Jones is staring intensely at her screen.
“Trace if I’m reading this radar right, the Encephalon has anticipated an aquatic assault; there’s mines everywhere, and there’s something else, something in between the mines, the radar is being disrupted, I can’t tell what it is”.
“Lasers” Malcom states.
“You’re joking?” Davis replies.
Trace looks over Jones’ shoulder at the radar.
“Hmm the spacing’s are so exact, but they’re not perfect, they were limited to placing their mines a certain distance from the lasers, otherwise they’d set each other off. Either way the grid is too tight for our sub to fit”
From Trace’s tone the crew get an odd feeling.
“Trace…?” Blister worriedly asks.
“…I think I know where you’re going with this and I don’t like it”
Davis nods along with Blister.
“Do we have any other options?” He asks.
“Well not unless you want me to swim out there, disarm all the mines one by one and then somehow turn off the laser grid remotely so we can float through slower than plankton” She sasses.
The room quietens, Blister perks up with an epiphany.
“What if we…” “No Blister…” Trace cuts him off.
“…Shooting torpedoes at the mines would work, but we’d instantly give up our position and I’d rather not do that”
Blister lowers his head; defeated. Davis stands from his lean on the wall.
“I guess we’re swimming then, Trace? Who’s going?”
“We only have five sets of scuba gear, and I don’t mean to be bias to my own Cluster, but only F Cluster will be going”
“Phew…” Maxine spurts, wiping her forehead of sweat comically.
“…Sorry, I’m not glad you guys are leaving, I just didn’t want my period to speed dial some sharks around for dinner”
Blister raises his hand.
“Umm, I have my period too” He claims hoping to get out of the long swim he has in front of him.
“No Blister, we need you, the only reason F Cluster will be the only ones going is that we’re the only one’s fitted with faraday nanites to defend against EMP”
“Wait a minute…” Korvo begins.
“…I mean I’m not mad that you guys are the only ones that have that technology but why doesn’t the rest of the Uprising have it?”
Davis walks to Trace and stands by her.
“Artemis only had a small supply and he insisted it be used expressly for the purpose of attacking the Encephalon”
“And they’re also programmed to rewrite any Assimilation in case we get captured. We couldn’t tell any of the other Clusters because they would definitely feel that we were getting special treatment”
“We all know you guys were his favourite” Korvo states.
“Shut up Korvo you guys have fucking tunnels, we got sewers” Blister stirs.
Korvo laughs in agreeance.
“I can’t go…” Says Malcom, out of the blue.
“…The submarine needs me; no one else can do my job”
“Malcom, we need your expertise now, more than ever” Davis adjures.
“Yeah, it’s true Malcom, besides, while you are the best navigations officer we’ve had…”
“The only one” He mutters in the middle of Trace’s praise.
“…We can train someone, it’ll take a while but I think we’ll pull it off” She concludes.
“Fuck you, fuck all of you. Appealing to my ego like that”
Malcom sits down in his chair, stalling and squirming, wrestling with his thoughts. Blister walks up to the front of Malcom’s control panel.
“Come on Malcom, we can’t all have our periods, syncing’s a myth anyway… Right…?”
Malcom scowls at Blister and without breaking eye contact:
“On one condition, Blister is banned from making jokes”
Blister has a joke primed for situations just like this, but before he can vocalise it.
“Deal” Davis says.
He looks to Blister; his defeated head hung low.
“Blister, that’s an order”
Blister sighs and the Uprising enjoy a few minutes of banter-less productivity as they putter to their destination.
“Alright Cap, I’ve taken us around to the emissions array” Says Maxine.
“If we head West when we leave the sub we’ll be on the shortest route” Malcom adds.
“Ahem…” Trace starts.
“…Amani, I’m leaving you in charge, Maxine, as you were. Jones you got navigations, and Korvo, if any shit goes down I need you on weapons, until then keep an eye on Nox”
The new crew nods at Trace’s final orders.
“Safe journeys to you all” Says Maxine.
Amani places her hand on Trace’s bicep.
“Don’t forget Trace, you can reach us with your Morse responders and we’ll come in guns blazing through these mines, we won’t even hesitate” She reminds sincerely.
“Korvo…” Blister begins.
“…I won’t fail”
“I know” He replies simply.
F Cluster leaves the control room, they’ve saved their goodbyes for another time; for when victory holds them tight and they know for sure it’s over.
As they walk from the ladder to the docking bay, each of the members ponder over their recent decisions and fantasize about their future ones.
This is it… Elix thinks giddily.
I can finally end the Encephalon’s rule and save my parents.
Her mind flashes with images of her mother and father, and of the days she last saw them. It’s been so long for her that the visions are fleeting and drip into blurriness with every blink, until she’s left with a lump in her throat that expands with her motivation.
Davis’ Stride is certain and purposeful as he thinks.
Get better brother, I will be back, and when I am, we’ll go to mum’s lake and build a house. I’ll get you a dog like we used to have, and call it Mac. Ha, he’ll probably hate that…
Davis sighs, not loud enough for his team to hear him but enough for him to feel its release.
…I hope I get this right. You can’t fuck this up now Davis… I won’t fuck this up.
Blister’s thoughts reside with his family.
I know we’ll see each other again Charlotte, Jacob, my boy; I can’t wait to see you grow up and chase girls, or boys, whatever makes you happy.
He smiles, and nearly lets out a whimper through his imperceptibly grimaced lips; he coughs to cover it up. No one reacts; this isn’t the time for ridiculing one another of their deluging emotions.
“So, when we’re out there…” Blister gulps
“…If I shit my pants, will I be more or less likely to attract sharks?” He asks, nervously trying to tame his wandering mind.
“Same old Blister” Says Trace.
“Unless there’s blood in your stool you’ll probably repel them” Elix notes.
“I’d better hold it in then, just in case I need to pinch one off to get out of a pinch” He concludes.
Malcom has been chanting a mantra to himself since he made his deal with Davis.
You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them all. You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them all. You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them all.
He’ll endeavour to keep his mantra going as long as he can to keep his spirits up; to keep him focused long enough to complete his mission.
The group enter the docking bay; Trace’s mind is the only one trying to stay on the task at hand. She’s reviewing the sequence of their plan and thinking of the finite ways she can solve the innumerable complications her Cluster is sure to face.
But if she wasn’t pondering those situations; she’d be fantasizing about the day she tells Davis her feelings; it’s been in her head for some time now, and has long since turned from a frustrated young woman’s lust, that almost always ends in a negative way, to chaotic romance beginning with the victory of the Uprising and ending with their hearts thumping to the same rhythm and only skin separating their souls from entwining.
She’d wonder about her sister, she’d hope her parents were still teaching her the intricacies of electro-mechanical engineering, as they had done with her so many years ago. She’d be curious if her sister’s hair had darkened like their mother’s or stayed fair like their dad’s, and if she ended up being tall like him too or stayed little like her. She would wonder; if she thought it would help, she’d wonder.