Party B hereby gives all negotiating rights to Party A for the purposes of selling confirmed wreck locations to interested customers. Party A may negotiate alternate payments with customers, Party B will be compensated with equivalent market value.
I wanted to sigh, but doing so would make me look childish in the midst of a contract negotiation. The unfortunate truth was that we were in a weak position; Cline could in theory turn us down, and spend his entire life running this operation on donations from museums without ever locating a ship. He stood to make more by working with us, to say nothing of personal glory and prestige, but in the end we needed him, not the other way around.
Still, the deal wasn’t so bad for a one-third split of the gross, with both parties paying their own expenses. The bulk of the contract had been agreed upon before we showed up, now was all those small details. “What are these alternate payments you might be taking?”
Captain Cline leaned forward, pushing a separate sheet of paper. On it was a list of names which I assumed were ships, some with stars next to them. “These vessels are special, for one reason or another. Some are military, owned by countries other than the United States, usually part of World War Two. It’s unlikely, but possible those countries would pay for the raising and hauling of their property back to their homelands.”
“And being foreign vessels, that is well within your rights if the owners sign off on it,” I said. “You’d waive your discovery fee as part of a bid for a hire to salvage the vessel.” Which would be a contract separate from ours, thus keeping us from profiting from it. Given that we would have nothing to do with the work involved in salvaging the ship, I was fine with the arrangement. “I believe as long as you’re compensating us for our portion of the fee, then it’s fine.” AgreeSupport.
“Gotta spend money to make money.” Paul slid the list back, then offered another. “Then there’s sunken enemy ships, I’m not qualified to tell you how those might play out. And there are other ships which are attractive to special interest groups. Sunken slave ships, as an example.”
ShockDisgust. I was glad Domenic was behind me, or I would have looked at him before I could have stopped myself. I almost asked what was special about slave ships, but any way I thought of to ask the question sounded unforgivably callous. “What will you do in those special cases?”
“Give them away,” Paul said. “Long story short, I can get more out of them as charitable donations and PR than they could ever net as direct income. I will, of course, make certain to compensate you for your half.”
The man has a point. I wasn’t the expert on tax loopholes that Uncle Allen was, but I’d learned a few tips by listening in as he discussed the finer points with my parents over dinner. “You’d have more success if both parties donate collectively.” HesitationSupport ConfusionTrust. “I will need some time to go over Imbued tax laws, but we’re not opposed to a good tax shelter, ourselves.”
Paul’s laugh reminded me somewhat of my father’s. “Mom has good instincts for people.”
Mine did, too. LoveComfort SupportFocus. Right. I took a breath. “I think everything’s in order, then.” As cheerful as Paul was, I suspected we could have gotten a much better deal if we were in a better position. Still, it represented a considerable amount of money for little to no effort on our part. I took time to review the final line.
This agreement is valid for ships located by Party B during the expedition led by Party A from July 14 to July 21, 2014.
If things work out, we may get a better deal in future contracts. I looked at the signing line. “We are going to need a team name, as well. To serve as identification for a business.” FrustrationConcern.
“You don’t have one?”
EmbarrassedStupid. Domenic’s metallic footsteps indicated he’d moved closer to me. “Most of us are new to our powers, and while Daybreak and I have costumed names, our team is just hours old at this point.” Misleading, if not an outright lie, but one we were confident could slip past Truthsayers. “We haven’t had time to formalize everything.”
“Ooh! You can call your entire team Arclight!” Wiki shouted. “You can all name yourself after parts, like Ballast, Strike and Igniter. All those names are taken by a bunch of people, but none of them are in teams with each other and they all sound badass as hell!”
“Davin, maybe you shouldn’t jump in like that, it’s not polite.” I could imagine Jaz behind me, trying to pull her brother back somewhere as far from scrutiny as she could. Or perhaps toward the door, to get out of the room we were in.
