Outland: Chapter 2
Bright light shone in the window, eventually moving into my eyes, stirring me awake. Sitting up, I looked out the porthole into the glaring light.
“Gulliver? What time is it?” I asked, shielding my face.
The fish carcass sat on the plate beside me, giving off a faint odor of sourness and the faint smell of the sea. The untouched head stared at me, agape, eyes cloudy.
“Good morning Andrew. It is just past noon.”
Rubbing my eyes, I pushed now foul plate away. The map on the desk before me lay mostly finished, the pen thrown down haphazardly.
“Dang.” I sighed. “I guess I fell asleep working last night; that big meal got to me. I didn’t set up the solar panels, did I?”
“The solar panels are down, and the batteries are currently at 44%. I cut power to your desk lamp this morning to save energy.”
“Thank you, Gulliver.” I said, standing up to stretch his back and arms, my joints popping in quick succession. “Looks like today we’re staying here.”
Sliding along the cold metal floor, I moved to mount the ladder, heading up to the cockpit. The window shades were up, sun shining bright, with the water still in plain view. Moving to the control panel, I flipped some switches, and the motors running the actuators whirred to life, moving the solar panels upwards.
“I guess I’ll do some maintenance while we’re here. What are your recommendations, Gulliver?” I said, tweaking some of the controls above the windshields.
“Left leg’s efficiency is dropping slightly below that of right leg. I recommend you check the lines and tighten the connections in the foot to improve rigidity in the joints.”
“Sounds good, I’ll get on that.” I made a mental note, nodding my head before jumping on the ladder and sliding down, passing all the way through to the bottom compartment.
A puddle had formed on the floor from the wetsuit dripping on the rack. Tiptoeing around in it, I grabbed my work coveralls. They were worn, patched thoroughly by myself. I would probably have to buy more fabric when I found someone who had extra.
Eyeing the toolbelt, I double checked that it was still stocked with what I would need; heading up and down the ladder with it on multiple times was a pain.
“Gulliver, open the bottom hatch for me, would you?”
The mechanical port in the middle of the room roared to life, opening the set of doors. I pulled the toolbelt off the wall and buckled it around my waste, adding a few good pounds. Carefully climbing down the slick rungs of the ladder on the side of the tube I found myself on the lower platform, staring down at the ground. I grabbed the rope ladder from the pile it sat in, throwing it down limply. It tumbled down, untangling itself under its own weight, thrashing back and forth. Waiting for the swaying to stop, I carefully turned myself around and inched myself down the first few rungs.
Finally, on the ground, I readjusted the belt and looked up at Gulliver, standing proudly like a silhouette in front of the water. Moving to the left leg, I reached the sealed hatch and quickly undid the big set of wingnuts holding it on. Inside was the big tool chest, still held neatly in place by the snap straps. It contained the heavy breaker bar and wrenches needed for whatever repairs one might need.
Feeling the heat of the midday sun, I unstrapped the box and dragged it through the stubby weeds and grass to the small shadow created by the solar panels raised up above me. They were propped up at the perfect angle to catch the sun’s rays, coincidentally casting a lot of shade.
Catching my breath, I sat down to look out at the water. Far off in the distance, the sun light reflected off the surface; probably close to the reef where I had caught the fish the other day.
Several years ago, this whole area was still probably inland quite a bit. That was before the shelf shifted, the Pacific plate buckling on itself in a catastrophic fashion. It’s hard to tell how much damage was done then; the body count and extent of destruction it caused was unfathomable.
The seas rose all around the world that day. Waves reaching in for miles inland all around the pacific rim. Whole communities now underwater permanently. Those who survived moved inland, as far as they could. Most people, I guess.
Feeling refreshed by the cool ocean spray in my face, I moved to open the big box of tools, nice and dry from the rubber seal on the inside. Turning back around, I made my way to the left leg.
The chipping paint was still covered with a slight film of dried salt from going out into the water the previous day. Carefully going over the borderline stripped out bolts, I undid the plating around the ankle joint. The beefy pistons mounted to the sole ran through the leg to the mount higher up in the shin.
Reaching in, I felt at the mounting point on the sole. It gave a good wiggle in response. “I guess fighting against that would kill the efficiency.” I said to myself. Standing on my tiptoes, I put the top half of my body into the structure of the foot, fiddling with the mounting hardware. Pulling out my old rusted socket wrench, I started to get at the bolts inside.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the water moving erratically in the distance. I chose to ignore it, still being halfway inside Gulliver’s machinery. Before I could finish, a shaking rocked me back and forth a bit. As I crawled out from inside, I caught sight of the tide before Gulliver’s siren started to wail.
I quickly slapped the panels back onto the foot section, screwing them on with my hands as quickly as I could. Satisfied, I scrambled to the big toolbox still sitting wide open on the grass. I quickly shut it, and grabbed on to the handle. It felt heavier than ever; and my slick shoes slid against the short grass. I looked back at the water for one moment before deciding to ditch the box.
Quickly ascending the rope ladder, I looked out at the tide; quickly retreating. In the distance, I could see various remnants of what seemed to be an old town or something; an asphalt road and a few foundations still hanging onto the earth.
Reaching the bottom platform inside, I pulled up the rope ladder and yelled upwards.
“Indeed.” The voice came through the speakers. “It was a 5.4 a few miles from here. Shall I enter Tsunami mode?”
“Give me 20 seconds.” I yelled up, ascending the rungs into the bottom compartment. Shooting up the next ladder, I arrived in the cockpit. “Go, now.” I shouted.
I could feel the machine roar to life, Gulliver turning himself, back facing the water. I quickly flipped the controls to put the solar panels down, the motor humming nonchalantly.
Facing inland, Gulliver commenced bending down, placing both arms as support on the ground. The joints creaked as they moved into position.
Finding my place in my chair, I put the harness over myself and latched it closed, as the cockpit tilted forwards slightly, following Gulliver’s position. The land below came closer. Finally, Gulliver came to a stop.
“In Position. Please brace yourself, Andrew.”
“Already there.” I said, holding my breath, knees perched in both hands.
I waited, the quiet deafening around me. Then it came. The rumble of water, pushing past Gulliver across the flat ground that lay before us. As the flow became stronger, I heard the creaking of metal underneath me. Gulliver’s body shook, the seat jostling me around in it. Bits of debris flew in on the water, ramming into the hull and flying by in blinks of an eye.
It felt like minutes, the water rushing by without relent. Finally, I could see the water crawl to a halt before changing direction and heading back out to the ocean. I waited, breath still held, as the last bits of water retreated. Gulliver started to shift again as he stood back up.
“All systems intact?” I asked, unbuckling myself from the harness.
“Good, let’s just hope that tool box is still there.” I rolled my eyes, starting to climb down the ladders.
The bottom hatch opened again, and I peered down at the ground, covered in puddles of water. I dropped down the rope ladder again and went down to survey the damage.
One of the panels on the foot had flown off somewhere, nowhere to be found. The toolbox was gone too. I let out a sigh, defeated. Scanning around me, I spotted various fish flopping around on the ground, and piles of debris crowded into the sides of hills.
I was able to find the toolbox several meters away in a pile of debris, dragging it along to get it back up into the hatch. Just to make the best of the situation, I grabbed a few of the stranded fish as well.