Note to reader:
This story involves a
situation that actually happened. Although it uses some historically accurate
information, it is fictional. Some people may consider it offensive to write a
story about the event, even dishonoring to the dead. I do not intend this, and
I hope not to offend anyone. Also, this story is purely my imagining and is not
the truth. It is not even a theory about what happened. I consider the accident
a tragedy and do not intend to make it any less. If you do find this offensive,
please forgive me. If you expect to be offended, please don’t read any further.
PROCEED TO BARENTS SEA, AREA X16-Y42. PREPARE TO ASSIST RUSSIAN RESCUE OPP.
AWAIT FURTHER ORDERS.
Tom Nedrey couldn’t believe it. Why
would the admiralty order their participation in a rescue operation? Surely
there would be more suitable craft than the nuclear sub Vigilance. Tom was only
second officer and the captain had already ordered full surface speed to the
Tom turned it over in his head. Why
them? Granted, they were fairly close. They were in international waters off
the coast of Norway, only a day’s travel from their new destination. They had
been underway to a rendezvous with other units of the US fleet to participate
in a cold weather war game near the arctic. Tom didn’t know where or when the
game would take place. That was classified and only accessible to the captain
and first officer. Tom hoped they’d have time to get there after they’d dealt
with this problem.
An hour later and Tom still hadn’t got
any more information out of his captain, James Deught. He was a quite man, but
a good captain. The first officer, Kerry Goodman, hadn’t been any more help
either. Maybe he had been told all they knew, but Tom doubted it. He suspected
there had been a second message coded for the captain with more details.
His shift was over and he was relieved
by the first officer. Tom logged off and walked down through the bowls of the
sub toward the rec. area. The Vigilance was a huge sub, holding almost a
hundred men, and had need of a decent rec. room. Here the sailors could watch any
of a number of videos, read books, watch TV and use the internet via a
satellite connection while on the surface. There was also a cramped gym room,
but Tom was headed for the mess. The mess was the kitchen, but was set up like
a restaurant where sailors could hang out and have a drink while not on shift.
Alcohol was banned on board, so you have to drink either soft drink, coffee,
tea, or water. It didn’t bother Tom, as he never was much of a drinker.
He walked in and gazed around the
room. He spotted Darren Black at a table with another sailor. Darren slept on
the bunk underneath Tom, but they couldn’t really be called roommates. The
whole crew slept in two long compartments full of bunks, except the captain who
had his own quarters. Tom walked over to the table and took up a seat. Darren
was in the middle of a conversation with Greg Freemantle, a medical officer.
“Why the urgency, do you suppose?”
asked Darren as Tom sat down. Darren appeared to be slightly over-weight but
his strength made up for it. Greg, on the other hand, was small and weedy. He
was also obsessed with whales. They were almost a religion to him.
“I haven’t a clue,” Greg answered,
“Might be someone important that we need to rescue.”
“Perhaps,” agreed Darren.
“Or it might be that we are wanted
just to observe. It might be something top secret and the rescue is just a
cover,” Greg’s eyes seemed to glaze over as he thought through the options,
“They might have found something, like a wreck from WWII with some secret plans
for a weapon, or they might have been testing a new weapon, or maybe they found
a flying saucer on the bottom, or maybe they found a way to talk to whales,
or…” Greg carried on naming all the theories he could think of. The thing that
worried Tom was that Greg appeared to be completely serious.
Darren interrupted Greg’s wandering
thoughts by asking Tom if he knew anything.
“Not a thing more than you two,” Tom
said as he opened a coke.
Darren seemed to give up on the
subject, but Greg started murmuring to himself again. “Suppose I’d better be
off then,” Darren said as he stood to leave. Greg said nothing, but he didn’t
really seem to be all there at the moment. Tom nodded and settled down to have
a meal. He was rather disappointed that even with new orders life onboard was
still rather dull and unexciting.
He changed his mind when six hours
later then captain called him to a briefing. He couldn’t believe what he was
“They sunk a sub, sir?” he asked in
disbelief. He had been serving on subs for a few years now, and he had started
to think of them as unsinkable. The navy knew about the possibility of a sub
sinking but the crew surviving. They had even given it a name, but Tom couldn’t
think of it just now.
“Event 1000,” said the first officer,
as if reading his mind.
“Event 1000,” Tom repeated to himself,
trying to believe it. “Was she a nuclear sub, sir?”
“She was, and a big one too,” Captain
Deught answered, “With a crew of over a hundred.”
Tom asked the next logical question,
“Why did she go down?”
