And what could be more distracting than a visit to Egypt, to explore the riddle of the sphinx and the romance of the pyramids?
It’s just a pity that some rogue nanobots are going to resurrect a sadistic long-dead pharaoh and arm him with lasers, lightning bolts and inhuman strength.
Captain Hartwell was listlessly flicking through a book when there was a knock on his cabin door. He put the book down with some relief. He had traded one of his precious bottles of absinthe for a few volumes from a passing merchant, but so far, the collection was uninspiring. Three almanacs, all out of date, a bible missing so many pages it appeared that the Resurrection happened just after Moses was given the Commandments, and a weighty tome entitled On Naval Timber and Arboriculture, by Mathew Patrick, which wasn’t the sort of work Hartwell would have naturally selected.
“Enter,” he called.
“Only us, Cap’n,” said a voice as the door swung open to reveal two men.
“I know,” replied Hartwell.
“The internal scanner told you as much, I suppose, Cap’n?” said the first officer, Madrigal, as he walked in. The second officer, Fitch, who had served under Hartwell in the navy, followed him.
“No, your footsteps,” said Hartwell. “You both have a measured tread.”
“You mean you can tell us apart just from hearing our walk?” said Madrigal, surprised. “We’re almost the same height, so how can you do that?”
“You walk like a dancer, while Mr Fitch is rather more solid on his feet.”
“Is that how you could always tell who was where on board the Pride of Plymouth?” asked Fitch, referring to the last vessel he and Hartwell had served on before being betrayed by their corrupt commander, Admiral Johnson.
“Well, with all the alien technology riddled through us and the vessel, you don’t need to leave your cabin anymore to be fully aware of all that is happening on board,” observed Madrigal. “I’m told that the internal sensors can now relay constant information direct to your cabin.”
“And more,” said Hartwell, gesturing at the brass screen that rose from his polished mahogany desk. “I can view the heart rate, blood pressure and location of the crew. I can see the differential engines pumping seawater, converting it to steam and hydroelectric energy. I can see the laser cannons on the three decks and the developing arsenal in the weapons laboratory.
“I can see the interdimensional hinges that allow the interior of the ship to be bigger than the exterior, which explains the new bathrooms, the developing crew quarters, the ballroom, the billiard room, the empty library and the swimming pool. All of which are dwarfed by the walk-in wardrobes of the female crewmembers which now take up two-thirds of the entire ship.”
“Two-thirds?” gasped Madrigal. “But we’ve only got four women on board! And one of those is still disguised as a cabin boy.”
“Young Keating sneaks into the wardrobes when she thinks no one is looking. I’ve seen her do it many times as I’ve walked the decks.”
“Tell me, Captain,” said Fitch. “Are you actually using the new scanners and your neural interface at all, or are you still watching the old fashioned way, with your eyes and ears?”
“I dislike watching the crew through technology,” replied Hartwell. “It feels like a breach of their privacy.” He didn’t add that the other reason he didn’t use the scanners was his fear that he would spend his time watching one particular crewmember.
“Time for a tour round,” he announced abruptly, standing and striding from his cabin to quash the rogue thoughts.
“Damnation,” muttered Madrigal behind the captain’s back. “I thought we were about to get somewhere, maybe even get him to admit he needs to talk to Lady Mechatronic.”
“Ar, the silver demon is indeed a problem,” said Fitch. “If the captain can’t or won’t make a future with her, she needs to step back and let someone else make him happy. Otherwise, he’ll continue drinking too much and sinking further into himself. I don’t like it, Madrigal. In all the years I’ve served under him, I’ve never seen the captain become so detached, so remote from his crew.”
“It’s as though each day he drifts further away,” agreed Madrigal, “and that’s bad for us, the ship and for him.”
“He’s got worse since taking off his old navy uniform,” added Fitch darkly. “That was his last link with the honourable captain he once was and should still be. Damn that viper Johnson and his private slave trade!”
“What can we do, though?”
“Hmm.” Fitch glanced over at the small library the captain had put together during their short time on the galleon. “Egyptology was always an interest of his. Maybe a visit to the pyramids will help?”
Madrigal grinned. “That is a very good idea.” He initiated his neural link to the galleon’s internal computer. Mechatronic had already scanned in several old charts to create a three-dimension digital map of the entire planet. He looked at their current location and plotted a course for Egypt.