Exit Strategy

by London Lampy

Chapter 31

As soon as we walk through the door a dark skinned girl in the tiniest maid's uniform I've ever seen steps forward and offers us a glass of champagne from a tray. Her dress leaves nothing to the imagination being cut both low on her large bust and high on her leg and perched on her head is a small frilly cap that makes the get up look even sillier. Quint's maid is a solidly built middle aged woman who normally wears knee length dark dresses with a pocketed apron over the top, I can't imagine her cleaning or cooking our meals dressed like that. As I look around the room I see several other girls dressed the same, many of whom are being leered at by the admirals old friends.

We take a glass each and Quint catches my eye and pulls a mock exasperated look at the girl's outfit. The room is already filled with people all talking, eating and drinking. Along one wall a table filled with food is proving popular, and at the end a barman serving pints of beer is being kept busy. The room is illuminated by two large crystal chandeliers, each filled with thirty or more lit candles, the glass doors are thrown open onto a terrace that leads down to the sea, and more flaming torches like the ones out the front are planted around the paved area.

"QUINT!" A loud roar from behind has us all turning to see the Admiral dressed in full black tie and tails limping over to embrace his son in a one armed bear hug. Teena is beside him and her emerald green dress is only a little less revealing than that of the waitresses, her flaming curls hanging loose across freckled shoulders. The Admiral places a sloppy kiss on his son's forehead then stands back to look at him.

"My baby boy! Who'd have thought you'd be standing next to me as a fine grown man on the occasion of my seventy fifth birthday?" The old man seems to wipe a tear away from his eye and I realise he's already half cut.

"I could point out your birthday's not actually until next week." Quint says, giving him a sly smile.

"Piffle! My birthday's when I say it is." He looks at Topher and me. "Your boys look nicely turned out." He says patting us each on the cheek. "You know they rejected the chance to watch the waitresses try their outfits on?" I notice Teena glaring at him when he says this, I suppose she found out he "helped" with the costume fitting after all. Before he can say anything else Tobias appears next to the admiral. "Hello lad." He says, squeezing his eldest sons shoulder, and the difference between this and the enthusiastic greeting he gave Quint is clear to us all.

Tobias is wearing a tailored grey jacket and trousers that would be reasonably smart if they didn't look like he'd slept in them, and his hair is neatly combed but badly in need of a wash. He smells of beer and a general lack of hygiene. Behind him are Alpha and Beta, I wish I knew their real names, both dressed in the same style of worn frock I saw them in last time. Thick leather leashes are attached to their collars and Tobias holds the ends in one hand, the other gripping a mug of beer.

At the sight of him Topher has taken a step backwards and is more or less hiding behind me, and I wonder if I can get away with hiding behind Quint.

"Good evening girls." The admiral says to Alpha and Beta, who glance at him with wide eyes, not knowing what to do.

"Well." Says Tobias to them. "Greet my father."

"Good evening Admiral." They both chorus quietly, and I notice the dark haired one is sporting what looks like a fading black eye. Something tells me it wasn't caused by a stupid scrap with the blond one.

"That's right." He nods to them, then looks round and glares at me. "What's that doing here? It's bad enough you had to invite a bunch of lizards." He gestures with his beer mug to a group of visk chatting by the door. "But a fucking monkey faggot..."

"Tobias, shut your mouth now!" The Admiral orders, and, to my amazement he does. For a few seconds I see Admiral Blaise as the commanding pirate he must have been, not the limping, cheerfully dirty minded old man I've come to know, and I give him a look of gratitude.

"Birthday greetings Admiral." I hear Tallis' voice come from beside me, and he immediately gets pulled into one of the old man's hugs.

Tobias mutters something about "another one", but he's wise enough to avoid his father's anger again by keeping it under his breath.

"My old friend, it's good to see you!" The admiral bellows at Tallis when he finally lets him go.

"And you." Tallis smiles.

