Global warming. Sea level rise. Floating Community. Attempted Robbery at a pearl farm.
Those Who Would Save Us / Part 1
The following morning, Andalib and Xavier were back at work inside the MacKenzie's oyster and pearl farm, again injecting irritants inside the shells of oysters that were tied onto chorded lines. The two sat together on a catwalk beneath the heavy sun and glaring blue sky, facing the channel toward the south. A few cumulous clouds were in the distance. Ted again sat working beside them.
Andalib asked, "So what do you think Ted? Are we really just giving these oysters of yours 'a little tickle', or are we actually torturing them?"
He shook his head. "I haven't the slightest idea, but whatever we're doing with them, I can't believe that anyone in his right mind would be carrying on like Clarissa Kellington and all those people in the Shellfish Justice League. It's such an obviously phony political publicity stunt."
"I agree Ted." Andalib told him, "All this phony outrage is just an excuse to intimidate people."
Ted went on, "I also don't believe that God has any objections. After all, the Bible does state that there are twelve 'Pearly Gates' to the Heavenly City. Each one of those Gates is made from a single pearl that is almost 200 feet high."
Xavier said, "I feel sorry for the oysters that produced those pearls. I'm sure those ones didn't just tickle."
Ted and Andalib chuckled.
She said, "Imagine getting our grubby little hands on one of them, X. We'd be set for life!"
Both Andalib and Xavier laughed while Ted looked at Andalib, not knowing what to say.
"I'm kidding, Ted." Andalib said and sighed. "You know, you really have to learn to loosen up just a little bit."
Now Xavier asked, "Do you see that?"
He pointed off across the marsh grass to where the channel was hidden from their sight. Three towering, dark sailing masts moved above the surrounding reeds and grasses, toward where the channel opened out just south of the pearl farm. The vessel's sails had not been unfurled.
Ted said, "It's the Venus on the Half Shell. I hope they're leaving town. I've had enough of them all, and so has everyone else here."
Xavier said, "If they're leaving with Quin aboard that means he's jumping bail."
"Quin's not that dumb. No, they're not leaving." Andalib said, "If they were leaving town, they wouldn't be coming here to the pearl farm. It looks like Clarissa Kellington herself is gonna be directly taking part in all the demonstrations after this. After what she was saying last night, I think she's decided to keep a close eye on all her people; just to make sure they do exactly what she tells them."
Now the BNN News' motorboat came out from behind the marsh grasses and headed toward the facility.
Ted said, "If Carlton Grabel wants another interview, I told him he can forget it."
She told him, "He doesn't want to talk to you, Ted. He'll want to talk to Clarissa again. Hearing that woman speak makes me want to shatter my ear drums -- just to be rid of that voice."
The motorboat turned again and moved along outside the south side's outer fencing, where it came to a complete stop.
Now the entire, enormous dark bulk of the Venus on the Half Shell emerged from behind the marsh grass and came into plain view.
Ted said, "Whoever's at the helm had better not come too close to the fencing or they'll run aground. The water under this entire facility is just too shallow for a vessel that size."
The yacht majestically glided along, at a safe distance from the fencing, until it was about halfway between the east and west sides of the oyster farm. Then the vessel came to a stop, with its motor still running.
Ted had a pouch clipped on his belt containing a pair of binoculars. He took them out and gazed through the lenses at the people aboard the yacht. Most of them stood upon the open rear deck where a large pile of signs lay stacked.
He said, "I see the same people who were in the Amberjack last night."
Andalib asked, "What about Quin?"
"I'm not sure. Parker Harrison is at the helm."
Xavier reached over. "Can I take a look?"
Ted handed him the binoculars.
"I don't see Quin." Xavier told him, "But speak of the Devil...Woman! It's Clarissa Kellington herself! She's pointing and yelling orders, like a drill sergeant."
"I'll bet." Andalib said softly as she glared toward the yacht.
