Corporeal Passage: Chapter 11: Another Sinking in the Harbor
by Jeff RandWith the submarine now operational, Wilbur assumed his position on the bridge. Initially, he was troubled by the change on the control panel from English and its familiar symbols to the strange language found in the manuals. Apparently, the power reset had the effect of rebooting the entire system to these defaults. Fortunately, Steve had learned enough of this language and its symbols to change the displays back to English.
The language correction did not change the measurement system to either British or Metric units. Rather it went back to the Universal Measurement System, which the passengers knew did not come from the designers of the vessel, but from Mike Osvath when he brought the influences of Winter Camp to Zero Node. Wilbur opted not to use Cartesian Coordinates based upon tads for their destination, but consulted a graphic mapping program. The sub would arrive in Hawai'i. He would be careful to keep the top of the sub above water for the duration of the voyage, although the hatch to the outside would be typically sealed during the trip.
Keith recognized the unmistakable outline of Diamond Head as he stood on top of the submarine moored just off the Hawai'i coast at Waikiki. However, the adjoining area of Waikiki was nothing more than rubble, as the once stately hotels were now demolished. Though not unexpected, he had hoped to see something more remaining of the once island paradise. He descended and moved through the passenger compartment to the sub's bridge.
Wilbur steered the sub along the coast to the entrance to Pearl Harbor. He had no trouble in this natural harbor proceeding to its most well-known artifact. The USS Arizona was submerged in shallow water, where it sat since December 7, 1941. Above it, crossing its submerged deck, stood the memorial structure, remarkably undamaged. Wilbur moved the sub to a dock at the south end of the memorial that had served as the embarkation point for the National Park Service tour boats that had served this facility just a few years ago. There he set the sub to park where it would maintain its position adjacent to the dock, independent of any currents. In order to reach the dock, he wasted no time before he jumped from the top of the submarine's improvised decking. Although the sub sat slightly above the memorial's dock, the jump was of such distance that he missed the dock. While he was able to grab the railing during his fall, he suffered pain and bruises as a result. Fortunately, he found the gang plank to enable the others to disembark safely.
After months aboard the sub, the passengers were eager to get out, even if they weren't on the shore yet. By habit, based upon their earlier challenges, Keith and Michaela brought their packs with them. Mike had to carry Jo Jo up the ladder, who barked joyfully when he reached the platform on the memorial. Jimmy, the monkey, scurried up the ladder and climbed into the rafters of the memorial.
There was a sense of reverence as they walked on the platform crossing the sunken ship. Keith noted that periodic drops of fuel from the ship were still rising to the surface after 90 years. Mike proceeded to survey their surroundings, noting total destruction to all structures and vessels to the north, east, and west. However, when he looked south, there was a single ship still floating with its guns pointed in their direction, apparently undamaged. Keith looked to confirm its registry and knew it to be the USS Missouri. Amid the devastation imparted to Pearl Harbor and the rest of the island, miraculously there were two human artifacts untouched by the forces unleashed to protect world unity through neural virtual reality. That these two ships represented the start and end of World War II for the United States was noteworthy.
Despite his injuries, Wilbur was more interested in getting to shore than learning more about a war in a country that was foreign to him. "I think the shore is only about 100 tads away. We can swim that far. But I will go get the part of the raft that is still left," he said.
Keith joined Wilbur in returning to the sub to extract the remnants of the raft. As they approached, they heard a piercing alarm, and they were not at all prepared for the scene that greeted them at the base of the ladder. Rather than a display of various gauges, the wall was now bright red with a message that read, "Self-destruct will occur in 842 millijiffies!" And the number was going down.
"What did you do?" cried Keith.
"I didn't do anything. I left the sub with you. I'm really scared."
"Then we better grab a few things and get out of here."
The pair rushed up the ladder to the raft locker. Keith grabbed the bottom portion of the raft that they had cut to use as a sail. He climbed down the ladder to the food pantry. He grabbed several tins and wrapped them in the tarp before exiting through the top of the sub. For his part, Wilbur took an inflatable floatation tube and the tool kit.
"Get in the water and swim to shore! The sub is going to explode! We must leave now!" Keith screamed at the others.
Steve had the foresight to grab Keith's pack before jumping in. Michaela had hers on her back. When Keith jumped with the tarp load of food tins, he began to sink. Fortunately, Mike was quick to assist. With the two holding the food load, they were barely able to keep their heads above water. Wilbur jumped in with the tools and floatation tube. However, he quickly discarded the tube when he realized there was no time to inflate it. They had ten minutes to get away, at most.
"Jo Jo come," shouted Mike.
Though hesitant, Jo Jo was not about to be left and joined the other dog paddlers. Jimmy was nowhere to be seen.
Wilbur had the least buoyant load and could not swim with his head above water. But his youth would serve him now, as he used a dolphin stroke to swim underwater, occasionally forcing himself to the surface for air. Mike, who would turn 70 in a few weeks, was on the verge of drowning when Michaela came beside him to offer assistance.
They were two-thirds of the way when they heard the explosion. Keith turned to see a small mushroom cloud engulfing the monument. It took just seconds for the wave to hit. Wilbur was submerged and lost the tool kit. Michaela could not hold Mike but made a quick grab of the food tarp, as she rode the wave with her father.
Keith struggled to the surface, fighting to hold the food stash, as he rolled with the wave. He coughed before being submerged with another wave. On his second try to surface, he never had an opportunity for a breath. His underwater fight may have lasted less than two minutes, but he was sure that he would drown. When he rose to the surface, the sea had calmed, and he was still alive. There was Michaela still holding the other end of the food stash. Steve was there too. So was Wilbur, having lost the tools. Mike was nowhere to be found. During the brief conversation, Keith suggested that their priority was to finish the swim to shore before anyone else drowned. The implication was obvious. Although Keith had turned to look towards the monument, the now gentle waves were enough to hide a floating body.
