‘Krok?’ cried the bird, as the Captain closed the laptop with a resounding click.
Captain Swash Buckling leaned back trying to stretch out all the kinks from spending so long at the computer. His fuzzy black hair felt flat, his long-fingered black hands stretched out on either side of the thin casing. His eyes felt dry and were sunken which were accentuated by shadows thrown by the morning light. The Captain had been suffering from gruelling nightmares of late but wouldn’t say what they were. But he knew he couldn’t take another swat from his wife. Luckily she rarely slept in the same bunk.
On one such occasion, the Captain fell out of the bunk after a rough dream and heavy hand. ‘Krok, Krok?’ The Captain looked across at the egret sitting on his perch, who was croaking at him. ‘Nightmares bird, ‘orrible ‘orrible nightmares,’ and promptly climbed back up to the bunk and went to sleep.
He’d have to come clean one day and his family had a right to know about where he came from. Today wasn’t the day though, maybe after Plan 416 had been executed.
‘Come on bird…’ the Captain laughed at the egret’s reaction, he had gotten up to put his feathered companion on his shoulder and had startled the bird, ‘wake up… we’ve got chores to do before the missus comes back on board. You know that I’ve been a pirate of the seas for 45 years and have always been the boss on my ship The Crow. You know me bird, I tolerate no rivalry …’
‘… and no cheek…’
Krok’s eyes rolled around and he opened his beak to stick out his tongue.
‘… and no laziness…’
Krok’s head suddenly fell to his chest and a snoring sound came from his mouth.
‘I said no cheek bird. You know what will happen when she gets back.’
Both he and the Captain shuttered simultaneously.
Swash hated the fact that even though he was the Captain he was still nagged.
He scratched under the yellow, spiky plumes and laughed as Krok pushed into his hand demanding more. ‘That’ll be all bird, that’ll be all.’ He smiled fondly at his feathered friend. He helped the egret get to his shoulder. ‘I hate to say it but you seem happier since we hired Jim.’ They left the main cabin and entered the passage to get to the upper deck. ‘It’s a peaceful morning bird, let’s get those jobs done and then enjoy what time we have, while we have it.’
The Captain’s cabin which was at the stern of the old sailing vessel waslarge and comfortable. The double bunk was along the back sloping wall. A chest and other necessities were placed around the room. The large mahogany desk had been placed in the centre of the room made by a good friend of his; today it was clear of maps, nautical equipment and birdseed and poop. The perch was on the other side to where the Captain sat so that Swash could keep an eye on the rascal Krok Spiky.
The missus had gone ashore to collect their son Swank. The odd teenager was on holidays and would live on board for a few weeks. To cheer himself up he started to whistle. Krok bobbed his head up and down to the rhythm. Swash had inserted shoulder pads a long time ago for his bird to sit upon his shoulder.
As Swash set about the do some chores, Krok Spiky then disappeared as usual. Swash Buckling knew that the second the chores were completed that Krok would be back adorning his shoulder.
The ship bobbed gently as it lay anchored near the coastline. He could just make out the small boat waiting at the wharf, no doubt the two crewmen would be sleeping or playing cards waiting for the missus to get back. A warm breeze could be felt, the sky was clear and still Swash felt a sense of foreboding. His son was a disappointment. He didn’t believe it was a stage that teenager was going through, Swank had always been odd, in both behaviour and looks. His looks were contrary to his character and his behaviour contrary to his upbringing.
Setting thoughts of his son aside he made an effort to focus on the task at hand. Krok would be back soon enough. It wasn’t long and the Captain felt the familiar rough landing the bird made on his shoulder, the claws digging in slightly until his balance was found. Swash scratched his balls and yelled for the crew to assemble. Krok shuffled around on his shoulder almost tipping over. Swash tried to hold back his screech of pain as his bird grabbed part of his flesh not covered by the pad and called to his crew. Swash clenched his teeth; Krok was a little sensitive about screeches of pain. The last time Krok had thought he’s hurt the Captain he had sulked for days.
