Fair Winds and Following Seas
The following morning presented them with a wan, grudging sunlight and a fitful wind, but Kerry got her sunglasses in place and decided she would for sure, take it. She hiked up one socked foot and put it on her bare knee as she regarded the fruffy looking ocean from her vantage point on their porch.
She was wearing a white tank top and cargo shorts, and on the table was a tube of aloe she’d just finished applying to her sunburned arms.
The sliding door behind her opened and Dar joined her, taking the second chair and leaning her elbows on the chair arms. “Well.” She regarded the scenery with a skeptical eye, watching the clouds drift closer over the water.
“At least it’s not raining.” Kerry amiably asserted. “Just muggy as all hell.”
“At least it’s not raining.” Dar agreed. She was wearing a thin teal colored tshirt with a faded werewolf picture, and ragged denim shorts. “Yet.” She studied the water. “Tides up over the seawall again.” She observed the rolling waves that were once again sloshing past their garden gates and into the backyard.
It attracted the attention of Chino and Mocha, who rushed excitedly at the water, barking, stopping only at the gates that Andy had wrestled back into position.
‘Mm.” Dar stretched, extending her long legs out along the tile and crossing her bare feet. “That press conference we just watched. Damn.”
“Damn. That governor’s a jerk, and I usually don’t like him, but you could see it in his face. Where the hell do you start?” Kerry said. “Literally. Even that guy from FPL.” She said. “And they’re not getting the time of day from the feds.”
“Can’t. They’re dealing with flooding all over DC. No one has time for us.” Dar had a cup of coffee in her hands and was sipping from it. “And they were making fun of us for getting all crazy over the storm that now went right up their asses.”
“I know. My mother called asking for advice.” Kerry said, in a dry tone.
“Leave?” Dar’s dark brows went up. “As in, go back to Michigan?”
“Yes.” Kerry rolled her head to one side and regarded her partner. “She’s in Michigan. She wanted advice for her staff that’s still in DC.”
“They should leave too?”
“Dar, some people just can’t get up and leave like that. They have families and parents and kids and dogs and things they have to deal with.” Kerry told her. “Look at how many people here stayed put? Look at Maria and Mayte, for Christ’s sake.”
“Mm.” Dar eyed her. “So what’d you tell her?”
Kerry’s lips quirked a little. “To tell them to get the hell out of there.” She admitted. “Everyone who could, just drive west and if they’re stuck there I gave her a list of survival items.” She took a sip of her own coffee. “At least it’s not as hot there, and the storms just a Cat 3.”
“Just. For them, that’s a nightmare. Codes aren’t up to it.” Dar said. “And those guys from NOAA think it’s going to curve up and hit New York as a Cat 1.” She said. “At least we don’t need to worry about flooded subways.”
“Or about subways.” Kerry mused. “Our one elevated train got blown over. Think anyone will notice?”
“The metrogonowhere? No.” Dar said. “But at least they’re getting the mobile towers on the edge of the county up.”
“Take forever to get them up in the downtown.” Kerry sighed. “Did you see all the power cables draped over everything near the office? All that area’s going to have to be redone, they said.”
They remained silent for a few moments. “So what’s the plan?” Kerry asked. “Go to the cottage and see whats in our inbox? Or did you run the cable from… from our security camera into the house?” She spoke with some slight doubt. “Is that what you said? They’re doing coax to ethernet? You have a MoCA adapter for it?”
Mocha came over and barked, sitting down and tilting his head at her.
“Not you.” Kerry chuckled.
“Yeah, they were going to convert the whole island to it, and it got put on a backburner. Lets go to the cottage and see what’s up there, see if anything’s blown up… “ Dar paused. “See what has blown up in our email and then maybe we can… well, crap. I don’t know what the hell we should do then. Does it make sense to go back to the office?”
Kerry exhaled. “I feel like I want to, but for what?” She asked. “I mean… what are we going to do there? Doesn’t it make more sense to stay in contact here?” She watched the waves come in. “Yesterday kicked my ass.” She admitted. “I’m still wiped.”
Dar reached over and patted her leg. “Lets hang out here. We can call the office on the marine radio and make sure nothing’s going sideways. There’s not much we can do there anyway. We might see if any more of the programmers showed up and send Dad over to get them.”
“Sounds good.” Kerry picked up Dar’s hand and clasped it, savoring the warmth despite the humidity, against the soreness from the previous day. “I’m going to grab some Advil first.” She said. “Why don’t you run that cable, and I’ll walk over and stretch out some of these kinks?”
“I think I have a long enough run.” Dar mused. “Yeah, okay. I’ll run it inside and then I can hang a wireless unit off it tonight.” She decided. “Though with all the wingnuts on the island using it, not sure it’s worth my time or effort.”
Kerry thought about that. “Is it even worth using at the cottage?”
Dar smiled a little. “That’s my router it’s going through there. I reserved bandwidth for us.” She said. “That’s what they paid for my brain cells.” She winked at Kerry and stood up. “Maybe Richard’s sent an email about our new property.”
“Ugh, that could go either way.”
They walked inside, to be greeted by Chino and Mocha, tails waving in almost unison. It was quiet otherwise – Andy and Ceci had headed off to the beach club to see ‘what was going on’. Kerry rather thought that her mother in law was just out to rouse the rabble, a favorite hobby.
It was cool and comfortable inside the living room. The television was on, and the tired looking local newscasters were settling behind their desks, none of them in anything but polo shirts, and the weather forecaster with a two day stubble.
A ticker scrolled at the bottom of the screen. How many people had no power. Where the flooding was worst. Repeated appeals to stay off the roads. Where shelters were open. Where water was available. What the governor was doing. What FPL was doing.
“You know…” Kerry paused to watch the screen for a moment. “We’re lucky ass people.”
Dar had gone to the closet under the stairs and ducked inside, the sounds of her rooting around emerging into the living room as Chino poked her head inside behind her. “We are.” She emerged with a coil of black cable around one arm, neatly tied. “I have a two hundred foot ethernet cable. Bet we’re the only one on this island with one in their house.”
Kerry went over and bumped into her, wrapping her arms around Dar and giving her a hug. “Yeah, for that too.” She said. “Don’t take long. I can’t wait for us to share the bad news in our inboxes with each other.”
Kerry trotted down the steps of the condo with Mocha at her heels, and started out along the road at a brisk pace leaving the golf cart behind her as she stretched out her abused muscles from the previous day.
Ahead of her, and to her left she could see the makeshift guard station at the next condo section entrance, and she made no bones about looking curiously at it as she approached. “Now, what do you think that’s all about, Mochie?” She asked the brown dog. “You think it’s spooks, like grandma said?”
“Growf.” Mocha sneezed.
Some VIP, no doubt. Kerry knew political goons when she saw them, and after studying the men as she neared them, she decided they weren’t national level goons, but instead, a more local variety.
The governor? Perhaps. The state capital where the governor usually hung out was in Tallahassee, which was, as Dar often said, a lot closer to Georgia than Miami, a matter of some hundred and fifty miles versus four hundred eighty.
It would make sense for the governor to, if he had to stay locally while examining the damage, get a place where he could at least have power and air conditioning. She didn’t grudge him that, having enjoyed very much chilling out in her kitchen that morning comfortably cool while her muffin toasted.
The guards were watching her, and after a moment of internal debate, she angled her way towards them right up the driveway, removing her sunglasses as she reached the barrier and the two guards straightened up, watching her with benign interest.
“Hi.” She came to a halt, and signaled Mocha to do the same. The Labrador took a seat next to her, his tongue lolling.
