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–6 x 9 in. paperback; 400 pages
The second book of this series, Harbor, continues from Weigh Anchor as the intrepid group of explorers overcome the challenges of becoming the vanguard for humanity’s greatest adventure. The Curious Voyages of the Anna Virginia Saga is an allegory of man’s inner worlds. This series spans the development of awakening—from a simple chance encounter to the intentional exploration of the cosmos, from our little bit of real estate in the solar system to the center of the galaxy. A parable of a small nucleus of individuals who band together and set out on the journey of a lifetime.
Read an excerpt below or read it at the Voyager Press page:
Excerpt from Chapter One of Harbor © J.L.Lawson 2011
7 August 94 Three girls. ‘Thrice blessed they that master so their blood…’ I couldn’t agree with the Bard any more than at this moment, how thankful am I that am now so loved and blessed. Knowing the day’s end ‘ere it came, I would have endured ten times the pain and struggle to reach this place. It was the not knowing that gave spice to my suffering and goaded me to plead for release. Three girls! Well, John and I have our work cut out for us…Thank goodness Vera, Alfred and Viola are sticking close.
Ivy and Becka escorted Grandmama and Olivia back to Gotland this morning from the Treviso airfield. No one thought to ask Ivy at any point about his being a pilot too…And I certainly didn’t know Alfred’s Beechcraft was hangered in Venice. This family is just full of surprises. The Tygress is now keeping the Anna company at the docks; I’m looking forward to visiting her again. It’s a little quieter with the four of them absent, but I certainly can’t fault them for wanting to get back and share all the pictures and stories of our Hana and her sisters-Anna with the rest of the family. The partners have thoroughly cleaned the Inn from floor to roof and returned the medical equipment to its storage areas—which I didn’t even suspect existed, by the way. This old Inn still has a few surprises left for me. I suppose our girls will wring her secrets from her. I hope there’s not a room with a wardrobe and door to Narnia hidden somewhere…or maybe that wouldn’t be so terrible…
Sonia Isabelle yelled the loudest. Miranda Linn was just relieved for the extra room, I think. Viola and Vera’s milk is coming in and are strangely happy to take night feedings…go figure. John keeps trying to get to the girls ahead of them, but he’s up against professionals. He said ‘…at least I get to change a diaper now and then, and carry them around…’ Alfred’s in the same boat; I think they are planning an insurrection: they’ve sterilized all Hana’s old bottles and put out breast pumps and storage containers in our bathrooms…not too subtle.
“If Alfred and John will agree to watch the girls, I think I’d like to visit the Tygress and the Anna today…just to see the refit first-hand.”
Alfred almost didn’t let Ginger finish, and John was up out of his chair ready to relieve Vera in the nursery instantly. “That’s not a problem at all. Glad to help out,” he grinned. “Take your time, get a massage, have a shopping spree or something with the girls. John and I have enough refrigerated milk from you three to take care of the girls for several feedings at least.”
Viola cackled, “And by the way, I’m pretty sure it’s polite to allow me time to deliver the milk to you…you don’t have to wait outside the door.”
Nothing was dampening Alfred’s spirits. He sighed, “If you say so.”
Vera came into the kitchen, “Johnny just kicked me out of the nursery. Am I going somewhere?”
Viola explained that the three of them were going to have a ladies day out; “…a mandatory ladies day out, I might add.”
Ginger confessed, “I made the mistake of saying I wanted to see the yachts this afternoon and we were instantly evicted for the day.” Vera’s eyebrows rose as she glanced to Alfred. He didn’t even squirm.
“Share and share alike!” he suggested.
The ladies did indeed take full advantage of the opportunity and took Uma and Danielle with them. The four men left at the Inn were a sight to behold. All the ribbing and jokes at John and Alfred’s expense several days ago now came home to roost as Henri and Valeran endured the frustration of not getting enough time with the twins, and whined about it. “If Hana were here she’d make sure we got more than a few minutes at a time!” Henri moaned in jest. Valeran seconded his comment to the genuine pleasure of John and Alfred.
“RandaLin, pay no attention to them, your sister is just and good. She doesn’t take bribes…” Alfred leveled at Henri.
John cooed something similar to Isabou. “You’ll have plenty of time later to flirt with other men…”
Neither girl was out of one of the men’s arms all day, any longer than it took to change a nappie. When Ginger led the womenfolk back at dusk, they found their men on the leather chairs and sofa in the salon; the television was murmuring quietly over the hearth. Their feet were all up and they were drowsing while Isabou and Randi peeped at each other from John and Alfred arms. Viola fetched a camera as quickly and quietly as she could. They snapped an entire series of photos from all around the little group before the twins squawked and their nannies woke up.
“Vigilance gentlemen! Vigilance!” Uma called satirically.
Henri said, “…Just closed my eyes for a moment…”
The ladies burst out into laughter. Ginger held the camera up, “Do we believe you, or our own eyes? Hmmm…”
John yawned, “How long have you been home?”
Vera replied, “Just long enough for some extensive photo-journalism…”
The Tygress glided over the lagoon noiselessly toward Burano without a single sail up. Burano, because even John had resigned himself to lace in the windows on the Anna, and no sails because they were running the Elcos. Neither of the partner couples had spent too much time on Burano in spite of both Uma and Danielle practically growing up in Venice. They did however know which shops and factories were run by relatives; so a guided tour required them to come along, to their delight.
“Do we have enough power to run the drives for a whole day if need be?” Vera asked directly.
Johnny replied, “If the breezes are strong enough to run the generators and the sun is out to charge from the panels, then yes; we could run the drives at three-quarter speed for a whole day. At half speed for longer…Isn’t that right? I didn’t misunderstand the explanation did I Alfred?”
“That’s what I heard.” Alfred rejoined.
Viola asked, “I know I’m not the architect Mama was, but it looked like having the panels on the split beam shrouds worked out nicely for the Anna. Were there any problems on the cruise back?”
Alfred smiled, “Not since we have double the necessary surface area. That is to say, since whichever side the sun is on, there are the requisite panels for full charging…and no, they didn’t hinder her sails in the least.”
Johnny added, “The electric winches are a dream. I’ve never raised the mainsail with one hand before!” Ginger was satisfied.
She did have a concern however. “What’s to keep the panels from being awfully beaten in a gale?”
Viola confided, “Nothing. If one or both sides go down, and the backup panels are hoisted and go the same way…we are back to manual labor all over again…if we were also tragically out of battery power. But the company has our patterns and can ship out replacements anywhere we are…almost…within a few days.”
Alfred shifted Isabou to his other arm, like a running back changing directions up-field. “We completely changed out our battery banks on Nils’s recommendation and installed an all new Optima-manufactured bank of them. We also added two other banks, one in each ama bow, to augment the established bank in the aka.”
Ginger asked, “And that’s another thing, I couldn’t tell that we even have new motors! I mean the beds in the amas are just the way they always have been…there are drive motors in the amas aren’t there?!”
John grinned broadly, and cradled Randi a little tighter. “That’s exactly what I said! These motors take up less space than our sail bags and kick out ninety percent efficiency compared to a diesel at thirty or so. And they were literally plug and play…once we installed the sealed bearings and shaft seals…amazing.”
The island’s piers and docks loomed up abruptly. Uma, Norah and Danielle hopped to the pier and caught the mooring lines. “Right this way folks. Tatting isn’t the only thing on our tour today…” Valeran and Henri were in on the surprise, but none of the others understood the comment.
They followed the girls over little bridges passed the kaleidoscope of colorful houses to a little shop tucked in an alley. Uma stood at the side of a screen door. “You’re expected…” she announced without giving them time to think. They filed into the front room of the house and looked around them at the undecorated walls of the space. There was a rustling and clamor down the hall. In a moment a little old woman emerged and grinned a toothless grin. Uma went to her and kissed her cheeks. She waved for them to follow her and they passed through a darkened hall toward the brightly lit door beyond. She pushed the door open and stood outside waiting for them to all come out. What met their eyes wasn’t merely a surprise…that would suggest it was somehow just unexpected…the sight before them wasn’t un-earthly, it was hyper-earthly.
Against the backdrop of a wall with a single raised gate through which one could clearly see the canal beyond, was the well-enclosed garden of the world…in miniature. Mountain ranges, forests, oceans, deserts, plains, cities, lakes, even clouds somehow were all assembled, woven into an intricate garden before their vision as if they were looking down from space on a flat Earth. Not a person spoke. Hana stepped toward the global garden and the old woman nodded and waved her hands in encouragement. It was all alive, every miniscule tree and near microscopic blade of grass. The seas had waves and lapped at their shores. It even appeared to be raining here and there.
Ginger whispered, “How can this be?” the others shook their heads slowly…incapable of comprehending the spectacle. Hana walked out and stood in equatorial Africa, with the jungles at her tiny feet.
Uma broke their revery. “This is the only reason for coming to Burano as far as Danielle and I are concerned. It’s absolutely private. No one but my mother’s family and closest friends have ever been allowed to visit…I convinced my great-grandmother…” she indicated the old woman, “…that you all were very special, and could appreciate this for what it is.”
Alfred found his voice. “And what is it?”
Danielle answered, “This is the world of course!”
Viola pursued, “But…how…why…”
Norah giggled, “Viola Belle is speechless?! Uma’s ancestor was a cartographer for the Doge of Venice at the height of their seafaring empire. When he left the court, he devoted his life and those of his sons and grandsons to turning his two-dimensional life’s work into a three-dimensional reality…A sort of private empire of his own…what started from Europe and Asia, just happened to grow to include the entire planet over generations. Cool, huh?!”
They had to sit down. Fortunately chairs surrounded the garden. Sitting and looking at it was a major pastime at this house. Uma cautioned, “Don’t try and figure it out…you’ll miss the real beauty of it…” and she went inside to help her great-grandmama with refreshments.
They each looked out from a different vantage point across the surface of the ‘Earth.’ In a little while they began trading seats; each person wanting to see this from as many points of view as could be afforded. Hana had left the planet and lay down at one place after another around the edges, looking across the ‘sky’ at the terrain of the world before her. Soon, one by one, the others followed her lead. As the morning passed, the sunlight tracked across the Earth and its face changed slightly as if a miniature sun were also tracking across its sky.
Uma explained later as they were walking along the streets and canals. “It’s a sort of family retirement center for the Favris. Only our eldest may actually live in the house, and only they are given the secrets of maintaining the garden. It’s construction and maintenance is our one family secret, and only those closest to the end of their lives are trusted with it…Go figure. It’s like having your own personal family Disneyland, but you only get to truly appreciate it when the wonder of childhood overtakes you in old age…”
Viola offered, “Perhaps it is actually because only the very oldest can fathom the wonders of it all…I feel nearly as young as spring after spending the morning in that place. Remarkable.”
Alfred and Vera concurred, “Humbling, truly humbling. And we aren’t easily subdued by masterpieces and great works…this as far exceeds anything in any museum or gallery as a laser is an improvement over a stone axe…”
12 August 94 ‘It’s a small world’ means more to me now. Should this journal ever enter the public domain, I promised that I would not disclose the location of a most amazing sight. So I can’t elaborate on our trip to buy lace other than to say: I have been to the roof of the world.
I am gradually regaining my energy and losing my girth after the twins’ birth. It took nearly nine months to amass; it will take some time to diminish. Such is life. Vera said that breast-feeding is actually a big part of that process…stored fat being recycled into lactating or something. All I have to say is that if all this weight has to come out my nipples, it should be gone in no time…Not to mention the fountains that appear when I just hear them squeak for food; those girls are hungry little beasties. It is a real advantage for me that I have worked so hard at submitting to forces greater than myself and learning greater patience.
Becka and Ivy have agreed to occupy the Inn as frequently as possible while we are away. Speaking of that, I asked everyone when was the earliest they thought we should consider departing for Sri Lanka. Without exception, the response was: ‘When the girls are ready…’ whatever that means. I’m sure they are smart, but I don’t think they are going to actually announce they’re primed and ready anytime soon. I suppose the subtext of all that is that it depends on when I say we’re ready to go. And what do I say? Perhaps a month after their actual due date…so mid-September. That will put us in the south seas during the colder period for the northern hemisphere; then we can head toward San Francisco next spring.
“A month to assemble everything needed for the year at sea before we reach Port Isabel in Texas…” Viola mused, “That’s plenty of lead-time. I do have one concern however: Should we consider inviting Norah along to assist with the society demands, or will she be more productive here in Venice?”
Alfred weighed the proposition. “Norah would ensure that Vera or myself was always available for the girls, but by the same token the society isn’t the all-hours occupation that piloting and crewing the Anna is…even with the new doodads we’ve installed.”
“That’s true,” Viola agreed.
Vera asked, “Aren’t the communications more stable from here than from at sea? Is Norah’s focus mainly on the coordination of on-the-ground activities?”
Viola nodded. Ginger suggested, “Our press partners are adept at keeping the Inn in good shape. And with Becka and Ivy around they will have a good backstop in case of urgencies that inevitably spring up…My concern is that Norah is twenty-ish and might look upon an extended cruise on the Anna with us as a jail sentence rather than an opportunity to see the world.”
John offered, “All I can say is that there is room enough here or on the Anna one way or the other. Couldn’t you just ask her? See if she has any vested interest in staying in Venice? Her sister is here; her folks are just an hour away…her friends, her pastimes and her hobbies revolve around living here or nearby. I would stay if I were her. But I am obviously not her.”
“You’re obviously not whom?” Norah asked as she passed through the kitchen to the refrigerator for a glass of milk.
Viola replied, “Not you. Norah? Would you give some thought to the next twelve to eighteen months and where you would most like to spend that time…I mean physically, where you will live?”
Norah looked a little taken aback. “I have options? Please elaborate…”
Alfred posited, “Working with the society means you can pretty much ‘work’ from anywhere. It’s only the odd occasion that would require your presence in some remote place around the world. Since we will be absent from Venice for at least twelve to eighteen months, we are naturally curious if you would prefer to remain here in Europe—at the Inn since it is your home too—or venture on the Anna wherever she sails? It’s actually completely up to you. We can make a case for your choosing either path; as I am sure you can also.”
