Warblegrub and the Forbidden Planet

Warblegrub and the Forbidden Planet by Andrew Barlow

Book: Warblegrub and the Forbidden Planet by Andrew Barlow Read Free Book Online
Authors: Andrew Barlow
Tags: Cli-fi
from the waves, climbing towards them. Trailing fire and smoke, it passed through the flock, scattering birdpeople in every direction. Those with passengers dived straight into the sea and before Alex knew what was happening, she was underwater. A searing light almost blinded her then a hand grabbed her arm, another covered her mouth and she was pulled downwards, deep down – impossibly deep! The light was still growing and the water was boiling. Dragged deeper into the ocean, Alex began to lose consciousness but before she blacked out she thought she saw a bubble of rainbow light forming around her.
    *
    Several kilometres clear of the blast zone, the submarine slowed down and the soldiers picked themselves up off the floor. By the dull red glow of the emergency lights, they stumbled along the corridor to the Operations Room.
    “What happened?” asked Sarah, first to arrive.
    “We fired a nuclear missile,” 395 answered, his eyes on the tablet.
    “Nuclear!” she exclaimed. “How come we’re still alive?”
    “This boat’s designed to get close to its target and get away fast.”
    “Against a flock of birds!”
    “Against the enemy!” the Colonel reminded her. He glared at the company crowding in the doorway then dismissed them with a gesture of his hand. “You disapprove as well?” he asked 395 when they were alone.
    “Disapprove, Sir?”
    “You were clearly uncomfortable with my order.”
    “With respect Sir, I was!” 395 squared his shoulders. “You risked our safety and the success of the mission….”
    “You calculated we could get clear.”
    “With no margin of safety whatsoever, to kill a flock of birds! ”
    “To kill Warblegrub,” the Colonel replied, “who’s as great a threat to this mission as that Fardelbear!”
    395 had no answer, at least not one he was prepared to give voice to now. He nodded and looked down at the data on the tablet but his failure to salute was noted.
    “Don’t go soft on me now, S.O.,” the Colonel warned. “I’ll need you more than anyone before this is over!”
    395 saluted curtly.
    “Now,” said the Colonel. “What’re we looking at?”
    “The sonar, Sir. It’s quite an advanced system – imaging’s crystal clear!”
    Having watched the exchange from the doorway, Sergeant 236 now entered quietly and joined them. The image on the tablet appeared in 3D above the map table, and though lacking colour, the sonar revealed almost every feature of the ocean depths in extraordinary detail: blasted rocks, uprooted beds of seaweed, shattered coral reefs, even dead fish raining down, killed by the shock from the nuclear blast. On the edge of the devastation, a much larger creature fell right in their path, and 395 recognised the curved tail and dorsal fin of a dolphin. The Colonel and the Sergeant braced themselves but the impact was soft, and the creature bounced off and rolled down the hull. Another appeared and sank to the bottom, then another. Soon there was a large school of dolphins all around the submarine, twisting and turning, falling lifelessly to the seabed. The Colonel watched them stony-faced, and there was an awkward silence that persisted until they were only a few kilometres from their destination. Then the Colonel ordered the Sergeant to prepare the company but she had barely left the room when 395 gasped out loud.
    “We’re passing over a trench in the ocean floor,” he explained. “It’s very deep and there’s warm, mineral-rich water welling up.”
    “Volcanic?” the Colonel guessed.
    395 nodded.
    “Is it dangerous?” asked the Sergeant.
    “Seems fairly quiet – no particular seismic activity.”
    Reminded of her orders, the Sergeant saluted and obeyed, but before she could reach the door, they were thrown to the floor as the submarine stopped dead in the water. Before they could regain their feet, the stern tilted up until the vessel was stood on its nose. Grabbing the tablet before it was wrenched from its connections, 395 held

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