Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

  Chapter 14

 

 

“Admiral, we’re fifty miles out from Hikeru,” O’Brien told the older man. 

Nelson rubbed his tired eyes.  Sleep had been sporadic or, at times, non-existent, but even so, what O’Brien told him was redundant.  He already knew.  He knew every foot of the journey where they were.  But it would serve no purpose to say so.  O’Brien was just following protocol.   He nodded his acknowledgement; his eyes still riveted on the herculite hull plates in front of him.  Water sluiced against the clear substance. 

“Orders, sir?”

“First take us down another fifty feet,” the admiral said. 

“Aye, sir.”  O’Brien turned to give orders. 

“And then wake Mr. Morton,” Nelson added.  “And Chief Sharkey, and ask them to meet me in my cabin.”

How would they proceed, he asked himself? At least for now, they had to keep their presence secret.  “And make sure we stay beyond the three mile limit.  Maintain constant surveillance.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” O’Brien acknowledged.   “Continue radio silence?”

“Yes.”

When Nelson gave no further orders, the young lieutenant turned back to the conn and passed along the orders.  Nelson continued to gaze out of the bow windows pondering, then he turned back to the control room.  “Please inform the CMO of the meeting as well, Lieutenant.”  He left for his cabin.  Not surprisingly, all three men showed up less than five minutes after he had.  They gathered around his work desk. 

“Now that we’re here, I’d like your input as to how we proceed,” Nelson said without preliminaries.

“Well, sir, I’d love to simply take a boatload of security men and march into this, uh, Bomar’s quarters and demand the skipper.  But Captain Crane would be dead before we got on shore,” Sharkey stated succinctly.

“Yes.  I think stealth is the way we have to go,” Nelson said.  “As you said, for Captain Crane’s sake.”

“As much as I hate to suggest it, I think we need a day to gather intelligence, get a feel for this place,” the chief medical officer, Will Jamieson interjected.  He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. 

“A few of us can slip in tonight,” Sharkey suggested.  “The main town.  Mingle.  See if there’s any scuttlebutt.”

Harriman noticed that Morton was strangely silent.  He had his own ideas, but he preferred to let his men brainstorm. After the suggestions had been made, and no one had said anything for several moments, Nelson turned to the acting captain.  “Commander?”

“I agree with stealth, and as much as I hate to say it, I think Doc’s idea has the greatest merit.   Chief, that intelligence is going to be hard to gather your way.”  He paused and gazed each man in the room.  “First of all, how do you mingle on an island where everyone except the men in charge are Polynesian?   And in a place with such a small population that everyone knows everyone else.  I’m afraid our surveillance will be through the periscope and with radar.”

Sharkey looked chagrined.  “But while we wait, they could be doing heaven only knows what to the skipper.”

“I know, Chief,” Nelson said softly.  “But I agree we can’t proceed until we know more of the political atmosphere of this place.  And we can’t be seen.  And there is this….” Everyone looked expectantly at him.  “Hikeru does not have a tourist based economy.  It is listed as being an autonomous, closed nation by the CIA Fact File.”

“In other words, if we showed up uninvited, there would be hell to pay,” Jamieson said. 

Nelson sighed.  “Exactly.”

“But….” Sharkey sputtered and then was quiet.  He realized that he had been thinking with his emotions rather than with reason. 

“We have to have something concrete,” Nelson said, his voice tense. 

 “Can’t we even send a small team tonight, sir?” Sharkey asked. 

Nelson gazed at his wall thoughtfully.   “Let’s see what we can find out with long range surveillance for the next twelve hours.  That gives us the opportunity to see if Bomar is even aware of our presence.  We’ll keep the watches the same except there will always be one man at the periscope. 

Each man nodded and without further words, the meeting adjourned, but before they left, Harriman declared.  “However, if there is the slightest evidence that Captain Crane is in imminent danger, we go in, politics be damned.” 

Everyone’s face was grim as they walked out of the cabin. 

 

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

 

Lee awoke to the sound of singing, the feel of a cool breeze against bare skin and the ever-present feeling of discomfort in his middle.  There was a bandage over his eyes and his right arm had been immobilized.  His body was bare except for an undergarment, over which a cloth had been wrapped around his waist and reached almost to his knees.  Then he realized something else.  He was clean.  Someone had bathed him, as well as changed his clothes.  While it was exhilarating to actually feel clean, Lee wondered with a flush of embarrassment, who it was who had stripped and bathed him.  La’ani?  He felt his cheeks grow warm.

