Character Pieces, Home, Science Fiction

His Engineer, Her Captain

Are you here for a story? I’m sorry to say that I have no more stories to tell. Not any good ones at least. All I’ve got left are tragedies, tales cut short by the Reaper’s scythe. Well, I have one story, but really, if I’m being honest, it’s not a very good story.

How do I know it’s not a good one? Well, you’d think you’d know your own story quite well, wouldn’t you? And my story, it’s not worth the breath.

You still want to hear it? Judge for yourself huh? Alright. But remember that you were the one to ask, and that I warned you.

Once upon a time, there was a woman and a man, and they sailed the galaxies on a ship with a crimson hull and sails that shone brighter than all the gold they plundered. They were two of a rare breed, following the siren call of the stars. To explore, to take, and to never stop moving.

They loved adventure and one another, laughing, screaming and swinging their sabers in a terrifying tandem. Planning by lantern-light and building works of technological marvel to aid in their escapades as they made a name for themselves among the stars.

Dread Captain William Lock and Solar Engineer Cassandra Sable.

But the Captain of that terrifying vessel and even more terrible crew, he loved the call of the stars just a little more than he loved his partner. His beloved Cass who kept his ship sailing like a dream across the cosmos, who matched his stride and mind with an ease he had never known and would never know again. Like all partners, they had their low points, but one particular fight, one night in the Captain’s cabin, was their worst.

It had started out like all their arguments, a difference of opinion that escalated to a screaming match. They never did anything halfway. Spitting curses and bringing up old hurts, spiraling in anger and burning with stubborn self-righteousness, until Captain Lock admitted that he loved the chase more than her.

Lock told Cass if this life they had carved out and fought to live by after so many decades was too much, then she could just leave. Cass was free to walk, from her life of piracy and Captain Lock. The first and last to ever be able to leave with their life.

Perhaps, if there had been a shred of insincerity in Lock’s words, or an apology in that beat of frigid silence, perhaps then Cass would have changed her mind. But Captain Lock, though he hadn’t meant for the words to be said aloud, meant them all the same.

Cass left that cabin cold and itching to fight, to scream until she couldn’t make a sound, to run for the smoldering stars so far away. It was a violent siren song that burned in her chest, whispering so sickeningly sweet for blood. But Cass, even in her worst moments of anger, refused to raise a hand against her Captain, or any of the dread crew that travelled with them.

So Cass did as her Captain asked; she packed up her meager belongings and in the dead of night as the crew and her lover lay sleeping, she fled out into the dark of the planet they had been docked at. Leaving behind two notes; one for her closest friend, First mate Ben, and one for her lover and partner.

No one but those chosen two would ever read the words scrawled so quickly and passionately across those sheets of paper. No one dared to try after seeing the tears streaming silently down Ben’s face, and hearing the screams and crashes that echoed out from the Captain’s cabin.

I could tell you what I wrote all those years ago, I still remember them, as if the ink where still drying under my trembling fingers, but I won’t. Does that make me a terrible story-teller? Choosing to leave out such a detail? Perhaps, but I don’t care. Those words were meant only for two eyes, and there they will stay, known only to three.

Cass paid for a little ship and sailed to a merchant world. For years she lived amidst the noise and ever-changing tide of people. Listening to the gossip and tales of the travelers, singing in the company of drunken sailors and keeping her feet firmly planet-side. Save for small trips around the orbit of the planet she had made her home. Bathing in the distant glow of the stars that called to her still.

That siren call never left Cass. The desire to explore, to dance along the deck of a ship swaying underfoot, to swing her saber that hung gathering dust on her shelf — it stayed heavy and strong in Cass’s heart. But she ignored that siren song, the idea of leaving, of sailing without her old crew, without Lock… It wasn’t worth all the gold in the galaxy.

Cass never heard from Lock after she left. Not a letter, not a word from the crew of wonderful scoundrel’s that she had called family for so many years. Cass never tried to seek them out, though she heard plenty of tales of grandeur from the passing sailors. Lock had said he wanted her gone and meant it, so Cass had no reason to return to the swirling galaxies glittering in the heavens.

And oh, she wanted. To sail those stars, to travel from planet to planet, breathing in the stardust and the sweet smell of rum, but it wouldn’t have been the same. It wasn’t a life worth living, if she wasn’t doing it at Lock’s side, Ben hot on their heels. What would have been the point in walking without Lock beside her? Of looking back and not seeing those four smoldering eyes shinning with the same love and joy of adventure she knew mirrored her own?

Cass contented herself with the life she had built. She never took another lover, none would compare to her Captain Lock, could ever come close to matching her as he had. Cass had desired little ones of her own, but luckily there were plenty of lost and aimless youths to take under her wing. To watch them grow, to love them and watch them burn brighter than a super-nova chasing dreams. It was enough.

Cass spent the rest of her days on that little merchant world. Listening to gossip, singing with swaying men and women, and working her hands against every new piece of machinery she could get her hands on. Touching every ship engine that sailed to her port, and making them sing better than they ever had.

