By day the ocean is an endless blue expanse, flecked with shades of darker blue as the waves roll up, casting shadows over its own surface. There are no clouds today; the sky is as unblemished as the ocean is mottled.
There is no sign of land, nor sign of any ships. The compass has started working again, but the two-way radio is still just a constant stream of static, white noise turned so low it barely registers against the sound of the engine as it labors to keep the boat moving. Artemis turns it up higher, listening for breaks or variations in the endless wall of sound.
They’ve taken on a considerable amount of water in the past few hours, and the boat is definitely lower in the water than it should be. There’s too much water below. He’s not sure how much longer they have before the boat gives up entirely, but he’s certain it’s “hours” instead of “days.”
Artemis makes plans.
The boat has a life raft, and he devotes some time to getting it ready. It auto-inflates without issue, and the survival kit, while basic, appears in good order. There are life jackets on board, and David is so deep into cocooning that he doesn’t react when Artemis puts one on him. An hour passes, and they have an exit strategy. It will give them more time, but not enough.
Radio reception is starting to improve. The static is no longer unbroken: he can hear pops and squelches, interrupted occasionally by the distorted sound of speech. He fiddles with the channels, trying to find one clear enough to listen to, and ten minutes later he stumbles across a weather forecast in Spanish. The voice is mostly clear, fading out occasionally but only for a moment or two. Relief floods through Artemis as he realizes they finally have a chance at getting out of this.
He adjusts the radio to a very specific channel, then begins to transmit.
“Oscar, Zoroaster, Phadrig, Isaac, Norman, Henkle, Emmanuel, Ambroise, Diggs. This is Yellow Brick Road. Oscar, Zoroaster, Phadrig, Isaac, Norman, Henckle, Emmanuel, Ambroise, Diggs. This is Yellow Brick Road. Oscar, Zoroaster, Phadrig, Isaac, Norman, Henckle, Emmanuel, Ambroise, Diggs…”
He repeats the message five times, then waits five minutes. Then he repeats the message five times, and waits five minutes. On the third broadcast he gets a reply.
“Yellow Brick Road, Yellow Brick Road, do you copy?”
Artemis allows himself a moment’s satisfaction before replying. “Oscar, Zoroaster, Phadrig, Isaac, Norman, Henkle, Emmanuel, Ambroise, Diggs. This is Yellow Brick Road.”
“Yellow Brick Road, I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Who are you, and why do you seek me?”
“Oscar, Zoroaster, Phadrig, Isaac, Norman, Henkle, Emmanuel, Ambroise, Diggs, this is Yellow Brick Road. Requesting silver shoes.”
The line is silent a moment. Then, in a stronger, clearer tone: “Yellow Brick Road, we have your position. Delivering silver shoes in three hours.”
Artemis does some quick mental calculations. “Acknowledged. We may be in a life raft by then.”
“Understood, Yellow Brick Road. Oz out.”
The channel falls silent. Artemis heaves a sigh of relief.
“Thank you, Dr. Thorpe. A pleasure, as always.”