There were gray clouds in the sky the day that Samuel and Zachary showed up at the captain's study. They were greeted by pats on the back and thick hugs and cheers.
"After Singapore, I was sent to Tokyo to keep an eye on Captain Meiling of the Bloody Lotus. That's where I found this sorry bloke, no joke, wandering into a ramen shop." Sam knocked Zachary one in the back as they all sat in the big room on Zachary's bed. Roderick explained everything that they had missed while the two men were away.
"So Zachary," Ara piped up as she walked slowly into the room. "Where did you disappear to that night for you to end up in Japan? We were in the sky in Jordan when the mutiny happened. How did you get lost from the ship?" The smiles and laughter died down as everyone realized how strange it had actually been. They were in the sky during the munity and yet, unless he had gone with David's lot, there wasn't any way that he could have gotten off the ship. He couldn't have hitched a life boat while they fell. They were falling fast and David had released all of the life boats before it all happened. All eyes were on Zachary.
"We're not just coworkers, yeah? We're a family, right? We forgive each other?" The crew laughed but all Ara could think of was when she killed Chanter that night. She couldn't tease him for being a sap.
Did you think we were family? She could almost hear chanter's mocking tone and his harsh, challenging smile.
That's exactly what I thought. She had said once she shot him down like a sick horse. After that night she had often wondered about the crew's thoughts and how they thought of each other. Was Arabella a sister to them? Were they her brothers and sisters or was it all just some stupid wishful thought that she could make up for the family she left behind?
"How did you get lost?" She asked again. Zachary looked around, catching eye contact with each attentive member of the Widow. What exactly was that look in his eye? There was more than hesitation. It was as though he was looking for something.
"Well, I had managed not to get caught and put in the brig. You know how I can fit into those small spaces. Well, when I saw David dragged the Captain out of her study, I figured we were done for at that moment. So I hid in one of the life boats and when you came out, well, that's when David let all of the life boats go so that no one would escape. He had no idea that I was in one of them." The fifteen year old shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't see how you would need to be forgiven for that. Just standard survival really." Aaron said.
"Well, hold on." Zachary stopped him, "I watched as the Widow went down and I thought you guys were dead so I.." Dominique raised an eyebrow.
"I followed David to London and then Emmet went to the Rejected Gear and then David went to the rejected Gear and then-"
"David went to the Rejected Gear?" Ara asked stepping forward and kneeling down in front of Zachary holding his shoulders. "What do you mean? Surely Brielle would have told me."
"No one was hurt. Well, Chanter was but-"
"Zachary, Chanter's dead. I killed him." Ara interrupted quickly and confidently. There had to be some mistake.
"No, I think it was the lady that killed him. Or was it David?" Zachary looked to the floor, trying to remember everything but he seemed so hysterical as if he were about to have a heart attack.
"No, Zachary," Ara kept pressing, "you're mistaken. We threw his body in the middle of the desert when we got to the ground. I shot him myself," She shook him a little, almost sounding as though she were trying to calm him down or reassure him. "I watched him go down. He was dead. I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. Didn't I kill Chanter, Dominique? J'ai tuee Chanter?" Ara turned to the gunner who nodded aggressively with a confused look on her face. Zachary kept shaking his head.
"I'm absolutely serious. He was alive and well until the Rejected Gear but then they left without him. That's when I joined David's crew." Everyone's pistol or blade was out on that phrase and aimed at Zachary except for Roderick, Raphael, Samuel, Michelle, and Natalie. "I thought you said you'd forgive me. I'm done with that crew. It was too much to handle." He put his hands above his head. "Gents, come on now, I'm not with David anymore."
"Well, how are we supposed to know that. We can't just take your word for it." Marlow explained.
"I'm here aren't I?" And that's when he understood completely. "You think I'm a spy, is that it, then? You think I'm a bloody errand boy." He confirmed with an offended look in his eyes. He looked to Marcus.
"Marcus, we're mates. Why you pointing that thing at me, eh?" Zachary pleaded, "Come on, now. I ain't no spy. I'm telling ya. I was overjoyed when I heard you was alive." Marlow's eyes narrowed.
