Oceana Technologies was a large corporation that had made many breakthroughs in the realm of ocean conservation and undersea wildlife studies and protection. Adam Stone had always been interested in the undersea world and was at his happiest when he involved himself in his volunteer work with OT.
His recent task was his favourite. He and a few other OT technicians would sail out to the deeper parts of the ocean off the coast and study dolphin activities. There were many times where Adam, wearing a snorkel, swim fins and not much else, joined the playful creatures in their swimming and gamboling. He often talked about those experiences with other workers as well as his superiors.
Derec Butler (known to his co-workers as The Colonel) was the head of the Research and Development department at Oceana Tech. He was in his early 30's and sported a bushy grey beard and moustache trimmed to make him look like someone out of the Old Testament. He and Adam hit it off almost as soon as they met and they became good friends.
Adam had arrived at the OT complex that morning and was met by Derec, who sounded rather excited.
"'Morning, Colonel. What's the good word?"
"Well... the word of the day is sesquipedalian, but that's not important now. I've managed to persuade the Lord High Mucky-mucks to let you in on the new stuff happening in R&D. They want you to help test the final products. Isn't that wonderful?"
"Sounds cool. Just what are these recent advances?"
"We've finally perfected the artificial Gill."
"Rehabilitating old fish, are we?"
"Cute. The Gill is like SCUBA gear except it extracts the air right out of the water. It's never worked properly in salt water, but we've finally got that problem fixed. That's been our best kept secret for about a year! It's now down to the size of an overnight bag. The higher 'authorities' have been studying it until about a month ago when they gave the official OK to test it out in the field... er, ocean."
"Great! Think of the freedom... When I was swimming with the dolphins, that snorkel severely limited my underwater movements. With that Gill, I can dive down and stay underwater as long as I like."
"Now you're getting the idea. But that's only the half of it. We've also got the OK to test out a body coating. It acts like a SCUBA suit, but it's just sprayed or showered on. And at the end of the expidition, it can be washed off with soap and water... Of course, the soap has to be the type with pumice, or something like it. For the past few months, the higher-ups have been researching the formulas and they've just given the OK to test that as well."
"Do your superiors always want to check so closely with every new product R&D creates?"
"Not really, but every now and again they do. It has to do with quality control... and keeping up to date with all our advances. It would look pretty silly if the Execs didn't know what the R&D team were up to half the time. I do know that they have a separate research team dealing with marine biology and the effects of the chemicals that man has been dumping into the marine ecosystem. They probably want to see if any dangerous pollutants will be released with the use of those products."
"Ah. So, when's the big test? Are they going to be tested together?"
"When? Soon. Will they be tested together? Yes. Much like a package deal. It makes sense once you think about it..."
"Let's talk more about this during lunch. I've got some late paperwork to do before I get in trouble."
"How late is it?"
"About a day."
Derec grinned. "Don't worry about it then. They only start moaning about it if it's over a week late."
"Sorry, but I'm into punctuality. I can't stand being late for anything."
"Geez, guy, you're going to give us a good name! See ya at lunch."
The next day at 7:45am, Adam entered OT's Alpha Complex, presented his security badge at the front desk and went to his office to catch up on some more of his paperwork. As he entered his office, he saw a small white envelope on his desk. Sitting down, he opened it and read the contents: Adam; Please go to Derec Butler's office (Suite 203)
That was all the unsigned note said. Maybe it's about that big experiment with the Gill, he thought.The rest of the morning was spent on filing away everything that he had done in the past week or so to put in his monthly report. After all that was done, he got out a new folder and wrote on it:
He switched on his computer and got out the disc for his personal journal.
After the "I DON'T DO WINDOWS" screen passed, he booted the word
processor and began to write.
August 28, 1996
After learning about the recent technological advances here at OT and being
called upon to help test them, this little endeavour is turning into one of
the most exciting choices that I've ever made in my life! Only a few short
months ago, I was a volunteer helping to feed the fish in the aquarium... Now
I'm officially on the payroll and privvy to the most highly guarded secret
Spot at 11:30, he was entering Derec's office. The room wasn't that well lit, but he could make out a figure in the overstuffed office chair behind the desk.
