Tom Swift and His Aquatomic Tracker

BOOK: Tom Swift and His Aquatomic Tracker
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THE TOM SWIFT INVENTION ADVENTURES

TOM SWIFT

AND HIS AQUATOMIC TRACKER

by Victor Appleton II

This unauthorized tribute is based upon the original TOM SWIFT JR. characters.

As of this printing, copyright to The New TOM SWIFT Jr. Adventures is owned by SIMON & SCHUSTER

This edition privately printed by RUNABOUT © 2011
www.tomswiftlives.com

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1
OMINOUS IMAGE

"THIS will be one of the greatest scientific adventures of the century! We’ll all be pulling for you!"

"Thanks, Dan," responded the athletic looking young man standing next to him. "Just about everyone’s pulling for us—but we won’t know for a couple weeks yet whether all that
pulling
is enough to help us
pull it off
."

Two youths, who looked young enough to still be in their teens, stood with an older man at the metal railing that bordered the deck of the mammoth research vessel
Sea Charger
, their three gazes trained seaward.

The older man, a rotund figure who clutched a ten-gallon cowboy hat against the wind, spoke with Texas confidence. "Now don’t you worry a whit, son. When Tom Swift and his folks take a notion t’do somethin’, they never give up till it’s spang on the plate!"

"He’s using a fish metaphor," explained Bud Barclay with a broad grin.

"Oh, I get it," nodded Dan Walde. "Like reeling in a fish for dinner." The red-haired young man, in a sailor’s work garb, turned his back to the Baltic Sea and faced Chow Winkler, executive chef—and executive
friend
—to Tom Swift Enterprises. "But what I don’t quite get..." He shrugged. "I’m one of the junior trainees in the oceanography course, see. From Omaha? We really weren’t briefed all that extensively about this big operation out here."

"They have oceanography in Omaha?" asked Bud slyly.

"Now buddy boy," Chow intervened, "you oughta know they have ocean-oh-graphy all over th’ place. Even in Texas! Why I hear’d the whole blame middle o’ the U.S. useta be under water!"

"Thanks for the lesson, Professor Winkler," retorted the black-haired youth. "Say, maybe you’d like to answer Dan’s questions, hmm?"

"Oh, I didn’t realize you were one of the scientists, sir," said Walde, embarrassed. "You must know everything there is to know about all this."

Chow reddened just a bit—and glared at Bud just a bit. "Wa-aal sure. I’m a perfesser o’
cuisinology
, all right. And m’ friend Tom Swift—he’s the one who worked the whole thing out—he gave me a right complete explanation. So what’d you want to know?"

"First of all, why do they call it the SMB?"

"Er, well now, it’s a-cause ‘
s
’ and ‘
m
’ and
‘b
’ are th’ initials o’ the words. That help?"

"Sure, but what are the words?"

"Why, ‘
s
,’ that there letter ‘
s
,’ means
subm’rine
. Like as,
underwater
." The ex-chuck wagon cook was desperately searching his broad, if shallow, memory bank.

"What the professor
means
to say," put in Bud, "is that ‘SMB’ stands for SubMoBahn."

"Sure," Chow confirmed hastily. "Bahn!—whatcha call a German freeway."

"More like a German
free-for-all
," chuckled Bud. "Anyway, it’s what the news guys call the project. What the Swedes call it, I can’t pronounce!"

Dan nodded and asked Chow if the Swedish government would own the SMB outright upon its completion. Having no idea, but with mouth already open, the cuisinologist essayed an answer. "Y’see now, we got ourselves a full-blooded Swede workin’ at Enterprises, a right smart feller name o’ Arv Hanson."

"Oh really?" said the trainee in a puzzled voice.

It was Bud to the rescue again. "The Swedish government is paying for the tube-tunnel, along with Denmark and Germany," he explained. "When it’s finished, I think the plan is for all three to own it together. That Swedish company that pushed the idea will actually operate it, though."

"That’s right!" confirmed Chow forcefully.

