The Yacht as Big as Manhattan
by Mark Mellon
Jared Pinkner stood on the vacant green, hair ruffled by the brisk March wind. Choatover Hall was empty, the other boys already with their families on Spring Break. Yet it was still the happiest day in his life.
“Oh, hi, Tare.”
Tariq wore sockless red deck shoes, flawlessly creased white slacks, white shirt with red cravat, blue blazer with Royal Bermuda Yacht Club crest on the pocket, and a yachting cap with SS Ingens embroidered in gold above the bill. Jared felt inadequate in his polo shirt, khakis, and tasseled loafers.
A plaintiff’s attorney’s son, Jared was an outcast among the pampered scions of hedge fund managers and white shoe law firm partners. Pariah status ended with acceptance by Tariq, only son of the world’s richest man. When Tariq casually asked if he’d like to spend Spring Break with him, Jared was delighted.
“Is Mr. Arkadin sending a limo?”
Tariq laughed. “So we can be swarmed by paparazz and mediabots? They’d go mad if they discover I’ve got a new bro. It would be disaster. Ata knows better. The orthocopter will be here soon.”
A buzz overhead, steadily louder and closer.
Tariq pointed to low hills in the distance, brown flanks covered by newly budding trees. A red and white dot appeared. As it drew closer, stubby wings became distinct. Powered by rotor blades on top and pusher blades in the rear, the aircraft slowed as it approached to descend almost vertically to the ground.
“Too bad the other boys couldn’t see it.”
“A security risk. Ata had them evacuated, even ones with no place to go, until we’re gone.”
“Where did they go?”
“I suppose Ata put them in some hotel.”
The orthocopter taxied briefly to halt before the boys. A black Mitsubishi 2030 VIPXL servbot detached itself, walked over on extended limbs, and bowed.
“Greetings, masters. I’ll take your luggage.”
Geared arms took Jared’s cotton duffel along with Tariq’s Louis Vuitton alligator suitcases. Bags packed, the bot assisted them into the passenger compartment, and reattached to the orthocopter.
“Forty-five minute ETA, Master.”
The orthocopter steeply ascended. Jared looked down.
“What are those by the woods?”
Tariq peered through a window. Helicopters hovered, hidden below the tree line, awaiting their departure. Swarms of black globes poured forth from the helicopters like eggs from spawning fish, headed after the orthocopter.
“Media drones. Evasive action.”
In scant seconds, the craft reached 900 kph. Drones hotly pursued, trailed by the slower copters. A swivel mounted, .9 mm Gatling gun extruded from the fuselage and opened fire. White hot tracer rounds shattered drones into tiny pieces.
“You hit a helicopter.”
A yellow Cessna Sol Electric marked WTPP spiraled downward in flames.
“Journalism’s rough. That’s why Ata has lawyers. “
Fed continuous GPS satellite data, the servbot flew the orthocopter over Connecticut, the Sound’s broad expanse, and Long Island’s eastern tip.
“Shall we strafe the Hamptons?”
Jared gaped in horror.
“Just kidding. We’ve probably got classmates there.”
Tariq unzipped his pants slit and played games on his Thigh-Phone. The orthocopter flew past the international limit and the sea lanes, deep into the North Atlantic. After his feeble attempts at conversation were ignored, Jared stared at the boundless seascape. They were dwarfed amid 360 degrees of empty, gray sea and an overcast, iron domed sky, not another aircraft or a ship in sight. Myriad whitecaps tossed atop heaving waves.
Ahead in the distance, indistinct in the mist, a shadowy bulk loomed, a few white dots above it. Gulls.
“It looks like land.”
“That’s the yacht. Sharp eyes, Jare. You saw it before the bot.”
“Ingens ahead. Prepare to land.”
The bulk swelled in size and detail. A leviathan floated beneath them, endlessly long and broad, tipped with a steep mountain at one end, tapered to a prow at the other. Green forest fringed a rectangular lake lined by fantastic mansions and palaces. Beneath the earthen deck, enormous stainless steel plates sloped into the sea, the hull of the biggest, mightiest ship ever built.
“I’m glad you came, Jare. Ata usually just talks business and Rox is a pain.”
“My sister, Roxelana. You’ll see.”
The orthocopter approached an airfield that bordered the lake. Anti-aircraft missile defenses locked on only to deactivate when the servbot transmitted an IFF code. The orthocopter landed and taxied to where a tall man stood alone. The servbot assisted them out.
