Blood of the Knife
As long as there has been a mankind, there has been myths and legends amongst the seafarers. Some of them are rumors, some have been witnessed by sailors them selfs. They are tales of men and ships and the sea and their bond that reach over the common sense. And all it can be just that, a myth, a story until it isn't anymore. Until its become to be true.
A long ago, age of the sail ships they said that knife is most important tool to a sailor. It was used on daily practice, quarrels and it could save you life at last moment.
They also say that oath of the blood of the knife is never been taken lightly, that it made men brothers and it separated them and that it made crews to a ship's that can serve under only one captain and no other.
But who can really believe such things?
She was half listening the man sitting beside him. All around them on the docks were men coming and going. Bangs and clacks mixing the yelled orders and cacophony hundreds of men swarming like ants. A low hum of the ships readying to go out to the sea and men welding them together filled the air as was the engine of the jeep where she sat with two marines driving along the pier. Men in their dull green uniforms, she in a bright yellow dress with small white and blue flowers in it that peeked under her open long coat. It was a warm day that you sometimes get on early march reminding the summer that was coming and she was standing out from the crowd like a sunshine in the dark.
Smell of oil, grease, hot iron, fumes from the ships that eagerly nagged their lines and a sea, salty brush that promised that there would be more out there than this filthy dock. It didn't made her cough but it brought up memories and spike of the adrenaline that was always there when...
-I'm sorry, what were you saying?- She asked stopping her thoughts as turning her gaze back to young marine who blushed when she smiled at him
Radio between them suddenly screamed -Ghost is back! Ghost is back! Those who don't know Ghost is the nickname to destroyer Warlock and she's coming harbor now. All you who are listening she was one of our convoys escort, who was thought to be lost. And can you hear this?!- Voice kept a pause and then continued -All the ships here in harbor..- Aloud sound of dozen ships whistling high and low covered reporters voice for a moment and then his voice shouted over it continuing his broadcast -...their welcome Warlock and her crew who saved the convoy, those very ships who you can actually hear welcoming her right now, by sacrificing her self, to staying behind to be a bait to wolf pack and a White Wolf who you all..- Reporters voice broke and then his shock what he was seeing -...oh lord..she's battered..missing her parts of her superstructure..holes, there are holes in her, I can see sea peeking thru her and still she's coming with her own power...-
-How many times they can play that shit? There are others too than just those bloody sailors. They aren't only ones who are fighting this war. Taking all the glory- Said a rough voice and it followed the hand coming between them and shutting the radio that had just been playing the broadcast that had happened almost the three months ago. The voice behind them continued this time talking to young man in the wheel -Shut the radio for once so your misses to be is going to hear you- Older lieutenant who actually was closer to her age than young soldier driving said
A young man blushed more and squeezed wheel with his both hands and muttered -Keep your mouth shut-
-Why don't I interpreted what you were saying and you just drive on- Lieutenant slap the young man's shoulder with his hand
-Oh, don't be so cruel to him lieutenant Cartwright- She said turning to look behind her and put on her best smile
-Well let me tell you miss Randolph- Lieutenant started
-Actually its Mrs and a widow- She now said little bit harder tone -My husband was one of those sailors who they celebrate on that broadcast, even it wasn't just that particular event-
The lieutenant coughed awkwardly and didn't see how younger man smiled to his discomfort. She had just slapped the lieutenant with open hand, hard.
-Do please go on- She said now turning back to look how dock workers made their lazy walk front of the jeep. As soon as they were gone, young man on the wheel drive on
-Like I was saying, Mam. I mean that even you say you are admirals Porter's daughter, me like Mike here too are little bit confused that you don't remember the ship you are about to board. Mike here can be smitten to you but me I'm the suspicious type. Admiral or no admiral. And we are soon coming end of the pier, so I think..-
-You don't have to be so worried. Here she is- She pointed toward hard looking gray ship who seemed to be leaning toward the pier. It's bow read it's name Merlin, two of the lettering just half inch of the line with others. From the row of five ships it looked small and just little bit haggard, but in a navy way, nothing that wasn't by the regulations
-Hmm- Said lieutenant Cartwright looking up to superstructure of the ship that reached up to the sunny blue sky -I don't know-
-You don't have to know Lieutenant -She said patiently as stepping down from the jeep and showing her legs that made some men ogle but she didn't seemed to noticed the attention she was causing -I have my papers and they are as good as orders than any-
-I still don't know- Lieutenant Cartwright said as jumping down from the back of the jeep and reaching to take a soft canvas back from it – Not that I'm doubting your papers, but why would admiral send you to one of our destroyers, thats what I'm thinking-
She smiled him again continuing the sentence that he had left unsaid –Just to ferry me off and not to be somewhere to protecting our convoys?- She nodded to lieutenants face that showed exactly how right she had been -I'm sure they are going to be thinking just that on board too. Just that you know, this wasn't my idea either- She said and started to walk toward the gangplank.