The singing stopped and a woman began speaking. 

“Lee?” La’ani asked after a short silence. 

“How did you know I was awake?” he queried. 

“I thought you might be awakening since you had stopped telling your dreams,” she said. 

“Telling my dreams?”  Then it dawned on him.   He remembered dreaming about doing underwater repairs and running out of oxygen.  Apparently he was still talking out his nightmares.  He sighed. 

“Yes, most of the time when you have been asleep, you have dreamed aloud.  But even if that were not the case, the Teacher Mother, the grandmother . . . she just knows.” 

Lee noticed the use of the article in front of “grandmother” and could only assume she was like some kind of elder or leader. He used his elbow to lever himself up and La’ani helped him, pulling something behind him for a backrest.  He didn’t say anything for a moment, working past a wave of nausea, this time accompanied by the beginnings of a headache. 

Again the grandmother said something.  When she was finished La’ani spoke.  “A’ona Matua says that her skills can only help a little against the evil of Dr. Mendon.  I told her about the little bottles we took.”

“You have them?” Lee asked anxiously.

“Yes, they are safe.”

Relief washed over him.  “Good,” he murmured.  “You must keep them safe at all costs.”

“A’ona Matua said more,” La’ani said quietly. 

“Oh, sorry,” Lee said, feeling something like a scolded schoolboy. 

La’ani’s voice, when she spoke next, was filled with happiness.  To Lee’s ears, it sounded musical.   “A’ona Matua says that she will help you find your people so they can help you get rid of the evil one’s sickness inside you.”  

An old woman help him find the Seaview?  Out here in the middle of the Pacific?  He smiled indulgently, then groaned as the pain clawed at his insides.  The nausea rose beyond his ability to control it, but there was nothing in his stomach to answer the call.  He heard voices but they wavered in and out of his consciousness.  Then something trickled down his throat, fiery hot, all the way to his stomach.  His throat went numb.  Lee felt he was floating.  The nausea receded to controllable levels and only the slight headache remained. 

Someone was talking in a different language—A’ona Matua, Lee remembered.  Someone was bathing his face and chest.  It felt so cool, like the touch of his mother’s care when he had suffered from his few bouts of childhood illness.  Reality seemed to drift in and out like waves on the beach for a short while and then everything began to clarify.  La’ani, Mendon’s curse, everything.  But now he was able to think.  The world stopped spinning and stood still. 

“Lee?” La’ani said, over and over.  “Lee?”  She touched his chest, felt the heat.   Her eyes prickled with tears, but she blinked them back.  He was so sick.  La’ani was so afraid for him.  She looked at A’ona Matua, hoping for something—anything that would help Lee.  A’ona Matua handed her the bottle of kanaka juice. 

“Yeah,” he finally answered, his voice shaky and hoarse. 

“Take another sip of the drink,” she coaxed softly.  “Only a small sip.”

Lee obeyed and wondered if this was Mendon’s bug or the cure that had looped him round and round.  “What is this stuff?” he asked.  “Whatever it is, you ought to market it.”

La’ani translated his words for A’ona Matua and they both laughed.  It was not derisive, but like birds dipping in the early morning, or like angels. “It is a drink made from the juice of several different plants,” La’ani explained.  A’ona Matua leaned forward to check the American.

Lee felt reassured.   Suddenly, he felt a soothingly cool hand on his cheek.  He was sure it was A’ona Matua and he now knew who had bathed him and changed his clothes, making him feel like a human being again.   “Thank you, A’ona Matua,” he whispered.  “Thank you for taking care of me.”

She seemed to understand because La’ani said nothing before the old woman spoke again.  The knarled fingers caressed his cheek again and she said more.  Like La’ani, there was laughter in her voice. 

La’ani giggled and now Lee was curious.  “What?” he asked.

“A’ona Matua says that she did not mind taking care of you.  And she told me to say to you that she sent me away to get the medicine while she did so.  She has heard of the strange modesty of you American men.”  La’ani giggled some more and Lee knew there was more.  He felt his cheeks flush again.  “A’ona Matua says that you have a fine body that looks very good in the lava-lava.  Your only fault is that you are too skinny.” 

Lee felt embarrassed, but amused at the same time.  “We can thank Mendon for that little flaw,” he growled good-naturedly.  “By the way, that isn’t just fruit juice, you’ve done something to it.  I don’t even feel my stomach anymore.”

