It’s been a good weekend and an extremely productive day. Time to stick the landing!
It was going so well until my music betrayed me. Jean-Michel Jarre’s electronic music is wonderful to write to, until “Fifth Rendez-Vous (Ron’s Piece)” comes up. It always has a powerful effect on me.
And then the dog has to go outside, again and again and again, just when the words start to flow and the clock starts to tick toward midnight. Shazbatt!!
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.
Stover stared out into the murky darkness beyond the window. Long ago, before he had begun his quest and built this place, before he had ever been diving or even comfortable in the open water, he would have thought that the ocean in the dead of night would be jet black and lightless. Not lifeless, he knew that the oceans teemed with dangers for those not designed by God to live there naturally. That just made the terror of those dark, deadly waters all the greater. It was one thing to fear drowning in the dark deeps, another to think of being eaten before you could drown.
Now he knew better. In a sense he had been shown the light, a concept that never failed to amuse him. Especially on a night like this, with a quarter moon still well above the western horizon, there was light trickling down into the depths. With the exterior lights from this and all surrounding buildings off on his orders and the lights in the room dimmed down, his eyes soon adapted to the dark and revealed the activity and life there.
At the top of the window, as always, waves lapped up against the building, leaving the top several feet of the window a never ending, always changing soup of foam and bubbles. Tonight it was calm, leaving the froth filling only the top two or three feet. In stormy conditions, with giant breakers slamming against the glass wall, the entire surface could be turned opaque by the churning interface between sea and sky.
Below, in calmer conditions, the dim outlines of kelp could be seen waving a few yards away from the glass, clinging to the bottom as it dropped quickly away onto an offshore shelf a few dozen feet deep. Occasionally a broken frond would drift past the window, pitching to and fro as the currents batted it about, a drunkard’s walk toward either the bottom or some creature’s stomach.
From this viewpoint the sea could be seen to glow ever so slightly, a tiny bit of bioluminescence that had always fascinated him. One of his staff scientists had shown him the small plankton and creatures responsible for it, but the facts behind the phenomenon had not diminished his wonder of it.
Stover often stood before this window for hours, watching, waiting for the next vision to appear to him. This night he was tired and had chosen to sit instead. Behind him, across the large office, a soft chime sounded.
“Pei, who is it?”
“Sir, it is Suni and her guest, the doctor from USC she told you about, Doctor Malcolm Russell.”
“Let them in, but keep the lights off. You can turn on the guide lights, but nothing else. Continue to hold all calls.”
“Yes, sir.” The tiniest bit of illumination started to rise as low power LEDs were turned on, light the pathways around the room’s furniture and walls. A lock on the door clicked and Stover could hear his wife and the doctor entering.
“Take care, Doctor,” Suni said in a hushed voice, almost as if she were whispering in church. “There’s the lighting I told you about. We’ll go over this way if you please.”
Stover remained where he was as Suni led her guest across the room. When they reached the couch where Stover was sitting, she indicated that he should take a chair to one side of a coffee table in front of Stover, while she took one on the opposite side. Quietly the two of them sat and swiveled their chairs around to join Stover in looking out the window. Without any further conversation, the three of them sat like that for ten minutes, no sound in the room except for their breathing, the soft sigh of air coming from the room’s vents, and the dull thumping of waves on the window and wall.
“Doctor, thank you for coming,” Stover said, finally breaking the silence. “I hope you can appreciate this view. Very few people ever are allowed to share it with us.”
“I am honored, Mr. Stover,” said the doctor in a deep baritone voice. He never turned away from the window, speaking with his back partially turned to Stover. “I never expected to get an opportunity to come here and meet you.”
“What do you know of what we have built here?” asked Stover.
“I know little beyond what information is available to the general public, and that does not consist of much. I know that you started Spheres when you were at M.I.T., it revolutionized data storage and made you an extremely wealthy man, and you place an extremely high value on your privacy.”
“Which is a polite way of saying that I’m referred to as the Howard Hughes of our generation,” said Stover.
“I’ve heard the phrase, but I don’t know that’s how I would describe your actions and chosen lifestyle. Given the opportunity, I would have to believe that I would do something similar.”
“When Suni invited you here, you must have done some research about me. What has that told you to expect?”
“With all due respect sir, there are a great many rumors and grandiose theories to be found, but I came here with no preconceived expectations. I am, of course, curious about you and why you wish to meet with me, but I will see what I will see and judge based solely on that.”
“Siri has gone over the restrictions of any information you may disseminate from our meetings? Do you understand the consequences of violating those conditions?”
“They were quite explicit and I have no qualms about accepting them.”
Silence fell again as the three of them continued to watch the dark sea. A group of ghostly shapes appeared out of the gloom, at first just a hint of a flash of grey on the edge of perception in the distance, and then slowly becoming clearer as they approached. The pod of dolphins glided almost effortlessly through the water, each of them briefly shooting up to the surface for a breath before rejoining the dance below.
Stover got up from his couch and walked over to the window. Standing there in the dim light it wasn’t clear that the dolphins were aware of his presence on the far side of the glass. If they were aware of him, they gave no outward sign.
Standing casually, his feet spread and hands clasped behind him as if at parade rest, Stover suddenly jolted to attention, his eyes wide open and his mouth wide as if gasping for air. Standing tall, almost straining to rise up into the air above the floor, he raised his hands to his head and gave out a low moan.
The doctor started out of his chair to reach for Stover, concerned that he might collapse, but Suni gestured immediately for him to stop. She emphatically motioned for him to keep quiet and sit back down. Confused, he did so, but sat on the edge of his chair and kept his eyes on Stover, ready to spring forward to assist him if needed.
Stover could be now be heard muttering softly. He slowly relaxed and allowed his hands to fall to his side, although they kept twitching slightly in small jerks and spasms. His face relaxed into an emotionless mask and he turned slightly away from the window, looking more down into the depths away from the shore and the building.
“Yes!” Stover said, his voice rising in volume, shouting but in a flat, dispassionate tone. “The denizens of the liquid worlds are ready. This age will end and the next will rise.” Stover cocked his head slightly as if listening. “Yes, it is all being done as you commanded. We are making the preparations and laying the foundations for your arrival.” There was another pause.
“Yes, I understand,” Stover said, still in a trance of some sort. “Their works will betray them and be the means of their elimination. It is as you have seen, they have no faith and worship none but for their machines. They are blind to the world as it truly is. None of them can see beyond this veneer of technology which they have created.” Again he paused, listening. Suddenly his head snapped around and he shifted his feet to look back into the room past Suni.
“There is no evidence of that,” he said. “The wet ones can see more of the real worlds than the dry ones above, but they still do not understand the reality that overshadows all. The wet ones know of sensation and experience, the world surrounding and filling them, but they still have no idea of what is to come. My Lord, if there is anything I can do to put your mind at ease on this, you have but to command me.”
The doctor stared fascinated at this display. He glanced over at Suni and saw that she was watching with an expression of awe. There was no sign of any concern or distress that she might have over the change that had come over Stover.