Escape from Singapore
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Elizabeth surveyed Captain Jack Harkness, eyeing him up and down, and up and down, and then a little further down.... Shaking her head like a wet dog, she demanded: “Who are you?” Then she glanced over at Calypso and muttered, “It’s not like you to leave the front door open.”
“Would you prefer I kill him?” the goddess responded.
“You can try, but it won’t do much good for you,” Jack said. “Now if street gossip serves me, you’re Elizabeth Turner, ruler of the island and recent jumpee off of the cliff I just fell from.”
She nodded. Against her better judgment--one shouldn’t trust a man who could smile like that--she found herself inclined to confide in him. Something about him told her he could help, even if he had the swagger of a pirate. “This is Calypso, a nymph with power over the seas. I’ve summoned her to me.”
“Seems you came to her, not the other way around.”
“While Calypso can’t harm the pirate king or any who serve her, she isn’t sworn to obey me. The only way to summon her is to force her presence.”
“Ah, a game of chicken. Jump into the ocean, and she has to save you. Maybe I should try that with Ianto, though I suppose ‘Help, I’m drowning!’ won’t carry much weight with him.”
Unsure how to respond to that, she gave him an authoritative stare. The man shrugged it off and replied, “Whenever I die, I always come back to life.”
“We’re standing in a bubble of air under the ocean with a sea goddess while giant stone statues ravage the island, and you want to lecture me on what’s possible?”
She waved a hand to cut him off. “Giant stone statues.”
“Of course--you’ve been down here. Singapore has been invaded by... something. Hundred-fifty-foot tall stone statues erupted out of the ground and started blasting everything in sight while rampaging across the island.”
She turned to Calypso. “If Singapore’s in danger, I have to return at once.” The goddess nodded and pointed to the other end of the bubble, opposite Jack Harkness. A platform of foam coalesced out of the wall of water and drifted over to hover above the sand. “Thank you for all your help.” Elizabeth stepped onto the foam cloud. Jack had taken barely a step closer when she held out a hand, stopping him in his tracks.
“What, you’re just going to keep me here?”
“No. You say you can’t die?”
“I can die, but I’ll come back to life.”
She grinned. “Then you’re exactly who I need.”
Jack looked at the foam, then at the dome of water overhead, then back at her. He sighed. “Really? I hate drowning.”
“If you don’t agree, you can come with me, but you’ll have my eternal gratitude if you do me this favor.”
“Eternity’s a long time when you’re talking to me, baby.”
Nevertheless, he was thinking about her offer, and that gave her time to think about him. He had an accent like he was from the colonies, but he was unusual, even without considering his claim to immortality. Jack took the strange in stride and responded with even stranger claims, yet she also saw a hint of desperation, both in his stance and in the way he acquiesced to many of her commands. For example, he could’ve stepped onto the cloud, but he’d waited for her permission. That meant he needed something from her too, and that was a fact she could exploit.
“I’ll do it,” he said.
She smiled. “Thank you. Now when you come back to life, you’ll be on the deck of a ship called the Flying Dutchman. The captain’s--”
“Whoa, hold on. A ship? You want me to deliver a message to a ship. What’s so special about this ship that you have to drown me to--” He glanced at Calypso. “Oh. This is a very special ship.”
“My husband, Will Turner, captains the ship. It is his job to ferry those lost at sea to the land of the dead. Therefore, I need to send a message to him through someone who has drowned, and since you resurrect, that satisfies my need to stay as moral as a pirate king can be.”
“I hope you don’t mind getting wet, Captain Harkness.
“As long as you don’t either. I love a woman who’s not afraid to get wet.”
She struggled not to roll her eyes. There was another Captain Jack she’d like this one to meet. As though sensing her thoughts, the platform ascended.
“By the way,” Jack called after her, “I have two friends on the cliff, Chase and Olivia. Tell them not to wait up for me.”
“I’ll make sure they’re safe, Captain.”
As she approached the dome, she held her breath and closed her eyes, but all she felt was warm air billowing against her face. When she looked, she was floating above the churning ocean, and the waves rushed into the bubble like earth collapsing into a sinkhole. Water sprayed up as the ocean filled in the void, bursting upwards like the great burp of a diner who has devoured a feast.
The cliff side rushed past as a blur of grey and brown lines, and she barely had time to look up and notice smoke crawling toward the horizon before she was back on solid ground where she found herself staring into a giant stone eye. Stepping back, she took in the statue’s entire length. Painstakingly carved, it might have passed for a real person had it been not been solid grey. The brows were furrowed in a look of concentration, its face forever frozen in the instant before a warrior’s battle cry. A massive headdress covered the top and sides of its head, and real, colored feathers a dozen feet long extended from them, though most were bent or broken from the fall. The figure was carved with a studded leather tunic which seemed to be the only protection this race wore into battle, as the rest of the body was bare except for a short skirt and bejeweled boots.
She had seen outfits like that before. If she had to make a wild guess, she’d say they were from the Americas. Same place as the fountain of youth, she noted to herself.
A rustling of a nearby feather attracted her attention, and two people, a man and a woman, emerged from the headdress. She nodded at them, “Are you Chase and Olivia?”
The man’s eyes grew wide. “Jack?” he asked.
The woman struck him on the shoulder. “Don’t be stupid. Men don’t just turn into women.”
Elizabeth thought she heard the man mutter, “I did...” as he rubbed his arm, but then the woman stepped forward and said, “Yes, we are. I’m Olivia, this is Chase. Who are you?”
“My name is Elizabeth Turner, pirate king and lord of Singapore. You saw me come out of the ocean--that is where your captain is right now. He has agreed to undertake a mission for me and will meet us later. It has fallen upon me to see the two of you safely off this island.”
