Account of the Change Book 2 – Swell: A New Beginning

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Here are the first few chapters from my second book, Swell: A New Beginning. This book is all female main characters and they are taking names and kicking wolf butt. Enjoy and here is a link if you would like to check it out.

Birth

Early Sunday, June 27

“Okay! Who’s the wise guy messing with the readouts?” Kyoko demanded. It wasn’t the first time one of the bored, male, staff had sent her a false feed. It was something of an ongoing prank/hazing. Not only was she one of the newest members of the staff at the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), she was a woman in what was still predominantly a man’s game. And it doesn’t help that I have been right, and they have been wrong, several times now. Nothing like bruising a man’s ego to get his hackles all up.  

          What’s she griping about now? Chief Phillips got up to placate whatever issue Aida had. He had long ago crossed the pond. He’d put in his dues, learned not to make waves, and finally worked his way into the upper management of the JMA. “What now?” he asked, coming around her desk to see what the problem was. Why can’t she just fall in line like a good girl and keep her issues to herself?!

          Kyoko saw Chief Phillips coming and fought down a groan. Dick Phillips was the poster boy for the boy’s club. He was in his mid-fifties, balding, not fat but definitely heavy, and, as far as she was concerned, almost completely lacking in ambition. The epitome of bureaucracy. She was sure that the only reason why his photo wasn’t in the dictionary to help define ‘bureaucrat’ was because the bureaucracy had lost the paperwork to apply the update. A lot like the dinosaur of a computer that she was currently using, he was outmoded but still around and in charge because he fit the mold and change was tantamount to treason. Not wanting to talk with him, she simply pointed at her screen.

          Chief Phillips, thankful that he didn’t have to talk with the little she-devil, looked at the readouts. She may have been cute in a tiny doll kind of way at only about 140 cm with a slim yet curvy build, and her midnight black, almost blue but shined red hair, hair cut short, barely reaching her mid-neck. But what really sealed it were her smoldering eyes that just made you want to stare. Unfortunately, her attitude and tendency to make waves had killed any chance she may have had at fitting in. Hence the ongoing hazing and lack of camaraderie with her fellow workers. Shaking the unwonted thoughts of what she would look like dressed up in a skimpy she-devil outfit, he re-directed his eyes away from hers and looked at her screen.  

The data that she was pointing to was for the area off the coast of Japan on the Pacific side. It was currently displaying an area about four-hundred-fifty-kilometers off of the coast and running for nearly the length of Japan. It was about a hundred kilometers past the drop-off at the continental plate boundary and into the Pacific plate. The area was rather dull seismically speaking and consisted mostly of barren seafloor; which was why the slew of seismic readings coming from what had always been a seismically dead area in the past was rather odd and suggested yet another prank. As he watched, the data updated with a string of micro quakes which slowly continued to propagate their way to the North and South running almost parallel to the coast. The northernmost reading had reached Hokkaido while the southern readings were almost even with Nara. He stood back up and looked around. No one looked guilty or had any telltale smirks. In fact, many of them were frowning.

          “I’m getting the same feed,” Ryosuke said from across the aisle. He flipped his monitor around to show them.

          “Hmm, been a while since I’ve seen this. Abe!” Chief Phillips hollered.

          “Hai?” Abe stuck his head out of his office door.

          “Put in a call to the Coast Guard. Tell them we have what looks like two illegal dragnet trawlers working their way along the coast that are tripping our sensors,” Chief Phillips ordered and turned back to Aida. “Go ahead and keep an eye on the feed in case the Coast Guard needs an update on the location.” End of the world diverted, he returned to his office without a further word.

          So, it wasn’t a prank this time. Kyoko continued to watch the feed as another sensor tripped almost fifty kilometers away from the last one which had only tripped about five minutes before. Trawler? I don’t think so. Not unless there’s a small fleet of them out there or it’s a drug-runner special pulling those nets. She brought up another set of data and blanched as soon as it loaded. Deep ocean temperatures were almost constant. It took a lot of energy to make them change. According to the data set she was now looking at, the temperature had rocketed up by nearly two degrees Celsius! Why there wasn’t anyone running around yelling that the ocean was boiling, she didn’t know, but there was no way that this was a trawler. The only thing that could cause that much distortion that fast and explain the quakes, would be if there was major seafloor venting occurring along a new or unmapped major fault. She overlaid the thermal data with the seismic readings and matched them up in a timeline. Sure enough, as the quakes moved so did the heating. And that wasn’t even the scary part. What was really bad, was that the activity didn’t seem to show any signs of dying down. There were still quakes happening along the whole length of the event and the water temps were only climbing.

