Pass the Pen
Part 1 "A Clean Slate"
LOCATION: A launch (Small boat) alongside the French Frigate Papillion. TIME: Night.
"You go first..." Jack commanded quietly, as the men helped the young Midshipman Horatio Hornblower to the side of the French frigate. Hornblower gave him a backward glance. Apparently he expected someone with more experience to go before him. Jack set his jaw, and said not a word. He nodded his head toward the frigate. His intent and order was clear, and 'Young Snotty' obeyed. Up the lean, dark haired Midshipman climbed, as Midshipman Jack Simpson, senior officer aboard their small boat, watched him. It was chancy sending one so inexperienced up first, but Jack consoled himself that, if indeed Hornblower did bungle things, at least he would be the first to fall. Jack referred to Hornblower as Young Snotty whenever he could get away with it, partly because he despised the fellow, and partly because it was true. Horatio Hornblower untill several months ago had been nothing more, in Jack's opinion, than the useless, spoiled son of a Doctor. An upper middle class sod who was a friend of their previous captain, Captain Keene. Normally it took six years service (as a boy or otherwise) to earn the chance to be a midshiman... But here was Hornblower, ingnoring all that thanks to a letter from one crusty old man to another. Hornblower with his 'connections' stepping in where he didn't belong... Even so, Jack and Hornblower served under a new captain now. Sir Edward Pellew. An officer could get rich serving under Pellew... A fresh start and a clean slate... Jack wouldn't mind that at all... Except that Young Snotty had already caught the captain's eye. Jack could tell, and he hated Hornblower even more for it. Indeed Hornblower wasn't the only one who was placed in the rank of Midshipman in such a manner. Archie Kennedy had been the same. Jack had broken Kennedy though... Broken him well indeed. Hornblower had been another mater... defiant. He stood up to Jack when no one else would... Befriended Kennedy and given him hope... Even challenged Jack to a duel... However he failed to present himself on the field of honor. Clayton, a fellow midshipman had stepped in for Hornblower at the last minute. Aparently he'd knocked Snotty out cold to do so... A mistake. He'd paid for it with his life, while Clayton's own bullet had only wounded Jack. The shoulder still pained him though. Hornblower would do it all again if he could... Defy him again... and that's what really made Jack so angry... Wasn't it Jack? Simpson's face twisted into a snarl as that thought passed through his mind. He pushed that muse down as far as he could and looked up. I'll just kill him... I'll just bloody kill him! No more playing games... Lot's of things can happen in the confusion of battle. Now, Jack was begining to set his mind on a particular course.
"Careful Hornblower..." Jack said that almost as if he cared, but added under his breath and with a hint of amuzement,"Anything can happen up there." Hornblower heard none of that though, but the crewmen in the men in the boat had. Most took it for real concern. Only five men aboard that boat knew better. Mathews, Styles, Finch, Oldroyld and Stevens. Crewmen that had served with him aboard Keene's ship, Justinian. They new exactly what he ment... Jack could read it on their stupid faces. They had been men of his own division before they were transfered and handed over to Hornblower. Simpson sneered at the look of concern Mathews, the oldest of the lot, gave as Jack had voiced his 'concern'. Oh yes... Jack thought to himself, anything can happen. Even if I have to make it happen myself. The small English boats teeming with men ready to capture the sleepy French vesel had managed to aproach the enemy frigate silently. Provided there were no errors, the ship would be theirs. Hornblower would be first of their party over, and even a weakling like him couldn't botch this up. While Jack silently hoped Hornblower would be killed by the French and save him the trouble, another part of him wanted to do it personally. Hornblower clambered up the side of the ship, clinging on for dear life as the frigate, which loomed above them in the dark, bobbed gently in the shallow, black water of the bay. The other boats in their raiding party moved into position. Mr. Bowles' boat was now next to theirs. Bowles was the Ship's master... A Non Comissioned Officer. Jack saw him as a stout, simple fellow. Easily fooled, but at times an irksom fellow. When they served together with Keene, Bowles seemed to delight in giving the Middies like Jack unsolvable navigation problems. Well, unsolvable unless your a freak of nature like Hornblower... No, Jack pushed those thoughts down too. Keep your mind on the moment. You have work to do. Jack smiled slightly, and grimly, and he could see Styles, the tallest and ugliest of his former men return Mathew's worried glance. Were they 'Snotty's crew' now? Jack saw another small boat from the corner of his eye. It was Chad's party. Lieutenant Chad would be in charge of securing the Forecastle (Foc'sil). The mission's commanding officer Lieutenant Eccelston, with the largest force would need to capture the Quarterdeck. Simpson and Hornblower's party had to board Amidships, so that Hornblower and his division could climb the mainmast, and loose it's sails. If they failed that, then all would be for naught as they'd never get the Papillion away from the nearby fort before the alarm would bring the fort's guns to bear on them. This area of the coast was veritably lined with French defences, and the frogs would rather sink their own ship then let the Brittish take her.
