“What was that?”
Mr. Harvey looked up from doing his paperwork. “Hm?”
Arnold repeated himself. “Did you hear a noise from above?” His oversized feline ears perked and he raised his glare toward the upper levels of the hospital.
Mr. Harvey’s own long but lop-like ears raised and he looked up as well, folding the paperwork into the desk drawer as he shook his head. “I don’t hear anything, Arnold; perhaps it was the steam boiler releasing pressure again?”
The orderly glanced askance at the hospital administrator, his pupils starting to dilate with
anxiety. “I know that sound very well, that’s a bubbling sound rising against the outer wall
of the tower.” He pointed his nose skyward again. “This was… something else.”
Arnold dashed to the hospital facility’s central lift and gave the verbal command to go up one
level, throwing open all of the doors and investigating the seals around the capsule-shaped
Blackberry stood at the bottom of the lift shaft, watched the cat scamper, and called up, “I
had those checked last month, Arnold. They’re welded through the side walls and four inches
Onto the lift again and up to the next level, Arnold’s voice comes from all directions as he
feels and sniffs and listens. “I always thought these would cave in and crush us… but no,
this isn’t it. What is it?” On the magnetic lift platform again and up to the surgery
theatre, the ceiling of the lower portion of the tower.
“Hang on, let me send a p-mail to schedule another inspection,” the rabbit replied as he went
back to the desk, “then I’ll go up and check the boiler room.” He started to scribble a note
and press it into the pneumatic mail tube, when all of a sudden a shriek like only a feline can
emote echoed through the undersea tubes, followed quickly by another shriek, this one of metal bursting.
A crash of water blew the surgery room to bits and started to pour down the lift tube like
Niagara Falls, carrying the bruised and waterlogged Arnold with it with a thump. As soon as he hit the floor, he skittered with damp claws on tile for the exit.
“Seam… Burst! The seam between the… upper and lower towers!” He shouted over the now-
roaring of the water as he frantically pushed the call button for the main lift and looked
around, eyes wide as saucers, snagging a couch cushion in one arm as an emergency flotation device, and a startled Mr. Harvey in the other arm, the rabbit starting to fluster with panic.
“Get on the lift, Arnold!” As the platform arrived, both creatures scrambled for it, Blackberry
pressing the button to seal all of the waterproof bulkheads just a moment too late, as a horrendous rending noise preceded by mere moments a gigantic onrush of chilled salt water at 50 meters of pressure, spraying out the opening and cascading down the glass central tube. The emergency door at the entrance to the Vernian Tunnels held, and the water quickly rose upward.
The entire building quavered as the magnetic lift wobbled within the tube, the entire facility heaving a lurch to one side. Arnold peeked over the edge of the platform to see the lift tube quickly filling with water, the strained glass panels shattering silently underneath, mumbling under his breath, “ItoldyousoItoldyousoItoldyousoItoldyouso…”
Blackberry just shivered in his seat, watching his facility, his workplace, his home of iron and steel and glass begin to crumple. Half of the lift tunnel sheared off below as the Wilde Tower, the first to fail, fell against Huxley Tower, cracking open one of the window modules and dooming the other half to the same ultimate fate. “I… I don’t know what went wrong…”
Arnold’s claws dug into the cushion he held in a death grip, glaring at the lapine and vowing never to forgive him for letting Maddox work in a death trap like this. The sailor poisoning the air supply was one thing, but this was quite another.
By the time the lift reached the dock ten seconds later, one tower top swayed askance, causing the two to bolt for the shore, making it just in time as the dock heaved into the air and snapped its mooring.
Blackberry just gaped at the water as a wash of bubbles signaled the final fate of the Wilde-Huxley Facility, and assorted flotsam of life and work began to bob to the surface.
He looked over at Arnold, and the drenched-to-the-bone cat shook his head just so, in that way that tells you not to open your mouth again until bidden, took Blackberry’s quivering hand — the one whose life he had saved, who he had trusted, who had stood up many times for him and for Maddox, who had almost (accidentally, Arnold had to remind himself) killed him a few minutes ago — and they both made for shelter in the frosty night.