Out of Water – Chapter Ten

The hatch swung open with a soft groan and Lauren took an involuntary step back. The cramped corridor beyond faded into the darkness beyond the reach of Herrigan’s torch and the back of Lauren’s brain was quietly reminding her why she’d never gone to sea in spite of years working on the docks. It had taken a lot of wheedling and more than one direct threat to her job for the diplomats in Canberra to convince her to join the group going to Alcatraz. She still wasn’t sure why they’d pushed so hard, her “greater personal experience” with Herrigan’s crew didn’t really make her any better suited to dealing with the totally alien world she’d stumbled into at the bottom of the ocean.

Before he stepped in to the corridor Herrigan dropped to a crouch and shone his light on the floor. Looking over his shoulder Lauren saw that the floor was a grate over a shallow channel with water quietly running through it. She could make out narrow channels in the walls of the corridor where the ubiquitous condensation ran down into the stream beneath the floor. Herrigan hooked his fingers through the grate and flipped a catch hidden along the edge, popped it free and set it aside then dipped his hand in the water.

For a moment he looked a lot like the typical outback roughneck or tracker that she might see on television. Then he shook his head and reached for the grate to put it back. “What was that all about?”

He glanced up as he snapped the floor back in place. “Just checking the local temperature.”

“It is a lot colder here,” she said, pulling her jacket a little tighter around her. Trenchman clothing leaned towards the loose and airy, which was normally a plus in the humid environments they seemed to live in. “Is it because we’re close to the hull?”

“Yeah. Ward Three isn’t anywhere close to a geothermal vent so it’s pretty cool out there and we don’t bother insulating the hull beyond the natural properties of the ceramic. It would just be another thing we’d have to produce that we don’t have the raw materials for.” He pushed himself back to his feet, flicking water from his hand in an offhand, almost subconscious way. “People working here for any length of time tend to bring some kind of heater or something so they don’t catch pneumonia or suffer hypothermia.”

“Or they dress warmly.”

“In this atmosphere, more layers tends to equal more damp cloth on you skin. Heating is the way to go.” He stepped in to the corridor, barely wide enough for to people to squeeze by each other, and motioned for her to follow. “Shut the hatch behind you.”

“I remember the plan, Herrigan.” Lauren hauled the door closed and dogged the hatch. “How do you know this fish out of water guy will heat the section he’s in? If he’s as crazy as you say then he might suffer in the cold just because that’s how he wants to do it.”

“If he’s been down here without a heat source for the last hour the odds he’s going to be any kind of a problem are pretty low. I’ve fished enough dead bodies out of these places after accidents and stupid decisions to know just how fast this place can kill you.” Lauren came to a stop, the rattling of the grates under her feet echoing away into the dark. Herrigan went a few steps more, his own footfalls barely audible over the echoes. She wasn’t sure how he was so quiet, the grates were loose and should rattle under the lightest weight. “Something wrong?”

The corridor was dark behind her and in front the only light was from Herrigan’s torch. The saying was any port in a storm but she wasn’t quite sure she bought that. “How can you be so casual about it?”

There was a quick flick of the eyes around the dimly illuminated area, clearly Herrigan trying to narrow down what the question was about. “Freezing to death in a hull access area?”

She threw her hands up in the air and bashed her knuckles against the ceiling. Muttering, she cradled her hands and shook her head.  “Herrigan, the first time you saw the sun was six weeks ago. You run around the ocean floor in a sub with a leaky nuclear reactor scraping up scraps from lost ships to sell when you get home, where you drink booze made from seaweed and pat yourself on the back for finding the materials to keep your underwater prison colony growing. You’re a part time sheriff and that means you occasionally pull frozen bodies out of dark holes in a prison colony. And somehow you’re completely calm about it.”

“I guess I never thought of it like that.” Herrigan planted both hands on his hips, flipping the torch around with a practiced move so they could still see. “It probably looks strange from the outside but-”

“This isn’t just about perspective, Herrigan.” She waved around at the dark around them. “The government that locked you up here has been gone for years but you people are just as imprisoned as the day they brought you down.”

For a moment he looked thoughtful but then he shook his head and grinned. “That doesn’t add up at all, Lauren. We don’t have prisons down here – kinda rubs people the wrong way – but we all know how they work. You get locked up in a box and you don’t get to do anything. Everything’s decided for you and you shuffle along from place to place marching to someone else’s tune. And you sure don’t stick your neck out for someone who’s in trouble.”

