Choosing a Ship
The shipyards of the Crescent spaceport were busy as ever. The sounds of sawing and hammering filled the air. Over head the small flyers which resembled pterodactyls glided in slow circles. She smiled to herself. It was as busy as she remembered it and with just as many crooks as she remembered if not more. She jabbed a sharp elbow in the face of the man trying to insert his fingers in her pocket. He reeled back cursing and was scooped up by Orfeo and flung into the canal.
“This is a dangerous place for ye, Mrs. Hawkins.” Silver said as he rammed his peg leg into the foot of a woman trying to lift his sword. He sent her on her way with a swift kick from his good foot. “I wish you’d reconsider and let me do the searching for a good vessel.”
“And I have no doubt you’d find us a fine one. It’s just that we need the best if we’re going to take on Flint.” She looked up at a sign which read HOBARTHS. “We’re here.”
He stared at the wreck filled yard with its broken hulls and masts. “Here? Ma’m, the only thing we’re going to find here is trouble.” Orfeo snorted as if in agreement. Morph looked worried.
A young turtle shelled alien about five feet tall glided up to them. “Welcome to Hobarths. We have the finest ships on the Crescent.”
Silver frowned at him. “Then where are you hiding them?”
“Sir makes a jest of course.” The alien stepped over to a three master. “Here is a hot model which was taken out by an elderly lady only on Sundays.”
Silver kicked the side of the ship and put his peg leg through it. He pulled it out with a grunt. “It’s got dry rot.” He turned. “Let’s get out of here before he picks our pockets.”
“Wait, Mister Silver.” She said and turned to the offended salesman. “I know well the reputation of Hobarths. It does have the finest ships but only for a select clientele. I wish to speak to your grandfather, Jeborah Hobarth.”
“Madam, he does not just see anyone. Who shall I tell him is inquiring?” He huffed.
She drew herself up. “Tell him that Sarah Mary Anne Gladstone, daughter of Helen Gladstone, wishes to buy one of his best.”
He swallowed hard. “Helen Gladstone? Forgive me, my lady. I did not know. I will inform Grandpa.” He turned and rushed away into the dark office.
“Helen Gladstone? Not the Helen Gladstone of Gladstone Ship Designers and Builders?” Silver said softly.
“The same and my mother.” She replied. “I wasn’t always a Hawkins.”
Silver wiped his brow. “Morphy boy, straighten yourself up. We’re in the presence of royalty.” He made an exaggerated bow in her direction which Morph imitated. “Forgive us for doubting. You can help meself find a ship anytime.” Morph and Orfeo exchanged some remarks and then the four tentacles went up and down in laughter. Orfeo tipped one at her in a salute.
“All right, boy.” A querulous old voice said. “Let’s see if this was worth interrupting my nap for.” An ancient turtle alien, about four feet tall as if he had been shrunken by age stood before them with a long, flowing white beard. He leaned forward on his cane and looked at them and then disregarded them all as irrelevant except for her. He stared and then put on a pair of wire glasses. He squinted again. “Sarah? Sarah Mary Anne?”
“Yes, Jeborah. Though it’s been twenty five years, your mind is as sharp as ever.”
He took her hand. “By the Nebula it’s you all grown up, and did you become a grand one. I was sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. You have my condolences.”
She swallowed as she remembered what she could never recapture and replied. “Thank you. I miss her every day and am reminded of her whenever I see a ship she designed and built.”
“As do I, child, as do I.” He took her by the hand and strode down the aisles between the ships. “Let’s get out of this bunko trap and get you fitted with a real ship.”
“Morphy, she’s a real lady.” Silver said quietly. “Kick me a real hard one if I ever act a bigger fool than I just did.” Morph nodded and whistled something that sounded like ‘gladly.’ Orfeo just chuckled.
“Now, why don’t you tell me what you need one of my poor ships for? As that’ll tell me what I can fit you with.” Jeborah gestured down a long row of ships. “As you see we have a large enough selection to satisfy even the most discriminate tastes.”
Silver whistled softly. “Morphy, I think we’re in heaven.” Morph bounced around excitedly and made happy sounds.
“If I could afford it, Jeborah, I’d be asking for a four master with at least ten guns.” Jim’s mother replied. “As it is, I’ll settle for something less.”
Jeborah frowned. “This is no lark you’re on is it? It’s personal.” He leaned back and shook his cane at her. “Come on, girl, tell me what’s going on.”
She didn’t reply for a moment and then said softly. “I have a son, Jeborah, who just graduated from the academy. He never finished his first voyage because.” She paused and swallowed. “He was kidnapped and not for ransom but for something he knows and when they get it, he’s as good as dead.” She gestured towards the ships. “I need a ship with speed and the ability to fight because I’m going to free him or if I’m too late, then I will hang Flint from my highest yardarm.”
“Flint!” Jeborah’s eyes got larger. “Is that devil still alive?”
“Aye, he’s still alive.” Silver said. “I’ve the wreckage of my own ship as proof after he hit it with one of his devil’s own beams and Mrs. Hawkins’ inn is in ruins because of him. It was his brother Dago who died and not him.”
The old alien grinned and there was nothing friendly about it. “Flint alive. It’s the answer to my prayers.” He frowned and put his wrist to his mouth. “Jedrick and Shedrith, Protocol 13, immediately.”
“Yes, grandfather.” Said a voice out of the air and a transparent golden shield sprang up over the shipyard.
“Come!” He turned and moved towards the office and no longer did he seem to hobble along. He nearly ran. He held the door open for them. “Inside. We need to debug you.” He followed them in and called out. “Jedrick, what do the scans say?”
“Clean, grandfather.” The voice replied.
“Shedrith, bring a wand. Let’s make sure.” He said as he waved towards a desk with several chairs. “Just stand a moment while we check you.” A young blonde woman alien with a silver turtle shell came out of a side room and ran a softly beeping stick with flashing lights over them.
“They’re clear, grandfather.” She said.
“Bring some refreshments.” He told her and then turned to his guests. “I apologize for the rudeness, but I’ve dealt with that devil Flint before. He’s not stupid and when you told me that he seemed to know where you were, I feared the worst. Just sit down and tell me the whole story.” While Silver and Mrs. Hawkins recited their tales, he sat behind the deck with his hands together just below his chin.
After they were done, he said. “It worries me that Flint seemed to know where you were.” He looked at Silver. “My guess is that when Flint destroyed your ship that something else rode in on the beam and attached itself to you as the only thing alive and that’s why he knew where you were. You were right to think someone was following you. They were. He wanted to see whom you’d contact and when you went to the inn, his worst fears were realized. But why is there no bug on you now? Did you leave something behind when you came here?”
Silver looked over at Mrs. Hawkins and said. “I carry my kit on me at all times. I left nothing at the One-Eyed Sailor last night or when I left the Inn to follow Mrs. Hawkins to the Admiralty. Did I, Mrs. Hawkins?”
“It seems you had something else with you the night you came.” Sarah said. “But I can’t remember what it was.”
Silver frowned and then looked over at Morph. “Morphy, can you think of anything? Because I can’t”
Morph tweedled excitedly at him, emitting a long stream of syllables while he bounced up and down. Silver looked perplexed. “Morphy, I don’t understand. Something about a bloke?”
Orfeo rapped one of his four tentacles on the table, drawing their attention. “The little one says you left your cloak in the kitchen to dry. He knows because he spent the night cuddling in its folds, found something metallic and almost ate it. He remembers it burned his tongue when he bit it.” He lapsed back into silence as Morph excitedly cuddled him.
“I never knew you could make out Morph’s gibberish.” Silver said.
Orfeo shrugged. “You never asked.” Morph chirped happily.
“Morphy, you little devil, you just may’ve saved all our lives.” Silver exclaimed. Morph blushed.
The old alien smiled. “Indeed, I think he did and that means if we keep quiet and make preparations on the sly, Flint will never know we’re coming.”
“We?” Silver asked. “Aren’t you a bit old for climbing the riggings?”
The old one smiled. “If you’d asked me even a century ago, you could not have kept me from going.” He sighed and leaned back. “Some of my grandchildren and great grandchildren will go in my place. For you see this family has a blood oath to keep.”
His eyes blazed. “On one of the last raids that Flint ever did, he burned one of our company ships and laughed as he shot all the lifeboats down in flames. On that day he killed four of my eldest children.” He stood. “We will have vengeance. This I swear.” He turned towards the door. “Come let’s pick a suitable arrow for our quiver.”
As the others went down the rows looking at the ships, Jeborah dropped back besides Silver. “I know you sailed with Flint at one time, sir, and if I thought you’d been there on that fateful day you’d not leave here alive. But I also know how you became a cyborg and I believe you want to kill Flint and his Dark Man as much as I do. Is that not so?”
“Aye.” Silver said. “But not a word to the young lady. It’s best that some things stay dark and quiet I’m thinking.”
“Agreed. Aha, I think she’s found what she’s looking for.”
She came running back a huge smile on her face. “John, I found it.” She grabbed Silver by his mechanical hand and pulled him down the line until they stopped before a four master painted black and with a low slung keel indicating she was built for speed. Its wood gleamed and every line shouted her speed. “I think she’s perfect.” Sarah breathed.
Silver looked up and down the ship and smiled. “Let’s test her.” He fired a beam from his cybernetic arm. The wood absorbed the beam, glowed, and then spat it back at him. He barely had time to throw up a shield before he was thrown back by the impact. “By all the saints.” He exclaimed as he got back to his knees.
“Ironwood from Dell in the Scanborn system.” Jeborah declared. “It’ll bounce laser fire right back at you. It’s the densest and lightest material in the universe and perfect for warships which is why Her Majesty has declared it the royal property of the Crown.” He grinned. “If you won’t tell Her Majesty about this, I certainly won’t.”
“She has eight guns and four masts, John. She’s built for speed and has the latest high tech.” Sarah’s eyes were shining.
Silver tipped his hat back and whistled softly as he took her in. “What’s the lady’s name?”
She pointed to the figurehead of a woman holding a sword. “Ariel’s Sword of Vengeance. You should’ve heard of Ariel.”
“Oh yes.” He said. “I’ve heard of her. She was the greatest free spirit of all the freebooter captains and destroyed a pirate fleet at Tordeen when they went back on their word to her.” He looked at her with concern. “But can we afford her?”
Jeborah coughed. “She’s on loan. Use your money to outfit and crew her. Bring her back and with Flint’s head and we’ll be square.”
“And if we don’t come back?” She asked.
“Then I’ll mourn ye.” He replied.
The metallic voice back on Treasure Planet was not pleased with the results of the failed attack. One of his minions asked. “Do you want us to send a party and hunt them down?”
“With the Admiralty on full alert now? No, you fool. Until they get off the planet we don’t dare touch them.”
“Yes, sir. Especially with Hobarths involved. That’s one mean group of turtles. But that also means there’s a weakness. One of the younger Hobarths has been running up a gambling debt to buddies of mine and he might be persuaded to help us in exchange for forgiveness. It won’t be much help but we can get one assassin aboard before they sail.”
The mechanical voice growled. “Do it. I want her dead. She could ruin all my careful plans.”
One of the thugs looked at the other. “Who are you going to get? We don’t have time to contact the Assassin’s Guild.”
“Don’t worry. I know of someone and he’ll never know who contacted him. We’ve used him before. He acts like a fool but he’s quite effective.”