InterestRespect AcceptableCurious. Yeah, that could work, couldn’t it? Domenic took it on himself to speak for us. “They do have double meanings that could fit into our individual themes as well. I like Ballast, myself.”
“Well, if we’re stuck with Strike and Igniter, I got dibs on Strike,” Cecelia said. She put a hand on my shoulder. “You’re the one whose power can sets things on fire.”
I cringed. I cooked a man’s hand with my heat powers once. I forgot his name. What’s wrong with me? DefendSupportLove RegretPain.
We must have hesitated too long in our feedback loop, because Paul added his thoughts to the debate. “There are other names to consider. Arc lamps are essentially the earliest fluorescent and neon lights. Lots of electrical and light themed words to choose from, right?”
He’s not wrong. Most are trite, but we aren’t lacking for options. “True. We don’t need to select individual names.” I set the pen against the paper, just hard enough for ink to soak into the paper, then selected my signature. Daybreak, financial manager for Arclight. “The three of us can apply our new names to the contract later, when we decide on them. My name is enough to make the contract binding.” ReliefAcceptance FinishedForward.
“Just the three of you?” Paul’s eyes adjusted to something behind me, too low to be either of my partners. “What about the rest of your team?”
“Uh, we’re not part of any hero team.” PityContempt. I didn’t approve of Cecelia’s assessment of Jaz, but as unkind as she was, she wasn’t wrong. “We’re just, well-”
“Employees.” I hoped Jaz would forgive me for interrupting her. “Wiki has a power to access the internet via telepathic link, which we can use to identify wreckage or other research we might need.” UncertainConsideration. A weak excuse to cover our more pressing need for witnesses to conceal Cecelia’s origins, but our partner didn’t need to agree with our spending, only believe us. “He has special needs, and Jasmine is his caretaker.” I left it to Jaz to decide whether to reveal their familial relationship.
“His power is just a search engine,” Jaz said. “He can’t break into the NSA or anything like that, or even read your email. He got one of the weak powers.”
ConcernDistraction. RealizationAgreement. They’re right, the more focus is put on Davin’s abilities, the worse it could be for all of us.
“Now that we’ve got our contract in writing, there is a ship in that direction.” Cecelia pointed to the right side of the ship, through the wall that I assumed was aluminum since Domenic could see through it. “Looks like a big one, too. Could be military.”
“I’d have to check with navigation, but I think that’s the MV Australia. Goes without saying, it’s not a find we can use.” The smile and shrug managed to avoid being condescending. “Your scanners have that kind of range?”
Before Cecelia could make some claim up about her imaginary technology, Davin interrupted. “MV Australia. Lost the sixteenth of march, 1942 to torpedo from U-332. Coordinates 35-7-12 north, 75-22-12 west. Three point six miles from our current position.”
We all turned to look at Davin, near the door with his sister. Paul hesitated just long enough for me to worry before he spoke. “You can tell our distance from a ship through search engines?”
Shit, if he thinks Davin- “He’s just using map search programs.” Jaz stepped around his brother to shield him, as if she had anything to fear from us, or any means to stop us. “Y-you can do it with your cell phone with the right apps. He’s just faster, not better. And he can’t disconnect, which makes it difficult for him to function.”
“GPS that doesn’t break, and has a human mind to compensate for stupid computer errors?” Paul’s smile just got bigger. “Do you know what a good GPS costs?”
“There are ones online for a hundred and twenty dollars,” Davin said.
“One twenty? I wouldn’t trust one of those pieces of junk plastic as target practice. But enough of that, can you use the internet to do other math as well?” Paul brought his right hand up, to touch his lips. “Like water displacement as an example? You can look up any real ship, but… let’s say a fifty by fifty square foot raft which weighs fifty tons, ship and cargo included. What’s its draft?”
“Seven point five inches in salt water, seven point seven in fresh.” Wiki’s answer came without any sort of hesitation, as if he was asked something as simple as his name.
