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I piloted the Infinity to circle around the wreckage a few times. I kept one eye on the horizon just in case the other ship showed up. I could flee as soon as they appeared, but it’d be better if we were gone before that happened. So, why was I sticking around? An uncomfortable thought came to me after almost losing Zoe. All of my family and friends had been captured by the pirates, and I had just unashamedly attacked and destroyed one of their vessels, sending twenty pirates to their watery graves.

However, were any of my people on board? I didn’t think there would be slaves on a scout ship, but I had to be certain. If I had even caused one more death because of my own recklessness, I wasn’t sure if I could live with myself. I had already fished out six bodies, and they weren’t people I recognized, although two of them were so badly scorched that recognizing them was a relative term. These bodies would, of course, be fed to Zoe. I couldn’t give up the opportunity for more skills.

Five minutes passed, and I was growing certain that a spec on the horizon was going to turn out to be the approaching ship. I hadn’t found any more bodies, as they all likely had long since sunk to the bottom of the ocean. As for supplies, I was already using all of my ability to pull out people with a hook and rope. A floating crate was impossible for a one-handed youth. I was just about to give up on the looting I took one more anxious lookout on the horizon. It looked like I hadn’t found any of my family on this ship.

Maybe the other ship contained some of them. I had to fight a sudden urge to wait for the other ship and confront it. I couldn’t do that. My only weapon right now was the torpedo. I only had nine left, and I understood how they were irreplaceable. Plus, they completely obliterated the ship. That meant that I’d be killing my family. One might argue that a quick death was preferable to a life of slavery, but frankly speaking, I was looking for another option and wouldn’t accept anything less.

Just as I was about to pull away from the edge, I heard a distant cough. I would have thought it was Zoe down below, but she was a slime and didn’t cough. I scanned the wreckage one more time, and my eyes landed on a small form lying on a piece of drifting wood. They moved ever so slightly and didn’t show any burn marks and gashes. A pirate had survived!

I considered running to the helm and running them over. I might as well keep them from being rescued by the other ship. I shook my head. I couldn’t go to that extent. Rather, I remembered my conversation with the pirate from the mansion. They had been very informative. If I tied this one up, I could get information from her. Maybe I could learn about the ships of the fleet, and which one had my family. I nodded and tossed out my hook.

It took three tries, and I heard a painful cry as I dragged her up. It was good for bringing up dead bodies, but bringing up the living this way wasn’t the most comfortable thing. Finally pulling her body up, I tossed her onto the deck. She was unconscious, so I only paid her half a mind as I turned the ship back onto a southwest vector and cranked the speed back up to max. I glanced back to see the other ship finally coming into view. However, they had turned and weren’t approaching now. Seeing their scout ship obliterated must have scared them terribly. I could only chuckle darkly as I finally leaned down next to the pirate I had fished out of the water.

I turned her body over, and she coughed two more times, some water expelling from her lungs. Her eyes were closed, and she didn’t respond in any other way, but that wasn’t what I was paying attention to. Rather, my eyes were locked on her head, where she had two pointed ears sticking out the top of her head. They resembled that of cat ears. I realized that she didn’t have ears on the side of her head where they were supposed to be.

“What the hell are you?” I demanded, speaking to myself.

She was very small and young. If I had to guess, she was only about twelve years old. Her maturity was only just starting to bud. She was still too young for my tastes. She was pretty, but I had no interest in her. Maybe in a year or two.

When I picked her up, I realized she had a long tail too. It was black and grey striped, like a tabby cat. Her hair was black. I opened one of her eyes with my thumb and saw that her pupils were golden with an elongated iris, just like that of a cat.

I carried her down to the bridge. When I walked in, Zoe stood up. She was bald, and no longer had makeup on, as the cannonball had obliterated all of that. The wig was still lying somewhere on the upper deck. With a somewhat anxious expression on her face, she was apparently worried I was still angry about her playing dead. When her eyes landed on the person in my arms, she cocked her head as if to question the thing in my arms.

“I have six bodies on the deck. You can eat them and see if you get any skills.”

She nodded, but then pointed at the one in my arm.

“You don’t need to eat her, yet,” I said, looking down at the little girl in my arms. “Young for a pirate, isn’t she?”

Zoe pointed again, this time at her neck.

“A collar? Like a pet?” I asked, touching the collar curiously. “Ah, well, I brought her here so Alice can help me.”

I dropped her on the chair in the center of the room where I had been registered as captain. “Alice, can you scan this creature?”

“Affirmative.”

The familiar scanning equipment lowered from the ceiling as in a registration. While this was going on, Zoe appeared to have grown bored, and so she went topside, likely to snack on the bodies above. Once the scanning was over, the equipment returned back into the ceiling.

“Well, what is she?”

