Marcus slid the sonic torpedoes behind the seats of his two-person zip-sub. He glanced around the air chamber. The huge, vaulted room housed the undersea city of Oceana’s main port. Rows of submarines and zip-subs lined the docks. On the far side of the chamber, uniformed guards directed the crush of people toward the evacuation submarines. Sirens wailed. A recorded message, urging everyone to remain calm, crackled over the intercom. Good. Everyone was too busy trying to cram onto the transport subs to notice him, or so he thought.
“Just where do you think you’re going?”
Marcus spun around. His twin sister stood on the dock.
“Jeez, Allie! Don’t sneak up on me like that!”
She shrugged. “What are you up to, anyway?”
“I have things to do.” He eyed her warily. Would she squeal on him? They’d never gotten along. Despite being twins, they were different in every way. Marcus was fair, tall, and painfully thin. Allie was dark-haired, broad-shouldered, and muscular. She was a popular swim-jock. He was a reclusive science-geek. Their worlds rarely met.
“I’m in kind of a hurry. Is there something you want?” he asked, eager to be rid of her.
“Half the city has been quarantined.” Allie’s voice was sharp with fear. “Mom and Dad have spent the last three weeks working 24/7 at the hospital. Dozens of people have died, and now Dad’s sick, too. You’ve spent half your life doing experiments in Mom’s lab. Why aren’t you there now? Why aren’t you trying to figure how to stop this epidemic?”
“Mom hasn’t let me near the lab since the beginning of the outbreak, but I’ve studied the data files of all the tests they’ve run. I’m convinced the cure can’t be found in Oceana.”
Although Marcus and Allie were just finishing the seventh grade, Marcus had been taking his science classes at Oceana University for the last three years. He had authored fourteen research papers on deep-sea organisms and had seven patents pending. Despite his achievements, the government had no interest in the opinion of a thirteen-year-old kid when it came to solving a health crisis. Oceana was in the midst of the worst epidemic in its recorded history. Prime Minister, Eliza Finney, had ordered the West End quarantined and the immediate evacuation of the rest of the city. Since dawn, submarines had been ferrying people to the city of Aquatica, some forty miles west of Oceana.
Marcus had other plans.
“Allie, I’d love to chat, but now’s not the time.” Marcus slipped into his seat and clipped on his harness. To his surprise, Allie climbed into the passenger seat.
“I’m coming, too.” She glared at him, as if daring him to argue. “Marcus, if anyone can save Dad, it’s you. And I’m going to help. Now let’s get out of here before anyone notices us.”
Marcus pressed the auto-seal button, and the titanium hatch closed over them. He initiated the safety check sequence. When the metallic, computer-generated voice chirped that all systems were activated, he flooded the ballast chambers, and the zip-sub sank beneath the surface. The view from the external cameras flickered onto the computer screen. Marcus guided the zip-sub through the series of water-locks that kept the air chamber from flooding. After the final seal closed behind them, he accelerated and wove expertly between the larger transport subs.
“So what’s the plan?” asked Allie.
“To collect fluid and sulfide ore from the black smokers! You know, the hydrothermal vents. The minerals there have powerful antibiotic properties.”
“The black smokers? You’re crazy! They’re over a thousand meters down. The pressure will flatten us.”
“No, it won’t. This isn’t your average zip-sub. It’s specially designed for deep-sea exploration. It can handle pressures of over 4,000 psi and temperatures of over five hundred degrees Celsius.”
“Is it squid-proof?”
“Giant squid? Let’s hope we don’t find out. We’ll pass through their hunting grounds on the way down.”
“That explains the sonic torpedoes,” said Allie.
“It isn’t the giant squid I’m worried about. Last month, three research subs disappeared without a trace. Something is guarding the vents. Something that doesn’t want humans in its territory!”