Author’s note:- This is my sequel to ‘Strike Yer Colours’. It might help to understand the context better if you have read the previous story but it could stand-alone.
My deepest thanks to Lyn my beta, for her usual excellence and I hope you all enjoy!
By Lillian H.
The four officers were laughingly jovially as they finished a relaxing meal together in the fashionable downtown restaurant. From across the room someone familiar to them all studied the group intently before determinedly weaving her way through the other tables to approach them.
“Admiral Nelson, I must talk to you!”
Harriman Nelson stiffened as he recognised the strident female voice and he turned only slightly to observe the visitor. “Miss Warrender, you have been told by my secretary that I have no wish to be interviewed by you again and that should be an end to it.” He waved his hand dismissively and turned back to his fellow officers.
Sophie Warrender came forward and stepped up to the table on its one step rise, reaching out to grip Nelson by the sleeve. “I don’t want an interview! I want you to help me get rid of him!” she shouted angrily.
Lee Crane and Chip Morton stood up and came to stand on either side of her as she concentrated on the Admiral.
“Miss Warrender, I think you should leave now.” Lee said quietly, conscious of the curious attention they attracted from the other diners.
She straightened up and flashed angry eyes at him. “Ohhh, I’m not leaving, Captain! Not until you,” she waved her hand around the group, “all of YOU… help me get rid of this damned pirate!”
Lee and Chip glanced at each other in surprise and then looked towards the still seated Doctor Jamieson and Admiral Nelson.
Nelson turned to Sophie Warrender and frowned. “Pirate?”
“Yes! PIRATE!” Sophie cried in frustration. “He’s been haunting me for the last
three months! He’s driving me crazy! You’ve got to do something. You owe me that much!”
A new figure approached the table apprehensively. “Admiral Nelson? Ahem…is everything all right, sir?” For a moment no one acknowledged the presence of the restaurant owner. “Admiral? Should I have this… person ejected?” He looked at Sophie with disdain. Not only was she making a nuisance in his restaurant but she also looked decidedly dishevelled and unkempt.
Harry heard his enquiry and turned to him distractedly. “No… em... could you arrange some coffee for us Marcel and give us moment or two?”
Marcel Pinchant looked momentarily surprised but being the excellent restaurateur that he was he merely inclined his head and turned to instruct the nearest waiter to bring the coffee.
“Chip, would you please offer Miss Warrender your seat?” Nelson requested of his first officer. Turning to Sophie, he indicated the vacant chair. “You’d better sit down and explain yourself, young lady.”
Sophie almost collapsed into the chair, her head bowed. “Thank you, Admiral, thank you,” she breathed tearfully.
Jamie, who was sitting next to the obviously distraught young woman, asked gently. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
Sophie looked up at him, but she was forestalled in her answer as Marcel and the headwaiter returned with coffee and set about serving everyone. The maitre d’ also arranged another chair for Chip, and when he saw all was satisfactory Marcel waved the waiter away, inclined his head to Admiral Nelson and withdrew.
Seated around one of the five tables on the small dais of the luxurious dining room, the four men and one woman sat silently as the subdued murmur of the other guests in the room continued again. Sophie reached out a shaking hand towards the cup of coffee before her but Will Jamieson took hold of it and held it to her lips as she took a long drink.
The caffeine steadied her and she smiled gratefully at him. “Thank you.”
Will, smiled back sympathetically and replaced the cup.
While Jamie paid attention to their uninvited guest, Nelson glanced at his other friends as they watched her and then back to the distressed reporter. He saw what they must. Her once well-groomed appearance was tousled and ruffled. She had lost some weight and her once fashionable hairstyle had grown out and Harry thought she looked better for the shoulder length, rich brown hair. However she also looked tired and nervous almost agitated.
He remembered so well his first contact with the overly confident, ambitious young woman.
Her late night radio show on unexplained psychic phenomena had exposed the mission that had encountered the two hundred year old ghost of Captain Edward Teach; commonly know as Blackbeard the Pirate, to public scrutiny. Her relentless pursuit of the story details had led Nelson to devise an audacious plan, to give her the interviews she craved but to present them to her in a manner that had her believing she had been tricked. He hoped that would stop her delving any further into the matter. Until now he thought they had succeeded.
“Alright, Miss Warrender, I’m listening.” Harry nodded towards her.
“Admiral, I think we should take Miss Warrender to Med Centre where I can….”
“NO! No… I must talk to you now. It can’t wait… I can’t wait!He’s driving me mad!” Sophie interrupted the doctor urgently.
“Who? Who is bothering you?” Harry demanded.
“Him of course!” When she saw Nelson’s mistrust, she glanced at each of the other officers.
Dr. Jamieson was obviously concerned for her condition and sat on the edge of his chair near her, ready to offer his help. Captain Crane was seated across the table, and he frowned as he leant forward, both of his hands joined in front of him on the table as he studied her intently. Chip Morton sat tensely to the other side of her, one arm resting over the back of his chair while the fingers of the other idly stroked the pristine tablecloth. He narrowed his gaze suspiciously as he concentrated on her then lifted one sceptical eyebrow when she looked at him.
“Him? Are you seriously suggesting that Blackbeard… is haunting you, Miss Warrender?”
“Who else? He’s been with me since I left Seaview three months ago.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I can’t sleep, I can’t think…. He never leaves me alone!.” Sophie gripped the edge of the table, looking directly into Harry’s eyes and begged, “You have to help me, Nelson. This is all your fault. He….” Suddenly she stopped.
“Aha, so you found him at last, me beauty! Good to see ye again, Admiral Nelson, ‘tho tis a pleasure I doubt ye’ll be enjoying. The shame of it is, ye can’t see nor hear me yet, more’s the pity but ye will, ye will!”
Sophie groaned as she heard the now familiar merciless voice. “Go away, just go away! Why can’t you leave me alone? Go haunt someone else!” She lowered her head and covered her ears with her hands.
The officers were surprised at her unexpected outburst and looked futilely around for any sign of the piratical ghost.
“You must be desperate if you expect us to believe this little performance! What game are you playing this time, Ms. Warrender?” Suspicion clearly echoed in Lee’s comment.
“Oh, tis no game, Captain. Deadly serious I am. Now wench, tell Nelson I wants to go back to me ship and crew. That he’s to return me now or I’ll wreak my revenge on ye all till the end of time!”
“Miss Warrender….” Nelson stopped speaking abruptly when Sophie leapt to her feet and swayed.
“No! No more. I can’t take anymore….” Her voice faded as she slowly crumpled and was hastily caught by Chip and Will on either side of her.
Aware of the scene they were causing and the approach of Marcel Pinchant again, Admiral Nelson turned to Chip and growled. “Well, pick the lady up, Mr. Morton, and let’s get out of here!”
Jamie tucked the slim wrist of his sleeping patient back beneath the blanket and turned to face the onlookers gathered in the private room. Waving his hand, he indicated for them to follow him outside.
“Well doctor, what’s wrong with her?” Harry asked with impatience after they were gathered in the hallway.
Nearly two hours had elapsed since Sophie Warrender’s dramatic collapse and her arrival in the emergency room of the NIMR Medical Centre. Jamieson had immediately whisked her away and banished the three officers while he made his examination. He had only now allowed them the briefest visit to see her as she slept.
“In my considered opinion, exhaustion. Complete and utter nervous exhaustion. She needs sleep and is deeply unconscious now after I administered a mild sedative. I’m hoping she will stay that way for at least ten hours.”
