Fair Winds and Following Seas
Kerry tipped her head back and watched as one of the LAN techs, wearing a harness, stretched his arms up as high as they would go and pushed the dish they’d brought up near the top of the metal pole strapped to the side of the building.
“We’re going to have to ground that to earth.” Another of the LAN techs said, standing next to Kerry. “Lightning hits it and it’ll end up right in the server room.”
“We don’t want that.” Kerry murmured. “Though right now there aren’t any servers in there or anything else really.”
“No ma’am, just the racks. We got everything else out of there, but there’s a lot of copper in the floor still and if someone was in there it’d light em up.”
“Well, that’s what that second line is, the ground, so we should be covered.” She paused. “Miguel, be careful!”
“Yes ma’am.” Miguel called down, as he kept the dish at the desired height while he tightened the bolts on it’s fastening down with a wrench. “I’m tied in good here!”
The harness around him was running up and over the peak of the shallow angled roof and down the other side, running along the wall to the ground where Carlos had it wrapped around his back, legs braced wide, just chilling in the sun.
There was a tall ladder braced against the roof nearby that Miguel had used to climb up, a sliding extention model that had construction stains all over it.
“Okay got it tight.” Miguel called down. “I’m gonna throw the cable down.” He stuck the wrench in his back pocket and edged over along the tile roof, covered in half round ceramic sections to where the coil of thickly rubber coated strands were lying.
He nudged them with his foot, holding onto the pole with one hand to keep his balance, and then booted the coil off the roof, sending it tumbling down the inner side of the building. Then he went over to a second coil, this one of bare metal, and booted that off as well. “There’s the ground!”
“Got it!” The second LAN tech yelled up. “I’m gonna run it into that window.”
Pete was now smoothing the ground along the pole. “I got this.” He said. “Found a railway spike we can use for it. I’ll weld it.”
“How’s the roof look, Miguel?” Kerry shaded her eyes and watched him. “Still look okay up there?”
Miguel was being lit by the westering sun, half in golden light and he went up several steps to the peak and stood there with a foot braced on either side, looking around. “There’s still those couple broken tiles.” He reported back after a minute. “Looks okay otherwise. New skylights look good.”
“Good job!” Carlos called out, from his position. “You all done?”
“I’m gonna hang out here in case we need to adjust the dish.” Miguel called back, and sat down on the peak to let his legs sprawl out along the slope. “Gonna be a nice sunset, with those clouds.”
Kerry glanced at her watch, then turned around from her spot on the back loading dock and walked inside the passage that would bring her back inside the central open space, past the sturdy wooden gates that had been made from scrounged wood and provided a blockade to anyone trying to enter.
Inside the courtyard had taken on something of the air of .. Kerry pondered. She remembered going to a carnival when she’d been much younger, and stumbling on the area behind the attractions that the workers had set up their living space in.
Some RV’s, some trailers, some tents, a line with laundry hanging, campfire with a greasy grill over it with sausages. She could hear and smell it now, and this collection of known and unknown taking shelter reminded her strongly of that moment.
The far wall was lined with six tents now, from the one that had been there previously. Two teardrop trailers were parked just to one side of the makeshift gymnasium, and a dozen men were cleaning up the area used to cut wood and framing as the shadows started to take over the space.
She walked along the north wall, where if she turned she would just be able to see the pole in the northeast corner sticking up over the trees and up the steps to the concrete slab that held the outdoor kitchen and the doorway to enter the building.
Inside the door the second LAN technician came out of one of the storage rooms with a small switch and a phone tucked under one arm and headed across the hall.
Kerry paused and looked around. It already was a little brighter inside, with the replacement of the two big skylights over the stairwells, that no longer had black tarps pasted over them. Now the holes in the roof were filled with square, sturdy aluminum and glass coverings, the inside edge showing fresh caulking still needing paint.
She could smell the freshness of it. The tang of uncovered wood and the chemical scent of the caulk and as she walked along the hall, the surface of the floors were shades lighter, a sanding machine standing now silent in the corner near the stairs.
“Y’know.” One of the veterans, whose name she’d heard but forgotten came over, wrapping a cable around one arm. “You should leave these floors alone.”
Kerry regarded him. “Not sand them?” She asked.
He shook his head. “Sand n’reseal em.” He gazed at the wood. “Don’t put no carpet back on it. Nice grain.”
Kerry studied the floor. “Would it sound stupid to you for me to say I can’t because I have dogs here that would slide on it?”
He didn’t answer for a long minute, finishing up the coiling of the cable as he thought about that, and she waited. Finally he cleared his throat. “No that don’t sound stupid.” He said. “Just never something I’d think of right off.” He regarded her with bright, hazel eyes. “It’s just pretty wood.”
“Its beautiful.” Kerry agreed, with a smile. “Maybe we can put down a central piece of carpet and leave both sides natural.”
“Jute maybe.” He replied thoughtfully. “Natural and could be inset like. Look nice too.”
Jute. “I’ll look into that.” Kerry spotted the LAN tech pop his head out into the hallway and wave at her, at the same time memory belatedly surfaced. “Thanks Jerry.” She said. “It’s a great idea.”
He lifted his hand in acknowledgement and moved off, slinging the cable he’d finished coiling over the sanding machine and walking out the door into the central area. Kerry stood in the empty hall for a moment, and then she walked along it to the inside room where the radio was.
Inside, the LAN tech was adjusting the phone precisely on top of the switch, and he turned as he heard Kerry enter. “I powered up the switch and its booting.” He went over to the window and began to route the cable down the wall.
“Thanks Mike.” Kerry regarded the device. “No way we nailed the point to point on the first go though. That’s a long distance.”
“It is.” Mike agreed. “But its pointed in the right general direction anyway.” He tacked down the last bit of cable. “Let me get my laptop and see if I can ping the other side.” He trotted out. “Get that to start anyway.”
Kerry went to the window and leaned on the sill, the air from the courtyard brushing against her, a warm humid mixture of construction and humanity and the sharp bite of the spices Sasha was using in her wok.
Across the way she could see Andy standing in the shade of the building, arms crossed, talking to Pete, who had his welding helmet on with the shield tipped up, the welding wand clasped in one hand as it cooled.
A brief breeze brought her the scent of it, the odd, spicy smell of the welding and from beyond that a hint of the sea.
“Okay, let me connect up.” Mike returned and put a laptop down on the table, plugging a console cable into the switch and sitting down. “Is Ms . Roberts coming back soon?”
“On her way right now.” Kerry said. “I’m about to head out to the airport to get her.” Kerry remained leaning on the windowsill. “You need her for something?”
“No ma’am, Mark was just asking before he left.” Mike started typing into the keyboard. “What IP… oh there it is.” He rattled the soft touch keys. “Wait it needs a gateway, so let me just…”
The phone ringing startled them both, and Kerry actually jumped, turning in startlement. “What the…”
They stared at the phone, which continued to ring, until Kerry finally reached over and picked it up. “Hello?” She answered tentatively. “Kerry here.”
“Ah hah!” A voice said in triumph. “They were right how bout that!”
“Hey Angela.” Kerry gathered her wits. “I guess it’s working?”
“Holy crap.” Mike regarded his screen. “Yeah, it’s pinging clean!” He glanced at the window. “That’s a freaking miracle.”
“No kidding.” Kerry muttered.
“The kids saw something in something register or something.” Angela told her. “And they said the thing you put up was probably up, and they were right!” Their receptionist sounded triumphantly pleased. “So this is great! We can talk to you guys!”
“I guess you can.” Kerry and Mike exchanged bemused looks. “Well that’s great. How’s it going over there? I was about to head out to the airport to pick up Dar.”
“Oh great!” Andrea responded. “Now what did that remind me of… what?” She muffled the receiver briefly. “Oh right! Sure, so that guy came back here, you know? The guy from yesterday? With the thing, whatever it was, the boss did?”
