Exit Strategy

by London Lampy

Chapter 13

Magda is possibly the oldest looking person I've ever seen, as she takes my measurements I steal glances at her. She's shorter than me by about six inches, which makes her tiny, and her back is bent so that her head pushes forward like a bird, her face is dark leather and she has all of three teeth, but her eyes are clear and bright, and she hums to herself as she runs her tape over my body and makes notes.

"You're a pretty little thing aren't you? I made clothes for all the Admiral's pets, he liked the pretty ones too, girls though. Now Captain Tobias, he doesn't want my services, and I'm not sure I want to offer them to him anyways. The way he keeps those poor little girls in rags is just scandalous."

She goes to measure my inside leg and I try not to squirm. "You're all right ducky, I'm not after groping you, I buried three husbands and four lovers, that's quite enough for one lifetime thank you very much."

I didn't think for a moment she was about to feel me up, it just tickled.

"That's done. If I get all my chickies on it today you should have a set of spiffy new clothes by the morning."

Once she's gone Topher appears in the living room eating a banana. "Captain Quint says I'm to

show you around Nightport, you ready?"

"Yeah, I guess."

He finishes his fruit. "Sorry, that was the last one." He says throwing the skin away. "Although I'm surprised their were any left, I thought monkeys could smell bananas a from a mile away."

I take a deep breath, I'm not sure how I'm going to put with a whole day of him.

Despite Topher being my guide I enjoy my tour of the island. It's about two miles across, on the southern side is the harbour where The Firebrat is docked, along with a dozen or so other ships, including the gun boat that accompanied it when the freighter was attacked.

Most of the buildings are clustered around there, at the docks themselves there are two long, low warehouses and further up are a few rows of small houses, a couple of pubs and a handful of shops selling everything from soap to guns.

Inland are the larger buildings, I learn that the one Vio and the other sailors are being held in is known as the town hall, although it's really a gaol, meeting rooms and offices.

The largest of them all is Admiral Blaise's house, he lives there with two of his three daughters and his third wife, who is apparently younger than any of his children, Captain Quint being his youngest.

Topher actually seems to enjoy telling me all this and he manages to go for about a whole ten minutes without insulting me. Another large house set about thirty yards away from the Admirals belongs to Quint's brother Tobias, who Topher describes as a "cunt" to my surprise, maybe there is someone he dislikes more than me.

The north of the island is mostly trees and bushes, many unlike any I've ever seen before, the strangest being the palm trees, tall and thin with no branches, just a whole lot of wide, flat leaves sticking out of the top.

We head down onto the beach and Topher once again surprises me, this time by stripping naked and walking into the sea and within moments he's swum almost out of sight. I walk across the white sand to the place where the water just touches it and peer in the direction he went, wondering if I'm supposed to follow him. I can swim, Municipal Works saw to that, but I've only ever been in the public pool in Parnell so I decide not to, but I roll my trouser legs up and wade in. The water is warmer than I expected and the sand feels good between my toes, it's very clear and I can see tiny silver fish darting around me. I bend down and try to scoop one up in my hand, but they are too fast, streaking away as soon as I get near.

"Afraid of the water?" A voice suddenly says from in front of me, and I'm faced with a dripping Topher standing there.

"A bit." I admit.

"I could swim before I could walk, but then I don't suppose monkeys have much call for swimming, or even the intelligence to work out how to do it."

That's it, I jump forward and punch him, or I would if he didn't duck out of the way and grab my knees, up ending me in six inches of seawater. He rolls on top of me and tries to punch me, but I easily tip him off with my legs and he lands face down in the water. He hits out at me blindly, succeeds in striking me hard on the jaw and I taste blood. I try to grab him, but being wet and naked he slips out of my grasp, I fall forward as he gets away, my elbow connects solidly with his face, and he grunts in pain.

Suddenly I'm aware of another voice shouting at us and I look up to see Zizi running down the beach toward us as Topher makes another lunge for me, blood streaming from his nose. I'm knocked backwards, but the visk grabs him by the hair and hauls him off me.

"Stop it both of you!" She shouts at us, letting go of Topher who is holding his hand over his nose. She seems to realise for the first time that he's naked and her heads swings between the pair of us.

"You were fighting weren't you? Not doing the other thing? I don't pretend to understand the habits of human...sorry mammals." She looks at me. "But that seemed violent."

"We were fighting." I assure her.

"He started it." Topher says, his voice sounding like he's got a head cold, which makes him even harder to understand than normal.

"He called me a stupid monkey!" I protest, making me sound like I'm eight years old.

Zizi sighs, shaking her head at both of us. "Topher, you're an idiot, Exit, get over it, there's worse things than that to be called, believe me. Now, let me see that nose."

