The professor made no lie about the VS Rosanne 7, because it was very spacious indeed, but just not quite enough. It was the water that Elsie didn’t like; the fact that when she opened the shutter to her window all she saw was water, and the thought that above and below her was just more water. In time she did learn to like the view, even if ninety percent of the time it was only that murky ocean-blue. Sometimes, when the water was clearer, she’d see fish and other marine animals, but only when she was lucky.
Inside her cabin there was a bed, a desk and chair for her writing, a lovely plant that stayed in the corner beside the wide square window, and a bookshelf. Outside Elsie’s cabin was a hallway, and numerous other doors that made up the crew’s quarters. Below them, walking down a semi-spiral staircase, was the control and map room, which was oval shaped, and indeed the largest part of the entire submarine. It seemed that unlike most other submarines, which were bland and metal, the VS Rosanne 7 was designed more like a ballroom than a vehicle of transport. In the control room, four rectangular desks were situated along walls with enough windows to give the room an interesting ocean-blue tinge. At the end of the room was a large wheel and a young helmsman – Mr Riley Dunstan – in a sailor’s hat. In the centre was a smooth rectangular table upon which was painted a detailed and colourful map of Pearl Isle, and above it a golden chandelier dangled noiselessly from the ceiling. As Elsie tranced down the stairs she wondered if it would ever fall down when the seas were rough.
As time on the Rosanne progressed Elsie grew to know most of the crew, and found that they were indeed very friendly. Her first encounter, other than with the helmsman, occurred when she stumbled into the wrong room and came face to face with a pretty blonde woman. “Oh,” Elsie giggled, feeling a little embarrassed, “why, you’re Doctor O’Donnell,” she said, when she recognised the face. She put her hand forward. “Forgive me, I’m Elsie, I’m a student at the university.”
Doctor Fiona O’Donnell shook her hand and smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Elsie.” The doctor was certainly one of the university’s prettier staff members. She often went about her business with her golden hair tied up, to show that she was doing something important, and her fringe fell in locks down the side of her face. She had a small nose, soft lips, and large grey eyes that brought out the flushed tone of her skin, oh, and a very cute freckle on her left cheek. Elsie recalled, maybe a few weeks back, that when she was leaving her literature class she heard the joyous melody of ‘Happy Birthday’ drifting from down the hall, and later learned that the doctor was celebrating the event of turning thirty.
And now they stood face to face, shaking hands, and as the doctor looked Elsie in the eye she said, “So which one are you?” O’Donnell had a habit of asking vague questions.
Elsie didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand.”
“Well, there are two kinds of people on this submarine; those who are here for the money and those who are here for the journey.”
“I should think I am neither,” Elsie replied. “You see, Professor Goodwin contacted me. My brother Jack has gone missing and I’m here to find him.”
A spark appeared in Doctor O’Donnell’s eye. “Your brother Jack?” And then she snapped her fingers and said, “You’re Elsie Heartwing! I knew you looked familiar. Oh my, it is a pleasure indeed then.”
“Did you know Jack at all?” Elsie asked.
“Oh yes, he studied in a few of my classes before he ran off to work with the professor. I know your parents, too. Wonderful people, and very wise, but joyously frantic at the same time.”
That made Elsie laugh. “So what brought you on this voyage then? Money or adventure?”
O’Donnell smiled. “Money, for sure. Other than caring for the crew, I’m here because of that metal thing that lives where the professor’s arm used to be. They make it out to be the greatest thing in the world, but even bio-tech can only get you so far. That arm of his needs constant maintenance if he wants it to work properly, so that’s why he brings me along on his little adventures; and the extra money never hurts. Did he ever tell you how he did it?” Before Elsie could nod the doctor continued. “Bitten off by a shark, it was. He doesn’t like me saying so, but there’s no harm in a little gossip between two girls.”
Elsie suddenly became very intrigued. “A shark, you say?”
