Exit Strategy

by London Lampy

Chapter 28

As soon as I'm sure the Captain is out of earshot I round on Topher. "Why did you do such a stupid fucking thing? You can't have honestly thought you'd get away with it."

"I would have done if a bloody seagull hadn't distracted him and made him look round." He comes back.

We're both chained to our beds in the cabin, waiting for Quint to decide on a suitable place to drop anchor and carry out our punishments.

"Don't you think everyone would have found it strange that Jasper was suddenly out of it at the wheel? As far as I know he doesn't have any history of doing that." I say, frustrated by the whole thing.

"It would have worked, and the asshole would have got what he deserved." He persists.

"And even if he had been keeled hauled, and survived, what good would it have done? I doubt it would stop him tormenting you, and I can't imagine even you're a big enough idiot to tell him that you were the cause of his punishment."

"I would have had the satisfaction of seeing him hurt and humiliated in front of the crew."

"But instead that's happening to us, well to me. You're just getting your bottom spanked like a naughty child."

"Which will be both humiliating and painful, at least you don't have to get your ass out in front of the whole crew."

"No, I just get the luxury of a huge whip biting into my back, I'm so glad I'm considered an adult." I say sarcastically.

"You didn't have to say you bought the drugs for me."

"I was trying to save you from the Captain adding any more lashes to your punishment. I saw you, you know, in Kipp, going into that shop when you weren't suppose to be off the ship. I wish I had asked you what you were doing when I got back, then we wouldn't be in this mess."

"What were you doing in that part of the city?" He asks curiously.

"Exploring." I say quickly. "You'd better be bloody grateful to me for this, in fact to make it up to me you can stop calling me monkey for starters."

"I am grateful, really, and I will try and make it up to you somehow, but you're still a monkey, that fact hasn't changed." He gives me a small grin.

"Fuckwit." I mutter, laying back on the bed, but I'm not actually angry with him any more, after all I didn't have to get myself involved. I am scared of getting the cat though, I hope I can take it with as little fuss as Tallis made and don't do anything as embarrassing as start to cry.

About an hour later Quint lets himself into the cabin, sits down on the end of Topher's bed and looks at both of us.

"We're about to drop anchor, and once we've done that we'll make ready for your punishment. Jasper wanted to be the one who gave the cat but I felt it was better for all concerned if Zizi did it. Being visk she finds it easier to separate her personal feelings from the job at hand. If Jasper did it I've no doubt Exit's back would end up cut to ribbons, and if I did it I know I would face accusations of going easy, which I may well be tempted to do."

I nod, it makes sense, I know Zizi has no grudge against us, unlike Jasper.

"Can you both promise you'll never do anything that stupid again?"

"Yes Captain." I say, I can easily promise I won't do anything that stupid again, because I didn't do anything that stupid in the first place.

"Topher, what about you?" He raises his eyebrows at him.

"I promise I will never again attempt to get Jasper high in order for him to get punished." Topher say after a moment.

"Not good enough, try again." Quint orders.

Topher sighs. "I promise I'll never again get caught doing anything punishable by the cat, or worse."

Quint gives him a long hard stare. "I suppose that'll have to suffice." He say eventually.

"If it makes either of you feel any better, my father lashed my on several occasions when I sailed with him. Both with the boys' pussy, and the cat."

"I understand, it's what you have to do." I say.

"Good, Zizi will come to get the pair of you soon. Just keep in mind the whole thing will be over quickly."

It feels like no time at all until the door opens again and Zizi enters. The Captain has given her the padlock keys and she unchains us.

"Shirt off Exit." She says almost cheerfully. "And Topher...um, I think we'd better sort you out at the mast."

He looks relived, I doubt he much liked the idea of walking across the ship naked from the waist down.

"Hands behind your backs please." She requests, then ties our wrists together in turn. I'm suddenly reminded of when I first set foot on The Firebrat with the crew of the coal freighter, she tied my wrists that day too. It feels like a hundred years ago now.

