By Phaedra Mintun
Scottie let out the port sails to assist with Sticky's erratic turn. The ship steadied and about faced with the kind of obedience and maneuverability that made Scottie beam with pride. He patted the ship lovingly and snapped the sails back up, they would be working against the wind and the less canvas the ship was dragging the better. The Dread Ship Shirley settled into her new position and below him he heard the engines awaken like war mongering giants beating their shields and menacing the sky with their trophy laden maces. A great clanking and rattling filled the air around them sounding the call to battle and the ship charged back along their path. From above him he heard the twins chorus the engines cacophony with a great deal of stomping and beating on the sides of their boxes.
Scottie watched Bianca on the deck below, sitting in the puddle of her skirt. She sat straight now looking out over the horizon, her mouth hung open in surprise. Cook blasted up out of the hatch and stampeded past Bianca on his way to the navigation room. The door nearly went through its hinges as he slammed it behind him. Scottie leaned back in the rigging, enjoying the feeling of being cocooned in the rushing wind, far above the wrath of Cook. The door burst open again and Cook trundled out. His face an angry slab of rotted steak. He stalked back to Bianca and his face darkened. Scottie couldn't hear the words that passed between them over the banter of the wind and engines, but she stood and followed him below.
Dylan and Edwin broke out in a series of halloos and Scottie squinted into the stream of air breaking around him. The little one-ballooner had righted itself, but with the wings broken they were sitting at a dead float. Sticky swaggered onto deck, his flask and a colored paddle in hand. He flashed the paddle and Dylan shouted down an affirmative. The twins went to work raising the altitude. Sticky summoned Scottie and then ducked back into the navigation room.
The navigation room was a mess. Broken glass covered the floor and the maps and charts that had been spread over the table were a crumpled mess on the floor. Sticky stood at the wheel swilling rum from his flask and Rick and Finn were lounging in the chairs at the table. Sticky's caterpillar eyes crawled over his shoulder and greeted Scottie. "Prepare for a vertical decent boarding. Oh an' could ya go find S'more? We'll be needin' 'is talents."
Only a few minutes later Scottie was side by side on the railing with Sticky, Scottie held tight to his rope and leaned back, he watched S'more do the same opposite them. In unison Scottie and the captain dropped over the edge and made their way down to the floundering ship below. The little craft's five man crew was ready for them, weapons in hand. Dangling just off the edge of the little ship Sticky gave them a polite but slightly deranged smile. "Is one of you Liam O'Connell?"
The sage green eyes of a young man with pale skin and dark hair widened slightly before the first shot was fired. At the same moment the ropes Scottie and his Captain were dangling from bobbed upward and the little ship in front of them began to sink lower in the air. The men on board looked around with confused faces, two of them dropped like stones as a pair of massive fists joggled their brains from behind. The other two were kicked in the head by the swinging boots of Scottie and Stickywicket. Only the young man with the large green eyes was left standing.
Sticky gave the young man a wide barmy grin, "I believe there is a young woman waiting for you on board the ship above."
Liam's mouth dropped open. "I-I canna leave my men flounderin'."
Scottie pulled a small metal disk out of his belt pouch, gave it a firm squeeze and tossed it on deck. "They'll be rescued."
S'more had apparently grown bored with the talking and tucked the surprised Liam under his arm and carried him back to his rope.
Just as The Dread Ship Shirley was turned about and dropping her sails to the wind the disc Scottie had tossed on Liam's ship began making a horrendous wailing. Liam stood at the stern watching his little ballooner shrink in the distance. Scottie paused as he went past him. "It's not far from the shore routes, they’ll be rescued."
Liam turned away from the railing "Can I see Bianca?"
Scottie looked down, that wasn't his decision to make. "She's safe."
Liam sighed. "Am I a prisoner?"
Scottie shrugged. "We'd like to think of ya more like an extra hand on deck."
Liam gave a resigned nod. "What can I do to help?"
Scottie put the boy to good use. Liam was a quick learner and a hard worker. The warm sea air sped the ship along and the clear blue sky and the sparkling blue ocean encapsulated them. By the time Cook rang the dinner bell the ship was in good order and sailing smoothly.
Scottie entered the shadowy confines of the galley and saw a pale miserable face sitting forlornly at the table. He cleared is throat. "Smells good, Cook." Bianca's tear reddened eyes looked up at him plaintively. Scottie did his best to look discouragingly sad, and then took a quick step to the side to let Liam through the doorway. Bianca shot out of her chair and over the table, nearly knocking the poor man off his feet with the force of her jubilation. She clutched at him and sobbed into his shirtfront.
