I spent three months cleaning the shop floor, or at least Rimares’ section of it. Most new apprentices spent six months at it, but I already had more experience cleaning shops than most of them, and working for the Apothecaries had made me very good a not spilling dangerous things on me. So instead of learning how to handle a broom, a mop, or a vacuum hose, or which chemicals to use when and which were safe and which would melt my hands off, I got to focus on what tools were for what, where they were stored, and how to clean them.
My spare time was spent making friends in town, doing things with mom and Officer Puppy, training with Blademaster Kasa, and visits from Maid, Dr. Pac, and the pirate Periwinkle. None of them really had any place to go while the ship was in for repairs. And, except for Maid, none of them were really interested in spending their time getting drunk in bars. Though Periwinkle did like a good wine bar, and would be praising each new one he found for days, even if it wasn’t really that good.
After the first month, Rimares had the cleanest, most organized workstation in the shop. Mind you, he was pretty clean and organized already. By my third day, I had learned from the other apprentices that Rimares never took on apprentices. It took some arguing to sort that out, but they all agreed by popular vote that it didn’t step on any toes that way. Though it may also have been because three of the seniors were pirate born and raised and had grown up on tall tales of all the amazing things Ornery probably never really did.
I know, a pirate is not officially a pirate until after a big pirate induction ceremony, but what were you supposed to call them? Potential pirates? Eligible pirates? Will probably be recognized as a pirate someday pirates? So people just called anyone with pirate blood in them a pirate, which means Ornery was wrong. There were pirate apprentices, it just sort of required being a pirate first.
Rimares was officially a journeyman, not a master, because he had not worked at the shop long enough, and his granddad stuck to the book on his kids and grandkids. It was ten years in the shop to earn a title as master, no matter who you were or how good you were, and Rimares was twenty-two. You do the math. And even then you had to prove you deserved the title.
Most journeyman did not have their own private workstations, but no one gave Rimares grief about it. His grandfather owned the company and many of the master engineers came to him for advice because he was that good. No journeymen had apprentices, at least not before now.
By my third month Rimares’ already trusted me with repairing simple hand tools, even magicked ones. Though really, all the other new kids already came here already knew how to do stuff like that. Most of them weren’t happy about it either, because they were still getting lectures on how to handle brooms and mops. I discovered that they weren’t as democratic, or as friendly, as the older apprentices on their very first day work.
It was the first day of The Rains, not that it was raining that day. New apprentices had been filtering in for a week or more by then, but weren’t allowed in the shop yet, so after filling out paperwork and being issued uniforms, and all those things, they mostly hung out in the dormitories together being whipped into shapes by older apprentices and a stern housemother who probably took lessons in attitude from Ornery.
I worked with all the second and third year apprentices cleaning the shop and getting things ready early that morning. The day the apprentices arrived there was a big ceremony. It wasn’t really for them, though they probably thought it was. It was for the ones who had made it for four years and were being promoted to journeymen, there were nine of those, and for the journeymen who had put in at least six years and proved their worth in that time, and were being honored with the title of master. There were six of those, and they took up most of the ceremony, because Rimares, Sr. had to talk about what each of them had contributed to the company, in detail. The new apprentices were just acknowledged by name and formally introduced to the shop master they would be working under.
There was a discussion about whether I should enter with the new apprentices as part of the ceremony or stand with the second years. Partly because none of us would every have the shiny, new uniforms of the first day. The final answer was enter with the first years, because a ceremony is a ceremony. And there may have been dirt under my fingernails that would never come out, but Periwinkle’s clothing spell left my uniform looking almost too clean. Still, I had been running around that morning helping to clean up and set up and had to be hustled to the back of the line of new apprentices, who all looked at me funny, because they didn’t know who I was and I was one too many.
The ceremony was pretty darned boring. And we all had to stand there, looking not bored, and not slouching or fidgeting, much, for at least an hour. It wasn’t really fair. Everyone else got to slouch and fidget.
But after the ceremony there was good food to be had from the cafeteria. Usually their food wasn’t that exciting, but they could make a real feast when they had to. It was mostly finger food carefully crafted to make everyone fat and ensure they got the wrong kind of grease on everything they touched for the rest of the day, but it tasted good.
I quickly grabbed a few bites to eat and then helped put away things from the ceremony that would be in the way. After that there wasn’t much to do until people stopped eating and got back to work, so I went back to the apprentice locker room to take a break.
When I got to the locker room, there were four of the new apprentices there, four boys who looked like the type who would whine even louder then the others the first time they were handed a broom instead of a wrench. They were big, pudgy, and acting like they came from noble households, which totally explains why they were here as apprentices instead of getting private tutoring in poetry and ethics in their expensive townhouses or villas. They had been introduced to us all as Sheaf, Kraetik, Vashi, and Edge.
Before I was even in the door, they were glaring at me.
“Who are you,” Kraetik demanded.
“I got that. What were you doing in the ceremony?”
“First year, I just started last month.” I was proud of that, but his tone didn’t give me much room for pride. “We haven’t seen you around the dorms.” He said it as an accusation. The first years all lived in the dorms, though only about half of the rest of the apprentices did.
