“Where have you been?” Dina asked Rolf as they helped Anton out of the water once again – and back up on the swim platform.
“I do not know, Grandma-ma, but I believe we were far from here…”
“We? What do you mean – we?”
“Mother and Eva were with me,” he added.
“How you disappear like that?” Anton asked, taking the fresh towel Rolf offered.
But Rolf only shook his head as he continued talking to Dina: “I almost think we were up there,” Rolf said, pointing skyward. “It felt like we were inside some kind of ship.”
“How is your mother?” Dina asked.
“She has changed, Grandma-ma. It is almost like she has grown more calm, or maybe less afraid – but I think many things have changed since you last saw her.”
“Things are changing here too. I am now very concerned about Henry.”
“How long was I gone?”
Dina shook her head. “Not long…just a few hours, maybe, but something terrible has happened. That…thing…went inside him again and he is more ill than the first time.” Dina seemed more than angry now – outwardly, anyway, but even so Rolf thought she was reacting jealously as he listened to her. “You’d better start tracking that storm again, and I’ll see if Henry will be strong enough to help you tonight.”
Dina returned to the cockpit as another gust of hot, dry air whipped along the grassy banks of the canal, rocking Time Bandits and sending the hull to the limits of her dock lines. Rolf grabbed onto a handrail in time – but Anton was knocked off his feet and back into the canal.
“Maybe I just stay down here, no?” he sputtered.
‘Winky’ had called this meeting, and he had seemed more agitated than usual when he did.
Dozens of the ship’s crew had already gathered in something like a conference room when he entered and called the meeting to order, and he quickly detailed what he had seen on the planet below. ‘Pinky’ had intervened in Terran affairs and in the process killed three humans; the gathered scientists and academicians seemed shocked and a few wondered if Winky had evidence to support such startling accusations. He reached into their minds and presented what he had – which was, apparently, enough to quiet the naysayers. Pinky was then quietly summoned, though no one looked forward to what surely had to happen next.
“The water is shallower here, and so much warmer,” Mike said, pointing at the weather overlay on the plotter. “If the storm comes ashore at Calais the dangerous quadrant will hit us, and hit us hard, but the winds will come from the east, or maybe the east-southeast…”
“Those temperatures can not be correct…” Anton whispered, his eyes wide as he tried to visualize what calamities awaited in the night.
Rolf picked up the latest news feed from Radio France and pulled up images from LeHavre; the port area was ablaze and every tall structure had been flattened; trees and farmland had been similarly scorched. The last available reports from the harbor area recounted 190 knot winds and 130F degree temperatures before the reporting stations went off the air, and even Paris had reported similarly hideous extremes before Epsilon’s influence passed.
Mike looked at Henry, still asleep but apparently out of immediate danger, then he looked at the outside air temp display; it was already almost a hundred degrees Fahrenheit out here in the cockpit and the sun was only just setting now. “If the winds will be coming from the east, these lines aren’t going to do much,” he said, pointing at the spaghetti bowl of lines warped around the boat. “We’ll need a bunch run across to the far side of the canal, and we’ll need to be prepared to reset any that come undone, too.”
“See all fire in video?” Anton began. “If tree catch fire,” he said, pointing at the Linden a few yards aft of them, “could fall on boat. What we do if this happen?”
Mike’s face scrunched up as he thought about that. “If the wind is from the east it ought to blow away from us…”
“If not, there’s an axe in the garage,” Henry said, his eyes open a little now.
“Henry!” Rolf cried as Dina bent over to look in his eyes.
“Hey, Bud. Glad to see you made it back in time for the festivities.”
“How are you feeling?” Dina said, whispering in his ear as she kissed his cheek.
“Not bad, considering. Somewhere between roadkill and well-done prime rib.”
She shook her head. “I’d say you’re feeling fine, no thanks to that pink thing.”
“She saved your lives, Dina. Mine too, come to think of it.”
“You almost died this time, Henry.”
“She asked this time, Dina. I agreed.”
“You did what?”
“They were armed, were they not?”
“Yes, but she killed at least two of them. Doesn’t that strike you as odd…?”
“It’s complicated, Dina.”
“No it isn’t, Henry, and any fool can see that.”
He looked her in the eye, didn’t break contact but neither did he say a word.
