Revival Strategy

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1 year ago

author's note: I forgot the sun stuff. Also I ended this story pretty abruptly. Feel free to not read it. Maybe reread GrunkleStanwich's piece instead. It's pretty exciting.

When my exo training was complete, I had a last goodbye with my family at the submariner's yard. My dad gave me his old K-bar knife, just in case. My mom told me I'd be in her prayers. My wife hugged me, and my two girls hugged my legs, and I'm still not sure how I broke away. Love is a gold bond, not easily broken. It takes heat to melt that chain. Heat is what the deep sea folk brought. In their bombs, surface charges, las flares, and thinblades. They brought enough heat to melt my bonds of love and send me out to battle.

A man is transformed by his love for his family. I believe that. If a stranger threatened me, I'd walk away. If he took my wallet, I'd let it go. But threaten my family? Take the bread from their hands, or the ground from under their feet? I'd break every bone in that stranger's body. I'd chew his tendons to scraps. I'd put on an exosuit, breathe through a tube, see with computer eyes, and journey twenty thousand leagues under the sea if that's what it takes to keep my loved ones safe. More than any of that, I'd die for them.

In this war of the super- versus the sub-aquatic, the front line is anywhere the ocean laps at the short. Vacation destinations become battlefields. Lakes tucked away in the hinterlands become points for subterfuge.

When I was a boy, my dad would take me fishing on the weekends. The two of us would head out in the hushed hours of the morning, when the fog was thick on the water and it was as though the nature meditated before the onset of day. The water held such promise. Its dark blue was that of a magician's cloth, concealing such wonder I couldn't believe. Before my unit descends into the Atlantic, I take a last look at the ocean surface. The wind is down, the ocean lies still. Its blue is a tarp over a snake pit. Beneath it, I'll find only death and dying -- whose, time will tell. It saddens me that the water's blue is no longer my friend. The deep sea folk have taken memories from me.

My unit descends on foot. What surface-going vessels remain to us are kept in naval yards. The early days of the war demonstrated the futility of patrolling above the enemy. Their surface charges made steel wool of our toughest destroyers. We expect cover from submarines, but only at critical moments. The rest of the time, we'll be alone. Just a squad of sixteen submariners moving through the black water.

Just below the surface of the water, things aren't much different. The sun twinkles. Clouds move. We see each other through viewports. The colors of our red and yellow corps crests show clearly. After only five minutes walk down the gently sloping terrain, the colors have vanished. Only the blue light of the sun travels this far down. The longer wavelengths are absorbed. Not longer after that, blue goes, too. We move through a prolonged twilight toward eternal night. Our computer vision snaps on. The world becomes white outlines of objects identified for us by neural networks. Down here, it's all black and white. Given our mission, that's it should be.

The deep sea folk came for our sea trade first. A Japanese fishing vessel vanished. Few news stations reported on it. As far as anyone was concerned, they had a spot of bad luck and sank. Nobody made much of the fact that they didn't have time to put out a mayday. It was just some fishing boat.

Then another fishing boat vanished. And a third. News junkies took notice. Ichthyologists denied that any fish could be to blame. Fringe bloggers reported kraken sightings. It was the sinking of the Caribbean Queen, just off the coast of Florida, that changed the story.

The ship was returning to dock after completing a three-week tour of the Caribbean. Thousands of people milled around on the docks -- some waiting to pick up their family members, some preparing to board the Caribbean King and Caribbean Prince, berthed on neighboring piers.

Survivors describe the sound as a chest-deep thrum. They they felt it before they heard it. It rattled their hearts in their ribcages. This thrumming grew in intensity until it hurt to hold their teeth together. At the moment of crescendo, a column of water three hundred feet high burst from the far side of the Caribbean Queen. Or that's what people first thought. More columns followed the first, and they blasted lumber, furniture, and people high into the air above the ship. The ship took on water at an incredible rate. Still more columns followed. In less than a minute, its integrity failed and it split into individual pieces. Dock workers rushed to lifeboats, but before they could approach, the floating pieces of the ship began vanishing, hauled under the surface by forces unseen. The same fate came for those people swimming to shore.

The Caribbean Queen Incident made international headlines. Witnesses provided dozens of camera videos of the events. The evidence was irrefutable. Something was attacking ships. The Sea Oceanographic Association sent out diving vessels to investigate, and those vessels never returned. The world's navies mobilized. They too suffered losses. But a small Italian torpedo boat, which had been patrolling alongside a larger destroyer, scored a lucky hit when its destroyer was being destroyed. The torpedo boat captain made the bold decision to torpedo a piece of the destroyer at the moment it was about to vanish beneath the surface. The torpedo detonated before reaching the destroyer. What it destroyed was revealed to be a three-person submarine of a design never before seen. It was seaweed green, made of a strange metal that warped under electrical current. It propelled itself by means of warping its tail side to side -- swimming, like a fish. Inside the submarine were two women and one man. Pale-skinned, white-eyed, but undeniably human.

This was the first time, in thousands of years, that a surface dweller had seen one of the deep sea folk.

The target for our mission is a forward base of the deep sea folk. It was identified by means of drone-controlled submarine. The drone itself was captured and decommissioned within seconds of discovering the base, but it had time enough to send back sonar footage of what looked to be three crawling transporters.

We follow a ravine along the ocean bottom that intersects with the crawlers' path. As luck would have it, our seismometers show their rumbling, and the intensity is increasing. We look good to intercept them.

Our LT coaches us over direct-beam comms. "Stay focused. Hold to your training. Remember, we want someone alive."

When the crawlers cross overhead, we fire explosive rounds at the complicated workings of their undersides. Two of the crawlers rupture. The people within will surely drown. Meanwhile the third takes hits only to its legs. That's the one we move in on.

Once we get it open, we discover that only one of the inhabitants is still alive. We take them back to the surface. Along the way, their breathing apparatus ruptures and I offer to share mine. This begins a bond of friendship between the two of us. His name turns out to be Folil.

Over time I learn that the deep sea folk only attacked our ships in the first place because we made life unlivable for them. The noise was overwhelming. This changed my perspective on things, but to protect my family, I ended up going back to under the ocean to make war on Folil's people.

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