Two weeks later, Ellison and Matilda met up with Simond and the other investors at the docks to see the boat set sail. She’d been renamed the Nina.
Ellison had been following the gossip in the bars. After Pompas had been marched through the city, word had spread quickly about what happened, and Krim residents were looking forward to seeing what happened. Either the ships would sink, which would be interesting in and of itself, or they would reach the New World, and maybe bring back some coffee.
Either way, it was something to talk about.
Clare Lestrange was still the captain, and without Pompas on board she had an actual shot at success. One of the biologists dropped out but another had been rounded up at the last minute. And Captain Emmanuelle Anders had agreed to coordinate her trip with theirs, and a couple of other captains had also decided to join the convoy.
As a result, the city’s bookies had raised the odds from “practically zero” to “a snowball’s chance in hell.”
Matilda was there in her professional capacity. Simond had decided that seeing the ship sail without him would be extremely painful for Pompas, so she’d fetched him from the dungeon where he was being tortured. They had to bring him in a wagon, because two weeks with Glad the Impaler can knock the wind out of a person. Pompas was tied to the back, and he looked as if he’d lost at least ten pounds in the last few days. His flesh hang sallow, and was covered with welts and burns, but nothing too incapacitating. Glad was a master of his craft, and his prices were reflective of his skill.
They pulled up as close to the departing ships as they could, then propped Pompas up in the back of the low wagon so he could watch the departure.
At first, Pompas had a shell-shocked look on his face but as the preparations picked up and the crowd grew, some of his old stubbornness began to return. He sat up straighter and sneered at the people around him.
Meanwhile, sailors brought last-minute supplies on board, loved ones said their goodbyes, and everyone else placed bets as to how long it would be before all the ships sank.
One of Matilda’s mercenary friends — the one who’d jumped into the water to cut off Pompas’ escape — had also decided to along on the trip, to provide some additional security in case of pirates or dangerous beasts.
He came over to say goodbye to Matilda and his other mercenary friends. They wished him luck, then he leaned over the wagon and slapped Pompas hard on the head. “That’s for making me get wet and catch a cold,” he said.
The investors had decided to divide up the shares of the venture based on proportions of the initial investment, with slightly larger shares going to those who’d been foresighted enough to demand legally binding contracts.
Representatives of the ship building company that had rented out the ship were also at the docks to see their property depart.
Judging by their sour looks and loud grumbling, they had fully expected to have their ship back quickly. The deal Pompas made, to turn the ship over to pirates without a struggle, enabled him to funnel much of the investment money off-world where he’d used it to cover personal obligations.
Today, though, Pompas was back to his usual self, acting like he’d never admitted to anything.
“They won’t get far,” he told Simond and the other investors. “I’m the only one who really knows the waters. I’ve been on seventeen voyages so far. Nobody knows the ocean better than I do.”
There were speeches and a bottle of wine broken over the ship’s bow. An artist from the newspaper was there with a sketchpad. Simond had even hired a band.
“If we’re throwing away our money, we might as well do it in style,” he said, and gave the signal for the fireworks.
Simond’s painters were already set up on deck, chronicling the departure in oils and watercolors.
Simond and the other investors got a little drunk, and a little rowdy, and started feeling magnanimous. They decided to let Pompas ago.
“There’s nothing else he can do,” Simond said. “I think we’ve punished him enough. Also, I’m tired of paying Glad the Impaler’s rates. At first I thought, the money is totally worth it, knowing that Pompas is screaming in agony somewhere. But now, when I’m paying the bill each week, I have to ask myself, what am I really getting here?”
“You sure?” Matilda asked him. “I’ve got the wagon booked for the rest of the day. I can take him back to Glad’s right now.”
“I’m going to be out there, on the adventure of a lifetime,” said Simond, waving his hand at the sea. “Knowing that I’m out there, and he’s still here on land, well, that’s satisfaction enough.”
He glanced around at the other investors. “Unless one of you wants to pick up the tab?”
“I’d love to,” said one, “But Glad’s a little pricy for me.”
“Out of my league,” said another.
“No reason to throw good money after bad,” said a third.
Simond nodded at Matilda, who cut Pompas loose.
Then Simond walked to the ship. He was the last to board the Nina.
One after the other, the ships set sail. Ellison felt a lump in his throat watching them sail away towards the setting sun.
Meanwhile, Pompas continued to grumble as he rubbed the feeling back into his legs. “They’re doing it all wrong. They’ll all be dead in a week, because they aren’t listening to me. They didn’t even take my maps. You’ll see.”
Aside from Pompas and the ship building company that actually owned the ship, everyone was in a celebratory mood. There were plenty of bottles of whiskey being passed around.
Even if the odds were slim, just the slightest chance that they’d be able to have coffee, tobacco, and potatoes cheered people up to no end.
It might make living on Krim just a little bit more bearable.”