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   Chapter 10 Sailing

Bactine By Paul Kater Characters: 19081

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:03


Sailing was a new experience for Daniel. He had never been out on the water before, and to be on such an enormous ship was totally new for him as well. As there was not much for him to do, he had conferred with Ulaman about helping the crew with chores. Ulaman was glad that Daniel offered that. Every little bit helped, after all, and there were always small things that were left undone because of the large amount of big things that needed doing.

Daniel learnt a lot about the ship and the way of sailing. He even was allowed, under supervision of Stroro, to climb all the way up in the rigging. Supervision of Stroro also meant that Daniel had to use safety-hooks to secure himself. He was not allowed, Stroro said, to fall down on the deck and kill himself, because that would make a mess. As Daniel proposed to just fall in the water instead, Stroro advised against that. "You'll fall to your death just as easily from this height. You don't seem to know how hard water is." The former soldier did not know, indeed, but he trusted Stroro's words. So he used the hooks.

They had been at sea for a few days already, when Darigyn asked Daniel if he could help. Darigyn was a big strong man, bald, covered in tattoos and skin like weathered leather. "There's some rigging that needs fixing, maybe you want to try, " the sailor said. Daniel was game. Everything was new.

The two sat in the shade of one of the masts and Daniel tried to do what Darigyn did. It looked simple but was quite a tricky task.

"What is this material?" Daniel asked. The ropes that made the rigging was no ordinary rope. He had seen and felt that.

"This is Aramid, " Darigyn explained. "That is also what the sails are made of. Very strong, durable. Hard to break."

"And hard to fix when it's broken, " Daniel added.

Darigyn nodded as his hands moved on to the next piece that needed patching up.

"And what stuff is the boat made of? I have read that old Earth clippers were made of wood, but this is no wood. And it's not metal either."

"Ship. Not boat. The Pricosine is a ship. Okay?"

Oops. "Okay. What stuff is this ship made of, then?" Daniel had no idea that the difference between boats and ships was so sensitive with the people that worked on them.

Darigyn nodded. "It's called Polychlon. Fake wood, some people say. Wood and metal do not live long in this water. Polychlon does."

"Wood and metal?" Daniel frowned. "Why's that?" It now occurred to him that he had not seen any metal on the ship, indeed.

Darigyn shrugged, which meant that a lot of body mass was moving. "I don't know, I just sail here. It's something with chemistry in the water and things like that."

Daniel could not blame the sailor for that. It was not his job to know and explain about chemistry. Later that day he repaired to the bridge and found Ulaman there, staring at the maps of the sea strait they were traversing.

"Hello, Daniel, " Ulaman said, looking up for a moment. "How was the repair work?"

"Harder than I had expected, " Daniel admitted. "But we got a good deal done. Darigyn put a claim on me for the next time."

Lindris, at the steering wheel, laughed. "You have a friend for life, Daniel."

"How are your hands?" the captain asked.

"No problem, they're fine." Daniel told Ulaman about the surgery he'd had.

"Oh. I see. You're different then. Well, that's fine. We have Bilk also, and he's fine. We're all fine, " the captain said. He reached for the tube and yelled that the crew should set a gaff rigged sail on masts two, three and six, working sail on the seven and eight, and no sail on the rest. "We're going too fast."

Daniel stared at the paper. He was not new to navigational maps and understood most of what he saw, except for where Ulaman had added some notes by hand. "Too fast for what? Isn't getting there fast good?"

The captain looked at him and laughed. "Almost correct, landlubber. First objective however is to get there. Look here." The big finger pointed at a mark the captain had drawn himself just before. "This is where we are." The finger moved and ended on top of a blotch. "That is where we are going. Did you notice something special?"

"You moved your finger between these two blotches."

"Correct. These blotches are island. Rocks. There is a sandbank between them, and if we hit that with the low tide, we get stuck, damage the ship and we're buggered up." Ulaman tapped the mark that was the Pricosine. "We're making too much speed, so we would hit the sandbank on the last bit of low tide. What we have to do is slow down enough so we pass through the islands a few hours later. That's all."

