Castle Roland

Book II - Global Explorer

by David McLeod


Chapter 3

Posted: 2 Jul 15

Global Explorer II

by David McLeod

Sailing the Global Explorer

Global Explorer, Norfolk, Virginia, January 1, 2018 @ 0400 Hours

"Mr. Samson? Please bring the reactors to full power and prepare for departure," Dr. Purdom ordered. "I'll be in my quarters trying to get a couple hours sleep before Commander Anconia arrives. He'll probably want a staff meeting."

"You can do it, son," he said softly to Tommy's open-mouthed surprise.

Tommy watched the man leave the deck and then gestured to Artie. "Take Reactor Control Station 3," he said.

Tommy winked. "You'll be okay," he said softly to Artie's open-mouthed surprise.

An hour or so later, the harbor pilot shook hands with Captain Izzard and left the bridge. Captain Izzard turned to the United Nations Science Corps Ensign standing at his side.

"Mr. N'Kosi, you have the bridge. Take us to the Gulf Stream. After I see the harbor pilot off, I'm going to get a nap before Commander Anconia arrives."

"You can do it, son," he said softly to Azisa's open-mouthed surprise.

Anconia Montana Compound, January 1, 2018 9:00 AM

The Montana IT guys had created a computer program that scanned the internet for any mention of the Explorer. Nicky and I were in the Montana lab with two cousins, brought in to construct and then expand the neutrino signaling system. We were trying to solve a couple of glitches before the New Year's reception. A terminal dinged, and Nicky showed me a hit from one of the social networking sites.

The hashtag was "&sciencetruthnolies." The message was "global explorer sailed 2day watch 4 climate news"

I smiled when I read it: Francesca wasn't missing a trick!

I meant to congratulate her on that, but seeing her that afternoon at the reception in a formal gown and escorted by a smartly dressed boy took that from my mind.

23rd Street, Crystal City, Arlington, Virginia, January 1, 2018 @ 12:30 PM

The restaurant was non-descript. It was one of a dozen along two blocks just off US 1 leading south from Washington. Each restaurant catered to a different ethnicity. This one advertised "Southern Home Cookin.' " It was next door to a Columbian/Mexican restaurant that featured both papusas and tacos. On the other side was a French restaurant, Chez Froggy, that served a stick of butter with its bread, and then overwhelmed diners with real country-French offerings.

The southern restaurant had a private room. On New Year's Day, the three men who met in that room hadn't needed a reservation. The men were unremarkable except perhaps upon close inspection. Their smooth skin, styled hair, manicured nails, and expensive suits suggested wealth, and men who had never worked with their hands.

"Gentlemen," said the senior man, the Ruling Bishop of the Universal Fundamentalist Church. His greeting was understood by the others to be a question.

Elder #1 spoke. "There is something new at Anconia Industries. They have begun constructing what the locals say is a salmon hatchery in Nunavut. One part of the new complex is carefully guarded. There is a large transformer yard beside it, suggesting it will consume a great deal of power. However, the large fans and plenums in one of the buildings have puzzled our engineers."

"What is a Nunavut?" the third man, an Elder, asked.

"A Canadian province, given over to the aborigines nearly twenty years ago," the Bishop said. "Please, continue," he said to Elder #1.

"Anconia is usually very open about their activities, although we've never been able to get anyone inside the organization except at the lowest levels. They are constructing a guarded and likely secret installation. That is worrisome."

"How on Earth did you find that out?" Elder #2 said. He had carefully cut his fried chicken with knife and fork. Still, he wiped grease off his lips before taking a drink of his iced tea.

"One of our missionaries returned—a failure. The Eskimos are even more recalcitrant than the Pirahã. They have an origin story, but it is so far removed from The Truth that they will not listen to us."

The men chuckled at the historical attempt by a fervent evangelist to convert Brazilian natives—the Pirahã—to Christianity. The men sobered quickly when they realize that this missionary's failure in the Amazon mirrored their own failures in the north.

Elder #1 noted that the Global Explorer had been close to Nunavut last year, but was now sailing south from Norfolk. "We were unable to place anyone among the crew or passengers. Two applicants for teaching positions were rejected without a reason being given."

All the men knew the why of their interest in Anconia Industries. It was in part because Anconia was perhaps the only entity in the world that had more wealth than they, and in part because Francisco Anconia was the only man in the world they feared.

Anconia Montana Compound, Diary of Mrs. Francisco (Lydia) Anconia

My husband, Francisco Anconia, was a child at heart, and I loved him for that—and for much more.

We had five wonderful children, and I enjoyed watching him interact with them. He played games with Alexander and, when it became apparent that Alex was destined to be a bookworm, encouraged him by offering books of discovery and wonder.

