Fair Winds and Following Seas
Dar was starting to doubt her decision to start off so late in the day as they rounded the bulk of Dinner Key and through the shallow channel that fronted the part of the coastline near where their office was.
The sky was still very cloudy, and the light was dimming to a dusky hue, and they had passed cluster after cluster of shattered docks in the large marina at Dinner Key.
Now, as they came closer to the much smaller set of docks at the Coconut Grove sailing club, they found the wooden structures perilously destructed, most of the planks cracked or missing and the pylons at almost right angles to the waves.
No boats were in the dock. All of them, smaller craft, had been lifted out and were stored in the nearby concrete shelters, which seemed to be relatively intact.
Dar backed the engines down to dead slow, and the roar settled into a low rumble as she held the boat against the current while Andy and Kerry went onto the bow to look around.
She could see trees down. The sailing club had a parking lot, and a road behind it, and past that was the back entrance to their office. There were so many trees around the place though, she couldn’t see past them.
Kerry turned around on the bow and looked up at her, the faint shrug working through her body visible.
Dar regarded the scene, then she triggered the anchor, hearing the harsh rumble as the chain unrolled in the hull and released the heavy iron hook into the water.
Watching the sonar, she saw the anchor hit bottom, and gently backed the engines a bit as she angled the boat across one of the pylons, catching the anchor on the debris to hold the Dixie in place. Once she was sure it was snagged, she put the engines into idle and waited as the current realigned the boat.
It stayed in place. With a grunt, Dar shut down the engines and then the air was filled with the rush of wind through the debris and the creak of building parts moving when they should not have been. She paused to see if anything was going to happen, then she shrugged and went down the ladder to the back deck.
“What a mess.” Kerry came around the corner of the gunwhale and joined her, stuffing her camera back into her pocket. “Can’t see anything. Can you see the place from up top?”
“Nope.” Dar went to the side of the boat and regarded the water. “Guess we’ll have to..” She paused in mid word, as Andrew put his hands on the railing and hoisted himself over it, going boots first into the water. “Dad.”
“He just did it before you could.” Kerry remarked wryly. “But I think you were right not getting any closer. I could see a bunch of stuff in the water just ahead of us there.” She went to Dar’s side as they watched Andrew pop to the surface, shaking the water out of his eyes. “Careful, dad!”
Andrew turned like an otter in the water and regarded her with a grin, then he turned again and started swimming towards the wreckage of the dock, using a sweeping underwater stroke.
Dar went up the side of the boat to the bow to keep him in sight, walking across the deck of the gently rocking craft as she looked up and down the coastline, wrack filled and silent.
She spotted something. “Dad!”
Andrew paused in mid stroke and turned, eyes scanning.
“Snake!” Dar pointed to his right.
“Got it.” Andrew drew one hand up, the bulk of a large knife tucked into his fingers as he tred water watching the snake skim towards him, it’s rounded head about six inches off the surface.
But the snake veered off and went past him, intent on some target that wasn’t a large human being blocking his way. Andrew turned to watch it go, then he restored the knife to it’s sheath under the water and continued to swim towards the shore.
“Hm.” Dar said.
“Hm.” Kerry echoed.
Dar went to the back deck and picked up the backpack she’d put on the boat. She opened up one of the encasements and removed a large dry bag from it, putting the backpack inside the drybag and closing the top of it.
Kerry had grabbed one of the smaller bags and dropped her camera and her sat phone into it.
Dar went and opened the hatch in the back deck that would allow them to walk onto the fantail, where there was a ladder that could be extended into the water.
“Did you bring the keys?” Kerry asked. “I don’t really want to come back here to find out someone stole our boat, hon.”
Dar paused, regarding her. “Maybe you should stay here?” She suggested. “The gun’s in the cabin, right?” She added. “Because that’s a damn good point. Even if I take the startup key, if someone lets the anchor loose this thing is heading for Havana with that current.”
“We don’t want that to happen.” Kerry said, somberly. “But I don’t really want to not go with you either.” She pondered. “Why not stay here and let Dad explore?”
Dar considered that, leaning both hands against the back wall of the deck. “I could.” She admitted.
“But you don’t want to.” Kerry concluded.
“I think I should go.” Dar said. “I know dad’s got mad skills but still.”
They looked at each other for a long, silent moment. Then Kerry nodded. “Okay.” She agreed. “I’ll keep trying the phones.” She put the small dry bag down, and watched Dar as she slid the straps of the dry bag over her shoulders and then entered the water. “Want some fins?”
Dar grabbed the edge of the fantail, judging the current. “Yep.”
Kerry went and retrieved a set of them from the storage and came over to hand one and then the other to her as her partner fit them over her boots and tightened the straps. “Be careful, hon.”
“I will.” Dar promised. Then she released the boat and started towards the shore, the ripple from her fins stirring the surface behind her.
The water was cold after being in the heat for the ride over, and Dar briefly regretted not putting on a wetsuit for the swim into the dock. She approached the broken spars cautiously, just spotting Andrew pulling himself up onto the edge of the pier.
It was easy enough to make headway against even the brisk current with her fins, and she edged around the first broken pylon, moving aside the wood planks hanging crazily off of it as she got between the two destroyed piers.
At least there were no upended boats to get over. Most of the debris there was furniture from the deck of the sailing club, for some reason left out, and now jumbled just below the surface as she approached the shore.
Something moved and she went vertical in the water, her hands coming up defensively until she realized the small object that had emerged from the water was the head of a turtle. “Jesus, buddy.”
The turtle swam past, seeming a bit confused as it sought something to haul itself up onto. It was a small animal, about the size of a salad plate and after a brief pause Dar swam after it, and grabbed hold of its shell.
It’s small legs churned in the water, trying to get away from her, but she went shoreward again to the seawall that Andrew had climbed up onto, dragging the turtle with her until she reached the concrete wall. “Hang on.” She put one hand on the wall and hoisted the turtle up with the other, placing him on the surface of the dock and out of the ocean wash.
The turtle scrambled away from her, as Dar gave her fins a kick and pulled herself up, turning around and sitting down on the concrete facing the boat. She gazed across at the Dixie, spotting Kerry on the flying bridge, watching her.
She lifted her hand and waved, and her partner waved back. With a contented grunt, Dar removed the fins from her boots and set them down on the ground, then she stood up, dripping seawater everywhere and feeling quite soggy in her cotton twill pants and shirt.
With the humidity, she’d never dry. Dar sighed and skirted the fins, leaving them on the edge of the wall as she tramped across the sailing club deck, stepping over a fallen palm tree and a pile of twisted aluminum which had once been part of a patio awning.
She walked along the side of the club, whose windows were covered in plywood and whose back door had, incongruously, two large refrigerators placed across it.
It was quiet. A loose piece of plywood swung in the wind, slamming fitfully against the wall. She walked along the sidewalk to the front of the club, towards the road it sat on. It was, once, lined with tall, graceful palm trees but now they were all collapsed, two of them on top of cars that had been left in the room, and a third having taken down the electrical and phone cables hanging from a pole that had snapped in half.
In the near distance, a car alarm was going off. She could also hear, on the wind, the sound of generators.
She climbed over one of the palm trees and ducked under a second, squeezing between two cars in the road and across the sidewalk on the other side. Beyond that was a gravel yard, with a boat lift, and past that a coral wall, old and discolored, that ran along the back of the property their office sat on.
Her father was nowhere is sight. The office sat in a commercial area, and there were no houses nearby, the block had been deserted when they’d left the previous day. Dar walked past the coral wall and could see the back of the office.
