Shirley’s Secret

The metallic clang clang of the impacto-hammer reverberated against the heavily reinforced door of the captain’s cabin. “Mutinous dogs. Keep, give me something strong… give me a another Shirley.” The machine affectionately called Keep whirled around, flexible arms moving precisely, only moving exactly as needed, “One Shirley Temple coming right up for you captain.” The captain lifted his head up from the bar, “At least you haven’t turned on me Keep. We’re so close to our destination and the scurvied dogs want to turn back? Bah… would Black Beard.. my ancestor turn  back when he is this close? Never.” Keep set the shirley temple down in front of him. The captain’s robotic hand clasped the drink firmly and he tossed it back. His human fingers gingerly navigated the glass and picked out the cherry. He devoured it, “Arm’s a little creaky. Perhaps I should oil it.” He raised his inhuman arm and pointed his thumb and index finger out like a gun. The tip of his finger opened up and he aimed at the door. The relentless clang clang continued, “I should fire upon every last one of you dogs fer betrayin’ yer Captain. NO ONE betrays Captain Commodore!” Bang Bang! Fire and smoke erupted from Commodore’s finger tip. The banging stopped. “You know I could have opted to have a laser installed in this finger but I do love the smell of gunpowder. How’s about another shirley for the captain?”

“Captain. Wake up. We are an hour out from your destination. I suggest… cleaning yourself up.” A groan emitted from under a silver emergency blanket, “That’s enough sass out of you co-pilot.” He sat up slowly, his head in his hands, “Too many shirley’s for the Captain last night, but I could think of worse places to be barricaded on this hunk of tin than the saloon.” He ran a hand over his thick beard. Glittering gold rings were fitted over the fingers on his human hand. His hairline was chasing itself up his forehead and his long black hair was braided down past his shoulders. “Time to rouse the troops I suppose. Mutinous dogs don’t deserve this treasure but I be damned if I have to salvage a ship myself,” He stretched out, his mechanical arm screeched and groaned. “First… a bit of me time,” Commodore stumbled his way over to the bar. “Keep, gimmie a Shirley,” he pulled a tiny oil can out from the forms of his coat and set it on the bar. Next, he let the coat slide off of him and on to the floor. exposing the metal arm underneath. He bent it a few times, dropping oils from the tiny can into spots around the joints. Soon the squeaking stopped and he downed his Shirley, “Ah, the right amount of libations to loosen the tongue.”

The captain shot the reinforced door a sideways look. Mercifully, the pounded of the door had stopped a few hours earlier, “Poor lads must be all tuckered out. What they need is their captain to light a fire under them. Right proper like.” He walked over to the door, his gait loose and confident. The door bowed inward slightly from the crew’s attempts to get after him. He shrugged confidently and went to adjust his hat but remembered it wasn’t there. He had lost it while fleeing from his crew, “They had better not mussed my hat, otherwise I’ll be a bit put-off.” He took out a small tablet from one of his coat pockets, poked the screen a few times and the doors slid open. The captain smiled wide, showing teeth capped with gold and platinum. The doors slid to a halt, the dents getting the doors stuck without completely opening. Commodore frowned and was forced to slide indignantly through the doors.

His crew, all 8 of them we scattered about on the floor, sleeping. Milhouse, his lousy second in command snored obnoxiously, the captain’s hat resting over his face. Commodore bent down and pick up his hat, returning it ceremoniously to grace the top of his head. He kicked at Milhouse’s boot, “Up you flea bitten mutt. We’re here.” His first mate stirred slowly, rising to his feet like a mummy from a sarcophagus. “Ugh my head… Capt’ didn’t we have you locked in the saloon,” he dusted himself off and checked his head for the captain’s hat. “I see you’ve got your hat back… well I guess that’s an end to the mutiny,” he shifted his eyes downward.

Commodore slapped Milhouse on the back playfully, “Aye… I should really change the rules about that. ‘He that wears the hat is captain’ might be a little too arbitrary. After we raid the frigate he can air out discrepancies… Parlay like real gentlemen.”

