Castles Burning Part Two

Castles Burning

Nicole Ryan











The following is a work of fiction and a product of the author’s imagination. Any semblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental. This work contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright laws. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without express written consent from the author
Nicole Ryan 2012. All rights reserved. 













Castles Burning

Part Two


My sea bag dug into my shoulders, and the hangers
that held the contents of my garment bag pinched the fingers of my left hand as I walked, in uniform, toward the pier. I turned, waved good bye to my parents once more as I approached my first check point, and watched as they slowly drove away. I showed my military ID to the guard standing duty, and continued on my way. The walk to the ship was long, and it was dark, the sky was cloudless making it particularly cold. But the stars glittered peacefully above, and there was no freezing wind, it was a very calm and beautiful night. The cold air tasted damp, and the pavement smelled strong as it wafted up into my nostrils, I thought about how I would miss this smell while I was on deployment, even though I was glad to be getting away from the recent events that had taken place.

There were footsteps
approaching behind me, they thudded on the wet pavement in a fast staccato, I moved over to the right of the sidewalk to let whoever it was pass, but as he came beside me he kept pace with me instead of passing. I glanced over at him, he was very tall, and he was looking at me from the side of his eyes, a small, pinched smile on his lips as if he were holding back laughter. He had the collar of his pea coat pulled up around his neck, and seemed very uncomfortable in the cold. I raised an eyebrow at him.

“Uh…Hey.” He said somewhat awkwardly, almost shivering
as he kept pace with me, even though it was a bit slower than he had been walking.

“Hi.” I said, as I hefted my sea bag higher on my shoulders. I’d forgotten how heavy it was
, my recovering shoulder was starting to protest.

out tonight.” He said, looking toward the ships at the pier, his breath billowed out in front of him as he spoke.

“Yeah it is.
” I said, glancing at him again. He had his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans, and his movements were jerky.

So, since it’s all dark, and empty, and we’re both going toward the ships, I figured we could maybe walk together, it’s a long walk and it’s nice to have company. That cool?” He asked removing a cigarette from a hard Marlboro menthol pack.

“Yeah.” I replied, trying to sound anything but mechanical, and failing miserably.

When he brought his lighter to the cigarette, the flame danced on his features and I noticed there was a hole where a labret piercing would normally be, and there were holes at the corners of his lower lip as well. His ears had been stretched, I bet he wore his gauges out of uniform usually, but assumed that since we were leaving for deployment tomorrow he had taken them out, and it looked like he had a tattoo that that crept down his hand. The wet pavement reflected the industrial lamps as we continued the long walk toward the pier, in the distance I could hear seals barking.

“You’re new, right?” He asked cheerfully as he stuck his lighter back into his pocket, still making sideways glances at me as he walked stiffly, nearly shivering.

“Yeah, sort of.
” I replied quietly, eyeing his cigarette as I spoke. “I was shore duty for a couple of years in Great Lakes.”

Visions of Aden flashed on the backs of my eyes when I closed them to take a deep breath, the cool air help
ed to dull whatever emotion I was dealing with at the moment, but my body still felt drained of all emotion but sadness. Maybe I should have taken the anti-depressants the doctor recommended.

“That’s cool. What ship are you going to?” He asked,
blowing a huge plume of smoke out in front of him. “Do you want one?”

Oh, not right now, thanks. I’m headed to the Lincoln. I’m a DC.” I said.

“Ha!” He laughed. “That’s my division.” He

I asked.

“Yep. I’m in fixed systems.” He said, pulling his pea coat closed. “You must be our new addition, you got held up right? Weren’t you supposed to be here a
couple of weeks ago?” He asked, his accent sounded like he was from the west coast for sure, most likely California, he had that
surfer dude

“Yeah, I was in
an accident.” I said lamely, not even believing it myself.

He nodded and stared at me for a second before returning his gaze to the ships ahead of us. They lined the horizon, like tall business buildings of the sea. The thought of leaving and going so far from home for the first time made my stomach flip.

“Well, at least now I kn
ow someone.” I took a deep breath and tried to put a smile on.

walked on in silence for a few moments before we approached the next check station, I dug into my pocket as my walking companion flashed his ID to the guard, and was waved through.

I’ll carry this.” He said kindly as he took my garment bag from me.

I glanced at him as I tried to pry my fingers open against my thigh, smiling gratefully while showing my ID to the
guard; he checked it carefully before waving me through the gate.

I said.

“No worries. All my shit’s already on the ship.” He laughed again
, nodding toward the metal monstrosity with his chin. Definitely from California, I thought, and smiled to myself, I loved California, and I’d lived there for years before moving here to Washington with my parents. The warm sunshine was what I missed the most, of course.

“Are you from California?” I asked him.

“So-Cal.” He laughed.

He had a funny laugh, sort of
cute; he didn’t open his mouth, just kind of laughed through his nose, as if to himself. It was a very shy laugh, and it was comforting to be around someone who was quiet, I didn’t feel like I really had to talk much to him. He had a kind smile, which made his light eyes crinkle at the corners. His hair was a dark, sandy color, buzzed to regulations. He looked like he might be a few years older than I was, maybe pushing thirty. I smiled at him as we walked past ship yard workers, and loud generators that were sitting outside of small trailers.

