Introduction and orientation
“What? There is something on the Radar?” Jake swiveled his head around, straining to look directly backwards, the cat on his chest momentarily forgotten, until it’s claws sunk into him when he shifted to get up and move.
Carefully he extricated the cat’s claws from his chest and gently placed the persistent feline on the seat beside the unresponsive girl.
Stepping across the narrow cabin, he sat himself down at the navigation station and reached out to fiddle with the radar receiver. Trying to bring the elusive contact into better focus, he automatically shifted his weight as the boat rolled back and forth across the tops of the relatively minor waves.
Katie, making sure the girl was propped up safely, leaned across to peer over Jake’s shoulder. “If it’s at all accurate, then whatever that is out there is about ten miles off and either sitting still or moving real slow compared to us.”
Grunting, Jake lurched out of his seat and clambered up the forward companionway into the covered helm station. Killing the motors, he let the ship drift for the moment and stepped back below decks to continue the conversation.
“Katie, we’re floating at a standstill now, and whatever is out there is also not moving.” Jake nodded in the direction of the bow. Somewhere out there a ship was sitting, maybe waiting for something.
Katie looked over at the black and silver cat, who was still sitting on the bench, grooming itself.
Don’t ask me what they’re doing there, no… Not like the cat would know what’s happening… The green eyes bored into Jake’s eyes momentarily as these thoughts flitted through his mind.
“Katie, do you notice anything odd about the cat?” Jake braced himself as the schooner’s bow dipped then shot upwards.
Katelyn grabbed a corner to steady herself as well, then as Jake watched her face went pale.
“What is it?”
“You killed the engines, the sails are down, right?”
“Look at the Navigation readout.” Katelyn’s eyes were wide, looking slightly panicked, and she was starting at the little LCD screen that showed the statistics for Navigation, including the relative speed of the boat through the water.
Jake, we need to talk, I can help. That is, if you’ll listen to me before it’s too late.
Jake shook his head, wondering where those thoughts were coming from. He stepped aft into the cabin, his eyes going to the Navigation readouts as well. As the schooner rolled down another swell in this strange ocean Jake once again braced himself to keep from falling backwards. As the ship bottomed out and started climbing again, he finally focused on the speed readings. The ship was traveling at a steady six knots, no sails or power.
“We must be in some kind of slip-stream,” he murmured to himself. “We’ll just have to steer out of it and things will settle down again.”
You can’t steer out of this, you’re being pulled to him.
Jake looked sharply at Katelyn, “Did you just say something?”
“I thought I just heard you say ‘You can’t steer out of this, you’re being pulled to him.'” Jake looked puzzled.
“Jake, are you feeling alright? Maybe you need to rest for a bit.”
You don’t have time to rest. We need to talk. There are things you need to know before it’s too late.
“Alright, enough is enough!” Jake spoke aloud to nothing in particular, frustrated at the voice he kept hearing.
Katelyn slid further away from him, “Jake, you’re starting to worry me.”
Jake… She called you Jake. May I also call you Jake?
Resigned to having a voice in his head for some reason, Jake just shook his head and then nodded. “Sure, if you’re going to talk to me then you might as well use my name.”
Good. The tall fair haired one is called Katie?
“Yes, and who am I talking to?”
Katelyn looked at Jake, then when she realized that he was as confused as she was, she slipped through the galley and into the back cabin away from this weird assed conversation.
“Great, now I’m talking to myself, my wife thinks I’m losing my mind, and to top it off our sailboat is moving under no power at all.”
This sailboat is being moved by magic.
“Hold on a minute, even if you are made up, who am I talking to?”
The cat took this moment to stretch and yawn furiously, then she climbed up to the unresponsive young woman’s lap.
I am called Tess, Alectesseria. We are the reason you’re being pulled in. The water mage on the ship that you have detected is VERY interested in making sure we don’t survive to make landfall.
