The Unusual Thief

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The Life of a Pirate

The good ship Sarosta sat on the sea like an overweight drag queen, all gilded edges, pink sails and gold trim. It was a large vessel built for the express purpose of carrying large amounts of riches; it was of course very well defended. A compliment of fifty well trained mercenaries was housed within it, accompanied by an artillery squadron which took care of the firing and loading of the cannons. Not a sensible target for sane pirates but tempting for those deficient in the sanity department.

The Sarosta’s lookout was currently dozing in his crow’s nest. He was aware that there were not many ships on the sea, sailing was a dangerous business requiring a professionalism and dedication found in few men, and even fewer pirates; so there really wasn’t much to look out for. He saw his job like this, he got a lot of fresh air, the women were impressed by his appointment and he got to doze without fear of discovery.

The lazy lookout knew of trouble soon enough though, there was a shout from the lower deck, a shout of alarm and volume. At first he took no real notice until he heard several more voices and a commotion, he just assumed someone had fallen into the sea so he returned to his repose. The second indication of danger was rather more obvious, even the lookouts retarded sense of duty caused him to get up and take a look at what was happening.

When the entire ship shook and there was a tremendous cracking sound, the lazy lookout finally decided to look out. His first thought was that his ship was being raped. At the stern there was a fierce black ship which had its three-pronged ramming spike buried deep into the rear of the Sarosta along which a host of dirty, nasty seamen were pouring. He knew the cannons were impotent as they were along the sides of the ship, there were none at the rear. He watched as the pirates boarded, they were led by a giant man dressed in black, wielding a whip of wire. The hired mercenaries, a formidable and well-prepared group armed with automatic rifles and sabres ran from below to engage the brigands. It seemed the pirates were all armed differently they had an assortment of handguns, rifles and razor sharp throwing discs. The initial skirmish was wild the pirates screamed obviously out of their minds on some foul substances yet the mercenaries repelled them, killing some sense into the remainder.

The lookout gazed down with horrified fascination, the frenzied action on board the two ships was in stark contrast to the calm tranquillity of the surrounding sea, so much so that the scene was almost hypnotic. At first the mercenaries had the upper hand because they had established themselves well and had good cover; their leader’s voice was heard as he shouted orders and counter commands to his men. They also seemed far more accurate and had the ability to suppress the invaders; many pirates fell, perforated with small bullet holes, pouring blood. The leader of the pirates stayed near the back of the ship hidden behind some rigging, occasionally bellowing threats to his men. The pirates were overly eager but this was costly on their ranks, and they were also less disciplined than the mercenaries, so many died during frankly suicidal charges straight into the line of fire.

Two things changed the tide of the battle; the mercenaries fuelled by the fear of their blatantly psychopathic opposition had used the majority of their ammo and were reluctant to fire their weapons; this and the charge of two individuals the tall, dark, hairy leader and a shorter wild looking blond haired man. The leader ran forward with huge strides towards the mercenary’s frontline, his whip flashed and cut silver trails through the air decapitating seven mercenaries and removing the legs from a further four. The blonde one had powerful mechanical legs which allowed him to leap right into the heart of mercenaries last stand near the port edge of the boat and with stunning speed crack their jaws and slice open their skulls with kicks. He carried with him what appeared to be a decapitated head. This he flung with all his might at the mercenary leader, the head clamped onto his exposed throat and began chewing. Even from his high viewpoint the lookout was disgusted by the sight of the head chewing its way into the poor mans throat. Soon the deck was awash with blood and all the defenders lay dead, dying and mutilated. The ones that remained had jumped into the sea to swap a swift death for a more prolonged one. No one swam in the Red Sea without the protection of a ship for long. Watching the carnage below, the lookout felt detached from what was happening and for some bizarre reason was not frightened. This state of affairs quickly changed however, when the Blonde one drew a large knife from his belt, which he fingered thoughtfully for a second before placing it between his teeth. Then using his clawed feet to grasp the mast, he began to clamber up towards the lookout, with a very unpleasant grin on his face.

The Captain watched impassively as the lookout’s body tumbled silently from the crow’s nest and with a disturbing crunch landed headfirst on the boards of the deck, he lay there in a pathetic crumpled heap. The Captain wandered over and nudged the corpse gently with his foot

“I think he’s dead!” he called up to Stead. Stead looked down and nodded then stepped off the top of the mast and fell landing in a crouching position next to the body, a pneumatic hiss was audible as his knees bent to absorb the impact.

