Family, broken, crushed, those were apt words for what I saw there. The one supporting pillar was scared and stained just as badly as she was. They leaned on each other, depended on one another to keep from toppling.The Journal of Fado Quel
Place: Outer Atmosphere above Azure
The transpoplane, the solar system transportation shuttle, was old and dead. Its turbulence rejectors didn’t even null out half of the atmospheric ion clouds that covered the upper layer of stratosphere as they left the planet. The flight, typically only taking thirty minutes, was a nail-biting stop and drop two hours. By the time the group landed, Otly and Gotre had become space sick and Patch had curled into a small cowering ball in the back of the shuttle.
From an asteroid shower into another turbulence field, it was one gut wrenching experience after another. However, as the transpoplane shot into the upper atmosphere there was a communal gasp at the splendorous beauty of Vico, the water planet. Ships sailed casually by as small black dots that slowly enlarged as the shuttle decreased altitude. The sparkling green-gray water reflected the white sun’s rays and distorted the immense images of ice whales, also referred to as sentinels or guards, that swam next to the ships as guard dogs.
Small islands dotted the planet. Chains showed submerged ocean mountains. The largest island, Szet, was the receiving ground for the transpoplanes and contained the only major city on Vico. It was called Azure, the capital of Vico – the major architectural makeup and use of blue paint on most structures in the city lent a hand to the name.
That was where the group was dropped off in order to wait for their guide and ship that they had booked passage with. An old acquaintance of McAlister had given them a discounted price for fare and promised to help them find the coins. Apparently, the person had several estimates for finding the lost currency. The group caught a table at the Lafayette Corner Bistro on Pier Seven to wait for the ship to dock.
They ordered a light brunch of squid-crab cakes, mulberry patties, and a pitcher of star-lemonade. Wain pulled from his worn leather pack, the holoprojector and set it in the middle of the table amongst the fully laden bowls and plates. He pressed the power button and the group waited as the whir of a small engine grew in pitch until there was a snap and a blurry image popped up from the triangulated micro-projectors.
The image cleared to a constellation map of Colga galaxy. Wain pressed the small orb in the map labeled Vico and the image zoomed into a rotating image of the planet, complete with ice caps and island landforms. “Alright,” he said as he tapped on Szet and the image zoomed in once more, “this is where we are,” the waited patiently, knowing that to interrupt him would incur his wrath, he had made the bad mistake of leaving his pack on board the transpoplane and had to pay out of pocket to get it sent back. “We booked passage with ship call The Hawkeye. The captain is a female human, name’s Marj. She runs a crew of about two hundred men and women.” He pressed a series of panels to bring up images of spyscoped pictures that revealed the massive five mast sailing ship with full blood red sails. Then the image dispersed to reveal a picture of a curly-haired, black headed woman of short stature and plain face. Then a series of smaller clips showed faces of prominent crew members.
“Apparently, from what the stewardess told me,” he stated, Rew glanced at him with a raised eyebrow, “What?” Wain snapped. “She was paid by McAlister to provide me with the holochip for the projector and to update me on the proceeding information.” Rew nodded his head with a dubious grin. “No! I didn’t sleep with her – she is not the reason I left my pack on the trans!” Wain moved to backhand him, but Rew was too fast and ducked. Wain glared at his brother who was now trying to suppress a gushing laughter.
“Anyways,” Wain turned back to the projector, “Marj has been caught several times for pirating and gold pilfering. She’s not a likely source to be trusted, neither the crew, so be on guard at all times. However, she knows this planet and can get us wherever we need to go, so don’t piss her off, ‘k? Any questions – none from you, brother dearest?” Wain hissed pointedly at his giggling twin.
Honfu piped up from across the table, “So did you really sleep with the stewardess?” Wain’s face turned a bright crimson as he slouched down in his chair. His hand went to cover his eyes as his brother failed at stifling his snicker. The group burst into laughter. “Patch, slap him for me, would’ya?” Wain mumbled under his shading hand. Honfu leapt from the table and took to the pier as Patch chased after him. Gotre and Penen flew to their brother’s aid as they pelted Patch with mulberry patties. Sea saphines dive bombed the brothers and Patch for the sweet pastries. Solomon watched, mildly bemused with the comradery that had developed inside the company.
Otly was the first to notice The Hawkeye pulling into the bay. The group calmed down and finished brunch as the ship pulled closer to the pier. It would take a bit to set the mooring lines. Men were flinging themselves from the deck railing with massive lines of rope. It was an act rehearsed a million times and it held the group speechless.
The signature red sails created bloody shadows on the pier and the ominous presence of a black-headed demon quelled the group of their hope. Then a set of rope ladders were lowered to the dock and people swarmed off the ship. The crew lined up and assisted the captain to the pier. She was short, just a few inches taller than Fado, but the way she carried herself, she could have been Otly’s height. She possessed a hard face and a stern countenance. Her pressed robes revealed a lithe, strong figure. She was nothing to mess with.
Then Isis saw a ponytailed individual in a stripped crimson and black ribbon tie. A small shirt coat of matching pattern and breeches of a black silk pulled her closer to a familiar image, but it disappeared amongst the crowd. She chewed the bottom of her lip, a slight headache just beginning to form at the prospect.
Marj walked forward with all her royal dignity and shook hands with Wain. “Welcome, welcome to my humble ship. I hope that we might accommodate you for a splendid voyage,” she moved on down the group to shake hands with everyone. She continued with her welcoming. Isis decided, when Marj shook her hand, that the captain was rather verbose and should cease with her endless prattle and small talk.