A whistle sounded somewhere to draw the crew’s attention. They dribbled out from here and there. Swash noted their untidy appearance.
‘Listen up. You’ve probably heard that Swank’s coming on board…’ a few groans could be heard, ‘…he’ll be here for a few weeks. That does not mean we aren’t going through with Plan 416. At sixteen hundred hours I want the officers in my cabin along with their selected crewmembers. I want the ship prepared for carrying out the plan tomorrow. Cecil?’
‘Here Captain.’ A scarred, clean-shaven man spoke. Swash hated the man but tolerated him for Swish’s sake.
‘I need you to see the missus as soon as she gets back.’
‘Swank will have his mobile with him won’t he?’
‘Good point, you’ve just nominated yourself, Fred, to removing all communication devices off my son until the plan has been executed.’
Swish and he had discussed it a few days ago, but Swash without her knowing had decided to let it go and not frisk Swank. Unfortunately, the maggot Fred had brought it up.
That’ll teach ‘im for bringing it up.
The crew and Captain parted. There was much to do before tomorrow and everyone was looking forward to acquiring some new wares. Krok disappeared off his shoulder when Swash began his usual chores.
On the Ship
At thirteen hundred hours Swish, his wife, and Swank arrived. The little rowboat was tied up next to the wooden sailing ship. A few muttered greetings were heard as Swash wandered over to the two. The bird was back on his shoulder.
He accepted her kiss and kissed his wife on her smooth cheek and noted the warning in her almond-shaped eyes. He wondered if he was going to get any that night. He glanced at his son Swank.
They nodded at each other.
Swash noticed that Swank’s blond super spiky hair didn’t move a millimetre with the breeze. The pale made up face wore a supercilious expression. The chains dangling from various parts of his leather and black assorted clothing clanged now and then.
‘Got new rings?’
The teen punk nodded.
In fact, Swash counted two more in his ears which now totalled five. An eyebrow, nose and lip ring displayed new rings. He saw out of the corner of his eye Krok opening his beak and showing his tongue. Swank did the same back and Swash saw a new piercing in his tongue. Crikes, the Captain thought, he’s probably got a penis ring as well. He didn’t want to know.
‘Got any jobs for me to do?’
‘Yeh, I need you to clean up Krok’s perch area and get more seed from the storeroom for ‘im. Then that’s pretty much it. We’ve got a job on tomorrow, you understand son, so Fred here, ‘the Captain indicated with a lean of his head toward the crewman now slinking over, ‘is gonna take…’
‘Whatever.’ Swank went over to Fred, who frisked the lad, including making him take off his black boots and then went through his gear taking out all communication devices. There was only one knife. Swash was embarrassed in front of his crew, great stars it was a utility knife.
He caught his wife’s expression.
‘Darling, Gran wants you to call her.’ Swish smiled at him, before adding, ‘I have the gear we’ll need for tomorrow.’
‘Good, I’ve told Cecil to come to see you.’ Swash groaned inwardly, as much as he liked his wife’s Chinese mother she was always full of advice on how to keep their love life going. Swish had born three children to him and each one was unique. Switch made him proud, she was a Programmer for Macrohard but tenderly AKA the Hacker. Swink was a toyboy, known as Mr Fabulous to some. He was stylish, Swank, the youngest, he just didn’t understand. The teen was the direct opposite of his whole family.
At fourteen hundred hours Swash rang Gran.
‘yep…uh huh….mmm…no….yes…..say what….uh huh…’ on and on went Swank only half listening to Gran. Finally, they said their goodbyes.
At fifteen hundred hours he passed Swank who was just leaving the main cabin.
They muttered an exchange in the narrow companionway as lanky father and son passed each other for the first time since Swank arrived.
‘Did you feed the bird-like I asked you?’ asked Buckling before his son disappeared into his cabin. The headphones were already on and music was filtering out, but the insolent reply came anyway, ‘Yeh what else. Rob anyone today?’
Of course you little idiot, I’m a pirate. Swash breathed in and out, he’s just trying to torment you, and at least Swank was growing out of his mute stage. Whole sentences were coming out his black lips.
