Everything he did was on purpose.
He might’ve spoken to the contrary occasionally, but I knew that every detail and every subtle movement was done with extremely considered intent.
Of course, that’s not what he wanted anyone to think.
Quite the opposite actually.
And so when he smoothly swung open the heavy door of that classic Lincoln, I knew that I was in for a show. He was getting out of a car that was as beautiful and dated as the building he parked in front of, it was a stage he had started to set for me months before.
Dead Grass crunched loudly under her boots as she made her way up the ridge.
Rainy season was fast approaching, which meant that this was the driest time of year in that part of the state.
From the top of the ridge, she could clearly see the dry lakebed, and quarry. It was a flurry of activity, far too busy for a normal Sunday in September.
She took out the binoculars from the canvas back she had slung across her shoulder.
There it was, clear as could be.
Loop Industries spelled out on the side of the trucks lined up.
“Of course this is awful, what else would you call it?” asked Jerry furiously.
The voice on the other end of the phone went silent for a minute before responding. “Well, they all voted for it. They knew what they were getting themselves into.”
“Exactly, that makes it even worse. Doesn’t it?” He asked rhetorically.
“Yes, it does.” Was the smooth reply.
Jerry’s office in the Capital Building was empty, aside from the cleaning service going through each room. It was late, and he didn’t have the energy to argue about what had happened.
“Okay, but what can I do?”
The ship was quiet.
As my flashlight raced across the bulkheads of the long passageway, I could hear the brass fitting of a hose hanging overboard clank against the hull.
That’s gotta be at least two-hundred feet away, I thought.
But there was nothing to muffle the sound.
No air compressors.
It was a dead ship, and I was wandering around well below decks looking for something. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for exactly. The description was was extremely vague.
“You’ll know it when you see it,” was all I had.
“Won’t that be really bad?” asked Maria, as she prepared to sell off a market altering quantity of stocks.
“Sure, but I guess that’s really a question of perspective.” Replied Ms. Nguyen.
Still hesitant, Maria continued to delay making the sale. “Of course it’s a matter of perspective, you know how many people are going to lose if I do this.”
Ms. Nguyen reached over Maria’s shoulder and forced her hand, the sale was made.
“How many people do you think would’ve lost if you didn’t just make that sale?” She asked, rhetorically.
“Oh, I don’t know. A lot, eventually.”
The San Domingo was sinking fast, and Captain Alvarez knew it.
“Why’d they ever go out on that ship?” she asked the XO rhetorically.
Bracing himself against the handrail underneath the windows at the front of the bridge the XO responded “The same reason they always do. Because they don’t think it can happen to them.”
The USCGC Bristow plowed into the face of a swell as it made its way intercept the foundering MV San Domingo. It was painfully sunny outside, causing harsh glare off of each whitecap.
“True enough. This isn’t going to be easy,” replied the Captain.
The fog had descended deep into the ravine, obscuring the ridge and trees above.
He was completely alone, or at least that was his estimation as he quickly walked along the muddy path.
His estimation was wrong, and he was soon intercepted.
It was approximately one mile to the pump station gate from car. This should’ve been a eighteen minute hike, in each direction. His partner knew the trail well, and that the whole affair shouldn’t take more than forty minutes.
Forty minutes had passed, and it was now approaching forty-five minutes.
His partner quickly put the car in drive.
Kansas 9, headed east just before sunset.
The yellow light illuminates the road and trees in front of the car.
Everything is golden, everything is glowing.
Saint Joseph’s and the sleepy town of New Almelo are fresh in the rearview mirror.
If I could, I would live in this moment forever, gliding along the rolling farmland at sunset. Our whole world was perfection in that exact spot at that exact time.
We were three days into our eastward journey, at the pinnacle of Kansas. And there was time for just a few more pictures before we lost the golden light.
“What the hell are you doing?” I asked.
“Making it easy for everyone,” he replied as he smashed the inside of the air compressor control box with a hammer.
“That’s not what it looks like to me.” I said angrily. “How are we supposed to fix that; they don’t make those anymore.”
Closing the grey control box, he turned back to me saying, “That’s the whole point. I don’t want them to fix it. They can’t get under way now, which will be easier for us.”
“Easier for us how?”
“Because now we won’t need an excuse to stop them.”
The ground was dusty.
The trees were dusty.
The sky was dusty.
As she climbed back down the ridge, with the canvas bag tucked securely under her arm, she tried to avoid kicking up any dust. That was a tall order, but an important one.
How many people do you think know about this?She asked herself.
As she carefully walked towards the dirt road, Loop Industries trucks on the other side of the dry valley rumbled in and out of the quarry.
It was an old alkaline lake, but not too old.
Those rumbly trucks didn’t make any dust.
