Global Explorer II
by David McLeod
Book Summary: The kids of the Global Explorer and schools throughout the world show that they can make a difference. Armed with science leavened with a touch of magic*, they help bring the Enlightenment to the most closed societies of Earth.
[*It's magic only until you understand it.]
Book Note: Except where indicated, this narrative is taken from the log of the Global Explorer or the journal of Alexander Anconia, and is told from Alexander's perspective. These events take place in a reality different from the one in which you are reading of them. While there may be analogues among the realities, there is intended to be no similarity with any person or institution in your reality. As in all realities, "boy" means a young male of the age of consent. The background for this mission is in the story, "Global Explorer (I)." You may contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Global Explorer, off the Coast of Virginia, January 2, 2018 @ 0900
Nicky and I sat in jump seats and looked over the pilot's shoulder. The deck of the Global Explorer grew from the size of a postage stamp to—to the size of a postage stamp.
"We're going to land on that?" Nicky whimpered. I grabbed his hand, not sure if I were trying to comfort him or draw comfort from him.
We had watched flight operations—a year of flight operations—but neither of us had ever made a carrier takeoff or landing. Neither of us was prepared when the wheels hit the deck, the engines roared to full power, the tail hook caught the arresting wire, and we came to a jarring halt.
Oh, crap! Nicky sent. He looked toward his crotch.
You didn't piss yourself, did you? I asked. The Navy guys will never let you forget if you did!
Uh, no. But I do need to clean up down there.
You had an orgasm? I asked.
Uh huh. He sent, and then asked aloud, "Why didn't we do this sooner!"
I grinned. "We're going to get to do it again in just a few days. We're going to meet Jonathan and Davey, and Dad after the Romanov Family Convocation."
"Cool! Way, way cool," Nicky said. He was picking up some of my mannerisms. I was probably imitating some of his, too. People were going to catch on to that and make assumptions. It was okay. We knew people would eventually figure out that we were boyfriends.
"I'm glad your dad needed the 757," Nicky added. It had been a last minute change in plans—plans that involved Jonathan and a vault under a Swiss bank—that had put Nicky and me in one of the Clippers for the flight from Montana. It was Aunt Elizabeth's insistence that her adopted son, Nicky, attend mother's New Year Reception that put us a day behind the Explorer's sailing.
I didn't mind, really. I got to see Francesca on a real date with the son of one of the SWAT team members, and the triplets escorting—and dancing with—little girls their age. Aunt Elizabeth stole Nicky from the gym where the under-21 reception was held and dragged him through the adult reception, making sure he was introduced as her son, even though everyone in the family knew about it already.
I was afraid that Nicky would be embarrassed, but he was stronger than that. And he was so very happy to be adopted—not just into the Anconia family, but also by Aunt E and her husband, my Uncle-Admiral John Pershing. And Nicky didn't mind at all being treated as a little brother by their birth-son, Tom, the family's uber lawyer.
The plane came to a stop, the engines shut down, and the door was opened. Nicky had shrugged on his pea coat with brass buttons and epaulets with ensign stripes. The growing stain on his dark wool uniform trousers was barely noticeable; the coat was barely long enough to cover it.
Nicky grabbed the navigator's bag with the CIA document from Aunt Elizabeth and dashed away. He had to thread his way through a crowd of kids that poured onto the flight deck from doors in the superstructure.
What the heck? I wondered.
Tommy Samson and Bobby Bell, former Sea Cadets, now Ensigns in the UNSC, the United Nations Science Corps, managed to reach me first. They were barely able to keep me from being bowled over by kids who wanted to meet me, shake my hand, and tell me how happy they were to be on the Explorer. I quickly understood that Francesca had done a little public relations work that she'd not told me about.
I did not want to become an icon. It wasn't that long ago that I was a geek, and I was just getting accustomed to being a person.
The Chief of the Boat came onto the flight deck and shooed everyone inside. "Y'all can continue this party in the Supercargo Mess Hall. Commander Anconia probably hasn't had breakfast, and the cooks have put out some pastries and such."