"Lucky bugger, what are you, three, four, years younger than me? Sill as fit as a boy, not a limping old cripple like me eh? Should have been born with a tail, I'd still be out there then." He makes a sweeping gesture with his hand toward the sea which just passes my ear with a whoosh but accidentally hits Topher in the head, who frowns and rubs the spot where the Admiral's hand collided with him.

"Actually, I was wondering if I could borrow Exit for a moment?" This he addresses to Quint. "There's some people I'd like him to meet." The Captain nods and I follow Tallis across the room and out of the glass doors.

"I heard what Tobias said." He mentions as we step out into the warm night air. "There's just something not right about him. Anyone else and I'd have challenged them on it, but him? I'd be constantly looking over my shoulder for a knife in the ribs."

"That's all right, I know what he's like, thanks for rescuing me though." He leads me across to a stone bench at the edge of the paved area, and I see a pair of echobacks seated on it.

"This is Landler and his wife Elderry, I used to sail with him when I wasn't much older than you, he taught me everything I know."

I examine them in the torch light, they look old, which means that they must be really old, but I guess it's impolite to ask.

"Tallis told us all about you." Landler says in a soft voice, his eyes are nothing but black pupils and are reflecting the flames, making him look like some kind of ancient daemon.

"Yes, he's very proud of how quickly you've been learning to become a sailor." His wife adds with a smile and a tilt of the head.

For the next hour or so I listen to their stories of the old days, the forest, pirates, sailing and how things are not as good as they used to be, occasional they ask me a question about myself. The elderly couple are firmly of the same opinion as Tallis on the subject of me becoming an ordinary member of the crew.

"It's not right young Quint making him do those things." Elderry adds. "I don't care what he does with humans, but he shouldn't be doing it with one of our boys."

Of course they then get onto the subject of finding me nice echoback girl, and I'm left staring out to sea wondering if I'll ever reach an age when everyone else doesn't seem to think they know better than me what I want.

A commotion on the other side of the terrace draws their attention, two men have started shouting insults at each other, both being held back by the women they are with. One man pushes the other one and he tumbles drunkenly over an ornamental urn, at which point the wife of the pushed one lays into the other woman and a cat fight breaks out, in the ensuing chaos I slip away and wander back indoors, looking around for someone I know to talk to.

Over by the piano Magda is dancing with a man sporting an enormous black beard, and she's flashing red stockings and bowed legs every time she spins around. A fair number of the waitresses are now draped over various men, most of whom seem to be about the same age as the Admiral. One of the few girls who's still handing out drinks passes me another glass of champagne then says. "Fuck it love, I want to make some real money, take the whole damn thing." Gives me the bottle, dumps her tray on the nearest table and wiggles toward a group of old pirates.

I spot the Captain having what looks to be a serious conversation with a woman who shares his dark eyes and caramel skin, I assume that she's one of his sisters and I decide not to disturb them. The Admiral is holding court, sat among a group of humans and visks who are hanging on his every word, with Teena balanced on his knee nuzzling his neck. I guess she must have forgiven him for his earlier interest in the waitresses.

Over by the food table Tobias is stood with his girls still on their leashes, and beside him is the mysterious man with the red beard and braids, I resolve to ask someone who he is. I feel a pull on the bottle I'm holding and look round to find Topher trying to take it off me.

"Where'd you get that?" He asks as I let him have it.

"One of the waitresses gave it to me, she wanted to, you know, find a...client."

"Not hard in here." He scans the room, then brings the bottle to his mouth and swigs straight out of it.

"Hey, I was going to have some of that." I protest.

"Yeah, like a bit of my saliva is going to be the worst thing you've ever had in your mouth."

He's got a point, and I manage to get the bottle back off him and pour some into my glass.

"Who's that man standing with Tobias." I ask, nodding toward them.

"Rufus, his first mate, why?"

"Just wondered, I've seen him around and didn't know who he was."

"Oh fuck, well done, now they're looking at us."

I see Tobias point at me, say something to Rufus and they both laugh. I can't imagine it was anything complimentary.

