“Well, captain, what do you think?” were the first words I ever heard as the last of the construction crew cleared my decks, and left me empty and waiting.
“I think she’s beautiful. With this, I’m sure we can transship those goods in record time. I’m glad you purchased, her.”
Now, this had me a little puzzled. Who was talking, and where was I? I had gone down with my crew, all hands on board, after that devastating cannon broadside. The last I understood the idea of mermen and mermaids had been forgotten about the time I had my first commission. So, that brought me back to the question of who was here, and were I was.
The silent footsteps did not help, either. I found myself unable to track where the voices were, or even if they were moving. When I thought about my hull, I found another surprise waiting for me. It did not creak and groan like it should. Soft pops, and an occasional ping answered my probes. Why did my builders do this to me? Do they not know I need to be able to speak in a way the crew could understand? These new sounds had no meaning, no life. They made me a dead thing.
“When do you want to set sail, then Captain?”
Set sail? As in go out in the open sea, when I had no way of speaking with the crew? No way of tracking where they were, or what they were doing? I tried to moan, and let the speakers know this was not a wise idea, but they continued talking. The only good thing was their voices let me follow them from midships to the deck. I finally felt a little tickle there, but I never felt them leave my decks. Even the sway of the gangplank did not indicate anyone was on it.
I have no idea how long I sat, empty and vacant. When the crew arrived, it was with a surprising bustle and amount of noise. Things falling into my holds with a solid thud, voices shouting back and forth up and down my halls and corridors. The galley coming alive, and something I did not know I had. There was an extra heat source near my center – hotter than I had ever felt any galley stove burn. I do not know what that heat was, but I soon learned why it was present.
Not long after the worst of the noise and bustle subsided, the heat peaked to an unbearable temperature, and something beside me started to move. I tried to groan a warning, and this time was rewarded with a sharp, piercing whistle. But, none of the crew bothered to go investigate what it was that shadowed us so closely.
As the days went by, and the thing continued to churn by my side, I began to grow accustomed to it. Though, I had not yet guessed just what it was. We had a following breeze, which let the crew pile on the canvas. It was not until we came to the calms that I discovered what a paddle wheel was for. When the winds began to die, the crew reefed my sails, yet we did not slow. Puzzled, I let my consciousness roam through the parts of my body I had not investigated fully. I found rods that spun, pistons that pumped, and the boiler that sat just above the core of heat.
Such tremendous pressure, yet it was harnessed, and put to work to let me move when even oars would have been impractical. Oh, what a fabulous discovery that was. I spent several shifts mesmerized by my own internal workings. I missed the squall that we powered through, and our arrival into the destination port. What recalled me to the present time was when the crew began to offload the cargo.
I was no longer a war ship, I was a freighter. How frightfully undignified!