Waking Up in an Underwater Hospital

Just then, Pem came swimming in. His arm appeared to be in some kind of cast and he had brownish bandage wrapped around his head. “Relax, Frank. Everything is fine. The Sheriff and his deputy made it back fine and Lowarden, as of yet, haven’t tried to retaliate.”

Retaliate for us having invaded their lands and destroyed their city, I almost replied, but I managed even in my mental fog to keep my mouth from going off with out me because I was much more interested in why they kept saying I had an injury but refused to tell me what kind.

“What happened to me?” I demanded, getting straight to the point. I was in no mood to play around.

“Your leg…”

“My…” I tried to maneuver myself in the water so I could see it – I couldn’t feel my right leg at all! – but I had trouble maneuvering.

“There was a lot of blood. I was surprised we were able to keep you alive all the way back here.

“My leg!? What about my leg!?!”


“Gone?” The word made no sense to me. “No. How can…How can that be? How can it be…?”

“You lost it in the explosion. When we were trying to escape, we entered the tunnel…You remember that, don’t you?”

I nodded.

“There was a torpedo…”

“Right.” I remembered frantically swimming away from it. “It exploded behind us.”

“We got caught it in its blast,” Pem continued. “We all were thrown about and took our bumps and bruises.”

I nodded again. Sure, that made sense.

“You were the closest to it, Frank. You got hit hard. You lost your leg. It was all we could do to keep you from bleeding out.”

I glanced down at my feet and there appeared to be two. “Lost? But I see it right there.”

Pem shook his head. “That’s a prosthesis. We were able to replace your lost limb with a cybernetic limb. It may take some time for it to sync completely to your brainwaves. It is, however, a Merapolian limb, so while it will drastically increase your maneuverability here in the water, up there on the land, it may not function as well. But it is all we have. We don’t get many landbreathers down here, but I’m sure it will be fine.”

I looked at the robotic limb. It ended with more of a flipper than a foot and it seemed to be a dark blue, though it was hard to tell under the sea. I traced it from the foot to the ankle to the calf up to where it connected to my thigh. This was all rather discombobulating.

“Maybe you should give it a try, Frank? We should check to make sure the interface is running efficiently.”

“Sure,” I said, uneasily. I just couldn’t believe it was real.

“Ok,” Pem said. “Just move slowly. Just slow, deliberate movements. First thing, just try moving the foot. Just wiggle it.”

I moved my robotic foot up and down.

“You’re awake!” Tam said, quickly paddling into the room. “Finally! Maybe now we can get out of here!”

“I don’t think that would be wise,” Pem said. “We haven’t finished calibrating…”

“I can take care of that. And don’t worry, Frank, I have a few ideas for how we can upgrade it.”

“Upgrade it?” I repeated. I was still getting used to the idea that I needed to have some kind of prosthesis. I wasn’t ready to start thinking about modifying it. I was barely ready to admit that I was even awake.

“It’ll be great, but we can worry about that after we leave.”

“He really shouldn’t…” Pem tried again, but Tam wouldn’t be dissuaded.

“Come on, Frank. We don’t have time for this. I have things to do. You have things to do. The Sheriff and his deputies have things to do. They have a village to get back to. We all have important things to take care of.”

“But what are you even doing here?” I asked, recalling the last time I had seen them. “You were supposed to have taken Gnomenasher out of here.”

“I did, Frank. I took him to the dimensional gateway with that habitat we mobilized and I dropped him off on the other side. And I waited, Frank. I waited a long time and you didn’t show up, so I came back to get you.”

“You waited?” That was a shock to me. He waited ‘a long time’? “How long was I out?”

“Not long at all,” Pem assured me. “Less than a day.”

“A day! A whole day!”

“Not a WHOLE day.”

“What does that mean? How long even is a day on this world? Can you even tell all the way down here?”

“Yes, Frank, we’re capable of telling time,” Pem said, sharply. “Maybe your friend is right. Maybe you should leave.”

