How strange it is to step into someone else’s life. Someone so different, and yet the same person I would be had I been born on this Earth.
When I step out of my apartment into the open ocean air and draw a deep breath, it’s like this man’s life floods into my awareness instantly. I know who I am. Not the name yet, but I feel kinship with the sea. I know all about it. But more than knowledge I have a sense of it. I know where it’s moving. I know if islands lie over the horizon and which direction and how big, all told by the water itself.
And the weather is something I can smell changing. I taste the coming storm.
“So what’s your guess, Captain Plaszczka?” asks the woman with the sword.
Oh yeah. And I know I’m the Captain, so… “I don’t think about what they’re doing. I just take Sciland where they tell me to, and make sure things stay safe and private along the way.”
“You answer directly to them,” says the man with the gun, “but never once asked them what they’re up to?”
“They pay me well enough to mind my own business, the running of Sciland. But let me ask you something,” I say to the woman. “Why do they call you ‘Cream?'”
“For my exceptionally smooth movement,” she explains, “sliding over any surface, with slickness and slipperiness, slithering and sneaking silently, while maintaining swordsmanship and shooting acuity.”
“And you,” I turn to the man, “I assume have sharp reflexes. So they call you Reflex.”
“Lightning reflexes, powerful accurate pitching arms, excellent marksmanship, ambidextrous, the agility of a ballerina, acrobatic skills and criminology expertise.”
“Thanks for your resume. But why are you too so interested in whatever experiments these eggheads are conducting? They pay you pretty well too, right?”
“I think they’re up to something.”
“Well, we’ve got a seafaring community of 212 people committed to a three-year science mission in the most remote parts of the oceans. We’re supported by a cargo ship, three frigates, two helicopters, a small submarine, seven speedboats and one F-16 jet, all privately owned. I imagine that we are up to something. So what?”
“You’re in on it,” accuses Cream.
“I told you he was,” digs Reflex.
“Of all the people involved out here there are probably five or six who really know what the purpose of Sciland is. But for me the purpose is to get us where we’re going. And for you the purpose is to keep us safe inside the city. You have time for speculation and fantasy?”
“Man, I was a cop,” says Relflex. “When they get you in court you can say ‘I didn’t know what they were up to’ as many times as you like, but you go to jail just the same.”
“Yeah,” I come back, “you were a red-hot homicide detective in Durban until you were caught stealing cocaine from the evidence room. Instead of prison you’ve wound up on Sciland, working it off for the ones who bailed you out and bought your freedom.”
“Once a detective, always the detective.”
“And you,” I turn to Cream, “a former computer consultant for the police in Stockholm before getting busted for hacking into the National Security Agency’s innermost systems.”
“I got curious.”
“But what’s your story, Plaszczka? Nobody knows nothin’ about you, bro. You don’t seem like any Captain I’ve ever known of.”
“Yeah man, with those universal survival skills and speaking six languages. Give us a clue. We don’t even know your first name, if you have one.”
“It’s Drey. When I was an orphan boy I was stolen from the port of Seattle on day. I was forced into servitude aboard a pirate yacht.
“I escaped for a year in Malaysia where I hid by living offshore among the Bajau, an exiled community with homes built on stilts in the sea. There I learned to survive on
the ocean alone, and was taught by the sailors how to feel the great currents of the open waters, currents that reveal the direction of land no matter how far away.
“My pirate captors returned when they heard there was a white among the Bajau.
“I was once again forced into labor until eventually ingratiating myself to the captain, whereupon I killed the leadership of the vessel with one of their own automatic weapons.
“Finding myself an adult on the foreign side of the planet with a ship and skilled crew, I applied my only job experience by continuing to raid ships and ports.
“The skills acquired from the Bajau enabled me to locate an uncharted island hideout. We worked successfully from this headquarters for two more years.
“Despite the original unwilling nature of my original participation, I was captured, convicted and imprisoned with the pirate crew by the government of Thailand.
“Sentenced to life, I was not unhappy when a representative from a private western company offered me a form of freedom if I could be ‘recruited’ for a deal. It seemed that my unique set of skills could be used for a new project. And here I am.”
“So it’s all under the command of the contracted convict Captain Drey Plaszczka, by the way nicknamed Sea Demon by those working under him.”
“That makes this place Hell on the Sea,” I suggest.
“But you aren’t the Devil. You’re just a demon…
“Let’s go find the Devil.”