The Lady Josephine, nicknamed Princess at a tender age, was - as it came to be known in all of Tardis - a peculiar girl.
Over ten years ago, her family had ventured across the great ocean and her father had accepted the role of the new Governor of a relatively unimportant yet wealthy island embedded somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. To be fair, Josephine never cared too much about the geographical facts of her home and she wasn't too interested in what her private teachers would school her in either.
Jo, as was the nickname she gave herself, had different interests in mind. Ever since she left England with it's foggy streets and dingy alleyways, she found her mind preoccupied by the stuff of legends. Stories passed on and hushed across the gutter. Of men who were capable of bravery and wickedness alike. Rogue sailors that decimated the proud Navy's fleet, tearing them apart one by one, sending reverend vessels to the dreaded ground of the Sea. Who stored the booty, bathed in gold and wore the shiniest of golden smiles - for even their teeth had to look the part.
Once in a while, those men would come ashore. And were it not in the disgusting and most wretched ports, but instead hit the more nobler areas, only chaos and destruction would remain, as well as the sight of a ship's pitch-black sails against the horizon.
Such stories made Jo's heart pump loud with fear, but the more she read, the more she eavesdropped... the more inclined she felt. Excitement would replace her inital, rudimentary instincts.
What would it be like to live such a life? To answer to no rules but one's own?
They certainly did not feel the weight of chains society lowered upon them. Or the brutal force of iron bars locking them inside their prisons.
In short, Lady Jo was very, very frightened when one starlit night a foreign vessel, black as the most darkest of dreams, approached Port Tardis and changed her life forever.
She also felt so disastrously alive.
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A few days prior
One might not think so, but all miserable aspects of this one Earth can indeed be found in a single place, despite all accounts that say otherwise. Its name is known to every men that has stepped onto a wooden plank at least once in life.
A hoard of animals, brutes and evil spirits, culminating in an undignified spot of dirt on the Empire's charts. However, nothing was done to stop such development, the English made their best choice in not intervening at all, given that many a proper Englishman also paid a visit from time to time.
As a matter of fact, the problem was all handled under the general motto 'At least all‘s concentrated there. We dare pick at it and they scatter in all directions.' Force was used to prevent the outspread of such places, but it was decided that one could be tolerated. An enclave of crime and abhorrence in the midst of a world that was getting slowly but surely consumed by the Empire's lust for power. Sooner or later, even this scraggly spot would have no other choice than to accept this truth and surrender.
Its original name, by which the Empire once christened it, has long since been forgotten by the people that scurried in the streets. Mercilessly wiped out and pushed past. It owned a new, shining name.
And, to be fair, it had quite a ring to it.
Maintained by the Silence, a band of rogues that made very sure the place was just the right mixture of order and chaos. Keeping things clean for the pirates and messy for outsiders, may they beware.
Where good men go to... Well, a real answer to that didn't exist. All it had to was rhyme with 'war', as that was the main motivation for coming here in the first place. Wars fought on ships or inside minds and homes.
Naturally, Liz scoffed as she regarded the sign, proudly proclaiming a more vulgar approach to the motto in scrawly writing. Whoever painted it surely had patted himself of the shoulder. An adequate greeting for any newcomer. The Sea had already done its work, wind and saltwater having visibly bleached the previously dark red into a more or less visible brown stain on wet wood.
She wasn't off her boat yet - whch happened to be the stinking schooner of a Dutch merchant- and already this place fulfilled all her expectations. Filthy, useless and not at all to her liking. And she wasn't picky.
Liz took a sniff, wiped her nose and drew the battered jacket tighter around her figure. She grabbed deep into her purse, her fingers clasping around a sack with a few golden coins. When the ship was ready for disembarging, she tipped her head at the Captain, tossed it into his outstretched hand a few metres away and walked off, now only inches apart from the direct insult to mankind that was this town.
Drunken folk - men and women alike, she even spotted children less than ten years lying facedown next to pigs - enjoyed the young night, danced rather crudely and sang in voices that could have made a siren claw her own ears out and Liz cringe.
After all years at Cambridge, though, she had gained enough practice in ignoring fools. Actually, she deserved a diploma singularly for that and having to endure all women-hating remarks that were made to her ever since she expressed her desire to pursue a career in sciences.
Liz Shaw was neither a pirate nor a noblewoman. Brought up in rather conventional English conditions, she had soon become very fond of knowledge at a young age, spying on her parents' highly educated friends and spending vacations reading books about various topics. Her interests would vary and her opponents would grow, chanting hymns against women that - dear lord in Heaven - would tarnish the great workings of men.
