Chapter 9 ~ Overboard
Justin watched as his ship drew ever closer to his target. He had waited a long time for this moment. He was on a mission to see how well he could do without Maath and Namid’s leading. He had been trying to do missions more and more without Maath and Namid’s firm guidance ever since he had dropped Dabria off at her own home over eight months ago, but this time he was determined he would make it. He was supposed to pick Dabria up again in a week and he wanted to have his first total capture under his belt by then. He was catching up to the opposing ship now in a matter of moments he would be able to fire.
“Dip the colors,” Justin commanded.
Maath relayed the message and the Guardian’s Star’s flags dipped low. Justin watched, but there was no response. “Make sure they heard.”
Math called out again and a cannon ball launched into the air. It fell harmlessly into the water. The other ship’s response was to turn hard to the port side in an attempt to leave The Guardian Star behind.
“They never do learn,” Namid commented from the wheel.
“That makes it fun,” Justin replied. “When we are in range, take out the masts,” he told Maath quietly who again relayed the command to the ship.
Justin waited and watched. Within moments, they were in range and a volley of cannon balls soared to the opposing ship. Two hit the ship’s waist, one hit the quarterdeck, and one missed.
“Yes!” Justin exclaimed.
“You have not won yet, Captain,” Namid calmly said.
“No, but I will,” was Justin’s cocky reply.
“What is next then?” Namid asked conversationally.
“We hit them again,” Justin replied, thinking on his feet.
“Sure, why not,” Maath said, “we don’t want there to be a ship left for us to board.”
“We only hit it three times,” Justin complained.
“You are the captain,” Namid replied.
“Right, and I’m about to prove it,” Justin said. “Send out a half volley, as soon as it launches, Namid pull hard port and Maath have the men ready to board.”
Namid and Maath shared a glance and both men said, “Aye, aye, Captain.”
The men carried out their orders to perfection and soon The Guardian Star had pulled along side the opposing ship. Within minutes, planks connected the two ships and the crew was crossing, swords drawn. They moved as seasoned men and the crews clashed swords quickly. Justin followed in the final wave, with Maath and Namid at his side.
The three made their way through the throng, searching for the captain of the doomed ship. Justin slashed in front of him and cut a long gash into the opponent standing in his path. Namid turned and used his shoulder to move him completely out of the way, just as Maath slashed at another opponent. Justin nodded his thanks and moved to take out the next one in line. They continued slowly up the steps until they reached the quarterdeck. The captain stood at the helm glowering.
“You! You will not leave this ship alive, Black Panther!”
Justin turned behind him to look at Namid who was at his shoulder. The captain seemed to be addressing him. Justin wasn’t sure if he was supposed to be amused or angry, but anger quickly won out. True, they had carefully kept his identity a secret because Tommy was recognizable and he still looked so young, even at twenty. But this was his first mission with little guidance from Maath and Namid and he should be able to take credit for it! Besides, this guy obviously had no idea who the original Black Panther was either if he could mistake Namid for him.
“Why you…” Justin sputtered.
“You are not even worth the Black Panthers time, you weakling. You should feel honored that your ship was conquered by the greatest pirate on the Ula Ocean!” Maath spoke up.
Justin glanced at him and shot him a frown, which Maath ignored.
“I’ll defeat you without breaking a sweat!” Justin swore, turning back to the other captain.
“What’s wrong, Black Panther, can you not even speak for yourself?” The other captain mocked.
“He doesn’t have to, my sword speaks for itself!” Justin exclaimed launching himself forward.
The man barely blocked his blow with a high cut. Justin let his sword slide along the other then swung it underneath. The man jumped back, but his clothes were ripped in the process. The captain growled and swung high. Justin ducked and lunged, cutting the man’s arm, but as he did the man cut down deeply into Justin’s side. Suddenly, another sword joined the fray and it sliced across the hand of the captain, causing him to drop his weapon, before it could do anymore damage.
Justin looked up to see Namid standing above him and between the two opponents. He hit the deck with his fist in frustration, and then automatically groaned at the pain it caused his side. Maath reached down and helped him to stand.