"Thanks, Chief," I said while watching the crowd of kids push toward the doors that led into the superstructure. At least food still outranked me in the kids' minds.
"Where did they put the Supercargo Mess Hall?" I asked. I knew about the retrofit, and had at some point approved the engineering drawings, but at the moment, I couldn't call them to mind.
"We'll take you," Bobby said.
I was able to get a cheese Danish and a donut, as well as a couple of cups of coffee in between meeting most of the hundred high school students—kids of Anconia employees—that we'd agreed to take on. They would complete their spring semester on the Explorer.
The high school students and their faculty had a mess separate from the original crew mess. Creating that mess and the kitchen, as well as furnishing their quarters, had been part of the refit. Captain Izzard must have watched the refit pretty carefully. He was waiting for me after the teachers herded the kids back to—somewhere. Classrooms? Quarters?
"Alexander? We have a hundred kids, and twenty extra teachers. The science team has added twenty people. We've taken on 38 more Sea Cadets. During the refit, quarters for 950 were furnished with bunks, lockers, desks, and internet ports. And the new mess hall can seat 1,000."
That's all Captain Izzard said, but I knew there was a question to be answered.
"Gosh, Captain. The normal complement of a Nimitz class carrier is almost 6,000. Even with the sensor cables, there's plenty of empty—"
Captain Izzard snorted. I knew that's not what he wanted to hear.
"Um, later on, we're going to pick up another 500 or so kids as part of the Anconia Summer Camp and, eventually, we will have at least 200, maybe 300 high school students year-round. We'll also have guests at some of our ports-of-call.
"Don't blame me! It was Francesca! And Dad!"
"But you knew," the captain said.
"Yeah," I said. And grinned. "I did."
"I hope I can surprise you as much," the captain said. "Follow me."
Suddenly, I was afraid.
It took several minutes to reach the hanger deck. We walked past the sports courts and soccer field, all full of kids, toward the bow where the aircraft were tied down. I saw immediately what was to be the captain's surprise: cylinders, a bit smaller than two 50-gallon drums welded end to end, hung from hard points under the wings of the second Clipper and from pylons attached to the helos. A crew was attaching a cylinder to hard points on the Clipper we'd flown in from Montana.
"What we have here is an expansion of our tectonic test stations," the captain said. "Only the flight crews know that the missiles can be fired using information from the aircraft radar or from targeting data relayed from the Explorer. That will significantly expand the range of our tectonic tests. That will also provide us a weapon of last resort.
"I want to run some tectonic tests as soon as possible, before people start making the wrong assumptions, and rumors start to spread."
I understood. We were still known to the world as a science ship. We had given the KGB thugs who ruled Russia plenty of reason to believe that we'd sunk one of their submarines. Some survivors of the KGB might have known that we'd taken out a handful of Zodiacs after they had fired on us. Only a very few of our crew knew the truth.
I pulled up on my iPad the mission profile Nicky and I had sent to Dr. Brewster. "It's going to be at least three weeks before we reach a tectonic plate boundary," I said. "I'm guessing you want to do something sooner?"
"Yes. Even if it's only a demonstration," the captain said.
"Any problem doing it in US waters?"
"Not if we tell the Navy, I wouldn't think. We may have to steer a little farther into the Gulf Stream, but that shouldn't be a problem."
"Let's run it by Dr. Brewster, just to make sure it meets his approval," I said.
Captain Izzard nodded. "I hope that all this meets your approval," he said. He gestured to the men who were connecting under the wings of the second Clipper a cylinder I knew to be filled with rocket-propelled high explosives.
The captain had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he said that. I realized then that there was no way he would have armed the planes and helos without having talked to Dad and probably both Uncle-Admirals—and Uncle Ambassador Luce.
"You and Dad—you conspired!"
"Turn about is fair play, Alexander," the captain said. "That's an aphorism: an old saying that sounds good but which isn't a law of nature. Aphorisms sometimes contain a kernel of truth. And I do think that fairness creates trust, and trust builds bonds."
That was as close to chewing me out as Captain Izzard had ever gotten. I got the message.