Up on the ship swarming men didn't seem to be noticing what was happening on pier except two men that were leaning on the ships railing. Man in his forties who had rolled his sleeves up scratched his chin, leaving on it a black smear from his calloused hands. -I smell trouble- He said as man beside him nodded -You better fetch the exo. I don't think my authority can cover this-
The man who looked to be in his twenties but from his casual way he addressed older man told that he wasn't those green ones that navy kept sending them every time the ship came to port -I'll get the cavalry, oh mighty master chief of mine- He chuckled as pushing himself away from the reeling and started to walk toward aft still adding -You just hold the ford mean while-
Turning back to follow woman in yellow dress who was already over the half way towing after her lieutenant who seemed to be fuming that he could not keep up on her. Coming on gangplank needed somewhat good balance and coordinated step, or you could be falling down between ship and pier, when sudden move shoved you out of balance and giving you a almost certain death sentence. And from all that woman seemed to possess the talent, making her way like she had been walking on steady ground.
-Well, if I wouldn't know better..- Master chief muttered straightening up to welcome them
Two steps and they would be on deck when -Wait..wait, miss..Just watch your steps, boys got it just painted, we don't want to be cause of smearing that pretty dress of yours- Mans voice warned as same time chided for her unsuited wardrobe that she was wearing when coming place like this
Taking well measured steps, avoiding railing, and cables she came on deck -Thank you for the warning..- From forced pause that clearly indicated that she didn't know how to address the man who had came to meet them who then said
-A Master Chief Nelson Rowe, miss, just call me chief- He said, but got the feeling that the pause she had kept had been intentional to disguise her act of ignorance, because she nodded almost immediately when he had told her his rank, like it had been obvious to her already
-Chief Rowe, I'm Allison Randolph- Woman said and offered her hand and Chief took it giving a short and powerful squeeze -And Al, is fine too- She gave him a quizzical smile
-Nice to meet you miss Randolph- He smiled her and added -Al- She clearly was aware that his name Nelson often could shorten to Nelly and that there wasn't many Nelson's who liked the nickname
Behind the woman lieutenant took last steps to the deck and missed his footing when ship lurched sideways against its fastenings, taking a steps to gain his balance lieutenant bump in to railing. A wet paint that now smeared his left side from his hip to calf, did go unnoticed from him and just made Master Chief to cough but didn't get a word out before lieutenant came to stand with them and corrected his wording his tone indicating just what his thoughts were from the navy
-It's Mrs, not miss, Chief-
-Well that railing is still wet, sir- Chief said looking the lieutenant and pointed now toward his smeared uniform
When lieutenant cursed throwing the bag that he had been carrying on deck and started to search his pocket to something to wipe it of master chief turned to look woman to hide his amusement. Seeing how her gaze roamed all over the deck, he felt odd sensation like a ship was under some kind of scrutiny that he didn't know about but his thoughts were interrupted when woman said
-Just leave it lieutenant Cartwright. Its due to last in sea conditions you cant get it off like that- Words ,if all, hang behind it but she didn't say it out loud
Surprised that she had known that, chief intervened trying to save the moment and lieutenants dignity that she clearly had just wrecked and from lieutenants look, again, he asked -Well, why don't you tell your business...-
-Mrs Randolph here will be traveling with you..- Lieutenant recovered soon and shot his full broad side -Here is her papers, she's all yours- Lieutenant pushed stack of paper to stunned Chiefs hands, gave him a nasty smirk and made his hasty retreat picking the canvas bag from the deck and giving it to her.
