Uncharted Course
an HH Role Playing Game fic

Part 5

Cast

Laura -Horatio Hornblower
AJ -Archie Kennedy, Miss Cobham
Melissa- Mr. Bush, Sir Edward Pellew
Julie Lee-Captain Sawyer
Kipperboi -Mr. Wellard
Young Snotty -Mr. Buckland
Molly -Mathews and Styles, Commander Bracegirdle, Mr. Kenyon
Linda -Dr. Clive
Jill -Oldroyld
Bob -Randal
Heather Olson-Mr. Hobbs, Liberty Jack, Powder Monkeys, Lucille , De Vergesse, Bowles, Whiting
Brennan-Dr. Alexandre du Bretagne


LOCATION: La Mort
TIME/DATE: Night, Jan 24th, 1802

NOTE: La Mort lags behind the other two groups 'Timelines' for a little bit. La Mort picked up at least 3/4 of the player characters. She's a busy ship... And it takes some time for her to catch up.)

 

 

(Aboard La Mort: Upper deck: Still Jan 24th, 1802. Still raining... Hornblower had just asked Mathews for a report...)

"Cap'n Sawyer's aboard, sir." Matthews reported. "The Powder Monkeys brought 'im aboard. Brave lads, they are, sir. I 'ave to say the Cap'n didn't look good when I last saw 'im, sir."

Styles had been busy looking around at the situation at hand. He stopped still, his eyes grew wide and an expression of disbelief appeared on his face. "Sir?" he jumped in. "Isn't that Mister Bowles talkin' to Mister Kenyon, sir?"

~ Matthews and Styles~

 

Horatio squinted down the ship. Indeed, it DID look like Mr. Bowles! "I...do believe it is, Styles. Follow me..." He called to Matthews and Styles as he raced down the ship. "Mr. Bowles?" Horatio asked as he approached.

~Horatio~

 

(Quarterdeck, then main deck. Mr. Kenyon... Molly's made up young, midshipman who's actually a girl, just asked Mr. Bowles where a doctor could be found... This is a combined post written in chat, involving Hornblower, Mathews, Styles and Bowles.)

Master Bowles watched from the quarterdeck of La Mort as the young midshipman carefully made his way to the main deck, then down the stair which led to the second gun deck. The youth had a head wound and just asked where the Doctor might be found. Bowles had explained that Dr. Clive was treating the wounded on the gun deck now. Bowles and the other former captives had spent much more time chaind up there as he ever wanted to... but it seemed the situation determined they would all be spending more time on the gun deck... It was dry, and more importantly, it was SAFE. He hoped the boy would be alright. Good lord... Was I ever that young? His hands were upon the wheel, and he was dead tired. La Mort was well away from Renown now, and making good speed. the Renown wasn't coming after them... Considering her damage that wasn't too surprising... But none of the other pirate vessels were giving chase either... Perhaps they can't see us in the dark?... As the rain streamed down his face he prayed quietly, "Dear God, keep them blind tonight."

"Mr. Bowles!" A familiar voice cried out, and Master Bowles turned to the seaman next to him.

"Take the wheel Mr. Denton."

"Aye, aye, sir!" Once the wheel was firmly in the man's grip Bowles stepped forward to the rail overlooking the main deck. He happily noted the presence of Sir Edward's protégé, Mr. Hornblower and his dear friends from years past moving toward him...

"Mathews... Styles... Mr. Hornblower! You did make it aboard after all!" Overjoyed, Bowles raced, and very nearly slipped... down the steps from the quarterdeck and embraced Mathews and Styles.

"Bowlesey!" Styles grinned as he and Mathews patted their old Ship's Master on the back. "Good to see you again, sir!" After a moment Mr. Bowles turned to Horatio, tried to compose himself and saluted.

"Master Bowles," Hornblower touched his fingers to his hat, returning the salute, then clapped Mr. Bowles on the back."You are indeed a welcome sight..." Ceremony be damned thought Mr. Bowles... He stepped forward and caught Horatio up in a massive bearhug. So strong it lifted the lieutenant off his feet. His old bones couldn't hold that pose for long though, so he put the young man down, and shook his hand while trying to regain a little decorum.

"Heaven be praised, sir, but your a sight for sore eyes..." He looked to Mathews and Styles," All of you."

"So good to see you... How is it that you came to be aboard this ship? Hornblower asked.

"Were you cornered by the pirates as well?" Styles asked.

"Aye, indeed. Our ship the 'Lady's Grace' was taken seven days ago by the same madman who took your ship." Bowles began." That scoundrel who calls himself Liberty Jack!"

"Bad luck indeed," Horatio nodded, though he had question's to ask about this 'Liberty Jack'. A man who was supposed to be dead. He had to keep his thoughts on his duty for now though. That meant knowing everything Master Bowles could tell him. " And the rest of her crew?"

"Nearly one hundred of our men were brought aboard this ship. We were chained to the guns bellow, sir. Kept as slaves... If it had not been for the kindness of Dr. Bretagne I... I don't know... " Bowles was so tired, but he had to pass along every detail he could to Mr. Hornblower... "I don't know what we would have done. As I said, sir, nearly one hundred men. A few were murdered over this past week for the pleasure of that madman and his lot of butchers. We lost about ten men in the fight to take the ship from the enemy.... " Bowles paused. A pair of men behind him carried a horribly injured man down to the gun deck. Another, wet and rank with the smell of the grave was screaming in terror that, death was all around him. Damn! Another man injured, and another broken... Bowles clenched his fists, and continued, "And at least thirty-one casualties to the actions of this blasted ship itself !"

"Explain?.."

"She's booby-trapped, sir...." Bowles tried to explain," Devices... Devilish things. Some designed to maim, some to kill... Others to break your spirit." The ship is called La Mort, sir... It lives up to it's title... That's not the worst of it, sir..."

"Dear god.." Hornblower thought... "There's more?"

"Sir Edward, Commander Bracegirdle, and the Duchess of Warfedale are down there, sir." He pointed down to the deck, then put up a hand to stop Mr. Hornblower from charging off half-cocked. He'd lost enough men already... That was perhaps the hardest thing to report. The helplessness he felt, infuriated him. "Sir, I have men down there already. They are looking... But... They keep coming back... in pieces....Sir. Dr. Bretagne is somewhere below, and Oldroyd has a party down there now, searching as well... It takes time... they have to be very careful, sir."

"Oldroyd?!" Mathews and Styles tried to push past to the hatchway the wounded man just came from... Bowles stepped between them and the stairs that led into the depths of La Mort. " I'm afraid I won't allow that... I'm losing enough men who actually have some experience with this 'Ship of Horrors'. Were I to let you down there, like as not you'd be dead in less then five minutes..." Bowles relaxed a bit when he saw his old shipmates back down. He addressed Mr. Hornblower again, "Hate to say this, sir... But there's one more thing..." He saw Hornblower sigh and roll his eyes... He was upset, no doubt... And Bowles did not wish to put the man through any more... But it had to be said. "The pirate Captain, sir..."

"Yes?"

"His real name is Donovan Simpson, sir." Bowles saw the look on Hornblower's face. "Aye, sir. A bloody Evil Twin. Not that our Simpson was a sweetheart mind you... but this man, sir... " Bowles shuddered visibly," This man, is the Devil himself."

~Bowles, Horatio, Mathews & Styles~

(NOTE: When we left you last, Miss Cobham AKA the Duchess had just been rescued from a pair of cobras by Oldroyd and his mates. He accidentally cliped her dress with his new gadget sword in the process. Dr. Bretagne had just arrived to save Pellew and Bracegirdle from the snake's mate, and restored a little of Kitty's modesty by tieing his coat around her waist. The panther Rakshasha, which had been troubling the small group had lept on top of a bench near the windows to avoid the cobras.)

(La Mort: Captain's cabin)

Yes, yes.... I'm fine. *Kitty tried to hide her shaking hands in her pockets, but failed as they had been cut away. She clasped them tightly before her instead* I owe you and this young man here a large debt. *Kitty nodded to Oldroyd* I hope I can repay you at sometime in the future. At the moment I would just like to get out of this bloody fun'ouse!!

*Unnoticed by anyone, the large cat was once more on the prowl. During the duel of the snakes, it had crept down from the windowledge, and whilst Pellew was engaged in staring down the cobras, it had come up behind him. But unknown to both the cat and Pellew, one of Jack's traps were beneath their feet. During the battle with the Renown something had gone wrong withthe mechanism, jamming the door shut, which is why Pellew had not already made a quick trip south. But with Rakashasha and Pellew's combined weight the trap finally sprung open. For a moment, everyone froze at the distinct sproining sound, but only a for a moment as gravity does not like to be disobeyed. In the wink of an eye, Pellew and the cat disappeared from sight. Miss Cobham turned to Bracegirdle.

* One word discribes this situation, sir... Merde.*

~Kitty, Pellew~

 

"Commodore Pellew, sir!" Bracegirdle shouted down the gaping hole in the deck. He was shocked at what had just happened, and now much more worried at what might happen next. "You," he said, pointing at the stranger that had just saved their lives. "Do you know where this leads?" Before a response came, Bracegirdle saw something out of the corner of his eye. Hidden just out of sight in the desk drawer was the ship's log. He grabbed it and began flipping through the pages. Nothing made sense! It was all backwards, written in code of some sort. Bracegirdle flipped through it again. This time, a piece of paper fell out. He picked it up and unfolded it. A map! By golly, a way out of here!

"It's a map!" Bracegirdle said, astonished. It was rather large, so he placed it down on the table. "Here's where we are," he said, pointing to a spot on one of the middle decks. "Strange... According to this, we're in the midshipman's berth! Good God, this whole ship is backwards! Now, if this map isn't another trap of some sort, Commodore Pellew should be directly below us. Which is... the heads?!?!?!" Bracegirdle's jaw dropped. "Oh my... So, which way should we go? The Commodore's route or shall we find our own way down there?"

~ Bracegirdle~

LOCATION: Renown
TIME/DATE: Evening, Jan 24th, 1802 Briefly... Then it's Morning, Jan 25th, 1802

NOTE: Since the 'crew' has split up onto three ships we will separate the collected posts in such a manner that you do not have to switch back and forth too very often between these groups. We will see how that works.

NOTE: A DISCLAMER.... The entirety of post 28 takes place on the Captured Renown. We learn more about the insidious Liberty Jack, meet a new henchman... And a mascot.

(Renown: Starboard side... The battle has just finished. Horatio and his party have leapt over to La Mort. Bush was about to follow.)

Bush took a quick glance down at the water, something he probably shouldn't have done, and prepared himself to make the jump from the Renown to La Mort. His swimming skills were basically non existant, and if he should miss- well, he didn't like the probable outcome. He could picture how ridiculous he'd look splashing about in the sea during a battle when he should be defending his ship. He looked across to La Mort. Sergeant Whiting had already made it over, Bush hoped that Hornblower and the others had managed to do the same. He took a step back and jumped- at the last second stepping sideways to avoid the shot from a volley gun. Before he knew it, a thoroughly embarrased Bush found his foot tangled in the rigging and himself hanging over the side. A torent of curses escaped his lips.

Now what the hell was he to do? Hell and damnation. He dared not yell, that would draw attention from the pirates on the Renown. He could try to get his foot loose, but he might fall and drown. Then again if he did nothing there was more of a chance a pirate would simply pull him back over the side. He looked to La Mort again, hoping perhaps that one of the Renowns would notice him and devise a plan to get him down.

~Bush~

 

(Captain's cabin. Time change: Probably after midnight on the 24th... Long after Renown was taken.)

The lad's usual pallid complexion was now pigmented with the delightful grays and blues that often result from a thorough beating. Wellard drew a hand to the ache in his skull, gasping slightly when he felt a damp patch in his hair. Not only had someone pummeled his lily-white face, they had also ensured that he would not remain conscious
long enough to remember whom it was. Nearly fainting when he detected the blood upon his fingertips, Wellard's mind reeled as he struggled to recall the series of events that had brought him to this sorry state.

"This little snotty's all mine!"

He recalled those words. How often had the men of the Renown badgered him for his youth; for his position, his lack of experience? Yes, that shoddy bastard, Randal had been there, indeed. Wellard often observed the man tagging along with Hobbs, though he was considerably less dignified than any of the midshipmen, and even most of the crew. He mainly tried to stay clear of men like Randal, but now it occurred to young Wellard that he had fallen victim to a most severe case of treachery. And for what? Had Randal been the one to evoke this throbbing sensation in his head, or had it been the scythe-handed pirate?

As his vision adjusted to the dim lighting, Wellard glanced about his surroundings and noted that he was still aboard the Renown. Surely the others had not abandoned him? Trembling, he rose to his feet and struggled to maintain his balance. He could not waste time down in this cabin, no matter how much pain he was experiencing, he had to reach the others. Wellard moved across the room and grasped the door's brass handle, only to discover that it would not budge. Grunting, he shoved all of his weight against the door, praying that it was merely stuck, but his attempts were futile. Someone was obviously well aware of his presence on the ship, and that same
person had taken some precaution, for as it appeared, Wellard was locked below the deck and there were no means for escape. The youth swore softly to himself just then, feeling defeated though he was not fully certain of his captor. He was locked within Captain Sawyer's quarters, so Wellard was determined to search for any
possible evidence that might clue him in to the identity of this band of cutthroats. Just as he began to rummage through the captain's
desk, he heard what sounded like a muffled groan. Wellard turned, suddenly noticing a figure slumped against the opposite corner of the wall.

It was Lieutenant Buckland!

