Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

Chapter 23

 

 

After A’ona Matua’s announcement, there was several moments’ silence. 

Lee sincerely hoped that the death the woman was talking about wasn’t any of the villagers.  “Admiral, there’s a mountain side house not far from the harbor—the compound.  Any lights or activity?” Lee asked.

“No.  Only fires near the same area where you signaled us, Lee,” the admiral replied. 

A’ona Matua said something else. 

“They are fires of victory,” La’ani declared.

“Victory?” Nelson repeated.  “Over what?”  Then he stopped and continued in a slightly puzzled voice.  He glanced back at A’ona Matua and La’ani.  “Friendly?”  Both women nodded.

Lee blanched.  “Dr. Mendon has gone.”  How he knew, he couldn’t tell, only that it was so.  The death?  Bomar’s?  Again, he didn’t know, only suspected but he suspected that his guesses were right.  His voice was devoid of any emotion, but he still felt dread.  Could the scientist have perfected his contagion by now?  “Any sign of the jet, Chief?  Mine fields?”

Sharkey grunted an acknowledgement of the question and Lee waited.  Finally, “Not getting any readings on any kind of large equipment or ordinance, Skipper, but with the vegetation apparently right up to the runway, it’s hard to tell for sure.   No activated minefields.”

Lee said nothing. 

“I’m landing.  We’ll find out what’s going on better from the ground,” the admiral declared after a moment’s silence. 

The Flying Sub came in steeply and then leveled out just before it hit the ocean a half-mile or so beyond the reef, Lee guessed.  They skimmed below the surface through the break in the reef and then coasted onto the beach above the water line.  Nelson cut the engines and they waited. 

Finally, A’ona Matua spoke.  “I want to walk on the soil of my own land,” La’ani translated. 

“Wait until we reconnoiter,” the admiral said, his voice sounding wary and concerned.

Lee smiled softly. Despite her protestations to him before, the old woman had missed this twenty square miles she called home.   He unbuckled his seat belt and stood up.  “Admiral, I believe it’s more than safe for her.  If they don’t respect her, they certainly respect her position.”  The old woman said something and then took his arm.  They walked to the rear hatch.

“I think that’s self-explanatory, Lee,” La’ani said with a soft laugh. 

Nelson sighed.  “Go ahead, then, if you are sure.  Chief.”

Sharkey opened the hatch.  “Wait a moment, ma’am,” he said to A’ona Matua.  He touched Crane on the arm and the captain stepped onto the wet sand.  He heard the surf booming against the reef and breaking more sedately against the rocks along the beach.  He held his arm out for the old Polynesian woman and she stepped out.   The murmur of her name told him that there was at least a small group nearby waiting for her.  La’ani quickly joined them and the murmuring grew louder. With A’ona Matua’s guidance they walked toward the waiting group. Lee heard the other three men following them.  

There was a quick conversation between the Hikeruans and then La’ani spoke.  “Bomar, the leader, is dead.  It is believed the evil one did it. After we left, the guards heard gunshots from the leader’s house and they checked.  It was then they found Bomar dead and the evil one gone on the small jet,” she told the men from the sub.  A’ona Matua spoke to the Polynesians waiting on the beach and they murmured among themselves.  La’ani offered no translation this time. 

There was more talk in the Polynesian language.  Finally one of the men spoke up.  Lee thought he recognized the voice.  “The evil one left on the jet with Na’alu,” Teva said.   “Na’alu had told us that the leader had demanded revenge against those who dared to invade our island.  He named someone called Admiral Nelson.”   The name was slightly convoluted by the parameters of their own language, but Lee and the rest knew to whom they were referring.  “And he named the ship called Seaview, the one that took away some of our people.

La’ani said something to them, and then translated, “I told them that Na’alu was wrong.  The submarine saved our countrymen as well as A’ona Matua and myself.  However, they had figured that out for themselves and disabled the minefield near the reef.  They have chosen to get rid of everything that the evil ones brought to our island.”