Lauren snorted and waved towards the inside of the hull. “You said yourself that the people there aren’t in trouble if the place floods.”

“I wasn’t talking about them. Come on,” he turned and headed back into the dark, “that fish ain’t getting back in the water on his own.”

Out of Water – Chapter Nine

“You don’t have any kind of emplaced defenses at your hatches?” Hathoway demanded.

The three Chiefs passed a look around, silently asking who wanted to field the touchy sergeant’s question this time. Randal blinked first. “I know that, given the context, this is going to sound wrong,” he said, “but they are exterior hatches on a deep sea colony. We don’t expect anyone to want to open them outside of safe, controlled situations.”

“Anyone normal,” Sam tossed in.

“Sorry, but wasn’t one of the potential reasons for this sabotage you discussed earlier industrial espionage?” Ambassador Sudbury asked, not accusingly but with mild curiosity. “Surely opening a few hatches would be a quick way to cover a corporate gambit of some sort.”

Walker laughed. “Not if they wanted to survive. The hatches are manual only – can’t be activated remotely. Anyone opening one from the inside is getting crushed or drowned in the process unless they’ve got the right gear on hand. And that’s for the same reason we don’t have advanced defenses at the hatches in the first place.”

“Which is?”

“Electronic control systems cost too much to build.” Walker rapped his knuckles against the access hatch to the sealed section which he and Sam had been working on getting open for the last five minutes. “There’s only one electronic control for the emergency lockdown system, kept in a central location, and it triggers a pneumatic system that locks the dogs on the hatch in place when the protocol is tripped.”

“You’re short on electrical components?” Sudbury asked.

“Semiconductors are hard to get ahold of down here.” Walker reached into the access panel he’d been working on and pulled out a lever about as long as his for arm. “We have to refine most of them from seawater or scavenge them from wrecks.”

After throwing the lever to one side Walker stood to one side and let Sam crank the lever up and down for about ten seconds, then there was a loud pang from the hatch as the dogs snapped open. Hathoway eyed the hatch warily and said, “Are we going to be locking that behind us when we go through?”

“I will be,” Walker confirmed. “Whether it’ll be dogged behind the rest of you is all on whether you go through or not. Really, this is an engineering problem, not an executive or justice problem, so I should just wait here for the specialized team that’s coming up behind us. But it’s ten minutes away and if we are dealing with a fish out of water who’s planning to try and flood the colony we’re on a serious clock. On the other hand, this is kind of an Australian problem, but I think your interests are best served letting people who know the situation and have a lay of the land take care of it. But if you want to come, I won’t stop you. Extra hands would let us go two ways at once.”

“Making sure this delegation is safe is my job,” Hathoway said. “So I’m definitely going.”

Everyone looked to Sudbury. “I think Sergeant Hathoway and Chief Walker both have sound points. But before I decide to stay I need to know two things.”

“Ask away,” Randal said.

The ambassador ticked them off on his fingers. “First, what does it benefit a person who wants to flood the Ward to activate a failsafe that prevents that from happening? And second, why would switching off that system make it more difficult for our fish out of water to achieve his goal?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Sam said. The other two Chiefs gave him a surprised look and he shrugged. “It is kind of my job to think about these things. And what it boils down to is that there’s no real reason to trigger a breach lockdown if you’re a fish out of water-”

Hathoway jabbed a finger at Walker. “He seems to think there is.”

Walker threw his hands up in defense. “Because it actually happened! The fish had disabled the pneumatics on an interior hatch so it wouldn’t seal and probably planned to open the exterior hatch after the lockdown the same way we did just now.”

“Why didn’t he pull it off?” Randal asked.

“He was in a part of the communications team and not the hull maintenance team,” Walker said. “He didn’t know the schedules and pulled his stunt on the same day a maintenance team was doing an inspection of that compartment. They caught him before he could open the exterior hatch, although he got pretty close.”

“Wouldn’t that have just resulted in two sections flooding?” Sudbury asked.

“That’d be more than any other fish has ever managed,” Randal pointed out.

Sam waved them down, looking annoyed. “If you’ll let me finish. There’s no real reason to trigger a breach lockdown if you’re a fish out of water unless you’re looking to exploit the securing procedure.”

Sudbury frowned. “For those of us who are new here, what exactly is that?”

“It’s a five minute systems check that runs when a section secures from lockdown,” Walker said. “All communications lines and sensors run checks and someone from the engineers gets the hatches undogged and opened.”

