At Anchor

Olav Svensson, age 28, skipper of the offshore supply vessel “OSV Nadia Helmsdottir” is on watch on the bridge of his ship. They’re lying at anchor in a crowded oil field and so there isn’t much to do but keeping an eye on the ship’s swaying, its systems and the weather report but Olav is enjoying himself when his daughter Ænne enters the bridge, looking for company.

“Hey kiddo, What are you doing?” In her bright orange overall she looks like a tiny roughneck, as the oil field workers call themselves. “I’m bored Daddy.” She replies and Olav lifts her on a chair. “Here, you can watch the radar.” Olav smiles at Ænne turning knobs and poking the screen. He is glad how well his daughter is adapting to the life aboard a ship. When the offshore industry had gone belly up, Olav had considered a life ashore, but not for long. After some more poking she turns to him and asks “Where’s Mommy?”

“Well shit.” He thinks. This question shouldn’t have a complicated answer. “Keep an eye on the radar, sweetie.” Olav tells her, playing for time. He remembers what had kept him from returning home. Although Scandinavia, relying on renewable energy and inhabited by hardened people that were used to living in adverse conditions had handled the new climate fairly well, the society had changed. These days they seriously call it ‘Walhalla’ and have isolated themselves from the world. Norway has never let go of its cold war attitude and the Finns have shut down the eastern borders. They actually seem to enjoy their second winter war. On the southern edge the flooding had turned Denmark into an impassable marshland.

“Where is she, Daddy?” Ænne keeps digging. Her hair reminds Olav of his leading engineer Kobus. “Just a second, sweetie, this is complicated.” Olav tries to appease her, still working on his answer. Kobus was from Groningen and dutch engineers were highly sought after in Europe’s new coastal regions. When Olav had asked Kobus, if he wanted to go ashore, the Dutch man had been like: “Fuck them, they’re worse than the Nazis, those people.” And he was right, as central Europe had been caught between desertification and flooding it had thrown civilization out of the window in the process. They had lashed out like a cornered animal, calling it a defensive war but in reality they’d slaughtered and drowned starving refugees. Kobus has since become one of the most important men aboard, the space bucket that he had used to grow weed in the engine room has been the blueprint for the hydroponic greenhouse that now covers their cargo deck. They’re producing mostly potatoes but of course there’s still some of Kobus’ special out there. Ænne jumps out of the radar operator’s chair and tugs Olav’s sleeve. “Oh yes, Mommy. You know…” And he still isn’t sure how to begin.

The abandoned rigs of the oil field are now occupied by Inuit and some die hard roughnecks. The roughnecks are a tough bunch but the Inuit are the real survivors out here. Olav remembers old Ukiuk telling him stories of the life on the melting ice floes that still make him shudder. How their world fell to pieces because Inuit tech relies heavily on freezing stuff and that stopped working in the warmer climate. And how everything changed when the ice shrunk. The so called ‘perpetual ice’ is a very sparse ecosystem to begin with and doesn’t support dense populations of anything but krill. Throw in large predators like polar bears and walruses and crowding becomes a very deadly problem. The Inuit had to ‘reconsider man’s place in the food chain’ as Ukiuk likes to put it. Several of her people still carry a gun wherever they go. These great navigators have become afraid of the sea.

“We lost our homes and are now rebuilding the world one floating potato farm at time.” Olav thinks, looking at his waiting daughter. “For you, kiddo.” He smiles. Potatoes are one thing but for a future you need children. And while roughnecks and sailors are great candidates for building stuff from nothing, they’re also predominantly male. At first they didn’t now what to make of it when the research vessel Healy dropped anchor among them. And when the marine biologists came forward with their plan to grow uteri from human stem cells, the colonists failed to grasp the implications. The scientist were looking for hosts to implant the uteri. Among roughnecks and Sailors. Hadn’t it been about their survival, it would have been funny. Actually, it had been funny when the assembled men heard the announcement and suddenly all found something really interesting at the floor or the ceiling.

Dr. Schwarze just went on, explaining how they would perform advanced cloning and gene splicing to make the most of the shallow gene pool and how every new child would have up to a dozen genetic parents. At this point Olav had made the decision to step forward and declare: “I’m gonna be a mother.” Kobus and many others from his crew followed his example, then several of the roughnecks. This had been five years ago. Today their kids are seen as children of the tribe, most have younger siblings and there is a school aboard the Healy. Someone should get the sex ed up to date.

“You see, kiddo, I’m your Mommy. And Dr. Schwarze from the Healy, kind of. And…”

She cuts him off before Olav could list whose genes she carries: “You are funny! Can I play with Uki?”

“Of course you can. Run my dear.” Looks like it’s not so complicated after all.

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