“I see,” she said. “Well, at least you understand my anger.”
“You can be such a paternalistic prick.”
Henry nodded and smiled. “And I can’t tell you how many years I’ve spent perfecting my craft.”
“Well, you’ve succeeded admirably.”
He grinned but turned to Rolf. “Let’s get a few more lines across the canal – to those two trees,” he said, pointing at an oak and a linden on the far side of the waterway. “You grab some line and we’ll get the Zodiac ready to go,” he said, turning to Anton and Mike. “You two feel up to some work?”
“Yeah, sure,” Mike said. “I know the drill; why don’t you just lay low for now.”
“Yeah, right…” Taggart said, rolling his eyes.
“Would someone tell me where boy went, please?” Anton asked – again.
When the added lines had been set, Henry went back to the plotter and checked on Epsilon’s progress; there was no doubt about it now…the storm was going to come ashore just north of Calais, so they were going to be caught in the dangerous quadrant. Anton came and sat beside him just then and Henry sighed inwardly, not really wanting to fill in all the blanks right now – yet if anything, Anton was deeply perceptive and already Taggart was warming to the aviator’s wry sense of irony.
“So, storm comes to Calais?”
“Looks that way. I’d say eight hours to landfall; maybe nine.”
“So, after midnight. But we will feel effects before that, no?”
Henry nodded. “See that band?” Henry asked, pointing at the weather overlay on the plotter. “We’ll feel that one in about three hours, give or take. You better grab some chow and a nap; it could be a long night.”
Anton nodded. “Must say something first, Genry.”
“Because I your enemy you should have let me drown, yet instead you take me here, you give respect to me, and a place to stay. I want thank you.”
“You are not well?”
“No, I am not.”
“I very sorry.”
“One question more. Is okay I stay here?”
“Sure, stay as long as you want.”
Anton nodded – yet he looked a little relieved. “Thank you, Genry. You rest now too?”
“Maybe.” He looked at the Russian and smiled. “I actually feel rested right now, but we’ll need you rested tonight.”
Anton stood and extended his right hand, and Henry took it – looking into the aviator’s eyes as he did – and when he felt the man’s openness and respect he nodded again. “I’m glad you’re here, Anton.”
“War is a stupid thing, Genry.”
“I think so too.”
“Yet without war I would not be here.”
Henry nodded. “Be careful, Anton. Keep thinking along those lines and you’ll be thinking about God before too long.”
The aviator nodded before he turned and walked below.
Henry turned his attention back to the plotter but almost immediately felt Pinky reaching out to him – and for the first time in his life he experienced someone else’s fear.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.
‘I am hiding.’
She filled his mind with images of events earlier in the day, and then of a hastily called meeting where her actions were being roundly criticized.
‘What do you need?’ he asked.
‘A place to think.’
‘And a place to hide, I take it?’
‘So? What are you waiting for?’
‘I will no longer be able to hide my physical form from you, Henry.’
‘I may frighten you.’
‘Let me deal with that.’
‘Are you sure?’
He heard Anton coming up the companionway steps and he turned in time to see the aviator coming out into the cockpit carry bowls of salads and some fresh bread. He placed these on the cockpit table about the same time Pinky appeared on the aft deck…
“Holy Mother of God…” Anton muttered as he stumbled backwards towards the lifelines; Taggart shook his head – if only because he knew what had to come next – but he turned to the aft deck and he too seemed more than a little in awe with what he found there.
She was easily three meters tall, and her body was covered with white – feathers? Yet…she had very human hands and feet, and what he thought on first glance was a most angelic face. Then she spread her wings, revealing a span of almost six meters…and only then was the visage complete.
“Don’t tell me,” Taggart quipped. “Your real name is Gabriel…”
“Fuck me in the a…” Anton cried as he catapulted over the rail – again – causing a stampede of voices and footsteps coming from below as everyone made their way up the companionway steps.
Dina was the next to see Pinky; her screams were worthy of a B-grade slasher film.
When Rolf saw her he dropped to his knees and started giggling uncontrollably.
While Mike took one look at Pinky and crossed himself before he dove into the canal; he and Anton swam for the far side.
“Maybe we’d better get you below?” he said to Pinky.
“Ya think?” Dina sighed, her eyes wide open…
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop soon.