The Waters of Atlantea Chapter 44

Authors Notes: You and I all knew this chapter was eventually coming, and how appropriate that it happens in the 70th overall chapter of this anthology! I know it's been a LONG wait for everyone and no one more than I wanted to treat you to the closure of all the major plot points much earlier than I've been carrying in my head for a very long time. So... here is the pinnacle of the action for "Waters of Atlantea", and I sincerely hope that this brings everything to a satisfying conclusion for you - all my many very loyal fans. There are no more cliffhangers - this is DEFINITELY the climax! There is an epilogue after this that I hope you'll enjoy yet to come.

…Nautilus Bridge...

To the threesome, everything happened in slow motion. A blinding blue-white bolt of electricity erupted from Judy's pen, impacted Nemo directly in his chest, and the discharge flared as he arched his back in agony. The original bolt split into multiple paths, seething as it spread radially from the elephant seal's body and it coursed around him to envelope the entire bridge crew that had crowded around him for the final attack on the trio.

Nick quickly shielded his eyes and those of his cousin to prevent flash blindness and they were deafened by the crack of artificial thunder as the bolt superheated the air. The Movement foes were staggered backward by the force of electrical current and convulsed sickeningly as multiple tendrils of the electrical discharge spread out like a gigantic spider web and crawled all over their bodies.

The relentless mammal-made electrical storm sought to dissipate itself, so smaller bolts leaped from the pinnipeds to the surrounding metal superstructure of the bridge, electrical consoles, and displays, overloading circuits, searing wiring, and creating showers of sparks in anything that would conduct electricity. As the charge flowed through the pinnipeds and into the submarine, they collapsed and dropped to the deck, totally unconscious.

The three cousins recoiled instinctively away from the energy field as it grew, and any exposed fur stood stiffly on end from the charge in the air. They braced against being captured by the sphere of current and paralyzed by the electrical energy but were surprised that they did not feel any of the intense pain their foes experienced. The energy surrounding the bodies of their Movement foes fell short of gripping them.

As suddenly as the megawatt taser pulse began, it was over, and there was complete silence on the bridge. A few sparks showered from dead consoles and displays, but no motor hummed, no fan whirred, and Nemo and his Nautilus bridge crew lay in a tangled heap of bodies piled together. They were completely limp. Nick, Judy, and Michael couldn't tell who was dead and who was simply stunned because their enemies' breathing was so shallow. Their noses were assaulted horrible smell of melted insulation and plastic, burnt blubber, and singed and fused pinniped body hair and whiskers.

The three allies stood alone and were in total disbelief that they were in fact still vertical. They inspected each other for signs of electrocution. They had survived the massive point-blank taser shot with little more than the itchy feeling of their exposed fur standing on end - not much different than a bad static electricity day.

"Dang…" Nick exclaimed as he continued to examine himself.

"My sentiments exactly," Judy added in equal surprise.

Nick held a finger close to Judy's nose and a spark zapped across the 5-centimeter gap.

She shrieked from the spark, "Ow! Not funny, fox!"

She soothed her nose with her paw and glared at her husband.

"Sorry, Carrots…" he apologized but couldn't suppress a satisfied smile.

Judy mildly complained, "No you're not. You love doing that to me on dry days."

To calm Judy, Nick embraced her, grateful to be not only conscious but also alive from the rabbit's desperate point-blank shot.

"Shouldn't we have felt something?" Michael asked incredulously, still looking for signs of being electrocuted.

"Umm… yah. A lot actually. We should have looked – and smelled - a lot like them," Judy explained, and wrinkled her sensitive nose at the obvious stench of burnt blubber.

"So… what happened? Why are we still standing? Why aren't we dead?" Nick asked, licking a clump of static-filled fur in his tail to lay flat.

"You're complaining?" Michael retorted. His cousins' dry humor was still new to him.

"No Michael. Just… shocked," Judy explained, but realizing her unintentional pun, she grinned.

"Bad pun, Carrots," Nick mused.

Judy snickered, "Only when it's not you saying it."

Michael looked around, grateful for their good fortune, then observed, "Uh… guys… look down."

"What?" Nick puzzled.

"Ohhhhh!" Judy nodded and smiled in realization.

The threesome was standing on a rubber anti-slip safety mat right next to the exit hatch. It was not conductive. Every pinniped was bare-flippered on metal sub deck when the taser pulse hit them. The energy ball had no resistance.

"Finick always said it's better to lucky than smart," Nick quipped.

"We make our own luck, fox. But I'll take this one," Judy replied.

Gesturing around the bridge, Michael directed their attention, "Uh, cousins… check this out!"

Nick didn't follow him but responded, "I did, Michael. They're all down. We're safe."

Michael emphasized further, "No. Look behind them."

The trio surveyed the massive destruction the fireball had created on the bridge. Nearly every display not already disabled by their sabotage sparked, sputtered, and smoked from the enormous discharge. Glass was shattered, plastic was melted, and LEDs were fried. Not only had Judy's taser disabled the pinnipeds but it also destroyed the electronic brains of the Nautilus.

Michael worried, "Hmm. I think we made things worse."

All of their eyes were drawn to the broken speedometer/bathymeter which dominated the display panel. It was frozen at 60 knots velocity and 150 meters depth.

They all realized that the Nautilus was an enormous unguided torpedo and could wreak more havoc on Orcandor than its entire inventory of tinfish and energy weapons.

"We stopped them. How do we stop this thing?" Nick fretted, hoping Michael had an answer.

"More importantly, how to we dump the virus?" Michael responded.

"What do you mean: 'dump the virus'?" Nick queried his cousin in shock, "The virus will infect the entire ocean around here. It won't be safe for hybrids – especially in the Sanctuary. They'll never be able to leave Orcandor.

Judy added, "Ocean currents will take the virus everywhere in the world, Michael. We don't understand you."

Michael smiled, "That's the virus' dirty little secret. I hid its one flaw from Dr Death and Nemo. The virus won't survive in natural sea water long. It only grows in treated fresh water – the kind of water only found in municipal water supplies."

Nick and Judy's jaws dropped.

Michael grinned with his revelation and proceeded, "Now if you'll excuse me, there's one final job to do!"

The hybrid bounded effortlessly over their motionless Movement foes, hopped over to the bio weapons panel, found the 'emergency dump' valve handle, and pulled it.

There was no response from controls or any sign of anything mechanical happening in the sub.

"Uh-oh," Michael stated in dismay.

"What?" Nick asked with anxiety.

