Read Undersea Prison Online

Authors: Duncan Falconer

Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Thrillers, #Suspense

Undersea Prison (44 page)

BOOK: Undersea Prison
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The bell came to a sudden stop and Christine tried to make herself comfortable against him once again but she was becoming fidgety. She chuckled to herself as she pulled the blanket down. Stratton was immediately aware of a change in her.
‘Let’s go for a swim,’ Christine said, giggling.
Stratton reached for the oxygen bottle and turned it on, giving the bell a good burst to increase the partial pressure, hoping that was the right solution. Christine started to relax and although she was breathing heavily at first she calmed down to a normal level and lay quietly against him.
He offered her the water container, which was getting light. She took a small sip. He elected to pass on his drink for the moment and replaced the cap.
The hours passed by slowly but the stop times became shorter until they reached the final one. Stratton set the digital watch. ‘How’re you feeling?’ he asked.
‘I’m OK. I was in and out of dizziness a few times.’
‘You have any muscle pains . . . headaches?’
‘My head’s fine. I think I’m OK everywhere else, too. This isn’t the most comfortable eight hours I’ve ever spent . . . except for the company, which I’ve enjoyed more than I can remember enjoying anyone’s company before.’
‘Do I need to give you a little more oxygen?’
Christine smiled. ‘I’m not talking crap,’ she said, looking into his eyes. ‘You’re a hell of a guy, whoever you are.’
Stratton looked a little embarrassed, unused as he was to compliments. It made him even more attractive to her and she kissed him gently on the side of his mouth. ‘Whatever happens . . . thanks.’
‘It was my pleasure.’
She rested her head on his shoulder again.
‘We’re ten metres from the surface, give or take whatever the tide’s doing.’
Christine looked at Stratton in surprise. ‘Only ten? You mean we’ve made it?’
‘Only thing I remember about decompression stops is the last one is usually ten metres from the surface.’
‘I don’t believe it - I mean, I do. I just don’t.’
‘I can feel pins and needles in my fingers.’
‘Me too. Is that bad?’
‘We’ll probably need a recompression. But I think we’ll be fine,’ he said, getting off the strut to sit opposite her.
Christine could see he had something on his mind. ‘What is it?’ she asked.
‘Mandrick. I can’t let him go.’
‘What can you do about it?’
‘I can be there when he surfaces.’
‘You don’t know when that’ll be. He might wait down there for hours.’
‘No. He has air limits too. He’ll do around the same time as us. But if I’m down here when he surfaces I’ll lose him.’
‘Is it OK to skip this last stop?’
‘It won’t kill me. As long as I can get to a chamber soon after.’
‘And if you can’t?’
‘There’ll be one on board the rescue craft.’
‘So your plan is to swim around up there, hoping he pops up right beside you?’
‘You’ve got a better idea?’
‘Yes. You’ve done your job as best you could. You nearly died, half a dozen times, trying to succeed. You said yourself it was only to save someone an embarrassment. ’
‘That’s what it is to them. Not to me.’
Christine’s expression softened. ‘Why am I trying to argue with you?’ She removed her blanket. ‘OK - I’m coming with you.’
‘No, you’re not. There’s the clock,’ Stratton said, putting it in her hand.‘When it beeps get out and swim to the surface.’
She let the clock slip through her fingers. It plopped into the water and disappeared. ‘Oops,’ she said, looking at him.
‘You’re a stubborn bitch.’
A strange sound like a distant grating stopped them arguing.
‘What’s that?’ Christine asked.
‘No idea.’
The noise grew louder and the bell began to vibrate.
‘A boat?’ she asked, looking up.
‘No,’ Stratton said, looking down.
The cable was rattling where it joined the drum, the vibrations growing with each passing second. The bottom of the bell suddenly moved as if it was being yanked to one side. It started to lean over and they could make out something rising out of the gloom towards them.
It was Mandrick’s pod, caught on the cable and coming up at them like a torpedo.
It slammed into the base of the bell with tremendous force, almost smashing the drum from its housing and tipping the bell onto its side. Water flooded in as the bell inverted.
Stratton and Christine were tossed around as if they were inside a washing machine. Then the bell stabilised and started to plummet.
Stratton grabbed Christine with one hand and the struts now above him with the other. The bars had twisted in the impact and the drum was threatening to block their escape. The bell sank rapidly as Stratton fought to pull himself through a small gap. He released Christine in an effort to free himself and when he’d got outside he reached back into what now felt like a cage for her. She was clutching him through a gap too small to pull herself through. Stratton reached in through the largest gap, grabbed her brutally and yanked her over. He pulled with all his might as his lungs cried out for air, suddenly fearful he might have to let her go.