"Adam Stone?" a strangely unfamiliar voice asked.
The figure in the chair turned around into the full light of the desk lamp. "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Joel Radcliffe, President of Oceana Technologies."
Adam was visibly impressed. He expected an older gentleman to be the president, but Joel couldn't have been more than 40. His build was somewhat slender, but still well-toned. His hair was light brown, and even in the relatively poor light of the lamp, he could see his eyes were an angry sea-green. "It's an honour to meet you, sir."
Joel smiled. "Pardon the theatrics; sometimes I just can't resist." He leaned back in the chair. "We've been keeping an eye on you since you first started here and we were impressed with your enthusiasm and your performance. We had heard that you had a strong interest in Cetology which was why we placed you in our dolphin observation programme... You really enjoy your work in that area, don't you."
"It was one of the best things that ever happened to me, Sir."
"Oh, please. Drop the formalities. Call me Joel."
"Thank you, Si... I mean, Joel."
Another broad grin crossed his face. "When the Colonel came to me and suggested that you join us in testing the Gill and the coating, I thought it would be a stellar idea... Tell me," his expression grew a little more concerned as he leaned toward Adam, "What's your opinion of doing research with whales?"
For all that Adam enjoyed working with dolphins, who after a while were like brothers to him, his main love were the great whales. The Humpback, the Right, the mighty Blue whales had always captivated his imagination. But, most prominently, the Sperm whale was his main interest. Tales of the gentle giants of the deep enthralled him to no end. This was his opportunity to go out and touch them; to be one with them.
"Joel, it would be a dream come true."
The grin returned again; this time wider than ever. "Excellent! Be at OT pier 2 for nine o'clock tomorrow morning and we'll get started."
"I'll definitely be there! Oh, by the way. Where's Derec?"
"He's at an R&D meeting at Beta Complex. We're letting him in on the slight modifications we've made on the designs."
"Modifications, like what?"
"Now, now, that's a surprise. Trust me, they're for the better."
The following day, Adam arrived on pier 2 at 8:30 in eager anticipation of the day's events. His tape deck was playing Van der Graaf Generator's "Orthenthian Street (Part II)" which he let finish before he walked over to the dock. The day felt as if it were celebrating something (or was it his imagination) as he saw Derec and Joel.
"Good morning, Adam," said Joel. "You're early! I guess you're ready to start the 'adventure.'"
"I could almost jump out of my skin."
"Well, let's get started then." They walked over to a large cabin ship, the Arion VII.
"Hmmm... What happened to the other six?"
"Pardon?... Oh, the name. Just a little eccentricity. This ship is actually the first Arion. The "Seven" part is just for good luck; which has been pretty good so far." They boarded the boat. "Just sit back and relax. It'll take a few hours to get to Delta Complex, where the testing will be taking place."
"I've never heard of Delta Complex."
"Not surprising, Adam," Derec spoke up. "It's a top security area located off the coast."
"Who else knows about these tests?"
"Just you, me, Joel and the few technicians that work over at the Complex."
They heard the ship's engines roar into life as they began their journey.
Derec walked over to the corner of the below deck cabin and pulled out a small backpack and a large bottle of black liquid.
"This is the Gill... the improved improved version." He pulled out a mask connected to a tube from the backpack. "Ideally, it would be incorporated into a standard rubber SCUBA headpiece and mask. You wear the backpack, put this over your nose and mouth and jump into the water. Simple?"
"Seems so. How do you turn it on?"
"It's self-activating. Once the sensors realize it's submerged, the Gill turns on and does it's duty.
"I see... What's in the bottle?"
"This is the body covering. We haven't thought of a good name for it yet, but that will come in time. He poured some of the liquid into a bowl. "Give it a try. Put your hand in."
Adam dipped his hand in the black liquid for a brief moment and pulled it out. His hand now had a dark grey hue to it. He also felt the solution hardening within instants of removal.
