Thoughtful - Chapter 10

Breach!

Lady caught up with Sagan just as he turned left into the isolation lab. Following him in she pulled the door closed behind her and fastened it. The room was designed to handle all types of explosives and other dangerous elements, while protecting the Anhinga. Though it could hardly be considered spacious, there was enough room to move freely. The white walls featured floor to ceiling shelving on two sides, holding all sorts of scientific equipment. Some of it might have looked familiar, but most of it was custom made. A third wall held several computer screens and on the final wall, hanging on hooks next to the door, were several Evac suits. Created to withstand a small blast, the specially designed heavy rubber suits were equipped with matching helmets, complete with their own oxygen supply in case things got really rough.

As Sagan placed the catcher, with the spider still safely intact, on a thin metal table in the middle of the room, Lady pressed a series of buttons that locked the door and at the same time cut the room off from accessing the Anhinga’s general air supply. A gentle hum announced that they were now reliant on the room’s own atmospheric generator in order to breathe. Walking over to the suits hanging on the wall, Lady started pulling one on over her clothes. It fit snugly but would still allow for full movement.

‘Suit up, Sagan,’ Lady ordered, as she finished suiting up herself and pulled on the suit’s helmet.

‘With due respect Commander, you should be up at the bridge,’ Sagan mumbled quietly.

‘I agree, but I want to see what is so different about this thing, the scientist in me can’t help it,’ Lady smiled.

‘Very well, but it makes me anxious,’ Sagan replied as he lifted a suit down off the wall and began pulling it on.

‘Everything makes you anxious when you’re not alone,’ sighed Lady, tilting her head to one side and touching her helmet just above her left ear in order to activate its internal commsline and call up to the bridge.

‘Turing?’ she asked brusquely, turning away from Sagan and looking at the Catcher on the table as she did so.

‘Yes Commander,’ Turing replied a moment later.

‘I’m with Sagan in isolation, you’re in Command in my absence understood?’

‘Aye Commander,’ Turing confirmed gravely, but it was just his way. This was nothing out of the ordinary, and he wasn’t worried.

As Lady hung up, she turned back to Sagan, ‘rest a bit easier now?’ she asked with a small laugh.

‘Not really,’ Sagan smiled back, before immediately focusing his attention on the spider.

‘Before you touch that thing, we need a decoy remember?’ prompted Lady, ‘how long did you say it would take you?’ she added to her question, producing a small salvage pod from behind her back with a flourish.

With a smile, Sagan accepted the challenge. He knew that Lady was goading him to see how fast he could rig up a decoy from the salvage pod. She knew that because he was keen to crack the spider, he would work faster. He was almost annoyed at how well she knew him, and that he was so easily manipulated. Taking the pod from her he placed it next to the spider, and then pulling a small laptop from a drawer within the metal table, along with a long cable he plugged the pod into the computer and turned both on. As the computer screen sprang to life, it cast a cool blue glow over Sagan’s face and he began to type. He worked for several minutes, while Lady watched him intently. Finally, he looked up at her in triumph.

‘She’s ready,’ he said, handing the refashioned pod over to his Commander.

‘Nice one,’ Lady congratulated him taking the pod, ‘I’ll go release this but then I want to see what’s up with this spider, no sneaky opening it up until I get back, and I want you suited up as well OK?’ she added sternly as she opened the door, and headed out.

Walking brusquely, still suited up, she headed towards the same dive room that Sagan’s team had just returned from, passing the now decontaminated dive suits, she headed towards a small touch screen embedded in the wall. Calling up the menu she selected the launch function, which unsurprisingly they used for launching their salvage pods and other search-type equipment. Generally anything not considered a weapons. The dangerous, explosive stuff was kept in another part of the vessel, safely tucked away from areas of general population. Once initiated the launch sequence would open a small hatch, rather like a torpedo tube, but set to the exact size needed for whatever they happened to be sending out. It allowed for maximum efficiency, but also meant that you couldn’t just shoot out any old thing. As that hatch opened, Lady dropped in the salvage pod now decoy and pressed a big red button that appeared on the screen. With a small woosh, she heard it travel out into the cold, dark water beyond.

‘See ya round little pod,’ she mumbled to herself before heading back into the main body of the sub and walking back towards the isolation lab.

Lady had only taken 2 steps when a sudden explosion rocked her sub, causing it to list violently to one side, tipping up and flinging her off balance. With a loud thud she hit the far wall, slamming shoulder first into a closed door and bouncing off the large brass door handle. With a below of pain, Lady slid to the floor as the alarm sounded throughout the Anhinga, screaming in panic. Getting to her feet, Lady jabbed frantically at the side of her helmet to activate the commsline and call up to the bridge.

‘What the hell was that?’ she shouted into the small microphone inside the visor, not bothering to see who had picked up.

‘Not sure Commander, we think it might have come from one of the labs, wherever Sagan is working,’ answered Turing, his calm voice belying the panic he actually felt.

‘No, Sagan is in isolation, it would have been contained…’ Lady trailed off, thinking for a minute.

‘Could be Demise then?’

‘To be honest I would almost prefer that over what I think it might be, any word from Cato?’ she asked, immediately changing tack.

‘Oh jeez, no – you don’t think they?’

