Skill, Luck, and Terrible Ideas (pt. 8)

Panic flash-froze Lally’s heart. 

They were at a serious disadvantage. Miss Hunt stood less than a pace away from where the three men sat on the ground with their backs to the building. None of the men were armed. Lally and Zvonko were hobbled by injuries, and Mesa was sandwiched between them.

On a good day, Lally and Zvonko would be just fast enough to stop Hunt from killing Mesa at that distance. Unfortunately today was not a good day.

This can’t be happening.

“Miss Hunt.” Lally tried to breathe. “P-Please don’t do this.” 

“It’s okay, Lally.”

Lally glanced aside at Zvonko who was leaning forward to speak around Mesa, who stress-munched loudly.

Zvonko smiled reassuringly. “It’s okay,” he said. “She agreed to a truce.”

She what? Lally glanced up at Hunt, hesitantly. Is that even possible?

A cool layer of sweat gleamed on Lally’s forehead in the moonlight as he rose to his feet to greet her properly.

Hunt offered her hand. “I’m sorry about your crew.” 

Why does everyone keep saying that? Lally accepted her handshake. “No one’s dead yet.”

“And I’m here to ensure it stays that way.”

Lally followed her gaze to Zvonko. “Then welcome aboard. And thank you.” 

This is very good but also very, very… I don’t know… very NOT good.

Lally watched as Hunt folded to the ground to sit near Zvonko, speaking to him in hushed tones. She didn’t acknowledge Mesa who seemed to be avoiding eye contact with everyone while shoveling crunchy bread crisps in his mouth as if riveted by a drama that he was desperately trying to pretend he wasn’t involved in. 

For what felt like ages, Lally had helped Mesa evade Hunt whenever they accidentally crossed paths with her. It was always by accident. Once, Hunt had accidentally taken interest in the same vendor’s tapestry display on Millet Street at the same moment Mesa had. That day, Lally had trailed behind Mesa as he threaded through the crowded market to get to the vendor’s display. Lally failed to recognize who stood beside Mesa until the precise instant that the two recognized each other. In a blink, Hunt had nearly removed Mesa’s head from his shoulders with the dual blades she always wore and thus began a frenzied, nine-day, city-wide pursuit.

Lally raked a trembling hand through his hair. Ooooh, breathe, Lally. Forcing himself to exhale slowly, he sank back to the ground. Breathe.

“All I know,” said Hunt, “is that we board The Constellation at sunrise.” She looked across at Lally expectantly. “What’s the plan after that?” 

Lally and Zvonko stared back at her with lips pressed shut. Mesa was devouring the crumbs from the bottom of the bag, pouring what was left into his mouth.  

I had a plan at first, a vague one, thought Lally. But since Mesa’s here, I assume he’ll do the honors. He always does, and I prefer it that way. But I can’t ask what it is. He doesn’t impart details to anyone, not anymore.

It wasn’t an issue for Zvonko, who could react and adapt on faith and instinct at will. Lally, and every other normal human being in the world, couldn’t and inadvertently obliterated any and all of Mesa’s ingenious ideas when he learned the full details in advance.

I hope learning who’s really leading this rescue doesn’t cause her to change her mind about helping. Lally cleared his throat. “About that…” 

“Two things must happen,” said Mesa. “First, we need to make Cape Astrid before sundown tomorrow if we’re going to catch up to and ambush Captain Green’s ship The Bandit as it’s passing through the K’noa Straight.”  

Lally and Zvonko stared flabbergasted, the former with hands clapped aggressively over his own ears and the later with his jaw slack. 

Legs folded, Hunt leaned an elbow on her knee and rubbed her lower lip. She finally looked at Mesa, challenging him with her gaze. “The Bandit left days ago. They should’ve passed through the K’noa Straight by now.”

