The 4 laned road from the complex to the highway is about 75 km long. Most people travel it at speeds higher than the posted 120 kilometres per hour rate. The average speed is about 175 kilometres per hour. Since it is a private road, and police do not patrol it, the drivers do not have any incentive to slow down.
The size of my truck, it's height, wheel size, and it's high centre of gravity makes extreme speeds unsafe. I brought my truck up to 100 km/hr. The wheels howled at this speed.
I turned the radio on, and found my favourite local radio station. Most stations are either XM, or FM. This one is AM, with the typical reception. This station has existed for more than 60 years.
Most of the cars passing me were quite different to what I am used to driving. About 10 years ago in 2010, when the cost of oil was $200 a barrel, a lot of car companies nearly closed. Cars were not selling. People could not afford the gasoline. What the car companies did was offer all vehicles with a hybrid engine, and even a fuel cell. Nowadays gas is still high, but about 75 of all motorized vehicles are fuel cells.
About 45 minutes later, I came to the highway. If you go straight under the highway, it curves onto the northbound lanes. I was heading south, so I stayed in the lane I was in, which curves to the right. The ramp on the highway is built so you don't have to slow down, in fact, going slow is more dangerous as the speed on the highway is the same on the adjoining road.
The northbound, actually goes west, it curves around the ORCA complex – the complex is over 40,000 square kilometres. When they build the expressway, they wanted to reach as many towns as possible, and having a curve of about 1000 kilometres was one of the things that was needed to have a continuos highway.
I headed south towards Port Douglas. As I pulled onto the highway, I noticed a crosswind, coming from the ocean. I slowed my truck down to 80 km/hr to avoid roll over. If you follow this highway, after about 3000 kilometres you reach Sidney. This highway is a large circle. It is over 20,000 kilometers long, and encircles the continent.
I put on my hazzard flashers, as I was doing about 40km/hr below the speed limit. I had about 100 kilometres to go until I reach Port Douglas. Where my beach house is, is not in Port Douglas, it is about 10 kilometres south of it. The mailing address is Port Douglas. There is no name for the village it is in. There is not even a dot on the map.
I passed the sign for the exit to Port Douglas, and Flatts Rd. The road to my Beach House is 3 exits south. I took the exit. It only heads towards the ocean. The old highway that goes from Port Douglas to Cains is about 5 km away from the new highway.
I came to the old highway. Head north, and in about 10 minutes you are at the town limits of Port Douglas. Head south, and eventually you get to Cairns. My beach house is about 10 minutes south.
Just south of here, you can see it at this stoplight, is one of the best fish markets in this area. The fish and seafood is so fresh, you can order most of it "still kicking", basically still alive. I pulled in and picked up some fish, dead. I prefer to buy mine dead.
I headed out. After about 5 minutes, I pulled on to my road. It is a crescent. On the corner of my road and the old highway is a small grocery store. I stopped there to get a few things, then headed to my beach house.
The crescent is about 5 kilometres long. I am about 2 kilometres from this end. My place has a 2 story house and a garage. The house is an A frame design with the roof going all the way to the foundation. The garage used to be one story, but once I got my truck, I had to raise it, and put in a 4 metre high door.
I reached above my sun visor, and pressed a button on the door opener. The door opened slowly, as I pulled up. I installed 2 lights on the wall of the garage, one green, and the other red. If the door is closed, or is moving, the red light is on, when the door is fully opened, and is not moving, the green light turns on, and the red light is out. If both lights are out, then there is a burnt out bulb.
The light turned green, and I pulled in. On the wall that has the lights, there is a large disk. That disk is connected to a switch that automatically closes the door when the bumper hits it. I hit the disk and the door closed behind me. When it hits the ground, it automatically locks. I grabbed my clothes, groceries, and fish from the passenger seat, and got out of the truck.
