The Wandering Island Factory (7 page)

BOOK: The Wandering Island Factory
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[Chapter 13]

Pissed, he looked for his keys in the bowl by the door again. But he knew it was fruitless. His car was gone. He checked his empty cigarette box, then crushed it and tossed it to the table where his keys should have been. He needed his morning fix, bad. Frustrated, he grabbed his wallet, slammed the door behind himself, and walked the ten blocks it took to get to the nearest overpriced convenience store.

It wasn't the first time someone had taken his car and left him stranded. It was a regular damned occurrence!

It might not have been so bad, but he wasn't even having sex with Gina yet!

He kicked the first mailbox he saw, then stomped a discarded cigarette box a few feet away. He was angry, very angry, and it didn't seem to be fading away. It seemed to be getting worse.

He didn't like the situation he found himself in. He hadn't expected to still be in the kissing stage. He hadn't expected to buy a car and only get to use it half the time. He didn't expect to struggle this hard and have nothing to show for it. And he didn't expect to be stranded at home on a weekend with no car and no smokes!

He coughed in anger, desperation, and withdrawal. He still had another six blocks to go.

He opened the box in the store, smoked his first in under a minute just outside their doors, then chain-smoked two more on the walk home. There was something just so calming about a good cigarette, in this case, three.

Hopefully, most of his anger had been over not getting his morning fix. But somehow, he doubted that was the case. Something had to happen with Gina, or he was going to call it quits. He stopped short of the apartment at the bus stop bench.

He liked her. No, he loved her. He did. They had a lot in common, and he fully understood her reluctance to move their relationship further. Hugging her could change the day for him. But she kept herself at a distance.

Sharing a car was easy; sharing a bed with someone he loved more now than he ever did before, but that was keeping herself at such a distance. . . that was something he wasn't prepared for.

He bought a paper from the machine.

Global warming was hitting, full force. And carbon capping and trading had failed, miserably. Cap and trade had moved jobs overseas, by the millions. It had destroyed America's competitive advantage by pricing energy, a key cost factor in everything, at four times that of China and India.

Sitting, the behemoth's thermal turbines earned it carbon credits, but even they had pushed up their rates. Ironically, they had been sued by the local power company for undercutting the market, and the legislature FORCED the behemoth to up their rates.

But, global warming was proving to be a bigger mixed bag than the experts had predicted. Canada, for example, was enjoying an increase in agricultural exports of sixty percent. Same with food exports from Alaska and Siberia, of all places. Even including crop failures in traditional breadbaskets, the world was seeing an unprecedented surplus of food, and India and China were literally eating it up.

But as with all news worth printing, they found a way to make this good news depressing. Food was at a surplus, which should have driven prices down across the globe, but didn't. Food prices were up because shipping costs had spiked because of automatic 'triggers' in cap and trade. With windmills going mostly silent with a global shift in wind patterns, everyone was burning exponentially more natural gas to compensate.

Australia had lifted their ban on the Wandering Island's thermal generator designs years ago and was now using a small array of them to power Sidney, instead of the unsightly tidal generators. A shift in rain patterns had solved their long-standing drought problems and seemed to be turning their dusty desert center into rich agricultural land again. Which was good for them, but did little to help those stuck on Hawaii.

Tickets to leave the island had tripled in price since cap and trade had kicked into high gear. Being near the equator, they had already lost ten feet of coast. The warming was happening much faster than any, except the sun-centric scientists, had predicted. Even so, the carbon-centric scientists had yet to abandon their position. Instead, they doubled down and got, after spending billions on lobbying, even stricter caps on carbon because of the unexpected melting.

Jason folded the paper. It was all too depressing. He wanted off the island, but there was no way to leave.

No, actually, there was a way. It was cheaper to buy a boat and sail/drift to Mexico and resell it than it was to buy a ticket on a plane or gas-powered boat. Winds near the equator remained strong and somewhat predictable. And as long as ocean currents didn't deflect them too far, it was still possible to sail along this latitude. But that might not be true for much longer.

