we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
-Mike and the Mechanics
"The Living Years"
"This better be good!" Vermin said, striding into Yars office. "You interrupted a good… Christopher!" His tone went softer, more confident. "Feeling better?"
Kindle dug a claw into his chair, as Yars stood up. "This is about you, not Kindle." Yars said. "I would ask you to have a seat, but I know you won't take it."
"Oh, I think I will!" Vermin said, casually pulling a chair out for himself. "Thank you." Vermin sat down, Sam standing at the doorway behind him. Vermin looked around the table. Leoghann sitting against the wall next to Kindle. Ironbar on the other wall, with Bernie. "Now, how may I help you?"
Yars stood straight, and adjusted his coat. "You are here to answer to the accusations made against you." Yars said formally. "You stand accused of assaulting and raping Kindle. You have the right to ask for a public trial and presentation of the facts under the ship's laws."
"Give it up Captain." Vermin said, leaning forward. "This isn't about the dog. You're still angry about what I did to your captain."
"Irrelevant." Yars said bluntly. "Either answer to the charges, or I will be forced to rule on what Bernie has reported to me."
Vermin twitched his whiskers. "In that case, I am not guilty of anything more than my good looks." Kindle bit his lip as Leoghann patted his leg once. The lion shook his head towards Kindle, who tried not to jump from his chair.
"Very well then." Yars said. "So be it. You will then answer to the crew, where every member will have the opportunity…"
"There's nothing they can say." Vermin spit out. "I welcome them to say they saw anything. I challenge you, CAPTAIN Yars! If you can produce a single member of the crew that can prove I did anything wrong to this WHELP I'll answer to the worst punishment you can dish out."
Yars folded his ears back as the moment lingered. "Anyone?" he asked, a hint of amusement in his voice.
Vermin spit on the ground. "Anyone."
Yars looked to Kindle, then to Vermin. Silently, he walked to the door leading to the bridge and opened it. "FULL STOP!"
"What?" Kyle said, stunned.
"FULL STOP! Do not move this ship an INCH without my exclusive approval! THAT IS AN ORDER!" He shouted with meaning.
Kyle felt the blood drain from his face. The captain was never that stern unless it was an emergency. "Aye Cat'tain." He said. he bridge crew jumped to action, relaying his orders.
Yars closed the door, and turned to face Vermin. "Your terms are accepted. You have two hours to assemble your men, and all that can prove your story true. On the main deck, we will gain resolution." He looked to Ironbar. "Assemble your men on the deck at the same time. This ends HERE and NOW." Ironbar nodded. "Make use of your time Vermin."
"Not so fast." Vermin said, standing up. "When I'm proven right, I want something for all this you're putting me through." Yars stared the rat down. "I demand we elect a new captain when I'm proven right."
Yars took in a deep breath. "We will see." he said. "You have two hours. Dismissed."
"YOU have no right to dismiss me!" Vermin shouted. "I am humoring this so that Christopher's lies can be exposed. And when he is, I'll be more than happy to captain this ship in your place." Yars stared him down. "And I will be proven right." He snapped his fingers, and Sam followed Vermin out the door, closing the door behind him.
Leoghann looked to the Captain. "He's a bold one, isn't he?"
Ironbar laughed, breaking nervous tension. "More than you know."
"Are you all right?" Leoghann asked to Kindle. The dog nodded. The lion looked back to Yars. "You have something in mind, I assume?"
"I do." Yars said. "Bernie was right, you are a good man in command." Leoghann grinned, looking at Bernie who just shrugged.
The door to the bridge knocked twice, and Kyle opened the door. "Cat'tan? If we drop sails we'll drift into a fog bank. Are you sure you want a full stop?"
"I am." Yars said, his muzzle crimping into a slight smile.
I am writing this in haste. We have been in a fog bank for a full day, and we are nervous about it. Some of the crew see this as a sign of bad tidings. I see it as an annoyance.
Scott has said that we should turn for home, as it will take us on the sailing route of the Maria. If we miss it, we will turn for home. I do not wish to carry out my threat to Scott's family, but if he fails me, I have to keep my end of the bargain. A pity too, his wife is truly a beautiful creature. It will be a shame to do what I need to. A deal is a deal.
