Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10

 

 

It was dark in the room, the dimness of late afternoon, early evening.  Crane sat up in shock, the tendrils of another nightmare giving way to total wakefulness.   He was even more shocked when he realized that nothing inside his body was bothering him.  Only his head hurt from Mendon’s blows. Gingerly, Lee felt his cheek.  Mendon had surprising force in that small body.  He hoped that his torturer was feeling some kind of pain in his knuckles.   The captain couldn’t help but wonder about the respite.  Why?

Slowly, he got up and looked around.  Everything seemed to be as it had been when he left this morning—the groove in the door, the screw hidden in a crack in the door, even La’ani’s small plastic jug stored far under the cot.

For whatever reason, Lee was going to be grateful for whatever reprieve he could get, for however long it lasted.  He checked the tiny crack he had enlarged the night before and saw that it wouldn’t take much more digging before he would be through to the wooden bolt on the other side.  That would be the difficult part, working the heavy bolt loose.  He knew he could do it, however.  He had to.  He studied what he could see of the hallway from his door.  There were still guards and the other prisoners were just now being herded back to their cells for the evening.  As impatient as he was, it was definitely too early to work now.   Crane would have to wait until full dark and when the guards began to get a bit sleepy and lax. 

Forcing himself to patience, Lee lay back down on his cot, trying to ignore the growling protest of his stomach and the lightheaded feeling he felt.  How long?  Two days since his last meal?  Time had become meaningless since Mendon had given him the psychosis inducing drugs.  If it hadn’t been for La’ani’s concoction….   Lee wondered about the girl, whose name was so close to that of Kruger’s girlfriend.  That had caused a moment of shock when the Hikeruan girl had told him her name.  In his chemical induced dementia, he had briefly seen the ghost of Lani in the cell, but then it was gone.  There was no doubt that La’ani was for real.  He also felt that the girl wasn’t playing some kind of game with him.  Like the other Lani, she wouldn’t betray him. 

He must have dozed, because he woke to a gentle pressure on his burned hand.  “La’ani?” he murmured.

“Yes,” she whispered.  “You are feeling better?”

“Mmm, yes,” he replied.  “Right now, I’m trying to figure out why the good doctor decided to let me have a day of rest from his drug therapy.”

“Take each moment as a gift,” she said with a smile, feeling considerable pleasure in the American’s better condition.  “The doctor has been busy in his workroom.  The leader has called several times but still the doctor works.”

Lee smiled sourly.  “He’s trying to see what horrors he can cook up to make my life more pleasant.”

La’ani gazed at him curiously for a moment.  “You are making a joke, yes?”

“Yes,” Lee sighed.  “Except it’s really no joking matter.”

“I know.  Anyway, Mendon finally left to work on the leader’s project, but I believe it won’t be for very long.”

“He has his own agenda, and that worries me, too.”

“Agenda?”  Her brother had taught her American English in the days before the Leader, Bomar came, but there were still some words that she didn’t know.

“Plans,” Lee replied.

“And you mentioned something last night.  You called it ‘jihad’, I think.”

“Literally it a holy war, but it’s kind of come to mean any kind of vendetta or plan of revenge, especially against a foe much stronger than you,” Lee explained, eyeing the leaf wrapped packet.

“You are hungry tonight?” she asked, seeing his look.  Somehow that made her happy, too.  He was entirely too thin, either for Polynesian or for American taste. 

“I’ll say!”  She handed him the packet and he continued between mouthfuls.  “Mendon may have ties to a terrorist organization, or he just may be using the word for his own use.  But he has the medical know-how to create a biological agent that could kill thousands.”  If there was some way for the girl to get the word out, but all he could do was simply tell her what was going on.

La’ani wasn’t sure exactly what Lee had just said, but she was able to understand enough to know that Mendon, the evil one was trying to make more people than just Lee sick.  “This is what he gave you?” she asked.  

