Beauty Queens


“Teen prep school guys in a British boarding school witness a murder by the mob and then they’re forced to hide out at sea on a stolen ship. Along the way, they become pirates and fight crime and act like rock stars with girls in every port,” Mary Lou recounted by heart. “I’ve never missed an episode.”

“Possibly the stupidest show ever,” Adina muttered.

“Pirate rock stars? Please, that’s like the heroin of television,” Petra said.

“I always wanted to be a pirate,” Mary Lou said softly. “All that freedom.”

“So what happened? How did you end up here?” Shanti asked.

The pirates exchanged nervous glances. Sinjin forced a smile and stroked a finger across Shanti’s cheek. “My, you are lovely.”

Shanti removed his hand. “How did you get here?”

“Right.” Sinjin lay back on his elbows. He was a big guy and he took up a lot of sand. “Well, we were getting ready to start filming the new season from a secret tropical location, and after a little too much rum, the boys and I said, ‘Hey, who wants to take the ship out for a little spin, eh?’ Am I right?”

“Right!” the pirates responded.

“And, eh, we took the boat out to sea, except we’d only had six weeks of sailor camp.”

“I can tie all my knots, though,” a football player–size pirate with a bleached-white faux-hawk said.

“I can tie a cherry stem with my tongue,” Miss Ohio said and licked her lips.

“Right, you I like,” Captain Sinjin said. “Anyway, we blew off course while we were sleeping it off, if you know what I mean. Woke up and hadn’t any idea where we were. You can’t believe how bleeding scary the sea is. There’s, like, whales and storms and shit! They don’t bloody tell you that. And the rocking. I didn’t stop puking for three days straight. Plus the world’s in a barmy spot what with the threat of war and terrorism and all. But we kept on. Because we’re men.”

“Men!” the pirates shouted.

Sinjin cupped Petra’s chin in his hand. “And it’s girls like you who give us something to keep fighting for, luv.”

Adina snorted. “For the record, you’re not soldiers. You’re pirates. And not even real pirates. You’re reality TV pirates.”

“Don’t harsh my moment, Adina,” Petra sang under her breath.

“There’s a reality in reality TV,” Captain Sinjin said. “I mean, once you get past the manufactured drama for the ratings and the product placement, the knowledge that there are cameras on you at all times and that you want to seem natural while still making sure that your abs look fantastic — once you get past that, it is absolutely genuine.”40

“They gave me this cool haircut,” said the pirate with the faux-hawk. “I’m George.”

“Jennifer gave me a cool haircut, too. With a machete,” Tiara said.

“Awesome,” said George the Pirate. He stared at Tiara as if she were a kitten he hoped to take home.

“So why not just radio for help and get us all off this island?” Shanti asked.

Again, the pirates averted their eyes.

“W-well,” Sinjin said, “the radio’s not working.”

“Not at all,” blurted a pirate with a perfectly shaggy haircut and a blue bandanna wrapped around his head. “I’m Chu, by the way. Nice place you’ve got here. Cheers!”

“I might be able to fix your radio,” Jennifer said. “I’m pretty mechanical. Got ours up and running. For a minute anyway.”

“Sorry. Erm, it’s not just broken. It’s smashed to bits. Drunken revelry,” Sinjin explained. “Arrrrgggghhhh!”

Mary Lou sank into the sand. “So … you don’t have any way of calling in for help? You’re stuck here?”

“ ’Fraid so,” Ahmed, the ship’s boatswain, said.

Adina appealed to the sky. “We asked for rescue and you sent us incompetent rock-star pirates with a broken ship and perfect abs?”

“Thank you, God,” Petra said.

“Don’t you worry, superfoxy babes,” Sinjin said, putting his arms around Petra and Miss Ohio. “I know it’s been rough. But we’re here now. Everything will be okay.”

“Actually,” Adina said. “We’re doing fine. See those huts, the irrigation system, fishing lines, the rain-catching tarp, and desalination still? We built all of that.”