Writing > Code

Chapter 32


Chapter 32

"Hello, you've reached the voicemail of Terry Brandt. I'm not at home right now, but if you.." Vicky tuned out the message, angrily. She'd tried her dad's cellphone repeatedly, but there had been no answer. Now she was calling his home phone. If she could get ahold of him, she'd send the chopper for him right away. With a full tank of gas, it might be able to get up to Minnesota and bring him back in time.

".. I'll try and get back to you. Don't expect it soon, though," her dad's voice continued, "because I'm on vacation in Portland and I won't be back until at least the twentieth. Have a good day." The message ended.

Her hands shaking, Vicky turned to look at the satellite feed. The green circle had expanded north into Oregon, covering most of the state.

Across the room, Hamedi was also on the phone. He tapped the shoulder of one of the technicians, and the young man pulled up another satellite feed. This one was their own weather satellite, and it showed the water between the two islands. The ocean was already getting choppy, as shockwaves from the gas conversion process were rippling out ahead of it.

Hamedi turned to her and said something, but Vicky was just staring at where Portland used to be. He closed the distance to her. "Vicky!"

She shook her head briefly. "What?"

"The refugee camp is set up and ready, right?" He gestured out the window towards the docks. "We've only got a few minutes before the first boats arrive."

Trying to focus, Vicky nodded. "Yeah, the supplies are in place and the bedrolls are all set up. One of my old disaster crew Morgan is down there with a bunch of other volunteers, and they know what to do." One advantage to living in a domed city was that there was no need to protect from rain or wind.

"It's getting pretty bad out there," Hamedi looked back at their own satellite feed, his own voice ragged and stressed. "The wind speed has increased wave size as well, and it's capsized a bunch of boats already. The rest are packing together in convoys. The first group from Miami and Nassau is the fastest and the smallest- no more than a few hundred. The second one will be here in a few hours, and that'll be much bigger. There are thousands more people coming in after that-" he was cut off by a noise from above.

Vicky followed him outside and looked up, at the chopper lifting off from the ***ceiling. It hovered for a few seconds and then leaned forward, moving away. It sped towards the massive sea-door, and then out like a fly escaping a home. Hamedi looked at Vicky, who saw her own confusion mirrored in his eyes.

"That was Abner, and his guy Mark was flying," James said from behind them, coming downstairs. His usual monotone voice was even flatter than normal. "He went to Fai's lab and took one of the O2 splitter prototypes. I just saw it on camera. He also took one of the auto-coders before heading up to the helipad."

"What the hell is he thinking?" Hamedi bit out, glaring at James for some reason. "He's the Servant! His place is here, with us! Besides, where could he go? The whole world will be covered in toxic gas in just a few days!"

"Maybe he knows something we don't," James put in. "He didn't take that splitter without a reason. He must have known that Fai would make the other ones work in time to keep us all breathing."

"It doesn't matter," Vicky said tonelessly. First this disaster, then her dad, and now Abner had abandoned them? "We have to keep going without him. Hamedi, could you get some people out to check the sea-door's servos? We've never had to close it before, and I want to make sure it works before that gas gets here. James, could you do the same for Elysia? I'm sure they have people familiar with it, but the wave won't hit them at the same time."

They both hesitated for a moment, before nodding and heading out. Abner was their Servant, but that didn't matter anymore. If it ever did at all. They had a job to do, and people depending on them to keep a clear head.


The next day and a half were the most stressful times Vicky had ever known. Even the time following the terrorist attack was tame by comparison. The first convoy arrived and she was there to greet them at the docks. Most of the families were offloaded first, and then she insisted that the boats be taken out through the sea-door and abandoned to the left or the right of it. There were many more boats incoming, and they didn't have enough space at the docks for even a fraction of them.

Helicopters and sea-planes were arriving too, and an area near the docks had been cleared out for the former. VIPs, mostly from America, stepped out, but Vicky made sure Morgan treated them the same as everyone else. If these uncoded people wanted to come here for sanctuary, they'd have to get used to the coded way of doing things.

Stan Harriman, Max's old friend who used to work for the NSA, was handling security at the Uptown offices for now. He had very wisely blocked off the helipad after Abner's departure, making sure that none of those American VIPs had access to the control room. Not until they could run all the way up here at least.

So here they were: Vicky, Stan, and Hamedi in the control room, as the next convoy approached. Fai was over in Elysia, setting up the O2 splitters there with James' help. They'd lost contact with the control room in Elysia nearly an hour ago. Vicky could only hope they were okay.

The wave was still over an hour away, but they had another problem. Fai's O2 splitters had increased the possible population of the dome to about twelve thousand, but they were already over nine. The next convoy was already arriving, and it would push them over that limit- far over.