“That is a real proper thing to do Captain. Real proper. You know… the men don’t know why we dress in these old rags. I mean we are space pirates. We should dress and act like the sleek team of futuristic bandits that we are. We really have some ideas captain and I know the guys are really excited to talk to you about them. I me—”, The captain cut Milhouse off mid sentence.

“Yes yes Milhouse. We will go over all of that after ya’ll get back from the frigate. Now rouse the crew and get ready. There is booty afoot,” Commodore turned and marched purposefully down the hallway toward the helm.

“Aye Captain Commodore! Aye Aye!” Called out Milhouse as the Captain left. He went about rousing the men “Alright men, listen up. The Captain has agreed to a parlay after we return from the frigate. I say we take him there. We need him to access the frigate for us and then that’s it boys. No more pirate duds. No more ‘Shirley Temples’. We’ll live like kings.” The men’s eyes glinted with greed and murder. Their plan was set. This would be the Captain’s last swaray.

Captain Commodore reached helm and looked the room over, “Co-Pilot! Ready boarding position. The crew is getting ready to board.” A synthesized voice came over the speakers, “The ship is moving into position. Will you be boarding with the crew as usual?” Commodore nonchalantly pulled on his beard, “No no… not this time. The crew can do this one on their own.” He meandered over to the captain’s chair and collapsed into it, “Co-Pilot, how long did they keep me locked in that saloon?” There was a beat of a pause, “About forty days Captain.” He drummed his fingers on the armrests, his brow furrowed in thought. He activated the intercom, “The ship is docked. You are ready to go. I’ve entered the access codes. Once you’ve salvaged what you can send it over to the loading dock and then come back aboard. We’ll parlay over some Shirleys.”

Milhouse readied the men at the boarding doors, “Let’s grab and go boys. The quicker we get everything of value out of this scrap heap the quicker we can gut the captain and do things our way.” The men cheered, they roared and stepped out into the airlock.

The crew was efficient. They combed through the halls and rooms of the ship. All they found were ghosts of the crew that manned the forlorn vessel. They made their way to the cargo hold, hoping that they’d have something to take back to the ship. The captain was a lot of things, but he was never wrong about treasure. They came upon the cargo hold, “Here it is men. Ready the torch,” Milhouse barked over the intercom. The dull, fading light of the abandoned frigate suddenly erupted brilliantly from the light of the torch the men used to cut through the solid metal door guarding the mysteries beyond.

The heat made quick work on the door and soon they were through. The hold was dark. The emergency lighting wasn’t working. The team lit their headlamps and walked into the darkness beyond. Milhouse went in first, his fingers running along the cargo boxes. “I’ll be… It’s a shipment of Platonium. Get the hover dollies unloaded, let’s get this on the ship. We’re going to eat well tonight!”

Captain Commodore watched the spectacle of his crew shift and load the Platonium onto the hover dollies. He watched meticulously as the cargo went from the derelict ship to his. And he watched as his crew joyously returned to the airlock. “Co-Pilot, Lock them onto derelict frigate and open a line of communication.” There was a moments pause, “Done, Captain. Should I start looking for new crew members?”  The captain considered this for a moment, “Aye… Do that but first, let me take care of our current crew.”

“Ahem… Ahoy friends. You’ll notice that I’m not letting you back onto my ship. And it is MY ship. For forty days you kept me locked away as a prisoner… IN MY SHIP. A captain does not parlay with his own crew. His crew listen and does as the Captain says. You left me locked away for Forty days. Now… I’m going to do the same to you. Any last words?”

“Yea… Shirley Temples have no alcohol in them… you crazy bastard.”

There is a door inside my door. I don’t know where it leads. I’ve never had the confidence to open it. A soft blue hue outlines the door. It’s how I know it’s there. There is no knob, no latch or visible way to open it. I know that if I walked up to it with the intent to open it, it would swing wide and through it I would walk. It’s not fear that holds me back. Not fear of the door. Not fear of the unknown. I just lack the confidence to walk through it. It isn’t time to walk through the door within the door. I have things to do first I suppose. Til then the door is my nightly companion, it’s glow my beacon in the dark of night.