Wellard rushed to the man's side, his dark eyes scanning for any signs of life. He spotted a wound near the hairline, indicating that Buckland had apparently taken a worse blow to the head than he. No, the man was not dead, he was merely knocked unconscious. The bloody pirates hadn't neglected *any* minute details, had they? Wellard removed his jacket and balled it underneath Buckland's head. He shook the shoulder gently, frightened of injuring him further.

"Sir?" He murmured nervously, praying that the man would soon awaken. He could not go through with this ordeal on his own. "Lieutenant Buckland, sir, please wake up! It's Wellard, sir. We're aboard the Renown, but we're locked below deck. I've no idea where the others are. Sir, please!" Wellard's prodding grew more and more frantic, for
it seemed as though Buckland was completely oblivious to his strained prattle.

 

~Wellard~

(Time change: Morning, July 25, Renown: Wardroom: This post sums up some of the events during the battle, and possible consequences. All from Jack's point of view...)

"Ahh." Liberty Jack sighed as he woke to the first rays of the morning sun that shone through the windows. He had spent the night in the officer's wardroom, aboard his old ship the Renown. It had been far too long since he'd slept in this cabin, and then he went by another name. Jack looked up at that ceiling... He could still see the words, 'Donovan Simpson' , etched years ago in the dark wood above. Painted over, but still legible. He laughed quietly... That had been quite the feat. Carving his initials, while 'half shot' (Mostly drunk). So drunk he had nearly misspelled his own name, and it looked as though it were scrawled there by a child. He got up from the hammock, and stepped over to the table. What a wild one you were Donovan, he thought. He picked his scythe up from the table, "Weren't we Jack?" He added quietly, and gently pressed it's gleaming surface against his cheek.

He stood there for a moment. His mind on great deeds of the past. Then he thought of the last night.... Now he had won his greatest victory yet... He had taken the Renown... His old ship! Aye, and from Sawyer himself! It had not been perfect though. He had lost Sawyer... A trifle that... but he would have enjoyed seeing him die... as slowly as possible of course. "Oww!" He winced as he moved his shoulder just the wrong way. He didn't want to accidentally ruin Decker's hard work by pulling out a stitch. Bretagne's armor had saved him from the worst effects of Sawyer's slash across his back, but it still stung. Sawyer... Backstabbing Old, Bastard. Well, Sawyer was Bretagne's problem now. Donovan thought... He smirked. Or is Bretagne, Sawyer's problem?... the smirk turned into a broad grin at that thought. The smile faded as he remembered that his beautiful Lucille had stolen away... and of what she had stolen away with.... He grit his teeth together at the very thought... Hobbs... That was a sore spot... His personal Judas... His most prized... 'Possession'... Oh, how he'd wanted to see him helpless and under his sway again... For him to watch Sawyer die while being unable to lift a finger... literally. Or better yet... Simpson's smile returned... For Hobbs to be the very one to do the deed...

"Well, at least I have Randall." He reminded himself. Randall had come over to Jack's side for the promise of gold. He'd expected that. Well, I've given him half his reward already... Jack mused. Not the gold of course, but he had given Randall his command phrase. He groaned as he remembered what else he'd done last night. He had not expected Hobbs to escape him, and he'd given the gunner his command as well... Now they would both begin to remember their training... Remember the things they had done for him. They would remember everything. Donovan's 'Jacks'. His 'Butcher boy' and his 'Bully boy'. He laughed quietly... remembering old days. How far he'd come since then. How far up the ranks of El Punal Escondido (The Hidden Dagger) he'd climed.

His Butcher boy was on his own though... On Lucille's ship, with a member of the Kennedy family... He put his hand on the silver locket he acquired last night. The boy had the locket Hobbs had given as his parting gift to that Kennedy whore he'd fallen for. Now the fruit of that forbidden lust was aboard Lucille's ship with those two men. His very presence would make old wounds bleed again... As soon as Kennedy figured out the connection. Sweet indeed! Unless Hobbs had been straighforward with him already... Regardless there would be the gunner's strange behavior Donovan knew would begin to surface... Possibly murderous behavior. Even if Hobbs had told Kennedy the truth about his past, such behaivior might lead him to think the worst of Mr. Hobbs... Oh, how they would regret bringing Him aboard... Serves them right...

But then, without Jack's influence and instruction, Hobbs might be able to master the monster within him. The killer Donovan and Bretagne had so carefully crafted? The safeguards would hold though... Hobbs could not harm him directly... But might he not pave the way for another? Then a horrible thought entered Donovan's mind. What if another man had command of him? Simpson tried very hard to remember Bretagne's exact words concerning the key cards. 'Obey your Commanding officer'! Damn! Seven years ago that had been Donovan Simpson himself. But without Simpson's own presence that would default to... Blast!... That little twit Kennedy... "Oh God," He moaned...

"What a waste of a perfectly good... Butcher." He muttered quetly, "Hmmm..." He pondered the possibility of the gunner having enough free will to actually come after him, or act under the control of another man. It sent chills down his spine. The safeguards might not hold under those circumstances."Best get Randall ready for action, just in case." He whispered to himself. Donovan could help Randall through it all. Rekindle his memories. With one command Randall would remember everything. He looked like he'd kept himself in fairly good shape, and he'd have time to practice... To hone his reflexes and skills. Meanwhile, not only had the gunner let himself go, somewhat... Simpson chuckled, But Hobbs would have to muddle through the whole reconditioning process, with everyone around him thinking him mad.

Kennedy might not even comprehend beauty of the gift that's been dropped into his lap... Hmm... No... Cleveland was with them. And he knew. The little spy. Would he tell?... Or want that power for himself. He might be too frightened to do either. Insist they lock the gunner up... No, regardless of 'who' comands Hobbs, they'd never have him ready in time. And under such circumstances Randall would win any fight between the two. By recovering Randall, Donovan now had an even better bodyguard then Dunti had been. He sighed. Ah, poor, simple Dunti... Dr. Bretagne's techniques never did work too well with you, or you might have avoided that spear. "Bah! Enough reminiscing." He placed the scythe on the table. Time to start the day.

"Awake ye dogs! Must I do everything around here?!" In an instant four men and four women around him jumped from their hammoks like a shot. They quickly readied a couple of basins of hot water, towels etc and set about performing his toiletries. Jack simply stood there and let his personal valet do their duty. They shaved him, washed hin, dressed him and at the last attached his scythe to the brace on his right arm. One of them was still polishing the scythe's blade just as there was a knock at the door. He stopped when Jack shooed him away. Donovan examined their handiwork as best he could with a small mirror. "Bon! Very good... I won't be killing any of you this morning." His servants were all visibly relieved. The knock at the door was repeated. "Enter!" He turned to the door as it opened. "Decker?"

"It is I, Sahib. Bharat. Lieutenant Decker is watching the prisoners. He is preparing a list for you." It was Jack's Bosun, come over to the Renown from the barquentine la Famine. He was a warrior who signed on while Jack was raiding English shipping off the coast of India... The tall warrior cut a handsom, yet exotic figure. Black hair, eyes and a short, neatly trimmed beard. He wore dark, loose clothing, a small arsenal of weapons, a black turban, and a long, crimson silk scarf. The scarf was called a 'rumal' and was weighted with a coin at the center of it's length... Bharat had shown Jack how to use it, but due to Jack's absent right hand he was never very good with it... One end always had to be tied to the scythe. The Bosun and his mates though... They could break a man's neck in a matter of seconds. Jack had often found their skills immensely useful. "I have here the gunner's dunnage as you requested." He raised the large box so Jack could see.

"Very well, Bharat." Jack nodded and sat down. Bharat entered, carrying the chest with him. He put it down on the table, just a second before one of the servants placed a tray with a hearty breakfast in front of Jack. Bharat put his hands together, fingertips upright, and bowed slightly. He took a step back.

"The equipment, supplies, and the women are being brought over from la Famine. The repairs to the Renown are nearly complete. We have already begun alterations..." Bharat reported while Jack tucked into his breakfast. His Captain nodded to all of this mundane information... He paused for a momment before mentioning the interesting part. "As we came aboard this morning, my men and I found something of interest, hanging upside-down on the starboard side, from one of the ship's lines. An important prisoner I believe. A Lieutenant by the uniform. He has spent the entire night in the rain and the cold hanging by a thread. literally... Would you like to see him, Sahib?"

"Prisoners Bharat?..." Jack complained, "I haven't even had my coffee yet..." He smirked. Bharat missed the joke.

"My Lord," Bharat began as calmly as he could, and used a title he knew would please his employer," It may be that this man is the one named Hornblower you were hoping to find..." To this Jack sighed and nodded. The Bosun clapped his hands together. Four of Jack's elite Lighting guard marched in, and stood at the ready, volley guns in hand. Then two of Bharat's men stepped into the wardroom. They held a prisoner between them.

"Hmmm..." Jack mused. The man seemed a little shorter than the description he'd been given. However the fellow was stooped over, and soaked through... And the dark hair matched descriptions he had heard. It looked promising... "Hold men... I need something to compare him to. Let's see if Mr. Hobbs has inadvertently left us a clue." Jack opened the chest Bharat had brought in. The lock had already been removed by the Bosun. "Now, lets see..." He started flipping items onto the floor ; clothes, old pair of boots, bottle of rum (the male servants fought over this), shaving kit, a few books, a bible. Donovan looked at that for a moment. Written on the first page he found, ' To my darling Kenneth. Love always, Auriar.' "Oh, puke!" Simpson said with disgust and threw it over his shoulder. "I wish Randal were awake! I wouldn't have to sort through this trash!" He emptied the box... But did not see what he was looking for... Then he looked at the chest it'self for a momment. The dimensions of the interior and the exterior did not add up. "Ah-ha!" He pulled out the false bottom. "A little over cautious Mr. Hobbs..." He reached in and pulled out a well used scrap-book, and a pile of loose papers. "My, my... you have been a busy boy haven't you?..." Donovan knew something about the gunner that very few people did. A little hobby that he took pleasure in during his spare time. Mr. Hobbs had a talent for drawing. Simpson had often joked with the man an told him his work was amateurish. The gunner never liked that. In truth, the drawings weren't half bad, but the last thing Donovan had wanted was Mr. Hobbs using his prize money to run off to Italy to study the arts. He chuckled at that thought.

"Sahib?" Bharat leaned closer to see what was so funny about the pictures in his master's hand. He shook his head and shrugged as Simpson ignored him and continued to flip through the papers. A note dropped into his lap. Simpson, opened it... Read it... Laughed, and put it away in his pocket. The Bosun raised a dark eyebrow... There were times his master worried him...

"Here they are!" Simpson almost cheered. "His latest works." Most of the pieces were dated, so Donovan skipped had quickly found what he wanted. Hornblower had served a while on the Renown before this mission, but not too long. "Let's see..." He spoke aloud. "Ah, here it is. Lucky me..." Jack was pleased,"Right under this unfinished piece of Mr.... Who?... I can't even make that one out right now. Can you, Bharat?" The bosun barely glanced at it. It was badly smudged. The Bosun shook his head. "No? Well... We'll save that one for later." He folded it and put it in his pocket. "But this," Jack held up a picture of a young lieutenant with dark, curly hair, "Must be a likeness of Mr. Hornblower... Mr. Hobbs has even conveniently titled it for me... How considerate." Jack put one booted foot on the table, leaned back in his chair and held the picture up in front of him. "I want him to get a good look at me. He'll think I'm Jack." Simpson grinned. "Alright, we're ready. Hold his head up, so I can see the look on his face."

"As you wish, my Lord." Bharat grabbed the prisoner by his hair and roughly pulled his head up. The man grunted his discomfort at this, and his eyes opened. Blue eyes. That was wrong... Jack looked at the man for a moment... It wasn't Hornblower... But Donovan had seen that face before.... Then a sudden realization! Hadn't he killed him with his own hands?!

"Auuuuggggh!" Liberty Jack screamed, as he and his chair fell backward with a crash.

 

~Liberty Jack~

 

(NOTE: In this next post I got to write a 'setup' for Bush. Melissa, (Bush's player, and our list Cap'n leads a fairly active life. She needed a way that she could respond for Bush when she could, yet maintain the character's presence as a major player. This 'setup' has been designed to do just that. Poor Bush is now going to be dragged about by that Villain (Jack), while Jack makes the 'Classic' badguy blunder of telling one of the Heroes (Bush) all his evil plans... The situation works fine for me... And Melissa was pleased too.)

(Renown: Wardroom, main deck, then the Captain's cabin.)

 

"Unghh!" Bush was rudely brought out of his semi-conscious state, as a strong hand grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head up. He saw he was in the wardroom aboard Renown. Two black-clad men, easterners of some sort, held him firmly by the arms while another taller man had him by the hair. The Pirate Captain examined him from across the room. The man was leaning dangerously far back in his chair. He glared at Bush for a moment, his eyes widened, then he shouted and fell backwards. Looking for all the world as if he'd seen a ghost. The men holding Bush's arms, held tighter still as the Second Lieutenant tried to make the most of the moment. Too weak from his overnight ordeal, he simply had no strength left. The one holding his hair let go, but before Bush could be grateful for that, the man shouted something in a foreign tongue to his men who pushed Bush down to his knees. The dark man took a red scarf from around his shoulders. In an instant was behind Bush and had the damned thing wrapped around his neck. Bush felt something hard press against his throat and he couldn't breathe!...

"This must be the man the Captain has been looking for!" The man with Bush's life in his hands shouted."Now English dog, I will send you to Kali's embrace!"