“Hello, ma’am.” The nearer one responded with civil respect. “Can I help you with something?”
“What’s all this?” Kerry asked, straightforwardly, gesturing at the blockade.
The man looked at her awkwardly. “Well ma’am.. we have a dignitary visiting and this is controlled access.” He said. “Do you live here?”
“I do.” Kerry said. “Right over there.” She pointed behind and to the side of where they were standing. “Who is it?” She asked, in a tone that clearly expected to be answered. “That their helicopter sitting on the green?”
“Um.. we can’t really say.” The second man spoke up.
“C’mon guys, I’m not the Miami Herald.” Kerry said. “I’ll just use my binoculars from our patio. We all have the same outside view.” She said. “Or bump into whoever it is over breakfast in the Mansion.” She grinned easily at them.
Both guards relaxed a little, glancing around behind them.
“She’s right.” The first man said. “It’s John Beringar. He works for the governor.” He explained. “He and his team are staying here, so they can evaluate all the damage.”
Kerry nodded. “Makes sense.” She said. “I spent all day over in the city yesterday. No one wants to stay there.”
“No ma’am.” The second guard came closer, nodding at her. “Got to say I was happier than a clam to get sent out here. First night since the storm I got any sleep.”
“True that.” The first one said. “So, what’s your name, ma’am?”
“Kerry.” Kerry extended a hand. “We’re in unit 4A.” She said. “Not many owners are residents in that area, but we’re full time. If you need anything, just ring the bell.” She said. “We own an IT company, and my father in law’s a retired Navy seal. Sometimes we’re useful.”
She winked at them, and then put her sunglasses back on before she turned and started back down towards the road, giving a cluck of her tongue for Mocha to follow.
“Huh.” The first guard looked at the second guard. “Wasn’t how I expected that to go.”
“Seems like a nice lady.” The second said. “Not like some of the folks around here.” He glanced around. “Remember what number she said. Never know when these guys need something last minute, you know?” He advised. “Specially IT stuff. Everyone’s always forgetting something.”
“Cables and stuff. Yeah absolutely.”
Dar got the ladder positioned against the wall that separated their buildings’ entrance from the street and climbed up to the top of it, brushing aside the shredded hydrangea vines drooping over the wall and around the light pedestal.
She set down the converter and roll of cable on the top of the wall, then removed a screwdriver from her pocket and started removing the cover off the light mounted on one of the elevated posts.
It was a long metal tap screw, and once she’d seated her driver tip inside and her hands began twisting it, she looked over the wall to find something to occupy her attention while the task was in progress.
Across the road, she could see a team of men running a pump, which was draining the last of the storm caused lake over the golf course, a long corrugated flexible pipe extending back out to one of the inside drains near the edge of the grass.
The helicopter was gone, but on either side of the pump team Dar could see maintenance trucks with crews at work. Dar watched a golf cart pull up to one of them, and then she had to turn her attention back to the cover that was coming loose.
She pulled it aside and peered into the casement, where a camera was now exposed, it’s dome relatively unscathed. Inside it a three hundred and sixty degree camera was positioned under a light overhead, hidden in the fixture.
Dar regarded it, trying to remember if she had always known there was a camera looking at their front door, and the entrance, and decided she probably had.
Were they elsewhere though? Thoughtfully, she straightened up and searched the area, thinking about where it was lit up at night.
“Hey! Hey Ms. Roberts!”
Dar looked down to find Lou, in his golf cart, at the entrance. “Hey.” She leaned her elbows on the wall. “What’s up?”
“Listen, I wanted to let you know, they got the ramp working.” Lou reported. “I know your dad was asking about it. So if you need to, we got the ferries working. They’re kinda slow, because there’s a lot of stuff in the channel, but they’re going.”
“Nice.” Dar nodded “Yeah, that’s great news, Lou. Thanks for letting me know.” She said. “How’s it going beside that? I see they cleared the course.”
Lou swung sideways in his cart and leaned his elbow on the steering wheel. He was dressed in a cotton polo shirt already discolored with sweat stains and khaki golf shorts. “Not so bad. You really helped us out fixing that system, I gotta tell ya.” He said. “Sorry I wasn’t appreciative the other day on it, there was just so much stuff going on.”
“No problem.” Dar half smiled. “Glad it worked out, and this thing too.” She indicated the adapter. “Win win, you got these things installed.”
Lou grinned. “You betcha.” He nodded vigorously. “That new camera system is a lot better, and the cams are great, hi def and all that. Is that what you’re doing? Putting that thing in there and connecting up to the club?”
Dar nodded. “Closest one to the house.” She said, casually. “I think, right?” She asked.
Lou paused thoughtfully, and eyed her.
“Y’know, I can hack in and find out for myself.” Dar smiled in a completely different way. “And given the bullshit I have to take from the other residents, might turn out messy for everyone.” She warned. “Except me.”
“No no!” Lou waved his hands at her. “I was just trying to think about where they are. Honest, they werent’ that stupid, you know? Like most of the residents have lawyers on retainer they got nothing to do but file suit about stuff like that.”
Dar chuckled. “I wouldn’t bother with a lawyer.”
“No, listen.” Lou got up and came over to the wall. “You’re not somebody I want to mess with, straight out. Even Jim didn’t want to mix it up with you, and he said we were smart to get you to help with the cams, you know?”
“Yeah, I know.” Dar relented, her eyes twinkling a little. “He doesn’t like me, but he knows what I do.”
He put his closed fist, knuckles first against the wall. “They got them out on the beach, to watch the frontage, and once the wall meets up with the common area, they’re all over there.” He said, in a serious tone. “Nothing in the back, nothing facing the windows or nothing like that. Only this one here, at the door.” He inclined his head towards the half disassembled light fixture. “Okay?”
Was it true? Dar decided she would take the time, later on, to check one of the lights in the back and for now she just accepted the pitch.
“Okay.” She nodded. “I’m going to run this along the walk and up to the stairs, then in the window there. That’s my office.” She pointed. “Can I get the landscaping team not to cut it please?”
Lou had pulled a small notepad out of his pocket, and now he scribbled on it. “I’ll let em know.” He promised. “Hey, one more thing. We’re only running the ferries in daylight, you understand? It’s too dangerous at night.”
“Got it.” Dar lifted her hand and waved a goodbye, as he went back to his cart and returned the wave, then rumbled off back towards the maintenance trucks. “Probably less dangerous if we stay home.” She remarked dryly, then went back to connecting up the converter to the post.
“Hey, it’s Kerry!”
Kerry closed the door to the cottage behind her, already pleased to leave behind the muggy heat and enter the crisp, clean smelling villa. “Hey guys.”
“You got sunburned.” Angela observed, coming in from the kitchen with a plate of croissants. “You get breakfast? They just brought some stuff in here for us.”
The staff all looked freshly scrubbed, and were dressed in their island merchandise. They seemed relaxed and happy, the two programmers seated on the floor with their laptops on their laps, pecking away.
“Boy do we have voice mails.” Angela sat down at the dining table, where her laptop and a pad of paper were sitting. “Me and Cel here are trying to sort them out for you.” One of the voip phones was on the table next to her, a cable running from it over to the server rack.
“I can only imagine.” Kerry then realized she’d forgotten something. “Hold that thought.” She unclipped the radio from her pocket and picked it up to her lips. “Dardar, you there?”
There was silence for a long moment. Then a crackle. “Go ahead Ker.”
“You almost ready to join us? If you are, could you bring my laptop with yours?” Kerry asked. “I forgot to grab my backpack.”
