-Four hours later, late afternoon-
Victoria had been relieved of guard duty for the time being and was below deck in the galley eating a plate of baked fish with some of the other hired guns who were off duty. Others were sitting at a corner table in the back and either playing Texas Hold 'Em or standing and watching the action unfold. Victoria was not about to throw her Jewels away on that game, so she kept to her baked fish and mug of coffee. She was here to earn money, not to give it away.
So far the voyage had been a peaceful one with no sign of pirates. The greatest enemy the hired guns had to fight was boredom and there was plenty of that to go around. There was nothing to do but walk the deck and try not to get heatstroke since there was precious little shelter from the unrelenting sun and everyone had forgotten to bring sunscreen.
Victoria was drinking her coffee when a lot of cheering erupted from the corner. Someone had just won a big hand and another player did not take well to the loss. However, there were no signs of impending hostilities, only a grudging respect for the winner.
"Damn it, Captain! You took me to the cleaners! I had three of a kind Aces! That shoulda won the hand!
" A lanky brown-haired man wearing olive green fatigues lamented to a red-haired man wearing a brown bush hat and an eyepatch. The redhead simply put a cigarette in his mouth, lit it, and smiled.
"I told you you were gonna lose, Ken.
" The man said casually. Ken took a moment to get over his frustration, then calmly pushed the winnings over to the captain. He got up from the table and went elsewhere to calm down. Victoria looked towards the man and saw that he was now holding court with the men around him, who were all wearing olive green fatigues like Ken. The captain himself wore olive green fatigues with a brown bush hat and a black eyepatch over his left eye.
as he and some others settled in for another game he was regaling the men with all manner of stories like the time he had taken cover in a trench to avoid artillery fire and found that a shell had dropped into the same trench only two meters to his left. He scrambled as far away from it as he could get before it exploded, but to his immense relief it did not detonate. Examination after the battle by an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician with nerves of steel revealed that the shell that had landed in the trench was a dud.
Victoria went back to her fish and coffee and finished both within six minutes. She took the plate and mug to the galley sink and washed them herself, then put them to the right side of the sink on a blue-and-white draining towel that had been left for that exact purpose. The brunette had dried her hands and was about to take her leave of the galley when she heard a high-pitched whistle.
" The captain's voice called out to her. Victoria clenched her teeth and turned around to find the captain staring at her with a single blue eye.
"Hey lady, wanna join us for a game of Texas Hold 'Em?
" He asked with a smile. The cigarette was hanging out of the right corner of his mouth as he spoke to her.
"No thanks, mister. I'm here to earn money, not to throw it away.
" Victoria turned down the man's request. The men beside him began to laugh at the candor of her answer and the captain himself smiled.
"Heh heh. You're probably one of the smartest people in the room, lady. But I don't really care about saving money. Once we buy replacement weapons and ammunition after getting paid, we tend to spend the rest of it on booze, cigarettes, and women.
" The captain complimented her for her good sense before explaining that he was not interested in saving money.
"People like us don't tend to live to retirement age, so we figure that we'll have what fun we can before we die.
" He added. Murmurs of agreement rose from the men around the table. Victoria looked at the men and saw that they were rough-looking and hard-living men who had been in battles all around the world. They had seen a lot of rough things and had been through a lot of rough things. They did not seem like the type to follow the stock market, watch soap operas, or play golf in their spare time.
" Victoria replied laconically. The captain kept his eye on her and asked a question.
"You must be a tough customer if you took this job. What's your name, lady?
" He asked.
" She answered. The one-eyed man thought about it for a moment and then blinked.
"Wait a minute. I've heard the name Sheridan somewhere before.
" He said to her. Now Victoria was interested in what he had to say. Had he met her adopted father somewhere in the past?
"I knew a Sheridan. I knew a guy named Lawrence Sheridan.
" He said to her. Victoria's interest increased when he said that. He got up from his seat and strode over to the brunette, then examined her face closely with the cigarette seated firmly in the right corner of his mouth. She did not know what he was hoping to find by examining her so closely.
"Are you his daughter?
" The captain asked point-blank.
"I'm his adopted daughter.
" She answered calmly while looking him in the eye. The captain stepped back and blinked.
"That you are.
" He answered cryptically. He turned to the men and spoke.
"Gentlemen, you're in the presence of Lawrence Sheridan's adopted daughter!
" The captain proclaimed. The men could not believe what they had just been told.
"What's your name?
" Victoria asked the captain.
"Oh, right! I forgot my manners! I'm Captain Carl Henderson, but people just call me Captain!
" The one-eyed redhead finally introduced himself to the brunette.
- Captain Henderson:
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