"There should have been a big 'whooshing' sound there…" Michael explained.

Nick rubbed his brow and apologized, "Sorry, cousin. I think we got too eager to pull every wire."

"No, not this one. There should have been just a mechanical connection," Michael told Nick.

The hybrid reached under the console and found the remains of a frayed metal cable, completely severed from the system far inside the Nautilus that would have jettisoned the virus. He examined it in frustration. Clearly, one of the guards' wild gun shots had cut it.

"Damn," Michael complained, and dropped the end of the useless cable.

Judy fretted, "Is there another way to get rid of the virus?"

Michael sighed, "I have to go to the storage tanks. The main vent valve is back there. I can do it myself. After all, I caused this mess."

"No Michael. We'll go with you and help," Judy insisted.

Nick reminded Michael of the obvious danger, "The virus will kill you. You're a hybrid; we aren't. You tell us what to do. We'll dump the virus!"

Michael confronted his friends, "I'll be OK. The virus doesn't work that way. A hybrid has to be infected already and in an active sexual relation. It's a deadly form of toxic shock syndrome. And it affects any mammal carrying a hybrid. Judy, how do you know you aren't pregnant? If you are, it will kill you too."

"Uh… I'm not pregnant. I can't be," Judy asserted, but she stopped and sighed, because she honestly didn't know.

Nick had a compassionate look. He remembered Judy's one false EPT during their honeymoon and the hurt they felt together. But they'd enjoyed plenty of activity since then and never checked again – which now seemed like years ago.

"Are you sure, Carrots?" Nick asked tenderly of his mate.

"Nick, I don't know if I am or not. I… I've had some really weird feelings and thoughts lately - ever since the cave," Judy hesitated and sighed, straightened her shoulders and declared, "No Nick… I'm not sure."

Judy knew this was not the time to celebrate, but she saw the slight eye twinkle and half-smile from her husband, then glanced back demurely.

Michael didn't want to know anything more about the obvious intimacy between his cousins in the cave below the Lab, so he interjected quickly, "So. It's settled then, you guys stop the sub; I'll get rid of the virus."

Judy and Nick stared at the imposing steering wheels and expanse of gages of the 'con', hesitated, and looked at Michael for guidance on what to do.

He explained, "The steering mechanism is completely mechanical. It's not damaged. Just pull back on the controls like an airplane to get this thing to surface and arrest the crew. While you're doing that, I'll go back, dump the virus, and get the reactor crew to shut off the power. I still have some friends in the Movement."

"But Michael…" Judy reacted with uncertainty.

He reassured her, "It'll be easy, Judy. All that virus weight is like ballast – it will help force the sub to the surface even faster than the dive planes."

The rabbit nodded her head and expressed her confidence, "Well… I can drive any of our police cruisers."

Nick encouraged, "You'll figure it out, Carrots. You can drive anything."

She gave him a little hug and started moved to the con.

"What about those guys?" Nick asked

Michael emphasized, "They're not coming around any time soon is my guess."

He didn't want to say: "Or never…"

Judy asked, "So… how do you get back to the rear decks, Michael?"

They all glanced at the mutilated ceiling air vents leading back into the interior of the sub.

Michael confessed, "Well… I'm obviously not going back the way we came. Let's try that hatch again. Maybe Judy fried the electronic lock."

They turned to the hatch and all three pulled on it several times. They still couldn't make it budge.

Judy suggested, "How about the card reader?"

They searched the unconscious pinnipeds and grabbed a security card from one of them who appeared to be the sub's Captain. She swiped the skipper's card, but the hatch didn't open. In fact, a sign flashed in red on the display. It said: "CAUTION: flipper print verification required."

Michael surveyed the 1000-pound knocked-out walrus Captain, and lamented, "Crap! No way we're going drag that big sonuvagun over here. He's way too heavy."

The hybrid resisted the temptation to cut off the pinniped's flipper and carry it over to the card reader. His cousins would be aghast at that kind of cruelty – even with a cruel enemy. He surprised himself at even having the thought.

Nick warned, "We have to do something fast. Those jerks will wake up soon. We don't want to be here when they do!"

Judy added, "Let's not forget we're about to smash into Orcandor too!"

The gravity of the situation and their helplessness weighed heavily on all of them, utterly perplexed what to do next.

Nick offered, "Any other ideas?"

"Fresh out," Michael confessed with his eyes toward the floor, "I… uhh… never really planned to escape after dumping the virus."

"Whuuut?" reacted Judy incredulously.

"Until you guys got here, I only planned to get to bridge and survive long enough to push the 'dump' valve," Michael admitted.

"That's heroic, but you're an idiot to sacrifice yourself, Michael," Nick scolded and frowned.

Michael admitted, with sad eyes, "I know… Until you guys came along, I didn't have any reason to live for anyone."

Judy hugged Michael and assured him tenderly, "I'm glad we changed your mind, Michael."

Buried beneath a half dozen stinking and smoldering pinniped bodies, Nemo realized he could hear the cousins' conversation, but couldn't move. He didn't understand what they were saying. His mind was scrambled from the intense electrical shock. Their words were like a foreign language. But each word of gibberish slowly turned into speech as he returned to his senses.

One voice was familiar: Xobar's.

Nemo realized he had suffered – at point blank range – the twin to the weapon that decimated Bart's forces outside the Lab in which no one likely survived. He regretted not stopping to recover and check the bodies for signs of life in his haste for revenge against Orcandor, because he sure needed Bart now, if he had somehow withstood the blast.

But that was too late now.

Nemo felt the control returning to his limbs and he waited for his move to strike down Nick, Judy, and Michael. It would be easy – they were completely preoccupied on getting through the hatch.

The elephant seal mustered every bit of energy within himself, carefully pushed aside the bodies of his crew on top of him and extricated himself from the pile. He stayed on his huge belly. The three puny forest animals didn't see Nemo slither toward them. He clenched a wicked-looking broken pipe with a razor-sharp metal edge. One swing would gut and dismember all three small mammals.

Nemo rose on his hind flippers and wound up to swing his deadly weapon.

ZSDF stealth helicopter…

Before a proper explanation about the pararescue crew could begin, helo pilot Major McDonnell interrupted urgently, "Sir, we are directly over the Orcandor outer defensive perimeter."

"Time for explanations later, soldiers," Colonel concluded, "We have a job to do."

With relief, the pair agreed and clutched their weapons, battle-ready, and trained on the ocean surface for signs of the Movement enemies.

The big moose shouted, "Major: hover mode! Now!"

