Tuesday, March 15, 2011

STARDUST #4 "Sean vs. Oil" - pt. 1

April 10, 2010. 9:55 pm.
Gulf of Mexico, 42 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.
Deepwater Horizon.

Every pressure gauge in the control room was off the scale, but the pressure in the room was not so much lower.

“I’ve never seen gas levels that high!” a Transocean mechanic exclaimed. “It’s gonna be a blowout for sure!”

“You want to explain to the day-shift manager tomorrow why we had to shut down all systems all night because you were so sure it was going to be a blowout?” the BP night-shift manager asked sternly.

“He’s right!” another employee said, standing up to his bossy, overbearing manager for the first time. “You’ve got to sound the alarm and let everyone evacuate!”

“The Hell I will! Tell all crews to keep replacing the drilling mud! The pressure will drop!”

“No it won’t,” another man said and rose up from his chair. “I don’t know about ‘de rest of you, but I’m getting off ‘dis rig before the whole ‘ding blows!”

“Get back in your seat or I’ll see you’re fired!” the manager protested. “Don’t you walk out that door, Jason! Jesus!”

The man who had walked out the door was named Jason. The manager had called out to Jesus when a pillar of fire so blindingly bright it was like the finger of God erupted out of the drill column.

Every alarm claxon on the rig exploded with sound that almost – almost -- drowned out the roar of the pillar of fire that roared with the unholy intensity of a million corporate executives screaming. And over that din, a lone man screamed to the manager – the one man who might have stopped everything that followed – asking, “Are you happy? Are you happy? The rig’s on fire! I told you this was gonna happen!”

May 13, 2010.
Elgin, Illinois.
Roger McGill’s house.

Roger answered the door for Jill, who noticed his girlfriend Lauren was already there with him. Jill, as a nurse, felt she was particularly good at reading faces from how people reacted to news at the hospital. Roger looked distraught, while Lauren only looked concerned. She could only imagine how she would look when they finally got around to telling her.

“Come on in,” Lauren said. She came up to Jill and gave her a hug, Roger just moving out of the way of Lauren's characteristic affection.

Jill followed Lauren to the Roger and Sean's living room and found it unusually tidy. Sean obviously was not home. “Well?” Jill said, turning around to Roger and asking him with growing impatience. “You said you had something to tell me about Sean and I’d better come over to hear it. I just got off a 12-hour shift, so I’m in no mood for small talk. Why don’t we get right down to it?” She picked up a stack of videogame cases off the nearest chair, sat them on the floor, and then sat down in the chair with her purse on her lap. “What is it this time? Fell off a roof again? Finally got himself arrested? Do I need to get my checkbook out…?”

Roger sighed. “I’ll have to catch you up first. You remember when Sean and I were at your house a week ago?”

“Oh yes...” Jill said, and she did.


“You want me to buy you a bulletproof vest?” Jill had asked that day in her study. It was often about money when she was talking to Sean, but this was a new one.

“I’m getting stronger, but I’m not invulnerable or even bulletproof,” Sean said with a casualness that almost made that sound rational.

Jill's husband was not home, so it was just her, her brother Sean, and Sean’s best friend Roger with her. Jill was sitting at a desk with her hands clasped in front of her and both men standing in front of the desk as if they were applying for a loan in a bank. Of course, except for the bank part, that was exactly what they were doing.

“It’s a tactical assault vest,” Roger said. “We brought you printouts of the specifics we got online. This guy Sean found can modify the vest into a full protective costume with sleeves and leggings of thick nylon, what they used to make vests out of before Kevlar…”

“Roger, I understand why you’re here,” Jill said. “You’re here to make it sound like this is a well-thought out plan. This guy Sean found – is he someone you’ve actually met or some guy online?”

“It’s a very reliable message board,” Sean said.

Jill turned to look at her brother and simply nodded. “And how much is he asking for?”

“Two thousand-three hundred dollars,” Sean said.

“So, you want me to give you $2,300 to give to some guy online you don’t know, in exchange for a bulletproof costume so you can go on riskier superhero work?”
Sean leaned forward on the edge of the desk. “Look, I understand you don’t believe I have superpowers and you don’t understand all this superhero stuff, but I’m at the point now where I need to be doing more important work and, yes, there may be a greater risk of harm involved."

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