Doctor Doppler sighed and put his hand on his forehead. His shoulders sagged as he looked around at the interior of the dreary swamp-tree that was B.E.N's home. Captain Amelia was either delirious or asleep; he wasn't sure in the dusk. How was he to protect her if the pirates came? Vicious, double-crossing vagabonds. He had a pistol, of course, but he had no clue how to use it.
His hands dropped to his knees and he pushed himself up, walked a couple feet away from Captain Amelia, and picked up the second pistol from atop a mossy, three-legged desk. He was careful not to point it at himself or Amelia, like he had last time on the ship. It had gone off right in his hands, barely missing her.
He shook his head despondently as he familiarized himself with the weapon. There was a small lever that, no doubt, cocked the pistol so that it was ready to fire.
"And the trigger, of course," he murmured cheerfully, pointing at it. Holding the pistol out at arm's length, he posed by the entrance to the tree, preparing himself for a possible attack. On the other side of the boggy plain, in the jungle, the hearty glow of a campfire flickered.
"They're taking their time, the villainous scoundrels," Doppler muttered in righteous anger. "Jim will show them. I'll show them!" He brightened, then shouted, "Come any closer than that hill right there, and I'll shoot you dead!" He wagged the pistol at the firelight.
A nightly silence settled over the room, except for the buzz of night bugs and the strange noises of the jungle creatures. Doctor Doppler shrank back against the wall, clearing his throat nervously.
"I hope for both our sakes that the pirates didn't hear that, Doctor."
Doctor Doppler turned around with startled gasp. The pistol slipped from his hand onto a pile of junk with a metallic thud. Captain Amelia was crouched beside him, holding her rifle like an expert.
"It would be terribly embarrassing. Not to mention dangerous," she remarked.
He put his hands on the edges of his jacket, covering his embarrassment with a professional stance. "You're alright!" he said, smiling pleasantly.
"Not quite well enough to take on a bunch of murderous pirates single-handedly, but I'll manage," she answered wryly.
"Single-handedly?" he repeated, confused.
Captain Amelia rolled her eyes. "Your pistol, doctor!"
"Right." He stooped to fumble for it in the dark.
"You know, Doctor," Amelia began.
"I want to thank you for fixing me up and –" she cleared her throat in embarrassment "- carrying me all the way here." She set her gaze on the pirate camp.
Doctor Doppler stood up, hair and spectacles awry, an astonished look on his face. He turned his attention to cocking the pistol. "You're welcome. I was glad to do it." He re-phrased hurriedly, "I mean, it's what doctor's do – well, that is, not the carrying part, but – You're welcome."
Captain Amelia turned to him, partly ignoring his stammering. "I hope I didn't babble anything odd, revealing, or otherwise idiotic while I was out. I like to keep a good standing."
"No." Being not accustomed to telling untruths, his voice came out in a squeak. He averted his gaze shyly.
She chuckled softly. "I must've sounded absolutely mad."
Doctor Doppler smiled fondly at her.
Suddenly, Captain Amelia looked over her shoulder. Her ears perked and her eyes had gone wide. "Where's the cabin boy?"
Doctor Doppler glanced back too, and answered, "Oh, Jim's gone…" He realized he didn't know quite where Jim had gone.
"How'd he get out?" she asked sharply.
He pointed vaguely at the large, round "back door". "He went through there with B.E.N.," he said.
Captain Amelia jogged toward the cylindrical opening, waving at Doctor Doppler to stay where he was. She put her hand on the side of the hole and bent to look down at the vast paths of wires and electrical equipment. "Another way out!" she exclaimed under her breath. She raised her voice to call to Doctor Doppler, "Where was Jim going?"
"Don't tell me Jimbo has abandoned ye two. Aw, and he seemed so loyal to ye, Captain, when we were bargaining. Don't be hard on him, Captain. He's only a lad."
Captain Amelia whirled around; her rifle flew into position, poised against her shoulder. Her ex-crew, now pirates, were scrambling into the tree-room. Silver was in the lead, his mechanical arm in the form of a pistol pointed straight at Doctor Doppler.
"Silver!" she hissed, her ears flattened against her skull.
"Put down the gun or the doc gets it," Silver growled.
Amelia hesitated, burning to pull the trigger on Silver. Her strong urge to deal justice on the pirates was immediately quelled when she exchanged glances with Doctor Doppler. Two of Silver's men were tying his hands behind his back. His expression was acutely apologetic.
Slowly, Captain Amelia lowered her rifle and tossed it aside. Two more of the pirates jumped forward and eagerly bound her as well.
"That's right, Captain," Silver praised, "I knew you was a smart one when we all signed on." He gestured around at the crew.
Captain Amelia winced as a tentacle-hand pushed her down beside Doctor Doppler. Her side ached with the movement.
"This isn't over, Silver," she said, trying not to groan.
Silver stared at her a moment, his red eye sweeping over her, then boomed to his men, "Jim's run off for help, but he'll come back for these two. And if we play our cards right, we'll have the map – at last!"
The pirates cheered raucously.
Doctor Doppler, head and ears drooping, said in a whisper, "I'm so sorry! I didn't hear them coming. Oh, this is all my fault!"
Captain Amelia whispered back, "We'll play it his way for a while, Doctor. Just lie low. We'll think of something."
Silver noticed them whispering to each other and ordered, "We'd better gag them."
White kerchiefs were tied around their mouths and all the lights were put out. The pirates hid in the shadows to wait for Jim.
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