“If she’s so exhausted, why the sedative?”
“Are you questioning my medical expertise Mr. Morton?” Jamie asked sharply.
“Calm down, Will, he has a point,” Harry placated.
Jamieson sighed and explained patiently. “While we were examining her she revived a little and became agitated, demanding to see you, Admiral, but she was also babbling another conversation with… well… no one.” Will Jamieson held up his hand to ward off the questions he saw forming from all the men present. “I only know that she referred to the person as ’You black-hearted pirate…’ I don’t know if it’s real or imaginary but SHE believes it! She was so disturbed that I had to sedate her so that she will get some of the sleep she desperately needs.”
“Admiral, is it possible?” Lee Crane demanded as he looked to the thoughtful Nelson.
“Lee, it’s a trick. It has to be. You saw that ghost sent back to where he came from. You know you did.” Chip interrupted.
Nelson looked at both men as they heatedly discussed the possibilities. “Wait a minute, both of you. If what Jamie says is right and Sophie Warrender believes that she is being haunted….”
“Do you think she’s telling the truth? Is Blackbeard really back?” Crane demanded.
Harry inclined his head thoughtfully. “I’d like to say an emphatic ‘no’ to that question, Lee, but to be honest, I’m not sure.”
“He can’t be, Admiral. You fired the weapon that destroyed him. You said he was gone.”
“I know, I know, Chip. And I thought he was but what if he didn’t go. What if all we did was vanish him somehow?”
“Ahh, Admiral, ye be a clever man so ye be. Vanish me ye did, and I don’t be caring for it at all. Tis a cruel thing to be left the way I am and with the maiden asleep to me, tis all I can do but wait.”
“Admiral, you saw him disappear, we all did! Are you saying that he didn’t go? That after all these months he’s still here and on the loose?”
“If that were only true! I’d be teaching ye that Captain Edward Teach, is not a man to be triflin’ with!”
“No, Lee. I don’t think he’s running loose. Far from it! I think it’s possible, no matter how unlikely it sounds, that Blackbeard managed to remain aboard unnoticed by us and somehow attach himself to that young woman in there.” Harry nodded towards the closed hospital door.
“So, what do we do now?” Chip asked no one in particular.
“We wait, gentlemen. Wait for her to wake up and tell us what’s been happening to her.”
“Dang blast it, ye scurvy dog, I’ve been waitin’ long enough, blast ye! Now ye be here and I can’t be wakin’ her to do me talkin’. Curse me for a fool to be trustin’ a mere wench!”
“And if it’s not true? If it’s some sort of trick and she’s lying….” Lee murmured.
“Tis a suspicious man ye be, Captain.”
“She’s not lying about her exhaustion or physical condition, that’s for sure.” Will said gently.
“We’ll soon know when she wakes up. Until then I suggest we all get some rest and wait until we hear what she has to say.”
“Sleep! Nelson, ye can’t sleep now! I want ye to listen to me, blast yer cold heart! Will ye be listenin’ to ME I say!”
The voice was loud and strident but could not be heard by the departing men. Only a cold draught disturbed their awareness but the woman in the side room stirred slightly and mumbled something softly as she resumed her slumber.
It was a very different young woman who regarded the four Naval officers in her private hospital room this morning. She had awoken more rested than she had been for many months. A hot shower and good breakfast had also gone a long way to reviving her flagging spirits.
One man sat while the three others stood. Admiral Nelson was seated at one side of the bed she rested on and Captain Crane stood near him, hands in his pockets, while watching her keenly. Doctor Jamieson hovered to her left, ready to intervene if he felt she was becoming too distressed, while Lt. Commander Morton was by the window regarding her unsympathetically, both arms folded across him in a gesture that had become so familiar to her.
“Miss Warrender, now you have recovered perhaps we can discuss the claims you made last night.”
“Aye, tell him, wench. Tell him me demands and let’s be settin’ sail!”
Sophie groaned. “You’re never gone for long are you?”
The officers all frowned and became more alert.
“Just leave me alone long enough to tell them in my own way. I know what it is you want, you never let me forget it. I’ll explain if….”
“Explain is it? Nelson knows or half knows. Just be tellin’ him all of it and see that he don’t delay too long.”
The insistent voice grated away at her temper. “You damned Pirate! I’ll do what you want if you just let me speak, you don’t give me any choice but I can’t think and talk to them if you constantly interrupt!”
“Miss Warrender….” but the rest of Nelson’s words were drowned out to her by the growl of another angry voice.
“Take care wench. Remember who it is ye talk to. Captain Edward Teach don’t take insubordination lightly! Talk then blast yer but don’t be keepin’ it too long now. I wants to be free of me prison!”
“Miss Warrender, are you listening to me?” Admiral Nelson’s irritated voice broke through her concentration and she focussed on his annoyed eyes.
“I’m sorry Admiral. Sometimes he just won’t let me think. It always has to be what he wants!”
“Take care what ye says now.”
Nelson glanced around the other men present and saw various expressions of concern or impatience.
“Admiral, maybe we should wait a little longer.” Jamie ventured as he looked at the flushed complexion of his patient.
Sophie looked at the physician and smiled. “No, doctor, it’s alright, honestly. I’m fine.” She drew a deep breath and looked at Harry. “Admiral, please let me explain from the beginning. It’s the only way you will understand and believe what I’m going to tell you.”
Nelson’s impatience abated a little as he nodded and stayed silent, anxious to hear what she had to say.
“It all started when I left Seaview on that ill-fated day almost three months ago. I was angry at the trick I thought you’d perpetrated on me. You saw me destroy my notes but what you didn’t know was that I had recorded each interview on a secret recorder I always carry.” She hesitated as she saw the surprise then annoyance that each man betrayed at her admission. Hurriedly she continued, “I was in my car about to leave but I wanted to be sure I had clear recordings. When I tried to play the tape back there was nothing at first. I tried again and this time there was only a voice… a voice that has come to haunt my life.” She stopped and shuddered slightly.
When Jamie moved forward she held up a hand and continued again. “At first it was only fragmented words then sentences. I thought I was going insane. Then he was there all the time. Questioning, arguing, constantly harassing my every waking moment and even my dreams. I lost sleep, couldn’t concentrate on my work, I’ve been suspended from my radio show and still he keeps on at me to contact you.”
“What does he want?” Harry asked.
“He wants you to take him back to his ship. He says that while he’s parted from it he can’t truly rest.”
“Aye, that be true enough.” The voice agreed pleasantly.
“Why is it only you can hear him? I assume he’s not visible to you.”
“No, thank God! Hearing him is bad enough.”
“Take care, wench!”
“He says he’s managed to tap into my latent psychic powers. That I’ve become attuned to him and he can use that.”
“Powers? What powers?” Lee demanded.
Sophie blushed an even deeper colour and cast her eyes down to her intertwined fingers and continued softly, “My mother was a psychic as I’m sure your investigation of me revealed. Lots of people labelled her a fraud, but she wasn’t.” Looking up she directed her gaze at Lee. “I’ll grant that she didn’t have very good skills but she did have some, as did my grandmother, she combined them with her instincts on human nature and used them to….”
“Con people.” Chip derided from his position by the window.
Sophie glared at Chip. “She did not harm anyone!” Sophie defended hotly. “She only told them what they wanted to hear….”
“And got well paid for it!” Morton accused loudly.
“That’s enough!” Nelson stated firmly. “Continue, Miss Warrender. Why can only you hear him?”
