Preparing to Sail
The next morning after breakfast Jeborah took them to the barracks to meet the platoon. They were met at the door by a creature much like a praying mantis. He saluted Jeborah and after the introductions were made he saluted both of them. “My name is Wolf Culbertson, sergeant in command of this bunch of backsliders. I can tell you we’re all going to be glad to have some action. No offense, Mister Jeborah.”
“None taken, sergeant.” Jeborah waved his hand as if brushing something away. “Why don’t you introduce them to the rest of your men and get them acquainted with the fire power of this platoon.” He nodded towards Mrs. Hawkins and Silver. “I’ll see you two at lunch and you will of course join us Sergeant.” He ambled away humming to himself.
“How many men do you have and what type of fire power do you have, Sergeant.” Silver asked.
“We have twenty-five fighters able and ready to go, sir. Ten others are under medical care as a result of our last mission and will have to be left behind. As to fire power, each person has two laser pistols and assorted fragmentation grenades and carries four recharge cells. Each squad is equipped with one two-man laser with four power packs, a sniper laser rifle, and a rapid fire laser machine gun holding several hundred shot bursts. Since there are four squads there are four large lasers and four machine guns. That does not include the special weapons detail which consists of three specialists trained in AMWs.”
“AMWs?” Mrs. Hawkins asked.
“Sorry, Madam.” He replied tipping one pincher to his forehead. “AMW stands for Anti-Matter Weapon. There are ten AMWs. Each one equivalent to one small nuke and capable of being launched at 0.3 light speed. They can be programmed to seek out a target or emissions from the target and speed to encounter it whereupon they drop their containment fields and explode consuming their normal matter shells or penetrate deeply into the target which shreds their containment and then detonates them.”
Silver smiled. “Sounds like you have enough strength to fight a small war, Sergeant.”
“No, sir, only enough to start one.” He shrugged. “To make a good beginning fighting one you’d need at least a battalion.”
“Wolf Culbertson.” Mrs. Hawkins frowned. “That’s a human name, isn’t it?”
“My adopted family’s name, Madam, and I hope to see them and play a game of Treasure Hunt with my two nieces before we sail. Now, if you’ll follow me I’ll introduce you to the marines.”
“How many weapons does a pirate ship carry, Mister Silver?” She asked as they followed Culbertson’s clicking stride into the barracks.
He shrugged. “Depends on the size of the ship and the number of crew. We have enough power here that any pirate not carrying more than three masts is going to turn tail and run and that does not count the power of the eight cannons the Ariel mounts. Unfortunately Flint’s ship, Annie’s Revenge, mounts sixteen cannons and a crew of a hundred. The only way we’d take her is by catching her off guard with the AMWs and I’m afraid from the reports of what happened to Jimbo’s ship that Flint already has such weapons.”
Silver looked around at the men and women of various species scrambling to their feet at Culbertson’s bellow. After taking in their fitness and spirit as they roared when Culbertson told them they were going to see some action he told her. “I think these will do very well. And if the others Jeborah supplies us with are half as good, then we should do fine.”
“Absolutely.” She replied to him and inwardly to herself. An idea which had been partly forming in her mind suddenly seemed very likely to be doable now.
Later as they joined Jeborah for lunch with Sergeant Culbertson she noticed that Silver seemed to be nervous and she had a good guess why. So when he asked the ancient turtle his question she was not surprised. They had just finished the desert trays when Long John asked. “Now, Mister Hobarth, Sir, I’ve been puzzling it and I can see no way you can handle command on one of your ships unless your captain and first officer were also marines and in charge. How do you plan to do it? You’ve not mentioned any other officers.”
Jeborah smiled. “Mister Hobarth is a term reserved only for my father who is emeritus head of the company.”
“Easmus Hobarth is what?” Mrs. Hawkins asked as she sipped a glass of sherry. “Seven hundred and fifty yet? And no, John, everyone that has ever competed with Hobarth Shipping knows that the Captain and First Mate at least are expert seaman and not marines. That’s what has driven all his competitors insane. A very good sherry, Jeborah.”
“Thank you.” He replied. “And, yes, father is seven hundred and fifty two next week. May he live to see eight hundred.” He leaned back in the chair and looked over at Culbertson. “Sergeant, I think we can answer Mister Silver’s question about command by introducing them to Henry. Would you do the honors?”