"It feels like I have a glove on... an insulating one, at that."
"Yup, as I've said before, this liquid acts like a SCUBA suit when it dries. You have a lot more freedom of movement as well as a greater tactile sense."
Adam ran his hand over the paneling of the cabin. "I can feel nearly everything. This is fantastic!"
"You've been stung by jellyfish before, right?"
Adam grimaced. "Sure have. Those jumpers sting like the devil, too."
"I remember seeing that infirmary report. Right across your tush."
"Couldn't sit for two days." He winced as he rubbed his behind, remembering the occurrence.
"Well, this stuff protects you from 'attacks' of that nature. The stingers won't be able to penetrate it. You'll feel something, sure, but there won't be much if any damage to the skin. Don't get too cocky and stick your hand in a shark's mouth. He'll bite it clean off. It's just shy of a miracle potion."
"This doesn't feel that uncomfortable at all."
"You can leave it on for a little over a day or so until it gets too thin. Here," Derec handed him a bar of pumice soap, "wash it off and let's go topside for a few. It'll take us a while to get to Delta Complex."
It was around two in the afternoon when they finally saw the island that housed the mysterious Delta Complex. Their boat glided smoothly into the dock. There were a couple of people waiting for them. Joel threw them the mooring lines and, with the boat secure, the trio walked onto Terra Firma.
"Greetings, Herr Radcliffe," a tall woman called out in a thick Germanic accent.
"Karla. Nice to see you again. Adam, this is Karla Trommler, my associate for Delta Complex. Karla, Adam Stone, our new recruit for our Cetacean Research Project."
"Hullo, Adam," said Karla. "Wie Geht's?"
"Gut, danke, gut," Adam returned, pleased that he remembered some of his high school German.
"Ah! Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"
"Ich sprech sehr klein Deutsch... err... I'm more comfortable with English."
"Karla will show you where to prepare for the experiments. The Colonel and I have some minor business to attend to. See you on stage."
"Come with me, please," Karla said, motioning down a pathway. They walked for about five minutes when they came to a somewhat small, one-story concrete building.
"This is it? I was expecting something slightly more... impressive."
"As the old saying goes: 'Don't judge a book by the cover,'" she said as she opened the front door.
Even for a top secret complex, it was tastefully decorated. On one wall was a mural depicting different sea creatures beneath the ocean waves.
They entered a small room. Adam suddenly realised that they were in an elevator and the level indicator revealed that they were on the top floor.
"This is the top floor?"
"This place is more impressive than you would first think. There are sixteen levels below this one. However," she pushed a button and the elevator doors slid shut, "level eight will suffice for now." The elevator descended.
About ten seconds later, the doors opened again and Adam stepped out onto level eight.
"Go to the room at the end of the corridor to your left. You'll find an envelope with your instructions there. Viel Glück, Herr Stone."
"Uh... Thanks, Karla."
The doors slid closed again and she was gone. Adam walked down the corridor
and entered the room. It was the size of large suite. On the table was a
manila envelope. He opened the packet and read the contents:
Hello again, Adam.
To get down to brass tacks -- This is a highly controlled experiment and ALL details have been thought out for a minimal amount of your personal risk. It may not seem it at first, but this is a very complex experiment. It is CRUCIAL that you keep a clear head and a high amount of concentration. I cannot stress this point enough! Good luck. This experiment will profoundly affect your life as well as others.
First, relax. Take a few deep breaths to clear your mind.
Second, go into the room with the GREEN door. This is the main bathroom. Deposit all your clothing in the hamper. They will be laundered and returned to you at the end of the experiment. Any other valuables can be deposited in the open wall safe. They will be protected. Relieve yourself and shower well.
Third, Towel off well and exit the room through the BLUE door. This is the second shower room. This room has a specially equipped shower that will spray the body coating on you. Please cover ALL your anatomy with this coating (hair, underarms, behind your ears, between your toes and buttocks, penis, etc). To repeat cover EVERYTHING well with the coating for your own protection. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE WHOLE PROCEDURE! YOUR CHANCE OF ANY INJURY WILL BE REDUCED TO NEAR ZERO ON THIS STEP!