We are at a full stop until the fog lifts, for fear of hitting something. We are almost sure where we are, but will wait for the stars to get a true reading. The woman on board has been keeping spirits high with her cooking, which has helped morale. We have all grown fond of her, I hope that she can do the job we brought her here to do.
Log Entry, Roger Wallworth, Captain
Fog began to swirl along the deck as the Jackrats and Howlers assembled on the deck. Others in the crew stood on deck, or on the rope ladders up the sails to watch. Word has spread like wildfire that there would be a trial, and everyone it seemed wanted to see it. Vermin and Yars, it was too good to miss.
Vermin stood with confidence with his men, smiling as the fog licked the ship's deck. He looked to the Howlers, and considered how much fun it would be to humiliate them publicly. They had no evidence, they just had a broken dog.
Yars looked over to Rev, and nodded. Rev faded into the background as best he could, and held his book close to his heart. He hoped Yars idea would work. Yars took in a deep breath, and looked to the crew. Almost all of them were on the deck now, waiting to watch the show. He strode out to the top deck, overlooking the main deck. Next to him stood Kindle and Leoghann. With a stern look, Yars began.
"We are here to hear all sides of the incident concerning the Vermin and Kindle incident." Yars said. "After this, I will not hear or tolerate retaliations for anything concerning this. Are we all in agreement?" A collective murmur and nod rolled over the deck. Yars nodded. "Vermin stands accused of assaulting and raping of Kindle. He has proclaimed his innocence. I will now hear all evidence against him."
After a moment of silence, a St. Bernard Howler stepped forward. He bit his lower lip once, and looked to Yars, trying to ignore the rest of the crew looking at him. "I have a few things." Bernie said.
"Ahh, the snoop." Vermin said quietly. "Let's see what he doesn't have."
Yars nodded. "You may present it."
Bernie tapped his paws nervously as he talked. "I have done some looking into it. I have pieced some things together, as I told you before." Bernie looked around the ship nervously. "I'm not too good at public speaking." he said with a nervous laugh.
"You'll be fine." Yars said. "You have the floor."
Bernie took in a deep breath, licking his own muzzle nervously. "As far as I can tell, Kindle was set up to be attacked. According to the Jackrats Kindle was asked to go down to the storage room to retrieve repaired rope. The records indicate that rope had already been retrieved that morning. There was no reason that Kindle should have been there in the first place."
"Then he deserved it." Vermin said. Yars shot him a dirty look, and Vermin scoffed.
Bernie tried to shake Vermin's statement, and moved on. "I found evidence of rat fur in the hallway where Kindle was found. I also smelled the rats there. I expected this because of where he was, which is near their nest. But thanks to Silver, I found evidence of Kindle's fur and rat fur down the hall from where I found him. It is my best opinion that Kindle was attacked in an adjoining hall, dragged to in front of the storage room, and left there. What's left of his clothing was ripped with claws, but not like dogs or bears or anything else like that. I've only seen one or two other types of claws on this ship that would rip like that. It's consistent with the rats. but I can't tell you which one."
"So yer saying you don' have any proof I did anything?" Vermin asked with an amused tone.
"Physical proof?" Bernie asked, his tail twitching slightly. "Since you wouldn't let me measure your claws, or your hands, or anything else, no. But I know what I found, and I know that there is no reason for a Jackrat to ask Kindle to go into the store room near your quarters." Bernie looked to Captain Yars. "Permission to go out on a limb?"
"We're keeping to the facts." Yars said bluntly. "If you have any further evidence?"
"Only that Vermin was not on the deck at the time." He looked to Vermin. "Not that he ever is." He looked to his crewmates. "And nobody can account for where he was when Kindle left the deck, other than the Jackrats."
"Thank you Bernie." Yars said. Bernie nodded, and hurriedly went back to his packmates, and tried to hide in the crowd. "Now would anyone else have any facts they would like to share?"
Yars looked over the deck, the fog was drifting in thicker now, but he could still see his men. A black paw was raised. Yars pointed "Yes? You have something?"