“That’s part of our mission, to find
out. We also are ordered to offer our assistance on any rescue attempt,” the
“Do they know we’re coming?” asked
“Sort of. We told them we’d send
ships, but not how soon they could be expected.” The captain said as he read
the report again.
“We thought we might learn more this
way,” added Kerry, the first officer, with a sly look on his face.
“What was her name?” asked Tom.
The captain turned to face him.
Tom was asleep on his bunk when the
USS Vigilance arrived at the co-ordinates. They had made themselves known to
the Russian ships and had offered their assistance. The Russians had refused,
but had offered to allow some of the crew to visit one of their ships for a
By the time Tom was back on the
bridge, there was already an argument in full swing.
“I don’t believe this!” Kerry
exclaimed, “you’re happy to send our crew over to one of their boats.”
“It’s common practice to exchange
visitors if two vessels are stationed in close quarters of a long period of
time,” the captain reminded him.
“We can’t very well let Russians
onboard a US sub, now can we?” Kerry countered.
“They haven’t asked us too. They
simply invited some of us aboard their vessel. I don’t believe their vessels
have many secrets, do you? They’re rescue ships, for crying out loud,” the
“And it might help us figure out what
went wrong,” Tom said and instantly regretted it when Kerry glared at him.
“I can’t believe it! You are both
fools. Sooner or later we’ll all see it. The USSR is not dead; it’s just
hibernating. The bear will awake!” Kerry yelled as he stormed off the bridge.
Unlike Kerry, the captain’s temper
disappeared the instant his first officer left the room. He was his normal calm
self when he turned to Tom.
“The navy keeps telling people the
cold war is over, but it never will be while we’ve got people like Kerry
Goodman,” the captain mused, “Anyway, you and a couple of others are invited to
go over to one of the Russian ships for a hour or two.”
“Aye captain!” Tom said happily.
The captain smiled. He knew that even
though the Vigilance was a good sub, none of the crew would waste a chance for
some leave. “See if you can dig up anything, number two,” he said as he
The Russian ship had a name Tom
couldn’t pronounce. He didn’t speak Russian, so he could only talk to the few
in the crew who could speak English. As he walked round the ship he began to
realize the truth in what he’d read, and just how wrong Kerry was. If the
Russian navy was anything to go by, then they were in serious trouble. The US
counterparts of this model of ship had all been decommissioned years ago. And
any US ship in this state would be quarantined and decommissioned immediately.
He had read that the Russian military was critically short of money. This boat
seemed to be good proof.
But apart from the bad condition and
the fact that it was filthy, the crew seemed to be doing okay. They were
prepping divers and diving bells and various other pieces of equipment. “Maybe
they don’t need our help after all,” Tom thought.
This boat had been in the area during
the accident. And everyone Tom had talked to had said they’d heard or seen an
explosion from inside the sub. Most of them guessed a torpedo had detonated.
Tom had interviewed four people with the same results before one of the
commanding Russian officers walked around and ordered all the crew not to talk
about it. Now Tom could get nothing. But even so, it had been a nice break from
the Vigilance. He thought he had a fairly good report for the captain. He
waited for the runabout to come and pick him up and take him back to his sub.
The captain listened as Tom gave his
report. They were in the briefing room just off the bridge.
“So it was a torp exploding, was it?”
he asked, mostly to himself.
“Maybe not,” Greg said, standing. Both
he and Darren had gone over with Tom. “The people I talked to said it had been
The captain swung round to look at
him. “Who by?” he demanded.
“The Russians,” Greg answered.
“Why would they shoot their own sub?”
The captain asked.
“I don’t know, but that’s what I was
told, sir,” Greg answered.
The captain knew about Greg’s
conspiracy theory obsession. It was almost as bad as Kerry’s hatred of the
Russians. If Darren hadn’t spoke up when he did, the captain would have
dismissed the idea. What Darren did was to give an even worse one.
“The sailors I spoke to said there was
a collision,” Darren said.
“Possible, possible,” the captain
turned the idea over in his head.
“There’s more,” Darren said.
“What is it?” asked the captain.
“They blamed it on us,” Darren said in
a quiet voice.
“WHAT!” exploded the captain. “What
did you say!”
“They said it was a US sub, probably
the Vigilance, sir. I don’t believe them at all. I know it wasn’t us, sir.”
The captain calmed down slightly. The
door suddenly burst open and Kerry appeared. He seemed very worried and was
panting. “What happened?” He asked. His temper hadn’t gone completely yet and
it was still in his voice.
Tom didn’t know what he was talking
about, but the captain did. “Sorry, number one, I got a little excited there.
