The hardest part of this entire mission was that we could not be seen by anybody. Currently Sam was working on the pump controls so once the dock stopped filling the blades would not unfeather so we could escape, David was splicing into the security feeds from the maintenance access, and I was climbing up the inside of a vent shaft to get to the ceiling of the drydock.
Doing a seventy foot vertical ascent in a airduct is one of the least fun things I have ever done, and that truly is saying something. By the time I got to the top I was exhausted and really cranky. I keyed my comm, two long and one short, to let the guys know I arrived.
Getting out of the duct was easy after making sure the grill was secure so it wouldn't fall. I was about ten meters above the hull of the sub and right over the open aft hatch where an advanced SEAL delivery sub would dock. I clicked my comm two short and one long telling them I was ready to go. According to Sam, when a sub is being floated out of a cradle people are more concerned about leaks than the topside. David was stuttering the camera feeds and I was watching to see if anybody noticed my next trick. Dropping onto the deck of a Virginia class. The anechoic rubbery tiles soaked up impact as well as sound and the roar of the water flooding the drydock was pretty impressive as well. I slipped inside the hatch, past the air exhaust hose that snaked out.
Once inside I listened for anyone coming, but it sounded like all the conversation seemed to be coming from the forward part of wherever I was. Cool.
The advantage of using the aft hatch was it was by the engine room where the air handling equipment was stored. This made it simpler for me to get to Fu's little toy without getting spotted. Less distance to travel. We had a full set of the specs of the air system courtesy of Fu's company so all I had to do was look for the right pipe. Once I found that I could trace it back to the unit.
As Sam had predicted there were only a few civilian contractors in the engine room and no guards. Why should there be when the sub was in a secure drydock? I waited till they moved forward to get more coffee then slipped past into the support section of the engine room where the desalinization and air plant were located. There was the unit and now came the tricky part. I pulled a breaker bar and the right sized sockets out of my cargo pocket and began to unbolt the access plate. They had used an air wrench to secure them, so Slayer muscle was necessary to do this quietly. Once the panel was off I pulled out my protective mask and reaching inside began undoing the hidden catches over the canister. Once it was visible I slipped it out and stuffed it in a zip lock bag before sliding in the replacement that Govens had made for his duplicate system. Then it was simply a matter of replacing the cover and rebolting the access panel.
Now all I had to do was get out without getting spotted.
I clicked three short, two long, replacement finished, and got three short back. No one on deck. I started to move towards the hatch slipping into a storage locker when I heard footsteps approaching. Once they were past I continued on. Then sent two long, one short. In position. Three short back. Deck clear.
I climbed the ladder and waited just below line of sight from the dock. I was all in black and would be hard to pick out from the dark hull, especially with the current placement of the worklights aimed at the bow. The shadow of the sail was currently right over me. Three short. David was still watching me through the cameras and ready to loop them for three seconds. That was all the time I'd need. I clicked two long, one short and as soon as I heard three short I was moving.
I slipped out of the hatch and slid down the hull into the water before diving as deep as possible. The dock was almost full now and the flow from the sluice gates was slowing and finally stopped. I surfaced in the shadow of the propulsor pod and tread water. Finally I heard the five long clicks. I dove down to the grate over the sluices on the inside of the dock and prepared to lift to lift. Sam and David had suited up and when the flow had stopped had cut this section free. They just needed the Slayer hoist to move it out of the way so I could squeeze through. I made it though my lungs were really stinging as I cycled through the airlock. Then I got my diving set on as David and Sam tack welded the grate in place and cut the support lines free.
"Okay when I reset the blades I'll only have a few minutes before they'll shift back. Buffy get in position and do your best to slow them down. David take the torch rig," Sam was standing by the pump control panel.
We headed through the airlock and swam up to the pump. David kept going to start prepping the outer grate for our exit. I got a grip on a blade and brace myself on another. Soon I felt a vibration and the blades began to close. I'm strong, especially with my right arm, but I wan't going to be able to slow this down too much. I kept applying as much force as I could while wishing Sam would hurry. The gap was now only three feet from the five it started with. Now it was down to two and a half. Where the hell was Sam?
Then I saw a blur streak through so I pushed free from the blades and watched them close into an anti-diver barrier. By the time we had gotten past the outer grate and had it back in place I was exhausted. David buddy tugged me along so I could rest a little while Sam got us through the net again. Then we simply drifted away from the Navy Yard, letting the current pull us towards Puget Sound.
Eventually we ended up by the boat Hanna and Dutch had obtained and slipped aboard.
I had pulled off my dive set and collapsed onto the deck on my back before giving a weak thumbs up, "I made the switch."
"I didn't see any alarms Dutch," David said, "They were more concerned with the boat floating."
"Son uff a bitch...it worked."
"Yay us?" I said yawning.
"Damn Summers, you look vhipped."
"Nap time..." I fell asleep and only woke up when I got home.
"So what do we do with this?"
This was the canister I had pulled from the unit.
"Coat it in epoxy and dump it in the Pacific?" Sam suggested.
"Tempting," David said. "I don't know what's in it and I really don't want to."
I had woken up at about ten at night eaten the leftovers and a stack of pancakes Sam had made then gone back to bed. It was the next day. The day for the sea trials to begin.
We had returned the diving sets to General Cadey and Sam had headed over to Bremerton to see a couple of buddies of his. Also to find out what the reaction would be once the air handler's special section was activated. The sub pulled out of the dock as we watched from the marina across the way and headed out into the Sound. About an hour later it came back all hatches open. All us Army types couldn't help but laugh.
Two nights previously, Hanna, who was the best hunter of all of us, had gone out for a very special type of small game. Mephitis mephitis, the common striped skunk...and the cylinder I had swapped in was the contents of two skunk's worth of scent glands. When Fu's guys had tripped the switch the entire sub got skunkified, and as far as I know there is no vaccine from that. When that stink hit the sub we could guarantee the Navy would tear apart every piece of air handling gear and Lucy would have some 'splainin' to do.
Of course Fu wouldn't be caught, but his shell company would be taken down and all his planning would be rendered futile. I liked that. I liked that a lot. And the best part was, it was all because of a cup of coffee...
There are days I wish I was still in the military and then there are days when I'm glad I'm not. This is one of the days when I'm glad I'm a freelancer. Anyhow, I wondered if Tony had finished cracking those files.THE ENDa/n
And so begins another phase of the storied career of Colonel Summers US Army, Retired. There will be more of course. As an aside the title was borrowed from a Mike Grell comic of the 80s, Jon Sable - Freelance. No cross over with him is planned though.