Pass The Pen, part 5: Dreams, Doubts and Directors
by Michele

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

 

Archie suddenly woke, sitting upright, breathing heavily. No -- no
fits tonight. But he was not immune to nightmares. Terrible
nightmares. And unlike in El Ferrol, THIS time, he thought grimly,
there was no Horatio here to reassure him. This time, he was on his
own.

*So is Horatio,* Kennedy thought, *wherEVER he may be... if...* he
caught his breath, as he felt the sweat beading on his face, *..if he
is even still alive....*

The reluctant "deity" lay down again, heavily, his head turning to
one side, as if he were straining to see something in the darkness
that he KNEW was not there. He thought about what it had been like
in the Spanish prison, when he could look across the cell in the half-
darkness and see Horatio there, just as helpless and just as much a
prisoner as himself, but somehow reassuring just by being present.
As bad as things had been then, at least some small part of him had
felt he might just get through it, because Horatio was there. Now,
he suddenly felt more alone than he had ever felt in his life, and
more hopeless. Worse even than his long years of solitude in Spain.

*I'm not a god -- I'm a prisoner! No better than at El Ferrol!
WORSE than that, in fact, since they won't even let me have any
peace... I can't solve all these people's problems! I can't even
solve my OWN!*

Archie sighed a long, pained sigh of futility. *With Horatio...
gone...I am in command of the men, and already I am failing them. We
SHOULD be able to find a way to escape, but we cannot... *I* should
be able to! If Horatio were here, he would think of something....*

He turned on his side, forcing himself to close his eyes, an action
which made no difference in the heavily oppressive darkness. Or was
it the heat and absolutely unearthly humidity that made him feel he
couldn't breathe? Or was it both?

*But Horatio ISN'T here,* he thought. *It is up to me....*

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

*Stay calm, Hornblower...you've been in worse situations...THINK,
man... and whatever you do, don't let these brigands see your
fear....*

Horatio swallowed hard, hoping the movement wouldn't show under his
neatly tied neckcloth, and would not be felt by the nameless pirate
captain's strong, weathered fingers round his neck. The brigand's
viselike grip [okay, I HAD to throw a bad cliche in there
SOMEwhere...] was already beginning to send waves of pain down from
his neck; he knew, from studying his father's texts long ago, that if
he passed out from lack of circulation in such vital areas of the
body, he will have shown weakness, and that the lack of control he
felt would become even more obvious to his captors. That was the one
thing he did NOT want. Yes, he WAS out of control. But he still had
the power of choice in one thing: What he would and would NOT let
these men see...

"Upon my honour, sir," Hornblower choked, with all the dignity he
could muster, "if you would but release me, I give you my word I will
not try to escape." *You've GOT to stop SAYING that all the time,
Horatio...* he thought to himself.

The pirate captain's steely gray eyes flashed with an evil twinkle,
and one corner of his thin mouth turned upwards, ever so slightly.
His free hand moved subtly, almost subliminally, to the ornate hilt
of his sword, his tanned fingers just glancing over it before
suddenly coming up to Horatio's cheek and just tapping it lightly
twice, to Hornblower's great surprise. In one long, confused moment
the lieutenant watched as the brigand's mouth broke into a strange
smile, and his grip relaxed.

"Very well, then, Lieutenant," he said, releasing Horatio, and
stepping back dramatically, "you have just passed your first test."

Hornblower didn't know WHAT to think, but recovered himself quickly,
at least outwardly, as he rolled his neck round in his collar,
reaching up to adjust his neckcloth, and then straightening his
jacket. What kind of an unstable personality WAS this that he was
dealing with? One moment the man is trying to strangle him, the
next, making light of his assault and passing it off as a "test" of
some kind.... Imagine having to serve in a ship under an insane
captain! Horatio shuddered at what it might be like should that
ever occur in his Majesty's Navy...

The well-dressed brigand's steely gaze returned [okay, I know,
another cliche...] and he fixed Hornblower with it. *Most
disconcerting,* thought Horatio. *He appears to be staring down into
my soul...*

"You will find, Lieutenant --?"

"Hornblower, sir," he managed his polite demeanour that he had often
found helpful in defusing potentially explosive situations [okay, so
it didn't work at Muzillac, but you get the picture...] "Horatio
Hornblower, Lieutenant, His Majesty's Ship Petrel."

"What an infernal piece of bad..." the brigand began softly, and then
caught himself, glancing away from Horatio nervously. Then, his
worst fear was realised...

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

"CUT!!!!! Cut, Cut, CUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Director Grieve tossed a handful of blue pages into the air with one
hand, and ran the other hand through his silvery gray hair. He
heaved himself out of his director's chair with such fury and purpose
that he knocked the unstable chair over in a loud, wood-on-wood
clattering heap, and stalked toward the pirate captain.

