The Wandering Island Factory (9 page)

BOOK: The Wandering Island Factory
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[Chapter 17]

Jason studied the modified maps that made California look like a chain of small islands, then checked the GPS again before turning it off. Going without vegetables wasn't pleasant, but it was doable.

He looked out the back of the tiny control room at all of the seaweed drying in the sun on top of the sea container's roof. That was their vegetables now. Kelp.

The rice, peas, and beans were all but gone. They had kept a small handful of each, those that looked most promising as healthy seeds, in the event that they should ever get enough kelp to decompose and make a soil for the seeds to grow in. They had the space, if they could manage the dirt.

They had put down anchor where the ocean was shallow enough, radio reception was clear, the climate seemed moderate enough, the fish abundant enough, and the current seemed strong enough to keep the batteries charged. The massive sail was stowed away for when they could eventually decide on where to go.

They were in limbo. Canada was where everyone was leaning, but according to the radio, Canada was now experiencing intense UV rays and a world of other problems with the collapse of the magnetic shield. If they got ashore in Canada, they probably still couldn't get anything for their boat and would have to cover hundreds or thousands of miles, most likely on foot.

Nobody in Gina's family spoke French, anyway.

South didn't seem inviting either. Should the poles melt completely, which could take six years, the currents near the shore would calm and they could safely put ashore anywhere. But without the thousand-horse motors of a coastguard cutter, they didn't stand much of a chance. Sailing around South America toward the East Coast wouldn't gain them anything either, the same rules applied there too.

They could call in a mayday at any time, or wait it out and see if things improved.

The mood was to wait.

But it was a small ship to do that much waiting.

Gina climbed up the side of the metal sea container with an armful of fresh kelp.

Jason left the tiny control room and offered to help. The kelp already up there crumbled easily into confetti-sized chunks when sufficiently dry and kept for weeks in airtight trash bags. Kelp was like fish in a way; it only came by when the currents were just right and had to be caught all at once, if possible.

Some kelp tasted better than others, but they were all strong and tended to overpower the fish they ate them with. None were as bland as lettuce, but it counted as a vegetable. Sort of. It was better than eating just fish.

He opened a fresh trash bag, leftover from the move, and started filling it with those that passed the crumble test.

Sitting stationary, they also seemed to catch a lot of debris, too. In their first month parked here, they captured a small canoe, half of a commercial fishing net, two dozen pool toys ranging from floating lounge chairs to water wings, and hundreds of plastic bags, coolers, and volleyballs. Last week, they got deluged with wooden desks and 2x4s, and even this morning they snagged hundreds of feet of nylon rope as it floated by, but their best catch of the day was three lobster traps. They were badly mangled, but Nathan, the most irritable of the bunch, had taken it on as a project to fix at least one of them by the end of the day. That was three days ago, but it kept him busy and out of everyone's way.

Jason helped Gina hurriedly spread out the fresh kelp before the sun got too high in the morning. Canada wasn't the only place with increased UVs.

Bunkered inside the steel can, they were safe from the rays, but not boredom.

Nathan tossed the twisted cage into the corner, then spiked the pliers in after it, "Stupid piece of SHIT!" He leapt in the air and stomped it.

"Whoa!" Jason said, pulling Nathan away from the twisted wires, "what if you cut open your foot on that? You're a long way from getting a Tetanus shot! Let's just calm down."

"I'm so damned tired of this shit!" Nathan screamed at the metal walls.

Makayla came in from the back with an armful of board games, Monopoly on top. "Why not turn the radio on for a while and—"

"I'm sick and tired of listening to that depressing crap!" Nathan said, smacking the boxes out of his mother's hands, "It's always so-and-so evacuating, so-and-so flooded, or so-and-so burning!" He flung the hammer off the desk and into the trap. The entire mess recoiled off the metal walls and nearly hit his mom in the shins.

Makayla smacked him, apologized immediately, hugged him, then sent him to his room, such as it was in the metal box. "Maybe we should just issue that mayday. This isn't what anyone bargained for."

Gina picked up the twisted wire and set it on the desk, "Nobody on the planet is getting what they bargained for. Can anyone say it would be better elsewhere?" She worked the hammer out, then carefully extracted the pliers. The trap was badly damaged, but more in the way of knotted string than broken wood. Bent metal could be bent back again. It was time consuming, almost puzzle like, and as good a distraction as playing games while being a lot more constructive.

Jason pulled up a chair and started working on the other side. He turned on the radio, but kept the volume low. News about a riot over food interrupted the music. They had been at sea for half a year, and had run out of most things. For sure toilet paper was sourly missed, as was soap, toothpaste, shampoo, and laundry detergent, but they had yet to miss a single meal. Most of the time, they had a surplus of food. The two trash bags stuffed full of dried kelp would last several bitter flavored months, another bag was filled with shark jerky and would last nearly as long. They lacked variety, but not food.

