Vasquez's ship, the El Tívu, arrived late at night and was brought to Tortuga by a gangly young man named Crabs. As Mariqah stood on the quarter-deck next to Crabs, she watched as Vasquez's men climbed aboard and took their positions. As she had suggested, the ship had been loaded with mortar fire and heavy shot for the cannons. They were ready.
Vasquez gave the order to weigh anchor and loose the sails, and the ship lurked through the water.
“Where to, ma'am?” Crabs asked.
“We need to make our way around Tortuga, to attack the fort that's made you pirates scarce,” Mariqah replied.
“Right you are. Does the Capt'n know this?” Crabs turned the wheel and the ship turned with it, cutting through the water like a knife.
“We discussed it, so he should do,” Mariqah replied, folding her arms.
“There's been talk of tension between you.”
Mariqah loosed her hair and let the strong gust of wind play with it. After a day of constant heat and thirst, she was relieved by the cool night air, “Aye. Though, I'm certain I'm not the first he's disagreed with.”
Vasquez called out a few more orders before stepping up to the helm and asking Crabs to call out the orders. Vasquez took the wheel and steered his ship.
“Crabs is your first-mate?” Mariqah asked.
Vasquez rolled his eyes, “Can you blame me for calling your questions stupid?”
Mariqah gave him a look, “Don't you have a helmsman?” when Vasquez shook his head in derision, Mariqah huffed, “Can't you just humour me for five minutes?”
“Humour you?” Vasquez laughed, “I find speaking to you at all, generous.”
Mariqah tied up her hair and folded her arms, “You can't even pretend to be nice.”
“Excuse my words, princesa, but being sentimental didn't get me places.”
“Probably would've got you a wife, though. Or at least a whore to kill your time with.”
Vasquez growled at her, “You're one to talk! Where has your sentimentality got you?”
“On a stinking ship, arguing with a pirate who absolutely refuses to co-operate in any matter whatsoever!”
Vasquez sighed, “Mariqah, have you ever once considered you are not the easiest person in the world to co-operate with?”
Mariqah furrowed her brows, pausing for thought.
A moment of actual conversation?
“What do you mean?” she asked.
A number of clicks sounded around them, along with the smooth shing of swords scraping out of their sheaths. Mariqah and Vasquez turned their attention to all the men standing around them, prepared to attack - swords ready, pistols cocked.
“Do you really hate me this much?” Mariqah asked Vasquez.
“Believe it or not, I didn't plan this,” Vasquez muttered and then yelled, “What is the meaning of this?”
Crabs stepped forward, “You should well know, Capt'n,” he sat on a crate and cleaned the pistol in his hands with a rag, “We're sick of you - your rules, your punishments, your lunacy. That pig-suckling brute, Commodore Eastwick, has been keeping you scared as a rabbit for weeks! And we're sick of waiting for you to come up with something stupid or insane or both to get us out of it. As for your woman, I'm sure she can hang about. That's the other thing: an island for pirates where we've rum to warm our bellies, but no women to warm our beds? Might as well be a fucking monastery.”
“Excuse me?” Mariqah said, fuming.
Crabs smiled at her, “Hush, love, the men are talking.”
Mariqah bared her teeth, pulled a gun from one of Vasquez's holsters and fired at Crabs. Her aim was off, however, so she only managed to catch him in the leg and he shouted when the pain registered. He stood up and hobbled towards her.
“That wasn't wise,” he said to Mariqah. She stared down at him, as if checking to see if he was serious, but Crabs grasped her hips, “Don't you know? Pirates don't kill each other.”
Mariqah drew her sword and sliced his throat in one sweep. Blood burbled from the straight slice in his neck and poured down his shirt. Crabs stared at her, choking on his own gore as he tried to speak.
“I'm not a pirate and I have no qualms in killing you,” she said, before he flopped to the ground.
The other men took aim, but another stepped forward and raised a hand. He was taller than Crabs and better built, but probably about the same age. His oily black hair fell in tangled curls upon his shoulders.
“Don't fire, we all hated him anyway,” he said, the indifference his voice thick as snot.
“Morgan,” Vasquez muttered, “I should have known.”
“I hate to admit it, Estaban,” Morgan said, spreading his arms, “but poor Billy Crabs was right, you are a poor captain and an even poorer leader.”
“And I suppose you think a fuck like you could do better?” Vasquez asked.
“Much better, Estaban,” Morgan laughed, “And if the lass won't join us, then I suppose she'll want to join you.”
“Don't speak on my behalf,” Mariqah warned.
“Oh, Ms de Saint-Omer, you're in no position to speak for yourself. As a gentleman, what else was I supposed to do?” Morgan strode up to her, his boots clipping on the boards, “Though I would love you to stay.”
“I think sitting on El Tívu's bowspint might have made your bum sore, Morgan,” Mariqah said, snapping her jaws at his fingers as they went to play with her hair.
Even Vasquez laughed at that.
Morgan curled his lip, “Fine,” he said, “Tie 'em up and stick 'em in the hold. We'll find an island that's nice and comfy for these two.”
The pirates circled around them and one grabbed Mariqah from behind to tie her up. When he was done, he was about to grope for her chest, when she smashed the back of her head into his face. The man howled and then howled again when she stomped on his foot.
Morgan rolled his eyes and said, “Don't feel-up a bitch that bites, you idiots.”
“You'll regret this day, bastardo,” Vasquez growled, as he was hustled away.
“Feel free to frighten me in my dreams from Davy Jones's locker, eh?” Morgan scoffed.
The man who had tied Mariqah up moaned about his nose and pushed her towards Morgan. He straightened and stroked her neck.
“A pity-” he began.
Mariqah stomped on his foot and kicked him down with the other. She didn't care that she lost balance and fell over - it was satisfying to hear him groan. The man behind her hoisted her up and pushed her towards the hold. Mariqah laughed.
“There's only one bitch that's coming to bite you, Morgan,” she said, as she was led down the hatch, “and her name's payback!”
Mariqah was thrown into the same cell as Vasquez and he moved away from her.
Mariqah sat up and looked around as the door was secured and the sailors went away. The wood was damp and the draft made it colder in here than in was on deck. Or perhaps she was imagining it?
“Any ideas now, princesa?” Vasquez asked.
“You say that like this mess is my fault,” Mariqah said.
Vasquez huffed and looked away from her.
“Vasquez, what is your problem?” Mariqah spat, “I don't like you, but I was on your side up there.”
“I'm not a hero.”
“And do I look like a saint to you? Don't turn this on me, this is your ship, your crew! You-”
“I know!” Vasquez snapped, “Just shut up and leave me alone.”
Mariqah stared at him, even after he turned away and pretended to fall asleep. She didn't know what to say, what to do.
Were there really enough words, anyway?
There was no way that she could work with Vasquez if he wouldn't give in at any point. Even faced with life and death, he barely did anything.
What was wrong with him?
And for that matter, what was so excruciatingly wrong with her that he could get his head out of his arse for a second to just listen to her.
“You don't even know me,” Mariqah muttered.