“No problem.” Dar responded. “See ya in a little.”
Kerry unkeyed the radio and clipped it back on. “Is there another one of those phones?”
“Two of them.” Angela agreed. “We had the phones forwarded but it got crazy. Have them going back to voice mail for now.”
Elvis had scrambled to his feet and was fishing in the case. “Hang on.” He pulled out another phone and cable. “Where do you want to park, chief?”
“Table’s fine here in the corner.” Kerry took possession of the end chair, and watched as Elvis unrolled the cable and brought the phone over, it’s lights already starting to cycle as he plugged it in. “I want to call Baptist, and see how Tomas is doing.”
Celeste was seated next to Angela, busy with pages of notes, and she glanced up as though feeling Kerry’s eyes on her and grinned briefly.
Kerry winked at her. “Okay, where do we start?” She asked. “Give me the pissed off ones first, might as well get that started and out of the way.” She leaned on her elbows. “How are you all doing? Everyone sleep okay?”
“Are you kidding?” Jake had his head down. “That freaking bed’s awesome.”
Elvis just nodded in agreement.
“It was nice.” Celeste said, after clearing her throat a little. “And the shower’s really nice too.”
“We lucked out.” Jake concluded. “Like, seriously. I was watching the news before and there is no doubt we are here and sitting super pretty.” He finished typing something and then studied the results. “Okay I just checked that back in. Dar’s gotta look at it.”
He looked over his shoulder at Kerry. “The Fed’s want to get their mittens on her.” He said. “That guy, Charlie? He even sent us emails all frantic.”
“Well, he’ll have to wait another half hour.” Kerry said. “I can hardly wait to see all the exclamation points in my inbox.”
“Pooh.” Elvis resumed his seat. “The guys upstate sent us some pictures of their rig up there. Pretty nice.” He said. “We all going to go up to Melbourne? I have a couple of cousins near there.”
“Maybe.” Kerry said. “Colleen was looking for space.”
“How far is that from Disney World?” Jake asked. “Someone said like an hour?” He looked around at Kerry. “That might be cool.”
“Hm. I like Disney World.” Kerry admitted. “How would your dad react to you moving?”
Jake laughed. “He’s wanted me to move out forever. But he and mom would move to Cocoa. They’re like from the nineteen fifties space world anyway.”
Kerry got up. “Okay let me get some coffee before I start calling.” She went into the kitchen and found a large coffee dispenser, like one you’d find in a convention, and a huge basket full of snacks. With a slight smile, she fished amongst them and found a granola bar, sliding it into her pocket before she retrieved a heavy porcelain coffee mug.
She took the coffee back to the table and picked up the receiver, checking her relatively useless cell phone for the number to the hospital.
Dar closed the door to the condo and went down the stairs with Chino in close attendance. It was even hazier out now, and the air had so much moisture in it she almost felt like she was in a steam bath. But at least there was a breeze coming off the water, and as she started walking, it cooled down a bit.
She’d swapped her werewolf shirt out for a navy sleeveless tee with their company logo on the back in steel gray, and traded a pocketful of hand tools for the backpack on her back that had both her laptop in it and Kerry’s.
At the edge of the drive way she paused, then looked up at the sky. Then she retreated back down the slope into their parking area and put the backpack in the back of her truck, holding the door so Chino could jump in after it. “G’wan girl.”
She got behind the wheel and started the engine, letting it idle for a moment as it hesitated a bit. A few feeds of gas later it steadied, and she put it into reverse and backed out.
The maintenance trucks were gone, and the pumping rig had been pulled out and set alongside the road, it’s motor turned off. There were three SUVs camped in front of the next residential entry though, and as she put the truck into gear to move forward, five or six khaki clothed men moved towards them along with a short, dark haired man in a bush hat and jeans.
He was young and lithely built and had a slightly aggressive walk, and one of the men walking with him opened the door to one of the SUV’s in a respectful gesture. He paused before getting into the car, gesturing with a sharp, impatient motion towards the gate.
A young woman, carrying a briefcase and a raincoat over her arm hastened from the opening and crossed to the car. She had curly red hair and glasses, and she circled the SUV to get in on the other side.
“What do you think, Chi? That Mister Helicopter?” Dar commented, as she accelerated past them. “Seems like a jackass that might land a helicopter on putting green.”
“Growf.” Chino was seated behind her, looking out the window.
“Yeah, I think so too.” Dar maneuvered the truck around the SUV’s, and headed off towards the club, while the group of them went off in the other direction, towards the ferry ramp. “Well, good riddance for now anyway.” She got back on the road proper and continued around the bend.
Landscaping crews were hard at work on either side, dragging debris off to flatbed carts and Dar lifted a hand off the wheel and waved at them, then she slowed and rolled down the window as she came even with the supervisor. “Hola, Jorge.”
“Buenas Dias, Senora Dar.” The man came over, greeting her with a relaxed smile. “¿Todo está bien con tu casa?”
“Si.” She nodded. “Hay un cable que atraviesa el patio delantero. Intenta no cortarlo?” Lou or no Lou, it never hurt to do something yourself, and no telling when the security chief would remember to take the pad out of his pocket and recall her ask.
“¡No hay problema!” He reassured her. “¿Ves a tu nuevo vecino? Del Gobierno.” He cast a skeptical eye past her, down the road, then he touched both fingertips under his eyes, and then pointed them back towards the entrance to the condos.”
“Yeah, got it.” Dar winked. “Glad you all made it through all right. Let me know if you need anything.”
Jorge smiled at her. “Have a nice day, Ms. Dar. We will watch for your cable.” He backed away and went back to the crew, who had paused to lean on their long handled tools and she rolled up the window and drove on.
She spotted the outline of their golf cart near the front entrance of the mansion and she detoured over to park next to it, seeing her parents standing on the steps talking to a couple of other residents. “Hang out here, Chi.” She rolled the back window open and got out. “Keep an eye on the car, okay?”
Chino stuck her head out of the window and sniffed the air, then put her chin down on the window sill and watched Dar walk along the green and brown stained walkway towards the steps.
The large building had fared well. It’s windows had been covered during the storm, and the outside of the mustard colored fascade had only scuffs and marks on it from flying debris. It was built out of stone, and though she could see the mark where the storm surge had rolled over it, there wasn’t much obvious visible damage.
It was built up on a small rise, it’s ocean frontage sloping down to the beach, and on this side, steps that went down to ground level raised the main entrance up and concrete channels on either side took rainwater off into the island’s drainage system.
It was a three story building and though a completely different style it reminded her suddenly of the Hunter house they’d sheltered in the previous night.
Andy and Ceci had spotted her and they were half turned, waiting for her to climb up the steps to where they were standing. Dar recognized the two men standing next to them as two of her lesser annoying neighbors. “Good morning.” She greeted them all, as she reached the top step.
“More rain coming.” Andy remarked. “Ahm gonna go put the tarps up and start the pumps on them boats.”
“Thanks.” Dar said. “Hey Bob, Rene. “
“Morning.” The two other residents nodded amiably. “How’s it going?” Rene asked.
“Ramps up.” Dar said, briefly. “Daylight runs only.”
“Hot damn.” Ceci remarked. “I wanted to go run some dead traffic lights and watch Miami Beach try to handle four way stops.”
“Hey that’s great news.” Rene looked surprised. “They told us it wouldn’t be until dinnertime, didn’t they Bob?”
Bob looked annoyed. “Bastards.” He grunted and shook his head. “I knew that asshat was lying. Probably getting paid on the side to reserve space on the ferry.” He glanced behind them at the door to the mansion. “Everyone wants off.”
