December 29, 1973 – The Devil and the deep blue sea

If you had asked me before how I thought I would feel about being in a submarine, I would have told you it would have been fine, maybe a little cool even.  Like Run Silent, Run Deep.  Come to find out that I don’t like being in a submarine at all.  It makes you feel like you’re being smothered and not in the way you might think.  It’s not being smashed into the tiny machine (it looks big from the outside) with a giant lizard and a fish woman, I can handle that, it’s the thought of all that water all around.   

I’m a pretty good swimmer, and I look damn fine in a two piece (it’s really something, trust me) but even if you’re a great swimmer, how far down do you really go?  Maybe ten feet?  Maybe.  Mostly you just splash around on the surface.  Being under the water, I mean really under, it’s something else altogether.  We’re probably only a hundred feet deep, logically I feel like if I had to, I could swim up a hundred feet to the surface. But I feel like I heard Jacques Cousteau saying on the TV that a hundred feet is deep enough for the pressure to start messing you up.   

I was supposed to be helping Blue do something with some kind of energymotron, instead I was chain smoking and trying to keep from having a panic attack.  Martialla told me not to smoke in the sub, but I told her to shut up.  Since I was drugged and left for dead in Madripoor, something like eighteen people have tried to kill me, but being in a submarine bothered me more than any of those murder attempts.  I think because I was just sitting there.  Someone tries to murder you, you’re running around and ducking and hurling cars at people, you don’t really have time to be scared.  This was like the Sword of Damocles.  That’s a thing right?  You just sit there waiting for your doom.

Somehow a submarine seems even more unnatural than an airplane or even a helicopter.  I about had a heart attack when Martialla slipped out of the pilot station and went out the airlock, but Blue assured me it was all part of the plan. 

I lit up another cigarette “The plan, the plan is terrible!  What are we doing down here?  Humans don’t belong down here.” 

Blue flicked his tongue in a lizard-eye brow raise “Am I still human?  Are you?” 

I shook my head “Martialla is just loving this I bet, seeing me shaking like a leaf while she’s in her dumb element.” 

“Why are you always on Martialla’s case?  I like Martialla, I like her a lot.  The three of us make a great team.  Why are you always talking trash about her?” 

“Me?!  She started it.” 

“When?  I feel like you were busting her chops from the moment you saw her come out of the water.” 

Before I could explain to him how wrong he was about how things started with me and the super-mermaid, the hatch on the airlock (waterlock?) opened up and Martialla came self-righteously clomping back in.  It always kind of creeps me out the way that water clings to her like some kind of second skin whenever she comes back onto land.  I think I saw a show on PBS where a water louse or something did that. 

I think she had a grim look on her face, although it’s hard to say with a face like hers “I’m pretty sure we have a problem.”

I groaned “Oh my god, you’ve killed us!  Wait, I’m the only one who’s going to die here, you can both survive the pressure!  This was your plan all along, wasn’t it?  Wasn’t it!  Get me down here where you have the advantage!  Well you’re not going to get away with it, I’ll kill you right now!”

She looked at Blue like someone does at a person who’s holding the leash of a dog that’s barking its head off before turning back to me “I just meant that I think we’re in the wrong place.  There’s an island up there but I don’t think it’s the island we’re looking for.”

Blue put his hand on my shoulder reassuringly “What makes you say that?”

Martialla gestured like there was a window for us to look out “The topography is all wrong, and all the defenses that the Count is supposed to have in place are absent.  I saw a few buildings, but it doesn’t look like anyone has been here in years.”

“I thought you said you knew how to drive this thing!”

She eyed me coolly “I do, obviously, since we’re here.  The navigation must be a little . . . wonky.”

“Or maybe you don’t know what the hell you’re doing!”

She shrugged “It’s possible, I never claimed to be an expert submariner.  Er, not in a submarine anyway.” She chuckled “It’s ironic really because . . .”

My hand was a little shaky as I took out another cigarette “Shut up damn it!”

She grabbed the cigarette away from me “I told you not to fucking smoke in here.  Do you understand how the air works in here?”

I threw my hands up “No, I have no clue how any of this works!”

“Don’t you think that means maybe you should listen to the person that does?”

Blue used the tone he often does when he’s trying to play peacemaker, the one I’m really starting to hate “Look, let’s not get wound up here.  We’ll surface, go ashore, take a little break, see if we can find some high ground and get our bearings.  We’re probably just a little off course.  We’ll figure out where we are and then go from there.”

Martialla nodded “Sure, but we may have to turn back if we’re too far off course, we have a bit of a fuel situation.”

I groaned again “We’re out of fuel?  You’ve killed us again!”

She crossed her arms “We’re not OUT of fuel Ela, we just . . .”

Blue sighed “Look, let’s just go check it out.”

Turns out that Blue actually isn’t a great swimmer.  I suppose he’s too dense?  He can hold his breath for a long time but he’s slow as molasses.  In the end it was was faster for Martialla to haul us both to shore from the sub.  She may be spindly and weak on land but she’s something else in the water, I have to admit.  I asked her if the sub was going to float away with no one on it.  She look at me like I was a moron.  Maybe half an hour later we were standing on a rocky outcropping looking down in a dell. 

“So what am I looking at exactly?”

Blue was still shaking slightly like he was trying to get dry “Well, I think this is Malimgum island.  On account of the airstrip.  I think it was claimed by the Dutch until the war.  I’m not sure who it belongs to now.”

“Sure, sure, and the plane down there?”

“That’s a 737 I think.  Sistem Penerbangan Malaysia, Malaysian Airline System for sure.”

“Uh huh, uh huh, and what do we think it’s doing here?”

Martialla snorted “It was hijacked Ela, don’t you read the news?”

“There’s no newspapers in English here and I don’t read well in French.”

Martialla threw her weird slimy arms up “There’s tons of English newspapers in Madripoor!”

“Yeah but none of them have the box score of the Tropics games.”


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