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Prologue

We Met By Strange Circumstances

~O

Green eyes roved over the ballroom, taking in the sights and sounds of hundreds of people partying in true Victorian style. Elaborate dresses moved with ghostly grace, gem and cog incrusted masks hid pale, powdered faces with painted lips curled up in coy smiles. The small girl in the corner watched it all, her forest green eyes missing no detail, forgetting no face (or mask). Her watchful eyes latched onto a red haired man, waltzing across the floor with some woman she didn't recognize. His intelligent blue eyes were hidden behind a gold mask, and the young girl could see the woman's blush reaching her rather ample bosom. He was Spirit Albarn, New Death Haven's newest mayor, and as he waltzed deeper into the crowd, laughing, he was completely unaware of the two pairs of green eyes that followed him.

"Stupid Papa," the smaller girl growled, clasping her gloved hands behind her back. Her ashy blonde hair was tied up into two sleek pigtails, tied off with simple black bows (the gears that decorated the knots were her own addition). Her childish figure was wrapped in the best dress money could buy, evidence of her father's desperate attempts to win over her affection and trust. The taller woman looked down at her daughter with a sad smile, her own green eyes shining with unshed tears. Both women had abandoned their expensive masquerade masks long ago, though the masks made of false emotions that they wore constantly remained.

"Just ignore him Maka," she said with false cheer in her voice, pink lips pulled up in a painful smile. Maka watched as her mother brushed a few loose strands of hair back into the elegant twist on the back of her head. "You go and enjoy the party, yes? I'm sure there are some other children here that would love to have your company." Maka sighed, shaking her head before reaching up and giving her mother a quick peck on the cheek.

"Yes ma'am," she said, turning on her heel and heading towards the middle of the floor. Figures brushed against Maka as she pushed her way through, floating towards the stairs. She moved with unearthly grace, the spitting image of her mother, Kami Albarn, as she ghosted up the stairs. Her head was held high and her pink lips pursed. Once she reached the top of the stairs, she instantly relaxed, letting out a breath she hadn't know she was holding.

"And Mama wonders why I don't like these parties," she said, the polite tone in her voice replaced with one of exasperation. Quickly adjusting the maroon and white striped corset that wrapped around her stomach, Maka grasped the railing that over looked the ballroom floor. Here on the second floor, she was at eye level with the mechanical chandelier, powered by a large clockwork mechanism to spin, the candle's soft flames flickering along with the harsh light of the gas light bulbs.

She also had the perfect vantage point to watch the show taking place on the floor below.

Her mother stormed up to the red haired man, her green eyes aflame with fury. Kami grabbed one of his arms, ripping him away from the young woman he danced with. Spirit blanched and opened his mouth to start making excuses, but she gave him no chance. Maka couldn't hear the exact words that her mother screamed, but she could use her imagination (and judging by how everyone had stopped dancing to watch the spectacle, her mother was yelling pretty loudly). Spirit opened his mouth again, this time to apologize, he was cut off suddenly by his wife's scream of "NO MORE EXCUSES! IT'S OVER SPIRIT! GOOD BYE!" Maka watched with sad green eyes as her mother stormed off the dance floor. Her head held high and shoulders thrown back, Kami threw open the large double doors and strode out, never to look back.

"Bye Mama," Maka whispered. She returned her attention back to her now sobbing father on the floor, her expression one of disgust. He looked up and their eyes locked for a moment, but then Maka snarled and pushed away from the railing. Stepping out into the cool night air on the balcony that wrapped around the front of the building, Maka sighed and looked up to the stars. Her mama was gone, leaving her behind to deal with the disgusting mess that used to be her father. She should have felt some resentment towards the woman she looked so much like, but she couldn't find it in her. All she could feel was this overwhelming sense of sadness. Her life was forever changed, how would she be able to grow up without her mother?

Maka hadn't noticed the tears beginning to flow down her cheeks.

As she stared up at the sky, Maka felt something grow in her stomach, a rough, raw, feeling. It was cold and rested heavily in the pit of her tummy. She wanted it out, now. And so she did what any other 12 year old girl would do.

