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Leap - 02

By´╝ÜMichael C. Grumley

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Special thanks to Autumn, Julie, Liz, Richele, Susan, Tony, Frank, Bojan, Rob, Luke, and Shawn, for their expert advice and proofing help.

And to Jill Weinstein, a great proofreader and editor if there ever was one (easyedits@outlook.com).


1



“I think you’d better get down here. We’ve got company.”

Her eyes opened wide with the phone receiver still gripped tightly in her hand. She immediately hung up and jumped out of her chair, rounding the desk and running for the door. After flinging it open and sprinting down the carpeted hallway, she approached the wide stairs and descended as quickly as she could without tripping.

The layout of the new building was strikingly similar to the old one, but here the air conditioning system was barely able to stave off Puerto Rico’s brutal humidity. By the time she’d made it to the large double doors, the familiar flush through her body told her that her sweat glands were kicking into gear. She lowered her head and leaned into the doors, pushing them both open.

The familiar computerized voice sounded almost immediately. Hello Alison.

Alison smiled broadly toward the giant seawater tank. “Hello, Sally,” she replied, partially out of breath. “You’re back.”

Sally wiggled her tail happily. We back.

Alison raised an eyebrow, scanning the rest of the tank’s bright blue water. “Where’s Dirk?”

Before she could answer, Dirk plunged into the top of the tank with a giant splash and performed a barrel roll as he skirted past Sally.

Alison laughed. He loved making a grand entrance. Of course, they really needed to change the part of the tank that allowed him to do that.

Dirk continued to the bottom where he swung up and around before coasting in next to Sally. Hello Alison. Hello Chris.

Alison smirked and tilted her head slightly. “Hello, Dirk.”

We happy see you.

“We’re happy to see you too.” Chris Ramirez joined Alison in front of the tank, holding his perpetual cup of coffee. How he could drink coffee all day in this heat, she would never know.

Their new facility was smaller than the aquarium in Miami, but this one was strictly a research center, which meant fewer unplanned distractions. Gutted from an old cannery, the building was refurbished and expanded to include a large indoor-outdoor tank for Dirk and Sally. Now they could come and go as they pleased. No more bars.

It was, of course, the least she and the team could do after what they’d all been through. And true to their word, the dolphins returned regularly. It also helped that Dirk was fed like a king.

Behind Alison and Chris, and against the far wall, stood an immense computer system with hundreds of blinking lights. IMIS, short for Inter Mammal Interpretive System, was the same system that made their first communications with Dirk and Sally possible. But now IMIS was over twice its original size. After her team relocated to Puerto Rico and closer to the dolphins’ natural breeding ground, the IMIS system had gone through a major upgrade. It was almost quaint to think about its abilities before, compared to its computing power now. It made Lee Kenwood, their head of technology, absolutely giddy. In fact, Alison and Chris had both joked to Lee that it looked as though he were trying to show up the engineers at NASA.

Alison didn’t fully understand the specifications of the newly upgraded IMIS, but she did know it had a lot to do with what Lee called teraflops. But to her, it was simply bigger and faster. And even though it had doubled in size, Lee claimed it was almost eight times more powerful. The amount of data that IMIS could process before in a day, it could now do in a couple hours.

Sally swam close to the underwater microphone. How you Alison?

“I am very well,” she smiled. “How are you?”

We good. You ready now.

“Not yet, but soon.”

Smiling, Chris took a sip from his cup. “I guess we have some calls to make.”

“We sure do.”

Food now.

Alison glanced back at Dirk as he thrust his tail up and down, excitedly. She folded her arms in front and shook her head.

If the world had been surprised at their breakthrough before, this time they were going to be absolutely stunned.





2





“The Cradle of Naval Aviation” was the unofficial name of the Naval Air Base near Pensacola, Florida. It was built as the country’s first Naval Air Station and remained so even well into the First World War. In present day, it was known for being the primary training facility for all Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard aviators and flight officers. It was also home to the Blue Angels, the Navy’s famed flight demonstration squadron.

Spanning an area of well over eight thousand acres, the Pensacola Naval Complex employed twenty-three thousand military and seventy-four hundred civilians. Not surprisingly, it was a major hub for modern hi-tech naval research and testing.

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