Holy God! Bush's mind reeled. Did he just say Kali?... During his early service Bush had met the odd man or two who'd served in India. The older ones had stories of a 'cult' that struck fear into the heart of all India. Stories of the dark deeds and purpose of a 'cult' of murderers and theives whispered around campfires and villages. Largely ignored by the authorities as a myth or merely brigands taking advantage of that myth. Pindari... Thugees!... Dear god in heaven! He thought, I'm a dead man. He prayed for a miracle... And got it..

"STOP!" Liberty Jack shouted from across the room.

"What?!" Bharat looked at Jack in confusion. Bharat stopped just before pulling the scarf back and breaking the Englishman's neck.

"Let him go."

"Sahib?!..."

"I said let him go!"

Suddenly Bush could breathe again. He gasped for air, and coughed. Liberty Jack raced to his side.

"Robert Moon?..." Simpson reached out with his left hand and put it gently under Bush's chin. He lifted his prisoner's head, "Yes... it is you.... It Is You! Your not dead!" Donovan Simpson was overjoyed. "All these years I've thought you were... And by my own hand!" Jack moaned and then he went on the defence,"Due to terrible misinformation, I assure you! Randal thought the man who betrayed me to the Captain was you... You were a somewhat ambitious fellow, after all... And Randal never did like you... But I should have known better." He moaned, "You must accept my apologies concerning that... most unfortunate incident... As it was, it turned out to be that damned gunner Hobbs. The man I trusted above all others... Here I thought I had complete control over him..." Bush was trying to get the gist of what the lunatic before him was saying. It was nearly impossible."You do forgive me, don't you?" The madman seemed to grow agitated when Bush did not respond immediately to this. Jack's teeth gnashed together, a kind of fury overtook his eyes and his grip on his prisoner's chin moved to his throat. Bush found himself unable to breathe let alone speak."You do forgive me... Don't you?!" The scythe moved dangerously close to the Lieutenant's nose. "DON"T YOU?!"

"Yag- Gack! "Bush coughed and the maniac's iron grip loosened.

"What was that, Mr. Moon?" Simpson removed the hand altogether.

"Yes, I (Cough!) Forgive you. Of course I do... (Gasp) Simply a misunderstanding." Bush spoke earnestly, if only to get this madman out of his face. Not to mention the fact the fellow was clearly mistaking him for someone else... An opportunity perhaps?.. It would be akin to walking on eggshells. But what choice did he have?... He saw the tall eastern man standing beside the Pirate Captain, glaring at him... Crimson scarf still in hand. Lieutenant Bush made up his mind. It was worth a try. " Clearly you were not to blame, sir. It was all just a terrible mistake..."

"Ahhh... Mr. Moon," Jack regained his composure,"Your too generous, my friend..." He removed the scythe from it's threatening position, and stood up. "You have done my conscience much good today. How might I return the favor?"

"Well... for starters..." Bush glanced to the two black clad warriors that held him tight.

"Of course..." Jack said with a smile, and snapped his fingers. The men let the second lieutenant go. Simpson helped Bush up by the arm. Water dripped from the lieutenant's sleeve where the . "Oh dear... You really are soaked through." Jack commented, then shouted to his servants," Don't just stand there! Hot water! Clean Linen! Get this man some dry clothes! Bring him some breakfast!..." He smiled at Bush, handing him off to the women."You must be famished." The men scrambled for the requested items. The women started pulling off Bush's wet clothes and despite his best efforts to prevent it, in moments they had him stripped down and started washing every inch of him.

"Please, that's enough..." Lieutenant Bush protested and even tried to get away... It was no use. They held him tight over a hammock. "No! Not there!... Aghh...ha-ha-ha- he-he-wah-ha-ha!" Bush tried desperately to pull his feet away from them, but it was no good. Jack's servants were thorough and persistent. They also knew their Captain would most likely kill them if they missed any detail. "Ah-ha-ha-he- For-- ha--woo-- the love of God-ha-ha-ha- STOP! Gasp..."

"Realy, Mr. Moon... "Simpson chuckled," You'd think they were killing you..."

"Ah-ha-ha- Gasp! Damn near... Aggh..." Bush drew in a few breaths as the women finnished his bath. As he regained his composure, the servants dried him off and dressed him in fresh clothes. Really it was all too much. "Thank you ladies... That... That will do." Bush looked up and saw Simpson turn to one of the Lightning guardsmen.

"Chalk... Give me your pelisse." Simpson commanded. The man looked with surprise at his Captain. He hesitated only a second before putting his volley gun down and removing his fur trimmed, gold laced, blue jacket. "Thank you, Lieutenant." Simpson took it from him and draped it over Bush's shoulders. "There..." He said with pride.
"Now you are back where you belong...At my side, amoung my handpicked and most Loyal men."

"Th-thank you." Bush replied. A servant pulled out a chair and Liberty Jack helped Bush to it. A tray was brought in with a full breakfast... Bush just stared at it suspiciously.

"Go ahead... It's not poisoned." Simpson picked up a fork and knife, cut away a piece of sausage and ate it. "See..." Jack sat in his own chair, which his servants set back on it's legs. He took a long sip from his coffe cup. "Ahhhh! Much better." He started eating his own breakfast. Hunger overtook Mr. Bush... and it seemed safe enough, so he dug in. He also reasoned that keeping food in his mouth might keep his foot out of it. As he ate, the Pirate Captain explained a few thing to him."You must be certain to always call me Liberty Jack, or Captain Jack in front of the men. I no longer go by the name Donovan Simpson. Not publicly, anyway." Bush smiled and nodded. Go on, Bush thought (But dared not say aloud) At least now I know who you are... Tell me more. Simpson finished his egg. "You know," He said between mouthfuls, "You never were conditioned like the others. I'll have to give you a little test to prove your loyalty and devotion to me.... (munch). Before letting you become a full member of my personal guard."

"Stands to reason..." Bush said, not at all certain he liked where this might lead... And what the hell did this lunatic mean by conditioning? He dared not ask though. It was clear enough he was supposed to know.

"Nothing too difficult..." Simpson skewered a piece of toast on his scythe. "A tiffle realy." He started speading some jelly on it with his knife. Jack held the crust with his finger tips and wrenched the scythe up. Neatly cutting the toast into two pieces. "I need you to take care of Mr. Hobbs for me."

"I...uh..." Bush didn't know what to say to that. For one thing, he thought the gunner had been killed in action, and second he knew he couldn't... wouldn't butcher the man in cold blood... As he assumed this murderous pirate wished.

"Bharat, please bring in Mr. Hobbs." Jack ordered.

"With pleasure, Sahib." Bharat smiled, then motioned for his men to follow him.

"How is Mr. Hobbs?" Bush asked... Fearing the worst. Perhaps if the man wasn't too injured, together they might... Might what? Bush scolded himself. There's nothing they can do at the momment... Not a damned thing.

"How kind of yu to ask. Mr. Hobbs should be fine. He's been in his cage all night though, so watch yourself. He's bound to be a little grumpy." Jack grinned.

"I see..." Bush said quietly. He was trying his best to sound calm, and he returned Jack's smile. Lieutenant Bush was just finishing his coffee when the three black clad men returned.

"Ah good, set Mr. Hobbs on the table if you please." Jack shoved the sea chest off the table to make room. Bharat's two henchmen strained every muscle as they carried something heavy between them. A piece of blue silk was draped over it. Bush's jaw dropped. Oh my god! He nearly said aloud as his mind took in the size and the dimensions of the object before him. What have they done to the man?! If this was his cage?... God no... It was far too small to possibly fit the gunner's six foot plus frame into it without making some serious and permanent alterations to the man's anatomy. He looked from the 'cage' to Jack. What kind of fiend could do such a thing? Bharat's men hefted the heavy cage onto the table. "Are you awake yet Mr. Hobbs?" Jack asked as he tapped the cage with his scythe. There was a strained squawk from the behind the silk.

"Dear god!" Bush couldn't stand it anymore,"He- he's still Alive!.." The coffee cup dropped from his trembling fingers.

"Yes..." Jack confirmed,"I should hope so... I'd be a might bit upset if he were not." Jack said cheerfully as he removed the silk cover. "Good morning Mr. Hobbs."

"Awk! Mornin' Jack." Mr. Hobbs greeted his master then whistled. Bush was half relieved and half in shock, as he stared slack- jawed at the brightly plumed parrot in the golden cage. A parrot named after the gunner... In a solid gold cage.

"Whatever is the matter Mr. Moon?" Jack asked."Have you never seen a parrot before?" Bush still just starred, and blinked. "Well, no matter. My Bosun, Bharat can instruct you till your a little more knowledgeable." Jack opened the cage door and put his left hand in. Mr. Hobbs obliged by stepping onto his forearm and holding fast. Jack carefully drew Mr. Hobbs out of the cage.

"It would be my pleasure, Sahib." Bharat bowed, hands together again as if in prayer.

"No... No, you don't need to trouble yourself." Bush protested.

"No trouble at all, my friend." The easterner smiled. Bush gulped, as a squawk from Mr. Hobbs stole his attention. Jack was feeding him a bit of crust.

"Who's a pretty boy?" Jack asked.

"Awk! Jack's a petty boy. Pretty boy. Awk!"

"Who's a naughty boy?"

"Hobbs is a naughty boy. Awk!" (Whistles)

"Yes, he certainly is..." Jack cooed and gave the parrot another bit of crust. Bush shook his head...The lunatic was carrying on a conversation with a bloody bird...

"Mr. Moon," Jack turned and saw the look Bush was giving him... He didn't seem pleased, and Bush quickly turned it into a smile." You like him then?" Simpson grinned. Bush hesitantly nodded. "Good. He's going to be your responsibility for a while." Jack nodded to Bharat and his men. They had quietly come up behind Lieutenant Bush. In an instant they grabbed him, and held him fast. Bharat rolled up the sleeve on Bush's left arm and clapped a guilded steel bracelet there. He used a special key to adjust it's size to a perfect fit and put the key back in a pouch that hung around his neck. A thin, but strong, gold plated chain was attached to the bracelet. It was nearly three feet in length, and the other end was attaced to a golden ring on the parrot's right leg. Bharat rolled Bush's sleeve back down, and his men let him go. Furious, Bush got up out of his chair, and spun about to face them.

"Squaaaaaawk!" Mr. Hobbs went along for the ride. Since his chain was attached to Bush's left arm, the bird flew through the air in a swift, but less than graceful arc.
Mr. Hobbs inadvertently smacked one of Bharat's men in the face. The man cursed and drew his dagger. The parrot finished it's flight by landing in Jack's breakfast.

"You!" The angry voice was Simpson's... A strong hand grabbed Mr. Bush from behind and bent him backward over the table and the scythe came down over Bush's neck and bit into the table. Fortunately it was the inner edge which arched away. So it did not slice Bush's neck, but merely pinned him neatly to the table. Four volley guns were instantly in the Lieutenant's face. As well as the Thug's blades. Jack drew his sword, and put it's edge against Bush's throat, "If Mr. Hobbs dies... You die!" Jack threatened. Bush turned his head as far as he could and looked at the parrot. It lay on it's back on Jack's plate with it's beak open and it's little legs sticking up in the air. He reached back with his right hand and touched it. Mr. Hobbs did not stir. Oh God....

"C'mon little fellow..." Bush poked the bird gently with his finger... "Your alright..." It still didn't move. The blades pressed closer.... "Come on you little bastard!" Bush prodded the bird with greater urgency. There was a cough, as a little bit of toast poped out of the bird's beak... followed by a somewhat feeble squawk. The little bugger rolled over onto it's claws, gasped a couple times and started preening it's now rather messy plumage. Bush exhaled, and relaxed. "There you go. Your alright now." Bush muttered. The bird noticed it's saviors finger... And bit it. "Aghh!" The little devil went for his face, but he got his hand up in time to take the brunt of it. "For god's sake! Let me up!" The weapons were withdrawn. As was the scythe, with some effort.

"Well done Mr. Moon." Jack helped him up and hugged him."You've certainly shown that your able to care for Mr. Hobbs."

"Awk-- Gack! Take care of Mr. Hobbs!" The bird squawked, then whistled.

"Well done indeed." Jack picked the parrot up and put him on Bush's arm. Mr. Hobbs clung there, and continued to clean his bright plumage. God, Bush thought. The man's moods change at a moments notice, Bush reconsidered... No, I take that back... They change without ANY notice. And that bird... God! Bush fumed... I'm going to kill that bird, first chance I --"But remember this..." Liberty Jack's warning cut short that thought," Whatever happens to that bird, happens to you. You have my word on that."

"What happens to me. Awk!... Happens to you. Squawk!" Mr. Hobbs had said this to many would be keepers. Now he had a new one.

"Now that breakfast is finnished," Jack picked up the sketches belonging to the parrot's namesake, "I suggest we go have a look at the captured officers. Sound good to you?" He did not wait for Bush's response but put his left arm around him and led him out of the wardroom. Mr. Hobbs climed up to Bush's shoulder,and started tugging at the Lieutenant's pony tail (queue). Bush grit his teeth and tried to ignore it. The other men followed them into the sunlight. Bush squinted in the bright light. He had been unconscious when they had brought him in and hadn't seen the work being done on deck. He was shocked and amazed by what he saw. The whole upper deck was being modified, by very busy men, and women!... They were attaching something onto the deck and sides... Was that steel plate? Each piece seemed to fit and lock into place... Perfecty. There were boxes everywhere... Then he saw it... A large metal object being bolted down amidships. The jollyboats which had previously taken up that space had been removed and hung over the sides of the ship. This thing... looked like an enormous metal matchbox with a number of holes in it... No, Bush corrected his assesment as the thing turned slightly, granting a slightly different view... There were pipes running through it. A metal tail, like a squared off stovepipe of some sort was attached to it. It was set behind the pipes on one end. This 'tail'... could be raised or lowered at will. When raised it allowed the device to swivel. When lowered, the very end of the tail extended several feet beyond the ships rail. "The work is moving along well indeed, Bharat."

