[Second note: Two hours after I started writing this, one of my sweep trucks was rammed out on a freeway by a drunk. My driver is all right, the other, not. $10K+ damage to the sweep truck. RCA]
Machinist's Mate 3rd Class (SS) Alden MacManx was on watch as Engine Room Supervisor of the USS Kamfish, on patrol somewhere in the ocean. Ever since the death of his fiancé last year, his shipmates had noticed that he had lost his sense of humor and joy for life most of the time. He had concentrated on perfecting his craft, qualifying on his watch stations in record time and with record grades. This caused most of the crew to avoid him, but he didn't seem to notice or care.
This was the midwatch, where very little happened. Alden was standing near the Maneuvering Room [Engineering Control, to you non-navy types] when he heard over the intercom from Control that the ship was coming to periscope depth.
"Probably coming up to copy message traffic." said the Engineering Officer of the Watch [EOOW], LTJG Baheme.
Alden felt the ship take an up-angle as they neared periscope depth. Suddenly, the slight up-angle changed to a sharp down-angle.
"Collision Imminent!" was passed over the 1MC, followed by the General Alarm, then the Collision Alarm.
The four people in Maneuvering looked at each other in confusion, as did Alden. It was unheard of for the chief who was Diving Officer to make a mistake with the alarms.
Their confusion lasted two seconds when there was a loud BOOM from the overhead over Shaft Alley, followed by the sound of rushing water. Another BOOM sounded, this one fainter. Alden reacted instantly.
He ran back to Shaft Alley, to find seawater rushing in through a hole in the overhead. Almost without thinking, he sprang up to the overhead, grabbing hold of some padeyes closest to the hole. He then caused his body to flow slowly over and into the hole, filling it with his malleable flesh. Sparks were beginning to fly from some pieces of equipment that had been soaked. He kicked off a shoe and stretched a toe down to the off-switch of the one piece he could reach- the oil purifier.
By this time, the Upper Level watchstander, Engineering Watch Supervisor [EWS], and the duty Auxiliaryman had responded, followed by the duty electrician.
"Al! You all right?" shouted the EWS, Senior Chief Bestman.
"For now, Jerry! We better get to the surface soon! The pressure is beginning to hurt!" replied Alden.
By this time, word had been passed about the collision, and the Engineering Casualty Assistance Team [CATeam] was responding. "Al, how big is the hole?" asked Chief Riley, one of the 'M' division chiefs.
"About 8 inches long and 2 inches wide, Jack. Better get the plugs ready- I can't hold out much longer!" Alden said, the strain starting to show in his voice.
Now, the XO and Engineer had responded. "We can't surface right now, Petty Officer MacManx, there's too much shipping about. We have to get clear first." said the XO.
"How long?" grunted Alden.
"Fifteen to twenty minutes before we can surface." was the response.
"Damn. I'm in trouble." Alden muttered.
"Why?" asked the engineer.
"Because, sir, the edges of this hole are sharp. I've cut myself plugging the hole, and I'm starting to absorb seawater into my body. I'm starting to swell now, and I can't stop it until the pressure drops or I pull out, but that can blow out the gearing and turbine housings. I won't let that happen!" Alden growled through gritted teeth. What he didn't say was that the pain from the seawater in his wounds was building along with the pressure of the water filling his body.
The XO grabbed a JA phone and said something to Control. Alden heard the gears begin to sing and the ship begin to shake as speed was being laid on. "Ten minutes, Petty Officer MacManx. Hang on!" he said.
Meanwhile, equipment checks were being made on the salt-water soaked pumps and motors. Alden was starting to swell visibly as more water was being forced into him. Ten long minutes later, the Captain announced, "Surface! Surface!"
Alden felt the pressure ease as the sub rose to the surface. When he felt the ship settle, he asked the XO, "Permission to come down, sir?"
"Permission granted, son." Alden began removing himself from the hole. Water began pouring in, because the hole was beneath the waterline. He formed himself into a chute for the water to go directly to the bilges. Then, the CATeam personnel climbed up with plugs to seal the hole.
Once the hole was plugged, Alden allowed himself to reform to his normal shape. He was his normal height, but bloated to almost five times his normal bulk. When he moved, he sloshed audibly. Seawater was dripping from several small puncture marks on his belly, and a gash on his hip. The sight would have been comical, because Alden normally kept himself in top condition, but everyone who looked at him did not laugh. The pain he was in was obvious.
Alden sloshed to the Engineer. "Permission to go relieve myself, sir." he asked.
"Granted. Report back when ready." said the Engineer.
"Very smart thinking and acting, Petty Officer MacManx." said the XO.
"Just doing my job, sir." Alden said, then he slowly waddled his way to the head, having to push to get his belly through the hatch. He didn't come out of the head for over ten minutes. When he did, he was only slightly bloated, but still in pain from the salt in his wounds and body. He went to the fountain and drank for two minutes, filling with fresh water. Five minutes later, he went into the head again. All told, it took him an hour to purge the salt out of his body. It took a week to fully get rid of the bloat.
The sub limped back to port for repairs. It turned out that the rudder was damaged as well as the hull. While the ship was being repaired, the Captain of the Kamfish started talking to his boss, the Squadron Commander, who took the matter to his boss, the Fleet Commander. The result was that, before the Kamfish went back on patrol, the sub was visited by Vice Admiral Whitehead, the Fleet Commander.
The purpose of the visit was to present Petty Officer MacManx with a promotion to Petty Officer 2nd class, and awarding of a medal for his actions in preventing the ship from taking severe damage from its collision with a tanker. He accepted the honors with a poker face. "Just doing what I can do, sir." he said after he was awarded the medal. After that, when his shipmates tried joking with him, he did something he hadn't done in a year- he joined in, then laughed. It wasn't whole-hearted, but it was a start.