What a ship needs
Chapter 1: The Sea and the Port
Location: The Steamhawke
Timeline: Sometime after lunch on a November day
The wind tugged at the ropes of the rolled up sails. It would be a good wind, if they set sail now. But the Captain was not sure if the ship was in the best condition it could be in. The engine had suffered under McGinty's care. The sails needed to be checked for repairs. And god knows what else was wrong or missing. Daenelia reached for the map again, frowning as she thought of the journey ahead. The new chief engineer had been looking after the engine and he seemed confident he could make it work the best it could, but something was nagging in the back of her mind.
Kanya. The girl, who said she could work well with steam engines. Surely she was too young to ask about improvements to the ship. But with her own limited knowledge, and Brem de Berg's taciturn attitude, Daenelia felt she had no choice but to see what the girl would advice. Daenelia turned away from looking up at the mast and went off to find Kanya.
Before she could get too far, Kanya emerged from the door that led to the kitchens. She froze at the sight of the Captain. Her filthy hands started clumsily trying to hide that the front of her pants were wet and had streaks of what looked like grits and bacon. She knew that Nicholai had let her have some porridge, but the Captain certainly had not given her permission to go down to the kitchens yet. And, after all, she had come down the kitchens with the intention of sneaking a bite to fill her constantly empty stomach.
Captain Daenelia noticed this, but decided to ignore it.
"So Kanya," she said, casually, facing the cool morning wind. "I've been thinking. I'm likely to have a full crew by tomorrow, you see." The girl nodded, not taking her dark eyes off the Captain. "I want to make sure that we're absolutely ready to sail the skies. I don't think my ship is exactly in prime condition. What say you?"
Kanya was relieved that the Captain said nothing about her nosing about in the kitchens.
"Well..." she mused. "I think this ship is really well built, madam Captain. Marty - the shipwright on Good Queen Jane - would kill to work on a ship like this! He's always said that our ship was so ancient that we could get outflown by speeding pelicans!" Daenelia chuckled. A ship like that would be easy to pillage, if they ever came across it. "Oh, he loved things nice and light and fast, Marty. The captain always thought his developments were crazy, but he was always right."
Kanya then looked around surveying the ship intently. "This ship. This ship isn't in perfect repair, though. But nothing that can't easily be fixed. If Marty were here, though, he'd change the sails for sure."
"The sails?" That was a little unexpected.
"Yes. Marty's always said that ships run half on steam and half on wind. But it costs a lot to upgrade steam engines. Dextrocite isn't that cheap either. He said he'd rather put his money into the power of the wind."
Kanya closed her eyes as she felt the cool breeze on her face. She could almost hear Marty, with his deep, clumsy drawl, in the accent of the Old West. "Most a'captains put their money in those darned engines." He had said. "While most them new ones be purty good, they don't come cheap at all. I'd build me-self one of 'em fancy quadruple-tender engines with thin, sturdy pipes for maximum pressure if I could. But I'd've to be a pirate to cover the costs of that, not that I wouldn't mind being one." He then laughed his heavy, hearty laugh. "No, my boy." He always called her 'boy' even when he knew full well she was a girl. "The secret is in the sails. Good duck comes cheaper than the worst engine. And if you cut it right, shape it right, it will breeze you through most anywhere even when you ain't got that much dextrocite. You'll help ol' Marty build his sails, won't you boy? You're nice and quick, not like those other bufoons being lazy on the deck, ain't you? You help ol' Marty build his sails and I'll teach you everything I know about that darned steam engine you love so much."
The memory was interrupted by the Captain's concerned voice. "May I ask what's wrong with my sails?"
"Oh, nothing." Kanya opened her eyes and grinned. "They're just fine as they are. But Marty liked to experiment, and he copied this cut from an Eastern pirate ship he saw once that caught the wind more than anything! Mostly, it was square rigging but had regular fore-and-aft ones too if you needed them. It was..." She traced an outline in the air where the mast was, at loss for words to describe it.
"Aha!" She jumped up excitedly and reached into her dirty burlap knapsack. A small leather-bound note-book was produced and Kanya quickly flipped it open to a page somewhere at the beginning. The captain bent down to see.
The image was slightly blurry and faded, as if the notebook had gotten wet some time ago, but the image was unmistakable. It was a hand-drawn illustration of a large ship with multi-layered Barbary-style riggings.
"Something like this." Kanya said, looking up. "I definitely think you can fit something like it on this ship. The masts are all the right size..."
"Did you draw this?" The drawings were meticulous, and not childlike at all. The ideas behind them showed a great love and understanding of ships, something unexpected in such a small girl, Daenelia thought.
"Is there more? What else do you have?" Daenelia started to review her first impression of this girl. She'd been worried about being a nursemaid to the young girls on board, but she felt there was more maturity to Kanya than she first suspected.
Kanya turned the page. "Here's the steam engine I'd like to build one day. Marty hates it, though. He thinks I'd use too many cogs. I figure I could generate more energy from more cogs, but I guess he's always known better... And this is something he actually liked." On the next page was a sketch of a galleon with a thin, bullet-shaped hull that looked almost continuous with its bowsprit.
"Have you actually made these ships in your drawings before?"
Kanya blushed at her inexperience. "Not the complicated ones, obviously. But I did help completely redo the sails on Good Queen Jane. We even chopped down one of the masts, even when the captain called us crazy... Marty also let me take apart and rebuild the engines when he wanted to improve them. And we built miniature ships..."
The captain was silent and it made Kanya nervous.
"What-what do you think?"
"I think you won't be needing to steal food from my kitchens tomorrow."
Kanya looked up at her with a happy - but guilty - smile.
"On one condition."
"What is that?"
"Get yourself a bath. If McGinty sees you in that state one more time, he'll throw you overboard."