She could see the angle of the roof, and the loading dock, and she went between the heavy ficus trees across the back, emerging across the delivery tarmac to get a good view of the building.
There was no building debris on the ground, which she considered a good sign. She walked up the steps onto the loading dock and then circled the wall and headed along it towards the front on the footpath that circled the office between the line of trees and the structure.
The window boards were all still in place. She thought for a moment how much they likely owed her father for that. Along the left hand side, trees were down everywhere and as she reached the corner, one of the huge ficus there was uprooted entirely and blocked the whole road.
She heard Andrew’s voice, and as she came around the corner she saw him, and Carlos on the porch talking. The big muscular guard seemed none the worse for wear, though he was in a tank top and shorts. He spotted her and waved.
Dar climbed up onto the porch, noting that above her head, even the company sign was still firmly bolted into place. “Hey.”
“We’ve been trying to call you all.” Carlos held up the sat phone. “It just won’t get a line out. Keeps saying it’s busy, busy busy.” He half turned. “The place did all right! I was listening on the radio, and other places got trashed. My apartment’s roof’s gone.”
“Wow.” Dar said. “Glad you were here then?”
“Glad I was here, and my buds too.” Carlos nodded. “No power though. It’s kind of a mess inside, some of the skylights blew out and we got rained on, and when the storm hit.. holy damn.. wave came right up and came right through up to the windows on the first floor. See?”
They looked at the wall, which had waterstains and debris along it.
“We set up a grill in the middle there.” Carlos said. “That did pretty good, and Scott’s bus lived.” He turned and pushed the door open behind him. “Wanna scout it out? I figured you would show up here.. Pete heard boat engines off in the distance.”
“That was us. Kerry’s guarding the Dixie.” Dar agreed. “Let me see how bad it is in here, and then try to give her a call.”
“We’re by the edge of the water, near the office.” Kerry was saying into the phone. “Dar and her dad went onshore to check things out. I’m guarding the boat.”
“Guarding the boat?” Ceci asked, in a somewhat surprised tone.
“Well.” Kerry glanced to one side. “It’s pretty creepy out here and it’s getting dark. I’ve got the shotgun out and loaded. Dar didn’t want to take a chance of anything happening to the Dixie and stranding us.”
“Oh. That makes sense.” Her mother in law agreed. “Is it tied up at the dock there?”
“Nothing left of the dock here.” Kerry said. “Or not much, anyway. Just a lot of broken pylons. The whole Dinner Key marina is trashed.”
“Saw that on the news.” Ceci said. “Some of the flooding is going down, but they got nothing on the power yet. National Guard is starting to do some searching.”
“I heard the helicopters.”
“They had to ground them. Wind’s too heavy.” Ceci reported. “So far they say about a hundred people dead, and a couple thousand in the hospital, but no idea what percentage of reality that is.”
Kerry sighed. She was sitting on the bridge of the Dixie, in the chair Dar usually used, and she had the floodlight lit pointing at the edge of the land where Dar and Andy had climbed out as darkness was starting to fall. “Yeah.” She said. “And I haven’t heard from any of our other folks. I tried calling Mayte and Maria, no answer.”
“It’s probably still the weather.” Ceci said, in a consoling tone. “Hopefully you all make it back here soon before it’s too graveyard dark.”
Kerry grimaced a little at the term. “It’s creepy out here. I’ll sure give you that.” She admitted. “Postapocalyptic, actually.” She thought she saw some motion, and shifted, one hand dropping casually down to rest on the stock of the shotgun on the seat next to her.
“People are starting to gather in the streets here.” Ceci said. “Catering’ll probably show up any minute.”
Kerry chuckled a little bit. “Okay, let me turn on some more lights here. I thought I saw someone heading this way.” She said. “Talk to you in a bit.” She hung up the satellite phone, then, pausing a moment she consulted a small list on the back and tried dialing Mayte’s line again.
Just a busy signal. With a sigh, she canceled the call, and then she got up and went to the searchlight, turning it slightly. She was rewarded with the sight of two tall figures coming from between the boathouse and the downed trees.
Dar was slightly in the lead, and she could now see that her partner was sans the dry bag she’d taken with her and watching her body language carefully, Kerry calculated that the news at least was not entirely horrible.
She wished she could take the boat closer or that Dixie carried a small punt as some of the other large pleasure craft did, but she did what she could, starting up the engines as they entered the water, Dar pausing to retrieve the fins she’d left on the dock.
She went down the ladder and went to the back deck, going through the hatch and tipping the dive ladder into the water as the two swimmers approached and came around the stern to where she was standing. She had the back deck lit, and a couple of towels ready, and she backed up a step out of the way as Andrew pulled himself up. “Hey dad.”
“’Lo Kumquat.” Andy cleared out of the way for Dar to climb up after him. “Them kids in there are all okay.”
Kerry felt a sense of relief. “Glad to hear that.”
“Office is a mess.” Dar said, as she took the towel being handed to her. “Roof’s in one piece, but the pressure sucked out two of the skylights and there’s water damage everywhere.”
Dar sat down on the edge of the platform wall, wiping her face. “Server room’s trashed.” She said briefly. “I think we’re going to have to replace the whole damn thing.” She looked at Kerry. “No idea when we can get back in there really and work.”
Andrew had gone up onto the back deck and taken off the heavy cotton shirt he’d been wearing, draping it over one of the equipment prongs and wrapping the towel around his neck. “Some mess.” He agreed. “Carpet’s going to have to be done over, and some of them walls.”
Kerry considered, folding her arms. “Once they have power back on we can see where to start.” She concluded. “I’m just glad Carlos and his friends are safe. That’s what matters.” She exhaled. “I only wish I could get hold of Maria or Mayte.”
“Carlos says he couldn’t get his phone to work either. I left him mine.” Dar said. “And some of the supplies I brought with me. They were putting up a pot of chili outside when we left.” She stood up. “Let me just change and I’ll pull the anchor. We were starting to see some folks roaming around down there when we came through to the pier.”
It was quiet, and absolutely deserted as Dar carefully maneuvered the Dixie back into her slip in the marina. The floodlights were on, outlining the overturned boats and destroyed docks, but they brought the only sound with them, the low rumble of the twin inboard engines.
Andy was standing on the bow, hands braced on the railing. Kerry was on the back deck, one foot up on the gunwale waiting to hop off to tie them up.
It was full dark. The air was a little drier, but fitful gusts of wind were still coming through and Dar felt them stir her hair and she lifted one hand off the controls for long enough to put it back behind her ears, glad they were back inside the marina.
The water level had dropped, Dar noticed, tide was out and had taken some of the flooding with it. She could see the edge of the island once more in dry air, where there had been high water levels before they’d left and near the seawall she was approaching a land crab scurried off out of the way.
She put the engines in neutral and let the boat drift a little, coming past her parent’s craft as the current nudged her towards the dock. The marina building was dark and deserted and she figured everyone was finally getting a little rest.
She was glad they might now as well. She was tired, and the salt tinged wind had her eyes burning a little and her lips chapped, and she felt more than a little depressed about what they’d seen.
Onshore, she saw motion and looked up into the shadows to see their cart coming down off the ridge towards them, with her mother driving it.
It made her smile. She felt the edge of the boat gently impact the rubber bumpers, and she cut the engines as Kerry jumped to the dock and wrapped the aft rope around the nearby cleat. “We’re back.” She commented to nobody, making a note of the diesel levels and the charge of the batteries.
