Gabriel sat in Lorelai’s ‘stateroom’, as he called it, and began the tale of the Summer Lyn. It was as if he was reciting the story from memory. The rhythm of the story of the Captain and the Summer Lyn seemed as if he were reading the lyrics to a song, the melody only in his head.
“The story of the Summer Lyn starts a year before the Impact. The Captain was a kid at the time, a boy really. He was a wanderer much as he still is. One day he stumbled upon a cave that housed a massive ship-like structure that was being built by the god Poseidon. The kid approached the god and asked him what the ship was for. Poseidon told the boy that the ship would be to move across the ocean faster than any of the other gods or deities. The boy asked if Poseidon would make a boat for him.
"After much thought, Poseidon agreed that if the boy could make the oceans cover the entire Earth for a day, he would build the young boy a ship that would rival Poseidon’s own vessel. The boy left the cave to find a way to turn the world to water.
"He continued his travels for another year, occasionally going to see the ship as it was built by Poseidon. Each time he visited the god would ask him, Is all the world covered in water? and the boy would reply, Not yet. Before leaving. Then one day the boy was traveling across the sky when the god Apollo, who knew of the impending Halley’s Comet came to him and whispered that Poseidon was planning to betray the boy if the boy succeeded in his task.
The boy flew at top speed to the cave and cried out, I have succeeded! The world will be covered in water soon!
"Poseidon was shocked, for he had been too busy working on the vessel to look up at the sky. He ran out of the cave to see for himself if what the boy said was true. While he was gone, the boy stole the vessel, pushing it into the ocean and setting off. When Poseidon realized that his boat was gone, he sank into the ocean to find the vessel.
"But when the Impact occurred, it drowned the entire world in water with waves as high as mountains. The god of the sea could not find his ship in such a large and chaotic ocean. The Atlantic and Pacific waters met as did the Indian Ocean and the Baltic Sea. The god was overwhelmed by the chaos and sank to his home in the deepest depths of the ocean.
"The boy had his prize, his part of the bargain, and with it the protection of its builder, the god of the ocean. He became the Captain and named his vessel the Summer Lyn.” Gabriel finished. He looked at Lorelai expectantly. She watched him, waiting for him to go on. The staring match continued for a full minute before Lorelai cleared her throat.
“Then… well, you know the rest.”
“So everything is true? The ship moves like the wind. The crew are demons raised by the Captain from hell?”
Gabriel sighed. “You are really stuck on this aren’t you? You’re not curious about how this ship constantly evades capture? You’re not curious about why we do what we do? How a sailing ship outruns and outguns anything we have encountered?”
“What I want to know is what will happen to me. The Captain was vague on that issue so instead I’d like to know the kind of people I’m dealing with.”
“Fine.” Gabriel sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “It’s mostly lies.”
“Bullshit.” Lorelai said before she could stop herself. This made Gabriel laugh.
“We are pirates and thieves, yes. And we’ve sunk ships, true. And the Captain was right, everyone on board this vessel, excluding you, is a trained killer with, um, well lets just say experience.” Lorelai watched him, waiting for him to continue. After a moment, he did. “So, uh, Mary. You know her. She is from the Kosciuszkoian floating city New Sydney. When the California Republic attacked, she was drafted into the defending force. They were last line of defense, set up in poorly-built defenses on the shore, when the Western American naval landing force, made up of soldiers and sailors from the floating cities of Oceanside, The Bay, and Los Caidos. The only Terra Firmans were the admirals and captains and high ranking officers.
"Mary’s floating city was destroyed in the initial bombardment, sunk later by the landing parties. Mary, who was seven at the time, was stationed at a forward defense post, outside the walls of Kosciusko. She was given an assault rifle, a knife, and a bandolier of grenades. When I found her, she was nearly dead. The rifle was empty, the bandolier of grenades was empty, the knife was slick with someone else’s blood, and her clothes were still smoldering. She still won’t talk about that day. Not to anyone.”
“What’s that have to do with the stories of the Summer Lyn?”
“Everyone here is a killer. Everyone here, except Mary, since joining the crew, has boarded an enemy vessel and killed but it’s not how we got started. The Countries made us this way.”
“You don’t have to kill and torture to survive. Millions of people survive without doing that all over the world.”
“Who?” Gabriel said, holding up his hands and looking around. “Who? What Country is currently not locked in conflict with another nation?
