Eight Steps to Steal a Yacht and Build a Hospital
CW: mentions of extreme pain; mentions of cruel acts;
descriptions of transplantations and scars.
1. Stealing a yacht
How naïve of Hamilton to think stealing would be the hardest part of his plan. Not to say that his belly doesn’t flutter with anxiety as he waits for Alex. After all, it’s the first time he’s stealing—looting first aid kits and medical equipment isn’t stealing. But what he’s doing is for a good cause, he tells himself over and over.
“It is,” he says out loud as if that’ll make it truer. He’s sitting on a dock that juts out of the window of a deteriorated building. All around him, other flaking, overly-patched buildings cast shadows along the floodstreet. The lucky ones surviving above the waterline.
Sweat drips from Hamilton’s flimsy beard. The day is scorching—what day isn’t in Rio de Janeiro, right?—but his agitation has a part to play in it too. The floodstreet is empty except for a boy rowing with a drone buzzing at his side. Alex should be there by now, along with the muscle from Trepadeira Vertical Farm he promised would come to help with the theft. But he isn’t. How can you hope to pull off a crime if you can’t even keep an eye on the clock?
Hamilton has visuals on the PatriotiKat. The 98-meter, white-hulled, five-decked yacht is parked exactly where a luxury sports car would have been parked a century ago, perhaps situated in front of a clubhouse or, most likely, merely placed as a showoff to passersby. But the yacht is meters above the old street level, softly swaying along with the littered, miry tide. Leblon, once a wealthy neighborhood, is out of fashion. It’s now a bay of rooftop islets, lichen-embraced buildings, and lone treasure seekers.
Another thing out of fashion is rich, far-right influencers. Fraj0linha, a weapons aficionado and the yacht’s owner, has lost its precious boat in a set of fuzzy bureaucratic proceedings devised by Alex. All Fraj0linha wanted was a complete, high-quality hulljob—cleaning, painting, dry blasting, antifouling—which Alex promised to provide in his small dummy corp, all prettified to attract easy money.
“You okay with it, garotão?”
Hamilton turns back, staring up at the bulky man standing behind him on the dock. Alex is wearing his usual suspenders, smudgy with the Trepadeira’s fertilizer and dirt. Must’ve been dealing with the gourds and cauliflowers that the Trepadeira yield this time of year. His mustache is misaligned on his face due to a scar on his left cheek.
“You came alone?” Hamilton asks, squinting at the building’s window to see if there’s anyone else there.
Alex snorts. “C’mon, garotão. That thing is already stolen. It’s only a matter of sailing it back to the hospital.”
Hamilton’s eyes widen. It can’t be that easy. In his worst nightmares, he’d depicted gunfights, ambushes, blood—even his own—reddening the floodstreets. He overanalyzed it multiple times, knowing he’d eventually convince himself to go on without feeling guilty. He’s doing it for Monique, he keeps telling himself. For her and for everyone that goes through the same things they went through years ago, in the Day. He and Monique had to dash through the Atlantic-poked floodstreets in an autoboat toward a faraway clinic where she could have her liver transplanted in an emergency unit. At the time, he was a woman with a name amazingly out of place, and Monique was only a friend. Now his body and name fit into him, and Monique is his dear wife.
And that yacht over there, lined up with photovoltaic cells along with its five decks, will be his way of bringing health where it’s virtually unavailable. His revenge against the Day.
“You okay with what we’re gonna do, boy?” Alex says. “Stealing from that babaquinha is totally fine by me, but I’m not sure if you’re gonna sleep at night.”
Hamilton pinches his lips. Most certainly he won’t sleep for a while. But Alex doesn’t need to know that. He nods firmly, trying to convey he’s fine with stealing the yacht.
Monique, on the other hand, won’t be. She’s is the head doctor at Jerônimo General Hospital, the place where they’ve worked and lived for almost ten years—another of the good things that came after the Day. He’s a nurse, even though everything he learned of the trade was by reading books and seeing other people doing the job. But that’s how it is these days, right? Better to have an unskilled, non-graduated nurse than no nurse at all.
