Wednesday, January 30
Right ascension 16 49 55.2
Declination -74 14 23
Delta 0.25 AU
Doug Martin is very, very surprised to see me.
Note that he is not unhappy to see me, just surprised. He and I got along just fine on a professional level, but we had nothing in common personally, so when we were no longer on the same team we simply lost touch.
“Stretch! Holy shit! Come on in!” he bellows, pulling the door open expansively and inviting me in.
The house I’ve arrived at, after a long journey through some very empty roads (everybody has already gotten to where they are going, or is staying put where they are) was once Malcolm Glazer’s primary residence. But as I step inside, Doug mentions in a way that is meant to sound offhand, but comes across as somewhat ominous, that Malcolm doesn’t live here anymore.
“You need anything?” Doug asks magnanimously as I ogle the palatial surroundings.
“No, I’m good…well, actually, it would be nice to be able to plug in,” I acknowledge with regards to my vehicle, a plug-in hybrid that Ryan gifted to me when I had finally located Doug and started planning my journey. “I’ve got a motorcycle with a full tank of gas, and I’m not planning on going anywhere anyways. Just take it. If we’re still around by next week, bring it back,” he’d told me.
“Malcom Glazer is letting you stay at his place?”
The patio door flies open.
“Stay here? Shit, we OWN this place,” Darren Sproles crows.
I look at Doug.
“It’s true. Got the deed and everything.”
The kitchen door flies open.
“Tell him about the red paperclip,” Danny Woodhead urges Doug.
I turn to Doug, confused.
Doug smiles. “A number of years ago, this cat did a thing where he started with a single red paperclip, and then he tried to keep trading up until he ended up with a house.”
“What, you think I’d be telling you about it right now if he didn’t pull it off?”
Darren pipes up, “except in our case it was a single bottle of Oxycontin.”
Doug continues, “About an hour after the news broke – I mean, when it became real, when that video of deGrasse Tyson doing blow off that hooker in the Cayman Islands showed up – I was in Warren King’s office. He’s the team doctor, I was supposed to be having my ankle checked. And he says ‘oh, what the fuck’s the point?’ and I say ‘so this is for real?’ and he says ‘yeah, this is really for real.’ So then I says ‘can you give me a bottle of oxy, Doc? Enough to get me through the week, maybe enough to end things nice and peacefully?’ and he says ‘fuck it, sure, why not?’ So I start out with a bottle full of Oxycontin.”
Danny cackles with glee, “and then Doug goes to the gun store.”
“That’s right. I say to myself ‘what are people gonna go bonkers to get their hands on one week before the apocalypse hits?’ Food?” Doug shakes his head. “It’s just a week, ain’t nobody gonna starve in a week. Liquor? Nah, same story. But you know people are gonna get stupid about guns. So I roll on down to my friendly neighborhood gun store, and tell the owner ‘I got more pills than I need; you got more guns than you need, what say we make a swap? And he says ‘all right’. So now I’ve got a dozen handguns and a pair of AR-15’s, and the ammo to boot.” I notice that all of the three men in the house are sporting Glocks in holsters at their hips. I’ve got a gun too, but it’s in the car. I won’t need it today, and it wouldn’t have done me any good in here anyway.
“And then the gas stations run dry. So I find this cat – he’s a tanker truck driver for Exxon. His boys at Exxon are still trying to act like things are normal, so they load him up at the refinery, they say ‘go to such and such station in Sarasota and fill ’em up. But guess what? They can’t pay him for doing it – money ain’t worth shit! And what if he don’t deliver it? What are they gonna do, fire his ass? Sue him? Call the cops and have him arrested?”
“Good luck,” Danny scoffs.
“So he’s got himself a tanker full of gasoline that everybody wants. That ain’t a prize, that shit’s a burden. I tell him ‘here, gas up my Maserati; it’s yours, here’s a couple of Glocks, you go find a place on Longboat Key with a “For Sale” sign in front of it and make it your own for the week, and I’ll take this gasoline off your hands. And so that’s what we do.”
“We?” I query.
“Well, at that point he needed a crew to keep it safe,” Danny answers, “so he called us up.”
“It’s time to make some short sales, boys!” Darren laughs.
Doug’s face darkens for a moment, but it passes. “And then I make one more call, to Malcolm Glazer. Because I’ve got everything I need for the week before the meteor hits, but what about the week after?”
And this is where Doug Martin and Darren Sproles and Danny Woodhead have become divorced from reality. Because there is a sizable subset of the population that fervently believes that something is going to happen and the world is going to be saved. The most popular theory is that the U.S. military is working with NASA and SpaceX to launch a massive payload of nuclear weapons at the meteor. They are convinced that a gigantic blast in space can blow it off course so that it will miss Earth entirely. They still might try it, because why the hell not, but it won’t work. It can’t work. In order to push anything in space, you need something to push against. So even if they could time the detonation perfectly such that the nuclear explosions happened at the exact right moment – no easy feat, considering the speeds involved – all those explosions would do, even if they used all the nukes in the world – would produce a lot of light and heat. It might kick up a bunch of (now radioactive) dust and debris, but that’s all. It wouldn’t even break the meteor into pieces. You’d have to drill into it to accomplish something like that, which means you’d have to land on the meteor, which is possible in theory with five years to figure it out and then get all the equipment up there. But you’re never going to be able to pull off that feat in a week. There simply isn’t enough time.
“You’ve heard about all these rich guys running off to Fiji, right?”
I shake my head.
“So a lot of these big honchos, your captains of modern industry and what-not, Zuckerberg, Bezos, you know, have convinced themselves that maybe the strike won’t be so bad. A few tsunamis, a bunch of dust kicked up into the atmosphere, but maybe if they can get themselves somewhere nice and tropical and isolated, they can ride this out. Or at the very least, spend their final week someplace nice.”
Danny jumps in, “but of course, how are you going to get somewhere tropical? The airlines aren’t running.”
“Private jet.” Darren answers for him.
Doug smiles. “Only how are you going to fuel that private jet? Avgas, baby. So I’ve got a tanker truck full of gasoline, and I talk to my cousin James, he worked up at Tampa International, I ask him if he can get me a truck of Avgas, a straight trade for a truck full of gasoline. And he puts it on. Then I tell Malcolm, ‘I’ve got your Avgas, but it’s gonna cost you.’ ‘How much?’ he says.” Then Doug raises his hands and turns in a circle.
“He sold you all this just for some jet fuel?”
Darren jumps up and down, “oh, that’s not all.”
Doug turns around, grabs a stack of papers from a table behind him, and slams them down again. “You, sir, are looking at the owners of a 15% stake in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
I do Doug the courtesy of peering at the papers, but I am inwardly skeptical. Malcolm Glazer is a slick motherfucker, and I guarantee that there’s a poison pill in whatever contract they signed that will render it void within a week if the meteor misses.
Which it won’t. But Doug is happier than I’ve ever seen him. So I keep my thoughts very much to myself.
“Now what brings you here?” Doug finally asks.
I take out my phone, and pull up the video. “I need your help solving a mystery,” I tell him.