Antarctica Somewhere Under The Ice
Captain Maslow felt a slight shift under his feet as he braced himself against another blow that was bound to come.
Sweat beaded on his forehead as he stared at the sonar, Shaking his head, he bellowed
“Lieutenant Uvarova hold your course, steady…steady”.
Suddenly the sonar “Pings” ceased.
“Captain Maslow, there seems to be a malfunction with the sonar Sir”.
“Lieutenant Rzaev see if you can fix that..NOW”
“Lieutenant Uvarova update please”
“Captain switching to radar”
“Captain Maslow we have some kind of magnetic abnormality and it’s causing hell with our navigation and communication” Midshipmen Bartrev said.
Nervous looks came from everyone in the control room, as the tension was starting to wear them down.
They had been in the Ice Tube for days, hardly moving 2-3 knots, sometimes not at all.
The Ice tubes were found a year before by a Russian research team, warm fresh water from some unknown source had grooved caverns and tunnels through the ice into the Southern Ocean. It was thought the tunnels followed the natural curvature of the valleys of the mountain range that was under the ice, most likely the same as rivers flowed thousands of years ago.
The crew knew that one false move and the sharp Ice would cut into the sub and send them all to the bottom.
“Sir we are having malfunctions throughout the ship” Lieutenant Rzaev said.
Lieutenant Uvarova moved to Captain Maslow side, “Captain my men are scared and exhausted from all these break downs”.
Captain Maslow looked from face to face, knowing his men well, he knew they were tired and soon mistakes would be made.
Pulling out the picture of his family he kept in his shirt pocket for good luck, he touched the spot marked where he always rubbed the small gold frame when he held it.
Staring at the faces of his wife and the beautiful children his wife had given him, Ahh Pavlo…Nitca I’ll be home soon and you my beautiful Anna please hold a flame for me, for soon I’ll be in your arms.. Shoving the picture back into his pocket he said,
“Lieutenant Uvarova, full stop”
“Sir are you sure?”
“Are you questioning my command again Lieutenant?”
“Of course not Sir, I just feel we are close”
The Captains lean brown face looked troubled..
“Lieutenant we are officers of the USSR not gypsies with crystal balls”
“Full Stop and Now”
Lieutenant Uvarova yelled “Full Stop”
“Lieutenant now maintain our position and let’s change the guard”
Snapping to attention, Lieutenant Uvarova said “Yes Sir” while he saluted Captain Maslow.
Lieutenant Uvarova barked orders to his First Officer to change the guard.
“Lieutenant I would like a word with you in my quarters”
Turning to his second in command of navigation's “Take the helm”
Following the Captain out of the control room Lieutenant Uvarova braced himself for what was coming.
“Shut the door Lieutenant”
Turning to shut the door the Captain slammed him up against it.
Reaching around him the Captain locked the door and kept the Lieutenants head pinned to the door with his hand..
“OK Lieutenant I’m not sure what you and your men have been planning but I’m three steps ahead of you”
“Captain what the hell is this about, I have no idea what your talking about”
“Like hell Lieutenant you have been questioning my command since we entered this Ice Tube”
“Captain we have been searching these Ice Tubes for days trying to find a way to Vostok Lake, we are all exhausted”
Shoving his head hard into the door again.
The Lieutenant Stifling a cry for help “Sir we have been concerned for you”
Laughing the captain said “For me? I am fine” It is you who needs medical attention.
Keeping him pinned up against the door, Lieutenant Uvarova felt a knife point piercing his flesh.
“How would you like me to kill you right here and now for mutiny?”
“Sir I beg you, let the Doctors look you over, maybe it’s only something minor, maybe it’s radiation poisoning and your the first to show signs”
The Captain thought for a moment.
“I’ve not heard any warning of radiation leakage from the reactors".
“And what? Maybe the Doctor is in it with you and he gives me a shot to silence me forever?”
“Is that what you want Lieutenant?”
A crackle came out of the loud speaker and than the broadcast warning klaxon sound came next ….
“Captain Maslow to the bridge ASAP”
Releasing the Lieutenant, Captain Maslow hissed, “We’ll finish this later”
Knocking the Lieutenant out of his way the Captain stormed out of his cabin.
Lieutenant Uvarova touch the spot on his back and his hand came away with blood .
Pulling the Captains desk draw open he lifted out the pistol he knew was there and put it in his pocket.
Realizing fate had given him a crappy hand he headed for the door, “The time has come to put an end to this insanity”
Moving through the gangway he felt the Sub pitch forward as the ballast filled with air, as the nose of the Sub started to raise he thought.
“My God he is going to kill us all”
“Captain Maslow the sonar and radar are not reading anything above us”
“Thats impossible” but the words faded from his lips as his face turned gray with worry.
“Unless we found Lake Vostok”
A murmuring between the men in the control room turned to excited talk..
“Quiet now I need to think”
Surveying the faces of the men under his control the Captain realized there was only one decision to be made… “We are surfacing for Mother Russia”
“Fill the Ballast slowly, Lieutenant Korneyev”
“Raise the periscope” The Captain yelled
“Raise us slowly Lieutenant, I don’t want to be bumping into anything”
“Midshipmen Bartrev, can we talk to the Base yet”
“No Sir there has been interference since we entered the Ice Tube”
“What about Ultra-low FM band”
“How about carrier pigeon?”
Everyone in the control burst into laughter
Breaking the tension in his men before they surface would help in what lay ahead.
The Captain felt a jolt from under his feet.
“Sir we have surfaced”
“Surfaced” he rolled the word around in his mouth. It had been months since he had touched land.
They had already been two weeks out testing this new secret Class K-10 Double Titanium hulled Sub "The Kraken" a big brother of the "Leninskiy Komsomol" but with modifications for range, depth, food storage and a science lab, it could reach depths of 5000m and stay under water for years or until they ran out of food.
When he receive a dispatch with information for this detour, he was happy to serve Mother Russia until he read what they expected him to find, as the Americans say … a pin in a hay stack.
A wild goose chase of course, but who was he to question Mother Russia?
But now they were on the edge of a discovery that would gain them all medals…if they lived long enough to enjoy it.
“Lieutenant Vaelbe mark our location, date and time”
“Sir location marked, Date: 17th, July 1962
Perfect he thought, all eyes are on the Leninskiy Komsomol at the North Pole, a perfect decoy for him and his crew at the bottom of the world.
Grasping the periscope, he looked around the room, it was the first time he noticed the pungent smell of sweat mixed with oil and fear in the control room.
Searching the faces in the control room for any hope that may be left he knew they needed some type of hope,something to get them through this..
"Men we are on the eve of a discovery that has evaded mankind for thousands of years and we will soon go home as hero’s"
Cheers rose from the men, as the Captain turned his cap around and peered through the periscope.
Quickly he turned it another direction, than another as if he was searching for something..
The laughter turned into silence as the seconds turned into minutes as they patiently waited for some words from the Captain.
Frantically he swung the periscope left than right and around as if he couldn't believe what he saw.
"Mother of God" escaped his lips...
Behind him he heard a scream as his name was called…
“Captain Maslow I hereby remove you from command”
The Captain pulled his eyes from the periscope and stared at his own pistol that was aimed at his heart and the hand that was holding it ..slowly he lifted his eyes and looked into the face of insanity.