Alex fetches a crude wooden canoe from the building and slops it on the water. They row to the PatriotiKat. The hull really needs a paint job, and it’s easy to understand why Fraj0linha trusted it in the hands of one of the seemingly outstanding companies Alex devised for his thefts. Near the waterline, the boat is pockmarked by Rio’s brackish mix of lichen and mud, scratched by the barrageof debris and trash the shiny yacht must’ve found inits path. But all the other aspects of the boat scream “Hey, look at me, I’m completely out of place here in this dingy floodstreet.” Out of time as well, since a Brazilian Monarchy flag some 260 years obsolete waves over the bridge. On the hull, a kooky, black-and-white cat with red eyes and green paws clings clumsily to a heavy machine gun. Fraj0linha’s mascot, a paragon of bad taste.
As they climb the rope ladder to the PatriotiKat, Hamilton’s body shivers all throughout. But that’s part of the package that comes with this enterprise: sweat, fear, second guesses, and the implacable desire to jump and swim away from that thing.
“Relax, boy. We do a lot of these man-in-the-middle cons.” Alex laughs, barging into the cockpit as if it’s his bedroom. “We get a lot of stuff from the gated condos in Barra. Sometimes they don’t even notice. We skim the lists of things they’re trying to sell or repair, pose as potential service providers, get them to put what we want where we want it… doesn’t always work, but when it does…” He slides a hand over the varnished wheel and kisses the tips of his fingers.
“And now we just…” Hamilton smiles lamely.
“Turn it on and sail back. We’ve overridden their security bots and any active trackers. Everything else was already turned off ‘for repairs’.” Alex laughs. “There’s a small risk someone might see us sailing this toy. But once we hide it in the harbor and give it a refurbishment… then we’re mostly safe. In a week or so it will be just one more yacht salvaged from an abandoned marina a decade ago.”
Hamilton gulps and nods. He reminds himself it’s for Monique. It’s for his dear wife who puts her soul on the line to maintain the Jerônimo every single day. When they transform that gaudy colossus into a moving hospital, people wouldn’t have to die at home, unreachable for treatment. They wouldn’t perish giving birth as though they were living in the Dark Ages of Rio, desperately sailing around to reach poorly-equipped hospitals or clinics. They wouldn’t agonize through completely treatable diseases or live in bodies they don’t feel comfortable with. They wouldn’t suffer as Monique had, in need of a liver.
“Alex?” His voice is suddenly too loud in the cabin. He cringes and almost whispers the next words, “Don’t tell Monique, please.”
“Wouldn’t even dream about it, garotão.”
Two catamarans join them on the way to the Jerônimo—heavily-armed farm friends from Alex. Just in case.
All the while, Hamilton keeps his teeth clenched and his hands gripping the stern’s railing. But, yes, despite the knot in the pit of his stomach, there’s also a drop—or a few—of hope somewhere within him. They’re going to do it. They’re doing it.
This leads us to the next step.
2. Lying to your loved one about the yacht in the harbor
And that’s harder than part one. Hamilton was never good at lying to Monique, to begin with.
He proposed to her many months before the Day, deciding they needed a beautiful view for that moment, something special to remember. Sunlight glistening on the floodstreets, seagulls showing off their flying skills over neglected buildings, the abandoned seasteads like distant monuments off the coast. A romantic post-collapse date, right? Besides, looking at Rio from up high was always a good way to obscure its problems and muffle your own. So Hamilton led Monique to one of the old trails leading to Vista Chinesa. The high ground where the lookout was located had been mostly spared by the waters, so they spent four hours going up, indulging themselves in the luxury of getting their legs tired. It was perfect. Monique said yes and they spent the night in an abandoned cottage nearby. But of course, Monique knew what he was planning all along. No one went to Vista Chinesa anymore, if not for something special.
But, well… It’s another kind of lying to tell your wife the yacht in the harbor is perfectly legitimate. It’s not the kind of lie that could bloom into something cute and exhilarating like a proposal underneath starlight. It’s more about hiding something from plain sight, like all the stuff lost underwater over the years. And like those rotten things, this kind of lie is just waiting to be fished out.
“Alex found it lying around,” Hamilton tells her, not unaware of the weight in his chest. “At Leblon.” They’re in their suite on the hospital’s top floor, looking over the harbor between the Jerônimo and the Trepadeira, which Alex calls the backbone of the hospital-farm co-op.
