23 nautical miles east and of the continent of North America off the Atlantic shore of New Brunswick, Canada.
Captain Lennart Johansen awoke to a knock on his stateroom door. A yeoman hollered through the metal door, delivering an urgent message from the bridge. The first mate Mathias Solberg requested his presence at the helm. Captain Johansen dressed quickly and stepped out of his cabin into the foggy Atlantic night, displeasure at being roused from his sleep putting the man in a foul mood. The message from First mate Solberg was vague. Lennart shrugged deeper into his slicker warding off the chill air.
His cabin situated close to the main bridge of the medium sized Norwegian oil tanker, the Mette Kristensen Offshore so with long, determined steps Captain Johansen crossed the frosty, metal deck and slipped into the heated bridge slamming the door shut locking out the frigid air that followed him. Loosening his coat, Captain Johansen made his way straight for ships controls. First mate Solberg greeted the captain.
“Sorry to disturb you, sir,” Mathias Solberg apologized as he pointed to a blank ships console. “The board's power has been shorting out. At first, it was only flickering, but now I have lost all readings.” Solberg explained.
“Have engineering take a look at it. A power shortage is what you woke me up for!” the captain angrily replied.
Solberg shrunk at the man's words. Captain Johansen was one of the finest men ever to sail ocean rated cargo ships, but even more respected among the Norwegian crews who worked the ships was the bite of his temper.
“The ships communications have shut down, also.” Solberg volunteered. “I have sent a man down to engineering. I am still awaiting his return.”
“Pull back on the turbines, bring us to a full stop.” Johansen’s anger faded as he realized the trouble that awaited the crippled ship. “What were the last coordinates you were able to check?”
Solberg referred to a logbook sitting above the ship's console. As he read off the longitude and latitude of the crippled ship, the blood drained from Johansen’s face. Grabbing a maritime map the captain asked his first mate to read the coordinates again. With his finger, Johansen traced the map pinpointing the ships position. “How long have the instruments been acting up? What was the ship’s speed last you checked?”
“On and off for the past hour and a half, at least. Twenty-five knots.” Solberg replied.
Johansen did the math in his head. The 183-meter long oil tanker, carrying more than 700,000 barrels of Saudi crude at an average speed of around 20 odd knots and now drifting.
“Felberg.” Captain Johansen called to the closest crewmember. “ Get down to the engine room and tell the men to reverse the ships turbines. I need them to bring the ship to a full stop…immediately. There is no time to waste, hurry. Now,” Johansen urged.
First mate Solberg stared at the map where the Captain’s finger remained. Panic slowly began to build. This quadrant of the ocean was a minefield of towering metal leviathans. Turbines that were installed over the years to take advantage of the energy produced by the oceans waves and then coupled to the Eastern shores of North America with cables that ran across the ocean floor.
Keeping a cool head, Lennart Johansen turned to his first mate. ”How far behind us is our sister ship the N.S. Bjornstad.”
“The last radar reading put them approximately 3 kilometers back; their speed matched ours.”
Captain Johansen rubbed his bearded jaw. “Surely they will see that we are crippled and adjust their position,” he reasoned out loud. The thought of the other ship ramming the Mette Kristensen combined with the ship drifting aimlessly in the vicinity of the metal ocean turbines was disturbing. Captain Johansen breathed deep trying to calm his racing heart. Naw. He reassured his frantic mind. It was virtually impossible for both tankers to lose their guidance and steering systems. He had nothing to fear.
Two kilometers back of the crippled Matte Kristensen Offshore, the Captain of the N.S. Bjornstad did indeed notice the first boat power down. Raising the ship-to-ship radio, he called ahead to inquire. Static greeted him. Over and over he tried to communicate with the Captain of the forward Norwegian tanker. At a kilometer and a half, he switched to the N.S, Bjornstad’s communications and was about to relay the orders to slow his ship when a rumble emanated from the bowels of his ship. The mid-class oil tanker shuddered. The Captain’s coffee splashed over the sides of the cup burning his hand.
The N.S. Bjornstad Captain cursed under his breath and reached for a towel. Turning back to the mess of coffee on the ships instrument panel he caught the panels power flicker then go out. He reached for the ships coms line, the mike silent as he depressed the button. Under his feet, the captain felt the ship vibrate. His years of captaining a cargo ship, he instantly realizing the ship was gaining speed.
One hundred feet below the ship's bridge, men clad in black scaled the tankers side returning to the large rubber zodiac that bobbed, tethered to the larger cargo ship a brief hour earlier. Three more men clambered over the side and down nylon ropes to the small inflatable boat. When the five men were safely inside the boat was cast off and driven in the opposite direction the two oil tankers were traveling.
A kilometer away from the N.S. Bjornstad a second inflatable intersected the five men. The other rubber boat had left the Mette Kristensen after a similar successful mission. The two low-profile rubber boats with their 90 horsepower motors made for a heading due south of their current location.