"Yes, Sahib." The bosun agreed."Schmitt assures me the device will be operational by the afternoon. She wishes to speak with you... Concerning her husband."

"Hmmm... Not surprising. For now let her finish her task. If we're lucky, something may come along that we can test Bretagne's little toy upon. If not, we'll test it on what's left of La Peste." Jack said with a smug grin. (La Peste is Jack's heavily damaged fast sloop).

"Test what?" Bush asked...

"I'll tell you later..." Jack almost laughed.

"Awk! Tell you later.."

"Come along now." Jack led them to the doors of the Captain's cabin. Two more Lightning guardsmen were there. One of them, a dark haired fellow who's jacket had gold trim like the one Bush had been given, saluted Jack and handed him a sheet of paper.

"List of the prisoners, Sir."

"Thank you Mr. Decker." Jack glanced at the list, nodded and handed it to Bharat. The Bosun briefly noted it's contents as well, then rolled it up and tucked it inside his robes. "Well, open the doors. I'm sure they're just dying to meet me..."

"Aye, Captain." Decker unlocked the doors. Bharat's men pushed them open. The six men with volley gun's strode in... The huge weapons at the ready. Two of them pulled back their gun's master triggers... Five barrels in each gun, ready to go off, if the prisoners so much as twitched the wrong way. Then Bharat and his men entered. At last Jack entered the great cabin, with Bush and the parrot in tow. Bush's heart leapt as he took in the scene. In the room were a number of prisoners. But only five... He knew what had happened to Mr. Hornblower... But the others? The midshipmen? The Warrant and Petty officers... Perhaps they were kept with the men?... What of Mr. Kennedy? The second lieutenant's heart sank... If Mr. Kennedy wasn't here, then there was only one answer... He fought back the anger... The grief... and turned his attention back to the living. The prisoners. Among them were the Captain of the Renown's marine guard, three midshipmen, including Mr. Wellard, and Mr. Buckland, the Renown's First Lieutenant who was still unconscious. The Marine Captain was badly wounded. Though the bandages he wore would indicate that he had been seen by a doctor. Well, that was something. Bush wished he could remember the man's name. Wellard too had been treated. A bandage around his forehead attested to that. Each of them wore a pair of shackles that chained their wrists together. Other than that they seemed free to move about.

"Here are the remaining officers of the Renown, Sir." Decker nodded to the sorry looking group. 'I did what I could for their injuries."

"I think he is comming around, Sahib." Bharat and his men picked up the First Lieutenant and stood him on his feet. "Let us see if we can speed him along." The bosun's two mates supported Buckland's weight. Each with an arm around his. Bharat removed a small bottle out of a pouch on his belt. Took the stopper off and pulled out his dagger. The point of his blade he placed over the lieutenant's heart... the bottle went under his nose. As this was going on the other Renown's looked to Mr. Bush. Most of them knew enough to keep quiet, but young Wellard looked as if he was about to speak. Bush put his finger to his mouth. A silent 'Shush' that he hoped the lad understood. The Marine Captain nodded... and the older midshipmen seemed to get the gist of it. Buckland seemed to stir, as Bharat passed the smelling salts back and forth under the lieutenant's nostrils.

"Ah!" Captain Jack began... Bush looked nervously to the Pirate Captain. It was clear he was growing impatient waiting for Buckland to wake up." Yawn! I grow tired of waiting. What a sorry lot of lubbers... What do you think we should do with them Mr. Hobbs?"

"Awk! Kill 'em all ! Kill 'em all !"

"You heard him boys..." Simpson's voice was cold as ice, and his men readied their guns." Kill 'em all..." Dear God, thought Bush... What can I do?

 

~Bush~

 

Wellard was still poised over the unconscious Lieutenant Buckland when the cabin door flew open. He backed up, returning to his crouched position in the corner as the pirate captain surveyed his prisoners. The ominous fleet of guards caused Wellard to remain composed, but he almost abandoned his calm dignity when he saw that followed the Buckers.

Lieutenant Bush! Had they captured him as well? The man was not bound or chained as the other prisoners were. Instead, a golden perch was clasped to his arm, and Wellard noticed - with a hint of amusement - that a brightly-coloured mackaw was chained to the perch, causing Mr. Bush much discomfort.

Wellard opened his mouth to question the man but was firmly silenced by Bush's warning expression. He knew better than to disobey a commanding officer, even under the circumstances. As a prisoner, he held no real title. He did not want Mr. Bush to undergo the same fate at his hand.

But now the men were readying their guns at the scythe-handed man's command, and all Wellard could do was glance about the room for any possibile means of escape. Nothing. The pirates were guarding the entrance. But where did Bush fit into all of this? Did he plan on deceiving the vengeful captain and his Buckers? Did they not recognize him as an officer of the Renown? Wellard had many questions to ask, but his first and foremost priority was defending himself from these pirates. Frantically, he looked towards Bush, expecting him to make the first move, if possible.

 

 

~Wellard~

LOCATION: La Mort
TIME/DATE: Night, Jan 24th, 1802

 

(Aboard La Mort: Captain's cabin)

"Mr. Bracegirdle!! " Pellew shouted back, then swore as he and the Panther became entangled, crashing back and forth between the walls of the narrow chute. As they tumbled down, he tried to push away from it, but Rakshasha's paw struck him across the head before he had a chance. The cat's powerful blow left him reeling. Being in such close proximity to the angry cat and not having anywhere to go, made Pellew feel as if his stomach had moved into his throat, although he would of course, maintain his composure. He kicked out at the cat, hoping to slam him into the wall before Rakashasha could take his claws to him. It wasn't neccesary though, for before there was a chance they hit the bilge. Rakashasha let out a loud screech of panic, and began to splashing about, yowling it's dislike of water, sewage, and floating skeletons. Pellew surfaced and stayed as still as possible, wearing an expression of absolute disgust. "God, give me strength... " He muttered, hoping that the cat would remain preoccupied and that he himself would come out of this only a little worse for wear.

~Sir Edward~

 

 

"Bloody 'ell..." Oldroyd murmured. "Sir...Is'll go after 'im, sir. " He volunteered, backing slowly out of the cabin. Oldroyd
pushed the blades of his saber back together with the panzer-hand (Armored gauntlet), waiting for Bracegirdle to give the ok. 'Mebbe' he thought to himself, 'Is'll find that Froggy officer whot sprayed this here nasty stuff at me. '

How hard could it be to go straight down one deck and find Commodore Pellew? Oldroyd had a sneaking suspicion that the galley was also one deck down. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had anything to eat...days, easily, slaves weren't fed well. Sept'n for the scraps Bretagne brought 'em. Oldroyd's fingers tightened against the door frame as he waited for Bracegirdle to issue an order.

~Oldroyd~

 

Doctor Alexandre du Bretagne could see that Bracegirdle had discovered Jack's map of La Mort, and the ship's log... And so now the game begins... He brought the lantern close so that Bracegirdle might see the map clearer and the Doctor himself... Bracegirdle had shouted at him as if he were some stranger... The man was clearly upset by the unfolding events though, and could hardly be blamed.

"Ah, Commander Bracegirdle, my friend," He began," Bon!...That is a find, indeed. With that we may navigate the decks and passages of this ship... Provided as you say, the map is not false." A key fell from the book as they set the tome aside. It was small and easily fit into the large drawer. Bretagne and Bracegirdle both exchanged worried glances, neither dared to open the drawer. "Whatever is in there will still be there after we have rescued the Commodore, Qui?" Bracegirdle nodded his agreement.

Alexandre pointed to the pit trap. "An angled shute there leads to the bilge. The darkest depths of the ship. Normally an unnerving, but non lethal journey... However, Sir Edward is not alone down there. That beast is with him." He handed the ship's log to the Duchess," Might I suggest that one of these brave men," He gestured to Oldroyd's band, " escort her Grace to the safety of the deck, and that we place a man here to make sure this drawer remains as it is. As for the rest of us..." Here he limped (I remembered his bum leg finally, LOL.) over to a ridiculous portrait of Napoleon on the wall, pushed it aside and pulled a switch behind it. The trapdoor opened and locked in place.
He sharply turned to face the rest of the party. "I suggest we take the direct route." He readied another bolt on the minature crossbow secured to his left arm... Twang-Thup! He shot it into a supporting beam overhead. The bolt had a cable attached connecting it to the tiny crossbow.

"I will send the bow back up for the next man... " With that, Dr. Bretagne stepped over the edge, and descended into darkness... Half a minute passed... Then the crossbow alone rose back up through the trapdoor.

"Cor, I think I love that bloody frog... " One of Oldroyld's party piped up.

"Aye, he's the only decent thing about this bloody ship." Another man agreed and stepped to the bow. He still had to follow his commander's orders though... "Sir?..." They all awaited Commander Bracegirdle's orders....

~Dr. Bretagne~

 

"Go, Oldroyd," Bracegirdle ordered. "Follow the Doctor. You men follow Oldroyd. I'll bring up the rear." It wasn't that he was scared to go down the trap door (quite the oposite, in fact. He would have dove head first down that hole if Bretagne hadn't started speaking). But Bracegirdle still needed time to recall Bretagne. He did remember him, but the memories were fuzzy and fragmented. It was most likely as side effect of the stress of the situation. Bracegirdle consoled himself that he did remember Bretagne, that he had been a good friend, and that any other doubts were just his imagination messing with his mind. Bracegirdle took a last breath of relatively clean air and grabbed the crossbow, descending into the darkness of the pit.

~ Bracegirdle~

(La Mort: 2nd Gundeck, Clive's temporary sickbay)

Swirling lights. Flashes here and there- reds, yellows, oranges. Mingled together, new patterns created only to be ripped apart and formed again. All against the backdrop of inky blackness. Noises, noises pricked at the mind, distracting, pulling up and pushing away. Shouting voices at a distance, soft ones nearby. All this rode undulating on waves of indistinct pain. Phantom pain; there, but barely. The darkness was more peaceful, much more pacifying. But there was that voice, an irritating buzzing that poked holes in the unconscious comfort of a dreamless sleep. Sawyer tried brushing it away, but it demanded more from him than a passing recognition. He didn't want to listen to it, didn't want to obey. Better to remain there in the cozy darkness. It had to be obeyed. Focusing on the sounds brought the pain to the forefront, and suddenly the mind was pulled into reality. His shoulder was on fire. Agony coursed up and down the length of his body, burning, devouring. There was someone next to him. Who? With excrutiating slowness the eyelids opened to reveal the figure, tall, fatigued visage. Who was that?

~Sawyer~
LOCATION: La Mort
TIME/DATE: Night, Jan 24th, 1802

 

(Aboard La Mort: Upper deck)

Horatio felt himself pale. Simpson...the word alone was still enough to send involuntary shivers down his spine. He licked his lips and for once, was grateful Archie was not there..if he had heard this...

Archie? Wasn't he captured? Then, surely, he already knew! Horatio was filled with fear and dread for his friend.

"Simpson?" Hornblower echoed, almost hoping his ears had deceived him. "Good God...how could one be worse than Jack? I don't see...." Horatio shook his head incrediously. "What would lead a man to such evil?" A thought occured. "And you, sir? And Her Grace...and Captain Pellew? How are they? Are they unchained?"

Yes...Captain Pellew, his beloved Captain...nearly a father to him. And Her Grace...who really wasn't a Duchess, but yet, it seemed so natural to call her such.

~Horatio~

 

"I don't know, sir." Bowles began," The Commodore, Duchess and Mr. Bracegirdle are somewhere below decks. I'm not certain what their condition is. I dearly hope Oldroyd's party or Doctor Betagne can find them before something terrible happens. We also have a French Colonel running around loose somewhere. Colonel de Vergesse I think... Yes that was the name." He paused giving Mr. Hornblower a chance to take it all in. Suddenly a man climbed up from the very same hatch that Mr. Bowles had ealier prevented Mr. Honblower, Mathews and Styles from going down. He held another man, injured obviously, under his arms. The injured man clutched at his left leg and screamed in pain. Bowles's heart lept onto his throat. The injured man was Luthor... "Dear God no..." Bowles raced to the young man's side and held him in his arms. He checked the poor lad's leg. It was badly swollen, but the wound... where?... Then he saw it. A pair of tiny puncture wounds. He looked to the man who brought Luthor up.

"Cobra, sir..." The man explained,"We found the Commodore, Mr. Bracegirdle and the Duchess, sir. The Duchess opened a drawer by accident and two of the blasted things came out. Luthor an I ran, sir. He got bit, sir... Oh, sir, It's all my fault!" The man lamented. Luthor's screams had quieted and now he was shaking. He didn't seem to be aware of anything around him.

"Where's Dr. Bretagne?!" Bowles yelled at the man.

"I don't know, sir... He wasn't there. I'm sorry..."

"Damn!" Bowles picked young Luthor up. He spared a worried glance to Mr. Hornblower, then started down the set of stairs which led to the second Gun deck. Their 'safe' deck. Dr. Clive had set up his makeshift sickbay there.