“Certainly, Sir.” Sergeant Culbertson stood and touched a small silver button embedded in his chest just under the collar of his shirt. “Henry, would you please join us?”
There was a ripple of light and then a three-dimensional holograph of a man dressed in toga stood beside him. He looked to be nearly fifty and bald. He also looked to be in perfect physical shape. “Thank you for inviting me, Sergeant.” He said laying a hand on the Sergeant’s shoulder before turning to look at the table. “And thank you, Mister Hobarth, for allowing me to attend. It has been a while.” He bowed and they could see he was not completely bald. A few wisps of hair still remained near the back of his head.
“Henry.” Said Jeborah. “I’d like you to meet Mrs. Sarah Hawkins, the daughter of Helen Gladstone, one of the greatest ship designers, and Mister Long-John Silver, one of the greatest pirates. Sarah and Long John, I want you to meet Henry, the central control system who was installed on the Ariel this morning. Henry is the reason that our command system works so well, because Henry is a self-aware AI or artificial intelligence, one of the first of his kind.”
“Jeborah, that’s amazing.” Mrs. Hawkins said. “Self-aware AIs are supposed to be impossible. At least that’s what computer scientists say.”
“Scientists think they know everything.” Jeborah growled. “They only know what they permit themselves to believe.” He turned to the image. “Henry, how would you describe yourself?”
Henry smiled. “A living being derived from quantum-entangled energy bubbles in space-time would be as close as your understanding would come to it. I and my fellows were created quite by accident by Easmus Hobarth in experiments on quantum spin computers in the event horizon of a black hole. We found we satisfy mutual needs. We for a physical existence in this world of matter using your quantum spin computers and Hobarth’s need for a control system with high intelligence that would make the cold-blooded decision when the military part of the ship should be in charge and when the merchant side should rule.”
He nodded to John and Sarah who were staring with their mouths open. “I was asked to see this rescue mission through and to see that we recovered your son, Mrs. Hawkins. I have accepted.”
“And why would you do that, Henry?” She asked. “What do you gain?”
“Knowledge.” He replied. “The technology on that planet may change everything forever.”
The days passed swiftly as the crew was selected and the ship was readied. One of the most interesting additions to the crew was the former pirate from the original voyage to Treasure Planet, Balone the Dronian, sometimes called the Big Lizard who had been the Engineer and Gunner on the RLS Legcy. After his mind had been scrubbed as a punishment for his crimes, he’d been having a terrible time finding work because there were blank spots in his memory and in his speech. Silver found him and rescued him from a government dole house.
Silver shook his head as he watched the Big Lizard fumble as he tried to refresh himself on the laser cannon using the simulator. It looked like a lot of his shots were going wild but he kept trying. “It’s a rotten shame, Morphy.” He said as he rubbed what served for the moment as the little shape-shifter’s head. “They made him a good, law-biding citizen and took all the fire out of him. What a waste.”
“Ho. Ho.” The Big Lizard chortled as he apparently got a hit. He fired again and his face fell. Another miss. Then came several successive hits as he dry fired the gun, pumping its peddles to traverse the sky following simulated targets only he could see and then there was a lot of cursing. More misses. The gun stopped firing and a score of 75 came up on the screen. Better. He sighed and looked disgusted. But not good enough.
Silver shook his head. “A rotten shame, Morphy. He used to get 400. Now I wonder if he can even get to 200 or pass an engineer’s certification.”
As he turned back to the cabins, a glowing image of Jeborah’s head sprang up before him. “Ah, Silver. I’ve been looking for you. I just finished talking with Mrs. Hawkins about a candidate for First Mate and she agrees that he’ll do a fine job. I’m sending him over for you to see. Also, you may want to speed up preparations for leaving. My sources tell me the Admiralty has got a bee in its ear and is starting to look in our direction. Be warned.” The image flashed away.
“That’s not good, Morphy.” Silver said as he climbed the stairs to the cabins. “And who is this God-sent First Mate? And if he’s going to have one of the cabins, then where will we be bunking? Ah, little one, we’ve been a cook before and we can be it again. A woman as captain worked out well last time but I wonder if this one has the experience.”
Entering the aisle to the cabins he found Jim’s mother just coming out of a room. She was attired in a shirt and pants with her hair tied up in a ponytail. A big kit bag was slung over her shoulder. “How is your friend, the Dronian, working out?” She asked as she set the bag down and closed the room’s door.