A skunk stepped forward. "Aye captain." Remmy cleared his throat. "I did see Kindle that morning. I was next to him when one of the Jackrats asked him to get a coil from the storeroom. But they asked him to go to the lower one." Remmy looked at the Jackrat he heard. "But I know we keep the good rope hear the top deck, we put the damaged ones below for Maria to repair."
"Did you ask the Jackrat why he sent Kindle below?" Yars asked.
"No." Remmy said, head bowed slightly. "I figured there was a reason. I don't like going down there myself if I can help it." Vermin smiled to himself. He liked that attitude, he liked being known as dangerous.
Yars nodded. "Anything else?" Remmy shook his head, and stepped back. "Very well. Vermin? Would you like to answer to that?
"Why should I?" he said aloud. "I've had enough of this. All I'm hearing is a lot of what they think happened. MY challenge stands, CAPTAIN Yars! You can not produce a single member of this ship who can say they saw anything with their own eyes!"
Rev clutched his Bible tight. He looked to the sky and said a silent prayer to himself. He then felt a swirl around the fur on his ankle that gave him shivers. He looked down, and saw the fog concentrating into a vortex at his feet. He relaxed a little. "I knew you would speak." he said quietly.
"Very well then!" Yars said. "I will offer this one last chance. The floor is open to any crew member to produce solid evidence." He looked around, and saw the crew shift uneasily. "After this time I will no longer hear any grievance! If you wish to be heard, now is the time!"
No sooner did he speak then a swirl rolled onto the deck. The crew backed away from it, gasping in fear. As the swirl intensified it drew in more of the fog from just off the ship. It gained in mass and form until a figure became visible.
Silver saw the triangular ears form on top of it's head, the long silver tail behind it's legs, and a female form settled just over the deck. She stood, floating, in front of the assembly. Silver stood in awe as the vixen looked over the assembled crew. He leaned into Sharpeye and whispered "What is that?"
"That…." Sharpeye said with a smile "is Maria."
She looked over to Kindle, who stood as wide eyed as the rest of the crew. She then fixed her gaze to Vermin, who's expression went from confidence to stern distain at the doe rat before him. She shook her head, and raised her arms. The fog swirled into a globe.
"You have a meeting." a voice echoed around the ship. It sounded distant, but to Kindle it was all too familiar.
Remmy looked at the female form, her black and white fur seeming to glow slightly. He blinked once, looking at her stripe from behind. "that's the voice" he said quietly. "That's the voice that sent him…."
"You have a meeting." the voice said again, focusing in. The echo gone, the globe over her head snapped into clarity. Everyone on the ship could see the two Jackrats standing in front of Kindle. "Vermin wants a word with you."
"Later." Kindle said. "I have work to do." Kindle's muzzle mouthed the words as he watched himself say them. In his mind, he knew what was happening but he refused to believe it. He also knew how this story would go, and watched in morbid fascination as it unfolded.
Rev saw the gray rabbit's eyes grow sadder as her show continued. "Now." the Jackrat said. Kindle shrugged, then exploded in motion to punch one Jackrat in the stomach. The crew watched as the image of Kindle jumped over the downed rat, and down the hall.
Claude stood confused for a moment, not understanding what the mare was doing. But suddenly, the perspective shifted. Over the mare's head, he saw Vermin standing in front of the door to the storage room. "Why Chris! Good to see you again! Life as a dog treating you well?" the vision said. Kindle tried to get away, but the other rats were on him. "Strip him!"
The crew watched in horror as the scene played out before them. A knife tore his clothing to ribbons. The other rats held his arms out, and bent him over. "You remember this, don't you rat boy?" They watched as Vermin's semi-erect shaft was being waved in front of Kindle's face. "I made you suck this a lot, didn't I? I don't think you liked it, did you?" Vermin grabbed Kindle roughly by the mouth. "Sniff it rat boy! Then I'm gonna make you suck it, just like old times"
Her eyes watering, she continued to hold the globe over her head. "You should fuck him boss!" said a rat, holding Kindle's leg.
"Yeah! Fuck the dog!" said the one with the ring in his nose.
"In time, boys, in time." Vermin said, with a confident grin. "But first I want to see if he remembers it."
