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The Dragon in the Sea, Page 2

Frank Herbert

  “I have planned,” said Dr. Oberhausen, “upon completion of this mission, to have Mr. Ramsey released from the service and installed as head of a new department devoted to problems of submariners.”

  A harsh smile pulled at the corners of the commodore’s mouth. “If he lives through it,” he said.

  Ramsey swallowed.

  As though he had not heard, Dr. Oberhausen said, “The training will be a problem, but we have five weeks plus the full facilities of BuPsych.”

  Belland heaved his bulk from the chair, stepped to one side. “If there are no more questions, gentlemen, I believe we are all satisfied with Mr. Ramsey.” He glanced at his wrist watch. “The medics are waiting for him now, and he’s going to need every minute of the next five weeks.”

  Ramsey got to his feet, took his telemeter box under his arm, a question in his eyes.

  “You’re also going to be rigged as a walking detection system,” said Belland.

  Dr. Oberhausen appeared to materialize beside Ramsey. “If you’ll come with me, please, John.” He took Ramsey’s arm. “I’ve had the essential material about Commander Sparrow—he’s the captain of this subtug—and the other two crewmen reduced to absolute minimum. We’ve set aside a special ward at the bureau for you. You’re going to be our prize patient for …”

  Ramsey heard Turner speaking behind him. “Dr. Oberhausen called that ensign John. Is he the Long John Ramsey who …”

  The rest was blurred as Dr. Oberhausen raised his voice. “It’s going to be rough on you, John.” They stepped into the outer corridor. “Your wife has been notified.” Dr. Oberhausen lowered his voice. “You handled yourself very well in there.”

  Ramsey suddenly realized that he was allowing himself to be guided by a blind man. He laughed, found that he had to explain the laughter. “It was the way you handled that brassy commodore,” he said.

  “You don’t lie at all well,” said Dr. Oberhausen. “But I’ll let it pass. Now, about the commodore: he’s a member of the board which passes upon promotions for BuPsych men.”

  Ensign Ramsey abruptly found that laughter had left him.

  Ramsey often referred to his five weeks’ training for the subtug mission as “The time I lost twenty pounds.”

  They gave him three rooms in the sound wing of Unadilla Naval Hospital: blank white enclosures furnished in rattan and cigarette-scarred mahogany, a functional TV set, equally functional hospital bed on high legs. One room was set up for training: hypnophone, wall diagrams, mockups, tapes, films.

  His wife, Janet, a blond nurse, received a weekend schedule for visits: Saturday nights and Sundays. Their children, John Junior, age two, and Peggy, age four, were not permitted in the hospital, had to be packed off to their grandmother’s at Fort Linton, Mississippi.

  Janet, wearing a one-piece red dress, came storming into the sitting room of Ramsey’s suite on their first Saturday night. She kissed him, said, “I knew it!”

  “Knew what?”

  “That sooner or later the Navy and that awful Obe would be regulating our sex life.”

  Ramsey, aware that everything he said and did in the hospital was being monitored, tried to shush her.

  “Oh, I know they’re listening,” she said. She threw herself onto the rattan couch, crossed her legs, lighted a cigarette, which she puffed furiously. “That Obe gives me the creeking creeps,” she said.

  “That’s because you let him,” said Ramsey.

  “And because that’s the effect he wants to give,” she countered.

  “Well … yes,” admitted Ramsey.

  Janet jumped to her feet, threw herself into his arms. “Oh, I’m being a fool. They said I wasn’t to upset you.”

  He kissed her, rumpled her hair. “I’m not upset.”

  “I told them I couldn’t upset you if I tried.” She pushed away from him. “Darling, what is it this time? Something dangerous? It isn’t another one of those horrible submarines?”

  “I’m going to be working with some oilmen,” he said.

  She smiled. “Oh, that doesn’t sound bad at all. Will you be drilling a well?”

  “The well’s already drilled,” he said. “We’re going to see about increasing production.”

  Janet kissed his chin. “Old efficiency expert.”

  “Let’s go to dinner,” he said. “How’re the kids?”

  They went out, arm in arm, chatting about the children.

