Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It, too, is partly set in the rural Tanzania I remember from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter eight, scene one: Dive training.
It was an incredibly heady feeling. Before the accident, I saw myself as a wage-slave to a man who regarded me as just another of his managers, or so I thought. Sure, I was well paid and well supported, but my every effort was designed to make Papa even richer, just like every other manager and executive in his empire. Now, only weeks later, not only was I was unbelievably rich, but also I no longer had to sit behind a desk and work for six days out of seven.
And I was on my way to Hawaii to do some diving, exploring shipwrecks.
Sophie had made the bookings, including the rental of a boat. The one she arranged was fully crewed, and fitted with a modified cargo hoist that could lift me comfortably and safely into and out of the water.
The MkII suits had arrived in time for our departure. Sindy had put a note in the package, telling me that they had upgraded the suit’s control circuits, making them more responsive, and I should practise in shallow water before venturing to any depth. She also said that they had added a feature, as yet untested, that should reseal the outer skin in the event of any damage, and had fitted an interface allowing the suit’s air supply to be replenished from standard breathing tanks. That, too, was untested. Sindy had suggested that we test that modification on a suit we didn’t plan to use for serious diving; suit 3, which she called the development suit.
The weather was splendid when we arrived at Honolulu International Airport at 9.30pm, after a flight of a little over 21 hours, including a layover of almost four hours in Los Angeles. The formalities could have been worse. I think the combination of a first class ticket and my wheelchair helped us through immigration and customs, as did the groundwork that Emily had done to ensure everyone on the way knew who I was. I know I had always said that people who trade on their position of power and wealth to gain advantage are no better than low-lives with money, but it’s amazing how one’s attitude to these things changes when one finds oneself rich and powerful and faced with delays and inconveniences that money can make go away.
We spent the night at the splendid Royal Hawaiian before venturing to start the Wreck Diver Speciality course that Manda had suggested we take, before attempting a wreck penetration dive.
Our tutors for the course were a pair of local lads, Kasey and Sebestyen (call me Seb). Their first reaction, when they saw me in the wheelchair, was one of scepticism.
“Diving into wrecks is a difficult job, even for someone able-bodied. Are you sure you want to try it? The trouble is, you’ll need a DPV to get you around, and there isn’t really room for one in many of the wrecks around here,” Seb said.
“Don’t worry,” I said, “I have a wetsuit that has been specially made for me.” I showed them our paperwork to prove we were certified okay to dive and asked if I could suit up and show them what I could do.
“Sure,” they said. “We’ll just hang on here.”
We were ready a lot sooner than they expected and headed out to the jetty, where the boat Sophie had arranged was waiting for us. We went out to a fairly shallow area and the captain winched me into the water. I turned the dial to its control position and started swimming on the surface; a front crawl. Seb and Kasey were intrigued.
“Where did you get a thing like that?” Kasey asked.
“Specially designed for me by some people at a top UK university,” I said, flipping both shoulders forward and executing a perfect static dive. I returned to the surface and signalled the caption to hoist me back aboard.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“What do I think?” Seb replied, “I think you’re going diving wrecks. We’ll start the tuition as soon as you’re ready.”
We started with a theory session around a table in a café. There was a lot to take in, especially considering Sophie and I had only started dive training a few weeks beforehand.
After the theory session, we had to complete four dives, which Seb and Kasey said should be done over four days, both to give us time to absorb what we were learning and to make sure I had time for my physio and the other things Sophie had to do.
We needed some extra equipment, too. We each invested in a dive light, a slate, underwater compass, and a line and reel for route tracing. There was also a video to watch, which we did before undertaking the first of the dives.
After the four dives, the lads declared us fit to dive wrecks, but warned us against diving a couple of ships that posed special perils.
The first time we dived a wreck, Kasey and Seb stayed close by; not, they said, to check on us, but because they were so fascinated by my suits, and they wanted to see how they worked under authentic diving conditions.
The dive went well. We went into a vessel that had been sunk deliberately to provide a diving reef. The marine life inside it was staggering in its beauty and variety, all the passages and ways were easy to navigate and there were no dead ends. It looked to me like this had been prepared as an easy starter for people new to this type of diving.
It was particularly helpful for me, as it gave me an opportunity to test my and the suit’s capabilities in a comparatively safe location. That Kasey and Seb were fairly close at hand was also reassuring.
All the equipment performed impeccably. We finally got the hang of the comms device in our face masks. To start with, we were blanking it out by both trying to talk at the same time. We thought about ways to signal that one had finished and the other could start, but decided that the good, old-fashioned “over” was as good as anything we could come up with.
The star of the show, though, was the suit. I didn’t dare talk to anyone about it, as I couldn’t stop once I’d started, and I risked becoming boring. I had worked out the optimum shoulder-flick and was finding myself able to move around as well as Sophie could. The biggest surprise came when I tried swimming on the surface. The arm action of the front crawl gave exactly the amount of flick on the shoulder that sent an appropriate movement to the legs to produce a natural, fluid and powerful front crawl swimming stroke.