by David McLeod
Explorer Ninety North
"Arctic sea ice was 98% melted last summer, very close to the predictions of the US Naval Postgraduate School. Given the subsequent rise in average global temperature, which has been greater in the Arctic than elsewhere, it's likely that we will lose all the ice this summer," Dr. Brewster began the meeting.
Captain Izzard, Drs. Brewster and Gannon, Jonathan, and Sea Cadets from both our team and Dr. Brewster's team filled my conference room. Dr. Brewster had asked for a meeting to consider changing the mission parameters.
"This is confirmed by satellite data that already shows more rapid melting of arctic sea ice than ever before," he said. "The timing is perfect: it's now late spring. The ice should be completely melted by the time we could reach the polar regions. We need to measure post-melt salinity, and then reach the Atlantic in time to take readings of any change to the North Atlantic Oscillation and . . ."
Dr. Gannon put his hand on Dr. Brewster's arm. It was the signal for his boss to stop talking and let people think. We'd all become accustomed to it.
I wasn't thinking about what Dr. Brewster had said. I was thinking of a book I had read a few years ago. It was a story of a modern voyage of exploration, when on August 3, 1958 the first nuclear submarine had sailed under the ice at the North Pole. "Nautilus 90 North" by Commander William Anderson was the book. My father had a first edition. I knew he would approve.
Everyone was looking at me.
"We'll get there early," I said. "But we can't afford to wait until August 3rd, I don't think. Dr. Brewster, I approve. Captain, please lay in a course for the North Pole."
Captain Izzard—but probably none of the others—knew exactly what I meant by August 3rd. We grinned at one another like schoolboys. Well, I was a schoolboy. Sort of.
There would be details to work out. We had already been at sea for three months, and would likely spend another four or more before reaching the northern Atlantic Ocean. We'd need to resupply before getting too far north, and I had to tell Dad. I was betting he'd want to join us.
I was wrong about no one else knowing the significance of August 3rd. One of the Sea Cadets on our team caught my attention. "Sir? When it's time, when we get there I mean, I know Morse code," was all he said, but I saw the light in his eyes.
I had forgotten that part. The signal from the Nautilus had been sent in Morse code. The boy not only recognized the date, but knew that part of the story, too.
"Bobby, no matter what happens between now and then, you are to be on the bridge for that moment. You're going to have to set up an HF radio and a Morse key. You see, this is something I hadn't planned for. Whatever you need, we'll provide it. And please make sure it's properly tested beforehand."
Bobby's "Aye, aye, sir!" held much more than simple obedience or agreement, and I knew I'd found another ally.
I was right about Dad wanting to join us, but I didn't expect it to be so soon. This time, he arrived in a huge Coast Guard HH-65 helicopter out of Guam. He brought with him a young man who looked incredibly fit, and incredibly uncomfortable in shorts, sandals, and a flowered Hawaiian shirt. The young man's luggage was only a couple of duffel bags, but the helo on which he arrived also carried a dozen crates with Dad's name on them. Dad had warned me he was bringing a new crewmember. I remembered he'd trusted me with Becker, and found it easy to trust him in this.
"This is Steve Harding," Dad said. "My son, Alexander."
"Happy to meet you, sir," Steve said.
"Alexander," I replied. "Alex if you're in a hurry."
He grinned, and I felt a little tension leave him. I also felt Dad's approval in the way I'd handled the introduction.
Several of the cadets swarmed over Steve's luggage and Dad's crates while Steve, Dad, and I went to the conference room where Captain Izzard, Jonathan, and six of the Sea Cadets on our team—including Nicky, Davey, Bobby, and Tommy—were waiting.
After introductions, Dad said, "Steve will explain. Steve, all these people can be trusted with the information you will share, and know not to talk out of school."
That was sufficient warning for us, and sufficient assurance for Steve. He had no difficulty talking to us.
"Gentlemen, I'm a lieutenant in the United States Navy on indefinite leave of absence to pursue studies in oceanography. Mr. Anconia has been kind enough to arrange through the university a berth for me on the Global Explorer for that purpose. This means that I have absolutely no official position.
"I do, however, have some communication gear in the crates with Mr. Anconia's name on them, including a steerable dish antenna for your mast. It provides an absolutely undetectable, secure satellite link to Fleet Communications.
"Mr. Anconia told me you have seen the president's speech, the one in which he talked about the Explorer. I have been tasked to ensure that the president's promise is kept. With your agreement, I will contact US forces if and when they are needed.
"I should mention that we are likely to see any number of US, Canadian, Australian, and British ships over the next few months. It seems that there are several joint exercises planned in the North Pacific, Arctic, and North Atlantic. You may also see some pretty impressive aircraft: the US Air Force will be participating using B-4 and B-2 bombers. At low flight levels, they're something to see—although especially with the B-4s you have to look fast.
"The US will be tracking the Explorer by satellite, and you will be shadowed beginning tomorrow by at least one of our attack submarines—or those of our allies. I have the signatures of all the subs that may be involved, even though I understand you may already have them."
"Steve? Thank you," the captain said. "That is going to make a lot of people very happy. And, even though you have no official position, you know, don't you, that we dress for dinner on Saturday? I trust you have—"
Steve laughed. "Yes, Captain, Mr. Anconia warned me: I have a set of whites."
"Please plan on joining us at the captain's table," Captain Izzard said.
While we were talking, cadets had moved the crates addressed to Dad onto one of the aircraft elevators, and lowered them to the hanger deck. With only two planes and three helos, there was plenty of room for unpacking on the hanger deck, even with the volleyball, badminton, tennis, and basketball courts; soccer field (artificial turf, of course) and swimming pool.
Dad and I watched the others open the comm gear that Lt. Harding had described. Three of the crates were addressed to "Cadet Bell," so Bobby had been called to join them. He was nearly orgasmic when he saw the MILSPEC HF/SSB radio and 2kW amplifier.
"Bobby? I think you want to open these two on the deck," one of his mates said. "And we may need the machine shop's help with one of them." He pointed to a long box on which someone had written in marker pen: "Some assembly required," and added a drawing of a smiley face.
"Holy wavelength, Bobby, is that what I think it is?" It was one of the boys who pulled comm watch with Bobby. Bobby had ignored his mate's advice, and opened the box. He was fondling stainless steel and fiberglass rods.
"A two-meter, vertically polarized, end-fed monopole whip antenna," Bobby said. His voice held the same awe a fundie might feel if reading from a holy book of one of the revealed religions. "It's almost the same as the one on the Nautilus. And you're right. We're going to need the Chief of the Boat for this. It has some very heavy-duty mounting hardware—and we'll need a ground plane."