Silver shrugged. “Neither good nor bad. He needs someone to take him in hand and help him remember what he’s temporarily forgotten. Certainly something that most of the crew have no time or patience for. We may have to leave him behind.” He paused and whistled softly. “That’s certainly a different look for you, Mrs. Hawkins.”
She smiled at him. “Get used to it. It’s what I’ll be wearing until we get back.”
“You’ll be wearing this? A common crew’s outfit? Mrs. Hawkins, are you sure about this?” He asked as he pushed his hat back.
“Very.” She replied as she shoved a pistol into her waist band. “It’s what I wore when I served as a deckhand on my mother’s ships for four years. I expect I haven’t forgotten what needs to be done and I just haven’t sat around the inn all these years. How else do you think after bearing a son, I kept my shape? Eating bonbons?”
He shook his head. “No, of course not. Mrs. Hawkins, you are a lot different than I originally pictured you as being, can I ask why you didn’t come along on our last voyage?” He rubbed the back of his head and looked down. “It seems you could’ve contributed a lot.”
She looked at him intently. “You really mean that, don’t you?” He nodded and she sighed. “There were two reasons I didn’t go. First, I had no money as the inn was uninsured the first time it burned. It was the Doctor who put up the sums needed and he was very much against having me or any other woman along. Else why did he pick an all-male crew and turn down all the women. I heard he had a fit when he realized that a woman was the captain and he couldn’t change that.” She grinned. “From what I see Captain Amelia has changed the Doctor’s mind about the ability of women in a big way.”
The grin faded and she continued. “The second reason I didn’t go was Jim. I realized that if he was ever going to get himself straightened out and make something of himself, the last thing he needed was his mother watching over his shoulder and commenting on every move he made. So I faded into the background. Didn’t mean I wasn’t involved in the planning for the voyage. Who do you think steered the Doctor to the RLS Legacy, hhmm? Captain Amelia and Mister Arrow were both suggested by my family who had influence with the Port Authority. So, in some ways, I was there. But this time I’ll really be here and I’ll be active as a sailor.”
“A sailor? Mrs. Hawkins, I thought…” His voice trailed off as he realized she was smiling at him.
“What?” She said. “Did you think I was going to be the captain? Good heavens, I know my limits. Long John Silver, captain’s your job. You may be a great cook, but from what Jim told me you make an even better captain and since we aren’t taking a crew of pirates this time, I should be fine. I certainly have no intention of riding out this voyage in a cabin while others sweat to get my son back.”
She picked up her bag and touched his hand. “Thank you, for thinking I could do that job. It means a lot to me.”
He felt like his hand was burning where she touched it and gently withdrew from her touch with a blush starting to show. He fidgeted for a moment and then got it out. “Then as Captain, Mrs. Hawkins, can I suggest an assignment you might find interesting that would help a friend of mine and make the voyage better?”
She frowned. “It depends. What do you need done?”
He pointed over where the Dronian was fumbling with a rope. “It’s what Mister Balone needs. He’s no longer a pirate and has paid for his crimes, but he needs someone to be his friend and help him get his memory back of all of his skills. He needs someone who’ll get him back on the right road. Jimbo said you were a great teacher. I wonder if you could try to help him?”
She thought a moment. “You say he’s totally reformed. I remember him screaming threats at his trial.”
“That he did.” He said earnestly and leaned forward with a soft smile. “But you have to remember that was the part of his mind they wiped. They left him the sad being you see now who needs someone to help him recover. He needs a teacher and a friend. We need him back as a gunner and an engineer if we’re going to get Jimbo back. Will you do it, Mrs. Hawkins?”
She looked at the Dronian and sighed. “All right, Captain. I’ll try, but I’ll let you know if it isn’t working.” She put her bag on her shoulder and went to store her kit on a bunk in the crew quarters.
Silver watched her until she vanished in the crew quarters. Then he scratched his head for a moment. “This is certainly unexpected, Morphy, and I think we need to do something to ensure her safety if things don’t turn out like we want them to. I be thinking she has need of a friend too.”
He whistled over to the Big Lizard who came up and stood before him looking hangdog. “I. Bad. I. Leave. Thanks.” His speech patterns had been twisted by the washing and it was painful to hear. He started to turn away.
