Sparkling Tuna Parrots
(Part 2 of 2)
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Barbossa grabbed Jack the monkey by the tail and whirled him around twice before flinging him out the open window of his cabin.
"You're an impressive tosser," Ianto said.
Lisa rolled her eyes as she took her seat. Barbossa couldn't tell whether it was because she thought Ianto was attempting to ingratiate himself or if there had been some insult in the remark. He decided to ignore it, if only to antagonize her by not antagonizing her. It worried him that this thought didn't make sense. More and more things were starting not to make sense around Lisa Cuddy.
The table was laid out with quite a feast. They'd had plenty of time to re-supply at Singapore. Nevertheless, this would be Barbossa's last extravagance in a while. While he now had every confidence that Elizabeth would appear, he wouldn't put it past her to take her sweet time. He wanted his travelers to feel more secure, though. He didn't need them to trust him or like him, but it would help him if they did, and he wasn't a man to pass up an opportunity.
A roast hog covered the bulk of the table. It was drizzled in gravy and surrounded by platters of boiled potatoes, carrots, and stewed cabbage. A knife stuck out of a loaf of bread, placed beside a variety of cheese platters. Down the table, closest to Barbossa's seat, were the fruits: lemons, oranges, grapes, and apples. Likewise were the bottles of wine and rum. "Dig in," he said, tearing a piece out of the pig's side and biting down. The others stared at him as fat ran down his chin. "Well, what are ye waiting for?"
"Why the sudden hospitality?" Lisa asked.
"Ah, Lisa. May I call you Lisa?"
"Lisa, among pirates, there be no friends, but there be hospitality when the occasion suits."
"So what's the occasion?" Ianto asked. He picked up a glass of wine and sniffed it.
At that moment, the door burst open and Pintel and Ragetti fell through, as they were wont to do. "Pardon, cap'n," Pintel said, lowering his head in deference and striking the floorboards as a result.
"There are two ships approaching!" Ragetti blurted out.
"I was getting there," Pintel growled.
"Might they be the Dutchman and the Empress?" Barbossa asked.
"Aye!" the two replied.
"Good, now get out and prepare for boarding." As they rushed out, Barbossa put on the most self-satisfied smirk he could manage and returned his attention to his three uncertain allies. "That be occasion enough for ye?"
Even Lisa looked grudgingly impressed.
By the time the ships were all alongside each other--with the Pearl in the middle, Barbossa noticed, a fact that was obviously premeditated--the food had gone cold, but one look at the condition of the Empress put that thought out of his mind. To his great annoyance, Elizabeth's vessel was practically undamaged, and they must have been much closer to the blast than the Pearl.
There were two shocks for Barbossa, one on each ship. The first was the reappearance of the TARDIS aboard the Flying Dutchman--while he understood Will was part of a greater supernatural plane now, Barbossa did not anticipate, nor did he think, Will had any connections with the blue box--and the second was the reappearance of Jack Sparrow wandering around behind Elizabeth in a manner designed to keep him inconspicuous. He failed because Jack Sparrow really wasn't one to remain inconspicuous.
"It's him!" Ianto exclaimed under his breath at the sight of Sparrow, clasping his hands to his sideburns before dropping them and trying to look nonchalant.
"Doctor!" Cuddy cried, rushing to the side of the ship. "You're back!"
"I see you found another use for that dress!" Elizabeth yelled at Barbossa.
"Aye, well ye weren't using--"
Barbossa turned around in time to see a piece of wood, probably broken from the remains of the mizzenmast, bounce off the Doctor. As he watched, Cuddy threw another across the water and nailed him in the shoulder.
"Stop throwing things at me!" the Doctor exclaimed, dodging behind Jack Harkness.
"You left us behind!"
"Stop that!" Harkness said, tussling with the Doctor. "I don't like getting hit by stuff either."
Harkness grabbed his arm and swung him around. "Ha!" he said one moment before realizing he'd just knocked the Doctor overboard.
Cuddy smirked, and Barbossa just knew that was what she'd planned all along. That woman was obsessed with throwing people off ships.
"JAAAACK!" the Doctor screamed as he plummeted toward the surface.
"What?" Jack Sparrow's head popped up over Elizabeth's shoulder.
"Oook?" the monkey said from Ragetti's shoulder.
"We're going to have problems," Barbossa told Elizabeth as they shared a look of exasperation.
Indeed, an hour later, fully forty-three minutes after everyone had congregated on the Black Pearl after anchoring the ships and setting up a system of ropes for people to swing over, and ten minutes after the food and alcohol had run out (for now), the group continued to argue. While some information of importance had been exchanged, most of the discussion concerned one topic.
"Why can't we just call one of them Pirate Jack and the other one Not-Pirate Jack?" Ianto demanded.
"Pirate Jack and Jack," Harkness said.
"No, no, no." Jack Sparrow shook his head. "Not!Pirate Jack and Jack. I was here first."
"I'm better looking."
"What about the monkey?" the Doctor asked, feeding a banana to the Jack perched on his head.