“Human. Spliced.”

“She’s human? Wait, what does Spliced mean?”

“Spliced is a term attributed to modified humans. In particular, humans who have had their genome cut with traits pertaining to a particular animal, usually a dog, cat, or fish, depending on the desired traits. The following species have been spliced with a cat. They are called Felinitis.”

“Wait, so she’s some kind of catgirl? Does she have catgirl parents?”

“Negative. Spliced are infertile. Her parents should be human. After conception, in the womb, a splicer is used to alter the genetic composition of the embryo. These types of babies are bred for slavery.”

“Slavery! She’s a slave?”

“Unknown. The collar is emitting a low-frequency signal. If activated, the collar will explode, likely killing the wearer. Furthermore, it may also serve as a tracking device within a range of 100 kilometers. Should I deactivate signal.”

“Can you do it safely?”

“Calculating: There is a 10% chance that deactivation will result in detonation. Shall I continue?”

“One in ten?” I grimaced, “No, I can’t risk them tracking her. Is there any way to reduce this chance?”

“If I can scan a deactivated collar, I can decrease the risk to 0.01%.”

I bit my lip. “What about the signal? Is there some way to block the signal?”

“Tertiary system, radar blocking, is currently down.”

“Of course it is, how about… instead of removing the collar, you simply change the information? Change the tracking information?”

“Calculating: 1% chance that factory reset will result in detonation. Shall I continue?”

“Do it!” I closed my eyes.

A series of beeping sounds rang out from around her neck. The lights flashed, and I waited any second for a sudden boom and to have a headless child in my bridge. The beeping stopped.

“Success. New owner, Captain Miles. Would you like to register her as a crew member?”

“I’m the owner?” My eyes popped back open. “What do you mean?”

“Was this not Captain’s orders?”

“Ah… that… it’s fine, I guess. Will she follow my orders?”

“Unknown. Captain Miles can track Felinitis or kill it with an order. New tracking identification has been registered. Would you like her registered as a crew member?”

“No… grant her… a guest pass?”

“Affirmative. Granted limited quarter access only.”

At this point, Zoe came back down. She put two orbs down on the table. I made a noise of surprise.

“Two?”

She gave me a flat look before turning away. I supposed it was always the luck of the draw. This was probably one of the luckier times. There were other times I might receive zero. I also figured that these bodies were somewhat fresh. They were less than fifteen minutes when she feasted. That had to increase the rate. Living creatures probably had the best success, but the sooner you get them after they die, the better. To my village, it had been days, and she had only managed to fetch one skill out of dozens of tries. Now, on a mere six, she managed to get 2.

If I had to put numbers to it, I’d say there was about a 50% chance on living. Dead dropped to around 30%, and then kept dropping. Then again, that was with people. The slimes also dropped skills, but closer to a 10% rate. Unless… I didn’t know what skills that Zoe picked up. She had never put her hand on the Skill Relay. I’m not even sure if her hand would work given her species. However, she could have been keeping skills from me. I wouldn’t know if she kept the best skills for herself while only giving me the dregs.

I sighed. Even if she did that, could I really complain? The old me might have grown jealous or envious, and even confronted her angrily with just my suspicions. Zoe had saved my life multiple times by now. I was no longer in a position to demand anything. Especially after thinking for a moment I had lost her, I realized just how much I owed and depended on her. If it wasn’t for the orbs, it was for her knowledge of this ship. As Zoe returned to her workspace, I noticed she made a glance at the, what was it called, a Felinitis?

“She’s a slave,” I explained. “She probably has no love for the pirates who captured her. I’m hoping we can get some information out of her. If not that, then at the very least we can put her to work cleaning. The rooms are all dirty. This entire ship could use a scrub down.”

She raised an eyebrow at me.

“What? The hell if I’m doing it! I’m the captain! What would the crew think if I did manual labor?”

Being the only crew on board, Zoe rolled her eyes.

“Still, to think there were human beings born with animal parts.” I turned back to the unconscious girl still in the chair. “You were right, dad. This world is bigger than I thought. Metal ships that can float. Weapons that can tear apart ships in a single blast. Slimes that can… well…”

I ignored the feeling that Zoe was looking at me, distinctly looking over the girl in front of me. I didn’t notice before because I had fished her out of a wreck, but her clothing was of poor quality, filled with holes that showed patches of skin. In fact, it would be more accurate to call it a burlap sack. On her body, I could see scarring and bruises. Not all of it was caused by the destruction of the ship. She was the only one to survive the destruction of the ship.

I reached out casually to touch her ear. Just as I did so, her eyes sprang open, and then she lunged forward and bit. I let out a scream, pulling back, but her teeth held tightly onto my palm.

“Grrrrrrr….” She made a growling noise as I tried to get her off me, but she wouldn’t release.

