Even with Stingray’s powerful searchlights and the constant bleep of the hydrophone apparatus, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The super sub cruised comfortably at Rate 1, holding a few fathoms off the sea bed as it combed the murky depths below. In the spacious control cabin, Captain Troy Tempest glanced at Lieutenant Phones.
“Anything at all?”
“Guess not, Troy. Nothing down there but the sea bed.”
“Check, but stay sharp. The pilot reported jettisoning the bomb in this area reference. Even with the currents in this part of the ocean, it couldn’t have gone far.”
Troy turned to Marina, the newest member of the Stingray crew. She was staring intently out of the forward view-port, her gaze unwavering on the circles of light cast by Stingray’s searchlights.
“How about it, Marina?”, asked Troy.
Marina shook her head with a gesture of mild frustration.
“No dice, eh? Well you’ve got a better chance of seeing anything down here than Phones or I. Guess you’ve even got the edge on the subsurface video-scan.”
Marina smiled and nodded. She turned her head back to the view-port.
The minutes turned into hours and there was still no sign of activity. Then, just as Troy was about to report the search was negative, Marina gestured excitedly to port.
“Say, looks like Marina’s spotted something, Phones!”
“Confirmed, Troy – the hydrophone’s just started registering. Must be mostly buried for it to be such a weak signal. Reckon if we’d been going any faster we could have sailed right over it and been none the wiser.”
In minutes, Troy had donned his aquatic gear and, with Marina close beside, they set out towards the silver object glinting faintly in the light from Stingray’s beams. Phones’ guess had been right on the money. The deadly device was nose down in the sand and mud of the sea bed. Any deeper and Marina wouldn’t have had a hope of spotting it, nor for that matter would the hydrophone.
Using a pair of small tools, Troy and Marina began to carefully exhume the atomic weapon. The device had been jettisoned while still inactive, so theoretically there was no danger that it would be detonated by motion, but Troy wasn’t prepared to take any risks.
After fifteen minutes, they had exposed enough of the casing to gently haul the device clear. Together, they managed to hoist it off the sea floor and onto an electrically operated sled. At the flick of a switch, the tiny craft’s motor whirred into life, kicking up some sand as it did so.
Troy signaled to Marina that it was time to head back to Stingray. She nodded and began to move off, her long hair trailing behind her as though caught in a light breeze.
Getting behind the sled, Troy kicked his legs slowly, letting the sled motor pull him along as he angled the device towards Stingray’s hatch. The hatch swung closed behind him and in moments the water was pumped out of the airlock.
“Okay Phones, let’s get back to Marineville. Acceleration Rate 3.”
“Rate 3, aye.” Phones clocked the expression on Troy’s face, “Something on your mind, Troy?”
“Mmm…nothing really. Just a feeling.”
“A feelin’? What about? You’re not worried about that little box of tricks in the hold, are you?”
“No, that’s definitely safe. I dunno. There’s just something about this situation that has me uneasy.”
“Relax, you’ll feel better when we get back to Marineville.”
“Yeah, guess you’re right.”
Putting the feeling out of his mind, Troy began to relax and enjoy the journey as Stingray cruised on, heading for base.
But although he couldn’t have known it then, Troy’s hunch had been right. He wouldn’t have to wait long to find out why. The Stingray crew were about to face one of the most dangerous missions they’d ever undertaken.