Now there was movement aboard the Venus on the Half Shell. People picked up their signs. They spread out along the entire side of the yacht facing the facility and resumed chanting.
"The shellfish are screaming!..."
"Murderers! Nazis! Stop torturing the oysters!..."
Ted asked, "Don't these people have any imagination? You'd think they'd get bored, endlessly repeating the same things over and over again."
The voice of Clarissa Kellington now blared out from a loudspeaker aboard the yacht.
"Don't worry oysters! We're coming to save you!"
The demonstrators now picked up these words as a new chant.
"Don't worry oysters! We're coming to save you!
Don't worry oysters! We're coming to save you!
Don't worry oysters! We're coming to save you!..."
Andalib said, "Well that's something new at least."
The TV star's voice again blared out. "Two species, united, will never be defeated!"
The chant now changed to,
"Two species! United! Will never be defeated!
Two species! United! Will never be defeated!
Two species! United! Will never be defeated!..."
Ted said, "Now that chant is a variation of something very old. A secular ritual chant they use, in which they hope to drive away what they consider secular evil spirits. It's mostly to convince themselves that they are invincible."
Xavier asked, "You mean against us?"
Ted nodded. "They call it 'courageously defying the rich and powerful'."
Xavier laughed. "'Powerful?' You?"
"Actually, that describes what we're doing to them."
Andalib looked at Ted, with her hand on her hip. "So what do we, as repentant Christians do, to drive away the evil spirits that are jeering at us now?"
He said, "I'll pray. In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I ask God the Father Almighty, to send forth the Holy Spirit, and cast out the Devil, so that no one, inside or outside of this facility, will be harmed. In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
Andalib asked, "Do you think that'll be enough?"
"We'll have better luck with stones and grenades." Xavier declared.
Now another speedboat came out along the channel, from behind the marsh grass, and sped toward the facility. This one did not join the Network News' motorboat, or the massive yacht. Instead, it headed north, outside the eastern fencing, where the depth was too shallow for any larger craft.
Xavier used Ted's binoculars again, to look at the speeding boat as it approached the maintenance shed.
"It's Eric Mann," he said, "and -- what the -- ? Quin is with him!"
Andalib said, "Told you he's not that dumb."
She, Ted and Xavier all dropped their lines with the oysters, stood up and moved quickly along the catwalks toward the shed, where Eric Mann brought his speedboat to a stop just outside the narrow sliding gate. When they reached the shed, the alligator trapper called out to them.
"I've called the Harbor Patrol! All of you'd better get yourselves out of there now! According to Quin here, this pearl farm of yours is about to be invaded and destroyed!"
Ted called back, "Invaded and destroyed?"
Across the southern fencing, the chanting aboard the Venus on the Half Shell ceased. The BNN Network News' motorboat began to move. It headed west along the entire length of the pearls farm's south fencing. Then it turned north, moving along outside the west fencing, until it came near the northwest corner, where it halted.
Xavier said, "That's just outside the main gate, where we brought the Nightingale in during the raid."
Now the Venus on the Half Shell began moving again, also heading west, at a safe distance away from the south fence. The yacht then turned north, moving at a far distance away from the facility.
Andalib called out to Eric. "It looks like Quin was wrong again! They're leaving town!"
Xavier shook his head. "I don't think so Andi."
From aboard the yacht, Clarissa Kellington's voice again sounded over the amplifier.
"This facility must be collapsed! We will collapse this facility today!"
As they watched, the gigantic dark bulk of the TV star's yacht now turned facing east, and continued turning, until its bow was pointed straight at the main gate of the MacKenzie's facility. The BNN Network News' motorboat backed up a good distance; clearing the way for the yacht.
Now the people aboard the yacht resumed chanting, with their voices amplified.
"We'll collapse this facility today! We'll collapse this facility today! We'll collapse this facility today!..."
Inside his speedboat, Eric called out again. "Will one of you open this gate for us?"
Ted who stood watching the oncoming giant yacht approach, now slid the narrow gate open sideways, allowing Eric to bring his boat in alongside the shack.
