Outland: Chapter 18
The cold spray flew up in my face, causing me to reel back and almost fall on the slippery ground, if it were not for my grip on the railing. The unpredictable movement of the waves had not ceased to surprise me like that. Tasting the salty residue on my lips, my stomach churned, and I quickly leaned over the edge to dry heave, swaying back and forth on my heels the whole time.
“What are you doing out here?” The call came out, just barely audible over the sound of the water.
“Grabbing something.” I hoisted the plastic bag over my head, filled with my various maps.
“Can’t it wait?” Johnathan, the first mate, pulled at my long sleeve.
“I don’t want the let the opportunity pass.” I quickly followed after him, shoes carefully treading against the ground.
Stepping inside, I pulled off the lift vest and heavy coat, both mostly soaked. “You have to understand…” I caught my breath. “That mech is my home. Everything I own is in there.”
“And you chose to bring your study materials in?” Johathan sat down on the dingy benches by the dining table.
“These.” I pulled the papers out of the waterproof sack. “Mean very much to me.”
Johnathan peered down at my drawings as I unfurled them, one by one. The final one I extracted would have contained the port we had left from two days before. The mate’s finger traced the lines and individual markings on the papers.
The captain marched down the tiny, circular staircase and into the compartment. “Hey, boss, check this out.” Johnathan pointed to my maps. “Andy has experience navigating by the stars. You could have a new navigator here.”
The captain eyeballed me and my works. “I’ll have to pass.” I quickly declined. The captain remained silent and marched back into the kitchen.
“Even if he doesn’t want to admit it…” Johnathan sighed. “Our types aren’t too different. Even though we’re from different worlds… both of us just kind of live lives that are solitary from people.”
“I guess you could say that.” I looked down at the maps once again. The ship was jostled once again by the bow wresting the edge of a wave, and a quickly held the papers down to keep them from falling to the floor.
“How are your sea legs, Andy?”
I felt my stomach sway, following vaguely the motion of the waves outside. “Just alright.”
“You’ll get used to it.” The mate jostled my shoulder.
The captain poked his head out from the kitchen door and locked eyes with me. “Get that junk off the table for now. Food is up.”
My bunk of the ship was equally as small as the cot inside of Gulliver, but the wall beside me and the other bunk above gave me an uneasy feeling of what could be called claustrophobia. I figured I would never have such a feeling, but it ended up interrupting my sleep nonetheless.
The captain had me mopping floors around the ship, which tired me out, but not enough to put my to properly sleep at night. Each time I stepped outside, despite the hours of the day, it always seemed equally dark and windy, and it became hard to tell when each day was passing.
I felt strange at the idea of missing Gullier’s voice. When the sea was more calm and the Captain was doing other things, I would climb inside the hatch to sit and listen to the sound of the boat engine and waves against the bottom of the ship. I even began to miss the taste of the rations, even though the taste of the cook’s food probably had something to do with that.
One day, I managed to stop the captain and ask about where we were headed. He told me that all the coastal communities of the mainland had been ravaged, but people still managed to move back in fairly quickly, despite the conditions. The ports were less busy, but still held business for certain commodities.
I tentatively asked about Japan, and whether or not they had been effected greatly by the rising water. He seemed uncertain, but never ended up saying he knew much. I became anxious about the uncertain aspect of where we would be going, but as soon as I saw the first signs of the shoreline creep up upon us, my spirits lifted.
The first birds appeared around the boat. In the distance, I could see the heavy smog cover, barely indistinguishable from the fog I was used to. The first sight of land looked drab and busier than I ever could have imagined. Many boats were lined up along the piers, transporting crates and containers off by every manner of technology possible, some by hand.
The captain turned off into one of the larger slips appropriate for our ship. I stayed on the bow watching as we pulled in. With the help of a tiny, raggedly looking tug boat, the ship met the edge of the dock with a slight bump and stopped in place. The first mate quickly found himself beside me, looking back at Gulliver, still tied to the deck.
“Andy…” Johnathan spoke. “The captain wants you off first. He says he doesn’t know how they might want to deal with that thing though customs.”
“I understand.” I looked down over the edge of the railing at the hazardously dirty water below.
“He said to head north, where it’s still a bit deserted.” The mate nodded at me. “And don’t stop until you’re out of the city limits.”
“Got’cha.” I quickly turned about, and moved around the crates to get by Gulliver. Johnathan followed me and started to help undoing the tiedowns. With Gulliver free of the ropes, I climbed back into the hatch, giving Johnathan a quick wave.
Crawling up into the cockpit, I fumbled around in the dark and hit the main power button to activate Gulliver. The engine roared loudly, before dying out to a low level hum. With a flicker, the lights popped on, and I found my awkward place in the pilot’s seat.
“Good morning, Andrew.” Gulliver spoke the first words.
“Good morning, Gulliver. It’s good to hear your voice.”
“Alright, Gulliver. We need to get up and go. You got power?”
“Systems are charged to 40%, with power cells holding at 36% integrity.”
“That will have to do.” I grabbed a hold of the controls. Gulliver strained as I got him to sit up, eventually having him on the support of his own arms and legs. The boat rocked slightly back and forth, and I could see the buildings at street level come into view.
Stepping carefully over the edge of the boat, Gulliver’s feet planted on the sturdy surface of the pier. I could see some of the locals start to take notice, but I pushed the throttle as far as I thought it was safe. I could see the road stretching out to the edge of town man meters away. With eyes pointed forwards, we continued on.