Under expert control by the bat, the chopper's rotors and engine strained with a roar. The big machine nosed up and its blades took a hard bite of the air. It stopped dead 50 meters above the ocean swells, nearly invisible from any angle.

Everyone was always impressed with McDonnell's flight skills.

Corporal Cosgrove looked out from his window and scanned below, "No visuals, sir. They're too deep."

The Colonel ordered, "Drop sonobuoys. Let's get a signal from down there. We need Situational Awareness immediately."

The Major responded, "Yes sir. Hang on everyone. This is gonna be rough."

The entire crew gripped their handholds and braced.

McDonnell pushed his controls forward. He slewed the helo into a very tight 360 degree turn, while his Corporal deployed sonobuoys in an exact pattern from fuselage mounted dispensers. As each sensor dropped into the ocean, the moisture activated their internal batteries and transmitters. Cosgrove immediately started receiving signals. Slowly, a grainy image appeared on the chopper's crew station display.

"Sir, I think that's Orcandor," the kangaroo announced.

The entire crew realized no Zootopian and probably no one in Atlantea or Cetacea had ever seen the vastness of the orcan crime Lord's enormous stronghold – or lived to tell about it if they did. Orcandor's size rivaled the downtown Zootopia business district in breath, but it was suspended mid-ocean in 150 meters of open ocean.

Fascinated, the Colonel requested, "Corporal: record this."

He knew that the killer whale crime family was their ally now, but perhaps could be enemies in the future. He had to be prepared and practical.

"I already am sir," grinned the kangaroo, having the same thought.

They saw details of the orcan guard outposts and a series of tethered bio domes that housed the killer whale family and their allies.

"Very good Corporal," the Colonel praised.

"Yes sir."

Suddenly a red flashing blip entered the screen.

"Colonel: high speed bogie approaching," the marsupial warned.

"How fast?"

"60 knots sir," kangaroo stated, barely containing his shock.

The moose gulped, "60 knots? Nothing is that fast under water. Check for sensor malfunction."

The Corporal checked carefully but affirmed, "True reading sir. 60 knots."

The big moose speculated, "But that would take unimaginable power."

"I can think of one source that would give 'unimaginable power'," Bart emphasized.

The Colonel instantly understood. He'd captured the Movement's fusion reactor team.

"Ready the taser bomb, Cosgrove – we're going to make this a depth charge," the team leader ordered.

The kangaroo observed, "I think it's going to take full yield, sir. We have to make every system on that sub shut down."

"But what about Nick and Judy? And whoever is with them?" fretted one of the pararescue team members.

The Colonel grimaced, knowing the unintended consequences on their friends, but could only offer, "Pray they aren't touching anything metal when it goes off."

The second pararescue team member objected, "That's a pretty big assumption, sir. That whole thing is metal."

"We have no choice, soldier. To save Orcandor, you know that Nick and Judy would agree," the big moose stated, then turned to the bat, "Major: Position us over the trajectory of that sub. Account for currents."

With a couple of deft movements of the whirlybird, McDonnell announced, "Done, sir."

Satisfied, the Colonel further ordered, "On my mark, Corporal… drop w-!"

Major McDonnell scrutinized the miniature sonar display repeater on his side of the cockpit, then urgently interjected in mid-order, "Wait, Colonel. Belay that order! There's something else out there. Dozens of somethings."

Upon closer examination of the screen, the kangaroo confirmed the shapes, "Major McDonnell is right. It's the entire Orcandor security force. If we detonate the weapon at full power, we'll stop the sub, but we'll kill all of Kida's guards."

"Damn… All right… Stand by," the Colonel slumped back in his seat, sighed in frustration at this latest complication.

But then he noticed more blips coming into view from the other side of Orcandor's defenders, closing on the sub, and asked, "Corporal, what are those?"

The big moose pointed his hoof at the display screen.

"I don't know sir, but there are definitely three new bogies… calculating… stand by…" the kangaroo explained while focusing and the display and adjusting the gain on the new, larger images, then reported, "Sir, Sweet Nature, they're nearly as big as the sub. Whales, sir! And closing fast on the sub… intercept course, sir! They'll hit the sub just outside the Orcandor security perimeter!"

The entire flight crew realized who they were. The pararescue team clutched each other for support.

The Colonel swore, "Holy Mother of Nature, help Nick and Judy!"

Nautilus Bridge…

Nemo inadvertently grunted as he started to swing. The noise diverted the trio's attention from unlocking the hatch, but they were frozen in place with shock at Nemo's unseen approach.

The was no way to avoid his killing blow.

Before Nemo could dismember his foes with the jagged pipe, the entire sub violently lurched sideways. The sudden shift threw the trio violently against an equipment locker adjacent to the hatch. The intensity of the movement flung Nemo completely away from them, as far back as the boatswain's station. He crashed into the dive plane control wheel and column, bringing him to a sudden stop, and the momentum of the elephant seal's enormous bulk pushed the sub's steering column into a full dive.

Nemo's improvised metal weapon was jettisoned from his flippers and it stuck and quivered in a dead display. The dive plane control column wasn't strong enough for something of Nemo's size and weight. It snapped and Nemo was impaled through his side on the remaining shaft.

He bellowed in pain.

The rest of the broken helm clattered to a stop against the useless display panels, but it wasn't ever going to steer the sub again.

The Nautilus pitched sharply downward, further skewering Nemo on the severed column, and he bellowed again, desperately trying to remove himself from the sharp metal column. Nick, Judy, and Michael nearly fell over again as they tried to stand from the initial impact but supported each other. The sub's deck was listing at a nearly 30 degrees nose down angle – a crash dive.

"Did you do that, Michael?" Judy asked in complete confusion, watching Nemo convulse in pain so severe he started to scream. The threesome was very worried he'd somehow free himself and charge at them again.

"No. How could I? I was here with you," Michael answered.

There was another huge lurch sideways, even more staggering than the first impact, smashing them the other direction against the hatch, but they managed to hang on. The trio could hear alarms deeper in the sub's interior behind the locked hatch. Nemo shouted louder as his side became more deeply skewered on the control column with all his weight on it. Blood was spurting everywhere.

The sub was still in full dive.

After the second impact, hissing sounds could be heard from behind and above them. Cracks in the hull were forming, and air was escaping. But worse, Nick, Judy, and Michael could hear the noises of water gushing deeper inside the vessel.

"Sweet Nature! We're destroying Orcandor!" Nick blurted out.

Judy had a sudden realization, "No, Nick. We've been rammed. Twice!"

