Thoughtful - Chapter 7

Here comes trouble

steampunk-submarine-bridge.jpg

The first shot rocked the Anhinga, and sent shock-waves along the surface of the submarine, but the impact didn’t do any damage. A warning shot. Inside, Lady stumbled as she ran for the bridge, and the submarine lurched violently.

‘Damn it!’ she screamed, as she regained her footing and rounded a corner.

Hitting the bridge, she was instantly apprehended by Strychley who was manically trying to give her a report on the situation, but was too wound up on adrenalin to make any sense.

‘Wait, wait – slow down, you’re not making sense!’ commanded Lady, grabbing her by the shoulders and staring intently into her face.

‘We’ve been hit! They’re firing on us! Blaster cannons! We have to get moving!’

‘Calm down Strychley, we have a force field remember?’

‘Yes, Commander, I know but …’

‘Have we identified where the shot came from?’

‘Yes, they made contact before they started trying to jam our comms, it’s the Returned.’

‘OK, well that doesn’t surprise me, we just picked up some really good tech and Zed must want our latest haul. I don’t blame him and if I was a different person I’d probably do the same,’ Lady reasoned calmly, ‘Where are they now?’

Before anyone could answer though, another shot was fired, rocking the ship again but still not doing any damage. The force field held.

‘He’s just stunning us, it’s annoying but we can deal with it,’ announced Turing, their Navigator, ‘the Returned seems to be trying to cloak itself, but it’s doing a sloppy job, Marksman would be able to find them if we want to counter?’

‘We’ll hold off for now Turing, I don’t want to get into a full scale battle here, that thing’s old and it runs on Flux, can you imagine if it goes off? We’d all be sunk, plus half the planet, besides we have some tricks, we’ll get out of this, and I don’t want the Anhinga damaged unnecessarily.’

‘Aye Commander,’ acknowledged Turing.

‘Now where’s that bastard hiding?’

‘That I can tell you, he’s trying to mess with our radar equipment as well as the commsline, but he’s not doing a very good job of that either, he’s due South East.’

‘Status?’

‘We’ve done a scan, and it’s just his standard crew – no new feet so to speak. He must have been following us for days, waiting for his chance.’

‘I agree, we’ve gotten complacent and we’ve been still too long, and as Strychley said, we need to get moving.’

‘What’s the plan Commander?’ asked Turing, looking for orders.

‘Turn off the commsline, and switch to analogue, they may be listening in and I don’t want them following us again.’

‘Aye, turning off the commsline,’ Turing repeated.

Immediately another blast hit the Anhinga, but this time it wasn’t a cheap shot. This time it meant business.

‘Looks like you were right about the comms,’ stated Styrchley, smiling at her Commander admiringly.

‘Yep, he’s pissed now,’ agreed Lady, picking up an old brass funnel attached to a pale green cord, ‘Sagan, you hear me?’

‘Copy that Commander, what’s going on up there?’

‘It’s Zed, he’s firing on us that crazy son of a bitch, got any special moves up your silky sleeves?’

‘You know it,’ Sagan replied.

‘OK I’m gonna need everything you’ve got, we’ll lay down the ink and cover them in cotton candy!’

As Lady replaced the brass funnel in its cradle, she could faintly hear Sagan laughing deep down inside the sub. He was an odd man, but she knew he’d come through for them anytime they needed it.

‘Cato, you hear that?’ Lady asked, now turning her attention to her Chief Weapons engineer.

‘Yes Commander, beginning sequence.’

‘Brilliant, we’ll be out of this this shortly, and Zed will have to eat our currents.’

‘I wish you wouldn’t say that,’ sighed Turing, suppressing a laugh, ‘it really sounds ridiculous.’

‘Well we’re underwater, what am I supposed to say?’ asked Lady indignantly, turning back to focus her attention Cato.

