General Disclaimer: These characters
are all mine. However, you might find some slight similarities between these
people and a certain Warrior Princess and Battling Bard from Potedaia. Naturally,
this is completely coincidental and unintended ….
Violence: Of course there's violence. I mean, I could just let them sail around the Southern Ocean and play with dolphins or something, but you wouldn't be reading this if I would, right? So yes, there's metal clashing, there are explosions and there's loads of aggression. You got a problem with this? Go watch Teletubbies or something, that'd probably be more your style…
Subtext/Maintext: This story is alt, which means that my main characters are gonna cross that line between 'friends' and 'quite a bit more than just friends'. They kiss, but if you close your eyes and scroll down a page you won't even notice… If you're a homophobe and unable to close your eyes and scroll down simultaneously I'd suggest skipping this story…
Connections to world history: This story sort of came to be after I saw a documentary on the Mutiny on the Bounty. But, as always when I meddle with history, the truth got hugely twisted to accommodate for my strangely working brain. It's not my intention here to recreate a Xenaversion of the whole Bounty incident, I've just used it to spark some imagination. I've also used some of the names, just because I liked them or I couldn't think of anything better (I hate thinking up names).
If, for some reason, this story offends you in any way, I'm sorry, but it can't be helped. My characters started walking around in my head and somehow, there they were, starting mutinies and whatever not… It's all their fault, this story has nothing to do with me whatsoever, I'm just writing it down…
This is a sequel to Eye of the Needle. It's best to read that story before starting on this one, or you'll miss out on the shared history of my two main characters.
Comments are, of course, always welcome…
Lara had to admit there were some benefits to not being a wanted criminal, and this was one of them: being able to dock anywhere she wanted to, to get supplies… It might not be as much fun as sinking some ship in the middle of nowhere, but it was a lot easier and faster. The downside was, however, that she now had to pay to restock her ship and she was running out of money fast… They needed food desperately though and Lara had decided she would probably be able to trade something they did have for something edible in the port they'd just docked at.
She pushed open the door and stepped into the small inn. Her blue eyes quickly surveyed the room, taking in the few patrons. There were a pair of villagemen sitting at the bar, and a small group of soldiers was inhabiting a small cornertable to her left. Laughter rang through the room as one of the soldiers spun some tale with wide handgestures.
Lara ignored them however and walked to the bar, where a dark haired, chubby woman, dressed in a light brown dress and a white apron, was drying off a glass with a teacloth. "What'll it be?" The woman asked, taking in Lara's presence with a slightly suspicious look.
The captain leaned her palms on the bar. "I'm looking for a place where I can trade for some food."
A dark eyebrow raised. "Trade, huh? What've you got?"
Lara shrugged, sitting down. "Ropes, wood, several sorts of herbs… Oh, and fish…" She rolled her eyes. "We have loads of fish…"
"Seafolk, are ya?" The dark haired woman laughed softly. "I smelled that about ya."
The captain grinned tolerantly. "Been a while since I hit dry land…"
"Hey! You!" One of the soldiers pointed a shaky finger at the bartender. "We need a refill."
"Just a moment, sir." The woman replied hastily, starting to fill one of the glasses with ale.
"Polite bunch." Lara muttered, glancing at the group.
"Ya don't know the half of it." The bartender sighed, placing the full glass on a tray. "We get some regiments through here every month or so and every time it's the same. Come in here, get drunk, trash the place… Never pay for nothing…"
"So why do you serve on 'm?" Lara asked, crossing her arms.
The woman shook her head. "Wouldn't have a place left if I refused to…"
"Hurry it up, wench!" A slouching voice sounded from the other side of the room.
Lara sighed, then twisted around on her stool and glared at them. "You know, that's not nice, gentlemen. You should work on your manners."
Behind her the dark haired woman winced. "You shouldn't have said that." She muttered in an undertone, watching as the soldier that had just been speaking stood up, his alcohol induced state causing him to sway slightly from left to right, the chair he'd been sitting on falling backwards with a thud.
"You stay outta this! This ain't none of your business!"
"Well, I guess I just made it my business." Lara stated, leaning back against the bar calmly. "And I strongly suggest you apologise."
"Apologise?" The young man started laughing, his friends soon joining in. "I think not."
"Then I guess you should leave."
The man glared at her for a moment, stepping closer. "Make me." He uttered in a snarl.
Lara grinned widely, slowly pushing herself off her seat. "You know, I was hoping you'd say that…"
A loud crack of knuckles against skull. The soldier staggered back , stumbling over his own feet and falling back into the small table he and his friends had been sitting on. With a loud creak the wood collapsed under his weight, glass shattering as empty glasses clattered to the ground.
Lara looked up at the barkeeper apologetically. "Sorry bout that."
Hazel eyes blinked back at her. "Uhm… 's Okay… I guess…"
"You bitch!" The man staggered back onto his feet. "You'll pay for this!"
Lara chuckled deviously. "You have absolutely no idea who you're dealing with, do you?"
"We don't generally take names, woman." A second soldier stated with a growl as he closed in on her.
A thud as the man was kicked against the far wall with negligent ease. "You should really start doing that though." Lara informed him cheerfully. "It'll prove to be good for your health, trust me…"
Movement from her left side caught her attention as the other soldiers charged towards her, metal blinking at her as daggers and sabres were drawn. Lara grinned happily. Soldiers… She rubbed her hands expectantly. Gotta love 'm.
They didn't prove to be much of a challenge however. Mostly because they were too drunk to stand, let alone hit a quickly moving target. Lara easily swiped the legs out of under the first, then grabbed onto both arms of the next, slamming her forehead into his head. The soldier staggered back, grabbing onto his head with both hands and therefor loosing the grip on his sabre, which Lara quickly grabbed onto, spinning around and blocking a strike aimed at her side. She swung her weapon at her attacker's again with such force the holder couldn't hang on to it any longer, and the metal flew across the room, the barkeeper hastily ducking as the sabre seared over her head, finally thudding into the wooden wall behind the bar.
With a low chuckle she twirled her weapon around in her hand, watching the now alarmed soldiers expectantly. "Well, come on fellows, is that all?"
Her head shot up as the door to the inn crashed open, revealing a well dressed, grey haired lieutenant, his long hair pulled back, a three-cornered hat held under his arm. The man stepped inside slowly, surveying the area, three other soldiers armed with riffles following close behind.
"Lieutenant." The nearest soldier hastily got to his feet, wiping at the blood seeping from his nose, then saluting his commanding officer. "It's a good thing you're here, sir. We were just teaching this woman a lesson."
Lara chuckled, crossing her arms. "A lesson on what? How to lose?"
His brown eyes narrowed at her. "If you think I'll…"
"That's enough, Theodore." The lieutenant stated flatly, giving the young man a look. His eyes then tracked up and met Lara's. "Miss Dean, I take it?"
"So you've heard of me?" The captain grinned, watching as the eyes of the soldiers scattered around her went wide at the mention of her name.
"I'm not deaf." The older man said, then took a few paces towards her. "May I ask why you are beating up my men?"
A shrug. "They charged me. I had to defend myself."
"Right…" The lieutenant mumbled, giving his soldiers a disgusted look. Then he dug into a pocket on the inside of his jacket, fishing out a small, folded piece of paper, red wax pressed on the top. "I have a message for you, Miss Dean."
Lara glanced up at him with a look that was a cross between curiosity and amusement. "So the military is delivering mail these days, huh? Ran out of people to harass, did ya?"
The lieutenant gave her a bored look. "It's a summon from the Admiral."
"Summon?" Lara raised an eyebrow at him in mild disbelief. "Lemme get this straight, Kennard is 'summoning' for me?" She asked, a dangerous hint in her voice.
The captain growled. "He's got a lot of nerve…"
"Just take the message, Miss Dean, so we can get out of each other's way." The lieutenant sighed, waving the piece of paper at her.
Blue eyes glanced up at him, then Lara reached out and took the letter out of his hand.
The older man immediately turned on his heels, briskly striding out of the room.
Lara watched him until he and his men had left the establishment, then she looked down at her note, gazing at the seal left in the red wax.
"My goodness…" The bartender poked her head over the bar, her eyes flicking across the room. "They've really gone, have they?"
"Yeah." Lara muttered absently, as she folded open the paper, letting her eyes scan over the letters. She frowned at the message. I have a job that might interest you. Report to me as soon as possible.
The woman behind her let out a breath, then circled around the bar and walked towards the crashed table, kneeling down and starting to pick up the shards of glass. "Always wreck my finest glasses, they do…"
The captain looked up and regarded the scene. The broken table, the glass scattered across the room, the sabre that was still embedded in the wooden wall behind her. "I'm afraid I don't have anything to pay you back for the mess I caused." She stated. "But I guess I could give you some of those supplies we talked about, I guess that would…"
"You gonna pay me?" Disbelieving hazel eyes glanced up at her.
A shrug. "Well, sure…"
The woman laughed softly. "You just saved this place from a fate far worse… I can deal with a few shattered glasses and a cracked table…" She stood and placed the shards she'd picked up on a nearby table, then dusted off her apron. "You needed food, did ya?"
Lara blinked, then nodded.
"You just wait here, I'll see what I can find…" She shot the captain a smile. "No charge…"
"Hey, what took you so long?" Matthew called
out, waving at her as he spotted her striding closer. "Did you scrounge us up
Lara walked aboard her ship, then dumped the large bag she had slung over her back onto the deck, a loaf of bread and several pieces of fruit rolling out as the sack thudded onto the wood.
"Brilliant!" Matthew patted her on the back enthusiastically. "Didn't know you were so good at bartering, Lara."
But the captain ignored him, walking past in her way up to the stern. "Tommy! Get this ship moving!"
Matthew frowned his brows at her behaviour, then hastily trotted along after her. "What did you do, rob the place?"
"No." Lara stated shortly as she hauled up the anchor with savage pulls. She was about to pace off again, but Matthew grabbed onto both of the captain's shoulders, halting her movements. "Lara, what the Hell is going on?"
Blue eyes glared at him for a moment, then Lara dug into her pocket, pulling out the letter she'd gotten and handing it to her second in command without a word.
"Where are we going, cap?" Tom asked, turning the wheel as he steered the ship out of the small harbour.
The captain crossed her arms, taking a breath of the salty air as the sails caught wind and pushed their vessel forward. "East, Tommy. To Port Jackson."
