Come Alive (21.11)

Chapter 21.11

It was a different world. Entropy – no longer gradual, but energetic, almost chaotic.

“Henry…look at this news report,” Rolf exclaimed almost breathlessly as he made his way into the cockpit, pointing at the screen.

Taggart hunched over and looked at the display: two more hot cyclones had formed in just the last six hours – one south of Bangladesh, and another, much larger storm southeast of Japan. Like Epsilon, both of these storms were redefining meteorological theory with their blistering hot temperatures and historic wind velocities, and now climate change scientists were gathering information from every available source, trying to make sense of these startling new developments. Yet as information poured in from satellites and remote sensing buoys the data just didn’t seem to make sense…

Unless…

Some unforeseen tipping point had been breeched.

Henry looked up from the screen and shook his head, then he looked up at the masthead.

But Winky wasn’t there.

He closed his eyes and leaned back, reached out for Winky – only to find a wall of emptiness in the darkness. This hadn’t happened before, and he suddenly felt very unsure of his footing.

So he reached out to Pinky – and once again found only a n engulfing void.

He reached out to Eva and found she was sitting up in Britt’s seaside home just outside of Bergen watching several female orcas, while Britt seemed to be lost inside of some kind of catatonic funk.

‘What’s happening?’ he asked Eva.

‘She’s been like this for hours, Henry. I’ve never seen this before.’

‘Have you tried talking to her?’

‘Yes. It’s like she can’t hear me, or even see me.’

‘What about the whales? What are they doing?’

‘The same. It is like they are rigid and unmoving.’

‘The storm is just about here. I’ll let you know when it’s over.’

‘Be careful, my love.’

He nodded and returned to Time Bandits. Anton was staring at him, almost seething with anger.

“Where you go when you fade out like this?” the aviator asked grumpily.

Henry shrugged and turned to Rolf. “Pull up the weather radar, would you?”

The storm’s main northeast wall was less than a fifty miles away now, so Taggart looked to the southwest. In the inky blackness he saw towering cloud-tops alive with flickering streamers of lightning, so he looked at the radar again and measured distances. “The first wave of wind ought to be here within a half hour,” he said, looking at Mike and Anton. “Make sure you’ve got gloves handy, as well as the big bolt-cutters and that axe. Let’s keep the decks clear, and our lines, too. We may need to reset lines that break loose, and in a hurry, too.”

“Why you ignore me, Genry?”

“Because I don’t have time to explain things in detail right now. When we get past this storm we’ll have a long talk…just you and I.”

That seemed to satisfy Anton, for now anyway, and he turned to help Mike gather supplies from the garage, so Henry turned to Rolf. “Are you ready for this?”

“In truth, no, yet I don’t know what else we could have done to prepare.”

“Every voyage has a storm, Rolf. Some bigger than others. Just like life, I guess you could say, but the important thing to remember is this: storms are teachers. You learn from them, or you perish – but we can talk about all that tomorrow, after the storm.”

“You seem certain we will be here tomorrow.”

“We will be.”

“Thanks. I feel better now.”

“Words matter, Rolf. Especially the right words – at the right time. Every captain learns this, and when this is your ship you’ll need to remember this.”

“I will never be able to think of this as my ship, Henry. Time Bandits will always be yours.”

“It doesn’t work that way, Rolf. A ship can have only one master, just like a life can only have one master. When I’m gone, this ship is either yours – or it isn’t. If you feel like it isn’t, you’ll need to pass it along to someone who can take her over. Is that clear?”

Rolf nodded.

“You’re still young, Rolf, and I realize I’m asking you to grow up in a hurry, but I’m only doing this because I’ve seen something in you. An ability, what I’d call a great inner strength. Maybe you won’t get that yet, maybe you can’t understand that right now, but there it is.”

“Okay, Henry.”

A hot gust hit, and everyone turned to face a deep, rumbling wall of thunder, but even Henry seemed to cower for a moment when he realized what he was looking at…

A huge, anvil-headed cloud full of lightning was almost upon them, but along the horizon a wall of writhing snakes approached. Water-spouts. Dozens and dozens of them, as far as the eye could see.

And they all appeared to be converging on the huge fuel storage tanks in Zeebrugge.

‘What haven’t I thought of?’ Taggart asked as he looked at the coiling storm.

“Fuel. In the water,” he murmured.

“What?” Rolf said.

“What happens if those fuel storage tanks let go? Pull up the local tides, Rolf. Now.”

“Right!”

The graph was clear. It was slack water now, but the flooding tide would return in a few minutes – and if a lock failed the sea would potentially flood into the canals here, and all the way into Brugge. And if the storage tanks failed the canals would fill with inrushing waves of fuel.

One spark and everything would soon be lost to the fire. Including Time Bandits and everyone on her.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop soon.

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