“Yeah not all of us have a boat docked.” Rene said. “Like you all do.”
Bob eased from between them and headed for the steps. “I’m going to grab my car. See what the office looks like.”
“Wait up.” Rene followed him. “Thanks Dar!” He called over his shoulder. “Man I was wondering what I was going to do the rest of the day. I’m bored crazy watching the news.”
“No problem.” Dar watched them go, then turned to her parents. “Anything new here? I’m heading over to the cottage.”
Andy had his arms folded. “That is some good news there Dardar.” He said. “Want you to swap buggies? Ah’ll drop on over to the shop.” He said. “For that word gets out and we got a big old line waiting.”
“I’m game.” Ceci agreed. “Lets get out of here before the story spreads around that you hacked the ramp to get it working.” She eyed her daughter. “You didn’t, did you?” She asked, after a brief pause.
“No.” Dar fished the keys to the truck out of her pocket and offered them, taking the fob for the cart in return. “I bumped into Lou. He told me.” She said. “Let me get my backpack and the dog from the truck.” She added. “Anything going on in there?”
“Usual griping.” Ceci led the way down the steps. “Though what the hell people have to gripe about on this island I can’t fathom. No one out here should be bitching about anything. Did you see West Miami the news?”
“Everyone’s whining they can’t get cable television here, and no phones.” Ceci said. “Oh and they’re all pissed off at whatshisface your satellite guy because it’s slow.”
Dar rolled her eyes, as they reached the truck and she opened the back door. “C’mon, Chi.” She grabbed the backpack and hoisted it over one shoulder as Chino jumped down, tail waving. “Glad I went through all that effort.”
“Well, he charged them like five hundred bucks apiece for it, kid.” Ceci informed her. “And I saw someone trying to use it. They got a point.”
“He oversold the bandwidth he claimed he had.” Dar concluded. “Moron. But what are they trying to use it for? It worked fine for mail.”
“Streaming video I think. Some program on HBO.” Ceci said promptly. “And one of them wanted to live stream their kids quinces to some relatives in Jersey.”
Dar paused in mid motion and tilted her sunglasses down, exposing her blue eyes and sharply raised eyebrows.
“No, huh?” Her mother smiled. “Yeah, I recognize that look.” She lifted a hand and went around the other side of the truck to get into the passenger seat. “Have fun, and good luck. We’ll stop by the beach club and bring the gang some supplies.”
“Lord.” Andy sighed and shook his head. “You heard yet from that lawyer?”
“Not yet.” Dar pushed her sunglasses back into place. “Let me go see if that’s in my inbox. Let us know if they need anything out there dad.”
“Ah will do that.”
Chino was already in the back of the golf cart waiting for her, and Dar got in the front, turning the cart around and heading along the road towards the path that would take her between the mansion and the club, and the cottages they used as high priced hotel rooms.
She passed by the oceanfront side of the mansion and turned down cobblestone lined accessway beside it, carefully avoiding a peacock and she went between the buildings.
“Growf!” Chino barked at the peacock, who turned and spread his tail, shaking it at her.
“Sh.” Dar remonstrated the dog. “Don’t make it start screaming. That’s all I need.” She sent the cart into the grass around the animal as it shook it’s feathers again, clicking it’s beak in a triumphant sort of way.
“Growwwffr.” Chino rumbled softly.
“Stop.” Dar muttered. Pulling around the back of the cottage she saw the satellite rig, it’s dish extended and pointed towards the horizon and from behind the partially opened double doors to the van she could hear loud voices.
She strode towards the door as Chino scrambled to follow her, hiking boots crunching on the gravel outside .
Kerry put the phone receiver down and scribbled a note on her pad. “That’s the most urgent of the non locals.” She said. “Where’s my, where’s my, where’s my.”
“At least the support desk is up.” Angela commented. “Nobody’s got nothing to say about that.”
“No, that was a good call to move them upstate.” Kerry checked the list she had in one hand and looked back and forth from the pad. “Damn I’m glad we hadn’t taken on any twenty four seven yet though.”
The other phone rang, and Angela picked it up. “Roberts Automation, good morning. How can I help you?” She listened, then started to write on her pad. “That’s right. Okay.”
Kerry picked up her phone and dialed a number. After a minute, it was picked up. “Hey Col.”
“Oh my god!”
Kerry blinked and stared at the phone. “Colleen?”
“You are all back up? It’s back?” Colleen asked. “You’re on the inside line! And holy Mary the mail’s back up!”
Kerry glanced around the cottage. “Well, no.” She demurred. “It’s kinda complicated. So how’s it going up there? We’re still bunked out over here on the island but we’ve got some comms up on satellite.”
“Well, we’re surviving.” Colleen said. “I was able to talk to the landlords here in this co-op, and they’ve got some space they can offer us, but if you’re that close to getting things back up there…”
“No no no.” Kerry said. “So, right now me, Angela, Jake and Elvis, and Celeste are here in one of the billion dollar rental cottages near the Vanderbilt Mansion with a rack of servers and cables everywhere.”
Colleen digested this. “Do I know Celeste?”
“Sort of. You do since she was ILS security.” Kerry soldiered on. “Jerry from the day door is back at the office.”
“Ah heh. So should I add them to the books then?” Colleen took it all in stride. “How’s Maria? I heard all about you running about there and all that. You do know you ended up on CNN, right?”
“Yeah, I’ll get their information and you can… what?” Kerry halted. “Wait, what?” She repeated. “Okay hold on first things first – yes, Maria and Mayte are fine, and Tomas is in Baptist. He’s got a broken leg and broken ribs, but he’s stable.”
Colleen was chuckling.
“That’s not really funny, Col.”
“No, it’s not, and I’m glad they’re fine, but it was a great surprise to us all to look up on the television and see you yelling at the National Guard without your shirt on, I’ll tell you that.” Colleen told her. “I guess you didn’t see the cameraman there at the army headquarters.”
Kerry was silent for a long moment, casting her mind back. “Totally didn’t.” She admitted. “I was focused on getting help for Tomas.” She sighed. “No idea there was a camera crew around.”
“Oh for sure.” Colleen agreed. “And to give em credit, it took a couple hours before I got the call after they figured out who you were.” She said. “One of the army guys there was interviewed, and spilled your name. Probably a fine thing you were out of pocket but we got some great press out of it.”
“Jesus.” Kerry rubbed her temples with one hand. “We don’t have cable out here.” She explained. “Only local feed and it’s just weather.” She looked up and across at Angela who was still taking notes on the phone. “Angela is picking up the office admin line but I don’t think anyone’s found it yet who isn’t a customer.”
“Good thing.” Colleen said. “We can keep it like that. I don’t mind lying my behind off all the day long here. I can’t answer any of those broken PC calls at any rate.” She said. “But would be a nice thing to have some of the technobobs up here for interested parties to talk to.”
“Good idea.” Kerry decided. “Let me get hold of Mark and send him and his wife up there. I owe it to him after yesterday. If he can grab some of the business analysts that showed up at the office they can be a lot more useful there than here.”
“Perfection, my dear. We’ll hold the fort until then, and watch out for more of your adventures on international news.” Colleen teased. “And don’t forget to send me the info for our new staff, and I’m glad I can now get hold of you all when needed.”
“Thanks Col. Talk to you soon.” Kerry put the phone down. “Ho boy. Got a feeling theres not going to be enough coffee for this day.”
“This is a mess.” Ceci observed, as they turned out of the ferry terminal and onto MacArthur causeway. “That whole road is gone, Andy.”
