Aphelion Issue 291, Volume 28
February 2024
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Clear For Action

by Dan L. Hollifield

An "Art Time With Nick Tockert" Story Prompt:

Captain Scarlet by Nick TockertThe captain, in his red cloak and hat, stalked the bridge of his ship Evermore. His face stern and weathered by the duties of a life spent protecting those he long ago outlived. His loyalty to a Monarch and Country so far in the past that even he could remember but little of those halcyon, bygone days. His crew, long ago used to trusting to their Captain’s honor and duty, were diligent in their tasks, only desiring to serve under his leadership come hell or high water.

Pirates were their foes, no matter how powerful or elusive they may be. His hunting ground was the wide, world sea. His crew sought only to serve by his side. To fight, and mayhap to die, in service to a Royalty that had long since passed into legend. Nevertheless, loyal were his crew—to a man—and no hardship deterred them from the pursuit of the duties that limned their lives in stark contrasts between long spells of boredom, and short, sharp episodes of fierce combat.

None among them could remember a time when their Captain was not there, inspiring them to fulfill their ancient and solemn oaths. Some of the crew were old beyond their years. Others were but newly-fledged recruits joined at far-flung foreign ports. All were pledged to defend the honor and pageantry and sovereignty of a long-forgotten realm, ages ago passed into legend. One which even their Captain only dimly remembered.

The weight of untold ages writ subtle lines into his otherwise unmarked visage. He’d long and long and long ago sworn an oath to serve and protect a sovereign and country that had vanished into the ageless mists of time. Yet, so long as he lived, he would honor that oath. The years hung heavy upon him, even as he appeared untouched by them. Perhaps only Vanderdecken, himself, would understand the entirety of the red-clad Captain’s self-imposed curse.

“Ship, off the port bow,” the lookout called from the tall mast which held the ship’s crowsnest. “No flag,” he added in a hoarse shout down to the decks. Could this be one of the captain’s enemies? Using a long brass telescope, the captain peered towards the far-away ship on the horizon. His steely, grey-green eyes studied the distant craft. Within moments, the captain frowned in distaste.

“Well spotted, Sid,” the captain shouted aloft to the ever-vigilant lookout. “Raise all sail!” He instructed the crew. “Stand by for action!” He added. As an aside to his blue-clad second in command, he said, “anything can happen in the next thirty minutes. Make the cannons ready. Have all crew issued double rations while we speed to an intercept with those daemons. I want everyone well rested and well fed while we chase them down. By the time we reach them, it’ll either be nothing, or Hell itself unleashed. Only time will tell If these mysterious fiends sail under the Green Circle flag of our enemies. If they be pirates, we will give them as good as we’ve got. If they are innocent traders, we’ll know soon enough. It behooves us to make ready to repel boarders—if necessary…”

“Aye-aye, Captain,” replied his second in command. “If this be battle, we will be ready.”


2023 Dan L. Hollifield
Artwork 2023 Nick Tockert

Bio: Dan L. Hollifield is the Senior Editor and Publisher of Aphelion Webzine. Best known for his Mare Inebrium spaceport bar shared universe and his Adventures Of Tom Darby stories, he is also a music composer, artist, and raconteur.

E-mail: Dan L. Hollifield

Website: Dan L. Hollifield's Website

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