The crew watched as Kindle looked at Vermin's sheath, then began to laugh
"What's so funny, rat boy?" Vermin sneered.
"I was right!" Kindle said with a voice filled of defiant spirit. "Mutt's is a lot bigger than you!"
Vermin frowned, and anger washed over him. "Miserable WHELP!" The crew gasped as they saw Vermin punch Kindle in the head, and his body went limp. "No matter." Vermin said, holding up the unconscious dog's muzzle. "I'll get my fun out of him"
They watched as Vermin punched Kindle a four times more, then went around the back and lifted his tail violently. Suddenly, one of the rats let go of Kindle's arm. "That's real sporting of you." the rat said. "Raping an unconscious man."
Ironbar perked his ear, and looked to the Jackrats. Sam had turned away. The voice was his.
"Just hold his arm and let me get what I came here for." Vermin's image said, his shaft still fully extended form his sheath.
"No." Sam said. "I don't mind roughhousing, but I will not be a party to this." Sam stepped away. "I am not going to do this to the dog, no matter what you say he did to you."
Vermin straightened up, and looked at the rat. Sam's fists had balled up, and he tried to look as tough as he could. "You've got balls, boy." Vermin said. "There's hope for some of you bastards yet." Vermin stepped back, and kicked as hard as he could between Kindle's legs, under his tail. The force lifted the dog's body off the ground.
"STOP!" Sam yelled in the globe. Vermin looked up to Sam. "You've proven your point. Let him be." Sam then walked away. The other rats looked to Vermin, then to Sam. They let the dog go, and Kindle collapsed onto the ground like a pile of wet laundry. Vermin looked up to his men leaving. Vermin then kicked Kindle in the ribs twice, the legs once, and two more times in the head.
Vermin looked down at the broken body of Kindle. "I get what I want, rat boy." he said. He looked to where his men had walked off to. He cocked his head to the side, getting an idea. He nodded to himself, and walked away, leaving the dog's body on the ground.
The globe dissolved into her arms, and the fog rolled away from the ship slowly. She floated over to Kindle, tears in her eyes. She reached out with her ethereal arms, to Kindle. Kindle put his hands up to hers, unable to touch, but holding his paws in hers. Kindle looked into the dog's eyes. "I know." he said softly. "You did what you had to. I'll recover." She smiled, weakly. "Thank you." She nodded.
She stood up, and looked to Yars. He nodded to the tigress, and her form dissolved away into the air from which it came. The crew watched in amazement as she vanished. And Yars stepped forward, looking at Vermin. He let the silence linger for a long moment before he broke it. "Response?"
Vermin was in disbelief as well. He mentally shook himself off, and looked to Yars. "It's all a lie." he sneered. "That bitch is just making up…"
"No." Sam said. "That's what happened."
"YOU shut up!" Vermin said. "Or I'll…"
"YOU'LL WHAT?" Sam scowled. Vermin looked physically struck with the words. "I told you I would not be party to a war over your ego. It may serve your purposes to keep open warfare but it does not serve mine." Sam stared at Vermin, fire in his eyes. "I will not fight with men who were once my friends on the Rena. And I will not fight to protect your ego from bruising. And I will not fight for your pathetic little cock anymore."
Vermin stood and stared at Sam. Sam's claws balled into fists again, and his arm shook in raw anger. Vermin snorted out his nose. "When we return down below, you will pay for those remarks." he sneered. Vermin looked to Captain Yars. "I don't have to listen to this." Vermin said, spitting on the deck.. He walked to the door leading down below. "Lets go men." As he walked, he saw a large bear blocking the doorway. "Out of my way domino face."
"You haven't answered the Captain's question." Tzo said stoically.
"I don't answer to him." Vermin said. "Now move before I…" He never finished his statement. As Vermin tried to force his way past the panda, Tzo grabbed Vermin's wrist. In a fluid motion, he bent his hand backwards along the top of his forearm enough to cause pain. Vermin shrieked as his knees buckled. Tzo pushed him down, and forward. Vermin's arm bent behind his back, his wrist at almost a right angle to his arm. Tzo quickly slammed Vermin's chest to the deck. Tzo lowered a knee into Vermin's back, pinning him to the deck as Vermin gasped for breath.
