Night gathers across the water. Thunderhead clouds, their edges bold and bruised, are mushrooming above the eastern skyline. Marijne takes a barometric pressure reading, feeding the measurements into her interface and aggregating it with the data she’s been collecting all afternoon.

‘These thermodynamics have skyrocketed in the past few hours. It’s going to

be a monster.’

Pieter studies the ballooning hypercane.

            ‘We’ll have to dive soon, anchor on the bottom. Where are we?’

She checks their coordinates in her I/O.

‘Almost over Paris. We won’t be able to get much depth. There’ll be a lot of

debris down there.’

‘We’ll have to risk it. We won’t outrun that now, even if we employ the

quantum drive.’

She nods; already the swell has risen and the deck is listing in the troughs between the waves.

‘I’ll prep for encasing. We can be ready to seal off in 20 minutes.’

Pieter frowns into the wind.

            ‘This is going to put us off schedule. I’ll have to file a report.’ He sounds weary, and Marijne pauses to touch his arm, scanning his internal system through the interface, feeling for infection. He shrugs her away.

‘I’m fine, Rijne, don’t fuss.’

She watches as he goes below deck, seeing the tired way he moves his body. She tries not to think about the dark patches she can feel on the scan, the rot inside his bones.

This piece was inspired by Two Old Men Disputing (Rembrandt, 1628), and an early flash fiction version was published as part of The Suburban Review's NGV series.

The story was developed into a longer piece, which was shortlisted in the 2018 Victoria University Overland Short Story Award. This version was published in The Suburban Review #14: Detritus.