          Kyoko kept an eye on it like she’d been ordered too. Over the next hour, the quake line had extended out another two hundred kilometers to either side. Oh, this is bad. This looks almost like a new fault line which means absolutely nothing good.

          On a hunch, she pulled up the meteorological data and about had a heart attack. According to the feeds, the surface water temp was a full four degrees higher than it should have been and there was a cold front moving in at high speed. When the two met, things had the potential to get interesting in a exceptionally bad way. As much as she hated to do it, she made for Chief Phillips’ office and knocked on the door.

          “Enter!” Chief Phillips said. He was a little surprised when Aida stepped into his office and only just managed to keep a scowl off of his face. “Did the Coast Guard finally…” he started.

          “Sir, we have a serious problem,” Kyoko said, cutting him off and stepping the rest of the way into his office. She saw him bristle at having been cut off but there was no time to waste on his petty bluster and the standard ego grooming.  

          It took every ounce of Chief Phillips’ control to not roll his eyes and face palm. ‘We have a serious problem’ was right up there with ‘I have an idea’ where junior staff were concerned. Instead he just gave a wave for her to continue. If I shut her down, she’ll go and complain to the big bosses and the action groups that she isn’t being taken seriously because she is a girl. Then EEOC gets involved. I so don’t need this crap. Three more years until retirement.

          Kyoko didn’t much care what Chief Phillips was thinking. Things were about to get bad and, if the data was to be believed, they were going to do it at a frightening speed. She set her printouts on his desk without asking and started going through the data. “I’ve kept an eye on the data like you asked but I also pulled up the temperature readings for that same area,” Kyoko pointed to the data.

          Phillips was about to brush her off when he finally noticed the numbers and leaned in to get a better look. He may not have set a plotter for years but that didn’t mean that he had forgotten how to read the data. “This has to be some kind of error,” he said, rapidly flipping through the pages.

          “I have double checked the readings, cross checked them with other sources, and ran a diagnostic. Everything came back in the green. I’m sorry to say, but it isn’t a trawler that we are dealing with. Something peculiar is happening down there,” Kyoko said, leaning into the data and pointing at the telltales. “There’s more.”

          Chief Phillips turned a remarkable shade of green at those two words. “What?”

          “This is a record of the surface temps. They are higher than they should be by between two to four degrees Celsius. Then there is this,” Kyoko set down a weather map. “There is a major cold front moving into this same area. When that warm water meets this cold front… Well, we’re going to have a Typhoon factory on our hands. I have only had a chance to do a rough model and meteorology isn’t really my specialty, but the basic model I ran is saying that as these two meet, a devastatingly powerful typhoon, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in living memory, is likely to form right off the coast of Tokyo and, given the prevailing winds, there is little doubt that that is also where it will make landfall.”

          “Crap! We need to get ahead of this. Get ahold of the weather agency and find out if they are aware of this and advise them that they should probably look into issuing a warning,” Chief Phillips said.

          “Okay, but there is no getting ahead of it at this point,” Kyoko said, pointing at the time stamp on the printouts. “They have already collided by now.” As if to punctuate the point, a roll of thunder shook the whole building.   

          Chief Phillips flinched but continued on. “I don’t care. We still need to make the call so that we can say that we informed them as soon as we put the pieces together.” He shook his head and reached for his phone. “Forget it, I’ll make the call. Go tell the other heads that we need to have a meeting to discuss how we are going to deal with the fallout from this. While you are at it, put on some coffee and tea. Once you have that done, be on hand to fetch us whatever information we may need and to pass on any requests from the press, central, or higher,” he ordered, waving her out of his office.

