Echo-1: Part 10
“I’m Dixon. Jonas told me he was sending his new Hands to meet me. He’s all excited about you. He told me the story of how you got out. I’m impressed. And they say no one makes it out alive.”
Widening her eyes, she gave me a Cheshire cat smile.
“Way to beat the system. You know you’re the first to do that. Let’s go upstairs, you’ll feel a lot warmer.”
She looked back toward the Narwhal and opening her mouth in a wide fashion let out a piercing call, similar to the chirping whales. Then she tossed the last of the fish to them. She looked pretty much like me, except for the breasts, which were more decorative than functional. She had the same skin, clothing, and spiky black hair. I understood that we were designed to be completely humanoid, that we could have sex for pleasure, but that we could not reproduce. After all, we were part cloned biologic material and part machine. It was still nice to know there were females. And she was once a human too, sort of.
Dixon was former Harvard professor, a breakthrough leading feminist scientist, and a Radcliffe girl with a life spanning all of the 20th century. Her Echo-1 life and career were very impressive. Unlike me, she had lived out her entire life. Jonas had her tagged for extraction upon her death.
We passed through a pressure chamber and went up a spiral staircase to a room with a glass wall that looked into the frigid sea. The whales were all playfully swimming around. Dixon went over to a counter and blended a hot smoothie type drink for each of us. We stood at the window drinking and watching the whales.
“It’s energy packed, you probably won’t need to ingest anything for several days. We don’t really eat much.”
I sipped and nodded, I wasn’t really hungry, but it tasted good.
“Jonas brought me here about fifteen years ago to grow mollusks and start an ecosystem for these two pods. I ended up recreating Earth’s polar shallows, but the electro crabs are still the core of the Banga’s food chain. These may be the last of these whales. Brought from Earth thousands of years ago, but failed as navigators. They were dumped on a water world in the 5th system. They had trouble adapting to the local environment. There was a good size group of each, but they were dying. There are still another two thousand struggling to survive.
“Jonas selected this group to breed future generations. We’re taking them with us to a water world very similar to Earth. Jonas negotiated the rights to an outer rim planet with pretty stellar natural resources in exchange for doing two runs on the Banga. The planet has two major land masses and is mostly a big frozen ball. The equator is warmer and I am told the central land mass is comparable to Canada with a short spring and summer season. The southern continent is a huge pristine pine forest with massive trees that defy the long winters. I’m going to stay and live with these whales and see if I can help them make it.
“I’ve been altering my vocal processor through a series of surgeries. I understand both whale languages and am nearly able to speak them. But my range is off. The Belugas, they’re songbirds. I’m sure you heard them coming in.”
I had indeed.
“The two species are actually closely related, though they look totally different. They shared the same environment on Earth. The two species often traveled and fed together. They’re social butterflies with complex relationships. They call me ‘Mother Dixon’ in their language. I think they’re making fun of me half the time.
“Anyway, these whales don’t really like technology. Well, it’s more like they don’t like things placed on them. If we try and attach a transmitter they freak out. They’ll talk to us for about two hours, mostly a bunch of swearing, then they break off the device. We tried surgically implanting one and the Narwhals stabbed at the whale with the implant until it came out. Needless to say, that whale died. The funny thing was, the whole time he kept asking them to do it. Don’t get me wrong, they’re intelligent, sophisticated mammals. They just have a primitive, more simplistic nature.”
Outside the window, the whales spun round and round. From within her submarine tower, Dixon schemed a great future for these species from a world she never really lived on but knew oh so well.
I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that these whales were actually from Earth and that I wasn’t.
“If I knew what I knew now when I was a human, I would have spent my whole life working with these whales. Jonas really opened my eyes. He’s going to stay with me for the first season on the new world, then he’s driving the Banga back on a round trip and bringing back the rest of the whales. Assuming there are still some alive in two hundred years. I’ve never had a connection to any beings like these before. Our technology is so advanced that we can communicate with them. I think I like them even more because they don’t use technology. I envy their life.
“In this new body, I’m young again, and strong, and swim like nobody’s business. I feel like I’m in scientist heaven.”
She finished off her drink in silence watching as the whales moved gracefully through the water outside. Were they the last of their kind?
“Would you like to go topside? We built a surface environment to live symbiotically with the underwater world.”
We went to the rear of the room and took a lift up to the top of the submarine. It was a circular elevator. It could alter its orientation to match that of the ship. I had no info on this ship. It was all new to me. I accessed the ship’s computer, but it only had vague examples of similar vehicles.
“Can you tell me about this ship?” I asked.
As the lift was shooting up Dixon grabbed onto me and gave me a hug, her plated black hair all stood on end for a second, like she was a big cat. She purred and nuzzled me. I felt warm all over. She let go and stepped back, giggling a bit.
“I’m a teenager in this body with the mind of a 105-year-old woman. It’s a strange experience. You seem much nicer than the others Jonas has pulled out of the simulation. But I guess you came out on your own, didn’t you?
“Anyway, this ship is my home. Charlie’s team designed it for me. They’re Ursa Gnomes you know. Charlie is a mechanical wizard. I told them what I needed and bam, they built it. They expanded the designs of few hardy amphibious spaceships and used the robots to build this vessel for me. Three decks thick and thirteen long with three entry docks and everything a small team would need to survive indefinitely in a frozen water environment. I call her the Unicorn. Her hull shape is modeled after the body of Narwhal. Do you know the story of Noah’s ark?”
“And how he left all the unicorns behind. You know that old biblical god wanted to keep all the magic to himself. Anyway, the unicorns showed him, as the water covered the earth they changed themselves into whales and took to the sea. And now they are with me. I’m like a reverse Noah.”
I had not heard this version of ark myth. We exited the lift and went through another entry dock out to a frozen observation deck.
“Welcome to the north pole.”
It was a field of ice and snow as far as the eye could see. In the distance, it appeared the entire terrain was surrounded by white mountains. I looked up into blowing snow and past the spiral needle jetting out from the nose of the ship. It was a unicorn ship.
“The environment is 20 decks of surface and 60 below forming the frigid sea. We’re completely sealed off from the rest of the ship, sans the two underwater entry points. Here come some of the little blue guys.”
She pointed off to our left. There were all these blue penguins waddling along. They were pretty big, about a meter tall, very similar in scale and stature to Wingus and Dingus. All of sudden there was panic in their ranks the blue birds started flailing around, many diving into a nearby ice hole. Out of nowhere appeared a huge polar bear. Moving almost silently it charged the penguins, grabbed one in its jaws, and ripped it in half with its claws. The ice was splattered with green penguin blood.
“What’s that thing! Are we even safe out here?” None of the info I had recently acquired mentioned giant killer polar bears running wild on the ship.
“Don’t worry, the outer hull is electrified. They’re afraid of the Unicorn. If you go out there though, you won’t hear them until you’re in their teeth.”
The beast was about twenty meters away and hunched over its meal, ripping off large chunks and swallowing them.
“The bears are one of Veronica’s contributions. She made them based on the Earth polar bears in Jonas’s simulation. But they turned out bigger and badder. She calls them the perfect predators. She felt we can’t make a new world for these whales without some kind of predator. Have you met Veronica yet?”
I hadn’t. I knew she was our third in command and head scientific officer. She was a female Sperm whale and the matriarch of one of the pods. She had no offspring, yet.
“You’ll hear all the ship rumors about whale love triangles when you meet the Save the Whales gang. They are a bunch of well-meaning crackpots. They don’t have scientific backgrounds, they’re just enthusiastic animal lovers. They’re normally hanging around with one of the pods or doing odd jobs out on the sea of Tranquility.”
I admit I wasn’t completely paying attention to Dixon, I was fixated on watching the monstrous bear devour a penguin.
“The blue penguins always travel with Jonas. He plans on leaving them all on the planet with me, he assures me they will thrive there. You know he saved them from extinction, but the way they reproduce I find it hard to believe they were ever in danger. It’s good we have the bears keeping their numbers in check. There are a couple caves built into each of the outer perimeter walls. They’re meant to look like mountains sides. The bears are spending the journey there. I worked with Veronica on cloning the bears, but our base DNA set was from another space creature similar to the polar bear, so they’re more ferocious.
“We’re on the third generation with two new cubs out there, learning to hunt penguins. We have four adults and two cubs total. On the ice it’s all blue penguins and polar bears. Those crazy bears occasionally try to pull a whale out of an ice hole. The Narwhals killed one once. They stabbed it and dragged it under water until it drowned.
“Would you like to go out on the ice? We could track down the cubs.”
I was saved by the bell, when Vronsky summoned me back to the dock he dropped me off at.
“Maybe next time,” I said.
We went back down the lift to the sea entrance. I wasn’t looking forward to that cold plunge back into the frigid water. My clothing had quickly completely dried, an amazing material.
“It was great meeting you, Dixon.” It really was.
She took both of my hands in hers and squeezed them. Her hair stood up again. “Take care, Hands, go meet Veronica and watch out for the space marines, they’re crazy war mongers.”
I told her I would and jumped into the water. I didn’t notice the cold as much as last time. I swam out to meet Vronsky and climbed back into my seat between him and the cannon barrel. All the Beluga and Narwhals swam around us and escorted us to the port side exit from the secret frozen sea. I reached back for the breather once we were back in the water ring heading toward the front of the ship.
“I’d like to meet Veronica if we have time?” I asked.
We glided in the water stream at unknown speeds, the feeling of not moving started to take over again.
Vronsky rolled his eye back at me.
“I’m going to drop you at one of the entry airlocks, we’ll pass her pod on the way. They’re nursing around an air bubble not far from the port side water ring entrance. Your next mission is to check out the ship from outside. Please take this travel time to review the Zero-G commando profiles, particularly Major Uzi Anger, Lieutenant X, and Sergeant Death. They all have what they feel are cool new names.”
I accessed the ship’s computer and the Echo-1 profiles of the three military officers.