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Fish Stocks Limited

“Har, har,” trumpeted Mungo. “Yer an old tar like the rest of us now,” he said,
grinning devilishly. “I say we have tonight's tot o ' rum now to celebrate, what say
you Jerry?”
They had their tot of rum and went back out on deck. Xiphias waxed gibbous
above them, sending silvery shadows through the cables, sheets and shrouds,
antimony sprites that seemed to man the rigging with quicksilver limbs.
“They're ghosts,” said Jerry, seeing Ambrosius staring up at the rivulets of
moonlight adance above. “Ghosts of those gone down to the mist. Back in the days of
sail, when I was a boy, there were many a time I would make safe a sail, only to find a
minute later the knots I tied were unpicked. Cheeky, they are, and dangerous with it.
Fishmael shouts at 'em, commands 'em to do his bidding. That's why his crew never
numbers more than a handful – he has all the hands he needs.”
“Har, har, that and nobody wants to ship with him because he's as mad as bats
and's sunk every ship he's ever commanded. Why, we only shipped with 'im because
no other ships are going out, what with there being no more fish and all.”
Jerry shot Mungo a glare. “Aye, in this world you can look for causes shallow or
deep. If you only sound the shallows, then you'll see a mad captain. If you look deeper
then you'll see a man followed by ghosts, mark my words.”
“Oh, and what deep reason did you ship for, Jerry? Was it not double pay that
lured you onto this ghost-ship?”
Jerry was silent.
“Come on, 'tis nearly midnight,” said Mungo, grinning. “The cap'n will be on deck
soon enough, then we'll 'ave to make way.”
****
Chapter 23 – The Fish's Tale
Twelve bells tolled out from the clock tower next to the wharf, and on the twelfth
Fishmael's head appeared atop the companionway, floating in pipe-smoke and
darkness. He inhaled and the ember flared red and angry in the curious long pipe of
his, squeeking and popping as it consumed its wicked fuel.
“Make way, blast ye all! I said make way! Man the capstan! Weigh anchor! Think
ye not of that cursed land you see to larboard – it stinks! Think ye instead of the mist,
glorious mist – like the smoke of purest stone, all-consuming, all-concealing, mist!
Hard on the throttle, make that petrel earn its fish! Don't put too much weight on
caution, you scoundrels; a ship is at its best with a few scrapes in her hull! Make way
there, make way! Don't hoist the Company flag, this is no Company mission! I say,
make way!”
Fishmael stormed across the deck, shouting and gesticulating wildly, whipping
Jerry and Mungo into action with his words. Jerry was at the wheel whilst Mungo
busied himself loosing all the moorings. Stan and Ambrosius stood awkwardly in the
middle of the deck, unsure what to do.
“You two there, what are ye, daft? Hoist the mainsail!”
“Err...” said Ambrosius.
“Err..” said Stan.
 
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