Swank didn’t listen for his answer as the blond spiky hairdo brushed against the top of his cabin door as he entered his room. Swash had better check the doorframe for damage later.
The Captain came through the main cabin doorway and shut it firmly behind him. ‘Thank the stars I ‘ave you Krok,’ he gave his egret a loving scratch. ‘I’ll write some more of me memoirs’ He sighed and lifted the computer’s lid. ‘Come and settle on me shoulder bird.’
At sixteen hundred hours the officers assembled in the main cabin along with some underlings. Plan 416 and all the associated paperwork was laid out on the desk. Maps were poured over somewhat mutilated miniatures played out for scenarios on possible problems. Swash loved those miniatures, they had looked plastic and stupid when he first thought of using them but under the continued carnage of Krok’s beak, they were now properly nefarious.
They had been doing this type of planning for years but never failed to prepare properly. A few hours later they wrapped up and went on their way. Krok, the Captain saw, had sat quietly on the porch the whole time observing the group scheme.
The Captain raided the galley for something to eat, knowing his son would do the same. Swish was busy with Cecil still. Poor lass. Although she never seemed to mind Cecil. The Captain put out a little red flag of one of the cabin windows, Krok Spiky wanted out, squawking as he did so. He went back to the cabin after checking on the crew and ship.
A little later, Swish came into his cabin, giving him a little smile. He smiled in return. He was going to get some tonight. He could feel himself getting hard and moved over to her. They kissed and parted slightly.
‘Swash, I need to talk to about Swank.’
‘Can’t it wait?’ his sword drooped.
‘No. We need to sit down together and have some family meals. We need to keep trying to reach him, Swash.’
He waited and then realized she was waiting for a reply, ‘ok, is that it?’
Damn, he thought to himself.
She frowned but surprised him by smiling again and leaning into him, stirring his sword alive again. ‘That’s all.’
Boy, he thought, she must really want it tonight.
In a few minutes he was enjoying himself on top of her, and then realized she was losing interest. He changed tactics using years of knowledge and Gran’s suggestions to make sure she enjoyed it as well. Soon they were both satisfied and lying next to one another. They mopped up and Swish dressed. Swash entered naked into the small shower cubicle. He liked his shower hot and soaped himself up. He held up his hand to his nose and blew. He heard the cabin door bang closed. She hated that noise.
Swash dressed, removed the red flag from the little cabin window, went to the toilet, he then tidied his room and then settled onto his double bunk. He picked up a book he’d ‘acquired’ and read for a while. Krok Spiky returned using the still open window.
In the suburbs
In a small brick home south of the capital, Chris tried to block out the raised voices of his father and stepmother. He envied his little brother who was sound asleep in the cramped room they had to share because ‘Tina’ needed a room to herself. He hated his step sister for demanding the bigger room and his father for not fighting for them.
He put on his headphones to try and drown out the voices. ‘Tina’ was probably ears dropping. He and his mates had recorded a great selection of music on their MP3 players that day in school. They were supposed to be learning Word Processing but Nick, one of the gang, hacked into the computers and they began downloading music from different sources. None of them cared about the consequences of being caught. Rules were meant to be broken by some and some…had no rules.
Chris found himself getting drowsy and eventually fell asleep. The headphones remained on his head and the music played long into the night. Once upon a time, loving hands would have removed the headphones and gently caressed the forehead. Now he would wake up and find headphone wire imprints on his face.
Morning came too quickly and Chris scrambled out of bed, grabbed a shower and shot out of the house while slinging his bag over his shoulder. Someone was yelling at him about breakfast but he ignored the female voice. Ten minutes later he met up with Nick and John. They headed to school and went to their separate classes. As soon as the class started, the mobiles came out and text messaging began.
Chris:- i had weird dream last nite
Nick: – bout wat
Chris: – a wacko pirate fam and their loon bird
John: – u on drugs
Chris:- na u got any
Nick : – na
John : – na
They met after class and headed for the canteen. Once they had food they went down to the school oval and sat on its edge. Chris filled them in on the dream.
