22: Houston, We Have A Problem, Part 1

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"Good morning, Miss Winebrenner," Robbie said as I climbed aboard the Millennium Osprey.

"Good morning. Nice day outside, huh?" I replied.

"If we're lucky, the fog will clear up a little, but I'm not convinced it will. I've seen worse, but there's nothing more annoying than when the weather doesn't cooperate with our plans," Nastasya said.

I was sure Robbie had seen much more fog in his day, since he was maybe forty years older than her, but she still had at least five years of age on me, and probably many more in experience.

"I still think we should try the drone. We might not get a good picture, but it doesn't hurt to try," Robbie said. "I'll go get it now."

"Calm down, Robbie. Focus on one thing first, and that's the fact that we need to actually go somewhere. I don't think we're going to find many whales in this spot," Nastasya said, and when I looked around back to the island, which was only about a football field away, she seemed correct.

"Sorry, sorry. I'm just excited," Robbie said, then headed into the cabin to drive the boat to a better location.

Nastasya rolled her eyes and shook her head, but she followed him anyway, which left me by myself. Of course, I didn't mind, but there wasn't much to look at besides white.

The ocean air was always fresh in the morning, and even though I hadn't really slept in a while, it woke me right up. It was part of the reason I was so drawn to the ocean in the first place; it had a refreshing quality that could reset one's life, or even take it in a new direction. There were countless directions to go since it was so vast, but the thing was that it also applied to whales. They could go wherever they wanted, and we somehow had to track them down.

After a few minutes, I headed into the cabin with Nastasya and Robbie. Robbie sat in his chair with his captain hat, slightly adjusting the boat's course to correct for the deflections from the gentle waves, and Nastasya sat next to him. The drone's case was right beside her, and she kept a protective hand on it.

I smiled.

"There's no shame in admitting you're excited too, Nastasya," I said.

"Of course there's no shame. I don't know how I could be any clearer that I'm excited. I've been waiting for this moment ever since they gave me this beauty," she replied, but in her low, unamused tone, she still didn't seem very thrilled.

Excitement was the only emotion I couldn't repress, so it must have been some form of witchcraft on her part to keep it all inside. She rarely smiled and always had a stern, serious look, but underneath that, she had a heart of gold. Or, at least, that seemed to be so. She went out of her way to get (and keep) her hands on that drone for me, but she still kept her head on her shoulders about everything.

I sat down beside the case, and she shifted it just a little closer to herself.

That was probably fair. I would somehow find a way to mess it up.

A muffled voice came over the boat-to-boat communication system, but I couldn't make out what exactly it said. Robbie didn't provide a translation either, so it couldn't have been important.

"So where are we heading for today's whales?" I asked.

"I'm not really sure yet, kid. We could head north again since we had good luck there last time, or we could stay closer to Paradise City because of the fog," Robbie replied.

"Let's just stay close. There's no sense in taking any more risks than we have to," Nastasya said.

It was a solid, rational decision for sure, so I nodded. "That sounds like a good idea."

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