“We have other friends here too,” Chase said.
Olivia shook her head. “I heard that old pirate, Barbossa, say that he would take them to his ship.”
So there was an entire group of strangers here. Of course they had attracted Barbossa’s attention. “If Barbossa has taken your friends under his protection,” she said out loud, “then they are in capable hands.” Which was certainly true. What the hands were capable of, she didn’t think was a good idea to tell them right then.
“And you have a ship?” Olivia asked.
“The Empress,” Elizabeth replied. “She should still be in the harbor if I know Tai Huang.”
“We still have to save Joey!” Chase blurted.
Elizabeth sighed. Chase was reminding her of a small, petulant child, and right now, she preferred to keep intact her fairy tale image of children as cute, wonderful little friends. “Who is Joey?”
“A robot,” Olivia said at the same time Chase said: “A white tiger!”
Elizabeth had never heard of a breed of white tiger called ‘robot’ but decided that wasn’t important. What was important was that Singapore was entirely in flames and it was never a good idea to run into a fire. Nevertheless, that was exactly what Chase was doing.
Before Elizabeth could give chase and knock him to the ground, Olivia grabbed her sleeve and said, “Is Jack coming back any time soon?
“It might be a few minutes, but I can’t wait for him. I need to get my own crew to safety, as well as Chase.”
“But if I stay here, will I be safe?”
“I can’t guarantee your safety if you stay, but there will be a ship at this very cliff within the next fifteen minutes.”
“Wait here, or dodge rock monsters in a burning harbor. Hmm... such a difficult choice.”
“Stay or follow, it’s your decision, but I must go now.” Elizabeth ran, and Olivia didn’t follow. That was fine--one less person to take care of, and it didn’t even violate her promise to Jack, as there probably wasn’t anywhere on the island safer than here. Besides, she had that massive headdress to hide under.
Once she drew close to the city, she had to pull out a handkerchief and draw it over her face as a shield. Burning ash and glowing embers blew past her like leaves in a storm, while searing gusts from collapsing buildings drew black smoke back down from the sky into the streets. Within moments, she lost sight of Chase, though she’d been right behind him.
“Chase!” she yelled, her voice muffled by the cloth. She forced her eyes out of a squint to try to catch any hint of him, but her eyes began watering immediately, blinding her further.
“I’m headed for the Sib Zamini!” Chase replied from somewhere ahead and to her left.
A vague recollection of an exotic tavern allowed her to guess where it might be in relation to the marketplace. She began heading in that direction, hoping her memory would pull up the exact spot before she arrived. As she ran, she spotted no sign of any more stone statues, but distant rumbles behind her suggested the attack had moved to the harbor, which meant she was running out of time.
“Damn it, we don’t have time for this!”
Chase appeared out of the smoke right beside her and grabbed her hand. She fought down a yelp of surprise as he said, “We’re almost there!” Turning away from her, he screamed, “Joey! Here, Joey! Where are you, girl?”
Barks that did not sound like a tiger ensued, and a five-foot long feline terror fell out of the air onto Chase and began licking him. Luckily, he’d let go of Elizabeth the moment he heard the barking or she would’ve gone down with him. Giggling, Chase patted the tiger on the head and hugged her, muttering, “Good girl! Daddy isn’t going to leave you behind.”
“Quiet!” Elizabeth snapped. Between gusts of black smoke, she saw two figures moving through an alley, a mane of foot-long feathers bouncing atop their heads. “Those are people!”
Chase peered in the direction she indicated. “The invaders?”
“I would think so.”
“Should we follow them?”
She smiled. “I would think so.”
Chase groaned. “I was hoping you wouldn’t say that.”
She ran after them. “You don’t think they’ll stop with Singapore, do you? The whole world’s in danger, and we need to find out what the threat is.”
“Hold on!” Chase called. She skidded to a halt next to the turn the two figures had taken. He jogged up beside her. “We should send Joey first; she can tell us if there’s danger.”
“How can a tiger warn us about danger?” she asked, but at that moment, Chase’s eyes widened.
“There’s someone behind you!” he yelled, but she’d already guessed that from his expression. She swiveled around, her hand already on the hilt of her sword, but it was too late. Something heavy struck her over the head, and stars erupted across her vision as she collapsed.
The building was made of old wood, withering and fragile to the point of being ready to catch flame even in Singapore’s humid climate. By the time Christian and Norrington made it to the front door, the façade had ignited from the heat of passing sparks. The top floor collapsed first, already weakened by Christian’s fall through the roof, setting off a chain reaction that brought the front half of the building crashing to the street like an avalanche of timber.
Christian dropped to the ground to avoid the flying debris and rolled straight into the building across the street. The home was abandoned, and he dashed through it, leaping over a toppled dining table to reach the back door.
“Stop!” Norrington cried when he started running in the direction of the harbor.
“Head the other way. I can sense them when they’re close. It feels like the same magic that brought me back to life.”
“The army is coming?”
Christian hesitated but obeyed. Distant, painful-sounding screams spurred him on, though he hated that he was running away from them. “Is there nothing we can do for them?”
“You want to be useful, stay alive,” Norrington replied dryly. “Take it from the skull lodged in your sweaty armpits.”
“I need one hand free to fight!” he protested as they ran past a stall selling firewood. Christian grabbed the sturdiest-looking stick and paused. “Do you think I should leave some money?”
“I think we’re beyond that now.”
“I don’t want to be a looter!”
“Well, if it makes you feel better...” Christian could hear Norrington rolling his nonexistent eyes. He ignored him and tossed a few coins onto the stand anyway. A moment later, a giant rock fell out of the sky and crushed it.
