Written By John S. Badger
SFX: Cannon fire.
BLANKLEY: (acting-captain) Reload that cannon. Move the body aside. Man your stations! (to distance)NASH! Come down from the crow’s nest before you get yourself killed! Weigh portside anchor! Fire the Grappling hooks! Prepare to board the ship! Drop the gangplank! All hand hoy!
SFX: Sailors yelling in battle. Eventual subsiding. Knocks on a door.
HORNSBY: (muffled) What do you want?
BLANKLEY: Captain. The other ship has been crippled, and the crew has surrendered.
HORNSBY: (muffled) Aye. Thank you.
SFX: Door creaks open. Waves hitting boat (deep)
HORNSBY: What’s the damage, BLANKLEY?
BLANKLEY: Captain, we have taken damage in the starboard, and we lost a cannon, but we will easily be back up and running at full sail before sundown. Their hull is taking on water, and won’t likely be afloat another couple hours. We could try to repair their damage, but chances are we’ll run out of supplies, and still lose the vessel.
HORNSBY: What about the bounty?
BLANKLEY: The men are currently assessing the situation.
HORNSBY: Very well. Good work.
BLANKLEY: Your men would like you to board the ship.
HORNSBY: I have no desire to -
BLANKLEY: (pressing) Captain.
HORNSBY: (reluctant) Aye. That would be best.
SFX: HORNSBY boards other ship by plank
HORNSBY: You poor souls shouldn’t have tried to come to the colonies today. You’ll never reach land, unless you submit to me now. (pause) I gather that by your cuffs, you assume to have no choice, but rest assured- you do. Who here would rather not submit to the colonies? (pause) Here I am, offering you a way out, and you dare not take it? Would you truly rather be held below, where you’ll always wonder why you didn’t take the freedom I so graciously offer you now? (pause) This is truly a shame.
SFX: cuffs and chain rustle
HORNSBY: (intrigued) Ah! Very good. Are you volunteering to go free?
Prisoner: Aye cap. I am.
Prisoner: (immediately changes mind) Nay, Captain. I-
HORNSBY: Gentlemen! We have a volunteer! Get her, and let’s release her to freedom!
SFX: prisoner struggle.
NASH: Come on! The captain wants your freedom!
HORNSBY: Alright. Don’t struggle, lass. Struggle, and we’ll cleave you to the brisket. Let’s go this way. You may have noticed our men dropping sludge into the water. No, lass. That wasn’t pitch from swabbing the deck. That, is yesterday’s unfinished dinner. And right about now, we should be seeing Bruce any moment. Or not! Sometimes, he’s too full to find any interest in you. Let me take these off your hands. Can’t have you taking my shackles, can we?
HORNSBY: You can now walk ten paces in that direction.
NASH: (sneering) There are only four paces before she walks off. She’ll be fish food.
HORNSBY: I’m sorry, lass. I told you to walk. Walk to freedom!
PRISONER: I won’t! (grunt like running)
SFX: running, abrupt stop upon impact
HORNSBY: (wrestling) I wasn’t… asking.
SFX: Shove, splash. Cheering. Distant frantic splashing.
HORNSBY: Anyone else interested in walking to freedom? How about you? Your wrists look sore. You? Nay? Then why are you still here?! Board your new ship, and go below. BLANKLEY. Take the captain to my quarters. He deserves to be treated as a gentleman. See to it. Get the bounty off this boat before she goes under. And, the food this time. We can’t have a repeat of last time.
SFX: Distant splashing
SFX: Door closes
HORNSBY: I see they made you at home, Captain.
PRITCHARD: They did. As much as I can be, anyway.
HORNSBY: (compassionate) I have some bad news for you though. Your ship is sinking. It took on damage, and I cannot spare the men to pilot it even if it could be mended. She is going down, and you’re going to join us ashore.
PRITCHARD: That stands to reason. Why would pirates such as yourselves take us as prisoners, instead of just taking our weapons, and leaving us to sink along with my ship?
HORNSBY: Captain, you mistake me as some kind of pirate. I am merely a privateer at the order of the colonies. I have the Letter of Marque and Reprisal, which shows I am (mocking humility) but a lowly servant of my country. I have very little authority here.
PRITCHARD: A privateer by the colonies? And what is your name, captain?
HORNSBY: I am Captain CLAY HORNSBY. Who might you be?