The garage has a 4 post hoist. I am able to raise my truck off the ground and do any repairs, or modifications to it. There is a large storage area on the right of the hoist. In that area is all the parts taken off when I modified this truck to what it is now. Everything, from the original tires and rims, to the air conditioning system is there. The original engine was a gasoline engine, a small one at that. The one in it now, is diesel. There is even the automatic transmission. Every nut, bolt and bracket is there, most still connected to the part that was replaced. Most parts would take a short time to reinstall. Opposite the storage, right next to the man door are several large tool chests, full of all tools needed to work on the truck.
I pushed a button on my key chain as I walked out of the man door.
Connecting the garage and the house is a small covered area. There are screen doors, and screen walls at either end to keep out the bugs. I opened the door to the house.
Pushing the button on my key chain activates a series of motors that remove the shutters from the windows. These shutters help me avoid damage from various typhoons.
The kitchen, living room, dining room, one of the bathrooms, and the master bedroom is all on the main floor. There are 2 bedrooms and one small bathroom on the second level. There is no basement, although, the hot water tank and furnace are below the house.
The kitchen and my bedroom faces the ocean. I placed the bags of food on the island counter. On the island is a 2 burner gas range, a small sink, and some counter and cupboard space. I grabbed a saucepan that was hanging above the island. I turned one of the burners on, and after placing the pan on the burner, poured a jar of white sauce, and a bag of fresh seafood in. I pulled down a pot, filled it half way with water, and placed it on the second burner, which I also lit.
I walked to the bedroom, placed my extra clothes on the bed. I walked back to the kitchen to finish cooking my meal. I am not exactly a chef, but certain things are my favourite. Back in Alberta, my family was a beef rancher. Anything but beef on the table was unheard of. After I moved to Halifax for school, I tried seafood, and I loved it, almost more than beef.
After my meal, and after cleaning up, I picked up the local paper, and sat down outside on the deck to read it.
A cool breeze was picking up, one that created the perfect surfing waves. As the sun was just starting to set, I decided to go out on to the water.
There are only 2 things that are in the ocean that scares me, Sharks, and Jelly fish. I put on my full body covering wetsuit, a pair of booties, gloves and a hood. I then put on a unique piece of technology, An electronic shark repellent. I am ready to go out on the water.
My surfboard is on a shelf up against the back outside wall of the garage. I carry it to the water, get on it and swim out. I am not that good of a surfer, but you would never know that for the first half of my life, I was a prairie boy. The waves were about a metre and a half high, the size I like.
I played around in the water until the sun set. I floated back in with one of the waves. After getting out of the water, I took off the hood, and lied down on the beach. I looked up at the skies, so clear, and so beautiful, and, so different from the skies I knew back home. Down here, the skies don't have the big dipper, or Polaris.
I headed back into my home, changed, then went to bed.
I rolled over, looking at my clock radio by my bed. It read 9:26 am. I stood up and walked to the kitchen. I took down a bowl, poured some cereal and milk, and ate my breakfast.
After getting changed into my ORCA uniform, I picked up my video Cell phone, and dialed the dock at Port Douglas.
"Personnel number 200-001. When does the next boat leave for ORCA?" I said to the phone.
"The next boat leaves at 10 am, sir." The dock manager told me.
"I won't be able to make that one. When does the one after that leave?" I asked.
"They leave every 2 hours. So, after that one, we would have one leaving at noon." He informed me.
"Book me a spot on that one. Have my PWC loaded, and have someone who can drive my truck ready to take it back. Thank you." I told him.
"Will do, see you then." he said.
I shut the phone off, and proceeded to pack my things.
I pulled up to the guard house. I rolled down my window, only to see the top of the roof. I opened the door, and climbed out.
"I was wondering how we were going to talk." the attendant chuckled once I climbed down.
"We should install an elevator" I said jokingly. "I am on the next boat out to ORCA. Here is my ID card" I said as I pulled it out from under my shirt.
"Ok, Proceed to Dock 1, do not drive onto the dock. It is too small for your truck." He told me. He opened the gate as I climbed back up, and into my truck.
