Castle Roland

Book II - Global Explorer

by David McLeod


Chapter 11

Published: 16 Jul 15

Global Explorer II

by David McLeod

Russian Roll-Up

Rump KGB, Ulyanovsk, Russia, January 28, 2018 @ 9:00 PM

"Two more kiddie porn sites have been shut down, and their operators have disappeared–along with a lot of money. More than 300 of our operatives have been imprisoned in Lubyanka. At least 50 others are known to have been executed. All the guards have been replaced with so-called mercenaries–men we know to be American special forces and seals, plus similar men from several other countries. Our attempts to visit the prisoners have been rebuffed. Our requests for information on charges and trial dates have been ignored."

"Aren't the Americans fond of citing civil rights in cases such as these? Can this be used against them?"

"Unfortunately not. We have no proof the mercenaries are Americans, and each of the prisoners has been given legal counsel. Their cases and appeals are slowly working through the system–it is the system we created."

Global Explorer, North of French Guiana, January 28, 2018

Fallmuth's sermon accusing scientists of hubris had been recorded and sent to hundreds of radio stations. It wasn't long before Francesca's web site was being bombarded with hate mail that specifically targeted Anconia and the Explorer, messages that called us the tools of Satan. And that was perhaps the nicest thing they said.

The Anconia family's Greek heritage was being played up, even though our ancestors had come to the North American continent long before the United States was formed. Our status as ‘true-blue Americans' was being challenged using some very unpleasant language.

"Fallmuth didn't say anything about Anconia, but we're being attacked," Francesca said. "The attackers are using the words and concepts from his sermon, today."

"There's got to be a secondary channel that they're using to get that information to the faithful," Nicky said. "They're making sure their soldiers know who to attack. It's probably on the dark side of the web."

"That's pretty obvious, little brother," Francesca said.

"Little brother?" Nicky said. "Francesca? I'm at least two years older than you are."

"Yeah, but you're too cute to be that old, so you're my little brother. Live with it. And find that dark web link." She signed off.

"Alexander …" Nicky said, when he turned away from the terminal.

"Nicky, my love," I said. "You will have to live with it. I've not had many arguments with her–and I've won none of them. You'll never win an argument with her. And we have an ally she doesn't know about, yet."


"Jonathan's hacker: Jaf, also called Lukas. He needs something to do."

Global Explorer, January 29, 2018,

"Commander? May I speak with you privately?" Azisa caught me after a watch change.

"Of course. Let's go to the conference room."

"Would you like coffee?" I asked when we reached the conference room and I shooed out three cadets who were playing video games on the large screen TVs.

"No, sir. Thank you."

"Azisa? Why do you say sir and not Alex? Something's troubling you. Is it that official and that serious?"

"Yes and no, Alex," he said. Then he described what he had done with the samples of surface water from the Gulf of Mexico as well as some from the South Pacific garbage patch we'd collected last year.

"Bottom line–as you Americans say, Alex, I think all the people trying to create tailored bacteria to eat oil and other pollutants are on the wrong track. We should be exploring fungi."

"Azisa, everything you've told me makes sense. But, why haven't I heard about this, before."

"I was afraid," Azisa said. "I was not authorized … "

"Azisa, that's not what I meant! And you should have learned a long time ago, that when it comes to our mission, to this ship, and to science, If it's not prohibited, then it's permissible."

I laughed. "I know you attended the lecture on quantum electrodynamics when we learned that if anything can happen, it will happen, no matter how unlikely, given enough time? I knew you had set up a laboratory, but I was never worried about that you were doing. What I meant was, why isn't this in the literature?"

"There are a few articles, but I think because everyone started down the road with bacteria, and forgot about fungi … or thought they couldn't get funding."

I thought about Jonathan's discovery of fusion: the "trillion hammer" approach that broke the paradigm of high temperature and pressure that everyone else was pursuing. I realized that Azisa needed the same opportunity, even though I understood a lot less than half of what he was saying.

Azisa and I talked for another few minutes before I asked Dr. Brewster to join us. He listened, and then called for Dr. Gannon. We all went to Azisa's laboratory, where the two PhDs told Azisa how impressed they were with what he had done. Then, I led us to an empty space, about forty times bigger than Azisa's bathroom.

"Azisa, do you suppose this is big enough to be your laboratory?"

The boy was stunned–but recovered quickly. "Alex? Do I understand that my duties have changed, and, more important, that you will fund this new laboratory?"

"Azisa, you understand correctly. Except that you are an officer in a maritime organization, and will still have duties on the bridge. I don't want you to forget how to drive the ship."

"Conn the ship, Alex," he said. I knew, and Azisa knew that I knew, that was the correct term, but I felt Azisa's smile behind that statement.

UFC Headquarters, Washington, DC, January 29, 2018 @ 2:00 PM

"The balance sheet is short by $2 million," Mr. Lennox said. The dome of the Lady Chapel seemed to press down on him.

"Mr. Lennox? Where do you believe there to be a problem?" Elder #2 said.

"The Barbados account held two million more, last month," Lennox said.

Mr. Lennox sat, silently. Only he and the Bishop had access to that account, and he had not shifted any money.

The Bishop spoke. "A contingency," he said. "You will be told when it is time."

I don't think the Bishop was happy that I'd brought that up, and even less happy that he was forced to say he had made the transfer. I need to be more careful, Mr. Lennox thought.

Global Explorer, Tommy Samson's Quarters, January 29, 2018

"Artie? You've kept the secret of our reactors and of the future of hydrogen power. I really know that I can trust you. Will you keep another secret?" Tommy asked.