          Kyoko left without saying another word. She hadn’t trusted her mouth not run away from her if she had given it a chance. She’d been first to recognize the issue. Had put the pieces together and run the models while the others had been merrily shooting the breeze by the teapot. And now they wanted her to be their gofer! It was on like Donkey Kong. If I hadn’t followed this, we wouldn’t have had any warning. And he thinks he can just shut me out of it? Worse, act like it’s my fault and relegate me to being the secretary to heed their every beck and call! I don’t think so! Only somewhat the spiteful sort, she only emptied the carafes and then organized all of the tea and coffee supplies up onto the very back of the very top shelves where only a handful of people could reach them without having to get a chair. Or, two in her case.

          With her anger placated for the moment and the threat of going Krakatoa on anyone averted, though the magma inside her still churned hot enough to make the sun sweat, she returned to her desk and continued to work the problem. Her area was almost completely empty now that everyone else had run off to the ‘spin’ meeting. Not caring about the office politics, she continued to monitor the storm’s growth and the dauntless propagation of the quakes. Their real job. She knew they were really in trouble when the quakes cut right through the Philippine plate boundary with only the smallest of deviation in their course. Then new movement caught her attention. Above Hokkaido, a new propagation started to cut its way upwards until it too cut the North American plate like butter. From there it turned towards the mainland and Russia. By its trajectory, it was going to make landfall on the Russian coast somewhere a little above Hokkaido.

          The hours ticked by and her nails got progressively shorter as she watched the disaster unfolding in near real time. The progressively worsening weather shadowed her mood nicely. She let out a sudden sigh of relief into the empty office and almost relaxed. Just before making landfall, the northern run had come to an abrupt stop about one hundred kilometers shy of the coast. Dealing with Russia’s seismology departments was an inbred royal pain. They were only slightly better at sharing than China.  

With that nightmare averted for the moment, Kyoko turned her attention back to the news feeds that she had going on one of the TVs so she could watch as the storm unloaded its fury on the coast and started driving its way inland. So far, the storm surge had been horrendous, and the winds had reaped no small amount of damage, but the floodgates were still holding. For now. That wasn’t what had really drawn her attention, though. No, the huge fireball that had blossomed on the screen as a jet crashed at the airport was what had caught her eye and now had her glued to the screen as all other worries were temporarily forgotten. How they had stayed in the air through the storm and managed to reach the airport was a feat worthy of praise and recognition. And they almost made it.

          The fireball was soon replaced with a shot of the tail half of the jet, which was more intact and, most importantly, not on fire. The image was blurred by the waterfalls of rain cascading down the terminal windows, but after the tail section stopped rolling, she was sure that she saw someone hop down out of the wreckage. The picture was quickly blocked by the arrival of the emergency vehicles and a jumble of people rushing about the crash site.

          It was a big enough deal that Kyoko swallowed her anger and went to let the others in the meeting know. Without knocking, she walked in only to find them arguing and pointing fingers at each other. “Excuse me!” she yelled, cutting through the argument. All eyes turned to her and it was clear that they all figured that this was all her fault somehow. Like she’d commanded the earth to jump just to make them look bad. Without saying anything else, she went over to the TV and turned it on. Seeing as how the storm and the crash were the biggest news, she didn’t need to go channel surfing.

          The room went dead still as they realized what they were seeing. They just kept looping the same images between a few different shots of how the jet had almost made it down safely only to be swatted sideways by a freakishly powerful gust at the last moment.

          Job complete, Kyoko left the room while they were all still in shock and closed the door softly behind her.

          “They’ll find some way to blame us for this!” Chief Phillips jabbed his finger angrily at the screen.

          “It’s Aida’s find. She’s the most photogenic of us all. That’s why we hired her.  She keeps saying that we don’t take her seriously. I think we should let her take lead on this one,” Abe suggested.

          Chief Phillips almost bit his head off for even uttering such a foolish idea. Regardless of whether her picture had been the deciding factor when they had hired her or not, you were never to admit that that was what you had based your decision upon. But he stopped short as he realized what game they were playing. “You know, I think that’s a really good idea,” he said, with a toothy smile. “But it is getting late. I wouldn’t want her to feel pressured and overwork herself. We can let her know in the morning.”

