Cortes gritted his teeth and stifled a yell as his shoulder hit the side of the Saint Nazaire – hard. The pain worried him but for a moment. And then he looked down. Endless sky swam beneath him. The rope jerked again, and again Cortes dropped a few dozen feet. His stomach churned just before he slammed against the hull.
Cortes only had a vague comprehension of keelhauling. He knew just enough to know it, usually, involved water. A small part of him was thankful that, for him, water was not involved. It would be strange, unnerving and ironic if he ended up drowning in Skyland. But the alternative was not much better. He also knew it involved getting torn up against a ships hull. Without water, that was what was going to kill him.
He crashed against the side of the hull again. Why didn't they hurry up and do it properly! he found himself thinking in annoyance. Just finish it instead of letting him dangle over endless sky! The queasy, spinning, dizzy feeling and the ache that was now not leaving him every time he smashed into the side of the hull had to be worse. It had to be worse when he was still awaiting the real pain when his own vessel would start to tear him apart.
Cortes closed his eyes, but that made it worse. He could still feel the sudden drop – only this time he didn't hit the side of the ship, but his arm was nearly wrenched from its socket. He opened one eye, and shut it fast again when he realised now all he could see was completely clear sky. He was right under the ship! And it was so unnerving he had to close his eyes again.
For crying out loud! What were they doing just letting him dangle! It wasn't like he was going to drown hanging here. There was no damn water! All movement had stopped, leaving him swinging. His heart was pounding, and he felt sick.
Seconds ticked by and still he didn't move. What the hell were they doing?
The rope suddenly jerked again. The upward motion dragged him up and he hit his back against the underside of the hull, and swore. The rope wiggled again, and Cortes bumped the underside of his ship again, before being dragged roughly up the side of the hull. That was perhaps worse than falling down the other side.
With a loud thump Cortes rolled over the railing and landed on the Saint Nazaire's deck. He swore again, and then pushed himself to his knees. He was bruised and shaking, but otherwise the ordeal had left him largely undamaged.
"Cortes, are you alright?" the Vector asked.
Cortes looked up to see the Vector kneeling next to him. He no longer had a crazed young man pointing a gun at his head.
Cortes' head reeled, but he forced himself to look around. The two young men were now on their knees, hands on their head. Wayan was pointing a gun at them from behind, and Dahlia had her bow held loosely, frowning at the two as if she was daring either of them to make a move.
"What do you think, Vector?" Cortes spat.
"Sorry, Captain," said Dahlia. "We got here as soon as we could. These two weren't much of a problem."
"Do you think…" Cortes gasped out, feeling his stomach turn, "that you could maybe have gotten here thirty seconds earlier? Maybe?"
"Alright, calm down, Cortes…" said the Vector, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"You try calming down after getting dropped off the side of the bloody ship!"
"I tried to tell you, Julian! You can't keelhaul someone with no water! And on a smooth hull!" one of the boys snarled.
"Quiet…" said Wayan, poking the boy with the tip of his rifle.
"Didn't work…" Cortes muttered. He stumbled to his feet, still visibly shaking.
"Cortes, maybe you should…" the Vector started. Cortes pushed off his offered help.
"Didn't work?" Cortes shouted. "I've just been dragged up the side of my own ship!"
"Actually, that was your crew," Julian replied. "We only threw you off the side. So quit whinging, we were only mucking around! Really! Like Sam said, there wasn't any water…"
"Oh no," Cortes snarled. "You really thought you were going to mess me up. You want to get some water? Fine! Maybe steal it from the bloody Sphere! They took it from you in the first place!"
"Oh fine, whatever!" Julian snapped back. "Yeah, I wanted to kill you. It's not like you lot are doing anyone around here any good in the first place. How about you take some water from the Sphere, you're supposed to be the pirates after all!"
Cortes seethed, fists clenched.
"No, instead you nearly have a cry because we bounced you off the side of the ship!"
"You ever been keelhauled, kid? Or you just thought it'd be fun to play around with someone's life?"
"Yeah, 'cause it was sooo scary? Go on, drop us off the side of the ship if you want! If a little payback makes you feel better about it…"
"Julian!" Samuel whispered loudly. "Shut up!"
