Alan found himself fascinated with the beauty before him.
Sandra, on the other hand, was far more interested in Peter's unexpected decision to leave them on their own. He promised he would soon return and indicated, for one reason or another, that it was necessary for him to disappear into the woods.
Carter wasn't the least bit concerned. He's taking care of business, you know?"
Now, Alan and Sandra sat on a long, narrow stone ledge, which brought them only a meter out of the ocean. They had their boots and sox sitting beside them as their feet dangled in the water.
"Say your name again." Alan told the smiling, young mermaid. She held his hand from the cool water below. "Slowly." he implored.
"Ooona." she communicated with a gurgling laugh, tossing her long yellow-green hair back away from slender white shoulders.
Ooona looked as if she could be in her late teens. She possessed a lean, enticing figure and her eyes were brown with golden flecks on the outside iris. It wasn't her fish tail that amazed Alan, nor that she wore nothing over her ample bosom. It was her skin. Covering the entirety of her body was a thick gelatin-like coating. It did not disturb her beauty but was nevertheless curious.
"Cooomme. Jooinn meee." Oona pulled gently at his hand. "Swiiiimm."
"You make it tempting, Darlin'." Alan returned her smile and reached to touch her chin.
"Careful, Alan." Sandra warned, "She looks sweet but she could be trouble. Never trust a mermaid."
Carter rolled his eyes, "Is this something you learned at university?"
"Of course not. I just read somewhere that mermaids, if they really existed, were dangerous to sailors. That includes love struck CAPTAINS."
Alan lifted a lock of the mermaid's hair. It had dried in the sun and was softer than silk, "Well, this pretty thing isn't mythical and I don't think she could hurt a fly."
"Only eat them." Sandra said, with sarcasm.
"If I didn't know you better, Sahn, I would say you're jealous."
"Don't talk nonsense."
Sandra felt a tugging at her pant leg and suddenly realized that someone was trying to get her attention. It was another mermaid. This one was much younger, about nine or ten years old and she held a fish between her teeth. The scene was so comical and endearing that Sahn nearly laughed. She took the gift from the small mermaid and was about to thank her when she was interrupted.
"Giiivee tooo Jiiimieee. " the little one said as she pushed away into the water.
So much for making new friends, Sahn thought as she looked at the dead bass.
"Ooona, we have to leave."
Alan and Sandra heard Peter's voice above them, from behind. He stood with his hands on his hips and appeared concerned with something they couldn't see.
"How did you sneak up on us like that?" Carter exclaimed.
"Peter, what's the matter?" Sandra asked, noting his expression.
"I have a feeling that something isn't right back at camp. I can't explain it but I sometimes get these visions. We better go." Peter took Sandra's hand and helped her up. He looked as if he had more to say but not on the same subject. Peter looked into Sahn's eyes and a softness overcame him, "Are you all right?" he asked, seemingly for no reason.
"I'm fine." she replied with a puzzled smile and slid on her boots.
Alan also stood but crouched once again to say good-bye to Ooona, "Sorry Love, I guess it just wasn't meant to be."
The mermaid nodded with a whimper and sunk into the sea.
Alan glanced at Peter as they began their walk. "Sahn said it was dangerous for me to get mixed up with a mermaid. If I were to go swimming with Oona later WOULD there be trouble?"
"No." Peter, his expression blank, said. "She would only try to drown you."
He was short, his eyes were aickly green and he had bad breath.
"She be a comely wench, don't ye agree, Capt'n."
"Aye, Mr. Smee."
Helena nearly laughed, in spite of the seriousness of the circumstances. This was so ludicrous that she was tempted to call on the children and tell them to quite making sport of her.
Unfortunately, the reality was that she was now here, the contemporary Dr. Helena Russell, on a timeless sea ship, and her arms and legs were bound to a mast. Unshaven pirates were leering at her and saying a lot of things that would normally make her feel nervous if she wasn't certain that Jimmie had run to fetch the others.
The captain of this vessel was certainly flamboyant, with his neatly starched sailing suit and a long, yellow ostrich feather which stuck out of his wide brimmed hat. However, he did not possess the one thing Helena had been looking for since the moment she was brought onto the ship and he began to speak. *The hook*. Wasn't he suppose to have a hook for one of his hands? Both appeared where they were suppose to be.
