The freeing of the stuck cable was nearly complete; I moved slightly to my right and reached down for the thin cable emerging from the muck, when suddenly it snapped taut. I pulled my hands back, the looked left to Charlotte.
I almost stopped breathing when I saw her.
The cable had tightened across her, trapping her against the rock as the cable bit into her wetsuit. I started to swim over and reached down to pull it off when it went slack again. I grabbed it and pulled it away from her, moving it below her fins. By the time I came back up, I could see the blood. Her wetsuit was torn, and her lower stomach had been sliced open by the thin cable as it pulled across her. I looked at her, her eyes were wide with pain and she was panicked.
I put my hand over her stomach to put pressure on the wound, and she winced in pain. I tried to think of what else I could do; it wasn’t like I had a first aid kit at three hundred feet. I moved her up until she was sitting on top of the rock formation.She was having trouble moving, her hip and stomach must be in agony. She gave me the signal for emergency surface.
We needed to get back to the scuba tow, it was our only chance to get away. I had her keep pressure on while I found the end. I started to pull it towards me, and it came way too easily. Fifty feet of cable later, I was looking at a frayed end. I brought it back and showed it to Charlotte; her eyes rolled, and she looked to the other side.
The remotely piloted submarine was still attached on the other end. It would have to work, even if it didn’t have a radio, I could get her out of the water.
I moved next to her, wrapping my arm around her hip just under her tanks so I could help press on the wound. It was still bleeding, and I could only hope the sharks wouldn’t show up. I found the cable heading up and looped my elbow around it. Reaching in, I inflated my density compensator, then reached over and did the same to hers.
We started to rise off the bottom.
I looked at my dive computer, we had at least forty minutes of air left if we didn’t panic. Normally we would make a half-dozen stops on the way up, but we didn’t have time. Her bleeding wasn’t stopping, and I could tell she was having trouble staying awake. We rose, I tried to limit it to half the speed of the bubbles going up.
We were at two hundred and eight feet when the shock wave hit us.
The blast almost knocked her out of my arms, and it spun me around. I recovered, moving my mask back to center. Charlotte was limp, her head rested on my shoulder, but she was still breathing. I checked her mask and adjusted buoyancy again, since as we rose the air in the compensator expanded and we got more buoyant.
It took five minutes to reach the surface, and I turned off all our lights before we did. I spit out my regulator and took a deep breath of the air. Holding Charlotte tight, I took her regulator out as well. She was barely conscious, and she was pale. I swam us over to where the minisub was bobbing in the foot-high waves and pushed her until her body was lying on top. I moved her mask out of the way, looking down at the face I loved and wiping the tears off. “I’m sorry, James,” she said before she grimaced in pain.
“It’s not your fault, Charlotte.” I could see on the horizon the burning fuel and the lights of patrol boats. Ben must have taken off when the Iranians arrived, that was the only reason he’d bust the cable like that. He couldn’t have known we were in the way, and there was no way for us to know he was in danger. Shit just happens sometimes. “It was an accident.”
“I’m dying, James. I’m so cold.”
“I’m going to find a way out of this,” I told her. “We can use this to drive out of danger.”
“Check the thrusters,” she said. I moved around the outside, finding the problem. The shroud on the port side had been bent, keeping the propeller from moving. I used the cutters, bending the metal shroud back until it was clear. Swimming back to the stern, I opened up the panel for the local controls. With the remote panel gone, it had automatically activated.
I tried forward thrust, and it worked. “Oh yeah, now we’re cooking with gas,” I said. “I’ll cut the tether line and we’ll get out of here.” Somehow, some way, I was going to save us.
“James,” she said softly.
“James, they’re coming. They’re coming fast.” I pulled myself up high enough to see what she was talking about. An Iranian patrol boat, searchlight scanning the waters ahead, was coming towards us at high speed. “James, you can’t let them catch us. You promised.”
“I’m not armed, baby. We’ve got nothing.” I swam to where I could hold her hand, she was shaking.
“James, you can manually flood the buoyancy tanks. They can’t find the sub, not ever. It will lead them straight to the entrance.” She looked over to my eyes. “Sink it, baby. Sink it now.”
“What about us?”