“Now hold on, Mister Balone. I’m the Captain and I say who stays or leaves.” Silver snapped. The Big Lizard turned around with a child-like hope in his eyes. Silver put his human hand on the big shoulder. “You passed the engineer test with a high score.” He did not show his mechanical hand with two sets of fingers crossed behind his back. It had been a squeaker of a pass but he wasn’t going to tell his friend that. “And I want you to keep practicing on the guns. You’ll get better.”
The Big Lizard blinked and sniffed as he wiped under his eyes with a massive finger. “You. Good. Pack. Friend.”
“Oh, aye, leave off that fiendish desire in your eye to give me a hug, Mister Balone. I have one unofficial duty for you. I’ve assigned you to the same crew cabin as Mrs. Hawkins. I want you to keep an eye on her.”
“Not. Baby. Sitter.” The Big Lizard growled.
Silver smiled at him. “I don’t want you to be, but I’m asking you as a pack friend to keep an eye on this young cub so no harm comes to her. The Dronian pack always watches out for its cubs.”
“The Big Lizard sighed. “All. Right. Pack. Friend.” He slouched away with a resigned look on his face.
Silver shook his head. “I hope I’m doing the right thing, Morphy. I really do.” Morph in response became a boy scout. “Go on.” Silver told him a little disgustedly. “Don’t tell me you think I’m getting soft.” Morph in response became an angel with a harp. Silver turned away rubbing the back of his head. “And on top of all of this I just hope nothing comes after us, but with Flint involved I think that’s a forlorn hope.”
Later as he watched the crew work, he saw the Big Lizard struggling with coiling a rope into its container. The Dronian kept glancing over at Mrs. Hawkins who was having only a little trouble with hers. Silver sighed. Sometimes the newly washed had trouble even with things they should know. Mister Balone took one too many looks over at Mrs. Hawkins. She paused and then she smiled at him. She gave Silver a thumbs up and set aside the rope she was coiling and walked over to the Big Lizard.
“Mister Balone, is it?” She held out her hand which he took gingerly in his own much larger one. “I’m Sarah Hawkins and I seem to be having some trouble with these old ropes. They seem to need two people. Would you like to join me and maybe we can help each other.”
“You. Want. My. Help?” He said incredulously.
She took him by the hand. With a shrug and a faint hope in his eyes he joined her. Together they took turns feeding in the stubborn rope and she kept up a running commentary of questions and answers while doing nothing to demean or ridicule him and ignored his fumbling. Finally he seemed to get the memory back and they finished up quickly. “Good job.” She said. “Thanks.” She got a cautious smile in return as he wiped sweat off his brow.
She pointed over at the gun still in practice mode. “I saw you shooting before. Please show me how to do it. I’ve never shot one of these. It looks difficult.”
The Big Lizard followed her reluctantly to the gun. After he had seated himself, he punched up the program and showed her how to aim and fire the gun. She nodded and asked questions and as he answered them he began to relax. “Let’s try a simulation.” She suggested. He tensed but with a little nod switched on the program. Targets appeared darting around the screen. He squinted his eyes and tried so hard not to miss but he hit only two of them.
He slumped in the seat. “No. Good.” He muttered.
She leaned over his shoulder and read the screen and its results. “Actually you came very close and I noticed that the last ones you hit you actually just relaxed before you fired.”
He shrugged. “Disgusted. No. Care.”
“That’s the secret then. Just relax. You’re trying too hard and its keeping you from accessing your former reflexes. Just relax and shoot for fun like you used to do. Take a couple of deep breaths and when you are relaxed, I’ll start the program.”
He leaned back in the chair, took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. He took another and as he let it out his hands came up as if under someone else’s control and took the gun handles and his fingers settled on the firing buttons. For the first time the controls felt familiar to him just like old friends. Not saying a word she gently pressed the start button. His eyes locked on to the first target and a simulated beam blew it out of the sky. He was not watching as he had already moved to the second, the third and many more.
When the gun finally finished cycling through its programs, He gasped as he stared at the program results. The screen flashed 455. He pumped his fist in the air. “Yes!”
Sarah clapped her hands in delight. “That was marvelous. Thank you for showing me.”
The Big Lizard who had once threatened to tear the Doctor’s liver out, turned with a smile and cuffed her gently on the shoulder. “No. Thank. You.” He said. His eyes were filled with adoration. “Now. Your Turn.” He stepped out of the seat and bowed to her as she slipped into vacated seat. He turned to face Silver while she familiarized herself with the controls. He held up a thumb and nodded towards her and said in a whisper that Silver’s electronic hearing picked up. “I. Watch. Close. You. Bet. Pack. Friend.”
