Lara looked at the door with a frown, then turned back to her book, managing to read two words before another knock echoed through her cabin. She let out a sigh and snapped the book shut. "Yes?"
Lara pointed a finger at the cook. "I told you not to call me that."
"And you think I'm gonna listen to ya, just like that?" Cookie chuckled as she stepped into the room, closing the door behind her. " B'sides, you should thank me…"
A dark eyebrow lifted. "Thank you?"
"Yup, thank me..." The cook stated, fishing a folded note out of her pocket and tossing it on the captain's desk. "For volunteering to take message to ya from the underworld." The cook gave her a look. "But don't you go making a habit out of this, ya hear? I ain't no Hermes, ya know?"
Blue eyes blinked at her. "Who?"
"Uneducated folk." Cookie tch-ed, turning and heading back out the room.
Lara watched her go, then reached out as the door clicked back into its lock and hastily unfolded her note.
I tried not to get into trouble, I really did… But he got in my personal space and I sort of acted on instinct and pulled him against the bars. I hate to admit I thoroughly enjoyed doing that, but I hope I didn't cause you any problems…
I seem to be doing a lot of that lately… Causing you problems, I mean. And I'm sorry. If I could go back in time, somehow, and change things, I would. I know that would probably mean us not having met again, but I'm not sure that wouldn't have been better. I mean, I really like where it's taken me. Us. But I hate where it's taking you, clashing with the British government again and all…
I guess I just want you to know, that you can still turn back, if you want to. I know you'll say I'm an idiot for even mentioning it, but I just want you to think about it. I don't want you or anybody on this ship to get into trouble because of me…
Lara shook her head at the note. "Sometimes you just really don't have a clue, do you?" She whispered to her absent friend.
A smile tugged at her lips as she reread the second paragraph again. Us. She'd never been part of an 'us' before… It had always been her against the world, alone… Of course there was Matthew and Mary and all the others… But she had always been the one making the decisions in the end, had always been the one who had to take responsibility, had always been the one everyone looked to when things got rough… She didn't blame anybody for that, of course. This was the life she'd chosen for herself, right? Sure it was lonely sometimes, but that had never bothered her before… Yet now she found herself wanting to do nothing more than run down the hull and see Cathy… To discuss what they were going to do, to hear her voice, just be near her…
And in a way that scared her immensely. This… force, that was pulling them together was so strong, so powerful… After not having seen the girl for three whole years, three years which had seriously changed both Catherine and herself, she was risking her life, and the life of her crew, for this woman. Simply because she needed her.
Lara considered this statement for a moment. She'd never needed anyone before. She had always been proud of that, of her independence. But now… The captain balanced her chin on her folded hands. Things were changing so fast and she had no control over it. A part of her hated not being in control. Hated not knowing where this journey was taking her, which course lay ahead… But it was a very, very small part, deeply buried under the majority of parts cheering over Cathy's return, not caring one bit where she was going to, as long as Catherine was going to keep her company along the way.
"Brrrrrrreakfast." Cookie cheerfully announced
as she made her way down the stairs.
Cathy smiled, taking a bowl from the tray the cook was holding out to her. "Hmm…" She sniffed the stew suspiciously. "Smells sorta fishy to me…"
"Hardiharhar…" Cookie stuck her tongue out at her, then continued distributing breakfast among the mutineers. "Oh, Lara told me to tell ya: you're an idiot…"
Catherine let a smile spread across her face slowly. "Did she now?"
"Yup. Said she's looking forward to tonight, kicking English butt. Says she's missed it…"
"I bet." Cathy chuckled, leaning against the metal bars and taking another bite. "What happened with Walters yesterday. Was he upset?"
"I dunno, but he had some really fancy stripes going down his cheeks. Poor boy, s'only been on board a day and he looks like's he been tied up here in the hull for weeks." She walked over to the woman's cell and patted her on the shoulder, with a grin. "Nice going. Didn't know ya were that aggressive. I like."
Catherine laughed softly. "Well, things change in three years, you know? I've gotten into a few brawls along the way. You pick up a thing or two in each one."
"Well well…" Cookie laughed. "You've become quite the little Torment, haven't you?"
The blonde grinned, sticking another spoonful in her mouth. "Wlount zay zat..."
"You're a Curse in the making, kiddo, y'better believe it." The cook waved her tray at the girl, then turned and headed back towards the stairs. "Enjoy your breakkie."
Cathy shook her head at the cook with a smile on her face, taking another bite.
Catherine glanced up at one of the younger boys in the cell across from her. "Yes, Frank?"
"Is she really the Curse?"
"Lara?" The blonde nodded. "Sure."
"Wow…" Frank's eyes grew round in amazement as he scuttled closer to the bars. "So are the stories really true?"
Cathy leaned against the cell door as she spooned up another bit of stew. "That depends on what you've heard."
"That she can cut off three heads with one swipe of her sabre." The boy started off enthusiastically. "And that she can swing from ropes and fly…"
A chuckle. "Well, I don't know about those heads, but she can most certainly fly. I've seen her do that, several times…"
"Really?" Will joined in from the cell across from her.
"Uhuh." Cathy nodded, enjoying talking about her favourite subject. "She just jumps off the crow's nest and grabs onto a rope and then swings off…" She smiled as the memory surfaced and she allowed herself to dwindle in the past for a moment, until she forced herself back into the present. "But I guess you'll get to see all of that first hand this evening, right? Actually…" A thought occurred to her and she pulled out a small notepad, which had been tucked away in her belt, hidden under her shirt. "There's a drawing on the fifth page, of her jumping… Here…" She tossed the pad through the bars and into the next cell, where Frank hastily dropped to his knees and picked it up.
"Cool…" The boy blinked at the drawing, then flipped a page and looked at another.
Will stood behind him and glanced at them over his shoulder. "Hey, these are quite good, Chief… Who made 'm?"
The skipper's head shot up in surprise. "Really? I didn't know you could draw…"
"I can't…" Cathy studied the wooden deck intently. "Not now anyway…"
Will looked down as Frank flipped over another page. "Why not?"
A shrug. "The feeling just isn't there anymore…"
"Too bad." The skipper muttered, judging another picture. "You obviously used to be quite good at it…"
"Yeah…" Cathy closed her eyes, letting out a breath. "I used to be…"
Lara adjusted course slightly, following right behind
the two British vessels ahead of her. Things had been set up for the night.
Tom would provide some sort of excuse and lure Walters into one of the storagerooms,
where she'd be waiting to clobber him over the head. Matthew had offered to
do the clobbering, but she'd insisted she'd do it herself. A grin spread across
her face as the sea sparkled back at her mischievously. Tom had told her Walters
had signalled his ship the night before and that they had to wait until after
he'd signalled this evening, before taking him down. After that little problem
was taken care of, they could blow some holes in Peters' ship and then take
down the third ship in a short battle. Mary had already started getting the
weapons ready, staying below deck as to not to alarm Mr. Walters any further…
Lara let out a breath and leaned on the wheel, closing her eyes for a brief
moment, draining in the sunlight. It was a good thing this'd be over with soon.
Walters was much smarter than she'd thought he was and she was sure he realised
all wasn't quite as it was supposed to be… He probably didn't know exactly what
was wrong, but he suspected, and that was bad enough…
The captain looked up to watch Matthew walk up to the stern. "Yup?"
"I was wondering, should we give the uhm… prisoners…" His eyes glinted. "…some time up on deck or something?"
Lara considered this for a moment, then nodded. "Sure. Seems like a good idea. Take Ben. Give 'm fifteen minutes or so. Tell 'm to act grumpy and struggle a little."
Matthew chuckled. "Aye aye, capt'n." He stated, before walking down the stairs, motioning Ben closer.
A few moments of peace, then she sighed as Karl strode closer, walking up the stairs. "What is happening?" He pointed at the door to the hull, through which the first set of prisoners were now being led downstairs. "Why are they on deck?"
"To breathe fresh air, Mr Walters."
"And exactly why are they allowed to do that?" Karl asked, raising an eyebrow. "Need I remind you, Miss Dean, that these are criminals?"
"I'll see them as criminals when they've been convicted by the judges as such. Right now, they are my prisoners, and being a prisoner doesn't make them any less human. And humans need to breathe, Mr Walters." Lara shook her head, then let out a high pitched whistle, motioning Tom closer with a short flick of her hand. She saw the skipper grumble, but he finished what he was doing and stepped closer soon enough, taking the wheel from her without comment. "I've told you before and I'll tell you again, my deal with Kennard is to get these people to Sydney safe and in one piece to be trialed. I'm sorry if you disagree with my methods. You can inform the Admiral about this if you want to." She told him, walking down the stairs.