He treated Francesca as if she were a princess and, considering the wealth and power of the family, she was at least that. And he watched with pride as she chose at the age of twelve to become a young lady with serious academic credentials.

He was so wonderfully happy when the triplets were born. It had been (as one might imagine) a difficult pregnancy and delivery for me. As soon as I assured him that I was okay, he turned his thoughts toward the boys, but I knew I lived always in his mind. Not just as the mother of his children, but also as his soul mate.

Our relationship was close, loving, and honest, as was our relationships with our children. When Francisco realized that Alexander was homosexual, he told me. We talked about how to deal with it, and agreed that we would allow Alex to broach the subject and that when he did so, we would offer our unfettered support.

I was not entirely surprised when Francisco told me that Alexander had found his complement—that which completed him—in a young man named Nicholas O'Brian. I was surprised when Francisco told me he had brought Nicky, as well as two other boys, Jonathan and Davey, into the family. I was even more surprised when I learned that Francisco's sister, Elizabeth, had adopted Nicky. And I was so pleased when Alexander and Nicky attended the New Year's reception to see how grown up their sister and the triplets had become.

Ensign Davey Jones's Journal, Anconia Montana Compound, January 2, 2018

Jonathan and I flew from Virginia to Montana to take a trans-polar flight to our next destination. I knew Alex and Nicky were in Montana and hoped that we'd be able to see them, but they left at 3:00 AM to meet the Explorer somewhere off the coast of Virginia. Jonathan and I didn't arrive in Montana until 6:00 AM. Bummer!

We were the only passengers on a huge corporate jet—a full-sized airplane, actually—and were able to get in some cuddles—but only a little sleep—on the way between Virginia and Montana.

Jonathan had told me about the Grove. We talked about asking Mr. A if we could visit. It was, after all, a very private, family place, but Mr. A invited us before we could ask.

"You boys aren't going to get any sleep today, anyway. You'll have plenty of time to sleep on the plane, tonight. Why don't you take one of the four-wheelers from the garage and visit the Grove? Park in the middle of the path. That way, people will know not to enter."

He seemed to understand our surprise. "You are family," he said. "Jonathan knows our custom. It does not bind you, but it welcomes you—if that is your choice. Perhaps a visit would help you understand."

"This is where Alex took me, even before we knew there were dryads, to introduce me to his family," Jonathan said. He told me about that visit, and explained the family's burial customs, and why the Grove was so important to them.

"Later, we came here to visit the dryads who had rescued me from the KGB kidnappers. You met Colin in Norfolk. I hope you'll get to meet his brothers, Alberto and Hansel, today."

When we reached the center of the Grove, hidden deep within the oaks, Jonathan called softly, "Colin? Alberto? Hansel?"

The three dryads seemed to step from behind the trees, and into our arms for hugs. I felt something just before they appeared. Bubble bath? Now why would I think that. Then I remembered that Nicky had said the dryads drew their strength from a bubbling foam of energy. Quantum foam? I wondered.

After the hugs and some unspoken promises, we sat in a circle, knees touching, while the three dryads filled our minds with information, including the location and codes for two more Swiss bank vaults.

"There may be others, and there is certainly a lot of wealth hidden throughout Russia and the world," Colin said. "Our brothers continue to search for it."

How do they know these things? I wondered, but had no chance to ask that question, for it was nearly 3:00 PM, and we had to get ready for departure. All Jonathan and I could do was exchange kisses with the dryads and promises to keep in touch. I wasn't quite sure what that meant, actually.

It was already dark at 5:00 PM when Mr. Anconia, Jonathan, Ambassador Luce (who insisted I call him Uncle Harry), and I got into an SUV to drive to the airport. Our takeoff was scheduled for 6:00 PM. We would fly a great circle route, not really over the pole, but over Nunavut, Greenland, and the UK before reaching Switzerland.

Mr. A was right about being able to get some sleep. The airplane, a B757-300ER, was all first class, including seats that reclined all the way into real sleeper beds. They were all singles, so all I got from Jonathan was a kiss before we fell asleep.

A team of Anconia security people were on the plane with us. They looked like security when they got dressed the next morning: dark suits, white shirts, plain ties, and curly wires from under their collars to their ears. Dark glasses completed the picture. I knew that a second group had gone ahead. They would be dressed like regular people or tourists: jeans, chinos, polo shirts, jackets with European and American sports team logos, baseball caps. They and all our escorts would be heavily armed.

Jonathan wanted me to be in uniform, and Mr. Anconia said it would be okay. Mr. A asked that I stick with the security guys, though. This was going to be his show, and Jonathan's.

I understood. Jonathan was the star; I was the "supporting actor." And I was okay with that.