"Si, est-ce que vous avez dormi avec sa soeur?" (French dialouge created with www.freetranslation.com )
"Oui, mais ne pas le dire."
"Bien sûr je la coutume.. J'ai dormi avec sa soeur aussi."
The crewmen could all hear Frenchmen chatting above, and footsteps... Hornblower paused. Simpson and everyone else in the launch held their breath. Well, everyone except MM Archibald Kennedy. He lay unconscious at the bottom of the launch after Hornblower had been forced to knock him out. Blissfully unaware of the action about to take place around him. The little twerp had picked a bad moment to have one of his 'fits'. He had begun to flail about, moaning and screaming while the English mariners rowed toward their target. The frigate. The noise he'd been making was inexcusable... and dangerous. The only thing for it was to knock him out, and the only thing sweeter than not getting to do it himself was watching Hornblower, Archie's new friend, smash him over the head with a section of the tiller. Beautiful. Jack had been at the bow of the launch... No where near the flailing, muttering Kennedy. Archie was quiet now of course, and would be forever more if Simpson had any say in the matter. Jack knew he'd have to deal with both of them tonight. He checked his armaments as the French voices moved away from the rail. The crewmen in the boat breathed again. Jack watched Mathews, Oldroyld, Finch, Stevens and Styles. All of his old men, they were now Hornblowers.
"Get ready." Mathews said quietly. Simpson noted they all had their eyes on their new master... Hornblower. Simpson wondered if they still held any loyalty to him anymore... They seemed very concerned as Hornblower cautiously threw a leg over the side of the Papillion. Jack followed their gaze to the young midshipman's back, and watched them climb out of the launch to the side of the frigate, so they could back him up as quickly as possible. They were indeed his men now. Jack's brow creased slightly. Well, that's it then... None of them leaves this ship alive.
"Mr. Simpson." The soft, almost inaudible voice belonged to Mr. Bowles, already climbing up the ropes, despite his bulk. His men were also well above him. Already in the rigging. Bowles himself took a moment to make certain his men were in positon, before waving to the remaining men in Simpson's boat to hurry... Including Simpson himself. Resting on the rail Hornblower gingerly swung over and put a foot down. -THUMP!- Blast him... The idiot had knocked something over. Everybody cringed... Even Jack.
" Ce qui était celui? Tirez-le! " The Frogs were going to shoot Hornblower. Good riddance. Jack's hopes were dashed however. In an instant Hornblower pulled out, cocked, and fired both of his pistols. There was a flash and BANG! Jack heard two men fall to the deck. Then suddenly, everything was rush, Rush, RUSH to get their own arses up on deck before too many Frenchmen could wake and muster weapons. Shouting, confusion and panic. Panic for the frogs mostly though. The crew of HMS Indefatiable had the drop on them. Literally, as some of the men swung down on the bleary eyed French from the rigging above... Soon enough Jack was pulling himself over the rail. Tumult, carnage and death commanded all stations. A French marine forced backwards by the press of the melee bumped into him. Jack cut his throat and the man dropped to the deck. Simpson smiled grimly... Pomp and circumstance, and 'Kings regulations' could go to blazes... Navigation and mathematics be damned... Battle was he meat and milk.
"Shit! Maybe not..." Simpson cursed as several Frenchmen ran up from below decks, headed straight for him! Thankfully the bulk of them were toppled by a few well placed Englishmen who swung down into the melee from the forecastle. That left three for Simpson. A well aimed pistol shot felled one to the deck. Another parried a left-handed swing from Jack's cutlass, and he was only just able to block a well aimed blow to his own head with the spent pistol. Bit of a panic now! He stepped backward. Taking it as a sign of weakness the Frogs came at him. That was their mistake. Jack dropped the pistol, ducked under the blade of one man, grabbed him in the process and sent the bugger careening into the rail. He recovered his own balance in time to slash his cutlass across the chest of the other frog. The man screamed and Jack felt the his ribs crack beneath the blow. Lovely. He turned quick-like, ready again for the man he'd just flung against the rail, only to find the sot had gone over the side and was clinging to the rail by his fingertips. Despite the fray around him... Almost in defiance of it... Jack took a moment of his time and peered over the rail.
