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.”

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