Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

    Parker Owens
  • Author
  • 2,280 Words
  • 3,188 Views
  • 14 Comments
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Predator Prey - 13. In Training

No special warnings needed for this chapter.

A swirl of hectic activity, a horde of incoming scientists, plenty of bellowed instructions to volunteers and crew, and the Feigenbaum made its way down a winding channel between muddy banks that alternated between open expanses of grasses and scrubby palms, live oaks and evergreens. Slowly, slowly, they sailed out into a calm evening sea. For the better part of three weeks, a dozen scientists, along with the volunteer interns and crew would share tight quarters in the pursuit of knowledge.

The crew were split into two watches; he and Joshua were assigned to different groups. Both watches worked two shifts each day; his ran from midnight to seven in the morning, and again from noon to five in the afternoon. In a way, this was a blessing. He wasn't sure he could take too many doses of Joshua in a day; the kid was just too intense. As it was, he almost never saw the boy with whom he shared the stateroom, except at meals.

And he saw each and every meal. As the mate had predicted, he was under Cookie's jurisdiction for much of his duty time, either serving meals, cleaning up a light midnight snack for those coming off watch, preparing breakfast, or cleaning up lunch and preparing supper. He was definitely tagged with 'Wally' now, and he just decided to live with it.

Brenda had been assigned to Joshua's watch group, doing lab support. Her dark haired roommate had work on deck most of the time, it seemed. In any case, he didn't see much of any of them.

Theoretically, he had a couple of hours free for his own research project. Practically, he could spend the time sleeping, reading, or trying to find a quiet place on board the crowded vessel in which to think.

"Wally" didn't have a project, other than trying to live as anonymously as he could. How the hell did he get to be a Marine Science major, anyhow? He wondered how Marc pulled that one off. From time to time, his thoughts wandered back to Marc and to Lee, the two men who rescued him. To any outside observer, their lives would have seemed unexciting, almost drab. He would have thought the same, himself, once.

But he knew differently now. Lee and Marc had given him a new start. A chance at something better. Thinking of his old life left him feeling somewhat dirty.

It was an ironic thought. Bathing was not something he got to do at any length. Everyone on board was strongly encouraged to limit their water usage and that meant short, economical showers. There was a lot of demand for them.

The worst part of having the early morning shift was that sleeping during the daylight hours of morning was nearly impossible. It wasn't the light – little enough of that filtered in to the tiny stateroom – but the noise of half the passengers and crew being up and about their work. Sounds made on steel decking or bulkheads traveled loudly from one end of the ship to the other. It seemed like most of the inhabitants of the Feigenbaum were up and awake in the hours before noon.

Whatever sleep he got happened after his second watch. He still called it his 'afternoon shift,' and Cookie ribbed him mercilessly about it. Nautical terms took a little getting used to. It took him no more than a day to fashion a pair of earplugs so he could attempt sleep.

It was an odd existence, but within five days, he felt like he'd been living Wally's life for years. The ship's routine claimed him. In the morning hours, he discovered that unless he disappeared into his stateroom, someone was likely to ask him for help with one project or another. It seemed that the interns existed to help graduate students and scientists with their research. He'd even gotten himself borrowed from Cookie for an hour or two one night, carefully tending the steel cable that tethered a deep water probe launched off the stern of the ship.

At the beginning of the second week of the cruise, Dr. Boudreau tapped him on the shoulder just after his watch ended at breakfast.

"Wally? Would you mind meeting me down in my office, please?"

Startled, he simply nodded. He had no idea what the professor had in mind. She was the Chief Scientist, so perhaps she wanted him to assist someone else on his free time. Not long afterwards, Wally presented himself at Dr. Boudreau's office, which doubled as her stateroom.

As such, her quarters were larger than those for the other crew or scientists, and she didn't have to share with another person, either.

"Please sit, Wally." She waved him into a chair. "Leave the door open."

He sat, trying to stay focused. He was tired at the end of his morning watch. Later, he'd try to nap, then he'd try reading, perhaps, until the noise of the active ship made him stir.

"I checked to look for your records, Wally. I can't find them. You're um, a very new addition to the department."

He nodded again.

"In fact, so new that you haven't taken any courses in Marine Science, as far as I can tell."

