Chapter 19:

Sheltering from the Storm, Part 1


The winter winds blew coldly through the Alaskan coast, accompanied by cloudy skies and a light cover of mist. Caleb shivered as the wind whistled past him as he stood firmly in the sand in a stiff pose. The icy waves rushed past his soaked boots, but he did his best to avoid wincing. He was here to help out on a job, after all.

It was one of the few times that he really envied Hope's synthetic body. Though she still felt the harsh temperatures of the winter ocean, it obviously did not affect her as badly, and her stoic face remained unmoved by the rush of cold water flowing onto her feet. She stood about a half-mile apart from where Caleb was, and was staring down into the dark ocean.

Caleb was doing much the same, using binoculars with a computerized zooming function to peer into the water. Through them, he found a sunken boat laying on the seafloor about 50 feet from the shore. That boat was the reason for why he had come to the coast, despite the freezing water and cold winds.

He turned to the man standing between him and Hope and called out. “I see it! Go ahead and start lugging it in, Rico!”

“Got it!” Rico replied. He had a large, sturdy build that was rippling with muscles and a big grin on his ruggedly-built face. When he was still human, he was almost certainly some type of athlete, and Caleb had no doubt that he was the king in whatever sport he was engaged in. Now, though, he was a salvager, and his strength was now dedicated to retrieving refuse and rubble from hard to reach areas.

Rico stomped into the water and stared down into the waters himself. He then pointed his arms diagonally in the direction of the boat and shot them into the water. The arms burst towards the boat, with two thick cables keeping them connected to Rico's body. Caleb swerved back to the boat and observed carefully through his binoculars. He watched as Rico's arms connected with the boat as a gentle clang resounded through the water. They then began to grab at the boat, trying blindly to find something to grasp onto.

“Move your left arm downwards!” Caleb called out. “There's a handle that you can grab onto there!”

“Twist your right arm a bit!” Hope shouted out afterwards. “It's about to get caught in some loose rope!”

The two continued to shout out commands until Rico had a good grasp on the boat. Once he confirmed that he had a solid grip on the boat, he started to pull it up to the shore. The cables in his arms grew taut, then began to retract backwards. As he continued to raise up the boat, Rico shifted his weight and tried his best to maintaine his balance in the sand. Seeing him struggle, Caleb ran over and helped to keep Rico upright until the ship was pulled all the way out of the sea.

After ten minutes of grunting and pulling, the boat was finally out of the ocean and on firm ground. Caleb huffed and panted as Rico collapsed and laid down on the cold sand.

“Christ!” Rico gasped as he lay breathless on the ground. “What was this boat carrying, solid gold?”

“More importantly, you should pull your arms all the way back in,” Caleb said between breaths. “You don't want to get sand in your machinery.”

“Oh, you're right.” Rico sat up and continued to retract his arms until they were reattached to his body again. As he did, Hope walked over to them along with Rico's partner, a tan-skinned woman named Mia. Mia whistled as she looked over the size of the boat.

“That's a beauty. If I'd had the chance, I'd have cleaned it up to use myself.”

“That's not impossible,” Hope remarked. “After all, seafaring vessels might be necessary for some of the jobs we'll have to do.”

“You think so?” Mia ran a hand through her jet-black hair. “Maybe I'll bring it up next time we talk with Computer.”

For now, though, the four remainers pushed the boat up the beach onto the nearby road, where a tow truck with a crane was waiting for them. Remainers weren't meant to be using vehicles for their work, but a transporter like Mia, who would often have to carry objects many times her weight, was an exception. Once the boat was pushed up behind the truck, it was hooked up to the crane and pulled up onto the truck bed.

“All right!” Rico clapped. “That's our job finished for today. Why don't we warm ourselves up by the fire?”

To Caleb, the prospect was music to his ears. Even Hope seemed to look forward to warming herself up by a crackling fire, and she eagerly began hunting for firewood to use. Before long, a large fire blazed in the middle of the road as the four remainers sat around it and warmed up.

“Thanks again for all the help, you two,” Rico repeated as he sat and warmed his wet clothes. “Sure, I could have handled it by myself, but having you two around really made the job easier on me!”

“Don't even mention it,” Caleb replied. “We were in the area anyway, and there wasn't anything urgent on our itinerary either.”

Rico let out a heary guffaw. “I see! Then let's just chalk it all up to good luck then.”

“What do you plan on doing now?” Mia asked. “Ain't too much work that needs to be done up here for surveyors like you.”

“We'll probably head somewhere warmer soon,” Caleb replied. “We've been here for a week now and I'm already tired of the cold temperatures here.”

“Not used to the cold, huh?” Rico laughed. “I guess it has been getting colder 'round here lately.”

“You guys basically treat this area like a hub, right? Don't you ever want to check out the other regions?”

“There's a lot of important work that needs to be done here,” Mia replied. “Besides, I love living here. If you give it some time, you might think the same too.”

“I wonder about that,” Caleb remarked with a laugh. “In any case, we'll probably start heading south in the morning. Got a lot of travel to do, after all.”

“Tomorrow?” A concerned expression appeared on Mia's face. “That might not be the best idea.”

“Why's that?” Caleb asked, surprised by her sudden change in tone.

Mia looked up at the overcast sky. “One look at the sky will tell you. We're going to be seeing heavy snowfall here real soon, and maybe even a blizzard or two. Even if you left right now, you couldn't make it out of the region without getting blanketed by snow.”

Caleb scratched his chin. “It's gonna be that bad, huh? I didn't know the snow got that heavy up here.”

“Sorry about that. I'd take you there with the truck, but I've still got several jobs that need doing before the snow sets in.”

“That's all right. Still, what are we going to do about the snow?”

Rico let out a hearty laugh. “Don't worry about that! Caleb, let me see the map you've made of the surrounding area.”

Caleb took out the map in question and handed it to Rico. He scanned the map quickly and made a mark at a spot one or two days away. “Head here. It's not the best place, but at least you'll find some way to make shelter there.”

“Thanks for the help,” Caleb said as he took back the map. “What's at that location, though?”

“You'll find out once you get there!” Rico laughed as he gave Caleb a sturdy pat on the back.

“You can't just tell me now?”

“Some things are better as a surprise. Don't worry, I won't steer you wrong.”

Caleb stared at the map as he quietly mapped a route straight to the place indicated. “Guess it's better than nothing,” he admitted wryly.

“Are we actually going to be staying here longer?” Hope asked in a low voice.

“It can't be helped,” Caleb replied. “Traveling in the snow isn't good even for remainers.”

“Great,” Hope sighed. “It's like the world is conspiring to keep me twiddling my thumbs.”

“Just think of it like a little vacation,” Caleb suggested. “Trust me, soon you'll be up to your ears in work.”

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