I opened my mouth to apologize, but Tam jumped in. “You’re very right. It’s time for us to leave. Come on, Frank. Let’s get moving!”

Tam grabbed me and pulled me out of the room. “What are you doing?” I yelled.

“I’m getting you out of here, Frank. I’m getting us all out of here. We’ve all wasted too much time in this world. It’s about time we finally moved on to the next thing, back to what we set out to do.”

to be continued…


A Torpedo Slamming Hard into a Dark Wet Tunnel

We rushed toward the Sheriff, Pem and I, with all our might, trying to reach him before the torpedo caught up to us. As I got closer, I could see there was some kind of cave behind him. “Get inside!” I yelled, knowing there was little chance we could get far enough to escape the blast.

I could see the Sheriff stare at us with confusion, he couldn’t comprehend why I would be yelling at him, but then his eyes flicked behind us and fear crossed his face. He seemed frozen. It seemed his brain was not ready for this type of adventure. He was but the Sheriff of a slow troll town. It was not to be unexpected being caught in an underwater city where giant robot eels were firing torpedoes at you was not for everyone. I, unfortunately, had gotten used to this kind of nonsense long ago.

So the Sheriff was scared stiff at the entrance to the cave as he stared up at the rapidly approaching torpedo, but it was fine, I told myself. The two of us, Pem and I, were coming at him with enough speed and between the two of us enough mass to push him back into the cave. As the two of us slammed into him, we slowed down considerably but the three of us were all able to make it into the cave in time. Or so I hoped.

The torpedo hit the ground behind us mere seconds after we entered the cave. We managed to have gotten far enough in to escape the initial explosion, but the force of the blast went through the water and into the cave with little room to disperse. Seconds before we were hit, I was able to notice Toleuk standing before us. Then the wave of force came barely in sending us all flying backwards into the cave.

The impact hit me like a truck. I could feel the heat of the explosion, the water boiling around me. And then there came the pain. So much pain. I screamed as we went tumbling end over end. I’m sure I would have drowned right then and there if it hadn’t been for the rebreather.

We smacked hard into the back of the cave and I got the general sense that the explosion had finally passed us, but I was in too much pain to really tell. My perceptions of events began to get cloudy. I could tell that the there was light in the tunnel and something in the back of my head told me it was probably from the rebreathers. I could see blood in the water. Where it was coming from was unclear to me, but I seemed very sure that it was blood. Someone must have been bleeding. Was it me?

I remember pain and agony. I remember the dirt in the water and the blood. I remember seeing the others, looking hurt and frightened. Then I remember them coming toward me and them saying words. I don’t remember what they said, what the words, though I did seem to have trouble understanding what they meant. But I could remember that they looked worried. I remember that. But things got a bit groggy then, a bit confused. We were in trouble and we needed to get out of there, I know that. The urge to leave was strong, but I just couldn’t get myself to focus. I heard yelling and screams, but it had seemed so far away at that moment.

When I woke up, I was no longer in a dark cave. That much was obvious. For one, it was not dark. It was actually quite bright. I thought for a second that maybe I was back home, but when I tried to sit up, I found it didn’t work so well. I was moving oddly as if I was underwater. That hit with an immediate realization that I wasn’t back home and all that craziness that was coming back to me now hadn’t been a dream.

Of course, if all the ‘craziness’ of my life was a dream, I’d lose the last decade or so of my life. But that thought came to from a bit of a distance and I came to the conclusion that I must have been medicated. I could feel the loopiness with every move I made, every thought I tried to think.

A pair of fish people came into my room and tried to keep me from moving. “It’s ok, Mr. Clay. Just relax. Everything is all right. Your liaison will be here shortly to talk to you about your injury.”

“My injury?” I asked. The word sounded strange in my ears. “What injury?”

“Don’t worry about it, Mr. Clay. You’re in no danger now. Everything has been taken care of. You’re fine now. Your liaison will be with you shortly and he’ll explain everything.”

“Explain what? What does he need to explain?”

