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Captain Vanya Oconnor had not seen the light of day for one month. This was by no means his longest stint in the deep, however it was his most clandestine mission to date. Oconnor knew that they had made it this far undetected. If they had been discovered, the Thralumites and their thumpers would have made quick work of them.

They had launched from a sea-city scow off the Plainfield current under the cover of night thirty one days ago, the vessel packed to the brim with supplies. The deep sea submarine had been developed for this type of prolonged mission in all aspects, save for crew comfort. The crew of The Nereides numbered four strong. Each had associated with Oconnors at some point over the last few years, and up until this point in the close quarters they had managed to get along well enough. Oconnor had concluded through some false assumption that four was an optimal number for most activities taking place submerged below a league. Two for day and two for night. It certainly did fulfill the mission parameters, or The Committee of the Elated would have scratched his application right off.

This job had resulted from the twenty seventh request that Oconnor had submitted to the Committee. When Vanya had leafed through the flyers that had been unceremoniously shoved through his mail slot, he hardly expected to receive anything of note. When he noticed that he had received a summons from The Committee, he tore the envelope open carefully. Vanya had sworn under his breath. It was the four man job contract. He would have to track down the same men that had previously given him halfhearted "Maybe"s and drunken signatures after a night full of pestering. If he couldn't provide this, The Committee would never glance at an application from him again. Plus, this job had a high price. In times like these he would take anything that he could get.


Oconnor awoke from his reminiscing. Rudy sat beside him, fiddling the controls with an unmatched restlessness. His pale skin illuminated by the low yellow pulsating of the controls.

"You trying to get us killed?" Oconnor snapped.

"Just some small corrections." Replied Rudy.

"Just be careful then. You know the more we correct the less natural we look."

Rudy slowed his movements. Oconnor was right. Every day that they drifted closer to Marianas Trench their risk of detection by the Thralumites grew higher. Reaching the lip should bring them out of harms way for a short while, until their final ascent. Reaching the trench was still several days away.

The Thralumites were miners. They dug into the seabed with great shattering spirals and machines that chipped chasms wide in the basalt plates. They had taken up establishment in the trench for as long as mankind could remember. The humanesque migrants of the deep crumbled the bedrock in order to build monumental factories in its place. Born in over one thousand times the standard atmosphere pressure, none of their kind had ever lived to see the world above the waves. Nor would their primitive eyes have done them any good up there. Their kind would forever be reliant on the scraps and debris from above, and what nutrients they could extract from the mined hydrothermal vents.

Of the crew, only Stanley had seen a Thralumite in person before. He had been aboard The Daphne at the time, attempting to conduct research on a newly discovered type of sea worm. The strange soul approached his remotely controlled camera system. Thralumites have four robust jointed appendages extending from the base of their torso and two manipulating appendages extended from their sides. Their slender bodies are covered with a patchwork of transparent chitinous scales. Their ghostly white faces have prominent forehead bulges, large dark eyes and a small mouth. The species were opportunistic scavengers that had become extremely territorial towards human invasion of their colonies, while still rivaling even the great apes in terms of emotional intelligence. Stanley's camera system did not last long against the 62 pound anthropoid.

Their mission was to retrieve one of the Thralumite manned mining machines for study. Talk of leaving an offering in exchange had been discussed by the Committee, but ultimately decided against. Not that the species would be up to the trade in any sense, there was no denying this thievery. Being caught by any authority while hauling the equipment would be no less deadly than being caught by the creatures themselves. Thralumite colonies were protected under almost every nations laws, and contact was expressly forbidden across the board. The Committee of the Elated cared not. The opportunity to study the advanced underwater equipment could benefit their own endeavors.

The day crew sat silently until once again their watch hours passed. Oconnor and Rudy had long since given up any attempts at idle conversation. These men had grown to admire each others blunt natures. Oconnor set the autopilot and handed over the captains seat to Stanley. Rudy then climbed up the ladder into the crew cabin and plopped down onto one of the shared bunks. Beside him Willard lay reading one of his many miniature books. He mumbled quietly under his breath.
"But he had scarcely unscrewed the nuts when the hatch flew up with tremendous violence, obviously pulled open by the suckers on a devilfish's arm."1

The Nereides drifted on into the endless night.

For three more days the Nereides drifted unhindered. The submersible had just been approaching the outer corner of the trench when they first felt the underwater vibrations of the great mines. Once they started the slow descent into the trench, it would be treacherous to risk an ascension before completing their mission. The Thralumites were known to migrate between the distant gaping jaws of the trench. They flocked between the central mines in droves whilst keeping a careful watch on the waters above. While the Neredies had a good chance of speeding past them once, they would be unable to return once detected and swarms began to form.

Still far from the Thralumites and their flocks, the sub approached the outer apex of the trench. Their navigational sonar system had warned them far in advance of the approaching slope that quickly converted into a deep plunge. Willard adjusted the final calibrations on the small dials and sat back in his seat, buckling his harness.


Willard softly counted the meters as the sub inched ever closer to the slope. The crews low chatter slowed as they tightened their harnesses.


