Chapter 12: Meanwhile...
"You know," said Phyla, "how are we going to find Geno and this Angie?"
"Well," said Joseph, "my guess is that they will radio us shortly, make up some story about people who fell off the boat or whatever, and we’ll have a hero’s welcome for them."
"Sounds a bit cynical," replied Phyla.
"Well, when organizations bungle something, generally they try to cover it up," said Joseph. "It’s only natural." A knocking came at the door. Joseph jumped up and drew his pistol. "Who is it?" he demanded.
"It’s Captain Badge," said the voice. Joseph looked through the peephole and then opened the door.
"What can I do for you, captain?" asked Joseph.
"You can tell me who the Environs are," said the Captain, sounding rather annoyed.
"They are an environmental activist group with extreme methods," said Joseph. "Go to their web site."
"Right," said Badge. "Radical terrorist have web sites." Joseph said nothing and handed him a business card. On the card was the address of that site and many others. "Okay, so maybe the do. Anyway," continued Badge, "if you will please tell me..." Badge was interrupted by the sound of a brash youth tumbling down the staircase. An otter stood at attention and saluted the captain.
"Sir," panted the otter, "another one of the life boats is gone!"
"Oh cripes, who left this time?"
"Julie, seriously, next time you get a stupid idea, remind me not to listen to you," said Greg. ‘I’m not feeling that well right now, I think that..."
"Oh, you act like they won’t find us," said Anne. "We’re fine. Worst case we get stranded on a island somewhere."
"That’s reassuring," muttered Greg. "Any other constructive thoughts?"
"How about a large military boat?" said Julie.
"And the trip gets stranger..."
"Sir, we’ve got another vessel on sonar. A small rescue boat, it appears," said a squirrel manning the controls.
"Another?" replied the captain. "Well, send someone out to give them a hand."
A half an hour later, Greg, Anne, and Julie stood sopping wet on the deck of an old destroyer. Their fur was matted down as the captain approached them.
"Good day," said the captain. "Welcome aboard the SS Avagadro, I am Captain A. T. Squirrel, at your service."
"Thank you, sir," said Greg. "I think that this wouldn’t probably be the best time to ask, but did you happen to pick up a beautiful red and white raccoon, did you?"
"That depends," said the captain. "Why are you looking for her?"
"Well," began Greg, before he winced in pain. That wasn’t a normal reaction to a question.
"Greg!" He whirled about to see Angie, still in the beautiful black dress that she had disappeared in. Greg rushed up to her and picked her up off the deck of the ship. The pain shot through his side again, but he didn’t care this time.
"I’m so glad your safe," he whispered. He opened his eyes and nearly dropped Angie where she stood.
"Oh, right, I shouldn’t be here," said Marita.
"You!" screamed Julie. "I knew you weren’t just a bad dream!"
"Uh oh," said Captain Squirrel. "I think that it would be best if we moved this assembly to the lower decks, crew." The crew standing on the deck hurried down the steps to leave only the castaways on deck.
"Where have you been?" asked Greg. "What..."
"It’s not important Greg," said Marita. "Just consider me a ghost from the past."
"But..." he stammered. Reality was beginning to fade around him. He looked up and saw the two moist important people to him standing there, watching him. His side began to hurt again, cutting at him almost like a dagger. Something was wrong here, more than just the women.
"But, you’re dead..." said Greg, grasping his side.
"Not yet," said Julie, rolling up her sleeves. "But she will be shortly."
"Whoa, there, Julie," said Anne. "Time to calm down there."
"This has gone beyond cooling down," said Angie. "This is a complete core meltdown."
"Cowardice in battle is practically treason," said the captain to the otter. "But when something like that hits, running is all you can do."
"But aren’t you worried that someone is going to get killed up there?" he asked.
"Did you see anything?" asked the captain.
"Then it didn’t happen."
A storm formed both on the deck and above it. The skies grew dark with thunder as the tempers flared.
"What the hell have you been doing?" demanded Julie. "Did you just decide that you liked living on the high seas better?"
"Or running around with some spy group?" countered Angie. Anne was physically restraining the two women from tearing Marita limb from limb. Greg was on the ground, completely numb to the rain that had begun pouring down about them.
