A/N: In response to my review …

Randompokertroll: :O Y U NO KNOW WHO TOLKIEN IS? xD He's my favorite author, and he wrote The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, etc.

Cori hauled the strange girl into a small cabin with a single bed, locking the door behind her. A nearly imperceptible look of fear crossed the girl's face, but the oblivious first mate didn't notice a thing.

"Sorry about being so … er … nasty back there," Cori told the stowaway. "Can't have the crew thinking I've gone soft, you know; getting their respect was hard enough without them thinking I'm soft. I'm not, you know. Going soft, I mean. I'm just trying to do something good, I guess, since I've done my fair share of murdering and plundering in my lifetime." She cleared her throat, shifting positions awkwardly. "So, erm, my name's Corinthia Gallagher, first mate of the Black Phoenix. Call me Cori."

The girl nodded. She'd figured that much out already after hearing the rest of the crew's calls. "Can you write?" Cori asked suddenly. Slowly, the stowaway nodded again. "Good. Could you write your name down, then? Or … well, at least what I should call you? I … er … I can read a bit- but don't tell the crew! That would be an immediate clue that I've gone soft!"

The mute girl nodded once again, and she slowly (and rather reluctantly) picked up a quill pen from the desk, dipped it in the inkwell, and carefully wrote out a few letters. Mer.

"Mer? Mer, as in Murr? Like the sound a cat makes?" Cori asked, seeming rather confused. Mer, however, shook her head and added to the words: It rhymes with "hair." "Ohhhh! Now it makes sense!" The pirate exclaimed. "Just Mer, is it? Nothing longer?" Mer shook her head. "Okay, then. Do you need anything before I go speak with the captain? I'll probably be gone a while, knowing Captain Walker." Cori rolled her eyes, although she chuckled fondly at the mention of the captain.

Once more, Mer shook her head, although she couldn't keep her stomach from growling loudly, and the young girl winced visibly before studying the floor intently. Cori noticed, of course, and she raised an eyebrow. "You seem to need something. I'll go get you some dinner from Cook. He's a good one, for once. The last one was awful; his "mystery dinner" was so disgusting, I had his hands chopped off before we threw him overboard." The first mate seemed proud of herself, not noticing Mer's obvious horror and discomfort. "I'll be right back!" She quickly departed.

Cori returned a minute later, carrying a large bowl of stew and a glass of water. "Here ya go," she proclaimed, setting down the bowl and cup on a small table. "You picked a good day to join us; since we're still docked, Cook made rabbit stew." She grinned. "Just wait 'til we're at sea; then it'll be fish, fish, more fish, even more fish, and maybe the occasional crab."

The young girl looked startled as Cori set down the bowl. "Don't worry; Cook makes fantastic fish soup." The first mate grinned. "I'll lock ya in while I go see Captain Walker; when I get back, I'll knock four times on the door before I come in." With a wave, the tall woman strode out of the room, locking the door tightly with a thick iron key.

-V-

"You called, Captain?" Cori nodded her head respectfully to the simply dressed man seated in a velvety chair, which he was currently leaning back on its two hind legs. His graying hair was tied back in a short ponytail, and his eyes were a piercing shade of blue. His sharp gaze roved from the map in front of him to Cori's own slate gray eyes, and he nodded.

"I did." Captain Walker let the front legs of his chair thump to the ground, and he beckoned her over, returning his gaze to the map. "I'm planning our next raid, and I want your input. Your choice of Port Newark was a wise one; where do you think we ought to attack next?" He glanced up at Cori expectantly.

The first mate gulped, thinking of the tiny girl that was locked in her cabin. Mer wouldn't last five seconds in a raid like the one on Port Newark; an easy target had to be the next one.

"Ummm … what about those trade routes from Hispaniola to England? Those ships are heavy with gold and jewels, and they're usually lightly guarded. After all, Newark was a tough fight; the crew'll want a short break." Captain Walker leaned forwards, peering over the map.

"Here, you mean? And what brings about such a strange proposal, Corinthia? You're usually the first to jump at a chance to prove yourself." He raised an eyebrow curiously.

"Well, why not think of it as sort of a … vacation, let's call it? The crew will be pleased to have such an easy target after the Newark raid, and they'll be more than happy to do their best fightin' to take over a fat merchant ship. They'll all be praising their captain's wise choice in attack plans. I can begrudge you one victory of smarts." She smirked mischievously, adding just the right touch to her argument. Either way, Cori held her breath until Captain Walker nodded slowly.

"Very smart indeed. Excellent choice, first mate Gallagher. We'll set out immediately. Any signs of the marines?"

"No, sir. Not a one. I'll go inform the crew of our destination and get 'em moving."

"Very good. Be on your way; you have your orders." Captain Walker returned his scrutiny to the map once again, picking up a compass to chart the way. He waved a dismissive hand towards Cori, and she barely remembered to nod her head to the captain as she ducked out of the cabin.

"Hey, get out here, men!" Cori yelled, jumping on to the railing in front of the wheel and placing a hand on the mast to steady herself. "We're off to the Hispaniola-England trade routes, mates! Get going; I want this ship headed north in exactly five minutes, unless you feel like paying a visit to those marines!" With a nod of finality, the first mate jumped down and headed back to her cabin.