“Of course, that copper wouldn’t have helped us secure passage on a ship anyway,” Norrington added.
“Thanks, Mr. Sarcasm.” He glanced upward, on the lookout for more falling rocks, in time to see a shadow flash across the sky and disappear behind the roofline of the center of town. “Was that a bird?” When he looked at Norrington for an answer, a second wave of darkness swept over the area, and he was sure that anything that large flying overhead would have caused a gust of wind, but he felt nothing.
“Norrington?” he said when there was no response. The skull remained motionless. Then the wire holding the jawbone to the rest of the skull snapped, causing it to fall to the ground. “Shit!” He kneeled down to pick it up and heard an ululating cry from his left. By instinct, he threw up the stick in time to catch the axe swing of a man dressed like the stone statues. The crescent edge bounced off the wood and swung past his ear with two centimeters to spare. Christian followed his block with a punch to the gut and sent the man reeling. The stick came down against the side of his head and knocked the warrior out.
That taken care of, he retrieved the jawbone and tried to put it back in place, but the skull refused to respond. Unless Norrington had suddenly dropped dead, so to speak, he guessed the sudden silence was related to the darkness he had seen, maybe some spell that suppressed magic?
His assailant began moving, so he went over and pinned him to the ground. “Who are you? Where are you from?”
The man’s eyes went wide. “You speak the language.”
Remembering what the Doctor said about translations, Christian tried to focus on the actual words being spoken rather than what he heard in his head. It was like a whisper at the edge of hearing, almost a premonition, a memory of something that hadn’t happened, as though his mind was playing tricks with him.
“Of course I speak the language.” But what he heard himself saying was unlike anything he had heard before, in school or on television.
Pero habla la lengua de los guardas! “But you speak the language of the guardians!” And that was Spanish. Guardians... some sort of Spanish sect? A priesthood or a cult? He thought the man sounded reverent but also confused.
“Why shouldn’t I?” He hoped he could come up with a better response soon before the man’s distrust overcame his awe. He’d have to ask the Doctor more about this translator.
“But you can’t be one of the traitors... you don’t have the marks...”
“I have been sent.” He hoped that sounded grandiose enough.
“Then... are you the nightingale?”
It was one thing to claim a supernatural background, another to admit to any specifics. Christian hesitated, but the man did not. With a yell, he lunged forward and head-butted him. Christian fell but had enough time to twist the axe out of the man’s hand. It didn’t matter; the man went for his neck instead, and Christian rolled away in time to save his jugular, but the teeth sank into his shoulder instead. He screamed as he felt blood burst from the wound and clubbed the man on the back repeatedly.
“Stop it! I’m not the nightingale, I swear!”
He was a little surprised when the attack stopped. He didn’t know why the man would choose to believe him until he heard: “Oh, I forgot. All the prophecies say the nightingale is a woman. How silly of me.”
Christian couldn’t help glaring even though he knew it wasn’t a good idea to appear hostile. “What’s your name?”
“Celso.” There was no reluctance in his voice. “You are sent by the gods to fight the nightingale!”
“Sure...” he replied, not sounding sure at all. The translation came out booming and confident, and he wondered what the Doctor’s machine was doing. Maybe it was trying to protect him, but it didn’t seem that way from his perspective, because now Celso was pulling him to his feet and dragging him down the street.
“Come. You must be present at the sacrifice of the thief. The priests will be overjoyed to meet you!”
“Yes, to cleanse this island of our enemy’s touch before we blast it into a smoldering ruin.”
They took a turn and arrived at the edge of a crater some thirty meters in diameter. The three-story building they stood beside had been cleanly sliced so that the structure was still standing but the part over the ground where the crater now existed was nowhere to be found. Indeed, the hole was a gradual slope of smoking dirt and rocks. Christian guessed this was where one of the statues had emerged, but there was now a platform blocking where the passage would have been.
The platform was three stone slabs, each successive one three-quarters the size of the previous, stacked one on top of the other like an incomplete pyramid. Tied down by ropes wrapped around small rings embedded in the topmost slab was a pirate. He could tell because his dress was similar to Barbossa’s, except his hat was a massive tricorn that had somehow managed to stay on his head through whatever number of adventures had led him to be in a smoking crater in Singapore at the mercy of a supernatural army with giant rock golems.
Standing over him was a priest (Christian guessed his occupation by the extra amount of feathers in the headdress) with a shiny and probably sharp--though he couldn’t really tell from this distance--dagger.
“Stop!” he yelled and found his command echoed by Celso.
The massive crowd gathered to watch the ceremony turned as one to stare at them. Christian shifted uncomfortably, but Celso raised his hands and cried out, “Behold, the lost children of the City have returned to us!”
Everyone continued staring. Celso elbowed him and hissed, “Come on, say something in the sacred language!”
“I don’t know! Something nice!”
“Er...” he raised his voice. “It’s nice to see you all again! Feels like, uh, home...”
As one, the crowd intoned, “He speaks the language!” and fell to their knees. All of them except the group of priests by the alter.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” the pirate said, trying to gesture despite his bonds. “Me, uh, speak-o that lingo too... oh.” The priests glared, but then the man continued smoothly, “All I had to do was use the right language for you to believe me? Come on, are you saying I don’t look holy to you?”
With a snarl, the priest brought down the dagger, and Christian winced before seeing that the blade had cut the ropes. The pirate got to his feet and gingerly flicked the last of the hemp off himself. “Thank you very much,” he said, heading for the stairs.
“You may not go.” The priest gestured at Christian. “Approach, silver-tongued foreigners, that we may test your words for false metal.”