Mesa simply looked back at her. “The Green crew stopped at Crieka for the supplies they would’ve gotten earlier if they hadn’t been preoccupied with Lally’s crew. After that, they stopped in Florella for a couple of days to flaunt their prisoners to their rich and powerful friends. Their current progress will put them at the straight no less than four days from now.”

Hands pressed over his ears, Lally had rolled to his feet, humming a peppy tune as he began skipping and pacing around the meager courtyard.

Hunt watched the captain with a confused scowl. “What’s the second thing that needs to happen?” she said to Mesa.

“We need to recruit Captain Seymour while at Cape Astrid.” 

Zvonko’s face purged all emotion. 

Hunt grinned, feral. “AHAHAHA!” She elbowed Zvonko. “Isn’t Seymour the one other person who wants to kill Mesa as badly as I do?”

Gazing off wide-eyed, Zvonko rubbed his sore chest. “He is.” 

Mesa looked into the brown bag to confirm he had run out of crispy bread bits. “The size and speed of Seymour’s available fleet and alliances are adequate for our purposes. I won’t tell you any more than that.” 

Hunt turned to Zvonko. “What’s the rest of it?”

“He hasn’t told us. He typically doesn’t.”

“Oh, no, no.” She shook a finger at Mesa. “I need more details. Winning over Captain Seymour is a crucial step. I want to know how we’re supposed to get him to help us. He won’t help you, Mesa. We probably can’t even let him know about you. He’s not one to say ‘yes’ on a whim to just anybody if they ask nicely.” 

When Mesa didn’t answer, Zvonko patted her arm. “Miss Hunt.”

She faced Zvonko so she didn’t have to look at Mesa. Imploringly, she said, “We need to know this. How will we know what to do? I agree that Seymour’s fleet is likely be the one thing that can overtake and overpower The Bandit before it’s too late, but what I don’t see how we can make that happen. If we’re going to work together, we need to know everything.” 

Zvonko took her hand. “Sometimes it’s better not to ask.” 

“Argh, no! Let’s make him tell us!”

On the other side of the courtyard, Lally was studying the starry sky in the east where it glowed with the first blush of dawn. “We should start heading over to the pier.” He checked to see if Mesa was done talking and dropped his hands. “Before that,” he said, walking over. “Zvonko.” 

Zvonko looked at him as Miss Hunt, still grumbling, climbed to her feet first and moved to help him up.

I have to say it. Lally steeled himself. “You can’t come.” 

Zvonko and Hunt stared in appalled disbelief.

The waves breaking on a distant seawall seemed louder than usual.

Lally looked his friend in the eye as he stood with Hunt’s assistance. “I heard what Mesa mention Seymour. Seymour’s got enough able bodied people and then some. And you… you shouldn’t be walking around, much less fighting.” He cringed, and forced out the words: “We don’t need you.” 


Lally knew the words wounded his friend but they had to be said. Better to hurt feelings than get him killed. “I’m not willing to risk losing one friend while trying to save three others.” 

The silence was damning, and painful. Zvonko understood. He must’ve. There was no way he didn’t.

To Lally’s surprise, Zvonko looked down at Mesa who was still sitting on the ground. “What about you? Do you think that, too?” 

Hunt pulled a face as if wondering why the lunatic’s opinion mattered to anyone. 

Crumpling the empty brown bag in a ball, Mesa looked up at him. “It won’t work without you.”  

Zvonko’s anguish gave way to stark wonderment. He hardly expected such a favorable response from someone who hated his guts.

Lally scantly believed it either. “I’m sorry, what?” 

“It won’t work without him.” Mesa shoved to his feet with the wadded bag in his fist. “If he doesn’t go, neither will I.”

With that, Mesa wandered off through one of the inn’s breezeways in search of a trash receptacle.

Lally gaped. Shuffled his feet. Scratched his head. “I… okay then. Right.” He clapped his hands together, rubbed them. Looked at Zvonko. “Sorry. Let’s go then.” 

[to be continued…]

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