PRITCHARD: I am captain MORGAN PRITCHARD of His Majesty’s Ship the Mallard. Might I ask where we are headed from here?
HORNSBY: We are 5 day’s journey to port. Your men will be held prisoner in Richmond, Virginia. As you can gather, we are a fairly civil bunch. Your men will be treated well, but you will be staying there for a while. Having stated this, we do wish to stay friendly. Where are the valuables aboard your ship?
PRITCHARD: While throwing one of my hands overboard to drown or be eaten by sharks is not what I would refer to as civil, I can appreciate your hospitality. But, I must tell you, there is nothing of value aboard his majesty’s ship Mallard. We’re merely a vessel of war. We have no purpose with the finer things, when we are likely to be taken into situations such as this.
HORNSBY: I understand, captain. I am afraid this will not do, though. My ship the Cruel Delight, has sent over a dozen ships to their watery graves, and each one we had the pleasure of plundering. We have gained many riches by this. Is there any way you might remember where the loot is about your ship?
PRITCHARD: I would have told you, I have nothing to lose at this point by telling you. Everything has been taken from me- you have seen to that.
HORNSBY: Would you care for an apple, captain?
PRITCHARD: Yes. Please.
HORNSBY: PAN, can you grab us a couple apples?
PANCAKE: Right away, cap’n.
HORNSBY: They are quite good. We got them from shore a mere two days ago, picked straight from the tree.
PANCAKE: There you go cap’n HORNSBY.
SFX: Apple rolls across table
PRITCHARD: Thank you.
HORNSBY: (more forceful) Now, where did you say the bounty was?
PRITCHARD: There isn’t any.
HORNSBY: We have it on good authority that you were to purchase resupplies in the West Indies. You certainly cannot purchase goods without money. (heavy breathing)
SFX: Door knock. Opens.
BLANKLEY: Captain. If I may?
HORNSBY: By all means. Let me know.
BLANKLEY: Aye, cap. Time is running low.
SFX: Door closes.
NASH: (reassuring) Very good, captain. Far better than last time. And last time, we still got the booty. Very good. (addressing crew) What do you say lads? Three cheers? Hip hip!
Crew: Hooray (3x)
PANCAKE: Found it!
NASH: Of course we did. What did I say, cap?
SFX: hammers pounding
SHERMAN: You there. Son. Come here. How old are you?
FINN: 12 years of age, sir. I mean, (forced angry) scum.
SHERMAN: You’re just about my boy’s age. He’s 13. How long have you lived in the colonies?
FINN: (correcting) My papa says that we live in the independent colonies.
SHERMAN: Alright, son. How long have you lived in the independent colonies?
FINN: I was born in England. We moved here about three years ago.
SHERMAN: Do you miss home, son?
FINN: (fondly) I didn’t have to be on a ship. I stayed home with mother.
SHERMAN: And where is she now?
FINN: She died of typhoid.
SHERMAN: That’s dreadful. King George has been feeding us well at home. Are you eating enough here, in the colonies?
FINN: When we get home. But, we’re only there-
NASH: You boy! Get on deck! The mast needs tending to! You there! Stop talking to the crew, or I’ll make sure you don’t make it to Virginia.
SHERMAN: I didn’t mean anything by it, sir. He’s a good boy. Well deserving of a cake when he gets back to shore.
NASH: You keep to yourself.
SHERMAN: Aye, sir.
PANCAKE: (coming out of the darkness) I miss home.
SHERMAN: My poor misguided boy… Come. Talk with me.
SFX: Muffled commotion
NASH: Captain! Stay in here! You there, (angry) you come with me.
PRITCHARD: What’s the meaning of all this?
NASH: (grunting as holding the uncooperative enemy) Captain, the prisoners have overtaken the lower decks.
BLANKLEY: We’ll get them back in order, sir.
HORNSBY: See that you do.
SFX: Ocean lapping
MINI: Okay. You may think I’m aboard a great vessel. If you think that- you’re wrong! I’m aboard the SS MTP, stuck inside this stainless steel Mercury Theatre Podcast water bottle. I’m quite tiny. That’s why my voice is so weird. I’ve been trying to sail out of here for some time now, but I get nowhere. Sometimes I get shaken, and the waves and wind pick up, but I still get nowhere. Maybe you can help let me out! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, and you’ll be signed up to win this water bottle in the raffle. You can’t win unless you apply. Again, sign up to win this free water bottle by emailing your name to John@mercurytheatrepodcast.com to sign up. Don’t forget to spell theatre with the R before the E. The winner is announced in the March 29th episode! Redemption details in confirmation email. If you want to add a note to the sailors at Mercury Theatre, feel free to add that too! Maybe I’ll still be in here. Hopefully not, though. I need some fresh air! (fades out) Hello? HELLO?! Hellooo?!
