Water dripped on her arms and head from the hatch as Alice climbed out. A surreal golden glow filled the area. Where was the light coming from? She heaved herself up and out, feet searching for a hold. Her foot found the first sawtooth rung embedded in the side of the hull. Under her hands the metal of the submarine was cold to the touch, and the cool air outside the sub woke her.
This was real.
The murmuring of the pilots reached her from below around her sub. Then at the clack of Captain Merna’s step approaching they snapped to attention. Alice would snap to attention too.
Captain Merna towered over all the men, her muscular frame carrying her with ease through the crowd, hard eyes taking in the battered submarine. Alice noted the new addition of a black patch over her right eye.
She felt the urge to stay high and keep the advantage, to keep distance between her and reality but it was a false advantage.
Captain Merna spoke without turning to her second in command. “Get Cretan on these repairs. It looks like one of those mind-speaking Krakens again. Have the men check the border of the trench for it. And I want this sub to be sea worthy, so that we can get it back to the research vessel. Then put out a warning to the coast guard – No civilians are to be in the area.”
Alice froze from putting her foot down to the next foothold. So they not only knew about the Kraken but had encountered them before. They spoke as if it was common to bring back vehicles in this condition. How did they know it was a Kraken from the damage?
Alice looked closer at her sub as she went down to the next foothold. Etchings almost like burned, molten marks seared the sides. Her heart went cold. If it had touched her…
Merna herself traced the marks as she spoke up to Alice, “Looks like you encountered quite the beastie.” Merna met Alice’s gaze after she dropped the last foot to the metal floor.
Not one easily surprised, her one eye widened in that moment, “Clara..” she whispered.
Then Merna spoke to her lieutenant in a softer, yet still brisk tone. “Lieutenant, I’m taking her to my office for questioning. Get Nivens, the medic, for me.” Then she was back to her brusque self and turned about face.
Saluted by the men, Merna walked away long legs covering ground faster than Alice’s legs ever would. Alice jogged to catch up, her heart racing from the exertion or more likely from hearing her mom’s name on the Captain’s lips. What did Merna know?
Last year, Captain Merna had visited when Alice was at school. Alice had seen her leaving. No one could forget a person like the Captain. But why had they chosen her to inform their family about the end of the search? That mom was officially left for missing?
And then…Merna must have known her mom. Being the mirror image of her mom easily confused people.
How had the two known each other?
They passed from one hallway into another when the left wall ended. A vision of massive blue coils glowed in the middle of a drop that had to go down for a mile. It also extended to the ceiling with what felt like an infinite height.
Alice slowed, mouth parting in surprise. “Wha-What is this?” She stepped closer to the railing and let her eyes drop.
It was like a dream. People milling on other floors could be seen in all levels down to a small point that could barely be seen below. Magical, how it glowed.
Merna slowed looking back at Alice. A grin took over her solemn face. She stepped to the edge too, and looked down at the glowing blue coils. “Magnificent, isn’t it? We have Clara to thank for this.”
On all levels everyone seemed to be working relentlessly. There was a gentle hum to the noise of people communicating and operating machinery.
Alice stood there staring down as Merna continued, “Because of her discovery of ancient artifacts and technology our scientists were able to decipher, reverse engineer and build upon the technology to bring this ship into existence. There was so much more down here that she would have been so excited to be uncovering-”
Alice interrupted, “Do you think mom is still alive?” Mom wouldn’t have liked her interrupting but she wanted to, no, she needed to know.
Merna’s face shuttered. She spoke with the care of one choosing words delicately, “Alice, we weren’t able to reveal our findings in the last year due to confidentiality surrounding our current state of affairs but your mom didn’t disappear. She is gone.”
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