A Simple Little Mission, or How to Lose a Yellow Wetsuit.
It was suppose to be a simple little mission.
Aren't they all? Lee Crane thought sourly to himself, as he hauled himself and the waterproof aluminum tube with Seaview's revised blueprints safely clipped to a ring on his belt, over the reef back toward the Flying Sub. With one eye on the Flying Sub and another on the look-out for sharks, Lee kicked harder, hoping to reach the safety of the submersible before anything decided he looked tasty. Beside him, Chip Morton kept pace as they swam over coral and rock formations.
Two days ago a courier from the Institute had been dispatched to Australia with the revised blueprints for Seaview's upcoming refit, to met with Admiral Nelson in Sydney. The problem came when bad weather forced the plane down in heavy seas. The courier had bailed, but had been unable to save the blueprints. So here he was , save-the-day-Crane, braving shark infested waters to retrieve top secret blueprints before anyone else could find the wreckage of the plane.
As Lee made his way to FS1, he had to admit that so far everything was going smoothly. He had planned on diving on the downed plane alone, but as usual, Mother-Hen Morton had protested loudly against the idea and pretty much invited himself along. Lee had learned long ago that sometimes it was simply better to go along with Chip than argue. This had been one of those times and looking back, he was glad he had listened. Working together, they had found the case with the blueprints in short time and were on their way back in less time than Lee had planned.
Lee felt something touch his arm, and he swung his head around. Chip was pointing off to the right, were a large shark had appeared from nowhere. The thing looked to be seven feet long or better, its mouth a terrifying collection of wickedly sharp teeth. There was no doubt about it, the shape of the head, the angle of the fins, it was a Great White.
Neither man really had a fear of the great creature, but it was better to be safe than sorry. Despite the stories, these sharks didn't go out of their way to attack humans, but if it was hungry enough, there was always that chance.
Lee and Chip sank to the sandy bottom, moving as little as possible, waiting for the shark to finish its circuit and swim past. As Chip touched bottom, he felt something close in around his left ankle. Looking down, he realized his mistake. Without looking, he had dropped his foot inside the gaping maul of a five long giant clam. In response to being disturbed, the clam had reflexively close it jaws, no matter that something was in the way. Chip tugged on his leg, but the jaws held fast and there was no budging it. Morton grabbed at Lee, still watching the cruising shark, and pointed to the sea floor.
Lee stared for second at the clam and it's prize, then back up at Chip. With his fingers, Lee tried to prise the jaws apart, but the oversized mollusk was too strong. Pulling out the dagger from sheath on his right leg, Crane tried cutting at the sides of the clams jaws. Chip continued to tug at his leg, trying not to panic. Something caught Morton's eye, coming up on Lee's right hand side, and for a second he couldn't believe what he was seeing. He didn't think they could be found in these waters at this depth. Then he realized what the creature was doing. Franticly, he grabbed at Lee's shoulder as he was bent over working on the clamshell, not seeing the danger they were in. Crane looked up to see what Chip was so anxious about when something grabbed him around his midsection and pulled. Clawing at the giant clam, Lee was unable stop himself from being dragged further and further away from his stricken friend.
Lee looked down around his middle to see a familiar pale appendage wrapped around him. Another was snaking up his leg, just below his knee. A giant squid, a young one judging from the size had latched on to Lee. In struggle, Lee had dropped his knife. It lay a few feet from Chip, who was still caught in the grip of the giant clam.
Chip began franticly clawing and digging at the clam, kicking at the jaws with his free foot, unable to break its hold, and unable to help Lee. He could only watch helplessly as Lee struggled in the grip of the cephalopod. By reaching out and stretching, he managed to retrieve Lee's knife. Morton set to work on the shell, hoping he could break its hold.
Lee fought in the grip of the six foot creature, rolling and trying to keep from being dragged any nearer to that razor sharp black beak. The hooks on the creature's suckers hooked into his dive suit, making it hard to break free. Then Lee had idea. Working quickly, he unlatched the catch on his weight belt, snapping off the tube holding the blueprints first. He took a deep breath and hit the quick release on the harness of his tanks. The tanks fell away, pulling the regulator with it. Next he unzipped the dive jacket and pulled out of it, then followed by kicking off the flippers. The squid, thinking it had won, locked onto the neoprene of the bottom half of the suit and began pulling. The bottom half of Lee's dive suit peeled off his thighs and lower calves, rolling inside out as it came off.
