“Mister Arrow.” Silver said into his communicator outside the door. “If you need me, I’ll be visiting with our patient and her friend.”
“Shouldn’t be any problem, Captain. I’ll be in Communications with Mister Urdessa and Henry. We’re trying to see if we can pick up any signs of Flint.” Mister Arrow replied. “We’ll let you know if there’s anything to report. Arrow out.”
“A diamond in the rough, Morphy.” Silver said to his sleeping companion in his shirt pocket. “That’s what our Mister Arrow is.”
He tapped on the door communicator. The Big Lizard stood behind him, watching. “Are you ready for us, Sarah?”
“Yes.” Came her reply. “You can come in now.” The door slid open to reveal her sitting up in her bed with the covers drawn up to her waist. She was wearing a white gown. Two big chairs were facing the bed. Around the room’s perimeter various colored lights from idle medical equipment winked.
The Big Lizard pulled one chair over by the door and sat in it. Anybody coming through the door would have to deal with him first. Silver took his hat off and placed it on a small table before he sat facing her. He swallowed. She was so pretty that even recovering from her injuries she could send his heart racing, but she was still injured. “Are you sure you’re up to this, Sarah? It can wait if it has to.”
“No.” She replied. “It’s waited long enough. I suggest you begin at the beginning.”
He sighed and took out his handkerchief and wiped sweat from his brow. “It all begins back on my home world where I grew up and became what you would call a master chef. I did not think I could be happier until I met Brianna, the woman who became my wife and bore me a son, Daniel. The gods must hate happiness because within a year both were taken from me in a cruel, meaningless accident.” He looked away to hide a tear trickling down his cheek. He wiped it away.
“I’m sorry.” She said and he could see she meant it.
He nodded and continued. “What followed was worse. I went insane. In fact it was quite a long time before I sobered up enough to realize I was in a back alley on a planet I’d never seen before. The only thing that woke me was the sword poking into my ribs. I looked up to see seven of the meanest looking men I’d ever seen. One of them asked me if I had any money on me and when I proved to them I was broke, they decided to have a little sport and kill me. That was fine with me. I only wanted to die.”
“When I attacked they laughed. They stopped laughing after I threw the third one against the wall. They drew their pistols and we’re going to finish me when their leader stopped them. He reminded them they needed new recruits and I could be more valuable if I joined them. I told them why the blazes not and that was how I became a pirate and met James Hawkins.
“You met James?” Sarah leaned forward. “When was this?”
Silver rubbed the back of his head. “I can’t be certain but it was several years before he married you. I can remember the time a few years later when he showed me a picture of what he called his new doxie and that she was going to breed a string of new pirates for him.”
“James, a pirate?” She shook her head in bewilderment. “He told me her served as a guard on a merchantman.” She shook her head again. “I was so gullible at eighteen and when I met him at the Crescent I had just had a huge fight with my parents and was so angry at my mother and father that I rebelled against everything they had taught me and bought James’ whole story as a way to hurt them. Oh, I hurt them alright, but I hurt myself even more. What a fool I was,”
“There, there, Lass.” Silver told her. “You weren’t the first or the last to fall for the line that James liked to string, but it was different for him that time. Unlike the others he married you and in his own way I think he cared for you as much as his heart would let him care for anyone other than hisself. He was especially proud when you gave birth to his son, and he swore that one day a pirate like Flint would notice him and then he’d stand tall next to Flint with his own son at his shoulder, but then everything changed after he was wounded.”
She frowned. “Wounded? I never knew he’d been hurt.”
“At first he said he didn’t want you to know until he’d healed and then afterwards when he couldn’t recover and become the man he’d been, he began to lose it.” Silver sighed. “He and I had been close friends, but even that changed.”
“What happened to him? Please, John, I need to know.”
“He was shot in the groin when we were boarding the Freemont.” He grimaced. “It burned everything away. When the doctors couldn’t correct it, he started seeking out radical cures and though I tried to reason with him and told him if you loved him you’d understand, he refused to listen. Well, some of the gene therapy drugs he took from those fake doctors, well they drove him mad. He declared he was going to divorce you because you would never want a shell of a man.”
“Oh, James.” She said. “If you’d told me, it wouldn’t have mattered. I would’ve been there for you.” Her hands were tightly clasped and tears were starting from her eyes.