Tariq and the man conversed in a strange tongue.
“Wait. We ignore our guest. That’s impolite. Young man, how are you? I’m Mahabey Arkadin, Ingens‘s Captain.”
“Jared Pinkner, sir. Nice to meet you. Thanks for inviting me.”
They shook hands. Arkadin was dark and handsome like Tariq, but taller, broader shouldered and thicker, identically dressed in what was apparently the ship’s uniform, except for a pistol in a holster on his right hip. His triangular face had a distinctly Mephistophelean aspect with dark, flashing eyes, framed by an iron gray, spade shaped beard. He carried an ebony walking stick topped by an emerald big as a hen’s egg.
“Full speed ahead,” he said to the emerald. “Would you like to rest or are you up for a tour?”
“Oh, I very much want to see the ship, Mr. Arkadin.”
“Please, call me Maha, Jared. Tariq, will you accompany us or would you rather see your sister?”
Tariq grimaced. “You know the answer, Ata. Let’s go.”
“You do ride, Jared?”
Three, big, muscular horses stood saddled nearby. Jared’s riding experience was limited to a rocking horse outside the grocery store his mother let him use when he was three.
“Like the wind, sir.”
Arkadin gave Jared a wry look. “Let’s go then.”
Jared knew enough to mount from the left, but once in the saddle had no clue how to further proceed, high atop a shifting, heaving beast over whom he had absolutely no control. Anxious not to appear scared or unskilled, Jared held the reins like Tariq, clamped hard to the horse’s flanks, and prayed not to fall.
“Yürümek,” Arkadin commanded.
The horses advanced at a walk. Grateful for the slow pace, Jared relaxed somewhat. They crossed a ship twenty kilometers long and three wide. Gray sea was visible in the distance through the trees. The trail paralleled the lake. They passed full scale, to the last detail accurate replicas of Balmoral Castle, Versailles, the Forbidden City, the Taj Mahal, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, and other renowned structures, meticulously maintained, but eerily empty, without sign of habitation.
“Where’s the crew? I’d think you’d need one for a ship this size.”
“Good question, Jared. Bots of every type and specification, all designed by myself, service this ship more surely and reliably than any human crew. We’ll tour the botfac below deck later.”
At lake’s end, once past the Taj’s enormous white dome, the trail sloped upward toward the ivory mountain, topped by a circular, white marble, Greek temple, domed with Ionic columns.
“Gitmek,” Arkadin said.
The horses galloped. Fiery, curve nosed barbs strove to outrace each other. Jared pitched forward. By instinct rather than wit, he grabbed the mane and desperately hung on. Precariously balanced over the saddle, feet deep in the stirrups, Jared somehow managed to stay atop as the horse snorted, tossed his head, and hurtled onward. The horses didn’t slow when they hit the slope, but instead ran faster. Vertigo abetted terror. Jared’s tunnel vision only saw the steep trail before him. The horses halted before the temple. Jared trembled.
“Aferin, Jared. Excellent.”
Tariq gazed at him with newfound respect. Jared smiled like it was nothing and slowly, cautiously dismounted. They entered the temple.
“Come to the taffrail, Jared.”
A three sided, marble frieze fringed the stern, strange, mythical scenes of sex and violence. The wind was nearly overpowering at the edge, the sea reek strong. Hundreds of meters below, enormous whirlpools spewed white foam.
“Each screw is a quarter kilometer in diameter. We’ll reach cruising speed soon, fifty knots.”
“What sort of engine can make the ship move so fast?”
“Only the world’s biggest nuclear reactor, Jared. Don’t you see tadblogs?”
“Tariq, don’t condescend. You ask good, intelligent questions, Jared. There’s a viewing glass over there if you care to use it.”
An elaborate, multi-geared, bronze cylinder fitted with high powered lenses stood on a revolving pedestal. Jared swiveled the cylinder to scan the ship. Past the lake and palaces, frothy waves crashed against the prow as Ingens drove on, unstoppable in her overpowering weight and bulk, heedless of tide or current, intent solely upon her own way. As water cascaded over the prow and fell away, a green figurehead emerged from the spume, a woman in classical robes with a radiant crown, torch in her outthrust right hand.
“That’s the Statue-“
“I got it quite reasonably after Liberty Island flooded. Let’s return so we can change before dinner.”
They traveled at a trot, something Jared handled after his baptism by fire. On the immense grounds of the Ministers Court of Versailles, a few figures on a vast, ceremonial landscape, housebots in red and black livery helped them dismount and led away the horses.