“Well, of course this all makes sense. My delusions are having a grand old time spinning magical fantasy stories.” Jake looked briefly over at the cat and the girl. The with a shake of his head, he followed Katelyn to the back cabin.
“I think I need to lay down. I’m hearing voices, and they’re not making any sense even though they’re talking in full sentences.”
Katie nodded at this, “So, do you want me to watch the helm and the radar?”
“Yeah, if you’re up to it. I’m getting the impression that we’re going to go wherever we are being pulled to anyhow, but it doesn’t hurt to have an alert pair of eyes on things.”
“Alright, I’ll come back and get you in an hour.” Katie disappeared through the companionway back up to the main cabin.
You can’t just walk away. I tried talking to the fair haired one you call Katie, but she’s not receptive. You are.
Jake groaned and rolled over, thinking to himself, I just wanted to have a nap, maybe then I’ll be ok. The voices might go away.
I’m not going away Jake, and I’m not just some malfunction in your mind. You rescued me and now the man that tried to have me killed is after you.
Resigned to having this conversation whether he wanted it or not, Jake sat up on the bed, “Will it be easier if I talk out loud or is thinking it enough?”
I can hear your thoughts clearly when I’m listening. There is no need to speak out loud unless you like to hear yourself talk. Jake sensed a definite undertone of humor in this last part.
Alright Tess, I’ll listen. But first, a question. Why don’t you just talk to me like a normal human? Jake settled back on the bed, sighing in relaxation more than anything else, and waited for a reply.
I’m not human, I can’t talk. Alectesseria could if she were in her body, but she’s not there. She’s with me, that’s how I can think like this, and communicate like this.
‘So Alectesseria is in your body? Where is that? Jake shifted to move a spring out of the middle of his back.
I’m sitting in her lap right now.
‘I’m talking to a cat?” Jake shook his head, thinking to himself that this was all just too weird..
Cat Has His Tongue
“Hey Katie, C’mon back here for a minute!”
As she clambered down the companionway from the forward pilothouse, Katie looked curious and somewhat perturbed at the casual command in Jake’s voice.
“What is it?”
“There’s something wrong with this whole picture. Know what I mean?” Jake gestured futilely at the cat, the silent girl, and the moving boat under a dead motor.
“Wrong?” Katie, disgruntled and somewhat irritated looking,, was playing dumb.
“Here, let me throw the motor in reverse.” Jake stepped forward to the companionway that Katie had just descended, and reaching through, he flipped the engine on and slipped it into reverse. Scanning the radar and depth sounders, he made sure that there was nothing for them to hit anywhere near.
Having done that, Jake turned back to his long-suffering wife and sat himself down on the steps leading up to the front hatch. “I know this sounds nuts, but this cat is talking to me, telepathically.”
“Yep. That sounds nuts.” Katelyn looked suspicious.
“I’m not kidding.” Jake was looking a little panicked. “Can I get you a cup of tea while I’m making myself one?”
“Jake, sit, I’ll get the tea. Pull your head together, you’re sounding like you’ve slipped off the deep end. Talking to a cat telepathically? Really.” Katelyn slipped aft through the passageway to the galley.
Jake looked down at the cat, and speaking out loud he queried, “So, we need to talk. Those were your words. But you’re not able to talk to Katie, so now it’s just that I sound nuts and she’s going to be stuck on this little boat with a crazy guy.”
Katelyn, from the galley aft, called out, “Are you talking to me or yourself?”
“Neither, I’m talking to the cat.”
“The cat…” The sound of doubt with a hint of frustration entered Katelyn’s voice, Jake could hear it even at this distance.
CAT “Yes, I need to explain what you’re facing. This is hard for me, it would be easier if I could shift back to my proper body, then my familiar could go back to being emotional support instead of a temporary residence.”
“Why can’t you?” Jake was confused here, having no idea what was possible under these new rules of reality.
