It always amazes me what humans, as a species, can accomplish. This structure we were now on was a fucking marvel. Firstly, it was big. I mean huge like a skyscraper huge. Maybe not as tall, but I guarantee you there was just as much space on this rig as in most office buildings. They had thought of everything too. They make their own water, nearly endless supplies of fuel and power. Food for fifty people for a solid year, and not shit food, good food. Really good food. My first meal aboard Atlantis was a lasagna that would have made a fat Italian nana soil her granny panties. They even had a movie theater with over a thousand relatively new titles stored on a couple of giant hard drives.
Hot showers, hot meals, a medical staff, an engineering staff, a gym, and plenty of things to do. I always thought roughnecks were all musclebound dumbasses, but every one of them has some kind of degree, and a lot of them are Ship-quality smart. No, not ship like a boat, Ship like my sasquatch-esque genius pal.
Did you know that a lot of the bigger oil rigs float? They don’t sit on giant pilings that are sunk into the ocean floor like I thought. They have those big pilings, but they are just for weight and balance. The actual rig is anchored to the bottom with even bigger weights, with bunches of twelve inch cables attached to the underside of the pilings extending all the way to those weights I just mentioned.
Genius, I shit you not, there were even plans to get some farms going on the helipad.
Of course there are the bad things too. There were a hundred and thirty two people now on this rig, and it was made for a crew of seventy. A lot of the original crew left when the last few helicopters or boats took off for the mainland in search of their families. Many of the crew stayed though, and eventually Atlantis started taking on survivors.
There were a few military guys, and a bunch of civilians, even a few kids. All of whom now had important jobs. Some were security, some cooks, and some did whatever they were told. When the elevator to the docks below was locked up, nothing without ninja skills was getting on board either, so defense from bad guys who didn’t have flying or floating military vehicles was sound.
There had been an outbreak of the plague in the early days when an older roughneck had had a heart attack, turned, and killed another guy. The two of them were put down fast, and since then steps had been taken to alleviate this problem should it occur again. Not everybody had a weapon, but every door had some type of lock, and if anybody saw an infected, they would start screaming, and someone would set off the fire alarm. When the alarm sounded, everyone was to get to a locked room and get a weapon. Blunt objects, such as wrenches, rebar, pipe, and other heavy tools were everywhere already, so close quarters weapons were prevalent. Security would use the fire location system to see where the fire alarm had been tripped, and ten heavily armed and armored men would be scouring the area inside of two minutes. There hadn’t been another death since the first ones, so the system hadn’t been tested, but it sounded good to me.
What didn’t sound good to me was the math. There was food enough for the crew for a year, but we now had double the capacity that was designed to occupy the rig, so that food supply would go fast. Austin, the guy in charge, said he would not turn away anyone who wasn’t infected either, so we had the potential to overfill this place fast should more survivors show up. He did say that we were the first survivors they had seen in two weeks other than the crew from the Ensco DS-5.
The thing that bothered me the most about this place was the name though. I might not be a history buff, but I’m fairly certain that the mythical city or continent of Atlantis fucking sunk. What a stupid name for something that is supposed to be sea worthy. It was like naming a jet liner Lynyrd Skynyrd.
All the positives outweighed the negatives, and eventually even Ship had to admit this place was great.
After that great lasagna dinner, our group of twelve was asked to meet with Austin for news of the mainland. All the information that the rig had was from the television, the internet, and survivors. We met and talked, and one of the biggest toughest roughnecks on board cried like a baby when we told them about Keesler. His whole family had been there.
“So it really is all gone then,” Austin asked.
“No,” I answered, “no it isn’t. We’re all alive, and if we do things correctly, we can live a long damn time.”
Have you heard the term ear-splitting silence? Yeah. I experienced it first hand for a couple seconds there.
And then everybody clapped and we lived happily ever after.
Yeah, right. Remember when I said I was a magnet for bad shit to happen? It just might be true.
We integrated nicely into the Atlantis family. So much so, that I thought of them as my family. Every person on the rig, even Half-smile, who I know you were thinking was going to be a bad guy, and who’s name ended up being Ralph, was like a brother or sister or father or mother to me.
We all lived well, ate well, and got along. There weren’t any castes or I’m better than you’s. We initiated trade with four other rigs, and some drillships, and soon we had friends all over the gulf. Most of the mechanics on all the ships and rigs had left to go back to the mainland during the initial stages of the outbreak. So when I went on a visit to another rig, the Atwood Condor, I helped repair their forklift and a drive motor on one of their windmills. They had the same type of engineer geniuses, but couldn’t figure out the old Cat lift or the mill motor, so I helped them. Word got around, and I became the official mechanic of all the rigs and drillships in our family.
