Chapter Sixty-eight: The Ones That Got Away

 

Port Looking Glass, December 15th, 1635

 

"They what?" Pam shouted, her voice like sharp metal.

Ulf, the Swedish marine who had brought her the bad news flinched, hoping that the American saying about "shooting the messenger" really was just a saying.

"They escaped, Captain Pam, in the night. They all got away, including the officers and that brute who had helped kidnap you." Ulf's voice was heavy with professional embarrassment. Even though the strapping young soldier had a full foot and a hundred pounds on her, he shrank back as Pam began pacing around her cabin in the grip of rage.

"How?" Pam tried not to shriek at the poor fellow, fighting to keep her voice even. Gerbald, Doctor Durand, and Lundkvist, the newly-minted captain of their captured French warship, Effrayant, looked on, all staying sensibly near the door.

"One of the French trustees did it. We haven't been watching them that closely since the doctor vouched for them." This made the good doctor wince painfully. Ulf gave him an apologetic shrug before continuing. "It turns out this one was still loyal to that Toulon bastard. He snuck up to the prison and cut a hole in the back wall. It was only made of bamboo. The civilians on guard duty were all asleep." At least he had managed to get that particular buck passed. Incompetent farmers trying to do a soldier's work, and failing completely!

Pam scowled mightily. Hot, stinking DAMN! Their real military guys were stretched pretty thin right now, with a harbor full of ships and a town to attend to, so it wasn't that big a surprise; even seasoned soldiers were known to fall asleep on guard duty, and it wasn't exactly a Sing Sing they had been running. Two more days and that evil bastard would have been hanging high. She had intended to pull the lever herself!

Doctor Durand looked miserable, his long mustache drooping tragically. "Captain Pam, I am most terribly embarrassed. I hold myself completely responsible. It was I who thought we could trust the man who did this. He appeared to be an honest young sailor to my eyes, pressed into service against his will as I was."

"It isn't your fault, Doc. You're not a mind reader. That snake Toulon must havemade the kid an offer he couldn't refuse." She turned back to the sweating Marine, who looked somewhat relieved that his captain had grown calmer. "What happened next, Ulf?" she asked him, patting his hand in a comforting manner. He breathed out a nervous breath, and continued.

"They made their way down to the beach where the traitor had a longboat waiting, one of Ide's tenders. It was big enough to hold them, and seaworthy enough. We figure they're heading to Isle Saint Marie, that's where they say Toulon has his pirate base."

Captain Lundkvist stepped forward, his new polished wood peg leg giving him a very maritime air.

"The Effrayant can be ready to pursue within the hour. We can still catch them!"

Pam shook her head. "I appreciate your gumption, but it would be searching for a needle in a hay stack. We need Effrayant here to protect us. If Toulon is foolish enough to come try us, we'll finish him for good. One day, when Swedish power has grown strong enough here, I intend to go burn their little pirate paradise to the ground, and you and your ship will be leading the way, I promise! All I ask is that you save Capitaine Toulon de Aquitane for me.I intend to kill that fucker with my own hands, for Bengta and all the others. His ass is mine."

Pam glared so fiercely into the distance that Gerbald was pretty sure the escaped pirate would feel a tingling at the nape of his neck, wherever he was.

After a long, glowering silence, Pam shrugged, shaking off her frustration and anger.

"Well, that's that, business for another day. Now, we need to get ready for the town meeting, and before noon or not, I need a drink. Any takers?

All the men breathed a collective sigh of relief to see the storm had passed. They gathered around the big, red-lacquered table while Pam uncorked a jug of rice wine, pouring it into the small ceramic cups the Chinese used for such occasions.

"To our enemies!" Pam raised her drink in salute "May they lose sleep wondering when we will come for them."

 

Chapter Sixty-nine: We Are Gathered Here

 

The meeting hall wasn't finished yet, so that balmy afternoon the entire colony gathered in the great meadow above town. A podium had been erected, on which Pam, and various other luminaries of the colony, stood smiling at the people, who smiled encouragingly back. Pam usually got the butterflies when facing a crowd, but today she felt confident; these were friends, and they had all been through much together. "People of Port Looking Glass, thank you for coming today!" She spoke in Swedish, which she had become close to fluent in over the course of their journey. Her voice came out clear, and was aided in its course over the crowd by a light breeze off the Indian Ocean. The new Dutch members of the colony looked on politely. They would be provided with a full translation later.

She opened up the small plastic container that she had guarded so carefully through shipwreck and battle, carefully pulling out the rolled-up paper within.

"I have here a proclamation written in Princess Kristina's own hand, and signed by her father, King Gustav Adolph the Second. It reads: 'I, Princess Kristina Augusta, do hereby, and with my father's blessings, claim the islands known up-time as the Mascarenes for the crown of Sweden. They shall henceforth be called the Wonderland Isles. Mauritius, Rodriguez, and Réunion, are renamed, respectively, Dodo, Jabberwocky, and Bandersnatch, in honor of the works of Lewis Carroll, from whence the inspiration for this colony came.'"

Pam paused, having expected the confused blinks from the crowd. "Folks, I know the names sound strange, but they are from one of the princess' favorite storybooks. As brilliant as she is, she is still a child, so let's humor her, all right?"