Kerry stared at the phone in bewilderment. “Um… what?”
“That guy. The big guy, with the attitude.”
“That entire island is full of big guys with attitude.”
“Yeah, sure, but it was that one guy and he sent those kids over, and the boss did something for them with that box.”
“Oh. The governor’s guy.” Kerry said. “What did he want?”
“Dunno, said he wanted to talk to the boss. I told him she was out of town.” Angela said. “He started cursing at me, and Mrs. R ran him out of here.” She said. “But she said he said he was gonna come back. Anyway, we also heard from the drug guy, and they want to talk to you.”
Kerry sighed. “Okay, do me a favor and call the Pharma guys back, and tell them I’ll call them as soon as I get back from the airport.” She checked her watch again. “I gotta go. Glad this thing’s working, give it a ring if anything else happens and hopefully someone’ll hear it and answer.”
“No problem. What about the governor’s guy?”
“Tell him next time it’s lucky its only my mother in law chasing him not my mother the Senator.” Kerry said, firmly. “We’ll talk to him when we get back there.”
“Got it. See ya later, Kerry.”
Kerry put the phone down. “What number is this phone?” She asked. “Please don’t tell me it’s mine.”
“No no no…It’s a spare.” Mike reassured her. “I configured it to use the one we had in the server room. Nobody knows it except HPE and Centurylink. The guys probably just saw it register in the online portal and told her which one it was. It’s a dial in direct, though. You can call it."
“More importantly, you all can dial out from it.” Kerry said.
He nodded briskly. “Oh yeah, for sure now that it sees the portal. You know, maybe I can talk to Mayte and we can add a survivable gateway here for the next time this crazy stuff happens.”
Kerry regarded him. “That’s not a bad idea.” She said, after a long pause. “But I’m pretty sure we have a long list of things to make better for next time like alternate power sources and a satellite dish on the roof.”
Mike looked at her. “Mark was saying maybe we’d all move, like up to Melbourne or… wherever. You think we will?” He asked. “I know he and Barb headed up to that office the support team’s at.”
“We’ll do what we have to in order to keep the business moving forward. I don’t’ know… “ Kerry hesitated. “I’m not sure what we’ll do long term because I know Dar’s pretty attached to this area.”
He nodded again. “I’m kind of a nomad, doesn’t matter to me but I know a lot of folks here have a lot of family around and kids in school and all that stuff.”
“Yeah, I know.” Kerry sighed. “Okay, let me figure all that out when we get back. I don’t want Dar hanging around at that airport too long someone’ll grab her and she’ll be rewiring that control tower if I don’t pick her up.”
Mike was scribbling something on a pad. “This UPS battery here’ll last to power this switch until they boot the generator.” He said. “And that’ll recharge it then. Sound okay?” He looked up at Kerry. “We took over the tech support room and moved the desks around. Those cots Mr R brought over were great.”
Kerry rested her hands on the back of the chair he was sitting on. “Is your family okay, Mike? I think I missed asking you yesterday.”
He smiled at her. “My family’s in Iowa. So yeah I’m sure they’re fine.” He said. “It’s just me here, I moved down cause I was going out with a girl who ended up going out with someone else.”
He scratched his nose, which had freckles over the surface of the skin. “I actually live in a duplex in Doral. It did fine, but man it’s boring when you aint got nothing to do but look at the paint peel, you know?”
“Got it.” Kerry said. “I was by myself when I moved down here at first too. I would have probably cleaned my apartment six dozen times by now if I was still where I was then.” She said. “Anyway, I’ll be back in an hour. Tell anyone looking for me where I went.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He responded cheerfully. “We got some Korean barbeque on tap for tonight. One of Carlo’s buddy’s a cook at Shizo’s down on Brickell. He got here this morning and hooked up with Sasha.” He got up, leaving the phone with it’s small display sitting on top of the switch. “He brought a barrel of kimchee with him.”
“Oh boy.” Kerry followed him out of the room and into the hall. “Glad we got the National Guard at the front door.”
She went outside and down the front sidewalk, the view towards the main street now blocked by tents and trucks all painted Army green along with the buzzing rumble of a large, truck mounted generator.
The Guard had made sure there was a clear path from the front of the parking lot out to the street, but she noticed that they had also planted a small tent on the far side of the driveway as though including that path under their watch.
Kerry got into the driver’s seat of the truck and moved it up so she could reach the pedals, starting up the engine and backing out of the lot, half of which was filled with cars from staff along with a few rusty and broken down beaters parked alongside them.
The street, she noted as she pulled out past the Guard encampment had been cleared of garbage, and the soldiers had set up barriers around their tents and trucks and had mounted a watch.
The young man standing there, rifle in hand, waved at her as she turned.
Kerry waved back, then she paused and rolled down the window, leaning her arm on the warm surface as he walked over. “Hi.”
“Hello, ma’am.” The soldier greeted her, his crew cut under a green peaked cap, and his eyes hidden behind sunglasses as hers were. “You going for the day?”
“No.” Kerry said. “I’m going over to the airport to pick someone up. Are you all… “
“We’re going to be here all night.” The soldier told her. “We took down all the license plates back in that lot there, so they’ll be let in if they come and go. No problem ma’am, and we know to clear anyone else with the folks inside. All good.”
The guard glanced around. “Would you like one of us to go with you ma’am? To the airport? There’s some dangerous roads between here and there, though you look like you’ve got good clearance with this vehicle.”
Kerry smiled briefly. “I think I’ll be okay, long as I get on with it before it gets dark. See you in a bit.” She said. “I think they’re cooking barbeque in there.” She indicated the office building. “I’m sure you all are invited.”
“We smell it, ma’am.” The soldier grinned. “Don’t you worry.” He gave her a thumbs up, and Kerry returned it, then she rolled up the window and started out along the street, heading for the highway.
The cargo flight landed with a jarring bounce, and Dar cautiously opened one eye as she heard the big engines going into reverse, ready for the noisy, bouncing flight to end.
“Sorry about that.” The pilot in the seat ahead of her said. “We’re pretty heavy.”
“No problem.” Dar opened her other eye and watched the airfield flash past out the front window of the C-17 Globemaster, just glad to be on the ground again.
She was the fourth person in a four person cockpit, the two pilots busy ahead of her and the loadmaster relaxed in his seat, waiting to start the process of unloading the full load of relief supplies behind them.
It had been a rough ride, and cramped, the spare seat not really intended for someone of her height and she was looking forward to standing up and getting out of it, though she had found the inside of the cockpit interesting and had somewhat enjoyed watching the process of flying the plane.
But now it was nearing sunset. The big cargo craft taxied off the long runway and rumbled towards one of the huge hangars, where lines of trucks were standing by and two large portable pole lights were already on to light the area for work.
“Where are we staying overnight?” The co pilot asked. “Not in a tent are we? It’s ninty some degrees out there still and it’s almost night.”
“They got power in there.” The pilot pointed at the airport. “Ops told me they got bunks for us and a mess.” He steered the big plane up to a mark on the pavement, and then shut down the engines. “There we go. Hope it wasn’t too bad a ride for you, ma’am.”
“Nah.” Dar unbuckled the four point harness holding her to the seat. “I’ve had worse. That was a lot of rough weather though.”
“Out flow from that damn storm.” The pilot shook his head. “Big mess.”
“Big mess.” The co pilot agreed, as the loadmaster unbuckled and got up, moving from the cockpit as he pushed the door open and into the cargo area. “They still don’t’ have power here and I heard they may not for weeks!” He said. “Jesus!”
Ugh. “Probably not.” Dar got up and ducked through the door, climbing down the steel stairs that dropped to the bottom of the deck and gave access to the entrance hatch.
With the engines off it was already getting hot, and she retrieved her overnight bag and laptop from bin near the door and waited for the pilot to come down to open it up. “Thanks for the ride.”
