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26


The day was quickly drawing to its end. For the last hour, I had been hiding in a shrub near the hub fence and spitting on the ground like an angry camel because of the aftertaste of what I’d had earlier in the day—I suspected it had been a rat meat sandwich. Meanwhile, I had been watching the unloading of a ship on the nearby platform; it was “Mountain Cougar”! They had already started to close the hub when the vessel came and I thought they were going to leave it for the next day. They didn’t however. The procedure had initiated and shortly after that, another vessel had appeared on the horizon. I could safely bet it was “Southern Star”!

The treatment of the containers was pretty quick in fact. First, the ship’s crane took them out of the hold and from there, the bigger crane on the platform lined them up before the entrance. Marty Cork was personally supervising it. Then Greenspace’s personnel walked to each of them with testing probes and checked the contents. The tanks were five—ten tons each—and they looked exactly like the ones I had seen transferred from “Southern Star” the previous night. All of them had coverings, which I presumed were the asbestos jackets.

All the while, a small fuss was going on behind my back—on the fishing port. Some thirty guys—also personnel from Greenspace—were trying to drive all the wretches there away. A very significant number of the “alchemists” hadn’t gone through the “checks” yet and they were really disappointed and nervous. It meant that they had to return to Tutuila and then set out all the way back to here in less than two hours. No one was allowed to leave his stuff on the island, although no one would’ve really done it even if it were otherwise; everyone was simply afraid his mona might be stolen during the night.

Gradually, the tension escalated but the guards got their way eventually. The wharf was emptying quickly, which put me in quite a tough situation. I couldn’t leave with the mona-makers before “Mountain Cougar” had been processed! A little bit earlier in the day, the guy that had brought me here had left too and he didn’t even look around for me. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have paid him all the money and I definitely should’ve known he would feel hurt after Greenspace’s refusal, and that I would be the last of his worries.

I spat on the ground in disgust again and looked back at the platform. Apparently, some problem had occurred there now. Marty was talking agitatedly on his phone, vigorously waving his free hand in the air. He seemed nervous. Meanwhile, Greenspace’s guys stood by the containers with the testing probes in their hands and they clearly didn’t know what to do. Something had obviously gone wrong.

A few minutes later, the situation became even more complicated. The personnel suddenly vanished into the hub but without closing the doors—they were probably trying to find a solution to the problem. Outside, instead of waiting for them or taking his containers back on the ship, Marty just got on board and made a brief gesture to Spit Master inside the bridge. What followed next simply left me speechless. The engine of “Mountain Cougar” promptly started and the boat jumped forward, ditching all the stuff behind her. Then she beat it into the sea as if thousands of devils were chasing after her.

At the bay mouth, the vessel met the other ship, which was just coming in and when they passed by each other, Cork saluted someone on the deck of “Southern Star”. The bastard didn’t seem disappointed or hurt anymore—I even saw him smile through my portable binoculars. No more than five minutes later, “Southern Star” had already taken the place of “Mountain Cougar”, and when the guys of Greenspace came back, they were shocked to see there was a different boat on the platform!

It all suddenly turned into a jam: the wrong containers couldn’t be moved inside because they obviously contained the wrong substance, but at the same time, they couldn’t be removed because the ship that brought them was missing. On the other hand, the captain of “Southern Star” refused to go away before his boat was processed and there was not enough space on the platform for rearranging the containers. It was a stalemate!

Fifteen minutes passed with no change and everything started to turn into a game of nerves. I noticed that the logo of “Sengupta Carbides Limited” was missing above the bridge now, despite the name of the boat being the same. It didn’t actually matter because it might have been a fake name in the first place. I also noticed a familiar face on the deck. It was the second guy who had guarded Sengupta and Sharon when they kissed down by “Emilia”—the one with the scar on his neck. He was idling in the stern with his hands in his pockets.

Eventually, the Greenspace’s guys gave up because the captain of “Southern Star” was stubborn enough and they obviously couldn’t allow him to stay there for the night. One of the personnel made a few phone calls and then the unloading started. The procedure from before repeated and another five containers—absolutely the same as the previous batch—were lined up in front of the first because they blocked the way into the base. The usual testing followed and this time everything was alright. The guys sealed and labeled the good stuff and marked the wrong for returning. Then they turned around and closed the hub at last, leaving the further processing of the containers for tomorrow. After all that, “Southern Star” was good to go and she left.

I turned around and looked down at the fishing port to see the evolvement of the situation there. The place was empty now and the guards had just started to come back toward the hub. Soon they passed by me, telling stupid jokes about whores to each other, and by then, the area behind the fence had emptied too. After ten more minutes, I was all alone in the place and I didn’t have the slightest idea what I was going to do. I was obviously stuck deep in the dark kingdom of Greenspace where every single man was my enemy!

