Atlas page 24

They must've attacked and infiltrated the ship from below. Cutting off Zila's escape route to the skiffs and ambushing the other men in the galley. As they were gathered on deck Brice noticed Wren was bleeding from a wound in his back. He had probably seen an attack coming and sheltered Etta from it. There was also a cut in his hand – probably the only reason he had relinquished hold of the new cub. Despite his injures he was glaring daggers at Leland's men. He had Zila and his children by him – Zila looked like she had taken a few punches – her lips split and bleeding down her chin. If Leland were smart – he'd kill them all now cause if he didn't and the felinoids were allowed a chance at revenge they'd tear him limb from limb with their bare claws and fangs.

Leland's men had bound Toby and Toni together – Toni was knocked out with a rather large gash dripping blood on his head. Thomas was literally under the boot of one of the men – his nose bloody and a crack in his glasses. The man was fiddling with his navigator. The brute looked like he was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Thomas was doing everything in his power not to insult him. Cal's tentacles were bound and he lay next to Thomas trying to squirm out of it. Leland had about fifteen men with him – fourteen after Brice killed the one that grabbed Celena. Brice was going out of his mind. Celena had made a run for it – darting past all Leland's men and disappearing into a little passage that Brice didn't even know was there. The girl was incredibly wily. But she had done this right after a man brought J.B. on deck. He was sporting a black eye and the man was haling him around by his pony tail. When he let him go J.B. scrambled to Brice.

"How many kids do you have?" Leland asked as if he were disgusted by the fact. One had been too many for him to handle. He looked down at Etta as she continued to wail. "This one is disgusting."

"Give her to me. If you want her to be quiet." Brice said. Leland put his gun away before he grabbed her little leg. He held her up by it and Brice glared at him.

"Or I could just kill her."

"No!" They all looked back when two men pushed Jim and Sarah on to the deck.

"Look what I found hiding in the bathroom." He grabbed Sarah's hair and held her back. "Bitch is kind of old to be a sex slave."

"Don't touch her…" Jim wheezed as he tried to get up. One of the men kicked him in the stomach and he spit blood all over him before falling over.

"Leland! Stop this!" Sarah said as she watched him mishandle Etta. "Are you so bitter that you'd destroy your own family?"

"You're the traitor here!" He yelled right in her face. "Both of you allying yourselves with this…demon." He glared at Brice. "You sicken me – you have three of these abominations." He gave Etta a shake and she wailed.

"Let her go!" J.B. charged at Leland and punched him but it had little effect. Leland backhanded him and he fell to the ground.

"Stop it! You strike your own grand child!" Sarah said as she pulled J.B. to her. Leland looked at her for a moment before he looked at Jim. He noticed the blood on his lips and how pale he looked.

"What is wrong with him?" He asked. If Brice didn't know any better he'd swear Leland sounded a little concerned.

"He's sick." Sarah answered and rubbed Jim's back when he started coughing again. Etta sneezed on him and he baulked.

"A plague." He said as he walked to the edge of the ship. "One I'll eradicate – starting with this thing." He held Etta over the edge and Brice saw red. He suddenly couldn't hear anything. He grabbed the gun from one of Leland's men and took aim.

"No! You might hit Etta!" Jim's voice rang in his ears and he hesitated. Leland noticed him and pulled his gun. While his attention was off Etta something whizzed past him and snatched her from his grip. Brice thought he was going crazy. The object slowed down as it headed upward and he realized it was Jim's old solar surfer. Eli was flying Jim's old solar surfer! Celena was hanging on to the back of the sail with Etta tightly in her other arm.

"What the hell?" Even Jim couldn't believe it. Eli shared Brice's fear of heights and a dislike for the rickety little surfers but there he was zipping around on a surfer nearly twenty years older than him. He flew like it was something he had done a million times before.

"Fire!" Leland shouted at his men. Eli took off and they disappeared below the ship.

"Let them go – we can still kill the captain and take this vessel." One of Leland's men said. He grabbed him by the collar and growled in his face.

"You fool! That child was keeping him docile." Leland looked at Wren and all of his children and his mate were gone – they had slipped away during the commotion. "Quickly, grab the other boy and—" When he looked J.B. and Sarah had slipped away as well. The man talking to Leland suddenly yelped. Leland looked back to see Brice gripping his head from behind. With a fluid jerk he snapped the man's neck and he dropped to the floor like a ragdoll. The other men took a step back as Brice retrieved his cutlass.