Steve looked up from his tasks. "You're Mr. Bell? This is for you." He handed Bobby an envelope.
Bobby showed me the message from COMSUBFOR. In terse officialese and all caps, it read: US NAVAL FREQUENCIES BELOW RESERVED INDEFINITELY YOUR EXCLUSIVE USE. CALL SIGN GLOBAL EXPLORER OR GX1. WORLDWIDE MONITORING BEGINS 2 JULY.
It looked like the Uncle Admirals had struck again until I saw the signature: Commander William Anderson, III.
"Dad? Did you really promise the triplets a carrier landing and takeoff?" I had finally managed to get him alone.
"I did," he said. "But it turns out, they're going to get more than one."
"They reached the USS Enterprise by helicopter from SEATAC yesterday. They'll be on an E-2, which will take off from there, and reach us by mid-morning, tomorrow. Captain Izzard assures me the Explorer can handle a landing by an E-2."
"Uh, that's one takeoff and landing," I said. "You said more than one."
Dad ruffled my hair. We were alone, so I didn't mind.
"Another E-2 from the Ronald Reagan will pick them up and bring them home—after you reach the North Atlantic," he said.
I did some quick calculations in my head.
"Dad! You're going to put the triplets on the Explorer for the next four—maybe five—months?" I asked. My mind began to spin scenarios of disaster.
Dad must have known what I was thinking. "They'll behave," he said.
I wondered what he was holding over their heads. What could three eleven-year-old boys want or fear badly enough that would keep them from sinking the Explorer?
The triplets were unusually well behaved when they disembarked. Demetrio carried a potted plant. I knew instantly what it was.
"Demetrio, loves the earth is the meaning of your name. You have brought an oak seedling. Thank you. The Explorer has needed something like that for a long time."
"It is a gift from Colin," Demetrio said. "The acorn is from his tree; the dirt is from the Grove. We brought extra dirt. The crew of the Enterprise was curious, but they didn't say anything."
"You know Colin?" I asked.
"Yeppers," Demetrio said. "And Hansel and Alberto, but they said we were too young for boyfriend stuff!"
Be thankful for little favors, I thought.
"How come one of them has my name?" Alberto asked.
"Jonathan named them; you'll have to ask him," I said.
Jonathan's answer was straightforward, if a little cryptic.
"I named them all for people I knew and loved," he said.
Dad stayed long enough to welcome the triplets and to hold a private conference with them before he left the ship with a promise to return, soon. I could not—short of torture—find out what had been said, and I did not want to torture my little brothers. Although I knew that before their visit was over, I might change my mind.
I was a little concerned that putting the triplets in one of the bedrooms of the owner's suite would cause problems for Jonathan and me. Or Nicky and me. Or—whatever. One of the cadets came up with a solution.
"You know that on old sailing ships, the crew often slept in hammocks slung below decks? We can rig hammocks in one of the unused crew quarters. If the boys get tired of that, there are several unused rooms in the cadets' spaces. If we make it a game . . . maybe they'll buy it."
"Caleb? You're brilliant," Nicky said.
"No, just have two little brothers," Caleb said. "I had to be creative to keep them away when my boyfriend—" He blushed.
"It's okay to say boyfriend, Caleb," I said. "Why do you think I don't want extra company? Hmmm?"
By the time we reached the Bering Sea, Mr. Klystera had his own following of Sea Cadets with whom he was sharing his knowledge—and war stories. One of the boys who was on duty at the moment, Cadet Jacques Boudreaux, removed his headphones. "Sonar contact, sir. Signature matches our scheduled escort, attack submarine USS Roger Young."
"Thank you," Captain Izzard said. He turned to another cadet. "Mr. Hartmann, log the contact."
"Shouldn't we call Mr. K?" the kid on the sonar station asked.
"He said you were qualified to stand watch," the captain said, and turned back to his book. He was re-reading Nautilus 90 North.
Cadet Boudreaux looked at me like he wanted me to override the captain. I grinned, gave him a thumbs up, and put my hands over my ears to suggest that he put the headphones back on, and get to work. He returned my grin, and put on the headphones. I knew we had another ally.
Why was I eager to make allies of the Sea Cadets and crew? Partly because I knew someone, someday, was going to figure out where the submersibles and sensors got their power, and I wanted that person to be firmly on our side. Partly because I knew that Tom was right: when it came out that Jonathan and I were boyfriends, and people realized that we were probably having sex with some of the cadets, I wanted as many people as possible to be our friends. There was another reason that I didn't think of: I should have been concerned that the Russians might have planted a sleeper in our midst.
The first surface ship we saw was the aircraft carrier, the USS Endeavor. She was flying an admiral's flag. We had enough warning that all the Sea Cadets on watch were in their white bells and jumpers, lined along the starboard railing, to render honors when we passed.
It took less than a minute for the two ships to pass, but it seemed like forever, and I thought the kid with the boson's whistle would turn purple, but he held the note.
The response from the Endeavor came in a message to Captain Izzard. He shared it with me and with Lt. Griggs, who passed it on to all the cadets. "Well done and thank you, Global Explorer. Call upon the Endeavor if we may be of service."
The message had been sent in the clear, and on an international frequency. I knew there was a hidden message—a message to our enemies.
Our next sonar contact was not a USA ship. The kid on sonar identified it as a French nuclear submarine, the Casablanca.
"Maybe we should break out the guillotine," I said.
"Why? Are the French revolting?" Jonathan asked.
"They certainly are!" I replied. That got a laugh from everyone on the bridge.
It did not take long for the triplets to figure out how to override the locks on our quarters and find their way into our bed. Jonathan and I were wakened by tickles and giggles from three naked little boys.
This time, Jonathan could not escape to the bathroom before the boys saw his stiffy—they pulled the sheet off, first thing. Jonathan wasn't especially happy, but when I refused to stop the three boys from ganging up on him, he relented—or cooperated with me—and joined the tickling. With his help, we were able to subdue the triplets.
"Pax!" Alberto called, speaking for the three. "What do you want?"
"Huh?" Jonathan thought Alberto was asking him. "Mostly, to pee," Jonathan said.
The boys caught on quickly and scampered into the bathroom. They formed a semicircle around the toilet, blocking Jonathan and me from reaching it.
"If you don't hurry, you're going to get wet!" I said.
That was enough to hurry them. They stepped aside, but remained to watch as Jonathan and I urinated.
"Jonathan's bigger than Alex," one of them whispered.
"I bet he squirts when he masturbates," another whispered, and then giggled.
