2 The Door in the Sea
On orca Brett and Cass watched the pyramid on the video screen.
“Totally.” Cass agreed. “But there it is.” It was impossible of course. People couldn’t dive that deep, not even submarines until a few years ago. And something so huge could hardly have been dropped whole from the surface.
Neri pushed herself away from the pyramid’s side to get a better look at the whole structure. She passed the minifin—and it began to shake.
“Aw no not again!” Jason tried to get the sub turned but again he had no control. He started cursing the machine when Neri got between them and the pyramid and everything started working again.
“I think we had better get out of here, before that happens again.” Winston said.
“Yeah.” Jason managed. He flashed the sub’s main lights to let Neri know they were leaving. She waved, and stayed close to the minifin until it was well clear of the pyramid. Then Winston and Jason returned to orca and Neri found that she felt too thoughtful to play so she returned to the island.
The pyramid waited.
Charley? What is that place? Jason says, ‘pyramid.’ Neri sang the shape as a whale would see it, then clicked out the English word.
Old. Generations old. No reason to go close. Maybe the sperm whales… The name was a one-word description of blunt heads and sharp teeth. Sperm whales could dive that deep, to find cold water in the tropics.
Neri surfaced and looked around. There was nothing but water in all directions, then Neri saw a sea snake come up to breathe and then Neri noticed more, floating and basking. “Pyramid,” She tried the word aloud- it was hard to say- and ducked back under to continue, lets me come close. Not others.
Charley whistled that he didn’t know, but Neri remembered the spaceship, the panels that lit up when her hand touched them. Was the pyramid the same? …ocean planet?
Whale song drifted across the water, a long series of unconnected thoughts. Same sound, like spaceship. Older. Something of us also. Danger? Always. But… no choice.
Charley understood, he always did. Neri saw the island in the distance, straight ahead. She never got lost in the ocean. Yes, ‘pyramid’ is something of me.
The minifin docked at orca. Winston climbed out while Jason ran through the procedure to shut the sub down. All systems showed green; no damage from the bizarre shockwaves the pyramid had thrown at them. Those readings, along with the camera images and a record of the journey, were recorded on the black box. Jason got the disk out it and tucked it in the pocket of his uniform. Orca’s main computer would analyze the information and edit Neri out of the images. This time they’d probably have Helen erase the pyramid too. They didn’t want to tell the world yet, and have scientists swarming all over it did they? Not until they knew more about it…
Lost in thought, Jason finished the job and climbed out of the minifin. He missed seeing Louie’s father waiting outside.
“So the voyagers return. Long trip, for just checking beacons.”
“We, ah-“ Winston began.
“I’ll take the disk please.’
Jason could hardly disobey a superior officer. He handed over the disk and traded panicked looks with Winston.
Officer Danson would see the pyramid, and Neri!
The traditional image of Egypt was completed by a train of pack camels along the horizon—and rudely interrupted by Ellie and Shelby’s range rover. The two agents were scowling over their laptops and a little tracking antenna.
“If you can just hold the signal for thirty seconds—“ Ellie broke off as the screen went to static.
“Lost it! Damn!” Shelby’s hair was standing up; he’d run his fingers through it so many times. “We traced the waves to the Cairo area all the way from outer space, why can’t we find it within a three mile radius!”
Ellie gave the only answer she could think of. “There’s some very fancy local equipment blocking the signal.”
“Look, it’s six am. Let’s call it a night.”
“Oh give me another hour, I think I’m pretty close to cracking it.”
“I say we forget all your high tech gizmos and start kickin’ in a few doors.”
Ellie had to grin. “There’s only a few thousand doors between here and Cairo. Just where do you suggest we start kicking?”
Shelby saluted with his canteen: as close as he’d ever come to admitting that had been a truly dense suggestion.
Neri knelt on the beach, smoothing a pile of sand into a pyramid. She looked out to sea…
They had time for a quick chat with Brett and Cass, long enough to remind each other what was on the disk but not to think of a way to keep Officer Danson from watching it. He probably already had, while they were talking.
Then the intercom screen lit up. “This is Acting Commander Danson. Officer Jason Bates, Doctor Winston Seth, report to the bridge immediately.”
They sighed and went to face the music.
“A blatant breach of discipline! And an obvious attempt to conceal information. The log of any minifin journey is sacrosanct. Well, would either of you care to explain?”