Norah’s brow was knitted, and she chewed her lip, delicately of course. “Can I think about it and talk it over with Danielle? It’s kind of a big decision…”
Ginger soothed, “No hurry at all! Well unless taking a month to make a decision makes you feel rushed?”
Norah giggled, “No that’s loads of time to decide most anything. I’ll give it top priority, okay?”
Viola sighed, “Good by me. Thanks.” Norah went back up to the conservatory by way of the offices. A little while later Danielle went up to sit with her, presumably to begin the discussion of Norah’s near term residence options.
John turned the discussion to a new tack. “I’ve been wondering what to do with our things in the States. What to do with our vehicles? Should we let out the house; should we relocate our main residence? Do we even need a residence maintained anywhere in particular?”
Ginger agreed, “I’ve had the same thoughts. It may be because I haven’t had a stable at-home-life for years, but the best I can come up with is this: We are in a very real sense citizens of the world…” Alfred, Vera and Viola smiled knowingly. “…like the song says, ‘wherever he hung his hat was his home,’ that’s exactly how I feel about it. So if we want to maintain houses in different places as retreats if you will, then perhaps having them generate income is a good idea. It’s just that the vetting of tenants will consume time and necessitate our presence every so often. On the other hand, just sealing them up and hoping against hope that they aren’t tampered with would seem to be a gamble—Except that, as far as I know, but for the Berkeley houses and the Inn here, the other properties are a bit more removed from traffic: The Texas house is out in the country; the Tahoe house and cottage are off the beaten track. The plantation has the buffer of the surrounding estate; even the two houses in the ghetto several blocks over from here are relatively remote compared to this.”
John nodded throughout her deliberations. “All valid points; perhaps we should garage both cars in Texas down at the port, since that’s generally our entry point. Uncle Alfred, is the Pierce Arrow in a warehouse on the coast?”
Alfred chuckled, “You didn’t notice it because it was on blocks and under a canvas tarp in the same building you found the Anna. We’ve had that warehouse and residence since right after finding you. There is plenty of room for another two cars if you wish. May I say that there are no vehicles housed at the Berkeley homes, nor in Tahoe.”
John understood well. “Hmm, so if you and I flew from the Bay down to Texas then drove one or both of the cars back, maybe the Cruiser left in Tahoe and the Camaro in Berkeley, there would be transportation available at both ports of call.”
Ginger interjected, “We could all fly down. Vera and I can take the girls in the Cruiser and deal with your country house, while you and Alfred…”
John and Alfred interrupted, “…With Hana!”
She continued, “…take the Camaro to Berkeley and wait for us there or in Tahoe. What do ya think of that?!”
Vera was excited, “I haven’t seen Johnny’s house yet. Everyone else it seems has, but I was always taking care of something else when the opportunities arose. I vote for Ginger’s option!”
Alfred grinned, “You’ll really like his home. You may even be a little surprised to find how…uh…familiar it is…” he added enigmatically.
Ginger asked, “How so?”
Alfred only added, “Let’s just stipulate that John is every bit Vera’s nephew, and leave it at that for now.” Ginger and Vera shrugged.
John picked up the planning again. “Then do we need to put in at Port Isabel at all? Perhaps we should anticipate sailing directly from San Francisco to Panama to Venice?”
Ginger looked crestfallen, “But I want the girls to play in the Caribbean sometime…”
John quickly rephrased, “…sailing directly from the Caribbean to Venice…” Ginger brightened again.
Viola had remained quiet throughout the bulk of the dialogs, now she had to add, “I suppose this means I’ll have to doll myself up and meet with all our sponsors, associates and affiliates around the Bay area while you all are off having road trips…”
Ginger threw her arms around Viola’s neck, “Nonsense. We’ll go with you on that little chore and you must come with us to see John’s. Deal?”
Viola was mollified. “Deal. Johnny how old is your Land Cruiser?”
“It’s an ’87 model, why?” he answered.
“Nothing. Just that I’ve always wanted to have a Land Rover…ever since bouncing around Australia all those years ago. Anyway, there’s a grey market for the Defender in the States…and it has more room inside than the Toyota…” she looked up at the ceiling innocently.
John and Ginger exchanged inquiring looks. Ginger offered, “It’s not my decision. How attached are you to the Cruiser beast?”
John replied, “I only got it because I never liked jeeps…Okay, somebody…” he looked at Viola, “…make arrangements for selling the Cruiser and obtaining a Rover.” He inclined his head to Viola, “Is that acceptable, then?”
She was like a kid, “Oh boy I’m going to get a driver’s license!”
That brought a response instantly. Ginger exclaimed, “You’ve never had a license…never…anywhere?!”
Viola grinned, “There’s a first time for everything…”
Vera announced, “I’ll drive.” That was followed by Ginger insisting, “I’ll drive.” Viola stated firmly, “I will get a license. I’ll drive.”
John turned to Alfred, he conceded, “I don’t care who drives, but Hana’s a bit young yet.” Then he considered, “…I haven’t driven a sports car since driving the California mountains in my AC 427 Cobra…now that was a sports car to reckon with.”
John assured him, “The production Camaro isn’t even nearly in that league…” Alfred sighed.
Ginger’s ears perked up at the mention of her little teal baby. “For your information, Mr. Backhouse, my Camaro isn’t a production model. It’s identical, in every important way mechanically, to the ’93 Indy Pace Car…I just liked teal and had it painted.”
John and Alfred replied, “Oh.”
20 August 94 I’m falling down on the job here; I’ve only made three entries since the twentieth of July! What have I been doing?!
Hana has just a little bit of jealousy over her new sisters. It’s pretty subtle, like when she was helping me change diapers the other day and she dragged Isabou across the bed by her leg, or when she took away Randi’s supplemental bottle and declared that she was done. Or, my favorite, when she climbs into the lap of whoever is holding one of the twins at the time…that’s a classic. Thankfully she has a houseful of adults who adore her; so nothing really intense seems on the horizon. I make a point of including her in nearly all my activities: dressing, bathing, eating, checking in at the offices, fetching groceries, cooking, feeding and tending to the twins (where the friction occurs), and naturally playing the piano…and that’s just when she’s with me; she spends a lot of time with Vera and Viola, or with John and Alfred. I’m a little too close to the situation to see if she’s spoiled yet. I must try and get an objective observation from one of the partners.
We are officially shooting for the morning of Tuesday the thirteenth to leave for Colombo. The twins will be six weeks old. Norah is deciding whether to go along or not…Viola, Vera and I don’t think she will. I think she’ll stay with her sister and friends rather than go traipsing off with ‘old guys.’ Anyway, we have installed all the nursery and playroom stuff, rehung infant hammocks in both staterooms and the common rooms, installed a larger refrigerator, larger water tanks and less labor intense toilets. We have a space for the Hannah’s pump organ, and both Vera and Viola want to move some of the medical equipment to the Anna as well. While Hana’s room is officially the playroom, we have walked her through the yacht several times now pointing out all the different places she can move her hammock. John has promised her that he will move it every day if she wishes. No; she’s not spoiled…what was I thinking?
“Of course that’s alright. You can do your job from anywhere you wish…providing there’s phone and internet…” Viola comforted.
Norah sighed, “I would just like to begin putting down roots, even if I do travel I want to have a home to come back to, and this is home to me.”
“Understood. Speaking of travel, these are your travel documents and things…” Viola handed her a full leather pouch. She opened it and began to identify all of the contents. “These are your must-have items: UN Pass: under the NGO Branch—Department of Economic and Social Affairs, this is your Airline Card…just present it when you need a flight and you get the next available seat, on most carriers anyway. This is your Swedish passport…”
Norah balked, “I’m not Swedish!”
Viola soothed, “But the GFHAS is, you are a legate of the GFHAS, ipso facto you are a Swedish national…you may certainly hold on to your Italian passport, but I assure, it won’t get you where you’ll need to go. Okay. Next are your letters of authority: UN—DESO, GFHAS Official Status, by the way…in most places they treat you with diplomatic immunity, although we don’tactuallyhave that luxury…just something to keep in mind. And last but not least, your emergency money belt, which doesn’t stay in this pouch, it stays on you…”
Norah lifted the soft suede band, “Umph, why’s it so heavy?”
Viola suggested, “Open it.”
She found the well-concealed zipper and her eyes nearly popped out. “Holy Moly, This is gold!”
“Yes, the first universal currency…after plastic these days. Thirteen gold bullion coins from various mints. At my last check, an ounce was trading at around three hundred-eighty or so…it fluctuates…a lot…making that purse about five thousand US, give or take—today any way.” Viola explained. “That about does it. The computers and back-up hard drives you’re using now are your main tools after your satellite phone. Any questions?”
Norah looked at the contents of the pouch spread out across her desk. She thought for a moment, smiled and added facetiously, “No Walther PPK or Cyanide pill?”
Viola reached under her desktop and pulled out a Smith and Wesson Chiefs Special forty-five, “You mean like this? The Walther is pretty reliable, but a girl sometimes wants stopping power. I didn’t know you were a shooter…”
Norah replied tactfully, “I have shot a handgun before, but I don’t own one…I don’t actually have to have one do I?”
Viola chuckled, “No, and you wouldn’t get on a plane with one anyway…but you asked. We don’t joke about personnel or personal protection in the society. Our roots go back to antebellum south Asia and northern Europe; their was never a question about when and if to use deadly force…there weren’t too many options or alternatives in very many instances. And no; they certainly were not the ‘good old days’.”
“Then I don’t have any other questions right now. I didn’t mean to be flippant about the special agent stuff…” Norah added apologetically.
Viola patted her hand, “No harm done. As you think of things you’re uncertain of, or just plain don’t have a clue about…don’t hesitate to contact one of us. That’s what all these gadgets are for after all: constant and open communication. On a different topic, Ginger and the rest of us are a little too close to the situation to judge independently…Do you think Hana is spoiled, or maybe is becoming spoiled?”
Norah laughed, “I wasn’t expecting that. Is Hana spoiled or becoming spoiled? Man, I may not be the one to say…most of our family thought Danielle and I were terribly spoiled. Neither of us ever thought so…and we were raised pretty much like Hana’s being raised: we had the same cloud of adults around us, and the same selection of toys, and believe it or not we had a cat too.” Viola thanked her and went to find Vera.
“We have two ‘No’ votes on spoiling Hana: Norah and Danielle said they were called spoiled when they were her age, but they turned out alright.”
Vera nodded, “That’s essentially the story I got from the other three as well. Maybe the term is just overused…I don’t know.”
23 August 94 Hana asked a question yesterday that really made me stop and think: ‘What makes fire hot?’ At first blush I almost answered that it was hot because when something burns it gives off heat…but that was obviously circular and self-referent. What makes something burn; I wondered. There is a heat source, like say a magnifying glass in sunlight. There is something that is capable of burning…a material whose constituents include something that will react with air readily; the things I know about have carbon in them. And to continue burning, this substance will likely have to be capable of supporting the chain reactions that keep spreading through the material. So heat, fuel and air in the right combination makes a fire. Now why is is hot? There must be a word that describes a chemical reaction that gives off heat…That would be why fire is hot: heat-producing chemical chain reactions. Now how to relate that to Hana?
I realized I couldn’t because she doesn’t have a grasp yet of all the various materials and processes to which I would have to refer. Then a light went on in my head. That’s precisely why the average person, unfamiliar with their actual construction as a normal human being, isn’t able to readily comprehend so many of the concepts and explanations offered in response to simple-seeming questions about higher things. When I say man is a multiplicity, or that we waste energy through unnecessary actions and inactions and that is why we don’t have enough energy for grasping higher things…it sounds like ‘when something burns it gives off heat.’ All the words are familiar, but the understanding, the comprehension, the significance of the statements has no support structure from their knowledge and experience. ‘You can’t call a turtle!’ First: to know! In order to be able to be. Then finally to do. Thank you Hana.
“Exo-thermic! Thank you Auntie. If I’d studied latin perhaps I could have worked it out…or stayed awake during chemistry class…” Ginger was delighted, sort of.
Vera pondered, “What brought that on?”
Ginger explained, “Hana asked why fire was hot. And I realized that it took some thinking on my part to explain it to myself, then I realized she didn’t have the fundamental data to grasp that explanation.”
Vera smiled wanly, “Such is the state of man…”
“That’s what I came to at last also! People like to imagine what a wonder it would be to acquire higher states, but they simply have no grasp of the fundamental data to support their hair-brained notions of ‘enlightenment,’ or any of the functions that are attendant with those properties.” Ginger was certainly re-energized by the revelation. Viola and Alfred were holding the twins and pacing back and forth in hopes of pacifying them.
Alfred offered, “Like trying to reason with Randi here…” he looked at the un-happy squawking face in his arms, “Or expecting her to tell me what it is that has so disgruntled her…It’s just not going to happen. I can guess. I can try a variety of counter-measures. But there is a gap that just can’t be crossed yet.”
John was streamlining the forms for the Press, when Valeran asked him about the website. “Can you create a file that our site accesses to display our published volumes, so that when we add to it, the information is automatically displayed? I didn’t have the background necessary to understand everything my friend told me about doing it, but that’s what I got out of his explanation.”
John finished the task he was attempting and answered, “That’s a good idea, and I think I can do you one better. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before…” He began muttering as he began, “I can redirect our ‘finished’ log to be the source reference for that page on the website, and have it refresh automatically at intervals.” He opened the administration application and the log in question and did some cutting and pasting, added a formula here and there and made a test run of it. “And voila!” It worked. “Great suggestion Val…are you sure you haven’t done this sort of thing before?” John needled.
Valeran held up his hands, “No. Honestly, I don’t even completely know what I was suggesting…it just seemed logical.” They were joined by Danielle.
John announced, “Well, your main man just made the website more efficient.”
She cooed, almost sounding mocking, “Val, you are good. Thank you for following up…at last…on what you said you would do. And you really did it!”
Valeran really wanted to accept the praise but just couldn’t. “There is no way I could have done that. John just clicked a few keys and made it happen. All I did was ask a question as best I could from what Antony told me about it. And what do you mean at last?! It took me a while just to digest the information, and even then I still don’t really know what it took to do it.”
John asked Danielle, “Was there attitude in that praise? It sure sounded like it…”
Danielle backed down, “Uh, I guess it just came out that way. I didn’t mean to be mean about it.” She looked up into Val’s face, “Be patient with me, I’m a work in progress…” She offered that ‘aren’t I cute anyway’ look that John recognized Ginger used every now and then, or used to anyway.
