Yet again (for the second time) we is doing journalism. Somebody has to I suppose, instead of printing shit they found on the interweb. I'll be going deep down into the crevices others dare not delve. Those moist sweaty ones that always seem to smell no matter how often you wash them. This story starts with an episode of American Dad. In which they made the quip Samuel L Jackson isn't black. Well I know sometimes Seth Macfarlane likes to do insider jokes about things such as Kevin Spacey's sexuality and Harvery Weinstein's rapey exploits. Intrigued, I looked into it. I delved. Not surprisingly I have discovered SAMUEL L JACKSON IS NOT BLACK. His parents lied to him, so it's not his fault. He's grown up believing those lies. Turns out he's actually Finnish. That's what they call people from Finland. It's a bit racist, but there you go. His great, great grandparents Aarne and Anja Hämäläinen Hurgenflurgennergen emigrated from the small town of Kiiminki Flobalob in the year XOD. Shortly after the snow famine of Plink had devastated the area. Unable to grow snow, the snow farmers were forced to migrate to Sweden, but they lost their way. Ending up in Pasadena, where they immediately assumed false identities to hide their origin under a large rock. Changing their name to Pohlmamer-Fartblender to fit in seamlessly. The rest is your standard parents lying to their children, because their parents had lied to them, stuff. Jackson has been living that lie his entire life. The only victim here being Samuel L. Jackson. Denied his Finnish heritage, because of a faulty snow compass and overly protective grandparents. Let that be a lesson to us all. Farming snow is a precarious business, especially with all this global warming affecting crops.
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"When I said my door is always open, maybe I should have mentioned it would be nice if you knocked." Jake mused as he exited the shower to find Pip standing there.
"It's nothing I haven't seen before. Well apart from all those wounds. He really got you good didn't he."
Jake didn't bother to look. Hermes had been hard at work healing him. The bullet holes were now nothing more than vivid bruises, which would vanish in a few hours.
"I'd still rather be me than him. In most ways." He began to dress. "What brings you here?"
"Remember when I said I hadn't forgotten to tell you anything? Well I was wrong."
Jake sat down on the bed to pull his boots on.
"Is it important or relevant? Only I have a lot to do."
"How about I tell you and then we work it out." The boatswain riposted. "It's about Scarlet."
"Oh God. I don't know if I want to hear this. Will it make any difference to anything?"
"Ummm... It might. It might not. I think it's important. Will that do?"
"Sure. You can fill me in as we walk."
Any of the objections she was about to raise were rendered inconsequential, as he was headed out the door. Still buttoning his shirt. She hurried after him. Speaking in a low tone. Not sure why it was so secret. It felt like it should be to her. The two of them headed top side with Pip explaining the reasoning behind Scarlet's alternative personality. Originally as a purely protective measure after the heart break and loneliness of watching him die so many times. Filling in every detail she could recall from the time spent with her in the memory palace. His lack of any reaction stung. The captain picked up all the messages from the other ships. Reading through them as he walked along the fore deck to Fetu and Herman. The disappointment deepened by Pip having thought she'd spotted an opening.
That "In most ways" comment. The young woman had thought it indicted he was envious of Ydrie because of Scarlet's apparent love for him. Even though they now knew she'd spent no time with the man. Instead of fighting for the woman he loved, the Wanderer had given up. Obviously there was nothing to indicate Scarlet still had the tiniest amount of affection for him. Her pointing the pistol at his face, did throw in a lot of doubt there. Likewise, while he'd shown he didn't hold a grudge against Scarlet, he'd not made any attempt to rekindle their love. The trouble was Pip couldn't blame him. She'd made a bloody good try at killing him. It was also impossible to blame Scarlet. Not quite as clear cut, but Pip could understand the reasoning. She herself been distraught when Jake almost died.
"Sooooo. What do you think?" She fished.
He was being deliberately obtuse.
"About what I just told you."
"I'd already worked out she had a problem with me. Her alternative personality told me some of it. It doesn't matter now. It doesn't even matter what I think. I just want her to be happy."
"She isn't though. Even you must have noticed."
"Scarlet has to make a lot of readjustments. That will take time. Once she gets back into her real life, she should be fine. Look Pip, she's her own woman. Always has been. She'll do exactly what she wants to do, when she wants to do it."
"Bullshit!" She looked around, others had heard. Lowering her voice she continued. "I bet that doesn't even make sense to you. She was alone for years in there. Now she's alone out here."
"That's her choice. She's licking her wounds. Besides she's only been out for less than 2 days. These things take time. Now bugger off. I have work to do."
He left her there. Engaging with Fetu and Herman. Discussing their next move. More exploratory work was required. They'd send out more shore parties the following day. Maybe sail round to that small harbor. The other ships were doing the same. Just because they hadn't encountered anything dangerous, it didn't mean the area was safe. Stray animals, humans or even aliens could emerge from one of those wormholes at any time. Extreme caution was still needed. Once they'd explored this area it might be worthwhile sending some people to check out that town they'd spotted. It couldn't be more than 10 kilometers away, if that. Once this place was checked out they could send a larger scale expedition.
