Spirit of the Retribution
by Maryanne

Part Two

The bright morning sun blazed onto the salt-glistening
planks of the deck as it came sweltering overhead, yet a full
sweet yet salty gale billowed the full, unfurled sails,
carrying the ship through crashing boughs of deep
greenish-blue. The sounds of shouted orders were carried
cross-ship on the wind, rising high to the royal mast,
brushing Archie's ears as he ignored the familiar, comforting
calls. He kneeled there, perched precariously on the narrow
wood as the wind swept strands of blond hair from his
forehead and ponytail, straying them across his cheeks. He
half-closed his eyes and imagined, just for a moment, that he
were more than merely what he was and that he could climb
down as before and talk to the men below. He sighed quietly
to himself, but gave it rest, pressing the thought to the
back of his mind as best as he could.
After a moment, something shivered at the edges of his
senses that he had kept as a guard around his friend, and
Archie glanced down to the small, familiar figure stading on
the quarterdeck of the small, light ship. A smile pulled at
the corners of his mouth as he tossed his head to shake the
loose strands of gold from his features. He couldn't help
but grin slightly to this newfound thrill as he leaped
himself from high on the royal mast and effortlessly glided
down swiftly, rushing faster than the wind, to appear behind
his friend. "Morning, Horatio," he greeted amiably, smiling
with natural good-natured humor.
The response from his friend couldn't have surprised him
more. Horatio gasped, tensing in alarm, and half-spun behind
him, his mouth slightly agape. Archie's smile widened in
fond humor. Then Horatio's expression melted to one of
irritated patience. His lips pressed together, and one
eyebrow rose slightly to fix the ghost-man with a look.
After a moment, his eyes darting carefully around, he spoke.
"Archie, you scared the devil out of me," he whispered. "I
do wish you wouldn't"
The young blond's twinkling amusement that shone in his eyes
melted warmly, as he felt his features gentling into a
genuine grin. "I know, and I *do* apologize, H'ratio. It's
just..." He sighed softly, crossing the quarterdeck a few
paces closer to the dark-haired young commande, his friend.
"I can't help myself sometimes. I have really nothing better
to do at the moment..." He trailed off, swallowing slightly
and casting his eyes away. He didn't want to make Horatio
feel guilty or worried in any way. There was no possible way
he could be hurt here.
Horatio's features remained stern, then after a moment, his
eyes briefly twinkled as one corner of his mouth quirked
upwards in a small smile. "Oh, Archie..." he whispered,
shaking his head fondly. "What would I do without your
dreadful teasing, I wonder?" he jested slightly.
Archie was surprised, the curiosity flashing briefly in his
bright cobalt blue eyes. After a moment, a slight,
disbelieving smile touched his face with soft laughter.
"Really, Horatio Hornblower, don't tell me you've finally
aquired some sense of humor!" he teased gently. Horatio
snorted quietly, narrowing his dark eyes to pin the young
spirit-man with an overly-patient expression. Inwardly,
thoughts much more serious, tuths he dreaded... they nearly
made him shudder. His eyes distanced, out to the sea horizon
of deep chilled blue waters, praying fervently to himself
that he should never have to tell Horatio what worried him.
He watched his friend take his position perfectly as a
commander, calling to his first lieutenant. "Leftenant
Bush!" Archie's eyes followed through the deck, as he
concentrated, watching through the very walls themselves the
man hurry towards them. It had always seemed a bit
unnerving, since his first moment in this way of life, but he
could slowly adjust to it and fade his vision or focus it on
anything, through anything.
Bush climbed the steps, nodding curtly to Hornblower, his
hat tucked underneath his arm. "Yes, what is it, Mr.
Hornblower?" he asked, then flushed slightly. "I.. Beg your
pardon, I forgot. What is it, sir?"
Archie's eyes traveled to Horatio's quietly, studying as
they deepened thoughtfully. He shook his head slightly,
waving a hand dismissively. "It's perfectly alright, Mr.
Bush. Report," he requested firmly.
Bush brushed the tip of his tongue to his lips and drew in a
deep breath, beginning with a slight sigh, his hands clasped
behind his back. "Well, sir, the wind seems to be with us.
We've been at full-sail for nearly four hours, sir, and at
this rate, we should reach our destination off the coast of
France in a matter of perhaps a day or so, God willing," he
reported easily... Archie's eyes fell partially closed,
studying this man who was still somehow a mystery to him.
Bush had helped him go to the courtroom after he had
convinced him, but that had been the last time he had seen
Bush... Until their recent encounter before theys et sail.
Archie wondered if someday Bush would discover his existence,
and then he didn't know what he could do. Could William keep
a secret by any chance?
Horatio nodded, pacing the length of the quarterdeck as he
sometimes would when he thought. Archie, meanwhile, slipped
back and balanced himself casually on the taffrail, watching
how his friend would always pace through a room whenever his
mind would run full-speed. Though, at the moment, Horatio's
thoughts were a complete mystery to him. "Excellent, Mr.
Bush. Carry on..."
Bush took the leave, pausing a moment later, his eyes
carefully lifting as he lowered his voice. "How do you feel
this morning, Mr. Hornblower?" he inquired quietly.
Archie's studying, unveiled blue visage once more rested on
his friend as he wondered what clever little response Horatio
could conjure up. Most likely of all would be to simply say
he was faring well enough and to leave it at that. "As well
as can be expected, I suppose. Fair," Horatio managed
uncomfortably, shifting his position. Archie lowered his
eyes into his palm. **Really, H'ratio. That was awful even
for you...** he thought guardedly, not caring whether his
friend witnessed his reaction or not. It could do no worse
for him. He caught the glance from the corners of Horatio's
eyes and finally released a soft sigh, glancing up toward the
high mast and instantly melting to let the wind carry him
spiraling to the top, where the rushing roar of the wind
swept louder than ever, carrying its sweet salt.
The moment of tranquility, as fleetingly as it had come, was
shattered only seconds later by a sudden sharp shout from
below. "Sir!! A voice cried down below him, toward the other
officers. "Ship sir! Off the starboard bow!"
Archie's head snapped up, his gaze spinning over into the
wind to catch sight of the vessel on the blue-hazed horizon.
His eyes scanned and searched, intently, then glanced to the
flag, it's ripped and shattered ends making it barely
readible though he could make out the symbol, and a flash of
alarm filled his being, fear in his eyes. He swallowed
hard...

