Tone Loc vs. Kylie – Can’t Get Wild Thing Out of My Head mash-up…
“Shouldn’t we do something?” I ask. “Isn’t there – an emergency in progress? An evacuation procedure, or battle stations alert?”
“Sarah,” Ace says carefully. “We’re in a submarine.”
“Mr. Bumgang is correct,” Crispin agrees. “And the best thing to do under the circumstances is to remain calm. If it would take your mind off things, we can always move to the Games Room.”
“I wonder what it would be like to play darts underwater,” Carvery remarks. “Probably got to be really sure you’re aiming for the dartboard and not the walls…”
I don’t understand these guys. Surely the worst case scenario on a u-boat has to be sabotage?
“I really would be more comfortable knowing what is going on,” I announce. “Can’t we go with Captain Rima to the bridge?”
But Crispin merely gets to his feet and offers me his arm.
“Shall we, Sarah Bellummm?” he says. “The Captain will alert us if there is anything we need to know.”
Oh, when he puts it like that, of course… I jump to my feet and latch on, like a friendly limpet-mine.
“Forget it,” Ace grunts, as the optimistic Geisha Homer N. Dry sidles up to him, on his block-soled slippers.
Homer takes a speculative look at Carvery Slaughter in turn – but it seems, from that one frosty exchanged glance, that even zombies have an instinctive sense of self-preservation. So the gray Geisha is resigned to trouping along unescorted, as usual.
We head down some further stairs, and find ourselves at the foredeck of the u-boat. In a vast leisure-room, where some off-duty officers – as quirky and exotic-looking as our Captain – are partaking of a quiet drink, and a game of dominoes. A panoramic glass window reveals what on first glance look like stars… but they move, changing shape and colour, or ripple and fluoresce, and I realise they are alive, the deep-sea denizens of wherever-we-are…
I go to stare out at the inky depths, while Ace and Carvery head for the Air-Hockey table, and Homer homes in on the spotlit karaoke stage.
“What do you think, Sarah Bellummm?” Crispin Dry asks me, appearing at my side.
“Breathtaking,” I admit, wondering how thick the glass is – now that Ace seems intent on sending the hockey puck off the table, with a bet on how many drinks glasses he can smash within a minute. “And you have all of this on your doorstep – virtually…”
“Oh, there is nothing virtual about it, Miss Bellummm,” Crispin replies. “It is all part of the family’s hereditary munitions trading routes. The highest bidders can afford to tear holes in the seat of the pants of time and space – if it means getting their hands on the best technology before the competition does.”
“So now you’re no longer in the weapons industry, you just use these access routes and locations as your… your…” I forage for a word. One that means ‘showing off your substitute manhood to impress women.’
“My droit de seigneur, Miss Bellummm?” he suggests.
“I don’t know what you mean by Dry to Say Nyah, but it certainly looks like a big show-off Nyah-Nyah-Nyanah-Nyah to me, when you put it that way,” I remark.
“How kind of you to notice,” he says, with that devastating half-smile of his.
But before I can think of a smart reply (to be truthful, that could have taken me the best part of a week) Homer’s karaoke rendition of Gooood Vibrations is suddenly interrupted by a low pulsing siren, and the disco lights are switched off, to be replaced by an all-encompassing red-blue phasing alert.
“All hands to the bridge,” Captain Rima’s voice announces over the tannoy. “That is all.”
The off-duty officers jump to their feet, and hurry over to what I had previously thought was a dance-pole, to the left of the stage. One at a time, they grasp it and slide downwards, disappearing below the floor.
“Let’s go!” says Carvery, and he and Ace follow suit.
“We should attend too,” says Crispin, as Homer waddles quickly after Ace and Carvery. Can’t say I blame him… “Just do as I do.”
I watch him grip the pole, hand over hand, and slide below deck. Once the coast seems clear, I reach out and try to cling on likewise, sloth-like.
“Too tight, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin’s voice rises to my ears. “Loosen your grip.”
I do as bidden – and the floor of the deck below smacks into my coccyx like a demolition ball.
“Well done,” Crispin greets me, and hauls me upright, as I wonder if I’ll ever walk again. I’ve lost all sensation below the ribcage, but as he sets me on my feet, issues of Instant Pain are filed from multiple complainants around my anatomy. “This is the bridge.”
Officers are attending to various consoles and 3-D displays, showing not only the earlier underwater ‘maps’ but also the layout of the u-boat. Sections of the diagnostics flash alarmingly, or are lit up red, in ways that remind me of Crispin’s home security back at the mansion – when he was looking for the security breach.