Paul, however, took several seconds to think. “Sounds close. What about the cheapest diesel costs on the eastern seaboard within about three hundred miles? Only count places equipped for boat fueling.”
“Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The best current price is one dollar and ninety-four cents per gallon.”
Paul laughed in his usual way. “You just saved me hours of work and three hundred dollars for this trip alone! How would you like a job?” Jaz and I both tried to object, but he cut us off. “Not now, but when this temp work runs out, maybe you’ll be interested in something permanent? We’ll talk wages once I have an idea how good you are, but I can promise lots of fresh air and sunlight, plus room and board when at sea.”
Paul and Jaz locked into a staring contest, his winning smile in stark contrast to her hesitation and self-doubt. CautionImproper. Right, it’s not our place to get involved.
It came to no surprise that Jaz was the one who relented. “We’ll think about it.” Perhaps Davin was fooled, but even Jaz had to know she would agree before the week was over. If the pay was reasonable, she might never see a better opportunity to take care of herself and her brother.
AnnoyanceProtective. Domenic stepped forward, just enough of his metal in solid state for his footsteps to resound through the small, metal room. “If you’re done poaching our employees, perhaps we should go on a tour of the ship?”
Captain Cline stepped around his table. “I’d be honored. Right this way, if you please.” The door opened outward, which allowed him to hold it open for all of us. “Full complement, this ship can house thirty people and stay at sea for up to four months without resupply. If you don’t mind everything you eat having the texture of crackers and jerky. Now we’re running a skeleton crew of twelve, including the five of you, with only enough supplies to get the job done. ”
In effect, we’re doing work which requires twenty people, alongside expensive equipment and supplies. More, perhaps, since there has to be a night shift of some sort which manages the ship in shifts. No wonder he was willing to split gross, the cut in personnel overhead alone pays for our half.
“The route we’ll take, now that I know costs in gas, will be north to Delaware, then sweep back south to Georgia. We’ll hug the coast and focus on making certain we get the best efficiency out of your scanning as possible. If we locate enough vessels, we might run down the week before needing to do a second sweep. What is your range, again?”
SuspicionConcern. “It varies…” Cecelia bought herself moment to think. “It works by detecting ferrous metals. The more, the better. I can find metal ships at a range of just over five miles, but wood might be only a mile…” CorrectionMore “…or two. Looking for bolts built into the framework.”
“We’ll go with narrow sweeps, then,” Paul said. “Steel ships are new enough to usually have exact coordinates where they went down, ‘less you’re in deep ocean. Near impossible to lose, easy to find again. The old vessels are another beast entirely, and more valuable for it.”
Paul stopped at a door near the front of the ship. “This is the forward crew quarters, where you’ll be staying. This isn’t a cruise ship, so we’re sparse on luxuries. You’ve got two bedrooms with six bunks each, two bathrooms, and a shared living area. No cameras in those rooms, and me and my crew won’t go in without knocking. Meals and pretty much everything not work happen in the mess hall.” He pointed to the double doors near the center of the ship. “Other than those, the deck, and the office where I work, the ship is employees only. Safety concerns, I hope you understand.”
NonthreatTruth. AcceptableAgree. Makes sense, and works in our favor since it gives us good reason to avoid people. “That’s fair,” I said. “No sense in risking an accident, or worrying the crew. We’ll do our best to stay out of everyone’s way.”
Paul offered a lopsided smile with a shrug. “Sorry, even in this century sailors can be superstitious about Imbued.” DoubtLiar. Superstition, right.
“Can’t say I blame them.” ProtectiveApologetic. Domenic moved a bit closer to me. “We’re about to cost them six years of job security in as many days. Were our positions reversed, I’d be upset, too. Just the same, I hope you understand if we brought our own microwave to make our food.”
Why would we need to make our own when we have a real kitchen… where others will prepare our food? RetaliationDisgusting. Oh. Yuck.