"Cunt." Topher mutters. "Let's get out of here."

I follow him out to the paved area, where the fight has ended as quickly as it began then skirt around the back of the seating to avoid Tallis and his friends. By the time I catch up again with Topher he's managed to find his own bottle of champagne from somewhere.

"Want to go to the beach and drink this?" He suggests, waving the bottle in front of me. It doesn't sound like a bad idea, I can't imagine Tobias would show up down there.

As we walk down the grassy slope toward the sea the sounds of the party become quieter and the sound of the sea grows louder. There's no chill to the night and once we are sat I take off my jacket, shoes and socks, sit back on the sand and look out over the water. The moon is a couple days off full and the sky is peppered with stars. It still surprises me how different the night sky looks here compared with home.

"Did you have this many stars in Surosa?" I ask Topher, who's busy drinking.

"There are the same amount of stars everywhere." He says once he's swallowed.

"No, there's not. In Parnell there were only about a quarter as many as there are here."

He laughs. "Are there a lot of street lamps in your city?"

"Yes, loads. What's that got to with it?"

"There aren't less stars, just more light so you can't see them."

I think about this, it makes sense, but I'm annoyed it never occurred to me.

"How do you know that?" I quiz him, taking a swig out of my bottle.

"I know a lot of things." He says smugly, and grins at me.

The drink is making me feel pleasantly fuzzy, I lie back with my hands behind my head and listen to the sound of the waves. I look up again and see that Topher is staring at me.

"Your eyes go almost completed black in the dark." He says quietly.

"I know."

"It's weird."

"As weird as my tail?"

"No, nothing is as weird as that."

"Your just jealous you don't have one." I wrap it around his thigh to make my point. I'm fully expecting him to protest, but instead he strokes it, letting his fingers graze over it's surface while he lifts the bottle to his mouth with his other hand.

I sit up again, dusting the sand off of my hands and take a drink from my own bottle, then put it down, pushing it deep into the sand so it won't fall over. I turn to look at Topher, his eyes look black in the moonlight too, with just a small amount of white showing, fringed by dark lashes. His lips are slightly parted and I find myself staring at his mouth watching mesmerised as the tip of his tongue flicks out and moistens his lips.

I can't say which one of us moves first, or initiates it, but our mouths meet in a champagne flavoured kiss. His tongue touches mine and slips inside my mouth, and I do the same to him. His full lips feel soft against mine, I bring my hand up and thread my fingers into his thick mop of hair, pulling him deeper into the kiss. He moans into my mouth at this and changes angle, leaning toward me. I unwrap my tail from his leg and manoeuvre him into my lap without breaking the kiss, then carefully recline back on the sand, bringing him with me, until he's lying between my legs. I can feel his arousal hard against mine, he rubs against me and the friction sends jolts of pleasure through me. I move my hands down his body until they reach his firm ass, which I squeeze, making him grind into me harder.

A sudden squealing noise from further up the beach causes us to stop kissing and look in the direction it's coming from. We're both breathing hard and I can fee his heart thumping, matching mine.

"What the fuck?" He mutters as the noise gets louder and a group of people come into view.

Three of the waitresses are running down the beach, pulling their uniforms off as they go, and dashing into the waves up to their knees. They are being chased by five of the Admirals old friends who although moving slower than the girls, are making their way to the sea faster than they look like they should be able to. Unfortunately they are also shedding their clothes too.

"Eww, naked old pirates." Topher says in disgust, sitting up and straddling me. The slowest one notices us as he comes past.

"Hello boys, hope you don't mind the intrusion, just carry on and ignore us." He wheezes, then winks.

"I can't see how that would be possible." Topher says once he's gone, as one of the girls shrieks with laughter at being slapped on the bottom.

"We could move further down the beach." I suggest, running my hands over his thighs.

"No, lets go back to the house, it's not a good idea to do this kind of thing on the beach anyway."

"Why?" I ask, it seems like a very good place to me.

"The sand." He says knowledgeably. "It gets fucking everywhere."

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