Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

   

 

La’ani carried the tray with the prisoners’ dinners.  It had already grown dark outside, but the lights made it noonday bright.  She smiled.  Before the prisoner’s escape, there were almost no lights.  It was too expensive for many lights.  Until today the guards had been on double shift as well, but the prisoner had been so drugged the last several days that he had been a threat to no one but himself.  Or perhaps the guard that ventured too close to his flailing fists. 

And the few other prisoners?  They were too tired from each day’s work to try anything.  Lately, they had been even more compliant.  La’ani thought that the example of the American’s fate had cowed them even more than previous threats of horrible punishments had.   What had been whispered about in the past six months had now proved to be real.  Even in her village, everyone was subdued and afraid.

The other prisoners looked toward her only as their source of food and water, not as a former friend or even as a possible means of escape.  With slight hesitation, she slipped back the locking bar and opened the American’s door.  She wondered if he was still possessed of the demons of his dreams?  Off and on for more than three days he had been taken to the room of torture.  This evening, though, he had been very quiet, with only occasional outbursts.  It was getting late and his was the last dinner to give out.  She was afraid of him.  He had given all of the guards bruises, what would he do to her?  The previous meals had been shoved through a slight crack in the door, with a guard no further than the next hallway.  Tonight the guards were absent, presumably taking their own dinners with Mamala in the kitchen.  What if the prisoner was waiting by the door, ready to pounce on her? 

La’ani drew in a tremulous breath.  If he tried something, she could scream.  Then she felt ashamed of herself.  The man was more to be pitied than feared.  When she had told the old woman in the village about him, A’ona Matua had told her that she should not be afraid of him.  He would not hurt her.  A’ona Matua had never been wrong about the things she had seen in her dreams or the feelings of her heart.  La’ani would trust in the old woman’s instincts.  Carefully, she pulled back the door bolt and peered inside.  The light was already dim, but she could see a vague outline in the corner of the room.   As her eyes became used to the muted light, she saw him raise his head. 

The man sucked in a ragged breath and gazed fearfully at her.  “Please,” he whispered.  “No more.”   His back pressed more closely to the wall of his cell.

La’ani was amazed. He was more afraid of her as she was of him.  She remembered the first time they had met during his escape attempt.  There had been no fear then.  It was the evil one.  He had done this. “You do not have to be afraid of me,” she said soothingly, still standing in the door way in case he became violent. 

At the sound of her voice, he studied her with something closer to curiosity, although there was still fear.  Several minutes passed and La’ani wondered if she should just leave the packet of food and flagon of water on the floor and go.   The fear seemed to slowly disappear.   “I know,” he said softly.  His voice was hoarse, probably from the constant crying out during his nightmares.  “I recognize you now.”  He hesitated.  “At first I thought you were something, uh, someone else.”

“Like one of the giant monsters of Moana’s realm?” she asked, flashing him a smile to reassure him.

He closed his eyes and she heard a soft moan before he spoke again.  “Don’t laugh,” he said bitterly, looking at the ground.  “I have seen a great deal these past few years.  I didn’t need anything from Dr. Doom to enhance reality.”

Suddenly, La’ani was no longer afraid of this American.  She couldn’t explain it; just that it was so.   “I’m sorry,” she said quickly, stepping to his side.  “I didn’t mean to sound as though I was laughing at you.”

He started at her approach and then he sighed.  “I know you didn’t,” he replied, his features softening considerably. 

“My name is La’ani,” she told him, reaching out and touching him on the arm. 

He flinched when she spoke her name, but then he looked at her hand in the dim light and then into her eyes.  “That’s a very pretty name.  I, uh . . . once knew someone whose name was close to yours.  My name is Lee.”

“I have heard the evil one call you captain,” she said.  “You are an American fighting man?”

“Something like that although I don’t think I’m doing much fighting now,” he replied with a soft smile.  There was no humor there, she noted.  He looked over her shoulder as though listening.  She listened as well, but heard nothing.   “How long?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper. 

She was puzzled at first, then it dawned on her to what he was referring.  “You have been in here most of the past three days, and there were several days before that.  And you were in the Leader’s house for a day, I was told.”

“I remember those early days—a little,” he said, gazing at her curiously.  “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get in trouble talking to me?” he asked.

“I have talked to prisoners often,” she said defiantly, even though she knew he was right.  She would need to leave soon. 

He smiled.  Even as unkempt and bruised as he was, with a dark growth of beard, the American was still handsome.  And there was a tiny spark of humor to offset the haunted look in his eyes.  “But I seem to be a special case.”

La’ani nodded.  “Yes, you seem to be,” she said, remembering her father and brother in this horrible place.  They had been special cases, too, but for a different reason.  “I will still give greetings as I do others,” she replied, this time feeling defiant as well as sounding that way.  She had a sudden impulse to reach over and take his hand-- he seemed so cut-off.    She jerked back when he bit off a cry of pain.  La’ani reached out again, but this time she gently turned his hand over and examined it.  Lee had been given the same brand that all who defied the leader were given.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t realize . . . although I should have,” she ended cynically.