After doing this, exit out the white door, walk down corridor 'C' and enter room 'DS-2.' Please wait there for further instructions.
Eventually, he found himself in room DS-2. It was a rather bland, light blue room. Small, as well. He estimated the measurements as ten feet by ten feet. He felt a bit self-conscious about wandering down the corridor wearing nothing but a transparent grey coating. Fortunately, he didn't meet with anyone in his travels.
He sat in this room for about five minutes when a hidden intercom sparked into life.
"Adam. Glad to see you've made it this far," the speaker said. He recognized the voice as Joel's. "Are you covered head to toe with the coating?"
"I did everything but drink the stuff. Where are you, anyway?"
"We're in the main control room on level 15."
"That's 'way down there."
"Someone's gotta work like hell to infiltrate this level, but I digress. I'm not going to mince words here. This experiment will involve personal risk. How great the risk is depends on your perspective. If you're having second thoughts about this, let me know now and we'll cancel. You will not be punished or penalized in any way."
"Can't you give me at least a little hint? After all, this is my life on the line."
There was a short pause before Joel spoke again.
"The advancement of science and technology are sometimes found down bizarre and obscure paths. Let's just say, you are going to travel down a path where few people have ever consciously thought of going."
"Can you be a little more cryptic, Mr. Spock?" Adam sighed. "Well, I've come this far. I'm one for a little adventure... let's take that road!"
"Splendid! That's the spirit!" A hidden door opened on a wall. "Here's some swim fins and your Gill. It's slightly different than the one the Colonel showed you on the boat. It's much larger and it's entirely covered with the coating; inside and out. The extra size is for the monitoring equipment. We've also incorporated a mask that will cover your head down to the neck instead of just your face. As I said before, this is a highly controlled experiment. Put the Gill on now."
"How about some other covering?" Adam asked while strapping on the oversized Gill.
"Are you feeling cold?"
"Well... no, but... Hell... Modesty!
"That never stopped you with the dolphins."
I was hoping you wouldn't find that out, he thought. "Urrgh... Touché." He securely tightened the straps. "Done."
"Testing... One, two, three..."
Adam jumped. The voice felt like it was vibrating through his body.
"How'd you do that??"
"Borrowed technology. Back in the late 1970's, or around then, someone manufactured a radio that you wore around your neck like a scarf. It would transmit the sound through your body and enabled you to hear it clearly. I think it was called the 'Bone Fone' or some such. We've used the same principle, only incorporating it with the Gill's straps. Clever, eh?"
Adam could just imagine Joel grinning.
"Also, on the top half of the Gill, there's a light and a camera that will record your progress back here... and so we can keep an eye on you."
"What did you give me... A Swiss Army Gill?"
"There are a number of additions that we haven't even touched upon yet. Oh, and don't forget that bottle."
Adam looked back inside the cubbyhole where he got the Gill, and on a shelf was a bottle filled with a milky amber fluid. He picked it up by a large grey loop of rope.
"What's in it?"
There was a pause. "Just keep it on you at all times. You'll be using it near the end of the experiment."
He looped the rope over his head and his right arm much like a wineskin. There was a small cinch loop nearer to the opening of the bottle. He tied that to his right arm.
The cubbyhole closed.
"When you're ready, we're going to fill the chamber with water. The wall in front of you will open when it's completely filled. The Gill will take about 15 to 20 seconds to build up enough air for you to breathe normally once immersed. At any time should the Gill break down, there's a small tank inside it that will give you enough air for 15 minutes. To activate that, hold down the button located on the Gill's straps at your solar plexus for 10 seconds. Now, put on the Gill's mask and prepare yourself."
The mask fit over his head and strapped on around his neck, giving it a watertight seal. Adam thought it strange that the mask didn't have a mouthpiece, but realised that the air from the gill would be pumped directly into the mask. The lack of mouthpiece also meant that he and Joel could carry on a normal conversation. The face part of the mask had a large glass-covered opening. It gave him an unobstructed, 240° view.
