By Phaedra Mintun
Dylan wrinkled his freckled nose. "I'm not puttin' your undies on me 'ead!"
Cook gave him a menacing glare through the leg holes of his underpants, "You'll put the Mason Street Queen's Jewels on your head if I tell ya to. 'Sides, these ones ain't mine, they're yours."
Dylan snatched the handful of cloth and pulled out a few pair of underwear, "In that case knicker hats it is." and situated them jauntily on his head.
Cook reached out and pulled them down over Dylan's face. "Ya got to be coverin' your mouth and nose with them! You think I'm havin' you do this to look pretty!"
Dylan twisted his panty hat around until he could see out the leg holes and the center bit ran the length of his nose, "Don't know why you've got me wearin' me pants on me 'aed." he grumbled, but shut his mouth from offering any more complaints after a quick glare from Cook.
Scottie took the remaining pairs of underthings from Edwin and examined them to make sure they were his before he pulled them over his head, twisting them around so he could see through the leg holes. "You said we have a problem?"
"Aye, that we do." Cook nodded. "You may have noticed some strange things happenin'"
Scottie scoffed, "It's been hard to miss."
Cook grunted, "Well it's all on account of them crazy plants and their pollen, and now they've got Sticky."
Edwin and Dylan exchanged a look. "I've seen some interestin' things go for Sticky but..."
Cook grimaced. "This has nothin' to do with love boy, come see."
Edwin wrinkled his nose, "Not sure that's somethin' I wanna see."
Dylan shrugged, "Might be somethin' I'd pay to see."
Cook gave them each a gentile cuffing that left them rubbing their ears as he led the way below to the cargo hold. He paused at the door. "Everyone got their knicks on good and tight?" Each man nodded. Cook cracked open the door and they each squeezed through into the cargo hold. He snapped the door shut behind them.
Scottie wasn't sure what he was expecting but the sight that greeted him left him speechless. The usually dark cargo hold was awash in a pale yellow glow. A shimmering powder swirled through the room, dancing in merry eddies and collecting in glimmering drifts. In the center of the room stood the massive flowers. They were mesmerizing. Each expansive flower hung from a single stalk, unfolding from a deep flush of fuchsia out to a perfect creamy white. The immense blooms brushed the ceiling with their delicately ruffled edges. Scottie couldn't imagine how a flower that stood taller than him could be both so dauntingly large and alluringly fragile at the same time. He took a step closer wanting to get a better look at the flowers center. Cook slapped his iron trap of a hand onto Scotties shoulder. "Snap out of it boy!"
Scottie felt his mind clear, as though he had been drunk and was suddenly sobered. Cook eyed him, "You shouldn't be susceptible. If you start feelin' it getting' to ya leave. I don't want to be losin' anybody else to these things."
Scottie shook his head, "I'm fine."
"I think I found 'im!" Dylan called from the other side of the hold. Cook pulled Scottie along with him, keeping a firm grasp on his shoulder. As they made their way to the other side Scottie could see one of the flowers facing that direction had folded it's petals downward, like a fairy's pup tent. After giving Scottie a warning look Cook knelt down and gently folded back the layers of petals, beneath them you could see that there was an opening. As soon as the petals were lifted Scottie could hear a horrible sound, the slurred, off-key singing of Stickywicket being channeled up to them as though through a megaphone.
Dylan cringed. "Change my mind, I'd pay to not be here."
Edwin grimaced. "Don't sound like he's terribly bothered about bein' in there does 'e."
Cook scowled. "I imagine it hasn't started to digest 'im yet."
Edwin poked at the plant. "What kind of plant eats people?"
Cook slapped his hand away. "The man eatin' kind. Tie this rope up over there will ya? These plants put out a powerful pollen that makes people crazy, even the smallest amount and they will do anything to get more. You've seen the people that attacked the ship followin' their nose." Cook tied a serving spoon on the end of the rope and tossed it down the hole, "They follow the pollen right up to the plant and as they are gettin' a good sniff they fall down this hole here an' the petals go snap closed right over them. The walls of that hole are mighty slippery and down at the bottom is a great pool of sticky goo makes you feel snockered an' happy."
Dylan peered into the hole. "Met a girl just the same as that in Farsborough square, two pence an' she would-"
Scottie cleared his throat. "That doesn’t sound very threatenin'."
Dylan shrugged. "Oh no you wouldn't think so, she was just a wee little thing but once she started to-"
Scottie held up his hand. "I was actually talkin 'bout the plant."
The spoon came flying back up out of the hole. Cook gave it a nasty look and dropped it in again. "Aye, once it has somethin' in it's trap it fills up with a bit o' somethin' makes ya real sleepy, paralyzes ya. Then, when you can't move it drains out the good stuff an' fills up with acid, melts down skin, bone, every last bit of a person." The spoon flew back up out of the hole again. Cook looked like he wanted to murder the spoon, the plant, and most of all the singing Stickywicket.
Just as Cook was about to throw the spoon in again Edwin reached for it. "Why aren't we affected?" He pulled the bottle he had filched from the burlesque house out of his pouch and tied the rope around the neck and dropped it down the hole.
Cook raised an eyebrow. "The doctor we are transportin' these for gave me a bit o' the pollen and I've been dosin' everyone’s food with it to help with immunity." Scottie's mind was just beginning to whirl with paranoia as he took in that bit of information. The rope pulled taunt and they all grabbed hold and gave a quick yank.
