Hank stepped aboard the bridge of the S.S. Holdsworth and took a very brief moment to admire his crewmen as they went about making the final preparations to get underway. Their voyage from Ghana to Lisbon was not going to be a long one; at least not longer than what they were used to. Based on their average speed, it would take them just under a week. This was about half the time a regular cargo ship would take, but the Holdsworth's engines were modified to be able to achieve double the maximum speed, and maintain double the cruising speed, of the average cargo ship in her class. Because of the growing lack of oil in the world, her engine had been retrofitted with one from a nuclear aircraft carrier. Unfortunately, such a setup meant frequent issues.
Hank walked over to Lena, who manned the helm. She was his first mate, but also the best helmsman aboard. It must have been her experience as a pilot that supplemented her ability to steer a ship. Either that, or she was simply a natural. Hank was proud of her either way. To her, he asked, “We ready to set sail, first mate?”
“We're making the last checks,” she answered.
“Last checks, last checks,” Philip, their bright green parrot whistled from the back of the room.
“Hey, Philip,” Hank walked over to the bird. “How are you today, my feathery friend?”
“Screw you,” the bird replied.
“Hey! Watch how you address your captain!”
“Mutiny!” the bird cried.
“Your bird is trying to start a mutiny,” Hank said to Lena. “Might have to throw him overboard.”
“You know he can fly, right?”
“We'll tie him down... or something.”
“Philip, you oughtta respect your captain.”
“I love you,” Philip whistled.
Hank drew a smug expression, “Well, that's better, Phi-”
“Not you, the wench!”
“I think you've been had, Hank,” Lena laughed.
“We'll see if he's still a smart ass when I turn him into chicken nuggets.”
“Eggs over easy!” Philip said.
“Now you aren't making any sense,” Hank rolled his eyes.
“Now you aren't making any sense,” Philip repeated.
“My God,” Hank sighed. “This bird is relentless.”
“At your service,” Philip whistled.
Lena's radio came to life, “Engines are all set and ready to go. Just hit the throttle and we'll be gone.”
She answered, “Good work, Caleb.” Lena turned to Hank and asked, “Permission to get underway, skipper?”
“You know I hate it when you call me that.”
Hank again rolled his eyes, “Permission granted, Lena.”
She picked up the radio again, “Raise anchor and let's prepare to get going!”
A flood of “Aye, aye's” responded.
With a proud, captainly smile, Hank gave the order, “Bring us to cruising speed, Lena.” He came to his wife and kissed her lightly on the cheek. “Good work.”
Nightly on the Holdsworth, many of the crew would convene on the deck and relax together. Sometimes it was simply lounging around in lawn chairs, other times it was a bit more lively. This, seeing as it was the end of another trip to Ghana, was one of the latter. Under the starred sky, the crew of the S.S Holdsworth celebrated the day.
One of the traditions was the beer. About twenty years back, they had managed to get their hands on a brewery and, ever since, the Holdsworth brewed their own grog. Over the years, the classic Holdsworth recipe had improved to the point of legend. Every single port they arrived at would have someone or another wanting to buy a case or two. Of course, they would oblige with trade. It turned out that alcohol, since becoming a rarity at the end of times, was quite the commodity. After the first few weeks of drinking, Captain Mitchell grew tired of his crew becoming unreliable with drunkenness. So, he instituted a limit on four beers per crewman a week. Almost without fail, they would save their beer for nights like these.
The next tradition, one observed more lightly than the beer, was music. One of the engineers, James Montgomery Doohan Scott, was well-versed in the art of guitar playing. And there was Lena, who played the violin. Together, they played at these nightly events and kept things lively. There were, however, two funerals where the duo played a more somber repertoire. Occasionally, the sadder pieces came out during the night, but most preferred to keep things cheerful. Their favorite selections were Irish folk pieces, particularly Molly Saint George. Whiskey in the Jar and Britches Full of Stitches were known to appear as well. Original compositions and other pieces showed themselves in their sets, but not in the frequency of those three.
Liam sat down in one of the lawn chairs with his foot propped up. He wished that he could get up and mingle, but that was simply out of the question. Dr. Lorentz stood beside him remaining ever vigilant. Liam said to the doc, “Look, go have fun. I'll stay put.”
“Sure you will.”
Lorentz raised his eyebrows, “Sadly, I can't take your word for it.”
“I swear it!”
“No sense, arguing, Liam.”
Liam sighed and resigned himself to having the good doctor constantly at his back. Liam had no problem sitting in his chair, but he hated being constantly monitored. To him, the worst feeling in the world was having someone looking over his shoulder as he worked... or did much of anything. This was no exception. Dr. Lorentz was pesky as is, but to have him an unwavering eye? Nothing worse, especially during one of these nights. Doc would not even let him have a beer.
Emma, on the other hand, kept herself out and about. As her mother and Mister Scott played on, she mingled amongst the crew. Normally, she would dance, but her ankle kept her from being at her liveliest. Besides herself ad Lena, there were only four other females onboard. The crew knew, however, that Emma was completely off-limits and that touching her would mean walking the plank. Hank actually meant that. Twice before, crewmen were forced to endure that old, classical execution. Still, Hank reserved that only for the most heinous of crimes. The first charge was for mutiny, the second was for murder.
Emma came over to her brother and asked, “You having fun?”
“What's it look like to you?”
“Oh, it's not all bad,” Emma tried to keep a cheery demeanor. “You've got Dr. Lorentz to keep you company.”
“Yeah,” Liam rolled his eyes, hoping Dr. Lorentz would not see. The doctor would be bad to have for an enemy.
“Hey, doc, take the night off,” Emma said firmly.
“Oh, I really should stay and take care of your-”
“I'll take care of him, you go relax.”
“Oh, it's not a prob-”
“I insist,” Emma put things in much more blunt terms.
“Very well,” Lorentz saw the he was not going to win. Emma's stubbornness was unmatched, even by her parents. “You keep him grounded, though.”
“Don't worry about it,” Emma let out a false friendly smile as he walked away.
“Thanks,” Liam said. “I mean that.”
“You wanna bail?”
“You heard me.”
“And go where?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“Okay,” Liam grunted as he forced himself up to his feet and put his arm around Emma's shoulder. “Take me somewhere.”
She shook in pain, “I didn't think this through very well.”
“Well, we've both got bum legs.”
“Why don't we just head down to the room and play a hand of cards?”
“Only if it's good ol' fashioned rummy,” Emma said as they walked towards the bridge. She pulled open the heavy steel door.
“Wait! Stop!” Dr. Lorentz cried as he rushed over to the Mitchell siblings.
“Yeah, what?” Emma asked without hiding her frustration. She put special emphasis on every consonant.
“You can't take him! He must be under my care and super-”
“Doc,” Liam interrupted.
“-vision and I must-”
“We'll be fine,” Liam insisted. “We're just gonna play some rummy down in my quarters.”
“Then I should join you.”
At the very same time, the Mitchell siblings exclaimed, “No!”