Sunday, September 18, 2016

Summer Camp Stories 2016 - Operation Dark Waters Part 4: The Thrilling Conclusion

Finally, I am getting around to posting the thrilling conclusion to Operation Dark Waters (or what I did while my kids were on their summer vacation.) While the little Goofs are at sleepaway camp I write and send them stories (here is 2015's story about how I travelled to Japan to save the world by eating sushi). If you haven't been following the story (or have forgotten) here is: part 1 - part 2 - and part 3.

July 11, 2016

Operation Dark Waters

Undisclosed Location North of the Arctic Circle

USCGC Polar Night

Something huge came on the SonScape. It looked like a giant spider on the back of a turtle. Or maybe it was a sort of castle. It was the Nautilus! The five maple leafs formed a V and flew at it. We could hear their communications.

“Look at the size of that thing!”

“Cut the chatter, Red Two, eh,” Inspector MacKenzie ordered. “Accelerate to attack speed. This is it boys!”

The Captain and several on the bridge grinned. The maple leafs began crisscrossing the Nautilus. We often lost sight of them; they came so close to the giant ship. We watched smaller objects, missiles, fly back and forth. Several seemed to hit the Nautilus. This went on for several minutes, maybe half an hour. We heard a scream over the intercom.

“We’ve lost one!” Inspector MacKenzie said flatly, “But I think Nautilus is hurt. We’ll keep at it! You just stay silent and we’ll drive her to you!”

More watching. More waiting. Then, we heard MacKenzie scream and a maple leaf flew straight at one of the spires. The maple leaf was gone, but so was a big part of the spire.

“Choppers up! Assault teams ready! ALL weapons locked and loaded. We don’t know where Nemo will break through the ice, but we need to be ready to open fire the instant she surfaces.”

The Nautilus began looming larger.

“Oh no,” the Captain muttered, her face ashen. “Nemo must know we are here. He’s going to surface under us. He’ll ram us from underneath!”

“Captain, there’s no way,” the electronics officer countered. “We are in full stealth mode!”

“Nemo has survived out there a long time, we don’t know what he knows. OK! Bring the engines back online, I want full speed double-quick. That may not be fast enough to get out of Nemo’s way, we can’t push through this ice that fast. ALL HANDS! Every crew member possible, get into assault gear and GET OUT ON THE ICE! Every diver needs to join the diving team!”
This is the USCG Polar Star, an ice-breaker and cousin ship to the Polar Night. Not pics of the USCG Polar Night are available since its existence is super-double secret classified. But it gives you an idea.

The Captain looked at me, “That means you Mr. Mannes, you are a diver!”

“Sir, I’ve never been out of the tank and don’t I need to take that pill?”

“Mr. Mannes, there is no pill. Some people can live underwater. You are one of them. Get with the diving team!”

I joined the divers at the airlock. There were about twenty-five of us. Most had knives, some strange looking guns and orange bricks. They handed me a pair of bricks and showed me how to cinch them to my belt.

The airlock opened and we plunged into the dark waters.

We saw the Nautilus coming at us. The Polar Night had gotten her engines up and was pushing through the ice – slowly. Huge, like a fairy tale castle, the Nautilus came up fast and struck the Polar Night a glancing blow in the stern. The Polar Night is a big ship, but the force pushed her half out of the ice. She slammed back into the water. The force of the collisions generated huge waves pushing us far from the two ships. We heard over comms that the ship was still operational. We could hear the Polar Night’s secondary and light batteries open fire. Captain Mastronati was trying to get a little more distance so she could deploy the main guns. If the Captain hadn’t realized Nemo’s plan, the Nautilus would have surfaced directly under the Polar Night and probably cut her in two.

We could hear the surface assault teams making their way across the ice to board the Nautilus. They were taking fire. We began swimming in for our own attack. It felt long, but maybe it was only a few minutes. I was told to hand over a brick. Lt. Patil, the diving team leader, placed about a dozen of them in a circle at the lowest point of the Nautilus we could reach. We swam away and there was a crash and a concussive wave. Underwater explosives.

We swam into the hole and through the flooded corridors of the ship. It was strange, we couldn’t see very well. So I can’t tell you much. We came to an area not yet flooded. My lungs were heaving. Not because I was tired from the swim – that seemed easy. But the air felt wrong. We heard voices ahead. Then several divers moved forward, guns at the ready.

There was a burst of gunfire and our scouts signaled we could go ahead. There were seven men in the room. Six were dead. They were dressed like gentleman from Downtown Abbey. I went to the man still alive and asked him where we were on the ship. I didn’t understand his answer – but one word sounded familiar.

