Storm Cloud – Sample

The wind meter read thirty knots, but I didn’t need to see the number to know that it was windy. The boat was moving very quickly through the rough swells and while it wasn’t particularly comfortable, it was nice to be going fast. Relatively speaking, of course. We were making about nine knots — nine nautical miles an hour — about as fast as a dog can run. But for a sailboat, it’s pretty quick.

Jimmy Houghton, the ship’s cook, had made a large pot of oatmeal. It seemed a bit odd to be eating a hot breakfast in the tropics, but he knew what he was doing. It was filling and easy to eat in the rolling swells. Plus it stuck to the bowls, keeping the inevitable spills to a minimum.

Jimmy was the oldest member of our crew, probably by a lot, though I’d still never figured out if he was a rough thirty-five or a well-preserved sixty. He talked like it was the latter, having an inexhaustible supply of tales about sailing “back in the day.” But his midnight iPod dance parties made me wonder.

I was hanging out in the main salon, an enclosed space on the deck level in front of the cockpit. It had large windows, with seats bolted to the floor, and it was the best place to stay out of the way and still be able to see what was going on outside. I didn’t really need to watch the ocean spray go by, but when it’s rough the best way to avoid seasickness is to be able to see the horizon.

I wasn’t particularly prone to seasickness, but I’d learned that there was no point in testing my luck. Isaac had said when we pulled up the anchor in the morning that the trip would be just a single overnight, so I’d gone down to the server locker as we were motoring out of the bay. I planned to ensure everything was running smoothly, then avoid going down the steep ladder into the windowless hold for the rest of the passage.

Our servers were still connected to the internet via the cell network in Mo’orea. The Byte Bucket had its own cell, making that connection stronger, but it wouldn’t hold at sea. We used a slower but more accessible satellite network then, and I made sure that the system was set up to switch over automatically. One of my predecessors had created the script, no doubt after having forgotten to make the change manually. It hadn’t failed yet, but I still felt better making sure that everything was running smoothly. Especially since the company had recently been profiled on a high-traffic blog and we’d seen a large increase in customers as a result. We weren’t exactly competing on reliability, but I still felt like I needed to do my best to keep my part of the system up and running.

Really Remote Desktop had a strange business model: it was slow, somewhat unreliable and expensive. But we promised security from the prying eyes of governments and private hackers alike. The American government had its eyes on us — I thought that was one of the reasons we never stayed anywhere long. Our servers were located in the most remote places possible: a satellite in orbit, up one mountain in the Andes and another in the Himalayas, on an unnamed island in the Caribbean, in the hold of the Byte Bucket. I wasn’t convinced that a dedicated attacker wouldn’t be able to intercept our data, but I guessed that our customers were  interested in the appearance of our service as much as its reality. There is something about being able to say that your data might be in space or in the middle of the ocean that just sounds cool. At least it must have sounded cool to a bunch of people given the traffic numbers I was seeing.

I watched the packets move for a while, marvelling at the increase that we’d seen since I first came aboard. We were handling it, barely. Head office had sent some upgrades which I’d installed when we first reached French Polynesia, and they’d helped, but I was still a little nervous. Given that our network connections were not the most stable, a significant traffic increase could cause problems. Everything was moving fine on the network. Unlike the boat, as a wave rocked us over on one side as we got into open water. I decided I didn’t need to watch the data move anymore and stowed the equipment quickly before heading back up above decks and to my favourite seat in the main salon.