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Unwritten Pages
by Winter

I. The Valiant's Crusade

Across the planet, the coming and going of the tide against the
shores became an event predictable, as the sun setting and rising
again, as it always would. The sea tossed, sometimes more violently
at times than at others, and carried voyagers throughout the planet.
Some explorers sought merely to aid cartographers in their quest to
understand the shape of the world, while others sought money, glory
or fame for themselves or for their kingdom. A few others sailed the
seas to in warships, to protect the land they knew as home from
irritant invaders who knew it as conquest.

One such voyage was undertaken in the year of our lord, 1790; the
ship sailed outwards from England, from the port of Southampton, to
deliver a wealth of supplies to a settlement in the West Indies, or,
as it would later be known, Jamaica. The ship had been christened the
Valiant, and on her maiden voyage had sailed across uncertain and
cold waters to French Canada, for the purpose of encouraging the
natives there to rise up against their foreign masters- in essence,
to incite rebellion. The mission had not gone well, since most of the
native Indians (as the English called them) moved to the unknown
southwest, while the Inuits moved north, each group seeking autonomy
within unexplored regions. The Valiant sailed home heavy of heart,
returning from a failed mission, until her captian, Sir James
Suffolk, brother of the Earl of Suffolk, received orders to sail
south into warm waters on an easy, friendly mission. The crew of the
Valiant found their spirits higher, as they were assured a battle-
free cruise into known English territory.

On the second day of the mission, Captain Suffolk ran the crew
through battle drills, having them fire spray from the cannons, among
other things. The crew was a little concerned with this drill, since
no one had known anything about a possible firefight on the way.
Suffolk noticed this slight change in attitude; however, as it was
only the Valiant's second voyage, he wanted the crew to be prepared
for anything. In the back of his mind, he had a sneaking suspicion
that the real reason he was delivering supplies to Jamaica was that
the American Colonists had suddenly decided that winning their war of
indepence was not enough, and turned their eye south on conquest.
Strategically, the West Indies were vulnerable, and it would make
sense for a new, burgeoning nation to sure up all the land it could.
Suffolk worried further that if the colonists had a navy that was
anything like England's (the idea was quite possible, since the
Americans, were, in reality, splintered English citizens), there
should be much cause for concern. But Suffolk quickly realized that
he could not share his doubts with his leftenants or with his crew;
they deserved at least one voyage where one man among the crew was
not complaining.

The third day of the voyage, Captain Suffolk peered into his spyglass
and saw, on the horizon, a battleship with the American flag hanging
high on its riggings, and his doubts suddenly welled up inside him,
ready to burst.

All hands on the Valiant saw the approaching ship and flew up the
Union Jack at once; after this hasty action, which Captain Suffolk
had not ordered but understood, the American vessel brought itself
side-to-side with the Valiant, a perfect position to discharge its
cannons from. The captain of the American signaled a desire to come
on board, and Suffolk ordered it to be carried out. A plank-bridge
was extended from one ship to the other, after they both drew in
closer, and the American captain stepped across.

He had the appearance of a man who did not care all too much for
formalities- his shirt was unkempt and ruffled, his hat dented in
places, and he wore trousers, as opposed to the customary leggings
which prevailed in the English navy. But perhaps this was merely
independent license from the colonists. "Greetings, Captain," the
American said, extending his hand.

Suffolk took it, relieved for the chance to display a sign of good
faith. "And to you sir. I am Captain Suffolk, commanding naval
officer of her majesty's ship, the Valiant. May I know the reason and
I am to be honored by your precense?"

"Yes sir, you indeed may." The American withdrew his hand and thrust
into pocket. For a moment, he bit his tongue between his lips, as if
trying to remember something. "I am Captain Robert Darling,
commanding the ship of the line, Animus. The name is latin for 'mind'
or possibly 'intelligence.' But, ah...the reason I am here.

"You see, Captain, we Americans, after winning our freedom from
Britain, have decided that there is to be no further bloodshed
between our two nations. Therefore, we are heading for England with a
diplomatic envoy, in the hope that a lasting peace can be met between
ourselves and England." Captain Darling scratched his head, thinking.

Suffolk almost leapt into the air at hearing the purpose of the
Animus' mission. He had not expected such an agreeable government to
arise in the colonies so shortly after its second set of laws, the
Consitution, had replaced its first, the Articles of Confederation.
Level heads seemed to be prevailing over the initial turmoil the new
country was experiencing, espicially if tales of 'the Whiskey
Rebellion' were to be believed. "Very well. It pleases me to see that
your country wishes no more wars with England. But..." Captain
Suffolk relaxed for a moment. "May I give you some advice, Captain?"

"By all means, sir."

