“Heavily armed?” Dorathy stood up, her chocolate skin gleaming with excitement. She didn’t wait for an answer before she moved to her trunk, yanking it open and pulling out an eclectic collection of rifles and sharp blades.
“Oooh, very!” Tomas’s eyes shimmered. “It’ll be quite the fight!” He ran his hand over his collection of hats, finally coming to a stop on his favorite–a wide brimmed tri-corner hat, with a silver skull & cross bones pinned to the front. He pulled it free from the mass of felt and spun about to point it at his crew. “Gillingsworth, I need you in the Engine room on the double. Last time we got into a scrape the lateral rudders were like mud. Fix them up properly before we need them–you have three minutes.”
“Righto, sah!” the thick mutton chopped old man snapped off a clumsy salute, and hitched up his tool-laden belt with a clatter. “I’ll get the old gel whispering in a jiffy, what?”
“Vandergaard, you and Dorathy man the broadsides, and join in the fun once we’re overhead. Target the aft port section–we’ll take out their power and leave them sitting pretty for us!”
“Yeah, yeah,” drawled the thin black-haired boy, slipping behind Gillingsworth’s massive girth to reach his trunk. “Bloody tell me how to pull the trigger, next…” Dorathy winked at Tomas, and then frowned as she shouldering a massive harpoon gun on her broad shoulders.
“You sure you don’t need me in the first drop, sir?” she said, her voice tinted with concern. “Only it’s windy–those crosswinds can get pretty tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
“Oh stop being so coy, I don’t need a baby-sitter,” Lincoln picked himself up off the ground, groggily shaking his head. “I’ve signed on, haven’t I? Took the king’s sovereign and everything.”
“And if anyone gave a damn about the king, that might mean something,” Dorathy smirked. “I trust you enough to eat with you, Lincoln, but not enough to have you watch my back.”
“And that’s why I’m not manning the broadsides, yes Captain?” Lincoln smiled a lopsided smile, gripping the table for balance. “You want me where you can see me, and put a pellet between my eyes the second I show King’s Colors again. Well, I won’t. I’ve left the Navy for good, and no damned merchant vessel is going to have me singing God Save the King.”
“Take your medicine, Lincoln, you’re dropping with me,” Tomas smiled ruefully. Lincoln grimaced, and reached into his pocket for his hip flask as Tomas set his hat firmly on his head and headed for the door, only to be stopped by Mrs. Jennings.
“And did you tell them who we are going to be fighting?” she said, her voice as stern as a schoolmarm’s. The tense bustling of the crew-quarters subsided as Tomas’s crew turned to face her, alert and attentive. “It’s a German merchant vessel, headed for Cliffside.”
There was a pause as the information settled in the room. Then Lincoln spoke.
“Are they flying the Kaiser’s flag?” he took another swig from his hip-flask.
“Yes,” Mrs. Jennings smiled almost sweetly. “They fall under the Treaty of Brackenburg.”
“Didn’t think we were going to be declaring war on both Germany and Britannia today,” Gillingsworth muttered into his chins. Tomas turned to face his crew. They were all looking very concerned.
“Are we going to let some trumped up lackeys of a dottering old Kaiser get in between us and our haul?”
“No,” Dorathy set her harpoon gun on the table with a loud creak. “But their air-guns might.”
“To say nothing of their tempered steel ironsides,” Lincoln coughed, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “And all of Britain and Germany would be after us if we got away. I promise you–as dim a view as the English Navy has of pirates, the Germans aren’t quite as… measured in their retaliation.”
“You were going to lead us into a fight against a German merchant ship?” Vandergaard slid between Dorathy and Lincoln to stand facing his captain, hands on hips. “As though we were plundering a schooner?”
“We can take them!” Tomas protested.
“You’re damn right,” Vandergaard shouted. “But not aiming at the rear engines!”
Everyone looked at Vandergaard as a slow smile spread across his face.