“I think it’s similar.  He’s perfecting it on me.  Right now, he has used a non-contagious form of a very virulent and debilitating type of influenza.  I think.   Sure feels like it.”  He sighed.  “He wants to test individual results before he puts it in a self-replicating form.”  La’ani looked puzzled.  “Sorry,” Lee murmured, realizing that English being her second language, she wouldn’t have understood some of what he was saying.  “In other words,” Lee tried again.  “It can’t spread from person to person, like a cold, but when he knows just what it can do and how much damage it can do, he’ll change it so that people will be able to catch it from other, infected people.”

La’ani was horror struck.  “But the sickness you had . . . to give that to anyone, including children?”  

“Exactly, La’ani,” Lee confirmed.  “Your leader hired a viper to work for him.”  He pondered as he finished his meal.  He had almost told the girl that was why he needed so desperately to escape, but he didn’t want to involve her any further than she already was.  What’s more, he certainly didn’t want to incur Bomar’s or Mendon’s wrath against her.

Once again, La’ani felt the guilt of her past inactions against these evil men.  But what could she have done?  Anything other than what she did, which was nothing.  “My father and brother were here.  They were beaten and tortured.  My father, before Mendon ever set foot on the island.  I think this serpent you are talking about resides in the hearts of both men,” she said bitterly, feeling tears prickling the corners of her eyes. 

Lee was startled and started to ask her more, but a slight noise made them both silent.  She got up and took her tray.  “Goodnight, Lee.”

“Goodnight.”

After she had left, he noticed that he was still cradling his burned hand.  That had been Bomar, not Mendon.  La’ani was right; both were serpents.  One was tempered with greed and the other with revenge.  He turned his attention back to his hand.  Despite La’ani’s patient nursing, it was still almost useless.  He would make do, though; he had to.

Lee dozed off again and sometime later woke up, the tendrils of yet another nightmare in his mind.  He sighed.  Sleep was going to be a premium if he kept reliving those drug-induced nightmares.  But enough of that, he chided himself.  There was work to do. 

There was very little light, but he didn’t need any.  He could do this blindfolded now.  Rubbing his fingers, Lee began the soft scraping that marked the night before.  This time there were no interruptions with bouts of sickness and he broke through quickly.  A little more and he was able to touch the wooden bolt.  Little more, little more and Lee had just enough room to stick the end of the screw into the bolt and maneuver it.

Sweat rolled down his face and his fingers cramped.  He massaged them and continued.  Slowly the bolt moved back.  Slowly, too slowly, but it came.  Finally, the board slid out of its cradle.  Lee listened carefully.  There was nothing.  As quietly as he could, Lee opened the door, checking the lit hallway before venturing out.  One of the lights was out.  Good!

He listened at the kitchen door.  No sounds.  The cook apparently hadn’t arrived yet.  Another stroke of luck.  There was time before dawn to get away from here.  Silently, Lee slipped through the kitchen and paused at the storage room door.  Quiet.  Lee pushed through that door.  The lights lit the area but there were still pockets of shadow and he kept to those.  The beat of the sea grew louder, felt stronger and Lee was drawn to that. 

Suddenly, there was harsh laughter and a net fell over his body.  Shock, surprise and anger mingled with despair as Lee realized that he had been set up.  They had realized what he was doing and were waiting for him to make another futile attempt to escape.  No wonder there hadn’t been any more drugs.  He was like a fish on a hook, given that false sense of hope, and allowed to play out the line before being reeled back in for the final capture.   Na’alu and another guard wrestled him to the ground and Mendon walked up to him, kicking him savagely in the side.   Crane cried out in pain and anger.  Damn them!  Damn them to hell!

“So you felt superior enough to disparage me, did you, Captain.  Simply arrogant enough to think you are my better?  Who is the more clever now?”

“Do you want me to take him back to his cell?  Tie him there?” the second guard, Teva, Lee believed, asked.

“No,” Mendon said sharply.  “Take him to my lab.  I have something very special in mind.”  There was more than anger and hatred in the gray eyes, there was a kind of gleeful, predatory hunger.

