July first, 13:20 local
Dominique was tiny and stocky, a native of Texas like the Captain, and utterly worshipped the ground the Captain walked on. Not only had she been saved from the sort of ship that only ended in blood and suffering, (and she shuddered at the recollection), but she relished the vivacity with with her Captain infused every aspect of not only her own life, but that of the crew as well. It was, however, also the source of some danger, such as now.
As the dark-skinned girl walked past the edge of the opening of the workshop, a spanner went flying past at neck level, followed by a string of curses in Creole. It splashed into the harbour waters as Dominique held up the clipboard she was carrying and ducked down to avoid anything else that might come flying out from the dimly lit niche in the wall of their home.
The harbour wasn't precisely adapted well, but it served quite nicely for the piratical purpose they had set their lives to. Situated roughly five miles east of Trou Basseux, near a small village that ignored their presence and even helped them stay hidden in return for the crew spending their idle time (and money) there, it sat in a tiny cove, mostly walled off by natural rock. Millions of years ago it must have had a sharper edge outside, catching the waves, and the softer rock in their little home had washed away, leaving a hundred metre wide, two hundred long section of water just deep enough to allow sea access to the Revenge. The rest of the outer wall not already covered by rock was hidden by way of a holographic projector. Inside, only the last twenty metres before the exit was open to the sky, the rest a sheltered cave. Large caverns, now reinforced and made habitable, lined the walls where the inevitable power of the sea had poked holes. These, in turn, had been converted into a tiny village all its own for the fifty men and women of the Revenge.
The largest of these caves, with a wide mouth, housed the main dock in front of it, and inside lay the layer of the Revenge's mad mistress. There was a small house and a huge open area covered with worktables, hoists, gantries, and innumerable half-finished projects. Racks of tools of their owners own mysterious designs stood to one side, and a pair of scrap metal, slipshod robots tottered back and forth, bringing tools to their creator or returning them to the rack, ambling over the sand like brain-dead crabs. Dominique and the rest of the crew called them Things One and Two, though the Captain had never officially called them a damned thing except for hissed insults when they were too slow. She did, however, let them recharge in her house, and aside from the insults generally treated them like stupid but faithful pet dogs. The ships cat, Lieutenant Spots, could often be seen sitting on them, displaying his obviously higher rank.
Dominique peeked over her clipboard. Normally, she could easily be heard over the rest of the crew, and held an authority that none other than the Captain dared to question, but the Captain herself held some unknown terror for the woman. She was easily five years older than her boss, but something in the girl's eyes drove dread into even seasoned criminals, and her smile was more like a sharks if she was angry. Right now, judging from her posture, however, she was just frustrated, which was generally the Captain's default state.
Her hat hung on a hook nearby, the black-dyed peacock feathers drifting merrily below the even blacker brim. Her coat, a rich scarlet with gold trim, also was hung up, leaving Captain Alice 'Black Bonnet' Rackham in her trousers and white work short, which had its sleeves rolled to the elbows. Her hair, usually left to drift around her head in a cloud when on shore, was bound back in a rough ponytail. And unusual even for her, while she stood with her hands braced on a table, leaning over some mechanical project, she was standing in a bucket of seawater. Her face lifted up, and her eyes, glittering madly like a bird's, slid over Dominique's face for a second. She had a distant gaze, but it came sharply into focus.
“Sorry, Miss Briggs.” Despite her youth (she was only twenty), her voice was rich and sweet, often described as audible honey. “What can I do for you?”
Dominique, noting that today was a good day, stepped up to her Captain smartly, handing over the clipboard. “Ah, more like what I can do for you, ma'am. We've got another order, and a suspected target.”
“Oh?” Alice took the clipboard, gave it a brief glance, and set it on the table. From experience, Briggs knew that she had already read the whole thing top to bottom and probably understood it better than she had after reading it three times.
“It does look like we're going to throw a party. Tonight. And let Mister Ribbons know that I'd like a second target if he can find one, preferably a yacht or cruise line. Got to keep balance.”
“Yes, ma'am. And the order?”
“I'll fill it by weeks end, I suppose. They know they have to wait if they want our stuff.”
“Aye aye, ma'am. Shall I inform the crew?”
Alice's face slid into the smile that most of the crew feared. “Yes, Miss Briggs, you may.”
