Pirates of Galapagos
A mournful groan rolled down volcanic peaks as his rusty shovel's last blow slew the mighty beast. Rendra sighed, after an initial period of elation, when it occurred to him just how far he would have to lug the enormous Galapagos tortoise unassisted. 'This is the last time I get rostered on dinner duty alone!' he shouted into the desolate dawn wilderness.
Rendra waded through muddy quagmires filled with thousands of groaning mounds of tortoises. As he reached drier land he passed frigate birds with inflated red chests and blue footed boobies, and along the coastal rocks, penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas and bright red sally lightfoot crabs.
Several hours later, Rendra entered the cave, ducking under the skull and cross bones flag, weaving around the solar panel array, hauling the tortoise with all his might. 'Tonight... we feast!' he exclaimed, through desperate gasps, to an empty cave.
After a further hour of butchery and jamming surplus meat into an angry freezer, Rendra prepared the tortoise stew to simmer. He slept for a few hours on a vibrating futon, before waking to the cheerful ravings of his cave-mates.
'Ay there, Jim lad,' Gazza yelled, with a purring red iguana perched precariously on his shoulder. Jim laughed as he peeled carrots for the stew.
Pointing to a large collection of electronic gizmos, Gazza asked: 'Did you reboot the server around the galleon attack?'
'Fo sho,' Jim replied, nodding assuredly. Nothing could shake his confidence in his computer wizardry. 'Those crazy ass Government hacks ain't got nothin' on me. Government: zero, Jim the Undefeatable: one.'
The rest of the crew entered the cave and the stew was finalised. Alejandro chimed in with 'Ju know wha' Galapagos mean? I mean, how many years ju has been living here? Ju know?'
Silence permeated the cave.
'Ga-la-pa-gos he name for the tortoise, and tortoise he name for the saddle of the horse,' Alejandro explained, and with that Gazza jumped on the emptied out Galapagos shell and cracked an imaginary whip.
'Que rico,' exclaimed El Iguana, as he walked in and grabbed the tortoiseshell bowl filled with stew.
El iguana was named after his job to scramble to the inner depths of a volcanic crater to access the server, protected with 22nd century superconductor and anti-vibration technology. Certain iguanas on Galapagos would lay their eggs in craters because it was the only place remote enough to hide their eggs. Such was the predicament of our crew escaping the anti-piracy and censorship legislation laid down by the world police.
'Enak sih,' Rendra said, not ashamed to take delight in his own cooking as he slurped his stew, filled with chilli, as was the custom in his native Indonesia.
Teora, the sole woman on the crew, hailing from Tahiti, silently enjoyed her feast, also unashamed to enjoy the fruits of her labour in her vegetable plots. The soils of Galapagos were even more volcanic than the soil she was used to in Tahiti, and she found a burgeoning oasis on the nearby island to foster her babies. Babies, of course, referred to her vegetables. Teora meant life in Tahitian, and life she personified and protected. Life of all kinds, including her pet amblypygid, an eyeless half-scorpion, half-spider, named Pete the Hellion.
After dinner and the crew felt confident enough to leave the safety of their cave and took a walk to the peak of a crater to take in the scenery. 'It is just unbelievable, all that way away are enormous orbs of burning gas and there is nothing between us and them to obscure the view. That is pure starlight on my retina, God's own starlight,' Teora said.
'That's right,' Jim agreed, 'Nothing tainted by man, nature's magic.'
As the others wandered off to bed, Teora felt compelled to stay, but did not know why.
Then a noise, coming from below. A rumbling, booming, earth-shattering kind of noise.
'Oh shit! Earthquake! Help me you fools!' Teora yelled.
'Eh hem. That's better,' said the noise, 'One's throat can get awfully froggy at the earth's core, wouldn't you say? Especially when you haven't spoken for thousands of years.'
'Um, hello?' replied Teora.
'So for some reason I'd lost my voice for a few thousand years and then some,' said the voice, 'But don't worry, I've studied every modern dialect thanks to your kickass wireless connection from the crater.'
'Ahh, okay?' replied Teora.
'But there's something else, something special about you, I couldn't talk while the others were here,' the voice added.
'Okay, so what's your name then? And how did you get down there?'
'The name's... unpronounceable in your language, so let's just go with Fire-breathing-dude, or in your native tongue āuahi-huti i te aho-tane. How I got down here? That's more complicated. Have you got all night?' Fire-breathing-dude asked.