“No problem.” The pilot came over to stand next to her. “Charlie, run the checklists willya?” He called up over his shoulder. “I’m gonna let our passenger out.”
“Doin it.” The co pilot called from the cockpit. “Look out, back door’s cranking.”
There was a lot of noise around them suddenly, the cargo hatch at the rear of the plane opening up and it’s ramp grinding groundward, and the door near the cockpit opening up with a crinkly pop that came with a rush of damp, hot, Jet A scented air.
The pilot swung the door downwards extending the steps built into it and walked it down to the ground, pulling sunglasses out from his pocket and putting them on as he peered into the setting sunlight. “Nice sky.”
Dar climbed down after him and followed as he walked along a marked path along the planes parking position, exchanging nods with the technicians and unloaders who were coming to swarm over the C-17.
“You expecting to be met here, ma’am?” The pilot asked, as the sound of a helicopter landing came clattering past them. “They’re not really operating.”
“Yes, and I know.” Dar said. “I have someone picking me up.”
“Well, that’s good. I’m glad you weren’t expecting a taxi or something. I was here overnight day before yesterday and nothing’s working around here.”
“That’s true.” Dar waited for him to open the door that would let them into the concourse and off the tarmac, returning to the utilitarian hallways she’d left through. “I’ve got it from here.” Dar said. “Thanks again.” She shouldered her bag and took a turn down another hallway, heading towards the civilian part of the airport.
“B..w..” The pilot stopped, then he shrugged. “Okay, g’bye.” He waved. “Guess you know what you’re doing.” He shook his head and went in the opposite direction, pushing open the door to a ready room and letting it swing closed behind him.
Dar ignored the comment. She let her sense of direction take over and maneuvered through the winding halls, passing offices and people in uniforms with an air of determination that made them quickly step out of her way and not ask her any questions.
She got through the last door and then she was back in the darkness of the airport proper.
Still full of mold and mildew and what she thought might have been a rat scuttling along as she went through the silent security tables in the gloom and headed for the front doors to the terminal, hearing the sound of leaks dripping on the floor just in time to slow down and not slip and fall on her ass.
The water on the floor felt slimy, and smelled worse, and Dar put a hand out to keep her balance as she moved from the floor to the carpet and then walked along the wall full of boarded up windows until she came to one of the sliding glass sets of entrance doors.
They were locked. Setting her overnight bag down on the terrazzo, she listened to the whining clunks as the activators in the floor pads tried to open the doors, separating them in the center just slightly.
Hm. She got her fingertips around the edge of one of the sliding doors, hauling back on it and pulling it partly open, setting off an alarm. “Crap.” She winced at the loud siren making her ears buzz, unable to budge the glass any further.
“Stop! Hold it right there!” A loud, male voice sounded at a distance behind her. “Stop! Hey! Who are you?”
“Nope, not today.” Dar squeezed through the partial opening with a determined grunt, yanking her bag along after her as she emerged into the overcast dusk, ignoring the running footsteps and the yells behind her as she got to the curb and away from the front of the building.
She looked up and down the drop off area, dirty concrete lit in lurid orange pink and full of powerless shadows, the lane in front of her crowded with emergency trucks and vans and the military.
There was really no reason for her to confidently expect Kerry to be there but at the end of the drive, behind the parked government cars and security vehicles, engine idling, there was her truck and she turned and headed for it, with a grin of relief.
“Stop!” Behind her, she heard the crack of the door opening all the way and leather soled shoes against the concrete. “Hey!”
Kerry put the truck in gear and came rocketing forward , nearly sideswiping one of the security vans as she intercepted her partner’s path and rode the wheels up onto the pavement, turning on the high beam lights to blast them into the eyes of the chasing guards.
Dar reached the truck and opened the door as the guards came to a halt, throwing their hands up and yelling in outrage. “Just go.” She told Kerry as she slid in. “Not going back inside that building tonight for me.”
“No problem hon.” Kerry put hammer down and rumbled over the road divider, making the guards dodge out of her way as she headed down the wrong way entry. “It’s been that kind of day. Hang on.”
“Hanging.” Dar grabbed the door strap as they zoomed down the onramp, hoping they weren’t going to come face to face with a squad of National Guard coming in the opposite direction. She held her breath until they reached the bottom of the ramp.
Kerry stolidly went up and over the divider again as she had the day before and they bumped down onto the luggage level and a clear path out of the airport. “At least it was clear yesterday.” She swerved around the cars and trucks parked there for safety, and then onto the exit road leading east.
“Oh yeah.” Dar turned and shoved her bag into the back seat. “Good job.”
“Good job picking this truck instead of a sports car, hon.” Kerry changed lanes and headed off onto 836. She waited until she was on the highway, then glanced to her right. “How was the flight?”
“About as good as jump seat in a cargo plane would be.” Dar shifted the seat backwards and extended her legs. “What’s up here?”
Kerry exhaled. “What isn’t? Well, most nothing is actually except we got the point to point link up just before I came out to pick you up.”
“Nice.” Dar said. “Good work. That’s a long throw.” She rested her head against her fist. “Got an email I managed to read over night from the guys at Pharma. They want to talk about the contract.”
“They called the cottage.” Kerry said. “I figured whatever it was could wait for you to get back. Didn’t sound promising.”
“No.” Dar sighed. “I should have checked that code. They probably want to cancel.”
Kerry reached over to pat her on the leg. “Is what it is, hon. Everyone did the best they could, and if that guy doesn’t get what we’re going through here he’s not worth it as a customer.” She glanced to the left as they crossed over I-95, spotting a rolling blockage full of police lights and sirens stopping traffic. “Uh oh.”
“That’s not for us is it?” Dar eyed it drolly. “I didn’t figure they could get that in place in that short a time.”
“And on the wrong highway. No. Probably some government derp.” Kerry said. “Which reminds me, your friend from the other night wants more favors.”
“Your mother went after him. He was being mean to the staff.”
Dar covered her eyes.
“Toldja it’s been one of those days.” Kerry had to smile regardless. “But you said the demo went well?” She watched Dar out of her peripheral vision, seeing her shift and half turn, watching her body language and seeing the hint of a grin tugging at the corners of her lips. “How well?”
“It went well.” Dar agreed. “I stuck the helmet on the government bean counter’s head.”
“Oh Dar.” Kerry started laughing. “Was that nice?”
“Hey he liked it.” Dar chuckled. “More to the point, he greenlit them moving forward.” She said. “So that contract’s safe, at least.”
“Yes!” Kerry danced a little in her seat.
“Even more to the point, he’s an angel investor. Interested in taking the concept and putting it into a gaming rig.” She watched Kerry’s head turn to look at her, jaw dropping slightly. “Ah ah ah. Eyes on the road. Even if we’re the only ones on it.”
Kerry jerked her attention back to the highway. “Holy bananas, Dar!” She blurted. “Are you serious?”
“I am. Lets wait till we stop so I can tell you all the gory details without risking us running off the road.” Dar exhaled as she watched the darkness creeping over the landscape, tiny islands of light springing up in isolated spots and oddly, one section of the highway lights coming on for about a block length. “Any chance of a kahlua milkshake?”
Kerry moved right to the offramp that would take them down to ground level. “Well. It’s possible by the time we get back to the office, they’ll be making and selling kahlua milkshakes, so you could be in luck.”
It was almost dark, the low, lingering dusk of the subtropics that threw everything into shadows by the time they got back to the street where the office was.
“What the hell?” Dar sat up as they turned the corner.
“Oh.” Kerry observed the sulpher lights illuminating the National Guard camp. “My friends from the other day needed a place to set up station. I figured having the guard outside our door wasn’t a bad thing.”
“Does the guard know not to mess with my dad and his friends?” Dar asked, in a quizzical tone. “That could get exciting. Not in a good way.”
“Yes they do.” Kerry reassured her. “They’re being very nice and asked permission to park in our lot which we all know they had no real reason to need.”
