Foam on the Large Wave
(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)
Harriman Nelson felt the power all around him as
the Flying Sub soared through the outer reaches of the stratosphere.
It was exhilarating to see the culmination of many years of thought
and study and experimentation finally seeing fruition.
He eased the craft into a slightly higher altitude and leveled out
when he saw, by the instrumentation, that he would soon be approaching the
beginnings of space. Someday,
he promised himself. Someday.
Now he just wanted to make sure that the new propulsion units were
working well. He did notice
that the fuel consumption was greater than he had anticipated, but that
was something he could work on later.
The point was that it worked.
The theory was not only sound, but feasible.
“Holy cow, Admiral!” Sharkey gave voice to his
feelings. “How high will
this new system take us?”
“Higher than this, I suspect, Chief, but I
don’t want to see how high we can go.
I only wanted to see how well it works.
I suppose if you wanted to be crude about it, I wanted to make sure
it wouldn’t blow up on its first test run.”
He paused before continuing. “Of
necessity, I have to fly her more than I would want to, have more people
on board than I would like, so I want to know that the basic functions are
safe enough for other passengers.”
I understand.” Sharkey
gazed awestruck at the bright sky before them, slightly darker above where
the atmosphere decreased to airless outer space.
“I’m going to bring her back down. Make sure you record all the power grid fluctuations as well
as speed, hull temperature, everything,” Harriman instructed.
“Aye, aye, sir.”
But the remainder of the flight was almost flawless, again, only the fuel consumption being of concern to him. All in all, Harriman was very pleased with the first test of this new system.
Lee took a deep breath and visualized the Seaview’s
deck. He carefully walked the
short distance and ducked through the doorway.
There he confronted the ladder.
Coming up, going down; opposite ends of the same spectrum.
He hooked his arms around the rail and began slowly climbing down.
As careful as he tried to be, he still slipped the last step and
hit the deck hard.
“You okay, sir?” a seaman asked. It was Porter by the sound of the accent.
“Yes, RJ, thanks,” he replied.
He took a moment to get his bearings, as well as his breath.
“Need some help getting somewhere, sir?”
Porter asked from closer to him.
“No,” Lee answered quickly, and then he
realized that a certain amount of pride was going to have to be swallowed.
“Are you busy right now?”
“No, sir. Just
comin’ off my duty watch, sir.”
“This is the Seaview, not the last boat
you served on. You can leave
off about three quarters of the ‘sirs’,” he said with a smile.
“Yes, sir, uh, sure thing, Skipper.”
“I would appreciate it if you would accompany
me. Just to make sure I
don’t miscalculate and fall down a stairwell.
I was very lucky on my first excursion.”
“I heard about that. Don’t know if I could have done that.”
“I guess you do what you have to do, RJ.
But looking back, it wasn’t just luck, it was dumb luck.”
“Where did you need to go, Skipper?” Porter
asked, ignoring Crane’s last remark.
“Forward, control room.
Radio shack first, to be specific,” Lee told him.
He started off, not waiting for a reply, seeing in his mind the
corridor, the ladder, this time navigated much more smoothly, then another
“Hatch, Captain,” Porter’s voice warned him.
He had almost tripped over one that first night,
too. Had it only been a day
and a half ago, he wondered? “Thanks,”
he said, stepping over and ducking at the same time.
“Hey, Skipper!” Sparks called out loudly when
he reached the radio shack.
Lee smiled. Everyone
seemed to be talking louder since his return, too, as though the problem
with his eyes was also connected to his ears.
He looked over his shoulder at where he supposed Porter was.
“Thanks, RJ. I really appreciate your help.”
“No sweat, Skipper.
Just call anytime you need me,” the young seaman said.
“Anything from the admiral?” he asked Sparks.
“No, sir. Not
since just after he took off. I
guess he and the chief are having too much fun.”
“I sincerely hope so,” Lee said fervently.
He wished he were up there with him.
“Who’s got the conn?”
Lee nodded and headed for the observation window.
He’d be able to hear the Flying Sub when it returned.
Greeting O'Brien, he continued onward, sitting down in the first
chair he bumped into.
He was awakened by a nudge on his shoulder.
“Did I fall asleep?” he asked, feeling a bit
stuperous. He sat up a little
straighter. “Yeah, I would
like some, provided it’s not too hot.”
The XO’s voice sounded incredulous.
“You, coffee, too hot?” Then
he said, “Oh, sorry.”
“No, don’t worry about it,” Lee said,
reaching out. Morton placed
the cup in his bandaged hand and didn’t let go until he knew Lee had a
firm enough grip. “Uh,
Chip, I was way out of line up there.
I’m sorry.” He
heard the XO sitting down beside him.
The chair squeaking slightly as his friend turned to face him.
“It’s just that, well….”
“It’s so damned frustrating,” Chip finished
for him. “I know, Lee.” His voice was low, filled with understanding.
“And you’re such a wonderfully patient patient, too,” he
Crane almost choked on his coffee. Chip was right. Then
he thought of something else.
Lee nodded. “Any
word from the admiral?”
“Yes, he’s coming back in.
He said something about a few minor adjustments and then he would
take her out again on a longer flight.”
The vibration of the hull doors opening told them
that the Flying Sub was returning, even as Chip was speaking. The beat of the Flying Sub’s engines told Lee exactly where
the craft was and what it was doing.