“Common, eh?” he asked, cradling his hand when she had let go.

La’ani could only nod.  She picked up the leaf-wrapped rice and pineapple balls and handed them to him.  Instead of merely grabbing the food from her hands as some of the prisoners did, the American wrapped his good hand around hers.  He gazed deeply into her eyes.  “Thank you, La’ani, for your kindness, and for giving me these few minutes of enjoyment.”  Then he gently pulled away taking the food with him. 

She set down the small plastic jug and backed away.  “Goodnight,” was all she could think to say. 

“Goodnight.”

   

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

 

“Well, my friend, it would seem that you are being most uncooperative,” Mendon said pleasantly on the morning of the eighth day. 

Figuring by now that talk was wasted on Mendon, Lee kept quiet.  His mind was still foggy.  Despite the fact that he had not been given any drugs last night, his sleep had still been restless.  Vividly horrible creatures and equally nasty enemies had walked through the corridors of his mind.  At least that’s what he thought had happened.  It always seemed so real.    He remembered La’ani.  She was real.  He knew that.  Her touch, her voice had come to him when he thought there was nothing pleasant in the world anymore. 

“Well, at the very least, my drug therapy has had the advantage of helping you keep a civil tongue in your head, Captain.”

Again, Crane said nothing.  What could he say?  Mendon was going to shoot him up with whatever he chose anyway.  It was all going to start again.  Then he realized that the other reason he didn’t say anything was because he was afraid.  He was so afraid he would begin to beg or offer something that wasn’t his to give if he even opened his mouth.   His hands trembled and he wasn’t able to gather enough control to stop that manifestation of his fear.

“I think today, we’ll try something a bit different,” Mendon continued as though discussing something on the menu of a high-class restaurant.   Mendon looked too happy.  Lee felt the trembling intensify.  The scientist went over to a cabinet and opened it.  There were about a dozen vials on each of four different shelves.  He muttered to himself as he picked through them.  “These are most promising,” he said, his voice cheerful. 

Crane felt the fingers of dread working up and down his spine, but there was nothing he could do as Na’alu had a big, beefy hand on one shoulder. 

Mendon walked over to Lee with one of the vials in his hand.  “Do you wonder that I have no hypodermic today, Captain?”  Mendon laughed, even though Lee was still saying nothing.  “It’s because this is meant to be consumed as a drink.  Mixed with water this becomes a very quick acting bio-chemical agent. 

Lee couldn’t help it.  He stared at the small vial in horror.

Mendon laughed.  “You think this is the danger, Captain?  This small container you can see?”   Mendon laughed again.  “No, the danger is the way the contagion inside is delivered.  In a water treatment plant.  In a water storage tank.  In a small jug of water….”  Mendon’s voice trailed off leaving his meaning very clear. 

Crane had only just finished his breakfast, washing it down with the small flagon of water that all the prisoners got in the morning.  He had saved a little for washing his face and hands.   When he was lucid, the captain felt filthy.  He didn’t remember the last time he had taken a shower.  Everything had seemed very normal when he got his breakfast from one of the guards.   Now?  Now there was a new game in hell.

The scientist turned to Na’alu.  “Go get your own breakfast.  He isn’t going to do a thing.”  When the Polynesian had left, Mendon smirked.  “Now, to the real issue.  The other reason I have so enjoyed using you for a test subject.”  Mendon gazed at Lee and apparently liked what he was seeing.  “My biggest problem has always been the sharp taste of the agent.  It’s very hard to disguise the chemical that I have bonded to the biological agent, especially in water.  As you know, if you want to deliver something like that to an entire population, precision becomes paramount.”  Mendon stopped his explanation and studied his prisoner.  “You are obviously wondering what a biological agent has to do with the information in your head.”  Mendon grinned.   “Well, Captain, since you are going to die benefiting my leader, you might as well benefit me, too.  This is not just for getting a piece of information that some intelligent person would eventually figure out anyway.  This is also for the science of revenge, or more appropriately my personal jihad.”  Mendon spoke as one who had been isolated for too long; someone who had to discuss his discoveries with another individual, no matter who that person was.  “While I am doing the Leader’s bidding, I am also developing my own weapon.  And there is no block for what I plan on unleashing.  You, Captain Crane, are the first to help me develop these biochemicals for distribution.”

Lee had to work hard to squelch the horror creeping through his body; paralyzing his mind even more than the previous day’s drugs. He was still afraid, so afraid, but he had to find out more, then do what Mendon seemed to think he couldn’t do—escape.  He had to push away his fear; ignore the demons that dwelt in his head.  That bit of determination seemed to clear his head.   Still, there was a quaver in his voice when he spoke, “If . . . if you have given me some kind of contagion, what keeps you, or anyone else from getting it?”  Lee figured this wasn’t really a contagion, but he didn’t want to chance it. 