“But you’ve sunk ships that carried Mariners. You’ve killed hundreds if not thousands of Mariner men and women on those ships.”
“Well, yes. People tend to fight when they are terrified of torture and sodomy, and death. They don’t want to have their lungs ripped out by us, and we need what they are protecting.”
“Then why?” Lorelai asked, pleading. “Why the torture? Why make them so terrified? Why not take prisoners, use nonlethal weapons, just skip the torture?!”
“Lorelai, why is the Eastern States, your government, waging war on Eur-African?”
“Because the Eur-African governments have stopped trading with us because of pirate activity.”
“And why do you say that? The governments in Appalachia and Rocky Mountains have cornered the markets on perishable foods and military technology. They conquered the McKinley, Andean, and Brazilian governments. Between the East and West, they have everything they need and more. They don’t need to trade across the seas. Why send navies across the oceans to Eur-Africa and Kosciusko?”
“I’m still waiting for you to tell me why it’s all a lie.” Lorelai said.
“Your government is not waging war to ensure your survival, it’s waging war to ensure its survival.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Eur-Africans were instituting free elections and general equality. No class divide. Lorelai, they didn’t stop trading with the ESS because of us, they stopped trading because the ESS set up a blockade. We don’t torture and we don’t mutilate.” He stared hard at her. “The Terrans- those that live on the ground, where humans are meant to live, are fighting wars on those of us that live on the water. They use us and waste us and move on. The wars they fight are ones of greed or of political maneuvering. The Eur-Africans were a danger to their society and are being systematically shut down. The Kosciuszkos were in a place of strategic value, with their proximity to the Reaper of New Zealand. The Nation of McKinley due to its proximity to Russia, The Southern territories because of their resources.
They conquer, and they take, and they spend the lives of Mariners like currency for what they want. They use the Summer Lyn as a scapegoat, assigning our name to every horrific deed they commit.”
“But the videos… The tortured and desecrated bodies” Lorelai said, fearing the answer.
“Real enough.” Gabriel said, looking her dead in the eye. “Handiwork of American Seals.”
The Seals; A name from the past; commandos that came from the land and trained for the sea. The Americas were the only governments to have these. Lorelai did not know what they did before the Impact, but now they were spoken of like the boogeyman… or the Summer Lyn. The Seals were a weapon, and one that until now, had supposedly only been used on the enemy. Lorelai thought about the declassified video footage she had seen of a captured tanker or a city held hostage, only to be sunk as the naval forces tried to infiltrate it. She felt sick.
Was she a slave of the Terrans? Their seemingly benevolent rulers that held administrative positions on the land were gracious, if not strict. When she had turned 18 she would have been conscripted into the navy for her mandatory 5-year term, a requirement that no children of the land had to follow. Even the daughter of the governor of the City was subject to the law- and the law was written by the Terrans.
As these thoughts swirled in her mind, she didn’t notice as Gabriel tried to talk to her more. She barely noticed as he stood and left. She did not make the conscious decision to lie down. She fell asleep, her world a little shaken, her promise already forgotten as pieces that had not added up in the past seemed to clicked into place. She lay for hours, checking her wrist comm., unable to sleep. There was nothing she could access with it. Finally, hesitantly, she decided to explore the ship.
Lorelai followed signs that led up to the deck. She did not appear to have any guards following her, which somehow felt odd. It was as though they felt they were so in control that they didn’t need to post a guard on her. Once on the deck, sea spray and wind filled her nostrils. The deck was wet from the rain, but the waves had calmed to rolling hills and the sky was a constant dull gray. After looking fore and aft and seeing no one, Lorelai sat on the port edge and leaned on the cable railings.
Lorelai’s legs dangled off of the side of the Summer Lyn. The sun would be setting soon and she did not want to miss it. From behind her came small footsteps on the composite deck. Lorelai did not turn around, but subconsciously she did brace herself for a push from behind.
“Hey.” Mary sat next to Lorelai, her little legs comically short compared to Lorelai’s naturally long, lithe ones.
“Hey.” Lorelai replied. The bottom of the sun was just about to touch the water, that special time where it seemed to speed up and disappear in a matter of seconds. Lorelai remembered her father would call her and her family onto the deck to watch, the whole boat seeming to take a breath from the endless work to watch the sun set.
“Whatcha thinkin’ about?” Mary asked her voice light.
