Thoughtful - Chapter 13
Set course for Royale
Though the immediate crisis had been averted, and the gaping hole in the side of the Anhinga temporarily patched up, Lady would never leave such a scrap-job on the side of her sub. She wanted proper repairs, the time to do them in, and the right tools. They would also have to dry-dock the sub in order to do the job properly. This now meant two things were unavoidable, and all the signs were pointing them to the only other neutral territory available to a Commander aside from the Arbour. An underworld stronghold called Royale, where they could barter for access to some much needed tech. There was a machine in Royale that would seamlessly and quickly repair the damage to the Anhinga, but getting time to use it was expensive, and though Lady was certain they had something in their stronghold valuable enough to trade for use of it, she also knew who that machine belonged to. It was owned by Calrissian, the Mayor and Lord of Royale. He was a man who liked titles almost as much as he liked his rum.
Lady had met him when she was much younger. He had seemed more interesting back then, almost glamorous you might say. Having escaped one of the reprograming centres, she crawled out a small circular window just above the waterline. There she huddled in an alcove, damp and freezing, trying to decide on her next move when a small sub had surfaced a few metres in front of her, it’s bulbous shape braking the surface of the water and sending tiny waves out along the river. A hatch in the top opened, and an elderly man called to her. Impulsively, without waiting to see if this was a trap, she had swum over to him as he frantically waved to her, signalling not to inhale or drink the water. The small vessel was called the Attenborough, and its only occupants were the man, whose name was Benedict, and his wife Lucille. They had retired to their own sub just after the war ended, when things started to get a bit too weird, they explained. After the Government Politick had gotten into power, and started passing laws in relation to what everyone could and couldn’t do, such as reading – which was indefinitely banned – they had decided to get out before it was too late. If the rumours they were hearing were true, then things were about to get frightening. Benedict remembered hearing about the Hitler when he was at school, and he knew that every society was only 3 steps away from falling under fascist rule. It was terrifying what human beings would accept as normal when their world was in chaos.
So they secretly started building the Attenborough together in an abandoned boathouse about an hour’s drive out of the city. When it was finally finished, they took everything they owned, including their two small dogs, and disappeared themselves forever. It was a bold move, but one they didn’t regret after some of the stories they had begun hearing from the other sub Commanders when they bumped into them from time to time when they visited Royale for supplies. Unlike the subs, because they had no crew it also meant that Piracy was out of the question, but they were happy to buy or trade for what they needed. It was on their next supply run that they had dropped Lady off a few weeks later. Though they were happy for her to stay with them a little longer, Lady knew they would prefer to be alone, and so she decided to stay in Royale until she could figure out what to do.
After saying goodbye to Benedict and Lucille, Lady had gotten a job working in the Gatsby, a 1920’s theme speakeasy style bar. She also booked a room at the Avery, Royale’s only hotel. It was small, but clean and dry, and at this point in her life she didn’t need much more. As the weeks passed into months, Lady looked out for opportunities to join a sub crew herself. While she was content on Royale, she wanted to see the world for herself. She heard all the stories the other crews and Commanders told when they stopped off at the Gastby while their sub was being repaired, upgraded or serviced. Not everyone was able to manage their own mechanics and maintenance, and Royale made a tidy profit by taking advantage of others inabilities. And it wasn’t just money they accepted. They did a roaring trade in Mellion tech as well as vintage items and parts. Yet Lady never seemed to find the right Commander to crew under. And if she was being honest she was also slightly distracted by her new relationship with Calrissian. He showered her with gifts and made her feel like she was the only thing in Royale that mattered. It was intoxicating, and she convinced herself that she was in love with him. She even managed to overlook his weirdness, annoyingness and eccentricities.
Cal was the Lord of Royale, or the Mayor. He like to be referred to as both, often at the same time. He ran the vacuum sealed underwater city with a tight fist and a loose reign. He liked to think he was a mixture of dashing scoundrel and debonair but benevolent ruler, just like his namesake. He had a penchant for capes and Al Capone style gangster suits. It was an odd combination, but somehow he was able to pull it off. With his handsome Benicio Del Toro vibe, he could be as munificent as he was brutal. He liked to keep the people guessing.
When he eventually proposed, there was no reason for her to say no, especially as her engagement gift was a sub of her very own. It was a little beat up and in need of some attention, but Lady thought it was perfect. Soon she was spending all her spare time working on her sub, which she named the Anhinga, and Calrissian grew jealous. Eventually he threatened to sink the metal tube in the Marianas Trench if she didn’t pay more attention to him, and Lady decided that it was time to leave. All Calrissian’s quirks, at first so charming, now seemed downright freaky. From his two titles, to his bunny slippers, to his insistence n knowing where she was at all hours of the day and night. He was contradictory and controlling. So Lady broke off their engagement, and after picking up a small crew, she took her sub and ran away.
After that she returned to Royale as little as possible. Calrissian always insisted on seeing her each time, and introducing his new wife over and over again. It seemed to be a different woman every time. Lady didn’t know if he was playing her, or he really married a new girl every few months. It made their interactions awkward and uncomfortable, but she refused to let him see her blink. Stone faced and stone cold, she gave nothing away. And now she needed his help. This was a nightmare.
Lady sighed and put her hand on her hip, then let it fall off with a huff. Wandering across the bridge, she casually passed a note to Turing, which gave the order to set their destination and move out. Turing looked up at her questioningly, but she widened her eyes briefly, and nodded her head gently up and down. A silent confirmation. Yes, they were really going to Royle, but keep it to yourself. Turing had been sailing with her long enough to know something was seriously wrong, but he did his best not to flinch and let on to his crew mates.
As soon as Turing finished setting the course into the navicomp, Lady turned to Strychley and gave the order to move out. The movement of the sub was barely imperceptible to those on board as the Anhinga made its way out of the trench and into the open sea. Lady anxiously scanned the sonar to see if anyone, namely Demise, was waiting for them to emerge, but thankfully all around them the waters were seemingly empty. It was a small blessing, but they still had 6 day’s travel ahead of them at least, and they would be vulnerable as long as the outside of the ship looked like a patchwork quilt. And they had a traitor on board.
Leaving the bridge, Lady headed towards the Anhinga’s barroom. She needed a drink, and longed for distraction. This whole situation was an unwelcome crimp in her plans. Aside from the fact that they still hadn’t had a chance to inspect the Mellion tech they had picked up a few days ago, this also meant that they would also need to put their plans to dissect the spider on hold, and postpone an upcoming raid. It would all have to wait.