Just One Scrat
Title: Just One Scrat
Teaser: This time Jones has Scrat on board the Dutchman instead of 101 cats. Sequel to "101 Felines".
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to whoever owns the rights to POTC and Ice Age. This is just for fun.
Author's Note: At the end of "Ice Age" Scrat was frozen in a cube of ice and thawed out on a tropical island. The story continues from there.
Davy Jones was in a foul mood. Even though he had dumped the four-hundred-and-thirty-eight cats off onto the Endeavor, his ship still stunk something awful from cat. Even diving under the ocean for days had only faded the powerful scent. If he hadn't know better, he'd swear it smelled worst now then when the scent had been fresh. The horrible odor was everywhere as it had sunk into the seasoned timbers of the ship and everything else that the cats had been able to reach. Even the barnacles stunk. There wasn't a single place on board to get a breath of fresh air. His head pounding like the bellows of a forge, he stared out at the remains of a blown apart pirate ship; his tentacles twining in rhythm to his aching head. He had hoped the fiery destruction and snuffed out lives would make him feel better but it hadn't.
"Drat that Sparrow! He has ruined my ship!" Jones shouted into the chilly sea air as he shook his lobster claw for good measure. He should have just killed the furry things when they had first arrived, but he hadn't and now it was too late. And so he had started going around blowing up each and every pirate ship he saw, hoping it would brighten his mood. In truth, Davy Jones was not a very nice man and he loved killing innocent and not innocent sailors alike. He enjoyed observing their fear as their last moments of life rushed upon them, whether it is from cannon fire, the icy grip of the sea or dying in the grasp of the kraken's tentacles. But his constant headache prevented him from enjoying the many violent kills he had been making.
So what if Lord Beckett had in fact ordered him to go after pirates in reality or that the pompous man had his heart? Normally he would care very much, but it had been painful months since he could think straight due to Jack Sparrow's treachery. In fact, his secret fantasy was to pretend each ship he destroyed was the Pearl. But the Pearl was nowhere to be found.
"At least things can't get any worst…"
That very moment a thunderous KABOOM shook the very air as a volcano on a nearby island blew its top without warning, the shockwave shoving Jones' tentacles backward and blowing his hat off his head, a sulfurous stench coming with it. Hot ash as black as night started flinging itself up into the once clear blue sky. Lava as red as blood started pouring down the tall mountain's sides to set the tropical palm trees burning. The destruction suited Jones' dark mood just fine.
"A pity no one lives on that island." Jones commented sadly as he moved to the side railing to better watch the show. The Dutchman was close enough for them to see things clearly but out of the volcano's reach.
Or so Jones thought.
Burning hot magma rocks started flying through the sea air in curved paths, a few splashing down too close to the Dutchman's decks to be considered safe. The fishmen crew gaped in fear as the sea boiled and hissed with white-hot steam from the three locations where the huge rocks had landed. The closest had been only an arm length away. The next one might hit the deck and punch a hole straight through, not to mention start a fire. Sure, the ship was cursed and enchanted, but Jones was taking no chances. "Move us away from that!"
The fishmen ran in all directions, their quick movements stirring up a fresh batch of cat stink to wind itself into Jones' poor nostrils. Just as the ship was turning and the ragged sails catching a hot breeze, something thumped down onto the slime-covered deck with a loud thud and an odd-sounding squeal.
Jones instantly turned his head and his dark eyes narrowed in suspicion, but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. There was no alarming coil of black smoke nor no lick of red flames; just the organized chaos of his crew running to obey his orders. Presuming it had been a fish dropped by a crewmember, Jones looked away again. The island was receding quickly now as the ship picked up speed and he moved to the pointed nose of the ship hoping for a whiff of fresh salty sea air.
Unknown to Jones, the volcano had tossed the one responsible for its eruption onto his deck clinging to a coconut, a creature the world had not seen since the last great ice age. It was a saber-toothed squirrel, a creature more commonly called the scrat.
