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The First Five Chapters


It wasn’t the rate of descent that bothered me. What concerned me, was how fast he was going to stop the  son of a bitch.

With lights on, I watched as the cable was played out at high speed. Looking around, it always amazed me what a garbage dump we use the ocean as. By the time we hit bottom, the container was camouflaged with bits of plastic and debris it had snagged on the way down. The crane operator had slowed the wire; hitting the sea floor didn’t wreck the container but made me wish I hadn’t been standing.

There she sat, landing gear or what’s left of it still extended, but otherwise intact. 40 feet away and Mouse wasn’t joking about that current. Easily 6 knots, making 40 feet more like 400. Hooking the bitter end of my safety return line to the door of the container, I aimed myself at the nose of the plane and kicked off. Swimming hard at a tangent to the current, I began to close the gap between the plane and myself.

The current started pushing me towards the tail of the jet, faster than I could close the gap. My best bet was to try to get hold of the leading edge of the wing as I raced by it. Angling downward, my headlights illuminated the wing right before I slammed into it. Grab, grab anything!


As I flew across the top of the wing, I jammed my hand in the gap between the flaps and the wing itself. With a bone-jarring jerk, I came to a hard stop, snapping my head back. Forcing my way against the surge, I stuck my other hand in the gap. In this manner, I was able to ‘walk’ myself to the fuselage. Finally, next to the plane, I was able to reach up with one hand and activate an emergency exit hatch.

The current almost immediately tore the door away, but just before it took me with it, I let go.

Once inside after securing the safety line, I spoke to topside, letting them know I was in. Pulling out my dive slate, I got oriented.

To my left, was the cockpit and ever-important black box, which is, in fact, red. In front of me and to my right, were stacks of cargo. At times like this, you can appreciate the military’s redundant systems and strict adherence to protocol. Meaning that everything was pretty much in the same place as the manifest indicated.

It was a clean crash and fresh. Not much silt to obscure visibility. The manifest indicated the cargo, which was to be salvaged in order of importance. I rearranged it to make it practical.

But the box always came first. Either to prove whose fault or to hide it, the box is always at the top of the list.

Swimming towards the cockpit, I begin scanning the cargo bay, noting that nothing seemed out of the ordinary, which is out of the ordinary.

Several of the cockpit windows were broken, the current pouring in as I released the door latch. The cockpit door burst open, expelling the navigator, or what was left of him, violently flinging me away with it.

Crawling across the floor against the flow of water, I made it back to the doorway and into the cockpit. The box was under the pilot’s seat and was an easy grab.

Closing that door was going to be a bitch. It was.

Door closed, the raging torrent of water ceased and the day began in earnest. The black box was clipped to the return line and sent to the container.

I repeated this process over and over again, going down my modified list of cargo to be retrieved, working from the front of the plane to the back.

Getting into the rhythm of repetitive work has its own rewards. Time passes quickly and allows the mind to wander, while paying peripheral attention to the task. My mind was making speculations about the information I had downed just before the dive.

The Internet is so loaded with shit; it’s practically impossible to garner anything by yourself. Whole industries had sprouted, whose soul purpose was to find what you’re interested in. The information for the most part was still free. Finding it cost you.

The search services I employed had strict parameters to filter out the crap and let the specifics come through.

Works of fiction rarely made it to my computer unless specifically asked for. I did not ask for a dated copy of a work of fiction. It cost enough, so I figured I’d read it tonight.

Until then, the mind numbing hours of box shuffling would continue. Match the serial number to the list, take the box to the return line, clip it on and send it over. Repeat ad infinitum.

There should be more divers on this one. It’s going to take several days for me to offload the list and I notified topside of the same. They understood and reminded me for the first time that today was a double shift. Since I just got juiced this morning, the extra hours weren’t an issue.

Abuse of our kind was never an issue.


Johnny was there when the container surfaced. A helping hand after a long day was surely appreciated. Once out of my gear, he asked how it went.