Jack Sparrow grinned. "We can re-name him Hector."
There was a moment of silence as Jack the monkey's hand clenched shut, causing the banana to shoot away and embed itself in Tai Huang's ear. The simian's intense stare was enough to make Sparrow recoil. "I can live with the undead part, but the staring's just creepy," he said.
"All right, fine! You can stay named Jack."
Elizabeth pulled a knife out of her boot and stabbed it into the tabletop. Barbossa would've protested, but she got everyone to shut up, and that was enough for now.
"Enough! You're Sparrow, you're Harkness, and the monkey stays Jack. All in favor put your hand up and say 'Aye.'"
"Aye!" Everyone raised their hand except the two Jacks (the monkey concurred, chittering as his hand went up).
"We're done," Elizabeth said, replacing the knife.
"Yeah, and it only took an hour," Gregor said. "Now would someone explain how we're planning to help my brother?"
"We're not," Elizabeth replied. "I've spoken to Will, and it turns out that the Dutchman will be less useful than I'd hoped."
"Unlike Calypso, I don't have clear vision over the water," Will said. "I only know when someone has died. While the Dutchman can go anywhere, I need a destination. The other ship is long gone."
"There are only so many ports within range," Ianto said.
"You don't understand: I can't pursue them. I can't intervene. I can go check the ports, but I can't recover your friends. My duty remains first and foremost to those lost at sea. If I abandon the duty, my entire crew loses their humanity. In the end, you will have to hunt down these pirates yourselves. We will help by scouting, and if there is a supernatural element at work, we can fight that, but so long as they are in the hands of humans, my own are tied."
"And the Pearl's the fastest ship in the world," Elizabeth said. "So that means our priority is fixing her."
"Yes, but what's your priority after that?" Lisa asked. "No offense, but you are pirates. Why will you help us recover our friends?"
"To be frank, that isn't my priority."
"Aye," Barbossa cut in. Now was the time to strike. "But it be mine."
Will and Elizabeth stared at him. "What?" they said at the same time.
"I feel I owe Lisa a debt. 'Tis my fault her friends fell into the possession of those dastardly Persians."
"It's Cuddy," Lisa said, crossing her arms. Ianto whispered something into her ear and forced her arms back to her sides. "Fine, thank you, but I still want to know your real reason."
He hesitated. It wouldn't do to appear too eager, yet he had to tell them. Thankfully, Elizabeth came to his rescue.
"It has to do with the fountain of youth, doesn't it? That is fundamentally what we are still after."
"Aye," Barbossa drew his words out, trying to sound like he was unwilling to share. "Sparrow--"
Sparrow lifted a finger and interrupted: "Pirate Jack."
"Humph," Harkness replied.
"Sparrow didn't steal everything of mine."
"And you didn't see fit to share," Elizabeth said.
"I be sharing now, ain't I? It doesn't matter. The Persians have it now."
"What was it?"
"Give and ye shall receive, your majesty."
Elizabeth replied immediately, suggesting she'd expected his response. Well, that was fine. Let her feel secure. "Calypso can't see the fountain. 'It belongs to different seas,' she said. However, she knows the way to those new waters, whatever that means. The fountain is not in the Americas, but the path to it is."
"The map clearly showed it in Florida," Barbossa growled.
"Why don't we ask the man who's been there?" Elizabeth said, turning to Sparrow.
"Whoa, what are you all looking at me for?"
"Christian told me everything," Elizabeth replied. "What do you know?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Barbossa drew his pistol and cocked it in Sparrow's face.
"Ah, that jogs some memories, though a cutlass might be even more memorable." Sparrow shoved the pistol aside and wandered toward the other side of the room. "The entrance I found was indeed in Florida. I've heard there's another one in Peru."
"Entrance?" the Doctor said.
"You know about the fountain?" Harkness asked.
"As much as you. Heard legends. As far as I knew, it wasn't real." The Doctor eyed the pirates. "Isn't supposed to be real. There most certainly shouldn't be entrances on far sides of the planet. Is it a portal? I can think of a few species that might try to pull something like that."
"No, it's a tunnel," Sparrow replied.
"Well, that sounds familiar," Elizabeth said.
"A sheer drop, might be miles and miles down."
" I got caught by those priests before I became drunk enough to jump."
"That's helpful," Olivia commented.
"Shhhh," the Doctor hissed. "I think we can assume the attackers at Singapore and the defenders of the fountain of youth are one and the same."
"They didn't look like aliens to me," Ianto said.
Harkness half-raised a hand. "I agree. And I'm not just saying that for coffee stamps."
"You better not be, sir."
"So that's all Calypso gave you?" Barbossa pressed on. "Not even a map?"
"Calypso's aware she has information we need. Unfortunately for us, we're capable of performing a favor for her."
"Great," Will said. "Of course. Give us enough to hang ourselves and make us pay to get out of the noose."
"What does she want?" said Gregor.
"There's an island nearby. The natives are not very advanced, but there's enough high quality wood that we can make repairs and enough food and water to keep us well stocked. They will also provide us with some mythology regarding an artifact Calypso wants. That's all I know."