Once the engines were stilled, she could then hear the far off rumble of the island generators, and the creak of the pylons as Kerry tightened the forward line, and the boat went still. She turned off the controls and turned, making her way down the ladder as Andrew came around from the bow.
“Glad them boys ended up okay.” He said, as they joined Kerry on the dock. “Figure we should go on back there tomorrow and get stuff on out of there.”
“Because of the water damage?” Kerry asked, as they started up the dock towards the oncoming cart.
“Looters.” Andrew said, briefly. “Won’t take long.”
Dar nodded. “Yeah.” She said. “I mean, those are all big guys.” She added. “But it gets pretty dangerous pretty fast.”
Kerry pondered that as she trailed along in Dar’s footsteps. ‘Wow.” She finally said as they reached the golf cart. “Here I was picturing people helping each other.”
“There’s some of that too.” Dar conceded. “They’ll send the national guard in, and all that but everyone’s pretty fast to take advantage at a time like this. Especially downtown where all the evacuations were.”
“That sucks.” Kerry said.
“It does.” Dar slid into the back seat and exhaled. “What’s up here, mom?”
“Not a damn thing.” Ceci supplied amiably. “They announced a buffet up at the mansion for everyone. I thought it would be fun to go over there and see what that was all about.” She said. “Those uniformed manbots came around with what looked like a mimeographed paper for all the things they were doing .”
“Sure, why not.” Dar said. “Faster than cooking up our beanie weenies.”
“Sounds good to me, too.” Kerry said. “It’s a mess by the office.” She added. “But everyone’s all right.”
“Suspected it would be.” Ceci said. “There’s a lot of trees around there. A lot of damage?”
“Water.” Andrew supplied. “Them vents got sucked up out the roof.”
“We’re going to have to put in new carpets and drywall.” Dar sighed. “I gotta figure out where we’re going to work from. Where’s the storm now?”
“Haven’t looked in an hour or so.” Ceci said. “I’ve been driving around annoying the neighbors.”
“Why d’you want to do that for?” Andrew asked, eyeing his wife. “Aint crazy enough today?”
“Why not?” Ceci navigated a large puddle in the road as they headed towards the looming bulk of the Vanderbilt Mansion. “After all, you got to enrage the entire boating populace of this island of misfit toys and swim ashore in downtown Miami.”
Kerry muffled a smile, and felt Dar move a little as she silently laughed. “They should all be glad they’re here.” Kerry said. “Mainland’s a real mess not to mention no power.”
“Exactly.” Ceci steered around a downed tree and they pulled up through the entrance to the mansion where a cluster of haphazardly parked carts blocked any further progress. “They need to shut the duck up and realize how lucky they are.”
They found a spot for the cart and got out, making their way through the crowd of vehicles to the front steps. There were still covers over the windows, but the lights were on inside and as they approached the doors a puff of chilled air hit them.
Chilled air and the scent of wood soap and Sterno. The terrazzo floors were covered with rubber mats, far different than the woolen rugs that were usually there and unlike it’s usual pristine and sedate décor there were boxes and carts against the walls and the stairwells had cases of water on their landings.
Inside the lower lobby there were island staff in jeans and tshirts, with some trays of plastic cups filled with what seemed to be wine and one of them spotted them and came over to offer them some. “Roberts family! Welcome.”
“Hey Juan.” Dar picked up a cup of white wine and handed it over to Kerry and then took one for herself. “Everything survive here okay?”
“This place?” Juan looked around. “Heck yeah. It’s a freaking bunker.” He said. “Water came up over the pool and was up the back stairs out there.” He pointed over his shoulder. “But they had all that covered and it went back down again. But whoa, it left a manatee in the pool.”
“The swimming pool?” Kerry asked. “A manatee? What are they going to do with it?”
Juan nodded. “Grounds too soggy to bring over the boat lift to get it out. No idea what they’re gonna do.” He pointed to the dining room, past a pair of tall wooden doors. “There’s some food set up in there, it’s kinda pick your own today. They just put out what they had, you know?”
“Maybe they got some ritz crackers then.” Andrew said. “C’mon you all.”
They went into the large dining room, which usually had tables set up in an elegant pattern, with crisp white linen and china. Now the tables were bare, exposing their plywood reality and one side of the room had been cleared to allow a long row of banquet style supports filled with chafing dishes.
Scattered at various tables were groups of their neighbors and there was a buzz of conversation in the air. The overhead speakers which usually had refined classical music playing were silent, but there was a large television on a cart near the back wall, with a cable running from it through the door, one of the local stations on the air.
The plates were Chinet heavy paperware, and the silverware was plastic. Kerry picked up some of both and moved down the line. There were various manufactured salads, potato and carrot, and some plain lettuce shredded into chunks with plastic jugs of dressing nearby.
Completely unlike what was usually served in the room. Kerry smiled to herself, having eaten there occasionally with Dar, neither of them particularly fond of the place and its staid pretentions preferring either the beach club or the trattoria near the docks.
She regarded the lettuce, then she kept moving, choosing some Salisbury steaks and mac and cheese, and two grape tomatoes to add a colorful touch.
“Mm.” Dar sounded pleased with the choices. ‘This is not too bad.”
“I think they have chocolate pudding on the other side hon.” Kerry said, as she half turned and scanned the room, selecting a table near some of their more amiable neighbors. “I’ll be over at that second one there.” She pointed.
“Be there in a minute.”
Kerry walked over to the table and set down her plate and cup, giving the woman nearest to her a brief nod. “Hey Jalinta.”
The dark haired and deeply tanned woman nodded back. “Everything is okay at your house?” She asked, in south American tinged speech. “My husband is stuck in El Salvador. He is very upset he missed this.” She had a bowl of rice and beans, and a piece of chicken on her plate.
“Everything’s fine.” Kerry sat down. “I wouldn’t have minded missing this. That was pretty scary last night.”
“Si.” Jalinta nodded. “It was. How are your doggies?” She squeezed a bit of lime over her rice.
“Oh, they’re fine.” Kerry smiled. “They’ve got no idea what happened in our backyard though. What a mess.” She glanced up as Dar came over to sit down next to her. Andrew and Ceci were still at the buffet line, having a conversation with two men standing at the end of it.
“I was watching on the television the damage.” Jalinta said, lowering her voice a little. “It is terrible.” She shook her head solemnly. “Very terrible. At the airport, many airplanes are upside down.”
“We were over near Coconut Grove. It is.” Kerry agreed. “Huge amount of clean up they’re going to do.” She fork cut a piece of her Salisbury steak and ate it. “Where is.. “ She looked up at the television. “Ah, okay. Wow.”
“It is huge.” Jalinta followed her gaze. “They are running away in North Carolina.” She paused, mixing her rice and her beans. “You said you were in the city?” She asked. “I know they said we cannot get off the island.”
“We took our boat.” Kerry explained briefly. “Our office is near the water, we wanted to see how bad it was.” She was aware she was getting a side look with more than a tinge of disbelief. “Yeah, it was a little chancy, but Dar’s a good captain and Andy’s retired Navy. It went fine.”
Andrew and Ceci arrived and took seats at their table. “Lo.” Andrew greeted Jalinta, before he tucked into the cheeseburger on his plate. “Them fellers want me to give them a hand tomorrow.” He told Dar and Kerry. “Told them has to be sun up cause we got things to get done.”