“Yeap.” Her husband agreed, glancing to the right as they moved past one of the man made islands in the middle of the bay that held a dense cluster of very expensive homes.
There was a single road that connected the causeway to it, and that road was, as Ceci noted, missing an entire center span rendering it impassible. “What do you think they’re doing over there? Do they have generators like Poshtown does?”
“Done took them people out of these here.” Andy pronounced, as they went past Palm and Hibiscus Islands, whose inbound road was still intact, and guarded by several National Guard trucks with a tent shelter set up, it’s sides flapping in the moist breeze. “Ain’t nobody out there. Heard that on the radio.”
Radio meant the short wave radio on the condo’s porch, with it’s antenna extended up the wall in defiance, she was sure, of multiple resident covenants but provided a base station for Andy to listen in on the local military and marine channels, and was tied to the handheld radio he had clipped to his belt.
Where had he gotten them? They all knew better than to ask. It was comforting to be able to use them to communicate and there was no doubt it made them a lot more looped in to what was officially going on than anyone else on that island.
Both the security and marine departments knew about it. Andy’s callsign was Frogman. Ceci found it delightfully hilarious in a time when everyone really needed a good chuckle now and again.
There was a smaller rig at the office. “Got to show them folks how to use that rig.” Andy commented, as though reading her mind. “Tried calling them fore we left ain’t nobody answered.”
“Well, they could be sleeping.” Ceci leaned her elbow on the padded rest on the door and watched the scenery roll by. “Goddess, Andy – look at those buildings.” She murmured. “How the heck did everything out on that island stay intact?”
“Smart folks.” He said. “Kept everything low, angled to the wind.” He glanced up at the approaching skyline. “Them big old things ain’t nothing but sails to the wind. All kinds of grab to it.” He pointed at one of the tall buildings, twisted sideways visibly in it’s structure, with windows blown out and it’s lower deck, formerly parking, collapsed into the bay. “See that there?”
“I see ten thousand insurance adjusters running as fast as they can towards California is what I see.”
Andy chuckled. They came to the end of the causeway, which though the walls on either side had large gaps, was still relatively intact, but the intersection past it was now blocked by a National Guard roadblock preventing access. “All right now.”
“Much easier with a boat.” Ceci observed, as they pulled up to the blockade and Andy rolled down his window. “Though I did see some police boats chasing dorks on waverunners this morning on the local news.”
“Kids.” Andy leaned out the window. “’Lo there.”
Two guardsmen and one guardwoman had come over to them. They apparently didn’t expect trouble to be coming from the direction they’d arrived from, as they seemed relaxed and Ceci noted they were unarmed. One of them had a cup in his hand, and another was wiping some crumbs from his lips.
Interrupted breakfast, she suspected. She smiled back at the guard who glanced inside the cab. He was blond and freckled, and she suspected not from around these parts. “Hi.”
“Were you on Miami Beach, sir?” One of the guards asked Andy. “They’re trying to keep everyone off there. It’s dangerous and there’s a lot of damage.”
“Nope.” Andy said. “We got a place out on that big island on the end there.” He vaguely indicated behind him. “Got them their ferry working.”
“Oh!” The guard looked behind them. “Oh! They didn’t tell us it was open. I’ve had like six or seven people try to get down here to the terminal already this morning. All het up.” He said. “I’ll let my CO know.. but.. do you have ID with that address for when you come back? They’re keeping this whole thing restricted.”
The woman guard nodded. “They have us on all the causeways, all the way up the coast.”
“Well.” Ceci said. “The plates on this truck have an address out there.” She allowed. “We live on a boat.” She indicated herself, and then Andrew. “And while we’re going to live there, we haven’t changed our addresses yet on our driver’s license.”
“Ah got this.” Andy pulled a card from his spare, worn, leather billfold and handed it over.
The guardsman looked at it, then looked at Andy, then looked back at the card. Then he handed it back. “That’ll likely do, sir.” He grinned briefly. “I think I heard your name mentioned last night. You were doing some transport to and from the coastie base.”
“Ah did some of that.” Andy allowed. “Now you all want to let us on out of here? We got us an office down the road to get over to.”
The guardsman motioned to the men near the barricade pumping his fist at them. “No problem sir, ma’am.” He took a step back. “Just be careful if you’re going south. They had some trouble down there last night.”
Andy closed the truck window. “Ah do not like the sound of that.”
Ceci gave the guards a little wave as they moved past. “Depends on if we suffered from the trouble or caused it.” She remarked in a mild tone. “Could go either way, really.”
“At least we know our child wasn’t involved.” She patted his arm. “Cause we both know what side of that we’d be on then.”
“Wall. It was all quiet when we left there.” Andy said. “Probly wasn’t nothing to do with us anyhow.”
Dar came around the van to find her two hapless co conspirators standing with their backs to the doors, and three men facing them all with angry faces and accusatory finger shaking in progress.
Why were people so jackass? Dar wondered. She removed her sunglasses and came up next to the two satellite vendors, sliding the glasses by their earpiece into the front of her shorts pocket. “Hey.”
The voices had cut off at her presence. Chino sat down next to Dar’s leg, sniffing suspiciously.
“Oh, hey.” John seemed, if anything, glad to see her. Or glad for an interruption, at any rate. “How are ya?” He glanced at the three fuming men. “Maybe she can help us with this problem.”
Dar sighed. “If I had a buck for every time someone said that to me I’d own this damn island.” She paused, then waited for someone to enlighten her. After a long silent moment, she looked at John. “So what’s the problem? Aside from the fact you’ve got a lot of people using a little bandwidth.”
“So you know about this?” One of the men asked.
“Yes.” Dar responded quickly. “Look. I’m not getting into the physics of this with you all. What is it exactly that you’re having a problem doing and I can just tell you if there’s anything we can do to fix it, or if you’re just going to have to wait for some other connection.”
Alex had disappeared into the back of the van and now he came out with an armful of folding stools, that he flipped open and set down on the gravel. “Here, siddown.” He perched himself on the edge of the van floor. “Take a load off.”
The three men and Dar took a seat, the nearest man wiping his forearm across his sweat covered head. “Okay.” He had a vaguely midwestern accent, and he looked like he’d spent some time in the boxing ring, from the crooked profile of his nose and his bull neck.
The two other men were underlings. They sat there and just watched their boss.
“What do you mean, some other connection?” The boss asked, diverted. “Like what?”
Dar cleared her throat. “Reason why there’s no TV and no internet on this island is that the other end of the long cable coming out here is connected to something that’s got no power.” She said. “You want a definitive end to the dealing with satellite issue? Fix that. Go waste your energy and money or influence or whatever you got in getting AT and T to get their asses back up.”
The man looked thoughtfully at her.
“Everyone is using the only route they got to get anything out anywhere, a satellite.” Dar went on. “We’re using this, but everyone on the damn mainland needs all the space up there and that includes the military and the government and guess who gets priority? They do.” She said. “And before you ask, no it can’t get any faster. Every single bit’s being sent up to space and back.”
John was just nodding along like the dog in the back of a car, on a long highway ride.
“It’s a freaking miracle this thing’s working at all.” Dar concluded. “So I’m gonna ask you again, what is your particular problem?”
“I’m a GC. Your governor’s an old family friend.” The man said, shortly. “I’ve got probably a million people over there who need repairs and emergency construction on their houses, their roofs, the sidewalks.. and I can’t do shit about it, because I got no way to get pictures or orders for material or anything else outta here.”
“Hm.” Dar grunted thoughtfully.