When young Tom Swift had returned to Shopton, New York, after completing his astounding aerial highway in Africa, a tale told in
Tom Swift and His Repelatron Skyway
, the news of his accomplishment had preceded him, circling the globe at the speed of television and the internet. Awaiting him at Swift Enterprises were official representatives of three governments and an executive from a Swedish firm, Lor-Sofviio Teknos. Tom’s success in Ngombia had revived the moribund prospects of a somewhat similar effort at radical road-building—but this was to be a motorway spanning the hundred-mile stretch of the Baltic Sea separating Germany, at the Danish border, from the southmost tip of Sweden. The challenging project entailed construction of an automotive tunnel beneath the sea!

"I realize you use those Swift water-repelling machines to hold back the water, Mr. Winkler, but some of it’s still mighty hazy," persisted Walde. "If it’s going to be a real highway, for cars, what about getting air to them down there? What about the tailpipe exhaust?"

"Yeah, and what about th’ fish?" demanded Chow, forgetting momentarily that he himself was the question-answerer.

"Mind if I try for an answer, guys?" asked a friendly voice. Tom Swift ambled into view around a corner, extending a hand to Dan Walde.

"Wow!" gulped the youthful trainee. "I’d
hoped
to meet you, Mr. Swift—Tom—but I figured you’d be squirreled away somewhere working on equations or something."

"I manage to come up for air now and then," Tom remarked with a grin. "In this case, just in time to hear your questions."

"I’ll leave th’ answers to my young friend an’
ay
-sociate," declared Chow, smug and relieved. "Explainin’ makes fer good practice."

As was his unconscious habit, the young inventor sketched in the air as he spoke. "I started off calling my invention the DOT—Deep Ocean Transitway. But nobody else calls it that. I’ve given up."

"SMB sounds a little pizzazzier," joked Bud.

"I’m sure you know the basics, Dan. The underwater construction workers and technicians, whom Enterprises trained and outfitted, are building a pair of tube-tunnels running side by side to handle the two directions of traffic, eight lanes in each. Set at intervals are special repelatrons, the same kind we developed for the skyway project, sweeping back and forth and tuned to repel the local mix of seawater."

"I understand that much," said Walde. "I know your machines have to be carefully calibrated for the precise elements and compounds they’ll be pushing against."

Tom nodded. "When we set up the helium-extraction hydrodome in the Atlantic, which also uses a repelatron system, we had to set up sensitive sampling devices all over the area to keep the repelatron precisely tuned—even small variations in the mix of substances can weaken or cancel out the repulsion effect."

"Which is part of what they’s settin’ up here," added Chow, taking what he thought was only a small risk.

"Well—that’s what we
first
considered, true," Tom noted quickly. "But I stumbled across a simpler, yet more precise, approach."

Bud couldn’t help displaying the privileged insight his best friend always provided him. "That one’s called an aquatometer."

"Uh-huh. A water-atom measurer, in other words," confirmed Tom. When Dan asked what was different about it, Tom went on, "The aquatometer doesn’t take in water and analyze it, the way the earlier sampling devices did. Instead it sends out a sort of ‘feeler’ repulsion wave in all directions. It’s too imprecisely attuned to give anything more than an infinitesimal push, but computer enhancement can make something of the back-reaction nevertheless. As the aquatometer runs through the range of settings in a few seconds or so, we assess the different pushes and determine the proportions and general distribution of substances in the local water—many thousands of gallons of it in one sweep!"

"All by
ree
-mote control, y’might say," Chow interjected proudly.

Walde indicated that he understood that part of the approach. "I was also wondering about― "

"I overheard you," Tom said. "You know all about that little gadget I invented for free divers called the hydrolung, which uses an electronic principle to extract molecules of breathable oxygen from water, directly." In the transitway tubes, he continued, long flat strips of artificially engineered material ran unbroken from one end to the other, filling a longitudinal slot in the Tomasite plastic that constituted the tunnel walls. "The outward side of the strip is in contact with the ocean water, which it draws in and works its magic on. Oxygen, along with a nitrogen-helium mix, is then exuded from the inner surface into the tunnel. Another strip uses a similar principle to extract unbreathable exhaust—not just the automobile kind, but the
human
kind."

