The first chapter of Never at Sea begins with the words,
We have lost a submarine!
In South America, the story tells of Laurence and Laura. Laurence is an engineer who first designs submarines and then, because his boss tells him to, builds a practical von Neumann machine. Laura is a psychotherapist who says to Laurence that his Von Neumann machine "will give us time."
In North America, the story tells of John Tarnover who is fighting Laurence, John's son who inadvertently introduces John to Michelle, and Peter who is worried and gathers help from twins who have gone to Michelle's clinic.