A Word of Caution

Welcome to the realm of the Unseelie Court. Feel free to wander and browse, but know that the content you will find here is not for the faint of heart. The visions portrayed are often darkly erotic, even disturbing, and should be traversed only by those with the appropriate character and mental age.

You have been warned.


Chapter 7 – A Friend in Need

Molly was still adjusting her uniform as she stepped up to the quarterdeck. She stopped and bowed to Brill, who was standing at the top of the stairs with her hands on her hips.

“Amberly reporting back to duty, Sir.”

“Aye. Got lost on the way from the Captain’s quarters did you?”

She stood silently before the woman, seriously reconsidering using John as an excuse. And then she didn’t have to…

“You missed a button, Miss Amberly. I’m giving you leeway because of the circumstances, and the fact that you’re green, but take your pleasure with Professor Doherty on your own time, am I clear?”

At first, she was shocked and slightly angry at the Quartermaster for revealing their personal relationship. But then she realized that this was part of the deal. One of the reasons she and John were allowed to have their tryst was because it made the Professor “off limits” for the rest of the crew. But that only worked if the rest of the crew knew they were together… which they now did.

“Yes, sir. Won’t happen again, sir.”

“Very good. Resume your station. Miss Haven finished your work for you, so you can spend the rest of the watch practicing knots with her. I want you deck-ready by the end of the week, understood?!”

“Yes, SIR!”

Star could barely contain herself as they moved to the far end of the quarterdeck to some ropes that the other girl had set up.

“By the goddess… You get called to the Captain’s cabin, and come back having gotten your jolly’s off with the ship’s patron?? Damn, you don’t waste any time.”

Molly picked up a line. “Are you mad at me,” she asked softly.

“Mad? Are you serious?! Jealous maybe. I’ve seen the Professor. Half the girls on this ship have been trying to catch his eye, and the other half wish they had any chance at all.”

“So… you think he’s attractive?”

Star boggled at her. “Attractive?! Hell yes, he’s ‘attractive’… and also obviously well connected, probably a royal, adventurous, rich, and apparently a major stud, based on your detour from the Captain’s cabin.”

Again, Molly found herself blushing.

“Or… was he a disappointment in that area?”

“Oh no, not at all!”

Brill scowled at them briefly, and they continued their conversation a bit more covertly.

“So? Come on, Amberly. What’s not to like about this guy? Sure, he’s probably way above class for most the girls on the ship, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. He’s been on board since we made port in Jos Coat two weeks ago, and he’s been dodging advances the whole time. Some of the girls were starting to wonder if maybe he played the other side, you know? Or that maybe he wasn’t interested in sex at all…”

“I can attest that he is definitely interested… in sex… with women,” Molly interjected.

“… And then you come along and get him all bothered in less than forty-eight hours. Don’t get me wrong, but there might be a few disappointed girls with a grudge for a bit. And don’t be too sure that they’ll just give up… One quickie with the man doesn’t exactly stake a claim.”

Molly looked over, biting her lip.


“Um… I might have kinda had more than a quickie…”

Star looked at her, confused. “You weren’t gone that long, lass.”

“Yeah… but there was plenty of time last night.”

The other’s mouth fell open.

“When? Where?!”

“Just after First Watch. I was a real mess, so I stole a chance to use the showers. We sort of had the place to ourselves.”

The girl whistled. “I bet that was fun. Hey, I think that was about when Orey was doing me. Hell, we were probably getting happy at almost the exact same time.”

Something occurred to Molly and she had to know. “Hey, Star, do you wear anklets with little golden bells by any chance?”

Her friend looked surprised. “Yeah, I do. They used to belong to my mother, why?”

“I thought so. I think I might have inadvertently spied on you and… Orey was it?”

“Orey Childs. He’s my guy when either of us just need to blow off steam with a good no frills frolic. So… You were watching us, eh?”

“Just a little. There was a small opening in the curtain. I didn’t even know it was you until just now. I hope you’re not mad?”

