|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 3||February, 1999|
"How's your air doing?" Brian Toss hung 'weightless' in the midst of one of the water filled caverns of the McCallen network. he took a look at his own air gauge on the monitor that hung from his left shoulder. "I'm at eighteen hundred, lots", replied his partner Todd Booth.
"Come on guys, we've got another three hundred meters to go before you guys are on your own. Lets go." Brian twisted around in the spot lights of the Water Viper Heavy Gear that followed the pair of divers. The Gear's pilot, Sue-Anne Miller had been riding the two divers without break since the exploration team set out on the dive, and Brian was really beginning to tire of it.
"Let's go Todd, it's starting to get chilly anyway." Brain could feel the chill of the 2 degree Celsius water start to creep through his heavily insulated dive suit. Todd simply nodded and the two divers grabbed their hyrdo sleds and continued their dive.
With their sleds pulling them through the caves, the divers were able to cover the distance to the mouth of the cave that they were to explore in no time. "I've popped the hatch on the cabinet for the spare tanks. You guys can grab them now." Sue-Anne's voice crackled in Brian's ears through the speakers in his helmet. "It looks like you should be able to get your sleds in at least for a while, you might as well take you air in with you on the sleds", continued Sue-Anne.
Brian had already swum over to the back of the Gear where specially designed compartments had been built to house spare air cylinders for dives just like these. He paused for a moment to look into the inky blackness that surrounded them all beyond the glare of the Gear's spot lights, and the lights in his own helmet. Tiny phosphorescent plankton swirled around his visor. A shiver ran down his spine suddenly, and Brian quickly looked back into the lit area of the caves. Considering how strong his fear was of the dark, it always surprised Brian just how well he had taken to commercial diving.
"I've got the tanks, we're outta here." Brian swam awkwardly over to his partner and passed him one of the spare cylinders. The two divers quickly stowed their extra air and prepared to enter the narrower cave. "I'll take the lead." stated Brain, guiding his sled out front. "Let's do this", urged Todd from behind him. The two divers entered the cave and quickly left the glare of the Gear's spotlight's behind them.
It almost looked as if it were snowing to Brian as they passed through thick clouds of the glowing plankton. Their disturbance left a shimmering trail behind them as they passed deeper and deeper into the caves, almost as if it were a spectral trail left behind from the dead returning to the underworld. One of the many of species of jellyfish that lived in the caves drifted by, feeding on the rich concentrations of food.
Brian approached on branch in the cave that narrowed to a little more than a meter and a half. "Let's leave the sleds here and change our tanks." Brain stopped next to the cavern wall and anchored his sled to a small stalagmite that rose from the floor. Todd flashed the "thumbs up, and brought his own air bottle over to Brian. "We've go to switch tanks, so we're going to be out of contact for a bit, I'll let you know when we're done." Before she could reply, Brain turned off the channel back to the gear and grinned at Todd. Todd must not have killed his link quickly enough because Brian could see Todd wince from what was no doubt a shrill verbal assault. When the two were ready, they quickly switched their tanks with practiced ease.
When the two were ready to resume their dive, Todd took the lead. The cave narrowed somewhat as they progressed, but it only served to make Brian feel more comfortable. As long as he could see the ground, the blackness didn't bother him. He noticed idly that the concentration of the jellyfish was increasing, and before long, the two divers couldn't avoid the fist sized creatures. The cavern had become filled with the small creatures, throbbing gently in the currents of the underground tides. "Are you getting this?" Todd rolled over onto his back and allowed his helmet light to illuminate the hundreds of translucent globes that filled the small space.
"I've never seen concentrations like this before in the wild" Brain replied as he poked a finger into one of the soft creatures. "Maybe they are breeding or something." Brain watch as the tiny tentacles wrapped around his gloved hand. Even without the protection of the glove, the tiny pneumocysts would have done little more that given a person an itch. Brain looked up his partner who continued to roll around in the thickening clouds of the jellyfish. It was then that Brian first noticed what appeared to be a strange shape behind his partner, sitting just beyond the reach of their lights in the inky darkness beyond.
"Hey Todd, what's that up ahead?"
The way Todd Rolled over told Brain that he had been unable to keep the edge of concern out of his voice. The beam of his light slashed through the water and the growing numbers of jellyfish like some sort of laser. "What the hell are you doing, scaring me like that? Geez!"
Whatever Brian had thought he had seen was no longer there. "Sorry man, maybe I'm starting to get narced. What say we head back, this is starting to give me the heebie-jeebies." Brian could hear the hiss of the air entering his helmet increase with each breath as his anxiety level began to creep up. "What do you think?"
"We've barely started, and if we turn around now, I might have to kill Sue-Anne in the very near future once she begins to hassle us."
There it is again. Brian stiffened involuntarily as the shadow reappeared behind Todd. Todd must have read his body language, because he spun around quickly again. "Cut that out..." The light from Todd's helmet flashed across what could only be called a writhing mass of teeth and tentacles.
"Prophet save us!" Todd's cry overwhelmed the speakers in Brian's helmet, causing his ears to ring. A long, pale tentacle lashed out and clamped onto Todd's left thigh. Whatever it was chewed through the nine millimeter foam dive suit without effort. The governor of the volume finally kicked in and reduced Todd's frantic screams to a dull mumble. The water around Todd had turned into a crimson halo, and more of the tentacles had clamped onto the thrashing diver.
Brian barely noticed as he bashed his tank on the wall of the cave as he struggled to turn around. "Sue-Anne, Help!" Brian was no longer able to see the glow of Todd's helmet light before he realized there was no response from the Gear. He realized then that he had not turned it back on after changing tanks. Sue-Anne has no idea what was going on. Brian hit the switch as he continues to kick frantically to put distance between himself and whatever had attacked Todd.
"Are you guys there yet? You are going to be in so much..."
"We..got to ....get outta...here!", Brian gasped into the mike, pulling each breath from the masks regulator by force.
"What the hell is going on out there? Why did you leave Todd? What is that on Sonar?" Sue-Anne's rapid fire questions went completely unnoticed by Brian. He burst out of the smaller cave and into the grotto where the hydro sleds were parked. Sue-Anne continued to demand answers over the radio, but Brain was much to busy getting the sled started. When at last the propellers began to turn, Brain crushed the throttle button beneath his thumb with all the strength he could muster. The spinning props sucked in a pair of the jellyfish, and spit them out as a cloud of mush as the sled lurched forward. Brain never looked back as be sped away from his diving partner of the last six years.
Marine biologist made a fascinating discovery in the McCallen Networks today after investigating the death of a diver last week. Initial reports of some fantastic monster that kept residents out of the water for nearly a week have been quelled with the dicovery of a new species that inhabits the most remote corners of the network. Scientists are calling the new species Booth's Hydra, after the diver who lost his life during the first encounter with the species. The creature is described as a "large, omnivorous invertebrate that feeds primarily on local species of jelly fish." Scientists claim that the diver's death was a result of "excessively close proximity to the creatures food source." Having seen the remains of the diver that "discovered" the creature, this reporter thinks that anywhere within half a kilometer of the beast would be too close to the food source. With news of the discovery spreading, Baja has begun to see something of an increase in tourist in the past week, both scientific and other. The question is, how long will it be before any of them get back into the water?
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 1, Number 3||February, 1999|
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