16. 9 - Extract from the Diary of Captain Thomas Rogue
“You left the cabin early,” Midnight said, walking up to me from the Captain's Cabin.
It was a shining sunny day today, as was the norm in the Caribbean, and Midnight's dark hair glistened in the sunshine. Her boots tmp-tmp-tmped the way to the wheel, where I was standing next to the helmsman who was hard at work.
“Well, this ship isn't sailin' herself, now, is she?” I asked her.
“When was the last time that poor man slept?” she asked, gesturing to the helmsman.
“Why do ye ask?” I replied.
“It's been a score o' hours, ma'am,” said the helmsman.
“It seems that's self-explanatory,” Midnight laughed, nodding to the helmsman and saying, “Go get some rest, Mr Smith, before you start swimming along the deck and walking across the ocean. I'll pilot the ship for poor old Captain Rogue here.”
“Thank ye,” said Mr Smith.
I chuckled, “When'd ye learn t'pilot a ship?”
“What's that supposed to mean?” she replied, “I learn just about anything I can.”
“But your distaste for sailors, your squeamishness for filth, your high-horsed disregard for grog?”
“You'd better brace yourself,” she muttered.
She pitched the wheel wildly to a side and main boom's length came and hit me in the face. I picked myself up, hissing between my teeth and holding my jaw.
“I have more talents than you have teeth, Thomas,” Midnight said, setting the ship back on a steady course, “Careful who you cross, captain.”
I heard the lads jeering - “What a woman you've found yourself!” and such - but I waived it away and shook my head.
“Ye've a taste for puttin' men in their place,” I said.
“Give me some sail!” she barked and then turned to me, “Where the hell is your first mate?”
“I think I'm lookin' at her.”
“Thomas, I'm serious.”
“I don't have one,” I admitted, “But you'd make a fine first mate. In all senses.”
“Don't get any funny ideas, 'ye scurvy sea-dog',” Midnight mocked, “I'm just doing a bit. No man should be up for twenty hours steering a goddamned boat.”
I smiled, “Mr Smith is a sloth. A lyin' sloth. He woke up not too long ago. After you, actually, ye just took forever t'get out o' the cabin... though, I can understand why,” I smirked when she nudged me with her elbow, “Admit it. Ye're enjoyin' yourself.”
“Thomas, you are five inches taller than you were before the Fountain of Youth - I will hit you with the main boom again.”
I raided a brow, “Ye know what it's called?”
“You know what a brain is, doesn't mean you know how to use it.”
“But ye do. Ye know what a main boom is and ye know how t'use it!” I laughed, “Ye want this gig.”
She closed her eyes and shook her head, “Thomas?”
“Ships and sailors aren't my forte. Yes, I know how to manage a ship from its bow to its rudder; and yes, I'm married to the most insanely irresponsible and possibly the most feared sailor in recent history - but it's all a very sore subject for me,” Midnight gave me a look, “I have no intention of doing this for a prolonged period of time. Can we just leave it at that?”
I held her gaze and nodded, “Fine,” I agreed and looked out to sea again, “So who taught you? About all this?”
“Some I learnt from my father - when he wasn't too pissed in drink to tell stories - others I learnt from the lads that joined me in Normandy. They taught me quite hands on, like a crash course. We were in dire straits - quite literally, and well - we were on a ship. That was a weird few weeks... It's surprising, how often naval officers get the sack. But I guess that's what happened to you, right?”
“Aye. Piracy was the only way to go for some of us.”
“The only way?”
I gave her a sour look, “Not all of us have a prestigious lineage, Midnight.”
“Right. Sorry, it's just... I didn't think you had anyone to return to. You know, in England.”
“I didn't,” I admitted, “Ye don't need a cause t'do the wrong thing. Some people justified it in their heads, but I was just livin' for meself. I liked makin' trouble and a huge mess I didn't need t'clean up, plunder rainin' from my pockets and rum t'drown all my worries.”
“By the score. Sometimes in one night.”
Midnight snorted, “That's a wonderful thought. Though, I suppose you could manage it, with a face like yours.”
“Oi,” I touched her arm, “All that is past now. This face - only for you.”
“I know,” Midnight smiled.
Midnight continued to steer the ship and we sailed in silence for a time - save her constant commandeering 'Hooks! Royals! Gallons! Studs!' - until the scout called from above.
“Ship sighted aft, captain! She's makin' ready to fire!”
Midnight and I shared a look and I took out my spyglass. Looking through it, I saw a great beast of a ship on the tide, lurking upon the sea like a predator - heading straight for us.
“Friends of yours?” Midnight asked.
“Oh, aye,” I replied, recognising the El Tívu even before I saw her Spanish flag, “Really, really old friends. We won't be happy t'see each other.”