Monday, May 02, 2005


A Pirate Tale – Part 79 “Pirates Versus Ninjas”

Hours swept into little piles of days. Those piles became large mounds of weeks and before a mountainous month could pass, they were nearing the cape – the southern tip of Africa. Not one to let things get dull and risk insurgence, LefTENant Keeling had organized the entertainment evening by evening. Part of the pre-show fun was found in the betting pool that George the Greek had organized around what form Keeling’s “Variety Show” would take on each particular evening. George was joined by Cementhands McCormack who seemed to know what every evening would hold ahead of the game, but spread rumors that it was something else.

For instance, on the evening when Keeling was giving a dramatic reading of his own poetry, McCormack would let it slip in certain circles that the evening’s entertainment would involve a “Lady Fanny Look-Alike Contest.” Once the bets were in and the show began, George and Cementhands would divvy up the profits which, coupled with the disappointment on the part of many Lady Fanny Look-Alike hopefuls who had to spend the evening sitting politely and listening to LefTENant Keeling’s epic poem, “Ode to Well Worn Cat,” caused no end of crew disgruntlement.

Not all the evenings were a complete loss, however. The McCormack Follies, featuring the big man’s penchant for dressing like a woman and warbling a catchy tune, were a major theatrical victory. Chumbucket whispered to Slappy during that particular performance, “I don’t care how many times I see him perform in drag – it’s always damnably entertaining!” Sawbones Burgess’ female impersonation was less well-received but was encouraged by Slappy’s standing ovation and shouts of, “Bold Choice, Sawbones! A VERY BOLD CHOICE!”

But for every evening swimming in sequins and spangles or the charming magic and ventriloquist act performed by young Spencer and the midget-like Gabriel, there was a re-enactment of a philosophy lesson that Seneca may have given a young emperor Nero on the teachings of Aristotle as performed by Keeling and Red Molly whose “concept” was that the show should be done as marionettes and spoken completely in Latin. This was made even more difficult by the fact that Red Molly did not speak Latin, but chose to respond in “Pig Latin.” At one point, she seemed to give up, simply repeating over and over, “I-ay Ave-hay oh-nay dia-ia, uht-way, ooo-ya, r-ay, ayin-say!”

So, as they approached the Cape, a deeply concerned George approached Cap’n Slappy as he talked with Ol’ Chumbucket.

“Cap’n the men are gettin’ a bit itchy for plunder,” the first mate whispered.

“Perhaps they would be less itchy if you and Cementhands hadn’t lifted all their scratch.” Slappy observed – pleased with his play on words, he looked at Ol’ Chumbucket for affirmation of his cleverness. He counted Chumbucket’s long sigh as clear approval.

“Aye, that might be,” George conceded, “but McCormack and meself cheated ‘em out o’ their ill-gotten gain fair and square.”

“Aye, that ye did!” Chumbucket countered, “And yet, here we are with such a high rate of disgruntlement.”

“B.N.F.T.T.S.S.W.C.Q!” Dogwatch’s voice ripped the air and brought about everyone’s attention.

Slappy scratched his head, “What the hell is he on about?” he asked.

“It’s the new code.” Ol’ Chumbucket explained. “Since we are within shouting distance of Juan’s Blood Oath, The Sea Witch and The HMS Susan’s Doily, Dogwatch has developed a secret code that no one else can decipher.”

“Well, who among us can decipher it?” Slappy asked.

George and Chumbucket looked at each other in confusion. Finally George spoke. “Dogwatch can.”

“Well, of course, but when he calls out this new code, to whom is he calling? Who knows what B.N.F.T.T.S.S.W.C.Q. means.”

“Dogwatch knows.” George answered matter-of-factly.

“Yes, but he’s yelling it – to whom is he yelling? Who is it, other than himself, who understands the code?”

Chumbucket and George looked at each other and looked around the deck. Suddenly, young Spencer and Gabriel came running up with the captain’s spyglass. Breathlessly, Spencer sputtered, “There’s a British Navy Frigate to the South/Southwest closing quickly.”

Slappy, Chumbucket and George took the letters in Spencer’s message and began counting on their fingers. Finally, Slappy asked enthusiastically, “Do you speak Dogwatch’s code, lad?”

“No sir, Cap’n.” he said, “I can see it through your spyglass.” He handed it to the captain and pointed in the general direction.

Slappy checked the end for a cardboard cut-out as had become his custom and peered toward the area in question. Sure enough, a frigate, flying the colors of the British Navy was coming hard at them. His momentary alarm caused him to curse, “Besmette koude pijnlijke plek!” and close the telescopic instrument on his hand – pinching it hard.

But as he looked around, he remembered that his flotilla included a British Navy ship and would provide all the protection they needed.

As she closed in to intercept them, they finally caught sight of her name, The HMS Startling Turn of Events. Before Slappy could consult the latest issue of the weekly magazine, Conscripted Sailors Salvo, to find out the latest on this unfamiliar ship, she had come alongside the Juan’s Blood Oath and signaled The Festering Boil to her other side. Not wanting to appear inhospitable, Slappy ordered the ship ahead and within moments he and Sir Nigel were standing face to face aboard the deck of this strange British frigate.