Scrat had only just recently awoken from his icy tomb. He had been frozen in a block of ice along with his precious acorn, the nut just out of his reach. When the block had been tossed up onto the sandy beach of a tropical isle, the hot sun overhead had started melting the ice. The acorn had been freed first and Scrat had almost died from worry when a warm wave had washed up onto shore and carried the nut back out to sea. In a last desperate struggle for freedom, he broke the remaining ice and scurried across the sand to discover the most amazing site ever: a huge round nut that had been bigger than himself! Wasting no time, Scrat picked it up and carried it across the sand to what had seemed the perfect spot to bury it. He started digging a little hole and then placed the coconut atop the too-small opening. Leaping up into the air, he landed atop the nut and started jumping on it, trying to force it into the sand for safekeeping. Then a crack traveled through the sand, starting at his coconut and zooming across the beach towards the jungle thicket. Scrat ran after the crack a short way, his large eyes filled with worry and fear. He had seen these cracks before and they were always bad news. But there was nothing he could do. The crack sped right up the side of a towering volcano and the next moment it had erupted in a fiery ear-splitting BOOM.
Scrat ran back to his coconut, gripping it with his tiny hands. Frantically he tugged on it, trying to free it from the sand. He strained all his muscles, his head leaning backward and his eyes closed tight as he pulled. The coconut refused to come free and he scurried around it frantically, wide fearful eyes staring at the erupting mountain. Liquid fire was already pouring down the mountain's sides and a few distant trees were on fire. Bending to his task, Scrat dug around the nut's bottom, finally freeing it. Wrapping his too-short arms around the gigantic nut, he wobbled with it unsteadily towards the relative safety of the surf. Unable to see where he was going, Scrat tripped over a small rock partly buried in the sand. The coconut fell out of his arms and rolled across the sand towards the ocean. Screaming, the saber-toothed squirrel dashed after it as fast as he could go and took a flying leap onto it. Digging all of his claws into it, he and the nut rolled over and over as the entire island started to shake with tremendous force. Hot geysers of steam and sand starting erupting all around him and one hit the coconut full blast. And then Scrat was flying through the air.
Eyes wide with fear and ears pushed back, Scrat shrieked as he flew through the air towards a strange object. The object came closer and closer and then he hit it, the force of the impact making his claws come free of his precious coconut. The breath was knocked out of him and he bounced through the air again, coming down in a thick tangle of rope. Lying on his back, the tiny animal stared upward and slowly his vision came back into focus. The loud thud of running footfalls was loud in his ears and a horrible stench filled his nose. Flipping over onto his feet, Scrat peered out from within a coil of rope and got his first look at Davy Jones' fishmen crew. They were the strangest things he had ever seen, as they looked similar to humans and yet were not humans.
He froze in place and stood motionless for several long heartbeats, terrified that at any moment one of the gigantic creatures would snap him up in hungry jaws. But it soon became clear that they either didn't see him or else they didn't eat saber-toothed squirrels. Scrat knew that there were many animals that didn't eat saber-toothed squirrels, like smilodons. They preferred larger prey with more meat on them. Perhaps these things were the same? Scrat's nose started to twitch and during a clear moment when no fishmen were looking his way, he scurried out of the rope coil in search of his coconut.
Within moments he realized that this was a very strange place. He poked at the ground with a curious foot and found that it wasn't ice, snow, sand or earth. It felt like wood but it wasn't a tree. A worried expression appeared on his face and he crept across the deck with his belly pressed low to the boards, only his bushy tail sticking upright. His tiny claws clicked lightly as he hurried over to the next object: a big barrel. Squeaking in worry, Scrat sniffed at it and recognized the scent of water. Thirsty after his long imprisonment in the ice, he nimbly ran up the barrel's side and balanced on the rim. Just then there was a sudden movement to one side as the ship turned, causing him to loose his balance and fall into the open barrel.
The course corrections finished and the ship speeding away from the erupting volcano, Davy Jones' crew began to relax once more. Maccus the ship's first mate, headed towards the water barrel for a drink. With his hammerhead and extra eyes, he could keep a watchful eye on the crew no matter which way he was facing. Reaching the water barrel, he grasped the barnacle-covered tin cup with his human hand and dumped it into the water barrel. To his surprise, a tiny fur covered animal raced up his arm faster than he could think and leaped onto the deck with a soft thud. Twisting his body to follow it, Maccus watched it scurry across and vanish into a coil of rope. "Huh? What was that thing?"