At least they're using polite language, I thought. When I had talked to them about sex and about the difference between public and private behavior, I'd explained that there were at least two words for just about everything, and that there was one set to be used in public, and one set for private conversations.
Jonathan, meanwhile, had turned absolutely crimson, and his morning erection had collapsed. Must have been the blood rushing to his face.
It was time for another talk with the triplets. One that would have to be without Jonathan.
"Guys, Aunt Elizabeth said you know Jonathan and I are boyfriends. What do you think that means?"
"You do private sex things, like touch each other," Alberto said.
"You can say private words, like jack off and dick," Carlito said.
"What they said," Demetrio added.
"She said not to talk about it, though," Carlito said. "She didn't say it, but she didn't want people to think you were queer."
"Or a fag," Alberto added.
"We know what those words mean," Carlito said. "They're private words for homerosexual."
"Uh, that's homosexual," I said. "And they're more than private words, they're hateful words.
"Homosexuals are guys who like to do sex things with other guys, and girls who like to do sex things with other girls. Masturbation is one of those things. There are others, and I'll tell you about them when you're older.
"A lot of people don't like homosexuals—"
"Why not?" Alberto interrupted.
"Mostly because they've been misled by propaganda from the pulpit of their churches," I said. "But it's very complicated, and I don't understand it really well, myself. Can we save that for another time?"
The triplets looked at one another. I could almost hear the thoughts they were exchanging.
"You promise?" Alberto asked.
"I promise." I knew it was a promise I would have to keep, but one that would take a lot of thinking, first.
I was reluctant to ask the triplets how they had arrived naked in Jonathan and my quarters. Actually, I was afraid to ask, and decided that the game of sleeping in hammocks was probably over. I agreed to put them in the guest quarters next to the owner's suite. In return, they agreed not to come into our room or the other bedrooms unless the doors were unlocked. It wasn't long before they figured out that Nicky and Davey were boyfriends, and that they did boyfriend things with Jonathan and me. I was not eager to have another talk with the triplets, but knew that I would have to, eventually.
There was a current that was part of the thermohaline circuit in the strait between Nunivak Island and the Alaskan mainland. The water was shallow and poorly mapped. It looked like our hydrographic team was going to earn its keep—and get some data for the Navy. They would normally use powerful sonar to do underwater mapping, but we didn't want to disturb any whales that might be in the area. The hydro team was already using data from the sensor train to get information better than they ever had, before, so they were okay with that.
Drs. Brewster and Gannon, as well as a couple of the dozen cadets they had brought into their team, monitored the depth-to-keel constantly, and adjusted the length and sweep angle of the sensor train in real time. Whichever member of Dr. Brewster's team who was on the science station was given the conn, although one of the ships officers was always on watch with them.
I could hook the sensor train controls to the data stream, and do that automatically, Jonathan sent.
Yes, but they're happy, and they feel more a part of the mission this way—especially the cadets, I replied.
Jonathan and I wore yellow kitchen gloves, carried spray bottles, and moved along stairs (which the crew and Sea Cadets called "ladders") and halls (ditto, "passageways") wiping down handrails and doorknobs. Don't know if there was a sailor's name for doorknobs. Or doors, for that matter. I'd have to ask Nicky or Davey.
"What are you two doing?" It was Captain Izzard.
"Taking a turn at sterilizing things against the Norwalk virus," I said.
The captain looked around. After determining that we were alone, he said, "I'm not sure that the Mission Director and the Head of IT should be doing that."
"The mission doesn't, for the moment anyway, need any direction," I said.
"And the cadets have the IT department running smoothly," Jonathan added.
"It's not that," Captain Izzard said. "It's, well, the example you're setting."
"It's exactly that," I said. "We heard informally—and you know that means from Nicky and Davey—that some of the cadets were complaining about doing the sterilization and some of the other maintenance and cleanup jobs. Jonathan and I figured—"
"You figured," Jonathan interrupted.
"We figured," I said, after sending a mental raspberry to Jonathan, "that since we were about the same age as many of the cadets, we could set an example.
"We've been careful to make sure we've been seen, too," I said.
The captain looked over his glasses at me, and then smiled. "I knew you two were smart," he said. "I'm glad you thought of that."
The triplets found Jonathan and me below decks, wiping surfaces. We explained what and why. The next day, we found them doing the same task, but they'd made a game of it, and recruited a team of cadets to help them.
I'm so proud of them, I sent to Jonathan. The boys looked up, and grinned. I knew they had met the dryads, but I don't think they heard me; at least, I hoped not. I was pretty sure I did not want the three of them in my mind.
Davey and I were cuddled on one side of the bed while Jonathan and Nicky were cuddled on the other.
"Some of the guys said they saw you two wiping down surfaces," Davey said. "They're not quite sure, though, if it was just a show or for real."
Davey and Nicky were close enough to Jonathan and me that Davey felt comfortable being bold and honest with that statement.
"Um, hmm," I said, nuzzling Davey's neck. "It's both. It's a show, because we know there have been some bad feelings among the cadets. It's real, because we intend to continue to do it whenever our other duties permit. And as long as you and Nicky keep the servers and software running, I think Jonathan will have plenty of time for wiping and swabbing."
"Hey!" Jonathan said. "What are you doing to earn your keep?"
I knew he was asking me and not Davey. "Commanding a mission?" I said and gritted my teeth. I knew that tickles would follow.
Steve, the Navy lieutenant, had told us that we'd see warships from the USA and allied nations, as well as planes from the US Air Force. He hadn't told us that we might see a British Vulcan bomber.
Our radar picked it up barely seconds before it appeared a few yards above the water. As soon as it did, the captain sounded the steam whistle to summon people to the deck.
"Oh, crap!" was the mildest exclamation from the assembled crowd as the plane swooped over the Explorer and then, after contacting us on an international guard frequency, literally performed a low-speed ballet, dancing only meters above the water to the cheers of the crew and the Sea Cadets. After the performance, Lt. Griggs, Nicky, Tommy, and two other boys from the United Kingdom were lionized by their mates.
About five minutes into the show, I held a whispered conversation with Lt. Griggs and Captain Izzard, and then spoke to the Chief of the Boat, who had some 60-liter kegs of beer brought to the hanger deck. The mess stewards brought up tubs of pretzels and chips (both British and American style), and began to set up the grills.
Captain Izzard opened the party. "Men and women, and I include the cadets. A tot of rum for the crew of a sailing ship is an old tradition. In place of rum, and in honor of the British Empire's performance today, we have Australian beer. Will you be responsible for yourself and your mates?"
"Sir, yes sir!" came from the cadets and ex-military. The civilians picked it up.