“Lying around? A yacht like that is not a half-sunk barge one finds spoiled in floodstreet docks.” She’s exhausted. Though the flux of patients on the Jerônimo isn’t huge, they’re always understaffed. The fatigue is clear on the jagged lines of her cheeks and the way she forgot to remove her shoes after her shift. She’d just removed her white coat and her shirt. Hamilton wished she’d forgotten to kiss him too–it would make him feel less guilty. But she didn’t. Kisses always taste sour on the lips of the liar.
“It belonged to some influencer years ago… I think… The yacht was just there to be claimed. It will take a while to adapt it, but it’s exactly what we need for the mobile hospital. We’ll need proper medical equipment, of course. Bioreactors for harvesting organs and tissues, MRI scanners, stuff for at least one operating room… All in due time.”
“Guess sometimes we’re lucky… We need to find a nice gift for Alex.” Monique touches the window and leans her head on it. She’s not looking at him, but she sees her half-smile reflected in the window. Hamilton scans the J-shaped incision on her torso. That’s the most visible mark the Day left on her, but there are many others, unseen, shrouded by the busy life she now lives on the Jerônimo. Hamilton often wonders whether Monique knows how close to dying she’d been on the Day. He’d never had the guts to ask.
“What’s happening in here?” Monique knocks on his forehead. He traces his finger on her scar, and though he remembers the laughter when they married on a rooftop and Alex decided to play the violin, what really inundates his mind are Monique’s lips quivering, her nails tearing his palm as he fumbled with the controls of an autoboat, hoping 150km wasn’t that far, cursing himself for his incompatible liver.
“How I’d do anything for you.” He softly touches her arms and kisses her mouth.
That’s not a lie, no. Hamilton would really do anything for Monique. But after you tell a lie to someone you love, every other word that leaves your mouth feels smudged with falseness.
3. Erasing the influencer
This part is supposed to be easy. Alex convenes fifteen of his most trustworthy Trepadeira farmers and three personal friends, while Hamilton calls a few people from the hospital staff. In less than twenty-four hours, they manage to seal the swimming pool in the first deck above the waterline, remove all summer party paraphernalia, paint over the helipad, and set aside Fraj0linha’s deactivated drones for reprogramming.
The next step is erasing the red-eyed, green-pawed, weaponized cat from the hull. It’s kind of cathartic to see it vanishing. They apply loads of industrial solvent on it, rub power sand to eradicate the signs of Fraj0linha, then the primer and the polyurethane paint. Hamilton thinks about adding a red stripe along the hull to indicate the boat’s new medical function. Or perhaps a red cross? And how would it be called from now on? He leaves those decisions for later. The right thing to do would be to ask Monique’s opinion as he always did with anything regarding the Jerônimo.
“The external job is almost done, garotão,” Alex yells from the second deck, signaling quickly to a woman in a smaller motor boat anchored a few decks from the yacht. She gives him a thumbs up. Alex has set up a security team along the harbor in strategic positions at the hospital, on the farm rooftops, and in the floodstreets around the co-op. I’m only a brute lettuce puller, Alex uses to say. But one day I’ll be head of security of all the Rio co-ops.
The yacht’s inner parts will need much more meticulous work. They’d need to completely refurbish the dozens of cabins and galleries, stripping them of their luxury and replacing them with medical equipment, infirmaries, and at least one ICU. Some things they could bring from the hospital, but others would need to be acquired elsewhere. That would be the work of months, but they agreed on a minimum operating capacity that would enable the boat—calling it a yacht doesn’t fit anymore!—to traverse the waters of Rio and bring health wherever it’s needed.
But, as you’ve read above: This part is supposed to be easy. Well, it is… for the boat. Not for Hamilton. You must be thinking: “oh no, Fraj0linha’s lackeys found them and will break into the harbor with guns blazing!” That’s not the case, fortunately.
What happens is that Monique is no fool. As soon as the unusual fuss in the harbor annoyed some of the inpatients, she decided to check it out. When she arrives on the yacht’s dock in her white coat, a stethoscope around her neck, terracotta lipstick slightly smudged on her lower lip, Hamilton knows he’s in trouble.
“Why all the security?” she asks, squinting at the disappearing cat on the boat’s hull.
“It’s stolen.” Hamilton bursts it out. He can’t lie to her, no matter what. “I’m sorry…”
Of all the reactions he expects from his wife—those born of anger, incredulity, and disappointment—crying isn’t one of them.
