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Valhalla rising, p.53
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       Valhalla Rising, p.53

           Clive Cussler
 

  The entry compartment was small. She waited until Pitt and Giordino joined her. In front of them was a door that looked like it belonged on a house more than in a submarine. Pitt turned the latch, opened it and stepped over the threshold.

  Silently, they walked through an ornately furnished dining hall fifteen feet in length centered on a teak wood table for ten with beautifully carved standing dolphins for legs. At the far end was another door that led into a library, whose shelves Pitt guessed contained more than five thousand books. He studied the titles on the spines. One side held books on engineering and science. The opposite shelves were stacked with original editions of the classics. He picked one that been written by Jules Verne and opened it. The title page had been inscribed by Verne to "the greatest mind in the universe." He slipped it back carefully in its place on the shelf and continued the exploration.

  The next compartment was quite large, stretching more than thirty feet. This area, Pitt was certain, was the grand saloon that Verne had described as filled with art treasures and ancient artifacts Cameron had gleaned from under the sea. But the saloon was no longer a museum and gallery. Elmore Egan had transformed it into a workshop and a chemistry laboratory. The room, twelve feet wide, was filled with counters holding a maze of chemical lab apparatus, a spacious workshop with compact machinery, including a lathe and a drill press, and three different computer stations with an array of printers and scanners. Only the organ was still there, having been too massive for Elmore to move. The instrument on which Amherst had played works from the great composers was a masterpiece of craftsmanship with beautifully finished wood and brass pipes.

  Kelly walked over to the counter littered with chemistry equipment and tenderly touched the beakers and test tubes lying about in disorder, assembling and stacking them neady in racks and on shelves. She lingered in the laboratory, soaking up her father's presence while Pitt and Giordino moved on, passing through a long corridor and into a watertight bulkhead before entering the next compartment. This section of the Nautilus had once served as Captain Amherst's private cabin. Egan had converted it into his think tank. Plans, blueprints and drawings, along with a hundred notebooks, were stacked in every square inch of space around a large drafting table where Egan had worked out his designs.

  "So this is where one great man lived, and another great man created," Giordino commented philosophically.

  "Let's keep going," said Pitt. "I want to see where he built his tele-portation sending chamber."

  They walked through another watertight bulkhead and into a compartment that had once held the submarine's air tanks. These had been removed by Egan to make room for his teleportation instruments and equipment. There were two panels with dials and switches, a computer desk and an enclosed chamber that contained the sending station.

  Pitt smiled when he saw a fifty-five-gallon drum marked Super Slick sitting in the chamber. It was connected to a timing device and a series of tubes, which were themselves connected to a round receptacle on the floor. "Now we know where the oil comes from that keeps filling up Egan's leather case."

  "I wonder how it all works," said Giordino, examining the sending station.

  "It will take someone smarter than me to figure it out."

  "It's amazing that it actually works."

  "As crude and elementary as it appears, you're looking at a scientific achievement that will forever alter the transportation of the future."

  Pitt stepped over to the instrument panel where the timing device was mounted. He saw that the sequence was set at fourteen hours. He reset it to ten.

  "What are you doing?" asked Giordino curiously.

  The edges of his lips lifted in a sneaky grin. "I'm sending a message to Hiram Yaeger and Max."

  Having gone as far as they could go toward the bow, Pitt and Giordino retraced their steps to the main saloon. Kelly was sitting in a chair, looking for all the world as if she were in the midst of an out-of-body experience.

  Pitt squeezed her shoulder tenderly. "We're heading toward the engine room. Would you like to come along?"

  She brushed her cheek against his hand. "Did you find anything interesting?"

  "Your father's teleportation compartment."

  "Then he actually created and built a device that can send objects through space."

  "He did."

  Lost in euphoria, she rose from the chair, and quietly followed the two men as they made their way aft.

  Once on the other side of the dining hall and the entry compartment, they passed through a galley that made Kelly cringe. Food containers were cluttered around the countertops, dirty dishes and utensils were green with mold in a large sink, and large baskets of trash and garbage in plastic bags were stacked in a heap in one corner of the galley.

  "Your father had many qualities," observed Pitt, "but neatness wasn't one of them."

  "He had other things on his mind," Kelly said lovingly. "It's a pity he didn't take me into his confidence. I could have acted as his secretary and housekeeper."

  They went through the next opening into the crew's quarters. What they saw here was the most mind-boggling of all.

  Here is where Elmore had stored the treasures that had once adorned the main saloon and library. The number of canvases would have filled two rooms of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens and thirty others were stacked in rows. Sculptures from antiquity, in bronze and marble, stood in closets and individual crew's cabins. And then there were the treasures that Amherst had salvaged from ancient shipwrecks: piles of gold and silver bars, boxes filled to overflowing with coins and gemstones. The value of the collection was beyond their comprehension, beyond their wildest appraisal.

  "I feel like Ali Baba after he discovered the forty thieves' cave of riches," said Pitt in a hushed voice.

  Kelly was equally astounded. "I never dreamed anything like this existed."

  Giordino took a handful of gold coins and let them sift through his fingers. "If there was ever a question as to how Dr. Elmore financed his experiments, what we see here tells it all."

  They spent nearly an hour combing through the great hoard before carrying on with their tour. After walking through another watertight bulkhead, they found themselves in the Nautilus's engine room. This was the most expansive section of the ship, measuring sixty feet in length by twenty feet in width.

  The maze of pipes, tanks and strange-looking mechanisms that Pitt and Giordino recognized as electrical generating equipment had to be a plumber's nightmare. A huge gear system with meshing steel teeth dominated the aft end of the room. While Kelly wandered about, not nearly as fascinated by the machinery as the men, she came to a high podium-like table without a chair that held a large leatherbound book. She opened it and studied the old-fashioned scroll handwriting in brown ink. The book proved to be the chief engineer's log. The last entry was dated June 10, 1901, and read . . .

  Closed down the engine for the final time. Will keep the generators operating for power until my demise. The Nautilus that has served me so faithfully for forty years will now serve as my tomb. This is my last entry.

  It was signed, Cameron Amherst.

  Meanwhile, Pitt and Giordino were poring over the massive engine with its distinctive nineteenth-century fittings, valves and unfamiliar mechanisms, many of them cast and polished in brass.

  Pitt crawled under and around the great engine, inspecting it from every angle. Finally, he stood and scratched the stubble on his chin. "I've researched hundreds of marine engines in hundreds of different ships, including old steamships, but I've never seen anything that matches this layout."

  Giordino, who had been examining the manufacturers' plaques bolted on different parts of the machinery, said, "The power plant did not come from one manufacturer. Amherst must have commissioned thirty different marine engine machinists throughout Europe and America to build this thing before assembling it with his own crew."

  "That's how he managed to
construct the Nautilus in secrecy."

  "What do you make of the design?"

  "My best guess is that it's a combination of massive electrical energy and a rudimentary form of magnetohydrodynamics."

  "So Amherst created the concept a hundred and forty years before it was rediscovered."

  "He didn't have the technology to run the seawater through a magnetic core kept at absolute zero by liquid helium-that wouldn't be produced commercially for another sixty years-so he used a kind of sodium converter. It wasn't nearly as efficient, but good enough for his purposes. Amherst had to compensate by relying on massive electrical energy to produce enough generating current to turn the propeller at an efficient rate of speed."

  "Then it would seem likely that Egan used Amherst's engine as a base for his own designs."

  "It must have proven an inspiration for him."

  "A phenomenal piece of work," said Giordino, appreciating the ingenuity behind the huge engine. "Especially when you realize that it propelled the Nautilus into every corner of the undersea world for forty years."

  Kelly approached, carrying the engine-room log. She looked as if she were staring at a ghost. "If we're finished in here for now, I'd like to find the passage Dad must have discovered to get back and forth between here and the house above."

  Pitt nodded and glanced at Giordino. "We should contact the admiral and report what we've found here."

  "I'm sure he'd like to know," Giordino agreed.

  Five minutes, no more, was all it took to climb through the passage leading up to the top of the palisades. Pitt felt a strange sensation, knowing the Vikings had passed this same way a thousand years earlier. He could almost hear their voices and touch their presence.

  Josh Thomas was sitting in Egan's study, reading a chemical analysis journal, when he froze in fright. The rug in the center of the room suddenly rose from the floor as if a ghost were inside and then flew aside. A trapdoor beneath swung open and Pitt's head popped up like a jack-in-the-box.

  "Sorry to intrude," said Pitt with a cheery smile. "But I just happened to be passing by."

  Part Six

  GHOST FROM THE PAST

  58

  AUGUST 16, 2003 WASHINGTON, D.C.

  Pitt roused himself out of bed, slipped into a robe and helped himself to a cup of coffee brewed by Sally Morse. He wanted to remain in bed for most of the morning, but Sally and Kelly were leaving. After testifying before Loren's congressional committee and giving depositions to the Justice Department, Sally was warmly thanked by a grateful president and released to fly home and resume her duties as chairwoman of Yukon Oil, until her presence was required for additional testimony.

  When Pitt swayed sleepy-eyed into the kitchen, Sally was happily humming and unloading the dishwasher. "I never thought I'd hear myself saying this, but I'm going to miss having you and Kelly underfoot."

  Sally laughed cheerfully. "That's only because you'll have to go back to fixing your own meals, cleaning the dishes, making your bed and doing your laundry."

  "I can't deny I enjoyed it."

  She looked becoming in a taupe, silk melange cowl-neck sweater and brown micro-suede jeans. Her ash blond hair hung loose and flowing. "You should find yourself a good woman to take care of you."

