Pass The Pen
Chapter Twenty - Shard of Hate
by M. Michelle

 

Cold eyes glared from the shadows in the corner of the stinking brig;
the man there struggled against the binds that tore into his wrists but
fastened him securely to the iron bars. Ouimette's icy gaze burned with
ripe hatred over his cell companion, but he held his silence for now, his
mind brimming and boiling with wrath. The childish imp Simpson sat on
the one cot with bony limbs wrapped around more bony limbs, rocking and
whispering in a bout of insanity to himself. Those words, cold and
sharp, and yet slow like a little child kept circling, taunting in his
mind, until he could feel himself prepared to tear free from the binds if
they left his wrists bloodied just to twine his fingers around that
witless man's throat. **Archie Kennedy is Jack Simpson's *friend*...**

But who really had the care about sniveling Kennedy after it all? No,
he hadn't had the richness of Hornblower's commanding company; he hardly
caught any attraction to Ouimette at all, but to attract him by his
physical charm, and perhaps the ease with which he could be intimidated.
Kennedy had been with a man before, that was easy enough to see, Jack
Simpson, so he knew from Jack's odd ramblings during his sleep. And
perhaps there was something attractive he admitted in the roundish face,
and bright blue eyes and tangled hair. In the fear in his eyes, oh
yes.....

Ouimette's thoughts returned to the moment. To the guards pacing
endlessly with booted footsteps on the planks outside the cells, just
beyond sight so that all he could catch was the shadows of marines
twisted in the dim lanternlight against the wall. He had been fastened
to the wall, so that he could not reach Kennedy or Simpson, while the
sniveling madman laughed and cried, and whispered to himself in whimpers
before snapping back to sanity every few minutes. The frenchman's shirt
was torn and plastered itself with the heat in the brig to his back,
soiled by the British prisoner's fingers as they'd saught to find
purchase in their fight earlier.

He had opted to give up fighting for now, if only to save his strength
until some moment arose where he would need it. And his moment would
come soon enough, if he bode his time correctly. A dark smile curved the
man's lips slightly, his eyes glittered dangerously. He would just wait
until he had his chance... both Kennedy, and Hornblower, and even Simpson
would understand him then....

Oh yes....

And his chance was to come soon, he knew. He would not stay here long.

He chuckled quietly to himself. And as for Kennedy, he wouldn't go
unpunished, and that knowledge in itself was nearly worth the pain the
frenchman had gone through coming near him. The boy had once had many
friends, but once he had been shown to the world as a mutinous dog, where
would those friends be then? Who would give a damn for the boy's future?

Oh to get his hands on Archie then. To show him, in a world among many
cruel things, that he was not altogether in the mind to be cruel. He
could be smooth, sensual, even gentle, as long as the man he was with did
not anger him. He really could take the snotty midshipman better than
any woman or man upon the earth. But until then, he would have to bide
his time until someone could open this rotten cell and unfasten his
torturous bonds!

Ouimette struggled against the ropes with gritted teeth, ignoring the
pain in an insane desperation to twist his hands around to the knots. He
halted after another second, trembling with rage, watching Simpson. His
eyes shone pure loathing like sharp black coals on fire in the
lanternlight. Ouimette drew himself up and spat vile curse at Simpson's
feet, and then gave one final pull at the ropes and his hands ripped
free, burning with pain. He took a sharp edge of rusted metal from the
bucket beside him and lashed at the ropes tight around his ankles until
they snapped.

He was free. Then slowly, in a thought of violence, he opened his palm
and watched the metal laying there in his hand in the dim light. He felt
the waves of refreshing hate and murder washing over him. He trembled
with the effort not to slit Simpson's throat, and then closed his fist
again around the jagged edge, his eyes narrowing. No. A dangerous smile
twisted his lips. He would bide his time -- and wait for the right
moment. Ouimette slipped the makeshift blade into a fold of cloth in his
clothes and returned to the bars, watching Kennedy. **I pity them...** he
smiled to himself.

*******

Meanwhile, a pair of eyes watched and planned in the darkness, staring
out at the Indefatigable only a relatively small distance across the
water. The eyes narrowed, and then the shadowy figure disappeared into
the starlit night once more.