Artie's eyes flickered from one corner of the room to another. This was the first time he'd been invited to Tommy's quarters. He understood the computer screen that showed the status of the ship's reactors. It was a repeater of one in the reactor control room. He didn't, however, understand the blown-up poster of someone in a red and blue, skin-tight suit, with what appeared to be spider webs superimposed on it, which decorated the wall.

"Tommy, you told me you weren't doing anything illegal," Artie said.

Tommy remembered: Artie had asked that same question a month ago. "Not illegal, Artie, but something that would make some people uncomfortable. But you already know what that is. Hydrogen fusion. This is something very different. It's something very personal."

Artie looked hard at Tommy. "Tommy, no matter what secrets you have, I promise to keep them. And–"

The boy hesitated for a moment, but something deep inside him told him it was right to say and the right time to say it, "–and I have a secret to share, too. I think I love you."

Tommy's heart raced. His face flushed. "Artie? That's just what I was going to tell you; how did you know?"

"I don't know how I knew, Tommy. I just knew. Was I wrong?"

"Oh, no, Artie. I do love you, but I'm not entirely sure what that means," Tommy caveated his thoughts.

"Then, I guess we need to find out," Artie said. "Would you … can we kiss?"

The kiss began with lips barely brushing upon one another and with Tommy's arms on Artie's shoulders. It quickly evolved to something more wonderful when Artie wrapped his arms around Tommy and pressed his lips hard against Tommy's. It reached a peak when Tommy put his hands on Artie's buttocks and thrust his tongue into the younger boy's mouth.

Tommy felt Artie stiffen. The boy's eyes widened. He broke away from the kiss and gasped. "Oh … "

Artie grabbed Tommy's bottom and pressed hard while grinding his pelvis into Tommy's. "Oh … so hard … oh … Tommy!"

Tommy felt Artie's orgasm even through four layers of cloth–and then succumbed to his own.

UFC Headquarters and Rump KGB Headquarters, January 29, 2018

The Bishop was alone in his office, facing an iMac. The video was jerky; the audio was broken. The two men quickly grew tired of repeating themselves. There were, however, more important reasons for losing their tempers.

"Ulinov," the Bishop said, ignoring the colonel's title, "if we are to ship Bibles into Russia, we need to know if you are still in charge of the customs officers. If we are to bring people into Russia, we need to be sure the visas you issue will be honored and that they will not be harassed when it is found out that they are not school teachers, but missionaries."

"The recent turmoil," the KGB colonel said. "It has caused many of our people to leave their posts. It will be necessary to recruit–and pay–new … "

"We have already given you two million dollars–" the Bishop said.

"Have we not returned value for value?" Ulinov said. "You have title to seven properties from which to operate … "

After thirty minutes of acrimony, the Bishop agreed to deposit three million dollars in an account in North Korea.

"Bishop, you must not worry," the KGB colonel assured him. "The Bibles will not be challenged. Neither will your missionaries."

Neither the bibles nor the missionaries will be challenged, Colonel Ulinov thought. We are no longer guarding the border, the airports, seaports, or the train and truck terminals. This new Tsar doesn't have the people to do it, either. They will get their bibles and missionaries in. And as soon as that money reaches the bank, I won't be here.

Global Explorer, Approaching the Equator, January 30, 2018

"Captain, I think we are about to face a problem," I said. Captain Izzard and I were sitting in our command chairs on the bridge. His was on the modern, computerized side of the bridge. Mine was on the old fashioned, "ships wheel and magnetic compass" side.

My sextant still rested in a case with a placard reading, "In case of Fire, Break Glass." It wasn't really necessary to break the glass, and many of the Sea Cadets had learned to use the sextant. Their calculations of the ship's position had become nearly as accurate as the readings from the GPS system.

Our chairs were close enough that Captain Izzard and I could talk privately.

"What kind of problem?" he asked.

"We're about to cross the equator. We have 45 young women of high school age who are almost certainly pollywogs. I do not think it appropriate that they kiss the naked belly of a retired Chief Petty Officer."

The captain was surprised, I think. He wasn't accustomed to me being a person, and not a geek.

"Alex, you're right. What do you propose?"

Crap! He'd thrown the problem back into my lap.

I asked for a meeting with all the former Chief Petty Officers, including the Chief of the Boat. I explained my concern, and proposed solution. I was gratified that they all bought in, wholeheartedly.

"Ritual is important," the Chief of the Boat said. "But it is also important that no one be–or feel–demeaned. Ritual creates relationships. If someone behaves in a way we expect, whether it's driving on the right side of the street, steering ships to pass starboard to starboard, or standing aside when an officer calls down ladder, we are more comfortable. We are more likely to accept them into our tribe. What do you have in mind?"

I explained an alternate scenario based on some research into the idealized protocol of King Arthur's court.

"I believe that the ritual you are suggesting will satisfy both requirements," the Chief of the Boat said. I felt agreement from the others.

Captain Izzard held an assembly in the Supercargo Mess at which he explained the "what and why" of the ritual. I watched on the CCTV, and thought he did a really good job. It appeared that he made sure that the kids were eager to participate.

We required the boys to wear Speedos and reef walkers, but the girls were encouraged to dress as "undersea princesses." It was amazing what they were able to do with those instructions and the supplies they could find in the ship's stores.

The Shellback King was the most senior Chief, but he was (fully) dressed as King Poseidon with crown and trident, and accompanied by one of the women Shellbacks from the science team. She was dressed as a mermaid queen. Since she couldn't walk with a fish tail covering her legs and feet, four men carried her on a litter to her throne.

The pollywog boys were required to bow to the king; the girls to curtsey to the queen. Then the boys, as champions for the girls, had to ‘grease up' and recover the flag from a temporary mast.

And the mess stewards put on one heck of a party, afterwards.

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