What? I called myself an engineer, didn’t I? I could give up my life of sailing, but I couldn’t stop digging through circuitry and molding warm metal beneath my hands. I was a creator at heart. I grew happy on that little world, but I told you this was a tragedy, didn’t I? A story with an unhappy end, but I never said I was the one to feel the Reaper’s cold hand, now did I? I said I never saw my Captain Lock again, but that wasn’t entirely true. I just never saw him alive.

One night, in the midst of the worst of the seasons storms, there came a banging on Cass’s door. Ben, sweet and loyal Ben, stood drenched on her doorstep. Cass ushered him inside without a second thought, settling him in a chair by the fire with a towel and a hot drink. But as she opened her mouth to ask what he was doing here, Ben spoke.

Dark eyes ringed red and shaking like a leaf, Ben said the words Cass had thought she would never hear; “Captain Lock is dead”. Felled by a lucky shot, Lock faded from blood loss, laid on his back and not on his feet like he always swore he would die. He passed in his sleep in his cabin on his beloved ship.

Ben sobbed, begging Cass to come with him, just this one last time, to send off their beloved Captain. Cass kept silent, her heart sitting like a cold lump of coal in her chest, listening to her old friend blubber and tell her he was sorry. That he knew she likely wanted nothing more to do with Lock, but could she please come anyway? As a favor to Ben, if nothing else?

“He never forgot ye.” Ben rasped, spoken like a secret he was so happy to tell. “He was ne’er the same after ye left. No ‘ne was. But he ordered no ‘ne to go after ye, like he promised.” Ben said, his dark, watery orbs staring deeply into Cass’s. “He loved ya, ya know? He ne’er took another lover, pushed everyone save me away. He shut up when ya left, but he promised ta leave ya be.” Ben sniffed, scrubbing at his eyes.

“…Where, Ben?” Cass asked, scarcely breathing. Her eyes burned, but she refused to let a tear fall. Ben blinked damply up at her. “Where’s our Captain laying his head down for the last time?”

Matching Ben’s stride, the duo marched down to the docks just as light began to fall across the merchant planet. The moment Cass saw what lay in the dock, though it shouldn’t have surprised her, her breath caught and her heart nearly leapt out her throat. Cass’s knees trembled as she climbed up onto that oh-so familiar deck, swaying beneath golden sails that seemed to have aged not a day.

There were so many familiar gazes that met hers, fewer scattered between faces she didn’t know, but Cass was welcomed aboard without a word. As First Mate, now Captain, Ben took command, and it was so wrong not to hear that familiar stride, to look around and not see even the ghost of that dark coat. There was no laughter, no shanty, there was nothing but grim silence and the groan of the ship.

Captain Lock would not be walking this deck again, and the thought sent Cass to her knees next to Ben, who manned the helm steadily, despite his trembling hands.

It was not a long journey, three days at most, to where Lock had decided to be buried. It was an isolated planet, so small it barely qualified as a planet, green and teal terra-firma surrounded by glimmering rings of cobalt rock. Tears dripped down Cass’s cheeks, though no one would understand why the sight of such a peaceful planet, devoid of life save for the plants and insects, would cause such a reaction. But then, the last time Cass had been here, she and Lock had snuck away, and hadn’t told the crew where they had gone when they returned.

This was where it had all started and evidently, it would all end. Where Cass and Lock first fell in love, shared their first kiss, and the place she had once told Captain Lock she would want to be buried. Settled beneath that soft soil, under a view of stars that could not compare to anywhere else in the galaxy. A beautiful place to lay her head.

Cass wanted to laugh, to scream obscenities’ to the man laying still beneath the deck. She wanted to go down and breathe life back into her lover just to tell him that she couldn’t believe he was such a romantic sap. But then they were landing and everyone was rushing about.

Lock was pale in his coffin, dressed as he normally would be; crimson shirt, billowing dark coat edged with gold, long dark hair braided, though stained with grey streaks. His sword sat at his hip on one side, his flintlock on the other. His Captain’s hat was clutched in Ben’s hands.

It was so unimaginable to Cass, looking down at her former lover, riddled with more scars than she remembered, wrinkled and grey. He looked so tired, so weathered by time. The air snapped with tension as she knelt down, her hand hovering briefly over Lock’s crossed hands, someone had even sharpened his claws. But she did not let her hand fall. Even standing at a distance, one could always feel the heat pouring off Captain Lock’s skin. Cass trembled, feeling only the cold, seeing only that pale face, those four eyes shut so gently.

Cass stood again, her legs shaking as she took up a spot next to Ben. Standing at the head of the coffin, Cass had a brief desire to jump in. To take up one of the daggers hidden in her boots and silence her pounding heart. Would it be nice, to curl up next to him in that box? To be buried beneath the soft earth, wrapped in that dark coat one last time?

