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chapter two You just need a catalyst

There were plenty of questions that got answered when Ornery returned after two years without so much as a letter, though not immediately, and probably none of the important ones. Okay, really, most of the answers weren’t answers at all.

“Where where you?”

“Had to go someplace.”

“What were you doing?”



“To escape all yer questions.”

The most important answer I found out was who Rimares’ sponsor was for the crawler. It turns out Ornery was the one who had found it in the scrap yard and shipped it to the island, though I guess Nona had gotten wind of it at some point and had been the one to tip him off. The deal was that Ares got to keep any secrets they could pry out of the old hulk in exchange for Rimares getting it running again.

After all, a pirate needs a ship if she is going to be a proper pirate.

When Ornery had first seen the damage done to the crawler by the cliff, he just harrumphed and told Rimares that we had two months to get ready for a trip. Not that anyone told me that right away. Why would anyone tell me anything until after it became obvious? They guilted me into working extra hard for at least a month before anyone came clean about the real purpose of the project.

I found out about it when Birch showed up at the warehouse with a really fancy, official looking bottle tucked under her arm and a pointlessly fancy battle axe slung over her shoulder. She was smiling like she had already had too much of whatever was in the bottle.

She put the axe down on my workbench and handed the bottle to me with a big show of formality. “It is clear to me now,” she said with a wicked grin on her face, “that the small accident we had last month could have been avoided if only the captain of this fair…ly rusted wreck had done the honor of naming her first. Bad luck to fly a ship with no name.”

I just looked at the bottle with a stupid look on my face, wondering how drunk she really was. After a period of failing to respond to her, she leaned in and added, “that would be you, cap’n.” This didn’t really get me to stop staring at the bottle, but now at least it was because my brain had just shut down completely. “Is this a joke,” I asked, looking up at her.


She saluted me. So did Rimares. So did the extra people that had been brought over to help repairs. Officer Puppy didn’t salute, but he did muster the energy to sit upright in a properly dignified doggy sort of way. The spell didn’t really break until I saw that Ornery was saluting too, with a slouching carelessness that meant he was serious and that this was all his fault.

It was a long while, with a lot complaining on his part, before Ornery could get me to stop hugging him.

But this left me with a terrible problem. What was I going to call it? A ship couldn’t have a proper naming ceremony unless there was a name to give it first.

Trying to pick a name pretty much ruined any chance of me doing any more work that day. Or maybe it was because I was busy peppering Ornery so many questions that he threatened to haul the thing out to sea and scuttle it.

That shut me up for at least ten minutes.

But what do you name your first ship? Ornery wouldn’t let me call it the Ornery, even if it did look as ornery as him. Most of Birch’s suggestions were too violent, though I did consider the Decimator in honor of Ornery’s old ship for a while. But just because I wanted to be a pirate didn’t mean I wanted to decimate things. Ornery did helpfully suggested calling it the Cliff Whomper, or maybe just the Crunch. I almost smashed the bottle across his nose instead of the ship’s.

Rimares and Officer Puppy refused to make any of their own suggestions, and the Rusty Turtle sounded more like a pirate pub than a pirate ship.

After a few days, I announced I had finally made a choice, then proceeded to not tell anyone what it was.

At least not right away.

They made me wait, they could wait until the Catalyst was properly launched.