P6 cover

Antark: Episode Five
by Alan Augustson
10 March 2017

He couldn’t sleep worth a damn.

Even with no more than the skylight in his quarters, and with sunlight already beginning to wane before the long, dark night, McGee’s mind was racing. He was awash in endorphins and there was just nothing for it.

With four long flights from D.C. to Santiago, and the trek from Santiago to the port, and then the ferry to Valhalla Landing; it was getting close to forty hours with no sleep. McGee had had severe sleep-dep before, and knew he was approaching the danger zone. Hallucinations, tachycardia and blurred vision, among other things. But for now, he had hit that sweet spot where you feel simply amazing. He donned parka and boots and opened the hatch.

The avenue wasn’t terribly busy; it was about nineteen-hundred and most people were either at evening chow (words like “dinner” had become a foreign language to McGee) or retired to their quarters. He knew that, during construction, many people were still living in makeshift barracks fashioned from shipping containers. He couldn’t imagine that being very pleasant, and the unfairness ate at him a little that he should have been assigned straight to a dome unit. A larger one, in fact, to double as office space. But he couldn’t deny the common sense of the arrangement, and put his reservations to bed for now. Damned if he wasn’t jealous to join them there.

Avenue C, his own, led into Valhalla Boulevard. It was wide, well-lit, and the polycarbonate roofing allowed for a very moderate temperature. He guessed those gigantic wind turbines would augment the heat and lighting during the dark season. McGee’s stomach reminded him it had been nearly as long since he ate. Figuring he had time for a light meal, he followed the boulevard towards one of the more nondescript structures.

It was later than he’d thought, apparently, as the dining facility (It’s a fucking chow hall, already, he laughed to himself) was partially dark, and many of the tables and chairs had been taken up. A solitary man hummed an old Marvin Gaye tune to himself as he mopped up, punctuated now and then by strings of obscenities. His style of speech gave him away for inner-city, and probably retired military. He looked up from his mop and gave McGee the stink-eye.

“You’re late, motherfucker,” he barked. “I already sent the rest of your lazy-ass shift home; y’all part-timers don’t know one end of a mop from the other. I’m working my black ass overtime just to clean up all y’all’s mistakes.”

McGee grinned; here was a man he could relate to. “I’m not on shift. Just landed; anything left to eat?”

“Aw, shit,” the man rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we’ve always got something hot for when people come off a late shift, or maybe graveyard. Sorry to jump on your ass like that; it’s been a long goddamned day and it ain’t ending anytime soon.”

McGee nodded. “Well… ? Whaddaya got, needs doing?”

The man narrowed his eyes. “I got a whole shipment of fresh potatoes, needs peeling. Fresh anything around here is a big deal, and I will not have them going to waste. So if you ain’t serious, don’t be yanking my dick.”

“I’ve got noplace to be til zero-nine-hundred. Find me something I can eat while I work, and I’m on it.”

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Social scientist, public policy analyst, emergency management consultant and author. U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former firefighter. Former candidate for U.S. Congress.

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