Mission: Chapter 7: Going West
"Have you seen McGinty? What's the prognosis?" Captain Daenelia asked Dottie. The blonde-haired deckhand had just visited sick bay where the old swabbie Chops McGinty was being looked at after catching a blast of steam right in the face. But Dottie wasn't making eye contact with her captain, and that was making Daenelia nervous. "He's doing okay, Doc says his beard absorbed most of the damage, he's just a bit frustrated about not being up on his feet yet..." A question was hanging in the air, and Daenelia forced herself to ask it. "Did you tell him? About his mop?" Dottie shook her head, and walked silently out of the captains quarters.
Miyra Blackbird had broken McGinty's second favourite mop in the valiant act of saving the Steamhawke from disaster. But Dottie hadn't been strong enough to break the news to McGinty. The old man did tend to get overemotional sometimes, and it would take a brave pirate to break the news. Somebody tough and authoratitive, thought Daenelia as she stood with her hands on her hips.
Yes, it was about time she had a first mate again, someone whose first task would be to have a chat with Chops McGinty. She strode out on deck and scanned for likely candidates. Her shoulders drooped a little as she realised she had not hired anyone who she could have made first mate. They were all fine hard workers, and tough fighters, but none had those qualities she looked for in a first mate: loyalty and brains. She was about to call Dottie back to reinstate her as temporary first mate, when she noticed the old ex-naval officer pointing his walking stick while trying to coordinate the young deckhands to do something complicated.
"No! Nonono! Put that down! Drop it! Careful!" As he shouted, and then walked up to the four deckhands to give animated instructions, Daenelia realised the deckhands were actually listening and doing their job for a change. The old officer clapped one of them on the shoulder as he said something, and the reaction of laughter told Daenelia the man had just softened his words with a little joke. It went down well.
The captain never took long to make decisions. Some would say her impulsive nature was her greatest asset as a pirate. Being able to think quick on her feet had saved her hide more than once. Her decision to make Jefferson her first mate was reached quickly. She grabbed a cabin girl who ran past. "Tell master Jefferson I want to speak with him. In my quarters."
Holland Jefferson Junior came stumbling in moments later. He gave the captain an automatic salute and stood there, loyal as ever. Daenelia folded her arms and looked Jefferson up and down, one eyebrow raised. "Leg giving you more trouble than usual today, commander?" she asked in a stern voice. "It's not my fault, captain, there's still a piece of shrapnel lodged in there."
"Oh, can't they take it out?"
"No no, too deep, too deep" he winced as he massaged his leg. "What is it you wanted me for, captain?" he asked eventually.
"You're doing a fine job with the young deckhands, commander," she said straightway. "It's obvious you know how to get them to do what they have to."
"Oh, well, they're bright enough, and strong enough. They just need some direction." Jefferson shifted his weight almost unnoticably to his good leg. He was still unsure what the captain wanted. He had not actually done much since they left port.
"Well, they take well to your orders. Are you happy being a deckhand, like them?" she asked. "I mean, you take on the role of someone in charge quite easily. Would you like me to make that more official?"
Jefferson raised his eyebrows. "Ah, I don't know about that, captain," he muttered.
"I can see you as maybe ... quartermaster? Or first mate?" Daenelia smiled as sweetly as she knew how. She'd convince him that becoming first mate was his idea, and that he was grateful the captain granted him that title. It was always best if men thought her ideas were their own to begin with.
"May I speak freely, captain? Your impulsive nature isn't your greatest asset. Don't be quick to hand authority to someone you barely know."
She was stunned into silence. This man was a genius! "You see, that's why I need you!" she said empathically. Jefferson was rubbing his leg again. Daenelia gestured to a chair and motioned for him to sit.
"I ..." she paused as all her past mistakes flashed through her mind. "I know what you mean." She held up a hand to silence Jefferson, even though he made no attempt to interupt her. She leaned against the table, her legs crossed and her hands folded demurely in her lap. "I need.. an experienced sailor, who can work well with the crew, who understands command and whom I can trust." She stared hard at Jefferson. "I can trust you." A single second of silence. "Right?"
What in the seven skies is she doing?, Jefferson seemed to ask himself. He chose his words carefully. "Trust is something to be earned, not offered. But what I can offer you is my loyal service. I'll be your first mate."
"Good!" exclaimed Daenelia, nearly slipping along the side of the table in excitement. She regained her balance and pointed out of the door. "You speak for the captain now. Your first task is to go to the sick bay, I've got a message for the swabbie..."