It was still early when the Sian Jane got the third alert of course divergence that morning. Routinely she brought up the light screens to survey the area in question. Multiple bright green lines indicated the predestined paths of ships, freight barges and sea steads along the coast and there among them she found the sinner. Sea stead 1048DF. Or rather she didn’t find it. The rapid blinking of the position marker indicated that satellite connection had been lost.
She kept her breath for some seconds, hoping it was only a glitch in the system, but then two alerts were routed in from the help center. Ships near by had seen smoke from the stead.
Quickly she pulled the information and shared it to communication stream of her commanding officer. Then she linked in to the stream of the corporate contact department and requested info on 1048DF and a contact with their offices on land. It didn’t have any hazard notes, but you never knew with the sea steads. They could be notoriously convoluted about their projects and productions, burying unethical or dangerous practices in vague and obfuscating language.
After a minute she got visual confirmation of 1048DF’s new position as the survey satellites spotted it. The position marker stopped blinking and turned yellow,the sea stead was adrift. It didn’t take the system long to pull information from the meteorology center and predict three potential paths. Two of them indicated it would reach Monterey before noon, but all three of them would disrupt the coastal traffic along the coast in dangerous ways.
She activated an area alert on the map and called up the information streams for all the major vessels in danger of meeting the stead on the stretch, quickly she linked in the information necessary to adjust their courses safely.
Blue lights on the screen close to Monterey indicated that first responder drones had been launched from the airport. Blue lights flashed on one of the ships closest to 1048DF too. She had the time to idly wonder what the hurry was, why they had enlisted a civilian drone, before the the information on 1048DF updated on the screen. Biohazard.
In the following hour she almost forgot about her other responsibilities. She kept wishing she had clearance to find out what was really happening. Writing the report could wait. She kept the light screens up and stared at them for any change in the situation.
Then it came, the alert directly from executive. She almost froze in her seat, but managed to shake it and plot in the new area alert on the map. She let the alert sit there for a minute to give the vessels time to react before she swiped her finger in a circle around the drifting sea stead and she pulled the informations streams over to the hack screen. There wasn’t any margin for error in this, no time waste on slow systems or captains wanting more information about why they had to abandon their routes and do a u-turn. Besides she wasn’t the one who would have to deal with their complaints, she was just the one pulling the navigational core from their streams and overriding their local piloting.
She directed them back to their ports of origin out of convenience, but had to manually alter the paths of twenty vessels, that for some reason defaulted to their home ports in stead.
It was a magnificent thing to be able to do and she stared in wonder at the pattern of the looping green lines on her screen. After 30 minutes the the last boat had left the hazard zone and she rerouted the information to executive. Almost immediately new blue spots showed up, this time from Moffett. They wouldn’t be sending more drones, not from Moffett Federal Airfield.
With her heart in her throat the manually ordered a visual from the satellites. What if she had forgotten someone, what if some idiot was out there with a veteran boat. She knew those weren’t likely to cross the freight route along the coast, but you never knew. She scanned the satellite images with scrutiny as they came in, but no, there wasn’t any missed boats, no mistakes.
There was however a better image of the sea stead. Almost so detailed that you could make out what was on deck, almost. Her stomach sank. She hadn’t had time to think about it and now there wasn’t any time to find out. The static picture showed ghostly blurred shapes on deck. Her hands shook as she ordered another image, she had to see, had to see that the shapes were stagnant, that they hadn’t moved. But then the time was out. The blue dots had reached 1048DF. The next good satellite image to come through showed little but burning remains. The next one after that showed even less. The surface of the ocean was burning.