“We have intercepted a partial distress call,” Captain Rima Glottidis announces, directing Crispin to look at a readout on a console. “We have a location and the first five codewords. However, these codewords in another sequence also form a scrambled declaration of war. So without the rest of the message, we cannot act in a fully-informed response.”
“And the sabotage?” asks Crispin.
“We have hull breaches in a number of our flotation tanks,” Captain Rima continues. “But no arms signatures. I believe the breaches may be parasitic.”
“It is spawning season,” Crispin agrees, in a pondering tone. “We are not within Atum’s consecrated waters, I hope?”
“Our charts say no,” the Captain assures him. “But – Atum himself could easily mislead us, if he so wanted…”
“Of course,” Crispin nods. I sense the tension in the air, taut like the elastic in a pair of control-top pantyhose on a Hull school dinner-lady.
“So what’s the plan?” Ace asks. “Go and check out this place where the partial distress call came from?”
“That is our first priority, indeed,” says Captain Rima. “Because our response would be to launch recovery vehicles, in that instance. But in the alternative declaration of war, by whichever Lounge initiated it – our obligation is to launch a pre-emptive strike. Have you upset anyone, on your journey so far this morning?”
We all exchange dubious glances.
“I think Madam Dingdong might be missing a few knick-knacks,” says Carvery quietly, jerking a thumb meaningfully at Homer N. Dry, who is currently preoccupied with alternative entertainment uses for the pole we have just entered the bridge by.
The rest of us mumble agreement, keen to delegate any responsibility for an ‘upset’ thus far.
“I suggest that the engineers focus on the hull breach,” says Crispin. “Mr. Slaughter and Mr. Bumgang – your expertise there would be appreciated.”
“Dude, I can fill a six-foot-by-six hole faster than you can blink,” Carvery remarks.
“You won’t even see the welding-marks on any cut-and-shut of mine,” Ace chips in.
“Excellent,” Captain Rima booms. “Officer Lyra will show you down.”
A small dark gentleman appears next to Captain Rima and bows smartly, and the two guys follow him out of the bridge. My stomach lurches in panic.
Whatever happens down there – I hope at least their DNA makes it back intact…
“Who is analysing the distress call?” Crispin continues.
“I am handling it myself.” Captain Rima moves aside, so that we can see the console more clearly. But I don’t recognise anything about the hieroglyphs on the screen – except…
“I’ve seen these drawings before!” I cry out.
“But my dear, that is impossible,” says the Captain, patiently. “This is top-secret code.”
“In the diary – your father’s diary, Crispin!” I insist. “I’m sure of it! The one that was in the room with the clockwork hand…”
“Where is this ‘diary’?” Captain Rima frowns, looking from me to Crispin, and back again.
I rack my brains.
“I think Carvery had it last,” I say. “In his pocket. Yes!”
Captain Rima beckons to another officer.
“Go after Lyra, and see if either of the men in his team have Mr. Dry Senior’s diary on them,” he orders. “And check their quarters also, for the same. There may be other codeword sequences listed in it, relevant to this transmission.”
“Sir – yes, Sir!” The officer hurries away.
“Sir!” Another officer, by one of the 3-D spherical maps, calls for his attention. “Unidentified bogey dead ahead, Sir!”
The Captain and Crispin move swiftly to look, and I dart after them.
A massive blob shape appears glowing in the projection field, and as we watch, begins to uncoil, into an even larger, seemingly endless helix.
“It is the parasitic saboteur I feared,” Captain Rima says. “The Great Abyss Tapeworm.”
“Are you sure?” I ask. “It looks like Atum… from what I recall, I mean… God help us.”
“I think I have the experience required to recognise monsters of the deep, Miss Bellum,” says Captain Rima, curtly.
“And if it is Atum, then we are indeed at war,” Crispin points out. “Not even God will help us, in that case.”
“Bogey closing, Sir!” a voice hails the Captain again. “Standing by for orders to attack, Sir!”
The helix of the beast in the virtual map continues to unwind and extend, gradually filling the field of the 3-D projection, like an unravelling ball of yarn in a basket.
“We will shortly be surrounded,” Crispin notes aloud. “You had better be sure, Captain Rima.”
“Stand by!” shouts the Captain, but I notice a single bead of sweat emerging onto his forehead from his turban, as he studies the map. My heart contracts in terror.
He’s waiting for something… which means he’s not sure…
‘Crimson Tide’ trailer – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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