Jason couldn’t think of a thing to say. Winston began, “Well, ah, in our defense…”
“Doctor Seth, what are you trying to tell me?”
“Well sir, what I think he’s trying to say, since you’ve probably already looked at the disk you would know the details as well as we do.”
“And you know as well as I do that this disk has been erased.”
“…erased.” Jason said after a stunned pause. His insides started to thaw with relief.
Officer Danson played the disk and only static came up on the screen. “Nothing here from start to finish. Why, gentlemen?”
Jason had trouble not smiling. From that point he and Winston told the truth: they had no idea why the disk was blank. The Helen computer could do it, but not without a command, and without Helen nobody should be able to change a black box disk. Even Froggy probably couldn’t do it.
Officer Danson interrogated them until he got tired of hearing that they didn’t know and it was supposed to be impossible to erase the disk. Then he let them go.
The next day Jason got a few hours free and went to tell Neri what had happened. They waded in the lake and drank cocoanut milk out of the bowls that Patty had sculpted for Neri. They were beautiful bowls, made of brown clay and shaped perfectly to fit their hands.
“So I said we didn’t know. The disk should be impossible to erase, it’s protected.”
Neri said uncertainly, “I think the… pyramid… keeps secrets.”
“You mean I could somehow erase a disk?”
“I do not know. But I know I feel great power from it.”
Jason shook his head, “Can’t believe it. Pyramids…”
“Are there more of these pyramids?”
“Some. Not in the water that’s for sure.”
“Tell me of them.” Neri’s eyes were bright, strangely intense.
“Well I don’t know a lot.” Jason shrugged, “They’re found in different countries. They’ve been around since ancient times.”
“I can learn more?”
“Helen’s database should have something.”
Neri stood up. “I will go to Orca. We will ask Helen about the pyramid.”
They took the boat back, but Neri only rode halfway before she dived overboard to swim with Charley. Still she arrived first and had time to change into her Orca uniform and towel her hair before Jason came down from the pontoon to meet her.
“I called ahead—Winston’s got everything out of the history books ready to view.”
“I want to know everything.”
Brett came out of his classroom and joined them. “You’re really keen on this pyramid aren’t you? Like it’s got some kind of pull on you.”
“Perhaps.” Neri chimed.
“Oh-“ Brett grabbed Neri and pulled her down a side hall. “You don’t want to meet that guy.”
So Jason was the only one Louis saw. “Hello Jason. Hope your little trip in the minifin was worth it.”
“Spoiling your mother’s chances of promotion.”
Jason didn’t rise to the bait. He just walked past Louis to meet Brett and Neri around the next corner.
The secretary showed Dianne into the office and left her to wait. She straightened her uniform jacket and rubbed her hands on her pants, nervous. There was something familiar about this room, a familiar smell…
That voice— “Paul?”
“Good to see you again.” He said quietly.
“You’re the new commander in chief of Orca operations?”
“It came as something of a surprise to me too. How’re the boys?”
Dianne managed, “The boys are fine. Now listen Paul—“
“Whoa,” Paul said, “Business first. Sit down.”
They did, and Dianne tried to gather her thoughts. Of all the people she’d never expected to see here—! And she wasn’t unhappy to see him, not nearly as unhappy as she should be.
“Well now, I’m glad you decided to apply for the position.”
“If I’d had any idea…”
“I deliberately didn’t tell you. Didn’t want to influence your decision.”
Dianne muttered, “That was thoughtful. Might’ve put me off- my ex husband as my new boss…”
“Well we’ve processed all the applications. The job’s yours, if you want it.”
If she wanted it—and wanted Paul back in her life.
Helen displayed pictures of pyramids. The step pyramids of Mesopotamia and Central America, China and Mongolia. Finally the great pyramid of Egypt, with three smaller pyramids in its shadow.
“Egypt.” Neri tried out the word.
Helen ran out of pyramids and brought up other information about Egypt. Neri couldn’t read quickly so she just looked at the pictures, of modern-day Cairo and of ancient art treasures in museums around the world.
Jason leaned to look at the screen. It was a photo of a statue. A woman in robes, with a sash across her chest and a crown that might have represented a flower or flames. “What is it?”
“I see her in my dreams.”
Jason scanned the text “It doesn’t say anything about who she was.”
Neri touched the screen with one finger. “I know her Jason. She is part of what we find in ocean. She is very important.”