Didn’t mean to yell. There’s no emergency.”
Kerry seemed both relieved and
disappointed at the same time. He seemed in no hurry to leave, as if waiting
The captain turned to him again, “Back
to your station, number one.”
Kerry nodded and left, but Tom could
she his temper growing again. He and the captain weren’t on good terms at the
moment, and in such close quarters, that could cause serious problems.
After Kerry had slammed the door, The
captain turned back to the others who had gone to the Russian ship. “I can say
that there were no official US subs or ships anywhere near here. I’ll report it
to the Admiralty, but I’m sure it’s not true. So it probably was an explosion,
maybe friendly fire, or perhaps a collision with another sub or ship, defiantly
not ours though. I can now say Kerry was right, your little visit didn’t help
much at all.” The captain sighed and dismissed them. They all filed out,
wondering who would be proven right.
“Only the whales know,” said Greg.
Six hours later, just before Tom’s
watch ended, the captain again summoned him to his ready-room. Tom was a little
surprised. In the past the captain hadn’t consulted him much. That was usually
reserved for first officer, with the second only if needed. However the captain
and the first officer clearly weren’t getting on well at present. Perhaps the
captain thought Tom’s presence would help keep the calm.
“Ah, Tom,” said the captain in his
usual voice. He seemed able to make it appear as if Tom had just happened to
drop by, and he had nothing to do with it. Kerry stood in a corner brooding. It
was as if there really was a storm cloud over his head. Tom couldn’t understand
just why Kerry was in such a bad mood. It was general knowledge he hated the
Russians, but it seemed as if there was more to it then that.
“You won’t believe this. It’s been six
hours since you saw the Russians divers getting ready to go, and they’re still
onboard their boat. They’ve been ready for at least four hours and they just
seem to be stalling. The White House is pressuring the Russians to act, but
their president is being very evasive.”
“They’ve been ordered not to attempt a
rescue,” sneered Kerry, his spite showing.
“We don’t know that, number one,” the
captain replied. “They might just be being cautious.”
Kerry snapped. “If you were in their position you’d have gone down yourself
“They’re not me!” the captain snapped
“Wait a minute…” Tom tried to
intercede but was cut off.
“I tell you, James, they’ve been
ordered not to proceed.”
“If that’s so then they’ll be
committing political suicide. The whole world is pressuring them to get on with
it. The British have even volunteered on of their LR5 mini-subs and a crew.”
“There must be a secret to the Kursk.”
Kerry added. “I’ve said it all along.” Tom though perhaps Kerry and Greg should
swap conspiracy notes.
Suddenly the door was opened and
another sailor burst in, halting the argument. “Excuse me sir, but they’ve just
The Russians tried. You have to give
them that. Mini-subs, diving bells, all sorts of stuff. The two main things
they accomplished were discovering the rescue hatch on the Kursk was damaged
and couldn’t be opened, and a reported knocking on the wall of the sub. That
meant someone was alive inside. The Vigilance’s sonar operator claimed to be
able to hear it if he tuned his equipment right.
This news simply escalated the
tension. There were people down there and they were trapped. The captain had
become more solemn, Kerry constantly cursed the Russians for being so
unprepared, and Greg walked around saying the whales would save them. Tom and
Darren simply waited for the go-ahead from the Russian government that would
let them help. Darren had suggested taking the Vigilance down to the Kursk, but
that wouldn’t help at all, and would only hamper the rescue effort. Now all
they could do was wait. The Vigilance and Russian ships had been joined by a
score of others. A few US, some British, some Norwegian, and a group of media
The Russians had used mini-subs and
diving bells, but all to none avail. They had tried to attach an oxygen and
power feed, but this had also failed. There had been no report of any sign that
the Kursk’s crew was alive since a day ago. A British helicopter had airlifted
the LR5 and crew to a British ship and they too awaited the Russian go-ahead.
The waiting got to be too much for
both the British and the Americans. They organized a trade of personnel between
vessels. The captain specifically requested that the LR5 crew come aboard. He
was keen to meet them. In return he had sent his first officer and some others
to the British boat. The captain and Tom climbed the conning tower to greet
their guests. There were a couple of British navy personnel and then there was
the LR5 team. They actually Worked for the company McGregor, and had simply
volunteered to work with the navy in this situation. First was the pilot, Tom
Heron, then the co-pilot Eric Wrightson, and Sam Samson, the back-up pilot.
“How do you do sir?” asked the
captain, addressing the pilot. Tom expected it would be trying with two Toms
“Fine sir,” replied the pilot Tom, as he
and his crew clambered down the conning tower.
