Bob Kiwi: Buccaneer

 

Chapter Two

 

War is good business.

 


 

            Biggs took a moment to survey their catch as his pirates unceremoniously dumped their plunder onto the newly-scorched deck of the Bloody Mary, doing his best to mask his surprise at the presence of all eleven still-breathing members of the fallen ship’s crew amongst the smallish pile of salvageable booty.  The Silver Princess, his men informed him bitterly, hadn’t been carrying much cargo.  Much of her food stores had apparently been laid out on the banquet tables that the Flier – and, later, the crumpled mast – had upended, and it seemed the cabin boy’s fire-bottle trick had taken care of their stock of spirits.  The ship had had no guns – and, therefore, no gunpowder - and aside from an assortment of crystal gifts on deck, most of which had been demolished during the battle, very few baubles had been found.  Indeed, the battle aboard the Silver Princess that had felled so many of his men had left the survivors with little more than ropes and sailcloth to show for their efforts.  Oh, one of the men had found a smallish box with a strange but brightly-colored miniature portrait and buttons on one side that Biggs had thought might be quite valuable, but in the push and shove squabble over who could look at it and who had really seen it first, an additional five men made their way to Davy Jones’ locker with knives in their bellies, and the bauble itself was lost over the rail.  Moreover, the Silver herself had just slipped beneath the ocean’s surface, leaving only bits of flotsam and a small yellow…thing…bobbing on the surface where the fragile craft had once been.

            That meant the only truly valuable plunder they would get from the raid consisted of the prisoners on the deck in front of him. 

            He surveyed them critically.  For all the damage they had done to his crew – and they had done some considerable damage to those that had boarded the Silver – it seemed they themselves were not all that worse for wear.  A credit to their captain - as ferociously as they'd fought, the bird had surrendered as soon as his best fighters had been overwhelmed, perhaps already aware that the crew themselves were more valuable as hostages and slaves than anything remaining on board. 

Biggs supposed the man’s logic suited him just fine, for their capitulation had left the wealthy young lady completely unharmed – a fact he hoped would persuade her father to simply pay her ransom rather than angrily bring the authorities down upon them – and cowering timidly behind the bruised but doggedly protective yellow bird Biggs took to be her bodyguard. Beside the pair, the brown bird – another bodyguard, he imagined – sat groggily, rubbing the rather nasty bruises from the choke-hold the crew member who had caught him put him in, his left eye swollen shut.  As Biggs watched, incredulous, the bird reached up and transferred his eyepatch from his right eye over to his swollen left, blinking in the sunlight and apparently oblivious to the stir this action set up amongst the Bloody Mary’s crew.  Was no one in this strange crew what they appeared to be?

The gray captain and the cabin boys sat nearby, relatively unscathed.  Oh, aye, the odd mammalian boy’s knuckles were bleeding - more from the wearing of a curious set of iron knuckles than anything else, Biggs suspected - and the younger lad was painstakingly picking splinters out of his palm, but that seemed to be the extent of their wounds.  The Flier had no injuries aside from her wing – although that might change, he noted, if she continued her determined attempts to squirm out of the hold her captor held her in. The blue buffoon would wake up with a headache and little else to complain about, and as near as he could tell, the serving wench was completely unharmed, but had fainted – or at least, was pretending to have fainted, rather than bear the leers and solicitous glances her ridiculously brief uniform was eliciting from the crew.

The naval officers were the worst off of the lot by far.  The heart of the Silver’s resistance, they had thus been the focus of every last battle-starved buccaneer that poured onto the wavering decks of the crippled ship in search of a soul upon which to slake their bloodlust.  In truth, Biggs was rather surprised the pair had survived at all, and not simply been trampled or disemboweled when the teeming melee around them finally overwhelmed their defenses.  Perhaps there was a shred of warrior’s honor amongst his crew, after all – though Biggs felt it was far more likely his men had simply lost sight of the two amongst the press of bodies and the voluminous folds of the fallen sails.  All the same, while the naval officers’ tenacity had spoken well of their training, it certainly hadn’t treated them well in defeat.  Beaten and bloodied - though how much of said blood was their own was anyone’s guess - their unconscious forms drew no small amount of concerned attention from their colleagues – and spiteful kicks from those the pair had wounded. 

The Silver’s captain had been quite adamant that none of his crew be harmed - even going so far as to state that he’d buy their freedom once the pirates put to port – and while that boded well for most of the bird’s crew, Biggs had refused to guarantee the naval officers’ safety once aboardship.  Being a man of reason, he had agreed not to kill the pair outright – but unless they agreed to join his crew, they could not stay aboard the Bloody Mary.  Brig or no brig, his men would never stand for it, and Biggs wasn’t about to risk a mutiny over some Colonial privateer’s parlay terms.

 

***************

 

“They broke my sign,” the boy cowering behind Ivan whimpered, picking at the last of the splinters his signature prop had left in his hands.

“It’s okay, kid,” Ivan sighed, glancing about furtively to make certain none of the heroes were watching before giving his sign holder a reassuring pat on the head.  “We’ll get out of this.”

“I dunno, sir,” Lita whispered, tugging at her cut-offs in an unsuccessful attempt to make them look more substantial, “I know what pirates are like.  Real ones, not the watered-down versions you see on TV or read about in history books.  If we’re lucky, they might just sell us in some third-world slave market.  Or, well, maybe you can ransom the three of us out of this, but parlay or no parlay, we’re probably only alive now because they’ve got something extra-nasty planned for us later.”

Ivan suppressed a groan.  “Thanks ever so much for those words of encouragement, furball.  You’ve really rallied the troops here.”  He indicated the sign holder, who was now visibly trembling.

“But I’ve seen-” she began.

“-Nothing of this world’s pirates,” Ivan cut her off, “These thugs may look a little strange by modern standards, but like any other type of criminal, they’re in it for the money.”

“Except for the ones in it for blood and malice.”

My point,” Ivan growled warningly at the teen, “Is that a group this size won’t fish you out of the drink just to kill you later.  I’d bet my estate they aim to ransom anyone they can before anything else.”

“And they can ransom us?” the sign holder squeaked hopefully.

“-Actually, no,” Ivan conceded. “But as I’ve already told the captain, we can buy back our freedom, and they’ll need to send at least one of you ashore to collect that money from my associates,” he theorized, “And for that, they’ll need you both alive.”

“But your friends-” Lita began.

“They can take care of themselves,” he nodded confidently.  “Bob’s an ex-spy, Beak’s some big-shot Magi, Bobetta’s as blatantly gold-plated as they come, and Iiwi – Iiwi is legendary in some circles for her ability to escape the inescapable, and regardless of how bad she’s making her injury seem, she’s not as lame as she looks.  She won’t be able to fly very far, I’d imagine, but given the chance, she would be able to fly away.  As or the detectives - they can fend for themselves well enough.  There’s still a raft within swimming distance, if they can make it over the ship’s side…”

“And they’re not my friends,” he added, glaring reproachfully at the rabbit.