HORNSBY: (Exhausted. More angry as he speaks) I thought you said you would get them back in order. THIS doesn’t appear to be back in order.
BLANKLEY: (exhausted) My apologies captain. I had no idea we would be marooned by our own men. I was taken by surprise, just as you were. Last thing I remember is having been in the cabin with captain PRITCHARD, learning of the location of the loot. Next thing I know, we’re given the two barrels to float to shore on.
HORNSBY: (hyperventilates) In all my years, I have never!
BLANKLEY: Aye sir. We need to find shelter, and get ready for a long haul. According to sailing master Hagsley, we were almost to the sugar route from the West Indies. So, we should be picked up in just a matter of a few days.
SFX: Fire crackling. Night beach sounds.
BLANKLEY: Tell me captain, how did you come to acquire the Cruel Delight? You don’t strike me as the type wanting to captain a ship.
HORNSBY: We’re not about to get friendly, just because we’re about to die on this god-forsaken island.
BLANKLEY: If we do die, wouldn’t it be better to know you died, having a friend to die beside?
HORNSBY: BLANKLEY the poet… (sigh) I had no interest in the sea. I’m deathly afraid of it. I’m afraid of most everything. Heights, swimming, fighting, cannon fire. But, my father was a tobacco plantation owner- very wealthy, as you can imagine- but he wanted his children to fight in the war. He bought me a ship to command, sent me on my way, and years later and here I am: your captain.
BLANKLEY: How long have you been a captain, now?
HORNSBY: Let’s see now… 13 years? Aye. 13 next month. What about you, BLANKLEY? How long have you been amongst the seafaring militia?
BLANKLEY: 10 years. Always loved the sea. Always hated the pork ashore. The grog is the best. The sound of the sails. The excitement of the chase of a redcoat ship. The chaos when boarding the enemy vessel. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would kill to be an admiral, charging a fleet of privateers against the English.
HORNSBY: But here we are. Lost my father’s ship. Lying by the fire, awaiting our impending doom.
BLANKLEY: Not at all, captain. We still have time. We found a creek over there. We appear to be in the best spot to have been marooned in the entire ocean. Besides… Virginia is cold this time of year. We’ll get the Cruel Delight back. I promise you.
HORNSBY: Let’s not forget who promised we’d have the ship under control before.
BLANKLEY: Aye cap. Let me ask you a question, sir. Why are you so insistent to pay the 50% to the colonies for all our earnings?
HORNSBY: Are you familiar with the letter of marque and reprisal? It states that we are legal pirates who pay 50% of our earnings, to not be hanged.
BLANKLEY: Yes. But, they risk nothing, and still get half the spoils.
HORNSBY: The colonies abound with possibilities. Possibilities you could only dream of back in Britain. Sailors for the navy are paid a much smaller wage than you get… Why? Do you not have enough gold? Am I not paying you enough, first mate BLANKLEY?
BLANKLEY: (disappointed) No captain. I’m doing alright. Captain? What is your worst fear?
HORNSBY: Drowning. No question. What about you, BLANKLEY?
BLANKLEY: Dying without my name being remembered would have to be my greatest fear.
BLANKLEY: Captain HORNSBY! Wake up! There’s a ship on its way! Right there! Yo ho ho!!!
MERCHANT: Ahoy there!
BLANKLEY: Thank you ever so much for picking us up, captain I do understand the need for the shackles, but (starting to shout) do you mind removing us from the bowsprit? (calmly) I feel like I’m about to crack Jenny’s teacup with this wooden mermaid.
HORNSBY: BLANKLEY… I do believe I have a solution to our precarious situation. If we swing our legs over to the one side together, we may just be able to get ourselves off the hook, and free without falling overboard. What say you?
BLANKLEY: (jokingly) I say you go first.
HORNSBY: That wouldn’t work, BLANKLEY. We need to work together. Swing starboard, and then port. Agreed? On three… One. Two. Two and a half. Three!