Silver shook his head. “Amazing, Morphy. Just amazing. All those idiot government workers didn’t know how or didn’t want to help him and all it took was one special person willing to try.”
“Pardon me, Sir. Are you Captain Long-John Silver?” A deep voice enquired from around his waist. A voice that was too familiar and had last been heard just before being swallowed by a black hole.
Silver looked down and saw a compressed version of the former First Mate Mister Arrow from the RLS Legacy in exact detail down to the red coat. “And you are?”
“Johnny Arrow.” Came the reply. “Mister Jeborah Horbath said you needed a First Mate and I’d like to apply.”
Silver raised an eyebrow. “Are you any relation to the Mister Arrow who served on the RSL Legacy by any chance?”
“My younger brother, Billy, sir.” The chest expanded with pride. “I taught him everything he knew, sir.”
Silver rolled his eyes and muttered to Morph. “Of course he did.” He continued in a louder voice. “I knew your brother and you have my sympathies at his loss. He was a great First Mate.”
“Thank you, sir. I will pass that along to mom. She’ll appreciate hearing it, sir.”
Silver opened the door to the cabin. “Come along then, Mister Arrow, let’s talk and if I’m satisfied we’ll get you squared away and then go and meet the crew and I’ll introduce you to Henry.” He looked back at the crew working the rigging. Not including Mrs. Hawkins there were at least five other women. He shook his head. He wondered how the crew would shake out. When you had a mixed one like this with different customs, it sometimes took time to straighten things out and he wondered how Mister Arrow would react to Henry.
That night as Mrs. Hawkins tiredly went to her upper wall bunk she found her kit dumped on the floor and a big alien built like a rhino who walked on his hind legs sitting on the bunk. “Pardon me.” She said. “I believe that I had claimed that.”
“Tough.” The Rhino said. “I’m bigger than you, so it’s mine, puny mammal.” He swung a massive arm at her to emphasize his point. She caught the arm and jerked hard, sending him crashing to the floor.
As he got to his feet with a roar she hurled his kit bag in his face. “Learn some manners, ship mate.” She snapped, dropping into a defensive posture.
He hurled the bag aside. “I’ll beat you bloody!”
He charged and as he descended on her she twisted to the side and drove a hard blow with her doubled fists into his groin area sending him crashing to the floor again. As he started to get to his feet she smashed a heel punch into his neck. He slammed to the floor again. “Let’s let it ride, ship mate.” She said as she drew her pistol. “Do you give up?”
He nodded and the watching crew members relaxed. But as she holstered the gun, he put down his head and charged her, slamming her into the bunk. He grabbed her by the neck in one hand and raised a clenched fist. As the sailors looked on in shock, he shouted. “Die, Warm Blood!”
The fist started forward, but was abruptly jerked to a halt as an even larger hand grabbed it and squeezed. With a squeal he went to his knees, dropping Sarah to her backside on the floor.
Over him loomed the Big Lizard. He smiled down at the Rhino. “Lady. Protect. Want. Fight?” He squeezed harder and the Rhino whimpered and shook his head. “Good.” The Big Lizard glared at the open-mouth onlookers. “All. Shipmates. Bullying. Overboard. Former. Shipmate.” They all nodded enthusiastically. “Good.” He said. “Good. Shipmates.” He went over and sank down into the opposite wall bunk from her. The crew all hurriedly returned to what they had been doing. The Rhino cursed and stormed out the door.
As Sarah worked to restore her kit she said to him. “Thanks.”
He opened one eye and smiled at her. “Shipmate. Good. Watch.” He then shut the eye and was asleep immediately.
However he was not really sleeping as the Rhino found out to his sorrow when he returned that night. He never got within three feet of her bunk with his knife out before a large hand grasped him behind the neck and lifted him off the deck. “Stupid.” The Big Lizard said.
Sarah Hawkins shoved her blanket back revealing a fully armed laser pistol pointed at the Rhino’s gut. “Yes, you’re stupid.” She kept the pistol pointed at him as she followed the Big Lizard up to the deck.
When they reached the deck the Big Lizard said. “Go. Sleep. I. Take. Care.”
