by sherlockette


Thanks to Helen and Diane for their suggestions


As he stood in the doorway waiting for the men who would pack and remove his belongings, retiring Vice Admiral Harriman Nelson scanned the room that had been his office for the last several years.  Up until now, parties, last minute meetings and big plans for the future had allowed him to avoid any sentimentality over the early end of his full-time military career. He was caught by surprise when the simple task of clearing out his office had triggered a sudden melancholy feeling, one he had not been able to shake.

“Harriman Nelson, this is your life!” he mumbled before letting out a low sigh and snatching the model submarine from his desk. As he flipped it around his thoughts quickly turned to the series of events that had led him to leave his position at the Office of Naval Research. While he could admit some of his ideas were too far ahead of their time to become reality in his lifetime, he was absolutely sure his design plans for building a highly advanced research submarine were sound and constructing it was vital to exploring the oceans and to the security of the nation. When an aggressive campaign to cut off all funding for the project and any project with which he was involved was initiated by a couple of powerful dove senators, he fought back. Finally, weary of the constant battles against what some were calling “Nelson’s folly”, he decided to put his energy and his family fortune to work and build the submarine himself.

After setting the model down, Nelson paused and looked over the bookshelf that covered an entire wall of his office. It was crammed with works on practically every topic, from astronomy to zoology, military history to advanced weaponry. There were even a number of works of fiction. Many of the authors had been men and women of vision whose ideas had been doubted or ridiculed and many never lived to see their dreams come to life. Out of the blue Nelson began to tap on each spine and call out its title, beginning with some of the rarer works. 

Neires Boreali- Americana .”  The three-volume set written and researched by William Henry Harvey detailed the algae of North America . “Physical Geography of the Sea and its Meteorology.” The author, Matthew Fontaine Maury, was a naval officer who is often considered the the father of oceanography.  Histoire naturelle des poisson.” Translated as the natural history of fish, it was written by Baron Georges Cuvier. “Encyclopedia of Navigation.” Its author, Nathaniel Bowditch, was the mathematician who accurately calculated the movement of the stars and sun and created charts of them to aid celestial navigation. “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660- 1783.” A compendium of several works by Alfred Thayer Mahan, a man who was well known as a genius of naval strategy.  Bulfinch’s Mythology,” Also known as The Age of Fable or Stories of Gods and Heroes, it was published in 1855. Then there was The Open Sea : Its Natural History, Part I the World of Plankton. The book’s author, Sir Alister Hardy, created a system for sampling plankton known as the continuous plankton recorder and served as the zoologist on the Discovery expedition to the Antarctic before turning his research skills towards rigorous examination of religious experiences. “Hummmmphhh.  Good work, good man, great friend,” Nelson commented before moving on.          

Oblivious to anything else around him, he continued through the stacks, past works on the teachings of Aristotle, Galileo, Archimedes and Newton, past William Beebe’s Half Mile Down, Hans Hass’ Men and Sharks and Jacques Cousteau’s The Silent World and past Robert Fulton’s Torpedo War and Submarine Explosions and Roald Amundsen’s Nordvestpassage. The roll call proceeded until he reached a small book with a dark green jacket. With a slow shake of his head he reached for the copy of Silent Spring given to him by its late author, Rachel Carson. He had first me the late scientist-teacher when they had served on a discussion panel dealing with contamination of the Chesapeake Bay . Despite being the only woman in the room and having her credentials openly challenged by another panel member, Carson had held her own. When he had the opportunity to speak with her he had been so impressed at her grasp of the complexities of the bay’s food web he had arranged for her to speak at the Naval Academy the following year. Though their friendship had been brief, she had left a legacy in her work.

Startled by a hand on his shoulder, Nelson jerked around and almost collided with Vice Admiral Jiggs Starke, whom he had known since their Academy days. “Harriman! Harriman you old sea dog, didn’t you hear me?”

“Jiggs, what, what the devil are you doing here?”

Starke looked down at the book in his friend’s hand. “This is no time for you to catch up on your reading. It’s a day to celebrate!”

Nelson closed the book and slid it into its place. “No, really, Jiggs.” 

“Thought I’d pay a visit to my old friend and buy him a drink.” he growled. The gruff tone belied the friendship that the two shared and smiles soon spread across both their faces.   

“I thought you were off on some inspection.”

“I was, but there are more important things than counting parts. Besides, I have some news for you.”

Still grinning Nelson cocked his head. “Well, go on.”

“I’ve just been appointed COMSUBPAC.”

“That’s great news, Jiggs!” declared Nelson as he reached to shake his friend’s hand. “You certainly deserve it and I know how much you wanted to get back into subs.”

“Thanks, Harriman. It’ll be good, real good. I should be able to retire from there. Bernadette will appreciate the warmer weather. Hell, so will these old bones.” 

“I understand that. When do you go?”

“Report in a month.”

“I’ll be sure to pay you two a visit when you get settled.”

“We’re counting on it.”

After a few minutes of small talk, an awkward silence descended over the room. Unsure of what to say to bring his friend out of the doldrums, Starke walked over to the window and stared out. When he finally turned back around and observed Nelson silhouetted against the bookshelf the answer came to him. He scanned the library until he located a small cloth bound volume which he held it out for his friend. “Remember this one, Harriman? You always said you got a lot of your inspiration from it.”

Nelson took the book and lowered himself into his high back leather chair and for a few moments he ran a finger over the vignette of a large jellyfish on the cover. When he flipped over to the frontispiece a hint of a smile appeared. “Verne’s Nautilus. First of its kind. Special. And fictional, Jiggs,” he added as he tossed the book on the desk.

“Just way ahead of its time. Wasn’t it Verne who wrote ‘Anything one man can imagine other men can make real’?”



With last of his belongings carried out, Nelson grabbed his jacket and cover and took one last look around the office. As he pulled the door closed, he heard the shrill ringing of the telephone and certain it was someone else offering well wishes, he hesitated to answer.  When it continued to ring he reentered the room and snatched the receiver. “Nelson.”

“Admiral, I have some important news for you in regards your little retirement project. It’s a go. Voted on by the Joint Chiefs. Let me know what else you need.”

Nelson couldn’t help but grin at the news, but he maintained his typical decorum. “That’s good news, sir. Thank you, Mr. President.”



The beginning…



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