They had no choice but to close the sea-door early, trapping most of the convoy outside.

"Do it," Vicky ordered Stan, trying not to think about what would happen to the rest of them. Stan reached for the controls, and then froze. He shook his head briefly. His code had gone off.

Of course it had gone off! The sea-door would certainly hit one or more of the boats on the way down, crushing them. "Get an uncoded person in here," Vicky said quickly to Hamedi, who was nearest to the phone. "There should be a few coding trainees in the next building over!" Hamedi reached for the phone, but paused as well. He couldn't call someone to do their dirty work, any more than he could do it himself!

It was over. They might be able to close the door after the last boat got in and before the wave, but it didn't matter. In a few days everyone in here would die of suffocation. Humanity as a whole would be gone, and it was all because the three people in this room were all coded.

"Look!" Stan pointed at the camera feed of the harbor. The sea-door had begun to close, its servos pushing one surface up from below, and the other down from above. The top one reached the convoy first. Smaller boats slipped past it into the harbor, but one much larger one clipped the descending mass and was slowly pushed under. They all watched, horrified, as people began jumping overboard before the boat was crushed.

"Someone is controlling the door from down there," Hamedi said, looking at the door controls on his computer.

An uncoded someone, whoever it was. Feeling both nauseous and grateful, Vicky stood up. "I'm going down there to meet our new guests. Lock the system completely. The wave will be here soon, and we can't open that door ever again."

It took her about half an hour to get to the docks on her bike, because the streets were packed by now, coded and uncoded people mixing freely and staring up to the sky. Just as she started to brake to a stop outside the docks, the howling wind outside became a shriek audible even through the dome.

Then, as Hamedi had predicted, the wave slammed into Scheria's barrier. The ground shook, raising screams from all the uncoded people onboard those boats. Vicky slid off her bike as it toppled, and spread out her arms to lessen the impact. At least thee** shaking stopped right away.

The dome was mostly translucent, aside from the central pillar and the support struts on the sides, so everyone watched in awe and terror as the clear sky above them became green. The gas swept over the dome in seconds, and then continued out to sea. From what Vicky had heard, the people outside were choking to death by now, with their skin blistering and their eyes bleeding. Twelve thousand people here, plus hopefully another ten thousand or so in Elysia. Out of seven billion.

The welcoming speech would have to wait. Picking herself up and quickly checking for bruises, Vicky retrieved her bike.

She checked the northern access hatch first, and was relieved to find the Need Board people had done a fine job. It was a functioning airlock now, tied into the power grid and everything. They had a few hazmat suits here in the city, and the people on those boats had probably brought some of their own. They would be able to inspect the dome from the outside at some point. The drones were all still out there in positions all over the exterior, looking for damage.

The harbor was a mess by comparison. As she approached, Vicky could barely make out any water at all. The whole space was packed with boats, as people jumped from ship to ship on their way to shore. Some were swimming between them, and she saw at least two people get crushed between some of the boats by accident.

There was a preacher just outside of the refugee camp, reading to a packed crowd. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." He caught sight of Vicky, and his eyes darkened with recognition. There were a lot of bald coded people here, but none as well-known as her.

Some of the people in the crowd followed his gaze. A young man spoke out from the group. "You're Vicky Brandt! You did this! You and the other coded people- you did all of this!"

"We don't know how this happened," Vicky tried to answer as other people from the crowd joined in.

"What else could it be?" Another shouted. "Your precious gift to humanity- to clean the air- and you used it to kill everyone while you stayed here, safe and secure inside your domes!"

"The code would never let any of us do that," Vicky insisted. "And even if we could do it, we would have closed that sea-door hours ago and kept everyone out!"

"My son is still out there!" A woman shouted at her. "He's dead now because of you! All those people- a whole world full of people dead- because of you!"

Vicky's words might as well have been spoken to the deaf. Everyone was feeling the same loss here, and the urge to find someone to blame was overpowering. Vicky had felt it herself, just after the attack on the creche. Coded people might be able to ignore that urge, but these people wouldn't.

"Babylon has fallen," the preacher spoke out, and the crowd quieted a bit. "This was foretold as well," he raised his bible for emphasis. "And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened."

He looked up at the green clouds outside for a few moments, before focusing on her again. "We were also told what to do to those responsible," he went on, opening the bible. "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her."

The crowd was slow to respond at first, but as more and more of them started shouting out against her, the group soon took hold of the pastor's words. She had nowhere to run as they surged forward towards her, gripping her tightly and lifting her off the ground. As they carried her away, Vicky looked up and tried to remember the comforting green canopy of trees at her graduation ceremony.


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