I patiently waited until the sun went down and quietly withdrew toward the woods behind the base because I was afraid that some bored dog might reveal my presence in the shrub. It would be the end of my life if it happened! Then I prepared myself for a very long night. I had to spend ten hours in nature before the first invaders arrived with their buckets to Ofu, and probably another two hours before the first of them was turned away. That made twelve in total. I thought a little and soon decided it would be best for me to pay a second visit to Menelaus’ construction site on Olosega. The time was right—I would kill a few hours, and besides, under the cover of night, I could get nearer and look around the place more thoroughly.

In theory, it was surely a good idea but it turned out to be extremely hard to fulfill in practice. The problem was that the only road—Route 20—wound along the coast and straight through the town of Ofu but I just couldn’t take it and repeat my morning walk now—not without a stealth strip on my head at least! On the other hand, all the internal streets in the town started at the shore and led to a dead end after climbing up the hill for about fifty meters. They simply didn’t need any north-south intersections here and Route 20 was quite enough, which left me without alternatives. As a result, the only option I had was going through the bushes on the hill slope above the east end of the town. When I started, the journey proved to be devastating and it took me an eternity to bypass Ofu.

Eventually, after the darkness had long since fallen, I made it to the other end of the capital but I felt like a Robinson Crusoe who had survived not one but one hundred and one shipwrecks! I had scratches and thorns everywhere on my skin and I almost lost an eye when I failed to see a shrub brunch approaching my face. When I stepped on “Twenty” at last, I was a true ruin and I had to go down to the beach to wash my wounds in the water. Then I climbed back up and looked around the area.

The road ahead was empty of life and the full moon was casting enough light on it. From here, I had about an hour of easy walking to the east coast. I just had to be careful while passing by the airport because, although it had looked deserted earlier in the day, it still might have guards during the night. It was not very probable because on this island, everybody knew each other but anyway, for the sake of safety, I couldn’t scratch that possibility. As a whole, the entire eastern part of Ofu seemed completely forgotten and I guessed the only purpose Route 20 had ever served was to connect it to Olosega back in the time when it made sense. Now, with the barricade on the bridge and the depopulating of Olosega, the road had become totally useless.

I quickly walked south and soon reached the airport. I met no people on my way, and for about fifteen minutes, I believed I was all alone in the area. The only sounds I heard were the night birds singing on my left and the ocean rippling on my right. Then all of a sudden, a dull roar echoed in the air from all sides, startling me. It quickly grew louder as if getting closer and made me turn around, nervously trying to determine from which direction it was coming. My confusion shaved valuable seconds off my reaction time and when the headlights hit me, I could only spread my body in the gutter, desperately covering my head with my hands and praying that nobody had seen me.

After a few seconds, three huge jeeps zipped centimeters from my face without anyone inside paying attention to me. When they had passed, I rose up a little and looked after them, spitting sand out of my mouth. The vehicles had no place to go from here but to the bridge. But why were they were hurrying so badly? The construction site was desolate! I cautiously got to my feet and prepared to follow them but it was only to jump back down the very next moment because another roar echoed in the night. Now it was low-pitched and thundering, however, and I could definitely tell the direction—my back.

This time, I didn’t actually have to break my legs, hurrying, as it turned out. The sound kept slowly advancing toward me for almost five minutes and it allowed me to get back up and climb up the hill to hide in the woods above the road. Then I patiently followed with my eyes a long procession of heavy bulldozers, passing by. There were eight of them and right behind them, another jeep trailed and after it—a small van. When they all finally moved away, I cautiously sneaked out of the wood but I didn’t feel safe and the idea of visiting Olosega didn’t seem good to me anymore. Clearly, a fucking war had just started and I was heading straight for the battlefield!

Despite the risk, I went on with my little expedition because I really needed to know what was going on. I nervously stopped every time I heard some noise, ready to hide, and it was quite an unpleasant game because soon enough the noise became too much. I assumed they were destroying Menelaus’ construction site, simply because it was not plausible to believe they were rebuilding it. I was impatient to go there and confirm my assumption but I was worried and uneasy at the same time. I was afraid someone might see me walking on the road.

After nearly an hour, I finally approached the blockage in the middle of the bridge. I had to stop twenty meters away from it because it seemed they had left someone there, guarding the way back. I couldn’t see well in the darkness but I heard some muffled voices. Having nothing else to do, I simply waited. The entire offensive went on for about an hour more and soon after that, a line of headlights started dancing up the road across the bay. They slowly reached the bridge, passed it and then they passed me. The procession was obviously heading back home and I patiently counted every single vehicle to know if they had left someone behind. No one was missing though.