“At least they asked nicely.” Ceci regarded her plate full of miscellaneous non animal food items with relative content. “Best thing I’ve had here yet.” She announced. “They should cater natural disasters more often.”
Clemente, the manager of resident services came across the room and took a seat at their table. “Hello there.” He said. “We are arranging for deliveries of supplies. What can we get for you?”
All four of them regarded Clemente in silence for a moment. “I think we’re okay.” Dar finally said, pausing in her decimation of a hot dog. “We’ve got supplies in the house. Water still okay?”
Clemente nodded. “We have a treatment plant on the west side of the island.” He said. “So we are fine. You have everything you need? If you do not, we will have our staff coming by in the morning and please tell them.” He patted the table. “Please enjoy your dinners.”
He got up and went to the next table, one of his minions scurrying over to join him with a pad and pen.
“So the kids are all okay?” Ceci asked, as they were left in relative peace. “Glad to hear that. I was a little doubtful about leaving them there, so close to the bay.”
“Carlos and his gang came through fine, yeah.” Kerry said. “And we’ve heard from Colleen, Mark and Scott up in Melbourne.” She said. “Nothing from Mayte or Maria though, and I’m really getting concerned about them.” She forked up some of her mac and cheese. “We go back tomorrow.”
Dar nodded. “I have to figure out where we’re going to put the code repository and where we can get people back to work on in.” She picked up a potato chip, dunked it in some ketchup and ate it. “No way to know when they can even get power back there, much less the rest of it.”
Kerry nodded. “You think Melbourne?” She asked. “We can probably get space up there where the call center guys are.”
“Maybe.” Dar said. “Problem is, all our folks are here and we’ve got no idea whats going on with them.” She pondered the last bit of her hot dog. “This is a mess.”
“Why not bring your stuff back here.” Ceci suggested. “We have power and AC.” She said. “You could rent one or two of those cottages around the corner. String some cable between them.” She picked up a pickle and bit into it. “Bring all the nerds here and really drive them crazy.”
“That’s not a bad idea.” Kerry said, after a brief pause. She put her fork down and got up. “Let me go put a bug in Clemente’s ear and grab them.” She pushed her chair in and went after the services manager, who was now a few tables away.
“I’m pretty sure those cottages don’t have enough power to run our gear.” Dar said. “But we can arrange for temporary runs.” She glanced at her mother. “But you’re right it’s going to drive these people nuts, and if power stays off on the mainland, all the big shots are going to want to stay here.”
“Screw em. We get there first.” Ceci smiled. Andy just chuckled and shook his grizzled dark head, leaning back to pick up a cup off one of the trays being passed nearby.
It felt amazingly good to lay down in bed, in the cool comfort of their home with the knowledge that no storm was going to interrupt their night’s rest. Kerry stifled a yawn and stretched, feeling the water bed’s surface shift under her.
Outside in the living room she could hear the drone of the television, but she had no desire to go and look at it, see the scenes of destruction played over and over again.
It reminded her, a little, of what it had been like after the terrorist attack on 9/11. Those same images in a neverending loop, until you just got exhausted from it.
Now that it was dark, there was no new news, really. Just a recap of the day, the starting of – not recovery, but a sense that a reckoning was still being taken, that a corner had not yet been turned.
There were fifty known dead people, but everyone knew there were more, buried under rubble or washed out to sea. Some of the hospitals were in trouble – their generators weren’t functioning and shelters were overrun with people escaping from the ruins of their homes.
The pictures drove home to her, in a very sobering way, just how lucky she and Dar were, and what exactly their means had provided for them.
But tomorrow they would be out early, in the heat and the mess, she knew she had a long day of sweating and labor ahead of her.
Dar came into the room, closing the sat phone in her hand up and plugging it into the charging cable on the table next to the bed. Then she sat down on the bed and then lay back, stretching her arms out across the shifting surface. “That was Mark.”
“How’s things with him?”
“They’re okay. He’s going to take his bike and meet us at the office tomorrow.” Dar said. “He thinks the idea of using this place here is pretty good, except we don’t have comms.”
“No, but nothing really does around here.”
“True.” Dar agreed. “If we can get the core programmers here and working locally, it gives us time to get something set up further upstate though.”
‘That’s just the repository Dar.” Kerry said. “My problem is, the rest of our systems have to talk to the world. I can’t get anything else going. We can’t order or pay bills or any of that.” She turned her head and looked at her partner. “So we need to get that part somewhere we can reach it.”
Dar nodded. “Agreed.” She said. “We have payroll on Friday.”
Kerry put her hands behind her head and regarding the ceiling. “One thing I’m not worried about paying is the rent on that building, because I’ll be damned, you know? Not after what we had to do to board it up.”
“Could be the least of our problems.” Dar rolled onto her side and propped her head up on one fist. “What are the chances that landlord’s going to have the resources to start fixing that place before his insurance pays?”
“Ah well.” Dar rolled over and got up. “Let me go shut off that damn TV. I’m tired of listening to it.”
Kerry rolled off the other side of the bed and followed her, wanting a hot cup of tea to end the night with. She diverted into the kitchen while Dar went to find the remote, and started some hot water going as she casually glanced out the window in the kitchen.
It was very dark. She went over and opened the door to the back yard and walked out onto the top of the steps as the moon emerged from the clouds and spread a silver blanket over the ocean very near by.
The water level had dropped. It was once more beyond the wall outside their yard, and she could see the edge of the seawall above the waves again. There were still some rollers coming in, but the surface of the water had calmed, and only had normal ruffles of white offshore.
She could smell strongly the salt, and the tang of seaweed lining the shoreline and the pungent scent of bruised vegetation.
Chino came out on the steps behind her, tail waving idly. Then Mocha bustled past and ran down the steps, eliciting a bark of objection from the older Lab.
“No crabs!” Kerry called out. She heard the kettle chime behind her and she returned to the kitchen, leaving the door open for the dogs to return. She found Dar getting herself a glass of milk, and they stood together in silence for a few minutes.
Dar rinsed her glass and put it in the rack to dry and then she turned and folded her arms. “Remind me to load our gear onto the boat tomorrow.”
Kerry’s brows creased.
“Our dive gear.” Dar clarified. “I just realized while I was standing here that trying to swim to the boat with our server rig isn’t a great idea.”
Kerry’s brows creased even further. “So… you’re going to take it underwater?”
Dar looked at her. “I’m going to see what we need to do to bring Dixie into a dock there, hon.” She said. “C’mon.”
Kerry chuckled a little in embarrassment. “Sorry. It’s late and I’m exhausted.” She went to the door and whistled. “Lets go, kids!” She called out. ‘We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
Dar came up behind her and encircled her with both arms, as they watched the dogs make their way back to the steps, noses pinned to the ground. “We’ll figure it out.” She concluded. “We always do.”
“We always do.”
The next morning brought clearer skies, a stiff onshore wind to ruffle the waters, and more activity around the marina as everyone adjusted to the new disaster shaped reality and started to get on with recovering things.
Kerry walked in and out of the early morning sun with a coffee cup in either hand, moving along the dock that bordered the marina and towards the Dixie. She had on hiking boots and cargo pants, and a tank top with a light cotton shirt over it in deference to the sun.
Dar was on the back deck stowing their diving gear and she looked up as she hear Kerry’s footsteps, walking to the edge of the boat and reaching over to take one of the two cups as Kerry stepped onto the gunwale and then down onto the deck. “Busy?”
“Busy.” Kerry confirmed. “And your dad’s the most popular man on this side of the island it seems. He’s over near the tent they set up next to the marina building giving advice to everyone.”