Meanwhile Pip fumed. If they weren't going to be lovers couldn't they at least remain friends? This was a small ship. The two of them were bound to meet regularly. That would become awkward given they didn't speak to each other. Although if he was waiting for Scarlet to make the first move, that would make sense. It was justifiable. Perhaps she should have a word. Nothing too intrusive. Maybe give Scarlet a gentle shove in the right direction. Get them talking at least. Jake was quite lovable, as she herself had found. He did have a point though. Very little time had elapsed. Pushing things could be counterproductive. Still it wouldn't hurt to go see her. Morag might still be there.
She found exactly neither of them. The cabin was empty. Would she never learn? Nobody was ever where they should be these days. Pausing only to ask Chaska about how Kaisha was doing, fine, Pip did another stem to stern search. Luck was with her here. She'd started at the stern by chance. Where she found Scarlet and Morag. They looked almost haunted. The pair of them paler than normal. Morag holding Scarlet's hand as they sat next to one another on a half loaded pallet. The two of them jerking to attention as the boatswain drew near.
"Can I have a word?" She asked.
Morag was shaking her head subtly.
"With me? Now's not a good time Pip. Sorry. I'm going to my cabin. I need some alone time."
Watching her hurriedly retreating back, Pip cursed under her breath.
"What was that all about?" She inquired of Morag.
"Doctor patient confidentiality. I can't say. I wouldn't if I could. Leave her be Pip. Scarlet has had a lot to cope with."
Three days later and she was still leaving her be. Not by choice, Scarlet simply wasn't talking. They'd sent at least a dozen landing parties out. Discovering little apart from what they already knew. Zhen was going to try the other end of the largest island. The Golden Dragon had already set sail. Scarlet had been ashore twice. Both times avoiding Pip purposefully. Nobody else seemed to care. Not fair. Sade and Morag were worried. Letting sleeping dogs lie though. Jake had been ashore every day. Never with Scarlet. They were continuing to walk on eggshells around one another. What was needed here was another adventure, Pip decided. Nemesis upped anchor sailing round to that dock they'd found. There was a low lying island off in the distance with nothing of interest on it, as far as they could see.
The morning briefing went the same as the previous briefings. More investigating and surveying. Everyone be careful. No one to go anywhere on their own. Poppy had discovered that the portals that led to technological regions produced a tiny static charge. Then in a few hours had made several small simple devices to detect this. The map, Gungthor was in charge of, was being filled in. His health had never been better. The tiny amounts of magic, leaking through those openings into elsewhere, enough to keep him going. Ursella, looking even more delicious by the day, discussing the idea of remaining here with her brother long term. With Poppy of all people. They'd bonded. Although Pip wasn't sure the sorceress knew how infatuated the nerd was with her.
So far they hadn't encountered anything like the gate Pip had inadvertently blundered through. The magic users and scientists were trying to puzzle that one out. The rest of it, they had a good grasp of. The gates oscillated. Not great distances. A few meters, 10 at most. Where they were at their densest this should cause collisions. That didn't happen though. When two came close to a colliding they pushed away from each other. Due to their static charge so the theory went. It didn't explain the magical ones, that was still being examined. Norbert thought it was entirely possible for the wormholes to end up being expelled from this area. They hadn't seen this but the system seemed to make this inevitable. This left the possibility the gate to The People might be one of them. Daisy dismissed this. She could sense her folks here. The search continued.
Now they were seriously considering sending ten people to check out that town. At Jake's insistence, the entire crew were involved in making this decision. Forty plus men and women gathered on the deck. The only one not there was Ydrie. His bones were healing. Scarlet hadn't visited the guy though. Neither had Jake. Funnily enough the prisoner was no longer demanding to see her. Tamsin wouldn't be regaining consciousness for some time. Yet the former captain saw her every day. As did Jake. Both of them blaming themselves, Pip suspected.
They had a much clearer idea of the layout of that deserted town. Two main streets and maybe fifty or so buildings. No lights coming from them at night. Small, relatively harmless, animals had been spotted. Nothing with big teeth and claws. Nothing anyone had seen before either. It was all very democratic. Anyone could have their say and a few did. In the end the decision was unanimous. They'd send a party of volunteers to the abandoned settlement. The ship would head up the coast to see if the river was navigable then wait at the estuary for the scouts if it wasn't.
Pip didn't pay a great deal of attention. Fingering her pendant as she observed Jake and Scarlet, still avoiding one another. The decision having been made they all went back to work. A general melee followed as people edged past one another. Good it looked like the captain and former captain wouldn't be able to avoid encountering one another. A knot of crew members formed in the doorway. Jake being polite and Scarlet being discrete ensured they were the last ones through. They had to talk to each other even if it was only to usher the other through first. Instead they stood there. Eyes downcast. God damn it if only the two of them would open up some form of dialogue. Insults and threats would be better than this. That was how they'd operated in the past. Pip felt like she could cry. If only there was a way to force the two of them together.
"What the fuck just happened?" Sade exclaimed. "Did anyone else see that?"
Where Scarlet and Jake had been standing there was now only a visual disturbance which faded swiftly. People were running over. Some who'd witnessed the disappearance, others to find out what the fuss was about.
"They were there one moment, gone the next." Herman explained for the benefit of those who'd just arrived. "It's like they never even existed."
"Anybody got any idea how this happened or more importantly where they've gone? That could have been one way to anywhere in the multiverse."
Pip gazed down at her pendant. Fingers still tingling.
"I think I know how it happened." She responded tremulously. "I'm not sure where they are now though."