Valeran relaxed, “Aren’t we all…” and kissed her forehead. She brightened easily.
She asked, “Now, Mr. Boss’s husband, are our submission forms easier to use? Can a ten year old fill one out now?”
John swiveled back away from the computer, “See for yourself. Just make believe you’re a ten year old…” She pulled up the form from the site and began to type in data. “How do you spell: humongous? That’s how big I want it…” she asked mischievously.
John sighed, “Maybe I should put in drop-down boxes with the only choices available…”
She grinned, “That’s the ticket. Boss did well to find you mister!”
John replied slyly, “Don’t I know it, and I remind her of that often.”
The crying downstairs finally died down as Hana came up to fetch her daddy for something. “Water plants…” she stated and pulled him toward the door. He shrugged to the partners and let himself be dragged to the greenhouse.
27 August 94 Becka emailed to say that she and Ivy would bring Alfred’s plane back in a week or so. That will give them time to get settled at the Inn for their extended stay, as well as give Alfred and John time to refit our launches to receive the Elco drives and Optima battery packs. The trick there is how to stow the systems when not installed. No doubt they will come up with an elegant solution that will also allow Vera, Viola or myself to easily set up either launch.
Hana is certainly coming up with thought-provoking questions these days. She asked John, ‘Why do some (plants) get big, and some are small?’ John came up with a clever way to respond. He told her that it was like her alphabet blocks, and he walked with her to find them. He knew how many As and Bs and so forth were in her several sets. He asked her to find all the As; she did and he asked her to stack them all up. There were a stack of three. He then had her do the same with each letter in turn. In the end there were some stacks of seven, some of two, some of five, etc. He said that plants were like that too: some have building blocks that make them tall, and some have building blocks that make them small. Then she asked why plants had different leaves. He had her stack blocks with different combinations of letters in their stacks, and said each plant was made up of different blocks. So the building blocks tell the plant how big or small to be and what it looks like. I’m glad she asked him.
Fortunately, he told me about that encounter before I was asked by Uma about how each of the partners, her included, had wrestled with the dilemma of their own progress, or seeming lack of it. ‘Why, if this an objective path, is there such a variance in our movement forward?’ I was really tempted to fetch Hana’s blocks…I told her that even if two people had a pile of wrong information, habits, or experiences of exactly the same composition and height—and they both worked tirelessly with the same efforts and over the same amount of time—No two people are alike. Even though the path is objective, the subjectivity of the person traveling the path leads them at different speeds and even along different routes to reach the same end. The Great Knowledge is like a compass; it keeps pointing in the same direction. Yet we each have obstacles in our inner topography that force us to adapt our course differently than another seeker’s course through their inner landscape. I think the blocks would have helped…
“I think that was my favorite episode.” Viola announced after ‘Trek Night.’
“That’s what you say at the end of every show!” John retorted.
“So?!” Viola answered unperturbed.
Ginger and John went for a walk. It was a clear night under a waning half moon. They held hands and strolled in silence for a little while just enjoying each other’s exclusive company and attention. “John,” Ginger asked, “Where do you think we’ll be a year from now? Will we ever know from one month to the next?”
John chuckled. He had been ruminating on that very thing since the twins surprised them. It was one thing to be footloose and fancy free with infants and toddlers in tow…as long as they could manage it…but it would be another thing entirely once the girls were old enough for school. Wouldn’t it? He responded, “I don’t know my love. The usual model is that we settle into a stable routine in a good neighborhood with good schools. Some one of us is always there for the girls when they are home, and nothing too drastic ever occurs to disturb that equilibrium…” and he became quiet for a moment.
Ginger interjected, “John, I don’t think the usual model is going to work out with us.”
He had to laugh then, “I think you’re right. Our family and lifestyle isn’t cut from a common pattern. But in fairness, we do have a rather stable routine whether shipboard or on land. Where ever we are is a good neighborhood and between the five of us, adults I mean, there are excellent educational opportunities. The girls have to really try to be alone to avoid being with one of us and we have our own equilibrium as a family…maybe not the usual or sedate ‘white picket fence’ variety, but it’s steady.”
Ginger pulled his hand over her head so that his arm was around her shoulders. “Yeah,” she sighed, “that suits me just fine. I grew up in the illusory ‘white picket fence’ world…Pass!” They walked on to the Misericordia and the docks where they sat for a little while on a bench and looked out at the Anna and the Tygress. She spoke up again, “John?”
“Yes dearest,” he replied easily.
“We have six homes available to us, spread over three continents. Right now we have two major enterprises to keep up with, essentially two yachts since the Ananke was passed to Alfred and Vera, three girls, one full-time cat and the ability to go and do whatever inspires us or is our obligation to do…”
“Yes dearest…” he encouraged.
“Well, I have been thinking. Can’t we set up little enterprises, like the Voyager offices here, near each of those homes? Spend as much time at each as necessary to bring the new partners up to speed, so to speak, like these five are…Then build from there? I mean the commission that Harry and Kat gave us didn’t really come with operating instructions or anything…just: present a new objective model for the development of humanity…” she fell quiet once more and he considered her words carefully.
“GingerKat?” he asked.
“Yes Jonibob?” she cooed softly.
“I am the luckiest man in the world, and our daughters are the most fortunate of women to have you in our lives. I hope we live up to your level of foresight, compassion and determination when we grow up…”
She turned her face up to his, “I hope we all grow up like our family has grown up. We are blessed,” and she kissed him. They sat back and watched the distant lights of Murano dance on the waters of the lagoon beyond the yachts. “Oops…” Ginger interrupted their revery. “I’m leaking…the twins may be ready for a feeding. I’ll be relieved when they settle into a sleep through the night routine at last.” They rose and strolled back toward the Inn. There was no hurry, Vera and Viola would have seen to the girls by now if they really were awake and hungry. “I can’t imagine our life ever becoming dull…I guess it could happen, but my mind can’t wrap itself around the concept.”
“I know exactly what you mean. Almost ten months married and we have three girls, have sailed halfway around the world, seen the winter in scandinavia, the spring and summer in Venice. We have begun training five brilliant young people four of whom have married under our roof, raised a business to second year levels in less than six months, and we haven’t missed a day of loving each other and knowing it. Banality flees from before our presence it would seem.”
She giggled, “Yeah, we’re potent that way…” they walked a little further, “I write in the journal all the time about how wonderful you are and how much I love you. I want you to hear it from me: You have made my life complete. I couldn’t have designed a better mate if I spent years perfecting the recipe…You are my hero and my only love. I will stand by you as the proudest woman alive, here in this world, in the next and the next.”
He stopped and embraced her passionately, “I think you really are taller…”
She giggled gleefully again and retorted, “I’m your own devoted Amazonian, I am.”
When they walked into the courtyard, back at the Inn once more, they could see the faint glow of warm light issuing from transoms and through curtains upstairs. They sat down next to the fountain basin, then stretched out to gaze up at the sky framed by the high walls around them. The tinkling sound of the fountain, echoed merrily from the tiled walls. They dozed off on the still almost warm marble beneath them and the lights of the Inn dimmed and went out one by one.
7 September 94 Just a little less than a week until we set sail for Colombo and another chapter of our lives will begin. This has been the busiest nine months of my life to date, and like the song says, ‘I think we’ve only just begun…’ Viola and Vera have both assured me that they couldn’t be happier being involved in the lives of our little family. Viola, at least, has certainly recovered thoroughly from the absence of her ‘sister’ and parents…if she hasn’t she’s a more amazing actress than any I have ever encountered. She said casually the other day how she felt as though she has been through a rite of passage…’finally kicked out of the nest,’ she said, ‘and at my age it’s about time too!’ I hadn’t thought of it like that, but she’s right. It must be very humbling to be in that position…wait a minute, that’s sort of the condition John and I are in as well…It is humbling and exciting at the same time.
Ivy and Becka will be here this evening. The ladies of the house are going out to meet them at the airfield…any excuse to take the girls out for a stroll before we are shipboard and the farthest we can stroll is doing laps around the bridge. Ivy has been reduced to infrequent courier trips for the EU-Sweden thingie. He still has documentation orders to fulfill now and again, but that’s about the extent of it for the time being. Alfred is going to invite him and Becka to become active with the society. I’m sure Norah will welcome someone to talk shop with in Viola’s absence. We’ll see.
The partners have formalized their commitments to Voyager press. Alfred constructed contracts that basically put into writing how their participation has evolved over the last six months. They will be responsible for bringing in any needed assistance and also for setting up compensation packages. He finally leveled with them about how their own salaries and such are actually determined. They were startled to learn that the lion’s share of the Voyager’s revenues are divided amongst them either in direct monthly paychecks or in quarterly bonuses…so it is really incumbent upon them to consider carefully before adding more staff. Danielle and Henri are the one’s with business sense. They’ll do fine on their own. Our family is still responsible for the executive administration of the venture, but our compensation is a flat twelve percent of annual gross revenues.
Hana will be eighteen months old about when we are in the middle of the Mediterranean. Maybe a little celebration will be in order. About Hana, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately: Hana Nasrin is the child of two very remarkable people and it really shows both in her attitude and her rather ‘advanced’ abilities for her age. Isabou and Randi are John and my progeny. Neither of us are near that level of personal accomplishment and higher function that are Alfred and Vera. I casually mentioned my concerns to Viola and she confided: ‘GingerKat! My great-aunts Titania and Hipolyta weren’t nearly so advanced as their older brother Henry. GrandmamaKat told Portia and I confidentially that Belle never once treated any of her children any differently and they all turned out just dandy.’ That was comforting…a little. It’s just that, well, I’ve kind of gotten used to Hana’s precociousness. I don’t want to harbor any disappointments about the twins. Vera told me flatly, ‘Any misgivings you may have now will fade like autumn leaves once these two girls begin to grow and learn about their environment. I absolutely promise you that you’ll have your hands too full keeping from comparing them to each other to even think about comparing them to Hana Nasrin.’ I think I see what she means.
“I think they will be beautiful around the balconies, and I’d be happy to put them up myself,” remarked Viola.
“I think the old planters that Belle had George made are still stored around here somewhere…let me see now, I’m sure I’ve seen them recently…” Alfred mused. He headed up to the top floor storage room and evidently planned to work his way down.
Vera and Ginger helped Viola pick out the sturdiest specimens from the greenhouse to transplant. “This should be right up Hana’s alley…all this playing in the dirt. I thought they’d be back by now; John said he was just picking up some last minute supplies,” wondered Ginger aloud as they carried potted plants to the courtyard.
Viola made the observation, “Supplies? I thought he was taking his little girl shopping for sailing clothes?”
Ginger’s face showed her lack of surprise, “That figures. One more chance to spoil that girl rotten…”
Vera chuckled, “Between those two men, it will be astounding if she doesn’t learn how to twist any man’s heart around her little finger…”
Viola looked over their choices. “Perhaps the colorful ones up on this end where the sun will make them glow almost all day…And the ivies one either side. What do you two think?”
“Good plan. Alfred?! Any luck yet?” Vera called aloft.
He hung his head over the high bannister, “I only just now determined which key fits this door…I really should have marked them better…” he muttered and the sound of creaking hinges reverberated through the courtyard causing the ladies to shiver involuntarily.
“Ooh…” Ginger shuddered, “fingernails on a blackboard…”
A muffled voice called out, “…and that’s not all I found…Come and see!”
They filed up the series of stairwells to the room in question. Thumpings and bumpings met their ears before they saw what he’d discovered. The planters were laying in a loose pile outside the door…they looked in.
“Oh my…” uttered Viola.
“Dear, why didn’t we see this before now?” Vera asked plainly.
“I suppose because it has been covered by all these drop cloths…I happened to dislodge them when I pulled out the planters…” replied Alfred.
Ginger stared at it, “What is it?”
Viola replied quietly, “That is a full scale working model of one of Enrico’s experiments: a fusion generator-engine…”
Ginger repeated, “What is it, in English?”
Alfred explained, “Enrico and Maria were applied physicists. He had taken his experiments to the next level when the Nazis took over…Mama told me, in a general way, what it was her father and mother were working on, but I really just passed it off as a daughter’s pride. Ginger what this is, if it actually works…”
Viola interrupted, “…Papa drew me a picture of it after we buried him. He and Enrico had put their heads together over the years to hash out some of Enrico’s attempts…after that he always referred to any drastic change as: ‘Enrico strikes again!’ Ooh! Here are his notebooks…” and she dislodged several bound volumes and a small cloud of dust.
Alfred continued, “If it is what it’s supposed to be, it is both a power source and a propulsion device. Neat trick.”
Viola carried the volumes out into better light. “I’ll see what I can glean from these. Cross your fingers…but your grandfather was a remarkably brilliant man; he wouldn’t have gone to the trouble to build a prototype without good reason and some glimmer of success.”
Alfred announced, “Well at least we found the planters. I’ll get John to help me clean them up.”
A voice from the courtyard called up, “Did someone say they needed a bath?” John and Hana had just returned and he was carrying a few packages.
Ginger called back, “Uncle Alfred found the planter boxes, but they need cleaning. Will you help him so we can get them mounted this afternoon?”
“In a jiffy…” he answered and took the packages to their apartments. “Hana has a booboo that she would like a band-aid on. She ran too fast for her feet and scraped her knee.”
Ginger turned back to Viola, “I don’t mean to be dense, but isn’t the consensus in the scientific community that fusion is decades from being viable?”
Viola replied evenly, “That’s what they say. It’s been a long while since I read through anything this technical, it’s going to take me a while to sort through this and see if ‘conventional wisdom’ on fusion is justified or not. But I will say this: if Enrico did make a breakthrough, and for what ever reason never followed up on this…and this is a working model, then we are sitting on the next leap forward for combating a whole host of ills besetting humanity.”
“So we shouldn’t advertise this find…is that it in a nutshell?” asked Ginger solemnly.
“More like don’t breathe a word of it…” insisted Viola, and she turned to Alfred and Vera, “Is that clear?” They drew their fingers across their mouths like closing zippers. “Wise,” Viola concluded.
“Now to more pressing matters,” Ginger said a little louder, “I have a booboo to attend to.”