Twenty miles out of Punta Cana, between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico
Twenty miles out of Punta Cana, between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico
The blackness was enveloping and suffocating, a blanket over the sea. The only sounds from the entirety of the Revenge were the sloshing of waves against the hull and the steady breaths of those of the crew up on deck. She might have creaked, but that Alice Rackham was a genius engineer enough to prevent even that. Those who had stations on the deck watched her warily, while she herself peered through a spyglass that looked for all the world like one straight out of the movies. With one boot up on the rail and the gentle night breeze blowing her coat back, she looked like a woman completely out of another era of history. That air, along with her incessant madness and charisma in spades, had gotten them all on her ship, and not one man or woman among them had yet to give her cause to eject them.
In her view, the telescopic view widened out to give her a better view of her target. A freighter was chugging along, and from the information they had gotten, she was bound for Ponce in Puerto Rico, and then on to Puerto La Cruz in Venezuela, then cross the Atlantic to Cape Verde and the DNC. On her official manifests were listed normal trade goods coming out of the US, which she had left by way of the port facilities in Philadelphia. Ribbons' contacts, however, had tipped him off that also on board were a cache of illegal weapons and, more importantly, an unknown number of kidnapped victims from all over the US. The crew had growled in eagerness at that news earlier today. Many of them had come from similar situations, or lost loved ones to it. And it was known that Rackham herself hated slavery with passion enough to put it in her Brethren's Code, so they knew what tonight meant. Only a rescue of victims and wholesale slaughter were on tonight's menu, and she didn't much care how the enemy died as long as they were gone by dawn.
She muttered to the two people next to her, “No puncture shot. Load all guns with light ammunition. And bring up the deck guns with the cold rounds." They confirmed and moved along the line, passing the orders down as they went. Minutes went passed. She could hear the deck guns being brought around. Once she though enough time had passed, she stalked up the stairs to the wheel, motioning for the steersman in place to move off to another station. She stood, leaning on the wheel and glaring in the direction of their target.
Finally, it was in easy view, and the Revenge had been unerringly put on a heading that, once under power, would cut her off easily, well before they were even in decent radio distance of help. She nodded to herself, then snarled out, mouth in a mad grin, “All hands, let loose the sails and let's cut these blaggards guts out!”
A roar went up from the deck. Ropes whizzed in their pulleys, and the black sails of the Revenge snapped open to full as they rolled down the masts. Shouts echoed out through the night air as men and women went about their tasks with drilled precision and experience. Mister Ribbons' concertina began playing, keeping up the energy, and someone broke out into “Roll, Me Hearties”. Not a light was on, however, and a black ship sailed, under black sails, in the night.
The freighter easily dwarfed her pursuer, but she was slow, and not nearly as agile. As well, since the Revenge made no sound of her own, it was nearly impossible to know she was there. Except, of course, for the growing sound of shanties, the concertina, and now that they could see the sentries with their naked eyes, the crew began jeering them heartily. The sentries on the Barracuda were slow to react, and by the time the searchlights on bow and stern had come on, the Revenge had already come up broadside on her starboard. Small arms opened up from the pirates, and several sentries on deck dropped immediately. More crew turned out with assault rifles, and there was a fierce gun battle between the two ships for almost five minutes. Rackham waited as long as she cared to, noting to herself to increase firearms training with the crew for the next two weeks, and then gave another order through the PA system microphone next to her.
The big guns of the Revenge opened up with a deafening, rattling roar. They didn't need to, really, she could have easily modified them to have fired almost silently. She also hadn't needed to actively increase the amount of smoke that ejected from the barrels when they fired. But appearances were everything to her, and the night lit up as fifteen guns from the second deck and seven main guns fired a salvo. All four port swivel guns also fired off two shots each, which, loaded with grapeshot, peppered the deck and side of the big freighter with tiny steel balls, cutting down several men. The big guns had fired concussive shots, denting but not breaching the hull of her victim, though the shock wave was designed to travel straight through and deafen anyone inside. And the seven shot from the main guns flashed out in bright blue lines to their points of impact, where there was a huge cloud of mist from each one. As it was shredded away by the winds, the mist revealed patches of ice in hundred foot circles, inside of which were several crew members of the Barracuda who had been flash frozen.
