Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 3

Published: 29 Dec 2014


Kyle Aarons

Alex woke quite early. The dream from earlier in the morning was quite fresh in his mind as he came forward to check out the data on Metal Find. He punched up a three-dimensional graph on the holocube and replayed the past day's search at high speed. The graph showed nothing but wavy lines. It looked like this area was particularly low in metal content. He then double-checked their position and made sure the autopilot was working correctly. After verifying all major ship systems were working within specified limits, he went back to the galley.

His first action was to put on a pot of coffee. He knew his father was next to impossible to wake without the smell of coffee. He also knew that within minutes of his father's first sniff, he would get up to grab a cup of the nasty black liquid. Alex had yet to figure out how anyone could like its taste, let alone drink it with every meal. Once he saw the coffee maker start churning he got cleaned up and headed forward once again.

This time he sat in front of Metal Find and played with the settings. He went back over the recorded information at a much higher setting. This time the holocube graph showed small spikes and valleys as more minute signs of metal were located. He then slowed down the playback so he could get a better idea of what was located and when. This was the boring part of searching the ocean floor. He couldn't understand how a person could do this for hours on end, yet he knew his father paid three people on the Cynthia to do so day in and day out.

His father came out from the galley holding a cup of steaming coffee, "Thanks Son."

"No problem Dad, got up early."

"You always get up early. How's Metal Find doing?"

"Seems to be OK, but we didn't even come close to setting off the alarm."

"Well, this is the nature of the game. It's a gigantic game of hide and seek, and most of the time we lose. That huge deposit of platinum we are mining is a fluke when you look at the larger picture."

"How do people do this on a daily basis? Just doing it for the last twenty minutes or so is driving me crazy. I keep on getting distracted by the occasional fish and other things going on outside of MORSAV."

"Patience Alex. Stick with it for a while longer while I make breakfast. After we eat, we'll go with another game of chess. Then I'll try my hand at Galactic Conquest again."

"OK, sounds fair."

"Maybe to you. The stupid computer always sticks me on a hunk of rock with a low tech rating."

"It does the same to me most of the time. I've only gotten a tech level four world a couple of times and play it a heck of a lot more than you."

"So how is it you always manage to beat the pants off me?"

Alex flashed his father a wide grin. "I'll tell you my secrets when you tell me how to beat you in chess."

Bryan headed back to the galley, "No way. I want to keep the upper hand in something."

Alex knew his father would say something along those lines. He was always commenting on Alex's abilities. Alex adjusted the holocube to triple size and set the sensitivity settings way up. At fifty times normal, even the smallest deposit of metal looked like a mountain. He then stood back and went over his routine of exercises for martial arts classes.

This was the thing he enjoyed the most next to soccer, so never missed a day. He was almost completed with his regimented routine when he noticed a bit of a spike in Metal Find. He jumped up and replayed the section at a lower setting. This time he was sure they had gone over the top of something during the course of the night. He set for a slower playback and found what he was looking for. In a low voice he muttered, "There!"

Bryan came in with some fresh eggs and hash browns. He just caught Alex's comment. "Find something Son?"

"I think so. We ran over an area with several small deposits of metal here." He rewound and stopped the graph. Metal Find was clearly showing several small spikes in the area. Alex then fast-forwarded it. "And here." Again there were several small spikes evident on the chart. "The second time was recorded when we were abreast to the first time in the grid search."

"Interesting. What is the sensitivity setting?"

"Twenty times normal."

"Not much, was it?"

Alex sighed, "No. Guess not."

Bryan saw the look of disappointment on his son's face. He hated that look. He changed his attitude hoping to see the eyes of his boy sparkle with enthusiasm, "However, it is an interesting hit. We could check it out if you'd like."

Alex brightened as if on cue, "Could we?"

"I don't see why not. Let's turn this into some good practice for you. I want you to calculate when the next time we will be closest to the hit will be and program MORSAV to break off the search pattern at a parallel point."

"Oh man! I hate computers."

"I know, it will make this practice all the more valuable. When was the first hit?"

Alex went over to the computer and punched in the location of the first area of small spikes. When he looked at the time he shuddered noticeably and went a little pale.

Bryan noticed immediately, "Son?"

Alex shook his head and blinked once. The time didn't change. The first detection came at 0327 GMT. "Ah... I... well this is really weird. I woke up last night at this exact time after the most peculiar dream I have ever had."