 

***************

 

Sounds came first – muffled and garbled, as if coming from underwater or a very long distance, but gradually drawing nearer, louder, clearer.  The smell of sweat, saltwater, wood smoke, and blood came next, borne on a light breeze that brought with it an acute awareness of the sun’s relentless heat beating down from above and radiating up from the wooden surface beneath him.  And then there was light.  Painfully bright, searing light that stabbed through the thin shield of his eyelids and into a visual cortex that wanted nothing at all to do with the world right now, thankyouverymuch.  But scrunching his eyes shut tighter and flattening his ears back did nothing to stem the flow of sensory information – the barrage continued ever onward, whether he wanted it to or not.  And the newest arrival was a dull, throbbing pain just behind his eyes.

Squeaks awoke to a devil of a headache.

Experience told him there was almost certainly more to the damage toll than a mere brain-twisting migraine – injuries he’d feel later, when he did something brazenly foolish, such as attempting to sit up, or perhaps simply contemplating any sort of movement at all - but the headache was more than enough for now.  It reminded him that, last he could remember, he and Ferdia were being steadily overpowered by a blood-spattered horde of murderous thugs – which begged the question, just where were they now?  He slowly opened his eyes, wincing as the bright sunlight seemed to drill straight through his eyes and into his brain, making his head throb even more than seemed possible.

He was sprawled on his back on the deck of a ship – not Bobetta’s foundering yacht, which in all likelihood was resting on the ocean floor by now, but an older, larger wooden sailing vessel that most likely belonged to the aforementioned thugs.  Lax to begin what promised to be an arduous journey through pain by moving about too much, Squeaks tilted his head back, gazing across the salt-weathered wood of the deck in search of Ferdia and the others. 

A precursory scan of the immediate area found the rest of the Silver’s crew clustered nearby, somewhat worse for the wear but none sporting any really significant injury - aside from Iiwi, of course, who if nothing else seemed to have made it out of the battle in much the same condition as she had entered it.  Bob and Beak were standing guard over the trembling Bobetta and Gracie – as well as Ferdie, who was either still out cold from his initial blow to the head or had regained consciousness only to faint again in the face of their current predicament.  Ivan was standing off to the side a bit, hovering protectively over his wards while trying his best not to look like he was hovering protectively over his wards, who were making use of a small patch of shade thrown onto the deck by the tall sails overhead.  Iiwi wasn’t much farther off, squawking indignantly at a rat that had her in a full-body hold and doing her best to twist and flail and maneuver her way over to the rigging or ship’s rail or anything else that might give her talons enough purchase to gain the leverage necessary to pitch her captor over her shoulders and send him flying. 

Ferdia was nowhere in sight, but a growing awareness of an unfamiliar weight on his chest soon solved the question of her whereabouts: the bluebird lay thrown atop him, curled on her side and half-draped across him in a manner that under difference circumstances might have been strangely comforting.

But their present situation left no time for idle speculation.  He turned his head, trying to get an idea of how badly injured they had emerged from the battle on the yacht.  They looked, he decided after a few moments’ perusal, as if they had been caught in amidst an explosives-laden train wreck at the end of a particularly long and punishing shift: battered and bruised, him with a host of new gashes his arms and tears in the thin membranes of his ears, her minus a few patches of down and the better part of half her tail feathers, their uniforms so torn and bloody it was nearly impossible to tell the garments’ original style and color.  His sides ached with the sharp, insistent throb of several bruised – or possibly cracked – ribs, but otherwise there seemed to be no obviously broken bones between them; with a little bit of luck, most of the blood staining their clothes and drying in their fur and feathers belonged to their attackers, not each other.  And while Ferdia still wasn’t moving, he could feel the steady rhythm of her breathing, which was reassuring enough for the moment.

So.  Captured, then.  But why?  For what purpose had a horde so seemingly intent on ushering them on to the next life ceased their attack and brought them aboard as survivors?

Against his better judgment, Squeaks slowly sat up, sending a low murmur racing through the thugs nearby as he pushed himself into a half-seated position propped up on his elbows – enough to get a better view of their surroundings, and arguably as far as he could rise without disturbing his slumbering partner.  He rubbed his temples with the heel of one hand, trying to will the headache away - or at least into a decidedly more low-grade migraine than its present form.  It worked to an extent, retreating into the background until it became part of a general, slow-burning ache throughout his entire body, a dull throbbing pain that cried out for aspirin or ibuprofin or any one of a dozen more powerful painkillers.  Even morphine would do, Squeaks decided, shaking his head clear and blinking as he willed the world back into focus, glancing around at the thugs lining the deck and surrounding him and his comrades as he did so. 

He scowled and glared at the world in general, feeling a small bit of satisfaction despite himself as the pirates around him shifted nervously and edged away a bit.  Good.  At least he and Ferdia had put up enough of a fight earlier to command some sort of respect – or, at the very least, a healthy level of wariness – now.  Or perhaps, his mind chided, they simply know the story of the wounded tiger being far more dangerous than the healthy one.

Ferdia stirred amidst the wave of uneasy chatter rippling through the ranks, causing even more nervous skittering amongst the pirates nearest them.  One or two actually ducked back into the crowd, finding excuses to move to another part of the ship as the bluebird awoke with a groan, blinking the world into focus much as he had.

 

***************

 

Rats.  Wharf rats, prairie rats, water rats, wood rats, tube rats - well, all right, the suits that hosted the annual Sensitivity Training course preferred the term “ferrets” for that bunch, but she wasn’t feeling charitably P.C. right now - you name it, this crew had it.  As well as shrews, mongoose – or was it mongeese?, she wondered briefly - otters, a variety of sooty gulls, and a sandpiper or two.  All caked with dirt and grime and dried gore and stinking like a garbage barge left out in the sun too long, all the sort of scum that had probably been born looking mean and nasty and generally unfriendly, and all surrounding them.

She didn’t remember losing.  Oh, sure, she remembered running out of ammo at some point in the endless onslaught of enemy fighters, and she remembered Squeaks running into the same problem moments later, joining her in the now hand-to-heavily-armed-filth-encrusted-hand brawl.  And she remembered the number of brawlers swelling beyond her line of sight, to the point where she’d stopped focusing on targets simply because she couldn’t miss connecting with an attacker, regardless of where she aimed a punch or kick, the press of bodies rapidly degenerating the fight into something more along the lines of an angry shoving-match-come-knife-fight in a mosh pit, but that was all she remembered.   Gingerly, she sat up, raising her hand to a nasty bump the size of a golf ball throbbing tenderly at the base of her skull - the only ready evidence she had as to the means of her defeat.  Although it hardly looked like it mattered now.

She shifted her hip, testing to see if her gun was still tucked in the waistband.  No such luck – but no surprise, either.  She imagined their pockets had been picked clean as part of the spoils of war, not that either Squeaks or herself had been carrying much beyond their sidearms and badges – though she cringed at the thought of breaking the news to the Chief if said items now rested at the bottom of the ocean.  The paperwork alone would keep the two of them on desk duty for a month.

