Whereas on the previous boat we lacked a full compliment of crew and the intense demivampire skipper didn't think twice about leaving random crew members at the wheel, The Doc is a little more guarded. On this voyage, nobody besides him and the ship's mate were able to go near the helm for the first half of the voyage. On perhaps the sixth day at sea, he pulled me aside and asked if I was able to keep a secret. When I shrugged and told him to try his luck he told me that his birthday was quickly approaching, but that he didn't want the crew to make a big deal about it. I figured it was either reverse psychology or some sort of test, because the idea of telling the crew your secret doesn't strike me as the best way to keep it under wraps. So I carried on as normal and waited to see what was going to happen.
Two days later, I'm presuming after he saw that nobody passed along birthday tidings, he pulled me up into the bridge to fill me in on the actual trouble. See, the Doc has spent more than thirty years at sea, most of which in this area, but he's old and slow to change and doesn't understand technology. The mate is, to put it delicately, a useless drunk the likes of which makes me a competitive candidate for promotion just by virtue of the fact that I'm often -conscious- for much of the day. In short, nobody onboard has any idea how computers work. The Doc was ridiculously impressed when I showed him how to underline text using a keyboard shortcut. Yeah... I'm a regular Shadowrunner now.
So he'd been keeping it under wraps from the crew, but the Doc had managed to break the navigational computers two days prior, and had been guessing our way around and frantically trying to chart our location using paper and calipers. So when he called me up, in was in pure desperation, as I had become our last, best hope of getting home. Being that the extent of my computer knowledge comes from being friends with some software engineers. Although to be fair, this is only slightly less valid than my knowledge of acrobatics and gymnastics due to the fact that I wasn't *sleeping with* the software eng crew. Luckily, the computer troubles aren't terribly severe.
The first thing was that the Doc had somehow knocked the licensing dongle out of the back of the computer. I just happened to read about dongles and their use about a month ago in a book called "Steal this internet book" (Which, Ironically, I stole from a warehouse because of its catchy title) which gave me enough of an idea about what we were working with to try putting the dongle back in and restarting the computer. (Also, I really just wanted to see how many times I could use the word "Dongle" in normal conversation.) (Dongle dongle dongle.) The next problem was that once the program was running, we now had our GPS coordinates tracking, but had no map superimpose it on. The Doc figured that someone had deleted the navigation data, but luckily it turned out to have just been cut and pasted onto the desktop.
So once I put together our coordinates and the supplementary navigational data, it occured to me:
"Doc? What the fuck are we doing along the coast of East Timor?!"
The facts I know about the Timor region are as follows: It's name is the root of the latin word for "Fear", and it's considered one of three remaining pirate havens in the world (The other two being around Venezuela, and around the red sea) In fact, a quick googling once I got back to land gives tells us that:
"Southeast Asia, and Indonesia in particular, continues to be a haven for pirates. Of the 374 reported cases of piracy across the world last year, 103 were in Indonesian waters."
The Doc quickly motioned to talk more quietly, and explained that the rest of the crew really didn't need to know about all this. As crazy as the situation was, I realized that there was very little that could be done. He's the one who knows the area, so we're just going to have to hold on and ride it out. From that day, we started pulling in tons and tons of catch. No other fighting boats were out in this area, so we had a virtual monopoly on anything we couldn't grab from the sea floor.
Two days later things got a little nuts.
It was the middle of the night when we got the order to pull the nets out of the water. Fast. We didn't think anything of it, because we routinely haul in the nets when we're traveling around so not to waste fuel with needless drag. But typically we get the nets all the way into the boat before the we open up the engines. As soon as the chains were out of the water, the Doc turns the boat around and we're absolutely flying at top speed. We keep trying to raise the nets, but now the heavy chains are building a lot of momentum from the wind and are swinging wicked violently. Suddenly we get the order to cut the engines. Not just the props, everything.
I didn't quite understand what was going on at the time, so I was still working on getting the nets out. At the time, the cut ends had just been emptied and we'd dumped out a load of small sharks, maybe three to four feet long at largest, and stingrays into the hopper, and I was working above it holding onto one of the hanging ropes. Suddenly everything goes dark. The moving cables all stop, but the chains haven't got the memo and continue swaying and jingling softly though the night.
Now I'm hanging from a rope, surrounded by heavy chains, sharp edges, and over top of a tank full of sharks who I know aren't bothered by the pitch black conditions.
"Uh guys?" I ventured as I hung in the air trying to stay as perfectly still as I could.
Everything is silent except for the faint ringing of the chains. ts the night of the new moon, and a heavy curtain of clouds is obscuring all the stars except from the two brightest in the Southern Cross which only faintly penetrate the mist. The ship has officially gone dark.
Not wanting to hang around on the rope until my grip gives out, and definitely not planning to go back down the way I came willingly, I started climbing the rope until I hit the big pulley at the top of the mast, and swung around to meet the central ladder. From there I took my familiar chillout spot at the absolute highest point on the boat. I looked around, trying without success to see my hands by waving them within inches of my face. The only light were the two dim pinpricks from the brightest stars, and the little streaks in the water of the tiny phosphorescent organisms that are normally far too dim to see.
Then, far off to the starboard I see a light in the distance. Way far out on the horizon, another boat is sweeping around with a floodlight. Luckily, due to the curvature of the earth, I was the only one who could see them because I was so high above sea level. And by the same token, the top of the mast would only be poking a little bit above the horizon from their perspective.
So we waited. I've never really appreciated the streetlights quite so much before. Even when you're outside of a major city, there's still light going up and diffusing off the clouds a relatively short distance away. Not here, not out on the ocean. Now the chains have stopped and there's a deathly silence as we wait, floating on this giant dead hulk of metal, twenty two tons of free drifting steel in the middle of nowhere. Eventually the lights from the other boat subside. By firelight from lighters and matches we disconnect all the outboard lights on the ship before restarting the generator. As soon as the engines are online, the Doc kicks it up to full throttle and we head south as fast as we can. I wish I could say we went as far as I'd like, but less than an hour later the Doc ran over a huge mark of premium sea life just waiting to be caught. So in a show of pure balls and reckless abandon, we stop, put the nets back in the water, and take in another five tons before stopping to admire the newly revealed starlight, breathing a sigh of relief and escaping south into international waters.
So, I never knew the true face of darkness until tonight, and she's truly as beautiful as she is terrifying.