Stowaway Part 1
Posted By: Dispraiser<email@example.com>
Date: 11 April 2003, 2:19 AM
The phone suddenly rang and I awoke to the harsh world again. In the darkness I rolled off my bed and fell to the ground, much to my vexation. I arose, one eye half awake and looked at the alarm clock. 3:43 AM. A little earlier than I normally woke up. I picked up the phone sloppily as more sleep began to fade from my mind and the anger of being awoken began to set in. "Hello?" I answered.
"Jeff, get your ass down to the docks, we have a job!" I instantly recognized the voice as that of Robert, my partner in our shipping operations.
"This'd better be damn important to wake me in the middle of the night like this." I replied, stepping into my closet and turning on the light, blinded by the contrast of the dark room suddenly turned light. I rubbed the last of the sleep from my eyes as I adjusted to the light and grabbed a shirt.
"Don't worry about that, it is. How would you like a monopoly on shipping?"
"Money..." I was suddenly interested. Money was my life, and this might as well have been the fountain of youth. Dreams of rolling in a sea of cash suddenly flowed into my mind.
"Exactly... I have a plan." He replied. Rob was one for plans. He always seemed to have one, and few went right. I, however, was always ready to follow one because it usually could lead to money, my life. Besides that, we were almost out of money after our last shipping mission's failure and my rent was coming soon. "Come to the docks and we'll start getting bidders." I was already running for my car. In my business time meant money, and money earned was as a result of time saved. The echoes of one idle second could mean thousand of dollars worth of punishment. As I grabbed my coat and threw it over my shoulder I caught a glimpse of my face in the mirror. My brown hair seemed to jump as I had at the offer of money, and my slightly receding hair along the sides of my forehead seemed to challenge me to find a way to eliminate it. A small grey band around the top of my sideburns decorated my hair and gave me the appearance of wisdom. I made certain not to let my sideburns extend past my ears though in fear of looking like anything but a formal and wise man. I considered my appearance as effective as a marketing campaign in that it sold to the customer that I was a normal person, just like them. I stumbled down the stairs of my apartment brushing my teeth and reading the newspaper of Sunday, March 6th 2540. I smashed the crash bar door at the bottom open to reveal the dark nighttime sky, though the sun was within a few minutes of peaking over the horizon. As my car drove along the coastline headed for the harbor I noticed dramatic contrast between the mechanized city with buildings that literally scraped the skies to the almost infinite plane of the ocean. I was distracted by the rising sun at a traffic light and quickly awakened from my daydreams as I missed the green light by the other driver's horns. One passed by telling me to "watch the road ass hole", and another waving his middle finger at me while driving by yelling to "keep your eyes on the road jackass!" I quickly accelerated though they had already driven past me.
I jumped into the dock's club and suddenly slowed my stride, passing by a few women. I tried my best pickup line, 'Hey there, Baby' to no avail and was forced to move along. I stepped to the table overlooking the dock and sat down at the seat opposite Rob. He sat talking on his cell phone organizing some transfer worth 500,000 credits, more credits in that one transaction than I had ever had in my life. Outside, however, spoke that we wouldn't be shipping anything, the storm outside only intensifying. "The plan, Rob?" I asked.
He mouthed 'Just a second' and continued talking on the phone. "Alright, we'll have it to you by Monday." The phone quietly mumbled a reply, "Yeah, I'm sure we can have it there by Monday." Again, the phone sputtered uselessly, at least from my distance, "Yeah, bye." The phone mumbled a quick reply and Rob closed the phone. He slid it into his pocket.
"Monday? Have you seen the weather outside? No weather for shipping, three days is a press even with normal conditions."
"Exactly my plan.", he replied, reclining in his chair.
"What, is your plan to run with the money?"
"No, I was thinking something honest, but certainly not fair. That storm out there is pretty intense, but we have something to combat it." He pointed outside to a large ship. I looked upon the magnificent cargo tanker. It appeared to be a refined oil transport, most things on it lower and a long metal rod extending from above it. "Take a look at it Jeff, it is our companies missing link between us and money. We have 2 million already resting on this thing, and given we can get the cargo there before Monday, even more!"
"That's supposed to get us through that storm out there?"
"Yes, it is, it is our newest ship, an old Mathean blockade runner from the days when we had an embargo on em. It could lie low to avoid some detection and it had a long lightning rod on it to sneak through storms. They called it the Viridian. It can supposedly live through any storm though it never went though one like this. I'm banking on that it can live through one. If we can get this boatload of cargo to the people we can have a boatload of money..."
