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“So there it is.
“Just think - four weeks ago, no one in the world would have believed this possible,”
so sad a thought
“and now everything changes.”
He mused sitting atop the flying bridge of R/V Forward. It was overcast that morning, and the swells lightly rocked the ship across the beam. The whole scene there was in stark contrast with everything believed to be true in the world.
“I don’t know just how we’ve missed this for so long, but I’m glad we’ve found it,” said the other up on the fly bridge.
“Something doesn’t seem right, though.”
Blue dotted lines have divided the land.
“The trick is trying to see what comes next. Really there is no sense in holding on to what we have, that is only transient now.”
“I don’t get it though,” said a concerned Mark. “Things where so stable here, it seemed as if nothing would ever change.”
“Forget it, kid! It’s all about band-wagons now,”
I wish it were still stable here
“just keep your eye out for one. Maybe it will lead to some place better than this.”
BR<> “What do you mean by that?”
“Just look out for yourself, alright?”
Why are we heading back east?
A thought shared by all those among the group.
“There’s so much more to learn about it, you know,” said John.
“I was thinking maybe we needed to recover more data, but we are too far for that now,” seconded Andrea, staring the computer printout in front of her.
“There’s no sense in it, this is the opportunity of a lifetime!
“Thing is, no one up stairs is talking, so what can we do but speculate?” ended Francis, watching the swells roll off below the stern of R/V Forward.
Something isn’t right here.
Mark could feel it in his shoes as he walked down the stark corridor.
“There’s not much hope for our nation, our way of life - all that we know, is there?” he asked of Bernard.
“Why would you say something like that now? This is a crucial time, we need to be optimistic!”
“Can’t you read it?” elicited Mark.
“What do you mean...”
stop that right now, I know what you’re thinking!
“The writing, it’s all over the walls. Something is going to change.”
“Don’t seal our fate yet, Mark,” said Bernard, as the two approached the emergency council meeting.
“John, something isn’t adding up!
“I watched in awe today as CSO (Chief Scientific Officer) did a purge audit of our findings,” said Andrea in a hushed tone as she cornered John in the forward passageway.
It had been three days since they turned back east and they were due into Vallejo within the week.
“So it’s all gone?”
I can’t believe he did that!
“All that work purged?” he asked.
“I sort of copied it when we turned back east,” she replied smiling a bit.
“None of this makes sense... do they know of your copy, Andrea?”
Starring out the window Bernard could see unrest over by the corner. This part of the city has been increasingly prone to riots lately.
“The cops,” started Bernard “why wont they do anything?
“This has been going on for weeks now.”
“At least a third of them agree with those in the crowd, statistically,” argued Mark.
“Bernard looked over at his fellow delegate in despair.
What happened, to them, to him?
“The people can’t get over their differences anymore, thats all,” said mark the mind-reader.
“They will next Friday, they have to.”
“Don’t count on it, Bernard.”
The cold gray January sky dominated R/V Forward. Just one day off the coast, the ship was cold and the crew anxious.
“Did you hear we are only stopping for a few hours in home port?” she asked.
“I can’t believe this, why would they be sending us down off the far south coast? We need to be back where we came from!” Francis seconded angrily.
“There’s something they aren’t telling us, there’s something we need to know,” said John.
The ship lay asleep that morning, while those three wrestled with their reality out among the white capped swells.
A quiet rap at the door, someone wanted in.
“Who on earth could that be?”
don’t open it
“We aren’t here.”
Peering out the window, Mark noted, “I don’t see any rioters down there, so it’s probably safe.”
“Well, go on and answer it then, Mark,” spoke Bernard cautiously.
The large heavy door opened to reveal a courier bearing a small envelope. He briskly handed over the message and vanished from sight.
After quickly glancing at the contents Mark began, “So it looks like they’re afraid to use the phones now. There’s an Emergency Council Meeting scheduled next Friday”
“You where there, Francis. You can’t tell me with a straight face they aren’t trying to keep something from us.”
“Wait what do you guys mean?” asked John frantically.
“About a half hour ago, CSO was telling us about our new research project. It was as if nothing ever happened, a complete blank slate for this trip.”
“I just don’t get it, what we saw was something never before seen. The world needs to know about it,” argued Andrea.
“Do you still have your copy of our findings?” asked John.
“Do they know,”
I sure hope not
Since when did you start to care?
“...and that’s the thing, we just need to stay optimistic,” said Bernard, looking hopefully out the window of the large official building.
“I was optimistic, “
you ignorant fool
“until I realized something.”
“What did you realize?”
“The same thing you realized,” started Mark hotly. “This situation, our fate, it’s all hopeless. At that point, exactly that point, I ceased to be optimistic, while you - you just began to be optimistic.”
“Seriously Mark, get a hold of yourself. We, this country - we”ll pull through this.”
“Sure we will,” spoke Mark sarcastically.
Waves rocking the boat steadily from forward to aft only reminded the crew they were close to home, for however short a time.
