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[IC] Strait Up Theft


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5th of June, 2016

Jolly Harbour, Antigua

The earliest of morning, just shortly after midnight



It was a busy Saturday night, here in Jolly Harbour. Each of the many bars that made up this town were sprawling. Locals, sailors, tourists, the occasional rich man, and sometimes, stranger fellows. One of them was currently sitting in “The Parrot’s Cage”, an old and rather small bar, which had stood at a small street leading into the harbour for a good 150 years by now. The owner had changed many times, but one client always returned: The Sorceress known as Captain Flintlock, one of the very few true pirates on the island.


So far the night hadn’t been spectacular, everything was the same as it usually was in this small town. Outside, those who easily lost their sobriety could be heard yelling and singing traditional shanties, butchering everything about the songs in the process. The bar had also not changed much. The owner had changed again since the last time the Captain had visited, but the booze remained the same as ever – exquisite.


It had gotten rather late already, and the drinking started to get to even the most experienced patrons. The atmosphere turned more relaxed, people started talking more. Some about their own businesses, some about things more confidential than what one would be allowed to say. A group of young men, probably children of the local population of wealthy men, could be heard talking about the eccentrically dressed Captain, but neither seemed confident enough to approach her.


An old man, probably a retired sailor judging by his clothes, was standing in a corner and addressing the crowd of people that had gathered around him. His breath and stature were witnesses to his state of drunkenness, but the crowd followed his every word. Whether out of actual interest, or just to see this old man stand on a table and drunkenly shout, that was unclear.


“… All these rumours about … those ships. Cargo doesn’t just vanish, I tell you. It’s the sea-dwellers. They go after them. They want something. What, you ask? Eh, young’uns, isn’t it obvious? They’re after … “

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"A Mango, A whale, and a cutlass....twice over!" sang Flintlock, slurred and drunk. 


Despite her raucous sea shanty her ears pricked when she heard the gossip. She liked gossip. It was neither entirely true, nor entirely false, and thus a perfect encapsulation of life. 


With a large mug of rum, her pirate hat askew, her clothes hanging lopsided, her gait the dance of a drunken acrobat, she made her way over to the gossiper and sat down, pushing him an ancient doubloon across the table. 


"That sounds like a fine tale for the night, me fine fellow" she started, leaning forward, then back again, moving her head with dolls eyes. 


"Cargo vanishing? Sea-Swellers? Aye, sounds a mighty fine tale, and I'd be hearing it! I've seen the deep ones, I seen the sea dwellers, and I seen vanishing cargo!" she said, full of encouragement. 


Of course, she had often  'vanished' cargo herself. 


"How y'come by this tale? And what y'hear?"

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The crowd that had gathered took a few steps to the side, to allow for the stumbling pirate to walk through, nobody wanting to accidentally get into her way. Some people could be heard muttering, some seemed amazed by what they were seeing. Especially once the doubloon had hit the table. Some taking a step back, others taking a step forward. Either way, people were interested in seeing what was happening now.


The old man suddenly stopped talking as he saw the pirate move closer. A mix of fear, amazement, and a lot of uncertainty on his face. When Flintlock sat down, a lot more graciously than one would think of somebody in her state, his emotions changed to curiosity. Clearly, he had not expected something like this to happen.


And once the doubloon had hit the table, he scrambled off the table, almost falling over in the process, then pocketed the doubloon with one swipe. He didn’t bother to look at it more closely, just seeing the doubloon, accompanied by the outfit of its original owner, was enough to make him talk.


“Aye Lass. I’ve only heard some, but it’s simple. They say that there’s ships going through the Male-  Malah- … Malacca Strait. That one place in, Asia, was it? I dunno, never been there. And these ships just have all their cargo vanish. I’m not talking about small boxes, these are big cargo ships. Proper, massive things. And all containers suddenly go missing. I tell you, there’s only somebody that can do that. The Sea-Folk. They just go, and they store the containers underwater. Where else would those things go, I tell ya. Folk say it didn’t actually happen because there’s nothing in the news, but I tell you, this fits to the motive of those … deep ones? They want our things. “

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"Aye, I can believe it, sir" said Flintlock, the edges of her intoxication receding as she started to focus. 


