Good First Impressions
Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Carol laughed as she swilled the bottle of grog she haphazardly held on to. What a grand lifestyle she had! Almost no obligations outside of the occasional bit of violence, all the booze she could drink, and all the swabbies she could push around. As long as she took a bit of care not to kill any of her crewmates it seemed like it would go on forever. Sure she might piss off everyone around her, but even if that someone happened to be the captain she knew they’d hold their tongue. And why shouldn’t they? She was the best fighter on the ship and she knew it. They’d be foolish to let her go!
She took a great swig from her bottle, draining it of the remaining contents, still chuckling between gulps. The whole situation was just so joyous to her. As a child people had always said she’d never get anything in life. Not with her attitude. Not with her lack of education and upbringing. And look were those fools were now! Put in a shallow grave and proved wrong with this lucrative deal.
Not far from her perch on the railing of the ship Carol spied the form of that new deckhand they’d picked up recently. Az-something or other, if she recalled. A perfect opportunity. Carol drunkenly swung her arm back and forth, finally hurling the empty bottle through the air and conking Azzo square in the back. The bottle clattered swiftly to the deck, shattering into a thousand pieces in the process.
“Oi’, swabbie!” Carol shouted to the suddenly assaulted man. “Don’t be forgettin’ your duties now!” The woman couldn’t help but start laughing again as she yelled. “Looks like someone lefta’ broken bottle on deck! Better clean it up ‘fore someone cuts up their feet!”
Azzo sucked in his breath and stumbled as the glass and then Carol's word hit him. Wearily, he turned to look at her. He'd been aboard ship just long enough to hear the stories. They were in every fighting force, often finding their way to the far marching regiments or the long patrols. They bullied and drank, drawing the vicious and the savvy close and making dissenters into pariah. Sooner or later, they overstepped, and disappeared. No one asked questions when they didn't return from patrols and more often than not, no one mourned. Among men who depended on each other for their survival there was an unspoken agreement; bad commanders were like mad dogs.
He turned to look at Carol and snapped off a salute. "Right away, Miss. Anything to keep the crew safe."
Carol snickered back in response. The disgust in his voice was palpable and made all the sweeter by the fact she knew there was nothing he could do about it. She drunkenly leaned back on the ship’s railing, haphazardly swaying back and forth. More than once she went back enough to give the impression she was about to drop off into the sea, but each time she pulled forward at the last minute. After a moment of wobbling Carol swung herself forward, propelling herself onto her feet. Shakily she strode towards Azzo, crushing the already broken bottle into even smaller pieces as she neared. A cheery smirk spread across her face, almost the kind one would get when pulling a silly prank on a good friend. However her eye was dark and vicious, betraying the joyous grin on her lips.
Suddenly a hard slap went across Azzo’s back. Carol had planted a ‘friendly’ pat on the man’s back, but she had ‘accidentally’ made it a little too hard. Surely the fellow wouldn’t mind though. It was an honest mistake, after all. “Keep up the good work, ‘friend’.” Carol exclaimed happily through her smirk.
The slap impact from the slap went across bruised ribs and ricocheted up to the headache that had been lurking darkly just under his skull since he'd taken that wallop in the alley behind the Barnacle. He grit his teeth as it surged forward, then passed. This woman was as dangerous drunk as she was sober, and Azzo, battered, concussed, and new to the ship, was in no position to do anything about it. His body would heal long before the voyage ended though, and if Carol proved to be as much of a threat as Azzo's nerves told him she might be, he'd be ready. He nodded to her, face a blank. "Yes Miss."
“Good man!” Carol replied cheerily, still through her wicked smirk. She could already tell she’d have fun with this one. Before Azzo had gotten onto the ship the woman had heard talk of him. Something about being an ex-soldier from somewhere. Yet from his position as a swabbie and not a war dog as well as apparent reluctance to challenge her, Carol figured he must have been too wimpy to actually serve. Probably spent his career peeling potatoes back at base, getting drilled on the importance of obedience and remembering little else. Pitiful.
Carol began wobbling towards the door to the lower decks. She figured she’d have a nice lie down in her cabin after a hard day’s work. As she reached the door she briefly planted her arm onto the frame to support herself before suddenly spinning on her heel to face Azzo once more, though nearly toppling over in the process. The drunken women planted her hand onto her lips and, surprisingly, blew a dramatic kiss towards the swabbie.
“Bye bye, Azzo, honey!” she said flirtatiously in a near sing song voice with her face in a cheerful smile. However before one might get the impression that she’d had a change of heart her face swiftly darkened, and her cheerful smile became a wicked grin. “See ya’ again later.” she exclaimed, no longer in any kind of cheerful manner but now in a vicious tone full of little beyond malice. And with that she sunk down the stairs and into the cabins below deck.
Azzo kept his posture carefully neutral as Carol staggered her way towards the stairs, unwilling to look up lest she notice the disgust on his face. He watched her through slanted gaze until she disappeared below decks with a blown kiss and a few more poisonous words. It wasn't until she'd been fully out of site for the space of a few breaths that he allowed himself to let his guard down. Scowling darkly, he spotted a large chunk of broken bottle on the deck, the remnants of Carol's little accident. With a flick of his wrist he whipped the mop around at it, sending it into the air and out over the edge of the deck into the dross that ebbed along the the docks and ships in the harbor.
"See ya' again later," he agreed, feeling that he'd just painted a target on his back. Ivan and Mei-Xiu would have a better idea of what he might have gotten himself into. The answer would almost certainly involve new bruises. He sighed and reached out his mop, gathering the rest of the shards of glass into a neat pile. Time to start sleeping with one eye open again.