Moby vs. Dr Dre & Snoop Dogg vs. Jamiroquai – 3-way mash-up…
“Target acquired, Sir!” comes the shout again from the crew, on the bridge of the Colossal U-Boat, The Great Nematode. “Orders, Sir!”
Captain Rima Glottidis puts his eyes to the dual magnifying scope beside the 3-D underwater map. The unravelling beast of a sea-parasite, whose territory we have crossed into, now spans the spherical projection.
The Captain twists dials and turns knobs. I worry that there will be nothing left of The Great Nematode before he makes a decision, as further vibrations jar the giant hull.
“We must ensure that your subterranean route to the Eight a.m. Lounge is not blocked,” he murmurs, tapping commands into the touch screen controls.
I reach for Crispin Dry’s hand, for reassurance, and feel his cold zombie fingers curl through my own.
“Ready the Chthonic Sonar!” Captain Rima suddenly barks, and crew-members spurt into action. He raises his head and looks towards us with a steely gaze, no sign of uncertainty in his features at all. “It will not destroy – but it will disperse. And in the event of Atum’s presence, it will not register to him as an act of aggression.”
“I respect your decision, Captain Rima,” Crispin concurs with a nod.
“You may find yourselves having to confront any remaining hostiles face-to-face,” the Captain warns, and Crispin merely concedes again with another subtle nod of understanding.
What? Face-to-face? What does he mean?
“Sonar ready, Captain!” hails the crewman manning the weapons console, turning a key beside a large green button. The u-boat rocks and lurches, like an overweight pigeon landing on a rotating washing-line.
“Maximum power!” orders the Captain. “One pulse!”
The crewman strikes the green button.
I suddenly know how a dog-whistle feels. It’s as though a high-speed tornado has just shot through all of my bones.
The unravelling Abyss Tapeworm on the projection reacts, contracting once, and then cracking like a whip. The Great Nematode tilts dangerously, foredeck-down. We, and the crew, have to brace ourselves at the consoles.
“Again!” shouts Rima. “Second pulse!”
Again, the terrible sense of disruptive distortion rips through me. The parasite contracts again, like a coiled spring of intent…
“Fire again!” the Captain roars.
A third pulse of the Chthonic Sonar is discharged, and it feels as though all sorts of bodily fluids are following suit. For one terrible second, the Abyss Tapeworm remains coiled to respond…
…And then spontaneously breaks apart. The Great Nematode slowly rights itself, as the segments of the parasite drift gently outwards across the 3-D map, on the current.
“Bogey neutralized, Sir!” the confirmation report finally reaches our ravaged ears.
“Received,” Captain Rima replies, curtly. He turns to Crispin. “Some of those pouches will be mature. You will have to exercise great caution on the next stage of your journey.”
“Understood, Captain.” Crispin turns back to the communications console. “And the transmission you intercepted?”
“I think it best if we lie low on the edge of the Deep Ocean Trench until it can be fully de-coded,” says the Captain. “Which means you can reconnoitre with us if so required, after the Eight a.m. Lounge.”
“Do not delay your mission on our account, Captain,” Crispin tells him.
“It is a privilege, Mr. Dry.” Captain Rima’s smart nod of acknowledgement is almost a bow. He glances at the diagnostics of the u-boat. “It seems that our hull breaches are almost fully repaired. Allow me to escort you to the air-lock.”
As we turn to leave the bridge, beckoning to Homer to detach himself from the crewman’s pole and join us, the officer who had been sent after Mr. Dry Senior’s diary returns.
“No luck, Sir,” the officer apologises. “Mr. Slaughter, the guest in question, believes the diary may have been left behind in the Six a.m. Lounge – at Madam Dingdong’s Bring Your Own Towel Sauna And Spa.”
* * * * *
We meet up again with Carvery Slaughter and Ace Bumgang as we reach the airlock, where a range of diving-suits and equipment is stored, ready for use.
“You have patched up the hull of The Great Nematode well, as I understand,” says the Captain. “Your hard work is appreciated, men.”
“Nobody wants uninvited eggs laid in his premises,” Carvery remarks, giving me a nasty wink. “Just because some big old hermaphrodite worm thinks it looks like a good incubator.”
“If women ever figure out how to do that, we are fucked,” Ace agrees. “Talk about woman’s inhumanity to man.”
Damn – there goes most of the other half of my future fantasy plans, regarding Ace and the accessibility of his DNA…
“You will be able to make it to the subterranean level of the Eight a.m. Lounge from here on foot,” the Captain continues, gesturing at the display of underwater gear. “And here I must leave you all, and return to my duties. There is the small matter of arrangements to recover Mr. Dry Senior’s diary, from the Six a.m. Lounge. Officer Lyra will assist you.”
Captain Rima Glottidis does not elucidate further, merely clicks his heels with a nod, and departs.
I feel as though I’m in a daze, trying to take in the concept, even though the deep-sea space-suits with their fishbowl-shaped helmets are self-explanatory.
“We’ve got to cross the sea-bed?” I ask, weakly. “In – just those things…?”
“The Great Nematode is too large to dock closer,” Crispin explains, as Officer Lyra unhooks a diving-suit and holds it out, ready for him to step into. “And there are many residents in the Eight a.m. Lounge who would not approve of it surfacing in their vicinity. Different ocean-bound regulations apply here. We cannot afford too many perceived declarations of war in just the one morning, you understand.”
