Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

 

Chapter one

 

 

Commander Lee Crane, late of the Navy, but now captain of one of the largest, fastest and most technologically advanced submarines in the world, stood in the bow observation room of the Seaview, watching the waves boil against the Herculite hull plates.  The sub sliced through the water with power that still held him transfixed at times, despite his past years commanding her.  By the time his mind returned to the present, his coffee was cold.  He turned back to the admiral, the man he had always admired, but had come over the past few years to consider a close friend, as well as his mentor.  During all this time, Admiral Nelson had not said a word, only gazing out the bow windows, much as Lee had.

“So let me get this straight,” Lee said quietly, putting his mug down on the small table near one of the bow windows.  He felt the tingling of uneasiness and decided to play devil’s advocate on this one. “I’ll be some kind of high class courier.   Why can’t this be done electronically?  There are secure lines.”

Admiral Harriman Nelson looked tired, but his eyes were penetrating and held the glint of intense and deep thought.   They almost always did.  It wasn’t often that the admiral wasn’t thinking of solutions, new ideas or the world in general.  His genius had saved mankind several times.  It was a wonder to Lee that anyone still ever doubted the older man’s intuitions and summations.  But then, the admiral was the first one to admit that he didn’t have all the answers.  “Lee, you know about computer bugs, wiretaps and code-busters just as much as I do.  In something as important as all this, it’s still better to use human know-how.  To use a flesh and blood person.”   He sighed.  “I think this conversation would be better continued in my cabin,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at the busy control room.  

Lee nodded.  Now, perhaps, he would get some of the answers he felt were being denied him.  “Why me?” Lee asked when they had arrived in the admiral’s cabin.  Nelson motioned the captain to a chair by his desk.  Lee sat and waited.  If he had been asking anyone else these questions, the captain realized that they might have wondered about his courage or loyalty, but he knew the admiral thought no such thing.  It was a question of curiosity and it would be answered honestly and directly.  So the captain was surprised when his superior came up with something that Lee would have expected from a politician.

“Lee, I selected you because I trust you explicitly—and because you’re the best,” Nelson returned after a moment’s pause.  “And I wasn’t the only one who wanted you doing this.”

Lee snorted.  “I appreciate the former, but ‘the best’?  I’ve bungled my share of undercover assignments.  Admiral, there are lots of first class spies out there.  You and I both know that.”  He paused and gazed intently into the admiral’s intense blue eyes.  “Something’s bothering you,” Lee pressed softly.

“And you’ve skillfully and successfully accomplished such assignments, even the ones you feel you bungled.”  Nelson’s eyes grew hard.  “And yes!  Something is bothering me,” he said tersely.  “This is a dangerous—highly dangerous, venture.  There is someone out there who wants to get his or her hands on this project.  Someone who is willing to kill in order to obtain the information—and has!”  The admiral leaned back in the seat behind his desk and sighed lustily.  “And I am sending the person closest to me into the middle of it,” he added wearily.   “I would dearly love to pick the name of someone I don’t know and let the government blithely send them into this morass.”

Crane was taken aback by the admiral’s emotion.  He also knew that the admiral never ‘blithely’ sent anyone anywhere, even strangers.  Some of their missions still haunted the older man’s dreams.  But he chose not to say anything about that.   “I appreciate your confidence, Admiral.  But if you think I can do it….”

“Of course, I think you can do it, Lee,” Nelson snapped.  The eyes seemed to be seeing something in the distance, and they grew hard again.   “I want you to think carefully about this.   You will be alone.  Since we don’t know who is behind all this cloak and dagger, we can’t give you direct support, we can’t prepare you for any specific attack, subterfuge or action.”  Nelson paused and gazed steadily at his next in command.   “You will be at the whims of your contacts, most of whom, I don’t even know.  Any one of them could be playing both sides. You could very well be captured—or killed.  And we most likely won’t have the means to come to your rescue.”

Lee couldn’t help it.  He chuckled.  “Admiral, we’ve been in those situations before.  Death seems to trail the Seaview.

Nelson shook his head.  “Not like this.”

“Can you give me more details?”

Again, Nelson shook his head.  “You have to trust me.  What little I have been given about this mission, I’m not supposed to divulge.”  He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck.   “I will tell you this much about the project itself, more than what the ONI wanted me to tell you.”  Nelson took a deep breath.  “In order for more security, there have been several planners, each now separate from the other, with different components to work on.”