“Are you all right?” Maath asked.
“I’m fine,” Justin muttered angrily.
“Hmmm,” was Maath’s reply.
Justin looked at the man who stood on the opposite side of Namid clutching his hand and glairing at the three of them. “Mark the ship, get the booty, and let’s go. I’ve had enough,” Justin muttered, unable to enjoy his victory now.
“Aye, aye, Captain,” Maath replied too quietly for the man to hear. “Inu, Sheron!”
The two crewmembers, who had been tying up the other crew, rushed over. “Take him back to the ship and see that he is properly taken care of,” Maath commanded handing Justin off to them.
The men nodded and carefully they made their way back to the Guardian Star. Justin allowed them to lead him into the Great Cabin and help him onto the bed. Sheron left quickly to get the Cook and hot water and bandages, while Inu helped him to take off his shirt and sword. Before Sheron came back, Justin had blacked out.
“Honest, I am fine, Dabria. Will you quite it already!” Justin said louder this time.
“You are not fine, I saw you wince!” The girl protested just as loudly.
“You saw no such thing,” Justin growled, wishing the girl had paid more attention to the decorum lessons aboard the ship.
The two were standing on the main deck and Justin was sure half the crew could hear them arguing, since about that number had stopped working to listen. He had been supervising the moving of some cargo, when he had pulled his shoulder the wrong way. That wouldn’t have been a problem, except the shoulder was connected to his side that the rival captain had pierced. It was two week since the ‘incident,’ as Maath referred to it, had happened and Justin was almost fully healed, but it still caused pain when he forgot and moved the wrong way. He hated being reminded of it because it made him seem weak, which was exactly what this girl was doing by protesting loudly that he was hurt to half the crew.
Dabria shook her head, so that her almost white hair flew all around her face. “I’m not blind. Why are you being so stubborn?”
“Why are you being so noisy?” Justin countered.
Dabria took a step back and lowered her voice. “I am not. I’m just concerned. I can help you get better.”
Justin looked at her in surprise at the change in topic. “What exactly do you mean?”
“I heard Maath’s lessons, I bet I could do some work too. I’d be a huge help to you and you know it.”
“No way. You would only get underfoot,” Justin said thinking back to her first time on board when she had been into everything and had nearly driven him and his crewmembers mad.
“I would not. Let me do something easy then,” she cast him a sly look, which Justin did not like at all.
“What are you thinking, Pixie?” He asked cautiously.
“Well, if you think I’ll get underfoot down here, then let me do something that I can do and not get under foot,” her gaze slid past him and up.
Justin didn’t have to look to know what she was gazing at so intently. “Absolutely not. You must think I’ve lost my mind. Don’t you remember the last time you tried that? If you as so much as attempt to go up that rigging to the crow’s nest, so help me, I will lock you in your cabin for the rest of your life!”
Dabria threw him a disgusted look, which quickly changed to an innocent one. “Oh, come on, Captain Justin, you wouldn’t do that and you know it. Besides, I was only what eleven last time? I’m much older and responsible now.”
Justin wanted to shudder at the thought of the last time she had attempted to climb the rigging. Unlike his first time, the girl had been fearless. She was a little thing, but she had managed to make it halfway up to the nest, before anyone but her maid had realized what she was doing. Then she had slipped, Justin had seen his life and hers flash before his eyes when that happened. She had landed in her cabin for the rest of the trip for that stunt.
“Justin? Justin? Hey Justin! I’m talking to you!” Dabria’s impatient voice called him back from memory lane.
He looked at her for a moment before realizing she was still speaking. “What?”
Dabria sighed. “I had a very convincing list going!”
“Not convincing enough. You are never to climb the rigging again. Don’t you remember, you promised me.”
“But I was only eleven!” She protested.
“Yes, and now you are only thirteen. I’m grateful that you want to help, but the best thing you can do for me is stay out of trouble for a change! End of negotiations.”
“What negotiations? You didn’t even let me finish!” She protested louder.
“You’re finished now,” Justin responded. He turned his back to her and shouted some minor order to a sailor passing by then yelled for everyone else to get back to work. Behind him he heard Dabria give a ‘humph!’ and then leave. He’d deal with her later, but right now he just wanted the soothing sounds of his ship.