4. Regaining your loved one’s trust
If you’ve betrayed your lover’s trust, you know how it might be hard to gain it back. That’s why Hamilton stops abruptly when he finds Monique in the hospital cafeteria that night, sitting alone, slightly stooped forward. A cup of black coffee rests on the table, barely touched, with a pillbox of immunosuppressants next to it.
When the waters came, slowly but surely, Rio was already drenched in a severe economical and humanitarian crisis caused by a mostly ignored climate crisis. Many had already fled to safer grounds distant from coastlines, and most of the wealthy had relocated to seasteads and space stations. Health services in Rio took a major blow. Hospitals shut down, others were ransacked, or seized by paramilitary groups, fake governments, or milicianos. Rio’s health system became a scattered web of professionals and amateurs, many without degrees or proper knowledge, distributed over field hospitals, clandestine clinics, and just a few official places that the Brazilian government and its public universities strived to maintain.
Enter Monique, a doctor, his wife. When she came back to the Jerônimo, she arrived with the desire to link the islands of healthcare that inevitably came with the breakdown of government and the formation of floodstreets. But with the years, the realization that she couldn’t do more than she was already doing dawned on her, sapping her energy and hope. That’s where Hamilton thinks he fits, and that’s one of the reasons he came up with the plan for stealing the yacht. If he could at least pave the road for Monique’s ambitions, he’d be happy.
Hamilton enters the cafeteria, slowly, not wanting to draw attention lest anyone see the guilt dribbling from him.
“Hey,” he says, pinching his lips, approaching Monique, but not being a fool to sit uninvited. Not now. Perhaps she didn’t want him there at all.
Monique nods at him. She’s been crying again. The lipstick is still smudged on her lip and Hamilton knows exactly how it would taste on his lips. Strawberry and disappointment.
“He’s a bad person,” Hamilton blurts out.
“The influencer. A self-declared monarchist and an alt-right maniac.”
Hamilton slides his pad over the table. It plays a video loop of Fraj0linha laughing while some of his friends shoot at a half-collapsed building with people trying to desperately flee.
Monique closes her eyes, pushes the pad away, and grabs the box of immunosuppressants. She’d need them for the rest of her life. She might even need another liver transplant at some point. Hamilton feels dizzy with the sudden thought of another transplant.
“I don’t want to see this kind of video now,” she says. “I know people like him exist. It’s only that…”
Hamilton sits in front of her. Uninvited, fine. A drone swirls by in the air, scanning them in case they want to order something. One of the toys Alex’s farmers scavenged from an abandoned office building downtown.
“You’re afraid for the co-op…” Hamilton says. “And for us.”
Monique nods, squeezing her wrists. She’d helped deliver five babies today.
“This video… It just reinforces my point. What if this influencer comes by shooting at us?”
“His yacht will be unrecognizable. It almost is right now. You’ve seen what we’re doing.”
“Doesn’t matter.” She shrugs. “It’s no guarantee of anything. Co-ops need protection and safety. Alex says it all the time. I… I’m not against stealing from that craphead influencer. Hell, he probably stole it himself, right? And the fact that it can help us bring health to more people is great. But…”
The Jerônimo-Trepadeira co-op—or the pill-lettuce friendship as Alex puts it—had been an obvious union. On one side, Monique started managing the abandoned hospital where she already worked before the collapse. On the other, Alex Magalhães, a former mechanic, decided to grow food for his friends and family, an undertaking that evolved to be an important vertical farm in the Olaria neighborhood. And now Hamilton, who didn’t struggle half as much as Monique had to resuscitate a half-drowned hospital, is jeopardizing it all because he decided to steal from a childish boy.
“I’ll tell Alex to take it away from here,” he says, letting his breath out. “Tomorrow morning.”
Monique puts a hand over his, her eyes suddenly focusing on him. “I’ll speak with Alex to bring some hands from the co-op of community cops. If this boat reaches where healthcare is virtually non-existent… Then I think it’s worth the risk.”
Hamilton gulps, staring down at his hands on his lap. For a moment, he was completely convinced by what Monique said about their safety. Caramba, he was practically co-opted by her argument to the point of wanting to get rid of the yacht right away. And he would’ve kept that opinion, but he recalls Monique’s nails sinking hard on his palm, drawing blood from it while they sailed away toward the only place where she could be saved.
