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THE DEVILS IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA
April 15, 2010
Tighe let ocean flow gently through his gills. The lights of Main Man 7 lit the Milwaukee Deep; three city blocks of steel and iron structures thriving in the ocean depths. One the ocean floor, mechanized crawlers retrieved lost gold and metal nodules, dropped their finds into bins and eventually disgorged the booty onto carriers capable of climbing one of the dozen cables that hung from the surface of the Ocean, 8500 meters above. Tighe felt a tingle as his exoskeleton glimmered in shades of blue-green. His eyes found Piet's glowing body standing near the central tower of Main Man 7.
"One day this vista will be as famous as the big blue marble earth or Mars from the Rovers. I feel like a sparkly new cellphone... Why not sonar? I was in range." Tighe subvocalized into the sonar phone embedded in his body.
"We're the world's best-kept SECRET," Piet gave the alert. Tenbrook's assistant liked to listen to their chatter over the sonarphone array. "People would freak if they knew men's bodies could be modified for undersea existence, half would consider us heroes, half would consider us monsters -- demons from the black lagoon of hell, creatures of Satan, possibly even lobstermen from Mars. Some might even steam us and serve us as sushi. I figured out why it took a month for our bodies to manifest phosphorescence and another month to understand how it worked to communicate. Comes in handy down here... Do you see Orry and Dane?" Piet asked. He spun head-over-heels to pass water through his gills. Tighe located Orry and Dane on the opposite side of the structure.
"Down and behind. I'll get them." Tighe curled tight and released. He swam faster than anything in the water, circled Orry and Dane and waved for them to follow. Tighe continued his conversation with Piet on the sonar phone.
"Sushi? I would think our first worry is some wild-assed, short order cook trying to boil us like prawns. All the air-breathers see us as monsters of the deep. Last one I met asked if I turned red in hot water." Tighe laughed.
"The only thing I miss is Pop Tarts. I love the strawberry ones with the sugary pink and white icing." Dane said, adding nothing to nothing.
"Lunacy doesn't just run in your family, it gallops," Orry shook his head back and forth as he swam. Dane swam hard and came abreast of Tighe.
"Only Pop Tarts and cockroaches will survive the nuclear holocaust, if you ask me. One billion years in the future, I envision a dystopic civilization ruled by sentient roaches still fed by Pop Tarts from the Great Dying," Dane retorted. Then set a race. "Last one there is a loser," he said. Tighe changed his stroke from butterfly to freestyle and shot ahead. Nothing in the sea caught Tighe. He slid gracefully onto the side of the platform and glided up next to Piet. Dane followed and Orry came last, mad as hell.
"Doc Augie was right, man isn't hydrodynamically designed. How do you move through water that way?"
"You spread your arms and knees too much. I showed you the dolphin kick and the arm strokes." Tighe moved his arms and twisted his shoulders. His body moved in a circular pattern. Orry tried to imitate the movement but his body didnŐt bend like Tighe's body did. They had to circle to flush water through their gills. Tighe didn't. Dane made clicking, typewriter-like noises with the subvocal microphone. Piet's heavy brow narrowed over his eyes in disapproval.
"Commodore Tenbrook sent the tenders to port for ten days to two weeks to ride out a line of hurricanes," Piet said.
"But glad that now his Sea should find a shore, With fresh alacritie and force renew'd springs upward like a Pyramid of fire, into the wilde expanse, and through the shock, of fighting Elements, on all sides round environ'd wins his way; harder beset and more endanger'd, then when Argo pass'd through Bosporus betwixt the justling Rocks: Or when Ulysses on the Larbord shunnd Charybdis, and by th' other whirlpool steard," Dane declaimed. The others shrugged him off.
"It's a storm not the apocalypse... Commodore Tenbrook left Doc Augie, the military divers and the gill-equipped divers on Mid Man 30. He said it was too dangerous to take them into a port because mid fuck they might tell some cheap floosie about the gold and silver we're finding. What a jerk. Never screw a cheap whore, I say, always screw an expensive whore," Piet laughed at his own joke. "He also said that a hurricane would never disturb them 30 meters underwater." Piet's gills flared.