Alice clicked her radio over to the right frequency and said, from both the radio and through the loudspeakers meant to broad cast it all the way across the gap, “Crew of the Barracuda, this is Captain Rackham of the Tortuga's Revenge. Cut your engines and heave to. Prepare to be boarded. Failure to comply will result in our blowing you straight to the Locker.” As she said this, she chanced to look behind her. Calypso stood there, smiling brightly. Ægir stood next to her, choosing to not make a nuisance of himself by appearing at normal human size, which meant Rán was even now pacing between the ships. Alice's grin grew fiercer.
Across the gap, several of the enemy, upon seeing the destruction wrought by the cryo-shots, threw down their guns and raised their hands. The ship kept moving, however, until a number of gunshots could be heard, and Alice watched the flashes of gunfire could be seen in the windows of the bridge. Minutes later, the ship finally began slowing. The Revenge waited until she was almost stopped before coming around her bow, cutting sails and kicking the hydrofoil in reverse to stop the ship nearly on a dime just across from the port of the Barracuda. Grapples were tossed, and she was hauled up far enough to get the gangplanks across. Alice Rackham walked aboard the freighter like a conquering queen, followed closely by Calypso, Ægir electing to stay behind for his own reasons.
She was met by a rag tag group. Some of them wore body armour, others looked like they had just woken up, and not one of them looked like they had gotten away unscathed. Most of the wounds looked like they hadn't been caused by her own crew, however. Apparently her attack had sparked off a mutiny almost as soon as it had started. One man, a huge Hispanic fellow, stood mostly straight, favouring a leg with blood on his thigh, and saluted grimly.
<The ship, she is yours> he said in Spanish. Alice nodded.
<Yes, so it is. But I don't need you.> She drew a pistol from her bandoleer, swiftly aiming and putting a shot directly between his eyes. He fell over like a board. His crewmates began pleading for their lives almost immediately. She disregarded them, signalling for the rest to dispose of them, then walked below decks to the chattering of execution gunfire.
It took her ten minutes to figure out where the victims were being kept. She cut the lock off the door and kicked it open, to find dozens of terrified women and children staring at her. Many looked to sick to move. She hissed between her teeth and pulled a radio handset out of her pocket.
“Miss Brigs, prepare as many cabins as we have for guests. They'll be with us until we can determine the best course of action.”
“Aye aye, Captain,” Briggs' voice crackled over the radio. Rackham, spent a good hour stalking the halls with her crew, hunting down every last existing member of the slaver's crew members, around half of which were still recovering from the concussive rounds that had hit their ship. A quarter of the entire crew, including the captain and most of the bridge crew, had been killed by their own shipmates. She used her cutlass exclusively, as did the rest, leaving most with wounds that would only be fatal after a painful few hours. Which they would not have.
As she walked back over the gangplanks, just behind a crewwoman who was guiding a group of rescued women over to the Revenge, Calypso stopped her just on the pirate ship's deck.
“You did good work tonight, my little pirate lady.” Like any other time she had seen Calypso, the goddess appeared as a Mediterranean woman, with raven curls that floated about her head as if she was underwater, and olive-tanned skin that shone like moonlight. Rackham nodded to her politely.
“Aye, my Queen. We'll send the bastards to the bottom and let the fishes nibble their eyes.”
“That is good, but it is another matter which I need to speak to you about.” The goddess crossed her arms and pursed her lips before continuing. Alice, for her part, stood quietly. Calypso could have a temper that rivalled a storm should she feel offended. “Far north, along the mainland coast, up in the cold waters, there has been...a disturbance. I would have you investigate it.”
Alice's tilted her head to one side, then glanced around. Several of the crew had backed a respectful distance away. It did not pay to bother the Captain during one of her “episodes.”
“And what, pray tell, am I to tell the crew?”
“Oh, I'm sure you can think of something sufficient. Chalciuhtlicue and Rán will guide you once you are clear of these waters.”
Rackham nodded again, then spun on her heel and began barking orders. Calypso, behind her back, rolled her eyes and muttered, “Always so sudden. You could do with a vacation,” before disappearing back to wherever she had come from. Twenty minutes later, with all the salvage and stolen goods they could get aboard along with the rescues, the Revenge pulled away from the freighter. All the deck guns fired solid shot, and most hit below the waterline, sending the Barracuda and her dead or dying crew down to Davy Jones's Locker, there to receive the attentions of whichever god laid claim to their slaver souls. Then the Revenge set full sail and headed north, towards the American coast.