Fair Winds and Following Seas
“Omg.” Jake sprawled across the couch pushed against the wall. “I’m dead.” His shorts were sweatstained, and there were red marks and bruises along his bare torso. “That was crazy.” He spread out his arms along the surface of the stiff fabric. “I thought for sure that thing was going to tip over.”
“Like right on top of Dar.” Angela agreed. “Would not have been good!”
“Good thing pops was here.” Jake agreed, his eyes closed. “Cause none of us were gonna stop that thing falling over.”
The elegant room, it’s center stripped bare of carpet, it’s high corniched ceilings and bejeweled chandelier looked a bit odd, with them all scattered inside of it with their grubby, sweat stained selves, the overhead lights reflecting off the highly polished marble floor.
Dar was standing next to the upright case, the top edge just clearing the ceiling, the bottom still resting on the dolly that she had one booted foot propped up on. “Well, it’s in here.” She removed her sunglasses and stuck them through one of her beltloops and then raked the disheveled dark hair back out of her eyes. “Good job, people.”
“We just yelled.” Angela said. “And got out of the way.” She went over to one of the tables pushed against the wall and leaned against it. “What a task!”
“Yeap.” Andy was working the latches on the far side of the case. “Lets see what we got here.” His dark green t-shirt was almost black with sweat, as were the fatigue pants he was wearing tucked into worn military boots that matched Dar’s. “See if it was all worth something.”
“Right.” Dar twisted the fastenings on the other side, and unlatched them, then leaned over to do the ones at the bottom of the case. “I didn’t hear anything rattling around when we were moving it. That’s a good sign.”
The door to the cottage opened and the housekeeping staff came in, two of them carrying boxes that alternately clinked and tinged as they walked.
Ceci was behind them and she pushed the door closed after them. “We’re back!” She announced. “And as I was coming around I saw them using some crowbars on the ferry lift.”
“That’d be nice.” Dar said. “I’d rather take the truck back to get Kerry than the Dixie and then have to steal a car if I have to go chasing after her.”
“Did that boy not find her with that motorcycle?” Andy demanded. “What in the world were they thinking?” He planted his hands on his hips in one of his daughter’s favorite poses. “Gov’mint’s got all kinds of trucks and what not out there helping people.”
‘Didn’t stop us now did it?” Dar shook her head. “Kerry’s got a mind of her own.” She said. “Hopefully by now Mark hooked up with her at Southcom and they’re on their way back.”
“That’s a sweet bike.” Allan was sitting on the stone floor, laying down flat on the cool surface. The air inside the cottage was dry and chilled and now that the door was closed, the residual moisture from the outside was rapidly being dealt with. “Wish I had one.”
“Okay, take it off.” Dar straightened up and grabbed one of the front handles, as Andy grabbed the other and they wrestled the cover off the case, stepping forward with it so they could remove it and see inside.
“Let’r go, Dardar.” Andy took the case front and leaned it up against the nearby wall as Dar started to inspect the rack full of hardware inside.
Allan and Jake sat up to watch. “That one plates broken.” Jake commented, pointing at the facing of one of the servers, which was hanging down sideways. “Is that just the LED panel?”
The case had been built with a framework designed to allow machines to be fastened securely inside, and the framework had done it’s job keeping the systems relatively in one piece. The front of the one had cracked, and there was a dent in the railing on the right hand side.
“Yeah, just the LED’s.” Dar inspected the panel, and then she tapped it back into place with a rap of her knuckles. “Everything else looks okay.”
“Might have knocked some DIMMS loose.” Allan said, pulling his legs up under him crossed. He pushed his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose and leaned forward. “Hope they locked the hard drives down before they powered off.”
“Mark’s got an encrypted blob backed up for all of them.” Jake said.
“Don’t’ help, since we aint got no internet here.” Allan said. “Do we?” He asked Dar. “I mean, they got power and everything here I guess.”
“Well.” Dar said. “No real way to tell until we can plug this thing in.” She said. “And no, we don’t have any internet out here. Circuits go through the usual suspects and they’re still down.” She glanced around. “Where the hell is the thirty amp service I asked for?”
“They’re bringing in cabling from the pool back there.” Ceci supplied. “They’re trying to figure out how to bring it inside without having to leave a door open.” She stuck her hands into the pockets of her painters pants. “I told them to knock a window pane out but it wasn’t’ a popular idea.”
“Can’t they…” Dar looked up at the ceiling, and then at the doors to the pool area. “I guess drilling a hole in the wall isn’t gonna be popular either.”
Andy chuckled softly. “Got me a big old bit on mah drill’d get through that there wall.” He offered.
Dar went to the window and peered out of it. “I’m sure that’ll make me even more popular with the management.” She said. “If possible.”
Ceci rocked up and down on her heels. “Kiddo, I think you managed to piss off more people with this little stunt than I woulda believed possible.” She said. “Talk about panties in a wad.”
“Why?” Dar glanced over her shoulder at her mother, with a puzzled expression. “What the hell is the problem with everyone? We rented this place. I didn’t’ steal it.” She turned and put her hands on her hips. “What’s their beef?”
“Ah. This is the only comfortable place to live in three counties.” Ceci promptly supplied. “I mean, literally. They have all the hoi palloi helicoptering in here to sightsee and the best the mayor of Miami can offer them is a spare mat in the back room of the command center.”
“Mother.” Dar said. “People are dead, and houses are blown up all up and down the coast. Who the fuck cares what politicians are sleeping on?”
“They do.” Ceci said. “And if we want them to give us lots of money to recover and help people, I get that it matters to the folks in charge here.”
“I don’t.” Dar said. “Because half the condos on this high priced Alcatraz are investment property and empty. They should farm those out if they want to house their buddies from DC.” She walked across the living room of the cottage and entered the small kitchen.
Inside Juanita and her colleagues were stocking the refrigerator, and setting up a coffee service. “Do not pay attention to them, Ms Dar.” Juanita said. “Mr Clemente said he would take you and your friends over the other people any day.”
Dar smiled briefly. “He’s a good guy.” She said. “He’s been one of the best things about living here since I moved in.” She told the housekeepers. “We’re going to mess this place up, tell ya that in advance.”
“No problem.” Juanita said. “Do the young men and ladies have luggage? Manuel can go get it for them.” She offered. “They seem very nice.”
Dar paused in the act of opening a can of orange Crush. “Oh crap.” She said. “Thanks for mentioning it. I totally lost track of the fact none of them has anything with them.” She took the can and went into the living room. “All right folks, listen up.”
“Can I listen from here?” Allan asked.
“Sure.” Dar said. “We’ve got a little time until they get those cables in here. So lets go over to our local market and get you all some supplies.” She said. “They don’t have a huge choice but it’s something.”
Jake opened one eye and looked at her. “Oh.” He said. “You mean like clothes and stuff.” He said, after a moments puzzled pause.
Dar nodded. “They’ve got laundry service but you’ll need something to wear while what you gots being washed. I’ve caused enough problems without everyone running around naked.”
The team chuckled with some tinge of embarrassment.
“All golf shirts and khakis, huh?” Angela asked, in a mournful tone. “I shoulda packed a bag, but who knew we’d end up here?”
Andy came in from the back patio. “Figured it out.” He said. “But they got some fellers out there want to talk to you, Dardar.” He said. “Said they got some deal or something or somesuch.”
“Great.” Dar sighed. “More bullshit.”
But Andy shook his head. “Don’t think so.” He said. “Ah hear you all want to go riding out to the shop? C’mon Cec.” He said. “Ah could do me with a snack.” He said. “Been all right with what they done got over theah.”