The planters were cleaned, installed and re-planted before evening. Viola set out a buffet in the courtyard, while the other ladies went to the airfield to escort Ivy and Becka back to the Inn. She had just dragged out the ice chest in time for Ivy and Becka’s arrival. “Welcome home you two!” she announced as they came through the front doors.
“It’s good to be back,” Ivy responded. Becka headed straight for the buffet.
“I am starving!” she announced honestly.
Ivy remarked, “I’m not pregnant and I am as hungry all the time as she is…you don’t suppose it’s sympathetic hunger…like sympathetic morning sickness, contractions and all the rest do you?”
Vera and Viola laughed, “Unlikely. But cute…”
The partners kept the Johannsons in constant conversation through dinner and afterwards as they helped clean up. The topics ranged from work, to music and films, to marriage struggles and babies. Ginger said before she retired for the night, “We’ll go over the particulars for the Inn in the morning…you probably already know most of it, but just to ease my mind I’d like to review it anyway.” Becka nodded and returned to her conversation. The ‘older folks’ went to bed knowing they had a busy day in the morning with only two days until their chosen departure window.
While Ginger ran over her lists with Ivy, Becka and the partners, the others shuttled the remaining supplies and baggage to the Anna. Viola was careful to install their curious find from the day before into a small crate and loaded it into her own cabin in the starboard ama, along with the notebooks and her laptops. Alfred explained to John the significant discovery they’d made while he was out. John was as skeptical as any of them about its viability, but accepted the weight of its importance and agreed to keep mum on the issue. His thoughts ran in a different direction from the others. “Have you read up on composites and nano-technology?” he asked Alfred.
His uncle replied casually, “Only what is newsworthy on the internet, why?”
“Only that if this device is what Enrico designed it to be, I may have some very radical refitting suggestions for the Hannah Belle…” and he left off on that enigmatic assertion.
One last day remained before the Anna carried them to the south seas. All the preparations had been made; all the last minute details had been sorted out. Ginger called for a holiday to inaugurate the transition. That was met with enthusiasm all around and they followed her lead in packing a picnic lunch and headed to the Lido for a relaxing day at the beach. It was Becka’s turn now to wish she had a kaftan and broad-rimmed hat. Vera couldn’t help repeatedly admiring how quickly Ginger had shed the weight from the twins. The others spared no efforts of appreciation for her accomplishment as well; Ginger was the most complimented woman on the sands that day. Uma was next after Ginger. No one imagined the once frumpy tomboy would have blossomed into a femme fatale so completely. She wore her swimsuit, which wasn’t much in the way of cover, as if it were an evening gown. She was elegance personified. Her transformation just made Henri that much more proud of his wife.
Norah and Danielle intentionally set their hair, swimsuits and sunglasses to be as identical as they could manage. Val wasn’t fooled by the attempt for a second. The others however made the repeated mistake of calling one or the other of them by the wrong name all day. That made the efforts they’d made to prepare the ruse satisfying to say the least. John and Alfred did some surf fishing, hoping to land enough for dinner. The twins and Hana made the rounds of being entertained or held by everyone at some time or other during the day.
The experience on the beach that day was a celebration of their unity and friendship. It was a most apt and fitting way to say farewell to Venice for the foreseeable future. That evening, after a tasty fish dinner, there were promises of correspondence, exchanges of pictures and embraces to cap off a marvelous holiday. They were aboard the Anna before the first rays of the sun sparkled across the lagoon, and they were back at sea at last.
Viola labored over Enrico’s notebooks and wasn’t her usual helpful self as a crew mate or nanny through the first week of their voyage. As they passed the horn of Africa, Ginger became concerned and carefully plied her with questions about her single-minded focus on the concepts and equations the physicist had left behind. That the artifact might be a ‘working’ model had yet to be determined. If it was, then this was a breakthrough of inconceivable proportions. If it wasn’t…Well that’s what Viola finally conceded, “I know I’m rusty on a lot of this, but I think I owe it to myself and everybody to at least find out: Why did he abandon it to a storage room?”
Ginger sympathized, “Maybe he just lacked the technology? The world has come a long way in just thirty years…”
Viola sighed, “I don’t know, the principles are all here; the processes don’t require exotic elements or materials. It’s just an enigma. The thing that puzzles me is not: how could it work, but: why isn’t it working?”
Ginger said wistfully, “If it was like my first computer, maybe you have to reboot it…” There was a silence; Viola just stared at the space between them as if she hadn’t even heard her.
Viola dashed down to retrieve one of the only notebooks she hadn’t pored over to as great a degree. She was flipping pages as she came back up to the bridge. Alfred came in from the opposite side after playing with Hana and asked, “At least you’re setting an excellent example of studiousness for our oldest girl.” Viola didn’t look up. He added, “But perhaps a bit more sociability is in order. All work and no play…”
Viola announced excitedly, “Ginger’s a genius.” Alfred nodded, Ginger shrugged and they waited for Viola to explain. “I just need to determine what its start-up voltage is…it’s not the heat that people think of with fusion, Enrico’s device just needs the specific charge required to ‘boot’ the process! A bolt of lightning can heat up the air around it to three times the temperature at the surface of the sun—that’s what ‘fusion’ efforts have always centered around. Not this baby…” She held up the schematic of the prototype to explain. “You see this armature here? And this one right here? It didn’t make any sense that this one also led to the reaction chamber…what was the point? Now I get it! It’s the ‘starter motor’ for the device…” She rushed on ahead, “…In order to allow the reactions to continue without activating the propulsion, it would build up too much pressure. I already got that far. That’s why these two terminals and sockets are installed and then there are the fins—heat exchangers; they take off the energy in a stepped process to use it for simple power generation…uh, run a turbine or whatever.” She was nearly incoherent as she muttered on and on about how everything functioned, most of which, were it intelligible in the first place, would have gone over her audience’s head anyway.
Ginger offered, “So what can we use?”
Viola looked blankly up at her. “What I am trying to explain is that we have to haveall these other systems in place before we light it up for real…Enrico designed this thing as a part of a larger more comprehensive machine…or rather organism, in the sense of multiple processes functioning through an elaborate assembly of interdependent parts. This is the heart of the beast, if you will.”
Alfred tried to wrap his mind around what she was suggesting, “So…even if you got this thing humming along…you couldn’t do anything with it without the rest of it’s ‘body’?”
“Essentially: yes, and no…” answered Viola flatly. “That’s why I rushed off just now to fetch this other notebook. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of his work detailed in all the notes I’ve been studying…until now that is. Look here,” and she held up the looseleaf pages open to an odd flow diagram, “See?” The others shook their heads pitifully unable to see the implications she was convinced were self-evident. She chuckled, “Well, here…” she pointed to a juncture in the process chart, “this is our little artifact. And here, here and here are the major systems that draw from it directly. Everything else is predicated on indirect, or ancillary use of the products of those systems…So, yes it is designed to be the core of the structure…but: no, it can function somewhat independently.”
Vera carried in the twins one in each arm, followed by Hana, and they settled on the sofa. Ginger reached and held Randi. She tried to make better sense of what Viola had just said, “So it’s like us. We take in ‘foods’ and our body redirects the products of that nutrition to power all our systems. That seems straight-forward enough. So what does the diagram depict…what sort of organism are we talking about here?”
Vera asked Viola, “You figured something out at last? Does this mean you’ll be spending less time alone and quiet now?”
Viola smiled, “Sorry, I suppose I haven’t been very good company. Anyway, to answer your question GingerKat,” and she looked at each of them in turn. “The best I can explain all these otherwise odd uses of the basic outputs is that it’s a self-contained something…”
Alfred hazarded, “Like a ship?”
Viola made an ambiguous expression on her face. “Uh, more like an underwater ship, or…well, more likely…just going on these functions here,” and she indicated a few more subsystems on the diagram. “An aero-space ship.”
Silence greeted her assessment. She quickly added, “I mean look; why else would a vessel need magnetic shielding, or these oddly arrayed thruster positions, let alone the atmosphere exchangers and waste recycling. If it were just a submarine, what would be the point of some of this stuff…And the really telling indication is the storage design for fuels that aren’t for the fusion reactions at all, and are really huge. I’m pretty sure they’re for…well…a secondary propulsion system for dealing with the drag of an atmosphere…rocketry.”
Alfred took the bait, “What kind of fuels are we talking here?”
Viola flipped a couple pages, “We have choices here: a hybrid nitrous oxide and a solid butyl mass reaction engine, or an electric helium plasma engine. It’s nothing short of inspired…either way, the reactions can be controlled, and offer some serious thrust, a hell of a lot more than needed for scooting around in the ocean. It’s scalable too. The possibilities available…Enrico didn’t give up on this device,” she realized aloud, “…he likely gave up trying to limit it’s viable applications.”
Ginger sat with her mind racing. When she did speak at last, it wasn’t what anyone would have expected. “John has already been considering rebuilding the Hannah Belle, he’ll just have to make it space-worthy as well as air and sea-worthy.” And she cooed to her daughters, “Do you want to go live on the moon sweethearts? Papa’s going to build you a space yacht.”
The room was suddenly quiet and the stillness was broken by John calling from the helm, “We’ve got company!” Alfred and Viola went to the companionway and looked out in the direction John was looking. Alfred asked Viola quietly, “Were you expecting guests?”
Viola’s expression became serious, “Judging by their course and speed, I’d say they weren’t planning on a formal invitation…” aloud to John she called, “What are we making? Twenty knots?” He nodded. “We should be four hundred miles off the nearest land…” She looked forward and up at the mainsail, then gauged the height of the seas. “Turn to thirty degrees east-southeast. Alfred, get both foresails full and trim ’em tight. That go-fast boat can’t do better than twenty-four knots in these seas for more than half an hour before they won’t have fuel to get back to land…provided they don’t have a larger ship over the horizon…”
John called, “Coming about!” The intercepting boat made course to cut them off from their new course. Alfred had the foresails fully unfurled and made them taut. Viola trimmed the main to match and looked over her shoulder. “John, we need better than twenty-five knots in three minutes or you’re going to get up close and personal with armed pirates.”
John merely nodded and replied, “Twenty-two and climbing. Better breakout our ‘No Soliciting’ gear…Alfred and I have made a couple interesting purchases in the last year…” She dashed below and Alfred followed her after helping to carry the girls below.
Viola opened the arms locker and whistled. “What were you two expecting, a war zone?”
Alfred grinned wolfishly, “Just been reading the news lately and preparing appropriately…You take the sniper rifle, I’ll handle the RPG…”
Viola climbed up on top of the bridge and settled into a prone position, and smiled as she sighted through the very powerful scope at the approaching vessel. She called, “Five plus the pilot…”
Alfred set up inside the bridge and called Vera to come up and spot for him. She already had the powerful 7×50 5mil reticle Zeiss in her hand when she came up. “What’s their speed? Are they closing quickly or slowly?”
John announced, “Twenty-nine knots, and they’re still closing the gap.”
Viola related, “They’re armed with automatic rifles…I don’t see any other weapons yet. Alfred, do you have enough of those grenades to send one across their bow…kind of close, if you can manage it?”
Alfred answered, “Do they have glasses on us yet?” Viola affirmed they did. “I can do you one better then…” and he stood out on the deck in plain sight and leveled the rocket launcher at the pirates.
Viola hooted, “Well that started a heated debate amongst the ranks. I think they recognize your new toy…”
Vera added, “It may be that the pilot of the boat is the owner as well, he doesn’t appear to be interested in continuing pursuit…Oops.”
Alfred asked, “What?! Oops?”
Vera explained, “He just got slapped by the guy without a rifle in his hands…New pilot. They’re opening up the throttle.”
Viola laughed, “They’ll be sorry…Watch what happens when an amateur pushes a powerful motorboat into six to seven foot seas…” Almost before she’d finished saying ‘six to seven foot seas,’ the boat launched into the air and landed nearly on its side. “Ooh, that’s gotta hurt!” she winced at the sight.
Vera scanned the waters in three hundred and sixty degrees around them. “Alright. Minor crisis averted. The seas ahead and around us are vacant…no other pursuit identified.” Alfred dismantled his toy and re-packed it; Viola slipped on the safety and unloaded.
John asked, “Will someone let Ginger know that all’s clear again, please. I’m going to hold course and speed for a while longer…”
“Good call.” Viola commented as she went back into the bridge. Alfred stowed their ‘tools’ in a lazarette in the bridge in order to shorten their response time should a similar situation arise. Vera handed him the spotting binoculars as well. Viola went with Vera below; she went to the weapons locker while Vera went to the playroom to inform Ginger.
She opened the cabin door and giggled. Both Ginger and Hana had on sunglasses and were on the ‘bridge of the Enterprise’ which was drawn on the walls. Boobou and Randi were in what she guessed could only be the communications and science stations. Ginger was just announcing a new course when Vera stuck her head into the room. Instantly Ginger called, “Intruder alert, Intruder alert…all hands to stations. Identify yourself!”
Vera chuckled, “Vulcan Emissary Vera, Captain Kat…the Romulan pirates have been neutralized sir…”
GingerKat called for the crew to ‘stand down the alert’ and “resume ship’s business: exploring the new world’s and new civilizations where no one has gone before…” her voice rose dramatically and Hana bounced on the bed excitedly.
Vera said, “I’m going to the galley and prepare the victory feast…”
Hana dashed to the door to go and ‘help,’ Ginger gathered up the twins and followed after as well. Viola was just locking down the cabinet and asked Alfred what other little toys had he and John included in their ‘refitting adventures.’
“We didn’t really expect to need them so soon…or at all, but…” and he led the ladies out to the starboard ama deck and unlashed the Agate from her berth. He raised and propped up the launch. “…And under here…” he indicated as he lifted away a canvas covering something that wasn’t under the launch before. “Ladies, this is Ma Deuce, M2 HB fifty caliber, rigid mount…Viola you probably noticed the bolted straps on the ceiling above your bed…”
She looked back at him sheepishly, “I’ve had my head buried in Enrico’s notebooks since we came aboard…I haven’t even noticed yet. I must be slipping at last.”
