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Against the swirls of water, the bottles, crates, tires and straws all gathered together in a soup of the final stage of the productive process. Fish chomped on shoestrings. Birds gobbled up plastic bags like they were carrion. Something had to be done. Gertrude Octavio surveyed the area and held back tears. She and her photographer, Lorenzo Jerkins, had covered this part of the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware for the past fifteen years documenting the various changes to the habitat.
“We’ve got a case here,” Gertrude said. “We can build up enough of this evidence to have this place shut down and preserved only for wildlife. That’s the goal and I intend to achieve it.”
On the other side of town, plastic straw manufacturer, Kevin Hooper calculated in his head the amount of straws that he would produce. He then translated that into a digital system that received the command to make that many straws. The business was seamless. As CEO of Empower Plastics, Hooper could count on the human employees as well as the robots to create for him his vision of sustaining a plastic world.
When he came across the protests and the articles and proposed bills to shutter his factory, he laughed at it. But then he got serious. He wanted to show to the environmentalists that he could be conscious while still turning a profit. That’s when project D.U.C.K. (Durable Underwater Contaminant Kicker) came into being. Hundreds of these plastic ducks would suck up the jetsam and other pieces of discarded materials from the river.
Gertrude stood at the hill watching as the first DUCKs entered into the waterway. They swam just like the real ones. They fought for the plastic, rubber, metal, cloth, and other debris. Their task seemed to be complete. That was until Gertrude walked down from the hill to see Hooper.
“I see that you’ve decided to save the planet one DUCK at a time,” Getrude said smirking.
“I just looked at the bottom line. The cleaner this river is, the less stress that I have to worry about the press,” Hooper said.
“You’re a poet and didn’t even know it,” Gertrude giggled this time.
“Please excuse me, I’ve got to address the private investors of this project. Thanks.”
Gertrude backed off and away from Hooper. She held an icy look in her eyes looking at the head of a corporation. It was something that she could not conceive. She sensed that he was a money grubbing bastard who had no interest in saving the wildlife or the ecosystems of the world. Later that night, she and Jerkins journeyed down to where the DUCKs busied themselves with clearing litter and garbage. Gertrude used a stun gun to shock the system of each DUCK. Immediately, the Empower Plastics people were aware of the systems going down on each of the devices. They sent out a team to investigate just what was powering down each one.
Once the team had reached the Christina River, Gertrude and Lorenzo had vanished. Refuse circled the area and it whirled into a grey mass under the moonlight.
The team reported what had happened to Hooper.
“It’s Gertrude. No doubt.”
Hooper rode with the police to Gertrude’s office the next day.
“Why officers, Mr. Hooper...what seems to be the trouble?”
“You know goddamn well what’s the trouble. You tried to stop my DUCKs. We’ve got them up and running again.”
“Well, you’ve got no evidence against me so I think you all should be on your way, now.”
“We would do that only if your photographer had not posted on social media the photographs of you electrocuting the DUCKs,” Detective Liston said.
Jerkins just shrugged and put out his hands in a gesture of “arrest me, now.”
“Goddamnit Lorenzo, you had one job!”
The police took both of them into custody. They were headed to the squad car when Hooper approached Gertrude for a final word.
“I care about the environment. The human environment. You’re just a man hater.” The policeman pushed Gertrude’s head down into the squad car.
Hooper later watched with pride his DUCKs take a swim.