Lady didn’t have time to answer though as a small band of crew members rushed past her, dressed in evac suits. Hanging up on Turing without answer, she raced after them, the pain in her shoulder quickly forgotten.

‘Is it Cato?’ she yelled at them as they continued to thunder down the corridor.

‘We think one of the Condensers blew,’ called back

‘Bloody hell, OK, so we’re looking at a possible breach then?’

‘Yes Commander, don’t worry, we can fix that, it’s the ….’

‘Human cost,’ Lady finished for her, cutting her off.

‘Well, yes, we’ve notified Charlie and he’s on his way.’

‘Ok excellent,’ said Lady as together they continued on at a run, finally skidding to a halt at a locked door.

‘Emergency seal,’ said Lady, jabbing her finger at a control pad next to the door and entering the override code.

The door unlocked with an audible click. But Lady hesitated to open it. She could see the influx of sea water beyond.

‘Damn it all to hell!’ she bellowed, before turning back to the control panel and using it to call up to the bridge, ‘Turing! Flush the starboard quarter!’

‘Aye!’ Turing answered, turning to Strychley, ‘you heard the Commander, flush it!’

Without taking time to respond, Strychley referred to a technical read out of the Anhinga, which appeared on her screen at a touch of her finger. Pressing the screen again she watched as the screen zoomed in on the rear left side of the submarine, and then showed the release doors opening.

‘Flushing!’ she called back, as Turing nodded and reported back to Lady.

‘Thank you, I can see the water receding now, full pressure facing out to keep that leak plugged OK? Plus we’re going to need a full team to help Charlie, and we’ll need to stay put for a while right? tell Sagan to hold off on that spider, I can’t take any chances until I know what’s happened here.’

‘I’ll let him know Commander,’ replied Turing seriously, ‘over and out.’

Lady hung up as well and turned back to the door in front of her. Without a glance behind her she wrenched the handle and with a mighty heave, pulled the door open. As she did so, sea water dripped down the walls of passage within, leaving little pools on the floor.

‘As soon as everyone is out I want this place decomm’ed OK?’ Lady ordered, in no mood to muck around with the inevitable danger this liquid brought with it.

‘Yes Commander,’ her team replied in unison as together they stepped over the small lip of the door and headed towards the Condenser room. It didn’t take them long to find what they were looking for. Bodies littered the floor. Cato, Bracken, Regal and Fizz. Unconscious and soaking. With fear in her eyes, but determination in her soul, Lady set her clean-up crew into action.

‘There’s no time to wait for medical, get them out of here now! They’ve taken in too much water already,’ she commanded with a calmness she didn’t feel but would never belie, ‘I’ll deal with the breach,’ she added as they went to work, dragging the injured back towards the main corridor.

Looking around she saw one of Cato’s tool kits, and making a beeline for it she picked it up in a swoop as she continued on her way. The Condenser room was about 20 metres further down, though she could feel herself coming up against the backwards pressure the closer she got. Passing through it, she could feel it pushing against her body, and was thankful that she had put on one of the Evac suits. It would protect her against the compression. Making her way further down the corridor, she could see the Condenser room ahead. Turning left again she was soon inside and could see the problem. One of the 4 machines had all but disintegrated, and in having done so had blasted a decent size hole in the side of the vessel. It wasn’t huge by any standard, but at their current depth it was enough to flood the compartment within seconds.  Moving against the pressure, she headed towards it, taking a plasma gun from the tool kit as she went. Now she just needed a decent size piece of metal to weld over the void, and she could shut this leak down.

Scouting around her, Lady looked for anything that might be of use. A panel, a door. At this stage it didn’t matter where it came from. Working hard to control her breathing and keep the panic that threatened to overwhelm her at bay, Lady scanned the are before deciding she would need to head back. She just didn’t have what she needed. Even though the pressure kept the water at bay for now, they were burning through the batteries keeping it up. It was designed as a temporary measure to allow for quick repairs, and to let the crew to escape. Every minute that ticked by left them more and more vulnerable. So focused on her hunt was she that Lady didn’t notice she had company.

‘Looking for something?’ the dark figure at the door asked, as Lady turned around.

‘Sagan!’ she yelled, recognising his voice, but annoyed that he’d managed to startle her, ‘good to see you put on your Evac suit, and yes I need something to weld over this damned hole,’ she added, regaining her composure.

‘Will this do?’ he asked, pointing to the large sheet of titanium he was dragging on an anti grav cart behind him. It was the only way he could shift such a heavy piece of metal on his own, but it had also helped to make his entrance almost silent.

‘Yes! You’re a life saver, literally, bring it in here and help me get it up!’ Lady ordered excitedly. At least now they could put this latest drama to rest.

Once they had worked together to put the titanium plug in place, Lady used the plasma gun to seal it into the sub wall. The heat from it melting the titanium at the edges, and closing off the hole. As the last inch glowed hotly, before settling to a cool grey, Lady looked up at the ugly patch which was stopping her beloved Anhinga from drowning. She would get to the bottom of this. Condensers didn’t just explode. Something here was very wrong.

‘Sagan, please tell Turing to turn off the pressure,’ she said, seemingly subdued and lost to her thoughts as he nodded and turned away from her.

‘Who did this to you?’ she added to herself, as she reached out to touch a gloved hand to the metal wall.