Monique pulls his chin up with a finger.
“And, meu amor…” She manages to find a smile somewhere. “Don’t lie to me again. You know you can’t.”
5. Finding bioreactors
For that, Hamilton picks the ancient, partially collapsed and submerged Hospital do Fundão. Once a thriving university hospital, then a refugee hub, now the place is set of cavernous corridors reeking of mold and sewage, barely echoing its past. What his sources in the Jerônimo told him is that there’s a lab room with a set of five apparently functioning bioreactors adapted for organ and limb growth. So that’s his bet. Five is enough for the Saúdiate basic operation. (He’s been calling it Saúdiate, a portmanteau of “health” and “yacht.”)
He points his flashlight ahead and peeks at his pad. Turn right, then left, then up the stairs. He could’ve brought some of Alex’s friends, but he didn’t want to draw attention. He wore his worst clothes—you could safely call them rags—and decided to check if the bioreactors were still there. If they were, they could come back later with a knowledgeable team to move the equipment without damaging it—and fetch whatever else they needed for the Jerônimo. These sorts of scouting operations are how they usually restock the co-op.
The lab room is open, its door long gone. A damp draft swooshes out from it. The sunlight that penetrates the building’s many crevices illuminates particles of dust in the air.
Ah! Olha vocês aí! The five bioreactors are in place, all set in a row. They appear intact and untouched, a forgotten picture of a gone world, framed by dust and darkness. He would need only to—
His pad clangs its emergency tone across the deserted lab.
His first thought is Fraj0linha. He touches the screen to accept the call.
“Alex, what’s up?”
6. Regretting your decisions as you sail back to the place where you saved a lot of people to try and save the one you love
This is the easy part, unfortunately. When regret comes, it comes at high speed.
Monique’s acute liver failure is a time bomb. They both could see the timer ticking, ticking, ticking… When still a kid, Monique suffered a blood clot in the hepatic artery, which progressively damaged her liver throughout the years. She always planned to do something about it, but when her parents died in a flood and the city of Rio was officially broken and drowned in chaos, she had no other option but to postpone it. By then, the Atlantic Ocean had “only” claimed ten meters of the street level, but most of the urban mobility was already done by means of boats. Hamilton and Monique managed to rebuild a sketch of their lives in that new, wetter way of life, slowly reigniting whatever plans they could.
They’d already been discussing how she’d undergo the surgical revascularization she needed when, one morning, Monique woke up screaming and struggling. The Day had started, at a time when Rio’s citizens had been accumulating their own personal and inevitable Days. Hamilton had already planned a few things in case of emergencies. The number of donors and lab-grown organs was especially low in Rio for many years, but after the complete collapse, organ transplants became almost a myth. Luckily—if anything in those circumstances could be considered luck—a group of Caribbean refugees had developed an app that scanned hospitals and clinics with organs available for transplants. Hamilton kept it right on his pad’s main screen, at a finger’s reach.
When the time bomb went off, he washed painkillers down Monique’s throat, got his landlord’s autoboat, and guided it through the floodstreets and into a hospital out of the city. It was the only one that showed a green, hopeful icon for a healthy lab-grown liver. That would be Monique’s only shot at living, he knew as he reconfigured the boat’s algorithms to boost through its max speed. The fact Monique arrived at dry land alive was a miracle. The fact they managed to quickly hitch a ride at the back of a truck was another miracle. And the fact that the transplant was ultimately a success was the last miracle of the longest day of their lives.
As Hamilton speeds a Jerônimo’s autoboat along the extended coast of Guanabara Bay, all he remembers are Monique’s wails, her nails pressing deeply into his skin, her breath, ragged and weighty, and the merciless scorching sun glistening its light on the beads of sweat on her brow. He clicks his teeth and blinks fast, trying to focus on something else. Half-drowned buildings skitter by his sides, bare glimpses of damp concrete.
A few months after the Day, they married, something they’ve been postponing as well, the memories of the Vista Chinesa proposal now dully mixed with all the things that happened after. About the same time, Hamilton started the hormone therapy and Monique came back to the Jerônimo, where she’d worked after her graduation, and planned to resume its operation. Hamilton tries to focus on those things, good things, healthy things, bred of love and care, but they quickly drain from his mind, replaced by Alex’s words on the pad call.