We leave the cabin slowly, partly because neither of us are in any hurry to get there, and partly because with the motion of the ship it's hard to walk with your hands behind your back, although I find it easier than Topher, and Zizi has to stop him stumbling a few times.

The entire crew is waiting to watch us getting beaten, I wouldn't have expected anything less, everyone is suppose to witness a punishment, but seeing them all there makes it real, and frightening. As I approach the mast Tallis steps out of the crowd to speak to me.

"Drumeri, you did an unnecessary and foolish thing." He looks at me with disappointment and I very much want to tell him the truth. I know if I did he would try to stop this happening and all hell would break loose, so I keep my mouth shut. "Just be strong." He says, patting me on the arm.

While he was talking to me Topher's hands have been untied and retied around the back of the mast, and Zizi is trying to undo his trousers. She's struggling with his buttons and the crew are laughing and making crude jokes. She finally manages to get them and his underwear pushed down so his ass is bare to the ship. There's much hilarity going on around me but I can't help noticing more than one pair of eyes appreciatively taking in the round curve of his bottom.

One of the crew then passes her a bag from which she removes a whip about the length of my forearm, with a dozen or so leather tassels on the end. The leather looks soft and the tassels fall to one side easily as she lifts it, it reminds me of the switches drivers sometimes use on their horses to get them moving.

"Who has the drinking water?" Zizi asks.

"I do." Clyde steps forward with a pitcher and glass.

She turns to Quint. "How many Captain Quint?"

"Five lashes of the boy's pussy First Mate Zizi, thank you." He replies, I can hear quite a lot of sniggering at this.

"Topher, you have been handed down five lashes of the boy's pussy, are you ready for me to begin?"

"Yes." His voice sounds sulky.

Zizi draws back her arm then brings it forward to let the whip slap over Topher's bare behind. "One." She counts, and he lets out a high pitched squeak that has the crew falling about laughing again.

She repeats her actions, calling out "two" as she does so, and this time he swears loudly. After three she offers him a glass of water.

"Rum would be better." He mutters as Clyde presses the glass to his lips.

Two more lashes and he's done and one of the crew empties a bucket of sea water over him. When Tallis got lashed it was thrown over his back, but this just gets tipped over his head to yet more laughter.

Zizi unties his hands and lets him sort his clothes out himself this time, once he's done he steps over to me, dripping water everywhere and rubbing his bottom.

"That fucking hurt." He complains to me. I have absolutely no sympathy, I can already see the cat, still in it's bag, being passed forward.

Zizi unties my hands and has me wrap my arms as far around the mast as they will go, then reties me. It's an extremely uncomfortable position to be in and I have to stand with my legs wide apart to keep my balance.

"Who has the drinking water?" Zizi asks, and Clyde confirms that he does. She then asks the Captain how many lashes, and he names five.

"Able Seaman Exit..." She begins, but a voice cuts her off.

"He's no more a fucking able seaman than I'm a ballet dancer." Jasper spits. "Call him what he is, I'd suggest boy whore."

I can hear the crew mutter, they don't sound impressed and I'm glad they're not laughing like they did at Topher.

Another voice shouts above the crowd. "He's as much a sailor as any other member of this crew, he works the same hours as everyone else and has every right to be addressed as able seaman." It's Tallis.

"You would say that." Jasper retorts. "I know your kind like to stick together, I wouldn't be surprised if you were in on their plot too."

"Next person who speaks without permission will be in for a taste of the cat themselves." The Captain announces, and things become suddenly very quiet.

"First Mate Zizi, continue." He commands.

"Able Seaman Exit, you have been handed down five lashes of the cat, are you ready for me to begin?"

"Yes First Mate Zizi." I say with more confidence than I feel.

