Chapter Five has turned into a complete hot mess.
It’s way too long, the conversation between the three principals is wooden, and the whole long, long, long exposition bit is ham-handed, at best. And Stover’s whole motivation has changed radically from what I had in mind in Chapter Two.
But this is a “zeroth” draft. Not even a “first” draft. It’s throwing words up against the screen and seeing what sticks. Something much like this chapter (but much better written and plotted) needs to be here, but for now it’s just a glorified place marker for a huge rewrite when it’s time to go from zeroth draft to first draft.
While I normally put in a lot of internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.
CHAPTER FIVE (continued)
It was Winston’s turn to squirm.
“We are having difficulty generating any avenues of investigation to pursue, sir.”
“Mr. Winston, please feel free to cut the crap and speak freely at any time,” Stover said.
“Finding a specific dolphin who is somewhere in the ocean and actively hiding from us is a non-trivial problem. In searching the ‘normal’ world for someone like Ms. Aoiki, we have a massive infrastructure of surveillance and data collection that has taken centuries to develop. Almost none of that exists once you start searching in the seas. In addition, the seas are both much larger than the Earth’s land surfaces. Finally, to a good first approximation, our world is two dimensional while the undersea world is three dimensional.
“In short,” Winston concluded, “the problem is an order of magnitude more difficult while having several orders of magnitude fewer tools to bring to bear on solving it.”
“I understood,” said Stover. “It’s a real bitch of a problem. That’s why I gave it to you to solve. Are you telling me it’s impossible?”
“No, sir, I am not. I’m telling you that it’s going to take longer than you want it to, possibly much longer. At this point I can’t even give you an estimate that I’m confident about. We’re looking for ways to make it happen and trying to be clever, but we’re fumbling and flailing around in the dark to a much larger extent then I’m used to.”
“I thought that you liked the darkness, Mr. Winston.”
“Sir, it would help a great deal if you could give us more information on why we’re doing all of this. When I refer to ‘being in the dark,’ a great deal of that comes from not knowing why we’re doing what you’re asking us to do. You want us to bring Ms. Aoki in so you can talk to her, and we only know that it has something to do with dolphin communications. We know that you want us to find and capture Kolohe because Pahi says we need to, but we don’t know why. We can assume it all has something to do with this massive project involving dolphins, and apparently now at least some whales, but we don’t have a clue what the project is, or what Ms. Aoki or Kolohe have to do with it. Come to think of it, the first time we knew that you were talking to dolphins was when we saw it being done. We have no background on the who, what, where, when, or why of that world-class discovery was made, and no idea why it’s kept a secret, but I would bet that all of those details have something to do with the goals you want us to accomplish. Perhaps if you let us know how the pieces fit together and what puzzle we’re trying to solve, we could do a better job of solving it.”
Stover allowed himself a small smile that didn’t necessarily convey warmth or amusement.
“Well, I did tell you to speak freely, didn’t I?” Stover turned to the wait staff in the gazebo. “Could you please excuse us? We won’t be needing anything further right now. Mr. Lewis, you may accompany them also.”
“Sir, I would prefer that Mr. Lewis stays for this conversation,” Winston said. “It will be important for him to know about this as well, if he’s going to help me.”
Stover nodded at the wait staff, who walked away down the path. Stover turned back toward Winston, his look no longer even remotely friendly, his jaw set as he considered his next words.
“Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, Mr. Winston? Very well. Pei, are we secure here?”
“Yes, sir, there are no unauthorized personnel or surveillance in the area,” said the disembodied female voice, “nor are there any vessels, aircraft, or drones near enough to monitor or observe you.”
“Thank you, Pei. Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Winston, it’s a long way down the rabbit hole. Needless to say, the information you have asked for is of the utmost confidence and any attempt to share it or disseminate it in any way, shape, or form will be met with the most immediate and harsh penalties. There will be no trial in such an event, just punishment.”
“We both know that, sir,” said Winston. “You should know by now that you can trust us. If not, we should leave.”
“Pei,” said Stover, “please give Mr. Winston and Mr. Lewis the standard briefing regarding Pahi and our dolphin project.”
“There has been speculation for over fifty years about the possibility that species other than humans were capable of sentient thought and communication through language,” began Pei. “Early efforts to communicate with other species such as chimpanzees, apes, dolphins, whales, and even parrots were met with mixed and unverifiable results.
“Ten years ago researchers at the University of Hawaii, led by Doctor James Lundgren, made a breakthrough in deciphering the first rudimentary elements of dolphin language. One of the lead linguists on that team was a young graduate student, Meg Aoki. Instead of using captive dolphins as all previous researchers had, she ran a series of tests to see if she could communicate with dolphins in the wild.
“Using what she believed to be a reliable approximation of the dolphin language, she repeatedly broadcast an invitation for dolphins to come and meet with her. The dolphins were promised they would retain their freedom and independence and were asked to come to her voluntarily in order to exchange ideas and information with Ms. Aoki about their respective cultures.
“These broadcasts were successful, and a group of dolphins began to meet with Ms. Aoki and her team regularly. The team’s ability to understand and communicate clearly grew exponentially as they were able to speak to more and more dolphins.