Daniel nodded. It made a lot of sense, once you knew what to look for. He had another look at the map. "Ah, right. I see why you're not taking the detour around the islands." He had seen the array of dots that lay around both islands, they probably meant spikes that were sticking up. No way the Pricosine could pass through that without tearing up the hull.

"Daniel Zacharias, you amaze me. You may make a decent sailor yet if you stay on board for a few years." Ulaman laughed, pulled open a drawer from the table and brought out two glasses and a bottle with something blue. He poured two healthy dollops and handed a glass to Daniel. "I like you, Daniel Zacharias!"

They threw the booze back. Ulaman wiped his mouth. Daniel was not sure if he should try to make it outside before exploding. The fire died away fast though. Slowly Daniel put the glass down.

"Damn the water ghost, " Ulaman said, "you drank it all?"

Daniel nodded, not sure if his vocal chords had survived the ordeal. "Looks like it, " he tried. His voice was still there.

Daniel then told Tomlin about his life and the reason for his deployment to NGC6637-VIII.

Tomlin nodded as he heard about the Bactine surgery. "You always were a better soldier than I was, Daniel. I'm not surprised they patched you up. Already wondered about your strange colour as you came in."

"So why didn't you ask me about it?"

"A gentleman does not ask things like that. He waits until he's told. That is something private, " Tomlin told Daniel.

"Good grief, you've really turned into an old gentleman fart from here!" Daniel laughed.

Tomlin grinned. "It grows on you. It does. I've learnt to appreciate it, Daniel." The man was serious now, Daniel knew.

"I am sure, Tomlin. I did not mean to offend you."

"You never will, old friend." Tomlin raised his glass with what came closest to cognac on this planet. "To a friendship refound and reforged, " he said, "and to many more meetings like this."

They toasted.

The evening flew by. Tomlin was quite unstable on his legs by the time they left the Brostil Faring club. Daniel supported him. Again, the alcohol had no effect on his Bactine body, so he made sure that Tomlin got into a carriage safely and checked that the address his friend put into the vehicle's plate was correct. Tomlin insisted on giving Daniel his address, and after loading that in Daniel's box, the carriage rattled off.

Daniel started his walk back. At times he grinned, recalling some of the stories Tomlin had told him. Daniel was happy for his friend. Tomlin really had become a citizen of this planet. His life was here now.

Tomlin married. Daniel chuckled at the thought. Daddy Tomlin. That made him grin. His grin froze as through a sneaky back-door the image of his brother Malcolm was thrown in. It made his pace slower and it unsettled him.

"No. You are not going to ruin this night's memory, Malcolm, " Daniel whispered and shook off the image, forcing his thoughts back to Tomlin and the things they had done together, when Tomlin had been his partner in active duty.

Somewhere, despite (or perhaps because of) the late hour, he had to wait crossing a street as a line of carriages passed by. The curtains over the windows were drawn. Wondering what this caravan was, Daniel watched as the vehicles went by. He just stood there, staring, seeing nothing, as his mind was drifting off into a void.

A gentle tugging at his sleeve brought him back to the side walk in Skarak. He looked down at the rather scruffy boy that peered up at him.

"You well, Seigner?" the child asked. He had a few smears over his forehead and cheeks.

"Yes. I am well. Thank you."

The boy nodded and smiled. Then he walked away. Daniel wondered why the boy wasn't at home and in bed. "Hello, boy?"

The child stopped and turned. "Seigner?"

"Are you okay?"

"I am, sir, I am. Thank you for asking." In the dim light of the street lanterns, the boy smiled again. "Is that all, sir?"

"That's all." Daniel was tempted to tell the boy to go home, but something held him back. That was something for... fathers.

"Good night, Seigner, " said the boy and then continued on his way.

Daniel crossed the street and went home himself.

He lay on his bed for several hours, but sleep did not come. His thoughts kept running in circles. They wanted to focus on Tomlin and Malcolm and Tomlin and - "Oh, crap..."

Daniel got up, poured a glass of water and stood in front of the window. His eyes were drawn to the now dark shape that was the Pricosine. A few lights were burning aboard the enormous sailing ship. Then the dancing lights on the water behind the boat attracted his attention, and after lingering there for a while he was looking up at the three pink moons that reflected the light from the giant star that was known as NGC6637.

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