  Ramsey’s weekday routine began at 0500 when the nurse entered with his wake-up shot to rouse him from the hypnophone drugs. High-protein breakfast. More shots. Blood test.

  “This is going to hurt a little.”

  “Owooooooch! Whatta y’ mean a little? Next time warn me!”

  “Don’t be a big baby.”

  Diagrams. Floor plans of Hell Diver Class subtugs.

  They turned him over to a large subtug expert from Security. Clinton Reed. Bald as an egg. Thin eyes, thin nose, thin mouth, thick skin. Sense of duty as solid as his neck. Absolutely no sense of humor.

  “This is important, Ramsey. You have to be able to go anywhere on this vessel, man any control blindfolded. We’ll have a mock-up for you in a couple of days. But first you have to get a picture of it in your mind. Try flashing these plans and then we’ll test your memory.”

  “Okay. I’ve finished the general layout. Try me.”

  “Where’s the pile room?”

  “Ask me something hard.”

  “Answer the question.”

  “Oh, all right. It’s forward in the bulb nose; first thirty-two feet.”


  “Because of the teardrop shape of this class, and for balance. The nose gives the most room for shielding.”

  “How thick is the radiation wall behind the pile room?”

  “I missed that.”

  “Twelve feet. Remember it. Twelve feet.”

  “Well, I can tell you what it’s made of: hafnium, lead, graphite, and poroucene.”

  “What’s on the aft face of the radiation wall?”

  “Direct-reading gauges for the reactor. Repeaters are in the control room, forward bulkhead to the right of the first-level catwalk. Then there are lockers for ABG suits, tool lockers, doors to the tunnels leading into the pile room.”

  “You’re getting it. How many tunnels into the pile room?”

  “Four. Two top; two bottom. Not to be entered for more than twelve minutes at a time unless wearing an ABG suit.”

  “Fine. What’s the rated horsepower?”

  “Two hundred and seventy-three thousand, reduced to about two hundred and sixty thousand by the silencer planes behind the screw.”

  “Excellent! How long is the engine room?”

  “Uh … nope. That one’s gone, too.”

  “Look, Ramsey, these are important. You have to remember these distances. You have to get a feeling for them. What if you don’t have any lights?”

  “Okay. Okay. How long is the damned thing?”

  “Twenty-two feet. It fills the whole midship section. The four electric engines are set two to a level with the gearbox for the drive below center aft.”

  “Gotcha. Here, let me take a flash of the aft section. Okay. Now try me.”

  “How many catwalks in the engine room and where located?”

  “Look, I just flashed the aft section.”

  “How many catwalks and—”

  “Okaaaay. Let’s see: one center of the control deck going forward. One off center into machine stores on the second level below. One called A level into top stores. Same for bottom level: called B level. Short bridging catwalks from A and B levels to the engines and oxy tanks. And one very short to the conning-tower-retracted which lifts into a section of steps when the tower is extended.”

  “Good. You see, you can do this if you set your mind to it. Now, tell me how the four staterooms are placed.”

  “Staterooms yet.”

  “Stop dodging the question.”

  “Wise guy! Let’s
see: captain is top-level starboard behind the electronics shack. First officer portside behind the recreation room-sick bay. Engineering officer starboard below the captain’s quarters and behind the machine shop. Electronics officer portside below the first officer and aft of galley stores. That’s the place for me. Gonna cut me a private door into galley stores.”

  “Where’s the galley?”

  “That one I can answer. It’s far port, top level, entered through the wardroom. Selector controls for the prepackaged meals are against the bulkhead separating galley and wardroom. The galley-wardroom unit is between control deck and rec room.”

  “What’s behind the staterooms?”

  “Machinery of the Palmer induction drive.”

  “Why an induction drive?”

  “Because at the dive limit for Hell Divers, there can be no weak points in the hull, therefore no shaft through the hull.”

  “You’re getting the drive on the hypnophone tonight. Every man blindfolded. There’ll be a model for you to work on day after tomorrow.”

  “Oh goody!”

  “What’s the pressure hull limit for Hell Divers?”

  “Three thousand and ten pounds to the square inch or 7000 feet.”

