Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 10 - "Reflection"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

contraband, conflict

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Fantasy,Sci-fi - Published: 2009-11-26 - Updated: 2009-11-26 - 2256 words - Complete

After breakfast, they started searching The Ship Formerly Known As The Rose Marine Queen from stem to stern as planned. The weather stayed threatening, but didn’t actually do anything. Using the timer mode of Shades’ watch, they took turns manning the helm while the others rummaged around the ship, taking inventory.

First on the list was the storage room. Fortunately its contents were securely stowed, so there was little cleanup involved in spite of the explosions that rocked the ship yesterday. Among other things found were more canned food, some diving gear, life jackets and assorted flotation devices, flare, first aid and other emergency kits, fishing nets, and other useful items.

During Justin’s turn at the helm, while Max was digging through the closets, Shades started poking around in search of hidden compartments. There were passages in that log that were rather vague— missing dates and destinations and such— that he was increasingly certain had to do with smuggling. Couldn’t help thinking that, for all the talk about the tourist business, this ship didn’t seem to deal with quite enough clients to stay in the black, combined with the fact that nothing about this vessel was very ideally geared toward ferrying sightseers. It only made him even more confident it was really used to transport illicit items in or out of the States.

So far his attempts to find that well-hidden stash were all unsuccessful. Until the idea came to him to ask Max if he could have a look around his new quarters, which he strongly suspected were also the previous captain’s. As he entered Max’s cabin, he found himself remembering his old locker out of the blue. As a sophomore, he had traded it to Arthur in exchange for various favors, and now he wondered with a detached curiosity just what his friend had been doing with it these past two years. Even after getting burnt-out on football, Arthur entertained a variety of extracurricular activities, so there was probably still plenty of need for extra storage space strategically placed between various classes and clubs. Though now, for perhaps the first time ever, the thought crossed his mind of all the trouble he might have gotten himself into, depending on who he had traded with, and that brought him back to his original purpose.

First, he inspected Max’s closet, finding nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing of note about the small alcove at the head of the bed, either. Shades understood that the best chance of finding such things was to try to find “gaps” in the ship, where space seemed to be missing, and found he wished he had some kind of blueprints…

He was about to go see if there were any among the charts under the helm, when he happened to notice the drawers under the bed. The bed itself took up most of the cabin floor, but lining the front of the bed was a set of drawers. Shades removed the top drawer, surprised yet not so surprised that the rollers didn’t have stops. Setting it on the bed, he pulled out the next drawer, and the one after that. When he was finished, what he had was a panel with three slots in it.

And behind that, in the hollow space under the bed, was his contraband compartment.

“Hey guys! Come here!” Shades called, feeling behind the panels and finding some latches. Just as he unfastened the first one Max appeared, Bandit trying to squeeze past him in the narrow opening, wanting to see what Shades had found in their room. Even as the ship slowed down, he finished undoing the rest of the latches, and by the time he was finished, Justin had also come below to see what was up.

“What is that?” Max asked.

“It’s a smuggling compartment,” Justin told him. Had heard enough about them to know. Perhaps this guy wasn’t as useless as he originally thought.

“No shit, Sherlock,” Shades remarked dryly, “Now let’s see what we’ve got…”

The compartment was just large enough for an average-size person to fit into, so it took a moment for Shades to retrieve all three of the packages contained therein. The smallest was about the size of a shoebox, the next one was a little bigger, and the last one was a heavy steel case with latches on the front. They each brought one of the packages up to the lounge to examine them more closely.

“Now let’s see what this guy was smuggling…” Shades muttered, though he had his own suspicions, and he unlatched and opened the big case first.

Inside was a pair of very familiar-looking assault pistols, and extra room at the top for two or three more. The rest of the case was crammed full of ammunition. At least that explained why the case was so heavy.

“Well,” Shades commented, “at least we should be thankful they didn’t bring the rest of it ashore with them…”

Setting it aside, they opened the middle box.

“What is it?” he heard Justin ask.

“I don’t know,” Max had never seen the light-grey, putty-like material Shades unwrapped, or its like, before.

“Plastic explosive,” Shades remarked. Examining the black wrapper, especially the Eastern European-looking script printed on it in white, wondering just what place was going to be remodeled with this back on Earth. “I think we’ve got enough plastique here to blow this ship out of the water several times over.”

“Oh,” both of them nodded.

Justin swallowed hard at the memory of the entity shooting at them, then replaced the wrapper. Very gently.

Setting it aside just as carefully, Shades then whipped out his pocketknife to cut through all the tape binding the smallest box. As he put away the knife, the box slipped out of this arms, dumping three plastic bags on the floor.

Justin jumped in spite of himself, remembering what was in the last box.

“It looks like sugar,” Max observed, although he somehow doubted it was the white powder was.

“Holy shit! That ain’t sugar, man,” Shades gasped. What he was looking at was thousands of dollars’ worth of trouble. It wasn’t so much that he was surprised by its contents, as it was that he never really expected such a thing to fall into his lap. “This bastard was an all-around merchant of death, wasn’t he…”

“What do you mean?” Max asked, following Shades as he grabbed the bags and went out on deck with them.