“The test!” the crowd exclaimed as one. “The lost children must pass the test.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” Christian muttered, but Celso was pushing him forward already and there was nothing to do but go along with the crazy people.
“You’ll do fine,” Celso whispered. “If I remember my training correctly, you just have to answer a few questions about the City, but your ancestors will have passed down the correct responses.”
“You’re a priest in training?”
Celso bit his lips. “I was,” he said to his feet.
“Any chance they taught you the questions and answers while you were there?”
The young man brightened and let out a laugh. “Oh, you’re very funny! I like you already, lost brother.”
And now they were atop the platform where the pirate was lounging against the pole which had been intended as the final resting spot for his head. He looked as though everyone was best friends now, though up close, Christian could see tears in his clothes that had to have come from a sword. There was also an arrow hole in the hat. He smelled as though he hadn’t bathed in months, which didn’t improve the condition of his matted dreadlocks. In fact, it looked like his hair was growing mold.
“Thanks, chap. Great timing,” the pirate said in English, giving him a wink.
“You have a plan?” Christian replied in English, hoping the TARDIS would take a hint.
“Do I look like a man with a plan?”
He eyed him up and down, then took a step back when he noticed lice. “No.”
The priest slapped both of them on the back of the head. “Enough! Three questions you must answer. Since there are two of you, allowances shall be made, and one may answer only one, so long as someone answers each.”
“Best of three?” the pirate asked.
He shrugged. “It was worth a try.”
“Though its song is sweet, the words are poison. With great wings fleet flies our darkest cousin. Of whom do I speak?”
“Er...” was the pirate’s response.
“The nightingale?” Christian guessed. Celso grinned while the priest looked disappointed.
“That is correct.”
“Woohoo!” the pirate exclaimed.
“The next one’s yours,” Christian told him. The priest brightened again and faced the prisoner with a smug look.
“From the water rose the world, from the world flows the water. What are the immortal guardians who swim our borders?”
“Oooh, ooh, I know that one! It was written... er, I mean, written in the sacred scrolls that my mother recited to me over and over from memory when I was a child. Dientespeces!”
A lengthy pause preceded the priest’s pronouncement: “That is correct.”
Christian let out the breath he’d been holding from the moment the pirate fielded the question. Just one more. Let their luck hold...
“Final question. Either, or both,” the priest glared at them as though daring both to guess correctly, “may respond.”
Now that he knew the pirate wasn’t completely brain dead, Christian knew their hopes lay with the one who’d actually had dealings with these people before half an hour ago. Of course, unless the question was about the interior of a prison cell, the pirate might not know much either.
“How many roads must a man walk down?”
Both their jaws dropped at the same time. Their eyes met and both knew the other had no clue what the man was asking. “Take your time,” Christian said in English. “Let’s just think.” He glanced at Celso, hoping he might give a hint, but the young man looked horrified, as though Christian had just killed a puppy. Looking out at the crowd, he saw a mixture of confusion and anger. People had wanted to believe they were some long lost saviors--why a civilization with 150-foot killer statues and the ability to blow up an island needed saviors was not a pressing concern at the moment--and now their faith was dwindling away. The situation was going to get ugly if they didn’t answer soon.
“Don’t worry, take your time.” The chief priest grinned.
Then his eyes fell on the soldiers assembled at the foot of the platform. Something struck him as peculiar about their formation. There was something out of place, something uneven... And he saw it. The squadrons were arranged in alternating patterns of seven rows of six and six rows of seven. Glancing at the priests, he saw six standing on each side of the sacrificial platform, but the chief priest was clearly closer to one side than the other.
Hoping against hope, he laughed and said, “Ha ha, got you all worried, didn’t we? Thought we didn’t know the answer, but it’s more dramatic this way, you know?” No one was smiling, but his point was made. Now if only his guess was correct. “Forty-two!” he announced.
The look on Celso’s face was all he needed to know he was right. The young man blanked his expression when the priest looked his way, but then he put on a lopsided smile, and Christian knew what he was saying: Very funny, brother. Very funny.
“That is correct.” The priest winced as the pirate whooped and pulled him in for a long hug. The crowd roared as though their team just won the World Cup.
“I always knew we were related, Marques, old buckaroo,” the pirate said, taking the opportunity to bend some feathers on the headdress. The priest pried his arms apart and pushed him away.
“On this most auspicious day,” the man spat, “we shall honor the gods with our enemies’ blood.” He waved at thirteen women, six standing in front of seven. “Let’s blow this place and get out of here.”
“I think that’s our cue to run,” the pirate said in English. Switching over to Spanish, he added, “Right, chaps, we’ve got this little, uh, long lost brother ritual that we have to perform once we reunite with our long lost brothers. And sisters. And we have to do it in private. Don’t worry, we’ll be back in time to watch the island blow. Boom-boom time good, yes? Half-naked people no go anywhere. No getting long lost again the moment we turn our backs!” Without waiting for Christian, he dashed off the platform and set off full speed toward the docks.
Christian rushed after him. “Wait up!”
“How about you catch me!”
It didn’t take long for the smoke to build up once they were back amongst piles of wood, and Christian found the pirate doubled over, coughing, two streets from the crater.
“Ah,” the pirate said when he noticed him. “Good time. I was testing you, you know, seeing if you were in top shape. Glad to see you are.” He coughed some more. “Captain Jack Sparrow, by the way.”
There were an awful lot of Captain Jacks in the world, it seemed. And they probably all showed up with trouble. “Christian Mann.”
“That’s a nice skull you have there,” Jack replied, still wheezing. “Just give me a few more seconds to savor the run. Nothing like a nice run after days of torture.”