"What on EARTH do you think you're DOING, man?!!?? This isn't The
bloody DUEL, for mercy, and you're NOT a midshipman in Justinian!!!"

The pirate leader shrank back in fear, no thoughts toward his sword
NOW, as Mr. Grieve continued his tirade...

"Didn't they give you the right blasted SCRIPT??? Or did they get
the pages out of order again?" The Director sighed and looked round
him. Crew members scattered hurriedly in every direction. "YOU!"
his eye settled on a young man scurrying desperately toward the
hatchway leading belowdecks. "You're the script supervisor,
RIGHT??" he demanded.

"Uh... um.. yes, sir, I am... but -- " the man stopped in his tracks,
trying unsuccessfully to make himself smaller than he was.

"Did you mix up the scripts again?" Director Grieve's voice was
calmer now, but still firm.

"Um... well... You see, Mr. Grieve, I had this deadline, and then I
had to go out of town for a couple of days, so I hired this new
assistant..."

"WHAT new assistant? Where IS the moron ANYway???"

"Well, actually, sir, beggin' your pardon, but she's really quite
good. She's a writer, you see..."

"She??"

"Yes, sir, her name is Michele Grace, and she's very good, but
sometimes she likes to get off track and toss these Manic Moment
thingies in where you'd least expect them...."

"Ohhh...not HER again..." Director Grieve threw his hands up in the
air and, muttering something about a blasted ship run by female
officers, stalked back to his chair, trying to right it whilst the
deck pitched and rolled.

"Um, Mr. Grieve, sir?" It was Hornblower, looking rather tentative.
He'd seen this happen before, on another ship, and hoped he knew how
to handle it.

"What is it, Io -- er, Mr. Hornblower?" the director moaned softly,
now back in his chair.

"Could we get on with the scene, please? I think I'm getting seasick
again...."

Director Grieve sighed. "ACTION!!! And Michele -- PLEASE just stick
to being Assistant Script Supervisor for now...."

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

"You will find, Lieutenant Hornblower, that in spite of all you may
take me for, I AM still a gentleman."

Horatio did not marvel at the brigand's statement, for he could see
something in the man's bearing that supported his assertion.

"But," the pirate continued, "you will also find that I am not a man
to be trifled with. I WILL get out of this infernal bay, Mr.
Hornblower, and YOU are going to help me, and further, you are going
to do so until *I* say your services are no longer required..."

Hornblower did not like the sound of that, but again he stood firm,
his brown eyes steady on his captor's, as he refused even to allow
himself to squint against the still-burning afternoon sun. He
made no reply, as his mind raced to assess his situation and attempt
to plan his next move. His next move, however, was presently decided
FOR him.

"Mister Lodge, show our new navigator to his quarters," the leader
ordered, emotionlessly. "We have some business to conduct,
Lieutenant, so I trust you will excuse us for now? I advise you to
get some rest, sir, for you shall need it." Hornblower nodded,
equally devoid of emotion, acutely aware that the brigand had still
not identified himself by name, and wondered at this. It frustrated
the life out of him, as he did not at all like being at such a
dreadful disadvantage.

A very large, forty-ish seaman pushed Horatio ahead of him, toward the
hatchway, and conducted him to a small cabin. Wordlessly he shoved
Hornblower through the door and then locked it.

Horatio looked round the room. An old lantern, thankfully lighted,
swung from the ceiling beams, revealing a hammock, also swinging;
several barrels, and a rickety old chair. His analytical mind could
not help but ponder the barrels' contents, but the sight of the
hammock, and the terrible, all-too-familiar feeling of seasickness
that was beginning to trouble him, spurred on by the heat, exertion,
and stress, made him realise how tired he was. He struggled into the
hammock and tried to get comfortable, closing his eyes against the
threatening seasickness, but found he could not sleep...

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

*What am I supposed to do now?* Horatio thought, forcing himself to
occupy his mind with ANY thoughts that might have nothing to do with
the increasing movement of the ship. A storm perhaps? No... the sun
was shining brightly... He desperately wished he was abovedecks, his
eye on the horizon line, but he knew it was not to be.

*And who IS this man? Why won't he tell me his name? Is it some
manner of asserting his power, or is he someone whose identity must
not be made known?*

Another thought crossed Hornblower's weary, motion-sick mind, and his
eyes involuntarily came open. *Archie... what of Archie...?* He
sighed heavily, finding the deep breathing involved strangely helpful
for his seasickness, but having no value in relieving his fears.
*The last time I saw him, those natives were going on about Seemsun
and something about making rain... They seemed to be very excited to
learn that Archie had KNOWN Simpson... But what the devil would
Simpson have to do with any of THIS? He's DEAD -- I saw Captain
Pellew SHOOT him! How could these natives, halfway round the world,
know anything of Simpson?

