“My grandfather was a man, when he talked about freedom, his attitude was really interesting. His view was that you had obligations or you had responsibilities, and when you fulfilled those obligations or responsibilities, that then gave you the liberty to do other things.” –Clarence Thomas
It was a communications console. That’s what Isaiah had intended to be Keisha’s “post” on board the Dakuwaqa. In spite of its ornate decorations and clockwork design, it functioned a lot like the wireless device on the Delight, which let her hear the engineer’s voice for the first time after she arrived in what the teen had started to call “Steamworld.”
“You know, when you explain it, the panels don’t seem that hard to work. I mean, radio is radio, and this section to the left also lets me run the acoustical equipment so I can hear nearby ships, whales, and stuff.”
“Exactly, Miss Davis.”
While Josiah guided the submarine past the Golden Gate and out into the Pacific Ocean, Isaiah gave Keisha a crash course in submersible operations, with a focus on radio and sound. Although, either could also be accessed from the pilot’s and engineer’s consoles, the wireless panel let her have much finer control over the inputs. If need be, she could also send messages, but she had no idea who she’d call, since they were supposed to be hiding out.
“Pa, I’d say we were at the halfway point now. You might want to take a look up topside to make sure we haven’t drifted.”
“Thank you, Josiah. I believe my navigational skills are up to snuff, but your suggestion is valid. Miss Davis, don your headgear and listen for the approach of any vessels. Though it is still night, we don’t want the optiscope lens to be seen by chance.”
“Aye, aye, Skipper.” Keisha threw off a smart salute. Although the danger they were all in was very real, it was hard not to act as if this were all a game of dress up and pretend.
“Your humor is admirable.” He smiled back at her, then turned as the optiscope descended from the ceiling. Josiah piloted the craft up to the proper depth and then changed the lighting from yellow to red. Isaiah pressed his face against the lens and turned the scope’s shaft with the attached handles.
“No sound of engine noises nearby.”
“Nothing visual within our immediate vicinity either. We have maintained our course toward the Farallon Islands as planned.”
“Aren’t they some sort of wildlife preserve or something?” Keisha knew what most tourists knew about the group of islands that sit a little over thirty miles west of San Francisco.
“There is also a lighthouse, which is our ultimate goal, however we must be cautious. My good friend Joachim Rosenstein has the duty this week, which works very well in our favor, but we must make sure he has no guests when we reveal ourselves.”
“What does a lighthouse on an island have to do with us becoming pirates?”
“All in good time, Miss Davis. All in good time. It is well that we will be resuming his company, for he is also involved in our plot against Mr. Stanley Tyson, though that piece of knowledge must remain most confidential.”
“Okey-dokey.” Keisha’s voice carried a dubious tone. She still only had a mental sketch of who Tyson was and how she was supposed to be involved. They had all been too busy operating the sub and, in her case, learning how to operate it, to do a lot of talking. Besides that, Isaiah had spent additional time running more communications cable to the critical areas of the boat, so they could have greater intercom contact to and from the control room.
“Down to cruising depth and maintain your course, Josiah.” Isaiah slapped the scope’s handles down and the shaft returned to its original position. Keisha was grateful when the lights turned back from red to yellow again.
“When will we get to the islands, Mr. Covington.” It was murder for Keisha to remember to call Isaiah by his last name all the time, but he was such a formal person, and his son seemed to think it a unforgiveable breach of manners if she called his Dad “Isaiah.”
“Another few hours, but I plan to have the Dakuwaqa rest off of the Southeast Island for a time. We must be cautious in contacting Mr. Rosenstein lest me give away his involvement and our position.”
“Once the sun comes up, how will you keep the sub from being seen?”
“With Mr. Rosenstein’s permission and cooperation, we will have safe harbor. Never fear. The Lord has granted us much mercy thus far, and I continue to rely on His providence.”
Her Grandpa had gone to church every Sunday and read the Bible every morning of her life, and even he didn’t even talk about God this much.
As the submarine slowly made its way westward, Isaiah resumed the helm, allowing Josiah to go up to the galley for a snack and a break. Keisha was amazed that this young boy was so responsible and polite. She figured he’d probably explode when he turned thirteen if he didn’t have a chance to be a kid.
She turned back to the communications panel and ran through the checklist of the equipment again, wishing she remembered more history. The high school student knew Marconi invented the radio, but she didn’t remember when.
This world had dirigibles, biplanes, submarines, and steam-driven trains and cars. Keisha guessed that put them right around the beginning of the 20th century give or take a decade. But it also had energy firing handguns, cyborg assassins, and gravity control, plus the Golden Gate Bridge in her world wasn’t built until sometime in the 1930s.
Somehow, whatever Grandpa and Isaiah had invented in their two separate worlds, each one working to perfect an artificial gravity generator, let them communicate with each other, but was it the same thing that let her and the Graceful Delight airship travel from her world to this one?