Christian had almost forgotten about Norrington, but he’d kept a tight grip on the skull anyway. Glancing down, he saw the jaw was still detached. “It’s a talking skull,” he said defensively.
“Ran its mouth off, I suppose.”
“I think the priests did something earlier. There was a flash of darkness, and he just stopped.”
Jack nodded. “Probably the summoning.”
“They do this dance, see, and it concentrates their magic. The magic gets so strong it overloads anything else magical. Like if you set off a great big fire, it sucks the oxygen away from any little fires nearby.”
“And that magic is to blow up the island.”
Jack thought about that. “Don't know about you lad, but I’m ready for more running.”
Christian grabbed his arm before he could take off and regretted it when he got slime all over his fingers. Lowering his voice, he said, “Do you hear that?”
“You mean the sound of a great big wall of magic about to blast us apart?”
“I mean the sound of voices!”
Jack listened. “Yes, over there,” he pointed. “You have a club, I nominate you to check it out.”
Christian raised the piece of firewood. “Coward.”
“Well, if you want me to face a bunch of savages unarmed...” His eyes went wide when Christian offered the club to him. “I think it looks better on you. Matches your... uh....”
Christian rolled his eyes. Tip-toeing forward, he saw the outlines of two figures in the smoke. The person closest to him had his back turned, but the other was facing him and would see him coming. Well, there was no helping that. He could take someone one-on-one, and he had the element of surprise.
Charging, he brought the club down, and the first person crumpled. He was coming around for a second swing when he saw the other person was Chase. “Whoa!” he yelled, wrenching back. Chase screamed and brought his arm up to shield himself from the blow, and then a gray shape streaked through the air, seizing Christian’s injured arm and bringing him down to the ground. Norrington struck the street and bounced down the alley.
“Wait! Back, Joey, back!” Chase yelled.
The tiger retreated, leaving Christian to inspect the new gashes on his arm. They didn’t look like anything a band-aid couldn’t fix. Chase looked over the injuries, pulling apart the rips in his sleeve. “They don’t look too bad, but-- are those teeth marks?”
“It’s a long story.” Seeing Jack approach, he said, “I picked someone up.”
“I got your skull!” Jack said, waving the head in one hand and the jawbone in the other.
“Okay, two people.”
Chase shrugged. “The person you knocked out was Elizabeth Turner, apparently the ruler of the island. Everyone else is off the island or about to be.”
“Good, ‘cause it’s about to explode. Does she have a ship?”
“Once she wakes up, we’re supposed to go there. Did you just say explode?”
“Elizabeth?” Jack said.
“You know each other?” Christian said. That might make it easier for her to forgive them knocking her out.
Jack removed a small bottle from his belt and waggled it. “I know just the thing to get her going.” He removed the cap and put it under Elizabeth’s nose. She gasped, started coughing, and sat bolt upright.
“Jack?” she exclaimed as her eyes focused on the nearest person.
“I know that look. That’s the look Cuddy gets every time she’s mad at House,” Chase muttered.
Jack retreated with the flask held behind his back. “Can we please get moving? The island’s about to explode.”
“Barbossa’s livid with you.”
“Is Barbossa aboard the Empress?”
“Then it doesn’t matter. Shoo, shoo.”
“Did you just say explode?”
“That’s what I’ve been asking!” Chase snapped.
Elizabeth jabbed a finger at Jack. “No one blows up my island.”
He took the finger and pointed it in the direction of the dock. “But the trampling statues and burning buildings are fine?” When she didn’t reply, he moved her hand back and forth to emphasize his escape plan.
“How do you blow up a whole island anyway?” Chase continued. “It’s not like they have atomic weapons yet.”
“There’s a circle of thirteen chanting priestesses back there.” Christian pointed. “It’s some sort of magic overload thing.”
“No, no, no!” Jack yelled as Elizabeth went for the crater. He whacked Christian on the arm and stole his club. “I’m declaring a mutiny, Elizabeth! We do not run toward exploding women!”
Elizabeth whirled around, and Jack skidded to a halt with less than a centimeter left between his throat and the tip of her blade. “You could catch some tortoises with your back hair and set sail that way.”
“I hate to break this to you, but your subjects have eaten all the tortoises around here.”
Elizabeth pushed the tip into his flesh and glared. “Fine, fine,” he said, handing the club back to Christian when he came up behind him. “You get to stay captain.”
“I’m your king, Jack, and it’d help if you remembered that.”
Jack waited until she lowered her sword. “So what’s the plan, your majesty?”
“Before we wander in, I’d like to point out there’s no such thing as magic,” Chase said. “I wonder if it might be BRAIN technology.”
“Brains? The gooey stuff that comes out when you shoot people in the head?”
“What I’m saying is that there must be a scientific basis behind these claims of magic, and since we haven’t seen any obvious signs of technology, then BRAIN seems the only logical explanation I can think of.”
“What is BRAIN, exactly?” Elizabeth asked.
“It’s a sort of technology that tunes into the brainwaves of humans to allow them to manipulate the physical world around them.”
“So you think something and it happens?” Jack said.
“More or less.”
“That sounds like magic to me.”
“But it isn’t!”
“What’s the difference?”
“You mean if we have to fight them?”
“Exactly. Can we borrow your tiger?”
“Jack, that skull looks like it’s moving,” Elizabeth said, raising her sword again.
“So it is.” Jack slammed the jawbone back in place and threw it at Christian who nearly fumbled the catch.
“What just happened?” The skull twisted around in his hands like a small kitten.
“You’re working again!”
Chase looked sick. “There is no way that’s an actual skull that talks. I mean, a talking skull. Why do you have a talking skull?”
“We need to save Olli and Cameron!”
“And you thought a talking skull would help?”