"If you're going to see the King, you would be well advised to dress
correctly for it." Suffolk's statement drew laughs and snickers from
within the crew.
The American captian cracked a smile at this jest, and his eyes
appeared sharper, suddenly more clear than before. It was as if he
had remembered what he had been trying to think of. "You have a sharp
wit, Captian, something I don't think we Americans have inherited
just quite yet. Many of us are still too worried about 'how matters
are handled' and such. If you give a nation the right to think for
itself, it will think about itself, perhaps more than is healthy."
Darling expounded, then smiled at the officers on board his own ship,
possibly an "A-OK" signal.

"Yes, it is true. During our own Civil War, after Cromwell and his
roundheads had taken control of the country, all Englishmen suddenly
became enamored with the idea that they were free men, not bound to
any notion of lordly obligation which might come their way. Give a
nation its freedom, and it will bind itself to the idea. Sometimes
freedom can be dangerous, if it is not handled correctly." Suffolk
replied, his index finger inching about the long hat he had in his
right hand.

"You are quite right there. I, for my part, do not know whether we
shall last until 1800 or not. To be honest, it is something that has
never been tried before, and I suppose the entire world will notice
if it succeeds." Darling leaned against one of the ship's railings,
placing one foot over and then beside the other. He was relaxed
almost to the point of professional apathy.

Then Suffolk had a good idea. "Captain, would you care to join me on
my ship for dinner tonight? I believe the chef is making his special-
beef and carrot stew. It's not a gentlemen's feast, by any means...."

"Captain, I would be honored if I could join you for dinner tonight.
In truth, it has been a while since I tasted carrots. You see, we
still haven't quite learned the trick of growing it yet...." Darling
trailed off, and then began scratching his head once more.

"Very well. I shall expect you on board at 7 o'clock." Suffolk
grinned- already peaceful overtures were being made. His situation
was almost too good to be true.
"It's not right, that our captian should treat that slovenly colonist
to a meal on our ship, why, that dirty, itchy rabble-rouser doesn't
even deserve the handshake our captain, being generous and kind,
which has benefited all of us on more than one occasion, gave to
him." A member of the crew, a Rigger named Jack spouted his words
between gulps of water; he had taken to scooping salt water out of
the sea, boiling it, and sifting the sand out. The method had become
a hit with the crew, most of whom got bored with ale.

"I don't know about any of this, either. All I know is if the
Americans are going to sign a treaty with our by-God sovreign nation,
than we should treating them like allies, or at least like civil
companions." A young midshipman, Donald O'Leary drawled in his Gaelic
accent.

"But it's not right!" Jack insisted. "Why, the next thing you know,
we'll all chummy with the Frogs, laughing and singing songs and
trading tales about how we used to kill each other not twenty years
ago. The Americans are ingrates, why, after we Englishmen set them up
with land, a means to live, and relative peace to do it in, they
rebel against us, and then turn around and claim they want no more
bloodshed? They are two-faced lying cowards, who will stab you in the
back, if you give them chance enough."

O'Leary got up from his seat at the eating table and shook his
head. "I've found it helpful not to judge a man until I've got a
chance to know him." He then walked away, a navigational book in his
right hand, a cup full of purified water in the other.

"Bugger all...making friends with those blokes, now...nothing good
will come of it." Jack said to himself and took another chug of water
from his ale pitcher.

***

Meanwhile, above decks, the Captain was preparing to give lessons in
navigation to the young midshipmen of the crew. He opened his mouth,
and then closed it again while he saw Midshipman O'Leary scurrying
forward, his face flushed as if he had to deal with something very
unpleasant. "You're on time, for a change, Mr. O'Leary. Please do
make it habit." Suffolk intoned, and then pointed to a chalkboard
when a cannonade report sounded, followed by a splash in the water.

Captain Suffolk looked about him, gauging at once the readiness of
the crew. "Damn! The Americans!"
The Captain at once put away his chalk and yelled out at the top of
his lungs: "All hands to battlestations! All hands to
battlestations!" He looked in the water, where the ripples from the
cannonball were still present. His eyes traced a path into the air
and saw one of the American's gunports were still open. Then, he saw
the reason for it. The sixteen-star flag was being lowered, and, in
its place, a black flag with two swords crossed was being raised- the
ship was a pirate vessel. In such a case, the Rules of War were
plain.

Another report sounded from the Animus, if that indeed was its name,
and, again, the shot splashed into the water. Suffolk's brow furrowed-
why would they shoot if they were out of range? His hand gripped his
gun tightly, until his knuckles turned white. He had trusted his
pistol on more than one occassion- he knew he could trust it again.

The first officer of the ship, Leftenant Lamsey, ran up and saluted
the captain in a hurried motion. "All hands report at battlestations,
sir and...." Lamsey looked over to the Animus.

The black flag was being lowered, and the American flag was raised
again in its place.

"What do you make of that?" Suffolk asked his first officer. He
gritted his teeth, thinking that they had discovered apparent unknown
limitations in their cannons and decided not to fight after all.

"Perhaps....Captain Darling is in the middle of a mutiny?" Lamsey
speculated, even though it made him shudder to think such an event
was even possible.

