Book II: Home

Maris landed above the helm of a ship, unwittingly crushing the cruel slave-master of a captain. The vessel briefly sank into the wine-dark ocean beneath it before rebounding above the waterline. The miraculous appearance and recovery of the vessel was met with a celebratory exuberance on the part of the crew, but a single man hesitatingly approached Maris with a brace of pistols drawn. Another approached with a cutlass and bottle of rum in hand.

Maris first beheld the weapons in his hand, muzzle-loading pistols of an intimately familiar likeness of her own sidearms. The unwavering hands holding the derivative weapons kept their fingers off the triggers, bespeaking experience with handling such weapons. Beyond the armed hands was a light brown overcoat concealing a vaguely familiar lean shape. Neatly combed chestnut brown hair sat atop a narrow face crowned with thick glasses and piecing eyes.

"Who are you, and where did you come from?" the man asked, safely keeping his distance. "I've never read about a woman dropping from a Nexus Point that didn't exist a second ago."

"Arr, leave her alone, lad. Can't ye see she's had a rough trip?" said the hirsute sailor beside him as he took a swig from his bottle. "Isn't that right, Miss?"

"Maris. Just Maris," she said. "Now, I should ask you the same questions."

She removed her breathing mask, and the man before her relaxed once he made eye contact. She sensed more than his intellect had been aroused. The bespeckled man sheathed his weapons and extended his hand. "Doctor Lucien Locke of New Amsterdam at your service. I'm the ship's surgeon and natural philosopher."

"I be First Mate of this fine ship, Jan Jansen," said the bearded, stocky sailor. "Glad to have ye aboard, Captain Maris."

"What are you talking about?" the befuddled saboteur asked.

"Ye see that red smudge on the deck? That's the former Captain. Fond o' the whip, he was. Too fond, if you ask me."

"I'm sorry. I had no idea where I would land," Maris sighed. "I did not wish my first act in this world to end a life."

"He had it comin' since he threw that kid with the broken leg overboard," Jan said. "Would've thrown the Captain overboard, if he didn't threaten another."

"Why are you so relaxed now? Do you not fear retribution?"

"Excuse me, Captain Maris," Dr. Locke said with a salute. "But the Maritime Code is clear on what has happened: An outside force has commandeered this vessel from its prior owner. Thus, we are your prisoners, and our actions are not our own, due to acting under coercion."

"I do not like that argument," Maris said, stomping her foot down. The wooden floorboards creaked beneath her boot. "I have seen a cruel man impose his will on others, and I will not do the same."

"You hear that?" Jan loudly asked the crew assembled amidships. "The Captain won't take us hostage. Do we want to work for her, or for the next slave-driver the Company assigns?"

Maris saw the crew huddle on the vessel's deck. Beneath the windjammer's towering masts stood a motley rabble of broken souls. She saw men and women clad in rags, skin covered in broken welts. She saw a handful of children among them, which sank her heart like a leaden anchor. They represented skin colors from black to white, with some in between and some she had not seen before. A dark skinned man with a peg-leg raised both of his hands and shouted loudly, his cry reverberating across the deck. "Aye-aye, Chainbreaker!"

The rest of the crowd followed. The crowd became a single beast, speaking with a million tongues. She recognized the signs of brutality across their ravaged bodies, and the signs of starvation in their paper-thin skin. Jan moved to her left side first, and Lucien quickly followed on her right. Lucien and Jan stood beside her, and raised her hands before the crowd.

"All praise Captain Maris! All praise the Chainbreaker!" Jan chanted. "Where shall we sail?"

"Away from the Company!" shouted a man in the audience.

"To the ends of Aarde!" shouted another.

"To freedom!"

At that moment, Maris knew she was home.