*And Archie... if these people would sell me to a band of pirates,
what would they do to my friend? Oh...dear..no...* Another thought
occurred to him: *What if he has another fit? Oh no... I should be
there to look after him.... Oh no, I've failed him... I've failed my
men, and I've failed my closest friend... How am I EVER going to do
anything for any of them when I can't even figure out who's holding
me here, what exactly they want from me, and, much less, how I'm
going to get myself out of this...?*

Hornblower again closed his eyes, bringing one arm up and resting his
wrist over his forehead as if trying to create a barrier between
himself, and the seasickness, and the whole blasted world. All of
these thoughts still fighting within his exhausted brain, he at
length fell into a fitful sleep, and dreamed he and Archie were back
in Indefatigable, in those wonderful, all-too-brief days before
Simpson had come back into their lives....

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

"Heeheehee!! I've DONE it!!" Jack Simpson fairly giggled with
perverse delight at the thought of having FINALLY gained the upper
hand and secured his freedom. "Those foolish savages thought they
could keep ol' Jack down forever...HA! Now, the 'honour' shall fall
to that little Archie -- with no Snotty here to help him out this
time!!"

The lean, scraggly old midshipman wandered through the jungle, not
sure where he was going, but neither caring. He was free... FREE!
How long had it been since he had been stuck in this forsaken place?
Years.... He could scarcely even recall how he had come here, so numb
had his mind become from an eternity in that temple, never knowing
when he might ever again see the light of day for more than a few
moments at a time. No matter now. He was a god emeritus. Once he
had satisfied his wanderlust for a time, at last unfettered by bowing
worshippers, he would find a way to have his former subjects get him
off of this blasted rock so that he could get on with his life...
and, as the icing on the cake, he would report, upon returning home,
that that Snotty Hornblower, his little pal Kennedy, and all the rest
of them had died -- despite his best efforts to save them. Yes.
THAT would do nicely. Simpson rubbed his hands together in
anticipation, smiling evilly to himself, as he continued his aimless
meanderings, enjoying the sun on his face and the feeling of his
muscles being worked.

*Life is good,* thought Jack. *Life is very good....*

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

"LIEUTENANT!! You're needed on deck -- NOW!"

An insistent voice followed an equally insistent knock on
Hornblower's door, in turn quickly followed by the sound of a key
turning in a lock. Horatio shook himself awake and turned out of his
hammock, his head instantly beginning to spin as he did so, and a
wave of nausea weakening his half-asleep legs. Lodge peeked his head
through the partially open door.

"Cap'n says NOW, sir...."

"Yes, yes, I'm coming," Horatio managed, forcing himself to stand
straight and collect himself. Everything within him screamed against
his determination, but his will won out, and he strode behind Lodge
to the quarterdeck.

"Mr. Hornblower, welcome," the still unnamed captain said quickly, but
seemingly out of some sense of social obligation. That nicety aside,
his pirate captain's mien took over, as he began barking orders to
his men, who hurried to their duties, some on deck, some aloft.
Horatio didn't even NEED to look up at the darkening sky to know a
squall was upon them, for his churning stomach was all the weather
eye he needed.

*How the bloody heck did this happen so QUICKLY?* Horatio wondered to
himself. *And why hadn't I seen it coming sooner?* He had little
time for reflection and self-recrimination, for the captain soon
addressed him.

"Mr. Hornblower, take a reading! I want to know our precise
position, and I'm going to need a course with all possible haste! I
don't like the direction this wind is starting to blow -- we're too
close to the lee shore! I need a course NOW!"

"Aye aye, sir!" Horatio didn't even realise the words were coming
out of his mouth, as he had gone into automatic mode as soon as he
had sensed the danger they were all suddenly in. To address a
brigand thus, when his only allegiance was for his King and his
Country! He would scold himself later. For now, to the task at
hand. Quickly he took the sextant given him by a seaman and he went
about his work, grateful there was still just enough sun in the angry-
looking sky. He made his calculations and reported to the captain,
who in turn gave the course to the helmsman. The Kaliakra responded
smartly, cutting through the swirling waters and heading away from
that lee shore, out into the wide bay. Still sheltered by the
sharply rising cliffs on three sides of the bay, the ship was
somewhat protected from the increasing winds. Satisfied that she was
far enough from land to avoid being dashed to kindling on the rocks,
the captain ordered the anchor dropped and declared that they would
wait out the storm in the relative safety of the bay. At least,
Hornblower HOPED they would.

"Very good, gentlemen," he commended the men, demonstrating a
dramatically magnanimous tone and manner. "Mr. Hornblower, thank you
for your timely response. I can see that we shall get on well."