“We’ve done well here” claimed Stead

“That’s as maybe, but we’ve got to check the cargo hold yet” replied the Captain, muted and pessimistic as always

“That’s always the best bit!” exclaimed Paul from the messy wound in the mercenaries neck, his face was covered with blood “I always buzz for the cargo hold.” Bouncing frantically on his chin he shouted

“Somebody pick me up!”

Down in the depths of the Sarosta and after a few uneventful skirmishes with the more domestic staff on the ship, Stead (holding Paulhead by his hair), Ache and the Captain stood in front of the huge locked door of the hold.

“Anybody got a key?” asked Stead “It looks too thick to kick down.”

“I think I might be able to open it” said Ache removing a small device from his pocket. It was about the size of a pen with a simple LED display and several protrusions at one end of it, these he inserted into the keyhole. The rest of the crew watched expectantly as Ache held the device in place occasionally checking the display, until it flashed green. There was a click, a crackle and a gale of laughter as Ache flew across the room his hair smoking from an intense electrical discharge.

“Facking motherfucker cunt!” shrieked Ache in his wound up what the fuck happened voice. The door to the hold swung open. The inner area of the hold was musty and dark; they all peered into the gloom trying to fathom what mysterious riches it held.

It was empty.

Stead ran into the hold and desperately searched the most remote corners, hoping to find something, anything to justify the effort they had employed and lives they had lost in taking this ship, but there was nothing

“Oh not again!” sighed Ache as he slumped to the floor

“This takes the MOTHERFUCKING PISS!” screamed Stead kicking through a nearby wooden strut

“Is there not anything in there Stead man?” inquired Paulhead bouncing forward to take a closer look

“No drugs? No grub? No slave girls? No expensive toys or weapons of destruction? No gold or silver?”

“Nothing! There’s bugger all in here”

The Captain remained silent but everyone moved to give him space, his face transmitted a black mood

“Our luck certainly seems shitty” stated Ache “Our third ship this month with no gain. We can’t carry on like this Captain, the men are restless we need money and shore leave to calm them”

“You think?” Captain intoned sarcastically, his eyebrows reaching for the sky. He rounded on Ache large and full of threat

“Any suggestions on what we should do about it genius” he asked as he poked Ache in the chest

“Of course Cap!” smiled Ache “We put all our resources into one last insane attempt to increase our wealth and reputation a thousand fold, I have a plan….”

They all heard the rare seriousness in the Aches’ voice and began to become excited about what he had in store.

Being the most professional of scavengers the Satanists left nothing of worth on the Sarosta, taking all its food and water from the galley then scuppering her quickly, they escaped back to the safety of Satan before she sank. From the upper deck of Satan Stead and Ache watched the Sarosta slowly slip into the scarlet ocean, sending big pink bubbles floating up into the dark brown sky.

“You think they’d fly a flag saying, Hey we ain’t got shit on board no point in attacking us Mr. Pirate!” voiced Ache

“Yeah but then you’d get shady gits flying the flag constantly, even when full of good stuff” countered Stead

“And all the ships not flying the flag would be getting chased by every sea dog in the vicinity, competition would be a bitch” added Ache putting the final nail in his own suggestion

“I mean, why the fucks have an empty cargo hold in the first place? That’s what a cargo hold is for! To hold cargo!” complained Stead still irritated by his lack of riches gained

“Maybe they were just off to pick up some cargo from somewhere, maybe we should have followed them, THEN robbed them.” suggested Ache

“Yeah but then you know you’d be following full ships just to watch them unload at a port where you can’t get your hands on anything; this whole piracy thing is a bit hit and miss really.” said Stead.

A senior member of the crew came running along the deck interrupting their meaningless conversation

“Ache! Sir!” he gasped

“What’s up Rattone?” Ache asked the stalwart Bosun. Stead was always entranced by this Satanists luminescent green cybernetic eye, it repelled him

“Me, Tray and Monster just went to the Galley to drop off the foodstuffs with Chef and he’s dead sir, along with the rest of the kitchen staff!”

“What the fuck? Stead man, let’s check this out” Ache said surprised but not doubting a word of the Bosuns story, as three they ran towards the galley.