"Look! Judy's right," Michael pointed across the bridge.

One flickering exterior view camera TV monitor was still partially operating above Nemo's abandoned command chair, powered by a cable the trio hadn't ripped out. Amid the jittering and static of the images, there was clearly a ghostly image of a sperm whale pressed against the hull of the Nautilus.

Pipes and wires and a huge section of Nautilus superstructure were gripped in the whale's massive toothy maw. He had torn away a section of the sub. Sparks and bubbles appeared from the submersible's high voltage cables underwater as they were severed, but the electricity didn't seem to affect the giant mammal.

"Ohmigosh!" Judy called with great alarm.

Michael assured his cousins, "The sperm whales are on our side."

Judy's horror only turned partly to comfort, "It's like he's attacking a squid."

"Only we're the squid," Nick replied.

Wryly, Michael added, "Technically, a 'nautilus' is a squid."

"That would be a lot funnier if he wasn't chewing on the sub with us inside," Nick fretted.

The threesome saw another sperm whale join his colleague, and an even larger blue whale. Each cetacean took more huge chunks out of the sub, and they could feel it decelerate from the damage and could feel the sounds of wrenching, weakened metal superstructure bend with all the forces.

Michael was momentarily encouraged, "Dr. Sweet and his friends are taking the Nautilus down all by themselves."

Nick reminded them of the grave situation that they were in, "But they have no idea we're on board. We have to get out now! We're going down fast."

"Is there another way off the bridge, Michael?" Judy looked around for possible other means of escape while keeping a watchful eye on Nemo's sufferings.

Michael shook his head, "No, unfortunately. There's an escape pod down the corridor – but on the other side of this damn hatch."

"Oh, great…" Nick lamented.

Nemo himself reminded them that they had far bigger problems, "You're trapped! When I'm free, I will get you!"

It appeared Nemo was slowly prying himself off the column. It looked grisly.

Nick and Michael became frantic, but Judy calmed them, hiding something from view of Nemo, desperately trying to wriggle free from the column, "Wait, guys…"

She clutched her bosom with one paw, sensing a warm feeling under her camouflage top. Judy urged them to peer down her cleavage, "Look!"

Michael was embarrassed but Judy only showed them something glowing around her neck. The males' eyes popped – Nick's for more than one reason - despite himself.

"Look at my Key," she whispered.

"Ohhhh!" Nick and Michael said almost in chorus.

Michael and Nick shielded Judy from Nemo's view as she removed the Key and swiped it across the cypher lock.

Nothing happened.

"Try it again, Carrots. Slower…" Nick encouraged in whisper, worried about Nemo.

Still nothing occurred.

"Concentrate…" Judy told herself, closed her eyes, gripped the Key tightly in her paw, swiped it across the electronic lock carefully, hidden from Nemo.

The hatch clicked open.

The click got Nemo's attention and he looked up in shock, but before he could react, the trio rushed through the hatch, slammed and locked it behind them to slow Nemo's pursuit - assuming he could remove himself from the column. They could hear Nemo cursing in total rage at their surprise escape as the hatch clanged shut and latched.

"You scare me sometimes, Carrots." Nick kidded with a wry smile.

"I scare me sometimes," replied Judy.

The trio ran down the corridor toward the virus tanks. The Nautilus' sailors were oblivious to the forest animal intruders. Most everyone was in panic scrambling to save the sub from its perilous descent into the depths, but others were looking for a way out. Just like the trio.

The cousins passed by a bathymeter that read: "350 meters".

"At least we won't hit Orcandor now," Judy observed.

Michael warned, slightly out of breath from their run, "But it's a long way down in the trench. We don't have long before we reach crush depth…"

Nick added, "Worse. We're almost beyond ability of our breathers."

Judy continued to jog onward, but frowned and asked, "How far to the tanks, Michael?"

"Not far. Just beyond… uh… this," Michael stated but stopped suddenly.

Nick and Judy also stopped abruptly and stood next to Michael, caught their breaths while leaning against a bulkhead to keep their balance in the continued crash dive.

"What's going on?" Nick asked Michael in puzzlement. It seemed there was a considerable distance yet to go to reach the virus tanks.

"Look, Nick," Judy realized, clutching Nick's arm.

Nick and Judy understood Michael's reason for stopping. Nemo's harem module was right in front of them. From inside they heard muffled sounds of panic of the females and crying of their pups all frightened by the Nautilus' crash dive and the devastating impacts from the whales. Nemo's wives and older offspring were pounding on the module's hatch but couldn't get out. Nemo designed the pod so that only he could get in once it was sealed. Judy tried to open the hatch with her Key several times.

She complained and stopped, "Useless… I bet only one Key works here."

Nemo's fourth wife heard the trio by the pod, peered through a porthole in the main hatch, recognized the hybrid fox/rabbit and shouted, "Please, Xobar! Help us!"

The hybrid looked away as if he never heard her.

"Michael? What's the matter?" Judy asked.

Michael fretted, "I can't do this, Judy. I have to get to the virus tanks."

In point of fact, Michael didn't want to help the harem at all. He had received too many years of cruelty and abuse from most of them – especially this one.

Judy gazed at him with compassion. She understood the hurt in his eyes, "Michael, in a few more minutes we'll be so deep the pressure on the virus tanks is going to destroy them and the sub anyway. We must help these mammals. I don't care if they are Nemo's family. They aren't Nemo."

"But Judy…" Michael resisted, not meeting her eyes.

The rabbit grasped his shoulders squarely, "If we don't help them, we're no better than Nemo, Michael."

He paused a moment, sighed and realized she was right. He shouted through the hatch to Nemo's fourth wife, "OK, Ketura. We're going to eject the module – you'll float to the surface. Someone will rescue you guys."

"Thank Nature for your kindness, Xobar. And your friends too," Ketura replied.

The hybrid scanned the bulkhead adjacent to the harem module and saw the "Emergency Jettison" control panel, which was almost identical to the larger Hab pod they'd freed earlier. Michael ripped the protective safety cover off the panel and went to work. All three knew they were going to take the brunt of the water forces during the procedure. There was only a splash shield between them and the module attachment structure, with only some flipper-sized grips on it – not an airlock. When the harem would let go, the entire corridor would flood. At this depth and pressure, none of them knew what that would do to them.

Despite the danger, the trio nodded agreement to proceed, so Michael worked the controls methodically. Before reaching the final sequence, the hybrid instructed his cousins, "Grab a pawhold. Once the module ejects, we'll be completely exposed to the ocean and can get out from here. Water will flood the rest of sub and take her down – with Nemo and the virus too."