Dabria stomped away from the captain and back towards the cabin she shared with Salena. She almost hit two crewmen in her way. She mumbled an apology and kept going missing the strange look the men shot at her. She reached her door and yanked it open. Salena looked up from her reading startled.
“What is wrong with you?”
“I am not just thirteen!” She stormed.
“Uh, okay. You are thirteen,” Salena said logically, looking at her friend as if she had lost her mind.
“But not just thirteen! Thirteen year olds can do a lot of things! I’m not some little kid anymore!” Dabria clarified loudly.
“Of course they can,” Salena said soothingly as she stood up. “You can do lots of things, Dabria, but just what is going on? What has you so fired up?”
“He said I was only thirteen and I couldn’t be any help at all! Do I look like a baby to you?” Dabria spouted out.
“Oh,” Salena finally said, as she came to stand in front of Dabria. “I take it our captain didn’t need your help.”
“Oh, he needs it. He just doesn’t want it,” Dabria explained.
“Um, do you want to sit down, Bree? You look like you need a seat and a drink,” Salena asked carefully.
“I’m not a baby! I don’t need you to watch over me!”
“That’s my job. I’m the maid,” Salena stated calmly, leading an unwilling Dabria to the chair at the table.
“I never treat you like a maid!” Dabria defended herself.
Salena arched her eyebrow. “Yeah, you do. Whenever it benefits us or we need to keep up pretenses. But that’s beside the point, I’m trained to help you and that’s what I’m going to do. So, sit down and close that mouth of yours!”
Dabria sat and her mouth closed, only because she couldn’t think of anything else to say at the moment. She watched silently as Salena put her book on the bed then poured a glass of water and handed it to Dabria.
“Drink. You don’t want to get sick again.”
“I’m too mad to be sick,” Dabria stated.
“You know any high stress or emotion brings it on. Anger included,” Salena reminded her.
“It takes more than just that, besides I haven’t had an attack in a year.”
“The last one was on this ship and I believe because of the captain then too,” Salena commented slyly.
“What is your point?” Dabria asked suspiciously.
“Nothing, except maybe that you get emotional on this ship,” Salena replied calmly.
“I do not and I only want to help! Hey, who asked you anyway?” Dabria demanded.
“Nobody, I was blessing you with my opinion,” was the quick reply.
“Go bless our captain,” Dabria muttered.
Salena shook her head. “No way. I’m staying right here. You’re the one with the problem.”
“I don’t have a problem. I don’t get what the big deal is!”
“You and me both. So why are we still talking about it?” Salena asked, titling her head to one side.
“We’re not,” Dabria replied quickly. She glanced up at the ceiling. “I’m hot.”
Salena shot her a concerned look. “You are? Do you want more water or a cool cloth?”
Dabria shook her head. “No, I don’t think that will help. I don’t feel like I have a fever. I feel like I’m stuffy hot.”
“Oh,” Salena nodded. “Well, there is not a lot we can do about that on this ship. You know that.”
Dabria contemplated the table for a full second, before jumping up. “Maybe there is.”
“No. Whatever it is, Dabria, no. I know that look,” Salena looked at Dabria with narrowed eyes.
“Yes, and you’ve always loved my ideas,” Dabria grinned at her.
“When we were nine!” Salena exclaimed.
“Oh, stop. Haven’t we already gone over that today?” Dabria shook her head. “We are older now!” She yelled as her voice rose two octaves. Suddenly she stopped, and then spoke much lower, “But then, that proves my point, if he wants to treat me as a kid, then I’m going to act like one!”
Salena’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. She closed it and tried again without success.
Dabria laughed. “You look like a fish!”
This time, Salena’s mouth worked. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking it’s time for some fun. I’m hot, so I’m going to cool off,” Dabria said confidently.
“Um, doing what?” Salena asked tentatively.
Dabria’s eyes got wide as she grinned. “Swimming!”
“What?” Salena practically shouted. “Have you lost it?”
