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The freighter ship Carmen, the Hunts, and
the Millers traveled on was also shipping cars from the
Most freighter ships had room for anywhere
from 6 to 30 passengers. While they had
no special amenities like cruise ships, they were a cheap way to travel. In this case, they were a way to escape the
The Manfred VII was over 500 feet long and about 23,000 DWT (dead weight). After downsizing the crew over the last two decades, there were 6 passenger cabins available. The boat was very comfortable. Keith, Carmen, and Kara all got private rooms. Sarah and Aaron got a room, as did Michelle and Jared. Each room had a king size bed, a small desk and chair, a dresser, a table, a couch, and a small refrigerator. Also, inside the room were a phone and a fan. The phones were mostly used for communication throughout the ship but could be used to make a satellite call.
They all sat with the crew to eat meals in
the galley. Breakfast was served at .
The biggest of the televisions on the ship was in the galley. It was currently on a
Jared replied, “My wife has morning sickness.”
The captain almost spit out the coffee he was drinking. “Morning sickness, ya say?”
Jared said, “Yes, she’s pregnant.”
The captain turned to Aaron, “Ya didn’t tell me ya had a pregnant one amongst ya.”
Aaron said, “I’m sorry. We had to make an exception. She’s newly pregnant, so no harm shall come of it.”
The captain shook his head, “There’s good reasons for them rules. We could be on the sea for over a month. The sea ain’t a forgiving one. She’ll devour us in moments if we’re careless. No elderly or young are allowed, and neither are pregnant women. We ain’t got a doc, and if things get rough she’ll have no help.”
Jared’s eyes widened.
Aaron said, “The risk is minimal: she’s still in her first trimester.”
The captain wagged his finger, “This morning sickness and seasickness will cause her to dehydrate. You keep her getting liquids, or it’s all over for her.”
Aaron said, “She’ll be fine. She’s no sicker than she was before. She can keep food and liquid down.”
“I hope you’re right.”
The television caught their attention. A reporter was on the road near where the wall had been built. Nothing had been on the news the night prior about their escape but now they were the top story.
The reporter said to the camera, “We’re
here at the site of what many are calling the worst terrorist assault this
year. Over this hill is the wreckage of
a CTF van that was attacked by a group of terrorists that included the founder
and recently departed CEO of Hunt Security.
The multi-billion dollar company has become the biggest security company
The captain clapped, “I guess you are in a rush then. Hopefully ye put a dent in CTF.”
Aaron said, “I doubt it. If anything this will force them to evolve . . . to become stronger.”
Keith said, “That’s so bias! Hopefully the European news will get the facts straight and publish the truth.”
After breakfast was over, Jared went to check on his wife. Keith and Carmen started talking.
Keith asked, “So, have you scanned most things in yet?”
Carmen said, “Well, a ton of things. We still have a ton more to do. It’s tough to figure out every single thing we might need once we are down there or that we could ever use, like shoes. Do you know how many different shoes there are! We need to get all the sizes for the future generations. Not even just each number but the wide and thin versions of shoe sizes as well! Then we need to think of every type of shoe needed. We need slippers, we need sneakers, we need work boots, maybe we need running shoes, maybe climbing shoes, then even rollerblades, roller skates, plus we can’t forget women’s shoes! Sure, I wear boots like a guy, but Michelle’s in heels like all the time. We need to have all the sizes of each high heel shoe including each height. For example, size 9, 3-inch heels, size 9, 4-inch heels, size 9, 5-inch heels and size 9, 6-inch heels! Then we have to have all the colors! If our great-granddaughter wants 4-inch red heels and is size 10 we need to make sure we get it!”
He raised his eyebrows, “Our great-granddaughter?”
She blushed, “Not necessarily yours and mine.”
“Hey, lets not get ahead of ourselves, OK, no jumping to conclusions. Even if we do get together, I don’t want kids . . . not now at least!”
“So . . . you have thought about it?”
“Maybe,” she replied coyly.
Keith asked, “So what else do we need for our great-granddaughter?”
She joked, “How about a less arrogant great-grandfather!”
“But really, we need to basically get everything in like a mall and a grocery store!”
“Even prune juice and posters of babies dressed as daisies?”
“Prune juice yes, you might want it in 60 years!”
Keith made a face as if he could taste it and it was awful, “NEVER!”
“Maybe you’re right about the posters, though.”
He stuck out his chest with mock bravado, “Of course I am!”
“What about foods? Have you got the major foods?”
“Like pasta, cereal, fish, cold cuts, fruits, vegetables, and my personal favorite: dairy goods like ice cream?”
“Actually I was thinking more like pizza, chips, fries, burgers, tacos, and burritos.”
She said, “Well, now that you mention it, we didn’t get pizza.”
