Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

  Chapter 15

 

 

Lee continued to stand, despite the increasing dizziness, and despite the hands that insisted that he sit down.  The old woman spoke.  The sound of her voice both calmed and excited him, but this time, Lee waited patiently.  As she continued to speak, he finally allowed himself to be helped to a seat on the cave floor. 

“The Grandmother says that your Seaview is somewhere nearby, but she is not sure exactly where.  They have come for you, but are not sure how to get you.”

“Hikeru is an autonomous entity, I bet.  Politics,” Lee said tersely.  “You just can’t plow into a closed country uninvited.” 

“Perhaps they are afraid the Leader would kill you if he knew your friends have discovered where you are,” La’ani suggested.  She was delighted with the news as well.  It had worried her to think that they would be taking the canoe into the open ocean and have no real destination.  Now rescue was coming to them. 

Lee began to laugh.  “And to think I doubted the admiral’s abilities.”  Sobering, he asked, “So how do I get to her?  Do you have a radio?” 

“We do not have radios in the village anymore,” La’ani said.  “Sometimes the people used to send messages in the dark with torches.”

Lee thought a moment. “Yes, I can flash a coded message at night.  If they are anywhere near, they’ll see.”  Then he thought of something.  “But if they respond, Bomar and Mendon will also see and know they’re here.  If they came on shore….”  Lee paused in thought.  “From what little I saw, the Leader has a great many defensive weapons and he could easily kill anyone who came ashore here.  What about other parts of the island?”

“Cliffs to the sea,” La’ani said.  “This side of the island has the only harbor and shore.” 

“I can instruct them not to respond.  But I’ll need a flashlight.”

When La’ani translated Lee’s words, A’ona Matua was also pleased.  La’ani translated the old woman’s response.  “Your plan is a good one, but it is hours before dark.  You must sleep.  Drink a little of this, Lee, and try to rest.”  She handed him a small jug.

Crane did as he was told.  Soon the lightheaded feeling was replaced by overwhelming lethargy.  “You laced it,” he mumbled accusingly.  He lay down on the mat and was instantly asleep. 

La’ani gazed at A’ona Matua.  “How do we know his ship will see Lee’s signal?”

“We trust in the Gods,” came the old woman’s reply.

“And why couldn’t they come and get him at night when Lee signals them?”

A’ona Matua shook her head.  “It is as he said; there is danger in the night.  There is danger all the time, but there is more in the night.  If his friends come to get him, it will be bad for them.  Someone will die.”

“Lee will die if he is not rescued soon,” La’ani said tersely.   Every time he had a bout of sickness, it seemed harder and harder for him to recover.  She worried that they would not get him to his ship in time.

“Tomorrow morning, little one.”

 

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

 

Commander Chip Morton began his watch in an atmosphere almost electric with anxiety.  The only thing that had happened during the day was the realization that the leader of this island was prepared for almost any contingency and was also very, very paranoid.  A small gunboat patrolled access to the main harbor from the sea.  There was a small, probably radio-controlled minefield in the waters just inside the reef to the only viable approach to the compound.  Probably there were more surprises on land, too.   The admiral continued to be cautious, the only breaching of that caution being their distance to the shore.  They had been a scant mile most of the afternoon and evening.  Chip almost ground his teeth in frustration. When in the world were they going to just say ‘to hell with caution’ and send a team in?  They could avoid the minefields in the water and land close to Bomar’s house.  He sighed and felt his stomach knot in fear for his captain and friend. 

He bent over the periscope eyepiece.  The sun had set only a scant half hour ago and already it was dark.  The tropics, he reminded himself.  The village on the shore seemed to have very little electricity or they were under a curfew.  No lights shone at all.  There were steep mountains to the north of the village and a forest to the south.  He was about to order the ship to lay about so he could watch the compound, when a distant flash of light came from a point at the base of the mountains.  Hard to tell—the angle.  It appeared to be deliberate, nothing random like someone walking along the beach with a flashlight toward the ground. He turned to Lt. Rojas.  “North, Lieutenant, half speed,” he ordered. 

Morton watched through the periscope until he felt the sub was almost at a straight on view of the spot from which the flash had come.  Then it happened again.  It was a code!  But who?  “All stop!  Lieutenant, inform the admiral that someone is trying to contact us.  Ski take down what I’m saying!”

There was a great deal of shuffling and excited murmuring, but Chip ignored it.  The message was short.  It began again.  “Attention Seaview.  Do not approach.  Do not answer.  Watch tomorrow morning.  Come to you.  LBC.”  Chip waited for more.  It repeated once but seemed weaker, as though the power source was dying.