Both the skipper's eyebrows shot up. "You serious?"
Lara nodded, letting the wind blow back her hair.
Tom shrugged. "All right then. But I thought you didn't want to go there anymore, because of Ca…"
"You have any idea why he's calling on us?" Matthew's voice interrupted as he looked up from the letter.
The captain closed her eyes, letting out a breath. "Not a clue."
"So why are we in such a hurry to get there?" The second in command asked, crossing his arms.
"Cause we're flat broke, Matt." Eyelids opened and blue eyes looked at him. "I thought about it, it can't hurt to go and see what's up at least, right?"
Matthew shrugged. "I guess not…"
"Good." The captain straightened, then strode past him. "If you need me I'll be in my room."
The door closed behind her and Lara let out a deep breath, leaning back against the wood for a moment.
For all those years she had been avoiding Port Jackson. She'd said it was because she had too many enemies there, or because she just didn't like the place… Both of which were true, of course, but… Lara pushed herself off and walked to her desk, circling it and seating herself in her chair, leaning back and folding her hands in thought. But that hadn't been the reason, and nearly everybody on this ship knew that, except the few new boys they'd taken aboard after… She closed her eyes, letting out a breath. After Catherine…
She bit her lip. It was strange how the mere thought of the girl's name made her heart ache. It was strange how much she missed her, even though they'd only spend a little over a week together and that week was now nearly three years in the past.
She didn't think about that time much, or at least, she tried not to. It hurt too much. Lara balanced her chin on her folded hands. But now she had no choice. Now she was heading back to Sydney. And since the girl was probably working for the Admiral she couldn't possibly avoid running into her.
She looked forward to it, she had to admit to herself. Of course it would only make things harder, seeing Cathy and then leaving again, but still… Still she felt a small smile tugging at her lips at the prospect of getting to see a glimpse of the girl, who would probably be a grown woman by now …
She made some quick calculations. Four days. Four days and they'd reach the Port. She nodded quietly to herself. She'd waited this long, she could wait four more days.
Wagons rattled across the small cobble road,
heading towards the market square. The houses stood close together, sounds echoing
between them in the early morning air.
Lara took a breath, letting her eyes flick past her surroundings. A lot had changed. The town was turning into a city, the number of buildings increasing rapidly. Settlers had started to arrive in great numbers, building houses and starting trade. This all didn't matter much to her, however. She'd never been much for 'civilisation', preferring the quiet sea life over this restless city anytime.
A large house, set aside from the rest, came into view, a path leading through a lush garden up to perfectly white marble stairs.
"Fancy…" Matthew stated, whistling under his breath as they walked up the path.
"Means he's got money, and he might be inclined to give me some." Lara retorted. "Let's see if somebody's home, shall we?" Lifting the large golden knocker and letting it fall back onto the wooden door.
A few more knocks and the door was yanked open. A short, older man, dressed in a dark, neatly pressed suit, regarded them for a moment. He took in the simple outfit and salty smells that circled them, then tried to repress a look of disgust. "The admiral generally does not see visitors before dawn, I'm afraid."
"Oh, he'll see me." Lara informed the butler, forcing a smile. "He asked me to come."
"Well, you'll just have to wait until the sun has fully risen. The Admiral is still asleep, you see."
"Too damn bad." Lara clearly enunciated the words. "You just get him out of bed right now and tell him Lara's here to see him."
But the man firmly shook his head. "I'm afraid I cannot do that, miss, you'll just have to… Hey!" He squirmed as Lara wrapped a hand into his collar and lifted him off his feet.
"You listen to me, little man, I do not have to do anything…"
"Lara, would you just relax!" Matthew hissed. "Be nice, put the man down…"
Blue eyes shot him a look, then she walked inside, turned and placed the man back where he'd stood. "Now, I suggest, you point out Mr. Steward's room to me. Unless you want to be dragged past every single door, that can be arranged too…"
Annoyed brown eyes regarded her for a moment. "Very well." Was the spitted reply. "Please follow me."
"Sure." Lara muttered, getting an even more annoyed look directed back at her before the butler turned and found his way up the stairs.
"Would you just calm down?" Matthew whispered, leaning closer.
"I'm calm." The captain growled back in retort, her gaze drifting across the hallway, searching…
The second in command rolled his eyes.
Kennard was sitting behind his desk, bent over a piece of paper in front of him. He looked up as footsteps entered his room.
"Hello Kennard. Long time no see."
Blue eyes met his. Kennard produced an unconvincing smile. "Miss Dean. Mr Matthew." A nod to both. "It's good to see you replied so… promptly…"
"I'll be honest with ya…" Lara seated herself, leaning back in her chair and popping her booted feet on the desk's surface. "I came here because my funds are kinda low…" She pinned the admiral with her blue eyes. "But if you ever 'summon' for me again, I can assure you I won't be this… nice…" White teeth flashed. "I don't like to be treated like one of your servants, you see…"
"Yes…" Kennard cleared his throat. "Well…" He took a breath, regaining his composure. "Let's get to business, shall we?"
"We shall." Lara smiled charmingly.
"Right…" The Admiral shot her another look, then pulled open a drawer of his desk, taking out a sheet of paper and tossing it in front of her on the desk.
Lara straightened and leaned closer, picking up the thick sheet of paper. Matthew stepped up behind her and looked at it over her shoulder. Etched in black ink was a small ship, sails raised as it sailed out of Sydney harbour.
"That's 'The Phoenix'. It sailed out of the port a few months ago..." Kennard stated, sitting back in his seat. "…but never returned."
Lara glanced up, then back down at the etch. "Sank?"
Matthew's eyebrows raised. "Ouch…"
"The captain, Mr Austin, was tossed off his ship somewhere up the coast. He managed to make it to land and inform us. There have been sightings of the ship near Tahiti about a month ago, then we lost track of them. Mr Austin suspects they will be heading down the coast now, in search of a hideaway."
Lara regarded the etch for another moment, then placed it on the desk. "So what does this have to do with us?"
"I'll need to send a few ships up the coast, to try to intercept them and bring the mutineers to justice. The problem is, most of my ships are out and about, exploring, protecting, whatever not…"
"So you want me to take part in the search mission?"
Kennard nodded. "You know we don't take kindly to mutineers. These people must be brought to justice and my orders are to get that done."
Lara nodded slowly. "So what's in it for me?"
"What do you need?"
"My, my, Kennard, you almost sound desperate…" The captain chuckled, then turned serious. "If I bring these people in, they'll get sentenced to death, last time I checked…."
"Death by strangulation." Kennard confirmed calmly. "Like I said, we don't take kindly to mutineers."
"And I don't really like bringing people to their deaths." Lara retorted, gazing at him intently.
"You think I do?" Kennard returned, frowning his brows. "I don't always say I agree with the law, Ms Dean, but it is the law." He shook his head. "Every sailor knows the price for rebelling against a captain, they knew what they were doing…" He looked at her calmly. "Now, before I go any further, I need to know where you stand… Will you help, or not?"
Lara glanced up at Matthew, who just shrugged back. Then she looked back down and nodded "All right…"
"Excellent." The Admiral smiled back at her. "Now, I want you to escort two other ships up the coast. The other two are lying in the harbour right now, waiting to set sail."
"Gotcha…" Lara nodded.
"The ship is small, and doesn't have a lot of weapons. It was sailing towards the islands north of here to supply some of the colonies there. I don't suspect much trouble from them, all you have to do is catch them and bring them here for the judges to decide their faith. When you return I'll make sure this trip was worth your while."
Lara regarded him for another moment, then nodded slowly. "I trust your word on this… We'll need some supplies before we depart however, we're a bit low on ammo and food."
"You got it." Kennard waved his hand, granting the request, then pulled a blank sheet of paper from his desk and dipped his pen in a small inkjar. "You can take this letter to the warehouse at the far end of the city. Show this and you'll be able to pick up the supplies you need, no charge." He blew on the ink, letting it dry, before folding it and pressing his seal on the back.
Matthew took the note, tucking it in the inside of his jacket.
"Captain Peters is in charge of the lead ship. He has all the information on this mission. If you have any question's you can turn to him."
Lara pushed herself up. "All right." She extended her hand towards the Admiral, giving him a charming smile. "Always a pleasure doing business with you, Kennard."
"Likewise." The Admiral nodded, shaking Matthew's hand as well.
Lara turned, following Matthew towards the door, then stopped, seeming to reconsider. "I was just wondering…" She turned around.
Kennard lifted an eyebrow at her in question.
"Last time I was here a girl stayed around. She's supposed to work for you. I was thinking…"
Kennard let out a breath, leaning his forehead on his folded hands. "I thought you'd heard…"
Blue eyes narrowed in alarm, brows frowning. "Heard what?"
The admiral looked up, straightening. "She worked for me for about half a year. One day she didn't show, so we went to look for her. She wasn't in her room. We suspect she went for a walk out of town and one of the wild beasts…" He stopped for a moment and gave Lara a sympathetic look. "Catherine's dead."
Lara had to remind herself to draw in a breath. "Right…" She managed, trying to sound casual.
Kennard simply nodded, then watched her turn and leave the room.
Matthew gently touched the captain's shoulder as they exited the building. "God, Lara, I'm sorry… Are you OK?"
Lara pushed aside the raging memories and emotions. "I… These…" She swallowed. "These things happen…It…" She closed her eyes, shaking her head.
Her second in command looked up at her. "Lara, you should…."
"No." The captain interrupted him. "No, I shouldn't, Matthew… This is… I mean, she was a good kid and I l… I liked her, but these things happen and…" She stopped, glancing at her feet, before looking back up. "You go and get those supplies, OK? I'll have a chat with Mr Peters."
Matthew regarded her for a moment, then nodded. "All right." He stated, before watching her turn and walk towards the dock.
This was not the way it was supposed
to be…She wasn't… Lara let out a shaky breath, closing her eyes as she
paced through the still silent streets back towards the dock. Ever since she'd
gotten the note from Kennard, she'd been imagining what she'd say, what Catherine
would look like after all this time… She'd even considered the girl not wanting
to see her, because it'd been so long and… But never, ever had the thought crossed
her mind that she might be…
She turned a corner and passed a small bar, looking up at the sign dangling from the wall. 'Lord Byron'.
"Come see me when you get back to Sydney?"
