Part II – Confusion
“If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.”
The waiting was the worst of it, waiting without knowing exactly what they would do. Joel's uncle had no further information to give, as far as he was concerned there was nothing to do until after the storm, after the flood hit.
The sky was once again becoming dark, a sense of foreboding pervaded the atmosphere. The professor warned them that leaving the launch until the last minute would not be a good idea. The static electricity building up could easily result in lightning as it earthed to the ground. This could perturb the electronics onboard and seriously compromise their evacuation.
"Just as soon as your mother arrives you will have to decide what you're doing," he told his nephew.
Joel nodded. He was right, but it did nothing to counteract the tension which was building with the same rapidity as the storm.
"There is no point taking unnecessary risks. You go or you stay."
Joel wondered what his mom would say. Would she want to take Charlie into space to guarantee his safety? But what did that offer? A chance to live out your life with a few other humans and a crew of robots.
What about those robots, he knew very little. He hadn't even posed the question as to whether or not they resembled humans.
"Professor, these robots that are making the voyage, what are they exactly?"
"That question demands a long and complicated reply, much longer than we have time for now. You could watch one of the videos that I suggested. That would give you some idea."
Joel realised he was beginning to bug his uncle, so he decide to leave him and re-join the others. As for watching a video, he most definitely wouldn't be able to concentrate on that. No, best just leave it, they would find out soon enough if they evacuated. Then there would be loads of time, forever, the rest of their lives.
Making his way through the building he paused to look out one of the tall windows that lined the corridor. Funny, he thought, he had never bothered about windows before, there was only ever rain and gloom beyond the glass. Only ever darkness, but now things had changed. For a reason he could not quite understand, the rolling dark clouds and bleak landscape which dropped away from the house, were compelling. He could imagine the ocean beyond, the waves crashing into the shore. Perhaps before everything went wrong you could see the coast from here, it was high enough. Strangely he had an unaccountable desire to stay here, to catch a glimpse of that ocean
"Well?" Mark looked at him as he entered the room.
"If we are gonna go... evacuate, we can't leave it to zero hour. My uncle says that would be too risky. The sky is building up with static, which could jeopardise the launch. If we are going it has to be when Kado and my mom get here."
"If? You said if," Jack questioned.
Joel turned to face both boys. "Yeah, if. Because you need to think, is that really what you want?"
"I want what you do, but I want to know that my brother will be there with us," Mark told them.
Joel moved next to him and put an arm over his shoulder. "And that is a gamble. We have no way of knowing."
"Kado called when you were talking to your uncle. They should be here in less than thirty minutes," Jack told him.
"Give me the phone. I will see if I can explain things to my mom and see what she thinks, what she wants to do."
A loud crack like a gun going off intruded into the house. A flash of light briefly illuminated the pale interior.
It's started, he thought, Clement wasn't wrong about the storm.
Trying to put the call through was not easy, it was the third attempt when he heard Kado pick up.
"Kado hi, I need to talk to my mom please. Can you put her on."
He passed the sat phone to Joel's mother, and for the next ten minutes Joel tried to explain the choices. His mother mostly listened, just interrupting once or twice. Then when she was about to say something it cut out. He tried calling back but nothing.
Putting down the phone, almost throwing it on the table, he paced around the room stopping to look out the window at the lightning. It had started already, the storm, one more potential problem.
"They'll be here any time now," Mark said, trying to reassure.
Joel gave a little half smile but continued pacing the room.
It was just then that Jack came in. “I talked to Joseph.”
“And?” Mark asked anxious to discover what he had said.
“If we get to the evacuation pod there is an inter-ship message system that should function. It's just the same as sending and receiving messages in a car, except it’s restricted to ship to ship. I don't know why. He said something about security,”
“So we have to get to the evacuation point. I want to know where my brother is and what he's doing.”
“Sure, of course,” Joel butted in. “We will do that, and we will decide together just as soon as Kado and my mom get here.”
Another tremendous bang, which was only slightly muffled by the thick glass windows, cracked across the sky. A light flashed, momentarily casting large shadows behind them. Mark looked at Jack, then at Joel.
“Yeah, I know, it’s getting real bad out there,” Joel voiced what they were each thinking.
“The weather's getting really bad,” she told him.
“How do you know,” Kado replied. “You can't see anything.”
“No, but it was loud enough. Didn't you feel it rock the car?”
Before he had a chance to reply there was a weird unnatural grinding mechanical sound. The vehicle's forward motion ceased, it wobbled in place, then sank to the ground. The illuminated control panel flashed and shutdown.
“Fuck!” Kado starred at the dark dead machine.
“What just happened?” She asked, at the same time instinctively pulling Charlie close to her.
“That rocking you felt must have been a lightning strike. A direct hit.”
Staring at nothing, the darkness suddenly dissipated ever so slightly as the dim emergency lighting came on, but apart from that the car was dead.
“We're still thirty minutes away. That's it, nothing we can do, except sit out the storm.”
“You mean,” she spoke in almost a whisper. “We won't make it to Clement’s place?”
He wondered if she was being deliberately stupid, but on reflection she most probably was just thinking aloud.
“I guess not,” Kado’s tone was more amiable. “Sometimes events overtake you. Whatever our choices might have been, we don't have anything else to do now. No way can we walk miles through a raging storm, and anyway, we would never get there in time.”
He opened an under seat compartment and pulled out two plastic pouches. Then reaching in a bit further, he grabbed a third one. The first two he gave her as he opened the other one. The pouches contained thin metallic survival blankets. Kind of ironic he thought, our protection against the apocalypse!
“Look Steve, be reasonable. No way am I getting out of here. Who knows, it might be just fine down here, we are inside a fucking mountain.”
The other boy looked at him, but said nothing.
“If you ever want to see your brother again, and the others, you got to go find and launch that escape pod.”
There was a deathly silence. Steve knew, of course he knew, that what Grif was saying was right. He had spent his whole life with Mark, they were always together, the thought of never seeing him again was hard, very hard. He was literally torn in two, his brother or Grif? How the hell could he leave Grif alone and just go.
“I’ll be okay,” Grif was trying to persuade him.
A lot of thoughts were racing through his head, Steve didn't know what to do. Then he thought, maybe I'll go find it and see if there isn't a way to get Grif there. Even when he was telling himself that, he knew it was ridiculous, but sometimes you need to believe in the most remote possibilities to be able to move and do something. You need some sort of justification.
“Fine,” Steve finally announced. “I will go find this pod thing and see if I can get you there.”
Grif looked at him and smiled.
“I will be back for you.”They both knew that probably wasn't true.