She screamed.

Kami stopped in her tracks as she heard her daughter's pained screams echo around the estate that the elaborate masquerade was being held in. Wiping away a few stray tears, she turned away yet again. "Good bye love," she whispered.

Maka screamed for all she was worth. A rough, heartbroken sound that all but shattered the soul of all who heard it. Many of the people inside had begun to cry for the little girl, many were glaring at the once celebrated red-haired man, and a few had even begun to head towards the stairs to comfort the tiny girl that many had known since her birth. Spirit Albarn was a very sociable man and he enjoyed dragging his daughter around with him, showing her off. As one of the women reached the stairs, she was surprised to see a young teen stride across the second floor, and once he had crossed the threshold of the balcony, slammed the doors shut behind him. She blinked once but once the music started up again, she tried to forget the heartbroken girl on the balcony with the odd boy.

Maka's throat felt raw as her tortured scream died down into pained whimpers and sniffs. Clutching the front of her dress, her green eyes widened when she saw a clean white hankie waving in front of her face.

"Go ahead, take it," a deep voice said. "I have plenty more at home." Blinking rapidly, Maka reached out and grabbed it, blowing her nose rather noisily into the once-clean hankie. Maka looked up at the man who had offered her the hankie and was surprised to see a young boy, about her age with bright white hair that glowed yellow in the moonlight and red eyes watching her closly.

"T-thank you," she muttered, trying to ignore his calculating stare. "I'm-"

"Cold." Maka quirked an eyebrow and noticed for the first time that she was shivering. The albino boy sighed and took of his top coat, offering it to the shivering girl.

"Well, um yes, thank you. But I meant to say my name is Maka," she said as she pulled the coat over her shoulders. The other boy leaned back against the railing, his crimson stare locked on her heart shaped face.

"I know who you are," he said with a shrug. "Maka Albarn, daughter of New Death Haven's mayor, 12 years old and student at the Mjolnir School for Girls." Maka regarded him with wary green eyes. He know quite a lot about her, and her brain subconsciously pulled up a memory of her mama telling her about seemingly polite men who in actuality were blood thirsty pirates. The boy in front of her did kind of look like a pirate, with his blood red eyes and heavy leather boots.

Then again, she was also wearing boots under her dress, if only to spite her father (and to drive off any possible dance partners).

The boy held out his hand, smiling slightly at the wary girl. "I'm Solomon Evans, but my friends call me Soul."

"What should I call you?" Maka questioned with a slightly joking tone. She was surprised by how easily she could talk to this boy, normally she drove boys off like the plague. But then his smile got wider and she knew why it was so easy to talk to him.

He was different.

Soul was surprised to see the girl in front of him relax instead of recoil when he smirked, showing off rows of sharp, jagged teeth. She was only a year younger than him, and yet she seemed comforted by his strange appearance. Normally, he drove other kids away with his intense crimson stare and jagged teeth, but she only smiled, twin emeralds shining in her eyes.

"Soul," he said. She would be his friend, he decided. It would be nice to be around someone who didn't judge him by his looks. Besides, he could see it in her eyes that they were in the same boat. Born into wealth and luxury, but having nothing of true value. Soul had never had a true friend (the maids and servants at the large Evans' estate didn't count), and Maka had just watched her family fall to pieces in front of her.

Maka reached out and shook his hand, surprised by the rough skin. Most of the boys she had met had soft, unmarked skin, never having worked a day in their lives. Maka often cleaned her family's large house after her mother fired all of the maids (she didn't want to watch her husband flirt with other women right under her nose), so her hands were rough from the labor. But Soul's hands were another kind of rough.

"Evans…" Maka thought aloud, examining his peculiar hands (she was a bit ADD like that). "That's a family of musicians, right?" Soul nodded and Maka smiled widely. "That explains it!"

'There's something amazing about watching this girl smile,' Soul thought to himself as she began to babble on about her mother's failed attempts to get her to play an instrument. She had been crying just five minutes ago, and he felt an odd sense of pride at being able to turn her mood around so quickly. He dragged her over to the railing overlooking the acres of gardens that wrapped around the entire building and leaned against the railing, smiling as the wind played with his colorless locks.