“What? Why would I be mad? Really, Molly. You’re going to have to lose your prudish ways… and any sense of privacy you might have had, if you’re going to serve on the Mistress. This is a bawdy ol’ boat.”


“And… What did you think?” asked Star, smiling.

“About you and Orey?”

The other nodded.

“I only saw a little, like I said. Just a bit through the curtain… But you seemed to be enjoying yourself. If I might ask, do you do that… often?” She was considering how frequently she could manage to find time for John.

“As often as we are both off duty and not with someone else.”

“You have other men too?” asked Molly, a little shocked.

“Or women,” answered Star, with a grin. “I’m not picky when it comes to sex.”

Now it was Molly’s turn to boggle.

“What? The Mistress has a crew of one hundred and twenty-two… you make us twenty-three. Some are married, like Deb and Don Hanks, and others are too old, like Tom Pound, the ship’s carpenter. Of those that are left, why limit my options for a bedmate by half?”

“I… I guess I’ve just never considered it,” she admitted.

“Well, why would you when you have someone like said Professor to pound your porch. Aw hell, he’s probably got a real bed too, doesn’t he?”

“I honestly wouldn’t know.”

“Yeah, a hammock will do,” continued Star, closing her eyes, “but there’s nothing quite like a genuine mattress under your ass for a really good fu…”

“Sail ho!” came a voice above them.

“What have you got, Vinns?” called up Brill.

Sheila Vinns was high at the top of the main mast on a platform-like structure. She held an extendable glass as she scanned the sea. “Two points off the port bow, sir. Full masted… Modified frigate. Wait, she’s coming about… Dual cannon lines. Looks to be about twenty gun a-side. Showing blue colors… Sir, I think it’s the Pettifore!”

“Take your time, Sheila. Let’s be certain, shall we.”

“What’s going on,” asked Molly in a whisper.

“Ship on the horizon,” replied Star. “Sounds like another merchant, which is good.”

“Why is that?”

“Because the Mistress is still considered to be a pirate vessel. If that had been a Royal Navy warship we could have been in real trouble.”

“But it’s not… Right?”

“I don’t think so. Let’s listen.”

“There! On her bow!” continued Vinns. “That’s her alright. I can see the funky rigging they had to use when they damaged their bowsprit last winter. They still haven’t gotten that fixed? Cheap bastards…”

“Mind your tongue, rigger.” Brill took on a more serious tone. “Mr. Taylor, sound us to Still and reef the main royal. Bring the signal gun to ready. Miss Haven, please inform the Captain that the Pettifore is approximately five leagues out.”

“Aye, sir.” Star bowed and left the quarterdeck at once, leaving Molly feeling a little out of place. Everyone else suddenly seemed to have something to do. There was a shrill whistle from the man she only recently knew was the ship’s Sailing Master, and then a barrage of calls from the quarterdeck to the riggers. With an amazing clockwork efficiency, the crew manning the lines and cloth slowly changed the configuration of the sunsail sheets so that the topmost sail on the main mast was pulled to a smaller size against the wind. One change to just a single sail did little to slow their forward speed, so Molly assumed the new configuration had some other purpose.

Brill was giving more orders. “Gunner Zhang, pack a signal shot with full flare. I don’t want it lost in the morning sun. Danny, the Captain will probably want to meet and greet, so keep us aport of her until we’re ready to come to…”

“Belay that last,” said Abigail Pennylust as she marched up onto the quarterdeck. Behind her was John and finally Star. Her lover bowed briefly to her in acknowledgement, and she saw a slight smile cross his features.

“Something on your mind, Captain?” asked Brill.

Withdrawing her own glass, the woman peered over the ocean at the slowly approaching ship. “Maybe. Have they signaled in any way yet?”

“No, sir. I gave them a salute, but nothing has been returned so far. I was about to wake them up.”

“Let’s hold up a little longer. Mr. Taylor, go ahead and slow us to one third. I’m in no hurry to get within range just yet.”