"Tell you what, go ahead and set us to break off the search pattern the next time we will be closest to the hit. Once you have the break-off point set up, we can sit down to a good breakfast. I'd like to hear about this dream of yours."

Alex took a deep breath. He spent almost ten minutes computing when and where MORSAV's search pattern would take them closest to the original hit. His lack of skills with computers showed as he made several mistakes before finally getting it right. Bryan felt some of his son's frustration, but he was pleased Alex didn't once ask for help. Bryan knew it was pure stubbornness. His wife had been the exact same way. The worst thing he could have done would have been to help him. Alex hated help unless he first asked and he would only ask after trying to get it right on his own. On the plus side, once the boy had done something, he normally wouldn't forget how. The next time he had to accomplish this task it would take him less than half the time. It was this in-born talent that had allowed him to become so proficient in piloting MORSAV and would soon allow him to fly the helicopters as well. It was only one step down from having a photographic memory and in some ways much more valuable.

The father and son sat down to the hearty breakfast as soon as MORSAV was reprogrammed. It would take several hours before it would get over the sight of the possible hit. Alex hated the thought of waiting so darned long, but knew his father was doing this on purpose. Patience was one of his few failings in his martial arts classes as well. He always wanted to go in for a kill instead of waiting for an opening. Stan and the other instructor had made him pay often with bumps and bruises for this particular character flaw.

Trying not to think of how long it would take to get back to the site, he told his father the dream from the night before over the game of chess. He was surprised at how well every detail had stuck with him. He even remembered the speech of those in the dream word for word.

Bryan was impressed and somewhat startled with the details his son was able to bring out and remember. He also found it particularly strange. His son was not much into fantasy books or games. Many of the kids, and for that matter the adults as well, played role-playing games. Alex, on the other hand, found them stupid. He couldn't see wanting to pretend he was someone else in some other place and time. He liked his life and was far more interested in fighting, piloting, and soccer. Yet here he was talking about magic, weapons of old, and of all things Merlin and Guinevere.

Several times Bryan asked very specific questions about the surroundings. Each time Alex was able to recall hair color, eye color, length and type of garments, what the stone looked like, and even the strange blanket the man in the dream had covered him with. Bryan's work in archeology was usually centered on sea-going people, but from what he knew of the early Dark Ages in Europe, Alex descriptions were very accurate. It left him with a bit of a creepy feeling.

Unfortunately for Alex, the conversation didn't distract him from the game. Alex ended up being proud of himself in the loss to his father though. He had survived longer than he ever had in the past, but called it quits when he saw his king would be checkmated in less than six moves. As usual his dad led him into an expertly set trap, which was only sprung when he wanted it to be.

Alex set his king on its side in surrender, "You are so devious!"

"Why thank you my boy! You are getting better though. You saw through my first trap and countered it well enough to put me on the defensive for a few moves."

"You tried a similar attack on me last week. I have been working on seeing if you pull the same stunts twice. I'm starting to see you just use slight variations."

"I guess it's time for me to get a little more complicated on you."

"Not for a while. Let's go to the holocube. We'll see how good you do when you're on my playing field."

"Go ahead and pull up the program. I'll fix us a snack."

"Great. I need to go through my flexibility exercises again anyway. I kind of fudged this morning."

Bryan headed back to the kitchen, "I don't think it will kill you to miss a day."

"Maybe not Dad, but I just made black belt. I'm not about to slack up now."

"Have it your way bud."

"You could join in. I'd be happy to teach you some of the basics."

"Oh, I know you would. One slight problem though."

"What's that?"

"I get tired just watching you. I'd hate to see what actually doing any of those maneuvers would do to me. I also firmly believe you would have to call down for a medic to put me back together if I kicked my leg up even half as far as you are able to."

Alex finished bringing up the game while trying not to laugh. His father may not have been strong, fast or coordinated, but he was still one of the greatest dads on the planet in Alex's mind. What he lacked in outgoingness, he more than made up for in kindness and caring. He also had a great sense of humor.

Bryan came in from the galley with a snack tray and watched as Alex went through his whole routine from start to finish. Having done almost the entire exercise earlier in the day, he was almost unable to complete it this time, but again he was too stubborn to quit.