“You forgot pizza! I hope they have pizza in
“Square pizzas, you mean round pizzas.”
“No, I mean square pizzas.”
“I hate square pizza,” she said.
“How can you hate square pizzas? They’re better than round pizzas!”
“Round is better. Didn’t you like Tony’s Pizzas?”
Keith said, “No, well . . . yes, but only because I don’t mind unsanitary food!”
“Oh, stop, it wasn’t that bad.”
“Umm, hello, Miss ‘Oh no, it’s a cockroach’!”
“Eww, that was disgusting. But you were there before Tony got sick, and it was clean then! Plus, I heard you had the pizza I delivered to your house that first day!”
He shrugged, “You said it was better. Besides, I’m a guy: I’ll eat most anything.”
“Charming,” she replied.
He grinned, “Yep!”
“Round is better.”
“No, square means more pizza and always enough to go around. Plus they cut perfectly to the same sizes.”
“But the outer ones are all crust. The corners are disgusting. Round is evenly crusted.”
“All the pieces in square are the same, equal size and dimensions!”
“Round cooks evenly and is warm in the center.”
“Round fall apart in the center,” he quipped.
“Round taste better.”
“Taste is overrated. The ends sag and drip. You lose the toppings!”
“Half the fun is eating the fallen toppings!”
“You’re just circling the issue! Round pizzas are shaped that way because they are so bad they must go into the circular file!”
“Oh, stop! Next you’re going to tell me square pizza is better because chess is played on a square board with squares.”
“No, but that’s a good point!”
She sighed, “You’re impossible!”
“No, it’s just that I’m right.”
She laughed, “Ha, you’re such a square.”
He gave a pretend defeated look, “Ouch! Touché!”
“You may be right. If you have children we’ll need square pizzas in case they’re like their square daddy!”
“What a circular position. But at least you accept that square pizzas are needed for our colony to succeed!”
She nodded her head with her eyes wide like she was going along with him because he was crazy, “Right!” Then she noticed the time and said, “Listen, I need to get going. I’ll talk some sense into you later.”
“Fine, it’s a date. But you’ll be the one getting the instruction!”
“Woo, a date.”
“Yes, a date.”
“That’s not the way to ask for a date!”
“Oh, so sorry, Miss Dating Etiquette!”
“Nope, your not getting out of it. If you want a date . . . with me . . . you have to ask.”
Then he smiled, “OK. Will you go on a date with me?”
“A troublemaker like you, no way!”
She smiled, “Yes, just tell me when and where, and I’ll be there.”
After a moment of thought he said, “See, this is fate’s timing, which is why you and I are rhyming.”
“Right . . . I need to go now. It’s not that I’m trying to get away like you’re crazy or anything . . . it’s just I have something I need to do.”
He smiled, “OK, I’ll tell you the where and when at lunch. Bye.”
She waved and walked to the cabins. She went to the Millers’ cabin. She knocked and Jared opened the door.
“Is Michelle OK?” she asked.
“No, she isn’t keeping foods or liquids down!”
“Can I see her?”
He replied, “Of course!”
She went in. Michelle was curled up on the bed looking paler than Carmen had ever seen her. Carmen gasped, “This isn’t good. Let me get you some toast!”
Michelle said, “Mmm, I think I would like that.”
“OK, give me a few minutes.”
Michelle smiled, “OK.”
Carmen went to the galley and made some toast. She found an apple and skinned it, then cut it into slices. She also got a glass of milk. She put the toast and apple slices on a plate then walked back to the cabin area with the glass and plate. When she was back Michelle said, “Oh, thank you! I love apples.”
“You’re welcome. Drink the milk, too! You need to stay hydrated.”
“Thank you so much Carmen. You’re so sweet. I hope if we have a daughter she’ll grow up to be like you.”
“Oh, Michelle, I’d love to have parents like you!”
Jared asked, “Parents? But you’re almost 18. Why would you want parents?”
“Jared, I want to be a part of a family. I didn’t want that when . . . when my parents first died. But now I would do anything to have a family.”
Michelle said, “Well, Honey, you are family to us.”
After a pause, Carmen’s eyes started to water, “Really?”
Jared said, “Of course.”
“When I lived with the other children at the orphanage almost all of us wanted a family, but my friends and I were too old for any parents to want to adopt. They only want the young ones. Most of the people adopting thought we would have too many emotional problems and were too old to adjust. The only way my chances could have been worse were if I was a boy. Boys are the least likely to get adopted.”
Michelle patted the bed for Carmen to sit. Carmen sat down and Michelle used what little energy she had to sit up and hug Carmen. At this point, they were both outright crying. Michelle said, “I love you.”
“I love you, too!”
