Cecie couldn’t get the dinner-show with the holographic rockers, the Tasty Quarks, out of her mind. “I can’t get over how real they looked,” she told her mother Jessica. “And we were sitting in the second row too. Close enough to see the sweat fly. The only thing—the drops didn’t leave any wet spots on the stage.”
“They weren’t my favorite group, but they were Carlos’ and you’ve heard him singing their songs ever since we went,” Jessica said. “And they did look like they were really there. It used to be called ‘virtual reality’ and now it’s called an ‘alternative reality’. Seamless. No goggles needed.”
“I saw where Disney-Universal is going to have a show that is based on the footage of the squids that Dr. Octavian and Cameron Joyce shot before the fatal attack and produce in this holographic format. I’d like to see it when it comes out,” said Cecie.
“You may have to go alone or with Carlos or friends. I don’t think I’m ready for that. It’s just—you know,” Jessica said.
“I know,” Cecie replied quietly.
“Anyway don’t you have a meeting with your advisor, Dr. Manta tomorrow? Are you ready?” asked Jessica changing the subject.
“When Carlos comes home, we’re going to review as prep what we think is known about squids.”
“Okay,” said Carlos, settling back in a sling chair with a cold Corona in his hand after changing into shorts, ”Why don’t you review what you know and don’t know about the squids. As if you’re presenting to Dr. Manta tomorrow.” Jessica settled herself on the couch to listen.
Cecie confidently unfolded a large i-board on its own easel. What she typed on her mini-i-Pad, immediately appeared on the larger screen.
“Well what we don’t know is a lot more than what we do know or suspect,” she began.
“First, because of the that analysis you and Dr. Octavian obtained from your first contact—actually attack—on the Institute mini-sub—we know that Squidzilla DNA is the same as that from plain old Architeuthus, the giant squid. What we don’t know is why or how the animals became different.”
“Second. We also know from the early reports filed by submarines of what were then called USOs —Unidentified Submerged Objects—sonar encounters, the animals were solitary. From more recent sonar contacts as well as in observed attacks on whales and ships, they now seem to travel and act cooperatively in small schools. Again, we do not know why their behavior changed.”
“Third. They do use bioluminescence. It might be their manner of communication. This is a guess based on their apparent reaction to the rebroadcast of recordings of their light displays.”
“Our original encounters were to random patterns of colored lights,” Carlos interjected.
“Right,” said Cecie, “They were drawn to the random light show but stayed far back. They only drew close when you changed the pattern of your display to rebroadcast what you had recorded of their own light flashes.”
“Remember to mention that your friend Michel teased out the same light pattern flashed by the squids just before the attack on our towed light display and on Joyce’s sub,” Carlos said.
“I was coming to that,” said Cecie. “I was going to say that Michel has managed to show that there are reoccurring clusters of light patterns in the recordings that seem analogous to the way words show up on the printed page. And then mention the pre-attack flash pattern as the only one tied to a physical action. We have no idea what the other patterns mean.”
“Sorry,” said Carlos, “Go on.”
“I’m also going to say that if they do communicate primarily visually, then they are more limited in the range of their communication than animals that communicate by sound like the great whales. At a guess, that might explain why they were initially solitary.”
“Wait,” said Jessica. “That would imply that their current social structure of traveling in small schools was a learned change?”
“Possibly. And that might also imply something about intelligence and memory. Also, along those lines, the way they recognized that the drones attacking them were controlled by a guide wire and figured out how to severe the wire showed quite impressive powers of observation and reasoning. It will be very interesting to see how they now respond to attacks by autonomous drones.”
“Now it’s true they have attacked and sunk ships. But in each instance, it was after the ships had launched drones or dropped IEDs to attack the squids as they were closing in on whales. So they weren’t indiscriminate attacks.” Cecie paused. “With the sole exception of the attack on your sailboat, Mom, that killed Daddy Greg. I’m sorry Mom, but I had to mention that.”
“It’s okay, Cecie. It happened.”
The next day after her presentation to Dr. Manta she asked, “What do you think?”
“You present a very nice summation of what is known about the squids and some interesting speculations about their communication and intelligence,” Dr. Manta said. “Since you have said that you would like to make them your study project, I think we should have you present a seminar to the Institute staff and update people about squids. You will probably encounter some skepticism about your speculations and perhaps your age. But I think you can handle it. What do you think?”
“If you think I’m ready for it, then let’s do it,” Cecie said.
“Mom, the Squidzilla Experience was truly out of this world,” said Cecie excitedly as she returned with Carlos from a day at Disney-Universal. “You totally felt that you were in a submarine, in the ocean with them. And when the squids tried to attack a Grey whale, the sub fired taser torpedoes that drove them off. The audience screamed as one of the squids turned to attack the sub and it closed in with arms and tentacles outstretched, looking larger and larger till you really felt that it was about to seize you, but at the last moment, another taser torpedo forced it to break off. Really exciting-scary. Amazing holograms.”
“Then I’m really glad I didn’t go with you,” Jessie said.
“Unlike real life, Disney made sure that there was a happy ending,” Carlos said. “I wish it could have been that easy for Willie and Joyce.”
“After seeing your favorite band and now this show, I’m just impressed by the ‘reality’ of the holographic images. I just wonder if there is a way to produce them that well under water.”
“Why Cecie?” asked Carlos.
“Well, your towed light array seems awkward and the squids showed that they weren’t that interested once they explored it,” Cecie said. “And Joyce’s sub, while a technologic wonder with its articulated light arms, didn’t really allow much interaction with the squids beyond using the arms and it proved susceptible to damage and sinking.”
“So holograms?” asked Jessie.
“Yes. A person actually in the water with a squid would be so puny that the squid would likely just ignore him or her. Not to speak of the very real danger as well as the need to provide oxygen. Now if an image of a person was projected in the water of a size that would catch and hold a squid’s attention, then there would be a chance to try and establish communication. And safely.”
“Very imaginative, and likely very expensive even if doable,” said Carlos.