It is always dark inside a submarine. This morning, it was no different. I woke up to the whisper of the XO, an unusual event. The crew would usually let me sleep my hours without disturbing. This time it was special though.
“The convoy, sir, it has stopped moving”, said the XO.
“Then it is now or never, isn’t it, Josef?” I said.
He was silent. We had been following this convoy for a few days now, traveling the frozen northern sea. A convoy of destroyers and cruisers and our objective: the battleship Warscythe. They were there by the numbers, and had enough cannons among them to tear any ship unlucky enough to stand in its path to ribbons. We had only heard stories about the fabled battleship we had to sink. Apparently it was a huge fortress, full to the brim with guns. Perhaps the BdU thought they would do well to rid themselves of a U-boat then. I intend to prove them wrong.
It’s always dark in the north this time of year. We weren’t really afraid of being detected as we were trailing them. I was quite certain at some times that they were aware of us being there. Then again, what threat are we to a fleet of floating guns?
“What do you think they are doing, sir? Why have they stopped?”, the crew was asking.
“Your ideas are probably as good as mine, boys. What I know though is that this is the time we will strike”.
That pretty much settled it for them. All of them were moving to their stations, getting ready for what they thought would be a suicide mission. Perhaps they weren’t wrong to think that. The boat went down to periscope depth, but only just, enough to get the head of the periscope from under the waves on this uncharacteristically calm sea. We would be going blind, try to infiltrate the group. The enemy crews would be watching, so we wouldn’t get the periscope out until the order to fire was to be given.
Our bearing was set, the electric engines ran silently, moving us closer to the floating fortress slowly, but surely. It took a while, but after about an hour or so, time that we thought neared eternity, I decided it was time to take a quick peek. The periscope came up from under the waves and I thought that I was looking at a metal wall. It was a huge ship, enough to cover my periscope from end to end. It was straight ahead and looking like a metal hulk, looming over the horizon like a mammoth construction of death. I was awestruck. I had heard stories but… this? I didn’t let on that I was a bit scared at that moment. I saw no floodlights turned on, so my heart was not racing that fast. This isn’t going to be for long though.
I closed the periscope and said:
“Close tubes one, two, three and four. We are going for a salvo spread, all in front of us. We’re close enough to hit with all of them, I take it.”
The crew was silent. Perhaps they took enough out of the fact that an entire spread would be able to hit a single ship. All the doors were getting closed, one by one, by the trusty torpedo man. When the fourth door was closed and all the tubes were flooded, all they were waiting for was my order. I wasn’t willing to disappoint them.
I peered over the waves once more, took a slow deep breath and tried to say it. The only thing I managed to hear when I opened my mouth, however, was the deep screech of heavy metal upon heavy metal as our hull was scraping against that of an enemy destroyer. It wasn’t a hard hit, they weren’t even aware we were there, but they were soon going to be. Everybody in the submarine lost their balance, myself pretty much included. Pain shot through my face and body as I broke two of my teeth in some valves in the command room. There go my good looks. The chief engineer got me back up, I was barely conscious from the pain. He was saying something about the aft torpedo room getting flooded badly, but I didn’t catch most of it. All I was saying was “fire the damn torpedoes”.
“We’ve already fired them, sir. All of them were direct hits, but one of them was a dud.” It hit the hull of the Warscythe with a loud thump and sank, leaving a dent where the others had left a hole. Water was pouring into the belly of the beast, making it lean dangerously to a side, threatening to capsize. We were almost done with the enemy battleship; it only needed a coup de grâce to put an end to the lumbering monstrosity. The torpedo guys were working as fast as they could to load one last torpedo in tube number three. Why three? I don’t know, I was too busy being stressed out to ask.
After some more moments that seemed to resemble a couple of hours, the torpedo was loaded and everything was ready once more. Destroyers were closing in, and our hull was starting to feel the pressure as machineguns tried to punch through our solid, metal, hull.
“Fire and crash dive, extreme speed, steer hard to port”. Everything I was saying then was auto fire. My mind was fixed, despite the pain, and all the military training started to show through. The men were milling about, all knowing that if these orders were not met perfectly in this time of need, they may not see their families again.
The water started splashing with a rain of projectiles, but the hunter was going down faster than the depth charges from the surprised destroyer could sink. Peering through the periscope, I could see the Warscythe going down at the same rate as our submarine at crash dive. We stopped at about 70 meters, the sunken beast, however, didn’t.
I used to have a link to the audio version of the story, but the hosting is now down. I’ll fix it when I get my computer once more.