“Can’t send pictures. Been trying to send one all morning.” The man continued. “I thought by paying this guy, I’d get what I needed.”
“David Barrow.” He added, finally, extending a hand out to her. “And you are?”
Dar reached over to meet his hand with her own. “Dar Roberts.” She provided. “Okay. How much stuff do you need to send up right now?” She released his hand. “You got it on a laptop? Or a drive? Bring it here.” She instructed. “Someone’s gotta do something. It’s a crap show out there. I saw the news.”
“How much stuff? No idea.” He turned to his minions. “You know that? How much?” He asked. “These are my IT guys.” He explained as an aside. “I don’t do that. I don’t touch those computers. I just yell and pay the bills.”
“It’s a lot.” The shorter of the two said. “Not sure how much.”
“It’s not on a drive. It’s in a big database.” The second offered. “So the guys in the field they get the reports together and we have to send them to our processor in Canada. They place orders.” He watched Dar warily. “We got a server back at the house. We got it here this morning.”
“I’ve got a server in that cottage.” Dar responded amiably. “Lucky for me all I’m sending up is the equivalent of text files. Just code.” She stood up. “Find out how much and get the IP of the server you’re using and bring it here to me and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Can you do something?” David asked, his tone skeptical.
Dar looked briefly at him. “Bring it or don’t. Your choice.” She patted her leg. “C’mon, Chi.” She turned and went around the van, going to the double doors that led to the living room of the cottage and opening them to slip inside.
“Well?” David looked at them. “This worth my time?” He asked. “Or should I just fly one of you guys out to Atlanta like we talked about?”
The two IT techs looked at each other, then at him. “Yeah. It’s worth your time.” The taller one said. “Cause I know who that is.” He glanced aside. “You do too, Eddy.”
“I sure do.” The shorter one nodded. “Lets go see if we can export that send file and get it on a drive.” He stood up. “Or maybe…get the transfer site config and get back here. Maybe we can do an IP to IP transfer if she’ll go for that.”
David regarded them. “Do I know who this is?” He asked, aggrievedly.
“No. It’s an IT thing.” The shorter one said. “It’s okay boss. It’s legit.” He pulled at the neck of his shirt, blinking some sweat out of his eyes. “You going to stay here? Can we take the cart back?” They both started moving towards the path, looking over their shoulder at him in question.
“Go on.” David pointed at the cart. “Make it fast.”
The two techs disappeared, leaving David by the van with John and Alex. He looked at them. “So what’s the deal?” He asked. “You know whoever that was? What’s her story?”
“We don’t know.” John said. “Just someone they told us to talk to here after the storm. They said she could help us get the satellite up.”
“She did.” Alex confirmed. “She figured out how to take stuff from this van and make it go to all the houses, and got some gear that made it all work.” He half turned and looked towards the cottage. “They got a whole IT rig in there with some guys working on it.”
“Yeah?” David looked at the door with interest. “Let me go see if I can find out what the deal is with them.” He winked at them. “Might be useful for the governor, y’know?” He made his way around the van and went towards the door.
John stuck his hands in his pockets. “He’s gonna regret doing that.”
“Hell, at least he’s not here yelling at us.” Alex fanned himself with a brochure. “Tell you what. Lets go hide in that villa they gave us, and just put a sign here saying to go ask her for help.”
John turned and stared at him.
Kerry looked up as the door opened, her ears picking up the ticky tacky noise of dog toenails on the ceramic tiles outside. “Hey hon.” She greeted Dar, who entered behind Chino and closed the door. Mocha came rambling out of one of the bedrooms and greeted them.
“How’s it going here?” Dar came over and took the chair next to her. “Mom and Dad took the truck over to the office.”
Kerry indicated the pad she’d been writing on. “Those are the top five in order of urgency.” She said. “You need to call the Pentagon, by the way.”
“Do I?” Dar had swung the backpack off her back and was fishing inside it, pulling out both laptops and putting them on the table. “Aren’t they swimming in Bob? What do they want me to do about that? Reroute him via Alaska?”
The sound of laughter made Dar looked up, with a faintly puzzled expression.
“Don’t give them any ideas.” Kerry pulled her machine over. “Got a couple more ethernet cables, El?”
“Scott from DC sent me like twelve emails.” Elvis was rooting inside the crate. “Some thing you sent him before the storm?”
Dar looked up from plugging in the power for both laptops. “Latest build of the DOD rig.” She said. “Is that what the Pentagon wants to talk to me about?” She asked. “They ran it in sim that day before. They were talking about me coming up to demo it.”
“Again?” Kerry was still scribbling notes. “Hon, you promised John Deland his checkpoint tomorrow.” She looked up at her partner. “He says he knows, he’s seen the news, and he doesn’t care. Either we make the deadline or he’s canceling.”
Dar clicked the network cable Elvis was holding out to her into place. “Fuck him.”
“Totally not interested.” Kerry responded calmly. “You’re my one and only.” She grinned briefly at the chuckles in the room. “Anyway you should at least call him and give him some kind of status.”
“Wait.” Dar paused and straightened up. “Is tomorrow Friday?”
“Today is Thursday, so yes.” Kerry got up. “Let me get you some coffee.” She said. “Restart your brain.” She got out of the way of Elvis running a final cable and went back into the kitchen to retrieve a second ceramic cup and fixed coffee to Dar’s preference.
Behind her, she could hear the laptops booting up and after the previous day’s extreme efforts she found herself glad to contemplate nothing crazier than wading through days of email.
She was a little sore, the sunburn a little uncomfortable under her light cotton clothes, her shoulders stiff from all the shenanigans on the airboat. “Hey Dar?” She called out. “I ended up on CNN again.”
She carried the cup back into the main room, now full of keyboard clicking as the two programmers got down to work and Angela making notes into her laptop. Dar was looking at her screen and now she glanced up at Kerry over the top of it. “You hear me?”
“I heard.” Dar turned her screen around so Kerry could see it. “You certainly did.” She pointed at the picture displayed on it as large as the screen was. “Nice.”
“Oh my god.” Kerry set the cup down and stared at the screen. “Local business owner rescues staff. Jesus.” She reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose. “What the hell.”
Dar took a sip of her coffee. “Well, that’s what happened, Ker.” She remarked mildly. “They interviewed Mayte.” She added. “Sit down and read it. Let me see where John’s framework is.” She pulled the pad and the phone Kerry had been using over.
The back door to the cottage opened, and they all looked up as David Barrow entered, blinking in relief at the air conditioning inside. He paused and looked around at them and there was a moment of silence.
Then Elvis finished something on his keyboard. “Hey Dar, I finished the modules for the State Department. I think you need to look at them though they’re in the repo.”
Dar picked up the phone. “Pentagon first.” She said. “Buddy, if you want to sightsee, go somewhere else.” She directed that at David. “We got a lot going on here.”
“Who is that?” Kerry whispered.
“Governor’s contractor.” Dar responded. “Wants me to push some data through for him so they can start supply.” She dialed the phone.
Kerry got up and went over to the newcomer. “Hi.” She extended a hand. “Kerry.” She waited for him to somewhat hesitantly take her hand. “What can we do to help?”
“Who are you people?”
“Long story. Want some coffee?”
Ceci was craning her neck this way and that, looking around as they moved cautiously along the main road heading for the office. She’d seen pictures of the damage, but this was her first chance to see it in person and it nearly took her breath away. “Oh, Andy.”
As they approached the office, there was a block full of buildings that were now closed off with police barricades, and along one street a fire truck was parked. The smell of burning came through the air conditioning of the truck.