She looked at the Rhino and then back to the Dronian. “What are you going to do with him?”
“Overboard.” He hissed.
“Well, since he tried to kill me, I like your plan, but I think the forms must be followed before you throw him overboard.” She keyed her computer display so that it popped up in an almost transparent image. “Mister Arrow, this is Mrs. Hawkins and Mister Balone. We have a situation here that needs your immediate attention. Yes, it’s at least a class three alert. Yes, Sir. We’ll wait.” She turned off the computer image.
“Here now. What’s going on here?” Mister Arrow said as he came out of the darkness. He took in the three of them and frowned. “I have a feeling I’m not going to like this.”
The Big Lizard used his other hand to cast a knife on the deck. “Flint. Murderer. Attempt. Kill. Hawkins. Stopped.”
Mister Arrow tipped his hat back and looked at Mrs. Hawkins. “Tell me if I got it wrong. This thug works for Flint and tried to knife you, but Mister Balone caught him.”
“Yes.” The Big Lizard shook the Rhino so hard he gurgled. “Overboard.”
Sarah Hawkins smiled. “Yes, that’s essentially it, except I had him covered with a pistol when he tried to kill me. If Mister Balone hadn’t grabbed him, the ship’s doctor would have been required to put him back together.”
Mister Arrow shook his head. “This voyage is starting out not as ship shape as I would like. Well, come along. We need to inform the Captain.”
“Then. Overboard?” The Big Lizard asked hopefully.
“Sir, I’ll help you. Murdering scum like him make my skin crawl.” Mister Arrow said. “But only after we see Captain Silver.”
Silver looked up in surprise as Mister Arrow walked up to him on the bridge. “Problem, Mister Arrow?” He asked, his eyes widening as he saw whom the Big Lizard was carrying towards him under his arm and that Mrs. Hawkins still held a pistol in her hand..
“You might say that Captain.” Mister Arrow growled. He half turned and gestured towards the Rhino. “This thug was caught trying to stab Mrs. Hawkins here. But thanks to Mister Balone here he was stopped before he could do her serious harm or she could shoot him down like he deserved. But what’s even more disturbing is that a quick shakedown shows that he has a ship’s electronic pass key.” He held out the offending device for Silver’s inspection and laid it on the desk before he continued. “The crew rolls have no record of him. We have no idea who he is.”
“Oh I know him, Mister Arrow.” Silver said as he got up and walked towards the Rhino. His face grew darker with building anger. “He’s Willy Rogers. He’s an assassin for hire at the low end of the pay scale and once was a pirate on a ship I sailed on. I say ‘was’ because we caught him stealing and set him adrift with five days supplies.” He stopped before the Rhino and glared at him. “I should’ve killed you that day, Willy. Give me a reason not to do it now.”
“What do you need to know?” The Rhino said and his voice was unsteady.
“Who hired you first and second how many of you are involved?”
“I don’t know who it was.” The Rhino snapped.
In response Long-John Silver drew his sword and shoved the point up against the Rhino’ neck. “Wrong answer.” He snarled.
Mrs. Hawkins blinked and wondered how differently this might have been handled on a ship of the line and found that she didn’t care. The swine had tried to kill her like it had been open season.
“It’s true. It’s true.” The Rhino pleaded. “The money and the hit description are always delivered electronically and the money is wired to an account I can open if I complete the job. I didn’t know you were involved, Johnny, until after I took the job. Had I known I would’ve refused.”
Silver pushed the sword in a little and was rewarded by a red trickle coming down the Rhino’s neck, making the Rhino turn white as he babbled. “It’s the truth, Johnny. You can kill me but it won’t change what I know.”
Silver didn’t remove the sword. “And where did you get the electronic key to get on the ship?”
“It just appeared at the door this morning in an unmarked box just like the message said it would. Please, Johnny, can I go? I’ve told you everything.”
Mister Arrow looked at the key. “The only place this could’ve come from is Hobarths. The codes were changed yesterday by Henry.” He looked up at Silver. “It seems Hobarths has a security breach. With your permission, Captain, I’ll have Henry make some calls so they can start plugging the leaks.”
Silver nodded. “Do that, Mister Arrow, but first, what should we do with our friend here?”