“Uneventful.” I was beat and my reply said enough. He gave me a handful of my meds, hustling me to the chamber.

Johnny would take care of my gear and have it ready for the morning. Smart as he was he didn’t mind taking care of my stuff, knowing that if I’d come across anything good, it would be up my wetsuit sleeve or shoved into one of the tool pockets.

Divers have always been notorious for having sticky fingers. Some small and even some incredibly large mementos have been pilfered from salvage operations that no one else knows about. From buttons to portholes, if you thought you could get away with it, you did.

I was no different. Johnny was beneficiary of many of the little finds. Mostly in the form of deep-sea microbes that would otherwise be unobtainable. These he researched, cataloguing their properties in his personal library. The other baubles and micro-electrics, he sold on the black market and used the credits to maintain the library. More than once, his private lab had produced the compounds to stave off a plague in the third world or keep some rich asshole alive for another 10 years. He would use himself as the guinea pig. Imagine giving yourself a virus and going through the hell of the disease to its miserable and disgusting end, to find the cure. I guess that’s why he’s one of us.

18 or so hours after first hitting the water, I was dry and resting in a recompression chamber. A steel coffin of sorts from which there is no escape. Oddly appropriate for what I’ve chosen for tonight’s muse.

After being recompressed to near my working depth to avoid the effects of the bends, I had my laptop brought in, through the air lock. Reading beat the crap on vid, nobody read anymore.

If you read in public, for certain, someone would approach and ask what you were doing, not what you were reading. Having been around a while, I was taught to read as a child and just never gave it up.

Reviewing some of the other data I had received yesterday, I saw most of it was marginal searches that came to a dead end or were stopped. Those inquiries were into classified areas and would cost significantly more to access, naturally.

This left the novel, no return e-dress, and the subject said; ’the dream within the dream’.

No signature.

It meant something, it meant nothing and how did it apply?

A loud rush of compressed air signaled that morning had arrived. I had finished the book several hours ago and had been meditating on it, when the wake up call came. An interesting read, to be sure, but how did it apply?

A green light glowed by the air lock, indicating the airlock pressure matched chamber pressure and could safely be opened. Inside was my gear, with a note from Johnny saying the dive equipment was ready, and if I had the time he wanted a half dozen samples of sea water from different depths where the currents were strongest. Not a major problem there. He included 6 stainless vials, neatly placed in the hip pocket of my wetsuit. In between two of the vials was a piece of tissue. I pulled it out. It was another hastily scrawled note from my tender. It read ‘Mouse was relieved and Mitch is CO. Watch your ass.’

“Fuck me.” I said to no one and blew my nose.

That Mitch was one prick on dive station was common knowledge, as well as the fact that he despised our kind and me in particular.

We had a disagreement years ago when he was a young diver.  Neither of us ever got over it. The topside crew broke us up before we were able to come to a mutual understanding. It’s festered ever since. But now, he was in charge.

“You fucked up yesterday, Jake.” came Mitch’s voice over the comm.

I knew I was busted for changing the offloading order. I started to explain but was cut short.

“I don’t want to hear any of your shit about a balanced load or anything else you can come up with on short order. Suit up and be ready in 30 minutes. There is a revised list on your computer terminal. Get it on a slate and get it right. People are pissed. Why the fuck do you think I'm here?”

I was reviewing the list when I realized I hadn’t strayed that far from the original unloading protocol. So what was the beef? Some 5 star not get his new toy in time?

I was ready in 25 minutes, knowing better than to push it too far. Something was going on. Where the fuck was Mouse?

Mitch was standing there when the chamber door opened.

We stared at each other for a moment. Then he said, “Search him.” Hands up against the chamber, they stripped me of everything I had just put on. When they were done, I turned around and all my gear was laid out on a table.

I started to say something and again Mitch shut me down. He picked up the pouch of vials Johnny had given me and said, “What are these for?”

