“What’s this?” I asked, as we came up to the door.
“How am I supposed to know?” Tam replied.
“You led us here.”
“Because this is where my sensors led me.”
“Like they led to me.”
“Exactly,” Tam replied, looking at their arm display.
“So that means one of us is in there.”
“If there were an ‘us’, whatever’s inside wouldn’t be one of it.”
“Stop being difficult. You know what I mean.”
“There’s a non-native in that room,” Tam said. “I can tell you that. Whoever or whatever it is, it is emitting exotic material that is similar to the material that is emitted from your other ‘friends’. Is that clear enough for you? Because that’s all I can tell you with certainty.”
“Just open it,” I told them.
The door puckered open revealing the unmistakable giant gerbil known as Gnomenasher. But, before I could move, water began streaming into the room and I belatedly discovered that he had been kept in there with no rebreather. Meaning to keep him alive, they had kept him in a room filled with air. Air that was currently streaming out. In other words, I just killed Gnomenasher!
I hadn’t meant to do that. It had never occurred to me that the Lowarden wouldn’t have attached some kind of breathing apparatus to him, just as the Merapolian had done to us. But the air-filled room, now opened to the ocean, was beginning to fill with water and stream out all of its air. If we waited another second, Gnomenasher would surely be killed. Fortunately Tam realized this as soon as I did (perhaps sooner) and the two of us rushed inside, closing the door behind us.
The door sealed shut, but the room was already half-filled with water. And while Tam and I could conceivably keep breathing the oxygen in the water, Gnomenasher still needed the air to breath and we had just greatly reduced the amount of oxygen in the room. One would imagine, though, that the Lowardians were pumping air into this room, otherwise Gnomenasher probably would have died from CO2 poisoning hours ago. So, that meant there was a chance the room might even pump the water out of the room as well. It might just be wishful thinking, but I had to try to stay positive.
Unfortunately, getting out of there was still a major problem. We had to leave at some point, not only because we all wanted to get back to our homes, but also because the Lowardians would eventually figure out that we were hiding in here and imprison us, at the best. “Can you get Gnomenasher out of here safely?”
“Are you asking if I can somehow magically carry that big pile of meat out of here while somehow keeping him from drowning in that ocean of water we have to swim through and keeping him from being killed by the army of other dimensional beings that want us all to die?” Tam asked.
“I wouldn’t have used the word ‘magically’, but, yes, can you keep him from drowning and being shot?”
“And how do you think I can do that while also trying to escape with out dying myself?”
“I don’t know. A force field?”
“And I’d keep him from suffocating inside it, how?”
“The same way you keep yourself from suffocating.”
“Frank,” Tam replied, “I’ve been bioengineered to survive under extreme conditions. Your giant rabbit here, hasn’t gone through any of that. He’s going to die if we take him out there.”
“Ok. So then what are we going to do?”
“Well, the smart thing to do would be to just leave him and head straight to the portal and get out of this accident of a dimension, so that we can get back to saving all of time from those authoritarian watchmen run amok, but I get the sad feeling like that options off the table.”
“Yes,” I replied, unamused by Tam rhetoric. “Abandoning people in need who are counting on us is out of the question. We’re going to help these people, so tell me can you get all of us out of here safely? Or do we need to put our heads together and figure this out?”
“No, Frank. I cannot just carry your hamster out into the water and keep him safe. If you’re so desperate to save it, you’re going to have to come up with another solution.”
“Fine,” I told them. “I guess we’ll just have to come up with some other way to get us all out of here.”
“There’s no way out of here, except for that door, Frank,” Tam said. “Either we go through it or we stay here and return to the mercies of the Lowardians. Your friends aren’t going to come and save us, so you can count that out. We can’t just stay here. We have to move.”
“Except we have to stay here.”
“We can’t!” Tam growled. “We have to…”
“Stay here,” I said, getting an idea. “We have to stay here and we have to leave.”
“We can’t do both.”
“Except…we can! We can stay in here AND we can leave!”
“Maybe I should take a look at that rebreather,” Tam said, swimming closer to me.
I pushed them away. “I’m not loopy. I’m serious. All we have to do is leave the city without leaving the room!”
to be continued…