Of course, that was assuming they ever made it back to the precinct house.

That thought brought a sudden shudder racing unbidden up her spine, and she quickly pushed it and all others like it from her mind.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, she chided herself.  If they were going to kill us, we’d be dead already.  We’re not, so that means there’s still a chance we can make it off this ship alive.

            Yes, agreed her inner pessimist.  It’s a short piece of wood we like to call a plank.

            Shut up, she instructed the tiny voice of doom. 

Scanning the crowd of pirates again, she caught sight of a tall, muscular marten standing off to the side of the rear deck, thoughtfully scanning the clustered captives with an air of authority.  His fur was grizzled and graying, and his face bore a long white scar that traced a path from his right ear to his left jaw and included a milky grey eye she felt certain could no longer see but that tracked with its mate all the same.  The tip of his left ring finger ended in a gnarled scar just below where the third finger joint should have been, and his mangled, misshapen tail seemed to be missing a good chunk of meat near its base.  He wore a long, faded coat of a style she recognized from stories but could not name, and while both it and his breeches were quite worn - even threadbare in places - at least they were clean.  The coat itself was a strange blend of hues that seemed to indicate it had started out a deep blue, but had seen so much blood it took on a permanent maroonish tint, and despite its length, it failed to mask the fact that when the marten moved, it was with a pronounced limp.

To Ferdia, he looked like something off the cover of a book of old sea shanties.  This would be their leader, she supposed.  The quintessential pirate captain, as it were. Good.  She needed to yell at someone.

She’d just opened her beak to greet him with a decidedly loud barrage of pleasantries that would challenge even the most jaded sailor’s opinion of his vocabulary and doubtless send Lita scrambling in search of something with which to jot down notes on new words and phrases with which to scandalize her teachers and the world at large when Squeaks’ hand clamped it shut again.  She shot him a warning glare than attempted to translate a choice few of said phrases into ocular malice, but her gaze turned curious at the sight of her partner’s concerned expression.  Shaking his head in a barely-perceptible ‘no,’ he slowly withdrew his hand, but held her gaze.

“What?” she queried softly, glancing around.  What had she missed?

“I’d keep quiet if I were you,” he advised in a similarly hushed tone, “I don’t think they’ve figured you out yet.”

Now she was just confused.  “What?”

“Pause for a moment to take stock of just what’s going on here, and our situation in all of it,” he said by way of answer, nodding towards where Bobetta and Gracie were huddled just outside the reach of a press of jeering pirates.  “In particular, pay close attention to how the crew treats the two of them, versus how they act towards us.”

Ferdia frowned.  She didn’t see much worth noting, aside from the fact that the pirates nearest her and Squeaks gave them a wide berth. “They’re afraid of us, but not of them,” she shrugged, “So what?  We put up quite a fight; they didn’t.”  She jerked her head in the direction of Ivan and his wards, as well as Iiwi, all of which were being given a fair amount of space.  “It’s the same with Ivan and the others.  We’ve all shown them we can be dangerous, so for the most part they’re leaving us alone.”

He shook his head.  “While that is true, it’s not the main reason they’re hassling Bobetta and Ms. Hen.  Look again.  Only the two of them are being harassed.”

She did as her partner instructed, trying to see what he saw.  But while it was true that the pirates clustered closely around the heiress and her maid, occasionally reaching out to finger their hair or pull at their skirts amid their squeals and protests, just as many of them were laughing and jibing Bob and Beak as the kiwis angrily yelled and swatted the offending hands away.  It was a bit like watching a group of kindergartners, actually – boys with frogs chasing shrieking girls in princess dresses around the playground at recess while a few valiant souls ran to tell the teacher.  She cocked an eyebrow at Squeaks.  “I’m still not getting it.  I mean, so they’re teasing the girly girls – so what?  They’re easy targets in those frilly dresses, and they don’t fight back.  It’s juvenile, maybe, but I don’t see what it’s got to do with me.  They’re leaving me alone, same as Lita and Iiwi.  What exactly is it that I’m missing?”

Squeaks favored her with a long, unreadable look, one that seemed to indicate the mouse was highly skeptical that his partner couldn’t see what apparently seemed so obvious to him.  Still, Squeaks was usually so straightforward that his sudden shift to a series of subtle hints struck Ferdia as a deliberate attempt at making her feel dense.

Either that, or his warning concerned a subject he’d rather not breach. 

“Bear in mind how long these men have likely been out to sea, eh?” he prompted, “I doubt it’s anything quite so benign as simply picking on pretty girls in fancy dresses.” 

When Ferdia only frowned at his comment and tilted her head in a manner that indicated she was still waiting for an explanation that made sense, he sighed, shaking his head in resignation.  “They don’t know you’re female.”

Ferdia blinked.  Well, that would be another way of explaining the thugs’ behavior.  Her feathers ruffled in anger.  Not feminine enough for them, eh?  Too masculine in a pair of trousers and a jacket, was she?  Well, let’s just see how manly they felt after she’d kicked them in the-

Squeaks noticed her glowering.  “Don’t take it the wrong way, eh?  They don’t seem to have noticed Lita, either, and it actually works in our favor.”

Unplacated from what she saw as a grievous insult to her physique, his partner still looked as if she were about to launch a full-scale assault against every last pirate aboardship for their failure to immediately associate her with her correct gender.  “What about Iiwi?” she spat, her subconscious scrambling to poke a hole in his line of reasoning in the interest of self-preservation - after all, there were still a lot of pirates aboard the ship - “Judging by the shouts of ‘shut up, wench!’ and ‘lay off, ye harpy!’ they know she’s female.”

Squeaks shrugged, mentally grimacing at the inelegance of the gesture when combined with the simple truth of why the crew could care less about Iiwi. “Most of the crew’s mammalian.  A Flier’s nothing more than an oversized parrot to them.”  He raised his hands in a preemptory surrender to whatever angry comments that remark might provoke.  “Look, indignation aside, we’re at a significant disadvantage here.  We’re outnumbered, unarmed, and we can’t retreat to higher ground because there is no ground.  You and Lita are probably lucky they misidentified you.  Alerting them to their error would be putting yourself in even more danger than we’re already in.”

Ferdia considered his words for a moment.  The mouse was a trained soldier and tactician, after all, and he did tend to put far more thought into his actions than she did her own.  He was also the very embodiment of Egalitarianism, and so the odds were his warning stemmed from a genuine concern for her safety and not misplaced, outdated sense of chivalry…

“Squeaks, that is really touching,” she smiled, letting the comment hang in the air for a moment before her inner wiseass got the better of her.  “I’ll have to smack you for it later.”