The British officers seemed uneasy
with being inside the submarine. One hit his head on the doorframe. The LR5
crew were used to environment and seemed at ease.
“It’s a wee bit bigger then our sub,
ain’t it Tom?” Eric said in his Scottish accent with a smile.
“Just a bit,” smiled his pilot.
The captain led them to the mess and
offered them a seat. They accepted and sat down.
“So, tell us about the LR5,” the
“Sure thing Captain,” Eric said, “It’s
called the underwater helicopter cause it’s so maneuverable, see.”
The other LR5 pilots seemed happy to
let Eric do all the talking. All in all they seemed very relaxed. “Well,
anyhow, the old number five seems to be the best chance they’ve got.”
Tom relaxed as the conversation got
more general. The British had no more idea as to why the Kursk sunk than the
Americans had. They swapped theories and talked about the political situation
in Russia, and then about the whole world. Tom thought it was a strangely
casual conversation to be having at the time.
That casualness was suddenly shattered
when one of the Vigilance’s radio operators burst through the door. “The
Russian President just caved. They want you guy’s down there in the LR5 as soon
“Aye sir,” said Eric, bounding out of
his seat. The three pilots stood up and headed for the door without another
word. They had a job to do.
As they left, the remaining British officers looked
at the captain. The highest-ranking Britain spoke up. “This is supposed to be a
multi-national rescue. The Russians are sending a man down to translate for the
LR5 crew. All four men will have basic medical knowledge, but none are real
medics. If there are any medics onboard who can speak Russian, we’d be grateful
if you sent them down with us. None of ours can speak it and the Russians seem
to be against the idea of sending one of theirs down.”
“I’m not sure,” said the captain, scratching his
chin. He turned to Tom, “Do any of our medics speak Russian?”
Tom was hardly listening. He was wondering why the
Russians were against sending a Russian doctor down. He turned to the captain,
“I think Greg Freemantle speaks it.”
“Yes, now that you mention it…, go and check. And
report back ASAP.”
Greg Freemantle was in sickbay. There wasn’t much to
do, but that was his station. He was reading Moby Dick. It was supposed to be a
classic, but he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to kill such
magnificent creatures. He’d read it before, and he’d hated the whalers then.
But for some strange reason he felt drawn to reread it. He couldn’t tell why,
because he didn’t enjoy it. Or at least, he didn’t think he enjoyed it.
His train of thought was destroyed when Tom Nedrey
raced through the door. “Do you speak Russian?” he asked.
Greg replied in Russian. Then in English he asked
“Don’t worry, just follow me.” Tom said and then
left as fast as he had appeared. Greg raced after him. They dashed through the
belly of the sub to the rec. area. Tom looked around, looking for someone, then
raced further forward toward the bridge.
Tom burst onto the bridge and glanced around. The
captain wasn’t here either. He asked the officer on watch where to find him.
“Conning tower,” came the reply.
Tom spun around and raced to the ladder and started
climbing. Just behind him was a very confused Greg Feemantle.
Greg emerged into the sea air. He looked around. The
captain and the first officer were arguing again. Greg didn’t know Kerry was
even back. Tom marched up to the captain and said something. The captain nodded
and addressed both of them. “Get on the run-about. They’re waiting for you
“Both of us, sir?” asked Tom in disbelief.
“You heard me,” said the captain.
Tom and a now very confused Greg boarded the British
run-about. “Where are we going?” asked Greg at his first opportunity.
“Down to the Kursk.”
Greg was too shocked to realize that it wasn’t Tom’s
voice that answered him. Tom knew though, and turned to the newcomer.
“Darren! What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Same as you. I’m an engineer and the captain wants
me to find out if the Kursk’s safe and why it sank,” Darren Black explained.
“What do you mean by safe?” Greg asked, suddenly
“What I mean is that the
Nuclear Generator might be leaking radiation. That’s what this is for,” he
explained, patting a scanner he was carrying.
Greg wasn’t very comforted.
“We’re going in that thing!” said Greg when he saw
the LR5. It looked very small. From above it looked like a white version of a
“Don’t worry, it’s bigger than it looks,” a British
sailor said. He handed the three Americans diving suits. They weren’t the bulky
type and were made for maneuverability.
“Why?” asked Greg.
“In case the mini-sub springs a leak, or in case the
area with the hatch in the Kursk is flooded,” the sailor replied.
“That makes me feel so much better,” grumbled Greg.
After they were suited up the three entered the LR5.
