Chapter 4: To the Depths
'BLEURGH!' Hiccup tipped his head over the side and vomited again.
The SS MoonClipper cruised through the ocean waves. The personal vessel of Mr Lunanoff, it was twice the size of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and was fully equipped with all of the staff, equipment and vehicles needed to get to the long lost city of Atlantis.
Hiccup groaned. 'Carrots,' he moaned, pulling his head up from over the rail, still dripping from the mouth, 'Why, WHY is it always carrots? I don't even eat carrots!' He retched and clapped his hand to his mouth. At that moment, a voice sounded over the PA system. It was a posh, female, Scottish voice.
'Attention: All hands to the launch bay please and to whoever removed the "L" from the "Motor Pool" sign, return it at once! We are not amused. It is not seemly for a gentleman or lady to vandalise public property.' Hiccup hoisted his satchel over his shoulder and entered the main ship.
He gazed around at the vehicles and crates. There were sparks as alterations were being made to the many mechanisms. There were clinks and clatters as machinery was being transported to the different levels of the ship. Turning, Hiccup saw an official looking figure standing in front of him with their back to him.
'Excuse me,' Hiccup said nervously, 'I need to... um... report in?' The figure turned to face him. 'Yes Mr Haddock.' 'AAHH!' Hiccup yelped, 'It's you!' Indeed, Madam Gothel was standing in front of him. Before either of them could continue the conversation a voice said, 'OI! Gothie! I've got a bone to pick with you love!' A stout man, with a missing leg, arm and tooth came ambling towards them holding a crate.
'Hold on a minute Hiccup,' Gothel said, 'What is it now Gobber?' she asked. 'You've gone an' filled me cargo-hold with non-essentials,' he said angrily before breaking open the crate and rummaging through it, 'Look at this; Cinnamon, oregano cilantro. What the hell is CILANTRO!?' He threw the crate aside. He paused. Something had fallen onto the floor.
'What is this?' Gobber asked, picking up the object. 'That is the Lactuca sativa.' 'The what?' 'A lettuce.' 'A LETTUCE!?' 'Yes, it's called a vegetable,' Gothel said, tugging the leafy plant from his hands. 'Your average Human requires the four basic food groups and whilst you clearly don't qualify for the Human category, everyone else in the crew however, does.' 'I've got yeh four basic food groups,' Gobber said, 'Beans, bacon, whisky and lard.' He counted them off on his fingers.
An alarm started wailing suddenly. Gothel ground her teeth angrily. 'Alright Gobber!' she snapped, shoving the lettuce into his face, 'Pack it up and MOVE IT OUT!'
'Attention: All hands to the launch bay. Final loading in progress.'
Hiccup stared up at the vast submersible: the SS Corona. From the massive orange globe at the front to the tip of the propeller at the back, it was 600 meters long. All over it's long bulk, machinery was being loaded onto the massive craft. Every now and then you could see tiny sparks flash as tiny, last minute alterations were made. The crew were already starting to board.
Something hit Hiccup hard in the back. Turning he saw a muscular man with grey-blue hair, aboriginal tattoos on his upper torso and rather long ears pushing a trolley piled high with crates filled with explosives. After a second, Hiccup recognised the man as E. Aster Bunnymund from Mr Lunanoff's staff list. 'Oi, junior,' he said with a strong Australian accent, 'If yer lookin' for the pony rides, they're back there.' He carried on passed.
'Um excuse me,' Hiccup said, 'You've dropped your dy-dy-dy-dynamite!?' He lifted up a stick of the explosive. At first glance it was a cylinder, but on closer inspection, it had an egg-shaped base instead of a circular one. 'Um,' Hiccup hesitated as Bunnymund came back, 'What exactly have you got in there?' 'Oh, um,' Bunnymund counted them off on his fingers, 'Gunpowder, Trinitrotoluene, Nitrocellulose, Nitroglycerine, Acetone peroxide, Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, RDX, HMX, notepads, um... fuses, wicks, glue, chocolate, eggs, chocolate eggs, and er... paper clips. Not those little ones, the big ones. Just your office supplies.'
A voice attracted Hiccup's attention at this point. Striding towards him, looking as jolly and as round as ever was Mr Lunanoff. Standing next to him was his opposite: a tall man, thin, dark and sallow-skinned. He was smiling as well, but his smile had none of Mr Lunanoff's warmth. It seemed rather cold and slightly cruel. While Mr Lunanoff was wearing his usual gold coat, this man was wearing a long black coat over a dark grey uniform.
'Hiccup,' Mr Lunanoff laughed, 'Where've you been?' He patted the man next to him on the back. 'I'd like you to meet Commander Pitchiner. Lord Pitch to his friends. He was the man who lead the team that recovered the journal.' Lord Pitch extended a hand and Hiccup shook it. Hiccup shivered. There was something about Lord Pitch that was unnerving.
'Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III,' he said, smiling. His voice was silky smooth and certainly seemed to befit a man of his personality. 'A pleasure to meet the child of Stoick the Vast as we called him. I see you have the journal.' Pitch gestured to the book under Hiccup's arm. 'Yeah.' 'Beautiful thing. Personally I prefer a good horror story myself, but I get the feeling that "The Tell-Tale Heart" isn't going to be of much use to us here.'
Mr Lunanoff, who hadn't been listening to the conversation, gestured to the SS Corona. 'Pretty impressive isn't it?' 'Well,' Hiccup began, staring at the massive submersible, 'When you settle a bet, boy do you settle a bet.' Mr Lunanoff chuckled. 'Your old dad believed that you could never compare the power of money to the power of knowledge.'
'Well if that's true then this is going to be a battery compared to what we're gonna learn on this trip,' Hiccup said. 'Indeed,' Lord Pitch said, smiling slightly unnervingly, 'This should be empowering for all of us.' Had either Hiccup or Mr Lunanoff been listening closely enough they would have heard the hint of desire in his voice.
The Scottish voice Hiccup had heard earlier suddenly echoed through the launch bay. 'Attention all personnel: Launch will commence in 15 minutes.' Pitch sighed. 'Mr Lunanoff,' he said curtly, bowing and then giving a salute. 'Kozmotis,' Mr Lunanoff said, returning the gesture.
Pitch marched into the submersible. 'Goodbye Mr Lunanoff!' Hiccup called over his shoulder as he followed Lord Pitch into the submarine. 'Make us proud boy!' Mr Lunanoff called after him as the metallic bulkhead doors on the submarine clanged shut.
'Lieutenant, take her down,' Lord Pitch commanded. The bridge was an immediate hive of activity. Orders were sent to and fro. Wheels were turned. Steam jetted along pipes. The SS Corona was released from the ship and crashed into the waters below. Mr Lunanoff saluted... with his fingers crossed behind his back. 'They're doomed,' he said to himself.
The SS Corona descended into the waves. Hiccup stared out of the orange viewing sphere at the beautifully blue ocean, the fading silhouette of the MoonClipper high above and the dark depths below.
Hiccup entered his quarters. He was apparently sharing with someone although he didn't know who. The Scottish voice echoed through the Corona. 'Attention. Tonight's supper will be baked beans. A musical program will follow.' There was a pause. 'Who wrote this?'
Hiccup lay down on the lower bunk, closed his eyes and lay back to sleep.
It didn't last.
A light suddenly flashed at his eyes. Hiccup awoke at once, sat up and whacked his head on the bunk above him. Looking at the light, he could see it was a flashlight being aimed at him by...
Hiccup stared. All he could see of this person was a fair amount of golden hair that stuck up in five places. It looked like an upside-down sunrise. He could also see two, narrowed eyes. They looked rather angry.
All of a sudden, the figure leapt down from the bunk above in a blaze of anger and Hiccup recognised it; it was Sanderson Mansnoozie, the geologist. Sandy was waving his arms angrily. He pulled back Hiccup's blankets to reveal small piles of sand underneath. If he could speak, it would be obvious that Sandy would be screaming with anger.
As gently as he could, Sandy began to gather the scattered sand piles up into their original structures. 'What the-!?' Hiccup blurted out, 'What the hell is this sand doing in my bed?!' Sandy leapt up at Hiccup. He seemed to be demanding some question of him.
'Uh...' Hiccup hesitated. Sandy sighed and plucked out a small speck of sand from underneath Hiccup's fingernail. 'OUCH!' Hiccup yelped. Sandy inspected the sand speck closely. The following thoughts ran through his head as he made his inspection.
Parchment fiber from the Nile delta, circa 500 B.C. Lead pencil number 2. Paint flecks of a type used in government buildings. Neighbour has a cat, short-hair Persian, two years old, third in a litter of seven.
Sandy eyed the sand grain, then Hiccup and his eyes narrowed even further. He suddenly picked up a pillow and began whacking Hiccup over the head, driving him back towards the door. At that point Hiccup bumped into someone. Sandy and Hiccup looked at the figure standing in the door.
'Oops, you sat in the sand didn't you.' It was a young girl, about the same age as Hiccup with long blonde hair. She eyed Sandy and shook her head in disappointment. 'Sandy, what have I told you about playing nice with all the kids.' Before Sandy could react, the girl pulled something out of her pocket. 'Get back; I have soap, and I'm not afraid to use it.' Sandy ran away from her and dived under his bed cover.
'Hello,' the girl said, smiling broadly, 'I'm Rapunzel Gothel, the medical officer.' 'Gothel?' 'Yes and before you ask, Madam Gothel is my mother. So what's your name?' The girl seemed to be rather lively and quirky. 'Um... Hiccup Haddock.' 'Hiccup Haddock,' Rapunzel said, smiling widely, 'You're my 3:00. No time like the present.' At this she took a massive saw out of her doctor's bag.
'HOLY SH-' 'Isn't it lovely?!' Rapunzel said, beaming toothily, 'The catalogue says that it can saw through a femur in 28 seconds flat. I can bet I can cut that time in half.' She put the saw back and took out a tongue depressor, a thermometer and a stethoscope which she put on.