She rubbed a tear out of the corner of her eye in annoyance. Get a grip, Lara. This is not the time. Business. Focus on business… Her mind scolded her, urging her forward, past the pub and her memories. Have a chat with that English captain, then you can find some mutineers and work some aggression out on them, OK? She nodded quietly to herself, tucking any feelings away deeply, before walking out onto the dock.
The lead ship was huge, about twice the size of The Argo and well armed. The deck was crawling with men, preparing the ship to set sail, checking ropes and scrubbing the deck.
A young boy stopped and looked up at her.
"I need to find Captain Peters? Is he on board?"
"Yes ma'am." The boy nodded politely. "He's up in his room, right through that door, ma'am." He pointed up a set of stairs.
"Thanks." Lara smiled at him, then headed forward, in the indicated direction.
She decided to be polite and knocked on the door.
"Enter." A deep voice burred from inside.
She opened the door to see an older man, his white hair tied back in a ponytail, seated behind a large mahogany desk. "Yes?"
"Hi." Lara walked in. "Kennard send me to come and see you. I'm…"
His white eyebrows contracted. "You're the Curse?"
Lara mentally rolled her eyes at the title. "Some call me that, yes." She extended her hand towards him. "Lara Dean."
He regarded the outstretched hand for a moment with suspicion, then took it. "JoAaron Peters." He settled back in his chair, not taking his eyes off her, and motioning her to sit down. "I'd heard the Admiral was trying to get you to do this job… I never imagined he would actually succeed."
"Money is a very compelling means of persuasion, Mr Peters." Lara grinned.
"I bet." The captain muttered, then straightened. "We have three ships to our disposal. Mine, yours and one led by captain Andrews. We'll sail out of the Port, then take up positions in a row and just head straight north. We'll go to a distance that'll allow us to just see each other, and then double it, so we can see any ships passing through between us. I'll give you some flares, so you can shoot a warning sign when you find The Phoenix."
Lara nodded, regarding the captain calmly.
"We'll set sail as soon as you're ready."
"I'm ready anytime you want to set sail." Lara stated. "My second in command is getting us some supplies, but I take it he's come back by now. As far as I'm concerned, we leave immediately…"
Mr Peters considered this for a moment, then nodded. "Very well… I'll have a…uhm… a talk with Mr Andrews and let him know you're ready. I'll send word to you."
"Perfect." Lara stood, giving the captain a nod. "Good day, sir."
"Good sailing, Miss Dean." Peters said, standing up and walking to the door, opening it for her, then watched her walk out and off the ship.
A young, well-dressed man stepped up beside him, raising an eyebrow. "Anyone we know, sir?"
"Unfortunately so, Mr Walters." Brown eyes turned up to meet blue ones. "That is the former Torment of the Southern Seas."
Karl Walters' eyes widened as he looked after the receding figure. "Her?"
Captain Peters nodded. "That, Mr Walters, is the woman who killed your father."
"He hates my guts." Lara chuckled reluctantly as she joined Matthew on the deck. "It's been a while since I was called 'the Curse'… I guess they haven't forgotten me just yet…"
"You're not really a forgettable person, Lara." Matthew smiled, giving her a pat on the back. "So when do we leave?"
"As soon as possible… Probably in an hour or so. Peters wanted to have a chat with his other captain, about how they'll manage keeping an eye on us, I bet…" The captain pushed open the door to her room. "Just get everybody ready, I wanna leave this place as soon as I can…" She seated herself at her desk, drawing a map from the top drawer and dipping her pen in a jar of ink.
Matthew regarded the bent form quietly for a moment. "Do you wanna talk about it?"
Blue eyes glanced up at him, then back down. "No."
Her second in command nodded quietly, letting his hands fall on the back of the chair he was leaning against. "All right."
Lara let out a breath, then looked up. "I just can't, Matt… I just…" A sigh. " I don't wanna think about anything right now…"
Matthew shook his head. "I know you don't… But pushing it away won't help…"
"I know that…" The captain sighed. "But… I just wanna get this job over with first, you know? I need to focus on this…"
"Sure." Her second in command walked towards the door. "I'll get preparations done and get this ship sailing, OK?"
"Don't worry about it…" Matthew managed a smile for her, then pushed open the door and exited, leaving her in silence…
Lara watched the closed door for a moment, then shook her head, clearing her thoughts, before pulling open another drawer, in search of an empty sheet of paper. She ruffled through a pile of sheets. Notes, maps, writing… Her hands stilled as they touched the piece on the bottom of the drawer, large shaky letters spread across the front. 'Catherine.'
"You can keep it. You have to save it for later, when I'm a really famous writer."
She traced the name with trembling fingers, then she leaned forward, hiding her face in her hands. Without her consent tears drifted down her cheeks. She roughly rubbed them out of her eyes. "I'm so sorry, Catherine…" She took a shaky breath. "I should've been there. I should've… I…" Another sob. "I'm so sorry…"
The sea was calm, seagulls squawking loudly
above, circling the ships that sailed out of Sydney Cove.
"Just follow that big ship until we get into open waters, Tommy." Matthew stated, pointing at the lead ship.
"You got it." The skipper stated, turning the wheel slightly to the left. He glanced up for a moment and looked at the second in command, who was pensively staring ahead of him. "How's the cap doing?"
Matthew sighed, closing his eyes and letting the wind blow back his hair. "Lousy." He shook his head. "She won't admit it, but she's really shook up about this…"
" 's Horrible…" Tom let out a breath. "I can't believe it really… I was quite looking forward to seeing Cat again myself. It's weird, you know?"
"Yeah, I know…" Matthew patted the skipper's back. "Good people always die young somehow, Tommy… It's the sad truth."
"Don't I know it…" The skipper gently steered around a few cliffs. "Sometimes this life just really sucks…"
Matthew managed a slight smile. "You said it, Tommy…"
The waves were sloshing against the hull.
It was a quiet night, no clouds whatsoever and a bright moon, reflecting its
light in small stripes across the top of the waves. In the distance she could
just see the lights of the two other ships, receding as The Argo sailed away
from them, taking up it's position.
Lara closed her eyes, letting the sounds of the waves take over her senses.
She glanced up as Matthew stepped up beside her, leaning his hands on the railing. "You gonna turn in?" She asked, turning her eyes back to gaze at the horizon.
"Yeah, probably… in a bit…"
Lara nodded. "Good. Thanks for today, Matthew. I should've helped out, I'm sorry…"
Brown eyes looked at her. "Don't worry about it…" A moment of silence. "You feeling any better?"
The captain sighed, clasping onto the wooden railing. "I feel tired." She shook her head, then met Matthew's eyes. "I'm no good with emotions… They're draining me… But at the same time I have so much energy I just want to…" She lifted a clenched fist, then let it drop back down again. "... hit something… You know? I actually snapped one of those drawers on my desk in two. I'll have to clean that up…"
Matthew managed a smile, then placed an arm across her shoulders.. "She's in a better place now, Lara."
The captain let out a breath. "She'd better be… Cause if she isn't, I'm personally going up there and I'm gonna kick God's butt."
Matthew chuckled. "I'd pay to see that." He gave her a pat on the back, then pulled away. "There'll be better days, you know?"
The captain nodded quietly. "I know…" She managed a smile for him. "Thanks Matthew."
"No worries." Her second in command smiled, then took off and headed towards his room.
It had been days since the ships had split
up. Lara gazed out over the still waters quietly. The Argo had taken up position
on the far right, furthest from the mainland and they'd been scanning the horizon
continuously for the last six days, but to no avail. A breath of salty air whipped
around her, blowing back her hair. Maybe they hadn't even headed south, maybe
they went north, towards China, maybe they were even sailing across to America.
Lara shook her head. This hunt was turning out to be a big disappointment… A
self-deprecatory chuckle. The story of my life, right? Maybe she should
just turn around now, give up this pointless tracking and just…
Lara looked up at the crow's nest, to see Ben waving at her enthusiastically. "Ship over yonder, capt'n!" he yelled down, pointing forward. "Coming straight towards us. It's The Phoenix, capt'n."
Lara chuckled. "I guess I spoke too soon." She walked up to the bough, gazing out over the sea and spotting a dot on the horizon, slightly to starboard. "Tommy! Set in pursuit."
"Aye aye, capt'n." The skipper stated, turning the wheel and heading straight towards the enemy ship.
"Mary, get the weapons ready. Toby, wake Matthew and the others, will ya?"
Mary came trotting up, handing Lara a gun and sabre. "How about the flares? Shouldn't we warn the other ships?"
The captain shook her head. "Not yet. I don't think they spotted us yet, I wanna get as close as possible before I let them know we're coming."
"Gotcha." Mary nodded. "How about cannons?"
The captain shook her head. "They want the ship in one piece if possible."
The weaponsmaster sighed in disappointment. "No fun."
"Lara!" Matthew's voice drifted up as the second in command strode onto the deck, ruffling his dishevelled hair back. "We got company?"
"Uhuh." The captain nodded. "Finally… I was getting bored."
Matthew chuckled. "I bet you were… What do you want me to do?"
Lara secured the belt she was wearing a bit tighter. "I want you to stick back here. Make sure they don't try swinging over and taking down Tommy."
"Touched by your concern cap, I really am." The skipper commented from his spot on the stern, arching the ship into the wind and speeding up.
Lara grinned, then looked up at Matthew, who gave her a nod. "Good. Mary, when we tie up beside 'm, I'll take the first load over, I want you to get the boards across as fast as you can and send in the backups, OK?"
"You got it." The weaponsmaster nodded, flexing her hands. "Been a while since we butted some heads, can't wait…"
Lara shot her a grin, then let her eyes drift to the slowly growing spot on the horizon, the outlines of the ship now clearly seen against the bright blue skies.
"They spotted us captain!" Ben yelled down from the crow's nest. "They're changing course. North-north-east."
"Matching course, cap." Tom stated, heading in the same direction. "We're going way faster then they are, we'll catch up with them in no time…"
"Perfect." Lara's voice burred, then she turned. "Toby, send up those flares. First wave, get ready. As soon as we get close enough we're going in…"
A dozen men or so nodded, walking closer to the left side of the ship, that was slowly edging closer and closer to the small transport ship.