HORNSBY: Aha! Like a charm. (immediate concern) Oh! You take the helm, BLANKLEY, I’ll man the crew! On… second thought…
SFX: Crew starts to rush them
EVERYONE: Rabble rabble rabble
BLANKLEY: Aye. I’ll take the crew. Take this raft’s anchor. Defend yourself!
SFX: Metallic thud
HORNSBY: I don’t know how many more of these men I can take.
SFX: Pickup sword
BLANKLEY: Go to the portside. Nobody is that way!
HORNSBY: The ship’s portside, or our portside?
BLANKLEY: Portside! Your other portside! Blast it all! Go starboard! Take the helm! I’ll keep them off us.
HORNSBY: I’m keeping our heading in that direction. With the rain, we can make up for lost time. The Cruel Delight wouldn’t risk the sails, and the wind has sped us up. I think I know where Captain PRITCHARD is going. He’s likely heading for the loyalists in Wilmington. The Cruel Delight used a great portion of the ammunition in the battle against him, and he’ll need to regroup.
BLANKLEY: It’s lucky that the men already wanted to revolt.
HORNSBY: They’re gun runners. Unaffiliated with battles. Landlubbers. And here you had me use an anchor as a weapon.
BLANKLEY: Use the tools you have available.
MERCHANT: The way we see it, cap’n, is these munitions were going to be yours in the end anyway. Why fight you?
CROW’S NEST: Sail ho!
BLANKLEY: Crow’s nest! What do you see?
CROW’S NEST: (distant) Showing the red ensign!
HORNSBY: That has to be the Cruel Delight, running the British flag! They’re low on munitions, and there’s the faulty cannon on the aft port side. We’ll sail alongside them, and whatever you do, don’t hit my cabin!
BLANKLEY: Captain. We cannot go up against the Cruel Delight. It’s a man-o-war. There are no fixed weapons on this. This is a merchant vessel. Besides: The rain will soak the powder.
HORNSBY: Well, first mate, that appears to be a problem you could easily fix. It is a gun ship, after all.
BLANKLEY: A ship with guns, and a gunship are two entirely different things.
HORNSBY: Fix that too.
BLANKLEY: (rolling eyes) Aye, cap. (yelling to crew) Look alive, crew! We’re overtaking the Cruel Delight! Drop the jibs! Hoist up the weapons to deck. Prepare for battle!
MERCHANT: We aren’t fit for battle, cap. We were turned down at port to man frigates. We’re merchants not by choice, but by circumstance.
HORNSBY: You will not be required to fight then. There’s a nice warm milk below deck for you, straight from the cow. Go pour yourself some- We’re pirates! Get to your battlestation!
SFX: Pulleys, metal clanging, wood crates, ship bustling etc.
MERCHANT: 12 knots, captain!
HORNSBY: Throw the extra weight overboard. We’ll make it up, when we take the Cruel Delight back. Extra weight, toss it!
HORNSBY: BLANKLEY! How is the Cruel Delight responding?
BLANKLEY: No change in course, sir!
HORNSBY: Drop the jack! Raise the jolly roger! (pause) fortunate that every ship has a pirate flag just lying around.
SFX: flag unfurled and hoisted
HORNSBY: (somewhat hushed) We don’t have the element of surprise, we’re outgunned, and our crew is god-awful. Our only option is to go in guns ablazing, and pray Poseidon smiles upon us.
BLANKLEY: Aye aye. Prepare to fire at will!
BLANKLEY: Or just go ahead and fire at will. What does it matter? Down to Davy Jones we go, anyway.
SFX: Cannons going off
BLANKLEY: Chain shot! Aim it at the masts!
HORNSBY: What are you trying to do, BLANKLEY?! Decommission my ship?
BLANKLEY: (on another deck) We can skulk around, or we can
BLANKLEY: Or we can win! It’s up to you, captain! We’re not sinking it! See the hull? No holes!
HORNSBY: These merchants couldn’t hit the broad side of a ship if it killed them!
HORNSBY: (horrified) My mast!
BLANKLEY: We’ll get you a new one. Great shot sailor!
SCENE: In cabin. no rain.
HORNSBY: I’m not an angry man, captain. Not generally. But, you sir, you took my ship, and there’s not much respect I have for a man who takes my ship.