Good-natured laughter emanated from the crowd along with murmurs of approval. Pam shared a smile with them and continued on.

"I hope this next part won't be too shocking for you! The princess goes on to say 'I also hereby proclaim expedition leader Pamela Grace Miller of Grantville as Governor of the Wonderland Isles for a period of two years, after which you may hold elections in the American style, and choose your own leaders.'"

Pam paused, giving the crowd a long, serious look.

"I will not hold you to this, but if you will have me, I will serve," she told them. The crowd sent up a great cheer, hailing their new governor with unmistakable enthusiasm. Pam nodded her thanks, then continued on once the hubbub calmed down.

"There is a bit more here, and it's important: 'Please be good to the wildlife of these islands, especially the dodo. As a Wonderland citizen it is your duty to preserve and protect nature; including all native plants and creatures. By living in harmony with the good, green Earth I believe you shall become the healthiest, and hopefully, the wealthiest of all people. Good luck to you all, and God bless you, I pray that you are successful in this great endeavor, and wish you all the best.'" Pam looked back at the crowd, who applauded with vigor.

Pam spoke again, moving on to the brief speech she herself had prepared.

"My fellow Wonderlanders!" The crowd clapped at this, and more cheers went up."My first act as governor is to ask you to select a deputy governor from amongst yourselves to join me." This was met with more applause.

"You have suffered much, and weathered great hardship! You are the bravest of the brave! The scoundrels who held us hostage have forced us to change our plans somewhat, but we are adapting. We have sugar cane and potatoes in abundance already, and that is just the beginning! By this time next year we willbe the 'Spice Basket of Europe,' which will make us all very rich indeed! We are a free people, we work for ourselves, and each other! Together, we will build the most successful colony the world has ever seen! Thank you all!"

Pam bowed, smiled, and waved at the exuberant crowd in what she hoped was proper public official style, hoping that their pleasure would last when it came time to enforce certain laws protecting the island's unique natural heritage. Hopefully, her plans for relatively non-invasive agriculture and forest management would indeed be as lucrative as she thought they would. She sighed and thought, We will just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

 

Chapter Seventy: The Ships Come In

 

One Year Later

 

Pam came out of her office/laboratory, a very functional, peaked roofed, rectangular building on the edge of the forest, painted the same deep red as nearly everything else in Port Looking Glass. Gerbald had soon dubbed it "Pam's Bird Barn." The moniker had stuck to the point where she had given in, and neatly painted it over the door.

Pam was on her way to check on the new rice paddies, part of the agricultural bounty they had traded for with a group of Japanese refugees on their way to Grantville. The very unexpected visitors had stopped for supplies four months before, fleeing an unfriendly situation in Cambodia. She shook her head in amazement at the memory; this really was a Wonderland. There she had been,pow-wowing with real live samurai straight out of Clavell! That unexpected visit was quite a story, but one for another day. There was no time to reminisce at the moment, she was just too damn busy. She often wished that there were two of her, one to play governor, the other to be the scientist.

The rice paddies were terraced along a stream that ran out into the placid waters of Looking Glass Bay. A few of the Japanese families had elected to stay at her invitation, and Pam was pleased that her colony was becoming truly multicultural. The "American Way" they had brought back through the centuries was alive and well here in the Indian Ocean, of all places. Pam was damn proud, her plans were literally bearing fruit, far more than she had even hoped for. An older fellow named Hironaka, their designated rice expert, hailed her from the low, earthen wall that held the paddy's water in. Pam waved at him, then realized he was pointing emphatically, motioning for her to look to the harbor. Just then the town alarm bells sounded. Pam turned to see Effrayant leaving her moorage, hurrying out to meet the small fleet of unknown sailing vessels heading their way. Muskijl and Second Chance Bird followed, entering into a defensive formation with Effrayant, implementing their oft-practiced plan for unexpected sea invasion. Pam gave Hironaka a quick bow. It was impossible not to pick up the habit from her congenial new Japanese friends, and began running up the beach toward the pier.

There were at least nine ships, the one in the lead looked to be a warship large enough to give even fearsome Effrayant trouble. Pam paused to catch her breath, breaking out the small birding scope she kept on a leather thong around her neck. Forcing herself to breathe slowly and deeply, she focused on the big ship. Yes, banks of guns, but no sign of firing crews making ready. She caught a glimpse of gold and blue, biting her lip, she scanned the rigging. There! Pam laughed aloud with delight. The ship was flying the Swedish colors! She began running again, her nerves buzzing with excitement. They had been visited by merchant ships from several nations over the last year, but this was the first time a ship from home had come!

The waterfront was filling up with interested colonists. They made way for her, and as she hurried out onto the pier, Pers came running to meet her.

"They're friendly, right?" she called out. One never could be too sure.

"Pam! They are from Sweden!" Pers replied, a gleeful expression on his youthful face. He would turn nineteen soon. To further reassure her, the "all's well" bell rang on Effrayant.

"Not all of them. Recognize that flag?" Pam pointed at one of the five ships making their way carefully into the harbor under escort from their defenders.

"She is flying what looks to be a naval ensign, red with a black saltire cross bearing gold stars. . . . That's a ship from the United States of Europe!"

"Well, howdy doody. I wondered when someone might come to check on us." She took Pers by the arm and said, "Shall we go say hello?"

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff