Chapter 7 – Oceans Away
The boatman stood with his hands on his hips, scowling at us. Claude gripped my bicep and looked into my eyes.
“Sookie, What would Eric do?”
I gaped at him. Eric would probably kill him – the man was curious and forthright but he didn’t deserve to die for those things.
“No. I won’t hurt someone just because they asked me a question!”
Claude rolled his eyes and, quick as a wink, had the boatman pinned face-down on the floor. “Get something we can tie him up with … and gag him.”
Okay, restraining someone so we could escape was something I was significantly more comfortable with than cold blooded murder. I grabbed a pair of socks out of my backpack and gave them to Claude to stuff in the boatman’s mouth. Finding something to tie his hands and feet together was more of a challenge. With some effort, I managed to tear the seams on the pillowcases and we used them to hogtie him. Claude nodded to me and we ran out of the door.
It was a surprise to find out we were in an office block of some description. A corridor with doors either side greeted us on our exit from our recovery room. I pointed to the sign that directed us to the stairs and we ran for it. No-one was there to stop us as we burst through the entrance to the stairwell and thundered down the steps – only to be met by a solid brick wall after one flight.
“Fuck! Up, go back up!”
Claude wasn’t usually one for cursing; I nodded and started sprinting back up. When we got to the floor we’d just escaped from, a woman stopped and smiled at us.
“Hey! You two made a quick recovery!”
Behind her, at the end of the corridor, I noticed a set of doors. We pushed past her and headed for them. Beyond the doors, I froze. We were on a pier, surrounded by water, and the building we had just come out of was jutting out of the ocean.
“Where the hell are we?” I gasped.
“I told you before – Dade lookout post.” The boatman spoke from behind us.
When I spun around, he was rubbing his wrists and the woman we had pushed past was standing next to him. Both of them looked mad enough to spit.
“Johnny is out with the boat to get supplies – so unless you wanna swim 200 miles to the Tampa network or maybe, if you’d prefer, you can swim 700 miles to the mainland – you’re stuck with us.”
I looked out at the water; I could see spires and the tops of some other buildings sticking out of the water. Were these the trees that we had been heading for earlier?
“Are we in Dade County, Florida?”
I stared wide eyed at the boatmen as he looked at me like he couldn’t believe I had to actually ask that.
“Honey, Florida ain’t been Florida since before I was born!” He stood back from the door and motioned for us to go back inside. “Where in the hell are you from?”
The boatman led us through the corridors and into a large kitchen and dining area. There were a few people sitting, eating or relaxing and reading. We were led to a table with four chairs and the boatman gestured for us to sit down before waving to a scrawny man in a white apron. Bowls of what smelled like chowder were put in front of us and I took a tiny, experimental, taste with my spoon. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. I guessed with the extra ocean that seemed to be around, people in this universe ate a lot of fish and seafood.
With having more people in closer proximity to me, my head was back to its usual state of having to work at keeping their thoughts out. But it was manageable and I was even up to making polite conversation.
“We … ah … haven’t really had the chance for proper introductions. I’m Sookie and this is Claude.”
The boatman nodded. “My name is Andy, Andy McVicar. I’m the manager of the lookout post.”
“Hi, I’m Cherie Bowman – team leader.” Cherie stretched a hand across the table to shake ours.
Claude pushed the half-eaten bowl of fishy stew away and rested his elbows on the table. “I understand you have a lot of questions but I was wondering if there was a calendar we could have a look at.”
I noticed Claude had specifically avoided asking what year it was – that would raise even more suspicion. Andy still looked at him strangely before asking Cherie to go and grab the calendar from his office. He stopped her as she got up from the table by placing his hand on top of hers.
“Actually, scratch that. We’ll all go up and Claude can look at the calendar in there. I have a feeling this ‘Q and A’ session could use more privacy.”
Both Claude and I expected to be escorted to Andy’s office right after that comment. But, instead, we were left sitting at the table as Andy finished his coffee. It was unnerving, and Andy knew it from the way he was smirking over the top of his cup at us. Finally, I guess my fidgeting became too annoying for him and he got up and told us to follow him. Andy walked in front and Cherie brought up the rear until we got to another door that looked pretty much the same as all the others.
When Andy opened the door, it didn’t look like an office at all. It was a control centre, if anything, it reminded me of those movies where they have a space shuttle launch – lots of screens and blinking lights that I could never hope to understand. Another man had jumped in his chair and quickly removed his feet from one of the consoles as we entered. Andy tapped at a few of the buttons and walked around the screens, stopping every now and again to bend forward for a closer look at some of them. I felt Cherie give me a little nudge from behind to get my attention and she pointed to a big table with 6 chairs over in the corner.
“Saul, could you give us a minute in here.” Andy called out while scribbling on a clipboard.