‘Why would they be on an old sailing ship? Swank had all the latest gear and his dad used a computer.’ Nick spoke up, not really interested but couldn’t resist solving problems.
‘Dunno, it felt like an old ship but I couldn’t make out any detail.’ Chris answered.
John added his bit, ‘any weapons?’
Chris just shrugged his shoulders.
‘If you dream it again, add some weapons and blow crap up.’
They all laughed, each of them thinking about what they would blow up if they had that kind of power.
‘The dream wasn’t that interesting. Except for the bird’s name Krok, Krok of …’ the bell rang.
Much later that same night Chris was laying back in bed listening to his music. His little brother had been reading out loud, some pirates tale, and Chris figured this caused his earlier dream. His foot ached where he’d stepped on one of Jacob’s Star Wars figures. On his brother’s side of the room hung Star Wars pictures and other paraphernalia, some of which glowed in the dark. He fell asleep.
Back at sea
The light was turned off in the Captain’s cabin and only the gentle luminosity of the moon filtered through the windows. Soon the Captain fell into a deep sleep. A little longer and he was dreaming.
The Captain woke with a start.
Everything was quiet.
Sunlight streamed through the windows.
Yelling topside shattered the quiet, his heart was thumping as he leapt up to dress. Just as he was leaving the cabin he realized his clothes were different. They were all black, soft and had strange patterns on the material. He slapped on his hat but it fell across his face leaving him staring out through two rounded sections. Krok wasn’t on his perch. He approached the wooden door and to his amazement, it swished across allowing him access to the companionway. Just before he left he grabbed his sword which was now only a handle, he looked closely at it and saw it had a couple of buttons.
He ran through the passage and up the stairs gripping the handle. Another door, at the head of the stairs, swished aside to allow him to leave. He barged through to find a complete stranger, a teenager at that, barking orders at his crew. The youngster was sideways to him.
‘Startup the shields,’ the young man bellowed. The crew started up some mechanism that caused a huge yellow glowing dome to completely surround them.
Chris had his earphones off and they were hanging on either side of his neck. Krok had his earphones on bobbing to the sounds of white metal, he was concealed behind Chris’ head.
The ship had come under attack; robots were trying to kill them all. The mechanical creatures were riding what appeared to be jet skis, screaming around, firing lasers at them.
‘Prepare the blue energy balls,’ Chris Seawalker yelled. The crew moved automatically to his orders. They loaded up a large catapult with some glowing balls and got ready for the order.
The balls shot out and up, right through the shields causing a rippling effect that settled down soon after.
Chris turned his head around then and saw his enemy, Darth Buckling. He looked at the dark figure with contempt; Buckling hadn’t even activated his Lifesaver. And his outfit looked…crumpled.
The Captain spun around when a loud explosion occurred aft and Chris saw bird crap down his back.
Darth Buckling roared, ‘what the hell is going on here, what ‘ave you done to me ship, me glorious beautiful sailing ship? Oh, Crow what ‘ave they done to you?’
‘It’s no longer the Crow Darth, it’s the Egret. For too long you’ve neglected the voice of this magnificent beast. It’s time to honour such a loyal companion. So zip up or buckle up because we going to blast our way through to save Krok’s girlfriend. So activate your Life Saver or sit down.’
‘But, but what girlfriend? And the ship was named after me wife, it was Krok’s idea…’
‘Shut up Darth. Lies all!’
Buckling sat on a pile of energy balls sitting in a rope basket. Chris turned around to concentrate on the crew.
That’s when Buckling saw Krok sitting on the narrow shoulders of the new Captain bobbing his head, ‘Why you little traitor!’
But Krok was too busy listening to the music-making strange letter patterns with his wings, Y.O.D. A. mmmmm mm mmm Y.O.D.A.
Later, Chris Seawalker and Darth Buckling eyed each other. They lifted up their weapons ready to begin the final battle. Chris was determined to seize his destiny.