“We’ll dive to the bottom, drop our tanks and let the weight belts keep our bodies there. I’d rather drown than be captured.”
She was right, and we didn’t have much time. “All right.” I opened the valves, letting the air escape from the buoyancy tanks. The sub started to sink lower in the water, and I pulled her mask down and put her regulator in before it went under. “I love you, Charlotte. I’m sorry I got you into this.” I put my regulator in and vented my compensator, then hers. The boat was getting closer, soon it would be able to see us. The sub slipped beneath the waves, and I held on to it with one hand as I held her with the other.
The sub pulled us down, and I held Charlotte close as we descended. She was nearly out of it, and soon it would be over. I checked my air, twenty-two minutes left. Plenty of time to reach the bottom and hold her.
The express train reached bottom, and my hand was knocked off as we rolled to the side. I turned on my lights, then hers; she was out now but still breathing. I held her tight to my body, wishing I could do something, anything to save her.
I’d die for her.
The idea blasted through my head like a rifle round. There was one chance we had, and it wasn’t at the surface. We were already going to die, but an Angel of the Lord might be able to save her. If nothing else, death by flaming sword was much faster than drowning.
I had to guess which direction it was in. Since the submarine snagged to the southeast, I headed northwest, my wife limp in my arms. Swimming was slow, and the tank alarms were going off. There wasn’t going to be time to search.
I was almost out of air when I saw the glow.
“Why are you here,” the angel’s voice said into my head.
“To beg God to save my wife,” I thought back. “Kill me if you want, but in the name of Jesus, please save her. It’s my fault she is here.”
“You love her,” he said.
“More than anything,” I said.
“Then bring her.” I swam forward with her and handed her to the kneeling angel.
The patrol boats had split up, one was searching the area where the two boats had sunk. It was too far from me to see details, but after ten minutes or so, one of the boats broke away and headed towards me.
I hoped they hadn’t seen me bail out, but I couldn’t be sure. I turned my head behind me, I could still see burning fuel from where the helicopter had crashed. “Probably looking for survivors,” I told myself as the patrol boat went up on plane and headed quickly towards me. I slid the lifejacket off, holding it in one hand and the raft in the other, and let the rifle drop into the murky depths. It wasn’t needed now, I couldn’t fire it, and all I had to do to die was let myself sink.
When I was close enough to be in range of the spotlight, I took a deep breath and submerged below them. Hopefully, they wouldn’t investigate the floating debris.
I held my breath as long as I could, hearing the sound of the twin engines as it sped by. They passed about a hundred yards north of me, and I snuck up to grab a breath before going down again. I repeated this twice, before I was sure they hadn’t seen me. I looked at their departing lights and could see the lights on the horizon. More were coming.
There was a sudden change in the noise, one of the engines started to make screeching noises and then stopped. The patrol boat spun to starboard, causing it to roll enough I heard screams as men hit the water. The remaining engine was being gunned, then it too got tangled and stopped.
I started to laugh, keeping it underwater so they wouldn’t hear me. They were only a few hundred yards away, and the thin aircraft cable had been wrapped around their propellers. They were disabled, and with more coming, I had to go. There was no chance of waiting around now, not with two patrol boats down and a helicopter. The place would be crawling with patrols by sunrise, just a few hours off.
I put the life jacket back on, zipping it up, then held onto the raft and headed southwest. I had to put as much distance between us as possible before I became obvious in the light. If I was lucky, everyone would be distracted by the damage, and no more helicopters would arrive.
I set an even pace, kicking my feet and resting when I had to. The current helped, pushing me south, and by the time the sun rose I was miles away.
Now the real fun started. I would be easy to spot by any alert people in the boats or aircraft, the trick was to only be spotted by the ones who didn’t want to torture me. The life raft, when inflated, would send out a radio beacon that would alert mariners to my distress. I couldn’t open it until I was sure I was well into neutral waters and close to Western ships.
I kept kicking along as the sun rose higher. My thirst increased with the exercise and the exposure, but there was no relief to be found. My rest periods got longer and longer as my body exhausted itself. I fought off sleep, knowing I would die if I did.I was considering if that was a bad thing when I heard a thump-thump-thump.
Looking up, I saw a helicopter heading towards me.