“Well.” Said the officer with the monocle as he straightened his cleaned and repaired coat (Down and Swift Taylors cleaning forty five pounds with alterations). “Where are your pirate friends, Willy? They should’ve been here weeks ago.” Around them four ships of the line floated in between the tumbling asteroids. Off in the distance the faint shape of Treasure Planet with its crossed rings could barely be seen with the naked eye.
The Rhino held his cap in his hand. “I can’t tell you, Sir. I told you before that I had no time to gather the information you needed before they spaced me into the harbor. I only knew the destination.”
The officer cleaned his monocle and after placing it before his eye looked down in disgust. “I don’t think your information is as valuable as you led me to believe. That’s why the purser is holding your reward until we have the Ariel in our sights. You’d better come up with more or that ship had better show up soon for your sake, Willy.” He paused to brush a flake of imaginary dust off his polished black boots (Broad and Stern 65 pounds).
“Oh, they’ll be here soon, Sir. You can bank on it.” Willy groveled.
“They’d better be.” The officer said as he looked over at the four other ships. “We have enough fire power here to wipe them out a hundred times over.” He sniffed. “Her Majesty will dock your reward for all their upkeep if this doesn’t pan out. I figure you’ll be polishing my boots for a hundred years to pay it back, Willy.”
“Sir.” A holograph of a sub-officer appeared. “We’re picking up emissions of a ship dropping out of warp. All indications are that it is the Ariel.”
“At last.” Snarled the officer.
“Thank the gods above.” Said Willy.
Sirens wailed and the Admiralty crews scrambled to their ready positions. Gun covers were removed and lights began to glow deep in the barrels as the guns heated up.
On the Ariel Henry appeared before Silver who paused with a forkful of food halfway to his mouth. He held the fork with its piece of meat un-tasted and asked with a raised brow. “Problem, Henry?”
“A bad one, Captain.” The apparition said. “I just detected five ships waiting for us in the asteroid belt ahead of us and they’ve all gone to hostile alert.”
Silver got to his feet. “I assume you are calling battle stations and will be transferring command to the good Sergeant.” He hefted his pants belt upward and then put his hand on the sword’s hilt.
Henry wrung his hands. “You would be making a false assumption, Captain. You will notice I am still calling you Captain because we are in the one situation where I cannot transfer command.”
Silver frowned. “And what situation would that be with five ships about to attack us?”
Henry became even more agitated. “When the five ships are commanded by the legally accepted government of the Crescent, the Admiralty. I cannot initiate hostilities with the government. Hobarths was very clear on that.”
Silver started to smile. “Then, it’s a good thing you have a Captain who’s experienced battle with the so-called government before. It’s a good thing you have a pirate in command.” He strode out the door, leaving the almost crying Henry behind. “Mister Arrow!” He shouted. “Call the crew to their battle stations, now.”
Mister Arrow looked at his computer screen and shook his head. The Captain was still in charge according to Henry. This was going to get interesting. He blew his whistle and implemented the commands, turning the Ariel into a beehive of activity. He read the assessment from Henry and whistled softly. Five Admiralty ships of the line. Interesting indeed.
“Move lively now!” He shouted. “You know the drill. Gunners and backups to your weapons. Ready all pieces for firing. All marines prepare to repel borders.” He hoped they wouldn’t have to fight but sometimes even the government went a little crazy and if the government wasn’t crazy, then he had a difficult decision to make as did everyone on board.
Sarah Hawkins threw on her coat and joined the hurrying crowd of sailors rushing to their battle stations. She’d been cleared for just normal duty, but she would be damned if she’d stand aside. The gun station was empty and she realized that her friend would be down in engineering as his first priority. The gun was hers. She threw the cover off and before it even settled to the floor, she had scrambled into the seat and started punching the activation sequence. The gun hummed and spun slowly on its bearings as she brought it to bear on the part of space where her targets would be found. All the indicators were golden.
“This is Captain Silver.” The computer blared. “I am in command because the ships we are facing are apparently from the Admiralty. You will not initiate fire except on my command. We will talk first. If they don’t want to talk, then brace yourselves as Mister Balone will have free rein down in engineering to get us out of here at the fastest speed he can muster. If they stop us.” He paused and hung his head. “Then we will surrender. We will have no other choice. We have too many innocents on board.”
Five sparks appeared in the space ahead of them and grew into ships as they approached. The ships stopped about a mile ahead and floated there with their cannons winking their readiness to fire. A hologram of the officer’s head appeared, floating in space and as big as a skyscraper. Sarah cursed as she recognized the monocle it was wearing.
A large ghostly hand came up and adjusted the monocle. “Ariel, under the authority of the Admiralty.” A huge voice boomed out. “I order you to stand down and receive borders. Any and all pirates or suspected pirates will be arrested.” He grinned. “You will find I’ve a very flexible rule as to who’s a suspected pirate.” Sarah shuddered. He seemed to be staring at her as he said it. She felt her fingers tightening on the triggers and forced them to relax.
