Monday, November 17, 2008

QC1 Takes Flight

QC1 Takes Flight

One thing you need to know about Pirates: "First thing in the morning" really means around noon. They aren't very organized or methodical. They really just do things whenever the mood strikes them.

Misty and I rummaged through the meager trappings of the room, finding a couple of things we could wear. A guard finally unlocked us around ten AM and escorted us over to "wardrobe." In there we found all kinds of pirate costumes, all colorful and handmade. For a while we had some fun trying on different things. I pushed my way back through the racks of clothes, looking for a black leather headscarf and matching pants. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed something move in the very back.

I pushed some of the clothes aside, and discovered the Filipino serving girl hiding amid the clothes.

"Please don't tell them," she whispered, trembling and eyes wide. "I can't go back in there. Please."

Misty peered over my shoulder and gasped. "Oh, my poor dear. Alex, be a dear and cover us while we chat."

I rearranged some racks so Misty could talk with the girl. I nonchalantly looked at some clothes while keeping an eye on the other purveyors of the piratalia. After a few minutes Misty pushed through the clothes.

"Alex, the poor girl. She can't go back to that dreadful palace. She's scared half to death. Is there anything we can do?" Misty held my arm as her eyes pleaded with me.

I rubbed my face for a second. "I guess we have to hide her. Bring her food. Maybe if we make a port we can sneak her off and book passage back to Manila. Jesus, how old do you think she is?"

"Maybe thirteen, fourteen. Just a young gal. Not cut out for being pirate booty."

"Okay, okay, let me think." I looked around the room a bit. "Dress her up. I mean real street-walker. There's a makeup counter over there. Then take her to our room. If anyone stops you, just explain that she's exactly what you want, and you don't want witnesses."

"Alex! She's been through so much." Misty peered back through the clothes. "I don't know if she would trust me."

"Misty. I trust you. Just be patient with her. Tell her you'll stay with her at night and protect her. I'll hang out somewhere else. I'll just say you kicked me out if anyone asks."

Misty squeezed me quickly and dove back through the racks. I finally spotted the pieces to complete my "Dread Pirate Roberts" look. Finally Misty emerged with the girl in tow. She stared around with frightened eyes.

"Now let's make you a proper Pirate," said Misty, leading her over to the makeup counter. "What's your Pirate name? I'm Misty. Hmm. Misty...Northernstar. What about you?"

The girl was quiet for a moment, not sure how to respond.

"That's okay," said Misty. "Just give me your first name? Then I'll give you a Pirate last name."

"Uhh, Julia," she said in a very small voice.

"Great! Let me see now, Julia, Julia, how about Julia Petunia? No? Okay. Julia Scorpionmaster?"

She giggled a bit. "Julia Sharkeater? Julia Whalebones? Julia Suncatcher?"

"Yeah," said Julia. "Julia Suncatcher. I love the sun."

"Well there we go. Now let's get you dressed proper. We will make the best Pirates on the ship." Misty carefully applied the makeup to girl, softly and skillfully. I kept an eye on the proceedings and also on the comings and goings. Then Misty allowed the girl to apply her makeup. Misty definitely had a calming and friendly demeanor to the girl, who had suffered through who knows what in the last few weeks.

At last all were ready. Misty and Julia appeared like the Belles of the Ball with all their finery. Misty also packed a few changes of clothes.

I took the lead walking back to our cabin. Whenever we came across someone I distracted them by asking where certain facilities where on the ship while the girls snuck by unnoticed, at least by wearing clothes so loud that no one would suspect them of sneaking. We arrived in the cabin and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Misty helped wash all their garish makeup off and found the girl some comfortable clothes. She lay her down for a nap then came to talk to me.

"What are we going to do," she asked me.

"We have two problems," I responded. "One, we've got to keep her hidden. Two, she's got to stay inside the shield while the Matrix is operational or her brain will be fried. So this may work for a day, but we've got to get her inside the Palace when the Drive runs."