She disappeared, man. Someone posing as a patient came by and…. They took her, man. And they left a warning. The damned influencer wants his yacht back in 24 hours or…
Hamilton hung up on him. He knew his next words and he didn’t want to hear them. Another thing he knew was how reckless he was for stealing the yacht. He’d put his life on the line, but most of all, if anyone traced the theft back to the co-op, everybody else’s lives were on the line too, including the head doctor’s. That’s as simple as a basic sum, and yet it only comes to him now, like a nagging thought drilling through the corners of his mind. As if it’s not too late. What makes it all worse is that there’s no guarantee that Fraj0linha won’t kill Monique after he has his yacht back. For a man who posts videos hanging people in the name of the rightful King of Brazil, killing someone would be completely within character.
Gripping tight the boat’s wheel—needlessly, since it’s following its algorithms—Hamilton taps his pad to call Alex.
“It’s simple, isn’t it?” He says before Alex can utter a word. “It has to be.”
“Giving back the yacht and getting Monique back?” The fact that Alex’s voice is rough and without any of his usual humor is bad. “Negotiation is the standard procedure in those cases, but… We can’t trust these extremist leftovers from the beginning of the century, Hamilton.”
“You said it was safe…” Blaming someone for your own decisions. Great. That’s what Hamilton is thinking as his autoboat swerves right and dashes through a floodstreet flanked by rooftop islets sporting shacks and huts of exposed brick.
“I said there was a small risk. We weren’t tracked by any devices. The farm folks had stripped the yacht of its electronic stuff and deactivated all possible trackers. But… one of his thousands of followers must’ve spotted us between Leblon and the co-op harbor. We were unlucky… Trust me, Hamilton, I’d never go on with your plan if I thought the risk was big. You know me.”
Hamilton grits his teeth. Of all risks, the smallest is the one that comes right back at him like a dreadful piranha hopping out of the water. Working as a nurse, he’s well aware of what risk management means. It’s always painful and terrifying to take something from one patient and give it to another. You have to hope it’s only temporary suffering, as you ask for another nurse to find an oxygen tank, more serum, painkillers, or antibiotics that aren’t expired… And on the Day, when he enveloped a desperate Monique in his arms and kissed her forehead, he knew the world was against him. Death. That was how the Day would end. He was sure of it. How could he get Monique across a crumbling city and still hope for her to endure liver transplantation? People died from far less than that.
“Alex…” he whispers.
“Did she bring her medicines? She needs them. My God… That can’t be happening.”
“I don’t know, man.”
By now, clinging to the flimsy thoughts about his marriage and his hormone therapy seems like distant foolishness.
7. Rescuing your loved one before she’s killed (it’s all your fault, yes, it is, you shouldn’t have kickstarted this plan)
That’s how things work, isn’t it? You have step-by-step instructions you aim to follow in order to accomplish something. But then, along the way, you make a mistake and it all falls apart, so you desperately pick up the fragments of your initial plans amidst the turmoil you caused. You need to set it all back in order, through gritted teeth, tears, and frustration.
Fraj0linha has set up a point off the coast for the negotiations, roughly where the old Copacabana Beach used to be. The choice is obvious—and appalling—enough: Shootouts and executions off the coast don’t draw as much attention as ones that happen in the floodstreets.
The co-op sends seven small tug boats to escort the yacht and provide protection during the negotiation. Aboard is a party of volunteers gathered by Alex: farmers, nurses, doctors, and a detachment from the community cops co-op. Much of the influencer’s stuff had been brought back to the yacht to avoid further reasons to displease the man. But some things would have to stay unchanged. Like the hateful cat, now absent from the hull, and the x-ray and MRI machines already installed in a few cabins. Has to be enough.
The negotiation is to happen on the yacht’s pool deck, the first one above the waterline, as per Fraj0linha’s instructions (whoever holds a life in their hand gives the orders). The influencer and eight of his minions arrive in a motorboat and as soon as the boats bump, a man ties a rope to the yacht as if leashing a dog.
Alex tries to insist that Hamilton stay in one of the tugboats, but Hamilton would never flee from the responsibility of righting the things he messed up. He touches his shirt pocket and feels Monique’s immunosuppressant pillbox in it. This relieves him somehow as if a part of her is still there with him. But when he actually sees Monique, brought onto the deck by Fraj0linha’s minions, his heart misses more than a beat. She’s tied with ropes around on a chaise lounge, still wearing her white coat and her working, slightly battered shoes. She’s gagged and a strip of blood runs from her left cheek. But she’s alive, eyes alert and relieved to see the co-op folks coming aboard.