"And once we get it?"
"She'll guide us to an entrance herself."
Barbossa whistled. "If she wants the artifact that bad, I don't know if it be a good idea to give it to her."
Elizabeth glanced at Sparrow. He shrugged. "It's your only chance, mate. There was definitely something magical about the way to the fountain. I can't find it again without a map, and a map was something Marques was quite eager to confiscate. Touchy-feely, that one. I think he wanted my sausages."
"Sausages?" Lisa said.
"Plural?" Harkness said.
Sparrow reached into his pants, making everyone leap backward, but he came up with a string of mangled, greenish links. "Made from sea turtles."
"We've shared what we know," Elizabeth said. "Now talk, Barbossa."
"There's a legend," Barbossa said. "Of Cyrus the Great of Persia. As you all know, I am Pirate Lord of the Caspian Sea. I ventured into the Caribbean--"
"Because the Caspian Sea is bound by land. All of it." Sparrow smirked.
"It's the largest sea bound by land."
"Right, it sucks," Gregor said, "go on."
"It doesn't... arrrgh. Suffice it to say, I possessed scrolls from the region. Cyrus the Great lived in the 500s, before Christ. He founded the Persian Empire. Over thirty years, he conquered nation after nation, melding empire into empire into the largest empire the world had ever seen. But the important part, the relevant part, and I quote: 'In his travels, he came upon a Great fountain, a marvel of metal such that only gods' hands could have shaped. Through the fountain flowed forth the waters from the heart of the earth. To drink of it was to drink pure strength, to mix the blood of the land and the blood of the ancestors and the blood of the mortal. Many desired to find the fountain, for it granted immortality. But those who dared face death could receive an even greater gift: to be renowned for all one's days, to be granted dominion over the earth, to be known, truly, as Great.'"
"So Cyrus turned down everlasting life," Elizabeth said.
"To burn brightly," Barbossa replied.
Harkness nodded. "Good choice." Barbossa and Elizabeth shot him dark looks, but he remained unfazed. "I'm not kidding. Living forever is overrated."
Barbossa decided to ignore him for the time being. "What matters is that he included directions to the fountain on a lost artifact. The Cyrus Cylinder, it's called, an inscribed cylinder detailing the accomplishments of Cyrus and buried under the ruins of Babylon. My documents provided hints as to how to locate the cylinder, but they're in the possession of the Persians."
"How'd that happen?" Will asked.
"Right," Sparrow said, "because it's impossible to steal things from Hector."
Barbossa glowered but did not reply.
"Anyone else have something to contribute?" Will asked.
"Actually, I do," Ianto said. Everyone shuffled around to look at him, and the Doctor in particular looked surprised.
"You know about the fountain?" the Doctor said, sounding jealous.
"Not per se. First, Jack." The monkey perked up and Ianto shook his head. "No, not you, sorry. Pirate Jack. You don't know anyone named Susan, do you?"
Sparrow frowned. "No, why?"
"Well, because certain unfortunate events will happen around her, and if you knew her, I'd suspect the culprit would be you, but never mind."
"Come to think of it, there's a, haha, lady in Tortuga--"
"Don't think that's her," Ianto said hastily.
"This has so much to do with the fountain," Lisa commented.
"Would you consider the search for the fountain a treasure hunt?"
Sparrow stroked his chin. "I suppose. It helps that the fountain is guarded by a city of gold. Also, fish. With teeth."
"The fountain of youth and El Dorado?" Olivia perked up. "This is getting better by the moment."
"We find the fountain," Ianto said. "There's a map somewhere, but maybe you've already lost it."
"Whoa, whoa, slow down. How do you know this?"
"We meet in the future. About two hundred fifty years in the future."
Sparrow leaned closer. "Am I still good-looking?"
"You look the same."
"You're from the future?" Barbossa said. It was as good an explanation as any for their strangeness, he supposed.
"Ok, enough!" The Doctor waved a fist in the air as though wielding an invisible stick. "I assert my advanced knowledge over all things time-ish and declare this conversation over."
"Where's your screwdriver?" Harkness asked.
The Doctor glared. "I misplaced it."
"How'd you misplace it? You love that thing. It's like your phallic symbol."
"I lost it-- it is not!" the Doctor spluttered. "Why must you humans make everything about sex?"
"You're not human?" Elizabeth said but got as much of an answer as Barbossa.
"I merely, er..."
"Merely what?" Harkness pressed.
"I lost it down the throat of a mermaid. And this subject is closed."
Ianto and Gregor suppressed chortles as Will's eyes widened. "Don't worry," Lisa told Barbossa and Elizabeth. "He doesn't answer our questions either."
"Thank you!" the Doctor said as he slammed the door of the TARDIS behind them. He could see the tension drain out of the others as he locked the pirates outside. It'd taken three hours of shuffling people back and forth between the ships before he'd gotten the pirates sufficiently turned around to get everyone into the TARDIS without raising suspicions. They all knew they wouldn't have much time before Barbossa and Elizabeth caught on, but that didn't matter. Most of what needed to be said had already been said at the meeting, and other matters could wait. "Thank you all for your discretion."
