The Weather Eye
Part Nine: May it Please the Court
by Loz

----

Section One

Unfortunately, as everyone who has ever watched a police drama on
television knows, sneaking furtively away into the bushes is a
surefire method of attracting attention. The situation was no
different for Jack Simpson. While he had managed to avoid capture by
our (admittedly distracted) heroes, he was not, however, able to
escape the notice of the sacred geese. As he approached the Kaliakra,
they followed him, cackling loudly and generally making him even more
impossible to ignore than his Rod Stewart-esque hairstyle had to the
original audience.

The crew looked up in surprise at the interruption. But a voice
roared out authoritatively, "BELAY THAT, MEN! BACK TO WORK!" Simpson
was distinctly unimpressed, having been laboring under the delusion
(as had no doubt many of the readers), that the men on the pirate
ship were an undisciplined rabble only held together through fear of
the Dread Pirate Captain Roberts. Things seemed to have changed
dramatically during his sojourn as a deity!

The reason for this soon became clear. A majestic, impeccably-dressed
figure stood on the poop deck, looking in all matters animal,
vegetable and mineral the very model of a modern awesome admiral.
Simpson wondered if it were an apparition. He was soon disillusioned.
It was a man. A man with a very loud voice and an excellent eye.

"YOU THERE!" Simpson tried to bolt, but it was too late. "YES, YOU!
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING STANDING AROUND LIKE A LUMP? AS AN
OFFICER IN HIS MAJESTY'S NAVY, I DEMAND TO KNOW YOUR BUSINESS, OR
ELSE I'LL PRESS YOU INTO THIS LAGGARDLY CREW AND HAVE YOU BACK IN
SHAPE WITH TWO SHAKES OF THE CAT!"

Simpson swore under his breath. When the charade with his twin had
fallen through, thanks to the abominable Hornblower, (howls of hatred
from the peanut gallery) he had hoped to be free of naval discipline
for the rest of his life. Obviously, he was cursed. Still, the
Simpson brothers had always been resourceful. There had to be a way
around the situation.

Firstly, he brushed off the old diplomacy. "Greetings, honourable
Captain. I'm delighted to meet another civilized gentleman in
this godforsaken land!"

"WHAT THE BLAZES ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? AND WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
ANSWER ME, DAMN IT!"

OK, time for plan B. Grovelling. Simpson didn't do servile well, but
he was quite prepared to try, if it meant getting off the island with
hide, hair and gold bullion alive. "Aye, aye, Captain. Midshipman
Jack Simpson at your service, sir."

"MIDSHIPMAN? YOU MUST BE A DESERTER! NO RESPECTABLE OFFICER WOULD BE
RUNNING AROUND DRESSED LIKE THAT!"

Simpson looked down rather gingerly at his attire. There was no
denying it; godhood hadn't come with the requisite good tailoring.
You simply couldn't get the staff these days! For a moment, he
thought fondly of the days when he had been able to plunder the sea-
chests of the younger midshipmen for clean shirts with impunity.
Shaking himself out of his reverie, he pulled himself together and
answered the question.

"No Captain, I'm no deserter." That was true, at least. In actual
fact he was dead, at least as far as the Admiralty was concerned.
Then inspiration struck. "But I know where you can find some men who
are..."

**********

Back at the ranch, (so to speak), Horatio and Archie were trying to
work out what to do before making their way to the Kaliakra.

"I suppose that solves the problem of the cloak?" Archie asked
hopefully as he looked at the piles of gold. He was, unsurprisingly,
extremely keen to get off the island.

Horatio frowned. "Mr Kennedy, if you're suggesting what I think
you're suggesting..." He stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the
eager crowd of natives approaching. Moreover, Dread Pirate Roberts
appeared to be regaining consciousness. Hornblower may not have
shared Mr Kennedy's elegant literacy, but he was familiar enough with
that traditional phrase, 'Discretion is the better part of
valour'. "I agree with it! Let's go! Now!"

The rest of the Petrels let out a ragged cheer, as they gathered
their possessions and their newly found wealth. Only Matthews, kind-
hearted as ever, seemed to demur. "Mr Hornblower, sir, we can't just
leave that Pirate. I know 'e's been a bit rotten, but no-one deserves
to end their life stuck 'ere!"

