Hornblower and the Mundane Crisis
by Sarah B.


Horatio Hornblower stood on the deck of the Indefatigable and let out a
huge sigh. It was a beautiful day in Spithead, clear and sunny without a
cloud in the sky. Which really sucked, because the Indie was anchored in
Liverpool and there it was raining cats and dogs.

"Mr. Hornblower, sir!" Bracegirdle said in his usual, irritatingly
friendly way as he slogged through the feline/canine downpour. "By Jove,
it's raining cats and dogs today."

"Yeh," Oldroyd piped up from the deck nearby, "It sure is, you just
stepped in a poodle! Heh heh heh."

Bracegirdle amiably turned around and gave Oldroyd a hearty b*tch-slap
before turning his attention to Horatio once more. "Why, what's the
matter, Mr. Hornblower? You look like you've just lost your best friend."

With an anxious start, Horatio quickly scanned the deck - but no, he
hadn't lost his best friend at all, there was Archie toward the front of
the ship, in his usual casual position, head bent forward between his
knees, both hands over his ears and heaving dramatically over the side of
the ship. Good old Archie, what a bundle of nerves.

"Whew!" Horatio breathed. "What a start you gave me, Mr. Bracegirdle.
No, I was simply standing here in the bloody pouring rain thinking lovely,
bumper-sticker-worthy philosophical thoughts."

"Oh. Such as?"

"Oh, how far we've traveled, yet how far we have to sail as men. No
matter where you go, there you are. Life is like a box of chocolates. That
sort of thing."

"Oh. I, um, see. Well, as soon as you've jotted down your latest Deep
Thought, Mr. Hornblower, the Captain has commanded that you and Mr. Kennedy
go ashore for some damn mission or other."

Horatio raised his eyebrows. "Onshore for a mission? We're in England."

"Um, yes, I know," Bracegirdle replied with a shrug, "But unfortunately
the last time we left port I put the captain's orders in his Sunday coat,
and he's just now found them. I hate to break his heart, he puts such a
store on being able to stand on the poop deck and bellow about the
grandness of England. I figured we'd just give him an easy victory in this
case."

"Well, sh*t." Horatio grumped, shaking his hat to let the Chihuahua and
two small kittens fall out of it. "Oh, all bloody right. Let me go stare
at Archie in deep, friendly concern for a while, and we'll be right along."

"Jolly good." Bracegirdle replied, and obligingly left the story.

Horatio heaved a deep sigh, surreptitiously adjusted his Superman cape
beneath his rain slicker, and walked through the small piles of dachshunds
and Abyssinians to where Archie stood. Archie, his bestest friend.
Archie, the sturdy quivering Jello-like rock of...well, that wasn't such an
apt metaphor perhaps. Archie, the good-natured screw-up who always made
him look good. There, that was it.

"Good morning, Archie!" Horatio said.

Archie turned toward him, and with alarm Horatio noticed that his face
was blue.

"Good God!" Horatio cried out in finest melodramatic fashion, grabbing
Archie's shoulders and shaking him violently. "Archie, what's wrong??
Archie, speak to me, for the love of God and in the name of - "

Archie frantically grabbed his hat and threw Horatio an irritated look.
But his face turned bluer and he didn't speak.

Finally Horatio discerned the matter. "Oh, J*sus, Archie, breathe!
Breathe! You forgot how to breathe again!!" And thinking to help matters
along, Horatio made a fist and lovingly slugged his friend in the gut.

"@#$%@#$!@@###!!" Archie cursed as he was bent double by the force of
Horatio's blow, and his hat flew over the side of the ship.

"Oh, thank God!!" Horatio cried as Archie struggled to stand upright
again. "Oh, Archie I was so - "

"Hic! @#$%@#$!!! hic! G*d d*mmit, Horatio! Hic!"

Horatio blinked. "Archie, what are you saying?"

"I was holding my - hic! - breath you - hic! - great flippin' Welsh
idiot!! I've got the - hic - hiccups!!!"

"Oh." Horatio paused. Nothing in his 18th Century Naval Hero training
had prepared him for something so mundane. "Um - well, Captain Pellew's
got a mission for us..."

"Oh @#$!! hic! swell."

At this point Styles wandered over, tired but happy because he'd just
finished scooping the last of the Airdales over the side of the ship.
Giving Archie a big-toothed grin he said, "Oh, 'iccups, eh? Wait right
here." And he trotted off.

Archie put his hands in his pockets and glared at Horatio. "Hic - hic -
hic - "

Horatio didn't know what to say. "I don't know what to say."

Archie's glare grew more intense. "Well, that's a - hic! - switch, Mr.
Appropriate Words for Any - hic! - Occasion."

"Archie, I'm sensing bitterness..."

"Sod off."

At that moment Horatio looked over Archie's shoulder and noticed Styles
had reappeared and was now standing directly behind Archie with a blown-up
paper bag.