Lara unsheathed her sabre, watching the other ship intently. This was gonna be too easy. This tiny ship didn't even stand a chance against theirs. Nice and simple… Lara grinned, twisting the blade in her hand experimentally. "You guys ready?"
"Aye capt'n!" Was the yelled response as they all grabbed on to ropes and got ready to toss planks across to the enemy vessel.
"All right…" Lara judged the distance between the two ships, now spotting the armed figures on the Phoenix's deck. A few more moments, then she jumped up, letting out a battlecry as she soared over. She let go of the rope, letting the momentum take her and pull her into a lazy flip before landing on the deck and turning, lashing her sabre out at an unseen enemy.
Metal clashed as her sabre impacted with another, stopping her blow. Her eyes tracked up, to meet those of her opponent.
The grip on her weapon faltered and the sabre clattered on the wooden deck. The breath got stuck in her throat. She blinked in disbelief, staring at the young woman standing in front of her.
A smile slowly lit up the woman's face. "Hi."
"Ca… Catherine?" Lara hesitantly reached out a hand, touching the girl's cheek tentatively, ensuring her this was real. That she was real. "Oh God…" She gasped as she felt soft skin under her fingertips. Then she just reached out and pulled the woman closer, enfolding her in a hug.
A laugh bubbled up as Catherine responded wholeheartedly, wrapping her arms around the captain tightly. "It's good to see you too…"
"They said you were dead…" Lara managed, biting back unwanted emotions. "I though you were…" A sigh as she just pillowed her head on Cathy's, closing her eyes.
"Hey, why aren't we moving?" Matthew asked as he pushed his way forward, through the mass of sailors all pilled up on the left side off the ship. "What the hell is going on here?"
One of the sailors scratched the back of his neck. "The…uhm… The captain's hugging the enemy, sir..:"
"What?" Both dark eyebrow's shot up. "Has she completely lost it? What the hell does she think…" His muttering stopped abruptly as he reached the railing, allowing him to peer out and onto the second ship, immediately spotting Lara and the familiar blond face tucked on her shoulder. "It couldn't be…" But his face creased into a smile nevertheless as he grabbed onto a rope and swung himself over hastily.
Cathy unwound herself from Lara's embrace reluctantly and looked up to find Matthew trotting over. "Hey Mr. Matthew." She drawled, a childish hint in her voice.
"Tch…" He scolded her, then pulled her into a hug. "It's so good to see you."
Cathy's face creased into a smile. "Dito." She stated, patting him on the back, before pulling away. "They told you I was dead… I'm sorry, I should've…"
He waved her off. "Don't you start. I'm just glad you're alive and well…"
Cathy grinned. "Alive? Yes… But well?" A chuckle as she indicated the ship, the men standing behind her, still clenching onto weapons, giving them suspicious looks. Catherine shook her head at them. "It's OK guys." She shot a smile at Lara. "They're friends."
"But Catherine?" A tall, blond haired man stepped forward, still holding onto his sabre. " Are you sure these people can be trusted? Our lives are on the line here, and…"
"Robert." Cathy looked at him. "I know what I'm doing. Drop the weapons." The crew hesitated for another moment, glancing at each other in slight confusion. Cathy shook her head, letting out a sigh before turning around completely and facing them. "I said drop 'm. And that's an order."
A few dozen eyes tracked up to meet hers, then one by one metal clattered on the wooden deck.
Lara blinked, watching the men obey. Catherine turned and green eyes met hers. "You came to find the leader of the mutiny, right?"
"Well, you found her."
A moment of complete silence. "You?"
Cathy grinned at her sheepishly. "You always did say I had a knack for getting into trouble…" She chuckled softly as she watched Lara shake her head in disbelief, then she became more serious. "We should talk."
Lara met her eyes for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah."
Catherine stepped aside and waved towards a nearby door with a grin. "Step into my office."
Lara walked inside, a smile crossing her face as she found the geography of the room very similar to her own. She circled the large wooden desk and peered out the window. "Nice dÈcor."
Cathy laughed softly, closing the door behind her. "Figured you might like it." She motioned Lara into the deskchair. "Have a seat."
Lara pulled the chair back and sat down, gazing up at the still standing Catherine and raising an eyebrow.
Cathy took a breath, pacing the room. After a few seconds she shook her head at herself with a chuckle. "You know, it's strange… For three years, I've been thinking what I'd say to you if we… if we ever met again…" She tossed up her hands. "And now… Now, I don't even know where to start."
Lara leaned back, regarding her quietly. "Why don't you start at the beginning?"
A sigh. "The beginning…" She repeated, taking a few more paces and sitting down on the edge of her bed, in lack of a second chair. "I uhm… I started working for Kennard. I told you he offered me a job, right?"
Lara just nodded.
"He's always been really friendly and kind but… The rest of the hired staff, they were always judging me on everything. I didn't do my work properly, my behaviour was inappropriate, my manners lousy…" Catherine watched the wooden boards between her feet intently. "I was just a former convict, you know? And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't break through that. They said the only reason I was where I was, was because Kennard liked me..." The blond woman balled her hands into fist. "It made me so mad. They made me feel so… so worthless… Like I was nothing… And I knew I was so much more." Green eyes tracked up to meet blue ones. "You showed me that." Catherine diverted her gaze again and studied her fumbling hands. "I really missed you… There were so many times that I wished I'd… That I'd been at that harbour just a few minutes earlier…"
Lara looked at the bent form for a moment. "There were so many times that I wished I'd left just a few minutes later."
The words were out without her consent and she winced as she realised how much of herself she'd just tossed out in the open right there.
Catherine's head shot up, and she blinked at her. "Really?" She asked softly, a smile tugging at her lips.
The eyes sparkled with the innocence of the girl she'd known, and she just smiled in reflex, waving off any defensive comments her mind was throwing at her as useless. "Yeah." She murmured, her gaze locking with Cathy's.
Then Catherine's eyes dropped away again and the blonde stood, taking a few paces through the room to order her thoughts. "I uhm… I stayed in Sydney for about half a year… But it was all sort of getting to me, and then, on top of it all, Kennard asked me to marry him…" The blond haired woman shook her head. "I told him no, of course, that he was a nice guy, but I just didn't think of him in that way and…" A shrug. "He said I should wait to decide. That there was no pressure. That maybe I could grow to love him… I realised right then that I couldn't stay there anymore… I felt like people were… were pushing me, from all sides, trying to shape me and… And I couldn't take it any longer…" She stopped pacing and looked at Lara. "So I left. I went to the dock and I boarded the first boat that could use some extra help." She produced a wry smile. "Ironic, isn't it? Me ending up on a boat, of all things…"
Lara chuckled. "Kinda… Why a ship? You could've probably travelled out with some convoy, head north to some new province…"
"I though about that." Cathy nodded. "But I just…I guess I just missed the sea." A wry grin. "It reminded me of better times, you know?"
Lara snorted. "Oh right, yeah, I forgot: washing up on beaches, battling hordes of soldiers and seeing you getting shot in the shoulder… The good old days…"
Catherine grinned. "You know what I mean… It was just… you... and me and…" A shrug. "You know."
"I know." Came the quiet reply, before Lara stood and circled the desk. She leaned against the front of the desk and crossed her arms. "So, then what?"
Cathy sighed, leaning against the desk beside her. "I served on two ships before I got assigned to The Phoenix. I'd met Robert Fletcher just before my second trip…"
Catherine glanced across the room quietly. The bar was full, since many ships had come in this morning and the sailors were enjoying their shore leave. She took a sip of her water, leaning back in her chair uncomfortably. It was stupid, really, how uneasy she felt on dry land these days. She knew she'd hated the sea once, but that had changed… She'd needed herbs to stop the nausea at first, but soon enough she got used to the constant motion of the ship. The sea was a companion now, leading her away from all the things she wanted to forget about. No dry land, no house filled with people to chastise her. No friends, no attachment. She liked it that way. It was easier, it hurt less.
She was just happy her former Captain, Mr. Banks, had arranged her departing on a new voyage the next day. She was just hoping that for once she could keep her nose out of trouble and…
"Hey there, sweetheart."
Cathy sighed inwardly. Too much to ask for apparently… She shot an annoyed look up at the red haired, bearded sailor, who pulled back a seat and settled down beside her. "What do you want?"
He shot her a hurt look. "Geez, so harsh? When all I want is to enjoy your lovely presence."
"My lovely presence would rather be saved from the stench of your breath." Cathy winced to herself as she said it. Great going, Cat, piss off a man twice your size… That oughta keep you out of trouble just fine…
The sailor frowned at her. "I don't think I like that comment much…"
"Well, I guess you should probably leave then…" Catherine retorted, her hand reaching for the gun she had tucked against her belt, just in case.
The red haired man's eyes widened and he got up from his chair slowly, placing his palms on the table, leaning over the wooden surface dangerously.
"Ira. Leave her alone, OK?" A voice sounded from behind him.
Ira straightened, then turned and looked at the lieutenant standing behind him. "But…"
The blond man shook his head. "No buts… Go. I want you to sober up before we get on board the Scylla."
Ira mumbled something, but then walked off to a bunch of other sailors, sitting at a table in the back of the room.
"Sorry about that." The lieutenant apologised. "Been at sea a long time, sometimes they get a bit too excited when they see a pretty face." He shot a charming smile at her.
Catherine regarded him for a moment, cocking her head. "You're on the Scylla?"
The blond man nodded. "Yup." He extended a hand towards her. "Robert Fletcher."
