Under the Sea
"C-could you give me a hand h-here?"
Scott turned to see Brains almost losing his grip on two of the new components they were using for building the replacement to the demolished Mobile Control. Scott hurried to help the scientist, taking one from Brains' arms so that Brains could reposition his hands for a better grip on the remaining piece. They moved the parts over to a work area, where the mulitple pieces of the new unit were spread out on a tarp. Brains was almost ready to put the components together and begin testing the hardware while Tin-Tin worked on the upgrades to the software. The new unit would be much less bulky, with flat screens that folded out on two sides, a main keyboard, a mulitfunction microphone, and an antigravity unit to make it easier to move. It would fold down to the size of a washing machine, and new clamps would be installed in the belly of Thunderbird One just to accommodate the smaller box.
"I-it's good to have a d-day where your f-father is not, uh, underfoot, so t-to speak," Brains said with relief in his voice. Scott nodded. He knew that the engineer had been frustrated by the constant interruptions to what he saw as his more important work. Scott looked over to where Gordon and Jeff were working on Thunderbird 4 together. How did Gordon get him to do that? he wondered. I'll have to ask. Hopefully I can do as well when my turn comes.
"Okay, Dad. Release the laser barrel!" Gordon said into his telecomm. Jeff, inside Thunderbird 4's cramped control room, nodded and toggled a switch. The laser beam's barrel slowly eased out of its port in the front of the small submersible. Gordon frowned.
"That's much too slow," he said, making a note on his checklist. "Looks like we'll have to lubricate all of the bow mechanisms."
"F-A-B, son. Do you want to get started on that now?" Jeff asked. Gordon nodded.
"It's probably the biggest maintenance issue I've seen today," he replied. "I'll go get the special silicone lubricant, and then we can work on getting the nose off for maintenance."
"F-A-B." Jeff responded.
Gordon strode over to where Scott and Brains were working, passing them by and heading to the supply closet. Scott took a moment to follow Gordon into the closet.
"How's it going?" Scott asked.
"Great! Dad is being a big help. I can hardly wait to scuba with him this evening. Makes me wish the coral spawn was tonight!" Gordon said with enthusiasm. He reached up for the jar of silicon lubricant and searched around for some work gloves to protect his hands while he applied it.
Scott listened to his brother, amused. It's almost like he were a teen again and Dad had promised him a special outing. "Sounds like you've got things under control. Just make sure you're not too easy on him during your dive tonight. We want him to see how difficult scuba can be, not how much fun it is."
Gordon gave his brother a puzzled look. "But, Scott. For me, scuba diving is fun. Making it hard will be difficult in itself. But I'll try." He clapped Scott on the shoulder and took his supplies back to Thunderbird 4.
Scott was taken aback by Gordon's comment. Fun? Scuba diving fun? Then he thought of himself in Thunderbird 1. I guess it's like the feeling I get flying my rocket plane. I'm going into danger and maybe even death, and I'm having the time of my life doing it. He chuckled wryly at the image then turned back to Brains when he heard the engineer call.
"This camera equipment is top of the line, Gordon! An excellent choice!" Jeff observed as he looked over the kit. He sat in his wetsuit on one of the benches that lined the edges of the cabin cruiser's deck. He put the lens he was examining back into its compartment and closed up the carrying bag, then joined Gordon at the helm.
"How much further to the reef?" Jeff asked. Gordon turned to him with a cheeky grin.
"Almost sounds like one of us during a car trip when we were kids, Dad." he commented. His voice became nasal and shrill, "Are we there yet?" Jeff laughed at Gordon's impression of himself as a whiny child.
"Point taken, Gordon." Jeff held up a hand. "Now, refresh my memory. This artificial reef, what did we use to make it?"