“They have greasy cheeseburgers.” Ceci translated. “Instead of carefully selected minced sirloin patties with dijon aioli.” She waved at the rest of them. “Everyone in the cart! Lets go invade.” She snickered in evident enjoyment.
“Try not to have too much fun.” Dar said, dryly. “I’ll meet you over there.”
The gang gathered and they trooped out the front door, while Dar took her time, drinking down her Crush before she crumpled the can and dropped it into the tiny, mostly useless trash can in the corner of the room.
She paused in front of the mirror and regarded her reflection, then just chuckled wryly before she went to the back door, figuring if she had already pissed off the world, facing it in a ratty tank top and cargo shorts probably wouldn’t make it any worse.
She pushed the door open and went out into the stifling heat, shutting the door behind her and walking out onto the pool deck of the cottage. It was bare of any adornment, all of the chairs and tables and niceties having been stored away for the duration of the storm.
The pool had been half drained, and then filled with storm surge, and was now murky and, surprisingly, had a duck floating around in it. Dar hadn’t figured on using it to swim in but she hadn’t expected the duck either and it quacked at her as she walked around the edge, fluttering it’s wings and tucking them back against it’s sides. “Everyone’s a critic.”
“Squonk.” The duck quacked again, complacently.
On the far side of the deck there were two electricians wrestling with a spool of heavy black cabling and nearby watching them were the two strangers from the helicopter. They were in the shade provided by the thick privacy hedges, which hadn’t suffered much from the storm.
Figures. Dar exhaled, then skirted the pool and approached them. “Can I help you gentlemen with something?” She asked, in a brisk tone. “My father said you wanted to speak to me.”
The nearer one, slightly older, thick black hair short and cut neatly around his head, nodded. “Ms. Roberts? My name is Alex Redondo.” He held out a hand to her. “This is John Delacruz, my associate.”
Dar took his hand and returned a firm grip. Then she just lifted an eyebrow and waited.
“We heard you’re in the computer business.” Redondo said, in a straightforward way. “One of the security directors told us. He said you fixed something for him, said you were a real whiz.”
Dar’s brow remained raised, as her mental train went off the track and headed off on an unexpected highway. “Well.” She paused briefly. “Whether or not I’m a whiz depends on who you talk to, but yes, in fact, I run a computer consulting company.”
He nodded. “We need some help. The security guy said to ask you.”
“Me.” Dar felt a certain sense of the absurd surfacing. “I’m kind of up to my neck in my own crap right now.”
Redondo nodded again. “I get it. Everyone is.” He said. “But I think we can maybe help each other out. Here’s the deal…” He paused, and looked around.
Dar needed no assistance in interpreting the look. “Want to go inside?” She offered. “It’s air conditioned.” She added wryly.
Both men smiled in response. They followed her around the pool and into the cottage. The second man, Delacruz, glanced at the rack as he walked in. “That’s a box of gear.” He commented. “That what you all were bringing off that boat?”
“Yep.” Dar agreed. “So what’s your pitch?” She waited for Redondo to close the door to the patio and join them in the center of the bare room. “As you can see, we’re pretty busy trying to get something done here.”
“Us too.” Alex said. “Here’s what it is.”
The water was halfway up to the window. Kerry was standing on the deck of the airboat, shading her eyes as she looked up at Maria. “We’ve got to get you guys out of here.” She said, aware of the noise of the crowd behind them.
Mayte was standing behind her. “The whole house is flooded.” She said. “It is terrible.” She said to Joe. “Thank you for coming with this machine.”
“Don’t thank me.” Joe said. “Thank her. She’s paying for it.” He looked behind them. The crowd had started to drift over, heading past the submerged cars and trees. “But if you all don’t hurry up all that cash ain’t gonna do anyone no good.”
“Kerrisita he cannot come.” Maria was saying. “His leg is I think broken.”
“Oh crap.” Kerry muttered.
“When the water came, he went to run downstairs to get some things.” Mayte told her. “Mama tried to stop him but the water was too hard.”
“Si.” Maria said. “We put some things around it, to keep it still but he is in so much pain.” She said. “And there is blood too.”
Kerry looked over her shoulder, then she turned and went to the edge of the deck, stepping off it and plunging into the water to wade towards the open front door to the house. “C’mon Mayte. Lets see if we can get him down the stairs.” She said. “Joe, just be ready to move it.”
“You got it, Sarge.” Joe kicked open the gear box under the seats and leaned over to pull out a worn shotgun from it, breaking it open to look inside, and then closing the mechanism again before settling it into the cradle of his right arm against his chest. “Don’t be slow.”
Inside there were things floating and it was hot, the stench of standing water making Kerry’s nose wrinkle. The flood was up to her chest and she was glad to get to the steps and get out of it, hauling herself upward by grabbing the banister.
There were pictures floating off past the steps, and on the far side of the first floor she could see the light of the outside penetrating from a half bent opening.
“The wind pushed inside.” Mayte was at her heels. “I was so scared.” She added. “We thought… we are so far from the water, yes? We thought it would be okay to stay. Mama didn’t want to leave our house behind.”
“We’ll get you guys out of here.” Kerry told her, projecting as much quiet confidence as she could. “I get it, Mayte. We didn’t want to leave our place either and there were some scary times during the storm.”
“Is it okay by your house?”
They got to the top of the stairs. “Yeah, we’re fine.” Kerry said, after a brief pause to take in the blown out windows and gap in the roof. “We found Zoe, too, and we heard from the guys we sent north and Colleen, and some of the staff showed up earlier at the office.”
They went down the hall and met Maria as she was coming out of what was the master bedroom. Inside, her husband and Mayte’s father Tomas was lying on the bed, his face very pale and covered in a sheen of sweat.
“I’m really glad we found you.” Kerry said, after a slight pause. “I can’t wait to tell Dar.” She continued. “But right now lets see how we can get Tomas out of here.”
It was a compound fracture.
Kerry knew very little about the subject, but just looking at the blue, swollen, bloodstained skin on Tomas’ leg nearly made her sick to her stomach so she could hardly imagine how Tomas himself and his family felt about it. “Oh boy.” She muttered, under her breath.
“Kerry, if we leave here..” Mayte was kneeling next to her. “They will come inside and take our things. We saw that already.”
“She is right.” Tomas said, wanly.
Kerry glanced around the bedroom. There was a beautiful wood cabinet against the wall, and on the dresser was scattered a collection of mementos.
“We came here with so little.” Maria murmured, as though reading her mind.
“Well.” Kerry exhaled. “Things are just things. What’s important right now is that we get Tomas to the hospital.” She was at a loss, though, as to just how they were going to do that. “Can you stand up?” She asked. “If we help you? If you can get to the stairs…”
“I know.” Mayte stood up. “I have a blow up thing in my room, let me get it. You can sit on that.” She trotted out, and Maria took her place.
“It sounds so silly.” Maria said. “But you know, Kerrisita, we have worked hard for the things we have, and we do care about them.”
“It’s not silly, and I get it.” Kerry told her, trying to figure a way to give Tomas some leverage to stand. “But you can’t stay here, Maria.” She braced her knee against the edge of the bed and extended her arm. “Let me help you try to sit up.”
‘Si of course not.” Maria murmured. “Let me help also.”
Tomas said something to her in Spanish. Then he took Kerry’s hand and she leaned back, flexing her arm and pulling him up towards her. He managed to sit up, bracing other hand against the bed as he slid his good leg off it and onto the floor.
He paused, his face white, as he muttered a soft curse under his breath. “Un momento.” He said. “My head is going around.”
“No worry. Take your time.” Kerry patted him on the shoulder. “We’ll get through this.”
