Note: This episode continues from part five of the series. -ed.
I do so dislike having guns pointed at me. I become all nervous, and don't know where to look. In this particular instance, I was being herded along within a U-boat, on my way to an untimely demise. The thing about U-boats is that they're very cramped. There's no room to manoeuvre. Under other circumstances, I would have gone for the gun or tried some spectacular getaway, but here nothing presented itself.
My destination presented cold comfort – the Kriegsmarine sailors who urged me forward were prodding me in the direction of the nearest airlock. My grave, it seemed, was to be watery. A sudden bolt, and I'd doubtless get myself shot – was that better than being shoved into the Med, Lord only knows how many feet down? I was between Scylla and Charybdis on this one.
Such pondering was short-lived. There was a resounding clang against the hull that echoed through the whole sub, a series of judders and a sound of metal on metal. From the other side of the bulkhead in front of me came a burst of strange "ZOT, ZOT" noises. I glanced at my two guards. They seemed as confused by the sound as I was, which made me feel better. Perplexity loves company. As the bulkhead wheel began to turn, however, their indecision lifted, and both the submariners bolted in the opposite direction. I stayed, waiting to see who was on the other side.
It was Emily. She was in a borrowed naval uniform, and held what appeared to be a huge pistol in her right hand. Well, it had a pistol grip and a trigger, at any rate. Atop the handle was a boxy construction of brass and leather the size of a loaf of bread. A narrowly tapering cone protruded from the business end, while on the very top of the box, what look like a small silver umbrella rotated at an angle. The whole effect resembled the curious offspring of a camera and a bugle. I was about to say something, when I saw Emily flick her gaze towards something over my shoulder. I turned to see a more determined sailor, armed with a pistol. A strange sensation of motion slid by me, and the sailor dropped out cold to the floor. When I turned back to Emily, she was still holding the device out, pointing at the sailor.
"What on Earth is that?" I said.
"Oh, hullo Emily, how are you? I'm fine, thank you Piers," she retorted.
"Sorry," I said.
"It's a knock-out gun," she said, "Now come along." And with that, she turned to go back through the doorway.
I followed her through, to find that a man-sized hole had been punched in the side of the U-boat. Through the hole I could see a short walkway and the glimmerings of little green lights. In the corridor lay the unconscious figures of more submariners that Emily had, presumably, dealt with in the same way as the other fellow. We dashed through the opening in the hull into a small chamber ringed with pale green lamps. The floor was carpeted.
"Look," I said, "What the blazes is going on?"
"We're rescuing you," said Emily, pulling down smartly on a red-handled lever in the wall. A series of metal plates irised shut over the opening.
"Who else constitutes 'we'?" I asked, as the opposite wall from the iris-door slid upwards, revealing a cramped control room. A man in a white coat approached us.
"The name's Tristan Ogilvie," he said, "Doctor Tristan Ogilvie."
He grasped my hand and shook it enthusiastically, using his other hand to brush back his tousled blond hair. He couldn't have been anything over thirty years old.
"He's got two doctorates, actually," said Emily.
"Great," I said.
"Come on in," said Ogilvie, "No time for shilly-shallying – we need to cast off!"
At that, Doctor Tristan turned smartly on his heel, his lab coat flailing. Honestly, who wears a lab coat on a submarine? Anyhow, Emily and I shuffled into the control room, which consisted of several narrow workstations amongst a clutter of levers, knobs and dials. Brass and mahogany panelling were in a preponderance about the place. Ogilvie busied himself about the launch procedure, flipping a few toggles, toggling a few switches and switching a few dials.
The vessel lurched as the mini-sub's maw disengaged from the U-boat. I wondered if the Germans would make it out of there. That had been a pretty big hole. Could they surface in time? I didn't hold out too much hope for them, to be honest.
"So, knock this together yourself, did you?" I asked Ogilvie, prodding an array of coloured glass beads that studded a panel on the low curved ceiling.
"Yes, didn't take too long," he replied, "The plans came to me in a dream, funnily enough. Easy as pie to construct it, after that. I call her the Nemo."
"Ingenious," I said.
The U-boat didn't seem to be giving chase. That was nice. It's so rare to make a nice, clean getaway. Except, of course, we hadn't, had we? We'd just sauntered off the boat with our super-clever knock-out guns and completely forgotten about the tablets. Which were still on the rapidly sinking U-boat. I cursed quietly to myself.
We were going to have to go back and get them.
To be continued...
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