"I'm ready whenever you are, guys."
"Here we go..."
Adam heard a thud. Suddenly, rushing water came out the vents near the ceiling and slowly filled the room. When the water was about waist-high, Adam sat down to immerse the Gill in water. When he did so, the Gill vibrated slightly and his air cut out. After what seemed like the longest 15 seconds in history, the Gill sent air into his mask again. The converted air the gill was producing had a bit of a sea salt scent. Suddenly, the lights went out and the wall in front of him slowly slid apart revealing the great ocean. A couple of beats of his fins and he glided out deep below the waves of the ocean.
"How's the Gill working, Adam?"
"So far, so good. The air smells like a day at the beach, and I'm not drowning yet.
"...And the coating?"
Since Adam knew the camera was behind him, he knew they couldn't see the center of his excitement; brought on by the sensations of being truly free.
"Right, Adam. Cool off. Keep about the same depth and swim out farther away from the base."
He started swimming like a dolphin. He did a few barrel rolls, an occasional somersault and generally had fun as he swam out deeper into the green sea. The Gill was working perfectly. It supplied him with enough air as he did these underwater calisthenics.
He only thought he had heard it before, but now he could definitely make out a loud clicking noise. He looked around and to his right saw a huge sperm whale. Probably a bull, by the size of it.
"The main focus of the experiment is that whale. Please try to swim in front of him."
Without thinking, he swam down in front of the whale and marvelled at the beast as it slowly swam to him head-on. He was going to swim to the right to get out of the whale's way, when he found that he couldn't move.
The whale's mouth swung open.
He tried to cry out for help, but nothing happened. He just floated there and breathed. Was it out of sheer terror, or was it one of the other 'bells and whistles' that was built into the Gill?
"Remember, keep a clear head! This is the hard part!" Joel was nearly yelling to him. "Relax..!"
Adam saw the whale's jaws close around him and felt the tongue force him down its throat. He slowly slid down the esophagus and a few seconds later entered into the stomach, slipping into a half-digested pile of fish.
Suddenly, he could move again. Fear caught up with him. He screamed.
His howling suddenly stopped as the paralysis hit him again.
"Adam, for God's sake, listen to me! I didn't tell you about this part before because I didn't think you'd accept doing this experiment if you knew you'd have to throw yourself down a whale's throat. I'm going to turn off the paralyzer now. Please don't wig out on me."
Adam started shaking violently as the paralysis left his body. Even though he was on the verge of panic, he managed to quell his fright and sat up.
"What the hell am I doing in here?" he asked in a quavering voice.
"Two reasons. Mainly, we wanted to test the Gill and coating in a dangerously adverse condition..."
"Dangerously adverse? Dangerously adverse?!? YES!! I'd call being eaten by a whale 'dangerously adverse!'"
"Adam, please calm down! This is your life we're dealing with. The secondary reason is to get some inside information of the sperm whales dietary habits in this part of the ocean."
"Inside infor... Cute. I'm ending up as 'Whale Chow' and you're cracking jokes! Why didn't you just hand me a vidcam to make a bleedin' National Geographic documentary from the outside! I would have filmed the fish swimming into his mouth! And here's a news flash - Sperm whales eat naïve aquaruim workers!"
"Adam, you are not going to die! Listen: for the next four to five hours, you're the safest person on the planet."
"SAFE?? I'm sitting in a chamber filling with gallons of hydrochloric acid with no escape in sight and you're calling it SAFE??? Good God! You must sleep well at night!!"
"The improvements we put into the Gill and the coating make them impervious to all forms of acids short of sulphuric. The whale's digestive juices will be nothing more than foul-smelling hot water to you; albeit only for about four hours or so. This is also a first-hand report of how digestion is done."
"Four hours, eh? Well, Joel, how am I going to get out of here before the inevitable happens: do I just go through the rest of the system or are you coming in with a chain saw?"