“It gets worse, Sarah, and this is where I wronged you.” He said and looked away from her.
“What do you mean, wronged me?” She wiped the tears away and when he hesitated, she said. “Tell me, John, now!”
He let out a deep sigh. “I must’ve been still partly deranged from the loss of my wife and son because I decided I would not let James’ marriage be destroyed. I paid for some good doctors who thought they could restore his mind, kidnapped James and put him in their care. Then I took the letter he’d written you demanding a divorce and erased it. Using his letters as models I began writing you as James trying to pour oil on troubled waters so to speak.” He looked over at her white face. “Now you begin to see the enormity of my crime. I was lying to you, pretending to be someone I was not. I let you believe your husband still cared.”
“Oh, my God.” She said.
“In the end I failed utterly to save him or your marriage.” When James got away from the doctors he came after me with blood in his eye. He had me locked in a cell and told me he’d deal with me after he got back from dealing with you. He left me with a terrible fear for what he was going to do to you, especially if you did not give him his son.”
“So.” She said angrily. “That’s why he called me a prostitute and struck me, demanding that I give him Jim the first thing through the door. When I refused, he started really beating me and that’s when I flipped him over my shoulder. Before he could recover I had the laser pistol pointed at his guts. He said I wouldn’t have the nerve to use it and that was when I burned off his left ear. I drove him from the house at pistol point and later looked up from crying to see Jim chasing him as he went down the path to his ship. I was so afraid that he would turn and see Jim and steal my son from me that I ran from the house with the pistol in my hand. But he never turned. A man possessed, thank God, even at the end.”
“Can you forgive me, Sarah, for deceiving you?” He asked with his hat in his hands half risen in the seat, expecting to be sent away.
“Please, sit down, John.” She told him. “There is nothing to forgive. I have no doubt your actions were those of a friend.” She touched his hand. “That’s why you bonded so closely with my son, isn’t it? He became the replacement for the son you lost and he was James as James had been.”
“Aye, I did not realize that he was Jame’s son until later but at the end of our adventure I knew I would give anything to be with him.”
“What happened when James got back from his fight with me?” She asked. “Did he come to his senses and forgive you?”
Silver sighed. “No, he did not. If anything he was angrier than before he left. He decided since you weren’t there he would take his revenge on me.” He stood and flexed his mechanical arm, the electronic eye whirred as it sent a beam into the upraised hand, and he slapped his mechanical leg with his flesh and blood hand. “James was very good with a knife, almost an artist. He made sure I lasted a long time.”
“No!” She gasped, putting her hands to her mouth.
He looked over at the Dronian. “I was lucky. I had made one friend among the pirates, Mister Balone.” He gestured over at the big lizard. “I’d saved his life once and when he found out what was being done to me, he went berserk. He tore the steel door down and took two shots from James screaming. “I kill you!” He was an angel from heaven to me. He grabbed James and threw him through the lock into vacuum to crash into another ship that was landing. He put a robot doctor to work on me and had me put in cold sleep. He then drove all the crew but Orfeo off at gun point before flying me to his home world for their best doctors to work on me.” He looked at the flexing mechanical hand. “They are artists, Sarah, but they had no knowledge of my anatomy. They made it up as they went along.”
“Good. Job.” The Big Lizard said with admiration looking at the flexing hand.
“Yes, Good job.” Silver sighed. “After I was healed, my friend, Balone, and I returned later to being pirates and we became quite good at it. So good in fact we were recruited by Flint. The one thing you have to understand is that Flint kept secret where his treasure was hidden or how he managed to raid so may treasure vaults with complex security using the key. Most of us were auxiliaries who brought loot to him in exchange for his protection and a larger share later. Flint always claimed that when the freebooting days were done we’d get our full share.
But we found out later he had no intention of sharing and that led to the great falling out. I demanded my share from Flint and he laughed in my face as he told me my contract was terminated and then he sent his men to kill us. We barely escaped with our lives. Later we heard rumors about the key carried by Billy Bones and that this key was the means to unlock Flint’s wealth. Thus, when Billy fled Flint we went after Billy. Flint’s men got to him first, shot his ship down, and descended on the Ben Bow Inn just as Billy reset the key to recognize only Jim and died. However, we arrived just in time to keep them from killing everyone. In the resulting fire fight the Inn burned and thank the blessed saints that Jim, the Doctor, and you managed to escape. If you or Jim had died, I would not have wanted to live.”