“My body is too drained, tired and cold, I need hot liquids, and recovery.”
“Recovery? Like sleep?”
“No. Sleep is part of it, but there are things I need from a potion or three that I cannot get here. The necessary ingredients are all back on the other ship, or at worst they’re not available until we get to land.”
“Minerals and salts, trace elements, a special liquid to suspend this all in, and hopefully something to flavor it with, because with out that the whole potion tastes hideous.”
Jake was listening to all this, responding out loud, and then as Tess started to list the items, he was repeating verbally what he was hearing in his head.
Katelyn came back with two cups of tea, and caught the whole shopping list. “That sounds like sports drink.”
Jake’s head snapped up and he looked at his wife, the non-professional runner. “That’s it! That’s why it sounded familiar.”
Briskly he turned to face the silent girl in the settee, “Can you manage to swallow some liquids?”
Tess’s voice responded in his head, “It’s a natural reflex, if you can get it in her mouth she’ll swallow. But talking to her like that only makes you look dumb!”
At the same time Katelyn interjected, “You look dumb talking to a girl who doesn’t even hear you.”
Jake, doubly chastised, shook his head and stood up after carefully putting down the tea Katie had handed him.
Rummaging in the forward equipment locker, he grunted in a positive manner, “I knew there was some of this in here.” He pulled out a plastic bottle of the sports drink that Katie always carried when they went anywhere.
CAT “What is that?”
“It’s our version of your magic potion.”
Katie looked startled when Jake replied to the cat’s silent question.
“I’ll need to test it first, before we give it to me.”
“Fair enough.” Jake snagged a small saucer and with a great deal of concentration he manged to serve up some of the liquid to the cat while the boat was rocking back and forth over the ocean’s swells.
Katie watched as this was happening, noting that the cat expected to be served first. She watched as Tess carefully sniffed then felt the liquid before actually tasting in, her little pink tongue darting out to lap at the strawberry-kiwi flavored liquid.
“It’s not quite the right stuff, but it’s close, and it’s not poisonous.” Tess sniffed haughtily.
“True, but how do I get it into the girl?”
CAT “Get your lady to carefully and gently open my mouth and then trickle the liquid in until I start to swallow. Sooner or later you’ll get enough into me that I can come around and we can talk like mortals were meant to talk.”
Twenty minutes later the girl on the couch blinked and gasped sputtering through the last little bit of liquid Katie had dripped into her mouth. Until this point Katelyn been carefully ministering to the comatose girl while Jake fought to turn the schooner around, while also attempting to maintain a relatively static position in relation to the blip on the radar. Achieving some small measure of success, he had spun the boat end for end, and was running the engines at quarter power to keep their position static relative to their pursuers. Jake set the automatic controls and went below decks to see how Katie was doing with their guest.
The girl, Tess, was sitting across from Katie, rubbing her eyes and looking a little less dead that she had a few minutes ago. Both Katie and Tess looked over at Jake as he stepped into the cabin. Katie raised one eyebrow in question, and Jake nodded a silent answer to her unspoken query concerning their safety. Out loud he said (for Tess’ benefit) “We’re turned away from them, headed due west if the sun is anything to go by. So far, we’re holding position with the Gennie’s running at 25%, we could push and likely get away, but I’ve no idea where to go or where we even are for that matter.” He finished with a sigh, looking imploringly at Tess hoping she was up to providing some answers.
“You both talk as though this world is strange to you, an odd thing to think, unless you’re not of this world.” Tess deflected Jake’s unspoken question with one of her own.
Katie spoke up, “We really don’t know what’s going on, we were anchored in the cove, on the east side of Vancouver Island, and woke up here.”
“Vancouver Island?” Tess looked confused, “Where’s that?”
Katie tried to explain where the island was in relation to Canada, to North America, but the questions always came back to the fact that such landmasses didn’t exist in Tess’ world. Jake finally signaled a ceasefire to both ladies, and started a new tack, “So, forgetting for a moment that Katie and I have no idea where we are, you most obviously do know where we are, and what’s going on. Can you please enlighten us?”
