Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

Chapter 18

 

 

Harriman breathed a sigh of relief.  He looked at the two women again.  “I’m afraid I have been a very poor host,” he told them and gave La’ani time to translate before he continued.  “I think, now that Captain Crane has received the antidote, you will be more comfortable in different quarters.”

A’ona Matua nodded and got up from the bed on which she had been sitting.  La’ani joined her.  “Yes, thank you,” she said.  

Nelson opened the door for them and escorted them down the corridor.  He walked to Lee’s cabin and unlocked the door for them. 

A’ona Matua didn’t go in, but asked him a question.  “The person this belongs to will not mind?” La’ani translated. 

Harriman shook his head.  “No, Lee won’t be using it for a while, Miss Rana’oanui.”

“Please, just La’ani,” she said. 

“Very well,” he acquiesced with a soft smile.   “You understand, submarines don’t have extra space, so when visiting dignitaries come on board it is customary for senior officers to give up their cabins for a short time,” he explained.  “I will have someone bring in a cot for you, La’ani.” 

A’ona Matua walked on in and sat down on Lee’s bunk.  Despite the time of day, she looked tired and drawn.  La’ani, on the other hand, turned to Nelson.  “Would it be too much trouble if I saw some of the Seaview?  I am really not that tired.”  She looked toward A’ona Matua, who simply nodded. 

“Of course,” Nelson said.  “I also wanted to check on your countrymen.”

So bidding the A’ona Matua a good rest, Harriman accompanied La’ani, first to the enlisted men’s territory. The twenty fishermen greeted La’ani exuberantly and felt reassured when the admiral told them they would be safe at American Samoa until they were able to return home.  Nelson then led La’ani to the observation deck where the water sluiced across the bow windows.  At a hundred feet, light filtered fairy-tale fashion from the surface. 

“I can see why Lee loves this . . . faka’ofo’ofa popao . . . this ‘beautiful canoe.’”  She turned to Nelson in sudden realization. “He is the captain, but you . . . you built it, didn’t you?”

“I designed her,” Harriman said quietly.  “And had her built.   She is the culmination of a lifelong dream.”   They stood silently at the bow for several minutes, while only the control room sounds behind them kept them in the real world.  “La’ani, there are a few things that puzzle me.  Could you answer a couple of my questions?”

“Of course, Admiral.”

“First of all, what . . . what happened in that prison?  What did they do to him?” Nelson asked, his voice almost tremulous.  He had to clamp down on his emotions.  This was not over yet.  “I got the impression that you were instrumental in Lee’s escape.” 

“Lee may not think so, but he was the main force behind his escape.  I only helped a little.” She gazed into the admiral’s intense blue eyes.  “Admiral, Lee spoke through his pain in the . . . sick bay.  When we talked before, his only words about you were those of respect and friendship.”

Harriman looked at this woman, who appeared barely out of childhood; saw the tears forming in her eyes.   He also saw experience, sorrow and wisdom beyond her years.  “What I said to Lee, I meant.  He had every right to question.”

“Lee’s attempts to escape angered the leader and even more, Dr. Mendon.  There were at least three attempts that I am aware of.  Four, if you count the successful one.”

In two weeks, Nelson thought.  He was impressed but not surprised.  “Tell me, please.”

“The first escape, I was told, was when the leader was trying to get Lee to voluntarily help him.   That one failed because Lee didn’t know that Bomar had recently electrified the balcony at night to keep intruders out.  It also kept Lee in.  The punishment for that was his burned hand.  That seems to be a ritual with the leader.  Everyone who displeases him is so marked….”  Her voice trailed off. 

Harriman wondered what she wasn’t telling.  “Maybe so everyone will have the same disability that Bomar has,” the admiral interjected softly. 

La’ani turned from the hypnotic view of the sea through the great windows and gaped at him. 

Now it was Harriman’s turn to look surprised.  “Didn’t you know that Bomar has a maimed hand?” he asked. 

