RACEDAY

Dawn on the roof, from under a scudding mackerel sky. Falling barometer. A front was moving out there, over the water. Red in the morning. John stood at the lip of the roof, hooking up the window washing equipment. Down the face of the building, John could see the endless spill of cubes into the sea, falling from the corner office below. He supposed it was endless. It showed no sign of abating.

Under clear green water, the cubes had been hard at work. They had room to move - space, numbers, and mass. They had formed a sprawling infrastructure around the base of the building, chased with lines like a capillary network, or root structure. Even under the concealment of the water, a kind of large scale Brownian movement was visible, television snow with physical pixels. Out of this aquatic debris fan, a dominant structure had formed, as straight and purposeful as the trunk of a tree. It was an umbilicus, a pipeline. It ran fifty feet below the surface, out to the west and away from the building, a plastic telegraph cable communicating what to where? Significant? Sure. What did it mean? No fucking idea. But it ran west, like a windsock driven before an air mass.

Back to the task at hand. There was a problem, with the boat. Everything was ready except for one thing. John and Mattie couldn't find the sails. A review of the shipping invoice showed that there was supposed to be a sail bag and survival kit with the boxes. But it wasn't with the other boxes.

John had an idea of where they were.

Mr. Firedrake's office.

---

John was sliding down the glass face of the building, riding with aluminum window washing rig and wondering if he still believed in the consensus reality physics model.

The outside of the building was windy, scary windy. Mattie was running the controls from the roof as John moved over the glass down to the twentieth floor.

Down past desks where people were still running numbers through spreadsheets one thousand pages deep.

Down past a team of systems operators smashing open a vending machine with a water cooler.

Down past receptionists calling the entity hereafter referred to as Building Management.

Stop. Through the half mirror of the glass was the great desk. John swung back with a fire axe and the window was gone. Inside was outside now.

John could see Firedrake's private office clearly now. Across from the desk, invisible to people peering though the door, was a painting. It covered most of the wall opposite the desk, done in the photorealist style, a hand duplication made to look like a photographic blowup.

Over green water, it was a picture of a catamaran under full sail. The man controlling the jib sheet was hiked out, his face in profile. Because the man was depicted at a distance, the level of detail is low. But compelling. It was the picture of an older John, worldly and wealthy, a tanned face lined from an adventurous life lived under the sky, favored by fortune and a measured audacity.

He had a partner, manning the tiller. A smaller person, blonde. A woman? There was no time to think.

Floyd and Fletcher were smashing in the office door with a halogen torchiere. They had not bothered to unplug it.

John heaved the sailbag and survival kit onto the window washing rig, then flipped the heavy desk over, blocking the door.

It was a fast ride to the top, no time to talk. John threw Mattie the bags. Mattie began the rapid work of hoisting the sails.

There was a booming from the floor below.

John needed to buy time. He sprinted down the access ladder to the top floor.

Cubes were sliding across the concrete floor, skittering under a repeated impact. The cube walls around stairwell were shaking.

Through the fragmenting barricade of cubes, there were snarling faces. Compass Shawl. Floyd. Fletcher. Sandwich Lady. So many others. Screaming with bloodlust. They had a heavy high-speed copier, mounted on casters. It made an excellent battering ram. The cubes were flying now, coming apart under the heavy pounding.

"PUT ME TO WORK! I LOVE TO SPRAY! SHOW ME HOW!"

John pointed the Arm's camera at the crumbling wall. Speed now, speed. He opened the valve to the firehose, aimed The Arm at human faces. SHOW ME HOW! The Arm loved to spray. Shouting. Cursing. Water.

Not much time. Back up the ladder. GO GO GO.

The wall failed. Fletcher and Floyd were crossing the concrete fast.

The roof now. Mattie saw John exit the ladder.

John picked up the fire axe and chopped the line holding the catamaran in check.

John was covering the distance to the boat, legs driving.

Fletcher and Floyd exited the ladder.

The sails were filled with wind, the Sea Dog began cutting across the roof, moving for the edge - fast. Mattie was clipped into the helmsman's position, moving with fever speed to play out the mainsheet, to slow the launch. Not quickly enough. The Sea Dog was moving out, into space, unrecoverable, wind speeding sail.

John jumped, the last window of opportunity, landing on the trampoline between the hulls just as the Sea Dog slipped the roof and out into air. John started to float. Needed to clip in fast, clip to a foot loop, a beam, anything.

The boat was rappelling down to the water. John and Mattie hanging from the boat, the boat hanging from the building. The boat hanging from a rope, a screaming rope, scavenged from the window washing gear, taut as a bowstring from roof to sea. The rope is smoking off the improvised friction brake of block and tackle lashed to the stern cross beam. The boat was moving fast, fast on top of faster, down towards water.

Water. The impact violent, nose first. But the weight was in the back. No turtle. It's sail up, keels down.

Matilda worked fast, snapping out of a luff and coming about hard. There was a bang of sailcloth, the wind found, and then they were moving.

Close hauled, the Catamaran sprang away from the tower at speed, leaping up bright.

Rolling gracile swell of green water as the tower became two hands high behind them, then one hand high. Then just a finger on the horizon. They followed a westerly bearing, sighted from the motion of the sun across the deck and pinned against the steady wind.

It was hard not to feel vital. Hiked out on the windward hull, minding the mainsheet and jib, it was hard for John not to feel a vibration of life inside his chest, like the force of the mast stepped against the main beam.

He had no idea what he was doing, of course. But she did. She would teach him. They would sail in shifts.

So this is the deal:

They don't know what they are going to eat. They don't know the geography. They don't know how long they will be at sea. They don't really know each other. But there's a handbook in the survival bag. There's time to learn. It beats the alternative.

John has a direction, though. John knows that they are following the umbilicus below them. It provides a direction.

It leads to something new.

Smiling under the sun, it is something they will meet together.






past Temporary: Freeday -:::-

start Temporary: Monday

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