“It is amazing you found us.” Maria said. “With this machine outside.” She added. “What is that?”
“it’s called an airboat.” Kerry stood up and went to the window, peering outside. “It’s something they use a lot in the Everglades. Dar took me on one once, when I wanted to see what the Everglades were.”
Hilarious moment, in retrospect. It had at least been in winter, and a gorgeous day with clear, vivid blue skies and pleasantly mid-sixties temperatures and so the ride out into the 1.5 million acre boggy swamp that made the southwestern tip of Florida uninhabitable was far more comfortable than she was right now.
There was a wild beauty to it, just like wild open space anywhere had a spacious peace and grandeur inherent to them when you could turn off the boat’s engine and spend a moment just listening to lack of humanity around you.
She remembered the musky scent of brackish water, and the sight of a hawk or perhaps a falcon hunting overhead, and the audible thrum of the winter breeze against her ears.
Joe had tied off the airboat on the lamppost that stood outside the door and he was standing on the far side of the boat, peering behind them. “Okay?” Kerry asked him, holding one thumb up in question.
Joe turned and looked at her, and she saw the shotgun cradled in his arm. He lifted his free hand. “For now.” He said. “They seen this.” He lifted the gun up and lowered it. “But don’t take too long.” He warned. “I aint’ sticking around if they all start coming at us aint’ got enough shells for that.”
“Got it.” Kerry pulled her head back inside and went back over to the bed. Behind her, outside the door she could hear Mayte working on something. “Okay?” She studied Tomas. “How about we get you up and you can lean on me.”
“It will be too much.” Tomas shook his head. “I am too big.”
“We’ll get it done.” Kerry disagreed. “I’m stronger than I look, honest.” She stood in front of him and extended both hands to him. “Maria, help him on that side.” She directed. “Lets get you moving and before you know it you’ll be out on the boat and we’ll be on the way to help.”
Tomas seemed doubtful, but he took her hands and she leaned back, hoping they weren’t gong to end up crashing right back down onto the bed as he struggled to get upright on one leg.
Maria anxiously grabbed his arm on the side with his bad leg and urged him upward.
“Mayte!” Kerry called out. “Give us a hand here!”
“I am coming!” Mayte’s voice accompanied an odd, rustling, squeaking sound and then she appeared in the doorway, rushing over to take hold of her father’s arm just at the moment when Kerry was sure they were going to lose control.
Her assistance literally tipped the balance and then Tomas was upright, if shaking. Kerry released one and and got one of his arms over her shoulders. “Get on that side Mayte.” She directed. “Maria, move that chair out of the way.”
“Si.” Maria went to move the small, low stool that had been tucked against the bed and she dragged it out of the way, it’s weighted base thumping a little bit against the carpeted floor.
Mayte got up against her father on the other side, and they all paused a moment to take a breath.
Kerry studied the path to the door, as she considered their next move, and it occurred to her that it was a good thing both women were used to taking her direction without much question because she really was making it up as she went along.
Briefly, she wished Dar was with her. Everyone carried their own internal troubleshooting toolbox and in truth Dar was like having the worlds most capable multi tool in the box with you and it came with a self guided high quality intelligence with it.
Super useful. Utterly dependable. You needed a computer thing solved? No problem. You needed a mechanical thing solved? No problem. You needed something lifted off a high shelf? Really no problem.
Kerry sighed and dismissed the internal conversation since it was pointless. Dar wasn’t there, and so she had to carry on. “Okay.” She said. “Lets get over to the door, then let me go in front and we get through sideways.” She instructed. “Just take it slow, Tomas.”
“Kerry, this is so amazing.” Mayte commented. “All of the things outside, no one knows anything, no one knows where to go or what to do, and you are here.”
“Yes.” Tomas added, before Kerry could demur. “God bless you.”
Kerry smiled briefly in response. “I am, for sure, blessed.” She said, after a pause. “But I will be even more so if we can get out of here and make you feel better.” She could see the pallor in the older man’s face, and sweat was rolling down all of their faces. “So let’s go.”
They started inching towards the door. Kerry, being on the side of Tomas that his bad leg was, felt the strain as she took his weight on her shoulders, trying to be very careful not to jostle the injury as she moved.
As they turned to get through the door and she sidled through it she saw a large, brightly colored object on the ground. “Wha…oh.” She said. “That what you were blowing up, Mayte?”
“Yes,” Mayte answered from behind her. “I got it at a surviving show.”
It was a.. kayak? Kerry nudged it a bit out of her way. An inflatable kayak in distress orange. “For this you mean?”
“Si.” Mayte said. “Scott said I should.” She said. “He knows about that like Dar’s papa.”
“Good advice.” Kerry got around the kayak. “Here, Tomas, rest against the bannister.” Outside the open door, she could hear Joe yelling. “Let me see what’s going on out there, then we’ll get you into the kayak and float you on out.”
She made sure his grip was sturdy on the railing before she ducked under his arm, grabbed the kayak and hauled it up and over the landing, letting it slide down the bannister and into the water that covered the lower level.
Squeezing past it she entered the water herself and moved down the stairs, grimacing a little as the warm, wet, stale smelling flood soaked her. “Be right back.”
“So we have this new technology.” Alex said, now seated on the couch, a mildly cool Coke in his hand. “It’s a high speed ground based satellite and it fits in the space of a minivan.” He held his hands out the full width of his arms. “Totally portable.”
“Be freaking useful right now.” Dar acknowledged.
“It would.” John agreed. “We know it, freaking priceless because between the damage and the power, it’s gonna be who knows how long before they get full cell or anything back.”
“Lot of towers down.” Dar agreed. “There’s a repeater on the island here, but it doesn’t do crap without the rest of it.” She tilted her head with some interest. “What kind of technology is it?”
Alex took a sip of his coke. “It’s what the military uses, you know? But it’s different targets, LEO, and it doesn’t use the same channels they do so right now they’re kinda open.” He said. “It’s a classified frequency but they classed it as experimental.”
“If it’s classified, how is it you can use it?”
“I’m attached to the naval research lab.” John said, in an offhand way. “I have a license for it.”
Dar’s eyebrows lifted.
“It’s legal.” Alex said, quickly. “We’ve got a grant, to try and develop a commercial use for it. You know?” He said. “So when this all happened, I said to John, hey… “ He said. “I bet we can figure a way to get this up and get commercial with it.” He paused. “So here we are.”
Dar folded her arms. “What do you need me for?” She asked. “You could get whatever price you asked for right now. You’ve got a whole damned island full of deep pockets jonseing for Internet.”
“We do.” Delgado smiled at her. “Problem is, we have the gear, and I know how to operate it, and John here knows how to bring up the service, but all that gets us is an internet connected minivan. Which is great, but limited. We want to sell this to everyone.”
“Ah.” Dar said. “You need a way to parcel it out.”
Trivial for her, in reality. “I might have the gear for that.” She allowed, in a thoughtful tone. “Or where to find it, anyway.”
“Sam said, if anyone on this island did, it would be you, or you’d be able to get it.” Alex said. “But we got a limited timeframe, cause we need to sell this package and get our money before they get everything else running again.” He said. “I’m not pretending to any altruism here. I want seed money to prove this out as a new gig and these people here will pay anything for their convenience.”
Dar found this comfortingly clear. “Got it.” She said. “I want it to bring up my business.” She said. “I’ll hook you up and manage it as my cut.” She said, in a decisive tone. “How’s that?”
Alex smiled at her. “Man, I was hoping you were going to say that.” He said. “My question is, can you really do it?” He asked her. “No offense. I have no idea who the hell you are and you’re not my idea of some geeky cable brain.”