Jason and Nathan spent the next few days salvaging their hoard of wood. Salvaging was key. Every nail and screw was a precious commodity, and they pried each one out with great care. With the leftover wood, they tried their hand at construction.

The pontoons were, naturally, slabs of floating rock, about the same length as the main piece under the metal sea box they lived in, only a mere three feet wide. Since weight wasn't that big of an issue with so much surplus buoyancy, these slabs were connected with huge, recycled steel beams. But those three-foot wide pontoons could easily be expanded with a wooden floor of sorts. With enough wood and nails, and they seemed to accumulate several new pieces a day, they should be able to extend the floor space dramatically. Each pontoon extended twelve feet off each side of the boat; filling that in would triple their seemingly shrinking floor space.

They started with the port side, and after only two weeks, they had most of it floored. When two tarps floated by, they quickly harnessed them into a makeshift roof over their new floor, and shifted to picnic tables and benches in lieu of the starboard flooring.

As Nathan and Jason hammered their last salvaged nails into the bench, Gina and Ava turned the corner with the fruits of their labor in hand. The girls struggled as they plopped the hobbled cage onto the newly constructed, slightly warped floor, then proceeded to dump four of mammoth lobsters onto the wood. The lobsters flopped and awkwardly struck at each other with their pinchers while fumbling under a waterless gravity.

Nathan dropped his hammer, "Wow! Are we going to boil them tonight?"

Gina carefully grabbed one from behind as it tried to crawl toward the edge, "Don't have a pot big enough. Going to try to bake them, just wanted you two to work up an appropriate appetite."

Ava brought over the cleaver and they lobbed off pieces, bagged them, then carried the shelled pieces to the perpetually preheated solar oven.

Roasted lobster was an amazing treat, but it only reminded them that they had no butter to go with it, only kelp.

The storm raged outside as the boat bucked against its anchor, the sounds of it dragging the bottom scratched up the chain. The waves crashed over the decks and slapped with a bang against the metal box. Water washed in under the closed door, but quickly drained out again.

The radio reported it as a category one storm, and if the coasts hadn't been evacuated and utterly destroyed, news of its location might have been updated every ten minutes. Instead, it only got a mention every hour.

They, however, were living in the midst of it, and pitching inside a metal box was nauseating after just a few minutes, the storm had raged for almost two days now. Every hint from the radio suggested that they were in store for another two days of storms.

Almost everyone was too sick to eat, or keep anything down if they did. The pale, artificial fluorescent lights didn't help with the queasiness, now that all the natural light was blocked by the storm shades.

". . . George," the guest said as they tuned in the late night show, "now we know why all the abductions were so important. The Reptilians and the Grays needed to catalog the human genome for the coming catastrophe."

"Now, where are the aliens keeping this genetic repository?" George asked with the same seriousness that he interviewed presidential candidates.

"We believe that one repository is near the ancient dome structures left on the moon, but there isn't a way to clearly verify that. Obviously, to store enough varied genetic material to repopulate humanity would take, depending on how it was stored, anywhere from something the size of a postage stamp to a vault the size of the average sperm bank. The Reptilians seem to know more about genetics than we do, and reportedly, they have a method for freeze-drying embryos that alleviates the need for subzero storage. If that's true, then they wouldn't need to keep them on a base near the poles of the Moon. The Grays, we believe, are a kind of experiment in human genetics, a worker clone or drone if you will.

You see, the Grays, even as advanced as they are, are soulless. However, they are better acclimated to our climate and temperatures. After lots of experimentation, the Reptilians ultimately found that humans interact with Grays with more passivity. The average Reptilian adult is over seven feet tall, about four hundred pounds, and resembles, if you can imagine, a cross between a crocodile and a human. Very frightening to people. Whereas a Gray is about five feet, has cartoonishy enlarged eyes to help it work at night and avoid detection, all of which also makes it look very childlike. Few people run from Grays because they don't instill fear, but curiosity. Childlike is a huge advantage with abductions and interactions, but the Reptilians are clearly in control. Being reptilian has some inherent hibernation advantages for space travel and offers a certain cellular ruggedness that mammals lack. It only makes sense that intelligent reptilians would dominate in space."

"Fascinating," George said "hold that thought, we'll be right back after the break."

Gina looked at Jason as they turned the radio down. The storm was still buffeting the ship, but they could tell it was weakening and would be over in the next few hours. "You listen to the strangest things," she said.

Makayla entered the room, "I remember the little Grays. They did seem childlike. The big, friendly, lost looking eyes were almost hypnotic, even in the dark. They seemed blacker than black, like a bottomless well without reflection or eyelids." She sat by the radio at the table, across from Jason. "I only saw the Reptilians once, but I think I was still under drugs at the time. They were big and scary, but handsome in a weird way. Like vampires I guess."

Gina looked horrified and tried to hide.

"You seen vampires, too?" Jason asked.

"Oh, don't be silly," Makayla said, "Vampires aren't real."

