(Just joining us? Go back to Part 1)
(Reminder: MT1023=Sky, JT1023=Rock, MT1024=Flame, JT1024=Sea)
Day 11, 4:45 P.M.
Flame banged on the wall. His fingers scratched the smoothness and searched for a seam. "No! No! No!"
"I don't believe it," Rock said.
"We still had food in there!"
"We saved a little too," Sky said, pointing to the other blank wall where his room used to be. "But it was in there."
"What did they mean by designations?" Flame asked.
Rock stood over the sink where 'MT1023' was still scrawled. He wiped away the ink with his sleeve, but a shadowy stain remained. "Names. We have new names."
"Names? What did they say mine was?"
"I only heard mine," Sky said.
"Good God! Listen!" Rock said. He pointed to one after the other. "Sky, Flame, Sea. I'm Rock. I don't think you want to screw them up." He dropped his arm down to where the implant hung between their legs.
They nodded. Flame repeated his name silently.
"These people must think they're pretty fucking funny."
"Don't you get it? The four ancient elements. Air, earth, fire, and water."
"What am I again?"
"Sea! Now remember it!"
"Stop shouting," Flame said. "Leave him alone."
"I can't think."
Flame squared himself up against Rock at the sink.
"You don't talk to me like that."
"I just did."
"You won't again."
Sky lurched forward. "Stop it!"
Flame breathed into Rock's face. Rock shoved him backward.
Sky headed off Flame as he recovered. "Stop. Don't."
"Or what?" Rock taunted.
Sky leveled a rigid finger between Rock's eyes. "Back off."
"Are you threatening me?"
"How are we going to get off the freezing floor?" Sea asked, still confused. His arms were wrapped around himself.
"Are you both going to jump me?" Rock said. "That's your style, isn't it?"
"What do you mean by that?" Flame growled.
"You figure it out."
"No, I want to hear it from you. But you won't say it, because you're a coward. That's your style, isn't it?"
"Both of you! Back off!" Sky said.
"Yo! Lost at Sea! How about some help over here?"
Nine columns of water made no sound as they piled down from the unseen heights. They hit the floor and detonated in all directions. One hit Rock in the back and knocked him to his knees. Sky and Flame were walloped with spray.
Sea jumped back from the smashing flood and slipped. Fountains of water showered over him.
"Oh my God!"
"What is it?"
The torrent clattered into the wash already spreading across the floor.
"They're going to drown us!"
"We have to stop it!"
"Get me out of here! Let me out!"
Sky splashed over and helped Sea back onto his feet. Flame steadied Rock who tore himself from the rush. His hair streamed water down his face.
They shouted over the noise.
"What can we do?"
"I can't even see where it's coming from."
They pressed along the walls away from the roar.
Rock stared down. The level already rippled around his ankles.
"At least we won't suffer long. It's rising fast."
The gushing ended with one last slap on the water. Torrents feathered to trickles.
The four men gaped with panicked and panting faces.
The surface calmed. A perfect sheet of waving glass rocked along the sharp corners of the room.
Reflections of half men painted the water.
Rock frowned. "Do you feel that?"
"I wasn't sure for a while, but I definitely notice it now. The water is warm up here, but cold around my feet. Really cold."
"Yeah, I feel it too."
"My skin is so wrinkled it feels like I'm a thousand years old."
Rock swished his foot along the bottom. "Those bastards."
Sky frowned. "What's wrong?"
"The Goddamn floor. That's what they're doing."
"What? The cold?"
"Hell yes, the cold! You know what's going to happen to us as this water gets cold?"
"You got it. Water is way different than air. It doesn't have to be very cold to kill you. And something tells me this is going to get mighty cold."
"Look," Rock said. "We have to get away from the floor. The cold water will stay down. It'll take time to reach the top if we don't disturb it."
"And how are we going to do that?"
Rock searched. Everything was submerged.
"We only have two options. One person can use the sink. The rest have to the use bed."
"The bed is a foot underwater."
"It's better than nothing. At least it's easy to stand on."
"We can't stand on the sink."
"Sure you can. Not very comfortably, but you can," Rock said. "I'll take it. For now, I'll just sit on the edge."
Sea's posture sank. His voice sounded hollow. "Maybe we should just lay down in the water and drown."
"That's an option."
"I'm so tired."
"Come on, quit the crap. Let's get to it. My feet are already getting numb."
Day 12, 3:32 A.M.
"Whoa! Catch him!"
Sea swayed, then splashed to his knee. Sky grabbed for him.
"Get up! Get up!"
He pulled, but instead of hauling him, Sea's drooping weight pitched off the side of the bed. Water curled up to the man's neck.
Sky jumped down through the frigid layers.
"Get him out of there!" Rock shouted from the sink, high above the worst cold.
Sky's muscles strained, but he couldn't move the man. Sea stared upward, his complexion becoming strangely clear.
Rock jumped down. Flame followed.
Chattering, they all managed to heave Sea onto the bed and prop him on his knees.
"Put him in the middle," Rock said. "Come on, everyone lean in. Huddle. We need to share our heat."
Sea coughed, but not hard enough clear his lungs. His chest wheezed.
Rock moved his hand from the group embrace and cracked him hard on the check.
"Wake up man! Stay with us!"
The infrared monitors no longer registered red or yellow in the four men. Their bodies blossomed cold, cold tones.
No movement other than thin breaths registered. The bodies propped each other up like a house of cards.
High overhead in the blinding light, a rumbling noise descended. The Auditor peered through the metal lattice under his feet. The lift eased down into White Room G2.
The machinery clanked. Gates opened, and the recovery team jumped the remaining distance into the water. Light glared off their wetsuits as they pried the unconscious men apart.
Harnesses clicked tight, and the team remained behind to drain the water and reset the room. The Auditor signaled, and the lift hummed upward.
Four dangling men ascended into the light.
On to Part 8.
Go back to Part 6.