A short time later, an extremely exuberant admiral and excited
Chief Sharkey joined them on the observation area.
“You can’t imagine what it’s like, Lee!” Nelson exclaimed.
“We hit the exosphere in only a few minutes.
Can you believe that? It
was incredible! Mendez had it right on the mark.” There was a short silence.
“Thank you, Lee. Heaven
only knows how long it would have taken for me to figure it out on my own.
Lee nodded, not knowing what to say.
Personally, he felt that the admiral would have figured it out on
his own and it wouldn’t have been that long a time, either.
“So when do we go to Hikeru?”
There was a long hesitation. “The CMO isn’t sure it’s a good idea for you to go,
Crane was speechless for exactly five seconds.
That was how long it took for the shock to wear off and the anger
to rise out again. He
held out the cup. “Chip?
Would you take this, please? It’s
cold.” Then he got up and
approached the clear hull plates, his fingers outstretched.
When he had reached them, he continued to face the sea as he spoke.
“It took me most of the past day and a half to decide why I
should go, because frankly, I was scared spitless at the thought of
stepping foot on that island again. But
I decided to go for the simple reason that I can’t stay here—waiting,
asking crewmen to help me avoid killing myself if I miscalculate a foot or
two. Or to shave me or to help me dress. Admiral, if there is a chance that the remedy for this is on
that island, I want to be there. I
wish to hell I could see Mendon’s face when he sees me and realizes that
he didn’t take me down like he wanted to.
Just being there will be enough.”
Lee had kept control this time, but he still heard a trembling in
his voice. It was very
quiet in the entirety of the control room.
“I’ll talk to Doc again,” Nelson said softly
from his site.
Lee nodded. “Thanks.
And be aware, A’ona Matua has declared her intentions to go to
Hikeru as well.”
“What?” Nelson asked, incredulous.
“She said something about it being her right or
some such thing. La’ani,
The admiral gave a lusty sigh. “This is when I wished I hadn’t let Doc talk me into
declaring the boat smoke free. I
need a cigarette.”
Crane laughed softly.
“I should have known something was up when I was told they hadn’t disembarked with the men,” Nelson said. “Well, as much as I don’t like having civilians on board the Flying Sub with the new propulsion system, it has passed all its initial tests. Let me think about it.”
“When do we leave?” Lee asked.
“As soon as I calm Dr. Jamieson down, refuel the
Flying Sub and grab a cup of coffee,” the admiral said in mock
“And both of you get a bite to eat,” the XO
Lee nodded, resisting the urge to say ‘yes,
Five hours later, they were strapped in their
seats. The admiral did
all of the safety checks while Sharkey assisted.
Lee sat in one of the fold-down chairs, with Doc sitting opposite
him in another one. The two
women sat directly behind the admiral and the COB.
“Initiate launch,” Nelson said and the Flying
Sub bay doors opened. “Disengage,”
he said next and the sharp thump of release above them signaled their
freedom. The admiral eased the craft out of its cradle and into the
ocean. The engines whined as
they powered up and Lee felt a strong surge as the Flying Sub sped toward
her take-off. He felt more
power than he was used to and she broke surface more quickly, skipping
only once, and then shooting into the air as though catapulted.
He felt the g-forces increase rapidly and then they leveled off.
“We are in the upper atmosphere,” the admiral
said, in his best instructional voice.
He continued to describe the trip periodically.
Lee figured it was more for his own benefit rather
than anyone else’s. “Admiral,”
he finally asked. “Exactly
what was Mendez’s contribution? I
know you said it was something to do with protecting the vessel from the
forces of such increased speed, but that’s all I remember.”
Crane had been curious about that since before the information had
been extracted from his mind.
“The propulsion unit was essentially completed,
Lee,” the admiral began. “The
problem was that the excessive forces inherent with such higher speeds
play hell with any materials normally used for transportation except for
spacecraft. The vehicle would
be torn apart after only a few flights.
That problem more or less made the drive useless.”
“Admiral?” Lee interrupted.
“Did you come up with this new drive?”
There was a long pause.
“I came up with the initial idea.”
Lee nodded. It
was just as he had thought. “And
Mendez came up with the means to feasibly use the invention. Something to buffer the friction.”
There was another silence.
“Were you awake during the information extraction?” the admiral
“Might have been subliminally awake.
“Because you just gave a crude definition to
what Mendez proposed. The
same nuclear/ion drive that we developed is also being used as a means to
buffer the vehicle against the atmospheric forces.
Somewhat like a very thin force field.”
“A force field?” Lee asked.
“That creates another set of possibilities as well.”
“Indeed it does, Lee.”
There was a silence for a short while and then the admiral began
The flight was astonishingly short, Lee thought.
“Doing a fly-by at regular speed,” Nelson
announced. “Check for
hostile action, Chief.”
Lee felt the craft bank port and then make a
sweeping circle. The sharp
realization came to him that he had never actually seen this mountain
island. He had come in
drugged and left mostly blind. He
only had La’ani’s brief descriptions to go by.
A’ona Matua said something.
It sounded ominous. Then
she began a short sing-song chant.
“There is death here,” La’ani translated.
|Foam on the Large Wave Prologue|
|Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents|