Outland: Chapter 5

I awoke one morning to the sound of rain pattering against the shutters on the cockpit window.  The heat had been unbearable for the previous few days, but the sudden relief of waking up to a cool morning brought up my spirits.

“Good morning, Gulliver.”  I announced, rubbing my eyes while searching for the switch to raise the shutters.

“Good morning, Andrew.”

“What time is it?”  I wondered aloud, as the dark sky appeared revealed itself from beyond the plexiglass window.

“Approximately thirty minutes past noon.  Until we are able to see the sun, I can’t say for sure.”

“I see.”  I retorted, face pressed against the glass so I could hope to see any daylight poking through on the horizon.  “Status?”

“Fuel cells holding at 38% integrity, charged to 24%.”  He sounded off, my heart dropping in my chest.

“Looks like we’re waiting then.”  I sighed, flipping the switch to stow the solar panels.  “I can get some other things done today, at least.” 

Climbing down the ladder one step at a time, I paused at the last rung to quickly open the hatch and grab myself a ration.  The savory flavor of the remaining fish I had consumed the night previous still lingered in my mouth.  I considered going out to fish in the rain, but getting wet and sick didn’t seem of interest to me.

I took a seat on the hard floor of the bottom compartment to munch down the bar of borderline tasteless junk they called food, staring at the banged-up hatch.  Finally forcing the last bit down, I shoved the wrapper into the receptacle and pulled my mallet out of the tool locker.

“Gulliver, play Pink Floyd- The Wall.”  I announced, waiting for the speakers to start rattling off the sweet sounds of Roger Waters.  Sitting with legs crossed, I began to slowly pound the panel back into place.  The tsunami had rammed it nicely into a bunch of rocks.  I knew the shape well enough, but in order for it to form a proper seal for the ballast tank, I would have to get it in place and finish pounding out the intricacies of the shape.

By the time Another Brick in the Wall (Part III) had come around for a second time, I had become fed up with pounding away at the pieces of metal.  My fingers had become sore, coated in a find dust from the ever-chipping burnt orange paint upon Gulliver’s hull.  Fingers struggling to grasp onto the sides of the ladder, I ascended once again to the cockpit.   Sadly, I was met with the rain continuing to rattle against the glass, streaking downwards in squiggly lines.  Taking a seat up in my pilot’s seat, I killed the music and allowed myself to drift off to sleep.

When I awoke again, I was met with the pitch-black sky above me, stars hidden by the thick layer of rainclouds above.  “Gulliver, what time is it?”

“Good morning… no.”  Gulliver seemed to hesitate.  “It is currently sometime around three o’clock in the early morning.”

“I see.” I rubbed my eyes groggily, staring at the tiny dots of light on my instrument panel that casted a barely perceptible glow on the cockpit window.  “I don’t suppose it will stop raining anytime soon.”

“I cannot determine that.  You should be cognizant that my design doesn’t include any barometric or…”

“Yeah, yeah.  I was just talking to myself.”  I sighed, slumping back in the chair.  “Sitting here like this, you know… I feel anxious that we’re not able to make progress.”

“By my guess, we are only a few day’s travel from the equator, Andrew.”

“That’s one thing…”  I mumbled, rubbing my heavy eyes with the balls of my thumbs.  “But what do we do after that?  Do we keep continuing north?  I mean, after that, we’d be crossing over into the North American territory.  I don’t have a final destination in mind really.”

“Are there acquaintances you would wish to meet with there?  Your home is farther north, after all.”

“I haven’t talked to them in years, Gulliver.  Most likely, they’ve moved.  I wouldn’t know how to reach them.”

“They have moved inland?  If you go there, you might find them.”

“Inland.”  I mumbled the word.  “I don’t want to cross over.  You know I would have to abandon you if we… if I was to head inland.  You’re not built to be able to handle those high elevations, and the steep slopes.”

“That is true.”

“You probably don’t get ‘families’ and all that, Gulliver.  Maybe I don’t either.  But… right now I know who… what I can depend on, and that’s you.  We just need to continue moving…”  I yawned, beginning to drift off again.  “…and maybe we’ll find something worth seeking.”  Lifting my legs up off the ground, I closed my eyes and let the darkness of the night take me.