“Don’t you think under the circumstances that’s a little formal, Admiral? Please call me Sophie. That goes for you all if you want.” Sophie slipped off the bed and adjusted the loose robe that covered her borrowed pyjamas. Slowly she turned to look at them.
“He says that I have psychic ability that I don’t use. On board Seaview he was trapped in a… sort of vacuum. After you thought you had destroyed him, he spent his days in limbo. By concentrating himself he was able to return but couldn’t reach out to any of you. He was invisible and voiceless until I came aboard. I don’t fully understand how and why it’s me he’s latched onto; believe me I wish he hadn’t. He’s ruined my life and I want him gone!” She leant on the bed and looked directly at Nelson beseechingly. “If taking him back to his ship is what it takes then I’m begging you to do it, Admiral. Please, for the sake of my sanity.”
Harry studied her shrewdly. Her manner seemed genuine enough but he had not forgotten the little display she had used on him when she had fought to get access to him and the crew. She was a consummate actress and used her femininity to great advantage when the occasion arose.
“Is that all you claim he wants. To be returned to his ship?”
“Aye, Admiral, sir, it is. Just to return to me long lost shipmates.” The invisible voice wheedled.
“He says it is.” Sophie answered for him.
“Is he here now?” Crane asked.
“Yes.” Sophie looked Lee straight in the eye. “He can’t seem to stay away from me for very long.”
Nelson looked about him and demanded. “All right man, tell me what it is you really want.”
“Now Admiral, sir. Tis a great injustice ye do me. Did the wench not tell ye me request? To go back to the bosom of me friends and be allowed to rest again.”
Sophie repeated his words with reluctance but saw it as the means to an end.
“If rest is all you want, why must it be with your ship?” Harry asked as he watched Sophie carefully.
“ Admiral,” Blackbeard laughed ingratiatingly, “would ye deny me a fittin’ place for a man of the sea, deep in Davy Jones’s locker. Twas your infernal machine that parted us both and ye should be the one to set us together again. Tis no place for a man such as Blackbeard, bound to a snivelling wench and damned to walk eternity as a doomed spirit, sir. Take me home, Admiral, tis all I ask and ye’ll not be regretin’ it.”
Sophie repeated his words with little feeling. She’d heard them all before.
Lee and Chip watched Nelson carefully. Lee was concerned for the woman before him. If she was telling the truth, and she certainly appeared to be genuine, they owed her their help. If she was lying then maybe they also owed her something else. It was their plan that had led her to this.
Chip on the other hand was not prepared to buy any of what he saw as an elaborate hoax. Sophie Warrender was up to something. Reporters always were. She may seem more attractive and helpless now but he hoped the Admiral saw through this deception just as he did.
Nelson seemed to come to a decision. “I’m not convinced yet Miss Warrender. Nothing I’ve seen or heard here gives me any evidence that any of your story is true. However, I will see to it that you get the very best treatment and maybe in a few months….”
“NO! Blast yer eyes.”
“No! Admiral, you can’t do that.”
The two voices blended in Sophie’s ears. She came around the bed and gripped Nelson’s arms as the others converged on her. “Please, Admiral, please. I’m telling the truth… you have to help me. You’re responsible for him doing this to me.” Fat tears rolled down her cheeks unchecked as Jamie tried to pull her gently away.
“Not believe me will ye? No evidence?” The pirate’s voice was raised to a deafening level and Sophie covered her ears against the assault. “Well believe this, ye swab!”
There was frisson of static electricity in the room as electric light bulbs exploded in their fittings and plugs loudly ejected from wall sockets. A small whirlwind blew loose papers into the air and raced around them causing minor havoc to hairstyles and clothing. Then it stopped abruptly and papers fluttered down as they all stood silently, shocked by the event. Slowly they recovered and looked at each other as Jamie checked to ensure that everyone was all right.
“Sophie? How about you?”
“No, no… I’m not hurt.” Sophie’s voice was small and tremulous but she turned accusing eyes to Nelson. “Is this what you’re going to abandon me to, Admiral?”
Nelson ran a hand through his hair to tidy it but stopped and studied the genuine fear he saw in her stare.
“Captain. ready the boat.” Then to all those present he said, “We sail today!”
Chip Morton stood at the chart table in the control room and surreptitiously watched their passenger. They were four days into the voyage and she was again sitting in the nose of Seaview watching the view as they sailed through the ocean, but Chip could also see that she appeared to be holding a conversation with an invisible presence if the hand gestures she made were anything to go by.
The Admiral and Captain had interviewed her at length since their departure and now they and Chief Sharkey were in the lab looking for the solution that would help rescue the young woman from her plight. Sophie Warrender had been offered the privilege of spending as much of the cruise as she wished watching their progress through the giant ‘Herculite’ windows that were special to this superior submarine.
As Chip observed the woman in front of him, she bent her head and held her hands over her ears.
After a moment he ordered quietly, “Mr. O’Brien you have the conn.”.
Bobby O’Brien looked up and saw where the exec’s concentration lay then answered, “Aye, sir,” and watched as Morton moved toward the nose.
Chip walked forward, absently tapping the pencil he held on his left palm. She seemed oblivious to his approach
As he reached her seated figure he noted her eyes were tightly closed and she seemed to be isolated within herself.
“Problems?” He asked softly but Sophie did not react.
He reached out to touch her gently on the shoulder and she jumped up to stand away from him, nervously staring at him with frightened eyes. Quickly she controlled her alarm and demanded roughly. “What do you want?”
“Nothing. I just thought I’d check to see you were alright.”
Sophie turned towards the window and tightly hugged herself to stop her shaking. “I’m fine Mr. Morton, you needn’t worry over me.” When Chip didn’t move away she turned and faced him again. “I’m sure you must have work to do. Don’t let me keep you from it.” She struggled to keep her voice calm.
Chip narrowed his gaze as he saw her anxiety and moved closer. Keeping his voice even he asked quietly. “Would you like to see the doctor?”
She glared at him. “Why? So he can sedate me again? Knock me unconscious for the duration? You’d like that wouldn’t you?” She knew she was becoming shrill but couldn’t control it.
“Miss Warrender, I only wish to ensure that you’re comfortable while aboard, Seaview.”
“Oh, you lie so well, Mr. Morton,” Sophie confronted him. “You don’t need to tell me how you really feel! I can see it every time you look at me. You don’t believe me do you? You’d like nothing better than to prove me a liar!”
“Miss Warrender, it’s my job as the executive officer to ensure the safety of all aboard. If Admiral Nelson believes you are in danger from a ‘ghost’, one that we inadvertently introduced you to, then it is our duty to put it right and find a solution that helps you,” Chip said with stiff formality.
Sophie laughed derisively. “Very nicely delivered, Commander. Did they teach you that at Annapolis? Lesson 42. How to calm hysterical women.” Returning to her seat she bowed her head, nervously rubbing her temples.
Choosing to ignore her sarcasm, Chip asked firmly, “Are you sure the doctor can’t help?”
“Only if he can find me some peace from that voice!” Sophie replied caustically.
Chip scrutinised her and demanded. “Is he here now?”
“He was but he knows I can only take so much. Sometimes I can manage to ‘tune’ him out. He takes the hint and leaves me alone for a while.”
“That must prove most convenient for you on occasions.” Chip murmured.
Sophie leapt up and glared at him angrily. “Don’t you dare mock me, Morton! What does it take for you to believe me anyway? Wasn’t his little display in the hospital enough? Perhaps you’d just like him to send me completely insane then Nelson could lock me away for good. Would make you happy?”