He regarded the tall, mudstained, windblown, half clad woman leaning against the ornate French desk in the corner. “I’ve known a few of those in my time.”
“I mean, you’re obviously IT related.” John pointed to the rack. “But I’ve never heard of your company.” He sounded a bit apologetic. “Sorry.”
Dar pondered the response, mostly feeling amused and not really offended. “I have no idea who you are either.” She reminded them. “We try to stay low key.” She added. “You’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you I can do what you’re asking, and..” She casually shrugged. “And it’ll be pretty apparent whether or not I can when I do it.”
“Good point.” John said. “Same with us.”
“True.” Alex said. “When can we start?”
“Where’s your minivan?” Dar asked. “And how did you get it here?”
“Over by the club.” John said. “In the parking lot behind that big building. I didn’t get it here, it was here. Some guy had contracted us to look at it to bring in some soccer game or something for a party.”
“Yeah, I don’t know. I was just hoping he’d have lots of rich friends we could talk to about it to be honest. I guess he couldn’t get some game? He’s from Spain.” John said. “We got over here, and found out he took off to get away from the storm.”
Dar straightened up. “Lets go take a look.” She said, briefly closing her eyes and picturing the layout of the island. “See what you got.”
They got up from the couch. “You need anything to review it?”
“No. Just the eyeballs.” Dar put her sunglasses on as they went out the door and back into the muggy heat. “Lets hope someone’s got a spool of cat six somewhere.”
“We weren’t going to open.” The cashier told Ceci. “I mean, who’d be buying logo tshirts, right?”
“Glad we could provide you some sales.” Ceci told her, leaning against the counter as the staff roamed the store, picking out shirts and shorts. “Andy’s next door.”
“People were complaining about the limited menu.” Cherise lamented. “Canned veggies. How did they think we were going to get a fresh delivery this morning?”
“People are entitled idiots.” Ceci said. “Literally more money than sense.” She glanced around. “Hey, is the storage for the spa open? Maybe I can get a big dispenser of body wash and shampoo for the cottage.”
“Let me check for you, Mrs. R.” Cherise said, promptly. “That’s a great idea.” She trotted out, leaving them in grand isolation in the store.
Ceci was enjoying living here more than she had thought she would. The pretentious nitwittery provided her a never ending parade of entertainment as well as opportunity to shock and offend her neighbors that living on a boat often didn’t.
The island staff loved her and Andy, and were obvious about it, where there was a slight formality in the way they treated Dar and Kerry. Gay cooties, Ceci had decided, were a thing and evident where she and her husband were accepted completely.
Despite the fact they were actually more radical. Idiots. Ceci picked up a wicker basket and went over to the candy section, sweeping a good selection of the contents into the basket before she moved along to see what else she could grab.
A thought occurred to her. The island had a certain amount of supplies available. The comment about the fresh vegetables made her wonder what would happen when that ran out?
She was not personally worried. They had two boats, and both Dar and Andy were proficient fishers and she liked a nice seaweed salad herself.
Would the island go high society apocalyptic? The thought of millionaires in golf cart raiding parties made her smile. Would they end up with sandbags and a machine gun on the front porch? She made a mental note to entertain Andy with the idea later on and turned, as the kids came up with their arms and baskets full. “Ready? I have them coughing up a gallon each of soap and shampoo.”
“This is pretty cool.” Jake seemed pleased. “They even have underwear and stuff.”
“Sure.” Ceci started piling it all on the counter, as Cherise came back in from the back entrance. “Not like you can just run to Walgreens if you stain your tighty whities.”
“Let me start writing this down.” Cherise said, pulling over a yellow lined pad to her and selecting one of the company branded pens from a cup behind the countertop. “Our POS is not working.” She added, in explanation. “I guess they shut it down for the storm.”
“Surprised they haven’t popped by to ask Dar to fix it.” Ceci said. “Okay, grab one of those carry on bags each, kids. As she gets this down, pack em up and you’ll get a party favor to take home with you.”
“Mrs R, you’re the best.” Angela said. “I got some pads and pens and stuff, to write stuff down for when we get the office back up. I can’t think about what our voice mail looks like.” She said. “I bet it’s full up twice.”
“At least.” Ceci agreed. “Pads and pencils. Takes me back to the old days.”
Celeste was behind her. “Thanks for letting me be a part of this.” She said to Ceci, keeping her voice low. “It definitely started out being a much sadder day.”
“No problem kiddo.” Ceci relaxed against the counter again. “Glad you stopped by. I know my kids miss the folks back at the old place. Dar wished she could start up with all of em, but give her time.” She smiled grimly. “Stupid nitwits.”
“Oh, they regret it there.” Celeste said, promptly. “Pretty much every day there’s something that happens that wouldn’t have.” She paused. “They just had a big bunch of layoffs, before the storm hit. I don’t know what’s going to happen now We’re all afraid they’re just going to close that office.”
“What.. that huge glass monstrosity?” Ceci said, astonished. “Wasn’t that the center of the world of something or other?”
Celeste nodded solemnly.
“Okay, that’s it.” Cherise announced. “Thanks you all. Mrs R, they put the big jugs into your cart outside. Randy said if they need anything else to let him know.”
Ceci scrawled her signature across the hand written pad of items. “Thanks.” She said. “C’mon, troops. I can smell dead cow being seared out there.” She waved the staff ahead of her. “Lets see if they have any lettuce and tomatoes so we can split the difference.”
Kerry waded outside and shoved a floating palm frond out of the way to allow her to see what was going on. Joe was standing on the far edge of the airboat, his shotgun cocked and resting it’s butt on his hip as he yelled at a small crowd of people on the other side.
“There are people trapped!” One of the crowd said. “C’mon, man!”
Kerry got to the edge of the boat. “Just me Joe.” She called out, boosting herself up and onto the deck, it’s surface rocking under her weight. She got to her feet and came over to him. “What’ going on?”
“What do you think?” Joe asked. “They want this boat and ain’t none of them got near the bucks you do.” He said. “Get back from there, buddy!” He added, angling the gun. “Don’t come no closer.”
“Listen, our friend is stuck in his house and we have to get him out.” The nearest man said. He was standing in the chest high water, his tshirt soaked in mud and a kerchief tied around his head. “Stop screwing around here, man.”
“There’s someone trapped here too.” Kerry told him, gesturing behind her at the house. “We need to get him to the hospital.”
The man stared at her. “In there?” He pointed at the house. “We didn’t hear anyone in there.” He said. “We went to all the houses around here. No one answered.”
Hard to tell really if he was accusing them of lying or excusing the group of ignoring someone in need. Kerry acknowledged it really didn’t matter. “There’s someone there, he’s hurt, and we’re going to get him help.”
“There’s people in there. I seen em.” Joe added, briefly. “Maybe they didn’t like the looks of ya.” He suggested. “Thought you were gonna take their stuff.”
“We’re neighbors!” The man shot back, angrily. “They know us!”
Joe shrugged insolently. “I wouldn’t let some of my neighbors in my place. Don’t blame em.”
Kerry glanced behind her. “Well, we’re wasting time here.” She said. “I’m sorry about your friend, but we’re going to take care of the injured man in there first.” She said. “So please get out of the way since I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”
Joe was nodding in agreement. “The guard’ll get here eventually.” He said, as the little knot of people reluctantly retreated, frequently looking back at them. “Or it’ll dry out. They should have stuff to eat in there if they stayed.” He muttered. “Not be scrounging so fast.”
“Maybe they stored it all on the first floor.” Kerry commented. “I don’t think anyone expected this.” She indicated the flooding. “They thought about the wind and all that stuff not so much about the place being four feet under water.”
