“Move over, I’m taking over for this part,” I said. James got out of the way, letting me take the controls of my submarine. I moved it until I had it hovering in place a few feet from the propeller.
“What’s the plan for the recovery,” James asked.
“First thing is to attach it to the minisub with a cable,” I said. I put the submarine in auto hover, the cameras fixing on the end of the propeller and holding station with the thrusters. I put my hands in the controls for the arms, moving the right one until it was holding onto the retractable cable. I then released the short cable and pulled it out. It took a few minutes to get it wrapped around the propeller shaft and clipped it to itself. I backed away to let it tighten up, then used the onboard winch to pull the sub closer.
“So now we pull it back?” Ben was watching over his shoulder, fascinated.
“Not a good idea, it’s suck a long line we’d never get a good pull,” I told him. “And the last thing we want to do is break the tether line. I need to break it free first. Once we get it to the surface we can tow it in.”
I used the arm to attach the four float bags and inflate them. The torpedo didn’t move.
“Is that all we brought?” Ben was looking at it.
“Yes. At this depth, the cartridges could only partially inflate the floats,” I said. “It’s not enough buoyancy to get it loose from the mud.”
“What next,” James asked.
“We try and pull it straight back out,” I said. They watched as I moved the sub around until it was aligned with the torpedo’s length. “Wish me luck.” I put the thrusters full astern, when that didn’t work I moved it side to side, trying to rock it free of the muck.
Nothing worked, and the sub power was draining fast with the high load. I pushed the throttles back to neutral and let the sub float, still attached by the short cable. “Any ideas? That thing is stuck tight.”
“With it stuck like that, I can only thing of two things,” James said. “One is we drive until we are right on top of it and pull straight up. With the shorter cable length we should be able to pull it free.”
“That means driving this thing into Iranian waters and towing the submarine AND the torpedo back out without getting noticed,” he said. “The last time we went in there I lost my ship and nearly my life.”
“Then the only other thing we can do is go to it,” James said. “We dive down with more floaters and a portable tank, we use that to fully inflate the four we have on there now. We get as much buoyancy as we can on the torpedo, then we have Mark put the thrusters full astern again while Charlotte and I try and free it from the muck.”
“If we get it free, everything is going to go to the surface like a rocket,” I said. “We will have to decompress, it will take us a lot longer, meanwhile the torpedo is floating in the waves for anyone to see.”
“As soon as it is free, Ben, you and Mark start winching it in. Don’t wait for us, we’ll use the scuba sled to get there and back.” He looked at me. “We’ll need our gear. It’s at two hundred and eighty feet, we’ll need to make a dive plan.”
I nodded, it was the only way. “We can’t leave it out there, what if it breaks free later? The cable is floated near the surface, that’s too easy to spot in daylight. James is right, we need to get our gear on and get going.”
Ben and Mark reluctantly agreed, and Mark went to get the scuba sled out from storage while we got our dive gear ready. We were using tri-mix tanks, triple tanks to give us maximum time on the bottom. I could feel his eyes on me and my pink bikini as I pulled the wetsuit on, and I was checking out his ass in the Speedo as he put his on. Weight belt, fins, tanks, a bag with four more inflatable floats each; it took less than half an hour before we were in the water. We kept the sled on the surface, using snorkels to save the air in our tanks as we were pulled along.
It took almost an hour to get to the point where the cable went almost straight down. James turned off the sled and attached a powerful light to the anchor so we could find it. He released the anchor so the sled wouldn’t float too far away while we were diving. “You ready,” I asked him.
He made sure his dive computer was ready and we went over the dive plan one last time. When we were ready, we went on tanks and started to follow the cable down.
We stopped at twenty feet to make sure everything was working, then kept going until we were on the bottom. James had the spare high-pressure tank with him, and as soon as we reached the sub and checked our air, he went to work. Holding the nozzle under each bag, he filled them fully.
The torpedo didn’t move.
I went to work, using a strap to attach a half-dozen more floats to the front half of the torpedo near where it went into the mud. I inflated each, then James followed behind me and topped them off. We now had ten floats attached and ready, and it still wasn’t out.
James and I moved in front of the camera, each on a side of the torpedo, and gave Mark the thumbs up. We heard and felt the thrusters start to pull, and the two of us alternated pushing the tail end back and forth. It took fifteen seconds, but then it moved, and with a pop it broke free.
I backed off as it started to shoot up past me, thankful nothing hit me as it went. James looked tack at me before he swam forward. I gave him a high five, but he grabbed my hand and pulled me into a hug. I embraced him back, but two hundred and eighty feet down in Iranian waters was not the place for a first kiss. I looked at my dive computer, we had less than 20 minutes bottom time left without cutting into our safety margin.
