Operation Ivy Bells - A Novel of the Cold War

By Robert G. Williscroft

Action & adventure, Thriller

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5 mins

Chapter One

I hung motionless in the frigid water a few yards from the spherical Personnel Transfer Capsule a thousand feet below the surface. It was pitch black, except for two beams of light emanating from the PTC that terminated in white circles on the sandy bottom a hundred feet below. In the crystal clear water there was virtually no diffusion. I felt motion beside me and turned to see a flood of bubbles rising from Harry's plunge through the PTC hatch.
We each had a hundred feet of umbilical snaking back into the PTC, where Bill, the third member of our party, kept the slack out of our umbilicals and stood by to help in the event of an emergency. I put a finger in front of my mask indicating silence. Harry gave me a thumbs-up. We started drifting downward, not paying any attention to our depth. After all, we were saturated to a thousand feet; down was good.
"Red Diver, what are you doing?" Master Chief Ray Harmon was having a conniption topside. As the Sat Dive Unit's Master Saturation Diver, he was running the dive under Lieutenant George Franklin, the Officer-in-Charge.
"Checking something out, Control, just checking something out." I increased my descent and Harry followed suit. I could hear my distorted voice in my earphones.
"Red Diver!" It was the Master Chief again.
"Red Diver, aye." I needed to delay him for just another twenty seconds.
"Return to one-thousand feet NOW!" He was pissed.
"Say again, Control, say again." I needed just another ten seconds.
"Lieutenant McDowell, get your ass back to the PTC…NOW!" Oops, that was Franklin, and he was really pissed.
"Roger that." I scooped a handful of sand and stuffed it in my leg pocket and looked up at the PTC. It appeared as a lighted jewel against velvet black. Our activities near the bottom had stirred up some detritus, and the water around us sparkled with light flickering off tiny silt particles – an alien, fairytale world.
I gave Harry two thumbs-up, and we slowly ascended, our umbilicals snaking above us, live serpents in the frigid water. Inside the PTC, Bill recoiled the umbilicals to take up the slack. It took us less than two minutes to get back to a thousand feet; our total excursion had lasted no more than four minutes. I pointed to the expanded metal work bin attached to the outside of the PTC. Harry pulled out the make-work project for this training dive, and we started screwing screws and turning bolts.
And that's when it happened!
My first impression was a flashing shadow through one of the light beams, a flicker just below my threshold of awareness – something big and fast.
"What the fuck was that?" Harry squeaked, his voice distorted by helium and electronic descrambling.
"Green Diver, report!" That was the Master Chief.
"Jeezus…" Harry dropped down three feet and grabbed my left fin. I felt him trying to pull me toward him, toward the hatch. "Mac…the hatch!" Harry's desperation came right through his squeak. Then he jerked and let go. "Kee…rist!"
"Red Diver…what's going on down there?" That was Franklin.
Off to my right a green phosphorescent shape flicked into and out of existence. A pink one materialized to my left. Suddenly, from right in front of me, something bright blue hit my faceplate with the force of a sledge hammer.
Everything went black. I don't mean I passed out…everything went black, literally. I reached up and discovered a really large thing covering my entire helmet. It was smooth and spongy, and it was undulating. I heard a scraping, grinding noise against my faceplate. Something wrapped itself around my left arm, jerking my hand away from the pulsing mass. I pulled my arm back, and felt a rush of cold water enter my suit at the wrist. A tear…whatever it was had torn a goddamn hole in my suit! What the hell can tear a hole through compressed, nylon-reinforced neoprene? That shit'll stop a knife!
That's when I noticed that I still held a ten-pound steel wrench in my right hand. You don't move things fast underwater, but I put as much force into my haymaker as possible. The wrench sunk into the mass attached to my helmet, and in a flash it was gone. I could see again. Several feet ahead of me I could make out two elongated hooded shapes arrayed vertically in the water, pulsing green to pink to blue. Large, almost human eyes as big as my hands gazed at me.
