Vessel Name: Classified
Current Location: 56.6333° N, 0.6667° E
Captain Hewitt stared out into the darkness. What greeted him was an autumn downpour lit buy the ship’s exterior floodlights and highlighted by the red interior light of the bridge. The rhythmic swell of the ocean could still be felt even on a vessel of this size and this made him look instinctively to the sonar screen off to his right.
Nothing. Nothing for miles and miles. Of course, that was the point. Adding to it, the mission that he was a part of was being conducted at night. In a storm. The oceanic equivalent to a no-man’s land surrounded him. Of course, there was something out there, the reason for their mission, the things hiding in the darkness – not around them, but below them.
A second sonar screen showed the relay coming from a tethered submersible directly below. 650m down is what the depth gauge was showing. “Any normal man would think that they were near the bottom.” Hewitt said out loud. It was mostly to himself, but there were three others manning the bridge with him tonight, not that he expected any to answer back. But to his surprise, the female radar technician spoke up.
“Begging your pardon Captain, but if they aren’t near the bottom, what is the depth we are expecting? The North Sea should be approx 700m deep. Sir. ”
“That is correct Corperal. But the depth of our specific coordinates have been subject to change. It’s why they call it ‘The Devil’s Hole’. ”
…And I wonder if he is home tonight…
45 minutes from surface
“I swear to Christ George – you shut that shit off or I am going to claim you got nitrogen sickness and I had to knock you out.”
“Taylor is amazing Watson. Besides, I am not going to listen to you grunt and fart for 45 minutes while we descend.”
“You just keep pushing Oliver, you just keep pushing. You’ll learn that soft desk job you had is where you belonged.”
“Right. And chubby hard asses like you belong where then?”
“You both shut the hell up and remember the mission. I do not want to hear another spoken word from either of you until we reach Point Zero.”
Oliver and James scowled at each other and despite the low light each could see the disgust in the other’s face. “Yes Mum ” they agreed in Unison, both sounding like scolded children.
“Field Agent George?”
“Keep the Taylor playing.”
A wave of satisfaction swept over Oliver as he looked at James and gave him a shitty grin. James hated having him on Field missions now, and the fact that he seemed to do everything right was obviously annoying the veteran.
15 minutes of Taylor later…
“Approaching Point Zero. Switching to manual control, bringing down sonar strength.”
“You know he’ll still know we’re around right? Those membranes on the sides of his head aren’t for show.”
“No shit Sherlock. Any other creepy factoids you want to share?”
“You mean like the fact that we are tethered to a ship that he could easily sink, and that we have just purposefully halved our sonar range whilst looking for a giant monster? Nah.”
“Are you both done? Report.”
“Still descending at 745m, we are in the debris field surrounding the entrance. Switching on lamps.”
“Understood. Continue until you pick up the signal or make acoustic contact.”
“Aye, roger that. Approaching entrance. Engaging radio silence.”
“Understood. Try not to wake anything. Surface Out.”
Oliver’s mind was racing. This was his first field mission and after months of training he was finally looking at the lair entrance of the creature he had spent the last several years studying and monitoring. In fact, the beacons that they were going to be swapping out emit the very same signals he was monitoring beforehand. But his nerves were frayed. Although Georgie had not made much of an appearance since World War 2 and the advent of sonar, he was, and is a creature that could decide to go walk about at any time.
The fact that Georgie had not ventured far from this lair in decades was no scientific mystery. His large membranous “ears” were specially evolved to pick up sound in water. Sonar is the equivalent of playing heavy metal around a grumpy old man who cannot turn down his hearing aide. But the world was taking no chances. Although considered a low level threat based on his temperament, Georgie was a true leviathan, and then it was also well established he was carnivorous. The beacons that James and Oliver had been sent to retrieve and replace emitted a low level sonic deterrent. Just annoying enough to make Georgie avoid them, but not bad enough to rile him up. When conveniently placed just inside his lair’s entrance, they were also undetectable by ships and subs passing overhead. The beacons sat in large sockets that fed the sonar readings naturally generated as a byproduct to large cables. The cables then trailed off into the distance. Where they came out was classified above Oliver’s pay grade, but it was obvious why the location of where they emerged to transmit their signal was kept secret.