On the next street, a National Guard truck stood idling. “Ah do not like the looks of that.” Andy commented, seeing two Humvees pull up.
“We still have a couple blocks.” Ceci looked past him out the window. “Was that on fire?”
“Ah do think so.”
Along the street were piled stacks of debris and turned onto its side was a beat up van, with smoke stains all up and down it’s dirty tan exterior. “Oh boy.” Ceci muttered. “Why the hell didn’t they radio us?”
Andy made a face, scrunching up his scarred lips and raising his eyebrows, with a small shake of his head. “Better get on out of here.” He noted the guards turning to watch them and sped up, going through the next major intersection and then turning left onto the street the office was on.
For a moment it was nervewracking, then they got far enough down the road to see the front of the building and it’s distinctive porch which seemed all intact.
Sign was intact over the front. Ceci relaxed. “Seems okay.”
“Bike’s gone.” Andrew observed. “Either that boy took on off early or they brought it back up into the office.” He pulled the truck up into the parking lot in front of the office and turned off the engine, opening the door and letting in the humid, warm air.
“Lets go find out.” Ceci got out and shut the door, her nose wrinkling as the smell of mold and decay came to it. She glanced to one side at the pile of dank debris. “I’m guessing there’s no waste pickup?”
“Pohugh.” Andy made a low, disgusted demurral. “Saw that whole yard of them trucks up to the doors yet in water.” He studied the piles of trash, surrounded by flies that were visible in the hazy mist. “Can’t even burn it.”
“Burning wet garbage? No please this is bad enough.” Ceci regarded the office frontage. The trees around the building had shed leaves and branches, which had been dragged to the pile, and she could see scuffs against the concrete siding but otherwise the squat, old fashioned bulwark of the square structure seemed to have taken little harm. “Compared to everything else around here, doesn’t look bad.”
“Trees helped.” Andy said. “All of em up so close to the walls, and good height for it.”
“Like a seawall.” Ceci observed. “All the wind blew against those things and didn’t hit the walls.”
Andy looked at her thoughtfully. “Could be, there.” He agreed. “Water came up ovah heah, but it’s up a little.” He pointed at the front of the building. “Edge on to it. Went right by. Took down that line of trees down that way.”
Ceci could see it, and in her mind she could imagine what it must have looked like when a wall of water, frothy and dark, came through and swept over the ground, up to the level of the windows of the building. “Good thing you put those boards up.”
It had been scary, out on the island, but they hadn’t seen what was happening and really didn’t understand the impact until it was over and they could look outside. She suspected it had been the same here, only without power, and she acknowledged a new respect for Carlos and the others who had decided to stay here.
But then, she mused, both Carlos and the team, and she and the family had done better through the storm despite where they’d been than poor Maria and Mayte had, safe inland. “Hm.”
“Big old mess.” Andy fell back on his favorite description. “Lets go hear what done went on.”
They walked together up the green stained sidewalk, getting up to the steps before the door to the office opened a little bit and Carlos looked warily out. His face brightened immediately on seeing them, and he opened up fully, turning to call out behind him. “Hey! Cavalry’s here!”
Ceci laughed in pure utter reflex. “Oh boy.” She walked up the steps, as Carlos backed up and the smell of cooking bacon and green peppers floated out. “Can’t wait to hear why we’re being called the cavalry. The one person in the family who likes horses isn’t even here.”
Mark was sitting on the picnic table outside, his arm outstretched on his knee, covered in a bandage. “We didn’t know what the hell was going on.” He told Andy. “After you guys left, we all crashed. Then at three am, all hell broke loose outside.”
Carlos was nodding. “Sounded like fireworks on fourth of July.” He said. “I thought… hey maybe they’re fixing the power and those are transformers, y’know?”
“Wishful thinking.” Ceci said.
“Kinda.” Carlo’s big, rugged face creased into an unexpected grin. “We ran the fans off the generator but man, it’s hot.” He turned and pointed to one corner of the inner yard. “We set up a sun shower over there. Didn’t trust the water inside.”
“Yeah, anyway, I hauled ass downstairs to see what the deal was.” Mark said. “Hank was at the door, and Pete had just come over from the back and we could hear people running and yelling outside, and guns going off.” He paused. “I mean, we know they were now, but then we had no idea.”
“We had no idea.” Carlos pointed at himself and Mark. “Those guys knew what it was.” He indicated Pete. “They were trying to haul us back inside.”
Pete glanced over with a look of mild amusement. “You kids are nuts.”
Ceci was seated on the table, just listening. Along with Scott’s RV, Mark’s big bike was parked somewhat haphazardly, and two other cars were a little ways away next to Hank’s rigged up Humvee, with it’s owner sprawled asleep in the front.
“That is a big old mess.” Andy concluded, but in a mild tone.
“Big one!” Carlos agreed. “Whole road out the front was full of guys with sticks and I don’t know what else. Guard was chasing them, or maybe it was the cops. Too dark to see what the deal was.” He had a cut on his head, and a splotch of dark crimson on his jeans. “I went out to see better.”
“Good lord, boy.” Andy gave him a severe stare.
“I knew he was going to say that.” Carlos said to Mark. “Next thing we knew the whole crowd of whoever it was came hauling up to us wanting to get inside the building.” He said. “We were not going along with that.”
Ceci covered her eyes with one hand.
“Yeah that’s true.” Mark said. “I guess they didn’t know maybe who all was still in here. Hank and Pete’d put the trucks and my bike in the back.” He explained. “Maybe they thought it was empty and they could hide inside.”
“Just a bunch of jerks.” Carlos said. “Anyway Hank started shooting off his revolver and then stuff got wild.” He said. “He was just trying to scare them back, y’know? Keep them out of the hallway until we could get back inside and close the door.”
“It got a litttttle crazy.” Pete admitted. “There were about two dozen perps and a dozen who knows what chasin em.”
“Wow.” Ceci muttered.
“So then the Guard caught up to everything and came over and started putting people on the ground.” Mark said. “And they grabbed us, and then we got lucky because the guy in charge of the Guard was one of the guys that was at the Doral place when I was in there messing with their servers.”
“So in all that he recognized you?” Ceci asked, her voice raising. “Seriously in the dark and all that?”
Mark shrugged a little, with a half raised hand. “He said he did! They had me up against the wall of the building then one of them said to hold on, he knew who I was.”
Pete was grilling the bacon, and had a pan of scrambled eggs and peppers heating up. He glanced over at the table. “It was nuts between the cops yelling in Spanish and the Guard cursing and the perps crying like babies.” He said. “So the Guard came in after they dragged all the perps off and turns out they know you, Big A.”
Andy looked surprised. “Me?”
“They do.” Carlos said, nodding. “They’re from Alabama, or somewhere around there. They were the guys who we bumped into out west. Kerry made friends with them.”
“Oh boy.” Ceci muttered. “This is getting weirder by the minute.”
Andy frowned, perplexed. “Ah don’t know me any Guard from Alabama.” He said. “And ah aint been back there for more’n a minute for a damn long time.”
All the chatter had woken Hank up and he peered over at them, opening one eye. “Knows the family, Andy.” He said. “Some of them are from those parts.” He closed his eye again and pulled his cap down over his face, wriggling a little to get a bit more comfortable.
“Wall.” Andy’s brows creased. “That could be.”
“So what were the guys who they were chasing doing?” Ceci redirected the conversation. “I mean, just running around shooting off guns in the rain or what?”
