Mister Scroop jerked Jim close. “You don’t know how I’ve longed to repay you for what you did to me.” His breath was as bad as ever.
Jim gasped and fanned his face. “You still need mouthwash.”
“That may’ve not been the best reply.” Diane said in his mind.
“Why you little.” Mister Scroop brought his other pincher up around Jim’s neck and began to squeeze.
“Mister Scroop.” A voice boomed. “Control yourself until we’re done with the boy. We have need of him.” The speaker emerged into the room. It was a silver robot with a bucket shaped head in which red eyes glowed. “I would hate to have to crack you open like a lobster if you continue this.” It paused to look Jim up and down. “And you boy, mind your manners or I’ll let Mister Scroop break several bones that are not necessary for living.” It turned. “Come, Flint and the others are waiting.”
“Soon, boy.” Mister Scroop promised. “You will be mine.” He rolled Jim under two of his leg/arms and followed the robot.
“How can he be alive, Diane?” Jim thought. “I saw him falling to his death.”
“It would be a poor park if the customers were all killed.” Came the thought in reply. “I feel your heart beating faster and your muscles quivering. This does not appear to be a good experience for you.”
You better believe that.” He thought as they approached the side of the building.
The robot led them to a silver, saucer-shaped craft hovering at the edge of a drop that gave Jim vertigo as he was forced to stare down into the distant depths. The robot lightly hopped aboard but Mister Scroop leaped in and slammed Jim into the seat so hard that he felt the tang of fresh blood in his mouth. “More gently, mister Scroop.” The robot said as it took the controls and set the saucer in motion. “If he’s too badly damaged, then you’ll face Flint’s displeasure and you remember how long it took to grow back that appendage he ripped off last time.”
“I remember.” Mister Scroop sullenly replied. Jim felt the choking pressure ease up a little.
“Where are you taking me?” Jim asked, twisting his head so he see the robot.
Mister Scroop growled softly as the robot replied. “Why to see Flint of course.”
“I saw him once on the Annabelle Lee and that was enough. Where’s the rest of my shipmates?”
Mister Scroop leaned closer to Jim. “Where you’ll be soon, cabin boy. Food for the pterodactyls.”
“What I don’t understand.” Jim said. “Why is Flint alive? I saw his skeleton sitting on a throne on a scooner at the center of this place and that ship was blown apart by some sort of energy beam.”
The robot chuckled. “Flint is a Danubean and they are always born in pairs. Flint
never died, his brother did. Didn’t you ever wonder where Flint’s pirate ship was? That
schooner was certainly not it.” He sent the craft rising higher and as he did so, a shadow
fell over them and it was immense. For several seconds they flew under it and then
they emerged and the robot swept the craft up until the whole shadow resolved itself into
a giant ship with ten guns on a side. “Behold, Annie’s Revenge, the most powerful
pirate ship that ever existed.”
“How come Flint’s brother died, Diane? I thought you said the Park didn’t kill.” Jim thought at her.
“Who says he’s dead?” Came the reply in his mind. “As for the skeleton, it’s amazing what one can do with the image-engineering shops on this world.” She paused. “So far I’ve experienced amazement and fear. When will we get to happy?”
“Soon. I hope.” He thought, but he was afraid that would be a long time coming.
They landed on the deck and were immediately surrounded by the meanest looking group of thugs Jim had ever seen. They made the ones he had traveled with on the RLS Legacy look like choir boys. In fact several of them were ones from the RLS Legacy whom he’d seen falling to their deaths when they tried to prevent the launch of the escape boat. Several of the pirates were waving knives and shouting what they would do to various ones of his body parts. “Clear the way! Clear the way! Captain’s orders.” A voice shouted. Jim’s heart slammed in his chest. It was a voice that he had not heard since he was eight.
“Oh.” Diane’s thought came. “This is a new feeling, in fact many entangled feelings like quantum states.”
Reluctantly the pirates stepped aside to form an aisle and at the end of it sitting on a golden throne was Flint in all his six-eyed glory. But Jim’s eyes were on the other man, if he could be called that, at Flint’s right hand. All of his limbs were artificial and two thirds of his body was cybernetic except for the top of his head which looked just the same as the last time Jim had seen him. Mister Scroop forced Jim to his knees and cuffed him on the back of the head. “Eyes on the Captain, boy.”
Flint raised a six fingered hand with each finger tipped with talons. “Let him be, Mister Scroop. After all how often does a boy get to meet a father he thought was dead?” He waved his other hand towards the cyborg. “Boy, meet my right hand and first mate, James Hawkins, who’s sailed with me for twelve bloody years now. But you probably know him better as daddy dearest.” He said mockingly.
“Last time I saw your face, I ran my hand through your hair.” His father said. “I wish I had shot you down. I hoped I’d never see you or your shrew of a mother again, but you had to poke your nose in where it didn’t belong.”
“No.” Jim said. But he could not deny his eyes or his hearing. It was his father.
“Your happiness on hearing his voice was too brief to be enjoyable.” Diane said.
“Please, Diane, let me alone to deal with this. We’ll talk later.” He thought. Jim shook his head. Diane was right about his happiness. It was gone to be replaced by a rising rage.
His father turned to Flint. “Give me a minute with him, Captain, for old time’s sake.”
Flint laughed. “I’m feeling generous now we’ve the key bearer in our grasp, Mister Hawkins. Take two if you like. Make sure the boy knows what we expect.”
Jim’s father strode forward and grabbed him by the arm with strong metal fingers and it was like pinchers had been applied to his flesh. He dragged him off to the side where he slammed him against a cabin wall. His father crossed his metal arms and looked down at him and there was no love in his eyes. “Whelp, you got in the way that night at the Inn when you took the key that did not belong to you from that traitor Billy Bones who used to wield it for us. When he died, it bonded to you.”
“Billy Bones had decided he could sell it to the Admiralty and when we found out he desperately fled to the Crescent. We almost got it back that night at the inn but then that cursed Long John Silver who coveted the key interfered and in the shootout the inn burned, killing all our men that we had sent after the traitor.”
Jim said slowly. “Then the cyborg Billy Bones warned me about. It wasn’t Silver.” He came to his feet in a shout. “It was you!”
Jim’s father smiled. “He knew well to fear me as should you. We sailed Annie’s Revenge to the Crescent to recover the key but by bad luck missed your departure by a week. But now you are here, you will wield it for us or.” He held up the segmented golden ball and tossed it to Jim.
“Or what?” Jim snarled as he caught the familiar ball-shaped key.
“Or die, boy, so the key can select its new wielder. The only reason you have a reprieve is that I took cells from you and I’m growing your clone to raise as my true pirate son without your mother’s cursed interference and I must be sure it’s healthy.” He grabbed Jim painfully by the arm. “Come. Flint is waiting.”