They pulled into the parking lot, pausing as Kerry rolled down the window and waved at the guard, the same tow headed man who’d been there when she’d left. He waved back, and gave them both an easy grin and a thumbs up.
“Well.” Dar sat back and folded her arms as they pulled past the encampment and into the back half of the lot. “Okay.”
The office building had lights showing in multiple windows, and as they parked and opened the door, the sound of generators rumbled in counterpoint to some far off thunder.
There was a brief snatch of music on the air, and the onshore breeze also brought the smell of spices and cooking meat. “Something smells good.” Dar commented. “Are we stuck here tonight? The ferry probably stopped running.”
“I’ll call over there when we get inside.” Kerry said. “I have no idea what the rules are today, since a whole crapload of some kind of brass went off the island this morning. I don’t figure they’ll force the governor to sleep in a shelter but hey. You never know.”
They walked side by side up the sidewalk. “They clean up here?” Dar looked around. “That big pile of debris is gone.”
“They did. I guess they started that part going here in the city.”
The door to the office was open to allow the breeze in, and there was a cat seated on the steps, watching them solemnly as they approached. The lights were on at the receptionist’s desk, and in the conference room and as they entered the office, they could hear many voices through the open center door into the courtyard.
Kerry glanced at Dar, who looked slightly bewildered. “There’s a lot of people here, hon. Don’t freak out.”
“Our people?” Dar asked, a trifle uncertainly.
“Our people, some people we know that aren’t our people, some people we know from the area, some people I don’t know, but I think your dad does, and some people who just showed up to work on the office.” Kerry told her. “Like I said, it’s been a day.”
“Just go with it. One of them is Sasha, and she brought her kitchen.” Kerry gently nudged her. “And I’m hungry.”
They ended up carrying sturdy Chinet paper plates upstairs and into Dar’s office, along with cups of Thai iced coffee. “Put those down here.” Dar said. “Lemme go get a light.”
Kerry set her plate and cup down on Dar’s desk and then she went over to the window, opening up the shutters that had blown shut from a random gust of wind. It allowed a breeze to come in and she sat down on the bench seat to look outside for a moment and enjoy that.
Outside she could see the darkness of the remaining trees in the back of the building, curling around the corner where her and Dar’s offices were in the northeast angle, and past those, the half hidden street that went east to the sailing club and then the bay.
It was quiet, now. She could hear the sound of the generators, both theirs and the National Guards, but it was nearer the front of the building and here at the back she could hear the sound of small waves against the seawall and faint clinks of rigging, somewhere.
A boat, riding at anchor?
Kerry turned at the sound of Dar’s footsteps and watched her come back in with a roughly teardrop shaped candle casting a warm golden glow up to highlight her face. “That’s a nice candle.”
Dar came over and set it down on the windowsill. It had a glass roundel that blocked the wind, and lit up the small area nicely. “It’s a hurricane candle.” She pronounced. “Appropriate.”
“Is it really?” Kerry inspected it, while Dar went over and retrieved their dinner, bringing the plates over and then returning for the cups. “It’s designed specifically for hurricanes?”
“Not really, no.” Dar handed her a cup and then sat down next to her, extending her legs across the floor and crossing her ankles. “But the sides keep the breeze from blowing the candle out.” She took a forkful of the spicy scented mixture on her plate and chewed it. “Mm.” She said, after a pause. “That’s good.”
“Sasha was talking about buying the sailing club and turning it into a restaurant.” Kerry told her. “I thought that sounded like a great idea. She really can cook.”
“She can.” Dar said. , glancing over her shoulder out the window towards the shore. “That’d be kind of awesome actually. “
“I told her that.” Kerry agreed. “Meantime, I told her she’s welcome to hang out here.”
“Ready made customers, with the Guard here.”
“That’s what she said.”
Dar ate a few more forkfuls. “I’m still a little weirded out by how full of people this building is. I’m not sure I get it.” She admitted. “I mean… I’m glad, stuff’s getting fixed but..” She looked over her other shoulder at the inside of the building and shook her head.
“It’s weird.” Kerry agreed.
“I talked to Zoe today, about it. You know, I wasn’t really that cool with her hanging out here overnight. But she told me something interesting.”
“Mm?” Dar continued chewing, reasoning more was forthcoming. She leaned back against the windowsill and watched Kerry’s expression in the candlelight, seeing some tired introspection there. “This is her tribe.” She guessed after a moment’s quiet pause.
Kerry looked up, a trifle startled, their eyes meeting. “She didn’t say that but… “ She paused. “She meant that I think. Yeah. I mean, she has .. she only has work in common with some of the people here and nothing in common with some of the people here but she feels safe.”
Dar chewed for a minute in reflective silence. “Well.” She took a sip of the iced coffee and swallowed the spicy Korean pork mixture. “Carlos and his gang are here, and Dad and his guys. Not really surprising. It’s safer here than almost anywhere, and now we got the guard over there.”
“True, but it wasn’t that.” Kerry forked up some of the barbeque. “She said at the shelter, everyone was just angry. Just bitching, you know?”
“Well.” Dar moved her shoulders in a slight shrug. “It’s understandable.”
“Yeah sure, I would be too. But here they’re not. It’s not comfortable, but everyone is just sort of…I don’t know. It feels like safe shelter to them.” Kerry said. “I’m flattered. I mean, people just show up here with useful skills and building materials and start rebuilding our walls, you know?”
“I’m sure they’re expecting to get paid.” Dar’s eyes twinkled a little. “Lets not get crazy altruistic.”
“No, I know.” Kerry chuckled softly. “I don’t know. It just touched me, seeing that.” She said, in a wistful tone. “I talked to Maria this morning, from the cottage.” She continued, in a brisker voice. “Tomas is doing well. Now her worry is, if they release him, what she’s going to do. They can’t live in that house.”
“Not with him in a cast in any case.” Dar said. “Can we send them up to Melbourne?”
“She doesn’t want to go. I asked her. She’s got a lot of family down here, and they’ve been visiting, but they’re all in shelters.”
“Hm. So I guess going to Colorado would be out then.” Dar mused. “She could set up the satellite office they asked me for when I was there.”
“What?” Kerry cocked her head a little to one side, intrigued rather than startled. “By the base?”
Dar cleared her throat a little. “The angel investor lives there. He suggested we move the company there. Said it had good office space and a good local workforce.” She set her now empty plate down and hiked a knee up, lacing her fingers together around it. “Thinks he can pull together the resources to launch this thing and market it in time for next Christmas.”
Kerry studied her face intently. “Would you actually do that?”
“Would we actually do that?” Dar countered. “This is our company not mine.”
Kerry put her hand out and touched Dar’s arm. “Didn’t mean it that way.” She said. “I was just remembering asking you if we’d consider moving and you were right away, like no way.”
It was odd, and intensely intimate, this candlelit conversation, as though the darkness provided an unseen clarity.
“I know I said that. But was that me just being an asshole?” Dar asked, moving her head in silent conciliation. “What makes sense, Ker? If this guy can deliver what he says he can, that takes this to a whole other level.”
Did that matter to them? Kerry put her plate down on top of Dar’s and set her ice coffee down next to it. “That must have been some change you made.” She shifted the conversation slightly. “We should look at what all our options are, sweetheart. If that’s the right thing to do, we’ll know.”
Dar smiled in response, her body relaxing. “It was one of those things where after I found it I was like…” She bit her lower lip a little. “Huh.It’s a new way of addressing hardware.”
Kerry’s brows lifted.
“I’m not sure what made me write it that way but.. I mean, it seemed obvious once I saw it.” Dar said. “It’s really cool. Jake and Elvis are going to lose their minds when they try the new code.” She looked up at Kerry, peering at her from between some slightly overlong hair obscuring her eyes, and grinned briefly. “Guess I got lucky typing away there on my keyboard waiting for Armegeddon.”
