XIV. Salvation

*****

It was still early in the morning when Jim returned to the brig to release Silver into Spence's care.

Ah, Mr. Silver. I've heard a lot about you.

Why, I'm sure ye have, Mr. Spence.

Just plain old Spence will do, Mr. Silver. No need for formalities down here. Spence gave the cyborg a lopsided grin.

Jim smiled. Spence was being just as friendly as he had hoped he'd be. Silver chuckled.

Same t' ye then, Spence.

All right, then, Silver. Why don't you show me what you can do...

Jim left the two cooks to find Fletcher. She was probably still on the bridge. He strode for the galley stairs, and as his foot reached the bottom most step, there was the sound of a blaring horn, and then a magnified voice.

Captain Aubrey Fletcher of the R.L.S. Redemption! This is Captain Reagan Thesbitt of the R.L.S. Arbitrator, Interstellar Galactic Patrol! Halt your vessel immediately, and prepare to be boarded.

Aubrey was on the bridge looking very irritated. Jim learned why when he got up to her.

Cap'n Thesbitt is one o' th' tightest tight-asses in th' GP. Let me do th' talkin', Jim...

Aye, Captain.

She shot him the briefest of ironic grins. At least we're in full dress.

Captain Reagan Thesbitt was a very tall, very muscular Felinid. He strode cockily off the boarding plank, looking down his nose at the state of the Redemption. It was clean, but still battered from the previous day's encounter, and obviously not up to Thesbitt's standards.

Hello, Cap'n Thesbitt.

He raised an eyebrow at Jim. I had no idea you let your cabin boys meander about above deck.

Jim clenched his fists and glared at the captain. Aubrey put a firm hand on his shoulder, and he relaxed.

Mr. Hawkins is m' first mate, Thesbitt, and th' finest one t' ever sail wi' me.

Thesbitt raised an eyebrow and leered at Jim.

Really scraping the bottom of the barrel, aren't you, Fletcher? I knew your standards were low, but this one really takes the cake. His orange eyes flickered with amusement.

Jim stepped forward, but Aubrey was faster and stepped between the two, facing Thesbitt.

Reagan, why don't ye state yer business so's I can get back t' mine.

The Felinid slowly tore his eyes away from Jim to meet Aubrey's fierce glare. He flattened his ears in unabashed dislike.

Well, Fletcher, word has it you've captured the Revenge.

Word travels fast.

A slight note of surprise edged into his tone. So it's true?

She nodded at the ship bound to hers and allowed herself a satisfied smirk as his eyes widened slightly in disbelief.

Ah yes, well that would explain the state of your ... ship, wouldn't it? Well... one would hope.

Fletcher bristled. Ah lost many fine lads yesterday, Thesbitt. An' Ah've lost even more doin' th' jobs ye and yers weren't able t' finish.

Thesbitt's nostril's flared, but he controlled himself.

The Admiral Fisher wants those curs taken to the nearest maximum security Patrol station.

We're on our way at th' moment, Thesbitt.

The captain of the Arbitrator looked down his nose at Fletcher, and sneered. I'm afraid the Admiral wanted a captain who could handle the responsibility...

Aubrey narrowed her eyes. Need Ah remind ye, Thesbitt, it was th' Admiral himself who commissioned me t' capture the Revenge.

Yes, well, congratulations on a job done. He drawled, But I'm afraid you and yours are in no state to escort the pirates anywhere.

Jim and Aubrey grudgingly admitted he was right. With most of her crew either dead or incapacitated, the Redemption was in no condition to chaperon the Revenge and her crew members.

Thesbitt nodded to another Felinid, who turned to the small party waiting on the boarding plank.

We'll take it from here, Captain Fletcher.

As ye wish, Cap'n Thesbitt.

The two captains exchanged smart salutes.

The crew o' th' Revenge is rottin' in their own brig.

Thank you, Fletcher. I'll see to it they're taken care of. He turned on his heel and strode to the gangplank.

Aubrey rolled her eyes and turned to speak to Jim, when Thesbitt halted and faced them once more.

Oh, and Fletcher?

Yes, Thesbitt?

The captain?

Jim watched Aubrey carefully. Her outward appearance was quite calm, but Jim knew that she was fighting a fierce internal battle. He held his breath. Silver's fate rested in this one moment. She swallowed and raised her head defiantly.

Dead. Killed th' bastard m'self.

Jim looked to Thesbitt.

The other captain narrowed his eyes, as if he didn't quite trust Fletcher's word.

The body?

Thrown overboard with the rest of the Revenge's dead. Ah didn't need tha' rubbish on my deck.

Of course. His gaze was still intense as he weighed Fletcher's responses. Did you happen to recognize the scum?

John Silver, Thesbitt. His picture's in every cantina and pub this side o' th' Herculean Galaxy. I'd never mistake it.

Very well, Fletcher. He smirked nastily and nodded. Carry on.

She glared at his back and muttered only loud enough for Jim to hear, As if Ah need yer permission, ye stupid oaf. Their eyes met, and Aubrey could read the gratefulness there. She smiled at her first mate and made a motion for him to meet her in her stateroom.

*****

Thank you, Captain.

Ah made a promise, Mr. Hawkins.