“I wondered about that,” the admiral said thoughtfully.  “That was quite a feat, to not only disable, but to get rid of them.”

“Teva and his men have watched the leader’s actions for a long time and were able to do the job when it was necessary.  In fact, some of the men had been trained to use the computers that controlled the weapons and had even installed the few weapons that Bomar had collected.”  She paused.  “They only finished the minefield just before we arrived.  They had the fires on the beach to celebrate their victory in ridding the island of the things of the popoa’a.”

“Popoa’a?” Lee asked. 

“Foreigners,” La’ani said softly.  “Those who are left here are wanting to rid Hikeru of all that the leader and the evil one brought.  And they wish for no more popoa’a on our island.”

“Where does that leave us?” Nelson asked. 

La’ani smiled.  The firelight softened her features.  “You are the exceptions.  After what A’ona Matua has told them, you will always be welcome.

Lee acknowledged what La'ani had said with a nod, but felt his anxiety level rise as he realized that Mendon would only have left if he had the means to exact his revenge.  “When did Mendon and Na’alu leave?  And what time is it now?”  He had lost all sense of time in the past several days.

“Oh three hundred hours, Skipper,” Sharkey answered.

Lee cursed under his breath. 

“That means you men deactivated those mines in less than six hours!” the admiral said, incredulous. 

Lee heard several of the men laughing.  Then one answered.  “After we found the dead leader, we had to prepare for the return of our next leader, the queen, to whom the rule of our island belonged all along since the death of our former queen.”

Even though still thinking about Mendon, the captain caught the last comment.   The admiral asked before he could say anything, though.

“Queen?” Nelson asked. 

“La’ani?” Lee ventured, surprised, but not all that surprised. 

When La’ani spoke, her voice was soft.  “Yes, the queen who married Bomar was my grandmother’s eldest daughter. My father was her younger brother.  I am his eldest child.” 

“You have your work cut out for you, but congratulations,” the admiral told her.

Lee echoed the sentiment, but added, “This isn’t over with yet.”

“I agree,” La’ani said.  “Great evil has left our island, but it reaches to others.  We cannot allow that.”

“Did Mendon tell anyone his plans before he left?” Admiral Nelson asked.

“That one didn’t say much more to any of us except to order us to do his bidding.  The leader wasn’t much better,” one of the men said. 

“He said something about an airport,” someone else said.

“Wouldn’t it make sense that Mendon would want to release his virus at a major metropolitan airport?” Lee asked.  “Probably close to the Institute.”  LAX, he was thinking as the most likely spot.

“Yes,” Nelson mused.  “And that little jet wouldn’t have the range to go all the way from here.  He would have to refuel in Tahiti, most likely, or perhaps Hawaii.”

“Or take a commercial jet,” Jamieson interrupted.

Lee heard a short, surprised intake of breath.  “You’re right!” the admiral cried.  “What better way?   You could easily hide something of that nature and if all else failed, release it on the plane.”

It was a morbid thought, but a perfectly feasible one, Lee thought.  “And he took Na’alu with him.  Two chances.  We’ve got to find them . . . and quickly.”

“Lee, while the Chief and I contact the Tahiti Airport Authority, you and Doc see if you can find anything in the laboratory,” Nelson said.

For a quick second, Lee Crane felt a clutch of dread, but he squelched it and nodded.  “La’ani?”

“Yes?”

“The doctor isn’t familiar with the prison and I am under a bit of restriction.…”

“I must take care of things with A’ona Matua before it is time for us to leave, Lee, or I would come with you.”

“Us?” Lee stammered.

“Of course.  One of my countrymen has been led down a path of destruction and I plan on stopping him if I can,” La’ani said.  There was an increased confidence and authority in her voice.  It became her well.  “Teva and Ra’oana will accompany you and Dr. Jamieson,” she added. 

“Teva?” Lee frowned, remembering his days as a prisoner under the care of Na’alu, Teva and the other guards.  

“Lee, Teva was not happy with what he had to do, especially more recently,” La’ani said softly. 