Nosy, Maccus moved over to the rope coil and bent over until his face was scant inches from the coil of rope. The soaking wet thing was crouched at the bottom of the coil, like a bird in its nest. It had huge eyes as big as eggs, a long snout filled with sharp teeth and a bushy tail. The pair of wicked fangs at the end of its snout was particularly noticeable. He had never seen anything like it before, but it wasn't a rat. And thankfully it wasn't a cat, either, as the captain would have been angry if they had missed one. Before Maccus could decide if he should grab the thing or not, it leaped upward and kicked him with it's tiny foot in his eye!
"Oooooowwwww!" Maccus shrieked in pain, hanging onto his injured eye with both his human hand and his crab-legged hand.
"What goes on here?" Davy Jones demanded as he made his way over to his first officer from the prow of the ship.
"Something kicked me in the eye, Captain!" Maccus admitted as he straightened up and waved at the rope coil with his crab-legged hand. "It was hiding in that rope, some sort of mutant rat creature!"
"Not another animal!" Jones replied angrily, dismayed that his fearsome first mate had been beaten in battle by a tiny creature. First cats and now a rat thing – what would be next? There hadn't been mutant rats on board before and certainly not ones that kicked crewmembers. Rats scurried around in the shadows, stealing food aboard ships. They gnawed their way into the storage rooms, ruined food supplies and left their dirty droppings everywhere. They also had a particular smell that sailors quickly learned, as all ships possessed rodents – except the Dutchman that is. The ship being as it was, it didn't possess normal food and therefore had no rodents. His crew ate raw fish, crustaceans and other types of sea life. As far as Jones knew, rats didn't eat that sort of thing.
Then Jones narrowed his eyes and stared at Maccus suspiciously. "Are ye sure it was a rat, Maccus? We've not been to port in ages, so how did this thing get on board?"
Curious, the rest of the fishmen crew gathered around, their eyes traveling from Jones to Maccus. They watched as Maccus tenderly touched his eye, winching in pain. When he removed his hand, they could see a few tiny red scratches on his pinkish-gray skin right next to the eye. It was clear that something had hit him, but injuries aboard a ship were common. Many things could have caused them, including Maccus' own crab-leg fingers as they ended in sharp points. Perhaps he had been scratching himself and grew careless.
"I saw it Captain, I did! It came out of the water barrel. It ran right up my arm it did and jumped to the floor to run into that there coil o rope!" Maccus replied.
"It came out of the water barrel, did it?" Jones asked, his voice taking on a disbelieving tone. "I wasn't aware rats lived in water barrels…"
The crew laughed heartily, Clanker laughing the loudest of them all.
While Jones was questioning Maccus, Scrat had dashed off to safety without being spotted by anyone else. Life aboard the Dutchman was often boring and the crew loved nothing better but something out of the ordinary and Maccus' story of mutant rats fit the bill perfectly. Every eye was on the possibly lying first mate to see what would happen.
Whining to himself, Scat peered around at his new surroundings fearfully. Everything was strange and frightening. He was still quite wet, but a good shake had gotten most of the excess water out of his fur. The stink of smilodon or something very similar seemed to be everywhere. Green moss was everywhere as was weird round bumps. Scrat had never seen a barnacle before so he had no idea what they were.
Where had his giant nut gone?
Inching along a wall as silently as he could, a few steps at a time, he paused. His tail quivered with excitement as he spied a big pile of round black nuts. They were the type he had found on the sandy beach before fire had poured out of the mountain. Even better, they were just sitting there on the ground with no one else around. If he were quick enough, they could all be his! Screaming a fierce battle cry, Scrat dashed towards the nut pile so quickly his long ears were pushed backward and his tail streamed in the wind. With a flying leap, Scrat belly flopped onto the top nut, his jaws wide open. His tiny arms and legs wrapped themselves around the nut's perfectly round black sides and he sunk his sharp, pointed fangs into its tough outer shell.
Or he tried to anyway.
Sharp pain shot up his fangs and Scrat cried, pulling back. Shifting to a sitting position, he bent his long snout towards the giant nut and sniffed suspiciously. It was difficult to tell what it smelled like under the smilodon-like scent, but it didn't smell very nutty at all. He then rapped on its sides with his front paw and discovered it was harder than a rock.
