Winnings and losses
Chapter 8: Pirates and Cowboys
Location: Steamhawke crew deck
The ship's crew deck looked eerily empty, with just a few hammocks hanging unfolded, and one or two chests belonging to mates who had not gotten round to packing their belongings in the wagons waiting outside the ship on the plains. Nate looked around for his new bag, the western style saddle bag that he would be using on the trek to Kanesville. He shook a few of the hammocks until he found the one that contained the bag. He pulled it out and unfolded it. It was empty, as he planned to fill it with food and drink on the day they left. But he liked admiring it, the fine stitching, the decorative work on the cover flaps.
Akito came up behind him and slapped him on the shoulder. "Winters!" he shouted in a jovial tone. Nate looked around surprised. Akito was usually so silent, the type to only speak when needed. A loud laugh preceded the next person to enter the deck from the stairs. Nate sighed. Dottie was drunk again. "Nate," she said as she staggered around, then she giggled uncontrolably as she sagged against the wall separating the washing area from the sleeping area.
Akito had slumped in a hammock. He was humming a tune. "Are you drunk, Dottie?" Nate asked the young woman calmly. "Yeah, well, I am not the only one," she grinned while pointing at Akito.
"Himuro doesn't drink, everyone knows that," Nate said. At the mention of his name Akito sat up. "I am drunk, I really am," he said indignantly. "O'Toole challenged me... and lost." He looked smug at that.
"No you didn't!" Dottie said loudly. "I mean, I didn't. You did. I won." She laughed loudly again. Akito hummed again, and Nate realised it wasn't humming, Akito was laughing. He had just never heard the engineer laugh, at all.
"Well, congratulations," he said as he slung the saddlebag over his shoulder as he had seen some of the Harling Pass cowboys do. Two 'Thank you's followed him as he climbed up the stairs to the gun deck and then the top deck. He shook his head. He really felt someone needed to talk to Dottie abut her drinking habits. It was starting to get embarrasing.
On the crew deck, Akito clumsily climbed out of the hammock and sat down next to Dottie on the floor. "You are a strong woman, O'Toole," he said in a serious tone, lined with alcohol. In response Dottie pinched his arm. "So are you, Himuro," she slurred. Then she sobered a little and shifted uncomfortably.
"You, you can read, can't you?" she said as she padded her pockets for a piece if paper. "And write? Right?" She grinned awkwardly, as she pulled a crumpled letter out of her pocket. "I've... I have had this since Seaport." Akito looked at the paper, smudged and torn. "It was... I can't... You see," she said, but Akito reached out and took the paper from her.
"To ... Dorothea O'Toole," he said as he read the first line. Dottie sat silently next to him, looking at him with big eyes, a slight tremble making her lips move. He paused and explained. "Brittish is not my first language," he admitted. "But I can read most of it." He held the letter with two hands and concentrated.
"Dear Ms. O'Toole, it is with great sorrow that I have to inform you that your father has passed away. Your mother has asked me to write to you in hopes that this letter will reach you at some time in the future. Your mother expressly asks you not to come home, as she has no wish to see you." Akito folded the letter, he didn't want to read more of what was written in it. Dottie's eyes were shiny with tears. "There is something about an account your father wishes you to have access to." He added that much.
"Fat lot of good that's going to do me," Dottie said. "I will be arrested when I set foot in Brittania." She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve. Akito nodded. The buzz from the alcohol drifted away, but he still felt quite detached to what was going on. When Dottie leaned against his shoulder, he lifted his arm to put it around her. He realised he missed his mother. He tried to remember her face, her voice... even her name, but that was still in the mists of his mind. He felt an anger rise at a mother casting her child out so coldly. He squeezed Dottie's shoulder.
"It will be alright," he said. Dottie snored into his chest.