Sticky materialized in the doorway behind the happy couple. "I see you're whole again and we can deliver ya t' your grandmother. I say we can drink to that!" He put a bottle to his lips and drained it. "But then I drank to getting' me pants on the right side out this mornin'!" Bianca never peeled her smiling eyes away from those of Liam.
Finn's voice came from behind Sticky, "Right side out, but turned 'round backward. How do you do that anyway?"
Sticky pushed through into the galley, handing his empty bottle to Scottie on the way. He placed himself on the bolted down table. "Were right this morning. So I say we drink to that!" He pulled his flask out and took a hearty swig, followed by several more.
Cook handed out plates and the crew ate hardily while the lovebirds ignored them in favor of a whispered conversation. Scottie was just mopping up the dredges of his first serving of stew with a hunk of bread when S'more pounded down the steps, his elephantine form filling the doorway. His tattooed face looked grim and he made a firm gesture with his large thumb, then retreated back to the deck above. Scottie and Finn exchanged worried looks and leapt from their seats and hotfooted it up the stairs. Coming up behind them was a small one balloon ship. It was moving fast and straight for them.
Scottie barreled back into the galley and grabbed Liam by his shirt collar and pulled him to his feet. "There's another ship. You have your men coming after us?"
Liam looked startled. "It was just me and my boys. We were trying to rescue Bianca!"
Scottie rolled his eyes, frustrated that Liam was double crossing them, he needed to know how bad things were and he didn't have a lot of time to get it out of the boy. "What was your plan Liam?"
Liam shook his head. "It was just me and my boys. If I got captured they would have just gone back and waited for me."
Scottie shook him. Bianca jumped to his defense yelling and beating at Scottie's arms, but Scottie ignored her. "Tell me who's following us, Liam!"
"It was just me, Cass, Tulley, and..." Liam's eyes went wide. "Oh no!"
Time was short. Scottie shook him again, hard enough to make his teeth rattle. "This isn' the time for 'oh no' What've you done!"
"Patrick, he might 'a' told his brother what we were doin'. It might be my da's men keepin' an eye on me."
Scottie squinted at him, "What aren't you tellin' me!"
Liam looked uncomfortable, "M' da is Sloan O'Connell"
Scottie shoved the boy back into his seat, and closed his eyes. "Oh fresh hell, boy!"
Sticky leaned across the table and rested his long stubbly face very close to Liam's, "Didja know there was a li'l upstart Irish gang in New 'ork headed by a Sloan O'Connell back 'en I was your age. He had this pretty li'l girlfriend named Bunny. Cutes' li'l thing with her nose." Sticky rolled his head onto Liam's shoulder and blew in his ear. "I would take 'er down to th's place by the river an' we would drink wine, lo's and lo's a wine. She'd do this thing with her hips..." Liam's mouth dropped open and by the stunned look on his face Scottie guessed that Bunny had gone on to be more than Slone O'Connell's girlfriend. Sticky paused in his story to take another lingering swig from his flask
Scottie looked the boy in the eyes, "If they catch us then we will kill them, every last one, and burn the ship to ash."
Bianca gasped. "That's his family!"
Scottie glanced at her and then held Liam's eyes again. "I know."
Liam got to his feet, letting Stickywicket crumple foreword onto the floor, where he lay snoring softly. "Then you are going to need some help outrunning them. This ship up for it?"
Scottie nodded. "It is." He had a pretty good felling that the boy was on their side for now, if for no other reason than protecting his family, and that was good enough.
Liam strode out the door and Scottie followed him out onto the deck. The little ship was closer now. Its more compact build and lightness allowed the same wind to carried it faster. They had already spun the ship twice today and Scottie wasn't sure that the timbers could stand the strain of doing it again.
Scottie called out to the twins. "We are going to Nommus!" He passed S'more, "Get to cannons, we will handle the sails. Keep 'em at a distance, we don't need any more of those arrows."
It was a long night of keeping the little ship at bay with cannon fire, and they were running with the sails open and the engines chugging away. When the sun peaked its burnt nose over the horizon they were all limping themselves along exhausted. They were only able to run one man down through the night, so everyone had gotten an hour shift for sleep, but they were still ahead. The little ship crewed by O'Connell's men was armed with only a single cannon for long range, but Liam assured them that the short range weaponry was where they would exceed expectations.
