Amos was just finishing his coffee when the young Lieutenant approached.
“Excuse me sir.” He began. “I’m looking for Professor Addison. Can you help me?”
“Almost,” Amos said, as he offered his hand.
“I beg your pardon?” the puzzled Navy man asked.
“They call me Almost Addison. How may I be of service to the U.S. Navy?”
“Lieutenant Brett Hodges,” he said, while they shook hands. “Well, sir, it seems that the U.S. Navy may be of service to you.”
“Really? What have you got in mind, Lieutenant?”
Hodges rolled the fiberglass case over to Amos and began unsnapping the latches.
“This, sir, is the latest in diving suits.”
Almost saw a fairly typical looking wetsuit, but one with a few interesting modifications. Wiring harnesses ran from the special neoprene gloves to a chest mounted box, and then from the box to a helmet with a wide visor. He then turned to Hodges for an explanation.
“As I said, this is the latest in diving suits. There are only four in existence and we’re letting you test drive this one.”
“What makes this so special? What’s all the wiring about?”
“The palms of the gloves are equipped with extremely sensitive electromagnetic sensors and transmitters. They feed data to the Processor unit located in the chest cavity of the suit. The helmet also contains sensors that monitor your vitals and feed them to the CPU. The visor has a heads up display with data fed to it by the CPU. The suit was designed to help divers find their way and locate things in zero visibility situations. We’ve discovered it does some things we never planned for.”
When Hodges finished securing the last of the wiring connections on Amos’s suit, he checked his own air supply then signaled him to dive. Wearing a conventional diving suit, Hodges insisted on going along as the safety diver.
Moments after hitting the water, Amos switched on the CPU as he’d been instructed. Immediately, data was displayed on the visors heads up display. He found that by moving his hands around, he could locate Hodges and display his size and range on the visor.
Together, they descended to the sandy bottom at the edge of the reef. As schools of fish zigzagged their way around the coral outcroppings, Almost was getting acquainted with his new senses. He could actually feel when the fish were coming and knew when the school would turn.
He wondered if these sensations were what the sharks experienced through the electro receptors in their snout. Even more, he wanted to know what the sharks felt when he touched those Lorenzini receptors, putting the shark into tonic.
It didn’t take long for the first shark to arrive. A large male reef shark circled above the divers’ heads then abruptly swam off. Almost somehow knew that the shark didn’t like what he saw. He wasn’t sure if that knowledge came from his years of experience, or some new insight provided by the suit.
Moments later, several curious females swam by, and then turned to examine the divers. The largest approached just out of reach to take a look at Amos. She circled again, a little closer. Amos reached out and brushed the underside of the shark’s snout. Immediately, she shook and accelerated into the murk while the others kept circling at a cautious distance.
A large shark appeared from the murk. She swam slowly and deliberately toward Amos. He recognized her as the one he had touched. Amos felt no fear; he knew this shark was a player. He extended his arm slowly, allowing the shark to come within inches of his hand. Then he reached out and touched the shark’s skin, just inches from those deadly jaws. She froze, and then became limp. He caught her sinking body with one hand while keeping the other hand on the shark’s nose.
Something else was happening too! At first, Amos thought that the suit was damaged or malfunctioning. Odd combinations of data were flashing across his visor and he started feeling dizzy.
As the CPU struggled to make sense of the feedback it was getting through the suit’s gloves, images flooded the helmet’s visor and scalp electrodes. Amos could feel the presence of something very old. Ancient memories passed down through eight hundred million years flashed through his brain.
Then suddenly, it all stopped. Out of the quiet, a single thought filled his mind. It was as if it had traveled across time and the inner most galaxies of consciousness to reach him. It felt less like a thought, and more like a connection, as if to some great cosmic web.
The message was simple. “We know you. You were once one of us. Welcome back, my brother.”
Day job aside, Hal Houser is an accomplished woodcarver. As is true with most people involved in creative endeavors, the creative urge leaked over into something else. In this case, short stories. He has been published in “Bewildering Stories” and hopes to do more with other publications.