*******

Pounding drum beats and a shrill whistle awakened Archie with a start.
They were fast and loud and hard, pounding in his ears, a martial thunder
from above. And he knew. He heard the whistle calls of captain on deck
and could already hear the feet of marines pounding on the deck planks
down into the brig to bring him. The young midshipman closed his eyes
with the pain he knew he would have to face. Until now, through the dark
night with its many restless fears, he had almost forgotten this hadn't
been a nightmare. That Pellew's judgment hadn't been merely a dream...
and that the punishment he would now face would bring an agony he had
felt many times in his life that would somehow hurt worse than ever
before.

The guards came and drew out the key, unlocking his small cell, and
bound his hands in the darkness. Kennedy whispered a prayer, a plea for
mercy. It wasn't unjustice though; he knew he deserved this punishment,
some truth inside told him. When he had gone to find Horatio those many
long nights ago, alone, against the captain's orders, he had known the
risk. And he had taken the risk and followed his heart. And for the
crime of mutiny to his captain, a mere beating was only a fraction of the
punishment laid out by the rest of the Navy. Horatio had had something
to do with it, he knew that much. But he wondered how they had decided
not to put him to death; it was the right and just punishment for mutiny.
And now that Horatio was back aboard Indefatigable, surely he wouldn't
need his help anymore. Why not be killed and actually have it over with?

Because he couldn't leave that way. Not unless it was not his choice.
The marines shoved him fast forward through the cell door through the
shadows. From the corner of his eyes as they led him away, Archie caught
two gazes watching him through the bars. Simpson's face lined with worry
and grief and anger, and then a cold set of dark eyes, Ouimette's, and a
chilling smile on his lips as though he enjoyed the young man's pain.
Then he was pushed out of sight. The guards led him through the ship's
bowels toward the steep stairs leading to the topdeck, where bright
morning light already streamed through and nearly blinded his eyes that
had been so accustomed to the dark.

They pulled him up through the opening, where he faltered on the steep,
ladder-like steps, onto the main deck. Archie halted for just a
heartbeat, his burning eyes skimming over everyone there, all the faces
he knew so well, the disappointment, the glares, and the solemn,
pain-filled eyes of the other officers and his friends. And then his
closest friend. Horatio stood at attention, with his hat off and hair
glinting in the morning sun, staring straight ahead. Their eyes met.
Sails flapped overhead in the cool breeze, the wind whipped at his
clothing, and the drums ceased for just a moment.

Then Pellew's voice rang out fiercely through the silence. "There shall
be no dawdling! Bring him forward!"

The marine guard shoved Archie through the men toward the cannon where
they would tie him over for his punishment and he didn't know which would
have been worse, if they had all been sneering at him out loud, or this
deathly silence, as though he had let everyone down in the world. He
steeled himself bravely up before Horatio's eyes and as a man for the
sake of his captain. If he had shamed him in actions, he would not shame
him now. The silence of a lamb, the heart of a lion. He lifted his eyes
under the bright morning sun up to the captain standing there sternly on
his quarterdeck above.

Pellew stood and shouted for everyone to hear. "This man, Midshipman
Archie Kennedy, has commited an act normally punishable by death!" he
declared. "He has committed the act of munity against my orders, of
which any man aboard my ship should heed!" He halted for a moment, and
his lips drew together into a grim line as he pierced Archie with his
fierce regard. "However! As he has saved the lives of men of this crew
by his actions, I have agreed to lessen reduce his charge to
insubordination. He shall, in place of death, receive twelve lashes of
the cane, and then watch on watch to remind you all no man shall escape
the charge of mutiny unpunished! Let this be a lesson to all who dare to
defy the laws of the British Navy. And the next man, even Mr. Kennedy,
shall not go off so lightly, is that understood!!"

"Aye, sir!!" the cry rose from the men.

Pellew glanced down to Kennedy with almost sadness briefly in his eyes,
and then over. "Mr. Bowles. Proceed with the punishment."