“I will give you one minute to strike your colors or we will open fire and all of you will be considered to be pirates.” He grinned.
“Morph.” Silver said angrily. “He’s the reason people become pirates.” Morph snorted and put up his fists. “Mister Balone.” Silver started to say but he was interrupted as a new combatant entered the arena.
There was a bright flash of light and a towering figure appeared dwarfing the floating head to insignificance. He appeared to be a muscular man with a red cape floating out behind him. He was lightly armored and one hand rested on a handle protruding from his belt. His hair was blond and flowed from under a silver armored helmet with silver wings sprouting from its sides. “Desist!” He shouted. “The ways to the Park are free to all who come here. Harm will come only to those that impede access to the Park and imperil the safety of our guests.”
“We are the Admiralty.” The floating head shouted. “We have the right to arrest pirates.”
The figure drew out a scroll and opened it. He read quickly and his head came up as he snapped. “The Admiralty is not on our guest list. They are not part of the ongoing game.” He looked over at the Ariel. “However, I see several players in the game aboard the ship you wish to detain. The Ariel may freely pass.” He stepped between them and the Admiralty ships and waved the Ariel on.
“Full ahead, Mister Orfeo for Treasure Planet.” Silver said. “It seems we have been granted clearance.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.” Orfeo said as he put his foot to the throttle. The Big Lizard put his tongue out at the big head as the ship started forward.
“No!” Shouted the big head. “Fire!”
The figure in the cape held up its hand and the lasers reflected harmlessly away. “You are in violation of Park Regulation 711-B on the use of unauthorized force in the domain of the Park. Desist or face arrest.”
“Fire the AMWs on my authority!” The officer screamed.
Three flashes of light made the figure vanish for a moment. Then it was back and even more solid than before. “You have used weapons in the Park precincts and imperiled our guests. You are under arrest.” He drew the handle from his belt and produced a giant rectangular hammer. He pointed it at the five ships which were instantly enclosed in a giant force bubble.
“No!” Screamed the officer as his big head image popped out of existence. “I represent the Admiralty. You can’t do this.” Around him all the power in the ships went out.
“Tell it to the judge, lawbreaker.” The large being said and they all disappeared in a flash of light.
Sarah sighed and powered her gun down as the command to stand down came. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.” She said with satisfaction.
Jim’s father got up from the computer console which was reporting the progress of the worm program to take out the Master Computer and give him control of the Park. Everything was proceeding well. Soon he wouldn’t even need the Key.
He turned to look at the readings on the incubator console and ground his teeth in rage. “This is not what I programmed, you idiot machine.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” A familiar voice replied. “You did not erase the prior programming and so there was an over write. But consider this. You now have proof that the DNA you applied is healthy and when this cycle is done you can begin again.”
“It’s an abomination, you bunch of computer chips, I ought to melt you into slag.” He drew his pistol and cocked it.
“You’re not a nice man.” The familiar voice said. “I’ll tell Jimmy on you.”
Another voice interrupted with oratory overtones. “Willful destruction of Park property will result in Security being called. Compliance with Park regulations must be done or you will be arrested.”
“At least let me burn away this abomination.” He gestured angrily at the lighted box.
“You may call it an abomination if it pleases you, but you cannot interfere with the incubator cycle once full engage has been depressed and you did that several days ago.” The second voice chided.
“So, there!” The familiar voice gave him a big raspberry.
“I’ll, I’ll…” He choked and was interrupted by a beeping sound. He pressed his communicator and an image of Flint sprang up. “What is it, Emperor?” He growled.
“Thank you, Mister Hawkins, for your delightful recognition of me.” The image replied. “But it’s as your commanding officer, your captain, I’m speaking. Come aboard immediately. We’ll be sailing soon to intercept and burn a trespasser if she approaches too close.”
James holstered his pistol. “An Admiralty ship?”
“Oh, you’ll like this even better, Mister Hawkins. It’s a ship called the Ariel and we believe your wife is aboard her.”
“Be right there, Sir.” James ignited his rocket boots and shot down the corridor.
“I thought you might. I really thought you might, Mister Hawkins.” Flint’s image winked out.
Jim woke the next morning feeling very warm and comfortable. He saw a tan arm in his vision and heard Diane sigh as she snuggled closer causing warm feelings to spread through his body. Her red hair spilled across his face. “Oh, boy.” He said softly as he remembered last night. She murmured quietly in reply. He heard someone enter the clearing and saw a shadow fall over him.
“Good morning, Cabin boy.” Mister Scroop said as he knelt in front of him. “I see you slept comfortably.” He chuckled nastily.
Jim disengaged Diane’s arm and snapped. “It isn’t like that.”