The nut had obviously gone bad!
Frowning at his once again bad luck, Scrat struggled and struggled to move the bad nut off the pile of giant nuts. There were still many other black nuts and if he were quick enough, he could save them all from going bad. Kicking, pushing and shoving with all he was worth, the bad nut started to rock in its place. Straining all of his muscles, he gave one final heave ho and the bad nut rolled off onto the ship's deck with a loud bang. It then rolled at will across the deck a short distance until it came to a stop.
Wiping his paws in satisfaction, Scrat turned to examine the next black nut. Unfortunately, that one was just as hard and uneatable as the first one, so it too got kicked out of the nut pile. Scrat was really starting to sweat now, as for unknown reasons the bad nuts were extremely heavy! Not only were they as hard as rocks they were heavy like them as well. Moving them out of the nut pile was incredibly difficult and took every ounce of strength and willpower he possessed. The moment's ticked by and more and more bad nuts were tossed out onto the deck as they were labeled as bad. Soon the entire area was covered with them and just one nut was left. Eyes filled with unhappiness, Scrat sniffed at the final nut. It smelled just like all the others. Forlorn and without hope, he rapped on its sides. It was bad, too. A single tear leaked out of his eye and he hung his head, his shoulders stooped in defeat.
A loud flapping from above caught his attention and Scrat weakly lifted his head to peer upward. He half expected to see some flying monster swooping down to snatch him up in its talons, but instead he saw some mammoth sized things flapping in the breeze. Scrat studied the things and noticed they were connected to a tree trunk…
The bad nuts must have fallen out of this weird tree, so maybe there were good ones up there! Wasting no time, Scrat scurried up the mast thinking it was a tree.
"Mutant rats with bushy tails! What ridiculous thing will you think up next? You had better lay off the rum, Maccus!" Davy Jones ordered as he wheeled around on his peg and started to head for his cabin. His headache banged worst than ever now and he longed for a nice nap next to his precious pipe organ. Suddenly his foot came down upon something round and it slid out from underneath him and he fell to the deck with a loud crash. Stunned, Jones lay there for a moment not quite aware of what had happened. The air had been knocked out of his chest and he took a big breath to get it back. Unfortunately, the cat scent came with it, as he had feared it would. Sitting up, Jones was startled to see the entire deck covered with loose cannonballs!
"Maccus! Who is responsible for this mess?" Davy Jones yelled angrily as he slowly climbed to his feet, his pride injured. His beard tentacles swayed in annoyance and his lobster claw flexed.
Maccus and the rest of the crew hurried over and they peered at the cannonballs spread all over the deck. They had been safely secured next to one of the cannons and how they had come loose he couldn't possibly imagine. It was unlikely the crew would do so, as discipline was enforced on the Dutchman and everyone feared the cat-o-nine-tails. Yet cannon balls couldn't free themselves, either. The weather had been calm as well, escept for the volcano erupting.
"I don't know, Captain, but we will clean it up right away! Perhaps the shock of the volcano erupting shook them loose…" Maccus replied, bowing slightly towards Jones. Waving his crab-legged hand at Bootstrap, he ordered the sailor to secure each and every cannon ball.
Maccus slowly strolled across the deck of the ship, pretending his was watching the crew while he was in fact searching for signs of the mutant rat. If there was one thing he disliked, it was being on Davy Jones bad side. He would have to prove to the captain that the creature that had attacked him truly existed. But how could he find it? The Dutchman was huge with countless little places to hide. He approached a cannon and bent over to peer into the large round opening, his eyes straining to see in the dark tunnel that was the cannon. Was there something way in the back? It was hard to tell…
"Is your mutant rat in there, Maccus?" Clanker asked, laughing. Other fishmen started to gather around as well, eager to see another confrontation about the mutant rat.
"I'm inspecting the cannon. Things are clearly shoddy around here and the Captain is displeased."
"You're looking for that rat and we all know it!" Clanker replied. The fishman was a horrible sight, his face covered so thickly with mussels he was forced to squint out of only one eye. He had seaweed for hair, a big round reddish nose and horribly crooked teeth. His clothing was covered with a mixture of algae, mussels, sea anemones and barnacles, as was his old tattered hat. "What do we care about some ol' rat for? Ships always have rats and you know it. Why, when I was alive I used to bite rats for fun."