Global Explorer @ Sea, January 3, 2018 @ 0830

It was late last night before Nicky and I found our way to bed. After Mom and Dad's New Years reception, we'd been awake until the Clipper took off at 3:00 AM. We'd gotten a couple of hours of broken sleep on the plane. We were tired when we reached the Explorer, and by the time supper rolled around, we were utterly exhausted.

Officially, we occupied two bedrooms of the owner's suite. Unofficially, we occupied a single bed in one of those bedroom, a bed in which we cuddled, kissed, and fell asleep.

Captain Izzard knew what our day had been like, and kept people from disturbing us until 8:30 AM, when he himself called to wake us.

"Alexander? Mr. Bell has received a secure transmission. Your father and Jonathan have arrived in Switzerland. You'll want to watch this. There's coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries in the conference room.

"I've invited the press pool to join you."

Oh, crap. But he's right, I thought.

Captain Izzard cornered me before I could reach the conference room.

"Alex, the press pool arrived three days ago. I've already chased them from the bridge and from the crew mess. They're waiting in the conference room. I wish you would establish the rules of engagement before we reach international waters and I'm forced to have them walk the plank."

I wasn't too worried about that. We would be following the Gulf Stream close to the North American Continental Plate, and we would be in USA waters for several days. I was pretty sure Captain Izzard didn't have the authority to kill the news crew as long as we were in USA territorial waters. And I didn't think the Explorer had a plank, anyway. But I agreed to talk to them.

"Yes, sir. As soon as I wake up. And after the show from Switzerland."

I was happy to see Jonathan's samovar in its place in the conference room, and even happier when I saw addressed to me the note Jonathan had left beside it. He promised never to forget the GX, and said that someday, he would be back to prepare tea for us.

One of the mess stewards served coffee, today, and Captain Izzard gestured to the TV screens, forestalling the need for introductions.

Zurich, Switzerland, Ensign Davey Jones's Journal, January 3, 2018 @ 3:30 PM

I wore a greatcoat like Jonathan's except that mine was Navy blue and had epaulets with my UNSC grade. His was a powder blue to match his suit, and its color and cut screamed wealth.

There was a lot of security at the Zurich airport. The American Secretary of State was the first person to greet us. She and Mr. A must have been friends, since they exchanged hugs, and he called her Barbara and she called him Francisco.

The Secretary General of the UN and Foreign Ministers from Great Britain, Canada, and Australia were there, too, and they all had security. I'd have to tell Nicky about seeing the British Foreign Minister—just to pull Nicky's chain. I knew Nicky was from the Republic of Ireland. But when he talked about Queen Elizabeth or the young Princes, there was a catch in his voice, and I suspected he was secretly a Royalist.

When we got to the bank, there was a guy, maybe my age, maybe a year or two younger, in a great coat like mine. My wheel hat had UNSC insignia: a globe and anchor; his had Sea Cadet insignia: a three-masted sailing ship and the letters, "UN." He had passed through security, so I wasn't worried. I was surprised to see him, though, and even more surprised when he introduced himself without speaking.

My name—the name I have adopted since I awakened—is Vitaly.

I heard what he said as veeTAHleey, and saw in my mind the spelling in the Russian alphabet: Виталий. Jonathan had said I'd need to learn Russian. As soon as Vitaly spoke, I knew Russian was going to be really, really hard. Oh, and I knew then that he was a dryad. And felt really, really good about that, 'cause I knew he was there to protect Jonathan.

How did you know we would be here? I asked, but there was no time for his answer. Things were moving much too quickly.

Five television vans with satellite antennas on their roofs had set up in the street in front of the bank. We had to walk through a gauntlet of reporters to get to the door of the bank. It wasn't like what I thought it would be—no one yelled questions or tried to push past the ropes to shove a camera or microphone in anyone's face.

We took an elevator down at least six floors, and I think they were tall floors. The elevator seemed to be going pretty fast, but it took a long time to get to the bottom. Gringots, eat your heart out, I thought when the door opened to reveal a marble, brass, and stainless steel lobby with three huge vault doors.

A lectern with microphones had been set up in front of one vault. People with TV cameras stood in one corner facing the lectern. The security dudes, the diplomats, and I stood in another corner. The Director General of the bank stepped to the lectern and told everyone that the vault behind him had been sealed in 1916 on the order of Jonathan's great-great uncle. Actually, he said "Tsar Nicholas II."

Then Mr. A blew everyone's mind when he introduced Jonathan as His Highness. And Jonathan blew everyone's mind again when he gave the secret codes to open the vault. Heck, after that, even all the jewels and stuff that were in the vault weren't that exciting.

Chapter end note: The story of the missionary who tried to convert the Pirahã of Brazil but ended up losing his own faith is told (by him) in "Don't Sleep, There are Snakes" by Daniel Everett.

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