The other man nodded and rushed out, giving us a glance and a nod as he went past. Claude and I settled at the big table as Cherie and Andy muttered quietly to each other at one of the screens. I noticed a calendar on the wall behind Claude and quietly got out of my chair to see what date it was.
“May 2007. No time travelling this jump.” I whispered to Claude.
His raised eyebrow made it obvious he was asking himself the same question I was – Why was Florida under water in this universe and, if Florida was underwater, where did that leave Bon Temps? Andy and Cherie joined us at the table a moment later; Andy nodded toward the calendar and looked at Claude.
“Find what you were lookin’ for?”
“Yes, thank you.” Claude smiled tightly.
“So … I think we can safely say that you kids don’t have much of a choice here.” Andy leaned back in his chair and linked his fingers behind his head. “As I mentioned before, it’s my job to watch these waters – that means I need to keep an eye out for suspicious folks and stop them from getting anywhere near American soil. You two are probably the most suspicious folks I’ve come across on my twenty years on this rig.”
I bit my lip nervously; there really wasn’t any denying that the circumstances that Andy found us in were anything other than suspicious. Claude, however, was attempting to stare Andy down. This was new and probably due to that elixir Claudine gave him.
“Mr McVicar, while I understand your … unease at where and how you came across Sookie and I, the American people have nothing to fear from us.”
“That’s completely true – I’m all American myself!”
I smiled while I said it. I was a proud American! But my statement didn’t seem to have the endearing effect I had hoped it would. Claude rolled his eyes at me and rubbed his face with his hands and Andy and Cherie looked at me like I was crazy.
“Uh huh, that’s exactly what a Nazi Terrorist would say! You think we don’t know about your gizmos and intensive training programs? You think you’re the first ones we’ve come across?”
“I’m not a Nazi!” I stood up so quick my chair scooted back a little.
“Sookie, please be quiet and let me handle this.”
I glared at Claude but sat down to see how well his idea of handling things would work out for us. He turned back to Andy and laid his hands, palm down, flat on the table. Andy smirked at him, in his mind I could read that he was sure Claude would recite the same, tired, speeches that he’d heard from the other Nazi terrorists they’d captured. He was thinking that this new tactic of having the spies get sick from sun exposure and wind up being taken to the rig was interesting but still wouldn’t work.
My mind was working overtime trying to piece together things from Andy and Cherie’s brains. There was so much information spinning around, I couldn’t make head or tails of it. Nazis, boats, planes, guns … this universe we’d jumped into was like an amped up World War Two movie. I was shaken out of my attempt to concentrate by Claude’s voice.
“How much do you know about the Supernatural, Mr McVicar?”
That caught them by surprise. To be honest, it caught me by surprise too. I was just better at hiding it.
“What – you mean ghosts and ghouls? I don’t believe in any of that crap.”
“No, I mean Vampires, Werewolves, demons and Fairies – the kind of things that exist where we come from.”
Andy and Cherie both sat silent for a few seconds before Andy started laughing like a loon. I let my head fall to the table, it smarted just enough to let me know that I wasn’t asleep and having some cringe worthy anxiety dream. It took a few minutes for our … well, I wasn’t sure if ‘hosts’ or ‘captors’ would be the best term for Andy and Cherie – but it took them a while to calm down. Claude’s hands had bunched into fists, but were still resting on the tabletop.
“My, my.” Andy was still shaking his head and smiling. “That’s a good one. So, you two come from some magical place where Vampires and such fly around?”
I wanted to set him straight that not all Vampires can fly, but I kept my mouth shut.
“A different world, yes – a world we’d like to get back to.”
Claude closed his eyes and popped to the other side of the room. Andy and Cherie jumped out of their chairs and I had a brief moment of panic as Andy pulled a gun out that had been taped under the table.
“Don’t shoot him!”
Andy looked at me with bewildered eyes. “What the fuck are you two?”
Claude popped back into his seat and calmly laid his hands back on the table. “Are you ready to believe yet?”
“I’m ready.” Cherie gasped out. She was nodding but you could see the fear in her eyes and her terrified thoughts swamped my consciousness.
“We don’t want to hurt you, Cherie; we just want to get back home.” I lay a, hopefully, comforting hand on top of hers.
“I want you freaks off my rig ASAP.” Andy kept his gun trained on Claude, his hand was shaking badly. “As soon as Johnny comes back and the boat is fuelled, we’re taking a little trip to somewhere you won’t put my staff in danger.”
We were led, at gunpoint, back to the room we woke up in. Andy left us there with the statement that he’d come and get us as soon as it was time to leave. He had been thinking that he had a good mind to just dump us back in the ocean, but he was worried that we had other powers that might put the whole rig at risk if he incurred out wrath. I desperately wanted to tell him that I didn’t have any powers and that we had no reason to put him or his in any danger. But he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to hear any of that. Cherie hung back; Andy had instructed her to watch us.
