Chapter 12 continued
I had expected some half ruined oddity from the early days of the Europa's colonisation. The most popular designs back then were either architectural oddities placed on the surface of the moon after being crafted in orbit favoured by the younger powers or the grandiose baroque buildings that were meant as monuments to human achievement preferred by the old empires. Instead the port was a large square of foamed stone. Not a monument for noble mankind but one for enduring pragmatism. During the early expansion into the outer reaches of the solar system Europa was essential for its water and Io for its mineral deposits and its magma. The liquid stone could easily be turned into a foam which once cold would swim in water and was easily sculpted. So among the first artefacts to be brought to Europa were these strange bricks that were used for all manner of things. Turning them into incredibly boring ports among them. There was only one largish squat building set on top of it. The only other decoration being a giant chain anchoring it to the larger structure of the storm drain so it would not simply drift away. Light was coming out of the windows of the building casting pools of light on the stone floor making a cross shape giving the impression that the structure was just waiting to be set up as part of a wall of a Cyclopean church.
There was only one ship bobbing in the water a large black monster of a boat made from cast iron. Another relic from the early colonisation this was more of what I was hoping for. While it a product of the same mentality that had led to the swimming brick, using Io to mass produce the basic components, it had come from a different school of design. This was a boat young boats were warned about by their mothers and adolescent boats used as role models. Pan-American in design it was all black metal and Mayan decorations all Square serpents, geometric ornaments and angry gods. It was named by corroded copper letters the 'Black Kettle'.
"Is that our ride?", I asked.
"Yes." said Petrova sporting a tiny smile. "You'll enjoy the ride. The Captain is a at least as crazy as you are. Now we only have to find him."
"That might be a problem. Maybe we should start looking for him in that house over there." I pointed at the only structure apart from the ship. That resulted in one of Petrova's 'don't be such an idiot' looks. Somehow that did not surprise me. I sighed.
"It's going to be more complicated than that right?"
"You'll see." she started to move towards the house dragging the chest and me behind her.
As we got nearer I noticed that I could not see inside. The windows had frosted glass panes. As we got closer to the door, a dark grey thing radiating solidity, I began to imagine more what strange sights might be found behind it. My first thought was that we would be inside of one of those seedy bars that had been living in ports for all of history. Dimly lit, full of bearded men and only one tiny shove away from a brawl. But the clear white windows did not fit. Maybe some incredibly clean office space run by a forgotten branch of Europa's bureaucracy that had lost contact to the surface decades ago but was following the ancient protocols for several generations and would continue doing so until some official figure descended from "up stairs" to bring them new orders? Tempting but I could some how not imagine them not being killed. Maybe it was the decadent corrupt descendants of said office? Having, through reverse evolution, returned to the origin of the civil servant, some kind of horrible rodent-people. . .
Petrova opened the door.
Behind it was just one large room. The entrance area was surrounded by thick metal bars so that who ever got in walked into a nice solid looking cell with thick stylishly corroded metal bars and a floor covered with suspicious half faded stains that made it very clear that it meant business. In the middle of the room well beyond the cell the room was dominated by an ornate stone stairway that looked like an exile from an old European castle leading down into the swimming brick. To our right was a large stone table that was covered by paper work but still looked suspiciously like a sacrificial altar behind which sat a gaunt man in his fifties seemingly poring over some papers in front of him. The rest of the room had only little decoration. A several filing cabinets. A couple of shelves. A large looming wardrobe. And a round table around which sat four heavily armed gorillas that grew around important places like the mould in my bathroom.
"Lovely." I said but no one seemed to be very interested in my opinion. The hard men were drinking hard liquor, playing some kind of dice game. The gaunt man was still pretending to read his paper and Petrova was looking at him with folded arms. Her face filled with patience and the promise that she knew the secret of turning patience into fists full of motivation.
Finally the old man looked up. I was not sure but I thought that I could see some rodent in his face. "You have quite the nerve to return here Petrova."
"Really? Last time I was here I got rid of half a dozen pirates who wanted to turn your port into their central of operations, by throwing you and your family into the storm drains with only bullets as company."
"The damage you caused when you so graciously attempted to save us was quite considerable. You almost caused a breach in the outer wall and we are still repairing some of damage caused."
"Don't worry Bronislav. Next time I will not interfere." I could hear her the temperature of her voice dropping. Slowly. But enough to make me wonder if this was going to turn into another disaster. I started to wonder how that woman managed to get through her daily life without causing a war. The four body guards had noticed the change in the air too. The were still busy with their game, but where they had been actively playing a moment ago they were now sitting perfectly still apart from the man holding the dice which he was shaking slowly in his large scarred hand.