"We became friends. Sort of… I found out on board of the Scylla he had quite a temper. He's a good person, you know, but very… skittish… He's convinced he's under constant threat from everybody… Everybody but me, that is, he trusts me for some reason. I decided to use that to my advantage… I was getting a lot of odd looks at first, being the only woman on the ship, you know, and I could use all the allies I could get…"
Lara raised an eyebrow at this. "That sounds very opportunistic…"
Catherine shrugged. "It's the way I learned to think… You take what you can get… That's the way of the world." The woman sighed as this got her a disapproving look from the captain. "I know that doesn't sound a lot like the Catherine you know… But things are different out there, Lara. Life is tougher. On The Argo, everybody is your friend, but when you live out there you have to watch your back and you learn to use to take advantage of anything that can help keep you safe…"
The captain looked at her for a moment, not liking what she was hearing much, but not being able to say anything that would make it any less true. "I guess…" She regarded the girl sitting beside her for a moment, as Cathy continued on with her tale. Woman, not girl… Lara corrected herself, quietly watching Catherine's face, seeing the bags under her eyes, the wrinkles where there had only been smooth skin before… And as the emerald eyes lifted and met hers for a moment, she could see dark shadows twisting in their depths…
The cheerful person she'd known once had transformed into a strong leader, and the responsibilities that came with that leadership were pulling her down. The twinkle had gone out of her eyes, Lara realised, and it left them empty… Now a mere void, while they had once been full of life…
"Anyway, Fletcher asked me to come work with him on the Phoenix and I said yes." Cathy continued, not seeing Lara's painfilled eyes as she gazed at her intertwined fingers lying in her lap. "This ship was bad news from day one. Captain Austin had a bad case of moodswings. You never knew where you stood with the guy, you know? One moment he was bouncing down the stairs, the next he was mouthing you off… He didn't like Robert one bit, and the feeling was mutual. They had constant squabbles and tempers were rising all around the ship… One day I went down to the lower officers' quarters and I found some papers stating what it was that this ship was actually doing. We were taking some plants and foodsupplies to a slave colony on one of the northern islands…" A shake of the blond head. "I couldn't go through with that, of course. So I got up and decided to go to the captain and tell him he should just toss me on a raft and send me off to shore, cause there was no way I was gonna aid some slaver's cause." A reluctant smile. "Then there was screaming, I stepped up on deck and the next thing I know it wasn't me being tossed off, but it was the captain himself."
"You're an idiot Fletcher!" Austin's voice roared, as he pointed a finger at the sailor.
"You say one more word and I'll make sure you're dead 'before' we set this raft adrift." Robert snapped back.
"That's it!" Robert was just about to jump onto the raft when Catherine jumped in between. "Hey! What are you doing?"
"I'm tossing this numskull off this ship, that's what I'm doing!" Blue eyes flashed at her.
"Robert, that's mutiny…" Cathy grabbed onto his shoulders. "You know the price for mutiny, don't you?"
"Don't you dare speak up in his defence! You wanna join your precious captain?" He pointed at the raft and the dozen men seated on it. "Do you?"
Cathy took a breath. Did she want to spend months on a raft with a captain she couldn't stand for more than a few minutes? Someone who supported slavetrade? With limited supplies? She shook her head. "No."
"Good." Robert nodded, seeming to calm a bit in her presence. He looked up and judged the crew around him. "Anybody who opposes this change of command should step onto that raft now."
They watched as a few more men got onto the raft beside Captain Austin, then Fletcher ordered the raft to be pushed off.
He watched the vessel drift away for a moment, then turned to stare into burning green eyes.
"We need to talk… Now…" Cathy stated, then turned and walked into Austin's office, Fletcher following close behind.
"Do you have any idea what you've just done?!" Cathy asked in a growl as the door slammed closed.
"Hey, you agreed!" Robert shot back, pointing a finger at her.
"I had a choice between bad and worse, Rob, that's not agreeing, that's just accepting my faith."
Fletcher crossed his arms. "The man was obnoxious, Cat. You said that too, remember?"
Catherine shook her head. "That's not the point… This is mutiny, Rob. You've just condemned every member of this crew to either death or a life of running from the law…"
Fletcher blinked at her for a moment. "Yeah, I guess I did… But…"
"No buts." Cathy interrupted him definitively. "You are now responsible for these people, Robert, and because I agreed with you, so am I… So I really hope you've got a great escape plan in mind, Captain," she shot at him in a sarcastic tone, "because as soon as that man reaches dry land, or they find out The Phoenix never got to its destination we're gonna have a zillion ships on our tail, hunting us down…"
Fletcher's eyes widened slightly. "Uhm… I haven't really… I was just…I thought…"
Cathy sagged back in the captain's chair, leaning her elbows on the table and hiding her face in her hands. "Don't think, Rob. You suck at it…"
"Hey!" Robert closed in on her. "I am still your commanding officer, you know?!"
Cathy's eyes shot up and met his. "What do you want me to say? 'You did a great job there, sir? I'm so glad you just make sure I'll die an early death, sir?"
"Whoa…" Rob lifted his hands in defence. "I didn't mean it like that…" He took a breath. "Look, I'm sorry, OK? Maybe this wasn't the best idea I've ever had…"
"Now there's an understatement…" Cathy muttered.
"…but we're here now and we just have to deal with it." Fletcher continued. "You're the only one I can trust, Cat… We have to stick together, all right? We make a good team, you and I…"
Catherine shook her head softly, knowing that to be a lie.
"We can get out of this together, but I need your support, all right?" Blue eyes looked at her pleadingly. "Please, Cathy…"
She looked up, then let out a breath in defeat. "It's not like I have much of a choice."
"So I stayed. Robert is in charge, officially anyway… But he's not captain material, you know... And as I sort of became his second in command, people started looking to me more and more… " Catherine peeked up at her. "So there you have it." A self-deprecatory chuckle. "I think this is my best stunt yet. It definitely tops washing off board in the middle of a storm, right?" She managed a smile, trying to sound casual.
Lara just looked at her, then wrapped an arm around her friend, pulling her closer.
Catherine released a shaky breath, her faÁade of being in control dropping away as she leaned her head against the captain's shoulder. "You should probably chain me up now or something."
Lara rolled her eyes at the woman. "Don't be absurd."
"I'm not being absurd." Catherine stated, pulling back. "If you let me slip and they figure out you did…" A sigh. "You and I both know the price for mutiny, Lara… For aiding mutiny." She looked into sapphire eyes. "I will not have your death on my conscience. I'd rather die…"
"I'd rather you didn't." Lara stated calmly. "Cause when I thought you were dead, all through this last week, I didn't like it much…" Blue eyes searched green intently. "You're not gonna get rid of me anytime soon, not this time around, Catherine. We'll work this out…" A pause. "Together."
Cathy watched her for another moment, all sort of objections bubbling up and receding almost instantly. She sighed, dropping her head in defeat. "I'm sorry I got you into this…"
Lara smiled, stroking a lock of blond hair back behind an ear. "I'm not."
"You're not?" Cathy peeked up at her.
The captain snorted softly. "No way. These last few years have been OK, you know, but a tad… uneventful…" She grinned. "It's about time life got spiced up a little. And if there's anybody who can spice up a life, it's you."
Cathy laughed, falling back against the captain and closing her eyes contentedly. Lara's mere presence was comforting and for a moment it managed to wipe away all her worries, all the bad memories, all the trouble she'd gotten into. And it left her feeling peaceful, and warm and protected for the first time in three years. "God, I've missed you…"
"Missed you too…" Lara mumbled contentedly. For a single moment she'd seen a small spark
lighting up the shadows in Catherine's eyes. She was going to make things right again, she swore to herself, wrapping her arms tightly around the blonde's shoulders. She breathed in the smell of the dry wood of her room, mixed with the herb soap Cathy had washed her hair with, the salt that was staining her white shirt and a scent that was just Catherine herself. She closed her eyes, pillowing her head on the blonde's and soaking in the feeling of peace that washed over her. It was gonna be OK now… To hell with the money, or the English ships… They all didn't matter anymore…
"Capt'n!" A muffled voice sounded before the door was pushed open and Ben came running in. "It's the English ships captain, they're closing in. They saw the signal we fired…"
OK, maybe they did matter a little. "Thanks Ben." She pushed herself off and walked closer to him. "Give me a minute, OK. Tell Matthew I'll be right there…"
The young man nodded. "Aye capt'n." He shot a quick smile at Catherine. " 'tis Good to see you, miss. I'm glad you're well."
Cathy smiled back at him. "Thank you, Ben." She told him before he exited, closing the door behind him. Then she turned back to Lara. "So…?"
"So…" Lara stared ahead of her pensively for a moment, then her eyes met Cathy's. "I have a plan, but it's not gonna be all too pleasant… You trust me?"
"Implicitly." Was the affectionate answer.
Lara smiled. "All right then… Here's what we do…"
"I don't know about this, Lara." Matthew
shook his head. "You've seen that second ship, right? It's huge…"
"If we attack 'm at night, we'll manage somehow… They won't see us coming. We can use the Phoenix and attack from both sides, then blast a hole into their side the size of the Aegean."
"You do realise how lousy I am at acting, right?"
Lara chuckled. "Just nod when I tell you to, OK Matt?"
The second in command considered this for a moment. "I think I can do that…"
"Good boy." She patted him on the head, getting an outraged stare in return, before she walked off to the group of mutineers. "How're you going?"
Cathy lifted her chained hands experimentally. "You know, Lara, when I said, after we took back your ship back when, that next time I would get caught while you sucked up to the English captain…" She looked up. "I didn't mean it literally, really."
Lara chuckled. "Sorry." She touched the girl's shoulder. "If there was any other way…"
"I know, I know…" Cathy waved her off, then turned more serious. "Just be careful?"
"You just worry about yourself." Her touch trailed up to the girl's cheek. "Hang tight, OK? If all goes well, this'll be over with tonight."
"I know." Catherine murmured. "Well…" She straightened. "Guess we'd better go and lock ourselves up, huh?"
"I guess so." Lara grinned, then patted her shoulder. "Go on."
"Good luck." Catherine commented over her shoulder, before pulling open the door and disappearing into the hull, followed by her crew.
Matthew stepped up beside her, watching the last men head down the stairs, closing the door to the hull behind them. "You know, it's incredible how that girl keeps managing to turn our lives completely upside down…"
"Wonderful, isn't it?" Lara murmured, staring at the closed door with a smile, then turned and looked up into brown eyes. "You sure about this, Matthew? You know I don't wanna drag all you guys into this…"
"Don't you start this again." He shook a finger at her. "You know most of us here would go to hell and back to help her out, and those that don't know her yet will follow you no matter what the cost…" He patted her back as they turned and looked at the English ships sailing closer and closer. "You've got a loyal crew here, my friend."
"Yes, I do…" Lara said softly, lifting her hand in acknowledgement as Captain Peters showed himself. "All right, let's get on with this charade, shall we?"
"You betcha." Matthew grinned, straightening as planks were laid from the lead ship down the theirs.
Captain Peters straightened his jacket, then stepped across the make-do bridge with confident steps. "Miss Dean."
"Captain." She gave him a polite nod. "I think we just solved your problem for you."
A grey eyebrow raised. "You've captured them?"
