Previously on Below Decks…
The Frigate Buggerall has set sail from Bristol Harbour, its five year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before in a leaky boat. A motley collection of crew members has been assembled under the captainship of the captain of the ship, Morse of the Colonies. There have been run-ins with the French, spies on board, fights among the crew and problems with the accounts; financial and otherwise. There has just been an eerie red mist, an attack by huge tentacled creatures and some flying things that were described, if I may say so, in a very limited fashion. Plus a lot of gratuitous swearing. Everything one could wish for in a pirate story so far, apart from any actual piracy.
The following takes place between oh-eight-hundred hours on the ninth of March 1815, and eighteen fifteen the next day. Beep…..Beep….Beep…Beep..Beep.Beep.BeepBeepBeepBeep..
Able Seaman Roy Turse frantically pushed the buttons on his digital watch, trying to stop the beeping and the segments of the numbers flashing, whilst using his foot to control the ship's wheel. He was steering the good ship Bugerall through smooth waters, but he knew they were headed for the dreaded Bermuda Triangle and his relatively calm passage was likely to erupt in fear and turmoil. It did, and he wafted the air around him to dissipate the smell of pickled seagull eggs and rum.
Roy looked up from the wheel at the men gathered on deck. They looked rough; even more so than usual. They were covered in ink, a normal writer's problem, but this time it had been emitted by their recent foe. The crew had all fought for their lives to ward off several giant squid that had risen from the depths. Oh and the accompanying unexplained bat-like things. The deck around them was covered in chunks of flesh and oozing with slime. A few of the flying things flopped around in their death throes and one of the smaller dismembered squid lay across the ship's rail.
Monkey Woods grabbed it up and thrust it under his compatriot Duncan Whitehead's nose. "Here's that sick squid I owe you."
Duncan and the other crew members groaned audibly, because groaning inaudibly is really difficult.
"Right Woods, just for that you can clean up this mess", shouted Captain Morse, "Get the mop and swab the decks."
Morse went off to find a clean uniform and Roy Turse watched with interest as Monkey Woods viciously knocked each of the crew members down with the mop.
"Hey Monkey", he shouted, "SWAB the DECKS, not DECK the S... oh never mind."
By this time the evil red mist had lifted somewhat, which was just as well as if it had mixed with the blue squid ink, the ship could have become marooned. Seeing this, the eminent ships doctor, Victor Nicholas ventured out on deck to collect specimens of the dead monsters for his collection. As he dumped the pieces into a large bucket, he glanced over to where Buck was prone on the deck having been laid out by Woods.
"Quick", he shouted, "someone help me with Buck. In his fall he seems to have caught his neckerchief in his knee-length swimming shorts, and has got himself into a Bermuda-Tie Wrangle." His fine joke rallied the men and they soon had Buck up and about, and they decided it was time for grub. They could all smell the delicious aroma of roasting leg of something wafting from the galley as Chief Cook and Bottle Drainer Skoob basted his meat when he should have been cooking. They started en masse down the stairway before realising this was French and not to be trusted so they went together instead.
"Hurry up, hurry up!", shouted Earl Grey as he slid down the ships ladders like they do in films. The rest of the crew were close behind. "We'll bring you up a doggy bag!", called out Dora, the voluptuous ship's pinup as they disappeared.
Morse didn't know much about Dora, and wondered whether it was true that she was a concubine. It seemed unlikely, he thought, as she didn't seem to be covered in spines. He redoubled his efforts with the wheel, which made four efforts in total, and turned the ship slightly to hardboard, filling the sails with a stiff west-easterly.
That was the noise the gale made as it drove them at break-wind speed across the ocean. As the clouds gathered ahead of them, Turse reflected at length on the small mirror he had packed for just such a purpose. What would fate have in store for them? Would they survive? Where was his dinner?
If only all questions were rhetorical, he thought, but is that possible? He decided that it already was.
Suddenly a cry went up: "Ship Ahoy!"
Turse looked up to where birbee manned the crow's nest, forgotten in the heat of battle and the soporific warmth of dinner. The crow's nest sat almost eight feet above the deck and this vantage point afforded acrophobic birbee with a splendid view of the back of the main sail. However, birbee was looking out across the amidships, and could see the unmistakeable silhouette of a Rogue Trader from the New World. Turse could now see it too. "That's the Maddoff!" he cried. He covered his embarrassment about crying by pretending to have something in his eye.
Grabbing the speaking tube that allowed communication with the below decks areas, he let the Captain and the rest of the crew know what was going on. "Now hear this, now hear this", he yelled, "There's an unarmed ship from the Americas off the port prow and I say she's for the takin'!"
A great cheer arose from the galley and the crew scrambled to action stations. The Captain swaggered onto deck and strode up to the wheel. Captain Morse looked Turse in the eye and said "What do you mean, with your shouting?"
Turse looked him back using the other eye. "I mean Piracy, Cap'n, she's fair game."
Morse tutted and tried to explain to Turse. "You wouldn't steal a car. You wouldn't steal a handbag. And you wouldn't steal a DVD. Because you don't know what any of those things are. But what makes you think Piracy is any less of a crime?"
Puzzled, Turse waited for the Captain to say more.
"Only joking! Let's catch the ship, take all their cargo, and kill all the crew and passengers! Raise the Jolly Roger!"
"Harrah!" the cheer went up and the Buggerall's crew made the ship fast, which was exactly what was needed. Turse heaved on the wheel, wiped it down and then turned 'harder port'. Crewmen scampered up the rigging like monkeys, apart from Monkey, who loaded the BFG 9000 cannon on the foredeck.
"Let 'em know we mean business", shouted Morse; so Pissgums and Duncan grabbed the semaphore flags and started to send a message to their fleeing prey. "'Please heave to and let us kill you all and take all your treasure.' That should do it", said Duncan, "but it's going to take us ages to send all that. Hey, Cap'n. Why don't you invent some way we can send a message using a shuttered light, or something."
Morse ignored them. "I meant fire across their bows, you fools!"
Monkey touched his firestick, and, reassured, fired the cannon. The cannonball shot across the path of the American Trader, splashing into the brine and soaking the decks. The Trader slowed and the Buggerall approached.
"OK crew, man your stations!" shouted Captain Morse, "Earl Grey, take a team and prepare to board the Maddoff. There's treasure to be had and throats to be cut! And maybe even wenches to be… well you know, that thing you do to wenches when it's dark and no-one's looking…"