Xavier spoke to Quin. "So you've finally decided to stop 'going along' with whatever these 'enlightened' members of the Social Justice Movement order you to do, huh?"
Quin told him, "I'm not gonna be forfeiting my bail. What they want isn't worth it, and Clarissa Kellington isn't worth it. Last night the woman called me a piece of crap; but Andalib here said that she'd pray for me."
"I bet there's more to it than that." Andalib said as she looked at Quin, a silent understanding passing between the two of them.
"Well -- yeah."
"God works in mysterious ways, doesn't He?" Andalib smiled.
Now Eric Mann shouted, "All of you get in the boat! Now! I'll bring you someplace safe!"
Andalib asked, "'Someplace safe? They're about to destroy everything Ted has!"
Ted told her, "It's okay Andalib. The entire facility is totally insured, and Eric's called the Harbor Patrol."
"No Ted!" She told him, "It isn't okay! You can't let them defeat you! They'll be defeating Xavier and me too. You're the only one in this Town who's been willing to hire me and Xavier. If you let them destroy this facility you'll be able to rebuild, but what'll happen to the two of us?"
The yacht was now much closer to the main gate and gaining speed.
Ted called out. "There's no time to leave! Everybody get inside the shack now!"
He, Andalib and Xavier rushed inside the shack. Eric and Quin jumped up out of the speedboat, following them into the shack. Ted shut the door.
Now Andalib prayed aloud, quoting the lyrics that she hadn't sung on Sunday.
"Eternal Father strong to save,Now the massive bow of the Venus on the Half Shell rammed into the chain-link fence gate, with a loud, grinding roar, sending it flying open. Adjoining catwalk planks also went flying. The entire fencing and all the catwalks, throughout the entire facility, shook slightly but remained standing.
Who's hand has stilled the
Who bids the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep.
Hear us now as we cry to thee,
For those in peril on the sea!"
The maintenance shack also shook slightly. Inside the shack some items on the shelves trembled, but the structure remained standing. No one was hurt.
"It's okay." Ted told them, "All the pylons and fence posts are anchored in concrete."
Now through the window, they saw the yacht continue to move forward into the oyster farm. Then the vessel came to a sudden stop.
"They're stranded." Ted told them. "It's like I said. The water's just too shallow for a vessel that size."
Eric Mann reached into the pouch on his belt, and took out his own binoculars. He went over, opened the door and peered through them at the vessel.
Eric said, "They don't care about that. People are coming down from the yacht and spreading out along the catwalks."
Ted said, "Can I see?"
Eric handed him the binoculars. Ted looked at the activity around the grounded yacht.
"They're carrying serrated knives! They're sawing through the lines with the oysters attached!"
Now Andalib grabbed the binoculars and took a look for herself.
She asked, "What are you gonna do Ted?"
"We'll have to wait for the Harbor Patrol."
"What?" Andalib glared at him, "You know Ted, sometimes I think you're too soft. Those people are out there destroying your property -- ruining your family's life long work, and mine and Xavier's jobs; and all you can say about is 'We'll have to wait for the Harbor Patrol'!"
"What else can we do?"
Quin sneered, "Any Biblical quotations about how to handle this, Mr. MacKenzie? Offering to buy them dinner ain't gonna work this time. Not with Clarissa out there."
"Wait!" Andalib distract them, "All we have to do is distract them. We should do something that will take their attention away from cutting the ropes, until the Harbor Patrol arrives."
Ted asked, "Like what?"
"Well." She smiled, "One thing that each of you guys will admit, is that I can be very distracting. And the biblical quotation hasn't changed. It's still 'A soft answer turns away wrath.'"
Andalib reached up on a shelf, grabbing a bullhorn.
Then she said, "Well, maybe not all that soft."
Now she ran out the door and headed quickly along the catwalks in the direction of the stranded yacht and its disembarked, knife wielding passengers.
Everyone in the shack stood watching her run.