Topher moves his hand away to let her look, and she carefully examines it with her thumb and forefinger.

"Is it broken?" He asks miserably.

"No, it's only a nose bleed, pinch it just here and it'll stop." She turns to me and puts her strangely shaped hand on my jaw. Visks only have three fingers and a thumb, all of which are quite wide and flat. The scaled texture feels strange against my skin, I don't think I've ever been touched by one before. "Nothing broken there either, just a cut lip and a bit of bruise. The captain isn't going to be very impressed with you two is he?"

Topher suddenly goes very wide eyed. "Don't tell him." He pleads with her.

"Sorry, you know my first loyalty is always going to be to him, and anyway, don't you think he's going to notice that the pair of you look like you've been fighting? Those bruises are going to take a few days to heal."

He hangs his head, and I wonder what the captains reaction to this is going to be. I'm not looking forward to it.

"Where is he at the moment?" Zizi asks.

"Having a meeting with the Admiral and Captain Tobias." Topher replies thickly, his nose has now stopped bleeding but has started to swell up.

"I wouldn't interrupt that for his pets fighting, but I will accompany you back to the house, I don't want a rematch."

We walk in silence, my jaw is starting to ache and my clothes are soaking wet, the uniform trousers are made of a thick material and even with the heat they are still not dry by the time we get back.

"All right." Says Zizi. "Can I trust you to stay away from one another, or do I need to find someone to babysit the pair of you until Captain Quint get back?"

"I'm going to my room." Topher says thickly in reply, and stomps off upstairs.

Once he's out of sight Zizi looks at me. "Don't let him wind you up like that, it'll only make things worse."

I sigh. "I know I shouldn't have tried to punch him, and I don't expect him to suddenly be my best friend, but he doesn't have to insult me all the time either."

She tilts her head to one side. "There's a lot you don't know about him, and it's not really my place to tell his story, but he's lost everything he ever had and Quint is all he's got. He's clearly not happy about the idea of sharing, and he's frightened the captain is going to give you preference over him."

"But none of that's my fault." I protest. "I didn't ask to be here, it's not fair him taking things out on me."

"Tough, life isn't fair. You just need to deal with it and learn to ignore him." Zizi isn't very comforting.

"I'll try." I mutter.

"Good boy. Now stay out of trouble until Quint gets back."

I need to take my wet clothes off but have nothing to change into so I end up wearing a towel. In the kitchen I find the maid has left out some salad and cooked fish, which I help myself to. I eat my lunch alone in the living room and wonder if Topher is going to come down for some food. I consider taking something up, but I don't feel like being that nice to him, and I'm not sure he'd want me to, he's most likely got the door bolted and wouldn't let me in anyway. The only thing of mine in there is the lock picks which I've stashed under the wardrobe, so it's not like I've got any reason to want to go in there.

Once I've finished eating boredom sets in, and I decide to explore the rest of the house. Upstairs apart from Topher's bedroom and the bathroom there are three other rooms. All of them are bedrooms also, two seem set up for guests, and one is clearly Quint's. It's the biggest of all, having a balcony that faces towards the sea and it's own private bathroom. It contains a large bed with a brass bedstead, several cupboards, a free standing mirror and chests of draws all in dark wood. I'm tempted to look through some of them, but think better of it. I'm already in enough trouble with him, being caught snooping would make things much worse.

Downstairs I find a dining room, a storage area and a library. I spend most of the rest of the afternoon looking through the captain's books. I'm not much of a reader but a lot of these are picture books of plants and animals, many of which I've never seen before, and I spend a long time pouring over them. I then find a book of photographs of people with strange diseases and nasty injuries, it makes me feel a bit sick, but I end up looking at all of it just the same. Finally I come across a small book that's full of very dirty stories, which I take into the living room. I have read books like this before and happily spend a few hours with it, including a trip to the bathroom to deal with the effects of reading that kind of thing.

I must have fallen asleep on the couch because I'm woken up by the sound of the front door slamming shut. I sit up and it takes me a moment to remember where I am, as I do Captain Quint strides into the room. I'm still just wearing a towel, which has slipped off my waist as I was sleeping, so I'm pretty much naked. He stops in his tracks and stares at me for a moment as I fumble to pull it round me, then speaks.

"I've seen Zizi, she told me Topher and you had a fight."

"Yes." I say tucking the towel back in and avoiding looking him in the eye.

"Who started it?" He is still staring at me with an intense look in his dark chocolate eyes.

"I threw the first punch." I confess. I'm not going to tell tales, I don't like Topher but I'm not about to get him into any extra trouble with the captain.

"No doubt goaded into doing so by him." I keep quiet, he can think what he wants. "Where is he?"

"In the bedroom I think." I'm not aware of him having left.

