The shattering crack of the explosion rocked the World Navy carrier to its keel and by the time the crew knew what had happened, the Mechanical Fish was already sinking beneath the waves.
The sneak attack had been entirely successful and the Aquaphibians controlling the grotesque undersea craft knew it was only a matter of time before the WASP sent another vessel to investigate.
In Marineville’s control tower things were moving rapidly. Commander Shore ordered Stingray to be launched immediately with orders to investigate the attack and provide assistance to the Navy if possible.
Troy and Phones crossed the standby lounge, leapt into their injector chairs and were soon on board the sensational Stingray, bound for the action area.
In his throne room in Titanica, the Titan laughed harshly as his Aquaphibian crew reported the news, “So, Troy Tempest and Stingray have been sent to investigate? Just as I planned! The Terraineans are so pathetically predictable. When Stingray arrives, let them believe they are in no danger and then attack. If you can capture it then do so, but do not let Tempest escape alive. It would be better for you to perish at his hands than to face the punishment I shall devise if you fail me.” With his threat lingering, he closed the communication channel.
Stingray reached the carrier with incredible speed and cut to investigation cruise on Troy’s command.
“Looks like she’s going down by the head, Phones. The Commander said the watertight doors had failed to operate and the pumps were working at reduced speed. Must have been a pretty bad hit.”
“Yeah… whoever did this knew what they were doing.”
“And I’m betting I know just who’s responsible.” Troy replied grimly.
“You mean old Fish Face?” Phones asked.
“Yup. This has got Titan’s scaly fingerprints all over it. Say, look – they’re launching another escape craft.”
The oblong escape craft splashed down into the water beside Stingray. Troy raced to the forward hatch and clambered up onto the deck as the hatch on the escape craft opened.
“You folks alright?” Troy called.
“Fine. No losses reported yet, but we still can’t be sure what hit us.”
“We aim to find out. Sit tight, a relief vessel will be here to pick up the rest of your crew soon.”
He headed back to the controls and had just sat down when Phones exclaimed, “Gettin’ a soundin’, Troy. Nope, make that two! Heck, there are three of them! And I’d stake my next paycheck they’re Mechanical Fish”
“Coming at us from Red-One-Six-Zero”.
“Prepare to repel attack! Arm sting missiles!” Troy ordered as he switched on the comms system and activated the external speakers, “Attention! Three Mechanical Fish are closing on our position. We’re about to engage them – have all of your escape craft move out of range!”
Troy could see the crew of the carrier waving in response from the nearest escape craft.
Stingray disappeared beneath the surface and quickly began diving down towards the enemy craft.
“Stand by on number one sting.” Troy ordered.
“Number one.” Phones confirmed, then added, “They’re splitting up!”
In the distance Troy could see the flanking Fish breaking off to port and starboard.
“Stay on the leader! Steady… Steady… Fire!”
The sting missile raced from its tube and before the Aquaphibian craft could get off a shot it was blown apart in a brilliant explosion.
“One down!” Phones cried.
“Two to go. Incoming fire, Green-Zero-Three-Zero!” Troy said as he banked the craft hard to port to avoid the enemy projectile. It flashed away into the murky distance.
The second Mechanical Fish dived after Stingray, but Troy brought the craft around in a hard turn and got on the enemy’s tail.
“Fire sting two!”
Another sting missile shot away towards the Aquaphibian craft and caught it amidships. It was blown apart and the two separate pieces soon began to sink out of sight.
“Where’s the third Fish?” Troy asked, his eyes alert for any sign of movement in the clear water outside.
“It’s gone after the escape craft!”
“Quickly, Phones! Get us back up there at maximum speed!”
With a whine of its ratemaster turbine, Stingray sped through the water like a harpoon from a gun.
Troy could see the last Mechanical Fish closing in on the cluster of escape craft on the surface.
“We’re not going to make it!” Phones yelled.
“We’ve got to! Arm number three sting and set for proximity detonation!”
“Aye-aye!” Phones replied, swiftly making the adjustments.
The sting missile sped away towards the target.
The Mechanical Fish had closed to within firing range. The Aquaphibian controlling it selected his target and the mouth-like hatch at the front of the craft swung open.
A scaly green finger reached towards the firing control.
The sting missile detonated twenty yards from the Mechanical Fish’s tail, throwing the craft off course and sending its own missile wide of the intended target, zooming off uselessly into the depths.
Now in range for a direct attack, Stingray fired a final sting missile at the damaged vessel, destroying it completely.
“Well Phones,” Troy said with a sigh of relief, “that wraps it up.” He glanced out of the window at the carrier, which was still sitting partially submerged on the surface, “Hey, would you look at that! Guess they must have got those watertight doors operational after all. The pumps should hold long enough for the crew to effect repairs. Too bad for Titan that his craft won’t be so easily fixed.”
“Yeah, my heart’s breakin’ for him!” Phones replied with a grin.
In the throne room in the heart of Titanica, Titan ranted angrily, “Curse you, Troy Tempest! And Curse Stingray! One of these days your luck will run out!”