With a great SLUSH Stickywicket came forth, still scrambling to get his bottle free. Cook grabbed his ankles and pulled him away from the plants and their platform. Sticky fought all the way, trying to slither back down the hole. "Let go of me you blooming blower!"
They all struggled to pin the captain down and keep him from returning to the carnivorous plant. The four of them were drenched with sweat and covered in the viscus slime that coated Stickywicket. Dylan pulled the rope free from where they had anchored it. "If you have been makin' us immune why is it affecting Sticky?"
Cook straddled Stickywicket's chest and held his wrists. Scottie sat on the captain the other way and held his ankles while the twins worked to bind him with the rope. Sticky bucked and struggled. Cook was nearly thrown but he managed to hold on at the last minute. "After I had to seal up the hold after the blasted things lured all those ships to us all the pollen built up and he must of got hit with a powerful dose of it, that's why we're wearin' masks."
Edwin finished tying Sticky's feet and brought the end up to meet Dylan's end. Scottie and cook leapt off and the twins each gave a quick pull. Still fighting and struggling to get back to the flower Sticky was drug from the hold. "You filthy mollisher, leave a lush alone! I want my honey!"
Cook shut the cargo hold up firmly. "We better tie 'im up in the kitchen where I can watch 'im." The four of them drug, forced, and fought the bound Stickywicket into the kitchen and tied him spread eagle to a table.
They stood panting while the captain continued to fight and struggle against the ropes with energy no less diminished than when they pulled him from the trap. Continuing to buck and struggle Sticky gave Dylan a knowing look. "Four pence to the lassie at Farsborough square gets you pretty much the same as this. Gets much more fun for five."
Dylan eyed the glazed form. "Anyone else notice a bit of a difference 'tween 'im and the others effected?"
Scottie nodded. "Yeah, like he's talkin' and not all blank and spooky."
Cook turned and looked at the suddenly still Stickywicket who was watching them with a demented grin. He waggled his matted eyebrows. "I never could resist a good honey trap!"
Cook glanced at his cleaver. "Get to work boys."
Scottie glanced from the clever to the cook. "And the captain?"
Cook turned up his nose. "Leave 'im."
Scottie stepped into the sleeping quarters and pulled the soaking underthings off his head and grabbed fresh clothes. Up on the open deck he tossed his pollen coated clothes over the edge, and miles below young Walter Marlen's day took a very strange turn. Scottie took a couple of deep breaths and headed for the sails. There were repairs that needed to be made if they were going to get the plants to their owner on time.
Once the sails were repaired and the twins had found the best altitude for the northerlies they made good time. Cook insisted it was best for the cargo to keep Sticky confined for the time being. But Scottie had a feeling a fair amount of revenge was keeping the captain latched to the table.
Scottie was grateful when S'more came on for shift change and he was able to head down to the cabin. He settled into his hammock and got a few hours of restless sleep. He had strange vivid dreams about flowers that morphed into women that changed into great monsters full of teeth and claws and when he tried to run he found himself bogged down in a thick swamp of honey.
When he returned to deck, not much rested, they were just preparing to land on a small crescent shaped island in the upper tip of Lake Michigan. The island was densely forested, and as far as Scottie could tell completely uninhabited.
They came down on a sandy stretch close to the water. Scottie went to work mending parts of the sails he couldn't fix while they were in the sky and checking over the balloons. They had been docked for over an hour and Scottie began to wonder how long they were going to sit still on a forsaken island before they unloaded the cargo. Already he was itching for wind. Cook came aboveboard and stood scanning the forest edge. "How long before we are in the air again?" Scottie asked.
Cook frowned at him, "Not long, here is our client now." Scottie looked in the direction Cook was watching and saw a tall, well-built man crossing the sand to the ship. His skin was oddly pale and his white hair was cut short and choppy. As he got closer Scottie could see he was well over six feet tall and his fashionable suit seemed strikingly out of place. Cook greeted the man and dropped down a ladder.
"Did you encounter any problems with the specimens?"
Cook glanced sideways at Scottie, "Nothing significant, Dr. Monatou, but the posies have been puttin' out a fair bit o' pollen."
The albino pursed his lips and nodded. "Yes, I imagine they are quite in need of sustenance." He scanned Scottie with his bright purple eyes, "The precautions I gave you were successful? The crew was unaffected?"
Cook nodded. "Seemed to do the trick."
Dr. Monatou's unnerving violet gaze lingered on Scottie for a moment, something in the man's gaze made Scottie's skin want to crawl up his sleeves and hide. The doctor turned his attention back to Cook. "Excellent, I had heard the legends suggesting that ingesting the pollen would create an immunity, but I wasn't sure the samples I had would be effective protection. If it was success I will be wanting to collect as much of the pollen as I can as well as the specimens themselves. I think they will prove quite useful in my experiment."
Cook nodded, "Right this way doctor."
Scottie worked with the rest of the crew to get the pallets of flowers off the ship. Once the cargo was unloaded and the hold was resealed Scottie gave a sigh if relief. This was one cargo he was glad to be rid of. Despite their beauty Scottie was sure no good would come from those plants. He would be glad to put a fair amount of air between them and their equally creepy owner. The ship lifted into the sky and the sails bellowed. Scottie sighed, they had survived another adventure.
The air whistled a merry traveling tune in his ears as they rose above the expanse of water and up into the clear afternoon sky. "Where to next Cook?"
Cooks eyes seemed to light up as he scanned the horizon. "I've just got word from an old friend. He's got a bit of work for us."
Scottie nodded, whatever came next they had wind in their sails and that was all he needed.