He shrugged and continued, “…Effective range just over two thousand yards—over a mile, maximum range is about seven thousand yards—about four miles. Her sister is mounted under the Black Pearl over there. Here are her ammo boxes; we have additional boxes under the bridge berths. On slow fire she puts out forty rounds per minute, so we have about ten minutes of constant slow fire lashed down here and with her sister…another half hour per girl is in storage.” He tied the canvas cover back down and re-secured the launch in its berth.
The ladies looked between their two men. Ginger asked, “And when were you going to mention these pea-shooters were aboard? When were you going to give us a chance to practice with them? Speaking of practice…What other arms should I qualify with…” she looked at Viola and Vera, “These ladies are no doubt certified on sherman tanks and anti-aircraft guns…I can handle a knife, a long range rifle or machine pistol…that’s about it. So?”
Alfred wasn’t getting any help from Johnny, who was studiously gazing at his instruments and the sails…anywhere but at him. Alfred announced, “Alright. Vera, Auntie, would you two take care of our little angels after an early dinner? Ginger and I will run through a crash course in heavy weapons handling. Will that be acceptable?” he asked Ginger.
She smiled broadly, “Oh goody! I get to blow stuff up!”
Johnny couldn’t hide his grin. Amongst their family present, he was alone in knowing just how much Ginger really liked to shoot things and make things go boom, and how detached she could be wielding a blade with the intent to do harm. He remarked facetiously, “Kat, I’m sorry we didn’t get any nuclear devices for you…” She looked genuinely disappointed. Vera and Alfred were beginning to question all that they were sure they knew about these two. First the space yacht, now big guns…they might have signed up for more than they anticipated. Too late now.
Even with the girls below and on the opposite side of the yacht, it sounded like a small scale war was being fought outside. Ginger was only disappointed that dusk and the gathering darkness put an end to her enjoyment of the new toys. She asked, “Johnny, don’t you want to play with them?” as she came in and put away the RPG.
He looked back at her as bravely as he could manage, “I sorta got to play with them all when we made the purchases…except for the RPG…I mean. The rockets aren’t the cheapest doodads to take to a shooting range…”
Hana and the twins were all in hammocks dangling around the bridge and slightly swaying with the subtle motion of the yacht. John piloted from the bridge so he could participate in the discussion. Viola laid out clearly what they knew so far about their artifact discovery. Ginger asked John about the composite rebuild he had contemplated for the Hannah Belle. He explained that he’d also been thinking along the lines of not just an ocean going vessel, but an aero-space ship.
“So, it’s synchronicity of an order of magnitude that y’all came across Enrico’s toys when you did.”
Viola asked, a little puzzled, “But why had you been thinking of converting the Hannah to a plane or spaceship in the first place?”
John smiled more than a little embarrassed at admitting, “Ginger, don’t you think the sister ships all look like something more out of Star Trek or Star Wars than a sailing magazine?” She giggled, and it was infectious.
“They surely look as at home in the sky or space as they do skimming the seas…” she admitted happily.
Alfred mused aloud, “Now if we could attain a high enough altitude before having to deploy the rocket engine, we wouldn’t waste so much energy just getting off the ground, like every single example I know of: huge solid fuel rocket engines which expend the bulk of their fuel just going sub-orbital and dropping off the vehicle to lighten the load…Hence staged rockets.”
Viola inserted, “His notes don’t mention anything about reaching escape velocity…”
Alfred looked at her askance, “Hmm, that’s odd…”
John commented, “If this doohicky does generate electrical power, and we don’t have to rely on battery banks alone, we won’t seriously deform the Hannah’s beautifully elegant lines.”
Viola insisted, “Thank you for that consideration up front! I wouldn’t want to be the wet rag on the project just because I thought the design turned her into an ugly mutant! Which you had better not do to her…”
John soothed, “It’s her elegance that inspired the notion to begin with…I wouldn’t…I couldn’t…”
Up until then Ginger had simply enjoyed the romance of the notion, now she thought it might be a good time to mention the elephant in the room, “We need to breathe, eat, not burn up in the radiation of stellar space, navigate, refuel, have stable communications, an organized infrastructure for disseminating our advances for general use, and last but not least: a reason for doing this.” That was a conversation stopper.
Vera spoke up first. “I’m with Ginger. Is it enough that: ‘we might possibly can do this thing’ a sufficient reason to actually do it? I’m all for putting a working electrical generation device in every corner of the globe now lacking such basic necessities. And I am certain that we are, as a family, uniquely capable of making that happen. I am also sure that if we pour ourselves into this venture like Viola has begun to do with the research on the fusion device, we will acquire the required skills and knowledge we are presently lacking to see this through. The issue that stumps me is this: Is it incumbent upon us to be the ones to lead the way into a commercial venture that will likely spur an entire global industry to make the first steps toward what could easily become the exploitation of everything within reach of this planet…perhaps beyond. Is mankind mature enough to handle this challenge and somehow avoid the gross mistakes of the past?”
That prompted another round of silence. Viola’s voice was unusually soft, even a little timid, “GingerKat, I have spent my life pursuing the dreams and aims of my parents. It was and still is a noble and wholly worthwhile calling. What I haven’t done yet for myself is to set off on my own quest, my own noble calling if you will. The movement of mankind into space, providing the wherewithal and the vision to ‘lead the way’ as Vera put it, is just what I’ve always dreamed of—that something which would summon up in me everything I can throw at the challenge. I, for one, am committed to tackling the real concerns you have made clear.”
Alfred had been curious about the practical aspects of the notion but still skeptical of actually pulling it off. After hearing Viola admit to her own personally held hopes and dreams he felt compelled to add, “It has been this family’s core occupation for the last near century to support the aspirations and commitments of the crew of the Hannah Belle. For Vera and myself that was interrupted for a number of years by the ordeal of our lost children, whom we have not only brought back into the fold, but who have given new life and purpose to this family.” John and Ginger bowed their heads as a solemn acknowledgement of those efforts.
Alfred took a deep breath and continued, “Like Vera, I can’t conscience putting our family into any potential hazard if it’s avoidable. That it may be inevitable that mankind reach for the stars, I won’t argue…I have seen it coming…but GingerKat the point is: we are the most capable of effectively ‘leading the way.’ You are absolutely correct that it is foolhardy to embark on such a venture as this without making absolutely certain that it will be no more perilous than the sea voyages we currently take for granted as being safe—this morning’s ‘distraction’ included.” He gazed into his wife’s eyes and saw what he’d hoped to see… “We’ll commit ourselves to insuring this adventure is no different.” Vera nodded with a smile of pride for him, and a heart that near burst with pride for her family who were considering such a daring business as off-planet migration.
She had to say, “Good. Now that that’s understood, Ginger would you please give some thought to how all our efforts can best be directed toward achieving this aim?”
Ginger gulped; all their eyes were upon her, waiting. ‘Me?!’ she thought, ‘I know about as much about going to space as Hana does…why should I be the one to direct this endeavor?’ Aloud she said, “Johnny would you sit down with Auntie Viola and work out the design constraints for your planned rebuild? Although truth be told, I’m unsure just how much of the Hannah can be incorporated…Uncle Alfred, would you please brush up on the current technologies developing closed loop systems for air, water and food production? Auntie Vera, would you please determine what we will need to avoid the nasties of radiation, extended weightlessness, and whatever else being outside our atmosphere and magnetosphere might entail medically?” She took a deep breath, “I’ll test the waters with our family in Gotland over implementing distribution, and see if Ivy and Becka want in on this goose chase. So, everyone make sure our voyaging preparations will accommodate seven adults and four children, just in case.” She thought, ‘I know I’m leaving something out…something important…Oh!’
“By the time we get to Colombo I’d like to put together a phased timeline and a budget…so would you all try to get far enough along in your tasks to give me some sort of ballpark projections by then?”
As if they had just awakened from a dream that suddenly became real, a thrilling wave of confidence and resolution washed through them. In the last few minutes they had gone from ‘perhaps’ to purpose and were instantly on firm ground at last. Vera whispered to her, “Thank you boss…” Ginger’s heart leapt in her chest and she felt as if she was, for the first time in her life, understanding what was: destiny.
Hana wiggled in her hammock and it swung a little for a moment. Randi and Boobou yawned and continued to sleep. Ginger looked from one to the next of her girls. ‘Ladies, the direction of your lives just took a turn for the North Star…We couldn’t bequeath you anything greater than the challenge of a lifetime.’ Softly she sang, “Hush little babies don’t you cry…Daddy’s gonna build you a rocketship, if that rocketship don’t fly, Daddy’s gonna give it another try…”
She went to relieve John, and instead of the using the bridge helm, she stood out on the aft pulpit looking across the sea, and up at the stars. The wind had died down to seven or eight knots, the sails were still full and the Anna’s wake sparkled in the light of the moon and stars above. Her heart was still pounding, her mind raced through possibilities and contingencies she had never thought to consider before. ‘I wonder if Harry and MamaKat knew what they were setting this family up for when they turned it over to John and me?’ She looked up over her shoulder to the western sky and picked out the two stars that she now always thought of as Harry and his green-eyed Kat…they winked back at her and she smiled the smile of the victorious.
16 Sept 94 I only have a dozen or so pages left in this journal. I’ll get another as soon as possible. In the meantime, I should bring this up to the present as best I can. Becka and Ivy are comfortably settled at the Inn with our partners. Each of our young proteges are delighted to hear about the work from other perspectives than our own…Understandable, I suppose, but they’re still going to hear the same knowledge…just from two people who took different paths reaching it. During our last couple days in Venice, while we girls were trying to spruce up the courtyard with flower boxes on the balconies, Viola made a startling discovery in one of our storage rooms. It seems, for some reason we haven’t yet ascertained, Enrico the applied physicist, Alfred’s maternal grandfather, left an experimental device behind at the Inn. He’s not alive to ask about it, so Viola spent the better part of two weeks delving into his notebooks for some answers. The device is for producing energy…a truly economical generator. But that’s not the end of the tale: Enrico’s notes include diagrams and charts for how he envisioned his little discovery should be used. Naturally we want to be faithful to his memory, but we will also likely make the best use of it for the most people as well.
That being said, here’s the deal: John was planning on rebuilding the Hannah Belle with Viola’s permission. Now those designs have taken a turn for the extraordinary. Once some scale models prove the feasibility of his designs, and we determine the viability of a few other considerations, and after I am convinced this venture will be as safe as sailing the seas with our children—then, and only then, will we build a space yacht. That’s right: A space ship. And just who do you think is supposed to regulate and monitor all this activity? That’s right again: Ginger-girl.
Let me offer just a little more background to show how strange a choice my family is making. When the Anna passed well by the horn of Africa several days ago, we were chased by pirates. What Viola called a ‘go-fast’ boat came up fast off our port from well behind us. John changed course to make full use of what wind we had to work with, and I took the girls below to the playroom. We played, while above our heads our family dissuaded the pirates from pursuing their interest in us. They told me later all about it, but while the girls and I were below, all I knew was that we were being threatened. I made up my mind rather quickly that not only would I protect my children, but I had to survive as well…these girls are precocious, but there’s no way they are going to sail the Anna at their age: one toddler and two infants. I fetched a machine pistol from the weapons locker, gathered up all the magazines that fit it and loaded them. Then I resolved that if it came to it, I would make a stand outside the nursery door. So the girls and I played Star Trek and I put the twins as far up into the forward part of the cabin I could, bundled them with pillows and explained to Hana that they were alien ambassadors whom we were supposed to deliver to peace talks on a faraway planet. Then I bundled Hana up in pillows and blankets, explaining that she was the security chief and this was her uniform. After that we decorated our ‘bridge’ and re-enacted one of the latest episodes.
All the while, I kept my every word and gesture just what it would be if we were just having fun on a rainy day. I was surprised too that I was so remarkably calm. I suppose because I had already resolved for myself what I would do should it become necessary, I hadn’t a care in the world. As I said earlier, our family took care of it. Auntie Vera came down to give us the all clear signal and we wound up our little ‘game.’ It was when I went up to the bridge that I found out just how thorough Alfred and John had been in outfitting the Anna for this voyage. We have some serious firepower! and didn’t need to fire a single shot to deal with our first little crisis. That’s what I’m trying to get at with this long-ish story: I was prepared to be the last woman standing to protect my children and see them to safety. For all I knew the pirates overtook us, dispatched my family with silenced weapons, and the next sounds I was going to hear were uninvited footsteps coming down the companionway to the port ama. Thankfully it was ‘Vulcan Ambassador Vera’ instead. But that experience was a game-changer for me and for my family’s perceptions of me—John has known all along, but how do you tell your uncle and aunts that your wife has ice water running through her veins. Oh, by the way, I got to play with all the cool stuff that goes bang and boom…it was like being a girl again on a trip with Harvey and his buddies—shoot at whatever wasn’t one of us—very nostalgic.
“What if we start by making the atmospheric propulsion systems functional…you know tooling around in it like a regular airplane…then make the addition of the rocket engine once the prototype has been tested?” Viola suggested. John was trying to establish milestones and set up a phased project schedule to meet Ginger’s requests.
“That suits me just fine. Please walk me through the the complete systems integration again…but this time let me make diagrams to get it clear in my head…”
Viola didn’t mind the review in the least. Every time she repeated the outline and descriptions she gained new insights into why Enrico had left the project abandoned in the storage room of the Inn, which was the ongoing curiosity about the entire situation. She began, “You might as well draw a mockup of your rebuild for the Hannah so that we can establish weight, space and shielding parameters at the same time…”
He sketched in both a top view and a side view of the new ship. “Okay, let’s say we install five of these devices, four at the corners of the ship—at the ends of the amas—and the one specified to be in the center of the vessel…” He drew in the little modules. “Next, the water tanks, heat exchangers, and turbine/generators attendant to each one.” He replicated the units at each point allowing for the approximate space requirements.
She looked at the diagram and nodded, “Good. Better draw in the battery banks for excess storage of energy…the backups. Now position the four electric lifters and the two turbofans and their fuel tanks.” He sketched in the locations and arrangements of the projected ‘airplane’ propulsion systems.
He tabulated the additional weight after he accommodated the space requirements. “…That’s another eight hundred pounds. Viola? So far, I’m not convinced that we’ll need two turbofans…the thrust from just one, coupled with the lifters should be more than sufficient for flight…” he queried.