Alex sat down with a glass of pineapple juice, his favorite, and a basket of grapes. As he munched on the snack he worked with the poor planet Galactic Conquest had given him to work with. The idea was to build a galactic empire out of a single planet. The game was complex with things such as tax rates affecting the chances of revolts. Some planets had people on them, which had to be conquered. Some were primitive, while others had defensive fleets and were allied with other planets. A delicate balance of military might and diplomacy had to be used to expand the empire without it collapsing in on itself. Then there were always the other players that had to be contended with. Some games a player might not even find the other player or players. Other times, massive wars broke out weakening both players and inciting riots and other problems within their individual empires. Debt and trade also played a part in strengthening an empire or weakening it.

A single game of Galactic Conquest could run for days or weeks if one desired it to do so. This time Alex's dad was in a particularly good mood and determined they could play for as long as Alex wanted, as long as it didn't interfere with his schoolwork or the exploration of the ocean floor.

Alex programmed in four computer players, his father, himself, then contacted Cynthia to see if anyone else wanted to join in. He found two who did and added them in as well. This was shaping up to be an interesting start.

The game was actually being kept track of up on Cynthia in one of the big computers. This game and several others were on an old 1999 model year Cray that COSAM had bought from another company shortly before the war. It had since used up a great deal of its usefulness and was now designated strictly for recreational purposes. The game also had other interesting features. Each player could take as much of a hands-on or hands-off approach as he or she wanted. In other words, the computer could take over for a time. Later the player could come back and get a full update and pick it up from there.

Alex had one time played Ryan in a game which had spanned a little over six weeks. The boys would pick up daily updates, make what they felt to be needed changes in the operations of their empires, and turn it back over to the computer. It ended when the empires got so large they could no longer keep track of them. Of course neither boy had shown any interest in attacking the other, so the war, which certainly would have devastated both empires, never happened.

Alex started with a very hands-on approach and then slowly backed away from planetary affairs as soon as he was sure it was firmly under his control. He was also careful not to get the government into too much debt. He made sure to occasionally pay off planetary government debts as well, so when he needed to fight a full-scale war, the planet wouldn't already be drained.

It took another four hours for them to get over what Alex had found on Metal Find. During this time, Alex had expanded to fifteen planets and had gotten his technology to the point where he could build huge attack ships, cryogenically suspend entire armies on space transports so he didn't have to pay extra to keep the transports supplied with food, and could terraform borderline planets. He had a ways to go before he would be to the point of landing on a planet with no life and turning it around, but he was sure he would get there. He just finished up with the next set of orders to his three newest planets. He then allocated funds to his military to work on designing and building a Planetary Assault Craft which would be capable of fighting and landing troops when MORSAV's central computer chimed out, "Two minutes to programmed destination."

Alex grunted, "About time." and headed over to the pilot's seat. He double-checked the coordinates, "We're here Dad."

Bryan was having much less luck than Alex. He only had seven planets and one of them had just gone into a full-scale revolt. His attempt to take a non-aligned world by force had been repelled and the citizen of his worlds didn't like the idea of so many troops being sacrificed for nothing. He put the computer on 'take over' with orders to fix the revolt problem first and walked up behind his son. "OK put her at a full stop and punch up Metal Find at twenty times standard on wide field scan mode."

"Yes sir." Alex did as he was instructed. It ended up being easier said than done. Getting Metal Find to a wide scan mode meant going in and reconfiguring the standard search mode. Again, his lack of abilities with computers showed. It took him almost fifteen minutes to get it to a maximum mode. As soon as he reactivated Metal Find, the holocube graph showed numerous small spikes littering the area. There were three larger spikes also on the grid. The largest of them was almost directly under them and was probably what was detected the night before.

Bryan looked over the map of what was showing as metal. None of the hits were large enough for his sensors to determine what type or types this was. He also noticed something else. "Alex this looks like we could be in the middle of a shipwreck."

"Are there any reported sinkings in this area?"

"I'm sure there are. The allies in World War Two lost hundreds of ships as they headed to England." He then took on a stronger voice; "MORSAV access main computer for located shipwrecks within five kilometers of present location."

The ship's female voice spoke softly, "Working Doctor Caldwell." A few seconds passed. "Cynthia shows no listing of found ships in this area Doctor."

"Thank you MORSAV." Bryan turned his attention back to his son, "Alex, launch a probe drone. We want water temperature, current direction and speed, exact depth, the works."

Alex hit the 'all data' switch on the first probe and launched it. With all the data it needed to collect it would take a few minutes for the results to register on the holocube "This sounds cool! Think I'll be rich?"

