PDAs throughout the Cape Canaveral facility start blinking and beeping their assigned tones, with the holographic message: “WEATHER WARNING”
With a soft hiss the doors to the lab open as Jensen comes to check on the progress of the project. As his PDA beeps he pulls it out and notes the warning. “Weather warning… a bit early for hurricane season.” he says as he taps it to bring up the details.
“An entire season of hurricanes?” Kinako pipes up, brow furrowing in concern as she pads along behind the General. “How long does that last? It sounds, ah, somewhat ominous.”
Sheena should probably have gone for dinner by now, but the beeping alert is the first thing to distract her for quite a while. She’s reaching out to look at it when Jensen comes in. She glances up long enough to see who it is, then looks back at the alert. “Evening General. What brings you here?”
The PDA weather warning continues: “THIS AREA IS UNDER A SEVERE WEATHER INCIDENT ALERT. DAMAGING HAIL, LOCALIZED FLOODING, LIGHTNING AND POTENTIAL TORNADOS ARE LIKELY. PLEASE SEEK SHELTER. IF YOU ARE INDOORS, AVOID WINDOWS. FIND A CENTRAL LOCATION. IF YOU ARE OUTDOORS, SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER TO AVOID INJURY OR POSSIBLE LOSS OF LIFE.”
Jensen raises an eyebrow, and a hand goes to his left shoulder to rub it. “Explains why my shoulder’s been killing me..” he mutters, looking up to Sheena. “Mainly to check on the project progress but now it seems to seek shelter… ” he says, tapping his PDA to bring up a weather map.
Kinako reads the warning on her own PDA, somewhat slowly as she re-reads a few words. She looks up, her gray doe eyes wide with concern. “Ah, perhaps more than -somewhat- ominous… are you all right, General Jensen sir? Er, is this sufficient shelter? Should we perhaps move to something downstairs? Is there a shelter or basement?”
Sheena reads the PDA’S message so quickly that she can only be skimming it, then slides it back onto the table out of her way. She sighs long-sufferingly through her nose. She has a grin for Kinako, though. “Why? Don’t you want to die among the lab equiptment that might or might not bring in the future?”
Jensen’s commlink pings.
Jensen looks over to Kinako. “Oh, I’m fine.. I’m fine..” he says, though a slight grimace on his face would betray otherwise, but it’s obvious he’s concentrating on ignoring his shoulder. “This is about the safest place… only purpose for a basement in central Florida is a swimming pool, water table’s not that deep.” he says as his commlink pings. Pulling it from his belt he taps the button. “Jensen here, go ahead.”
Kinako seems moderately reassured; all the same she edges away from the larger, more electrical things, and smiles shyly to Sheena. “While I cannot claim to know or control the circumstances of my death, I must admit that I would prefer not to perish at this age, and among a large amount of machinery.”
“General, this is Hayden Clifford. I’m the pilot aboard Mr. Busby’s dirigible, the Gasbag,” comes a man’s voice over the commlink. “We’ve been en route from New York to Cape Canaveral. However, we now find ourselves caught between a southeasterly cold front and a northwesterly warm front. The Cape facility is right along the meridian. It’s going to be ugly. Not sure how we’ll fare.”
Heeding the warning –or maybe seing Kinako’s caution, Sheena begins to save her work and shut down some of the electrics. She turns her head a little when Jensen answers his call,, just so her ear is a little more in his direction. “Yeah,” she says to Kinako. “I can’t say I blame you.”
Jensen frowns a bit. “Understood Mr. Clifford. Sounds like we’re in for one hell of a squall. I’ll get support aircraft on standby to lend a hand if things get dicey, just keep me informed of your situation.” He changes the channel on his commlink for a minute. “Jensen to SCS Eisenhower, priority alert, put two F-94’s on ready alert. Dirigible craft on course to Canaveral, monitor and prepare to launch for possible support and rescue.” The commlink responds with a snappy “Yes sir!”. Satisfied, he puts it back on his belt. “To quote an old phrase, I think the shit is about to hit the fan.”
Kinako’s eyes go wide again, but she slings the strap of her purse over her shoulder and turns to Sheena. “Miss Sheena, please? Where are this facility’s emergency supplies? Is there perhaps a medical station of some kind? We may have wounded arriving soon.” While the phraseology of the General’s proclamation seems to completely miss the doctor, the tone and context seem to have crossed the language barrier just fine. “General Jensen sir if you could kindly inquire as to how many are aboard the distressed vessel?”
Thunder rumbles above.
Sheena blows a breath out through her mouth and looks around. “We have first aid kits in here but they’re not meant for anything big.” She taps her fingers absently on the tabletop, but looks less than sure.
“We have more medical supplies in the Vanguard wing, we keep a ready supply on hand for emergencies.” the General replies before taking his commlink in hand. “Jensen to Gasbag, how many folks do you currently have aboard, Mr. Clifford?”
“Kindly direct me to where the aid kits are kept, Miss Sheena please,” Kinako says, giving the General a bow of her head as she moves to follow the scientist. “The more supplies we are aware of, the easier it will be to move them to the scene of crisis.”