“Yep,” Dabria readily agreed as she turned to her trunk and pulled out a white billowed shirt and a pair of loose black pants, she had obtained from an unknowing sailor a while ago.
“In that?” Salena asked.
“You got a better idea?” Dabria questioned.
Dabria gave her a look and Salena muttered, “I didn’t think so.”
“For a swim in the Ula Ocean? No thanks. I’ll wait till your next crazy idea,” Salena replied.
Dabria shrugged. “Your choice.”
“Dabria, are you really serious?”
Dabria shot her a look again and Salena sighed.
“If we didn’t have the girls, I’d do it in a second,” Justin replied to Maath.
“Everyone is tired. The last battle was hard fought, and you and others were injured. They can use a break,” Maath replied stubbornly.
“Maath, do you hear me arguing that point with you? I know that, but we still have the problem of Dabria and Salena. We have to get them to Tommy’s before we do anything else. Then we can head to the Diamond Islands for a break,” Justin replied.
“Fine, can I at least tell the men they have one coming?” Maath questioned persistently.
“Fine by me. It will feel good to relax for a few days. The last haul was pretty big.” Justin replied.
“Aye, Captain, and the men are eager to spend it,” Namid replied, walking up to join the two.
Justin grinned at him. “How about this, we drop off the two girls, spend some time in the Dimond Islands, then head to Jasmine for a night or two. That ought to cool off their bodies and their pockets.”
Maath and Namid smiled. “Yeah, a whole bunch of Yalrando will do that right quick.”
Justin nodded, thinking he was just in the mood for some of the beverage. It was a mixture of some non-alcoholic beverages, even the alcoholics loved the mixture and it could only be obtained in Jasmine. “Go ahead and tell the men, Maath. It should lift up some spirits.”
Maath nodded and moved away as Namid spoke, “You said you wanted to take a turn at the helm, Captain?”
Justin nodded. “Yes, we’ve made this trip so many times, I can do it with my eyes closed now.”
“Perhaps,” Namid replied, “but remember no matter how many times you sail one direction, the sea is always changing to another.”
Justin moved towards the helm from his place on the main deck. “I know, don’t worry Namid, I don’t forget all those lessons that easily.”
“You still have much to learn, young Captain.”
Justin shrugged and walked up the steps to the quarter deck, relieving the sailor at the helm. “Maybe, but I’ve been pretty impressive getting this far.”
Namid laughed. “Yes, you have.”
Justin grinned and felt the wood wheel give with the sea under his hands. He had grown to love that feeling. It still thrilled him as it did when he had first taken a turn steering the fasted ship on the Ula Ocean, his ship. He looked up quickly when a movement unfamiliar to him caught his eye.
“Tell me I am dreaming! She is not going too…” Justin started to say to Namid, when a splash cut off his remark. “Dabria!”
He yelled and leapt from his position to race to the spot where he had seen her jump in from the top of the rail. Behind him, he vaguely realized Namid had taken the wheel again. He reached the edge at the same time as Maath and a fraction before the rest of the crew.
“Do you see her?” He asked frantically.
“No, Captain, nowhere.”
Justin let out a loud curse.
“Please, sir, do not use such language,” a small voice came from beside him. Justin swung around, instantly on the attack. “Salena! What was she thinking!”
“Um, I think you’d better ask her, sir. Could you just bring her back on board, please?”
Justin swung back around his eyes scanning the sea carefully. “If I could find her,” he muttered. “Come on, Dabria, where are you?”
“There!” A crewmember called out suddenly. He pointed to a spot in the distance towards the stern of the boat. “I saw something bob!”
Justin stripped his jacket off without thought. Maath’s hand on his arm caused him to look at his first mate quickly.
“Captain, you are still injured.”
“And Dabria is still out there. It’s too long not to see the idiot. I want her back and safe. Let go.”
It was too late. Justin had jumped in and was heading towards the spot that the sailor had pointed out. He looked widely around, but couldn’t see her. He dove under quickly, pushing water out of his way in an attempt to see where she might be. In a minute, he was back up again, scanning the surface.
“When I find her, I’ll kill her,” he muttered, half terrified that he wouldn’t find her and half mad that she might be fine and he just couldn’t see her.
