Authors: Jordan Rivet
Chronicles: Book One
Seabound Chronicles, Book One
© 2014 by Jordan Rivet
Edition: November 2014, Updated: February 2015
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a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of
the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric
purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses,
companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
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For my siblings: Chelsea, Alex, Lindsay, Kimberly, Jake, Jamie,
Olivia, and Kylie
marks the earth with ruin; his control
with the shore
—The Riding Storm
A horn blasted in
the depths of the ship. Esther sat up as the sound
thundered through her cabin and lightning illuminated the porthole. She swung
her legs over the edge of the bunk, feeling the cold spread through the worn
toes of her socks. Then the ship lurched, tipping her to her feet. Esther felt
a twinge of irritation. Did it have to be tonight?
She waited, ready
to move at a moment’s notice, and scrubbed a hand through her straight black
hair. She’d cut it bluntly, hacking it short to keep it out of the way of her work,
but it had grown down almost to her shoulders again, shaggy and uneven. She’d
have to do something about that.
A second horn
shivered through the dark. A storm was coming.
She listened for a
third call. The wind picked up, driving water against the porthole, but there
were no more horns.
Just two. It’s a
Still, that lurch had her worried. Esther jammed her feet into her
boots, grabbed a tattered raincoat, and pushed open the flimsy metal door. She
wasn’t on storm duty, but there was work to do. The floor rolled. The waves
would be coming hard and fast now. The
wasn’t a small ship, but
Esther could already feel the wild motion of the sea. She trailed her hand
along the bulkhead as she jogged down the passageway.
scraped bare carpet that had once been plush, back when the
been a proper cruise ship. She could hardly remember the feeling of soft fibers
between her toes. Now her mind was on more practical concerns. She left her
home corridor and made her way to the darkened plaza. A crystal chandelier
still swayed from the ceiling, but the bulbs had been repurposed for more
essential needs. The hall was a garish reminder of the way the world used to
accustomed to moving through the ship without light. The world had been dark
for sixteen years. It wasn’t pitch black, of course. The sun rose and set the
same as it had during her early childhood on land. But the curtain of ash that
had filled the atmosphere and changed their lives forever kept the world in
perpetual shades of gray. It was a gloomy, overcast darkness, the kind that led
some people to despair and others to fight for new ways to survive.
down the grand staircase, joining her neighbors who’d left their cabins to make
rode out the storm. Now that she was up, she felt the
familiar thrill that always accompanied violent weather. Finally something was
happening to break up the monotony of life at sea—and she was ready.
“Hi, Esther dear.
Thought you were on duty last week.” Her friend Bernadette was carrying a
canister of batteries down the stairs. Bernadette was one of the few adults on
who was shorter than Esther. She had long white hair, and
her chunky turquoise sweater, a gift shop remnant, nearly swallowed her tiny
hands. It bore a faded screen print of the
and the slogan “Your Island at Sea.”
“I was. Just
checking on Cally. It’s her first time watching the pumps during a rider,”
Esther said, walking beside Bernadette for a few paces.
“She’ll be okay,”
Bernadette said. “She’s been following you around since she could walk. She
knows what to do.”
“We’ll see. Do you need help with those?”
“Oh, I’ll be fine.
These bones still have a little strength left.”
and Esther noticed she had lost another tooth. Someone on board would need to
replace the old dentist soon.
At the bottom of
the grand staircase, Esther swung through a service doorway and made her way
into the depths of the ship. Maybe Cally could try dentistry. She was keen to
assist Esther with engine maintenance, but she was too bubbly and flighty for
the careful, dirty work of a mechanic. And she didn’t love it like Esther did.
The ship gave a
particularly violent shudder. The wind must be picking up, but Esther could no
longer hear it as she climbed down a spiral stairwell and into the bowels of
. Still, she wasn’t too concerned. It was a rider, not a
runner, after all. They would have been warned by radio if the storm was going
to be bad enough to use their precious fuel reserves to escape. The
would roll through this one as it had through every rider since Esther and the
others had made their homes aboard the ship. Their weather prediction
technology was improving, and they hadn’t gotten close enough to a real runner
to need their fuel reserves in years.
Esther pushed open
the hatch to the engine room and stomped along the metal catwalk, her footsteps
clanging in the yawning space. The cavernous room took up the two lowest levels
of the ship, beneath the waterline, and when the engines were off it was
surprisingly quiet. The machines cast hulking shadows across her path. She
passed the first block of silent marine diesel cylinders and climbed down to
the bottom level. Her boots splashed on the final step.
“What the hell is
going on?” Esther said.
A layer of water
covered the floor of the engine room. Sixteen-year-old Cally stood ankle-deep
in the water, apparently having a minor panic attack.
shrieked. “I’m so glad you’re here! We’re sinking!”