Free of the grabby critter, Lee, now in just in his swim trucks, dove down for his abandoned tanks, and slung the harness back over his shoulder. Working one handed, he managed to refasten the clasps. He jammed the mouthpiece back in his mouth and took a deep, long drag before swimming back to Chip. Morton had gotten the clam to relax enough that he was able to pull his ankle free. Jerking his foot out, Chip back peddled, and collided with Lee.
In surprise, not expecting Chip to back peddle, Lee let go of his grip on the aluminum blueprint tube. It went floating away as Lee snatched at it, trying to untangle himself from Chip.
That's when the shark reappeared, drawn back, no doubt, by the sounds of Lee's struggle with the young squid. Hoping for an easy meal, the shark swam right up to the tube and with one gulp, the Seaview's blueprints were gone.
Meanwhile the squid, having figured out that its prize wasn't editable, had discarded the yellow dive suit and vanished in a cloud of ink. The shark, seeing the floating, jellyfish looking object decided to follow up his not-so-appetizing-appetizer, and headed straight for the free floating, banana yellow dive suite Within seconds the suit was gone, snaps, zippers and all.
Lee and Chip stared at one another, then after the receding shark. Dejectedly, they made their slow way back to FS1.
Chip pulled himself up the hatch and collapsed to the deck, his bruised ankle throbbing and unable to hold his weight. He started pulling off his tanks when Lee popped up. Lending his friend a hand, Chip pulled Lee inside. Crane sank gratefully to the deck, exhausted, his bare, olive toned chest heaving with the effort. Crane pulled off the mask and the hood, all that was left of his dive suit, and dropped them with a thud on the deck.
Did we get up on the wrong side of the sub this morning? Giant sharks, giant squids, giant freaking clams, good grief, Chip groused, pulling off the rest of his gear. Lee pulled himself over to Chip, looking over his bruised ankle.
Is it broken? Twisted? he asked, gently feeling the area with delicate fingers. Chip shook his head, his leg jerking spasmodically as Lee touched a particularity sensitive area
No, just bruised pretty bad. I can't put much weight on it. There's gonna be no hiding this from Jamie, Chip muttered that last part, and Lee couldn't help but grin. Chip hated sickbay as much as he did. Well, Morton volunteered for this, he was going to have to deal with the consequences.
The admiral's not going to like this either. That was the only hard copy he had of those prints.
No chance we can track the shark down, maybe put a tranquilizer dart in it, and get the 'prints back? Chip asked hopefully. Lee was right, Nelson wasn't going to be happy. He'd have to have another set done up, and it would push the rewiring schedule back, which would push the rest of the refit back.
I doubt it. With out a transmitter, finding one Great White on the Great Barrier Reef is going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Come on, let's get you in the chair, and the weight off your foot. You sure you don't want in the bunk? That ankle needs to be elevated.
I'm fine. Just get us back to the boat. The sooner we get back to Seaview, the sooner Jamie can get his hooks into me. Yippee.
With Lee's help, Chip got to his feet and hobbled to the co-pilot's seat. He didn't bother changing clothes. He wouldn't be able to hide his limp from Jamie, even if Lee were incline to not tattle on him. Doc would just make him strip out of his trousers once he got to Sickbay, so he thought he would just save the time and change once he got back to the sub. He did take the time to unzip the black dive jacket. Now that they were out of the water, he was getting a little warm.
Lee powered up FS1 and turned the little craft back toward Seaview. Lee chuckled, looking own at his bare legs and feet.
What's so funny? Chip demanded, glancing at his friend, bare chested, still wearing only his black swim trunks, his black curls wild and soggy.
That yellow suit, I'm finally rid if it. It was like 'the suit that would never die'. I thought I'd be wearing that neoprene banana forever. I'm not sorry to see it go.
Chip ran a hand through his own damp hair, suddenly very fidgety. It's not exactly gone, he mumbled.
Lee whipped his head around to stared at his XO. Yes it is, or are you forgetting a seven foot Great White shark just made lunch out of it?
You've got three more in locker in the equipment room, Chip said in a gush, looking everywhere but at his skipper.
Come on Lee, you know the budget cuts last fall had to hit somewhere. That company is the cheapest company the Admiral would approve. When we ordered the suits for the sub, at the time, yellow was the only color they had in your size.