"Aye aye sir," the man acknowledged and took up his cane. The drums
rolled fast and hard, following the thunder of Archie's heartbeat in his
ears. Yet he knew this punishment; he was not afraid. The marines
pushed him forward and bound his wrists tightly down until he leaned over
the cannon. They unceremoniously yanked down his trousers. The young
midshipman closed his eyes and shook with the anticipation of the first
strike. He whispered a few soft words

-whip! The first whistled through the air and the cane broke down hard
on his lower back.

He continued to whisper. Again, again, again, again, each slow and
hard, until the pain of bruises sent silent drops of sweat down his
foreheard. But it... wasn't too bad. He could still breathe and it
wasn't like a whipping, surely it was better than that. He waited, and
another stroke hit. He whispered word again and held his breath
counting. Eight. Nine.

Suddenly, men were torn from their feet as the world exploded around
them, cannonballs screaming overhead. Men cried out and hit the deck as
the enemy fire poured into the rigging, sending timbers from above
crashing onto the deck. Pellew scrambled up once more on the quarterdeck
and Archie glimpsed him snapping open his glass in the direction of the
small ship only a short distance away, yet nearly too far to believe she
had fired the shots. "My God! Pirates!" he cursed.

The drums pounded again, someone cut the ropes binding Archie's wrists
and he stumbled. The seamen rushed to their posts. "Hands to quarters,
hands to quarters!!!" came the calls across the ship, another volley of
cannonfire exploded from the small vessel. Archie could barely find his
bearings from the dizzying wash of heat and fire that suddenly swept over
him. He cried out and was thrown aside. His head snapped back and
crashed into something that cracked; his world blanked into a spinning
slow-motion. Feet scurried about him.... and in the distance, as though
through a long echoing tunnel of voices in a swirling, endless fog he
could hear the whining shots overhead, the explosions of cannons mere
feet away in a circling, slow daze, underlaid by the pounding of his own
heartbeat deafeningly loud in his ears. For moments, reality was swept
from him, and he lay, barely breathing amidst a pool of dark blood he
could smell sharp in his senses. He couldn't move. Words echoed and
whispered from his mind around his fading consciousness. **Run you
fool... Run.... move, you must move.... Archie....** He closed his
eyes, the sun blinding his dark world of death as he felt something hot
wash over his face.... and felt dark tendrils surrounding even the
sunlight; he could hear and see no more than blurs...
In the distance a voice cried out, echoing like a whisper he could not
hear. Calling, calling, his name, familiar... voice... friend....
**Archie!!!**
**I cannot... I must go now, H'ratio...** he thought deliriously. **Do
not... save me... now...**

*

Hornblower leaped across a hole in the planks, rolling to one side with
his arm over his face to duck a shot and it's repeated splinters. He
could hear cries, and orders, and more shots, but only one thing ran
through his mind. Archie. He had seen him go down with that bit of
fire, he was not moving. "Mr. Kennedy! Kennedy! Archie!!" he called
frantically through the chaos, and shouts, and then another volley of
fire burst from the Indefatigable. He ducked and ran once more,
stumbling ungracefully across slick wood. He slipped and fell awkwardly
beside his friend, and gripped Kennedy's shoulders, shaking him.
"Archie, wake up!" He torn open his coat, saw no visible wounds, and
then glimpsed the blood running from the back of the younger midshipman's
skull, pooling around his head in his crest of blond hair.

Horatio ignored everything else happening around him, his eyes wide in
fear and fury that this had happened. **Pulse, check for a pulse, you
blasted idiot!** his logical mind shouted to him past the distress. His
fingers pressed quickly into Archie's neck, he felt his own heart
stopping until there, he felt one, no two, beats. He had a pulse, weak
but there. **I have to get him to the surgeon.**

A great cry of victory suddenly rose around him as he became aware again
of the events around him. He searched until he caught sight of his own
men. "Matthews, Finch! Help me get him below!" he beckoned and the two
seaman came. They helped him gently pick up Archie's unconscious body
and he followed them anxiously as they took him below. Horatio followed
them one step down across timbers that had fallen from above, when
Pellew's voice rang out behind him. "Mr. Hornblower!"