We lived happy and healthy for almost three months. Had plans to go mine some earth to start the farms, and were having a meeting about it when one of the radio operators came down to talk to Austin. He told him he had the Prague on the line, and they sounded concerned. Prague was another rig a few miles away, far enough that we couldn’t see their lights at night. Austin left with Ted (the radio guy), and he came back about twenty minutes later. He sat down, and I could tell he was itching to tell us something.
I interrupted the earth-stealing meeting and asked Austin what was up.
“We may have a concern. Jeff on the Prague just told me that a massive container ship, the Majestik Maersk, just steamed by them on a heading of one hundred ninety degrees. They tried to contact the ship, and even tried to get aboard, but they couldn’t. The vessel is travelling at a speed of six knots, which is too fast for the current, but seemingly very slow for a ship of that size.”
“So how does that impact us,” somebody asked.
“One hundred and ninety degrees puts them on a collision course with us.” He held his hands up when the room got a little antsy, “Now the odds of this ship hitting us are extremely remote. It’s a big ship, yeah, and we’re a big stationary target, but it would be exceptionally unlucky for it to come within a mile of us, really.”
Exceptionally remote? Extremely unlucky? Do you remember who I am? Fecal attractor. Double fuck.
I truly believe he was going to leave it there, and go back to the meeting, but Ship passed him a sheet of paper, which he read aloud: I don’t do unlucky. We need to get aboard to evaluate that vessel.
Before Austin could ask how, Ship had scribbled and passed him another note: The Beaumont has a helicopter. At some point my prestigious comrade here will have to repair it, we borrow it and call it a trade. At the very least the other rigs will want us alive to help if something bad happens, and this vessel could kill us all.
“He’s right,” a bunch of folks said at once. Murmurs of assent and worry went around the table, and we shelved the soil appropriations summit for the time being and talked about this possible threat. It never got heated, none of our meetings did. That was how our life was, good.
Things got thrown around and talked about, but it was finally decided that a small team would go aboard the Majestik Maersk and see what the hell was happening.
Something I haven’t mentioned up to now was that everybody had been calling me Captain. They did this because I was the guy who flew our boat to Atlantis. Jesus that statement sounded ridiculous… Anyway, they asked me if I could sail or at least stop the Majestic Maersk, and I immediately told them no. One of the drillship captains was visiting, and we brought him into the meeting and told him what was happening. He seemed considerably more alarmed than we did.
“That ship was built this past year,” he told us, “it will have the new course correcting software in the wheelhouse.”
We all stared blankly.
He shook his head, “Means that if the course is set for one ninety degrees, that’s where she’s gonna go. Somebody get me a chart.” Two guys ran out for a chart, “The software accounts for moderate weather and current, and will auto correct heading should the need arise. The captain or his designee is still supposed to be in the wheelhouse. Your rig being only five hundred feet wide will probably be enough for her to miss you, but we should still take a look.”
Austin asked the captain if he would go with the team to check out the Majestik.
“Of course,” was all he said.
A kid came running in with a chart, and we spread it out on the table using coffee mugs to hold it straight.
“This is the Prague,” the captain said pointing at a red dot, he pulled a red grease pencil from thin air and a folding straight edge from his pocket, “ and this is Atlantis,” he drew a line connecting the dots, “gimme the coordinates of the ship?” The radio guy read off of his piece of paper. The captain found the coordinates on the map and traced a line from them on a one hundred and ninety degree heading. Wouldn’t you know it, that fucking greasy red line ran dead across our little red dot.
It just isn’t fair.
Austin and the captain assured us that there was no chance this ship could hit us, but I wasn’t so sure. Lady luck had abandoned us in the past year, and had been replaced by something downright malicious.
The captain pulled out a compass, not one that tells direction, one of the little pointy things that you always see ship captains flipping back and forth on a map in the movies. He did the same thing mumbling something about six knots and then looked at his watch, “Should be able to see her by morning.”
The helicopter from the Beaumont arrived just before midnight. A team of twelve of us would go, including the captain, Ship, Babe, Alvarez, Greg, and myself. Ship was an engineer and a computer genius, I was a mechanic, and Alvarez, Babe, and Greg, were our muscle, along with six other guys with guns. We hit the rack at just before one AM, and were back up by five thirty. I stretched, got my gear and met the fellas at the helipad.
It was absolutely the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. The sky looked like it was on fire to the northeast. We were boarding the helicopter when the radio guy came running. He handed something to the pilot, and the pilot looked at his co-pilot like some shit was about to happen. The pilot handed the something, which was a computer readout, to the captain, who then showed it to us.
“This is printout of a reading from the Atlantis Doppler radar. We need to get on that ship soon.”
The printout was color, and there was a big fucking green swath coming in our direction. I didn’t know what a radar depiction of a hurricane looked like back then, but I sure as shit do now. As it turns out, the weather was the least of our worries with that damn Majestik Maersk.