The gentle rocking of Gulliver blowing in the strong wind awoke me a second time. I could see faint signs of daylight burning through the cloud cover, but the rain was stronger than ever.   “Gulliver, how is the wind?”  I asked, feeling the springs under the pilot’s seat start to budge slightly with the movement of the body.

“We’re within safe limits, Andrew.  I shall take position if the wind velocity increases by much more, though.”

“Very well, save your energy.”  I ordered, not wanting to find out how much might be left in the energy cells.  I pondered tapping the barrel of diesel down below and starting up the generator so that we could possibly move out of the way of the storm, but I couldn’t force myself to enter a state of urgency to make it happen.

Mind wandering, I slid down the ladder to my study where the maps from two nights previous were still laid out, paper starting to curl back together slightly.  The freshly charted areas stopped off at our current position, frustratingly enough.  Sitting down, I pulled the papers taut, giving them a quick glance before stowing them down below the desk.

Flipping through the stack of completed charts, I dug through to the one resting at the bottom; my oldest one.  At the bottom lay the cape of South America, jagged and sloppily drawn.  It was a combination of my poor skills and shaky hand at the time, as well as an attempt to show the inhospitality of the area.  Navigating around the cape had been an ordeal, but since then every step had been undoubtedly less arduous.

The tiny black dot on the Atlantic coast of the continent marked the camp from where I had officially started this journey all those months ago.  Before that, us pilots had been stationed up and around the coastline, trying to see if we could help the locals.  Personally, the few tiny communities I found rejected any help that I would have been able to provide them.  It didn’t surprise me.

At one point, we received a call that we were supposed to return to the home station and turn in our bots.  With that, we would take the long boat ride up the coast and back up to the states.  Despite wanting to rebel from the call, I travelled back around the tip anyways.  I got the feeling that many people didn’t want to go.  When I finally did arrive, the found the port having been crushed by a big landslide that had toppled down from the mountain adjacent.  I had felt the quakes at the time, more prevalent then, but seeing the destruction they brought made me realize the issues we were dealing with.

Inside the base, a few bots had already been brought in and abandoned just like that.  Still in control of Gulliver, I dug through the rubble to try and search for any remains of life or supplies.  I found a bit to bring aboard, but I decided not to stick around for long.  I don’t know if I was afraid of more landslides, or possibly running into another pilot, but I left the area quick.  I travelled back to the Pacific side of the continent where I ended up resting for a good deal of time, pondering my options.  One day, I simply decided that I would travel North, and not stop until I found a good reason to.  That’s where I am now.

The rain continued to pound on the tiny windows of the compartment.  After returning the chart with a quick ruffling of the paper, the silence returned.  Even with Gulliver available at all times to chat with, times like these reminded me of just how lonely being out here could be.  Moving back up to the cockpit, I counted and rearranged the remaining rations in my storage hold in the dim light, doing so at least twice.

I was awoken the next day by the early morning sun shining through the cockpit window, having forgotten to close the shutters.  I quickly set up the solar panel array and went down to double check my work on repairing the panel, brining with me a ration to slowly munch on.

I could feel the warmth of the sun for the first time in days as I opened the bottom hatch, ready to descend the pulley holding onto the big piece of metal paneling.  I followed it down soon after, bringing my mallet strapped to my waist.  As I took out the toolkit from the compartment, I turned a suspicious eye towards the water; looking for any signs of incoming waves.  After the wind and rain, the water had returned to its endless pattern of lapping quietly against the dirt shore.

With a good deal of effort, I bolted the panel back on, bending and pounding it into place.  The heat of the day had become almost unbearable, and I eventually crawled back up the rope ladder inside, mostly satisfied with my work.  Not used to waking up so early, I snoozed off for a bit in the lower compartment.  It must have been a few hours later when I woke up.  Groggily, I called out to Gulliver.

“Gulliver, status check.”

“Charged to 100%.  Fuel cells holding at 38%.”

“I like the sound of that.  Let’s continue.”

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