"Monsieur, je ne puis pas nager!" Terrified, the man was desperate not to fall... He was helpless. If Simpson understood him correctly the man couldn't swim either... For Jack it was far too tempting. He reached out with his right hand. The Frog was surprised but grasped it. His only hope... Jack braced himself against the weight, pulled the man up slightly so that he could see Jack raise his cutlass over his head, and see Simpson grin like the Devil himself. The Frenchman knew exactly what was coming. "Non! Pitié! S'il vous plaît! "
" Non pitié? "Jack mocked, "Alright then!" He swung the heavy blade down, and was delighted to hear the crunch as it took off the bugger's arm at the elbow.
"Yaaagghhhh!" -SPLASH- The Frog hit the water, followed by his severed arm. Simpson glanced down and watched the man struggle, then slip beneath the waves. A feeling flooded over Jack... Satisfaction. His gaze moved to the launch with poor little Archie still out cold. Oblivious... Helpless. Jack glanced from Archie's prostrate form to the rope tying the little boat to the Papillion's rail, and a wicked thought entered his mind. He took a step toward the knot that secured the line to the rail. A bullet struck where he'd just been standing. Splinters flew from the rim of the rail. Jack spun round...
"Merde!" A Frog marine had just shot his musket. Angry that he missed, he was now charging with bayonet. Then Jack heard Hornblower's voice, shouting something to Stevens. A scream and a thud, as Steven's body landed heavily between the Frog marine and Jack. Jack recovered from the shocking interruption first and split the marine's face open with the cutlass. The wounded man screamed and lunged again. The man couldn't see though and Jack stepped over the broken lump that was once Stevens, while the Frog tripped. Another Frenchman threatened but Jack removed that threat with a right cross, and a left slash... The marine struggled to his feet, only to have Jack's cutlass finish the job on his face. Catching the man's skull with an overhead blow. Jack looked up from this mess to see Hornblower, and the remains of his old division up above trying to loose the sail. Hornblower was at the very end of the yard, out in the open... Helpless. Jack saw an enemy Quartermaster about to shoot down Mr. Bowles. Normally Jack wouldn't concern himself with such matters, but he wanted that pistol. He lunged forward, snagged the pistol from the man's grasp, thrust his blade into the fellow's back, then pushed him off. He barely noted the thankful nod Bowles afforded him before the old git rejoined the fray. Who cared about that bullocks?! Jack observed as he eagerly examined the pistol... Still loaded...Pefect! He stepped back looked up, and cocked the hammer. Far above him Hornblower's group nearly had the sail loose. Can't shoot him till he's done... The voice of reason commanded... Or you've killed yourself too... He lowered the pistol.
"Damn it, Snotty... Hurry up."Jack muttered. "Time's a wasting..." Nearly... Yes... Jack began to raise the pistol again. Suddenly a Frog ran at him and reflex took over. He fired instinctively as his pistol came level with the man's chest. The frog fell and Simpson swore inwardly. He looked with disgust at the downed man. Wasted bloody shot!... Should have used the cutlass... Son of a... Then his thoughts flew to Archie. Hornblower will wait... Time to say goodbye to your little friend. He turned and focused his gaze again on the line that tied the launch with the unconscious MM Kennedy to the Papillion... Archie's lifeline. Jack dropped the spent pistol and moved quickly to the rail. He knelt down, placed his cutlass by his side, and drew his knife. He grinned. A moment's work and then he'd only have Young Snotty left to deal with, and none would be the wiser... He laid the knife blade on the rope...
Wham!- A pain at the back of his head... Everything spun... So did Jack, and he fell flat on his back... His eyes snapped open. What... What was he doing here? He saw the blade in his hand... Pain in his head... What was the knife for? Was he fighting someone? The world was in shadows... Dark figures pushing, hacking at each other... Shooting... Screaming! Total confusion for a mind nearly wiped clean... A Blank Slate. A figure stood over him. A sword raised. Instinctively he defended himself. He stabbed upwards with the knife. Warm blood trickled down his hand and wrist. The brute roared and backed off, but was joined by two more. "Who are you!" 'Jack' shouted... "What the hell do you want?!" Another made a move for him. 'Jacks' knife drew blood again though, and the assailant cowered back. They wanted something... Behind him... He chanced a quick glance. A small boat was tied there... An injured man within... Something familiar about him... Something important. God... Head hurt too much. He could see color again. It was still dark, but 'Jack' looked at himself.. down... His clothes... Man in the boat... same clothes as his own... White band on his arm. The others didn't have that! Same side as the man in the boat. It was logical... It seemed sound. 'Jack' turned to face their common foe.