"Oh dear," Judy lamented, having sympathy for the Nautilus' crew.

"Let it go down," Nick stated coldly.

Reluctantly, Judy agreed. Her police sensibilities about law and justice just didn't fit this situation. There were no innocents on this sub but Nemo's harem and pups.

Michael was just about to pull the final release lever, but Judy interrupted him, offered the hybrid her breather, and requested, "Take this first."

"No. There's only two," Michael refused Judy and pushed her breather away, "I'll just hold my breath."

"You must pressurize your lungs with this mixture Michael. You'll be crushed if you don't. We'll have to take our chances sharing," she offered again.

"What's our depth?" asked Nick.

A glance at a nearby bathymeter showed 500 meters.

"What's the limit on those things?" Michael inquired.

Knowing they were already too deep, Judy answered grimly, "Don't ask."

They were interrupted as the Nautilus was rammed again – three times in rapid succession – which nearly ripped the cousins from the module jettison station, and the impacts smashed them against one side of the harem. They saw a main section cave in down the corridor that could have been them. Water started gushing from the breaks.

"Take a swig of the damn heliox, Michael, and blow that thing!" Nick yelled angrily.

Michael said softly, "OK, OK! But… no matter what happens, I'm glad I had family who tried to save me."

'Have' family, Michael. We love you too," Judy replied affectionately.

"OK… Brace yourselves. This is going to be rough," Michael cautioned, reluctantly inhaled from Judy's breather and gave it back to her. He held his breath and pushed the final sequencer. Nick and Judy grabbed the paw grips as tightly as they could and braced themselves, watching the LED countdown clock recede to 'zero'.

Just then, Nemo appeared in the corridor behind them, and bellowed as he closed the distance frighteningly fast, despite his horrible injuries, "I have you now!"

They watched Nemo's furious charge, crashing with his huge bulk through the sub hallways and sweeping his much smaller sailors out of the way in rage. He brandished a useless taser rifle like a club ready to swing at his foes.

But as he spoke the words, over a dozen explosive squibs lining the entire length of the harem module ignited like a deafening string of firecrackers, cracking open the conduits and ventilation tubes supplying the module's fresh air, severing power cables and wires, ripping apart metal superstructure holding the module inside the sub, and shattering plastic fairings and waterproof seals.

Another set of more powerful pyrotechnics ejected the harem pod loose from the sub with a prodigious concussion and metallic rip. The module separated cleanly and rose rapidly. The unrestrained ocean instantly filled the huge void inside the Nautilus with a tumultuous roar – a mix of water and air that engulfed and churned around Nick, Michael, and Judy, threatening to suck them from the protective bulkhead and toss them into the churning maelstrom of foam.

Nemo and the Nautilus sailors nearby were not so lucky.

Nemo's threatening words were torn from his throat with a gurgle as the unstoppable wall of water swept him away from the cousins, smashed him back into the corridor and tangled him in wire bundles and ropes, burying him in loose equipment lining the passageway. Nautilus sailors were sucked into the void where the module had been and were torn into shreds against the jagged edges where the module had been attached. The sailors' final screams were extinguished by sheets of water.

A deluge of water roared into the cavity the pod just vacated. Protected by the bulkhead splash shield, the trio held on desperately to the grips and each other to prevent the violent torrent from sweeping them away.

Not braced against anything, Nemo was thrown backward by the torrent of the ice-cold high-pressure water surging through the main corridor. He gurgled water as the huge wall of water engulfed him.

Freed from the Nautilus, the harem module ascended, but it tumbled and rocked in the wake of the still-speeding sub – it wasn't designed to be jettisoned at high speed. Through the water the cousins could hear more mammalian screams.

Quickly, the unbelievable turbulence quieted around the trio. They were surrounded by the ocean where the module had been. The corridor in either direction was complete flooded. They could hear hatches being slammed shut behind them and in front of them by surviving crew. There was an odd sense of calm as they were completely immersed in the icy dark abyssal waters while the sub continued its dive – though much slower because of the whales' battering and the exposed-hull drag caused by the module's ejection. Nemo seemed to be unconscious further up the corridor, jammed into some kind of empty equipment rack and bundle of cables not far behind them.

The cousins' eyes burned with the saltwater. But they appeared to be unharmed, and the breathers were working perfectly.

Michael pointed toward the ocean surface above and let go of his pawhold. Nick and Judy nodded and did the same. Using their strong legs, all three thrust themselves completely clear of the sub's churning wake and the sharp edges of the structure of the Nautilus that had killed several hapless sailors. Once above the sub, in the increasing darkness, they could just barely discern the Nautilus' enormous size as it continued to descend below them, and how small Nemo actually was ensnared in its interior.

They could see that the Nautilus' hull was heavily damaged from the whales' multiple attacks and the gaping hole the harem pod had left. They vaguely wondered where the whales were.

But the trio couldn't linger to worry about Nemo or the sub or the harem or the absent whales. They had to save themselves – and quickly. They started to ascend rapidly, following roughly the same trajectory as the harem module.

Nemo quickly recovered his senses from the deluge that had entangled him in the cables and equipment racks. He extricated himself and swam through the flooded corridor of the Nautilus midsection, pushing sailors' bodies – or pieces of bodies - out of the way, to the cavity. He prepared to leap from the doomed Nautilus to pursue his prey. Nemo had a vicious grin, knowing he would have a huge advantage swimming and would easily overtake and drown Michael and his friends well before they reached the surface.

He was very satisfied that he would own the final victory, escape undetected, and somewhere, sometime, somehow, he would rebuild the Movement again.

What Nemo didn't see behind him, skirting the hull of the Nautilus, was the shape of a great blue whale swimming at full speed directly for the cavity.

Dr. Sweet pumped his flukes harder, adding a sudden burst of speed, seeing his foe about to jump free from the sub to pursue the blue whale's allies.

"No, you don't, Nemo!" Dr. Sweet shouted at Nemo in the rumble of cetacean echolocation speech.

"What the f-!" the elephant seal exclaimed and turned his head around. He could only see Sweet's enormous snout.

Nick, Judy, and Michael's attention was drawn for a moment by the unintelligible sonic speech of Dr. Sweet, and they glanced down at the terrible sight below them of the deliberate collision between whale and sub and sea elephant.

"Oh dear Nature!" Judy thought and seized Nick's paw.

Unstoppably, the huge blue smashed his enormous baleen snout into the sub's superstructure where the harem module had been and directly into the bulk of the giant pinniped balancing himself in the metal bulkhead.