Mister Scroop raised an eybrow. “Oh, isn’t it? I think you might want to ask your friend how she feels.”
Jim turned and saw Diane smiling at him happily. “Oh, boy.” He said again. Mister Scroop just laughed in reply. Jim snarled. “What do you want anyway?”
Mister Scroop grinned nastily before he replied. “You have thirteen hours left in our truce. Use them wisely, cabin boy.” He got up and sauntered away.
“He’s right, Diane.” Jim said to now wide awake woman. “We have to prove to him what this place is.”
Diane got to her feet, stretched, and then leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. “Don’t worry, Jim. The nearest kiosk is only a short flight from here.” She frowned and then told him. “It seems there are demands that living in a body makes on you that I wasn’t aware of except in an abstract sort of way before.” She smiled and touched his forelock. “The one from last night was very pleasant. I wish I could say the same about these new urges.” She turned and hurried into the bushes.
“All right.” Jim said to Diane later as they got in the saucer with Mister Scroop in the rear. “Where will we find this kiosk you mentioned?”
“Just keep flying towards the rising sun.” She replied as she snapped the seat belt on. “When you reach the border of the game you won’t be able to miss it.”
“If there is any such building.” Mister Scroop snarled. Jim stamped his foot on the accelerator and they shot into the sky throwing Mister Scroop almost out of the back of the saucer. He barely hooked a claw on the back cushion and was dragged behind them until he pulled himself back in.
“You still with us, Mister Scroop?” Jim asked with a smile.
“You won’t get rid of me that easy, cabin boy.” The enraged spider alien replied.
“Darn.” Jim grinned as he concentrated on the controls.
After about an hour of flying a red light began flashing on the control board. “A problem?” He read through the diagnostics on the screen. “I don’t see anything wrong.” The ship’s speed abruptly dropped. He frantically went through the screen messages. “Somehow we’ve lost power and I don’t know why.” He said worriedly to Diane.
She pointed ahead of them to a suddenly shimmering barrier. “That’s because we’ve reached the border of the game.” Through the barrier they could see the countryside had suddenly changed from the frond-like trees they were used to, to towering pine trees. Off in the distance a large body of water glinted in the sun.
“You’ve reached the game limits.” A disembodied voice which sounded like a Shakespearean actor said. “What do you desire? Do you seek refreshment and rest? Are you done with this part of your Park experience? If you are leaving, you must be aware that you cannot return until the current game has ended.”
“We want an information kiosk for a short break.” Diane said.
“Very good. Be aware that the break can last no longer than an hour by which time you must rejoin your fellow players in the game. Sit back and relax. You will be at the kiosk shortly. There you may obtain refreshment and Park souvenirs. Thank you for coming and may you continue to enjoy your Park experience. Have a nice day.”
Mister Scroop clung to the seat back behind Jim and Diane and his breath came in short gasps as he stared at the forest rushing by them on the other side of the barrier. Finally, his breath calmed. Then it speeded up again as the saucer dropped to land besides a light-green pagoda style building. “I don’t believe this.” Was all he managed to get out.
Jim opened his door and got out but Diane lightly bounded over the side of the locked door. Mister Scroop exited behind Jim and both of them stepped back when a man with a stove pipe hat, a black beard, and a black frock cloak popped up in front of them from behind the counter surrounding the pagoda.
“Welcome to the Park, my friends.” He said in a voice with an Illinois accent. “How can we serve you today, our guests?”
“Be our guest, be our guest, be our guest.” A chorus sang lightly in the background and faded away as he waved his hand.
Diane smiled at him. “Good morning, Abe. We’re looking for a recording of the last game that was played here.”
He frowned. “It seems I should know you, but that is obvious, I know all the guests.”
“Be our guest, be our guest.” The chorus sang before he waved it away.
He looked at a screen that popped up in front of him. “Aha, that would be The Treasure Planet game. And since Mister Hawkins and Mister Scroop participated in that one there should be no privacy issues with them getting copies.” Two disks popped out of the air and fell into his outstretched hand. “Here you are.” He said as he handed one to each. He gestured to another booth to the left. “Viewing for you is free.”
Mister Scroop stared at the disk in his claw. “I don’t believe this.”
Diane placed a hand on his shoulder. “Come on. I think I can help you get the playback turned on. I’m sure Jim has some questions he wants answered.” Mister Scroop meekly followed her.
Jim looked around. “This seems like quite a big place. Where are we now?”
Abe brought up a screen showing a map with a flashing light. “We are here at the border of Game World and the Forest Primeval. The next Worlds over are Viking World, Paul Bunyan Land, Fantasy World, Tomorrow World, and Jungle World.” He scrolled the screen revealing these domains but many more were just visible at the edge of the screen.
“How big is each of these worlds or lands?”
Abe shrugged. “Since we use four dimensional space folding, they’re as big as they need to be.”
