“That was a landmine,” the captain said in answer to the confused faces. “Now they know we are here.”
Within seconds, shots were ringing out and pelting the thick metal plating of the ship. The captain steered the ship away and gave it maximum speed, but the other ships gave hot pursuit. Small, sleek Asgardian ships skimmed through the water like arrows, pelting the iron beast as they raced along beside.
Then, all at once, the little ships backed off a little, and then another great explosion boomed, this time from above.
“And that would be the cannons from the Cantonar,” said the captain.
Thor simply scowled deeper. His nostrils flared, brows furrowed, and he breathed audibly.
“Well, we are not exactly defenseless,” said the captain, with a chuckle, and he began to operate a lever.
With his mind, Loki shouted toward the queen, “NO! Do not fight back! Give no resistance! It will only be playing into their hands. Allow me to deal with this treachery myself.”
Evidently the queen understood him because she reached over and touched the captain’s hand, saying, “Elban, that will not be necessary.” He looked concerned, but complied without a word.
After another few moments there was another blast from the cannons that rocked the ship, and their speed dropped.
“Damn!” cried the captain, “there goes an engine.”
“We are nearing the Kelp River,” the queen said calmly, and turning to her guests, she said, “Get to your ship. When we are under the cover of the kelp, we will open the bay and you can be on your way.”
“And what of you?” asked Thor.
“Help is on the way for us,” she said with a smile. “I am most grateful for your attention and cooperation!”
“And we for your hospitality!” replied Thor, bowing his head to her.
As they filed out toward the bay where their StingRay was stored, Loki paused at the doorway. Looking deliberately at Calypso, they exchanged a meaningful look, and he said in his mind, “It was wise of you to show this to me. I would be most grateful for your continued cooperation in righting this matter.”
She seemed to consider for a moment, and then he heard her voice in his mind say, “an alliance then?” He nodded almost imperceptibly. “Very well,” she said, “I accept. I thirst for justice.”
“As do I,” he responded as he turned to leave, a subtle smile playing on his lips as he turned away.
Meanwhile, on the Cantonar, a soldier marched into the Captain’s command room and saluted.
“Report,” Captain Gracholm commanded.
“Sir, the marine creature may not be a whale. Our instruments indicate that it is covered in metal, which appears to be impenetrable by our guns. It may, in fact, be a vessel.”
Gracholm looked at his companion, a tall, muscular, dark-haired older man with shrewd eyes. “What do you think, Hagar? Could it be her?”
“Possibly,” the man said in a gravelly voice, “better take it down just to be safe.”
“Sir, it will be out of reach of our cannons in moments.”
“If you cannot take it down, follow it.”
The soldier saluted and hurried away.
“If it is Calypso, perhaps we will find that mermaid’s lair,” Hagar said with a sly smile as he tugged at his dark mustache.
Another blast rocked Calypso’s iron beast, and this time, the hit punctured the side of the bay. A great fountain of water began to shoot into the bay as the team hurried to their ship. Hawkeye was the last to climb aboard, and just as he ducked to get in, another blast tossed the ship. This time it was strong enough that it threw everyone, and Hawkeye’s head hit the door frame so violently that he was knocked unconscious. They quickly pulled him inside and sealed the door.
Thor was about to tear the sheet on the fold-out cot in the berth to bind up the gash on the side of Hawkeye’s head when Natasha grabbed his wrist. “Here,” she said, handing him the first-aid kit. He looked at it confused. So she rolled her eyes, opened the box, and proceeded to pull out the bandages. She then cleaned and wrapped Hawkeye’s head herself.
“Thank you for your assistance, Miss Romanov,” Thor said as she worked.
“Any time,” she said, waving away his thanks.
Since she didn’t seem to need his assistance, Thor went up to the cockpit where Loki was at the controls. Outside, the bay was filling with water quickly. The StingRay was already half submerged.
“Do you think you can fly this thing?” Thor asked his brother.
Loki just sighed and looked at his brother with exasperated condescension.
“Nothing reckless,” Thor replied.
“When have I ever been reckless?” he said sarcastically with a mischievous smile.
At that moment, the valves in Calypso’s ship opened and the bay began to fill with water at an even faster rate until they were completely submerged. There was a loud clang and the doors to the bay began to open slowly.
“He’s awake,” Natasha said as she entered the cockpit and took a seat. “Now, let’s just hope you were paying attention to the lessons earlier,” she said to Lucinda.
“I can handle the ship,” Loki said, “but can she handle me?” He smiled wryly and explained, saying, “We are dangerously low on power.”
There was a pause, and then he said quietly, “Brace yourselves,” and the StingRay lunged forward and out of the bay of the bigger ship. They shot through the dark water several meters below the thick layer of seaweed floating above that stretched in all directions.
“We’re being followed,” Thor announced.
Loki then began to test some unusual maneuvers that more than once made Natasha catch her breath. But neither Thor nor Natasha said anything. Loki made the ship move the same way that a real stingray would move, and took them down to hug the ocean floor. They were going at such a rapid pace that coral reefs, outcroppings, and strange sea flora were passing in a blur. Loki had turned the lights down to a minimum, relying on the radar, sonar, and heat map technology to provide “sight” in the dark depths. After some time, he had Natasha check the satellite images to find out if they were out of the kelp river, and she confirmed that they were close. She also noted that there was a very small island nearby that they could make for, observing that she believed that they had lost the pursuers.
“We aren’t trying to lose them,” Lucinda said, “We’re trying to beat them. We need to get to the others, report our findings, and warn them, before the Cantonar can react.”
They then discussed how their lack of fuel meant that they could not reach Stark in New York, and that they should contact S.H.E.I.L.D. and make for their helicarrier. Perhaps they would meet them somewhere.