"Yeah," Koleniko agreed. "We just go down and it drowns."
"But it's a mutant rat." Maccus insisted, his human hand half raising to his scratched face.
"Like we're normal!" Koleniko glanced down at the blowfish spines growing out of his body. "You're just annoyed that the thing kicked you. It's no big deal though. Look how the Captain slipped and fell on those loose cannonballs. We don't care. We laugh and then we forget about it."
Maccus realized that Koleniko was right. The rat had injured his pride, which had already been stepped on by those cats. Since they were larger and feared by sailors the world round, they should have been in charge – except they had been total cowards and had feared the cats' sharp claws. The hammerheaded first mate took a deep breath, determination filling his chest. "We can't keep allowing these animals to boss us around! We're the undead crew of the Dutchman! We're bigger than they are! We're scarier than they are!"
"But them cats had sharp claws!" Palafico insisted from within the large crowd of fishmen. "They liked to stick them in me legs…"
"You're more reef than man!" Shouted Maccus, clearly annoyed as he glared at the crewmember. "They can't hurt you!"
"It's me upper body that mostly reef and coral. Me lower body is still a tad fleshy…"
Maccus raised his crab-legged hand to his forehead, moaning. When had his crew turned into such idiots?
"And they was stealing me fish…"
"No more whining!" Maccus ordered.
"They kept yanking me seaweed out of me body!" Greenbeard complained as he rubbed at the numerous bald spots that were plainly visible all over his body, a pale green sap leaking from them. "Then to add insult to injury, they'd run about the ship beating the seaweed up as if it was a toy!"
"The cats are gone, but we need to find that mutant rat. Why? So we can prove to ourselves that we are the ones in charge and not some small animal. We suffered under the reign of the cats, but now we must go back to our nasty selves."
Koleniko leaned closer to Maccus and stared at the scratches under the first mate's eye. "Those look nasty. I think they're starting to get inflamed, too…"
"Really?" Maccus asked, worry in his voice. All thoughts of fighting the mutant rat flew from his mind as the scratches took top priority. He gently probed at the area with his human fingers. They did feel a bit puffier than before…
"Yeah, all red and pussy…" Koleniko added.
And then he remembered that he was undead. It didn't really matter if scratches got infected. They were cursed and bound to the Dutchman until their sentence ran out. "Now wait a minute…!"
Clanker laughed gleefully, pointing a hand at his friend Maccus. "You believed it! You were really worried there for a moment!"
The other crew joined in the laughter, their bodies shaking with the rare moment of mirth. Truthfully, many of Jones' crew was good friends with each other and they often joked about to pass the time. Maccus, Clanker and Koleniko were such a group and they often played Liar's Dice together.
"Seriously, we should try to find this mutant rat before it makes some sort of mischief for the Captain…" Maccus said.
Koleniko stared dumbly at the first mate. "What could a rat do to the Captain?"
"It could gnaw his new leg off!" Palifico replied. "Rats are always gnawing stuff, It's what they do…"
"We had a hard time finding him a new peg…" Clanker added as he hung his head in thought. The Captain had been extra fussy and none of the bits of tree or other material they had brought to him had been any good. It was too soon to go through that again!
"Don't see why he couldn't just grow a new appendage…." One of the Twins added, the first time they had joined the conversation. "Why not a nice lobster leg?"
"Because those darn cats would have ate it!" Someone shouted, the sentence half drowned with bursts of laughter.
"But they were already gone by then…" The other Twin remarked.
"The Captain aint taking no chances. Them cats could return. Didn't ye ever hear the phrase "The cat came back" or "It's raining cats and dogs"? The Captain has to be careful less we all get eaten by them felines." Clanker shifted his fierce gaze from one fishman to the next. "Maccus is right! We need to get our courage back!"
The Twins were both gazing skyward stupidly, apparently taking the phrase literally. Their skulls must have been filled with more seaweed than brain.