          “Definitely, wouldn’t want her to look bedraggled in front of the cameras,” Abe pointed out.

          Kyoko stepped away from the door and headed back to her desk. She had a predatory gleam in her eyes as she sat back down and got to work. So, they want to play games. Well it just so happens that I am a master game player.

          The building shook and the monitors flickered as another lightning bolt struck it and the deafening roll of thunder close on its heels caused a cascade of dust to fall from the ceiling and set the building to rattling. The weather and her current mood were in perfect sync as she laid into her research. Her concentration was only broken by a news blurb where one of the survivors gave a succinct interview on the crash and what he knew and didn’t know. It was rather clear that he both hated being caught in front of the camera and that he was smart enough to watch every word he said lest it come back to bite him later. An example she would follow tomorrow. I wonder why there’s only the one passenger.

One Reporter, Extra Crispy

Monday, June 28

          Morning found her looking refreshed and ready to face an army. She’d long since made a habit of keeping a spare set of dress clothes in her office locker just in case there was a surprise occasion that demanded that she get dressed up. It also helped that the office, being a disaster readiness site, also had showers, cots, blankets, and food stashed away.

While the others had left early to battle their way home through the storm – had in most cases gone through the evening, night, and morning without power or hot water then had to turn around and battle their way back to the office through flooded and blocked streets this morning and looked for the most part strikingly bedraggled for it – she was rested and prepared to go she-hulk on any bus they tried to throw her under. It didn’t hurt that even on a normal day she could think circles around most of them. In their current disheveled states, there was simply no competition. It was actually a bit boring.

I never thought I would miss the constant mental and verbal jousting. Kyoko sat back down at her desk with a cup of tea. She’d had one of the disaster ration packs for breakfast. Seeing as how it was a disaster and she was working it, she doubted that anyone would begrudge her. For that matter, she doubted that most even knew where they were and that about half of them were already out of date.

Chief Phillips walked up to her desk with a scowl. “You are looking rather perky,” he grumbled, giving her an appraising look. For his own part, his apartment was close enough that the battle with the weather had been sparingly short, though the cold shower this morning and lack of coffee to start the day certainly weren’t helping his cantankerous mood.

“Thank you,” Kyoko agreed and turned back to her work. She knew it would rub him raw, but she didn’t owe him anything and they were planning to try and use her as a scapegoat. Not that I have any intention of letting you have things your way.

Chief Phillips just stood there for a moment towering over her as she sorted through several different readouts. When it became apparent that she wasn’t going to bite, he cleared his throat.

Kyoko turned around, playing dumb. “Was there something else that you needed Mr. Phillips?”

Chief Phillips stood there glaring at her for a moment longer while he got his emotions back under control. “After much discussion last night, we decided that as the person that discovered the current issue, you should also get to run point on it,” he said, chewing each of the words for show while at the same time doing a little jig on her grave plot.

“For real?!” Kyoko said, feigning ignorance and acting like a schoolgirl that just got asked to prom.

“Yes, and as such I hope you have kept up on events because the press is demanding answers and you are going to give them to them. I hope I don’t need to warn you not to put your foot in your mouth or to make any wild speculations. Whatever you do though, don’t leave any question unanswered or else they will fill in the blank however they want, and you will take the blame for not setting them straight,” Chief Phillips warned, jabbing his finger at her. I want her burned and put in her place, but I can’t have her completely botching this or else the fallout could get ugly.

Aww, how cute. He’s trying to hand me only enough rope for one noose. This is going to be so much fun. “I’m pretty sure I can manage that,” Kyoko assured with a cheery smile.

          Why do I get the feeling that she’s playing me? “Very well then. You had best get your facts in order and get ready for the camera because the interview starts in thirty-minutes,” he said, gave her one last glare, and left.

It was only fifteen minutes before Chief Phillips returned to escort her to the interview. Kyoko heard more than a few snickers as she made her way to the conference room where the interview was to take place. She figured that to the others, she looked quite a bit like a death-row inmate being led to her execution. If only they knew that it wasn’t my execution about to take place but their own. On second thought, I like it better this way. Nothing like a surprise to bring a smile to a face. Mine that is.