I note Ace and Carvery grinning at each other knowingly, as they shrug on the huge protective suits over their Naval uniforms. Carvery still has Mrs. Frittata’s shotgun, which is sealed up in a special additional watertight holster, and strapped to his leg. Homer is hiking up his Geisha kimono quite cheerfully, and tucking it into his undergarments to fit inside.
Officer Lyra holds out a slightly smaller diving-suit for me obligingly, and with great trepidation and dread, I step inside.
It’s not so much wearing the suit, as being encased in it. It is stifling and claustrophobic, like being zipped up and buckled inside a watertight sleeping-bag. Only after the helmet is clipped into place and the hiss of the heavy oxygen-canister starts, initiating a draft of cool air which circulates around me in the suit, do I feel any relief from the sweltering incarceration of it.
“This way,” Crispin’s voice prompts, and I realise there is a two-way radio built in also. “We will undergo pressure compensation in the airlock.”
Officer Lyra presses a sequence of buttons on the wall, and spins a wheel to open a vault-like door, and we file into the bare metal cell. Lyra salutes our departure, and closes the door again behind us.
“What now?” I ask, as we shuffle around.
Crispin indicates for us all to grab hold of a strap from the ceiling, like being in a subway car.
“They flood the airlock,” he says.
A light starts to flash overhead, and valves open all around the walls, at ankle-height. Suddenly water gushes through, swirling and rising rapidly.
“Your suits will compensate for the pressure automatically,” he continues, and I’m aware of my own suit apparently inflating, while the water-level in the airlock advances above my knees.
Even though I’m dry inside, it doesn’t feel normal for a human being.
“Now I know how the little plastic dude in the fish-tank always feels,” Ace comments, the water now up to his chest, and already over my shoulders.
“You’ve certainly achieved his exact look,” I reply, before the foaming water bubbles up past my face, momentarily obscuring everything.
Once it is above my head, I can see. I’m surprised how much everything looks the same underwater – just – slower.
When the tank is full, the light stops flashing, and turns green.
“We can still communicate,” Crispin reminds us, after a short silence.
It is followed by the very definite sound of radio-transmitted flatulence. Nobody owns up to it, although we all exchange suspicious glances, to see who might be suffering the side-effect of extra gas in their air-supply.
Fortunately, the outer doors slide open.
“Before we leave,” Crispin adds. “You may now arm yourselves.”
He opens a previously unnoticed cabinet just inside the outer doors, which is revealed to be full of harpoon guns.
“Cool,” Ace remarks.
“Is that all?” groans Carvery, but takes one anyway. “What are we doing now – Colossal Squid acupuncture?”
“There will still be Great Abyss Tapeworm eggs adrift in the water,” Crispin reminds us, as we step out onto the gangplank. “Some may be mature, and looking for a host. Plus the usual sharks, giant octopus, maybe even Colossal Squid indeed, Mr. Slaughter…”
…Not to mention Carvery Slaughter now armed with a harpoon, I think to myself, and try to make sure I don’t have my back to him, at least…
I take a first look at our surroundings. The u-boat, The Great Nematode, towers over us like an entire mobile underwater precinct. Beyond it is a bottomless blackness, which must be the Deep Ocean Trench. And we are standing on what is essentially a shelf on the edge of that trench, a rocky, sandy, weed-and-crustacean coated outpost of sea floor.
We must be just close enough to the surface to benefit from a little natural blue-tinged light from above, although our visibility in all directions is probably less than sixty or seventy feet.
“There!” Crispin points, and we all turn. A large white shape floats innocently on the current – resembling a huge, plastic, supermarket carrier-bag – until something indefinable wriggles within. “It may look benign now, but if that larva is ready to hatch, it will start to eat its way through the hull of any vessel passing through.”
The egg drifts out of range, into the darkness of the trench, where it abruptly vanishes.
“Of course, some will be eaten by larger predators first,” he concedes.
I feel as though I’ve just had to swallow a stone. I hope none of those ‘larger predators’ like to pop out of the Deep Ocean Trench for a stroll…
We proceed slowly away in the opposite direction across the sea-bed, only the resistance of the water pressure around us our main hindrance. Shoals of small fish dart by, and the occasional lobster flaps between the rocks – but nothing menacing seems to occupy these particular waters – so far.
“Something just ran over my foot,” Ace says, behind me. “There’s another…”
The sand beside me erupts, and a six-foot-long, many-segmented exoskeletal insect scurries in front of me. I scream, without thinking.
“Great, now I’m deaf, from electronic audiofeedback,” Carvery says. “One more scream out of you, Sarah, and the only way you’ll be getting out of here is as a dolphin-friendly, harpooned tinned twat.”
“We are close to our destination,” Crispin announces, as another multi-limbed critter hurries past, and disappears under the sand once more. “These are the juveniles of the Burrowing Sea-Centipede. The tunnels of the adult Centipede should be in the cliffs ahead.”
Sure enough, a craggy pale limestone wall gradually appears through the waters in front of us, peppered with caves, and sprinkled with self-anchoring sea-creatures, many of which could be mistaken for plants.
“How big are these adult Sea-Centipedes?” Ace wants to know, saving me the trouble of asking for myself.
“We must aim for the largest tunnel,” Crispin announces. “It leads to the subterranean docking platform. But do not worry. The Centipede that burrowed this original tunnel is long dead.”
“Not that it makes any difference around here,” Carvery chuckles. “I’d quite like to see a Zombie Centipede…”
I can’t say I agree with him – as we approach the underwater cliff-face, and an almost perfectly circular cavern, fifty feet in diameter, looms above us…
The original 1950’s trailer for ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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