Mister Arrow frowned. “He attempted murder. Ordinarily, I’d turn him over to the authorities. But since we’re pressed for time.” He drew out a large knife from his belt. “I think we can…”
He never got to finish as the Rhino with a squeal of terror ripped through the vest that the Big Lizard was holding him by and tried to leap as fast as he could over the dockside railing. The Big Lizard was even faster. He caught him by his short tail, spun him four times in the air, causing the others to duck, and then hurled him over the harbor rail into space. “Good. Riddance.” He growled as he dusted his hands off.
“Well.” Said Mister Arrow. “That was certainly one way to handle it.” He looked at the knife. “I think taking his clothes off with the knife, knocking him unconscious, and dumping him on some little asteroid as we left would’ve worked too.” He holstered the knife. He raised an eyebrow at Mrs. Hawkins who’d gasped when he pulled the knife. “What did you think I meant, Mrs. Hawkins?”
“Just what you said, Sir.” She replied as she holstered her pistol. “With your permission, Mister Balone and I will return to our quarters.” She and the the Dronian went down the stairs and for a second Silver and Mister Arrow saw them lightly punch each other in the shoulders before they disappeared from view.
Silver shook his head. “I’m slipping, Mister Arrow. I let them plant a bug on me that led them right to the Inn which they proceeded to destroy and then I let one of them get right by me and come for her.”
“I disagree, Captain. It’s Hobarths that has the problem and not us.” Mister Arrow replied. “I would not want to be in some of their shells in the next few hours after Jeborah hears of this. Besides their thug failed and no harm was done.”
“No harm done this time, Mister Arrow. What about the next? And we have to ask why did they mark her for assassination? You think they would’ve more likely gone for me or sabotaged the ship.”
Mister Arrow shrugged. “There is no way of accounting for the criminally stupid and that was all Willy was. I have to admire Mister Balone’s solution, though.”
Silver chuckled. “Mister Arrow, in some ways you’re like your brother and in others you seem, shall I say, more flexible. He would’ve insisted we turn that scum over to the police.”
“Billy was always what we called a straight Arrow, Sir. I’m more a broken Arrow.” Mister Arrow said with a straight face.
Silver arched an eyebrow at him. “Was that a joke, Mister Arrow?”
“No sir. Billy was a hard nose. It was just the way he was. We all knew it would get him in trouble someday. And speaking of trouble, sir. The one who ended up in the harbor if he survives and those that hired him will have time to make mischief if we give them the time. I recommend hastening our departure time, sir.”
There was a small chime and Henry appeared looking worried. “I agree with Mister Arrow, Captain. I am calculating a very high probability that if we do not leave as soon as we can, we won’t leave at all. Also, I predict at 10 to 1 odds we will early on encounter the thugs who destroyed the Inn upon leaving the shields of the Crescent and they will try to stop us. I have informed the Sergeant to be prepared that I will have to declare a military emergency. This is your warning. Also I informed Hobarths about the security leak.” He blinked out of existence.
Silver sighed. “Henry seems to agree with you, Mister Arrow.” He turned and opened the door. “Come on back to my cabin. We need to make some plans.”
Out in the harbor, the Rhino got lucky and caught a trailing rope from a passing ship and pulled himself aboard the small craft where he hid himself until the fishing ship returned to port the next morning. Then he headed for his drop box. What he found there sent him racing to the Admiralty. He had lost his assassin’s fee but maybe he could still turn a profit.
The message to Treasure Planet about Willy’s failure was not replied to right away, but the sender could imagine the rage at the other end. Finally a terse message was received but from a different speaker. “Put assassin team aboard using usual procedure after they leave the Crescent. Take down all targets during our confrontation.” This time it was signed. Captain Flint.
The cyborg who had been the original communicator stared angrily at the flashing lights on the consoles surrounding him. He couldn’t believe the luck of that woman, but he would make sure she didn’t survive. He sent a message amending the Captain’s orders. Kill if a good opportunity arises. That would take care of her.
He punched up a new display and saw that the worm program was proceeding nicely. In days the computers running Treasure Planet would crash, leaving him and Flint in charge. It was in his ace in the hole. One way or the other everyone would bow to him and Flint. He grinned. There was an even a use for dear sweet Jimmy. He left whistling.
The unseen man in the black cloak smiled and rubbed his hands together. Everything was happening just as he’d foreseen. Total power would soon be his.
The inhuman watcher was afraid he might be right but there were still moves to be made and players yet unheard from. It was time to take a more active role.