"Dr. Clive, sir..." He waited for the Doctor to respond as tears streamed down his cheeks. He couldn't hide those tears... not even from the young midshipman who stood up as he brought Luthor down. Bowles put the young man on the blanket the midshipman offered. The man was shaking so badly now. Bowles felt utterly and totally helpless, "What am I going to tell your mother?..."

"It's my fault, sir..." The crewman who had carried Luthor up said to Hornblower and his group. He noticed Hornblower and the other's staring after Mr. Bowles and his charge... "It's his nephew, sir..." The man turned sharply and headed back for the hatch and stairs he'd just discovered. "I have to find Dr. Bretagne." He paused there, glanced briefly at the men around him ... "God. I wish I didn't have to go back down. Not alone anyway..."

~Bowles and Unknown crewman~

 

(La Mort: 2nd Gundeck, Clive's temporary sickbay)

Clive had wrapped Capt. Sawyer's shoulder and immobilized his arm with a makeshift splint. Now he prepared a sling, using old sailcloth. Sawyer's breathing and pulse were stable. Occasionally, he murmured softly, but Clive could not pick up his words. He was definitely worried about the wound itself- even though the bleeding
had stopped,the surrounding tissue was still red and inflammed. More injured men were brought to him, and Clive quickly attended to each, attempting to patch up their wounds. A few were just beyond repair though, entire legs and arms torn off, and the poor fellows bled to death on the deck. Clive desperately wished Dr. Bretagne was
here, he most certainly needed his assistance... A man in a Master's uniform approached him, carrying a juvenile in his arms. Clive was just about to tell him to wait his turn, there were others requiring his attention, but the look on the man's face stopped him cold. The lad in his arms was deathly pale. Clive gently lowered the boy down and checked his pulses...too slow, too weak, his heart was barely beating. Clive asked the man, Mr. Bowles, what had happened....

 

~Dr. Clive~

 

Katherine Kenyon was getting impatient. And she couldn't do anything about it. Her head hurt worse than ever, blood was still pouring from the scalp wound, and she felt as if she was going to faint again. Who knows what she might say then? She couldn't see Doctor Clive anywhere. Was she even waiting in the right place? Yes, for there were countless dead and wounded around her waiting for the Doctor's attentions. At this point she felt like she was going to die before Clive even got around to her. At this point, that didn't sound so bad...

And where was Horatio? She had been tracking him about the deck, watched the reunion with the ship's master, but she had lost sight of him after awhile. She had to talk with him. His words had been so few, either from the situation or the shock. What had been going through his head?

God, her head hurt! It was becoming painful even to think! Where was that doctor? Katherine lay down on the deck and closed her eyes, trying to ignore the intense pain.

~ Midshipman Katherine Kenyon~

 

 

(Captain's Cabin: Time change: Midnight: Figured it would be a good time alteration for this scene of AJ's... Brrrrr.... Scary.)

 

Everyone was gone...*

*Well, everyone except herself, a couple of freed marines, and a couple of dead cobras. And she thought she had seen a rat in a corner, but that could have been anything - absolutely anything*

*Kitty's heart rate was slowly coming down as she convinced herself that the cobras were dead, they were no longer trying to go up her petticoats... and that the apron looked good on her. Truly, two out of three wasn't bad.*

*Since she was now alone - mostly - and Kitty really did not feel like running about the ship, she began to look at the room with a keen eye. Her gaze fell once more upon the now cobra-free desk and a sparkle caught her eye. It was the key she had seen earlier, right before the ruddy snakes had lept out. In all the action she had forgotten it. But now, her curiousity nearly overpowering all common sense, she grabbed the key, pulling her hand from the drawer as swiftly as she could. It was an odd looking key, the handle very ornate, though the design was somewhat worrying; it looked like a man with half his face eaten away. Gads, but this Simpson was a morbid madman - why couldn't he just think he was Napoleon or the King of England?*

*Now, where did this key go? Ahhhh, yes, the locked drawer. Though Kitty was highly curious, she was also very wary now of anything on this death trap of a ship. So, figuring that another lovely creature or creatures could be secreted in the target drawer she called one of the redcoats over, "Sir, I think this key may open this drawer... But..."

"But you do not wish to have anything else crawl up your skirts?" The man stated, eyebrow raised.

"Yes, that would about cover it. So, since you have a sword and a pistol... could you?" She handed him the key which he took easily enough. He beckoned his fellow marine over, making sure his flintlock was aimed at the drawer before inserting the key. It turned almost of its own accord, giving a knowing person the chance to move aside, which sadly the marine did not. Two seconds later the drawer sprung open and something - a liquid - sprayed forth, hitting the man in the lower half of his face and throat. For a moment everyone froze. And in this silence a hissing, very slight, was heard before the marine began to scream.

*It was a horrid sound, high and keening as he threw himself backwards, his hands clawing wildly at his face. But as the acid, for that's what it was, began to eat away at the soft tissues, it became a gargled cry, bubbling up through a lipless mouth... Kitty turned away, her face pale, her hand to her own mouth, trying to keep herself from vomiting. Though the sound and the man's thrashings seem to go on forever, it was less than a minute before he was dead.

"Holy mother of..." The other marine stared at his companion, eyes wide with horror. He had seen much in his time, but this... good god. With a trembling hand his pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and fighting back the urge to gag, laid the material across the dead man's face. It sagged sickeningly where the acid had eaten flesh and bone, but it hid the sight from one's eyes*

"I'm so sorry..." Was that moan her own voice? Kitty wondered. "I didn't know, I never thought - The key..."

"It's alright, Your Grace, it's over, there's nothing you could have done. Twasn't as if you forced him to it." The marine was surprised that a Duchess could weep for a common soldier, but that was what the woman before him was doing, "Now, shall we see what is so important that it was hidden behind such a weapon as this?"

"What? Yes, oh yes... we should..." Both approached the desk with caution, coming at the drawer from the side. The marine nudged the drawer with his sword, checking for anymore booby-traps, but nothing happened. Kitty peered in, standing on her tiptoes so as to stay as far back as possible. In the recessed drawer, next to the tube which must have held the acid, lay a book upon who's cover was emblazened "Ship's Log".

"Good god... all this for a book?" Then Kitty realized that within the log lay the Captain's thoughts and observations about his ship. Her hands surprisingly steady, Kitty lifted the book from its resting place, opened it away from her - she was learning - waited for a moment before flipping it so she could read, and then began to scan it. For if this was the ship's log... What was he true nature of the book found earlier... And the map within it?

~Kitty~

LOCATION: La Guerre / Vrai Courage (Ship's name changes during a big speach.)
TIME/DATE: Night, Jan 24th, 1802

(Location: Frigate La Guerre: Quarterdeck)

Lucille du Paix watched the Renown carefully for any sign that she would give chase... Thankfully it would appear Liberty Jack was not coming after them tonight. Her Ship's Master, a barrel chested, powerful man called Paul l' Ours (Paul the Bear) addressed her.

"Remercier dieu, il ne vient pas apre's nous." ( Thank god, he's not coming after us.) Paul turned to her, but kept his hands firmly on the wheel.

"Tres bon, Paul." She nodded her agreement.

"Ordres, mon Capitaine?"

"La voile de marque pour Petit Tortuga." (Make sail for Little Tortuga.)

"Petit Tortuga?!" Paul began,"Porquoi le risquer? Nous avons la clef. Il y aura l'ennu assez sur l'ile... Pourquoi chercher plus?" (Why risk it? We have the key. There will be trouble enough on the island. Why look for more?)

She was aware that Jack knew this is where she would turn... She knew about his his lethal traps that guarded his treasure... Even with the key... Only Jack, Dr. Bretagne and an engineer named Giovanni Vestini knew the secrets to those traps. Jack and Bretagne would surely not volunteer that information... But under the right circumstances, Vestini would, she hoped.... She wished she could return the treasure to France where it belonged... However it was likely now that she'd be the one branded a traitor. Well, there was only one answer. Retirement... And with enough wealth to never have a care in the world. There would still be plenty to pay her crew well enough for them to all live like kings. However, they would need to survive, Jack's traps, fleet, Bucker's, Lighting Guard, uncounted Allies, advanced weaponry and Jack himself. Well... Lucille smiled... No problen. She loved a challenge.

"Esos son mis ordres, Paul. Explicare' luego." (Those are my orders, Paul. I will explain later.)

"Qui mon Capitaine." He turned the wheel," "Le sud-ouest un ouest de quart." (Southwest, a quarter west.)

Lucille became aware of a bit of a commotion on her main deck. She stepped to the quarterdeck's forward rail. Her remaining men were crowded around the Englishmen, pushing each other to get a look. Lieutenant Kennedy and the boy were kneeling beside the one called Hobbs, and Jack's former lieutenant's Hether and Cleveland were standing nearby. Her men were muttering amoungst themselves.

"Je ne peux pas croire que quelqu'un ait tue' Dunti!" (I can't believe that someone has killed Dunti!)

"Il i'etait." One pointed to Hobbs, "Je l'ai vu avec mes pro pres yeux!" (It was him. I saw it with my own eyes.)

"Qui l'est?" (Who is he?)

"Je ne sais pas. Le Capitaine nous dira quand elle est prete." (I don't know. The Captain will tell us when she's ready.) There was some general muttering that no one could have killed the giant when Lucille cleared her throat and held Dunti's sword over her head. It flashed, brightly for a second.

"Il doit etre vrai. Le Capitaine a l' epee de Dunti!" They noticed her at the rail, Dunti's sword in hand. (It must be true. The Captain has Dunti's sword!)

"Nous sommes tous hommes riches!" A man cheered. He was not alone. (We're all rich men!)

"Est-ce que vous Eta fache?!" Another man pushed him and shouted, "Ell nous est tue's tout!" (Are you mad?! She's killed us all!)

At this remark Lucille threw Dunti's scimitar. It landed, blade first into the deck at the feet of the man who had just spoken... Now all was silent, save the sound of the rain on the deck.

~Lucille du Paix~

 

(NOTE: AJ and I wrote this together. We were inspired by the scene from the 4ht movie with Charette's speach accompanied by Horatio's translation. Hope you like it. Translation by Archie Kenney and www.feetranslation.com ... Try the site out if you haven't already... It's great. Don't know how accurate it is... But we like it.)

(La Guerre/Vrai Courage: Night, Jan 24th, 1802)

 

Kenny was still beside Mr. Hobbs and Mr. Kennedy. The men who rescued him (Hether and Cleveland) stood close. "What are they saying, sir?" Kenny asked. Mr. Kennedy translated for him. He explained the men were afraid and were uncertain what they should do.

"Mon camarades." Lucille addressed her crew. Her voice full of power and authority... And something more. "Mes amis. Est-ce que vous avez peur de Jacque? Il est un homme dangereux..." She withdrew Dunti's scimitar from the deck.

"My comrades." Kennedy translated. "My friends. Are you afraid of Jack? He is a dangerous man..." Archie could not translate that without shivering to his very bones. Another ruddy Simpson...

 

"Est-ce que vous avez peur de moi? Jacques est... Pour je suis une femme dangereuse." She paused for effect," Je ne veux pas que me vous suiviez parce que vous avez peur de moi... Cela est la facon de Jacque... Pas le mien."

"Are you afraid of me? Jack is... For I am a dangerous woman." This make Kenny shiver a bit... Or was it the cold and the rain? "I do not want you to follow me because you are afraid of me... That is Jack's way. Not mine." Kenny sighed with relief. Kennedy patted the boy on the head and pulled him closer into his side.

 

"Je vous demande maintenant, decider votre propre sort. Creux-la' qui ne souhaitent pas battre Jacque peut partir. Vous sera donne' un bateau, provisions et quell pice nous peut epargner pour vos besoins." Lucille offered.

"I ask you now, to decide your own fate. Those who do not wish to fight Jack may leave. You will be given a boat, supplies and what coin we can spare you for your needs."

"Je ne souhaiterais pas battre ou mourir dans la societe' de tels hommes." Here she stepped down from the quarterdeck and stood among them. The men parted to give her room. "Ceux-la' entre vous. Qui est des coeurs etes assez hardi pour rester, gagnera la plus grande recompense. Je ne parle pas de dore' horde... Que le plus certainment etre le notre si nous re'ussissons... Plutot, je parle brilliant flamme qui brule dans le coeur et ame de chaque homme avec vrai courage."

"I would not wish to fight or die in the company of such men." Kenny saw her walk toward his little group and Lieutenant Kennedy continued to whisper her words to him. "Those among you, who's hearts are bold enough to stay, shall gain the greatest reward. I speak not of any golden horde... That will most certainly be ours if we succeed... Instead, I speak of the bright flame that burns in the heart and soul of every man with true courage."

"Quelques hommes sont nes avec cela." Here she put her hand on Kenny's head and spared a glance for the unconscious Mr. Hobbs. Kenny smiled at her.

Some men are born with it." The translator faltered a bit as Lucille's hand left Kenny's head and touched his own shoulder. Kennedy found himself smiling at Lucille with much the same grin as Kenny. She had the natural leadership that he had seen so often in Horatio - though with a much nicer figure to look upon. Kennedy could not have stopped the blush if his life had depended on it.

 

"Quelques-uns doivent le gagner..." She looked squarely at Hether and Cleveland who looked slightly uncomfortable. Kenny gave his translator a puzzled look.

"Some must earn it..." Kennedy's translation continued. Kenny shrugged at that. They'd been pretty brave from what he'd seen.

"Mais tous hommes sont capables de cela. " She pronounced to the entire crew.

"But all men are capable of it. " Kennedy said as Lucille stepped up onto a nearby gun carriage. Two of her men were immediately by her side. They helped her keep her balance.