I slowly eased it through. I pulled up to Dock 1 just as they were loading my PWC. I parked my truck, and got out, heading
"Decided to take the easy way?"The lead dock hand asked.
"Well, I could have just flew, it would have been faster." I said joking.
"We will take care of it." He said, pointing at the boom lowering the PWC into the hold.
I walked over to the gangplank that is used to get onto the boat. Unhooking the ID card that is around my neck, I pass it over a scanner on the gunnel of the boat next to the gangplank entrance. I have not been on an ANT boat since we opened up ORCA. An ANT boat is a unique boat, ANT stands for Automated Navigation Transport, hence it's uniqueness.
About a year before the pontoon docking platform was to arrive, I ordered 6 ANT boats, from the only supplier in the world, Aussie Boat Works, out of Perth. These new boats were designed such that it did not need a crew. Instead, they used SONAR, GPS, and RADAR to track, and to navigate.
How they work is quite simple. Using the onboard GPS, you input the co-ordinates that you want to go to. You then push a button, and away you go. It was designed to stay out of hostile territory, underwater hazzards, and even severe storms.
They are electric. Solar panels on the top recharge the batteries, however, it can only go about 7 days on that. After that, it requires a outside source charge for about 12 hours. It is twin propellers, with a special steering control. When the boat turns, the propellers change their RPM such that they actually are not turning at the same rate. This, in turn, turns the boat faster, and smoother.
They are all 30 metres long. This may sound large, and even in port, may look large, but it is quite small. There was the option of getting them 50 metres long, but then, we would have had to redesign the wharf to take in effect the length, and the depth. The crew have to manually control the ANT boats in the wharf, as there is less than 20cm clearance when turning.
I headed up to the deck, to have a seat. There is 3 decks that are for passenger occupation. The maximum occupancy is 200.
There are several smaller boats, less than 12 metres long that have been outfitted with ANT boat technology, but they are not considered ANT boats, as the ANT boat label is Trademarked for ABW. Most people on board still refer to these much smaller boats as ANT boats.
"This is the captain speaking. We will be underway in 5 minutes. Please board the boat so we can be under way. Thank you"A female voice called over the intercom.
Some of the people on the dock proceeded to the gangplank. There was a group of kids that boarded, 2 of whom I recognized. I think they are Brett Bates, and Jake O'Reily. Some of the other kids, I have seen before on board, but did not know personally. One, a teenage girl, I did not recognize. Maybe she is new, although, we have not had anyone new for about a month, and we will not be having anyone new for a few weeks.
"I am going to have to look into this." I thought to myself.
"This is the captain speaking. Welcome to ORCA ANT Boat number 3. We will be underway shortly. While underway, please stay in the designated area. There is to be no running, or playing around the edges of the boat. Thank you for your patience, and from all of us at ORCA, have a great day." The captain said.
The boat slowly backed out of the slip, and headed for the main channel inside of the wharf. This is where the tight fit is. She steered the boat towards the exit. As she turned to head out, you could hear the waves splash between the boat and the break wall. The clearance here is about 20 cm.
As soon as the boat was clear of the break wall, the ANT system was activated and we accelerated towards the open ocean.
Each ANT boat weighs approximately 5 tons without the engines installed. When construction on them was completed in Perth, they had to get shipped here to Port Douglas. I decided that I needed a break from the construction of ORCA, so I headed to pick them up with my truck. Fifteen tons and 3 weeks to get to Perth and back with 3 boats.
When the construction of them was complete, I drove my truck to Perth to pick them up. Towing 3 trailers behind my truck was awkward. Over 100 metres of moving vehicle was difficult. Braking and even steering was difficult at best. However, after 7 days, driving over 12 hours a day, they arrived.
The engines were shipped to Port Douglas from Sidney. They were the newest hydrogen fuel cell. Now, however, they are 10 year old antiquated almost useless power plants. They have been overhauled many times, about every 2 years. The however still use too much hydrogen.
