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Authors: Philip Roy

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BOOK: Eco Warrior
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It was the same message Margaret had given me, and yet, somehow, with his gentle manner and soft voice, it hit home even harder for me. I felt as though I was listening to a soft-spoken angel declaring the end of the world.

When the protest was over, I wandered back to the industrial pier with a heavy heart. Was it really too late? If so, why did the world still look okay to me? I mean, I had been all around it, and had seen some terrible things, yet never got the impression it was actually dying. I knew it was in trouble, not dying. Still, that speaker’s words affected me deeply. They were so measured and certain I almost felt the air had less oxygen in it than it had before he spoke.

Chapter Eight

SHE WAS SITTING ON THE floating pier beside the sub. She was the only one there. I was pretty sure I had seen her at the demonstration. I wondered what she was doing here.

She was about thirty years old, I was guessing; it was hard for me to gauge the age of anyone over twenty. Her hair was light brown, her eyes blue, and her face had a soft expression, as if she were an animal caretaker, or kindergarten teacher, or something like that. She was about my height, and athletic, but not a sailor. I could tell by the way she was staring at the sea. She wasn’t looking at the sub, either, even though she was sitting right beside it, and could see it easily enough, and that gave me the impression she wasn’t interested in it. She fooled me that way.

“Hi,” I said, because she pretended she didn’t see me when I stepped onto the pier. Hollie followed at my feet.

“G’day,” she said. “You’re going to sea, are ya?” She had that kind of Australian accent that made every sentence sound playful.

“Yes. Eventually.”

“Is the little dog going with ya?”

“Yes.”

“That’s all right. Where are you going to next?”

I looked at her. There was something behind her questions, I could feel it, but didn’t know what it was. “We’re going to Tasmania. We’ve got a few weeks of sailing ahead of us first.”

“That’s all right, too. That’s quite the contraption you’ve got there. Been at sea long?”

“A couple of years.”

“How old are ya?”

“Sixteen. Turning seventeen.”

She almost laughed, but caught herself. I figured she was going to keep asking me questions unless I asked her one. So I did. “Did I see you at the protest today?”

She smiled. “Yeah. Ya did.”

“You must be interested in saving the environment then.”

“Yeah, I sure am. And you?”

“That’s why I’m here. I want to learn how to save the oceans.”

“That’s brilliant. Good on you. Did you learn anything at the protest today?”

“I think so. I learned something from listening to that big lawyer.”

“A lawyer?” Now she was really curious. “Who was that then?”

“I don’t know his real name, but I heard somebody call him ‘Brass-knuckles Bennett.’”

She laughed, dropped her head, and shook it from side to side. “Brass-knuckles Bennett?”

“Do you know who he is?”

“Yah, I know who that is.”

“You do?”

“Yeah. That’s me.”

“What?” She must have been joking. “But…he was a man.”

“Yeah, that was Pritchard Lovelace you were listening to. He’s a good speaker.”

“Sorry.”

“No worries. I get that a lot. When people hear you’re a tough barrister, they just assume you’re a man. Anyone called ‘Brass-knuckles Bennett’ must be a man, right?” She stuck out her hand. “My name’s Jewels. What’s yours?”

“Alfred.” We shook hands. “Why do they call you ‘Brass-knuckles Bennett?”

“Well, Bennett’s my last name, by marriage. The brass-knuckles part comes from the fact that I don’t like to lose. So I fight hard.”

“Hate to lose what?”

“In court. And, usually, I don’t. But today I did. And the thing that I lost to is sitting right over there.” She pointed south.

“The navy? You lost to the navy?”

She shook her head. “Look a little beyond that.”

“There’s just the oil refinery.”

“Right.”

“You lost to the oil refinery?”

“Not exactly. Have you got a pair of binoculars in your submarine by any chance?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Can we have a look? Would you mind?”

“Not at all. Just a second.” I opened the hatch, climbed in with Hollie, and put him down. He went straight to his water dish, I climbed back out with the binoculars. “Here they are,” I said, and passed them to her.

She raised them and looked. “Yeah. There it is. The
Indigo
. Have a look.” She handed the binoculars back.

“What is it?”

“A tanker.”

“Oh.” I took a look. “I see her.”

“Yeah, why do you sailors always call a ship a
her
? What’s that about?”

“I don’t know; it’s a tradition.”

“That’s a steel machine weighing who knows how many thousands of tons, and its belly is filling up with stinky black oil, and you call it a ‘her’ as if she’s a little girl or something.”

I stared at Jewels. I wondered what she wanted. I could tell she wanted something.

“Tell me, Alfred. Can you make tea on your submarine?”

“Yes, I can. Would you like some?”

“I would wrestle a croc for a cup of tea.”

“Come in.”

So she followed me in. She came down the ladder slowly, and found a spot on the floor beside the observation window in the bow, next to Hollie’s blanket. It was the only comfortable spot I had for a guest. I brought her a pillow to sit on, then put a pot of water on for tea. Jewels looked around curiously, but wasn’t as interested in the sub as people usually were. I didn’t think she was much impressed by machines.

“So, where are you from, Alfred? And what brings you to Australia?” I passed her a cup of tea, and she raised the cup to her lips, took a sip carefully, and stared at me. She was studying me. I felt as though I was on the witness stand.

“I’m from Newfoundland, Canada, and I’ve been sailing around the world for almost a year now, but I’ve been at sea on and off for two and a half years. I came here because I want to become an active environmentalist, if it’s not too late, and I heard that Australia is the best place to learn about it.”