 

***************

 

Bob was worried.  Not *too* worried – they were the Good Guys, after all, so there was no doubt in his heroic mind of minds that things would work out just fine in the end – but worried, nonetheless.  These pirate-y villains were rather mean looking, and despite the fact that he and Beak had been valiantly staving the fiends off for the past hour or so, their rescue fleet was nowhere in sight. Not that he wished to rush the rescue fleet and miss the climactic buildup of tension normally associated with the waiting for said fleet, but he was getting a little tired from all this staving. 

Oh, he didn’t doubt for a second that help was on the way, of course - after all, Good always triumphed over Evil in the end, regardless of how spectacularly Evil seemed to be doing up to that point.

But he did wish it would hurry.

 

***************

 

Well, the naval officers were awake.  And planning their escape already, Biggs saw.  That was quick; he himself fancied that, were he to suddenly find himself enjoying the hospitality of a brigand’s ship instead of drifting down to Davy Jones’ locker, a bit of gratitude would seem in order.  Not that he wouldn’t be planning an escape or mutiny from the instant his eyes snapped open, but at least he’d make a show of loyal servitude in the interim.  Mayhap it was a lingering influence from the native savages and imported criminal laborers the Colonies were overrun with, but the officers seemed intent on skipping right over peaceful overtures and simply picking up where the morning’s battle had left off.

With a weary sigh, he continued observing the pair from the rear deck, masked by the rest of the crew, but it soon became apparent that they had already spotted him and deduced his rank.  As had the Silver’s grey-feathered owner, who was openly glaring at him.  The two cabin boys stood behind him, steadily getting bolder – the small kiwi snapped at the crew nearest him, and the taller lad even went so far as to backhand a pirate that had tugged at his curiously long ears.  Such belligerence! Biggs thought to himself, frowning in disapproval.  But at least the rest of the captured crew was behaving as he’d expected, remaining oblivious to all but those pirates nearest them as they struggled to keep their womenfolk out of reach.

First things first, then.  The hostility radiating from the captured fighters was sowing seeds of doubt in his own mind – had his crew searched them thoroughly, or had a handful of the Silver’s curiously exotic weapons gone unnoticed?  The marten decided that wasn’t a question whose answer he cared to wait and gamble on.  Quite the contrary - if there was any chance at all they were armed, then there was no reason to give the officers time to reload.  Biggs made his way down to the middle deck and approached the pair with the imposing menace he could muster. 

The pair were on their feet the instant he moved.

“Now, now,” he barked, hastily waving his men back lest another battle break out.  He turned to the officers, giving them his most winning smile and spreading his hands in a gesture of good faith, “Ye two certainly put up a fight back there!  Speaks well o’ yer training, it do, but ye no doubt realize the fightin’ part be over wit’ now.  It’d only get ye killed, an’ I promised yer cap’n,” he nodded in Ivan’s direction, “we’d try’n avoid setch.”

The bluebird muttered something under his breath.  Biggs couldn’t make it out, but the pair’s stubborn glares were plain enough.  “Ye needn’t worry o’er yer mates; there’s nothing ye could do ter alter their fates now.  But I assure ye, we wouldn’ae bring a soul aboard just to pitch them off ag’in.  They be bound fer ransom or servitude, nothin’ more.” 

No response. 

“Enough pleasantries, then - I kin see ye can’t be bothered with setch.  Straight to business ‘tis.”

The cold stares continued, and Biggs found himself frowning again in response.  Aye, his accent was a bit of a thick one, but they need but ask and he had no doubts he could locate a crewman to converse with them in whatever tongue they preferred. 

“Ye *do* speak the King’s English, yes?” he ventured, changing tack in hopes a more banal topic might lower their guard.  This worked, to an extent: two curt nods answered him.  “Aye, I thet so.  I figure ye fer navy men, but yer colors are wrong for Britannia.  Colonials, per’aps?” 

The briefest of glances passed between the captured two before Biggs’ question was answered with the slightest nod from the bluebird. 

“You ought to’ve been able to tell that by our flags alone,” the lanky cabin boy hissed from across the deck as the glares from the officers continued.  Biggs ignored the boy; after all, the lad was worth his weight in cane on the sugar fields, and the moneyed captain of the late Silver seemed intent on buying their way to freedom.  Their fate – be it ransom or slavery, depending on whether the gray bird made good on his word – was already decided as far as Biggs was concerned, and thus the pirate captain had little interest in the trio, be they sharp-tongued or no.

For that matter, what were they even doing still abovedeck? he frowned.  Oversight, he decided.  But at least it was an oversight easily corrected.

“Twitch!” he bellowed, watching for the ripple in the crowd of pirates pressing in around the deck that always prefaced the bosun’s approach.  “Take thar three down below,” he ordered, indicating the Silver’s captain and two cabin boys.

“Try it an’ I’ll use your spine for floss!” the taller cabin boy snarled, tensing. 

Twitch took a hasty step back, throwing a nervous glance over his shoulder that sought his captain’s guidance.  Biggs sighed and turned back to the officers.  “Not much fer manners, are ye lot?” he prodded.

Still no response.  No, no manners at all, these Colonials.  Perhaps the Americas were simply unfit for something so civilized.  “Very well then - t’bizness it is.  I tender ye an offer to join my crew-”

“We reject your offer,” the mouse cut in.  Beside him, the bluebird nodded his assent.

“Ach, ye should at least take a moment t’consider it,” Biggs chided them.  But his suggestion was met with the same cold glares; it was obvious they’d made their decision long before he’d asked.  “So be it, then,” he sighed.  “I’m nae fool enough t’think the brig’ll hold ones as yerselves fer long, so if ye’ll nae join us peaceful-like, I’ve nae choice but t’put ye t’sea ag’in.  Bosun Nibbles!” he called to a scraggly hamster on the lower deck, “Fetch down a longboat!”

An assortment of grumbling met his command as his crew protested the order.  They’d prefer blood, no doubt, or at least a walking of the plank, but he’d given his word to the Silver’s captain and meant to keep it.  “Fetch a longboat, I said, or more’n thar two’ll be goin’ fer a row!” he spat.

He turned back to the naval officers as his crew hastened to prepare a longboat, ushering the pair down the deck more by subtle herding at sword-point than manhandling as another howl of protest met his ears – this time from the crew of the Silver.  “Ye’ll be given a flask o’ drinking water an’ a day’s rations,” he informed the pair, “Ye defended yer ship well; ye’ve earned that much.”

His crew clustered around them expectantly as they reached the portside edge alongside a break in the rail, pressing the two in a defensive stance.  Biggs imagined neither of them was too keen on getting run through or thrown overboard - still, this was the most action his crew had seen in weeks, and he was hardly about to stop the men from having this last bit o’ fun.  He’d given the officers their chance, after all, and he was taking a sizable gamble with his crew’s goodwill in seeing the terms of the Silver’s parlay through as it was.  The two took an instinctive step back as the massed crew crowded closer, and would have taken another, had their heels not met with the end of the deck.  The mouse steadied his mate as the bluebird failed out his arms for balance, and the cornered pair tried in vain to meet the attack – but last-minute bloodletting was not the charging crew’s objective.  They simply bull-charged the two, knocking them backwards off the side of the ship.

