Five up top and four in the water. That was worse than Kurt had expected.
To Kurt’s chagrin, the attacker was in a full-face helmet and had on a partial hard suit. Otherwise, Kurt would have simply ripped the guy’s mask off. Instead, they twisted and rolled until Kurt got the man in a headlock, engaged the thrusters and accelerated toward an outcropping of wood and coral that had once been the bow of the Sophie C.
Two more men came racing toward him from the far side of the work site. Like the first man, these men were wearing full-face helmets, but, unlike the man he’d just knocked out, they were being pushed through the water by propulsion units of their own.
ar shot past Kurt, leaving a trail of bubbles in its wake. Kurt dove for the bottom, kicking up silt to act as a smokescreen.
He engaged his own thrusters at full speed and the cloud grew behind him. He remembered an old adage from a World War II fighter pilot he’d worked with years back: Always turn left in the clouds. Why left and not right, he didn’t know, but if it was good enough for the skies over Midway, it was good enough for the bottom of the sea.
Kurt turned, and instead of the whoosh of another spear, Kurt heard the dull, muted thumping of a rifle. It sounded an awful lot like the venerable AK-47.
One of the shoulder-mounted wings of his suit shattered. Kurt continued to move, kicking furiously in addition to the power of the thrusters.
He made it to behind the wreck. “Joe, if you can hear me, I need help in a big way. It’s three against one and these guys are carrying underwater rifles. Their propulsion units look Russian to me, so I’m guessing the rifles are too.”
Kurt could think of two different rifles the Russians had designed for their Spetsnaz commandos and frogmen. A weapon called the APS, which fired special steel-core projectiles called bolts that were nearly five inches long. These heavy bolts cut through the water far better than any standard lead bullet, but they still had a limited range due to the density of water. At this depth, it couldn’t have been more than fifty to sixty feet, but as Kurt’s aching back attested, they could still deliver a thump even out of the effective killing distance.
“Joe, do you read me? Joe?”
Another thing dense water did was limit even the most advanced communications systems. Joe was out of range. He looked left to the stern of the Sophie Celine, there were lights coming around that way. He glanced to the right and saw the same thing.
“Three killers out to get me and only two spears,” he muttered. “Next time, I’m bringing a whole stack of spearguns.”
A tornado of bubbles whirled as the man writhed in agony like a spiked tuna. Instead of down, he spiraled upward, grabbing at his wound and releasing the rifle.
Kurt let him go and dove for the rifle, which vanished into the gloom.
“Lights on,” he said.
The left wing light was shattered, but the light on his right shoulder came on instantly. Its illumination reflected off the sinking weapon and at the same time also gave away Kurt’s position.
Kurt dove hard, only to hear the thudding of another rifle. Bolts dug into the silt in front of him and Kurt had no choice but to turn or be killed.
He turned back to where he thought the fallen rifle had hit bottom, arriving on the spot at the same time as the last surviving member of the attacking force did.