Karl followed close behind. "I would if it would do any good, miss Dean, but since you are not a captain sailing under British sails, I know it will not get me anywhere."
Lara smiled charmingly. "I'm glad you realise that." Rattling of chains rustled across the deck as the last prisoner was pulled up on deck, the leader of the mutiny struggling against the chains.
Karl shook his head as he watched her be dragged onto deck. "She's a troublemaker."
"Definitely." Lara replied solemnly, somehow managing to keep a stupid smile off her face. She turned and started to check on some ropes, pulling one slightly tighter.
"I wonder how a girl like her could end up in a mess like this…" Karl stated, leaning back against the wooden railing.
"I wouldn't know…" The captain mumbled, sparing a glance for the blond haired woman, before continuing her checks.
"Well, of course you wouldn't… You've never met her after all, now have you?"
Blue eyes met his, and Lara shook her head. "Not that I can remember, no…"
"Of course not…" Karl crossed his arms. "I don't think…."
Suddenly his head shot up. "Did you hear that?"
Lara was peering across the water and nodded. "Cannonfire…"
"Capt'n!" Toby waved at her from his spot in the crow's nest. "Ship ahoy, capt'n!"
"A ship?" Karl frowned. "Out here?"
Lara grabbed onto the glass Toby handed her, then looked into the direction the boy was pointing in. "It's stuck on the reef." She muttered, spotting the large ship, a puff of smoking rising up as it fired another shot.
Karl grabbed the glass out of her hand, and peered at the ship in the distance. "HMS…" He looked up in disbelief. "It's the HMS Pandora…"
Lara gave him a blank stare. "So?"
"It's carrying the mutineers that were captured at Tahiti a few weeks ago." Karl stated, then took off and ran up to the stern. "Mr Cartwright, set course for that vessel."
Lara watched the ship, seeing the British ships, which had also noticed the Pandora's plea for help, sail closer to the scene, keeping a small distance as to stay out of the reef. Moments later a small rowboat closed in on Peters' vessel, a ropeladder was tossed down and a group of chained men were pulled on board, one by one.
Chains rattled softly beside her, as Catherine placed her hands on the railing, peering out. "That's my crew…" She managed, watching more small rowboats reach Peters' vessel. Green eyes looked up at her. "Lara, we can't attack that ship now. They'll be killed…"
The captain looked at her, then spared a look for Karl, but the lieutenant was giving the Pandora his full attention. "Have to think about this." She then muttered in an undertone, meeting Cathy's eyes for a quiet moment, before straightening. "Ben! Get the prisoners back down."
"Aye aye, captain." The young man nodded, then tugged on Cathy's chain, dragging her across the deck and back down the stairs into the hull.
A few moments of silence, the Matthew stepped up beside her. "Now what?"
"Now, I'm gonna go into my room and rip up all the plans I've made and feed 'm to the fish…" She let out a deep breath. "Why do I even bother anymore, Matthew?" She sighed, shaking her head. "I should realise by now that nothing ever works out as planned when that girl's around."
Her second in command chuckled. "Well, you did say you wanted action."
Lara hid her face in her hands, her elbows leaning on the wooden railing of the ship. "Next time I say something stupid like that, just shoot me, OK?"
Matthew grinned, then patted her on the back. "You got it."
Lara pulled herself up the ropeladder and onto the lead
ship. The deck was bustling with activity and anxious voices.
Walters followed behind her, getting polite nods from the crew as he reached the deck. One of the boys stepped closer. "Welcome back aboard, Mr Walters. Captain Peters is expecting you both in his office."
"Thanks." Karl nodded, then took the lead, heading up the steps towards the captain's room.
The room was full of fancily dressed people, who looked up as they entered, giving Walters a smile and Lara an undisguised foul look.
"Welcome, Mr Walters." Peters waved him closer, then raised an eyebrow as he noted the several red marks and the purple bruise on Karl's face. "Your face…"
Karl managed a smile. "I'll discuss this later with you, sir, if that's all right."
"Of course." Captain Peters nodded, then turned and motioned toward a short, thick man, wearing a pair of thinly rimmed glasses. "I'd like you to meet Captain George, of the HMS Pandora."
"Good day, sir." Walters shook the captain's hand politely. "Awfully unfortunate situation."
"Most certainly." George agreed, shaking his head. "That god be damned skipper of mine wasn't paying attention and got us onto that blasted reef… I'm gonna have him flogged, that's for sure…"
"Very brave to hide behind your subordinates, captain." Lara flashed a smile at him as she shook his hand.
The captain straightened his glasses, blinking at her. "Excuse me?"
"Lara Dean." She introduced herself as a matter of explanation, watching him almost instantly take a few paces backwards in response. "I see you've heard of me…"
"Miss Dean." Peters' voice took on a hint of warning. "Need I remind you you're on board my ship right now and that I expect a certain amount of respect on this vessel?"
Blue eyes glanced at him, then back at George before Lara shook her head. "No, you need not. I'm just used to people taking responsibility for their actions. I'll remember to lower my standards next time I board your ship, sir." She stated, pulling a chair back and seating herself.
"Now, that's quite enough, Miss Dean." Peters stated, narrowing his eyes at her, then looked at the other men in his room. "Gentlemen, if you please…" He motioned towards the chairs positioned around the square table, then seated himself. "I've called you here because of the recent developments that, I'm assuming, you're all quite aware of. I want you all to be clear on what is going to happen, so we have no complications during the rest of this voyage." He looked around the table, letting his eyes settle on Lara an instant longer before continuing. "I will keep the prisoners from the Pandora on this vessel, and the crew will be divided between my ship and Mr. Andrew's vessel, since Miss Dean already has her hands full dealing with the mutineers of The Phoenix. Unless anybody had a good alternative, I suggest we just leave the Pandora here and let her sink. Considering the situation I'd rather not loose time salvaging her." Peters paused for a moment, but nobody spoke up, so he turned to captain George. "Is there anything left on your ship that will need to be taken off before we leave?"
George considered this for a moment, then shook his head. "Nothing that can be transported, no…"
"Very well." Peters nodded, then stood. "Now, unless there are any questions you're all excused."
Everyone stood, giving the captain polite nods before they headed towards the door. Lara headed out as well, trying to act casually as she caught Karl, out of the corner of her eyes, whispering to captain Peters, indicating his face with wild hand gestures.
"Miss Dean, I need to talk to you for a moment."
Lara sighed, then turned, managing to work a fairly unannoyed look on her face. "Yes?" She asked, her eyes following Karl for a moment as he headed outside, closing the door behind him.
"What exactly is your problem, Miss Dean?"
Lara crossed her arms. "Which problem do you wanna hear about? I have several." She took a few paces closer. "But I take it your referring to your little stooge out there." She waved a hand at the now closed door."
"He is not my stooge. He is a valued employee and I'd like you to treat him as such." Peters countered, folding his hands behind his back.
"For three years I've been a law abiding citizen, and I don't see any of you treating me any better…" Blue eyes focused on him. "I admit I…" Lara paused for a moment. "My reaction to Mr. Walters behaviour was maybe a bit too rash. But ever since I agreed with Kennard to undertake this mission I've been scrutinised and to be frank, it's pissing me off. I'm generally quite a private person and I have a hard time being under constant surveillance, while I've done nothing to deserve it."
Peters regarded her for a moment, then seated himself in his chair. "You insisted on keeping the prisoners on your ship…"
"For valid reasons."
"…and I informed you about the steps I had to take if you would not lower your demands." Peters went on uninterrupted. "You have on board the key figures to this mutiny and those are the people admiral Steward wants most of all. I told you before, I will not risk loosing them."
Lara tossed up her hands. "Fine. Can I go back to my ship now?"
Peters looked at her for another moment, then nodded. "You're dismissed."
"How kind…" Lara muttered, then turned and strode out of the room.
Matthew watched as the rowboat slowly got closer. He
motioned Ben forward and the deckhand lifted the ropeladder he was holding over
the ship's side, letting it fall. The second in command peered down to see the
small rowboat gently thud against The Argo's hull, before Karl grabbed onto
the ropes and hauled himself up. Matthew stepped back, then gave him a nod as
the lieutenant stepped onto the deck. Moments later Lara pulled herself up,
then strode towards her room without a word, a grim look on her face. Matthew
watched her go, winced at the almost perceptible thundercloud flashing above
the captain's head, then hastily followed behind her.
"I'm so looking forward to chopping them into pieces." Lara growled, falling back into her chair and closing her eyes.
Matthew hastily shut the door, then walked closer, seating himself on the edge of the captain's desk. "You can't get those prisoners transferred here then?"
Lara shook her head. "I didn't even try. Peters stated what he wanted to be done very clearly and me objecting would only have made him suspicious. Couldn't risk it." The captain took a breath. "Then I got lectured about my manners towards 'valued employees' of the British navy."