  “Stick to your first answer. Pressure varies with different water conditions. You’d be okay at 7100 feet in one place, dead at 6900 another. Learn to depend on your static pressure gauge. Now let’s go to the atmosphere composition. What’s a vampire gauge?”

  “A little device worn on your wrist during deep dives. Needle goes into your vein, tells you if your CO2 diffusion is fast enough so you won’t crock out. It also tattles on nitrogen.”

  “What’s minimum diffusion?”

  “When you get below .200 on CO2 you get the jeebies. If your blood CO2 count goes to four percent you’re in trouble. With nitrogen it’s different. The subtug atmosphere is supposed to be entirely cleared of it. A small quantity of helium is substituted.”

  “How do you get by with the high atmospheric pressure?”

  “Aerobic carbonic anhydrase is fed into the atmosphere by the ventilator system. This speeds up the CO2 loading and unloading of the blood, prevents gas bubbles forming.”

  “You’re good on that. Did you know it before?”

  “My emotional telemeter is just a glorified vampire gauge.”

  “Oh, sure. Now, why is the electronics officer so important?”

  “Contact with the exterior control motors is by coded wave pulse. If the E-system breaks down when a subtug is submerged, it stays submerged.”

  “Right. Now, let’s go through the plans again.”

  “Not again!”

  “Start with the reactor room. In detail.”

  “Slave driver!”

  The nightly hypnophone sessions flooded Ramsey’s mind with the new knowledge: pressure hull, resonating hull, tank hull … pressure compensating system … header box … reactor controls … search and sounding … diving plane controls … valve controls … pile check-off … sonoran automatic-navigation board … atmosphere controls … automatic timelog, Mark IX … external and internal TV eyes, specifications for servicing of … gyro controls … tow controls … plastic barge, oil, components of … needle torpedoes, external racking system … torpedo homing systems … scrambler systems … systems … systems … systems … .

  There were times when Ramsey’s head felt filled to the bursting point.

  Dr. Oberhausen appeared in Ramsey’s quarters on the fourth day of training. The doctor’s unpressed clothes gave him the appearance of a bedraggled robin. He came in quietly, sat down beside Ramsey, who was seated in a viewerscope-sequence training hookup.

  Ramsey pulled the fitted faceplate away from his eyes, turned to Dr. Oberhausen. “Ah, the chief of the inquisition.”

  “You are comfortable, Johnny?” The sightless eyes seemed to stare through him.


  “Good. You are not supposed to be comfortable.” The doctor’s chair creaked as he shifted his weight. “I have come about the man Garcia who is engineering officer of this crew.”

  “What’s wrong with him?”

  “Wrong? Have I said anything was wrong?”

  Ramsey completely disengaged the viewerscope, sat back. “Come to the point.”

  “Ah, the impatience of youth.” Dr. Oberhausen sighed. “Do you have a file on Garcia?”

  “You know I have.”

  “Get it please, and read me what you have.”

  Ramsey leaned to his right, took a file folder from the bottom ledge of his coffee table, opened it. Garcia’s picture on the inside front cover showed a short man—about five feet seven inches—slim. Latin features—dark. Black curly hair. Sardonic half smile. The picture managed to impart a sense of devil-may-care. Under the photograph a note in Ramsey’s handwriting: “Member Easton championship water-polo team. Likes handball.”

  “Read to me,” said Dr. Oberhausen.

  Ramsey turned the page, said, “Age thirty-nine. Came up from ranks. Ex-CPO machinist. Ham radio license. Born Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Father cattle rancher José Pedro Garcia y Aguinaldo. Mother died at birth of daughter when Garcia age three. Religion: Catholic. Wears rosary around neck. Takes blessing of priest before each mission. Wife: Beatrice, age thirty-one.”

  “Do you have her picture?” asked Dr. Oberhausen.


  “A pity. I am told she is quite beautiful. Continue, please.”

  Ramsey said, “Educated at New Oxford. That accounts for his British accent.”

  “I grieved when the British Isles were destroyed,” said Dr. Oberhausen. “Such a lovely culture, really. So basically solid. Immovable. But that is weakness, also. Continue, if you please.”

  “Plays bagpipes,” said Ramsey. He looked at the doctor. “Now there’s something: a Latin American playing the bagpipes!”

  “I see nothing wrong with that, Johnny. For certain moods, nothing is more soothing.”

  Ramsey raised his gaze to the ceiling. “Soothing!” He looked back at the BuPsych chief. “Why am I reading this?”

  “I wanted to get the full flavor of Garcia in mind before imparting the latest morsel from Security.”

  “Which is?”

  “That Garcia may be one of these sleepers who are giving Security so many sleepless nights.”

  Ramsey snorted. “Garcia! That’s insane! As well as suspect me!”

  “They are still investigating you,” said Dr. Oberhausen. “As to Garcia—perhaps; perhaps not. Counter-Intelligence has turned up the description of a sleeper supposed to be in the subtugs. The description fits Garcia. Security almost called off the mission. I convinced them to go ahead by suggesting that you be primed to watch Garcia.”

  Ramsey returned to the color photograph in his file folder, observed the sardonic smile. “I say we’re chasing shadows. And that may be what the EPs really want. If it’s carried to its illogical extreme, certain Security-thinking is first cousin to paranoia—dementia praecox type.”

  Dr. Oberhausen lifted himself from the rattan chair. It gave off a reedy creaking. “Do not say that to the Security gentlemen when they come to brief you on Garcia,” he said. “Oh, and one other thing: the commodore is sharpening knives with which to carve you if there is some error on this mission.”

  “I have you to thank for that,” said Ramsey.

  “I take care of my own,” said Dr. Oberhausen. “Fear not on that score.” He waved toward the viewerscope. “Continue with your studies. I have other work.”

  Ramsey waited for the door to close, threw the file folder back onto the coffee table, took twenty deep breaths to calm his nerves. Presently, he leaned to the right, captured the folders on the other two crew members, scanned them.

  Commander Harvey Acton Sparrow. Age forty-one. Picture of a tall, thin man with balding sandy hair, a face of sharp planes, stooped shoulders.

  He looks like a small-town college professor, thought Ramsey. How much of that is cond
itioned on his early desire to teach mathematics? Does he resent the fact that his hard-crust Navy family forced him to follow in the old man’s footsteps?

  Father: Rear Admiral Acton Orwell Sparrow, lost with subcruiser Plunger in Battle of Irish Sea, 16 October 2018. Mother: Genene Cobe Sparrow. Invalid (heart), lives at Watters Point Government Rest Home. Wife: Rita. Age thirty-six. Blonde? Childless.

  Does Sparrow know that his wife is unfaithful? Ramsey asked himself. Most of their friends are aware of it.

  Qualifications: navigator—superior; gunnery officer—superior; medical officer (advanced first aid and pressure syndrome)—excellent; general submarine competence—superior.

  Ramsey turned to the other folder.

  Lieutenant Commander Leslie (none) Bonnett. Age thirty-eight. Picture of a heavy-bodied man (just under six feet) with brown wavy hair (artificial wave?), aquiline nose, overhanging eyebrows, the look of a brooding hawk.

  Orphan foundling. Raised at Cape Neston Home for the Unwanted.

  For the Unwanted! thought Ramsey.

  Married four times. Two children—one by each of first two wives. Maintains marriage relationship with wife number four: Helene Davis Bonnett. Age twenty-nine. Miss Georgia of 2021.

  The Unwanted, thought Ramsey. He’s carrying out an unconscious revenge pattern against women, getting even with the mother who deserted him.

  Qualifications: navigator—good; supply officer—excellent; gunnery officer—superior (top torpedo officer of subtugs four years running); general submarine competence—excellent plus.

  Ramsey looked at the note in the psych record: “Held from advancement to his own command by imperfect adjustment to deep-seated insecurity feelings.”

  The Unwanted, he thought. Bonnett probably doesn’t want advancement. This way, his commander supplies the father authority lacking in his youth.

  Ramsey tossed the folders back onto the coffee table, leaned back to think.

  An association of twisted and tangled threads.

  Sparrow and Bonnett were Protestants, Garcia a Catholic.

  No evidence of religious friction.

  These men have evolved a tight working arrangement. Witness the fact that their subtug has the highest efficiency rating in the service.