All the ANT boats cruise at about 25 knots, or about 50km/hr. In emergencies, they can get up to speeds in excess of 100km/hr.
"Attention passengers, we will be arriving shortly. Please gather your belongings." A voice came over the intercom.
The captain shut off the ANT system. She then slowed it down so that it was bearly moving. For something 30m long, it actually maneuvers better than most smaller boats. She maneuvered the boat to the dock. The dock crew grabbed the mooring ropes, and tied them off. Two people slid the metal gangplank onto the gunnels.
"Thank you for traveling with ORCA, please enjoy your stay. Your baggage will arrive at your cabin with in the hour." The captain said over the intercom.
I walked on to the platform, and walked over to elevator. I slid my card over the scanner, and a computerized voice said "Welcome to ORCA" as the door slid open. I got in, and said "Apha 2 - 1". The door closed as the last few came in, and said where they were going.
The door opened on Alpha 1. From this main point, there are 4 walkways, each leading to a different sphere. Each walkway is also labeled so that you do not have to guess. I walked down walkway 2, heading to my cabin. I made my way around the maze to my cabin. I slid my card at the access panel labeled A 2-1-8. The door slid open, and I walked in, with the door closing behind me.
"HELEN, bring up all messages left for me." I said to the computer as I started to empty my back pack.
"Three messages waiting. Do you wish to access them?"the computer asked me.
"Yes" I said as I put the last things away and walked over to my desk to view the computer screen.
"Hey, its me." my brother said. "My family and I are planning to come to Australia. We should be there in about 2 weeks. We would likely be in your area for a couple of days. Contact me so that we can come up with a plan. The kids are looking forward to visiting there again."
"HELEN, mark this as read, but to be responded at a later time." I said. The next message came up.
"Hey Joe, are you still planning to come down to Sidney for a visit?" My aunt asked. She is almost at retirement age. "Your brother mentioned to me that he would be here later on this month. I will see if your sisters are able to come along. Let me know when you can. Bye"
"HELEN, again, mark this as read but to be responded to at a later date" I said as it ended.
"Hey, once you get this, contact me" The Commander said. "We have selected someone to 'shadow' you. His name is Jason Bates. He has been informed that he will be going along with you to observe and learn about the various systems of ORCA. No mention of your condition, or any other problems have been told to him, or his mother."
"HELEN, where is the Commander?" I asked as the screen went off.
"He is on the bridge, shall I contact him and bring it up on the monitor?"The computer informed me.
"Yes HELEN. Thanks" I responded. Within moments his face appeared on the screen.
"Hey... Joe... You are back. How was the trip to the mainland?" the Commander said as he saw me.
"Not bad, actually quite relaxing." I told him. "Who is this kid that is going to be with me? Does he have any ideas why he was picked? Why was he picked anyway?" I asked.
"Well, he was picked because of a few things. First reason, he needs some experience working on the various systems onboard. Second, he is actually quite good, in fact, he is the highest in his class. Also, he has some time off from school, and he is not going to the mainland. This works out quite well actually, the last thing we need are kids running around unsupervised. He is that whale scientist's son, the older one."
"Ok, I will review his personnel file. Thanks." I told him.
"Just try not to put him or yourself in any sort of danger. I don't need his mother yelling at me about another of her sons. Once was enough." he said jokingly. An incident earlier involving a typhoon and her youngest son had put her and the Commander at odds.
"Don't worry, I don't make the same mistakes as you do. Bye" I sarcastically said to him as I shut off the screen. I picked up my PDA and headed out of my cabin. I scrolled through the personnel files until I brought up the Bates Family. I looked up the files on Jason.
Personnel file 200-063 – Jason Bates. Age 12. Boat licence, SCUBA trained. Level 12 academic.
'Looks like a perfect fit.' I thought to myself as I walked up to the door to their cabin.
The panel has a variety of lights and buttons. I pressed the one that activates the door chime. I waited for a response.