Chip coloured slightly and unconsciously snapped the pencil he held.
Sophie looked at him and scoffed. “Wishing that was my neck, Commander?”
Stepping forward, Chip towered over her slim figure as she watched him apprehensively. “Don’t push me too far, Miss Warrender. I’m willing to trust the Admiral’s judgement on your predicament, for now that is, but if I find you are trying to pull some sort of trick as a warped revenge over the result of your last visit, I’ll be the first in line to personally throw you overboard!”
Sophie felt the suppressed anger and shivered slightly. “Is that supposed to frighten me into a confession?”
“Only if you have something you want to confess.” Chip’s stony blue-eyed stare never left her.
Stepping back slightly she laughed nervously. “You’ll have to do better than that Commander. You know nothing about how I feel. You try living with a ‘blood thirsty pirate’ in your head for as long as I have and see if you frighten so easily!”
Chip remained still, locked in a battle of wills with her.
Finally, it was Sophie that turned away and walked towards the spiral staircase. With some bravado she said to him. “Perhaps the doctor can prescribe something to make me invisible to you as well!” She quickly ascended the steps and disappeared from his view.
Morton stood a moment more considering her words, then returned to his duty post.
In the specially fitted laboratory, Admiral Nelson was busy investigating the components of a previously used piece of apparatus.
“I don’t get it, Admiral, I thought this,” Sharkey waved a hand over the device on the Admiral’s desk, “this… gizmo, sent Blackbeard back where he came from the first time.”
“So did I, but it seems that it wasn’t powerful enough,” Nelson answered.
“Now hang on a minute, sir, begging your pardon, but if you make it any more powerful it’ll blast right through the hull and we’ll all be swimming home.”
“I don’t see what else we can do. Blackbeard wants to go back to his own time and as I haven’t yet solved the problems of time travel. We will have to adapt this sonic disrupter to do the job.”
Lee, who had been listening silently, also lost for suggestions, suddenly sat bolt upright. “No, sir, you haven’t, but… I’ve got an idea. I’ll be right back.” He left the lab at a run and was back in minutes with a large brown paper envelope, the contents of which he emptied on Nelson’s desk. “Remember Mr. Pem?” Lee questioned as a number of tiny components and a large pocket watch case lay in front of them.
“Of course! Time travel and Pem’s watch. Good thinking, Lee.” Nelson smiled as he scooped up the pieces.
“You’re not going to activate that thing?” Sharkey queried sharply, eyeing the device they had managed to steal from the time travelling Mr. Pem, on his unsuccessful visit to Seaview months before.
“Well, you know, Francis, it might be worth a try,” Nelson laughed sympathetically. “We have the people who can reassemble it and the Seaview’s reactor to power it.”
“Can we make it work, Admiral?” Lee asked.
“I should think so, at least enough to make one trip. Certainly it would solve our immediate problem.”
“So, we’re simply going to get it working hand it over to Blackbeard?” Sharkey said disbelievingly.
“Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, Chief.” Nelson murmured,
“I still don’t believe that all he wants is just to return to his ship, Admiral. He has to want something else and I think that’s still Seaview and her crew, just as before. Can we trust him to stay there, when we put him back?” Lee asked as he watched Nelson’s concentration on the parts in his hands.
“I’m sure you’re right, Lee, but we don’t have too many choices here. His effect on Miss Warrender is destroying her mental welfare and we can’t allow that to happen.”
“Can’t we just blast that ship of his to pieces and be done with it? He’ll go with it surely.” Sharkey’s enthusiasm for this course of action was evident.
“Maybe not, Chief and we can’t take that chance. No. We’ll have to be sure he’s on board her first.”
“But if you give him a time machine, sir… he’ll… he’ll just run havoc, Admiral!”
“I don’t think so. Not if we do it right.”
“What do you have in mind, Admiral?” Lee was instantly alert to the optimism in Nelson’s voice.
“I have a plan that might solve our problem but it’s going to depend on a clever piece of manipulation,” Nelson told both men, his attention still focussed on the machinery in his hand.
“Do you think he’ll trust us enough to fall for it?” Lee demanded.
“We’re going to have to make him want it,” Nelson paused thoughtfully, “and I think I know just the way we could do that.” He stopped and smiled at their confusion. “For now let’s concentrate on getting this thing functional.”
Some hours later Lee returned to the control room after leaving Nelson and Sharkey to work on the timepiece. The Admiral had very mysteriously left them for a while to attend to something but would not divulge what. He merely said that if his suspicions were correct, they would soon be as aware as Blackbeard to his next step.
He nodded to the duty crew as he passed through and approached Chip. “Where’s our passenger?” He asked glancing around.
Chip flushed slightly and answered. “With the doctor.”
“Is she ill?”
Chip heard the slight concern in Lee’s voice and reassured him. “No, not ill. It seems her ‘voices’ were getting too much for her.”
Lee heard the scepticism loud and clear. He looked sharply at his friend. “You still don’t believe her? Didn’t the experience in Med Centre convince you?”
The two friends had not discussed the events that precipitated the hurried departure that had left forty of the crew behind because they had not arrived back from recall in time. The Admiral’s insistence for an immediate cast off had barely left enough time to re-stock all the necessary supplies and Chip’s full attention had been concentrated on the task in hand, while Lee had been spending his time with the Admiral and their passenger.
In his few spare moments, Mr. Morton had taken time to reflect and found he was unwilling to believe that the blood-thirsty Pirate that had possessed him, however briefly, could be back to endanger them all again. He was a sceptical man by nature and although he had witnessed many unexplainable events since his appointment to his prestigious position, he still retained a healthy distrust of any and all proceedings until he could rationalise an explanation that at least satisfied him.
“Not completely, Lee. I just can’t help feeling this is all too implausible and possibly her own fault. If she’d left well enough alone….”
“She didn’t exactly ask for this, Chip. No one would.” Lee defended stoutly.
“So she says but considering what she tried to do to us, if she’s telling the truth, she brought it on herself.” Chip answered ungraciously.
Lee led Chip towards the relative privacy of the nose and turned to him. “Do you have a problem with this mission, Mr. Morton?”
“No more than anyone else, Captain,” Morton answered formally.
Lee studied his friend. The infamous Morton ‘mask’ was in place and only those who knew this man extremely well would see the concern hidden behind it.
“If not the mission then… is it our passenger that has you unsettled?” Lee asked softly.
“Why should the presence of a devious woman reporter, claiming to hear the voice of a two hundred year old Pirate who wanted to possess us all and hijack the world’s most advanced nuclear submarine, unsettle anyone?” Chip asked ironically
Both men looked at each other and grinned wearily. “Well, when you put it like that Chip….” Lee began.
Suddenly the intercom interrupted them, “Captain, this is Patterson in the missile room. I think you better come down here if you can, sir. He’s back! That is, Blackbeard, sir. He’s here right now.”
Lee turned to Chip, “Tell him I’m on my way.” And left quickly for the aft hatchway.
“Calm down, Pat. He won’t hurt us, he can’t. No cutlass.” Ski said calmly.
“Oh, tis a grand feelin’ to be whole again, mateys.” The larger than life figure boomed as he revelled in his resurgence.
Strutting around he approached Kowalski, the man he had once chosen to be his second in command, “Aye, tis a fair wind that has us shipmates again.” He reached out and placed a hand on the young Sailor’s shoulder. “Did ye miss me, ye swab?”
“Aye, captain.” Ski replied bashfully.
“Ski, look out!” Pat called as he watched the ghost lay a hand on his friend.
