Approaching a continental shelf by sea is always a breathtaking experience, even at cautious speed. A submarine approach is the most intense. Cecric and Eddy watched intently as delfinian sensors began to more clearly project an image of a tremendous undersea passage. Both pilots could not help a tense breath or two while their powerful headlights simply melted into inky black darkness. Instruments told them the ship had pierced the land shelf and was now traveling under the actual continent.
Eddy kept to the center of the passage using the ship instruments. He soon realized that this required a gentle upward course. The only outward sign indicating Cecric’s tenseness was her hand poised near her set of ship controls. It was more than a little unnerving for both of them to plow forward in total darkness seeing nothing.
“We’re almost back to sea level,” Cecric said pointing to the depth gauge. “Keep us beneath the surface a little longer and turn northwest. We’ll arrive at our dock in a few minutes.”
“I can see light through the front windows,” Eddy said, pointing ahead.
“Yes, I've been told there are several rifts between the two continents where nearly white hot lava rises from the planet interior. The hot minerals give off light before cooling and sinking back downward. Though not as bright as the sun, the light is considerably brighter than the moon.”
Eddy was thinking how strange it was to be heading toward light so far beneath the earth when he saw Cecric bend over the computer and enter data that corrected their position on the forward map.
“We’ve passed under the last of the stone above us," now you can bring the ship up to the surface and turn just a little more north.”
The ship’s bow wave splashed against the front windows as it slowly surfaced. Looking upward was the only direction they could see, at first. The cavern roof was very high, it was like looking at the sky. Colors lapped on each other, suggestive of a sunset. Between splashes, Eddy could see the cavern roof was as high as clouds. Soft cream-colored purples gave way to the buffs, tans and lavenders of sandstone. Darker browns, serpentine green and blacks appeared as if shadows among clouds.
“How did you find this place?” Eddy asked.
“Our explorers discovered the cavern while prospecting for subsurface minerals and potential food crops. They didn’t see much of the land because they explored mostly underwater," Cecric said as she examined the map and inspected course heading data. "Please bring the ship to a westerly course toward the coast.”
Eddy stared transfixed while the huge ship gradually changed course and the landscaped lazily drifted across the front windows. He glanced at Cecric and noticed she was watching him rather than the view. Her expression was mischievous. Eddy thought he detected smiling anticipation. “What are you looking at me for?” He asked.
She just shrugged her shoulders and turned back to the window. He followed her gaze and felt his entire body involuntarily jerk in shocked surprise; a huge floating city slowly slid into and then filled the windshield view. Eyes wide, he turned speechless to Cecric, she didn’t say anything. Pointing to the large docks extending from the beach, she indicated that they were her intended destination.
The floating city glistened as if made of diamonds. Bright lights shined onto the sea and flickered on small waves. Light beams reflected back by the moving water played across the city’s shining surfaces in random wave patterns that combined and recombined hypnotically. Large spires were topped by faceted spheres and turreted cylinders. A filigree of connecting arches flashed their brilliance to the domed cavern sky.
“What is it?” Eddy asked in awe.
“A city,” Cecric answered with teasing laughter.
Eddy laughed with her, at first. “I can see that, you joker.” Then he felt a bit overwhelmed with a rush of unaccustomed confusion and frustration that made him feel hot. So many things around him were happening so fast and all at once that he was suddenly awash in his own surprisingly demanding and very personal emotions. “What’s going on around here? You Delfinians seem to have fun no matter what you are doing. Doom Cloud is so close we will be able to see it with our own eyes in a day or two and you’re playing around with me.”
Eddy feigned a pouting expression, “I’m still a little upset you let me land the ship with so many passengers on board. Don’t you know how beautiful you and all the other Delfinians are to me? What if something had gone wrong? And now there’s a huge glittering city suddenly in front of us. Why didn’t you tell me? I am not a child any more, but at this particular moment I suddenly don't feel completely adult either. I’m lost somewhere between. I don’t know what’s going on except that I happen to be a good pilot and we might all be dead in a few days.”
Eddy felt himself becoming emotional at a time when his job required he be a totally clearheaded pilot responsible for one thousand passengers. He took a deep breath, changed his inner, personal course and busied himself with minor and completely unnecessary instrument adjustments, all the while intently observing the awesome floating city.
“I’m sorry,” Cecric said, softly. “I didn’t mean to be upsetting or condescending. I’m proud to know you, Eddy. This is hard for all of us, including the Melodians.”
“That’s what the people who live here call themselves.”
“Yes. The Melodians are very different from us, Eddy. You and I are mammals even though we are or might be from different – how do you say it? – big bangs. Yes, that’s it. However the moment of creation occurred, it certainly happened with a big bang. Cosmic powered biology manifest as people like us began when the first quarks solidified and began discovering various attractive combinations that evolved into interesting offspring with opportunities for evermore interesting combinations. Evolution is accelerating along with the accelerating cosmic expansion of a big bang still banging. We can now see and travel in appreciation and awe of Cosmos. Interestingly, big bang is accelerating, that is why some people call it big-still-banging.
