miniature review Administrator Scott Bratley
Administrator Scott Bratley
written by j_w_darkhurst
A quick narrative "review" about one of England's more overlooked (in my opinion) crew. this is an entry for Xerecs's Story Time review contest. It's really more of just a story, but I hope y'all enjoy
Administrator Scott Bratley
Admiral Morgan had just returned from a trip to Ramsgate on official business with a representative from the Mercenary Factions. He’d been back for a matter hours, and was writing up a report at his desk in his office when he heard a knock at his door.
“Come in”, he called out curiously. No one had ever visited him this soon after a voyage. It must be the Grand Admiral. What does Thorn want me to do now?, he thought as the door opened.
Surprise and concern showed clearly on his face when he couldn’t at first discern who it was at the door. The afternoon light was drifting in through the windows at such an angle that a dark shadow passed diagonally across the top half of the doorway, obscuring the chest and face of the narrow figure standing at the threshold.
“Er, hello?”, Morgan warily asked the thin figure.
“Good day, Admiral”, a man stepped forward into Morgan’s office, closing the door behind himself. He was pale, terribly thin, and sickly-looking. His thin red hair was slicked back, making his face appear unusually long. He had a neat, upwardly styled moustache, and a small goatee, both matching the light red tone of his hair. He walked up to Morgan’s desk and looked down across the it at the seated admiral.
“How were the negotiations?”, the man’s voice was light, but deep. Unsettling to Morgan.
“I’m sorry, Who are you?”, Morgan’s question was genuine; he’d never seen this man before in his life. The man raised an eyebrow in a vaguely disappointed manner.
“Administrator Scott Bratley, right hand to the Grand Admiral; at your service.”
The man held his hand out to Morgan, supplying the Admiral with a sly grin. Morgan took it, standing up to properly greet his unexpected guest.
“Well hello then, Administrator. You’re new here, I take it?” Morgan spoke with enthusiasm. After all, he was going to work with Bratley from now on. It couldn’t hurt to be friendly.
“I’ve been here...longer than you’d think. I work behind the scenes. Paperwork, contracts, treaties and such. The kind of work you’d rather avoid.”
Morgan laughed at the Administrator’s last comment.
“Yes, that’s very much true. I’d rather be out on the ocean, sailing and finding adventure than in my office writing paperwork reports.”
“Yes, I thought so,” Bratley smiled at Morgan in a knowing way. “So. If you don’t mind me asking, how did the negotiations with Captain Nemo go?”
The Admiral sighed and sat down in his chair, gesturing for Bratley to sit in the chair opposite him. As the Administrator sat, Morgan began to speak.
“Oh, you know. The Mercenaries are quite prideful in their work and their apparent efficiency at their jobs. So you can imagine how they went. They continually refuse to lower their pay rates to reasonable prices. If I were the Grand Admiral, I’d have severed ties with these over-expensive “allies” long ago. You know, there is a man in their ranks with a very similar skill set and record to that of a Mullroy who occasionally accompanies me on voyages, but he’s only willing to work for almost double that of this soldier. It’s entirely unreasonable!”
At this point, the Admiral had stood up and was frustratedly pacing his small office.
“I understand that we must pay them in full no matter how expensive it may be, but I still find it infuriating.”
Morgan turned back to Bratley who had remained sitting, and was looking intently at Morgan in an odd way.
“What is it?” Morgan asked, confused at Bratley’s stare.
Without speaking, Bratley stood, and took a step closer to morgan before speaking.
“I’m sorry to cut your anecdote short, but I really must know: If the negotiations went as planned, why were you almost a full week late in your return?”
This question caught Morgan completely off guard.
“I-I’m sorry? What do you mean?”
“Well, according to my information and calculations, since you took the Caradoc on this journey, and you manned her with your most loyal crew, you should’ve checked in almost four days ago. So why were you late? You should know as much as I do that tardiness is never accepted at this or any other English military port. The Grand Admiral is especially not pleased with your actions.”
Morgan had no answer. He stood, staring at Bratley, mouth slightly open in shock at what the Administrator had just said.
“I spoke to the Grand Admiral before I left on this voyage, and I told him that my business with the Mercenaries may-”
“Oh, you mean Jason Thorn?” the confused look on Administrator’s face broke as he laughed a cold, harsh laugh. “Jason Thorn was court martialed and sent packing out of this town maybe four days into your expedition.”
Morgan’s face was a mask of shock and disbelief. Bratley smiled; he could see the fear in his eyes.