Molly noticed that Star looked pale, even in the warm morning sunlight.

“You think it might be a ruse,” asked Brill outright.

“Scandy shouldn’t be here, Bee. Last we spoke, she was heading to Ringlet same as us. She had maybe three days lead out of Hornbe Cove at best, which means she couldn’t have reached Ringlet and started back, even if she had a solid tail wind and just stopped long enough to resupply and nothing else. Damn unlikely. So why is she headed North, outside of a shipping lane, limping along without lights?”

The Quartermaster looked startled. Borrowing the Captain’s glass, she scanned the oncoming ship.

“Damn… I didn’t even notice she was dark. Comes from livin’ a pirate’s life.”

“Mr. Greenly,” said Pennylust to the ship’s Boatswain. “Take us to general quarters, but do it quiet. No bells or drums, hands only.”

Molly turned to Star. “Are we in danger?” she asked in a whisper. “Isn’t general quarters what you do before battle?”

The woman was grim. “Yes it is. The Pettifore is the sister ship of the Queen’s Mistress. They’re almost identical by construction. She’s captained by Reece Scandy. She and Pennylust go way back.”

“So, they should be friendly?”

“Normally, yes. But something’s not right. The Pettifore shouldn’t be in these waters, and they’re running without lights… something that they should definitely still have this close to dawn.”

“We don’t have lights,” stated Molly.

“No, but we don’t want to get noticed.”

Molly could feel the ship waking under her. There were dull voices, a constant wash of footsteps, and the occasional thunk of something heavy being moved. When she realized that these were the cannons, she swallowed nervously.

Brill was leaning against the forward rail as she spoke to the Captain. “You think they’ve seen us?”

Pennylust turned and looked North.

“Maybe not. We’d be nearly windward to them, and the light would mask our sails against those morning clouds. Very hard to see.”

“We could make West and just let them pass before coming to true again.”

“That would take us maybe a day off course. It also assumes we’re undetected. Hmmm… Mr. Taylor, have they beat their return tack yet?”

“Not yet, Captain.”

“Okay, let’s give them a test. I’ll take a chance that it is Scandy, and that she’s on deck. Danny, we may need to return to full and change course at a moment’s notice. Have the crew standing by to come three points to starboard. I assume that we are just about at the end of the watch, Bee?”

“Not that we would change at general quarters, but yes.”

“Good, I want you to sound eleven bells.”

“Eleven, sir?”

“Eleven. No more, no less. Make ‘em loud. I’m hoping that they’ll carry in the wind clear to the Pettifore.”

“You want them to hear us?” asked John.

“I do. If it is Captain Scandy, then she knows how to respond. If it isn’t, and someone else has her ship…”

“Then we beat a hasty retreat and hope they aren’t up for a chase,” he finished for her as he understood.

“Pretty much. Let’s have those bells, Bee.”

The watch bell rang clear and loud over the calm sea eleven times. Everyone on the quarterdeck waited with growing apprehension. A minute passed, then two. Finally, the Captain broke the silence.

“Give them another eleven bells, Brill.”

“Another round, aye.”

There was second count on the watch bell, followed by another grim silence.

“Miss Vinns, has the Pettifore beat to normal tack yet?”

Her reply came a few seconds later.

“Negative, sir! She’s holding course.”

“She should have turned back by now,” said the Quartermaster.

“Yes, which means they’ve heard us.” The Captain looked skyward. “Keep a close eye on them, Miss Vinns. I want to know at once if they show any sign of changing course.”

“Aye, Captain!”

Molly leaned over to Star again. “Is it really possible that the other ship has been taken over?”

“Oh yeah. It’s actually a common tactic used by pirate ships to get close enough to another vessel for an attack.”

“But… isn’t our ship technically… you know.”

“A pirate vessel?”

“Well, yes.”

Star nodded. “According to the Royal Navy. But while pirates have a code, and general respect, they certainly aren’t above attacking each other. It just isn’t done very often because such ships are usually well armed and far more cautious than your typical merchant. But I think you’re missing the point…”

“Sorry, I’m a little new to all this.”