A 100 metric tons of cetacean flesh and blood smashed into Nemo and the Nautilus, crushing the pinniped and trapping him in the exposed superstructure, instantly impaling Nemo on exposed jagged steel beams and bracing. The horrible sound of crushed bones and ripped blubber could be heard loudly, followed by the equally horrible sound of Nemo screaming.

Sweet's attack crushed Nemo's ribcage and broke his back, and bent struts of the superstructure so that they pierced Nemo's lung and pinned him inside his ill-fated submarine. The elephant seal bled from several deep gashes caused by Sweet's attack, and he could see his own blood seeping into the sea water.

But Nemo was still alive, and he moaned in pain.

Sweet withdrew, surveyed the fatal damage he had caused, then quickly turned and swam toward Nick, Michael, and Judy. He was instantly flanked by his sperm whale companions. He seemed barely scratched with the multiple attacks on the Nautilus.

The Institute Director glanced back at the Nautilus from the distance. The damage that the three cetaceans had wrought when viewed from above was far worse than he had suspected.

Sweet's latest impact - at the very weakest section of the sub's midsection where the module had been - bent the fore and aft sections of the Nautilus roughly into the shape of boomerang, compounding the damage. With the nuclear propulsion system still running uncontrolled at full power, the propellers spun the sub into a corkscrew trajectory like a maple seed falling from a tree. Spinning out of control directly downward, great sections of the Nautilus' metal hull and interior systems – containing its helpless pinniped Movement sailors - were flung into the ocean.

The sub was ripping itself apart in an accelerating spiral. Imbalanced, out of control, and taking on water everywhere, the doomed sub dropped like a stone.

Thrown about by the spinning Nautilus, Nemo roared in increasing agony, trapped and very seriously injured. Not only had he sustained multiple broken bones, back, and ribcage, his punctured lung was losing precious air. He desperately struggled to free himself from the sub but damaged himself worse with every movement.

He called out to his sailors for help, but there was no one left alive in the harem module corridor except him, and everyone else was trying to save themselves. He couldn't reach the corridor COMMS button to call for help.

He was alone and knew he was dying and drowning.

The trio hovered for a final moment between the rising harem module and the rapidly sinking sub, straining to see the faint image of the out-of-control Nautilus and Nemo trapped and crushed in the harem module cavity. The Nautilus, its crew, and the Movement's supreme leader dropped quickly into the depths of the trench and disappeared from their view.

They'd seen enough.

The trio strained to look above. They couldn't see any glimmer of light of the day on the ocean surface. They knew they were much deeper than the 500 meters, but how much deeper they didn't want to know. The likelihood of being able to swim to the surface before they ran out of heliox was very unlikely.

But Nick and Judy and Michael looked at each other with confidence – despite the hopelessness of their situation - and resumed their ascent. They all realized that no matter what happened to them, they and Dr. Sweet had finally defeated the Movement and the threat of the killer virus forever.

Suddenly they were flanked by not one - but three - huge cetaceans. One was Dr. Sweet. He winked, grinned, and spoke in echolocation speech they could actually understand, "Want a lift, guys?"

Unable to reply, all three vigorously nodded their heads signifying: "Yes!"

Sweet motioned with his giant flippers for the land mammals to separate and get on the whale's backs for a ride.

"Now this is deluxe!" Nick thought with a big grin.

All three followed Sweet's instructions. The cetaceans' dorsal fins were small relatively small, but the forest animals were smaller and the roughness of each fin provided a good pawhold. Because Judy and Michael shared an air supply, they rode together on Dr. Sweet's fin and established a firm grip. Nick grasped the fin of one of the sperm whales, and the third sperm whale trailed the others, keeping a watchful eye for any threats from Nemo or the Nautilus – which never came.

Thus secured, the whales swam upward much faster than Nick, Judy, and Michael could ever swim. The trio held on for dear life, feeling the rush of the water current over their bodies as the whales accelerated upward, but the cetaceans seemed to know to moderate their velocity to prevent sweeping the small mammals off their backs.

Throughout the ascent, Judy shared her breather with Michael as planned, but time passed painfully slowly until they began to see the increasingly blue light of the sky above through the water above them.

They exchanged glances and had hope they would really survive.

After what seemed and eternity of vertical ascent, with a final, exhilarating burst of speed, the three whales and their precious passengers breached the ocean surface into a brilliant blue and white cloudy sky. At the top of their trajectory, the thre cousins let go of their dorsal fin grip, rising even further into the air above the whales, laughing in jubilation.

"Whoo hoooooo!" yelled Nick as he performed a back flip and landed back in the water with a huge cannonball splash.

Judy, already treading water on the surface laughed and scolded, "Show off!"

Michael just seemed to tolerate the teasing, treaded water, while wiping the salt water from eyes.

"Thank Nature! We're alive!" Judy gasped, smiling at her husband and his cousin.

"Are you sure carrots?" Nick dared to joke.

They all laughed and yelled triumphantly, hugging each other while treading water. Judy kissed her husband – and her cousin - full on their snouts with big, messy, loud smooches. The hybrid was shocked but pleased. The three big whales lounged in the sun behind them. The whales were also exhausted, submerged for a very long time and were gasping for breath from their long underwater ordeal. They floated and rolled with the gentle surface waves, patiently waiting while the three small mammals celebrated their good fortune.

They had all escaped and were victorious. The Nautilus and its deadly virus - and most probably Nemo - were all headed to the bottom of the deep trench.

They hoped would be nothing left of the Movement but painful memories.

Seeing that Nick, Judy, and Michael had calmed and were rest, the great blue whale finally bellowed in his unmistakable bass tone, "Is everyone all right?"

"Fine, Dr. Sweet. Thank you so much for saving our lives. We never would have made it up here, much less defeat Nemo without you and your friends," Judy stated gratefully.

Sweet scoffed and dismissed her praise, "Don't mention it. We were all in this thing together. You guys destroyed the Lab so we could take on the Nautilus. Let's take you back to the Institute for a vet's exam and you can call your friends."

"Uh… sure! That would be…" Judy attempted to say.

But she couldn't finish her sentence, and her and everyone elses' eyes were drawn skyward.

Stealthily Hovering above…

Corporal Cosgrove pointed out the window of the helo, "Colonel! Look! In the water."

"Dear sweet nature, it's Nick and Judy and the hybrid! With those whales!" the Colonel exclaimed.

"What do we do, sir?" asked the kangaroo.

