Off the keyboard of K-Dog
Published on Chasing the Squirrel on September 20, 2014
Discuss this Story at the Cli-Fi Table inside the Diner
|With this Story from Diner K-Dog, the Diner introduces a new Feature, Cli-Fi or Climate Fiction Stories.We recently discussed the need for Narratives that will better communicate the problems faced by Homo Sapiens as Earth Climate changes in unpredictable ways, and we encourage both Published and Unpublished authors to contribute their stories about possible future Earth scenarios.Stories can be submitted on the Diner Forum for Publication on the Diner Blog.RE|
Near the summit leopards roam. Pushed up from the jungle below for generations it’s been death for them to follow prey too far down the mountain. Down the mountain to the plain below at the mountain base leopards once hunted but now even their prey will not go. A mountain of life capped by green jungle where once snow gleamed white over wooded and grassy plains all was changed. Thick jungle covered everything now and only on the mountain top could a leopard live.
The jungle on the plain was hot and wet with a killing heat not like the desert heat of the far north and south. The deserts were hotter than here. But dry, and with water still a place where one could live. Heat here was less but with air saturated with water this heat killed. In this jungle sweat and breath could not cool and animals not heat tolerant and people all died. No men or large bests had lived on the flat plain below the mountain since the jungle had climbed over the snows and made a hilltop oasis where life still bloomed.
The steaming jungle on the plains of this new world gave heatstroke to all. Silent steaming dark and foreboding, this jungle stretches impassible and endlessly to the sea. Insects and small slithering things its only inhabitants. From the ground layers of vegetation hide the sky. Overhead afternoon storms rain down unseen from the ground below onto the canopy. Only the rumble of thunder makes their presence know in the empty jungle below.
Far from the mountain where the green carpet reaches the sea, the endless storm rages. It grows strong and then weak, it begins to lull but it always rebounds to full fury and it never stops raging. For hundreds of years it has raged never stopping. As long as this jungle has ruled the plain its companion has been this storm. A angry storm and a lonely jungle where men who dared to go will surly die. Yet far out to sea and to the north beyond where the grey curtain of the endless storms edge rains to the sea a boat crashed through waves.
Ron pulled the red striped boom line tight and finished his knot to the boom cleat. With one hand on the red stripe and one on the matching redundant blue line he steadied himself for the crash of next wave looming ahead over the bow. Dizzy and weak each plunge into the waves was getting harder to bear. It took more effort to hold firm with every crash. Waves of nausea washed over Ron. The hot breath of the sea in his face. Job done it was time to go in.
Ron’s crew made way for the pilot house door. He the last one to drag himself in. Door closed Dmitry the captain looked at him and asked “All secure?” Ron looking at him managed a nod and a smile, it was all that was needed. Dmitry didn’t need words he knew his men were exhausted. This far south any topside errand quickly drained strength. The last reading of the wet bulb thermometer said long enough up it would kill.
Ron drank in the cool dry cabin air into his lungs. His sea and sweat soaked skin luxuriating in the refreshing cool of the refrigerated cabin air.
“Power on number three” said Dmitry. And with his last word hanging in the air Ablah his ships pilot pressed the glow plug button for engine number three and the timing light glowed yellow. When it blinked off she pressed the starter down and the number three tac needle thumped up to cranking speed and then bursting up to a powerful idle she let the starter go.
Dmitry picked up the microphone to the ships intercom and announced. “All sails stowed. Booms one two and three secure. Gentlemen we’re going south. All hands prepare to come about” Then laying the microphone down he said to Ablah.” Pilot, at your pleasure, due south. Full speed.” Dmitry was a good captain. He kept formality to a minimum but didn’t let it go. His manner an internal and external check list that kept everything going right.
Ablah engaged the clutch to engine number three and its generator pushed 75 extra kilowatts onto the ships power grid. Furling sails and tying booms down she had only needed engines one and two to generate power. Three had been off to save fuel. Number one and two together gave 220 kilowatts which moved The Cross along nicely but from here to the other side of the storm ahead the ship would be going at full power.
The Southern Cross displaced 360 tons and from bow to stern was 51 meters long. Steel, wood and composites made up her bones and skin. She was built to explore. Tight and seaworthy she carried no cargo, only the supplies and fuel her crew of fourteen would need on their voyage. She had maps to tell where she was going yet her destination was unknown. The southern half of the world had not been visited by a northern man for hundreds of years. The equator was a zone of fatal killing humidity. North and south of the equator it was hotter but with water men could live. Not here, in the equatorial zone humidity prevented people from cooling off. At the equator heat first incapacitated then killed.
The Southern Cross was the only ship of her kind. From afar she could be taken for a polar trading schooner of similar size but she had the rigging of a smaller vessel. In the northern sea her size might be rigged as a barque or as barquentine with fast square sails. She had none of them. All her rigging was fore-and-aft. Management of her sails had to be easy and square sails took more crew and effort to manage. Where she was going trips too long out of the air conditioned cocoon of the living spaces below decks would be fatal.