The galley was in turmoil, the normally orderly environment where the chef and his two assistants prepared all the food for the crew was desecrated, there was no other word for it. All the stoves were switched on; the heat was incredible. The taps were running causing a small flood in which various utensils and plates floated

“Switch off those stoves! Turn off those taps!” barked Stead to the two men, who were stood staring at the scene, they did as they were told. This had been not only an act of murder but vandalism as well, everything that could be smashed had been. Broken jugs and crockery lay everywhere, foodstuffs had been ruined, wine spilt. On one of the work surfaces lay a large plate on which the perpetrator had took the biggest, smelliest shit ever. One table was broken clean in half. Amongst the debris lay three corpses. The first one Stead noticed was the chef, he was lying on the floor near the door, the whole front of his ribcage had been pulled open exposing his chest cavity and a mess of splintered ribs, steam rose from the freshly ravaged torso. He seemed to be missing most of his internal organs; Stead couldn’t see where they had gone. The next corpse was the source of most of the smoke in the room, burnt beyond recognition and virtually a charred skeleton Stead had no idea how he could’ve burned so badly without anything else in the room catching alight. The third and final corpse was the most disturbing; it differed from the others because it bore no hideous wound or other obvious cause of death. It was disturbing because the corpse was laying full length on a table, his trousers had been removed and pair of green frog’s legs were kicking weakly from in between his exposed buttocks.

A meeting was called to discuss the situation. The Captain, once informed by Ache of the carnage that had been discovered in the galley gathered his crew on deck. While he stood on the upper deck looking darkly down at them, a light sea breeze began to blow his mane of hair around his head and face.

“As you may well be aware” he began “While we were away enjoying ourselves on our last plundered vessel, Chef and friends were brutally murdered in a totally bizarre and unusual fashion”

He let this sink in; there were some gasps, a few puzzled looks and one or two grins.

“I know who was on the ship at the time and who was with me on the raid, but what puzzles me is that there was only Chef and his staff on this ship, so none of you are suspect”

A lot of the crew looked relieved, the Captain’s suspicions were usually lethal and he was not fond of his crew being murdered, unless he was doing the murdering and only then with good reason

“So unless they entered into a very complicated suicide pact together, there’s someone else on the ship, a stranger, what I need from you is information, has anyone seen or heard anything unusual? Anything that may indicate the presence of a stowaway?”

There was not much response from the crew, they had seen or heard nothing and this showed on their faces and in their silence, they were just as confused as their leader.

“Well be on your guard, do not hesitate to kill a stranger on sight, sleep watch will be kept from now on. And on a lighter note I am organising shore leave at the west desert port and with any luck we’ll have some money to spend to! Now go about your duty, that is all!”

Stead returned to the quarters he shared with Paul, he was tired after the day’s excitement and action. Although exhausted he was not at all sure he would be able to sleep, the incident in the galley worried him mightily. He was not afraid, the ship was being searched thoroughly from bow to stern for a stowaway and there would be sentries patrolling throughout the sleeping period but the horror of the murders plus the mystery of the killer or killers was disturbing. The room he had lived in with Paul for the last couple of months was a simple affair. It had two bunks at its far end, a few basic wooden chairs around a table, a chest where he kept his valuables and stolen trinkets; on the wall were many ragged posters and pictures, mostly of scantily clad guitars and musically enhanced women. On the bottom bunk laid Paul’s body resting, Paulhead was atop the table learning to skin up with his lips

“Stead man!” cried Paul, the crudely created joint falling from his lips “What’s happening? People been running about in a hurry shouting and shit”

“The chef and his helpers have been murdered mate, truly fucked up”

“Shit! What we gonna do for munchies now?”

Stead smiled at his friend’s lack of respect for human life

“That’s the least of our concerns, no one knows who did it and they were killed in some pretty nasty ways.” warned Stead.

“How nasty?” asked Paul suddenly very interested.

“Really fuckin’ nasty”

“REALLY fucking nasty?” confirmed Paul.

“Yes, very nasty” confirmed Stead.

“Tell me all about it then!” Paul said smiling like a Cheshire cat.

Stead sat down onto one of the chairs, and began

“Well the chef had his ribcage cracked open and all his innards removed, we can’t find ‘em.”

