Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Nemo's Revenge

"Captain, we have an alarm coming from Melchior's air hose." The announcement wasn't strictly necessary, given that the alarm was audible throughout the bridge of the unique vessel.

Nemo made a slashing motion, a perpetual scowl on his bearded face. He stroked the length of black hair. After the alert was silenced, he spoke crisply to Keller. "Let us know if any of the other men have him in sight." He sat on the throne dominating this section of the bridge. From here, lights and paper tape gave him immediate knowledge of the Nautilus's current whereabouts, status, and any other vital statistics he needed. With the press of a button, he connected to the moon pool. "Ready three heavy suits, including my own."

"Aye, captain." Rasheed answer was instantaneous.

"Well, Keller? Any word?" His hand had moved from beard to blade as he fingered the hilt of one of the many daggers he wore on his person.

"Aye, captain. There was an unusual sighting in Melchior's last known position. The crewman who saw it suspects it may be a squid."  

Nemo grunted. It was unlikely to be any species of squid at this depth and in this part of the Pacific. Still, there was a possibility. His knowledge of the deeps was as good if not better than any man alive, but there was so much to yet learn. "I will be stepping out to see this myself." He thumbed the button again. "Rasheed, I will be in the moon pool in three minutes. Make sure the crewmen on rotation are ready to go. Recall the workers."

"Aye, Captain. They're suiting up now."

Nemo smiled and made a note to increase Rasheed's share for this month. He rose from his throne and walked down the dais to the main floor. Glass windows looked out into the deeps and gave them a hundred and eighty degree spherical view. Without specially crafted lights and a coating that amplified those lights entering the windows, it would be impossible to see anything more than a few inches in front of them. He couldn't see where his men worked, but they would be there in minutes. "All ahead half power. Make for Melchior's last known position. Mister Tim's, you have the bridge."

Moving as quickly as he could, Nemo headed for the moon pool. He could make it there in two minutes under the best of conditions. Even in pitch black, he could be there in five. He'd designed this craft and had a hand in its construction. A similar level of knowledge was required of every man and woman on board. As he moved, he began to undo the buckles on the leather harness he wore and the button on his shirt. By the time he arrived at the moon pool, he was shirtless in seconds, brown skin shining from the sweat of exertion. Scars criss crossed his chest, including a number of strange, puckered marks more than an inch across. The damage was old, but the memories of how he got them were keen. If this was a squid or some similar cephalopod, and one large enough to attack a dive suit and rip it free from its moorings, the beast would be formidable.  

Two of the heavy suits, with their own air tanks, armor, and sharp taloned claspers stood ready. Their pilots, Vasquez and Miko, were buttoning down the glass domes that would encircle their heads. Rasheed had Nemo's personal suit ready. The armor and air tanks were intended for longer and deeper dives. It also had a few built in weapons the other suits did not. In seconds, all he wore was his turban and undergarments.

With the strength and speed of a man half his age, he clambered up the built in handholds and stepped into the suit's harness. Rasheed was already closing the section Nemo couldn't on his own. In the middle of the room a pool ten feet across was ready for them to step into. Before he pulled the dome on over his still covered head, he shouted. "Are we close to where the creature was spotted?"

"Aye, captain. By the time you are ready to step out, we will have come to a full stop." According to his word, a shuddering announced the engine's reversal.

Nemo pulled his helmet down and sealed himself off from the ship. Miko and Vasquez were already moving to the well. "Sailors, be ready for anything. Melchior may have been taken by a cephalopod of some kind. But we don't know for sure." he knew the sailors would hear him over their wireless systems. As long as they were within fifty yards of one another, no hardline was needed for communication.

"Aye, captain." The answers were in synch, though Miko's higher pitched voice was easy to discern. The slid into the water using short ramps. The suits wouldn't allow them to swim, but they would be able to walk and take bounding leaps thanks to a clever spring system built into the exoskeletons. Thanks to their oxygen cylinders, they were untethered from the ship save for spare lines they could use in recovery or to be recovered.

Nemo was a few seconds behind them. As soon as water and pressure had him in its icy grip, he activated his suit's lights. He was ready to be amazed by the life that survived even at this depth, but nothing shone back at him except the reflecting patches from the suits Miko and Vasquez wore.

He reached down to his hip and freed the harpoon gun. It held six barbed projectiles, the length of his forearm. With it, he tracked back and forth.

“Movement. Three o’clock..” Miko barked.

His eyes went to the noted spot and just outside of their vision, something did appear to be moving. “Go towards it but stay close together.”

They began moving as a unit. At first, Nemo though they found Melchior, but it was only the top half of his suit. Judging by the state of where it stopped and the sea began, whatever had cut it in two did so messily. Blood and viscera swirled in the water and stained the leather.

To his crewmembers’ credit, neither reacted with the disgust a surface dweller might. At least not audibly. “Attach a line to that and ready it to be retrieved.”

Miko hopped forward to follow the order.

Vasquez watched the area around in case she needed any assistance.   

“The suit’s empty, captain.” The woman clipped one of her spare cables to a heavy steel ring sewn into the suit. With two sharp tugs, she signaled the ship to begin retrieval.

Nemo watched the suit go by. Melchior would be missed. His death would not go unavenged if they found the creature that did this. “Spread out, but stay in wireless range. See if we can locate and salvage any other part of his suit.”

Without question, the followed his orders. Soon, all he could see where the reflections and the occasional sweep of yellow light. He began his own observations. The ocean floor here was covered in silt with the occasional rock or bit of coral protruding. There were rivers of current under the surface and Nemo learned to read them when he was a lad. The silt had been disturbed by something massive. A being that moved like no man.

When the eye opened, spoiling the illusion, Nemo was ready. He brought the barrel of his harpoon gun up and triggered it.

The barbed projectile hit the orb dead center. Viscous fluid, denser than the water around it, spilled onto the things skin. Now that flesh was the color of a long drowned sailor, the bulk of it was visible.

Nemo had seen many things in his long life. He’d killed those things when he had to. He hoped he could kill this one. It was as unlike any squid he’d seen as it was like it. It had a similar shape and the tentacles. Rather than having eight arms and two claspers, this thing had dozens and all of varying lengths and girth. There were three more eyes, each one its own color, one of those a color he had no name for. The mouth at the center of all this reminded him of a whirlpool with teeth made of broken ships.

Without thinking further, he fired the remainder of his harpoons at the eyes he could see. “Miko. Vasquez. To me. Nautilus, take aim on this thing and fire.”

Nemo bounded backwards towards the ship as best he could.

The thing’s arms whipped the sea into a froth of sand and bubbles. Black blood competed with the water around it for darkness.

A series of vibrations made Nemo’s teeth rattle in his skull. The teeth became visible in the form of a rare smile. “Let’s see if you can burn.”

Roses of light and fire bloomed in front of him. A chemical compound, invented by a Chinese man of Nemo’s acquaintance, on contact with the seawater became hot enough to burn even at this depth and for a time could split the water into its component parts.

The scream came from the center of the maelstrom and threatened to burst the eardrums of all those present.

Without waiting around to see, Nemo hauled on the cords binding him to his ship three times. Soon, he and his crew were being pulled home. As they sped backwards through the water, Nemo barked orders. “Prepare to make for the surface. Bring all guns to bear. If anything moves, boil the sea around it.”

#horror, #ScottRoche, #Cthulu, #Nemo, #19thCentury, #SciFi, #Verne, #Lovecraft

Art Source: Hunter 2 by tooth-w at Deviant Art
Story and Characters (c)/by Scott Roche


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