"No more bargaining chips." Brice said. "Now we're just two men fighting to the death." Leland took a few steps back before he pointed his gun at Jim. Brice just chuckled. "You tried that once already." Brice reminded him. Jim tapped the scar on his forehead when Leland looked at him. Leland jumped back when Jim coughed on him.

"Kill them!" Leland ordered and his men jumped into action. Brice growled when he had to turn around and dispatch two. Wren bulldozed through a bunch on them. Knocking them out with one hard blow to the face. Thomas untied Toby and Toni. Toby had him take Toni down to the galley. Brice noticed Leland ran down to the cargo hold and followed him.

"You tried to take my ship. Threatened my babies – my God children, my husband and my mother in law, my brothers. Now you run like a coward!" Brice said as he tackled Leland. "I promised them all as soon as I got the chance I'd purge you from this world." Instead of pressing his sword to Leland's throat he grabbed some rope and tied him up. "But you won't get off that easy."

"Son of a bitch." Leland mumbled as Brice haled him up.

"This is the second time you have betrayed the brotherhood of the Atlas – you must answer to it's heirs."

"My brave boy. Daddy is so proud of you." Brice said as he cleaned J.B.'s bloody nose.

"But…but…but I got hit and I couldn't get Etta." J.B. hiccupped oddly as he spoke.

"At least you tried to help your sister. But you know now what comes from acting brashly." Brice said as he wiped J.B.'s tears. "You get that from me. But I learned the same way you did – that jumping the gun gets you shot." He pressed his fingers against the little bridge of J.B.'s nose. He flinched but there was no indication it was broken. A dark bruise was already starting to form where Leland had hit him. It matched the shiner he already had from the henchmen that decked him. Brice turned to the line up of Leland's men. "Which one gave you that black eye?" J.B. scanned the line and Brice noticed he looked away from the man that growled at him. Brice also noticed the scrapes on his knuckles. "Him?" J.B. just nodded. Brice took up a cutlass and stepped on the man's hand. He howled and Brice put the sword between his lips. Pressing it back so far it sliced the edges of his mouth a bit. The other men seemed to cower at his loud scream of pain.

"Worthless bastard." Jim said from where he sat with a blanket wrapped around him. After the whole ordeal he had started to look better but he was still weak. Some of Leland's men were starting to look a little sick. Leland had paled considerably as he lay tided up along the line.

"Not only have you dared to strike my child but an heir of the Atlas…" Brice said like the man was standing trial. "Now your fate is in his hands." He looked at J.B. "Honey, how should I punish this man? Do you want his fingers?" He put the sword to the man's wrist. "Or maybe his whole hand?" J.B. looked back at Jim a little worried and his father just gave him a reassuring nod.

"Break it." J.B. said confidently. Brice smirked and stomped down on the man's hand until all the bones shattered under his boot. He shrieked and fell over – trying to cradled his mangled hand. "My hair. He grabbed my hair too." Brice grabbed the man's stringy hair and held him up by it. "Scalp him." He demanded.

"No-!" His protest was silenced when Brice brought his cutlass down. He caught the man right in the temple. J.B. flinched but continued to watch until Brice was done cleaving off a chunk of his hair. Brice chuckled the hair over board and Toby and Smithy tossed the body over.

"Zila…come here sister." Brice called her and she walked over to him. "Which one of these…men did that to your face?" he asked. She immediately pointed him out and Wren pulled him out of the line.

"Please…" He begged as Wren stared him down. He didn't say anything before he pulled back and punched the man in the face. So hard his jaw snapped audibly. When he recovered it hung oddly off his face. He tried to plead for his life but it came out gargled and sloppy.

"Yeah dad!" Jake cheered. Zelda and Terrence let out loud howls as Wren continued to break every bone in the man's face. He even let Zila get a lick in before he was thrown over the side. He turned around and gave Zila an affectionate kiss before she went to sit with their children again. Several of the men were dispatched in the same way. Toby and Toni took on two guys with a set of crowbars. Thomas stomped out the brute that had beat him up. Wren cut ones hand off and stabbed him in the back to ease the pain of his wounds. This went on until Etta gave a cry from Sarah's arms. Brice smiled as he gathered her up.