“Samples for the lab, hey, what’s this all about?”

But I was talking to the hand. He was telling the two guys who searched me to “do it again when he gets out. He keeps nothing he didn’t go in with.” Throwing the vials on the table. “Put your shit back on. Be ready in 20.”

To the guards, “Watch him.”

They snapped to while I started to resuit, glad Mitch didn’t push it about Johnny’s samples. Just where was he any way?  And what’s with all the guns?

In 15 minutes, I was in position at the hook watching the crane operator. I had a feeling I was on my own today and was waiting for him to make his move and begin descent. Already clipped to the wire, I braced myself, when he pulled the lever and started the drop.

I dropped as if into a dream. Seeming to flow with time itself. Not forward but in reverse, back through the centuries to the beginning of time itself, where it slowed, swung around and reversed once more into the future, a darker one.

Slowly, the years seemed to pass. A focus around an individual. Glimpses of ritual, pages in ancient tomes, witnessed, then crumbled to dust in time’s passage. Images of a dragon, archaic and chiseled in stone. Everything seen through a bloodstained lens.

All along, the one spectre remained consistent with the present, as time inexorably ground on.


With a bone jarring crash that buckled my knees, the container came to rest on the ocean floor. Closer to the plane this time, but something was different.  I got my bearings using a compass, which confirmed my feelings.

The plane had shifted over the last eight hours, moving it to the edge of another three thousand foot drop off. Inspecting my immediate surroundings, it became obvious why we hit so hard. The hook hit the plane just aft of the wing, crushing part of the fuselage. Luckily, we only hit with the corner. If the plane had suffered a more direct impact, it probably would have gone over the edge of the abyss.

At six thousand feet, the salvage efforts would be far more involved and time consuming.

That’s not what the problem would be. The difficulty, now that the black box was gone, would be finding it. Like most planes, it was built with stealth tech, but that’s not a big issue either.

The problem is that the plane being intact would, in effect, become waterborne, similar to airborne.

So instead of sinking, it would glide. Depending on current and upwelling, it could wind up anywhere in the thousands of miles of ocean floor in the central Pacific basin.

I notified topside of the situation and went to work setting up a return line for the salvaged cargo. The mindless repetition of yesterday is replaced with meticulous searching through a rat’s nest of cables, busted pallet bundles and broken containers whose contents drifted and mingled with the train wreck of a mess before me.

I had cruised over this section of the plane the day before and pretty much remembered the layout, if not some of the specifics. It helped.

One 10 foot by 10 foot section at a time, I would sift through the debris. Match slate numbers to box numbers, sending the matches back to the hook by the return line.

This part of salvage diving always used to inspire the inner child in me. Like being in your grandparent’s attic or a forbidden cellar. Searching for the things that dreams are made of.

That child died long ago, the dreams replaced with a nightmarish reality from which there was no escape.

Jolted back to reality, I smashed into the port bulkhead. Something had just slammed into the plane. Swimming fast toward the exit to find out what happened, I found it blocked by the hook’s container.

The COMs came on and Mitch’s voice was saying, “Currents have shifted. Attempting to compensate with thrusters.”

“No shit!” I replied, “The hook just hit the plane again. One more and we’re going over.”

"We’ll handle our end. You keep working, that’s what you're here for. All circled items on the list are now top priority. Get moving!”

I’d been through this too many times to argue a moot point with an asshole.

This was what we were for, that which nobody in their right mind would even consider. Having accepted my reality long ago, I went back to work. There wasn’t much else to do.

All the circled items were in the rear of the plane, which was a mess now. Looking at the list, the first of the items I could get to were med containers, all identical. The first eight of ten med crates were found easy enough and loaded in the salvage container. The last two were broken open, their contents scattered.

The med crates were filled with smaller cartons that held ampoules of a dark fluid, all with bar codes. I couldn’t resist and put three ampoules into each of the six sample bottles Johnny had given me. I didn’t know what they were but he might.