Vermin winced and groaned in pain as Tzo rotated Vermin's wrist to a pressure point. Tzo lowered his head next to Vermin's ear. "You are a disgrace to all rats." he whispered. "You are neither honorable nor worthy to wear that skin." Tzo pushed Vermin's arm his back up to drive the point home, and Vermin groaned in agony. "You are a selfish child who needs to grow up."
By this time, Dice and Claude both had gotten to them. "Hold him like this." Tzo said. "He won't fight you if you do." Claude took Vermin's hand as Tzo showed him, and led him to Yars.
"One of you fuckers help me here!" Vermin groaned out at his men. All of them stood, motionless.
Yars looked over Vermin. "In light of this evidence, I find you guilty of assault, and attempted rape, of Kindle. As a punishment, I will give you what you asked for. The worst punishment I can think of." Yars looked to Ironbar. "Prepare the stocks."
Within minutes Vermin had his head violently placed in the headlock of the wooden stock. A pole extended out from it, and Vermin's arms were spread wide apart. The stock was low enough so he could not stand upright, but high enough to prevent him from kneeling. His legs were spread apart as well, and held apart with a metal bar locked to his ankles. Once in this position, he was left alone, swearing and yelling the whole time.
Vermin's shouts got quieter as he saw Yars approach him with a heavy flogger. "I believe you're familiar with this." he said. "I can think of much worse punishments." Vermin looked up in rage and hate. "But I'm not going to administer it. I will let your victim choose your punishment." Yars looked to Kindle. "You may choose how he will be punished."
The Howlers looked to Kindle. One leaned into him "I say you make him suck your dick."
"I've seen what they can do with ropes." Dice said. "I say you fuck him instead."
"Beat him like he did you." another said. "Eye for an eye." Other howlers chipped in their suggestions. Kindle walked up to Yars, and took the flogger from him. From his belt he unsheathed a dagger, and unceremoniously cut Vermin's pants apart under the tail. A cheer rose up from the crew, as everyone got into the spirit of the moment.
Vermin closed his eyes, preparing for what he knew was coming. He hadn't been mounted, ever, and it was bad enough that a dog was doing it first. Worse it would be Christopher. Kindle pushed the remains of Vermin's pants down to Vermin's feet, and stood there. Vermin heard the crew grow silent. In his mind he heard the moment that he took Goetz, the silence as the first thrust was driven home.
Then he heard a dull thud below his head. Then nothing. He looked down, and saw the flogger under the stocks. Then he saw a pair of dark brown foot paws. He looked up to see Kindle, still fully clothed. "It's over." Kindle said blandly. He looked at Vermin, eye to eye, then turned to walk away. The crew was silent, watching Kindle walk away from Vermin.
"GET BACK HERE!" Vermin yelled. "This is NOT OVER!" Kindle kept walking. "YOU BASTARD!"
Kindle stopped in his tracks. He turned around slowly, and took in a deep breath as he walked to Vermin. Vermin looked scared for a moment. Kindle walked with purpose until he stood in front of Vermin, then knelt down. He then grabbed Vermin's muzzle roughly, and held his head so the two were nose to nose, unable to break eye contact. "I…" Kindle growled through clenched teeth "…am a Howler." Violently, he threw Vermin's muzzle aside like a piece of garbage. Kindle stood up, and in the silence he walked to the door leading down below.
"THIS IS NOT OVER!" Vermin shouted at Kindle. "You don't walk away from me!" Kindle never turned back. The crew parted to let him pass, and quietly he opened a door and went down below.
Yars looked at his crew, and at the fog that was beginning to roll into the ship's deck. "The trial is over." he said.
"Get me out of here you ass!" Vermin said to Yars.
"I'll leave that fate to the crew." Yars said, leaving Vermin half naked in the stocks.
Vermin looked to the Jackrats. "Ok you fuckers." he said. "One of you get me out of here."
