The sea, which had been glassy only an hour before, now raged with an unholy vengeance upon the small ship. Onboard, Captain Mathias Tennant awaited a signal he was becoming increasingly convinced he would never receive. From below decks he heard the faint chime of the ship’s clock…four bells. Unable to imagine the vessel had been at anchor so long, he confirmed the time with his pocket watch. It was distressingly accurate. He replaced the watch and buttoned his coarse canvas coat against the chill of the night.
He should have known better than to entrust a mission of such dire consequence to an operative with precious little field experience…a female operative at that. In the six years since the war began he had never lost an undercover agent and she would, most certainly, not be the one to tarnish his unblemished record.
An agonizingly-long half hour later, he beached the skiff, turning it about to face the sea. Having been blessed with a keen sense of direction, he had no doubt he was within a mile of the fishing village that had been her objective.
He ghosted through the night quickly and unerringly. Patchy clouds scuttled across the sky making for tenuous, but sufficient, illumination. He found no sign of the girl…woman at the makeshift camp she had set up and so he turned toward the village. He had gone, scarcely, more than a few hundred further yards before he heard the unmistakable sounds of a scuffle. Hoarse, albeit muted, cries and the clash of blades left no doubt of that. Given the hour and the likely location, he had every reason to believe he had found his missing operative.
Coming over a low rise he saw her. Dressed in high boots, homespun shirt and patched galligaskins, she was, nevertheless, quite obviously a woman. Beset by a pair of attackers, she was holding her own, if barely. He winced as a clumsy riposte on her part left little doubt the saber she wielded was a much longer and heavier blade than she was accustomed to using. Unwilling to trust to her swordcraft, as soon as he was close enough to feel confident of his marksmanship, he fired his pistol. He had to thank divine providence when the man’s head exploded and he dropped lifeless to the sand.
So embroiled was the second man with his opponent he spared no thought for his partner. Instead, he redoubled his efforts to finish off the young woman. Tennant broke into a dead run, drawing a long knife as he ran. He feared she would not last long enough for him to reach her in time.
As if sensing the same thing, she made a desperate play to turn the tide of the battle in her flavor. Reaching to the laces of her tunic, she ripped the cheap cloth away, exposing undeniable proof of her femininity. It had the desired effect and her attacker was sufficiently flummoxed to provide her the momentary opening she so-desperately needed. She lunged, burying her blade in the man’s chest and bore him down to the ground. He died quickly.
Flopping down next to the body, she fought to catch her breath. Making no effort to cover her nakedness, she glanced up as Tennant arrived and favored him with a saucy grin. “Here now, don’t suppose you have a spare shirt with you, Cap’n?”
Doffing his coat, he handed it over with a smile of his own. He had a feeling this particular operative might just have what it took to become a very efficient agent after all.
This story was written for the weekly Finish That Thought flash fiction phrase prompt.