Dar chuckled as she took a sip of the coffee. “People are idiots. He offered to tell them how to secure these damn boats before the storm got here. You think anyone listened?”
“He’s my father.” Dar said. “Of course I did and anyway he did most of it himself.” Dar moved over and sat down in one of the deck chairs. “I think that’s everything.” She indicated the boxes on the deck. “Carlos said they managed to get a generator going.”
“Didn’t ask.” Dar said, briefly. “He said two or three of our staff just showed up.”
Kerry sat down in the other deck chair. “For work?” She hazarded. “Or breakfast?”
“Okay we should probably get going then.” Kerry said. “Let me finish this and go get Dad.”
Dar extended her long legs out and crossed them at the ankles. She was wearing neoprene booties and light cotton pants over her bathing suit, her shoulders bared to the sun. She sipped her coffee while watching the breeze ruffle the water, appreciating the moments of peace before what she reckoned would be a very busy day.
There was no power at all on the mainland all the way up to Palm Beach. Some emergency locations, hospitals and the emergency management stations had it from generators, but large areas were blocked off by flooding and downed trees.
The national guard was starting to slowly move in. She could hear helicopters in the distance.
The storm was inching its way up the east coast, now a category 4. It was skirting the edge of the Carolinas and there was flooding there, as the hurricane had slowed down, pumping rain inland as the weather team raced to cover it.
Leaving the devastation in South Florida behind, as they often did. The only silver lining to that in Dar’s view was that she was relatively sure it was distracting her major government customers for the moment and that might give her a chance to get things sorted out.
With all the destruction it seemed crazy to be worried about that but she was. The weight of the commitments she’d made to deliver that contract felt heavy on her shoulders, and so, in a funny way she was thankful Hurricane Bob was on his way right up the coast towards them, a big, dangerous storm people in those parts were not used to dealing with.
Dar sighed. She watched a seagull come drifting in, coasting into the marina as though surveying the upended boats, pausing in mid air, and then diving down to pick up a bit of debris in the water.
She watched it float for a moment, then she got up and climbed the ladder to the flying bridge and went to the controls, setting her cup down into one of the gimballed holders.
Across the marina she could see Kerry talking to Andrew near the tent, and then she spotted the marina manager heading down the dock towards the Dixie.
She delayed starting the engines and went back down the ladder instead, coming to the side of the boat as he reached it. “Morning Jack.”
“Hey Ms Roberts.” The dockmaster said. “You off to the Grove again?”
“We are.” Dar said. “Bringing some supplies to our staff there, and seeing what we’re going to have to do to get things done.”
Jack nodded. “Can I ask you for a favor?” He said. “I got about ten guys who could really help us out here but John said even the work barges won’t be moving for a couple days. Could they catch a ride back with you?”
“Won’t be till late.” Dar said. “But if they can get down to sailing club marina down there, sure.”
“Great.” Jack said. “They can’t come out until later anyway. Most of them have stuff to do at their own places, you know? But I offered them a hot shower and AC.” He winked.
Dar chuckled in reflex. “Yup. That’d do it.” She agreed. “I could probably rent the head in this boat by the minute once we’re parked down there. Sun’ll be out all day and it’s going to be steamy.” She looked past Jack to see Kerry and Andrew coming towards them, and behind them there were three men following. “Hey.”
Jack turned and then put one hand out onto the pylon. “Morning.”
“Hey Dardar.” Andrew said. “You go on out, and I’m gonna follow you along there.” He pointed at the boat behind Dar’s. “Give these here fellers a ride ovah to the Coast Guard station.”
“Sounds good.” Dar said. “I’m going to park by the same spot we did yesterday and do a quick look under there to see if we can get closer.”
“Yeap.” Her father nodded. “Keep your ears on.” He motioned the three men past the boat and they followed him, giving Dar and Kerry, and then Jack, polite nods.
“Do we know those guys?” Kerry asked, in a low tone.
“They work for one of the residents.” Jack said, after the men had all boarded the boat behind them. “They seem a little… “ He made a face.
“Spooky?” Dar asked, with a faint smile. “As in, maybe they have an ID somewhere?”
“Yeah.” Jack said. “They’re definitely military or something. The guy they work for is a retired something or other from the government. They’re nice. I like them, but they always have that look, you know?”
“They remind me of secret service.” Kerry said. “So I get why they get along with dad.” She circled Dar and went into the cabin of the Dixie. “I’m going to rearrange the boxes in here, Dar. In case you hit some waves.”
Jack looked at Dar with a puzzled expression.
“Kerry’s family’s involved in the government.” Dar explained. “Her mom’s a senator.”
“Really?” Jack sounded surprised. “Oh wait, now I remember someone saying that sometime… from Michigan, right?”
“Anyway, you all be careful and thanks for the favor, Ms Roberts. I’ll tell those guys to be down by the sailing club before it gets dark.” Jack lifted his hand. “Want me to let you loose?”
“Let me get the engines on first.” Dar said. She went up to the bridge and settled into the captain’s seat, starting up the inboards as she heard Andrew do the same behind her. “Call us on the radio if you need anything, Jack!” She called over the side of the boat.
Jack waved, and went over to the forward ropes, untying them and tossing them onto the deck. “They just got the marina radio going.” He yelled back. “Heard there were some idiots near Star on jetskis. Watch out for em!”
Dar lifted her hand in response, as he walked past towards the larger boat behind them, and she nudged the engines into gear as they drifted away from the dock.
Dar tightened the strap on her gear and eased into the water, using the ladder to lower herself into the green blue depths that surrounded the boat. She was wearing a dive skin, in deference to the potential wreckage under water and she pulled on a pair of gloves and fastened the wrist holds to keep them in place.
Kerry was on the deck, on the sat phone, watching her. “I hear ya Coll. I just got off the phone with the team upstate and they got hold of some office footprint next to them.”
“Be right back.” Dar told her, before she submerged her head and let herself sink under the surface, the cool water penetrating her dive skin as she adjusted her gear, tightening the tank a bit and rerouting her regulator as she looked around.
What was left of the club marina was a mess.
Literally a mess. The structure of the dock was collapsed in on itself and as she swam slowly under the water, exhaling bubbles, fish darted in all directions away from her, then drifted back as they explored this new world they now inhabited.
The visibility underwater was limited. The storm had churned up the bottom and it was hard to see much. Dar went ahead cautiously, unsure of what she was going to encounter, unable to clearly see details until she was almost within reach of things.
The pylons that had supported the aluminum walkways were skewed and in some cases, split in half. The walkways themselves were twisted into a maze of wreckage that, though interesting if diving for pleasure, were nothing but obstructions right now.
The Dixie was anchored about fifty feet offshore. Dar could feel the current pulling against her as she made her way towards the rock lined shore, searching for a path that would allow the boat closer to land. Her bubbles sounded loud in her ears as she paused, then reached out to tug on a bit of debris.
It moved a bit and she tugged harder, pulling a stretch of aluminum decking towards her and away from a set of still intact pylons.
She measured the space with her eyes, then she finned to the surface, emerging with her head out of the water as she moved in a circle.
The Dixie was drifting about thirty feet away and as she tipped her head up she spotted Kerry on the bridge with a set of binoculars, keeping her in view. She waved, then went back under the water.
Well, it would get them a bit closer. Turning with her back to the boat, she regarded the narrow wedge of relatively clear space. If she brought the Dixie in here, they could tie up to the pylon at the top end, which was partially extruding into the open air.
