Foam surged spilling over the crests of waves. A pole with a spinning scythe jutted through the surface followed by an angular metal hull splitting the water, the beast rising triumphant fifty metres from the sea wall. A submarine! The lid of the funnel emblazoned with ISF flipped open and a man with ebony skin and messy hair with blonde streaks popped out. He pointed at me and shouted, ‘Ah-ha! You’re here!’
‘Yay! Yes! Here I am!’ I waved my arms above my head and jumped up and down.
The straw-man as I then called him, pointed to the jetty.
‘Okay!’ I shouted and then ran along the causeway to the jetty.
A blow-up rubber dinghy with Straw-man and a large bearded man arrived. The dinghy bobbed up and down on the waves that splashed against the pylons. The bearded man who I thought looked like a “wookie” from Star Wars extended his hand and helped me step in. I placed my foot on the base of the vessel and it rocked.
‘Sorry about the delay, change of plans,’ said the wookie-man while he held my hand to steady me, ‘electrical storm.’
‘Barely got the Captain up in time,’ Straw-man snorted with a brief laugh as he rowed the blow-up boat.
The wookie-guy shook my hand. ‘I’m Chief Engineer Fritz Grossman of the Little Sister Ship, by the way.’
I took a deep breath. ‘Holly Mueller.’ Glad I made it.
Straw-man kept rowing. ‘I’m Nathan — general dog’s body,’ he mumbled, ‘no actually, I’m Second in Command, but er, the way the Captain is at the moment, I do everything.’
He looked down and chuckled.
Fritz raised a bushy eyebrow and winked at me. ‘That’s what 2IC’s are for.’
Upon reaching the submarine, Fritz hooked a rope to the vessel and drew us up to the ladder. He then stepped from the inflatable dinghy to the ladder that lead to the top of the vessel.
He turned and beckoned, ‘Come on, Holly.’
I stood, my knees wobbled as the rubber boat bounced up and down on the waves.
Fritz held out his hand. ‘Come on, Holly, you can do it.’
I watched the waters, deep green and laced with froth rise and fall beneath me. ‘Yep, I can do this,’ I squeaked. My knees rose and fell at different times.
‘Grab my hand,’ Fritz urged, hooked his elbow through a rung of the ladder, and reached out to me.
‘Go for it,’ Nathan said.
I stepped forward and lunged my outstretched hand at Fritz. He snatched it up and pulled me and the dinghy to the ladder. I grabbed the rail with my free hand, and clutching the cold metal, I hauled my body onto the ladder. Then gripping each rung, I climbed up to the summit of the vessel and wormed my way into the turret.
A woman’s voice called, ‘Watch your step.’
I turned around. ‘What? Oh, you!’ and then continued climbing down the ladder.
‘Welcome aboard,’ the brunette with a cheeky grin shook my hand.
I released her hand and then softly punched her arm. ‘Thanks, Liesel.’
Liesel giggled. ‘What happened to you? You look like a drowned rat.’
‘Missed the boat,’ I muttered.
‘What? You swam?’
‘No, I borrowed a tinny and got caught in the storm.’
‘Too bad!’ Liesel patted me on the arm. ‘We better get you changed before you get hypothermia.’
After deflating the dinghy and packing it away, Fritz and Nathan climbed down into the cramped space at the base of the manhole.
‘Hope you’re behaving yourself, Liesel,’ Fritz said.
Nathan nudged Fritz. ‘Come on, we better keep moving. Holly’s gotta see Jo.’ He secured and sealed the hatch and then guided us through the corridors cluttered with instruments, shelving full of files and a couple of air-producing machines named Maddie and Mick.
While Liesel peeled away to assist the Captain piloting the vessel, Grossman and Nathan led me further down the maze to the med lab.
I gazed around the room, no larger than a storage closet. Obviously, space was at a premium in the sub, comfort in the med lab not high on the priority list; just a fold-out bunk, and a metal bench with a first aid box. I hoped the promised Little Sister Ship offered more space and equipment.
I looked at Nathan. ‘This is just temporary. Isn’t it? The sub, I mean.’
‘Erm, nup, this is it. The Little Sister Ship. Neat isn’t it.’ Nathan snorted and then handed me a vacuum sealed package. ‘Here, your regulation ISF boilersuit.’
After allowing me the privacy to change into the boilersuit while I continued to mutter my dismay, he introduced me to medic Joseph Smith, a man with a dusty pink face, smiling lips emerging from the beginnings of a beard and hair that matched Nathan’s.
Jo then scanned me with his portable “Medi scan”. ‘Yep, you’re fine apart from a little on the cold side.’
Nathan cleared his throat and glanced down. ‘We better make up for lost time, the Captain’s not happy.’
‘Never is,’ Jo bared his teeth while tapping his hand-held computer. He shook his head.
‘Let’s face it, Nathan, Gunter is never happy.’
Nathan snorted. ‘Especially with you, Holly. What did you do to tick him off?’
I gulped. My mouth went dry. ‘Did you say Gunter? Gunter Fahrer?’
Jo and Nathan looked at me. ‘Yes,’ they replied in unison.
‘Why’s he upset?’
‘Says you made us late.’ Joseph shrugged. ‘It’s a thing with him.’
‘And you disrespected him, apparently,’ Nathan added. ‘That’s also a thing.’
‘Me?’ I recalled missing the cruise boat, the one sailing without me down the Franklin-Gordon. The one stopping in at Sarah Island, without me. The dweeby lad with the beanie. That sad case who kept bothering me. ‘He doesn’t happen to wear a black, earth-red and yellow beanie, does he?’
‘Oh,’ Nathan smacked his forehead, ‘so that’s who stole my beanie. I’ll have to talk to Gunter about that.’
‘Oh, crap!’ My heart pounded. This was going from bad to worse. I wrung my hands and avoided eye contact. ‘I think I’ll go and have a little rest. It’s been a tough night, I mean morning, um day—whatever.’ I hopped off the bunk, pushed past the two dreadlocked men, paced the two steps it took to enter the med lab’s latrine and slammed the metal door behind me. I hunted for the seat. Where’s the toilet seat? How can I bite my fist without sitting on a toilet seat? This was the latrine, wasn’t it? I lifted a calendar with a painting print of Switzerland’s Matterhorn. Nothing useful underneath. Opposite, a sign above my head in this squashy room read, ‘To use the latrine, pull.’
I searched the wall for the thing to pull. ‘Ah!’
Below the sign, a handle tucked into a recess. I grasped it and tugged. Out of the wall, a bidet descended into place and I squeezed against the opposing wall. Worse than an airplane, I thought. I wondered if it automatically flushed when I pushed it back into the wall? I manoeuvred my body around to sit on the low seat, bite my fist and contemplate.
‘Why did I ever take on this mission?’ I sighed and studied at the calendar, still on August, though Earth had reached October. ‘Knowing my luck, they’ll turn around and drop me straight back in Strahan. Nup, knowing my luck, they won’t, and I’ll have to put up with Gunter reminding me of my tardiness for years to come.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Lookout from Sarah Island © L.M. Kling 2011
Curious to find out how this war with Boris all began? How this alien cockroach Boris wheedled his smelly way onto Earth…threatening humankind’s very existence?
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