From the land of first drafts, a scene from New Persia: The Tempest, book 2 in the New Persia series, now being written. Farad has been rescued by the submarine “Yunes,” after crashing his plane into the ocean. The Yunes is engaged in fighting an Azanian invasion fleet:
Captain Azeri let no emotion show on his face. “Sonar, conn, report all contacts.”
“Yes, sir,” came the call from below. “Explosion effects, sir. Can’t hear anything over the reverberations.”
Azeri nodded to himself.
A moment later, “High-speed screws! Bearing zero-one-five, bearing is constant!”
A fast ship was heading right for them.
Azeri ordered, “Left full rudder, all ahead two thirds!”
The helmsman responded immediately.
“Come to course two-seven zero,” Azeri said.
In a minute the submarine was heading due west.
Azeri checked the battery capacity and frowned. Although the Yunes was the best submarine ever built, it’s ability to stay submerged was limited. Eventually, the power stored in the batteries would run out, and the sub would have to go to the surface and snorkel again. Moving at a higher speed used up the batteries more quickly.
Farad’s head jerked up involuntarily. The submarine crewmen stood still as if nailed down. The sound resonated like a tuning fork throughout the steel hull.
“They are looking for us,” Azeri explained. He did not seem bothered by Farad’s presence at all. “It is their sonar signal.”
“Did they find us?” Farad asked. He kept his voice cool.
“I do not think so,” Azeri said. “I believe we moved away too quickly. This boat is made for speed.”
Farad remembered the curved shape of the hull on the surface and how it had looked like a whale. The boat was streamlined like an aircraft.
The boat shook. The sound of explosions rumbled through the steel skin of the submarine.
Farad’s eyes widened.
“Not close,” Azeri assured him.
How does he know? Farad wondered.
As if to answer his thoughts, Azeri said, “When it is close, you will know.” He smiled wickedly.
“Come right to three-two-zero,” Azeri said. He was turning back toward the Azanian ships. “How long until the tubes are reloaded?”
“Tube one in one-five minutes,” the fire control officer answered. “Then ten-minute intervals.”
Azeri grunted. Torpedoes took a long time to reload.
He checked the battery level again and didn’t like what he saw.
“Navigation, prepare a course to come at the enemy transports from the west. I want another shot before—”
Azeri was interrupted by the blast of Azanian depth charges. Farad was knocked over and hit the deck hard. The overhead lights went out. The red emergency lights flickered into life a few seconds later.
Men around the compartment staggered to their feet. In their eyes fear finally materialized. Farad was afraid, too.
As soon as everyone was back on their feet, the boat shook again. This time the entire hull rolled to the side. The motion tossed men like dice in a cup. The lights went out again and Farad heard the first cries of panic in the darkness.
“Silence!” came the voice of the chief of the boat.
“Status!” said Azeri in a clear voice recognizable in the dark, colored only by disgust.
The incipient panic ended immediately. Men reported from their stations with voices reflecting their struggle for self-control. No one ran, and no one failed to answer.
Farad’s own fear threatened to strangle him. Here he was, underwater, in a steel pipe with no power, destined to fall ever deeper until the weight of the water outside crushed him like a bug. There would be no grave for him. No one would ever know what had happened.
He fought down the fear with disgust. How could he, Farad Hashemi, listen to fear, which he had ever before held in contempt? No matter he was underwater in darkness instead of high above the clouds. Death cared not. He had only the time he was given, no more, and the fate God ordained would be his. If it was his time to die, he refused to die in a panic. He could do better.
Fortified, he pulled himself to his feet and stood. He was leaning against a piece of equipment bolted to the wall. The floor was at a steep angle and his feet slid sideways when he tried to walk.
A battle lantern switched on. Its light played across the darkened equipment. The lights and indicators all over the control room were out.
“Short,” someone said in the dark.
“What is our depth?” Azeri demanded.
“I, don’t know,” said the helmsman. “The gauge stopped at two hundred five meters.”
“We could be sinking,” said a wavering voice.
The beam of the lantern swiveled to lock onto the sailor who had spoken.
“Secure that,” said the chief.