Down below the decks somewhere two voices whispered within the metal, while up above all was dreary. The consistent gray sky of the winter, and the thought of such a short stop at home, left a somber tone with the crew.
Down below somewhere:
“Is it done?” She asked.
“Yes, hopefully this works,” said the other
Up in the pilothouse:
“What’s that light on the panel over there?”
“GENERAL ALARM, GENERAL ALARM!” Echoed through the ship.
“I just want to know when I get to go home?
“Really we’ve been here for two weeks now,” started Mark, emphatically.
“I’m sure this whole situation will work itself out soon enough, and we can return to a safer home,” finished a confident and positive Bernard.
The stale air stagnated within the stuffy offices and cold meeting rooms which made up the large government building. All those who were able to make it before the transit system collapsed, have been there since.
“I’m not so sure this can be worked out,”
I think that ship has sailed,
Two, maybe three in the morning, the hours during which anything unexpected can leave a person in a haze. The seas were as they had been, slowly rolling, while the ship was quite alive for the hour.
“FLOODING! FLOODING!” whined the intercom system.
People rushing about, trying to find where they belonged during such a scenario, left plenty of confusion for the two responsible parties to scatter. At that hour no questions are asked, no assumptions made.
“FLOODING! FLOODING!” The cracking voice repeated over the intercom.
“So it’s done,” said John to an anxious Francis. “Hopefully it buys us time.”
“Looking out the window, I can’t see the disorder.
“I still see lights in houses,” remarked Bernard.
“They said there’s been trouble, with-
“-conflicts, on the surface roads lately,” said Mark changing the subject.
“I’m sure it’s exaggerated, really think about it.”
“I have thought about it. You are going-”
“-to have to take off those rose-colored glasses Bernard.”
“They aren’t going to protect you from all of this,” finished a serious Mark.
All the while the train chopped closer to the end of its time.
Dark and cold, would be the only way to describe the innards of a ship devoid of power. The main generators stopped running fifteen minutes from the first report of flooding, the emergency generator never picked up the load.
“What do you mean the emergency generator never fired off?” asked the furious Captain.
“It didn’t, that’s all I can say.”
“Alright,” attempting to maintain some semblance of calm, “how do we fire it off?”
Nervous and dripping with sweat, the young assistant engineer yielded no reply.
“So that’s all you have for me?”
you useless sap.
“Where’s your boss, then?”
“Do you have everything Sir?” asked the soldier, impatiently.
“I believe so,” answered Mark cautiously.
“And you Sir?” he asked of Bernard.
“Y-yes, everything I need is here.”
“Now listen, they’ve only guaranteed two more runs of the train to the capital, so there’s no going back,” cautioned the soldier finally.
As the car pulled away from the police station, their escort vehicle followed suit.
“This is all happening so quickly,” said a nervous Bernard.
“I’m sure it will continue to happen quickly as well.
“Let’s just hope we are on the right side in the end,” finished Mark.
“Why are we listing so badly?” asked one dark figure of another.
The space is near pitch dark, with only a dim glow from placards providing light. Listing strongly to port, the light-less engine room presents itself like a tangly jungle of pipes and valves to the unfamiliar.
“We’ve taken on quite a lot of water,”
“Are we still taking on water, or has it stopped?”
Climbing from an abyss-like bilge below the deck plates, Francis’ toothy grimace was hidden to all but him.
“Well that all depends, doesn’t it?”
“Why, you want it to stop?
“Listen, Bernard,” started Mark. “We either go now, or we stay and watch from the sidelines.”
The two stood, eyes squinted, staring into the sun. Looking out over the straits, ships could still be seen passing, train whistles still echoed through the hills, and the planes still roared in the sky - but for how long?
“I don’t think it’s going to come down to the collapse of the transportation system, Mark,” remarked Bernard emphatically.
“There were the strikes just last week, and with the petroleum shortage...”
“I don’t buy it,” interrupted Bernard.
“I’m not selling anything, just think about it Bernard.”
“That’s funny. I’d, have thought the lights would be back on by now.”
“Something doesn’t seem right... we did exactly as Francis said to do, right?”
The first glow of dawn found R/V Forward dead in the water, and just off the coast. Tossing gently in the swells, the ship lay victim to the whims of the currents.
“I’m sure of it, something else must’ve gone wrong,” answered Andrea nervously.
“This water is too cold for my blood.”
“At least we are close to shore.”
Standing there on the open decks, the two knew nothing of what transpired below.
Staring into the steam rising off his cup of coffee, Mark didn’t want to talk about it. Nothing in the world could make this any better, including him being stuck away from home during a time like the present.
“You got notified, too, didn’t you Mark?”
“That’s the story, unfortunately,” he answered Bernard.
“Listen, now is no time to lose sight.”
“Give me the white flag, I’ll throw it down.”
“Not going to happen.”
“Listen Bernard, it’s going to happen. The only reason I’m still in the game is to save as many people as possible from this train wreck.”