She swam over to it, and shoved against it, then grabbed hold of it and tugged, to judge it’s general permanence. It didn’t budge in either direction so she grunted in satisfaction, then turned and nearly levitated out of the water as she found herself face to face with a massive grouper.
A burst of bubbles came out of her regulator along with an audible squawk and she instinctively tucked her hands under her arms, moving back away from the large fish as it watched her with one of it’s large, round eyes, opening it’s wide jaw as it swam easily against the current.
She got her back against a piece of aluminum debris and put her hand on the hilt of the dive knife strapped across her chest as the big fish, easily three hundred pounds sauntered past, inspecting the wreckage as smaller fish darted around.
Grouper generally weren’t dangerous. However, they had big jaws and sharp teeth and Dar didn’t want to take any chances. She waited for it to disappear into the murky distance before she went over to the pylon and removed a safety sausage from a clip on her gear, inflating it and tying it off.
The sausage was a bright orange tube, meant to bob to the surface and mark a position. After it was tied firmly in place, she heard the hoot of the Dixie’s horn as Kerry spotted it.
Then she went to the other edge of the open space and deployed a second sausage, which would give her a target when she was steering the Dixie in.
She checked one more time the wreckage, pulling some out of the way of the passage and looking for anything that might get caught up into the boat’s engines before she made her way back to the Dixie’s anchor line, barely visible in the murky gloom.
She swam under the boat, seeing the edge of the dive ladder moving in the current ahead of her. She grabbed it and swung around under it, then paused with her head still submerged to remove her fins and fit their straps around her wrists.
The boat was moving with the waves, and she waited a moment for the ladder to come a bit deeper before she got her booties onto the bottom step and lifted herself up out of the water as the chop lifted the aft of the boat upward.
Kerry was standing in the dive well, already reaching out to grab her tank yoke. “I saw the markers come up.”
“Yeah. I heard the horn.” Dar climbed up and moved into the well alongside her, shoving her mask down around her neck and leaning forward to toss her fins into the back deck. “Not much space, but it’s a little better.”
“Our team thinks so.” Kerry told her. “They’re dragging debris out to try and make a plank for us pirates to walk.” She moved aside as Dar slid her tank into the clamps and released the straps off her rig attached to it. “Carlos said they spotted the Dixie coming in.”
“Yeah?” Dar stood up and walked over to the edge of the well, peering around the side of the boat to where she could now also see the sausage bobbing at the surface. Past it were a half dozen figures on shore, two of them carrying over what looked like a door. “Huh.”
“Colleen’s picked up two of her people, and the receptionist and she’s on her way upstate. Took her almost three hours to get gas and that was only by bribing the station owner.” Kerry went on, as she shut off the air in Dar’s tank and secured it. “I told her of course to expense it.”
“The gas or the bribe?” Dar found the whole thing a little surreally funny. She stood still as Kerry came over with the fresh water hose and rinsed her off, blinking at the faintly chlorine scent. “Thanks.”
“No problem hon.” Kerry finished with the hose and then handed Dar over a fluffy towel. “Not that you really need this with the breeze and that sun you’ll be dry in a minute.”
Dar dried her head with the towel, and then unzipped her dive skin and pulled it down to her waist, tying the arms off to keep it in place. “Okay let me move the boat in. We can tie off to that structure where the marker is. It’s pretty secure.” She headed for the ladder. “Keep your eyes out I’m gonna pull up the anchor.”
“Yup.” Kerry got up onto the side of the boat and walked up to the bow, as she felt the rumble and heard the anchor chain retracting and the Dixie started drifting in the current.
The engines caught a moment later and she could feel the motion as they moved towards the shore, the breeze fluttering her shirt against her body.
There was a small crowd onshore. Carlos was there and two of their programmers, and as she watched one of Carlos’ gym buddies crawled out along the split edge of the dock, dragging along a piece of wood and wedging it in place.
It occurred to her, just for a moment, that doing this on their own was probably a little strange. There were probably people somewhere on shore, watching this bunch of nerds with flotsam and jetsam and a pleasure yacht thinking what in the actual hell were they doing.
Probably most everyone else were watching the battery powered televisions, or walking out to find gas for their generators or waiting for help to show up, based on what she’d seen on the screen before they’d left. The sound of a helicopter in the distance made her wonder how long it would be before someone told someone about them and they’d end up a feature.
With a smile, she shrugged, and then waved at the gang ashore, holding up the coiled forward rope and preparing to throw it over.
“Get that barrel.” Carlos said, pointing towards what had been the bar area of the sailing club. “If we put that in the water there, we can prop this board on it.”
“Got it.” His buddy replied, dusting his hands off and climbing up the beach to the ruined pool deck. He skirted the debris filled pool and went behind the collapsed bar to where barrels of soda syrup were lying on their side. He pushed one, and heard it slosh inside. “Jerry, gimme a hand this one’s full.”
His lifting partner climbed up the deck to join him and they wrestled the barrel loose of the debris, hoisting it up and over the bar then walking with it back down towards the water.
The big Bertram yacht was tied off to the part of the dock that was still in one piece, and they had managed to get wood planks and pieces of table in place to get almost all the way out to it.
One of Carlos’ bosses was standing on the shore, clothes dripping wet from the swim in, and the other was standing on the side of the boat holding one of the planks in place while the computer kid nailed it. “You know what, Mickey?”
“What?” Mickey went into the water up to his knees and got the barrel wedged in place.
“Glad we came down here instead of staying by that apartment. I bet those guys are still stuck on the second floor sweating their asses off.”
“Yeah. This is okay.” Mickey agreed. “Nice breeze and a little workout.” He straightened up and nodded. “That’ll hold up.” He turned and watched the other computer guy get out on the planks, as the woman on the boat started bringing boxes out. “Lets go see what that is.”
They walked over to the edge of the twisted end of the dock and joined Carlos and the blond woman he was talking to. “Think that’ll be okay.”
Carlos nodded vigorously. “Yeah, so Kerry, we got a lot of stuff cleared out and onto the delivery dock at the office. Mick and Jerry were awesome.” He said. “And some other people just showed up there too.. they said they knew you.”
“Knew me?” Kerry asked. “Boy, that could be either good or bad.” She said. “Were they customers or..”
Carlos shook his head. “Didn’t stop to talk to them since we saw the boat coming in. We cleared a path up to the office from here. We were trying to find a flatbed cart but we figured we could get some stuff up by carrying it anyway.”
Kerry ran her fingers through her drying hair. “Well, we’ve got a bunch of supplies. Dar’s dad’ll be by in a little while he had to run some people over to the coast guard station.” She said. “Lets go see if we can scrounge up something to move this stuff with since we’re going to need that to move gear back down here.”
She half turned. “Dar!” She let out a yell. “I’m going up to the office!”
Kerry started climbing up off the wrecked dock, and they followed, leaving the others to stack boxes on the edge of the shore.
The heat was oppressive once they got a block inland and Dar could feel the sweat gathering as they crossed the parking lot of the club and entered the back of their building.
Piled on the loading dock were stacks of soaked paneling and boxes, the large garbage container already full of stripped up carpet. “Wow.” Dar said, as she walked alongside Jake and Elvis, the two programmers. “Lot of stuff got done.”
“Nothing else to do.” Jake said. “My dad was here and helped us. He was tired of watching the news.”
“Know how he felt.” Dar agreed, as they walked up the concrete stairs to the propped open back door.