"His heart pumps 30 gallons of purple piss a minute, if you ask me," Tighe waved his hand and let it smack Dane in the face. They wrestled.
"Tenbrook sold his soul to Amalgamated Corporate years ago. He thinks no one knows that he's got an underwater crew when he hauls treasure to auctions and museums. He's isolated the crews of the Catamaran's from the crew on Mid Man 30." Piet shook his head from side to side.
"If Doc Augie and his technicians moved a little faster half my platoon would be down here clearing out wreckage and minerals." Orry waved his hands from side to side and shook his head, trying to imitate Tighe's oxygenation maneuver. His body flopped in the water.
"Maybe we ought to go up and visit. Beer, pretzels, carousing and no Staff?" Piet crossed his legs and floated down to the deck. Tighe joined him but Dane and Orry struggled with their buoyancy in the currents around the structure.
"Sounds like a great idea," Tighe waved his hand, causing his body to move sideways. Orry tried the same maneuver and rolled over backwards. Dane slipped flat on his back and scrambled to get stay in place.
"Damn you. How the hell do you do that?"
"I think about Newton and his laws and it just happens. This is just a giant bathtub and I keep yelling EUREKA!" Tighe laughed.
"Well behave while I contact Mid Man 30. Have a little dignity please." He floated up to one of the cables, closed his eyes and grabbed it. His body phosphoresced as his implanted electronics crackled to life and connected to Mid Man 30.
"Hey Jude," Piet called out. Rock music blasted their ears and thumped over the connection.
"Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum." Jude sounded half-way to drunk. Don't ask me 'bout no shipment stuck on da ropes dude. This is party central -- for admittance please answer the following question; does whale shit fluoresce?"
"Indubitably, trashed already?"
"Do water spouts up? Do staggering stones gets together with kelp."
"It's cocks and rocks. You have a charming weakness with metaphors. Can we crash?"
"Do dah creatures from the black lagoon miss our big, buff bodies? Grab your stiff dicks and hike your asses to the fastest scooters. Your humpy green bodies are welcome." In the background they could hear crewmen yelling and woofing. "I'll tell ya what Nemo, I'm kinda partial to tequila and whiskey but the boys say they'll find some beer for ya. Might be recycled, yanno, but it was once be-er," Jude drawled out the last word.
"See you when we get there." Piet broke the connection. Dane and Orry stared at him with blank, fishy expressions. "Consider this a civilian exercise. Now get a scooter and let's go party."
Tighe swam over the slower men to get to his scooter first. He attached a tether to one of the steel cables and started up. Piet waited for Dane and Orry to get hooked up and brought up the rear. The scooters pulled them upward at five miles an hour. The cables kept them on course. The four men relaxed and let the seawater flow through into their mouths and over their gills. Their bodies phosphoresced blue and green, jade-like colors as they absorbed the excess oxygen.
The ocean grew brighter as they neared the surface and in the increasing light they could see the forms of a winged submarine submersible docked with the side of the underwater platform and divers ferrying objects back and forth. The sound of the approaching storm and the hums of motors and gears filled the water.
"I expected 'if this boat is rockin' don't come knocking' signs and loud music. I didn't expect guests." Dane eyed the tubular shape protruding from the main docking port. They moved closer and could see the shapes of four scuba divers moving treasure from Mid Man 3 into a hatch on the submersible.
"I was all set to bust in like a sex-crazed frat boy at a panty raid, but..." Piet shut down his scooter and let it hang on the cable. "Let's go dark and do some reconnoitering before we burst into Mid Man 3." He suppressed his body's ability to glow and the others followed his lead. They swam up under the station and saw no one in the control rooms, the living quarters or the automated receiver dock. Shapes moved passed the portholes of the common area where the air-breathers and water-breathers could congregate. Piet waved Dane, Tighe and Orry back away from the lights bleeding out so they wouldn't be seen. The air-breathers of the crew sat on the floor under the machine guns of three pirates in black masks and wet suits. Jude hung over the water, tied naked to a wooden chair with three feet long wrenches tied to his ankles. Blood ran from various cuts on his body.
