I thought that it was high time that this question be empirically addressed by someone who had a more accurate perspective than… other people? Gee, I dunno. I just sail on boats sometimes and can tell you all about halyards and sheets and stuff. Anywhom, this story takes place in an awkward muxed ip universe 'twixt the book series and movie. Make of it what you will.

I own nothing, but Barrett Bonden owns my heart and the sea, my soul.

The question: If someone were present to ensure that Warley, Hollom, Calamy, or any combination of the above survived the plot of Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World, would Jack still be able to defeat the Acheron?

The answer: Do read on.

Without Further ado…

Oil on Troubled Waters: a Tale of Salvation and Stupidity in Four Parts or more

Eastern Coast of South America; mouth of the Rio Parana; HMS Surprise.

"Gangway for the mail, please!"

Jack Aubrey shuffled aside to let Midshipman Hollom pass by, and in the process bowled over a figure in a blue coat whose lumpy form and homely face he did not quite recognize.

"Beg pardon!" squeaked the lumpy figure, who upon further inspection appeared to be some type of midshipman. The figure cleared his throat. "I mean… beg your pardon, sir," he rumbled in a much lower and gravellier voice, touching a knuckle to his brow.

Jack peered at the strange face on his half deck. "You are excused, Midshipman… what's your name?" he asked, somewhat embarrassed that he failed to keep his mids straight after a good few months at sea.

The figure looked relieved. "Oliver, sir. Midshipman Paul Oliver, sir!"

Jack once again regarded Oliver, as his mental processes strove to add two and two to get the eventual result of seven and nine-tenths that was presently staring him in the face. He had no recollection of Oliver whatsoever. The midshipman was of medium height and dubious build, with a massive barrel chest, sticky weak arms, and a long, pointy nose with a hump in it. He was possessed of a large ponderous overhanging brow, crowned with a truly majestic pair of eyebrows the color of tar, and had an unfortunately feminine mouth and eyes somewhat prone to batting.

Frankly, Jack hadn't the foggiest notion how this unattractive cove had wound up in the waists of the HMS Surprise, but there were more pressing matters at hand. "Very well, Oliver. Go bear a hand with the-" he waved a meaty hand in the direction of the other midshipmen before turning his attention back to the map he held.

"And, Oliver! Try to find yourself a better set of clothes. Your uniform-" Jack went back to tracing the delicate coastline of the Tierra del Fuego before he could conjure appropriate adjectives for the slumped, slovenly cut of Oliver's breeches.

"Yes, sir!"

Paul Oliver was indeed relieved. He scampered up to the quarterdeck and began recoiling lines, for lack of any other productive venture. The rest of the crew was occupied in bartering and badgering the assortment of native canoes pulled up along the starboard side, and Oliver wanted no part of the semi-rabid monkeys, bruised mangoes, and demure giggling ladies therein.

Oliver was, in case you are a particularly dense reader, not a Midshipman at all, on account of failing to qualify even for the "-man" part of the equation (let alone the "mid" or even the "ship" bits). Paul Oliver was, in fact, the narrator in disguise, a rather buxom young lady with a massive boll of cotton wrapped around her torso thrice in order to disguise this fact.


"So far, so good," she muttered to herself. "I am a brilliant genius! Of course none of them would be familiar with the song from which I took my pseudonym, 'Sweet Polly Oliver,' which happens to be about a girl who disguised herself as a man and ran off to war! At this rate, I'll have our three boys safe upon the shore and still in the quick before you can say 'foretopmast stays'l!'"

"Foretopmast stays'l," replied a genteel voice from her elbow.

Oliver let out a girlish yelp and wheeled to find a groggy-looking Midshipman Blakeney idling behind her. "Were you talking to yourself, Oliver?"

Oliver tried to look sheepish, but instead succeeded in looking merely constipated. "Just musing aloud, Will. Now don't you have some beetles to draw or Doctors to bother or dashing tales of Nelson to read?"

"Not presently. Are you sure you're not a young lady disguised as a Midshipman?"

"Why would you think a thing like that, Will?"

"Oh, no reason." With that, Will meandered off, ostensibly to draw beetles, bother Doctors, or read dashing tales of Nelson.

Oliver resumed her musing, ignoring the fact that Blakeney somehow knew who she was, despite the Captain's not. This was a plot hole to address at another time. "I suppose that it would be very hard to know of 'Sweet Polly Oliver' when we still have approximately thirty-five years until its printing, but I still congratulate myself for having this comfortable cushion of time-"

"Oliver! Acheron sighted, on the tenth of the month, headed South!" cried Midshipman Calamy, bounding about and putting Oliver very much in mind of a Golden Retriever puppy.

"It means we're headed 'round Cape Horn!" trilled Boyle from behind him.

Oliver belayed her line and crossed her arms, mostly to stop herself from seizing Calamy by his lapels and hauling him onto the quarterdeck before he stove his head in on a mizzen cleat. "All very good, Calamy," she muttered, adding under her breath "I write my sorry self all the way out here, thousands of miles and hundreds of years from home, to save your hide! Mind your feet, imbecile!"

With that, she turned to the bow and looked the length of the ship, South towards Cape Horn where she knew a storm was brewing.