Thoughtful - Chapter 9

Assessing the damage

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'Have you found it?' asked Lady speaking into the commsline, which was back to normal now that they had jammed a bunch of Zed's own equipment and made their escape.

'Not yet, but we've only reached half way along the sub,' Sagan reported back.

As he swam on through the dark water, his team spread out in a line on either side of him as they searched the submarine together. Admittedly, they were finding the task slow going. Given the Anhinga’s current position, hidden within a trench close to an underwater cave system, their depth meant that they were in what could only be described as pitch black. Visibility was as close to zero as to be impossible, and until they got that spider off the sub, they couldn’t run the risk of using the sub’s external lights either. Anything greater than a candle-light glow right now would draw any pursuers straight to them, like a beacon. This meant the diver’s working outside the sub had to rely on the concentrated, pale blue search lights each had attached to their helmet. The diving suits themselves were composed of a thick, dark rubber material with accordion-like joints of a thinner, lighter colour around the ankles, knees, wrists, elbows, shoulders and neck to allow for ease of movement. On their feet, small flippers propelled them through the water like awkward seal pups, and the gloves they wore on their hands were knitted from a lightweight but heavy metal. Over their heads, their helmets were cube-like and angled, bulging out around their faces like a bubble. Technical read-outs of their vital stats flowed in a calming blue across the helmet face while in the back a small unit pulled in water and extracted oxygen before circulating it within the helmet so the divers could breath. The suits were clever combination of borrowed tech and human engineering. A perfect metaphor for the current underworld situation.

The divers continued to swim on hesitantly through the gloom, tracing the outline of the ship, going over ever inch, looking for anything out of the ordinary. The spider could be any size and anywhere. Around them the caustic waters of the world’s waterways flowed. Every now and then a curious entity would drift past, but there wasn't anything out there more dangerous at this given moment than the polluted waters themselves. It then followed that any beast that could survive in them was by its very nature almost a miracle.

As Sagan felt something long and thin brush past his leg, he looked down just in time to catch sight of the creature's tail as it glided away. Smiling briefly, Sagan entertained the idea that one day he might have time to study the surviving marine life outside of the Arbour’s exclusion zone. He was sure any animal that could thrive in this same evil liquid he was swimming through must be interesting. Looking back up at the submarine's surface, he ran his hand gently over the hull and felt something out of place. It was just what he was looking for.  

'Gotcha!' yelled Sagan happily, as he trained his light on what he had felt and spotted the half a golf ball size protrusion sticking out of the side of the Anhinga's otherwise smooth underbelly.

Moving his gloved fingers carefully over the main body of the thing he noted the spiked attachments that the tracker had sunk into the Anhinga's hull. This is what gave the spider its namesake. 8 tiny metal legs had burrowed deep into the steel, and they would, Sagan knew from experience, be extremely difficult to remove. But only if you didn't know how.

Fumbling around the side of his diving suit, Sagan detached a largish, silver box. Gently rolling the box over in his hands, he pressed a series of buttons, and the box began to transform. After a few moments it had become a hexagonal shape, which was open on one side. Placing the box over the spider, Sagan pressed a further button, this one red. Immediately a slight vibration could be felt emanating from the device. Sagan waited patiently, but his anticipation was shot through with an undercurrent of an anxiousness. While he had every faith in his machine to remove the spider, he still didn’t know if the spider had some kind of fail-safe or self-destruct. It was entirely possible, after all powerful explosives had been placed inside smaller gadgets than this.

Breathing out, Sagan watched the bubbles leave his respirator and float upwards, as a small green light cut through the pale blue from his helmet light. The small device had done its job. Sliding his index finger upwards, Sagan then sealed off the catcher, and gently pulled it away from the Anhinga’s surface. He knew that the spider would instantly deactivate itself the minute it lost contact with the Anhinga's hull, and Zed would know that they had found his toy. But at least he could no longer track them, for the moment.

Signalling to his team that they could head back into the sub, mission accomplished, Sagan then called in their success to his Commander before heading back in himself. There was still much to do. Aside from the repairs to the vessel he still needed to create the decoy and then finally, re-program the spider for himself. As soon as he turned that little metal fang back on, Zed would be able to track it, which is where the decoy came in. He would need at least a few minutes to break into the spider's programming. Crucial minutes where they would be back on grid, and traceable.

As he entered the airlock Sagan joined his team as they peeled off their diving gear and hung it neatly on the pegs provided along the wall. As soon as they left the room and sealed the door shut, the decontamination process would begin and their equipment would be cleaned, dried and ready for use whenever it was needed again. Inside the locker room, Sagan pulled on black jeans, a plain black t-shirt, a light, black wool jumper and finished off with a pair of heavy black boots. When he had finished dressing he turned to walk out into the corridor, where he was met by Lady.

'You got it then? Well done,' she said brusquely. She was annoyed that Sagan had forgotten to announce his find as soon as he came across it. She didn't like having to wait when it was her sub and her crew at risk, in any situation.

'Sorry Commander,' Sagan bushed, looking down at the floor, 'I just wanted to get it off her skin as soon as I could.'

'You know I understand that, but there are risks involved and the crew rely on me for information … it undermines me when you get distracted,' Lady admonished him gently. The calm in her voice betraying her frustration.

Even though she knew Sagan's lack of protocol wasn’t the result of anything malicious, Lady had been in command long enough to know that the only way you stayed in charge was by being the one with the answers. Sagan, like many mechanerds she knew, got lost in concentration. This meant that when they were completely focused on a task at hand, especially if that task was technology based, they blocked out any outside interference. Conversations, orders, certain death. It didn’t matter what it was, they would ignore it. This could obviously make them somewhat dangerous, but then the pros always outweighed the cons when it came to mechanerds.

'I'm sorry Commander,' Sagan repeated quietly, 'it won’t happen again.'

'Accepted as always Sagan, now tell me what you've got there?'

Sagan looked up immediately, a large smile on his face. He was back in his element now. His momentary embarrassment forgotten. Tech was his specialty, and he could happily talk about it all day long.

'Well from the outside it looks like a run of the mill spider right, but it took the catcher longer than normal to get it to retract its legs, so I suspect it’s been modified quite a lot. I'll want to work on it in the isolation lab – the armoured one, just in case of explosives – but before I get to that we’ve got those repairs to make and I need to rig up that decoy too.'

'Sure, I'll organise the repairs, you get on to that decoy before you crack this arachnid, but then I would be very interested to know what’s unique about this spider,' Lady dismissed Sagan reluctantly, before heading off towards the engine room. At heart she was a bit of a mechanerd too.

She was only half way down the corridor when she bumped into Cato, exactly who she needed to lead the repair team right now while Sagan was preoccupied.

'Aye Cato, you right to lead the repair team? portside Condensers and Turbo Generator housing right?'

'Yes, Commander, I'm all over it.'

'What do you need?'

'Everything,' he smiled, before noting his Commander's frown, 'no really, I only need 3 at most, it's only minor damage, I have all the kit ready to go.'

'Anyone in particular in mind?'

'My usuals will do – Bracken, Regal and Fizz.'

'Excellent – what's your ET on completion?' asked Lady.

‘Maybe an hour? Will we be safe until then?'

'We're well hidden, and the spider has been deactivated, yep, we're safe.'

'OK Commander, I'll get going then' Cato tipped his head.

'Well let me know how you get on,' Lady replied, turning back the way she had come as Cato went his own way. He could take care of the repairs, and they were protected enough for now. She wanted to catch up with Sagan, and get a look at that spider.