“It’s lucky for you that the first few experiments worked out,” said Angela abrasively as they watched the most recent attempt fail.
“No, it’s lucky for all of us that those experiments worked out,” replied Maria. “This is the future; this is the way it was going to work out eventually anyway. And now that they’ve got a taste of it they won’t let off.”
“Aren’t you conflating your personal interests with that of society?” Asked Angela.
“Those interests are the same,” said Maria as she backed away from the control console. “And the sooner we get there the better.”
Footsteps were coming down the engine room walkway.
I could hear the thud of the boots as they moved bluntly across the oily deck plates. It was with the speed of someone with sure intent that they approached.
I was ready, shrouded in darkness next to the air receiver.
Then the footsteps stopped.
They didn’t see me did they?
They don’t know I’m here?
I waited, in the uncomfortable silence. Waited for the footsteps to return, to continue towards me.
But they didn’t.
They just stopped, trapping me in that dark hiding place.
This was a game I could lose.
Everywhere I look, I’ve looked before.
My mind was caught in a loop, search and search again. I knew it was nearby, it had to be. But as I kept running through the list of possible paces for it to be hiding amongst the artifacts, my searches kept coming up empty.
There wasn’t much time left now.
I needed this to be over, I needed to find it.
With each new search, I could see the clock running me down. It was chasing me, and that made it worse.
Each time becoming more futile than the last, I kept looking.
“Of course that’s a stupid comparison, you’ve used a Mercator projection,” accused the director bluntly.
Desperately trying to figure out what that was, he paused before replying in surrender, “A what? What is a Mercator projection?”
“A Mercator Projection is a type of map. One that’s often misused by dolts like you to mislead people.” She said.
“I’ve never heard of that before,” he said, feeling stupid.
“Main,” she said, pointing to the map now up on the large monitor, “is not the same size as Florida. Not in real life anyway.”
He slumped into the chair, in defeated stupor.
The loud rumble of the generators occupied the space.
The combined smell of burnt oil, diesel, and rags was hanging in the humid air.
A few weeks ago, there was no discernable order to the engine room. It was a jumble of hoses, spare parts and discarded steel. Half of the deck-plates were removed and the equipment seemed decades away from being operational.
But now here we are, on ships power.
The beating hearts of the boat pumping cold bitter blood and generating that life giving energy.
From stem to stern, this ship had been reanimated after a long slumber.
“Of course I’ll go,” she said, competing with the noise of the steady wind blowing across the dry valley floor.
“Good, that will save us the trouble of replacing you,” replied Sargent Colfax of the High Desert Militia.
“Well, then I’m doubly sure that I’ll go,” added Maria, knowing the full weight of her choice.
“Adding superlatives to your decision won’t help any,” said the Sargent.
The wind continued to howl in the valley.
A brief silence passed between the two women.
“This is going to sound cliché, but don’t call me Ma’am,” said an unamused Sargent Colfax.
Sun beams fell sharply on the hood of the car as it sat, idling on the side of the road.
A few vehicles had ventured so far off the main roads, as to pass by. But, none had taken the opportunity to stop. And chances are, none would.
As dystopianly pretty as this spot is, people here don’t have the luxury to appreciate it. Theirs is a utilitarian existence, always moving from one point directly to another point.
So, I sat there in the car, half shaded by the trees clicking away at the keyboard.
With nobody to distract me.
“It’s not the morality of it that bothers me,” I said.
“Then what about this is weighing on you?” asked my coworker, eager to understand.
“It’s the very real possibility of getting caught up in it, and of having to carefully navigate out of a self-inflicted wound,” I replied as we walked down the clean and bleach white passageway.
“Yea, but you’ll find a way. Stuff like this always works itself out,” he said as we approached the scuttle leading down to the torpedo hold.
“See, whenever people say stuff like that, I know it’s going to get real complicated.”
The sun always rose slowly on our side of the ridge.
Maybe that’s for the better, because in the shadows no one was paying attention to us. And for most of the time that I can remember, the quiet anonymity we lived in allowed us a lot of leeway.
For example, when Brian Younger became a problem in the community, no one looked too closely once he suddenly stopped banging his fist on the town hall door.
And when the developers decided to abandon their plans to build an apartment complex near our beach, no one questioned why they stopped.
“Where are we,” he asked patiently.
“Somewhere west of Loma Mar,” I replied.
The creek bubbled calmly past us as we navigated the narrow pebble shore. There wasn’t much room to walk and in some places none at all, forcing us to jump from dry rock to dry rock.
“It sure seems like we’ve been at this for a while now,” he prodded, looking to take a break.
“That’s probably true, but we’ve got no time to waste,” I said.
The rain was just starting to fall, and I knew that this calm creek would soon erupt with raging fury.