“Just having a crisis of faith.” Lorelai responded in her best big-girl voice. To tell the truth she was confused. For eighteen years she had been told that this ship and its crew were evil; if not a damned ship with a crew of the dead, then as close as one could get in this world.
“What’s a crisis of faith?” Mary asked.
“Where something you believed your whole life turns out to not be true.” Lorelai responded, watching the sun move further and further down.
“Oh!” Mary said her voice excited with understanding a grown-up concept. “Like when I found out God wasn’t real.”
Lorelai’s head turned to look at the young girl. “What makes you say that?”
Mary’s eyes never left the deep orange sun as it just began to disappear into the ocean. “When I was little my parents would always take me to church. We would pray, and I always asked God to keep them safe, to keep us as one big happy family. Then they died in the raids. I was sad for a long time, but they had a lot of really good friends that I went and lived with. We would listen to the radio broadcasts and watch the TVs in the city when we could. I prayed to God every night that the bad guys would go away. But then the sirens began and we were told we needed to prepare for when they came.
The war was getting closer and we could see the ship battles from our city and I saw the wounded as they were brought in from the battles. Some of them I knew from school, were a few grades ahead of me. They had red bandages covering their bodies, but I still recognized them. I prayed that I would never have to do what the soldiers did. Then they began recruiting orphans for the final line of defense- on the land. Aunt Bettie tried to hide me, but the men in suits found me and took me away and forced me to join the Defense Force. So I prayed to be safe, to not have to fight, to die first if that’s what it took. But I got scared when the big boats landed at the beach, I fought back. I…” She took a deep breath; an audible shiver ran the length of her little body.
When she spoke again her voice was cold, lacking the warmth it had had only moments before. “God never answered my prayers. God never answered because God never existed. After Gabriel saved me, I stopped praying, just to see what would happen.” The little girl trailed off, lost in thought.
“What happened?” Lorelai whispered. She was genuinely intrigued now, the sunset all but forgotten.
The young girl next to her stared at the fading sun for a moment longer before answering. “Nothing.” She looked at Lorelai, the two worlds of her face, scarred and beautiful “And everything.” She looked back to the purple sun, just a piece showing now. “Bad things still happen, but so do good. Life goes on for me, and for everyone around me. Jackson taught me that there is and will always be suffering.” Her voice changed, as if she was reciting something that this Jackson had taught her. “Craving is where suffering comes from, like a flower from a seed. Without craving there is no suffering.” Her voice returned to normal as she tried to explain it in terms Lorelai could understand. “I wanted safety, I was sad when I didn’t get it, but I would have also been sad if I had, because I would not know just how bad things could get. Now I try not to want anything, I just ask for what I need.” A smile flickered across her small lips. “Now I enjoy life. I ask for nothing from God because I know he- it- can’t give me what I need.”
Lorelai was at a loss for words. This was something she expected from one of the Old Salts, not this little girl.
“I still pray sometimes. Talk to mum and daddy.” Mary confessed, almost bashfully. “But I don’t ask them for anything. I just tell them how I’m doing and that I love them and I hope they are enjoying heaven.”
“I’m sure they are looking down and so proud of the young lady that you are.” Lorelai said, tears welling up for everything that had happened to this little girl.
“I know.” Mary said with a smile.
They sat in silence a little while longer. Lorelai cried silently for Mary, for herself. Eventually though, Mary stood and offered Lorelai a hand. She took it and stood with the young girl. In the waning sunlight she saw glistening tear trails of tears on the right side of the little face, the left eye was dry.
“Maybe a crisis of faith isn’t a bad thing. I never prayed for a sister.” Mary said. “But I’m excited to have one now.”
Lorelai smiled and wrapped little Mary up in a hug, crying softly. Mary hugged her back, squeezing her little body into Lorelai’s stomach.
As they broke apart and wiped their eyes, Mary said, “Don’t tell the guys I was crying, they baby me enough already.”
“Only if you don’t tell them I was crying,” Lorelai said, smiling.
“Deal." Mary said, wiping her eyes one final time. "Its Riley’s turn to cook tonight, that means sushi. He spent all day catching fish so it’ll be good.” Mary took Lorelai’s hand and led her across the deck and down into the bowels of the ship toward the rear galley. They walked together until Lorelai could hear raucous laughter and the clinking of cups and plates and utensils.
Just before they entered the galley, Mary dropped Lorelai’s hand, and then jumped into the room, raising her arms to cheers from the men. A man in a kimono and traditional Japanese headband greeted the small girl with a shot glass full of some liquid. Mary downed the drink in two gulps and waved Lorelai into the room.
