Jaimie hugged her pack close to her chest as an older crew member led her down a narrow hallway lined with even smaller doors, each marked with a small brass number.
"This is your room," The man said gruffly, throwing open one of the doors, marked 29. Inside the room, which was barely wider than the door that opened to it, contained a small bunk and several wooden lockers, locked with a heavy brass padlock. One remained empty, and the man gestured toward it. "You keep your stuff in there," he said. "We sleep in shifts. You'll be sharing this room with 2 others. You'll meet them soon enough, but we keep our noses out of others' business. You'd best be doing the same."
"Yes sir," Jaimie said politely, and the man handed her a brass padlock, identical to the others. Attached to it with some string was a small key. Cutting the string with a small knife, Jaimie pocketed the key and locked the locker.
"When you've finished getting settled, report to the captains cabin. He'll be wanting to see you." The man said, "It's on the top deck, all the way forward. Don't keep him waiting too long."
"Yes sir," Jaimie said again, distracted by the stars moving past the porthole above the bunk. The man mumbled incoherently, and left the cabin and Jaimie was alone. She took a moment to gaze around the room, running a hand through her shorn hair. Outside the porthole, they were already far from any planet, and everything was just lights moving across the sky. Jaimie watched, mesmerized for a few minutes, before coming to her senses and making her way forward, as she'd been told.
She picked her way along the walkways and halls that lined the ship, and marveled at the size of it. One walkway's walls opened out above the massive engine room, and she looked down to see the twin steam engines, bigger than Jaimie had expected, working, with a team of engineers already climbing over them, tightening valves, and adjusting pipes. She grinned as she made her way above them, excited. She couldn't wait to get started.
The captains cabin was in a hallway near the entrance to the upside down cathedral. the hallway that led to it was circular, and the doorway was round. As she stepped up to the door, she noticed that the floor wasn't quite steady, and it moved slightly under her weight. The captain's cabin was built, Jaimie realized, to change position with the ship, and it could even flip upside down.
She looked around for the weights and gears that made it possible, but didn't see anything besides a groove in the floor, separating the flexible with the solid. Raising one hand, she knocked twice on the door.
"It's James Argonath," Jaimie said, "You wanted to see me, Captain?"
"Come on in, and take a seat." The door swung open easily to the sound of the captain's voice. Jaimie stepped into the room, noticing the captain seated at a large table with several charts and maps, with the trade routes between different planets mapped out on them in red. In front of the table, facing the captain was a single armchair, overstuffed, but still somehow graceful. Jaimie sat down on this, perched on the edge like a bird about to take flight.
"How are you liking my humble ship?" The captain drawled casually. Jaimie was somewhat surprised at the question. It was her first day, and her first trip to space. There wasn't much that didn't fascinate her about the ship, and it amazed her that such a a large building as a cathedral couldn't even make up half of the structure she now was part of.
"I haven't seen much of it yet," she said finally. The captain chuckled
The captain chuckled, "Well, be sure to look around," he said. The welcoming committee bit was putting Jaimie on edge, but she held her tongue and let Grave continue. "Now, about what it is we do on this ship..."
Jaimie was confused. What did this ship do that was different than other ships? Still, those engines, so large and powerful. They gave the ship extra speed that wouldn't be necessary unless...
"I'm an engineer, sir," Jaimie began to explain. "You've got powerful engines, more than usual even for a ship this size. This ship is designed for running... or chasing." She added after a pause.
"Indeed it is," Grave looked her in the eyes, meeting her gaze steadily. "I hope you can prove yourself useful...to me." The way he added the "to me" made Jaimies heart pound in fright. What if she wasn't useful? What would they do to her? What would they do if they found out she'd kept her identity a secret? Forcing herself to be calm, she spoke.
"I am an engineer," she repeated. It was what she was good at, and that was useful. "I've never been tested in combat, if that's what you're asking, but if there's a place you want to go, I can make sure we get there." Just as long as it was far away, Jaimie added in her head. It was a sales pitch, and she knew it.
"I heard you the first time," Grave said impatiently, and Jaimie subsided, her shoulders slumping. "But do you know what is more useful than any skill?"
Jaimie looked up at the captain, confused again. All her life, she'd been taught that what matters is what you can do, not who you are. Her father had drilled it into her head countless times.
"No sir," she said, realizing he was waiting for an answer. Grave leaned on the table, looking at her intently.
"Trust," he said, and straightened up again.
"I... see..." Jaimie said, she didn't but, she supposed she'd find out soon.
"Good," Grave said. "Now, if you would be so kind, what are your reasons for joining my crew?"
Jaimie stared at him. She'd wanted to get off her planet, away from her life in the shop. She'd seen his ship, and it was so unusual, she went for it, on a whim really. There had not been much reason.
"I wanted to get off-planet and explore space, captain," Jaimie said after a moment's thought.
"I see," Grave said. "Shall I be blunt?"
Jaimie didn't answer. He was the captain, and he could be blunt if he wanted to. Why he was asking her was beyond her understanding.
"Simply put," Grave began, "we are privateers. We target wealthy ships to... appropriate our wealth. We do not target those who can't replenish their wealth, however, so we may have a reliable source..." Jaimie blinked, but kept her face carefully neutral. She didn't really believe the 'honor among thieves' quip, and there was no way to be sure a ship could 'replenish its wealth' but she let the man continue without a word as he stood up from the desk to come around to her side.
"If you wish to leave, you may," the captain said. "I assure your safety, but, I will have to... take away the last few days of your life."
Jaimie's eyes widened in fear, and then she realized that he had meant erasing her memories. She stared straight ahead, not looking at him as she replied. "I signed onto this, captain. I'd like to stay." Privateers or pirates, or anything, Jaimie had no wish to go back home, and to forget even stepping aboard the Cathedral would be the worst thing she could think of.
Out of a coat pocket, Grave pulled out a pistol, a finely crafted piece inlaid with moonstone and some kind of dark wood. He handed it to Jaimie. "Here, consider this your welcoming gift. I do expect great things from you."
Jaimie accepted the gun with some reserve. She'd never spent much time around guns, though she understood the mechanics of them. She placed it in her own coat pocket and nodded.
"Thank you, sir." She said, standing and heading for the door.
"Report to the engine room for your first shift at 1700 hours," Grave replied. "That will give you a couple hours to sleep first. Be ready, its going to be a long night." With those final words, Jaimie found herself back outside of the office, staring at a metal door, which had slammed shut in her face.