Outrageous Fortune: Chapter 25

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Miss the beginning? Start HERE.

While Rory revisited his past and Eitan made himself acquainted with the floor of the tram, and Jagati and John got to know the Al Karim family, Galileo Kane stood in the middle of John Pitte’s cabin. 

If the man’s room was anything to go by, the Errant’s captain was an orderly, efficient, and unutterably dull individual. 

The most interesting object in his quarters was the pocket-watch Galileo found sitting in a little wooden bowl atop the desk. The bowl, along with the writing box and its contents, were now on the deck, half-buried in mattress batting.

Pitte’s logbook and ledgers had ended up on the far side of the bed, after Galileo threw them into the bulkhead. 

Clothes he’d torn from the closet lay scattered wherever they’d fallen, and the few books Pitte kept in his room now lay in shreds, victims of Galileo’s rage. 

Now he stood in the midst of the disarray, running his thumb over the watch’s brass cover, on which a celestial map was etched. 

Possibly Pitte held on to the object for its artistic value, as the timepiece itself didn’t run. 

“Not completely efficient, then,” he said aloud, letting his dark eyes wander the small space. “Nor particularly orderly anymore,” he added, looking at the wreckage which spilled into the cabin’s bathroom. 

With a twitch of the lip Eitan would have recognized as a sneer, he tossed the pocket-watch onto the floor, taking a small sliver of pleasure from the muffled crack of the crystal breaking. 

A small compensation for Pitte’s duplicity with Mary, who’d already radioed with the news of the disaster at the house on Donne Street. 

Nowhere near enough compensation for what Galileo had endured during his next radio conversation to his backer, the one who’d not only paid for the research and development of the calculator, but for Mary and Colin’s services in the retrieving of it. 

He had been disappointed in Galileo’s efforts thus far, and Galileo was not accustomed to being considered a disappointment. Or failing. 

Nor would he now, for he would find his calculator and be back in his patron’s good graces by the suns rise, and everything would be crystal and comb. 

Bolstered by his own determination, he stepped into the corridor and moved aft, towards the last cabin. 

He’d already been through two of the Errant’s six decks since he’d broken in, cursing his way through the bact-tanks and plumbing works in the lower bilges before tearing through the fifth deck’s mostly empty cargo bay and crammed-to-bursting machinist’s room. 

In addition to a souk’s worth of tools, spare parts, and salvage, the machinist’s room held in abundance the odor of graphite and allusteel, which he recalled smelling on Rory back in the alley.

What it didn’t hold, however, was his calculator, so now he was on the fourth deck, combing through the crew quarters, still burning with the anger first kindled on discovering he’d been conned by Eitan and his skinny friend, for the pack he’d taken from Rory held nothing but a dysfunctional pressure gauge. 

His jaw tightened as, again, he recalled the mechanic lying to him, both face to face and mind to mind. 

And Eitan… Leo’s breath hitched as he recalled his old lover’s touch, and the ease with which he’d, once upon a time, been able to know every thought. 

Not so tonight. Not even after Leo shoved him—physically and psychically—into the gutter. The Eitan who came upon him in the alley possessed walls which he’d not possessed during their time together. 

Then again, almost ten years had passed since their days at Chandrasekhar University. A man, as he’d told Eitan in the alley, could change. 

And as he entered Eitan’s cabin, saved for last, he saw just how much the other man had changed.  

The Eitan of his youth would never have lived so lean. 

The rich fabrics and adornments which once drew eyes throughout Samsung were gone, replaced by rough, nondescript clothes in various shades of brown. The boldly colored art and furnishings of his flat had given way to bare walls and utilitarian bedding of a non-color somewhere between gray and beige. 

The only aspects of the cabin that resonated with the young man Leo recalled were the sword hanging from the bulkhead, the bottle of wine on the shelf, and the books, dozens of them, stacked upon the desk, on the shelf, and under the bed. 

Turning back to the desk, he was briefly confounded by a short strip of leather left sitting on top of a pamphlet on crystal veins. It looked like an old belt, stitched over itself, and felt as if it were filled with metal shavings. 

Leo had used similar items back in the day as a cosh. But Eitan hadn’t come up on the streets, so Leo doubted he’d ever have used such a weapon, and even if he had, this was too light to be of use. 

Continuing to scan the room, however, he spied another such strip lying on top of an open book left on the bed. A tool, then, weighted to hold open pages for the one-handed Eitan, and still thin enough to function as a bookmark. 

Clever, he thought, hefting the weighted book holder. He’d little doubt it was the clever-minded Rory who’d created the device, which he let fall back to the desk with a slithering thud before continuing to search the room in earnest. 

Out of remembered affection he refrained from the vindictive destruction visited on the prior two cabins, but admittedly, there was little in the room to destroy. 

The mattress was, necessarily, sacrificed to the cause, but rather than his own utilitarian knife he made use of Eitan’s sword to cut through the canvas cover. The lightly curved blade was heavier than it looked, but it was also much more effective at slicing through canvas and batting, and Leo found wielding it quite gratifying. 

The wine he left untouched, for the present. 

He didn’t find his calculator, but by the time he stepped back into the corridor, he’d found a level of satisfaction in seeing Eitan Fehr had fallen as far as he, Galileo Kane, had risen.

Galileo Kane had been born with looks, intelligence, and a Sensitivity of unusual depth and scope.

None of which mattered because he’d also been born in the lower combs of Harp, a city considered Avon’s afterthought in the best of times. 

And Galileo had not been born in the best of times. 

Which meant he’d learned, and learned early, a lad couldn’t dine on his pretty face, and being smart only meant being able to calculate how many bites of bread he might take one day, and still have some left for the next. 

And as to the Sensitivity? 