"I assumed there was a reason we didn't bring up using the TARDIS for a search and rescue operation," Cuddy said.
"It's quite simple," the Doctor said. "I can't find them, and if Elizabeth thinks we'll run off the moment Will locates Olli and Cameron, she's not going to let him tell us where they are. Sure, they'll search because of Barbossa's documents, but as far as we'll know, they won't find any sign of them."
"So what's the plan?" asked Jack.
"No, wait." Gregor took a step closer to him, and the Doctor found himself edging back. "I was assured you could track everyone. You said this TARDIS knows where we all are."
"Do you all have the keys I gave you?"
Five silver keys shimmered in the TARDIS' dim glow.
"I can't detect any of them." The Doctor ran his hand through his hair. "That's very bad. Time has... gone astray. Very badly."
"That's not possible," Ianto said. "You must just never have heard of the fountain, because if I met Jack Sparrow back in the future, that means--"
"What were you doing when you met him?"
Ianto froze mid-sentence, his mouth still open.
"Oh god," Cuddy said. "The aliens. Are you telling me they're here too?"
"Not necessarily," Ianto said. "But yes, we were fighting aliens with BRAIN technology at the time. It was in a BRAIN-induced hallucination, and Jack was smoking something that let him share the same hallucination from halfway across the planet."
"This all reeks of BRAIN influence," Jack said. Ianto gave him a look, causing him to exclaim, "You just keep saying what I'm going to say before I can say it!"
"So the timeline fractured when aliens invaded New Jersey," the Doctor said.
"No," Ianto and Jack said at the same time.
"Fine, go!" Jack said as they shared another look.
"The aliens had infiltrated every level of government. It's safe to assume they've been embedded in human affairs for years."
"Can't be this far back, though," Jack said. "And we have no evidence they can time travel."
"Which doesn't mean they can't, sir."
"Or maybe the effects of their tampering traveled back in time with us," the Doctor said. His mind was racing as he considered the ramifications. It didn't make sense, but it was the only explanation he could come up with, yet no one had brought any BRAIN technology with them. He'd have known if anything like that was in the TARDIS. Plus, it wasn't as though effects on the timeline were like a virus, moving back and forth on carriers. But... they'd hit something in the time vortex. What if that had damaged the vortex somehow, spreading the effects of BRAIN backward and forward from the central event in 21st century New Jersey? "But... no, that would mean they succeeded. That would mean a critical mass of human minds being used in the 21st century, generating a field of BRAIN effect large enough to be able to leak through time."
"How many people are we talking about?"
"Thousands, at least. Maybe tens of thousands. You can't hide that. Not from me. Anywhere on the planet, that many minds, and I'd feel it. I'd have to, wouldn't be able to ignore it if I wanted."
"Then there must be some other explanation."
"So, as Jack said, what's the plan?" Cuddy asked.
"We bide our time. It's the only way to rescue the others, and it's the only way to set the timelines right."
"Really?" Olivia said. "We all risked our lives to meet here and that's the best you have?"
"No, I have instructions. Cuddy, it looks like Barbossa's taken a fancy to you. Your job is to encourage him."
"I will do no such thing!"
"Make him trust you. Jack, I want you to do the same with Elizabeth. She used you to get to her husband; there'll be some sense of gratitude there."
"But I'm doing so well on the Dutchman!"
"No, you're scaring people. And I don't want you flirting with Will. That'll stir up all sorts of trouble. You'll scare him and make Elizabeth jealous. The same goes for you, Olivia."
"He's dead! I'm not interested in dead people!"
"Yes, but he controls Davy Jones' locker. That means every piece of gold that's ever sunk into the ocean belongs to him."
"I think you just encouraged her," Gregor whispered into the Doctor's ear.
"I know." He winked back. "As for you... I don't know. Go do whatever you want."
Gregor rolled his eyes. "Thanks..."
"Last but not least: Mr. Jones! You need to sabotage their weapons. Gunpowder getting wet, knives going missing, whatever you can do to make them less dangerous."
"Is that a good idea, sir?" Ianto asked. ">We don't have any weapons. If we come under attack, we need weapons to defend ourselves."
"Let's just make sure those weapons aren't being used against us, hmm? I'll trust your discretion to strike an appropriate balance."
"I believe I can do that, sir."
"Great. Knew I could count on you, Mr. Jones. Love the Joneses. Can barely keep up with them."
"And what are you going to do?" Olivia asked. "I mean, while we're out there doing dangerous things, are you going to be hiding in here crying about your screwdriver?"
"I was not crying about my screwdriver." Although that may have been a factor in his earlier emotional instability, he certainly wasn't going to admit it. "Jack! Stop telling lies about me. For your information, I will be on the Dutchman trying to find out more about how much damage has been done to the timeline."
"So you're going to continue crying with the rich and pretty captain."
"Enough! Everyone out!"