In the end, it annoyed her so much that when eventually she did receive a dubious, anonymous letter, stuffed to the brim with golden coins from different parts of the world and a single, bleached shred of paper, the name of one tavern scribbled onto it, Liz took her chance and left England with nothing but a few belongings in a bag. A cloak-and-dagger operation.
A lone woman, out in the field with nothing but a few remaining coins in her pockets and an address to a place that wasn't portrayed on any maps. Was she worried? Not in the least.
She dug up the paper from her trousers. Dark, exquisite lines.
"Black Archive Tavern
Nothing more. Nothing less.
It had not been a greater task to get to the latter. Everyone who was worth their salt knew of this place, Liz Shaw was no exception. The tavern, however.. In Cambridge, it had been impossible getting hold of a detailed map of Daemon's Run, as no such documentation existed. The only way to truly find a place was by asking or finding it yourself.
Liz let her gaze wander across the streets.
Enough taverns for an entire London, it seemed. All had different, fancy names, such as the "Stangmoor" or "Wenley Moor". Generally lots of "moor". Her favourite must have been the "Ambassador", at which sight she chuckled a little, as it reminded her of the other ship she noticed at the port. Ambassador of Death. Now that was something worth a pirate. She was looking forward to hearing of its undertakings. Although they would probably fail in doing its name justice.
Eventually, when Liz still had not located the damned bar, even after wandering around cluelessly for an hour, a man approached her.
"You alone out here, Missy?" he lulled, keeping a firm grasp on a flask. Liz tried to evade the confrontation. She really didn't want to make a scene.
"Not really," she said, shifting her arm a little, indicating to the knife attached to her belt and hoping this would scare him off.
Unfortunately, it didn't.
"A young Miss shouldn't be alone here at night, you know. Bad things might happen to her."
"It pains me to confess that our views differ."
The man crept a bit closer. Liz could smell him. A weird mixture of sweat, the lack of bathwater and alcohol. Common in this place, it hung everywhere in the air, but a human being reeking so violently.. That was a new one.
She tried to shuffle back, but he edged even closer. Liz grabbed for her knife. "Mate," she threatened him, or tried to, "Take one more step."
The man grinned. "This is a cute one." He took another step.
And didn't live to see the repercussions it had, for the very next thing that went through his head was a bullet.
Liz jumped back. Eyes fixed on the cadaver. Wounds on both sides of the head, one where the bullet entered and one where it left, both neatly above the ears, nearly symmetrical. His blood was dripping through the cobblestones, with his eyes still opened.
She had never seen a dead body before, especially not one that was murdered right in front of her. She tugged at her clothing that suddenly made her feel too pressured, even though she had left the corsets in England.
It was an unknown voice that finally released her, taking her back to reality and away from her thoughts.
"This is a nasty folk out here, Miss." Her focus drifted to the other man, leaning against a stone pillar at the other side of the alley. Straightening, he put his gun back in its holster and considered her with a thin smile. Funnily, it wasn't the posture or the fact that he just took away her chance to kill a man herself that threw her even further aback.
The infamous moustache did the trick.
Had this been the first shock in those few minutes, Liz might as well have been paralyzed. Instead, she simply raised an eyebrow. Two negatives resulting in a plus.
"I am perfectly capable of handling scum like this myself, Captain."
The smile grew a fraction. He clasped his hands beneath his back. "Of course you can, never doubted that. But one might as well intervene, before the conflict drags on too long. Miss Shaw, I presume?"
"Excuse me. Then may I ask whether or not I could accompany you to the Archive? It's a small walk down there." He held up a rather elegant cane (even sprinkled with a few diamonds on the top, modelled after a wild cat, the real deal for any nobleman or pirate) and pointed to another street, filled with colourful lanterns and roaring laughter. And jolly music.
No one around them seemed to mind the lifeless body, just as the gunshot hadn't bothered anyone except Liz.
Her new acquaintance whistled loudly. It was a miracle that he could be heard in all this noise. "Play a tune in memory of this man here!" he bellowed.
It took a moment. Then drums echoed across the streets, accompanied by singing that was passable yet not something to marvel at.
The Drunken Sailor.
Liz couldn't help but smile, even though she disguised it as faint as possible. Sure, the humour was of macabre sort, but still.. it warmed her up, as did the following suggestion. And just the perfect indicator of what kind of men she was in league with here, at the most wretched point of their world.
Oh, what trouble she'd get into. It was almost like she could smell it, creeping up from the gutters.