'Suppose so,' Teora replied.
'Well let me start with the science that your mob have figured out, underneath these islands there is a giant column of superheated molten rock which goes down 1800 miles to the centre of the Earth. This breaths live to the volcanoes which give birth to the islands. you're cool with that?' he asked.
After a pause, he asked: 'Are you still there? You do know I can't see you right?'
'Okay, sorry, go on,' Teora replied.
'Here goes... I was a god of fire wandering the Earth, minding my own business when I fell down the rabbit-hole...ahh...column of superheated molten rock... to the centre of the Earth. The first few millennia were deathly boring, but it's not so bad now that I have wi-fi,' he replied.
'Okay, with you so far,' Teora said.
'And so now I've got to tell you what I contacted you for. I can feel something bad is about to happen. You need to help your friends, they can't do it without you, he explained.
Teora and Fire-breathing-dude chatted into the night. He summarised the entire contents of the internet, skipping over the porn and voyeuristic social-media. As dawn broke he went silent, and she dragged herself back to the cave and crashed.
Teora awoke the next day to the sounds of trouble brewing.
'I just don't understand it, how did they get through?' Jim spurted as he furiously rattled away at his keyboard.
'Ships ahoy on the horizon,' Gazza yelled from the entrance to the cave after receiving the signal from Rendra who had run back five miles to be in signalling range.
Rendra was on night watch duty after a difficult day's dinner duty. 'We really have to do something about this roster!' he spat at the empty space. The empty space spat back, and Rendra was not amused.
'You really have to wake me when something goes wrong,' Teora insisted, 'I'm not just here for my vegetables you know!' 'Sexist pigs!' she added, under her breath.
As the mighty ship was perched atop the crest of a beastly wave, she froze, in mid air. Was she stuck on a coral reef? Or becalmed by whale-sharks? Gazza wondered. But then the waves crashed beneath her as she hovered in mid air. This was no whale-shark. And then they saw it, the explanation. In yellow lights across her bow, was projected the words: 'buffering ... 25%'. Moments later, 'buffering ... 32%'.
Gazza dove on to the sand then rolled onto his back, cackling and guffawing as his legs and arms twitched about like an overturned beetle. 'It's a virus! Those clever bastards, a virus, that is all.'
Gazza ran to the cave, kicking up a wave of sand in his wake. He switched on the main console which had gone into standby mode to conserve energy. 'Hurry the %! up you %!ing %!' he yelled, as he tapped his foot repeatedly.
'Buffering 98%' the projected image said, before the ship reappeared and landed. Two sailor climbed down a knotted rope jumped into waist-deep water. As they waded towards the beach, the others ran to the cave.
'They're... gasp... coming!' said Teora, 'What's taking so long?'
'It's running really slow and about to crash. Seriously, this is the 22nd century, we still can't create a computer that doesn't crash?' Gazza replied.
Teora was silent and looked down at the floor, shuffling her feet about.
As they sailors passed the sand onto harder land, they heard the approach of rushed footsteps.
Suddenly Teora raised her head and pointed to the floor.
'What?' Gazza asked.
Teora picked up the power cable and plugged it into the console. 'You were running on sub-ether backup supply you moron!'
Not more than three seconds later Gazza's program had opened and he searched for the virus infection-site. He typed three lines of code.
'It says "Unable to recognise and destroy virus." Shiiiiiiiit,' Gazza said.
The two sailors appeared in the entrance to the cave.
Gazza looked down again at the console display. 'Phew, is says "Quarantining..."', he said, and looked up.
The sailors were swept off their feet by a gust of wind, and blown across the cave to an alcove. Holographic bars appeared in front of the sailors, and they were frozen in time, like a still photograph.
Three weeks later, Jim asked through his turtle-soup breakfast: 'Must we look at them all day? It freaks me out.'
'Okay, I'll fix it,' said Teora, grabbing a pirate flag from the laundry closet and pinning it in front of the bars.
'Done!' she said.
'La cuarentena no es para siempre es sólo por 10 000 años,' said the first computer virus-generated quarantined Spanish galleon sailor. He spoke again: 'Por favor espere! ... English mode: on... The quarantine is not forever, it's only for 10 000 years.'
He ducked under the pirate flag as the bars dissolved into the ether.
'English mode: on,' said the other virus-sailor, a.k.a. virus sailor number two 'I think I know what it is.'