“Just lay back and relax, Sir. Everything will be explained by your liaison as soon as he…”

“What needs to be explained? What happened!? What injury!?!”

to be continued…

Torpedoes Away

With the torpedoes baring down on us, we had no way to escape. So we just floated there. It couldn’t have been for much more than a second, but it felt like much longer. It felt like we floated there for ten minutes watching the torpedoes coming toward us, but in actuality it was little more than a few blinks of the eye. In barely the time it would have taken to sneeze, the torpedoes were upon us.

There was no time to move. They were already there. All I could do was close my eyes and hope it would be quick, but I couldn’t even do that. I couldn’t take my eyes off of our impending doom. I watched as the torpedoes came at us, watched them get closer and closer. I watched as one of them got inches from my face, waiting for it to explode.

And then I watched as the torpedoes, one after the other, sailed right by us.

They missed! I don’t know how it could have happened. We were so close and there were three of them and there were only two of us. The likelihood of them all missing both of us completely seemed pretty small, but there it was. They had.

Or so I thought.

Until I realized…they hadn’t been aiming at us.

As I stared at the receding torpedoes, I noticed that right behind us, directly in the torpedoes’ path, was the room where our friends were being held, AKA The torpedoes’ true target. My heart dropped as I realized what was about to happen and there was nothing I could do about it, nothing I could do to save anyone.

I watched as the torpedo impacted. I watched as the room exploded. I watched as so many of the trolls who had trusted me, who had gone out of their way to help me, had put their lives on the line, just for me, someone who they had just met. And I could do nothing to save them.

And then the impact wave struck us. The eels were unaffected. They were too big, too heavy. They had too much momentum going in the other direction. We, however, were much smaller and were thrown backwards with great force. And so the eels swam right by us into the impact zone.

Pem recovered quicker than I did. He was swimming toward me before I even knew which way was up. “Come on!” he yelled, reaching for me.

“But my friends…they…”

“We can’t help them now. It’s too late for them, but it’s not too late for us. We can still get out of here.”

He grabbed me and started swimming. I didn’t fight him and after a little while, I even helped trying to get away. I began trying to help a lot more when I saw that those giant eels had swung around and had begun coming for us. We swam away with all our might. I did the best I could to not think about what had just happened. If I couldn’t, for the time being, move on from the death of my friends, I was very likely going to be joining them and that helped nobody.

But I knew that just swimming by itself wasn’t going to save us. I wasn’t fast enough to keep up with Pem, as it was I was just slowing him down, and neither of us were faster than those robotic eels. That’d catch us soon enough and then we’d be dead or captured yet again.

And so I was keeping my eyes open for any means of escape, a weapon would be great, a vehicle even better, but at this point I was willing to settle on a nice safe hole in the ground, as long as it was thin and deep enough to keep us from being eaten by the mechanical eels. I saw no weapons we could use, or vehicles we could get into, or anyplace we could hide. Or at least the place to hide wasn’t what caught my attention. What I saw was a hand waving at us. A large green hand.

“This way!” I yelled at Pem, hoping my assumption was right and that I wasn’t about to lead us into another trap.

Pem, at first, didn’t want to follow me, but seeing that I had already gone off on my own, he did what he no doubt thought was the foolish thing and followed me. With as much speed as we could manage we swam down to the bottom of the ocean where there seemed to be little but debris left over from the destruction of the city.

I tried to stay on point, to keep heading toward where I had seen that hand waving toward us. As I neared the bottom, the hand appeared again. I could see now that the hand was attached to a body, specifically the body of the Sheriff. I was so happy to see that he was still alive.

Or I would have been, that was, if I hadn’t been so worried about the torpedo coming up behind us.

to be continued…

Running Toward, Running From

“Agreed,” I said. “We found Gnomenasher and I sent Tam ahead to the portal with him. Once we get the others, we should definitely get out of here. Whatever has gone on between your people and the Lowardians is not something I want to be trapped in between anymore.”