Actually, I thought, the old saying is that the British Navy maintained discipline with rum, sodomy, and the lash. I think in modern times, they've eliminated all but the rum—or was it all but sodomy? I never can remember.
The triplets nearly panicked when I broke in line behind them, and tapped Alberto on the shoulder.
"One beer, okay?" I said.
Their relief was palpable. "We wouldn't of . . . Dad told us . . . We know . . ."
"I love you guys, you know," I said. I caught the eye of the Chief, nodded, and then walked away. Trust. It's all about trust. I made it a point to not look at them for the rest of the party.
We were ten days from the North Pole when Captain Izzard summoned me to the bridge. His request was more of a command, and his voice was terse. He addressed me, on the phone, as "Commander." I didn't need telepathy to know there was a problem.
"Sir, I have received a call from the reactor control room," he said as soon as I arrived. "An armed member of the reactor crew has taken over the control room. He has a gun, has shot two crewmembers, and is holding the rest hostage. He's threatened to scram the reactors, which would leave us dead in the water, and could quite easily result in the loss of the ship. He demands that you and Mr. Romanov report to him immediately."
"Well, I guess we need to find Jonathan," I said. I think I startled the captain.
"Do you think . . ." he said.
"Do I think I should negotiate with a terrorist? Do you think I should risk my life and Jonathan's? Yes, absolutely. My responsibility to the crew, including the cadets and my brothers, is far greater than . . . well, anything I can think of.
"And I really don't want to think, too much, because if I did, I'd probably run into a dark corner and snivel. And I don't want to do that, either."
It took only a few minutes to find Jonathan and get him to the bridge. It took even less time to brief him on the situation. It took no time at all for me to read agreement in his mind.
He took my hand, "Let's go before he does something else stupid," he said.
I pressed the access code onto the keys beside the door to the reactor control room. There was a noticeable click, but the door didn't open. I pressed the talk button on the intercom. "This is Alexander. Jonathan is with me."
A whine drew my attention to the closed-circuit television camera above the door. It pointed at Jonathan and me, and then scanned the passageway behind us. The door opened.
"Quickly!" a voice commanded.
We stepped over the sill, and heard the door close behind us.
I think I've said that the reactor area was among the cleanest on the ship, cleaner even, perhaps, than the operating suite in the medical bay. Here, the light was from harsh mercury-vapor lamps. The blood that had flowed from the two bodies on the floor looked almost black. Seven crewmembers sat, feet and arms bound with duct tape, leaning against equipment racks. In the central chair of the control console sat a man who had joined the crew just days ago—a replacement for one of the black gang whose wife had given birth, and who was on paternity leave.
"I am Alexander Anconia," I said. "My boyfriend is Jonathan Romanov. I don't think we have met, even though we've been shipmates—"
"Shut up, dog," the man said, and waved what appeared to be an automatic pistol. I looked closely at it. German design, American manufacture, 9-mm semi-automatic pistol. He was left-handed, meaning he couldn't flip the safety without compromising his grip. Good.
Jonathan? I'll need your help, here.
The man kept talking, but I kept my attention on the weapon.
"You murdered seventy of my countrymen," he said. "Your father had the arrogance to threaten our ambassador and our leader. Your boyfriend with the Romanov name is a pretender to the throne of the despotic Tsar who was executed with his family nearly 100 years ago. Now, it is his turn to die."
The man pointed the pistol at Jonathan.
I had already thought what was needed, and thought is faster than action.
Together, Jonathan and I pushed the safety of the weapon. There was a barely audible click. The trigger would not pull. The man snarled, and reached his right hand toward the gun. Before he could take off the safety, Jonathan and I had leapt on him.
We may have been geeks, but we weren't wimps. We both were avid skiers and swimmers. And we played on opposing teams on the Explorer's soccer field. In seconds, we had pinned the man.
"Who sent you?" I asked, drawing the answer into his immediate conscious mind so Jonathan and I could see it. That took less than a second.
In the next second, I took the weapon away from him, and had it pointed at his head, just above the left ear. After only a flash of thought with Jonathan, and checking to see where the bullet might ricochet, I released the safety and pulled the trigger. The man's brains spattered the deck.
"Oops!" I whispered.
"Cleanup to aisle seven," Jonathan whispered back. I had no idea what he meant.
The seven surviving members of the black gang were pretty happy to have been rescued. Immediately after their rescue, while we cut the duct tape and their brains were busy pumping endorphins into their blood streams, we extracted promises not to discuss what had happened, except for what would be in the official transcript of the hearing held by Captain Izzard.
The triplets were waiting on the bridge. They mobbed me—and Jonathan—the instant we walked in. Their faces were streaked with tears, and they cried more as they hugged us.
After a few minutes, I said. "Come on, guys. We need to talk," and led them to the conference room.
"Why were you crying? I know the captain didn't tell you what was—"
"We knew you were scared!"
It's okay, now. The bad man is dead, I pushed toward them. They heard. They saw that my mouth hadn't moved. Their tears stopped, but their eyes and their minds were filled with questions.
The boys listened quietly while I explained about telepathy, and that I thought it came from the dryads.
"But it also comes from being with others who are telepathic. A couple of the sea cadets have become telepathic from working with Jonathan and me," I said.
"And this is a big secret. If people knew about us, they'd be so afraid of us that they would try to kill us. Guys, can you keep this secret? Even from Aunt Elizabeth?"
That got a giggle, then some very serious looks that meant I had won their promise.
"We'll have to tell Daddy, you know?" I asked. He already knew about Jonathan and me—I'd told him that long ago. He wasn't surprised, and he said not much more than um hmm. I was left to wonder about him, and his relationship with the dryads.
After putting the triplets to bed, Jonathan and I talked about the guy I'd killed.
"How did he get past us?" Jonathan asked.
"I'd never met him, formally," I said. "And had no reason to scan him. And you know what I think about scanning people without their knowledge and permission. We cannot get that without revealing ourselves."
"We may have to rethink that rule," Jonathan said.
My message to Dad was as tightly encrypted as I could make it, using one-time code sheets and the 1024-bit encryption we'd created at the lab. The NSA could probably break the data stream, in 20 or 30 years of computer time, but couldn't break the one-time family code. I hoped.
Dad didn't answer the message. I knew he'd gotten the message, because we received a manual "ACK" from the comm center at his headquarters. When I did get a message, it was in the clear. I was a little surprised: "Will join you soon; would not miss the North Pole for anything."
That was June 26th, which was also Jonathan's birthday. After supper, we held a party in the conference room for a few folks, and included cake and ice cream. Davie and Nicky found an excuse not to stay afterwards, allowing Jonathan and me to hold our own, very private celebration.