Misty frowned, her eyes narrowing and her cute nose wrinkling. "Bollux. Who designed this bloody ship? Idiots. Oh Miss Julia? Tell me about the kitchen a bit. Let's figure out if you've found some good hiding places. Alex, you go ahead and find out what you can. Give us plenty of warning if they plan to fire it up."

"Okay, I'll be back as soon as I can."

"And bring some bloody tea and some biscuits if you can," called Misty after me.

I entered the Palace and crossed over to the cafe. As I walked past, Ellie shouted at me, "you'll pay, Ross! You'll pay for your treachery!" She rattled her chains at me but I avoided eye contact. I feel sorry for her, but I'm going to get what's coming to me. There wasn't anything I could do for her. She had served her purpose.

I snuck into the cafe and grabbed as much food as I could carry. Just as I started to leave, Carrie spotted me.

"Ross! Where the fuck have you been all morning? Hey, nice duds...where the hell is Nguyen?"

I froze for a moment. "Uhh...she's...a bit seasick. You know...we haven't drank anything for months until last night."

Carrie smirked. "Yeah, I always thought she was a lightweight. Go tell her she's got about thirty minutes to sober up before we light up these puppies. We need you guys at the controls in case anything happens. Now get her ass down here."

I started walking then stopped. "Hey, Carrie, quick question. Seeing how you have all, I was wondering if Misty and I could, like, have a servant? Someone just for us? Like our own slave?"

Now Carrie began cracking up. "God! Just when you think you know someone. Wait, you're serious. You and Misty...want like a sex slave? Whoa...Sure! Go for it! But it will cost you, these people don't come cheap. That's a hundred thou out of your take. Each. No returns, and you're responsible for whatever trouble this slave gets into."

"Fine! Fine! Jesus, after all Misty and I have been through, we just want some comforts."

Carrie shook her head. "Alex, you don't have to explain. We're Pirates now and we take what we want. I hadn't thought slavery but it makes perfect sense. What was I thinking, trying to have you guys executed? You fit right in!"

She gave me a thumbs up as she rushed off to make final preparations for our maiden voyage. I vaunted back to our quarters, ignoring Ellie's caged invective.

"Ssh," said Misty as I entered. Julia slept on the bed while Misty sorted through the pirate gear.

"I have sort of good news. Julia is now our personal slave. She belongs to us."

Misty's mouth dropped open. "No, you didn't. Really? What bloody hell does that mean?"

I shrugged. "She's our property. Means we control her, like a pimp I guess. I don't know, I've never owned a slave."

"We are NOT pimping her out."

"Duh!" I sat down next to Misty. "But it means we don't have to hide her. She stays with us at all times. Like, I don't know, like she's our kid."

Misty nodded and smiled. "I think I'm too young to be a mum. Especially of a teenager."

"Aww, you'd be a great mom."

"Don't," warned Misty. "Don't even go there, Alex. That's a long ways off. And there's no way I'm being a pregnant Pirate."

We shared a laugh for a moment. I gave her a quick kiss and hug. "Well Park wants us down there. Let's get Julia up and explain her new role."

Misty woke the girl gently and explained that the girl would be our special servant, and we would do anything to protect her. She just need to stay close to one of us at all times. No one else could tell her what to do, and if she ever felt uncomfortable with what we asked her, she could tell us. She heartily agreed, definitely taking a fancy to Misty.

Misty pulled out a nice gold-laced maroon outfit that made Julia look like a cross between a busboy and a chinese chef. She found a matching cap and placed it on her head. The silken outfit featured a dragon motif and a shiny sun on one shoulder. She could definitely serve in any fancy Asian restaurant.

It took a great effort to convince Julia to enter the Palace again, but we explained patiently that we would watch over her and protect her.

The interior of the Palace swarmed with activity. All loose items were being stowed or tied down. A row of chairs was assembled in front of the movie wall which now showed a myriad of internal and external images. These chairs were securely bolted to the floor and featured lap belts. Apparently they anticipated a rough ride.

