“Just think how it is for the people cleaning the beaches!” someone else said.
“Look! Look! A coast guard boat!” someone else shouted.
Everyone looked at that. Sure enough, a patrol boat was approaching the derelict oil rig. Just in case they were not noticed, most of the party-goers abandoned their clearing efforts and ran to the side of the pad, jumping up and down or waving excitedly to the patrol boat.
“You are trespassing on private property!” someone said over a megaphone from the boat.
“We’re not trespassing! This is my property!” Tony Hayward shouted at them angrily. “Get us down from up here!”
Tony kept shouting at them, but they could not hear until some of the Coast Guard actually came aboard the rig and made their way to the bottom of the stairs. They too were aghast at the bodies clogging the stairs. “How many people are up there?” one of them called up.
“Twenty, I think, but I’m Tony Hayward!” Tony called back. “It’s very important that you get up here! A crazy man is holding us hostage!”
“Are you responsible for all this blockage on the staircase?” the man called up.
“No! It was that…that man…” Tony said, trying to think how to make it sound believable. “It was all an accident!” he said, changing his story.
“No one is supposed to be up here,” the man said. “Can you get down?”
“No, you moron! If we could get down, we wouldn’t be stuck up here on the top of a bloody oil rig surrounded by bloody dead things!” Tony shouted.
There were a few moments of silence while the men on the bottom conferred before the first one called back up. “Just stay where you are, don’t touch anything, and we’ll see what we can do about getting a helicopter out here.”
“Wait! I've got two, but he won't let them land!” Tony shouted, but the Coast Guard were heading back to their boat to report what they had seen.
Stardust had been standing idly by and watching during all this, but now he said loudly, “I'm not holding anyone prisoner here. The problem you're facing is the same as the one BP has forced everyone living along the Gulf Coast to deal with. You've got oil and dead sea life to deal with. You've got the food and drink you came with and then, after that, things are going to get tougher for you, just like all the fishermen and other people whose livelihoods are endangered. The difference now is, you people can't ignore these problems because you're too rich or too self-important to think you should have to deal with this. You're going to deal with this, just like the tens of thousands of people poorer than you who are already having to deal with your mistakes.”
There was more complaining and protesting and some people refused to do anything, but Tony Hayward was the first to rally some of the party-goers and the staff under him. They even came up with a fairly clever plan, or so Stardust thought. Using one of the folding tables as a plow, they managed to clear quite a bit of the staircase with it. It was slow going, though, to do it safely.
In the next hour, oil-drenched men and women had cleared most of the way down the stairs. The Coast Guard had come up the rig again twice to explain the delays on their end from the bottom of the stairs. Each time they came they tossed some bottled water up to the work crews, offered words of encouragement, and tried to discourage those who were thinking they had come far enough down now that they could just jump the rest of the way.
“It's really much farther down to the water from here than you think,” the Coast Guard warned them.
Up at the top of the stairs, taking a breather, Tony Hayward sat down. His face rested in his hands. “It’s all my fault,” he said quietly, murmuring into his palms. “I never thought about the dangers…the damage our rigs cause…It was all just bottom lines to me. But there was so much more to it than that…”
“You remember that when you leave here,” Stardust said.
Tony looked up with a start, not having realized Stardust was standing so close and heard everything. He looked up at Stardust, not defiantly, but nodding with comprehension.
It was less than another hour when the path was cleared enough that the party-goers could start descending to the Coast Guard boat safely. Cries of “we’re saved!” soon woke up the few people who had already fallen to sleep up top, wrapped up in table clothes and tarps.
“Mr. Hayward,” a Coast Guard officer said as Tony came down. “The man who was keeping you prisoner here -- where is he?”
Tony looked back up the stairs, but there was no sign of Stardust up there. He turned back to the officer and shook his head vigorously. “No, no, never mind him. Just get us out of here!”
June 12, 2010.
Tony Hayward had not announced any press conferences for today, but when the reporter had called, asked to see him, and mentioned Stardust, Tony told him to come around at 1:30. Mark Kirkham showed up at 1:29 and only had to wait three minutes before Tony’s secretary told him that Mr. Hayward would see him now.
The CEO looked tired and stressed and rightly so, if rumors about what the last few board meetings of the company had been like. He wore a suit, though with the suit coat thrown over the chair behind him. His desk was covered in reports, left open to various pages with paperweights holding them open, while his partially visible computer screen showed more online reports were open. It could have been all for show, of course, but Mark thought Tony’s bleary eyes suggested otherwise.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Tony went straight for the point. “Who was that man? Who called himself Stardust?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Hayward,” Mark said. “But I’ve talked to him enough to know that I think we have an honest-to-God superhero walking among us now. Would you like to make a statement about him?”
“Me? No…” Tony said, staring off into space. “But I do have a statement to make. You can announce that, henceforth, our offshore drill sites will be the safest in the world. We will never put pressure on our workers to cut corners again. My experience on Deep Horizon made me really understand just what we had done. And if you ever talk to this Stardust again, tell him I said that. And…thank you.”
NEXT ISH: Stardust returns home to Elgin, Illinois, for some R&R and to catch up with his friends and family! But he’s not the only one to come to Elgin. Who is stalking him, and why? And what does it have to do with SHROUD? Find out, next time, in “Home Is for the Hunted!”
Sadly, issue #7 never happened. I hope someone enjoys the six-issue run of Stardust!
ROM by Luke Ross and Bob Layton
10 hours ago