“The hell with them *I* want to try it.” Kerry laughed. “Maybe this damn storm did someone some good.” She lifted Dar’s hand up and kissed the knuckles. “Good job, hon, and you know it’s not luck.”
They both paused, as the sound of yelling voices echoed softly through the air. “Tell me someone isn’t causing trouble.” Kerry sighed, exasperated. “Jesus Christ.”
“Around here with that platoon outside?” Dar stood up and pulled Kerry up with her. “C’mon, let’s see what the hell’s going on.”
Everyone had heard both the shouting and the rhythmic steps on the stairs as Dar and Kerry came rambling down them, causing a jam up around the receptionist’s desk that fronted the front door as no one could figure out how to move forward and get out of the way at the same time.
Caught at the back of it, Dar paused, leaning her elbow on Kerry’s shoulder as Carlos and his crew sorted themselves out and pushed through the entry.
“Lord.” Andrew was standing near the stairs.
“What do you figure, Dad?” Dar asked, as the crowd cleared and they were able to move forward.
“Ah do not know.” Andy skulked ahead of them to the door and through it, and they both noticed the automatic in a holster at the small of his back. “But ah supposed we’re fixing to find out.”
“People would have to be nuts to cause a problem around here.” Kerry commented as they went out into the night, finding the space between the front of the building and the National Guard camp empty and quiet.
The sounds were coming from past the military camp, and it occurred to her that there really was no reason for them to even be getting involved.
“Why the hell are we out here?” Dar conveniently read her mind and spoke her thoughts aloud, putting her hand on Kerry’s back as they sped up to catch up to the rest of the gang already streaming towards the noise. “Do we not think the National Guard can handle a street mob?”
“We don’t know that it’s a mob.” Kerry said, in a reasonable tone. “And I agree with you, but here we are.” She could now see the soldiers up near the edge of the road, and past it, in the shadows a reasonably large crowd of people. “Oh. Okay. Maybe it is a mob.” She conceded.
“Maybe it is.” Dar said. “It’s better I guess to know what the hells going on.” She and Kerry caught up to the line of people who had emerged from her office, and saw Hank and Pete come up behind the ranks of them, rifles cradled in their arms.
“C’mon.” Dar took Kerry’s hand and started forward, firmly pushing people aside as they made their way through the crowd. “Let’s figure this out before someone gets shot.”
“Right with you hon.” Kerry was glad enough to follow her partner through the path that hastily opened, and they ended up right next to Carlos who had gotten to the front of the gang. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Carlos was, now, just standing and watching, as the crowd surged against the line of soldiers. “Glad those guys are here. That’s a lot of people.”
“What do they want?” Dar asked, aware of her father coming up next to her. “Any idea what’s up, Dad?”
They were just at the back end of the guard camp, where the halo of their lights spread but all the attention was focused on what looked to Dar like about a hundred people who were in the road in front of the camp, some of them carrying torches.
“Are those tiki torches?” Kerry murmured. “Someone do a run on Pier 1 before the storm?”
“Home Depot carries those.” Dar was using her height to advantage, studying the crowd. “In the garden area. I can smell the citronella they’re burning.” She moved forward a few steps to get a better look.
The group of people were a mixed lot, from what she could see but mostly men, and mostly in shorts or jeans and tank tops, some of them carrying backpacks and coolers, and all of them angry. They were yelling at the guards in angry Spanish.
“Let me go see what’s going on.” Dar started forward and after a second Kerry caught up with her, and they walked up the road past the perimeter of the National Guard camp along the entrance way to their parking lot, aware from the sound of footsteps behind them they were not alone and that their little gang was behind them.
Expected. Kerry could sense the crowd’s agitation, and as they came up to the crossroads where their parking lot turned into the road, the guard captain came out and started speaking to the group as one of the sentries hurried over to meet them.
“Oh, hang on ladies, hold up there.” The sentry said. “Just hold off back of the road there. Don’t want you to get mixed up in this.”
“It’s our parking lot.” Dar moved past him. “We want to know what’s going on here.”
Kerry gave the sentry a brief, sympathetic smile as she scooted past him, and her cadre of ill assorted weightlifters, nerds and armed veterans followed. “We’ll be fine.” She reassured the man. “Really.”
Dar walked past the barrier fence that had been thrown up around the encampment and crossed over to where the captain was standing, a bullhorn in one fist. On either side of him were young, slightly overwhelmed looking guards, their automatic rifles held ready in front of them.
She identified one problem immediately, in that the crowd was yelling in Spanish, and the captain wasn’t getting even a word of it. He was telling them over and over again in Southern inflected English to disperse, and move away from the camp, and most of the crowd wasn’t getting any of that in return.
She slid past the right guard and tapped him on the shoulder.
He jumped, jerking around and the guard with the gun whirled and took a step back in surprise. “Who…” He then glanced past Dar, and saw Kerry standing there with her hands behind her back, a bemusedly humorous expression on her face. “Oh, ah..”
Dar offered a hand. “Hi. I’m Dar.” She gestured behind her thumb. “I think you know my partner Kerry.”
The captain turned fully around and focused on her, blinking a little in surprise. “Oh right! Sure! Of course I couldn’t really see ya… ah, ladies you probably don’t want to be mixing up in this here.”
“Mind if I help you out with these people?” Dar didn’t wait for him to connect the dots. “They’re asking for water and ice.” She held up a hand to the crowd who’d been edging closer. “Hold on, let me talk to him.” She added, in Spanish.
The captain recovered his composure. “Right.. okay, ma’am I can understand that, but see, we don’t have any water, or ice here.” He said. “I’ve been trying to tell them, if they need provisions they need to go on up to that downtown location near to the seaport.” He made a vague gesture northward. “We can’t do nothing for them.”
Dar held her hand out for the bullhorn. “Gimme.”
After a pause, he handed it to her. Dar half turned, bringing the bullhorn up to her lips. “These guys are just soldiers. They don’t have supplies.” She told the crowd in Spanish. “Place with water and ice, is Bayside.”
The nearest of the crowd, a tall, grizzle haired man with a ripped tshirt rolled and tied around his head like a headband threw his hands up. “What do you mean? We were downtown they told us to come here!”
Dar repeated that in English to the captain.
The captain shook his head. “I don’t know anything about that, but take a look.” He turned and spread his arms out, indicating the camp. “We got some tarps, sandbags, and tents. That’s it. We had a truck full of water but they told us to send it over to Bayside.”
“They sent all their water to Bayside.” Dar told the man, who had now come up next to her.
He cursed. “We have nothing.” He told her, in Spanish. “The water is out in Doral, where we live. Not even so that we can boil it. Nobody thought that would happen. We have chlorine to treat it, you know?”
“Sure.” Dar agreed quietly.
“Evaporated milk for the babies, we can’t use it.” The man looked at her, his eyes a little on the desperate side. “Cup of soups, rice, nothing.”
Kerry had eased up on the other side of Dar and was listening in silence, guessing what was going on by her partner’s body language. After a moment, Carlos came up and joined them.
“They need water.” Dar turned to the captain. “They have busted pipes or something where they live. They’ve got no water left.”
The captain nodded. “I get that. I don’t have any.”
Kerry cleared her throat. “Could we call over to Bayside and see if there’s some there before we send these folks over again? It must be super frustrating to go back and forth.” She had her hands in her front pockets and her tone was mild.
The trick with Kerry was, Dar pondered, she always sounded so kind and reasonable you just wanted to agree with her because to disagree with that kind, interested, sincere engagement by definition made you unreasonable and feel like a jerky jerk.
And the captain looked like he wanted to disagree, wanted to tell her, and Dar, and all the people standing there this was not his problem, and go back to having his dinner or whatever it was he’d been doing.
But he was also a smart man, and the words had time to be absorbed and reason won. “Why, sure.” He responded. “We can do that, sure. That’s a good idea, Ms Kerry.”
Kerry smiled at him.