The sun rose to a much happier Ianto Jones than it had left behind at dusk. This was largely because he'd changed back into a suit. There was nothing better than a good suit to reset the attitude. And anyway, no one would suspect sabotage of someone dressed so formally. He'd just have to take care not to get any gunpowder or filth on his clothes.
For the moment, however, he was just enjoying the sunset. He stood at the bow of the Dutchman, having just emerged from the TARDIS after his turn at the showers--they took care only to allow two people into the TARDIS at any time to prevent the pirates from getting too jumpy--and his position presented him an unimpeded view of the expanse of ocean that lay ahead. The sun was distant and red, like a burning quarter, but it lit the water with a ethereal glow.
A strong wind gusted from the west, filling the Dutchman's sails. Even so, the ship barely seemed to move, and it wasn't just because there were no points of reference by which to judge progress. Five towing lines extended from the Dutchman to the Black Pearl, and the wood strained under the weight of the other ship. The Empress finished out the convoy from behind, keeping watch for other ships that might be ready to take advantage of crippled vessels fleeing Singapore.
"Hello, Ianto," the Doctor said, joining him at the bow. "Lovely morning, isn't it?"
"Your eyes are red."
"I didn't get very much sleep."
"Why did you steal one of my sonic handcuffs, Ianto?"
"It's my exit strategy in case I get caught in an armory sabotaging the weapons of bloodthirsty pirates."
"Ah. Fair enough."
"Wait." Ianto grabbed the Doctor's sleeve as he tried to make his exit. "You have better senses. What's that over there?"
"Over there." Ianto pointed straight ahead at what seemed to be black moving dots on the horizon.
"You say I have better senses and then you ask me to stare into the sun?"
"In any case, they appear to be parrots."
Ianto called out for Will, who was close behind them at the wheel. Bringing out his spyglass, he peered straight ahead without squinting. When he lowered the glass, he was grinning. "They're parrots all right. Sparkling tuna parrots. Right where Calypso told us."
"Colorful flying fish are what come to mind with that name," the Doctor remarked.
Will laughed. "It's no such thing. They're just regular parrots, but the natives train them to help fish. They will look for bubbles or actual fish and circle the spot, calling boats to the location. In these regions, their specialty is the albacore tuna, which the natives call the sparkling fish because sunlight glistens off them near the surface."
As they drew closer, some of the parrots broke off the hunt to fly by and investigate the newcomers. "Tuna? Tuna?" they called.
"Shiver me timbers!" Cotton's parrot called back.
Soon the birds were all around, a whirlwind of plumage and obsession with fish. Yet there was no hint of their owners, domesticated though these parrots clearly were. "Something's wrong," Ianto said.
The Doctor didn't respond, but he stared at the mountainous island approaching from the distance with an intensity that felt foreboding. Ianto took the spyglass from Will and took a look.
There was significant evidence of human habitation, though the village was built unlike anything Ianto had seen before. Smoke rose from a set of rounded buildings at the very peak of the island. Only five structures sat up there, each probably large enough to hold a hundred people, constructed of wood and stone. They looked ceremonial, with stone carvings of giant, elongated human faces surrounding each one, not unlike the statues on Easter Island but rounder and fatter.
A dirt path wound around the mountain down to the main village, which sat halfway between the shore and the mountaintop. The comparison made the temple complex appear even tinier as the village sprawled across the mountainside and extended around the curve of the mountain, possibly spanning all the way around. Terraced farms draped down from the village like a green tiered dress.
The verdant landscape ended abruptly near the beach. In its place, a mass of fallen foliage and broken tree trunks littered the ground. As Ianto examined the wreckage, he found bodies, a sand-covered hand poking out from a pile of branches, a foot floating amidst driftwood. "Tsunami," he said. Lowering the spyglass, he saw the Doctor nod from the corner of his eye.
"The wave hit around sunset, end of the day for the fishing boats" the Doctor said. "On the shore, they wouldn't have stood a chance."
"It's been almost a day. Surely those in the village survived. They should be recovering bodies, shouldn't they?"
As they approached, even the pirates looked shaken. Singapore had been bad, but they didn't expect to find destruction so far away. Elizabeth stood resolute at the helm, still as a statue, but the crews of the ships seemed to draw strength from her while Barbossa stomped around and glared at anyone who wasn't doing his job.
"Why didn't you tell us about this?" Ianto heard Olivia demand from Will. "I thought you knew everything about dead people in the water."
"They're not my responsibility," Will said. "I can't sense them."
"Because they were killed where land meets water?" the Doctor asked. "Seems a bit of a technicality."
Will shrugged. "Calypso gave Davy Jones this responsibility. I merely took over. But her dominion over the oceans and seas isn't complete, so neither is my duty."
"That's odd, isn't it?" Ianto said.
Will nodded. "I've given it some thought. Where land meets water, her control is reduced. There's less water, more land. It makes sense. But it feels like something is contesting her. Something weak, something that can only pull at the edges of her power, but it's always there, like someone tugging at loose strings in hopes of destroying a tapestry."