"You already are Alex."

"Only because of you. This is my find, isn't it?"

"If indeed it is a wreak, yes. Let's take this one step at a time. When the data comes back we want it overlaid in the holocube."

Alex fiddled with the controls for a few minutes. "I'm not sure how to do what you want, I can see how to put all the data from the probe on there, but how do I keep Metal Find's readings up there as well?"

"Create a partition with only this information, then incorporate it into the probe's data."

Alex's shoulders sagged, "Huh?"

Bryan couldn't help but chuckle at Alex's expression. This looked like it would turn out to be a good hands-on learning experience for him. "Slide over a second. I'll take you through it step by step. Then you can try."

Alex watched with interest. When it came to his turn he went through each step slowly and methodically. It took almost twenty minutes, but he got it right.

"Good work Son. Now take a look at all the data and tell me what you see."

Alex looked over the holocube's combined information. "Let's see we appear to be in the middle of hundreds of small spikes from Metal Find. The current is moving at three knots at a course of 189 degrees, and water temperature is 1.9 degrees Celsius. The three largest spikes are at... well one is directly below us. The second is at is at 191 degrees at 780 meters and the other is at 8 degrees at just over 350 meters."

"Superb job. Does that tell you anything else?"

Alex thought it over. At first he didn't see anything, but then something came to him. "All the big spikes are in almost a direct line with the current?"

"Perfect. Go ahead and log this as a possible shipwreck site. Your find, your name."

"Alright! MORSAV log possible new find these coordinates."

"Affirmative. Name under which you want this logged please."

"MORSAV, log under the name Alex One."

"Confirm possible site Alex One this location."

Bryan spoke, "Confirmed MORSAV."

Alex was suddenly filled with energy, "What now, Dad?"

"We have to take this slowly. The first thing we need to do is map out the outer edge of the wreck site. We can let MORSAV handle the real boring stuff by itself."

Alex's expression was mixed. He was unhappy about the need to work so slowly, but at least he wouldn't have to monitor things. "How long will this take?"

"Slide over and let me have the controls. My guess is that it will take six to seven hours for us to do a trace around the majority of the wreckage. This gets pretty complicated so I'll do the programming, but I want you to watch and ask questions about what you don't understand."

Alex watched his dad feed in the parameters for the search and how it was to do the trace. He was quick to ask a few questions, but for the most part he understood what his father was doing. Alex was fascinated at the speed and ease at which his father did the work. What would have taken Alex hours took Bryan minutes. It was times like this Alex was most proud to have such a smart father.

As soon as MORSAV was programmed they had lunch and sat down in front of the holocube again. Alex quickly found one of the computer players and stripped all his planets of forces for a mass attack. With the aid of his high tech Planetary Assault Crafts, he was able to conquer the inner planets where the enemy empire had its main factories. With little resources left to fight a battle with, the computer never had a chance. It hadn't anticipated such a quick and violent attack on the interior of its empire. Alex was able to completely overwhelm the computer player, gain seventeen more planets, and rebuild his military all before MORSAV was done searching out the perimeter of the possible wreck site.

Alex finished setting up an outer and inner defensive perimeter around his growing sphere when a message came down from Cynthia. Stan informed Bryan that they needed to chat privately.

Bryan went to the sleeping area and entered his secure code into the ELF transmitter. "What have you got for me?"

"First off we managed to bag a French sub in the English Channel. She was trying to take out a German ferry."

"Good. Give the men a pat on the back for me."

"Will do."

"So what's the real reason for this call?"

"I just got confirmation that paperwork has been signed in Sydney. You now have full custody of Ryan Yerris."

"Me? I told you to have the company take over as guardian."

"I know. That's why I am calling. A law I didn't know about came into play. You own the company, so the boy is technically your sole responsibility. I can call it off if you'd like."

"How long till I have to give you an answer?"

"Ryan hasn't been informed yet, but he be will shortly. I'd sure hate to have him think he has a home and then turn around and say no."

"I thought all the government garbage would take longer than this to punch holes through."

"Like I said, money and friends in interesting places talk."

"Yea..." Bryan thought it over. This was a tremendous responsibility. Did he want another boy? Thoughts of how Alex and Ryan got along over those months flooded in. He knew Alex would not be able to understand why if he said no. With the final thought of Alex's deep friendship with the boy, he made up his mind. "I would like his last name changed to Caldwell if I'm going to go this far."

