WHN- Graveyard of Fear
By Sue K.
The body slipped quietly into the Pacific Ocean. Like a wraith, the white shroud shone for a moment before darkness enfolded it. Nelson gazed upward as he replaced his cover. A few stars twinkled, but there was no moon and Ames had refused even a spotlight to help the burial detail with the body of his "assistant", Karyl Simmons. Vagaries had almost gotten the boat destroyed; partial truth had only brought more questions. Harry had been the only one Ames allowed to help prepare the body. He had asked no questions when he saw the emaciated and almost mummified corpse in the guest cabin, but now he had plenty. Still, it was not the right time. It was obvious the man was in shock as well as deeply grieved. Most of the men were already going below. Only Lee waited. Nelson motioned him below with the rest. He pulled out a cigarette and his lighter. When he offered one to Ames, the scientist shook his head. Nelson lit his cigarette and let the warm smoke ease down into his lungs.
Karyl Simmons had been Amesí guinea pig. She had been two hundred years old. So who had been her doctor/scientist before? Who had really found this Ďfountain of youthí? Ames hadnít since the time without the veeta-syn formula had not affected him. On the other hand, Harry could really understand Amesí reticence to confide about his companion. It was pretty unbelievable. "Robert, after we make repairs we can still come and recoverÖ."
"No, Admiral. Let it stay there. Of course, if you want to take over the research, you are more than welcome to continue the work. It had become too painful for me anyway."
Nelson nodded his understanding.
"Even before Karyl diedÖ."
Harry waited, realizing that Ames was ready to talk about it.
"It became an obsession to her. She had lived so long, been so beautiful, enjoyed it and reveled in it so much that she was afraid to die. Or rather she was afraid to age."
"The reason why everyone and everything was expendable?" Nelson asked mildly.
Ames jerked as though he had been struck.
"I donít mean that in the judgmental way, Robert, but you were intense and your comment does lend understanding to your, ah, insistence."
"I shouldnít make her sound so selfish. She was a wonderful person, Admiral. Karyl energized me. I would have gladly married her, butÖ." Ames voice trailed off again.
"How did you meet her?" Harry ventured.
"I was working with Dr. Hayman. Youíve heard of him, havenít you?"
Harry nodded, then realized Ames couldnít see him. "I have read many of his treatises and articles. That was why I was more than eager to come out here. He also worked in the field of genetics and aging. What intrigued me the most was the connections he made to the ocean." He took a puff and then tossed the cigarette over the side. "I am assuming Karyl was his guinea pig also?"
"Yes, she was and his uncleís before him."
"I would be intrigued to learn the history of this research, if nothing else."
"Are you interested in being around a little longer than a natural life span, Admiral?"
"No, not really, although there are some things I would like to finish before I die."
"I can tell you the gist of Karylís history, but I have come to the conclusion that man isnít really meant to have that kind of power over death. It would be better left on the ocean floor. Maybe it would have been better if that man oí war hadnít been killed," Ames mused.
"If it would make you feel better, we can destroy your ship on our next run out here. We have to recover the Flying Sub."
"It would make me feel better. If that formula got into the wrong handsÖ."
"There is certainly that." Nelson breathed in the salt-tinged air.
"Admiral, we are ready to dive," came Mortonís voice on the intercom.
"Another fifteen minutes, Chip," Nelson replied.
"Karyl was born right after the Revolutionary War. In Philadelphia. Normal childhood for the time in a fairly affluent home and neighborhood. She married a man who had become fascinated with Benjamin Franklin. Willard Hayman read everything Franklin ever wrote, including a short letter the statesman had written but never sent to anyone. It was during the first of Franklinís trips across the ocean that he noticed a pod of dolphins following the ship. One was rather distinctive; the coloration and a marking on the dorsal fin allowing Franklin to find it every time it approached the boat. The dolphin accompanied Franklin every trip he made, never seeming to weary of the chase. As he grew older and more infirm, Franklin couldnít help but notice that the dolphin never changed."
"I have read the theory that only predation kills in the ocean, not age. I havenít tested that theory."
"Hayman did. He went out often on short voyages, catching a variety of fish. He eventually caught the dolphin Franklin described."
Nelson raised an eyebrow in inquiry.
"Hayman created a serum from the various organs of the fish and dolphin and found that he and Karyl didnít seem to show their age. He continued his experiments, but eventually became disenchanted with the poor reception he was given by the scientific institutions of the day. To make a long story short, he worked with his nephew, passed along the information. There was some kind of accident that killed Hayman, but by then Richard Hayman was working on the formula and perfecting it. Karyl continued to look and feel like a much younger woman, as did Richard for a while. About the time I became Haymanís assistant, the flaw in the formula became apparent. It did not work well for male subjects. Richard Haymanís body was deteriorating from the inside; his organs failing even though his face still looked just a little past middle age. He left me his notes and I continued to work on the anti-aging formula after he died." He turned to Nelson. "I think Iíll take that cigarette now."
Harriman handed over a cigarette and the lighter. "Was there more than just Karylís welfare that made you desperate to get the formula back?" His voice, as before was not accusatory.
"I wanted to work out the bugs that prevented men from utilizing the rejuvenating effects. I wanted to live with Karyl forever," Ames admitted.
Nelson sighed. Love was sometimes a harsh motivator. "I will make sure there is nothing left of the site."
"Maybe it would be safer to do it now, Admiral," Ames said softly.
"With our damageÖ." Nelson pondered, then nodded. "I think you might be right, Robert, but we were damaged badly enough that we canít make that kind of a dive. As soon as we complete repairs, this will be our first priority. Shouldnít be more than a few weeks."
"I appreciate you changing your work schedule to take care of that. I thank you." Ames said. "By the way, I am not interested in any of the notes, studies and specimens. If you want them, I will have everything delivered. If you donít, burn it."
"I would like to read what you have. Scientific curiosity, mainly. Thank you for trusting me."
"No one else I could trust to do the right thing." Ames tossed the cigarette into the ocean and climbed down the ladder into the boat.
Harriman finished his cigarette and followed. "All clear, Mr. Morton," he said absently, pondering the curious tale he had just been told.