Khopesh held the small block that was apparently the official letterhead of the city Emerson had just given him. The room stared at Emerson, who still held the smaller block and never lost his confident smile, “Ah but that won’t matter much without this.
“I happen to know a woodcutter up north. The second cousin thrice removed of Daisy O’Reatus’s third husband’s best friend Jimm Babby. He can carve anything including signatures so with that….” Emerson pointed to the big block in Khopesh’s hand then at his own. “And this, you could have official letterhead and a reasonably good looking signature of none other than the deputy mayor himself! Mr. Osgoode Underby.
Khopesh scoffed gently in mild surprise, but then looked to Lighthouse again, this time with more interest. Another pirate gave out a whistle while Books frown deepened. The pirate captain gave the block a quick sniff and look over.
“Smells like printer’s ink right? That’s fresh lamp black on there. I actually used it earlier so be careful you don’t stain your clothes.”
“Oh dear, we don’t want that to happen…” Khopesh said sarcastically as he was clad in all black.
“With that your nefarious deeds can get official-looking almost realish official approval!” Emerson grinned as Khopesh slowly looked the block over.
Finally the Captain leered at Emerson, “What is catch??”
“I think that is worth our coffee back.” Emerson haggled, despite his apparent dislike for the captain.
Khopesh scoffed again, “All you want for this is coffee back?”
“Okay, give me the woodcut back if you don’t want it.”
Khopesh clutched it tightly, pulling it to his chest, “I think….yes Mondragon coffee is free of our…taxation.”
Many were unimpressed by that offer. The coffee wouldn’t be returned and the pirates had not targeted only Mondragoran shipments. The blockade targeted any ship with beverages and expanded after their target had been known.
“Petra, where is my hookah?” Emerson waited a moment as the young lass went looking. He turned back to the pirates, “Khopesh, you have a small mind for a pirate. How did you ever become so successful?”
“Her.” The crew pointed to Faitha while Khopesh turned to them scowling deeply, hands edging toward his weapons.
“Psst, Petra we need the hookah!” Emerson stage whispered while their attention was diverted. Petra looked to Beryl for help, but she was no help. The lass looked to Emerson nervously while Bookworm tried to get his attention. It was Cyan who pointed it out nearby. Emerson grinned in triumph as he motioned for them to move it to the bar.
The pirates paid them no mind. Khopesh was asking if anyone caught the name of the wood carver, but Faitha seemed confident Pan could do the same.
“Khopesh, take a seat,” Emerson called from the bar. The captain turned away from his crew and joined him, picking up a chair. Lighthouse got a coal from the stoves to light up the hookah. “I need to educate you in the art of the deal, Mr. fancy pants air pirate.”
Khopesh was still holding the seat he was instructed to take. His second in command was the first to correct him, “He meant sit with him.”
“Well why did he not say so?!” The irate captain dropped the bar stool loudly and slumped onto it.
Emerson ignored the captain, taking a quick haul off his prized hookah and blew out the purple smoke. He passed the hose to the pirate, “I don’t care what you pirates are into you’ve never had real purple sage until you’ve had the stuff grown by Cleetus O’Reatus. Have a haul then I’ll teach you about what you can do if you use your brain rather than your brawn.”
Khopesh snorted as he realized Emerson wished to smoke with him as part of the bargaining. “I’m afraid my helm officers are sick. All of them. It is up to me to steer straight line out of Babbage.”
“I can fly us,” Faitha responded with an almost cruel gaze at her own captain. Another shipmate added, “Me too.”
“All of my helm officers are out sick!” Khopesh shouted insistently ignoring his own crew. “Special ship! Handles really weird! You have to put it in reverse to start it!”