The room had been spruced up and the tables and chairs moved out to make room for the reporter, the camera crew, and a conference chair for each of them. It was still rather Spartan but that was a comforting thing for viewers. These kinds of places were supposed to look Spartan and all about the business of keeping the sheeple safe.

Kyoko took a seat in the chair across from the reporter and gave a nod once she was ready.

“And we’re rolling in 5, 4, 3, 2…” the cameraman made an okay sign and the recording light flicked on.

“Thank you, Ms. Aida, for taking some time out of your busy schedule today to help shed some light on the events of yesterday for our viewers. Let’s get started. The main question that I’m sure is on many of our minds is ‘what does geology have to do with meteorology?'”

“Thank you for having me here. The answer is, quite a bit, actually. For instance, did you know that compared to the yearly gas outputs of geological events, vehicle emissions barely even show up as a blip? There are even rather good models that indicate that it is only the emissions of vehicles that are keeping us from slipping into a new Ice Age. Between the sun and the planet, pretty much all of the weather is created. In this case, the direct cause looks to be ocean warming due to volcanic venting,” Kyoko explained.

 “So, Ms. Aida, you’re saying that the cause of the unprecedented Typhoon last night that caused the crash of Allen Air’s 626 out of Portland and the death of one-hundred-and-fifty people was a volcano?” the reporter asked.

 “Well, not quite, and the last I heard it was one-hundred-fourteen that tragically perished in the crash, but the nationwide death-toll was tragically close to a thousand last I saw before this meeting. The crash was tragically spectacular, but I would hate to marginalize all the other deaths and tragedies that this storm has wrote,” Kyoko corrected. “As to your question, please take a look at this,” she said, bringing up a slide showing the string of vents along the ocean floor while blatantly ignoring the reporter’s apparent angst at being corrected.

 “Could you please explain, for our viewers, what we are looking at?” the reporter asked, knowing better than getting in a spitting match on live-TV, and turning her attention to the slides. You could tell from the doe in the headlights look that the reporter was really the one in need of the explanation.

“Why yes, it would be my pleasure,” Aida said, almost rolling her eyes. Did all reporters get lobotomies as part of their graduation ceremony? She’d had a friend, a bright friend, that had gone the news route and right up until graduation he’d been fine. The day after, it was like he had become a different person. A stupid parrot. “What you are looking at, based on the heat plumes which have opened up along this previously unknown fault, is a new range of active volcanic vents. The heat venting has caused unusually high water-temperatures across a large area of the Pacific Ocean. When this cold front ran into the abnormally warm waters,” she overplayed the weather forecast, “it caused a Typhoon to develop with frightening speed and power,” she answered, using many simple, a little too simple really, pictures and diagrams. Just act like you are teaching an unusually slow, sleepy, hungry, distracted kindergartner and that is about what your average newsy is.

“Why was a fault line this important unknown?” the reporter demanded, jabbing her finger at Aida like it was somehow her personal fault for not knowing about it and that she was therefore responsible for the storm and crash.

“Because it was un-know-n!” Aida replied, letting some sarcasm leak in. “Before yesterday, there had been no indications that there was any reason to look into the area. For all intents and purposes, it was just a stretch of deep ocean floor. Flat and barren except for some fish and crabs. Then yesterday, this!” She pointed at the display with the plumes again.

“Okay, I guess that is understandable. At least the storm has blown itself out,” the reporter said, trying to change the subject. She may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed, but she could tell when she was being mocked.

“Okay?! Okay?! Do you have any ideas of what the long-term effects of having a major active thermal vent right off our coast could be?” Aida asked. The reporter started to respond but Aida cut her off before she had the chance. “But wait! There’s more,” she mimed, using her best telemarketer impersonation. “Why?

“Excuse me?” the reporter asked. “Why what?”

