Cecie met with Dr. Manta after her seminar with the curious staff of the Sears Institute.
“How do you think it went?” she asked. “I was really nervous.”
“If you were nervous, it certainly didn’t show. You did a commendable job in presenting what is known about the giant squids and your speculations about them. Just as you did with me.”
“More people showed up than I expected.”
“There is genuine interest about the animals and probably curiosity about you, since you are so much younger than most of the fellows. I think you satisfied that curiosity very positively,” Dr. Manta replied. “By the way, we’ll be broadcasting your talk on the Institute site later.”
“I did get one lead after the talk. One of the scientists came up to me afterwards and said that he thought there was someone at Woods Hole working with MIT on underwater holography.”
After hearing the name, Dr. Manta exclaimed, “I knew her from grad school. Wondered what she was up to recently. I’ll send her an introduction about you.”
“And is it all right if I tell my family in Hong Kong that my talk will be broadcast when the time is set so they can watch?”
The Chao Grandparents.
“Well T.F., it looks like Cecie is already making progress at the Sears Institute,” Lily Chao said as she turned away from the video call from Cecie. “Imagine, giving her first seminar to the staff. She said that it’ll be broadcast next week. We’ll have to watch.”
“Her next step is to apply for grants to fund her research,” T.F. said. “She did say that funds might be difficult to come by since so much support is going into mitigating sea level change, climate restoration, and food production as impacted by climate change.”
“I wish she would have picked one of those areas to work on instead of her continued fascination with those killer squids,” said Lily. “Ever since she was a child it was squids, squids, squids. As far as I’m concerned, the only good squid is one cooked with sour cabbage.”
Glad you can joke a little about squids now, thought T.F. You were so bitter over Greg’s death for so long. To keep hating is not healthy. “We haven’t eaten that for a while,” he said. “It’s one of my favorites too. We should ask the chef to prepare it for dinner tonight when Cecilia comes over. Maybe you can plan the rest of the menu too with the chef.”
Over dinner they told Cecilia what her niece was up to.
“She’s a remarkable girl,” Cecilia said. “Just turning sixteen and already such a clear thinker and so confident, without coming across as pushy. How appropriate that we’re having squid tonight. I will definitely watch the broadcast. Oh, and we talked this afternoon and Jessie is coming to visit in two weeks. She said she’ll call you too. It’s been a while since she visited, and she’ll stay with me.”
“Is Cecie coming with her?” asked Lily excitedly.
“No, Cecie and Carlos are both busy at the Institute and so Jessie’s taking the chance to break away for a week since things are quiet at the bank.”
“Oh,” said Lily, disappointed. “Ever since Cecie’s been in college, she hasn’t been able to come as often as she used to.”
“You’ve forgotten that this is what it was like when I was going to school,” said Cecilia.
Grandparents, science reporters, and marine biologists were not the only persons who had an interest in Cecie’s ideas about the giant squid. Rick Mendoza, still mourning his nephew’s death at the tentacles of No. 12, downloaded and studied the plans for building autonomous underwater drones. He could not know that No. 12 was already dead, electrocuted when it attacked the Deep Diver, but that would have made no difference to him. And he was not the only one. The chance to hunt the largest, most dangerous, and perhaps the most intelligent animal on the planet while ostensibly protecting whales was a lure to many. Or at least those with the means and skill to build a hunting drone.
The squids had learned to avoid attacking whales when the BlueSeas Coalition whale escort ship, the Whale Defender I was present. But the California coastline, along which the whales traversed on their migrations, was long and there was plenty of water where the squids could safely hunt them. That was about to change.
“We’re ready to hunt,” Rick Mendoza said to his sister Jeannie whose son had been killed by No. 12. “Got the drone built and it worked fine on a test run yesterday.”
“Good,” she replied. “It won’t bring Tommy back but yeah, kill them all. But be careful yourself.”
“There’s a few of us going out, so we’ll get was many as we can.”
“I know you said the charter fishing business hasn’t been that great since people are worried about getting attacked by squids. So how you gonna pay for building the drones? Jeannie asked.”
“I got a list of people who want to go out with me. They’ll pay.”
“Some want to be in on the kill of a Squidzilla for the thrill. And there are the whale huggers who want to see whale predators killed. Got enough lined up to make it work. As long as the Coast Guard don’t find out.”