Her second in command regarded her for a moment. "Did you talk your way out?"
Lara tossed up her hands. "I think Peters is buying it. But he's not taking any chances, so we're not gonna get rid of Walters without taking him down ourselves… But Walters really isn't our problem anymore…" Lara hid her face in her hands, her elbows resting on the table's surface. "That ship is a fortress. I took a quick look around but it's loaded with soldiers, marines…" She pulled a sheet of paper closer, then made a rough sketch of the deck of the lead ship. "The prison's here, and I think the ammo is tucked around here somewhere, right under their cells. There were ten cannons, on the deck alone… We'll never overtake that one without the element of surprise, Matt… But we can't just shoot a bunch of holes in 'm, because there's a dozen of mutineers tucked in their hull and they'll go sky high when that powder explodes."
"I take it you haven't come up with a new plan yet?" Matthew watched as the captain shook her head. "Figured as much." He gave her a pat on the shoulder. "We'll work this out, Lara. Just give it time."
"We don't have time, Matthew. We'll reach Sydney in four days or so. We need to do this soon…" Lara folded her hands together and leaned her chin on top of her intertwined fingers. "Just lemme think about it… Tell Tommy to keep an eye out for Walters. Tell him to let me know when he's turned in for the night."
"Gotcha…" Matthew nodded
Lara waved him off. "Go and get some sleep, Matt. I'll see you back on deck around nightfall."
"Aye aye." Her second in command gave her a pat on the back, then walked out of the room.
Robert paced through his cell restlessly. "This is not
going to work…"
Cathy stared at the ceiling in annoyance for a moment, then closed her eyes and leaned back against the wooden hull. "Would you please sit down."
"I don't understand how you can be so calm when we're in he middle of this crisis." Fletcher turned to her, then paced along the bars separating them.
"There's just nothing we can do, Rob."
A blonde eyebrow raised "And that doesn't bug you? That we're just sitting here, hopeless, putting our lives in the hands of someone who's killed more people than there are stars in the sky?"
"You are so lucky there's bars between you and me right now, Fletcher." Cathy's voice dropped to a dangerous growl. "But if you ever, ever say something like that again I can assure you I'm gonna rip out one of these pieces of metal and beat you over the head with them, understand?"
"Hey, it's true, isn't it?" Robert crossed his arms. "You should stop seeing her as some kind of hero, Cat, cause she's not."
Cathy closed her eyes and bit her lip. "I am not going to have this discussion with you, all right?" She managed to say in a calm tone. "If you have some great suggestion to get us out of this mess I'm sure we'd all love to hear it, but since you don't, I'd rather you just shut up and leave me in peace, all right?"
Robert glared at her, grumbling something as he thumped onto the wooden floor unceremoniously, sitting down crossed legged and facing away from her.
Cathy glanced around the lower deck, some of her crew giving her pathetically grateful looks and she smiled back at them, before closing her eyes again.
A few moments of silence, then there was a rattling of keys, before a door cracked open, sending a few rays of candlelight down the stairs. Cathy hastily got up, peeking out into the hallway to watch Cookie walk inside, cheerfully grinning at her. "Hey kid."
Catherine managed a smile, watching her expectantly. "Do you have any messages from Lara, about what's going on?"
Cookie shook her head. "Nope, no messages…"
"Oh…" Cathy tried to hide her disappointment at the news.
"I got you the real thing this time." The cook continued off handedly, handing a small plate into one of the cells.
Blond eyebrows frowned and she looked up just as another figure made it's way down the stairs, blue eyes searching the hull for a moment. Unconsciously, a smile spread across Cathy's face. "Lara."
The captain's eyes settled on her and she flashed a smile in return, hastily walking closer. "Hey."
"What are you doing here? Not that I'm complaining, mind you…"
"I waited till Walters got to sleep, then went down." She gazed at the metal bars sadly. "I can't risk unlocking you, if Karl suddenly decides to wake up and walks in here, we're toast."
The blond woman sighed, then nodded, leaning her head against the metal. "I know."
Lara looked at the bent form, biting her lip to keep herself from yanking open the cell door anyway. "I've got some bad news…"
Catherine peeked up at her. "I was afraid you were going to say that."
"The prisoners from the Pandora are gonna stay on Peters' ship, which means we can't attack that vessel, without risking their lives. I've been thinking about an alternative, but I haven't been able to come up with anything yet…"
"I knew it!" Robert's voice shot up from the next cell, pointing a finger at Lara. "I knew we shouldn't have trusted her…"
"Oh shut up." Both women snapped at him simultaneously, shooting identical annoyed looks at him, making the mutineer hastily back away a few paces.
Cookie chuckled. "Ah, you've been practising that, I see?"
Lara grinned at her, then turned back to Catherine, who smirked up at her for a moment, then became more serious. "I take it you didn't manage to get Walters off this ship?"
The captain shook her head. "No. I talked to Peters, but he made it clear that as long as I have the 'key figures' of the mutiny on my ship, things are gonna stay the way they are."
There was a moment of silence as Cathy considered this, then she glanced up at Lara. "I've got an idea, but you're not going to like it…"
The captain sighed, leaning her head against the metal bars. "Try me. At this moment I'm willing to do just about anything…"
"Get me on board Peters' ship."
The dark head shot up again, blue eyes peering at her intently. "Anything but that. No way."
"Lara, you haven't even listened to the plan yet." Cathy sighed.
"I don't like it." The captain shook her head, taking a few paces away, then turning and pacing back.
"I can talk to my people, tell them what's going on, swipe the key of the guard somehow. We can get off that ship and then you can attack Peters' ship and take it down." Catherine reasoned, her eyes following the captain's movements.
Lara shook her head firmly. "Too many reliabilities."
The blond woman rolled her eyes. "Lara, this whole thing is one big reliability." A sigh. "Look, if you have a better idea, I'm all for it, but we don't have a lot of time and I am not going to sacrifice members of my crew for my own benefit."
The edges of the captain's mouth twitched as Lara searched for arguments to counter the statement.
Cathy suppressed a smirk, knowing she was gaining ground. "It's what I need to do, and you know it. Can you tell me you wouldn't do exactly the same if it were Matthew and the others on there?"
Blue eyes gazed at her for another moment, then Lara released a breath and shook her head. "You know I would." She muttered, stepping closer to Cathy's cell and wrapping her hands around the bars. "But I can't protect you if you leave this ship."
"Look, they can't kill me, right? They need to deliver me to the court, that's the deal with Kennard."
Lara considered this for a moment, then nodded slowly.
"Well, then it can't hurt to try, can it? If I don't do anything we're gonna get sentenced to death anyway. This at least gives us a chance… And if you do come up with some mastermind scheme, you can just come and get us out of there, right?" She paused for a moment, sparing a glance for her crew, who were all focusing their full attention on their food, before she reached through the bars and touched the captain's cheek. "Let me try… Please?"
Lara closed her eyes, releasing a shaky breath. "I don't wanna lose you…" She managed in a whisper, so only Catherine could hear.
"I know…" Catherine said softly, stroking back a lock of dark hair. "But this is our best shot right now, Lara. You know that, don't you?"
The captain nodded softly. "All right…"
"Thank you." Cathy smiled at her gratefully.
"Thank me when this is over." The captain muttered, taking Catherine's hand in her own and intertwining their fingers. "Promise you won't cause any more trouble?"
The blond woman chuckled softly. "Me? Cause trouble? Never… "
"Right…" Lara rolled her eyes, unconvinced, then let out another breath. "I'm gonna regret this, aren't I?"
"I'll make it up to you."
Blue eyes looked up at her and twinkled. "Promise?"
"Absolutely." Cathy grinned back.
"Ahem." Cookie cleared her throat loudly, getting two raised eyebrows in reply. She repressed a grin, then lifted her hands in defence. "Hey, capt'n, for all I care you can go and nap right there, but I think Mr. lieutenant guy might find it a tad odd that you're sleeping between a bunch of mutineers, don't ya think?"
Lara sighed in defeat, then nodded, giving Cathy's hand a final squeeze before backing away. "Just play along with whatever happens tomorrow, OK?"
The blond woman nodded softly, keeping her eyes firmly locked with Lara's. "OK."
Cookie looked from one to the other, then rolled her eyes and tugged on Lara's shirt, dragging her back up the stairs. "C'mon squirt. Snap out of it, now, or I'm gonna have to toss a bucket of cold water over that head of yours, ya hear?"
Cathy chuckled as she watched the muttering cook push the captain up the stairs, disappearing in the shadows. Moments later a door closed and locked. Catherine walked back to her spot against the hull and settled down again, tipping her head back and glancing up at the ceiling.