“Jackson, give them folks up to the north a call on the radio wouldja?” The captain directed a tow headed woman standing nearby. “Find out if they got any supplies left.”
“Yes, sir.” The woman trotted off.
“They’re calling over there to see if they have water.” Carlos told the nearest of the crowd, in Spanish. “My bosses gotcha.” He added, confidently. “Don’t worry about it.”
“This is how we get into this stuff isn’t it?” Kerry shifted her hands from her pockets to behind her back, clasping them together and rocking a little on the balls of her feet.
“Yes.” Dar agreed. “What are we going to do if they don’t have any?” She turned her head and regarded her partner. “Now that we’re in it?”
Kerry eyed her in silence.
“Run a hose from our building?”
“We’re not sure our water is any good, Dar.” Kerry replied, in a mild tone. “They’re boiling it to drink and cook.”
“That’s smart.” The captain nodded at her. “Can’t be too careful, with all the pressure loss.”
“They had loads of water in the Cargomaster I flew back here on.” Dar told the captain, half turning to face him. “Over at the airport. They were unloading it.”
The soldiers around him were still alert, rifles cradled, watching the crowd who had stopped agitating for a moment, waiting to hear about the water.
“Ten, twelve pallets of it.” Dar continued. “So you could send someone out there to pick some up.”
“May be so.” The man agreed. “But likely it’s marked for someplace though. Seems like everyone’s looking for supplies.” He glanced around and then back at her. “Not Like you all are, with the boiling. I bet your folks have antiseptic tabs, too.” He looked pointedly at the crowd. “I been over in there. You all were prepared.”
“No, I think.. “ Dar turned. “Is the water bad, or off?” She asked in Spanish.
“It is off.” The man answered readily. “No pressure, nothing.”
“That’s what I thought.” Dar turned to the captain. “It’s off totally. They can’t boil or chemical it. Probably a busted main.”
“Well.” He said, with a tiny shrug. “You’re supposed to have a three day supply, y’know.”
Kerry sighed. She’d heard that a lot lately, not only from the soldiers but on the television from frustrated government spokesmen, repeated by the television anchors. “Gallon jugs.” She murmured.
“Yes, that’s right.” The captain nodded at her. “Big old jugs, like they sell in the supermarket. We stock up on em every year, round these times. We don’t get many storms, but when one comes it’s a big old mess in our parts.” He looked past Dar. “Aint’ that right, Mr. Roberts?”
“Ain’t be there for a long time.” Andy replied. “What alls we’re gonna do here for these folks?” He asked. “They got kids at home.”
Hank came up behind him, cradling his gun, silent and listening.
“Sir.” The tow haired Jackson came back. “They’re all out sure enough in Bayside, and supply said the load that came in on the plane is heading up to Aventura.”
Aventura. Kerry had a sudden flash of memory of a three story shopping mall, and her first outing with Dar. It had been white, and full of high end stores, and replete with the scent of many perfumeries and the distinct scent of expensive clothes.
“Well, that’s too bad then.” He turned. “Sorry about that, all. They just don’t have any, and we don’t either. Maybe the next load, coming in tomorrow morning.”
Kerry thought about what they had in the office, and kept silent, knowing their couple cases of sixteen ounce water bottles wouldn’t do much. “What are they supposed to do?”
“Wait.” He gave her a small, brief twist of his lips. “Close the gates up, we’re done here.” He turned and walked back into the camp, as the guards rolled shut a hastily erected chain link fence gate that now also had a line of soliders behind it, holding guns.
“Asshole.” Andy called after him.
Both Kerry and Dar grimaced, as the man turned to stare at him. “Okay.” Dar turned and faced the man and the crowd. “They don’t have anything to give out. None of the water that came in today came here, and Bayside’s out, like the told you.”
“Jesus.” The man looked exhausted, his face hollow. “No one will help us.”
The crowd murmured, at a loss.
“Can’t you go to a shelter?” Carlos asked. “There’s three of them over that way.”
“They are full.” The man answered simply. “We went too late. Everything’s too late.”
Kerry tugged Dar’s sleeve. “Can they try the big base on the north side of Doral?” She asked. “The one where I was? I bet they have water. They had piles of stuff there, Dar.”
“Southcom?” Dar mused. “They probably wouldn’t be amused if a crowd showed up there.”
“How bout I rev up the Vee and take some of them over there and see.” Hank offered. “Can’t hurt to ask, can it? You’ll go with us, huh Andy? Them boys’ll listen to you.”
“I’ll go along to translate.” Carlos immediately agreed. “That’s a good idea, head over there with maybe that guy, and the other one there, and find out.” He said. “And Mr. R’s right. That guy could give a shit and he’s an asshat.”
“Be right back.” Hank turned and trotted off towards the building, holding his rifle in both hands. “See if Zo wants to go.” He called back over his shoulder. “Nother translator.”
Dar turned. “So.” She walked over to the crowd. “Some of my guys want to ride over to Southcom down on 41st and see if they’ve got anything there. You up for that? They can take a couple people.” She asked him in Spanish. “Then if they’ve got some, everyone can go over there.”
Two of the nearest men had come closer and were listening to her. “You think they have some?”
“They might.” Dar said. “We don’t know, but there isn’t any here.”
“Why not try?” The first of the men said. “Yes I will go. Of course. Why not?” He held his hand out. “I am Henry.” He said. “This is Juan, and Maikel, my friends and neighbors.” He clasped Dar’s hand firmly. “Thank you for helping us out.”
Kerry put her hands back into her pockets, wondering if sending a Humvee with a roof mounted machine gun full of armed veterans and desperate residents was really the best idea on the table. She glanced at Andy, who had turned his back on the guard camp and folded his bare arms over his chest. “Pissed you off, huh dad?”
“Some bitch.” Andy frowned. “Ah do not care for that don’t give a shit attitude.” He said. “S’what they get paid for, this kinda thing.”
“It’s a humanitarian mission.” Kerry said. “Yes, I get it.”
“Don’t matter if them people are being jackass. Got their homes wrecked, family’s hurting.” Andy glowered out at the crowd. “How’d he like it if it was his kids not eatin?”
Well.” Kerry cleared her throat a little. “I understand what they are saying, about why didn’t these folks prepare, you know? Why didn’t they have jugs of water and things like that but of course, it doesn’t matter. They need help.”
Kerry smiled. “Dar gets her crusader gene from you.”
Andy turned around and faced her. “Say what?”
A loud horn sounded behind them and they both turned to see the Humvee headed their way, with Hank at the wheel, and just visible, Zoe in the passenger seat, eyes wide as baseballs. Behind it, Hank was hauling his landscaping trailer, empty of anything but some coils of rope.
“That’ll do it.” Andy stepped forward. “C’mon boy.” He tapped Carlos on the shoulder. “Lets go find us some jugs.” He got into the front of the Humvee next to Zoe, and Carlos piled into the back with Henry and Juan, as the crowd cleared out of the way to let them get out onto the road.
Dar took a step back as well, ending up next to Kerry who slid her fingers into the back of her partner’s shorts. “Should we..”
“No.” Kerry said, firmly. “They’ve got a better chance of not having anything weird happen if we’re not there.” She waved at the truck as it trundled off. “Lets go get more kim chee.” She started backwards, tugging Dar with her. “And just be glad your mother isn’t here.”
It was warm and sticky inside the office. Dar perched on the window seat and took advantage of the breeze coming off the water, listening to Kerry in her own office talking to two of their techs. The hurricane candle was flickering sedately on her desk, providing an amber glow.
It had been a very long day. She really wanted to just go home and get comfortable and not worry about finding water for people or what to do with mad customers and irate government contractors, when it would be more fun to think about the AI rig and it’s potential.
She wriggled her shoulderblades, getting them into a more comfortable spot against the window frame and watched the clouds gathering, covering the moon and casting the exterior into utter darkness, that she could nevertheless pick out dim outlines in.