Christian was about to launch into the entire story of how they’d met before he realized that didn’t explain much. In fact, he didn’t know how Norrington was supposed to help. He just had a rather reassuring voice.
Thankfully, Jack cut into the pause the question had created in the conversation. “Talking skulls are rare. You meet a talking skull, it’s got to be something special, right?”
“I’d like to point out that I sense a fully-formed destructive spell of some sort not too far from here, and Elizabeth has run off toward it,” Norrington said.
Jack sighed. “ELIZABETH!” he screamed, arms wheeling about as he ran after her.
The priestesses stood in a circle, holding hands and swaying back and forth as they chanted. There were enough to encircle the topmost slab of the platform, five meters above which a glowing sphere of black and purple hovered. It pulsated with the regularity of a heartbeat and sparks danced off the surface like oil on a sizzling skillet. Elizabeth was already half-way through the crowd, which parted to let her through. From the murmur of excitement, it appeared they were hoping she’d be another long lost sibling of some sort, and a great, “Oooooh!” rose when they caught sight of Jack and Christian.
Celso fell in beside Christian as they ran. “Do you bring more lost children?”
“No, no, that’s the lord of the island.” It was safer to assume the invaders had done some scouting before they arrived, and Elizabeth was a conspicuous figure. “But we’re pretending to be her friends so we can spy on her!”
“That’s clever! Can I come along? You can pretend I’m your captive! I’ll even let you tie me up and beat me.”
“I don’t think so. But thanks for offering?”
“No problem. I’ll hurry ahead and tell the priests not to shoot her.”
“Not to--” Christian noticed the rows of archers with their bows drawn. “Oh. Yes, please do that.”
On the platform, the high priest had unsheathed an axe, swinging it wildly at Elizabeth whose sword was too flimsy to parry. The women continued chanting, their voices rising into a high-pitched ululation. Christian, Jack, and Chase slid to a halt beside one of them, and Christian saw the other men looking at him expectantly.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Hit them!” Jack and Chase replied in unison.
“They’re not armed!”
“They look armed to me!” Chase pointed at the growing ball of darkness. Jack stepped forward and punched one of the priestesses, sending her tumbling off the platform and into the dirt. As one, the others fell backwards, breaking the circle and becoming silent. Overhead, the sphere continued glowing. "That was suspiciously easy."
“It’s too late!” Norrington said. “The spell is complete!”
“So we’re dead?”
“No, you have five minutes until detonation.”
“That’s enough time to set sail!” Jack cried. “Come on, Elizabeth, he’s definitely not your type.”
“Mmmrrggh!” Elizabeth had wrestled the axe from the priest, who responded by falling on her. He now had one hand clasped across her mouth, sliding toward her windpipe, while his other hand held back her sword. Christian ran over, but she kneed the priest in the groin and threw him off. “Let’s go!” she said, giving him another kick for good measure.
The crowd had begun dispersing the moment the spell completed, probably to put some distance between themselves and the impending fireworks. A path was clear to the harbor, and the only delay was caused by Chase stopping to throw the unconscious priestess over his shoulder and carrying her with him.
“Yes, the spoils of victory. I like your thinking,” Jack told him.
“I’m just going to run some tests on her to prove my BRAIN theory.”
“Of course. ‘Tests.’ Elizabeth and I have a lot of ‘testy’ history between us.”
“It must be a natural aptitude for BRAIN,” Chase continued, clearly thinking the best course of action was to ignore the mouthy pirate. “I mean, otherwise our entire basis of scientific thinking is incorrect.”
The ground shuddered beneath their feet, and a loud roar emanated from behind them. Christian glanced back and saw rows of structures collapsing like houses of cards. The dock was in sight, and one warship remained, its masts now the tallest wooden structures on the island. Further out, a ship with black sails was fading into the horizon.
Two rock golems rose out of the water and stomped toward the vessel, sending wave after wave crashing against the shore. A volley of cannon fire knocked them back into the sea, but they clambered to their feet again soon after.
A gangplank came down as they approached, and Elizabeth acknowledged the cheers of the crew with a small salute. Then they were inside the ship, which began turning. Lightning shot up from the sphere, and Christian counted a minute remaining.
“We’re not going to make it!” Jack said, realizing the same thing.
Elizabeth shook her head. “We don’t have to reach the open sea.” They climbed the ladder onto the deck where her first mate was waiting. She shouted a few words in Chinese, and he ran to the wheel. The ship angled for the shore.
“What are you doing?” Jack clasped her arms and shook her. “What are you doing!”
Calmly disengaging herself from him, Elizabeth pointed out the sloping shoreline. “We have enough time to get around that cliff. With luck, the blast will sweep over us, and we’ll be safe.”
Christian ran to the railing and noticed the sea was beginning to churn and foam. “What about the rocks?” he asked. The ship now swayed back and forth as the water threw them about. Great walls of spray shot up over the bow and soaked them. Overhead, dark clouds gathered so thick they blocked out the sun. Beneath the cliff, jagged outcrops littered the water, and all of them looked large enough to sink the vessel.
“We’ll steer around them,” Elizabeth said. From the look on Jack’s face, that wasn’t as easy a feat as her confidence suggested.
“The spell is going!” Chase announced. A blinding flash of light filled their vision before being blocked out by the wall of rocks. The ship groaned, and they launched over the crest of a wave to crash down between two jagged formations of stone. The air itself began to vibrate as a distant rumbling drew close, and then a cloud of dust swept over them, blotting out the world.
