Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 02

Chapter 1

Port Berry, Royal Cay, Bahamas

6:15 AM

At dawn, the Reliance was alongside and the fuel lines were being attached. Dag Jakobsen watched through his camera feed. There were three flat screen monitors set into the wall next to his desk. One was showing the fuel line hook up, the second would show the fuel flow and fuel levels in the form of a bar graph as soon as fueling started. And there it goes, Dag thought. The third was his computer monitor, which had a form that Dag would be filling out as the fueling proceeded. There was a leak in the fuel line coming from Barge 14, but it seemed to be very minor. Dag zoomed in on the connection and saw that it was only a few drops. He made a note on the form.

The Reliance and Barge 14 together made up an ATB, articulated tug barge. While attached they were one ship, but the Reliance could detach from Barge 14 in a few minutes to perform other functions while Barge 14 was being loaded or unloaded.

Dag was lucky to get this slot on the Queen of the Sea. The newest ship of Royal Cruise Line had flex fuel engines and was larger than any other in the line. This was a load of fuel oil, just as a matter of price. They had gotten a bargain on the oil, while the methanol was still pricy. The great thing about flex fuel engines was they could burn anything: fuel oil, ethanol, methanol, even gasoline or crude oil. If it was liquid and would burn, they could use it for fuel.

Then the power went out. Dag lost his video feeds and heard a boom. The boom was followed by a crunching sound, and the ship shook.

That was bad. This was a four thousand passenger cruise ship. It didn’t shake. Not unless there was very, very heavy weather or a tidal wave. Dag was already out of his chair, running for the fuel-loading area, when the emergency power came on.

* * *

Arriving at the forward fuel loading station, Dag heard a welter of shouted arguments. The room was a large one with pipes painted in bright colors to indicate the type of liquid they carried, but even on a new ship and with a good crew this was a working area. Dirt, smudges of oil, and the other natural byproducts of work being done were present and so was a bucket with a mop in a corner, ready to fight the never-ending battle against the oil and grime. Sunlight poured into the space from an opened porthole the size of a garage door. Four fifteen-centimeter-wide fuel lines went from the red pipes out the porthole.

“What was that?” Bayani Pascual asked.

“Dammit, Bayani. The Princess is gone, and so is that bar on the point. Hell, the point is gone. Will you stop asking what it was?”

“But what was it?” Bayani almost whined.

And suddenly Dag was afraid. Because while Bayani wasn’t the brightest crewman on the refueling detail, he was perhaps the most phlegmatic. Bayani was nearly two meters tall and weighed upwards of a hundred kilos. He was the biggest Filipino Dag had ever met, and as calm and unflappable as you could hope for. Besides, Romi Clarke was sounding belligerent, and the little Jamaican was not someone Dag would want to meet in a dark alley.

“Then tell me, Romi. What happened?” Dag shouted over the hubbub.

Romi spun, and then visibly got himself under control. His dark skin was gray under the normal color, and he pointed out the port. “The Princess of the Sea is gone, Mr. Jakobsen. Just gone. Like it was never there. There was a flash, like lightning way too close and a clap like thunder right on it. Then everything was different. And something’s happened dockside.” Dockside was the other side of the ship. The Reliance had pulled up along seaside, as was standard practice. “And the Point Bar is gone. Hell, Mr. Jakobsen, the point is gone.”

Dag almost called Romi a liar, but by then he’d reached the port and could see for himself. To avoid panicking, he focused on his job. He checked the fuel lines. They were still attached. He leaned out the port and looked at the Reliance. Tug and barge were still locked to one another and still tied up to the Queen, but Barge 14’s cylindrical fenders were compressing like marshmallows, as Barge 14 bounced against the hull of the Queen of the Sea. The fenders were big, heavy, rubber cylinders which meant that Romi was probably right about that, as well. Something was disturbing the water and that almost had to be something on shore. There was a shore line visible ahead of the ship, but it wasn’t the shore that should be there. And, sure enough, their sister ship was gone. A vessel weighing almost 150,000 tons had just…vanished.

Dag headed to the wall and pushed the intercom button. “Bridge, what’s going on? Should we stop refueling?”

“We don’t know, Dag,” Apprentice Deck Officer Douglas Warren said. “I’m looking out at a town that ain’t there anymore. I don’t mean it’s wrecked, except the part right next to the docks. I mean it’s gone. As though it had never been built. Even the land is different.”

“Right, Doug. The point is gone. We can see that from here.”

“It’s not the point. It’s us. Us and the docks, and maybe half a block of the port. We’re not where we were anymore. Hell, Dag, the sun’s not where it was a minute ago. Look, no one knows what’s going on yet, but it’s a safe bet we are going to need full fuel tanks. Captain says to top them up.”

“We’ll do that, Doug.” Dag turned away from the ship’s intercom. “You heard, people. We continue refueling.”

It was then that the regular lights came back on.

Dag got on the radio and called Joe Kugan, the captain for the Reliance. The Reliance, with Barge 14 attached, had roughly one hundred fifty thousand barrels of fuel bunkerage, a crew of seven and a top speed of twelve knots.

* * *

Captain Joe Kugan was in the pilot house when whatever it was happened. He was looking at the Queen, not at the shore, so he was only momentarily blinded by the flash, but nearly lost his footing as not just the Reliance but also Barge 14 rocked violently.

When he regained his balance, he looked around and saw that the world had been replaced by a new and different place. Instead of the flat landscape typical of islands in the Bahamas, he was looking at an island which didn’t have much in the way of elevation but had more than he’d been looking at a short time before. The vegetation looked wrong, too, although he couldn’t have said exactly why. Kugan’s knowledge of botany was abysmal and his interest even lower.

For a moment, he felt a strong desire to panic or beat the crap out of someone. By the time he was back under control, the radio call from Dag was coming in. Given the circumstances, Joe was tempted to tell Dag to screw himself and stop the pumping till they knew what was going on. But he didn’t. There were contracts involved and if he refused to finish the refueling, he would be in a lot of trouble. The Reliance or Barge 14 was still bouncing against the Queen, but most of the wave front was gone on out to sea. The waves had stirred up the water and what had been fairly pristine Caribbean ocean was now a lot cloudier.

Off an unknown island

Late afternoon

Lars Floden, the captain of the Queen of the Sea, looked down the table at the assembled staff. The conference room on the bridge deck was full. It was on the port side, just aft of the bridge and had one wall of smart glass windows. Right now the windows were set to opaque white. The opposite wall had cabinets and a counter top to hold whatever was needed from snacks to papers. Also a projector, so that the smart windows could be used as large display screens if needed.

Jane Carruthers was doing a really good stiff upper lip. He wasn’t surprised, as she was very British, even for a Brit. A thin woman, with a ready smile that hid her thoughts admirably. The hotel manager was not in the chain of command, but was — in a sense — second only to Lars in real authority, and in some circumstances, she might hold even more.