Kim and Viper joined the queue walking up the gangplank into the old, weatherbeaten wooden sloop. The masts, their sails furled, creaked in the wind as the ship's hull groaned with the light motion of the waves. Overhead, a black flag fluttered in the wind, a ratty old skull and crossbones symbol adorned on its face.
"Yo-ho, hoist the colors," Viper quipped.
"Is this thing safe to go aboard?" Kim wondered. "I mean, it looks like it's hundreds of years old."
"Oh, it's hundreds of years old alright," Viper said. "But it's pretty well maintained. It could probably even still make sail." She raised an eyebrow. "You don't get seasick, do you?"
Kim scoffed. "Please," she said. "I've been on lots of boats. Fast boats, slow boats, speedboats, rowboats, submarines. I'm just not a fan of ancient deathtraps."
Viper chuckled. "Fair enough."
When they reached the top of the ramp, they found visitors milling around in loose groups on the deck. An announcement came over the loudspeakers hanging from the masts: //Attention visitors! The next tours will begin in twenty minutes. The lower decks exhibits are closed for the next hour due to electrical maintenance. In the meantime, please enjoy the captain's cabin and poop deck exhibits, and feel free to stop by the gift shop located on the main deck. Thank you for your patience!//
"Huh," Viper said. Nudging Kim, she said, "Wanna go up on the poop deck? I bet there's some good poop up there."
Kim groaned. "Must everyone?"
"Hey, it's hard to resist."
For the next hour, Kim and Viper wandered the decks aimlessly, meandering among the tourists. As announcements came over the loudspeakers with updates on the delays, there was an increase in the level of irritated grumbling from the visitors, and a number of museum patrons were disembarking. As they made their third round of the poop deck, whose main exhibit was a "History of Piracy" diorama, another announcement came over the speakers:
//We apologize for the continued delays. We will be reopening all exhibits in approximately thirty minutes. To apologize for the delay, all gift shop merchandise is half off for the rest of the day.//
Kim frowned. "Wonder what's going on?"
Viper shrugged. "Rigging an old sloop like this for modern conveniences is a delicate operation."
"So," Kim said slowly. "Viper. Got a real name?"
Viper arched an eyebrow.
"Oh, come on," Kim said. "Just between us girls. Your secret's safe with me."
Viper kept her eyebrow raised for a long moment, then pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. "Carmen," she said.
Almost an hour later, the museum finally opened the lower deck exhibits. Kim and Viper joined the guided tour, which passed through cabins full of antiques such as swords, pistols, compasses, spyglasses, and letters of marque. Forty minutes into the tour, they were introduced to the "Eye of Calypso".
Both women let out a sigh as they stared at what was clearly an emerald with a chunk of pyrite embedded in it. "Well, scratch this one off the list," Kim said. "So, wanna tool around London a bit before we head back, or catch up with one of the other gro—"
The lights fizzled out, pitching the cabin in eerie darkness, as it was a cloudy day and very little light seeped in through the ancient, grimy portholes.
"Wonderful," Viper said.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please remain calm!" the tour guide called out. "Apparently we didn't have those problems with the lights quite sorted out, but it should only be a moment—"
The ship pitched. A loud, groaning creak stirred through the hull, shuddering up from the keel through the decks. Over the confused whispers and hushed conversation, Kim could just barely hear a great chain clinking and rattling.
The ship pitched again. The groaning intensified.
"Uhh..." Viper grabbed Kim's sleeve and tugged on it, then pointed outside. "Please tell me I'm imagining things."
The panic in the cabin grew louder. A few lights came back on. A loudspeaker crackled.
//Ladies And Gentlemen.//
The voice was youthful, male, and heavily accented.
//Welcome aboard the maiden, and final, voyage of the S.S. Moonlight Magician. Please remain calm and leave the steering to your humble captain. We'll be sailing out into the bay until midnight, then returning. Nobody's going to be hurt. For your own safety, it's advised you remain aboard the ship until we make port.//
In the dim light, Kim and Viper looked at each other, shared a nod, and pelted down the corridor and up the stairs. As they emerged above decks, they looked around them and gasped.
The sails were unfurled. Land was receding. The ship's original Jolly Roger had been lowered, and a new flag flew in its place: