Wilhelm Octavian and Cam Joyce.
“Isn’t she a beauty?” said Cam Joyce to Dr. Octavian, shouting above the din of metal on metal at the New Camden shipyard, where construction of the deep diving sub that he had designed was nearing completion.
The elongated sub had forward viewing ports with water intakes mid-ship and two water jet exhaust ports aft. Its smooth shape and surface was broken by the ten thin elongated articulated arms that lay length-wise flat to its surface, embedded with LEDs that would simulate the signaling arm positions and lights of the giant squids. The arms and the rudders and dive planes at the stern were the only things protruding from the craft’s surface.
“With the sinking of the Whale Defender II do you still plan to proceed?” asked Octavian.
“It’s powered by a nuclear reactor that generates so much power I’ll be able to discharge some serious voltage on command. Be just like a large, very dangerous electric eel,” said Cam Joyce. “That’ll discourage the laying on of tentacles. You’re not changing your mind about coming with me, are you?”
“No. Just wondering. Going down in person will be the chance of a lifetime since everything is now done remotely with drones.”
“That’s exactly why I’m doing it,” said Joyce. “Way back when, James Cameron piloted his own manned sub to reach the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the deepest spot on earth. A great and gutsy dive. I hope to go him one better and find, cruise with, and film a swimming Squidzilla. Fortunately for us, where the squids live is no where near as deep as the bottom of the Marianas Trench, so the technical requirements for the sub haven’t been as rigorous. And thanks to you, we were able to build the light display right into the sub.”
“I hope that one of the light patterns will still work to attract the squids. But we’ll have to be careful. One of them seemed to provoke the attack and we don’t know which one it was,” said Octavian. “But with our set-up, we’ll be able to record any squid light flashes and instantly play it back to them.”
“The mechanical arms slow the sub, but we aren’t trying for a speed record, just engagement with the squids,” said Joyce.
“When are you planning sea trials?” asked Octavian.
“In three months, and if all goes well, we’ll set out for the squids six months later.”
Jessica and Carlos had always been aware of Ceci’s interest in giant squids, but were still startled when, at dinner, she mentioned that when she went to college “in a year or two” she was planning to make the study of them the focus of her research.
“I know that you’ve always been fascinated by them,” said Jessica, “But college offers so many possibilities to explore. It might be better to take a look around before you settle so firmly on an area. Especially one so narrowly focused right from the start.”
“That’s what I’ve been doing in school, Mom,” replied Ceci. (Now that she was in her early teens, she asked not to be called “Little Ceci” anymore. She would be Ceci and Auntie Big Ceci would now be called Cecilia. Unless of course, Auntie would prefer the reverse? No, that was fine, replied Auntie Cecilia.)
Ceci continued, “In literature, I have pretty much done all the reading for what would be the usual first and second year college survey courses for extra credit and you’ve seen how my instructors have reviewed my papers. In history and economics they’ve suggested that I submit my study of “The Brexit-Johnson Saga” for publication. Although they did warn me that my age might be held against me by narrow-minded editors. My teachers have always urged me to have broad interests and I think that I’ve showed that.”
“Still, I hope you continue to keep an open mind and curiosity about all things and don’t focus down completely at college,” said Carlos.
“Don’t worry, I won’t,” said Ceci, returning her attention to the grilled i-Meal Patties (primarily based on mealy worm flour) on her plate.
Later that evening in their bedroom, Jessica said to Carlos, “I guess I still think of her as my precocious little girl, and now she’s talking about and planning for college! I always feel one step or more behind. And to have already decided on what she wants to do for research! Always squids. I wonder if her interest in them is because of Greg’s death?”
“I was as surprised as you by that off-hand comment,” said Carlos “I remember asking her that some years ago when she started showing a great interest in the squids, and she said no, that she just thought they might be intelligent and could communicate,” said Carlos.
“Could you ask her again? I mean about a connection to her dad.”
Several days later, as Carlos was riding back with Ceci from swimming practice in their autonomous pod, he asked her straight out, “Ceci, your mother and I were surprised at dinner the other night by your off-hand mention of planning to study the giant squids when you go to college. I knew you were interested in them from our past conversations, but I guess neither your mother or I realized the depth of your interest.”
“There’s almost nothing known about them or why they seemed to suddenly appear. And now that they’re being hunted for being a menace to ships as well as whales, I think someone needs to find out if they really are intelligent.”
“They drowned your father,” said Carlos. “Do you think that’s a reason for your curiosity?”
Ceci paused before replying. “You know, I’ve asked myself that. It was before I was born of course. In fact Mommy didn’t even know she was pregnant with me then. I know I’m very grateful to Daddy Greg for loving Mommy and giving me life. And I guess I do love him. I know I don’t hate the squids for killing him, like I’ve heard Nainai say. I guess I just want to know if they are intelligent and if we can somehow communicate with them if they are. Maybe deep down I’d like to ask them why? Maybe with them it’s like when humans used to kill other animals for sport without thinking about how their prey felt.”
“Thank you for telling me, Ceci,” said Carlos.
“It’s okay to tell Mommy, Carlos, but she could have asked me herself. I wouldn’t have minded.”