“Nice, nice.” said Paul eagerly

“The one geezer was completely smouldered, he was toast.”

“Lovely!” the ghoul in Paul was revving up “What about the third one?”

“Well the last one he was poisoned.”

“That’s pretty boring!” complained Paul “No blood? No swelling of the neck? No skin ripping?”

“No, but check this. The killer used a poisonous sea frog to kill him, by putting it up his ass!” Stead hoped this would be the amusing coup de gras, but he was about to learn there is nothing sensible, cool or even funny about frogs up asses.

Paul’s face fell, he looked ill

“What’s up? Too sick for ya?” jibed Stead

“Its Andy man, he’s here! On the ship!”

Steads bowels involuntarily loosened and he made a little water in his pants.

Stead and Paul had told the tale of Andy to the Captain and Ache; they had listened to the story in earnest and had seemed relieved when Stead explained his injuring of Andy. Now back in the Captains quarters Stead reminded them of it again, the Captain was first to offer his knowledge on the subject of killer freaks with mad powers

“Such creatures are rare, but not unheard of in these remote areas of the world” stated the Captain “but why is this relevant now?”

“Andy described to Paul one of his pastimes, it seems that Andy was fond of inserting frogs into his own ass” Stead let this sink in and watched the look of realisation pass over the faces of Ache and the Captain. Stead continued

“It’s bloody obvious Andy fucked up Chef and the help and fuck knows how he’s kept up with us, but Paul believes he’s here and I have to agree with him”

“If that is the case we must put to port as soon as possible, I don’t want no shit like that on my ship!” the Captain seemed disgusted, he was disgusted at the murders but more disgusted by the fact that this Andy was stowing on his ship

“But how can we find him. We’ve searched the ship, everywhere! Are you sure he’s really here?” Ache had been head of the search party which had recently completed its second sweep of the ship and he had been thorough

“I searched every room, hold, cupboard and bunk, forecastle AND berth. I even climbed up the rigging to have a look round! There’s no way he’s on or in this ship!”

“Andy is far from normal” suggested Stead “he may be hiding in a place or a way that we just aren’t thinking of.”

“What then?” asked Ache getting exasperated “He’s invisible or can shrink?!”

“No it’s got to be something simpler than that, maybe he’s swimming alongside us?” Stead suggested

“Doing the freak paddle? At fucking fifty knots? I doubt it” snorted Ache

“He would’ve been seen by someone, we left that island a long time ago” said the Captain

“Then what about under the water? Who says he breathes air?” Stead theorised

“If that’s the case then we still couldn’t find him, he could just swim away.” the Captain suddenly stopped speaking grabbed at his ship wide intercom microphone and shouted

“All stop!” turning to Ache he ordered “Get the scuba gear and harpoon guns NOW.”

Quickly suited up and on board the deck they stood, wondering who was going to overcome his fear first and take the plunge in to the grisly Red Sea. Ache looked around nervously then pretended to be adjusting the weights on his belt, he really didn’t want to go down there, the ocean was just so unnatural. Any medium in which smoking weed was impossible HAD to be evil. Rattone handed him his harpoon gun which Ache accepted miserably

“Don’t drown sir!” smirked Rattone “We’d miss your joint rolling ability!”

Aches face went sour like old milk and he flicked his index finger at Rattone who just laughed and walked away. Ache wasn’t the strongest swimmer at the best of times and the thought of that unnatural maniac floating around down there didn’t make things any easier. The Captain was first to take his harpoon gun off Rattone and step into a landing craft, the Captains fear was strong also, but his distaste at their intended target was stronger, Stead followed, then reluctantly Ache. At the Captains spoken order the landing craft was lowered slowly towards the waiting waves, when it finally touched the surface of the sea they made the final adjustments to their equipment and sat along the rim of the craft to fall backwards into the depths. One splash, two splashes, Ache hesitated, waiting, perched on the edge of the craft battling with his cowardice; but not for long as Stead’s arm reached up and took hold of Aches belt and with a surprised squawk and a loud splash he was tugged into the sea.

