A is for adventure and naval battles won
"Congratulations, captain! Or should I say, 'commodore'?" Lieutenant Gillette asked as he read the letter over her superior's shoulder. "Three pirate crews in a week! They'd have been daft not to promote you after that."
Norrington raised his eyes from the page and gave Gillette a perusing-through-your-captain's-private-mail-is-highly-insubordinate kind of look.
Still, he was pleased. Earlier that day, the Dauntless and her crew had waited to ambush a ill-guarded and unaware pirate ship. Thanks to the stealthy tactics he'd employed supplanted by a sudden barrage of cannon, the Serpentine Tail had been taken with minimal injuries towards naval personnel.
Now, as the sun reigned over the mid-afternoon sky, the crew of the captured vessel had been locked up and the necessary repairs were being made to the Dauntless, as one of its sails had been torn in the fray. Once that was taken care of, they would head back to Port Royal, completing their sweep of the Caribbean.
For the time being, though, there were tasks less grand than clearing the sea of pirates to be taken care of. For example, the mail. Captain Norrington found it rather difficult to answer his correspondence in the heat of battle and was now faced with a familiar peace-time enemy: paper work. There were captain's logs to write, reports to fill and file, and a stack of letters which had seemed determined to find him, even at a remote port town.
While wondering how exactly these letters had managed to track down his position long enough to reach him (the Dauntless had, after all, been on the move constantly), Norrington had noticed one from the Admiral.
Naturally, Gillette was the first to know.
No doubt he just returned from spreading the news to the crew about the confirmation of their captain's promotion to commodore, and was hot on the heels of further developments to that effect when he stumbled upon his superior reading another letter.
Gillette manoeuvered himself so that he had a better view of the contents.
'Dear Captain Norrington,
It gave me great pleasure to hear of your recent promotion to commodore...'
The next line was scratched out three times. It originally read "No doubt you'll choose the Balwark", then "Your flagship, obviously, will be the Interceptor", and finally, in very small writing: "oh, bugger it", also crossed out. Written above these cross-outs, in what seemed to be a different hand was scrawled "the Dauntless, of course". This appeared to have no great influence on the rest of the letter.
'I imagine that you and your heroic crew are pleased to no end. Perhaps we could further discuss those plans of yours regarding the addition of a table to...' Gillette skipped this next part. The governor could be terribly boring when it came to composing letters. Something caught his eye a little further down the paragraph:
'I'm sure Elizabeth will be delighted at your return to Port Royal--'
He stopped reading there, not sure exactly how to proceed.
It was at about this time Norrington remembered his presence. Hastily, he put down the quill he had been holding pensively and inquired:
"If you don't mind me asking, sir, why are there all those hearts doing around Miss Swann's name?"
The soon-to-be commodore started, and with a faint flush to his cheek hid the offending letter beneath a stack of its fellows.
"Those aren't hearts. They're..." he paused, taking a split second to think. "...naval tactics."
Gillette was doubtful. Those "naval tactics" looked suspiciously heart-like to him.
One of the attributes which made Norrington a great captain was his ability to size up a situation. Here, the fact that he was being thought a lunatic by an inferior officer was painfully clear.
"It's a secret code versionof a naval tactic."
Gillette arched an eyebrow. Obviously, this was not much better.
Norrington continued. "The governor and I have developed a system wherein our correspondence, if intercepted en route to one of us, shall remain encrypted. Should we be debating possible strategies in a battle, it would be fatal for the enemy to get ahold of one of our papers. A way to protect these communciations would be invaluable. I spoke to the governor at length about this and he was of the same mind."
"...I see." The lieutenant said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Why does it still read like a regular letter, though?"
With a smile, Norrington answered, "That is the beauty of this code. To anyone else reading it, this appears to be nothing more than an ordinary letter with a few smudge-marks on it where the ink has smeared. However, in the hands of Governor Swann or myself, it contains a vast amount of information."
"Aha. What do these hearts mean, if you don't mind my asking?"
Norrington very much wanted to respond: "It's a secret" and be done with the whole thing. Instead, he pulled out the letter again and showed it to Gillette as an act of good faith, pointing to the hearts.
"They're ships, actually. Each symbol, or "heart" as you've taken to calling them, represents a vessel of the Navy, while each "x" mark denotes a pirate craft."
That made sense. "But why are all the hearts around Miss Swann?"
Norrington paused, not quite expecting this. Nevertheless, he came up with a suitable remark. "That is another part of the encryption." He explained, like a teacher with an overenthusiastic pupil. "The name 'Elizabeth' stands for 'Port Royal'."
Gillette was really enjoying this.
"That was very clever of the two of you, sir! It makes perfect sense when you reason it out. She's the one whom the governor wants to protect most--"
Not just the governor, the captain mused.
"-- and as an officer of the Navy, you most want to protect Port Royal. But to anyone else," he gestured dismissively, "totally unbreakable. Brilliant." Gillette stopped short, eyeing the hearts with renewed vigor.
"Which one is the Dauntless, sir?"
Norrington thought a moment, then pointed to the heart that was closest to the word "Elizabeth".
"That doesn't make sense," replied a confused Gillette, brow furrowed. "We're no where near Port Royal. Logically, our current position would have to be..." his finger roved over the parchment, coming to rest on the middle "n" in "Norrington". "Right here. So, sir, this is where the Dauntless should be."
"No, it shouldn't." Norrington responded, more forcefully that he ought to have done. This in turn prompted Gillette to retaliate with similar ferocity.
"Yes, it should! Sir, logically--"
"Tell me, lieutenant," Norrington emphasized the rank to put Gillette in his place. "do you see any stray hea--" he corrected himself "--symbols around my name?"
A reluctant "no" issued from the lieutenant.
"Precisely. Now, where are the markings?"
"Around Miss Swann's name."
"Excellent. Then, by all standards of logic, the Dauntless must be where I said it was."
The lieutenant didn't quite follow this brand of thinking, but decided it was best not to press the matter further. He was about to go when he heard the captain speak again.
"It's a map, showing my plans for the future, Gillette." He said softly, dispensing with formality for a while. "All the ships will be gathered at Port Royal, with the Dauntless heading the fleet before the ceremony. And there..."
He trailed off.
Gillette was quick to rebound. "Ah, so they're strategies for future movements. That explains it all. So, here you're telling the governor that you are charting a course for Port Royal. How could you tell that heart--er, mark-- was the Dauntless, though?" He looked up eagerly, waiting for an answer.
"A captain always knows where his ship is. Once you've been on a ship long enough you can find it anywhere, on any map, even if it looks the same as the others."
"What does the rest of the letter say, then?"
Norrington shook his head mysteriously. "That knowledge I cannot relinquish. The governor required of me that I swear on my honour to never tell another soul the true meaning of the code. Should he find out that I entrusted the meaning of even one symbol, let alone the mere existence of a code..."
"I understand, sir. You have my silence."
The lieutenant marched to the door and, proudly beaming, saluted.
Following his departure, the captain breathed a sigh of relief and studied the letter one last time. He allowed himself a fleeting smile and drew one last heart before folding the paper and placing it in his pocket, safe from prying eyes.