Something Deep: Part Fifteen
The Abandoned Lab
She forced herself to look at the body. She owed it to Issac. There was no doubt it was him, despite the damage to his flesh. He was inside a sealing tube that had been flooded with seawater. His left hand was still clutching his phone. Amelia tried to find some expression on his face, which was puffy and bloated. She thought he looked angry.
With her own phone, she snapped a photo of his body. Her stomach lurched afterwards.
Amelia fell to her knees on the steel mesh floor and vomited. The pattern of the steel dug into her hands, but she barely noticed. Her mind was reeling with the revelation that Issac had been murdered, and his body hidden in an old sealing tube.
There was only one person she suspected.
She climbed to her feet and closed the tube. Issac would have to remain here until she could come back with help to retrieve him.
The story had been that Issac had died in an accident. Dr. Hawkin had sworn to the UN officials that the young scientist had been the victim of the sea, and his own failure to follow procedures.
But it was clear Dr. Hawkin had lied. And there was only one thought running through her head: If I’m not careful, I’ll be next.
For as long as a minute, she stood there, frozen, unable to make a decision. Fear gripped her ability to hold back the tide of her emotions and she felt the terror whirl within her, like a maelstrom.
But finally, she came to her senses and began to devise a plan. Drying her still dripping face with her sleeve, she searched the room for a terminal. A dead board lay in the corner, but she couldn’t get it to turn on. She suspected the only working terminal, if there was one at all, was probably back the way she’d come, near the elevator shaft, which she knew had power.
She left Issac’s body and the sealing tube that contained it and followed the catwalk back to the flooded area of the abandoned lab.
She’d have to swim back through the flooded corridor. She unclipped the Supra Spotlight from her belt and pocketed her phone before climbing down the stairs and diving into the pitch-black water.
Amelia knew where she was going this time, so the journey wasn’t as dramatic as it had been the first time. Using the Supra Spotlight to guide her, she swam the length of the corridor again, avoiding the debris that floated in the water.
Her lungs were aching by the time she reached the flooded stairs, and she gasped desperately when her head finally found air.
She was back in the main wing of the abandoned lab and could see the ceiling of the hangar where the Sea Walker waited for her. With adrenaline racing through her veins, Amelia climbed out of the water and laid against the cold, metal wall. I’m out of shape, she thought, as she struggled to catch her breath. Or maybe it was the freezing cold water, she couldn’t tell. But it took her several minutes to regain her composure. She struggled to her feet, holding the spotlight in her shaking hand.
Think Amelia, she commanded herself. This was no time to panic, but her heart was racing a thousand meters an hour as she lay on the floor of the abandoned lab, desperately formulating a plan.
Her eyes landed on the emergency access monitor she’d used to call the elevator. It was still drawing power from the turbine, enough to run the emergency functions of the laboratory. Perhaps it had a communications line she could use to call Sara. She’d tell Sara about Issac’s body and then her mentor would send the cavalry.
Her hands still shaking, Amelia headed for the elevator. She laid her thumb on the call button and heard the airlock open. She darted out of the elevator and shined the spotlight up in time to see the green Sea Walker emerge from the airlock and step out onto the landing platform. It made a loud hiss as the hydraulic pumps in its legs came to a rest.
Amelia turned off the spotlight and slowly crept backward, into the shadows. At first, she thought it might be Alexander. She had told him she was coming here and it would be like him to come to check on her. But something told her it wasn’t Alexander.
She cowered behind a large container, peeking over the top, watching for whom might emerge out of the Sea Walker.
It sat unmoving for what felt to Amelia like an eternity. Her mind ran through reasons why it had to be Alexander sitting up there. He’d come to rescue her. He had a secret crush on her and just couldn’t let her risk herself. She’d almost convinced herself it had to be true when the dark dome of the Sea Walker finally lifted.
Amelia watched Dr. Hawkin climb out of the Walker. He inspected the landing, and the Walker she’d left up there, the one she’d had taken without permission. Finding it empty, he made for the elevator access panel.
“Hello?” he shouted. “I know you’re down there. You and I need to have a little chat.” He pounded the button on the panel. The elevator, just across from where Amelia was hiding, began to rise up, moving toward the landing zone. She had to do something and do it now.
But she didn’t do anything. She stayed hidden behind the storage container and prayed Dr. Hawkin wouldn’t see her. Amelia heard the hiss and whine of the crank as the elevator came to halt. The doctor’s bootheels echoed loudly in the dark laboratory. In the space between his steps, she thought she could hear her heart beating.
She hoped he couldn’t hear it too.
The elevator’s electric motor was running on auxiliary power and made a loud grinding sound when the doctor pressed the button to descend. Amelia guessed the lab’s batteries were almost depleted. What juice it had stored in the emergency batteries wouldn’t last much longer. Both she and the doctor would be trapped in the lab without life support.
Watching the elevator fall, its yellow and black stripes just visible in the faint light of the emergency light systems, Amelia knew what she had to do. Gripping the Supre Spotlight, she readied herself. Every fiber of her body, every tendon and sinewy, felt the tension. She was a bowstring held at the breaking point.
The elevator came to a rest at the bottom of the lab. The yellow emergency service light blinked along the elevator surface. Amelia squeezed the spotlight and waited for her chance.