The captain informed the group that she and her crew were going to dock for the night and let out at red sunrise. She had a steward show them on board and to their cabins. The men were taken to lower decks where most of the male crew slept and Isis was shown to a far bunk cabin that she was to share with three of the cooking women. Once formalities were complete and luggage was unpacked and stored, the group gathered on the deck near the main mast.
The wind whipped in from the ocean, ruffling and snapping the lines. A seagull screamed over head and the ship rocked to the lick of the waves. The smell of salt and fish and wood tar mingled on the upper deck and the day seemed to brighten a little. The men settled down to play cards with some of the crew that decided to stay on ship. Isis took her leave and wandered around the deck and up a flight of steps to the aft of the ship.
A flash of black and red caught her eye as she wandered past a nest of barrels. She peeked around the corner to check. A young man of twenty was curled up asleep against the boarding and the set of cargo barrels. With a swift jerk, she hoisted the boy up by his shirt collar and leaned him against the rail. The kid grabbed for his bobbing cap before it hurdled to the sea. “C-cousin! What brings you here?” the boy yelped, surprised at being so rudely awakened from his comfortable nap.
“Togoya! What are you doing here?” she hissed in his ear. He gently pried her fingers from his frilled shirtfront and refluffed the lace before responding. “Uncle sent me up here because Marj has apparently been booby-trapping the cargo and he just wanted to protect his investments,” he drawled out in his gushing, almost feminine accent.
“And?” Isis pressed, not convinced.
“Isis, Isis, what have I done to convince you otherwise?” Togoya placated.
“Well you joi-“
“Isis! Where’d you go? Wain need to talk to you!” Penen suddenly swooped into the conversation.
“A’right, Penen, tell him I’ll be right down,” she answered before glaring at Togoya.
“Did this pansy do something mean to you, Isis?” Penen glanced at the man.
“No, don’t worry about it. I just tripped over him while he was asleep. Don’t worry about it,” she guided the Ipty back down the stairs. Wain was waiting impatiently at the bottom for them.
Many of the crew returned that night to sleep on ship. Apparently, through rumor heard, the last cargo take had not provided enough funds for the crew. Marj came back with a group of the cooking women and sent them back to the mess decks to begin a late supper.
The group grabbed a table near some of the portholes and was discussing what they were going to do when they returned home. Many of the other crew was crowded into tables near a heat generator. Some were pantomiming stories that had the women blushing and the men rolling with laughter. Another set, a rough looking crowd of heavy cargo workers were playing an intense high-stakes game of poke-gamon.
Smoke from cheap cigars curled in the room and drifted to create blue grey clouds in the rough-hewn rafters. The acrid scent of heavy grain-gin and barley whiskey seemed to ooze from the wood paneling. The scent of unwashed bodies added a reeking spice that was only swept away by the wind coming in from the open portholes near Isis’s group.
Suddenly a platter with full cups of fish-oil wine crashed onto the table. The group members looked up, startled to find Marj standing at their table, arms akimbo, a broad flashy smile spread across her face. “Drink up guys. This is the best wine you’ll find on Vico. Tomorrow, we set off for Shimit Chain!” She hollered the last sentence to receive a boisterous roar from the crew.
Women began pouring from a set of swinging doors, caring fully laden platters and servers of meat, roasted vegetables, soups, and baskets of bread. Apparently, even when faltering with enough pay for the crew to have some fun on land, they still were able to score enough to provide feasts. Games were quickly cleared from tables and the crew settled quietly into their seats. Marj went to a podium at the front of the room. She raised her hands and all noise ended. “For the White Sun’s providence and the Red Sun’s pity we give thanks for the feast before us.” She held her hands up for a few seconds as people prayed. “Alright men, dig in and make these ladies happy for their time!” Then there was utter chaos.
The group tried the wine. It had a robust flavor that was no were near sweet. It was much more reminiscent of a sturdy port mixed with rotting fish guts. Isis, Otly and Solomon were the only ones who could not stomach the drink. The rest of the group downed it heartily and dug into the feast that had been placed in front of them.
“What’s in the Shimit Chain?” Isis asked the women as she prepared for bed that night. The women, in processes of dress and wash, all stopped to look at the foreign woman. “Marj never really told us,” one of the women, Alice, answered. Another woman, Salaha added, “well, she did mention something about a map and…and…and something else, but I don’t remember.” The dark woman smiled, ashamed, her small pearls of teeth gleaming white against her amethyst skin. “She had said something about a snake, is that what you were trying to remember, Salaha?” A bookish girl in her late teens asked as she crawled into the bunk above Isis.
“That’s it girl! That’s exactly what I was trying to remember. You see Alice, I told you Beceta was smart,” Salaha gleamed, finishing her sponge bath and slipping into an overly large pink nightgown.
“Thanks, Sal,” Beceta moaned as she rolled on her side and pulled the khaki wool blanket up over her thin shoulders.
“Oh, you know that I didn’t mean nothin’ mean by it, Bec,” Salaha soothed as she waited for Alice to get into the top bunk. She proceeded to cut the light and climb into the bunk below Alice.
RT @ThorntonGibsonK: I can’t wait to read what happens next in The Kavordian Library! – #scifi, #fantasy, #webseries #booksTweet