David Nash was sitting in the damp corner of a dark hole. It was no more than a small cube cut into the rock of the seafloor. He assumed it might have been meant for storage, but right now it served as his cage.
His captors had brought him to this place after they left the wreckage of Explorer One. They were underwater now, in an area of the world ship that was flooded… either intentionally or by malfunction. He had questions, obviously, but no one was giving him any answers. Instead, he was being being kept in the literal dark. He couldn’t be sure, but he assumed days had passed since crashing.
“Hello?” he called out. “Someone come talk to me!”
He heard footsteps coming his way, and the door to the pit swung open, with one of his captors looking down at him. David could see the young face and knew immediately it was the one named Trevor that was looking down at him.
“What is it?” Trevor asked.
“We need to talk,” David said. “You need to talk.”
The captor seemed surprised. “What do you mean?”
“I have heard you guys up there. It’s not soundproof down here, you know. Your boss, the one called Ronin, that went missing just before you found us? I know where he is.”
“Alright,” Trevor said, sounding suspicious. “Talk.”
“That’s not how this works,” David replied. “Let’s be civil about this. I’m not your prisoner. I’m not a threat to you.”
“So what do you want exactly? For me to just… let you free in our facility? For all I know you’re one of Thresher’s spies. I have no reason to believe anything you might say.”
“You don’t have a reason not to believe me,” David countered. “Listen, it’s not hard to piece this together. Your boss went missing right when we crashed. Our ship suffered a critical failure after we collided with an unknown object. That’s not a coincidence.”
“So what, you’re saying you killed our leader?”
“I’m saying your leader probably hit our ship, yes. If you can’t find him up here, it’s possible he crashed down below. If you can help me reach out to my town, we—”
David was interrupted by the blaring sound of an alarm. It squawked so loudly it left a ringing in his ears.
“Proximity alert!” Mike, his other captor, shouted from nearby. “Incoming vessel. Small. It looks like a personal transport.”
Trevor’s eyes lingered on David for a moment, then he frowned and lowered the panel, leaving David alone in the hole once again.
The alarms stopped blaring, and David heard Trevor shouting orders. The two men above him were no longer chatting or theorizing. They were focused on whatever was approaching this facility… approaching David too.
“Get our visuals online. Prepare base defenses. Where is Zero One?”
“We’re getting a radio transmission,” Mike interrupted. “Trevor… it’s Thresher.”
“He’s on a little vehicle. Unarmed.”
David didn’t know who Thresher was, but the long silence told him enough. This person wasn’t the kind to show up for a casual visit. There was more going on out there than David understood. He was starting to wonder if he was in more danger than he initially assumed.
“Open a channel,” Trevor ordered from above.
“I’ve come to talk,” a new voice echoed loud and clear. It was deeper and more throaty than Trevor or Mike, so David assumed it to be the one called Thresher. “There has been a development.”
“We don’t have anything to say to you,” Trevor replied. “If you want—”
“It’s about Ronin,” Thresher interrupted, his voice almost icy. “He’s gone.”
Trevor paused for a long time.
“Let me in,” Thresher said now. “I’ll tell you the details face to face.”
“We can’t trust you,” Mike said, chiming in. “You’re our enemy.”
“I have my sub waiting far off from your facility. I have come here alone, with no weapons, so that I can share this news. I am here to tell you about Ronin. Obviously, I know the location of your base. I would have just assaulted you if I wanted.”
David knew a trap when he heard one. He waited for Trevor and Mike to turn Thresher away, but was surprised when he heard Trevor authorize Thresher’s arrival. He waited for their radio transmission to end and then he yelled for Trevor multiple times before the man lifted the panel again, looking angrier than usual.
“It’s a trap,” David said flatly. “He’s going to do something.”
“You don’t know that,” Trevor growled in reply.
“Oh, come on. Don’t be dense.”
“What do we do?” Mike asked from his console.
There was a moment of hesitation from Trevor, but then he turned to Mike and gave a nod. “Let Thresher in.”
Trevor then gestured for David to exit the hole. “You think he’s up to something? Come up here and help me keep an eye on him.”
The facility, being underwater, required a pressurized door system to let people in and out. The entire time that Thresher was inside that pressurized doorway, David pleaded with the two to think things through.
They ignored him entirely.
Finally, the door gave a long hiss of air and opened to reveal their new arrival.
The man named Thresher looked intimidating, to be sure. His face was grizzled, with a large scar on one side. His left hand had been replaced with a translucent green hook, and he wore a black wetsuit that generally framed him in a darkness that stood as a contrast to the bright colors of this facility around him.
“Trevor,” Thresher said, still standing in the doorway. “Permission to come aboard?”
“Granted,” Trevor replied.
Thresher stepped inside and rubbed his right hand through his hair as he looked around the large room. “Nice place you have here.”
“Why are you here, Thresher?” Mike asked, clearly eager to skip the nonsense.
“Ronin is dead,” Thresher answered. “His ship collided with another vessel and he fell to the lower levels. He didn’t survive the impact.”
