This one is dedicated to Julia Takagi (martoo on some forums).
The Ocean's Fury
Chapter One: Touched by Hoob's Hand
Mackie didn't know the island's name. It was on the outskirts of Northern Sector Twelve, and she was stranded there, because the public transport vehicle she had been a passenger in had malfunctioned. Mackie was 18 years old, and she was on her way to one of the biggest Islander Cities, where she would board a spacecraft, and leave Sivarsi Nine for good. There was nothing for her here. She had written to the great designer, Bunchh, but there had been no response to the electronic message, and Mackie assumed this was because Bunchh did not, at this time and place, have any need for an employee such as Mackie.
As Mackie walked along the main boulevard of the nameless island, she noted that all the buildings were in need of repairs. There were no ops in sight, and the lack of cleaning machines was apparent everywhere. The alleys were cluttered with litter, and the people she saw were dressed in clothes that had been fashionable decades ago, or never.
The Island that Time Forgot, Mackie thought wryly, remembering a work of fiction she had browsed once. That story had been about a bigger city, not a small, middle-of-nowhere island, and the setting had been a lot more dramatic, as was typical of works of fiction.
Mackie stopped by a small vending cart and bought a bottled drink. How quaint, she thought, to have carts staffed with actual people instead of normal vending machines. She tipped the vendor, but regretted doing that ten steps later, after having opened her drink and discovered it had gone flat and was lukewarm. So much for truth in advertising, she thought, looking at the cart's worn COLD DRINKS banner.
Mackie wandered along the streets, and finally arrived to a park, although one that hadn't seen a gardener-ops pruning scissors in years. She sat on a bench that was surrounded by wildflowers, and watched a fountain that had no water in it. Tropical Island birds sat on the fountain, fouling its statues with birdlime and the air with their hoarse cries.
Mackie sighed. Of all the places to be stranded in waiting for techs to do their work on the transport, it would have to be what she was now convinced was the poorest and most boring corner of Sivarsi Nine. The Islands weren't normally like this - everything was vibrant and fresh, houses were white, people happy, and the fashions always a step ahead of the rest of the planet. That was the Northern Sector Twelve she'd grown up in, full of happy tourists and carefree natives and parades fifteen times a year.
Nor was the rest of the planet like this. Sivarsi Nine was a paradise of advanced technology and beautiful people. But perhaps here, on the borderlands between two sectors, Twelve and Thirteen, no one really cared much about a nondescript island and its inhabitants. Thirteen was an industrial sector, there wasn't much traffic between it and the Islands.
Mackie could well put herself in the locals' place. She'd had rich parents and the best possible education in fashion design, the career of her choice. But money couldn't buy love - her parents were too busy to spend much time with her, employing others to do that for them ever since she was taken from her mother's womb as a two-week embryo and placed into a machine that would finish turning her into a human being.
Mackie was now old enough that it was time to get a job. But so far she'd had no luck finding one on Sivarsi Nine, and she had not wished to ask her parents for assistance. She was determined to be hired for her skills, not because her parents bribed the employer. Too bad that at 18, her skills were far from perfect. In short, Mackie was impatient, and unwilling to spend more time learning.
So she had applied for a job on another world, a new colony world where the whole infrastructure was still being built. It had sounded exciting, the adventure of a lifetime, a chance to prove herself, or at least fail heroically.
Trouble was, if the techs didn't fix the transport in time, she'd miss her space shuttle. And she'd miss the colony ship, too. And there wasn't going to be another one until five years later.
Mackie stood up, and the world trembled. For a moment she wondered if her drink had been alcoholic.
Then the world trembled again, and the statues in the fountain toppled, crashing onto the bottom of the fountain bowl, while the birds scattered all over in a cloud of shrieks and feathers.
And earthquake! Earthquakes were not uncommon in the Islands, so Mackie knew what to do. She ran away from all trees, onto the unkempt, weed-strewn lawn of the park. There, in the middle of the green field, her ankles full of smarting stings from some prickly weeds she hadn't had time to avoid, she had a good view of the island, and the sea.
The island town was crumbling to bits - the old buildings could no longer withstand an earthquake's rage, and people were yelling and shouting and running away and screaming and trying to carry their possessions away. Mackie watched it all, but did not feel the urge to go help them. These people were strangers, and most of them did not have the blue skintone of the islanders that would make her feel some kinship towards them. Besides, Mackie was terrified. She did not wish to die by having a piece of outdated architechture fall on her head.
Feeling guilty, she turned to face the sea, looking for the familiar, comforting blueness. Only, there was no sea, only bare yellow sand. It was as if a low tide had arrived in fifteen minutes, taking the sea far away. Mackie's gaze followed the receding waves, and saw, in the horizon, the wall of water.
Her terrified feet found new power as she ran as fast as she could, towards the town, knowing the people in the town would not have a clear view of the beach, nor any time to look towards the ocean in their current panic.
"To the hills! Everyone, to the hills! A tsunami! A tsunami is coming!"
It took Mackie some seconds, as she stood panting in the middle of the cracked pavement, to realize that the voice that had shouted this warning was her own. People were staring at her, but already some were running to the hills and some were repeating the warning to those who hadn't been close enough to hear it, while others were walking towards the beach, wanting to witness the coming wave firsthand.
"Idiots! It is a big one! To the hills, or you all die!" Mackie shouted to these foolhardy ones. Real Islanders would know what to do, she was sure of it. Tsunamis weren't all that uncommon in the area where she was born. But these people were more like tourists, people who had moved to the Islands from other parts of Sivarsi Nine, poor people who hadn't been able to afford proper housing with efficient eartquake protection built in.
Heeding her own warning, Mackie took off her impractical platform-soled boots, held them in her hands, and ran to the hills.
Standing on the highest hilltop of the island, three minutes later, she watched the wave sweep away everything, including the people who hadn't heeded her warning. She saw the transport vehicle, abandoned by technicians, hit a building, which collapsed on top of it.
No chance of making it to the colony ship now. But Mackie wasn't dissappointed with that. It would seem Sivarsi Nine herself offered challenges, triumphs and extreme conditions aplenty, to an Islander willing to do battle with Nature, with the Ocean, with Hoob Herself if necessary.
When the waters receded, Mackie helped resque the survivors from the collapsed buildings. She found the drinks vendor, and his cart, the contents of which had suddenly become very valuable, and she persuaded him to part with them for free, because it wasn't the time to think of money when injured children were thirsty. She found one of the technicians, caught under a collapsed metal structure, and convinced him that he had a choice: to have his hand cut off, or to stay where he was until heavy machinery could be brought to release him. He chose waiting, and Mackie gave him a bottle of carbonated water from the vendor's cart, and also a warning that he might be waiting for his death - it was possible there would be another earthquake. The tech thanked her, but said his hands were his life, and without them, life was not worth living.
Finally, hours later, someone found a functional holoscreen in a bag abandoned on the street. Help was summoned, families were contacted, connections were made. Mackie, still barefoot, her boots forgotten somewhere, walked back to the park, and sat on the bench that had, miraculously, withstood both the earthquake and the rage of the Ocean. She curled up around her bag and lay down to rest, just a little, just so her hands would stop shaking.
She slept deep, and dreamed of Hoob, who had Bunchh's face. Hoob said nothing, but touched Mackie's hair with her long, slender fingers, and her smile was one of approval.