Tess looked about ready argue the point, but then changed her mind. Sighing she nodded in concession, “I suppose it’s only fair, since you did pull me out of the water and save me from certain death.”
Katie had to visibly stop herself from interrupting as Jake gave her a look when she made a move to speak. Tess continued as though nothing happened between the two.
“Memory’s a tricky thing, especially when one is unconscious. I can assume you pulled me out of the water, and that Shanel stayed by my side. Am I correct so far?”
Jake nodded, noting that the cat’s name was not Tess, but rather Shanel, he briefly glanced at the internal readouts for the radar and such, noting that they were in fact holding steady.
Tess, following his glance, looked closely at the little screen, “What are those three dots?”
“Three?” Katie spoke up, looking confused. “The middle one in the center of the circle represents us, here in this ship, and that one towards the bottom represents the guys we’re trying to stay away from, for now.” Both Jake and Katie looked closely at the small readout.
Jake, cursing under his breath, lunged towards the hatch and up out to the cockpit where he could check the larger more detailed readouts. Sure enough, there were now three points on the radar, one directly astern where he left it, and another forward and to port but bearing directly down on them at speed. By his estimate they had about half an hour before they were within speaking distance. He slipped back inside and turned to Tess, “Ok miss, it’s time to start explaining what’s going on here. That ship heading at us is moving fast, and from the scopes, it looks like a three masted racing yacht. Red sail aft.” He stopped, breathless, and more than a little flustered and apprehensive.
Tess muttered under her breath, “Pirates.” She looked worried, truly worried.
Katie, “Wait, pirates? Like Blackbeard and Long John Silver?”
Tess looked confused for a moment, “Who are Blackbeard and John Silver?”
Jake countered, “It doesn’t matter. These are truly pirates?”
“You said a red sail flying aft?” Tess looked frightened, “Three masts, did you make out any flags or pennants flying other colours?”
“Through the telescope?” Jake looked exasperated, “Three miles or more out, not a chance.”
“Ashes and steam!” Tess blurted out, exasperated. It sounded like cursing to Jake and Katie, but the words weren’t the usual expletive. Tess didn’t notice their confusion however, and continued, “Faith, we’ll have to make a run for it. I’ll explain while we move. Can your magic Genies move us any faster?”
Jake took only a moment to make sense of what she was asking, then he nodded and moved to push the engines to three-quarters of full power. He jumped up through the hatch, to the wheel and shifted the motors into a higher gear while spinning the wheel to bring the boat around to a north-western heading. He watched for a few minutes before noting with satisfaction that the seemed to be pulling away from their pursuers, while also heading away from the ‘pirates’ that Tess seemed so worried about. A moment later he shivered and then reached gratefully for the coat and hot mug of tea that Katie had brought with her when she came up to see what the situation was. Tess followed behind, wrapped in one of the many felt army surplus blankets they had stowed ‘just in case.’
The took up positions on either side of the cockpit looking at Jake, and then the focus shifted to Tess and she began to speak. She told them of a broken government, of a corrupt church that had infiltrated and subverted the ruling class, of a society ground into dust for the benefit of an elite magic wielding class who claimed divine authority.
She went on to explain that she was a member of an opposing group, who was tying to bring about a change and some semblance of rights for the rest of the populace. She had been traveling to a refuge hidden away in a chain of islands to the south, where the resistance elements were organizing themselves to try to bring about change. Her ship had been attacked and sunk by the combined efforts of the fire and water mages on the ship pursuing her, she was lucky to have escaped in the wreckage.
As she wound down her story, Jake and Katie looked at each other in exasperation. Clearly they had been dropped into the middle of something quite a bit bigger than they could comprehend in a moment.
They needed to get home, and had no idea of how or what to do to get there.