Jared looked somewhat awkward. He didn’t seem sure if they were wedding crying or funeral crying. He hugged them both. When they stopped crying he said, “Can we adopt you? Could you be our daughter?”
Carmen smiled, “Yes. Of course, I don’t think we can legally, without all being executed as terrorists.”
Jared pointed out, “This is a boat! Rules are different here. The captain can wed people, so he may be able to make us a family, legally.”
Carmen blushed, “Would you do that for me?”
Jared said, “If I can I will!”
Michelle hugged him. Then she said, “Listen, you two, I need to eat and sleep. You should go work on the builders. Maybe copy the ship!”
Jared said, “Are you sure?”
She replied sternly, “Very. Now go, my toast is getting cold and my milk is getting warm!”
So Jared and Carmen left. Michelle ate the toast and apple then drank the milk before falling asleep.
Jared and Carmen had found an empty cargo hold in which to work. Right from the start, they had trouble. They set up their equipment and tested the builders by making gold. The gold came out fine. Then they loaded one of the files and tried to build a tuna sandwich. The sandwich was meant to be built on top of the table. Instead, the sandwich became merged with the table.
Carmen asked, “What happened?”
Jared shrugged, “I have no idea.”
As they examined it they found parts of the table mixed into the sandwich. They had to pull to get the sandwich to come free of the table.
Carmen said, “This might be what happened to the van.”
“The van we shot?”
“Yes . . . we shot.” Carmen suddenly looked pale.
“Are you OK? You look seasick?”
“No, I . . . well, I didn’t know they were dead until the news this morning. I wasn’t trying to kill them. Was I?”
Jared said, “Listen, they were trying to kill us. They were trying to kill you! If we hadn’t acted it would be us dead, not them. We didn’t know they would die, we just meant to stop them.”
“But . . . we killed them. This is what Mark meant. I regret what I did even though I had to do it.”
Jared questioned, “Mark?”
“One of the guys who saved me, he said that even though it was good that he killed, it wasn’t right. He said that each of those people he killed has families and some of them might think they are helping the country.”
Jared said, “What you did is tough. It took guts. You did the right thing; you can’t let your feelings blind your judgment. This time we may have had luck on our side. The next time we may not be so lucky.”
“Maybe, I feel bad though. One of my biggest problems with my parents’ deaths was that I don’t know what happens when a person dies. Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? Do they come back as somebody else? Do they come back as whatever life eventually eats their bodies? Or is it the end? They no longer exist . . . forever.”
“No matter what you believe, you have to realize that nobody knows. Sure, some people say they know or that they crossed over and came back, but those people are always selling something. Sometimes they are selling the story, sometimes a book, sometimes just hope. People need that. Nobody wants uncertainty when it comes to something so final. That’s why religions have used it as a tool to control people since early civilization. Offer them an answer in return for their money, their support, their trust, and their obedience. In the end, life is too short to worry about how it ends. We know each life is unique, so we have to live it to the fullest.” He paused then said, “Maybe you should talk to Sarah. I’m sure Sarah has had to kill people, and you’re both women . . . so maybe she can help.”
Carmen smiled, “Wow, that’s deep. Maybe I will talk to her. I’m sorry, let’s get back to work.”
“Don’t be sorry. Work can wait, this is important . . . so important that you had to bring it up.”
“Does it bother you that they died?”
“No. Maybe it should though. I believe we are working on something that is more important than the lives of a few. We could save millions. What’s almost as important is that if they got a hold of builders, chaos would ensue. Maybe it would end after a time, but the world as we know it would completely change. Markets and companies would fall. Even governments would fall. I don’t want to imagine what would happen if it was used as a weapon. I couldn’t live with myself if it became worse than a nuclear bomb.”
They talked some more before getting back to the builders. Jared guessed, “Maybe it’s the movement. In the facility, we built in a still room. The van was speeding. Here the boat is rocking. Maybe gold worked fine because it’s a simple structure. Making a sandwich takes a lot more processing time. Maybe we need to optimize the code some more.”
“You could be right, but there isn’t much more we can do to optimize it. We might need to switch to another programming language.”
“Oh, that would be bad. I don’t know many other languages. This one is the easiest for me.”
She said, “Let’s make some trap code to see how long everything is taking.”
Throughout the source files they placed trap code to save the time at which each major component of the software was executed. They took the trap data and quickly found the issue.
“Look here,” she said, pointing at the screen. “It’s the hardware, not the software. The software is running fast but all the hardware commands are taking several milliseconds. Can we speed up the hardware?”
“Now that, I can do I didn’t build these versions for speed. They were going to just be proof-of-concept tests. I can easily make it faster, but it’ll take time. Plus, I may need some parts that aren’t here.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Jared began redesigning and Carmen went hunting for all the needed material.
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford