Thoughtful - Chapter 1

The Underworld

The moon shone out, high above the city, bouncing its light off the lines of the tall buildings, tetrissed in next to each other and rising up into the atmosphere to squeeze as much into the limited metropolitan space as possible. From certain angles it looked as though giant snails had been sleeking and sliming their way over the concrete and glass covered steel structures. Slicing the city in two, the River Thames curved off into the distance. In the dark, its barely rippling water reflected the yellow, red and blue of the city lights as the people of the city went about their business in the chill of the Autumn night. Like ants in a nest, hurrying here and there, seemingly disordered but each with their own sense of purpose. Beneath the Thames a long, tubular submersible came to a gentle stop, surround on all sides by the dark water.

The vessel itself was a marvel of grey steel and a copper coloured metal, smudged here and there by a bright blue green substance formed by oxidisation. Then crossing over this metal outer skin was a further intricate pattern, comprised by numerous black metal markings overlaid so that they appeared similar to the feathers of a bird. Around this, the submarine’s body was dotted here and there by several viewing windows of a pale blue crystal, stronger than glass and more refractive in order to offer sharper viewing. On what would be the vessel’s upper deck protruded an elevated hatch, heavily armed with what might have been a large gun if it wasn’t actually a kind of futuristic laser blaster. Either way, and whatever you wanted to call it, it was a formidable weapon.  

Deep inside the sub, all was a blur of activity as its crew went about their work. An eclectic mix of war vessel and science lab, with a dash of 1920s cruise ship splashed around for good measure, the interior bore the mark of hand crafted love and machine built efficiency. It was a beautiful contradiction. As all was chaos around her a tall, dark haired woman made her way down one of the sub’s main corridors towards the bridge and her command post, striding through the hive of activity that her ship had suddenly become.

‘What have you found?’ she asked casually, taking a seat in the tech laden but somehow Elizabethan looking Commander's chair, and looking down at a small computer screen built into the chair’s arm.

‘Not sure yet Commander, but we’ll need to be quick whatever it is, I count 3 more ships on their way. We got lucky, this one feels big!’ answered her first mate, a blue haired girl known to everyone simply as Strychley.

‘Where is it?’

‘On the bottom, we’ll need to dive and ….’

‘No, lets try that new thing that Sagan built for us from the last lot of tech we dragged up, it should be able to bring whatever it is in without us having to move even a foot,’

‘Are you sure that thing is safe?’ asked Strychley.

‘Sagan assures me it is, and I trust him,’ answered their Commander, ‘after all he practically built this ship from scratch with me.’

‘Wait! There’s something else you might be interested in out there,’ interrupted another of the crew who was intercepting the video feed from the CCTV cameras on the surface that were dotted around the city. 

‘We don’t have time for this Marksman,’ warned his Commander with quiet authority, ‘eyes on the prize, no distractions, in and out, you know the deal.’

‘Yes Commander, but we have a jumper on the bridge,’ Marksman explained quickly.

‘What?! Are you sure? It’s not just someone walking home?’

‘No, it’s well after the youth curfew, if she were just going for a stroll she wouldn’t be out this late, plus I can see her standing on the edge in the usual stance – arms and legs spread slightly as she leans forward, looking at herself in the water…  and there’s 2 others who appear to be … arguing behind her – they’re body language is quite animated, seems like the real deal.’

‘Right, OK… OK, let me think,’ said their Commander, walking over to the communicator and pulling it towards her, ‘Sagan, change of plan, we have a jumper, I need to pick her up … can you get that tech on board with the transbeam while I deal with this?’

‘I’ve only tested it in isolation, Commander, I can’t guarantee it will work if there’s interference in the water,’ came the static ridden reply.

‘Just do it, we have three other subs incoming, and I want that tech and that jumper safe on my ship, whatever we have to do … you hear me?’

‘Yes, Commander,’ Sagan responded, but there was no confidence in his voice.

‘Good man, now get that tech and then we’ll go after the jumper…’ the Commander trailed off looking at Marksman who mouthed the word girl at her, ‘I mean the girl,’ the Commander added.

‘Can’t leave a damsel in distress eh Lady?’ came back Sagan.

‘Oi, you watch it Sagan,’ laughed their Commander, ‘over an out.’

Immediately a soft buzzing thrilled through the entire ship as Sagan turned on his machines.

‘The tech is on board Commander,’ Sagan said over the communicator a few moments later, ‘you can go get the girl.’

‘Wow! That was quick, alright thank you Sagan! I’ll be down to see you shortly, we’ll need to leave this rock as soon as I have the girl on board, can you get the sub ready?’

‘Eye, eye lady.’

‘Good,’ said the Commander clicking off the communicator and turning to her crew, ‘OK, Marksman how’s our jumper doing?’

‘She’s in the water now, due East about 100 metres,’

‘Perfect, that’ll work to our advantage, where are the other subs?’

‘They’re about 4 leagues away but coming in fast.’

‘I love a close one,’ smiled the Commander, walking over to the main navigation screen so she could see their position compared to their quarry. The navigation screen was one of the better ones salvaged by the sub over the years. It was accurate down to half a metre and you could see your exact position in relation to whatever was around you. It was kind of like seeing the world via Google Earth, or an old school video game.

‘OK, yes I can see her on screen, dead ahead – she’s struggling a bit, can’t swim by the looks of it, though I’ve never saved one that can,’ said the Commander pointedly as she smiled and looked around the control room at her staff. At one time she had saved all their lives from certain death, ‘prepare medical for incoming, she’ll be pretty sick I imagine, she’s sucking down a lot of water, and that water… well we all know right?’ she added heading off towards the door.

‘Yes Commander,’ said Strychley, clicking on her communicator and speaking to the ship’s doctor, ‘we’ve got a thirsty one coming in for you Charlie,’

‘Roger that!’ Charlie answered, before turning to look around the medical bay. He was getting thin on supplies. He’d have to ask the Commander to do a raid soon if they were going to see out the rest of the year without worrying. Especially at the rate they were taking on new crew. He knew the situation, but sometimes wondered when his Commander would say enough is enough. Or the world might change. Either would be fine with him.