“During that time can another lockdown be triggered?” Sam asked.

Walker turned pale. “No. The system wouldn’t start the procedure until it was finished with the system check. Ninety percent sure.”

Randal sighed. “Why can’t the crisis every be simple and easy?”

“It’d never make it to crisis status if it was,” Sudbury answered with a grin. “And I think that, like Sergeant Hathoway, I should come along to make sure our people in there are safe. And it sounds like you people could use all the hands you can get.”

“All right then,” Randal said. “Lead on, Walker. Lead on.”

Out of Water – Chapter Eight

Herrigan shone his flashlight into the ground floor window of McClain Magnetic Engineering, Second Branch, and peered around the room. Down by his elbow Lauren asked, “What do you see?”

“Looks like a reception room.” He hopped down off of the bench they’d picked up on the sidewalk and dragged half way ’round the building and straightened his jacket. “My guess is we won’t see anything important on the ground floor, McClain was notoriously paranoid to the end of her life and her company kept the mindset after she died. All the important stuff is probably interior with no direct outlets.”

“So why are we here again?” Holly asked.

“I’m here to look for signs someone’s tried to break in using the outage as a cover.” Herrigan waved a hand at the two of them. “You guys are here because I didn’t want to leave you in a bar full of roughnecks. You’re kind of important dignitaries here, you know.”

Lauren smirked. “So you bring all visiting dignitaries to a bar full of roughnecks.”

“So far,” he said sheepishly.

“Where are all the people?” Holly had hopped up on the bench and had her hands cupped around her face, trying to peer in. “It’s still working hours, right?”

“There’s people in there ’round the clock. We don’t have very strict ideas of day and night down here for obvious reasons, so work shifts aren’t really scheduled with that in mind. But my guess would be there’s safe rooms in there for  emergencies.” Herrigan clipped his flashlight into a loop on the shoulder of his coat designed to keep it pointed more or less in front of him. “Remember, Sonny said this started as a breach lockdown.”

“What are the odds that’s what this actually is?” Lauren asked.

It was a question he had to give real consideration. So far he’d just been reacting to what was going on, trying to get a handle on the situation. So far Herrigan still wasn’t sure what was going on and that made it hard to get out ahead of things. But there were things he could rule out.

“Honestly, I think the chances of this being the result of an actual hull breach are pretty small.” He helped Holly down from the bench and the two of them picked it up and started walking it around the building to the next window. “If it was we’d still have contact with the rest of the Ward, it would take a truly freak accident for a hull breach to cut communications. And even if that did happen, the Ward engineers would be moving through, checking compartment integrity and reopening them as fast as the could safely do it. Compartments on lockdown aren’t the best place to be.”

“How many of these compartments are there in lockdown?” Lauren asked. “Maybe they just haven’t gotten to this one yet.”

“Depends on how old a place is. Long story short, in this section there’s nine separate compartments. Most big buildings, like this one,” he jerked his chin in the direction of the McClain building, “can lock watertight and take the pressure at this depth, too. And this is McClain central, so that’s pretty much a given in this case.”

“Any relation to the Erin McClain you said your sub is named after?”

Herrigan chuckled. “One and the same. Not everyone here was a fan of her but when Eddie was christened Erin had just passed a few years ago and naming stuff after her was kind of in style.”

“You never changed it?” Holly asked.

“Bad luck to change a ship’s name like that.” They stopped at the last window and set the bench down again, then Herrigan unclipped his flashlight and climbed up on the bench once more.

As he was surveying another empty room he heard Holly running one hand along the side of the building. “What is this place made out of?” He couldn’t quite squash a laugh and Holly followed up in an embarrassed tone. “Sorry. I know I’m asking a lot of questions.”

“Didn’t mean to sound condescending,” Herrigan said, leaving another empty window behind him as he climbed down again. “Just thought the question ironic. This here,” he rapped his knuckles against the smooth ceramic surface, “is genuine McClain clamshell.”

“Clamshell?” It was Lauren’s turn to ask.

“Magnetically Aligned Ceramic, or MAC, is the technical term, which is about all I know about the technicalities of the stuff.” He offered a helpless shrug. “All most people know about it is that it’s a ceramic that uses the same principles of molecular construction as a clam uses in its shell, just with tougher materials, which is why it can hold up to pressure down here. It’s strong, quick to make and doesn’t require metal.”

Lauren frowned. “I take it you don’t have much in the way of metal on hand?”

