Maze awoke before dawn, swung his feet off his bed and arose to make breakfast. “Same old same old,” he thought as he started a fire as he went through his usual routine of breakfast and calisthenics. Charlie came the same time every day, just as Maze had the food ready. Maze had tried to vary the time of putting the food out, and somehow Charlie was always there just as the food was set to be dished out.
A knock at the door as Maze was bringing bowls of fish and rice to the table, he set them down and let Charlie in. “Charlie, I’m gonna send you to look after the catch as it gets to market. Stay low there’s nothing I really need you to do, if there is trouble don’t get involved let me know about it I’ll handle it later. Be my EYES Charlie nothing more.” Charlie answered, “You going to look for whatever snagged the Sea Horse yesterday?”
Maze had a plan all worked out, the Sea Horse would head back to the area with the Chart-maker and 2 divers on board as well as Maze. They’d take a buoy and some good nylon rope. The divers would hopefully be able to secure it to whatever caused the damage, while the chart maker added it to the charts. In addition he could see if the captain had strayed into dangerous waters.
“Yea. I’m going to grab one of Maggie’s ‘chart chicks’ and head out to see what’s what. Any of the girls in particular need of a day out on the water?”
Dr. Margaret Suzuki—“Maggie” to her colleagues; “The Chart Queen” to just about everyone else—was responsible for maintaining the Organization’s charts and maps. Like many of her ilk, the passion for maps and map-making that manifested at an early age bloomed into a life-long obsession with all things cartography. Though the LIDAR, side-scan sonar, and all other sorts of high tech gadgetry of her pre-war “day job” were a distant memory, she had a couple of lifetime’s worth of knowledge in her head that, unlike most of either her left leg, survived the war more or less intact.
Originally a cartographer with NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, Maggie was one of the countless civilian technicians who found themselves hastily attached to the military to help plug holes in their capabilities. Like most survivors, Maggie didn’t talk much about the events that took her leg off above the knee. Maze knew she had been surveying new war-related hazards along the US Pacific coast when the ship was blown out from under her, but she never indicated if it was accident, combat, sabotage, or just plain bad fucking luck. All were equally likely candidates in those days.
A long-time San Francisco resident, Maggie eventually came to the attention of Uncle, who brought her in early on during the Organization’s early efforts to organize the fishing fleet. Maze recalled the fondness in his Uncle’s voice whenever he related the plain-spoken woman’s grouchy observations on fleet captains’ shiphandling abilities—usually followed quickly by assessments of their general suitability for remaining in the genepool. With Uncle’s blessing, Maggie quickly established a small “department” by taking in young women and training them in fundamentals of cartography and illustration. Known universally among the fleet as “The Queen’s Chart Chicks,” they handled a lot of the grunt work on tasks such as the one Maze was planning for the day. Maggie or one of her most trusted adepts would confirm the data, update the master charts, and oversee the junior personnel who then updated the dozens of sets of charts for the captains.
It was an effective if notoriously inefficient system for handling the activity. Maze always suspected Uncle was more sentimental than pragmatic when it came to Maggie’s staff, but he learned early that vocalizing that thought within Uncle’s earshot would only earn him a cuff on the back of the head and a guaranteed week of shitbird duty. Fortunately, they’d become far too well established for Yesuda to even think of trying to rein in Maggie or her cartography cabal.
“And,” Maze continued as he waited for his morning tea to cool, “the Horse’s captain didn’t get a good feel for whatever it is out there, so I’m also going to need a couple of guys in case it’s big enough to need a bobber. You know if the Rock Twins are free today?”
At this, Charlie puffed out his cheeks and sat back to think about the various Organization and freelance divers likely to be mooching around the docks in hopes of a day’s pay or just something new to do. Maze was asking specifically after a pair of Korean divers who earned their spot on the Organization’s payroll thanks to coming to his attention a few years earlier. Kun Lee had been a repair diver in one of the big ports in South Korea; his compatriot Park had been an underwater EOD tech for the ROK navy. During the long trek from their shattered Korea to the US, the two refugees had become an inseparable pair. Maze had nicknamed them the Rock Twins because one, Lee, was “the size of a mountain,” while the other, Park, was “deaf as a stone.” They were both excellent divers, though, and among Maze’s most favored in the Organization’s stable of specialists.
Legend also had it that they were allegedly the last guys who managed to kick Maze’s ass in a bar-fight, which was how they came to his attention in the first place. It annoyed Charlie no end that this was one of the few pieces of local intelligence he’d never been able to track down and confirm in any conclusive way. Any time Charlie poked around the subject, Maze would just adopt his inscruitable “Buddha smile.” This was, admittedly, better than the Koreans, who would just stare at him as if he had just sprouted three extra heads.
Maze scratched his chin and contemplated skipping the shaving mirror this AM yet again. As the hint of a scowl formed on Charlie’s face, Maze knew what he was thinking about. “What, little brother? Don’t tell me you STILL haven’t found out how I met the Rock Twins? I find that hard to believe…” he said with a laugh.
Charlie’s scowl deepened for a second and then passed. “Yea, that might be true Boss, but I DID finally get the whole story of your adventures with that soju girl that earned you the lifetime ban from the Seoul Club. I thought only sailors knew how to tie knots like that!”
Maze immediately cursed the gaijin blood coursing in his veins as felt the heat rise in his cheeks at the impertinent whelp’s mention of that particular night and that particularly “boisterous” young woman. Even after 4 years and a whole lot of bowing, scraping, repainting, and outright paying, that Korean club owner still gave him the stink eye every time their path’s crossed.
He tried to nail the boy’s hide to the chair using with his best “dead eyed sergeant” stare but just couldn’t hope to overcome Charlie’s irrepressible good-humor. “Bastard,” he finally conceeded with a laugh. “She told me that beam could take the weight. I couldn’t have expected the WHOLE roof to just come down like that. But that’s enough nostalgia. Round up a deserving Chart Chick and find me a solid pair of divers and have ’em meet me at the Sea Horse. Also, keep an ear to the ground about the mate on the Laughing Eel for me?”
“That the guy who tried to get himself killed by gambing the fleet charts away? He getting out of line again?” Charlie asked with a frown.
“No, no. He’s been in the hole long enough. I’ve heard good things, so I’m thinking of offering him a boat of his own again. We got a couple of captains getting a bit long in the tooth to go out every day and I don’t want any boats down at all if we can avoid it.” When it came to talking about Organization politics, Maze wouldn’t think of voicing voice his concerns about Tim’s management abilities. He also knew Charlie would pick up on the subtext of the request anyway.
“Last I heard he’s plenty happy to let someone else do all the worrying, but I’ll poke around. Catch up tonight?”
“Yea. Grab a couple of bottles of sake from the office stash and drop ‘em in the water to chill before heading home. We’ll polish ’em off with dinner, eh?”
With that, Charlie popped up and bounded out the door. Maze returned to his bedroom to strap on the rest of his “Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children” working gear. With all that had happened since Tim popped up on the scene and a long day on the water in front of him, he doubted this was going to turn out to be a “suit” kind of day.