It was Oliver’s job to watch the screens for movement and to listen for the telltale sign Georgie was home….his heartbeat. In the pitch black darkness at this depth, infrared lamps illuminated the surrounding area so that sensitive cameras could pick it up. They didn’t bother the current resident because they were not in his visual spectrum, and they didn’t advertise their location like sonar would. One of these days Oliver was going to have to dig through some files and find out how the powers that be found all of this stuff out.
James had done this 3 times before. If it weren’t for the damn giant lizard thing it would be a pretty easy job. A boat sails you out to a nice quiet spot, they drop you down, you plop a couple of beacons down, grab the old ones and head on up. Easy.
Easy with the right person helping you. Oliver was so bent on seeing this thing that he had barely mentioned much else. James did not want to see the giant death monster in the flesh. Television or the odd picture was fine. Besides the squid crabs were bad enough. They were the reasons that the beacons had to continuously be replaced. Georgie hated the big orange thumpers, but the whats-a-whose-its that Olly knew the name for seemed drawn to them. But so long as the governments of the world didn’t want to spend money solving that problem it was job security for him.
Sure enough they pulled up to the spot where the other beacons were resting. Dented, scratched and half way yanked out, they were hardly functional. James gave Olly a nudge.
“We’re clear, you’re a go.”
James nodded. Now it was time for the cool part of the job.
He slid his arms and hands into two mechanical sleeves which ended in special gloves. Pressing forward, a small shudder and a hum let him know that the sub’s external mechanical arms were now slaved to his movements. It was this reason that they needed a strong man type like James. While the arms were state of the art, the two-person sub didn’t allow for much room so strength to move the mechanical arms rather than miniature motors and servos had become a necessity. James also had the right disposition for the job. It wasn’t every man who had the nerve to wake up and do this job.
“Cephelotops infernus coming up on the right.”
“Pack a lunch.”
James made a fist with his left hand and a yellowish liquid billowed outside. Made from the rind of some South Seas fruit, the invertebrate nasties of the world hated the stuff.
Not into their fruits and veggies…
“You’re in the clear again, its moving off now.”
“Roger that. Hear big boy at all?”
“Nada, just the sub and what you are doing outside.”
“That’s a bit odd. He has a big ticker, it normally comes through loud and clear.”
“We’ll raise it when we get to the surface. He could just be stuck in there.”
“How would you figure that?”
“This place would be crawling with scavengers.”
“Fair point. First Beacon installed and the spent is secured.”
Another half an hour in relative silence and James had swapped out the second beacon. After testing that both worked he took his now aching arms out of the sleeves and took the controls of the submersible. It had been a pretty uneventful dive all things considered, best not to stick around and jinx things.
“Still nothing on the big guy?”
“Nothing. Honestly I am a little put out.”
“Don’t worry about it. Next year we’ll do this again and you’ll get a second shot at seeing your pal.”
“Listening is fine with me.”
“Now that we can agree on. Dowse the lights in 50 meters and increase sonar strength.”
James realised something just before they came to the mouth of the entrance, like an itch on his brain it had been there, pestering him for the last half hour…like he knew something was about to happen…and then it hit him.
Like a coiled snake, James’ arms shot out, his hand closing around Oliver’s MP3 player.
“No Taylor on the way up.”
Thirty kilometres away at the bottom of the North Sea.
The noise had made it burrow away. The long and tiring task had brought relief long ago, but it needed to wait now for one thing. Prey.
The natural secretions of its skin provided a nutritional banquet to smaller creatures at the base of the food chain. As it lied on the seabed, it appeared almost crocodilian. Only its eyes, membranous ears, and the sail of its back were exposed above the silt. The sail would catch the slow current at the bottom of the ocean, the smell of giant’s lure drifting for miles. This would attract smaller creatures, but these animals were not its prey. They were the bait for the quarry.
The low beat of the creature’s heart was a secondary lure. The thumps attracting the would-be predators and the curious within striking distance.
It could wait like this for weeks, for a whale, for the crawling things it had subsisted on at the other entrance of the burrow…or ideally something larger. It had been a long time since it had been satisfactorily full. The noise had irritated it, and had contained it, but now the noise was gone. It was free to hunt again.
It would wait and see if the new location was better than the last. But its hunger was growing…..it would wait a while longer and then choose another spot. This was its pattern of behaviour and unless an opportunity too good to pass up came along, it would not deviate from what had always worked for it before.