Captain Izzard had sent one of the seaplanes to meet Dad at the world's northernmost airport: Canadian Forces Station Alert, which was the closest to us Dad could get in my B757. Dad was grinning when he debarked. "I hope I never get accustomed to carrier landings!" he said, before he was swarmed by the triplets.
Dad introduced the bespectacled man who had accompanied him. "This is Dr. Gleason. He has some fairly delicate equipment, but the Navy helped us pack it, and said it should be okay. It must be secured in a laboratory until he can unpack it."
That Dad didn't say anything else meant that what Dr. Gleason would be doing was secret. He would tell us what we needed to know when we needed to know it. He always did.
Dr. Gleason had accepted help from Nicky and Davey. The offer came from Dad. That gave Dr. Gleason assurance enough that the boys could handle the job—and keep a secret. They wouldn't even tell Jonathan and me what was going on, and we knew better than to pry. Divided loyalties do not good relationships make.
The telephone at my position rang. "Bridge, Commander Anconia," I said.
"Good morning, Commander." It was my father's voice.
"Dad! I'm supposed to say that when I answer the phone."
"Not complaining, Alexander. Would you and Jonathan join us in the laboratory?"
"On the way, sir," I said. "Jonathan! Close up. Dad wants us in the lab. Mr. Marks," I added to the second officer, "You have the conn."
Mr. Marks was in command of the bridge and the ship, even while I had the conn. As a courtesy, they sometimes let me think I was in command of the ship. Even though the conning officer wasn't really in command—just got to give orders to the helm and engine. Which was pretty much nothing while we were towing the array. I was still young enough to get a kick out of it, though.
"I have the conn, sir," Mr. Marks said.
Dad's first words were a surprise that created more questions than answered them. "Dr. Gleason is really Dr. Sir Arthur Harrington, formerly physician to the British Royal Family. His purpose here is the reason for this deception."
Dad paused to give us time to think. I thought. Jonathan thought faster, and then spoke. "Those are genetic sequencers," he said.
Dr. Harrington nodded. "You've seen them, before?"
"Yes, sir. My parents took me for a genetic scan once."
"Did they say why?" Dad asked.
"Yes, sir. They said that hemophilia ran in our family, and wanted to know if I had the gene."
At that moment, three neurons in my mind made a connection. One remembered what the dead guy in the reactor room had said about Jonathan being a pretender to the throne of Russia. Another neuron remembered that Alexei, the son of the Tsar, murdered with his family by the communists, had hemophilia. The third neuron remembered that it had been DNA from the British Royal Family that had allowed scientists to identify the remains of Alexei, the Tsar, and their family when they were found in the forest where the communists had murdered them.
Jonathan looked at me. He saw what my neurons saw, and he was afraid.
"Dad? I don't think—"
"You think not knowing is better than knowing," Dad said. "It's not, and you know better than that." He wasn't angry; he wasn't chastising me. He was teaching me, like he always did.
"Yes, sir," I said.
"Jonathan? Dad's right. We have to know."
I think Nicky and Davey had some idea of what was going on, but neither of them knew quite what it meant. They helped Dr. Harrington. The process took several hours, but none of us was going to leave the laboratory until we had an answer.
Dr. Harrington didn't smile when he announced the results. But we could feel his delight.
"Your Imperial Highness, the testing shows conclusively that you are a closer heir to the throne of Russia than anyone else who is alive, today, save your father."
Then, he disappointed all of us. "Any claim to that throne must pass not only the Romanov Association, which has some political credibility, but also the current criminal enterprise that runs the country of Russia."
It seemed that there were no other close, blood heirs, but that there were claimants to the throne, including some old dude born in Spain of the House of Hohenwald who claimed also to be a Grand Duke of Russia.
"I do not say all this as a medical professional, but only as one steeped in the politics of the day," the doctor said.
My father nodded. "And you are correct to say that, Doctor. Thank you for your service, and thank you for reminding us of all that Jonathan faces."
I felt Jonathan's reaction to what Dad had just said. I felt an overwhelming maelstrom of thoughts in which spun confusion and fear. I took Jonathan's hand. Nicky and Davey saw, and walked close to us, blocking anyone from seeing as we returned to the conference room.
Dad led us all to the conference room. Nicky got a bottle of water from the refrigerator for Jonathan, and then some for the rest of us.
When everyone was comfortable, Dad spoke. "Jonathan? Did your parents ever give you any hint that they knew this?"
"No, sir. They told me that I didn't have the gene for hemophilia. I knew that my grandparents had immigrated from Russia, and of course I had read that Prince Alexei was hemophiliac. I never put it together. Not even in my imagination. It was just too illogical, too long a chain of events."
He dropped his eyes and looked at the table. "And I don't want to be a prince or a tsar or any of that!"
Dad spoke softly. "Jonathan, it's not about what you want or don't want. It's about what certain people may think about what you might want. It's about the risk they might think that you pose to them. More important, it's about the danger that they pose to you."
Dad didn't say what we were thinking: and the danger they pose to those around you.
"As soon as Alex sent me the message that included what the man in the reactor room had said about you, I started an investigation. The investigators were quickly mired in a murky morass of murder and machinations."
"Dad! Did you really just say mired in a murky morass of murder and machinations?"
That brought my father up short, and got a chortle from Nicky and Davey, as well as a smile from Jonathan. I was glad for that.
Dad laughed. "Actually, I was quoting the lead investigator. Those words are very descriptive of what the team found."
Dad told us about a suspected infiltration of the Romanov Society by the KGB which had not, after all, been disbanded after the fall of the Soviet Union, but merely gone deep underground—literally. Their current headquarters was a cold war bunker some miles from Moscow.
"Many, perhaps most members of the Romanov Society are somewhat impoverished; all have jobs and careers, but there are so many demands on their resources. It was not difficult for agents—hiding their association with the KGB—to offer to help restore the grandeur that was rightfully theirs. It was something they'd lived for.
"The KGB thug who rules Russia has also fooled the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church, and co-opted their support. He is creating a coterie of vultures. If they ever become entrenched, it may be impossible to remove them. The investigators think he will appeal to Russian nationalism by bringing the Romanov crowd into his camarilla.
"It seems likely that Jonathan, as a citizen of the USA, and under the aegis of the Anconia family, was considered a liability, and was to have been executed. If that meant the destruction of the Explorer, well, collateral damage never bothered those thugs, before."
We spent the next hour talking. A lot of it was Dad giving us a tutorial on modern and historic Russian politics. Then, we invited Captain Izzard to join us.