Ferrying souls to the afterlife was not as exciting a job as the description would suggest. Will Turner knew this firsthand and wondered if that wasn’t the real reason Davy Jones had gone off the deep end, in a manner of speaking. Most of the time, the crew hung around in Davy Jones’ locker--Will wondered if they should rename it Will Turner’s locker, or maybe just Will Turner’s fishing hole--and waited for fish to bite. Every once in a while, they’d check the lobster traps, but poor Vernon Hills, the new cabin boy, was allergic to lobsters, even the sight of them, and would turn as deep red with rashes as if he’d been boiled himself. Therefore, they only checked the traps when the kid was asleep, but he had insomnia--on top of the fact that he was mostly dead and didn’t need to sleep anyway, having traded a reprieve from the afterlife for service aboard the Flying Dutchman--and so lobster pretty much didn’t happen at all.
Then someone would die in the real world and Will’s squid senses would tingle and the ship would turn upside down and go zoom through the water, which was the only cool part of the job, and they’d pop up on the other side and get out the giant fishing nets to bring up the corpses. Sometimes, dolphins would get tangled in the nets, but Will had gotten so good at freeing porpoises that he held the record of two minutes, fifteen point six three seconds. The only person who came close to his time was his father, Bootstrap Bill, who had a personal record of three minutes fifty.
Every rare once in a while, when Will finished explaining to people that they were dead, that Davy Jones was also dead, and that Will was now doing his job--no, not the terrorizing the seas part, the ferrying dead people part--a sailor would ask to join the crew for some personal reason. Calypso had told Will he couldn’t keep them for more than a hundred years or they would start going mad, but most just wanted to stay around long enough to dress up nicely, convince their loved ones that they were a ghost, and say goodbye. The more successful ones also dug up hidden treasure to leave behind or frightened their lawyers into having one last look at their will.
Playing with the kraken was fun, though. Yes, the kraken as Davy Jones knew her was dead, but Will had found her soul drifting along the currents of the Indian Ocean and plunked it into an octopus he molded out of clay. It was a small octopus, barely larger than his hand, because he didn’t want to keep anything big and destructive around in case he went crazy too. He chose an octopus because the creatures could crawl around out of the water and play fetch on the deck of the ship. It was an extremely slow game of fetch, but no one had anything better to do.
The kraken was about to make it across the deck in less than three hours, a feat she had accomplished only twice before, when Will felt a new death near Singapore. He perked up, since Elizabeth was near there, and didn’t even bother tossing the kraken overboard before ordering the ship to sink. The kraken responded to his negligence by stealing his hat once they were underwater, but he didn’t mind.
The corpse was heavier than usual, and once they’d heaved it aboard, Will realized with a shock that they’d fished up not only the soul but the actual body as well. That was odd. Souls usually separated easily. He bent over the body, checking for irregularities and signs of magic, when the corpse stopped being a corpse and expelled a jet of water all over his face.
Will wiped the mixture of seawater and bodily fluids out of his eyes to find his vision impaired by the sun gleaming off a dazzling set of teeth. “Captain Jack Harkness,” the teeth said to him. “Sorry that got all over your face. Seems to happen a lot with me...”
An extended hand seemed to be waiting for him to shake it, so he did. “Captain William Turner.”
“Great, great, everything’s gone as planned then.”
“As planned?” Who planned to drown and resurrect just to meet him? “I’m sorry, were you dead?” He’d hoped the words would sound less stupid out loud than in his head, but he had no such luck. Maybe he was going crazy. He looked over to his dad for some reassurance and got it from the fact that the entire crew looked as though they were staring at Christ reborn. A thought occurred to him. “Are you Christ reborn?” Damn, that sounded stupid too. And now he’d missed the man’s response to his first inquiry.
“No, it doesn’t take me three days unless it’s something really nasty like quartering. Ugh, I hate quartering. I think it gives me wrinkles.”
“I’m sorry, were you dead?”
“Yes. But now I’m not. While I’m explaining, could you sail a little closer to that cliff? I assume your ship is indestructible.”
Will nodded at Leathery Heather, who had the wheel.
“Thanks.” Jack flashed that smile again. “Elizabeth sent me, and she’s not very good at keeping her word, apparently.”
At the top of the cliff, a woman had appeared and was waving at them with both arms over her head. “Help me! Help me! Wait, never mind! Pull back! You’re going to crash!”
The ship slammed against the rocks, tilting until the crow’s nest lodged against the top of the cliff. Jack cupped his hands to his mouth. “Climb aboard!”
“You expect me to--”
The woman stomped her feet a few times, but the tide was coming in and waves dislodged the Flying Dutchman. As the ship began righting itself, the woman leapt over and landed in the crow’s nest with a thump.
They waited for her to descend, less out of politeness than from the fact that she looked about to fall. Vernon and Whirly Eddie even brought out some empty canvas bags and held them beneath the mast to catch her, but she reached the bottom without incident. “Where’s Chase?” Jack demanded.
“He went with Elizabeth to save Joey, but I told her I’d stay right here where it’s safe until someone comes to pick me up.”
“I told her to take both of you.”
“And I told her I wasn’t going. You got a problem with that?”
Will cleared his throat. “Back to Elizabeth. Is she all right?”
“She looked pretty good to me,” Jack said. Will’s eyes narrowed, and the man said, “Husband, right. I meant her health. It looked very good. She wanted me to pass a message to you, though now that I mention it, she never told me what it was. Nevertheless, since the island looks pretty razed, I imagine you can catch up with her ship and ask her then. It’s just important that she needs to talk to you.”
For the first time, Will noticed Singapore was not in the best shape if the plumes of black smoke were any indication. “I’ll do that. Look, did you say your name was Captain Jack?"
"Yup, Captain Jack Harkness. Why?"