"No, I haven't," he agreed.

"How did this come about? It's most unusual for an intern to be so new to the department. In fact, I can't remember that ever happening before." She smiled pleasantly.

How the hell was he supposed to explain this? "I had a really bad experience at the end of the last semester. It made me, um, rethink my…direction in life." It sounded lame, even to his ears.

"I see," the Professor replied drily.

"So, um, a friend of mine told me about this opportunity, said I couldn't pass it up." Well that was true enough, he supposed.

"Well, you're here on board, so that's done. But I am supposed to be advising you on your project, and frankly, there is nothing to be said," she said with a downturn to her mouth.

Was that it? No. The professor continued.

"You really need to be taking coursework in the department to qualify for this cruise, you see?"

"What should I do about that?"

The professor tapped her fingers speculatively against her bottom lip. "I have an idea."

He waited.

"Listen, Wally. In Marine Science, there is a concentration in Operations. Marine Operations, yes?"

He looked blank, still not really understanding.

Professor Boudreau explained. "Marine Operations. Vessels and navigation. Logistics. It's not a major in the department, but a place you could start."

He nodded slowly. "I think I get it."

"Better is that the Captain is University faculty. He teaches Intro to Operations, you see?" the professor's accent was getting thicker. "So, I will ask him to give you some independent study this trip, yes? A few hours a day, and maybe you have your first credit in the department by the end of this cruise?"

What could he say? The ship seemed like a good place for now, and the coursework was his ticket. He agreed.

In less than twenty-four hours, he was in the Captain's cabin, perched on a stool, while the older man mused silently for a moment or two. The Captain had interviewed him directly, but not unkindly, about his desire – no, his need – to take an independent study in Marine Operations.

"Hm. Well, Wally, this is going to be a hands-on introduction, if ever there was one. You're going to get a taste of several areas of the ship in the time you've got left. Do your job well, and we'll see about getting you some credit."

"Yes, sir. I mean, aye, sir," he fumbled with the right reply.

The Captain smiled. "Very well. Starting tomorrow, I'll have you working part of a morning daylight watch with the Engineer. After that, I'll see you get rotated around the vessel so you see a bit of everything. Is that all?"

The question wasn't really meant to be answered. It was really a form of dismissal, and he recognized it as such.

"Thank you, sir," he said, and made his way out of the Captain's cabin.

From then on, he realized, he would have less time for a daytime nap at the end of his early morning watch; he'd get an hour off after his first shift ended at seven; then four hours with the Engineer, or the Mate, or the Marine Technician – or Cookie, the Purser. Then another watch, and then, possibly, sleep, until just before midnight.

The next morning, he finished his early morning watch, showered swiftly, and tried vainly to snatch a catnap. Finally, unable to rest, he just heaved himself out of his bunk, and reported to the Engineer in the cramped, noisy engine spaces toward the stern of the ship.

Here, even under a gentle cruising speed, the engines bellowed loudly enough to make shouting imperative. Funny how, not far above, their sounds were muted to a barely notable throbbing. In any case, Engineer Javier Cabrera wore sound deadening ear protection, which looked a lot like high-end headphones. He tapped Cabrera on the shoulder to get his attention.

The older man turned, narrowed his eyes a moment, then nodded, and motioned him out of the engine space. In the corridor with the hatch closed, Cabrera took off the earmuffs.

"You the new kid? Wally, right?" No expression on Cabrera's dark, stubbled face. Brawny brown arms folded themselves over a dark tee shirt that covered a well-built body. The Engineer was nobody to mess with.

"Yeah. Yes, sir," he corrected himself.

"Any time you go into the engine room, you gotta put these on," the Engineer told him, opening a cupboard next to the door, and pulling out a pair of well used ear guards. There was no smile. "Come on, I can't show you much in there if you can't hear, kid." Cabrera motioned him back along the corridor. He followed the Engineer up the ladders to the bridge.

He'd never been to the bridge before.

"Hey, Cap," Cabrera greeted the Master on the bridge. "I'm showing Wally the ship's plans in the chartroom."

The Master smiled. "Carry on, then, Javi."