"So, what about you?" Maka asked, jarring Soul from his thoughts.

"Huh?" he asked, his red eyes no longer wide and calculating but droopy and lazy. Maka understood that this was a side of him that not many people ever saw, and she knew he knew that she was showing him the same side (she never babbled like this around members of higher society, that would be rude). Smiling slightly, she tapped her finger against the rail.

"What would you want to do if you weren't born into this," Maka said with a sweep of her arm. "If you had a choice about what you would become." Soul smirked and looked up towards the sky.

"That's simple. I would buy myself an airship and fly all over the world, the captain of the coolest airship ever. I can see it now," Soul closed his eyes blissfully. "Captain Soul Evans. It's got a nice ring to it doesn't it?"

"Would you need a pilot?" Maka asked with a smile, green eyes shimmering in the moonlight. Soul quirked an eyebrow at her. "Before she married my papa," Maka explained "My mama was an airship pilot, one of the best there ever was. She met my papa on a routine fuel stop and never got back on an airship again. She used to stay at home during the week and give me little mini lessons." Maka looked at Soul with determination burning in her eyes. "It's my goal to become an even better pilot than my mama was, and have my ship become the star of the Shibusen Alliance."

"Alliance, huh?" Soul said with a smirk. "Not exactly my style, but that's okay, I make anything look cool." He stuck out his hand, seemingly challenging Maka with his crimson eyes. "You've got yourself a deal Albarn. You pilot my ship and make it the coolest ship to ever grace the sky, and I'll be the best damn captain the Alliance has ever seen." Without hesitating, Maka reached out and grabbed Soul's hand in her own with a surprisingly strong grip.

"I'm warning you," Maka said playfully. "I've got a mean temper and can be a bit of a snob sometimes."

"Well I'm lazy and have the appetite of a thousand pound gorilla," Soul said with a shrug. "I think we'll be able to deal." The two kids shook hands, sealing their friendship with promises of another life away from the gracefully dancing figures behind the balcony doors. As they resumed their star gazing, Soul sighed loudly.

"I gotta say though, I'm a bit disappointed." Maka turned and leveled him with a glare.

"How so?" she asked, Soul catching glimpses of the mean temper lurking beneath the seemingly innocent surface. Deciding to test her limits, Soul plowed on.

"I always imagined my pilot to be a tall, beautiful woman, not a flat chested shrimp," he said with a devious smirk. Maka's cheeks puffed up and her face went red ('She's a blusher. Excellent,').

"Makaaaaa-" the tiny girl pulled a book out from nowhere and slammed it forcefully into his skull. "CHOP!"

"HOLY CRAP!" Soul shrieked, holding his injured head. "WHAT WAS THAT!" Maka stood over him triumphantly, the book resting her shoulder and her hip cocked to the side.

"I told you I had a temper," she said innocently, making Soul growl.

"That's not a temper! That's sadism! God, half of the girls I know can hardly say 'Boo!'" Maka leaned over so that she was at eye level with her new friend.

"Well I'm not like most girls, am I?" she asked, mirroring Soul's smirk from earlier. Soul watched her with wary eyes before shaking his head and chuckling to himself. He soon began to full out laugh, and Maka soon joined him.

"No, you're not," Soul said with a smirk, reaching out and ruffling Maka's pigtails. She lightly batted his hand away with a smile.

"You know Maka, I have the feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," Soul said with a cheesy grin. Maka rolled her eyes at the cheesy line, smiling back warmly as she looked to the skies.

'Just you wait Mama, I'll make you proud of me yet!'

- 7 Years Later –

SMASH!

CRASH!

BOOM!