“I’m sorry you have to hear about it from me like this. But honestly, how did you not hear about it the moment you docked and checked in? It’s all this town is talking about these days. Speculations as to why the Grand Admiral was so dishonorably removed and exiled. I’m amazed the news didn’t reach you sooner.”
Morgan had begun to sweat even though his room had quite a draft; it was one of his many usual complaints about the place.
Bratley continued, “What did you say was your cause of your tardiness, again?”
Morgan stumbled for a response. “Er, we- There was a storm that delayed us on our retu-”
“Really?” Bratley interrupted the Admiral. “According to the log books supplied by the merchant ships who travel the same routes to and from Ramsgate that you took, there were no storms for miles in every direction. If I recall correctly Gunn stated that, ‘The days held conditions that were perfect for sailing.’ The Durham was sailing a very similar route as that which the Caradoc’s log book described. Please, do explain how all of these facts can be true.”
Morgan was speechless. Bratley was staring him in the eye; challenging the Admiral to give him a believable response.
The admiral suddenly rushed towards his desk, hand outstretched, reaching for a secret lever built into the top above the furniture’s drawers. Bratley was faster. Moving unbelievably fast, the Administrator drew a thin knife, and stabbed it down through morgan’s hand, pinning it to his wooden desk. Morgan’s screams were easily audible through the solid wooden door of the room, and they caught the attention of the soldiers right outside.
They burst into the room, guns leveled at the two men. Bratley looked at them without so much as a flinch. Morgan managed to speak around his grunts of pain.
“Help me! This man has lost his mind! He attacked me without cause or explanation! Arrest this man at once!”
“This man,” Bratley began, “is a pirate. He has been passing letters of marque to some of the most infamous Pirate Lords known to this age, and he has been notifying said Pirate Lords of English invasions on their preferred ports and places to hide. He has single-handedly been causing the English Royal Navy countless setbacks in their attempts to exterminate the plague that is the pirates. Arrest him and all of his crew on charges of piracy. Have them all scheduled for a hanging at the most convenient time possible; preferably within this week.”
The soldiers looked at Morgan, and then at Bratley. Without a word, the put down their guns and produced a pair of shackles. They looked between the two naval officers once more before slapping the shackles around Morgan’s pinned wrist.
“WHAT??!!” Morgan roared in outrage. “How can you believe this liar’s claims?”
Bratley answered for the soldiers, yanking his knife from Morgan’s hand as they locked the iron bindings around his other wrist.
“They believe me, Admiral, because they know better than to cross the Grand Admiral’s right hand man, the information agent of the Crown.” The mockery in his voice was thick.
“These soldiers may be loyal to high-ranked officers like yourself, but I represent the King himself. My word is law.” Bratley gave Morgan one more malevolent smile as the soldiers escorted the pirate from his office.
Bratley looked at the desk. He followed the path that Morgan’s hand was taking across its surface. Avoiding the blood that was staining the wooden surface, he glided his fingertips across it until they caught on something. A small seam, nowhere near the edge of the desk was barely visible. Using his knife, he pried it open, cracking the wood, and ruining the mechanism inside the desk. Inside was a drawer with a pistol and a multitude of sealed and bound documents and other papers.
The Administrator placed the gun on the desk, and removed the papers, taking a seat in the ex-admiral’s chair. Half of them were letters of marque signed by Jason Thorn. They were useless now. The other half was a detailed list of known pirates and the ships they sailed on. Even more valuable was the list of the Pirate Lords who frequented the area, complete with the names of their preferred ships. A grin lit up Bratley’s face when he saw these papers.
He left at once to speak to the Grand Admiral. Time was always short in the business of pirate-hunting.
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One week had passed since Morgan’s arrest and execution. And in that time, Scott Bratley had sentenced well over two dozen pirate captains and their full crews to similar fates. As per his usual request, he was aboard the galleon that had been sent to hunt pirates for the day. Today, it was the HMS Dreadnought ; the past few days, he’d been on more gunships than most royal marines. Everything from the Leicester to the HMS Titan to the Swallow. Slow as she may be, the Dreadnought was pursuing a smaller stolen galleon that had foolishly sailed into trading routes without the trained specialists to properly read the waters. The Dreadnought had almost caught up with the galleon when it slowly began to change direction. Next to the captain, Bratley said, “This vessel is commanded by Genny Gallows, a known enemy of the Crown; she is notorious for turning an escape into a one-sided surprise attack. I recommend we begin our barrage as soon as our front cannons are in range. They won’t see it coming, and we’ll destroy them before they can return fire.”
