Author's Note: These characters do not belong to me, but to Patrick O'Brian. The spellings of names have been taken from the books, while events are a mixture of the book and movie. You'll find the main plot of the movie concerning the Acheron is absent and replaced with the book's Norfolk.

"Michael Doodle, sir. Aye, sir, the guncrew. I will, sir." Michael, or Faster Doodle, as his friends called him, gripped the sack over his shoulder more tightly and began walking across the boarding plank. The start of missions always made him a bit nervous. He was always tongue-tied anyway, but the thought of meeting new people and starting all over again made him even more inarticulate. He could feel himself sweating. God, was it hot. He wiped the perspiration from his brow and stepped onto the deck of the Surprise. Much of the crew was already there, and some of the faces he even recognized from previous ships. They looked slightly familiar, anyway, not that he could remember their names. Faster spotted the opening in the deck and made his way down to the berth deck where the crew slept and ate. Rows of hammocks lined both sides of the room, the regulatory fourteen inches apart. Seeing an unfamiliar crewman, he chose the nearest hammock and dropped his things at the foot of it.

"Hello," he said, slowly wiping his wet hands on the back of his trousers. "Faster Doodle," he stated, sticking out his hand.

The brown-haired man smiled and shook his hand. "Joseph Nagel. Pleasure, Faster," he said. He bit the edge of his lower lip, thinking, then asked, "You new to this ship?"

Faster nodded. "Could say that." He removed his hat, pushed his blonde curls back, and then put it on again. "Are you one of the old Surprises?"

Nagel shook his head. "No, a bunch of us Defenders got transferred over here." Faster nodded, recalling what had happened on the Defender: a vicious mutiny, or so he'd heard. "Where've you been stationed?"

"Topman of the foremast," he replied. "On the guncrew as well." He sighed deeply, thinking. "I heard this Aubrey fellow's a right work'orse, always pushing for more."

"As long as I get my grog, I'll be fine," Nagel admitted. There was a short moment of silence and a couple more men came down to the berth deck. "They call 'im 'Lucky' Jack, y'know," Nagel said at length.


"The Captain," Nagel replied. "I've heard all about him--the men are always talking. They say he's never lost a battle."

Faster watched Nagel as he talked of Captain Aubrey. He used very slight movements, constantly checking to see that no one was listening. "Let's hope his luck doesn't run out," he said finally.

"Well, the Defenders are going to give him hell," Nagel said. "That's certain. They don't bow to no one, if you get my meaning."

"And you'll be giving him hell right along with 'em," Faster assumed.

"If he's not to my liking, I might." They both looked up as the bell was struck eight times. "Let's go up and meet him, shall we?" Nagel smiled mischievously and started up the deck. Faster, though a bit hesitantly, followed him.

Most of the crew was already up there, Faster noticed, but there were still some stragglers that continued to board. As the Captain came into view, Faster raised his eyebrows. He was certainly a large enough man, looked like a captain should, with a golden epaulette on each shoulder. Faster thought he seemed a bit weighty for a captain. He pulled his hat down more tightly (a wind was picking up) and waited for Captain Aubrey to speak.

The tall, uniformed man cleared his throat and straightened his elegant blue hat. "Welcome, Surprises, old and new." The Captain's piercing blue eyes fell on each man. "Let it be known that I am not an easy man to serve under. I believe in discipline, for without discipline, we cannot function in true fellowship. If you disobey orders, fail to pay respects to a superior officer, or violate any of the Articles of War, you will be punished. Severely, if necessary," he added slowly. The Surprises looked on solemnly. "We will set sail at dawn tomorrow--you all know your duties." He nodded and disappeared below deck, presumably to his cabin.

"Well, then," Nagel said to a group of Defenders surrounding him, "we can't mess with him, can we?" All of the Defenders roared with laughter, excepting Nagel who merely chuckled. Faster laughed for the sake of laughing and he was promptly introduced.

"Doodle!" they chorused for no particular reason. He laughed as they continuously thumped him on his back.

"If you ain't on duty, below deck ye go!" shouted a gruff man in a heavy coat and top hat. "Go on, now, all you Defenders. The Captain'll be having no mutinies aboard this ship--you can be sure of that!"