"Why can't we just wait the storm out?"
"Because, the storm is our profit adventure. Think of it this way... The big shipping corporations and most of the little ones won't risk their lives to cross through a storm, and besides that, they can't. So we have the only shipping company that isn't avoiding the storm. That means that their cargo get to them nine days sooner than had we decided to avoid it. It's flawless."
"Keep talking... How much profit can we expect?"
"I'd say 4 million a piece without taking out the crew costs. We'll need to hire a crew for this one. I think that ten should do, what'd you think?"
A generic waitress walked by wearing a mustard yellow outfit and gestured with coffee. I mumbled for her to give me a decaf and a quick thanks as she poured it before I continued talking, "How much would that cost?"
"Well, we would need to hire the best. Few of the amateurs would be confident enough to risk their lives crossing through a storm like that one. We can hire ten veterans of a few shipping adventures like this one and we should be fine. I already have eight people signed up, just a matter of getting two more. Course, ONI told me that they were sending on of their guys to go on this little cruise with us."
"Any familiars on the list?" I took a sip of the coffee.
"Well, two that have pretty big reputations, Dusty, and Crazy."
"Crazy?" he nodded, "You're letting Crazy on the boat? As long as your family pays for the funerals..."
"Don't worry, it's just rumors that he's insane.", Rob said. I hoped that this was not just his hopes but his knowledge.
"Right, after he served for 6 years on the Mathean guard? He had a kill tally of 42, he captured over 113 soldiers. He lost his hearing in an artillery misfire, but rumor has it he still years everything you say." I replied. I, personally, was terrified of Crazy, especially being the hatred he must feel for Easterners.
"Well, the rest of the crew is hardly noteworthy, all just run of the mill sailors with a little need for cash and a little will to survive the storm of the decade."
"You're certain we'll survive it, right?" I set down the coffee and looked out at the rusted ship in the harbor. It looked like it was sturdy when it was new, but it had clearly been pushed past its limits over twenty-five years ago. The red hull was painted with a custom banner on the side and a set of eyes and teeth on the front. The eyes were lopsided and probably done by someone untrained for a cheaper price, but such was out life. The bridge seemed to be a smaller size, only four stories high, and was painted white. A small white cover extended over the cargo area and the ship seemed to be packed to the gills with cargo. A chain swung in the wind leading to the increasingly disturbed ocean. The words Viridian was tattooed along the side of the ship and underneath them the words Storm Serpent. At least it thought it was ready for the job...
I sighed heavily, the latest addition to our crew had no idea what he was doing, but acted as if he were our superior. Chaz McDougal. I continued his tour of the ship and tried to tell him the basic functions of each area. Luckily it was a short tour, most of the ship consumed in cargo space, especially with such a small crew and large shipment. "And so here, next to the bridge we have the bunks. A dozen of them, so we each get our own. We have a few cabinets for personal effects, but I doubt that we really need to worry about that, it is only a short three day cruise to Awwek. Anyway, if you hear a ringing in that room it is probably the station alarm. All you do is ask one of us what to do and we will go have you do something." I continued to talk as we circled around to the back of the bridge, "The other bunks on the other side are not being used on this mission, so don't worry about them, they are just full of cargo. Anyway, back here behind the bridge we have the upper observation deck, barricaded off of course, we have no use for it. Anyway, that's all that's on the top level of the ship. Down the stairs here and you have the galley floor, meant to suit something like forty eight, with only twelve we should be fine. If you continue down the stairs you have another U shaped hallway, this one just an area surrounded by cargo storage areas and one detainment cell for pirates that we encounter. Hopefully we won't. Four floors down is the lounge, play cards, try to make friends with the guys, relax, etcetera. There are two doors there that lead to the main deck area, which is basically a large flat area with a little bump in the center for the cargo area. We will keep a sentry or two out there at all times to watch for pirates, so make sure to be ready for your shift. Anyway, then, below that all you have is storage areas for three floors, and on the bottom floor you have the reactor to the back of the ship. A basic diesel engine, but we like to call it the reactor to make us think it might be nuclear or something."
"I think I've got it all figured out. I'll tell you if I need anything." I pondered whether or not to believe for my own interests that Chaz was as elite as he tried to sound but found no confidence in listening to him blather on about his abilities.