She was standing near him and he not only felt the warmth of her voice, but also the warmth of her body.  Lee nodded.  Doc took his arm and the small group walked the narrow path that led to the storage area under the mountain.  Although he couldn’t see anything, Lee could still feel a chill as they entered the complex.  Jamieson led him with sure steps, but Lee pretty much knew the way.  It was burned into his mind.   “To the right, Doc.  This corridor leads to the laboratory.”   They crossed the threshold into the large room of his torture and he stopped short.

 “You all right, Lee?” Doc asked. 

“Yeah,” he said, but he had to struggle to keep the quaver out of his voice.  “Welcome to Doctor Frankenstein’s lab,” he added acerbically.  He pointed in the direction that he hoped were the cabinets where Mendon had been keeping his experimental drugs and antidotes. 

“I’m going to take anything that I think would even remotely prove helpful,” Doc said.  “Teva, help me put these things in this case, please.  Ra’oana, would you look around and see if there is anything else that might be helpful.  Notes, vials like these, anything.” 

Without saying anything, the Polynesians moved around the room.  Lee heard drawers opening and closing, papers rustling, feet padding on the hard floor.  He stood there picturing the past, trying to come to terms with it.  So intent was he, that Lee didn’t hear the approach of anyone.  A hand touched him on the shoulder and he jumped. 

“You okay, Captain,” Doc asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said softly.  “Hard to believe I was only in here for two weeks.” 

“Some moments in time have much more impact than others,” Jamieson said philosophically, then he added fervently, “Lee, you’ll get over this.  It will just take a little time.”

“Did you find anything?” the captain asked, purposefully ignoring the doctor’s encouragement. 

“I think so, especially some notes that might very well have bearing on what he put in your eyes.  I’m going to pack it all up and then we can check out Mendon’s personal quarters.”

Lee could think of nothing to say.  The scents and sounds of this place were assailing him and his mind was supplying the memories, real and imagined.  Sometimes it had been hard to differentiate the two.

“Captain Crane!  Lee!” a voice kept calling over and over.  The tenuous line to horror, the silken cord that bound him to Mendon, broke, at least for now and Lee shook his head, clearing away the last vestiges of fear.   “Lee!” Jamie shouted, almost in his ear. 

The doctor had a tight grip on his shoulder and Lee was surprised to find himself sitting down on a straight-backed chair.  He had not remembered moving.  “I’m all right,” he said softly. 

“I needed your help, but I was afraid this was too much for you,” the CMO said angrily. 

Lee knew that Doc was angry with himself rather than at his patient.  “I’m all right, Jamie.  Just a flashback.  That’s all.”  He could hear the doctor fuming. 

Finally, Jamie checked his pulse and then sighed.  “Well, I’m done in here.  Ra’oana, where is Dr. Mendon’s living quarters?”

“Up in the leader’s house,” the Polynesian replied. 

“Captain, I want you to go back to the village with Teva,” Doc said. “I’m going to see if Mendon left anything in his room.  It shouldn’t take long.”

“But….”

“No, this time follow my orders and get the hell out of here,” Jamieson said.

Secretly Lee was relieved.  The young Polynesian led him back to the village.  Lee sat by a fire, feeling the warmth on his face, listening to the banter and songs of the young men.  Occasionally one of them tried to engage him in conversation in English, but Lee had very little to say.  Eventually, he was left to his own thoughts and his fatigue.  He leaned back, feeling the sand for any surprises, then laid down. 

He saw a jet.  It was a commercial airliner, TWA, the logo on the tail declared, flying into LA Ex.  It landed, sat on the tarmac for a while and then the passengers disembarked down stairs that had been slowly rolled out.  The passengers coming down the stairs were skeletons, walking with briefcases and purses in their bony hands.  Joints creaked and clacked together.  They chatted as though nothing was wrong, but as they passed people on the tarmac, each normal person fell to the ground and then became a skeleton as well.  Lee woke up with a gasp and sat up.  “Admiral!  Where’s the admiral?” he called out.

 

 

Chapter 24
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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