She smiled with genuine enthusiasm. “This is synchronistic, Alfred.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that we were meant to meet, because I’m keen to save the environment, too. But tell me, why did you say, ‘if it’s not too late?’ What’s that about?”

“Well, I met somebody at sea who told me that it’s definitely too late. And that speaker at the protest said it is. And scientists on the radio say it is. Do you think it
isn’t
?”

“Are you alive?”

“Yes.”

“Then it’s not too late.” Jewels took another sip of tea, and stared over the cup at me. She was thinking of something else for sure. I wondered when she’d come out with it. “You’re from Canada, you’re a sailor, and you want to become an environmentalist, so…you must know about the Sea Shepherd Society, right?”

“I think I’ve heard of them, but I don’t know who they are.”

“You don’t?”

“No.”

“And Captain Paul Watson? You know who he is, right? He’s a Canadian hero.”

“No.”

She laughed. “You’re a wannabe environmentalist from Canada and you’ve never heard of one of the most important environmentalists in the world, who’s from your own country?”

“No. Who is he?”

“He’s the patron saint of whales. He created the Sea Shepherd Society to stop the slaughter of whales, dolphins, and other creatures in the sea. But he’s not your typical environmentalist. He’s more like a vigilante. He’s a whaler’s worst nightmare. He flies the Jolly Roger.”

“The skull and crossbones? Is he a pirate?”

“He is if you’re killing whales. Otherwise, he’s a pretty nice guy. Right now, he’s in Hobart, getting ready to return to the Southern Ocean to fight Japanese whalers who are not supposed to be there, but who go there every year to hunt whales anyway. You must know that there’s a moratorium on whaling, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, the waters of the Southern Ocean constitute a special whale sanctuary. They’re protected waters. Nobody’s allowed to hunt there. And yet, Japanese whalers hunt and kill thousands of whales every year, and call it ‘research.’ Then they sell the meat on the market. Everyone knows it’s not for research, but nobody has the guts to stop them, except Captain Watson. Nobody lives in Antarctica, so there’s no police force, which is why the Sea Shepherd Society must go there, find the whalers, and stop them. They do everything they can to prevent the killing. If you want to be an environmentalist, Alfred, then you must agree with them, right?”

“Yes, of course.”

“And that’s why I’m here from Sydney. That tanker over there, the
Indigo
, is filling up with oil as we speak. The day after tomorrow,
she’s
scheduled to sail for the Southern Ocean, where
she’s
not supposed go, because oil tankers are not permitted below the 60-degree latitude line, where an oil spill would be catastrophic for whales, seals, penguins, and all sea life. But no one’s stopping her. That tanker is going to refuel the whalers so that they can keep hunting. Otherwise, they’d have to go home. So that’s why I’m here, to bring a court injunction to stop the
Indigo
from leaving port tomorrow.”

“But it didn’t work?”

“That’s right, because the pockets of oil companies are deeper than everybody else’s, and politicians are in the habit of rewarding whoever funds their political campaigns. So, we lost this battle, but not the war. Did you follow that?”

“I think so.”

Jewels took another sip of tea, and stared over the cup. “Alfred?”

Here it comes. “Yes?”

“Let me ask you a hypothetical question.”

“Okay.”

“Let’s say you wanted to stop a ship like the
Indigo
from leaving port, just for a week or so. What would you do, short of blowing it up? I’m just talking hypothetically here, of course. I’m not being serious.”

She sure sounded serious. “What would
I
do?”

“Yeah, what would
you
do, but so that you wouldn’t get caught? Just for fun, what would you do?”

I thought about it. “Well, I might try wrapping ropes around the propeller. They’d twist up and shut the engine down maybe, and possibly cause some engine damage. Well, it would burn out the engine of a smaller boat for sure, but maybe not a tanker. The big engines of a tanker probably have safety features built in to protect them from things like that. Probably it would shut them down just for a day or so.”

“But for longer than that, what would you do? Just hypothetically.”

She stared at me so closely it felt as though she were counting the hairs of my eyelashes. I stared back. She didn’t look like the kind of person who would sabotage a tanker. On the other hand, I didn’t know what a person like that looked like. “I suppose if I really had to stop a ship from leaving port, I’d probably cut through the blades of the propeller with a blow torch, or at least part way. Then, I’d wrap a chain around the blades underwater, so that when the ship started up her engines, the chain would snap the propeller blades clear off. The propeller of a tanker like that has probably got four blades, or maybe five. You’d probably have to cut through just two blades to keep her from sailing. I’m guessing it would take them at least a couple of weeks to get another propeller, if not a month. I think that’s what I’d do. I sure wouldn’t want to get caught though.”

“No, of course not. It’s just a hypothetical question anyway. Nobody’s going to do that.” She smiled strangely. “How long would it take to cut through two blades?”

“Probably a couple of hours. Maybe more. But it would have to be somebody who knows how to operate a welding torch under water. That’s a pretty specialized skill. And you’d have to do it right next to the navy. That’d be pretty crazy.”

“I suppose.”

“And that’s sabotage.”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe it’s terrorism.”

“Nah, that’s not terrorism.” Jewels sipped her tea and stared at the periscope, but her eyes were out of focus. Her mind was far away. I might have guessed where.

Chapter Nine

BOOK: Eco Warrior
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