Tom’s first impression was that it was bigger than it had looked. At second
glance he realized how small it was and how many people were crowded in it.
Nobody was wearing their helmets and Tom could work
out who was who. The three pilots were up the front. There was the Russian
translator, a British doctor, and a British engineer. All up there were nine
people in the sub and very little room.
They had obviously been waiting on the Americans and
sealed the hatch as soon as they arrived. Tom Heron sat in front of the portal
in the front with Eric beside him. Sam Samson had his head up a little raised
portion with more portals in it. Everybody else simply stayed out of their way.
“Read?” Tom Heron asked.
“Check,” Sam replied.
“Aye aye, captain,” Eric said. His carefree attitude
was gone and they all seemed focused on the job at hand.
“LR5 to fleet, we’re ready to go, release tethers,”
Tom heard the sound of ropes and cables being
detached from the top of the sub. The radio reported the LR5 was clear. Tom
thought he could feel it floating free.
Tom Heron glanced at Eric, “Battery power?”
“Full charged and ready to go.”
“Then we’re off.” He touched a button and the
familiar dive siren echoed through the cramped space. “Rig for deep submersion!
The LR5 shuddered as it blew an air tank. It slipped
beneath the surface and all sense of motion ceased. The engine whirred to life
and the double screws started up.
Once underway the pilots seemed to relax. Eric
turned and faced the others. “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome aboard the
underwater helicopter. I hope you enjoy you’re flight. The exits are located
here and here.” He pointed to the hatch they had come in and another one set
into the floor. Tom guessed this was so they could dock with something without
turning upside down.
Greg turned to the American Tom, “I wonder what the
in-flight movie is?”
The trip down seemed to take ages. Tom watched the
three British pilots. They seemed hard at work almost constantly. Now and then
an alarm would sound or a light would start flashing, but they seemed calm, so
Tom guessed it must be nothing to worry about.
“Almost there, lads,” said Eric staring intently out
the portal. There was little to see except hazy water and millions of bubbles
caught in the glare of the sub’s lights. “We’ll see it soon.”
Tom and all the other passengers stared through the
murky depths, their eyes hunting for anything that might be the Kursk.
Suddenly it appeared. Gliding out of the murky haze
floated the shape of a nuclear submarine. It looked like the black ghost of a
Nobody on the LR5 spoke a word as the spotlight
floated over the hull of the sunken vessel. It started from the rear and the
screws and moved forward. The sub was sitting almost upright on the ocean
floor. The spotlight glided past the conning tower and forward toward the
Tom held his breath as the light moved to the front
of the Kursk. It played along the curved nose. This was where a torpedo
explosion should be obvious, but there was nothing. Except from where it had
hit the bottom, the front seemed to be fine.
Tom Heron guided the LR5 around and started back up
the other side. Halfway between the nose and the conning tower they found the
There was a gash in the side of the sub. The metal
had been bent outwards, evidencing an internal explosion. The torpedo room was
further forward. Whatever sunk the Kursk, it wasn’t a torp. Neither was it a
shot from another vessel.
Tom Heron broke the silence when he announced they
were heading for the emergency hatch. The Russians had been down here, but had
been unable to open the hatch.
Tom Heron knew exactly where to find the hatch. Once
there he didn’t know quite what to do. He offered that choice to the two
“We can either try and open it using a robotic arm
from the sub, and risk flooding everything if the internal hatch is open, or we
can hook up and try to cut it open using the oxy-torch.”
Darren and the British engineers looked at each
other. The preferable option was to hook up and cut through, but it would waste
a lot of time. Both decided it was worth the work. “Hook ‘er up.”
Tom Heron maneuvered the underwater helicopter right
above the hatch and latched on to a near-by rung on the Kursk’s hull with one
of the robotic arms. The LR5 was now tethered to the Russian sub.
“Eric, extend cordon.”
“Aye, sir.” Eric skillfully worked the controls that
extended the short cordon from the bottom of the LR5. It was a round tunnel
that looked sort of like the sucker mouths on some small fish. It covered the
entire hatch and sealed itself to the hull of the Kursk.
Eric initiated the pumping out of water in the
cordon and it’s replacement with oxygen. A gauge showed the condition in the
cordon changing from red to green.
set, sir,” Eric reported.
three LR5 pilots put his helmet on. “I suggest you do the same, the link might
not be completely secure,” he told his passengers. Tom and the others rapidly
put theirs on. Tom was surprised he could still hear. It was either very well
made, or had a microphone outside and speakers inside the helmet. There was
also a radio, so he could communicate with the others in the group. He felt
like a spaceman about to board a strange spacecraft.