Lee was hauled to his feet and the net dragged off.  He struggled, but as before, he might as well have been swatting flies for all the good it did against these huge guards.  But still he struggled; he had to.  He had to, because there was nothing else left to do.  And he had to because of what Mendon probably had in mind.  Ultimately, Lee Crane had to because if he didn’t, he was afraid he would simply give up.

In the end, however, Lee was strapped into the chair that had been the instrument of his first torture.  Mendon whistled as he pulled a vial from his cabinet.  “Do not struggle so, Captain Crane.  It is useless.”  He plunged the needle into Lee’s shoulder, all the while still talking.  “You will very shortly be totally compliant, fulfilling everything I want you to do.  I have perfected several new biological and chemical agents and this affords me the opportunity to try a couple of them.”  He walked over to his table and picked up a glass, bringing it back to where Lee was now sitting calmly.  His mind was more quiet, his anxiety calm.  This was the same drug Mendon had used on him once before when he and Bomar were still trying to get Mendez’ information from him. 

“Drink this,” Mendon ordered and held the cup to Lee’s lips.  The captain could do nothing except comply, draining the cup.  Lee knew what this was, too, and despite the compliance drug that Mendon had given him, still had to bat away the hands of fear that were clawing in his mind. 

Then as the two Polynesians continued to restrain him, Mendon returned to his laboratory table and picked up another smaller vial.  Still whistling, he returned.  “Hold very still, Captain.” 

Again Lee had to comply as the doctor jerked his head back and quickly squeezed drops of an amber liquid into the captain’s eyes.  Lee cried out as the fiery liquid seemed to ignite.  He jerked involuntarily out of Mendon’s hands and shook his head violently.   “NO!” he screamed, as the fire seemed to eat into his soul.  “Please, no more,” he whispered. 

“What did you say?” Mendon asked, laughing.   “What was that again?”

Lee clamped his lips together, but couldn’t hold in the groans from the pain that shot through his head.  “Nothing,” he finally gasped, determined not to beg any more.

Mendon laughed again before continuing.  “This one is a biologically enhanced chemical agent.  You will feel the same way you do when you are at the ophthalmologist’s office, but more so.  And this one doesn’t wear off.”

Lee felt his vision become blurred and his eyes oversensitive to the bright light.  The burning finally subsided to something he could stand, but he finally had to close his eyes against the light.   He remembered another time someone had used a chemical agent on his eyes, a dictator of huge ego and temperament as nasty as Mendon’s, but that chemical had worn off within hours.  Somehow, Lee didn’t doubt the scientist’s word that such would not be the case here.   Mendon left him alone for a while, whistling constantly as he seemingly puttered around his laboratory.  The guards’ heavy hands lifted from his shoulders and Lee heard them move away.   The little voice that he had come to know so well during some of the earlier truth serum sessions was awakening. 

“How are you feeling, Captain?” Mendon asked jovially.

“Like running a marathon, Mendon.  Any more stupid questions?”  That voice was telling him he was an idiot to even answer, but he felt an anger that he couldn’t ignore.  Either way, he wouldn’t lose or gain anything by being venting his resentment. 

“Captain Crane, please understand; I am in charge. I hold your life in my hands.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

Mendon was silent for a moment.  “Obviously, I didn’t make the first dosage high enough, but no matter.  I have other means of measuring the results of my experiments.”

Lee heard him walking to another part of the laboratory.  Then he felt the band around his chest being fastened.  What now?  But he said nothing.  His stomach was beginning to act up again; not as bad as the last time, but enough to know what was happening.   How long before this new viral contagion hit full force? 

One of the guards had offered to tie him up to prevent his escape.  Mendon had presented a better plan, Lee thought bitterly.  And, it seemed; he had succeeded.  As Lee alternately listened to Mendon’s increasingly insipid whistling and fought to control the rising sensation of nausea, he thought about the Seaview, his men—home.  Occasionally, he dozed and the dozing brought dreams.  They were continuations of the nightmare enhancements of past events, grown to monstrous proportion.  Then there was an interlude.  He saw his father.  He had not dreamed of his dad for years, since after he had reconciled with his mother over his career choice.   His mother had all but disowned him when he got his appointment to Annapolis.  She wanted him safe.  The sea wasn’t.  It killed; took away those you loved the most.   It waited and watched and snatched the unwary—or so it had seemed to Allison Crane. 