Star smiled at her. “That you are. What you haven’t considered is the more likely scenario that the Pettifore has been acquired by the Royal Navy itself, for the sole purpose of going after pirates. They commandeer a vessel, beef up it’s armament, and then set it out where a pirate is likely find her. They may even feign being disabled.”

“That stinks!”

“Yes it does. But the Pettifore is known to us. Captain Scandy would never willingly allow her vessel to be used as bait against us. If she responds correctly to the Captain, then we can trust her. If not, well then it looks like we’ll try to make a run for it.”

“Can we outrun them?”

Star shrugged her shoulder. “Not sure. They’re an even match, being sister ships. The Captain has the wind, but not position unless she wants to turn and head back toward land, which I’m certain she won’t. She would only have to stay ahead of them until the sun goes down. After that, in the dark, it’ll be impossible to track us.”

“They’ve raised a signal light, Captain!” called Vinns. “I… I think it’s an oil lamp.”

“Oil?” Molly heard the Captain mutter. “What are you about, Scandy? Is there variance, Sheila?”

“I’m… yes!… It’s a count, sir!”

“How many flashes?”

The rigger was slow to answer. “It’s pretty dim, and the wobble isn’t helping…”

Everyone was holding their breath.

“I need a count, Miss Vinns…”

Four! Four flashes, sir!”

The Captain visibly relaxed. “Fire the signal cannon, Mr. Zhang. Load as previously ordered.”

A few moments later there was an incredible boom that caused Molly to jump, as well as a flash of light that temporarily blinded her.

“Mr. Taylor, you may change course as needed to come along side her. Set us up for plank mooring… We’ll be having visitors.”



Captain Reese Scandy wasn’t what Molly expected, but then, neither was Abigail Pennylust. The very tall woman stepped aboard and threw her arms around their own captain. She had long hair that was set in dreadlocks and beads, and her “uniform” looked like something cobbled together from completely different walks of life. It had at least part of a frilly skirt, and what might have been a corset at one time, but there was also a tunic, pants, and a gold-buttoned jacket.

“By the gods, it’s good to see you, Abigail,” she said in greeting. “Permission to come aboard?”

“Granted, you old fool! Captain’s query?”

“I thought you might be a little cautious… We were only three days out of port when we had a bit of an accident. Seems you were right about replacing the Matrix. I should’ve taken your advice, but, well, no coin no care.”

“It failed?”

“Damn near blew a hole in the side of my ship. Sixteen crew injured, four dead, including my surgeon unfortunately. The blast also took out my entire electrical system. Shorted right to the lights.”

Captain Pennylust was lost in thought, her face grim. “That’s why you were running dark.”

“Aye. It was at least an Eightday to Ringlet with a broken ship, or two to four limping our way to Gar. Then I remembered that you were on your way to Ringlet yourself. I was headed for nearest land anyway, so I took a chance and skirted the shipping lane in the hope that we might cross. Seems I was right. I could use some help, Abi.”

“You have it.” She turned to Brill. “Have Dr. White report to the Pettifore boatswain at once, and coordinate with their quartermaster for repairs. Captain…” She held her out her arm that the other should proceed her. They started away when Pennylust stopped and turned.

“Miss Amberly, would you join us please.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, surprised, and followed behind the pair.

In the Captain’s cabin, the very first thing Pennylust did was offer her guest a drink, which the woman took with a grateful nod. Then, to her surprise, she handed a slightly smaller glass to Molly.

“Uh, thank you, sir,” she said, not quite sure of the etiquette in such matters.

Scandy knocked back her drink and set the glass on the Captain’s desk. “I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear those bells, Abi. I was below decks trying to figure out how much water reserve I had when Corus came down and told me that he thought he heard a buoy. I just about pissed myself getting above decks in time to hear a repeat. Spent the next few minutes cobbling together a makeshift signal light. I knew it had to be you.”