"Many a people live under the sea, some small, some big, some malign. Most malign, if I tell me own heart honestly"


"But what would they want with todays cargo?" she asked, insisting now. "Gold? Rum? Burning oils?"


The concept of petrol was a quaint one to Flintlock. She understood it well enough, but her ship ran on ethereal winds, and the strange lands and shores she visited used exotic powers rather than fossil fuels. Unless one counted powdered faerie as a fossil fuel. 


Malacca though, aye she remembered Mallaca. Dinner with Captain Nemo under a starry night. A duel with Captain Huffington-Blythe of the English Navy under a hot Malaysian Sun, and the aged Patriach Afifi Quah, head of his mighty merchant house, demanding her head for piracy and theft. She rubbed the scar on her shoulder remembering that close shave. 


"Perhaps we do not know, but tis mystery enough for me to set sail to find out! How come you by this tale?"

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 “Why do they want it? I say they want our technology, the secrets of human engineering, and all that comes with it. They want to have our luxury, without having to work for it. Why go through the effort of building your own technology if you can just steal it like pirates? The government will just ignore it, and the news don’t care. They’re free to do this, and nobody’s going to stop them.


They go and steal everything. Whatever they come upon. Clothes. Machines. Food. Oil too, aye. Lots of Machines, from what I’ve been told.


I got a letter from an old mate of mine a few days ago. He’s still working. Oil Tanker. Too big to actually pass through there. But when more ships were starting to avoid it, he started getting curious, like the bugger he always was. And they told him there’s strange happenings down in … that place and its name. “


Some of the people in the crowd had left, the more reasonable talking not of interest to them. Others had started looking at their phones, some writing texts, one or two even trying to take a picture of this strange situation. The atmosphere had become more quiet, less people were talking in the background, partly due to the conversation playing out in front of them, partly because the barkeeper had just returned with more booze, after the last bunch had been completely drank and he had to go  down into the cellar to grab more.

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"Ah yes, Pirates, foul rapscalliions. Hang the lot of them, say I. So I do!" said Flintlock, looking innocent and whistling. 


She doubted the man had more to say. It was possible he was just drunk, but when it came to the bone, this was something to attend to. Whether it was deep one cultists, or modern day pirates, this was something the Black Flag and Cap'n Flintlock would be sailing too. 


"Thankye for ye tale, sir!" she said, giving a little bow with a little wobble. She set her hat on straight and straightened her skirt. 


"Time to set sail, dry the powder, and plough the waves!" she declared, loudly, with a little laugh and a little dance. 


But first,


She wobbled over to the Bartender. 


"A drink for me, and a drink for me mate!" she requested, thumbing the old man. "And tell me if he is a lunatic, a drunkard, a sage, or all three!" she winked. 



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5th of June, 2016

International Waters, 100 km east of Singapore

Early Evening



After a good day of travel, the Black Flag had gotten quite close to its final destination. It was now not far off of the coast of Singapore, the destination that had been chosen for now. From there on out, it would only be a short trip north, towards the Eurasian mainland, and the ship would be inside the straits of Malacca. The travel itself had been truly uneventful, one like this ship and its captain had seen before many, many times.


For now, not a whole lot was happening. But maybe it was time to figure out an approach. What would the Captain do? Simply go north, have her ship swim through the straits until it found what it needed? Or would she go and gather more information, learn more about the situation than just a rumour she had gathered on the other side of the planet? Or would she decide to do something entirely else? It was up to her now, there was nothing guiding her choices out on these waters.

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"Singapore?" asked Captain Flintlock. 


"Aye Singapore!" answered the Skeleton Crew, as "thin" Lucy struck up a ditty on her beaten fiddle. The undead started singing and dancing and jumping from foot to foot. 


"Oh, the girls are the sweetest!

The food is the meatest!

The sun is sunniest

The rum is the rummiest

Singapore, my heart belongs to you,

Singapore, you tear my heart in two...."




Several verses of progressively ill remembered song, degenerating into a mish mash of various languages and laughter, the crew had decreed. Singapore it was. 