“How do you get to those other places?”
Abe pointed to a spot near Jim and said. “Master Traveler.” A rotating cylinder sprang up out of the ground covered with brightly glowing spots each with a symbol besides it. “Just touch the spot you want to be while holding hands and you’ll be transported there.”
Jim frowned. “Just like the key in the last game.”
“Same technology.” Abe replied. “And if you suddenly find the need to be somewhere else in the Park. Just call for Master Traveler and the cylinder you see there will reveal itself to you. But remember more than three uses of the Master Traveler in one day will bar you from playing in the current game unless you declare Emergency. Believe me you do not want to do that as you will have to answer to Park Security if it’s not a real emergency.”
There was a scream from the viewing booth and a moment later Mister Scroop came charging out. “Lies!” He shouted. “It’s all been lies! Damn you, Flint. I’m going to kill you and the Dark Man.”
“It most certainly is not lies, dear guest.” Abe reproved him as he waved quickly to silence the chorus. “The game is real and so are the rewards.”
“There is no treasure.” Mister Scroop cursed. “It was all destroyed.”
“Yes, it was in the last game but there is still treasure to be won in this one.”
“And what?” Growled Mister Scroop. “It’ll evaporate like the morning mist?”
Abe drew himself up. “It most certainly will not. We always allow our guests to keep a souvenir of their visit.”
“Be our guest, be our guest.” Came the chorus.
“Shut up!” Roared Mister Scroop. The chorus dwindled off into offended silence.
He rounded on Abe and grabbed him by his collar. “Do you mean we can take some of the treasure with us?”
Abe easily broke his grip and dusted off his coat. “Of course. Mister Silver and Mister Hawkins both took home souvenirs of their visit last time. But it’s no big deal. Since matter duplicators are as common as gum machines in your malls why would anyone want to take a ship load of gold and jewels home when they can have a house full of them?”
Jim turned to Diane. “How long ago was all this? How come we have no mention of this place in our histories?”
She took his arm. “I’ll try and explain later. This is not the time or the place.” She gestured towards the serenely smiling Abe.
There was a chime from the saucer. Abe came back to life. “That’s the signal that it’s time to return to the game. Thank you for your visit and remember that anything we can do to make your stay here enjoyable, just ask.” He sank below the counter.
“I’d like to tear his smiling face off.” Mister Scroop growled as they climbed back in the saucer.
“Don’t do it.” Diane said. “Destruction of Park property outside the games is severely punished.”
“Punished? How?” Jim asked as he lifted the saucer into the air. “They certainly won’t take money since you can just print it up out of the air.”
“Jim, if you run a foul of security and the justice system fines you, then you’ll pay with the only thing anyone in the Park cannot duplicate.” She put her hand on Jim’s shoulder. “Just promise me you won’t do it.”
“But what is it they’ll make you pay?” Jim said as he dropped the saucer back down into the frond-like trees.
“Cabin boy.” Said Mister Scroop. “Your civilization thinks itself so progressive with its mind washing as punishment that it’s forgotten its origins and its honor. On my planet imprisonment is the worst insult and punishment. They must jail their criminals here.”
“It’s worse.” Diane said. “They make you part of the Park for the number of years of your sentence. They take the only thing you can’t duplicate. The years of your life.”
A lanky dog like alien with buck teeth and long thin black ears walked out before the assembled officers and crew men of the Admiralty led by the furious officer with the monocle. The dog was dressed in a white shirt and black pants. Large guards in golden armor surrounded the prisoners. “Here ye, hear ye. Quiet in the court.” The goofy dog intoned. “All rise for the Judge.”
A large, heavy-set cat alien with black hair and ears and a white face with a jaw that looked like it could break iron strode out wearing black robes. He sat in a chair behind the bench. “Be seated, you mugs.” He declared. “Which case is first, Dear.”
A pretty dog like alien woman got up and straightened her skirt. “Save that language for after work hours, Darling. Remember I’m the prosecutor. We’ve a case to try.”
“Sorry, Snookums.” He blushed and then straightened. “Is defense council present?”
“Yes sir, your honor sir.” A weasel in a vest with a cigarette hanging from his lip stood up and coughed.
“Good.” The judge leaned forward. “What are the charges?”
The prosecutor put a pair of glasses on her nose and read. “These beings are charged with trespassing and attempted assault on Park visitors using antimatter weapons. Arresting officer was Thor.”
“I don’t blame him for being sore. Hyuk, Hyuk.” The buck toothed dog herald said.
“Save it for later, you Goof.” The judge declared.
“Sorry, Judgey.” He replied and looked embarrassed.
The Judge leaned forward. “How do your clients plead, defense council?”
“Insanity?” The weasel said and coughed out more smoke.
The Judge looked at the enraged officer with the monocle. “Good plea.”