Soon he found himself trying to make sense of a large, densely annotated book of ship's diagrams, outlining the plumbing, electrical, hydraulic and power systems for the Feigenbaum. Cabrera must have talked for almost an hour, running a finger over details, pointing out places in the plans where recent repairs and renovations had overtaken the originals. It was fascinating stuff, but he got lost easily.

Finally, the Engineer seemed to take pity on him. "Had enough, kid?"

He allowed himself a small smile. "Yes, sir. For now."

Cabrera nodded without returning the smile, closed the book of plans, and stowed it in its place.

"You'll need to study this some more until you know it pretty well," the older man said flatly. "That is, if you want to be an engineer."

The rest of the watch was given over to an inspection of the ship's mechanical spaces – water purification, refrigeration, air handling, and so on. He understood about a third of Cabrera's comments.

By the end of the week, he'd learned a few things.

He understood the general layout of the ship's systems. He'd actually studied diagrams and notes in his few free moments, just for the satisfaction of seeing a fleeting smile of approval cross Javier Cabrera's face. He knew a few things about basic maintenance of the ship's fundamental moving parts – and the critical role of keeping things well and properly greased and oiled.

He'd had to suppress a sudden urge to laugh like a seventh grader when the Engineer first told him with a perfectly straight face, "It's all about lubrication, lubrication, lubrication, buddy." His snort earned him a sharp look from Cabrera. "Make sure everything's all slippy slidy, boy, and nothing ever overheats, nothing lets you down."

But Cabrera had shown him how to keep certain things greased, and had insisted he try the tasks for himself. "Gotta be able to grease anything on board in the pitch black in a hurricane," he'd been counseled more than once. To demonstrate, the Engineer had directed him to try finding his way around the generator room in the pitch black, with the lights off. While he hadn't damaged anything in his fumblings, the test had not exactly been a success.

Cabrera's compact frame concealed astonishing strength. He'd found this out as the two of them tried to wrestle with a backup refrigeration unit in a cramped forward compartment to complete a minor repair.

He'd figured out by the end of the week that he really never wanted Javier Cabrera's job. He would never be able to carry a dynamic image of everything at work in the ship at any given instant in his head, as the Engineer seemed to be able to do. But he'd also come to discover a liking for the taciturn, dark skinned Cuban.

Javier Cabrera smiled rarely, but the warmth of his approval filled a room when he did. And he let his student take time to figure things out for himself. He corrected mistakes directly, but without frustration, impatience or annoyance. And somewhere in the depths of his silence lay a sense of humor that very occasionally showed itself in a quick, clever remark that left the listener wondering if he'd heard correctly.

He wasn't sure if he'd made a friend of the man, even if he'd never be much of an engineer.

My deep and abiding thanks to Craftingmom for her unrivaled editing, and to Mikiesboy, Carlos and Spike for their encouragement in beta-reading.

Please leave reviews. I appreciate any and all comments.

Copyright © 2017 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 37
  • Love 1
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

On 12/15/2016 10:30 PM, droughtquake said:

Did Marc manipulate some of the school's files? ;-)

 

I think he was probably desperate enough to want to get rid of TP/Wally!

Marc must have either found a way into the files or knows someone who could do it... ;)...desperation on Marc's part is possible, but so is compassion, at least if prompted by Lee. But either way, it did get TP out of the house...many thanks for reading the story!

Link to comment

All previous chapters are irrelevant now that the Cuban character's front and center. This is where the story actually begins. :rofl:

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
On 12/16/2016 03:11 AM, Carlos Hazday said:

All previous chapters are irrelevant now that the Cuban character's front and center. This is where the story actually begins. :rofl:

Si, amigo mio. You have it right, as usual! Many thanks.

  • Like 1
Link to comment

I think the most important part of the chapter was Wally feeling dirty when he thought of his past. I has a feeling the engineer would play a part in the story. Is their a connection being forged here? I wonder how TP will react if love eventually strikes him. Great chapter, buddy... cheers... Gary....

  • Love 1
Link to comment
On 12/16/2016 07:19 AM, Headstall said:

I think the most important part of the chapter was Wally feeling dirty when he thought of his past. I has a feeling the engineer would play a part in the story. Is their a connection being forged here? I wonder how TP will react if love eventually strikes him. Great chapter, buddy... cheers... Gary....