More matches, more cargo out of the plane and into the hook.

Hours past silently and the rhythm of work set in, until I reached the tail of the plane.

A large military style metal box took up the center of the rear of the plane. It was obvious that a great deal of care went into securing it to the floor of the plane. It was one of the few remaining items on the list.

Turnbuckles and cables, straps and chain binders.

Love that military redundancy; it hadn’t moved. It took some minutes to undo all the securing and rigging. I was in the process of attaching lift bags to float the crate down the length of the fuselage to the exit, when again the plane was slammed hard, throwing the box and me into the lavatories.

Working rapidly now to affix the lift bags, I noticed the cover to the box had sprung ajar when it hit the wall of the plane. I opened it more.

Blue liquid was bleeding from the damaged lavatories, clouding visibility. This bothered me less than what I saw in the box.

Inside, encased in a watertight plastic enclosure, was a coffin. It appeared old through the blue haze. There was a carving in the wood. ‘No, it couldn’t be.’ I thought. The book I read last night, his coffin, was described to have an engraved image, not unlike this one.

“Fuck!” I thought. The implications were just beginning to come clear in my mind, when a groan from hell broke the silence. The plane began to tilt in the direction of the drop off. Thinking fast and working faster, I put as many of the ampoule cartons in the coffin box as I could grab and resecured the lid.

Topside broke my thought pattern with an alarm over the COMs. They were getting ready to pull the hook. I had to act quickly. When our kind wanted to, we could move more quickly than most.

Attaching the lift bags, I set them so they would raise the load to 200 feet in depth and then keep them neutrally buoyant at that depth. I clipped on a modified personal locator beacon and hauled ass to the exit.

Fuck me again! The bastards were pulling up the hook and leaving me behind!

"Not today, motherfuckers." I spoke calmly into the COMs and hit the lift bags.

As the plane slid over the lip of the drop-off and began its final flight, the fully inflated bags hauled the coffin and me up at a deadly rate. Rapidly overtaking the rising hook, I jumped to it from the coffin, just as the lift bags deflated a bit to stay at 200 feet.

As the hook reached the surface, I was already doubled over, deep in the effect of massive decompression sickness.

My eyes had come out of their sockets. All I could see were shoes as they dragged me towards the recompression chamber; dropping my body in the same place they searched me before. I could see Mitch’s spit shined steel-toed boots as he ordered the men to search me. They did, practically breaking my arms and legs to straighten them. When it was determined I had nothing that I didn’t go in with, they let me go to resume an agonizing fetal position.

Fuck, where was Johnny?

“You fucked with the wrong people, Jake,” I heard, as his glistening steel toe raised and the sole came down, popping my eye like a grape.

Half an hour later, I died on the floor in front of the recompression chamber.

What happens in cases like this, when one of us is fubar'd, is that we are taken to the morgue and our injuries are cataloged and categorized. Then we are put on ice. It’s some poor bastard’s job to go over all the paperwork and decide if we can be repaired. There is a list of criteria that helps decide whether you’re worth it.

Until then, you were on ice ‘til somebody gave a shit.


                                                                                                        john can be e-mailed HERE




                                        Copyright © 2009 by john g rees

                                  FIRST PRINTING: MAY 2009

                                                 All rights reserved.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the written permission of the author, copyright owner and  publisher of this book. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

This novel is a work of fiction.

The characters, names incidents dialogue and plot are the products of the author‘s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.

Printed in the United States.

                             ISBN: 978-0-578-01832-4

Thanks to my wife, Mara, without whose patience, support and love, none of this would have happened.


                                               For Johnny

anoxic zone



It’s one thing to create a monster, another to try and put the abomination to rest.

To rest, to live the dream of death. They were the lucky ones, the early mistakes. Shredded and vaporized in an incinerator, they were saved the life defiled.