“This is a travesty!” Roared the officer. “I was leading my men and just about to arrest known criminals when you interfered. You will turn all of them over to me and we will leave without any consequences or you will all suffer.”
The Judge leaned forward. “So you claim to be in charge?”
The officer drew himself up straight. “Of course I’m in charge. If you hadn’t interfered we would’ve either arrested them or….” He trailed off seeing the Judge’s anger rising.
The Judge glared at him and put his massive hands on the top of the bench and leaned forward. “Or what?”
The Prosecutor stepped forward. “They would’ve killed them, your honor. They would’ve fired anti-matter weapons and full strength lasers at a ship with only a class 2 shield. It would’ve been murder. Their ships had no restraints on their weapons. It’s quite obvious that in spite of their claims to be a peace force they are actually brigands.”
“As I said.” The weasel coughed out a smoke ring. “Insane.”
“I’ve heard enough.” The judge smashed his gavel into the bench top. “You are all guilty of disturbance of the peace and attempted piracy with a sentence of five years.” He leaned forward and purred. “But since this idiot says he was in charge I will reduce his crew’s sentences to one year each. Take them away.”
“You can’t do this!” Screamed the officer.
“Oh, I can’t?” The Judge took out a big cigar and lit it. He puffed out a black smoke ring and then smiled at the Prosecutor. “What’s the additional sentence for contempt of court, darling?”
She smiled at him. “Two more years, dear.”
The Judge grinned evilly at the Officer. “It’s now seven years. Want to make it nine? You keep it up and I can add more to your men’s too.”
Willy the Rhino put his hand over the Officer’s mouth. “Shut up, you idiot.” He whispered. When the Officer tried to struggle he slugged him. Catching the unconscious body in his arms he said. “We accept the sentence, your honor.”
The Judge blew out another smoke ring. “Good choice.”
Bells and sirens were ringing off towards the pirate town as Jim landed the saucer in the woods. He peered towards the source of the noise. “What’s that?”
“Full assembly.” Mister Scroop replied looking worried. “It means they’re about to launch Anne’s Revenge and they’re recalling all hands.” He leaped down and began ripping up bushes and throwing them on the saucer. “We don’t want them seeing us when they launch. Their detection gear once they are aloft is terrifyingly efficient.”
Diane began chopping bushes off with her sword and Jim dragged them over to where Mister Scroop was working to arrange the bushes into what looked like an ordinary hill. He had to admit that Mister Scroop was a lot better at camouflage than he was.
A roaring sound sprang up behind them and Mister Scroop caught Diane and Jim in his arms and leaped into a real brush pile drawing gasps of pain from the very real thorns. He covered their mouths with two of his hands. “Quiet.” He whispered. “Or we’re dead.”
The roar grew to continuous blast of thunder and a small ship riding a tail of fire streaked by overhead. Several pirates were leaning at the rails staring at the ground below as they sped off into the distance. The sirens were replaced by a roaring claxon. “Launch in two minutes.” A rolling voice intoned. Mister Scroop burrowed even deeper.
Shortly there was an even louder roar and a shadow fell across them. Jim looked up and saw Anne’s Revenge rising into the air, its decks crowded with weapon brandishing pirates. A jet of fire shot from the rear of the ship and slowly at first and then with apparent ease it shot into the sky and was gone.
Mister Scroop released his grip on the two of them and got to his feet. Diane used her sword to cut herself free from the thorns. Jim wiped his scratched face. “Where do you think they’re going?”
“Hunting.” Mister Scroop said. “But that may be a break for us. If they did like they did last time and took only the most loyal hands, then the ones we want to inform about the loss of the treasure may be more easily reachable.”
“And how are you going to do that?” Jim asked. “We’ve no idea when they’re going to return.”
“We won’t be going there.” Mister Scroop walked over and began pulling bushes off the saucer. “I’ll use the transmitter here to send a copy of the disk and an explanation to each of their electronic accounts.”
Jim stared at him. “You could’ve called for help last night.”
Mister Scroop didn’t even turn around. “You know why I didn’t.”
Diane said softly. “You gave your word. Anything else would’ve been dishonorable.”
“Yes. Now help me get these bushes off. We’ve a revolt to start.”
Jim shook his head. Nothing was black and white anymore. Even a villain like Mister Scroop had a code of honor, a warped code, but still a code. He hoped that whoever Anne’s Revenge was after could fight back.
Sarah Hawkins was staring at the distant world of Treasure Planet with its crossed rings. There could be no other planet like it in existence. But why had the giant image that had detained the Admiralty ships called it The Park? There was something going on here that she didn’t understand. When Jim had come back from here he had reported strange machines and a wormhole device that had brought them home before the planet exploded. Now she had experienced pirates from there with unknown stealth technology and the planet that had supposedly exploded was entirely restored. None of this made sense.