"Yet another supernatural force," the Doctor said. "Great."
When the ships were anchored, the captains convened on the Black Pearl to discuss their next move.
"Given the situation, I don't know how welcoming the islanders will be," Will said.
"They're expecting me," Elizabeth said. "They apparently worship Calypso."
"They won't be too happy with her right now," Barbossa said.
"Not much they can do when she appears in person." Elizabeth jerked her head at the island, and they turned to find Calypso standing on the beach. She stared at the sea, seemingly paying them no mind, but when they turned, she grinned, showing all her teeth. "Still, perhaps we should hold off on a shore party until I've talked to them."
"I'm fine with Elizabeth going alone," Sparrow said.
"I'd like to take Barbossa and Ianto to begin getting supplies to repair the Pearl as soon as possible. Cuddy can stay to oversee the current work crews." Without waiting for any agreement, Elizabeth dropped the rope ladder and began climbing down. Ianto and Barbossa exchanged glances but followed.
"Stay here and stay out of trouble," Barbossa growled as he disappeared over the edge of the ship.
No sooner had the shore party vanished into the tree line--now half a mile further back from the ocean than it had been--did the first person disobey Barbossa's command. It was the Doctor. Cuddy was overseeing Ragetti's work group, which had been assigned to supply inventory duty, when she spotted the Doctor looking furtive. It wasn't that she was trying to spy on him--though now that she thought about it, that wouldn't be a bad idea; she wasn't sure how much she trusted him--but rather, she had been scanning the deck looking for any excuse to get away from the group because, as well-behaved as Ragetti's bunch was compared to the others (Pintel's kept trying to convince her to teach them secret fighting moves and beating each other up to demonstrate what good students they were, and Cotton's parrot kept countermanding her orders and refusing to do the hard labor of disposing of the mizzenmast), Ragetti himself was somewhat of an annoyance.
"You must repent and come to God, miss. Twenty legs of ham."
Cuddy checked off another item on Barbossa's hastily-scrawled shopping list from Singapore. "I'm Jewish!" she snapped. "We recognize the same god."
"But how can you not believe in his son, who died for our sins?"
"Because I'm Jewish! Go reread the Bible. We have our own agreement with God."
"Yes, but wouldn't it be better if you believed in Jesus as well? You could be like... a Jew for Christ. Huh, that's a catchy title."
Searching for an excuse to escape, Cuddy spotted the Doctor edging toward the ladder. "Doctor! Where do you think you're going?"
The Doctor started, saw her, and leapt over the side with all the grace of a three-legged frog. Cuddy took no more than one step toward him when two factors stopped her. The first was Ragetti refusing to get out of her way and the second was Olivia yelling, "Don't worry! I'll take care of it!" The woman dashed over the side, and Cuddy felt a moment of triumph at the thought of the Doctor having to deal with her before she remembered she no longer had an excuse to get away.
"The Doctor said he was a time traveler," Ragetti said. "Do you think he'd take us back to meet Jesus?"
"Might not be a good idea," Jack said, coming up from behind her. "Cuddy has a tendency to kill authority figures."
Ragetti gasped, snapping his pencil in half. Cuddy turned her glare onto Jack, but he just grinned and handed her another pencil.
"The chief's name is Hika," Calypso said as they strolled into the village. "Her shaman is Ihorangi."
It had been a long climb. Elizabeth did not feel tired--the path had been gradual, easy though lengthy--but something about the island felt oppressive. Perhaps it was just the death that haunted its shores, but Elizabeth was no stranger to destruction. There was something more at work here.
The village gathered in silence around them. Almost everyone looked under the age of fifteen or over the age of fifty. Elizabeth counted perhaps thirty youths, men and women both, between those ages, out of a crowd of hundreds. Their homes were constructed of stone and wood with tiled roofs, secure against the weather and high enough to provide some comfort against the heat and humidity, yet vines choked otherwise polished walls, and barnacles grew in cracks. Seaweed hung from the branches of trees and dripped brine. None of it belonged here, hundreds of feet above sea level.
She examined the crowd. Worry lined their eyes, and they stood hunched, fearful. She noticed Ianto clenching his fists, and Barbossa's hand moved toward his pistol. "What have you done to this place?" Elizabeth hissed under her breath.
Calypso ignored her. Instead, she stopped moving at the same time as Elizabeth dug in her heels, making it look planned. She raised her arms. "I bring visitors. You shall aid them, and in turn, they aid you. Pray they succeed where you failed. Perhaps someone kinder than I do hear."
Thunder cracked from a clear sky, and Calypso transformed into sand, whipping away in a gale.
The chief stepped forward. She and the shaman were both portly figures, their steps drumbeats against the dirt. Both were ancient, their hair the color of the moon. Tattoos ran down their bare arms in representations of birds and fish. They wore matching curved bones, the chief's bound in braids that fell to her breasts while the shaman's were pierced through his earlobes.
She waved a hand through the air and spoke in a language Elizabeth didn't understand. The gesture appeared dismissive, and her voice carried danger.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand." She waited. When no response was forthcoming, she asked in Chinese, "Do you understand this language?" Still no response.