Ten kilometers behind the crippled Norwegian tankers sat a much smaller ocean going vessel. A 70-foot ship dressed up to imitate the fleet used by the American coast guard. The crew aboard this ship sat anchored, waiting for the inflatables to return before heading back to shore along the Maine coastline.
“It's political suicide,” Saskatchewan Premier Gaylord Humphries exclaimed. “Sending that writ to the Prime Minister notifying his office of our intentions to become a sovereign region within the borders of Canada. I don’t know. If Emery calls our hand and sends the army to take control, what in the hell will we do?”
Sam Cavanaugh, the elected leader of the newly declared independent Western Canada Region, glared at Humphries. “We’ve rehashed this same question for months now. What can he do? The man has sold out our country already. This whole green energy policy he put forward has done nothing but squash the countries economy. Millions are out of work and this ridiculous idea of his to power the country with friggin windmills and Chinese-produced solar garbage, hell, why not give everyone a shovel and tell them to dig holes in the ground to live in!”
Cavanaugh’s face reddened. “What would you have us do? Continue to sit on our asses and watch as our friends and neighbors freeze in the dark while their families starve,” the leader of the newly independent nation replied. “Our region has a vast amount of resources and we,” Cavanaugh used his hand and in a sweeping circle pointed to every member of the newly stated independent alliance. “All of us at this table agreed to use those resources to support our republic and put people back to work. Let our residents work and if not prosper at least they will be able to help their families.”
Manitoba Premier Ralph Stanley stood to join Cavanaugh. “He’s right. We’ve had our debates on this issue, now is not the time to be getting cold feet. You of all people,” Stanley focused on the Saskatchewan Premier, “You were all for our split from the rest of Canada. What happened to make you suddenly change your mind?”
Humphries looked from one colleague to the other. “I…I don’t know, too many variables I suppose. Our population is small compared to the remaining provinces. I know we talked and planned this out.” He stopped and stared at his hands, his face a mixture of conflicting thoughts. “Can we do this? Can we honestly sit here and decide what’s best for the constituents of our provinces.”
“Our provinces have the resources to sustain the population. We grow an abundance of food. Cattle flourish and with our refineries, we have all the fuel we need to weather this storm,” the leader of the new country locked eyes with his contemporaries gathered around the table. “The Prime Minister has been informed. Until now he has failed to reply, which I suppose is understandable with the chaos that his government has spread across this country, so I say we continue to solidify our union and forge our way. Cliff, you have anything to add?”
Cliff Featherstone, the acting premier of the combined Northern Canadian Territories, set down the sheaf of paper he was reviewing. “Unless we want to return to the stone ages I say we move forward on the path we have chosen. My people are used to the rough life living at the top of this country but let me tell you, the Inuit people are not about to go back in time so that we can freeze and starve like our ancestors. My people have made great strides to catch up with the modern world, and we are planning plan to stay there.”
“Good. Then it's settled.” WCR leader Cavanaugh rapped the table with his hand. “I have had talks with counterparts of ours south of the border." Cavanaugh turned his attention back to the Manitoba Premier. "What are they calling themselves these days?" He searched his mind for the elusive name of the group of breakaway states below the forty-ninth parallel.
Premier Stanley interjected. "The Protected States of America."
"Yes. The Protected States of America. They have assured me that they will gladly accept oil and gas exports from us. As with The beef and lumber, I am certain we will be able to sell outside our new borders. Plus, we have the support of these rogue states. They will stand with us against any retribution from our federal governments. Bureaucrats that have failed our both our countries and the very people they claim to represent.”
Sam Cavanaugh rifled through reports he had commissioned in respect to the regions resources before changing the subject. “I imagine a lot of this hypothesis will depend on how our relationship with the rest of Canada pans out, though.”
“What will we do when the protesters start reappearing and hampering our oil production?” Manitoba Premier Stanley asked. The question was rhetorical but seeing as the men at the table wanted to rehash old business he wanted to clarify the council's decision. The other Premiers at the table, he included, had reasons to be nervous. Claiming sovereignty from the rest of Canada had its risks.
“We will stand with what we had initially decided. We show them the door. There is a vast world outside our borders that may tolerate their high selfish morals. We, gentlemen, will not. As agreed, the days of protests being used to delay or shut down any form of energy production will not be allowed within our borders.”
“Here, here,” the remaining members of the newly independent Western Canada Region cheered. Leader Cavanaugh addressed Stanley. “You have the hardest job, my old friend. What is the status on our new militia? If the Prime Minister does decide to involve the army, we are going to need to defend our borders. And even with the Prime Minister’s response, be it as it may, we will need to ensure the safe transport of our oil products south. Make damn certain we have armed escorts for the truck and train convoys as they leave the refineries. As far as I’m concerned we are in a perpetual state of war.”
A new Canadian Author with too many ideas in his head. Surprising even himself with where his stories go.