"Ah, my little pearl…" He said as he rocked her slowly. She smiled up at him and he checked the bruise on her ankle. "Little treasure, you were betrayed by your own blood – as much as I hate to admit that scum is your ancestor. He tried to take you from this world…" She whined and he held her close. "I know my darling…I know – you don't have a voice to speak." He glanced at Leland and the man was looking at him like he was insane. He just cooed at Etta and looked up. "Celena!" He called and the girl came to him.

"Is it my turn, daddy?" She asked eagerly.

"It certainly is my little wonder. You and your brother were the heroes of the day. You conquered your fears and saved your sister. Eli…" The boy walked up not nearly as eager as Celena. In fact he looked like he was on the verge of tears. Brice handed Etta over to Sarah and knelt down to Eli. "What's the matter?" he asked.

"I…I…I'm not brave. I don't want to hurt these men. I just wanna…wanna… I don't know!" He sobbed. Brice immediately embraced him. He hid his face in Brice shoulder and Brice held him tightly.

"It's alright, Eli." Celena said as she took up Brice's cutlass. "I'll be brave for you." Brice nodded his permission and she stood in front of Leland. Wren and Smithy made him kneel in front of her. "Leland Hawkins…" She began and cleared her throat. "You betrayed the brotherhood of the Atlas, twice. Your…um…" She stammered and looked at Brice.

"Punishment for mutiny against the—"

"Oh right." She said a held out the sword. "Your punishment for mutiny against the Captain of this vessel and it's heir is death. Only blood will absolve you of your transgressions. Blood in, blood out." She looked at her free hand and winced.

"I've got this part, baby." Brice said as he eased Eli over to Jim. He kept him from seeing anything – covering his eyes quickly and hushing his whimpering. Brice took the cutlass from Celena and cut his palm. Wren grabbed Leland's hair and pulled his head back so he was looking up. Brice swearing his blood over Leland's face. "As a former brother you have the honor of last words. Do you have any?" Brice asked as he grabbed Celena's hand. She didn't seem to mind the blood. She was unable to take her eyes off her father as he raised the sword.

"My son will avenge me." Leland said. Jim felt like all eyes were on him all of a sudden. He looked at Brice and he lifted an eyebrow.

"Then I feel bad about sending you to your grave knowing that will never happen." Brice said.

"Not him." Leland chuckled. "Sean is coming for you."

"What ever." Brice said. "Ready baby?" He looked at Celena and she nodded. She raised her free hand and mimicked Brice's stance. Jim was a little impressed that she had learned the ritual so quickly. The next part they said in unison.

"You are relieved of your duties. May God forgive your sins – for the Atlas never will!" Brice brought the sword down and nearly split Leland's head in two. Sarah looked away and Jim held Eli tighter when he flinched at the sound of his skull splitting. When he pulled the sword back for another strike Celena yelped when blood splattered across them. Beyond blocking her face from it she didn't move. Brice brought the sword down two more times before Leland's body went rag doll. Wren and Smithy threw him over board. Jim sighed and stroked Eli's hair.

"It's over."

Cleaning the ship took weeks. Before they even started they hyper jumped to Kinapis and everyone spent the night on the beach – too exhausted to even change clothes of wash the blood off themselves. The next morning a quick dip in the ocean was sufficient in getting everyone clean. Jim's illness seemed to dissipate over night. But since he had gone so long without eating he was still weak on his feet. He was tasked with watching the children with Sarah and Zila.

"Do you think it was wise to expose them to all of that?" Sarah asked as she feed Etta. The boys were playing in the sand and Jim was busy brushing Celena's long hair. She tilted her head back when Sarah asked her question.

"It'll be their lives some day." Jim said as he continued brushing her hair.

"And should they not want to lead such a life?" Sarah asked as she looked down at Etta.

"They are free to do what they want." Jim assured her. "Should none of them want it the Atlas would be decommissioned and destroyed."

"No!" Celena protested. "It's my ship! I want it."

"Then it's yours, darling." Jim said before he kissed the top of her head.

"You do seem cut out for the job." Sarah said a little unnerved. Sometimes her grand daughter scared her. She was so much like her parents and far too smart for a normal eleven year old. Any other parent would have her committed to a mental hospital. The teachers at school often asked her about Celena's some what haunting ability to know things she shouldn't. "Eli was horrified last night."