“I don’t spend eight months a year on Eddie because I like the company. We do a little underwater mining but salvage is our main source of metal since we lost contact with the surface. ”

“If you don’t mind another question,” Holly said, “How do you molecularly construct something?”

“Since MAC came after McClain got a handle on functional nanotech I assume the one requires the other…” Herrigan trailed off when he realized both women were staring at him. “She was one woman in a technological backwater. How can you guys not have cracked working nanotech yet?”

Holly looked personally offended. “Hey, you guys still run your telecomm network on fiber optics.”

“Well the US didn’t exile any politically disruptive communications experts. Not our fault.” Herrigan caught up one side of the bench and Holly sighed and grabbed the other, a barely audible grunt escaping as she hefted it up again.

There was a moment of silence as the three digested that, dragging the bench back to its original resting spot. As Herrigan and Holly got it settled Lauren asked, “Do you need to go in and check on the people in there?”

It was a question he’d been asking himself a lot over the last half hour. The windows and entryways were intact and, just as importantly, the markings that fluoresced under the UV function of his deputy’s flashlight were still there so they hadn’t been replaced by particularly resourceful intruders. “I don’t think so. There’s no sign of a break in and the company can afford really good anti-flooding measures. I’m more interested in running down Mag’s theory about why this is happening.”

“A fish out of water.” He’d explained the concept on their way over but Lauren still sounded a bit skeptical. “You really think there’s someone who’s gone crazy enough to want to flood the whole colony? He can’t expect to survive.”

“There’s six confirmed cases on record,” Herrigan replied with a shrug. “Two of ’em partly succeeded. The experts can’t say why they do it for sure, so I’m not gonna hazard a guess, but we know it happens.”

Holly nodded once, as if he’d just confirmed something in her mind. “Then we should find him ASAP. Where would we start looking?”

“Somewhere near the hull,” Herrigan said, considering his options. “And now that I think about it, I might need your help with it…”

When it’s Work

Everyone thinks that being an artist means crawling in to your happy place and spending an hour or three pouring out a part of yourself onto paper or into music or whatever. It’s all inspiration and creativity and fun. Even artists think like that. And there’s truth to the notion, it does happen.

But it’s work a good chunk of the time. Musicians practice endlessly, only occasionally getting it right. Drawing, painting and animating has huge amounts of tedious detail work. Writing is 90% editing and trust me, it’s no fun. And that’s before the other things. The Life things.

Sometimes you’re depressed. Sometimes your support network seems like it’s slipping away from you. Sometimes you spend a month or two moving into a new place and you just need to get all your ducks in a row. Sometimes you commit a week of precious vacation time to volunteer in a way that, while important, is still emotionally and physically draining. Every once in a great while all those things happen at once.

Handling those things is important and everyone understands those circumstances when they happen. But they make it hard to switch off the world and focus on the chase, the search for the muse, the quest for inspiration.

You see, artists don’t go chasing after art because they are somehow unique or gifted with inspiration. Artists chase art because we need to be inspired so much that we can’t wait to stumble across inspiration so we go and seek it out.

Everyone tells you before you start, of course. That the spark of greatness is not something you find every day, that there will be large stretches of the mundane, that you will have to push through to find what you want, just like everyone else. Sometimes it’s not fun. Sometimes it’s work.

And sometimes that work is more than you thought. Sometimes even modest goals prove too much for you. Sometimes you spend all that you can spare and you can’t break through to the next level. Life creeps up around you and all that joy you had in creating seeps away. You can find satisfaction in other things. Maybe it’s okay to take a break for a day, or a week, or a month, or even a few years. After all, you have all those other opportunities to follow up on and all those people to talk to and hang out with.

At times like those it’s really easy to say yes, let’s just take a break. It’s hard work. You’ve earned it.

And to be honest, no one will blame you if that’s what you do. It is hard. Most of the time, no one is expecting much of you. And inspiration can wait. Art, by it’s very nature, is timeless. You can find it any time and it will still be valuable. That’s part of what makes it beautiful.

But let me tell you a secret.

Sit down at that keyboard. With that pen and paper. Pick up that instrument. Tell them all about the times you’ve been having. Don’t let anyone see it. Don’t let anyone hear it. This is just for you.

And when you’re done, you’ll know it. You’ll find the perspective, you’ll see the barriers for what they are. Tough, sure, but beatable. And beyond that, the inspiration that makes it worthwhile. It’s work, and we’re lucky to have it. Because people like us, whether we’re artists or just hope to be one someday, well…

We can’t live without it.