“Mrs. Hawkins.” Her communicator beeped. “The Captain requests your presence in engineering.”
“Acknowledged.” She replied.
When she entered the engineering room she found besides Captain Silver, the Big Lizard, Sasha Adoree, Mister Arrow and Song Urdessa already there. “Reporting as requested, Captain.” She said.
“Thank you, Mrs. Hawkins. I wanted you to hear what Ms. Adoree and Mr. Urdessa have discovered about the stealth devices and then there are plans we have to discuss about rescuing your son. Ms. Adoree.”
“Thank you, Captain.” Adoree put on a pair of square shaped spectacles. “I’m afraid we still can’t tell you how these devices work.” She held up the black triangle for their inspection. “But we’ve determined that the men using them were idiots.”
Mr. Urdessa growled. “Like children playing with a live gun.”
Ms. Adoree nodded. “Precisely. In the mode they were using, the device made them undetectable by any means but their gravity interactions with space. Mister Urdessa did some fiddling with them and found there is another function revealed by this other switch on the side.” She pushed it and a silvery globe sprang up. “It’s a personal force shield. I haven’t been able to test its limits but it appears many times stronger than the ship’s field.”
Sarah frowned. “Do both functions work together?”
“Very good, Mrs. Hawkins.” Silver smiled at her. “They do.”
Mr. Urdessa looked worried. “We have no idea how long they can operate at the same time or even what’s powering them. I would not want to run both continuously for long periods of time as either one or both could fail and the results could be bad.”
“What do you mean bad, Mister Urdessa.” Mister Arrow asked.
“It could be catastrophic, Sir. But that’s only a guess.”
Mister Arrow shook himself. “Only a guess.” He murmured. “I think I preferred bad.”
Song handed one to Sarah and showed her where the controls were. She looked it over and then looked up. “This is all very interesting but why are you showing me this?”
“It was the Captain’s idea.” Song said.
“Mister Urdessa.” Growled Silver with a menacing look.
Song ignored him and hurried on. “After two murderous attacks on you masterminded by your husband. We all thought you could use the protection.” Silence fell. “Well we did.” He protested.
“My dear Song.” Adoree said gently. “It could’ve been put more diplomatically.”
“Just a bit more diplomatically.” Mister Arrow said.
Sarah frowned. “I’m not sure….”
An alarm began ringing and instantly Henry’s image appeared. “A large ship has just uncloaked itself off our bow. It’s calling itself Anne’s Revenge. I’m declaring a…..” There was a rolling boom and he dissolved in static for a moment to reappear as a shaky travesty of his former appearance. “They are shutting me down. I did not think it possible. Captain, I recommend surrender.” His image flickered and rolled.
Silver growled. “If it was only meself, I’d say set off all the AMWs and take them to Davey Jone’s Locker with us.” He sighed. “But it’s not just me. Henry, broadcast the surrender to the Sergeant and the rest of the crew. Tell them to inform our captors we’re all dead and that if Flint offers to recruit them to his gang to accept.” He sighed again. “At least that way they’ll live. I’m afraid that option does not exist for us. For Mrs. Hawkins and me capture would mean very painful deaths at James’s hands. So we two have to vanish.”
Henry’s image came back up wavering. “The Sergeant acknowledges the message and reluctantly agrees. He suggests you get off the ship and...” Henry vanished in a final burst of static and every light went out.
“Henry?” Mister Arrow punched his communicator and then looked up in worry. “Everything is down except for the ship’s force field and that is flickering like a failing light, Captain.”
“I think we’re outgunned, Mister Arrow.” Silver caught up stealth devices and started handing them out. “We’re now the underground, ladies and gents. I suggest those of us who are leaving with me head for the bow launch and get off of here before Flint or James arrive. There’s very little we can do against what they seem to have on that ship.”
Mister Balone growled. “Stay. Bash. Heads.”
Sarah put a hand on his arm. “Stay. Kill. Few. Run. Later. Kill. Lots.” She gave him a savage grin which he returned. She smiled at Silver. I will admit, John, that I’m tempted to stay and give James a kick where it’ll hurt the most.” She and Mister Balone both vanished.
Mister Arrow stared at his device. “We can’t just abandon the crew.”
“We’re the only ones they’ll want to kill, Mister Arrow.” Silver said. “If I know Flint he’ll offer to make the three of you pirates and if you’re smart you’ll accept. God grant we meet again.” He touched his device and vanished.
“Aye, Sir.” Mister Arrow sighed. “But no one ever said I was smart.” He looked over at Song and Sasha. “I think they need someone to cover their retreat but if you are going with them, I’ll understand.”
“You’re right, Mister Arrow.” The bear alien drew his pistol. “I’ll help you hold the passage until they get clear.” He smiled at the tiger woman. “You’d better get going, Sasha, you’re one of our best fighters and between you and the Dronian they may survive.”