Archie grinned. "On the contrary, Matthews, I think we're being
remarkably generous! Roberts can spend the rest of his life being
pampered as he solves that, er, 'child-bearing' problem the islanders
have. Much better than facing a court-martial, or a trial!"

Styles snickered. "Maybe we could leave Oldroyd as well, then?" He
glanced at the erstwhile sailor, who was sitting next to Robert's
prone body playing jacks with a set of gold buttons, and attracting
the interested stares of several young native girls.

Hornblower spoke almost absently, as he tried to hitch up his
trousers and prepare for departure at the same time. "No can do,
Styles. I fear he might lower the collective intelligence of the
island for generations to come."

It was Archie's turn to look amused. "Horatio, I don't think news of
Gregor Mendel and his pea plants has made it this far south yet."

Horatio answered without turning around. "That may well be true, but
I refuse to knowingly sanction desertion in the name of reproduction.
ESPECIALLY if Oldroyd's involved!"

While Matthews and Styles were trying desperately not to laugh, the
subject of this conversation remained completely oblivious. Another
of the Petrels had to practically drag him from his game by the
collar. Still, departure seemed imminent. Archie waved a shy goodbye
to Te'wa, for a split second almost regretting Horatio and the navy's
morality. Hornblower himself had that determined gleam in his eye
which generally boded ill for his enemies, although in this case it
was more to do with the strictly mathematical challenge that would
follow as the former Petrels attempted to navigate the Kaliakra to
Port Jackson.

Unfortunately, leaving the island was harder than arriving had been.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that single men in possessions
of certain 'attributes' are extremely desirable inhabitants for sub-
tropical paradises. Coupled with the fact that it is extremely
difficult to move in a rapid, orderly and dignified fashion when your
breeches are threatening to give way at any moment, our heroes never
stood an even chance.

---

*Cue low, ominous music*
Enter Stage Left: One Captain, and one villain.

"Not again!" cried Styles, more disturbed than he had ever been by a
rat bite when he noticed the intruders.

"Wot?" asked Oldroyd befuddledly.

Matthews groaned. "Bloody 'ell! Every time we try to leave, somethin'
else comes up!"

Hornblower tried to look official, but failed miserably. It didn't
help that his shirt was gaping beyond repair, displaying a very nice
expanse of chest that would have inspired swoons had it appeared in
the middle of Portsmouth. "I'm sure we can sort something out...In
the meantime, Oldroyd, go and sit on Roberts. He's waking up."

Oldroyd may not have had the faculties for Mastermind, but he was
extremely effective at keeping people unconscious. He plonked himself
onto the mad pirate, who promptly groaned and then fell silent.

Meanwhile, the mysterious visitor and Jack Simpson had been making
their way into the clearing.

"ATTENTION!" the Captain screamed. The tribespeople burst out
laughing. Indeed, to an objective eye the officer (in full regalia)
looked completely ridiculous in the steamy forest. But to the
sailors, conditioned to jump at a superior's slightest whim, he was a
fearsome figure. Even Simpson couldn't help standing a little
straighter.

Hornblower stepped forward bravely. "I am Lieutenant Horatio
Hornblower, in command of His Majesty's ship Petrel, which
unfortunately is no longer with us. May I be so bold as to enquire
who you are?"

The other man grinned. "Horatio Hornblower? What an infernal piece of
bad luck!"

Horatio sighed. "Yes, yes, and there are more things on heaven and
earth than are mentioned in our philosophy. Can we move on, please?"

The Captain squared his shoulders. "As you wish. I am Captain Cook.
And I am here to charge you all with desertion!"

At that, Oldroyd looked even more slack-jawed than usual. (Editor's
note: Is that possible?) He wasn't the only one. Archie's jaw had
almost hit the floor. "Captain JAMES Cook? Of the HMS Endeavour?"

"Yes. Now that we've established who I am, let's move onto the trial."

Archie recovered himself slightly. "But...but...Don't take this the
wrong way, Sir, but aren't you dead?*"

Styles put his head in his hands, and Matthews nudged his
recalcitrant junior in the ribs. "Not another one!"

Captain Cook appeared a trifle put out. "Yes," he answered
testily. "What's it to you?"