"Est-ce que vous les hommes ont le vrai courage?!" Lucille held Dunti's sword over her head. The men gave a thunderous positive response to her question.

"Do you men have true courage?" Kennedy translated. Kenny looked down and touched Mr. Hobbs' face. The rain had washed away a good deal of the blood... He didn't look so bad now.

"Est-ce que vous avez peur de Jacque maintenant?!" The men shouted 'Non!' to this. Even Hether got caught up in the surrounding enthusiasm and started cheering Lucille on. Cleveland rolled his eyes and slapped his palm to his forehead. Oh my god... he thought. They're all crazy... But he kept quiet.

"Are you afraid of Jack now?" Archie explained. Kenny understood and smiled at him...

"Alors qui est-ce qui navigue avec moi?!" This received overwhelming shouts of approval from the crew.

"Then who sails with me?" Kennedy grinned. She was a commanding figure...

"Je frai! Nous ferons! Je fais! Vive Capitaine du Paix! " (I will. We will! I do! Long live Captain du Paix) The response from the men was universal.

"They all will." Kennedy grinned. He was impressed. He had been correct in assuming she had had that flash of leadership which glowed in Horatio's eyes and those of his hero, Commodore Pellew. If only his father were here to see this; a woman leading men. No, perhaps that would not be a wise wish, his father would probably dismiss Lucille as a freak and Archie could not stand to hear such falsehoods. He had heard them about his sister Auriar, that she was too weak to choose her own future. But that was before... Kennedy stopped thinking of the past and focused back on Lucille and her men.

 

"Tres bien alors! Dorenavant ce bateau sera appele' le Vrai Courage!... Pour reflecter la nature hommes qui qui naviguent sur elle!" Lucille announced.

"Very well then. Henceforth this ship shall be called True Courage..." Kennedy leaned closer to Kenny so he could hear him over the cheers. " To reflect the nature of the men who sail upon her."

"Vive Lucille!" The men cheered. "Vive les combattants de le Vrai Courage!" (Long live Lucille! Long live the fighters of the True Courage!)

"Je remercie vous tout pour le courage et devouement vous a montre'!" Lucille held up a hand for quiet. "Avec votre force que j'ai sans aucun doute que nous serons vitorieux. Maintenant il y a beaucoup d' etre fait." At this the men put her on her feet. Some of the crewmen shouted their aproval and shook her hand, others embraced her outright. Then the men began to return to their duties, in much better spirits then they had felt in far too long..

"I thank you all for the courage and devotion you have shown..." Kennedy finnished translating for Kenny once the noise subsided enough for him to be heard. Lucille moved toward the little band of Englishmen and finished for herself.

"With your strength I have no doubt that we shall be victorious. Then I told them to get back to work and to look lively about it." Lucille winked at Kennedy concerning this second remark. She had actually finished simply by saying there was much work to be done. She turned to two of her men, and Paul, who had left the helm in another crewman's hands. "Le prendre au dessous a' la cabine malade." Lucille pointed to Hobbs."Lier le sier transmet derriere le sien le dos." The men picked up Hobbs. (Take him below to the sick berth. Tie his hands behind his back.) Kenny seemed worried. "It is alright little chere' we will not harm him. It is merely a precaution... Unlike Mr. Kennedy here, I do not as yet have this man's parole. The sick berth a far better place for him to heal than on this cold, wet deck. Is it not?"

"Quite right." Hether said, he put his hand on Kenny's shoulder." Keep a stiff upper lip lad. He'll be alright. Your in good hands here." Kenny let go of the gunner's hand and the men carried him below.

"Captain du Paix!" A boy's voice called out.

"Qui, Marcelle." Lucille turned. A boy, a little younger than Kenny came out from the great cabin. "Aucunes formalitites aucun jeune homme. Venir, donne un baiser a' votre mere." Lucille smiled and the boy raced to her arms. Kenny didn't need a translation for that. It was hard for him to watch... He couldn't do that again... Ever... His mother was gone. Lucille turned to Kenny and the Englishmen. "This is the ship's cabin boy and my son. His name is Marcelle. Marcelle, this is Mr. Kennedy and..."

"Kenneth, miss... uh Captain." He smiled, "But my friends call me Kenny.

Kennedy managed to bow and smile, though he was fighting something very akin to a sharp shock. Du Paix had a son? But then, mustn't there be a father? And if there was a father...

 

"Bonjour, Marcelle." Hether grinned, "Nous sommes revenus!" (We're back!) Marcelle waved hello.

Kenny gasped in shock as a small hairy form with a long tail, garish costume and a fez ran from the great cabin and leapt onto Lucille. It hugged her and chatted and screeched it's happiness and relief to see her unharmed. "Mon dieu!" Lucille cried out, then laughed. "So little one, you missed me too." The creature clung to his mistress like grim death, making a complete mess of her hair. "Marcelle... Rescue your mother." Lucille tried to peel the little creature from her head. Marcelle laughed and stepped back. He held up a piece of fruit. The hairy little thing lept from Lucille to the boy and snatched the morsel, which it happily devoured.

"A monkey!" Kenny exclaimed, "You have a monkey?!" He was excited. He'd seen pictures of them in books... Even read a little about them... But he never expected to see a real one.

Though Kennedy had only seen one monkey before and his child-like curiosity would usually have gotten the better of him, to Horatio's usual high amusement, his mind was occupied by other things. So, he left the fascination factor to Kenny, and drew himself up to his full height, trying to look every inch the stoic officer.

 

"Not the damned monkey...." Cleveland groaned." Keep that filthy little fiend away from me! The last time we were in close quarters it was throwing it's bloody table scraps at me."

"Those weren't table scraps..." Hether chuckled.

"Shut up, Hether." Cleveland fumed.

"Eeee-eee-oowahhh!" The monkey screeched and shook a fist at him.

"Why you little..." Cleveland began, but was cut off when the monkey responded by sticking it's tongue out and giving him the 'raspberry'. "That's it!..." He took a step toward the monkey. Hether stepped between them and gave his friend a warning look." Never mind..." Cleveland relented.

"It's your own fault." Lucille warned. "If you hadn't teased little Taboo so much the first few times you met, he wouldn't be like that with you. He thinks it's a game now. A joke."

"I'm not laughing..." Cleveland grumbled.

"Can I see him?" Kenny asked hesitantly.

"You can hold him." Marcelle said he handed Kenny a piece of fruit," Come Taboo. Regardez, look. We're not sure if he understands French more than English, or vice versa. He was taken from an English merchantman. "

Taboo noticed the fruit in Kenny's hand and leapt over to him. It happily took the piece he offered... Then started inspecting his hair for some reason... It seemed that was unfulfilling and it went back to the fruit. Kenny laughed... Truly and happily... He didn't know when he'd done that last...

"What poor manners Taboo..." Lucille scolded."Dire bonjour. Say hello." The monkey leapt to the deck, and turned to face them.

"Eeee-oooou." It plucked it's little fez off it's head, and bowed. After a second it replaced it's hat and leapt back to Marcelle chattering all the while.

"Now, Marcelle will prepare some quarters for you. The wardroom, I think Marcelle... We have few enough officers left to us at any rate... If you have any questions please direct them to Paul, Marcelle or myself for now. Paul l' Ours was the large man who helped carry your friend below. He is also my Ship's Master and Surgeon.

"Thank you very much, Captain." Kennedy nodded his thanks, but did not move.

"This way, monsieur's." Marcelle directed. Kenny followed obediently. So did Hether and Cleveland. Cleveland cursing now and then as Taboo made faces at him. Kenny got into the hammock he was shown and exhausted as he was, he fell fast asleep.

Longing to follow his men, Kennedy decided to stay up on deck instead, to get an idea of how this woman ran her ship. Already the men were hard at work, none shirking a single duty and happy to help each other. Though many a man shot a nasty look at the sailor who had at first spoken against their captain. But not one raised a hand against him, and Kennedy was impressed at the lack of starting. This was a finely tuned crew, one which he would be pleased to sail with. However, as his conscience kept reminding him, he was here because he was under parole - to a woman. Oh, the fun his father could have with that. No, his father was not here, was no longer a part of his life and Kennedy would be damned if he would allow his father's outmoded views to influence him now. This was a good crew, French or not, and Kennedy would do all he could to aid them in their endeavors, while trying to get back to his own ship and his friends. God, he hoped Horatio was alright... was alive...was.. *yawn* Kennedy found his eyes shutting of their own accord and decided to make his own way to the ward room.

As Kennedy fell into a hammock, his eyes glanced across to the sleeping form of young Kenny. There was still something about the boy's features that bothered. But dreamland was already overtaking the Lieutenant and he decided such contemplation would be better left until morning.

 

~Kennedy, Hether & Cleveland & Kenny ~

 

(Time:Morning July 25th, 1802)

(Location: Interior: Vrai Courage/Sick Berth [Despite what it says]...)

Master Gunner Hobbs stood on the deck of His Majesty's Ship Renown. He gazed upon the full moon that hung overhead in the night sky. He didn't know why... only that he should. The sea was calm this evening, and he could feel the gentle roll of the ship beneath his feet. It was all very pleasant... So calm. Not a breath of wind in the sails. Dead calm. Not oppressive though... Just peaceful. It remained like this for some time. Minutes, hours, days... who could say?... Then a wind howled through the sheets and the rigging. Hobbs felt it pass through him rather than around him... It chilled him to the bone. An odd sensation to say the least. Although it disappeared as quickly as it came, the wind carried a haunting sound... A voice from the gunner's past.

(("How have you been, old friend?")) The voice was so faint Hobbs wondered if he'd actually heard it...

"Who is that?!" Hobbs turned about and scanned the deck for it's source. He was alone... How odd. The gunner searched the ship from stem to stern. He called out to everyone he could name. Not a single response. Not a soul to be seen.... Not even the Captain... Alone, on a seventy-four!... Impossible! He began to sweat, and he could feel his heart beating faster. He had spent almost all his life in the company of hundreds that to suddenly be left to himself seemed most unnatural and unnerving. Where was everyone? Being a cautious fellow... Hobbs made sure to break into the ship's arsenal and pick up a few choice items before returning above deck... Had the ship been taken? He made sure his cutlass was at his side, and with a pistol ready in his right hand he cautiously made his way up the companionway. A massive wave crashed above deck, sending a torrent of water and salt spray over the stairs, soaking his feet and legs. Lord, it was cold.

(("How have you been old friend?")) The voice again. This startled Hobbs so badly he stumbled on the slick stairs, but mannaged to keep from falling. He whirled, pistol pointed below to the gundeck. Nothing there... Damn.

"I've been better..." Hobbs muttered to no one. He picked himself up and ascended the stair. As he stepped onto the deck his foot pushed through something that crunched underfoot. "My God... Poor souls..." Hobbs gasped. As he surveyed the view, his heart leapt into his throat. The entire deck was covered in bodies... Long, dead bodies. They lay there in various stages of decay. Most were mere skeletons. Some were fresher fare, with bottom feeders still clinging to what was left of their tattered flesh. Crabs skittered about the mass of seaweed and corpses intent on getting their fair share. The smell was... enough to knock a man off his feet. It was if the sea had at last given up her dead... But upon the deck of the Renown.

(("How have you been old friend?")) The voice was louder and more distinct this time. Hobbs could tell where the voice came from... Abaft... The Captain's cabin. He still didn't know quite who it was... But he knew he had to go to it... There was power behind it. It commanded him. Hobbs tried to take a step, but his foot was caught in something... He looked down and very nearly screamed... His foot had gone clean trough the rotted ribcage of one of the corpses. A near skeleton of a corpse with a hole in it's forehead. He froze... He wanted to pull his foot out but couldn't move.

"Why?..." A different voice now... From the the deck? From the corpse? " Why?..." Hobbs wanted for all the world to run, but some unseen force kept him rooted there. The gunner remembered that voice. A young crewman that he'd known years ago. James Quillan. A good lad, Hobbs had actually liked him... He had been part of Donovan Simpson's division with him and Randall. While ashore, the lad had gone off on his own one night and was murdered by robbers. Shot through the head Hobbs recalled... Terrible. "Robbers?... No, sir... It was you. They made you...." The skeleton's hand shot up and grabbed at Hobbs. It's nails dug into his calf, while the jaws and shriveled lips of the putrefying mass actually mouthed it's next words,"Murderer... Butcher... That's whot they made of you..." The thing clung tightly to his leg. It hurt... More than it should...

"Aggghhh!" Hobbs yelled. He tried to pull his leg away... But the pain was almost cripling him. "Your not Jim... I'm not a... I didn't kill-- Your a demon!" He rationalized, and placed his pistol in front of it's face. Furious at the abomination's suggestion, he cocked the hammer. "You can't be anything else..." He was about to pull the trigger. He paused. It felt... Familiar. As if he'd done the very same thing... Years ago. Despite the decay, the thing beneath the gun's muzzle looked too much like the kind hearted Quillan. Hobbs could not pull the trigger.

"I am Jim, sir." It insisted... It sounded just like him. DAMN... The gunner's hand began to shake. Heaven help me... It sounds just like him! "You did kill me Mr. Hobbs." It insisted,"You must remember, sir. It's the only way to break free. To save your soul. You murdered me on a whim. Their whim. Fight THEM, sir."

"No," Hobbs told himself. Devil's playing games with my mind. "It can't be ANYTHING else." His hand, and the gun it held became steady. Rock steady.

"You did kill me, sir."

