Tour of the Ship
Chapter 1: The Sea and the Port
It was late morning. A few clouds were gathering in the otherwise bright sky, their shadows playing over the Steamhawke as it sat docked at the port.
After his little chat with the captain, Brem had been asked to wait a few moments, it wasn't something he wanted to do when his new engine was so close but out of respect he did. It wasn't long before more people started to gather around him, he guessed other potential pirates.
The metal ball he had been playing with had changed slightly, it now had several depressions in its surface. To Brems mind it was one step closer to opening. Inside there had to be some sort of device to do something, what it was for though would be fun for him to find out.
About two dozen people were standing on the deck of the skyship, some of them chatting in crowds, with the rest standing alone or in pairs. Most of them were strangers to each other, and all of them had heard the news of a pirate captain looking for a crew. Not all of the strangers were human. There was an elphin couple looking nervously at the others, and a figure wearing a pitch black hooded cloak that could have been anything.
Chops McGinty, wearing an oversized pirate hat, kicked open the door of the captain's quarters and hobbled out onto the deck.
"All of you'se!" the old man croaked. "The Cap'm is otherwise engaged. I'll be givim' ye the look around"
He limped along the suddenly-silenced crowd and squinted at each of the disapprovingly. "What a sorry lot you are" he muttered. "You'se got any questioms before the grand tour?"
Laudine stared at the rest of the crowd in amazement, and a little fear. From what she could see, Laudine was the youngest of the people on board. She'd spoken to the captain earlier, and had run over to the ship as soon as possible with the little amount of things she could carry with her. And now she was starting to wonder if she should have waited to join, since every moment the ship was still in port was another moment her mother had to look for her.
The young girl jumped in surprise when McGinty burst through the door. All she could do was stare at him with wide eyes as he limped over and observed them, and wonder what someone as old as this man was doing on a ship. At first, he had her scared even worse than before with the way he was treating them. What had anybody there done to piss this man off so much?
It wasn't long before her fear was replaced by a bit of anger. Laudine didn't like feeling like she was being unjustly attacked, and she certainly didn't appreciate being referred to as part of a 'sorry lot.' Her wide-eyed expression turned into a slight glare, which she was only trying to hold back out of respect for someone who she guessed had more authority than her.
So far, she'd been silent out of nervousness thanks to the adventure she was about to go on. Now, though, she finally broke that silence to demand, "Who are you, exactly?" putting emphasis on the 'you'. He wasn't intimidating her, she tried to convince herself, and she was going to do her best to make everyone believe the same thing.
"That man's name is Chops McGinty" rasped a voice behind Laudine. "The saltiest sea-dog of them all". She jumped a little, and tried to hide it. There was a man standing right beside her, either in his thirties or fourties although it was hard to tell. He was dark haired with most of it tied back in a greasy pony tail. His eyes were piercing and bloodshot. The smell of alcohol was on his breath. The dark-haired man was wearing a tattered and extremely faded British navy uniform.
He scratched his rectangular, stubbled chin and gave Laudine a wicked grin. "Don't worry about old Chops, girl. They say he was born half mad and senile. He may have a wild stare but he's harmless, mostly". He laughed out loud at the sight of old man McGinty tripping over a pile of rags in the middle of the deck, which turned out to a filth-covered young girl. She woke up with a start.
The dirty girl scrambled slightly backwards, still drowsy from her slumber and still not quite remembering where she was. This movement from her revealed that her dirty clothes had left a girl-sized stain where she had been sleeping. Seeing this, McGinty's growled furiously, if the old man could growl at all. He tried to lunge at Kanya - that big, creeping, filthy ball of dust that threatened his immaculate deck - but she was too quick for him and he fell over again.
The frightened Kanya sprang to her feet and ran off to hide behind a couple of barrels on the deck, leaving yet another trail of ash on McGinty's precious deck.
Not too far away from miss Fortescue and the dark-haired stranger, Brem was glaring at McGinty trying to pick himself up off the floor of the deck. He had asked something and then a slip of a girl asked something else, he didn't think it concerned him so he just watched for a moment. The man to his eyes looked very worn, either that or old. There was only one thing Brem wanted to know, "Wheres the engine?"
"We'll get to that in a moment" replied McGinty.
A moment later the crowd of would-be pirates were standing in the engine room of the Steamhawke. Chops McGinty had a moudly book in his hands and he was squinting to read it. The only light came from the alchemical glow lamp hanging from the ceiling, which would be barely enough to read by even if McGinty wasn't half blind. "This here's the furnace" he said assuredly, while pointing at the boiler. "Coal is shoveled im to produce heat, an them the water in the boiler heats up good." McGinty realised he was already pointing at the boiler, so he quickly pointed at the furnace and back to the boiler again. "From there, the steam is directimacated through the steam... cir-kits"
Kanya, who had followed the crowd in while taking care not to catch McGinty's attention, gave a gasp of excitement as she took a peek at the engines from behind a tall man.
"The steam circuits" began a voice from within the crowds, "are opened and closed by adjusting the pressure valves." Brem stepped fowards with a glint in his single visible eye. This was his territory. "This is an articulated locomotive engine so there are individual valves for each of the pistons." Brem motioned to the giant pistons above everybody's heads. "It makes things quite complex to operate, but with this kind of engine you can rapidly adjust propellor speed. I can tell with a single glance that the Steamhawke is an agile ship. She can buck like a wild animal" he finished with a smile.
Chops McGinty muttered and pushed his way through the crowd. "We're going back up top" he snapped, and led everyone out of the engine room. Before he left though, Brem took one last look around and muttered "Yes, we'll work well together". Once they were outside, away from the smell of coal and the metal walls, McGinty pushed close the thick metal hatch. He strained at the wheeled locking mechanism until a series of cogs locked into place. The engine room was sealed off. Old man McGinty looked like he was going to faint, but somehow the would-be pirates found themselves following him up the ladder one by one.
The crowd climbed up through the upper deck, where the living quarters were situated, and then through the gun deck. Some of the men and women were disappointed at only getting a glance at the Steamhawke's arsenal, but McGinty was having none of it. He was tired and cranky and wanted to get this "tour" over with as soon as possible.
"Very good" squawked McGinty once everyone was back in daylight. "Now dowm to business. You all know that the Cap'm's searchin' for a new crew. You've all 'ad a look at the ship. Any of you'se who wants to hear Cap'm Bradley's offer, meet her tomorrow at Barnacle's Bar dowm the road. Noon sharp!" he barked. "Now get the hell off the ship!"