“Ready?” Sam Samson asked. Everyone nodded.
Sam moved to the hatch in the floor of the mini-sub
and pulled it open. There was a slight hiss of air and the hatch opened. They
could now see the inside of the cordon and the black contrast of the Kursk’s
emergency hatch beneath them.
The Russian interpreter suddenly pushed to the
front. “I can’t let you go down there yet. Not until you all sign this.” He
pushed a piece of paper in their faces.
“What is it?” asked Eric.
“Just a waver saying you won’t tell anyone, even
your immediate superior and defiantly not the media about what you find on the
sub. You can talk about the survivors or corpses, but not the Kursk itself.
It’s standard Russian policy never to give away intelligence about our armed
“We don’t have time for this,” the British doctor
complained, “there might be dying people down there.”
“I have orders not to allow you to access the Kursk
until this is signed.”
The British doctor glanced at it and signed it, “We
don’t have time to worry about this.”
Eric took the document and read it carefully. “It
all seems to alright, lads,” he said and signed it. Everyone else followed his
lead and signed it.
“Alright, now back to business,” Eric said and
turned back to the hatch.
The British engineer was the first one to go. He
leapt down the cordon. Tom suddenly realized that there was still gravity. He
had expected the engineer to float down. He remembered he wasn’t in space or in
water. Gravity was normal here.
The British engineer took up almost all the room in
the cordon. He took a wrench from his suit’s belt and hit the Kursk’s hatch
with it. It hit with a dull thud. The engineer swore. So did Darren behind Tom.
“Flooded!” cursed the engineer.
The British doctor spoke up. “Just cause it is
doesn’t mean the whole sub is. We may as well look.”
“Probably,” admitted the engineer, though his voice
showed he thought it would be a waste of time. This was where the Russians had
reported hearing someone tapping the inside of the hull.
Darren went and got the oxy-torch and handed it
down. The engineer just took it. He said nothing as he started trying to open
the hatch. Nobody felt like saying anything just now.
Half an hour later he freed it up that he thought he
could open it. The seal still held, so the hatch had water underneath it. Greg
had already commented on this. Theoretically, Darren had explained, the water
shouldn’t be a problem. The air-bubble in the LR5 should be enough to hold the
water back when the hatch was open. This would make entering the sub much
easier. Otherwise they’d have to continually use the cordon like an airlock.
When the engineer announced he intended to try the
hatch, Sam shut the LR5’s hatch, sealing him in the cordon.
Tom Heron and Eric Wrightson communicated with him
over the radio and watched via a camera mounted in the cordon.
Tom, Darren, and Greg stared at the screen as the
British engineer opened the hatch. It seemed hard work, but finally it swung
open. Water bubbled up and filled the bottom of the cordon, but then moved no
further. Tom breathed a sign of relief.
“I’m going in,” the engineer reported.
“We’ll stay in contact the whole time, lad,” Eric
The engineer half-jumped into the whole and
disappeared from view. To Tom it seemed as if he had just vanished from the
face of the earth. They waited a few minutes in silence. Then as if a ghost his
voice came over the radio.
“I’m in the airlock chamber. The inner door is shut,
but it’s flooded too. I’m going to open.”
“Keep us informed,” Eric asked.
“It’s a little stiff…, there, got it.”
“Can you see anything?”
“Not yet, I’m going in.”
Everyone in the LR5 held their breath waiting for
news. No suspense thriller is ever like this, Tom thought.
Suddenly the voice came back.
The engineer swore.
“What was it!” demanded Eric.
“A body,” he swore again, “There’s more of them. There’s a heap of bodies down here man.”
The engineer sounded very distraught and spooked.
“I’ll go down there too,” the British doctor said.
“We need to find out if they were killed straight away or if they survived and
we were just too late.”
Sam went and very cautiously opened the hatch. The
water level didn’t rise. He checked the doctor’s helmet. “Ok, you can go.”
The doctor dropped down into the cordon and then
into the blackness of the Kursk.
“I suppose we all should go down,” Greg said,
sounding as if that was the last thing he wanted to do.
Eric Wrightson leapt into the darkness of the hatch
and disappeared under the water. Tom was next. He sighed. Darren and Greg were
behind him, waiting. He climbed down into the cordon and paused. He was more
than slightly nervous about what he’d find down there. “Oh well, here goes
nothing.” He said to himself and leapt into the void.
He had expected the diving suit to keep the cold out
and was struck by how could it was. It was also pitch dark as he fell. His feet
brushed something as he slid deeper. It was the inner hatch. Then he found himself on the deck of a flood
nuclear submarine. Around him the others had torches and were shinning them
around. Tom switched his on and immediately gasped.
