Author Topic: Chapter 31  (Read 7530 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 31
« on: June 10, 2022, 02:55:16 AM »
Chapter 31

Something strange was going on here. Tom and Devin had just finished breakfast in New Orleans, when suddenly all the tv broadcasts began describing some kind of communications blackout from out west. Looking around, Tom could tell that no one else knew what was going on either. Devin was still in the bathroom, but it was doubtful he could shed any light on this. Then Vicky called.

Tom was still in shock when Devin joined him outside. He couldn't comprehend at first, and even describing it to Devin sounded like he was playing some kind of prank. But he had to think.

Their plan had been to rent a boat in New Orleans which would take them all the way out to Scheria. That plan was shot to shit now. When news of this got out, everyone would be taking or hijacking boats to get out there while there was still time. The marinas would be swamped with people. The same would be true if they tried to drive to another town and get a boat there.

"Come on," he said to Devin, as another idea occurred to him. He hurried to get into the car before the roads got blocked. "There's a naval refueling station just outside of town. If we're lucky, there's something there we could use." The car didn't have much gas left, but thankfully they didn't need to go far.

"Won't everyone go there, too?" Devin asked anxiously. "There have to be hundreds of thousands of people here, and they'll go anywhere they can to get a ride out to Scheria and Elysia!"

Tom shook his head as he navigated the roads. From the attitude of the other drivers, the news was just beginning to break. "The main naval base is near Algier's Point, and everyone knows about it. The refueling station is only used for training drills, and is disguised as an old fishery."

At Devin's surprised look, Tom only shrugged. "My dad has friends in Naval Intelligence. He took me there once when I was a kid. He grew up in New Orleans."

His parents. They were probably both in Maryland still. He wanted to call them, but they were pretty well connected. They probably already knew what was going on. Perhaps they'd already boarded some chopper or jet out to Scheria. Tom was peripherally aware of Devin calling his family out in Raleigh. He couldn't get through.

Cars sped past them, but they were all streaming south, towards the ports. Tom and Devin had no problem reaching the supposed fishery. The lot looked empty, at least, as they pulled in. When they opened the double doors, Tom took a second to identify the ship docked inside.

He let out a low whistle. "That's a Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine!"

"That's right," a voice said to his left, and Tom heard the cocking of a handgun. "Now turn around and walk away."

Very slowly, Tom raised his hands and Devin followed suit. As he turned, he caught a glimpse of two other people coming around from behind the sail and pointing their guns as well. When he looked at the man who'd spoken, he could see a very nervous-looking naval lieutenant. Behind him, a tv on mute was broadcasting the latest news.

"What's your name, sailor?" Tom asked, trying to sound friendly.

"Lieutenant Cole. Now back up and get the hell out of here."

Tom ignored him, not because he didn't believe the man would shoot, but because leaving wouldn't be any better. "I assume you know why we're here?"

Cole grimaced. "I have a pretty good idea," he jerked his head back at the tv.

"Then you know we're not going anywhere. How about you lower the gun, and we talk for a bit?" Cole tightened his grip at that, and Tom raised his hands just a little bit higher. "Do you recognize me, Lieutenant?"

After a moment, Cole's eyes brightened. "Yeah. You're Penderton. The spokesman for those coded people."

"That's right. This is Devin Chen, he's one of the coded surgeons who lives in Scheria. We're your ticket to safe harbor, Cole," he tried to emphasize that last bit. He knew nothing about this man save for his occupation, and people joined the military for all sorts of reasons.

"Uh, Tom?" Devin cut in, looking out the open door. "We're about to have company."

Following his gaze, Tom could see a dozen or so other cars speeding up the road. "Looks like we're not the only ones who know about this place. What do you say, Cole? Take us on board and we'll make sure you get to a place where you'll have air and food for the foreseeable future. Or shoot us, and die in a few days along with everyone else."

Cole shook his head defiantly. "We only have a skeleton crew here. Besides, I'm not authorized to cut and run. Not without the Captain."

"Your Captain is either on the way or dead already. Your chain of command is gone, Lieutenant. The President was only a few miles away from ground zero, and anyone else who could give you orders is busy fending for themselves. It's your call, whether you want it or not. A sub like that can hold over a hundred people."

"Why did you join the navy, Cole?" Devin put in, still sounding strained. "Was it to follow orders, or was it to save people's lives? Cuz here's your chance!"

The cars had stopped and people were approaching the doorway. Cole's face contorted briefly, and then he lowered his gun. "Stand down."

Tom let out a relieved breath as Cole holstered his weapon and moved towards him. Instead of forcing him and Devin onto the sub, he moved past them out the door. Curious, they both turned to look. About fifty people were out there, and none looked armed. Some were children, and one little girl darted out of the group and ran towards Cole. "Daddy!"

Cole swept her up in a fierce hug, as the rest approached more confidently. With his free hand, he shook the hand of one of the women near the front. "Mabel. Thanks for bringing her."

"Anytime," the elderly woman responded, looking past him at the 'fishery'. "Are we.. going with you?"

Cole hesitated, looking back at Tom and Devin. "Yeah. Yeah, everyone should come inside, quickly."


The Mississippi was deep enough for them to stay submerged on the way through New Orleans. As curious as he was about what was going on up there, Tom was kind of grateful that Cole insisted on no one using the periscope. There were kids on board, and they were scared enough already.

It took a few hours before they were out at open sea, and then Cole had a look around. His sailor's expression was mostly unreadable, but Tom could tell he was feeling grim. Tom gave him a questioning look when he was done, but he shook his head and nodded to the side.

He kept his voice quiet as Tom stepped aside with him. "It's a mess up there. I counted at least twenty boats swamped and in pieces, and I saw a lot of bodies. But there were people alive. It looks like they're going around Florida and through the Keys like we are." He sighed. "Some of them might make it; I don't know."

"Will we make it?" Tom asked bluntly. "I mean the power plant on this thing will probably run for a hundred years, but do we have enough fuel?"

Cole gave him a strange look. "That won't be a problem, but we're under a third of our full crew. If anyone takes a shot at us, we won't last long in a fight."

"Who would be shooting at us with all this going on?"

"You'd be surprised," he said darkly. "With enough chaos, people are capable of just about anything. Even military folks."

Tom took a deep breath. As much as he wanted to get back to Scheria quickly, there were other concerns. "You said you saw survivors up there, right? And that most of them were in trouble? We should go up there and bring them on board."

"That's crazy. The only advantage we've got right now is that no one knows we're down here!"

"It's the right thing to do, Cole. In less than a day this whole area will be underneath that cloud. Whatever it is, it's not breathable. If it was, we would have heard from survivors by now." He considered reaching a hand out to the man's shoulder, but thought better of it. "We can't save all of them, but we have a lot of room in here. We can save some."

"The moment we surface, every boat in sight will swarm over to us. We can only take on eighty, maybe ninety people at most. We don't have enough air for more."

"Look, if I'm wrong, then the Coded Nation is gone and we're all doomed anyway. If I'm right, there's plenty of air where we're going. Saving ninety people is better than saving none, right? Like it or not, you're in command now. It's time to make the call."

Deep down Tom had suspected Cole was a good man, and it seemed his instincts were right. Growling, the sailor issued the orders, and the Leighton began to surface.

He hadn't been kidding: it really was a mess up there. One of the crew let Tom look through the periscope briefly while they were organizing the rescue, and he could see at least a dozen floating wrecks. The fastest boats had already sped on south and out of sight, but the slower ones were converging on them now. Cole tapped him on the shoulder. "Ninety people. No more."

"Then we go down again," Tom agreed with relief.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2022, 04:12:09 AM by Daen »