"Go into 'High Visibility' mode. And look like a 'local'. Don't frighten them until we have a chance to explain," the moose ordered.

"Yes sir," he obeyed and flicked a switch on the cockpit panel. Suddenly, the helo turned high visibility rescue orange and the sound suppression was turned completely off. Letters appeared on the chopper's fuselage: "Atlantea Coast Guard".

The Colonel further ordered, "Pararescue: get a winch the water, now!"

"Aye, aye, sir!" responded the crew.

On the water…

Nick and the others scanned the skies, and he said while treading water and pointed up,"Wait. Do you hear that?"

The trio caught the motion of something in the air that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The object turned and headed for them. For a moment, none of them could see the markings.

The cousins' joy turned to panic, and Nick fretted, "Uh oh. Another Movement attack drone. Prepare to dive!"

"No look, Nick! It's just an Atlantea Coast Guard helo," Judy corrected her spouse and pointed at the 'copter.

Michael was more skeptical, "Where did that come from? I didn't hear a thing."

Judy dismissed the concern, "It doesn't matter, now. It's here. Wave and get their attention!"

The helo hovered over the whales and small mammals, the pilot's side window slid open, and a familiar vampire bat's voice shouted down to them over the turbines and blade noise, "Ahoy there, friends!"

Judy laughed and waved a very soggy paw, "McDonnell! Good to see your ugly mug! Where the heck have you been?"

The bat smiled his disturbing mouth full of fangs and joked, "Despite that wise crack, prepare to be rescued."

The whales were uncertain of what to do, so Judy explained, "Dr. Sweet, we'll take this way back. We need to go see Kida. To thank her. We'll take you up on that veterinarian's checkup after we're done. Again, thanks so much for your help."

Sweet fully understood and replied, "You're welcome. As you wish. Give her my regards too."

The threesome of the huge whales turned gracefully and headed in the general direction of the Discovery's fleet to direct them back to the Institute.

The rescue basket winched down on the long cable from the helo. They could see the cage being guided to them by a pararescue crewman fully outfitted. Judy didn't recognize which of the Colonel's team members they were, but it didn't matter. The trio all fit in the large basket in one load, and they were happy to be out of the water and being raised aboard. Water drained from them and the basket and it swayed as they rose, making them feel a little queasy.

But the pararescue mammals steadied it at the helo's open doors, swung the basket inside, and opened it with a hearty, "Welcome aboard!"

Nick and Judy counted snouts, recognized McDonnell, Cosgrove, and the Colonel, but not the fully uniformed and outfitted pararescuers. And a female walrus.

But all three pairs of eyes immediately locked on Bart, and they startled and assumed combat stances.

"Freaking Nature! This was a trick! Damn you, Bart!" Michael shouted, and grabbed a grappling hook and wielded it as weapon directly at Bart's tusks.

"Calm down, all of you! Bart and I have come to an… agreement," the Colonel bellowed.

"The must have been one hell of a good agreement," Michael partly snarled with extreme worry.

Bart spoke calmly with non-threatening tone and gestures, "It was, Xobar. I assure you. Now, my name is once again Lieutenant Bartholomew, ZSDF Special Forces – long time absent but reinstated by the Colonel. He was very persuasive," Bart stated.

"They call me 'Michael', Lieutenant," Michael replied skeptically, but was calmer.

"Good name, Michael," Bart answered with a genuine smile that was still unnerving. He reached his flipper out in friendship. Michael tentatively took it. Nick and Judy exchanged glances and relaxed their combat positions.

"Uhh… yours too, Lt. Bartholomew," Judy added to help defuse the tenseness, and glanced at the Colonel's reassuring gaze.

"Hi! I'm Tiffany. I'm Bartholomew's girlfriend," the female walrus sheepishly grinned and waved.

That left two unknown mammals for the trio to identify. Judy cleared her throat and addressed the pararescue team, "So… uhh… are you guys part of the original helo crew? I don't remember you two being part our team in the cave. You're too small."

A female voice muffled by the scuba mask instantly quipped, "Well, Judy, that's because we were dead."

Judy gave the female voice a shocked look and questioned, "What?"

The pararescue team took off their helmets and scuba masks. What was revealed underneath were the Nick-and-Judy doppelgangers Mitch and Sam.

"Dear… Sweet... Nature…" Nick sighed.

Both couples lunged for each other, hugged, and cried for a good two minutes before wiping their eyes and recovering enough to talk.

Amazed, Judy held Sam at arm's length but wasn't about to let go of her long-feared-dead friend, "But… but how?"

"Remember that they shot the hell out of your bungalow?" Mitch reminded them.

Nick replied in just as much shock as Judy, "How could we forget? We saw it helplessly from the mountain hide. We thought you were…"

Sam explained, "Well... we almost were. One RPG took out the toilet. And shards went everywhere."

"I'm still picking splinters out of my hide…" Mitch mildly complained, and Sam rolled his eyes.

"So… So… What then?" Judy anxiously asked. She couldn't listen fast enough.

Sam continued the saga, "Just before the drone dropped the bomb, we dove into the hole left where the toilet was. It was about a dozen meters drop into the sewer and left our guns firing automatically as if we were still there. It was horrible… we were covered from snout to tail… in well… you know…"

Nick and Judy shivered with the horrible thought.

Mitch quickly interrupted gruesome thought, "But we got away by swimming through it for at least a kilometer!"

Sam completed the story, "We came out at a drain into the hotel's water treatment center."

"Oh dear," Judy lamented, sick to her stomach about their one klick swim in raw sewage.

Mitch emphasized, "But we did get out. And we knew right where the chopper was up in the mountains ever since we got here to find you guys on your honeymoon, so we just trekked until we found it. And so here we are!"

Nick scoffed, "Honeymoon? What honeymoon? We need a honeymoon to recover from this whole affair."

Everyone in the chopper laughed.

Mitch complained, "We still stink like shit. I haven't kissed Sam for days."

Sam snapped at her husband in jest, "You asshole!"

The rabbit punched the fox hard, then kissed him full on the snout with a very noisy wet kiss.

"Ewwww…" Mitch broke the kiss and faked his complaint.

The two pairs of foxes and rabbits couldn't stop laughing and high fiving each other.

Michael and the others just rolled their eyes at the banter and ribbing but the hybrid knew in his heart he was finally with his own kind of mammal.

McDonnell maneuvered their helicopter toward what was apparently open ocean, but a platform rose out of the water, shedding hundreds of liters of water from its surface and superstructure as it rose to provide the helo a safe landing pad.