“I think he’s speaking French!” I yelled. “Can we patch in the Canadians?”

We did, and Staff Sargent Munro said, “He says you are too late. Nemo’s dreams will be realized because of… I couldn’t quite make it out.”

“Cthulu!” I cried. “That’s the word I recognized. Nemo is working with Cthulu, that’s the other sea monster – and they’ll destroy and enslave humanity.”

“Give me your other brick,” Patil ordered. “We lucked out. This is the break room for the ships engine. We’ll blow it and get out of here.”

A few minutes later we were back in the dark waters. A huge blast threw us as our explosives detonated. Cheering underwater is not very satisfying. It just comes out as a bunch of blubs. But cheer we did. The Nautilus, scourge of the seas for over a century, was no more.

About an hour later I was standing in the Captain’s briefing room with her top officers. My lungs burned with every breath. Captain Mastronati was talking, “Thanks to Mr. Mannes, we now know who the real enemy is. Cthulu. We’ll do field repairs and then start hunting. The surface teams captured several other prisoners and seized some materials. We’ll learn more from them. We have won the battle, but there is a long war ahead of us.”

The Captain looked directly at me, “Mr. Mannes I’d be happy to continue your detail. You were an asset. But you have an even bigger decision to make. Your lungs are on fire, aren’t they?”

I nodded.

“You are adapting to your nature. You are meant to live in these waters. It will take about a year of living underwater. There are others like you and the polar bears will look after you. After a year you can again breathe air, for perhaps a few hours at a time. You don’t have to do this. If you stay out of the water the feelings in your lungs will pass in a few weeks and you’ll return to normal. You’ll never again dive in the deep. It is your choice. You can go back to being Dr. Aaron Mannes. Or, you can fulfill your destiny as Aqua-Mannes!” 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Camp Stories 2016 - Operation Dark Waters Part 3

The continuing tales of a dad with too much free time writing stories for his kids at sleep-away camp. Start with part 1 and then part 2. Without them, this won't make much sense.

July 9, 2016

Undisclosed Location North of the Arctic Circle

USGC Polar Night

Dear Kids,

We had a real breakthrough. I can really talk to Artie. He’s about 400 years old (young for a sea monster). He said there are two great and horrible sea monsters, they have only been in the North for a little while and they have enslaved the lesser monsters. One he said has a hard, hard shell – like our ships – and knows about us (that is humans). The other he couldn’t describe except to say it was more terrible. Even being near it could hurt your mind.

I reported this to the Captain, she looked right at me and said one word, “Nemo.”

“Huh?” I answered.

“Did you ever read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mr. Mannes?”

“Sure, Jules Verne, the Nautilus, Captain Nemo. What does that have to do with anything?”

“It’s real. The novel was a leaked intelligence report, Mycroft Holmes had the brilliant idea to label it fiction so no one would believe it.”

“Mycroft Holmes?” I muttered quizzically.

“Sherlock Holmes’ brother, head of MI-5, yes that’s all real too. Later! Nemo is still out there. We haven’t heard much from Nemo for about 50 years, but that psychotic genius is still out there.”

“Wouldn’t he be like 200 years old?” I asked.

“He’s an evil genius who hates humanity and invented stuff 150 years ago that we still haven’t figured out. Or maybe it’s his son. Who knows? But your description fits him perfectly.”

She turned to the intelligence officer, “Get on the growler and find out what the polar bears know.”

“Is that a communications network,” I asked.

“No, we can talk to the polar bears. They know everything going on up here,” she turned to the XO, “Get the Canadians on the horn. If we are fighting the Nautiilus, we are going to need some help.”

Things were silent for a moment and the Captain looked at us and spoke gravely, “Commence Operation Finding Nemo!”


July 11, 2016

Undisclosed Location North of the Arctic Circle

USGC Polar Night

“All hands, this is Captain Mastronati. For the past several days we have been tracking the Nautilus. We have found her. With our Canadian allies we will bring her to battle. Captain Nemo has terrorized the world's oceans for over a century. But now, he has suborned the sea monsters we monitor and is not merely threatening maritime traffic, but humanity itself. This will be a hard fight. Nemo is a deadly foe with unknown technologies. Nonetheless, having served with you for two years in these dark waters, I will say that there is no crew I would rather have under my command for this mission. We may pay a heavy price, but we will be victorious. We are the Coast Guard, our mission is to keep the waters safe and our motto is semper paratus - always ready! If that means sailing into a storm to save drowning sailors: we are always ready. If that means charting unknown waters, we are always ready. And if it means a fight, we are always ready! SEMPER PARATUS!”