I walked Chaz to the first floor and introduced him to the crew, "Rob" I gestured at rob, who nodded, "he's the leader of the crew, Dobie" Dobie followed suite and nodded, "He'll kick your ass if you bug him, Justin over there," I watched to see that Justin did not nod his recognition, "he'll try to convert you to his religion with his little prophecies, Dizzy, a drunkard," as I finished talking the lagged reactions of Dizzy allowed him to nod, "Doc, he'll fix you, Dusty, old and wise, Fats, Tabs and that ONI creep over there." I gestured to the corner of the room where a man looking much like a snake sat, his tongue seeming to flicker evilly. He scared me...
"Yeah, him." Chaz pointed to the corner of the room where the twelth member of our crew sat, Crazy.
"Yeah... We don't talk to him much... See, he is a Mathean, he hates us Arrels."
"Should we have let him on the ship?"
"Well, Rob says so." I replied hoping that that was both a good enough answer for him and myself.
"One more question... Why are we taking a cargo ship when we could be flying in space?"
"Well, in Lunar 4 space is a no fly zone. All the warfare between the East and the West in space made it so that we were not allowed to use it. It would take nine days to get a pass to fly up there and we would have no advantage over the others. See, it is like pulling the guns out of our hands. After the third Mathean war when a million were killed from space the UNSC realized it to be a weapon to us. To create peace they, almost literally, disarmed us. They knew they couldn't stop us from making weapons, so they took away our ground.", myself I was no more comfortable with sailing than he was, and most of our crew only held experience as sailors on warships or recreational purposes. I was, however, comfortable with having a fat wallet...
The winds and sea crashed against the reinforced hull of our ship, our mission to reinforce our wallets. I stood on the deck as waves crashed over the deck before me. A dim light lit the deck, but it was hardly enough in the thick fog and rain. I stood in my raincoat and other raingear though the water still seemed to bleed through the coat and into my shirt beneath. The white peaks of the myriads of waves seemed an infinite chasm fading from chaos to peace as they became invisible behind the fog, much as Lunar 4 was. The politicians believed that so long as the problem was hidden it was gone, but that was not the case.
"Jeff." I turned to see a drunkard stereotypical sailor stumble behind me. His lopsided footsteps indicated either that he was a novice sailor getting his sea legs or that he was drunken past his limits. His breath, tainted of whiskey proved the latter. From this behavior I was able to assume his name from the crew record. Dizzy. "Don't you think it's a little windy out here to be a'standin?" I noticed his slurred speech and thick southern accent. He wobbled on the deck trying to regain his balance, and upon his success he looked up and smiled.
"No, I'm on watch. I make sure that we don't hit any debris in the storm." I yelled over the roar of the ocean.
"Don'tcha worry, I got yer back, just you get on inside, it's me shift.", he replied, again stumbling as some water crashed over the deck. Horizontal rainfall pelted our faces.
"I wouldn't trust you with anything right now, I want you to get in the ship and get sober for the rest of the mission. Is that okay?" The roar of the storm seemed to drown half of my words, and I only hoped that they drunkard was able to piece together what I had said.
"Yes sir, I'll go get my goggles, the rain is a little--" The ship suddenly hit a gigantic wave. I was lifted from the ground and flipped forwards three quarters the way, thudding to the ground on my back. The front of the ship elevated I slid down the deck towards the cabin. As I accelerated I began to kick my legs looking for something to grip onto so that I wouldn't break my legs at the wall. The smooth metal deck only laughed t my pleas, roaring as the ship rocked in the water. The front of the ship crashed back to the waves again and I begin to slow, rolling over to my chest and searching for something to hold. I quickly found a railing, and against my common sense grabbed it. Being near the edge of the ship was potentially deadly, but being that my alternative was sliding and breaking my legs I quickly determined to grab onto it. "The deck is slick! The deck is slick!" I watched as Dizzy skidded to a stop. Suddenly the boat crashed into another wave and the forward half of the ship was instantly drown beneath a wave. The water rushed towards us as the front of the ship again began to rise, throwing Dizzy, who was still drunkenly incompetent from the deck and dropping him about twenty feet towards the fore. Frenetically he began to try to anchor himself to some object, but as the ship again rose found himself flung to the wall. I heard the distinct popping of a leg snapping and the distinct scream of a man in pain. Frantically, despite the pain and his alcohol lagged reactions he managed to grab onto the wall, quickly finding a large vent to slid his hands into. I sighed and began to try to scale the railings of the ship to get to the wall and inside the ship where it was safer. Catching a break in the waves I quickly stood and ran down the ship, grabbing Dizzy and letting him use me as a crutch, stumbling back to the ships main control room area.