It was such a simple looking part, one that wouldn’t be missed if it wasn’t so critical to the ships functionality.
That was a lot easier than I figured it would be, he thought, climbing out of the machinery space.
Walking out to the nearest weather deck, he leaned over the bulwarks and held the small part over the side of the ship. It was only a passing moment where he looked at it in his hand before releasing his grasp of the object.
“Shit, I can’t believe I just did that,” he said aloud, to no one in particular.
“Listen, I know you think that you’re trying to help,” she said nonchalantly, as she continued examining the jacket water system diagrams on her desk.
Stunned, he replied “What do you mean? Of course I’m trying to help.”
She continued looking at the diagram, and writing a list of the parts she’d need to order. But didn’t respond.
“Of course I’m trying to help,” he repeated.
Irritated, she looked up from the drawings and said, “Alright, fine. I’ll pay attention to you for a minute, but I’m going to use some big words like subconscious so try and keep up.”
Everything detail of the facility had been thoughtfully designed.
High up on the hill above the city, the layout of the buildings took advantage of the hills steep slope. Raw material was deposited at the top, or summit, of Building 53, and then processed as it descended through a series of lower buildings. Finally, the finished product would roll off the line at the very foot of building 1, taking full advantage of gravity to help load it into tucks for shipment.
It was features like these that made the facility very efficient, but also very vulnerable to poor management.
CLUNK… FFFFFF... CLUNK
The tall windmill whirred away, as she sat waiting by a non-descript car on the gravel road below.
When the hell are they going to get here, she thought, impatiently.
The windmill continued, providing the only soundtrack to this intolerable wait.
After some time, she heard the unmistakable sound of tires on gravel. It was still far down the road, but fast approaching.
Finally, thank God, she thought, briefly. Wait, that’s not the car. Who in the hell is that?
Quickly the black sedan raced toward her position, perched high up on the ridge.
“Maybe I wasn’t perfectly clear when I asked for a real answer,” said the Captain bluntly, as she sat back in her chair on the bridge. “In that I wasn’t looking for a lazy answer where you give me some conservative date, by which you could’ve finished the work twice.”
“But that schedule represents best marine practices,” started the shipyard superintendent, before being cut off.
“I want you to pretend for a minute that you are going to use every resource available to get the job done quicker than that.”
“Um, certainly, we can do that,” replied the superintendent nervously.
The car sped along the winding asphalt of the highway.
Every mile drew the black sedan closer to the gated compound at the end of its journey, and every minute brought with it more suspense.
Up north, somewhere just above Gualala the bright lights blurred out the night sky and a loud trembling base line shook the building. The people there didn’t notice, for all of this had been the background of their distraction for the past week.
Still, the car sped on fast approaching that compound.
At the center of it all, a man stood waiting on the balcony.
“I’ve just resigned myself to the fact that I’m better than everyone else around me,” he said, with an air of slimy confidence.
She smiled and leaned back in her chair at the large boardroom table before responding. “Well, I’m sorry to hear that Mr. Goyette,” she said. Picking up the resume in front of her, she ripped it up, saying; “I guess that means that we’ll have no need for you here then.”
“What the hell are you doing!” He exclaimed. “That’s the dumbest thing you’ll ever do.”
“Great, because I’d hate to upset your expectations,” she replied, smiling.
“The fact that you have to explain why this isn’t a bad idea makes me question your judgement,” said Maria, one of the company’s top engineers.
“If it doesn’t work out it will be a bad idea, with terrible consequences,” replied her coconspirator. “But, if, on the other hand, it does work out, this will be the most lucrative thing either of us have ever done.”
“What are the actual odds of it working out?” Asked Maria.
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you that. I’ve spent too much time just planning for it to go my way,” said her unflinching partner.
It was dark out, but I could see the sea of whitecaps glowing in the moonlight.
Somewhere to the north a violent storm was churning up the seas, and sending its wrath toward us. With each successive roll of the ship more water washed up on deck.
Earlier, in the daylight, a wave knocked the ships bell off the focsle.
Not long ago another wave ripped one of our acetylene bottles from its rack and sent it plunging to the ocean floor.
Now, I’m out on deck desperately trying to fix this door, before the ocean decides that I’m next.
“We’ve been out here for months, and nothing,” he pleaded desperately.
“They’re out here,” she replied. “Just remember, in the big blue ocean we’re nothing but a postage stamp on a baseball diamond.”
“That doesn’t help,” he said, unamused with the comparison.
A wave rocked the boat to port, as the documentarian and the Captain stood on the bridge wing.
“Of course it doesn’t help, but now you’re as irritated as I am,” said the Captain. “Maybe you can convince them to send us air support,” she continued. “Then, we’d be like a sheet of paper on a baseball diamond.”