“I live in town with my mom.” I really couldn’t understand why all four of them seemed annoyed to see me. I was trying to decide whether I should politely leave again.
“Where did you go to school?” Without understanding what he was getting upset about, I didn’t really now how to respond. They all looked like they were trying to act intimidating.
“Well, in Farport.”
“Bullshit! There are no engineering schools there.” I just looked at him funny, which he took as an excuse to get in my face.
“Someone said you were here as a favor to someone. We all worked hard to get here, studying hard, taking tests, and don’t really like someone stealing a position from someone who worked hard for it and deserved it.” All four of them were hovering over me by then, one of them between me and the door.
“I didn’t steal it. It’s an extra position they made for me.”
“Shut up!” he shouted, and took a swing at me.
Five minutes later, Izako walked into the locker room with the three senior pirates to find out what the shouting was about. They found three apprentices on the ground with bruises, cuts, and scrapes, one with a broken hand, and Kraetik with his head shoved in a toilet trying to cry uncle. I knew my uncle and I wasn’t having it.
“Hey Peri,” one of the pirates shouted. Her name was Birch, and her nickname was Bitch. She was proud of that nickname and worked hard to live up to it. She liked to say that if she ever officially became a real pirate, she was going to take the name of “the pirate, Bitch” comma and all. Though by the time that happened she had changed her mind and picked something less likely to start fights.
She was lanky, with white hair flecked with strands of black and brilliant red eyes, which were really good for intimidating people. They certainly weirded me out the first time I met her. Everyone knows pirates can come in weird colors. Humans have hair that runs from black, through brown to pale yellow with occasional detours into rich shades of red, finally trending to gray and white with age, and they have eyes that wander a weird little path from brown to blue. Pirates on the other hand, come in all colors of the rainbow, some even have weird colored skin. Most pirates still looked perfectly human, maybe with hair or eyes just barely hinting at a shade you don’t normally see, but people said the weirder the colors, the stronger the pirate.
I don’t know if it was true, I mean Ornery would have looked perfectly at home in an all-human bar brawl, but I had never seen anyone like her. I just gawked and said, “Wow. Eyes,” the words drawn out in wonder. After that she insisted on being my best friend. She always immediately liked people who liked her eyes. She usually looked like she was actively looking for trouble, and sometimes she was, but under all that she was a really nice person, unless you crossed her.
“What?” I shouted back.
“That’s our job.”
“Sorry.” I stepped back and let Kraetik drag himself out of the toilet stall, coughing and sputtering.
Izako looked at the scene around him and shook his head like he was an interior decorator about to get upset with the color of the couch. “First years can get in some serious trouble for getting into fights. Sometimes even kicked out. It is not something you want to be doing.”
“Sorry,” I said again, a little more sincerely this time.
The four troublemakers I had just been discussing the finer points of how to win a fight with started protesting loudly what a horrible person I was. Izako and the pirates just stared at them, with a sort of look that said that there were more than happy to explain horrible to them. Izako was also very good at cracking his knuckles, loudly. They shut up.
“So why don’t you go back to the party and we’ll just pretend this never happened.”
“But what about them?”
“These guys?” He gave the four of them a long look. “Well, since you asked, we heard a rumor that four newly admitted apprentices were trying to lord it over the other first years in the dorms. You know, pushing them around and stuff to show them who was boss. The four of us just thought it might be nice to stop by and have a little chat with them about that. Maybe help them understand a few things.”
Birch winked at me. “Izako can make some very convincing arguments when he wants.”
Izako looked me over. “Why don’t you three talk to them for a bit while I attend to this young lady. After all, you outrank me.” He made a sweeping gesture inviting me to the door and opened it for me on the way out. As the door was closing, I heard Birch ask icily, “Now, you didn’t just try to rough up the Admiral’s niece, did you?”
“Are you okay?” Izako looked at me, concerned.
“Not a scratch.” And it was true. My uniform had a few small tears, but Periwinkle’s spell meant no one but me even noticed. He put his hand on my head and chanted a short spell. The fabric stitched itself up.
“If you any good with simple spells, I should teach you that one. Useful for a mechanic, though it won’t handle anything heavier than a sheared bolt.”
He looked me over and smiled. I liked that smile. He took my arm like it was some of formal affair, and escorted me back to the party.
The next day, three seniors were reprimanded for beating up a group of new apprentices. They weren’t really punished, they were seniors and everyone understood the pecking order, including those who had just had it newly explained to them, but appearances did need to be maintained and procedures followed. And even with a wyrd to mend things, you were supposed to take it easy with a broken hand. Taking it easy was not something you wanted in an apprentice on their first day.
As for the four kids who had been beaten up, they were much happier to claim that they had almost held their own against three fourth-year pirates, all bigger than them, than one little girl. Birch says after I was done with them, the three of them had just terrorized them a bit before chasing them to the infirmary. But they never looked at any of us again without a little fear in their eyes.
The Pirate Apprentice by Mootly Obviate is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.