The ship's bridge and corridors echoed the Captain's call. Then the Polar Night sat quietly in the ice, waiting.

“Sir, it’s the growler! The polar bears have a precise sector,” the bridge intelligence officer said.

“Go silent, still engines, direct max passive sonars in his direction! Get the Inspector MacKenzie on the horn.”

“Sir, the polar bears have a message for Mr. Mannes.”

She gestured and I took the handset, I deep soft voice, with a hint of growl said, “Los osos blancos, son cremosos!”

“You gave the polar bears my background file?” I said in surprise. The barest hint of a grin passed over the Captain’s face.

“Inspector MacKenzie here. We are tracking him and will engage momentarily! Squadron aboot!” A voice came over the speaker.

“Excellent,” the Captain replied. “Remember the plan. You force him to surface. He can break through the ice, but he’ll be stuck. Then we will neutralize the Nautilus with our main guns.”

“Don’t worry! The Mounties always get their man!” MacKenzie said politely.

“Um, Captain,” something was bothering me. “There is another sea monster out there. Something that Artie was even more afraid of than the Nautilus. We need to get intelligence on this. If you just destroy the Nautilus…”

“Mr. Mannes,” she turned to me, I was ready to get chewed out. “You are correct. We’ll disable the Nautilus and then board. Prepare two assault teams and a team of divers. Full armament!”

We watched the SonScape.

“Kind of neat that you use maple leafs to identify the Canadian ships. They are really fast,” I observed.

“Those aren’t visualizations,” Lopez explained. “The maple leaf is a special super-hydrodynamic design. They are the fastest thing underwater. But they don’t have much firepower. The can harass the Nautilus. They’ll do some superficial damage that forces her to the surface. Then, the fireworks start!”

Lopez was pulling on arctic assault gear and examining her assault rifle. Suddenly, I was very, very scared.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Camp Stories 2016 - Operation Dark Waters Part 2

While the little Goofs are away at camp, I write them stories. Last year I traveled to Japan to save the world by eating sushi. This year, the nautical theme continues, but is way, way different. Part 1 is here.

USGC Polar Night

Operation Dark Waters 

Dear Kids, 

Sorry I haven't written to you. I've been so busy up here. 

Now that I'm fully briefed, I've been reading up on all the different phenomenon up here in the Arctic. There is stuff that goes back centuries. Eskimo lore is in the database. We've been doing all kinds of analytics on the monsters and I made a discovery.

There was a distinct change in the sea monster behavior about fifty years ago. They began acting with coordination, like a network. Then about 25 years ago they began acting against human operations in a coordinated way. They'd always attacked people, but in the early 1990s they began to consistently attack ships and stations that were important strategically. To me that means they have some access to information about the human world. Where are they getting it? 

That, in my mind is the critical question. If we find it, we can cut it off or feed them false information - or maybe even negotiate. 

I'm presenting this to the Captain soon. Don't know if she'll like it - she thinks I'm a doofus.

Another amazing thing, they have deep-sea Arctic divers. They take some pills and they can swim underwater indefinitely and see! Anyone can do it! I took it (I kept calling ti Gillyweed which annoyed the Captain). I haven't been in the ocean yet, but I've been swimming around the giant tank. 

One last thing, because of operational security, not even mommy knows I'm here. They made a clone of me to stay at home! They'll download the clones memories into mine when I get home. 

Diver Dad


July 8, 2016

Undisclosed Location North of the Arctic Circle

USGC Polar Night

Dear Kids,

My presentation to Captain Mastronati went well. She didn't say anything complimentary. But when I finished, she nodded and said, "OK."

High praise from her! The way you break up a terrorist group is to infiltrate it, get someone inside who can tell you what they are up to. My idea is to do the same thing with the sea monsters.

We are pretty sure the sea monster we just captured is pretty intelligent. We gave it different objects and the way it manipulated them was systematic and analytical. It also tried to use them to break out of the holding tank and escape. Given some tires and chains it fashioned a tool to smash out of its tank. The tank was too strong (we aren't dumb) but clearly this thing can think.

We've named it Artie, the Arctic Monster although we have no idea if it is male or female.

We've developed a plan to communicate with it and I am part of the team. We have several different strategies. We know it can see and hear. It communicates at low frequencies, we have a modulator that allows us to pick up its sounds and move our sounds to a frequency it can understand. It can hear sounds at our hearing range but probably wouldn't understand them as communication.