"Le bateau!" A man in a fancy uniform joined Jack's opponents and urged them to action," Je ne me décomposerai pas loin dans une prison anglaise!" Jack couldn't make that out... Except 'Bateau'! He knew that word 'Boat'... They wanted the boat. The boat with his friend... Never.
"Over my dead body..." Jack growled a warning. "You can't have him."
"Fou! Sortez de notre voie!" The foe in the fancy dress uniform was livid.
"Oui, Capitaine!" They rushed him as a group. Cut and slash. Punch and kick. Jack knew one thing and one thing only... He couldn't let them get at the man in the boat. The man in the boat couldn't fight back. He was... Helpless.
~Jack Simpson?~ (Here's where Characters switch- as you can see Jack does not get the oportunity to shoot Horatio... Can he 'save' Archie? Read on...)
"They know their beaten!" A Master Bowles shouted. "Stop 'em! Their trying to get the boats!" Though the melee still raged... It was clear to anyone with an ounce of intelligence that the English had won the ship. Indeed a few of the smarter Froggy officers and men were making a break for the English boats... Still others were even more desperate then that. Rather than be taken prisoner, they chose to chance the swim to shore. It wasn't the swimmers that concerned Bowles though... It would take them time to make it, if they made it at all... And now that Mr. Hornblower had the main topsail set the Papillion would be out of range of the French guns long before that. No, it was the smarter ones stealing the English jolly-boats that concerned Mr. Bowles. One Frog officer had already tried to get away in Eccelston's boat. But was shot down before he could. Bowles could see the French Captain making for the launch. Dear God, he realized, Mr. Kennedy was still in the launch! Fearing the lad would wind up a prisoner he rushed from the quarterdeck... Then he saw something that he'd never thought possible. Simpson was there... Defending the Launch. The Frogs were trying their damndest to get by him, but he wasn't giving any ground.
"Hold them Mr. Simpson! Hold them there!" Bowles shouted and pushed his way through the crowd. One frog tried to cut the line but Simpson put his knife in his back and grabbed a cutlass with his left hand, kicking the man away... Bowles was close enough to hear the shouts of Simpson and his opponents... He wasn't the only one. Hornblower, and his division were on the scene now as well. But there were plenty of French still in the way... Bowles parried a blow, and cut down the frog that had attempted it. Another held him back, Bowles struggled with him, but they both fell to the deck. "Mr. Hornblower! The Launch!" He shouted. Hornblower obeyed, as did his men, save Styles who looked toward Simpson but paused to dispatch Bowles's opponent... "The launch! " Bowles repeated as Styles helped him up. "Simpson's defendin' it... Alone!" Styles still seemed more concerned with him. "Mr. Kennedy is still unconscious! He's in that launch man!" That seemed to spur Styles and they both followed Hornblower through the teeming mass of men.
"Agghh!" Bowles heard Simpson yell. Those Frenchmen that wanted the boat had pressed forward. Their Captain had pinned the lone Midshipman to the rail. Sword tip through his right arm. "Can't... Can't let you have him... Aggghhh!"
"Good God!" Bowles was astounded. Simpson had pulled his arm away from the blade. Screamed and swung the cutlass in a wide arc. The French Captain stumbled, clutched his throat, as blood spurted from between his fingers. The enemy commander then fell in a heap to the gore covered deck. This had an immediate effect on his remaining men... A few fought on, and died. A couple more leapt into the sea, but most began surrendering to the English in droves. Simpson sank down to his knees, and looked like he was about to keel over himself. Bowles noticed he had more wounds than the one in his arm. Eccelston and Chadd had joined them. Both flushed with victory.
"Good lord, man," Eccelston beamed, then looked down to the French Captain's body,"Well done Mr. Simpson! Piety you couldn't capture the scoundrel though."Eccelston stepped forward but stopped when Simpson raised his sword.
"Get away!... " They were all shocked to hear Simpson snarl. "Can't have him... In the boat..." Here he trailed off... eyes rolled up, showing the whites, then closed, and MM Jack Simpson slumped face first onto the corpse of his fallen foe. At this Hornblower and his men rushed forward. They stepped right past Simpson though and went to the rail. Bowles saw Eccelston raise and eyebrow. Bowels knew why they would act thus, but Eccelston had always been fooled by Simpson's performances.