“Could be true.” Joe agreed. “I heard them talking it all up. We knew though.” He said. “Everyone by me found a place to hole up, off the ground. But we’re used to the wet.”
“Well. They didn’t and we were lucky.” She went back to the other edge of the boat. “Anyway, let me get Tomas out here before they come back.”
‘You figure they will?” Joe was watching them. “They don’t look like tough guys.”
“Yeah I do, since there’s more of them than us, and it’s hot and they’re pissed off.” Kerry jumped off the boat and back into the water. “And because people suck sometimes, you know?”
Joe chuckled briefly. “Heard that, Sergeant major.” He said. “Okay, get your buddies and lets get the hell out of here.”
Kerry was totally on board with that idea. The heat and the neverending seeping, dank smelling wet were getting to her, and she plowed ahead through the floodwaters, stumbling a little as her foot struck some obstructions in the yard.
She almost fell, only the fallen tree saved her as she grabbed one of the branches, feeling the whole thing shift under her weight before it swayed backwards and pulled her upright again.
“Okay guys let.. oh.” She came around the edge of the downed tree and in view of the front door to find Tomas already sitting in the kayak with his leg awkwardly propped on the side of it, the front part of it framed in the open doorway. “Wow. Great job guys!”
Tomas looked like he was all in, though. His face was white as a sheet and Maria had hold of one of his hands, her face frightened. There was fresh blood on his leg and the bandage that was wrapped around it was now soaked. He was visibly biting the inside of his lip.
Mayte was behind them. “It was not so good, Kerry. Papa fell down the stairs.” She explained. “It was just a lucky thing the raft was there and he went down on top of it.”
“Oh, Kerrisita.” Maria looked overwhelmed, as Kerry waded into the house. “This is a horrible thing.” She looked around the lower level of the house and then firmly turned her head and looked outside instead.
“Oh boy.” Kerry got hold of the edge of the boat and started towing it back out towards the boat. “Yeah, it’s a mess, Maria. But at least we’re getting out of here now.” She said. “Lets get you to the hospital fast as we can. Hang in there, Tomas.” She said. “Easy.. it’s.. there’s a lot of stuff on the ground here.”
“Oh.” Mayte gripped the back end if the raft. “It is the rocks from the front, I think.” She said. “Mama’s little garden.” She said. “The drinking fountain for the birds.”
Now Kerry remembered, a vague picture in her head of the neat front yard, and it’s mango tree shaded rock garden with it’s stone bench and the table for dominos. “Careful.” She gently steered the kayak around the tree into view from the airboat. “Easy around that corner.”
“Whoa.” Joe had put his gun down on the tackle box and come over to the near side. “That’s a mess.” He indicated the injury. ‘You were not kidding there sarge.” He looked at the bloody fabric. “Broken.”
“Yes.” Kerry pulled the raft over and came to a halt next to him. “What’s the best way… I don’t think he can get up on there.” She looked at the edge of the boat, about a foot higher than the edge of the kayak. “Can we… “ She paused. “What if we…”
She fell silent for a moment, then she watched the edge of the deck dip down as Joe knelt on it and touched the front of the kayak.
“Pull the whole thing up on the deck. ” Joe said. “We can try it anyhow. Lemme get a rope on the front of that. Hang on.” He went over to pick up a coil of rope near the chairs and then he paused and looked out past the other side of the boat. “Oh, crap.”
Kerry turned her head and looked through the metal cage that wrapped around the engine fan. “Ah.” She said. “Figured they’d be back.” She spotted the group of men, now augmented by several more, heading back in their direction now with at least two guys wearing camo tshirts.
They had sticks in their hands. It could have been to help them walk in the flood, but Kerry wasn’t going to take the risk and she figured Joe wasn’t in the mood to either. “Well, hell.” She sighed. “That’s not good.”
“What is going on?” Mayte had worked her way around to Kerry’s side. “Oh, those are the men who live down on the side of the block.” She said. “They make noise with their cars all the time.”
“Are they friends of your folks?” Kerry asked her. “Maybe we’ve got it wrong and they’ll help us get him onboard.”
The younger woman looked past the edge of the boat, and then shook her head. “My papa does not like them, no.” Mayte said. “We are friends with some of the families on this side of the block, but they went to the shelter.”
“So they’re probly jacktards like we thought. Got it.” Joe said. “Lemme get the engine going.” He quickly returned to the edge and handed Kerry the rope. “Tie that on, yeah? Maybe we can pull the thing behind us if we haveta.” He took his seat and pressed the starter on the engine, the sound of the huge fan spinning up filling the air.
“Mayte get up there.” Kerry boosted herself onto the edge of the boat, getting the bow of the kayak between her knees as she laced the rope through an eyehole on the point of it and tied a knot in it. “Get your mom up there too.”
Mayte climbed up onto the boat and stood up , coming over to where Kerry was sitting. “Can we… oh if we stand here…” She knelt. “Mama, come here and see if you can sit so we can bring the front on the top of this.”
Joe came over. “Better hurry.” He said. “I’m not stopping to argue with these shitheads.” He took hold of the rope “Help her up here and lets get this onboard.”
Kerry scrambled over to the edge of the airboat and braced her boots, extending her hands to Maria. “C’mon.” She said. “Lets get out of here, Maria, before we get into something I can’t get us out of.”
“Dios Mio.” Maria was in tears. “Oh no, this is so terrible.”
“It is.” Kerry gripped her hands and hauled up with all her strength. “But we’ll get through it.”
“Get on!” Joe yelled. “C’mon c’mon!” He pushed Mayte ahead of him. “Get this and pull!” He put the end of the rope into her hands. “I gotta steer!”
Kerry managed to pull Maria onto the deck, both of them tumbling to the ground as Mayte wrapped the rope around her hands and tried to keep it taut. “Oh I don’t think I can hold this… “ She yelped in alarm, her feet skidding on the deck as she was pulled towards the water. “Oh!”
Kerry got to her feet and got her hands around the rope. “Maria, stay there!” She yelled. “Stay on the side there and lean towards the water!” She glanced over her shoulder at the approaching group, who were yelling words being blown right back over their shoulders by the draft from the engine.
“I gotta back out of here!” Joe yelled. “I’m not letting them get their hands on this so hold the hell on to that rope!.” He shifted the engine into gear and the airboat fan sent a wash of water backwards as it started into motion.
“No, wait..” Kerry yelled. “Let me…” She jumped over and took hold of the front of the kayak as the airboat lumbered into a turn. “Hold on Tomas! Hold on to the side!”
Maria let out a yell of alarm. She reached out and grabbed hold of Tomas’ good leg, leaning over the edge of the boat and making it dip down as Kerry bent her knees and tried to will the edge of the airboat to further dip so she could pull the front of the kayak up onto the edge of the deck.
“Mama!” Mayte lunged forward and grabbed hold of her mother’s belt, and the weight of the three women was enough to send the edge of the boat low enough for the front of the kayak to slide up onto it.
“Mayte, grab this and pull!” Kerry scrabbled backwards, grabbing onto the chair with one hand as she hauled the kayak with the other. “Pull!”
Mayte and Maria grabbed the kayak as it swayed and they all pulled, as the airboat swiveled in place and backed away from the house.
Kerry went to her knees and reached out to grab the other side of the kayak, trying hard to avoid slamming against Tomas’ injured leg as the edge of the boat lifted up and lifted him with it, out of the water
“Oh!” A moan escaped him, as the inflated raft flexed under his body and he almost slid backwards into the water. “Oh! Oh!”
“Crap!” Kerry leaped off the boat and into the water, and got her shoulder under him. “Pull!” She yelled. “Hurry!” She could see the crowd approaching and hear Joe yelling something at her, but the sound of the engine overwhelmed the sense of what he was saying.
