The heavy ocean door at the end of the long tunnel slid aside with a dull clunk that echoed briefly around the underwater landscape.
Then, with a whine of its Ratemaster turbine and boosters, Stingray shot from the mouth of the tunnel in a mass of bubbles like a shell from a cannon. Its sleek silver, blue and yellow shape cut gracefully through the water and was soon making for the open sea.
Behind the controls, the intrepid Captain Troy Tempest studied his instruments with an expression that was somewhere between excitement and apprehension. To his right, Lieutenant ‘Phones’ Sheridan held one hand to the hydrophone apparatus covering his ears and grinned with satisfaction.
“Quiet as the grave, Skipper. We’ve got this part of the ocean all to ourselves.”
“Thanks, Phones. You okay back there, Marina?”
Troy glanced over his shoulder at Marina, the beautiful undersea princess of Pacifica who had shared so many of their adventures. Marina never said a word, whether by choice or something else that no one could be sure of, but Troy and Phones knew that there was no more loyal friend and crew member to be found anywhere. Marina nodded in response to Troy’s question, then her eyes turned towards one of the large starboard view-ports.
“Guess it’s time to see what this upgraded engine can do. We’ll take it slow to begin with. Let’s try Green Zero-Two-Zero, Rate Six point Two.”
“Green Zero-Two-Zero, Rate Six point Two. Aye”, Phones repeated, turning to their new heading and increasing the throttle.
For the first time since it had been constructed, Stingray slowly passed the 600 knot marker on the instrument panel. If the engineers were right, it should be able to reach 700 or better with the modifications.
“So far, so good, Troy.”
“Yeah… Okay, take us to Six point Four.”
“Six point Four – PWOR.”
Phones increased the throttle another notch on the control panel beside him. Marina came forward from the aft lounge and stared out of the forward observation window. Troy looked up at her.
“Hi Marina. Say, is anything wrong?”
Marina tilted her head to one side and frowned.
“You’re not sure, huh? Well, guess I’m a little on edge too. This is faster than Stingray has ever gone before. Perhaps faster than anyone has traveled under the sea.”
“We’re at Six point Four and holdin’ steady, Troy.”
“That’s fine, Phones. Hydrophone still all clear?”
“Clear as a fine summer’s mornin’ in the Arctic Ocean.”
“Okay, let’s go to Six point Six.”
Again Phones notched the throttle control forward and Stingray responded. Slowly, the rate indicator needle flickered as it passed the Six point Five marker. It was just about to touch the line indicating Six point Six when there was an ominous shuddering throughout the craft.
“Gettin’ a buildup of vibration on the Ratemaster, Skipper.”
“Right Phones, cut to Rate One and we’ll check it out.”
Phones pulled at the throttle control, but it wouldn’t budge an inch.
“Say Troy, I can’t! The throttle control is jammed!”
“Try the emergency cutout!”
“No good, Captain, I get no reading from it!”
“There’s only one explanation Phones, we’ve been sabotaged!”
“Yeah, and if we don’t find a way of slowing down mighty fast, Stingray’s going to tear herself to pieces – and us with her!”
TO BE CONTINUED…