"Are you really gonna do it, chief?"
Cathy looked up at the cell across from her, several of the sailors peering back at her. "Get transferred you mean? Yeah…"
"That's awfully dangerous, chief. I don't think the guys on there would want you to risk getting hurt…"
Catherine shook her head. "I'm not gonna let them die, if there's any way I can help."
The sailor shook his head. "Blasted English navy people have no idea what they're giving up on. You're a much better captain than any of the idiots I've served under before, chief." The men around him all nodded in agreement.
"Thanks Caspar." Catherine gave everyone a smile. "Just remember you guys owe me a drink when this is all over with, OK?"
"Chief, I'll buy you a whole barrel if you get us out of this one alive." Caspar grinned at her.
"Oh, I'm definitely gonna remember that." Cathy smirked at him, getting some laughs out of the crew before she settled back against the hull again, closing her eyes. "G'night people."
"Night chief." Was the mumbled reply, before everyone went to find a spot to spend the night.
"What is it about that woman you find so fascinating?"
Cathy opened her eyes again as Fletcher's voice sounded beside her. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you seem to trust her completely, unconditionally…" Robert crossed his arms, gazing at her through the shadows. "She doesn't look that special to me…"
The blonde shot him an amused look. "Jealous of all the attention she's getting, Robert?"
Fletcher's eyebrows contracted sharply. "This has nothing to do with jealousy." The young man muttered grumpily. "I just don't get what you see in her."
Cathy leaned her head against the metal bars and looked at him. "She is my friend, Robert. But you've probably never heard of that, have you? Of friendship?"
Blue eyes regarded her silently for a moment. "I thought we were friends."
Catherine sighed with a shake of her head. "We use each other, Rob. We hang around each other because that benefits us both… That's not what friendship is about…"
"That…" Fletcher glanced down at his hands. "I didn't know you saw things like that…"
Cathy closed her eyes. "I didn't want to sound so crude… That's not…"
"No, no it's OK." Robert interrupted hastily. "You're right, I guess… I just…" He shook his head. "Nevermind…" He moved back a little. "Good night, Catherine."
"G'night." Cathy watched him pull back into the shadows with a frown, then just closed her eyes and leaned back against the wooden hull quietly, letting the motion of the waves rock her to sleep.
"Good morning, Mr Cartwright."
Tom looked up and gave the lieutenant a polite smile. "Good day to you, sir. You seem very cheerful this morning. I take it your meeting yesterday went well?"
"Quite." Karl grinned back at him, leaning an arm over the side of the ship. "I haven't heard a word from your captain since. It's been a lovely peaceful morning."
Tom chuckled. "She doesn't like not being in control, sir."
"I've noticed that." Karl nodded, glancing at the ships in front of him. "I still think her reaction is slightly over the top though…" He looked up, then took a few steps towards the skipper. "Tell me something, Mr Cartwright…" He paused for a moment, considering his words. "Could you give me any reason why your captain could have an… affinity, for those mutineers down in the hull?"
Tom blinked at him. "Affinity, sir?" He watched Karl give him a nod. "Well... I…" The skipper paused for a moment. "I guess she could have, because she took over a ship herself once, sir. And I guess that, since the leader of these mutineers is a woman as well, she might feel an 'affinity' towards her…" He gave the lieutenant a look, then lowered his voice. "Do you think she's up to something, sir?"
Walters shrugged. "Can't say just yet… Let's just say I've picked up some signs that point into that direction."
"Hmm..." Tom managed a non-committal mutter, then shot another look at the lieutenant before returning his gaze to the sea ahead. "I'll keep my eyes open for you, sir."
"Thank you, Mr Cartwright." Karl gave him a pat on the shoulder, then strode down the stairs and back onto the deck.
"Tom said that?"
Matthew nodded. "Yeah…"
Lara sighed, leaning back in her chair. "I should've held my temper the first time around, everything would've been fine then… But he just gets on my nerves, you know…" A short pause. "Her reminds me of someone…"
A shrug. "I don't know, just… just someone…" The captain took on a pensive look for a moment, then shook her head. "Anyway, it doesn't matter… What matters is we have to convince Walters that I don't give a damn about those mutineers, and do that in such a way that he doesn't realise he's being convinced…"
Matthew nodded quietly, sitting on the edge of her desk. "Cathy's plan would work…"
Lara leaned forward, balancing her head on her folded hands. "I know…"
The captain released a breath. "So… It would be the right thing to do, probably…" She stood, taking a few paces through her room. "But the thing is, Matt, if I balance risking her life against saving the lives of those crewmembers of hers… Well, the scale is definitely tipped towards keeping her safe, you know?" Lara shook her head. "I've even considered just going through with my initial plan and blow up that ship anyway…"
"She'd never talk to you again if you did that." Matthew informed her, getting a nod in response.
"I know, that's the only reason why I haven't done it yet…" Lara shook her head. "And I know she's right, you know, we have no other options at this point… And I know she's a big girl now and I should just suppress this ridiculous overprotective streak…" A sigh. "But I can't help it…"
Matthew walked over, laying a hand on her shoulder. "I wish I could give you some advise on this one… But I would never have even gotten this far without snapping, if I'd been in your boots…"
Lara raised an eyebrow at him. "That's not true… You could have handled this, Matthew."
"Maybe." Her second in command shrugged. "But I would've never been able to act this out, you know that… I would've just gotten as many cannons ready as possible and I'd have shot a bunch of holes in those ships…"
Lara grinned, then patted him on the back. "Maybe that would've been better… If we'd just taken Walters down the first night…"
Matthew shook his head. "Don't start on the what ifs Lara, that's not gonna get us nowhere and you know it…"
"I know…" The captain muttered, then gave her second in command a gentle shove towards the door. "C'mon, I'm better at deciding things while I'm working."
Matthew chuckled, then opened the door, walking out and holding it open until Lara passed through.
The captain sighed as she spotted a dressed up shape hastily striding closer. "Here comes trouble…" She muttered in an undertone. Matthew looked behind him, then up at Lara, who shooed him off. He gave her a sympathetic smile, before hastily heading for the bough.
"Morning, miss Dean."
Lara rolled his eyes at his cheerfulness. "Mr. Walters."
"I've noticed we're sailing a bit further away from the other ships today… Why is that exactly?"
The captain sighed as she headed for the stern. "You should ask my skipper. I'm assuming he decided to sail back a bit just because the weather is slightly rougher today than yesterday…"
"I see…" Karl nodded, hurrying along to catch up to her powerful strides. "You were in your office talking to Mr Matthew just now?"
Lara gritted her teeth. "Yes…"
"Would you mind if I asked you what you were talking about that required such a long time to discuss?"
"Would you mind if I didn't tell you?"
Karl folded his hands behind his back, regarding her calmly. "Actually, I would."
"What I talk about with my second command does not concern you, Mr Walters, so I see no need in telling you about anything." Blue eyes snapped at him, before the captain took a breath to calm herself, continuing checking the ropes that held the small rowboat up that was hanging of the stern.
"Now now, Miss Dean, remember what Captain Peters said…" Karl taunted her, obviously enjoying himself. "Be nice…"
Lara let her hands fall on the railing, clenching the wood tight and venting some anger, before turning a hateful gaze towards the lieutenant. "What do I need to do to get you off my back, Walters?"
The lieutenant chuckled. "You know what you need to do, don't you?"
Blue eyes regarded him for another moment, then Lara tossed up her hands. "Fine. If I give you one of those mutineers to take back to your ship, will you leave me alone?"
Karl studied her for another moment, then managed a sweet smile. "But of course…"
"Which one do you want?"
A dark brown eyebrow lifted.
"Like I really need to ask…" Lara muttered, then let her eyes search the deck until she spotted her second in command. "Matthew!" She waved him over and he immediately came trotting closer. "Get me that woman from below."
Brown eyes met hers for a short moment, then he hastily nodded. "Aye capt'n."
Karl watched the second in command walk off, then quickly followed behind Lara, who was shouting out some orders to send word to the other ship. "You're just gonna hand her to me, like that?"
"To get you out of my hair? Anything…" Lara muttered. "I've had it up to here with you constantly watching my every move, it's just not worth it... " She stated, then turned and looked at the lieutenant. "One thing though… I want your word she will get to Sydney in one piece…" She pointed a finger at him. "My money is on the line here, and if I figure out later that she was worth less because of something you did, I'm gonna make sure you pay for that… Understood?"
Karl let a grin cross his face. "Perfectly…"
"Good." The captain grumbled, then turned away from him. You'd better go and pack, Mr Walters…"
"Great idea…" Karl smirked, then hastily strode off towards his room.
