Rather than take time to break down, mourn, or waste time at all, Liam went straight to the control room and took charge. He knew that his mother and sister would be in no state to give orders and likely would not want to. That left Liam to do the hard job.
He stepped through the door to find a handful of crewmen at work. João Santos followed Liam in and, without question, stood behind the helm wheel. He asked, “What is our course?”
Liam took position at the table in the middle of the room and eyed all of the notes and charts upon it. He recognized his father's messy handwriting, but also his relentless work. Hank did everything to keep the ship running and often Liam did not appreciate this work. As he scanned over the loose pages, he realized just how much the ship needed him. And then it hit Liam that someone would have to pick up the slack.
“Liam?” João Santos asked again. “What is our heading?”
“Huh?” Liam snapped out his daze. “Oh, um, take us due east.”
“Just east, João,” Liam sighed. “We don't have a heading just yet. Just take us due east.”
“Aye, aye,” Santos replied as he worked his controls. “I'm taking us out at half-speed, is that good?”
“Sounds great,” Liam told him. “Sounds great.”
In a matter of seconds, the Holdsworth came about and began its voyage. The movement felt good to Liam, it felt as though they moved forward and onward. He sighed in relief that they kept going. For a time, it felt as if there was no more pressing on, that everything stopped and that life could never be the same. But then it hit Liam that it truly could never be the same. Life, as he knew it, was over. He, without thought, stepped backwards until he hit the wall. It startled him.
“Are you alright, Liam?” Santos asked.
“Yeah,” Liam took a deep breath. “I'm okay.”
A gunshot rang out from the deck below. One of the crewmen, Liam was unsure which, exclaimed, “The hell!”
Liam shook his head and drew his pistol. “I'll go check it out.”
“I am coming with you,” Santos said.
The pair rushed outside as more shots followed. The reports were rapid, disorganized, and sounded roughly the same. Liam concluded that there likely was not a fight going on, but that someone was popping off shots without reason. Hank had laid down rules against unsolicited gunfire. Liam did not have to think twice about enforcing his father's law. The shots paused when Liam and Santos made it the bottom of the stairs.
Liam saw immediately the gunfire's origin. Emma stood at the edge of the ship firing off into the sea. She held a shotgun. She pulled the trigger and nothing happened. With a snarl she threw it aside and drew her pistol. All sense of technique vanished when she started shooting. She fired with a single hand, she did not aim, and she squeezed the trigger as rapidly as possible. Within seconds, her magazine was expended and her slide locked.
“Emma!” Liam shouted. “What are you doing?!”
Emma looked at Liam and only shook her head. In her eyes, he saw hatred and tears. She slipped in a fresh clip and released the slide. It took her less than five seconds to pump out the dozen rounds.
“Emma!” Liam called again. “Stop it!”
“Why?” Emma scoffed as she reached into her vest for another magazine. “What does it matter?”
“Emma, don't,” Liam warned.
She ignored him and put in another magazine. The slide shot forward off the lock and she pointed it out to the ocean. Just as her finger was ready to squeeze, a firm hand wrapped around her wrist and jerked it upward. “Hey!” Emma exclaimed. “Let go!”
“Give me the gun,” Liam said sternly.
She fought his grip, but it was to no avail. “Liam, let go!”
Liam handed his own pistol to João Santos. He took Emma's gun into that hand and told her, “Emma, give me the gun.”
“Let go, Emma. Let go.”
“Liam, I-” Her shoulders slumped as she relaxed her grip. He took the pistol from her and let go of her wrist. Their eyes locked. She stammered, “I don't- I don't know what I was-”
“It's okay.” Liam put his hand on his sister's shoulder. She looked down at the deck, crying. Liam pulled her in and wrapped his arms around her tightly. Her head sunk into his shoulder. He said again, “It's okay.”
“What the bloody hell is going on?!” An English accent demanded. It was Isadora.
“Everything's alright,” Liam said quietly. Truth be told, he did not believe it. He said it anyway.
Isadora took a deep breath and said, “Liam, your mother is down in her room. She wanted you to know that the ship is yours.”
Liam was not surprised, but it certainly was a burden he did not want. There was no time to dwell on that though. He asked, “Is she alright?”
“No,” Isadora said bluntly. “And I shouldn't have left her alone. I'll go back.”
Before Isadora could turn around, Emma stopped her, “No, wait. I'll go.”
Isadora nodded. “Good. You'll do more good for her than I will.” Emma left. Liam sighed and stepped closer to the railing. He looked down at the ocean and the horizon and felt the burden of the whole world upon his shoulders. Before his thought overtook him, Isadora asked, “Is there a place I can settle in?”
“Yeah,” Liam replied. “Yeah, there's a couple of guest rooms on the second deck. Just find an empty room and settle in. It's yours. And if you need anything at all, just find a crewman and they'll help you out.”
“Thank you,” Isadora turned to leave. But she stopped and said, “Liam. You can do this. Your father and your mother, and the crew of this ship all believe it. I do too. You need to believe it too.”
“Okay,” Liam nodded. “Okay, I won't let them down.”
“Believe it, Liam. It's true.”