Biggs heard their startled cries as they tumbled over the edge – and the muted thuds as they landed in the longboat tethered in the water at the ship’s side.  His crew pressed against the side rail, peering over the edge and jeering at the officers’ surprised expressions.  Had they truly believed they were being thrown to the sharks?  Really, now.  If nothing else, Biggs was a man of honor – when he promised a man a longboat, he kept that promise.  Even made sure not to give them one with leaks or broken oars, most of the time.  Making his way to a clear patch of railing, he leaned over and tossed them their promised flask and rations.  “I wish ye a safe journey,” he bade them with a wave, cutting the lines tethering the longboat, “May the sea treat yer courage with kindness.”

 

***************

 

Okay.  Bob was really worried now.  Those Evil pirates had just thrown Ferdia and Squeaks overboard!  And now they were headed for him!  The forces of Good were in peril!

This called for drastic measures.  He shouted to Beak (over the sounds of Bobetta and Gracie’s shrieks) that perhaps the Magi might want to wake up Ferdie.  The tall kiwi looked rather unconvinced that this was a good idea, but what Beak failed to realize was that a screaming, panicking Ferdie was a brilliant diversionary tactic - the coward’s antics were often highly distracting.  Also, it put one more person between them and the pirates.  He debated letting Beak in on this piece of information, but decided against it in the end.  Beak would probably object to it on moral grounds.

Several pirates were gesturing his way and conferring with their captain – doubtless planning their next dastardly deed.  He couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but he didn’t like the way they kept glancing over at Bobetta and her maid.  Just the wench, then, one of the pirates entreated loudly, and Bob was even more certain they were plotting something unsavory.

A few feet away, Beak was busily slapping Ferdie in an effort to wake him up.  Now, Bob would have thought Magi had special mind-speaking ways of waking someone up, but perhaps Beak was conserving his energy.

            As Bob surveyed the area for more people to place in the line of fire – er, for more survivors of the pirates’ attack - he noticed Ivan shout something rather irate at the pirate captain as his wards took up fighting stances and glared menacingly at the pirates around them.  Hm.  Maybe Ivan could divert the vile fiends’ attention for a while…

 

***************

 

Ferdie woke up to the sound of someone screaming.

Now, normally, this would have been no big deal – had he been the one screaming.  Professional coward that he was, he never let little things like the possible absence of actual danger stop him from being prepared, so he often woke up screaming even if he hadn’t had a nightmare.  It would, after all, have been entirely unprofessional to awaken from a nightmare without screaming.  And there was always the chance that some maniac or what-have-you would be in his room, standing over him, ready to maim him in some way or another once he woke up.  The screaming might possibly startle said maniac, or at least make him feel appreciated.  But, we digress.

He quickly realized it was Bobetta and Gracie screaming – or, well, mostly Gracie, as Bobetta soon fell into a swoon again (perhaps it was the poofy dress and tightly-laced bodice she was in, but the heiress seemed to be doing quite a bit of swooning today…) - before he noticed Bobetta’s yacht had evidently undergone quite a growth spurt while he was unconscious, for it now sported three masts, dozens of sails, and a great deal of filthy men that could not possibly – under any situations at all, regardless of charitable intentions – be Bobetta’s servants.  It then occurred to him that Beak was still slapping him, so he took a minute to inform the Magi that he was fully awake now and if the kiwi hit him again, he would be forced to throw Beak overboard.  This had its desired effect, as it made Beak drop him and begin laughing heartily.  Feeling slighted, Ferdie took stock of their situation.

Hmm.  A horde of smelly pirates was striding rather menacingly towards him, and Bob and Beak were already busily forming a protective shield around Bobetta and Gracie that they would not let him join. Ivan was standing off to one side with his wards shouting Italian obscenities, and Iiwi was busily sharpening her talons on every living creature that came near her.  He couldn’t locate his sister and Squeaks; a few seconds of listening to Gracie’s screaming and a glance in the direction of the maid’s frantic gesturing clued him in to the fact that their primary offensive weapons had apparently been set adrift in a rowboat.

Well.  Surrounded by pirates on an enemy vessel in the middle of nowhere, with no weapons, no phone, and your two best fighters rapidly approaching a mile off the port bow.  Only one thing to do in a situation like that, he decided.

He promptly started screaming.

 

***************

 

Biggs turned his attention away from a strange, almost metallic-looking silver bird flying amidst the clouds high overhead when the screaming started anew.  The blue bird had apparently awoken and begun screaming again, which only led the women to scream more hysterically and point off to the longboat.  The bird was not simply screaming; he was shouting something at the longboat - though what, Biggs couldn’t quite hear, as the men before him were still insistently haggling over whether or not securing the wench in the crew’s quarters instead of the brig was a breach of parlay if they were “gentle” with her.  Ignoring his men – as well as the Silver’s gray captain, who could apparently hear the crew’s arguments better than he could and had several rather loud objections to it, Biggs focused on the clownishly-dressed bluebird.  The young man bore a strong resemblance to the avian naval officer, he realized.  A younger brother, perhaps?  That would certainly explain his consternation at the officers’ fate.

No matter.  Biggs ordered the bird knocked out again and thrown into the brig, on the grounds that it would muffle the fool’s shouts until such time as he annoyed his jailer into keelhauling him, and pushed past the increasingly irksome crewmen blocking his path, making his way over to the group huddled protectively around the women.  It was long since time to split them up. 

“Bosun Nibbles!” he bellowed to the hamster hovering uncertainly nearby, “Lock th’ lady in me cabin.  ‘tain’t much,” he said apologetically as Bobetta shrieked in protest, “But ‘tis th’ best me ship has t’offer.”  To Nibbles, he continued, in a tone that made plain his displeasure at having to repeat himself, “Take th’ rest o’ ‘em below – I don’t much care what becomes o’ th’ wench, but throw th’ men in th’ brig – an’ see to it that Flier’s wings’re clipped!”

Looking back on it, Biggs would swear what happened next had been part of a coordinated effort - some bizarre fighting strategy of the sort only the Colonies and desperate men seemed capable of concocting.  As his crew forced their captives apart, one of the men grabbed the wench from behind, snaking an arm around her waist.  With a shriek of horror and outrage, the hen whirled to face the man – taking a hold of the offending arm and throwing him across the deck as she did so. 