He lit his fourth cigarette and walked the rest of the way home. He could tough it out for one more year. Maybe.

If he had enough cigarettes.

With wind patterns changing, so too did the size and pitch of waves. Tidal generators were under producing, same as windfarms, ushering in a new redesign.

When Jason returned to work, they started on the third generation of tidal generators. These used even smaller slabs that could utilize the smaller waves. They used smaller pistons, an integrated superstructure frame, and about ten times the man-hours to produce the same amount of power. But, because of the carbon tax, it was all Hawaii, and many other states, had left.

He helped assemble them offshore, just beyond the horizon.

Every day when they boated back, he watched the gentle waves eat away at abandoned, flooded homes that dotted the coast. Week after week, fewer would remain standing.

Months of seven, twelve-hour days had taken a toll on Jason, but had benefited his account handsomely. By Christmas, he had saved enough to buy an old sailboat, but had yet to talk Gina into going with him.

She opened the window, letting the mild winter weather into the bedroom, before climbing into bed with him. She got home late at night and settled into bed at about the same time he needed to wake for work. They had that precious hour together, and he didn't like spending it on arguing, but it seemed like the only thing on his mind.

"We need to head for the mainland, for the states, while we still can. Hawaii lost another thirty feet of shore since winter. Sailboats are still affordable, if we fire-sale everything and combine it with what I've been able to save—"

She sat up in bed, "We'll have nothing left by the time we make it to the states—"

"We sell the boat for whatever we can get for it, then try to find jobs. I still have family, we should be able to get a bus ticket or a train ticket or something like it—"

"The Mississippi has stayed flooded two hundred feet across each bank. Everything is sinking, Jason."

"We'll find something. But, we have to move now before the panic really sets in. Next year may be too late."

She didn't like the idea of leaving everything she knew. But, it was true. If trends continued, Hawaii would have to be evacuated within a decade.

"They had to add to the anchors that tether the tidal generators again. They seem to have to add another link every day. One of the guys I used to work with. . . they make sailboats out of defective slabs. They aren't yacht pretty, but they'll get the job done and have some resale value. Said he'd let me have one at cost, but just this year while sales are slow. Right now, that's all we can really afford, that or something decades old and wood or fiberglass that scares me more. I've seen his, they aren't bad, sort of houseboat meets barge."

She didn't do well with change. She hesitated. "I think I'm too tired to think about something like this, right now."

He tempered his excitement and frustration with his calmest voice, "I've made up my mind on this, Gina. I. . . I just don't think I can stay here. But, I'm very much in love with you. I don't want to leave you, and I don't want to leave your family in a lurch by just selling my car and disappearing one night. I want you all to come with me. I think we can do this, I really do. I'd like to leave this spring." He had clearly upset her, so he cut his argument short. "There are plenty of cities and towns that are hundreds of feet or more above sea level. I can google you a list of them after work, but I'm sure at least one of them we can call home." But telling a surfer girl to live inland was a tough sell. "Gina, Gina Gina. . . Gina. I—" but he just kissed her instead. "When it isn't just the very rich who see their oceanfront homes wash away, but when it's happening to everyone, that's when it'll be too late. Come with me this spring. Just, just think about it."

They cuddled for a while until she fell asleep, and he got up for work.

[Chapter 14]

Jason was working fourteen-hour days when his car finally sold that spring. The family held a yard sale that weekend and sold Gina's Honda a few days later. All the overtime he had been putting in let him put a down payment on the boat months ago and have it paid off before the ad for his Yaris was even placed in the local paper.

Nobody in her family wanted to leave, but they couldn't afford to stay without his income, and they were all smart enough to know he was right about the waterlogged writing on the wall.

The 'boat' consisted of one main floating slab, a little bigger than a flatbed tractor-trailer, with a steel shipping sea-box as the living space. Two outriggers prevented it from flipping in bad weather while providing a wide and stable platform for the sail.