'Now, stick out your tongue and say "AAHH!"' 'Um, no, I ha-AAHHH!' 'So, where are you from?' 'AAHH!' 'Really?' Rapunzel switched the depressor with the thermometer and began listening to Hiccup's heart with the stethoscope. 'I have friends over that way. Beautiful country up there. Do you do much fishing?' 'MMHH!' 'Me? I hate fish. I hate fish. Hate the taste, hate the smell, hate all the little bones.'
Rapunzel checked a watch and then took two large beakers out of the bag. 'Now, I'm going to need you to fill these up.' Hiccup spat out the thermometer in horror. 'WITH WHAT!' he yelled. At this point, the PA system activated and said "Would Hiccup H. Haddock III please report to the bridge immediately."
'Thank you,' Hiccup whispered, turning to the door, 'I mean, um, nice to meet you.' He quickly waved to Rapunzel and sprinted off, through the door and away. 'Nice to meet you too,' Rapunzel called after him. 'I like that kid,' she said to Sandy.
On the bridge, in the communications section, Miss Elinor Dunbroch was conversing with her friend Maudie over the wireless. 'So I asked him "What's wrong with my Haggis?" and he said to me... oh hold on a second sweetie, I've got another call.' She flicked a switch. 'Lord Pitch, we are now approaching the co-ordinates.'
'Set course to 2-4-0 on the bow planes.' Lord Pitch's commanding voice echoed through the bridge. He turned as Hiccup entered. 'Ah, master Haddock, welcome to the bridge. Come with me.' He lead Hiccup over to a projector. A small amount of staff including (Hiccup recognised) Merida DunBroch, Bunnymund, Madam Gothel, Rapunzel, Sandy and Elinor DunBroch. 'How did you get here before me?' Hiccup asked Rapunzel. 'Well, you've got me there,' she said, 'By all accounts it doesn't make sense.'
Lord Pitch cleared his throat curtly. 'Ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to give Mr Haddock your undivided attention.' Hiccup stepped forward nervously. 'Well, um, good afternoon. Can- can everyone hear me okay?' Silence. Hiccup's knees began to rattle in panic. He then had an idea. 'I know; how about some slides?' He hurried over to the projector. 'This first slide is of the image of a creature, a creature so frightening that sailors were said to be driven mad by the mere sight of it.'
The image that was projected caused laughter. 'OH SH-!' Hiccup swore as he realised that he'd accidently projected one of his holiday photos from last year. He pulled it out hurriedly, turning as red as Merida's hair. 'Ach, crivens,' said the girl in question, 'Ah used to tek lunch money frem gees like this.' 'MERIDA!' snapped Elinor. 'Ahm only jokin',' Merida said smiling. 'Ahm not,' she mouthed to Bunnymund who sniggered.
'Anyway,' Hiccup continued (having finally managed to locate the right slide), 'This is the image of the so called "Leviathan" that guards the entrance to Atlantis.' The creature on the slide was certainly very impressive. It had six eyes and a large coral-like frill behind it's head. It had vast jaws and a massive club-like tail, four, very big, legs and spines running all down it's back.
'With a seafood platter like that, I'd recommend white wine,' Bunnymund said.
'The Guardian's journal,' Hiccup continued, 'Also name's it as the "Red Death." It's apparently described in the Bible. Psalm 18:8. "Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him," but more than likely it's just a carving or a sculpture to frighten the superstitious.'
'So then,' Lord Pitch said, 'We find this masterpiece of artistic wonder and then what do we do after that?' At this point, Sandy jumped up holding a pickaxe. He was obviously trying to say 'Then we dig!'
'Actually,' Hiccup said, switching off the projector and picking up a piece of charcoal, 'We shouldn't have to dig at all.' He turned to the blank screen and began to draw a diagram in time with his next lines.
'According to the Guardian's Journal, the path to Atlantis should lead us down a tunnel at the bottom of the ocean and then we'll come up a curve into an air pocket right... here.' He tapped with the charcoal. 'And then we'll find the remnants of an ancient highway that'll lead us straight to Atlantis. It's sort of like a grease-trap in your sink.'
'Cartographer, linguist, plumber and reasonably cute,' Gothel counted the factors off on her fingers, 'Hard to believe he's still single.' Sandy was tugging on Gothel's sleeve in an attempt to get her attention. 'Go away Sanderson.'
'Lord Pitch!' called a sailor from the helm, 'I think you should take a look at this.' 'Very well then,' Pitch said, turning on his heel. 'Dismissed.' He waved his hand over the assembled group. 'Activate the exterior lights.'
The massive lights of the SS Corona blasted through the inky depths... and revealed a scene of total devastation.
Hundreds of thousands of broken, sunken ships lay scattered across the sea floor. 'Oh my word,' Gothel said. 'There are ships here from every age,' Hiccup said, staring at all the different wrecks.
Remnants of Viking, Roman, Greek, Colonial, Victorian, even Pirate vessels were strewn everywhere.
In the shadows of the skeletal ships... something moved in the dark.
Something very, very big.