Sinking into the nebulous, red, nothingness was an immediately terrifying experience for Ache. The incredible feeling of depth beneath his feet as he trod water woke many primal fears in him. Just what huge deformed creature of the seas lay in wait down there? Tracking him with its unnatural senses, waiting for him to float just a bit closer, before speeding out of the darkness to gulp him down in two hasty bites? Ache knew his fear was justified, he knew such monsters were down here, in the depths, for he had caught them with his modified fishing rod, he struggled to take steadier breaths through his mouthpiece. Pink particles and enflamed brine reduced visibility to a duo of inadequate metres in any direction, so he flicked on his wide beam torch. It sent out a broad band of electric blue light uncovering his two companions also floating in a red liquid limbo.

The hull of Satan was to Aches right, he turned slowly in the water and swam towards it. The plan was to check the hull and the immediate area for Andy or any sign of his presence. He clicked his harpoon gun off safety and took a glance to his right to take in the position of his friends, they also were swimming toward the hull. He angled towards them so as to intercept them at their destination. They met up at the rim of the hull and began to make a circuit of it; Ache knew this would take some time due to the size of Satan and the viscosity of the water. The Red Sea’s water had a tendency to be slightly on the syrupy side, warm and if immersed in it for too long would cause severe skin irritation. They had no proof that Andy would be here they were just working on the Captains hunch, which Ache had to admit were often right.

After roughly three quarters of the hull had been covered they had seen no sign of Andy. Ache began to doubt and only then began to relax. Stead on the other hand was still jittery, every time a new piece of the hull was revealed through the murk he expected to see Andy clinging to it like a perverse barnacle, blood flowing from his eye socket. He knew his imagination was getting the better of him but the claustrophobic, dark atmosphere coupled with his previous personal experience of Andy’s totally supernatural and psychotic personality made him very wary.

After nearly an hour underwater fruitlessly searching, the three decided to give it up. The Captain, after patting both Ache and Stead on their shoulders started to head up towards the launch, finally tired of the search. Ache and Stead on seeing The Captain swimming towards the now very inviting surface hurried after him. Ache saw the Captain break the surface and clamber onto the waiting launch, closely followed by Stead. Ache was relieved to see the waters around him getting lighter. His spirits rose as he neared the surface, then fell as his heart was gripped by the cold hand of fear caused by an even colder hand on his ankle which with immense power tugged him back down into the lightless depths.

As Stead gratefully pulled himself back onto the launch, he was helped up by a dripping wet Captain still in his wet suit. Stead removed his mask and mouthpiece and looked up at the Captain

“No luck this time either, weird. I felt sure that’s where we’d find him.”

“I thought that also Stead, it also leaves us with no hope of killing him.” Replied the Captain with remorse.

“What now then?” asked Stead

“We’ll head for port as quick as we can, and hope to Medio we have no more killings before we get there.”

“Definitely!” agreed Stead “What do you think is taking Ache so long? He wasn’t that far behind me”

“I don’t know” The Captains mind was very suspicious, verging on paranoid but this had saved him and his friends lives many times before. Stead saw suspicion flit across the Captains features and instantly replacing his mask and mouthpiece Stead dove back into the sea.

Back underwater Stead quickly took in the immediate area and on seeing that Ache was nowhere near, switched on his torch and allowed himself to sink further down. Suddenly from below him came a thick stream of bubbles pushing their way to the surface. Stead turned in the water and started to swim downwards as fast as he could, with his mechanical legs equipped with flippers he powered downwards like a human torpedo, the next thing he passed was an abandoned harpoon gun; unfired. Then through the gloom two figures started to appear. Andy and Ache. Andy was still dressed in the same robes which he had been wearing on the island, he was wearing no breathing apparatus and no bubbles escaped his maw, Stead saw with some satisfaction that his eye socket was a mess. Ache was kicking and punching violently at Andy, not because he wished to fight the creature but because he was drowning. Andy had stripped him of his air tank and was currently holding it just out of Aches reach, teasing him with it, his other hand was wrapped around Aches throat holding him at bay. Ache was struggling violently for his life and thus proved an interesting distraction for Andy. Stead was glad of this as it allowed him to circle round the pair and line up his shot with the harpoon gun. He carefully took aim at Andy’s head and squeezed the trigger, the harpoon shot through the water and passed within inches of its intended target, who seemed both surprised and relieved as the three foot long length of sharpened metal skimmed his face. With a large cheesy grin Andy turned to face Stead and mouthed a silent curse at him, all the while Aches struggles grew weaker. Andy was revelling in his victory until a second harpoon from above speared through the top of his skull and out through the bottom of his chin at an angle that twisted his jaw violently to the right. It was now Stead’s turn to grin as Andy released Ache and the air tank to clutch at his violated cranium. The Captain swam to Aches aid, retrieving his air tank for him and urging Ache to swim up and away from the now incensed Andy. Andy’s remaining eye had turned blood red and he uttered a growl that Stead could hear despite the fact that the thick red water should have rendered any sound mute. The growl grew in bass until it turned into an intensely uncomfortable vibration is Stead’s skull, Andy started to tug at the harpoon stuck in his head. Stead had the feeling that he should leave, quickly, and this he did swimming upwards as fast as the artificially built muscles in his legs would allow.

The Captain virtually jumped out of the water, then turned and grabbed the weakened Ache by the hand hauling him from the water. There was a splash and Stead’s form rocketed from the water several feet into the air, cartwheeling, he came to a rough stop as a crumpled heap on the floor of the Launchcraft

“A bit eager aren’t we?” asked The Captain amusedly

“Damn straight” replied Stead as he pulled off his mask and stood up “I really think we should get out of here”

“Ok with me” the Captain signalled to a member of crew on the deck above who started the automatic winch. As the craft rose jerkily back up to the ship Ache began coughing up a red seawater and bile cocktail.

“Oooh! That looks lovely Ache!” said the Captain, patting his first mate on the back

“Fuck COUGH!” Replied a spluttering Ache

“You seem in a rather jovial mood!?” Stated Stead who was rapidly falling into shock

“I find fear invigorates me Stead! Gives the blood a fizz! Why else would I be in this game?” boasted The Captain grinning, Stead realised that this was the first expression of happiness he’d ever seen on the Captains face and despite the situation smiled back.

As soon as the launchcraft was fully raised Stead grabbed The Captain’s arm and with urgency said

“If were to lose him we must go NOW!”

The Captain leapt from the launchcraft and ran to the upper deck and straight to the main external control panel, a crewmember was already at the controls The Captain grabbed the man by his shoulder and threw him roughly to the floor

“Alright then lets go!” whooped The Captain and threw the throttle lever into full power. Satan’s ancient engines screamed with the effort and threw everyone who was standing on deck down to the floor with the momentum of its sudden forward movement. Satan once again moved inexorably towards the horizon, leaving Andy behind for what Stead hoped was the last time.

At last there was reason to celebrate, the whole crew listened intently to the story of how The Captain, Ache and Stead had rid the ship of its evil tormentor. They had all revelled in the victory even though they had no part in it, but the crew of Satan needed little reason to throw a party. Later in that same day the last kegs of ale were brought up from the hold and the remaining mugs were salvaged from the ruined kitchen. The entire crew gathered on the deck and began to get seriously pissed. It did not take long for the alcohol to take effect as it was flowing freely and fast. Ache after two jars of ale decided to switch on the ships lights to increase the party atmosphere, he also added a subroutine to their automatic program which made them flash intermittently. Soon drunken songs were being sung and drunken dances being stumbled. The Captain was slumped on the front balustrade of the upper deck where he had just finished giving his troops a hearty pep talk. He had spoken of courage, friendship and honour amongst thieves. It had been an inspiring speech, unfortunately no one heard it because he had spoken much of it with his beard in his mouth mumbling at a nearby barrel. Approaching him after carefully making his way up the stairs was Stead accompanied by an excited Ache, the Captain raised his weary head and acknowledged them with a complicated series of grunts.

“Captain! Look what I found!” Ache said as he covered the last little bit of ground between them holding out his hand. The Captain looked at all three of Aches hands and noticed that he had in them a small sheet of high powered acid blotters, the really nasty postage stamp sized ones they had picked up in the West Port once

“I though we took all those” burbled the Captain through his beard

“Apparently not mate” said Ache cheerfully “I found them in the bottom of my bunk, there’s about ten here!”

“Gimme!” said the Captain, making a drunken lunge for Aches hand

“Alright then hold on, you up for one of these Stead?”