There was still something not quite right about this and that something was making the older man nervous.   Up until recently, Admiral Nelson had been much more candid to him about the various secret projects, scientific discoveries and missions.  But lately?  The admiral had been as cagey as a cat with a stash of mice in his paws.  “Components?” Lee asked, puzzled by the admiral’s lack of forthrightness, despite Nelson’s claim of telling him more than he was supposed to. 

“What I mean is that several people are working on the same problem and their solutions will be studied together.”  Nelson got up from behind his desk.  He paced the confines of the cabin twice and then sat back down.  “The other people have come up with their solutions, but you have the assignment to go and get the most important person’s notes.  He has been threatened and attacked in the past and he is in deep cover.  I don’t know where he is, almost no one knows.  He will not come out of hiding until he is sure his safety won’t be compromised.”

Lee had a sudden and nasty suspicion, but he didn’t voice it.  “So theoretically, the other people, you included, have the same possible solutions.”  Sudden insight came to him.  “The Helsinki Symposium!  That was where you four began collaborating.”  Nelson didn’t say a thing, but there was a glint in his eye that told Lee that he had made the right summation and that his boss was secretly pleased.  Crane paused a moment and then decided to lay all his suspicions on the table.  “I gather that I am also a guinea pig of sorts.  A decoy to pull this mysterious enemy out of hiding.”

“I didn’t say that.  You will be getting extremely time sensitive and vitally important information, Lee.  And I will be doing all I can, along with ONI to make sure you are not only successful but safe.”   The admiral paced again, then paused, right in front of Lee.   “You have to trust me,” Nelson said.  He seemed almost apologetic.  “I can’t give out too much information.”

“In case I’m captured by this mysterious crack-pot,” Lee answered.

Again, the admiral sighed, but didn’t answer right away.  “Lee, if you seriously have doubts, please, say no.  This is just between us and won’t go further.   We have too much respect for each other to be judgmental anymore.”

Lee stared at the clock on the admiral’s wall before turning back to his commander.  Their eyes made contact.  “I trust you, Admiral,” he answered softly.  “For whatever reasons you want me to do this, I’ll do it.”

Nelson turned suddenly and returned to his desk.  Inside a small drawer, he pulled out a small slip of paper.  “Memorize this.  It’s your first contact.”  Lee took it.  “There will be several.  Hopefully that will keep any enemy trackers off your tail.”

Lee nodded.  “We’ll be back at the Institute in the morning.  Is that when you want me to go?”

“Not exactly.  You need to go ashore south of here, land on the beach and walk to your contact.  The place will be only a mile from where you come ashore.”

Lee looked at the tiny scrap in his hand.  He expected a seedy type of establishment in a seedy neighborhood, but from what he knew of the area, this was a better part of the city, more high class.  Very high class, he thought, since it was also near the beach. The Malibu of Santa Barbara.  Nodding, he turned back to the admiral.  “Go in as a civilian?”

Nelson nodded.  “Yes, and travel light.  No identification.  Anything you need will be provided by your contacts.”

“Suppose it’ll be all right to carry a toothbrush and a few dollars, right?” he asked with a slight grin.  Whatever was eating the admiral, he wasn’t going to add to it now.  The job was his and Lee was determined that he wasn’t going to act like he was going to his own funeral.

For the first time, Nelson cracked the barest hint of a smile.  “You don’t expect the Institute to cover all the expenses, do you?” he asked wryly.

Lee knew the humor was forced, but he was glad to see the admiral respond to it.  “You mean I can’t even save the receipts?”

The admiral snorted.  “Get some sleep.  You’ll need it, Lee.  Our jokes are already pretty thread bare.”

“Aye aye, Admiral,” Lee responded lightly and left the cabin.  He returned to the control room, where he checked readings, gauges, and the latest reports.  When Lt. Commander Chip Morton reported in, Lee greeted him briefly.  “Con is yours, Commander,” he said.  “I’m going to try and get some sleep.  We’ll be in port shortly after dawn.”

The blond-haired young man only nodded.  This was all routine. 

 

                              ==========================

 

The next morning Crane was dressed in civilian clothes that matched the season as well as the upscale nature of where he was going.  To outward appearances, he would look like a jogger out earlier than any reasonable man should be.  The admiral said little, only helping Lee put a small raft into the water.  Lee stepped into it.  With the address in his head and the paddle at his feet, he was ready. Without more than a quick wave of farewell, he picked up an oar and began paddling.  There was no need to say or do anything else. 

Harriman watched as the man he had come to know as an extremely close friend, as well as a damned fine officer, rowed into the early morning blackness.  He felt a chill run down his back and he wondered if it was the morning air . . . or something else.     