In the blink of an eye, the rest of the group sprang into action – the lanky cabin boy felled the pirates nearest him with savagely-thrust elbows and a whirling kick as the grey captain leapt at the pirate restraining the Flier, a knife suddenly in his hands as he knocked the man’s hold loose enough to free her wings, and she fluttered about madly as her former captor clamped an iron grip on her talons, terrified of the damage to his person should she break free of his hold.  As the Flier half-dragged the luckless man across the deck, the tall brown bird drew his sword once more – Biggs had no time to wonder how it was the weapon was still in his possession – and that fine blade that shone like light itself began whirling and blurring overhead, cleaving his pirates’ blades - and even pistols - in twain like a hot knife through butter.  The pirates rallied to meet the attack, charging those in the group that were still unarmed – but the lanky mammalian youth dove into the fray like a man possessed, wrenching a mop free from a startled green parrot as he did so.  In the boy’s hands, said mop became more demonic a weapon than any of the swords and cruelly-fashioned nightmares Biggs’ men wielded, and the marten watched in growing horror as his crew faltered until the trio’s assault. 

The fight that had begun aboard the sinking Silver Princess had resumed on the decks of the Bloody Mary - and this time, the confusion sprawled a much larger scale than the fragile Silver’s small gangway.

Backing away from the pandemonium, Biggs heard a shriek as he trod on the lace hem – and delicate foot – of the lady, and as she fell to the deck, clutching her ankle, he saw naught but a swiftly-moving yellow blur.  The yellow bird plowed into him like a springing tiger, unbalancing the marten and knocking the wind out of him.  Biggs found himself teetering precariously at the very break in the portside railing where his crew had sent the naval officers over the side, and flailed desperately in an attempt to regain his footing – but all in vain.  He felt himself topple off the edge, and had just enough time to level his pistol at the kiwi catching his balance at the edge of the railing and squeeze off a shot before he slammed into the cold water with a large splash and the world went black. 

 

***************

 

Booting the nearest pirate away, Beak took a minute to look around for Bob.  It had been a while since he’d fought so many tough opponents, and the day’s battles were quite invigorating.  However, Bob was his friend, and he felt he should make sure the kiwi was all right.  Beak himself had already had several close calls after venturing just a bit too close to Lita’s whirling maelstrom of death and mop-water...

Suddenly a shot rang out – and Bobetta screamed.  Rushing in the direction of the sounds, Beak found Bob lying unconscious on the deck near Bobetta, a bullet wound grazing his temple. 

Beak made a decision then – this battle was over.  He sent out the mental command immediately, yelling it in MindSpeak to every last pirate.  Seizing control of their tiny, under-stimulated criminal brains, he inserted the instruction that Beak Must Be Obeyed; seconds later, the fighting ground to a halt as pirates froze in the act of attacking, looked about themselves in confusion, and turned to look at the Magi for instruction.  All but a few individuals complied with the command.   Ivan and his wards – and, surprisingly, Gracie, who had taken to wielding her stiletto heels like a pair of Japanese Sai when a pair of grungy pirates had blundered into her and messed up her hair – quickly dispatched the remainder, until the only pirate still fighting was the one clinging desperately to Iiwi.  Evidently said pirate’s mind was strong enough to reject the call to peace in favor of the will to live (or at least the desire to not be horribly maimed), for he could not be pried off the Flier.  Iiwi took advantage of this dedication by flying up and down the stairs separating the upper and lower poop decks.

Satisfied that no attacks would be coming soon, Beak turned back to Bob, slowly prodding the wounded kiwi back into consciousness.  The bullet that had grazed his temple had left a rather nasty gash just above one eye, and Beak moved the kiwi’s fake eye-patch over that eye to keep the blood out of it until the wound stopped bleeding.

 

***************

 

“Bob?” a voice called.  “Are you okay?  Bob?”

Bob.  Yes.  That was him, wasn’t it?  He supposed he should get up and answer whoever it was that was calling him.  Just to tell them to shut up and get him something for this headache…

Ah.  There.  A tall brown kiwi in pirate gear and twin eye patches - the right one flipped up on his forehead - and about 10 pounds of polished silver chains draped around his neck.  Beak, his mind supplied.  This is Beak.  Beak is your friend.  He’s a bit of a stupid kiwi, and he’s obsessed with bananas, but at least he can fight, which is more than, say, Ferdie can do.

He glanced around, taking stock of his situation.  He was on the middle ‘poop’ deck of a huge, three-masted ship.  Pirates milled around everywhere, looking to him and to Beak for some indication of what exactly it was they should be doing.  Halfway up the mizzenmast, fifty feet above the deck, his arms and legs wrapped around the mast in a fashion that reminded the kiwi of a frightened bear cub, was Ferdie.  The bluebird appeared to be meekly mentioning that things looked all clear from up there, but he didn’t think he could get down without getting a tail-full of splinters, and could someone maybe lend him a hand?  On the wooden floor of the deck not far from him and Beak, the beautiful lady, Bobetta, wept, clutching at her foot while a scantily-clad wench – Gracie? Yes, that was her name – tried to calm her down.  Further down the deck, a red bird – Iiwi – kicked at a pirate that refused to let her go, while a gray kiwi, Ivan, ordered his wards to turn the ship around and prepare a longboat.  These were the only people that were not dressed in pirate gear, which made sense, of course - obviously, they were not pirates.

He looked down at his own pirate clothing, dusting it off as he stood and adjusted his eye patch.  He took a minute to collect his thoughts before coming to a startling conclusion: he had none. 

He could not remember what had happened, or what it was he had been doing, or even what it was he generally did.  He felt an acutely strong desire for freshly-brewed coffee, and was aware that he personally knew everyone his mind had named.  These were obviously the important people.  Beak was his friend.  Ferdie worked for him, doing bookkeeping and research and other vaguely important things that did not require a spine.  Iiwi helped them out, when it suited her.  Ivan was his arch-nemesis, his biggest enemy.  And Bobetta was his one and only true love.

Okay.  First thing’s first.  One: Bobetta appeared to be injured, most likely by some fiendish scoundrel.  Two: Ivan was a very fiendish scoundrel.  Three: Ivan and Iiwi were trying to get off the ship.  Four: the ship was a pirate ship, and he himself was obviously a pirate.  He had the clothes, the eye patch, the peg leg, and some green feathers on his vest that suggested that, until recently, he had also had a parrot. 

This led Bob’s great if muddled detective brain to two conclusions.  One: since his and Beak’s clothes weren’t as badly torn and faded as the rest of the pirates’ (with the exception of Ferdie, but he didn’t really count since he was obviously a pirate librarian or accountant or something), they must be the two ranking officers on this ship.  Which could only mean he was the captain.   Two: since Ivan and Iiwi were obviously trying to get off his ship, they must be escaping.  And since Ivan was his enemy and had evidently harmed Bobetta, possibly in an attempt to steal her away, this was a thing that must be stopped.

Fiend!” Bob yelled, leveling an accusing finger at Ivan, “Men!  Seize them and toss them into the brig!”

The pirates, who really had nothing better to do, moved to obey, seizing the suddenly irate Ivan and his sign holder and Lita, though a good number of them got clubbed upside their heads before a seven-foot-tall hulking lout of a beaver hauled the rabbit up by the stick she was flailing around and a handful of others grabbed her feet.  As an afterthought, Bob ordered a handful of pirates to help get Ferdie down from the mast.  He left Iiwi alone for now; the pirate holding her looked like he had things pretty much under control.  Very clever of the man to wedge himself between stairs like that.  Bob couldn’t imagine such a thing didn’t hurt terribly, though.  He made a mental note to make sure that pirate was given an extra piece of silver at the end of the day.