“You,” said Azeri, pointing at the man. “Go aft to maneuvering room. They do not answer the sound powered phone. Find out what has happened and come back to report. Now!”
The man fairly leaped down the ladder into the compartment below.
The emergency lights flickered. Farad held his breath. The lights stayed on. With a loud click, the equipment around the room came back to life. Fans began running around the room.
Azeri’s eyes went immediately to the depth gauge. It spun quickly to three hundred meters before slowing down. They were still falling beneath the water toward the bottom.
“Navigator, what is the sounding?” Azeri asked.
The man looked at the chart to make sure before answering, “Five hundred meters.”
The hull creaked. It sounded like a block of metal being crushed in a vice.
“Chief?” Azeri asked.
The chief of the watch had rushed to the ballast controls as soon as they had reactivated.
“Number two ballast is flooded. I’m blowing all the trim tanks on starboard side. I’ll have to compensate with flooding on the port side to right the boat. We have a list of twenty degrees.” In response to the captain’s unasked question, he said, “I don’t know if we have enough air to maintain depth.”
Farad remained silent. It was not his place to voice his feelings. Azeri had much to think about.
Azeri tried the phone again. This time someone answered. He spoke rapidly into the receiver. Curt questions were followed by short answers. Farad didn’t understand what he was talking about, and did not ask.
The boat righted itself on its keel, but the depth gauge still spun downward. Four hundred meters.
The crewman Azeri had sent away returned up the ladder from below.
“Sir,” he said, “maneuvering room reports the main battery shunt in slot 2 is cut and there is no power to the motors. They are bridging the gap now. If they succeed they will have full voltage from slot 1, but nothing from 2.”
“Thank you,” Azeri said.
He looked at the chief, who glanced at two large switches on the bulkhead next to the dive panel.
“Not yet,” Azeri said.
The chief nodded.
Farad had asked about the two switches earlier in the day. They were for emergency use and would blow all the ballast tanks at once, driving the boat to the surface. The boat would have no control over its depth once the switches were thrown. The boat would surface if enough reserve air remained.
The would break the surface and be surrounded by Azanian warships bent on avenging the ships the Yunes had torpedoed.
Farad understood Azeri’s choice. Blow all the ballast, and the best to hope for was surrender. Or hope the engineers could repair the battery shunt before the boat was crushed by the weight of the water above.
“Can you stabilize our depth?” Azeri asked.
“Not with number 2 ballast tank flooded,” the chief said. “If we blow all the air we might rise high enough for the pressure to be overcome by the pumps. I don’t know how big the leak is.”
Azeri grimaced. The depth gauge rolled to four hundred fifty meters.
The hull groaned. It sounded like a huge beast screeching in pain. Metallic creaking ran down either side of the boat.
“How deep?” Farad asked, before he could stop himself.
“Maximum test depth for this submarine is three hundred fifty meters,” Azeri said. “The shipyard was wrong.” He pointed. The depth gauge read four hundred and sixty.
He heard a crack like a gunshot from downstairs. Azeri was at the top of the ladder in an instant.
“Flooding in torpedo room!” came the call from below.
Without being ordered, the chief had already turned on the forward pumps. Men ran over the deck below toward the bow. Seawater sloshed under their feet.
Azeri picked up the sound powered phone and called maneuvering again. “Status!” he demanded.
He gritted his teeth at the answer.
Above them, more explosions in the water shook the boat. The depth gauge accelerated its descent.
Four hundred eighty meters.
Azeri closed his eyes and nodded to himself. “Chief,” he said, and began to point to the emergency ballast switches.
The sound powered phone growled. Azeri snatched it up. “Status!”
“How?” he asked. Then, “no matter.” He hung up the phone and gave the order, “All ahead flank! All rise on the planes!”
The helmsman and planesman leaned into their yokes to turn the control planes at the bow and stern to their maximum up angle of fifteen degrees. Aft, the two electric motors roared to life and the Yunes’ single propeller spun up to its maximum speed.
The depth gauge slowed its descent. It stopped at five hundred meters. It sat steady for a moment, before rolling upward.
The control room crew exhaled.
The boat clawed its way upward through the heavy waters of the deep.