Jaimie was getting used to sharing a bunk with two other people. Mumbling a greeting to one of them, a thin, reedy man who worked in the kitchens, as he stumbled into the bed she had just vacated, she took her toolkit from the locker and made her way to her post in the engine room. In space, it was always night, or always day. Jaimie was quickly losing track of the time, it was just one shift on, two shifts off. Sleep when you can, where you can. Despite that, Jaimie was having the time of her life. She was going to new places, seeing new things.
The people she knew best were on her team in Engineering. Adam, Markus, and Frieda. As she arrived in Engineering, Adam shoved a scone into her hand.
“James Argonath, you missed breakfast again. Eat.” He said, wiping his hands on a cloth and picking up a large wrench again. Jaimie obediently wolfed down the scone, which stuck in her throat without something to wash it down with.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Markus said.
“You two were on the boarding party two shifts ago, weren’t you?” Jaimie asked, changing the subject and digging a small magnifying glass out of her kit.
“Attacking the Noctus,” Adam said, tightening a bolt, “Yeah, we were there. As little bloodshed as possible. I don’t know what the captain was planning on getting out of them if we weren’t gonna do any damage.”
“Did anyone see what the point of the mission was?” Jaimie asked.
“First mate, Valasia got some maps,” Markus said. He’d been with her team on the Noctus. “We got some plunder as well, I got these knives.” He held up one of a pair of gleaming blades, inlaid with an alloy Jaimie had never seen before. Her thoughts drifted back to the mother-of-pearl pistols she kept in her locker. Weapons were prized aboard the Cathedral. Adam jokingly reached for the knife in Markus’ hand, but Markus quickly sheathed it.
“Get your own plunder, Adam. Don’t be messing with mine.”
Adam withdrew, grinning from ear to ear. “Aw, I know you’d do the same to me,” he said. “What’s the harm?”
Frieda had her ear to the speaking tube that led to Navigation.
“Nav says we need to give more speed, and the ship is pulling to starboard. We need to make sure the port side engine is functioning properly.
“On it!” Jaimie leapt up and ran towards the mass of pipes and boilers that marked the port side engine, Frieda, right behind. The two of them, being the smallest on the team, were often in charge of climbing inside the great boiler tanks and cleaning them between shifts. In and out as quickly as possible before they filled with scalding water again. Markus worked the bellows with Adam, they were both big and strong, broad shouldered and heavily muscled. They were rough, but protective of the smaller team members. Jaimie pulled on thick gloves from her kit, tossing Frieda a pair as well, and they climbed the pipes nimbly, checking every joint for leaks, and every pressure gauge for the optimum setting. Steam shot from a joint right next to Jamie’s right hand, and she tightened it quickly.
“Careful,” Frieda cautioned. “The last boy to work your position got a face full of steam from the pipes. He was never so handsome again. I wouldn’t want to see the same thing happen to you.”
Jaimie blushed but kept climbing, racing Frieda to the top, almost directly above the great bellows that stoked the fire. Below them, the whole of engineering was a bustle of activity, like bees in a hive. Smaller engineers like Jaimie and Frieda climbed the engines, while bigger ones like Markus and Adam worked on the floor, pumping the bellows and refueling the fires. The whole room gleamed with copper and red heat from the fire.
“Were you part of the boarding party?” Frieda asked.
“No, I stayed on the ship,” Jaimie replied.
“I wasn’t needed, and I’m not really that interested in plunder.”
Frieda laughed, “and you signed onto a pirate ship?”
“Well… I guess so,” Jaimie said, shrugging. “It was more of a first come, first served basis.”
“So you would have signed onto any old ship?”
“If it got me off the planet, yeah, pretty much,” Jaimie said, beginning the climb back down to the ground. She didn’t look to see if Frieda was following before heading back to the starboard side engine to double check everything again. Meanwhile, orders were shouted and more fuel was added, pushing the ship to even greater speed.
Where are we going in such a hurry? Jaimie wondered as she got back to work.