S'more was below deck getting his rest while Scottie worked the cannons, keeping the little ship guessing and forcing it to stay at a distance. The air was a ruckus of clanks and chugs from the engine, but Scottie had found a rhythm in the mechanical symphony of the ship and kept time with his foot to help him stay awake.
The sun crept across the sky, shifts changed, and everyone got a second hour of sleep, but it was wearing on them. Just before noon the ship filled with another kind of music, the off-key singing of Stickywicket, who had woken on the floor of the galley, managed another toast to his trousers, and was feeling much revived. He came above singing the glory of the day and took in his haggard crew and the little ship on their tail. He waved his long spidery hands. "What is this?"
Scottie dropped down next to him and explained the situation.
Sticky shook his black mop of hair, "No, no, no, no, no." His rum soaked breath beat Scottie over his tired head. "We will not have that, let's have ‘em aboard." He lifted himself into the rigging and spoke to the twins. Scottie stood watching helplessly as the captain helped himself to the signals and sent a message to the ship behind them. The ship flashed back. Scottie groaned. Stickies heavy boots dropped down next to him, "Now they will come and have a bit of tea and we'll have everything settled, or we'll kill them all." He strode to the stern and waited for the small ship to approach. Scottie returned to the sails, waiting each moment for a fight to break out, but all that happened was a few flashes of communication as the ship grew close. A quick display from Sticky that Liam was alive and the other ship floated in their wake like a bloated tick.
Scottie marveled at this change in events, "What’d you tell them?"
Sticky's glassy green eyes bore into his forehead. "Gave 'em some options. They could come aboard an' we'd kill 'em, they could shoot at us and we'd kill the boy, or they could follow and be nice an' have 'im when we landed."
The crew kept up their speed and by the next day they were seeing land. Scottie watched the tiny sliver on the horizon grow into trees and houses. He would be relieved when they could hand their passengers over to their families and get the Irish ballooner of their tail.
Scottie was on shift when they reached their destination. They passed over the beige and terra cotta rooftops of a small inland city on a large island before coming down in a small, dusty landport outside of Corleone. The Dread Ship Shirley came down softly and was tied off by the dockworkers. As Scottie did his landing check he watched their little shadow dock beside them.
As Stickywicket escorted Bianca off the ship, Scottie couldn't help but notice that Liam was watching them carefully. The captain approached a small old woman with a bright red scarf tied over her hair. Sticky spoke to her for several minutes while Bianca stood next to him. The old woman did a lot of nodding. Then she hugged Bianca and they all boarded the ship. Scottie came over to stand next to Liam as Sticky, Bianca, and Bianca's grandmother came up through the hatch. Sticky motioned them forward, "Liam, I spoke to Mrs. Moretti on your behalf. She's a very sympathetic woman an' understands completely. If your family, who has traveled all this way to see you married to her granddaughter," Sticky raised a persuasive eyebrow, "will stand with you in church she's thrilled to carry out her son's wishes an' help Bianca marry here in her home country in the old tradition."
Liam nodded, "I will go tell them right now?" Sticky nodded enthusiastically. Liam swept Bianca up in his arms and whispered something in her ear and ran from the ship.
Scottie gave a sigh of relief. "When do we set sail?"
Sticky's eyebrows scrunched themselves low over his bright green eyes, and explained as if to a simpleton, "As soon as the wedding' is over! Since Bianca's father is unable to return to Sicily, me, 'is dear ol' friend, will be given' 'er away."
Scottie eyes widened but he nodded his head as if this were obvious information, "Yes, yes, of course. I was only askin' what day we be leaving... after the wedding."
They stayed for three day's while Bianca and her grandmother made all the necessary preparations. Liam's family seemed dazed but unconcerned by this turn of events and helped out with whatever they were asked. Sticky played the part of the doting godfather so well Scottie became slightly concerned.
Finally all of the preparations were complete and the crew marched down to the church in their best finery. Scottie marveled at the happiness of the young couple, and the service went off with only one small hitch: when the priest called out the names of Liam's parents, Sloan O'Connell and Charlotte "Bunny" O'Connell, Sticky's leafy eyes fluttered over the boy and he leaned forward and asked the groom his age, did some quick math on his fingers, shook his head, and told them all to continue.
As the ship rose into the rosy dusk Scottie watched the houses dissolve into toys. Oscar unexpectedly appeared at his elbow. "Lovely girl, helped me fig're out a new engine schematic."
Scottie chuckled, he had never heard Oscar praise anyone so highly. "Are we headed to the alps then?"
Oscar nodded. "Talked to Cook this morning."