Clint turned to the computer panels. They reminded him of the slick new Star Trek bridge controls. Funny, how Conrad and his Gaians claimed humanity had neglected its roots and still managed to create technology Silicon Valley would salivate over.
His hand hovered over the touch screen, trying to make sense of the innumerable controls. He had never been a computer person, never mind his current state of existence. Give him a computer and a user friendly program and he’d take up a hammer and—
A pleasant beep filled the chamber. A section of the table screen began to thrum with extra urgency. Clint waited for the system to speak to him and tell him what it wanted. The beeping continued, a steady pulse of warm sound. “Molly, I could use a hand.”
Nothing. Perhaps a subtle indication of acknowledgment.
Clint touched the pulsing symbol. Nothing happened. He touched it again more forcefully. When nothing happened, it smacked it hard with his metal hand. The glass cracked slightly.
“That’s not going to work.”
He stood on a raised platform that hung delicately in the center of the spherical sub. From the look of it, no matter which way the sub turned, the control platform would remain perfectly horizontal. All along the interior wall, tiny cilia vibrated, smaller than the tentacles outside. Many were working on the hole he had blasted through the hull, sealing it first something like concrete foam, and then spinning together new panels and wires and microchips particle by particle like some time lapse movie. The water had already been pumped out.
So far, they weren’t moving to destroy the intruder. If he was lucky, they weren’t programmed to. But unless he got this tub redirected, he’d likely end up in Gaia-ville with a whole mob of stark raving mad cultists who wouldn’t take his clocking their leader on the head with grace.
He flung himself into the chair, leaning back hard until the seat wanted to snap off the base. He pressed his eyes closed. There it was—the pain. He wouldn’t survive another fight. Well, he might survive, but he wouldn’t win.
That thought triggered another. “Molly, turn off self-destruct. I don’t want to blow a gasket.” But it had already been done. “What would I do without you, huh? Probably loose my own head if it wasn’t screwed on.”
The lame joke struck him as ridiculously funny, and he laughed loudly. Man, he really needed a moment to reorient himself.
He sat up and smacked the table top computer again. The blasted mewing of the computer wouldn’t stop.
“Computer, show report.”
Nothing. Well, it was worth the try.
How had Conrad found him? He wasn’t involved in the group that had overrun the base. Molly would have told him. In any case, the Gaians didn’t have the guts to plan and execute a precision military expedition. They were vandals who left a burning pile of crap at your front door and ran away, smug and self-congratulatory, not real men.
But it begged the question. Did Conrad have his GPS signal, too? It seemed too unlikely that he just happened to find him, in American water, no less. But if Conrad had his signal, and the people who had Molly had the signal, who else had it? Did everyone have it? General Hugh had mentioned a lot of terrorist chatter.
“Oh, I have a bad feeling about this.”
He’d made a few enemies in his time as a super soldier. Okay, more than a few. And even those he hadn’t ticked off might like to put his head on a pike, just for gloating rights. Take down Clint McCleary, and you’ve symbolically hamstrung the American military.
Not that he had a big head or anything.
He smacked the computer a third time and barely restrained himself from smashing it to bits.
Conrad was a quintessential megalomaniac. He would have put some system in place to protect the workings of his sub, but nothing extravagant. He wouldn’t really believe that someone could commandeer his vessel. It had to be simple.
He laughed. In a flash of certainty, he heaved the limp madman off the floor, set him in the chair, and used his hand to tap the blinking yellow light. It expanded.
Confirm destination, it read. It gave a location by latitude, longitude, and a third number, which Clint assumed to be depth. Clint negated the command using Conrad’s hand.
He touch the icon that seemed to indicate a map. With a little trial and error he managed to bring the visuals out of the ocean depths and to sea level. The east coast sat outlined in brilliant gold. With a little contortion, making Clint hands do that little expanding trick that worked on the iPad, he zoomed in on Florida, found the approximate location, and set the sub on its merry way.
Pleased with himself, Clint pushed Conrad off the chair, sat, then thought he had best tie Conrad up. The sleek interior didn’t offer anything helpful, so Clint let out the cable of his extendable hand and used that.
The repairs on the hull seemed to be complete. That gave Clint another idea. Heaving Conrad into the chair again, he began opening window after window. Under Maintenance, he found some commands for the fluttering cilia. After much searching, and not a little pounding of Conrad’s flaccid hand against the panel, Clint surprised himself with accomplishing exactly what he had set out to do. Cilia rose up from between the floor panel and began to search over his body, repairing metal joints, patching tears, administering pain relief. It spread some sort of jelly across his fleshy injuries and applied heat in places. He sank into the chair and let them do their work.
“It’ll be all right, Molly. Don’t you worry.”
She answered back with a few quick taps. Shave and a haircut, two bits. He laughed.
“Yeah, you get along just fine without me. I get it. Well, you won’t get rid of me that easily.”
He drifted to sleep as the sub hummed along beneath the surface.