'You do?' asked virus-sailor number one.
''Check your data banks for computing history, 12:01am 1 January 2000,' said virus-sailor number two.
'My gosh, Y2K? Gosh these humans are stupid. They didn't have enough digits, what did they think would happen? We'd stop using computers by 1999 so it wouldn't matter? Stupid! But I don't get it, what's this got to do with the quarantine?' asked virus-sailor one.
'Okay, now you think what happens in the year 10,000 when you have a four digit date? You go back to zero, exact same problem. And what's this lock set to do?' asked virus-sailor two.
'I don't know,' replied virus-sailor one, shrugging.
'To stay locked from every date after the day we were locked up. But this is now the year zero, so it can't be before that date. As far as it's concerned, we've travelled back in time,' explained virus-sailor two.
They walked around the cave.
'I don't think they've been here in a long time,' virus-sailor two said.
'What makes you say that?' asked virus-sailor one.
Virus-sailor two motioned to the back room, and said 'In here.'
Strewn across the floor were of human skeletons.
'That, and the fact that the average human lifespan is still well under 300 years,' added virus-sailor two, winking.
'How are they still so well preserved?' asked virus-sailor one.
'Good question, first intelligent thing you've said all day,' replied virus-sailor two, as he picked up a note from the right hand of what he guessed to be Rendra, based on height and the bottle of herbs still clutched in his left hand.
He read the note out loud:
Avast, me hearties! Here be th' cave o' th' Galapagos Pirates (^ an' wench). We be exiles 'ere from all th' world's lands. We sailed th' se'en seas t' these most unforgivin' isles t' escape th' wrath o' tyrannical regimes an' pillage us some freedom. Freedom, fer all th' world, t' say what ye want t' say, write what ye want t' write, and read what ye want t' read, on this here world-wide web.
Inspired by t` Galapagos gentleman o' fortunes o` t` 16th Century, we answer t' nay landlubber kings.
...Ahh bugger it, this pirate talk is too hard. Okay, so back in the days when it was just Jim, internet censorship was getting so whack he moved his anarchist operations to Australia, where he met Gazza. Of course it didn't last long there so they had to keep moving. First to Sweden, picking up Rendra on the way through, then Tanzania, whose leftist Government was on our side. Then when the Global Thought Police (not their official title) put pressure on the Tanzanians, then they weren't on our side anymore, so we moved to Antarctica, but after a week we just thought, screw this, it's too damn cold! By this time the world was fast running out of fuel and after we reached Patagonia and setup a temporary base on Tierra del Fuego, decided we had no choice but to get to Galapagos by sailing ship. Alejandro, El Iguana and Teora we picked up in Manta, Ecuador, and sailed to meet our destiny on Galapagos.
We pirates an' wench o' t' modern seas
Sail under a black jolly roger, but be havin' nay fleas
We fear nay tyranny o' landlubber kings
We cast a world-wide net fro' freedom's wings
T' galleon ships sent the'r scurvy-rat fien's
But they couldna beat our quarrantine's
Eternal grip on the'r viral soul.
So they ended frozen in our pirate hole.
And t' make sure we'll outlast them viral drones
We sprinkled magic powder o'er our bones
Yo ho ho, a pirate's life for all!
'So, um, what do we do now then?' asked virus-sailor one, sheepishly.
'Um... err... I guess we're free, let's see what's out there,' replied virus-sailor two.
Virus-sailor two climbed onto the roof of the cave to fix the solar array, and made sure the main console was charging. He logged on and began to write lines of code. 'This program will get us around the world, we're free,' he said.
When they reached their boat it was stocked to the brim with supplies, and they slept for the first leg of the journey, trusting the program to handle any disasters that struck them. They arrived at the nearest coastal metropolis, Panama City, and were greeted by a small monkey, who promptly jumped on their heads and coated them with dung. They walked for days through the city and did not see a soul. They kept sailing, Los Angeles, Tokyo, nothing. Eventually they landed at Madagascar.
'Okay, not quite what I was expecting,' muttered virus-sailor one.
A woman looked at them, and grabbed her children with fright, speaking some dialect their databases did not recognise. She grabbed their hands and ran towards a cliff-edge, leaping off.
'NOOOOOOO!' shouted virus-sailor two.
They walked to the edge and looked down, but could not see them. They looked up, and saw something new. Protruding from the woman and children's arms were long black wings.