“Fo?” asked Stead, he had just started on his third barrel not long ago

“You want four? You greedy fucker! Here’s seven go and give one to Paulhead and one to his body”

“Au?” asked Stead

“You remember where we left Paulhead don’t you? It’s in that barrel of beer over there, go and fetch it or him or whatever the fuck it is, just go and get the head!” Ache had problems deciding what to call the head he was never sure how to refer to it, was it an it? Or a him?

Stead slowly started to move towards the stairs clutching the seven tabs of acid. Once he had precariously made his way down the stairs he staggered over to the barrel Ache had indicated and looked over the rim of it dropping one of the tabs into the beer in the process

“Bugger” cursed Stead as he watched the tab fall downwards and come to rest on the still brown surface of the ale. He craned the top half of his body over the rim of the large barrel, his outstretched arm reaching towards the small piece of paper that held his entire attention at that moment, his fingertips not quite touching it. Just a bit closer he thought, he craned further forward and watched as Paul’s face rose out of the ale his mouth swallowing the tab and biting down on Steads fingers in one swift movement

“Ahhrgh!” cried Stead, fear coursing through him, his legs kicking in the air outside the barrel as he tried to regain his balance and understand what was happening, not an easy task given his inebriated state. Eventually he regained his footing and removed his arm from the barrel with Paul still gnawing at his hand, he clubbed him viciously against a nearby mast until he released his hold

“You daft fucker, that really hurt!” said Stead nursing his bruised and bloody fingers, Paulhead just laughed maniacally at him. The pain in Stead’s throbbing hand had originally cut through the effects of the drink, but now the alcoholic curtains began to close over his mind again. As his viciously handicapped conscience died of an alcohol overdose he took two steps back, ran and kicked Paulhead far across the deck. Grinning widely to himself he shoved all remaining six tabs of acid into his mouth and swallowed them without even noticing the intensely bitter taste, he turned spied an abandoned flagon of beer snatched it up and slurping greedily from it returned to Ache and the Captain.

“How is it, a man with perfectly engineered and balanced legs can have so much trouble walking?” asked the Captain his own voice echoing around inside his head leaving afterimages of sound, he turned to look at Ache for an answer to his query. Ache who was having enough trouble of his own standing up began to explain

“Well the problem is see, you see…..can you see?” confusion welled up and passed

“His legs are fine, it his head that’s fucked and that controls the legs see, see, what? Can you see?”

“Not much, s’mostly black” muttered the Captain “and that blue bit which sis yo shuurrt” the relationship between brain and lips was becoming increasingly vague for him

“shuu-rrt, yoor sut” he added with a spray of saliva. In response Ache wobbled backwards and forwards increasing his grip on the balcony he was clinging desperately to. He had had a strange feeling; it was like déjà vu and amnesia at the same time, his brain fought a cerebral overload. Eventually they returned to looking back at the subject of their original conversation. Deep, deep down amidst the chemical haze in their brains small voices were shouting,

Help!

Help!

Were really fucked!

Stead must be having a great time!

Stead was lying on the floor in front of them, fists tightly clenched, grimacing sternly while his cybernetic legs kicked and spasmed in no set pattern. He had stopped responding to the spoken word some time ago now, his eyes darted to and fro looking at nothing, his pupils huge.

“You think he’s alright?” managed Ache

“HELL NO!” countered the Captain loudly; he then trailed off distracted by a new spasm cycle Stead was entering into.

A strange thing was happening to Stead, there was a feeling of energy pushing out through his face but this was fading. His body was returning to him, he now had real weight, he was coming back. Stead was familiar with all those feelings, he was coming down that’s all. The acid was losing its grip on his mind and he was returning to normal. What did nag at him was a feeling of a dull pain in his legs, he did not know how this could be; his legs were metal and wires they didn’t feel anything. But still the dull ache persisted against all reason. Slowly Stead became aware of something even more worrying and just as subtle, he was steady. There was no movement of the ship over water; he was no longer on Satan! He forced himself up out of unconsciousness, opening his eyes he felt totally confused, he was lying on a tall, metal bed and covered by crisp white sheets. The room was small and had no windows, there was two doors leading out one was open and showed a bathing area and toilet, the other was closed. A medicinal smell hung heavily in the air. He ripped aside the sheets and stared down at his legs, they were covered with plaster and he couldn’t move them. He felt weak, dehydrated and drugged. He couldn’t understand how he came to be here, but his mind seemed so tired that all these mysteries could wait until he had had a good sleep.


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