Chapter 2: The Map says 'Go Here'
Location: Sky Tiger
Timeline: 12 years ago
The water in the tub was sloshing with the movement of the ship, flying at half-speed to its destination. Daenelia sighed and leaned back, thinking of the well-earned time off on shore, drinking until she passed out. Her head rested against Jack's naked chest. She avoided alcohol as helmsman of the Sky Tiger. The Captain did not approve of drunken mates at the wheel. Jack often teased her with the rum he could drink as the first mate of the ship. But tomorrow, or the day after, they'd get drunk together.
Jack reached for the soap under water and stroked Daenelia's thigh on the way. She murmured and nestled closer, her back against his front. Jack smiled and counted himself lucky to have such a warm body to take pleasure in. He'd have plenty more once they made landfall. Daenelia had been going on and on about getting drunk, and as she could barely drink one cup of rum without passing out, he'd have three days of getting aquainted with the lovely tavern wenches as she slept off her hangover.
"Jack?" Daenelia said softly. "The Captain is getting old, isn't he?" Jack lifted an eyebrow. Captain Dubois was in his fifties, yes, but he'd seen plenty of other greying captains. But to a 24 year old girl anyone over 40 must seem ancient. He grunted a non-commital answer. "I mean," Daenelia continued, "he is not very understanding of what the crew wants. Remember that telling off Hennessey got, for suggesting the crew got an extra measure of whiskey, when it was so cold? And when he wouldn't let me sleep in, when I got that terrible headache?"
Jack remembered Hennesey's request. The man was a drunk and a lazy sod. And Daenelia's headache was rum induced, after which the captain forbade her to ever drink again while on his ship. Jack would have explained this to Daenelia, but he wasn't in the mood to coddle the young girl's sensibilities. Come to think of it, he never was.
The long-haired pirate roughly pushed Daenelia away from him, but then caught her by the shoulder with one hand. With the other he started to soap up the girl's back. Maybe this would stop her talking about Dubois. "What do you think about the Captain?" Or maybe it wouldn't.
"Philippe Dubois has been the captain of this vessel since before I came aboard as a cabin boy" sighed Jack. "With just one ship he outsmarted the entire Merovingian navy. During the great Pirate War he must have sunk two dozen ships. He is the most successful pirate to ever sail the seven skies."
"Is? Or was?" asked Daenelia. Jack started scrubbing harder at that comment. "I mean, lets face the truth Jack" the young woman continued, "The last couple of years it's been you that's been running the ship most of the time. And a good thing too, or we'd all be dead or under lock and key." By this point Jack was scrubbing so furiouosly that Daenelia's tanned skin was turning pink. He threw the soap down into the water in frustration, but the girl seemed oblivious to his feelings as always. Daenelia wrapped Jack's arm over her shoulder and started tracing circles on his hairless chest with her finger.
"Every time Dubois gives us a direction to fly in, we get ourselves into trouble. If it's not one of the privateers catching up with us, its us stumbling into a naval patrol or flying headfirst into one of the countless other pirates that we've pissed off. There's so many of those now that they are forming alliances against us. It's no wonder that we have to keep coming ashore to enlist more crew members. We keep losing people thanks to the captains orders! I don't know if he's drunk or just going senile, but it's about time someone did something about it, don't you think?"
"That's ENOUGH!" Jack shouted as he stood up straight in the tub. Daenelia froze in place and looked up at him from between his legs. It wasn't often that Jack Stallion raised his voice, but when he did it was overpowering. The man stepped out of the tub and headed for the door, pulling a towel around him.
Later that day Daenelia slid open the hatch to the engineering deck and slipped inside, sliding the hatch closed again with her ample strength.
The Sky Tiger's engine was an old-fashioned monster, twice the size of any of the modern and compact naval engines. Almost the entire lower deck of the ship was dedicated to engine operations. Daenelia weaved between the exhausted-looking engineers in the corridor, who were ending their shifts by scrubbing the walkways and tightening up any nuts that weren't too hot to handle.
Dieter Bauer backed away from the cogs he was greasing and wiped his forehead. The scruffy blonde-haired man spotted Daenelia approaching him. "Bradley, I hope you have some good news for me." he said without making eye contact. "My friends are growing restless, but I am keeping them in check as long as I can."
"Yes Dieter" she smiled. "I subtly suggested to Jack that Dubois needed to be removed. You should have seen him storm out of the wash room after I pointed out the captain's many flaws. I'm surprised he didn't take action there and then. But I know Jack, he's just too honourable to stab a man in the back himself." Daenelia's smile turned into a silly grin.
Bauer squinted at Daenelia. "I hope you are right Bradley. Most of the crew are loyal to Stallion even if they have lost faith in the captain. They follow Dubois' orders only because Stallion tells them to. My friends and I are ready to drop the captain' worthless body off the ship, but if Stallion tries to stop us then the rest of then crew will fight by his side. I hope you understand Stallion's intentions Bradley, because none of us know what he is thinking and I doubt very much we can defeat him as well as the captain."
"Oh, don't you worry about that." Daenelia was beaming with happiness by this point. "I know Jack better than he knows himself. If we take on Dubois then Jack will stand with us. Especially if he knows I am with him. Jack Stallion loves me, and he is going be the captain of the Sky Tiger with Daenelia Bradley by his side."