Cally’s red hair,
which she’d tried to cut to look like Esther’s, frizzed out in all directions.
She was operating a pump manually, of all things. The radio by the door sputtered,
its message indistinct. The lights flickered violently.
“Stop doing that,
Cally. Do you really think it’s going to help?” Esther said calmly.
Cally kept a tight
grip on the pump as if it were a life raft. “I didn’t know what to do! The
pumps stopped. I think there’s a short!”
“It’s all right,”
Esther said. “Come over here and hold the light for me.” She splashed through
the water covering the floor to the open control box on the far wall. A spark
of electricity crackled from a loose wire. “Was this open when the water
started coming in?” Esther asked. She yanked rubber gloves from her back pocket
and bent the wires away from the water. You could never be too careful.
“I think maybe I
left it open last time I checked on the circuits,” Cally said. She stood by
Esther’s shoulder, rubbing a blister that had formed on her finger.
pump by hand indeed.
Esther took a small flashlight from her belt and handed it to her young
“You need to make
sure this thing is shut and sealed.”
“I’ve left it open
before and nothing’s happened,” Cally wailed.
“Just be more
careful next time. Hand me the smaller tool kit.” Esther planted her feet far
apart and went to work on the circuits, quickly slicing and realigning wires,
preparing to bypass the damaged area. “Tell me about the water,” she said.
“Oh right.” Cally
looked down at the flood soaking into her jeans. “Heard on the radio that we
hit some debris. I think it was part of an old shipping container or something.
Put a gash in the hull.”
“Who’s on the
“I don’t know. I
was just supposed to control the water intake, and it’s a disaster! Are we
going to sink?”
“No, I’ll fix it,”
Esther said, privately relieved she had decided to come down here even though
she wasn’t on duty. Cally wasn’t ready for this. “A shipping container, huh?
Hope they pulled it up. I’m desperate for some decent steel.”
weren’t part of Esther’s domain, but the men from the repair crew sometimes
gave her leftover scraps, which she used to work on improvements to the ship’s
systems. They knew she wouldn’t waste the metal, even if they didn’t always
think her ideas would work. But Esther believed she could do more than just fix
the machines. One day she would prove it.
She flipped the
circuit on the control box. Nothing happened. The ship rocked, dousing them
with salty water. Esther shielded the control box with her body to keep it dry.
She flipped the switch again. On the third try, half of the pumps sputtered to
life. Something was blocking the rest. Esther moved along the line to the first
silent pump, the water sloshing around her. It had risen almost to her
kneecaps. Her foot bumped a loose bolt on the floor. She plunged a hand into
the cold water and grabbed it as it slid past her again.
Everything in the
had to be tied down, contained, controlled.
Cally shone the
beam of the flashlight onto the bolt. “Oh, I found that the other day and
forgot to tell you about it,” she said, biting the edge of her lip. “I set it
over there somewhere.” She waved her hand vaguely in the direction of the big
“Rust and salt!”
Esther swore. “I could have fixed this days ago.”
“I’m sorry! I
didn’t know it was a big deal.”
Esther shook her
head, then took a deep breath and dropped into the water beneath one of the
pumps. She felt her way through the dark. In the silence, the water pressing
into her ears, she could focus on the connections, sensing what was out of
place. Sure enough, one of the tubes had come loose, disrupting the pressure of
half the system and triggering the safety cutoff. The rocking of the ship
pushed her back and forth in the cold water. She gripped the pipes and felt her
way along the grooves and joints of the machinery. She came up to grab a breath
and a wrench and then slid back beneath the pump. Holding the loose bolt in her
teeth, she forced the tube back into its socket and tightened it into place.
She wished Cally
had chosen another occupation. Engineering was not for the absentminded. You
needed to be detail oriented, careful, and technical. They couldn’t afford
“Flip the third switch from the right in the control box, Cally. Third from the
She pulled herself
up from beneath the pumps, spit the salt from her mouth, and stepped back. The
machinery shuddered. Slowly the impellers began to turn. Along the line, the
remaining pumps sputtered into motion, drawing water from the belly of the
and spewing it back into the sea.
“The water’s still
coming in!” Cally said. She was right. Despite the pumps, the water rose, marking
its progress on the bulkhead. The leak still hadn’t been repaired.
Reggie should be there by now.
“I’d better go make sure someone’s on it,” Esther
said. “Keep an eye on the water level down here.”
“You’ll be fine,
“But Judith says you’re
not supposed to—”
“Don’t worry about
Judith. She should be in her quarters now anyway.” Esther didn’t want to miss
out on a chance to pick up some extra materials. She was technically still on
probation, but now she had a perfectly good excuse to check in with the repair
guys. She couldn’t let the ship sink.
She left Cally
standing beside the control box, mouth opening and closing in protest like a
red-haired otter’s. Esther just wouldn’t let Judith see her out of her cabin.
She’d never know.