Trial and error, trial and error. How pathetically human.

But they eventually got it right. The right combination of drugs administered at the right time, to put a clamp on the terror and dampen the shock. To give the mind time to rationalize, before it reacted.

The mind is always trying to find a way to make sense of things, even when the shit is at its most bizarre.

“We know now that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to his days work at Auschwitz in the morning” - George Steiner, professor and writer (b. 1929).

There probably aren’t too many today that even remember the atrocities of WW2, there have been so many since then. For those that do, this quote speaks aptly of the mindset we were unborn into.

In time, the trial and error period began to wane. The nightmare that created us began to become clinical.

The birth? and abortion of our kind became routine. Some never made it past the awakening stage, their minds scrambled with the weight of their new reality. The screams for death, or anything but this, would echo throughout the wing of the hospital.

But nothing would be done for them. Allowed to live? like this for several days, while their minds were trying to cope with the insanity of their situation.

By the third day, if they had not begun to cope or get a grip on it, they were sent finally to peace, the shredder and subsequent cremation, blessedly letting them live the dream of death. Those of us who made it through are only allowed to dream the dream.

It takes a couple weeks for the body to acclimate to its new blood and pharma compounds. And powerful pharmas they were. Far more addicting than anything mankind had previously devised, designed just for that purpose. To keep you permanently addicted. Getting clean was never an option. This was how they controlled us. The pharma compounds were complicated and nearly impossible to reproduce. There was no choice for us.

As a general rule, we’d get juiced once a week. The maintenance hit. Without, pain and aguish would set in. Pain without end. Depression with no limit.

And something else. Something that stirred in our blood. Not the pharma compounds. They were for control. It was something else. That which made us what we were. This we were never to know, or at least that was the way it was supposed to be.


“Son of a bitch! Turn the goddamn lights off!” head pounding like a jackhammer, light searing into your brain, burning away all sense, scalding your mind. You scream in agony and futility. A door slams and the sound generates waves of nausea as the orderly steps in.

“Shut the fuck up, Megacorp meat. I got your juice and you’ll get it. Just let me hear you beg for it one more time”. And I did.

The med staff knows the routine. We’re to get the intravenous prior to awakening, but at this hour of the morning there’s not a great deal of supervision, which is often made up for with attitude.

I’m in the morgue on the SALVOR, 500 feet of cranes, winches, davits, and recompression chambers. Not the largest, but for an ocean going salvage vessel, well, I’ve seen worse.

At least everything worked, more or less. We’ve been holding position off Keahole Point, in the Hawaiian Island chain.

An Airforce C-1300 missed the runway, skipped over the reef and hit the water about 200 yards off shore, where, without further assistance from the pilot, she promptly sank with all aboard.

We were dispatched out of Pearl Harbor within an hour of the ditching of the C-1300 and within 24 hours had located and were holding directly above the jet. Stern and bow thrusters compensating for current, wind and drift were keeping the Salvor in position. The C-1300 rested 3000 feet below.

The orderly with a syringe the size of a sewer pipe spiked my neck and sent the plunger home.

The juice had barely begun to kick in as I was being half carried, half dragged to the dive locker. Dumped on the shower floor with only one sock on, the orderlies turned on the water and left. Bastards, what did I ever do to them? I thought, as the hot water ran over my back. My head began to clear, the juice doing its job with more compassion than the orderlies.

Compassion. Now that’s a word you don’t hear too often.

“Jake, get your ass in gear,” came the bark from the Chief.

Chief Mouse wasn’t a bad sort. As long as you did your job, minded your own business and in general, didn’t make his job any harder than it already was. Want a thankless job, be a First, want it worse, be a Chief. Want it so fucking bad you can taste it, be one of us. Mouse was one of the few who treated us fairly.

By fairly, I mean he didn’t go out of his way to make our poor excuse for living a worse misery than it already was.

