"Ladies," the captain said. "I have kept the point and purpose of our employment from you long enough. Magpie? The details, if you please."
Magpie stepped up to point at the distant shore. "That island you're all looking at has no name, no known residents, and no clear ownership. It lies between so many borders that it would be impossible to pin down which nation has rightful claim, but the point is moot because most countries aren't even aware of its existence. It is, however, the last known home of the infamous Doctor Grant Loquacious." She paused, expecting a response.
Gabriella didn't recognize the name. She glanced at the others, relieved to see everyone else also looked confused. Except the tinker.
"No," Jayne said, her eyes widening as she stared across the waters. "It can't be." For a moment, her face lit with incomprehensible joy
"I thought you would have heard of him," the captain said.
The moment Jayne realized she was the subject of scrutiny, the smiled faded to a cool smirk. "Doctor Loco?" She shrugged, insinuating the familiarity she took with the man's name was nothing. "Sure, I've heard of him. Any cogsmith worth her weight has heard of Loco. The tales say he's nuttier than a fruitcake, and the president himself had the man locked up to preserve the safety of humanity. I heard he could slap together a mechanism like nobody's business. If he's on that island, then we're all in for a treat. A crazy, mad filled treat, granted, but a treat nonetheless."
"I hate to disappoint you," the captain said. "He isn't on the island. At least not anymore."
"That's a shame. I would've loved to meet the man. I wonder what became of him."
"From what I've been told, the president tried to put him away. For good."
"Real genius is never truly appreciated."
"Actually," Magpie said, "there was some proof that he was linked to Mr. Booth's attack on our Lincoln's life last year."
"That doesn't sound like him," Jayne said. "I heard he wasn't really big on political garbage. Besides, I thought they topped everyone involved with that."
"Topped?" Gabriella asked.
Jayne pulled an imaginary noose tight around her neck. Her eyes rolled, looking heavenward while her tongue protruded obscenely from her mouth. Gabriella frowned at the garish display.
"Yes," Magpie agreed. "No one's been able to find the doctor since, or any trace of his whereabouts. It's as though the man has vanished from the face of the earth."
"Now that sounds like him," Jayne said.
"If world famous doctor is not here," Jax said, "then why are we?"
"Because," the captain said, "although the doctor has moved along, we believe he left something behind."
Jayne's eyes went wide again. "His lab?"
The captain gave a curt nod.
"Intact?" the tinker asked as her forehead scrunched.
"There's a good chance," the captain answered, with another nod.
The tinker rubbed her grease smeared hands together in what Gabriella thought was a most unbecoming manner for a young lady. "Oh my. My, my, my. Captain, you have no idea what this means."
The captain rolled her eyes. "Yes, Jayne, I rather think I do."
Jayne swallowed hard enough for Gabriella to hear. The redness in her cheeks and meek look on her face showed that she was remembering her place. The other woman tipped her head to the captain. "Yes, sir. Of course you do."
"In fact," the captain said, "we aren't here just to plunder the missing man's lab. We're here for something very specific. We have been hired to locate and return with one of the doctor's creations. Some kind of artifact."
"Artifact?" Gabriella echoed.
"What kind of artifact?" Dot asked.
"You officially know everything I do," the captain said. "The employer said we would know it when we saw it."
"We don't know what we're after?" Gabriella asked.
"Not really," the captain said. She raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like fun. Doesn't it?"
Gabriella was forced to agree. It did, indeed, sound like fun.
Magpie raised her hand. "Permission to speak freely, sir."
The captain sighed. "As though I could stop you."
"Who are we working for?" Magpie asked.
"Is it so important?" the captain asked, her voice taking on a clipped edge.
Unlike Gabriella, Magpie neither fidgeted nor squirmed under the captain's scrutiny. Someday, Gabriella knew she would stand just as firm in the face of authority. She just knew it.
"Yes," Magpie said. "I think it does matter. Especially since we really don't know what we are after. Maybe if we knew who we were employed by, we'd have a fairer time of finding whatever it is we are looking for."
With a sigh, the captain turned away from the crew. She strode to the far side of the deck and stooped over the railing, grasping it with both hands, staring overboard at the water below. Gabriella knew it wasn't out of form for the captain to keep the name of an employer to herself. Especially if the work in question was questionable. Ransacking an island for a mysterious artifact sounded dubious to the debutante in Gabriella.
After several moments of breathless anticipation, the captain returned. In a flat voice she said, "Madame Ruby."
The crew gave a collective gasp. Everyone, that was, except Gabriella.
She had no idea what all the gasping was about.