Inside the box were the simplest accommodations, one bathroom, a tiny kitchen, and several crudely cut windows. Above the box was a small closet-sized room that contained all the riggings for steering and controlling the parasail and rudder. It was the simplest of simple, but that didn't mean it was easy. It was all manually controlled, bicycle pedals and gears made wrestling the mammoth sail and large rudder difficult, but possible. It featured an electric assist, but the three car batteries were drained within the first four days, and the propeller-style charger off the stern could only keep up demand when the boat was moving faster than twenty knots, which it rarely did.

Fortunately, Nathan knew a lot about parasailing, their main method of motion; he just wasn't used to this scale.

Their first week at sea, Jason couldn't stop smiling. He was on his own mini wandering-island. But that excitement quickly wore off.

Gina cranked on the fishing line as she wrestled a young shark to the stern where Ava readied the sword-like harpoon. The youngest sister hesitated as it twisted and tried to keep up with the speeding boat, but she plunged the blade into its back like a seasoned pro. Pulled onboard, it flopped briefly before Gina lobbed off its head in a single swing. The head and guts would be kept for bait, but the rest would make a fine dinner. And just in time, too.

The boat was moving slower than expected, averaging less than ten knots an hour, and they needed to supplement their meager food supplies. Fortunately, ten gallons of kerosene would let them cook every day for a year, if needed, but they planned for only a month, two at the most, and most of their cooking needs were met by a solar oven. They had gone through all their canned meats and soups and were down to their stocks of dried rice, beans, peas, and a few bags of flour. Nobody would starve, but everyone was sick and tired of rice and beans.

Worst of all, they were down to their last carton of smokes. And unfortunately, everyone in this family smoked.

GPS put them on course, but far behind schedule. The winds just weren't cooperating, even those hundreds of feet up where the parasail could reach just weren't holding up their end of the bargain.

Jason ran down from working the sails, "Wow, he's a beaut, girls!"

Ava held it by the tail and fin as Gina gutted it on the stern.

Jason moved to the hand crank and started pumping seawater past the desalination filters, yet another one of the boat's features that had to be done manually whenever it was moving under twenty knots.

Gina glared at him while she sliced deeper into its flesh, liberating the large steaks first, easily another thirty pounds to offer. She had been promised an experience much different than all of this. The weather was hot and salty, the air was always humid, and the breeze from that ever-forward motion offered little to no relief. The only breaks from the misery were in the cool of the night and the relatively bug free nature of living at sea.

"Ok, ok, I get it," Jason said as he pedaled the pump, "I thought we would be there by now—"

She pointed the knife at him, "You promised, one month, two at the most."

Ava scooped the liberated guts into the bait bucket, "Nobody can control the weather, Gina. We all agreed to this."

"Stay out of this," Gina said, shifting her glare to her little sister.

"We've been without radio for months," Ava said. "We don't know what's—"

"Not at night," Gina corrected, "AM fades in and out, you get five minutes of clarity every half hour, and it doesn't sound like Hawaii sank into the ocean or anything. All I've heard is the same old normal talk shows about sports and politics."

Jason stopped pedaling, "I never said Hawaii was going to sink. The oceans were rising and submerging more of the coasts under water. Very different— Look, I'm not trying to argue with you, and I don't know how me complimenting you on a fine catch turned into—"

"I never signed on for this, Jason. We were miles inland, we had time. Years. And there's no way that any government, no matter how incompetent and misguided, would let another New Orleans happen to Hawaii. We could have been evacuated in full FEMA style."

"Yeah, but you wouldn't have gotten anything for all your submerged TVs and computers and stuff—"

"And just what are we supposed to get for this malfunctioning tub? Huh?" Gina stabbed the shark, then sliced off its fin. "You were had, ain't nobody interested in buying some piece of junk like this. I doubt you'll get a peso, let alone enough for a ticket anywhere."

Jason started pedaling again, "We still have some cash and credit cards, and don't forget the hundreds you got for your Honda—"

"I can't believe I quit my job and sold my car for this!" Gina stormed into the metal sea-box.

Ava finished slicing up the meat. "She's just mad, Jason. She doesn't take changes very well. Never has. This flipped her whole world upside down. It'll take a little more than a few months for her to adjust." She started on the little bite-sized slices in the tail. "Hell, I'm not even half as crazy, and I haven't halfway adjusted."

