Before we go any further I have to address the sad state of Extra Sensory Perception as a cultural belief. Seriously, why isn't that a thing anymore? Instead we get "I control 100% of my brain!" which sounds awesome until you realize every waking moment would have to be spent manually commanding your heart to beat and so on. There's a good reason we don't control that stuff, and it has nothing to do with sexy rebellion against whatever warmed-over 1984-for-babies dystopia that refuses to recognize how special and wonderful being different truly makes me.
Anyway, the point is kids today don't know 'bout the ESP and it's sad.
There's some underwater stuff too, I guess.
I'm just sitting around maxing and relaxing when I basically have an epileptic aura and/or psychotic break that involves buzzing, swirling visions and objects colliding. Apparently, this is my lame super powers kicking in to predict the future and not the beginning of a life of being shuffled from one institution to another, being prescribed the latest fashionable "meds," and finally being abandoned by the system and becoming a hopeless derelict. Instead, there is indeed a minor fender-bender and this is proof I'm the chosen one and definitely not clinically insane.
I have a similar incident at school. In today's best of all possible worlds this would probably mean a 'script for kiddie crack, but this is 1983 and the imagination hasn't been outlawed yet. I tell my parents and Dad sends me to meet with a professor, because meeting a professor is the kind of thing that makes for entertaining reading. He's all "You've got Extra Sensory Perception!" and I'm all "I know, right!"
"Your cool super power will keep you from skidding!"
The upshot of this meeting is that I'm contacted by a government agency that is collecting people like me to stare at goats or whatever. Incredibly, they actually ask me if I want to participate, instead of being all "Phony scandal" this and "It's the right thing to do" that. Man, thank goodness L.A. based punk rock was there to keep Dictator Reagan in check.
Because they asked politely, I agree.
"Mr. MDC, tear down this poster."
I tell my mother that I deserve "to know what's going on in my head" which is something every parent must dream of hearing. Dad shows great restraint by quietly assenting, instead of recommending a methadone clinic as a more cost-effective alternative.
I'm taken to Washington D.C. and a doctor asks me to guess the numbers on cards, perhaps in hopes of getting me into the super-secret government "Repay the Debt Via Blackjack" program. Unfortunately, I don't do very well, so my powers are only good for predicting disaster and won't be able to defeat Vegas. Speaking of disaster, I sense one coming on right now.
From the makers of "Child Bagman."
Sure enough, a truck slams into the building. Are we going to get "Terminator" style carnage? Well, no. Instead it's some guy who blames "bad brakes" for his almost unbelievable negligence. The doctor decided that I've got some abilities after all, even if they're not exactly what you'd call practical unless you're hanging around people who are super accident prone or simply have cursed luck.
As you might expect, this leads to an assignment as an "ESP Specialist" on a submarine.
Continue this very logical and predictable plot, it turns out this dive boat will use my mind powers as a "special backup warning!" It turns out that ships, and especially submarines, are being lost at a alarming rate both by the West and our Red "friends." Clearly my head issues will be the difference maker.
Double-secret salvage of the Queen's wayward sons.
The submarine is, naturally, no ordinary model. It's basically a giant metal manta ray, complete with non-nuclear missiles and an undersea scout craft that would have R.A. Montgomery nodding his head and saying "Yeah. That's how you do it." The "Manta" has never sailed, but obviously the darkest hour of an international crisis is a good time to try out this massively impractical prototype.
Also the ships are generally disappearing right after they are first launched from port, but the law of averages suggests we'll survive so no worries.
I'm pretty much in charge of everything, another excellent idea, and am assigned an isolation booth where I'll use my sixth sense to guide the ship. I decide we should go to the Arctic. We head toward the Bering Strait, passing Sarah Palin's house and noting the presence of Russia.
This new house in Yalta is awesome!
We sail under an ice floe, but the amount of space for the submarine is rapidly shrinking. Still, my powers insist this is the right way and I haven't been wrong yet. Except all those cards, but forget that. As it gets narrower, we come to a full stop trapped by a "solid wall of underwater ice." Yes, a classic era Metallica song was almost certainly inspired by this book. Please update Wikipedia accordingly.
I decide we should blast our way out with torpedoes. We manage to create a nice hole in the ice, but for some reason I'm given the option to go out in the wussy scout ship. How about "no."
We enter the hole, I try to ignore the massive Freudian subtext, and then get "stuck." Then we get crushed to pieces. For some reason my danger sense had nothing to say about any of this.
I'll be fine.
I liked the general concept of this one, but it suffered from not enough choices and way too much exposition, a problem that will become more common as we get deeper into this series. Richard Brightfield has his moments, but when my overall impression is "a less good R.A. Montgomery" it isn't exactly high praise. The ESP gimmick was pure eighties, but if you're gonna give me the spider sense it can't just turn off at critical moments. Also "Phantom?" Did the author actually want the title "Manta Submarine" but slurred it and was misheard? Seems likely.
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Aaron Zehner is the author of "Posts from the Underground," now available in paperback and e-book. Read free excerpts here and here.
His first novel "The Foolchild Invention" is also available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.