"That's an infernal, damned lie!" BLAM! Hobbs silenced the abomination..."Back to hell with you." He wrenched his foot free of the body's ribcage just as another corpse rose from the deck to his left... Two more to his right. "What the hell is this?!"

"That wasn't very nice... "The first corpse began,"Bout as nice as strangling a man, then pitching his body over the side." The deadman had a length of rope about his neck... and his head lolled to one side.

"Oh God..." Hobbs shook his head in disbelief.

"Indeed, sir." The second concurred. This one's tattered throat revealed a rather nasty laceration from ear to ear. "It wasn't very nice either, when he cut my throat. 'Mr. Simpson wants you looking your best for the examination for lieutenant Mr. Ryder,sir. I'm to give you a shave if you wish, sir.' says he. So I say's,' Yes, thank you. That's very kind of you Mr. Hobbs. Please be sure to thank Mr. Simpson for me.' It was the last thing I ever said."

"That's not true..." Hobbs protested and took a step backwards.

"Ooo, Look who knows so much..." Scoffed a third. The rest chuckled. "At least the way he done you in were cleaner than wot the buggar done ta me..." This one's upper torso fell away from it's pelvis as it tried to stand.

"True... Now it's his turn..." The second affirmed.

"Aye!" The third grinned. It's separated parts crawled toward the gunner. The other two shambled after it.

"This is not happening! This is not bloody happening! I must be having a nightmare... The dead can't come back. I didn't do those things... I couldn't have..." Hobbs tried to rationalize... But it wasn't bloody easy."I'm hallucinating... Yes, that must be it! I'm seeing things..." Several more of the abominations rose to their feet to join their fellows. Hobbs threw away the spent pistol..."Just in case I'm not..." He readied two more guns. The shambling things crept closer. "Stay back! Hellspawn!" He shouted. BLAM! He shot another through the chest... BLAM! Another through the head. They fell back, but dozens more pressed forward. The crawling torso clambered over the fallen corpse. Hobbs recognized what was left of it's face... The Renown's old Master Gunner, Mr. Douglas. Tragically he'd been cut in two when a deck cannon misfired.

"Misfired!?" The torso scoffed,"That's a laugh!..." It had a knife in it's hand."Come here Mr. Hobbs, and I'll show you how funny it is..." It thrust the blade into his leg and pulled it out again, ready for another go. "You Murdered me... On his say-so! Don't you even remember!?"

"Agghh! Keep away!" Hobbs dropped the useless pistols, drew the cutlass out and hacked off the dead gunner's arm. The abomination's rotted limb and the knife fell to the deck.

"Cor! I'll do you for that!" The dead gunner warned. Hobbs removed it's other arm with a quick cut, took a leg off another shambling corpse in the same swing and split the skull of one of it's grisly mates on the backswing. The rotting gunner raised a tattered eyebrow. "Alright... we'll call it a draw..." The other undead were picking up weapons now. Hobbs grabbed the blunderbuss he had slung on his back and spun about. BLAM! He fired and a pile of the dead men fell back to the deck. The blast created an opening that Hobbs wasn't about to ignore. He dashed though, headed for the Captain's cabin, hacking away the bony hands that tried to grasp him. "You bloody coward! Come back here!" The long dead gunner raged,"I'll bite your legs off!" The mass of undead knocked Hobbs to the deck right in front of the doors to the great cabin, and his cutlass fell into the pile of bodies. "Ah-ha-ha! Hobbs you spineless, murderin' turd... I'll fix you now!" The old gunner shouted as two of it's mates carried what was left of him forward. Hobbs pulled out a fourth pistol. His last one. The horror merely laughed, "Choose your target carefully Mr. Hobbs... That's your last shot." Hobbs lifted up a fist sized cast iron ball... He held it's fuse close to the pistol's hammer and pan. Bang! The grisly trio fell as the bullet dropped the dead gunner's right hand 'man'. The grenade's fuse flared to life. "Bastard... You always had a way out..." The dead man cursed. Hobbs threw the gun aside and counted... One , two, three...

"Back to hell with you too." Hobbs said flatly. He flung the grenade into the midst of the restless dead, kicked open the cabin doors and leapt inside. He rolled to one side... BOOOM!! The blast splintered the doors. Bits and pieces of the walking dead, were mixed among the debris. Including the head of Gunner Douglas. Hobbs caught his breath, expecting it to speak. It didn't. But somebody else did...

(("Bon. Very good, Mr. Hobbs.")) It was yet another voice... But it was no less powerful... No less compelling. Hobbs had not heard this voice for years... Seven years. A figure shrouded in shadows sat in the chair behind the Captain's desk. It seemed to be playing with a deck of cards... Laying them out on the table. Solitaire perhaps... The cards caught Hobbs's attention. Fascinated he stepped toward them for a closer look. The figure held up his hand to stop him, and spoke again. The voice was soft, yet commanding, with a mild French accent. It comforted him. (("You feel no pain. You have no fear. You are completely safe here.")) Hobbs recognized the voice at once, and felt completely at peace... Detached from reality. Nothing mattered but the here and the now... And the good doctor's instructions.

"Thank you Doctor Bretagne." Hobbs said quietly.

(("If you are here, It means that you have been separated from your controller for some time. You have only recently been reunited, and received your command phrase. Is this so?"))

"Yes, Doctor Bretagne."

(("Excellent. .")) Bretagne continued.(("It has been too long since your conditioning. It needs to be reaffirmed. You will play cards tomorrow before you turn in for the night, Mr. Hobbs. When you see your personal key card, you will feel very sleepy. You will remove your card from the deck, put it in your pocket and go immediately to bed. When you dream you will be with Mr. Simpson, Randal and the others at your twenty-first training session. Your breakthrough session. Is that understood?"))

"Yes."

(("You will continue this process each night till all four control cards have been removed from the deck, and you have relearned each of it's lessons. You will then surrender the cards to your imeadiate commanding officer. Your comander will use these cards to control and direct you further. Is that understood, Mr. Hobbs?"))

"Yes."

(("Excellent. You will wake up when I count to three. Your conscious mind will remember nothing of your experience here. Is that understood, Mr. Hobbs."))

"Yes, Doctor Bretagne."

(("One, Two, Three...")) Bretagne looked up from the cards on the desk. Hobbs remained where he was. (("Curious..." Bretagne began anew, (("It would seem that you are in an extraordinarily deep state of unconsciousness. Perhaps you have been injured, or you are inebriated. It may be nothing... or you might be in real danger. You are far too important a tool to us to be lost without even being able to defend yourself."))

"Thank you Doctor Bretagne."

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In the 'real' world...

Hether and Cleveland were up early that morning. Paul l' Ours had awakened them to take their turn watching the unconscious English prisoner. Lucille had decided it would be wise have someone there who spoke English, who could reassure the gunner he was safe when he woke, and that he would not be harmed. The two of them were merely taking their turn. Lucille had ordered the other wounded placed in her own cabin for now. That had suited Hether and Cleveland just fine... A little peace and quiet. They were playing chess to pass the time. In the last few minutes though, their peace and quiet had been shattered by groans, shouts and other bizarre statements coming out of the unconscious gunner's mouth. That had carried on for a few minutes then stopped abruptly. "Thank God." They had both agreed.

"I'm glad he quit moaning and carrying on like that about the dead and daemon's and such..." Hether complained," He was spoiling my game." In truth... Hobbs had been scaring the hell out of him. He still was despite the eriee silence. "Why can't the man just snore like a normal person?..."

"Your just staling..." Cleveland countered. He looked at his watch." Make your move... It's been ten bloody minutes... I have you in check."

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Back in Hobbs's mind.

(("Merely a precaution Mr. Hobbs. This sort of situation has been accounted for. Your controller will now appear to you and attempt to wake you.")) Bretagne's voice took on a sinister tone.(("Prepare yourself Mr. Hobbs...")) No, please... Hobbs felt at peace here. Let me linger a while longer... (("Mr. Hobbs, you feel pain...."))

"Aaahhhhhh!..." Every wound he'd suffered earlier that night... and every imagined wound from his nightmare could not only be felt, but they felt much worse than they should.

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Back in the real world....

"Crikey!" Cleveland nearly dropped his watch.

"Not again," Hether moaned. The gunner from the Renown groaned in discomfort. It was quite unsettling. "Are we allowed to gag him?"

"I think not." Cleveland laughed nervously, "Not that you'd here me complain if you did." He focused back on the game and tried to get Hether's attention back on it too. "Come on now.... " He pointed to Hether's one remaining knight. "The little horsey moves in an 'L' shape."

"I know that!" Hether snapped back. The gunner groaned again. "Sorry... He's getting on my nerves." Hether leaned in and glared at the pieces. "Alright... In check..." Heather pondered his position...The white king was in quite a fix. Nearly surrounded would be a good description. "How the hell did I let that happen?... The knight you say... there."

"It's the only move you have left." Cleveland rolled his eyes.

"I could move the king..." Hether's hand went to the piece in question and moved it a square to the left.

"No." Cleveland sighed.

"Then... here?..." Hether moved the king forward one square. "Damn... that's check too." He put it back, but nearly knocked it over. Hobbs had screamed again. "Shut the hell up! I'm trying to think..." Hether yelled at the unconscious gunner.

"Move the bloody knight." Cleveland insisted.

"But if I do that, you just move your queen, or your rook there and take him." Hether protested.

"Not necessarily..."

"Oh..." Mayhap his friend saw a way out he hadn't... "Would't care to share your wisdom would you?..."

"Certainly. I can take him with my bishop or this pawn here too." Cleveland grinned when he saw the sour look Heather shot back at him.

"Well, what the blazes is the point then?!" Hether turned his king on it's side." I give up. Surrender."

"You can't do that. You do that every blasted time. " Cleveland set the piece upright again." You promised to play this one through."

"You sadist... Can't let me abdicate in peace, eh?..." He contemplated what his rook might be able to do...

"Move the knight or you loose the game... It's that bleedin' simple." Cleveland leaned over, put his right arm on the table and rested his chin on it. Might as well get comfy,Hether was going to take forever.... He focused on the captured white pieces. A thought crept into his brain... a wicked thought. He moved his left hand close to the little 'captives' and held his middle finger back with his thumb. Twik! A pawn sailed across the room hitting the bulkhead near the restless gunner. Cleveland chuckled. Twik! Another pawn followed it's comrade. this one came a little closer to Cleveland's target. He smirked... What can the blighter do to me anyway?... He tied up.

"Hey..." Hether looked up from the board,"What are you up to?"

"Your taking too long..." Twik! A white bishop bounced off a covered lantern and wound up in a basin. "I'm executing prisoners..."

"You diabolical fiend!" Hether shouted... But laughed too. Cleveland was setting up Hether's queen."No! Not my lady fair?! " Twik! The queen snapped through the air... and off the gunner's head. "Gasp!... Now you've done it..."Hether hissed. Cleveland and Hether didn't breathe for a second... The big man didn't wake though and they both gave a sigh of relief. They turned to each other. A knowing and mischievous look passed over their faces.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" They said together and grinned. It took them only a moment to set the pieces up. They both moved to Cleveland's side of the table. Hether made ready to launch a pawn. Twick! It missed the gunner altogether.

"Damn!" Hether cursed.

"Practice shot..." Cleveland reassured him. "Try again, sir."

"Thank you, sir." He fired again. Closer... "Drat!"

"Alow me..." Cleveland readied the a black knight for flight. " I wager eight reales I can get 'im in the nose with this one."

"A piece of eight.... " Hether smirked," Your on."

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In Hobbs's mind.

(("Mr. Hobbs...")) Bretagne's voice continued. (("You feel fear... You are not safe here.")) Dr. Bretagne disapeared from behind the desk. Hobbs gasped and reached out for him... Then he couldn't remember what he was doing.... Alone.... And suddenly he felt abandoned... uneasy... Afraid! He cringed into a corner like a frightend child.

"Please.... Help me... someone... Ow!" He couldn't see it... But something smacked him on the nose. "Now what the hell was that?!"

(("How have you been old friend?")) That voice... Now he caught a hint of whose voice it was.

"Simpson!" He backed up and bumped into something behind him. Now It was right next to him. He dared not look. "Nooooo! It can't be," Hobbs palled,"Your dead!" He tried to move... "Stay away from me!" knew he needed to get away... But he just could not move.

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In the real world.

"Hah! You got him! I don't mind paying a bit of silver to see tha---" Hether stopped himself, "Did he just say what I think he said?..."

"Uhhh... Did you just hear him say, 'Simpson'?" Cleveland asked. Hether nodded and they both held their breath again. The gunner's last words about Simpson, he had said aloud... Just like when he was raving earlier about deamons. Simpson... A name which always got Hether and Cleveland's attention. Hether gulped. The gunner was writhing in the hammok, and blood was dripping from his wrists where his hands had been bound behind him.

"He's gonna break free..." Hether tried to head for the door, but Cleveland was there before him. The cord bit deeper as the gunner's struggles increased, and he screamed again.

"Don't be ridiculous..." Cleveland clapped Hether on the shoulder. "You stay with him. I'll go get Lucille, Paul and Kennedy."

"Right." Hether replied, before he realized he didn't want to stay there alone."Wait a min-- ." Cleveland was already gone,"You blighter.."

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In Hobbs's mind.