"Control, Red Diver…we got some kind of company…three or four giant squid, I think…" I looked down at Harry, backed up warily against the PTC just below me, dive knife glinting in his hand. I could see a big tear in the left shoulder of his hot-water suit. "Harry…you okay?"
"Yeah…what the fuck! Squid? You're shittin' me!" He waved his knife. "One of those fuckers took a chunk outa my suit!"
"You or just the suit?" I asked.
"Just the suit…I think. No blood in the water."
"Mac…" It was Franklin. "You guys get back into the PTC ASAP!"
"Working on it, Control…" One of the creatures hit the top of my helmet hard. Tentacles draped down the entire length of my body. I could distinctly feel razor-sharp sucker teeth dig into my suit. "Harry," I yelled, sounding like a compressed Donald Duck through the helium and electronics, "get this fucker off me!"
I felt Harry come up between me and the PTC and repeatedly stab the creature's carapace. With that, my personal squid apparently had second thoughts, as it unwrapped itself and disappeared. The other two with their changing color patterns continued to hang about ten feet away, large unblinking eyes evaluating me. It seemed as if they were communicating by color and pattern. Suddenly, the right one went dark, dropped its tentacles straight down, and began to undulate. Two thin, suckerless tentacles danced around the creature in a meaningless pattern. I transferred the wrench to my left hand and pulled my knife from its sheath on my right leg. Then, in a blinding white flash, the eight foot squid whipped to horizontal, and propelled itself tentacles first directly at my chest. As it approached, its tentacles rolled back, forming an eight-legged basket filled with a thousand sucker teeth. In the center I could see a mouth as large as my helmet surrounded by a ring of razor teeth reflecting the squid's phosphorescent pulses.
I jammed the wrench as hard as I could directly into the gaping maw and left it there. I grabbed an upper tentacle with my left hand and sliced. It was like cutting tough leather. I sawed frantically while the squid grabbed at my hand and knife with two other tentacles while keeping a grip on me with the rest. After what seemed like an hour, but actually was less than a minute, I held the detached writhing tentacle in my left hand. I tossed it away, still squirming like a snake. With the tentacle out of the way, I could see the large, human-like eye, fully six inches across staring at me malevolently. I plunged my knife into the orb – once, twice, a third time. That did it! The two thin tentacles whipped around frantically, and the giant disappeared into the darkness along with its pulsating companion.
"Harry, where are you?" I was concentrating on the water in front of me, preparing for another attack.
"Right below you, Mac. Let's get the fuck outa here!"
A very long minute later I followed Harry through the hatch opening, and Bill pulled me all the way in.
"Everyone down there okay?" That was Franklin again.
"Control…PTC," Bill responded, "divers are back inside. Everyone seems to be okay."
Just then, the smooth water surface in the circular opening began to boil.
"Shee…it!" Bill shouted, as two thick tentacles darted through the surface and began whipping around the PTC interior. "Fucker's trying to get in the PTC!" Bill's distorted voice in my earphones matched his lip movements. His face registered not so much panic as total shock.
"Or pull us out," Harry added.
Bill and Harry grabbed their knives, slashing into the writhing appendages. I reached over the opening and grasped the hatch in both hands, pushing for all I was worth. I looked down into the six inch eye of the invading monster as I swung the hatch down. I sensed intelligence, driven by pure malevolence. The last thing I saw before I dogged the hatch was a half-sliced-through tapered tentacle tip, as it slipped back into the frigid water around us.
Harry removed his helmet and gave Bill a gloved high-five. From across the dogged hatch I gave them both two thumbs-up, and pulled off my own helmet and gloves. Then I grabbed a Ziploc baggie from my personal kit to fill it with my trophy sand, but when I felt my leg pocket for the sand, it was gone. Chalk up another one to the monsters.
"Control…this is Mac." I was sure they could hear the relief in my distorted voice. "To hell with the rest of this dive. Just bring us home!"



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