“Those initials, Commander,” Sharkey said, suddenly by his elbow.  “Skipper’s?”

Morton pulled away from the periscope.  He hadn’t even heard the COB approach.  “He motioned a seaman to take over periscope watch for him.  “I would say so, Chief, or someone wanting us to think it is,” he replied. 

The admiral rushed in.  “Did you say something about contact?” he asked, almost breathlessly.

Morton couldn’t help it, he grinned.  “Appears that way, Admiral.”  He repeated the message. 

“Come to my cabin, gentlemen,” he said tersely, pointing to Morton and Sharkey.  “Lt. Rojas, the conn is yours.  Keep the course just beyond a mile and let me know of any new developments.”  Excitement coursed through his body, but he let nothing show on his face

“Aye, Admiral,” the new junior officer said exuberantly.  The three men left for the ‘inner sanctum’ amid murmurings of happiness and speculation.

 

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

 

Crane felt Kana’s strong arms supporting him.  It was a good thing.  It had been all he could do to hold the flashlight for that length of time.  He cursed his weakness under his breath.  He had been able to send the message four times before the batteries died.  If Seaview was out there and if she had been in position, they should have received it.   His fingers felt numb and he reached toward Ra’oana, who gently took the flashlight from his hand.  “Do you think they saw the message?” Lee asked. 

“Yes,” A’ona Matua declared after his words had been translated for her.  “We must go back before we are seen.  I have heard the Leader’s boat moving in the waters.  I know that he had men loyal to him checking along the beaches occasionally, but they have been doing so more often since your escape.”

Kana half carried, half supported Lee and soon they were safely back in the bowels of the mountain they had emerged from an hour earlier.  A’ona Matua had wanted to wait a little later, but in this Lee had prevailed.  He knew the men on the watch and knew that vigilance and expectation was higher near the beginning of the watch.  So less than an hour after sunset, they had carefully made their say to the tiny beach at the base of the mountain and signaled, trusting that the boat was nearby.

Lee shivered as he sank to the mat on which he had slept most of the day.  He wore only the lava-lava wrapped around his narrow hips.  No other clothing had been allowed during the contact.  A white shirt, which was all any of them had to cover their chests, would have been like a beacon.  “Any possibility of a shirt now?” he asked. 

La’ani’s gentle hands reapplied the bandage around his eyes that he had taken off during his contact with the sub.  Dourly, Lee had thought his eyes had been worse, but it was night, so he couldn’t be sure.  Certainly, they seemed to be more painful.  Someone else slipped an over-large shirt on, taking care not to disturb the splinted arm more than necessary.  It ached only a little, but everything was relative right now.  

“Here,” La’ani said, placing mug of warm liquid to his lips.  Lee felt his stomach growl and rebel at the same time and he hesitated.   “You must try to take something, Lee,” she coaxed.  Her heart clenched with fear for him.

She was right, of course, he thought.  La’ani seemed to always be right.  He sipped the proffered concoction and found it to be a slightly sweet fish soup that warmed as it slid down his throat.  After a few swallows, he pushed it away.  He leaned tiredly against his backrest.  Even more than the pain, even more than the sickness, he was tired—totally exhausted.  How long had it been?  It seemed forever.  Lee knew he shouldn’t feel that way, this little pity party he was indulging in, but he couldn’t help it.  Then a disturbing thought occurred to him; was this part of the sickness, too?  He knew he had to overcome this depression that had seemed to cover him like a thick blanket.  A’ona Matua was right.  Seaview was out there.  Help was sitting in the waters.

There was a light touch on his arm.  “Did I not tell you we know how to stay dressed?” the old woman asked, La’ani translating.  “We do not walk around this island with our lava-lavas falling down. 

Lee had to laugh.  He knew La’ani translated as close to the original phrases as possible and he enjoyed the old woman’s homey sense of humor.  It reminded him of his grandmother.  Her next words offered him solace. 

“Now you feel better. You have signaled your people, you have a bit of soup in you and you have laughed.”

“And I’m not alone,” he murmured. 

“You never were, Lee,” A’ona Matua reminded him.   She liked this young American La’ani had decided to rescue. 

“You’re right,” Lee agreed.  La’ani gave him a little more of the soup, another sip, before his rebellious stomach forced him to stop. 

“I wonder what the crew is going to think of their captain showing up in a wrap-around skirt,” he muttered, as much to get a rise from A’ona Matua as to take his mind off how he felt. 

After La’ani had translated, the old woman huffed.  “It they are real men, they will see that it becomes you well.  Perhaps they will see the wisdom of such dress.”