"Now tell ’im about the fish," urged Chow Winkler.

"That’s why we’ve given the tunnels walls of Tomasite plastic," explained Tom in reply, "rather than just using the sort of nanofilament barrier we use for our hydrodomes. We’re in much more of a ‘fish zone’ in this project, and it’s important to keep marine life, which is mostly unaffected by the ’trons, from poking into the tunnel."

"Especially during rush hour," added Bud, a native Californian.

"No offense, Tom, but it still seems kind of dangerous, driving around under water," observed Dan. "What if you had a seaquake? That’s something we study in my field. If the floor starts rippling, the SMB could just twist apart, couldn’t it?"

"We thought of that," the youth replied. "As a matter of fact, the tunnels don’t sit right on the bottom, but are suspended at a height of about thirty feet. They’re held up, and also anchored in place, by lengths of transifoil, which can be made to curl or uncurl electronically in response to changing subsea currents or earth movements. Even with a full flow of traffic, the two SMB’s are fairly buoyant, by the way. It doesn’t take much to hold them up."

"It’s—it’s fantastic!" gulped Walde, eyes wide.

"You’ll get used to it," Bud assured him.

The four turned to the railing and the sea, and a thoughtful silence descended. "I called it a scientific adventure," mused the trainee from Omaha. "But I guess it’s more of an engineering challenge, really. Does it also have any practical scientific value?"

"Scientists don’t always limit their research to practical matters." Tom grinned. "However, this is also a test to prove how our diversuits and underwater construction methods can be used. Think of it as another step in blazing a trail for later field study of the undersea environment firsthand by oceanographers—like you, Dan—and marine biologists. And we hope it may open new possibilities in safe offshore mining and oil prospecting."

"Some experts even claim man will have to seek new living space under the sea someday," put in Bud. "Right, Tom?"

"Right. And we may not have a choice. But that day is a long way off, I hope," added the young inventor with a chuckle.

"A person kin get a mite tired eatin’ nothin’ but fish," Chow muttered thoughtfully.

Just then a crewman wearing a Tom Swift Enterprises jacket emerged from the escalator hatch nearby and beckoned to Tom. "I’ll leave you three to contemplate the future," Tom said, excusing himself. "Looks like the
present
is calling."

As Tom approached, the crewman said, "Tom, they want you down in Communications right away."

"Message for me?"

"Somebody important, they said."

In the communications room below deck, the chief officer greeted Tom and indicated a red light flashing rapidly on the control panel of the Swifts’ private satellite-linked TV network. Tom flicked on the videophone monitor. Blake, Enterprises’ Washington DC telecaster, appeared on the screen.

"Hi there," grinned the young inventor. "We haven’t spoken for a while."

But Blake did not return the greeting. "This may be important, Skipper," the telecaster said in sober tones. "John Thurston has something to show you."

Thurston, a calm-faced, balding official of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, stepped into view before the camera. "Hello, Tom. Everything proceeding smoothly on your underwater roadway?"

"You probably know that better than I do, sir."

The CIA section chief smiled slightly. "Well, one mustn’t rely completely on intelligence work. At any rate, I’ve received something interesting by way of Bernt Ahlgren."

Tom raised an eyebrow. Not long before Tom had worked with Ahlgren when a man-made threat from space had endangered the world. The agent worked with, but not
for
, the CIA, and had described himself as a communications expert. The simple mention of his name signaled danger! "What’s up?"

"Take a look at this." Thurston held up a photographic print, and Blake switched to a closeup so that it filled the video screen. "By showing this to you, Tom, I’m trusting your solemn word that none of this matter—none!—will become public knowledge." Tom gave his promise in response.

The print showed what appeared to be a stylized drawing of a figure wearing a Roman soldier’s helmet sinking head downward into water. Tom studied the image intently for a long moment. "What is it?" he asked.

BOOK: Tom Swift and His Aquatomic Tracker
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