“Thirty seven passengers and crew,” Clifford answers. “We’re getting the passengers situated in the pods for deployment, just in case.”
With most of the sensative electronics shut down, Sheena stands up and opens a cupboard by the door. There really isn’t much: A couple of boxes with antiseptic and bandages, but not much to either. She hands them to Kinako and closes the cupboard. “We don’t expect much in this lab,” she offers in explanation. “Anything big we go to the hospital. I don’t know where the Vanguard supplies are.”
“Acknowledged, Gasbag.” Jensen replies. “Keep us posted.” he puts the commlink on his belt and goes over to the intercom. Punching in a code, a voice on the other end replies, “Lieutenant Miller.” Jensen replies into the intercom, “Dr. Miller, we have inbound severe weather, get the medical supplies ready and get ready for triage if we have any injuries. Dr. Kinako will coordinate with you from this side. Send a squad to the East Rotunda with a supply of med kits so we can get preparations going here before the heavy stuff hits.” The voices replies with a “Yes sir!” as it clicks off. “Not much else to do other than wait at this point.” Bringing out his PDA he connects to the ‘net and brings up the NOAA radar map to keep an eye on the storm.
Kinako starts packing the items away in various pockets in her loosely-tailored suit. “That is quite all right, Miss Sheena, everything, no matter how small, will contribute. Where is the nearest hospital located?” She presses her lips together at the number of passengers/crew. “Perhaps not near enough in this weather. Do you have… ah, perhaps tubing? Or the cable wraps with the… velcro? Also, ah, lengths of… rigid support items?” She pads to the General. “We will likely need an open space, but obviously somewhere, ah, safe and clear from windows or other unprotected structures.”
“General Jensen, this is Gasbag,” the voice over the commlink reports. “Tried to climb above this, but we’re not going to make it. It’s too big, moving too…” Static.
Sheena looks around the lab –all computers and holographic displays –but they do atleast have cables. She holds a few up for Kinako’s inspection, extras plucked from a drawer. They’re a little cumbersome, but on short notice might do
Jensen frowns at his commlink, grabbing it he switches the channel. “Jensen to SCS Eisenhower, launch ready alert, search and rescue on last known coordinates of the Gasbag, ready rescue craft. Bring any wounded to Cape Canaveral, hurricane flight protocol.” A quick acknowledgement from the commlink satisfies the General as he turns his attention to Kinako. “We might be getting company a bit sooner than you expected.”
Kinako takes the cables and whatever else, stowing these in her purse. “All… all right. I hope that your colleagues make it across to us, General Jensen sir, and that the landing area is near to appropriate shelter. Otherwise our efforts will be… complicated.”
Sheena looks around for other things Kinako might find useful, and takes a moment to glance back at Jensen and the doctor. “This isn’t my field, but tell me how I can help. It sounds like you might need all the hands you can get.”
“We can use the hallway outside this room for triage, the other labs we can use for treatment wards.” the General replies. “The doctor here can direct you in the medical matters, my main focus is going to be getting them in here and relatively safe until this storm passes.” he says, starting to move any furniture and chairs to one corner of the room to free up floor space. “Let’s get as much floor space cleared as we can.”
The PDAs start pinging again: “TSUNAMI WARNING. A TREMOR REGISTERING 6.9 WAS DETECTED OFF THE EASTERN COAST OF FLORIDA. ALL COASTAL COMMUNITIES BETWEEN DAYTONA BEACH AND TITUSVILLE ARE WARNED THAT A TSUNAMI HAS BEEN GENERATED AND IS NOW PROCEEDING WEST AT ROUGHLY 20 MILES PER HOUR.”
Kinako also starts moving furniture and chairs, pausing only to check her PDA when the latest notification goes off. The color drains from her face. “…that is,” she says, tone relatively calm other than a trembling edge, “…alarming. Miss Sheena please I will need as much fresh water as we are able to collect, and whatever paper products are available in the washroom, swiftly please.” The PDA is re-holstered, and she returns to moving furniture. “General Jensen sir do we know the elevation of this facility?”
Sheena nods to Kinako and turns to leave the room. “I’ll have them for you in a minute or two.”
Jensen lets out a few good curses that would make a sailor proud. “Not high enough, we’re practically sea level. The place is built with storm surges in mind, the outer doors will seal but against that much water… no telling how long they’ll hold. We have to hope the inner doors hold.” he says, grabbing his commlink. “Jensen to all Vanguard personnel, initiate plan Bravo. We’re going into emergency lockdown. Get anyone still outside in and secured immediately.”
Lights flicker overhead. Thunder rumbles – and then comes the tremor underfoot. Equipment rattles.
Kinako takes a slow, deep breath, and closes her eyes. “The flooding will endanger the lower levels and the storm will endanger the higher ones. Kami wa watashitachi o mamoru.” After a long, wavering exhale, she opens her eyes and begins to remove her suit coat, tying it around her waist. “We will have to hope the inner doors hold, yes… and hope that this area remains safe. I do not think the furniture will be elevation enough.”