"Set sail, and keep a sharp look out!" said Flintlock.


The Black Flag looked like a pirate ship, but the rotting skeletons of the crew did not always need to. With a blur and slight smell of saline, they had changed into modern day sailors, dressed in appropriate (perhaps slightly odd) garb. 


Flintlock, for once, decided to change too, but being of mortal fibre, needed to do the old fashioned way. She descended to her quarters, and, in a few minutes, came out dressed like a fine European lady, with sunhat, skirt, and handbag. UP her skirt she had of course secreted a knife. A lady could not be  too careful in Singapore. 


She was not, of course, a lady. But the principle applied. 


Cutting through the swell of waves with an unnatural speed, the Black Flag proceeded to the Port of Singapore. 


The rowing boat was made ready, to make sure. "Handsome" Jack, the first mate, would keep command of the Black Flag. One-Eyed Pete, Thin Lucy and Razor Renzo would accompany her. Minus swords of course. Modern day Singapore did not look kindly on the open carrying of the cutlass, mores the pity. 



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5th of June

Singapore, Singapore





And so, the band of non-pirate looking pirates set out. For a city they knew, but also for a city that had always been changing. Singapore had been a city of importance for a long time, and it continued being just that. If information was to be found, it would be found here. The city had it all. And even on a Sunday evening, there were open bars. Many of them situated in the parts of the city close to the harbour, where one would be the most likely to find sailors. And thus, conveniently, where Flintlock was.


Finding a nice bar was no problem. A rather sizable establishment, about 10 minutes removed from one of the main areas of the harbour. Popular too, judging by the amount of patrons that could be found even on a day like this. The pirate, dressed in an outfit not quite fit for the establishment, raised some attention upon her entrance, but it seemed like most of the sailors would rather just ignore her and focus on what they had been doing before. The crew of the Black Flag, in the meantime, hardly raised any attention, fading into the masses without complications.

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Flintlock ordered a round of Rum, to the eager lips of Lucy, Pete, and Rezno. For zombies, they still retained the ability to get drunk, and, much to everyone's regret, have hangovers. 


They spent a moment quaffing drink, and casting eyes around the place. It was hardly the den of inequity that it had been a hundred years ago. But still, anywhere that served alcohol could, on occasion, become rowdy - although rarely dangerous. 


Flintlock made her way to the bar, leaving her undead crew in the safe hands of alcohol. 


Finding a suitable victim for gossip, a group of younger sailors, she brazenly invited herself to sit with them. Attending to her accent, lest its antiquated intonations seem too quaint, she threw down her opening gambit. 


"Good day to you, Gentlemen. Pardon me for me tongue" she said, giving a saucy wink, "but I heard tongues wagging about piracy and vanishing cargo. Pray, have you heard? you can't be too careful these days!" she said, pleasant and twinkling. 

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The sailor’s eyes continued to do their best at trying to hide the fact they all were looking at the strange woman and figuring out why she was here. Most of them weren’t really good at hiding their intentions. So, when Flintlock took a seat, the level of volume immediately lowered. Everybody was listening to some degree. She had been accompanied by a bunch of sailors, so clearly she wasn’t as out of place as most people would think at first glance. But yet, there clearly was more to this. One of the sailors, a tall man of European origin, began talking. A dutch accent, if Flintlock’s experience with accents from all over the world was anything to go by.


“Aye, ma’am, there’s been quite a commotion. We only get the basic gist of it down here, it’s the corporates and bigwigs of assorted sorts that make the decisions. But, like quite a few of the boys here, my crew’s stuck ‘cause they don’t let us return. “Too expensive to take the long way around”. So we just see it as extended shore leave. “


And so, the tension lowered, and another sailor began speaking too, with a heavy accent, Nordic in origin. He had moved towards the barupon hearing Flintlock's words, his movements suggesting he was no longer quite sober. It wasn't too obvious yet, probably only slightly too much alcohol in his blood so far, but the evening had only just started.


