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   Chapter 2 Black Flower

The Story of the Mimosa By Paul Kater Characters: 10817

Updated: 2018-02-11 12:04


Blokman Rufer was in a good mood. He had received a call from the master shipbuilder that the first viewing of the ship could be done. He had been tempted to take a few people with him (after all it was not every day a man got to see his new boat) but something had urged him to be careful. When he entered the ship yard he knew why. After locating the master shipbuilder, Blokman pointed at the black ship. "It looks kind of small." He put enough disappointment in his voice to lower the price of this boat by at least a thousand credits.

"That is partially because of the colour, sir. Black absorbs a lot of light, so most of the reflection that normally shows the normal size of the vessel is now unseen. That makes it look smaller."

"Partially? What's the other part then?" Blokman felt a few hairs in his neck stand up as he noticed he was pushed into the wrong corner. This was not going well. Also the shipbuilder was not his few-words-self today, which was another bad sign.

"The other part is a secret ingredient in ship building only known to me. I cannot open up about it of course, but imagine the many docking taxes everywhere that you can save when everyone thinks the ship is smaller than it is! I think that would be worth an extra thousand credits. Of course, if you don't agree that's worth the addition I can take it out again." The shipbuilder felt very pleased with this flow of words, the more so as they seemed to have the desired effect on the customer.

"The ship is not finished yet, " Blokman carefully responded. "Shall we first have a closer look?" That would give him time to come up with something to knock at least another two thousand credits off the price. He followed the master shipbuilder into the lift that took them to the ramp that took them to the gangway that took them to the ship. They had to walk the last part, which gave Blokman the first feeble handle on decreasing the agreed price.

As they surveyed the ship, Blokman felt the deck boards fall from under his feet. Not literally, because the actual boards were amazingly sturdy, as was everything about the ship. And exactly that gave him that sinking feeling. So far there was nothing that was not worth the price of the builder, except that walk they had to make over the gangway. He did not bring that up just yet though, in the current state the shipbuilder would find a way to turn that into something good and chase up the price even more.

"We can have a look below deck if you want, " the shipbuilder offered.

Blokman fumbled a bit with his hat. "Yes. We should inspect it all." He had heard the satisfying little click of the micro-camera in his hat which would record every detail of the ship's internals. If worst came to worst, he'd have that information, cancel the order of the ship and see if he could find someone who could do this cheaper, as Blokman himself had the inside information on how to create the ship's drive, something that was shrouded in mystery for most people.

"Follow me." The shipbuilder guided Blokman to the aft of the ship, which simply was the rear end to the customer. There was a rather large building on the deck there which looked odd and out of place. The man opened the huge centre doors which gave view to stately, wide stairs going down into the belly of the vessel. "Careful, the steps are wider than usual."

Blokman wondered why the man stated the obvious. Going down the awkward steps was hard work. "Why are these things so big?"

"They're for the suit, " the shipbuilder lacked explanation.

"The suit..." The unspoken question marks were ever so clear.

"Yes." The shipbuilder grinned. The man had no clue. The suit was going to cost him extra.

At the bottom of the stairs the two men stared into the huge space where complex engines were placed. "This is a danger zone, " the shipbuilder said. "Only skilled people can work here because of the circumstances. Skilled people or maniacs."

Blokman wondered if it was safe to step away from the staircase. The amount of engines in the engine room was staggering, and all the lights blinking on them, the hissing sounds coming from many places as well as the stench and the heat that hit him in the face made his inner person want to turn and run away screaming. Being a gentleman and a trader in illegitimate goods, he could not do this, so he simply nodded and said that he understood exactly why this was a dangerous place before he turned and walked up the odd staircase in as slow a hurried trot as he could manage. The shipbuilder knew he had won. Back on deck, with the door to the engine room closed, the shipbuilder asked if the client was satisfied.

"Yes, it is all looking very good. Just that engine room. Are you certain it is safe to use the ship with something like that?" Blokman did not even feel safe with the staircase and the door between him and that hissing and puffing arrangement of machinery.

"Perfectly safe. I have built many ships and none of them ever had engine trouble, " the shipbuilder said. He was right. Some of his ships had been shot at and exploded because of that, some burnt to a crisp getting to close to fiery places, but so far no one had been able to prove a problem with the engines. "As for the safety in the engine room, there is a provision for that. We can create a special suit for going inside that space. As I alrea

dy said, the stairs are prepared for it." The shipbuilder pulled a device with a display from his shirt pocket and switched it on. "This is it. It's large, can have a man inside and that man, or woman of course, will be perfectly fine while working there."