“No,” La’ani answered.  “He hid his deformed hand well.  Now I know why one hand always remains hidden.”    She continued her narrative that seemed to slide deeper and deeper into a realistic version of the hell of Dante’s Inferno. 

Harriman stood watching out of the herculite windows as the young woman continued.  The horror of her telling seemed to be increased by some kind of personal hell inside her own soul.   Nelson wondered if Bomar had tortured her, but he didn’t interrupt. 

He felt, rather than heard, a presence behind them and assumed it was Commander Morton.  He didn’t turn to see.  La’ani continued and Nelson knew what they had to do when they had dropped off these refugees.  In fact, the part of his mind that wasn’t intent on La’ani’s story was already planning an excursion to Hikeru on the refitted Flying Sub.  There was a debt to pay.  He would go as soon as Lee was out of the woods. 

When La’ani finished it was silent in the control room for several minutes.  Even the machinery behind him seemed subdued.  Harriman finally turned and saw that every eye had been on the Polynesian woman.  He sighed.  This conversation should have taken place in a more private setting. Right now, Harriman realized that it was just as well for both Mendon and Bomar that they were not on Seaview.

But now the men knew and knowing would prevent speculating.  Somehow, he felt they were in a small lull before the storm began again.  

Chip was standing in front of him.  “The CMO wanted me to tell you that the captain is responding well to the counteragent,” he said.  His delivery was emotionless, but Nelson could see the anger, as well as sorrow behind the intense blue eyes.  

“Thank you, Chip,” Harriman said gratefully.  He took a deep breath and then let it out, feeling the tension drain at the same time.   His eyes again rested on La’ani, and he suddenly realized that she was still wearing the sarong she had come aboard in.  “I have to apologize for not offering you and A’ona Matua dry clothing.”

“I am dry now,” La’ani replied with a soft smile.  “And there is no need to apologize.  There has been much going on.”  She tilted her head a moment.  “You said you have another question?”

Yes, he thought, the thing that had puzzled him the most.  “How did Lee know we were nearby?  Had Bomar found out about us?”  The unasked question was that whether Bomar had the kind of sophisticated detection equipment that could find them?

“As far as I know, Bomar did not know you were here until you blew up his gun ship,” she said with a satisfied smile. 

“But how then?”

“A’ona Matua,” replied La’ani, her eyes sparkling with humor. 

That was not the answer Nelson had expected.  His astonishment must have been very apparent. 

“The A’ona Matua saw Seaview in a dream.  She felt the presence of all of you a day before you rescued us from the gunboat.  That night Lee, who felt the same thing through her, sent the message to you.  A’ona Matua told me that his tie with you and this submarine was the bonding link that allowed her to see and know.”

Harriman said nothing.  He couldn’t.  The proof of La’ani’s words was in the events of the past twelve hours.  Again there was silence.  Who would scoff at such things?  Nelson prided himself on being a man of science, but even he knew there were mysteries that could not be explained by science. Finally, he just changed the subject.  “Would you like to get a change of clothing for A’ona Matua and yourself, so you ladies can freshen up.  That way, too, your clothes can be washed,” he offered.  “We can only offer jumpsuits for you, but they will be comfortable during your stay on the Seaview. 

“Thank you, Admiral.  I would appreciate that.”

He turned to Morton.  “Commander, would you escort Miss La’ani to the chop and get suitable clothing for her and A’ona Matua?  Then have Chief Sharkey report with his refitting crew to the Flying Sub bay.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” Chip said crisply.

Nelson descended into the Flying Sub.  He was determined to have everything ready for that last piece that would complete the puzzle.  The super-ionic propulsion system was only the beginning.  And if Mendez’ equation would overcome the destructive properties that the super high speeds of the new drive created, then the possibilities were endless.  The only thing that frustrated him was his inability to come up with the solution himself.  That would have prevented the deaths of several men and the near death of others, particularly his own captain.  Nelson had no intention of allowing any more such death and suffering.