"OUCH!" Maka hissed as her head hit the top of the engine, half of her body wedged between nuts and bolts and the other half sticking out, one of her long legs flailing around like crazy. Repositioning herself so that that her arms were in front of her, she pushed herself out, grumbling and cussing all the way. Wiping her greasy hands on a rag tucked into the waistband of her denim shorts, Maka walked over to the intercom system and pulled down the lever so that it was positioned over "BRIDGE". After waiting a few seconds, Maka could hear the sounds of people panicking on the other line. She recognized one voice that sounded closer than all the others, and instantly called out to the owner of the voice.

"Kidd!" Maka yelled, trying to be heard over the sounds of girls shrieking in the background. "What's going on?" The entire room rocked with another crash and Maka held on desperately to a pipe that gutted out from the wall.

"We're being attacked by an Arachnophobia ship," Kidd shouted back after screaming at the other people on the bridge to "shut their freakin' mouths."

"Do we know which one?" Maka replied, already cleaning up her mess from working on the engine and double checking that she hadn't left any pipes loose or any connecters… unconnected?

"Looks like the Mosquito." Maka cussed under her breath and tossed her tool box into a cabinet.

"I'll be right up Kidd," Maka said before turning off the intercom and shooting down the hall, her medium length ash blonde hair trailing behind her. Making a quick stop by her room to change from her work clothes into something more appropriate, Maka ran to the bridge, tying her hair up into two wild ponytails behind her goggles. Upon reaching the top of the stairs to the bridge, Maka groaned at the sight before her. Liz and Patti, Kidd's two bodyguards, were running around the bridge screaming about how they were all going to die. A tall, attractive, Japanese girl sat at the control panel, trying desperately to reach the closest port and warn them of the incoming ships. And Kidd, their own personal doctor, sat at the helm, trying desperately to keep the airship under control.

"It's about time!" he hissed, glaring at Maka over his shoulder. "I can't fly this thing very well, and whoever is piloting the Mosquito is good!"

"Well we'll just have to be better," Maka said, her lips pressed together in a grim line as she all but kicked Kidd out of her chair. Taking the wheel, Maka immediately switched on the Gyrostabilizers and banked hard to the left. She could see the large Arachnophobia ship on their tail. It was a grotesque airship, with a bulbous body and long narrow bridge poking out of the front. The gyrostabilizers kept the ship from rocking uncontrollably, instead keeping it upright as the ship twisted and turned around them, but Maka felt uncomfortable flying like this. She flew better when she moved with her baby, one with the airship.

"Liz! Patti! Stop shrieking like two scared little girls and go secure everything down! I want to have these stabilizers off in five minutes, capeesh?" Both sisters snapped to attention and took off down the stairs to secure any loose items. "Tsubaki, get through to the port if you can, but I want your main focus to be on hacking Mosquito's system and knocking them offline."

"Hai!" Tsubaki said determinedly. As she turned back to the screens before her, the intercom system to Maka's right cackled to life.

"WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON UP THERE! DON'T YOU KNOW THAT THE GREAT BLACKSTAR IS TRYING TO GET HIS BEAUTY SLEEP!" Maka winced as the loud voice blared through the system, making her ears ring and her eyes roll.

"We can't have you asleep right now BlackStar!" Maka yelled back, emerald eyes flashing dangerously. "I want you on the upper hull gun now!" Maka could practically hear the gears in BlackStar's brain shudder to life.

"Can I take my goo bullets with me?" he asked, not trying to disguise the excitement in his voice. Maka sighed and rolled her eyes up to the heavens as she banked again, this time to the right.

"Yes, fine, whatever! Just get up there!" Laughing maniacally, BlackStar turned off his intercom system again. Turning to Kidd, Maka's eyes narrowed.

"Where's the captain?" she hissed. Kidd shrugged and Maka cussed loudly. Grabbing the handle on the intercom system, she set in on "CAPTAIN" and instantly went red from anger when she heard loud snores echoing from the room. Just then, the two sisters came back up the stairs, out of breath but triumphant.

"Everything's locked down Maka," Liz said with a thumbs up. Maka smirked evilly (everyone instantly took a long step back) and Maka turned back towards the front.

"Perfect timing." Maka turned off the stabilizers, and with a quick giggle, banked to the left. The entire ship rocked hard to the left and Maka smirked when she heard a crash and a loud string of cusses coming from the intercom system.

