Inspiration: This is from a prompt containing the following words:
frog – graph – target – meddle – ensnared – suitcases
The rest of the story is improvised from part of John Christopher’s The Pool of Fire, combined with bits of other books like Forsyth’s spy thrillers.
We were ready for the operation. It was timed to the second, as it was extremely time-sensitive. We’d studied the graphs of power output in the target facility, to determine the ideal time to strike. We needed to enter the facility through the outflow tunnel, swimming against the current, to avoid the grates in the inflow tunnel.
We’d identified the ideal time as 0245, when plant activity would be at a minimum. In order to complete the operation successfully, we’d need to enter fifteen minutes before that, no more, no less, so at 0230 once the security patrol had passed. That would give us 15 minutes to prepare the sabotage – and we’d need that long – and another fifteen to complete the operation and get out before the patrol passed by again.
We had diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs) to help us get us inside against the current. They would bring us well into the outflow vents until the point where the tunnel just gets too narrow for a diver and a vehicle. Beyond that we’d have to count on our regular frogman suits – wetsuits, scuba gear, and fins – to swim the last ten meters or so into the actual plant.
So we prepared for the assault. Three large suitcases contained the six DPVs we would need. Ever since we’d been selected to meddle with the enemy’s power supply, we’d all been nervous. We were deep behind enemy lines, and we hadn’t had any trouble getting here. My teammates were happy about that, but most of them were juniors. I, on the other hand, was suspicious. It seemed too easy. I know my bosses are excellent at planning and executing these operations, but as the saying goes, no plan survives first contact with implementation, and through my experience I’d learned that the hard way a few times.
I was still plagued by memories of my last undercover operation, six months earlier, where my buddy Joe ended up literally and stupidly ensnared in a rabbit trap while navigating the woods at the home of a crime boss we were supposed to unmask as leader of a spy ring. I’d gotten out safe, but Joe was caught alive, and apparently later revealed parts of our plan, thus compromising several subsequent operations.
So when I briefed the team, I heavily insisted on the contingency plans. If we were detected on entry, we would just get out with the current, split up and each head for a different nearby village where egress kits had already been hidden. If we were caught while inside, we would kill the guards, get out immediately through the outflow vents, then split up in the same way.
So we got into the river, purged our scuba suits in order to sink, and turned on the DPVs. They pulled us quickly and swiftly against the current. We reached the point where the tunnel narrows, then as planned, dropped the DPVs. Pushing forward with the fins, we made it to the inner end of the tunnel. staying below the water, we regrouped and checked the time: 02:27. We needed to wait five more minutes, just to be sure. So we stayed there, hardly moving, still breathing canned air out of the tanks and into the rebreathers to avoid bubbles which might have given us away.
When my watch read 02:32 I signaled the others. We removed our scuba gear, opened the tank valves to evacuate the little remaining air, tied everything together and let it all sink and flow out with the current. We each had a small tank and regulator left with us for the egress.
We got out of the pool, made sure the coast was clear, then made our way to the main generators. We had to plant the explosives on them at the moment of lowest power output, because we needed to turn them off one by one without anyone noticing.
But before we left the area with the outflow vents, we had one more thing to take care of. Stephen opened a weak panel we knew would be in the wall and snipped a couple of wires to neutralize the surveillance cameras.
We then made our way to the generator room, and found the control panel. Having located the right switches and the exact places we were to plant the explosives, we got to work. Mark took from his waterproof bag the paper with the codes we needed, and entered them to validate himself as a superuser. Each of us stood next to a generator, ready to act quickly before output dropped enough for the system to raise an alarm. Mark didn’t need to give us any signals. We were well trained for this, and ready to go. Once the red light on each generator was out, we’d wait exactly 30 seconds, plant the explosive on the still slowly spinning turbine, then give Mark the go ahead to restart.
This part of the operation went off without a hitch. Once finished, we packed everything up, Mark used his superuser privileges to delete all trace of our passage from the logs, and logged out.
We then made our way back to the outflow vent. Once there, we prepared, dove in, and swam out immediately with the current. Ten minutes later our air tanks were empty and we were breaking the surface of the water, well away from the plant. I was the second. Dan had already emerged. Mark was next. Then came Chuck and Rob. But Jack didn’t reappear. Worried, we waited another five minutes as per the plan. And five extra minutes. Then a darker shape broke the water just upriver. We reached it and saw that it was Jack. He was dead. There was a deep gash on his forehead and – we were stunned to see – a bullet hole in his back. Had we been seen? Had our operation failed? We would only know if the explosives failed to blow…