Dad started the conversation. As usual, he didn't pull his punches. "Captain Izzard, in addition to the danger to the ship posed by the presence of advanced technology and members of my family, we have discovered another danger. It is likely the one that led to the Murmansk attack, and is certainly the one that led to the most recent attack."
Dad paused to allow us all to think for a moment, before resuming.
"The man who Alexander executed was not here specifically to harm the ship, but to murder Jonathan Romanov. The premier of Russia has it in his mind that Jonathan is heir to the Romanov throne, and would murder him rather than face a potential rival."
Captain Izzard didn't blink when Dad said, executed. I'd told the captain what had happened, and how. That didn't make it into the official report, however. Only that there had been a struggle for the gun, and that it had gone off.
It's impossible, I know, for someone's eyes to twinkle. But if it were possible, Captain Izzard's would be. Twinkling that is, when he answered.
"While I was waiting in his office for Alexander to interview me," the captain said, "I scanned his bookshelf. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was next to Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle and his Origin of Species, which was beside Robinson Crusoe and its inspiration, the story of Alexander Selkirk. I also remember seeing other classics—fiction and non-fiction—of adventure, discovery, and exploration. I knew that this wasn't going to be an ordinary assignment, even before I knew that the Global Explorer wasn't an ordinary ship.
"I'm glad you continue not to disappoint me."
He looked at me, and not my Dad when he said that. I had to respond. "Thank you, sir." Then I grinned. "I'll keep trying. But we do need to talk about this."
After a meeting among Dad, Captain Izzard, Jonathan and me, we agreed that I needed to talk to every crew member, science team member, cadet, everyone. The excuse would be to make sure they all knew what had happened (a modified version of the story that omitted any mention of exactly what the man had said), and to ensure that each crew member knew of the danger to himself or herself and was willing to face it.
Jonathan and I knew our telepathy wasn't perfect. We hoped, however, that by pressing the right buttons, any more sleepers would give themselves away.
Paper covered the conference table. Jonathan and I were trying to find a way to talk in groups of ten or so to nearly 500 people, who stood watches that covered the ship's duties 24/7, and get it done before the dawn of the 22nd century.
"I thought you guys were smart," Davey said after watching for a few minutes.
"Hey!" Jonathan said. "You'll pay for that."
Then he realized Davey was serious. "You have a better idea?"
"Give me ten minutes on the computer," Davey said, "—you'll have to give me access to personnel files—and I'll have your schedule. Another five, and everyone on the ship will get a text message with their appointment time. Questions: do you want to use the conference room? How many at a time? How long?" He asked for some other parameters, and sat at the terminal after I'd unlocked the personnel files.
I should have guessed that there was a scheduling app on the computer, but using a computer for something so simple had escaped me—and Jonathan. It took Davey a bit longer than ten minutes, but not much.
After the first day of interviews, Jonathan and I were summoned to the conference room by the captain. Seated at the table were eight men, who came to attention as soon as I entered the room. Captain Izzard gob smacked me.
"Commander Anconia, may I present Strike Team GX-1."
"Please," I said, mostly to give myself time to think. "Please, at ease . . . sit . . . coffee?"
"Coming up," Jonathan said. I realized that the men already had mugs.
"Captain? This is your show," I said. I thought that was pretty clever but it didn't get me off the hook.
"Commander, among these eight men are four SEALS, two Marine Rangers, one Green Beret, and one Coastie."
The men looked to be in their forties, except one, who looked no more than twenty-five. He blushed when the captain said Coastie, so I figured him for the former Coast Guard person. I recognized him as someone who had been in one of yesterday's discussion groups.
"They can tell you, better than I," the captain said.
"Go on, Coastie," one of the older men said. "It was your idea."
"Yes, sir," the kid said. He looked directly at me. "My name is Sean Casey. I met these guys in the gym . . . we're in the same martial arts class. Sometimes, they let me beat them up. We got to talking, and I learned about their service. After you told us what had happen in the reactor room, I wondered why we didn't have a counter-terrorism team. And decided maybe, we should. They all agreed." He looked around.
"That's it, I guess," he said.
"Good job, son," one of the older men said. "Captain, Commander," he nodded at the youngster as he said "we're all honorably retired or discharged. We've been there, done that, and burned the T-shirts because most of our missions were highly classified.
"I think all of us wanted something more to life than what vets usually face, so we signed on this cruise. We met in the gym and like Mr. Casey said, exchanged stories.
"Sean doesn't have the kind of training we got, but he's damn good at martial arts, and we never let him beat us up. Even though he does."
I had surface-scanned each of them, and knew the truth of what he said, and felt their commitment. A lot of that revolved around the Captain and their loyalty to him. Actually, that was okay with me.
There were details to be worked out, including how to cover these men's duties when they were training or responding to an emergency. But first, there was a touchy subject.
"Captain, we're advertised as an unarmed research vessel," I said. Both the captain and I knew that wasn't strictly true, but arming a SEAL Team—Strike Team—would be a major step away from that position.
The captain didn't take the bait. "Your decision, Commander Anconia." He was telling me that it was more than just a mission commander thing. It was a family thing. More than that, he was saying that he would back me up, no matter what my decision.
"Gentlemen? As far as I know, the only small arms we have on board is the pistol the guy in the reactor room was carrying. We'll need to change that, and quickly, I think.
"Captain? Please have the quartermaster requisition not only what these men need, but also what they recommend for the rest of the crew. Jonathan? Ask Davey to scan the personnel records for people with weapons training. And for instructors."
I sat back, and then said, "If we're going to do this, I want to do it right."
My next problem was telling Dad. At least I didn't have to spend the next night with code sheets, since Dad was on board. I explained what had happened. All he said was, "Um, hmm."
"Dad! I'm serious!" I said.
"I know, Alexander. You're serious, and you are right. There's really nothing more for me to say, is there?"
"We still have to deal with the sea cadets," I said. It was a meeting among me and our team. And Dad.
"We promised a one-year cruise. Some are of age, and can make their own decision to stay or leave. There are 60 who have not yet reached the age of majority."
"Alexander?" It was Davey. "That age is eighteen in the USA. But it's as young as twelve in some countries. Have you taken that into consideration?"
Actually, I hadn't. "Davey? That's brilliant thinking. Your reward is to find out exactly how many cadets are under the age-of-consent in their countries—"
"Yes, Dad?" I saw him open his mouth, and knew he was going to interrupt.
"That's certainly something that should be done; however, you know that Tom had significant reservations about the program?"
I nodded. Tom was the cousin that was afraid I was going to create an international incident by having sex with under-age boys on a USA/UN-flagged ship.
"You should go back and read Tom's report. You sent it to me, so I know you saw it."