Horatio had also regained some of his former equanimity. "I'm not
sure that Naval Regulations cover being court-martialed by a corpse."

"Maybe not, but we're a long way from Admiralty House, Mr Hornblower.
I'm only senior officer within ten thousand miles, and we'll just
have to improvise."

Archie couldn't believe his infernal luck. He had come back from the
dead in Spain, only to go to war in France, and to wind up in the
middle of the pacific without a paddle. After being saved from a
jellyfish by a shark-bite and an impervious ship, he was accused of a
crime he hadn't committed and faced a trial in front of a deceased
English explorer. He knew that some writers enjoyed making him
suffer, but really, this was ridiculous!

Hornblower was furious. His first real command had been a disaster,
but he refused to submit to this final humiliation. He loudly
protested his innocence. "I've done nothing wrong! What law am I
supposed to have broken!"

Captain Cook raised an eyebrow. "You say you've done nothing wrong,
but you don't know the law? How can you be so sure that you're not
guilty if you aren't aware of the rules?"

Horatio looked puzzled, Matthews, Styles and Jorgenson looked
completely blank, and Oldroyd had fallen asleep. However, Archie's
encyclopaedic knowledge of world literature once again saved the day.

"Captain Cook? I don't think avant-garde German writing is due to
become famous until the twentieth century."

Cook frowned. "Really? What a pity! Oh well, I'll have to find
something else." He paused. "I've got it! Friends, Natives,
Countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to charge these gentleman, not
to praise them." He then looked shyly at Mr Kennedy. "Better?"

"Much."

"Good. Anyway, to put it plain and simply, this gentleman here - " he
pointed to Simpson, at which gesture everyone in the area sniggered.
The idea of Simpson as a gentleman was hilarious in any language -
"has accused you of desertion. I call upon you to defend this matter,
or else face the deadly consequences."

All the Petrels were speechless. Everyone, that is, except Oldroyd,
who had woken up just in time to hear the last part of the
indictment. The rest of the crew couldn't believe that Oldroyd, of
all people, had managed to finally stand up to the loathsome
midshipman! "Sorry, Captain Cook, sir. I know you're a famous sailor
and all that, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna stand 'ere and be
accused of desertion by a liar, a cheat, a thief..."

"And a buggerer," Archie added helpfully. Simpson looked fit to be
tied, but he couldn't refute that particular charge without revealing
the entire subterfuge involving his brother.

Captain Cook looked thoughtful. Under his bluster, he had a keen
sense of justice. "I see. I should have guessed that such an
unprepossessing figure had a hidden agenda. Well, the solution is
elementary, my dear Watson!"

Archie shook his head again, as Horatio glanced around in
confusion. "Sherlock Holmes is a late nineteenth century figure,
Captain."

Oldroyd's moment of enlightenment had quickly
passed. "Sherlock 'olmes? Wot's a man with a funny name got to do
with us?"

Cook grunted disparagingly. "I mean the solution is obvious, you
illiterate cretin! I'll simply try you all!" He moved to slap the
poor sailor.

Styles and Matthews quickly came to their shipmate's rescue, and
Hornblower and Kennedy were only a step behind. "Leave him alone!"

The captain seemed startled by such a display of solidarity. "Where
on earth did you come by such a sense of loyalty?"

Hornblower stood up straight and answered him proudly. "On the
Indefatigable, Sir, under Captain Sir Edward Pellew."

Death hadn't improved Cook's hearing. "Pillow? What kind of moniker
is that for a noble sea captain?"

Kennedy stepped forward himself, no longer content to stand in his
illustrious companion's shadow. "His name is Pellew. Edward Pellew.
Licensed to kill."

At that, Captain Cook finally lost his temper. "Licensed to kill, eh?
Well, SO AM I! AND IF YOU DON'T FORM YOURSELF INTO SOME SORT OF ORDER
FOR A COURT MARTIAL IN THE NEXT THIRTY SECONDS, I'VE A MIND TO MAKE
IT EXTREMELY LONG AND EXTREMELY PAINFUL!"

His air of authority was impressive. All the sailors, and not a few
of the islanders, snapped to attention, saluted smartly, and chorused
promptly, "Aye, aye, Captain." Cook then produced a gavel from under
his hat, and banged it against the nearest tree.

"This Island Court is now in session!"

To be continued...