In one sense, Helena was almost grateful for his presence. He was the only reason the men hadn't tried anything with her yet. The pirates, even green eyed Smee, looked as if they hadn't seen a woman for months.
"My lady," the Captain introduced himself with a lavish bow. If it wasn't for his long, badly matted hair and a jagged scar on his left cheek, he might have appeared a gentleman. "We need your assistance."
"In what way?" Helena asked. She would talk about anything at this point. John needed all time she could give him to implement a rescue.
"Ye come from that other world, don't ye?" Smee asked.
The Captain's expression shot daggers at his First Mate. "Shut yer mouth or I'll cut yer throat as we stand here!" he shouted. Then, as if the threatening words were never spoken, he turned again to Helena and, with a diplomatic tone, said: "Madame, we are aware that Peter Pan has brought children here from your world. The last I recall was a little girl and her brothers. That was quite awhile ago."
Helena, feigning puzzlement, shook her head back and forth. "I'm sorry but I don't understand."
"We know Pan uses a magic, foreign to us, and we know that he has brought you, along with your moon, here to Never Neverland. I want to know how he does it."
This time, genuinely curious, Helena asked, "Why?"
A loud guffaw was heard from the crew.
"We be a bit bored." said Smee.
"And we be wantin the riches of yer world!" called another.
The captain smiled, revealing a row of slightly yellow teeth, "We've determined that wherever it is you come from, it must be glorious! Why else would Pan continue to go there?"
Helena leaned her back heavily against the mast and sighed, "For one thing, Captain, Peter Pan did not bring us here. We arrived by accident. And, believe me, if it were that easy to return to Earth we would have done so long ago."
"You lie, My dear."
"I am not a liar." Helena retaliated, insulted.
"Perhaps she be tel'lin the truth, Cap'tn." Smee piped, "After all, she only be an ignorant female. We be need'n one of them thar men to tell us a tale."
Helena supressed an urge to kick Mr. Smee.
Hook gently ran his fingers and palms over the lapel of his suit. He looked out over his ship's bow into the sea, deep in thought. The woman standing so petulantly in front of him was a hundred times more intelligent than any ten of his crew. However, she did not possess the gifts of the boy who had embarrassed him in front of his men so many times that he thought he would forever be shamed.
Peter Pan, like most young boys, had very little conscience but he did like and was beginning to respect females. He had stopped aging at a bad time. Adolescence. He had never been quite the same since he was forced to part from his dear Winnie.
The Captain switched his attention back to Helena, who appeared to be trying to read his thoughts. What about *her* mate? Was he as powerful as Pan? Did he have the same gifts? Whatever the case, he would want to see his woman again. There could be some bargaining. Yes. This was the route to go. But her safety had to be assured if Hook hoped to get anywhere with negotiations.
Sandra returned with Peter and Alan. Quite naturally, they were distressed to learn of Helena's kidnapping.
Jimmie M. Bee tried his best to explain how the pirates grabbed the doctor, as if they had known they would be near the flowers all along. Helena, he said, fought like a trouper but one of the pirates hit her on the back of the head and it stunned her enough so that they could carry her off. "I don't know why but they weren't interested in me this time. Not at all."
Maya noted that Jimmie forgot himself a few times and showed childlike distress. He, this young soldier, was devastated that his mother figure was gone.
"We shall seize the ship!" Pan announced, "We've done it before and it will be done again!"
"What about a plan?" John asked.
"That's for grown ups." Peter said, "We have survived here because we've learned to be unpredictable." Peter realized that evening was falling and suddenly looked into the woods. They seemed incredibly dark to him. He sighed. "Before we begin. I must do something first." He glanced at his First Officer, "Jimmie, take the younger boys to our hide out and see that they are fed and put to sleep."
"Just a minute!" John stood to his feet now, angered at the boy's apparent mishandling of the situation. "I don't know what it is you are scheming, but we're not going after Dr. Russell in a way that's going to cause her harm. I want ..."
"She will not be harmed as long as you do what you're told, Commander." Pan interrupted, "Remember, you are intruders here. We did not ask you to come and now that an adult has gotten herself in trouble, you want to take charge! I will not have it. Do you understand? I am the leader here, not you. And, if you want her rescued, you will cooperate."