Then, as if a door had opened, she popped through the struts and as the bell continued its journey back to the depths they headed up, swimming for their lives.
Stratton broke the surface, gasping for air. A second later Christine appeared beside him, fighting to stay on the surface as she too gulped for breath.
Stratton saw the pod only metres away as three large red bags inflated around it.There was a cluster of bright lights in the distance beyond, undoubtedly the rescue mission but probably too far away for them to see the pod unless someone was actually looking at it.
Stratton swam towards it as the hatch began to open. He tried to climb onto the pod but the large inflation bags made it difficult to do so.
Mandrick rose out of the hatch, looked towards the emergency crews in the distance and, satisfied that he was far enough away, began to make ready for his departure. He pulled out his waterproof bag and placed it on the side of the hatch.Then he removed a knife from his belt and stabbed the nearest inflation bag. As the gas escaped he slashed another and was about to slice the third when, to his utter amazement, he saw Christine on the other side of it.
‘I don’t believe it,’ he said, stupefied. ‘Christine. You have to be the most tenacious person I have ever known.’
‘That’s what my mother always told me,’ Christine said, seeing the waterproof bag in Mandrick’s hand.
Stratton surfaced behind Mandrick’s back, took hold of the pod and eased himself out of the water.
‘This is the end of the road, Mandrick,’ Christine said.
‘You must be referring to yourself,’ Mandrick said as he reached down into the pod.
Stratton wrapped his arm around Mandrick’s neck, the bone of his forearm across his throat.‘She was definitely referring to you,’ he said, gripping Mandrick’s hand that held the knife.
With his other hand Mandrick pulled a Very pistol out of the pod and aimed it at Christine. ‘Release me or I’ll put this flare through her head. Don’t doubt it.’
Stratton froze.
‘Take your arm away,’ Mandrick shouted.
Stratton loosened his grip. ‘You can’t get away,’ he said, his mind racing for a solution.
‘For the last time, move away or she’s dead,’ Mandrick said.
As Stratton released him he noticed a strap hanging loosely from the back of Mandrick’s life jacket. He hooked it over the hatch lever as he moved away. ‘Whatever you say. Just don’t shoot.’
‘Only if I have to. I don’t want to give away my position, now, do I?’
Mandrick buried the knife’s blade in the remaining inflation bag. The pod quickly began to sink. Mandrick released the knife, grabbed his waterproof bag and went to climb out of the hatch when he discovered he was held fast from behind. He struggled to pull himself free as water flooded into the pod. His actions quickly became desperate as he thrashed from side to side in an effort to break his bonds.
Stratton and Christine floated in the water, watching as the pod filled and sank beneath the surface. In a final act of fury Mandrick wildly aimed the Very pistol at Stratton and fired. The flare shot across the water in a bright red light in the direction of the rescue craft and Mandrick disappeared below the surface.
At the same time, to Stratton’s horror, Christine shot below the surface. He immediately thought that she had somehow become entwined with the pod, took a deep breath and was about to follow her when she surfaced, spluttering for air, beside him.
When she regained her composure she looked at him with a pleased expression on her face. ‘Sometimes, when you want something bad enough the risks don’t matter.’
Stratton was unsure what she meant.
She held up Mandrick’s waterproof bag.
Stratton grinned. ‘That’s my girl.’
A boat powered towards them, silhouetted in the lights of the emergency crews behind it. It was a semirigid inflatable and a figure in the bows was shining a searchlight on the pair in the water.The engines clunked into neutral as the craft came alongside.
‘I don’t believe it. It’s Stratton,’ an Englishman called out.
Stratton recognised Todd’s voice seconds before he saw his beaming face.
Paul came to stand beside his colleague.‘Christ! How the bloody hell . . . ?’ he exclaimed. Then he hurried to help the pair into the boat.
They wrapped them in blankets and stood back looking at them in wonder.
‘Before you do anything else,’ Stratton said to Paul, ‘our chip is inside that bag. The rest belongs to her.’
Paul took the waterproof bag while Stratton opened his blanket for Christine. She slid beside him and he wrapped them both up.‘Oh, and Paul? I think we might need a recompression chamber, and soon.’
Paul nodded to the coxswain who slipped the engines into gear and powered the inflatable towards the main rescue party.
‘Do you think they have one we can use together?’ Christine asked. ‘I’ve gotten to like sharing confined spaces with you.’
‘That’s what I call risky,’ said Stratton.
‘It’s my new middle name,’ she said.
BOOK: Undersea Prison
10.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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