  "Loren is the only one who'd have me, but she's too busy playing politics." Pitt sat down behind the breakfast table, which he'd salvaged from an old steamship in the Great Lakes, and sipped his coffee. "What about you? Too busy running an oil company to find a good man?"

  "No," she said slowly. "I'm a widow. My husband and I built Yukon Oil together. When he died in a plane crash, I took over. Since then, most men act intimidated when they're around me."

  "The price lady CEOs have to pay. But don't worry. You'll get lucky before the year is out."

  "I didn't know you can read the future," she said blithely.

  "The Great Dirk Pitt sees all, knows all, and I see a tall, dark handsome man of equal status and wealth sweeping you off to Tahiti."

  "I can't wait."

  Kelly breezed into the kitchen, wearing an ivory-knit, wool, low-cut sleeveless sweater and blue cotton shorts. "I'm almost sorry to leave this museum to man's folly," she quipped.

  "You'll get a statement in the mail," Pitt said dourly. "Which reminds me, I'd better make a count of the towels before you girls fly off into the blue."

  "My thanks to Sally," said Kelly, zipping up her travel bag. "She was kind enough to offer me a lift in her private jet to the airfield near Dad's farm."

  "You ready?" asked Sally.

  "What are your plans?" Pitt asked, rising from his chair.

  "I'm setting up a philanthropic foundation in Dad's name. Then I plan on donating the paintings and other art treasures to a select list of museums."

  "Good for you," Sally complimented her.

  "And the hoard of silver and gold?"

  "Some of it goes to build and finance the Elmore Egan Science Laboratory, which will be run by Josh Thomas, who plans to recruit the finest young minds in the country to come on board. Most of the rest will go to charities. There is, of course, a share waiting for you and Al."

  Pitt shook his head and waved his hands. "Please, not me. I'm comfortable. Al might accept a new Ferrari, but I prefer you put whatever you had earmarked for us to better use."

  "I'm beginning to see what Loren said about you," said Sally, impressed.

  "Oh, what was that?"

  "That you are an honest man."

  "There are times like this when I hate myself."

  Pitt carried their luggage down to the limo that was waiting to carry them to Sally's plane at a nearby executive airport.

  Sally stepped over to Pitt, hugged him and kissed his cheek. "Good-bye, Dirk Pitt. It was a privilege knowing you."

  "Good-bye, Sally. I hope you find that guy waiting out there."

  Kelly kissed him full on the mouth. "When will I see you again?"

  "Not for a while. Admiral Sandecker intends to keep me busy and out of mischief for a long time."

  He stood there for a moment, waving, until the limo turned toward the airport entry gate. Then he slowly closed the hangar door, walked up to his apartment and went back to bed.

  When Loren stopped by to spend the weekend with Pitt, she found him leaning under the hood of the 1938 green Packard town car. She looked tired after another long day of hearings into the Zale scandal, which had brought the entire government to a screeching halt. She looked stunning in a black, form-fitting business suit. "Hi, big man. What are you up to?"

  "These old carburetors were built to use leaded gas. The new unleaded variety has all sorts of weird chemicals that eat hell out of the guts inside. Whenever I drive the old cars, I have to overhaul the carburetors or they gum up."

  "What would you like for dinner?"

  "Sure you don't want to dine out?"

  "The news media is in a feeding frenzy over the scandal. I'm still considered fair game. The woman who does my hair drove me here in her husband's pickup truck, with me sitting on the floor."

  "How lucky you are to be so popular."

  Loren made a sour face. "How about pasta with spinach and pro-sciutto?"

  "It's a date."

  She called down to him an hour later that dinner was ready. After he cleaned up, he entered the kitchen and found Loren wearing nothing but a silk smoking jacket that she had given Pitt for Christmas but which he never wore, protesting that it made him look like a phony gigolo. He peered into the pot of boiling pasta.

  "It has a nice aroma for pure pasta."

  "It should. I poured half a bottle of Chardonnay into it."

  "Then we don't require predinner cocktails."

  They enjoyed the casual dinner, trading sarcasms and little jabs between them. It was a regular routine between two people of equal wit and intellect. Pitt and Loren contradicted the old maxim that opposites attract. They were as similar in their likes and dislikes as two people could be.

  "Are your h
earings about over?" he asked.

  "Tuesday is the final day. From then on, the Justice Department takes the high road. My job is done."

  "You were lucky Sally walked through the door."

  Loren nodded as she held up a glass of the Chardonnay. "If not for her, Zale would still be walking the earth and causing mayhem and murder. His suicide solved a multitude of problems."

  "What does Justice have in store for his cronies in crime?"

  "The Cerberus cartel members will be indicted. Every agent in the Justice Department is working overtime to build cases against the thousands of bureaucrats and elected politicians who were known to have taken bribes. The consequences of this scandal will be felt for a long time."

 
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