by Alphaville Herald on 15/02/07 at 4:59 pm
by Tiny Newt
[Editor's Note: Though the Herald navy had lost sight of Captain Tiny Newt's crew on the Endeavour in recent weeks, we rejoin them now as they commence their original mission: the exploration of virtual parts unknown...
Parte the Fourthe: In Which We Are Nearly Able To Begin
The crew was assembled on the fantail, awaiting orders. I looked aloft at the two eagles gliding gracefully about the upper spars. Crew members had affectionately named the male “Baldy” and his mate “Crewella,” as she was forever squawking at poor Baldy. They had built a nest atop the foremast crosstrees, 65 feet off the deck. Inspiring to behold, the handsome birds provided an excellent early-warning system for the ship. Heaven help any misguided vermin who came aboard.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” I began. “The pirate hordes in the area mean us little harm, or so it would seem. Still, I want each of you to keep a sharp lookout. Today, I would like us to return to Endeavour’s original mission, that of exploration and intercourse with the native population.” Though my crew is normally well disciplined, my last comments were met with a ripple of laughter for reasons that escaped me.
“Clasico, you take Sin and see if you can locate Pixeleen Mistral. As you folks know, she is the proprietress of the Vagabond Sailing Club and managing editrix of that blasphemous rag, the Second Life Herald. She is a definitely a mover and shaker that we need to talk to. You two know the right questions to ask. And Clasico, mind your tongue, you rogue; understand?”
“Aye aye Captain”, came his immediate reply. Sin smirked at Clasico and Clasico smiled back.
“Robin,” I said, addressing Gunner’s Mate Robin Sprocket, “you and I will head up the hill to the Jinsil Boat Works and see if we can obtain an interview with Chase Speculaas. You should all be familiar that name, he is the builder of this ship and many others.”
“But Sir,” exclaimed Clasico, with wry innocence, “isn’t he also Fleet Admiral of the Pirate group?”
“You are correct, Sir, but we won’t mention it unless he does. In the meantime, we are interested in his latest creation, that massive 14-gun square-rigger he just launched.”
Sin Trenton, the navigator, now spoke up: “She has the lines of an early Spanish Galleon, circa 1550, or maybe earlier; she appears to be at least 800 tons. Has he named the vessel yet, Sir?”
“I don’t believe so, Mr. Trenton; we hope to answer those questions this morning. Mr. Cassini, please set the watch while we are ashore. Instruct the Officer of the Deck to fire a single round from the portside cannon, should trouble arise.”
“Aye aye, Sir,” Clasico responded.
Turning to Robin, I asked, “Shall we take your hot air balloon ashore? We might even shoot a few aerial photographs while we are at it.” But Gunner’s Mate Sprocket was dressed head-to-toe in camos, with an AK–47 slung across her back. ” Sprocket, you know we don’t carry weapons, especially ashore.” I nodded at her equipment.
“Yaar, let those rascally pirates show their faces; I’ll give ‘em a little taste,” she said with a growl, flipping her hair in agitation. As she walked away to change, the men of the crew appreciated her rolling stride even though the sea was becalmed.
Soon, we were rising sedately into the cloudless sky, beneath two brightly colored gas-bag balloons. With a blast of fuel, Robin set the burners roaring. She leveled off our wicker platform a hundred feet above the masthead. The slowly rotating propeller nudged us forward at a stately pace. We enjoyed the bird’s eye view of the ships assembled below.
“Do you realize Robin, that everyone of those vessels was designed, constructed and sold by our Mr. Speculaas? I’ve watched him at work; he is fast and accurate.” I knew Robin’s interests lay in building. She, herself, had won an important prize for the construction of an amazing clockworks which now resides in Bruno Buckenburger’s Museum.
At that very moment Robin gave a gleeful squeal. “Look below Captain. Cruwella has laid two eggies. Baldy’s about to become a poppa,” she said excitedly.
Sure enough, two brightly mottled eagle eggs lay in the nest beneath us. A worried Baldy glided in at high speed to eyeball us close up. “Move on out, Gunny, before he gets upset,” I said.
Gradually, we came within range of the shoreline and the derelict two-story shanty the pirates use as a clubhouse. The old Admiral Ben Bow Inn looked like it had seen better days. As we approached the shipyard, Robin began bleeding off gas for the descent. Our forward progress halted as the propeller shut down. We sank gently to a landing beside the vessels under construction.
“Let’s have a look around,” I remarked. She went off in one direction; I went the other. Minutes later, we climbed back aboard her lighter-than-air ship, not having found Speculaas.
“Let’s locate Clasico and Sin. See if they found Ms. Mistral,” I said. “But before we do, let’s just see what’s over top of this hill.”
Robin had no sooner lifted off and turned the gondola to the southwest than we heard the far-off thump of a cannon. I saw from the direction of the cannon smoke drifting off in the wind, it was the Endeavour’s starboard bow gun. Now, we heard other cannon fire, thundering in rapid succession. From our floating vantage point we saw three Brigantines, out on the bay, circling one another, blasting away, each trying to send the others to Davey Jones’ Locker.
“Can your young eyes see if they are attacking our ship, Robin?” I asked.
“Doesn’t look like it, Cap’n, they are well clear.”
Closer at hand, we heard loud shouts from down the hill. The unmistakable clang of steel against tempered steel reached our ears seconds later. We heard the high-pitched scream of an incoming, red-hot cannon ball, which plowed harmlessly into the sand, a scant hundred yards from the shanty.
“THAT WAS A WARNING SHOT, THOSE GUYS ARE IN TROUBLE,” yelled Robin. While I had been looking seaward toward the ship, she had thrown a line over the rail and rappelled to the ground in record time.
“ROBIN!” I yelled after her to no avail. “Can’t keep that girl from a good fight?” I made my comments to the empty air. From the sound of clashing metal I knew this was a significant engagement. Below, I saw the unarmed Robin, running downhill as fast as she could go.
I was about to abandon the balloon myself when the strangest occurrence overhauled me; the entire sky color changed to a washed-out tomato red. I could move not a muscle nor utter a single sound. I had become inured to the frequent lags that beset the seas on which we sailed, but this was different. I was still moving! The balloon, the basket and I were all moving at a slow crawl, however, inexorably and in the wrong direction, away from the skirmish and on over the hill. I pounded at the controls, unable even to quit the world. Suddenly, everything went black. Pirates? Not at all, but something worse: this was clearly the work of the notorious Griefers, the terrorists that are the real scourge of land and sea in Second Life. For the moment, we were sargasso’d.
To be continued…