"Mostly rock from our excavating the Island. Not anything really exotic like old cars or shopping carts or defunct shipping. Just good clean rock. The coral really took off here, too. There are some spectacular varieties adding to the reef as well as dozens of great tropical fish species taking up residence here. Between the coral and the fish, the colors are amazing! I want to do a survey of the fish as well as see if there are any new corals and how far the older ones have spread." Gordon gave his father a look. "I'll admit that I'm not sure if the coral will spawn tonight or not. But the conditions are favorable."
"Sounds like a very involved project, Gordon. I had no idea that this was such an interest of yours." Jeff smiled a bit. "I should have realized it, of course, but there's so much about the sea that I don't know....."
"It's okay, Dad. There's a lot about space that I don't know. We each have our spheres of interest. I'm glad you agreed to come out in mine today." Gordon smiled back, his cheeks flushing pink. He looked around. "I think we're here. Let's drop anchor then we can finish suiting up."
The two men helped each other with their tanks, checking and double checking their air gauges and going over the hoses, making sure everything was perfect for this dive.
"Keep an eye out for sharks, Dad. I've got a shark stick with me. Do you have one?"
"Yes, son. I do," he replied.
Gordon grinned. "Good. Definitely do not want to swim these waters unarmed, eh, Dad?"
Jeff hooked his stick onto his suit's belt while Gordon picked out the parts of the camera he wanted to use right then, putting them together. Then the two men put on their face masks and jumped in.
Jeff was blinded at first by the bubbles created by his own entry into the water, but the bubbles soon cleared and he was able to see Gordon swimming ahead of him.
"You with me, Dad?" Gordon's voice sounded directly into Jeff's ears through a set of mini-speakers under the hood of the wetsuit.
"Right behind you, Gordon," he said into the microphone built into the full face mask. He was still amazed at the quality of the equipment that Brains had designed. The mask itself was the breathing apparatus, a clear polyhexane shield that covered his face from chin to forehead. Special regulators on the sides released the carbon dioxide and regulated the moisture that could condense inside the mask and make vision impossible. He could breathe as easily as if he were topside and speak as easily, too.
But his mind was torn from the marvels of the technology that helped him breathe when he approached the reef and was confronted with the marvels of the sea before him.
The fish! So many colors, shapes, and sizes! He could hear Gordon's voice murmuring in his ear, even though his son was actually doing a running commentary to a recording device on the cruiser, verbally making notes about what he had discovered on the reef. The extent of the reef amazed Jeff, too. It seemed to extend for a half mile or more. He knew that not all of the excavated rock had gone into building it, but still, there was an awful lot of it!
The recording went on for over an hour, with Jeff swimming just behind Gordon. Every so often he would ask Gordon a question about the sea life he saw swimming around him, and Gordon would answer with an eager tone to his voice. Finally the commentary stopped, and Gordon turned to his father.
"This looks like a good place to set up the camera, Dad. Would you give me a hand with it?"
"Sure, Gordon. Just tell me what needs to be done."
Together, they set up the weighted tripod in an area of clear sand at the base of the pile of rock where there seemed to be a good concentration of brain coral, the rounded lumps with the curvy ridges and valleys that suggested the surface of the human brain. The camera itself was simple to put together, but difficult to attach to the tripod. Jeff could hear soft cursing from Gordon as he struggled with mounting the camera to its support. Then there were the lights to be set up as well, three of them. They would be turned on by remote control from the boat.
Jeff noticed that the clear waters were becoming more and more murky as the sun went down. It was getting harder and harder to see around him, and Jeff was concerned about their return to the cabin cruiser.
"There, that's done!" Gordon said, turning to his father. Jeff could barely make out the face behind the mask, and Gordon's grey wetsuit didn't help matters. He seemed to blend into the murky water. Jeff was glad that his own wetsuit was black and neon orange; between the two colors, Gordon should be able to see him fairly well.
Suddenly, the water became black as the sun finally disappeared below the horizon. Jeff found himself disoriented by the lack of light. It almost felt like the sensory deprivation training that he had gone through during his astronaut days. There was no up or down, just the empty waters around him. His heart rate began to increase, and his breathing as well.