"Mr. Kennedy's still there, sir." Mathews informed Hornblower. Hornblower nodded. "Best see to Mr. Simpson then." Mathews added. Clever fellow, Bowles noted. Eccelston seemed pleased that someone seemed concerned with the 'heroic' Mr. Simpson.
"Indeed, Mathews," Hornblower spoke haltingly. He caught on quick though, and was a bright lad. "Mathews, will you Finch and Styles please recover Mr. Kennedy. Oldroyd..." Hornblower looked to the youngest of his subordinates, and nodded to Simpson's unconscious form. They kneeled down next to him.
"Crikey!" Oldroyd shouted."Look at 'is 'ead!" Bowels moved closer to see. Indeed, the back of Simpson's head was a mess of matted hair, stained red with his own blood. A diagonal slash at the back of it, oozed the precious crimson liquid.
"I see it Oldroyd. Will you please keep your voice down." Uncertain what to do, Hornblower folded up a kerchief and pressed it to the back of Simpson's skull. It turned red almost immediately.
"More bandages Oldroyd quick." Bowles commanded. Oldroyd had begun to strip the cloth from the French Captain's shirt. Eccelston gave him a horrified look.
"Well 'ee don need it anymore, sir." Oldroyd defended his actions, then whispered to Bowles and Hornblower. "Well, 'ee don't. Does 'ee, sirs?"
"Simpson isn't dead is he?" Eccelston muttered. "Ruddy amazing..."
"No, he isn't dead sir." Bowles informed him. "But I don't know if he'll make it back to the Indy."
"Mr. Hornblower. I leave you and your division to see to the injured." Eccelston informed Hornblower. It was no secret that Mr. Hornblower was the son of a doctor. It seemed Eccelston expected him to remember a thing or two. The first officer turned to the crew, "God be praised, the ship is ours." He announced."We have more wounded, besides Mr. Simpson here... All these brave men will be better off the sooner we get back to the Indy, and Dr. Heppelwhite." Eccelston glanced to Lieutenant Chadd, Master Bowles. "Mr. Bowles, we need to get this ship underway." That was true enough, and Bowles stood up just as Mr. Kennedy was carefully lifted, via a net, onto the deck by Finch and Mathews. Styles who had obviously been pushing from below while the other two pulled, followed Mr. Kennedy's accent. Mr. Hornblower had certainly turned his division into an effective team. Bowles noted Hornblower's concern for Kennedy as he was hauled on deck. He nodded to the young Midshipman.
"Mr. Kennedy is on deck now, Mr. Hornblower. Safe and sound." Bowles informed him. Hornblower quickly glanced back again to make certain, then nodded thanks to Bowles and went back to work. Bowles turned his own attention to Lieutenant Eccleston and Chadd. "I trust their all in good hands, sir. as you said we should make sail for the Indy.
"Indeed, and with haste." Eccelston agreed,"My compliments Mr. Hornblower." Bowles saw Eccelston put a hand on Hornblower's shoulder. A kind but uncharacteristic gesture.
"Sir?" Hornblower had bandaged Simpson's head and was now wrapping a rag around the torn right arm. "For what, sir?..."
"Setting the top mainsail of course!" Eccelston praised him."There's more than one hero here today. Seeing you dash accross that spar like a circus performer... I'd swear you were born to hang."
"Oh... Yes... Aye sir. Thank you, sir." Hornblower barely looked up now, concentrating on his task. Eccelston smiled at him and motioned for Bowles and Chadd to follow him. Bowles gave a last backward glace before setting course for the Indy's possition. Hornblower truely was the son of a doctor. It certainly showed in the care he gave. Even to an enemy. Whatever he was feeling about Jack Simpson right now, Hornblower kept to himself. So Mr. Bowles left Hornblower to tend the injured crewmen. Wondering how much had changed in so little time.
-----------------------------------------------------------Location and Time change--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
LOCATION: The Indefatigable TIME: Early evening
"Alright, Mr. Hether. Mr. Cleveland. You can stay with him a while. But don't you dare disturb them." 'Jack' heard that... barely...
"Thank you doctor." And that... A little better... "We promise not to wake anyone."
"Thank heaven Hornblower came when he did Hether or we'd all be in 'Davy Jones's'..." Clear as a bell now. Voices... Celebratory and relieved voices mixed with screams and moans of wounded men woke Jack from the bliss of unconsciousness. Who the hell was Davy Jones?...