“Draw them in anyway. We don’t know yet that their specifications and our calculations have really taken into account the actual requirements of operation in near vacuum, and these notes are emphatic about this point. Just humor me, please…” He did as she asked. She was still uncertain of Enrico’s insistence that the ‘air-breathing’ engines were in any way practical for use outside of earth’s atmosphere, but his design notes said so…
She made a mental note to review his working diary for clues and continued, “Now we need the control systems on the bridge, and all the usual gadgetry we carry now.” John drew in those additions and the pods for the retractable landing gear. “Assign space for cabin pressurization equipment and tanks. Okay, we’re probably up well over two tons in equipment by now, then including the composite shell and decks of the ship itself…”
He glanced between the equipment manifests, with weight and space specs and his drawing thus far. He made a few quick tabulations and smiled, “Actually, it’s only three thousand nine hundred pounds so far…” Viola returned his smile.
“Alright, you draw in the lockers, galley, storage and sleeping arrangements and I’ll try and give you an estimate of space and weight for these supplemental atmospheric collection tanks…” She began calculating the volumes and materials from both Enrico’s notebooks and from the manufacturer’s data sheets they’d just received. They sat silently working out their own solutions until John completed his bit and went to get something to drink. When he returned Viola was biting the end of her pencil.
“If these are correct, and I think they have to be, we actually need a smaller volume space since these compression ratios aren’t what I thought they were going to be, but we need to keep the larger space available for the hybrid drive…” She mused out loud, “…What I still don’t understand is which device is actually the workable propulsion unit. Did you already draw that into the design?”
He balked, “I’ve left a lot of room for it and straight fuel weights, but you haven’t given me even the approximate dimensions yet…”
She pulled out a recent data sheet, “Figure ten feet long and about four feet wide, not including any shielding. That will add another five hundred pounds or so…the power supplies are not included since those are already accounted for in different areas of the ship.” She drew in the linkages, piping and such. They stood back and looked it over.
Viola mused aloud, “I suppose I’ll ultimately need to calculate the weight allowances and space requirements for the equipment we’ll need at the lunar surface…but that’s several phases away from this beginning.” John agreed whole-heartedly.
“Alright, I think we’ll be able to break this down into discreet stages and steps over the next few days. I wonder how Alfred and Vera are coming with their investigations?” he asked. “I have hardly even seen Ginger and the girls, let alone the rest of our family…” Viola giggled.
“That’s the syndrome I was in when we left Venice. I think I see a light at the end of the tunnel now that so much of this has been hashed out in practical terms. I’m still amazed at the supreme comprehensive nature of Enrico’s vision…”
John rubbed his chin. “You know what’s niggling at me? All these systems are based on off the shelf technology…except the reactor device…but he rearranged and integrated them with such complementary facility it’s just down right beautiful to behold…”
“I’m convinced it’ll work, which is, after all is said and done, the real test of any design,” added Viola with a sigh.
“How’s the aero-space ship coming along?” Ginger grinned as she came down the steps to the lower deck.
Both Viola and John looked up suddenly like kids caught preparing spit-wads in class. “Better than we’d hoped,” John answered, “take a look.”
She looked at the scaled sketch and asked, “Where’s the nursery?”
John equivocated, “I was just adding the living areas…” and he set about filling in the missing spaces to scale. Hana had a crayon in her hand and began coloring in the ‘sky’ at the top of the design.
Viola took Ginger aside. “Boss, there’s something that keeps bothering me about Enrtico’s directions.” Ginger became all ears. Viola continued, “It’s, well, just that there aren’t any delta-v calculations, nothing to suggest how we get from the surface to even low earth orbit, let alone attaining escape velocity. You know, if the object is to reach lunar orbit or the surface, there really should be something indicating trajectories and such…but there’s nothing here.”
Ginger listened carefully and understood the implications. “You don’t suppose that mystery is in any way tied to the enigma of our finding the device abandoned in a storage room of the Inn, do you?”
Viola shrugged, “I hadn’t put those two together, but they are the dominant questions left to answer…Don’t get me wrong, there are several things he insists on in his designs which would make anyone wonder just what he was thinking, but those two are certainly the big ones.”
Hana finished helping with the plans. Now there were clouds and a sky and the moon and stars decorating the area around the ship. Viola added quietly, almost to herself, “…And there’s another thing that puzzles me: virtually none of his equations include a factor of Time. I mean, that’s just strange!”
Ginger asked, “May I read his working diary? That’s the only part of his notes I’ll probably be able to follow, and there are no guarantees about that either…”
Viola chuckled, “Sure give it a go. I’ve only skimmed through it myself, maybe we should read it together?” Ginger smiled, “Deal!”
One of the twins made a cry upstairs, and the other promptly seconded the motion and added her own voice. Ginger looked resigned, “Off to play cow…” and she went up the steps to the bridge. Hana grabbed Viola’s hand and pulled her along to the stairs following her mother. Viola grabbed the diary notebook and let herself be whisked away. She called over her shoulder, “Have you got everything in hand Johnny?” He nodded absently without looking up.
Alfred had his laptop next to him and was splitting his attention between his research and piloting the Anna. Vera was just lifting Boobou from her hammock; she felt the girl’s diaper. “Randi may need changing too…”
Ginger checked the other twin before settling on the sofa to feed them. It was dry. “At least they don’t do everything together…” she muttered. Viola sat down next to her and opened the diary, while Vera changed Boobou and walked her around the bridge.
Viola began reading loud enough for Ginger to hear but not so loud as to bother Alfred. Vera was able to quiet the other twin and set her in Viola’s lap. “I’ll just get the meal started…” She mentioned as she passed along the infant.
20 Sept 94 We will be in Colombo tomorrow morning at the latest. Except for our hasty trip south of the Arabian peninsula, we’ve been sailing along at a snail’s pace. My fault I suppose, since I assigned tasks to be accomplished by the time we reach Sri Lanka. I listened to Viola read the first several entries of Enrico’s diary…he was all scientist and not much interested in personal anecdotes. His only expressions of feeling centered around the discoveries he made along the way in his research…kind of dry reading…enlightening, but dry. One thing that stands out about his project so far is that it doesn’t seem that he was actively pursuing the creation of an energy supply—the very aspect of the device that Viola determined after the first few days of reviewing his technical journals. The mystery just gets deeper.
I received a call yesterday from Becka at the Inn. The email I sent her, ‘testing the waters’ about her and Ivy’s future plans and all, elicited a pretty clear response. She said that they were really liking having the partners around all the time and how wonderful it was that we thought of them for ‘the job.’ Ivy is able to split his time between his EU-Sweden work and the press. According to Becka he likes working at the press a little more than his other responsibilities—though neither of those activities are fulfilling the promise of his education. The other item she mentioned was a visit they had from Jimmy, just after we left. He brought paperwork and a proposal for Norah from Alfie and Olivia regarding the GFHAS. It sounded routine until Becka mentioned that Jimmy and Norah went to Murano for a day trip and didn’t come back until the next morning! I suppose that lady who he said he was courting in Stockholm—the one with the rival company—turned out to be content to remain more competitive than cooperative…oh well. Which brings me to the next bit of news: Jimmy called Alfred and Norah called Viola. Both calls came at nearly the same time last night, and both of them had to do with questions they had about each other—and not about what kind of work they do either—something’s definitely going on.
I certainly will be glad when Hana has a piano to play again. She’s drawn a picture of a keyboard on her playroom wall and I think she’s becoming just a little disappointed at its lack of sound quality. The twins are hungry all the time and growing properly according to our resident doctors. I’ve been checked out and am physically and emotionally sound as well. I’ve even finally lost the last of the ‘baby fat’ over this voyage, except what’s loading down my chest these days…
“Yeah, Papa extended the pier about ten years ago. It was like pulling teeth getting the folks at the ‘Reef Preservation’ group to get behind his plans, but he bent over backwards to accommodate their wishes.” Viola explained as they began unloading some of their cargo directly to the pier from the Anna, instead of onto the launches. She kept looking up the beach toward the enormous warehouse structure that had only been built before she left the last time.
Vera noticed and put an arm around Viola. “Would you like some company? Should we go look her over together?”
Viola looked back at Vera with moist eyes, “Yes please. I think I’d like that. I really thought it wouldn’t be this difficult…after a few months…I thought…”
Vera guided her to the end of the pier and toward the building, “Let’s go see.”
John and Alfred brought out a trolley from the house and took back the first load. Ginger carried both twins in a dual sling that Viola had fashioned for her. Hana pulled her after John and Alfred into the house. It took her no time at all to find the piano. Ginger went on to the kitchen and checked the pantries. To her surprise not only were they stocked, but the shelves were full of just the sort of things she kept at the Inn. “Those Livingsons…” she uttered in satisfaction to herself. She went to find the fuse box to turn on the house power, and specifically the refrigerator and water heaters. Next she looked for the main water valves. Alfred pointed to the back of the house, “It’s next to the kitchen door on the courtyard side…very much like at the Inn.”
She didn’t have any difficulty turning the valve…nothing happened. “Alfred?” she called.
His laugh came back to her from the front door. “One’s for the fountain, one’s for the back of the house and the clinic, the other is for the rest of the house…You probably turned on the fountain…it only works if the front house water is on.”
She turned the other two and voila, water danced in the fountain and the sounds of running water came from all the taps in the house. “Oops. I suppose I should have checked them all first…”
John smiled, “Actually you did just what you should have. Air builds up in the lines over time, and the taps should be open before the pressure is put back into the system. I’ll check all the ones upstairs…” and he bounded up the steps.
Vera and Viola came in through the front doors. Viola stood still after her first step inside. Hana’s music at the piano was a most welcomed greeting and she was able to smile through her tears at the sound of it. She straightened her shoulders and stood more erect, “Okay. I’ll go make the beds and put out towels.” She headed for the steps upstairs as Vera looked after her, admiring her determination to remain in the present moment.
Vera picked up one end of the cooler with the last of the contents of the Anna’s cold stores in it. “Freddy, would you give me a hand with this?” He sauntered over and took the other handle.
“It looks like they are all just out sailing for the weekend and will be back any moment, doesn’t it?” he commented.
Vera nodded, “Except that the Hannah Belle is dry-docked just over there and feels the same way. Viola is holding up rather well, all things considered. I’m not sure I would do as well…”
“Okay! No leaks up here,” John called down. “This is as beautiful as I imagined from the descriptions. Except I had no idea the palm trees were sooo tall! You can see them from inside the courtyard. It’s like being in a treehouse.”
Ginger called from the kitchen, “HanaRin, please go up stairs and help Auntie Viola with the bedrooms.” The music stopped and her little feet could soon be heard scampering along the balcony above the courtyard. Ginger pulled off the coverings on the settees, sofas and chairs around the lower floor, then settled into one. “Time for the twins’ late breakfast…” she said and unwrapped their slings from around her her shoulders. John came and picked up Boobou. “We’ll just take a little stroll, I think,” and carried her out the front door.
He walked out the pier once more and called for Mocha. She came hesitantly out of the bridge, no doubt wondering where everyone had gotten off to. “Come on little girl. Here’s another house for you to take care of for a while.” She hopped off the deck and followed John to the house, several steps ahead of him. Once at the doors, she waited politely to be introduced to the new surroundings. John stepped around her and waved to the interior. “I’m sure you will find a few favorite spots to take your naps in here…” and he turned to go back outside. She watched him leave the porch and trotted toward the kitchen, stopping every so often to stare at something only she could see, or smell something only she could smell.
John opened the door to the Hannah’s covered berth and went inside. Her plans and specs were mounted in frames under glass on the near wall. He looked more closely at them. These weren’t copies…here were the very plans that Lena, Mia and Jean had drawn up while at University all those years ago. He gazed at them with awe and respect. “Did you have any idea how far-reaching your plans would be?” he asked of the absent architects. Randi cooed and seemed to look at them also; John smiled down at her. “We have some big shoes to fill, angel.”
He went to the steps that led up to the helm. There was a note taped to the wheel. He looked closer and read: Greetings our family, Hannah Belle has served us faithfully across the oceans and seas of Earth. We have raised our families aboard her and fulfilled our dreams with her assistance. She is ready to continue her service in any way you see fit. We made one last addition to her after nestling her into this berth…It may not look like much now, but when the time comes we hope our gift is appreciated for its true value. —Oliver, Lena, Mia and Portia.
P.S. Viola, Thank you for letting me go. You were always better at sorting through mysteries than I was…We’re counting on you. —Portia
John reread it again. “RandiLinn? Can you make heads or tails of this? You don’t really think they knew we would find Enrico’s things…do you? And what was the ‘last addition’?” He stepped into the bridge. There in the middle of the room, in their own glass case were a rather uninteresting looking pair of very small rocks. “Hmm…uh, nice rocks, I guess. I hope Viola knows what this is all about…”
He carried his girl back up to the house in time for her turn at the ‘Ginger-cafeteria.’ Ginger traded twins with him and he went to find Viola, or at least Vera. They were both in the clinic looking over the equipment and cabinet inventories. Vera was just commenting, “They certainly seemed to have had a pretty good idea about when we’d be arriving…most all of these still have plenty of shelf-life left to them…”
John asked, “Viola, if you can, would you enlighten me about the ‘rocks’ they left behind on the Hannah?”
She looked back at him and shrugged her shoulders. “Portia said it was a mystery…I suppose we’ll figure it out in due course. Our folks were nothing if not thorough and very insightful…It must be important somehow…”
“I was just hoping,” John replied, “that we already had our fair share of mysteries.”
Vera asked, “Has Alfred been out there to see it yet?” John shook his head. “Then we’ll go take a little stroll ourselves…” she finished and brushed passed John through the door.
Viola stated abruptly, “You don’t really suppose they knew we would find Enrico’s stuff…Do you? I mean that’s spooky.”
John smiled, “Exactly what I said to RandiLinn just a little while ago!”
Viola’s brow furrowed, “Johnny, at the very least, I need to get through the rest of Enrico’s diary and go over his notebooks again. I must be missing something. Papa and Enrico had a great many chats, and I never heard anything about what they talked about, except briefly and that was much later, as I said. Neither of them would ever really elaborate…I wonder…” and she went to find her backpack and the notebooks.
“Well Boobou? It looks like your family is finally facing situations we’ve never faced before. Aren’t you excited?” and he put his face down close to hers. She was just nodding off after her meal and wasn’t very enthusiastic about the subject at all.