We held hands as we swam in a circle until we could see the light for the anchor and swam to it. Once he had it in his hand, I signaled for the ascent, and he gave me the thumbs up. We followed the line up to the surface, stopping for our decompression points along the way. We finally broke surface at 3:42 in the morning.
I took out my regulator, breathing in the air at the surface. “That was amazing,” I said to him as we held onto the sled.
“Let’s go home,” he said. He retracted the anchor, turning off the light when it came up. He powered up the thrusters and turned it west. We used our snorkels again, being pulled side by side along the surface. He stopped after an hour, and we spotted the lights of the boat and headed for it.
James yelled for Mark when we were almost to the swimming boards. “Welcome back,” he said with a big smile.
“Is my baby on board,” I asked.
“Yep, covered up and plugged back in. The torpedo is on board as well. As soon as you two are up, we’re getting the fuck out of Dodge.”
“Get the winch on this,” James said as he brought the sled over to the side of the ship. Mark lowered the cable and he hooked it up before winching it out of the water. Ben met us at the swim deck, I pushed myself into a sitting position and unbuckled my tanks. He pulled them onboard, and I removed my fins and then climbed up. Ben was already in the pilothouse, pushing the throttles up as we turned west.
The first rays of the sun were coming up behind us, it was beautiful.
“We did it,” James said as he hugged me to him. I hugged him back, and before I knew what was happening our lips came together. I kissed him back, enjoying the thrill of the dive and the feel of the man in my arms. A real man, a man who I could have a future with. I was starting to have fantasies of us waking up together as our children ran into the room on Christmas morning.
I had it bad.
When he let me go and walked forward to hug Mark, I felt like my stomach was punched. I pushed the feeling aside and went on with my work. I checked my minisub was stowed and charging, then checked my gear. Mark was already starting to pump up James’ tanks. “Hell of a job out there, Charlotte. It’s been a revelation working with you.”
“Thanks, Commander,” I replied. He took my tanks, then shook my hand. “I’m going to shower and have some food, then I’m going to sleep.”
“Make plenty,” he said with a smile. I took the freshwater shower right after James, and he stayed to watch me shimmy out of my wet suit. “You’re staring,” I said as I got the salt out of my hair.
“I can’t help it,” he said. He took the wand back from me, and we both froze as our fingers touched. “I can’t wait until this is over. The things I want to do are at war in my mind with the things I should do. Come on, let’s change out of these suits and heat up some food.”
He let me go first, and I started cooking eggs and bacon. I smiled when he came out, wearing shorts and a T-shirt. “Can you toast up some English Muffins,” I asked.
“Sure.” He went to work while I cooked, and we soon had a dozen breakfast sandwiches made and wrapped. He put them all in a bag and grabbed a six-pack of juice, then handed it to me. “Take these up to the pilothouse, I’ll do dishes and meet you there,” he said.
Crap, the guy even volunteered to do the dishes. I was falling HARD for this guy. “OK,” I said, cringing as I heard how I sounded. I was so out of practice with relationships it was embarrassing. I just took the food and went up on deck.
The sun was bright at our back as we started steering more south. “We’re thirty miles offshore from Iran now, we’re heading down the Gulf to meet up with a US Navy cruiser,” Ben said. “We’ll transfer the torpedo after dark.”
I just nodded. “Then I’m done? I go home?”
“You could,” he said. “Unless you’d like to double your money with one more dive.”
James picked that moment to come into the pilothouse and grab a sandwich. “James, what is he talking about?”
“Nothing that can’t wait until you’ve had some sleep,” he replied. “Ben, we can talk tonight. Right now I want to eat and sleep and just enjoy the feeling of completing the mission.”
“You’re right,” he said as he took another bite. “I’m selfish, I want her to stay around because she’s a better diver than you, and a better cook than anyone I’ve ever worked with. What we just did will become a legend in the minds of the few people who will ever know about it.”
“Well, I’m exhausted,” I said. “Wake me up about four?”
“Me too,” James said. “You and Mark have your rotation worked out? Need any help?”
“We’re good,” Ben said. “Go on, you’ve got a few minutes before Mark heads down to sleep and you know he snores.”
I just laughed. “Night guys.” I was already in bed when James came in. He brushed his teeth, then walked over to our bunks. “James?”
I could just see the outline of him in the nightlight, and my eyes were almost level with his. “Yes Charlotte?”
“I need a goodnight kiss, I can’t sleep without one now.”
He moved closer, his hand pushing the hair out of my face before his lips descended to mine. It started out gentle, but when I moaned in pleasure it became much more intense. When he finally backed off, I felt empty. “Get some sleep, Charlotte. I love you.”
He ducked down into his bunk, and moments later was sleeping deeply. Me? Not so much. He used the ‘L’ word, and instead of scaring me, I wanted to say it back.