‘My MP3 player has a 2.2′ TFT 65K Colours Display.’
Darth cringed. He hesitated and studied his player which no longer looked like a handle. He patted his pockets and withdrew a manual.
‘Minus five for Darth’ Krok marked off five points on the texta board.
‘uurrr, mine has 20GB HDD memory.’ Darth looked uncertain if this was impressive. His enemy’s eyes narrowed. Krok was nodding and recording plusses for Darth.
Chris’ turn, ‘I have movie playback.’
Darth’ turn, ‘mine has 30hrs playback’
‘Hi-speed USB compatible’
They went on neither gaining the advantage.
Darth threw in a surprise attack, ‘I’m ya father,’
Chris retorted, ‘No ya not. You’re me stepmother.’
Darth cried out, ‘Noooooo.’
He began to thrash around and cried out, ‘I’m not, no, no it’s hideous, it’s hideous.’
Down went the Captain on the floor moaning and groaning.
‘I can’t stand it, Krok. A Teenager on my ship, doing things to it…it was terrible’ Captain threw down the book he had been reading, ‘Life as a suburban teen.’ ‘I blame this! That stupid merchant ship we raided full of children’s toys and books. That’s it, come first light we taking the goods and dumping them.’ He settled back down on his bunk after straightening the rumpled sheets and covers. He turned on his side with his back to Krok.
Back in the suburbs
Chris thrashed around the bed and woke with a start. He sat up abruptly and looked wildly around the room. The first thing he checked for was bird shit down his back.
As he was leaving the house, he noticed for the first time a bottle with a ship in it. It was sitting on the coffee table. He hesitated just a moment. Karen, his dad’s wife came through from the kitchen. Chris didn’t really want to talk to her but the dream was too vivid to ignore. He wasn’t going to say anything more to his mates though. ‘How long ‘as he had that bottle?’ great, he was talking like Swash.
‘Jamie?’ she was forever trying to improve his ‘communication’ skills. He had all the ‘communication’ skills he needed, right there in his pocket.
Who else, he thought, ‘aye, I mean yeh.’
She frowned slightly, a week ago she would have asked him if he was alright.
‘A week or so ago, John bought it for him at the maritime fare.’
That’s right the one he didn’t go to, he and his mates went to the skate park instead and listened to some crap band playing heavy metal. It was cool, that was what mattered. Not going to some dumb ass fare with your dad and his wife and Tina.
He left the house without saying another word.
Karen shrugged; he had surprised her by voluntarily talking to her. She was getting to the point where she couldn’t be bothered any more. Jamie was another story though.
The Captain woke up bleary-eyed. He felt very grumpy. The missus would be expecting them soon and Swank’s metal music could be heard already. Thank the stars he wasn’t playing death metal or whatever the hell it was. At least he was up, for normally the lad didn’t rise till after 12noon. He remembered though they were all supposed to have breakfast together. He got up feeling exhausted. A quick shower roused him somewhat and he headed to the galley, banging on Swank’s door on the way through, yelling breakfast. He would do this, for Swish.
Two minutes after Swash was seated, Swank entered with his headphones on. Buckling looked at his wife who rolled her eyes. It was hard to have a conversation with someone when they were listening to music. Swash doubted even if he didn’t have the headphone on his son would be in his own private world.
His pasty made-up face just kept bobbing up and down. Swash could see her face and knew what was coming.
‘Swish, why don’t you sit down and relax? Swank? SWANK?’
‘Huh,’ came the reply.
Swash indicated that the phones should come off and moved his eyes toward Swish. Swank complied, partially.
‘How was school this semester?’
‘What subjects did you choose?
‘What are the usual?’ he tried to keep his temper when Swank brought up that he’d gained some brownie points, Swash hated the Brownies.
‘Ballet, music, basket weaving, baking and knitting.’
Crack, Swish had been holding a glass. She smiled quickly to cover her expression of what was obviously shock over Swank’s choices, ‘Oops.’
She bent down to pick up the shards of glass.
