Dr. Octavian, Carlos and the Squids.
In the escort ship the two men watched the video feed from the Institute mini-sub below them as it slowly cruised, flashing the light sequences recorded from the last encounter with the USOs.
“So far no bites, and we’ve been towing for eight hours,” said Octavian.
“And sonar showed that USOs were in the general vicinity when we began,“ Carlos replied.
Number 15 swam back to where the other squids were cruising far behind and below the sub. “Me follow small hard whale like you say. You come look too. Hard whale say like me-you talk before. But say nothing else. Same again-again.”
“Good No. 15. Me-you go see,” flashed Number 9. “See if can know why talk like me-you long time before. But me-you no talk. Me-you look first.” The group of seven squids swam up to a position trailing the sub and watched without flashing.
Finally Number 9 flashed, “Number 15 right. Talk same me-you last time we follow hard whale. No say more.”
“Look Wili, there’s flashing behind the sub,” exclaimed Carlos, “The lights are back.”
“I see it. Looks like we stimulated a response with your adjustment, said Dr. Octavian. “This may be our best chance to see them. Turn the sub back towards the light and then turn on all the spotlights.”
Number 12 flashed an angry red. “Small hard whale fool me-you. Why fool me-you. Me kill.” And it jetted off towards the sub.
“No go,” flashed Number 9. “No go.” But there was no stopping Number 12, and it had nearly reached the mini-sub just as the sub had fully turned 180 degrees.
“Okay, it’s in position, now I’ll turn on the lights,” said Carlos. The sudden blinding beams momentarily froze Number 12 but also added to its anger and it closed quickly on the towed light display and sub, its body rapidly flashing deep red and black.
“Holy shit!” cried Carlos as the squid appeared out of the blackness, arms and tentacles reaching toward the sub and light array, image spilling off all sides of the monitor as it closed in.
“My God!” said Octavian. “It’s huge!” And then the screen went black as Number 12’s arms angrily tore into the light array, turning it into a tangled mess, broken electrical cables flashing into the sudden blackness, and then slashing at the mini sub.
“Dr. Octavian, the sub’s not responding to the controls,” said George, the sub pilot sitting at the next console. “Something is forcing it sideways. And the lights don’t work.”
“The squid must have it,” said Octavian. “My God, the size of that thing! Maybe turn off the propulsion and let it go dead in the water and see if the squid will release it. The squid may think of it as prey as long as the sub tries to get away.”
“Me kill,” flashed Number 12, still grasping the mini-sub, as Number 9 and the other squids caught up. No more stupid talk. Now small hard whale no move.” The squid bit tentatively at the sub with its beak. “Hard-hard. No good eat.” And it released the sub.
Number 12 and the others watched in the dark for a time as the sub hung motionless in the depths. Then they turned to go, flashing as they travelled, but now there was no camera to record their conversations.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Octavian said to the pilot, ”Okay, start it up and bring it home and let’s see what we have left.”
The mini sub broke the surface beside the escort ship and Octavian, Carlos, and the crew stood by the railing and surveyed the damage as it rolled in the swells.
“Well the light array is a total loss,” said Carlos.
“And the sub’s spotlight assembly has been broken off,” said Octavian. “I guess the grant will cover that, but it may be a while before the Institute lets me use the sub again.”
“Kind of like borrowing dad’s sport car for a date and bringing it home all dinged up,” Carlos observed.
“Hook it up and bring it on board,” said Albert the captain, scowling at Octavian. “We can take a closer look at the damage when it’s in its cradle.” The crane operator maneuvered the hooks into position till they locked on the sub and swung it up and into its cradle on the stern of the escort.
Albert, Octavian, and Carlos climbed onto the cradle.
“The lights are gone and the dive planes look a little bent, paint’s pretty scratched up, but the hull seems intact,” growled the captain disapprovingly. “It’ll need some work when we port. Octavian, the director’s not going to be happy.”
“Yes,” sighed Dr. Octavian, resigned to being in the director’s dog house.
“Take a look at this, Wili,” said Carlos, looking closely at the scrape marks. “These look like sucker prints, but they are really huge. You think we could get enough tissue to run DNA samples?”
“I think you’re right. We have the video, but DNA will really nail it down,” said Octavian, sounding more upbeat.
Jessica and the Chaos.
“Are you sure you and Little Ceci can’t stay longer, Jessica?” asked T.F. Chao. “Cecilia has to get back to school, but you don’t have to go with her.”
“Thank you, T.F. You and Lily have been very gracious as usual, but I really shouldn’t impose on your hospitality. I don’t want to overstay our welcome.”
“Nonsense, it’s no imposition when it’s family, and of course you and Little Ceci are family,” said T.F. “Lily and I are just amazed by Little Ceci. Lily loves to talk with her in Mandarin and she has been so quick to pick it up.”
“She’s been progressing so rapidly that even her pediatrician says he’s never seen a child do what she’s doing,” said Jessie.
“Lily and I have been talking about that. Of course you will probably send her to school, certainly for the socialization, and especially since she is an only child. But if, in your opinion, she should progress as fast as she is capable of, then we would be more than ready to also pay for tutors so that she stays challenged.”
“That’s very generous, T.F. Yes, I have been wondering about the kind of school that she would fit into. Maybe a combination of school and home learning would be best.”
There was a pause, then Jessica cleared her throat before beginning again, “There’s—ah—something else I’ve been meaning to—ah—ask you and Lily. After I tell you, if you feel that it’s a bad idea then of course I won’t do it.”
“What’s that, Jessica?”
“I’d like to change Little Ceci’s last name from Turner to Chao-Turner. I’d like to keep Greg a part of her life. I hope you understand that I am not doing this with any thought of making this a claim on your business or fortune.”
T.F. had to pause before he could reply. “I would be honored if you did that.” Our son’s name will not be forgotten, he thought, choking up. He’ll live on in his daughter’s name, not just her DNA. “Lily, come and listen Jessica’s idea. Please tell Lily what you just told me.” Jessie repeated her request.
“What do you think, Lily?” asked T.F.
“That is a wonderful idea, Jessica,” said Lily. “Thank you so much for being so very thoughtful and sensitive. Yes, of course I heartily agree.”