“We’ll see to your crew and repair needs. Water won’t be a problem if you need it.”

The other captain looked surprised. “You sure? I thought you were running barrels?”

Pennylust briefly glanced at Molly.

“Our distiller has been repaired.”

“Eh, how’d you afford that? Did you get lucky on the Pickard run or something?”

“Luck certainly was a part of it.” The Captain raised her glass in Molly’s direction. “Miss Amberly here is gifted in the Guild arts.”

The other’s mouth dropped open. “You’re a Tech?”

Suddenly, Molly was at a loss for words and looked to the Captain for guidance.

“It’s alright, Molly. Captain Scandy is an old friend. She can be trusted.”

Swallowing, she nodded and then turned to the tall woman. “It would be more accurate to say that I am ‘Guild trained’, Captain. I did not receive my cert before I left the Guild.”

“Left? Good lord, I bet there’s a story there.”

“Cert or not,” added Pennylust, “Miss Amberly is exceptionally qualified. Which brings me to a more delicate point… Molly, I would like to ask you a favor, but I want you understand that you are absolutely under no obligation to accept.”


“If you are willing, I would like you to take a look at the Pettifore’s Matrix…”

“Or what’s left of it,” interjected Captain Scandy.

“I want you to know that this request is outside the usual duties as a member of my crew. While it’s standard protocol to help out a ship in distress, that help does not normally extend to issues of such high value. Even if you could determine if any of it is salvageable or…”

Molly answered at once. “I’d be honored, Captain.”

“You don’t know what’s waiting for you, Lass,” added Scandy, her face looking a bit apologetic. “As much as I could use your services, Abigail is right. And I have no way to compensate you…”

Molly made sure she had the tall woman’s eyes. “I’m happy to help in any way I can, Captain. I’m far more interested in being able to put my skills to good use, than I am about their perceived value. The Guild doesn’t own me anymore, so I couldn’t care less about compensation. I go where the wind blows me, sir.”

“Oh, I like this one already,” replied Scandy turning back to Pennylust, who seemed to visibly relax.

“However,” continued Molly. “I’d be derelict in my duties if I did not mention that my services could come with a different kind of price.”

“Miss Amberly?” queried Pennylust as she sat upright again.

“Forgive me, Captain, but it’s important that she know.” She turned back to Scandy. “I did not leave the Guild on good terms, Captain, nor with their permission. I am, for lack of a better word, a ‘rogue’. They probably don’t know yet that I have been using my skills on my own without their blessing, but sooner or later they will find out. And when they do, they aren’t going to be happy that a vagabond student is breaking hundreds of years of business tradition by giving away her services for free. If they haven’t already done so, they will label me… and anyone I may have done business with… as enemies of the Guild. It is entirely possible that taking Tech help from me, could get you blacklisted by the Guild forever!”

There was an abrupt silence in the cramped room as both Captains stared at Molly, speechless. With nothing else to say, Molly noticed she was still holding the small shot glass of liquor. With a nervous sigh, she put the glass to her lips, swallowed the drink just as Captain Scandy had, and instantly regretted it. It was like swallowing liquid fire. Her eyes started watering at once, and she suddenly found she could hardly breathe.

Laughing aloud, the dreadlocked Captain leaned over and smacked her on the back a few times.

“Was that your first brandy, child?”

“Yes,” she choked.

Then both captains were laughing, and Molly managed a wry smile.

“As dramatic as the girl is, Reese, I do fear she is correct. Obviously, since I’m already an enemy of the crown, I have nothing to lose, but you…”

“Aye, I get it. But if there’s a chance she can restore even partial power to my ship, then I’d be happy to take on that risk, Abi. To be perfectly honest, I doubt I’ll break-even this year, even without Guild repairs, so it likely won’t matter my standing with them.”

“Reese, I’m sorry to hear that. What’ll you do?” The woman looked visibly upset.