“Building down the road – they broke into it.” Carlos said. “They started up a fire to make some.. I don’t know to cook or something and it caught the building on fire. They tried to put it out but it just got out of control and then someone saw it and called the cops.”
“And the cops called the Guard, I guess.” Mark concluded. “Anyway, it all got settled down and we went back to sleep. Figured we’d let you all know this morning after breakfast, but here you are.”
“Here we are.” Ceci agreed. “And we’ve got supplies in the back of the truck but honestly, people, I think we need to get you all out of here. This is not good.”
Carlos shrugged a little. “My apartment’s trashed.” He said. “It’s way more put together here.”
“So’s our house.” Mark agreed. “It was actually not that bad sleeping on the couch in my office last night.” He went over and accepted a paper plate with some eggs and bacon on it. “Thanks Pete.”
“He’s got a point.” Pete remarked. “Nothing around here’s worth shit. At least here it’s close enough to the water to get a breeze and there’s entertainment around.” He winked at them. “Haven’t had this much fun since I mustered out.”
Ceci glanced aside at her husband, who was listening thoughtfully, head slightly tilted to one side. The rest of the occupants of the office were emerging, drawn by the smell of the bacon and the sunshine. She recognized now five or six new faces, staff, who waved at her in greeting.
She waved back. “Well.” She conceded. “It’s a sturdy building.”
“It is.” Carlos agreed. “That’s what the Guard was saying when they were around, you know? Like a fort.”
“Lord.” Andy stood up. “Let me go get on the radio.” He headed for the inner door.
“That load in the truck all for us?” Carlos asked. “We’ll go hump it in.”
“It is.” Ceci said. “Most of it’s camping gear. There’s a.. well, it seemed like a whole squad of Coast Guard out by us and Andy stopped by there and loaded up before we came over.”
“Sweet.” Carlos looked up as his two lifter buddies came over, with three more Ceci didn’t recognize. “Hey guys.”
“Morning.” The cute, curly haired one said. “So Joe, from the gym said we could go in there, but it’s skanky.” He said. “Could we move the plates and stuff over here? Set up in the corner there?” He pointed at one corner of the open space, where a concrete pad lined up along the short side of the building. “Better to sweat in the sun than smell that carpet.”
Carlos eyed Ceci. “Think the bosses would go for that?”
“Sure.” Ceci said, without hesitation. “The more big friendly guys like you around, the better.” She got up, dusting her hands off. “In fact, if you unload the truck, I’ll drive it over and you can use it to move stuff.”
“Hot damn.” The cute, curly haired man said. “Gonna be a great day!”
Kerry sat down at the small, linen covered kitchen table with David, intent on giving Dar the time to deal with her current slate of questions before loading her up with more.
Dar was brilliant. But she was also single tracked and having multiple things pull her in different directions didn’t end with good results and so Kerry tried to draw off the distractions to let her focus. “So.” She said, as David sipped appreciatively at the excellent coffee in it’s ceramic cup. “What can I tell you about us?”
He relaxed a little. “Glad to be out of that heat.” He said. “Jesus it’s hot here.”
“It is. Took me a while to get used to it.” Kerry accepted the redirection. “I’m from Michigan.” She added, casually.
“You sound like it.” He said. “My families all in Chicago.” He said. “Anyway. So my guys are going to bring over the stuff we need to get sent to the main office. You think that’ll happen?”
Kerry took a sip of her coffee. “Did Dar say it would?”
He shrugged a little. “Said she’d try. What does that mean?”
“It means she’ll try.” Kerry said, dryly. “But generally Dar does achieve whatever it is she’s trying to do so if she agreed to try it, it’ll probably be fine.” She smiled at him. “If it was just not going to happen she’d have just told you that.”
David nodded thoughtfully. “So who are you people?” He reverted to his original question.
“Who are we people. Well.” Kerry settled back in her seat. “We are, as in, Dar and I are the owners of Roberts Automation, and that’s an IT services company.” She paused. “Which you I am sure have never heard of.”
“We do custom services for companies. Strictly B2B. So if you’re a company who wants to do something like roll out new technology, you call us, and we evaluate what your choices are, recommend one, and help you roll it out. Or..” She cleared her throat a little. “Or if you have a need for custom software, to do something that you cant get off the shelf, and you need it fast and need it to work…”
“Not like the tax website.”
Kerry chuckled. “If you need it to work, we do that as well.”
“But for small stuff. Because you just got what… six people here?” David was now watching her with a shrewd expression.
“We have actually around a hundred and fifty employees.” Kerry smiled at his surprised look. “I sent our support groups upstate so they could keep answering phones for us and our accounting director is there too. But Dar and I live here.” She indicated vaguely the island around them. “So we brought our main server stack and some of our programmers over to keep working since we have power here.”
“That rig in there.”
“That rig in there.” Kerry confirmed. “We loaded it onto the deck of our boat and brought it over a few days ago.”
David looked at her, his head dropping forward a little bit, one eyebrow lifting up.
Kerry smiled at him, lifting her coffee cup in a mock toast. “We sell being a non traditional option. Everyone can do IT, you know? We try to assume whatever we’re asked is out of the box.” She said. “And yes, we do a lot of work with smaller companies but we also have government contracts both local and federal.”
“Interesting.” He mused. “My company’s kinda like that too. I don’t build buildings or houses or stuff like that. We come in when they need stuff fast, and no screwing around. You know?” He eyed Kerry. “Get around the … sometimes the government’s way of doing things takes too much time.”
Kerry did understand. “My parents worked in the federal government.”
“So you get it.” David now smiled more confidently at her. “So anyway, I got a call to come down here and get things moving to help the guard and everyone put on temporary roofs and fix things. You know.”
“I didn’t figure on not being able to talk to nobody, or send emails.” David said. “Like I said outside, I don’t get into all the IT stuff. I just give orders to people. I don’t like the IT stuff. I don’t understand it. I thought we’d at least be able to use the.. what do you call them? The cell phone things.”
“Mifi’s.” Kerry supplied. “Yeah, we didn’t expect it all either. Don’t feel bad. We had satellite phones.. “ She held up hers. “But you know, they don’t really work well.”
“No ma’am they don’t. The governor’s guy I’m here with tossed his in the water this morning.”
“They don’t. It’s true. We have a marine radio relay set up to talk to our office, but Dar was really glad when those guys with the satellite came to her because at least it meant we could do some small, basic things.” Kerry said. “But with everyone using it, it’s kinda pitiful.”
He leaned on the table and regarded her. “So what’s she going to do for us?”
“Mm..” Kerry pondered the question. “Probably prioritize the traffic. Dedicate some bandwidth to you to get the data through.”
He looked blankly at her.
“Grease the skids for you.” Kerry translated, with a small grin. “VIP pass.”
Immediately, his expression cleared. “Now that I understand.” He leaned back and took a long swallow of the coffee. “Now you’re talking my language.” He put the cup down. “She can do that?”
“Oh yes.” Kerry said. She got up and refilled her cup, and raised her eyebrows towards his. He nodded, and she put her cup down and took his, setting it down next to the dispenser as she picked up the plate of breakfast pastries and offered him one. “So, where are you guys starting in all that?”
He took a pastry. “Mayor’s neighborhood.” He took a bite. “Got someplace you’re interested in?”
Kerry sat back down. “I might have.” She put the plate down on the table. “Let me find out what it’s going to take to get a real connection back up here, and maybe we can do a little business together.”
He smiled at her, an expression of calculating predation and startling transparency on his face. “Governor’s gonna really appreciate that.”
Governor’s going to probably have to get in line. Kerry thought, with an internal, wry sigh. “Here we go again.”