A bob on the surface a few yards away, caused him to swim in that direction. A spot of white flashed in front of him and he went under again. This time he saw the white more clearly and grabbed hold of the hand attached. She began to struggle violently, but Justin yanked hard and pulled her to the surface, his side aching in protest to the hard action.
They broke through with a gasp. Justin still held her hand firmly and yanked her closer to him, scanning her face for any sign of danger to her. Her face was flushed, but she appeared unharmed otherwise and she was treading water fine, even with one hand captured in his. She tried to jerk away from him, but he held on tightly.
“Owe, that hurts!” She gasped out.
“That is nothing compared to what I’ll do once I get you safely back on that ship!” Justin replied crossly. “Are you out of your mind!”
“I wanted to swim,” Dabria replied innocently.
“Don’t give me that crap.” Justin yanked her hand harder and pulled her back towards the ship. He turned and saw the longboat making its way to them. He held her hand tightly and refused to say another word to the still protesting girl.
In a few minutes they were back on board and Salena had wrapped the soaked Dabria in a warm blanket. Both girls stood still as Justin glared at them. Finally he barked, “Cabin!” and both girls scurried away. He turned to the rest of the crew and barked again, “Show’s over. Get back to work, and then next one that sees something like that had better get me before it happens!”
The crew hurried away and back to their jobs, while Maath brought Justin his own blanket, but Justin shrugged it away.
“Now, Justin,” Maath started in a calm voice.
“I’m going to kill her!” Justin sputtered glowering at the spot where the girls had disappeared below.
“That might not be the best idea,” Namid replied calmly. “Go to your cabin and change then deal with them. You will also need to get that side looked at again, though I suspect you’re too angry to feel it right now, you will later. Besides, you will need a clear frame of mind, or else Maath and I will need to play bodyguards for the girls and I don’t really feel like doing that.”
“What could possible have possessed her?” Justin asked out loud.
Maath shrugged. “Don’t know, but I bet she has a great answer.”
“You are enjoying this!” Justin accused.
“Now that the girl is all right, yes I am,” Maath replied happily.
“You’re going to need a bodyguard too,” Justin muttered as he stomped towards the Great Cabin, but he could hear Maath and Namid’s laughter anyway.
Justin knocked on the door to the girls’ cabin then entered without waiting for a reply. He was relieved to see Dabria was properly dressed again. He was pretty sure she had been swimming in sailor’s garb. He stood just inside the closed doorway, with crossed arms and looked sternly at the girls. Dabria was sitting comfortable on the bed, while Salena sat ramrod straight in the chair.
“Well, Dabria, do you have anything at all to say? What were you thinking?” Justin asked in a ‘don’t bother lying to me’ tone.
Salena cast a look at Dabria, but the girl simply smiled and replied, “I wanted to go for a swim. I was hot.”
“So you launched yourself off the side of my ship and into the sea?” Justin ground out.
Dabria cast a quick look at the floor, before looking up and replying firmly, “yes.”
“Um, I wanted to go for a swim?” Dabria asked, confused.
“Stop it, Dabria. Why did you really jump and don’t give me that ‘I’m hot’ line either.”
“I was hot,” she muttered.
“Fine, does that also explain your two year old attitude?” Justin asked, very frustrated now.
“I’m not two!” Dabria stormed.
“Then quite acting like it!” Justin yelled back.
Dabria dropped to the bed. “I didn’t mean to make you mad.”
“Yes, you did and you pulled it off quite well,” Justin accused. “I don’t have time to run this ship and babysit you too. Wasn’t it you who earlier today said you wanted to be a help? This is not helping, Dabria, this is the opposite!”
Dabria looked steadily at the floor and said nothing. Justin turned to look at Salena, but she too was studying the floor. Justin heaved in exasperation. He wasn’t use to dealing with teenage girls, especially not ones that were like little sisters to him. He was twenty now and had watched Kiliki deal with her sister for years, but he still didn’t get it. He wanted to throttle them both and yet he felt slightly guilty for screaming at them too.
