Thoughtful - Chapter 5

The Anhinga

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Heading out of the galley and turning right along the hallway, they came to a set of square-curving stairs that led deep into the heart of Lady’s submarine. As they climbed down the stairs, the metal clunked loudly with each step, the sound reverberating off the surrounding metal walls. As they reached the engine room door, Lady warned Persephone not touch anything once they got inside the engine room itself.

‘At least until you get some training,' she added as they headed through the oblong shaped door, 'there's a ton of delicate machinery down here and it's the heart of my ship.’

Persephone gasped as they entered the room. The engine itself was a thing of wonder, brass, copper, glass and crystals. Pipes ran along every wall and in the middle of it all there was a vast glowing object which emitted a harsh black light. The engine was running almost silently, and the only way you could tell it was on at all were the continue read outs flitting across the main control panel, and a vague electrical zing hanging in the air.

‘She's one of the fastest movers under the surface because I have the best engineers on the planet,' Lady continued as a young man approached them, ‘and speak of the devils, here’s one of them now – Persephone meet Sagan, I picked him up near what used to be known as China, he's a legend ‘round here, and the number one reason the Anhinga kicks so much arse. She's tuned to within an inch of her life, and can move like a shark.'

'A shark?' Persephone repeated, looking perplexed as she stuck out her hand, which Sagan grabbed in a firm grip, shaking it briefly and dropping it. A perfect no-nonsense hand-shake.

'Oh yes, gosh, you've probably never seen any animals other than a mouse, a cat or a dog right?’ asked Sagan, staring intently into Persephone’s eyes, as though he were trying to read her mind or look for clues as to who she might be. ‘Did you know that once this planet was home to an amazing variety of creatures? A lot of them became extinct during the Last Battle.’

‘But we managed to save some of them,’ added Lady, picking up the thread but also diverting Sagan's attention. He could be quite intense and she didn't want him to spook her new crew-mate. 'We moved them to an isolated area on the Overworld that mostly stayed intact, no people live around it and the Overworlders don’t know it still exists. We wiped it from their city’s maps and records. We call it the Arbour. The animals are safe there, but there no sharks unfortunately, they need to live in water to survive and the Underworld is too polluted, it killed them all.'

‘Oh,’ said Persephone, ‘I would love to have seen them.'

'Me too, in fact I'd love to see all the creatures we saved, but the Arbour is the only neutral land we “pirates” have, and we’re sworn to protect it by leaving it alone, we don't interfere with it, from what I understand it’s a very fragile ecosystem, so we all steer clear of it out of respect.’

‘I see … so how do you know it’s doing OK?’ asked Persephone.

‘We monitor it from time to time, we have enough tech to be able to see what’s going on without actually making landfall.’

‘Tech?’

‘Yes, we salvage it where we can find it, most of it was left over after the Last Battle but it’s not the sort of thing you would be used to,’ explained Lady.

‘Take this engine here for example,’ added Sagan, ‘that thing with the weird light there is where the energy comes from that powers our ship, it’s called a Furioum Reactor and it is essentially an infinite power source. A lot of the other, older Subs use outdated power sources, like Nuclear, but that produces a lot of radiation, which can be dangerous and cause a whole host of problems, but Furioum is clean.’

‘So you found this engine then?’ asked Persephone in awe.

‘Yes, we took it from one of the Mellion ships, it had crashed into the Medway and sunk to the bottom of the river. Marskman located it and Sagan suggested that as it seemed to be mostly intact we strip it completely, which can take hours or even days. Normally when we find tech it’s a smash and grab affair – in and out – because you don’t want the other subs or the Overworlders to find you, but sometimes you have to take a risk if it’s worth it. Like for this engine, for that I would have stayed weeks!'

‘Aside from the engine we also got some sweet weapons and an Aerator that can create pretty much any gaseous mix you want – we use it to generate Oxygen and keep the Anhinga's air breathable, we also have a purifier that takes that nauseous liquid outside and strips it of all the filth, turning it into fresh water for us, plus a few other things.’

‘When I first took command of the Anhinga she was already over 100 years old,’ added Lady, ‘but with the help of Sagan and my crew, we have rebuilt her and turned her into something really special. She can hold her own against any of the other beasts out there, and outrun them too. Underworld or Overworld.’

‘I’d actually like to know more about that … what is even out there at all?’ asked Persephone, who was beginning to feel overwhelmed. It was like she was waking up from a coma to find the world around her completely changed, which of course it had. It made her dizzy, and so she reached out to grab hold of the metal safety railing around the engine.

'OK, time to rest, I tell you what, let’s finish the tour another day and go up to my study, there I can tell you everything and we can get you off your feet,’ smiled Lady as she watched Persephone steadying herself. She knew she had taken her out of her room too soon, but she was curious to see what this girl had to offer. 

‘Do you ever get tired of this story Lady?’ asked Sagan with a slight smile. He knew what was coming. After all he had once heard it all from Lady himself.

‘Every time I tell it I figure out a little bit more myself, perhaps one day I’ll actually understand it all, how it happened, why, where we're going next...' replied Lady, 'can you walk?' she added looking to Persephone.

'I'll be OK,' Persephone reassured her, taking a deep breath and walking towards the door. Lady followed closely behind her.

"Well, I'll be here if you ever do!' Sagan called after them, turning back to his mechanical baby and patting it fondly.

Outside the air was cooler, which persephone welcomed as she took another deep breath and looked up at the curving stairwell. 

'It's 5 floors up, can you manage it?' asked Lady with concern in her voice. She didn't want the new girl accidentally falling down the steep metal stairs. 

'Just give me a second, my brain is slowly catching up but this is a lot of ... information for it to handle.'

'I know, I'm sorry it's too soon, I'll get you back to your room.' 

'No, I want to hear about it, I feel like my whole life so far has been a sheltered, restricted prison, I want to know.'

'Very well, follow me,' said Lady, heading back up the way they had come.