"Don't be flippant. We don't want to kill the whale. The bottle you have with you; it's full of a chemical that acts much like concentrated Syrup of Ipecac. Splatter it on the stomach walls then get near the esophagal sphincter muscle. It'll take a few minutes to gain it's effect, but when it does, it'll be like an express elevator. It's a shame that whales don't have the capability of gastric eversion like sharks."
"Sharks can push their stomachs out through their mouths if they swallow something of dubious digestibility. The process is called 'gastric eversion.'"
Although the scientific reaches and import of this whole experiment escaped him, he couldn't help thinking about the story of Jonah. He remembered that biblical tale since he was very young. He had often wondered if it was possible to be swallowed by a "great fish" and survive to tell the tale. He also remembered reading about James Bartley; a whaler whose harpoon boat was shattered by a sperm whale. After that incident, James and three other whalers were missing and were presumed drowned. Later, when the crew was cutting up the whale, they sliced open the stomach and they found James inside; still alive. His exposed skin was bleached pale white from that day on.
'At least he did it without a gill,' thought Adam.
His eyes were now used to the light that the gill was producing, so he looked at his surroundings. The stomach was just like a huge pinkish-white bag. The glistening, mucus-covered walls were smooth. There wasn't much room as he tried to stand, but he slid on the slick surface. He ran his hand along the stomach wall. It felt hot and slimy. The acid content was rising. It was a strangely warm and unusual feeling; the tactile equivalent of seeing a pyrotechnic sparkler. He also noticed that there was no visible damage to the coating.
Suddenly, some water and a few fish splashed on top of him.
"He must still be hungry."
"Hold up some of his dinner to the camera, preferably undigested stuff."
Adam dutifully held some assorted fish and squid up for Joel and company to comment upon and catalogue.
Although he didn't think it was possible, he was actually becomming a bit more relaxed in his surroundings. He sat there for a few moments and listened. He could faintly make out the beating of the whale's heart and thought about the gallons of blood coursing through his veins. He could feel the whale changing direction in its swimming; diving, rising. He heard the whale's breathing whenever he came up for air. Every so often, he'd get hit with a stream of stomach acid in the head, chest and back.
"Did you know that the temperature is about 104° farenheit in there?" Joel asked.
"I knew it was pretty warm in here. Now that you mention it, I remember reading somewhere that a sperm whale's body temperature was over 100 degrees."
About thirty minutes later, after giving information about the type of fish and squid that dropped in for dinner, most of the stomach was full of food and digestive juices. The stomach walls started to pulse, mixing everything around. Eventually, the only significant solid mass that remained was Adam.
"Geez! That was a wild ride. Are you still with me?"
"Right here, Adam. Are you all right?"
"It was rough-and-tumble for a bit, but I'm still in one piece. I just hope spin-dry isn't next."
As if on cue, the stomach contracted again. The wave was stronger and more sustained than the mixing action demonstrated earlier.
"I think Nature is taking her course. Everything's being emptied out."
"Stay in the stomach, Adam..."
"Easier said than done. The exit is shaped almost like a funnel." Another strong contraction hit. "I'm covered in slime and everything else is very slick!"
"Can you get closer to the esophagus opening?"
"I'll try my damnedest!" He crawled across the stomach and tried to reach the sphincter muscle. He almost reached it when another contraction pushed him toward the other exit. He dug his fingers and toes into the stomach lining and strained against the force trying to push him deeper into the digestive tract. The contraction subsided. He noticed blood welling up from the stomach where his fingers painfully gripped.
'This is it! I'm whale chow!' he thought. He heard Joel through his radio, "Sound! Damn you, SOUND!"
Inspiration struck. "C'mon, boy, Go see King Neptune, c'mon!" He then
realized those were some really dumb last words...
The whale sounded.
With the angle now in his favour, he scrambled for the esophagus opening. He managed to get his arms up past his elbows through the muscled ring, when another contraction hit. The peristaltic wave tried to push him down, but he held on for dear life. Gradually, the contractions subsided altogether. He released his hold and slid back into the now empty stomach. He made it.