The ship loomed before us on my left as we walked down the Pier; it took up the same space on the Port side of the pier as the
two small boys to my right, or, the Starboard side did. There were large construction lamps that lit our way toward the thick aluminum steps that lead up to the hanger bay of the ship.

“So straight from shore to eight months at sea, must have been some accident.” He said beside me
as he began ascending the stairs.

I replied, swallowing back the memories of the cabin.

At the top of the aluminum stairs there was a long metal plank that stretched out to the ship. There were incremental
boards that I kept stubbing my toes on until I got the spacing right. The plank took us into the hanger bay of the ship, where all of the jets were secured to the deck with thick wire cables. I stepped off of the long plank and onto the ships thick, textured nonskid deck and watched as my companion quickly left faced, saluted, and showed his ID to the guard standing watch.

“Permission to come aboard?” He asked, as the watch checked his ID carefully.

“Permission granted.” The Watch said and returned his salute.

I did the same.

“Are you nervous?” He asked me, shifting my garment bag to his other hand.

“No. I’m glad to be going. I want to get away from here.”
I said glancing back at the huge opening on the side of the ship; my shoulder was on fire now, I rubbed it lightly.

“You won’t be saying that in a month, when you haven’t seen dry land for thirty days.” He laughed his inside joke laugh again, “Do you smoke?”

“Yes.” I told him. “But I don’t have any on me now.” I figured now was a good time to start smoking, if ever I had a reason.

“I’ll bum
ya one. Come on.” He said and led the way through the hanger bay.

I followed him
through a passageway and then a watertight door which lead to a ladder well. We went up three decks and took a left down another narrow, passageway, lit by dim fluorescents. There was a red door, with sledgehammers in an X across one another, and flames emblazoned gaudily on the front. It read:



He punched a code into the doorknob keypad, and opened the door, the shop was empty. I
t was a small space with one desk and three chairs, four large dark grey tool chests and a TV with an Xbox. It smelled like oil, grease, and men. He took my sea bag from me and sat it in the corner of the shop next to a large metal tool box that was nearly taller than I was. He placed my garment bag beside it, and took off his long jacket, revealing a white shirt, with Hurley splashed across it. He wore thermals under the shirt but I saw tattoos around his wrists and it looked like there were tattoos all up and down his arms, it stuck out of the collar of his shirt. I remembered the EMT in the ambulance, as he spoke to me, keeping me conscious.

“I’m Tyler
.” He said holding out his hand. “But, that’s DC2 Harlow to you, during working hours at least.” He winked. His light blue jeans were worn slightly at the knees and hung loosely on his slim hips, a chain hung from his belt loop and attached to the wallet in his back pocket; he wore black Vans on his feet.

I took his hand and shook it, “Amber. Or,
Fireman Carlson.”

He smiled and
led the way out of the shop. We went up another ladder well and came to the Officer’s level, as one passed Tyler nodded and stepped to the side of the passageway.

“Evening, Sir.” He said.

“Good evening, Sir.” I repeated

“Evening.” The Officer replied as he hurried past us
, his thick rubber soled boots squeaking on the polished laminate deck.

We continued past an interesting looking system with brass and pipes all around it.

“That’s one of our mixing stations.” He said to me as we passed.

“Oh.” I gazed at it for a second, eager to learn what it did. “Do you know which shop I’m in?”

“I will once we go and get you checked in.” He replied, glancing back at me.

We stepped through two more doors, and were outside; the smoke deck was enclosed on three of the four sides, and only lit by red lights. There were a few people there, smoking, playing with
Ipods, and cell phones, chatting and drinking soda. Tyler pulled a cigarette from his pack and handed it to me, stepping up to the large opening and looking down at the water below us, he lit a cigarette of his own and handed me his lighter. I joined him, in awe of how much higher up we were than I had thought we were. I watched the light that was reflected on the water from a lone lamp post, as I slowly smoked my cigarette. The iron and steel that was the ship was almost comforting. No emotion, just work, sleep, duty. This is what I needed right now, to get away from it all. I didn’t want to have any time to think about anything.

“Pretty isn’t it?” He asked.
I saw him glance down at me from the corner of his eye again.

“In a weird industrial way, yes, it is.” I said, dragging on the menthol as
the reflection of the pier lamp danced on the water seductively.

“When w
e leave San Diego, after we pick up the air wing, and have been out to sea for a few days, I like to come out here late at night, and watch the still water. Sometimes you can’t tell where the stars end, and the water begins.”

I smiled to myself. I felt a
sort of comfort settling in, a purpose.

“You’re pretty quiet aren’t you?” He asked, as he put out his cigarette
, and tossed it into a butt can to his left.

“I guess I am.
I used to be able to talk someone’s ear off until they begged me to shut up.” I laughed.

He glanced at me sideways again, and pressed his lips together. I finished my cigarette and took a deep breath.

“Ready?” I asked him.

“Yep.” He said after a second of looking at me as if he expected me to say more

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