“The juice is been allowed to . . . uh….” 

Lee chuckled.  “To ferment.  Hair of the dog!  No wonder I feel so good,” he exclaimed. 

“Hair of the dog?” La’ani asked, puzzled.   Despite the seriousness of the situation, she was glad to see the American feeling better, even laughing. 

“Uh, booze, liquor,” Lee told her, still chuckling.  It felt good finding humor in something right now. 

A’ona Matua put her fingers to his lips to quiet him and then began speaking.  Lee took the hint and listened, waiting for La’ani’s translation. 

“The Mother Teacher says that it cannot be used too often but when you do drink it, that will be the time to do those things that are most important.”  

Crane nodded, suddenly taken with a feeling of seriousness.   “I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but somehow, I have to get word to my people.”

La’ani turned to A’ona Matua and told her of the American’s concerns. 

Lee waited patiently, knowing eventually La’ani would enlighten him.  He concentrated on the respite, however fleeting it was, that he was currently enjoying. 

“A’ona Matua says that while you were dreaming, she was also dreaming. She believes some of those dreams are the same and have great significance on the future of you and our island.  She wants me to tell you.”

Lee nodded, wondering what the older woman had in mind. 

“A’ona Matua saw a ship and drew it.  I will try to describe it,” La’ani told him. 

“Let me get this bandage off and I can look at it,” Lee said, reaching up.  A hand stopped him, a word repeated.  Lee figured it meant no. 

“A’ona Matua says that you must let your eyes rest.  Like your sickness, your doctors have to help you with your eyes.  She says that until they can, you must follow her instructions."

“All right,” murmured Lee.  “I’m grateful for what she’s done already.  I’ll trust her in this as well,” he replied solemnly.  He had to admit that his eyes felt much better for wearing the bandage, even if the blindness was disconcerting, even frightening.

“A’ona Matua says that the ship she saw was very large, long and slender, like the sea eel and blue-gray, like the sky before the storm.  The front was shaped like a manta with large glowing eyes.  Four of them.  It moved with grace and power and speed, even though it was metal and could not bend.”   La’ani heard Lee gasp and knew that he recognized the ship A’ona Matua had seen.

Lee gasped and felt an electric shock run through his body.  Seaview!  He felt someone take his left hand and place it on a piece of plank.  The unburned tips of his fingers traced the outline of the submarine.  How could she know?  He had not described the sub to La’ani.  Did he describe it when he was talking in his sleep?  He asked that question out loud. 

“It would not matter, Lee,” La’ani said. “A’ona Matua does not understand English.  She would not learn it when we still had radios and when my brother tried to teach her.”  La’ani paused.  “Does A’ona Matua speak of something you know?  What is this ship?”

“My boat.  Seaview,” he said softly.  He could say nothing more for a moment.  It had seemed an eternity since he had been on board her.  Sometimes, his previous life seemed almost dreamlike and memories became vague.  That was as frightening as what Mendon had done to him.  Or was that something Mendon had done to him, too?  Lee took a deep breath, trying to remain calm, but he felt his hand shaking nonetheless. 

A’ona Matua touched his cheek again and said something.  Lee gasped and cried out.  Not in pain, but because he knew what she had said.  It was like an electric shock.  How did she know? he repeated.  Who is this woman?

Lee?”   Frightened, La’ani grabbed his arm.  “Lee?”

“How did she know?  How does she know?” He demanded, his breath coming in gasps.  “Who is A’ona Matua?”

La’ani’s voice was anxious.  “She is the mother leader.  On our island, a man is a leader in almost all things, but the A’ona Matua is the woman who touches all things—the sky, the sea, the people.  Sometimes the very breath of the elements.  When Bomar came, she warned us.  Even before, she warned us.  But everyone thought the old ways were outdated, that the old ones were seeing things that weren’t there.  Even now there are a few who still don’t believe….”   La’ani paused a moment before continuing.  A finger lightly touched his forehead.  “Did you understand what she said?”

Lee nodded.  His stomach churned, but as much from the shock of what was happening as from any kind of man-made flu.  “It’s here,” he whispered.  Seaview is here.”  He looked up.  “How do we contact her?  How far out is she?  I have to get on board.”  He staggered to his feet, swaying at the dizziness that enveloped him.  Hands steadied him and then tried to force him to sit down again.  Lee shook them off.  “A’ona Matua!” he demanded.  “Someone has to take me to my boat!”

 

 

Chapter 15
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
Main Page