Tiara looked confused. “Men have ni**les? Is that new?”
“Men. Have. Nipples!” Adina shouted.
“Adina’s been teaching us stuff at Smart School. Like about geography and real estate companies and feminism,” Tiara explained to the pirates.
“Cool,” said George.
“Yeah. It is.” She squinted in thought. “Do you think my new feminism makes me look fat?”
“Darlings, do you know what I think it’s time for? I think it’s time for your captain to have a soliloquy.”
Brittani covered her eyes. “Oh. Um. You can just go behind the tree. That’s what we all do.”
“No, luv. A soliloquy. A speech.” Sinjin toasted another stale marshmallow. “Imagine, if you will, that I’m sitting on the ship’s deck, in a spot of moonlight that is doing absolutely fantastic things for my bone structure. Really, I’m like a god right now. Can you see it? I can see it. It’s exciting me. Eh, mates?”
“Well said. I didn’t set out to become a pirate. I’d hoped to become a barrister. Wear a powdered wig like a sexy beast. Hot!” Sinjin brandished the marshmallow and everyone jumped back. “That was before the tragic fire that took Mom and Dad. I was away at boarding school. Then me and my mates witnessed a murder and had to go on the run.”
“I thought that was the story line for the show,” Shanti whispered to Nicole.
“Hello! Mid-soliloquy, luv. Give us a moment in the moonlight. Where was I?”
“On the run, Mr. Micawber,” Petra prompted.
“Right! On the run.” Sinjin’s smile faded. “Look. We weren’t entirely honest with you before, about being blown off course. The truth is, the ratings for Captains Bodacious IV have been down. Really down.”
“More people watched In Your Grandma’s Attic,” Chu said. “We couldn’t even compete with granny’s old brooches going to auction.”
“Marketing says pirates are over — it’s all about hot trolls now. They’ve got a hot troll show lined up and ready to go in our time slot: Trollin’ on Delaware Beach. Ridiculous! Like, who is going to watch a bunch of trolls getting drunk at clubs and trying to entice college girls to their place under the bridge? I heard goats mentioned, too, and that’s just wrong.”
“It’s always about whatever’s next,” Petra said ruefully. “When I was in Boyz Will B Boyz, they treated us like little gods, then threw us away the minute Hot Vampire Boyz came along. They think they can toss you away like garbage.”
“Rubbish,” Sinjin said.
“No, I just like saying rubbish better than saying garbage. Hotter. But you’re right, luv. They’re beasts in programming.” Sinjin tested the marshmallow’s temperature and, finding it satisfactory, fed it to Petra with his fingers. “Anyway, The Corporation was going to cancel us. So we thought, what could we do to really raise the stakes? I know! Let’s go rogue! Be real pirates. We thought we’d take a joyride in the boat, get a bit of press, jolt the ratings up again. Except when we got to the docks, we saw something we shouldn’t have.”
“What was that?” Adina said on a yawn.
“There were these blokes in black shirts. And they were unloading cargo from Corporation boats.” Sinjin’s face darkened. “Human cargo. Trafficking.”
“Whoa,” Shanti said.
“They saw us and started shooting! Do you have any idea what it’s like to be shot at? It’s nothing like in the movies, I can tell you that. It’s terrifying, and you feel like you’re going to soil your pants.”
“I did soil my pants,” George said. “Oh. I got new pants. No worries.”
Sinjin pointed a finger. “They would have killed the lot of us. Didn’t care who we were. So we sailed off and took our chances. It was like reality imitating reality TV, which is one meta more than I like. We disabled the radio so they couldn’t track us, hit a squall our second day out, and got blown off course. We’ve been on the run for two weeks now, trying to figure out what to do and how to survive at sea.”
“We’ve been trying to figure out how to survive, too,” Nicole said.
“It’s kind of a mixed-up, messed-up world we’re inheriting,” Shanti said. “When we get back, we should do something to change that.”
“Add that to Girl Con,” Adina said.
“What’s Girl Con?” Ahmed asked.