“Though not at all a settled theory, many delfinians believe we are from an entirely different Big Bang than you, yet we are both mammals sharing the same basic physiology. We are also both made of hydrogen, carbon, a slew of other elements, and lots of water. Melodians are quite different. I believe they are from this Big Bang but I am not certain of that either. What is most different about them as they use iron and sulfur in their bodies similar to the way we use carbon and oxygen. Melodians are chemically different than us, very different. Even so, they are alive and living the same as us.”
“Do they have organs, like heart and lungs?”
“We know very little about them. We recently found the city because we were looking for the closest harbor to the cavern entrance, that happened just a few days ago.”
“Cecric, I don’t think being a mammal implies one must be chemically the same as us, it just means mothers nurse their babies.”
“Hmm, you’re right. As I said, we just met them. Now it’s your turn.”
“You are the first human to set foot in Melodia. I’m sure someone will want to at least say ‘hello.’ Humans will be the bridge between Melodians and Delfinians because they, Melodians, are mostly land beings and they seem to be more interested in our society than our science. My impression is they are very advanced scientifically.”
“Why are the Melodians so interested in your civilization?”
“I’m not sure. I think they are interested in us because we have attained scientific knowledge and technology without losing our ancient freedoms. We are at home anywhere in the sea yet we are not strictly or always nomads. Melodians say we are the only technological beings they have encountered who have developed advanced science and an economy with fun as their cultural purpose in life.”
“Yes. I first saw your fun loving way of life on the hospital ship after your doctors cured me of old age from Doom Cloud's attacks. I am beginning to understand all Delfinians a little better after being with you on this ship. But what did you mean when you described Melodians as ‘mostly’ land beings?”
“Melodians live out of the water like humans. Yet are somehow more at home in it than humans. A few of them have actually come into the water to play with us. Interestingly, they don’t surface to breath unless everyone is playing on top of the water. About all I know is they are serenely peaceful even though they are as worried about Doom Cloud as we are.”
“How do they know about Doom Cloud?” Eddy asked as he steered the ship toward the docks were the other Delfinian chips were moored.
“Those large spheres are some kind of observatory." Cecric replied. "The Melodians say that all creation is connected in a natural harmony. They can hear the stars and planets and sing along with them using those shining spheres.”
“Can the cosmos hear them?” Eddy asked.
“I believe the Melodians think so. I really don’t know much except what others have told me, briefly. We’ve all been so busy preparing to meet Doom Cloud there hasn’t been much time to try and figure out what Melodians are talking about. My impression is they are more concerned with being part of the star songs than whether the stars can actually hear them. Humans appear to be the cross between warriors and peace builders we are all depending on, Melodians are helping in ways I don’t fully understand, yet.”
“How do they light up those lights?”
“That much I do know – it’s electricity.”
“But I don’t see any wires.”
“The system is ingenious and elegantly simple. This floating city is built around vertical columns that are solidly anchored to the ocean floor. The vertical columns have linear gear-tooth strips welded to them. Circular gears roll up and down the vertical gear teeth. The city raises and falls with the tide and the circular gears spin their way up and then down the vertical teeth on the pillars. The gears turn electric generators. Can you imagine how much force it would take to stop the city from rising and falling with the tide? The electrical power available is probably equal to the power in a large river.”
“Yeah, it is a big city,” Eddy responded as he pulled the ship to a stop next to the pier. “There’s nobody here to tie us up,” he said.
“Mooring lines are being attached underwater,” Cecric answered pointing to the red lights indicating open hatches. The ship will be here for several hours work. You should go ashore using the hatch from this room. Those levers by the door control an equipment ramp you can use. This room will be mostly emptied of water when I leave.”
“Leave!” Eddy exclaimed. “Where are you going?”
Cecric’s face broke into a beaming smile. “I’m going swimming. I haven’t felt the water yet because I’ve been so busy.” Her face changed to a slightly sad and pensive expression as she briefly glanced downward, “I do want to feel the water one more time before …” She didn’t finish her thought, instead she swam to Eddy, reached over the wall with both arms and hugged him.
Eddy held her tightly, “Cecric, don’t go. What will I do?”
“You go wander on the land for a while, you need that as much as I need the sea. Engineers will install metal mounts that Melodians made for your largest land-based weapons. Now go, try to relax and be a boy for a while while you have the chance. I’m sure there is much here for you to see. I will be inside the water barrier when you return. She gave Eddy a quick squeeze and swam out the door leading to the rear of the ship.
Suddenly feeling very alone, Eddy watched a light above the doors Cecric had gone through blink red. At the same moment he heard the hum of the pump draining water from the flight control area. As soon as the room emptied of water, Eddy climbed the ladder over the barrier and walked to the hatch. He hesitated briefly and then pushed the button to open the outside door.
continue to Chapter 17