 

Chip escorted the young woman toward the captain’s cabin, a bundle of clothes in his arms.  “Would it be possible to see Captain Crane before I go in the cabin?” she asked. 

He hesitated.  The admiral had had that gleam in his eye; the one that meant come hell or high water, a project was going to get done.  Morton knew that the propulsion project had been a major part of the admiral’s life for the past eight months, probably longer if truth be known.  He knew that Lee’s return was a catalyst for his sudden desire to renew work on it, too.  Somehow he didn’t think it was just the information that Lee carried in his head, either.   With a mental shrug, Chip realized that he wanted to see Lee, too. Nodding, he handed the clothes to the girl and reached for the intercom on the wall.  “Chief Sharkey.”   The COB was in the missile room.  “Take the refitting team and report to the admiral in the Flying Sub bay,” he ordered. 

“Aye, sir,” came the quick response. 

Chip turned to La’ani and took back the bundle.  “Let’s go visit Lee.”

She smiled and nodded.  Chip paid close attention to the girl for the first time.  She was fairly tall, coming a little past his shoulder; her hair couldn’t have been more than trimmed in her, perhaps, sixteen or seventeen years.  Her dark eyes were curious and wise.  She appeared serious, but Chip thought he also saw a spark of optimism in her eyes.  Somehow the young commander felt that Lee had been very lucky to have attracted the attention of this resourceful girl.  And she wasn’t a chore to look at either, he thought.  

They walked into the quarantine section of sickbay, where they found the CMO standing next to his patient.  Chip sighed in relief at the verification of the word he had received and passed along to the admiral earlier.  Except for the wrist splint on one arm and the bandages on his burned hand, the captain could just as easily been taking a nap. He gazed at the bandage around Lee’s eyes and remembered his own brief bout with blindness.   This was going to be hard on his friend.  “What’s his prognosis, Doc?”

“Well, considering his condition when he came in, the prognosis is good.  His arm was not broken.  It was badly bruised and he has a sprained wrist.  It’s not a really bad sprain and will heal quickly.   The burn has been cared for and should eventually heal as well with only minimal scarring, if any at all.  The counter agent has shut down the effects of Mendon’s virus.  The captain is very weak from his ordeal, but rest and Cookie’s magic should take care of that problem in about a week or two.”

Morton waited and then asked his own question when nothing else was forthcoming.  He dreaded the answer.  “What about his eyes?”

“That one is a bit trickier.  I think I have isolated the biochemical.  There was no counteragent in the vials so I have to go slow. Seems to be a highly sophisticated chemical that duplicates, to a much greater degree, the same solution that is used by ophthalmologists for certain eye tests,” Doc explained.

Chip was puzzled.  “But that wears off.”

“Indeed, but Mendon built a self-replicating catalyst into it.  With the introduction of oxygen, the body is fooled into reproducing the chemical biologically.”

The commander was flabbergasted. What kind of demonic brain would think of something that perverse?  “Can it be reversed?”

“I think so, when I have the means and the help to create the counter agent, probably back at the Institute.” 

Chip nodded.  Lee muttered incoherently in his sleep. 

“I think he’ll eventually overcome the psycho-active drugs as well,” Jamieson added, almost to himself.  “It will just take a bit of time.”

La’ani had said nothing.  Now she reached over and touched Lee on the shoulder.  She murmured something in her own language.  Then she looked up at Chip.  “I need to go to the A’ona Matua.  She will want to know that Lee is better.” 

Morton nodded.   He had seen something in the girl’s eyes that he didn’t think Lee was aware of.   He didn’t think La’ani saw Lee as simply someone she chose to rescue or as a friend or father figure.  However, he wasn’t going to even think about any emotional consequences of this situation.  He picked up the bundle of clothes that he had carried from the chop and escorted La’ani to Lee’s cabin.  

 

 

Chapter 19
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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