As we stumbled in three of the others came to help us, asking what happened. I explained to them that he had slid down the deck, and we immediately began to clear off a table to lay the wounded and disgruntled man on his back. I watched as Rob shuffled to the medical cabinet and pulled a splint, scissors and some gauze from within it, shuffling with both in hand quickly to the table. He handed the scissors to Doc, who quickly began work on cutting the leg of his pants away. He cut around Dizzy's knee and slid the pant leg off to reveal a horribly mangled leg. The lower portion of his leg had another joint at the middle of his shin, and was beginning to swell from the internal bleeding. The purple tint of his skin due to the bruising matched the sky outside the ship. Doc immediately moved to set the leg, quickly gesturing to Rob and Dobie to hold his arms as they slid the bone back into place painfully.
Rob quickly handed the splint to Doc, who began to fasten it to his leg, wrapping gauze around it with superhuman skill. Doc was a kind older man and had spent a dozen years in the Marines as a medic, and as was unusual for medics still had some personality intact. He was also never a man for jokes, and was literal and serious at all times. Anyone who crossed him would be ignored, though that was usually not much of a change. Doc was also a quiet man.
Dizzy struggled against Dobie, but was held down easily. Dobie was a large man, very strong and powerful. He could easily beat about half of the rest of the crew arm-wrestling and was never crossed by anyone unless they were so foolish as to have a death wish. No one knew, nor asked why he was named Dobie, and most followed orders from him. He was also very loyal and brave, and survived three battles with the Covenant, honorably discharged for an injury he suffered. He supposedly carried a pound of shrapnel in his chest. He was the mirror to Crazy, and had an extensive military heritage behind him though it was only against the Covenant, not against my race. He was also mirror of Chaz, the newbie of our crew. This was his first mission, and had it not been for his physical fitness he would not be with us. He, however, considered himself at the highest of regards and believed himself to be a great and superior sailor.
I was bedazzled as I watched them assemble the splint for the drunkard and force him to swallow a half dozen pain pills. It appeared as this would be one of our greatest missions, a shipload of riches and a crew capable of guarding it. Checks cashable to me...
I stumbled, feeling the top of the table for a flashlight. The pitch blackness was abridged only by several lightning strikes, the blackness from our loss of power immense. Finally finding the flashlight I was looking for I turned it on and began to walk away from the bridge stepping around the corner. I jumped, spotting Rob and quickly realized who it was, calming myself.
"Man... You terrified me. Any idea what's taking Chaz so long?" I asked.
"Been like this for the past half an hour, damn hotshot probably has no idea what to do. Trying to impress us, not a bad thing at all, but if he signed up to fix the generator not knowing what to do, he'll regret it. How much should we dock his pay?" replied Rob, clearly agreeing with my statement.
"A percent every two minutes. Now that I have a flashlight we should go the reactor and see what's going on. It shouldn't take him this long." My voice seemed to echo in the corridors of the catacomb-like ship. Rob replied with a simple nod and we began to walk to the reactor. Both of us seemed to fear breaking the silence created when the ship was powerless and neither of us broke the silence. We quickly arrived in the reactor room noting Chaz's absence. "Damn kid, doesn't know he's on a real ship, probably thinks this is a toy or a game..."
"Yeah, he should know his place by now... Hurry up and get that reactor fixed, idle time in the ocean could even set us backwards along our course."
"Alright, just a second or two--" I pulled a lever and suddenly the lights flickered back on as the engines started to whir, "more..."
"Nice work, now let's find Chaz and yell at him some." Rob replied setting the flashlight on the toolbox nearby, ignoring that it rolled to the ground and clattered away, rolling across the ground. "Grab that flashlight, will ya?" I nodded and walked around the corner spotting Chaz's face around the corner as I picked up the flashlight. He was lying on the ground, maybe he had fallen. It could explain his failure.
"Chaz?" I shouted, "Rob, I think I found our idiot." I stepped towards him suddenly noticing a crimson trail leading around the corner. Accelerating to a quick paced jog I stepped around the corner and looked down to see Chaz lying on the ground in a puddle of his own blood.