White teeth flashed back. "Twenty one mutineers, locked up and tied down."
Mr Peters gave her a slightly impressed look. "Well done, miss Dean. You live up to your reputation." He motioned some of his men forward. "We'll take them from you and bring them on board my ship, then…"
"Oh no, you don't."
The captain crossed his arms over his chest. "Excuse me?"
"You'll get paid no matter what, right?" The Curse looked at him. "However, my salary sort of depends on those people down there and I wanna make sure Kennard lives up to his end of the bargain. " She looked up at him. "Nothing personal."
Peters regarded her for a moment. "Well, miss Dean, I do understand where you're coming from, but if somehow these prisoners slip, I'll be the one who'll end up taking the blame…" He gave her a meaningful look. "Nothing personal."
Lara stared back calmly. "I could give you my word, but I don't think you'll find that too convincing either…"
The captain shook his head. "I cannot take risks, miss Dean…" He paused for a moment thinking. "All right, very well, you can keep the prisoners on board. However, I insist we will tug the HMS Phoenix along. You're ship will be far too heavy if you carry both the prisoners and this ship, don't you agree?"
Well, there goes our extra vessel. Lara sighed inwardly, but just nodded slowly to the captain. "I guess so..."
"Also, I will leave one of my men on your ship, to make sure there are no…" He searched for a word. "…no slip ups…"
Lara raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm not much for 'visitors' on my ship, Mr Peters…" A moment of hesitation, seeing in his brown eyes that he was not going to relent. Great… Just great… "But I don't think you'll give me any choice in the matter. Very well, one of your men can come on board and check on us." She allowed, with a casual wave.
"Excellent." Peters smiled at her, then waved one of his men forward. "Mr Walters."
A young man, with striking blue eyes and dark brown hair stepped forward, his eyes meeting Lara's for a chilling moment.
"Mr Walters will stay with you for the time being." He informed Lara. "If you'll allow him to get some of his things…?"
"Of course…" Lara nodded politely. "Take all the time you need, please…"
The young man gave her a short nod before turning and walking back to his own ship, followed by his captain.
Lara heard Matthew step up behind her.
"Trouble." Her second in command muttered in an undertone.
She nodded in reply. "Big time..."
"I don't mean to sound disobedient, sir,
but this is not really a pleasant job for me to be assigned to." Karl muttered,
as he pulled some of his clothes from under his bed and tugged them in a bag.
"I understand that, Mr Walters, but in this matter you're the person I can trust most to be as critical of that woman as possible." The captain settled in a chair. "I want you to keep an eye on her until we get near Port Jackson." He leaned forward, his arms resting on his knees. "You can find out her weak spots…in case she turns against us, of course…After this trip is over and we reach the port, my dealings with her are over and I'm no longer responsible… If something would happen to her then…" He left the thought drifting in the air, meeting blue eyes, that took on a slight glint.
The young lieutenant nodded. "I understand, captain."
"Good." Captain Peters stood. "I'll leave you to your packing then…"
Karl saluted him. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"Welcome aboard Mr Walters." Lara welcomed
the young lieutenant politely. "We've got some private quarters ready for you.
My second in command here will lead you to them."
Blue eyes peered at her. "Actually…" Karl stated, as he negligently pushed his bags in Matthew's hands. "First off, I'd like some proof that you actually have these mutineers…"
Lara cocked her head at him. "I could take you down to the hull, if you want to… To show you…"
"No." He waved off her offer. "I'd rather not go down there. Bring the leader of this mutiny to me."
Lara raised an eyebrow. "Very well…" She stated slowly. "Matthew, bring the mutiny leader to my room, will you?" She asked her second in command, giving him a short meaningful glance.
"Aye captain." He nodded, then turned and walked towards the door to the hull, handing Karl's bags to Toby before opening it and heading down.
Lara waved towards her own room, opening the door for him. "Right through here."
He inclined his head, then stepped forward, and entered the captain's quarters.
Steps echoed down the stairs and Cathy's
head shot up. She quickly stood and found a spot near the bars. A face poked
The second in command looked around, then spotted her. "Trouble, Cathy. Lara's got some kid lieutenant stuck on this ship. Peters insisted. He wants to see the mutiny leader."
She nodded. "All right." She nodded, stepping back from the bars, to give him a chance to open her door. "Let's go…"
The second in command shook his head at her. "I don't think that's what she meant, Cat. I mean, officially Mr Fletcher…"
"I don't care about officially." Cathy interrupted him. "I'll go, I've done this sorta thing before… Besides, plans have probably changed. I have to talk to Lara…"
Matthew sighed and shook his head. "She's gonna kill me…"
"Nah, she won't, it'll look suspicious…" She motioned for him to open the lock. "Come on… move it…"
Matt rolled his eyes, but started to key open the lock nevertheless. "Aye aye captain…"
"Could I offer you something to drink ?"
Karl looked up. "No." Then more as an afterthought. "No, thanks."
Lara shrugged. "Suit yourself." She pulled the chair back from under her desk and settled down. "Take a seat, they won't be long…"
Karl seemed to ignore the comment, stepping around the room, quietly. He walked past the books on her shelf, gazing at the covers. Another step, then he nearly lost his balance as he foot got stuck behind something lying on the floor. He looked down in annoyance, at the think piece of rope lying in his path, picking it up.
Lara bit back a smile. "Oh, sorry, I was just checking a sample to see if our ropes were still secure… I guess I forgot to put that away…"
"Hmmm." He just muttered, pulling the rope tight between his hands. "Don't think you have much to worry about…"
"Not from those ropes, no…" She smiled charmingly at his suspicious look, then both their heads turned as the door was pushed open and Matthew walked in, dragging along one of the prisoners. He tugged on the chains roughly, and the woman fell to her knees, green eyes lifting from the floor and meeting theirs, filled with hate…
Lara's eyes widened, then narrowed as she shot a look at Matthew. 'I'm gonna kill you' She mouthed to him, behind Karl's back, seeing her second in command swallow.
"A woman?!" Karl's voice shot up in utter surprise
Lara clenched her teeth. "Yes." She gave Catherine a look, but the girl did a great job keeping up her act. "A woman." She looked up at Matthew. "You're excused."
Matt nodded, then hastily turned and made his way out of the room.
"So, you're the one who's been causing all these problems, are you?" Karl walked closer, snapping the rope he was still holding onto, taut between his hands.
"Yes, that's me." Cathy replied, then her head was jerked back as her chin was grabbed firmly, she was forced to look up into Karl's face. From the corner of her eyes she saw Lara stir.
"You don't talk back to me girl, unless I tell you to." Karl growled at her, then straightened again. "You know what we do to mutineers, don't you?"
Loads of snappy comment drifted up, but Cathy wisely bit them back, keeping quiet.
He circled around her leaning forward as he stood behind her, dropping his voice. "We tie a rope around your neck and we let two groups of men pull…" He chuckled into her ear, sending shivers down her spine. "Do you have any idea what that feels like?"
"Not really." Cathy muttered in an undertone, not being able to keep her mouth shut.
"Well, it'll probably be something like this…" He growled, then wrapped the rope he was holding onto around her throat in a smooth motioned and pulled on both ends, letting it close around her throat.
A fist impacted with his skull and he was pulled away from the woman harshly, a body landing on top of him, an arm pressing into his throat. Bright blue eyes flashed at him.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" He snapped at Lara, trying to push her away.
"I am…" Muscles tightened in anger. "…I'm protecting my investments, Mr Walters. My deal with Mr Steward was to get these prisoners to Sydney alive and for a trial and that's exactly what I'm gonna do…" She got up, looking down at him. "No one…" She paused, her blue eyes drilling into his. "And I mean no one… gets between me and my money." She backed away a pace, watching him scramble up. "Now get out."
"You can't tell me to…"
"Oh yes I can." She snapped, closing in on him again. "This is my ship and as long as you're on it you're gonna have to live by my rules. Now get out." She enunciated the words sharply.
He hesitated for another moment, then gave her a disgusted look before turning and walking out the door, slamming it shut behind him.
She turned and hastily dropped down beside Catherine, who was tentatively touching her neck. "Ouch…"
"Blasted son of a sea serpent…" Lara growled, then touched the red streaks on the girl's neck, feeling her flinch. She looked up and met green eyes for a moment. "Sorry… I…" She fished a key out of her pocket and unkeyed the chains locked around Catherine's wrists. "I've… I've got something for rope burns… " She stood and walked to her desk, digging in a drawer.
Cathy rubbed her wrists, looking up and watching her friend. "Your overprotectiveness nearly blew our cover there."
The captain looked up at her, then back down. "I'll blow this cover a thousand times before I'm gonna watch you die." She commented in a growl, snapping a drawer back in annoyance and opening the next one.
Cathy shook her head calmly. "Lara, if you blow this cover, I'll die anyway."
Blue eyes shot up and regarded her. She saw the edges of the captain's mouth tense, as she searched for any reply to that, scowling as she found none, turning back to her drawer, pulling out a small bottle with creamy white liquid.
The captain paced over and dropped to a knee beside the woman. "Pull your hair back." She ordered in a mutter, putting some of the cream on her fingertips.
Cathy pulled her hair over her right shoulder, exposing the left side of her neck.
Lara gently touched the red marks, spreading the cream over them gently.
Catherine took a breath in relief, closing her eyes. "That's great." She sighed contentedly as the cool liquid eased the burning.
"Hmm." Lara muttered in a grumble, keeping her eyes focused on her task, her hair falling down and obscuring her grimly set face.
Catherine regarded the captain affectionately. Lara's grumpy behaviour on her behalf was… endearing… She mentally shook her head at herself. No, it was more than that… It was…
Without consent her hand trailed up, pushing back the errant locks and tucking them behind the captain's ear. Lara's motion stilled, then her eyes slowly lifted and met Catherine's, whose fingers had somehow ended up stroking her cheek.
It was like thousands of voices inside of her were yelling her forward, and she obeyed willingly, leaning closer and gently letting their lips meet.
The door shot open and Matthew walked in. "Hey Lara, th…" A moment of complete silence as both women hastily pulled back. "Oh boy…" He blinked at the two sitting on the floor, Catherine diverting her gaze, blushing. He drew in a breath, then turned around. "I should… really learn to knock." He managed, before walking out and closing the door behind him.