Kerry felt the boat moving and she grabbed hold of the edge of it, grimacing as she felt herself pulled over some underwater obstacle, something that felt like branches slamming against her legs. She tightened her grip and pulled herself forward, setting her shoulders against the side of the kayak.
She heard Mayte yell, and then a moment later the kayak moved onto the airboat and she pulled herself up onto the edge of it and out of the water just in time to avoid being scraped off and impaled by a broken off lightpost.
It caught the edge of her shirt though and a moment later she was being throttled by it, her breathing cut off abruptly. She heard Mayte cry out but there was no time to find out why as she was being dragged along the edge of the deck.
Gagging, she twisted to one side and ducked her head as the felt the shirt fabric rip. She grabbed the edge of the engine casing and turned, as the shirt was pulled off her body and left behind, the boat now moving faster and past the group of men.
The branches whipped against her bare skin and the boat moved past, leaving a stinging burn across her shoulders, the noise of it’s engines deafening as she pressed against the cage around the blades for balance.
Ow. She ducked as they moved through another set of downed tree branches and turned, warding off a thick patch of leaves as she looked anxiously over at where Mayte and Maria were huddled over the kayak and Tomas, Mayte staring at her with one hand outstretched in protest, her eyes wide in shock.
At least he was onboard. Kerry reached up to rub her throat, and coughed, taking a moment to catch her breath. “That wasn’t fun.”
“Oh Kerry! Are you okay?” Mayte gasped. “Your shirt is gone!”
“Better the shirt than my neck.” She hauled herself to her feet. “Get the hell out of here.” She got up next to Joe, who was maneuvering through the debris, going through what had been Maria and Tomas’ front yard and was now mostly.. She looked to either side. Mostly just destroyed trash.
Behind them, she saw the group still yelling, one of them waving a piece of cloth in their direction. She could see the anger and frustration in their faces, but in that moment, found she didn’t have it in her to care.
“Hell yeah.” Joe glanced at her. “They were yelling something about the cops, no way I wanted to stick around for that. “ He paused. “That was kinda badass. You weren’t keeping those bucks in that shirt pocket were ya?” He asked. “Cause I aint going back for that unless you were.”
Kerry’s lips twitched slightly . “No.” She ignored the knowledge she was dressed from the waist up in just a bra and pretended she had Dar’s complete lack of body conciousness instead. “But they’re wet. Hope you don’t mind that.”
“No problem.” He concluded. “Where you want to take this guy? I can’t get to Jackson in this thing.”
Kerry thought about that. “Any place you know nearby…. No, probably not, huh?”
“Probably not” Joe agreed. “Not with that. You got a dog bite or something, maybe.” He steered the boat back out and onto the main roadway again, heading north. “He’s gonna lose that leg or worse you don’t find a fix for it.”
Kerry glanced past him, hoping Maria and Mayte hadn’t heard him. “Go back to the base.” She said. “Back where you found me. I can get some help there.”
“From the Guard?” He looked dubious. “Not from those dudes you told off.” He disagreed. “Though I dunno, they may like you better with your shirt off.”
Kerry folded her arms over her chest, a brief, wry smile appearing on her face. “They might.” She agreed mildly. “But at least there, I knew my sat phone worked and there might even be a guy on a motorcycle looking for me.” She said. “I can give you your fee, and maybe someone else wants to hire you.”
Joe looked sideways at her. “Kinda too bad, sergeant major.” He said. “Don’t think I’ll find anybody like you there again.”
Dar examined the gear stuffed in the back of the van thoughtfully. It was an expensive rig, and it smelled like machine oil and new electronics, planted into the back of a Mercedes cargo van that had been stripped of any interior except for the carpet.
“So we figured we could hook up to maybe a wireless access point or something and do a trial.” Alex was saying. “I picked up a few of those Linksys ones at the Best Buy before we came out here.”
Dar pulled herself around the back of the rig and examined the connections to it. “Made for a cable plant.”
“Mostly.” John agreed. “Military, you. Know? All if it shielded and stuff.” He was sitting in the passenger seat, and Alex was in the driver’s seat, both of them hanging over the back of their chairs watching Dar.
Dar studied the console. She reached over and flipped on the power, watching the lights and dials illuminate and the small integrated sine wave meter spin up. Over her head, she heard the dish power up, the roof of the van reinforced with a steel frame.
“So .. “ Alex got up and came in to the back, sitting down in a small wooden stool next to the gear. He opened a hatch and folded it down, revealing a keyboard. “Let me get a signal… John, can you get the dish aligned?” He typed in a few commands.
John came over and with an apologetic look, edged past Dar to the back of the rig. He crouched down, his knees popping and cracking. “Ugh” He adjusted the settings “Getting too old for this stuff.”
Dar watched the readout’s change, and the graph go from random patterns to a squared regularity. “That was fast.”
Alex glanced at her. “You know that stuff?”
Dar smiled. “I know a little of everything.” She said. “Enough to know what a pain in the ass aiming a satellite is.” She qualified. “That was a fast connection.”
“it’s got a digital preset.” John said. “And they’re LEO, so they’re a lot closer… there.” He said. “Go ahead, Alex.”
“See here I..” Alex found himself gently moved away from the keyboard as Dar took it over, examining the screen. “It’s..”
“Unix.” Dar finished for him. “Sco, I think.” She added, pecking out a few commands. “Yeah.” She said. “So lets see what this thing can do.”
Alex and John exchanged looks. “Were you …er.. in the military?” John asked. “Or something?”
“Or something.” Dar finished inspecting the machine’s configuration. “This is relatively simple.” She stated. “But it’s meant to hook up to something else. Not just be an internet terminal.” She looked at them. “I don’t care, but did you walk out of a base with this?”
Alex glared at his partner. “What in the hell are you saying? You want to get us both in trouble? No we didn’t walk out of no place with this thing!”
“Yes we did.” John repeated. “Drop the BS, Alex. Don’t bother. It’s not worth it and she said she doesn’t care.”
“And you believe that?” Alex seemed disgusted. “You’re the one who said not to get my hopes up..what the hell changed your mind so fast?”
“What changed my mind was I just realized who the hell this is. Remember I said the name seemed a little familiar to me?” John asked. “You worked for ILS.” He addressed Dar. “Right?”
“I did.” Dar was busy with the keyboard. “Now I own my own consulting company. Worked out a lot better for me all around.” She concluded. “But yeah, I don’t care. One less thing for them to ask me to mess around with.” She called up a configuration and reviewed it. “You might as well make some cash on this now. Once everyone realizes the market for this type of thing they wont’ be able to make enough of them.”
“Exactly.” John said. “Cats out of the bag, you know? Key is this has access to that satellite net.”
“It does.” Dar ran some tests. “That’s always been the bottleneck. This is pretty damn good speed and capacity.” She glanced at them. “Hell I’d buy one if you had them in production.”
John smiled easily, and after a moment, Alex joined him in rather a bit more forced way.
She finished her work. “This’ll work. I’ll have to write drivers to let me hook up a router to it. Drive this thing over as close as you can get it to the security shack.”
“The security shack?”
Dar nodded. “It’s the only place they got any decent cabling out to the rest of the island. That’s where all the cameras feed into.” She leaned one arm on her knee. “They’ll be serving lunch in there. You want to sell your stuff? Sit down at one of the tables and just start talking.”
“For real?” Alex said.
“For real. Tell them it’ll take about six or seven hours to get things set up and sell them per device access so they don’t start putting their damn kid’s gaming toys on it.” She told him. “I’ve got to get a router and get some cabling in place, but that’ll give me plenty of time to get it done.”