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

Archie's eyes widened in recognition and deep worry, glancing
down past his crouched form toward Horatio, who stood on the
deck leaning against the taffrail, his glass instantly to his
eye. He knew Horatio wouldn't attack without provocation,
but surely none of the men on the retribution could realize
what peril they could be putting themselves into. Archie's
head snapped back up to the vessel sailing for them at a
nearly impossible clip. Then he set his jaw, his eyes
flashing determination as he dived in a streak of light
toward the deck below.
He gasped slightly, startled, as he slipped from his careful
balance with the wind and crashed onto the deck below. The
first feeling he recognized on his senses bare braths later
was that, impossibly, he felt no pain. It was as though he
didn't exist... He tossed the thought away, cruling up
agilely back to his feet, just the instant Horatio spun
around, his forehead furrowing. "Archie?" he questioned
aloud.
The blond ghost-man's eyes widened and he drew in a sharp
hiss of alarm through worry-clenched teeth. Horatio!! he
warned, his mental thoughts high and rising in alarm,
automatically projecting to anyone who could hear him.
The warning came a moment too late as Bush paused in his
tracks, his eyes uncertain and wary, his mouth slightly open
as if to say something. "Sir, what was that?" he demanded
quickly, lines of worry and alarm etching his face, his eyes
wide and pointed in concenred suspicion.
Archie watched Horatio spare the man a brief glance, then
return to his observation through the glass. "What was
what?" he responded curtly, half-absently.
"Sir, I thought for a moment..." Bush paused, stuttering
slightly as he carefully regathered his words. "You... asked
for Mr. Kennedy sir." It was spoken quietly, carefully, and
Archie's cobalt blue eyes narrowed and flashed as he so
effortlessly listened to the man's thoughts and perfectly
understood them. Bush was afraid that Horatio would let them
down; that he was possibly reaching his breaking point and
that his friend had gone mad.
Horatio remained motionless for a moment, his features
sharpening as his mind ran thoughts that Archie couldn't help
but pick up. After a moment, the young blond closed his eyes
and focused on not listening to the wide-scale chorus of
everyone's thoughts flooding his mind for he felt he would
explode. He could barely hear Horatio's response, this level
of thoughts flooding his somehow strangely growing by the
second until it was almost agonizing. "Oh.. Probably an
automatic response, forgive me Bush..." he heard in the
background, as though through water, as he braced his weight
against the aft mast. He collapsed in a shimmering puddle to
his knees, grimacing, when suddenly the pain, as swiftly as
it had struck, swept away, leaving him gasping and panting.
"Prepare the guns, Mr. Bush, in case we shall need them,"
Horatio ordered quietly, commandingly.
"Aye aye, sir," Bush replied, the sense that he had been
defeated only a slight fraction of what had so suddenly
flooded Archie's mind.
The young spirit-man pulled himself back upright and rushed
forward, still panting slightly and his eyes deep with worry.
"Horatio... Horatio, we have to get out of here," he warned
quickly, quietly, his hand gripping his friend's arm though
he felt it could pass through it easily at any moment.
Horatio frowned, shaking his head slightly in
misunderstanding and Archie let out a small cry of
frustration. "*Please*, H'ratio, my friend! Something's
wrong. I can sense it..." He broke off, his somehow real
yet unreal being shivering to the fresh memory of that mental
and emotional attack.
He felt Horatio's hand touch his arm, then rest on his