Lee chuckled and then sobered quickly.   He felt dizzy and just wanted to lie down, but there was a question that needed answering.  “You told me to tell them that I would come to them.  How?” he asked bluntly.  There was no discussion and translation.  Apparently this had already been discussed between the small group with him in the cave. 

“Tomorrow morning, the fishermen will go out in their boats with their nets and spears as usual.  The Leader’s men will find nothing when they check them.”

“Bomar checks the fishermen?” Lee asked, not surprised at the news.

“Yes,” La’ani replied.  “A very thorough search this morning right after you escaped.   But he used to send his boat out periodically when he thought someone might be trying to escape to another island.  And it’s been patrolling much more since you escaped.”

Lee frowned.  That complicated things.  “What kind of boat?” he asked, thinking this couldn’t be a simple canoe.

“It is a gunboat, about the length of two canoes end to end.

“A small PT boat,” Lee said sourly.  His insides gave a lurch. 

“It is not uncommon for women to go out and look for octopus or clams, so A’ona Matua and I will go out with you at the tiller as though hunting, too.  We will go out after the men have been fishing for a while and the attention of the gunboat is on them.  Instead of stopping at the reef, we will continue beyond, out to a distance where your submarine most likely will be.”

Lee couldn’t believe his ears.  He jerked forward.  “Are you two totally nuts?” he thundered.  “A’ona Matua can’t go out there if Bomar’s goons have a gunboat!”  Lee groaned and promptly lost his dinner.   He felt cool hands pushing him back on his mat, someone wiping his hot face, and A’ona Matua’s soothing singsong voice.  Despite the horror of their plan and despite his own inability to do anything but be miserable, Lee tried to relax and listen. 

“This is not just to get you to your ship, Lee,” La’ani began, laying her hand on his chest and willing him to understand.  “We have all talked.  We cannot stay here.  A’ona Matua says she will not stay here.  The island is dead while Bomar and Mendon are here.  Most of the men in the village will no longer serve the Leader or his evil partner.”  She paused and Lee said nothing.  “So the real question is will your people take us as well as you?”

Lee only thought a brief moment.  “How many?”  But before anyone could say anything, he answered.  “It doesn’t matter.  As captain of the Seaview, I assure you that we’ll take any who seek asylum.” 

La’ani thought that would be the answer, but she felt her heart rejoice at Lee’s words.  Those listening nearby were whispering excitedly to one another.   “Thank you, Lee.  Now you rest.  Tomorrow morning will be hard. 

Lee nodded.   He suspected that La’ani had just understated things tremendously. 

“But A’ona Matua feels confident that if you follow her instructions, you will safely be back on your ship tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” murmured Lee wearily. 

“I do think, before you sleep, though, that you should look presentable to go back to your submarine,” La’ani said, remembering Lee as she first saw him. 

“Huh?  You mean you have a uniform?” Lee asked, confused. 

La’ani giggled softly.  “No.  You do not wear beards on your Seaview, do you?”

“Oh, no, we don’t,” he replied.  “But you don’t have to do that.  The admiral will understand.”

“I took care of my father for three months after they had burned both of his hands beyond use,” she said softly.  “I want to do this for you.”

Lee couldn’t say anything for a while.  “I’m sorry, La’ani.  You have already done so much for me.”

“I remember shaving him every morning until he died,” she said, as though she hadn’t heard him.  “He insisted that he would not look the part of a broken man.  ‘If my body is destroyed, so be it.  No one can take my spirit from me,’” she quoted.  Tears sprang to her eyes as she remembered.

Lee felt a drop of water on his chest and then another.  Suddenly, he realized what it was and reached up and touched her cheek.  It was slick with tears.  He wiped them away as gently as his injured hand would allow.  “I’m so sorry that happened to you.  You are a very brave woman to continue to work in that nest of vermin after that,” Lee murmured. 

“No, Lee.  I was forced to,” she replied with a choking sob.  “And I am not brave!”

“The hell you aren’t!” Lee contended hotly.  “And this time, don’t contradict me.”

La’ani sniffed and turned away.  Soon she was next to his mat again and he felt her soft hands spreading lather on his beard and then gently shaving him with a straight razor.  It didn’t take her long, but as she was washing off the last of the lather, she bent down and kissed him on the cheek.  “Thank you, Lee.  I appreciate you saying that.”

“Only the truth,” he said softly and then yawned. 

“And I think you are a lot like my father.”

That was the last he remembered before falling into an exhausted but troubled sleep.  

 

 

Chapter 16
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
Main Page