“What’s the weather readout for the week?” I asked.
“Cold,” Foreman said. “Getting colder by the minute.”
“I don’t want platitudes, I want numbers,” I snapped.
Foreman opened his mouth as if to say something, then shook his head and closed it again. “Negative 4 tomorrow,” he said, “and below negative 10 for the rest of the week.”
I cursed. “You’re sure?”
“Hey,” Foreman said, tossing the paper readout onto the table. “Don’t take your bad mood out on me. I don’t control the weather.”
I ignored the chastisement. “At that temperature, the ice will be thickening every day. We won’t make the shipment in time.”
“Well, I don’t know what you expect me to do,” he said. “It’s not like we can cover that distance any faster. We’re just going to have to take the pay cut and make up for it in the next shipment.”
“There’s no time,” I murmured to myself, running my hands across the table map.
“Tell me about it,” he said. “For once, the barge is maxed out, and we can’t even get the shipment there on time.”
“But if we double the fuel and increase the speed by half-”
“Don’t even think about it,” Foreman snapped. “The ice would tear right through the hull at that speed, if we hit it the wrong way.”
“Fine,” I grunted. “By a third.”
“Don’t you get it?” Foreman hissed, crossing his strong arms across his chest. “Even if we increase the speed by a quarter, it would still be too dangerous.”
“But we need the money.”
“But we need to be alive, not sunk at the bottom of the river.”
“Look at the map,” I insisted, jabbing a finger at it. “We’re here. And at the rate of the ice freezing, we’re going to be locked up in a matter of days. And where does that put us?” I trailed my finger along the river and tapped the map impatiently.
Foreman followed the trail with his eyes, preparing a rebuttal, then stopped. “Oh,” he said quietly. ‘Well, that does change things.” He rested a finger next to mine. “The Zone.”
“We can’t get locked in right there inside the Zone,” I said. “We face enough danger when we go through it, much less being trapped in it for who knows how long.”
“Maybe by now, the nuclear fallout-”
I cut him off. “I will not put my crew in harm’s way, not when I can get us through and out before freezing. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Captain,” Foreman said. His eyes lingered on the map, tracing the trail over and over again with his eyes. “But I don’t know how else we can get it done.”
“There’s got to be another way.”
“There isn’t,” Foreman said wearily, lowering himself into a chair. “You were right. There is no time. Can’t you see that? We stop now, or we sail to our death.”
“Not on my watch, we don’t,” I shook my head. “If we increase the speed and keep the crew on watch, we could get it done. We’re going to make it.”
“Give the order to increase the speed by a quarter,” I said. “All men at the ready.”
He stared at me for a long second, then nodded. “All right, Captain,” he relented. “We’ll give it a shot.”
Source: This blog series is inspired by the book “Earth from Above: 365 Days” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Click here to read more about my Creation365 series.
The top picture is from “Ukraine. Chernobyl region. Barges beached in a bend on the Pripet River.”
Arthus-Bertrand, Yann, Isabelle Delannoy, and Christian Balmes. 2005. The Earth from above: 365 days. New York: Harry N. Abrams.