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Ship of the Damned, part nine
by Sue N.

Upon reaching the quarter-deck, Archie was informed by
Mr. Trent that Lieutenant Thorne was awaiting him in
the captain's day cabin. Archie tensed inwardly, but
said nothing, merely nodded and turned upon his heel,
going back down the way he had come. Yet he knew the
tactic well enough, had seen his brother Charles
employ it numerous times in his more disagreeable
moods as a means of impressing upon underlings their
lowly place in the order of things.

It had also been a means by which Jack Simpson had
made his fellow midshipmen aware how completely under
his power they were...

He shook his head sharply and tried to banish such
painful thoughts, but could not. There was too much in
Resolute that reminded him of Justinian, and too much
in Thorne that reminded him of Simpson. He was being
pushed back into a world he thought he had left
behind, a world that knew no Pellew, no Horatio, no
light or warmth, but only a deepening darkness that
hinted at a greater blackness still to come.

Pray God he now had the strength to withstand and
survive all that had so nearly destroyed him before...

He stopped at the cabin door and closed his eyes,
breathing slowly, deeply, and reaching into himself
for the calm assurance he so needed. He reminded
himself that he was not the helpless, terrified boy he
had been then, but had grown, had changed, and would
never cower before another again. Yet he had also
promised Captain Pellew he would do his best, would do
his duty, and no power on earth would weaken his
determination to carry out that promise.

He had survived his brother, and had survived Simpson.
He would survive Thorne, as well.

Opening his eyes and drawing himself up to his full
height -- and briefly wishing he had more height to
draw from -- he set his jaw and knocked firmly upon
the door, waiting for the summons to enter. When at
last it came -- Charles also played this game of
keeping people waiting -- he opened the door and
stepped within, trying to remember every trick he had
learned from a childhood spent trying to avoid the
wrath of a difficult older brother.

"You wished to see me, sir?" he asked evenly, his
voice as pleasant as ever.

Thorne turned and stared at him in a long silence,
sweeping pale, cold eyes slowly over him in frank
appraisal, noting every detail of his appearance. The
reddish-blond hair had been brushed and re-tied, and
he had changed into a startlingly spotless uniform.
Yet, to Thorne's chagrin, the uniform was more than
neat. In its cut and make, it spoke of a fineness, a
wealth, foreign to most junior lieutenants, yet
Kennedy wore it without the slightest hint of
self-consciousness. Abruptly, Thorne remembered the
young man's refined manners at the captain's table,
and was irked beyond measure to realize the supposedly
lowly lieutenant obviously came from a background of
some status.

Well, he would learn his rightful place soon enough...

"Mr. Kennedy," he greeted stiffly, his voice and eyes
utterly lacking in warmth. "I trust Mr. Stewart helped
you find your cabin?"

"Oh, yes, sir," Archie answered easily. "He was most
helpful. I enjoyed talking with him."

Thorne stiffened visibly, his grey eyes narrowing.
"Talking?" Good God, what had the wretched boy said?

"Aye, sir. He is a Scot, you see, and a Stewart. My
family are related -- albeit distantly -- to some
Stewarts." He smiled. "And it was very nice hearing a
brogue again."

Thorne lifted a slim dark brow and regarded the young
man quizzically. "Your family are from Scotland, then?
And yet you do not sound Scottish at all."

Archie laughed quietly. "I was born and raised in
London, sir. My father finds it much more convenient
for his attandance in Parliament and service to the
government. But the Kennedys are from Scotland, and my
eldest brother currently manages the estates there
while Father remains in London."

"Estates?" Thorne asked flatly.

"Yes, sir. My father is the Viscount Aylesford, and
the family holdings are rather extensive. So Richard
-- my brother -- oversees them there, leaving Father
free for his frequent work with the Diplomatic
Service."

He spoke without boasting, as if stating simple,
inconsequential facts, which only irked Thorne all the
more. A viscount's son, whose father had influence
with the government, whose family had wealth and
prestige... Well, the boy would soon learn that his
father's position meant little or nothing on Resolute!

"Very interesting, Mr. Kennedy," he said coolly,
clasping his hands behind his back and casting a
disdainful stare upon the young man. "Still, you must
know that you will be considered upon your own merits
here, and not upon those of your father."

