Only five minutes later the depth charge scores a direct hit on the stern of the V-Million and tears a hole through both the outer and the pressure hull. The deck angles beneath Bischoff’s feet, and his ears begin to pop. On a submarine, both of these are bad omens. He can hear hatches clanging shut as the crew try to stem the advance of the water towards the bow; each one seals the fate of whomever happens to be aft of it. But they’re all dead anyway, it is just a question of timing now. Those hatches are not meant to stem five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten atmospheres of pressure. They give way, the pressure spikes upwards as the bubble of air in the front of the V-Million suddenly halves its volume, then halves it again, and again. Each wave of pressure comes as sudden crushing pressure on Bischoff’s thorax, driving all the air out of his lungs.
Because the bow is pointed straight up, like a needle on a meter, there’s no deck to stand on, and every time a bulkhead yields, and the water level shoots up towards the bow, it leaves them suddenly submerged, with crushed and evacuated lungs, and they must swim up and find the air bubble again.
But finally the mangled stern of the boat spikes into the seafloor and the V-Million settles down, the forwardmost cabin rotating around them, tremendous rock-crushing noises all around as a coral reef is destroyed by the boat’s falling hull. And then it’s finished. Günter Bischoff and Rudolf von Hacklheber are together in a safe cozy bubble of compressed air, all of the air that used to be in the V-Million reduced to a pocket the size of a car. It’s dark.
He hears Rudy undoing the latches on his aluminum briefcase.
"Don’t strike a match," Bischoff says. "This air is compressed, it will burn like a flare."
"That would be terrible," Rudy says, and instead turns on a flashlight. The light comes on and immediately dims and goes brown and shrinks to a tiny red speck: the glowing remains of the filament in the bulb.
"Your light bulb has imploded," Bischoff explains. "But at least I got a little glimpse of you, with that silly look on your face."