If they were not over there, they would probably be here next to him. With that, he stood up and squinted at the glimmering horizon. Having to decide what to do every day was just the type of problem he wanted. His body suddenly stiffened. The sound was extremely faint but unmistakable and he felt a flutter of grim acceptance before reaching for the binoculars. He wiped the water from his face and peered through the lenses.
He stood, watching stoically as the tiny black dot in the distance slowly grew into the recognizable shape of a helicopter. It had always surprised Chris Ramirez how busy Fridays were. He would have guessed a Saturday or Sunday, but the last day of the school week was always the busiest. This was thanks to all the nearby schools and their field trips, which meant playing host for four exhausting hours.
An obligation Chris had finally been freed from just three weeks earlier with the hiring of a new tour guide.
Of course, now he had to admit that giving the tours to the kids was not all bad. It was the fact that their retention levels dropped to zero once they were through the front door that bothered him. Not that he would have been any different at their age. He strolled through the empty lobby sipping his coffee.
As he approached, he smiled at Betty behind the information desk and his replacement, Al, who was looking over his schedule and straightening his tie. What a beautiful day these new Fridays were, now that it allowed him to return to his real work. Chris glanced at his watch; thirty minutes until the doors opened. He headed downstairs to the bottom level of the main aquarium. There, he stood before the giant wall of glass, holding back more than a million gallons of water.
He watched both shadows dart back and forth effortlessly through the rays of sunlight. The dolphins were swimming about with a grace of which only they were capable. He looked higher at the third shape.
Pastor Jason did organize a vigil, which was attended by "around people," but it was held at the church, not outside the hospital. He gave up his role in the popular tobacco advertising campaign after 14 years, saying he was setting a bad example for his children. As deductibles and co-pays grow, insured patients owe a larger share of their medical bills. Okay, once in a blue moon there is a shortcut. BH: Book 1 is back to 99c and consistently sells about 40—50 every day. The moment when I really felt things shifting for me was last February, when I got a voicemail from an agent saying she was halfway through my novel and really loving it.
It waved to him, at which point he smiled and waved back with a gentle swipe of his coffee cup. The figure turned and swam back toward Dirk and Sally. Swimming with dolphins was beyond what most could imagine, and she should know, she did it as often as possible. She rarely missed a Friday, as it was the one day that the aquarium opened late, leaving a forty-five minute window between feeding time and opening time.
Over the last five years, Dirk and Sally had especially come to enjoy their swims together, it was more than obvious. They constantly swirled around her, letting her run her hands over their slick bodies, and in turn, would playfully bump her as they passed beneath. She looked at her watch, gave them one last pat, and headed for the ladder. Alison Shaw surfaced and held onto the ladder while she cleared her mask.
She noticed a distorted shape quickly approach and looked up, removing her foggy goggles to see Chris smiling down at her. Alison looked up again with a squint.
Chris grabbed her hand, pulling her out of the water with one hand, and handing her a towel with the other. She stepped out, quickly dried off and pulled a long sleeve shirt and shorts out of her bag. She and Chris had been friends for years, but he still snuck a glance now and then at her trim figure.
A few inches shorter than average, she was still far from the norm when it came to female marine biologists. Hurrying to get her sandals on, they ran across the viewing area and into the building. They burst into the research area to find Lee Kenwood in his usual spot, at a large desk crammed with monitors and keyboards with cables snaking all over the floor, something Alison always imagined the bowels of a phone company to look like.
Behind Lee and against the wall were several tall metal racks holding dozens of computer servers each.
In the middle section of one of the center racks stood a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, used for manually controlling any of the one-inch thick machines, even though it was something Lee rarely had to do anymore. With the myriad of systems on his own desk, he could now just as easily connect to the servers remotely.
Before the thick glass stood six mechanical apparatuses of varying height and complexity, with a digital video camera perched on top of each. Around the room were several dozen books and journals on topics ranging from marine biology, to language analysis, to writing code in various computer languages.
He looked through his rectangular glasses at Chris. He gently pushed himself away from his desk, rolling out of the way and allowing her a closer view. She could see Dirk and Sally on the far side anticipating the first wave of children. Behind them, Frank Dubois burst into the room. He knew simply from the look on their faces.
He pointed to the screen as Dubois leaned in behind Chris and Alison. Look, if you add them up you get almost the exact same number listed with the video positions, divided by three. Alison smiled. Lee always had a creative way with words. You busy today Ali? The silver doors opened and John Clay stepped out of the oversized elevator. From the far end of the hall, Admiral Langford spotted Clay and broke off his conversation with another officer. He walked to meet him and handed Clay a thick folder. They met several years prior when Admiral Langford took over the department.
Clay fell into step with Langford as he opened the folder and scanned the first page. Clay tried to keep up while flipping through several pages of what most would consider random computer code. Same course but fifteen miles further out. Langford never had to repeat anything to him. Might be something with the engines if it were one of the older subs, but the new class measures speed by GPS too.
How about a satellite problem? They turned and continued down another hallway adorned with pictures of past military officers. Clay spoke without realizing it. A GPS receiver is never locked onto the same six signals.
Consisting of several hundred staff, most specializing in legal and personnel issues, the department was growing as a result of the softening of military policies. Personnel issues such as harassment had skyrocketed over the last several years as the military struggled to adapt to twenty-first century expectations.
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Electronics and Signaling was a specialty that very few understood, let alone were interested in. They just wanted it to work.
It required expert level knowledge in a wide variety of technologies including computer chip design, networking, signaling and a thorough understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum. Clay turned a corner and passed a number of offices.
His aide, Jennifer, was clearly expecting him when he opened the door and walked through.