"Let me," Ianto said. "The Doctor's machine translates languages in my head."
"What did she say?"
"She says she has half a mind to kill you."
"Why do you say that?" Ianto asked. To her, he was speaking English, and she thought him mad, but the chief responded to him while Elizabeth's words had only gotten scowls. "She says it doesn't matter. She is chief but she does not have the right to throw away their future. If they disobey Calypso now, she will kill them all."
"So Calypso is terrorizing them?"
"The goddess," Ianto translated, "the fishers returned with their catch, and she appeared on the shore. She would not let them climb the mountain. Then the wave came."
"She killed them!" Barbossa sounded more vehement than Elizabeth expected. Surprised, as well.
"Didn't think you'd care." Elizabeth gave him a cold look. "You're still obsessed with her."
"The ocean be a cruel place. No surprise its mistress be just as harsh."
"What did you do to bring her wrath?" Elizabeth asked.
"We live on the borders of evil," Hika replied through Ianto. "She commanded we send our strongest warriors into the heart of terror, ten men and seven women. We did not wish to obey, but she is our god. She is harsh but she also watches over us and keeps us safe from evil. It was a necessary sacrifice. When they did not return, she said they had failed and we would be punished. I never expected the price to be so high."
Ihorangi raised a fist toward the sky. "The rains tasted of sorrow, but they promised the pain would fall upon us." He indicated Hika and himself. "Perhaps it has. The youth died a quick death while we linger as guilty ghosts."
"I am sorry for your loss. We can't offer you solace, but we will help you however we can." Elizabeth paused. She was shaking, and she couldn't regain her composure, though she tried every calming technique she knew. "And Calypso will know what it means to be judged," she said. Barbossa shot a look at her, and for a moment she saw fear in his eyes, but then he nodded his agreement.
"No," Hika said. She put so much force into the word that Elizabeth knew what she had said before Ianto spoke. "The goddess must be. It is her nature. But she fears."
"Fear?" Barbossa said.
"Nothing excuses her actions," Elizabeth replied.
"Calypso has been many things, but afraid? Never."
"The evil grows stronger. She tries to appear harsh and angry, but inside, she fears for her soul." Ianto hesitated before finishing the translation. "Like you."
Something roared in Elizabeth's ears, like surf tearing through a blowhole, its spray spreading like fog. Sound and sensation overwhelmed her as soon as Ianto spoke those words, and she staggered, nearly losing her balance. Both men reached for her, but she recovered as quickly as she was beset. "I'm fine." She put up a hand to stop them. "I'm all right."
"What happened?" Barbossa growled.
"I... don't know." She shook herself and focused on Hika. "So what do you want us to do?"
"Oh great." Ianto looked pained when she finished the lengthy explanation.
"Get on with it." Barbossa scowled.
"There's an island to the south, just over the horizon. There is a powerful recipe that Calypso wants. It is guarded by a great evil that will fall if the recipe is removed from its possession. Unfortunately, it is guarded by... an army of sex fiends."
"What?" Elizabeth and Barbossa said at the same time.
"Hika says the island's legends hold that the guardian has a harem of sex maniacs. They seize intruders and have intercourse with them until they die of exhaustion."
"I could think of worse ways to go," Barbossa replied.
"We could just send in Jack," Ianto suggested. "Harkness," he clarified.
Elizabeth shrugged. "It could work. Come on, we should let the crew know they can begin gathering wood. Thank you, Hika. We will attack the island as soon as our ships are repaired."
The chief nodded. "Our surviving youth will aid you in your repairs."
The Doctor moved through the jungle with a grace and silence that belied his usual brash demeanor. His hand kept reaching into his pocket for his sonic screwdriver--he needed it, signal tracking was so much harder without it--but he would stop at the last moment, and a pang of loss would rise from both his hearts.
"I am not moping," he muttered.
Contrary to what Cuddy might have believed when she spotted him slipping off the Pearl, the Doctor was not wandering off simply to cause trouble. He'd have liked nothing better than to wait for Elizabeth to come back. His head still pounded from the blow he'd sustained in the tavern, and his subsequent adventures had not done much to make him feel better. A good bit of rest and contemplation would've been good for him.
But no headache could mute his hyperactive Time Lord senses, and a noise came from the island. A clacking, like a million scales sliding against each other, and an overwhelming sense of dryness, so powerful he felt like he was suffocating. Yet the island certainly didn't lack of water, was suffering from a deluge of it, rather, and the sound came and went on the edge of his hearing. When he'd been on the ship, he'd been certain it was coming from the island. Now that he was exploring, he wasn't sure. It was like following a parade through city streets. He could hear the noise, but buildings blocked his way and caused sound to echo from every direction.
He'd spent the last ten minutes circling the base of the mountain, high enough to have escaped the tsunami but low enough to form a gentle slope, almost flat at times. Here, the trees towered overhead. All the roots, vines, and plants underfoot should've made the terrain impassable, but there was so much they formed a carpet.
