Tam started to swim off down the transparent tube and I did my best to keep up, but neither of us got very far before we were joined once again by the quintet of squid people looking slightly worse for wear. “I knew this was all your fault,” the lead squid said. “You tried to trick us, pretend that you and the Merapolian weren’t trying to spring a trap, but here it is, the trap. Now, we know. You were the distraction. And that,” he pointed at Tam, “was the trap. Or…are both of you the trap?”
“There was no trap!” I insisted.
“We’ve come for our people,” Tam said, shutting down the explanation I was about to make. “If you want the destruction to end, you’ll return them.”
“The only…” the squid person began to say, but once again Tam interrupted.
“I don’t care. You give them to us or we take them. Those are your only choices.”
“We can’t kill them,” I told them.
“I can,” Tam replied, putting heavy emphasis on the singular pronoun.
“He’s right,” the squidperson said. “You will not. It will be us who ends you.”
“Ok,” Tam agreed. Maybe I won’t kill you. But I will do this.“ They raised their hand and ice began to shoot out. Within seconds, the squidpeople were imprisoned in ice formations. Tam then looked at me. “See? Still alive. How about that?”
“You can shoot ice out of your hands!” I exclaimed.
“No. Don’t be ridiculous. I can modify the energy output of the molecules around me. The fact that water this far below the surface is already pretty cold only makes it all that easier.”
The water didn’t feel very cold to me, but I just chalked that up to the rebreather working its magic. “And they’ll be fine like that?”
“They will…” Then Tam turned back to the squidpeople and a threatening tone returned to their voice, “as long as they tell me where the others are.”
“We’ll…tell…you…nothing!” the squid man said, stammering from the ice.
“Fine. Then stay like that. I can find the others just as easily with my scanners. Come on, Frank.”
“Wait,” I said. “Is that true?”
“I found you, didn’t I?”
“And what about them?”
“What about them?”
“We can’t just leave them there trapped in ice!”
“And what would you rather us do, Frank? Bring them with us?”
“Forget them. They’ll be fine. They’re not humans. The cold isn’t so bad for them. You should worry about finding your friends or whatever they are.”
“That doesn’t seem right to me,” I said, though to be honest I really had no idea how the biology of these squid people actually functioned. For all I knew, their bodies would just go into a hibernation until the ice around them melted and they’d wake up fine.
“You know your problem, Frank,” Tam said. “You won’t take ‘everything’s fine’ as am answer. The amount of problems we have right now and you’re worried that the people standing in our way, who imprisoned you, who continue to threaten you, aren’t resting safely in a nice soft bed.”
“You know the problem with you, Tam,” I retorted. “You think ‘not killing people’ is an ask too far.”
“I’m not killing anyone.”
I pointed at the explosions beneath us.
“Ok. But I’m not killing these people. They’re fine.”
“And those people down there?”
“…They started it?”
“Are you kidding me? They started it?”
Tam gave me an unhappy look, then raised their hand. I could see the waves emanating outward, then I could feel the shaking. The eyes of the imprisoned squid people rolled up into the top of the heads. Then the ice around them shattered.
“What did you just do?” I demanded. “Did you…?”
“Relax,” Tam said. “They’re alive. I just sent an emission wave to break the ice that just so happened to have the effect of knocking our weakened adversaries out. Now, can we finally get on to saving your friends?”
I looked at the unconscious squid people and I looked down through the transparent floor at the destroyed city below. There hadn’t been any new explosions in a while. That was good, but I knew it was also bad. That meant they’d be coming for us now. No more explosions meant no more people getting hurt. Or at least, less people getting hurt. But less explosions also meant less distractions, which meant we were now the only thing this entire city of squid people had to worry about. “Maybe we should get going,” I said.
“Finally,” Tam said before quickly swimming away. I did my best to keep up.
After a few minutes, they took us through a hole in the transparent tube hallway and out into open water. I was surprised to feel little difference in the water. Was that the rebreather protecting me from the presumably very cold deep waters, I wondered. I didn’t need to worry about that for long because soon enough we were breaking our way back into another tube on our way to a part of the city that wasn’t see-through.
to be continued…