Lara watched the closed door for a moment, then her eyes trailed back and met green ones.
Cathy smiled at her sheepishly. "We just made things even more complicated, didn't we?"
Lara chuckled wryly, moving closer and pushing a blond lock out of Catherine's face. "Well, you always were a troublemaker…"
Cathy grinned, leaning into the touch happily.
A knock sounded on the door. The captain rolled her eyes and sighed. "Yes?"
"It's Ben, capt'n. Mr Matthew told me to come and get the prisoner from you."
"Just give me a moment, Ben."
Catherine let out a breath, then pushed herself to her feet. "I guess it's time to head back down, huh?"
"Yeah…" Lara sighed, then stood as well, picking the shackles up off the floor.
Cathy extended her hands and watched as the captain locked the chains around her wrists again.
Lara took a deep breath, ordering her thoughts. "Plans remain unchanged." She stated, forcing herself to get back to business. "It'll just… It'll take a bit longer… After that little punch in the face, Walters will be watching my back 24 / 7. I have to figure out his routine, weak spots, so I can take him out of the picture without him making a sound… That and I was counting on using the Phoenix in the attack, I'll have to revise my strategy a little… "
Cathy nodded, straightening the fabric of Lara's shirt absently. "OK. How long?"
"Two more days or something… "
"I can do that." The woman stated, then looked up at her. "Be careful, OK? He might be the son of a sea serpent, but he seems pretty smart."
"I can handle it." Lara murmured, regretfully taking her eyes from Cathy's and turning to look at the door. "Ben?"
The boy's face poked through. "Capt'n?"
"Take her back down, will ya?"
"Aye capt'n." He nodded, taking hold of the chain she handed him.
A thought entered her mind and Lara snapped her fingers. "Hold up a moment…" She picked the small bottle with the cream off the floor, handing it to Cathy. "Here… Forgot about this…"
Cathy grinned. "Thanks…" She smiled, giving Lara's hand a squeeze before a gentle tug on her chain forced her forward and out of the captain's room.
The door clicked into place and left her in silence. Lara closed her eyes, letting out a breath. Well, I wanted eventful… She laughed, walking to her bed and letting herself fall back on the soft surface happily.
An awkward knock sounded and she chuckled. "Yes, Matthew?"
A dark head poked in. "How'd you know it was me?"
The captain rolled her eyes at him, then stared up at the ceiling again, folding her hands under her head.
Matthew grinned and stepped closer, pulling up a chair and sitting down beside her. "How are you feeling?"
Lara pulled herself onto her side, supporting her head with one hand. "Well…" She took on a pensive stare for a moment. "I'm surrounded by enemy ships, I just punched a big honcho lieutenant guy in the face, my plan is slowly sinking further and further into uselessness and I'm in love with the head mutineer…" She grinned at him. "I feel fantastic."
Matthew chuckled. "You've got it bad, my friend."
"Yeah." Lara sighed. "I know."
"Well, it's about time you figured it out, too."
The captain raised an eyebrow at him. "Excuse me?"
"Aw come on, it was quite obvious, wasn't it?" Matthew chuckled. "I mean, really Lara, you jumped in after her when she got washed off a ship in a full out raging storm. And at the time she wasn't even being civil to you…"
"Hey." The captain pointed a finger at him "That was just because…"
A brown eyebrow raised.
A second eyebrow.
"Oh crap." Lara muttered, sagging back into her sheets.
Matthew laughed. "Don't worry about it, capt'n, your secret's safe with me…" A moment of thought. "And Mary… Tommy… And Cookie, of course…"
Lara sighed in frustration. "Shut up, Matthew."
"Heh." Her second in command chortled, enjoying the captain's rare, flustered behaviour thoroughly, then he decided to give the woman a break. "Anyway, I just came here to give you a warning. Your big honcho lieutenant guy is seriously pissed off, Lara. He went straight to his quarters, looking like a lobster crawling out of a cookingpot. If I'd flashed a red cloth at him he'd have grown horns and charged me, I'm sure…"
Lara chuckled, enjoying the mental picture of a horned Walters. "That bad, huh?"
"Uhuh." Matthew nodded eagerly. "I think you should go apologise to him or something…"
The captain shook her head determinedly. "If I go apologise he's gonna know something fishy is up. I mean, really Matt, in my whole life I've apologised all of once. If I start sucking up to him he's gonna trust me even less…"
Matthew nodded, drumming his fingertips on his knee. "All right, see ya point there… So then what?"
"Well, I'll just keep up my act of hating his guts, which I won't have too much trouble with. But we'll need to get information off him. Someone will have to pretend to be willing to change sides…"
Her second in command lifted his hands in defence. "Please don't tell me that's me…"
Lara chuckled. "No offence, Matt, but not even Shakespeare could write a piece that you could reproduce convincingly, you know what I mean?"
Matthew took a breath in relief. "Great." Then he cocked his head. "Who's Shakespeare?"
The captain rolled her eyes. "Nevermind. You just nod when I tell you to."
The celldoor rattled shut behind her. Cathy
walked to the far side and sat down, leaning against the wooden hull, closing
Green orbs peered open and regarded the speaker. "Yeah?"
Robert got closer to the bars, wrapping his hands around them. "How did it go? Did y…" His eyes focused on the red steaks across her neck. "What happened?" His eyes narrowed. "It was that woman, wasn't it? I knew we shouldn't have trusted her, I just knew it…"
Cathy almost laughed at him. "No, Rob, it wasn't Lara." She repressed a smile, then took a breath. "They posted a lieutenant on here. He tried to strangle me…"
Fletcher shook his head. "He was supposed to do that to me… I shouldn't have let you go up there…"
"Don't worry about it…" Catherine hastily waved him off. "It gave Lara and me a chance to… uhm… talk…"
"OK." Robert muttered, leaning against the metal bars. "But I still don't trust that woman…"
Catherine released a breath. "Lara is not the enemy here. She will help us, I know she will…"
"Well, you might believe that, but I don't know her, OK?" Fletcher crossed his arms. "All I know is the stories I've been told about that woman, Cathy, and all they speak of is destruction and deceit… I can't put my life…" A short pause. "…our lives in the hands of a woman like that…"
Green eyes narrowed. "You just can't trust anyone, can you Robert?"
"I trust you." Fletcher stated in a soft voice. He looked around to their companions, then knelt down, in an attempt to get closer to her. "You're a very special person to me, Catherine."
Cathy raised an eyebrow at him.
"I mean…" Robert diverted his gaze. "We have a pact, you know?" He took a breath. "And you're right, I don't trust people easily, but you and I both know people are selfish and will do anything to get what they want… It's a kill or be killed kinda world out there, we agreed on that, remember?"
A sigh as Cathy dropped her head, then nodded slowly.
"And we agreed we had to watch each other's back…"
"Are you saying I'm not?" Cathy looked up at him dangerously.
Fletcher released a breath. "All I'm saying is that you're putting all your faith on this one single person…" He dropped his voice. "Our lives are on the line here Cathy. If she turns out to be a fraud…"
"She is not a fraud." Catherine's voice hissed dangerously as the blonde slowly crawled closer to the bars separating them. "And you don't have to remind me what's at stake here, Fletcher… You're the one that got us into this mess and I'm doing everything I can to get us out, but…"
"I know it's my fault, OK?" Blue eyes stared back at her intently. "You've been reminding me of that every single moment since this happened."
Cathy closed her eyes, forcing herself to calm. "Look, I didn't mean to snap at you, all right? But Lara is my friend. She saved my life more times than you can imagine and now she's putting everything on the line to save me again… So I will not have you pointing a finger at her and accusing her of being something she's not."
"People only do things if they can profit from this in some way…"
"Most people do…" Cathy agreed with a nod. "But Lara isn't like most people…"
"That's very naïve…" Robert frowned his brows. "That doesn't sound like you at all Catherine…"
The blonde sat down, leaning her back against the metal bars, pulling up her knees and wrapping both arms around them. "No, I guess it doesn't…" She murmured, a hint of sadness lingering in her voice
"I… I didn't mean that as an insult or anything, I just…" Robert stuttered, reaching through the bars and tentatively touching her shoulder. "I only meant to…"
"I know." Catherine shrugged him off, then turned and looked at him. "I know I can't get you to trust her, Rob, but nothing you can say will make me believe she's a threat to us in any way…Nothing, OK?" Her eyes bore into his. "So don't even try."
A chuckle sounded from the door opening. "Cat's got sharp fangs, ma boy, y'better watch out if ya know what's good for ya…"
A grin crossed Cathy's face and she stood, walking to the edge of her cell. "Hey Cookie."
"Hiya honey." The chubby woman with dark skin stated, sauntering over to her cell and handing her a bowl. "Surprise, fish stew for you…"
Cathy chuckled, dipping her spoon in the stewy substance and taking a bite. "Hmm… Not bad…"
"Tch… not bad she says…" Cookie waved a finger at her. "You're starting to sound just like the brat upstairs." She muttered, handing the other men their bowls as well. "But for some reason that don't surprise me one bit…"
Cathy chuckled. "Sorry…"
"Don't be… There's worse traits a person can have…" The cook stated, shooting a meaningful glance at Robert, before walking back to Cathy's cell and leaning against the bars. "Capt'n asked if you needed anything…" Cookie rolled her eyes. "Overprotective thing, ain't she?"
"You don't know the half of it…" Cathy smirked. "Just tell her I'm fine and she should just worry about herself."
Cookie just grinned, giving her nod. "Righto."
"Did you see that Walters fellow? Has he calmed down yet?"
"God, girl, he was looking like the end of a hot poker, ya know? If we'd have held him upside down in them waves they'd have seen the steam coming off him in Tahiti."
Cathy laughed softly. "Oh boy…"
"Yeah." Cookie shook her head. "Ain't no good… but Lara's a smart kid, I hate to admit, so she'll find some way around him, don't you worry…"
"I'm not worried." Catherine shook her head confidently, then managed a wry smile. "Lara's really good at working her way out of trouble I caused."