Story returns next week. See you then.

Out of Water – Chapter Seven

Randal and Sam gave a combined heave and dragged Walker up and out of the access hatch, the Chief Engineer giving a grunt as he rolled himself around into a mostly upright position and dusted himself off and all three men exhaled and shook out aching muscles. Hathoway bent over them in an attempt to see in the hatch but without Walker’s flashlight it was all shadows save a few glimpses of nearby wiring with the rest fading into darkness. The military man shook his head ruefully and stepped back. “Deep hole, that.”

Walker grinned, his face mostly back to it’s normal color in spite of being held mostly upside down for the last few minutes. “About two stories. You’re not really supposed to get in to the wiring this way but someone did, and not too long ago at that. Risky move, since he couldn’t have brought most of the appropriate safety equipment in this way so he’d have been working without a net as it were.”

Hathoway raised a skeptical eyebrow. “As opposed to what you were just doing?”

“I put those two,” Walker jerked a thumb at the other two Chiefs in turn, “on the list of approved safety measures before we started.”

“And I approved it,” Randal added, “which makes it doubly official and, more importantly, fast.”

“Honestly,” Sudbury said, sounding a little exasperated, “don’t you three have some kind of minders to make sure you don’t go pulling stupid stunts and getting killed? What good do you do the public if they lose the benefit of your expertise?”

There was an uncomfortable moment as the three Chiefs exchanged a mystified look. No one said, “What do you mean?”

But it was pretty heavily implied.

“If you’re worried about having too many eggs in one basket,” Sam said, “I could call a deputy and have the two of you escorted back to the offices. Or maybe a hotel? We do have those down here and I’m sure-”

Sudbury waved him off. “It’s tempting, but I do have half my delegation to worry about. That doesn’t explain why you three are down here.”

“Same reason,” Randal said. “Bigger scale.” He took one of Walker’s arms and pulled the engineer to his feet. “What did you find down there, Matt?”

In reply Walker dug a fist sized gizmo out of a pocket and showed it to the group. “This was spliced into the network line. I don’t know what it does for sure but at I guess, given what we’re looking at, it used a high amplitude light pulse to shut down the fiber optic network in this section.”

Sudbury cleared his throat and, when he had the group’s attention, asked, “Why would knocking out your network cause a… what did you call it? Breach lockdown?”

“That’s the term,” Walker said. “The thing about breaches is you have to know they happened in order to lock down the area around them. If the local control programs lose touch with the network they can’t be told a breach has taken place. So they trip a lockdown until they can reestablish contact with the network.”

“How many people would know they could do that?” Sam asked.

“Anyone on the Ward’s engineering and structural team in the last three years since the safety protocols were rewritten.” Walker thought about it for a moment. “A handful of the upper echelon contractors. That’s it, at least that I know of.”

Hathoway took the device from Walker’s hand and looked it over. “Has this kind of trick been used before?”

“A fish over in First Ward tried it as part of an escape bid five years ago,” Walker said. “The new lockdown system is one reason why it failed, and why we adopted the new model.”

“A fish?” Sudbury quirked an eyebrow. “I would think they would be on the outside, not in here.”

Randal grunted. “People aren’t meant to live under thousands of feet of water, Ambassador. They can go wrong in the head in a lot of ways. In the old days it was mostly due to the close quarters but there were always a few people who had to work on the outside, expanding the colony, and since we’re still growing now we see those kinds of head cases the most often. Usually they form a kind of extreme agoraphobia after all their time in small construction subs in the middle of the great wide ocean. But some people seem to think the sea is where they belong and they try and get back there.”

“Most of them think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring the rest of us along, too,” Sam added.

“You mean a crazy underwater crane operator is trying to drown everyone in the section?” Hathoway demanded.

“No.” Randal said evenly. “We don’t use cranes down here. Otherwise, yes.”

Out of Water: Chapter Six

The main lights were out all across the plaza outside, leaving only the dim emergency lighting around the outside of the circle and the soft glow of the phosphorescent moss growing up the central planters to see by. It was surreal, if peaceful, but definitely no the way things were supposed to be. Herrigan stepped away from the office window and nearly stepped on Sonny, leading to a short moment of shuffling and cursing by way of apology as the two men fumbled in the dark and cramped room. Finally Herrigan got his flashlight pointed upwards between the two of them and said, “You’re right about the power being out everywhere. I don’t see how that translates to sabotage.”