Ski smiled and glanced momentarily at his crewmate. “It’s okay Pat. He won’t hurt me,” Ski said positively and turned back to look at the figure in front of him.
“No, to be sure, Captain Blackbeard means ye no hurt at all….”
“Take your hand off that man!” Crane ordered as he entered the room and saw Kowalski clasped by the shoulder. Chief Sharkey and two other crewmen who were armed closely followed him.
Blackbeard spun around and stood with both hands on his hips and roared with laughter as he watched Crane’s approach. “Why Captain Crane, sir, tis not my intention to do any man harm.”
Crane went to stand in front of Ski and was concerned by the half smile of pleasure that Ski seemed to be displaying. “Ski, are you alright?”
Kowalski dragged his attention from Blackbeard to his captain and shook his head slightly, “Eh… yes, sir. He didn’t hurt me.” Again Ski turned his attention back to Blackbeard.
Lee watched the unusual behaviour and turned angrily to the ghost. “ I see you found a way to make yourself seen and heard again!”
Blackbeard laughed heartily, “Aye, Captain Crane, I found me sea-legs at last!” He looked at Sharkey and the armed crewmen and laughed again. “Did ye not learn before, sir? Yer puny weapons are no equal for Blackbeard! Take care that I don’t be teachin’ ye that lesson again now!”
“How did you get here?” Crane demanded.
“I’ll be talkin’ to the organ grinder, Captain, not his monkey so to speak. Where be I findin’ the good Admiral? In that laboratory of his mebbe?” Blackbeard questioned arrogantly.
“Now wait a minute….” But it was too late. The ghost had disappeared and Lee cursed softly as he left quickly to warn the Admiral.
“I tell you I don’t know!” Sophie cried exhaustedly. “ He doesn’t tell me everything and while he knows what I’m thinking I don’t know about him!” Nervously she entwined her fingers.
She was sitting in the Admiral’s cabin and faced by the three senior officers. She had been called here after Lee’s encounter and more reports that Blackbeard had made spasmodic appearances throughout the ship.
“It seems his own power must be growing at will now. Perhaps it’s the proximity of his ship or he’s using some other source, I really don’t know. He doesn’t tell me everything!” Sophie explained.
“Does he still haunt you, even now?” Chip demanded.
Sophie gritted her teeth. She didn’t hear the concern in his voice, only the cynicism that she always expected “Oh yes! He still does that! If it makes you feel any better, Commander, when he has nothing better to do, he gets inside my head and makes my life a living hell in ways that you have no conception of understanding!”
Ignoring her contempt, Nelson watched as she rubbed at the obvious tension in her neck. “Sophie,” he asked carefully, “has he told you what he really intends to do? Has he mentioned Seaview at all?”
As they concentrated their attention on the seated woman they were startled by the appearance of the pirate himself as he materialized beside her, one hand resting on her shoulder.
Immediately Sophie pushed his hand away but Blackbeard only laughed at her obvious loathing of him.
“Ye disappoints me, Admiral, sir! To be questionin’ me honourable intentions with a mere wench! Not the actions of a loyal shipmate.” The bold Pirate turned to Nelson and smiled accusingly. “Admiral Nelson, it pains me that ye not be trustin’ me word, sir.”
“Of course I don’t trust you. You’re a liar, a cheat and a blackguard. I know that you haven’t given up on taking over the Seaview and her crew. I just haven’t worked out how yet. But I fully intend to stop you.”
Blackbeard bellowed with laughter and smiled broadly at Nelson. “ Admiral, I admire a man with backbone, sir. What say we dismiss these other swabs and sit down at a table of truce and talk like the great men we are?”
“I don’t see we have anything to discuss.”
Blackbeard’s smile faded and he glowered. “Now, Admiral, I extended me hand to ye, sir. Ye have no cause to be refusin’ it. Remember what happened in her sick room, Admiral. I can do that and more if ye be triflin’ with me now!”
Nelson considered a moment then nodded dismissively to Chip and Lee.
Crane immediately came towards him. “Admiral, you can’t be….”
“GO, Captain! I’ll be speaking to the Admiral alone and ye can take the wench with ye. I knows how to find her.”
“Go on Lee, it’s alright. He wants something from us. He won’t harm me.”
Lee recognised Nelson’s resolve and nodded to Chip. As both men turned to leave Lee reached out a hand to Sophie and she took it as she rose from the chair lethargically. She stumbled as she exited and only Chip’s quick action stopped her falling.
“I’m all right.” She said as she shook herself free of his hold.
“Are you sure?” Concern shadowed Lee’s gentle enquiry.
“I’m just tired. He won’t let me sleep…I just need to rest.” Sophie almost whispered as she slowly walked toward her cabin. After only a few steps she faltered and reached out to the bulkhead to steady herself. Both men moved to support her.
“You need to be in Sickbay.” Lee ordered.
Sophie forced herself to stand independently. “No. I’ll be alright if I can just rest a while without… without what he’s doing to me.”
Lee and Chip both looked confused as they glanced at each other. What was that damned ghost doing to her now, they wondered.
Sophie started walking again but only managed a few steps before her legs began to buckle.
Chip came to her and after a moment’s hesitation scooped her up and called back to Lee.
“I’ll take her to Sickbay. Could you alert Jamie?” and without waiting for his friend’s reply set out along the corridor.
“Will you put me down? This is undignified.” Sophie struggled weakly.
“No more so than the last time,” Chip replied casually.
“The restaurant. Only then you were unconscious and a lot less trouble,” Chip murmured amusedly.
Closing her eyes to hide her mortified embarrassment, Sophie groaned, “Oh, no.”
Chip stepped inside Sickbay and marching to the gurney he laid her on it. Jamie came from his office and walked straight to his patient demanding, “What happened?”
Chip answered for her. “Miss Warrender nearly collapsed in the corridor. She says he won’t let her sleep. Is there something you can give her to let her rest and stop the blasted pirate exhausting her?”
Sophie looked at him sharply. “Does that mean you finally believe me?”
Chip looked at her and with no visible emotion answered. “I believe that you have been deprived of sleep and can’t think straight, if that answers you.”
Looking at Jamieson he said abruptly, “She’s all yours doctor. Please let me have a report when you’re done.” And he left without a backward glance.
“So we were right. You still want Seaview and her crew!” Nelson exclaimed.
“Think about it, Admiral. We would be the most powerful ship afloat, sir. We could sail the oceans and build a reputation that would set the seven seas alive! All ye have to do is give yon Captain the order. Equal partners I say. More than I’ve ever offered another man, livin’ or dead!” Blackbeard encouraged wildly.
“You must know I’ll never agree. I didn’t before and nothing’s changed since then.”
“Then I’ll bring me own crew aboard and take her that way!” The pirate shouted angrily.
Nelson watched him carefully. “I think you’re bluffing, you bag of wind! I don’t think you have the power to do that.”
Indignantly Blackbeard drew himself up imposingly. “Ye’ve seen me power. Was that not enough to convince ye?”
“We saw a display of temper but I don’t think you have any real power, not yet, and I don’t think you will until you return to your ship. That’s the real reason you wanted us to bring you back, wasn’t it?” Harry asked sharply.
The look of sheer rage on Blackbeard’s face concerned Harry for a moment. Had he pushed him too far?
Then the pirate smiled evilly and controlled himself. “Ye be forgetting one thing, Admiral…the wench!”
Harry almost sighed in relief. “I haven’t forgotten Miss Warrender.”
