Tell me what you think of Captain Marlowe and his First Mate Alex.
"Man the guns! Hoist the sails! Get ready lads, we’re off for adventure!" There was a great hoorah from the crew and they set about their work.
"Did you get clearance, Captain?" His second was a stickler for the rules, and she wasn’t one to trifle with. Marlowe clapped the woman on her shoulder and grinned.
"Who needs permission to seek adventure?"
"As loyal members of the Queen’s Navy, we do."
"Alex, you’re a right pain in my ass."
"Aye, sir. It is my lot in life."
"We did not get clearance. I imagine, in the next few minutes when those hooligans standing on the dock there," Marlowe pointed at two men dressed in bright red coats and white trousers, "figure out what we’re doing we’ll have quite the armada on our tails."
"And why is that, sir?"
"Because, we’re commandeering this frigate from the Queen herself."
"Perhaps you should tell the men that, sir."
"No. If we get out to sea and any of them what to leave then they can swim back to shore. This is my crew, my boat, and what I say goes."
"Aye, sir," Alex said and rolled her eyes. But she went about the deck making sure the men were doing their jobs. This was his day. All of his time spent being a loyal Captain, for Queen and country and family, and now he was having to abandon all he had worked for. His home, his fortune, his reputation, all of it was now void. Marlowe was a good man, a god captain, a good soldier. How was stuck in this mess?
Leaving the boat in the capable hands of his first mate, Marlowe headed below decks to his cabin. He may keep a good attitude around the crew, but his situation troubled him greatly. If he ran now, abandoned his station and became a traitor, he had no idea what the future would hold. But how did one sit by and watch tragedy unfold? Marlowe only had one answer to that: you didn’t.
The sounds of men at work on the deck, water lapping against his boat, Alex calling out orders, and wood creaking beneath it all washed over Marlowe. He loved these sounds, they defined him. His life was all of those sounds. From deck hand to captain he had dedicated his life to the sea. The crash of white waves, the salt air, so many reasons he feared being on land for too long at one time. His commanders were asking him to do the unthinkable, and if he didn’t he would lose his ship. He wasn’t going to lose his ship.
His crew either. The men and women who worked the rigging, swabbed the deck, cooked the food, monitored the supplies, and all the other things that kept this thing floating, they were his family. They were his reason for being great. He had never disobeyed an order before, and there had been times he had done what he did not want to do to protect his crew. Today he hoped his moral code was a shared one, because if these people didn’t think of him like he did of them he would find himself in the brig. There was a knock at the door and Marlowe was pulled back to reality.
"Come in," he said gruffly.
"Sir," Alex said and saluted. "Would you like me to gather the crew?"
"Where are we?"
"Just reached open water, sir."
"Already? I didn’t realize I’d been down here so long. Yes, gather them."
"Is everything alright, sir?" Marlowe looked up to his second and frowned for a moment before realizing his face, and voice, must be giving away his dark mood. He cracked a grin and leaned over his desk.
"Everything’s fine, Alex. I’ll see you up top." Alex saluted again but her brow was creased with worry. Marlowe gathered himself and got to his feet. He could feel it now, the sway that came when a boat battled waves. Just before he left his cabin he decided to leave behind his uniform jacket and the sword he had earned with his position. He was no longer the Queen’s man. His trip back to the upper deck was longer than ever before. Whether it was because he was moving slower or if it was just in his head didn’t matter. The crew were standing in a large crowd, some of them were sitting on railings or barrels or cannons, waiting for him. Marlowe suddenly felt cold in his gut.
"Mates," he said loudly enough to gather attention. The crew turned to him and hushed their voices. "Friends," he said a bit quieter, "I have something to tell you. And if you disagree with my choice I will hold no grudge when you take me back to the dock in cuffs. However, if you agree with me you need to know our path forward is a dangerous one, and therefore I will hold no grudge if you decide to leave. Though you may get wet on the way back." Marlowe laughed and his crew followed suit.
"We follow our Captain, sir, wherever he sails."
"Thank you Gilbert, but here’s the rub. I am no longer your Captain. I have left the Queen’s service." There was a collective murmuring of confusion and disappointment. "Alright, mates, listen up," Marlowe said raising his hands and silence fell again. "Would you like to know why I am no longer your Captain? Then let me tell you.