Oops! Dad had caught me. I'd been so sure of myself that I'd ignored most of what Tom said—it didn't fit what I wanted to believe, so I discarded it. Just like the intelligent design crowd refuses to believe that there are flaws in humans and animals that can be explained only by evolution—or a seriously unintelligent designer.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I will read the report but . . . would you tell us what I will find?"
"You will find that the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Man—by which they mean all of humanity—contains wording that establishes mental maturity rather than calendar age as being fundamental for someone to be endowed with those rights.
"Tom also examined the contracts signed by the cadets and their parents. Every one of those boys is of the age-of-consent under United Nations rules, and that has been acknowledged by their parents or legal guardians, as well as by the State Department, Foreign Ministry, or equivalent of their country.
"Nevertheless, you must tell them and your entire crew more about what they face. And, you must prepare them to defend themselves."
I waited until Dad and I were alone before I asked the next two questions. "What about the triplets? And what about the Russians?"
"The triplets are safer here, for the moment, than running around Virginia or Montana," he said. "And I will deal with Russia."
I knew he wouldn't tell me all he knew or did. He would, eventually, however—when I needed to know.
One of Wyatt Anconia's tenders, which rendezvoused to resupply fuel for the aircraft, had not only mail but also a dozen large crates for us. We used the submersibles' crane to load the crates onto one of the elevators, and then rolled them onto the hanger deck.
I whistled as crew members opened the crates. The semi-automatic rifles could have been purchased at any decent gun shop in the USA. I wasn't so sure about the shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank rockets. And . . .
"What's with the SCUBA gear and wet suits?" I asked.
"Strike team," Captain Izzard said. "They asked for those and a few other things."
"A few other things?"
"Um, hmm," the captain said. "They'll brief you."
By this time, I'd read Tom's earlier report, and reviewed Davey's survey of the Sea Cadets' ages and contracts. There was no question about including them in the small arms training we offered to the crew.
The SEALS showed me their equipment and weapons, and explained as well as they could what it all was for. I was pretty sure that none of it had come from commercial sources, and wondered which Uncle Admiral had been involved in putting together this shipment. Then I decided I didn't need to know. All I needed to know was that the captain, the crew, and members of my family were working together to give us the best protection possible.
The tectonic plate boundaries in the arctic were poorly defined and little explored before the Explorer reached them. As more and more of the arctic ice melted each summer, it became easier for ships of many nations to survey the sea floor. We were the only one with the equipment to do a thorough and proper job, however.
We were very careful to use the lowest power charges possible, and to select our targets carefully. Actually, the cadets we trained on the tectonic launch stations probably got a bigger charge out of it than any sea creatures did. And we saw very few of them—sea creatures, that is—there was no ice, therefore no polar bears and no seals. I hoped that at least some of them had found refuge in Alaska or Canada.
Four major nations were contending for dominion of the Arctic sea and of its bounty. Canada, including the people of Nunavut, and Russia owned the most territory that bordered the arctic. Denmark, which still technically owned Greenland, was another player. Because Alaska was a state, the USA had claims, too. Iceland put in bids, but was relatively inconsequential without its allies, so Iceland allied with Denmark. Norway and Finland made noises, but were relatively powerless without Russia. Rather than have them ally with Russia, the USA tried to sign them on as allies, with limited success.
A dozen other countries tried to shoehorn in their claims, based on ancient voyages of exploration. In an interesting reversal of roles, Great Britain was backing up Canada and being quite active in the various military exercises that were still ongoing.
"It may be, Jonathan, that you not only can, but should claim your title."
"Why?" Jonathan spoke abruptly. It was more a statement than a question.
"I can think of several reasons," I said. "One would be to guide Russia's exploration and exploitation of the Arctic. The other would be to get fusion power generation going in Russia. It would benefit a lot of people, and help clean up the environmental disasters that the Soviets left, and the current government is either ignoring or making worse."
"I'll think about it." Jonathan said. His voice was calm, but his thoughts were turbulent—and cold.
The Global Explorer was treading on dangerous grounds. However, Uncle Ricardo was counting on me. And, he wasn't waiting. The first deep-ocean drilling rig constructed with carbon nanotubes was already making its way north from Halifax, Nova Scotia toward the arctic. It was owned by a Canadian branch of Anconia Industries, and would be working in waters clearly identified as under Canadian control.
At the same time, construction of the second of his ships capable of deep-water mining operations had been completed at the Oakland shipyards, and the ship was undergoing sea trials. It would be flagged by the USA, and would operate in international waters at the boundaries of the Nazca Tectonic Plate mapped and scanned by the Explorer.
All this came together in a perfect storm: tectonic tests in arctic waters, the news about Uncle Ricardo's first ship recovering the rest of the Russian submarine and news of the launch of his second ship; the two Canadian Sea Cadets talking about their country's drilling rig; and news media of a dozen countries, including Al Jazeera, linking the Explorer to Anconia Industries. The scuttlebutt ran through the ship like wildfire. Dad told me it was my job to address it. I scheduled several meetings in the ship's theater.
Then, I tried to decide what I would say.
My father had assembled a family convocation at the Montana complex, just before I had left for San Francisco. I had been a member, rather than an observer, of that convocation. Now, I tried to remember all he had said.
"We have a team developing the new power source, but we know that there will be resistance to this power. We know that it will take time, perhaps a decade or two, before we can make significant inroads into existing carbon-based power generation. We also know that the amount of power that can be generated using renewable or sustainable sources, such as solar, wave, tidal, wind, and geothermal is woefully inadequate.
"In order to keep the third world from slipping further into darkness, it will be necessary to depend on carbon for some years.
"We know that it will be more decades before we can begin mining asteroids for the minerals that are important to our civilization."
That garnered some startled looks and sharply intaken breaths. "Yes," Dad said. "We are planning for that.
"We will, for the near term, stake our claim to energy and minerals in the deep ocean.
"Francisco?" My father's younger brother, Uncle Alexandre asked. (I was named for him but my name was Americanized to avoid confusion—at least, that's what I was told.) "What will give us this ability?"
"That is the question Alexander is here to answer," my father said.
I described carbon-nanotubes, and what we were doing with them. I showed sketches and photos of the Global Explorer and described her capabilities. I showed the video of the tests of the submersibles, and explained their power source. I projected drawings of Uncle Ricardo's ships, and the drilling rigs that would not only do sediment bores for science and test bores deep into the ocean floor, searching for minerals, but would also mine those minerals from veins at the boundaries of tectonic plates.
"We will have a capability not only to locate but also to exploit oil, gas, and minerals from the deepest parts of the ocean."