Dar looked up and over at the door to the inside of the office. “Over here.” She responded. “Catching a breeze.”
“Oh, there ya are.” Their LAN tech entered. “There’s a phone call for you?” He said, tentatively. “I think it’s your mom.” He added. “Well, I mean, yeah, it’s your mom. I mean, she said so.”
“Ho boy.” Dar got up and followed him down the hall, dodging multiple sawhorses with plasterboard on them and buckets tucked neatly underneath. They arrived in the room where the radio had been installed, and now there was an IP phone there, it’s receiver off hook. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” The tech grinned and went on further down to where the techs had taken over the support office and shifted it around to become a bunkroom, using the military cots and gauzy mosquito netting along with desk panels to make cozily weird post apocalyptic tech nests for themselves.
Nerd camp. Despite the need for it, the setup had made Dar laugh every time she poked her head in, and now the moreso because she’d caught the addition of a network cable snaking out under the door of the radio room from the new switch over into that doorway as well.
She suspected if she logged in and inspected the switch she would find a wireless access point on the other end of the cable, giving the techs the comfort of running their phones off it and getting their personal mail and that made her a little annoyed she hadn’t thought of running one herself.
Oh well. They were not going to be there much longer.
Dar sat down and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hi mom.” Dar rested her head against one fist. “What’s up?”
“The governor’s moron won’t leave us alone. He has this file he wants sent, and won’t take no again from me.” Ceci told her promptly. “I told him you’re not here, which is visually evident since you’re not a midget living in that big black rolling case but he doesn’t care.”
“Well, I’m not there, so he can just...” Dar said. “Wait, hang on.” She put the phone down and went back down to her office, picking up her backpack and bringing it back with her to the room.
She set the pack down and sat down, pulling out her laptop and putting it on the table. “Where the hell is my cable.” She rummaged inside the sack. “Damn it.”
“You asking me?” Ceci’s voice emerged tinnily from the receiver. “There’s a pile of cables here not sure what you want done with them.”
Dar glanced up, and put the phone on speaker. “No, sorry. Talking to myself. Did he leave the file?”
“Is he there banging on the door? If he is tell him to give you the file and have Jake stick it into a laptop and mount it.” Dar watched her machine boot. “I can get to that router from here and send it. It’s late enough for the rest of them to have keeled over in their bad wine.”
Ceci chuckled softly. “Hold on. He’s probably walking around in a circle outside cursing and checking his watch. Let me go see.”
She put the phone on hold and a crinkly stuttering musical tone emerged from the speaker.
“That’s gross.” Dar logged into her machine and connected it to the switch on the desk, rattling impatiently on the keyboard. She connected to the island and rummaged around in the router, tweaking some settings and applying them, grunting in approval when the music smoothed out.
Then she idly went through the logs, applying a packet filter to them and reviewing the traffic with an impersonal curiosity at the results.
“They should encrypt DNS queries.” She remarked. “I wonder if all those yonks out there know how much of their web surfing could be splashed all over the Herald just from some rando nerd like me messing in the network.”
The music cut off. “Dar?”
“Right here where you left me.” Dar acknowledged. “Counting the porn sites.”
“Okay, our friend the governor’s friend is hustling back to his bodega. He’s going to send either Thing 1 or Thing 2 back over with the file.”
“How’s it going over there?”
Dar studied the small digital screen of the phone. “Do you really want to know?” She queried. “Did they tell you they have the national guard camped in front of the door?”
“Your father did say.” Ceci chuckled. “He doesn’t really care for them.” She conceded. “They’re from back home, he said, and apparently they’re prouder of that than he is.”
“Well.” Dar exhaled. “A bunch of people showed up and they wouldn’t give them the time of day so now he really doesn’t like them.”
“He and Hank took off in that Humvee and headed over to Doral to find water.”
There was a brief silence. “For the guard?”
“For the people.” Dar rested her chin on her fist. “Hey, the government liked my program.”
“Hold on. Is your father going to get into trouble?” Her mother asked. “Trouble as in you’re going to have to go bail him out?”
“No, we didn’t go with them.” Dar reassured her. “I’m sure they’ll be back with a load of water, along with two dozen pizzas and a case of beer, none the worse for wear. Unlike if we’d gone, where we’d have ended up having to modify a Martian spaceship and I’d be calling you from the moon.”
Another silence. “Well, Paladar, that is actually pretty likely the truth. So they liked your thing huh?” Ceci asked. “Is that the artificial insemination program you all were talking about?”
Dar started laughing.
“Was that funny?”
“They probably would have really liked that. Artificial intelligence. Yeah.” Dar said. “Project’s moving forward. So at least we’ll get paid for it.”
“Oh well that is good news.” Her mother said. “The kids here can’t wait to try whatever it is you did after hearing it went well. They need a helmet? They keep talking about a helmet.”
“I have it here.” Dar said. “Tell them I’ll bring it back with me and they can run it tomorrow.” She shifted a little. “How’s it going there? People still yelling?”
“Wait, I hear the minions coming hold on.”
The hold music came back and Dar got up, walking across the hall and into the server room and opening a metal cabinet mounted on the wall. Inside was a large square case and she lifted it out and took it with her back into the radio room, setting it down on the floor before she resumed her seat.
There was still hold music playing, and in the distance she could hear a soft rumble of thunder. The breeze coming in the window brought with it the far off smell of rain, and sea, and the air was so full of moisture she could almost feel it condensing on her tongue.
It had grown mostly quiet outside, though if she concentrated she could faintly hear the sound of voices in the central open space behind her, across the hallway and through all the open windows and beyond that the sound of crickets in the sawgrass outside.
She could hear the faint creaks and pops of the building shifting a little around her and she imagined she could hear the light scratch of Kerry’s pen as she sat at her desk, writing.
Dar jumped, as the phone music stopped and Ceci’s voice came through the speaker. “He got the file?”
“The kids have it, and it’s in the laptop, and the laptop is sitting here.” Her mother dutifully reported. “Everyone is standing here, expecting you to do something to turn it into a circus clown or I don’t know what.” She said. “Hey listen, they also told me they’re running the ferry all night tonight, because the government people are still out there.”
“That’s great news.” Dar remoted into the other laptop and examined the thumb drive in the port. “Twice the size of the last one.” She frowned. “It’s going to take forever.” She set up the transfer then she paused, and as she had the other time, she pulled up a file editor and glanced at the file.
Names, names and addresses, and brief descriptions of damages and .. Dar studied the records in silence for a long minute, scanning the list of them. “Hang on.” She got up and left the radio room, walking down the hallway and back to her office and through it, through the interconnecting door into Kerry’s.
“Hey hon.” Kerry was seated behind her desk, a candle planted on it’s surface, writing on a pad in the candlelight. “Where were you? I wondered where you went.”
“They’re running the ferry all night. Want to wrap it up here after Dad gets back and go home?” Dar perched on the edge of her partner’s desk. “I was just talking to my mother. That jackass contractor has another file of names for me to send.”
‘Sure I do.” Kerry sat back in her chair. “So that guy’s back huh?” She said. “You don’t want to do it?” She looked up at Dar, watching the faint candlelight outline her profile. “Just because he’s a jerk? At least that other guy brought decent empanadas.”
“I saw all the names he’s sending. Whole list is from the Gables, Miami Beach, Aventura, Doral.. every high rent district.” Dar said, bluntly. “There’s no names on there from North Miami or Sweetwater or any place else.”
“Does that surprise you?”
“Why wouldn’t there be damage reports there?” Dar asked. “There has to be thousands of claims.. you saw those houses out by Maria’s.”
“I’m sure there are. But that guy?” Kerry gave her partner a wry look. “He’s there to take care of the people who donate big to the politicians, Dar. He’s taking care of who he’s taking care of. C’mon.” She put one hand on Dar’s knee. “Everyone else has to wait for the adjusters to get here, if their insurance company even bothers to send them and doesn’t just write the state off.”