“There is emergency access to the roof but let’s hope we don’t have to use it.” Jensen says, grabbing his comlink once again. “Jensen to SCS Eisenhower, prep a squadron of choppers for liftoff in case evacuation of the spaceport becomes necessary. Stand by for my signal.” A voice acknowledges and he returns the comlink to his belt.
The general’s commlink chimes again: “Man, is this thing even on?” Sounds like the familiar groggy voice of Bob Busby.
Kinako continues making preparations, pushing tables together to make bigger tables, making rows of chairs facing each other. “…very disharmonious. I would not wish to be aloft in this weather. We will have to hope the inner doors hold. Are your medical staff prepared? I am not certain how strong the windows in the Rotunda are…”
Sheena has managed to dig up several different sorts of container and fill them. Some look like they were originally for food, hastily washed out and put to another purpose, but they’re all full. She also has rolls of paper towel from the washroom which is probably the best available at the moment. She puts them down on one of the tables and adds her weight to the furniture-moving. “Have we heard any more from the Gasbag?”
“They’re made out of pretty tough stuff, but even this is going to stress them.” the General replies, before he hears a familiar voice from his commlink. “This is Jensen, you’re on the air, Busby.” he says, looking back to Kinako. “They’re all on alert, trust me.” He then looks to Sheena. “Nothing yet.” he says with a frown.
“Not so much on the air as on the ground, man,” the Spark CEO answers. “Pod’s down. I think my blimp’s lost. No damned idea where I landed. Some damned beach, man. Porthole and hatch are facing down into the sand because, yeah, that’s useful.”
Kinako bows her head to Sheena. “I thank you very much for these. Place them on top of these tables here, they will need to be elevated in the case of minor flooding. In the case of major flooding, I am afraid we will be in dire trouble, so we will have to hope that the inner doors hold.” Busby’s transmittion merits several blinks. “That is… very poor news. We will not be able to locate him in this lockdown.”
“The pod must be trackable.” Having finished shifting things, Sheena picks up her PDA and taps something in. It beeps, signaling an outgoing message. “Even if we can’t get to him, we can relay his location and someone else might have better luck. Is the pod equipped with a tracker?” She looks at Jensen, gesturing that he should relay the question to Busby.
“Got a tracking beacon on that pod, Busby?” Jensen says into his commlink. “I’ve got aircraft searching for your people now, something to lock onto will increase the chances.”
“Shit, man!” blurts Busby over the commlink. “I hope like hell this thing has a tracker-ma-bobbin. Something just kncoked me loose, man. Good news is I don’t see sand anymore, man. Bad news: I see water and bubbles, man. And lightning. And water, man. And…” Static.
Kinako pauses in her hasty inventorying of paper products to gasp quietly, and raise her hands to her mouth. “…Iie… If he was struck by the wave he could be -anywhere-. Can we reach his security onsite? Perhaps they would have access to his emergency beacons?”
“If we have that we can at least track him from here,” Sheena says, “and send that info to your people in the sky.” She nods at Jensen. “Otherwise, we might have trouble. This place isn’t equipped for finding lost pods in the sea if we don’t know what to lock onto.”
Jensen listens to his commlink as reports start coming in. “Looks like the flooding isn’t as bad as we thought, but still no spring picnic.” he says, tapping his commlink. “Sergeant Henderson, try to contact Busby’s people onsite, see if they have tracking capability on their equipment.” he says, checking his PDA for updates.
“Are we at least above the water level? It will be difficult to bring any wounded inside otherwise,” Kinako says, returning to preparing the impromptu emergency room with increased urgency. She keeps about 1/4 of her attention on the incoming news, the rest is set to bracing for action.
Sheena, on the other hand, is mostly focused on the incoming news. From in here the rain sounds faint and light, but the walls and ceiling are dampening it; she knows it’ll be coming down in sheets outside. Her PDA beeps. She picks it up, looks at the message, and her mouth forms a quick “oh!”–like she’s had an idea. “General,” she turns to him. “If we can’t get his tracker, we might be able to trace him another way. Or at least find out where he landed. If that pod had engines or landing jets, the equipment in the other lab might be able to track the radiation.”
Jensen nods to Sheena. “Good thinking… let’s give it a try. Meanwhile I’ve got the flyboys searching as best they can, but the wind is making things difficult as hell.” He looks to the weather map. “And it looks like it’s here to stay for a while…”
Kinako looks over her workspace and takes a slow, deep breath. “Well, I believe we have prepared all that we can, here, if there are no other supplies. Now, it is time to wait for news.”
Pulling herself up to sit on the edge of one of the tables, Sheena sends another message from her PDA. “Them in the other lab know what they’re looking for,” she says haltingly, typing and talking at the same time. “They work with that equipment more than I do, anyway. They’ll get back to me when they’ve run their search.” She looks up. “And maybe we’ve reached our maximum number of worries for the day, too.”
Jensen nods to Sheena as he monitors his commlink for news from the Vanguard forces searching for the downed Gasbag. “Let’s hope. About all we can do now is listen and wait.”
TO BE CONTINUED…