"I'm guessing pirates," Tighe said over the intercom. A masked faced popped up into the portal in front of Tighe. He ducked to the side and put his ear against the metal wall. The face pushed against the glass and tried to see what was in the water. Piet, Dane and Orry moved away from the windows and listened against the metal walls. They could hear voices between heavy footsteps, hatches slamming and mechanical noise.
"I saw some thing move out there, in the water." A high-pitched voice shrieked.
"Who? One of our men? The crew's either in here with us. Our guys are loading the gold and silver into the MAX." The voice sounded sturdier, crueler.
"No, not our guys, something else. Something green with a big head with bulging eyeballs stared right at me," the high-pitched voice said. They heard scuffling and the voice of the interrogator.
"If you don't talk, I'm nailing your balls to the chair and throwing you to the sharks. The sharks will make a good meal of your bones. You hear that. All the rest of you will follow it you don't talk. They never find your bodies in the deep." A third voice said, followed by pounding and Jude's screams of pain and then his defiance.
"Get over with it, retard. I fucked your momma twenty years ago and now sonny boy is come back to kill his Daddy. Just throw me in the sea, you waste of sperm!" Jude's bass voice rumbled on the other side of the wall.
Piet pointed to Tighe who slipped down the bulkhead and to the opening beneath the common room just in time to see Jude, tied to a chair with big wrenches weighing him down. Blood discolored the water around his cuts and his gills flared as he gulped water for oxygen. The seawater activated Jude's built-in microphone. Tighe pulled Jude, chair and all to the lowest platform, broke the ropes and then brought him up to his three companions.
"You called him Sonny boy? Waste of sperm? You got a death wish Toots, a sweet one too," Tighe said, keeping Piet from falling into the deep.
"Not after I saw your ugly mug peeking through that porthole like a floater at a sewage plant. A sight for sore eyes," Jude laughed and let the water bubble out of his lungs. He shook his head to clear the remaining air so he could breathe water and continued. "They went after Doc Augie and I knew that he couldn't take it. He'd break in minutes and we'd all be dead. I've been tortured before, worse than this."
"But a nail through a testicle?" Orry protected his testicles grasping his hands. Tighe giggled and clucked as he retrieved the wrenches from the lowest platform. He handed one to Piet and one to Dane.
"They picked the fake one. A few years ago, my first wife punctured my right testicle on of her spiked heels, I had it replaced with a pony-sized, silicone fake. The little one is real, the big one, just for your eyes, sweety-pie-honeybuns."
"A love game gone bad. If she'd a been serious about it, I would have been singing soprano in a ball gown with size 48 triple E tits by now." Jude hand's shook with the cold. He curled up into a ball. Orry slipped behind him and wrapped his arms and legs around Jude's body. He wasn't much warmer than the water but his bulk did shield Jude from the colder currents.
"Ah thinks dat these boys is too young for advanced games like that. What about the radio? Can we use it?" Tighe said.
"Both communications centers shot to shit. All the electronics are paperweights."
"And the water-breathers?" Tighe asked.
"Locked in cargo bay C. The pirates flooded it. They think they're dead. The main hatch is barred but the emergency airlock is unguarded and has an environment suit in it." Jude shivered in Orry's arms.
"If the pirates knew about our gills, they might just shoot to kill," Piet said. Tighe spun around in the water as if breathing. He needed that second to think.
"The pirates stormed the airlocks without tanks. Took out our guards like they knew they were there. Think about it, they got 90 feet deep without tanks in a flying submarine and they did it without attracting attention. These are some desperately greedy pirates or well-financed mercenaries." Jude rolled his eyes. His teeth chattered.