The light had hit a floating body. Tom hated the
look of a drowned person and the fact that they still floated around made him
very uneasy. The British doctor was already examining one of the bodies.
Behind him there was a dull thump as Darren landed.
Darren saw the bodies the next moment and looked as though he was going to be
sick. He held it in and switched on his own light.
Greg fell through the hatch and landed clumsily
beside them. He looked sad at the sight of the bodies, but they didn’t worry
him that much. He walked over and started examining one.
Tom and Darren were busy trying to work out what
happened. There wouldn’t normally have been anyone in the escape area, so they
must have survived the initial blast.
Tom had no real purpose here and so he just looked
on while everyone else did their job.
Ten minutes later they had set up portable lights
and could see the chamber clearly. The two engineers had already checked the
doors leading out and they were both flooded.
The British doctor had discovered a note on one of
the bodies. It was in Russian and the interpreter had read it out. He said it
had been written in the dark and thus was slightly hard to read, that meant it
had been written after the explosion had sunk the sub.
The note was mostly to the submariner’s family, but
it had information about the explosion. The sailors hadn’t known what had
caused it, and those who had survived had clustered together here. They had
survived for hours at least until the water stared creeping in.
The rest of the note had fallen apart in the water
when the doctor had touched it. Everyone had to be careful whenever they
touched it because it had almost dissolved. The Russian had taken it back up to
the LR5 where Tom Heron was and left it there to dry off.
Apart from discovering that the sailors had had died
from drowning after the accident and that they could have been rescued if the
Russians had been faster, they had done nothing else. They were no closer to
determining why the sub sank in the first place.
They had another hour’s worth of oxygen and decided
to explore the rest of the sub. It was a risky choice for many reasons. By
opening doors, they risked drowning any survivors that might be all right
somewhere else, they risked flooding the LR5, and they risked exposing
themselves to radiation from the nuclear generator.
Darren and the other engineer opened the door that led
toward the bridge. It was a slow process walking through the flooded corridor.
Every time they came to another door they had to check if it was flooded before
proceeding. Finally they made it to the bridge.
The bridge was a mess. There were bodies floating
around here too. The Russian identified one as the captain. Tom grimaced as
they found the Russian second officer.
All the lights were out and the computer and radar
equipment was silent and dark. It seemed like it had been here for years. Tom
still thought it reminded him of a space ship in a science fiction story.
By now Tom was starting to get very cold. The suit
was doing a good job, but he couldn’t stand it for too much longer.
The others quickly finished searching the bridge,
but found no record of what caused the explosion. The bridge seemed to have
been flooded almost immediately.
Darren and the British engineer opened the hatch
leading forward toward the bow. This area also appeared to have been flooded immediately.
This meant that if there were any survivors, however unlikely, they’d be in the
opposite direction. Tom Heron, by radio from the LR5, ordered the team to
split. The British and Russians would go toward the aft section looking for
survivors and the Americans and Eric would head for the torpedo bay.
Another hatch clanked open, but this time it was
different. The water wasn’t clear like before, now it was all murky. There were
small fish and plants floating about too. This meant they had entered the part
of the sub with the hole in it’s side.
Tom caught his breath as he looked around. This area
was a real mess. There were the definite remains of an explosion. The side had
burst outwards toward the sea and he could see the ocean bed. He was hoping no
sharks or anything swam through the opening.
While Tom was worrying about sea creatures, Darren
was already working on the cause of the explosion. The hatch he had just opened
must have been shut when it happened, otherwise the other compartments would
have been damaged too. That meant the Russians had been prepared enough to
close the hatch before hand.
looking around at the remains of another body. It must have been here when the
explosion occurred because it had been burnt and blown apart. He was actually
trying to determine if it was only one person or more.
It was Eric who brought them back to reality. He did
this by swearing loudly. “The thing’s still got power!” he exclaimed.
Darren turned immediately and stared. He was right.
On the opposite wall to the hole, a light was shining. It was only a little
light on a computer screen.
Darren waddled over and studied the computer. It
must be running off the remains of battery power. But how come nothing else
was? He glanced around and found a battery mounted into the computer panel. Why
would it have it’s own power source? But more intriguingly, how did it survive
the explosion. He had no idea about that. Perhaps it was simply lucky and
Somehow it was functioning underwater. All sub
equipment was made to cope with getting a little wet, but this seemed fine
after being submerged for days. Maybe it had been made extra resistant for the same
reason it had been given it’s own power source.