“Do I want it to stop?” a bit of outrage singed the Captains voice.
Sitting in the dark, Francis smiled.
All it would take is one twist of my fingers
, he thought, as he sat there below the air receiver.
“That was the question, and I am fully prepared to stop this flooding.”
“Well then, get on with it, we have places to go!”
“Right there, that’s the thing,“
we aren’t going anywhere
“I think we should stop and show our findings to the world.”
“Now, listen to me very carefully, Francis. That isn’t going to happen.”
“Why’s that, Skipper?”
Riots, strikes, less-than civil disobedience, all shaking the nation apart. Mark saw it coming. For the first time since that boat arrived, he saw the wreck at the end of the tunnel.
“We, this country is sitting on a fault line,” he said emphatically to Bernard.
“That’s a thousand miles east of here.”
“No, more of a political one. This country is being torn into pieces by its own people.”
“I don’t think its more than a briar patch, really.”
“It’s more than that, it’s a shattered existence.
“The beginning of the end,” he said staring over the harbor.
“What we witnessed, Francis,” with a deep sigh ”was nothing short of amazing.
“The world is not ready for that yet, though,” spoke the Captain in his most dejected voice.
“Ready or not, it happened. The world will see what we saw,” said the voice from the deep shadows of the dark engine room. Left hand on the air receiver bleed valve, the ship was at Francis’s whim.
“Listen, don’t do this. It’s not worth it.”
“It is going to happen, they are going to see.”
“What is it you want!?”
That done, the ship was helpless.
“When do you imagine they’ll have the power grid restored?” asked Bernard.
“It’s been taking longer and longer to get this sort of stuff back in order lately. I don’t honestly know how much more of this we can absorb.”
“This is terrible, who would’ve thought it’d come to this?”
“Terrible or not, I don’t believe it’s over. These people will take this as far as they can."
“Why don’t they declare martial law?”
“Honestly, who’s going to declare martial law on whom, exactly?” asked Mark as the two sat there waiting for night to wash away the available light.
“It’s been hours,” started Andrea.
“Seriously, something isn’t right,” said John, as the two sat on the decks waiting anxiously to know what transpired below.
Turning the large silvery valve handle, Francis sealed the ship’s and its captain’s fate. Tucked neatly between the pipes and deck plates, no one would ever find him beneath so many leagues of water.
Well, that’s that,
he thought leaving the engine room, which was quickly filling with sea water.
“Are you alright? What happened down there? Where’s the captain?” assailed the two waiting up on deck with the rest of the crew.
The smash of a window down some narrow street.
“That was all it took?” he asked of the event.
“That seems to be the spark, which lit the fuse,” answered Mark.
The tense air, which suffocated the nation as of late, broke. A strong wind, which started from a single broken window, swept across the land. All the tension, the anger, built up over the preceding weeks released like a rusty spring, leaving its broken fragments across the land.
“If that window was the spark, these new strikes are the fuse.
“I’m only afraid of the detonation,” finished Mark somberly.
“He never made it down there, and I couldn’t stop the water from rushing in. It was too dark,” said Francis, with a tone that wouldn’t hold up in court.
“That’s too bad, he was a good guy.”
“Hopefully they’ll find us soon,” said Andrea as the three watched the dangerously listing ship lurch closer to the bottom of the sea.
“The water must be at-least seven-thousand feet deep here?” asked Francis hoping for concurrence.
“More like ten,”
why would you want to know that.
“This is a pretty deep canyon.”
“You still have the findings?”
Passing through the nation towards home, the world seemed to be at an uneasy peace. There were no riots, there was no unrest, but for how long? The air was stagnant with the waters of animosity.
“Some pretty scary stuff that boat found,” commented Bernard.
“Yea, that’s for sure,”
wait a minute.
“Some things just shouldn’t be found.”
“Really though, I think the reaction people are going to have will be more scary than anything that boat could have dragged up.”
“Why is that?”
“Whatever it is they found, it was already there.”
The people, they scare me
, thought Mark.
There they stood, the three of them in front of the world. What they had seen, what they had recorded only their shipmates knew. Totally unaware of the consequences, which would eventually arise from their disclosure to the world, they continued with their story.
“We believed the world should know exactly what it was we saw,” continued Francis to the crowd of media before them.
“And what of the Captain?” asked one anxious reporter, during the barrage of questions.
So when the world falls to pieces,
thought John as Francis’s devilish smile answered question upon question.
It’s all on him.
“Given nature and consequences of recent disclosures to the public, it is the decision of this government to suspend all political activities for the present time.
“All Delegates are to return to their respective districts and work to maintain relative security of the general populace,” finished the Chair of the national Delegation in a grave tone.
A low murmur broke out in the Council Chamber.
“Well Mark, this nation has seen a good run. I fear we will meet again under much duress, and witness its end. Good luck,” said an old friend and mentor, turning towards Mark and Bernard.
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