“Well Alice,” Brian murmured, “welcome to Wonderland.”
Artificial illumination exploded from above, shining bright enough to replicate the sun. Emily cried out and pitched her hand up over her eyes.
Testing her endurance, she parted two fingers and squinted until her vision acclimated. Her hand fell uselessly to her side and her jaw dropped. She took two steps forward and felt too numb to continue any further.
The room was greater in size than any commercial airline hangar. Several jumbo jets could easily sit side by side under the vaulted ceiling soaring at least three stories above. The far walls were remote enough to lack focus, but they served only as a backdrop to the massive structure that filled nearly half the colossal chamber.
“Oh my God!” she whispered, but it echoed back as if she shouted atop the Matterhorn.
Caught up with the exhibit, Emily jumped when Brian moved in behind her, his palms resting on her shoulders. “I’ve seen a number of bizarre ventures launched deep in this facility,” Brian took a deep breath, “but I can honestly say that they’ve never tried anything like this.”
A shiver coursed through her as she whispered, “they didn’t have Colin then.”
And with the curiosity and awe of a child, Emily crossed that concrete floor as if it were frozen, as if she was on top of the ice-crusted surface of some faraway planet. She approached the mammoth craft suspended by metal scaffolding, like a creature of the sea, imprisoned, wanting nothing more than to be immersed in the life-sustaining ocean.
Mesmerized, Emily began to pace the perimeter, studying the fine details of craftsmanship. The vessel looked like an enormous silver manta ray, with its eyes formed by the bank of windows at the forward nose. The body of the ship flowed in aerodynamic waves as if even in these metal shackles it was gliding silently through the water, leaving the faintest of wakes.
Emily dared to step closer and stare up at the smooth, black underbelly. From this perspective she felt just as she had when she was a child visiting the Museum of Natural History, staring up at the blue whale suspended from the ceiling of the Hall of Ocean Life. She had felt so diminutive, like a tiny spec of plankton that would be inhaled without a thought.
The Hyperion was wider than that blue whale, but about the same length. It was made of a material that sparkled like black onyx. She walked for a span beneath it, but returned to Brian with a sense of urgency.
“You want to go inside,” he nodded, resigned.