On the chopper's guard channel, an intensely gruff voice broke through, "Unknown helicopter. This is Orcandor Security. Prepare to land. Stow your weapons. Don't try anything. SAMs are trained on you. We will take you down if you intend hostile actions."

The Colonel keyed the microphone and replied, "Understood, Orcandor. We come in peace, and we have precious cargo aboard. We think you know all three."

Another much more familiar female orcan voice took over the communications, "We thought so, Zootopia, but just have to make sure. Follow the landing beacon."

McDonnell gently banked toward the platform with no sudden movements. His cockpit instruments blinked with the proper landing symbology. McDonnell concentrated on his expert pilot's touch, landing so softly that no one on the chopper even realized that they landed until he started to shut down the engines and apply the rotor brakes.

The Colonel beamed with pride, "Damn, Major. Another perfect landing."

"Thank you sir. That's what I live for!" the bat stated.

As soon as the rotors stopped and folded, Chincoteague Pony Milo emerged from an access hatch on the landing platform, stood with several very heavily armed otters and a beaver covering Milo's flanks to watch for anything to occur with the helo, and he smiled and waved.

Judy was the first to alight from the helo and whispered in relief to Nick and Michael who were right behind her, "Thank Nature. It's about time that we're greeted as 'the good guys'."

Seeing his secret allies smiling ahead, being in safe waters in the orcan stronghold, knowing that the Movement threat was finally gone, and that he had actual relatives that cared for him and gave him a reason to live, Michael was overcome with emotion. He fell to his knees, buried his snout in his forepaws, and couldn't hold back a deep sigh, shudder of relief, a mournful yip, and a flood of tears. Judy stood rubbing and embracing his shoulders trying to comfort him, and Nick patted him softly on his back. Milo came up and added his hoof to the hybrid's shoulder in silent support and wrapped his other hoof around Nick and Judy in a wordless expression of gratitude.

1500 meters below and descending rapidly…

Nemo gave up trying free himself from being impaled on his mangled metal prison from Sweet's crushing blow to the midsection of the Nautilus. Every motion worsened his injuries and was certain that his broken back and lack of feeling in his lower flippers indicated he was paralyzed from the waist down.

There would be no escape and he finally accepted that. He fought the urge to simply exhale and end it all like a coward. He would go done fighting to the very end, no matter what the pain.

He heard crunching sounds all around him as the mounting water pressure buckled Nautilus structure everywhere along its length.

"Crush depth," he muttered to no one but himself.

The red flashing emergency light globe that was still working right next to him, giving him some view of the status of the Nautilus hull, shattered from the extreme pressure, sending glass shards into his blubber, compounding his pain, and he was plunged into inky blackness.

He could still hear warning buzzers and alarms blaring further inside the sub, could hear tortured metal strain and tear, the racing of the propulsion system still at full power, which made him nauseous from the spinning of the fatally damaged Nautilus. Finally even the propulsion system failed, feeling an intense vibration shake the vessel until the monstrous shaft to the 10 meter diameter propeller snapped and the entire system seized and stopped with a shriek.

He heard a wrenching metal scream as the aft hull split open. There was enough interior lighting inside that he could see the exposed superstructure tear open like a zipper on a pair of pants. The latest structural failure revealed the reactor and the virus storage tanks further aft.

He saw Dr. Death wrenched away from one of the virus tanks and the evil scientist drifted away from the sub with a permanently frozen look of shock on his snout. He was immediately crushed into a ball of blubber by the depths and Nemo looked away in disgust. The virus tanks cracked open and thousands of gallons of the liquid virus spewed open, but being heavier than water, started to sink into the abyss ahead of the doomed sub.

Since the Nautilus was still spinning wildly in the water, some of virus slurry washed over him.

His blubber blistered as the yellow green ooze covered him and he screamed. Pustules instantly formed on him and burst. He was in even more agony than from his wounds. This was kind of agony he had wanted for Xobar and the damn fox and rabbit.

"No! This is not possible! Only mammals with hybrid blood are susceptible to the virus," he moaned.

Nemo realized only then that somewhere in his deep ancestral past was some non-elephant seal blood.

He was singularly disgusted, thinking, "All my life, I've been living a lie."

But the pain suddenly stopped and the virus on him had changed to a dark brown or black color.

Exasperated, he shouted, "Xobar, you bastard! You engineered the virus so sea water kills it!"

He knew the genius fox/rabbit hybrid had the ultimate victory. And there was nothing Nemo could do now.

The Nautilus' structure continued to snap and crumple in a more rapid pace as the sub far exceeded crush depth. Some pieces broke off started to fall on him, burying him in parts up to his neck. He was helpless since he couldn't move.

As steel and aluminum debris compressed enough to crack open and penetrate his skull - as well as carve his girth in half with a collapsing bulkhead - he swore his final words: "Screw you, Nature!"

Far below crush depth, elephant seal flesh and bone could not resist compressing structure that slipped and squashed him into an unrecognizable blubbery ball, squeezing what was left of his blood and air out of him in a cloudy red mass.

The huge submarine, far exceeding crush depths at nearly 3000 meters depth, crumpled in on itself like a tin can heated to boiling temperatures and suddenly dipped in cold water.

The wreckage of the Nautilus still had 7000 meters yet to fall. But no one would live to feel the impact.

The heavily shielded nuclear reactor containment vessel, engineered to be uncrushable at any depth, was jettisoned out by the water pressure forces flattening the sub, and due to its enormous weight, dropped like a bomb, free from the rest of the Nautilus. It soon embedded itself in the muck of the bottom of the trench. As it fell, it was surrounded by the blue glow of Cherenkov radiation – the physical effect of any active nuclear materials shielded and cooled only by water.

The Nautilus' lights went out forever and it plummeted downward - now lifeless and powerless - to the bottom of the Atlantean Trench. Its debris piled on top of itself into an unrecognizable heap not far from the final resting pace of the Laboratory. The entire debris field was Illuminated by the bluish glow of its shed nuclear core. Ghostly light played upon the entire debris field. Deep sea fish, with their own bioluminescent proboscis, were attracted to the deadly light, curious and drawn naturally to the light. Some got too close and were killed instantly from the intense radiation.

Some of the virus goo was still alive and spread on and under the wreck of the Nautilus, and as it fell, drenched the reactor. The slurry shone strangely as radiation reacted with the virus organisms.

Some of the goo glowed. And suddenly twitched…

The Atlantean Trench became the Graveyard of the Movement.