"Now I do not know about your attitude towards English manners, Doctor Shaw, but I'd fancy a pint before we enter business negotiations."
A man swam ashore. Despite his already weary body, he managed to continue in big strokes until he finally reached the dock. He dug his fingers into the wet wood and heaved himself up.
Bloody pirates he thought.
A very nice gentleman - who wasn't such a gentleman after all - had granted him a place onboard his ship and passage to Demon's Run in exchange for good money. Half was paid at - where they originally started their journey. Half was to be paid here. A mile or so before they entered the gates, the Captain had come to him and asked for the other half.
The Doctor had shrugged. "You will have to wait. It's in the city."
"And how could I believe you with that?"
"You can't. But you can trust the Briga - Captain Stewart."
"You're part of the UNIT crew?" The Captain of this pitiful vessel had shook his head. "You look too fine a bird for a crewmember. And you don't own a dashing moustache like Stewart." He regarded the Doctor's attire, white frizzy shirt, he managed to keep it without stains for all the voyage. And the velvet jacket! Not to mention his hat and the immaculate dark leather shoes.
Yes, perhaps he did look too good to be part of a renowned pirate ship.
Something you might not think a disadvantage. And here it was.
"I'm telling the truth," the Doctor tried to reassure him, "Once we get to the docks, I'll go straight to Stewart and bring you the money."
"Or I could just dump you lying scum in the water right now."
"My dear chap, do not take me for a liar!"
"Really? Show me the patch. I know every UNIT member has one. It's not sewn onto your jacket, but maybe you have one hidden beneath it?"
The Doctor inhaled sharply. "I do not have a patch."
"Well, walk the plank, then. If you aren't a liar and you really dine with Captain Stewart, my condolences and I do hope you will not live to introduce us."
"Don't be ridiculous, man, chances are I'll end up under a ship. Or clashed against rocks. Or worse!"
"Might as well be."
The tavern they ended up in - the Black Archive - was surprisingly neat. Black as day, of course. Exactly as the name suggested. The aesthetic aspect was one of the key points of pirate must-have. Perfectioned by all kinds of trinkets, adorned embroidery from the East and, in contrast to many beliefs, the total abscence of skull-related decorative elements.
A group of men who were clearly enjoying their time sat, stood and even lied down in front of it, drinking, joking and laughing loudly.
"These are my merry men," was the introduction. "Rats from all over the world."
"Most of us is the from the Empire, though," one of them intervened, sitting on a few steps before the Archive. When Liz let her gaze wander over him, she discovered that he had sewn a rather elegant dark patch onto his own coat. It read "UNIT" in darker letters.
The Captain shook his head slightly, sighing disapprovingly. "Benton, the sun never sets over the Empire these days, stretched as it is."
"Do pirates even have a sense of nationality?" Liz inquired.
"Pirates?" The man called Benton raised his brows and held his hand to his chest, mimicking a physical wound. "My dear lady, we are not merely pirates."
Liz straightened her shoulders and looked around her. What she was definitely reminded of 'pirate'. "Perhaps we should look the proper definition up in a dictionary?" she suggested.
The Captain placed a hand on her arm. "What Benton's trying to say is that you should not compare those who sail under the flag of UNIT with scrubbly amateurs who think they can tame the mighty Sea just because they recently came in possession of a nutshell to play with."
She bit back a remark about how absolutely pretentious that sounded.
He led her past Benton inside the tavern. Compared to the one's she previously catched a glimpse of, it was relatively neat, with enough space as to not get randomly stabbed simply for stepping on someone's foot.
"The Black Archive."
They wandered in between the tables to a darker, more abgelegener niche at the far end of the room, where only soft candlelight kept the night at bay.
"Also known as the headquarter." When they reached the table, he gestured for her to sit down. Both took places across the table, looking each other directly in the eye.
"Might we start by introducing ourselves first?"
"I have the feeling it won't be necessary, Captain Stewart."
"I see. My reputation precedes me. Well, then. What else do you already know, Doctor?"
Liz leant back in her chair. A sailor came along, muttering greetings under his breath, and placed two bottles of fine rum on the table. According to the date, it must have been a fairly old treasure. She took a gulp, finding it both polite and extremely refreshing, before continuing.
"In Britain one can hear all sorts of stories. One that says you wear an eyepatch and smell like the corpses of all the good men you've slain. From what I see, this is evidently a bit far off."
"Perhaps I have not killed any good men."
"Or it's just impossible for a human to take on the odor of their victims. Once in a while you should take a bath and do not get me wrong but you do not look like the person to bath in dead bodies.