[Chapter 18]

The category one was their only real storm in the boat. It was scary and left no stomach unturned, but other than some minor damage, it did nothing to the boat. The tarp that had provided shade to the new deck had ripped into thirds and was half down, but easily repaired. Some nails had worked up, but were easily hammered down. The good news was they got lobsters again, and the heavily churned sea dislodged a fortune in kelp, not that they would ever run short, and a flood of new 2x4s.

Jason and Nathan paddled out in the canoe to grab the passing debris.

"Faster!" Nathan said.

"I see it," he paddled faster anyway.

The nose of the canoe clanked as it impacted the floating block, but Nathan vaulted over it to land on their prize. He roped the twisted metal frame as it pushed the canoe over and Jason fell into the water.

Jason swam his fastest toward the canoe, but the current wouldn't let him catch it. The current was strong this morning, but fortunately they, and the canoe, were all tied to the boat by over a thousand feet of nylon rope.

Jason floated in the preserver as they arced behind the boat and the rope grew taut. The current eventually made everything accumulate at Nathan's end, where he climbed onto the salvaged blocks and the two of them proceeded to pull themselves back to the boat, four feet at a time. It took two exhausting hours.

The blocks were a part of a destroyed tidal array, no doubt one of the smaller ones. The pistons and most of the mounting hardware were complete enough to be integrated into their boat's system. Gina's night-class education came in handy when she managed to compensate for the massive voltage differences between the two designs.

Even an array of six 'small' blocks nearly doubled the amount of power they had available. And by the end of the third day, all the batteries had reached a full charge.

Fully charged batteries meant they didn't have to wrestle the steering when flying the sail anymore. It meant a level of freedom that wasn't an option, before. It was grounds for rejoicing.

Gina sat at the table as the two watched the sun fall across the horizon, the light breeze slapping the tears in the tarp. It sounded like a flag on a pole, but just briefly.

"Nathan sure has calmed down, recently," Jason said as he held her hand.

"He's my brother, but, he can be a bit much to take, 24/7."

"Anybody can. I think something like half the submarine recruits scrub out because they go nuts when confined for long periods of time."

She looked him in the face, then laughed. "You're making that up—"

"Well, google me if you want, then. But it sounds right, doesn't it? One of us was sure to flip out. Eventually." He lowered his voice, "I'm just glad it wasn't your mom."

"I sure wish we could google something. I'd like to know how to make soap. We have all that bitter tasting algae, and, if I remember right, most algae has some degree of oils in it. I think you just mix that with ash or something. I mean, just taking a swim to get clean is. . . well, getting old entirely too fast."

He hadn't thought about that. "I remember something on that late night show about using algae for bio fuel, so that sounds right to me. Should be some kind of oils in it. It's worth a try. We've got plenty of the stuff, and plenty of time to experiment with."

"Those golf-cart batteries aren't going to last more than a few years either. I think the maximum life is five years, and that's if they were new to begin with."

"You think we should disconnect some of them—"

"No, their life is pretty much the same whether we use them or they sit on the shelf. We just have to come up with something, a decision on what to do here, and the clock is ticking."

"I checked the GPS last night. We drifted south about five miles in the storm. We're probably going to keep drifting south until. . . " something just occurred to him. "Hey, I wonder what winter will be like in Alaska?"

"Cold, I suspect."

"If it's cold enough, maybe not cold enough to snow, but just cold enough to slow the melting, that might just be enough to slow this riptide thing so we can put ashore. Maybe even in one piece!" He leaned across the table and kissed her. "I don't know why I didn't think of it before."

She smiled, "Makes sense. Alaska goes for months without seeing the sun. No matter what the solar winds are doing, if they're in the shade, snow should stop melting. It's worth giving a try, I think."

They had a plan. Not a very good one, but they had one. That was a vast improvement over sitting and waiting. Ok, technically they were still sitting and waiting and acquiring junk as it floated by. And they had some projects to work on. Algae soap for one.

Crushing then boiling fresh algae, the bitter variety, was time consuming. But it did leach out a thin layer of oil that, when mixed with ashes from scraps of 2x4s, eventually hardened into chunks of soap. Not bad for a first attempt. The smell was a long way from 'winter fresh', but that wasn't the point. It cleaned.

Nor was the reality that the reverse osmosis filters would eventually clog. Freshwater showers with soap felt like a moral victory. Laundered, clean clothes that had been washed with soap instead of simply left out in the rain felt like the difference between cavemen and civilization.

Sitting stationary for weeks and months at a time wasn't entirely useless either. Charting the ship's speedometer gave them some indications that the melting up north was beginning to slow, along the margins. Two knots an hour was barely a drop, but it was measurable and they weren't even a week into fall.

Ava seemed the hardest to gauge. Nathan had his tantrum early, then, once he had something to keep him busy (that wasn't too frustrating), he was fine. But Ava kept to herself, perhaps a little too much.

She stuck to Gina a lot, which seemed perfectly natural for a younger sister to do. But, he worried. He worried about the quiet ones.

BOOK: The Wandering Island Factory
9.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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