“Ms. Aoki was able to form a unique bond with a leader in the dolphin pod, a dolphin she named Kohole. Through him and the other dolphins the team came to understand that not only were dolphins intelligent and communicative, but that they had an advanced culture and a long history passed from generation to generation by songs and stories.
“The dolphins knew of humans, of course, but only as creatures to be feared. Human nets and fishing had killed millions of dolphins. Many other dolphins had been injured or killed by things such as oil spills, pollution, and underwater explosions. The dolphins did not understand what humans were and why they did the things that they did, but they did understand that humans were very dangerous, so they generally simply kept their distance whenever possible.
“However, dolphins are curious creatures by nature, so as communication abilities with the Lundgren team grew, they began to try to understand humans as the humans tried to understand them. Naturally, some of what they learned about humans was disturbing to them.
“At this same time, without the knowledge of the Lundgren researchers, someone inside their team was passing information about their discoveries to contacts in the United States military. The Navy, seeing an opportunity to use this new knowledge as a military intelligence or weapons resource, began a top secret program, the Utilization of Dolphin Intelligence and Language, or UDIL. Using the information gained from the Lundgren study, they lured dozens of dolphins in and captured them for research and experimentation.
“The capture and imprisonment of dolphins by UDIL was a source of tremendous anger and considered to be a breach of sacred trust by many of the dolphins who were in contact with Ms. Aoki’s project. These betrayed dolphins, aligning with a radical environmental faction on the Lundgren team and lead by a dolphin named Pahi, urged an attack to free the captured dolphins. A more moderate group, led by Kolohe and Ms. Aoki, urged restraint.
“On the night of November 8th, 2028, the radical group attacked the UDIL compound both by humans on land and by dolphins at sea. The attack was intended to free the captive dolphins and destroy the pools and tanks being used to hold them. The attack did not go as planned, and many of the dolphins, from the attackers, the captives, and the moderates, were injured or killed.
“Following the attack all contact was broken between the dolphins and the University of Hawaii researchers. With trust between the dolphins and humans believed to be irreparably damaged, the Lundgren study was terminated and the research team was dissolved.”
“Stop,” said Stover. He looked at Winston and Lewis. “Now that you’re in this up to your asses, do you have any questions?”
Lewis just shook his head slightly, his expression neutral, the consummate professional.
“Thank you for sharing this with us,” said Winston. “It helps a great deal to know some background and how various players interact. However, it’s obvious there’s something major going on now and we still don’t know what it is. It’s obvious that we’re on Pahi’s team and Kolohe is the opponent, but we don’t know who picked the sides or why. Finally, given that something is going on in dolphin society, we don’t know why you are involved and what difference it makes to you.”
“What’s going on now,” said Stover, “is a buildup to war. Why it’s happening is because the dolphins learned far more about our culture than we learned about theirs. They’ve now been exposed to all of humankind’s sins, they don’t trust us, and they’re very well aware of the advantages we have over them, both in numbers and in technology. They’re terrified.”
“They should be. Why do they want to start a war they can’t win in any conceivable, rational scenario?”
“They’re much more in tune with their environment than we have ever been. You mentioned it yourself, the vast oceans and the three dimensional aspect of their environment. They have known for centuries of the changes taking place in the seas, but they did not understand them, nor did they have any way of altering their environment in any significant way. Now they understand what effect humans are having and how it will lead to the death of their entire species in only a few hundred years, possibly much less. There are factions, mostly led by Pahi, who are looking for a way to cripple human civilization and stop the changes we are making to the planet.”
“They’re going to destroy humanity?” asked Lewis. “With what? How? By attacking swimmers and tipping over kayakers? It’s going to take a long time for them to kill all of us that way.”
“No, the dolphins do not wish to destroy us as we are inadvertently destroying them. But they are excellent strategists and tacticians, probably something they get from a brain designed to function in more dimensions that ours do. They have a plan which I believe has a good chance of success.”
“How can they do anything like that with no weapons and no technology? Do they know magic or something bizarre?”
“No, but they know me. We will supply them with the tools they need to collapse Western Civilization.”
Winston and Lewis sat silently for a minute. Winston was trying to find a way to correctly ask his next question, since it was clear he was dealing with a egomaniacal maniac.
“Sir, if you help them to destroy us, won’t all of us be destroyed as well? Won’t all of this,” Wilson said, waving his hands around at the tropical paradise surrounding them, “be destroyed along with everything you have ever worked for, as well as your children and family?”
“Won’t that make you the worst genocidal murderer in the history of mankind?” asked Lewis, staring intently as Stover.
“Yes, to both counts,” said Stover. “While I believe that we could ride out the chaos by sheltering here on my island, it would make me a monster. Which is why I will tell Pahi and Pohaku whatever they need to hear, right up to the time that I pull the rug out from under them.”
“You’re doing all of this just so you can betray and double cross them?”
“That is correct.”
“Why? Are you doing it to be a hero or some kind of savior to mankind?”
“Something like that. When I am done, I fully expect to be in control of the entire remaining human population.”