Footsteps echoed dully on the upper decks as crewmen raced for their duty stations in response to the general alarm echoing off the walls. Standing just outside one of the Intrepid’s auxiliary infirmaries, Captain Hunter watched as the tall, thin man standing a few feet away in the corridor – a man Hunter had thought was one Senior Lieutenant Johnson – gestured with a revolver.
“Please, Captain, this way,” Dr. Edmond Hardy said with a self-satisfied hum to his voice, “join us in the corridor. I do believe I would prefer you and your doctor where I can see you both at the same time.”
Hunter’s expression was both congenial, yet cold as he gave the man a thin smile. It was the kind of bitter smile he usually reserved for eating something sour, or dealing with something distinctly unpleasant.
“I respectfully decline,” the captain replied curtly. “I believe you can see us quite fine from where you stand, Sirrah.”
Dr. Hardy nodded politely, then promptly turned and squeezed the trigger of his revolver. The weapon roared, stabbing flame at a bound and kneeling seaman nearby. Across the corridor, Angela blurted out a scream from where she lay, huddled beneath her wool blanket.
The sailor abruptly jerked from the impact of the bullet, flying backwards to slam against the wall. Eyes wide, he was dead before he collapsed to the floor, blood quickly staining the front of his uniform a deep crimson.
“Bastard!” Dr. Llwellyn shouted as he rushed to his feet and lunged forward. Two sailors, who had just finished tying Captain Clark’s hands together, rushed into the elven doctor’s path, dragging him away from the dead man. Thorias struggled in their grasp until they threw him against the wall next to a terrified Angela, now wide-eyed with shock.
“Sit down, doctor,” Dr. Hardy replied coolly, “I’ll let you know if I wish to collaborate.”
Thorias stifled a groan as he crashed to the floor. Terrified, hands shaking from fear and the withdrawl of the toxin, Angela scurried over to Dr. Llwellyn in concern.
“I’m fine, Angela,” Thorias lied with a painful smile, “don’t worry about me.”
Thomas Clark moved at that moment, as did Captain Hunter. Captain Clark, despite his hands being bound, lowered his shoulder to ram into Dr. Hardy. However, he took no more than two steps before one of the Fomorians, disguised as one of the Intrepid’s crew, shoved him aside. Two of the real Intrepid’s seaman started to rise, but stopped when the Fomorian sailors turned on them, ready.
Just as Clark bounced off the ship’s wall, Hardy turned, swiftly pointing the revolver at Anthony’s chest. The doctor narrowed his eyes, as if taking a careful measure of the man, much as a scientist would examine a caged, wild animal without giving any thought to the immediate danger the animal actually presented.
“How very wasteful of you, Captain,” Dr. Hardy said with a smug arrogance. “You cost the Royal Navy a sailor,” he shook his head with a mock sadness, “he might have grown to do … oh, something of moderate importance. Though likely he would have been a destitute drunkard, so perhaps I should commend you instead.” The doctor said as he inclined his head towards Hunter in a mock-bow and an impish smile, “good show, Captain!”
“The shot will have been heard by my crew,” Thomas Clark snarled at Hardy as he stepped back from the Fomorian sailors, keeping them at arm’s length from him, “they’ll be here in moments!”
“Idiot,” Dr. Hardy snorted, “I assist with your duty roster. Had you been less obsessed with your ‘mission’ you might have noticed a few shift changes. The only sailors nearby are mine,” the man hissed, “save for the sheep trussed up on the floor.”
Dr. Llwellyn waved Angela’s concern away, grimacing as he pushed up, slowly struggling to stand. “Are you a doctor or a butcher?” Thorias demanded with a venomous look at Dr. Hardy.
“No, I consider myself a visionary,” the murderer replied as if he was explaining to a child. He looked down his long, thin nose at Thorias. “Given you are an elf, and a Welsh elf at that, I doubt you are any less of a cur than your Tuatha Dé Danann ancestors. So, naturally, I won’t waste my valuable time trying to explain Fomorian enlightenment to a lesser race.” Hardy sniffed, giving Thorias a sour look, “now be good and shut up. I wish to speak to someone of more reasonable intelligence.”