“You’ll want to clean up, Jared. I need to speak with Tariq, so a bot will escort you.”
A squat bot on caterpillar treads led Jared down a high ceilinged, ornate hall to a State Apartment, an enormous room with vermilion walls and an inset, huge bed. The bathroom’s circular, rose marble bathtub was filled with warm water, scented with rosehips and violets. Tired and sore, Jared gratefully soaked. Clean and perfumed, he found evening dress laid out, white tie and tails with patent leather shoes. Everything fit perfectly.
The Hall of Mirrors adjoined the State Apartments. He went down the infinitely long, high ceilinged, mirror walled hall. The Arkadins sat on high-backed, elaborately carved wooden chairs at one end of a long table. In evening dress also, Tariq and Arkadin drank wine from golden goblets. A tall, buxom, raven haired young woman lounged opposite Tariq, clad in a skintight, scanty, black vibrex sheath.
“Jared. Have a seat. Meet Roxelana.”
Jared smiled, hand extended across the table. Roxelana ignored him. Jared awkwardly sat, face beet red.
Arkadin sighed. “Rox. I said be polite.”
Roxelana blinked kohled lids. “Why? He goes to Tariq’s reactionary school.”
Arkadin shrugged. “She’s been like this since she went to Oxford. Hopefully, she’ll outgrow it.”
Roxelana blinked. A vaporfly fluttered over on iridescent blue green wings and put a tube to her mouth.
“A nasty habit, especially before dinner. Speaking of which, serve it.”
Upon floral pattern china with a golden service and lace serviettes, footbots served a royal ballotine of pheasant, petit pâté en croûte à la bourgeoise, deep sea oysters, lobster aspic chaud-froid, beef madrilène with gold leaf spangles, pureed chestnut soup with truffles, shellfish bisque with a boletus infusion, pumpkin soup, scallops with oyster liquor, wild duck cromesquis à la Villeroy, hare stew, roast beef, carrots and smoked eel, wild salmon au sel, green and fresh herb salad in gold leaf, rice salad à la royale, morel soufflé, iced cheese, hard-boiled egg, fruit, and an edible candle to top it off.
The men ate like starved savages after a successful hunt. Roxelana drank and vaped.
“Get enough to eat, Jared?”
“Thanks. I’m full, Maha.”
“I think it’s disgusting. Conspicuous consumption while billions go hungry. You should be ashamed.”
“Yes, Rox. Jared, would you like to know how Ingens was constructed?”
Roxelana hissed, even Tariq rolled his eyes, but Jared eagerly nodded. Arkadin puffed his cigar.
“The coast of Gujarat Province in India is literally covered with thousands of wrecks, battered hulks deemed fit only for scrap. Humble salvagers toiled to tear them apart until one of those strange flashes of inspiration that mark my career struck me. Rather than let proud ships be scavenged, I assembled them instead into long columns of thousands in the Gulf of Khambaht. It took years and hundreds of thousands of bots and humans, but they welded together the greatest keel ever laid since Noah floated the Ark.”
“How many died to build your yacht?”
“Eggs and omelets, Rox. I created my own pirate nation.”
“Here we go again.”
“Rox, hush. I don’t propose to reside alone. That would grow stale. Ingens will be available to other select passengers, free souls who don’t abide by little people’s rules, Plato’s philosopher kings, the first truly liberated men in history. We’ll cruise where we please, Atlantic and Pacific, subject to no government, tax or law.”
“Reactionary fantasy. As if capitalist parasites could co-exist, trapped on this tub.”
“Ideology poisons you, Rox. Once the ecorrilla rumors are quashed, qualified candidates will apply.”
“What’s an ecorrilla?” Jared said.
“It’s Ata‘s paranoid fantasy. He thinks Ingens is infested with green gremlins out to sink the ship. Why do you think he carries a pistol?”
“I keep a sidearm in case the large game animals act up. My daughter is a fabulist, Jared. Ingens is invulnerable. A few, misguided souls tried to infiltrate by ultralights or minisubs, but all met a condign fate.”
Roxelana threw her wine glass at Arkadin. He neatly dodged.
“They’re martyrs. You’re so cruel.”
She ran away sobbing. After an awkward silence, Arkadin lit a cigar.
“I should have told you, Jared; it’s never dull here. Roxelana has spirit, like her poor, dear mother, Selima. Pity overwhelms her reason. You’ll forgive her?”
