“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…