"That will be no problem. So I assume you want him here ASAP?"

"Yes... Ah yea, fine, I'll take responsibility. I guess Alex will just have to live with the fact he has a brother."

"You don't sound too sure of yourself."

"Do I ever when I make a big decision?"

Bryan heard Stan laugh before he answered. "Not really."

"I always end up living with them though, don't I?"

"In this case, it is exactly what is about to happen."

"You said yourself when you first checked his family out, they look alike, eat alike, and think alike. I'll just have to divide my time between them and let you run things more than you already do."

"Don't sweat it. That's why I get the big bucks. Do you want a psychologist to stand by?"

"Yes. Very good forethought. Anything you think would be good for the boy. Any chance of enlarging my quarters so he can have his own room?"

"I think we can work something out. He'll be here within twenty-four hours."

"OK. I'll tell Alex. One other thing, does he have clothing and the like?"

"Yes sir. All of his household goods were auctioned off and the money put into a trust fund for him. His clothing and a few personal belongings went with him to the orphanage. You want me to have someone take him shopping?"

"No. Alex and I will handle any other needs Ryan may have when we go to United Britain for a soccer rematch. They will need a chance to get to know each other face to face again anyway."

"Right. By the way, the game is set for a week from today. You have reservations at the Hilton in downtown Bristol. I'm working on weapon's clearance for a ten-man security team as well. Doesn't look like it will be a problem."

"How do you find the time?"

"Like I said, that's why I get such a hefty salary."

"Give yourself a ten percent raise. My orders."

"I don't know what to do with what I make now!"

"Give it to a charity then."

"Alright. I see Alex has logged a possible wreck. You want assistance?"

"Not yet. This is a great learning experience for him. I'll let him do the preliminary work then call in for some help. I wouldn't mind a SAC down here for protection though. I really don't want an angry Frenchman coming after us."

"You got it. I'll keep them clear of you, but close enough to chase off any would-be bandits."

"That will do fine. I gotta go. Alex is kicking my tail in Galactic Conquest."

"I have wonder if he didn't design the blasted game. He beats me silly every time I play him. Heck, my own son beat me the last time."

"Josh is getting better all the time."

"Thanks to you and Alex."

"It's the least we can do. Send Ryan down as soon as he gets here on a docker."

"Sure thing. Cynthia out."

Bryan came forward to find Alex hard at work expanding his empire. The readouts showed that he had fifty-seven planets and growing. "Whoa, slow down there Son. You almost have me doubled!"

"Should be fun when I find you."

"I see how you are. You just want to kick your old man to the curb."

"Na, only eject you into the ocean without a pressure suit."

Bryan shook his head and ruffled Alex's hair. "We need to talk Son."

It was seldom that Alex heard his father use this tone of voice. He let the computer take over his turn and backed away from the cube. "What's wrong Dad?"

Bryan carefully explained what had happened to Ryan. It took a few minutes for it to sink in, but when it did Alex had several questions. At last he turned away with tears in his eyes, "What can I do?"

"I have made some arrangements, but the only way we could get them to work was by me adopting him." Bryan had waited to give out this information. He didn't know quite what to expect from Alex. Half of him expected his son to be overjoyed; the other half expected some resentment and hostility for taking the boy in without consulting him first. What he got was a question so off from his thinking, he had to re-organize his thoughts and think over just how much Alex had grown up.

Alex turned around slowly and looked totally puzzled. "So he will be your son?"

"My step-son and your step-brother." Bryan answered after a second. He had not really thought of Ryan being his son until the question escaped his son's lips.

"Do you love him?"

Bryan had to stop and think this one over. He had treated Ryan as he had no other friend of Alex's before. When Ryan had spent almost a full month on the ship, Bryan had actually spent some time with the boy alone. Admittedly, however, not as much as he should have considering how close his son had gotten with the youngster in question. The limited time spent with Ryan certainly had not been enough to know more than he kind of liked the kid. But love? This was a whole new question in and of itself. It was the most adult question Alex had ever asked him. He had no quick answer.


Seeing no escape from the questioning eyes staring at him, he opted for the truth. "No son, can't say I do... You know how little time I spent with you when we were off the coast of Australia. I barely got to know him and honestly couldn't remember his name when Uncle Stan told me what had happened. However, he is your best friend and it was the only way for me to do anything for him."