Captain Scandy shrugged her shoulders. “Sell ‘er, I reckon. Don’t look so sad, it’s been a long time comin’. Most of the crew already knew we were on borrowed time. They’re bein’ good about it, but right now, I just want to get them safely to Gar.”

“Captain Scandy, sir… I’ll do everything I can to set you up right,” said Molly. “Don’t you worry, we’ll get your power back.”

The woman looked visibly touched. “You’re an optimistic girl, Miss Amberly. I like that. Do what you can, and I shall be very grateful.”

“As will I,” added Pennylust. “Talk to Mr. Corus. He’s Scandy’s Mate. He’ll set you up with what you need. Report as you are able.”

“Yes, sir.” Molly rose and started to leave, but stopped. “It was an honor to meet you, Captain.” She bowed.

Smiling, the other inclined her head. “The honor is mine.”



Quartermaster Corus led her down through the lower decks of the Pettifore. Even though the two ships were built at the same time and off the same blueprints, there were a great many differences that had nothing to do with construction. She found herself silently comparing the two captains, and had to stop herself. Every ship was unique. Different rules, different needs, different crew. Still, she couldn’t help but remember what Manny had said about the Mistress having a “real good bunch” in reference to their own crew.

“Watch yourself, Miss,” mentioned the man as they stepped through an area that had obviously been subject to a flash fire. There was a black soot covering most surfaces, and a smell like that of tar and charred wood. She was shocked at the amount of damage.

“The initial blast from the Matrix ignited an oil barrel,” he explained, seeing her face. “We were damn lucky the fire never reached the powder store or we’d have been blown to pieces.”

“It’s amazing that only four were killed. Oh, crap. I’m sorry…” Molly realized that she was speaking about four people the Quartermaster probably knew quite well.

He nodded. “It’s alright, it is amazing. Like I said, we were lucky. Here we are,” he added, as they stepped into the room that held the Matrix. Molly gasped.

“By the gods… I’d heard about what could happen if a Matrix shorted, and I’d even seen some pictures. But this…”

“Yeah, it’s a real mess. Hey, I realize that there’s probably not much you can do, but whatever you need, just let me know.”

“I’ll know more in a few minutes,” she replied, bringing her Nanaris into a work mode. She began by scanning the debris for possible salvage. “But one thing I know I’ll need right off is a new base and some supports. Do you have a carpenter?”

“Chief Como. I’ll send him down. Anything else?”

“A couple kilos of copper would be helpful if you have it. A lot of wire was vaporized in the blast…”

“I’ll see what I can do,” he bowed with a smile and disappeared.

Four hours later, Molly was taking a break. She had a mug of ale in one hand, and a sandwich in the other as she looked over her progress. Ben Como, the Pettifore Carpenter had done a fantastic job fashioning a replacement wooden support system for the new Matrix. The unit was smaller than their original, but it was a considerable upgrade in Tech over the old one, so it had nearly the same capacity. She was able to build it right out of the scraps, once she’d cleaned the whole area and gathered all the raw materials she could find. Corus kept a steady stream of materials coming when she requested them, and more than once he brought her items that technically fit her request for specific things, but were undoubtedly scavenged from the crew. She’d had to pause over an ornate golden pocket watch at one point, feeling terribly guilty at the prospect of destroying such a beautifully crafted thing, and honored at the same time that someone was willing to give it up for their ship. She settled on taking only the chain, instructing the Quartermaster to return the heirloom to its owner.

“If I hadn’t seen this room before…” said a voice at the doorway.

Molly stood quickly and bowed, somewhat awkwardly setting her lunch on a nearby barrel. “Captain Scandy, sir!”

“At ease, Miss Amberly, please. I can see I have interrupted your meal… By the goddess, Abigail said you could work miracles, but I had no idea. Is it safe to enter?”

Smiling, Molly hurriedly cleared a path for the woman. “Oh yes, in fact, I’m just wrapping things up. Most of this is just leftover from the new platform,” she replied, indicating the wood debris on the floor.