PRITCHARD: I had to do what was best for his majesty King George, and taking your ship was the only solution I was given. In all fairness, you would have done the exact same thing, had you been in my situation. As an officer in the king’s navy, I do what I am told, and preferably staying alive whilst doing it. I am trying to enforce the king’s realm, and as a pirate, you are-
HORNSBY: Privateer, captain.
PRITCHARD: As a colonial privateer, you are a defector to the king. On second thought, maybe you wouldn’t have done the same as I have, seeing as how you are a traitor. The colonies are English settlements. You sailed across the ocean, and decided you didn’t need to prove fealty to the king who supported you. Revolting against England is nothing shy of deserving of a traitor’s death. History will be written, and you will be known as the tyrants.
HORNSBY: Assuming we don’t win the war.
PRITCHARD: Win!? Win what? You don’t like paying taxes- I don’t like paying taxes, and yet I am still loyal. Your nation will still charge taxes to pay for its infrastructure. The only question is to whom you pay taxes, to the king, or to… your new king. Is that truly worth dying over? The only thing you have in your favor, is the distance from the England, but we aren’t above coming all this way to... remind you of your king’s wishes.
HORNSBY: This isn’t about the king- this is about my ship. You took my ship, and for that, you will be hanged. BLANKLEY, please have the captain removed. We sail for Virginia.
SCENE: years later
MRS. HORNSBY: Captain BLANKLEY. It is always a pleasure to have you. What brings you to shore today?
BLANKLEY: MRS. HORNSBY, it is truly a delight to see you as well. I am only here to discuss matters of business with the admiral.
MRS. HORNSBY: Of course. Admiral HORNSBY is in his office. Can I fix you some tea?
HORNSBY: Captain BLANKLEY hasn’t had a drop of tea since the party of ‘73. Captain! Come in, come in!
BLANKLEY: I have to hand it to you, sir. You have done it. You have the wife you deserve, you have the fleet you never wanted, and the admiration your father wanted for you. But, you, sir. Have the desk job you always desired. I have to admit it: you have made it. Do you recall the time you and I were marooned on that island in the West Indies?
HORNSBY: I really wish I couldn’t.
BLANKLEY: That was the moment I realized you were a true person, and not just a cowering captain. Which.., makes it all the more difficult to tell you that I have taken your fleet. Then again, you and your proclivity to paying 50% of our earnings to retain the Marque of Reprisal have cost your men their potential earnings. And, ultimately your fleet. The privateers are leaving the Colonial navy, and have become true pirates.
HORNSBY: You can’t take my ships.
BLANKLEY: But you see, I already have. The captains have joined in- or left, I should say. We have gone on account, so to speak. We would like you to lead us, but we will not pay the taxes on our earnings. We’re the ones risking our lives, and your ship has taken all the hits, and we have only gotten half?! Not anymore, admiral. (enticing) Come with us- let’s earn and keep everything we conquer.
HORNSBY: I will not let you do this. You would be outcasts. You could never return to the colonies. You’d be hanged for treason.
BLANKLEY: A traitor of a traitorous nation is quite fitting. (pause) Come with us.
HORNSBY: I will have you hanged for this. I would never betray this nation.
BLANKLEY: It is truly unfortunate to hear that. I have enjoyed… Well… Maybe “enjoyed” is the wrong word. Ah well. Be well, admiral. Hmmm… I guess you should be addressing me as admiral, in your stead. That is of no matter. Be well, Clay HORNSBY.
HORNSBY: It isn’t too late to decide against tyranny.
BLANKLEY: Your ships are no longer at port. A corsair is the only one left, and they are only waiting on my return. I would venture to say that now is, indeed too late. We are now pirates, and you are a fleet shy of admiralty. Goodbye. (farewell) MRS. HORNSBY.
SCENE: at harbor
HORNSBY: (shouting to distance) BLANKLEY! I will have you imprisoned for this!
BLANKLEY: (shouting from distance) Prison would be the least of my concerns, with my newfound piracy.
HORNSBY: It isn’t too late! Get off that ship, you bilge sucking shiphand!
BLANKLEY: Sorry admiral! Don’t step off the-
SFX: Heavy splash and splashing.
HORNSBY: BLANKLEY! You know- you know I can’t- I can’t swim!
CROW’S NEST: Sir! Should we go back for the admiral?!
BLANKLEY: No. He will be lost to the sea. The way he would have wanted it.