“Hey Greg! Come over here,” he called.
Greg floated over. “Yeah?”
“You speak Russian, can you use a Russian computer?”
“I’ve never tried it before,” Greg warned, but looked
at the screen anyway. “Would you believe it? It looks like DOS.”
Darren turned that over in his head. That would
probably mean the computer had lost power briefly and restarted. “Try to find
out what’s on the hard drive,” he said.
“I’ll try,” Greg said and typed in the Russian equivalent
The computer screen changed and showed a small list
of files and folders. “Some of these are programs, and some are documents,”
Greg explained. He typed something and a list of the documents appeared. There
was a heap of them. Greg began reading some of their names, “Phil.doc,
Philexper.doc, USAN-PE.doc, Chronosphere.ftg, Chronoshift.doc.”
He turned and looked at the other members of their
group. “Have you guys ever heard of the Philadelphia experiment?” he asked.
Darren, Tom, and Eric shook their heads.
“It’s a theory about the US Navy,” Greg started.
“Here we go,” thought Tom, “just the sort of thing
Greg would know all about.”
“The theory states that the USS Eldridge was used it
an experiment called Project Rainbow. According to the official report, they
were trying to make the ship invisible to magnetic mines. Other theories were
they were trying to make it invisible to sight by making a heat mirage. But anyway,
the strange thing is that the ship is supposed to have briefly disappeared and
then reappeared. The spooky part is that during the time it had disappeared
from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it had been spotted in the waters around
Norfolk Virginia. People claim it was transported there and back and maybe
through time. IT is also said that when the ship did some back, the crew didn’t
come back in quite the right places. It is said that some of them turned up
with their arm through a solid wall of will a railing sticking through them. It
is all theories, and the Navy denies any of it. Perhaps the Russians were
trying it out.”
Greg opened a couple of the documents as he talked. “These
docs have all the theories I’ve seen and more I’ve never heard of. They were
doing something alright.”
He opened the one named Chronosphere and gasped. It
wasn’t a document, but plans for some kind of generator. It was tubular in
shape with a clear dome on one end. Darren glanced around and immediately recognized
some of wrecked equipment around the room as coming from that machine.
“They did it,” breathed Eric.
“But did it work?” asked Tom.
“I’d say not, judging by the looks of the sub,” Darren
Suddenly Tom Heron’s voice cut through their
thoughts, “You guys better come up now. We’ve been down here for long enough.
Your air will start getting low soon.”
Eric responded and the four of them got ready to
leave. Darren started taking the computer panels apart and pulled out the
harddrive. “This’ll be proof,” he said, hoping the water wouldn’t damage it
anymore than it already had. He was extremely surprised the thing had worked at
all. It must have been made to work the Chronosphere no matter if the rest of
the sub lost power or was damaged.
The four of them made their way toward the LR5.
two teams met up in the LR5 and explained what they’d found. The other group
hadn’t found much except that the area they went hadn't been flooded instantly
and the crewmembers there had all moved to the escape hatch. There were no survivors.
No one really believed the story the Americans told them. If it hadn’t been for
Eric the LR5 pilots would have thought they were crazy. Only the Russian didn’t
say anything, he was silent.
Half an hour later the LR5 broke the surface amidst
the fleet of rescue craft. They disembarked onto a British ship but were met
first by a group of armed Russian soldiers. They were all separated, searched,
asked questions, and reminded of the document that they’d been forced to sign.
Darren had to surrender the harddrive and swear not to speak of it again except
to the others who had gone down there too. They were allowed, surprisingly, to
keep the letter they’d found and give it to the sailor’s family and publish a
little of what it said. Not even the captain of the Vigilance was allowed to
know why the Kursk had sunk or what it had been doing.
Eric, Tom Heron, and Sam Samson all went back to
work for McGreger’s and basically ignored the incident, the British officers
reported to the Prime Minister and his personal advisers, but nothing was ever
released, the Russian was promoted for his successful keeping of the secret,
and the three Americans continued to serve aboard the US Vigilance. The Captain
of the Vigilance demoted Kerry and had him assigned to another sub and briefly promoted
Tom to First Officer.
As soon as their mission was over and the Vigilance
touched American soil, Tom, Darren, and Greg were ordered on a flight to a
Military Base somewhere in the Utah desert. Here they were debriefed again and
shown the American version of the Chronosphere.
It was a working version.
“By the whales,” exclaimed Greg, “If we ever go to
war, we’ll be able to move around instantly.”
“They’ll never know what hit ‘em.” Tom said.