“You can’t block our way.” Hua was starting to lose her temper.
Above her the naval captain remained impassive.
“We can halt your movements because you are heading towards the waters of the republic and if you are not checked you will endanger our generators.” The uniformed woman kept her voice even, almost monotone.
“We’ve travelled the seas for generations,” Hua tried. “We have never harmed anyone.”
She was fully expecting the captain to bring up a list of incidents the Free Floaters had been involved in. There had been ten that Hua could remember since she took over as head of the council. None of them were direct conflicts, merely the island getting in the way of international shipping. There had been a reduction over recent years as more countries moved to a self sustaining economy and the waters cleared, but it did not quell the hostility.
“And you are free to continue on your way.” The captain leant forward on the gunwale. “The sea is yours to sail across. It is simply our waters that are not your domain.”
“They weren’t yours last time the currents carried us here.” Hua shifted with the rise and fall of the island. This close to the edge the web of junk and algae was thinner and more effected by the swirling underneath.
The captain straightened, smoothing out her jacket. “Our maritime boarders have been extended by the United Nations to enable us to build more generators. I can provide you with all the details if you don’t have access to them.”
“Since when have the law makers ever taken our needs into account?” Hua fired back.
She was getting tired. Not only had the run-in with the navy made for a long day, but the fallout from the internal fight last week had not dissipated and she had three factions still glaring at each other across the island. All Hua wanted to do was jump overboard and leave them to it.
“Your people chose to leave the land,” the captain began. Then she checked herself, leaning over the edge once more. “Look, this is not getting us anywhere. My name’s Jil. Can we talk about this without all the rhetoric?”
The change of approach took Hua by surprise. For a moment she was lost for words. “I’m listening,” she finally said.
Jil removed her hat, letting a short bob of auburn hair hang lose above her shoulders. “The treaty has been in place for fifteen years. You’ve not been carried this way for what, forty?”
Hua found herself nodding. Most of her attention was being taken up by the captain’s face which, now that it was being framed by hair, had taken on a softer look.
“So there’s not much either of us can do, regardless of whether we agree with it or not, and I can’t be seen to have half the fleet tied up with you guys.” One hand indicted the line of ships that pressed against the islands leading edge.
“What are you suggesting?” Hua managed.
“That we agree on a more sensible plan.”
“You know we can’t turn around.”
“Yep. And if we began pushing it might damage the island.”
Hua started to get her brain back into gear. “But you’re not going to let us head towards those beautiful new turbines you’ve got bobbing in the water?”
“That wouldn’t end well either.”
Jil flashed a smile and Hua felt her stomach go light.
“I don’t see what we can do then.”
The captain leaned further over the edge. “I could justify keeping one ship out here.”
“One hull isn’t enough to hold us back.” Hua wished she knew where the conversation was going. “You do that and we’ll get ripped apart.”
“Not if you agreed to attach some anchored booms across your leading edge.”
Finally the plan fell together for Hua. It might work and a week of having to watch the sailors would also divert the islanders from snapping at each other.
“I suppose you’re suggesting this because you know where you can lay your hands on the equipment.”
Another stunning smile. “It just so happens that two of the ships have been on red weed clean up before coming here.”
Hua ran one hand through her hair and grinned back. “And you’d trust one of your lot to keep an eye on us until the currents changed?”
“I’m not sure about that,” Jil replied. “I might have to hang around myself.”
Hua was starting to feel like a teenager again. “I’ll need to clear it with the council.”
“Sure. But before you do that why don’t I throw you a line and we can iron out the plans up here?”
It was all Hua could do to stop her grin reaching back to both ears.
6 August 2010
Giant floating islands of debris, washed down by some of the worst flooding in years, threaten to collapse a bridge and block a dam in China. The floods have washed away tens of thousands of homes and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
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