"Spread out and leave no nook or cranny unsearched!" Maccus ordered with spirit, his crab-legged hand waving in the air. "It could be anywhere! Inside canons, down below in the bilge, in the galley or even aloft! It's a vicious little critter, but we are men!"
With a loud roaring cheer, the fishmen spread out across the deck and started to search.
Davy Jones was unaware of Maccus' meeting with the crew or their exciting search for the mutant rat. Head banging painfully, he just wanted to go to his cabin and take a peaceful nap next to his precious pipe organ. He slowly ambled towards his private quarters, his new peg thumping the deck loudly with each step. Something in his back started to ache as well, and he rubbed at it with his normal hand. It felt like he must have twisted a muscle the wrong way when he had slipped on that cannonball. Being in an undead state he should be past all pain and feelings, yet they insisted on sticking with him. It was very annoying. Why could he past through objects without a flicker of sensation and yet hurt his back in a simple fall? Surely the real immortals were laughing at him!
Upon reaching his captain's cabin, Jones paused outside the door. Was that another cannonball on the floor there, right in front of the door to his room? Approaching it carefully, he bent down and gripped the round item in his lobster claw. Straightening out with a pained grimace, one hand clutching the small of his back, he was shocked to see he had found a coconut.
"Where did you come from?" Davy Jones asked it as he studied the nut's hairy exterior. It was the last thing he had expected to find on the deck of his ship. His crew ate sea creatures, not nuts.
Scrat had climbed partway up the mast and he had found some sort of weird flat surface. It was circular in shape, perfectly flat and it certainly didn't belong in any tree. The tree didn't seem to have any branches or leaves, either. There were strange vine-like objects that trailed downward at a steep angle and looked like giant spider webs. If Scrat had known anything about ships, he would have known these were ratlines and the crew used them for climbing. But he didn't, so he was perplexed and a little bit scared.
Sniffing around the flat platform for the lightest trace of nut smells, Scrat's tail quivered. Although he was incredibly high above the deck, the height didn't bother him. He was used to climbing glaciers to reach a single acorn and had fell off many a high peak. No matter what awful catastrophe befell him, the little saber-toothed squirrel always managed to pull through it alive somehow.
Not finding any nut smells, Scrat peered up. The tree went higher yet and those weird vines went up as well. There was also a round branch right below the platform he was sitting on, the branch being horizontal. More vines stretched out from it in different directions and some big thing – a giant leaf perhaps – seemed to be filled with wind. There were strange sounds as well: the creak and groan of the ship, the sail canvas fluttering in the tropical breeze, the water hitting the ship's hull… these were all new sounds and very different than what he had known back in the ice age.
The little saber-toothed squirrel peered around with large, worried eyes. He was unsure what he should do. Should he climb higher up this strange tree, a tree that didn't sport any normal leaves or branches, one without birds or buzzing bees? The platform he was perched on didn't seem all that stable either. He could feel it swaying slightly in the wind; first one way and then another. It was a sensation he wasn't exactly used to. Then there was another feeling as well, one even more upsetting. Everything seemed to be moving up and down, up and down, as if he were riding on a piece of ice down a swiftly moving river with many rough rapids…
Queasy, Scrat clung to the round platform with his little claws and looked outward. To his utter surprise, he saw only blue water! Eyes growing rounder until they took up most of his face, he looked again to be sure. Where were the glaciers? Where were the herds of animals, the trees and everything else? Had the glaciers melted and drowned everything else with tons and tons of water?
And most importantly, where was his NUT?
Just then the breeze shifted and the tantalizing smell of nut carried upward from down below. Instantly alert, Scrat crept to the edge of the platform and peered downward. There! A man was holding his nut in its hand! Scrat's sharp eyes zoomed in, his eyes narrowing, and he saw that the man in question was very ugly indeed with a slimy pinkish-gray man-beard. Scrat knew it was a man because it wore those odd coverings on its body. Only men did that. Men were very dangerous. They liked to kill animals for their meat and skins. They were also stupid and couldn't speak at all, as any sensible animal could.
