mouth. He sank to the floor, cursing. The woman glared at him.
"If y' ever even think abou' callin' me wench again, 'm gonna make you wish you'd never been born," she snapped.
The man flinched, one hand going to his nose. He was intelligent enough to know that she wasn't bluffing. The engineer never bluffed. "… Sorry mi-" the woman's eyes flashed, and he trailed off. "… Ah, sorry Deb." His voice was slightly nasally from the blow she'd landed.
She narrowed her natural eye at him. "Y' shoul' be." She turned and walked off, a slight limp in her stride. Her heavy boots clomped on the wooden floor. Wood. What a waste of time. These Navy boys were stuck up and pampered half to death.
She shook her head, pulling open a hatch in the floor and descending the small metal ladder that led into the engine rooms. As soon as she lowered herself below the level of the floor, a stifling heat came over her. She grimaced; sweat was already gathering on her forehead.
Ah well. She was used to it. After fifteen years of working with engines, she was expected to be. And she usually worked with worse ones than this. This one practically ran itself; all she needed to do was pay attention to the gauges and shovel some coal on occasion. That didn't make the work any less hot, though.
She turned to the engine. It was a massive thing, all gears and tubes and gauges. It was vibrating and roaring with noise, loud enough to make anyone with sense cover their ears. Deb was used to it at this point, of course; it was background noise now. Thanks to the hatch at the top, no sound escaped to the upper decks. This got rid of the annoyance, but at the same time, if anything were to happen to her down there, nobody would know until it was too late.
It was a depressing and frightening thought, but she did her best not to think about it. After all, what was the worst that could happen?
She frowned. No, she couldn't be thinking like that. She remembered all too well what could happen down here. Her glass eye was a perfect example of that. It would be too much of a risk for her to forget. As soon as she forgot, she'd get careless. And she really didn't want to lose another eye. One was difficult enough to deal with. She shifted her tool belt and strode over to the boiler. Time to work.
Several hours passed, and she was both parched and starving. She glanced at the engine. "Y' can take care 'f yourself for a bit, yeah?"
The engine, being a machine and definitely not sentient, made no reply. She turned and climbed up the ladder. She was coated in a fresh layer of grime and sweat. As she walked down the hallway, she left an easily visible trail of footprints; the captain would have a fit, being the neat freak he was. Not that she gave a damn. Even if he did have a problem with it, there wasn't much that could be done about it short of not allowing her to leave the engine room. The dirt and grime had actually made it into a job description; you had to be prepared to be filthy if you were going to be an engineer. Deb wasn't sure why they'd put it in the job description; it was obvious, really. Nobody expected to go into an engine room and come out clean, and anyone that did was an idiot.
She came into the mess hall. Another silly Navy thing. They called the dining room a mess hall. It made no sense to her; you weren't making messes while you were eating. Not usually, at least. Hopefully Agatha had made something decent this time…
Deb let out a bark of laughter. Yeah, like that was ever going to happen. Agatha was a lousy cook, with the stubbornness and personality of a particularly irritated mule. She didn't know why they kept the bitch on board.
But on the same note, they did keep her on board… Maybe they were just especially tolerant. Deb was happy to admit that she was a bitch; she'd been called it more times than she could count, and she agreed with them wholeheartedly. There was nothing anyone could do about it though; she wasn't going to change for nothing and nobody. If they wanted to be around her, they could deal with it.
It was probably why nobody usually wanted to be around her.
Pondering this thought, she strode over to a table where a gray-haired woman was serving food. Her hair was up in an incredibly tight bun; it looked like it was trying to tear itself from her scalp. Annoyed brown eyes surveyed the room. Her skin was wrinkled with age. She looked at Deb and scowled. "Grierson."
Deb's eye twitched with annoyance, but she inclined her head. "Good t' see you've made it through another day without gettin' a heart attack, Agatha."
She snorted. "With you around, I'll get one before the day is out."
The engineer resisted the urge to say "good", and grabbed a plate. Agatha spooned a lump of… something onto it. It was gray and closely resembled wet cement.
Deb scowled. "Wha' th' hell is this?"
"Your dinner. Go sit down."
She gave the woman a withering glare that would make most men shake in their boots. Unfortunately, it did nothing to waver the cook's resolve.
She scowled and stomped off, sitting down. She wrinkled her nose at the slop that they called food, reluctantly putting some in her mouth.
Well… it wasn't as bad as the dinner they'd had the night before, at least…
Keeping that "helpful" thought in mind, she coughed down the rest of the food. The other crewmen knew better than to try to speak to her; the woman was irritable at the best of times, and around dinner was just about the worst time you could get.
The engineer finished her meal and strode off, not forgetting to shoot the cook another dirty look as she passed her. She needed something to wash that down.
Preferably something with alcohol in it.