Cass’s eyes burned, her chest burned, but she was still cold. Cass knew she would carry this chill with her till the end of her days. A chill that could only be soothed by a pair of warm, calloused hands and a heavy dark coat that always smelled of rum and smoke. Her love had so loved to burn things.

How dare he leave her. Cass thought, half-listening to Ben as he spoke so passionately of their Captain. How dare he die before her, insist on being buried where she had planned to be after her own life ended. How dare he die on his back, succumbing to weakness instead of pushing himself back up onto his feet like he’d done a hundred times before. How dare he pass without her at his side. How dare he love her and respect her long after she had left him.

Silence rang as Cass pulled herself together, blinking hot tears as Ben shakily stepped forward and set Lock’s hat across his folded hands.

“…Would ya like to say a ‘ew words, Cass?” Ben mumbled. Cass blinked down at Ben, then out at the familiar waiting faces, the people she had once called family, who were still her family now, even the ones she didn’t know, missing a piece they would never find again. Cass took a deep breath and stepped forward, her boots kissing the edge of Lock’s coffin.

“Captain William Lock,” Cass began quietly, her voice steadier than she had dared to hope. “Was a scourge to the galaxy. A murderer, a pyromaniac, a bloodthirsty madman.” Cass took a deep breath, lowering her eyes to Lock’s face. “He was a good Captain. A good man to his crew. Brilliant, clever and passionate. Will one hell of a singin’ voice.” Wet chuckles rose up from the crowd.

“He was an incredible man, more than history will likely give him credit for. But his legacy is not for history, not for the memories of those who did not know him.” Cass raised her head, meeting the eyes of all those in attendance. “That knowledge is for us and us alone. Those he knew as family and friends, even if he would never have dared to use those words.”

“Many of you here know who I am, but for those that don’t; my name is Cassandra Sable, the Engineer and lover of Captain Lock.” Cass smiles, standing tall against the awe and joy in the gazes of those around her. “And I am here to join you in giving our bloody Captain a proper send off. So,” Cass pauses, and with one swift motion, brings up one of her daggers. Crystalline and frighteningly sharp, one of two in existence, stolen and gifted in turn by Lock. The first gift he had ever given her. The one thing she always kept on hand, no matter where she went.

“Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Rest well you wretched man, you did so little in life. May your dreams forevermore be of stars and swaying decks. Of clashing swords and merry shanties. A Dread Captain in death, a memory sweet for the rest of us.” Cass sang, blade cradled gently between her hands.

“Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Know that you were the best of us, and that the stars weep at your loss.” Cass slumped down, hands resting against the edges of the coffin, her head hovering just over Lock’s. “Know that you are loved, William. By me most of all you daft man.” For a second, Cass thinks about stealing one last kiss, but thinking back to her last, the heat and the passion in it, she doesn’t. She can’t imagine replacing that memory of heat with something cold. Placing the dagger next to his head, Cass takes the time to whisper;

“Wait for me at the gates of Hell, love. We burn together or not at all. You promised me, remember?” Cass breathes. She rises, returning to her place at Ben’s side. Once more she says; “Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.” And weeps at the echoes that rise from the crowd. “We send you off, our dear Dread Captain. Find comfort with your sword and flintlock at hand. Find strength in my dagger at your side. In my love that will hang as heavily as your coat. We bid you a final goodnight, William Lock. Know that you take half the light and joy with you, you bloody pirate.”

Cass steps back, watching with damp eyes as they cover Lock’s coffin and lower it into the earth. A grim treasure buried deep within a planet she and he had called their own. Cass is the last to leave, staring at the disturbed dirt, marked by a small smooth stone.

Dread Captain William Lock

A Wretched Man, A Good Sailor

May He Rest Peacefully, Sailing The Beyond

And then Cass climbs aboard the ship, and they leave. Cass returns to her quiet life, the siren call of the stars finally silent. There she lives, just down the street from the local bar, visited by the youths she had raised and by Ben, who comes by once in a while to talk of his travels. He works on a merchant ship now, he couldn’t handle being a Captain. She doesn’t know what happened to the rest of the crew, but as the age of pirating seems to be coming to an end, she prays they found an ending worthy of them.

And that’s it. That’s all the story I have for you. Was it a good story? Something worth hearing? Don’t tell me, I don’t care for an answer.

What? I told you it was a tragedy, didn’t I?

Not a full story? Well, of course there’s a beginning to this tale, but I think I’ll keep it to myself. Like I told you, the life of my beloved Captain isn’t one I’m going to share. That story is meant to stay in my memories, in the memories of those who knew my Lock. You want a better story? One of action and bloodshed, go down to the Winged Bar. You might get lucky and find an old lizard siting at the back table. If you ask nicely, maybe he’ll give you something more than a tragedy.

Or maybe he won’t. I suppose you’ll have to decide whether you want to answer that siren call or not. Curiosity and a hunger for adventure can be troublesome, now can’t it?

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