He turned and wiped his arm across a drop of someone's blood that had
trickled its way down his cheek. It wasn't his own, though, he had
somehow managed to escape unscathed. "Yes, sir."

The captain picked his way through. "The ship has retreated, we will
follow. When we catch her, I will want you to take command of the
vessel. I cannot spare many men, but you will take as many as are
necessary."

Horatio swallowed and tilted his chin higher. "Aye sir."

Pellew's eyes narrowed with almost concern. "Are you quite alright, Mr
Hornblower?"

The midshipman nodded once and clasped his hands behind his back. "Yes
-- and... yes, sir, I am quite alright and fit for duty." He stumbled
over his word for a moment, and then added, "Midshipman Kennedy has been
injured in the crossfire. May I have leave to see that he gets to
sickbay, sir?"

An undescernable light of thought flickered by behind the captains eyes.
"You may," he granted simply.

Horatio let out the breath he had been unconsciously holding and bowed
slightly. "Thank you sir." He turned and began down again when the
captain's voice once more made him falter.

"I have changed my mind. Come to think of it, I shall find another
officer to take command; this is not a midshipman's duty. But I want you
on deck as soon as you are finished, and no dawdling Mr Hornblower,"
Pellew directed.

"As you wish, sir," Horatio answered and disappeared below decks into a
darker portion of the ship, following a path toward sickbay to catch up
to Matthews and Finch, moving through the passages despite his eyes not
yet adjusted to the dim lighting. Many thoughts and questions ran
through his mind, all to be unanswered for now. By whatever grace the
captain had decided to have him kept here, he was relieved. Then he
could be sure and know Archie was alright and properly cared for. Once
they were in the sick berth, he would then check to make sure no other
injuries had come to Archie aside from the mere cut on the back of his
head. Once more he was grateful his father was a physician. He knew
little, but enough for that simple task. **Hold on, my friend,** he
whispered.

For a moment, he could almost imagine he'd felt a figure moving behidn
him in the darkness, but when he turned, there was nothing. Horatio
shook his head and quickened his pace toward the sick berth. He didn't
hear the soft footsteps following unto the passages.

*

Ouimette's head snapped up from his chest, and his eyes glinted in the
darkness as he had heard the shots above decks. They had come for him at
last; Ramangard and his bloody crew, and they had taken their time to
attack. Any moment, someone would be coming for him, to break him free.
He had bided the hours of his time well, and here his reward had finally
come. And when all had come to an end, this ship's captain would never
realize this was a diversion until it was too late. He smiled; his
cousin had planned well through the last months. It was now, in
darkness of the begrunged hole in the bowels of the Indefatigable, that
his moment had come.

Firelight flickered in dark eyes; he slowly opened his hand to reveal
the blade of rusted metal he had hidden away. And then, swift and
silent, he stood from the corner and approached the restlessly napping
Jack Simpson.

************

Another figure, darker and smaller than the frenchman, entered the
ship's bowels silently from the edge of the deck from his hiding place
against the ship's prow. No one had been watching that portion of the
ship. The fake firefight to draw the British ship Indefatigable after
the smaller vessel had given him enough chance to dive away unnoticed and
swim toward the frigate. Now the marine guards had left, and the passage
was open and free, though it smelled nauseously of rank mold and human
body wastes. He heard the squeaks of rats in the cramped spaced behind
a crate and supply barrel and hissed a quiet curse under his breath.
Shelley listened to shuffling sounds in the cell and ducked around the
crates to catch a better sight of Ouimette's unmistakable figure looming
over another sleeping man inside a cell. The asssasin caught the glint
of the metal in Ouimette's hand and slowly pulled the hammer back on his
pistol. Ramangard was a fool to think he would surely give a ship this
large to the small pirate captain, or assist in the rescue and recapture
of his cousin.

All of Ramangard's men were fools.

The one and only reason he had helped them come this far was to come
close enough to Monsieur Ouimette to see whether he was worth bringing
back to certain people alive or dead. The money was well enough worth it
for both, but killing him would bring such a simple pleasure. Shelley
hated sodomy, with a passion, and there were those willing to pay
individuals such as him to take care of such matters.