The four survivors swam the remainder of the distance without incident, but were thoroughly exhausted when they reached the rocky shore. Keith pulled himself upon a rock and stood. He was surprised to see the monument itself still standing and more surprised to see Jo Jo just 200 feet away, swimming towards shore. And the dog had a passenger; he was helping Mike keep his head above water.
"Jo Jo saved my life," declared Mike, as he reached the shore with the others.
"Mike, I am happy to see you. We thought you had drowned. Let's see if we can find a better place to climb to the shore," responded Keith, pointing towards the USS Missouri.
The survivors scrambled along the rocky coast until they found easy access to the bank. There they gathered with their meager belongings and the food that Keith had removed from the submarine before it exploded.
"I guess we're stuck in Hawai'i now," Michaela said, starting the conversation as they sat on a grassy knoll overlooking the harbor.
"I am sure the sub was destroyed," added Wilbur.
"It looks that way," said Keith. "But we were in worse shape a few months ago, when you had us trapped in the lighthouse, Wilbur."
"I told you that I pleaded for your release. The others wanted to keep you there."
Mike interjected, "Enough. I've known Wilbur for years and would trust him."
"OK. I don't really believe that Wilbur intentionally blew up the submarine. Now, I guess we do have to build a raft to get home," responded Keith.
Steve joined the dialog. "Perhaps not. I see a big boat nearby," he said, pointing at the USS Missouri.
When they reached the Missouri, a tall fence stretched across the dock to prevent access for tourists. Other than the ship, all other structures nearby had been destroyed. Wilbur wasted no time scavenging through the ruins, returning with a steel rod. Keith helped him use the rod as a prybar to open the fence.
The ship was largely intact, having been fully outfitted to serve as a museum. Unfortunately, there was no electricity, making it difficult to explore the dark passages. However, when they reached the officers' quarters, these accommodations had portholes to the outside. They could be comfortable there and could each have their own room.
Keith gathered the others on the deck of the Missouri to develop their plans. Both he and Michaela were fortunate to have a change of clothes in their packs, that they made from all-natural materials during their stay in Zero Node. Michaela had recharged and brought the flashlight, which would prove quite useful. Keith had a couple of books in his pack, including Mike's copy of the Encyclopedia Winter Campica and the Book of Kells, which Steve had removed from Zero Node.
Keith opened the tarp holding the food tins that he extracted from the sub before it exploded. He was not pleased to discover that he had made poor selections in his haste. The dozen tins of dog food would make Jo Jo happy.
"Perhaps we can find some food on this ship," offered Michaela. "Since I have the flashlight, I'll do the search."
"I'll join you," added Wilbur. "Whatever we find, we'll bring it back here and meet in four jiffies."
"How about reducing that timespan to an hour. You need to learn how to measure hours and minutes," said Steve, knowing that an hour was only a reduction of about 2 ½ minutes from Wilbur's suggestion.
After going down a deck, Michaela and Wilbur entered the interior of the ship. Fortunately, the passages were not locked, and they were able to enter a large room. Michaela concluded that it was the mess hall for the enlisted sailors. Once they roamed a bit, they focused on the serving areas. Here they found some modern equipment, along with some relics that looked like they came from the second world war.
They opened the old cooler that read "Drink Pepsi-Cola Ice Cold" and found several unopened cans with solid tops. There were some cans of spam on display, but the 10-cent popcorn had been transposed into rodent droppings.
Michaela found some boxes of twinkies and remarked, "Look, twinkies. They last forever."
Michaela and Wilbur returned to the others, very pleased to offer their discovery for all to enjoy a fine dinner.
Steve, having been previously certified as a ServSafe Manager, assumed the responsibility of inspecting the items. "The rotgut will be ok," he said, referring to the Pepsi. "But I am not about to drink one after going decades without drinking soda."
Steve opened a box of Twinkies to show others the gray blobs. "While I did eat a moldy meat stick at Winter Camp that had been buried for five years, I think I'll pass on the Twinkies that have fed mold for more than 80 years," he continued.
"That was after someone else tried to eat it and spit it in the trash," Keith added, referring to the Winter camp incident.
After the spam dinner and decades old Pepsi for the others, Steve pulled them aside, "I may not have the expertise as the rest of you, but I believe we are sitting on the deck of our ride home."
"You're crazy," retorted his old friend, Mike.
"Yes. I would expect that comment from one with whom I shared many crazy adventures."
Keith added his wisdom, "It might be a real adventure to take this dinghy (referring to the 887-foot ship) across to ocean, but I see a few problems. I think it has been moored here since the end of World War II and what would we use for fuel?"
"I can easily respond to both points. Actually, the USS Missouri fought in the Gulf War and was not stricken until 1995. As to fuel, we know there is a supply remarkably close. You saw it bubbling to the surface from the sunken Arizona."
"And we can just run a fuel line from here to the Arizona?"
"More or less. I would expect that these ships are similar in design relative to their fueling apparatus."
"OK. Assuming we can get a million gallons of fuel, our crew of five will be able to fix this thing and sail across the ocean, when it probably had a crew of more than a thousand."
"Yes. It isn't like the Titanic where it required a bunch of men to shovel coal into the boilers. I bet it was configured with some sophisticated electronics for the Gulf War. I am sure Ozzie can figure that out," replied Steve, referring to Mike Osvath. "The majority of its crew would have been during routine tasks, such as deck hands, cooks, or even fighting the war."