In other words, he didn’t bend us unless he had to. Some Chiefs would pull you from depth so fast, just to see you writhe in pain on the deck from massive explosive decompression. It’s not a pretty sight and is excruciating to experience. Some folks just get a sadistic high watching others endure what they could not. Those in authority tolerated abuse, so long as it didn’t affect operations, and we accepted it as a fact of life.

“Yes, sir!” I blurted. Head clearing and at least a towel to cover myself, I exited the shower and entered reality. 

There stood Mouse face tired, eyes red, that look of no sleep and too much coffee.

“’Sup, sir? You look tired.” Mouse always looks tired. Sometimes I wonder if the guy ever sleeps.

Mouse, in a voice that somehow never sounded tired: “Plane went down, need the black box and some of the cargo”. He handed me a file.

“Here’s descriptions, ID numbers, approximate locations. Study up. You’ve got 3 hours, this is important, man – don’t fuck it up.” And left.

Taking the file, I dressed and headed to the library.  I’d read the files, transposed the serial #s and locations to a dive slate. Now there was some research I began a couple of deaths ago that I wished to follow up on.

Research into the history of us – our kind. You see, the only history left for the average man to study, was either his immediate personal or that of his family tree, if one was lucky. Pretty much the only real history left is that which was found to be useful to the powers that be at the time.

There wasn’t a purging or deliberate destruction, a.k.a. book burning.

No, alas, it was man’s apathy and desire for instant gratification, caused in part by the World Wide Web and the virtual realities created therein. Why should one be interested in the real but boring history of mankind, when you can create your own very personal and exciting history?

The past that I seek was never well documented to begin with. What past there was, is so wrapped up in folk tale and autobiographies of the twisted and bizarre, that it is nearly, and in some cases totally, impossible to tell where reality ends and imagination takes over. But if even a fraction of what I’ve learned were true, it would strike the average man to the core and render him insane.

Still in the library, I’ve pulled up the blueprints for the plane that went down. Aside from its size, military transports haven’t changed too much from the turn of the century planes.

Designed to haul anything from armored vehicles to a battalion of soldiers or both. They were huge flying containers. Something the size of an old football field with wings. I’ve done dives like this many times.

In fact, my first dive, professionally, was just this sort of thing. It was a mid-air collision over Lake Washington, near the former west coast metropolis of Seattle. One plane floated – the other sank. Our crew was brought in to retrieve the bodies for the families of the deceased. It was a simple dive to around two hundred feet.

Find the plane, force the doors open and start groping for bodies. I say grope, for at that depth the quality of the lake bed created extremely turbid conditions. In other words - zero visibility.

Divers are trained from the start to work under conditions like this and worse. But no amount of training can prepare you for the sight of a body that has been undersea for several days. Fish, taking advantage of the smorgasbord generously offered to them, made even more gruesome the task we were to undertake. You either had it in you to take it or you choked and aborted your dive.

I could take it and brought out the first of three bodies. Nature doesn’t waste any time when it comes to the reclamation of its dead. I didn’t know it at the time but I was just beginning to find my niche in what was soon to be my more than lifelong occupation.

But I drift from the topic.

After having thoroughly reviewed the specs for this assignment, I noticed I still had an hour and a half to kill before reporting to dive operations.

It took forever to find a copy of something I didn’t even know existed, but only five seconds to download it into an encrypted zip file. It had to be coded  – technology of the day would cause it to wipe itself clean should someone other than myself try to access the contents. The contents of my files, if discovered, would be sufficient to have me shredded and vaporized.

It wasn’t my observations on life or the more general interests in earth’s history that was of any concern. As long as you didn’t observe too closely or study too deeply. This held true for most of mankind, but was especially watched for in our kind.

As a general rule, the powers of Megacorp desired people to live a shallow and vain existence. The Internet and advances in virtual reality games served this purpose almost too well. For the most part, we were contented and easily domesticated.