“It doesn’t necessarily. Most of our power comes from tidal generators, not geothermal, so it goes out all the time. You can practically set your watch by it. But the communications lines?” He swiped water from his shoulder. “Festering things are supposed to withstand eight Rictors, Harry. Eight. That’s the kind of earthquake the Big Shake was. The come lines don’t just go out.”

“All right, Sonny, I hear you.” Herrigan rubbed his jaw absently, trying to think of what to do. Normally it would be a no-brainer, and the fact that he hadn’t jumped to it already was probably part of what had Sonny so upset as it was, but the addition of the Aussie girls was making the mental math harder than normal. “You still get a lot of contractors down here? Or did they stop coming when the construction jobs moved to Ward Four?”

“Still plenty of building here in the Luft,” Sonny said, half annoyed and half defensive. “Besides, our customers are loyal. We still got lots of roughnecks, if that’s what you’re asking. But you should have been able to tell that – half of ’em came with their lights still in their pockets, didn’t they?”

Given how dark a colony at the bottom of the ocean could get when the power went out Herrigan wasn’t sure the number of people carrying flashlights said anything at all about the people themselves, other than how many of them had good sense. But then, in the old days, when all electronics were hard to make, it was the people who worked on the unfinished periphery who carried flashlights the most so it wasn’t like there was no precedent. And pointing out how irrelevant that old idea was no wasn’t going to get him anywhere so he ignored it and Sonny and stepped back out into the bar, leaping up on the serving counter and raising his voice to call, “Who here works construction?”

A smattering of cheers, jeers and general affirmative profanity came in response. He grinned and said, “Great! You two, yeah you with the collar and your pal with the dead urchin on his head, you’ve just been deputized! Come over and see what you’ve won!”

Herrigan hopped off the bar and turned to Ramon, who was arguing with Holly about something.

“We use this stuff everyday, Newcastle,” Ramon was saying, “And I’m telling you that we can’t rewire it remotely. Or without someone who knows what they’re doing, the fiber optics can be tetchy.”

“Fiber?” Holly pinched the bridge of her nose. “Your network is fiber based?”

Lauren leaned in and asked, “Can’t you work with that?”

“Not trained on it, and it is notoriously touchy for what I had in mind.”

“Which was what?” Ramon asked, sounding genuinely curious.

“Not important,” Herrigan interjected, hoping to head of any questions that might raise unfortunate questions. Like where Holly had been trained in maintaining computer networks or even why Lauren was so tanned. In retrospect taking her out in public had been a bad idea but hopefully other things would be on people’s minds. “Ramon, I want you to go and check this section’s perimeter hatches and have the engineers lock ’em down.”

“Which engineers?”

On cue the two men Herrigan had pulled out of the shadows in back of the bar got over to them. Both were hard faced, grimy men in faded blue jackets and the weathered hands of people who worked for a living. The only distinguishing features were the flared collar on one jacket and the long and freakishly unruly hair on the other head. “These boys, who are probably the closest thing to engineers sealed in this section at the moment.”

“That’s right, ma’am,” collar man answered. “I’m Mag Teng and if it’s grown out of ceramic I can put it together or take it apart.”
“Ben Hornsby,” the other said. “My thing is pumps and atmospheric control – not sure I’m your best choice but I’m happy to help.”

“You sound perfect to me, Ben,” Herrigan replied. “I want you two and Ramon to go around and lock down all the hatches on the perimeter. Disable the hatch mechanisms if you have to, but if you can just lock them shut so we can get back out easily that’d probably be better.”

Ben nodded slowly. “Yes, I think we could do that pretty easily. Those doors are hydraulic and we could just cut the control circuit out of -”

“You lost my at hydraulic, Ben,” Herrigan said, shaking his head ruefully. “So long as you get it done.”

“Sure,” Mag said, “but why lock the doors more? Shouldn’t we be trying to get out?”

Herrigan jerked a thumb at Sonny. “Barkeep thinks this might be deliberate sabotage. Only reason I can think of to sabotage something on this scale would be to try and hit the McClain plant in the bottom half of this section.” He pause for a moment to think, then looked at Ramon. “They are still putting that in, right? No one changed their minds while I was out of port?”

She nodded. “Yeah, it’s been running for a few weeks now. That’s what you think this is, some kind of industrial espionage? Don’t you think locking down a whole section over that is a little extreme?”

“Can you think of a better reason to cut power to and lock down a whole section?”

“Sure.” Everyone looked at Mag Teng in surprise. He shrugged. “A fish out of water.”