Dar looked at her.
“You saw the damage. This storm’s going to run every private insurance company out of here. They can’t pay all those claims, and I was talking to Zoe before. There are a lot people who fully own those homes and didn’t have insurance.”
Dar folded her arms. “That’s incredibly unfair.” She stated flatly. “Those people don’t have third homes to fly off to.”
Kerry nodded. “You’re absolutely right.” She agreed at once. “But if you’re thinking of not sending that file, or sending it to Taiwan, it won’t change what he’s doing. He’ll just send it some other way and the same people will get the same special treatment because that’s kinda how it works.”
Dar’s eyes narrowed dourly, but she remained silent because she knew, and she knew Kerry knew, that Kerry was right.
As though in acknowledgment of that, Kerry leaned forward, using her other hand to give Dar a pat on the calf. “He’s a jerk, hon, but the planet’s full of them, y’know?”
“I don’t like it.” Dar finally said. She stood up off the desk and ruffled Kerry’s hair, then headed back out and towards the radio room, muttering under her breath as she walked.
Kerry put the pen she’d been writing with between her fingers and studied the empty doorway, taking the time to just sit and feel the intense love she felt for Dar in that moment.
It wasn’t that Dar wasn’t a realist, she was. She knew perfectly well how the world worked. Kerry had perhaps a bit more cynical worldview caused by her upbringing, but not by much. Dar just really didn’t like blatantly visibly unfairness and she championed the underdog as naturally as breathing.
But of course, Dar had never in her life considered herself in any sense an underdog in any situation. Her assumption, always, was that she would achieve whatever it was she was after and any roadblocks she had to move out of her way were just incidental problems to be solved. She never took any of them personally.
With a faint smile, Kerry stood up and went to the door, crossing the hall and rambling down the steps to the first floor. She paused to look outside, peering past the guard camp in hopes she would see the returning Humvee, hopefully with it’s trailer of water.
Instead, she saw a single, lone guard soldier coming towards her, a young crewcutted man with a rifle slung over his back. Kerry went out o the porch and stood there, waiting for him.
“Yep.” Kerry smiled briefly at him. “What’s up?”
“Ma’am, there’s a person who’s asking to come back in here. Says she knows you all, but she’s got no ID or nothin.” The soldier reported. “My lieutenant said to hold her there. Maybe one of those locals just trying to get past us.”
Kerry shrugged slightly. “Sure, lets go see who it is.” She motioned him in the direction of the camp. “If they’re asking for me, chances are it’s legit.”
She walked alongside the soldier down the path and across the front part of the parking lot, where Dar’s truck was parked, as a gust of damp, cooler air rustled the trees on either side. “Rain again.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The soldier said, a touch mournfully. “That’s what they told us.”
“Well, it cools the air off.”
They walked along the barrier the soldiers had put up and into the pools of light from the generator serviced pole fixtures and as they did Kerry heard her name being called.
Startled, she looked up and past the soldier and shaded her eyes from the light. Standing just outside the National Guard camp was a slim figure, dressed in a tshirt and jeans, a sturdy backpack on her back, who was now waving at her.
“Mayte!” Kerry yelled in response. “Is that the person?” She asked the soldier. “She definitely belongs here.”
“Yes ma’am.” The man said. “I guess so if you know her.” His voice sounded doubtful.
Kerry reached the gate and found Mayte there being blocked by two armed soldiers that she herself walked past without hesitation. “What are you doing here?” She opened her arms and they exchanged hugs. “How’s your dad? They were putting that walking cast on this morning when I talked to mom.”
Mayte looked at her, then looked at the guards, hesitating.
“C’mon.” Kerry easily interpreted the look. “And guys..” She addressed the guards, who were watching her with furtive, sideways looks. “If someone asks for us by name, just let them past. I’ve got another dozen people out there I haven’t heard from.”
Without waiting for an answer Kerry steered Mayte back along the road and left the soldiers behind. “Sorry they stopped you. They’re a little clueless.” She said. “They’re from Alabama and nothing here makes much sense to them.”
“Ah, Si.” Mayte relaxed. “They talked like Dar’s papa.”
“Same part of the world he’s from.”
“So yes.” Mayte continued. “Mama is still at the hotel next to the hospital, but I thought I would go out and see what I could do about our house you know?”
“Sure.” Kerry said. “But can you even get over there? I saw a news report it was still flooded in those parts.” They reached the door and she ushered Mayte through and into the building. “As you can see, things are pretty weird in here too.”
Mayte glanced up and down. “Oh, it is not so bad in here.” She sounded surprised. “Is it new already?”
“Sort of.” Kerry pointed at the central door. “I can explain better out there.” She walked out onto the porch and a paused. Around a small hibachi about a dozen people were gathered, one of them strumming a guitar.
“Some people in the area are doing some work for us.” She indicated the construction area, and the sawhorses, with their stacks of plywood and plaster lathe nearby.
Mayte stopped and looked around. “Oo!” She made a surprised exclamation. “Do we know these people>?”
“We do now.” Kerry said cheerfully. “So anyway, you were saying about your house?”
“I cannot get there.” Mayte turned to face her. “I tried to go, but they have fenced off the whole neighborhood. I found one of my neighbors, he said all the people were taken out.”
Kerry nodded. “Makes sense.”
Mayte stuck her hands in her jeans pockets. “And then I .. “ She glanced around and then back at Kerry. “There is nothing to do at the hotel. You just can watch the TV all the time and it’s depressing.” She confessed. “So I told mama I was going to try to come here.”
Kerry’s pale brow lifted. “She was okay with that?”
“No.” Mayte grinned ruefully. “She was not okay at all, but I am here.” She rushed on. “Papa is doing fine, and they are treating him and mama very nicely. I told mama it would be better if I came here and tried to help you.”
“That’s kind of what everyone’s said so far.” Her boss admitted. “I even had a few of the folks from ILS show up and we put them to work. Celeste is over at the island helping my mother in law hold the fort down there. Jake and Elvis are on the island coding.”
Mayte’s eyes widened. “Wow.”
“Zoe and Carlos are out with my father in law and some of his friends trying to find water for those people out there.” Kerry continued. “I just sent Mark and his wife up to Melbourne so you’re in good company. But it’s not too comfortable here, Mayte. We do have some generator power but no AC.”
“That is fine, Kerry.” Mayte smiled. “It is better than all my family, who are in the shelters. It is not good there. I knew if I came here, then one of my aunts would come and stay by mama and use that room. The rest of them are full and it will be better for her, you know?”
Footsteps sounded on the floorboards behind them and Kerry turned her head, to see Dar emerging from the hallway. “Hey hon, look who’s here.”
Dar came forward, dusting her hands off, a look of satisfaction on her face. “Hey Mayte.” She greeted the younger woman. “Come over to join the gang?”
“Hello Dar.” Mayte responded. “Si, I did. I cannot believe all the things going on here.” She looked around the yard. “Mama was right. She said at least if I came to here things would be happening.” She half turned again. “You said Zoe was .. what was Zoe doing?”
“There’s a crowd of folks outside who need water.” Kerry said. “So.. the national guard didn’t have any, and we thought maybe there would be some over in Doral. So they took a truck there to see if they could bring some back. There’s some water pipes broken nearby I guess.”
Mayte regarded her with a bemused look.
“Yes, the national guard should be doing that.” Kerry didn’t miss a beat. “We shouldn’t even be involved but here we are.”
“Here we are.” Mayte agreed. “We are always finding the trouble.”
“Lets introduce you to everyone.” Kerry clapped her on the back. “Since you’ll be in charge when we leave.” She hooked a finger through the belt loop on Dar’s jeans. “C’mon.”
“Do I want to be in charge of things?” Mayte asked, doubtfully. “I am not really sure what is going on.”
“Neither are we. Just roll with it.”