"Marita?" he kept repeating, dumbly. The site of her and the intense pain had shorted out his emotional receptors, and there he sat, an inert lump, as the rain poured down about them.
"Girls," said Anne, "we’ve got to get inside before we get washed away here," said Anne.
"Oh, the rain is good," said Julie. "It’ll wash away the evidence."
"Someone?" said Greg weakly. They all looked down at Greg, now lying on the deck, being pounded with rain. "Help," he said before passing out, face down on the deck.
"Oh god," said Angie. "Something’s wrong."
"Get him inside," said Anne. "We need to get to the clinic, now." Anne picked up Greg and ran for the stairs with the other women following closely behind. The storm picked up intensity as it rolled over the deck.
"Captain Badge," said the otter. "There’s a storm headed in."
"How bad?" asked Badge.
"Very bad sir," he replied. "We need to find that boat."
"What have the radar scans shown?" asked Badge.
"There’s a destroyer just in range," said the otter. "Shall I radio them and ask for them to keep a look out?"
"Good plan," said Badge. "Keep me posted."
Greg felt nothing but the solid throng of pain that kept piercing the blackness of his stupor. His mind was funneling memories from the past, and the scenes of triumph and pain flashed by.
A birthday party; graduation; his granddad’s funeral; his wedding; the memorial for Marita, Angie, Julie, Geno. Each one holding something special as he felt himself slipping away from the world. He had finally gotten everything right, and now it was over.
Pity I didn’t get to enjoy it longer, he thought.
Geno was walking from the door when Anne came running down the hall, cradling the sickly Greg in her arms. Through his fur, they could even see his skin turning paler than before. Geno knew immediately that not all was well, and got out of the way. Anne raced through the door and into the clinic.
Geno turned to go back inside and saw the doctor leaning over Greg.
"What’s the matter with him?" asked Geno.
"I think that he’s bleeding internally," said the doctor. "We can stabilize him here, but we need to get to an actual hospital."
"I thought ships like these were supposed to have a fully functioning hospital on board," said Angie.
"Not destroyers," said the doctor. "You’re thinking of battleships."
"Well, how far away are we from a hospital?" asked Julie.
"I’ll ask navigation," said the doctor, "but I’d be willing to guess that we’re about two days out from the shore."
"Two days?" asked Julie. "He’ll be dead by then."
"Well, what do you want me to do?" asked the doctor. "Cruise ships have hospitals aboard. You want us to hijack one of those?"
"Not a bad idea," said Marita. She ran out of the clinic leaving the doctor scratching his head.
It was a stupid idea of course, but it was the only chance she really had. She had done enough to Greg to allow herself to screw up. She raced down the corridors of the ship, going where she had to. She finally reached the control room and opened the door.
"May I ask what you’re doing here?" asked the Captain.
"Yes," said Marita. "There’s a cruise ship a few miles out on radar."
"And what about it?" asked the captain. Marita pulled her pistol from the holster and pointed it at the captain.
"We’ll be paying them a visit," said Marita. "There’s a very ill gentleman downstairs who needs medical care, immediately, and that ship is the closest help we can get."
"Are you nuts?" asked the Captain. "Do you have any idea what the Watchers are going to do to you for this?"
"Yes," said Marita. "They’ll probably sign me up for another twelve years of service."
"Alright then," said the captain. "You know you could have just asked."
"This is quicker," she replied.
"Sir," said the otter, "the storm is picking up power and headed right for us. I advise that we get everyone below deck."
"Alright then," said Badge. "Anything else?"
"Sir!" yelled a squirrel at navigation. "The destroyer is headed right for us, full speed!" The radio in the control room crackled to life.
"Cruise ship, this is the SS Avagadro, requesting emergency medical assistance, over." Badge picked up the microphone and cleared his throat.
"This is Captain Badge, what is the nature of your emergency?"
"We have an ill guest of yours that is on our ship. We do not have the proper facilities to treat him here."
"We’ll treat them," said Badge. "You just have to get them over here."
"Do you have a med-lift pad?"
"Yes," replied Badge, "but do you think you can fly a helicopter in this weather?"
"We have to, sir," said a female voice. "I owe Greg at least that."
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