"Prepare to board the Maddoff?! But I'm a botanist!" cried Earl Grey.
"Not anymore", replied Captain Morse, "you are a pirate. Now do as you are told and prepare to board!"
Earl Grey was scared. No, really scared. It was the type of fear that got hold of you when, after an awfully long time at sea, you started to find the ship's cook attractive. He looked over at Skoob. Christ, how had he come to be so in love with such a specimen? He remembered how they had first met. The 13th Earl Grey had fled the life of a British aristocrat because he had rebelled. Yes, he had passed the port the wrong way! For that he had to leave. Leave the castle. Leave mummy and daddy. And leave Matron.
Normally one would be expected to join the Foreign Legion. But Earl Grey had a letter from Matron that he was allergic to sand. Thus armed, he ventured to Bristol Docks. There he met Hal A. Peno, an accountant. He seemed like a good guy. He told him of the wonderful opportunities on board the luxurious "Buggerall". Impressed, Earl Grey had told the accountant of his love of botany, of how he knew the king and of how he yearned for adventure. For £100 the accountant promised a single berth cabin and a leisurely cruise. That bastard accountant! On boarding "the Buggerall" he had been shocked to find all was not as he had been led to believe. And he could not find the accountant.
It was at this point that the creature now known to him as Skoob had entered. The cook had hit Earl Grey over the head with a rolling pin.
Next thing Earl Grey knew he was far out to sea, and surrounded by as motley a crew as you could ever wish to imagine. There was Captain Morse. A mad, bad leader of men (and women, it should be noted). He had an evil stare, the kind of stare that could rip a man's head off at twenty paces.
Hal A. Peno, the accountant. Well, how many pirate ships had one of those? This accountant clearly hid a dark past. Just look at the way he tapped the figures into his calculator. No. This was no ordinary bean counter. He must be on the run from somewhere. Someone. He constantly twitched and looked over his shoulder. Even this far out to sea.
The brothers. Oh my God, the brothers! Percival and Buck. Now there was a story. Psychotic. Mental. Flatulent. If their blades didn't get you then, by Christ, their smell would. Even onboard a pirate ship with all its crew they could still raise a cry of "Man overboard" as some poor unfortunate jumped ship because of the toxic gas emanating from within their bowels.
Seaman Monkey Woods. The cold stare. The sharp tongue. The heartless villainy. Here was the perfect pirate. If Dr Vic had created such a monster we would have been concerned. But Monkey was not the result of some chemical experiment gone wrong (right?) No. He was natural. And that made him even more of a fiend. They say he had started his piracy on a fishing trawler out of Hull. In the gloom he had raided other ships and stole vast quantities of cod. But he craved more adventure. That was why he was here.
Which brings us on to Dr Vic. Earl Grey had yet to see any evidence that Dr Vic was a bona fide medical practitioner. Indeed when Earl had approached the doctor regarding a minor personality disorder he had been surprised by the suggested cure. Dr Vic had donned a rubber glove, applied some oil and said "Bend over,and I shall have a little examination." This had been the same response that Roy Turse had received when he had complained of toothache. Maybe the good doctor was not all he claimed to be?
Madame Piebottom? Earl Grey was not too sure. He remembers being surprised to hear that there was a stowaway. And that the stowaway was female. On 'the Buggerall"? Was this not a pirate ship? Where all men are men, and some men are botanists? No Earl was really unsure how to react. The only woman he really knew had been Matron. And she was no stowaway.
Able Seaman Roy Turse was an obvious choice for the boarding party. Not because he was particularly nasty (although it could not be discounted) but he was as broad as he was tall. Yes Earl Grey would stand behind him if there was any fighting. With Turse and the flatulent brothers Earl should be safe from harm.
But it was Skoob that Earl was most interested in. The rolling pin wielding cook. At first Earl had resented him, blaming him for getting him on board this bloody vessel. And for his identity crisis-a result of the blow to the head perhaps? But this anger soon subsided. The botanist in Earl Grey could not allow him to hate such a specimen. He had first noticed something interesting one meal time. As Skoob slopped the curious looking substance that passed for dinner on to his plate Earl Grey had noticed his fingernails. "Such fungi" said Earl Grey. "Thanks. Your quite a fun guy also!" said Skoob. Captain Morse had just killed a guy by staring at him for that gag.
"No. Your fingernails. They are magnificent. It's a wonderful example of Absidia. Really fascinating. But I've never seen it on a human before. It's extraordinary" exclaimed the botanist. "That's nothing!. Have a look at this!" and Skoob promptly lowered his pants and showed Earl Grey his Wangiella dermatitidis. It was at that moment that Earl Grey began to feel a strange stirring in his loins. The last time he had felt like this was when Matron had rubbed him with ointment following an accident in the woods. He had been looking for new specimen and had been stung by a bee. Matron was always very thorough. She could teach that Dr Vic a thing or two about applying medicine. Then again, maybe she already had.
No, Earl Grey was disturbed. He knew he could not go back to a life of nobility. He had left it all behind. Just for passing the port the wrong way. On "the Buggerall" you could pass the rum and ale whatever way you wanted. And the brothers certainly did so on a far too regular basis. But Earl Grey was on a voyage of discovery. He was here to find his true self. He had led a far too sheltered life before arriving on "the Buggerall". It was like he had been born again. But. There was this but. He had never doubted who he was before. But others had doubted. This had caused his own identity crisis. And the doctor's 'cure' still caused Earl to remain standing all day. "What am I to do?" asked Earl Grey. "Why are you talking to yourself?" asked Monkey Woods, "don't you know that is a sign of madness?" Earl Grey looked around at the crew. They were all talking to themselves. Yes the whole crew were mad.
"Okay, we need a boarding party. Right, Percival, Buck, Monkey, Skoob and Roy, with me. Dr Vic cover our rear". The last remarks caused groans amongst the crew, who had all had their rear "covered" at some point by the doctor. "Any volunteers to come with us, there will be booty, killing, mayhem and women". "And", thought Earl Grey, "a cook with the most amazing fungi I've ever seen".
The crew buzzed about, preparing for action. Dr Vic went to his surgery to get an extra large bottle of oil. Hal A. Peno prepared himself for the booty count to come. And Skoob rubbed his fungus. There was a battle coming. It was sure to be bloody. It was sure to be brief. But this band of misfits, lunatics, stowaways, and nuts were something to be feared. And Earl Grey was in there with them. Matron would have been so proud.
In all the buzzing about on deck one member of the crew sat and watched, biding his time. Birbee did not like to join in with the others. He was above all that. He was going to take command himself. And his time was now..........