This requires a bit of explanation. My idea here is that these people are part of a total immersion program to prepare them for the Navy. They go under for days at a time, always while they are asleep, so they never know when the program is happening or when it's real life, so that their reactions are genuine and they can feel what it's truly like but nobody gets hurt while they're still learning. This does take place within the simulation, though as you will see they do not know that.
My head is reeling. I still cannot believe that this morning, after two days on the simple computer-game type simulators, they're already sending us on a real mission. They did warn us that sometimes their orders may seem erratic, but the whole point of me being here is that I need time to get used to all of this, to face my fears. I was fine for the first few hours, though the sinking feeling in my stomach would not leave. Probably because we actually were sinking. An announcement was made moments ago, saying we were approaching our final depth, and that was when it all came crashing down on my mind with the force of a tsunami.
I can hardly tell what's happening around me. I don't know what to focus on, the fact that I am trapped inside a cramped living space with the one person in the world that makes my head spin or the fact that said cramped space is thousands of miles underwater and though we should be getting crushed like a soda can we are alive, a feat nobody has bothered to explain to me beyond vague hand gestures and overcomplicated theorems that they clearly don't understand either beyond the fact that we are still breathing.
Well, some of us are.
I feel a hand on my shoulder. "Maya, are you okay?" I hear him say. The only one I could possible care about seeing me like this. I try to pull myself together. My hands are unconsciously clenching the tangle of pipes in front of me in a fruitless effort to steady myself. I close my eyes and take deep breaths.
"I'm fine," I finally say. He gives me another concerned look as alarms start to blare. He swears and runs off as orders start to come, expertly weaving between the machinery. I sigh and push my hair back.
Why do I have to act so stupid around him? I'm supposed to be a professional, I tell myself. Then I shake my head. Professionals don't have conversations with themselves. Orders are still blasting out of the speakers, and I have to wait for them to loop before I know what's going on and where I need to go.
"RADAR TRACKING PARTY, MAN YOUR STATIONS. APR, DESCRIBE ENEMY CONTACT. QB, MAKE A FREQUENCY SWEEP."
All the orders coming through at once confuse me for a moment before I get ahold of my senses. I had had my little episode in the transmissions room, so I could hear everything at once, combined with varied responses from the respective frequencies.
"Pulse rate...signal steady."
"Radar tracking systems manned."
"QB, contact, echo ranging. Long scale. Still searching."
I sift through these reports to find my instructions. As soon as I hear all of the reports I am off and running, perhaps with a little less skill than he had. I hit my knee on several prominent pipes on my way and hiss with pain every time, but I keep moving.
At last, I reach my tracking system and slip on my comms unit. I catch the end of an order, and call, "Repeat."
"All compartments, control testing."
My station partner immediately responds. All of the pukes (aka the newbies like me) were paired with someone who had been a part of the training program for at least a year. "Battery forward, aye." Then he slips his comms unit off. I pretend to be intent on the control panel in front of me, but he taps me on the shoulder and I have no choice but to look at him. My breath, as well as any thought, is immediately swept away as his oceanic eyes meet mine, his stormy with concern. "Maya, what happened back there?"
I sigh and look back to the buttons and levers, hoping to distract myself with my work as I formulate a response. "Jordan, I..." I duck my head. I can't pretend to be preoccupied anymore. "I'm afraid of drowning. My biggest fear in the entire world is being trapped underwater and drowning."