As usual, your acute sense of reading hit upon a really important part of TP's story. That he should feel dirty about his past at all seems significant. Apart from anything else, his emotional and compassion nerves must be regenerating. I am glad you liked this chapter. I know it has been slow going, but change is rarely lightning fast in real lives. Many thanks for your comments and for reading so far into the story.

Link to comment

I agree with Gary; it was definitely a breakthrough for TP when he felt dirty after thinking about his past. Finally, something's getting through to him.

 

The professor was very kind in thinking up something TP/Wally could do in lieu of not taking any marine science courses. I mean, what choice did she have really? It wasn't like she could throw him overboard. :lol:

 

He's turning out to be a quick learner. Either that, or Mr. C is a good teacher. :)

 

Great chapter, Parker! :)

Link to comment
On 12/16/2016 03:05 PM, Mikiesboy said:

Interesting...so he's found out, with few repercussions. We'll see what happens next...

Found out, sort of...Professor Boudreau can't exactly have him thrown in irons and fed on thin gruel...as she possibly sees it, she's fobbing him off on a less- popular study area as a way to effectively absolve herself of responsibility. He can be the Captain's problem now. Thanks for reading!

Link to comment
On 12/19/2016 03:46 PM, Lisa said:

I agree with Gary; it was definitely a breakthrough for TP when he felt dirty after thinking about his past. Finally, something's getting through to him.

 

The professor was very kind in thinking up something TP/Wally could do in lieu of not taking any marine science courses. I mean, what choice did she have really? It wasn't like she could throw him overboard. :lol:

 

He's turning out to be a quick learner. Either that, or Mr. C is a good teacher. :)

 

Great chapter, Parker! :)

TP is thinking now, and actually realizing what his earlier life meant. It cannot help but make him feel dirty. I think Prof Boudreau is being partly helpful and partly finding a way to get someone else (like the Captain) to work with TP. Clearly it would be a huge burden for her to take him on as a student in her own. The alternative to throwing TP overboard might be clapping TP in irons and feeding him on thin gruel...thanks for your excellent observations and thoughts...and for reading the story, of course!

Link to comment

I don't know that I fully trust TP/Wally, but so far he's thinking all the right things and there's intent...and he feels dirty about the past. Maybe the apologies will come later when he realises all that he gained from this experience hopefully. That Dr. B was kind to him when she didn't really have to be, was a good thing. Another person from his perspective, in his corner so to speak.

 

There's something with Javier? Maybe? Good or bad for Wally remains to be seen.

Link to comment
On 12/29/2016 04:58 AM, Defiance19 said:

I don't know that I fully trust TP/Wally, but so far he's thinking all the right things and there's intent...and he feels dirty about the past. Maybe the apologies will come later when he realises all that he gained from this experience hopefully. That Dr. B was kind to him when she didn't really have to be, was a good thing. Another person from his perspective, in his corner so to speak.

 

There's something with Javier? Maybe? Good or bad for Wally remains to be seen.

Not sure I would trust Wally, either. But in this environment, he is an unknown. Dr. Boudreau treats him with patience and some kindness, which must have been unexpected. But now the expectations are greater. He will have to perform in many areas, and cover for his own lack of preparation. Thanks for your perceptive comments.

Link to comment

I think I like 'Wally' enough now to let him have a name. So I'll call him that from now on. The idea that he has a new name is proper, as it goes with his new face and his new life. And he does seem to really be edging into a new life.
The thing about reform is, it becomes a way of life. It builds on itself. I see that Wally has already allowed for this. As a builder of new things, he seems set to go some places. Bravo.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
On 01/30/2017 10:53 AM, Geron Kees said:

I think I like 'Wally' enough now to let him have a name. So I'll call him that from now on. The idea that he has a new name is proper, as it goes with his new face and his new life. And he does seem to really be edging into a new life.

The thing about reform is, it becomes a way of life. It builds on itself. I see that Wally has already allowed for this. As a builder of new things, he seems set to go some places. Bravo.

Edging into a new life, and a new way of living: that is a very good way to look at it. Wally is lucky, for life on board a ship is built on routine and habit. It becomes a foundation. Wally is no longer the hunter, but he is a creature carried along on a current, on a gale of wind. He has alighted on the ship for now. Your response is very kind, and I appreciate it very much.

Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..