“I’ve heard some things, seen some too.  Problem being, anything that comes out leads to trouble, and anything I say could mean a lost job. The straits only get light traffic at the moment, it’s true. There’s reasons for it, too. But that’s as much as I can say without one of the suits sitting in their fancy skyscrapers calling for my head. “

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Flintlock nodded enthusiastically. She wished she had the money to buy everyone a round of drinks. But, truth be told, she doubted they took gold doubloons here. 


"Damn the suits. Probably never set foot in a ship. Probably nearest they get to the sea is standing knee high on a beach on a still day, in some holiday resort. Drinking a cocktail with an olive" she said, spitting on the floor.


"Well, they ain't worth spit to me. I won't be risking ma life for them. Huh!" she said, laced with anger and contempt. 


"Look here, I appreciate ye candour. I know ya jobs on the line. But I would mightily appreciate it if you could tell me how I could find out what the hells been going on!" she asked, pleadingly. 

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Heh. I’m not planning on loosing my job. Some people, however, don’t have that many plans. Some don’t care. Some just are too wasted to care.  Over there. A bunch of my crewmates. Ya might get something out of one of them. We ran across … whatever it was, a few days back. Ship’s stuck here, some of ‘em are down on their mood. If anyone’s gonna tell you anything, it’s one of them.


The man pointed to a table, at the corner of the bar. A bench built directly into the wall, 4 people sitting on it. Two more sitting on tables, their backs turned towards the rest of the crowd, and one empty chair. One of them was sulking, two others dragging on his arm, a glass of beer in their other hand. Two others sitting there, talking about something, getting drowned out by the general noise. And one more, getting up to leave at that very moment.

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Flintlock sauntered over to the bar. She knew how to handle sailors. A little bit of flesh, not to much. A twinkle in the eye, mouth held at the right angle. It had ended in many nights of drunken passion over the years. Modern times, though...who could tell?


"Which one of you strapping men care to share his woes to a friendly ear?" she said, brazenly sitting by them, and leaning back in a seductive, friendly manner. 


"Yer captain over their, full of melancholy, but holds his tongue. Wise to, seeing as a loose one would get him fired. But I'm in a rum pickle, and would hear your tales. Missing cargo, piracy, sea beasts, what have you, whatever. Don't want to lose my ship or my crew to the same fortune" she said, leaning forward and pressing the men for answer. 

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The man currently being heckled by his two crewmates looked up at the incognito-pirate’s words. His face marked by various emotions, negative in nature. Clearly, he was not having a good time. His buddies had stopped dragging on his arm when Flintlock had walked over, but they were still looking at him.


“Ah, sure. Don’t have much to lose anyways. If you’ve got a way to get me back home – money, transport, a favour with somebody, I don’t care. I’ll gladly tell you everything you want to know; I just want to get back home. This place feels like some kind of magical realm built to drag me down. In fact, I’m fairly certain some kind of spirit just had to put a curse on me so I missed my wedding. And I don’t even believe in spirits. So, any ideas how to get me home?”


A few times the other sailors tried speaking up, but the soon-to be wed quickly shut them down, by talking louder, or just raising his hand. His emotions weren’t just of the sad type; he was rather angry too. Alcohol and frustration did not mix, as was shown nicely here.

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"Curses eh? Poxes and blight, and a missed wedding night! Still, at least you are here to tell the tale?"


Something old, tasting of Singapore, hit her. Tales of magical realms and spirits. Still, for all the occult mysteries of the world, 'twas plenty mundane in the world that had the bones of cruelty and mischief. 


"I can get you home" she half-lied. The man might not like a trip in the Black Flag, quick as she might be. "I have a ship and a crew, and would be heading back to America, if that would suit you. Get you back to your bride. But, can't set sail for the other side of the world when there is a Kraken at port. But I'' swear this; I'll get you home soon as I am able, free, fast, and, if so needed, ignoring all the red tape and vexatious legalities, hmmm?"


The man was about to be married, not one to seduce. 


"And I have a mind to sort this matter out, myself. Also, if be needed, ignoring red tape and vexatious legalities. Can't be paralysed by stuffy men pushing pens when there is piracy afoot..."



