Friday Flash: Charon

Junior awoke from his doze as his little boat changed the pattern of its motion on the water. He opened his eyes to see a jumpy-looking jaeger stood staring down at him.

“You’re Charon, right?” asked the stranger.

“Cloud-kids call me that. Dunno why. Name’s Junior. Who’s asking?”

“Who I am doesn’t matter. I need to get to the Island; are you for hire?”

Junior sat up slowly, scrabbling one-handed in his tin for a smoke. “I seem to have a gap in my schedule,” he said. “Not keen on anonymous deals, though. No name, no public key, eh?”

“I have a public key -”

“Yeah, but you’re going to the Island,” Junior laughed, and lit his smoke with the old lighter his father had given him. “So it may not be valid in twelve hours time. Shit, it may not even be valid now.”

The stranger’s brows furrowed in annoyance as he looked away across the harbour crowded with pontoons, skiffs and smacks. Junior followed the jaeger’s gaze, absently noting that the morning fog was finally starting to burn off. The bulky hulls of the Spithead Nation were visible, resting at their moorings between the forts, and the rise of the Island could be made out as a neutrally dark haze beyond them. He’d need to get more baccy later, he reminded himself …

The jaeger’s voice snapped Junior out of his wandering thoughts.

“Look, public key doesn’t matter if we barter materiel for service. Tell me your normal rate for a ferry to the Island, and I’ll double it.”

“Well, I’m no marketeer, friend.” Junior was hard pressed not to let the smile reach his face. He loved the smell of desperation in the morning. “How do I know you’re not just going to offload depreciated stock on me, eh? Bearing in mind where you’re heading, and all.”

The jaeger made an exasperated noise, and threw one of his carry-alls at Junior’s feet. “I understand your nickname, now. Take what you think the trip’s worth out of the bag and let’s get moving, or I’ll find another ferry-man.”

“In a hurry as well as anonymous, is it?” Junior rummaged in the bag, his hands passing over cheap imported plastic handguns from the Continent, shrink-wrapped paper books and a bunch of what felt and looked like late-iteration cloud-routers. He hefted one into the sunlight for a closer look.

“Don’t wave it around like a bloody flag,” hissed the jaeger. “If you’re taking me, cast off – now.”

“Right you are, Mister Anonymous,” said Junior. “Get your stuff aboard, then.”

As the jaeger shifted his bags from the pontoon into the prow of the skiff, Junior pretended to busy himself with the kit-locker at the stern, taking the opportunity to slip his own antique pistol — so old it was all metal, except the rounds — into his pocket. You could never be too careful, neither with someone so liquid in hardware or someone heading for the Island.

It’d be a risky run, but the contents of that bag would make it well worth Junior’s while — probably clear a lot of his debts once he shifted it in the markets at Spithead. Junior smiled to himself as he slotted the rudder into place and hauled the patchwork sail up the mast, before casting off from the pontoon and aiming the prow with its agitated passenger toward the rusting mass of the Nation.

It was a fine morning to be out on the water.

[We’re back in New Southsea again, albeit at the south edge as opposed to the north. I hope people are liking these, because every one I commit to the screen is generating ideas for at least three more…]

[tags]friday, flash, short, fiction, story[/tags]

4 thoughts on “Friday Flash: Charon”

  1. I think I’m growing to love this setting, and want to read more. It’s also interesting that I’m not the only one to have a chosen a boating/naval theme this week …

  2. Definitely enjoying these pieces – I just wish I had more of them, so I could begin to assemble the bigger picture. Must be the great clomping foot of nerdism… 😉

  3. I quite liked this. The setting it hints at is very intriguing. You should really write a longer piece and submit it around.

Leave a Reply