"Orry, get him to the emergency airlock and into an environment suit before hypothermia sends him into shock. When he's safe, release the guys in the cargo bay. Tell them to commandeer the submarine and bring the divers to the common room. We'll take down the three in the common room," Piet ordered. Orry grabbed Jude's wrist and dragged him away.
"What's your plan Captain?" Tighe asked. Piet stuttered.
"Can... can you get up enough speed to leap out of the water and onto the floor of the common room?" Piet asked
"Hell yeah," Tighe puffed his chest out.
"Good. First we frighten them, then you land and take out the big one while Dane and I throw these wrenches on the other two. If there's no communications network, Dane can talk to the crew," Piet ordered.
"My lungs don't work anymore. I can't yak up all that water and still talk. You can," Piet explained. "Hump the glass! My face and your dicks will freak them out!" Piet went to a porthole and stuck his face against the glass. Dane and Tighe immediately rubbed their manhood against the glass and pounded the metal. Piet watched as the three pirates jumped, pointing at the portholes. A tall, skinny guy swung his rifle and shot at the porthole, putting a hole in the steel bulkhead hitting Dane. Water poured into the chamber and his buddies screamed not to shoot again.
"Go!" Piet yelled. Tighe moved so fast, he could barely keep up. Inside the common room, Tighe broke water in a wild somersault and landed at the feet of the pirate leader. As his fist shot out, the pirate pointed his gun and fired. The bullet hit Tighe in the chest and threw him onto his back. The pirate scrambled back but Tighe sprang off the floor, grabbed the pirate who shot him and sank his claws deep into the pirate's body. He pushed the pirate backwards into the bulkhead, smashing his jaw with a right cross. The pirate crumpled unconscious. Two other pirates pointed their guns at Tighe but couldn't get each other out of the line of fire. Piet and Dane stood on the deck like home-run hitters ready to knock their heads into center field. Tighe knocked the guns aside and ended the standoff.
Beaten, half-standing and half-kneeling, the pirates, set their guns on the deck and raised their hands. Piet waved them away from Tighe, who was doubled over, yakking the water out of his lungs. He pulled his arms tight against his chest, a clawed finger dug into his carapace. Two of the guards grabbed the pirate's rifles and watched the door. An intern scrambled for an expansion bolt and stopped the water pouring into through the bullet hole. The others of the crew secured the prisoners with cable ties and left them sitting on the wet deck.
Groaning and writhing, Tighe turned so the pirates could see him and dropped the spent bullet onto the floor. Tighe put one flippered foot on the floor and used it as a brace to stand up. Blood dripped from two star-shaped claw marks in the carapace covering his chest. "Damn you, fucking bullets hurt like fucking hell. You're lucky you're not fucking dead." The pirate leader, a swarthy Greek type with evil black eyes, whimpered. The taller pirate with the squeaky voice and blond hair tried to crawl through the steel to get away from the creature standing before him. The shortest pirate, bearded and brown eyes curled into a ball and begged incoherently. Tighe felt Piet's hand on his shoulder.
"They threw Jude overboard," Doc Augie said in a quivering voice. His hands shook.
"We caught him on the way down. He's safe. Orry's took him to the cargo bay emergency airlock to get an environment suit," Dane answered. From the corridor they heard gunshots and pounding of feet. A pirate ran into the common room and stopped. Terror and disbelief crossed his face. Shocked at the three creatures and two rifles pointed at his head, he raised his hands slowly, letting his gun rest upside down on one finger. Tighe grabbed him and smashed his butt into the deck next to his pirate buddies. He stood in front of the pirates and bellowed, intimidating them. Years after this, the pirates would not describe Tighe as the Colossus of Rhodes standing astride the Bosporus Straights but rather as a demon from hell come to life to kill and maim.