Around the dinner table that evening Ginger got out her journal and made ready to jot down costs and timelines. “Who’s going to be first?”
Alfred opened, “I’ve broken my task into its major categories. First: Air and pressure. We can use a slightly modified version of what is used both on airliners and what is currently used on the Space Shuttle. It’s proven technology and since its in general aviation, there’s a similar system on my Beechcraft, cost isn’t prohibitive. It’s just a matter of ordering ‘off-the-shelf’ as it were and installing it properly.
Second: Water and waste. Here’s where we get to be more creative. I’ve narrowed the field for recycling systems, and I’ll probably suggest a hybrid of the two contenders: one organic, the other mechanico-chemical. Neither system or the hybrid alternative will mean much in the way of cost, and designing that system into the overall structure will be tricky only so far as we will need to be able to access all parts of it at any given time. Since we are used to carrying a surplus of potable water, I don’t need to go into conservation techniques except to say: that’s a big thing. The steam used for the turbine/generators is by and large recycled and won’t need to be refilled, just monitored and topped off now and then. The solid waste disposal-recovery leads me to the third consideration: Food production.
This is going to be the cleverest aspect of our infrastructure…beyond the technology of going to space to begin with. As the lunar regolith is absent any organic matter, it in itself can’t be tilled and planted—that’s a given. However it will be useful for other processes I have been investigating…Any way, the Swedish have been pursuing eco-san techniques of waste recycling for long enough that both the technology and costs are well established and within our means and abilities to install. Naturally we’ll make some adjustments to the overall system once we are bound to the lunar geography. That brings me to the regolith again and food production in a closed system. According to the research, regolith contains: oxygen, silicon, iron, calcium, aluminum, magnesium and other trace elements. There may very well be ice below the surface and in the shadows of craters.
That being said, our most pressing concern is sufficient air, heat and light. That may be obvious but let me explain anyway: We need a way to either divert and filter the sun’s direct rays, or provide artificial lighting. We’ll also need to shield our plants from cosmic rays, just as much as we ourselves will need protection. Our air exchangers on the ship will be carefully removing the carbon dioxide to supply us with breathable air…unless we separate it out and store it for our future initial gardening efforts. Suppose we go with hydroponics. Okay. We’ll need containers, pumps and filters, even more water, nutrients—perhaps as by-products of our own treated wastes—powerful lighting, as mentioned before, and a temperate environment in any case. So before we settle on one solution I’d really like to investigate a few more alternatives…”
Ginger made notes of the figures he supplied after that and turned to Johnny. “What’s phase one Jonibob?”
He got right to business just as Alfred had. “Viola and I agree that once the composite shell is constructed around every part of the Hannah Belle that can be utilized, with a only few minor alterations both inside and out, our first step will be to fly her as a normal aeroplane for a while. That will give us a feel for her balance, how she handles, and any adjustments we’ll need to make to her flight systems. Here are the bids I’ve received so far for the initial construction and flight systems installation. That doesn’t account for our replicating Enrico’s module…several iterations in fact…with back ups. Nor does it include the assembly of the turbine/generators and integrating them into the power grid of the ship. We will do most all of that work ourselves—farm out some of the machining—and install those modules ourselves. We’ll document the whole process, of course.
Once you have certified that phase, we’ll begin installing the space systems. We realize there will have been a lot of overlap, like the laminate basics for the magnetic shielding that have to be built into her hull for example, but I think if we keep the first phase to the bare bones of the objective, we can stagger our costs and regulate our time and energy. The second stage will be the installation of the space specific additions: the hybrid drive, the zero-g toilets and ship’s eco-san system, the rest of the closed loop air systems, stellar navigation equipment, the various storage vessels and tanks for our more exotic systems, and the Hall Thrusters all around her perimeter as back-up maneuvering capabilities if what Enrico has designed doesn’t work as anticipated.
That brings me to some hard questions. How do we test our space systems? And as Viola will no doubt explain: How do we get off the planet in the first place?”
Ginger finished copying his costs and delivery schedules into her journal and turned to Vera. “Before we hear from our astro-science officer, I’d like to hear what you’ve determined regarding our continued health in this venture.”
Vera spread her hands and fingers on the table in front of her. “Fortunately much of the basic research has already been done in this field…going back to the early Russian and American ‘Space Race’ days. The vessel’s air-breathing systems, as Freddy has pointed out, are an established technology dealing with understood phenomena. It’s the radiation aspects of our venture that have occupied a great deal of my investigations. I don’t want to get your hopes up to high, but I think I have come up with some very good alternatives to what we’ve all seen of the typical space suits. By the way did you know that contrary to popular myth, a human can be exposed to vacuum for up to fifteen seconds and survive? It turns out that science has been aware for quite a while that human skin is the almost ideal space suit. It retains fluids, pressure—doesn’t breathe as urban legend would have it—and simply needs to be protected for the aforementioned radiation and micrometeorites.
So I took the designs NASA put together for their space activity suit, something that looks more like a diver’s wetsuit, and have been making alterations. The one thing that is clear is that we’ll need to carry plenty of material to continue to make new ones, both for our growing children, as well as for altering our own over time. They will be tight, and a bitch…uh, difficult to get on and off, but I’m working on that issue as well. The gloves are giving me conniptions at present but I’ll work something out.
Now as to exotic dire never-get-overs, I have complied a medicine chest of vaccines, inoculations and remedies for all the bodily systems that can be affected by whatever ails you…not unlike what we already carry with us on voyages. Air and water testing kits are already stored and last but not least: vitamin and nutrient supplements and an exercise regime. Micro-gravity is nothing to ignore and its long term effects aren’t fully known. The only other thing I have been looking into is our overall hygiene regimen…it will be a long wile before we come up with a serviceable bath tub…”
Ginger almost winced at that last. There were going to be a number of things they were going to ‘discover’ along the way. ‘I certainly take an awful lot of things for granted…’ she thought. She turned to Viola who had listened with great attention to her family give the current results of their labors. “Auntie? Johnny said you might have some answers to the basic questions of our endeavor? Notably: Will it work?”
Viola smiled sheepishly, “That’s a good question. In my initial excitement over Enrico’s designs and his innovations I seemed to have glossed over a couple glaring discrepancies: One. As I mentioned to you the other day, he doesn’t seem to have included any time factors in his equations…which is more than a little disconcerting for an adventure such as this. And Two. There are some very enigmatic and anomalous equations that I still haven’t deciphered. It’s like hearing a conversation from two rooms away. I can hear the words and voices but I can’t make sense of it. I’ll give you an example: His notes both preceding and following his first experimental start-up of the device read like a Jackson Pollock painting. The symbols and form is there, but it doesn’t seem to have the cohesion of all his other computations. It’s almost like he’s invented a new math to describe the exercise. Another instance is about his comments in his diary regarding that occasion…” and she pulled out the notebook to read from it directly. “…And I quote: The co-mutation of the energy matrix produced has sufficient field density to make transport practical up to a volume equal to just over two thousand cubic meters… Volume?! What that has to do with launch, orbit, escape or stellar travel baffles me…let alone power production. Then there’s this entry that makes the other one sound sane; now remember he was working on this, according to his notes, at his workshop/lab in Gotland. ‘…I recovered the device from father’s Venice workshop. It is entirely intact and as functional as when I activated it’.”
Blank stares met her gaze when she looked up from reading the excerpt. “You see what I mean!? Until I sort through a few of the issues presented by equations and passages like these, I don’t know what I can tell you other than what we already knew: He was able to produce energy from it, he was convinced of its practical use as a propulsion device and his initial experiments were successful enough that he constructed all these other attendant and integral systems with this at its heart. Honestly, I hoped I could offer you all more confidence by now…”
Alfred was still repeating the last excerpt to himself. He quietly wondered just loud enough to be heard, “He activated the device in Gotland and recovered it from Venice…That sounds vaguely familiar…” he looked at Vera and Viola in turn. “Doesn’t that sound like another phenomenon we have a bit more experience with? It was always PapaHarry’s contention that science was constantly on the heels of producing what human’s are capable of doing…”
Viola exclaimed, “Oliver and our mothers said the same.”
Alfred added, “Dad and Mom said so too. Perhaps Enrico Francesconi turned his attention to looking at the world around him from an entirely different perspective. He certainly had all our folks around him to corroborate a different world view. But how could he have adapted the physics he knew to the phenomena he observed in them? And produce a device to mimic any of it?”
Ginger and John watched and listened to the exchange. John had to ask at last, “Are you three suggesting that this device does what we saw Vera do on the Orient Express when Ginger’s journal went out the window? How can that be?”
Ginger followed with, “I thought that ‘ability’ was a there-and-back-again thing, not a one way trip?! Well, except for the exit strategies of our now missing family…”
Viola still had her own questions, “But even if that is so and this device is some sort of ‘transporter’ thingamajig—How can it be calibrated, how do you get it to go where you wish?!”
Ginger composed herself, “Auntie, that shall be your task as we move into the practical commencement of Phase One—which shall begin in the morning. I’ll formalize my notes and present our budget and schedule then. Agreed?”
Some rather unenthusiastic nods met her proposition. She added, “And you will enjoy yourselves!” They chuckled at her mock dramatics. Only John seemed to recognize that her tone of voice wasn’t ‘mock’ dramatics. Hana heard the slight emphasis too and immediately clapped her hands and asked, “MamaKat, what do you want me to do?”
Ginger looked at her with a tenderness she didn’t know she possessed, “Sweetheart, you have to help me with your sisters and keep the house together while the rest of our family works very hard on our project. Will you help me do that?” Hana looked very serious for a moment. She looked around the table at all her ‘parents’ and nodded to assure them, “We’ll take care of you all.”
25 Sept 94 The plantation is restful, like being in the mythical land of the lotus eaters. It reminds me a little of Crooked Island in the Bahamas since the pace of life is so sedate. Viola reads the technical notebooks like they are romance novels. Vera and Alfred lounge or stroll with the girls. John and I just sit and talk or walk the beach. There is a bustling city nearby; we can hear the cars and the local train as they go about their schedules, but here in the palms and the waves it’s idyllic and calm. When I walk with Hana she asks all kinds of questions about the world around her…’Why do the coconuts grow so high up?’ ‘Where did the sand come from?’ ‘Who built the fountain and the house?’ ‘Why does the sister ship have to stay in that house? Was she naughty?’ ‘What makes some people dark brown and some people vanilla?’ ‘What makes the rain?’ ‘How far is the moon?’ and on and on… I know she isn’t singling me out. In fact one of our favorite topics in the evening is: ‘who did she stump today?’
I’ve also been taking her out on the Ariel and she’s picking up sailing like a natural born sailor. I let her take the tiller and she’s developed a sensitive touch to the wind and sails and how far she can push an eighteen foot cat. The thing I find so striking about her is how indestructible she seems to be…the bumps and bangs she takes, the stubbed toes and scraped knees, elbows and her poor forehead…yet never a whimper or tear. Don’t misunderstand me she lets out yelps of pain when something happens she didn’t expect, but that’s an end to it…’Ouch’ and move on. Was I like that? Was John? I don’t have any trouble thinking of Viola, Vera or Alfred having been like that as kids…
Speaking of kids; Jimmy and Norah emailed to say they want to come down here for a visit. Norah said she had some pressing issues regarding the Society. Jimmy claims he has some marvelous innovations for our flight systems. I don’t think anyone here is fooled by any of that. Jimmy is flying them down in Alfred’s plane. They refueled in Sixth of October City, Egypt…then in Dubai, UAE…and are supposed to be here tonight. Becka told me how well Norah has taken up the work. Not only has she read everything she could get her hands on, she makes an exercise out of almost everything she does—building up the capabilities of her centers, pushing them toward unification and Conscience. It’s little wonder that Jimmy has latched onto her so readily. On that topic: our partners at the press have streamlined the website, taken in twice the usual monthly business over the last two consecutive months, and more importantly they have begun weekly ‘get-togethers’ with Becka and Ivy. They just wanted some set time to discuss questions, ideas and concepts instead of relying on chance encounters over the weekdays and then having to somehow make sure everyone else has the same information. Not too unlike how our little family works.
“…And the other reason…is…well…You tell them Jimmy.” Norah had already exhausted her ostensible excuse for a personal meeting with Viola. They were all gathered on the lawn in front of the house watching the last rose colored clouds turn magenta and purple in the dusk.
Jimmy grinned that disarming grin that had so put John and Ginger at ease the first time they met him in Port Isabel not even a year before, but then he became serious, “It’s like this folks: I’m not getting any younger, Norah gets more beautiful inside and out everyday, so for reasons known only to herself she has decided to have me around all the time from now on. I know it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense—a woman with otherwise sound judgement making a choice like this, but there you are…”
Norah threw back her head and laughed as she punched him in the shoulder. “That’s not how it happened! You are such an entertainer!” she exclaimed. Everyone else was laughing with her; Jimmy tried to keep a straight face and succeeded. Viola clapped then hugged Norah.
Alfred wagged a finger at Jimmy saying, “You’ve taken a page from Vera and my diary on this one…you owe me royalties.”
That did get a smile out of Jimmy. He nodded, “Uncle Freddy, you and Vera have the best stories and had the most wonderful courtship of anyone I’ve ever heard of…I couldn’t help myself.” He looked over to Norah, now hugging the other two women as well. “Look at her. Seriously, what could I have ever done to deserve a woman as wonderful as that?”
Alfred nodded, looking at Vera, “I do know exactly what you mean…precisely.”
John couldn’t help overhearing and threw in with them; while looking at Ginger he said, “Yep. It’s a mystery, to be sure…We are three extraordinarily fortunate fellows…”
Hana was pretty sure all this was ‘good;’ so she danced about with long ribbons in each hand, looking like a little orbiting comet around the lounging adults. GingerKat asked Norah, “And have you two given any thought to the proposition we put up to you about our exotic travel plans?”
Norah was still giggling, “Given it any thought?! Why else do you think we flew down here…You didn’t really buy our cover stories…did you?”
Ginger was delighted, as were all. “So now we are seven and three…” and she looked at Norah a little closer. “We do still only have three children…right?”