With these thoughts in mind, she strode towards her cabin. Of course, nobody else on the ship drank alcohol; technically it wasn't allowed.
But Deb didn't really care for technical things.
She entered her cabin. It was a tiny room, without a porthole or a dresser, but Deb was happy that she at least had a room; it was far better than sleeping in the engine room.
And it was far better for smuggling drinks.
She shut and locked the door, kneeling down next to the bed. She shifted the blankets that hung over the edge out of the way and grabbed a crate that had, until a moment ago, been hidden. She pulled it out with a minimal amount of effort, pulling off the top. There were about twenty bottles of beer in the crate, packed with straw. It had taken quite a bit of effort to get them on board, but it was worth it. Anything was worth it when there was alcohol involved.
She pulled one of the bottles out with a grin, uncorking it. Oh, this was gonna be good... But only one this time. She wanted to save the alcohol; it would be a few weeks until they made port again, and it needed to last.
Six drinks later, and she'd completely forgotten about the limit she'd set for herself.
She giggled a little, getting to her feet. "One more beer can't hurt..."
As she popped open another bottle, there was the sound of something moving behind her.
She blinked and turned around, confused. Hadn't she locked the door...? She couldn't really remember.
A very tall, imperious-looking woman was standing there. Her hair was long and black, and she was wearing a dress in a style that Deb had never seen before in her life. But then again, she didn't pay much attention to dresses. In her mind they were showing femininity; showing weakness, in her society at least.
She blinked at the woman, frowning. "… Who th' hell are you an' how did you get in 'ere?"
The strange intruder watched her coolly. Her expression was so crisp and devoid of emotion that it gave Deb the spooks; and it took a lot to spook Deb.
"My name is Lady Ink. I-"
"Lady Ink? Wha' kind 'f name is tha'?"
Mild annoyance flashed across her face for a moment. "That is not your concern. I need your assistance."
Deb giggled slightly. Assistance… What a funny word. Long, too.
"I can assure you, this is not a laughing matter," Lady Ink said, frowning.
"Mm, 'm sure 's not. But everythin's a laughin' matter when you're drunk, see." She hiccupped, taking another sip of her beer.
Lady Ink's nose wrinkled. "I see. At any rate, I require your assistance."
"Yeah, y' said tha' already," Deb said, waving a hand dismissively, "with wha'?" She hiccupped again.
"Quite simply, the Book of Stories is unraveling itself. Every story, every world, is being boiled down to its very basics, and being crushed together with other worlds. I need you to help me to stop it."
Deb blinked a few times, obviously completely uncomprehending. "… Wha'?"
Lady Ink let out an exasperated sigh. "The Book of Stories contains every story in existence. Every world."
She didn't look quite as confused now; only utterly stunned. "… Ah… I think I need more beer. One sec." She lifted her beer to her lips and proceeded to chug it down. She grabbed another, uncorking it. Lady Ink watched silently as she tipped it up, swallowing as much as she could down in one gulp.
"Alrigh', and wha' exactly d'you need me t' do abou' it?" She hiccupped yet again, giggling slightly.
Lady Ink sighed. Any sober person would be able to easily tell that she was beginning to have second thoughts about choosing this person as a Champion. But she would have to do. "You need to travel through the Stories and set things right."
Deb scowled. "An' how am I s'posed to do that?!" she demanded.
"I can give you something that will take you into the realm."
"… Mhm. An' what's in it for me?"
Lady Ink gave her a dry look. "The fact that you and your world won't be destroyed if you succeed isn't enough?"
Deb bit her lip, thinking. "… Oh, alrigh'. Get me out 'f here then."
She nodded and handed Deb a small object that closely resembled a black marble. Upon examination it was revealed that it was, in fact, a black marble.
"… What'm I s'posed t' do with this?" She asked, blinking.
Lady Ink sighed. "Concentrate on where you want to go, and it will take you there."
Deb grinned. "Really, now…?"She clasped the marble between her hands and shut her eyes. But before she could do anything, Lady Ink had caught her wrist.
Deb opened her eyes, annoyed. "Wha' now?"
"It would be an awful idea to send you off without the proper tool."
"I 'ave plenty 'f tools righ' here." She tapped her tool belt to emphasize this. She hiccupped again and snickered to herself. This Lady Ink wasn't particularly bright, was she?
Lady Ink gave the tools a dry look. "Something more useful."
"More useful 'n my tools? I doubt tha'."
Lady Ink sighed. She handed Deb a small brass gear, just large enough to fit into the palm of her hand. "Now you may go."
Deb scowled, but she tucked the gear into her pocket and clasped the marble between her hands, grinning to herself as she closed her eyes.
A bar might be nice…
Her surroundings melted and faded away, and she rematerialized somewhere else entirely.