Something told Horatio this wasn't a good idea. However, in the time it
took Horatio to think of a way to phrase "Stop!" in a way that sounded at
once elegant and commanding, Styles had brought the flat of his hand back
and whipped it toward the inflated bag at lightning speed.

BLAM!!!

"WAAAAAAAAA!!!!!" Archie shrieked, jumping six feet in the air and
landing onto the deck with a wet thud.

"Archie!" Horatio cried, and rushed forward.

"HIC! HIC! HIC! HIC! HIC! HIC! HIC! HIC! HIC! HIC! HIC!" Archie was
rattling on the deck like a huge quivering blue-eyed blond tuna or
something, grasping at his heart and white as Ioan Gruffudd's teeth.

Styles screwed his face up in puzzlement. "It worked with me last
girlfriend."

"Dammit, Styles!" Horatio barked as he bent over his stricken and
cheesed-off friend, "Fetch the surgeon! Hurry!"

"Oh - hic!! - for the love of - hic!" Archie muttered in disgust. Before
he knew it, Horatio had scooped him up in his arms. "Horatio - hic! - put
me down!"

"Ggggggeeeerrrrrreeeerrr," Horatio replied, struggling against his deep
feelings of despair and a possible hernia.

Archie sighed in exasperation. "Horatio, it's just the - hic! bloody
hiccups! I'm not -hic - dying!"

"GGGrrrrrrreeeeeeeooooooooo - " It was a mighty effort, but before he'd
taken two steps Horatio gave up, dropped Archie to the deck, and began
dragging him by his heels. "I'll save you, Archie!"

"Hic! OW, Horatio, you're getting splinters in my face!"

At that moment Matthews, irked because he hadn't shown up in the story
yet, wandered over. "Beggin' your pardon, Mr. Hornblower - "

"Urrrgh - " Horatio growled, "Archie, stop digging your nails into the
planks, I can't budge you an inch! What is it, Matthews?"

"Well, it's not like you asked MY advice or anything, but if the lad's
got hiccups what he needs is a right good scare. That'll take care of 'em."

"A scare - right..." Horatio stopped pulling his friend across the deck
and leaned over to him. "Archie, I'm going to scare you, you'll be all
right."

"I was better - hic - off before you started helping me!" Archie moaned.

"All right...um...Simpson!"

"Hic!"

"Er...hm...Frenchmen! Joan of Arc! Halle Berry announcing your next
very important event!"

"Hic - hic - think harder, Horatio."

"MR. HORNBLOWER!!!"

At the 100-decibel sound of his captain's voice, Horatio froze and looked
up. Captain Sir Edward Pellew stood there, his eyes aflame and his
nostrils flaring wide enough to stick billiard balls into. Archie stared
at his captain as well, trying his best to maintain his composure, which
was difficult considering Horatio still held his legs, and he at that
moment resembled nothing so much as an 18th century vacuum cleaner.

"Hic!" he said.

"Um - " Horatio cleared his throat and hastily dropped Archie's legs and
saluted.

"OW!"

"I sent Mr. Bracegirdle up here with orders for you to go ashore!" Pellew
bellowed, "And I come up here to find you swabbing the deck with Mr.
Kennedy! By God, sir, enough with the skylarking, when I give you an order
I expect you to follow it!"

"Yes, sir." Horatio answered, marveling at the shade of maroon Pellew's
face had taken on.

"Right!" Pellew removed a sheet of paper from his cloak and read it. "By
order of Lord Admiral Hood, and in recognition of the sad fact that
although we are a quality miniseries our viewership was dismal, it has been
decided that the Indefatigable will change her name to 'Ragin' Frigate of
Pain' and we are all transferred to the payrolls of the World Wrestling
Federation."

Horatio blinked. "Come again, sir?"

"I think - hic! - we've all just become wrestlers." Archie said as he
picked himself up off the deck.

"Precisely," Pellew said, "Mr. Kennedy, your new name is 'Jello of
Terror', Mr. Bracegirdle is to become 'Brace Yourself', and I will soon
become - " He winced. "Captain Crunch."

Horatio frowned. "What about me, sir?"

"Well, Mr. Hornblower, apparently your moniker is exactly what the
Smackdown folks are looking for, so you don't need to change your name at
all. Now enough dawdling! I'm sending you ashore for 300 pairs of spandex
tights, make mine extra large. For the glory of England we must get ready
to rrrrrrrrrumble!" With that, Pellew turned around and stalked off the
deck, the glittering "CC" on the back of his cloak marking his departure.

"Cor blimey," Matthews muttered.

"Hic!" Archie offered. "Bloody fickle American audiences. Hic."

Horatio sighed. "You wanted a scare?"

Archie nodded.

"Captain Pellew and Mr. Bracegirdle in spandex tights."

Archie blanched.

"That worked." he said.

The end