“Whatever has…?” Pem came to a stop. We had been trying to escape from Lowarden, near the wreckage of, where I had been trapped at the bottom of the ocean, but Pem completely stopped swimming now to turn on me. “Are you referring to the cruel and vicious behavior of the Lowardens toward my people? The abductions? The unilateral attacks? The slaughters?”

“Look, Pem, I don’t know your history and I don’t want to. I just want to get out of here.” I knew from my short time amongst the Lowardian people that they most likely would have argued the same thing about Pem’s people that Pem argued about them. Maybe they’d have different specific gripes, but it sounded like the violence between the two people were going both ways. Either way, it was not something I wanted to get involved with. I had more than enough problems on my plate as it was. I doubted Pem wanted me meddling in his people’s affairs anymore than I wanted to meddle. I needed to focus on getting my party back together and off this world.

“Then let’s get you out of here,” Pem said, sounding sour. “The last thing I would want you to have to do is help my people against the oppressive nation that has been killing my people for generations upon generations.”

“And what am I supposed to do?” I said. “Help you fight an entire city of people? There’s not even a dozen of us.”

“No, landbreather. I would never expect something like that from your kind. What help are the likes of you and your friends down here? None. I might as well ask a bunch of newborns for help. They would be about as effective in battle.”

That was harsh, I thought. But it seemed that we were both agreed, we must save the rest of my friends and then get out of here. So I stayed quiet and let him lead me through the destroyed underwater city to the blinking dots on his scanner.

And then another dot appeared on the screen of his scanner. One of a different color. And this one was much larger than the ones we had been tracking. Pem glanced back past me. The look on his face made me have to do the same. I couldn’t not look. But maybe I shouldn’t have because what I saw was terrifying. It was not just one giant robot eel, but a trio of them coming up right behind us, closing the distance between us very quickly.

“Move!” Pem yelled. I needed no more encouragement. I began to swim as fast as my arms would take me. But, as had so often been the case in this underwater adventure, I was quickly outpaced by my partner. Pem and his fishtail and webbed fingers left me well behind and the robotic eel with their fins and natural swimming motion rapidly gained on me.

“Pem, you idiot!” I yelled, angrily. “I can’t keep up with you!”

For his part, Pem did turn to look back at me and there did seem to be genuine sympathy on his face. But then again he was not human, so who knew really what kind of signals he was expressing with his face. “You need to try to swim faster!” he called back at me. “We just need to reach that room up ahead. That’s where your friends are being kept. If we can reach it, I can get you all out of here.”

“And if I can’t?” I replied because at the moment things weren’t looking good for me.

“You damn landbreathers are going to get me killed!” Pem shouted before he turned around and swam back toward me. He grabbed a hold of my shirt and began to physically tow me along behind him as he swim with all his might toward the room where my friends were being kept.

And even more surprising than that, we were making good time. Even with my added weight, Pem was really motoring. It looked like we might actually make it to the room before the giant robot eels caught up to us. And that was when they fired their torpedoes at us. The torpedos appeared from out of their torsos, one from each eel, and they began to rocket toward us, cutting the distance between us in a blink of an eye. It was looking like we wouldn’t even have a chance to get out of their way.

“Pem!” I yelled.

The fishman turned around with a look of annoyance on his – ‘oh, that landbreather, bothering me again with his air needing lungs’ – but that look was quickly wiped away when he saw the reason I was yelling for him this time. Surprise and then fear took over his face, then what appeared to me like a kind of morbid acceptance. He knew as well as I did that there was no escaping these torpedos. They were already upon us. There was nowhere to go, no way to escape. They had us dead to rights.

to be continued…

Neither Shark Nor Gator Be

I went sinking down into the grimy dirt that had been stirred up into the water by all the explosions. It became hard to see more than a few feet in front of me. I worried about my ability to breath in this but the rebreather seemed to be handling filtering out all the muck just fine. It seemed I was going to be ok, if you considered being trapped in a sea of soot stuck sitting like a present under a Christmas tree for a bunch of squid people who, at best, wanted to throw me in prison for the rest of my life “ok”.