Nodding and giving him a formal farewell smile she said -Thank you- But lieutenant had already saluted and was already stepping on gangplank
-Just..wait a bloody minute mister, you cant leave her here!- Chief said finally getting a word out and stepping after retreating lieutenant who didn't look back
Behind him she said -Sorry if this causes any inconvenience, but I'm sure your captain is already informed by my coming and..-
Chief huffed putting hands to his hips -Ooh, I doubt it- And then turned toward her -You see hes not on aboard right now and I'm sure there must be some misunderstanding-
-Whats going on here- Man almost as young as man who had moments ago left to chiefs request, who now was coming behind him, asked
-Exo, I think there's some mix up here, she says that she's coming with us- There was an apology, unbeliavance and small mount of desperation in Chiefs voice and it made young man behind exo grin widely
-Whats this nonsense that you are giving me-
-I do have papers..- She now started but stopped when Chief offered them to exo who started to peel them thru
-This can't be..- Looked up toward her - Admiral Porter himself?-
-Yes, my farther- She said pointing to papers down corner where the signature stood broadly- I know this is highly inconvenience and..- She pulled her hand back to carry her bag
-That's the mildly said miss Randolf-
Chief coughed -Mrs, sir-
Exo looked dumbfounded and then it dawn to him -Yes, of course Mrs. Randolph- He corrected
She nodded and then said -If they are in order..- She pointed the paper in exos hand -I really would like to get my..how do you say my berth?-
-Well mam that's the quite correct way, I just have to make some arrangements and we get you settled- He turned couple times looking for suitable person and finally noticing young man behind him -Will, take Mrs. Randolphs bag-
Will, stepped forward, quickly touching his knuckles with his temple -William Hersley, mam. Will, I mean-
-Will- She repeated and handed her canvas bag to him -Thank you- She said meaning both of them- Oh, and how soon are we leaving, I thought if I could take a nap before the journey was quite rough, but I would not want to miss our departure- Her hand went to his brown hair trying to tap her loose hair back down which wind had gotten loose. Exo noticed her complexion be sun burn but still somewhat pale, like a person who had been much out doors but had recently been keeping inside. It reminded him those men on hospitals that he had seen pictures
-At the moment we are making repairs and loading. Old man..I mean captain was called away to headquarters, just a routine thing- He said hastily - But we know soon as he comes back-
She flashed a smile -So, were I go?-
-I ..just follow me- He said making quick decision. Nodding to chief who had stood there listening in interest and Will who dutifully followed when they in exos lead started to made their way stepping around laid equipments, parts and men working on them
Taking her hand to help her steps down on stairs and then a corridor that seemed to continued whole ships length they finally stopped a small cabin and step in. Leaving Will stand on corridor and she stopping on the door -Here we are. I just take this..- Exo walked inside cabin taking things or putting them on placed
She watched silently -Is this yours?- She asked finally- I don't want to intrude..-
-No..no it's not..I mean I'm going to sleep with our second mister Bradley, well not with him, but in his a cabin- He stop riggid to explain when he heard her let a cough that could have interpeted strangled laugh -Just a standard operation when we have passengers- He finished turning toward the door where she was waiting
-Which isn't often- She guessed making him let a laugh and look embarrassed -Thank you- She said when he made hasty retreat first taking a bag from Will and handing it to her but just second after he came to back door
-Oh, I didn't introduce my self, Thomson Woods, Merlin's first officer and just if you are hungry or just want cup of coffee..follow that corridor, stairs down -He pointed ahead -And you find galley. Talk to steward Jackson there, he will bring what you need or you can just eat there, if you don't mind the crew- He yet again looked somewhat embarrassed when saying it and then he left leaving her stand in his cabin.
Will who had returned his place and pose to lean on the railing beside on Master Chief and listened when Chief said -I'm just saying captain is going to fix this. We aren't like some taxi service-
-Think about what would be our rate anyway- Will said making it to be a joke
-This isn't funny. A woman in here, this isn't good-
-You have to say she wasn't that bad. I mean bad to look at and I think she managed better than others I know-
-Yeah..weird thing that - Chief said but then straighten and said -Its not that. Theres something..- Chief shook his head like not catching the thought
Will laughed -Superstitious again, chief?-
Chief let a laugh himself too -No..no -He said slowly thinking and then continued -But there are lots of things on the sea that man can't explain and some of those old stories you can just ignore- To that Will didn't say anything. Or laughed.
On other end of the pier young driver said to Lieutenant Cartwright just when they drove out thru the guard point -Wasn't it funny coincidence, I mean with the names..Warlock on radio and we left Mrs Randolph to Merlin-
-I don't care what they are called- Lieutenant Cartwright said grimly -Just glad to get rid of that woman. I didn't like her a one bit, besides she cost me a good trousers. Can you see this?!- Young man heard how lieutenant cursed -A bloody navy, Im going to send them a bill from this- And tried once again remove the pain with out result, not noticing young mans smile