Man or no man, Scrat was determined to get his nut back. A crazed look came into his eyes and his seasickness was gone. Taking careful aim, he leaped right off the edge of the platform and fell through the air, all four of his legs held far apart. With incredible speed the man was coming closer and closer…
Davy Jones still stood in front of the door to his cabin, the coconut gripped in his lobster claw. He glanced this way and that, half expecting to find more nuts lying about on the floor but there only appeared to be that one. With his head banging like a brass drum, it was difficult to think straight. Had some crewmember brought it on board and had lost it? Was it left there as a joke? Before he could think further, an odd whistling sound caught his attention. Looking upward, he just saw a dark blur before something struck him on the face.
"Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!" Jones cried out as the thing hit his face with full speed, knocking him over so he tumbled backwards down the stairs. With a loud thump and many a loud groan, he landed in an undignified heap at the bottom. In his fall, he had lost grip on the mysterious coconut and it had bounced off to who knows where. Sharp pain flared through his cheeks, just above where his tentacles started growing. It almost felt as if something had dug its claws into his face…
'Not another cat' was the first thought that ran through his head. The pressure left his face and he felt tiny feet bounding off his lips, feet that clearly sported little claws. And then he opened his eyes to see a very bushy, striped gray-and-black tail running across his chest. A loud squeaking sound was coming from the creature, whatever it was.
"The Captain!" Koleniko shouted, his extra-sharp fish eye had spotted the Captain's predicament. Without wasting a moment, the blowfish-man started hurrying to the Captain's side. The mutant rat was there as well, still on the chest of their prone leader. Doubt and fear started creeping into Koleniko's soul, for if the tiny thing had knocked Jones flat on his back it must be dangerous indeed! And hadn't it already kicked the first mate in his eye? Did he really want to mess with such a powerful opponent? His eager race to the Captain's side skidded to an uncertain halt.
Maccus ran up alongside him, excitement in his voice. "That's the one that kicked me!"
"I'll get the little devil!" Clanker shouted as he raced forward, his deadly chainshot gripped tightly in his hand. Chainshot was two cannonballs hooked together with a heavy chain. As Clanker was a strong man, he could whirl the deadly weapons around with ease to break bones, smash skulls or damage ships. They could also be fired out of a cannon to break the masts of ships. Twirling the weapon over his head, he dashed forward ready to smash the little orange-and-white rat into a bloody smear. Moving his arm downward, the heavy cannonball at the end of the chain followed and headed straight for the intended target.
"Hey! Watch what yer doing!" Jones shouted angrily as he realized Clanker was going to swing the chainshot right at him. Before he could say anything else, the mutant rat skittered off his chest onto the deck and the heavy ball from the chainshot just missed it. Instead, it broke the algae covered plank right next to Jones', sharp wooden slivers shooting upward to only rain down on him. Angry at the mindless destruction of his ship, Jones quickly snatched the chain of the weapon with his lobster claw, yanking it out of Clanker's grip. "There will be none of that on me ship!"
"But Captain!" Clanker pointed at the mutant rat that was trapped on the deck, surrounded by a circle of Jones' fishmen. The circle was large, though, as many of the cursed men were not eager to get too close to the creature. It was skittering around in wild circles, searching for a way to escape. "It attacked you!"
"It fell out of the rigging, ye fool!" Jones climbed to his foot and peg, one hand rubbing at his numerous aches and pains. "It appears to be a squirrel of some sort. Now where is that coconut?"
Koleniko blinked his eyes stupidly. "What coconut?"
"There was one here a moment ago. It must have rolled off when I fell down the stairs. Go and find it!"
"Why do we want a coconut?" The Twins asked, clearly perplexed.
"Because that's what squirrels eat! If we give it the nut, it should go away somewhere with it and not be underfoot or falling out of the rigging onto your captain!" Jones sometimes wondered about a few of his crewmembers and if their brains had turned into jellyfish. They probably had. Well, there was naught to do about that.
Maccus peered at the creature without getting too close. "I still say it's a mutant rat. Never saw a squirrel that looked like that."
"Why don't we just smash it one?" Clanker asked as he inched closer to it, studying it while it was on the deck and in the open. It had egg eyes, three fingers on each hand or foot, puny little claws that wouldn't be worth much in a fight. "I'm not scared of that little rat-thing. It don't have no claws like a cat…"
"With those teeth it doesn't need any!" Someone shouted.