Up close she was no polar trader. Boats in the north were all wood. Cascadian teak and and Alaskan Redwood they moved lumber to Greenland returning with grain and hemp from that new land. Wood ships had plied the seas before the age of oil and now with the earth healing with all available oil burned up and gone they sailed the polar sea and the northern parts of the big oceans once again. Along coasts they traded goods traveling between places wherever men could live as far south as the great desert. All wood and no engines they worked until they sank or rotted past their intended purpose.
The Cross was different. If polar traders were like wood and fabric airplanes from the dawn of flight the Southern Cross was like a jet aircraft from the late twentieth century. Below decks she had the character of a submarine. A sealed chamber of mechanical equipment cables and pipes with ducting everywhere covering her overhead spaces. Taking everything in and she was like living inside a giant machine. Air in was chilled and dehumidified before circulated around the living spaces. Several redundant and handmade systems accomplished that task. Life depended on it. Diesel powered generators ran everything and drank energy rich New York palm oil from tanks in stowage and from tanks below deck. Engines needed for when the chaos and heat of the storm would make sailing impossible were electric. They too ran from the generators.
Nine weeks into her voyage her main generators had been only been running for three. As she drove south it had become hot. Three weeks back the ships air vents had been closed and her cooling systems turned on. By now the crew would have been unable to work topside without it. That morning her sea motors had been turned on and the ship put into the wind to furl sails. Now with everything topside tied down and secure with the last generator up and running she was driving due south at nine knots.
Ron moved down the companionway from the pilothouse. Along the the main central passage ahead to a cold shower and dry clothes.
Refreshed and dry throwing his wet clothes into an empty dryer Ron made his way to the saloon. There weighed down by the delicious smell of fresh coffee a comfortable chair and the new feel of a ship sailing under power Ron was not expecting an ambuscade when Zhang sat down.
“How do you know they don’t want to eat us” said Zhang. Hundreds of years of radio silence from the southern hemisphere and then out of nowhere we start getting pictures of paradise. I think they are trying to lure us down because they are hungry. Why so friendly all of a sudden.”
Ron looked into Zhang’s eyes for a playful gleam. Finding none he replied.
“If they knew what people from New China were known to eat I don’t think you would have anything to worry about Zhang.”
“Ah you think I’m being funny but we really don’t know what has been going on down there do we?” Zhang retorted. Pausing only for a quick breath and before Ron could say anything he went on. “The whole story could be a put on and a plan to get us to go down there. They had dark ages just like we did sure, I get that. But why the silence afterwards. This religious reasons story isn’t making sense to me. Something doesn’t add up.”
Ron smiled wondering what Zhang had been thinking about. Then he said. “Are you afraid they will buy New China and move in just like Old China did when it bought Canada before the dark ages began?”
“That’s not exactly how it happened, it was more complicated than that. You must have been reading the propaganda the American Dictator put out just before things fell apart. The ones with money skipped out and moved north just like the rich Chinese and nobody was ever stopped from getting to Alaska far as I know. They all had ten days free passage before they could be enslaved. I’m just afraid there could be something devious behind the Southern Leagues invitation and I think we should think about it. I got to thinking about how much this ship tells about us and that maybe giving the Southern League so much information might not be a good idea.”
“It’s a little late for that. A voyage six years in the making on a ship that took three years to build. I’ve been talking to them for a bit over five years from the University of Iqaluit Zhang, get a grip.
Radio in the south was strictly controlled and only used as permitted by their Brotherhood of Gaia for over 230 years. The brotherhood allowed no wireless entertainment broadcast of any kind and anybody but a navigator for the brotherhood caught using a transmitter would be tried for treason. It was a really big deal to them. There was never a real radio silence; it is just that nobody would ever talk to us. They have been using radio ever since the brotherhood took them from their dark ages but only as allowed for shipping and brotherhood government business under supervision and with training. Their people feared Americans might still be around to spy on them. That with a moral dictum of no wireless entertainment from the ruling brotherhood was all it took to maintain the quiet. Nobody dared break the rules.
But all the time the Brotherhoods inner circle, those who could read and who were allowed to have old records and learning were listening to us. Now that we are all united under the Siberian Union they deemed us safe enough to contact. That’s why they waited until only six years ago to break their radio silence.
Zhang, before that they were afraid you would eat them!”
Enjoying hearing himself talk Ron went on.
“Besides which they are not as big as we are. Steaming rain forests on the south coast of Australia, the north island of New Zealand, and the very tip of the south African coast. The south island of New Zealand, Tierra del Fuego and Tasmania their only breadbaskets. Forests in Antarctica supply lumber but overall they are not any further along with terraforming Antarctica than we are with terraforming North Greenland. Getting plants to survive the long winter night is as hard for them as it is for us. Like us they are succeeding but it is slow. Having some luck with the usual grasses and with some Eucalyptus variants like their Antarctican forest trees.
Their entire population is less than that what we have in South Greenland and Labrador alone so I think they should be worrying more about the dietary habits of Nunavut Chinese than we should worry about them”
Ron looked at the wall clock. Then he said.
“Look, I’ve radio duty in ten minutes and have to run back and see if Dmitry wants anything. I have been trading recipes with Fulberto on the Northern Star for a few weeks now and it is only ten days until we rendezvous with them on the other side of the storm. I’ll ask him if he would like you for dinner before or after we arrive in Rio Grande. Maybe you should be doing something to season your meat.”