The door opened and there was Brett. He looked at me, shock, and a little scared.
"Is your brother, Jason here?" I asked.
"Yea," he said. "Jase, door" he called into the cabin as he went back into the cabin.
Jason walked into view of the door. "Yes, how can I help you" He asked as he walked closer.
"Jason, I am Joe. As I understand, you will be working with me tomorrow. What all were you advised about?" I asked.
"Uhm, not to much. I was just told that I would be doing this with you regarding the maintenance. What time tomorrow do I start? Where do you want me to meet you? What should I wear, just the regular uniform?" Jason asked me, sounding somewhat excited.
"Well, you can wear your uniform, however, I would recommend that you do have your swimsuit on underneath. I do go out and fix the various outside components. As far as when you start, well, it all depends on when I finish my morning swim." I told him.
"Ok, I could meet you at the pool. When do you start swimming there?" He asked me.
"I do not swim at the pool. I swim outside. You know those markers that are one kilometre away from the pontoon?" I asked. He nodded yes to the question. "I usually swim to at least 2 of them." I finished.
"Wow, that is 4 kilometres. How long does that normally take?" he asked me.
"About 2 hours. I start at about 7am. Do you want to join me out there?" I asked, sarcastically thinking that he would never want to do it.
"Seven A–M. Hmmm, you know what, why don't I? What should I wear?" he asked, shocking me.
I paused for a moment. "Well, since you are swimming, obviously your swimsuit. Goggles would be another thing that might be a good idea." I told him.
"Ok, I will see you at 7 am." He told me.
"Alright, see you then. Good bye." I told him and walked away as the door closed.
I walked to the lift, thinking about a lot of things. My life will now be in the care of a teenager. I am going to still try to do my regular activities, but unfortunately now I will have a "chaperone".
I got to the lift and slid my card by the sensor. The door opened and I walked in. The door closed.
"HELEN, my cabin." I said.
" Alpha 2-1-8." the computer said back to me. I leaned on the wall of the lift as it went to the appropriate level. Within moments, the left stopped, and the computer said "Alpha 2-1-8" The door opened, and I walked out, and headed to my cabin.
I walked up to the door to my cabin, slid my ID card across the panel, and the door opened with a chime sounding as it opened. The lights turned on as I walked in.
"HELEN, Any phone messages?" I asked.
"Affirmative, there are two voice only messages, and one video message." The computer stated.
"Bring up the voice messages first." I said.
"First message" The computer said
"Hey, I guess you are out enjoying the beautiful reefs. In case you did not figure this out, this is your brother, Chris. I was wondering, since my kids have two weeks off in about a month, we were planning to visit Aunt Janey in Sidney. Do you think we could meet up somewhere? I know its like over 2000km apart, but, hey, you own some helicopters and planes. I'm sure something could be worked out. Anyway, this is costing a fortune, let me know. Bye" My brother's recording said.
He is a character. He was the class clown. He would never turn down a dare, even when most would.
"Helen, What time is it where my brother lives?" I asked.
"It is 11am this morning." The computer told me.
I scratched my head, I never could understand time zones. 'He is probably on the road. I will call him as soon as I get up.' I thought. "Helen, Remind me to call my brother tomorrow when I wake up." I said, "Next voice message"
"Hello, this is your aunt. You brother called me. He wants to meet up with you. I did inform him that you are over 2500 km away from me. He still would like to do it. When you get in, call him, and the two of you can sort out what is happening. After the two of you figure things out, let me know." My aunt's recording said.
My aunt, 15 years older than I, yet acts 15 years younger. My uncle, her husband, was killed in a military accident. She is a doctor.
"Helen, Bring up the video message" I said.
I saw Josh, from the mainland on the screen "I forgot to tell you something when you were here. One of out two-seater mini subs will be delivered to ORCA next week. Anyway, thought you might want to know. Bye."He said.
After the message was over, I put the video on Privacy, and went to bed. I was more tired than I thought, and fell asleep almost instantly.