“I can destroy her, sir. Can leave her a dribblin’ fool if I takes a mind to. Twould be all down to ye, Admiral Nelson. Now ye wouldn’t be wanting to do that to the poor beauty, would ye?”
Harry controlled his temper with great difficulty but couldn’t stop a little anger showing. “That wouldn’t suit you though, you black-hearted devil. You need her. She’s your conduit to this world! Destroy her mind and you destroy your only connection!”
“AGHHH. Ye be thinkin’ too clever, Nelson!” Blackbeard roared contemptuously. “Ye be only half right, ye scurvy dog! I don’t have to destroy her completely. I can fill her mind with visions of hell ye can only imagine! Ask her! I need only the power she possesses, Admiral. She can’t control it but I can. How long before she succumbs to me then?”
The pirate’s words caused Nelson a moment’s doubt but then he pushed it aside. They were playing for high stakes, a woman’s sanity and the lives of his friends and crew.
“I need time to think this over. We arrive at your ship in approx 3 hours. I want until then.”
Blackbeard eyed him suspiciously. “Don’t be thinkin’ to trick me now, sir? If ye plan to destroy my ship and crew, I’ll remain, Nelson, and me vengeance will not be swift nor pretty! Destroy me power so ye might but I’ll still have the wench’s mind to do me biddin’ and I will tear ye down, Admiral. Ye have Blackbeard’s oath on that!”
The Pirate disappeared and Harry was left feeling drained and not a little unconcerned. Had he done enough or perhaps too much? He sighed heavily as he went in search of Lee. The pocket watch was nearly ready but could they use it without him guessing the plan?
“You alright, Ski?” Pat asked for the third time this watch. They were in the missile room finishing off the diving equipment checks.
“I keep telling you I am. Why d’you keep asking?” Kowalski replied irritably.
“Hey, Ski, what’s with the attitude?”
“Nothing! There’s nothing wrong with me, just get off my back, okay!” He glared angrily at his friend.
“Hey what’s all the bellowing about?” Sharkey called as he entered the room.
Ski looked at him and then down to the valve he was checking and mumbled. “Nothing. Everything’s fine if I’m left alone.”
“Kowalski, what’s your beef this time?” Sharkey demanded irritably. “You guys! You think you got it hard. You ain’t done nothin’ to what the Admiral and I been doin’. You two try re-building a time machine and see how you feel!”
Patterson smiled and quizzed the COB. “Time machine, Chief? You serious?”
“You bet I’m serious. That gizmo watch that Pem guy left behind. Me and the Admiral, we been re-buildin’ it, see? To use on this Blackbeard character. Goin’ to send him right back where he came from and he won’t even guess it!”
“How’ that going to happen, Sharkey?” Ski demanded.
When he realised he had the two men’s full attention, Chief Francis Sharkey, hesitated. “Look you guys, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything…all hush, hush, y’know. The Admiral… he, eh… he wants it that way.”
“Common, Chief, you can tell us. We won’t tell anyone, will we, Pat?” Ski asked amiably.
Patterson looked surprised at the change in his friend after his previous attitude but shrugged and accepted it. “No, of course not. Do you know what he’s going to do?”
“Know what he’s goin’ to do…know? Of course I know. Next to the Skipper and Mr. Morton, me and the Admiral are like that!” He held up two crossed fingers.
“So tell us.” Ski smiled encouragingly.
Sharkey took a swift look around and lowered his voice. “The Admiral’s going to fool Blackbeard into thinking he’s co-operating with him, see. He’s going to let the Pirate take him back to his ship as a hostage… cos the Admiral’s a smart guy. He knows that Pirate don’t trust us and he also knows that he’s got to go back and get… well whatever it is he’s goin’ to get!”
Patterson smiled at the Chief’s gaps of knowledge and Sharkey, seeing his grin, asked heatedly, “You want to hear this or not?”
Pat looked suitably chastened. “Sure, sure, Chief. You were saying, the Admiral’s a hostage and…?”
“Yeah, well. The Admiral figures that he won’t dare go alone, so he’ll offer to go with him as a hostage. Then when he gets over there, he whips out the watch and hey-presto… he’s back. We blow up the ship and bye, bye, Blackbeard!” Sharkey looked at the concentration of both men as they sifted through the plan for flaws.
“See? What’d I tell ya? Is the Admiral a genius or what?”
“Hey, that could work… but what if he don’t take the Admiral? What if it’s the Skipper or Mr. Morton? Or even you Chief?” Patterson smiled innocently.
Sharkey blanched slightly but rallied quickly. “Well, it works for anyone who goes. Just press the button and you’re back.”
“If you say so, Chief.” Pat smiled as he turned back to his work.
Sharkey frowned at his mockery then turned to Kowalski, “ You ain’t said anything, what do you think, Kowalski?”
Ski looked away slightly and to the regulator in his hand. “I think this valve’s faulty, Chief. Is it okay if I get another from stores?”
For a moment Sharkey looked shocked then shook his head disbelievingly. “I don’t know why I tell you guys anything. Yeah, go get another, Sailor, and be quick about it!”
Kowalski was already moving out the hatch and down the corridor. As soon as he reached the Stores compartment he stepped inside quickly and checked for any other crew. It was empty. He locked the door and called out softly.
“Captain? Captain Blackbeard? Can you hear me, Captain?” He waited tensely. Just as he was about to call again a figure materialised in front of him.
“Ye call me, ye swab?” The ghost said loudly.
Kowalski immediately tried to quieten him. “Not too loudly, Captain. What I has to tells ye, ye don’t want heard by others.”
Suspiciously the Pirate scrutinised his former first mate. “Are ye saying ye’re for me again, matey?”
“I was ne’er against ye, Captain. I only kind of forgot about how I really felt when ye were sent away…I’ve always been with ye, Captain.” Kowalski smiled warmly.
Warily Blackbeard accepted the explanation, anxious to hear what the man had to say. “Well, tell me, ye swab. What is it ye know?”
Nelson, Lee and Chip were in Sickbay, brought there by Jamie’s request.
“So you’re saying she won’t be sedated?” Harry verified.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. She’s exhausted and she needs to sleep but won’t let me put her under completely.”
“Does she say why?” Lee asked as he glanced at the farthest rack where Sophie lay.
“No. Only that if I force her to sleep, I’ll be doing her more harm than good.” Jamie sighed. “I was wondering if one of you could talk sense to her.”
“Well, don’t look at me,” Chip said a little too quickly. “She won’t listen to anything I have to say.”
Lee picked something up in Chip’s voice and glanced at him. He saw a fleeting look of concern shadow cross the expressionless visage as Morton concentrated on her and was very amused. So my friend, you’re not as immune as you pretend, he thought.
“I think I may know what’s wrong,” Nelson said as he moved to the patient.
“So he’s brought in the big guns, has he? It won’t do you any good…. I still won’t take any sleep potion you care to offer.” Sophie said firmly.
“But you need to sleep…” Lee began.
“I KNOW. But you have no idea what that does to me!” Her voice wavered emotionally. “ There are much worse things than not sleeping, believe me, Captain.”
“Like dreaming?” Nelson asked softly.
Startled eyes turned to his. She stared at him and then whispered. “He told you.”
“Yes.” Harry nodded gently.
“Well, of course he would! Boasted did he…? He’s good at that!” She sighed and looked away. “I suppose you think that’s a suitable punishment for my wanting to meet a ghost!”
“Told you what? Admiral what are you both talking about?” Jamie demanded.