If asked, he’d have said there was little comfort to be found in knowing his mum’s thoughts as she tried to stretch two days’ worth of food into a week. 

Certainly he’d never wished to share his twin sister’s last moments before the Midasian Fever took her from him forever. 

He’d been only thirteen the morning of her death, but by the time her gray eyes closed forever, he’d aged a dozen years. 

Or so his mum said. 

Galileo didn’t disagree, nor could he find it in himself to care. 

The boy he’d been before Syl died had a pretty face and brains to back them up, but he’d lacked ambition to be more, do more…have more. 

In the literal stop of a heartbeat Galileo determined he’d not only have more. 

He would have it all. 

For having stepped to the edge with his sister, Galileo came back determined to use his gifts to the fullest—all his gifts—and no law, no morals, no Keeper-prescribed codes were going to stop him. 

He began small, taking to the streets and learning the dodgers’ trade, not from any fagin, but by Sensing those in the shadow trade, lifting knowledge as another lad might lift a purse, and then commenced lifting purses himself. 

Once he started bringing in enough to keep himself and his mum fed, he began to cultivate his native intelligence, both through the Keeper-run primary school and the occasional visit to one of Harp’s few bookshops. 

Sometimes he even paid for the books.

He was in such a shop, contemplating the relative merits of The Crystal Economy and The Geophysical History of Fortune (i.e., which would best fit inside his coat’s hidden pocket), when he caught the eye of Miyal Cardano, a professor of maths who was passing through on his way to Lovelace College up in Ferrari. 

Miyal was thirty-two, Galileo a lusty seventeen. 

The next day he said farewell to his mum and hopped the mag-train to Ferrari where, for two years he and Miyal shared a bed and Galileo, with Miyal’s patronship, enrolled in the college, where he delved fully into the study of mathematics and technical sciences.

It was also through Miyal that Galileo discovered the technocrist movement, an underground faction founded on the belief the citizens of Fortune should not be denied advanced technologies. And while Galileo had no political motivation for such beliefs, he did hold to the ideal that whoever had the most advanced tech would most assuredly have the most wealth. 

So close did he hold this ideal that, when the relationship with Miyal had taken him as far as it could, he applied for a place at Chandrasekhar University in Fuji and, upon his acceptance (with only a whisper of telepathic cheating), gave an appropriately heartfelt farewell to his patron who, over time, had become not only dull but clingy with it. 

On arriving in the Fujian city of Samsung, Galileo—who’d thought Ferrari impressive after a childhood in Harp’s gutters—discovered how shallow his ambitions had been. 

From the first salt-touched breath of the ocean as he stepped off the airship, to his first viewing of the white-walled garden of the university itself, Samsung opened its arms to him as a mother to her long-lost child. 

That sensation of welcome lasted up until he set foot in the dormitories reserved for the scholarship students such as himself and, once again made acquaintance with the odor of garbage, dank plaster, and the feces of whatever vermin policed the building for leavings. 

The stench, the very fust of the air, was so like the hovel of his youth that he came near to turning on his heel and leaving, education be damned. But his inner voice, the one born the day Syl died, held him in place, reminding him this was but a stepping stone, that at least here he’d a room of his own and more privacy than he’d ever seen in Miyal’s flat. 

So he closed his eyes to the squalor, and he stayed. 

He made what passed for friends, both in school and in the local technocrist cell. 

He also, soon after arriving, met Eitan Fehr, a young intellect from a ristocratic family who dazzled in the debates and sparring ring alike. Most intriguingly, Eitan was a sensitive as well, though not as adept as himself.

But he was handsome, and clever, and passionate. So passionate that, with Eitan, Galileo thought he might let himself love, as he’d not since losing his sister. 

And then Eitan left, and Galileo learned what it was to be spurned. 

It was not a lesson he learned gladly, but he learned it well, and since Eitan no other had come so close to his heart.

Stepping from Eitan’s cabin, Galileo considered his next move. 

There were yet four more cabins, all untenanted, to search. But there were also three more decks and the envelope, all possible hiding places for the calculator. Too much, he knew, for one man to cover, but even as he thought this, the scrape of a boot on metal had him spinning towards the aft ladder. 

He slipped back into Eitan’s quarters, drawing his gun and his knife. He’d no urge to kill anyone, but if one of the Errant’s crew were returning, he’d be happy to shed as much blood as needed to get the calculator back. 

“—makes you so sure ‘e’ll be here?”

At the sound of the deep street Nikean accent, he lowered the gun. 

“He’ll be here,” a velvety female voice replied, “because there’s no possibility Pitte would have trusted anyone else with that box, which means the box is here, which means the boss will be here as well,” Mary said as Galileo stepped out to see her appear at the top of the companionway, just behind Colin. “And look,” she said, “here he is.” She smiled. “Hello, boss.” 

“You’ve a sanguine turn of mind for someone who failed in their mission,” he observed, uninterested in her all-too-obvious charms. 

“Have you never heard the term ‘Failure is but opportunity turned sideways’?” Mary asked with a practiced pout. She moved forward into the corridor, holding a russet coat closed over the thin sari she wore.

“No,” Galileo replied. “Possibly because it’s untrue.” 

“Pessimist,” Mary sighed. “True, we did not get your cargo, but we didn’t come entirely empty-handed.” 

As she spoke, she shifted to the left while Colin moved to the right, allowing a third individual, one unknown to Galileo, to step out of the ladderwell. “We hired a new hand,” Colin said. 

Ysabel met Galileo’s eye. “I understand yours is a growth industry.” 

He studied the tall woman and found her imposing enough. 

Despite having pushed his talents to the brink during the confrontation in the Tempest Park alley, he risked a quick Sensing, and found Mary’s decision well-founded. “How fast can you search an airship for contraband?” he asked over the first warning twinges of a headache. 

Ysabel smiled.

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