“Miss Davis, if you please, we are have arrived at our destination. Report on any local sea traffic.”
“Oh, sure.” She had been daydreaming, but because she had one side of the headphones away from her ear, she was able to hear Isaiah. Keisha activated the acoustical microphones and scanned the local vicinity.
“I’m picking up what might be a pod of whales.”
“Yes, they are quite common in this area.”
“Wait. Sounds like a set of propellers have just started up.”
“Pa. Sun up was an hour ago and the lighthouse takes on supplies early on Fridays.”
“Yes, son. I recall. That means we’ll need to wait a bit. Maintain your post.”
Keisha noticed Josiah had returned to the control room, but was too busy both with her equipment and wondering about this strange world she was inhabiting.
“It’s heading away from us. Probably be out of sight before long.”
“We only need worry about him seeing the radio mast. I give you the honor of establishing contact with our ally once the proper moment arrives.”
Keisha powered the radio unit so it would warm up, and turned a massive dial, that almost didn’t fit in the palm of her hand, to the proper frequency.
After long minutes of silence from the speakers, “Miss Davis, please transfer control of the wireless to my station.”
“Aye, Mr. Covington. Shouldn’t I call you Captain or Skipper or something?” She was kidding for the most part.
“Mr. Covington will do nicely, thank you. I shall inform you when this officially becomes a Naval vessel.”
“Wireless is warmed up and the frequency is set.”
“Very well. He keyed the transmitter. “Dakuwaqa to Farallon Island Light. Dakuwaqa to Farallon Island Light. Come in, please. Over.”
This time, Isaiah chose the speakers over a headset, so when he let go of the mike key, they all heard static, but no voice.
“Dakuwaqa to Farallon Island Light. Come in, please. Over.”
There was another moment of static, and then they heard someone talking through crackling and popping. “Aye, this is Farallon Light receiving, Dakuwaqa. You could give me a minute, you know. It’s a long walk from the dock up to the tower. Over.”
Isaiah chuckled as he keyed the transmitter. “I apologize for trying your patience. Your response tells me we can be relaxed. Over.”
“You may indeed. I’ve been expecting you since I heard the news. Over.”
“What news is there? Over.”
“Your house. The raid. I have last night’s edition of the Chronicle here with me. Story goes you resisted arrest after some sort of illegal operation of a dirigible. They say you set off an infernal device, killing eight deputies as well as yourselves. Everyone aboard alright? Over.”
Isaiah paused and looked down for a moment. “I’ll fill you in after we’re docked. Mrs. Covington and Leah are among the missing, though thankfully Josiah and my guest were with me. Over.”
This time, the voice at the other end didn’t respond for a few moments. “Missing, so you don’t know for sure if…” He stopped mid sentence. “I’ll pray for their safe recovery. Are you in position? Over.”
“We are, my friend. Over.”
“Opening the gates now. Wait thirty seconds and then proceed. I’ll meet you at the dock. Over.”
“This is the Dakuwaqa acknowledging. Over and out.” Isaiah returned radio control back to Keisha’s station.
The mood in the control room was dark with the memory of Eralia and Leah as Isaiah slowly drove the submarine forward.
“Isaiah…Mr. Covington. I can hear something.”
“That would be the acoustic beacon guiding us in. You’ll see a needle on the accompanying dial. Make sure it stays center and inform me if it drifts at all.”
“Sure.” She watched the dial marked “Directional Beacon Indicator.”
“It’s steady but getting louder.”
“When the decibel indicator gets near maximum, inform me immediately.”
“Got it.” She let her gaze slip to the dial to the right of the first.
“Getting closer. Almost there. Okay, now.”
The submarine had been moving ahead at a proverbial crawl and then is stopped completely.
“Picking up a voice.”
“This is Farallon Light to Dakuwaqa. I’ll be tying you up. Come on out and greet an old friend, Isaiah. Over.”
Keisha keyed her mike. “We’ll be out in a second, Farallon Light. Over.”
“Well, that’s a pleasant sounding voice unless you’ve been dipping into the helium supply. Over.”
Behind her, Josiah must have been able to hear him through the earphones because he laughed.
Then Isaiah said, “Just tell him we’ll be joining him shortly.” His words were terse, but his tone signaled amusement.
“Mr. Covington said we’ll be out momentarily. Dakuwaqa out.”
“Aye then. Over and out.”
Keisha went through the routine of shutting down her systems as Isaiah and Josiah proceeded through a similar process.
Isaiah was the first up the tower’s interior and opened the top hatch. “Josiah. You next. Help Mr. Rosenstein tie up our vessel.”
