The Morning After

Flynn wakes drowsily. He is seated and slumped forward, drooling onto his hands, his cheek pressed against something scratchy and salty. He jerks upright, trying to stand, and smacks the top of his head on a hard wooden bulkhead. He grunts in pain, and reaches up to rub the new egg on his head. His hands jerk to a stop stop against the iron manacles around his wrists, then a moment later the end of the oar he's chained to follows and hits him in the face. He growls a bit in pain. He looks around him, still dazed by the head bump, and from last night's pipeful of opium or whatever it was. His grunts have started to wake others around him chained to their own oars, many of which jerk upright themselves, and soon the room is full of the sound of heads cracking into wooden oars and bulkheads, and rattling chains.

Flynn is in the middle of a row of oarsmen in the dank lower deck of some ship. His left shoulder is all but pressed against a pile of crates and barrels, so close he can smell the pickled cabbage in the nearest one. At his right shoulder, a wooden wall with a narrow slit for the oar, light streaming in. He can't tell if it's the swaying of the ship that's making him sick, or the dawning realisation of his situation.

There are shouts from above, then the clunking of boots on stairs, and soon the sound of whips on flesh, men yelping in pain, and finally, silence. Flynn assumes it's the bosun come to quiet the commotion caused by the chain reaction of waking oarsmen he set off. 



He hears boots on steps coming down into the hold behind him, several pairs, and the oars on the cargo pile clank as they are picked up. The shouting man shouts some more until the "thunk" of an oar on his head quiets him. By now more of the slumped bodies have woken up and are looking around, trying to make sense of where they are. Once or twice, one gets a bit loud and is quieted by the slap of a cane on his back or a rap on his knuckle to stop him from tugging against his chains. While the sailors start at one end of the column, slotting the oars through the slits next to the incredulous but now quiet men, dropping the handles on the benches in front of them, the man in Flynn's red coat saunters to the end of the hold, turns around and stands with his arms crossed, Flynn can just see over the cargo pile. Flynn speaks quietly but clearly "nice coat, shithead". Thunk! The blow catches him in the jaw. He spits some blood and clenches his jaw to keep from cursing enough to earn another blow, and to keep his teeth from coming loose. "Well" he thinks, "I guess that means they speak my language".

The Red Coat open his arms wide, then scoops them forward and says "row!".

Some men start rowing right away. Some, like Flynn, take a few hits from a cane to convince them, but eventually they are all rowing more or less in unison, chains rattling with each stroke. The sailors go back up on deck and start hauling ropes until the wind catches the sail. Red Coat stands arms crossed the whole time, watching the new oarsmen.

Once they are well underway, the harbour far behind, the Red Coat speaks, a sort of hoarse barking speech that makes it clear he's been doing this for a while. He has an accent, but he speaks fluently.
"Well, by now you unnerstant where you are. We are out to sea, dere is nao going bek. I needet a crew, so I took wan. We are all in the same baot, as it were, and iff I'm not mistaken, nan off you had anything better to do anyway."

Flynn grumbles in agreement.

"Sao you can join me willingly, or you can stay in de chains. De choice iss yours. Nao, who wants to join de crew?"

"I'll join if you give me my coat back", Flynn says.

Red Coat strides over to Flynn and gives him a hard punch on the egg on his jaw. He barks so that all can hear, "Being part of de crew doessn't mean I serve you tea and biscuits in bed. I will not tolerate impertinence." Turning back to Flynn, "What is your name?".
"I'm Flynn."

"Well Misster Flynn, I like your spirit but I think you can stay in de chains for nao until we learn to trust each odder."

"If it's gonna be mister anything, it's mister Tarrow. Flynn my first name".
"Well I'm delightet to make your acquaintanss Mister Tarrow, but you'll stay in dose chains until your brainss get to be as smart as your mouth", he leans forward, and in a lower, more menacing tone, says "And by de way, iff I get de feeling like anywan on dis baot is planning a mutiny..." he pulls a pistol from his belt and lets it clunk on Flynn's shoulder, "... I'll make sure dey don't get de chanss".

He stands up straight again, holsters the pistol, and turns around, barking "I'm Captain Ulrich. De rest off de crew you'll get to know in time. Dat's enuff off a chet for nao, Boson!", he bellows. Heavy boots come down the stairs. "Get dem rowing, I want to make goot time today while de winds are with uss". He strides back up the stairs.

The Boson doesn't say a word, he just starts smacking people with his cane until all are rowing again. Flynn wonders what they eat for breakfast.