“Captain Crane, I thought you were highly intelligent.  I said this was an agent, not a contagion.  But I am working on a contagion, one that will be a much more effective instrument.”  He turned and walked away a few paces, toward another cabinet.  “And do you think me so stupid as to develop my biological or chemical weapons without having the antidotes?”  As he turned to face Lee again, his eyes lingered on the second cabinet for a second or two.

Lee kept his face as bland as he could, trying to not only mask his suspicions, but also the pain that was spreading through his stomach.

“Feeling it, Captain?”

Crane continued to try maintaining his even expression, but he didn’t think he was successful.

Mendon walked back toward him.  Then he laughed.  “Yes, it has begun.  You are trying to hide it but it’s there.  I will escort you to the door, Captain.  And please remember, despite my size, I am more than a match for you.”

Crane was well aware of that fact, so he didn’t fight it when Mendon took him by the arm and dragged him from the chair.  It was hard, though.  Even the merest touch of his torturer wanted to make him pull away and cringe in a corner.  He felt even filthier than he had before. 

At the door, Mendon called out, “Take him to his cell.  He will remain there for the next eight hours, then I want to examine him.  I have much to do with this agent,” he said, more to himself than to Lee or the guard.  “It needs to be more subtle, take a bit longer to develop more fully in the victim before they realize what’s hit them.  Wouldn’t want anyone running for medical help before the agent was able to do its job.”

Lee continued to keep a straight face as Na’alu led him to his cell, but once there, door bolted, he fell to his knees, doubled over in agony.  He remained that way most of the day, after barely making it to the tiny lavatory to rid himself of his breakfast.  Sometime much later, he managed to crawl into his cot.

The darkness of his room became a little darker before he was conscious of anything other than his own misery.  The denizens of this mind still visited him, but they were no match for the terrible pain that ravaged his body and the ever-present nausea.   Crane had only vaguely been aware of the fact that a guard had dragged him to the laboratory earlier for Mendon to run tests and gloat.  Now he felt his burned hand pulled out from under his tightly curled body and wondered what new horrors awaited.  He didn’t have the strength to fight it.

Then amidst the pain knotting his insides, Lee felt a soothing coolness on his hand.  He opened his eyes and saw La’ani.  When she saw he was aware of her, she smiled as she rubbed a salve on his hand. 

“What is it?” he asked, then bit his lip as another wave of pain hit him.

“It’s something my grandmother taught me,” she said softly.  “It is made from coconuts and other things, too numerous to go into right now.”

Lee pulled in a ragged breath.  “Thanks, it feels much better.” 

She nodded, rubbing in more of the concoction.  “They told me not to even bother bringing you any dinner, but I brought some anyway.  In case the sickness is passing.”

Nausea washed over him at the very thought of food.   Shaking his head, Lee smiled bitterly.  “No, this is no sickness.  At least not a natural one.” 

“Teva told me it was not a sickness that others could catch,” she replied.

Lee nodded.  “Teva’s right.  I’m Mendon’s guinea pig.”

La’ani looked puzzled.  “Guinea pig?” Then comprehension dawned.  “Oh.”  Her dark eyes seemed to cloud with sadness. 

“But he’s trying to make sicknesses that can be spread from one person to another,” Crane whispered.  He felt she had to know this, as it was most likely her friends and family, the native population that would be experimented on next.

The rubbing on his hand ceased and she stared at him.  “Someone would do that?”

“Deep down in your soul—what do you think?” Lee asked bluntly.

She lowered her eyes.  “Yes, the Leader is mad for power and greedy for wealth.  The doctor wants something else.”

“Jihad,” he said, his voice ending in a groan as his insides seemed to tie themselves again into a knot.

“Here, perhaps this juice will help,” La’ani ventured, holding out a small jug she had pulled from under a sash tied around her middle.

Lee looked at it dubiously, then took it.  He was intensely thirsty, but to add to what he already felt?  He licked his dry lips.  What the hell, he thought, and took a small sip.  His stomach felt queasy, but not to the extent as before, and he took another.  The flavor resembled the smell of the salve La’ani had put on his hand.  “Same stuff?” he asked. 

“Similar,” she said.  There was a noise in the hallway.  “Keep the jug and drink a little throughout the night,” she whispered. 

“Thank you, La’ani,” he said.  Through the night, he continued take small sips of the island drink.   Though there were times that his seditious stomach let him know it was still in charge, Lee didn’t feel the horrible, biting pain that he had felt through the day.   Now that he was able to do more than feel miserable, he pondered how he could escape.  It wasn’t just a dream to hope for; Lee realized that this was imperative.  He wasn’t dealing with a power hungry playboy, but also a revenge driven, conscience-devoid biochemist ready to unleash a plague on humanity, or at least one part of it. 

Lee examined the door again, thinking of the possibilities and took another small drink from La’ani’s jug.  It was small, but it was better than nothing, insofar as a weapon was concerned.   Lying on his bunk, he pondered, planned and then got up, pushing his pain as far away as he could, determined to put his plan into action.

 

 

Chapter 9
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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