When Keisha got to the top of the hatch, she saw the submarine was in some sort of underground dock a lot like the cave the Dakuwaqa had launched from. Looking down, she saw Josiah finishing tying an elaborate knot in a large rope keeping the front end of the boat secure to its mooring.
She almost laughed to see Isaiah hugging a man half a head shorter than he was and dressed like photos she’d seen of Hasidic Jews. Then Joachim Rosenstein turned and looked up.
“Welcome to my humble abode. A friend of Isaiah Covington is a friend of mine.”
“Thanks.” She climbed onto the ladder rungs on the side of the tower and lowered herself down to the deck. A long wooden plank extended from there to the cement dock.
“I’m Keisha Davis. Pleased to meet you.” She put out her hand to shake.
“Please don’t take offense, Miss. I’m shomer negiah. Not a personal thing, but the Law forbids me touching a women excepting immediate family.”
“Oh, uh, okay.” She put her hand back down. “Sorry.”
“No, I should apologize. I neglected to tell you. I’ve been preoccupied with a number of matters, but that’s not an excuse to embarrass you.” Isaiah, as always, was sincere, but this time, it was confusing.
She had no idea if “shomer negiah” was unique to this world or something Jewish men would do where she lived. They didn’t have a lot of Jewish people in her small town, and the closest synagogue was probably a hundred miles away.
“I imagine you’ll all be wanting a bit of breakfast and some rest.”
“A natural assumption and thank you for the hospitality.”
“Pa. Got her all tied up. Mr. Rosenstein did all the hard work. I just tidied up.”
“You’re a good lad, Josiah. Can’t believe you’re so big. I’ll have to put you to work around here before long.”
“Thank you Sir, but I believe my Pa keeps me busy with my chores.”
They were all laughing and the obvious connection the three of them shared made Keisha feel like an outsider all over again.
“Come with me. I’ll rustle up a bit of brekkie for you, then show you to your accommodations. As always, your undersea wonder will be quite safe.”
Keisha woke up in a warm, dark room, and thought she’d never slept on a more comfortable bed in her life. She’d heard of goose down pillows and comforters, but she thought it was something lost to the last century. Then she remembered she was as good as living in the past.
She didn’t wear a watch and didn’t have her cell with her, and she was getting a little annoyed not knowing what time it was unless Isaiah told her or she was within sight of a clock.
On the night stand was a pitcher of water, a glass, and a note.
“Dear Miss Davis. Please join us in the watch room when you are ready.”
It was signed by Isaiah. Rosenstein had given them a brief tour after breakfast, although she had the definite impression she was the only one who needed it. The watch room was right under the lantern and it was a combination lounge and storage room holding everything needed to run the lantern.
When she got there, Isaiah, Josiah, and Rosenstein were already seated on plush chairs around a small table. The three of them stood when they saw her.
“Thanks.” Her face flushed as the attention embarrassed her.
Rosenstein indicated which seat she should use with a wave of his hand, and only after she took it did the three males resume their chairs.
“I hope I didn’t make everyone wait.”
“Not at all, Miss Davis. Young Josiah just joined us a few minutes ago, and Mr. Covington not long before. We were just discussing your involvement in this affair.”
“Actually, that’s something I’d like to be filled in on as well.”
“Very well, Miss Davis. Your wish shall be granted. Care for some tea first?” Isaiah placed a cup and saucer in front of her.
She nodded “yes” to be polite and after taking a sip she looked back at him expectantly.
“As you are aware, your Grandfather and I initiated an accidental contact with each other by way of the gravity waves emitted via our independent experimental devices. We spoke in Morse’s code at first, both of us being acquainted with it, and later developed voice transmission similar to a typical wireless.”
“Did you know that you were both the same…I don’t know how to say this.”
“We became aware that we possessed the same identity, though after exchanging information about our respective experiences, we also came to know we had lived very different lives in most respects.”
“Do you know where I come from? I mean, how is where I am now related to my home?”
“Your Grandfather called our worlds different quantum realities. A sort of parallel between two Earths which had developed much different histories.”
“Why did he make all of those strange devices including the Delight?”
“When he came to the realization that what he had discovered was far more significant than what he had been commissioned to be built by his employer, he reported failure, and chose to continue his experiments in private. I, unfortunately, was nowhere near as fortunate. Your Grandfather was the sole owner of his company. By contrast, my wife and I were mere employees and owned nothing, including the gravity device.”
“Several unfortunate events. By this time, your Grandfather’s illness had become acute and, having put off my employer, Mr. Stanley Tyson as best I could, I was finally discovered to be concealing vital information about my discovery.”
“Was Grandpa going to come here himself?”
“He had originally constructed the Delight for that purpose, but his illness prevented it, so his mission was assigned to you.”