He sighed and shook his head. “The burning of your home is one of the eternal black marks on my soul. One among many. That’s one of the reasons I gave Jim the money to rebuild it.”
That answers so many questions I had.” Sarah said. “But why is Flint’s Dark man after me? The crew is full of rumors everywhere I go that he’s tried twice to kill me. I don’t understand. It seems I would make a better hostage than a corpse.”
“And that’s my other failing, Sarah.” Silver hung his head. “Amongst the belongings of the invisible assassins which were revealed after their deaths, we found a communication from the Dark Man. He sent two groups to kill you. One was that idiot Rhino which shows how short for time he was, but the other was armed with Treasure Planet technology. I missed them because I thought the one who wanted you dead was himself dead and assumed like you that Flint would prefer to have you as a hostage and that you were physically safe. Unfortunately after seeing the image of the Dark Man on the computers, I know now that I should never have assumed he was dead, for by doing that I put you at terrible risk.”
“Who is this Dark Man and why does he want me dead?” She stared at him as she asked.
Silver sighed again. “There is no way to put this but directly. Sarah, the Dark Man is your husband James and he wants you dead with every fiber of his being.”
She shook her head. “He’s insane. He’s got to be.”
“Insane? Yes, he most certainly is. If he wasn’t before Mister Balone got hold of him, he is now. The disk images show that almost all his body is mechanical. He’s a true, unfeeling cyborg now.”
“Poor James. He certainly made a mess of his life and mine.” She said sadly. Then she frowned. “But none of this explains why you named your ship after me.” She looked at him and what she saw in his sad eyes made her eyes grow wide. “No. It can’t be.”
Silver sighed and looked at the floor. “I wrote those letters trying to keep the love between you two alive. It was too late that I found myself ensnared. I told Jimbo once about following dreams and giving up things for the dream. He thought I was just talking about the treasure. I wasn’t. There was more than one dream and you’ve been it for years, Sarah.”
She stared at him as if somehow she could see right through him into his mind. Then she shook herself as if awakening. “You didn’t know me. You were in love with a dream woman who didn’t exist. The good little wife waiting for her man to return.”
“Aye.” He said. “I will not deny that, Sarah. You see my life has been filled with dreams. First, it was to be a great Chef and have a wonderful family. Next it was to save your and James’ marriage. Then, it was getting my share of Flint’s treasure. Finally, it was you.” He hung his head. “I am a total failure at realizing dreams.”
“John.” She said. “You’re not a total failure. You could not prevent the car accident that killed your family. My marriage was not savable because of the insane decisions James made which you could not influence. As for losing the treasure, Jim told me you gave it up to save his life. For that choice I will always be grateful. Finally, as even you admit your dream of me was unrealistic. You didn’t know me. I’m completely different from that woman in those letters. The idealistic fool who gave up everything to follow a dream of living happily ever after with James. Now that you’ve met me, can you honestly say you’re still in love with that dream woman?”
He looked at her for a long moment and then looked down, rubbing the back of his head. “No, I’m no longer in love with that dream woman.” Then his head came up and his electronic eye flashed as he said fervently. “For now, I’m in love with a real woman, a woman who would make any Captain proud to sail the seas of life with her.”
Mister Balone laughed his deep chuckle and declared. “About. Time.”
Sarah blushed so deeply that her cheeks turned red. “This is too much, John. I can’t believe you just said that.” She looked at her entwined fingers and then her head came up. “Right now, all I want to do is rescue my son. That is the all-consuming desire in my life. However, after this is all over and done with, we’ll have to see what happens. Is that agreeable, because I can’t give you any other answer right now?”
“More than agreeable, Sarah.” He said as he put his hat back on and opened the door. “After we rescue Jimbo, then we’ll see where matters stand. Good night, Sarah.” The door shut. He paused in the hall and frowned. “How did she know it was a car accident that killed Brianna and Daniel? I never told her that.”
Mister Balone nodded happily to himself. The pack mind was growing stronger and maybe it could exist with only one Dronian.