The influencer is taller than he seems on his videos, but the grin he usually sports when he’s vomiting his crap online is now replaced by worry-carved dimples on a stubbled face with the paleness timidly replaced by the tan of Rio. He wears a sleeveless shirt with a Brazilian flag crowned with a Monarchy crest. One of the men—shirtless, a map of scars charted on his belly—holds a submachine gun and sticks to the influencer’s side like a father afraid to leave his son. By the look in his eyes, he’s paid—and highly so—to keep that stance.
The first thing Hamilton does is look straight into the barrel of the gun. That’s because he steps forward and extends the pillbox to Monique.
“Please,” he mutters, dead coldness on his brow. “It’s just her medicine. She should’ve taken it a while ago.”
“Throw it away, José,” Fraj0linha says, a curl of disgust on his face. José, the shirtless bodyguard, rips the box from Hamilton’s hand, but instead of throwing it over the gunwale, he sticks it into his trousers. You don’t just throw things away like that. Good choice, José.
“It will all be simple,” Alex says, but it sounds as if he’s trying to convince himself. And he is. He took the role of mediator, so he’s not armed. “We leave with her. You and your men stay in the yacht.”
Fraj0linha squints at Alex. Hamilton steps back and joins the other co-op folks, his gaze latched on Monique. He breathes deeply, finally able to find some slivers of hope in that mess. First, it wouldn’t take long. In minutes, he’d be embracing and kissing his wife, saying he’s sorry and promising he would never do anything like that again. Second, since Fraj0linha came aboard, the negotiation isn’t likely to end in a bloodbath. Stories from the start of the century often described alt-right extremists valuing life above everything. But only one: Their own. Fraj0linha wouldn’t risk his precious, pale skin in a shootout to kill a bunch of farmers and nurses.
“You’re dirty,” Fraj0linha says, his eyes on Alex. “You’re all like… You know the trash that clogs up around the corners of some floodstreets? You’re like that. And you stink of… earth?”
Alex sniffs his armpit. “Today it’s turnips, I think.”
“You deceived me, pobretão,” Fraj0linha bites his lips, apparently finding some pleasure in calling Alex a penniless man. “José told me you were very smart with that phony repairs company.”
“We thought we could borrow the yacht for some community work.” It’s Hamilton who says that. Not Alex, not any of the other co-op folks. So, kudos for his sudden courage. “But we have no problem giving it back to you. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and desire you no harm.”
“Community work?” Fraj0linha snorts. “Like what?”
“Healthcare, my liege,” José says. “We found some hospital equipment in the cabins. They’re from the Jerônimo-Trepadeira co-op in Olaria.”
“Healthcare?” Fraj0linha laughs. “Do you call those filthy clinics in those wobbly buildings healthcare? I have true healthcare in my condo, with doctors who graduated from the United States’ best universities.”
“We thought we could help folks with a boat like that…” Hamilton says, but his voice is feeble, his arms and legs trembling. “There are many people who need it.”
“Blah-blah-blah… Kill them.”
“Wait!” Alex yells. On the chaise lounge, Monique groans and widens her eyes. Hamilton, on the other hand, doesn’t move. Not because he can’t, but because of something he sees. A thread lost in the web of José’s scars.
Fraj0linha leaps back into his motorboat, which quickly gains distance from the yacht (the king is always the first to get to safety, right?). His minions, led by José, point their submachine guns and pistols at the co-op folks, one for each, except for Monique, who is already utterly defenseless.
There are things you can only do when you’re on the edge. In those moments, the world shuts all around you and only one thing matters. Hyperfocus, doctors call it. On the Day, that thing was Monique, moaning, unable to form words, growling out her pain across the floodstreets. And Hamilton poured all his attention and strength and thoughts onto her. So he could program the autoboat’s algorithms to go North, leaving Rio behind; so he could carry her for a kilometer across a barren road until they found a bottled water truck going to someplace near the clinic where the liver was waiting for her; so he could cry alone in a waiting room, six hours straight, sleepless, certain of her death, staring at a white double door that never opened.