Buckling was more worried than angry, would his son really have taken those subjects. What had he bought up? Where did they go wrong? He never got into trouble, he was never late for class, his homework was always on time and immaculate, his room was tidy, his CD collection arranged in alphabetical order, he didn’t smoke or drink or eat junk food. He ate pretzels for crap’s sake. Swash put his head in his hands.
‘Don’t panic pops, I took Maths, Literature, Science, Drama and Economics.’
Great stars it was worse than the first selection. Why couldn’t he have taken something useful like electronics, computing, a technical stream or anything that could be abused to make them proud?
‘I’m thinking about being a politician.’
Swish and Swank looked at each other and smiled. Suddenly things didn’t seem so bad after all. Swash began to think of all the possibilities of having a politician in the family.
Breakfast was done and Swank told them he would wait out his day in his cabin. Swish headed off to complete her duties and Swash and Krok went up to start organizing.
The plan went like a dream. Only a few minor glitches but they had been able to cover those over relatively easy. It was a day of rejoicing, the entire action part of the plan took just over five hours. Some of the crew were still storing goods away ready for redistribution or private use.
After the job
Captain Swash Buckling smiled the smile of a satisfied man. He breathed deeply in and then exhaled, looking around the ship and the surrounding ocean. It had been a wonderful day, Swish had been at her best and he hoped she would come to him that night. Or he might just pay her a little visit. He was on a roll.
He finished up at nineteen hundred hours and headed down toward the galley for dinner. Swank had stayed inside just like he promised and was now poking around at the pots and pans, trying to discover what was to eat. The Chef swatted him away.
‘Good day, I take it?’ his son asked him.
‘One of the best. We’ve got some great stuff.’
Swash rattled off some of the treasure. He noted Swank’s interest in some of the new MP3 players. He opened his mouth to talk.
‘Before you go on a tirade about ‘if you want anything in life you have to work at it. I was going to offer to buy a player off you.’
‘I suppose you want a discount.’
‘Chumpy Cheese doesn’t pay that well, so yeh, a discount for your son would be sweet.’
Not even the mention of Chumpy Cheese was going to dampen his enthusiasm.
‘Check with your mother.’
Swank nodded, getting ready to barter with his shrewd accountant mum. She entered and kissed Swash on the cheek. Swash filled her in on his conversation with their son; she made an appointment with Swank to see her that night after dinner.
Swanks thanks were the last words heard for a while at the table.
They sat down and were served marinated pork spare ribs, crackling, roast potatoes and vegetables. There wasn’t a lot of conversation through the munching and mucky fingers. They only discussed the destination for that night. Soon they went their separate ways. Swash headed to his cabin and saw Krok taking a nap. He was dreaming.
‘Wake up Krok, Krok. Hey, wake up bird, wake up. You’re ‘aving a dream, that’s the way.’
Swash tried to hide his grin as the bird woke and fluffed up his feathers. There was no way he was going to tell Krok he looked cute. He’d already learned the consequences of that.
Soon Krok was perched once more upon the Captain’s shoulder, heading toward the top.
They were near the ship’s wheel. ‘Hard to port.’ Buckling ordered.
‘Aye Sir, Hard to port,’ the steersman repeated.
They were heading out to sea; the day had gone well but he was dreading going to sleep. The Captain had enough of bad dreams and didn’t know what to blame it on. It was stupid to think a book caused him that anguish. All they needed was some fresh air and to stretch the legs of the ship.
Swash kept running his hands over the railings and on the mizzen mast as if he needed to reassure himself all was normal. The night skies were clear; the on crew had short sleeve tops on and were singing shanties. The missus was down below wheeling and dealing.
What made the trip even more enjoyable was that they were going to be dropping off some of the wares at a busy port. But first, they had to lay low for a while.
Swash knew the usual crowds would greet them at the docks admiring the old vessel. They would laugh at the guns poking out from the gunports; some would frown and say how authentic they looked.
People would offer money to get on board but the answer was always the same.
This was Captain Swash Buckling’s ship, the Crow, and nobody could come or go without his permission. It was good to be the Captain.