"MAKA! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!" a deep voice roared through the system.

"Oh, good morning Captain," Maka said with a sickly sweet voice. "How are you? Slept well I hope?"

"Maka, just tell me what's going on!" he hissed. Maka smirked when she heard him try to stifle a yawn.

"Well, Tsubaki made pancakes for breakfast, we've clear blue flying skies, oh, and we're being broadsided by the Mosquito."

"WHAT!" Maka smiled when she heard him sprint from the room, swearing the whole way. Not a minute later, Soul emerged at the top of the stairs, still pulling on his pants. Maka and Soul had known each other for years, but it was times like this when Maka came to fully appreciate how much the two had grown up together. Soul had gone from a scrawny 13 year old rebel to a strong, 20 year old man and Maka herself was no longer the tiny girl that had been on the balcony (well, she was still short, but Soul could no longer joke about her being a "flat chested bookworm").

"Morning Soul," Maka said with a small smirk. Soul came up behind her and whacked her lightly on the back of the head.

"It's Captain Soul while we're in the air, and what've we got?" Maka rolled her eyes.

"95 Arachnophobia Class Airship, code name 'Mosquito', and I can call you whatever I damn well please Soul." Soul glared at the green eyed girl as she innocently batted her eyelashes at him. He wondered briefly why he kept her around, but then she turned back to the wheel with a hiss and performed a complicated flying maneuver that would make any Alliance pilot turn green with envy towards the tiny blonde woman. 'Oh yeah, that's why I keep her,' he thought wryly to himself.

"Where's BlackStar?" Both pilot and captain looked to their right just in time to see the Mosquito's front window become covered in a gooey green substance.

"Right about there," Maka said with a small smile. Soul smiled back at her, his sharp teeth flashing at her.

"We've got them!" Tsubaki cried happily, the screens around her lighting up and the speakers on either side of her playing the Mosquito's intercom system.

"Sir! We have no visibility out of the bridge!" a voice screeched, his voice twisted with anxiety. An annoying buzzing sound echoed through the intercom system, and soon after a regal (if not highly annoying) voice rang through, loud and clear in the crew's ears.

"Damn those Shibusen brats," the man, who Soul assumed to be the captain, hissed. "Fine then. They want to play dirty? We can do that. ARTILERY!"

"Yes Sir!" a small voice squeaked back. Maka could tell just from his voice that he was an inexperienced fighter.

"I want that upper hull gun taken out now! And then aim for their engine," the loud voice shouted. Maka and Soul exchanged a look, and Soul reached for the intercom control.

"BlackStar, expect some fire up there pretty soon!" Soul shouted, trying to be heard over his friend's loud laughter.

"Soul man! Did you see that! I was awesome! YAHOO! THE GREAT BLACKSTAR IS THE WORLD'S ONLY STAR!"

"IT'S CAPTAIN SOUL!" Soul screeched back, glaring heavily at Maka before rolling his eyes. "Teaching my crew bad manners. I should make you walk the plank."

"We don't have a plank," Maka said with a small, warm smile as she maneuvered around the Mosquito's attacks.

"Well then I'll throw you overboard or something!" Maka laughed, and Soul affectionately ruffled her hair. 'You big dope,' Maka thought with a small smile, her face burning the lightest shade of red. Soul saw this out of the corner of his eye and he internally smirked. Seven years later and he still took a freakish amount of pride in the fact that he could make the headstrong woman blush with the simplest of gestures. 'Imagine what would happen if I-NO! Bad Soul! Maka is your pilot, nothing more!' Soul thought frantically to himself as he watched Maka fly with an obscene amount of grace, her green eyes sparking and her soft pink lips pulled back in a wide smile. With a quick shake of his head, Soul reached up towards the windshield, snatching up his goggles and pulling them on with a wide smirk.

"Let's do this thing," he said, his crimson eyes sparking dangerously as he leaned on the back of the chair.

"Aye aye Captain," Maka said with a saucy grin.

~O