He sighs. "I'm going to go and deal with him first, then it's your turn. Don't bother putting your clothes back on, and don't go anywhere."

That doesn't sound good. He leaves the room and I briefly consider making a break for it, but I have nowhere to go and sooner or later I'd end up back here with things a thousand times worse. I listen for any sounds from upstairs, I can just hear the captains voice, and at one point there's a thud and what seems like a muffled cry. All too soon there are footsteps on the stairs and Quint renters the room.

"Follow me." He commands, and leads me back upstairs and into his bedroom that I found earlier.

"Sit down." He points at the bed, and I do so. He stands in front of me, he's still wearing the same loose black cotton trousers he had on earlier, but he's added a deep red shirt to the outfit that fits his long torso nicely.

"Last night I told Topher to stop deliberately antagonising you, he clearly paid no attention, and for that he has been punished."

I swallow, wondering what sort of punishment he got.

"However I realise I never spoke to you about the matter, and I'm a fair man, I can't punish you for disobeying orders I never directly gave. Consider this a warning, if I hear of any more fights between the two of you I will not spare you again, understand?"

I nod, feeling very relived.

"Good, now Magda should have your new clothes delivered to The Firebrat tomorrow. All of the trousers are being made with your tail in mind, and I don't want to see you hiding away, in fact I want you to give me that strap you use to attach it to your leg so you can't. Whatever rules about it existed on your former ship don't apply here."

I suppose he thinks Captain Hyde insisted on my tail being bound.

"It's downstairs with my clothes, do you want me to get it now?" It will feel very strange not keeping my tail hidden. It started with the nuns who were always very keen to have us all looking as neat and uniform as possible, they saw it as something almost shameful, certainly not to be seen, and on more than one occasion they talked about having a doctor come in to remove it. Even after I left the orphanage I never wanted to have it out in public, it's one thing looking a bit different to everyone else, I know I get a lot of strange looks, but my tail would make me the centre of attention in a way I really don't want.

"No, you can give it to me later, but I'm curious, why are you only wearing a towel?"

"Well the fight I had with Topher was kind of in sea and I got soaked, although he didn't because he had been swimming, and my clothes have dried sort of solid, I guess it's the seawater."

"Ah." He looks likes he's trying to hide a smile. "Do you remember I told you earlier that I had something I wanted to give to you?"

I do remember, I pretty much thought he was talking about sex, but he pulls a pouch out of his pocket and hands it to me. I open it and let the contents drop into my hand, it's a small silver hoop earring.

"Thank you, but I don't have my ear pierced." I say looking at it.

"It's not an earring, it's for here." He reaches down and touches my navel.

"I don't have that pierced either." I reply, thinking of Topher, who does.

"I know, I'm going to do it for you." I jerk my head up and he laughs

"Don't look so scared, it doesn't hurt much. Lie down on the bed."

I realise not only is he going to poke a hole in me, he's going to do it right now. As I lie back he goes to a draw and removes a box, out of which he takes a small brown bottle, some cotton wool, and a large looking needle.

He comes and sits beside me and strokes a hand down my chest to my stomach, and despite my fear I find myself arching into him a little, he quirks an eyebrow but says nothing. He unscrews the bottle, tipping some of the liquid inside on to the cotton wool and cleans the whole of my belly button and the area around it. The liquid is cold and sharp smelling and reminds of doctors. He then takes the needle and dips it into the bottle, holding it up in the air to dry. Once he's done that he has me pass him the ring and does the same with it.

"Ready?" He says softly, reaching out and rubbing a finger over my nipple as he asks, and I'm a little embarrassed to realise I'm starting to get hard. I nod, hoping he doesn't notice that the towel is beginning to tent.

He takes the needle in one hand, and grips the flesh above my navel with the finger and thumb of the other, pulling it out a bit. He then rests the tip of the needle against it, and I tense up as he pushes it through quickly. It really doesn't hurt much, just a sharp tug, and he pulls the needle out and threads the hoop through the hole almost in one movement. There's a tiny trickle of blood which he cleans up with the cotton wool.

"All done, have a look." He indicates the large free standing mirror by the window. The ring looks strange, I touch it gently and Quint stands behind me and speaks into my ear.

"That makes you mine, you're not to touch any other man, and if anyone tries to touch you you're to tell me. You can fool around with Topher if you want though." Pigs will fly first. "But I'm the only one who gets to fuck either of you."

As he says this he presses his body against mine, resting his fingertips either side of my new piercing, and my earlier erection is starting to come back.

"Did Topher eat any lunch?" His sudden change of subject throws me for a moment.

"Erm...I don't think so."

"I'd better unlock him then, go downstairs and wait in the dining room for us."

I do as he asks, feeling more confused than ever about the situation I've found myself in.

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