He smiled sheepishly. I know... but...

Ye aren't exactly used t' people keeping their promises, eh? She smiled and sat down on her bed.



So at th' moment, Mr. Silver is...

In the galley with Spence.

Good. Spence knows Thesbitt well enough that he won't let the cyborg be found if Thesbitt decides t' visit parts o' my ship...

Jim looked panicked. He'd do that?

Aubrey shrugged. If he does, he won't find anything. She grinned and winked. When Ah'm not privateering, Ah'm smuggling.

Jim sighed in relief. Thanks, Fletcher.

Yer welcome, lad.

He sat down. I have a question, though.

Fire away.

Why did you admit Silver was the captain? Would it have been better to say you didn't recognize him?

She chuckled. Think about it, Jim. If th' GP thinks he's dead, they'll take down the holographs. That way when he leaves the Redemption, he'll have a better chance of avoidin' th' authorities.



Fletcher lay back on the bed and sighed, staring vacantly at the ceiling. Jim looked down at his hands, then raised his head to smile at Fletcher.

Thanks, Captain.

She chuckled again and turned to look at him. Yer sounding like an echo, Jim. She sat up and set her hands on her knees, knitting her brow in contemplation.

Ah just wonder how they got word so quickly... Ah donnae recall us having any communications with the GP...

Jim shook his head. I don't know, Captain.

She shrugged. Oh well... We had best prepare for th' ceremony, lad.

He nodded, and the two left her stateroom to say their final goodbyes to the lost crew of the Redemption.

*****

The Arbitrator had long since left the side of the Redemption, taking with her the Revenge and her crew. The remaining crew of the Redemption had buried their comrades. Most had gone back to their quarters to rest. Others were finishing dinner. Jim was down in the galley, swapping stories with Silver. Aubrey and Spence were in her stateroom, finishing the last of their dinner there, since the captain refused to go into the galley.

Spence sat at her desk, finishing his last bit of Stalwart Stew. Aubrey's empty bowl sat next to her on the floor as she pored over a map of the section of the etherium they were in at the moment. She chewed absentmindedly on her spoon as she tried to decide on a safe place to dock and, as she had told Spence, release th' beast back into th' wild.

Spence's ears flicked back and forth gently as his fine-tuned hearing picked up the clicking of the spoon against her teeth.

Aubrey girl, do you mind?

Huh? Oh. Sorry Spence...

He chuckled and shook his head. Any luck with finding a planet for our good cyborg?

She growled. There's nothin' good about him, Spence.

The Conevian straightened and flattened his ears. Fletcher raised her eyebrows and braced herself for the lecture that was coming.

Aubrey Marshall Fletcher. Your father would turn in his grave to listen to you treating a guest on his ship in such a demeaning manner.

She averted her gaze from his vacant, yet disturbingly potent glare.

Now, I know he didn't come to us under the best of circumstances, but he is your first mate's best friend. You have been absolutely despicable to him, and I don't understand why.

Aubrey rose and snarled. He killed m' crew, Spence! Nearly destroyed my Da's ship, and our lives! And Ah donnae understand how it is you an' Jim can keep defendin' him! Ah'm not a pup an'more, Spence! So stop treatin' me like one!

Her chest heaved, and there were red marks on her palms where her claw like nails had dug into the flesh. She growled in exasperation and fled the cabin.

The Conevian sighed and slumped at her desk, shaking his head in despair.

*****

She stood on the bow of the Redemption, silent as a wraith, still as the night air.

She had a lot to think about.

Silver and Jim had watched her storm from her quarters and perch just behind the bowsprit, grasping a line with her right hand. In the dim starlight, lit from the front, she was only a silhouette in the darkness. Jim watched her with an expression of sadness on his face as she sighed and slid down to sit against the rail of the ship. This was such a far cry from the Aubrey Fletcher he had sailed with a week ago: fearless, blissful, and confident.

He exchanged a look with Silver and strode forward to stand just behind Fletcher. When she didn't respond, he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. She turned to meet his eyes, then hugged her knees to her chest and buried her head in her arms.

Please, just leave me be, Jim lad.

Aubrey -



He looked at Silver, but the cyborg's eyes were on Fletcher. Jim sighed and turned away from her, back toward the galley.

C'mon, Silver. His voice was barely a whisper. If she knew that the cyborg was here, it might be enough to push her over the edge.

Instead, the pirate captain moved forward to where Aubrey was sitting.

he hissed.

Her head snapped up, and she fixed the cyborg with an icy stare.

Ye're th' last being in th' universe Ah want t' see right now, Silver.

He sighed and shook his head, but stood rooted to the spot.

I'm sorry fer all th' trouble I've caused ye, lass. I truly am.

Their eyes met and held. Silver watched as her expression changed from one of white-hot rage to heart-rending despair. And yet she didn't respond. She simply shut her eyes tightly and looked away from him. He sighed and turned back to Jim.

The two returned to the galley, leaving Aubrey alone with none but her thoughts and the apathetic infinity of space.

*****






A/N:
Now the updates really will get few and far between as summer sets in. Sorry guys, but that's real life for you. =(

Palla - forgot to answer your question about the title however long ago! It's Latin, and about the only thing I know in that language, but a rather nice one, eh? =)