 

                               =================================

 

Lee sat in a very comfortable chair in an almost obscenely huge living room, sipping iced tea.  A huge picture window showed a mile distant sparkling ocean.  More, it had seemed to him this morning, he remembered wryly, feeling the soreness in his feet and ankles settling.  It had been all up hill and in and out of neighborhood streets.  The mile had really been as the crow flies.   And he was no crow.

One wall of the room was almost taken up by a huge stone fireplace, the mantle richly polished mahogany.  The floor reminded him of what a Roman senate chamber or forum might have looked like.  It was covered with richly embossed tiles that were definitely not peel and stick squares.  At the insistence of his host, Lee had left his running shoes in a small recessed space by the front door.  He was not only somewhat intimidated by the opulence around him, but also by the man in front of him—a man who could have been a brother, considering the resemblance. 

“I have to admit, I’m going to enjoy this ‘enforced’ vacation,” the man, Jeffrey Morris, was saying.  His drink was a bit more potent, a wine cooler.  “But I hope it doesn’t drag out too long.  I like to get out, too.”

Lee shrugged.  “Your guess is as good as mine as to how long this will be.”   He had found out that Jeffrey, Jeff to his friends was a civilian contract engineer who often worked for the government on military jobs.  This ‘enforced’ vacation would allow him the opportunity to work on some of his contracts without interruption.  The benefit to the government, other than giving Lee his cover, was that the various plans and designs would actually get finished and turned in on time.  Morris’ penchant for fun and games was going to provide the captain’s cover, but it had also been a sore spot for those who often had to wait several days past deadline for completed projects.  The man was a genius, from what he had read in the sealed packet he received when he had arrived, but a very nonchalant one.  He watched Morris over his glass. 

“I wish you’d give me some name, though.  I really don’t like the idea of talking to a non-entity,” Morris said. 

Lee smiled.  “You are getting paid a very large bonus, according to this,” he said, patting the papers on his lap, “to not know who I am.  Better for you in the long run.”  He took another sip.  There was something about the man that slightly annoyed him, but he could understand the other’s curiosity.  If he had been loaning his identity to someone else, Lee would want to know more, too. “If it makes you feel any better, you can call me Rocket J. Squirrel for all I care,” he added with a chuckle.  “I’ll be out of your hair by dawn anyway.”

“Yeah, I know, I know,” Morris said.  “Well, go ahead and take what you need for your trip.  I can give you some pointers, since by your own admission, you haven’t done any serious running for some years.”

That was an understatement, thought Lee.  You don’t do laps on a submarine, except on a treadmill or in the missile room.  He chuckled mentally.  “I appreciate that, Jeff,” Lee said, lifting his glass in a mock toast.   They talked amiably for the next hour, working around the slight degree of wariness that comes when two people are thrown together in an awkward situation that is not of their making and over which they have little control.  After that and with Morris’ help, Lee gathered several changes of his host’s clothes, including all that he would need for an around the world running excursion.  Morris’ flippant remark that he would love the excuse to do something like that fell on deaf ears.  For some reason, Lee thought that was the least desirable part of this assignment.  He could visualize himself passing out in a race somewhere, heaven only knew where, simply because he hadn’t had time to get in shape for it.  

With a sigh, he tried to listen carefully as Morris gave him pointers on running 5 and 10 K races.  Lee knew the basics; he had done some running in high school and, of course at the academy, along with the boxing that had earned him a few trophies in intercollegiate competitions.  However, he couldn’t really remember doing anything serious since his days in the Naval Academy.  Finally, he had to shrug it off and figure that someone had put that information into the scenario and he would somehow be able to pull all this off.  By mid-afternoon a large suitcase was packed and they were back in the living room, chatting amiably again.   Just before sunset, they worked out on a private tennis court in the back of the house, and had a gourmet dinner on the patio afterward.   Lee tried to get a few hours sleep before he had to leave, but ended up wishing he had just stayed up watching television, something else he hadn’t had much experience with lately.   Dozing off had only made him feel groggy by the time the alarm rang at three in the morning.

By four, Crane was in a cab, on his way to the airport where a ticket in the name of Jeffrey Morris was waiting for him at the reservation desk.   Destination?   Salt Lake City, Utah.  His packet had only said that his first stop was to work out the final phases of a government contract.    At least it was at a resort—Park City.  He had heard of it.  According to the weather report at Morris’ house, he might get to see snow-covered mountain peaks.  It had been a while.   If he was going to do the James Bond shtick, at least he would try to enjoy where the powers that be were sending him. 

 

 

Chapter Two
Foam on a Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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