"Nothing, except I seem to be cursed. Thank you, Captain, ah, Harkness. It must have taken a lot to do what you did for Elizabeth.”
“You mean dying? Seems like it happens every day.”
Upon further contemplation, lazy days at Will Turner’s fishing hole weren’t so bad. No one he liked faced immediate danger, and the catch was good. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was in trouble, and that trumped any other concern of his. Feeling adrenaline race through his veins again, Will Turner took the helm and set a course for the Empress. As they raced across the seas, he heard Jack Harkness say, “Nice to meet you, Leathery Heather. Does your nickname mean what I think it means?”
Cameron woke to find herself in a cabin. One oil lamp swaying from a hook on the wall provided dim illumination for the wooden hold that was just large enough for two bunks and a medium-sized chest about two feet long. There were no windows, but from the rocking and the sound of lapping water, she guessed she was aboard a ship. It wasn’t a bad guess considering her last memory was of being drugged and kidnapped by Persian pirates. In fact, all things considered, her accommodations were quite comfortable. At least she wasn’t in chains or locked in the brig. There was even a silver tray with two glasses of warm milk on the floor, along with a brick to keep the arrangement from sliding away.
She peered over the edge of the bed to find Olli sprawled unconscious on the lower bunk. His hair was ruffled and three slight bruises were forming on his neck, but apart from that he didn’t look any worse for wear.
There was no ladder to her upper bunk, and she had no wheelchair even if she got off the bed. It was a clever trick, but she refused to let her captors win. Taking a firm grip on the wooden panel at the head of the bed, she swung herself off and lowered her feet to the floor. When she let go, she tried to keep her weight off her legs and tumbled to the other end of the room. As expected, the door was locked. The chest was not, but it was filled with clothes.
Her options exhausted, Cameron sat with her back against the wall and waited for Olli to wake up. After a while, the motion of the ship began to make her nauseous, and she tried to settle her stomach with some milk, but it had a strange taste and made the situation worse. She felt a light pounding in her head, and then the milk tried to come back up.
Trying not to gag, she crawled to the door and began pounding. “Someone let me out! I’m seasick and it’s an emergency!”
Not expecting anyone to answer, she was surprised when the door opened as soon as she finished speaking. Niki threw Cameron’s arms over her shoulders and carried her toward the stairs. “This should not have happened,” she said apologetically. “I even put herbs in the milk to combat seasickness.”
“What’d you put in it?” Cameron asked. Niki’s movement on top of the motion of the ship was not helping her situation. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on the regularity of each footstep. The interior of the ship was growing hot and stuffy, and she hoped the air would be cooler outside.
“Ginger. Ginger is good for seasickness.”
“I hate ginger!” A blast of hot, humid air swept over her as they opened the door and stepped onto the deck, and that was the last straw. She retched and everything she ate in the last twenty-four hours went all over Niki. Milk and hamburgers. Delightful.
When she was done dry-heaving and realized what had happened, she apologized, which was a rather silly thing to do to someone who had just drugged you. It would serve her right if that had been the root cause of her nausea.
“It is all right. The sea takes getting used to. I will go clean up.”
“No, wait!” But Niki eased her onto the deck and left her all alone.
Propping herself up against some barrels, she looked around to find a landmark in case they intended to lock her back up for a long time, but water was all around for as far as she could see. She didn’t even know how long she’d been unconscious.
“Please don’t be alarmed,” someone said from right behind her.
Cameron yelped and spun around, losing her grip on the barrels and falling on her bottom. “Sneaking up on me doesn’t help!” It was Bousseh and beside her was the barkeeper, whom Cameron remembered was her brother.
“I am Kouros,” he said. “I apologize that my sister was rough with you before, but I assure you it was necessary.”
“I hardly think kidnapping can ever be considered necessary.”
“We were under orders,” Bousseh snapped. She did not sound like she was apologizing at all.
Kouros shrugged. “It is true. The arrival of strangers in Singapore attracted the attention of many. However, it was auspicious that we took you and your friend off the island when we did. Strange invaders attacked shortly thereafter, and we saw an explosion rise over the horizon as we sailed away.”
Cameron looked in the direction he indicated and noticed a line of yellow that would have been pollution in the present day. Since no city in the eighteenth century generated that much smog, she had to conclude they were not lying, but if the smoke was visible from this distance... “How far out are we?”
“The city is just over the horizon. You have been unconscious for less than two hours.”
“Then Singapore’s gone. An explosion that size would level the island!”
Cameron felt her heart drop. “What about my friends! Are they safe?”
“We abandoned the tavern the moment we grabbed you. Our orders were to take as many of you as possible while still departing almost immediately.”
They had the TARDIS. There was no way the Doctor wouldn’t get them off the island, and as soon as he realized she and Olli were missing, he’d come for them.
“Who ordered our capture? Why?”
“You do not need to know!”
Kouros patted his sister’s arm. “We cannot give you a name, and I assure you that he is not aboard this vessel, though you need not believe me. However, the hope is that your friends will come rescue you. He wishes to strike a deal with your leader and you are a bargaining chip. Knowing this, you realize you are safe, and we will treat you as honored guests. Do we have your cooperation?”
“As long as we’re at sea.”
He laughed, a hearty, booming affair. “That is not a problem.”
It rather was. “Am I allowed to know where we’re going?”
Kouros and Bousseh raised their eyebrows. She didn’t think their surprise was false.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Bousseh said. “We’re going home to Persia.”
To Chapter 19: Fairy Tails
Back to Chapter 17: Part 2
Summary: Time doesn't go forward when you're having fun, 'cause there's too much good stuff to describe. Elizabeth beats people up, Christian makes unexpected relatives, and Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner finally show up.