The captain nodded, and gave out the command to his men. Cannons ready and facing the smaller ship, now broadsides to the English ship-of-the-line.
Cannons rang out of the ocean, accompanied by the cracking and creaking of splintering wood. Having destroyed the few cannon decks on the side of lesser ship facing the Dreadnought, she moved closer, turning for a full-scale broadsides barrage. As her cannons fired, the little galleon tried to escape. However, at the direction of Bratley, her primary sails and main masts had been too badly damaged to move fast enough. With a few well placed hits from special cannonballs, the ship erupted into flames which caught her powder magazine, causing her hull to explode. Bratley looked at the notebook he held in his hand. Producing a pen, he scratched out the name Genny Gallows from a list of other notorious pirates found in Morgan’s drawer. One name remained on the list, but plenty had already been scratched out: Gaspar Zuan, Fidel Zuan, Devereaux, Le Requin, Jean Laffite, "Bones" Wiley, and Jack Hawkins. The Zuan brothers had recently been caught by the Spanish; Devereaux had allegedly gone looking for an ancient relic of power in dangerous oceanic rgions, and was no longer the concern of the English; Laffite had been captured right after Morgan; the man known as “Le Requin” wasn’t England’s concern. His preferred victims were usually French cargo vessels, and was therefore their problem; and everyone had heard when the Eagle was lost in a hurricane off the Barbary Coast. There was no way Hawkins could’ve survived, based on reports from the English ambassador. With one target left on his list, Bratley ordered the Dreadnought’s captain to return to port. Their job was done for today.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** **
The bar was dimly lit, guttering candles casting eerie shadows through the thick, smoky air. Of the dozen variously sized tables, three were occupied. One by a rather large man who was passed out among several once-full pitchers. He was passed out cold, drooling on the stained table top. Another was taken by a quiet, nervous-looking boy who constantly looked around as if the roof would collapse on him. And around the third table were five chairs, four of which, each contained a partially-drunken sailor. Many others were crowded around the table, audibly placing bets. The sailors who were seated were playing an intense, if not one-sided, game of cards.
One of the sailors wore a large hat and bandana. He had long graying hair and a chin full of gray stubble. His eyes were unfocused, but he seemed to be winning the game. A cloth pouch lay open on the table next to his elbow, and not far away, lay two off-white dice.
When the play of the game was his, he grabbed the dice, shook them next to his face, and rolled them on the table. Hiding the result from the others playing the game, he then consulted the cards in his hand. A wicked smile spread across his face. He placed a rather generous handful of doubloons into the already sizable betting pool on the table, and turned his head to look each player in the eye. An old man with an eyepatch sighed, and leaned back in his chair, turning over his hand. Shouts and curses echoed through the bar as new bets were made and money exchanged hands. A woman with long brown hair glared at the man with the dice. His smile widened as she also threw down her cards. Snatching the cup from a peg-legged man next to her, she stood and stalked out of the bar. The cheers and exclamations from the gathered audience grew louder. The peg-legged man looked up at the man with the dice and gave him a sour look. Turning over his own hand and standing up, he pointed angrily at the man.
“You owe me a drink.”
He too, turned and left the bar.
The crowd was shouting and cheering for the last remaining contender, a young boy, not yet twenty years of age. He ran a hand through his short hair as he looked at the cards in his hand, clearly unsure of what to do. A grisled older man with a braided black beard leaned towards the boy and spoke to him.
“Sean, this ain’t worth it. Save wha’ever you’ve got left; we’ll get a ship another way.”
The boy, Sean, looked at the man. He sighed heavily, and slapped his cards down on the table. Groans of disappointment left the crowd of gathered sailors as the man laughed triumphantly and pulled all of the money on the table towards himself.
The old man left the building, followed shortly after by the boy and his older companion who were in a heated debate about names and cannonballs. As the door squeaked closed behind them, a thin man slipped into the room. He was disheveled and dirty, wearing a soiled officer’s uniform. His red hair was messy and fell in front of his thin, pale face. He looked around the room and limped over to the bar. He ordered an ale, and sat in a chair close to the man who had just won the card game. Coincidentally, that man looked drunkenly over at the newcomer, and tilted his head as if he found him familiar.
“You there!” he called out towards the bar. The man turned and met his gaze.
“Yeah, you… Care to join me in a game?” he spoke with slurred words and held up the deck of cards.
