It took about twenty minutes for the speedboat to make it back to the ship at full speed. By which time, our on-board paramedics were standing by, on the hydraulically lowered diving platform. Consequently, it only took them about twenty or thirty seconds to get Brad Deane strapped into the stretcher they had with them, and then bring him to sickbay. There, they transferred him to a large white examination table, under the personal supervision of Dr. Shareen King.
"Okay," she began: "Smitty? Jonesy? Hold him down tight! This is gonna hurt."
Whereupon, she clapped the head of that flying squid between two defibrillator paddles!
Sure enough, Brad twitched, and screamed out in pain, as the good doctor lifted that piece of flash-fried calamari off of his face. Leaving behind tentacle sucker marks that made it look like he had an industrial-strength case of acne! In the meantime, Celeste used the microphonic headset in her safety helmet to inform us that she was coming in for a landing on the sandy strip of beach marking the western side of the island's only lagoon.
"Do you want me to videotape some of the jungle trails going inland after I unharness myself, Professor?" she asked a moment or two after the landing.
Fortunately, Professor Stewart (politely-but-firmly) told her no.
"Let Dell handle that," he added: "He served with the Navy SEALS in Vietnam. In the meantime, you can come back to the ship aboard the wet sub. Bringing his Sony XC-1* with you."
"As you wish."
It took about fifteen minutes for the wet sub to make it back to the ship by cruising on the surface (as Dell had kept his scuba gear with him). When it was finished being hoisted aboard, Celeste hopped out of the rear seat and removed the XC-1 from its black polyurethane housing. Then, with me as her escort, she took it straight to the A-V lab.
"How's Brad doing?" she asked en route.
"Dr. King is going to keep him in sickbay, overnight, for observation. But, she doesn't think there's any danger of him having inhaled any ammonia discharge from the squid."
"In other words, he won't be turning into Sigourney Weaver?"
She smirked a little as she saw my eyebrows arch in surprise. Then, I felt myself grin, as well.
"I think you mean John Hurt."
She shrugged: "You've seen one flat chest, you've seen them all."
Of course, that remark immediately made me look down at her red bikini top (her hang-gliding cover-alls naturally having been left behind on the beach). Which she, in turn, did not fail to notice and good-naturedly laugh at.
"Sorry," I half-mumbled in embarrassment.
"No harm/no foul," she replied: "In fact, I think I'd be sorrier if you hadn't looked!"
"Say what?!" I couldn't help exclaiming.
She stopped walking for a second; a very serious expression on her face.
"Ken," she finally began: "This is going to sound weird. But, the night before we got here, I was having this weird dream. In it, I was..."
She never finished that thought as she was interrupted by the opening of the door to the A-V lab by Gary Latimer; the UH research assistant in charge of it.
"Oh! There you are," he said: "I was just about to lock up and grab some lunch. Come on in."
We followed him inside and watched him unload the medium-sized rectangle of the videocassette from the XC-1's waterproof carrying case. He then popped it into the VCR and hit the playback mode. As you might have already guessed, the first five minutes were pretty much what we expected to see. Patches of eel grass, alternating with a lot of rippling white sand on the sea bottom, adjacent to the mouth of the lagoon. Then, the wet sub entered the lagoon...and we saw them.
A veritable colony of Dromia dormia, or sleepy sponge crabs. All of them scrambling along the bottom of the lagoon with specimens of Suberites domuncula on their backs. And, resting atop those sponges in the same inverted manner as Cassiopea jellyfish?
Tiger-striped specimens of Cyanea capillata gundersoni.
"Congratulations, Celeste," I said: "You're great-grandfather is one step closer to being vindicated."
Unfortunately, just as I was about to affirm those congratulations with a celebratory peck on her right cheek, the public address system ruined the moment.
"Professor Stewart? Professor Nakafusa? Please report to sickbay, immediately!"
Celeste and I looked at each other.
"Brad," we chorused.
Whereupon, we ran back the way we had just come. When we got to sickbay, we hurriedly walked up behind the two aforementioned scientists and looked over their shoulders. And what we saw not only made Celeste gasp; it almost made me join her in perfect unison! Because Brad Deane was now confined to a cot with an oxygen tent over it.
An oxygen tent that almost totally covered his now three foot-tall body.
Suberites: probably the oldest genus of sea sponges on the planet.
Cassiopea: the cnidarian genus containing true upside-down jellyfish.