CHAPTER 20

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The Greenland shark angled away, swimming through the dark icy water of the Northern Atlantic Ocean. The creature's lazy motion and methodical behavior irritated the fire out of Sarah. That thing, it just chomped down and ate the sample that she'd worked so hard to get. The shark melted into the shadows and disappeared from view, but Sarah still had a lock on its heat signature. It's red dot pulsated on the display screen between her handle bars.

"It ate the what?" The disbelief in Wolf's voice echoed over the airwaves. "Did you just say that it—"

"Yes! It bit down on the manipulator arm with the tissue sample and...do I need to go into more detail?"

"No, I get the picture. I'm still on my way...on your six."

Sarah glanced down at the radar map on the display. Wolf's green dot was thirty yards behind her and moving in at full speed, her encounter with the Greenland shark having slowed her pursuit, allowing him to gain ground on her. But she still had a bead on the shark, it's position in the water radiating red on the screen, fifty yards to the south.

"You'll have to get the sample this time," Sarah said. "But I have an idea."

"I bet I can read your mind—hem it in on both sides and wrangle it like a steer."

"Not exactly how I'd describe it, but close enough."

Sarah backed off the throttle and allowed Wolf to draw even with her. When the lights from his sea cycle illuminated the gloomy swath of water beside her, she revved the gas on the handle bar, and shot forward in the direction of the escaping shark. Wolf did the same and soon edged even with her again.

"We should have a visual at any moment," Sarah said. Her fingers and the palm of her hand ached from her hold on the throttle handle. Her skin felt sticky with perspiration as she squeezed the rubber grip with such a ferocity that it shocked her. Her mission drove her forward with a relentlessness that consumed her very being. She would not be denied.

As they made their approach, the lamps of their submersibles turned the pitch black depths around them into an eerie dark-green cut out of the sea. Indifferent to their presence, the shark swished forward on a haphazardly course. Sarah went right and Wolf went left. The mottled grey body of the fish stretched twenty feet ahead of them.

Invisible tremors in the water shook Sarah's submersible like air turbulence rattling a plane. The enormous tail fin generated mild shockwaves, speed bumps, jarring both sea cycles with short and steady bursts. Sarah turned her head, gawking at the giant fish. It was not a pretty specimen to behold. It's black spots melted into muddled splotches on its thick hide. The shark's dark eye appeared glazed over with a milky glaze—damage inflicted by the parasites. It's sheer size next to them stirred a healthy level of respect for the creature's power.

Sarah inched forward, the nose of her sub pulling even with the halfway point of the Greenland shark's body. Her gaze followed the outline of the dorsal fin as it curved, pointing toward the creature's rear flank. That's when she caught a glimpse of Wolf's obscure figure hunched over the handle bars. She could barely make out his brows pinching together in concentration. He looked like he was jacked up on adrenaline, and maybe whatever drugs he was taking to curb his aggressive behavior, who knew?

Sarah didn't laugh, but she huffed and wagged her head. "Are you ready to do this? We're running out of time."

"Yes. No. Maybe...As ready as I'll ever be."

"Use the miniature joystick located on the right side of your center console. It operates the manipulator arm on that side of your sub."

"I found it. Wait. How do I—"

"Nudge the stick to the right. That disengages it from the side of the cycle."

"And?"

"Use your imagination, Wolf. Get it close to the body and flick the joystick. The arm will draw back and stab the rotating blade into the shark's dermal scales."

"So jab its skin?"

"Yes. Geez. Do I have to do everything for you?"

"I got it. I think..."

"You need to make solid contact to penetrate the hide. Their skin is tough."

"I said, I got it."

The mechanical arm on Wolf's submersible crept toward the shark.

Unexpectedly, the big fish bumped into Sarah's cycle, jolting her aerodynamic craft. The minor collision twisted her sub sideways, slowing her down, but she made the necessary correction on the fly and regained her position. Maybe it remembered her from earlier, and decided it didn't like her, or maybe it didn't like being crowded and feeling threatened? As she provided a blockade on the right side of the creature, Wolf continued to inch his coring blade closer.

An idea brightened her mind like a ray of hope. She thumbed the joystick on the left side of her center console, maneuvering the other arm with the grasping fingers toward the shark. She might be able to use the metal hand as a guide like her and Wolf were a couple of cowboys wrangling a steer.

At the very least, it created a distraction.

From Sarah's point of view, Wolf's mechanical arm whipped through the water like a small javelin.

Multiple attempts were fruitless, but Sarah refused to give up.

"Not as easy as it looks, is it?" she said.

"No...it's not." Wolf made eye contact with her for a brief second—a snarky glare—and then refocused his efforts.

The shark walloped into the side of his sub.

"Hello," he said, "a little help would be nice."

"Coming up." Sarah clawed at the dorsal fin with the flexible metal fingers, receiving a hard bump in return. "Any day now?"

Wolf grumbled something incoherent over the comm system, certainly aimed at Sarah. The coring blade sliced at the shark, but came up short. Wolf seemed more determined now. He kept sputtering curses at the fish or at Sarah, or at his own inability to operate the arm. In a flash, the gaping mouth lined with sharp, tiny teeth designed to tear flesh from prey, opened with the intent to eat Sarah's other mechanical arm. Simultaneously, Wolf managed to strike the creature's hardened armor of dermal scales with a direct hit. The scalpel-sharp blade sunk into its flesh and yanked back with a tissue sample. The dark swirl of blood curled into view, letting her know Wolf had been successful.

The shark's teeth grazed the fingers of Sarah's mechanical arm, chomping down on nothing but water. Before it could try again, she peeled away, angling right, putting a safe distance between her and the predator. Wolf steered his sub into the clear and waited for Sarah to join him as the fish disappeared into the abyss of the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

Now, it was back to the lab and back to work. If she stood any chance of rescuing Jake, she had to deliver a perfect serum to the admiral.

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