But now, his focus is not on Monique. It’s on José.
“Donor or recipient?” Hamilton says, raising his hand and looking straight into José’s eyes, his voice surprisingly clear.
“What?” the man frowns, his gun pointed at Alex’s head.
Hamilton nods with his chin to José’s belly. “The chevron incision, right? You donated or received a liver. Like my wife.” Liver transplant incisions often created a recognizable pattern like the one on Monique’s torso, one which would always be there as a reminder of the Day. José probably had a Day as well. Everyone has at least one.
“Donor,” José mumbles, tightening his jaw. That man is a lot more Alex than Fraj0linha.
“And you get that condo healthcare?” Hamilton says, more at ease than ever before. It’s like he’s talking with a friend. Beside him, Alex and the other co-op volunteers stare at him with gritted teeth and their suspicious eyes. “He pays you well, that I know, but do you get the same healthcare as him? Because there was a time when money could buy health but not anymore. Now you need people like us. You probably know that, judging by your scars.”
“You want to die first, man?” José says, voice wavering.
“I want you to understand what you’re killing. Not just us, nurses and lettuce pullers. An entire hospital. It is up to you if you think what Fraj0linha does with this boat is worthier than what we would do.”
A daughter, a husband, a wife, a mother, a friend, an unknown person. There are people in our lives we’d gladly give parts of ourselves because without these people we wouldn’t be entire. During those long seconds that stretch infinitely as the yacht sways on the rolling waters where Rio marries the ocean, Hamilton is sure he’s going to die. He looks one last time at Monique, and all he has to offer is his smile. One that conveys apology as well as gratitude.
José pulls something from his pocket. Hamilton flinches.
“Let them go,” José says, extending the pillbox to Hamilton. The others look suspiciously at him, but it’s clear whom they respect. They all lower their weapons. “And leave the yacht with them.”
8. Lying to your loved one about the (new) yacht in the harbor
“Another one?” Monique gapes at the new yacht in the co-op harbor. It’s smaller than the Saúdiate—okay, Monique actually hates the name, so a change is pending—with a hull painted in indigo blue. She rubs her brow. “Our yacht is already operating. What did you do now, Hamilton?”
Hamilton stares at her, straight-faced. He grabs and squeezes her hands. With his other hands, he pats the new yacht. “We’ll need more, so I stole another one, my love.”
She laughs out loud and elbows him. “I know you’re lying.”
Hamilton pulls her closer. Alex hops aboard the new yacht. This one is for Trepadeira, and Hamilton is almost sure Alex will want to call it The Lettuce Sailor. According to him, it’s the ideal name for a boat that will transport food to the most affected regions of Rio. Despite their inability to properly baptize boats, Hamilton’s eyes moisten when he thinks about how many families their co-op can help now. Food and health are the bases of all societies, but they were taken from Rio even before the Atlantic invaded. If they can help reestablish those bases, even if slowly and sparsely, then all they’re doing is already worth it.
“Bioreactors coming in!” Alex shouts from a watchtower at the harbor’s entrance as a catamaran slows down. The community cops have been lending a few hands, helping them enlarge their security infrastructure. “Dock seven! And the Saúdiate will be coming next. Two successful surgeries today! Plus three new kidneys have grown in the boat’s lab. That’s a win, right, folks?” People at the harbor clap and hoot. “And always keep our eyes trained on any minions from the influencer. But guess he’s short-staffed now.”
“Who’s piloting that catamaran?” Monique squints at the man in the cockpit, who waves to Alex. “Is that—”
It was a sister, Hamilton discovered weeks later. José donated 60% of his liver to her. It gave her three more years. If not for the lack of resources in José’s community, his sister could’ve lived longer.
“Guess sometimes we’re lucky,” Hamilton says, shrugging at Monique, while José and the former influencer’s security team enter the harbor.
Renan Bernardo (he/him) is a science fiction and fantasy writer from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His fiction appeared in Apex Magazine, Podcastle, Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, Future Science Fiction, Solarpunk Magazine, and others. His Solarpunk/Clifi short fiction collection, Different Kinds of Defiance, is upcoming by Android Press. His fiction has also appeared in multiple languages, including German, Italian, Japanese, and Portuguese.He can be found at Twitter (@RenanBernardo) and his website: www.renanbernardo.com.