"Aye, Cleveland, we were in a pickle, certain sure. He came in guns blazin'. Saved us all!" The voice belonging to 'Hether' responded. 'Jack' opened his eyes, and immediately closed them. The light stung them and made him dizzy. "And Mr. Simpson there, held his ground against how many, to defend Archie?!" They certainly wern't being quiet now... There was a whispered response to this, but 'Jack' didn't hear it. Pain seized him again. It didn't matter. The names were unfamiliar to him anyway... Where was he? Whatever he was lying on was swinging back and forth... Nevermind, he told himself, It didn't matter. The annoying voices continued regardless. "Piety about Eccelston and Chadd though..."
"Aye... What d'ya think came over Jack though. Saving Mr. Bowles, then riskin' his life for Archie? It's bizzare. Not like him at all."
"Shhh! He might hear you, Cleveland." The voice seemed fearful... Who was the fellow afraid of?..
"Well, anyway, he and Hornblower are the men of the hour, that's for sure. The Captain's right proud of both of them." The one called 'Cleveland' had spoken this time... He mentioned a Captain?... Jack wondered. Was he on a ship, perhaps? That would explain a great deal. The pain in his head was less acute now. He wanted a drink though... Very badly. He tried to open his eyes again... This time they didn't hurt as much... but he was still woozy.
"W-water..." 'Jack' muttered softly..."Might I have some water please?" The two figures seemed startled. Frozen actually.
"Hether, get him some water. Quick now!" The one called 'Cleveland' was a stout fellow with lengthy sideburns. He leaned over 'Jack' cautiously. "Oh, and Hether bring the Doctor back!"
"What the hell?..." 'Jack' muttered... "Heather is a girls name..." It was barely audible.
"Eh, what's that?" The stout fellow looked puzzled. "Don't worry, Jack... Ah, you'll have some water right quick!" The man seemed terrified of someone or something.
"Ah... Thank you C- Cleaveland?" 'Jack' wanted to confirm the man's name while he had him alone. The stout fellow nodded, then looked up as 'Hether' came back with a man who must be the doctor.
"He's awake then." The 'Doctor' and 'Hether' loomed over 'Jack', blocking the light. Hether definitely wasn't a girl... Tall and thin... Weak chin. The Doctor was a short man. Gray hair or a wig... This man tried to put his hand near his patients head. Jack instinctively raised his hands, in defense. His right arm felt like it was on fire.
"Aggghhh!" He couldn't help but scream. The ones called Hether and Cleveland cringed and stepped back.
"If it hurts it's trying to tell you something..." The 'doctor' said with a hint of sarcasm. He gently put his hand on 'Jack's' right arm and lowered it to his side. 'Jack' didn't resist. Too much pain... Too tired. The man didn't seem threatening. And something wet touched his lips. Water!... The man had water. It was brackish and stale... But he eagerly took it in. "Not too much now now. It's good that your conscious, sir... A good sign indeed. Mr. Hether, go inform the Captain."
"Oh, a... Yes, Doctor Hepplewhite." The one called Hether left... 'Jack' watched him go then turned back to Doctor 'Hepplewhite'.
"Where am I?" Jack muttered as the doctor put the cup aside.
"Back on the Indy, Jack." Cleveland informed him. "Safe and sound."
"Oh... good. The Indyjack?" Again he hoped for a confirmation.
"What?" Cleveland seemed perplexed by his response.
"The ship... Right?" He wanted to sound like he knew a little at least.
"Aye. Are you alright, Jack?" Cleveland raised an eyebrow.
"Am I alright Doctor?" 'Jack' asked. The doctor and Cleveland looked at each other... Puzzled expressions on their faces.
"Perhaps this is not the best time for you to see the Captain..." The doctor turned from him to the short fellow,"Mr. Cleveland, if you would go--" But the doctor was cut off in mid sentence.
"You see, sir," It was the one called Hether... He was not alone."He's awake, sir!"
"I can see that, Mr. Hether. Calm yourself please." The strong voice belonged to a middle aged man, with brown hair and eyes and a scar on his forehead. He held his hat in his hand, and wore a dark blue uniform with gold trim and epaulettes on his shoulders. He seemed rugged and stern, yet kind in some strange way. It had to be the Captain they all spoke of. Jack smiled and moved slightly... He wanted to rise. Salute the man or something... But as he tried the pain struck again. He didn't cry out this time... But clearly it showed in his features.
"No, no. Absolutly not. You'll stay put." The doctor merely reinforced what 'Jack's' body was already telling him.