We made our way over to the control center. Ellie glared at us but didn't say much, maybe wondering about the figure that accompanied us. Carrie waved us in and directed us to our consoles.

"Wait, that's your servant? Shit."

"What? Is there a problem," I asked.

"Oh nothing, nevermind," replied Carrie, but I could sense she was lying.

I studied my monitor. All the old familiar code came back to me as I ran down the checklist. Misty sat next to me with Julia in between, just watching. We all put on headsets to be able to converse in case it grew too loud. Even Julia got one although it wasn't on.

The klaxon sounded. One minute to launch. Anyone not in the Palace faced certain insanity.

Once all the hatches had been closed, Carrie announced, "Okay, let's go. Let's get this thing moving. Raise anchor!"

From somewhere in the ship we heard a loud rumbling as the anchor dragged up the side of the ship.

"Impulse power, 5%. I've always wanted to say that. Wait 'til we go to warp drive."

I raised the input to the Matrix just slightly. Steam started shooting out of the towers. In one image, I could see the giant propellers begin to turn underwater. I felt a slight nudge coming through the floor.

Carrie began shouting out navigation instructions as we felt our way through the shallow bay. For an hour we tooled around the bay. Radar lit up with surveillance aircraft but none approached close enough to be a threat. We knew subs trailed us in the water.

At last we made it out to deeper water. "Let's go up to 10 knots," said Carrie, dropping the Star Trek references.

Gently I urged the Matrix to higher output. Steam billowed up from the cooling towers as we passed seawater directly around the Matrix and into turbines that powered the propellers. "Systems nominal," I said, feeling the sweat gathering on my forehead. I basically sat at the controls of a nuclear bomb, monitoring a slow nuclear explosion.

"Twenty. Thirty. Forty."

The freighter moved faster and faster. I doubted any sub or military ship could keep up with us. The deck shimmied and the walls groaned.


"Come on Carrie, she can't take much more," I cried.

"Bullshit! Sixty!"

The ship now blazed through the water, cutting a huge wake through the waves.

"Okay, Ross, give me full power! I want to see what she's made of. Do it!"

I said a quick prayer. Misty glanced at me through gritted teeth, and Julia found an empty chair to strap into. I increase the power up to 100%. Of course I can always add more power, but not without completely melting the Matrix and destroying the Earth.

Seventy. Eighty. I felt the bow beginning to rise. If we flipped we'd be doomed! "We're going over," I yelled, reaching to cut the power.

"WAIT!" Carrie pointed at the screens. The ship settled, running up on hydrofoils. Wings extended from the top deck to add stability. One camera focused on the original bridge of the ship. As we hit 120 knots, the entire structure seemed to crumble and fall away from the cooling tubes. These tubes now shot what looked like giant flames up into the sky, glowing red themselves. Only a few vertical fins remained to provide aerodynamics. The bridge had just been a decoy for the true design of the ship. This wasn't a container ship at all. 150, 160. Once skimming the water, the ride felt much more comfortable, much like a slightly turbulent airplane ride. We finally topped out at 200 knots, about 230 mph, the speed Indy cars travel at the speedway. Behind us a titanic rooster tail of water shot up into the sky almost a thousand feet high. This clearly was no stealth boat, we could be seen coming from dozens of miles away, like a fire breathing dragon.

After a couple minutes at this unbelievable speed, we realized we weren't dead. "Okay, take us back down to 150 knots," said Carrie, almost breathless. "Whew! Yes! This fucker actually works!"

Cheers went up all around the Palace.

Carrie punched up a Satellite map on my monitor. "Ross, you think you can get us to these coordinates?"

"Yeah. It's tough to steer at these speeds but I'll get us there. What is it?"

Carrie laughed into her headset. "It's our first target. Pirates! First attack in two hours! Ready yourselves for plunder! We be boarding us a ship!"

The assembled throngs screamed in bloodthirsty cries.

Posted: Monday, November 17, 2008 @ 11:17 PM

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