Angered by the boy's insolence, Alan shouted: "Why didn't you warn us of danger?"
"I did." Pan replied calmly then he turned and began to walk into the woods, "I'll be back soon." he promised and trotted away from the Alphans without another word.
"Strange, isn't it?" Maya, her arms folded in front of her, stood beside John and Alan. She watched the tall, slender boy walk away from them. "He's a child who doesn't want to grow up, yet he's so adult in many ways ...and he doesn't know it."
The Commander said, "I want to know where he's going. Come on, Alan." He glanced at Maya, "You and Sandra keep an eye out on the other boys. I don't trust them. Their allegiance is entirely to Pan."
If Peter Pan heard the Alphans following him he paid no attention. They walked for a little less than a mile when Peter came to an oddly lit cave with a beautiful cascading waterfall splashing in front of its open mouth. The sun had set and the dark had been with them for twenty minutes. However, the light emitting from the cave was so bright that they could see all around the area clearly. "Come out." Peter called into the cave, "I need you."
Alan and John watched in wonder as there suddenly appeared three tiny but bright lights. They floated, much like fireflies, from the cave's opening and swirled around Peter in excitement as he laughed and put his hand out for them to rest upon. This seemed an old and treasured custom.
"Will you please give me the gift again?" Peter asked the flickers.
It took John and Alan sometime before they understood that the lights were actually talking back to the boy. They could hear nothing so John assumed Peter and his friends were communicating through telepathy.
"It's Hook again and he's kidnapped a lady. She's one of the grown ups I told you about earlier today. I need the gift to rescue her. It's the only way." Peter listened to what the lights had to say, then: "Yes, she's pretty but she's not like you. She's more like a mother. I think they're going to leave when they get her back. Their leader is SO untrusting of everything!"
Koenig looked at Alan, who was trying to suppress a bark of laughter.
The tiny lights began to radiate with with a brightness that was nearly blinding. The light grew in intensity until Peter was completely engulfed by it.
Distressed, John and Alan shot from their hiding place to help the boy but when they got to where he had been standing, Peter disappeared.
"Where is he?" John exclaimed, flabbergasted.
"Up here! " Peter was floating right above their heads, laying back as if he was reclining on an inflatable raft in a swimming pool. He laughed at their expressions of awe. "I bet you can't do this!" He began to twirl himself, which sent Peter high into the sky. He then landed on the ground, softly on his feet.
"Impressive." was all John could say.
Peter looked back into the mouth of the cave, "Thank you!" he called, "I'll try not to use it all up at once."
Alan said, "You mean, this isn't something you can do all of the time?"
Peter, floating a bit off of the ground, frowned at the pilot's obvious stupidity. "Are you kidding? Nothing lasts forever. But, if I need it again ..." he pointed back at the cave, " ...they'll give it to me."
"Who are they?" Koenig asked.
"I'd tell you if we had time," he said, giving John a wan smile, "but we need to get back to camp if we're going to rescue the lady."
Jimmie M. Bee waited with Maya for Peter and the men to return. More than anyone else, including the Alphan landing party, he was anxious to see Helena's warm, comforting face. He paced in front of Maya like an expectant father and whispered over and over again that he was sorry and wanted Helena unharmed.
"You've grown very fond of her. It seems a little strange considering you don't know Dr. Russell that well." Maya said, watching the boy as he passed in front of her.
"Are you saying I shouldn't feel worried or ashamed of myself?" he barked.
Maya sat a little straighter and now felt a bit embarrassed by her remark, "I'm sorry, Jimmie. But, you shouldn't feel ashamed. It wasn't your fault."
"Peter wouldn't have let it happen."
"He never blamed you. " she spoke in a soothing and sympathetic voice.
A mild smile appeared on the boy's face. "Peter wouldn't. He likes me. That's the only reason he made me his First Officer. I'm not really a warrior like the other boys. And," Jimmie sighed and stopped pacing. He would not look directly at Maya as he spoke, "I'm starting to wish I never left home. I don't think Mother really meant to be cross with me. It was just that Father had the fever and died and she was so frightened and lonely. Oh ..." He tried bravely to prevent tears, "I miss Mama. Dr. Russell is so much like her."