Dr. Hawkin opened the waist-high gate and stepped out of the elevator, into the dark lab. He drew his flashlight across the room, searching for Amelia.
“I know you’re in here, Amelia. Alexander told me you took the Sea Walker. That’s against the rules, Amelia. If you break the rules, I’m afraid I’ll have to kick you off the project. I don’t know what you expected to find down here. It’s just old equipment. It’s dangerous. If you come back now, I promise I won’t be angry.”
He spoke rapidly, almost frantically, walking around the elevator shaft, searching the room with his flashlight. Amelia was well hidden behind the container crates. She was freezing and still soaking wet from swimming through the flooded hall. She shivered and wondered how long until hypothermia set in. It was an effort to keep her teeth from chattering.
“Amelia, let’s not play this game.” The doctor was moving nearer to her. He circled around the bulky Seismic Giztrometer and stopped about three meters away from her, facing a row of lockers.
“This is your last chance, Amelia. Think of how disappointed Sara will be once she learns I had to kick you off the project. And your poor family back home. Their daughter will never be a real scientist now. Just a washout who couldn’t make it at Sea Lab.”
Despite the cold and wet conditions, Amelia had to literally bite her tongue to keep from screaming at the man she knew was a murderer. His taunting resonated strongly, but she refused to give in. She bit harder and tasted blood. She knew how dangerous he was. She didn’t want to end up like Issac.
“Come on, Amelia.” The doctor turned and waved his light. She made herself as small as she could as the doctor waved his light. She closed her eyes and waited for him to pass, praying he didn’t see her.
Eventually, he gave up and moved on. He stopped in front of the flooded hall.
He knew what was at the end of it.
Now was her chance.
She peaked around the container. The doctor was moving into the hallway. It’s now or never, she told herself. She bolted for the elevator.
“There you are!” she heard him say. She didn’t look back. Her eyes never drifted from the blinking light of the elevator service panel as she raced across the abandoned laboratory. She could hear his footsteps and knew he was coming. When she reached the elevator she turned to slam the gate, but he was there, right behind her.
He gave her a smile full of teeth then grabbed her by her still dripping, wet hair.
“I’ve got you now, Amelia.”
“Stop it!” she screamed. “Don’t hurt me.”
“What did you see!” He yelled like she’d never heard him yell before. In the echoing chasm of the abandoned lab, he sounded almost demonic.
She didn’t hesitate. “You killed him.”
The doctor shook his head. “Fate killed him.” Then he threw her against the metal wall of the elevator shaft. Amelia collapsed into a heap on the floor. She tried to stand, but the world was swimming around her.
“Don’t move,” said Hawkin, stepping over her and into the elevator. He closed the gate and pushed the yellow call button on the service panel. She felt something wet on her cheek and touched her hand to her face. Her fingers came away red.
The doctor towered over her. “You’re bleeding,” he said. “What a stupid thing you’ve done. I thought you were smart enough to mind your own business here. Ambitious enough to stay out of my way! Now I have to figure out what I’m going to do with you.”
Amelia gave the doctor a look that was pure ice. “I saw him. I found his body. You killed Issac.”
He turned away from her. “That’s unfortunate.”
“What are you going to do?”
“My work at Sea Lab is too important to let you ruin it. Issac wanted to ruin it as well. He wanted to tell the whole world what I was doing! Well, dead men tell no tales.”
Amelia had to fight through her shock. She knew what he had done, but to hear him say the words (to hear him gloat about it!) was too much. The blood flowed down her cheek and dripped into her open palm.
The doctor grinned. “What’s insane is this world. It’s stagnation. It’s hate for excellence and individuality. My project here is about so much more than energy. That’s what Issac didn’t understand. I’m going to change the world. Realign everything. The old world will crumble when deep ocean energy finally reaches its goal.”
“You’ll never get away with it.”
Hawkin chuckled. “I already have.”
The elevator came to a halt. He opened the gate and pulled Amelia to her feet. She tried to pull away, but he threw her onto the mesh landing. Looking up, she saw the Sea Walkers sitting like two gargoyles in front of the airlock.
Amelia scrambled to her feet, but the doctor caught her in his arms. He was surprisingly strong for a lanky old scientist. She pushed back, but he held her and began to wrap a thick cord around her arms, pinning them to her body.
“Let me go, you bastard!” she shouted.
“Hold still,” he said.
He forced her to the ground and tied her hands behind her back, then roped her feet with more cord. She tried to kick but it was no use. She started to cry. The doctor paced in front of the elevator, watching her squirm.
“Be quiet,” he told her. “I have to think.”
“You’ll never get away with this,” she repeated through the tears. “They’ll ask questions. They’ll find out. Sara will find out.”
“They never found out what happened to Issac.”
That seemed to resonate with him. He paused, looking down over the railing at the floor of the abandoned lab. She wanted to say something that would really bite him, but couldn’t think of anything.
Finally, he turned around, his face determined, and came toward her.
“What are you doing? Stop it, Hawkin. You’re a damned idiot.”
But her words had no effect. He lifted her over his shoulder and carried her back into the elevator.
“I’ve changed my mind. We’re going back down. Since you felt it necessary to come looking for Issac, I feel it fitting that you should share his fate.”
“No!” she cried, choking on the tears. Her words echoed through the abandoned laboratory, forever trapped in the watery tomb.
Co-written by Harold J. Petty