"I can't believe it…" Cathy shook her head as Matthew
unkeyed the lock on her cell. "I mean, I'm glad, I just… I'm surprised she's
made this decision so fast…"
"Wasn't easy." Matthew muttered, opening the door and stepping inside. "But Tom found out Walters is seriously suspecting something fishy is going on and we needed to convince him otherwise…" He stepped closer, then unlocked her chains and reattached a new set around her wrists. "All right, check if you can worm your hands out of these…"
The blond woman tried and succeeded, giving Matthew a nod. "No prob…"
"Good." He pulled a small dagger from his boot and held it up to her. "Just in case…"
Cathy nodded, then watched as the second in command kneeled down and tucked the metal into her own boot. "Matthew?"
"Yeah?" He asked, straightening.
"If this doesn't work…"
Matthew shook his head. "Don't say that…"
Green eyes locked with his. "If this doesn't work I want you to get this ship away from here…" She lifted her hands to stop his protests. "I know Lara won't approve, but just… Just…" Cathy took a breath, closing her eyes. "Just make sure she doesn't do anything stupid…"
Matthew regarded the bent head for a moment, then wrapped an arm around her shoulders, giving her a hug. "OK… But I'd rather you just make sure this works out perfectly for once…"
"I'll try…" Cathy smiled at him, then handed him her chains. "Come on, let's get this show on the road…"
"You got it." Matthew patted her shoulder, then started to walk up the stairs.
"Good luck, chief…" Caspar gave her a thumbs up from his cell. "Knock 'm dead…"
Other muttered encouragements drifted over and she smiled at her crew. "Don't worry guys, just be nice to my friends here, OK? If something happens, listen to Matthew."
Nods in affirmation and she managed a last smile before she reached the stairway and made her way upstairs, blinking as the door opened and the sunlight poured onto her face.
"Well well, who do we have here…?" Karl chuckled, crossing
his arms and watching as the young woman was dragged onto deck. He leaned over
the railing, where a man was waiting in a small rowboat. "Incoming Jay!"
The man looked up, then gave him a nod, pulling a pistol out of its case.
Karl looked up as the young mutineer was lowered over the side of the ship, before walking over to Lara, who was watching the ongoing from a small distance. "It's been a pleasure, miss Dean."
"Wish I could say the same…" The captain muttered, staring ahead of her mutely. "Just remember your promise, Walters."
"Oh, I will…" He smiled sweetly at her, then turned. "You'll be hearing from me…" He stated, looking back over his shoulder before grabbing onto the ropeladder and disappearing off the ship.
Lara watched as Ben pulled up the ladder and rolled it up. A few moments, then Matthew stepped up beside her. She gave him a look, then let out a breath, leaning back against the wooden mast and closing her eyes. "Can I wake up now and find out this is all just a big nightmare?"
Matthew wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "She can do this…"
"I sure hope so…" Lara murmured, watching the rowboat glide away from them with sure strokes.
Karl studied his captive intently, sitting on the small
wooden bench, a gun balancing on his knee. "So tell me… What's the plan here?"
Green eyes tracked up to meet his and a blond eyebrow lifted.
He chuckled. "Oh, don't give me that look… I know there has to be a plan… Your friend wouldn't let you go, just like that, would she?"
His captive regarded him calmly. "I have no idea what you're talking about…"
Walters laughed softly, then fished a small piece of paper out of the inside of his jacket. "It's amazing what subtle clues you find in the trash these days, isn't it?" He folded the note open, then read the second line. "Plans are going down tomorrow night. Be ready." He chuckled, then held the letter in front of Cathy's face, Lara's firm handwriting standing out starkly against the creamy paper. "Now, that sounds a whole lot like aiding mutiny to me,
don't you agree?"
Catherine stared at the letters for a moment, her mind racing to find a way out. Then she lifted her eyes and shrugged. "I've never seen this before…"
"Of course you haven't." Karl agreed amiably, sparing a glance behind him and seeing one of the sailors on his ship waving a salute at him, dropping a ropeladder down. "But I'm not so sure my captain will be so easily convinced of that… You see…" He leaned closer, letting the back of his hand trail down her cheek. "He's not a nice guy like I am…"
Catherine jerked her head away from his touch, getting only a chuckle in response. "We're gonna have some fun, you and I, Miss Mutineer." He leaned back, watching her with a smirk.
With a soft thud the rowboat hit the hull of the ship. Walters grabbed onto the ropeladder, then started to make his way up. "Take care of the girl, Jay."
"Aye aye, sir." The sailor nodded firmly, then glanced up and waved at one of the deckhands leaning over the railing. A nod was his response and a rope was lowered, which he tied around Cathy's hands with rough gestures. Moments later the rope went taut and Cathy was lifted up, dangerously dangling as she was tugged up higher and higher. As she swayed high above the water she looked up at the ship anchored off nearby, her eyes searching the small
figures scurrying around on deck until she spotted Lara's shape, leaning silently against the mast. I wish you could hear me. I screwed up, Lara. Please forgive me…Please be careful…
Lara's head shot up and she quickly let her eyes flick
across the deck. A movement in the distance caught her attention and she saw
Catherine's form being tugged up.
"T'basterd…" Tom growled beside her. A hand gently touched her shoulder. "You OK, cap?"
Lara stared ahead of her blankly. "Something's wrong…"
"Huh? Say that again?" The skipper frowned his brows. "Cap, how can you know something's wrong… That's standard procedure with prisoners on them British ships ya know. I don't…"
"It just…" Lara shook her head. "Something feels wrong…" She stated, knowing that didn't explain anything. "Just…" She glanced at the skipper. "Just make sure Mary is ready with those cannons Tommy. I wanna be prepared for anything…"
Tom looked at the tensed face intently, then patted her shoulder. "She'll be fine, cap. She's one smart lass, that one. She'll work her way out…"
Lara nodded softly, her eyes fixed on the boat in front of them.
With a last jerk she was pulled up over the railing,
tossed roughly onto the wooden deck.
"This is her, captain." She heard Karl's voice say smugly.
"This little thing?" Cathy looked up to see an older, grey haired man looking down at her in contempt. "This is what large British ships have been chasing after for weeks on end?"
"Surprise…" Catherine managed, working a smile onto her face.
The captain crossed his arms. "You were right, Mr Walters. We should cut out her tongue. But first things first…" He stated, then turned. "Remind me of the punishment for assaulting an English officer…"
"Gauntlet, sir." Walters stated, suppressing a smirk as he folded his hands behind his back.
"Right…" The captain nodded. "Line up the men then, Mr Walters."
"It would be my pleasure, sir." Karl bowed with a grin, then turned and started to yell out orders.
"You see we do things differently on this ship." Peters said, looking down at the woman at his feet. "Traitors are not treated as well here as on your friend's vessel." Peters knelt down beside her and grabbed onto her chin, forcing her eyes to meet his. "And don't you worry about her, by the way. She'll pay for what she has done too…" His face creased into an
unpleasant smile. "You'll get to die together when we reach Sydney… With some luck, I'll even get to execute her myself…"
He stood, then turned to see his crew had lined up along the deck, one line on the left and one on the right, forming an aisle in between them. All were armed with leather straps, belts and sticks. "Mr Walters?"
"Yes, sir?" Karl came walking up.
"Lead her through the gauntlet, if you please…"
"Aye captain." The lieutenant nodded, then walked over to Catherine, unsheathing his sabre. "Get on your feet, girl." He waved over another sailor. "Jay, hold her at swordpoint behind."
"Aye sir." Jay nodded, unsheathing his sabre as well and taking up position behind Catherine as the woman straightened slowly.
Karl laid the point of his sabre against her chest. "Make one wrong move and you'll be gutted like a pig, understand?"
"Perfectly." Cathy stated in a low voice as she straightened, preparing her body for what was about to come. She glared at the lined up men. "Let's just get this over with…"
"Ah ah…" Walters waved a finger at her. "Not so hasty." He looked over her shoulder at the sailor behind her. "Jay, check her right boot."
She felt a touch against her lower leg, then the shifting of metal against her skin as the dagger was pulled away.
"Well well… Mr. Matthew's in on this little thing too, is he? Not that that surprises me, really…" Karl chuckled, then took a pace backwards.
Cathy felt a poke as Jay's sabre was pushed against her skin and she was forced forward, towards the eagerly waiting soldiers.
A belt snapped harshly against her back. She bit her lip to keep from screaming, the pain searing through her as a stick was launched at her side. And another. And another. Her feet faltered for a moment, but she managed too keep standing, closing her eyes as she took another pace forward. Focus, Cat, focus. She told herself, taking a deep breath and attempting
to numb out her surroundings as she tried to worm a hand free form her chains.