This close I hear the whistle of the cat as it cuts through the air. The moment it touches my bare skin all thoughts leave my head and my world becomes nothing but pain. I was stung by a wasp once in the orphanage yard, I remember it feeling like the sting went all the way to my bones and for a few moments my whole arm was on fire. This is like that, but a thousand times worse, and I hear myself give out a strangled gasp that's like no noise I've ever made before.

"One." Zizi calls out.

The sharp sting turns into burning flame as the second lash hits, and I didn't think the pain could get any worse, but it does. My body is suddenly dripping in cold sweat, and the heat in my back is matched by ice in my veins.

"Two." I hear her voice from many miles away.

When the third lash comes I bite down so hard on my bottom lip to stop myself from crying out that my mouth fills with blood.

"Would you like some water?" Zizi asks once she's done, and I manage a hoarse "Yes".

I don't really want the water but right now I'd do anything to stop the punishment, even if it is only temporarily. Clyde lifts the glass to my lips and I swallow, the water is warm and mixes with my blood, the taste instantly makes me gag and I end up spitting most of it out.

I tense up, knowing what's coming and when the cat hits me again I bring back up the small amount of water I managed to swallow.

Only one more, thank the gods.

The final lash finds it's mark just as I seem to loose all strength, my legs can barely support me and I'm mostly being held up by the rope and mast.

"Five." Zizi counts, and I feel arms coming forward to catch me. Someone unties my hands and I all but collapse onto the deck. I'm on my knees taking deep panting breaths when a bucket of sea water is thrown over my back. The sharp sting of the salt on my broken skin is too much, and I give out a wordless shout.

Hands grab my elbows and pull me to my feet, and when I look I see Zizi and Tallis helping me up.

"Well done drumeri." He says quietly into my ear. "You took that better than many experienced sailors would have done."

They help me back to the cabin with Topher trailing behind. Once inside Zizi goes and Tallis has me lie down on my front.

"Do you have a towel?" He asks Topher, who starts to rummage under his bed.

"Quick boy, hurry up." He says impatiently, as Topher finally pulls one out and hands it to him.

He wipes what's left of the blood and water off my face, and dabs it over my hair as well.

"Keep watch over him and make sure he drinks plenty of water, just water mind, no wine or rum, and if he shows any signs of a fever tell the Captain or myself straight away." I hear Tallis order Topher.

"Should I let him sleep?" He surprises me by asking, I would have thought being bossed around by Tallis would just provoke a rude reply.

"Yes, but keep a check on him, and see he remains on his front."

I close my eyes as they discuss the best way to look after me further. The pain is lessening slightly, what was stinging is now aching and I no longer feel like I'm burning and freezing at the same time.

I realise that it's gone quiet and I look around to find Tallis gone, Topher is sitting on his bed, looking at me with an expression of concern on his face.

"I am so fucking sorry." He says softly.

"That's twice in one day, I didn't even know you knew that word up to now."

"What do you mean?" he questions.

"I don't think I've ever heard you voluntarily say sorry before today." I smile at him to show I'm not angry.

"Do you still have the bottle of aloe the captain gave you when you had sunburn? Tallis said it would be a good idea to put some on your back."

"Under my bed, unless you moved it."

After a moments searching he finds it, it's still a quarter full and he tips some onto his hands and begins to smooth it over my back. He's very gentle and the coolness of it is more soothing than I would have expected, by the time he's finished I'm almost asleep. He tries to get me to wake up and drink some water until he's interrupted by the door opening and Quint coming in and sitting down on the floor between our beds.

"How are you?" He asks, kissing me on the forehead.

"I hurt, I want to sleep." I mumble.

"I can't get him to drink anything." I hear Topher complain.

The Captain takes the glass from him and holds it up in front of me. "Drink this then you can sleep."

I take it off him and somehow manage to down most of it despite the angle I'm at.

"That's good." Quint's voice comes from far away, and the last thing I'm aware of is him stroking my hair as I fall asleep.

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