Norah nodded, “Nothing in the oven, yet. And it sounds as though we should probably hold off until we arrive at those distant shores…”
Viola and Vera both agreed and said as much, “That is wise…” “Plenty of time to add to our numbers…and the first children born on the moon—now that’s something to shoot for!”
Ginger turned the event into a review meeting. “Okay let’s bring these two up to speed shall we?”
Viola led off this time. “Good, because I have more to say about our mystery device than the last time we dealt with it. Enrico was far more clever than I gave him credit. Brilliant we knew, but get this: quantum entanglement has long been seen as ‘spooky action at a distance,’ by Einstein at least, and has been the basis of innumerable ‘time travel’ scenarios. What Enrico did was to sidestep the general interpretation to take advantage of the phenomenon from a different vantage. Simply put: he first created a rather dense electromagnetic sort of field—that’s why we have to have so much shielding, it’s not just for radiation—then he joined that entire field to an entangled presence and encouraged them to reunite…”
Ginger held up a hand, “Once more in simple terms that Hana can get please?”
Viola smiled and spoke to Hana. “Hana dear, may I hold one of your pretty ribbons?” Hana handed her one of her two identical red streamers. “Now you have one and I have one. But let’s say these two ribbons are really two parts of the same ribbon, okay?” Hana nodded. “Alright, so now wherever your ribbon goes, this ribbon is too, even though I’m holding it here. If your ribbon flaps, this ribbon flaps, okay?” Hana shrugged. Viola continued, “Enrico fashioned a fuel rod from a lump of metal he left in Venice; he treated it and made it ready for use in his device. When the device got up to speed, so to speak, the fuel rod was compelled to return to its origins…for lack of a better way to say it. Does that help?”
Jimmy had a problem with that. “I shed hair all the time, like when I brush my hair or something. It doesn’t follow me around all the time…What gives?”
Viola replied evenly, “It would if it were subjected to the field generated by Enrico’s little artifact. In fact, according to his calculations, not only would the hair return to you, but the brush, the bathroom and that side of the house could get pulled along also, if it were made integral with the hair itself.”
That was a conversation stopper. Alfred queried, “So if we bolt this thing down to the ship, whatever is within the field gets swept along so long as it’s also attached?”
Viola shrugged, “I have way oversimplified the event…Enrico made certain provisions for the device’s use as purely an energy production unit. It does require more than a few adjustments to have it perform the ‘magic’ trick…but essentially what you’ve just described is valid.”
John and Vera were on the implications of the process a little ahead of everyone else. Vera just asked first, “So, we need a piece of the moon if we want to go to the moon? Am I missing something?”
John followed with, “I think those chunks brought back by the Apollo missions are a little more difficult to procure than ‘the Scream’ from the National Gallery—like: forget it!”
Viola shrugged again, “I just said I unraveled some of the mystery about the device, not how to make it serve our particular bidding.”
Ginger anxiously turned to John, “What did their note say again? The one that Viola’s family and Portia left her, all of us?”
Viola reached into her pocket and produced it. “I’ve been carrying it with me…it may be childish but they feel closer somehow…”
She read aloud, Greetings our family, Hannah Belle has served us faithfully across the oceans and seas of Earth. We have raised our families aboard her and fulfilled our dreams with her assistance. She is ready to continue her service in any way you see fit. We made one last addition to her after nestling her into this berth…It may not look like much now, but when the time comes we hope our gift is appreciated for its true value. —Oliver, Lena, Mia and Portia.
P.S. Viola, Thank you for letting me go. You were always better at sorting through mysteries than I was…We’re counting on you. —Portia
Ginger grinned. “And has everyone decided that that ‘last addition’ was the glass case with the two tiny pieces of rock inside?” They all nodded, and slowly what she was intimating dawned on each of them. She hastily followed with, “…And why not? We know they were the most capable of people…”
Vera asked, “But why two rocks? One would have been sufficient…”
Alfred took that one, “If I were going to perform that feat, and I had never attempted anything so…uh…grand, I would have talked someone else into coming with me so that at least one of us might make it back. And come to think of it, I’d want two folks back home ready for a rescue mission on top of that…”
Viola gasped and squeaked, “Oh my! That’s why Portia volunteered to go with Papa and our mothers! Oh my!” Vera and Ginger held her as she sobbed. This time around she was crying tears of gratitude and joy…not the sorrow she evinced when she first cried on John’s shoulder months before.
Jimmy commented, “Norah, you see how carried away my family gets over a couple rocks…are you sure you’re making the right decision hitching your star to my wagon?” But it was too late; Norah was also in tears, being just as moved as the others. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he concluded.
John happily announced, “My turn then. The composite shell will begin being delivered in pieces in several days. The existing hull will be fully removed by then. The crew that you all have seen coming and going were willing to do the work in exchange for the material itself…which insured they would be gentle with the substructures. The interior has yet to be modified as it must be, so before we begin fitting and attaching the new shell over it, we have quite a lot of carpentry work to do. As it stands, she’s a little on the heavy side for flight. Obviously Enrico’s doohicky…”
Viola interrupted, her voice still rough, “He called it a Co-Mutator as best I can determine…”
John continued, “The ‘co-mutator’ doesn’t care how hefty she is, but our lifter fans and turbofans do. The machine shop that Viola and I found has replicated the parts for constructing two more of the doohickk…co-mutators…and they are on schedule to have parts for the other two completed within the month. We will naturally do all the assembly ourselves…” He looked at Ginger, Viola and Vera; they each understood that that was to be their job. “The turbine/generators were off the shelf items—with warrantees—as were the heat exchangers and our various storage vessels and tanks. All of which are in route to us already. The turbofans, and the lifter motors are on their way from their respective factories. The four pairs of lifter prop sets are also on their way…again, we are doing the assembly of the lifters, that is to say Alfred and I will be…” He looked at Jimmy, who nodded innocently, glad to lend a hand. “It was our design after all… The electronics/avionics systems are here, now that Jimmy is here…” Jimmy took a bow. “…And the specially designed and manufactured ‘glass’ parts are being created at present as well…which isn’t actually glass, but the material has a long name, something like: ‘quartzing matilda’s silly kate’.” He looked pensive for a moment then relaxed, confident that he’d covered everything from his end.
Alfred and Vera added only that the systems and stores that they had researched and recommended were in route or already waiting. Ginger announced that thus far the project was only fifteen per cent over budget, but that was just because they purchased items that were technically a part of phase two… “So we’ll show a gain during the next phase.” She looked to Jimmy and Norah, “Do either of you have any questions so far? Any of us will be delighted to take a crack at answering or clarifying whatever is still a little murky.”
Hana asked a question, “Will Jimby and Norah stay?”
GingerKat replied, “Maybe if you ask them very nicely, they might.”
Hana turned to them, “Will you please stay with us?”
Norah reached down and lifted her up and held her. “Thank you very much for asking, Uncle Jimby and I will love to stay with you as long as you can stand us. Okay?”
Hana grinned, “Okay!”
1 October 94 Thankfully Norah brought me a new journal from Venice. This entry will likely fill up the last of this one. Jimmy is certainly throwing himself into the carpentry work with Johnny; it’s quite a sight. Viola was interested in watching for a while but soon surrendered to the inevitable. I’m pretty sure she just wanted to be sure they were treating the Hannah with the respect she deserves. John hasn’t given me a any firm schedules for when the structural revisions will be complete, but then no one wants to rush him, least of all me. In the meantime Norah is sort of wondering how she can best help the effort. I told her that tending the girls with me was a huge help, but I know what she means…I was in her position not so very long ago: not feeling capable to assist in anything, feeling so ‘immature’ around the family, trying to find her niche. Fortunately she’s clever enough to use this time to continue her work on herself. She’s persistent.
I’ve been trying to imagine what our life will be like once we make the leap. Between the isolation of another world devoid of people, the lack of atmosphere or any growing thing, and the daunting tasks that lie in store for us as we try to carve a home from just rock and regolith, I really am having difficulty preparing myself emotionally. The more I think about what is ahead of us, more little things spring to my mind that will have to be addressed at some point. Things like our girls’ education…not so much the vast knowledge that they will acquire—I’m pretty sure the seven of us adults can handle that—it’s the socialization and entertainment that has me stumped. At least if they were here on Earth and only knew the Anna as their world, we’d still be stopping in different ports, visiting family, seeing people…but this, this is very different by several magnitudes. They say children are adaptable and flexible, I just want them to have every advantage possible. I’m probably blowing this out of proportion…we’ll undoubtably make return trips of some sort from time to time. Then there is the whole handling of technology transfer…hmmm.
It occurs to me as I jot down my concerns, that we have a rare opportunity to make an indelible mark on the course of human progress. It has been said that when mankind reaches for the stars only the boldest and most capable will make the move. There are analogous migrations in history: four hundred years of emigration to the new world, the pioneering movements into the North American west and far north, the burgeoning shift of people living at sea, or on the roads with no fixed address. This still seems to be quite different than previous migrations…we will no doubt have to become sensitized to a rather high mortality rate. However, no one should become so calloused as to disregard the precious value of each and every human life, but there will be losses—the very nature of the endeavor would seem to dictate that. As pioneers ourselves, the first off-world colonists, it is incumbent upon us to document and teach others all that we do—the successes and the mistakes—make our every activity as transparently instructive as possible.
Whew! This just gets broader and broader in its implications. Maybe I should suggest to Norah that we need a historian, someone who can objectively report on our preparations, accomplishments, discoveries and challenges in text and pictures as well as in audio/video documentation. Then there is the management of the technology distribution itself, the real issues of lunar sovereignty, homesteading, import and export of materials and their delivery systems, the exchanges of goods and services, some form of governance or creed of cooperation, economics of colonization, society…hell, it’s really a shift toward a new civilization…This is going to tap everything we possess of ourselves to make this the first consciously directed migration of humanity since humans began populating the Earth itself so many millennia ago, as Lila and George dictated in their theses. Good, so long as we can keep this low key…(ha ha)
That’s what I mean by ‘when I think about this venture…’ It snowballs. And that’s another thing I’m going to miss: weather. Maybe when Alfred gets our indoor fields of crops established we can have a lake and some kind of micro-weather systems. Maybe grass and some trees, perhaps we can go camping someday in our own garden of eden under a dome…It would seem inevitable that we would transform whatever environment in which we find ourselves, that we would transform it into what we are most familiar with and comfortably enjoy. We’ll see.
“Really? You want me to document all of this?!” Norah was more than honored and a bit hesitant.
Alfred and Viola were both surprisingly delighted with the notion. Viola added, “Fantastic! It could be like those documentaries: ‘the history of space travel’ or ‘the life of the polar bear’…those shows that reveal the actual people doing actual things…”
Alfred inserted, “Ah, the camera loves me! This will be great.” Everyone else at the dinner table laughed at his melodramatic assertions.
Johnny was more practical. “GingerKat? What else have you been thinking about?”
Ginger began a list from what she had been realizing, but only recording in her journal. It took a while to explain, and she was justifiably cautious about mentioning all her concerns since she wasn’t sure how much of it was important and how much was just her own fears creeping into it. “…It just seems to me that we’ve got a tiger by the tail and it would be prudent to know ahead of time where the beast is going to go before we just let ‘nature take its course,’ if you know what I mean.”
Alfred was more serious this time, “Spoken like a true Livingson…Harry and MamaKat would be proud. I for one was just so excited about the adventure I hadn’t really gotten much further than our own requirements…”
Viola added, “And I’ve been wrapped up in the technology and nostalgia over the Hannah…”
Vera admitted, “Seriously, I have been so concerned about keeping everyone healthy and safe…I suppose we’ve all been slightly myopic. Thank you Boss for getting us to focus on the bigger picture at the same time.”
Ginger blushed, but composed herself, “So how about if we each jot down anything that occurs to us about how to start a new civilization almost from scratch. We can take a look at our notes every week or so and perhaps begin to formulate a coordinated approach to issues that will demand attention, like it or not.”
Johnny had something to add almost immediately. “This is sort of related to the topic at hand…I’ve been thinking about our lunar housing situation. I think it’s going to require more than a tent flap to secure our abode from the elements…or rather lack of elements. And while our propulsion device is an ‘equal volume employer,’ our ship is not. We are going to need quite a number of things that we can’t just pack or stow aboard for the trip.”
Jimmy piped up to ask, “Auntie Viola and Ginger have read Norah and I into the general program, and I don’t know if you’ve already thought about it or not, but…shouldn’t we have some sort of vehicle on the lunar surface? I mean, we can’t very well hop in the yacht every time we need to go somewhere or fetch something; that just seems impractical. And the other thing I’m wondering about is communications with our own base of operations back here on Earth…Shouldn’t we set something up more sufficient than depending upon a ham radio or cell phone?”
Ginger smiled, “This is very productive! Jimmy you are now also our communications officer. Put together everything you think we’ll require, with materials lists and timelines. Jonibob, please take some time to flesh out what our lunar camping experience may require…Please, no one hesitate to share suggestions or thoughts with someone. Hana, darling, that goes for you too dearest. We can’t think of everything, so put on your thinking cap and imagine what living on the moon will mean to you. Okay?”
Hana positively beamed. Here were the grown-ups in her life talking about big things and MamaKat was asking her to think big things too! She nodded enthusiastically and said, “I’ll ask Mocha to think about it too…” That was a conversation stopper.
Ginger looked at the others, who were equally caught off-guard. “That presents a valid issue: animals…even livestock? Any ideas?”
None of them had ever been involved with husbandry, just the occasional pet cat or dog. Ginger turned back to Hana, “Okay darling, you are now our official ‘Animal officer.’ That’s the way things work here: if you have an idea, you’re most likely in charge of seeing it through. We have to be self-sufficient; personal responsibility and integrity is the only avenue I know towards accomplishing that aim.”
The subsequent discussions lasted into the night. Ginger and Norah took copious notes, and their little family project was beginning to take on a structure and function of its own. Over the next several days they began to get into the routine of constant communication over current and anticipated issues that occurred to each of them as they went about their various responsibilities. The other notable protocol that Ginger insisted upon was that everyone of them knew as much about everyone else’s responsibilities and duties as their own. It was imperative, she said, that they didn’t rely on one person to solely handle one thing…if, god forbid, something should incapacitate that person, the rest of them would up the creek without a warp drive.