Vic stepped up onto the gangplank of the ship, but his way onto the vessel proper was blocked by a passing worker.
"What do you want?" the man demanded with a loud crude voice.
"Can I speak to Adrian Cain?" Victory asked.
"The foreman's down in the hold. He said not to be disturbed."
"Well, can you just let him know I want to see him?"
"He said he didn't want to be disturbed!" the worker said, as though it was obvious to any idiot that Cain's word was the law.
"Well..." Victory wracked his brain for a moment, "Can I see...Greg Barlow?"
The worker glared, but he seemed to approve of the request in some small capacity. He left muttering for Victory not to come aboard, and returned a moment later with Barlow in tow. The black man's face seemed to light up the moment he saw Victory.
"Mr. Halov! It's a damned pleasure to see you again."
Barlow grabbed Vic by both hands and shook vigorously. He led Victory onto the ship.
"You're here to see Mr. Cain I guess," Greg said.
"Yeah, I'm having a little trouble getting to see him."
"Well, you're lucky you showed up here today. This is the last day of work on this ship."
"But what about Cain?"
"Well, he should be surfacing fairly soon, we're supposed to have a party before we stop construction for..."
A twinge went through both of them.
"...Ever." Barlow finished, and turned around.
As though struck by the invisible glare of an angry god, every worker on the ship fell dead silent. Up from the hold there arose an apparition, and some of them covered their eyes to protect themselves from the non-existent glare.
Standing there roiling with power was a spectacular figure. He was imposingly tall, and he was lean and angry looking. A shock of graying hair extended from his head with a ferocious almost electrical appearance. He had a well-kept beard, which was strangely contradictory to the rest of his fiery, spontaneous appearance. Streaks of gray in his hair and furrows of age in his face gave him a certain spectral dignity. He appeared almost as Victory had imagined Moses had, all those millennia ago when he had stepped down from Mount Sinai firmly gripping a piece of heaven in his strong hands. There was no doubt in his mind that this was Adrian Cain.
As Cain opened his mouth, many in the congregation gasped, as though saying, "He's about to speak". And this he did with a voice that echoed through every part of the ship. His voice was so loud and forceful it seemed as though the world stood still when he spoke.
"This is the end," Cain pronounced, "This is the end of an era. What we are all standing upon now is the product of years of labor. There was nothing before this ship, and there will be nothing after this ship. You have all labored on her, left your indelible mark, a signature saying 'I was here'. In putting so much of your lives into this project over the past years, you have lost a little bit of yourself. I know that to me this ship has become such a part of my everyday consciousness, that when it is no longer here, I will feel as though a chunk of my soul has been torn out!
"Tomorrow some fat disgustingly rich gentleman or lady will break a bottle of champagne which cost more than our collective salaries against this vessel. And when they do that, they will have snatched it away from us. That baptism in wine will signal the death of this ship as the product of years of labor, and the birth of it as nothing more than a rich man's toy. Then it will no longer be the property of we who have worked on it, as it is now, it will be the property of them who can buy anything they want.
"I am proud of every one of you. I have seen you all work your damnedest to get this boat ready. This fine example of quality craftsmanship will stand as something to be envied by people of all corners of the Earth. And you will be able to say that you made it with your blood and sweat. No, this ship is no longer ours. But in working on it we have been given something even greater than the ship itself: pride.
"It's always the way of things. Workers make something and then rich men keep it. But don't be distressed. Be proud. Never forget what you have accomplished here today. Go forth into the world and work on other things, and work just as hard on them, and be just as proud of them. For there is nothing sweeter than the fruits of labor. Now, let's celebrate, before this slips from our grasp, and all we have are memories."
The work crew burst out into riotous applause. Cain stepped down from his invisible stage and became somewhat human again. Victory realized that this man gained an ineffable power over people when he was speaking, but when he wasn’t he was just an ordinary, albeit charismatic, human being. It seemed as though someone had flipped a switch and turned off his aura of command.
“Let’s get you over to him so you can speak,” Greg said, dragging Victory out of his woolgathering.
“Yes. Thank you.”
Greg began to drag Vic through the crowd until finally they reached the energetic speaker.
“Mr. Cain?” Greg said.
Cain looked up. He was standing in a dignified manner with a full wineglass in his hand.
“Yes, Greg, what is it?” he asked.
“I wanted to introduce you to this man, sir. His name is Victory Halov. Victory, this is Adrian Cain.”
As Cain somewhat distastefully shook Vic’s hand he said, not quite rudely, “Who are you?”
“Well, Mr. Cain…” Victory began.
“He’s a brilliant activist for worker’s rights, sir,” Greg said.
“Really?” Cain asked, absently stroking his lower lip, “I was always a Union man, myself. What have you done, Mr. Haelbop?”
“Halov, sir,” Victory corrected, “Well, I formed a little organization called the Fellowship of Labor…”
“Business and Merchantry,” Cain finished, “Yes, I’ve heard of you.”
“Really?” Victory was somewhat impressed.
“Oh, yes. A small, almost perfect microcosm of equality. I’m rather awed by what you’ve created, Halov, and believe me, I am not awed easily.”
“Of course not. But how did you hear about my little group, Mr. Cain,” Victory said.
“All endeavors with potential are of interest to me. But please, call me Adrian.”
“Oh, thank you. The same goes for you, of course. Well, I mean, don’t call me Adrian, call me Victory. Or Vic.”
The sides of Cain’s mouth turned up ever so slightly in amusement. He nodded.
“What’s this thing you’re talking about?” Greg asked, and suddenly the two of them remembered he was there.
“The Fellowship of Working and Mining, or some such thing,” Cain said.
“Labor, Business, and Merchantry,” Victory corrected.
Cain grunted non-commitally.
“Well what is it?” Greg asked.
“Oh, um…” Victory paused to mull it over, “It’s a bit of a super-union. It’s open to anyone who works. We’re trying to end all the problems caused by unemployment and so forth.”
“Super-union, eh?” Greg said, rubbing his chin.
“Well, it’s not exactly very ‘super’ right now,” Victory admitted, “But we’re growing.”
“This is just what I had in mind the first time we met, Mr. Halov,” Greg said, wagging a finger at the man, “You two putting your heads together. Mr. Cain, you could maybe help rocket this Fellowship thing to big heights.”
Cain seemed engrossed in thought. After a moment he seemed to come to some sort of conclusion.
“Where is your headquarters, Victory?” he asked, strangely grave.
“Headquarters?” Victory asked, seeming a bit confused.
“Your base of operations,” Cain clarified, but his clarification was only met with a blank look, so he explained further, “Where do you meet?”
“Well, we only met once,” Victory said, squinting as he thought back, “That was in Ganyu Yovkov’s basement. But he died just a short time ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Cain said, utterly without sincerity, “I was going to say I’d meet you tomorrow at your headquarters, but that is, apparently, impossible out of a lack of a headquarters. Rather a gaping absence, I must say, but, in any case, I still want to meet. Give me your home address.”
Victory did, reluctantly. He didn’t, as a rule, give out his address to strangers, but this was a strange circumstance. Suddenly something struck him.
“Why not speak right now?” he asked.
“Why, I’m right in the middle of a party,” Cain said, gesturing to the merry-making around him, “I’ll see you tomorrow evening. Good day to you.”
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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