Lieutenant Green’s discovery resulted in one of the fastest joint mobilisations the respective organisations had ever seen.
Within the hour, surface and submarine vessels from the World Navy, World Aquanaut Security Patrol and Spectrum were dispatched from bases closest to Sturgeon’s wreck area. Their objective: to destroy the Imperial at all costs.
Green’s feeling of unease at hearing the name of the old submarine had been justified. The Sturgeon had been carrying a supply of an experimental biological weapon designated Gamma 4-7, one of the deadliest ever devised.
When the submarine had sunk in mysterious circumstances some years earlier, the Navy quickly carried out a series of tests to determine if the Gamma 4-7 had leaked into the ocean. When their tests proved negative, the sinking was covered up and written off as an accident. Only those with high security clearance were aware of the deadly cargo the vessel had been carrying. A cargo that was now sealed inside the submarine at the bottom of the ocean.
However, all signs now pointed to one obvious conclusion: the Mysterons had learned of Gamma 4-7’s existence, and they were going to sink the Imperial right on top of it. The Sturgeon’s hull would be compromised and the bio-weapon would be released into the ocean.
Carried by the strong currents, it could be spread for thousands of miles and even the smallest dose would prove fatal to any biological organism a few minutes after exposure.
As the combined task force converged on the wreck area, Lieutenant Green and Captain Grey monitored the radio chatter from the bridge of the submarine Manta.
“Neptune reporting – negative sighting. Swordfish continuing search in sub-area 4. Benetar reports negative in sub-area 2.”
Green shook his head and looked up at Grey who was standing by the periscope in the centre of the cramped bridge, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Maybe I was wrong.”
Grey put a reassuring hand on Green’s shoulder, “Take it easy, Lieutenant. I think you’re right. So does Colonel White and the rest of the fleet come to that. The Mysterons are playing their usual game. Try not to let them get under your skin.”
Just then, the sonar operator gave an excited shout, “Sir! I have a surface contact dead ahead, range three thousand yards!”
Grey tensed, “Take us to periscope depth!”
The Manta rose rapidly closer to the surface and the periscope deployed smoothly. Grey focused the apparatus on the distant vessel and used the optical zoom to get a better look.
“It’s the Imperial all right. Stand by gyropedoes one, two and three! Lieutenant, what’s the next closest vessel?”
Green checked the equipment, “WASP vessel Ranger is nearest, Captain Grey. At maximum speed it could intercept Imperial approximately at the same time we do.”
“Give the order, Lieutenant. I’m not taking any chances, not with what’s lurking down there in the depths. We’re going to make sure nothing bigger than a blasted marble reaches the sea bed!”
Grey grabbed the intercom handset, “Torpedo room, I want those gyropedoes at full readiness. They’ll be fired at range four hundred yards!”
Lieutenant Green spoke again, “Ranger taking up position, firing range in 30 seconds.”
The tense seconds ticked by. Captain Grey’s eyes were fixed on the Imperial, now looming large in the periscope’s viewfinder.
“Range four thirty. Four twenty. Four Ten. Four hundred yards.”
“Fire!” Grey commanded.
With three loud whooshes, the gyro torpedoes zipped away from the Manta and sped towards the Imperial.
Green urgently relayed another message, “Ranger reports optimum range attained. They’re firing!”
In spite of the air conditioned bridge, a bead of perspiration ran down Grey’s temple.
One moment the Imperial was cruising straight towards the Manta, and the next…. WHAM!
The first brilliant explosion was followed almost instantly by two more, catching the freighter amidships. It quickly began to list to starboard. Seconds later it was rocked by another four devastating explosions as the Ranger’s torpedoes found their marks. The Mysteronised vessel was almost vapourised in the onslaught and what little remained sank quickly, far short of its intended target.
Grey breathed a huge sigh of relief, “That’s it, the Imperial’s gone. Report to Cloudbase, Lieutenant. Let’s not keep the fleet out here any longer than we need to.”
Spectrum had won the battle, but even as Grey and Green returned to their floating HQ, they knew the war was far from over…