“Shouldn’t it be a suit?”
“What?” He looked up from the wet surface of the dock to meet the other man’s eyes. “Jimmy?”
James Pietswach, Jimmy to all and sundry, was hanging over the rail and looking down at the man on the floating dock. “A suit. With, you know, arms and legs. At least arms. Maybe a pod around the legs, I dunno.”
“You’re talking nonsense. Also, why are you out here? It’s cold and wet.”
“I wanted some fresh air. The control center is getting tense and stanky.” Jimmy was clinging to the railing in the modest motion of the ship. “Besides, this is historic and I wanted to see you off.”
Nathan shook his head, laughing. “You just wanted to be in on it. No, it doesn’t need arms, or legs. All the controls are better internal, with waldoes for any external manipulation. If I find anything down there.”
“You’ll find something.” Jimmy predicted with deadpan certainty. “Lakes don’t just start to glow for no reason.”
They both looked toward the well. The ship had been purpose built for this expedition. All others with the inboard diving well had been ocean going. Bringing those inland was, for obvious reasons, impossible.
“They say no one knows how deep it really is.”
Nathan could hear the relish in his colleague’s voice. “It’s nonsense.” The tone of his own voice was more crisp than he’d intended it to be. “We have scanned the whole damn thing and even if you can’t make out fine detail with the computer programs, we know the depth at least.”
Jimmy shook his head. “Could be a cold water inversion.”
Nathan turned his attention back to the checklist. He knew why he was here. For the money. This was a rich man’s venture, to find the source of the luminescence that had frankly freaked the world out, through the aegis of the media always on the hunt for the latest boogeyman. On one hand, he was one of the few people in the world to be qualified for the submersible. On the other hand, were medical bills from the twins’ stay in NICU.
“Better not be kaiju, that’s all I’m saying.” Jimmy was muttering overhead. Nathan suppressed a laugh.
“I’m about ready to crawl in.” He looked up at Jimmy. “Better go back to the screens, you’ll get a better view there once I’m under.”
Jimmy pulled the hatch closed behind him, a few minutes later, with a grunt of effort. They’d made them much heavier, in his opinion, than necessary. He turned around to find all eyes on him. “He’s ready, he said.” His voice faltered as he spoke. He wasn’t sure why he felt a sudden wave of apprehension roll over him. Maybe it was all the fear pheromones in the air. They all needed this to be a productive dive, to keep their jobs.
All of them, in it for the cash. Except for him. He could have afforded to turn down this one. At least financially. He’d have regretted it forever, not being on the spot to discover the source of that eerie blue glow coming up from the deeps.
“Let’s get ready.” He sat down and brought his screens up. All around him in the cramped room the others were already intent again on the feeds from the pod Nathan would ride to the deep. Someone started an audio feed, and he could hear the deckhands giving terse orders as they swung the sensor-studded device out over the inboard pool.
There was a splash, then brief silence.
“Wait. What’s that?” Someone asked. The control room fell silent.
“Something about a private Idaho?” The speaker shrugged, and they all looked at Jimmy.
“Pay attention to your feeds.” Jimmy growled. He wasn’t about to explain what the song was really about. They’d scanned. If it was Cerenkov radiation this whole expedition wouldn’t have taken place. No, that was too easy an answer.
“What happens if we don’t find anything?” Someone else asked.
No one answered. They’d already discussed that one to death, with little else better to do on board, the last few nights. This wasn’t a government project, and it wasn’t going to give them a career for life, but it also paid much, much better in the short term. They’d been promised shares in any salvage, but almost none of them believed in that. Besides Jimmy.
Jimmy slid headphones on, to block them all out, and hunched over his displays like a vulture.
My prompt this week came from Leigh Kimmel, with “My Own Private Idaho”
I prompted Becky Jones with “It was a day for both hat and parasol”
You can read all of the prompt responses, or join in on the challenge yourself, over at More Odds Than Ends.