Horatio cleared his throat and hesitated, then plunged forth. At
this point he was so nauseous he almost didn't even CARE what
consequences might follow. "I am honoured, sir.... However, it
remains that I am in fact your property, and your prisoner. But I am
still an officer in his Majesty's Navy, and it is there that my duty
lies. You must know, sir, that I cannot remain here. My men are
back on that island, and they are my responsibility. I must --"

"ENOUGH!!" The pirate captain had listened for as long as he could
stand the impudence and insubordination, his tanned face growing
redder with each word. Now his sword was drawn, so quickly that
Hornblower hadn't even noticed his hand moving toward it, and its
sharp point was directed at Horatio's throat, its owner's hand steady
despite the anger which had seen it drawn.

"You DO have a choice, however, Lieutenant," the leader continued,
his voice cold with as dangerous a glint as the blade, "you can
either follow my orders, for I am now the ONLY authority to which it
is your responsibility to answer, or you can follow this blade to
your death, for THAT, sir, shall be the ONLY way you shall ever leave
this ship. Do I make my... point clear, Mr. Hornblower?"

Horatio swallowed hard, yet again. *Bide your time, Hornblower...
choose your opportunity.. This, clearly, is not the time....*

"Aye aye, sir...." came his defeated-sounding reply. Right now
Hornblower hated the sound of his own voice, he hated being so
helpless and so seasick, and he hated not knowing what was happening
to his men, or to Archie....

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

"SIR!!" A well-dressed man in his early thirties was urgently
addressing the pirate captain. The man holding his sword to
Horatio's throat (which was indeed a dangerous business, considering
the vessel's pitching and rolling, which was growing worse) sheathed
his weapon, all but ignoring Hornblower, to give the man his full
attention.

"Yes, Sterling?" The captain's response was efficient, nothing more.

Sterling looked worried. "It's my judgment this storm is becoming too
severe for us to remain at anchor, sir. We're going to have to ride
it out at sea."

Horatio, just recovered from the latest threat on his life, felt his
heart sink.

"The bay seems wide enough." The captain's voice was plain.

"It's not that, sir," Sterling continued, turning his head toward the
angry waters for emphasis. "We're not going to be able to take this
pitching and rolling at anchor -- we need room to move.. Whatever
interests you had on that island --"

"That's enough, Mr. Sterling!" The captain silenced him, his anger
flaring once more, as he glared at the man who appeared to be his
second in command. At least Sterling's last few words had been a
whisper, but still... "Very well, then -- we'll continue on the
course Mr. Hornblower has so thoughtfully calculated for us." He
turned to Lodge. "Weigh anchor!"

"Weigh anchor!" Lodge repeated the order. The sound of the anchor's
great chain could scarcely be heard above the roar of wind and wave.
Men moved quickly about their duties, and the Kaliakra, lumbering
somewhat due to the conditions and her decreased sail, began to move
slowly toward the mouth of the bay.

Hornblower felt the panic rising inside of him, along with the waves
of nausea, but he held himself in check. *What now?,* he thought,
his mind racing. *If we put to sea, how will I ever get back to my
men? And what of Archie? And.. what of my duty?* He wanted
desperately to protest, but he KNEW that lying at anchor in the
worsening conditions was fast becoming a waning option. At last he
collected himself and cleared his throat, gaining the captain's
attention.

"With respect, sir, will the captain be requiring further reckoning?"

The pirate leader found Hornblower's approach interesting. He knew
very well what was on the Lieutenant's mind. He checked a cool smile
that he felt beginning.

"Perhaps, Mr. Hornblower. However, I daresay our first concern is to
see this ship safely through the storm, wouldn't you agree?"

"Y- yes, of course, sir. I merely meant --"

"I KNOW what you meant, sir, and it is noted." The brigand's lips
curled into a sly smile now. "And I would suggest, Lieutenant, that
YOU concern yourself with the operation of your new ship, and divest
yourself of any former interests that may remain on that island."

"Sir, I --" Horatio KNEW he was pushing things, but the beginnings of
his protest came automatically.

The pirate captain's voice was icier than a January day in Portsmouth.
"Accept it, Mr. Hornblower. This is your new home, and I am your new
captain. I have purchased your services -- and YOU -- and may I say
at quite a handsome price. Now you will go where *I* command, and
you will be loyal to this ship, and to me. The penalty for
disobedience is as in your Navy." He paused, his long fingers again
glancing the hilt of his sword, a movement whose purposefulness was
not lost on Hornblower. "I am CERTAIN you know what that is, sir."

Horatio remained silent, rather than allow his voice to reveal the
trembling that had taken hold of him. Anger, fear, and outrage were
battling for supremacy within him. He felt, more than thought, the
answer his captor was looking for.

*Aye... Death...*

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