I hit the ocean floor with a thud that reverberated throughout my whole body. I was pulled down to the ground by the weight of the device ensnaring me, dust and soot puffed up around me. I couldn’t see inches from my face. I had to close my eyes to protect them from all the dirt. After a little while, I tried opening my eyes, but there was still crud all around me. I could barely see anything, but I could tell that there was something past it. Something…coming my way.

I tried to struggle, to get up, to get away, but all I managed to do was to stir up more soot. And now the creature was nearly upon me. I saw the dark shadow coming toward me, but all I could do was stir up more soot, only making it harder for me to see what was coming. A shark? An alligator? Some type of weird monstrous sharkgator? I didn’t know. This world was strange and had its own kind of terrors.

I tried to lay still, hoping it wouldn’t see me, or that it would lose track of me in all the grime. I stared at it, not wanting to lose sight of it as it continued to swim closer and closer until it was nearly upon me. Sitting still wasn’t working, maybe if I moved around a lot I could shake up enough dirt for it to lose me. The dirt made the creature all but disappear. The water around was so filled with soot that I could barely see inches from my face. It must have been just as bad for the gatorshark. If it was trying to sniff me out, all it could’ve smelled was the dirt.

So, I stopped and I lied down. It couldn’t see me. It couldn’t smell me or taste me. And if I didn’t move or speak, it wouldn’t be able to hear me. I could be invisible to it. The animal would swim on by, thinking I had gotten away. I just had to wait it out.

I lay still hoping that the creature would swim away. I couldn’t see anything, not only from soot, but because I had a bad vantage point, but changing my position, even raising my head, could have been too much of an indicator for the creature that I was still here. I couldn’t risk looking. So I lay there waiting, hoping that the danger was over, hoping that the creature was gone, that I was safe. When suddenly I saw out of the bottom of my eye a shadow, a darkness in the grimy water, coming toward me, swimming over me. I thought it was going to move past me. It looked like it was. And just when I thought I was free and clear, the monster then moved right back at me and grabbed a hold of me!

I let out a frightened yelp, but the face that appeared in front of me was neither a shark nor a gator, nor an amalgamation of the two. It was surprisingly human looking, though not, I realized actually human at all. “Frank, there you are. We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

“Pem?” I asked, surprised to be looking into the fishman’s face.

“What are you doing down here? We need to get out of here before the Lowardians find us.”

“I…kind of can’t. I’m sort of trapped at the moment.”

“Trapped?” He pushed away the silt in the water with his webbed hands. “Oh. A Lowardian tentacular snare. Just be happy they didn’t set it to anti-struggle or it would have sunk its barbs into you and you’d probably be covered in vampiric sandslugs by now.”

“Vampiric sandslugs,” I repeated. “Wonderful. Now can you get me out of this?”

“Yes. Of course, I can,” Pem replied. “What do you think I am? A Kelporian Lartasian?”

“No,” I said honestly. “I would never think that.”

“You’d better not,” he said as he began to fiddle with my snare until it fell off. “See? Easy as Moldvian mud pudding.”

I stretched my arms out. It felt nice to be free again.

“All right. You’ve enjoyed your freedom. Now can we get moving. I don’t like to be out here in the open like this. Do you know what a Lowardian would do to me if they found me here?”

“I’ve had a bit of experience with them now and let me say most of our interactions haven’t been very fun.”

“Good,” Pem said. “So you understand that we need to get moving and get moving now.” He began to swim away and I did my best to keep up.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

Pem waggled some device at me, but he was too far ahead I couldn’t really see it. “We’re finding the rest of your group. I’ve got a few more bloops on my scanner. Once we find them, we’re getting out of here and not a second longer.”

to be continued…

Distracting the Squids

The quartet of squid man guards jumped back, in the manner that you can ‘jump’ in the middle of the ocean. They stopped and pushed away from me with their tentacles as if I was going to do them great harm. But when I just stayed there, more or less, unmoving, they began to move closer towards me, pulling out their weapons and pointing them right at me. “Try anything and we’ll blast you!” one of them yelled.