“Just like that.” Alex half shook his head.
“Just like that.” Dar squirmed out of the back of the van and stood up moving away from it as she felt her phone start to buzz in her pocket. “Scuse me.” She pulled out the sat phone and opened it. “Yeah?”
“It’s Mark.” Mark said, sounding more than a little frustrated. “So I’m out here at Southcom.”
“You find Kerry?”
“No. She ran off with some guy on an airboat.”
Dar stopped in mid motion and stared right ahead of her. “What?”
“You heard me.” Mark said. “I talked to some guy here… she was here, no question. Some of these guys were around looking for her in fact.” He said, pausing for a rush of noise to go by. “Some guy came around with an airboat and she took off with him. About an hour and a half ago.”
“Well. Shit.” Dar said, after a brief pause.
“She borrowed your one track mind I think.” Mark said, in an almost apologetic tone. “She was really worried about the burritos.”
“Yeah, now I’m really worried about her and the burritos.” Dar exhaled. “Okay, stay there for now. Let me try to … figure something out.”
“Roger that.” Mark said. “I’m gonna offer to help them fix something. Maybe they’ll give me some ice water.” He sighed. “Lemme know what you find out, k?”
“Sure.” Dar said, closing the phone. “Soon as I find out something.” She tapped the phone against her leg, then she opened it up again and dialed. She listened to it ring, then she disconnected, and dialed again.
Kerry crouched down next to Tomas. “It’s a really good thing we got you on this raft.” She told him, resting her elbow on the edge of the kayak. “I know you’re really hurting, but it would be a lot worse sitting on the deck.”
He managed a faint, brief smile, his hands clenched on the edge of the raft.
“We will get you help soon.” Maria told him, patting his arm. “It is fine, Tomas. It is better, we can get a doctor. Jesu knows how long it would take them to get to us for help.”
“They don’t have this kind of gear.” Kerry told them. “Not even one of these.” She indicated the inflatable. “They brought a lot of trucks and tents. Things to help people if they had holes in their roofs, that kind of thing.”
“I did not think this is how we would use it.” Mayte was sitting next to the kayak, her back against the supports of the second chair. “Kerry, I feel so bad about your shirt.”
“Don’t.” Kerry said. “Given how much time I spent in that water I was probably going to throw it out when I got home anyway. Or used it as a dog toy.” She exhaled, aware of the sun blanketing her mostly bare body, and glad she had a reasonable tan.
The breeze felt good against her skin, and riffling through her hair, drying the sweat damp discomfort. “I’m glad it ripped and I didn’t.” She glanced at her watch. “And I’m super glad we found you guys.”
“I was so mad at the phones.” Mayte said mournfully. “We could get nothing. I was trying to see what I could do to get to help, or get to call to you.” She glanced up at Joe, who was focused on the flooded roadway they were coursing over. “This is amazing.”
Kerry did cop to feeling a certain bit of internal satisfaction. It would have been easier for her to stay at the office, helping Dar out, helping organize, or hell, even cooking hamburgers and relying on the government to do their job. Much easier.
However she, of all people, knew just how far to trust the government.
“If there is anyone who could find us, it would be Kerrisita.” Maria said, blinking a little in the sunlight. “You and Dar will not be stopped.”
“Si.” Tomas nodded a tiny bit.
Well, that was sort of true. Kerry stood up and stretched out her knees, sticking her hands into her pockets and fluffing out the fabric of her cargo pants to try and get them to dry, sighing a little inwardly at the squishiness of her boots.
She was glad, at least, she was wearing one of her solid colored bras, which was almost like a bathing suit top and wasn’t really too different than the gear she typically worked out in and she only wished they would stop going through clouds of insects as they intermittently bounced off her abs.
It would have been funny, in any other circumstance. If she couldn’t see the strained pain on Tomas’ face, and the bloodstained bandage around his leg propped awkwardly on the edge of the raft.
“I told them to go find the guys who run these out in the glades.” Kerry said to Joe, after a long period of silence. “I told them to get on the short wave radio and see if they could get hold of anyone.”
“Who, those military guys?” He asked.
“Not the ones you talked to. The ones I was talking to before you got to Southcom.” She responded. “It’s the first thing I thought of, you know? These airboats.”
“What’d they say?”
“They thought it was a good idea. Those guys I talked to. They’re from Alabama.” She explained. “One of them catches frogs and things, so he got it.”
Joe nodded. “Gigger.”
He glanced at her. “What do you know about gigging, sergeant major? You’re not a backwoods chick.” He steered the airboat a little to the west, going around one of the highway islands the top of which was barely visible in the floodwaters.
“Definitely not.” Kerry readily agreed. “I’m a WASP from Michigan and if I want frog’s legs I’ll go to the nearest fancy French restaurant and order them.” She paused thoughtfully. “But I know what it is.”
“Gigging?” Mayte looked up at her. “What is it?”
“Frog catching, Mayte.” Kerry briefly smiled. “You take a pole with a sharp fork on the end of it and go out at night and catch frogs in the swamp.”
Mayte stared at her. “You have done this?”
Joe started laughing.
“So what are we doing?” Jake looked around the inside of the cottage. “Did they.. oh yeah, they got the power in.” He went over to the tall case and around the back of it, where a thick coil of black cable was now resting. “Lets see what we got.”
“Great.” Celeste came over to help him.
They uncoiled the cable and stretched it around the corner of the case, as Allen reached up and unlatched the side of the case, pulling it open.
Inside attached to the inner frame that the machines were racked in was an industrial power switch with a heavy twist lock plug in it and they connected the power to the plug and then stepped back.
“Wait.” Allen said. “How do we know it’s the right power?” He said, as Jake was about to engage the switch at the end of the strip. “What if it’s wrong?”
Jake studied the cable. “How in the hell can you tell?” He said, then he shrugged. “It’s got a fuse in it.” He hit the switch and jerked his hand back as it lit up.
They all waited and watched the light. It stayed on. “I don’t smell burnt toast.” Allen observed. “Guess it’s okay.” He examined the stack of servers. “Let me pick one that’s not like super urgent though to turn on.”
“Crap.” Jake said. “You know what we don’t have?”
Allen paused. “Keyboard and monitor.” He sighed. “I’m sure the boss has one.”
“Has one what?” Ceci came over from the kitchen, where she’d been storing some supplies.
“We need a computer monitor and a keyboard.” Jake explained. “So we can see whats going on with these things. We got power.”
‘They didn’t bring a KVM?” Allen frowned. “I thought I saw one in there. Didn’t I?”
Ceci studied the case. “Not my circus.” She said. “Let me go get one of my monkeys.” She turned and headed for the door, almost colliding with Andrew as he entered. “Turn around, sailor boy. We need our kid.”
Andrew hauled up. “Ya’ll got… “ He saw the cable. “Yeap, they done got that done.” He took a step back and held the door open. “Ah do not know where Dar went off to but I expect we can find her.”
“Stay here kids.We’ll be back.” Ceci sailed through the door and it closed after them.
The four of them sort of looked at each other. “We can let them boot.” Jake decided, pressing the start button on the machines one after the other. “See if we hear post beeps.”
“And see blinkies.” Allen agreed, crouching down to look at the switch at the bottom of the rack the servers were plugged into. “That’ll tell us something.”
“Something.”Jake agreed, as he finished hitting the power buttons and then sat back to observe the results. “That’ll take a while.” He decided. “I’m gonna finish putting that stuff up.” He went from the living room back into one of the bedrooms.
Inside there were two full size beds, with fluffy, luxurious bedding over thick mattresses. They were at right angles to each other, and between them were wood cabinets whose surfaces glowed with polish.