Alex did something he hadn't done in quite some time. He came over and gave his father a big hug and held on for a few seconds. "Thank you."

Bryan returned the hug, "You're welcome, but I need to know what you are thanking me for. Is it because I am taking him in?"

"More than that Dad. You trust me enough to be able to pick a best friend without really knowing much about him. And you are willing to take him in as your own without loving him. It had to be a hard decision to make."

Bryan clutched at his son and kissed him on top of his head; "You talk like a young man Alex. I'm proud you are taking this the way you are and are willing to share me with him. It shows just how good a friend you are. He will need your help to get through this."

"He'll get it. I promise."

Bryan smiled as he sat down to check out what MORSAV had found to his point. Alex was truly turning out to be a splendid young man. He flipped through the data a couple of times before turning back to Alex. "It looks like we have a good trace. I'm taking her off Auto-search."

Alex jumped up and came over. "So what do we do from here?"

"Anything we do from here on out, young man, is up to you."

"What would you suggest?"

"How about we use the suction hose and go after one of these small spikes on the perimeter."

Alex took the controls and went over to the nearest spike. It was quite small, but looked like it would be easy to get to. Alex hit the controls for the robotic arm and guided the suction hose over the spot. "What size filter should I use?"

"What are you sifting through?"

"The probe says it's just silt and mud. No large rocks or anything."

"OK. Go with a finer filter than normal, then keep the power low so MORSAV will have a chance to detect whatever it is before it has a chance to get sucked all the way through."

Alex used the hose like a skilled worker. At times he was almost aggravatingly slow and over cautious. Bryan sat back and didn't say a word. This was Alex's and Alex's alone. He would learn from his mistakes one-way or the other. It was one of the reasons he had told him to go after a small object on the outside of the site. This way, if he did mess up and loose it, it wouldn't be a major setback.

Twenty minutes later MORSAV finally spoke up, "Metal detected in second filter."

"Alright Alex. Now the idea is to capture and pull only the metal object into the decompression chamber. To do so, you must carefully go in and take hold of the object with the small pincers."

Alex did as he was instructed. He impressed both himself and his father with the speed at which he accomplished this task. "I got it in the decompression box. Now what?"

"Do an X-ray scan."

Alex inserted the small X-ray device into the decompression chamber. He then did a series of pictures and a couple of extra scans and tests as well. He read over the data and looked at the pictures. It was a small coin with a castle on one side and a long, almost canoe shaped ship on the other. "Dad! It's a gold coin!"

Bryan clapped the boy on the shoulder, "Excellent job Son. Now we need to do decompression. It's only a gold coin so it can be done quickly, but we want to clean it as well. We'll let the computer figure out the best way to do the cleaning without damaging the coin more than the water already has. What do you want to go after next?"

"Can we go back to the first spike we went over?"

"You really want to know what we ran over last night, don't you?"

"Yea, mean it seems so strange. I woke up the exact same time we went over it and all. I don't really believe it's related, but..."

"You have a feeling this strange voice telling you it is not a coincidence. There is this one in a billion chance there is a strange correlation, right?"

"It sounds so stupid, but I guess that is what I am thinking."

Bryan believed this was just Alex's over exuberance showing through. He also realized he deserved to be thrilled. It was a rare moment when a piece of a long lost treasure was found. "OK, this is your wreck. Log it with Cynthia. I'm going to get a link set up with our science team. Maybe they can help determine where this coin came from."

"You don't know?"

"No. I've never seen a coin quite like this one. No, let me take that back. I have never seen a coin even close to this one. I need to find out if we have any similar coins on our computer files."

"The boat kind of looks like a Viking long ship."

Bryan stopped short and turned back to the pictures of the coin. He hit the control panel button to get a hard print of two of the shots. "Very perceptive Alex. It sure does. The only problem is, they didn't build castles like this. This is more the style from the day of knights and heavy armor."

"I thought you knew all the sea-going peoples."

"Not hardly, although I agree with you. The makers of this coin probably knew something of ocean travel. This doesn't look like strictly a river vessel. I'll send those thoughts up as well. Take us back to site of the first discovery."

"Already on the way Dad. How many of these real small spikes are coins?"

"Considering this one is gold, odds are quite a few."

"I can't wait till Ryan gets here. He'll love this."

"Good. It might relax some of the pressure of losing his family. Make sure to log this son."