And Aida face palmed on national television. Yep, even pretty little picture by the number problems were beyond this one. “For starters the storm may have passed but the vent is still pumping out heat. Heat causes evaporation, thereby increasing the moisture in the air. If even a moderate cold front moves in, you get clouds. Get enough clouds and you have a storm. Maybe the next one won’t be as bad as the last. Or maybe it will be worse. But as bad as that is, it’s still just the surface problem!” she answered, letting just a little bit of the inner terror that she felt into her voice. I so hope that my harebrained idea is wrong. Because if I’m right, then things are going to get very interesting here in the near future. Alas, I can’t even mention it because the bosses would shoot it down and deny it as a fantasy if I dared to utter such a thing at this point. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t ask an open question and let those watching connect the dots for their selves. At least a few should get something that looks like the actual picture that I am seeing. She was smiling as she asked, looking directly at the camera instead of at the reporter, “Why has a vent, an active fault, opened up where there shouldn’t be one? What does it mean?”

“Um?” the reporter asked. She wasn’t sure how she was supposed to deal with this. Her job was to ask questions not answer them. And the interviewee hadn’t even directed the question at her. She was saved by time running out for her segment. The camera man was giving her the cut-it signal. “Well it looks like we have run out of time. So, to the audience. What does it all mean? Thank you, Ms. Aida, for your help!” she said. The camera just barely caught the scathing look that she shot Aida as her mask of civility melted away before it switched back to the main station.

“Quite happy to help,” Aida responded quite civilly, though her smile had barbs. Ah, the sound and smell of roasting reporters in the morning. It’s only fair that we get back at them once in a great while. They won’t take credit for an original idea, but they have no problem tearing other’s ideas to shreds after the fact. Truly, I will never understand them and that’s probably a good thing. As the camera shut-down she stood, bowed shallowly, and left the meeting.

Chief Phillips was waiting outside the door as she exited. “What was that?” he demanded towering next to her. His girth made towering over her a bit of an EEOC issue.

Kyoko quirked her eyebrow and looked up at him. “An interview,” she replied, giving him the most innocent look, she could manage. Which was hard to do when what she really wanted to do was grin from ear to ear.

“Don’t try playing cute with me,” Chief Phillips warned, wagging his finger at her. Little trollop is going to have to be taught a lesson about minding her proper place. “Not only did you railroad that reporter, you did absolutely nothing to reassure the viewers that we have everything under control and are working the problem. No, instead you went in there and told them to prepare for the worst and forgot to set the bar height!” he thundered as he paced back and forth in the hall.

“Oh. Did some information develop that I wasn’t informed about that would have enabled me to truthfully say any of those things? Because what little I have seen, indicated that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that, if anything, the bar can’t be set high enough,” Kyoko countered, locking him in a glare of her own. “I was under the impression that lying on national TV was a bad thing. If you want, I’m sure I can go back in there and explain to the reporter how you would like to clarify some points that I may have missed,” she offered, setting her trap in plain sight.

Chief Phillips’ face contorted through a gamut of expressions before he settled on contempt. “That will not be necessary. As the leader of this project, I suggest that you go talk to the others and find some reassuring information that we can share with the public,” he ordered, leaving before Kyoko could have the last word.

          Kyoko smiled as he stormed off. Alright, fun and games are over. Now it is time for me to figure out just what it is that we are dealing with because it is clear that nobody else is or wants to.

She put on her best lost lamb face and headed towards the server department to try and get a little extra time on the modeling computers to see if she could find a starting point. She may be the leader of the project now, but she had no delusions that she would find any help from the others.

***

          It was dark out by the time she left the modeling room. She had several possible model renderings that sort of fit with what was going on, but none of them were complete or fit perfectly with what they were seeing. But they at least gave her a start point for looking at the problem and were lightyears better than the other harebrained models that she had watched the others running. Instead of actually following the facts, they were manipulating the models by creating multi-event and cascading models, adding in new events along the way to reach ‘their’ desired ending. Which in all of the models that she had seen them run, pointed to things dying down in a week or two. The one thing they were most certainly not doing was creating scientifically logical models.Must be nice to be able to live with your head in the sand and believe that if you wish hard enough, reality will do what you want it to. For her own part, she was scared, and that fear drove her to find more answers.

If you would like to read more, follow any of the links and enjoy. Oh, and if you could leave a review when you are finished reading it, that would be a great help. Reviews help me to know your thoughts and help others know if a book is for them. Thank you.

If you are interested in looking at any of my publications, here they are:

Account of the Change Series:

Swell:

Swell: A New Beginning:

Swell: A Different Path

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