"Our Queen is no longer in power. Her throne has been replaced, she is being controlled. I was ordered to sail this ship to the East, to join in the armada, and to lay siege to a kingdom that we have claimed peace with. But it is not our Queen who commands us, it is a far more dangerous being. I will not, in good conscience, bombard a peaceful, unarmed race. I hope you agree with me. I hope you will go with me as I find a way to deliver our Sovereign Lady from her prison."
There was deep silence now. No one was talking, or whispering, or even shuffling their feet. The sound of the sea, the sails in the wind, and the creaking boat filled Marlowe’s head. It was on the verge of deafening when Gilbert, the ship’s store master, stepped forward.
"We follow our Captain, sir, wherever he sails." After a moment the entire crew began muttering and then shouting their agreement. Marlowe grinned broadly and raised his hands to call for peace.
"Aye!" he exclaimed happily. "Well then, mates, let’s sail for our Queen and her infinite prosperity." There was a great roar in return and the crew went back to their work. Marlowe caught Alex’s eye and motioned for her to follow him back to his cabin. When he was back behind his desk, holding his jacket in his hands, Alex came in and sat across from him.
"You wanted to talk, sir?"
"Aye, about something I don’t think the crew would understand. Do you want to hear it?"
"Do you think I’ll believe it?"
"I don’t hardly believe it. Do you think something could be done with this? Different patches and edging and what not?"
"Is that what you wanted to tell me? That you want your coat redesigned?"
"No, of course not. I was just wondering."
"I’m sure someone could do something with it if you truly wish to ruin it."
"Ruin it? It came from a military that is corrupt, wrong. I want it to represent me, now, not just my loyalty to my Queen."
"Well, see if there’s anyone can do it."
"Aye, sir. Is that all?"
"Hm? Oh, no. About the queen. I wasn’t being clever when I said her throne has been replaced. Her actual throne is different."
"The queen has a new throne. That’s why we’re becoming traitors?"
"Of course not. I got a look at it, when no one was around. It flashed all kinds of colors, there were strange wires there, and one long cable, thicker than a rope, led away into another room. The Queen was almost carried into the room, supported by two ladies wearing masks, but once she was sat on the throne she was awake and aware. She issued my orders, and when I asked any questions she waited to respond until one of her ladies spoke to her first."
"You questioned the Queen?"
"Of course, I had to know if she was alright. The longer I was there the more obvious it became she was not in control. I don’t think I gave away my curiosity, everything was peaceful and cordial even after I left. But then I found I was being followed, I think they expected me to run. They should have stopped me before I got on the ship."
"And you’re sure, sir?"
"Positive. We have much more than just a little bit of sleuthing and fighting ahead. I thought you should know though." Marlowe finally put his jacket down and leaned over his desk to look at Alex. "Do you think we can do this? Are you prepared to fight with me? To rally our crew?"
"Aye, sir. As our Gilbert said, we sail with you."
"Thank you Alex. I’ll you above in a bit."
"Sir," Alex said gruffly and saluted before leaving. Marlowe looked at his jacket once more and tossed it onto his bed. That could be dealt with later. Now he had to decide on a first step. How did one go about releasing their Queen from mind control?
"Does he know?" Alex shuddered at the voice that filled her head. It had been so long since she’d heard it. She had been expecting it since Captain Marlowe’s return, but that didn’t make it easier to hear. Given she had been resisting the voice, this was hard. She had built, programmed, designed to stop this man from doing what he was about to do. Captain Marlowe was her purpose. Unfortunately for her masters, Captain Marlowe had worked his way into her metal heart. She clenched her jaw, and focused her thoughts.
"No," she managed to respond and the voice went away. Now she needed to disconnect from them. She feared if she managed to do so she would cease to exist, but if it saved Marlowe it was worth it. Pushing aside the panel on her neck Alex reached around and fiddled with the circuitry until she found the right wires to rearrange. And then she lost the connection that had been maintaining her for so many years. Losing it was supposed to shut her down, but Alex slid the panel closed and was still here. Perhaps Captain Marlowe would be fine after all. Perhaps Alex could say some things she had never been able to before.