The grand cabin door bore down on her and a nervous chill clutched at her spine. With an antique brass key in her trembling grip, she huffed and bit back woeful uncertainty, as she turned the lock and pushed the hefty door wide to reveal a dark and dusty cabin. She took a regretful deep breath, a waft of stale air filling her lungs. Straight ahead of her, at the rear or the room, a grandiose desk sat exposed by streams of duskening light through smallish viewports. She pulled her phone from the padded pocket of her coat and illuminated the immaculate cabin, long settled dust the only tarnish on its chic. From the perfectly placed knick-knacks and strategically set ashtrays, she felt more like she had entered a museum.
She meandered toward the hardwood desk and cast her light across the long-abandoned trappings. An outdated laptop, battery long dead; an ink well set and matching embellished pen; a small glass box displaying a ten Francs piece. Her sweep paused on a worn leather notebook and she slowly reached out, her fingertips brushing the dusty rough surface. She debated but for a moment, then, with her phone between her lips, grabbed the journal and worked free its clasps opening unto a random page.
“…I ignored a direct order; how could I not? Clesbe, sweet Clesbe – she came to me, with tears in her eyes, holding an orphaned child close to her chest, pleading to me for help. Of course, I said yes. We took the wailing babe and hid her away; the perfect little ship baby befitting our ship scandal. We decided to name her Sasha – a namesake after an old friend from Cles’ childhood. She’d be the Quiet Bastion’s own little stow away.
Not sure how long we’ll be able to get away with this.”
She shook her head silently and sighed heavily. Why either one of them wanted to bring an abandoned child into their shoddy solipsistic relationship, she would never understand. The Chief would go down with his secrets…
Phone back in hand, she scanned her light over the desk again and her eyes trailed over a grimy rocks glass and an aged bottle of brandywine. The young woman traded journal for bottle and wiped a layer of dust off the label, a distant grin on her face. The sound of his scolding tone almost clear in her mind; though, he just wanted to make sure she drank under his supervision, if at all. She was old enough to make her own decision by now, all-the-same, something in here pondered if this counted? A shrug followed, and she wedge the cork free.
A small swig and back to the journal: she reluctantly picked it up and flipped the pages until a small photo wistfully fell to the carpeted floor. She knelt and smirked at the jubilant trio grinning back at her: a crotchety old salt, somewhere between a reluctant snarl and genuine amusement; a primped and preened vixen, almost struggling to hold her perfect smile; and a rambunctious tween planted in between, visor cap hanging low over her freckled face and arms draped around her family’s necks, pulling them close, determined to never let go.
“…I suppose I’m not even surprised. We had both accepted a long time ago that this whole secret adoption thing was a mistake. Besides, the kid’s practically got a whole village looking out for her now and, well lets be honest: we were never great parents…
Hilariously enough, I’m not even pissed at Cles’ for wanting to get away from the lies and briberies – wanting to go back to an honest life with an honest family not constantly worried about being seen together. I just wish we hadn’t gotten the kid mixed up in our affair.
I never really felt like a father until now…I guess I have to tell her Cles’ isn’t coming back…
She doesn’t deserve to be stuck on this ship, lying and hiding because of the mess we made.”
Sasha took a begrudged swig from the bottle, the warm sensation melding perfectly with smoldering anger she felt. The old man had an honest way about him: she distinctly remembered him attempting to fumble together some meaningful monologue of how sometimes parents fight, however he eventually simply stated that mum…that Clesbe, just did not want to be part of their family anymore. It was doubtful that he had thought that would get the girl to want to do whatever it took to get off the Quiet Bastion, but that was the fire it set in her. She wanted answers that he did not have…or would not give. She had always wondered if he was just protecting whatever precious paradise Clesbe had run off to sew.
“Wulbin said he would take her in! Admittedly, I’m almost skeptical considering his background, but we are old friends, and I hear he is living out a rugged, yet stable, life in the suburbs of a coastal city in South America. He was initially reluctant, but a few hints at her mechanical knowledge and a warning about her hot-headedness and he agreed to meet her. The rest is paperwork, forgeries, and some well-placed favors and I think Sasha’ll finally have the chance to have a life her own.
If all goes well, she’ll be walking off this ship in a few short months.”
An audible chuckle escaped her, half way through her reading. A memory, clear in her mind: the four of them – Uncle Wulbin had brought his protégé, Descen, a boy a couple years older than she – sat down over drinks to talk. The entire thing had felt as a spy movie to her: deals underneath official noses. The actual “interview” with Wulbin was intimidating, in its own right, but ended with little more than him nodding, saying he would accept her, and then telling Descen to tell her about the life she would be leading. It was relaxing…her last cruise to date.
She picked herself up, the journal, as wells as her new best bottle, and wandered the cabin. With every passage turned, she learned about the life her father lead after she had departed. The entries were few and far between, most of them referencing letters the two of them sent back and forth. It sounded like he was happy to have some quiet in his life again, anchored the ship, and left sailing behind.
Sasha wondered into his personal cabin. It was quaint and orderly – long abandoned like everything else. By his cot, she found her old engineer’s cap resting on his night stand accompanying a photograph of her freckled adolescence, and a picture of the say he was promoted. Next to that, a peaked cap.
A simple note lay underneath them.
“To my baby girl, Sasha
I know that a big fancy boat and a shitty letter aren’t enough to make up for my actions, but here they are anyway.
If the Port Authority has not told you that this ship is yours, you take this letter and shove it in their pretentious, penny-pinching, heartless, faces. Particularly Mr. Cavens; he’s a skeptic. Just tell him my ghost will haunt his soul forever…
I’ll write a second letter, that does not mention those assholes and leave it in my desk. Don’t use this letter.
I’m sorry and I hope you find this. I hope Wulbin is keeping you safe. In my desk, you should find a record of every crewmen loyal to The Bastion, as well as a half decent way to contact them…I just hope they aren’t all dead by the time you read this. Tell these people who you are, and they will help you. And if they refuse, you can refer to the documentation of the bribes they took. Slide the desk back and tap each corner.
I’ve always wanted you to be safe; but most of all, I’ve wanted you to be free.
The ship is yours. Take care of her. Take care of yourself.
Welcome home, kid,