Episode 1.4 St Elmo’s Fire
Prologue: Augustus Bellarose, mysterious merchant with shady background, sits in the Screaming Pig. An old contact makes him a deal: they want to sell a large amount of gunpowder to the French, but don’t have a read on the new Governor yet. Get him out of the way for a day or two and Augustus gets 10%. Augustus says oui oui. Meanwhile, over in Arabelle’s lab, the sample she took from the zombie corpse pops, sizzles and cracks open like an oyster revealing a strange green pearl. She picks it up with tweezers and puts it in a beaker.
After the credits, we are at sea in the Colossus. After a full day searching at the co-ordinates given to the Governor by Augustus, they have yet to find the pirates he had word of – pirates suspected of trading with the French. A frustrating search leads Captain Carnegie to follow Augustus suggestion to check out an old cove he knows on a tiny uncharted, uninhabited island nicknamed Banana Island for its shape. (BTW guys, you can now name it whatever you like, as your navigator charted it for you.)
Our heroes arrive on the beach but penetrating the small shack in the bushes, they find six men dead. Pirates or smugglers, by their dress. Augustus recognizes one of them, but hides his reaction from the others. Investigations reveal they were having a small gathering when they were all stabbed while seated. Weapons lie nearby. The doctor’s assistant is sent for and she discovers, to her horror, two of the men have the barnacles on their skin – although they appear to have died with the men’s death. One of them is covered from the waist down and one large barnacle has yawned open, revealing a strange green pearl….which she palms before anyone else sees it.
Meanwhile on the beach, a signal from the boat reveals a sail has been seen. By the time the two longboats get back to the Colossus, there are two of them: two strongly armed and armoured French warships, boxing the Colosssus into the attol’s curved harbour. One ship was possible, but two, right here, right now? Seems suspicious – but no time for that now. Carnegie refuses to be intimidated, however, and runs the blockade. The gutsy manoeuver pays off, but the ship is heavily damaged in the run. Down below deck, Miss Arabelle is thrown about as a cannon ball tears through her cabin wall. Still clutching the pearl, she cannot hold onto a crossbeam with both hands, and a wave almost carries her away. In desperation, she pops the pearl into her mouth and uses both hands to pull to safety. A small trail of froth bubbles from her lips, and suddenly, she gets a sense of what needs to be done.
The Colossus is fast, being a lighter ship than her enemies but they still have the wind gauge and can fire as she runs. Will there be a ship left if they elude their enemy? Then out of nowhere there is a spark of green flame, like St Elmo’s Fire, on the mast of the leading French ship and the mast falls – clearly a cannon ball hit it square on. The falling mast catches light and soon the ship does too. Stricken, it cannot fire. With the advantage now his, Carnegie smells prize and turns the Colossus around to attack the second ship. As they pull into range, they notice Miss Arabelle on the deck, pointing her finger at the second ship. And its mast splints like kindling as well.
The Colossus closes to board the second ship, but as they reach it they notice it is swarming with battle already. Eventually it becomes clear that the crew has become possessed by the zombie-barnacles and the unaffected are fighting for their lives. They beg for rescue and dive into the water, making for the Colossus. Carnegie allows them to come on board, but has the doctor separate out the infected men and tie the rest to the mast. All in all, almost two dozen men are saved, of which five are infected. All of them are in French uniform except two men who are dressed like poor merchantmen. Strangely, these two are not begging for mercy from Carnegie, but from Augustus. One of them we now recognize as the man in the bar from the start of the episode.
Augustus is in no mood to be merciful to smugglers who just led him into a trap, and sets about poisoning the prisoner’s water supply. Meanwhile, Mr Hargraves also makes a quick decision, goes and finds his most trusted men and tells them to kill the infected prisoners and make it look self inflicted. None of this chicanery is noticed by the officers and doctor because they are quizzing the French captain who says simply that he was given a tip-off that the Colossus would near the island and ripe for picking. He says his informant would not name his source, as is the way of such men. Carnegie and the French Captain – Hulloc – bargain: fair treatment for his men for all the information. Hulloc agrees, but will provide the information only after reaching land – too much can happen at sea.
And indeed, by next morning, half his men are dying from dehydration as a terrible scourge purges them from every orifice. The deck is a cesspool and the doctor can find no obvious cause. Hulloc suspects the spy amongst the English is on the Colossus itself, and is trying to kill him and his crew to cover his tracks. He thus agrees to name the merchantman in the scarf – a disreputable smuggler known as La Scorpione – as his source. Hargraves immediately marches over and hurls La Scorpione to his feet and demands information. But the ascent is the last thing his exhausted body can take. With his last breath, he raises a finger in accusation at his killer, spits hate and says “BELLAROOOOOSE” as he dies.
And everything goes very quiet on deck for a moment. Roll credits.