Sasha leaned forward and gently touched his cheek. “I love you.” She said softly and then vanished.
He grinned. “Finally, she says it.” He touched his button and disappeared. “Lead on, Mister Arrow. I’m right behind you.” His disembodied voice said.
Mister Arrow nodded as he drew his pistol. “Glad you could join the party, Mister Urdessa. Let’s go and make it very hot for these scum.” He vanished too.
A few minutes later Mister Arrow and his companion had found spots behind large barrels that the bear alien had torn from their storage positions so they could cover the hall to the boat launch and waited for the inevitable. Mister Arrow could hear the mechanical launch being cranked and then he heard Silver’s voice. “Are you sure you aren’t coming, Mister Arrow and Mister Urdessa? We can’t delay the launch.”
“Go on, Sir. We have your backs.” He called.
There was a pause and then Silver said softly. “It’s been an honor serving with both of you and I promise that we’ll make them pay ten times for each hurt they do you. You have the word of Long John Silver.”
There was a clank as the boat chain jammed and Silver cursed. At the same time the door at the end of the corridor blew open and a large octopus carrying a bazooka slid through followed by several screaming aliens. “I knew they were trying to escape, but they’re dead now.” He gurgled.
The bazooka swung up again and then a bolt from Mister Arrow’s pistol dropped him in a lifeless heap. As the rest of the pirates stood there stunned, a hail of shots sent them scampering back for the safety behind the door where they replied with their own barrage poorly aimed as they could not see what they were shooting at.
Silver jerked on the chain with his cyborg arm but it refused to move. “Grab on to the seats, I’m going to blast it loose.” He pocketed his pistol and leaning back against the mast raised his artificial leg. There was a whirr as the gun buried in it came to the surface. He pushed a button and the gun flared. A charge streaked from it and blew the jammed pulley to pieces. He almost fell out of the boat as it dropped, but Sarah and Sasha caught him by the arm and pulled him back aboard. “Thanks, lasses.” He managed to gasp out.
Mister Balone held the tiller and punched buttons. “Two. Seconds. Engine. Fire.”
Sarah looked back and gasped as she saw a sleek shape drop from beneath the pirate ship. “John.” She shouted. “They’re sending a cutter after us.”
There was a sputter of flame from the cutter and then the fires went out and it dropped. “Idiots.” Mister Balone said. “No. Warm. Up.”
The cutter dwindled to a speck below and then fire shot again from its rear and it rose in pursuit again. As the cutter rose to their level they all saw it was faster than them as it gained ground quickly. Silver raised his leg and fired but the shot went wide. He cursed.
Mister Balone growled at him. “Told. You. Buy. Guided. Missile. Launcher. But. No. Listen.”
There was a flash from the bow of the cutter and something exploded over their heads knocking them to the floor. Bits of burning shrapnel penetrated the weak force field and several penetrated through their cloaking shields which they were told wouldn’t happen. It was obvious that ship’s weapons outclassed the shielding devices. Sasha recovered first and lunged to grasp the wildly swinging tiller which threatened to overturn the boat.
Sarah looked up and blinked blood away from her eyes. She looked at Silver and the Dronian who were just as bloody as she was. “I’m sorry I got you all into this.” She said. Another explosion roared but not as close as the first one.
Mister Balone growled. “Not. Over. Yet.” He reached out his two scaly hands to them. “Dronian. Pack. Join. Hunt. As. One.” Another explosion roared but the sheet of shrapnel missed as Sasha pulled back on the speed and the shaped-charge projectiles overshot them.
Silver looked at the hand for a second and took it. “I thought that only worked for Dronians.”
The Big Lizard grinned. “Find. Out. Quickly.”
He offered his other hand to Sarah and she took it, marveling at how soft it was. Little sparks of lightning leaped between their entwined fingers. “What’s going to happen?” She asked and then she got her answer. A glow sprang up around the three of them and she was suddenly both herself, Mister Balone (whose true name was Aristor Bajeck Balone), and Long John Silver (John Stark). She knew everything about them and they knew her as completely as they knew themselves.
Aristor spoke to them and she knew it was from his mind to hers as his speech was pure Dronian and she understood it completely. “The Pack is never defeated until the last member is dead. This is the true meaning of the pack, all minds joined as one to make a presence greater than the whole. You, John, now have my and Sarah’s shooting skills. You have my senses and the ability that she has to unconsciously calculate the right moment to act which her son inherited from her. Use it. Kill the enemies of the pack!”
Silver with a determined look got to his feet and dropped the Dronian’s hand but that did not disconnect him from the voice speaking in his head. He put his leg with the cannon on the side of the boat as bullets and beams of light shot by him, some tugging at his cloak. He ignored them and it seemed as if a bull’s eye sprang into view inside his head, swinging around the pursuing cutter and then as the cutter swerved both lined up. “Shoot, now!” The voice commanded. He fired two rapid shots and the first blew the mast off the cutter and the second hit the power supply. The cutter disappeared in a huge fireball.
He watched as the burning pieces of the cutter fell. “Yes!!” The Dronian exalted in his mind. “The pack is triumphant.” He felt Sarah’s grim satisfaction answer and then the connection went out.
He slumped back into the boat. “Get us down quickly, Ms. Adoree.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.” She replied and turned the boat to the safety of the forests below. He didn’t hear her as he fallen unconscious.
Their escape was well noted by two pairs of friendly eyes on the Ariel. “They got away, Mister Arrow. We did it!” Song shouted.
Mister Arrow sighed. “Now we’ve a more difficult task, lad. We either fight to the death or surrender and hope for the best.” A barrage of shots came from the doorway as the frustrated pirates emboldened themselves to make a rush. A beeping sound came from the cloaking device on his wrist. It flashed into view. The display read. POWER OVER-RIDE. Then it shut down, revealing both of them to the enraged pirates. Another barrage of shots greeted this revealing.
There was a sharp gasp from behind Mister Arrow who whirled around to see Song bent over clutching his stomach. “Sorry, Sir. I can’t help you anymore.” Mister Arrow started to reach for him but Song pitched through the opening and vanished into the clouds.
Mister Arrow jerked as he felt a pistol mussel shoved against his neck. “Give me your piece, you piece of filth.” A voice growled from behind. Mister Arrow handed the pistol butt first over his shoulder and was jerked to his feet and swung around to face his captors.
They were not pleased with him and showed their displeasure by beating him unconscious. When he came to he was being held by three very strong and angry pirates and a gleaming cyborg was staring in anger at him. “Who got away in that launch?” He demanded.
Mister Arrow just glared at him and one of the pirates slugged him in the guts so hard that he nearly collapsed. “Answer the First Mate.” The four-armed green alien hissed.
“So, you’re James Hawkins.” Mister Arrow managed to get out.
The cyborg knelt to look him in the eye with a savage grin. “It’s good to see my reputation precedes me. Now who was in that launch?”
Mister Arrow was proud that he still had enough strength left to spit in the Cyborg’s one good eye. That earned him another beating which unfortunately was more controlled and left him still conscious. He stood there swaying in the pirates’ grips while James cursed and punched him for what seemed like an eternity.
“Enough, Mister Hawkins, anyone can see he’s too stubborn for his own good.” Mister Arrow peered blearily at the towering figure who stood in front of him staring at him with his six eyes as James’s Hawkins reluctantly backed off.
Flint smiled at Mister Arrow. “I know your type. You’re the surviving officer and you’ll never give in. You know that you have to die and you don’t care. Sweetling, at least tell me your name so I can let your next of kin know how brave you were before you leave us.” He gestured towards a large plank nailed to the deck railing. “You’re journey is going to be a short one, I’m afraid.”
When Mister Arrow did not reply, Flint gestured and the three pirates frog marched him onto the plank. “Last chance, brave one.” Flint said with a smile.
He stood there, beaten and bloody, but unbowed. He drew himself up to his full height of five foot one. “Go to hell.” Then he turned and stepped off the plank.
Flint shook his head. “Ah, well, this way I don’t have to write a condolence letter.”
After an hour of rampaging through the ship while the Ariel’s crew stood silent under the guns, James Hawkins approached Sergeant Culbertson. “Where’s Sarah Hawkins?” He shouted.
Wolf Culbertson was no idiot and he could count. None of the officers or Mrs. Hawkins were prisoners along with them. If that meant they had got away using the stealth devices, he’d give them all the help he could and if she was dead, it wouldn’t matter. “She was killed by your idiot assassins just before we killed them and threw them in the matter converters.” As James stared at him the rest of the crew muttered their agreement
“Sarah dead? It’s a dream come true.” James shot into the air like a rocket whooping hysterically as jets flamed from his mechanical boots. He landed next to the Sergeant. “That is great news. Now what about your officers besides the unlamented First Mate? Where are they?”
Sergeant Culbertson shrugged. “Your assassins killed Captain Silver and left Mister Arrow and some of the warrant officers. My guess is the warrant officers were the ones who escaped in the launch.” He spat. “Good riddance to them.”
Flint stepped into view. “I agree with that sentiment and now I’m going to make you an offer that could make you rich beyond your dreams.” He gestured to the slowly revolving planet below them. “Down there is treasure and power beyond the dreams of mortal avarice, sweetling. To grasp it, all you and your men have to do is join my crew. Otherwise.” He shrugged. “You can take the high dive.”
Sergeant Culbertson grinned. “When you put it that way, I see nothing wrong with being a pirate.”
Flint smiled back. “I thought you’d see it my way, sweetling.”