"Oh yea, right. MORSAV log Alex One as a confirmed wreck with Cynthia."

The female voice came across the speaker, "Confirming Alex One. 1735 GMT June 15, 2025. Your first find is now logged with Cynthia, Alex Caldwell."

Alex pumped his fist. "This is so cool!"

"I felt the same way my first time Son, but you need to get control of yourself. Remember this stuff has been down here for maybe a thousand years or more. You don't want to let your excitement cause you to damage any of it."

A few minutes passed before they got over the spot of the first spike Alex had spotted, "We're here Dad."

"Same as before, but this time we are going after a larger target so take it slow and easy."

Alex took a deep breath and slowly lowered the suction hose into the deep silt. Alex, guided by Bryan and the computer, spent the next thirty-six minutes getting rid of layer upon layer of sand and mud.

Finally, just when Alex could stand it no longer, MORSAV spoke up in warning. "Gold, silver, wax, and wood detected in first filter."

Bryan looked at his son, "Pull the power back. Any pieces of wood will be chewed up after centuries in the mud. At this depth, I'm amazed we are finding wood at all. Clear all the silt away and hit the lights, I want to see what you have found."

Alex loved to see his father get excited. He watched as the man's face slowly lit up like a Christmas tree. Alex smiled and did as he was told. He was also feeling some of the same thrill his father was, but there was something else. It seemed to Alex as if he was being drawn to this spot. It was taking every ounce of his willpower not to hurry the job.

Another twenty minutes of work with the suction hose went by before enough silt was removed to view what had been found. It turned out that it was not just one item. As soon as the external lights were turned on Alex could clearly see a bejeweled gold chalice, an ornately carved ivory and wood box, and a silver-serving tray. The most remarkable thing was all the items looked like new. There wasn't the slightest sign of saltwater deterioration or signs the fantastic pressures of being well over a mile and a half underwater had affected any of the items.

Bryan sent a feed up to the scientific department on Cynthia to get some views and thoughts on what to do and how to proceed. The question of the evening turned into how a box could still be fully intact at such an extreme depth. With no answers forthcoming, it was decided to bring the items into separate decompression compartments. Each item was analyzed under a variety of high tech scanners and probes. The most revealing of the scans came when the box was X-rayed. Inside was a necklace. Each link was in the shape of a miniature lightning bolt. The links held a large griffin that appeared to be clutching something in its left talon.

Alex looked at the picture with awe. "I can't wait to see that!"

Several of the scientists on the surface were also impressed with the item. It looked more masculine than feminine. Bryan took one more look before speaking, "Sorry folks, but it looks like this belongs to the finder."

There were a few chuckles over the voice line as people realized Alex had all but claimed this particular item.

"Can I open the box and take it out Dad?"

"It isn't going anywhere Son. Let's make sure we do all the preserving and data collection first." Bryan then turned back to the ELF transmitter, "Stan, you on line?"

Stan's voice came across strong, "Yes sir."

"I want some extra protection down here before we file an international claim to this."

"I'll rotate crews and SACs. I'll have two on location at all times."

"Good. Any other suggestions?"

"Yes. Let me file this the old-fashioned way, on paper. That way it will take longer for the word to get out. With any luck we'll have the site all but swept before any other companies find out."

"Sounds good. Alex and I are going to cut this trip short and head upstairs. I want to restock MORSAV and wait for Ryan. We'll come back down tomorrow. I'll let Alex and Ryan supervise operations here while I do a quick check of the mining operations."

"We're spreading ourselves a bit thin Boss."

"I'm open to suggestions."

"I'd like to have Vancouver send us two more SACs and a few more birds."

"I don't want a warship."

"Too late. You already have one."

"Won't such a build-up provoke others?"

"Might makes right out here Boss. My primary job is keeping us safe."

"Do what you think is best. Will we have to hire more people?"

"About twenty more on the security force."

"I thought the idea was to get our operations solvent and separate from Vancouver so we could eventually form a spin-off company under your name."

"The platinum should get us well past the point of Vancouver having to support this craft Boss."

"OK, I'll keep my nose out of the business side of things. I'm just a scientist."

"Don't give me any of your 'I'm not a person to be running this operation'. We both know better. I'll see you topside in a few. Tell Alex to use docking bay three. I'm keeping one and two open for SACs since we are on an alert status."

"Wilco, MORSAV out."

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