 

***************

 

Bob was acting strangely, Beak noted.  He seemed confused, and that was confusing, because it was usually Beak that was confused.  But Bob behaved as if he had just walked in on the battle and was trying to figure out who people were and what they were doing and what should be done about it.  Beak supposed that must be something that his friend’s injury was causing.  Still, why seize Ivan, he asked.

“Because he is my enemy!”

It occurred to Beak that, in Bob’s confusion, he might be forgetting some things, like the fact that it was the Bloody Mary’s captain that had shot him, not Ivan.  It was an easy mistake to make, as Ivan often carried guns, but it seemed important to correct Bob on this.

Bob looked thoughtful.  “Was it an attempted mutiny?” he asked.

“Mutiny?” Beak repeated.  “Oh, no.  His ship attacked us, so we were fighting.”

“Ah.  Yes, of course.  It only makes sense that the captain of one ship must fight the captain of the other ship.” 

Now Beak was confused.  Was this part of Bobetta’s birthday game?  He was a little unclear as to how these things were supposed to work.  Birthdays and birthday parties he understood.  Themed birthday expeditions, however, were something new.  Bob had explained earlier in the day - several times, in fact - that they were going to pretend to be pirates at Bobetta’s birthday party.  This had confused Beak – pirates were supposed to be bad – but Bob had said it was all okay because it was all pretend.  Now, the attack on the yacht had seemed pretty real to Beak – but, he supposed, so did a lot of movie scenes, and he was vaguely aware of the fact that Bobetta had enough money to hire movie people if she wanted to, so maybe it was like that.  If it was, he was really going to need to apologize to some of the pirate actors.  He hoped he hadn’t maimed anyone too permanently….

The whole thing made no sense to Beak.  But a lot of things didn’t make sense to Beak, and anyway, the whole themed birthday party thing had made sense to Bob, so Bob was of course right.  So if Bob said they were pirates, then they were pirates.  He’d just keep control of the pirate actors’ minds right now, so they wouldn’t do anything that would surprise him and cause him to hurt any of them further.  He didn’t want Bobetta to get sued or anything.

Wait.  If he controlled the other pirates, didn’t that make him captain?

“I thought I was captain,” he said.

Bob cocked his head to the side, frowning.  “No, I’m pretty sure I am.”

“I was captain before you woke up,” Beak ventured.  Technically, he supposed.  Besides, Bob had a head injury, and might have to go lie down.  What fun would the party be then?  Beak himself was still in excellent health, so he could be captain longer.

“Well, not anymore.”

“Why not?” Beak protested.

“Because I’m the captain!” Bob yelled.

“But-”

“I have a peg leg!” Bob pointed out.

“Well, *I* have an eye patch!”

“So do I!”

“But I have TWO of them!” Beak boasted, pointing to the eye patch above his right eye.  It wasn’t down over his eye, but he supposed he could bring it down and be a blind captain if Bob insisted.  The Great BaNAna would guide him.

“Look, I’m obviously the captain,” Bob was beginning to get annoyed.  This was no time for his second in command to play games. “I even have a hook!”

“Oh, yeah?  Well, *I* have a cheese grater!” Beak retorted, proudly displaying the device mounted on his left hand.

Bob looked at the kitchen appliance incredulously.  “A cheese grater?!?  Whoever heard of a pirate captain with a cheese grater for a false hand?!?”

“I was running out of utensils!”

“Ha!” Bob exhorted, “That proves you’re a phony!  A true pirate captain has no need for such culinary devices.”

“But…well, would ‘culinary’ even be in his vocabulary?” Ferdie chimed in, finally freed from the mast.

Bob turned an interesting shade of infuriated red as his feathers puffed out angrily.  Do not question the ingenious means of the dread pirate- er…”  He paused, flushed face and fluffed feathers returning to their normal state as he puzzled over a mysterious gap in his memory.

“Bob?” Beak supplied helpfully. 

“Yes!  Exactly!  Do not question the ingenious schemes of the dread pirate Bob!” the yellow kiwi finished, posing dramatically.  “…Wait,” he frowned after a moment, “Shouldn’t I have a more…I don’t know, exciting…pirate name?”

Beak looked confused.  “You mean, like ‘Hootie Boot’ or ‘Captain Cute Feet’?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Bob snorted.  “More like Captain ‘Cutthroat’ Kiwi, something like that.  I’m certain you found choosing a moniker like ‘One-Eyed Beak’ or ‘Deadeye’ easily enough, but with someone of my unique skill set…”

            “But I’ve still got both of my-” Beak protested, halting as it became obvious that ‘Captain Kiwi’ wasn’t listening any more, evidently determined to remember whatever name it was he used to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers everywhere.  (Or possibly just into the hearts of non-pirates.)  Beak glanced uncertainly over at Ferdie, who merely shrugged and wandered off, engrossed in thoughts of his own.

Now Beak was *really* confused.  Controlling all those pirates was becoming a real strain on his brain, making it hard for him to think clearly - and abstract thinking never had been the Magi’s strong suit to begin with – but he couldn’t shake the feeling that Bob was acting decidedly un-Bob-like.  In fact, a glance at the deck below seemed to indicate his friend was acting downright mean to Ivan and Iiwi, but he supposed that was all part of Bobetta’s birthday game as well.

And if it was, then…well, maybe if he tried a bit harder, and used some stray piratey thoughts gleaned from the crew, he could play-act this “First Mate” bit.  He had to at least try, at any rate; otherwise, he might ruin Bobetta’s party, and he didn’t want to do that!

 

***************

 

Ferdie wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but he was willing bet his next paycheck Bob really did think he was a pirate captain.  It was the only thing that explained his actions since the battle. Bob *had* gotten a head injury during their brief battle aboard the ship, after all, and according to his sister, it wasn’t unusual for people with head injuries to sustain some form of amnesia or other.  Granted, it was usually more short-term memory loss than true amnesia, but he supposed cases like this weren’t unheard of.

However, try as he might, he couldn’t remember how you cured amnesia.  In movies, they whacked the amnesiac upside the head again, and that cured them, but that sounded ridiculous.  How could inflicting a second head injury clear up the problems caused by the first one?  That just wasn’t sound science.  He could vaguely remember some stories where they had psychics come in and use Ouija boards to reverse the effect.  He could also remember numerous accounts of it just wearing off as time went by and the concussion healed, and times where showing the person familiar places and photos jarred their memory.

And a few times where the person never got their memory back at all.

Well, until he figured out how to fix Bob’s amnesia, he was just going to have to play along.  Beak was obviously mind-controlling the pirates, so they were no real danger – but it also meant the Magi’s I.Q. was largely in use, and that much like a computer running out of memory, Beak would be about as intelligent as a potted plant for a while.  Ivan was obviously - and understandably - pissed, but it was only a matter of time before the gray kiwi freed himself from the brig, and Ferdie supposed he’d try to explain things to the Mafioso later.  Right now, he really needed to get Iiwi to go bring back his sister….

