Content Warning: Contains violence, sexually explicit themes and course language.
Part One: Disaster
She remained calm even as her colleagues spawned a storm of nervous energy that bristled all around her.
Amaya stood five foot seven, her jet-black hair contrasting with her white jumpsuit as it fell over her shoulders. As a young child and long before her family moved to England, she remembers standing along the Bay of Bengal imagining what lay beyond the blue. Her father sparking her curiosity with stories of mermaids and monsters filling the deep.
While her peers turned toward the stars Amaya looked to Earth’s oceans. Fueled by her memories the Indian born, Oxford educated graduate, dove into her studies, becoming the rockstar of her chosen field. Her caché landed her a prestigious position on the Atlantis project. As member of the CoreOne team, the cutting-edge oceanic engineer was part of the deep-sea colony from its initial submergence.
That was 17 years ago and Atlantis had grown from a modest research station to an underwater city. Consisting of four cores supporting 17 modules. The colony was home to over 11,000 permanent residences. Its massive entertainment districts supporting 5,500 hotel rooms, three casinos, several restaurant, entertainment and shopping districts, and the state-of-the-art Marine Discovery Center was a bustling vacation destination for many surface dwellers.
Amaya poured over the data recovered from the remote monitoring nodes as it became available. A little over three hours ago the east tunnel leading to Habitat Ring H2 collapsed. Emergency systems quickly sealed the station from the module but the doors on the habitat side of the breach had failed. Many of the residents were crushed at once by the immense pressure of the Pacific rushing into the corridors.
Those in their suites had been spared the fate of the colonists exposed in communal areas of the ring but the respite was only temporary. The inner modules were not waterproof nor built to withstand the crushing pressure of the Pacific above. They were designed to support the outer shell, not hold back the water should the barrier breach.
Communications were severely damaged but Amaya and Landon, a smart young colleague with creative ideas and an ability to improvise when necessary were able to restore limited connections to the failing H2 ring. Her first call to her trapped lover, the feed quality was shite but she was alive.
Amaya recalled the first time she saw the stunning blonde hanging from her Professor’s arm. Helena, a Romanian living in London during Amaya’s years at Oxford was attending the reception as his guest. Amaya found herself drawn to this exquisite creature. When he finally made his way over and introduced her the two women connected instantly. It was clear even in those early moments that the pair belonged together. It would take time for her Professor to accept being discarded in favour of his star pupil but once amenable would joke that bring the two inseparable (or sometimes as he told it, unsufferable) women together was part of his master plan.
When Amaya joined the Atlantis team Helena, witness to a terrible tragedy as a child refused to join her. Their vastly different connections to the sea almost broke the bond they shared. Helena was terrified of water. She had watched her older brother drown in the Black Sea near their home in Constanţa. The trauma still with her today, Helena preferred showers, her lungs struggling to draw a breath, her muscles tensing and shaking at the thought of submerging herself in a bathtub.
For years they managed to remain together across a great divide, one in the deep the other firmly planted on dry land. Their relationship was text messages and video chats, only seeing each other a few times a year. The couple spending every moment of Amaya’s shore leave at Helena’s Hawaiian flat. She loved Helena but no matter how much her heart ached when they parted the sea always called her home.
As H2 neared completion Amaya promised Helena it was safe, finally convincing her to move to Atlantis. After much consternation, the pair sold the Hawaiian property and purchased a suite in H2. For six years Amaya had kept her promise. Helena learned to suppress the fear of living inside a bubble enveloped by the Pacific, but it was always there simmering just beneath the skin. That promise, now broken and lying in tatters at the bottom of the ocean as a frantic Helena stood knee-deep on the other end of the line. The salty water slowly seeping through the cracks of their home.
The cause of the breach remained a mystery. Amaya perused the video captured from the H2 towers as she continued her call with Helena. The timestamp from the footage revealed an unidentified shadow blacking out the camera moments before the alarms sounded in the CoreOne command center. Footage from the other modules was too dark and grainy to pick up anything. Sensor data proved inconclusive as well.
Her attention pulled back to Helena who was convulsing violently, reacting to her worst fears happening right before her tear-filled eyes. Amaya worked to calm her. She needed to gather information about the situation in the ring and Helena was her eyes and ears. The information she garnered from the video feed allowed her to estimate the water’s progression. She estimated the residents has about three hours before the oxygen generators would fail. It was a moot point for those in the lower ring. The flooding would fill those suites long before the oxygen ran out. For Helena, trapped on the upper ring the water would rise slower. In the end, it was a toss-up between suffocation and drowning for those residents. She instructed Helena to stack the furniture and whatever else she could get her hands on before they became waterlogged and too heavy to move. She would need to be able to get as close to the ceiling as possible.
“I’m sorry Helena, I am sorry to have put you in this situation.” Amaya apologized through her own tears. A wave of guilt washed over her. Helena would still be in Hawaii if she had not pushed her to move to Atlantis. The thought of losing her soulmate and the pain and grief it would bring paralyzed her. She needed to push through her own fears and find a resolution for Helena’s sake.
The engineering core had spent too much time trying to bring the emergency doors back online. The pumps in the ring kicked in immediately following the breach and closing the failed doors may have allowed them to clear the seawater. It was too late now; the flooding would have overwhelmed the pumps several hours ago. At this point, they would be fully submerged. The disaster was unstoppable and any efforts to save the H2 module would prove irrelevant.
The team needed to focus on saving lives. Amaya, Landon and a handful of her colleagues petitioned their Superiors to abandon efforts to salvage H2 and focus on rescuing the survivors. Management rejected any proposal involving abandoning the structure insisting the best option to rescue the inhabitants was to save the ring. There may have been some truth in that thinking hours ago but any hopes of saving lives and the structure had long slipped away. In reality, the structure and the revenue it created were far more important to the corporation than the lives trapped within.
Landon, whose wife and infant were also trapped in H2 approached Amaya. He had devised a rescue plan and was collecting weapons and supplies to support an unauthorized mission. He needed a partner and although she was skeptical, Amaya agree to join him. The two would abandon their posts amidst the chaos and head to the CoreOne docks. Fuck their managers, they could not stand by and watch their loved ones die. The pair was prepared to fight their way through the heavily guarded dock to get to one of the submersibles. They were heading to H2.
To be continued…
Part 2: Coming Soon
Fandango’s One Word Challenge Weekly Roundup
Date: 2022-04-10 | Word: Nervous
Date: 2022-04-11 | Word: Calm
Date: 2022-04-12 | Word: Tragedy
Date: 2022-04-13 | Word: Amenable
Date: 2022-04-14 | Word: Petition
Date: 2022-04-15 | Word: Colony
Date: 2022-04-16 | Word: Irrelevant
Artwork: YasuMatsuoka via Deviant Art.
Copyright 2022 Greg Glazebrook, All Rights Reserved.