Eventually, after the noise from the bulldozers had died out up the road, here on the “duck’s head”, it all returned to its usual state. I quietly stepped out of the shrubs and looked at my cellphone. It was after midnight. The entire show I had just witnessed had at least one good side—it had been a real time killer! I quickly advanced toward the bridge, and although I knew there was no one there, I was nervous and ready to jump into the water and swim all the way to Greenland if I heard even the faintest noise. I heard nothing though and went closer, undisturbed.

The wired fence had been violently ripped apart. Parts of it were hanging down above the water from both sides of the bridge and all the pieces of scrap metal, which had blocked it before, were now down in the bay. The passage was clear for walking across to Olosega—the kingdom of the late Menelaus!

I briskly crossed the boundary and went to the other side where the road split. One arm headed northeast and another one—southeast. I wanted to take the southern arm, I guessed. I followed it, guided well by the light of the moon. When I reached the construction site about twenty-five minutes later, I slowed down and cautiously looked around, but there was no need to be worried—the place was empty of people.

Ahead of me was a vast area full of old buildings, tanks, pipes and other machinery. The fence here was also run over by bulldozers and a huge part of it near the road was missing. The site was actually the former town of Olosega, which Menelaus had depopulated and transformed according to his new vision. It was obvious that some of the buildings had served public needs once. At the southern end of the town, I found the tall structure, the purpose of which I had wondered about that morning. It was down on the ground now. Half of the segments lay scattered in the shallow bay and the rest were on the road—effectively blocking it.

I went nearer to have a better look. Every segment was a huge spiral thing, about twenty meters long and three meters in diameter, with assembling joints at both ends. There was no doubt the pieces were supposed to form a long, flexible tube, through which spinning chains of tank cars, pushed by electromagnetic fields, were going to be shot into Earth’s orbit. It was definitely a docking station that Menelaus had tried to build here! I just couldn’t imagine from where he had planned to obtain the electricity for it—the consumption of such a thing was just enormous!

I turned my head up to look at the hills, still uncertain. Climbing the mountain, a couple of huge pipelines went up for about a hundred meters and then they sharply cut into the ground. They were probably meant to conduct the heat from the sleeping volcano and that’s why the pumps here on the shore had been installed but nevertheless, I doubted this system would be enough. They usually build nuclear plants to feed such facilities!

I looked around the place for about twenty minutes but I gained no more practical information. The site had been abandoned after Menelaus’ death and it was completely destroyed now. Whatever it was he had actually planned to use it for, he had taken the knowledge with him and the remains of his project were destined to go back to wilderness soon. I turned around and started on my long way back to the hub, thinking. I wondered why DuPont would pick a place so close to Greenspace to build a docking station—it just made no sense. There were probably thousands of islands in the Pacific to choose from with about a hundred volcanoes on them, and yet, he had come here—to the back yard of Greenspace. There must have been a good reason for that but I didn’t have the slightest idea what it was and it was eating me.

After an eventless walk to the town of Ofu for about an hour and twenty minutes, I still hadn’t come to any plausible conclusion. When I reached the outskirts, I stopped, uncertain which way to go. I hesitated a lot before deciding on my third urban adventure, but the alternative of bypassing through the bushes again horrified me more than the chance of being caught in the town. It was already close to three in the morning and everyone was probably sound asleep so I gathered myself together and made a quick run along Route 20. Ten minutes later, I was already at the ammonia hub. Compared to almost an hour through the bushes in complete darkness, it was surely a lifesaving decision!

Shortly after that, I cautiously sneaked back to the woods behind the base and prepared myself for a short nap in nature. I desperately hoped to grab some sleep because it was my second night without any and I simply felt drained. Unfortunately, it turned out that romantic tropical nights in the movies were just a myth! There were too many terrible creatures all around, and they all were screaming, chirruping, rustling in the bushes and trees, crawling in my clothes, biting me—it was hell. The possibility that some of them might be snakes freaked me out but despite my fear, at some point, I managed to doze off after all. And just then, after no more than a few minutes, an annoying pair of parrots right above my head started fighting over something! A whole cloud of leaves and feathers rained down upon me and it didn’t stop even when I tried to shush the damn noisy birds.

Eventually, I got to my feet angry and moved to the shrub near the fence because I was afraid someone might hear me. Here, at least, I was alone and after switching “bedrooms”, I found some peace at last. I was already on the edge, barely keeping my eyes open and almost losing consciousness. It had been such a long and exhausting night that had I waited just a few minutes more, I’d have probably fallen asleep walking and who knows where I’d have woken up then!


©2016 S.T. Fargo
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!
(www.stfargo.com)

Eurasian Gambit—Chapter 26 | a science-fiction crime novel by S.T. Fargo

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