As soon as the door was closed, I had the map back out. I didn’t really care that Cherie was watching us as we pored over it, trying to work out which parts would be under water and which parts wouldn’t. Both she and Andy wanted us off the rig and out of their hair so they could forget ever meeting us.
“If Florida is under water, it’s safe to say Louisiana will be too. Our only option is to get to a portal and jump – there’s no point looking for the Cluviel Dor if my house is an aquarium decoration.”
Claude nodded. “Agreed, looking at these portal locations has given me an idea. In the first jump, the Fae were extinct for centuries – so no new portals would have been created in the time between Dracula taking over and us appearing.”
“So the Bon Temps portal is … new?”
“It’s maybe three hundred years old. But no portals have been created in the last hundred years.”
“Okay, so … what does that mean?”
“It means that as long as changes in this universe happened in the last century, the portals should be in the same place.”
I turned to look at Cherie; she was leaning against the door with her mouth open, desperately trying to comprehend what Claude and I were jabbering on about.
“Cherie, I know you’re scared. But could you tell us how the world happened to be … flooded?”
She blinked and frowned before standing up straight. “You really don’t know?”
Claude and I shook our heads.
“Truman had a failsafe. Back in 1944, when the Nazis won the Battle of the Bulge, Truman sent out the evacuation notices. Everyone who could was piled onto boats, planes or drove as fast as they could to high ground. They dropped experimental Atomic bombs on Antarctica, to melt the ice and flood out Europe.”
“If Europe was flooded at the end of World War Two, then why did you think we were Nazis?” Claude stood only a couple of feet away from her with his arms folded.
“They knew we were evacuating and they did the same – there was a huge aerial battle as the traitor Brits and Russians tried to stop the failsafe from going ahead. They all went to high ground and ever since then they’ve been trying to get revenge on the US.” Cherie spat out the last part, like all those millions of people who lost their homes, towns, cities … lives, didn’t have the right to revenge.
“And you’re surprised that the world is pissed off with America?” Claude’s eyes were wide with incredulity. “Truman basically kills the planet and your government is still concerned with terrorism?”
I really wasn’t interested in a political debate; we had more pressing matters to attend to. “Claude, now we know it happened less than a century ago. So this map still works, right? All the portals on this are where we’ll find them here?”
Claude nodded, not taking his eyes off Cherie. I felt bad for her; she was the product of decades of propaganda. The USA had cut itself off from the world and everyone not American was its enemy. I didn’t know much about the environment, but I knew enough that all that ice on Antarctica was there for a good reason. Fairies and nature go hand in hand, I understood how pissed Claude was that a huge part of the planet’s eco-system had been destroyed in a fit of ‘if we can’t have it no-one can’ by one President.
Day turned to dusk and the uneasy atmosphere was giving me a headache. Our bags had been unpacked, soaked and dried food thrown away, repacked and sat by the door for over an hour when Andy came back for us. Without words or prompting, we followed him to the pier and climbed into the boat.
“We’ll be travelling through the night. When I get tired, Cherie will take over. Hopefully we’ll get to the mainland before the sun really gets going. We’ve got somewhere to hole up – but you guys will need to find your own accommodations. I want you out of my sight as soon as we dock – clear?”
Claude nodded and I mumbled out a muted ‘yessir’ before the engine started up and we were off. I spent the long hours on that boat wondering what kind of America we’d be landing on. Would we be able to find somewhere to ‘hole up’ so we didn’t end up with sunstroke again? Would there be Vampires on the mainland or had they all been wiped out when the sea levels rose? What about the Weres? So many questions that I couldn’t find peace when my eyes drifted closed. My dreams were fitful, blazing sunshine and burning skin was involved with all of them.
The sun was turning the buildings beyond the dock a fierce shade of red when we landed. I had no idea where we were until we got off the boat and passed a sign bidding us a nice stay in Thomasville. Andy and Cherie flagged down a cab and gave Claude and I one last look before heading off into their denial. I looked at my cousin and shrugged.
“So what do we do now?” I asked him.
He pointed to a desk with a withered old man behind it. “We ask for directions to somewhere we can stay until sundown.”
“And exactly how are we going to pay for this place to stay? Neither of us has any money!” I hissed, getting more worked up with each second the gravity of the situation weighed on me. “We don’t even know if they use money here!”
Claude looked around the small building that served as the port and shrugged. “Maybe we can just stay here?”
Sure, there were a couple of chairs but no food or drink. I shook my head. “We need to find somewhere to get something to eat, somewhere to rest.”
“Sounds like you kids need a miracle!”
We both turned to where the woman’s voice had come from and my chin dropped in shock.