Sophie bit her lip in an effort to stop her tears and choked out. “You may as well tell them, what does it matter now?”
Nelson studied her for another moment until Jamie’s insistent demands broke through his reverie.
“Tell us what, Harry?”
“Blackbeard! Blackbeard is using Sophie as a bargaining ploy to get his own way. He’s… haunting her dreams with… with….”
“Nightmares!” Sophie declared angrily. “He’s fighting all his battles, his murdering, cutthroat life is being replayed to me in vivid colour! I’m probably the world’s foremost expert on Blackbeard the Pirate and believe me he’s in no way the romantic rogue he’s portrayed!” She sat up, oblivious to anything else but the anger that was bubbling from her. “He’s evil incarnate! He took pleasure in pain and debauchery, in torture and much more…. If he wasn’t already dead, I’d kill him myself!” She fell back and cried unashamedly.
They all stood stunned by her words and the naked emotion behind them. Chip moved forward slightly but stopped and contented himself with clenching his fists in frustration while Jamieson bent down to comfort her. From behind them a familiar voice interrupted the scene.
“Snivelin’ wimmen ne’er interest a man, do they, Admiral?”
Nelson turned his full anger onto the piratical figure. “You black-hearted bastard. You’re putting this girl through hell!”
“You knows what be me demands, Admiral. Turn yer vessel over to me and agree to sail under me colours and I’ll set her loose.”
“NO! No don’t do that for me. Please, Admiral, please say you won’t. I don’t want to be the cause of this.” Sophie struggled to sit up as Jamie sought to keep her down.
“Quiet wench! This be man’s talk.”
“I’ll offer you this. We’re nearly at our rendezvous with your ship. What say we let you return to it unhindered? We’ll sail away as long as you promise to release Miss Warrender.”
Blackbeard smiled cynically. “And what’s to stop ye blowing up me and me ship once I’m there, I be wondering?”
“You have my word, well sail away.” Nelson assured him.
“Now, Admiral, it occurs to me I’d be a might safer if I had a… hostage of sorts. A guarantee ye might say against yer good behaviour, so to speak.”
Nelson didn’t flinch but casually put his hand in his pocket. “Alright, I’ll go along.”
“No, Admiral! I’ll go!” Lee declared vehemently.
“Or me!” Chip glared angrily at the pirate.
“Oh, Admiral, sir, ye have a fine and loyal crew, that ye have.”
“Do we have a deal?” Harry continued boldly.
Blackbeard laughed loudly. “No, Admiral I don’t be thinkin’ so. Unless I be the one holdin’ that little trinket in yer pocket there.” When he saw the shock in Nelson’s eyes he laughed even more gleefully. “Ye see, Admiral, I leaves nothin’ to chance. I knows ye planned to trick Blackbeard but I’ll not be keepin’ a grudge now. Not when we’ll be sailin’ together.”
“I don’t know what you talking about? Do you want to go back to your ship or not?”
“Come on in, ye swab” The pirate called behind him and a figure armed with a pistol stepped in.
“Kowalski?” Crane exclaimed, “What are you doing here?”
“Don’t move, Skipper and that goes for all of you. I don’t want to hurt anyone but I will if I have too.”
“What’s the meaning of this?” Nelson demanded.
“Didn’t I tell ye, Captain Teach? I knew it was a trick. Now you know it too.” Kowalski smiled to the ghost.
“Kowalski? You’re siding with him?” Lee said carefully.
“Aye! With my true Captain, I am!”
“He’s mad! He must be!” Chip muttered.
“Enough chatter!” Blackbeard shouted. “Now, Admiral! I’ll be taking the small …” The pirate looked to Ski. “What be ye callin’ it?”
“Time travellin’ device, Captain or pocket watch. It’ll take ye anywhere through time and space.”
“Aye, aye, that be it. Time travellin’ device. Be kindly givin’ it to me now, Admiral,” the ghost ordered grimly.
Nelson gritted his teeth in obvious anger and stood undecided when Sharkey marched obliviously into the room.
“Skipper, Mr. O’Brien says we’re there, sir.” He looked at the startled expressions of the officers then turned slowly to see Kowalski and that Pirate standing to one side. When he spotted the gun, he immediately looked confused and stammered, “What… what’s goin’ on here? Kowalski, what are you doing armed and why are you pointing it at….” His voice faded as the situation became clear to him. “No… you can’t be… not you! Why you mutinous….” And he moved forward but Kowalski side stepped him and with one blow to his midriff and a blow to the back of his head, laid him out cold. Quickly he turned the weapon back to the others who had started to move but stopped again in the face of the gun.
“Well. Admiral, will ye yield or shall I have me first mate put a musket ball into yer man here?”
Kowalski turned the gun to point directly at Crane.
Hesitating only a moment longer, Nelson took the watch out of his pocket and looked at it. “Alright, you win. Here, take it!” and held out the instrument to Kowalski. Ski looked to Blackbeard who nodded and Ski stepped forward carefully to take the pocket watch. He handed it to the Pirate who held it gingerly and examined it.
Nervously he looked at Nelson. “How be this used, Admiral?”
Nelson smiled, “So you need me after all.”
Blackbeard looked at Ski. “Listen to me, ye swab! If the Admiral, don’t be tellin’ me how to works this ‘ere device… put a musket ball between the eyes of Captain Crane!”
Lee shifted slightly but kept his baleful glare on the two men as he said. “Don’t do it, Admiral, the cost is too high!”
Nelson shifted uneasily but answered gruffly. “Two clicks on the winder to go, three to return!”
Ski looked at the watch then the Pirate. “That sounds about right, Captain. I remember that’s what it was before.”
Blackbeard looked at the small time piece and scowled. “Aye, but how does we know the Admiral’s not bein’ a cleverer man than we thinks he is…?” He looked at those assembled before him but slowly his gaze came to rest on one person. “Come here, me beauty.”
Four chorused ‘NO’s’ echoed in the still room.
“You can’t take her, she’s barely strong enough to stand!” Jamie’s concerned plea fell on deaf ears.
“Come here, or I’ll allow the good captain, here, to meet his maker this very day!” Blackbeard threatened.
Sophie glanced at Lee and struggled to stand with Jamie’s assistance.
“No, Sophie. There’s no need,” Lee called to her.
“There’s every need. I’m the one that brought us all to this. He can’t do any worse than kill me and believe me that might be a blessing.”
She walked across the room in her borrowed striped pyjamas, just a size too large for her and stood in front of her tormentor. “Well, let’s get this over with.”
“Ye have more spirit, than I gave ye credit for. Mebbe when I have me crew about me, I might take time to tame ye a little.” Blackbeard smiled cruelly.
Sophie shivered but answered him calmly. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before you ever lay a hand on me!”
Blackbeard laughed and turned his attention to Nelson. “Are ye still of the same mind, Admiral? Bearing in mind she’ll be with me now.”
Harry hesitated. He hoped he was sure over what was about happen. “I told the truth. Press it and after a count of three, you must move.”
Blackbeard regarded him a moment more then turned to Ski. “Keep them here till I return. Kill them all if ye have too but not the Admiral…. Him we’ll be needin’.”
Ski smiled and moved a step closer. “Aye, Captain. Ye can trust me to do it right.”
Grabbing Sophie’s arm, Blackbeard pressed the winder ostentatiously, twice.
Suddenly Ski moved and pulled Sophie away pushing her towards Mr. Morton, who caught her by reflex. The Pirate’s bellow was cut short as he disappeared and Nelson moved to a microphone.