"He'll be okay." They all looked up when Brice came up to them. He twiddled a flower between his fingers before putting it behind Celena's ear. "I was actually older than him the first time I performed that ritual with my father. Same circumstances – mutineers that betrayed us."

"Did you cry?" Sarah asked.

"Yes." He answered truthfully. "I didn't even know those men but I felt their fear. Saw it in their faces as they were cut down. But it was either them or us. And I swore I'd never be that scared again." He smiled when Eli ran up to him.

"Daddy! Daddy! I found gold!" He said excitedly and showed Brice the coin he had dug up. Brice smiled before he pulled Eli to him.

"It's in your blood my boy."

Things were nearly back to normal. The ship was cleaned and in the middle of much needed repairs. A few things had fallen apart while Jim was sick. Not to mention what Leland's men had destroyed when they attacked. Brice wasn't aware he had taken the night off from his duties until he walked into his cabin and found it lit by numerous candles. His maps and reports had been cleared from his desk and two glasses of wine were in their place on the surface. For a moment he wondered where Etta was. He couldn't hear her gurgling to herself in her crib. He started towards it when Jim came out of the bathroom.

"Etta is with my mother in her room tonight." He said as if he could read Brice's expression. "The kids are asleep and in their room. Toby is on watch. Thomas has third shift."

"Oh?" Brice asked as he took up one of the glasses. He took a sip before he gestured around the room. "And this is?"

"My undying gratitude." Jim said before he let the towel around his waist drop. Brice's eye brows went up. He couldn't remember the last time they had sex. There had been so much going on – the new baby, Jim's illness, Leland's attack, getting things back in order. The list of distractions went on. But as Jim stood before him, clean and bare from his shower – just a little slimmer from his long illness – all his thoughts escaped him. Brice bit his bottom lip when Jim walked over to the bed. They had change all the linen – now the curtains were a slate blue and the sheets on the bed were a dark navy. Jim slipped under the sheet – moaning a little as he got comfortable. Brice figured Jim had bought the new set – he had never seen it before now. He handed Jim his glass of wine and watched as he drank it all in a few gulps.

"Not that I'm looking a gift-orca in the mouth but…" Brice started as he unbuttoned his shirt. He shrugged it off and kicked his boots aside. "What exactly have I done to deserve such a lovely surprise?" He knelt on the bed and Jim pulled him down on top of him.

"You kept your promise to me." Jim said as he brushed his lips against Brice's. He gasped quietly when Brice pressed his hips down on him.

"It took eleven years." Brice said. "He almost killed our babies."

"Which is why I'm so grateful that when it came to the task you didn't hesitate." Jim said as he ran his hands down Brice's back. "You gave me that. Plus my mother. And our beautiful children…" He pushed Brice up a bit and turned over on to his stomach. "Least I can do is thank you…the only real way I know how." He moaned when Brice kissed his shoulder. He continued down Jim's back. Kissing and licking down the line of his spine. Jim couldn't help how he arched up. Brice trailed his tongue down his crevasse and delve into his hole. "Ah!" Jim tried to keep still but Brice gave his hip a light smack.

"Do that again." He said and Jim shook his hips from side to side as Brice pretty much motor boated his ass. Brice got up for a second and unlaced his pants before kicking them off. On his way back in bed he retrieved a bottle of lube from the drawer and turned Jim onto his back. "I'd do anything for you, Jim." He whispered to him as he quickly prepared him. Jim just squirmed and arched and looked at Brice through his lashes.

"AH!" He gasped loudly and clung to Brice when he entered him. He arched and tossed his head back as Brice got into his rhythm. God, it felt so good – just like always. He was filled until his body couldn't take anymore but he wanted more. Brice kissed him and dragged his tongue all over his neck and chest.

"I'd fight the entire universe for you." Brice said absently. Jim dug his nails into Brice's back and he howled. "No one will ever come between us…"

"They could try – but I'm afraid they'll be smothered." Jim joked for a second as he slid his hand down his abdomen. He had to stop a few times when Brice pressed into him. He finally reached his goal and wrapped his fingers around his erection. "I love you Brice… I love you…" He chanted over and over as they hurtled over the edge of orgasm.