The Weather Eye
Part Ten: Exit, Stage Right
by Naomi

----

"This Island Court is now in session!"

Ingrained obedience to a superior officer hushed the little group of Petrels.
Even Horatio, whose usual expression before such a personage ranged only from
a blank whist-face to a barely detectible affability, could not suppress a
glare of resentment. Quickly regaining his wits after the unexpected
appearance of a dead captain -- after a ghost ship and her company of the
eternally damned, gold falling from trees, the inexplicable presence of Jack
/ Jasper Simpson and Hal Trevelyan, to say nothing of the Dwead Piwate
Wobetts -- Hornblower was about to protest the lack of necessaries in order
to hold a court martial, namely five post-captain, a copy of the Articles of
War, a Bible, pen, paper and ink, and a deputy judge-advocate to make use of
the latter items, when a grim-faced Morgan Taylor pushed his way forward and
confronted Captain Cook. In his right hand gleamed a cutlass Taylor had
stripped from Wob -- I mean, Roberts' possession.

"The only man here who ought to be curt-martialed AND hanged is you, Cook!"
he spat. "What's the matter? You don't remember me? You don't remember this
face?"

The cutlass whistled through the air, narrowly missing Cook's windpipe by a
hairsbreadth.

"You -- er, you DO look familiar," allowed the Captain nervously. "Wha--
what's your name?"

Was there the tiniest hint of madness in the younger man's eyes? A brilliant
smile crossed his tan features.

"My real name?" The cutlass feinted and darted about Cook's ears. "My name --
is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

And so saying, he lunged and with a mighty slice neatly parted Cook's head
from his shoulders.

Islanders and Petrels alike looked on in stunned silence as first the head
tumbled and rolled a full two fathoms while a crackling noise emanated from
the Captain's corpse. Oldroyd started to move closer for a better look but
was held back by Montoya. A collective gasp went up as the body suddenly
erupted into bright red-orange flames that climbed eight feet high before
just as abruptly dying back, leaving only a heap of what looked like black
shimmering sand.

"Al! C'mon, Al! What does Ziggy say? I'm going to leap? Oh, boy...."
Montoya's voice dwindled away and as his voice faded his figure became more
and more indistinct, blurring, evaporating from existence. Softly, from what
seemed a great distance, came the clearly spoken words: "Beam me up, Scotty."

A rumble of displeasure rose from the island chieftain, and was taken up as
if by contagion by his followers, growing ever more shrill and threatening
until the Petrels were clapping their hands over their ears to protect them
from the blood-curdling whoops and glossalalia. With one might hand the
chieftain spun Horatio about, his tone and manner indicative of casting one
curse while thwarting another of the same. Ripping the Navy cloak from his
shoulders he wrapped it tightly about Horatio as if to wrap Horatio in the
curse contained in the cloak.

Another man brought Cook's head to the chieftain, falling to one knee and
presenting the head as if it were a holy relic. Snatching it up by the hair,
the leader held the sightlessly staring head aloft, screaming out a phrase
that brought all the islanders to their knees. The cries and whooping
descended to a low, ominously rhythmic muttering. Far back in the crowd,
Matthews spotted Laamu. For a brief moment only, Laamu looked up and met
Matthews' concerned gaze. A flicker of motion and Matthews got the point.

"Mr. Hornblower, sir, I'm thinking this might be a good time to retreat to
the pirates' ship."

"I'm thinking," Horatio nodded, clutching his cloak, "that we'd better move
FAST."

Backing away from the impromptu ceremony, the Petrels then turned and fled
unceremoniously in the general direction of the beach, with Simpson
following closely.

"You're surely not meaning to leave me here, Mr. Hornblower?" Simpson was out
of breath already from the flight, although they were no more than halfway to
the beach, and he was made more than a trifle querulous by fear.

Horatio's conscience caught up with him. If he left Simpson here, the natives
would almost certainly kill him. At least, the chief had surely appeared to
be inciting his mob to mayhem. Yet Simpson's presence would be a thorn in the
side of every man who had known him aboard the Justinian. And Archie...

He stopped to face Simpson. Archie halted as well.

He met the clear sapphire gaze of his best friend, no longer clouded and cast
down as it had been back in the bad old days before the war. Archie stared
back at him; as commanding officer the decision was Horatio's to make. A
decision that must be in the best interests of His Britannic Majesty's Navy.

Horatio met Simpson's anxious eyes, then looked beyond him with the
thousand-yard stare of a career naval officer.

"If I take you back, Mr. Simpson, you will face a court martial for your
deceit; for desertion, for that IS what the actions of you and your brother
amount to. Of a surety, sir, you will hang. Or you can stay here and take
your chances with -- them!"

Simpson's head whipped 'round and his jaw dropped as from a distance of
perhaps 500 yards, a mass of now eerily silent islanders moved slowly toward
them. He gaped at them, then back at Horatio, back again at the natives.

"I -- I --," and suddenly Simpson broke and ran away into the jungle.

There was no time to relish Simpson's likely fate, he had a company of men in
equally desperate straits awaiting his orders. Gad, why must Matthews always
look at him as if he must always have all the answers? No time for such usely
thoughts though. Horatio screamed an order for those Petrels who had stopped
also to keep going, to flee to the beach. Everyone scrambled madly over rock
and bush, around trees. Down a gully, and leap over a hillock. Dodging
clinging vines and fronds. Time. Time was all. Would there be enough time to
get them all safely aboard the pirate ship hove to in the bay? They had left
Roberts behind, but the pirate had known the risks of his profession. No time
to think of him now, they were on the beach at last.

Archie and Hal were breathing heavily, and some of the men were bent over,
hands to their knees, gulping air into their starved lungs. Out there was the
ship, a long slow swim away of perhaps 150 yards. Looking back, there were
the islanders, loping steadily forward in unnatural silence. And there --
there! Later Horatio would remember that his heart did in fact actually leap
in his breast at the welcome sight of the captain's gig pulled up onto the
beach. Where were the pirates who must have rowed Roberts ashore? Horatio
spared two seconds for a swift look all around, and seeing none of Roberts'
men, he ordered the Petrels to launch the gig with all possible speed.
Whether it was the urgency of Hornblower's commands or, more likely, the
relentless encroachment of the islanders, the men responded with an alacrity
that would have made King George's eyes water with pride in the men who
served him.

With the boat launched and the oars manned, the gig skimmed over the calm
waters of the bay. Safely beyond the reach of the natives, Horatio turned his
gaze and his thoughts to the pirate ship he was about to try to capture.
Archie looked back toward the islanders standing silently on the shore, a few
of them standing waist deep in the water. Was that--? Yes, that was Te'wa
standing a little apart from her people, one small hand shading her eyes. As
if knowing Archie could see her, her other hand raised in a gentle wave that
somehow conveyed a deep sadness. He blinked slowly, and looked away.