Chapter 13 – Traveling Light

Although the next few weeks were unbelievably ordinary on a drilling standpoint, the ambience onboard the platform was anything but dull.  From the roughnecks all the way to the management personnel, everyone was still discussing the events that had occurred almost three weeks before.  The abrupt departure of Alexander was also on everyone’s lips.  The only two people on board who refused to engage in any speculation were the two divers.

Eirik had requested his holiday early using the pretext that he needed to return home to his family.  As for Jack, his temporary contract was at an end and, without Alexander, Eirik didn’t have any more leverage to help him keep his job.   Jack had always known that it was only a temporary opportunity, but with his alimony payments to his ex-wife, he was grateful when Eirik called.  It also gave him the chance to spend time with his old friend and, more importantly, to discover the Facility.

After working on that platform for two years, Eirik had free reign to come and go and had the keys to every storage room.  Immediately after returning to the surface the very first day, he forged a plan in his mind to return to the Facility as soon as possible without arousing suspicions.  He hoped to do it sooner, but Jack’s contract didn’t include long holidays and diving solo was one thing, venturing in an alien environment alone was another.  With the efficiency of an ant preparing for the winter months, he started accumulating equipment and food in the form of ready-to-eat meals the minute he returned to the surface after their discovery.

 

His first love had been archaeology, although marine biology had seemed more promising and lucrative, but he ended up doing neither.  Now he had his chance to put his years in university to profit and he would make sure to be methodical and to take notes on everything he would see.  They were still adamant about not wanting to reveal the Facility’s existence yet.  But Eirik knew that the day would come sooner or later, and he would make sure to keep a detailed journal of their exploration for him and for them.  The scientist in Eirik had returned and the sense of purpose gave him great comfort.  They still had no idea of what they had discovered:  The absence of people, the advanced technologies, and the newly-built state of the Facility was mystifying to say the least.

Eirik made his way through the living quarters and arrived at Jack’s bulkhead door which was already open and his friend was there, ready to go.

As Eirik entered the small room which he considered their private dive shop”, he closed the door behind them.  “We have about three days’ worth of food and water.  I have also secured one of our underwater containers which will allow us to carry everything we need on our journey,” explained Eirik excitedly, forgetting that Jack was briefed on the plan already.

“Great, I have about one thousand feet of line for marking the path and fifty pounds of weights to offset the buoyancy of the container,” added Jack, understanding his friend’s enthusiasm.  “I was also thinking of bringing my camera, but I am not sure if I want to take the chance to send the photos for development later.”

“You're right. We shouldn't leave any trace that we were inside, but bring it anyway.  We can leave it inside the room we are planning to use.  It would be good to have a record for the future, and if we leave it in the Facility, then there are no risks,” Eirik said, knowing that he brought his new digital camera with him and hoped that the new underwater enclosure was good enough for five atmospheres of pressure.

Stuffing the extra equipment in their travelling suitcases, they asked to be escorted to shore by one of the boats permanently tethered to the platform.  Within minutes after being dropped off on shore, they were already comfortably seated in Eirik’s car and barely waiting for the engine to warm up.  They drove to an uninhabited house by the shoreline not too far from where the Facility entrance should be.

“This house belonged to a friend of mine in the village,” Eirik explained.  “He never comes here—no one does—so we can leave the car here and dive from the shore right in front of the house.”

“That will be quite a swim.  When we returned to the surface, we were directly swimming in front of the saddle formed between these two mountains, and the group of trees on the other side of the fjord,” Jack remembered, almost out of breath just thinking how long the swim would be.

“That sounds about right.  I think the best solution is to bring our car right at the edge of the water where the road stops and the rocks begin,” proposed Eirik, trying to adjust his eyes to look down at the entry point.  “Once we drop our equipment, we can then make our way back here with the car and return to the shore on foot.”

“What’s that we thing?  You walk, I’ll arrange the gear.  The entry seems a little bit rough, but at least we'll have plenty of rocks to secure our rope near the shore and near the Facility entrance. There’ll be no shortage of boulders to attach the other end there,” Jack said, visualising the plan in his head. “If we tie the rope low enough, no one would ever see it.  I’m sure no one dives here; there’s nothing to see.”

Less than half an hour later, Jack had completed the assembling of their gear and lowered the container in the water.  He immediately noticed that the weight was slightly too much for the container and it started sinking.  He tried to hold on to the handle, but his wet hand lost its grip and it disappeared beneath the surface.  “There goes that idea,” said Jack, laughing at himself as he started looking inside the Velcro pockets of his dry suit.  Extracting a roll of plastic, he unrolled it while holding one side to reveal a yellow banner that was two metres long and about twice the width of his hand.

At that moment, he heard footsteps behind him.  A dry branch cracked, sending an echo across the water.  Expecting Eirik to return, Jack was not alarmed; he actually felt embarrassed and turned to meet his friend who had already changed and wore a smile that said ”Let’s go!”

“You think we will need a lift bag?” asked Eirik with a grin, looking at the fluorescent banner.  “Hoping to return to the surface with your sonic shower?” he followed, now bursting into laughter.

“Yeah, that would be great,” answered Jack.  “Unfortunately no, in case you haven’t noticed, there is something missing.”

“Holy shit! Where’s the container?” asked Eirik, clearly alarmed.

“I’m not quite sure, it was not exactly buoyant to say the least, but not too heavy either,” explained Jack.  “It gently drifted a few feet from the shore and then slowly disappeared.  I would guess it's about thirty feet under by now.”

“Okay, let's go and get it on the way.  You can swim with the container and I’ll lay down the rope,” said Eirik.

Eirik was the first to enter the water, but the rocky shore made it very difficult for them to walk in a straight line.  They swirled from side to side until the water was about knee-deep; they then turned around and let themselves fall backwards into the cold water.

They found the container about eight metres at the bottom and on its side. It was still sealed and looked undamaged.  Jack attached the lift bag on one of the handles and inflated it using Eirik’s second air source.

Less burdened by the excess weight, Jack looked at his compass and, with a wave of his arm, pointed at what he estimated was a direct path to the doorway.  Eirik fastened one end of the reel to a lug and started swimming downward alongside his buddy, periodically stopping to attach the rope to rocks, sunken trees, and branches on the bottom along the way.  They eventually ran out of rope a dozen metres from the beginning of the structure.  Making a knot, he left just enough rope to hide their reel beneath some silt.

Jack, clearly slowed by the large container, arrived a full minute after Eirik finished securing the last length of the line.  Jack motioned for help and presented the handle on the opposite side of the container to Eirik.  They then resumed swimming toward the entrance that they assumed was on the other side of the slope they were approaching.  Soon, the bottom disappeared from beneath them and they flew over it like a helicopter flying over a cliff.  It took them a little longer than usual to descend, having to compensate for the lift bag.  It was with plenty of air to spare that they started hovering in front of the door.