"You know…" Cortes growled. "Maybe I'll do just that."
"You are a complete idiot! Do you know that?" Samuel growled. He tugged at the ropes that bound his wrists, but the knots were tight and they did not budge.
"I'm sorry, alright? I told you these guys weren't all they're cracked up to be…"
"You told me!" Samuel blinked. "Then why'd you decide to go attack their ship, huh? Why'd you go and drop the Captain off the side? You didn't even kill him! You just got him pissed off! And now look at us!" He threw his hands in the air, though they didn't quite make the intended gesture, as they were bound together.
The two now stood on a rocky, abandoned bloc. The ropes that bound them extended up to the now reclaimed pirate vessel. The vessel that was now slowly pulling away, pulling the ropes taut. It wasn't difficult to guess what would happen. The ship would pull away, alongside the bloc, and the two men would follow. Until the ship began to move faster, and they were no longer able to run fast enough to keep up.
"I hope you're happy! Yeah, mess with pirates! This guy might not be able to keelhaul us, but I'm sure dragging us behind his ship will satiate him. Why didn't you think of this first!"
They had started to jog. The outcome would still be the same, once the ship picked up speed, but the self preservation instinct was too strong.
"Come on!" Julian called out. "At least let my brother go! He didn't keelhaul you!"
"Wish I had. Would've done it properly…" Samuel muttered.
The pirate Captain stood at the ships stern. He leaned casually against the railing, near where the ropes disappeared up onto the deck. He no longer appeared shaken, but a fierce anger was still behind his eyes. He seemed utterly unperturbed by Julian's plea. "Perhaps you should've thought about that earlier," he said simply.
"Come on!" Julian shouted again.
They were both running faster now. Any moment, and the ship would be going to fast…
Samuel felt something strike against his toe, and then he was sliding through the dirt. Any second now, some piece of rock would rip into him…
He slid to a halt, coughing as dirt stirred up around him. Looking up shakily, he caught sight of his brother, also sprawled in the dirt a few feet ahead of him. "What…" he spluttered. He caught sight of the two ropes slipping lazily off the edge of pirate ships deck. They hadn't been tied?
Julian was already on his feet. He was shaking but still managed to toss his two fists in the air. "What… the hell!" he shouted after the retreating vessel.
Samuel struggled to his feet. Momentarily, he couldn't believe his luck. Then, he noticed the pirate Captain had not so much as moved, or given any order for the vessel to turn back around and take care of the two who had dared to try to take his ship from him.
It was at that point that Samuel realised: the Captain had no intention of dragging them over a bloc.
"Just be glad you didn't do that to the Sphere…" the man called after them as the vessel pulled away.
The two young men stared dumbfounded after the pirate ship. By the time they had recovered enough to think of any sort of retort, the ship was long out of earshot.
"You know…" said Samuel. "He could've killed us if he wanted to…"
"I know," Julian seethed. "And that's what's really pissing me off!"
The two brothers continued to walk along the bloc. They'd seen the pirate ship pause further ahead, and realised, they had actually bothered to drop off their ship. They'd have to walk a ways to it, but they weren't going to be left stranded either. Samuel noticed that only seemed to make his brother angrier, but decided it was better not to bring it up.
They arrived at their small ship and climbed aboard. Samuel made a quick check of some of the systems, still suspicious that the pirates might have rigged it to explode, or something. Unlikely, as they could have easily killed them already, and kept their ship. He did, however, notice that something had been tampered with.
"What?" Julian snapped. He was still angry, flipping switches as he started up the ship.
"Our water tanks…"
"Oh great!" Julian snarled, pounding a fist on the console. "I knew they'd do something! What, they've put holes in them? Ripped them out completely?"
"No," Samuel growled, growing frustrated with his brother. "They're half full."
Julian looked like he was about to scream something, then, the sentence registered and he just stood there, jaw hanging open. His anger had completely evaporated.
Samuel shook his head, feeling no sympathy for his brother's confusion right now. "Maybe if we'd asked nicely they'd be full."