Jude and the rest of the water-breathing crewmen appeared in the pool. They waved their hands and made threatening grunts. Jude and two of the water-breathers hauled three pirates in wet suits and two more pirates in jeans and t-shirts into the common room.
Jude carried a table radio wired into the intercom system. "I wired this little sucker up just for emergencies. Figured it would come in handy sooner or later." He held his hand to his throat, triggering his subvocal microphone so his voice would come out the speaker.
"Now our friends can talk to you," Jude added.
"But we threw you overboard. You're dead," the tall blond pirate with the squeaky said. The smallest pirate cried. "We're all dead, aren't we? I don't want to drown. I just wanted some good things for my brother and sister. We got nothing. There are men, on the surface, bad men, they forced us to do this because I owed them money. It wasn't my idea." His sobs carried over the noise of the motors and the pools. Desperation crept into the pirate's faces. Their bodies shrank as Jude's bare feet smacked the deck next to them.
"Someone wearing boots kick that crying bastard so hard his nuts pop out of his eyeballs, would ya," Jude said. He pointed a pistol at the top of the blond pirate's head. The man said a prayer. Tighe wrapped his webbed hand around Jude's and took the gun from him. Jude was a big man, but Tighe stood a full head taller and nearly eight inches broader across the shoulders. He held a finger up and waved it from side to side in front of Jude's face.
"Don't kill the stooges. They're fish food for hire. Chum for the bosses," Tighe offered. Jude stepped back and let Tighe face the pirates. "What did you think you were? Pirates? Cutthroats of the Spanish Main? Mates of Cat-pain Jack and the Black Pearl?" He moved his hand to the throat of leader and dug his claws into the flesh of the man's neck deep enough to draw blood. "Who you think would mourn if I squeezed and yanked your throat out of your neck? Would anyone care? Not the fools who sent you? You died when you agreed to rob us. The same boss is going to kill you to keep you quiet. You're too greedy, too blind stupid to understand a threat of death when it dangles itself in front of your nose. To them you're dog shit under their feet. To me, you're bloody exercise as I rip your bodies into pieces and feed you to the sharks. You shot me. You tried to kill me. I claim your lives. Do you understand?" He tightened his grip until the dark-haired pirate squeaked out a nearly inaudible yes. Tighe released him and stepped back a few feet. He lifted Piet completely out of the water and set him on the deck.
"But, Captain Piet, like all captains before him, is master and commander. I'm duty bound to give you to him. The Captain is the law. He will be your judge, your jury and perhaps your executioner." Tighe set his hands on his hips, claws well displayed and for the second time, stood like the ancient colossus. Captain Piet stepped in front of the pirates.
"We live at the bottom of the ocean. Join us willingly, become one of us, or you can die." He glanced at the clock on the wall. The second hand swept past twelve. "If you haven't answered by the time the hand reaches twelve again, I'll let Tighe turn you into shark food the painful way, piece by piece."
"But what are you? The Devil incarnate?" one of the pirate frogmen asked.
"I am a man like you but with very special functions. So is Tighe, my first mate," Piet answered. Tighe remained statue-like. Piet could sense Tighe's heart racing, but outwardly Tighe remained a stone. The second hand swept down toward the six.
"I don't want to die. I'm too young to die. I'll do whatever you want," the tall blond pirate crawled up to Piet's flippers and groveled.
"I accept your terms." The dark-haired man answered. The rest of the pirates agreed to Piet's deal.
"Good, each of you will give one of Jude's crew your entire life history -- family, sweethearts, boyfriends, and how you came to be here. We want to know everything. Doctor Augie here will start your conversion. One bad move, one wrong turn and any man in this facility can and will drag you into the sea. From this depth, you won't make it to the surface... Understand!" The pirates didn't hesitate in announcing their agreement. Piet felt his own body running low on oxygen.
"The law of the sea applies. I am master and commander. Tighe is First Mate, Jude commands this transfer station and the Doctor is the medical authority. Obey me out of respect or obey me out of fear, but always, obey. Your lives belong to me. GOT IT?" Quick responses of "aye-aye Captain" surprised him.