Instant gratification replaced depth and substance. Mediocrity replaced quality. Virtual happiness is what finally put us under the thumb of Megacorp. The real thing no longer existed.

Download completed, I sat there stunned. In my hand was a virtual book that hadn’t been downed in over 200 years. My sources were good and confidential, but why would I get a book of fiction when it’s facts I seek? Why some old info when my research is concerned with my current situation?

My watch alarm buzzed. It was time to suit up. I only had a chance to catch the title and author before closing the file. Dracula? Bram Stoker?


What we had was a plane sitting on the sea floor - all aboard cold and dead as any who had succumbed to the unforgiving grasp of the deep.

I slipped into the diving skin like a thousand times before. It was your shield, your armor. It’s what set you apart from the rest of the crew. Sleek and liquid wet, it fit like a second skin compared to the overall clad tenders and wrenches. The skin served to provide thermal protection and with the addition of a full body harness you were a swimming toolbox.

I entered the dive station, fins in hand. Mouse was already there, detail drawings of the plane spread out across his desk. He looked up. I looked down and he nodded to the extra chair at the desk. There were no formalities. There was no need. I’d known Mouse since he first signed onto the Salvor. There was no gray at his temples then and I think he smiled more, too.

Responsibility changes a man and it fit Mouse well. He earned it and continues to, every day.

“Deep one, Jake,” he noted, without looking up. “Currents, too, over ten knots at some depths. Fuck you up good, so you’ll be riding the hook down.”

“The hook?” I said.

“Yeah, Jake, they want more than the black box. Gonna earn your keep today, son.” When he started calling me son, I can’t remember. Sometime after his hair started to change and mine didn’t.

The hook was at the end of the crane’s wire. There were half a dozen cranes on board of various sizes and uses. This was the only one with more than a mile of wire on its spool. We’d be using a good three quarters of it.

The dive plan was simple. Attach a container to the hook, add one diver and lower the whole shitaree to the sea floor as close to the plane as possible. At which point, I try to enter the plane or what’s left of it, gather as much of the items on the list as I could find, put them in the container and haul it up.

Usually it’s a bag’em and stack’em. Gather the passengers and crew, put them in body bags and stack them in the container. Funny, but my instructions didn’t include a passenger list. Seating locations in the plane, yes, but there was no body count.

I was just about to question Mouse about this, when the crane signaled it was in position and ready to drop the hook.

“Get your hat on, Jake, time to go. Just get what’s on the list, man, everything else stays.”

My tender, Johnny, was ready with my diving helmet and backpack. Johnny was like me, disposable. I wouldn’t trust another living soul to watch my back, ‘cept maybe Mouse.

Johnny was good. I didn’t like diving with any other tender. He knew what I needed and had it together before the need arose. It was a handy trait in this business.

He was a biochemist by trade, but when not being used to work on compounds too deadly for regular humans, he opted to kill time doing something he considered fun.

He’s a sick fuck. When you’ve bled out as many times as he has from strains of Ebola and its cousins, it definitely affects your sense of humor.

Because one thing’s for sure, there is nothing fun about the business of diving.

He slipped me into my backpack and snapped my hat in place. Gone were the bulky gear, hoses and tanks. Like everything else, it was all electric now.

The only thing that remains from the past is the bailout bottle. Should your primary system crash, you activated your bailout. Cold comfort, when you’re a few thousand feet down and you have to turn it on, generously giving you a few minutes to contemplate your situation and demise.

An ‘Okay’ finger signal appears in my field of vision, a pat on the hat by Johnny signals it’s time to go. I stand and walk to the container, step on and grab hold of the wire. No sooner did I grip the hard steel cable than the crane started to drop us into the water.

We were dropping fast as I clipped myself to the wire. The force of the water flowing past the

container as it descended would otherwise have torn me away.

anoxic zone
by john g rees
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BLACK TIDE , the freaquel anoxic zone & Halocline                    

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