Thoughtful - Chapter 20

Here Goes Nothing

This was going to be tricky. The Anhinga knew they were topside, and she knew she was damaged. She was a smart sub. In order to get her to dive Lady and Strychley would manually have to override her safety systems and a bunch of other sensors. That alone would take a few minutes. Diving at least another five. They had to go cautiously here. The only thing between them and a watery grave was that flimsy pressure field.  

Meanwhile, Sagan had launched Shoop and was making his way towards the end of the sub. As he got closer, he felt sick to his stomach. Whoever had blown the ugly hole in the side of the Anhinga had at some point in the past few days to get outside and write a nasty ass message on the side of the sub. Scratched into the paint with what must have been an arclazer were the words KILL ALL CLEVERS.

‘Bloody hell,’ muttered Sagan under his breath, feeling himself shaking with fear and anger and not realising he was being heard by both Phoenix and the remaining crew on the bridge.

‘What is it? You OK?’ Phoenix asked instantly. 

‘Yeah, yeah but you won’t believe this,’ Sagan replied, his voice a low growl, ‘someone had written kill all clever on the side of the Anhinga.’

‘Someone what!’ demanded Lady, anger flooding her body like a fierce fire.

‘Yeah, and right near the damage too, like they knew where it would blow out.’

‘Leaving a little message for future generations no doubt,’ lamented Fury, looking over at Lady with a mixture of sadness and outrage.

‘When I find that fucking ghost I am going to strip off its skin and wear it as a fucking jacket!’ Lady thundered, ‘but we don’t have time for this shit, forget it right? Let’s focus on what we gotta do, we’re taking her down Sagan, be ready.’

‘Aye Commander,’ Sagan responded, closing off communications so he could concentrate.

They only had one shot at this, only enough of that mod’ed cotton candy to get this right the first time. If he was being honest, Sagan was shitting himself just a bit. But of course he’d never let Phoenix see that. Manoeuvring Shoop away from the Anhinga, Sagan watched as the sub started its controlled dive. So far so good. The pressure field seemed to be holding. Turning so that he was facing the gaping hole in the sub’s side, Sagan prepared to fire the cotton candy. The plan was that he would manually detonate the shell when it was within a few feet of the breach. Then the ‘candy would spread out along the sub’s surface, sealing the hole and allowing them to be on their way to Royale.

Sagan pulled up Shoop’s weapons systems on the large screen in front of him, and opened the cannon’s diagnostics. Moving his figures deftly across the screen, hey typed in the necessary commands to modify the cannon for delivering the ‘candy and detonate remotely. With a deep breath, and a quick prayer to Bowie, he pressed the fire button. Nothing happened. Well that’s not entirely true, an alarming beeping sound started emanating from the mini-subs weapons system.  

‘Shit, shit shiiit!’ Sagan announced to himself, maniacally typing commands into the weapon’s system and trying to get the cannon to disgorge the cotton candy.

But there was nothing doin’. He knew what he had to do. Turning to his left, he hung over the edge of the cockpit’s seat and reached down into the space below it. His hair hung down wildly, looking like it was sticking straight up from his head. Within a few moments he found what he was looking for and pressed the release on the cannon’s barrel. Immediately the cotton candy shell exited the ship and began its descent into the depths of the murky water below. Huffing in frustration, Sagan pulled himself upright and moving quickly sent out a whip like arm with a small claw on the end. Breathing in sharply, he wiped his hand across his eyes in relief as the claw found its mark and wrapped itself around the shell.

A second later the arm retracted quickly, bringing the shell with it and then depositing it in a small drawer, which Sagan brought inside. Retrieving the shell, he tucked it into a small satchel and without wasting time thinking about the consequences, grabbed a diving mask and a small set of air tanks that was hanging on the mini-subs inner wall. Pulling the mask over his head, and fastening the air tanks at his waist, he turned on the subs small pressure field to create an air lock. Then pushing upwards, he disconnected the subs roof from its body and floated out into the toxic water. Shivering involuntarily at the water’s cool, he turned briefly to grab the cotton candy and then pushed himself away from the sub. Swimming towards the Anhinga, as he went he attached a small explosive timer to the shell casing. Setting it for 10 seconds, he only had to hope that it was enough time for him to get away from the explosion and not get caught in the ‘candy himself. That would be disastrous. Leaving him both at the mercy of the water and his limited supply of air.