He stopped talking and dunked his head into the pool of seawater to get water and oxygen over his gills. He looked over at Tighe. He didn't know how Tighe still stood there unmoving, immobile after all of his exertions and two bullet holes in him, showing no signs of weakness. Piet turned to Mid Man 30's crew.
"Doc, start their conversions as fast as you can. Time ain't on our side. Jude, go fix your testicle and get the paperwork for these guys. Make them military secrets if you have to, just get it done. Orry, take the frogmen and secure that submarine. There will be a time when we can use it. Make it so," Piet ordered.
Tighe's muscles barely flexed before he flipped backwards and dove into the pool with barely a splash. Piet followed and caught at the outlet of one of the four impellors that maintained Mid Man 30's position in the water, his hands hooked over the ladders and oxygen-laden water flowing over his gills. He barely moved when Piet joined him.
"How did you do that?"
"How? I just use the tools you gave me; adapt, improvise, overcome. You know our inventors; go ask them their secrets. Don't ask me. It's only a matter of listening to your body. Quit hiding from your fate, Piet Marshhouse. I know your secrets. I know your lies. You legally changed your name from Tenbrook. Two years playing underwater and you don't understand what you've become. I know how the tiniest creatures invaded your lungs, left calcifications. The deep ocean speeds up calcification. I can feel them in me. Dane feels them too. Orry even asked about it. None of us mind. A chest full of stone makes great ballast... I'll keep your secrets if you keep your word to those pirates. Stupidity is not a death sentence. Your Father hired them. He's the murderer. He found it easy to make those pirates disappear and if anyone asked, he'd hunt their families and friends to extinction just to make sure no one could find out anything about his schemes. We are the new corsairs. We are the masters of this inner universe, the deep blue sea, the ocean floor. Your destiny is to become Captain of this realm, a new Poseidon. You have everything you need and you don't need your father anymore."
"When did you find out?"
"Can't say. Won't say... Go back and make sure Doc Augie has enough the equipment for conversions. If he doesn't -- lie, cheat, steal. Do everything to get it. Do everything to make us self-sufficient. Use your father's name if that's what it takes. Work fast. If he figures it out, they'll all die of well-planned accidents. You have less than ten days to turn those pirates to citizens of the deep, creatures from the ocean floor, guardians of Main Man 7. We're all safe down below. Tenbrook would have to suit up a hitman and I'm betting no hitman takes a one-way, death sentence contract."
"This wasn't my plan."
"It wasn't? What were you, the dutiful son with no ambitions? I hate to tell you, life's a bitch and then you die, as they say. You had a soft and cushy life being the dutiful son. Now you must become a real person, a real master, a real commander, our captain of the sea and not Charlie the fucking tuna. You have to take your place with Columbus, Cook, Blackbeard, Merithew, Nelson and if you are brave enough, Jesus the Christ savior of the world. You must become master and commander. You must assume the role and shoulder the responsibilities. Right now, they fear me. All of them fear me. You're the only one who can earn their respect. Get back inside and create a crew, make the compact in blood it you have to, command your crew into existence, show them that you can keep them safe and prosperous. The world is yours to create. Go. I'll join you later. I need time to heal, Time to sleep." Tighe didn't wait for an answer; he let his eyes roll down and forced his brain into REM sleep. He no longer needed to close his eyelids. He wasn't even sure that he had them anymore. Captain Piet stared at Tighe's body as his gills built the oxygen levels in his body.
"What secrets do you know that I don't," he paused in silence for a moment and then spoke again. "What matter where, if I be still the same and what I should be," he mused, "less than what I was?" He did not expect an answer. His thoughts raced into overdrive. This morning, he left Mid Man 30 as Piet the explorer, dilettante and gadfly. Tonight, with the pirate surrender and new crew joining him in the water, he became captain of the ocean depths -- he could not rule the land but he would rule the sea.
4700 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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