“You went way overboard today, Dabria, way too literally. I ought to throttle you and then dump you back over the side,” Justin spoke, even as Dabria’s head went down further and Salena’s eyes widened. He knew he wasn’t helping, but he was still furious. He felt really guilty, however, when he saw the tears dropping to the floor from Dabria’s eyes. “You have got to learn when not to act, Dabria.”
He walked over to her and knelt in front of her. “Hey, Pixie, come on and pick up your head.” He tucked his hand under her chin and pulled it up. “I got so mad because I have never been so scared in my life. There are sharks out there, or you could have been pulled under the ship, another ship might have come along, the undertow could have taken you…” Justin took a breath. “Do you see why I was so worried? You could have been seriously hurt and I care too much about you to let that happen, Pixie.”
Dabria nodded. “I’m so sorry, Justin! I was mad and I wanted to prove I was older and I thought if I just took a swim I could cool off. I didn’t want you to get hurt even more. And I just… I’m sorry.”
“I know you are.” Justin smiled at her and used his free hand to wipe her tears off her face. “You may be a teenager, Pixie, but you are still a kid too. And that’s not a bad thing. You will have plenty of time to help me as you get even older and I’m pretty sure you’ll give me plenty of trouble too.”
Dabria laughed at that and Justin felt a sense of relief at the sound. “You know how you want to protect me and make sure I don’t hurt myself worse? Well, I feel the same way about you. So let’s make a deal. You don’t jump overboard or do anything reckless like that again, and I’ll try to remember to behave when I get hurt and get better quick. Deal?” Justin put out his hand.
Dabria looked at it for a second before shaking it. “Deal. I am sorry.”
Justin nodded as he stood up. “Yeah I know. Take a swim, you must have been out of your mind.”
“No, she just wasn’t thinking straight,” Salena piped up from her chair.
Justin and Dabria both turned to look at her. Dabria shot her a grimace, while Justin asked, “Isn’t that the same thing?”
“Nope, there is a distinct difference,” Salena affirmed.
Justin just shook his head, but Dabria was silent.
She looked at Justin. “Justin, how are you going to punish me?”
Justin glanced at her. “What do you think I should do?”
“I don’t know. I caused a lot of problems, didn’t I.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, you did,” Justin agreed. “If you’re old enough to know that, you’re old enough to take responsibility for your actions. What should I do with you?”
Dabria thought for a long time before she finally replied, “Well, I’m on your ship, so I guess I should be punished like any of your crew members. I think I should have to swap the deck until we reach the port and I shouldn’t be allowed to take the helm or attend any lessons with Maath, if you have them.”
“That sounds fair,” Justin replied thoughtfully. “Maath isn’t giving me regular lessons anymore, he hasn’t for a while, it is more like teach as the time comes now, but I defiantly agree you shouldn’t have any of your privileges. As for the deck, it would be really hard for you to clean the whole thing by yourself, however, you will help to clean it everyday.”
Dabria nodded accepting the terms.
Justin turned to Salena. “And what about you?”
Salena looked at him in surprise. “What about me? I didn’t jump overboard.”
“No,” Justin agreed. “But you are Dabria’s friend. You knew she was going to do something dangerous and you didn’t tell anyone. You also let her do it. I know that’s not a reason to punish you, but it is a reason to make you think. You might not be in charge of Dabria, but when she has a dangerous idea it is up to you to tell someone who can help. I don’t mean tattling, when she just gets one of her crazy ideas, but something serious like this. When you knew you couldn’t stop her, you should have come straight to me. Understand?”
“Yes,” Salena nodded. “So will I be punished too?”
“Why don’t we just take away your privileges for two days? That way you can spend some time figuring out when it is the right time to speak up and when it is okay to be silent,” Justin decided.
“Okay,” Salena readily agreed.
“Good. Now I have to get this ship back on course and on time. I want you two to stay here for a little while, calm down and think some more. I’ll see you both later.”
Justin headed to the door and opened it.
“Justin?” Dabria called, causing him to turn back around. “Thank you for coming after me.”
“You know I’ll always come, Pixie,” Justin promised with a smile, before he left, closing the door behind him.