Inside it was dark and quiet. The building was surrounded by trees, and though they had been thinned by the wind it made the inside gloomy. Dar felt the lack of the usual sound of air conditioning, and the ever present humming of electronic equipment that had been a part of her normality for as long as she could remember.
It smelled musty. The floorboards creaked as they walked down the hall, the doors on either side flung wide open and the windows facing outward open as well. What breeze there was came through it, bringing the smell of mud and garbage steaming in the sun.
The door to the server space was open, but it was dark and silent inside and Dar walked past it. Ahead of her she could hear Kerry’s voice and as she passed the downstairs kitchen she could smell coffee brewing.
“Camp stove.” Carlos read her mind. “Want some java?”
“Not yet.” Dar continued on, looking from side to side and frankly wondering where to start.
Not where to start cleaning up, because they had gotten a start on that. Ripping up the carpet to keep it from molding and throwing away all the things that the flooding had ruined. Dar stopped and reversed her steps, going into the server room and pulling her flashlight from her pocket.
It smelled like wet concrete in the room. She’d only spent a moment inspecting it the previous day, and now she took a little more time to look around, checking the floor with her hand. “Dry.”
Carlos had come in behind her. “Yeah, water didn’t come in here.” He agreed. “Cause of this raised thing. I think it might have gone under it?”
Dar stood and handed him the flashlight, then she took the tile puller from the wall and knelt again, getting the suction cups in place and yanking a tile free. She set it aside and held her hand out for the light. “Lets see what this looks like.”
Carlos handed her the light and then knelt next to her as she lowered her head to look under the floor and shone the light around.
She came up in a swift motion that made Carlos hop backwards. “What?” He said. “Is it bad?”
Carlos stood up and looked around, finding a bit of conduit and taking hold of it. “What kind of eyes?” He asked. “Like… alligator?”
Dar picked up the tile puller and moved over a few feet.
“Are you going to pull that floor up?” Carlos said. “Should I get.. I dunno, a knife? Or a hammer or something?”
“Wasn’t that big.” Dar set the cups and yanked the second tile up, moving quickly aside as a moving thing sped past her, claws scrambling on the tiles as it skirted Carlos’ powerful leg and bolted out the door. “Hmph.”
“Whatin the hell was that?” Carlos went to the door and looked out. “Watch out everyone! Some kinda animal’s out here!”
Dar shone the light down under the floor where the eyes had been, then knelt, inspecting the multicolor cabling that ran in a number of directions. It was covered in mud and gunk, and there were leaves and debris coating it, but the strands themselves seemed to be intact.
She grunted in satisfaction and put the second tile back down then went over to the first, laying down on the floor and looking beneath it.
Kerry looked around quickly hearing Carlo’s warning, glad they’d left the dogs behind today. “What kind of animal?” She asked, coming out of the conference room where everyone had gathered. Outside the door was the reception desk, which was covered in paper cups and gallon jugs of Publix water.
Carlos’ two friends came out after her, and their two visitors followed.
Two ILS employees in fact, security guards Celeste and Jerry, dressed in jeans and polos. They lived nearby in the Grove. “Maybe it’s a cat.” Celeste suggested. “I thought I saw one outside, and there’s dogs running loose everywhere.”
But there was no sign of anything moving. “Could have gone anywhere.” Kerry said. “Okay, so, Celeste you were saying?”
The young guard was peering around in the nearby offices. “Jerry and I live on the same block here.” She said. “We have ficus down everywhere. You can’t get a car through, but anyway, they closed the building up and sent everyone home.”
“Makes sense.” Kerry said. “Dar was saying no one stupid enough to stay there in that kind of storm still worked for ILS.”
Both of them looked at her, a little uncertainly.
“Meaning us.” Kerry motioned to her chest, and vaguely over her shoulder.
“Oh! Right.” Celeste laughed. “No that’s true. It’s not the same since you all left. We miss you.” She said. “We were all saying that before they sent us all home.”
“You guys worked at the old place?” Carlos asked.
“We did.” Celeste said. “We’re security guards.”
“Me too.” Carlos grinned.
“Well, the building’s a mess. Dar and I went past it on the waterside yesterday on the way down here. Windows blown out all over the place.” Kerry paused, as she heard a helicopter rattle overhead, and as that faded, she could hear in the distance the sound of a motorcycle.
“We saw on the news.” Jerry said, with a grimace. “No way we’re going back to work in there any time soon.” He put his hands in his pockets. “So we said, hey, since we’re in the neighborhood, why not come down here and say hello.”
“That’s cool.” Carlos told them. “Want to help us around here?” He asked, after exchanging the briefest of looks with Kerry. “You can share our pizza.”
“Sure!” As though they were just waiting to be asked, which they obviously were, they joined Carlos and his friends as they went back to sorting through the debris.
Kerry watched them and put her hands in her pockets, smiling a little to herself. Then she turned and trotted up the steps to the second level.
Here, the damage was a lot less evident. The skylights were covered with garbage bags and tape, the walls were stained with rainwater, but the water that had come in had run down the stairs and through the floor and while the offices on either side of the hall were damp with humidity they were mostly intact.
She walked into the end of the hall, pausing to look into Maria’s office. It stirred a pang of worry and she felt that tightening in her chest as she went through their outer office and through into her own.
Here the windows were all flung wide open and a steady breeze was coming through, and she went to the window and looked out it at the sodden destruction all around.
On the ground beneath the window were the boards that had covered them, and she could hear the sound of a power drill nearby as Jake’s father moved along the outside, removing more.
Depressing. Kerry acknowledged the knot of anxiety she felt as she looked out over what had been their quaint and laid back neighborhood, where now trees were down everywhere and the streets were debris covered and deserted.
This time of day, she usually would be going out for a walk down the street to get a cup of yogurt and get the local gossip at the café, whose roof she could see partially caved in. Dar would usually be in her office next door working at her workstation.
She could hear in her memory the quiet under her breath whistling and the soft rattle of keys. It was so odd to hear nothing but creaking and silence, and to feel muggy heat where there was always the chill of air conditioning.
She took a breath and could smell the salt tang of the sea, and the scent of bruised foliage on the walls next to where she was standing, and the faint smell of wood polish from the floors that here, in their offices hadn’t been covered with carpet.
Here there had only been scatter rugs to keep the dogs from slipping, and those had been packed up as well, and she folded her arms, pondering if she should spend any time putting things back. Without any power it seemed futile, but she felt inside a desire to do it anyway.
She could hear the motorcycle getting closer now and she returned to the window and put her hands on the sill to look out and down the street, as the machine itself came into view and she recognized it and it’s rider. “Mark!” She let out a yell and a wave as he came coasting into the parking lot in front.
He parked and took his helmet off, giving her wave in response as he headed for the front door standing open downstairs. As he disappeared from her sight, two bicycles came into view, the sound of their spokes audible to her from where she stood.
“Ms. Kerry!” They spotted her and called out. “Hello!”
Angela their receptionist, and one of Colleen’s data entry clerks. Both girls pulled their bikes up next to where Mark was parked, and she returned their wave as they headed as well towards the door.
Why? Kerry wondered, as she backed away from the window, turning and regarding the room, cleared of all breakables and her desktop clear of any technology, stored in pelican cases just outside the door.
She detoured through Dar’s office as she headed back to go downstairs and greet them. Why, with no power, and no communications, why come here? She thought about that as she left through Dar’s door into their outer office, missing the sunny presence of Zoe.