"Yes doctor." He murmured weakly. The Captain himself seemed worried.
"He will live doctor?"
"It looks encouraging, sir."
"Well, Master Bowles." The Captain turned to an older gray haired fellow in a plainer uniform that stood to his left. "You can stop worrying so much now. Mr. Hornblower, I understand, Doctor Hepplewhite's patient here might not have survived at all had it not been for your earlier medical ministrations." This he said to a tall, lean young man with angular but handsome features, brown eyes, and a unruly mass of curly dark brown hair that stood to his right. Jack smiled at the fellow. The gesture was not returned.
"Thank you, sir." He said regardless. The one called Hornblower looked perplexed, but said nothing. He merely nodded. The uniform he wore was just like 'Jack's' own. Just like the man in the little boat. Suddenly upon thinking of the fellow, 'Jack' wanted to know his fate.
"Where is the man in the boat?!" He tried to move again, but the doctor and Cleveland were on him in a flash. "Is the man in the boat safe?" He looked earnestly for and answer from either of them. The answer came from the Captain.
"The man in the boat?... Yes, the doctor assures us all that Mr. Kennedy is fine. He's in the hammock next to you." The Captain pointed, and Jack looked to his left. Sure enough a youthful, face wreathed with light brown, almost blonde hair, lay there blissfully snoozing. Jack's smile returned."You see, safe and sound. Thanks to you." The Captain sounded quite pleased.
"Good. He's safe then..." Jack parroted. He was getting quite tired now, but turned his head slowly back to the others. "Safe and sound. Aboard the Indyjack."
"Excuse me?" The Captain blinked.
"This ship... The Indyjack." Jack looked at the other's. Without exception, they all seemed stunned.
"This ship is called the Indefatigable."
"Oh... sorry, sir." Jack said apoligetically. 'I thought it was a bit of an odd name for a ship." He looked to the stout fellow with the sideburns. He was a tad annoyed."I thought Mr. Hether here said..." He stopped... They were all looking at him like he was from the moon or something. Then he realized his error. "Oh, sorry. Your Mr. Cleveland."
"Doctor..." The Captain looked grim now. "What is the matter with the man?"
"I can't say for certain, sir." The doctor put his finger in front of Jack's face. "Keep your eyes focused on my finger." The doctor moved it to and fro. Jack's eyes never left it. "Response seems good. Terrible blow to the head though. He has lost a great deal of blood. Surprised he's alive actually."
"Eh?..." Jack's voice wavered. "What's that?..."
"Doctor?!" The Captain admonished him for his terrible bedside manner. "That's hardly encouraging..."
"Aye, hardly!" 'Jack' agreed. Hornblower regarded him. He seemed to be studying 'Jack' very carefully. Almost too carefully... Like he knew something, but was afraid to say it. Or was he afraid of 'Jack' himself... No, 'Jack' didn't want that at all !... This man had saved his life. He wanted to thank him. He wanted to be his friend.
"Uh..." Jack smiled in what he hoped was a wholesome manner."I don't bite you know... At least I don't think I do." He meant it as a joke but only Cleveland and Hether laughed... And nervously at that.
"He's probably a little delusional. Too much blood loss. Nasty headwound." The doctor didn't sound too certain."Give him time to recover, sir."
"You alright Jack?" Cleveland asked again. This time he looked very worried.
"I don't know... Why do you keep saying that word?"
"What word Jack?
"That word... 'Jack'." At that statement everyone gasped except the doctor, who squinched up his eyes and made a strange moaning sound, and the young dark haired man, who now looked like he knew something everyone else hadn't grasped yet. He took another step forward.
"It's your name, sir." Hornblower stepped forward. His brown eyes pierced deep into 'Jack's' own. "Do you not remember your own name?"
"Jack?..." He tried to remember. Everyone looked to him in various degrees of concern. It seemed especially important to the young man who had saved his life, so Jack tried very hard to remember the rest of it... "Jack... S-" The whole group seemed to lean closer... "Jack... S..."
"Yes...' Heppewhite leaned closer.
"Jack... Something...?" He said at last. However
that response seemed to disappoint most everyone present, especially
the doctor... And the Captain.
No, Jack didn't want to cause such distress. "I'm sorry..." It was a weak reply and he knew it. "So tired..." That was true enough... He was having a devil of a time keeping from nodding off. well at least now he knew his first name...
"Doctor?..." The captain seemed to be growing annoyed.