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 “Works for me. I have to be back in Savannah in 12 days. I know it’s not a lot of time, but do you think that’d be possible? I don’t care how I get there, I just need to be there. I can tell you whatever you need, but how about we go somewhere that’s a bit less ... populated? A bit easier to talk about somewhat confidential things there. Name’s Jeff, by the way.”


The man pushed through towards the edge of the bench, getting up after a short bit of talking to his crewmates to actually have them push outwards too, so he could finally leave. And then, he stood up, showing no signs of drunkenness. Jeff was a man of average stature – for a sailor. More muscular than the average person, but about the same in height. He wouldn’t stand out in a crowd, being pretty much the definition of average.


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"Its possible, chin up! If I can get you there by any means natural or unnatural, then Ill get you there. Just send me an invite to the party afterwards. And make sure there is rum" she said, shaking Jeff's hand. 


"Ill wager you know Singapore better than me, so lead on..."


She gave a signal to her crew to not follow and go back to the ship. A pirate ship in Singapore might be landing in hot water, even if it was by the rowing boat they hit land. 


"My crew. Backstabbing lazy thieves" she said to Jeff, waving them on. 


"Keep her out of port. Run away from any trouble" she explained to them. Hopefully handsome Jack could keep the Black Flag afloat. It was the fastest thing on the waves. But then, their were those damn sky-planes. Didn't want them bombing her ship. 


"Lead on sir, lead on!" she said to Jeff. 

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A minute or so of walking later, and the two of them had arrived at a small park, an unoccupied bench right next to the corner.  Jeff sat down, then started talking. His tone was quiet, but he spoke truthfully. He looked around once or twice between the first few words, then settled into a pace of words, one after the other. He had things to say, and from the sound of it, sharing them was something he’d wanted to have done a lot earlier.  


“So, the stuff happening up north? There’s a lot of rumours going around. Everybody will tell you something else. And yeah, the bigwigs are keeping quiet, so all the information comes from people picking up different rumours. Some say there’s some kind of monster roaming around. Some say there’s magic involved. I’ve even heard people talk about the Atlanteans being involved. Now, that’s all fine and nice. But all the people spreading those rumours didn’t see what happened with their own eyes.


We did. And it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as all those rumours. No strange weather, no creatures rising from the sea. No pirates either. I’ve seen those before. It’s … weird still. More so than you’d think. We were just going down through the straits, business as usual. Nothing indicating anything. I was off-shift and below deck right then, writing a letter. And then, one moment to the next – all cargo was gone.  I’m not speaking about a few boxes. I’m speaking about a proper container ship.  7000 TEU. All gone, one instant. None of the people on deck saw anything. All those conainers just vanished in the blink of an eye.


And then, chaos broke out. Panic. Nobody had an idea what just had happened, and everybody was bracing themselves for more to come. The ship continued its course, but no, nothing. Just a lot of goods disappearing. A lot of people felt dizzy afterwards, but I can’t blame ‘em considering what had happened. Then we got here, and got word from the office that we’d have a shore leave of unspecified time. Four weeks before my wedding, of course. I wish I kenw what I did to have fate do all these things to me constantly. “

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"Damn the fates. They are cruel buffoons" answered Flintlock. 


She pondered the stars. 


"Treasures, gone in the blink of an eye. Quite a feat, even this day of marvels and wonders" she commented. She knew well enough of the superheroes and villains of today. Some who had been around for centuries. The modern day, she had concluded, was just like the pasy. It was just there was more of it. 


"Well, methinks time to take a look at that ship of yours. Might take a bit of skullduggery, but all for a good cause. But before I go off snooping and a-sneaking, tell me, what was the cargo? Anything important?. Anything that was not, quite, legal...?" she asked pointedly. 


It might be farmyard agricultural tools. It might be leather hats. In which case, this was probably random. Equally, it might be drugs, weapons, or even slaves. She would take a dim view of all three, but slavery would press her anger in a most vexing manner. 

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“Nothing illegal, nah. I don’t know about all of them, but the majority of all containers was plastic that they were going to use to manufacture things over in china. There were some luxury goods, watches, jewelry, and so on, too. No idea what anybody would want with tons of plastic. That stuff’s no good outside of industrial.