The man at the bar shrugged, dropped a coin on the counter, and took his drink, walking over to the man at the table. He sat down heavily in the chair across from the drunk man and took a sip from his mug.
“What’re we playin’?” he asked hoarsely.
The drunk man shuffled the cards expertly, and dealt out two hands.
“Well,” he began, “I do fancy me a bettin’ game. Ya got much money?”
Reaching into his pocket, the stranger pulled out a dozen small copper coins.
“D’ya find these t’ be suitable?” he asked.
“That’s all ye got?” answered the drunk sailor disappointedly. He lowered his gaze and thought about something for a moment.
When he raised his head again, there was a manic grin plastered across it.
“Let’s make this interesting…” he said, his voice trailing off.
He grabbed his dice from the table and rolled them on the table. He studied the result in secret, and then looked up at the stranger across the table.
“I jus’ so happen to own a ship,” he stated confidently. “I’ll bet my ship, if ye bet all the money to yer name.”
The stranger stopped and considered the offer. In response, he produced a leather pouch that clinked with the sound of money, and placed in the middle of the table.
The man smiled, showing off his yellowed teeth. He reached up and took off his hat, placing it to the right of the stranger’s money pouch to represent his ship.
“Wha’s yer name?” he asked, placing a card on the table.
“You can call me Smith. James Smith. Yours?” the man placed two cards down, and then drew one from the deck in the middle of the table.
“Bones. Booones Wiley,” he said, drawing out the second “Bones” in an imitation ghost wail before bursting into a fit of chuckles laced with coughs. Wiley placed another card on the table and tossed a couple of coins into the betting pool.
“Oh, I’ve heard of you,” said Smith. “You’re one of them notorious pirates ain’t ye?”
“Heh,heh. Indeed I am,” Wiley leaned over in a mock bow towards Smith. He then raised his arm in the air and shouted to the room: “Barmaid! Two more!”
Returning his attention to the game, he glanced at Smith and then looked down at his hand of cards.
“So I be a pirate, but what about you?” Wiley accentuated his question with the slap of a card on the table.
Smith looked at his cards. Sighing heavily, he drew a card, and placed a silver coin into the betting pool. He pulled his mug to his lips and took a long sip.
“I was a marine in th’ English Royal Navy. I was let off ‘cause of me leg, though. Caught a piece of grape in it during a battle at sea.”
“Mmmm.” Wiley grunted in response. The barmaid brought two mugs of amber liquid to the table, placing one in front of each of the men. Wiley handed the barmaid a few coins, shooting her a wink and a half smile, earning a blush in response. He placed a card on the table and grabbed the handle of one of the mugs.
“Which vessel didja serve on?”
“Spent a good year on th’ London. Saw some good action. ‘Course that’s also where me leg was crippled.”
“I see,” replied the pirate. Wiley brought the mug to his face and began to drink. Slowly leaning his head back, he downed the alcohol in one go. He brought the mug in his hand down heavily on the table, bringing about a short-lived silence in the bar.
Leaving his head back, Wiley took a card from his hand, seemingly at random, and turned it over onto the table. Drawn onto it was a single crown in the middle of its surface with small capital “A”s in two of its four corners.
Remaining unchanged from his previous position, he softly spoke: “Yer turn.”
Smith stared silently at the ace that Wiley had just played. He considered his hand, and then placed down two cards of his own. One depicted a man in exquisite clothing, the other, a woman in almost matching attire. Each card also displayed a crown symbol in two opposite corners with a “K” and a “Q” respectively in the other two.
Smith sipped the contents of his mug, barely hiding a disgusted shudder before pushing it into the middle of the table alongside the money already there.
“Nice try. Yer move.”
Wiley looked at the table with a surprised and annoyed expression on his face. He rolled his eyes and grabbed the handle of the remaining mug on the table. He took a swig and placed it down; more gently than the last one. Wiley examined his hand and looked at the pile of money next to his hat. He placed his cards face-down on the table, and grabbed his dice. He shook them in front of his face, whispering inaudibly. He let them roll across the table to the frayed edge of his hat. One of them showed a skull and crossbones, while the other one displayed three pips painted in a dark, faded red. Wiley stared at them with a grim expression for a long moment. Then he looked up at smith and flipped a card on the table. The card was decorated with a demonic-looking crowned silhouette and skulls in two opposing corners.
“Yer lyin’. Why’re ye lyin’?” Wiley left a finger on the corner of his card, obscuring the second “K”. Smith seemed taken aback and offended by the accusation.