shoulder, as dark eyes darted around to be sure none were
observing their conversation. "Archie, what are you talking
about?" he murmured softly, as to not be overheard.
Archie's eyes fell, then lifted, purposefully catching his
friend's gaze and trying to lock it in his worry-deepened
own. He was deathly serious, and projected as much as he
possibly could, until he flet Horatio's tightening adrenaline
response to danger. "I.. I don't know." He shook his head
sharply, quickly. "I can't really explain it to you at the
moment. You... you wouldn't understand," he stuttered, still
in the aftermath of the looming danger growling towards them
as the ship drew nearer. His head turned, his eyes out to
the odd vessel swiftly approaching. "It has to do with that
ship." He returned his eyes back to his friend's, pleading.
"Please, for once just *trust* me, Horatio!" he whispered.
Hornblower's gaze dropped to the glistening planks, his lips
pressing together and he slowly shook his head. Then his
warm dark hazel eyes rose. "Alright, Archie. I'll be on my
guard; thank you. Now please, do not distract me..."
Archie's entire being tightened as he was uncertain whether
to howl in frustration or merely vanish as the shadows under
the noon sun did, or to break something. Unfortunately, he
could no longer do the latter, for solid objects were never
quite solid anymore, and neither was upwards up, or below
down... It was an entirely new, but frustrating at times,
angle on reality that he would seem to be forever trapped in.
He let out a small cry, clenching his fist and drawing back
swiftly, spinning to hold Horatio's eyes worriedly in his own
for a moment, just as he was swept in a curling spiral up
like wisps of light away on the wind to disappear into his
alter-reality, and there to remain in it's deep, unnerving
shadows that were somehow comforting when faced with the
threat the retribution could be in. **It will be all right,**
Archie reminded himself quietly. **Horatio knows what he's
doing...** But did he realize what he was up against?

 

Horatio watched in startled amazement as the golden form of
his friend became as though liquid then light curling away on
the full, billowing gale until he suddenly vanished, leaving
Horatio slightly uncertain. He had felt something, the
danger Archie had more than shown, but had projected, and it
left a deep imprint in his mind. His eyes returned to the
ship close enough to see now. She was a small vessel,
slightly ragged, and the flag had been partially shredded, as
were the ends of the sails, as though this ship had sailed
the seas for perhaps decades. He saw the men running,
scrambling impossibly well up the rigging and ratlines to tie
the sails and slow them. Something about this ship he could
sense somehow, but it was not danger surprisingly. It felt
no different than any other vessel he had met, except that
this one was hastily raisinng its flags to convey a
questioning message, and a truce flag.
Now that it was close enough, Horatio snapped the telescope
closed and held it in his palm as Bush approached quickly.
"What do you make of it, sir?" he wondered.
Horatio shook his head slightly, his eyes distant, and his
thoughts slightly alarmed that he could not sense Archie
anywhere around the Retribution. Surely he hadn't fled, but
that raised yet another question. If this ship had raised a
truce flag, and as he read the message, was signalling a
distress call, what could it have been that had so frightened
Archie. He knew his friend had always owned un uncanny
ability to sense trouble ahead, but what could he feel as a
ghost? One thing was for certain; he didn't want to find
whatever it was that had frightened Archie. "I do not know,
Mr Bush..."