I wouldn’t suggest looking at the ship from closer on. They involved the state, and we’re not allowed to go back because of the military still having a perimeter set up. No idea why they’re still there. But considering this is costing the corp money, it has to be something. Maybe they just want to keep us quiet, considering this is quite a big thing. I’ve not seen any journalists report on it either. “


Once again, Jeff looked around. Some kind of chittering sound could be heard, he stopped talking for a second halfway through, quickly keeping quiet and tensing up, but then continued onwards more relaxed.  He was still rather tense, but not as much as he had been while holding back his words.

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Nothing Illegal. That he confesses, or knows about!


Plastic was some new found invention. She preferred wood, the smell, the organic feel. But plastic was the modern word. Useful, practical, and even beautiful sometimes. But why would someone steal plastic? It was hardly valuable. Like Jeff said, a mystery!


The military was another matter. A few police, a few security guards, a fence. She could deal with that. She might even deal with the military. But starting a war was different to irking a few policeman. 


The chittering sound vexed her. She was not paranoid by nature, but Jeff's nerves were infectious. 


"I appreciate the wisdom, Mr Jeff" she said. "But the thief must be caught, if the seas are to be kept safe. My only other inspiration is the perilous course of setting bait. Loding my ship full of plastic and hoping someone comes sniffing..."


Or, she hated the thought. 


"...or seeing just who might be interested in your words, and who comes looking..."


And maybe more than looking. 





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After a few decades of constantly paying attention to one’s surroundings it became quite easy to figure out what was happening, what was making that particular noise, what that shadow belonged to. In this case, the noise was a squirrel.


Sitting up in the trees above the heads of the pirate and the sailors. It wasn’t the only squirrel in the vicinity, Flintlock could make out 3 more, all sitting around the trees. There was some shouting coming from further down the road, and a man was slowly walking towards the bench. The sound of something moving. The cause of the sound being a person, lying behind a bush, like if they were sleeping. About 20 meters away. Other than that, the night was quiet, as quiet as it got in modern times.


“No idea what to do now. From what I’ve heard, lots of ships passing through the straits were affected. Not just plastic. Oil, machines, phones, some farming tools. Even a ship carrying science equipment. Whatever it is, it doesn’t care about the contents.


 Loading up your ship with cargo might get you into the spotlight, yeah. If you want to keep the seas safe you are doing a favour to everybody out there. Chances are the military’s out there looking around too, so be careful. You are my way home after all.  

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"The night has ears and eyes, I think, Mr Jeff" said Flintlock. She reached under her skirt and pulled out her knife. It was not a long knife, but it was long enough to be seen. 


Truth was, she could summon up something horrible to rend anyone in twain in the blink of an eye. But the point was, it would be horrible. And such things were not done lightly. If a nasty look and a knife would do the job, then so be it. She didn't actually want to stab anyone. Its just they looked intimidating. 


"Good evening to ye, Sir!" she doffed her cap and gave a friendly smile and penetrating glare at the man walking towards her. She studied his reaction. And next up, she would walk to that man lying behind the bush and give him a nudge with her boot. 


She drew the line at interrogation of squirrels at knife point, however. She was a bit loopy, but that would be quite mad.

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The man was of small stature, slowly making his way forward. From what Flintlock could tell at low-light conditions like this, he was quite old. Somewhere in his sixties to seventies, walking a bit bent over towards the front. He was wearing a coat, nothing too spectacular. Why he was walking around the night this late, through a small park, was another question to be raised.

When Flintlock moved closer, he started walking slower, eventually stopping at a fair distance, as she began talking. He seemed surprised, a bit wary, but that was about it. Of course, reading all his emotions at this distance was no easy task, so the finer movements of the face were not available to be read.


“A knife? What do you want? I’ve dealt with so many things, why would I be scared of somebody hunting me down with a knife. You’re not the first one to try. “


He hesitated for a second, then speaking up again, surprise in his voice.


“Wait a second. I know that voice.  


Flintlock? What has brought you to track me down, then?”


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