“Hey, wait a minute,” Justin pressed him, “If they were smuggling it, that means we can sell it for a lot of money, right?”

“We are not selling this shit, we’re dumping it right now,” Shades told him, his tone leaving no room for negotiation. “It’s poison— it’ll make your teeth fall out. Trust me on this one, Justin, you don’t want anything to do with this. Think of it as a curse. No matter how much people think they like it, it will only bring them suffering. And I won’t be a party to it.

“We may have to do some dubious things to survive, like taking this ship,” he continued moderating his tone somewhat, slicing the baggies open and pouring the poisonous powder overboard, consigning it to the deep as Max and Justin watched him in floored silence, “but this is one line I will not cross. For all I know we may end up being mercenaries or something, but we are not merchants of death. Surely you didn’t fight this Triangle State Authority all these years just so you could become like them, did you?”

“Um, no,” Justin mumbled. “I just didn’t know what it was, that’s all.”

“Sorry,” Shades replied, tossing the baggies away as well. “Kinda lost myself there for a moment. Just trust me, it’s bad business, and we don’t want anything to do with it… I’ll be right back.”

“Really,” Justin told him. “You don’t have to go off like that. I don’t care what you think of me— there are even some things I wouldn’t do for money.”

“Good to know,” Shades replied, wanting to kick himself for making such a blunt assumption, still it was nice to know even the resident mercenary had standards. Deciding that he would tell them about it. Justin, especially, needed to know. Explaining to him that his world also had its share of problems, and about the probable history of the items they just found.

“I guess you just make your world sound so great…”

Max looked on, at first afraid the two of them were going to start arguing anew, and so soon after what at least seemed like a reconciliation.

“I didn’t mean to snap— I guess it was just the sort of thing I was afraid we were gonna find, and it’s something I feel very strongly about.” Shades’ account seemed to have diminished Justin’s enthusiasm, and he wondered if he was more upset at what he found, or that Justin sometimes just seemed to think of mindlessly selling anything he thought would sell, but he made a mental note to keep his cool next time and explain things more fully before jumping down his throat about matters he probably knew nothing about. “I’ll try not to go loose cannon next time.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“What’s done is done,” Max said, taking both of them in as he spoke one of Uncle Angus’ favorite lines on the subject. Fearing there might yet be another dispute, he added. “Let’s just get back to work.”

“If you go off on your own, you can do whatever you want,” Shades said, thinking that perhaps the best way to resolve this was through consensus, “but not on this crew.”

And Shades was pleased to see that Max also backed him up now that he understood what the deal was, nodded his own assent.

“We should all talk and lay down some ground rules,” Shades continued, seeing that even Justin was actually listening, rather than tuning him out, on this one. “I don’t know where we’re going, or what we’ll be doing next any more than you guys, so it might be best decide for ourselves what lines we are and aren’t willing to cross. Agreed?”

Both of them nodded.

Excusing himself again, Shades then went below to wash his hands. Of course, he had been to his share of parties, including a few with college-age folks, had grown accustomed to bottles and six-packs— even the occasional stash— just part of the scene. Still, he had never run into the hard shit before, and found he felt dirty merely handling those bags.

When his hands were clean, he splashed his face a couple times, concluding that perhaps the greatest irony of the Great California Invasion could only be measured by the yardstick of how far people were willing to run from their problems before they finally noticed that they take most of their problems with them no matter where they run to. Not since the lawless days of the Old West, until last year armed robbery was largely unheard of in the Flathead.

And all, it turned out, for another fix.

After seeing that, he no longer wanted to just change the Maximum’s luck by changing its name, he also hoped to change its karma, as well. Back on Earth, it was scum, and he couldn’t help thinking that effected its luck, given the end the last captain came to. He still felt bad for the others, figuring that his last passengers were probably just for maintaining his cover, and though he supposed the guy was just filling one of many prescriptions for modern madness, still it bothered him.

This morning he found a bottle of the same kind of mouth rinse he used to use when he was a kid. A flavor that always brought back memories of the one place he had ever truly called “home”— be-fore Dad disappeared. It was the taste of dreams…

Only now all he could think was, That a man who sells coke to others takes such good care of his own teeth… Come to think of it, he himself was going to have to be more vigilant on that front in this world with no dentists. No fluoridation like back in…


That name just didn’t sound like it belonged anywhere in the Sixth Dimension. Hadn’t even been here a couple months, and already names that once rolled right off his tongue were starting to sound foreign to him.

Shades shook his head, then headed back up. He was still ambivalent about the weapons, but unlike narcotics, he could at least think of worthy causes they could be donated to, such as the liberation of a realm like Justin’s Triangle State. Then again, unlike explosives, guns and ammo could at least be used for self-defense.

Up top, Max and Justin had put away the weapons for now, deciding to take a meal break. The matter of the smuggling compartment thus resolved, they sat down to discuss their principles and positions on various matters over lunch before they set back to work on the rest of their organizing, for there was still much to be done before supper.
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