Traveling to Underwater Cities

If you lived in a dome underwater, how would you travel to other cities? In the early twenty-first century, the principle means of long-distance travel is airliners. Even a hundred years from now, it will still be a popular way to reach cities in the inland parts of country. Not long ago, people used surface ships called oceanliners to cross the oceans. When a huge portion of the population lives under the surface of the water, one of the best options to travel between cities will certainly be the Underliner—a commercial passenger submarine.

In my upcoming book UNDERCURRENT, my characters make use of the Underliner as a means of getting back home to the domed city of Aquataine after an emergency prompts an evacuation of around ten thousand people to the surface. The evacuation craft had been sitting idle for over 70 years and not all of them can be used to make the return trip, so a more reliable means of transport is required to get those people back safely.

The Underliner is about the size of today’s Boeing 777, without the wings of course. Imagine the gleaming white ship, highlighted in aqua-colored insignia.  You are greeted by perky, sparkling attendants in aqua uniforms with creases so sharp you might cut yourself. Inside, two aisles run the length of the ship with seating along both the port and starboard sides as well as down the center.

Artist’s rendering of a Zyklon-Class luxury submersible. Built at the Norfolk yards, the Zyklon is capable of auto-navigation within two meters at a speed of 40 knots.

But in addition to the portholes, the ceiling is full of windows too. It’s a concession to those with subaqueous neurosis—or underwater syndrome—whose dose of Nirvanum might not be enough to keep them calm, feeling as if they’re being swallowed by the ship and the sea. But then again, it’s also unsettling for any of the passengers once the water starts splashing over the windows blocking out the sunlight as they dive.

Possibly even more unsettling than that is the barrage of ads from the Dock Mall shopping service. Once seated, weight sensors trigger the seat back monitors to activate, taking cues from the passenger’s own Wrist-Comm device as to their interests and hobbies hoping to score a sale. For some reason, the Personal Flotation Suit remains one of the most queried items.

Passengers can also sync their Wrist-Comms to the monitors, which will project a video keyboard onto the tray for easier access. That’s also useful for ordering a drink from the lounge at the back of the passenger cabin. If they just want to rest, there is a canopy built into the seat back that is easily pulled out over their head to provide a little bit of darkness and privacy.

Once submerged, subs are guided along the underwater shipping lanes by SONAR beacons. Long before, submarines beamed SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) to navigate underwater. With today’s increased commercial and passenger submarine traffic, it’s far more efficient to place SONAR along established routes, and send those signals directly to the ship’s navigation systems.  

On approach to the dome, the subs enter a deep channel that leads beneath the dome’s base. Automated systems sync with the sub’s own guidance systems to lead the sub into a lock similar to a canal lock. A huge water-tight door closes behind the sub, relieving the extreme water pressure from the open sea at a depth of a hundred and fifty meters. Another door in opens in front, and the sub gains access to the underwater harbor where it can now surface inside the passenger terminal.

Representation of an underwater submarine terminal that could be used for passenger subs as well as materiel handling. Though this photograph does resemble the underwater lair of Karl Stromberg from “The Spy Who Loved Me,” this is actually the Indian Nuclear Submarine base in Kolkata, India.

As the sub is guided into the docking station, gangways attach magnetically to each hatch so passengers can disembark. The baggage system matches the RFID chip placed on each passenger’s bag to their Wrist-Comm as they exit the sub, placing the bags on the conveyor system to synchronize them for easy retrieval as they leave the terminal. Within the terminal, passengers can board the local trams within Aquataine’s Central Dome, or use the Inter-Dome Transport (IDT) monorail system to travel to one of the city’s connected smaller domes.

There is also a commercial side of the terminal to accommodate deliveries of food, general merchandise, and other supplies. Aquataine also has facilities for the few privately owned submersible yachts of the elite. I figure private subs are probably going to be about as commonplace as private yachts or planes today.  Gotta get around somehow, right?

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Decisions, Decisions. . .

It’s been four years. That’s when I first put the proverbial pen to paper on a book that I have called from the very beginning, SubAqua. The first thing I did at that time back in June of 2014 was to write an extensive outline for where I wanted this story to go. The next file I created was a map of a still unnamed city where all this action would take place. This was also about the time I started hearing about NaNoWriMo. I didn’t know what a NaNoWriMo was, but my writing and critique group did.

I had been writing for a couple of years by this point, and I had a completed manuscript for a middle-grade historical fiction novel called Jacob the Armorer. Let me say this about that—if you think you’re a pretty good writer, go back and read that masterpiece after it’s been in the back of the fridge for a couple of years. My poor critique group friends had to read that thing. But I digress. They were all about this NaNoWriMo thing, and encouraged me to join in. I sort of did, and it was fun.

SubAqua was the manuscript I chose to write for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), with a goal of writing 50,000 words during November, which should result in an SFD (Let’s just call it a “Sloppy” First Draft). I had an extensive outline, and though I didn’t officially register for NaNoWriMo, I believe I finished that month in the neighborhood of 62,000 words. My critiquers have done full reviews and edits, I’ve had beta readers, I’ve revised it myself continuously for four years, and I’ve submitted the work to forty or so agents.

So renaming my novel Undercurrent is a difficult choice to make. This is like renaming one of your kids after a few years. “Well Bobby, you’ve had a good run. But, we’re going to call you Edgar now.” This change has been coming though. I’ve long realized that SubAqua was not the greatest title, but I couldn’t come up with a better one. Sometimes, when you get to the end, you look back at what you’ve created and a title will jump out. I mean, after all, I didn’t know how this book was going to end when I was writing it. I love surprise endings, you know. So it wasn’t until I made that other decision—to stop submitting to agents and self-publish—that the decision became more real.

When I started working on that real concept for a real book cover, that’s when things got weird. I was thinking “Undercurrent.” Hmmm, that could work. But I hated how the title looked on the cover. It’s a long word, and it just looked awkward. But in the end, I think it is “Matura MT Script Capitals” that has given me the appearance I was looking for. I think it’s set. New title is Undercurrent.

Now, if only I can find a good graphic artist who can bring my Undercurrent symbol (a dolphin jumping through an inverted Omega) to life, I’ll be able to get my concept cover together. Incidentally, in engineering, the Omega is used to represent “Ohms” or (electrical) resistance, and since the Undercurrent group represents a kind of resistance, I thought, why not?