The first mate adjusted the sails, letting out some wind to keep both skids on the sand. The sun shone down like a hole punched in a blast furnace someone painted blue, the radio broadcasting its gypsy salsa above the hiss of the sandmaran’s travel. Leaning on the tiller, the captain let out a yell of warning as they crested a dune, gaining air for a brief moment. They still didn’t have a plan for replacing the statue, but they had a thousand miles of desert to work something out.
The mechanic reached deep into the tool bag, knowing the required spanner would be at the very bottom. The clanking briefly drowned out the strains from the radio, its signal relayed every 500 meters by the commpods they had dropped on the way. Carefully fitting the business end of the tool between the rear set of treads on the boring machine, they found themselves exclaiming out loud “actually, I think it’s pretty interesting.” The surveyor, measuring the long tunnel behind them with an x-ray transit, looked back briefly, by now used to such outbursts. The cavern should be another two miles down.
The engineer looked through the diminishing dawn murk and spotted the specialist’s orange scarf. The sound of the balloon-tired swamp bikes spread through the Estonian bog like hot molasses, obscuring their location but not their presence. Unnoticed in the bike’s twin V mud-wakes, a nearly-vertical black snorkel tube trailed the pair.
I have never been so uncomfortable, thought the hacker as they strained to match the wires in the fusebox, their head inches from one of the combine’s many potentially lethal harvesting blades. The lookout’s shadow was barely visible against the hangar door. Straining to clip the blue wire into the scanner, they heard a soft call and nearly lost an ear before remembering their uncomfortable position.
They are everywhere, and some of them are downright weird. My downstairs neighbor once told me only prime numbers could be trusted, but he held a reserve of disdain for 2, which he claimed was too prime for its own good. A big appreciative shout out to Bam Bam, Lily and Generoso, and Redlands Ron for their on-air contributions, and anyone who may have pledged online before or after the show.
The Cadillac engine roared with naked abandon behind the driver. It was the familiar rumble of the seven-liter-plus workhorse, but its power was unleashed on a propellor instead of a bulky automatic transmission. At the airboat’s prow, the tracker kept an eye on the reeds that protruded in clumps from the murky water. Barely audible on the comm link were the strains of some forgotten psychedelic blues. A promising glint along the mangroves gave hope they had found the downed satellite. It turned out to be the stare of a brooding twelve-foot alligator, unwilling to leave the scene. The search continued.
The keypad beeped softly as the astronomer keyed in the coordinates. It was deepest darkest night on the altiplano, the stars above an unfamiliar configuration for those born to northern skies. The physicist tapped their pencil against their favorite clipboard (the metal one), the coffee-stained papers clipped to it showing the revised calculations for the Hole In The Sky. Over the tinny intercom, hacked because both had forgotten to bring a speaker, a particularly ironic song choice began to play, making them instinctively share a knowing glance.
The specialist carefully manipulated the waldoes linked to the robotic arms in the front of the submersible. The pilot peered out of the top dome, the glare of the spotlights illuminating the complex structure of the oil rig but the visibility of this part of the Gulf of Mexico not allowing much to be seen past the first couple tangles of girders. A single wire tethered the craft to the surface, its sole purpose safely delivering the radio signal carrying its obscure music and coded instructions past fathoms of seawater. The robot arms clasped the watertight bale of Oaxacan tamales tightly. The mission was only half over.
The driver felt the leads tremble under their hands. The navigator clung resolutely to the sled, keeping an eye on the white horizon of the Wexford hills as they put some miles between themselves and the Monongahela. The only sound besides the rushing skids on the snow and the panting of the dogs was a faint crackle of song leaking from the driver’s earpiece. The heist had been a success; behind them, a net filled with silver Mylar balloons trailed and bobbed in the generated midnight wind.