Just as an octopus will deploy a plumb of black liquid in order to hide itself and disorientate its attacker when under threat, so the Anhinga did the same. Small vents at various points around the ship could be opened to dispel the a black ink-like substance, as well as other liquids, at the touch of a button. As there was no need to open all the vents at once, any number of them could be opened or left closed via the weapons computer. As the Returned was hiding to the South of the Anhinga, Cato directed all flows through the vents at the subs stern. Immediately a dark cloud appeared in the water, masking their position. Next, Cato deployed the ‘cotton candy’, a completely inappropriate name for what was a subtly evil weapon. From the portside flank torpedo tube, a small round ball was launched. There was no way Zed’s crew would be able to detect it coming through the black wall between it and the Anhinga.

As the ball reached the Returned it attached itself to the underside of the submarine, guided by Cato who was manoeuvring it from inside the Anhinga. Immediately it opened up, and as it did so it’s powder-like content began to disperse into the water. As soon the powder hit the salty liquid it began to transform into a bouncy but solid puffball of pink foam, which had soon completely covered the Returned from bow to stern. The whole thing only took a few seconds, and immobilised the ship effectively cutting off its ability to do much more than sit there. Eventually the cotton candy would dissolve and melt away, but the process could take hours. Lady could just imagine Zed raging about his ship in an undignified fury. She smiled to herself at the thought.

Unfortunately, the crew of the Anhinga would not get to enjoy their triumph for very long. As they were launching the cotton candy, the Returned fired on them again, but this time they did not use ordinary blaster cannons. This was something new, and as it cut a path through the water Lady could see they were in trouble before it even hit them. As she looked at the radar, she could see the blast pattern was different. It was not like anything she had seen before. On the radar they showed up as a blue streak, as opposed to the usual green. This was not good. The blasts hit the ship with a deep thud, and though the force field held, it couldn’t take the entire impact. Something got through, and the Anhinga tilted violently to the starboard side.  Instantly an alarm began resounding throughout the ship. A sharp, annoying cry for help.

‘Damage report!’ Lady demanded over the noise. This was no time to be polite.

‘Minor damage to the portside Condensers and Turbo Generator housing,’ came Cato’s reply as he consulted a technical readout of the sub.

‘Damn them to hell! OK we still have agility but no speed, thankfully that cotton candy will keep Zed out of commission for a few hours, so we have time, but we’re going to need somewhere safe to hold up until repairs are made.’

‘Got it Commander, there’s a complex series of caves charted not too far from here?’ suggested Turing.

‘Sounds great,’ said Lady curtly, picking up the old, analogue commsline again, and calling down to Sagan in the engine room, ‘you OK down there?’

‘Yes Commander, no damage to the engines themselves, just the …’ Sagan started to report.

‘Turbo Generators, I know, look can you get us out of here?’

‘I can but won’t they just…’

‘Track us again?’ Lady finished his thought, ‘yeah, you’re right, that new tech must have a powerful signature, that’s the only thing I can imagine they’d be locking onto …. unless it was the girl? But how …. no it has to be that tech.’

‘Or they could have gotten something on us when we were picking up the girl? After all we were there longer than planned, they could have sent out a spider?’

‘You’re right, a spider, it has to be, they knew we’d be distracted,’ admitted Lady.

‘I think we need to get that thing off us, but I think we should keep it. It’s valuable tech, and I can reprogram it. Then we build a decoy, something that mimics the spider’s signal - they can track that and we get some nice tech.’

‘Now that is a plan I can get behind! Can you rig up one of the salvage pods to mimic the spider’s beacon? I mean they’re all pretty much the same, still, I hope, anyway we’ll send it in the opposite direction.’

‘Too easy,’ acknowledged Sagan.

‘Excellent, I’ll see if we can mess with anything else of theirs while we’re at it, just in case.’

‘Sounds good Commander.’

Lady hung up the commsline again, and furrowed her brow. Even though she knew the Returned was temporarily out of action, she didn’t like them being so close. They needed to move out.

‘Turing!’

‘Yes Commander?’

‘Plot a course for the caves, we’ll holdup there, and Sagan can create his decoy.’

‘Aye.’

‘Cato?’

‘Commander?’

‘Mess with anything of theirs we can, we need to teach these guys a lesson. Bloody spiders!’