"Zachary, we have to lock you up. We don't want to but we have to. We can;t take any risks." He told him as the boy glanced around in panic.
"I thought you said we were family." the crew laughed again and Ara felt a pang in her chest. Just when she thought it could't get any worse, "Arabella. Come on, Ara. No," He shrugged a hand off of him. "Ara, we're family right? You're like a sister to me. I could never betray you." She wanted to tell him that everything was fine and that he was forgiven and that everything could be as it was. Chanter once claimed loyalty to the Silver Widow. Look what that turned out to be.
"Don't kill him. Lock him in the brig. We'll take turns keeping watch." She finally said without looking at him. But she could feel his face move into a look of disgusted hurt and his eyes. She could feel brown eyes stare her down with a pleading disbelief as Ezra and Dario pulled him away. The crew followed as they took him out of the room, leaving Ara to sit on his bed. Was her emotional reaction to all of this an over reaction or was it PMS? She couldn't figure it out. That's when Sam came storming through and stood in front of her.
"Are you mad? Are you actually mad?" He pointed towards the door.
"Would you rather I said, 'open fire!'?" Ara crossed one leg over the other as she leaned against the wall, arms crossed now as Sam stared her down. Sometimes Ara was amazed that she became first mate and not Samuel. He was strong with freckles and thick black hair that tied back in a pony tail and the crew looked up to him as well. This wasn't only because he had a strange taste of humor but he knew how to handle people and much better than Ara did. Sam could always talk people out of a fight but when Ara became first mate, he began staying out of things. "What did you want me to do?"
"Why aren't you locking me up too, then? Not that I want to be locked up but-"
"You were sent on a mission by the captain. He was wandering around and joined an enemy crew for awhile. How can we not be suspicious? I would rather he be alive though an locked up till we get the truth of it instead of killing him on the spot." The two looked at each other for a few moments before Sam stroked his chin and nodded.
"Fine." He walked out and Ara followed while the rest of the crew went back to work. She went up to the captain's study where Roderick, Raphael, and Mercurian stood around Charlotte. Mercurian, who had been lurking in his lab for three days without even coming up for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Mercurian who looked older than ever with sleepless eyes that draped grey skirts below themselves and a hair that tangled and twisted together on his head. He sighed with a tired breath as he leaned over Charlotte's shoulder. Raphael was busy typing something on his hand and Roderick had his head cocked as the captain stared at the empty coordinates.
"We'll need to find a picture of this island. We need more information." Roderick said through the silence. Charlotte gazed at the empty coordinates as though they were a puzzle she couldn't put together.
"We have to send in a spy at least to see if there's a map of this place. Raphael," She addressed the austalian intellect as he blinked through round glasses at the screen on his hand; his sleeve pushed up with little care to access his key board.
"Aye, captain." He responded with clearly divided attention, still staring down at his screen.
"Have you found anything?"
"No. But I have found some interesting boat accident statistics." He answered with a perk in his tone. The captain shot him a look of disbelief,
"Would you mind?" She asked sarcastically and Raphael shpook his head quickly and snapped his gaze up.
"What? Oh! sorry. Right, secret islands!" He mumbled and began typing furiously. Arabella cleared her throat and the captain looked towards the door.
"Arabella, in nine days, when we are back in London, I need you to pick a few mates to sell the silk in White Chapel for cheap. We couldn't find any buyers this season and we need storage space." Charlotte said. Ara nodded and left and turned to leave. "Really, no sassy remark or commentary?" She turned back and shook her head before walking out. She walked to the bow of the ship then, thinking as she climbed the stairs above the galley and over to the very edge where she laced her fingers through netting that stretched down from the balloon and stared out at cloud speckled sky, wind biting her ears and wisping her hair back. Zachary seemed so sure of himself, so confident that Chanter had survived the S.S Silver Widow. Chanter couldn't have survived though. She remembered everything. His silhouette in the dust and then his clear smile in the hallway. His crossed arms and that smile. that...smile. He didn't seem like a human anymore. It was a smile like death that said, 'you shoot me or I shoot you'. Chanter had been one of her favorite crew mates too. After All that time. She thought as she watched the powdery clouds drift slowly. They seemed more solid to her than anything at that moment.