Mission: Chapter 6: Desperate Times
"We're just about shipshape and ready to go, captain" Erm reported to Captain Bradley. Daenelia laid her hands on her hips and looked up at the Steamhawke. Ropes were being pulled up, the last of the supplies were being pushed up the gangplank, and a small crowd of people were gathering at the docks. Ships came and went all the time at Seaport of course, but when you are docked at an island with a large population of sailors you are guaranteed to find a lot of sky ship admirers as well. The sight of a ship taking flight was a thing of beauty. There were also a fair few expressions of resentment among the onlookers - some people were happy to see the Steamhawke leave Seaport after the recent events.
A grey-haired man emerged from the crowd and strode up to Daenelia. He walked with pride in his step, but also a slight limp that he kept under control with a walking stick. He was wearing strong leather boots and a plain naval longcoat. As he approached Daenelia she judged him to be about fifteen years older than her, but there was a youthful twinkle in his eye and when he noticed that he had her attention, a warm smile on his bearded face appeared. "Is this fine carico yours by any chance?" he asked in a Brittish accent while pointing his walking stick in Steamhawke's direction. Daenelia smiled and replied "Yes, that's right. I'm Captain Bradley and this is the Steamhawke". "It's a pleasure to meet you, captain" smiled the man as he gave a salute. "And if you answer yes to my next question as well, you'll make me a very happy man. Are you sailing to the West?"
"Yes, we'll be taking to the skies within the hour." The man's smile turned into a broad grin as he clasped Daenelia's hand and shook it with plenty of energy. "Holland Jefferson Junior, Commander, ex-Brittish navy!" he announced loudly. "Don't worry captain, the crown lost my loyalty years ago, and people like you... free spirits I mean... have nothing to fear from me. In fact I would very much like to join you on your voyage. It's been years since I last saw the Old West and I have a special affection for the place. The Jefferson family moved to Brittania from the West after the coal rush was over, and I always like to get back to my roots."
Daenelia liked Holland immediately, but she worried about how much weight the man was putting on his walking stick. "Are you sure you're up for a long trip at sky, Jefferson?" "Hmm? Oh, you mean the leg. It's an old war wound, but don't you worry, captain, the minute we're in the air the blood will start pumping again. I always feel more myself when I'm aboard a ship. Maybe I won't be up carrying crates around, but I remember how to tie a rope and fire a pistol. And I'll have plenty of sailing advice for the younger members of your crew."
That settled it. Too many of the Steamhawke's crew were inexperienced, and having somebody like Jefferson on the ship could do wonders. "Welcome aboard, Commander" smiled Daenelia. Holland laughed in delight and couldn't decide between shaking the captain's hand or saluting her. In the end he did both at once, and nearly lost hold of his walking stick. Jefferson walked off to get his travelling gear, a spring in his step, and Daenelia found herself looking forward to the long voyage ahead.
"Ahoy, are you taking on any more passengers?" came a voice from behind Daenelia. It was a male Western accent, but not one of the common dialects that Daenelia was used to hearing. This man spoke with a clipped upper class accent, pegging him as a resident of one of the richer coastal cities. He was young, but wearing a handlebar moustache and a smart white shirt with black waistcoat. On his arm was a young woman who was equally well dressed, in a lacy white dress and large floppy hat. She gave a high-pitched giggle as the man shouldered his way through the crowd, dragging her behind him. Daenelia opened her mouth but the man interjected before she had the chance to say anything. "Remington Perry the Third, and this little lady is my new wife Bridget. We're heading off on our honeymoon." The girl giggled and stroked her gloved hand across the man's face. They gazed into each other's eyes and Bridget nearly threw herself at her husband. "This isn't a passenger ship." barked Daenelia, cutting off the romance before it could continue.
"I know that!" sniffed Remington, "Do you think we'd travel to a cesspool like Seaport if we were looking for luxury? No no, we want one of those themed voyages. They're all the rage now, don't you know?" "Oh Darling!" cried Bridget, "Can you imagine travelling back home in a real pirate ship? It's just so... enchanting!" She was looking up at the Steamhawke with tears in her eyes. Daenelia grit her teeth, and fingered the pistol at her side. "Here's your deposit" said Remington with a wicked smile on his face. He shook a silver purse into the captain's hand, and out rolled half a dozen different kinds of gems, each more valuable than the last. "There's ten times more for you if you get us back to Columbus City alive and well."
The captain's eyes grew wide, and she pushed aside the annoyance that she felt for the newlyweds. This deal alone made it worth travelling to the Old West, so she decided to accept it. "I accept the deal" she said. "You can stay in one of our cabins. The cramped conditions will provide the authentic sky sailing experience. My crew will treat you with every respect." Images of trying to explain to her crew that there would be two more rich civilians coming aboard flashed through Daenelia's mind, but she smiled through her misgivings. "Of course they will" grinned Remington sarcastically, "I've heard how badly mannered some of these dogs can be." Bridget grabbed his arm with worry, but he reassured her. "Don't you worry my dear, if one of those brutes tries to lay a hand on you, he'll get what for!" He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and boxed the air while making grunting noises. "Oh, Remy!" squealed Bridget in delight, and Daenelia buried her face in her palm.
Daenelia didn't know if she was still looking forward to this trip, but in any case it was time to set sail.