Through the doorway was more than half the crew dressed in kimonos and wearing traditional Japanese headbands. On one of the tables sat an open crate of Sake, half of which was being passed around. Only after she had fully stepped into the room did she realize that half of the men were speaking in atrocious Asian accents. She watched the odd scene for a moment before the only man in normal clothes approached her- ironically the only man of Asian descent it seemed.
“Lorelai, right?” The man said in a decidedly un-Asian accent. She nodded and he held up a small plate with four pieces of sushi on it. He named each one as he pointed it out, “American Dragon Roll, American Salmon, American Shiro Maguro, and American Unagi.”
“What makes them all ‘American’?” Lorelai asked. She had never had sushi, but they didn’t call it ‘American scrambled eggs’, either.
“Me!” The man said, almost sounding hurt by the question. “I’m from the Bay,” the floating city over what used to be San Francisco, now one of the major cities of the California Republic. “These racist heathens stole all this stuff from some rich Japanese tourist around the same time they picked me up and now,” he turned, waving his arm showing the roaring crowd around him. "I swear to god! Any more of this shit and the next time I cook it’s gonna be day old gruel with some engine grease mixed in!”
Crumpled up napkins and chopsticks were flung at him by the crew, forcing both he and Lorelai to duck down. Lorelai could not help but laugh a little at the scene. As she stood back up and took the plate from Riley, she noticed that both Gabriel and the Captain were absent. She finished the sushi on the plate and another plate with something called nigiri was immediately forced into her hands along with a small teacup of Sake. She downed the fiery liquid and spluttered, to much laughter and a few catcalls.
She watched for a moment longer as Mary took another sip of Sake and cursed another sailor over bumping her, causing her to spill some. They got into a fake fight with Mary coming out on top, a foot triumphantly on her defeated foe’s chest. Lorelai backed away, and went to explore the rest of the ship, nibbling the rice and fish she held with her fingers.
The first open door she came to was a small bunk room. Two bunk beds and a desk were bolted into the floor. The beds made pristinely and the belongings that were left out, left in such a way that it looked purposeful. A magazine from pre-Impact America sat on the closest bunk, its corner lined up with the corner of the bed. The images on the cover moved, showing a man wearing a red tie and making a weird shape with his mouth holding another man wearing a towel or something on his head by the throat.
Through the dead pixels she read the caption, which scrolled across the top of the cover, President Makes Deal Over Last Major Deposit of Oil by Forcing Saudis to Pay Him for Letting us Use Their Oil. Lorelai didn’t understand who or what a Saudis was, but assumed that the man being strangled was ’Saudis’ and was apparently hoarding oil. The cover made even less sense to Lorelai because post-Impact, Antarctica had become the major oil capital of the world
On the wall were pictures of families- men, women, and children- some of which still moved and some frozen mid-wave. She moved on from the bunkroom. As she passed other rooms, she realized that the ship was clean, too clean to have been made before the Impact as Gabriel claimed. In Orleans, even at the top where the administrators lived there were still patchworks of replaced ceiling and wall, spliced together wiring to bypass old circuits, rust that could never be fully removed, and general dinginess from three decades of use without proper, pre-impact maintenance.
Eventually she found herself on the deck again, in a different location from earlier. She was near the bow, the wind whipping her hair frantically, and the sound of the bow cutting through the waves a hypnotic mix between a slap and a splash. She walked aft again, looking at all of the different systems and gears used for the massive sails, the covered turrets that she had seen blow men apart trying to board in video footage found on wrecked ships.
The deck was more than a quarter-mile long and it took her nearly 5 minutes of slow pacing to reach the slightly elevated wheelhouse: an oblong pentagon with the three forward facing sides all tinted window. As she stared at it, one of the windows facing her became transparent. Inside sat the two pilots and behind them stood Gabriel and the Captain. The Captain smiled at her and Gabriel gave a quick jerk of his head in a ‘come here’ motion. Lorelai nodded then looked back out to the now-black ocean. The moon illuminated the water, showing just how black it was, and the wake from the bow made little streams of white foam moving away from the hull.
She closed her eyes, the wind still whipping her hair, and imagined she was in space, on a ship moving through the black ocean of the vast expanse. She smiled at the thought and opened her eyes. She turned and walked up the stairs to the wheelhouse.