“I’m not doing anything,” I told them. “I’m unarmed. I surrender. All I want to do is talk.”

“You’ll talk to this!” One of them smacked me across the face with their gun. I went tumbling through the water from the impact until the squidman grabbed me with his tentacles. “Try something again…”

“I’m cooperating,” I yelled at him. My face hurt too much to be able to maintain any semblance of calm. “I surrendered already.”

“Yes, after you and your Merapolian friends have already destroyed our homes.”

“I don’t want to get into a blame game, worrying about who did what to who, or who was responsible for what. I’m surrendering. I’m ready to help you deal with what happened. Let’s just work together and fix everything. All right?”

“Oh, you’ll deal with it, all right,” the squid person said. “You and all your Merapolian friends. You’ll deal with all the destruction you’ve caused. We’ll make sure of it.” He took out his little device that turned into a a small spider-like creature and ensnared me with it.

“This really is not necessary. I’ve already surrendered.”

“Uh-huh,” the squid person grunted. “Look around us, Landbreather, and tell me how containing you isn’t necessary.”

I did as he said and I looked around at the destroyed city. Maybe he wasn’t overreacting after all. “You’re right. Maybe we went too far, but all we were trying to do come and get our animal that you have. But instead of welcoming us in or even cautiously coming out to meet us, you attacked us with robotic monsters and took more of our friends prisoner. What were we supposed to do, let you keep them?”

“I’m not falling for your Merapolian traps.” The squid person grabbed the device ensnaring me and pulled me over.

“Do I look Merapolian to you?” I asked.

“We know you work with them, Landbreather. You’re not…”

“ATTENTION! ATTENTION!” something called from every squid person’s hip. There seemed to be some kind of device there, a radio of sorts. “A portion of the habitat had begun to drift away. Wait…change that. The habitat appears to be under some kind of propulsion device. Attention! A part of the habitat is being stolen!”

“Repeat that, Center,” came a second voice. “Did you say a part of the habitat is being…stolen?”

“That’s what I said,” came the first voice, Center, again. “We’re tracking it, leaving the city at a quick pace. You need to hurry. I repeat hurry, before it gets away!”

I looked over as I saw the habitat moving away. It looked like Tam had gotten our plan off the ground. The squidpeople turned to follow my gaze. “No!” I called knowing I needed to buy Tam some time. “You need to stay here. You need to stay with me. You don’t want me to get away.”

“You’re going nowhere, landbreather,” the squidperson sneered. He pressed a button and the contraption ensnaring me suddenly got very heavy and I began to sink. “Enjoy the bottom of the ocean,” he said before turning to his partners. “Let’s go get our habitat back and destroy the treacherous Merapolians inside.”

As they swam away, I continued to sink quickly to the bottom. I could only hope that I had managed to hold them off long enough for Tam to be able to get away. I believed they had managed to save some of our friends already, so maybe they would all be able to get out of this world together. That was a nice thought as I sank to the bottom of the ocean. I couldn’t swim away as long as this device was on me. But at least it wasn’t interfering with my rebreather, so I probably wasn’t going to drown. I’d just be the Lowardian’s prisoner for the rest of my life. So I had that to look forward to.

to be continued…

To Make A Room Swim

“Just listen to me,” I told Tam. “We’re not inside a building. This room is only attached to a bunch of tubes. And aside from that, we’re already sealed in. All we have to do is detach the tubes and we’re ready to go.”

“And we’re ready to sink,” Tam rebutted. “What do you think is holding us up?”

“Yes, we need a source of locomotion,” I admitted, “but how hard can that be?”

“How hard can that be?” Tam repeated incredulously. “To give locomotion to a large metal box? You do realize we’re in the bottom of the ocean, don’t you? It’s not like there’s an Engines R’ Us right next door? It’s not like there’s anywhere I can go buy a giant propeller.”