“Yes, a hammerhead shark. It happened way back when I still lived in Warren City – the upper region, of course. The story goes that the professor and a few of his co-workers were travelling far off to the east in some country somewhere, some place very cold I think. There he was, sitting on a sheet of ice and looking down into the water, when suddenly from the dark blue depths he spotted this sinister pair of eyes ascending towards him. Next thing he knew there was water everywhere and he was sinking down where the shark came from, with blood seeping into the ocean. Supposedly his little misadventure never stopped him, and as soon as he was healthy again he was straight back into the field! Funny that, isn’t it? I do see him wince from time to time when he uses the metal one, and if you look carefully you can see there’s pain in his eyes, as if the wound never really healed at all.”
After a few more exchanges of conversation and a hastened promise to return for a games night with the doctor and another crew member named Miss Eveans, Elsie had left the crew’s quarters feeling a little confused, but glad that she had found someone to talk to.
It was on the main level that Elsie became acquainted with Riley Dunstan, the Rosanne’s helmsmen. It was a simple meeting, really, as he was standing by the wheel and staring into the endless blue window, occasionally checking his radar and other gadgets. Riley, as mentioned before, was only young, and evidently fresh out of flight school. But his scruffy hair and lightly trimmed beard made him seem older than he was, and as it turns out, he was much more experienced than Elsie thought. “Can you believe it!” he told Elsie, once, upon their first meeting. “I spent six years in Victoria Flight School and then I served four at the Royal Academy. I’m twenty-six and I’m one of the best damn pilots in Pearl Isle, top of my class and all! So what do the fellows up top do when they receive a letter from the professor? Why, they put me in a submarine! Now, I’ll admit that the Rosanne is a mighty fine vessel, and I’m sure as hell the man for the job, but I’m telling you Miss Elsie, nothing compares to being free in the open sky.”
Short after her conversation with Mr. Dunstan Elsie was called down from her cabin by Professor Goodwin. As she entered the glowing map room she found that the professor and several others were standing around the central table. When she approached the professor glanced up in delight. “Ah! Elsie,” he said, “just the woman I wanted to talk to.” As the he spoke, Elsie’s eyes glazed over the other faces in the room. She saw Doctor O’Donnell and Mr. Dunstan, and one other man who she recognised as Herschel Adams, a mercenary of sorts, but real mysterious. Professor Goodwin continued, “It has come to my attention that you, Miss Heartwing, have brought an animal aboard the Rosanne – a rabbit, was it?”
Elsie nodded. “Yes, his name is Floof. I saved him from being eaten by a hound and he’s been in my care ever since. He lives in my backpack mostly.”
“It seems that under standard regulations it is forbidden to keep live animals on government ships, but because by rights the ship temporarily belong to me, I suppose I can make an exception. I am told your rabbit possesses a biotic arm?”
“Yes,” said Elsie, happily, “my friend Basil built the arm himself, I believe he’s a student of Doctor O’Donnell.”
“So he is,” the professor agreed. “Alright then, you may keep your pet, but uh, don’t let him run about the submarine alone.”
Elsie then glanced again at all the people who still stood around the central table, and said, “Professor, I feel like you didn’t just call me down here to talk about my pet rabbit.”
“Quite right, now that the housekeeping is out of the way, I thought you might like to know that the Rosanne has recently received a transmission from an old research facility located to the north of Victoria City.”
Now Elsie became much more interested. “Was it Jack?” she asked, eagerly. “What did it say?”
The professor’s smile faded. “I’m afraid we don’t know. The transmission was blank, but we do now have a location, and are currently plotting a course. We should arrive within five or so days.”
“What makes you so sure it’s Jack?”
“Oh, I have an inkling. The base has been dismantled for over a decade. No one should even know it exists. That being said, these facilities are scattered all over Pearl Isle, and when they were active they… well, they had a reputation for performing unnatural experiments. You’d best prepare yourself, Miss Elsie Heartwing, this could get dangerous.”ns 18.104.22.168da2