I’ve been playing a lead role in this: going into the tank and trying to communicate with Artie. I seem to be a natural. We played catch and fetch. It threw a tire with its weird T-Rex hands and I’d go get it. I “talk” to it with the modulator device. One time though it grabbed me and held me. I waited to see what it would do. It didn’t try to eat me. I think it was going to hold me hostage in order to be released. I know this thing is smart. But I set the modulator on stun and pulsed it. It let me go, but I’ve been more careful since.

I’m really getting somewhere with this and can stay in the tank for over an hour.

Deep Dark Dad

Sunday, July 10, 2016

SummerCamp Stories 2016 - Dark Waters Part 1

While the little Goofs are away at camp, I write them stories. Last year I traveled to Japan to save the world by eating sushi. This year, the nautical theme continues, but is way, way different.

June 30, 2016

Undisclosed Location North of the Arctic Circle

USCGC Polar Night

I could not tell you this before, but the clearance process means everything reaches you about a week after it happens, so there is no danger of releasing classified operational information.

I have been seconded to a top secret Coast Guard Icebreaker, the Polar Night. This ship is unlisted in the official records, so you can’t see it on the web. It isn’t like the other Coast Guard Icebreakers. This ship is designed to go deep into the Arctic for months at a time. It is actually a combination icebreaker/submarine.

It has on board laboratories for biology, physics, chemistry, you name it! The ship has its own super-computing facilities and can do a full on genome in house.

I don’t know much about why they want me here or what I am supposed to do. We’ve only been at sea for a day. I got here on an emergency jet to Barrow, Alaska. I got on bored the ship and immediately it submerged and headed for the North Pole. I haven’t even had ships orientation.

But here’s the craziest thing about this ship. In the middle, almost as though the ship is built around it, is an enormous water tank – bigger than an Olympic Pool! I asked about doing laps in it, but they said no, they had to keep it at Arctic temperatures. That doesn’t sound right, because I’ve seen people – not in wetsuits – swimming in it (they also didn’t have scuba gear and were really deep in this tank.)

The food is pretty good, but not much variety. Fish-sticks, fish-sticks, fish-sticks.


July 2, 2016

Undisclosed Location North of the Arctic Circle

USCGC Polar Night

This morning (well you don’t really know if it is morning, we are deep under-water and when we surface, it’s Arctic summer so the sun is up constantly, so day and night have no real meaning), the ship sirens woke me. The intercom blared, “Report to battle stations.”

I threw on my clothes and reported to the bridge. I didn’t know what the Captain wanted me to do, but she told that was my battle station.

“Mr. Starrs,” Captain Mastronati ordered, “Best estimates, how big is our encounter and what is it.”

“Predictive engine says a SeaSlug, about 20 tons. Confidence is on 45%,” the data tech answered.

“SeaSlug…” I muttered, “Is that a new kind of Russian mini-sub, I’ve never heard of it.”

Mr. Lopez (who was actually a woman I’d had lunch with – fish-sticks) whispered, “This is not a Russian sub. You’ll see. I’ll answer any questions.”

The Captain ordered the tech crew, “Get us in closer and get it up on SonScape.”

I heard the distant hum of the ships engines get a little louder, still quiet considering the size. A giant hologram appeared in the middle of the bridge.

“That’s SonScape, it’s an in-depth visualization of the space around the ship using sonar,” Lopez whispered.

Something moved through the corner of the hologram, just crossing the corner – fast.

“That is NOT a SeaSlug! Way to fast.” Mr. Starr exclaimed.

“Mr. Trang, I would like to try our new pulse lance. Do you think you can hit this thing?”

“Yes sir!” Trang said with a grin.

Then things were silent. We waited. The blip flitted across the corner of the hologram a few more times. Then it was solidly inside the hologram, swimming around. A weird conic blur went through the hologram towards the “thing” and it stopped moving.

“Nice shot!” someone exclaimed.

“Move in closer for pick-up. Divers ready at 50 meters,” the Captain ordered.

A few minutes later the “thing” on the hologram was close.”

“Let’s show Mr. Mannes what we’ve found. Visual!”

“Dr. Mannes,” I muttered, but stopped talking suddenly. The hologram shifted to a giant projection. Nest to the ship was an enormous sea creature. It didn’t look like a fish, more reptilian, like a giant lizard with bumpy skin and huge eyes. Except it had four little T-Rex arms near its mouth.

“A little one. Only 20 tons,” Lopez whispered. “About the size of a blue whale.”