It had been dreams of Dad, along with his Aunt Nora’s persistent pleas for reconciliation that had taken him home six years ago.  It was about the time of his first submarine command.   He remembered how proud he had been; how proud and scared.  Half of the men on the boat were older than he was.

Mother was living in Oklahoma City then.  It was probably as far from the ocean as she could get, physically and psychologically.   The first day had been stormy, insofar as their interaction was concerned, and he had almost cut the leave short and headed back to Kings Bay, Georgia.  Aunt Nora persuaded him to try one more day. 

He had mentioned Dad and the dreams.

“Your father died too young,” his mother stated tersely, pushing a cup of coffee toward him.

Lee remember vividly, watching some of it slop over the edge into the saucer.  He sighed.  “My cousin Vicky died too young,” he replied, trying very hard not to sound disrespectful.

“That’s not fair, Lee, and you know it.” 

“Why?” Lee had asked.  “It’s all right for someone to be taken out by a drunk driver and it’s not if it’s an accident at sea?”

“It wasn’t an accident!  That idiot that ran into his boat was drunk!”  She took in a sobbing breath.  “He shouldn’t have even been out there.  After his cousin, Len drowned, he had promised.”

Lee had closed his eyes, trying to also close out the memory.  Finally, he said, “Mom, every job, even leisure time includes its own hazards.”

“It should have never happened,” Allison Crane moaned.  Aunt Nora sat in a chair by the stove, present, but not participating.  Lee had thought that perhaps she was just there to referee and make sure the mother and son didn’t end up having a knock down drag-out argument. 

“What?” Lee asked.  “Vicky or Dad?”  And he realized it had hurt as soon as he said it.

She stared at him in shock, her eyes filling with tears.  Lee pushed the coffee aside and reached his hand toward his mother’s, trying very hard to understand her obsessive fears.  Their fingers touched but she didn’t move.  “Mom, I’m sorry.  But this is what I have always wanted to do.  I’m happy in the control room of a submarine.  I love the sea.  And I feel I am damned good at what I’ve chosen to do.”  He tried to catch her gaze, but she wouldn’t look at him.  He felt a squeezing pain in his heart.  For a long time, Lee hadn’t wanted to admit it, but it was extremely important to him for his mother to understand what he was doing, and why he was doing it.  Ultimately, he just wanted his mother to accept and to be proud of him.  He drew in a deep breath.   “I hurt when Dad died, too.”

His mother gave a sharp sob.  “But you promised you wouldn’t have anything more to do with the sea.”

“That was in the emotions following Dad’s death, Mother.  You know that.  I was so young,” Lee said softly, again trying to shut out unwanted feelings; things that he had shut away for years.  “I tried, I really did, but it was a promise I couldn’t keep.”

Allison Crane finally laid her fingers on his, looked into his eyes and nodded.  “I know, Lee, and that has frightened me all the more.”  She sighed, he breath catching in a soft sob.  “The more I tried to tear that obsession of the sea from you, the more you seemed to embrace it.”  Several tears fell from her eyes landing on their outstretched hands. “I lost him and I am so afraid that I will lose you, too.  It’s as though the sea is waiting for all of you.  Like it’s some kind of malevolent entity.”    She paused, took a sobbing breath and then continued.  “When I read about that submarine that sank down in that trench, I cried every night for weeks.”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t know.  I wish you had contacted me.  We could have talked,” Lee replied, knowing all the while that it probably wouldn’t have done the least bit of good.  Neither of them at that time would probably have been able to understand the other’s viewpoint, much less accept the other’s feelings. 

Apparently his mother was thinking the same thing.  “I doubt it, Lee.” 

 

 

Chapter 11
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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