Footsteps were muffled against the growth, but they were becoming a distraction. The Doctor paused and bent down, scooping up a handful of moss and sniffing it. An odd scent laced the regular smell of bryophyta, but he would focus on that later. His follower hadn't anticipated this stop, and she moved close enough for the Doctor to spot a flash of clothing.
"Come on out, Olivia," he called. When she didn't move, he stood. "I know you're there. Allons-y."
She stepped forward, clutching her purse and looking uncertain. "I'm sorry I followed you."
The Doctor's eyes narrowed. He'd expected her to follow him for many reasons, none of which involved the least bit of contrition.
"I was just... so terrified of the pirates. I don't know why the others act so indifferent. Well, Gregor's a macho airhead, he'd fit right in, but your crew seemed sensible. They're dealing with thieves and killers!"
"Can't always pick your friends."
"I can," she responded forcefully, moving closer. "I pick you."
"I make a point to secure the safety of those who travel with me," the Doctor said as his mind went to Adric and Singapore. "Ah, recent events are a fluke, I assure you."
She put a trembling hand on his arm. "I believe you."
"That said, are you up for an adventure?" He grinned.
Uncertainty flashed in her eyes, and her lips tightened together, but then she nodded. "I'm up for anything."
"I see." The Doctor resumed his course. "Given up on the captain already?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Will, of course. He won't give you what you want, has eyes only for Elizabeth, so you're latching onto me instead."
"What sort of woman do you think I am? If I look out for myself, that's only because no one else will!"
"You seem quite competent at it." He handed the moss over to her. "Smell this."
"Ew!" she dropped it. "I am a model. You can't soil my hands like that. I might develop a callous."
"You haven't lived until you've enjoyed a good mud bath. Never mind. Human senses are too dull to pick anything up."
"Pick what up?"
"I think we're hunting a snake." A very big snake. The odors he'd inhaled were quite unique and attributable to a rare species of Earth snake that produced the responsible chemicals in minute quantities.
"Why would we want to hunt a snake?"
"Because it might start hunting us."
She stared at him. He stared back.
"I'm sorry," he said. "That was excessively ominous."
Wood cracked nearby, and Olivia yelped, throwing herself at the Doctor. The two tumbled to the ground, rolling over and over as gravity sent them down the sloped ground. They came to a halt with her on top of him. "A giant snake would've made more sound," he said.
"Oh." Her brows furrowed, and a mischievous smile spread across her face. "Doctor," she said, a slight purr in her voice, "I think I found a snake."
"That, or you misplaced your sonic screwdriver in your pants." She slid her hands down his body from his shoulders to his groin.
"That's a stick," he said, extracting a branch from between them. "But good job." He rummaged further and extracted a brown, striped python that had also gotten caught up in their fall. "This is a snake."
She screamed and threw herself off him.
"Don't worry, it's a baby." He let it try to wrap around his hand a few times before depositing it on a fallen trunk. Let's keep moving."
Olivia shuddered but stayed by his side. He suspected her constitution was stronger than she let on. Of course, he hadn't shown her the tarantula.
They hadn't taken more than two steps when the Doctor stopped again. "Do you hear that?"
Olivia tilted her head a little as she listened. "I hear dripping."
"Exactly." He dashed off to the northeast, pushing through a dense wall of foliage to reveal a pond about fifteen meters in diameter. A strip of dirt dry surrounded the pond, dry and bare as a layer of ash, as though the plants had retreated as far away from the water as possible, bunching together into an almost impassable barrier. As he stepped away from the opening he'd forced open, Olivia came through and gasped. She pointed at a track in the dirt, about a meter wide, leading from the jungle into the water.
"Snake markings," the Doctor said, bending down to smell the curving track. "Yes, same scent."
"I don't think we should hang around."
"Just one moment." The clacking was closer than ever, yet still soft as though coming from a distance. Now he knew the noise didn't originate from this island, but this pond was a clue. "Over that way." He pointed to the other side, where a collection of stones disturbed the shoreline.
The trek felt longer than it should have, doubtless because the Doctor was keeping an eye out for the massive snake as well, despite his outward nonchalance. When they arrived, all thoughts of that danger fled his mind as he realized the stones weren't natural. They were carvings, not unlike the large ones they'd seen approaching the island, but with crucial differences: they included a body as well as a head and were all of the same person, a man with flowing hair and a beard, wrinkles across his face indicating age. His body was that of a fish.
"Oh no," he said. Turning one of the figures in his hand, the fateful words Will had told him at the end of his long tale came to him. "The Dutchman must have a captain," he repeated.
"What does that mean?" Olivia asked.
"It means we're in a lot of trouble." The Doctor dropped the figure back into the pile. "We have to get back to the ships. Now."
To Chapter 27: The Shadows of Greatness
Back to Chapter 26: Part 1
Summary: Our three pirate ships finally unite and sail toward an island oppressed by a dark presence while the intrepid Ch- characters (Christian and Chase) brave the dangers of the ruins of Singapore. Look, a parrot flying away with the next chapter! Get it!