Closing the gap to the submarine, Sagan also knew he had no choice now but to attach the shell to the side of the sub. Even if her threw it, he doubted he could give it the forward momentum it needed to keep from sinking. He just had to hope it would work the same way as he’d originally envisaged. As long as it spread out enough to cover the breach they would be OK. Reaching the submarine, he put out his hand to stop himself from slamming into it, but only succeeded in injuring his wrist. He was a bundle of adrenalin and nerves. Resisting the urge to scream, he pressed on, removing the shell from his satchel and using a small tube of sealant to adhere the shell to the outer skin of the submarine.

Setting the timer, he shoved himself away from the Anhinga and worked to create as much distance between himself and the sub as possible. As he heard the shell explode, and felt the small blast wave push him further away he fought to turn around and watch the cotton candy expanding out to cover the damage. As he glided to a stop in the water, he squinted at the cotton candy as it continued to do its job. Moments passed like hours as Sagan stared at it, obsessed with every wrinkle, every undulation.

As it’s spread began to slow, Sagan realised with alarm that it wasn’t going to be enough. There was still a small space that hadn’t been covered. Swearing to himself, Sagan swam back towards the Anhinga. He had to try and stretch the cotton candy over that last pocket before it set and solidified. As he approached the submarine again, he knew he’d have to be careful. If he got caught in that cotton candy himself then it would be lights out. As if on cue a small alarm sounded from his air tanks. He only had a few minutes of air left.

‘Happy Friday,’ Sagan muttered to himself as he made his way towards the problem.

***** 

Back on the Anhinga, Lady and Phoenix were both worried. It’d been too long since they’d heard from Sagan, and the pressure field was starting to waver, letting in a trickle of water.  Lady couldn’t stand waiting anymore and decided to take matters into her own hands.

‘Fury, would you mind hacking into that mini-sub for me? He would’ve taken Shoop, that’s his favourite, let’s find out what’s going on out there,’ Lady asked through gritted teeth.

*****

Sagan reached out and grabbed a handful of the cotton candy with his fingers. This was madness and he knew it. This stuff had a sticking power that defied anything that might once have been known in a circus or fairgrounds situation, but he had no choice. Moving carefully, he pulled the cotton candy over the small space it had missed and tried to stick it to the sub’s surface. But it wasn’t quite enough, he needed more of the stuff. Turning behind him he filled his hands with all the cotton candy he dared take and grunting with the effort of it pulled it back over the hole. Pressing down hard, he managed to get the cotton candy to stick to the Anhinga.

‘Yessss!’ he cried out, but his triumph was short lived as he realised one of his hands was stuck in the gnarly pink substance, which was quickly starting to harden.

‘Damn it, bollocks,’ he growled, pulling on his hand and trying to free it, but it was no use. 

*****

‘We have visual now, but you’re not going to like it,’ warned Fury as he brought Shoop’s external camera’s up on the big screen on the bridge.

‘Ah bollocks,’ said Lady as she watched Sagan trying to free himself from the side of her vessel.

‘Check out those air tanks, they’re nearly at zero, see that little red light there?’ asked Strychley, pointing at the screen.

*****

 The air Sagan was now breathing in had become thin and his vision was fading in and out as a form of protest as he felt unconsciousness coming for him. But it was OK. Sagan was OK with dying, as long as he saved the Anhinga and its crew, and gave them enough time to get to Royale for repairs. Perhaps they’d find him, hanging from the side once they docked, that’s if the creatures down here didn’t get him on the way. Closing his eyes, he tried to speed up the process as he felt the Anhinga slowly rising back up to the surface. So they were all good then, and about to get the crew back on board. Good for them, he thought as slowly his brain switched off. The last thing he remember was the feeling of small teeth nibbling around his wrist, and then everything went black.

*****

‘Man this crew will get itself in some situations,’ smiled Fury to himself as he cut delicately around Sagan’s wrist, working to free him from the cotton candy but being careful not to damage the material in the process. Phoenix had given him a little vile of the stuff though, to fill in the cracks as he went, just to be sure the seal was solid.

‘How’s it going out there?’ Lady voice came over Fury’s suit’s commsline.

‘Nearly got him, he’s unconscious, but still breathing, I swapped out his tanks, so he should make it, but he’s gonna have one hell of a headache.’

‘Thank Bowie! Ok well get him back inside, quick as you can, and I’ll go get my crew …. Thanks Fury, I owe you … a lot. 

‘How about dinner then?’ Fury asked, a smile spreading across his scarred face. 

Lady blushed furiously, as Strychley giggled.  

‘This isn’t a private line!’ Lady replied, mortified.

‘I know, so how about it? Once we get to Royale?’

‘Once we get to Royale,’ Lady agreed, as Strychley beamed at her wildly. She was loving this too much, Lady decided.