Walters grinned widely as he focused on her face, distorted in pain. She was strong, he had to give her that. Any of his men would have fallen down by now. But it wouldn't take much longer. She stumbled again, and for a moment he could see the back of the white shirt she was wearing was now drenched in blood. Just another few paces. One, two. Then her knees finally buckled as three men lunged out at her at once, taking her down.
A laugh bubbled up as he saw her bent form lying at his feet, quietly struggling. "C'mon, get up!" He yelled down at her, poking at her with his boot. But she stayed down. Another whip lashed out at her and her body jerked, but she still didn't get up. He shook his head with a chuckle, then reached down to grab onto her shoulder and drag her up. "Ah, c'mon Miss Mutineer. I thought you were…"
The metal chains were smacked against his skull harshly, making him stumble back. A loud yell echoed across the deck and he looked up dazedly to see the blond woman elbowing a sailor in the face, before she grabbed onto another's arm, tossing him over her shoulder with negligent ease.
Cathy kicked out at another stunned man, taking him down and creating some space around her for a moment. Hastily she judged her position then jumped up, managing to grab onto a rope and scramble up a few metres. Then she gently let herself swing sideways, until her feet touched the wooden mast. She used it to push herself off and over the heads of her attackers, landing on the other side of the deck.
A roar sounded as the Peters's crew came racing at her. She quickly searched her surroundings for a weapon, spotting a mop leaning against the mast and quickly grabbing onto it, twisting the wooden pole loose and balancing it in her hands as she waited for her opponents. The stick felt oddly comforting somehow, and unconsciously a smile crossed her face as the first sailor ran towards her. She spun around and lunged out, the wood
creaking as it hit the man's side harshly. The next got poked in the gut, the third lost his footing as she swiped at his legs. She felt herself settling into a comfortable rhythm of lunging out.
There were too many though, she realised soon enough, as a dozen men stormed towards her at once. She managed to take two out before one grabbed onto her weapon, jerking it from her hands and tossing it away. A fist impacted with her side and she fell to the ground. A boot slammed into her other side, and another, and another. At least three sailors jumped on top of her and pinned her down. The pained skin on her back screamed out in agony, but she
just closed her eyes and took a shaky breath, struggling futily.
"Enough." Karl's voice thundered above her and moments later the pressure eased off her back. She managed to flip her body around, and stare up into Karl's blue eyes. The lieutenant stared down at her, then touched his temple. He looked down at the blood that stained his hands, then back at her. "You are a troublemaker, Miss Mutineer." He drawled, crossing his arms. "You didn't really think you could get off this ship, did you?"
"Can't…" Cathy coughed, her throat gone dry. "Can't blame a g…girl for trying, can you?"
"Oh, I can…" Karl stated, before reaching down and grabbing onto her collar, dragging her to her feet. "And I do…" He let go, then backhanded her savagely, making her stumble back a few paces.
A warm liquid trickled down her nose, and she wiped at it with an arm, smearing red streaks across the sleeve of her shirt.
"I am gonna…" Karl advanced on her dangerously, then a voice shot up behind him.
Karl clenched his teeth in anger, closing his eyes and working hard to get a polite smile on his face, before he turned around. "Yes, sir?"
"You can play with her later, Mr Walters. Now, I need this ship sailing. Captain Andrew has already signalled me twice that we should get going and I'm getting rather impatient myself."
Karl bowed his head at the captain. "Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir."
"Good." Peters looked at him, then motioned two of the deckhands closer. "You. Chain her up and toss her in the cell with the others. The rest of you, get this ship ready to sail, now."
'Aye captain' 's were his response and the crew hastily scurried off, getting back to their duties.
Cathy looked down as cold chains were attached to her wrists once more.
"This isn't over yet." She heard Walters's voice hiss as he passed her. "We will… discuss this matter in my quarters, this evening."
Cathy allowed herself to be dragged down into the cargo hold, in the back of which a large metal cage had been placed. Faces looked up as she entered, gazing at her as she was tossed inside her cell. Her arms burned as she slid across the rough wooden floor.
The door was pulled shut, then there was a moment of silence, before she heard someone drop down by her side. "Chief?"
"Hi Tony." She managed, wincing as she tried to move.
Muttering drifted up, filling the empty hull with echoes.
"What in God's holy name did they do to ya?" Tony asked, his eyes flicking from one bruise to the next, before he hastily looked over his shoulder. "Guys, anyone got some water left?"
Hastily several cups were shoved into his direction, and he took one, gently holding it up to Cathy's lips.
Catherine took a sip, the liquid calming her. "Thanks." She managed, giving him a smile. "It's good to see you all."
"Circumstances could've been better." The sailor stated, ruffling back his long blond hair with his free hand "And you haven't answered my question yet…What happened?"
Cathy took a breath and pushed herself up against the metal bars until she was sitting. "It's a bit of a long story." She then stated, pressing a hand against her still bleeding nose. "We don't…" She took a breath. "We don't have a lot of time, so listen very, very carefully to me, OK?"
"But…" Tony started, frowning his brows.
A handgesture cut him off. "Just listen." She stated, her green eyes meeting his, before letting her eyes slide past other attentive faces. "The ship sailing just behind this one belongs to a friend of mine. Her name is Lara."
"The Curse?" A redhead, by the name of Claudia, peeked over Tony's shoulder. "Don't tell me you know the Curse…"
Cathy chuckled, regretting it as her body objected to the movement. "I know the Curse. Actually…" She smiled up at the red head. "She's my best friend."
"You're kidding?! Really?" Wide grey eyes stared back at her. "That is so cool!"
Catherine let the smile grow wider, then looked back at Tony. "We were working on an escape plan, but then you guys came along, so I had to improvise to get you out…"
"And this is your improvisation?" Tony asked, staring at the shattered form and raising an eyebrow. "I don't wanna complain, Chief, but your plan sucks."
Cathy grinned at him, her eyes twinkling. "You'd be surprised… Check my left boot."
The man looked at her doubtingly.
A blond eyebrow raised at him. "C'mon, we don't have all day…"
Tony shrugged, then grabbed onto the toe and heal of the boot in question and tugged it off her foot.
Metal rattled as a set of keys fell from the leather.
"Oh my…" Claudia dropped to her knees and lifted the keys, staring at them in disbelief. "How did you…?"
"Did I mention I used to be a thief?"
A dozen pair of eyebrows shot up simultaneously, staring at her in disbelief. Cathy chuckled, closing her eyes and leaning back against the cold metal bars. "Guess I didn't..."
"Have a seat, Mr Walters." Captain Peters motioned the
lieutenant into a chair.
"Thank you, sir." Wood scraped against wood as Karl pulled back a chair, then sat down. There was a moment of silence, then he cleared his throat. "I'm very sorry about what happened today, sir. That girl shouldn't have gotten away from me… I…"
"You underestimated her. I admit it wasn't one of the smartest things you ever did, but I'm not sure I wouldn't have made the same mistake…" Peters handed the lieutenant a glass of wine, then sat down himself. "The situation is under control now, that's the most important thing." The captain stated, taking a sip of the red liquid. "I took a look at that letter you gave me. I think the Admiral will find this evidence substantial enough to charge the Curse with aiding mutiny…"
"And I also have that dagger, sir." Karl pulled the weapon in question from his belt and placed it on the table's surface. "The second in command, Mr Matthew, was the last one to see the prisoner before she was released into my custody. I suspect he's involved as well…"
"Hmm…" Peters judged the weapon from all sides. "How about the others? Is that whole crew involved, or is it just the two of them?"
"I can't be sure, sir." Karl said, swallowing another sip of wine. "I assume the larger part of the crew is a part of this, but I don't have evidence to support that… There are a few people I would like to believe are innocent, however… I would have looked into the matter more closely, but you can understand I couldn't pass up the chance to bring this mutineer into our possession."
"Of course…" The grey haired captain waved him off. "You made the right decision, Mr. Walters. I will speak to the Admiral about your promotion when we return to Port Jackson."
A smile crept onto Karl's face. "Thank you, sir."
"Credit where credit is due, Mr Walters. Considering who you had to deal with I think you acted remarkably well." The captain leaned back in his chair. "Anyway, I will inform captain Andrews of the situation this evening. I'll suggest to him we arrest them at daybreak tomorrow. The darkness will not work in our advantage and we need some time to get ready. She may only have one single ship, but this is The Curse, after all. We will not take chances on this matter."
Peters folded his fingers together. "You are sure this is not some sort of trick? That she does not realise we know?"
"Positive, sir." Karl nodded firmly. "Otherwise she would have never let me take the girl, I'm sure of that…"
"Excellent." The captain slowly let an unpleasant grin cross his face. "Tomorrow, Mr Walters, you and I are gonna take down The Torment of the Southern Seas. We will finally achieve what we've been living for for so many years. You will avenge your father and I will finally rid the British nation of that pest…" He lifted his glass. "A toast, Mr Walters. To tomorrow."
