It was a relief to hear the current pirate problem was not to do with the Hag, but it piqued Tepic’s curiosity.
“yer blockadin the City, yes?” he asked.
“I bet that was a bit of business too since Mr Melnik does control most of Babbage ports as well.” Cyan added.
The lady shook her head, saying “No, but we’re attacking ships on their way and picking them off.”
“sounds like a blockade ter me!” Tepic replied, looking rather confused, then continued “what yer doin it fer?”
“Does it matter?” Joseph grunted.
“well yes…. if yer doin business, at some point yer gotta start negotiatin ter make it pay…”
“Already got that settled.” the gunner spoke with finality, “Maybe you can know more if you take the Captain’s offer.”
“Pays good. Think about it.” Joseph added.
The boys realised this line of questions had come to an end, however there was still sport to be had.
“You really should get that leg looked at Joseph.” Cyan said.
“yep, never know what might grow in wounds from the City.” Tepic continued, “i seen tiny little cuts on a bloke’s leg turn slowly black… then the black spreads…… till it goes all…”
The lady pirate fixed Tepic with a stare, finally grinning slowly “So how much of you is covered in lock picks and little secrets.” she interjected, cutting through his description. She stepped up to the door and unlocked it before entering, looking the boy up and down.
“You know if he had a lockpick he would have been gone right now.” Cyan stated that with total faith in his friends ability, unaware that Tepic had already checked he could open the door and had relocked it, knowing he was safest in the cell… as long as no pirate wanted to come in.
“ello Gunner.” he said, wondering what was to come.
“That’s right, but I’m good at other things too. Like knowing when a prisoner is sitting on something.”
“Probably best to be sure.” Joseph added.
“Like a now broken transmitter.” she finished, looking to see if there was a reaction.
“transmitter? where would i gets a transmitter?” came the wounded reply, years of living on the streets had developed an instant denial of any wrong-doing.
She reached for his cap and the boy snarled, baring his teeth. Undeterred she made a grab for it. Tepic fastened his teeth to her wrist, careful not to break her skin as Joseph let out a cry. To his disappointment, the lady just used her other hand to remove his hat, so he let go of her wrist with a muttered curse. Stepping back, she began to search it rapidly and thoroughly. She quickly found the roll of thin wire, the blade in the peak, the stub of pencil and pages of note paper inside, and Tepic’s emergency vole food cache along with several other odds and ends, none of which she removed, commenting on the items as discovered. Finally she handed it back intact, and the boy jammed it back on his head, insulted she had not seen fit to take the things away.
“You’ve stored quite a few interesting things,” she said, “but we found the transmitter and moved it from when you found us initially. No rescue is coming just yet. But I’m betting you’re a resourceful lad.”
“dunno bout no transmitter, reckon yer’s got a traitor in yer crew…..” Tepic’s voice was sullen.
“You might convince the Captain of that, but I doubt it.” she replied before taking a step towards the boy, “How many other toys are lining your sweater there?”
He stepped back and reached under his sweater, pulling out a cloth pouch from which he tipped a set of jacks and ball, then a yo-yo from his sleeve.
“I got these… an this….” he said, beginning to play with the yo-yo.
Joseph watched the lad suspiciously but the lady just laughed and stepped out of the cell, locking the door as she said “You got a lot more than that, kid. You snuck on board with a plan.”
“I think his plan included not getting captured.” Cyan said, while Tepic decided it was time to try out his cover story.
“i just got carried away by the Circus balloon, when the ropes broke…… an it carried me out ter sea, me, a poor unfortunate urchin of the City……. an then the balloon hit this big ship in the sky, an i gots tumbled out….. an then yer a beats me up an throws me in a dark, dank dungeon!”
By the end of the story, there were tears of misery pouring down his wobegotten face, the picture of a poor, put-upon child, the picture slightly disrupted by him making the yo-yo perform perfectly timed tricks.
“See he’s a innocent little fox who got carried away!” Cyan declared, supporting his friend’s story.
“You’d be surprised how many times we’ve used the play of getting captured so we could get on the enemy ship.” Gunner said with a smile, “I think our captain once tried to turn himself in to collect his own bounty… or he has a story of someone who tried it before.”
Tepic almost dropped the toy at this, recalling the look on the Ravlin Sergeant’s face when he had done just that years ago.
“So you didn’t set the transmitter? I wonder who was silly enough to try then with the interference.” she asked.
“well, if it weren’t me, has ter be someone on yer crew as has the time an chance ter get it on board….” Tepic tried, hoping to sow discord.
“Ah! So it was CYAN! No one else would have done it!” she said, turning to the terrified cabin boy. This was not the direction Tepic had hoped for.
“You’ve checked my bag all I had was books!” Cyan wailed.
“ha! him? no chance!” Tepic scoffed, “that sort of think takes time an plannin, how long has Cyan been on board?”
Roughly she took Cyan’s bag and searched it as thoroughly as she had Tepic’s cap, then closed it and pushed it back at him.
“Nah, you’re just a good kid, you’ll make a good pirate.” With that, she turned and left.
“You even took my crown…” Cyan said quietly to himself, sadness in his voice.
“she’s a cool un, can see why she’s yer gunner.” Tepic commented.
“Yeah she… is something” Cyan said, perking up somewhat.
“Hey! I gun too!” Joseph said, almost shouting.
The boys glanced at each other and giggled.
“yer a better gunner than that lass? ha!” was Tepic’s contribution.
“I think you probably need a few more years of experience…” was Cyan’s.
“I can shoot fine.” the pirate’s voice was defensive.
“course, if the black on yer leg gooes all the way round, an yer leg falls off…..”
“Nothings wrong with my leg!”
The boy sniffed the air and stepped closer to the bars, “yer sure? us foxes has VERY good noses, an…..”
“Don’t try anything, or you’ll see how well I can shoot.” Joseph said, stepping back and placing a hand on his gun.
“an i’s just standin here playin with me toy, Mr….” the innocent voice of a child came from the boy.
“Keep it that way.” Joseph commanded, then turned to Cyan, “Keep an eye on him!”
He left, limping, the boys convinced he was going straight to whoever was the doctor for the crew.
The boys giggled into their hands, then chatted about how Cyan had joined up with the pirates, looking for any loopholes. Cyan had just told Tepic the captain’s name was Khopesh when another lady pirate arrived.