So I've got three more of those things? Lee moaned incredulously.
'Fraid so, Lee, unless you think you can find three more hungry sharks with a taste for neoprene.
Lee growled, seeing Seaview coming up on both radar, and the visually through the view ports.
Remind me to gain ten pounds so I can use your suits next time.
Unlike Lee and Chip who encountered no further problems after getting back to Seaview, the shark with the discerning pallet didn't have such a good run of luck. Following the currents and instinct, the seven-foot male was cruising the shallows off the Cape of Good Hope, following the seal colonies off shore. About a week out from its encounter off the Australian coast, the shark was caught in a net and hauled aboard a fishing boat, also cruising the shallows.
The carcass was sold to the owners of Moonlight Under the Sea, the newest theme restaurant. Completely underwater, the restaurant featured thick tempered glass windows and ceilings, allowing patrons to experience life under the sea. With the Grand Opening just days away, the staff was bustling to get the final preparations wrapped up.
In the back room, a groups of chefs was contemplating the carcass of a seven foot Great White Shark, destined to be part of the main course on opening night. As one chef slid the massive knife down the pale belly of the giant fish, through the enormous stomach, something yellow caught his eye.
What on earth? he asked aloud, and slowly pulled a bright yellow diver's jacket from the stomach of the carnivore. Fishing around inside the cavity, the chef pulled out the bottom half of the suit and a long silver metal tube of some sort. The smell was unreal. He dumped everything in the over-sized sink and began hosing them off.
A dive suit? Have we got a man-eater on out hands? We can't serve this if he's a man-eater! protested on chef, staring at the rubbery material.
It's just the suit, not the whole man. replied the first chef, looking over the dive suit, and finding a waterproof tag sewn into the back of the suite. Look at this, it's name tag. Crane. Lee. B.-SSRN Seaview. Oh, my gracious, the chef looked in horror at the shark carcass and then down at the suit in his hands. This belongs to Captain Crane!
The words had no more left the chef's mouth when three of the restaurant's waitresses came through the door.
Captain Crane! I saw him in person once, he's so dreamy . . . said one little petite waitress, her blond hair framing a sweet, heart shaped face. Her powder blue eyes had a far away, wistful look as she and the other two women advanced on the chef and his neoprene find.
Oh, was this really Lee Crane's? cooed another girl, pushing a stray strand of honey brown hair out of her eyes. She picked up the jacket, running her hands over the sleeves.
The tag said it is. Molly, don't do that, it's been in the stomach of a shark, the chef warned, but the waitresses had tuned out everything but the object of their immediate attention. One of the other chefs had picked up the metal tube.
What do you think this is? he asked, giving the tube a hard shake. The first chef jerked it out of his hands and tossed it back into the sink.
Secret documents, you idiot. Crane was probably stealing them from dangerous Russian spies. he said authoritatively.
Oh , how dangerous! squealed one waitress.
How did it get inside the shark? the little blond asked.
I'll bet he was doing something brave and heroic, nattered the third waitress, joining the brunette in touching the suit, running her hands over the material and touching the zipper.
He is so brave, I'll bet he's the bravest man in the world, giggled the first waitress, still holing the jacket like it was a holy relic. He's so handsome, so dashing.
Oh, you mean this was really his suit? Like, its got his DNA on it! Ooohhhh! the blond said wistfully. How dreamy! she added with her own awe-stricken giggle.
Just think, this suit touched Lee Crane, oh, how . . .how romantic! sang the brunette, gathering the suit up in her arms and hugging it close.
Molly, don't hog it, let the rest of us touch it! the blond wailed, plaintively, as tears welled up in her powder blues eyes.
By now the chef had completely has enough of the girls endless hero worship, and stepped forward, yanking the suit from the girls grip, slinging water everywhere. The three young women pouted at having their idol's diving attire so unceremoniously yoinked. The chef dropped the jacket back into the sink, and gently shooed the girls back to work. He had his own plans for the suit and he didn't need those three empty headed ninnies hanging on it it.
Two days later Moonlight under the Sea opened with a fantastic opening night. The food was excellent and the patrons were extremely impressed with the atmosphere and decor. The most talked about exhibit of the evening was the bright yellow, slightly digested, neoprene dive suit, reportedly donated by none other than Captain Lee Crane of the submarine Seaview.