"I am certain the price of such a device is negotiable, " Blokman said. He wanted to save credits, but safety was hard to be cheap on. This ship was meant to go into the smuggling ring and be one of the best and fastest. That was why he wanted this model, he had heard miracles about it. Many of them overdone of course, but when someone like Barning Hollog bragged that his ship of that model had outrun the law, there had to be something to it. The law was not a force to joke about and Barning was not someone prone to joking.

The shipbuilder nodded. "Of course. I'll make you a good deal as you strike me as a gentleman of taste and dignity. You can get the suit for a thousand - no, nine hundred credits. That is a substantial discount." Usually the suit was part of the entire deal, but the shipbuilder could not let this one pass by.

"That is still a serious amount of credits, " Blokman said and not afraid to show his surprise. "I did not count on that."

"For you... five hundred then?"

Blokman knew the builder was not going lower. The stone-like face was set, so he accepted the offer, knowing that he was being taken for some credits, but it was too late to back out of this deal.

"Very well. We'll work on the suit as of tomorrow then. No one is here for work today, you see."

Blokman saw no one, so he saw. "I hope you allow me a few questions. What is the maximum speed of this ship? I have heard from a friend that this model is very fast, but can you give me an idea of this particular ship?"

The master shipbuilder nodded and did some things with the screen on the small tablet in his hand. "Here you are. Based on these calculations, which are very conservative, this ship will achieve a maximum of nine hundred gorabs per semi-harp." That threw Blokman. He knew that the ship was fast, but this was amazing. "If you want we can install a limiter on the engine, of course. Some people don't like that kind of ship swiftness."

"Oh, no need for that. We're not the scared kind, " Blokman assured the man. "I do wonder how you maintain a layer of breathable air on the deck and in the cabins - which we have not seen yet if I may add."

"We're getting to the cabins, sir, even though they're not finished yet. No one here, you see. The air is kept in place by a special component built into the middle mast up there, the big one. It's connected to one of the machines down there which gives it the power to create a cushioning field that hinders the oxygen molecules from dispersing, even when travelling at high speeds."

Blokman thought that over. "In short and simple you are saying that it works."

"That is what I'm saying."

"Very well. The first tests will be the proof of course." The owner of the ship-under-construction was then taken to one of the doors next to the huge ones on the far deck. This led into a nice long corridor with many doors on either side.

"Excuse me... is this somehow a trick of the light, or a delusion painted by the pattern in the wood against the wall? This corridor seems much longer than the after section of the ship would allow."

The master shipbuilder gazed down the corridor. "Yes. It does, doesn't it? It's the light." In truth he hadn't noticed it before, but keeping this man calm by playing the knowledgeable one was never a bad idea.

They inspected some of the cabins, which were all spacious and had cute little round windows that looked out onto the sea. With the unsettling certainty that the ship was still in the building dock and not in the water, Blokman Rufer asked how this was done. The shipbuilder explained that the portholes were all virtual. "You can't open them, and there is a control here in this screw that allows you to select the kind of sea, harbour or island you prefer. You can also load your own preferred images into the ship, from the bridge where we'll go next."

The bridge was barely worth the name yet. It was a large space with an old chair and a lot of wood shavings on the floor.

"Not quite ready yet, I see." Blokman wondered where the controls would be but saw nothing of the kind.

"Tomorrow, sir. Tomorrow we'll fix it all up. If you can send someone over who will captain the ship, we'll make it to his liking."

"To her liking, please, " Blokman corrected the shipbuilder, "and she'll be here in the morning."

"Very good. Have you thought of a name already? For the ship?"

"A name?"

"Yessir, a good ship has a good name. I was thinking of 'Black Flower' myself, but it is up to you of course."

"Black Flower. Hmm. I thought of Ship One myself. But Black Flower sounds just as good. Why not." Blokman Rufer could really not be bothered by these kinds of insignificant details. "I think I have seen enough though. My captain will be here in the morning. Treat her well. You'll see why."

"Of course, sir." The master shipbuilder took the customer to the gangway that took them to the ramp that took them to the lift that took them to the ground, and from there the client left the ship yard without further help. That was of course easy, as there were plenty of signs to the exit.

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