Thursday, 31 October 2013

Pictonaut ahoy!

Another month, another image from the verbumancer. This time, we have been furnished with the illogical visage of a submarine in space. Pretty cool, no? Well, Halloween is coming, and it's beginning to look a lot like fishmen!

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The sirens began to sound a fraction of a second before the first shot detonated somewhere off the port side of the boat. Everyone on board felt the shockwave hit and the tub lilt over in the water, but while the regular crew took it nearly in their stride, Dr Stone was hurtled headlong across the bridge by his untrustworthy landlegs. The cut on his head, which he discovered as he righted himself, was new but his scowl was not.

"We can't," the professor began, but was cut short by the standard workings of a submarine in combat.

"Enemy to stern, sir. Sixteen hundred meters." The information was offered to the man stood at the centre of the chaos; stoic, strong built, their leader. Orders were barked in return - evasive manoeuvres, prepare to surface! In a moment of silence, Dr Stone took his opportunity to continue.

"We cannot let this discovery fall into enemy hands!" he exclaimed, as much to the air as to the captain, for his attention was elsewhere. "Captain Hargreaves?" the professor implored.

"Not the moment, Dr Stone," was the captain’s only reply.

"The exact moment, I am afraid," Dr Stone said. "We have no idea of the power or scope of what we have found out here. This could change the course of this war. Hell, it could alter the face of all mankind!"

"There isn't time, doctor!" The captain chastised the man. The professor was about to start his own counter offensive when another voice forced itself into the cacophony of siren song.

"Torpedo inbound!" came the cry from the comms officer. "Deploy decoy," came next and was swiftly followed with "Decoy away!" The shockwave of the explosion caused when torpedo and decoy met was less fierce than the first but was followed by an almighty bang followed by a half dozen new klaxons sounding, each with its own special type of warning, and each entirely incomprehensible to the professor.

"That was a depth charge," the captain explained. "The bastards are above us too!" Hargreaves moved over to the ship intercom.

"All hands prepare to dive!" He yelled into the microphone. Echoes of Dive! Dive! Dive! Spread around the ship and Dr Stone felt his stomach lurch at the sub quickly stalled in its ascent and began to plummet towards the ocean's depths.

"I really must insist you hear me, captain!" the professor tried once more. "Should the Nazi's get hold of this device..."

"Device?" Hargreaves shouted in response. "You don't even know what it is. It's a goddamn stone box we dragged up from the bottom of the sea! Even if it were some magical hocus pocus machine or whatever the hell you seem to think it is, I doubt it'll work to well after rusting to all hell on the sea bed!"

"Just because you can't understand it," Dr Stone began but was cut short by the sight of the captain's back turned rudely towards him. "Hey! Don't you dare..." This time the interruption came from the point of a gun as Hargreaves turned to once more face the professor. "What, are you going to shoot me now?" Dr Stone finally concluded, although the mocking confidence in his tone belied the terror that he felt at the sight of the weapon.

"Will you stop being so bloody melodramatic!" the captain insisted. "Here," he said passing the revolver to the academic. "If you think the damn thing is so bloody important, you go and protect it!"

"I'm really not comfortable..."

"Get comfortable!" Hargreaves yelled, thrusting the gun into Dr Stone's hands. A moment's more hesitation and Dr Stone took up the weapon and left the bridge.

"Five hundred metres from the sea bed, captain."

"Take her all the way down," the captain ordered. "We'll try and confuse their sonar. Order silent running.” The order was repeated and immediately obeyed. “Cut all engines, just let her drop, nice and gently."

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Stone was looking over his find when the order came through for silent running, moving his hands over the surface, caressing every flaw, each raised figure, examining in great detail all its ins and outs, trying to decipher what it might be and what it might do. He needn't be told to be silent. He would not sully this hallowed moment. As the doctor trailed his fingers over the runic symbols that covered the box, he found one that felt as though it were loose within the setting of the stone. Gingerly, he fiddled around with the protruding shape, until, by intuition more than anything, he pushed his finger down onto it. The switch gave way and slid into the device with ease. The thing came to life! The grinding of some centuries old mechanism forced its way into operation. Something deep in the heart of the box, something that felt like it came from miles away, yet the device was no bigger than a man's head, began to shine, emanating a deathly, pale blue glow around the small store room in which Dr Stone now stood. Each edge of the near perfect stone cube lit up with this ghostly pallor. Presently, four conjoined lines of light grew wider and brighter and one side of the box slid away revealing beneath a small, cylindrical button of stone, a slightly darker hue than the rest of the device and Dr Stone felt the overwhelming urge to push it.

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"Fifty metres from the surface," the captain was informed. "Forty... thirty... twenty... ten."

With a soft thump that resounded around the entire boat twice the submarine found the bottom of the sea. Now all there was to do was wait. Captain Hargreaves moved over to his comms officer, indicating for a report.

"They're still up there sir," the officer whispered. "I get three U-boats and..." The man was interrupted by a noise from somewhere further down the boat, a noise of the scrape of metal against metal, but muffled, as though it came from outside the submarine. As the crew of the bridge waited, the noise came again, louder this time and followed by what sounded almost like an implosion and the rushing of water.

"Shit!" Hargreaves exclaimed, moving over to the intercom. "Report! What the hell was that?" A moment's silence followed and then the reply came.

"We're being boarded sir!" the crackly voice came from the speaker. "Some kind of disgusting, I don't know, some thing, has broken through the hull, we're taking on water fast! They… they’ve got gills and… oh God!" This was all the captain managed to receive before the radio went dead.

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Dr Stone had heard all that had gone on from within his store room and now he could see the first trickles of water coming in from beneath the door. He turned back to his device and held it tight as he heard the shouts and bangs of combat from the halls of the submarine. He could only see one hope now, and it was such an outside chance that the doctor had to laugh to himself, even as he considered it. But consider it he did, and he could come up with no alternative course of action. Besides, if he was going to die, he must know what the machine did first. His mind made up, the doctor struck down hard on the button of his device.

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Deep in the cold blue depths of the ocean, and high in the cold dark regions of space above the Earth, a simultaneous and precisely identical faint shimmering began to occur. Quickly, this ripple in reality grew and shaped itself into the outline of a submarine. On the sea bed, this anomaly surrounded first a real submarine, actual and whole, and then, a split second later, it surrounded nothing. In the vacuum of space, the faint undulations of the cosmos were as nothing at first, and a split second later, there was a submarine. The water on the outside of the boat quickly froze in the shadow of the Earth, and that inside stopped flowing in and began flowing out, carrying with it piscine intruder and crewman alike, out into the deadly emptiness of the universe. Not a soul on board had time to even guess at what had occurred, nor to take in the incredible sight that lay before them. Shortly, from out of the darkness a large dark shape slipped into being, vast but unseen, engulfing and capturing the small earthly vessel which now floated serenely and unmanned, at least by the living, above its home world, before sliding silently back into the unending blackness of space, leaving behind once again the empty vacuum and the unaware, blue marbline planet and its pointless and terrible war.