The Neredies dim lights illuminated the edge of the approaching lip. They edged closer to the seemingly bottomless darkness


The natural currents guided their movements as smoothly as a paper airplane lofting through the air. They smoothly angled downward, gradually picking up speed as the weight of the sub took them into the deep, all the counterbalances set unrestricted. The base of gravity shifted dramatically within the small sub as they began to plummet downward. The crew looked quietly through the wide window, onward into the dark.


The dive into the deep was not without risk. Though the sub could easily withstand the pressures, creatures other than the Thralumites bathed at these depths. The Neredies gave a wide berth to any souls detected on the sonar system.

On the first night in the trench Stanley was controlling the helm with Willard by his side. They drifted in a warm daze, listening to low music. The sonar system sat peacefully, then it burst to life with high pitched alarms. Something big was coming fast and from below. Stanley grasped the controls and jerked the Neredies to the side, scarcely avoiding a colossal squid. The creature rocketed past them in innocent haste. The sudden displacement of pressures yanked The Neredies backwards, crashing into the swirling wake of the squid. The sub twirled in the jet stream, spinning vigorously. Gradually the waters slowed and they regained balance.

"What in the hells was that?" yelled out Oconner.

"One of the beasts, just passing by. It's gone now." Stanley called back.

The sub continued to realign as the waters temper faded. Cursory checks revealed some minor damage to the stern, but all in all the sub was intact. The Neredies was a built with thick metals to withstand some small bumps and bruises, but never something as great as the squids of the deep. The crew slept restlessly that night.

After 53 hours in the wide jaws of the trench they were finally approaching the mines. Two leagues above them, rooted within the serration of the gorge sat their target factory. It bustled with the slow deliberate movement of upwards of twenty Thralumites.

Oconnor adjusted the controls carefully and the sub began to slowly ascend. The rest of the crew puttered around the cabin, waiting in apprehension. After thirty five days in the deep, traveling any direction instead of forwards was quite the treat. The submarine floated upwards from the deep towards the factory.

The factory walls sat flush with the cliff face, only extending outwards into the pit in jagged tusk formations; thought to be used as dwellings for the creatures. Rudy examined the sonar mappings and located their target. The sub had a straight shot to the corkscrew like apparatus that The Committee oh so desired. The Neredies picked up speed. Their target sat secured at the base of one of the outer tusks, just underneath the lip of the trench. It wouldn't be long now.


From the limited sonar of The Neridies, The Thralumites seemed unaware of the approaching sub. A large number of them appeared to be congregating around a recessed site offside of the subs desired equipment. Oconner prepared the submarine. The equipment installed by the Committee was designed to scoop the corkscrew machine towards the body of the sub, encompassing it in a netted screen in such a manner that it was secured.

Oconner grabbed at switches and leavers, priming the machinery and directing the sub towards the target. Rudy declared course corrections as The Neredies quickly advanced. The great tusk loomed before them, stretching across the mouth of the trench. As they grew closer the creatures on the sonar began to congregate with one another in an erratic fashion. They had noticed the sub. The crew members sat with bated breath as the sub closed in on their target. They rounded the great tusk and finally it sat before them.

The corkscrew was secured to the tusk by a series of seaweed and long lost sunken sailors ropes. Its smooth grey exterior was covered in complex sets of symbols and knobs. The physical corkscrew was four meters long from sharpened tip to the foot wide base. The base attached to a central column which contained the majority of the knobs. Connected to its butt end sat three needle-like formations, each folded inwards in order to sit flush with the base of the central column.

Oconner let out a whooping cry in excitement. Finally.

The captain reached out and pulled the leaver to extend the arms of the netting device. They did not respond. Oconner pulled the leaver again. Still the arms sat lifeless. Frantically Rudy tried to reach over Oconner to deploy the device, but somewhere in the inner mechanisms of the shoddy arms was far beyond recovery. A great groan rang through the sub as metal ground against metal. The inner mechanisms of the arms struggled against one another until parts gave way. A crack reverberated in the waters as the arms fell limp, falling to drag behind the sub.

The swarm of Thralumites were almost upon The Neredies. Oconner steered the sub towards the lip of the trench, abandoning their prize. The the fallen arms dragged through the water, pulling the controls downwards. As the sub reached the lip, the hanging machinery towed behind them through the soft sand. The sub desperately sputtered forward. The Thralumites hoisted up the nearby equipment and barreled towards the sub.


The Neredies lurched downwards, crashing towards the sand. The arms dug deeper into the soft ground as the sub floundered. The twenty some creatures quickly advanced again.


The submarine recoiled from the shock, digging into the earth at the trenches lip. The crew members braced themselves in feverous prayer as Oconner desperately tried to hoist the sub out of the mud. With her two propellers now held captive in the sands she wallowed forwards, only to once again sink back further. Tralumites surrounded the submarine, clutching onto the outer layer with one hundred spindly legs. The load pressed the sub further into the mud.

"Oh God" Stanley cried out as the sub lurched.

The cabin reverberated with clanks and clatters as the Thralumites shuffled across the surface. The crew members sat in horror as a Thralumite stopped on the window of The Neredies, stooping low to peer inside. It's bulging milky eyes stared into the lowly lit cabin. The creatures small mouth slowly opened and closed, revealing a toothless mouth.

The steps slowed as more and more faces peered into the window. Their unblinking eyes only be able to make out the most basic of shapes, they examined the contents of the sub gingerly.

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