'The poor little thing.' Maya didn't say it aloud but she thought of taking the child into her arms and probably would have if Peter and the men hadn't arrived at that moment.
"Did they give you the gift, Peter?" Jimmie asked, excitedly. He seemed, for a time, to have forgotten about his anguish.
"Do you have to ask?" Peter arose in the air to demonstrate.
Five other boys, who were also high ranking in Peter's lost boys force, suddenly appeared and jumped with glee, clapping wildly, as he showed off, succeeding in a difficult aerial maneuver.
"Enough." Koenig demanded, looking perturbed now that the novelty of Peter's gift had worn off. "Peter, we have to make some plans. I know you don't approve but, as you said, it's one of my people in trouble. We need you and your lost boys but I must have some say in this matter."
"Oh, all right." Peter huffed but looked complacent.
Maya, who was still slightly shaken by Peter's sudden flying ability, gulped and nodded her agreement. She said: "Sandra will be with us shortly. She's telling the younger children stories before they sleep. I suppose she feels they need watching."
"Just like Winnie." Peter half smiled, in thought. He looked up and saw Sandra off in a distance. She was walking down the path to the camp, a few delicate flowers in one hand and her jacket in the other. She was so special. He wished he could tell her just how she made him feel. But a true soldier didn't waste his time with the emotions HE was feeling. "Let's go!" Pan said, after shaking himself, "It's off to the Jolly Roger!"
On their way to the ship John and Peter devised a simple yet plausible plan of action.
Helena leaned back in her chair and silently listened as Captain Hook played his harpsichord for her. The ornamented pirate had bragged to Helena that he was once an actor and musician. She didn't know how much of this was true but Helena had to concede that the Captain knew his way around a musical instrument. True, his playing was slightly off key (Hook blamed the damp air about them} but somehow soothing.
As the music reached a peak, Helena glanced out of a porthole and saw that night had fallen. With a little trepidation, she wondered if John and the others had completely forgotten about her. Where the devil were her liberators?
"They will be here soon, My Dear." Hook said, in between notes.
"I don't know what you mean." she replied.
"Your friends, of course. You didn't think I wasn't expecting them, did you? Why do you think we kidnapped you? I need to talk with Pan and your Commander."
"How do you know about him? How did you know about me ... or any of us?!"
"I have my ways."
Helena suddenly saw the tiny mental wheels turning in Captain Hook's head. No wonder he had treated her with such respect. He needed her well if there was going to be any bargaining, no matter how silly, with John. The fool just wasn't willing to believe that Peter Pan was the only person in this land who could help him. Speculating further, Helena realized - if she knew her story book pirates - there was going to be one hell of a battle ...and very soon. Perhaps she could belay it if she tried to reason with him, "Captain, you are only going to cause yourself a great deal of harm if you persist in this ..."
Suddenly, Hook sprang from his chair and, for a moment, Helena thought he was going to strike her. Instead, he put a hand over her mouth and directed her attention to the ceiling of the cabin they were in. "I've lived on the Jolly Roger nearly all of my life and I know every sound this old ship makes," he said, "and I also know how my crew's steps. What I am hearing now is foreign to my tender ears."
Helena could hear the distinct creaking of footfall above them. She wanted to scream warning but Hooks' hand was still on her mouth. She reconsidered any hasty action when he produced a key from his jacket pocket.
Meticulously, he proceeded to unlock the manicle from her ankle. "It's time for us to go upstairs and greet our guests." he chuckled, quietly.
Deliberately, Helena allowed her eyes to moved to the china plate she had eaten from. There was no time like now, she thought. The pirates attention was diverted as he concentrated on releasing the ankle and Helena took full advantage of his blunder. She quickly pushed forward, grasping the plate, and broke it over Hook's slightly lumpy head. He fell to the floor, stunned, as Helena shook her foot free from the uncomfortable cuff.
Helena's luck was like a bad comedy. The door was locked. She ran back to the groggy Captain and took the key that he used on her cuff. There was one frightening moment when he reached out for her, grabbing Helena's wrist, but she used her free hand to slap him away. Hook was too delirious to protest.
With a silent prayer, Helena slipped the key into the lock and nearly howled with joy when the door swung easily open. By this time, returning to the sterility of Alpha was beginning to look better and better to the haggard doctor.