"Gordon? Son? I'm a little lost here. Did you bring along a light to guide us back to the boat?"
Jeff swallowed, hard. His mind went back to the terrible testing, the dark silence of the tank in which he had been suspended, much like he was now, deprived of sight and sound and touch.
I will not panic.
"Gordon? Where are you?" Jeff fought hard to keep his voice steady, to not let his rising fear show.
Suddenly, someone or something grabbed him. Shark! was his first reaction, and he fumbled at his waist for the shark stick. But then something tapped gently on his face mask. Tapped gently in a code that Jeff recognized.
"Comm out." was the simple message. Jeff reached out to find his son's arms around him, pulling him. We must be headed towards the surface, he thought, and began to kick, helping the pair to move along. After what seemed like an eternity, Jeff's head broke the surface. Above him were a multitude of stars, shedding their light so that Jeff could see Gordon a mere yard away from him. Gordon turned him around, and he could see the outline of the boat just a dozen yards away from them. Jeff breathed deeply, and began to swim strongly for the craft.
They pulled themselves aboard and sat on the deck, pulling off the face masks, pushing back the close fitting hoods, and leaning back on their hands. Gordon looked at his father, saw how pale he was in the starlight, and almost regretted turning off his comm link. But Scott had said that he shouldn't go easy on their father, and that was the hardest thing about his job as IR's resident aquanaut that Gordon could think of: diving alone in dark, unfriendly waters.
Jeff put a hand on Gordon's arm. "How did you know I was having trouble?"
"I couldn't sense you behind me. There's a special movement to the water when two people are diving together; a special ripple, if you will. I couldn't feel it, so I knew you were stuck somewhere. I called you and that's when I realized that the comm was down." Gordon was glad of the dark that kept his father from seeing his blush of shame, "The neon stripes on your suit are actually fluorescent, so finding you was easy." Jeff looked down to see that the orange edging did glow in the dark of the night around them.
"I'm truly sorry, Dad. I didn't expect us to be out quite this late so I didn't think we'd need personal lights. I should have taken them anyway, been better prepared." Gordon hung his head.
Jeff put moved his hand to Gordon's shoulder. "You can't anticipate every scenario. How many times have I sent you out on rescues with the equipment I thought you needed, only to hear you or your brothers say, 'I wish we had such-and-such here.'? And equipment fails, usually when you expect it least, and need it most." Jeff grinned. "Murphy's law in action. The main thing is, Gordon, you kept your head and came looking. And that's what mattered." He let out a pent-up breath, running his hand through his hair. "I don't mind telling you that I was feeling a sense of déjà vu down there. I felt like I was going through sensory deprivation training all over again."
"Oh man! I remember that! Wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy!" Gordon exclaimed. Then he stopped to think. "Well, there's one guy I would wish it on. But he's the only one and he'd probably enjoy it anyway." Jeff knew that Gordon was referring to their old enemy, Belah Gaat.
"Well, son, now that we're back on the boat, let's turn on those lights and see what's happening down there on the reef." Jeff got up from the deck stiffly, stifling a groan, but offered Gordon a hand up. Gordon waved his hand away and lithely picked himself up off the deck. He stepped over to the viewer that was set up near the gangway to the cabins.
"Okay, now. Lights, camera, action!" Gordon programmed in the codes and pressed a key or two and a faint light covered the water about 30 yards off the starboard side. He turned his attention to the vid screen and saw the coral and the other rooted life on the rock formation in clear, vibrant color. The lights had scared the fish away, but that was a momentary thing, he realized. They would be back.
Jeff sauntered up behind his son and admired the camera's clarity. "I'm going to get us something to eat. That dive worked up a real appetite."
"And you wonder how I can eat so much!" Gordon joshed. "Doing what I do takes lots of energy!"
Jeff laughed and headed into the tiny galley to gather food and drink for him and his son.