"Yes, yes! Give me a moment..." The doctor grasped a large book and began turning pages. Hornblower was still looking at Jack. Emotions on his face, so mixed that Jack couldn't fathom what he was thinking. In some moment's he seemed pleased.. Then angry at himself for feeling that. What was clear however, was that he had figured out what was wrong, while the doctor was frantically flipping through a dusty old book. "What's wrong with me?" Jack asked... "Waiting for the doctor to find the right page is making me a tad nervous."
"Your name is Jack Simpson. I think you have Amnesia."
"Jack Simpson... Thank you, sir. Amnesia... What's that then?"
"Loss of part or all of your memory."
"Oh..." Jack muttered. "That's bad then."
"Yes... It can be." The young man seemed even more uncomfortable."It can be permanent, however it is not always the case. I'm no expert mind you."
"That's right, your not." The doctor said coldly. "Kindly keep your diagnosis to yourself, Mr. Hornblower." And he continued to flip through pages, but ended up in near the front of the book anyway. 'A' section. Looking up only to glare furiously at Hornblower from time to time as he hastily read the section.
"Amnesia? What the devil is that doctor?" The captain seemed flustered but interested.
"I know what that is." Every head in the room turned. Mr. Hether, who had made the statement now seemed nervous with all eyes upon him.
"Explain it for us then, Mr. Hether." The captain commanded.
"Aye sir. Ah, Might I borrow that, Mr. Bowles?" Hether pointed to a black, chalk covered slate that the ship's master held in his hand. Bowles nodded and hadded it over.
"Alright... Sirs... If you will..." Hether paused to make certain he had their attention... He seemed to be enjoying himself now... A little too much Jack thought. "Imagine that this slate is Mr. Simpson's brain." He held it up for all to see. It's black surface was covered with Mr. Bowles's neat and clear chalk marks. Everyone glanced from one to another nervously... Not sure whether to let him continue. Bowles held up his hand in protest, but too late. "And this!..." Hether announced while he vigorously wiped the slate clean with his sleeve. "This is Mr. Simpson's brain with Amnesia!" He proudly held it out for all to see. "A blank slate, as it were." He finished. Cleaveland groaned and slapped his forehead. Hornblower winced. The Captain raised an eyebrow. The doctor's jaw dropped. Mr. Bowles looked very, very perturbed.
"That was the list of the repairs needed for the Indefatiable's battle damage, and an accounting of her losses... It took two hours for eight officers and myself to sort out." Bowles said through clenched teeth.
"Did it now, Mr. Bowles?" The Captain's eyes narrowed as he glared at Mr. Hether. "Perhaps, Mr. Hether would care to restore that information for you... It took four capable men two hours you say?"
"Well then, If Mr. Hether gets started right away... It shouldn't take him more than what... eighteen hours...?"
"Aye, sir." Bowles smiled grimly, and Hethe went white. He wasn't going to be having any sleep for a while. Cleveland tried to stifle a chuckle.
"Even less time if Mr. Cleveland here assists him." The Captian didn't miss a thing. Both men looked like they might protest... for a moment. A single stern glance from the Captain and they made a bee-line for the door. Cleveland muttered something to his fellow about 'another fine mess.' and they both saluted the Captain and made their way above deck.
"Check the water line first! I don't want to be taking on water while you two count lost biscuits!" The Captain's sudden outburst made them change dirrection so suddenly they nearly fell over one another. Jack couldn't help but chuckle weakly to himself. Hornblower to, was covering a smirk with the back of his hand. Jack stopped and blinked again. He could feel sleep overtaking him... But there was something that needed to be said. Something he wanted to the young man to know.
"Thank you." Jack said to Hornblower at last.
"Excuse me Mr. Simpson... For what?"
"For being honest with me..." Jack replied dozily. "And for saving me..." He shut his eyes. He was nearly asleep, but not quite, and he accidentally overheard the following.
"This is a disaster Mr. Bowles." The hushed voice of the Captain could not conceal his distress. "I have already sent a letter off with the last courier with both Hornblower and Simpson's names down on it for promotion... They are both Acting Lieutenant's now... Yes, Mr. Hornblower. Both of you showed great courage and promise today..." Then the Captain's voice contained a little venom. " And Doctor Heppelwhite... It is only just now that we learn one of them can't even remember his own name without assistance!"
"I protest, sir. The man has only just regained consciousness. How was I to know the head wound had caused... I mean... May have caused amnesia?"
"Oh! So you agree with Mr. Hornblower's diagnosis now do you?!" The Captain blustered, but Jack never heard the doctor's response. Darkness and silence overtook him he drifted into a deep, deep sleep.