NEW PROVIDENCE ISLAND
SIBLING TIMELINE BV715
The longboat drew nearer the strand, stroke by stroke. The sound of the water splashing under the oars was the only noise. The harbor suppressed the surf, and the men gathered on the shore were silent in their anticipation.
The shoulders of the rowers worked against filthy linen, backs stained with tar from the their ponytails. Kneeling at the bow was a man in fancy green dress, velvet and calico in ostentatious layers, an embroidered cocked hat a little too far forward on his forehead.
That’s not an outfit for battle, thought Moore as he stood on the sand among his rough fellows, the pirate port of Nassau spread out behind them in tents, rough shacks, and crumbling houses. The stone fort cast a dark shadow that did not extend to the beach in the mid-day sun. But, its violent weight, the threat of its guns, did impose on the gathering and the ships in the harbor.
The fancy-dressed man settled himself timidly against the beaching of the longboat. Moore heard chuckles among the crudely dressed men around him.
The green fop nodded, without dropping his aristocratic gaze, and the rowers leapt from the longboat to drag it securely ashore. Once the boat was set, he stood and stepped forward nobly onto the strand. His men formed a line to either side, hands on hangers. He lifted a paper in his left hand.
“I am Governor Benjamin Bennet of Bermuda,” he said in a posh accent. “I have come as an agent of the King of England, George the First.”
The men around Moore shifted on their feet. An anonymous voice muttered, “The King of Germany.”
Moore whispered over his shoulder, “Actually, he’s only a duke in Germany.”
The men muttered among themselves at this point. He could feel their suspicions. Their doubts. Their fear. But, also their expectations of the pardon that paper doubtless offered.
Governor Bennet cleared his throat over the muttering. “I have come to offer a general amnesty to whatever man will—”
“Whatever man will betray the Stuarts?” Moore said.
Some of the men began shouting. “No!” and “Never!” and “James is King!” But, also groans of “Papists!” and “James is a Roman!” The division of Jacobites and loyalists brought to the fore.
The governor stomped his black boot in the sand, but it made little sound.
“My brothers,” Moore said. The men grew quiet. “It is not a question of who will betray James or who will betray George.”
He glanced around to take in the faces of his fellow pirates. They were confused, which is what he wanted. The governor was also confused. He was rubbing the amnesty document between his thumb and forefinger.
Moore shoved his thumbs into his belt, not near enough his pistols and cutlass for a threat, but just to show his resolve.
“The question is who will betray freedom!”
There was a guttural whoop among the pirates. He turned to take them in. Jacobites and Hanoverian loyalists alike were pumping their fists into the air.
“What do the rich brats of the Stuarts and Hanovers care for us?”
There was a second whoop, more together this time. Some of the men even shouted, “Huzzah!”
He turned to the governor, whose fingers had crinkled the paper in a fist.
“Here,” Moore shouted, “we elect our captains!”
The sailors who had come with the governor put their hands on their cutlasses and back-stepped toward their boat.
“To hell with both kings!”
A general huzzah sounded among the pirates. Moore stared into the governor’s quivering green eyes. He could feel his teeth gritting in a smile. He had won the day. The amnesty would win no men. He had changed history. Shifted the causality.
There was a new muttering among the pirates. Shouts of “What?” and “Oy!” and “Hey!” Moore turned, his hands sliding sideways to rest on his pistols.
Men in full combat gear were rushing through the crowd. MP5 combat rifles and helmets Moore knew had heads-up displays. These were special forces from the Core Timeline.
Pistol shot rang out. They were met with bursts of automatic rifle fire. Blood fountained into the air among the pirates.
The governor and his men were scrambling into their boat. Pirates were scattering, bracing, glancing around in confusion.
Moore drew his pistols. A man slammed into his waist. He fell against the sand, one pistol flying free. He slammed the other pistol into the man’s helmet. For his trouble, the pistol shattered.
“Take his cutlass!”
A second soldier grabbed the hilt of Moore’s sword and flung it into the harbor.
“Fuck!” Moore shouted.
He glanced around as soldiers pinned his wrists and ankles to the strand. The pirates were all either dead or fleeing.
A pair of standard issue jungle camo boots set themselves beside Moore’s head.
“Commander William Moore,” a voice said with a British accent. Moore looked up. A black, smiling face. The man had his helmet tucked against his hip with his right hand. An MP5 was in his left hand. “Former US Navy SEAL.”
Moore struggled against the soldiers pinning him to the beach. “There’s no former in that.”
The man waved the barrel of the rifle up and down Moore’s body.
“We’re here to take you back home.”
Moore chuckled. The soldiers pressed hard against his body. The noon sun of the Caribbean beat on his face.
“You’ve come here to ruin my fun.”
The black man stepped around Moore’s head.
“Your fun has costs you don’t understand. We’re here to make you understand.”
Moore pushed against his cheek with his tongue.
“I’m not allowed to kill bad guys in the Sibling Timelines. Some new law, bleeding hearts.”
“Nope!” the man laughed. “It’s worse than that.”
“Who are you?”
“Captain James Ladd of the Royal Marines.”
The man nodded at that, as if his rank over Moore gave him more advantage than the soldiers pinning him to the beach.
“Shit, James,” Moore groaned. “So, I’m to be a Jacobite after all.”
Ladd grinned, but his head was shaking back and forth.
“There are greater things at stake than your pirate politics, Commander Moore.”
“Alright,” Moore said. “Let’s go back and hear you out.”