“What’ye mean I’m-”
“I mean yer not who ye say y’are. Who are ye, Smith?” Wiley’s voice had lost its drunken cheer, and now sounded as displeased as the look on his face.
Smith didn’t respond. He stared, stone-faced, at Wiley. Neither of them spoke. The few customers in the bar now noticed the two staring each other down, and the room grew silent. The quiet, nervous boy silently slipped out of the building before things could get out of hand.
Smith leaned back in his chair, and ran a finger along his light red moustache. Unbeknownst to Wiley or anyone else in the bar, he was reaching into his right pocket under the table. Before he could do anything, however, Wiley stood up suddenly, knocking his chair backwards onto the floor, and pulled a pistol on Smith, who froze.
“WHO ARE YE?! Y’AIN’T NO JAMES SMITH!!” Wiley roared in anger at the man who sat across the table from him. Smith, for his part, barely flinched.
“And wha’ makes you think I’m not James Smith? I’s a common name, y’know.” Smith’s response only deepened the scowl on Wiley’s face.
“The dice,” Wiley spoke in almost a whisper. “The dice don’t lie. They never have. So whaddya want with me?” His clicked his pistol, readying to fire.
Smith looked around the bar at the people watching the confrontation unfold. Most of them were most certainly criminals, thieves, or lesser pirates. A fight in here would probably not go well. Smith cleared his throat.
“What I want with you, IS you. You are one of the Pirate Lords, am I correct?”
“HOW THE HELL D’YOU KNOW THAT?!?” Wiley was almost screaming in anger and fear at Smith.
Smith smirked in response to the pirate’s sudden outburst. He stood up slowly.
“You were right; Smith isn’t my name. But let me tell you, you don’t want to shoot that gun.”
“An’ why would that be?” Wiley growled back at the man, seething with anger.
“Because, my dear friend, a sound like a gunshot can be easily heard from outside the building. It can be heard by the Royal Soldiers who are just outside those doors,” the man pointed behind himself towards the front doors of the bar. At the mention of the red-clad soldiers, everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at the doors fearfully. Sweat began to form on Wiley’s brow.
“Yer bluffin’” he said in a shaky voice.
“Try me”, said the man raising an eyebrow and flashing a malicious smirk.
A tense minute passed in which no one moved. Then Wiley began to lower his hand. His face was the image of despairing defeat for a solid moment, before turning into mask of rage. He shouted wordlessly, raised his pistol, and fired it.
Many things happened concurrently after that: The man jerked back from his left shoulder, and began to fall over. In doing so, he produced his own pistil and fired it in the general direction of Wiley, missing him by a large margin. The door to the bar burst open and soldiers in red coats rushed in, guns up and at the ready. Patrons at the bar and tables stood up and backed into the far corners of the room in an attempt to avoid the possible crossfire. The man who was drunkenly passed out on his table grunted and knocked a mug over on his table. Upon seeing the soldiers, Wiley had snatched up his dice and now held them tightly. “Smith”, stood up, gripping his bleeding shoulder, and looked at the soldiers. Pointing at Wiley, he said, “There he is; arrest him.”
For a brief second, Wiley considered reaching for his second pistol, but instead, he simply dropped his dice on the floor. Leveling their guns at the pirate, the soldiers approached him with a pair of shackles. Clapping them onto his wrists, they led him out of the room. Peculiarly, he had a smile on his face.
“Smith” limped painfully over to one of the soldiers and spoke to him in a hushed tone. Nodding, the soldier led him from the bar.
No one noticed, as the redcoats left the building, that Wiley’s strange dice were nowhere to be seen on the bar floor where he’d dropped them.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** **
A few days later, Scott Bratley was furious. He’d risked his life, and even been shot to capture that blasted pirate, only for him to turn up missing the morning of his execution. Left arm in a sling, he made his way back from the Grand Admiral’s office. He’d been given a new task: Relations between the English and the native people along the Barbary Coast had begun to collapse. The natives, calling themselves corsairs, had begun attacking and raiding English ships and settlements. It was his job to use his information gathering skills to figure out how to preemptively stop these attacks, while maintaining English power along the coast. Governor Lynch and his trusted disciples would continue hunting for pirates in his absence. He was assigned to a newly commissioned galleon, the Lord Kettering. It was also rumored that he’d be sailing alongside the man who’d replaced Morgan, a fellow named Robert Blake.
Regardless of the rumors, Bratley was only concerned with his newest assignment from the Grand Admiral. Dealing in information WAS his specialty.
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April 3, 2011
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