“No,” Trevor said. “That’s not possible.”
“Listen, kid. I’m not here to pull your chain. I got the information straight from some witnesses.”
“Witnesses?” Mike asked.
“From the lower levels,” Thresher said with a frown. “Another thing your hero was wrong about, I guess. There’s a whole town of people down there.”
“You’re lying,” Trevor said firmly.
Mike’s eyes moved to David, and Thresher’s gaze followed.
David didn’t know what to say, so he just stood there for a moment.
“David Nash?” Thresher asked.
Hearing his full name spoken felt terrifying. “How… how could you possibly know that?” David asked.
“Your friends down below told me. You’re from the crashed ship, right?”
“They’ll be glad to see you alive,” he said, stepping closer. “You’ll come with me, and I’ll get you back home. Safe and sound. I promised your friend, Olivia Sun, that’s what I would do.”
“He’s not going anywhere,” Trevor replied.
“Are you keeping prisoners now?” Thresher asked. “What would Ronin think of such things?”
“He’s not a prisoner,” Trevor said, clearly getting flustered. “We’re protecting him… from you.”
“He doesn’t belong here,” Thresher said, ignoring the statement. “I took home the pilot. His name is Flynn. The last thing I want is a bunch of people from the lower levels getting involved in our… situation.”
David felt like it was too late to avoid that. The man in front of him was the clear definition of a villain. His black outfit, his glowing hook hand, the scar on his face… it all added up to one certified bad guy. Still, he knew Olivia, he knew Flynn, and he was offering David a ride back home. It was hard not to take the man at his word… especially when the ones claiming to protect him had kept him in a rock pit since his arrival.
“He’s not leaving,” Trevor repeated.
“Oh, he’s leaving alright,” Thresher replied. “The only question is if he’s leaving with you or with me.”
“What does that even mean?” Mike asked.
“It means my vehicle is equipped with a small electro-magnetic pulse generator,” Thresher casually explained. “It’s about to go off and, when it does, your facility will be rendered powerless. You’ll be able to escape, of course, but without your defenses the Hammerhead will destroy this place.”
“You can’t!” Trevor shouted.
“This has been a long time coming,” Thresher replied. “Any second now—”
Above them, the lights suddenly flickered and then shut off. The hum of the power generators began to quiet and Thresher gave a knowing nod.
“I’ll be on my way now,” the man said. “David, are you coming with me?”
David looked at the two that had been keeping him here. They looked at him with a mixture of concern and confusion. It was as though, despite their behavior, they were shocked that he would even consider going with the man.
“You’ll take me home?” David asked.
“You have my word,” Thresher replied.
“How will you leave? Aren’t the airlocks offline without power?”
“You leave that to me,” Thresher said. “You coming?”
David hesitated for a moment, but then thought of the pit. His captors hadn’t offered him the freedom that Thresher was now offering. He stepped forward, past Trevor and Mike, over to Thresher’s side.
“You won’t regret it,” Thresher said, leading David to the pressurized exit. “Time to go.” He pointed toward the large window at the front of the facility, and everyone turned to see the massive shark-like submarine that was rapidly approaching.
“Why are you doing this?” David asked. “Why destroy this place?”
Thresher grabbed hold of the airlock manual release lever and answered without looking over at David. “The truth is that I had a level of respect for Ronin. I left this place for him. History for us. Now that he’s gone, I’m ready to drown the rest of our past.”
The door to the pressure chamber opened and Thresher gestured to one of the underwater suits. “You’ll need that to breathe. Not much time.”
“Right,” David replied.
The next few moments passed in a blur.
At some point while he changed his outfit, the power returned to the facility. Fresh proximity alarms and warnings were blaring loudly while David watched Trevor and Mike rush to another pressurized doorway to make their own escape.
When Thresher was in his suit, he stepped over and helped David secure his own. Then, he opened the hatch, and cold water came pouring in over them both. David was instantly chilled to the bone. His own explorer suit had thick insulation, so he was often overheated. This new aquatic suit was like being packed in ice.
They stepped through the doorway and into the open ocean. They walked along the seafloor to Thresher’s vehicle and then started to wade through the water as they navigated toward the giant shark-shaped submarine that had arrived at the facility.
As they left, a line of air bubbles shot from the sub, and David watched a black object swirl through the waters, gliding effortlessly toward the massive glass front of the underwater facility. There was no sound, but a flash of light erupted within the water, pushing everything away for a moment before the crushing weight of the ocean pressed back in. The sudden change in pressure ripped through the building and it collapsed as a spectacular burst of air rushed up toward the water’s surface.
Pieces of yellow debris whirled and spun in the water, each one slowly coming to rest on the ocean floor. Thankfully, David also saw a yellow sub fleeing the destruction and he took comfort knowing that Trevor and Mike had escaped.
Still, this act of destruction… it was wrong.
David worried now, as he was being taken to the large submarine, that he had leapt from the frying pan only to land in the midst of the fire.