“Yes, I realize that,” I told them, as I treaded water, noting that both of us stayed above the surface despite both of us currently being able to breath underwater. “But I also realize you’re not just some joe schmoe off the street. And neither am I. We can do this. We can take this room, take the devices and electronics of the room and we can transform them into something that can help us. I know we can.”

“I’m not so sure. This is a room. Not a car. A holding cell, not an electronics shop.”

“What other options do we have?”

“You think we don’t have other options?”

“I’m open to whatever suggestion you have.”

“No, you’re not.”

“You’re right,” I said. “I’m not open to abandoning these people. I’m not open to letting this animal die.”

“See? You’re not open to any of my suggestions.”

“Are you going to be serious?”

“I am serious. We should leave these strangers and go and save our comrades.”

“Outside of Kink, you and your comrades are as much strangers to me as these people are.”

“That may be true, but we are aligned against a common foe.”

“And the Sheriff and his deputies helped me without having a common enemy, they helped me simply because I needed it. So now you want me to abandon them, just because things are getting tough? I should leave them just because their selfish needs are not necessarily the same as mine?“

“You know,” Tam replied. “Your insistence on playing the hero is going to get us killed.”

“If it keeps everyone else safe,” I said, “then so be it.”

“Do I count amongst the ‘everyone else’ who’s going to be safe?”

I smiled. “I sure hope so.”

Tam let out a long sigh. “Ok. Fine. How are we going to turn this half-filled deathtrap of a room into a magic school bus?”

“Hard work and clean living,” I replied.

“So, you have no idea?”

“Well, I haven’t gotten a chance to inspect the room yet, have I? I’ve been arguing with you this whole time!”

Tam said no more and the two of us got to work. Within no time at all, we were able to make the room seaworthy, even drained out most of the water so we could get in more oxygen, but in the end actual locomotion was going to need someone to go outside to make it happen.

“And let me guess,” Tam said. “It’s going to be me whose going to have to go out there.”

“It can be both of us,” I told them. “We’re in this together. And we can do it quicker that way.”

Tam rolled their eyes, but the two of us went outside together, quickly so as not to take on too much water. We immediately began to disconnect the tubes from the room. After we removed all the unimportant bits, we regrouped. “All right,” Tam said. “Now what?”

“Now we start working on making it go,” I told them.

“Yeah? You have a way to do that? Maybe some way to do it fast, too?” They gestured over to show that the city was far from deserted. There were patrols of squid people everywhere, presumably looking for us. And worst of all it seemed are time spent disconnecting the room hadn’t gone unnoticed. One of the patrols had spotted us and were coming our way.

“Stay here,” Tam said. “I’ll take care of them.”

“No,” I said. “You stay here. I’ll go.”

“This is no time to play hero, Frank.”

“I’m not. You can work on the room faster than I can. You have a better chance of getting Gnomenasher out of here safely than I do.”

“And that’s what we need to worry about?” Tam scoffed. “That gerbil?”

We didn’t have the time to float here and argue. So I didn’t. “Get him out of here!” I yelled before swimming off at the oncoming squidpeople.

Four squidpeople with guns immediately saw me and began to swim right at me. What could I do to stop them? I had no weapons. I had no abilities. I was alone with no one to help me. Not that I could really complain. I made this bed and I’m going to lie in it whether it gets me killed or not.

So I didn’t turn tail and run. Instead, I swam right back at them, that seemed to surprise the squid people enough to make them stop swimming. Once I saw them pause, I began to dive down as quickly as I could. When I started to tire, I glanced back up and saw they were all hot on my heels. Any advantage from surprising them I’d had was disappearing. But my goal had been to distract, to draw their attention, to keep them away from Tam, and it looked like I was doing it. Now, I just had to keep doing it. So I did the only thing I could to keep them focused squarely on me: I spun around and I surrendered.

to be continued…