posted by Aunty Cindy aka Loucinda McGary
The loudspeaker crackled and a strained voice spoke, "Attention all passengers and crewmembers, this is the first officer speaking. We have been boarded by pirates. They have..."
Screams, shouts, and general noise reverberated behind him and across the room as he choked, then continued hoarsely, "They have incapacitated the captain and at least 4 other officers. Please remain calm--"
Total and complete pandemonium erupted. Tricia stumbled and fell to her knees as people ran screaming in all directions. Covering her ears, she crawled toward the nearest wall.
"This way deary!" She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and saw the kindly face of the woman dressed as her Fairy Godmother. Tricia shook her head in confusion while the woman gave her a few soothing pats. "It's me, Merry Joyful Britewell, and we'll get out of here, don't you worry."
Tricia was still debating whether to ask, "How?" Or "What the heck kind of name is Merry Joyful?" when Mustafa rushed over to them.
"Aunty Merry, Miss Ivy! Follow me!"
Before Tricia could ask if they should trust the trumpet playing Turk, Merry Joyful pulled her to her feet and said, "Don't worry, deary. Mustafa is my second husband's grand nephew, and he's actually part of the ship's security team."
Oh well, that explained... SOMETHING anyway!
Tricia stumbled after Mustafa and Merry Joyful as more shots sounded in the corridor.
"Down here!" Mustafa ordered, pointing to the orchestra pit.
The stairs were steep, so Tricia pulled off her strappy sandals and hiked up her skirt. At the bottom, Mustafa opened a trap door in the corner and pointed to a ladder.
Then he gave her a scowl and said, "Get rid of your dress and shoes."
"Excuse me?" Tricia cried indignantly, as the young Turk handed her his white jacket.
"You can wear my pantaloons," said Merry Joyful from somewhere behind her.
A pair of pink ruffled bloomers suddenly appeared in her line of vision.
"Hurry up before anyone sees us!" Mustafa hissed as he helped Merry Joyful onto the ladder.
She struggled into the bloomers and jacket while simultaneously shimmy-ing out of the antique gown. The little old lady crawled down the ladder with surprising speed, while the ballroom above them went deathly quiet. Heart in her throat, Tricia leapt onto the ladder and started down the metal rungs, Mustafa right after her.
When he pulled the trap door closed, the ladder plunged into darkness so that Tricia had to feel for the next rung, and the next. Much to her relief, when she neared the bottom, dim emergency lights cast a faint illumination along the hallway. Mustafa continued to lead them around several twists and turns and down one short flight of stairs.
And at the bottom of the stairs stood a tall, dark-haired figure...
None other than Marcus Black! Tricia couldn't stiffle her gasp of surprise. Of course, that made him turn and look right at her, his blue eyes moving up and down her ridiculous outfit.
"You're almost to the rendezvous point, Your Highness," said Mustafa with a curt bow of his head. "Can you take the ladies? I'll rejoin you as soon as I am able."
Tricia could feel her mouth hanging open and her eyes were undoubtedly bugged out too.
"You didn't think this was a real pirate attack, did you deary?" whispered Merry Joyful. "Not with Jean Pierre, the Prince of Dagmorvania and his cousin Marcus, third in line for the throne both on board the ship. This is an attempted coup."