Karl touched his glass to the captain's cheerfully. "Tomorrow."
"So the Phoenix is still being dragged along by this
Cathy nodded, pressing a piece of cloth that had once been the sleeve of her shirt to her nose. "Exactly." She glanced at the door leading into the cargo hold, but it remained prudently shut. "I want you guys to wait until it gets dark. This ship'll anchor off at sunset probably, so that should give you a good indication. I don't think the door is guarded, since it's already locked, so you should be able to sneak out of here unseen, hopefully. Get to the Phoenix, or if you can't, swim… I don't care, as long as you meet up with Lara."
Tony crossed his arms. "I've noticed you're not including yourself in this little plan. When are you joining us?"
Claudia crawled closer. "But chief…"
"No buts." Green eyes focused on her.
"I ain't leaving you here, chief, no way." Tony stated, shaking his head. "I'll be damned if I…"
"Tony." Catherine dropped her voice, causing him to fall silent. She took a breath, glancing down, fumbling with the bloodcovered rag. "Look, I'm just gonna slow you down…"
"Like we care a…" His sentence stopped as a blond eyebrow edged up dangerously.
"Like I said, I'll slow you down, and besides…" She gave the man sitting beside her a look. "They'll be coming down to pick me up sometime soon…"
"Why?" Claudia asked, staring at her.
"I tend to annoy people." Cathy chuckled softly, then gave the young woman in front of her a smile. "I ticked off some lieutenant and he wants to get back at me, that's all… Don't worry, I can handle him…"
"Until he finds out you helped us break out." Tony muttered, not happy about the plan at all. "Cat, I can't…"
"Yes, you can…" Cathy insisted, looking at him. "And besides, this is not about what you want, this is about what I'm ordering you to do… Understood?"
The man beside her dropped his eyes. "But…"
"The others need to know, Tony. If you guys don't go, you're not only risking your own life, but also the lives of the rest of our crew, not to mention Lara's crew. I will not let you risk their lives for my own benefit, OK?" Her head shot up as a rattling sounded nearby and a key twisted in the doorlock. Hastily she turned back to her friend. "I want you to meet up with Lara and tell her that Walters knows everything. Tell her she has to get out of here as fast as she can." The door creaked as it was pushed open. She leaned closer dropping her voice. "I'm trusting you to make sure our crew gets out safe, Tony. Do whatever is necessary. If Lara won't listen, I want you to take orders from Matthew and remind him of the promise he made to me..."
"Up against the back of the cage here, all of ya!" A voice snapped and one of the British sailors stepped closer and fished for the key to unlock the cage.
Tony looked at her. "Chief…"
Cathy closed her eyes, softly shaking her head. "Tell…" She swallowed. "Tell Lara I'm sorry." She whispered, before one of the sailors got hold of her chain and pulled harshly.
"Back up!" Another kicked a booted foot out at Tony, forcing him back. Two others had guns pointed at the prisoners, their eyes flicking around, waiting for any sudden movements.
"Let's go, woman. Mr Walters wants to speak with you…"
"He wants do a bit more than just speak, I imagine…" One added with a chuckle, his friends laughing loudly at this as Catherine was dragged out of the cell, the door falling shut behind her with a loud bang.
A knock sounded and Karl looked up from his diner. "Yes?"
One of the sailors stepped in, giving him a polite nod. "We got you the girl, sir."
"Excellent." The lieutenant grinned deviously, then waved his spoon at him. "Bring her in." He said, before pulling open a drawer and taking out his pistol, placing it squarely on the table.
Meanwhile the sailor dragged Cathy inside, tossing her on her knees in the centre of the room. "You want me to keep an eye on her while you eat, sir?"
"No, Joseph, that won't be necessary." Karl smiled, patting the weapon he'd just placed on the table affectionately. "I've got it covered."
"Yes, sir." Joseph nodded, then stepped back, closing the door behind him.
Catherine got to her feet, her eyes scanning the room.
"Don't even consider making a dive for it, Miss Mutineer." Karl commented lazily, as he took another bite of his diner. "You might be good with a stick, but I'm really good with this little pistol here…" He twirled the gun in his hand for emphasis. "And I guarantee you, you'll have three holes blown into your skull before you can even say 'ouch', so just don't bother, OK?" He leaned back in his chair, swirling the white wine he'd poured himself around in the glass. "You know, I'm having a bit of a celebration tonight. You wanna know why?"
Catherine shifted the cuffs around her pained wrists. "No, but I bet you're gonna tell me anyway."
Karl chuckled. "Where did you pick up that bad attitude? Oh no, never mind, I know, that friend of yours, right? The Great Torment." He drawled, waving his hands around for emphasis.
"If that's what you want to believe…" Cathy shrugged, giving up on worming her chained hands free and looking up at him.
The lieutenant crossed his arms, regarding her. "You know, I don't understand why you keep denying something that is so obvious…" He pushed himself out of his chair and circled it, leaning against the edge and facing her. "What if I offered you a deal, huh? You say that our dear Curse aided a bunch of mutineers, and I let you go…"
"You don't have the authority to do that." Cathy stated flatly, her instincts wanting to back away from him, but she suppressed them and kept standing up straight, facing him calmly.
Karl shrugged. "I could pull a few strings… Our main catch on this trip is gonna be Lara Dean, and if you wanna testify against her, I'm sure we could at least keep you away from the executioner…"
Cathy regarded him, folding her hands. "OK."
A dark brown eyebrow lifted. "Really?"
The woman shrugged. "Sure. If I have to lie to save my life…Absolutely…"
Karl chuckled. "Thought I had ya there for a minute…" He grinned, then walked back to his chair and seated himself again, spiking his fork in a piece of meat. "But you outsmarted me again, Miss Mutineer. You know it's too bad you did what you did… Otherwise our relationship could've been quite different."
"Too bad," Catherine stated in a bored tone.
Karl grinned, taking another sip of his wine. "But because of this little discussion here, I completely forgot I was about to tell you about the reason I am having a private party." He leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. "Tomorrow our ships are going to attack the Curse in order to arrest her. They want to take her to Port Jackson, be trialed and then executed. But I'm gonna make sure that doesn't happen…"
Cathy frowned. "Excuse me?"
"I'm gonna make sure she'll be killed in the battle." Karl chuckled. "An unfortunate accident you know? The captain won't like it much, probably. But he will not deny me my revenge, I won't let him…"
Karl seemed to be talking more to himself then to her now, Cathy noticed. Revenge? She frowned at the word. All of this turned out to be a lot more complicated then they had thought originally… It was a good thing this would all be over with soon… She felt her heart clench at the thought.
She never thought death would scare her, but it did… And she was going to die, she had no doubts about that… If not on board this ship than most certainly in Sydney… She straightened slightly. It would be worth it though. Her crew would be safe. Lara would be safe… The captain had risked her life for her so many times already, it was about time the roles were reversed…
"G'day captain." Ben smiled as Lara poked her head
up over the edge of the crow's nest.
"Hi Ben." She pulled herself up onto the small platform, sitting down on the edge. "Anything?"
The boy shook his head. "No, ma'am, I'm afraid not. They did send a boat over to the other ship though. Stayed there for a while, then sailed back when it just got dark."
"Hmm…" Lara muttered, staring off into the darkness. It was pitch black tonight, as there was no moon this evening and the stars, in spite of their efforts, just weren't adequate sources of illumination.
"You worried about Miss Catherine?"
Lara tilted her head up, seeing the white of his eyes glint through the darkness. She smiled. "Yeah, just a bit…" She shook her head. "No, just a lot, actually…" She leaned back on her hands, closing her eyes and listening to the soft hissing of the waves. "Ben, do you ever… Ever have this bad feeling, this twisting in your gut, nagging at you all the time saying you should do… something…?"
"Oh yeah…" The boy nodded eagerly. "I used to get that sometimes, back in London… People used to come up to me and I'd get just that feeling…"
"Really?" Lara peeked up at him curiously. "What would happen?"
"I'd usually get beaten up."
The captain sighed. "Gee thanks, Bennie, that makes me feel much better."
"Oh I didn't mean…" He stuttered hastily, then fell silent. "I'm sure Miss Catherine is fine, capt'n. And if she's not, you'll just go save her, right? Like you always do…"
Lara chuckled, patting the boy's knee. "You bet, Bennie. Just like the good old times, huh?"
The boy laughed softly. "Yeah."
There was a moment of silence as they both stared across the sea silently, watching the darkness for any movements. Lara let out a breath, wrapping an arm around the wooden railing and looking up at the stars. Her mind immediately started to trace patterns. She'd stared up at those stars so many times in the last three years, spotting whales and sharks and knowing Cathy would say they were bunnies or something stupid like that. God, she'd missed that girl so much, and she just hadn't wanted to admit it to herself. If she'd only screwed up some courage and gone back for her all those times she'd wanted to, all of this would have never happened and they wouldn't be in this jam… That's what you get for being a good Samaritan, Lara, for leaving her behind for her own good so she could have a normal life… Nice idea, but it just backfires on ya... It's the CC effect. Catastrophic Catherine. Normal lives and her just don't mix… The captain felt a smile cross her face in spite of herself, as she took a deep breath of the cold night air and let it refresh her senses.
Her head shot up and she hastily scrambled to her feet, peering over the railing beside Ben.
"Look." The boy pointed into the darkness near the bough of her ship and now she too could see the shifting of the water and a vague outline of a wooden vessel coming closer. "Is it them, capt'n?"
Lara peered into the darkness, squinting her eyes to make out the letters on the bough that were slowly getting clearer. "It's them," Lara nodded, then hopped off the crow's nest without a second thought, grabbing onto a rope and swinging off.
"All right. Easy does it…" Tony let the waves slowly bring his ship closer and closer to The Argo. "Nice going, Luke." He patted the man that was steering on the shoulder. "I'll just head down and… Aaah!" He staggered back as a dark shape suddenly landed straight in front of him out of nowhere. "What the…?"
"Catherine?" The woman looked around restlessly. She took a few paces, her eyes searching the deck. "Cat…" Blue eyes locked with his and he swallowed at the intensity. "Where is she?"
"She… The…" He took a breath, steadying himself. "You're Lara?"
"No, I'm Little Red Riding-hood and I'm on my way to grandma's house, but I just thought I'd drop in and say hi…" She rolled her eyes as the man stared back at her in complete bewilderment. "Yes, I am Lara Dean." She took a step closer, looming over him dangerously. "Now where is she?"
Tony blinked, then shook his head, trying to regain his senses. "She's…She's not here…"
Blue eyes widened. "What?!"
"She's not here…" The man ruffled his hair back out of his eyes uncomfortably. "She told me to tell you Walters knows."
"Damn it…" Lara growled, her hands clenching. "That bastard…"
"And she said you should get out of here as fast as you can."
"Figures…" The captain shook her head, taking a few paces then turning, rubbing her temple in frustration. "It would be so nice if the girl would just stick to the plan, just once… Once is all I ask for…"
"She told me to tell you she's sorry." Tony offered tentatively.
"Lot of good that's gonna do me…" Lara muttered, taking another few paces before stopping, covering her face in her hands. This was not good… This was so not good… "All right." Lara drew in a breath, forcing her brain into action. "You…" She pointed a finger at Tony, who blinked back. "Get this ship ready for battle. I'll get the rest of your crew from downstairs to come and help you. I'll send someone over here to brief you on the battle plan… just as soon as I think of one…" She sighed and turned, heading down to the deck, where a plank had just been lowered, connecting the two ships. She hopped on the bridge and walked back to her ship with steady paces, meeting Matthew in the middle. "Turn." She instructed him, making a circular motion with her finger.
Her second in command obeyed, frowning. "What's up?"
"Walters knew after all. Catherine is still on Peters's ship."
"You're kidding?" Matthew hastily hopped off the plank and back on board the Argo.
"Nope, CC strikes again." Lara muttered as she hopped on board as well, then started to head for her room, pushing open the door. "And they call me The Curse, can you believe it?"
Matthew slipped into the room behind her. "What are you gonna do?"
"Get her out."
Matthew watched his captain as she dug into her drawers impatiently, pulling out several weapons and other stuff she thought she could use. "You know, Lara, Cat told me that if something happened and you flipped, I had to take command and get everyone out of here…"
Blue eyes glanced up at him for a moment, then returned to their searching. "Once a mutineer…" The captain muttered with a shake of her head, as she stuck a gun into her belt. "You gonna do it?"
"I promised her I wouldn't let you do anything stupid… But I really don't think risking everything to try and get a girl off a gigantic, heavily armed English ship is stupid, so…"
Lara chuckled, circling her desk. "Smart thinking, Matt…" She walked past him and out the door, gesturing to him with her hand to follow her. "OK, here's the drill… I take care of Peters's ship, you deal with Andrews."
"All right." Matthew nodded, striding along beside her. "You gonna take The Phoenix?"
"No, I'm gonna take the rowboat."
Matthew stopped dead, staring at her. "What?!" He hastily ran after and caught up as she ducked down the stairs and into the cargohold. "Please don't tell me I just heard you claim you're gonna take down the flagship with a rowboat?"
Her second in command tossed up his hands. "Lara, don't get me wrong, I know you can do nearly impossible things but this is pushing it slightly, ya know?"
Lara rolled her eyes. "Ye of little faith…" She trotted down the last few stairs and glanced around in the dim candlelight. "Mary!"
A head poked up from behind one of the canons. "Capt'n?"
"I need some explosives and the longest fuse you can find and I need 'm within the next three seconds."
Mary blinked at her.
"One…" Lara started, giving her a look.
"Right…" Mary hastily dove off, picking up a small bag of gunpowder and opening a chest, pulling out a long rolled up fuse, handing it behind her with one hand as she ruffled through the drawer with her other. "I'll just find you some scissors and cut a piece off for…"
"This'll do…" Lara muffled voice sounded from halfway up the stairs.
"Bu… That's thirty five metres of…" Mary stared dumbly at the space where the captain had been, the sound of the door falling shut echoing through the lower deck.
"I want you to give me a few minutes, then take the Phoenix and The Argo and head for Andrews' ship." Lara stated as she walked towards the stern, where the rowboat was. "Stay away from Peters's ship. If I'm not back within an hour you're in charge of getting these people as far away from here as you can get."
Matthew looked at her in disbelief. "Lara, this plan is insane…"
"Yes, it is, but I've tried everything else, Matthew, and it all back fired," the captain stated as she loaded the rowboat with her supplies. "And I'm not gonna lose her again, Matthew, I am not…" She straightened and looked at him. "She's not gonna get away so easily this time… I have to…"
Her second in command let out a breath. "I know…" He reached out and pulled Lara into a hug. "Just be careful."
"I'm gonna blow up a ship, Matthew, being careful isn't really an option." Lara murmured, then pulled back, giving him a pat on the back. "But thanks for the concern."
Matthew smiled, then helped her get into the rowboat. "Good luck."
"Thanks." Lara flashed him a smile, then untied the rope that was holding the boat up and slowly started lowering the boat down to the sea below.
She hated him. She really, really hated him. Cathy watched
Karl silently, her eyes narrowed at him dangerously as he sat and ate, making
conversation she had no need to hear. She'd had to repress the urge to do some
more damage to his already battered face. She couldn't do that though… Not because
of the chains, or her painfully throbbing back, but she had to buy her people
some time to get away… If she flipped he might have those sailors take her back
to the cell and they'd find out the others were gone and all would be lost.
She let out a breath, switching her weight from one leg to the other. Every inch of her felt sore and she was so tired. She glanced out the window, seeing the stars barely reflected in the dark water. She wondered what time it was…
"Hey, I asked you a question!" Karl's voice forced his way into her thoughts.
"Sorry, missed it…" Cathy muttered, looking up at him. He'd had too much to drink. This was his fifth glass, at least, and it was showing. His voice sounded a bit blurry and his eyes were glazed over just slightly. Mentally he was completely off track, though she wondered if that had anything to do with the alcohol.
"I don't think I like your attitude…" Karl hissed, getting up from his chair and closing in on her, keeping a hand on the table's surface for balance.
Something in his eyes made Catherine realise this was not the time for snappy retorts, so she remained quiet, her eyes attentively watching his every move.
"You know…" He took a slouchy pace, letting go off the desk, his eyes focused intently on her . "You look quite pretty when you shut up… If you're nice to me, I might actually get you out of the courts after all…" He let his eyes slowly drift down her body, then back up again. "…so I can keep ya…"
"Thanks, but I'd rather die…" Cathy stated, trying to sound sure of herself. She felt far from confident though, unable to get away from his gaze. Her muscles were twitching uncomfortably, her body annoyed at being unable to tense up and jump at him. She watched s Karl's blue eyes narrowed dangerously.
"You ungrateful bitch…" He growled, then suddenly, before Cathy could react, he launched forward, grabbing onto her chained arms with one hand and pressing his forearm against her neck with the other. He shoved her back harshly against the wall, pinning her arms down against the wood above her head. "I've had it with these women controlling my life, you hear? I've had it!" He paused for a moment, breathing his alcohol breath on her. "I think it's about time I taught you some respect, Miss Mutineer..."
in Part III