I shot a look back at Zoe. She had two cat ears growing out of her head, and she was casually touching the tips of them curiously as soon as I looked back. The ears disappeared back into her head, and she threw her hands behind her back, looking at me with an innocent look that made me doubt I had seen anything at all.

“Can you help!” I cried, realizing the little monster was drawing blood, and it was now drawing down my arm.

Zoe looked at the cat biting me, and then shrugged, giving a look as if to say that I brought her on board and she was thus my problem. I kicked out with my foot, using my full force on the little girl. She let out a cry like a strangled cat. As she fell back, she slashed with her hand. I noticed now that her fingertips actually didn’t look like normal nails, but came to sharp points. I felt a burning, itchy sensation on my chest, and I looked down to see four scratch marks having torn right through my shirt and gouged my chest.

Free from me, the girl leapt over the chair, falling to all fours as she jumped away. When she reached a corner of the room, she spun around. She had her butt high in the air, and her tail was raised with all of the hair on it standing. She was staring at me with a pissed off look.

Since my shirt was destroyed, I ripped off a piece of material and wrapped my hand. As for my chest, the wounds had stopped bleeding and were already healing rapidly. {Fast Healing} was already doing its job.

Once covering the bite mark on my palm and tying it off tightly, I held up my hands. “We’re not your enemies! We’re not the pirates.”

The girl hissed at me. I began to frown as I looked down at her.

“Alice, what intelligence level are Spliced?”

“Spliced possess the same intelligence as a human, roughly, although some variations can be smarter or dumber.”

“What about the Spliced you just scanned, is it brain-damaged?”

“Negative. The Sliced Felinitis possess a full intellect. Conjecture: Reports of human children who were kept in enclosed places and given little interaction can suffer from trauma and developmental issues.”

“Trauma… are you saying she’s abused?”

Actually, I really didn’t need to ask. It was clear at first glance that something was wrong with this wild child. She was still trying to back away, her ass still in the air. Given the torn-up burlap sack, she was given as a garment, it rode up, revealing her butt with just as holey and dirty underwear.

“It’s okay…” I got to one knee, putting my hand out and rubbing my thumb and pointer finger. “Tk. Tk. Tk… come here.”

I tried to call to her like I used to call out to a cat the seamstress used to have. At first, the girl looked interested. She sniffed the air, taking a step forward. However, her movement was close enough that it triggered the door to open, which lead down to the crew quarters. Since I had just given her access, the door would open for her, but she shouldn’t be able to get into storage or the lower decks after that.

She leapt into the air at the sound of the door suddenly opening. She then spun and with two strides she leapt through the door and ran down the stairs, still on all fours.

“No!” I took a few more steps as if to follow her, but when the door shut after her, I hesitated for a moment. “Well, it’s not like she’s a threat. She actually reminded me of this cat that had stowed away on my fishing trip. He must have been attracted to the smell, but once the ship set sail, it was too late. I tried to get him to come to me for two days by luring him with fish we caught. I finally gave up, but on the third night, he came of his own volition and slept on my bed. He just needed some time to get used to his surroundings.”

I turned to Zoe, who was giving me a disgusted look.

“Hey! I didn’t say I wanted her in my bed! Don’t give me that disappointed look! She’s too young and thin. I like buxom women! Big tits and ass! Your form is much more appealing to me! Speaking of which, when are we going do something about this sexual tension between us? Hey! Don’t walk away from me while rolling your eyes! I haven’t had sex in weeks! If you’re going to take on the body of a hot girl, we should at least take advantage of it!”

I was only a little upset that I didn’t find a hot pirate girl overboard. There were other reasons I had wanted to find survivors other than for information. It wasn’t like I was going to be forceful, but based on what I had seen, they were a crew of all women, and women could grow thirsty too. My {Glibed Tongue} would smooth things out and then I’d have a playmate for the foreseeable future. Instead, I got a scrawny animal girl. Her body was flat in all the wrong places, and I didn’t do bestiality. Zoe was different; after all, she had a female form and acted human other than her somewhat mute status.

However, as always, I was rejected. She was walking up on to the deck. Seeing as she spent all of her time down here tinkering with cables, the only reason she’d be going up was to avoid me. I walked to the stairway and yelled up at her.

“You know! My spunk is a part of me! If you consume enough, maybe you’d get one of my skills! Then you can turn it into a skill orb! I might have just found a means of perpetual skill creation!” There was no response from above. “Fine! Be that way! But don’t expect me to come crawling into your bed when you come to want it!”

I turned away from the stairway, my mood feeling a bit sour. That’s when my eyes landed on the table where she had placed the two skill orbs. They were now missing. My eyes widened and then darkened. That fucking pussy had taken them!

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