I didn't have to explain the benefit to them all. Each member of the family was a shareholder in Anconia Industries, the largest company in the world. It was owned by the family, and no one else. Besides their shares in Industries, these relatives were CEOs and partners with other relatives in individual enterprises. Most important, they were family and once the family had made a decision, they could be counted on to implement it. There would be no pushback from them.
Did I object to my discoveries—and Jonathan's—being shared with all these people? Not for a moment. I knew, and Jonathan knew, that it was these people who had made possible the laboratory where we made those discoveries. Besides, for his seventeenth birthday, my father had given Jonathan a share of preferred stock in Anconia Industries. It was Dad's final seal of approval and welcome to Jonathan as a member of the family.
It wasn't hard for me to put together a presentation for the crew of the Explorer, especially when I added the bit about third world poverty and what it was going to take to alleviate it.
I invited Lt. Harding—Steve—to join the captain and me and Cadet Bobby Bell for coffee in the conference room. After some discussion about how his equipment was working, and did he have any time to study oceanography, I threw out something that stopped both Steve and the captain.
"Steve, you're an intelligence officer, aren't you?"
He threw it right back. "Yes, Alex, and I hope that can stay among the four of us." He looked hard at Bobby when he said that, and I realized I'd screwed up.
"It will," I said. Captain Izzard nodded. The captain looked at Bobby and me hard. Bobby nodded, although he seemed a little pale.
"Steve? Bobby? I'm sorry. I screwed up," I said. "Please . . ."
"I can keep a secret," Bobby said.
"It's okay, Alex," Steve said. "It was bound to come out sometime. I'm glad I was among friends when it did."
"Thank you, Steve. And Bobby, thank you, too," I said. I took a deep breath. "The reason I asked is that I have an opsec question." I'd been doing some research on the internet, and knew what opsec meant.
"That's not my specialty," Steve said.
"But you have a link to Fleet," I said. "And you said the link was secure."
He nodded. I sensed some reluctance, but he nodded.
"Bobby—Cadet Bell—wants to do two things," I said. "One is to set up on amateur radio frequencies a regular Morse broadcast from the Explorer, describing our mission and findings; the other is to alert ham operators around the world to monitor the frequencies the Navy has assigned him as we approach the North Pole.
"I've thought about this. As big as we are, and as much RF as we emit, I can't imagine that adding his broadcast or alerting the world to our position when we reach the North Pole would endanger the ship.
"I really would like some adults to think about this, though."
Captain Izzard weighed in before Steve could answer. "I agree with Alex. Our mission is of global importance. The more I see, the more I understand that. It couldn't hurt to have the amateur radio community on our side. There's not an operator out there who wouldn't like to receive a QSL card from the Explorer. And we already light up the electromagnetic spectrum with enough energy to power a small town. Another signal won't hurt. But I agree with Alex: a professional look would be appreciated."
"QSL card?" I asked.
Bobby had rebounded and waded into the conversation. "It's a postal card that confirms an amateur radio contact. QSL is shorthand for did you receive me and I received you. You're a ham?" He directed his question to Captain Izzard.
"In my younger days, I was WA4___," he answered Bobby with a call sign. "Maybe I should—"
"Steve? Will you do this?" the captain interrupted himself and brought us back to the question.
"Will do, Bobby," Steve said, addressing his answer to the one to whom it mattered most.
The Naval Intelligence Community sent a few questions about our current comms, and then sent their endorsement of the plan. Bobby and one of his mates immediately got on the radio; I don't think they slept for two solid days.
When I could tear him away from his radio, I asked Bobby about QSL cards. "How many will we need?"
"There are over 700,000 licensed ham operators in the USA, alone," he said. "I'll get numbers . . . "
Okay, there goes my trust fund, I thought, until Uncle Luce got the UN to spring for postage—a UN stamp with a postmark one of Bobby's mates designed. Before it was over, I'd spent more than fifty thousand dollars for QSL cards, but it was worth it. We had another huge, worldwide fan base.
It was 3:00 AM Greenwich Mean Time when Captain Izzard announced, simply, "We're here." Bobby began pounding his key.
--. .-.. --- -... .- .-.. / . -..- .--. .-.. --- .-. . .-. / ----. ----- / -. --- .-. - .... / ....- / .--- ..- .-.. -.-- / ----- ...-- ----- ----- / --. -- -
Bobby sent the message three times, and was about to switch to amateur frequencies when he heard a message on the reserved frequency.
-... .-. .- ...- --- / --.. ..- .-.. ..- / .--. .-. . ... .. -.. . -. - / .... .- .-- -.- .. -. ...
"BRAVO ZULU PRESIDENT HAWKINS," he translated. "That means well done," he added, perhaps unnecessarily. "Will you reply, sir?" He looked at Captain Izzard, who gestured to me. I looked at Dad, who just stared at me.
"Just thank you, sir," I said. "And, We thank the pioneers who came before us. We stand on the shoulders of giants."
I caught Dad's smile and knew I'd done good.
Bobby sent my message, listened for the Navy comm station's ACK, and then switched to amateur frequencies.
I knew what we had done was more than just "well done," and I understood why the president had sent his congratulations in the clear. What we had done was a reminder to the world that it had been the USA that had first put a submarine under the ice to the Pole. It was a reminder to the world that since that day, polar ice was melting at rates unknown in recorded history. And, it was a reminder that it was the USA that had the resources and know-how to mount an expedition such as ours. But I also knew, that there were more challenges ahead.
Chapter End Notes: The US Naval Postgraduate School's Department of Oceanography predicted in 2013 (in our reality) that the artic ice cover would completely melt in 2016. Their model is said to have been more accurate than those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which set a somewhat later date.
MILSPEC HF/SSB and 2kW translate to "military specification, high-frequency, single-sideband" radio, and a two kilo-Watt amplifier.
To "scram" a reactor is to shut it down, often as quickly as possible. The term has a wonderful history, which you will find at Wikipedia. If the Explorer's reactor were shut down, the ship would lose steerageway and virtually all electrical power.
The "UN Declaration of the Rights of Man," meaning all of humanity, is a little different in the Anconia reality than in the one in which you are reading.
For an excellent treatment of the vagaries of evolution that show that life on earth could not be the product of intelligent design, please see "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne. It's available on Kindle and, no, I have no stock or financial interest in either Coyne or Kindle.
The Morse message Bobby sent was, "Global Explorer 90 North 4 July 0300 GMT."
It was Sir Isaac Newton who said, "If I have seen farther, it is because I have stood on ye [the] shoulders of giants." Newton may have been inspired by an earlier, but relatively unknown philosopher, Bernard of Chartres.