William dragged Arnold to his first meeting with Dr. Sammir, who preferred to be called Sam. He was blond and wore an apron over a suit and smiled in a way that made him appear just a little lost. He didn’t care at all that Arnold was a cat, since he apparently worked with a bear.
“I was getting nervous to be honest…these rats have been altered…in the name of science of course.” Sam explained as they made their way to a submersible. “They are rather larger than the cats around here I’m afraid. I was hoping to buy a tiger, but I think that you will have no trouble…just make sure you don’t eat them. There is a slight, but very unlikely, chance you might triple in size and go on a murderous rampage if you do.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Arnold said wryly. “I’ll take care of it, so long as they’re feral now.” Between the voles in September, Gil, and meeting other mice in town he had edged away from eating or eliminating just any rodent.
Sam quickly assured him, “Quite, I’m afraid! Otherwise I’d be quite happy to let them roam free!”
They arrived at the submarine which was much larger than he had anticipated. Around three or four of their old submarine could have fit inside. On the front there was a web of metal supporting glass like the windows of the Wilde hospital. It looked like there was a second vehicle attached to the bottom, but he couldn’t be sure. The rest of the vehicle was made of metal, with four portholes well beneath the water level, but none above. Arnold turned and waved goodbye to William, who waved back vigorously and wished him luck as he boarded.
Sam wanted to introduce him to the crew and the cat had to admit that he liked the scientist himself, who was apparently a biologist who wanted to experiment on ways to enhance life through the use of beneficial chemicals. However there were three other scientists on board, who were apparently wealthy and employed everyone else on board. The bear was named Reggie and he was a recluse. His research was classified and he stayed locked in his room, while the second scientist, by the name of Mulberry, made no secret that he was researching and developing weapons for submerged warfare. Neither of them wanted Arnold anywhere near their labs and he obliged.
They were easy to avoid, because the four major labs were located on the lower level, as was the engine room which was in the rear of the vessel. The upper level was for the mess, infirmary, individual bunks, cargo rooms, food storage, and other necessities. Almost half of the rooms upstairs were locked with rats that had been trapped inside. The largest infestation was still in Sam’s room however, which was in the rear next to the boiler room.
Sam assured him not to worry about that just yet as he introduced him to the third scientist, Richard. Descending the stairs to his lab Arnold noted that there was at least 12 feet of room on either side, though the sides of the submarine didn’t leave much for decor. The small porthole on either side and rounded metal supports were the only break otherwise . Everything else in the room seemed to be bolted down to the wooden floor that was between them and the rounded bottom of the sub. The lab itself was a mess, dozens of gears and tools were left lying about the floor, or rolled off to the corner.
Richard himself was unpleasant. He was researching artificial intelligence, and his method for that at the moment was to give a clockwork feelings so that he could see what it took to drive them to depression and self destruction. As he watched Richard’s creation bang it’s head repeatedly against the floor, a clockwork dubbed Nivram, all Arnold could ask was, “Why?”
“I thought I might learn something about the human nature,” Richard replied as he watched Nivram with crossed arms and bemusement. “And I did!”
Arnold stared at the clockwork for a few moments, puzzled, “What could you possibly learn by watching this?”
Richard proclaimed, “That I am a disturbed little man who is easily amused!”
Arnold found he didn’t care for Richard’s particular sense of humor. But there were six other people on board who were not scientists, besides the cat himself. One was a cook by the name of Marcus. When Sam introduced the man with an assortment of stains covering his regular clothes, not having bothered with an apron. Looking Arnold up and down and the chef turned to Sam, “I don’t know how to cook cat.”
Two gruff voices in the mess hall countered one after the other, “You don’t know how to cook anything!” “I’ve been forced to eat better tasting shoes!”
“Shoes are too good for you!” Marcus shouted back.
Sam chuckled and then introduced Arnold to the two men in the mess, Lenny and Roy. They worked in the engine room downstairs and it showed in the soot and sweat covering them. Arnold noted that they were very healthy for having to work in that kind of environment. He supposed they had a good way to vent the air. “Just make sure you don’t eat that rat over there.” Lenny said gesturing to Marcus, while Roy offered his hand to shake which Arnold did reluctantly. Roy mock whispered, “He’s unclean.”
Marcus shouted back, “The menu for smart-asses tonight is going to be sock and turnip stew!”
“If that wasn’t an improvement over what you had been going to serve I’d feel cheated.” Roy added.
Large footsteps echoed through the hallway announcing the next member of the crew long before he got there. “And that would be Theodore,” Sam said as he walked to the doorway and invited the large man into the mess with the rest of them.
The large man entered the room slowly, he was about six and a half feet tall and about half as thick. He smiled and reached out a massive hand towards Arnold who paused for a moment before taking it, and then to the cat’s surprise he was lifted up and Theodore was trying to grab his feet.
Arnold hissed and lashed out without thinking, and the big man dropped him as his arm bleed from the claw marks. Arnold skittered out of the room on all fours rather than wait to see what the crew was about to do to him.