“Mr. O’Brien bring us to bear on that mound out here.” Nelson turned to Ski. “Are they ready?”
“Loaded them myself, sir. They’re ready, Admiral.”
Nelson thumbed the control again. “Mr. O’Brien fire when ready. Blow that thing to hell and back!”
“Aye, sir,” came the confident reply.
Lee Crane moved to Nelson and demanded, “Admiral, what the hell’s happening?”
“In a minute, Lee. Let’s see if it works first.”
“See if what works?”
“We’re destroying Blackbeard, sir!” Ski smiled happily as he listened to Mr. O’Brien’s orders over the squawkbox.
Suddenly Seaview tilted slightly as four percussion blasts rocked her gently.
“Destruction was complete, Admiral. Four hits, no misses.” O’Brien announced proudly.
“Well done, Mr. O’Brien. Wait for visual confirmation then head us home. The Captain, Mr. Morton and I will be a while.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Admiral! Will you explain to us what just happened?” Lee asked in frustration.
“I will, Lee just as soon as we take care of Miss Warrender and the Chief.”
“I think Mr. Morton’s got taking care of Miss Warrender all covered by himself, sir.” Kowalski nodded towards the couple on the far side of the room.
“You can put me down now, Commander. All the excitement’s over,” Sophie announced from the cocoon of the first officer’s arms.
“You may fall,” He answered evenly.
“Don’t you think this is becoming a bit of habit? You picking me up at every excuse. Anybody would think you enjoyed it.” Sophie avoided those exquisite blue eyes as she looked around the room.
The doctor and Ski were helping the Chief to rise and Nelson and Lee were standing by them. Everyone seemed to be ignoring her and Chip.
“Who says I don’t?” Chip asked softly as he looked at her.
“What?” she stammered as she looked directly at him. “You don’t like me….”
“When did I say that?” he asked reasonably.
“Well… you didn’t say it exactly but… you don’t trust me. I know that.”
“Ah, not trusting you and not liking you are two completely different things.”
“How can you say that? You can’t like a person you don’t trust!”
“Maybe I didn’t trust you at first but it’s possible to learn to trust someone. I’ve believed you for some time so that makes liking you a whole lot easier.” Chip reasoned.
Totally confused, Sophie rubbed her forehead. “There’s a flaw in that logic somewhere and when I find it I’ll explain it to you.”
“Right Mr. Morton, if you can bear to put the lady down, I’ll check her over,” Jamie intoned with great amusement.
Morton didn’t miss a beat, “Sure Doc, where do you want her?”
“As the Chief is occupying the gurney, back in her rack might be best.”
As Chip bent down and laid her gently on the covers, she stole a look at him. His perceptive blue eyes burnt a path right to her heart and she knew if the doctor took her pulse right now, he might consider she was in cardiac arrest!
When he didn’t move way she flustered a little. “You don’t have to tuck me in you know.”
“Not tonight maybe but I’m not ruling it out for the future.” Chip replied huskily. Then chuckled as a hot flush infused her whole body.
As he stood up and moved away she started to breathe again only in short pants that had Jamie concerned for a moment as he bent down but when he saw her gaze following the retreating figure, he grinned. “I’ll be back when you calm down a bit. I don’t think I could keep pace with your heartbeats right now.”
“So you wanted me to tell Kowalski and Patterson the secret details, Admiral? That was risky, sir? What if I hadn’t done it? You know how I am over security, sir,” Chief Sharkey assured him from the rack that Jamie had insisted he needed to rest in.
Nelson grinned at Lee who was lounging against the corner of Jamie’s desk and Chip who nonchalantly sat on the end of Sophie’s rack, proclaiming his undisguised interest for all to see.
“Let’s just say, I hoped Ski would find a way to prize it from you somehow. We didn’t know for sure if Blackbeard was able to listen in on conversations or not but we needed him to know the plan.”
“Oh, it wasn’t easy, sir. Far from it. The Chief’s a real clam when he wants to be,” Kowalski grinned as he stood by Doc Jamieson.
There were several knowing grins and Lee rushed on. “So you had Ski working on it from the beginning?”
“I knew if I just offered Teach the watch he’d be suspicious. It had to be given him by someone he might trust. Kowalski was the obvious choice. And he did a great job of it.”
“Thank you, sir.” Ski shifted embarrassedly.
“You had me fooled. I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for you being influenced by him again or wrestle you for the gun and take my chances,” Lee smiled.
“I was thinking along the lines of locking you in the brig and throwing away the key!” Chip suggested dryly.
Ski laughed apprehensively at the exec’s tone. You could never be sure with Mr. Morton. Then he turned to Crane, “I’m glad you didn’t do that, Skipper. I could have really blown it then.”
“But why didn’t you let Chip and I in on it, Admiral. We could have helped.”
“You did, Lee. By showing genuine reactions we convinced him there was no trick. I didn’t know when he’d make his move so we had to be ready. I carried that watch with me at all times, so when the time came, the plan could go without delay.”
“But the missiles?” Sharkey questioned.
“I loaded them Chief, right after Blackbeard told me to meet him here. I knew that the Admiral would need to fire them right away.”
“Yeah, well. Was it necessary to hit me that hard? Mild concussion, that’s taking play acting just a little far if you ask me.” Sharkey rubbed the bandage on his head resentfully.
“Kowalski was following my orders, Chief. If anyone interfered he was to neutralize them, the best way he could. That went for cook to Captain!” Nelson looked at Sophie. “We had to stop him from doing any more harm.”
“It must have thrown a spanner in the works when he wanted to take me with him,” Sophie smiled shyly.
“It did give me a moment’s pause, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t want any of us along but I’m afraid I didn’t allow that he might trust you to go with him but we were committed by then and I had to trust Ski would pick up on my instruction to wait three seconds then grab you.”
“It all worked out then. He’s finally gone!” Sophie sighed.
“Are you sure my dear?” Harry asked softly.
“Oh, yes. I could feel his removal when the torpedoes hit his ship. He’s gone alright, gone for good this time.”
“Right, gentlemen! I have two patients that need rest and they won’t get it, staying up all night talking. Any more details can wait until tomorrow.” Jamie announced determinedly. “So if we can all please adjourn to our cabins, I’d be a happy physician.”
As everyone stood and laughed, Chip turned to Sophie and said softly. “Rest well. You need to catch up on your lost sleep before we reach port in three days.”
“Oh? Any special reason?”
“I’ll think of something,” Chip said meaningfully and watched her small hesitant smile and excited eyes.
Lee came and stood beside his friend. “Goodnight Sophie. I hope you sleep better than you have for some months.”
“Thank you Lee, I’m sure I will.”
“I hear the Admiral is going to arrange for you to meet with a Professor Winston, from the Psychic Research Foundation?”
“Yes. The professor investigates psychic abilities and aptitudes, apparently. The Admiral thinks I would make a good guinea pig for him. I guess if I do have some special ability, I might as well learn how to control it.”
“Good idea. Maybe you’ll need a chauffer to take you to his laboratory in Nevada. I’d be more than happy to oblige,” Lee teased.
“No need Captain,” Chip answered for her, “I’ve already made the arrangements.”
“That’s very efficient of you, Mr. Morton. I didn’t think the Admiral had made any appointments yet.”
“He hasn’t but Doctor Jamieson has recommended plenty of rest and relaxation first. I’m just making sure she follows doctors orders.”
As Sophie blushed delicately, Lee just smiled and murmured. “I’m sure you will Mr. Morton, I’m sure you will!”
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