The captain entered and stepped carefully up to the new Matrix. “Is it… complete?” she asked, admiring the gleaming white and gold box that sat affixed to the platform.

“It is.”

“It’s so… small… compared to the old one, I mean.”

Molly ran her hands over the smooth surface. “Your previous Matrix was really out of date, sir. I’m a little surprised that it stayed functional as long as it did, to be honest. Unfortunately, the older models did not have the same safeguards against explosive discharge that the new ones do.”

“So, this one is… safer?”

“Oh yes! Quite. In fact, I think it could take just about anything short of a direct cannon hit. And don’t worry about the size. I couldn’t quite salvage enough materials to meet the same capacity as your old one, but this Matrix will get about ninety percent. That should be more than enough for your needs during normal operations. It’s also quite a bit more efficient than the old one, so it’ll make full use of your suncloth sails. However…” Molly was moving to the back of the room, where she squeezed past a support beam and found a large cable coming through a hole in the ceiling. The cable was connected to the new Matrix. With a twist and a yank, she pulled the connector free.

“I knew that it was important to get you up and running as soon as possible, so I had Quartermaster Brill run a power line from our Matrix to yours as soon as I had the emergency reserve cell functional. Unlike your old unit, this one has a small backup reserve for emergencies. While your suncloth was charging the smaller unit, I finished the main cell and did a dump from ours.” She was working her way back around to the captain again.

“It will still take a day or so to get you up to full charge, but…” She reached over and switched on a main breaker. Suddenly, the lights came on, and to Molly’s satisfaction, she heard cheers from within the hull around her. “Power restored, Captain.”

“Oh! Well done, Miss Amberly,” said the woman in awe. “Well done, indeed.” She reached out and gripped her by the shoulder, her face ecstatic.

“Hey, it worked! Congratulations, Molly!” said a cheerful bearded man from the doorway behind them. “Captain.”

“Mr. Como, I understand you had a hand in this as well.”

The carpenter set down a bucket of tools he was carrying. “Aw, well, I just did the stand.”

“He’s too modest, Captain. Mr. Como’s help was invaluable. But… Um, I’m afraid the news is not all good.” She glanced at the man.

“Uh oh. Well, let’s have it then,” said the Captain frowning.

The ship’s carpenter stepped over the mess on the floor so that he could get to the inside hull of the ship. “Mol… er, Miss Amberly, was doing something with that marvelous machine around her neck, looking for shrapnel buried in the wood of the walls, when she noticed some… irregularities.”

“I don’t like the sound of that. Go on.”

“Well, it would seem that the initial blast did more damage than we thought to the hull. Frankly, if the Matrix had been one deck up, above the water line, I’m sure the concussion would have ripped her wide open. As it was, the weight of the water on the other side absorbed some of the shock. Enough to keep us intact. I’ve done all I could to shore it up, but…”

“What’s the worst, Mr. Como,” asked the woman, sighing.

“As long as we don’t hit any rough weather, we should be okay for a full tack until we get to shore.”

“And then?”

“Two weeks in dry dock, Captain. I’m sorry.”

“Damn. Well, there’s nothing for it. You both have done all you can, and I am exceedingly grateful. Is there more to do here?”

“Just some cleanup, sir,” answered Molly.

The tall woman nodded. “Good. Then finish up and join us on deck. We’ll be starting the festivities soon, and you two have certainly earned your share. Carry on.”

When she was gone, Molly turned to the man. “Festivities?”

He smiled. “Well, since neither ship can go anywhere for a bit, it’s customary that the crews mingle and take advantage of the lull. No doubt there’ll be dancing, much drink, and probably some surprises from the galley. I know our crew could use some happiness. Probably the last we’ll see together.”

“I heard about the trouble the Pettifore’s been having. I’m sorry.”

He made a half smile. “Thanks, lass. It is what it is. Most of us have no hard feelings. It’s been a good run, and the Captain has been honest and fair. I’ve no complaints. But let’s take her advice and clear this mess. I think I hear music.”



« prev next »