"And she loves every minute of it, don't you go forgetting that…" The cook tapped a finger on her chest for emphasis. "I have to say I'm real glad you're back kid, cause these last few weeks she'd gotten so bored she decided to take up cooking and she was constantly bugging me in my kitchen, ya know? Decided to put some red spicy stuff I got from China in my soup. Nearly killed off the whole crew, she did…"
Catherine nearly snorted out her stew. "Oh God, I can see their faces now…"
"Be glad ya didn't, it waren't no pretty sight, I'm telling ya…" The cook chuckled, then patted Cathy's hand. "Have to go, kid, or I might make 'm suspicious or what not… You take care, OK? We have to chat when this is over with, yeah?"
"You betcha." Catherine grinned. "I wanna hear all the details on these 'Torment in the kitchen' horror stories."
"Count on it." The cook grinned, then took the tray she'd carried the bowls on and headed back up the stairs.
Karl crossed his arms, standing on the stern
and looking at the water stirring up behind them. Blasted woman… He
gently touched the side of his face, still sore from the impact with the Curse's
fist. What was up with that anyway, huh? Karl scratched his jaw. You
don't knock out a person and get off on a really bad foot with the lieutenant
of a huge English ship just because you don't want any nicks on your precious
cargo… The girl simply wasn't important enough… The Torment would get her money
anyway and Karl was sure the captain had known that… But helping out a bunch
of mutineers, just for the fun off it, wasn't her style either… Karl shook his
"Mr. Walters, right?"
Karl looked up to the man standing behind the wheel. "Yes?"
"Just wanted to introduce myself…" The older man extended a hand toward him. "Thomas Cartwright."
The lieutenant regarded the skipper, then took the offered hand. "Karl Walters."
"Welcome aboard, sir." Tom gave the man a polite nod, before turning back to his work.
"Thank you." Karl nodded, watching the man with a slightly suspicious look. "I'm afraid your captain isn't as pleased with my presence however…"
Tom shook his head. "Lemme guess, you touched one of the prisoners, right?"
Karl raised an eyebrow. "Well… yes, actually…"
"She doesn't like that… Cause she's been a convict and all of that, I guess… She has this 'I treat my prisoners the best way I can' policy… Don't ask me why…"
The lieutenant drummed his fingers on the wooden railing. "You do not agree with this 'policy' then?"
Blue eyes glanced at him. "I wouldn't say it like that… I don't want you to think I'm the mutineering type, ya know? Personally, I try to avoid gauntlets and keelhauling if I can…"
Walters chuckled, regarding the skipper quietly. "Smart thinking."
"I'd like to think so." Tom nodded, slightly adjusting course. "You don't wanna mess with that woman anyway. She's tough as nails. I've gotten into a few brawls with her and it's not proven too good for my health, ya know? If I were you, I'd just stay out of her way…"
"If I could, I would do exactly that." Karl muttered, letting his eyes slide across the deck. "How about that second in command of hers, Mr…"
"Matthew." Tom helpfully supplied. "You shouldn't be expecting nothing from him, sir. He's her humble servant, basically. She tells him to dance the hula in a miniskirt and there he is, boogying away."
Karl chuckled. "Really?"
"Oh yeah, quite. He can't even nod on his own, unless she tells him to." Tom replied solemnly.
"Interesting…" The lieutenant murmured, watching the commotion on deck, before turning to the skipper. "Well, surprisingly, it's been a pleasure talking to you, Mr Cartwright."
"Pleasure's all mine, sir." Tom gave him a polite nod, then watched him walk down the stairs.
"You told him what?!"
Lara laughed. "Oh god, Tommy, that's just too good."
The skipped snickered. "You can't believe how hard it was keeping a straight face, while imagining Mr Matthew in a miniskirt, cap."
"I can't believe this…" Matthew muttered. "I just can't believe it… Why do you people always pick on me, huh?"
The captain chuckled. "You should be grateful, Matt. Tommy just put you in a really easy role…"
Her second in command let out a grumble, but refrained from further comment.
"Did he buy it?"
Tommy shrugged. "I think so, but he's a pretty tough fellow to get a grasp on, ya know what I mean? He doesn't hate my guts though. At least I'm a bit closer to getting under his skin then you are, cap…"
"Good." Lara nodded. "I want you to find out all you can about him. We'll set out a trap for him tomorrow night. When he's taken care off we'll shoot some holes in Peters' ship, then charge on the smaller one and take them down. Got it?"
Both men nodded.
"Great. I know it's a bit risky, but we only have a week or so before we reach the Port, we have to hurry up and I don't have any better options."
"We know." Matthew answered for the both of them. "We've been in worse spots before. We can take these two down, no probs."
"Glad you're so confident." Lara muttered, then straightened. "I want to get some lifeboats ready, so our mutineers can escape if something goes wrong…"
"Cat won't take kindly to that, cap… She's not gonna get up and go, you know?"
The captain sighed. "I know, but if something goes wrong,… I mean, I can just lock all of you up and tell the English it was all my idea." A pause. " I can get you guys out of this, but not her… And there's no way in hell I'm gonna sit by and watch her die."
Matthew put a hand on her shoulder. "I'll make sure she gets off this ship, whether she wants to or not. I promise…"
Blue eyes looked at him, then smiled. "Thanks Matthew."
"Humble servant, at your service." Her second in command bowed over politely, then stepped back. "I'd better get back out there, before anybody notices." He stated, then opened the door and stepped out. Tom wanted to follow, but Lara's voice stopped him. "Tommy." She circled around her desk and sat down behind it. "I need you to get a message downstairs for me, OK?"
Steps echoed down the hallway. Cathy's head
shot up and she hastily made her way to the edge of her cell, wrapping her hands
around the bars and staring at the doorway expectantly.
"Well well. It's good to know you're so anxious to see me."
Cathy's eyes narrowed. "I was hoping for some food… Didn't know they were serving rats this evening."
"My my, snappy little thing you are." Karl chuckled as he walked closer. "Remind me to have your tongue cut out before you get strangled… Then again, I wouldn't get to hear you scream, which would be a waste too, don't you think?"
"Quite." Catherine commented dryly.
Walters grinned, stepping closer to her cell. Cathy edged back slightly, watching his every move.
"Oh, don't worry, little girl. I'm not gonna hurt you." The lieutenant smiled sweetly at her. "Your defender was right, I have to wait until we get to the Admiral. I'm due for promotion, you know? Don't wanna risk anything."
"So, what are you here for, then?"
Karl shrugged. "Just wanna have a chat. Find out why a sweet little girl like you would do such a bad, bad thing like this."
Cathy regarded him calmly. "Has it occurred to you that maybe I'm not as sweet as you think?"
Karl chuckled, then reached out through the bars to touch her cheek. "Oh, I doubt that."
The blond woman shot a charming smile at him, then suddenly grabbed on to his arm, pulling back harshly. "Guess again." She growled as he impacted with the steel bars, the thud echoing across the hull.
Walters struggled against her hold. "Let me go, now! Where do you think this is going to get you?"
Cathy chuckled. "Nowhere, I just like just watching you squirm."
"Hey!" Footsteps rushed down the stairs. Tom took a glance at the situation, then pulled his pistol, lifting the safety catch. "Let him go! Now!"
Green eyes met his for a moment, then she let go of Karl's arm and backed up slowly.
Walters pulled his arm back hastily, taking a few steps away from the cell, before turning back and pointing a finger at her. "You'll regret this!" He snapped at her, then briskly walked off, making his way up the stairs
Tom tucked his pistol back into his belt. He cast a suspicious look at the stairs, then decided not to risk anything in case Walters was listening to them. His eyes turned to Cathy's and twinkled as he gave her a thumbs up.
The woman grinned back, then cocked her head as Tom tossed a folded piece of paper into the cell, before wiggling his fingers at her and heading up the stairs.
"You kick butt, Cathy."
Catherine chuckled as she looked up at the men in the cell across from her. "Thanks guys." She picked up the piece of paper and walked back to her spot against the hull.
"Did you see that guys face. The smoke was coming out of his ears, man." Will, the skipper, stated, getting a laugh out of the men around him. "It was just like the time, when…"
Cathy didn't listen to the boasting story however, folding open her piece of paper, then letting a smile spread across her face as she recognised the familiar handwriting.
I'm assuming you've learned to read by now. Knowing you, I'm quite sure you have, really…
Plans are going down tomorrow night. Be ready. As soon as Walters is taken care of, I'll send somebody to come get you guys out. Be good, don't cause any trouble, OK?
Cathy grinned. Does pulling out Karl's arm count as causing trouble? Oops…
I wanted to come down myself and tell you all this, but our good friend the lieutenant would probably notice, so I couldn't risk it.
I hope this'll all be over with soon. We've got a lot to talk about.
Please be careful,
Cathy read through the note again, letting her fingers trail over the captain's name before folding it back up and tucking it into her pocket.
The man in the cell next to her looked up from his diner.
Fletcher looked at her, then gave her a brief nod, before returning his attention to his diner.
Lara leaned her head on her hands, gazing
at a page of her book. A hard bang on her door made her look up to see Karl
stride into the room, his blue eyes thundering. Next to the nice bruise on one
side of his face, he now also had two vertical red streaks on the other. The
captain smothered a grin. "Yes, Mr Walters?"
"I want that girl flogged!"
Lara tried hard to keep an impressed look off her face. Is that your handiwork, Catherine? Nice… "I don't flog people on this ship, Mr Walters, and definitely not just because you want me too."
"She nearly killed me." Karl hissed dangerously at her.
A dark eyebrow raised. "Let me get this right… A young girl, chained and behind bars, nearly killed you?"
A growl escaped the lieutenant. "She attacked me. She should be punished…"
"Fine." Lara shrugged and returned to her book. "I'll hold back on her rations for the next few days."
Blue eyes widened at her. "That's it?"
The captain looked up at him. "She's going to die anyway, Mr Walters, what more could you want?"
Karl looked at her for another moment, then tossed up his hands in defeat. "Fine." He walked back towards the door, then reconsidered at the last minute. "One of your people told me you're the ship's healer." He lifted one of his hands, which was a burning red. "I slipped on some ropes earlier today. I heard you have something to help heal this."
"There's a cream that can help with that…" A short pause. "Unfortunately, I'm out of that particular one at the moment, but I'll make some new for you… I'll have it ready by the morning…"
Karl gave her a quick nod. "Fine." Before turning and striding out of the room.
Outside he slowed down, crossing the deck towards his room. He let his thumb slide across his fingers, a creamy liquid covering the surface where his fingertips had slid across the mutineer's neck as she'd pulled him against the bars. "Interesting…"
Continued in Part II