“Of course, Maha. My sisters are drama queens too.”
Arkadin chuckled. “Very generous. Now you must excuse us. I need to talk with Tariq. Tomorrow, I’ll give a full tour from orlop to spar deck.”
Jared obediently went to his room and went to bed. He soon lapsed into sleep, adolescent mind consumed by Roxelana’s lissome, black clad form.
Over the next few days, Jared explored Ingens. Without a guidebot, it was easy to get lost. Amid other curiosities, the lower decks held a submarine the size of an Airbus A7000, always ready for a pleasure cruise or a quick escape, a, 50,000 seat amphitheatre, a fully equipped, body regeneration capable hospital, and hydroponic farms that continually produced a cornucopia of genetically engineered red meat, crustaceans, and diverse choice delicacies unavailable anywhere else in the world. Most of the lower decks were taken up by the botfac, a brobdingnagian, multifarious, incomprehensibly intricate system that continually refined and improved itself. From hulking deck seabots to surveillance drones, bots streamed from production lines, eager to do their tasks.
The million megawatt nuclear reactor effortlessly powered the ship southward to balmier climes. Arkadin sailed far from other ships, indifferent to cost or efficiency aboard his autarkic ark. While friendly and hospitable to Jared when around, Arkadin and Tariq were often unavailable, locked in discussion.
“Ata talks about business, what to do when he retires. For example, we own what’s left of the subcontinent after the Indo-Pak ’27 Nuke War and Ata can’t decide whether to grow cotton with bots or use human slaves. Stuff like that.”
Jared was suitably impressed. Flattered and humbled by his sojourn among the high and mighty, his thoughts fixated on Roxelana. Jared burned for her with the searing pain of first infatuation. The full lipped, haughty heiress ignored him. He was basically left to his own devices, killing time on the 108-hole golf course with lake size water hazards and sand traps big as English moors, with no company but a caddybot.
One night, while lodged in Balmoral Castle, he was roused from sleep by a sharp knock. He opened the door to find Roxelana in camouflage fatigues and black boots.
“I’m going on a run. Will you help?”
“Let me get dressed.”
Jared raced into his clothes, mind feverish with lust. Roxelana put a finger to her lips and motioned for him to follow her down a stone corridor decorated with knights’ armor and weapons. A black, low slung, electric Husqvarna ATV was in the Kitchen Court.
“Get in back.”
The ATV silently rolled through the gateway. The mammoth gray stone pile dwindled into darkness. Roxelana drove without headlights, threaded through the wilderness with only a half moon to guide her. The sea roared, a constant, angry rush and howl, so unlike waves’ rhythmic slap against a shore. Roxelana stopped.
“Put these bags in that banyan tree.”
Jared put the heavy bags in a hollow of a towering, multifold banyan. One bag held US Army foodpax, the other 5.56 mm caseless ammo boxes.
“Come on. Hurry.”
They dropped off rations, weapons, ammo, first aid kits, technical manuals, and inspirational vidchips. Other than giving brusque orders like Jared was a bot, Roxelana paid him no attention. They systematically covered the deck. Tired, Jared wished they were done and yearned for bed. Roxelana flipped a console switch.
Green turf raised before them to reveal a gaping, brightly lit orifice. Roxelana drove down a winding, spiral ramp to the orlop deck, hundreds of meters below the surface. Jared slowly worked his way up endless plastic corridors lined with multi-colored piping. He stashed more bags in storage lockers and odd nooks and crannies throughout the titanic hull, in the botfac and the hospital, the amphitheatre’s endless halls. Hours crept by spent in unaccustomed hard work. The last bag was placed. Roxelana nodded in satisfaction.
She drove back to Balmoral and left him at the Kitchen Court without a word or a backward glance. Down unlit stone halls, Jared stumbled to his suite as best he could.
An alarmbot gently nudged Jared awake at eight bells. He groaned and was about to sleep again when he remembered that if he didn’t get breakfast, he’d go hungry until lunchtime. Jared quickly dressed, brushed his teeth, and went to the Great Hall only to find it empty. He ate soft boiled eggs, kippers, and toast, but no one joined him. The Arkadins were once again indisposed. Exasperated with his inconsiderate hosts, Jared decided to spend another day on the links.
He stood on the perfectly smooth, green, city block sized first tee, six iron in his hands. Somewhere in the distance lay Africa and South America, although Jared couldn’t say which was where. Jared struck clean and true. The jet assisted ball flew straight down the middle for two kilometers to land in the middle of the green.