….before they lost track of her and Squeaks and that tiny boat forever.

 

***************

 

Iiwi was furious. Amnesiac Bob or not, this whole scenario was dangerously ridiculous!

Ivan had been dragged below, his two wards trailing behind the pirates, protesting loudly - and in Lita’s case, using language so coarse it had actually made a few of the pirates blush - and by the sounds that had followed, a fight had broken out.  The pirates had later returned, bloodied and bruised and rather reduced in number, and informed “Dread Pirate Bob” that Ivan and the others had been shut up in the brig.  They’d then asked what to do with Iiwi herself, and Bob had suggested putting her in the brig as well. 

Well, she’d had none of that!  There was no force on this earth that was going to get her down in that dark, dank little box, and nothing in creation that could manhandle her into an iron-barred cage on top of that.  She shrieked and kicked and clawed and made as much of a nuisance of herself as possible, which for a Flier capable of lifting grown men off the ground and dodging tightly around obstacles like masts and anchor winches and staircases was quite a serious nuisance indeed, wing injury be damned.  The pirate with a death-grip on her leg was joined by a second scurvy rat, and their combined weight kept her from escaping to the crow’s nest or some other out-of-reach perch, but the rest of the crew had gotten the general idea: they approached her at mortal peril. 

At that point, Bob had changed his orders to allow for simply shooting her.

Bobetta and Gracie had, surprisingly, come to her rescue there.  Good.  It was nice to see they had some sense between them.  However, while their panicked shrieks and flailing about had distracted the pirates for a time, they were quickly subdued.  It was obvious that Bob remembered Bobetta, but either he had no idea who Gracie was, or he simply didn’t care for her at all.  And Bobetta’s slapping him across the face hadn’t helped the “captain’s” mood any.  The satin-and-lace-swathed princess was currently tied to the mast, piteously pleading with Bob to untie her before she got rope-burns or sun-scorched.  Standing nervously nearby on the poop deck, Ferdie looked worried by this development - but he was too much of a coward to do anything about it, especially now that Bob had displayed a willingness to order people shot.  That would, after all, put the bluebird in danger, and he’d never do that unless he was already in danger.  Beak, for his part, looked wholly unconcerned about the whole thing, which she took as an indication that he had no inkling of the fact that Bob was no longer play-acting a part.  The Magi had apparently decided to go along with whatever Bob said, and Iiwi was fairly certain he was the one controlling the suddenly-obedient pirates, who had yet to object to their captain’s disappearance or Bob’s sudden authority.

In all the screaming and slapping, Bob seemed to have forgotten about her.  Shaking one of the two heavy louts free of her leg, she perched on the ship’s rail quietly, keeping an eye out for any pirates that took it into their heads to try to capture her, and began the process of forcibly prying her remaining captor’s fingers off her leg.  While this was proving more difficult than it ought to be – she half-wondered if he had locked up his tendons or had a wooden hand or something – it was something she could do while keeping a low profile.  And, if the antics up to now were the worst that was going to happen, she’d almost have been accepting of Bob’s behavior.  Furious, perhaps, but as long as no harm was coming to anyone – or at least not to her - she could have tolerated it long enough for them to have put in to port.  Then she would have beaten Bob and Beak and Ferdie senseless.

However, Bob had just ordered Gracie lashed to the bowsprit – the long, pointed lead at the front of the ship.  It seemed the Bloody Mary had no proper figurehead, and Bob aimed to fix that.  And as securing Gracie to the bow of the ship would be rather difficult on open sea, what with all the bobbing and pitching of the waves, the bowsprit would simply have to do.  This met with no objections from Beak or the crew, and while Ferdie did attempt – however timidly – to persuade Bob not to go through with it, the kiwi simply dismissed the bluebird with a wave of his hand, no one else seemed to mind at all.  Well, except for Gracie, who was screaming and kicking and had beaten the pirates with her stilettos so desperately that the heels had snapped off.

This.  Was.  Madness.

As she squawked her protests, however, Bob seemed to remember he had ordered her shot, and sicced a fresh set of pirates on her.  That was too much, really.  She could take this sort of thing from Ivan, or Ozzie, or any one of hundreds of villains and cheats and what-have-you whose paths she had crossed at one time or another, but not from Bob Kiwi.  Villains were supposed to backstab and double-cross and turn on you.  Heroes weren’t.  She felt betrayed.

She also felt incredibly angry.  Like hell he was going to shoot *her*!  She leapt into the air, beating her wings to gain some altitude.  The pain from her gunshot wound had lessened a bit once her wound had stopped bleeding, but while she ignored it as best she could, between it and the pirate still dangling from her leg, her leap over the rail got her about a meter over the side of the ship before she began plummeting.  Normally, this would have been a bad thing; however, her captor landed with a rather heavy crunch! on the railing.  In a rather sensitive area.  With a cry of agony, he released her, oozing back over the railing and curling into a whimpering ball.

Iiwi cupped her wings, turning her fall into a dive, snapping them open with a gasp a few feet from the ocean’s surface and speeding away from the ship.  A couple hundred feet out – sufficiently far away to be out of the pirates’ firing range, she wagered – she tilted her wings back, climbing along an updraft.  Powered flight was agony on her injured wing, but gliding would at least be sustainable for a while.  As she climbed, she cast a glance back at the ship.  Returning now was out of the question – they’d shoot her as soon as she was in range.  And she did not need another bullet lodged in her wing.  Gliding was hard enough as it was right now.  She’d just have to hope Beak and Ferdie could rein Bob in before he did any real damage to the group.

(Gracie the figurehead didn’t count, she decided.  Gracie was a stuck-up, over-endowed, flouncy little floozy, and anyway, as long as “Captain Bob” didn’t take it into his head to ram anything, she’d probably be just fine out there on the bowsprit…)

The updraft fizzled amidst this rather uncharitable turn of thought, and she leveled out, gliding away from the ship.  Where to go?  She couldn’t see land from here – they were way too far out to sea for that – and she’d gotten far too turned around in all the confusion.  Her own internal compass gave her a general sense of direction, but that didn’t help her much.  As far out as they were, and with her injured wing, she doubted she could make it to the mainland – or even far enough towards shore to be spotted and rescued by fishermen.  She circled slowly, debating what to do.  Fly to the ship and face certain death, or fly eastward to certain death?

Wait.  There was one other option.  Fast as she was, the schooner was still much slower than the yacht had been.  And she was fairly certain they’d been traveling southwest.  So….the wrecked Silver Princess ought to be a few hours’ flight northeast of her current position.

And a certain rowboat would be drifting along somewhere between her and it.

 

***************

 

Back to Chapter One! | Onwards to Chapter Three!

| Case Files Index |