“But I have no idea what I’m supposed to do here or even what the problem is. Why did those cyborgs try to kill us? Why do we have to hide out?” Keisha was nearly yelling and waving her arms around. Then she realized that the other three were sitting placidly as if waiting for her to calm down. “I think it’s normal for me to be upset under the circumstances.”
“It’s difficult to answer your questions. I believe your Grandfather hoped to have the time to acquaint you with the situation, but that time ran out. He did state in his last communication with me that he would send you aboard the Delight with his engineering journal, and that you would be able to interpret his notes, allowing us to solve our mutual dilemma.”
“He never told me anything about a dilemma, or for that matter, why anyone would want to kill me over it.”
“As I mentioned, my discovery belongs by right of law to Mr. Tyson, but I fear he means to use its potential for sinister purposes.”
“Your Grandfather told me of the wonders of your world as well as its terrors. You send mechanized devices to the other planets and have placed men on your Moon. Machines called computers are connected together in a vast, world wide array, allowing the instantaneous exchange of enormous stores of information.”
“It’s called the internet.”
“Quite. But among his revelations, were startling references to weapons of mass destruction so devastating, that a single one can lay waste to an entire city, exterminating its population in total.”
“Nuclear weapons. They’ve been getting to be a big problem lately.”
“That the Delight was designed to cross from your reality to ours is not a surprise to Mr. Tyson. His scientists and engineers have already discovered my invention’s ability to do so and are in the process of building such airships for him.”
“He plans to invade my world in steam-driven balloons? Compared to our level of technology, I can’t imagine that being much of a threat.”
“Please do not take Mr. Tyson’s ambition lightly. You have seen the capacity of our hand held firearms. Imagine deck-mounted cannons with the same weaponry. It is an outgrowth of the Barsoonian charge application, and projectiles fired from them can cause a target to lose local cohesion, effectively tearing it apart. A sort of repulsion between their elemental particles. It can be enormously destructive, though not on the level of your nuclear bombs.”
“You think the Delight can stop Tyson from invading my universe. Just our one ship?”
“The Delight has a unique engine system capable of operating both in your world and ours. You see, were a typical airship from here to make the crossing over, due to the dissimilarity in certain physical laws, the Barsoonian charge would become completely ineffective.”
Keisha thought back to how her cell phone had failed the second she tried to use it here. Maybe the problem wasn’t with the battery.
“So that ends the threat before it begins.”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t. You see at the point of what your Grandfather referred to as the dimensional breach, the total energy potential of any ship and device possessing the charge would be released instantaneously. Even as much of a mathematical genius as my dear wife was, or rather is, she could not decipher the complexities of such a problem. Fortunately, the other Mr. Covington could, and the revelation is terrifying.”
“How much energy are we talking about.”
“Mr. Tyson plans to send ten fully armed dreadnoughts across the void between the worlds and the minimum amount of damage the predicted discharge could unleash would destroy the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding communities, but I say that is the minimum.”
“The maximum potential could actually damage the necessary conduit between worlds. If left unstable with no method of closure, it is not inconceivable that the cascading forces would be capable of annihilating both of our spheres and every living soul upon them.”
“How are we going to stop them?”
“I’m afraid that without access to the Delight and the secrets within your Grandfather’s journal, we have slim hope.”
Keisha stared down at her forgotten cup of tea. “Grandpa, what the hell did you think you were doing?” Then she looked back at Isaiah. “I haven’t the faintest idea how to stop universal Armageddon. I read that journal cover to cover a dozen times, and I didn’t see anything in it about keeping both of our planets from being blown up.”
“An answer might become available if we could regain access to the Delight, assuming we could also locate the lost journal.”
“I don’t know what happened to the journal. I left it where your wife told me to. I didn’t know it was this important.”
“If you all will pardon me a moment.” Rosenstein’s voice startled Keisha. He was starting to stand up, and then she realized there was another sound coming from the far side of the room. It was a wireless system, but it had both a microphone and speaker set up as well as an old-time telegraph key. It was the dots and dashes from the telegraph she heard.
“Of course.” Isaiah had to be affected by everything he’d just said, but he was like some kind of polite robot, which made Keisha even more infuriated.
After a few moments, the Jewish gentleman called out. “Isaiah, you should come here at once.”
“Yes, Joachim. How may I help?”
When Rosenstein turned, he looked to be in a state of shock. “It’s a message from Eralia. She’s alive.”
Previous chapters of Keisha’s wild adventure are:
- The Adventure Begins!
- Aerial Encounter
- Police Pursuit
- Desperate Attack
- Submersible Disaster
- Menace in the Dark
- Below the Waves
- Prelude to Piracy
Finally, Keisha gets the whole story about what she’s supposed to do in “Steamworld,” but she had no idea how to do it. Will Mrs. Covington’s message from the void give her a clue?
The next chapter is Forlorn Rendezvous.