Suddenly, the man inside the cell with Ouimette awoke with a start from
snoring and stared up with eyes wide at the French traitor standing above
him with the edge of metal in his hand. "Wha...?! How'd you get
loose?!" he cried and Ouimette favored him with an insane grin.

"So stupid, Simpson. You know, It'd almost be a pity to kill you, but
for that the feeling would be so sweet..."

The other prisoner searched about with panicked eyes. "What-?"

Ouimette threw back his head and laughed, almost a casual sound. "Oh, I
pity you, I really do. You heard those shots above? That was my cousin.
Hah! See, I already had a way of escape long before your ship caught
me!" He held up the broken edge in his hand. "So as the men of my
country have it.... Au Revoir!" He smiled and took another step toward
the prisoner.

"No!" his cellmate shrieked and jumped up suddenly in a wave of new
wrath that startled the assassin. His foot flashed, the frenchman
cursed. His hands groped for Ouimette's neck as the two men crashed to
the deck of the hold. Ouimette fought to slash the smaller man's throat,
the other prisoner scrambled to grasp the attacker's weapon. Simpson
kicked and fought like a madman. They scrambled, the slop bucket
clattered away and spilled, blood spattered the walls. Ouimette snarled
and yanked Simpson up from the floor, crashing him against the bars,
slamming blows until more blood spattered across his face. Simpson threw
powerful punches that made the frenchman stagger, and kicked Ouimette
back again. He smashed his face against the bars. "You filthy, bloody
coward!" he screamed.

Ouimette struggled, dazed.

"You tried to hurt Archie! My friend! Coward!" he shrieked, hoarse,
and kicked him again.

Suddenly Ouimette snatched Simpson's foot and threw him onto his back
and scrabbled for his makeshift weapon. He twisted up and stabbed the
rusted metal deep into Simpson's shoulder; the man screamed in pain.
Blood poured through the sliced ribbons of Simpson's shirt, and still he
threw his fist across Ouimette's face. The frenchman ducked and yanked
the metal form the wound, stabbing it in again in the other man's side.
This time Simpson collapsed in agony, still struggling to hold himself up
against the wall. Ouimette leaped to his feet with a snarl and spun
around, throwing another blow to the bloodied man's chest. He grasped
the dripping piece of metal and raised it up once more for the deathblow-

It was then Morton Shelley finally took a step from the shadows of his
hiding place and lifted the weapon up, training it on Ouimette's skull.
"Monsieur!!" he called in a commanding voice and the french traitor
suddenly spun in horror.

"No-!!"

A gunshot was fired and no one heard it as cannons began to fire once
more above decks on the enemy ship. The ship from which Shelley had come
from. The assassin watched Ouimette's body on the floor coldly, and then
turned his gaze upon Simpson. He opened the cell door and stood inside
with an empty pistol as the british prisoner curled into himself and
pleaded for help. The short, lithe man knelt down slowly and began
searching Simpson's wounds for any metal shards remaining. This man did
not deserve death yet it seemed. Suddenly guards' footsteps echoed down
the passage. "Damn," Shelley hissed between his teeth. He would have to
move fast.

*

"Hold your fire!" Pellew commanded and his ship's crew silenced. He
took his glass from his pocket and opened it, studying the men across the
short distance in the small schooner. Then a man called over in French
and began sending up flag signals, one of them a single white rectangle.

A cheer rose up from the men below. "She's surrendrin' sir!" Midshipman
Heather cried and threw his hat into the air. Pellew gave the young
officer a sharp warning glance, when another voice broke in suddenly from
behind.

"Captain!"

Pellew turned quickly as a marine guard ran up from below decks to the
quarterdeck, alarmed. "Yes, Mr Halligin, what is is?"

The young marine halted breathlessly. "We have an escaped prisoner,
sir! It's Mr. Simpson! He's gone! And Mr. Ouimette is dead!"

Sir Edward Pellew stared at the officer, alarm growing inside him. "My
god," he whispered.

*********************