Edwina looked at the men standing in line. What WAS she doing here? She was no match for their strength, but she did have other attributes to offer a ship of this size. She was an expert at map reading and graduated top of her class at the naval academy. She knew this ship well, every nook and cranny. It was old, but Edwina knew it had one more trip left in her. Her previous captain and been a pig, and she and the others had cheered when he was killed.
This new captain was young and inexperienced in the ways of the ocean. Rumor had it this was his first voyage. No one knew where they were going. They were told they would find out 2 days at sea. Edwina didn't care where they were going, she loved the sea and besides... she had no where else to go. Sea jobs were scarce these days, the government had seen to that. Only ships under special orders could sail. This new captain MUST have some pull with the government, of that she was sure.
Edwina heard her name being called. She giggled to herself hearing the name Ed. If she had put down Edwina when she initially signed her name on the sheet on the bulletin board at the pub, she most likely would not have been allowed on the ship. These sea captains didn't much care for women on their ships. She picked the name Smith because it was a common name. She didn't know her parents so Smith was as good a name as any.
"Here Captain," Edwina said in her roughest possible voice. She didn't want to sound like a weak woman.
The captain didn't look up from his paper... "It says here you are an expert at maps and you graduated top of your class at the naval academy? Is this true?" the captain bellowed out.
"Aye captain, it is true," she answered.
"We could use your expertise," he said. "Sign here." He shoved a paper in front of her and didn't look up til she took the pen from his hand. "Erm.. You... are a woman!!!" He exclaimed.
"Aye captain I am," she blushed.
"We have no need for a woman on board," he huffed.
"Aye but captain you do," she dared answer back. She had met men like him her whole life and she wasn't about to back down now. "You said you could use my expertise with the maps... and besides I know this ship like the back of my hand. I have sailed her before." Her voice was loud and strong.
The Captain looked at her. His eyes pierced her from top to bottom. There was a long silence. She wasn't the prettiest woman...The years at sea had made her hands rough and her skin dry. Finally he spoke. "Can you handle yourself with the men?" he asked.
"Can they handle themselves with me is more likely the question Captain?" she answered.
"You know the agreement... we don't know when we will be back this way or if ever," he remarked.
"Aye, captain... I have no family. I understand," she said firmly.
"You will have to sleep with the men... No special treatment... If you agree... sign here," He pushed the pen towards her. "I'm Captain Paco...Welcome aboard!"
Two days at sea had hardened up their new captain. His time spent feeding the fish over the railing of the ship had everyone wondering JUST how good a captain he would be. It was time to learn where they were going. The new captain gathered everyone to the center of the ship.
"Edwina... come here please." The captain layed out a ROLLED map on a the floor of the ship. Everyone knew the penalty for not storing the map flat. They gasped at the casual way he layed it on the floor... Such disrespect would not be tolerated if they were at home.
Edwina made her way towards the captain. She glanced down at the map. "Edwina... have you EVER heard of anyone traveling AROUND our world?" he asked? "No captain," she said. He folded the map from north to south and from east to west and showed Edwina and the crew how the continents didn't match up. "Men, this is our quest... to find out if our world is FLAT or round like we've been taught. I have been given this ship. She is old but she is sea worthy. No one knows where we are going. The voyage will be long and there will be danger ahead. If the government finds out what we are doing... we will be put to death as traitors."
Edwina and the men stared at the captain. His last words rang in her ears. "Then we won't let them find out Captain," she said and everyone cheered.
They sailed east for days and didn't see a sign of anyone. They avoided the public shipping lanes. East was the way to go. The map showed there was sailing waters all the way to the edge of the map.
A few months later they were nearing their quest when they spotted a ship following them. They had been at sea for a few day after leaving the last port. Captain Paco and Edwina were studying the map, in his quarters, for the best route to take eastward. They figured they were about a half day from their quest. The noise on deck got louder and they went up on deck to see what it was all about.
"What is all this noise?" asked Paco. The men pointed to the ship coming up fast on their port side. It was a government ship! Someone must have talked that night at the pub. The beer had been flowing wild and men talk freely when the beer is free.
"Keep your cool men. Man your posts," Captain Paco ordered. The government ship was larger than theirs and Paco could see that they were no match for it. Should he sacrifice his men and his ship for a lifelong dream? A wise captain would have given up, but Paco's dream was stronger. He knew this ship... and he knew she was small but she had one great attribute... she was faster than all the other ships in the fleet.
Captain Paco gave the order to run, and the ship took off like a bolt of lightning leaving the government ship in the wind.
A few miles left to go they noticed a darkness in the distance. The darkness got bigger the closer they got. It was early afternoon there was no reason for the darkness. The men muttered under their breath. Paco could tell they were scared. He was scared too. Edwina came to his side as they entered the darkness. The men lit their torches to see. They had to travel slower now. They didn't want to hit anything.
They traveled for hours in the darkness when all of a sudden the ship stopped. It had hit something. Paco and the others brought their torches to the spot where the ship had stopped. There was a giant wall stopping them from going any further. The wall went as far as their torch could light. They could not see an end to the wall. It went up, too, as far as the light would go.
Suddenly there were lights all around them. The government had found them. A big ship came along side of them and lowered a gang plank to their ship. Two dozen soldiers with guns boarded Paco's ship. A small elderly man made his way to Paco and the others.
"Captain Paco?" he asked. Paco nodded. "I am Doctor Vogel. You knew my brother, Master Vogel." Paco was stunned... Master Vogel had never mentioned he had a brother. "My brother did not know about me. Our parents separated us at birth. I am his younger brother. I work with a secret group of the government. We have known about my brothers questions for many years. It is unfortunate that we could not help him before he died.
We didn't know of you, however, til you were at that last port. We heard one of your men talking of your quest." Paco huffed and looked at the men. Doctor Vogel continued. "We keep a good watch at that port. It is the last stop til here... the end of our world!"
Paco and the others gasped. "So our world IS flat," Paco asked?
"Yes Paco, our world is flat. And to survive we MUST not let anyone reach the ends. There are ships and soldiers like these all around the edge of our world. Keeping people like you and the others from telling the rest of the population. There would be a panic and war and we would surely all eventually die." Paco and the others nodded.. they knew the doctor was right.
"What happened to our world then.... WHERE .. ARE we," Edwina found herself asking?
"Curious you should ask WHERE, Edwina" Edwina was shocked... he knew her name! "Yes... we know ALL of your names and where you are ALL from," said the doctor.
"Where is the right question to ask. Hundreds of years ago... our ancestors lived somewhere else. There is a world above ours. It was on the virge of extinction. An artificial world was made. One with everything we need to survive. Our ancestors were miniatureized and put in what you would call a "painting." The painting was then sealed in a vault with the right atmosphere for survival. We have been in this vault for hundreds of years and will continue to be for as long as the top world exsists. NO one must EVER know."
Paco, Edwina and the others stood there in silence. This was a lot to take in. "So now what happens with us," Paco asked? "We know... Are we to die?"
The good doctor laughed. "No Paco... What happened with my brother was an unfortunate accident. We could not get to him in time. Our enemies are many. Not everyone thinks as we do. There are people who think everyone should know of the top world. Our governments don't all agree. We need you and your shipmates to help us continue to keep the secret. Are you with us?"
Everyone nodded in agreement... and... the adventure REALLY started!
The art restorer looked at the hundred year old painting. She had not meant to submerse the painting in the WRONG blue cleaning solution. It caused the paint to crack and pieces to shift. She quickly resealed the painting in the vault and left for her afternoon tea. Maybe... no one would notice!