“Well played, sir,” the hovering caddybot said.
Jared jumped on the caddybot’s seat. The bot flew him to the ball.
He was about to drive again when oncoming hooves’ rumble diverted him. Arkadin and Tariq raced toward him on their fastest blond barbs. They expertly halted from a full gallop and dismounted, faces grim.
“Jared, did you go out with my daughter last night?”
“Well, it’s not like we did anything. I just dumped stuff off for her.”
“What kind of stuff?” Arkadin demanded.
“Army rations and manuals about guns and booby traps. Things like that.”
Tariq stared at Jared open mouthed. “You didn’t realize those are ecorrilla supplies? What sort of moron are you, Jared?”
“There’s no need to call me names, Tare.”
“Jared’s right, Tariq. Nonetheless, you made a serious error in judgment, young man, by helping Roxelana. I took the precaution of having microdrones surveil you. I saw you both.”
As if summoned, Roxelana approached, attended by a halo of buzzing, differently tinted vaporflies.
“Ata. Did you want to see me?”
Arkadin pointed grimly at Jared, eyes blazing with an Old Testament prophet’s fire. “Roxelana, from this boy’s own mouth, he convicts you of aiding ecorrillas.”
Roxelana winked. A mauve winged fly vaped her. She exhaled smoke and laughed.
“Of course. Jared’s a gutless, conformist idiot. I knew he’d confess. That’s why I took him along.”
“What? You brought Jared to seal your own guilt? Have you vaped until you’ve lost your mind?”
“No, Ata. I just wanted to distract your surveil drones.”
“The thermite bomb in the orlop deck.”
A muffled crump went off below their feet. Ingens shook and rocked like a volcano torn island. The impact threw them flat. Tariq stood, baleful eyes on Roxelana.
“You rotten bitch. You ruined my Spring Break and embarrassed me in front of Jared.”
He threw himself on Roxelana. The two fought as only siblings can. Arkadin tried to pry them apart.
“Really, this is no way to behave during a crisis.”
Roxelana’s bomb had blown a mortal hole in the keel. Ingens rapidly took on water in increasing volume. The figurehead dipped beneath the waves for the last time, elegant and graceful to the end. Water lapped over more and more of the deck as the ship’s own bulk, weight, and forward momentum propelled it straight toward Davy Jones’s Locker.
Jared had to escape. The horses stood nearby, well trained and obedient. In a moment, he was atop one.
“Go. Run. Hurry.”
He kicked the horse’s flanks and the animal at last lurched into a gallop. Jared clung tightly as the horse raced from the golf course and past the lake, headed toward the stern and high ground. He reached the temple in record time and dismounted. Jared ran to the looking glass and gazed below.
The ocean had almost swept to the first tee. Figures clad in fashionable black were still locked in struggle, a modern Laocoön, only to be carried away by the engulfing, hungry waters. He was alone on the ship, the last one standing, with death by drowning only a question of when. Desperate, he ran to the taffrail and looked below. The stern was steeply tipped. Enormous screws spun speedily, futilely in the air. If he jumped, they’d shred him into mincemeat. He wailed piteously until an amplified voice shouted.
“Hey. We’ll get you out. Hold your arms up.”
Jared looked up. A small, green dirigible hovered overhead. A man with long red hair and a beard dangled a rope with a noose from an open hatch.
“Hold your arms up, dumbass.”
Jared obediently raised his arms. After a few missed tries, the man snagged Jared by the armpits. A winch slowly hauled him up. The man pulled him into the dirigible. Jared lay on the deck, gasping for air. The hold reeked of biodiesel fumes.
“Good thing for you we were on patrol.”
“Are you ecorrillas?”
The man laughed. “Whatever that means. I’m a Solar Green volunteer doing a vidumentary on the world’s most wasteful things. We usually keep our distance, but when we saw Ingens go tits up, I thought we better take a closer look. Good thing for you we did.”
SS Ingens sank into the sea, her only monument an ephemeral, whirling, massive vortex. First and last of the island size yachts, a towering testament to the ego, wealth, and pride of Mahabey Arkadin, black waters dragged her down into Ozymandias like oblivion, never to be seen again.
The man wrapped a blanket around Jared’s shoulders. “What happened down there, youngster?”
Jared shuddered and pulled the blanket tighter. “All I can say is, from now on I’m spending Spring Break at home.”