In England, everyone hears stories about the pirates. Coastal regions even more. I'm from Cambridge, we can listen to a moderate amount. There are many a shadow out there you do not want your sailor husband to face.. the Kaled or the Zygon. One of the most feared is certainly the Sea Devil, but for a good amount of years the top post of striking fear in grown men's hearts belongs to the "UNIT", led by Captain Stewart. It is said you're from the Empire, but as you pointed out before, that's not necessarily uncommon. Soul as wretched as humanly possible, perhaps sold to Satan himself. Rumour says you've been in the Navy until, one day, you deserted, got hold of a ship and took half the crew with you. No living creature that lives under the guidance of good morals, or so they say, has ever seen the moustache on your face and returned to speak of it."
The Captain grinned. "Amazing what the human mind can think of." Curious to see where her story would lead, he gestured for her to go on.
"Well, it's all the usual stuff, really." She sighed. "Daring adventures, fortunes discoverered.. According to most, you are the most wealthy pirate of all the seas. That would explain the reward put out for your head."
"And?" He asked. "What do you think of the great Captain Stewart, now that you shared his hopsitality?"
"I'd not bestow a pint with words of true chivalrous hospitality, but then again I suspect you of trying one or two things to woo me over. Because that is all you want, is it not? Tell me." She leant forward, clasping her hands together, cocking her head, her red hair catching glimmers of the candlelight. "What am I to do on a pirate ship?"
Captain Stewart leant back in his own chair and folded his hands in his lap. "Well, as Benton already pointed out to you, it is not a real pirate ship. Yes, we do pillage and plunder. But, quite the contrary to many bad tale told about us - although I do feel grateful for their existence - our oh so devious side is a lot less excessive than presented. There have been a few battles, a few killings, but we're not the brutal savages they tell you about in
No, the real purpose of UNIT isn't to enjoy ruining lifes and making widows. Our intention is to help keep the balance. Trust me, there are parts of this world we haven't seen yet. And there they sleep.. Monsters. All real, Doctor Shaw. I've seen them myself. We at UNIT made it our prime focus to deal with them. Keep them at bay. Kill them if need be. The Empire doesn't help its people, so we took it in our own hands."
It was a nice speech and at the end, Liz simply raised her brows and licked her lips. "Evil monster creatures? You mean like the great Kraken? Mouth as wide as two ships? Tentacles the size of six?"
She said it slowly, whilst making deliberately tight eye contact.
"You don't believe me?"
Liz scoffed. "Of course I don't. By now, you might have realized that I'm a woman of science, a marine expert! I believe in facts and not.. not myths! This is an insult to my profession, to my very core!"
"It was not intended to be.. Once upon a time, see, we sailed with a man called 'the Doctor'. He was very much like you, only difference was that he believed in the monsters too. Before us, even. Twice, we met him. His expertise helped us learn more about them, find them faster and handle our job with greater care... But then he vanished and he hasn't shown his face since. We need an advisor, Miss Shaw. A navigator of special sorts. Someone who studied the life below and has a passion for adventure. And you seem like just the woman."
"Really? Because I do not see how."
"Allow me this rudeness, but you're a sceptic, Miss. A whole woman filled with knowledge, only flawed by that one horrible aspect of her personality."
Liz felt her fingers dug into the chair. "Monsters. Don't. Exist. Really, I have expected better from a who is rumoured to be 'real' pirate. One comes all this way and then: ghost stories."
"Speaking of your home," the Captain traced the rim of his glass with his fingers. "You left England for nothing but a card that bore this very address in this very region. I wonder, why would any sane woman leave the sanctuary of easy life in an English town to venture out here into the unknown depths of disgrace?"
This made Liz furious. Was he mocking her? The audacity!
She managed to keep her voice -, but it rather nearly turned into hisses. "That has nothing to do with it. Despite.. are you serious?"
She wanted to say much more. Words along the lines of: Have you perchance ever seen how a woman is generally treated in this world? In Cambridge, I may be one of the best, but I will never be regarded as such for the simple fact that apparently, I am destined to bear children, not educate them. Of course I cling on to false hope and venture out into this godforsaken hellhole of a city.
She desired to spit them all out, right there on this table, rough and most likely stolen. Because they could.
It took her a few seconds, but she did manage her temper. And, to be fair, she felt quite pleased with herself. She had succeeded in not jumping over the table and murdering him on the spot, so that was something.
Taking in a large breath of air, Liz grabbed her bag.
"A shame you don't hold up to my expectations, Captain Stewart."