They stood alone.

As their respective crews peered over the rails into the higher resting frigate that seemed to be deserted, the two wondered aloud what could be going on.

“What do you think is going on?” Sir Nigel asked.

“I have no bloody idea.” Cap’n Slappy replied. “But whatever it is, I don’t like it much.”

With that, the two turned and began moving toward their own ships when a voice came from the bow of the ship.

“Reaving so soon?” the voice and the accent were unmistakable. The rolled “r’s” where regular “l’s” should be, It was Hamish Takanawa, the half-mad, half-genius, half-Scottish, half-Japanese, half-pirate, half-ninja full-time notorious pirate hunter. “Och, I kennaught berieve how rucky I am! Sirrrr Niger AND Cap’n Srappy in one ferrrr swoop!”

Somewhere between disgust and annoyance, it occurred to Slappy and Nigel that Takanawa was alone, so they pulled their pistols and fired in his direction. He disappeared before the smoke had cleared.

The silence was broken with the high-pitched war scream of the ninjas. Slappy called to Sir Nigel, “You have the women – make a run for it, and we’ll try to hold them off.” Although he was loathe to run from a fight – especially with ninjas, Sir Nigel knew that protecting the girls was his first priority. They turned and began running toward their ships – both calling for their crews to set sail. Sir Nigel nimbly made it back aboard, but Cap’n Slappy was not so lucky. Out of the rigging, two ninjas swooped down and knocked him off his feet before he could reach the Boil. Within a moment, Slappy was joined by Ol’ Chumbucket, George and Cementhands McCormack who had developed special “Ninja-whacking Technique” years earlier and relished this style of fighting.

As Juan’s Blood Oath pulled away, several Ninja’s dropped onto her deck from the rigging, but they were quickly dispatched by Sir Nigel, Don Taco and Mad Sally while Los Mariachi played exciting fight music. At one point, Mad Sally’s sword ran through two Ninja’s at a time creating something she called, “Double Ninja on a Stick.”

But hundreds of ninjas rained down onto the deck of The Festering Boil from their perches in the rigging. That fight was only beginning as the crews of The HMS Susan’s Doily and the Sea Witch watched helplessly at a distance, unable to aid their “Dutch Fisherman” comrades with cannon fire for fear it would blast both friend and foe.

Cementhands McCormack, employing the use of a cricket bat, caught several of the black clad martial artists mid-air and batted them into the sea. George the Greek reached for his pistols first, then cutlass and dagger – eschewing for the moment a mop.

However, the scrubbing lesson had not been lost on young Spencer who took mop in hand and began to attract the attention of the ninjas with the swiftness of his hands and the ferocity of his blows. He twirled the mop deftly around his body with the skill of – well – a ninja.

Three of the kung-fu fighters closed in on him and things looked grim, however their ninja skills didn’t seem to include seeing a sneak attack of cannonballs lobbed in their direction from young Gabriel and a monkey named Strumpet.

As the momentum of the fight turned in favor of the pirates, multiple “hissing” sounds could be heard from all corners of the deck and thick red smoke engulfed the ship. Chumbucket found some of the flares used to create the ruddy fog, but they were difficult to reach as the smoke gave off a strong whiff of sulfur and the best that could be done was to throw a few of them overboard.

By the time the smoke cleared, there was no sign of Hamish Takanawa, his ninjas or his ship. All had vanished, as if by magic. All, that is, except two ninjas who were badly injured and left behind to the mercy of the pirates.

Black Butch and Sawbones Burgess took them below to tend their wounds as Cap’n Slappy and the crew checked the ship for damage. Apart from a few “throwing stars” stuck to masts, Cementhands’ cricket bat and one in Spencer’s mop, there was no damage and no serious injury to be found.

“Hamish must have been using his B-Team.” Chumbucket observed with a smile.

But Slappy wasn’t laughing. “I don’t like ninjas – with their black jammies and their defiance of the rules of gravity.” He shuddered, “They creep me out.”

“Well, they’re gone now – all but the two below being tended to.” George said.

“Yes, but for how long?” LefTENant Keeling asked with a voice thick with mystery.

“Don’t do that.” Chumbucket ordered shaking his head.
“Do what?” Keeling asked.

“Don’t do that, ‘voice of ominous mystery’ thing.” Chumbucket replied.

“But we don’t know how long …” Keeling continued at half-mystery-voice.

“Seriously. Stop that.” Slappy sided with Chumbucket on this one.

Keeling looked crestfallen.

“Oh, all right. Get it out of your system.” Slappy relented.

Brightening up, Keeling cleared his throat to allow for full mystery voice resonance, “Who knows when the ninjas may return?”

Chumbucket cupped his hands over his mouth and made a scary “Ooooo” noise.

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