(("How have you been old friend?")) A shadow stepped out from the shadows in front of him. At first it looked like Donovan Simpson from years past... His old lieutenant. Then Hobbs's imagination updated it... It removed the figure's right hand and replaced it with the scythe. He also dressed him in the French uniform he wore when he faced him last.The face and the body though... That was a different matter. Simpson was dead. A tiny part of the gunner's brain believed that still. No, insisted Simpson had drowned, hadn't he?...He had to be dead. As a result, the face and the body seemed to him to be something out of a monstrous nightmare. Bits of flesh, tattered skin, wild hair, and bones poking through, dripping with moisture and rot from it's watery grave. But Simpson's eyes... Those cold eyes remained perfect and untouched by the damp and decay that afflicted the rest of the body. This walking corpse, with it's menacing scythe. How could such an abomination exist?...It was a demon... That was the only solution Hobbs could believe, or accept. The undead Donovan Simpson grinned... With certain key parts of his face completely missing, this grin proved to be most unnerving.

"Gaagghhh!" Hobbs tried to get out the door... but the door was gone... "Devil! Leave me alone!" The fiend moved in front of Hobbs. The gunner was paralyzed again.

(("There's no way out for you Mr. Hobbs...")) The thing put it's left hand around Hobbs's head and neck. It's bony claws dug into the gunner's face. (("You belong to me...Mind...")) The scythe soon followed.(("Body...")) The monster positioned it so that it nearly surrounded Hobbs's head. (("And soul.")) It grinned, (("Donovan's missed you, boy!...")) The abomination's face pushed forward and kissed Hobbs full on the lips. Revolted beyond belief, the gunner's conscious mind fought like hell to wake up. "AAAAAAGGGGHHHHHH!" The nightmare's intent was achieved... It let him go, for now.
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In the real world.

"Gaagghhh!" Hether saw the gunner convulse again and scream, quite terribly. "Devil! Leave me alone!" Piety overcame fear, and Hether moved closer. He leaned over gunner to see if he could help. Good intentions aside, that proved to be a mistake. Hether was still wearing his 'Lighting Guard' uniform... A uniform that resembled that of many Hussar regiments of the French Republic. The well meaning 'Hussar' leaned over the convulsing figure. Suddenly the gunner let loose a cry so loud and so primal, surely it must be heard all over the ship. "AAAAAAGGGGHHHHHH!" His hands broke free, and the blood stained fingers locked around Hether's neck. They closed so tightly and quickly about his throat Hether suddenly found himself unable to breathe... and unable to speak. He fell to the floor with the mad, raving gunner on top. Suddenly, Hobbs woke up... and remembered... nothing. A man dressed as a French officer was underneath him... His hand's were locked around the bugger's throat. He was about to let go and ask where he was, anoung other things, when an oddly familiar voice spoke in his mind. Dr. Bretagne's voice...

(('French hussar. Threat: Low... Reassess... Treat: None. Adversary is subdued. Interrogate him.')) Before Hobbs's even had time to question it, his conscious mind slipped into the background and his subconscious gained control. But Mr. Hobbs was not asleep now... Far from it. No fear... No pain... No free will. Fight it! Whatever remained of Mr. Hobbs tried... Tried so very hard to fight it. (('You can't fight it Mr. Hobbs. Stop that at once.')) It was right of course... He couldn't fight it... The voice again reasserted it's demand.(( 'Adversary is subdued. Interrogate him.' ))

"Who are you? Where am I ?" Hobbs demanded in a frighteningly even tone.

"Gaackkkk..." Was the hussar's only reply as the fingers loosened just enough to allow him a little air. Suddenly the door to the sick bay burst open. Kennedy, Cleveland, Lucille du Paix and Paul L' Ours entered the sick bay.

(('Four unknown hostiles. Threat: Moderate. Acquire a weapon.')) Keeping one hand around the hussar's throat Hobbs drew the hussar's saber from it's scabbard.

 

~Hobbs, Hether & Cleveland~

 

 

(NOTE: No, Hobbs does not have a computer chip planted in his brain. It's simply a different... and completely abnormal state of mind created by a heck of a lot of 'Cinematic grade' Hypnosis. All will be revealed in time.)

 


"MR HOBBS!!!" Kennedy rushed into the room, followed by Lucille, one of her men and - slightly farther back - Cleveland. What met his eyes made him catch his breath and push Lucille back. Hether was now on the floor, gasping for air throhugh Hobb's tightening fingers, helpless to stop the man from pulling his own sword on him.
"Let him go!!! That's an order!!!"

But Lucille did not stay back, moving forward so swiftly that Hobbs never saw her coming. Her hand reached out, grasped Hobb's wrist around his rope burn and squeezed. "Let go, m'sieur! Or I will break your wrist." Her voice was calm and cool, her eyes staring deep into those of the gunner.

"Mr. Hobbs!! Do as she says, damn your eyes!!! You can't kill another Englishman!" Kennedy was at Hobbs' side, shaking the man's shoulder. The expression on the gunner's face worried him. True, the man had been through a very nasty battle, must be a large amount of pain, yet... His eyes looked haunted, and if what Cleveland had said about Hobbs moaning and crying out was not exaggerated... Something was going on, something very wrong. "Hobbs!!! NOW!!!"

~Kennedy~

 

(NOTE: AJ and I wrote this bit in chat... Duel style. I have cleaned it up and added a few more internal thoughts and dialogue... But generally it is as we wrote it.)

 

Hobbs's mind had been in turmoil for the last few seconds. His conscious self, upon hearing his name being called had been franticly trying to reassert itself. When he heard Kennedy shout, "Let him go!!! That's an order!!!" He very nearly complied. Then the woman had caught hold of his wrist... And the conditioned threat responses took over his thoughts and his actions. The little voice inside his brain came to life again. It was merely his own experience as a fighter and a soldier assessing the situation. However, when it spoke to him, it used the voice of Dr. Alexandre du Bretagne... And it had to be obeyed... (("Female hostile. Threat: Low. Subdue or eliminate.")) A man was shaking him now. Shouting something... His name again. It prevented him from acting as he tried to sort out the situation. From a tactical standpoint everything was muddled... The voice in his head didn't see the man as a threat. (("English Lieutenant. Threat: None. Ally.")) The lieutenant had shouted "Hobbs!!! Now!!!" It almost pulled him free again. The voice reasserted itself. It would not be ignored. (("Mr. Hobbs... This will not do. Do you want to suffer punishment?... Then comply. Subdue or eliminate the Female hostile." ))

Lucille held the gunner's right wrist as hard as she could. Hoping he would remove that hand from Hether's throat. She was cautious of the blade he held in his left hand. Thakfully it did not move. Blood oozed between her fingers from the terrible wounds the ropes had made on his wrists... But it was as if the man felt nothing... Merde! she realized too late... She remembered Jack's boasts. He feels nothing! Then what Jack had claimed he and Bretagne had done years ago had been true... The gunner looked up at her with a grim, unfeeing gaze. A souless gaze. "Dieu, Jacque. What have you done?..." She gasped as the Englishma's hand let go of Hether and twisted in her grip. His own fingers locked aound her much smaller hand in a most curious manner. His thumb near the base of her palm, fingers over the back of her hand. Already it hurt, just from the man's strength alone... But when he bent her hand forward, over her wrist a shock went through her entire body. She screamed. Lucille had seen only a few other men use this strange grip. Jack, Strife and members of the Lightning guard. She felt a numbing sensation flow from her wrist to the tips of her toes. She felt helpless, and hated it. Lucille fought the pain and reached slowly, cautiously for her sword. No... At the last moment she remembered Jack's words of warning... Drawing a weapon at this time would be a fatal error. She saw Paul step forward, "Non, Paul de dos de séjour!" (No, stay back Paul.) She said through gritted teeth.

Archie couldn't believe what was happening... It looked as if Hobbs were breaking Lucille's arm in two, yet there had been no snap. Putting all courtesy aside, Kennedy grabbed Hobbs in a tight headlock. "I SAID STOP, SIR!!"

(("Reassess the English Lieutenant...")) The voice demanded, and Hobbs stood up. The lieutenant, clung to his neck. He was taller, and the lieutenant's feet came off the ground. The grip he maintained on the woman, and as he rose the pain became worse for her... She fell to her knees.

"Cleveland, get in here!" Archie felt his feet come off the ground... So much for leverage... Paul L' Ours and Cleveland were at the door. Paul and Cleveland had made no move. Lucille had ordered Paul to stay back. But Cleveland had no such excuse. What was the matter with him? And what on earth was wrong with Mr. Hobbs? Archie tightened his grip on the gunner's throat. Then a thought occurred. One he prayed was divinely inspired. "Sawyer wants her unharmed, Hobbs!"

(("English Lieutenant. Threat: Unknown. Attempting subterfuge.")) The voice in Hobbs mind began it's correction his original assesment. He let the woman go.

"Thank God..." Kennedy sighed with relief.

(("Possible collaborator... Subdue the English Lieutenant.")) The voice completed it's reassesment... Hobbs was obliged to obey. He stepped backward quickly. There was a Thud! As the pair hit the wall, and a gasp from the man on his back. The lieutenant took the brunt of the blow, but still he clung on. Hobbs stepped forward... Then back against the bulkhead once more. Thud! At that moment two more Frenchmen stepped through the door. They pulled out their pistols.

(("Two French Marines. Threat: Moderate. Armed with pistols. Be ready.")) The voice warned. Hobbs paid little attention to the man on his back now despite the fact that the man's efforts were beging to effect his breathing. His attention now focused on the armed men... (("Remember your training... Watch for the spark...")) The voice reassured him.

"Shoot him!" Cleveland shouted, pointing to Mr. Hobbs.

"Non! Aucunes armes!..." (No! No weapons!) Lucille shouted from the floor. Her men seemed uncertain... Had their Captain been harmed?.. "Abaisser vos pistolets." She said evenly. Her men lowered their guns.

"Mr. Hobbs!..." Archie's back was in excruciating pain. Hobbs currently had him pressed up against the bulkhead... He clung to the gunner's neck... still trying to choke him into submission. Why the devil wasn't Hobbs listening to him? Why had he not spoken? It was more than errie... It was downright disturbing. "Gagh..." And painful, he thought as he was pressed harder against the wall.

"Damnit! Give that to me!" Cleveland grabbed one of the pistols, and pushed the man aside.

"No!! Don't shoot!" Archie shouted. Cleveland completely ignored him, dashed forward and looked at Hether. He wasn't moving... He didn't look like he was even breathing.

(("One French hussar. Treat: Low. Armed with a pistol. Be ready.")) Hobbs's steely gaze remained fixed on Cleveland. He raised the sword slightly. The hussar would get his one shot then he would die.

"You killed him!" Cleveland looked up, his eyes filled with rage. He took aim... And fired. BANG!

The Spark appeared as the flint struck steel. Hobbs sidestepped. Instantly. Instinctively. Subconsciously. He did this before the spark could ignite the priming charge. Before the fire from that charge caused the main charge to explode. The gunner was well out of the way before the gasses caused by that explosion propelled the bullet forward. The bullet harmlessly struck the bulkhead where Mr. Hobbs and Mr. Kennedy had just been standing. Hobbs shook his head. The sound of the gun had jarred his conscious mind."Englishmen?..." He muttered.

"No bleedin' way..." Cleaveland stared in awe. He glanced at the smoking pistol in his hand... Then back to the gunner and Archie... Then back to the pistol again..."No bleedin' way!!.."

The quick movement threw Kennedy to one side, as he had gone along for the ride. He wasn't exactly sure what he'd just seen. That bullet just missed... Then Hobbs had spoken. About bloody time! Thought Kennedy... Then not wishing to loose his chance, he said aloud, "Yes... English, you ruddy fool!" Kennedy slackened his grip on the gunner's neck... but pulled himself closer to his ear. "You English. Me English. Hether and Cleveland English! The rest... They're good frogs!"

"Good... frogs?..." Hobbs dropped the sword.

"Yes, good frogs." Kennedy confirmed.

Hobbs could feel himself regaining control of his body. He had to remember when he woke... Had to tell Mr. Kennedy.. The Voice stopped him cold--

(("When you wake you will remember nothing of what has transpired while in your subconscious state." ))

Mr. Hobbs woke completely, and remembered... Well... Nothing. Mr. Kennedy was on his back for some reason, two French hussars were on the deck in front of him, one dead or unconscious... That one coughed, and gasped. Only unconscious it would seem. The other with a recently discharged pistol in hand. It was still smoking.

"He's alive!" The short, stout hussar next to the fallen one shouted with relief. He waved the discharged pistol at the gunner. "Your lucky Mister..."

"What the?..." Hobbs wondered. He glanced around. Four more Frenchmen, were in the cabin. One an officer... Another, a fairly big man... They were all staring at him. Hobbs's wrists hurt like hell. He looked down. He was wearing only a pair of ill fitting trousers, and a bandage around his chest. He saw his hands had been tied up... But he'd broken free. Not cut free... The cords bit deep into his wrists. He winced at the pain. He didn't know what to think... And he didn't dare ask. Then a monkey came out of nowhere, climbed up his leg, then his arm, and finally stopped at his shoulder. It screeched, and started hunting through his hair for some reason... Hobbs stood stiff as a board. His jaw dropped. What the HELL!? Hobbs thought he might be going mad. What the bloody hell?... Not finding whatever it was looking for, the hairy little beast clung to the bandage around the gunner's head. It leaned out at arms length.

"Eeee-Oooh!" The creature tipped it's little hat. Oh... My... God... Hobbs couldn't stand anymore. What the devil had been going on?! His bewildered mind wondered... He had to know...

"Sir," The gunner nervously asked Mr. Kennedy, as the younger man slid off his back," We haven't been acting in defiance of article twenty-nine... Have we?..."

 

~Kennedy, Hobbs, Lucille, Cleveland~