Zoe, with her soft, lisping speech, who would at this time of day have been very busy with phone calls and opening the mail. Her desk was empty, her phone packed into the cases. Kerry wondered how Zoe had fared, and remembered she lived out where Maria and Mayte did.
Whole area still flooded, she’d heard. With a sigh, she headed for the stairs, the empty upper level now seeming a little creepy to her.
The sound of the newcomers now seemed loud as they all gathered near the conference room. Mark’s deep voice mixed with Carlos, and Angela’s lighter tones, and then Dar’s distinctive speech, clear and crisp and just with that touch of music in it.
That hint of an accent that shaped a voice that was practical and pragmatic and utterly confident even when Dar herself wasn’t feeling any of those things.
Kerry started down the steps and then gasped suddenly, as something came moving at her. “Yow!” She let out a yelp, jerking to a halt as she found herself facing off a large striped cat who also stopped short and hissed at her.
Predictably, Dar came bounding up onto the landing and nearly ran into the cat, who turned hastily and lifted a fully claw extended paw and hissed again.
“Hey!” Dar barked at it indignantly, coming up onto the balls of her feet and lifting both hands up in a defensive posture. “What the hell!” She glared at the cat. “Who are you hissing at you little..”
The cat put its ears flat back onto it’s head and closed one eye as it squinted up at her, one paw still lifted up, but the claws now retracted.
The rest of the assembled crowd came pouring around the corner hearing the commotion and Angela let out a squeak. “Oh it’s Rudy!” She came forward, kneeling down and extending a hand towards the animal. “C’mere, Rudy! You must be starving!”
Dar turned in place and looked at her, both hands coming down to rest on her hips. “Rudy?”
The cat skirted Dar as widely as it could and scuttled over to where the receptionist was kneeling, accepting a head scratch. “He lives outside.” Angela explained. “I feed him ham croquetas in the morning. I was worried about him, you know? I mean, he’s an outside cat but still.”
Kerry continued down the steps until she reached Dar’s side, one step up. She rested her elbow on Dar’s shoulder and regarded the cat with a bemused expression. “Is that what was under the server room floor?”
“I think so.” Dar said. “It got out of there too fast for us to see it. But it was about that size.” She sniffed reflectively. “Glad we didn’t bring the dogs with us today. That would have been a circus.”
“Mm.” Kerry agreed. “Hey Mark.”
“Hey Ker.” Mark had shrugged out of his riding jacket in deference to the muggy heat. “This place looks better than our house does.” He said. “Riding in, didn’t look too bad.”
“Considering how close we are to the water? No.” Dar agreed. “Storm surge drained out. It’s all coral edge around here, like out on the beach islands.”
“No place for the water to stay.” Jake said. “That’s what it looks like anyhow. Gets worse the further west you go here.”
“Two of the server guys are headed in here.” Mark said. “We can unrack the gear and use those pelicans up on the second level if we unpack the stuff in them now.”
The rest of the group looked at him with interest. “So there’s a plan?” Elvis asked. “Where are we taking the servers? Im guessing we’re going where they go.” He indicated Jake and himself.
“There’s a plan.” Dar confirmed. “Repository’s going over onto the island we live on. We got space there.”
There was a moment of contemplative silence. “Oh, sweet.” Jake said. “That’s where they’ve got all the generators right? I heard about it.”
“Sweet.” Elvis agreed. “Lan party at Dar’s. Rockstar.”
Jake hit himself in the head. “So that’s why we had to build a bridge to the boat.” He said. “Not to get the water here to get the servers there.”
“We’re going to get to go on the boat?” Elvis seemed absolutely delighted. “This is turning out to be a lot better than I figured it would.”
Dar and Kerry exchanged looks. “So now that the plans in work.” Kerry said. “Mark, how do you feel about you and I taking a ride west to see if we can find out how Mayte and Maria are doing.”
“Right on with that.” Mark agreed. “Let me just get the server guys going when they get here, and we can take off. I don’t know if my motor’s gonna survive all that water, but we’ll get further than a car would.”
“Okay gang.” Carlos said. “Lets go get those cases unpacked. It’s nice an breezy up there now they got the wood off the windows.”
“See?” Angela had Rudy the cat in her arms and was following them. “I told you to stick around here, Rudy. This place always has it together. Not matter what’s going on.”
Dar draped her shirt over the seat in the conference room, leaving her in a teal blue tank top with tropical fish on it and her cargo shorts.
Upstairs she could hear the thumps and scrapes as the team got things unpacked. Down the hall, she could hear the server techs talking, laughing, the sounds of cables being thrown out to their length down the hall and then recoiled.
Everyone was, she thought, just glad to have something to focus on that wasn’t the Weather Channel.
She walked over to the jalousie cranks and worked them. “Thanks Jerry!” She called out, as the last piece of wood was removed off the windows, and they were able to open to allow in the breeze.
“Like my son said.” Jerry leaned against the windows on the other side, peering in at her. “He figured if any place had things moving it would be here.”
Dar grinned briefly. “He’s a damn good coder.” She told him. “We were lucky that day you had him stop by with his skateboard.”
Jerry nodded. “Yeah, you know – we talked about it, his mom and I. Didn’t figure all that gaming stuff would go anywhere and then he showed me his first pay stub from here.” He started laughing. “I felt like an idiot, waiting so long to push him.”
“Tech’s like that.” Dar agreed. “it’s this generations industrial revolution.”
The carpenter nodded again. “Different world.” He said, briefly. “Still a place for people like me.” He indicated his tool belt. “Definitely now a place for people like him.” He said. “But not everyone’s got a place, just like they didn’t back in the day, those that drove horse buggys and the like.”
“No.” Dar said, after a thoughtful pause. “Techs like that too. It takes us places some people can’t follow.” She ran her finger along the edge of the louvered glass. “But you can’t stop inventing stuff. That’s not what we are, as a species.”
“Hang on.” Jerry seated the drill in one of the pockets of his work belt and walked around and into the entrance, then entered the conference room. “Mind if I grab a drink?” He said, then did as Dar waved a hand at the table which was covered in bags of chips, bags of granola bars, gallon jugs of warm ice tea, and other items. “Mind if I ask you a question?”
“No.” Dar sat down and was drawing on a large pad of graph paper, with their company name and logo on it. “Have at it.”
Jerry sat down in one of the chairs and stretched his feet out, his work boots covered in grass and mud and speckled with paint and glue. “You hired that boy in the chair.”
Dar glanced up at him. “Scott?”
He nodded. “Why?” He asked. “What you pay, you can hire anyone. Why that kid off the street?”
Dar considered the question, as she sketched out a design diagram for how she wanted the servers set up once they got the mess of them over to the island. “Because he’s a good tech.” She finally said. “What I’ve gotten out of screwing around with this stuff the amount of time I have is that you gotta have a specific set of skills to do it.”
Jerry just waited for her to continue.
“Logical common sense is probably the rarest of them.” Dar said. “He has it. I didn’t care what his other issues were. I wanted that skill.” She looked up at him. “Was it also a decent human thing to do? Sure.” She said. “But if he’d been a lousy tech I wouldn’t have done it.”
“Huh.” He nodded. “Jake said that.” He said. “And I wondered.”
She twirled the pen she’d been using between her fingers. “It’s a quirk in the brain.” She said. “This.. whole tech thing. I realized that, at some point.” She shrugged casually. “So I recognize it when I see it. You want that, in what we do.”
Jerry smiled and lifted his cup of warm ice tea in her direction.