The group of rats stood silently for a moment, then Sam stepped forward. He walked in front of Vermin, and looked at him. "I take it back, you're a good guy. Now remove the pins and get me out of this." Silently, Sam reached to his ears, and removed his rings one at a time. Each slide was deliberate, each movement done with a slow, almost painful purpose to it. "What are you doing?" Vermin asked. Sam didn't answer. He instead removed all his ranking rings, and cupped them in both hands in front of Vermin's face. Sam then slowly poured them in front of Vermin, the metal ringing loud as they landed on the deck in a pile. Without a word Sam walked away. "What are you doing?!?" Vermin yelled. Sam never answered.
The crew watched as the Jackrats stood, looking at Vermin, then to Sam, then Vermin. Slowly at first, they individually stood in front of Vermin. And each of them removed with care the rings he had placed in their ears, and other places. Vermin watched silently as each one dropped the rings in front of the stocks, and walked away. Vermin stopped speaking, and after a dozen rats he stopped watching as well. All the Jackrats dropped their rings, and walked away leaving Vermin locked in. Yars watched as the last rat went through the door leading below, and down the stairs. "Dismissed." he said sullenly. "We'll stay the fog out, all shifts relieved until the weather improves."
The crew quietly departed, leaving for their quarters. Vermin sat, alone and half naked on the deck.
Afrer being dismissed, Mutt made a charge for the Howler's quarters. He followed the scent of Kindle all the way to his corner. Mutt found Kindle on the floor, next to his blanket. Kindle was clutching the blanket for dear life, his eyes swollen and red. Mutt sat down next to Kindle. Kindle looked over, and turned to hold onto Mutt with both arms. Mutt cradled Kindle into his shoulder, stroking his floppy ears gently with a paw. Kindle sniffed a few times as Mutt just held onto him, rocking him back and forth, nuzzling with care. Kindle eventually fell asleep in Mutt's arms.
At dinner that night, Remmy sat next to Tzo. "I thought you were into avoiding fighting?" the Skunk asked.
Tzo nodded quietly, and turned his head to look at the skunk. "That," Tzo rumbled, "was unavoidable."
Remmy nodded. "So… umm… what did you say to him? I saw you say something, but nobody heard it."
"As it should be." Tzo said. "I told him the truth as I saw it." Tzo looked back to his food. "That is all you should need to know." Remmy looked confused, but nodded to himself, going back to his dinner.
Robert and Abacus were laying in bed together, Robert tracing Abacus's markings around his eyes. Abacus murred in pleasure, still feeling the warmth inside him from Robert's seed, and the scent of his mate in pure pleasure. Robert kissed his mate on the forehead softly before slowly drifting into sleep. But Abacus stayed awake, thinking to himself. When he heard Robert snoring softly next to him, he sighed to himself. He kissed Robert on the muzzle, and slid quietly out of bed and got dressed.
As night fell, Vermin's body was fully fatigued. Between no food, and the position he was holding, he had no strength left. Then as night completely descended on the ship, Vermin lost his will and hung in the stocks holding his head in place. What was rage turned inward, as he was left alone to his thoughts.
He tried to sleep, but found himself fading into and out of consciousness. Then he heard someone approach, and weakly looked up to see a raccoon. Abacus looked at Vermin in the stocks, just standing and watching. Vermin tried to muster the hate he had left. "What are you looking at?" he tried to spit out.
Abacus half-closed his eyes in a squint. He pursed his lips together, and took in a deep breath through his nose. "Nothing." he said sternly. Vermin looked up to Abacus, to weak to fire off a reply. Abacus then removed the pins on Vermin's wrist, and released them. He then lifted the pin and raised the headlock stock, and Vermin fell backwards onto his tail. Abacus then removed the ankle cuffs, and bar from between the rat's feet. Abacus collected the devices, bundling them together. He scooped up the rings as best he could, and shifted his body to carry the devices.
"Why?" Vermin asked weakly, his throat dry.
Abacus shook his head, and walked down below. After dropping off the rings in storage room five, and the stocks back to the brig, he went back to his quarters. Quietly, Abacus slid out of his clothing, and between the covers with his mate.
Next Chapter (Sacrifices)
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Being a work of fiction, none of the characters herin
are based on a real person. Any similarity to any person alive, dead,
undead or unalive is coincidental, totally. However, if you see yourself
or someone you know in a character be honored. You've been immortalised.