On the other side of the room was a door into a bathroom. Jake fished inside the bag from the store and took out the supplies inside, bringing them into the bathroom and putting them down on one of the two sets of brass shelves.
He glanced around at the fixtures, which were all gleaming metal, and the surfaces, which were all glowing marble with the exception of the sink stand, which was teak. It smelled of polish and pine scent, and there wasn’t even a bit of a stain in the perfectly even grout between the tiles.
The bathroom had an old fashioned claw foot tub in it, but the tub had been fitted with brass piping and an arching showerhead that he figured had to spray the hell out of the tiles every time someone used it.
A sound made him turn, and he took a step back as one of the staff entered, with some bottles in her hand. “Oh, sorry senor.” The maid stopped. “I have some things here.”
“No problem!” Jake backed into the sink to let her pass. “This place is rich, huh?”
The housekeeper smiled, and arranged the bottles onto a crystal glass shelf next to the tub. “Si, it is. Very much so.” She said. “We take very good care of it here.”
“Oh yeah.” Jake nodded. “Theres not a spec of dust around.” He said. “It’s really nice.”
The girl finished and turned. “It is nice for you to see that. Most guests who stay here pay no attention.”
“They’re used to it.” Jake guessed.
“Si, because they are here mostly to look at the houses, to buy one.” The girl explained. “It is nothing special to them, you understand?”
“I get it.” Jake said, looking up and past her as Allen entered. “It’s swank. But it’s cool, and it’s sweet our boss brought us over here.”
“For sure, we lucked out.” Allen joined him at the door to the bathroom. “Super slick idea to come out to the office, dude.” He said. “But I can’t see the chiefs hanging out here. It’s like if Dar started driving a Ferrari.”
They backed out to let the housekeeper get out of the bathroom. “I got the scoop on that.” Jake said, as he went back over to the bed and starting taking the polo shirts out. “She inherited that place she got over here”
“Yeah. I seen pictures of their place down in the keys. Way more like I pictured their place.” Jake examined the shirts, and removed the neatly pinned tags from them, tiny little brass safety pins he set aside on the dresser. “All stone and beach and stuff.” He said. “And a place to dock the boat.”
“That’ boat’s nice.” Allan said. “Wish I had one like that.”
“You see the way she drives it? That was nuts, with the case.” Jake said. “I thought we were all gonna be jumping in to grab that case and it wouldn’t have done no good. Woulda been dead, and we’d still be over there sweating.”
“But we ain’t.” Allan piled his clothes up and took out a bag of the chocolate covered pretzels, opening them and offering the bag to Jake. “Lets see what those boxes are doing. We may need one of Mark’s server guys if those things don’t boot up.”
They walked back into the living area, where Celeste and Angela were busy setting out office supplies on the dining room table, which had been pushed up against the far wall with the chairs arranged around the three accessible sides.
A stack of lined yellow pads, and island logo pens, and file folders, and a big, heavy package of white copier paper to go with the all in one printer copier that was sitting on the floor nearby.
“We brought some of these.” Allan reached into the case and removed two desk phones. “Not sure what we can do with em though.” He regarded the devices. “Lets run some cable around to that table, huh? We can put them out there.”
“Need some internet juice.” Jake concluded. “What I hear though, that aint’ happening any time soon.” He went over to the case and ducked down, reaching in and pulling out a spool of thin cabling. “I heard on the radio the place where all the circuits come in is all chewed up.”
“We got our DB here.” Allan said. “We got that and the lappies. We can work.”
“If these things do.” Jake started unrolling the cable. “Guess we’ll find out.”
Dar folded her arms over her chest and regarded the cabling plant. To one side, two of the island engineers stood, the door to the plant held in their hands as they watched her in expectant silence.
The large casing they were standing near held a huge tangle of stiff, dusty coaxial cabling with lables mostly rubbed off that was connected into a central hub covered in cobwebs.
A lizard peeked out from behind one of the junctures, tilting it’s head at the unexpected light.
The minivan was parked nearby, it’s engine turned off, it’s doors slid open and it’s windows rolled down.
It was hot, and Dar was suddenly aware of the sound of crickets, which had been missing. It distracted her focus, already not at it’s best since most of her brain was off somewhere imagining the many situations her partner could have gotten herself into by now.
Kerry was, she well knew, a sensible, thoughtful person who had a good core of common sense, and did not lightly take unconsidered chances. Of the two of them, she was the one who was apt to want to stop, and think, and discuss before doing something.
So some dude with an airboat stops by. Dar really only had her own self to blame for it, because after all who had come up with the bright idea of finding an airboat? Had she not told Kerry, in fact, that was exactly what she’d needed to find?
Why yes, she had. She’d even told her where she’d most likely find one but she had thought, not unreasonably, that Kerry would have gone with Mark to some place like Tigertails and hired them.
Not hook up with some rando by herself.
Her immediate instinct, tugging hard, was to head off to the mainland and go and find out. It was very difficult to look at the tangle of coaxial cabling and make her brain try to engineer this whole thing about internet that she now really no longer cared about.
Logic alone held her there, the fact that while she could get on the Dixie and run over to the shore, once there, she had no way to get anywhere unless she called Mark back over and she wanted him to stay where he was in case Kerry came back there.
Even if she was able to obtain a vehicle, Kerry was now out on an airboat which meant she was going places neither Mark on his motorcycle nor she in a typical car could follow.
She needed either an amphibious truck, or an airboat herself, or… Dar considered. Where was the nearest…. She glanced up at Sam, who was standing by. “Anyone out here have a jetski?”
“Um.” Sam stared at her, then at the cable, obviously trying to put her question together with the problem they were reviewing. “Uh.. I mean sure I guess some of the residents do… I think .. is it Chambers? Has one he keeps on the back of his boat.”
“So whats the plan?” John asked, coming up behind her. “Boy were you right. We got bites so fast it’s nuts. We’re gonna make a mint.”
Dar cleared her throat. She briefly closed her eyes and forced her mind to focus on the question. “So this cabling goes from here out to all the camera sites.” She said. “Problem is it’s all coax.” She studied the panel. “With converters on both ends we can make it carry IP.”
“Do we have that?”
Sam cleared his throat. “Well, like I was telling Dar here.” He said. “We had this project we were going to do to make these cameras all be internet cameras?” He looked from one to the other. “Anyway, we had this bunch of stuff sent over but the company who we contracted to do it flaked out.”
Dar eyed him. “That seems to happen a lot.”
“Cheapest bid.” Sam acknowledged, with a half shrug. “So we got all this stuff in the warehouse and it’s been sitting there for months. Maybe you can use some of it?” He eyed John. “My boss is gonna wanna get money for that though.” He warned. “That stuff wasn’t cheap.”
“Well…” John hesitated. “We didn’t plan on any of that…”
“Add the cost of each of them into the cost of the package.” Dar said, in a dismissive tone, before anyone could say anything. “Individually it’s peanuts.” She exhaled. “Okay lets look at what that is, and I’ll see if it’ll do what we need. Then I need to get over to my office and pick up some gear to put in the middle of it.”
John nodded. “Sounds good.” He said. “Or well, it sounds like at least there’s a chance it’ll work.” He said. “Lets go look at the stuff… but I got one question.” He said. “Who’s going to go connect up the ends on the far side?”
“You.” Dar told him. “Move.” She pointed to the cart. “I need to get this done. I’ve got other things to take care of I gotta get to.” She pulled out her phone and dialed a number, listening as it rang but wasn’t answered. She disconnected, and redialed, following the men as the engineers leaned the cover over the cables.