"I'm all right," he panted. "Let me rest for a moment..." He laid face down and closed his eyes.
"Adam?... Adam. Wake up, Adam."
He opened his eyes. It was still quite dark. He then remembered where he was.
"Joel?" He pushed up and realized he was covered with digesting fish and nearly submerged in acids.
"Good, you're awake. I let you sleep for a bit. Look, I think you'd better get out of there. You might not be as lucky as you were before."
"What happened to the 'controlled experiment'?" He sat up again. He was chest-high in acid.
"All right. I didn't consider the length of time food stayes in the stomach... as well as the peristalsis when the stomach empties into the intestines. Now we know and can be better prepared for next time... should there be one." He sounded a bit dejected. "Now, get the bottle and get set."
He felt for the liter bottle he had tied to his shoulder. A glance at the cord holding it showed some acid burns, but was still intact. He opened the bottle and began splashing the contents all over the stomach walls. A few minutes later, he felt a quivering all around him. He positioned himself as close to the esophagus opening as possible. Soon, the stomach was pulsing in reaction to the irritant.
Suddenly a couple of strong contractions hit. Then the stomach nearly knotted itself as the whale vomited Adam - and everything else in the whale's stomach - out of its mouth and into the deep blue ocean.
"I made it!" shouted Adam, joyously. "Another modern-day Jonah delivered from the belly of the beast!" He swam away from the whale in case the suffering animal perked up and wanted him for dinner again. The ocean felt extremely cold after being in such a warm place for so long.
"Joel, Are you still there? Hello?"
There was no answer over the radio. He wiped off the muck and residue left from the experiment and headed for the surface. He wasn't quite sure how far down he was, so he ascended slowly to avoid any chance for the bends.
After about 20 minutes, he broke the surface of the water. He took off his mask and deeply breathed in the real air. He saw the sun and clouds above and felt alive again. He thought about the whole experience of what he just went through. There was a very real danger of dying, yes, but mainly, he was a spectator of Death. If he had entered the intestines, the acid wouldn't have been the problem. There must be something in there that would release a neutralizing agent. It works that way in the human body. He found the whole precess fascinating.
But, what he wondered about for a moment, is how the gill could produce breathable air given what chemicals and enzymes it was drawing from. Immediately, he pushed it from his mind. 'Some things shouldn't be asked,' he thought, 'besides, I'm not a chemistry major.'
He noticed something bobbing on the surface nearby. He swam over to investigate. It was a good-sized chunk of ambergris. 'A little memento of my travels,' he thought. He managed to catch a glimpse of the whale spouting before it entered again into the blue depths. He felt sorry for giving him such distress during his exit, but he wished it a long, healthy life before it disappeared.
"It looks like I've got a long walk home." He sighed.
"Not necessarily, Adam," Joel said over the radio.
He placed the mask over his head again. "Aha! So you were there."
"Not quite. We got a bit excited when you said you made it out... and I spilled my tea into the console. We just got it back up when you mentioned walking home."
"You know, Joel, This'll sound weird, but... I found this whole adventure a very interesting experience. It's given me some new insight... not to mention one hell of a journal entry! But, if the time came when you would do a similar experiment, like you mentioned before, could you let me know about it?" He chuckled softly. "I doubt if you'll get any other willing volunteer."
"Heh! Sure, Adam. I'll let you know," the grin re-appeared in his voice. "We've got a tracer going on the gill now, so we'll pick you up shortly."
About 30 yards away, Adam noticed a pod of dolphins swimming playfully toward him.
"There's no rush," he said with a grin and fastened on the mask. "Take your time."
Soon, Adam was again swimming with the dolphins.
"Inside Information" is ©1991, 1997 Mark Correia. This HTML version is also ©1997 by Mark Correia and appears in the Big-Gulp Archives with the author's permission. This story may be freely distributed by electronic media provided NOTHING is changed or omitted (including this notice). ASCII conversions and hardcopies in any form are limited to a single printing for personal use only. All other rights reserved.
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