The airlock slid open with a hiss and Tenaria fell through the yawning hole it had created. She gasped, the low oxygen levels on her own ship making her mind fuzzy and her chest heave with a lead weight. She’d been floating aimlessly through deep space for what felt like a life time and a half with no direction, limited supplies and lacking common sense.
Once her composure was regained and the room had stopped spinning she propped herself up on her calloused hands and scoured the deck with a wary eye. An ST-Bluebird if she was not mistaken, one of the more battered models. The low hiss of fluid steam and the absence of a rumbling engine indicated that a few upgrades had been made relatively recently; the Bluebird wasn’t known for it’s quite operation.
Staggering to her unsteady feet she crept forward, holding onto the sheet metal that covered the walls and drifted aimlessly down the very long, very copper corridor. The twists and turns it made confused her, most ships this age had a structured lay out, this was like nothing she’d ever seen before. Thoroughly confused and turned around she stopped for a moment to lean against the wall. Taking a deep, calming breath she leant her head backwards and sighed, feeling it bump against something jutting away from the cold surface.
Turning to look at it she raised one eyebrow at the painting of a squirrel in a top hat and monocle gazing down at her with a frown unrivalled by any she’d ever seen. Backing away a little from the obscure sight she tripped over a golf club lying clumsily on the floor behind her. Grabbing the wall, she squinted into the half light the emergency lights gave off and noticed the array of stuff around her.
An old typewriter lay on its left hand side, some keys missing and looking like a sullen old man’s face, grumpy and rejected. A top hat, several taxidermy animals the like of which she’d never seen before, a battered hover board and what looked to be a statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel but without his right arm and a few bullet holes for good measure.
Wondering if she should turn back and take her chances with oxygen starvation her ears began to pick up the sound of soft music echoing down the long corridors. Placing one nervous foot in front of the other she followed the tune, the swell of the classical piece growing louder and louder. She recognised it, she couldn’t place it but she knew it from somewhere.
The dingy lower corridors gave way to bright, elegant rooms filled with brick-a-brack and odds and ends. Stacks of papers slid across the floor in little white and brown mounds, books flung open at obscure pages showed off theoretical physics, mythology, religious practices and music theory. Furniture haphazardly dotted the room and glasses of some odd brown looking fluid seemed to teeter on every edge. Tenaria sniffed one cautiously and recoiled from the sickly sweet smell.
Stepping over the skin of what looked to be a seven foot penguin and climbing over an array of cables she pushed on the wide wooden door before her; giving the golden, worn handle a shove. The swell of music hit her ears with a blasting force and sudden recognition poured in on her. The Star Wars theme screamed into her ear drums, as a live goat pushed its way past her eager to get out of its weird prison. Her mind whirled, unable to process what she was witnessing, but unable to ignore the man in the middle of the room.
“It’s rude not to knock you know!” He shouted over another great swell in the music. His long coat flowed out behind him as he leapt and bound about the space, waving what looked to be a fencing sword before his face. The blade zinged as it whipped through the air, the man’s shined formal shoes squeaked on the wooden floor as he pranced over a pile of books.
“Was that a goat?” Tenaria asked, a little afraid of the answer.
“A Triberian, Fillean Mountain Goat to be precise. My sparring partner, not the best I’ve had but he definitely has more skill than some.” He lunged forward and spiked a stuffed teddy in the gut.
“Haha! Have that Mr Bigglesworth!” Leaving the sword stuck in the bear, wobbling a little at the hilt he swished his coat off and threw it over the arm of one of the dusty old arm chairs. He looked every inch the gentleman in his well fitted suit, the red waist coat seemed to glimmer in the oil lamp light. Reaching a hand forward he gestured for Tenaria to take it; with some reservation she did.
“What may your name be Ma’am?” He enquired kissing her dusty hands and furrowing his brow a little at the taste. “Can’t imagine this is an official visit; you seem to have forgotten your shoes.” Tenaria looked down, a sudden flush of shame filling her as her black toes wriggled and left prints on the equally dirty floor. She opened her mouth to apologise but before she could muster a word, he had pulled her forward and directed her into the chair nearest the hologram fire.
“So, what are you? Criminal, gate crasher, smuggler, intrepid explorer of the stars …. mischief maker?” He cast her a suspicious eye and offered her a glass of that awful brown liquid she’d encountered on her way in from the decanter on the floor.
“A – a wander Sir. I’m lost.” She replied a little unsure of the drink in her hand.
“Ahah! I knew it! Knew it from the moment I saw you in that little box out there in the black!” He tapped his temple with one long finger, knowingly. He sat down heavily next to her and chugged down the last of his drink.
“Is there a story to go with that unhappy fate?” Tenaria gripped her glass and gazed down into its contents.
“No.” She stonewalled, unwilling to share anything of herself with this odd stranger. He gave her another look, one that was tinged with concern and questioning, but quiet acceptance.
“You should drink up.” He flourished, pouring himself another glass and lightening the mood.
“What is it?” Tenaria asked nervously, taking a tiny, cautious sip. Her face crinkled, she’d never tasted something so sweet, and the sensation! Little bubbles foamed across her tongue and tickled the back of her throat with long fingers making her splutter.
“This my dear, is the nectar of the Gods! Something quite wonderful but no longer in abundance, mores the pity. An old Earth drink, I have never learnt of its name but I believe it was quite the rage at one time in history.”
“But it’s so vile!” She exclaimed, forgetting herself for a moment.
“Pah!” He rounded on her, hand on hip, glass in the other. “You’ve had but a taste, what do you know? This is the soul meaning of everything on this ship. I risk life and limb on a regular basis in my quest for more! Do you want to know why?”
“When I was but a young snapper of a boy, barely this high.” He gestured to some vague area, sloshing his glass as he did so. “I was digging through the rubble of forgotten dreams in my parent’s cargo bay, smugglers they were and they transported all manner of things across the stars. You know what I found? A small metal object, rounded and bright gleaming red. Not knowing what it was I hit it, I rolled it, I threw it and coming to no sensible conclusion at last I shook it, placing my ear to the can. Alas! The thing exploded right then and there in my hands raining down a glorious fountain of this perfect fluid. From that moment, I craved it, I longed for it and now I dedicate my life to the consumption of its glory.”
Tenaria was sure he was mad; a likable kind of crazy that she wasn’t sure she entirely understood.
“That’s your job?” She just had to clarify. “Searching for more of this stuff?” She rolled the glass in her hands.
“That’s it Miss! … Care to come along for the ride or shall we be sending you on your way once we come to a destination of your liking?”
Tenaria was not a girl with options. She had naught but the clothes on her back and one worn out ship. For all his flouncing something about the man seemed trust worthy and it was doubtful she’d receive another offer of travel anywhere else in this space quadrant.
“I don’t even know your name.” She said, allowing herself a small smile.
“I am the Seeker and this” he gestured his arms wide at the ship that encased them, “is Cacella. Welcome aboard, don’t touch any big bright red buttons, don’t agitate the goat and never touch my liquor without my permission.”
“Got it Captain.”
“Alrighty then! Onwards, to victory!”
Tenaria had never been so delightfully confused in all her life.