"Of course, sir," Archie answered easily. "I have
never supposed otherwise. In Indefatigable- "

"Yes, well, you are not in Indefatigable now!" Thorne
snapped, his eyes hardening. "What happened there
means nothing here, do you understand? This is
Resolute. You are now one of her officers, one of my
officers, and you will conform to our ways! I will
tolerate no comparisons between the two ships, and I
do not wish to hear how things were done in your
previous ship. Do I make myself clear?"

Archie stiffened and blinked rapidly, taken aback by
the outburst. "Y-- yes, sir," he stammered softly,
swallowing as that unforgiving grey gaze bit into him.
"I-- I am sorry, sir! I meant no disrespect-- "

"Then perhaps in future you should mind your tongue
more closely," Thorne advised snidely. "I will not be
dictated to by a junior lieutenant who clings to the
shadow of Edward Pellew!"

Archie swallowed again and stared wide-eyed at Thorne,
utterly bewildered by the rebuke. "Sir, I-- I would
never presume to dictate-- "

"See that you don't, then," Thorne snapped. "And while
we are on the subject, I want to make another matter
perfectly clear. The men you brought with you are mine
now, not Pellew's. They are Resolutes, no longer
Indefatigables. They are under my command, not yours,
and they will do their duty as every man in this ship
is expected to do, or they will answer to me. I will
not have a divided crew, and I will not have men
looking to you for command when the role is rightfully
mine. Is that understood?"

Archie felt the deck shift under his feet, and found
it strangely difficult to breathe. He had not seen
this attack coming, still did not entirely understand
what had provoked it. He realized now he had gotten
out of the habit of being constantly on his guard, had
allowed himself to forget the survival instincts so
carefully honed in Justinian.

But he had thought he would never need them again...

"Mr. Kennedy?" Thorne prompted sharply, his eyes
boring into the young man. "Is that understood?"

Archie shook his head to clear it, then nodded
slightly. "Aye aye, sir," he breathed. "I-- I
understand."

Suddenly, Thorne smiled. "Good! I am certain we shall
have no further trouble on that point." His entire
manner changed, relaxed, as if the anger of just a few
moments ago had never existed. "We have much work
before us, Mr. Kennedy. Resolute has been through
difficult days, and we must put her to rights. I trust
you do not mind hard work?"

Archie was more confused than ever, and suspected that
was the intent. "No, sir, I-- I do not," he answered
softly.

"Good. There is not much we can do today -- the light
will fail us soon -- but we shall begin early
tomorrow. Nonetheless, as we are short of officers, I
fear your duties must begin immediately." He smiled
again. "I have you down to serve the first watch. I
trust there is no difficulty?"

Archie blinked. The first watch. Eight o'clock until
midnight. Well, it could have been worse... "No, sir,
none at all."

"Good." Thorne began to pace. "And so that the new
men-- " he carefully avoided saying "your men" --
"might learn their duties and the ways of this ship
the faster, I shall have them mixed in among the old
hands. No sense in them keeping to themselves, now, is
there?"

Again, Archie suspected an ulterior motive, but said
nothing. "As you wish, sir."

Thorne smiled at that, gratified to see the boy
learning his place. "Well, then, have you any
questions for me?"

Archie thought a moment, and was sorely tempted to say
no, not wanting to risk another outburst. But there
was a question, and one that had been hammering at his
brain since first he had seen Resolute sending her
first lieutenant to the Indy.

Gathering his courage, and steeling himself for
whatever reaction he might face, he stared at Thorne a
moment and swallowed, then decided it was now or
never. "Only one, sir," he said quietly, amazed that
his voice was so steady. "I-- I was wondering-- " He
drew a deep breath and released it slowly, then
plunged on ahead. "Well, sir, I've not seen him since
I arrived, and I-- I was wondering-- Where is Captain
Sidney?"

Strangely, the outburst never came. Instead, Thorne
only smiled slightly, coldly, his grey eyes glinting
like ice under the sun. "I fear, Mr. Kennedy, that you
will not be seeing much of him in your time with us,
as he rarely leaves his cabin. You see, Captain Sidney
is quite insane."
**********