Captain Suffolk's eyes narrowed. He did not know whether to fire or
not. If he did, he could be attacking a friendly vessel and ruining
the chances of peace. If he did not, the Animus could draw in closer
and pummel the Valiant. He did not know which choice was the better
one, but he decided one of them. "Prepare all cannons to fire
shrapnel shot."

"Sir?" Lamsey appeared confused. Shrapnel was often in exercises with
spray- against a person, it was lethal, but against a ship, it would
do almost no damage.

"Those are your orders, Mr. Lamsey. Shrapnel shot." Suffolk gave a
hard stare to his first officer.

"Aye sir....shrapnel shot....." Lamsey hurried below deck to instruct
the crew.

Captain Suffolk saw the American flag waving in the breeze. A moment
ago, the symbol of the pirates had been waving there. And what could
he make of the two cannon blasts? Warning shots, misfires or alert
signals? "By God...this had better work."


As the reports from the Valiant's cannons sounded into the morning,
Captain Suffolk took his spyglass up and inspected the damage of the
Animus. Small splinters and dents appeared in its hull, but, on the
whole, it was relatively none the worse for wear. The cannons were
fired again, and a different sort of crackling and splintering was
heard from the American frigate, even though Suffolk could tell the
same ammunition was used. A stray shot had cracked its topsail, not
split, only cracked. Suffolk knew then that he had the attention of
the crew of the Animus.

Leftenant Lamsey reported above deck again. "Sir, Mr. Wailand's
compliments, and you are needed below." Lamsey's eyes were afire- he
had changed from the timid, petty man he had been before Of course,
Suffolk knew the trick behind it: Lamsey's true talents showed in
battle.

"Very well, there are things we must attend to anyhow." Suffolk
planted the officer's hat firmly on his head and strolled confidently
to where the cannoneers were loading more shrapnel into the
guns. "Hold your fire, men!" The captain called out.

Then, Leftenant Wailand, a tall, muscular figure, thundered up to the
captain, saluted, and spoke in a deep, if somewhat tattered
voice, "Sir, I would know why we are not securing a possible pirate
vessel and claiming her for the glory of England."

Suffolk's eyes widened- he knew Wailand was a sort of a military
professor of sorts, a brilliant man of strategy; little could pass on
board ship without having Wailand examine it and figure out what was
truly going on. "Very well, it is a question I wished to address
anyway.

"We have fired shrapnel merely to catch their attention, not to
defeat them. Whether they are American, Pirate, or have a crew with
elements of both, I cannot tell. So, therefore, we must lead an away
party to the Animus to learn exactly what is going on." The captain
could only follow the course he had chosen- any deviation, and it
would all fall to ruin. "If they are pirate, we capture them. Since
we are three days out from England, it should be an easy matter to
return it. If they are American, we shall demand to know why they
have fired cannon shot at us. If both, we are to defeat the pirate
element and return her to her rightful owners. We are not going to
kill everyone in sight, mind you. This is a tactically crucial
mission, one that might affect the course of two nations.

"I will lead the boarding party." Suffolk said with growing
confidence. "Mr. Wailand, you will be second-in-command of this
mission, and Mr. Lamsey, you will stay on board ship. If we are
unsuccessful, your orders are to capture the Animus by any means
necessary and continue with your mission to the West Indies. Are we
clear, gentlemen?"

After the two senior officers nodded, Captain Suffolk readied his
pistol. With a step in the direction of the stairs leading above
decks, he earned sudden confidence in his crew, although he didn't
know it yet.

The rowboats set out from the Valiant and slowly made their way
towards the Animus. With the sweating muscles of men doing their
duties to King, Country and Captain, the small strike force made its
way to the nearest side of the American ship. As they neared closer
to the vessel, the Valiant's crew could hear shouting and gunfire,
mixed in with the sounds of a brawl. Every man loaded their pistols
and rifles. The Marines held their composure, stoically anticipating
what would follow.

Suffolk's first glance of the American ship told him that there was
trouble about. He could not say what was going on, except that there
was a fight going on, that being the crew of the Animus pitted
against itself. He saw a flag officer and made his way through the
fight as his men loaded onto the ship.

"What's going on here?" Suffolk shouted over the heavy noises. He
then covered his ears as a cannon was fired- he saw the cannonball
arc into the air and splash harmlessly between the two ships. He felt
a sudden need for someone to explain the insanity of the universe in
plain English to him.

"Mutiny, sir! Some of the crew wanted to fight you English, and so
they are trying to take over the ship and then kill you!!" The
officer said, gripping both his pistol and a wound on his arm.

"Where is their leader?" Suffolk asked quickly. "Who is responsible
for this?"

"There!" The American officer pointed with a bloody hand to a
slightly overweight, haughty individual trying to snipe out the
officers. Suffolk noticed, in particular, that Captain Darling was
nowhere to be seen. Had he been injured?

Suffolk aimed his pistol and the leader of the insurgents. He could
see a clear line of fire from his gun to the man. His finger gripped
the trigger...

He heard a report from a gun, and then heard no more.