Only a few pirates filled the Gangplank that evening, but the citizens of Babbage had come in masses to watch the proceedings. Emerson Lighthouse came in ready, cracking his knuckles multiple times in anticipation. Others watched skeptically, neither Book nor Rayn shared the reason for the safe passage was to save the children’s lives. “Full house! I hope people are drinking.”
Bookworm Hienrichs muttered softly to Emerson, before he approached the pirates, “You’d better have something good up your sleeve.”
Emerson whispered, cracking his knuckles for emphasis, “I always have an ace or two up my sleeve! Get ready for a caffeine fix tomorrow!”
The Captain spoke to his second in their native tongue gesturing to Emerson derisively. Her response made him snort, then sigh, and then finally he nodded reluctantly. He approached Emerson aggressively, who wrinkled his nose at the captain, “I know there’s a heat wave but I do have showers here if you need them.” One of the pirates chimed in that she’d already helped herself. Emerson responded, “I was looking at the big lout in front of me!”
Bookworm Hienrichs watched the ‘diplomatic’ exchange and figured their hope for peace was ending. But she let Emerson do the talking… for now…
“I hope you find the place to your liking, my offer from before still stands. If you need room here feel free, at least until the end of Air Kraken season.” He said trying to throw that back in there. The pirates did not respond. “Also, my office is off limits. I have stuff in there I’d rather people not see.”
“I would rather not see it either!” Khopesh shouted back.
“First, all the kids are free, right?” Emerson looks to Bookworm for verification.
“They are free, dropped off at Port Babbage. Their safety beyond my ship is none of my concern.”
“Did you feed them first?” Emerson snickered when they said yes. He would not have fed them. However, when he heard the menu, “Sausage buttered biscuits? Do you have any left overs?” Their flat stares said enough. “Anyways, the blockade is lifted too right? Good. So before I cough up the goods…how does that work if we come to an agreement and how do we guarantee it? What am I getting again, coffee right?” He turned to Beryl who was standing near the pirates.
Beryl took a minute to answer, but when prompted again spoke quickly, “Yeah, right now they can still destroy all the coffee. Poison, fire, steal it for themselves. And Khopesh was thinking of throwing it all in the harbor and having a ‘Babbage Coffee Party’ if you asked for it back the wrong way.”
“Oh that’s just what we need. Wiggyfish on caffeine.” Bookworm lamented to herself thinking of the Boston Tea Party. Two of the pirates looked at their Captain incredulously, “How would we get paid if he did that?”
“Ha! Book! You took the words right out of my mouth!” Emerson seemed heartened by the responses, “This is easy then. What you need is fair compensation. I get that. I am a businessman too. But what kind of guarantee do we have that you won’t go back on your word, *if* I cough up some fair compensation?”
“Because tribal elders would ritually kill me if I went back on word?” Khopesh responded as if this was common sense. What he said next seemed to infuriate his crew even more, “Also, the head of the Doll is fair payment to me.”
“Awesome, I like your tribal elders.” Emerson felt ready to move forward with his plan. “I imagine as pirates, the authorities don’t like you very much, am I correct? And I imagine as pirates, the authorities never give you the benefit of the doubt because… you are criminals… correct?”
Their gunner spat on the floor she began to laugh so hard. Faitha replied with a collected, “One could say such outside our borders.”
Khopesh scoffed, “Bah, authorities. We are the Authorities in the Rif, and my tribe is the rightful rulers of the Rif! What you call criminal, we call taxation!” His claim brought the ire of his own companions once again.
“Anyways, I imagine if you had some form to show your nefarious deeds are legal that might be of some benefit?”
“Yes,” Khospesh replied. “Is called ‘blockade’, we are sadly sending home as part of agreement.” Apparently he was not joking about that being legal in the Rif.
But Emerson smirked, the blockade was ending and he had something to offer. He went to the diving helmet and retrieved something hidden beneath it. He turned back to and asked Bookworm to plug her ears.
Captain Hienrichs did not plug her ears, though Beryl did, as Emerson held up a small block of wood and a much larger one. Lighthouse tossed Khopesh the bigger block, about eight inches across the top and three inches wide. The pirate captain caught it in one of his gauntlets.
“Since you are not from here I will give you a little history. A couple of years ago I got in a little trouble. I may have accidentally burned down city hall, or that was the allegation though I denied it!” He paused for dramatic effect. Khopesh and his audience stared at him dumbfounded.
Eventually Petra coughed and Emerson continued, “As a result the deputy assistant mayor took over the Gangplank as his personal office. That bald bugger goes and puts a big huge desk over by the bakery. At first I thought it was a bad thing! Nobody likes bureaucrats. And he also smelled like vanilla and cinnamon. I could never figure that out. Anyway, I’m probably losing these pirates with my ramblings…and Khopesh is probably still trying to figure out what that block of wood is.”
Several people shook their heads. One person said the negotiations had been doomed from the start with Emerson leading them. Petra watched her boss closely wondering how he would turn this around.
“One of the fringe benefits of having the deputy mayor with his overcompensating monster of a desk is that he left his office supplies here.” Emerson pointed to the block in the Captain’s hand. “What you are holding is the official woodcut containing the official city stamp used on all letterhead!”
Khopesh looked up at that, sniffing the wooden block for a moment, “And…you gave it to me.”