“You ever her of spice, melange?” Emerson chuckled as he started to loosen up and get into his stride. He was in his element now. Some derided and glared at him with doubt considering his previous deal to allow the pirates passage. Surprisingly it was Faitha who stepped forward in his defense. The people had not been told his concessions before now saved lives. Emerson continued, his attention on Khopesh and the hose. “This is the same. It will help you fly between point a and point B, trust me. I am the most trust worthy man in New Babbage. Ask Petra she will vouch for me!” Even before he said that she was saying it was true. “See! She even anticipates my brilliance.” He quickly gave her a high five.
“This was not part of the agreement!” Khopesh shouted as the people snickered near him, setting his back up. “Fortunately, I fear nothing!”
“Seriously, what kind of pirate is scared of the hookah?” Emerson wondered aloud despite Khopesh’s proclamation. The Captain took the pipe and breathed deep for a few seconds, before he sputtered clumsily. Emerson was about to speak when Khopesh held up his hand and coughed loudly twice.
When he was done Emerson tried again, “Okay, now listen. When your are running around doing evil deeds what gets in your way? Goody-goodies, am I right? Do-gooders like Bookworm. No offense Book…” He looked at her apologetically as she glowered. “Always trying to do the ‘right thing’.”
Khopesh had stopped coughing and was now staring at the wall. “What?”
“Take another puff, I’m still talking here.” Emerson suggested. The pirate wavered as he looked at the pipe. After another small goading from the proprietor, the buccaneer took another, more measured, drag. He looked like he was going to puke but he let out a stream of purple smoke.
“So, you have people who are concerned with the law and legalities, and that can be a pain in the posterior, am I right? Nothing worse than cruising into mayhem when the law chases you and sets up their inconvenient blockade and the occasional insistence on searching your holds. Then they find all the good stuff, and unless you fight, they take it and leave you with a nasty summons”
Khopesh snorted, he was swaying slightly now, “What is the law concerned with? We are the law….and…the blockade does not even want to be there…the blockade wants to call us to the caravan…to find the source of the universe….to summon…the mysteries of life.”
Khopesh puffed again, someone in the audience silently mouthed ‘What the f…’
Emerson smiled and nodded, things were looking up for Babbage finally, “Khopesh, you need another haul on the hose, surely someone else can fly.”
Khopesh nodded, but continued his thought from earlier, “Mysteries like…why are lobsters with such big claws? It is really to give big hugs…but the ocean doesn’t know that we can’t breathe in it. Because we don’t know we can.”
Cyan and many others tried desperately to hide their laughter. Bookworm Hienrichs muttered, “I was right. My brain’s going to explode.”
“Okay so you print out false inventories and put them on ‘official’ city letterhead. Stamp it with Mr. Underby’s ‘official’ signature…”
Khopesh took another drag of the hookah, held his breath, but suddenly started laughing as he stared at Lighthouse, purple smoke everywhere. “Your hair is so big. It’s like a head mop. We could clean the Gangplank with that.”
Beryl laughed, she remembered she used to call Emerson that long ago. The proprietor grabbed the hose triumphantly and took a puff. He mouthed to Petra, “Lightweight. Calls himself a pirate.”
Faitha watched, a predatory look in her eye, her smile like a wolf seeing a wounded rabbit. Khopesh wobbled unsteadily, “I do not feel good. I feel…AMAZING!” He turned to everyone excitedly, “This is what I know…I can fly across the whole world, but, I can only do it naked!”
Emerson shared a quick chuckle, the leaf starting to get to him too. “I have another idea! I hadn’t thought of this before but the hookah is helping me see things more clearly. You can foreclose on somewhere like, say the Brunel! All on the letterhead and signed by the Deputy Mayor! Close Victor down for health violations and then buy him out!”
“I like this man!” Khopesh shouted for everyone to hear, he pat him on the back, or tried to, he ended up hitting air while laughing. “Faitha! Send the blockade home! No more coffee raids!”
Beryl watched purring, on some level the nonsense making sense to her. Emerson had done it. He had just saved coffee.
…well, from the air pirates. They could deal with the sea and train problem later.
(To Be Conclueded…ish))