Jason pedaled faster. . . not that it helped.

The stern generator fell far short of enough power to filter water or assist in sailing, but it was plenty to run the small array of lights inside, run a CD player, power a laptop for a few hours, keep the GPS charged, and run the small radio.

Jason took over steering the ship that night.

The parasail was more complicated to manage than an ordinary sail with a mast, but it was far more efficient too. Especially for something of its size. Not only were the winds stronger up there, but placing the sail hundreds of feet in front of the ship offered a kind of leverage that masts couldn't touch.

A simple rope with tassels extended down from the sail and was his most trusted guide for wind speeds and directions. This night, they were approaching twenty knots for the first time since they left Hawaii. It wouldn't last and he struggled to keep the sail in the gust manually, hoping that the batteries would fully charge by morning. He watched the gauge on the freshwater tank slowly fill on its own, no pedaling required.

It was peaceful at night, and the dim lights on the sail made it look like synchronized shooting— no, make that dancing stars. Mastering the figure eight pattern was difficult at first, but once he got the hang of it, it boosted efficiency by thirty percent and finally allowed them to get over twenty knots. It wasn't an eight, he thought, as he maneuvered it through the sky. It was more of a bowtie, or an elongated eight lying on its side. Changing elevations diminished efficiency, but patrolling the horizon let them chase the wind.

It was hypnotic in a way.

He tried to keep it as high in the sky as he could, without the guidelines reaching higher than forty-five degrees from the boat. Thirty-five degrees seemed ideal, if winds would comply.

He had crashed the sail into the ocean only once. It took them four hours to untangle the lines and reel it all back in. They had a tiny mast they used to lift it out of the water enough to get it aloft again, but it proved to be such a time-consuming pain that he vowed to never let it happen again. Figure eights at fifteen to twenty degrees was the fastest they had ever gotten the boat to go, but it was exactly at those low angles that he seemed so crash prone. Between thirty and forty degrees was a golden zone for him. It offered him several additional seconds to prevent any crashes.

When and how he turned the figure eights often worked better to steer the boat than using the rudder, but he still relied heavily on the rudder today. Nathan, on the other hand, could keep the sale at ten degrees off the water and go the entire day without touching the rudder. Jason was a bit envious of that boy's talent. Lost in thought, he was startled when the door opened.

"Look, I'm sorry I lost my temper," Gina said in the tiny room. She flipped on the radio and started playing with the dial. "Why is it so quiet up here?"

He slowed the figure eight and tried to park the sail up high where it was far less efficient, but easier to manage, especially while talking. "I don't know. I turned it off an hour or more ago. Kept fading in and out and, that gets a little distracting after a while."

She flipped it to AM and tuned in a late night broadcast from the west coast. "I thought you liked this guy?"

"I do, or, uh, I did. I think they were talking about ghosts and alien abductions tonight— not one of my favorites. I like listening to the crazy conspiracy theories and the weird NASA scientists."

She twisted the dial and brightened the lights on the sail as she peered out the window. "Seen any planes or other boats?"

"No, but I wasn't exactly trying to." He dimmed them back down and lowered the lights in the room. "Caught a little snippet about pirates on the high seas and didn't want to take a chance." He laughed, "I know, it's silly to take such things so seriously. It's a huge ocean and we're just a tiny dot. But, I figured we should dim the lights as much as possible. You know, just bright enough to prevent collisions, but not bright enough to attract attention."

She stuck her head out the window and enjoyed the strong, cool breeze flowing through her hair before pulling back inside. Checking the GPS, then noticing their gradually slowing speed, she turned the radio down. "Don't let me distract you." She checked the battery status, then the nearly full fresh water tank. "Jason, I uh, the past is the past. What's done is done." She sat beside him in the cramped little room, barely big enough for two. "I hope you didn't take the last few days personally. It wasn't, you know. Personally," she smiled in her shy little way, "you're the only guy I would leave Hawaii for."

BOOK: The Wandering Island Factory
7.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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