Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Captain Lewis gripped the hand-strap inside the copter’s airframe tightly, the wind whipping spray up from the dark ocean below as the pilot tried to maneuver in the gale.
“Your ride is below – when we get close enough, drop into the boat,” the pilot screamed back through the cabin, “but try not to miss.”
Lewis had been cursed with an unnatural aversion to open water for as long as he could remember. Never swam, never took baths, only ever showered. Bouncing along in a helicopter in this extreme weather didn’t concern him at all, but the water below unsettled him severely. He swallowed hard and reset his grip on the strap.
From the bridge of the nearby warship, Admiral Danes watched the scene unfold through binoculars.
“Somebody tell that helo driver to offload my cargo; we don’t have all night.”
The instruction was relayed to the copter pilot, who turned again in the cockpit to address Lewis, screaming once more over the combined wind, wave and rotor noise.
“Sir, you need to transfer to the boat now!”
Lewis stared at the bobbing black craft below him. He was Army, battle tested, better than this. There was no way an irrational fear of water should be locking him up.
In a single movement Captain Lewis released his grip on the airframe and stepped out into the darkness.
In the same instant a gust of wind buffeted the helicopter sideways. Lewis missed the Zodiac by inches and splashed down in the icy water beside, then sank like a stone.
Admiral Danes barked at the crew on the bridge.
“What the hell just happened? Where’s my asset? Somebody fish that soldier out of the water and get him onboard ASAP!” There was a flurry of activity on the bridge, tense radio chatter with the pickup crew on the smaller boat and the helicopter pilot, followed by a hesitant voice from one of the instrument operators.
“Sir,” he began, “Admiral?”
The Admiral turned on him and barked. “Speak up man!”
“Sir, the Captain’s sinking fast, and all his on-boards are out. Those Army units aren’t watertight at depth sir, and they don’t float. They’re intended for dry-land combat, they’re water resistant, even partially waterproof to a limit, but…”
“Are you telling me that our Army Intel unit just deep-sixed itself into the god-damned ocean, and it can’t swim?”
The radar operator flinched. “And we’re right over the trench sir, it’s going to be practically impossible to get down there to get it back.”
The admiral slowly balled both fists and leaned into the console, the room getting very quiet around him.
“Get comms to Langley, have them bake me a new unit, load-in our intel and send it out here in a god-damned Ziploc bag. We’ll turn it on when it’s safely on board and I’ll personally deal with any disorientation.”
The operator sat very quiet and still.
The bridge burst back into action, as beneath the waves below Captain Lewis went completely dark, his armored combat frame dropping him into the deepest, final sleep.