Clanker paused, considering the fact. It did have some wicked looking teeth in its mouth. The teeth were like a pair of long daggers. Would his layer of sea anemones and mussels protect him from those teeth? Heck, he fought countless battles against real weapons; cutlasses, scimitars and pistols. A puny little rat wasn't going to scare him off! "Maccus is right! We can't let some little animal boss us around, as we did those cats."
And so Clanker moved forward with bare hands. The thing was so small he figured he'd just grab it and squeeze the life from its little body. A big grin spread across the fishman's face as he inched closer and closer. The thing was cowering on the deck, its little body shivering in terror. This made Clanker feel even braver and he grew less cautious. He bent down to grab it with both hands… With lightning speed, the mutant rat raced up his arm and flew at his face, its sharp little teeth biting his large red nose.
"AAAaaahhhhhh! My nose! My nose!" Clanker shrieked as he jerked back upright and almost promptly fell over backward, his hands beating at his own face. Spotting the descending hands, Scrat fled back onto the safety of the deck.
Jones stood there, watching, as Clanker continued to beat on his own face obviously believing he was beating up the critter. With all those mussels growing on his forehead, it was probably hard to see anything. The other crew watched as well, some shocked and others snickering to themselves. It was clear to everyone that the rat-squirrel had outsmarted Clanker.
"Captain!" Maccus said as he held out the coconut to his commanding officer. One of the fishmen had found it and had given it to the first officer. "Here is the nut you wanted."
Jones accepted the nut in his human hand, the crew watching expectedly. Even Clanker was watching now, as he had finally realized the thing was no longer biting his nose and had stepped away from the tiny animal. The injured nose now glowed a bright cherry red and no doubt Clanker would be teased greatly about it later.
"Ye know nothing about animals, the lot of ye. Critters like food. And as long as there's just one critter they're easy to deal with. We just give this one want he wants…" Jones bent down and slowly held the coconut out towards the squirrel. When the nut was almost onto the deck, he let it go and rolled it forward.
Scrat was terrified. Men trapped him in a circle made by their tall bodies. He had bitten the one that had tried to grab him and now an awful taste filled his mouth. If he could get away, he would need to rinse his mouth in some water. Squealing in worry, Scrat turned this way and that looking for an opening he could squeeze through.
One of the men was bending down now and it had his nut! Then to Scrat's utter amazement, it let the nut go! The giant nut rolled forward and he wasted no time running over to it. Leaping onto its hairy surface, Scrat hugged it tightly, his big eyes closed in pleasure and a goofy grin on his face. Remembering the men that still surrounded him, he peered fearfully at them. Why had they given him the nut back? No one had ever given him a nut before; things always stole his nuts.
Picking the impossibly large nut up, he balanced it on his head as he scattered forward with it. To his amazement, the circle of men parted and they allowed him to pass through. Spotting the coil of rope ahead, he managed to get the nut safely into it and then he leaped in after it. Scrat sat atop his nut, guarding it from anyone who dare try to take it.
"Now leave that thing alone so I can get some sleep!" Jones ordered as he limped away, numerous aches and pains all over his body. And his head banged in several spots now as well, thanks to tumbling head over heels down the stairs. With great difficulty he climbed the stairs and finally entered the relative quite of his cabin. He eased into his chair and sighed with relief.
Maccus watched the Captain disappear and then all of his eyes returned to the mutant rat that was staring at them suspiciously from its nest. He still thought it looked like a rat, a rat with a bushy tail and a nasty disposition. Straightening up, he turned to the gathered men. "You heard the Captain. Stay away from it or we'll all end up with injuries."
"So it won after all?" Someone asked from among the crowded group of fishmen. "Even after your big speech how we were better?"
"The Captain gave an order and we have to obey." Maccus replied, not exactly liking it himself. He preferred to think that he was more intelligent and dangerous that a little mutant rat, but maybe that wasn't so easy to prove. It certainly was faster. In time they'd learn who was the superior creature: them or it. "Now get to your duty posts or it'll be ten lashes each!"
The crew hurried off, each in their own direction. Maccus watched them go and a new worry wormed its way into his hammerheaded head. What would they do after the mutant rat ate the single coconut that was on board? For sooner or later it would happen. He had best start thinking about it now.