Captain Hunter was tense, every muscle on the verge of motion for the instant that Dr. Hardy became vulnerable. Anthony ached for a pistol, a knife, anything at that moment. “What,” Hunter said ice crackling from each word,” … do you … want?”
Dr. Hardy smiled brightly, “direct and to the point, eh, Hunter? Commendable. First, I want you away from that door to the infirmary, and more out in the open. Wouldn’t do for you to interfere.” Hardy gestured with the revolver for Hunter to stand next to Thorias and Angela. Slowly, Hunter complied, his entire demeanor indicating he would break Hardy the very moment the chance presented itself.
The captain stopped a few paces short of Thorias and Angela, anger seething in his eyes. One of the Fomorian sailors walked over and roughly searched the captain for weapons. After a moment, the seaman shook his head, releasing his grip on Hunter’s clothes.
“Not even a knife on ’em,” the Fomorian sailor said to Dr. Hardy.
Hardy smiled, “excellent. Perhaps now we can reach an amicable agreement over this,” the thin man said as if searching for a word, “misunderstanding, wouldn’t you say?”
Hunter’s frown darkened, his eyes burning with the fury of a blast furnace. “No, I would not.”
“Ah, Captain,” the thin doctor, still dressed in the senior lieutenant’s uniform, said as he casually began to pace, waving idly with the revolver, “such a narrow view. Still a touch of anger over that dust up on the Fair Winds? It was just a small bit of appropriation. Pity you were in the way and all that.”
“Those were people that were abducted,” Hunter said slowly, words thick with tension, “not cattle.”
Hardy spun quickly to face Hunter with reptilian smile, “now that would depend on one’s point of view, wouldn’t it? However, that’s unimportant for our little discussion.” The doctor gestured towards Thorias with a free hand. “I doubt your doctor will enlighten us on this matter, so I will present my demands to you. The Hellgate formula. Hand it over and we can leave all of this behind us.”
Hunter folded his arms over his chest, a stubborn look on his face. “Pray tell, why do you think I know where it is? During your masquerade, you knew when I was brought aboard. I’ve scarcely had time to shave, let alone run about the ship and track down the whereabouts of your illicit toxin.”
Hardy nodded, followed by a small shrug as he began to pace. “Quite, but you have some sort of influence on your … comrade … there,” he replied indicating a very angry Thorias. “Perhaps enough to encourage him to hand it over.”
“I’ll not tell the likes of you anything!” Thorias interrupted, fists shaking with anger.
Angela looked wide-eyed from Dr. Llwellyn to Dr. Hardy, then back. Quietly, she stared at her quivering hand, closed her eyes, and concentrated. For a moment, and only a moment, her skin darkened as the smallest down of fur started to grow. As quickly as it started, it then stopped, leaving Angela exhausted and disappointingly still human.
Hardy glared at Dr. Llwellyn, “Doctor or no, be quiet! I’ve no intention of dealing with your kind!”
“Dr. Llwellyn is quite correct,” Hunter replied with a cold, calm voice, his eyes locked on Dr. Hardy’s. After a heartbeat, Captain Hunter slowly started to pace the width of the corridor, causing the thin doctor to constantly shift his aim. “You see, none of us have any intention of letting that formula loose, especially if it means allowing it into Fomorian hands.”
“Indeed?” Dr. Hardy replied, his eyes cold as ice while his frown deepened.
“If at all possible, yes,” Hunter continued with a faint smile. “You see, I, for one among us, never bargain while being held at gunpoint. I’ve found in doing so, I will forever be on the wrong end of the deal.” The captain stopped pacing, just a half-step in front of Thorias and Angela. “Also, I prefer to know the real identity of whom I’m dealing with.”
“What do you mean?” Dr. Hardy demanded, adjusting his grip on the weapon.
“You’re no more this ‘Dr. Hardy’ than I am,” Hunter explained with a smirk. “You Sirrah, are a bold deceiver … a lackey to the real Dr. Hardy. Dr. Llwellyn is actually a real doctor. You? I suspect are merely a cheap fraud.”