Snakes and Pills

097 - casting

Marcus pulled the line tight. Feeling the tension in the rope, he wasn't sure that it would hold. It had already been through a lot, and now he would be asking a lot more of it.

He had to put those doubts to rest. Absolutely, the rope had to hold. There was no room for error if their plan was to succeed.

So he pulled it a little tighter.

Not long after, he heard the crackling of his radio that informed him that a transmission was inbound. In a moment, he heard a familiar voice. "Marcus," she began, breathing heavily as if she had been exerting herself. "How are things progressing down there?"

"Things are going alright, Catie. I've just finished securing the main line, and I'll be getting on with opening the flood valves as soon as I get into position, and I'm given the go ahead by you all," Marcus replied.

There were a few moments of delay before Catie's voice crackled back. "Copy that. Things are moving a little more slowly up here. Get yourself into position and I'll let you know when we're ready to blow those valves."

"Roger," was Marcus' simple reply. He gave the rope another tug, trying to convince himself that it felt as strong as it could be. Then, he knew he had done all that was possible, and decided to get himself over to the flood valves.

Navigating through the room was no simple matter. Although he only needed to traverse a few meters, the slippery surface of the floor made each step dangerous. The steam in the air, complimented by tangles of wire strewn all over the place, was of no assistance either. Additionally, their predicament meant that every so often the room would lurch and heave violently and unpredictably. Marcus felt as if he were in the bowels of some terrible monster that he had awoken. He moved carefully.

Finally, he arrived at the control panel which housed the flood valves. Of course, the valves were not meant to be easily accessible, since under normal operating conditions, they would never be necessary. They were encased under a cover made of steel. Marcus would be unable to brute force his way in, but since he had yet to hear from Catie or the others, he knew he had some time.

Four screws--one on each corner--held the panel in place. Marcus consulted his toolkit, and fortunately the screws were of a common size. They all came off easily enough, and Marcus slid back the panel to reveal the treasure hidden inside: six flood valves; red, green, and blue, left and right each. The manufacturer's tags still dangled from them, indicating that they hadn't seen much action.

He was now in position and ready. Yet, he hadn't received any word from the others for a while. She had said they were running a little behind schedule, but by now they should have been done.

Marcus tried the radio. "This is Marcus. I'm in position, ready and waiting for your signal, over," He tried. Nothing. No reply.

He tried again. Several times. He had no way of gauging the passage of time, but it had certainly been much too long at this point. He prayed to hear the crackle and pop of an incoming transmission on his radio, but as time passed, he grew certain that it was not coming.

Were Catie and the others dead? Were the radios simply not functioning? Had they completed their tasks? Marcus' head was swimming with questions, but one overpowered them all: What should I do?

He knew that his mission was very time-critical. He couldn't blow the flood valves before they were ready, but once everything upstairs was done, there would only be a few minutes of opportunity for Marcus to turn the knobs.

He agonized over it in what little time he had to agonize. Perhaps he had only ten seconds left for him to open the valves. Perhaps he should wait ten more seconds before throwing them open.

Finally, enough was enough. It was now or never, Marcus knew. His hand reached out for the left blue valve, and he ran over the sequence in his mind once more, just to be certain.

With all his might, he threw the flood valve open.


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