Jacobs stood with Hey Ew in the twilit corridor outside Room 807b. The floor was wet with brine that trickled out from under the door. The emergency lighting buzzed and flickered. A vending machine lay broken on the floor.
“The lights are off for, like, twenty minutes and already people are breaking into vending machines,” Jacobs scowled.
“No, the vending machines were all broken into long before the emergency,” Hay said. “It was just after my cafeteria opened, as a matter of fact.”
“Yeah, I buy it,” Jacobs sighed. “All right, here’s the plan: In the back of this room is electrical cupboard 807c, where the main circuit breakers can be found. However, the tank in this room has been breached and the floor is ankle deep in water and flesh-eating trilobites. I’m going to try to get to the cupboard, your job is to throw meat to the trilobites to keep them distracted.”
“I remember,” Hay said. “You told me this five minutes ago.”
“Really? It seems like weeks.”
“Time, eh?” Hay said. Her pupils were even more dilated than they should have been in the dim light.
Jacobs sighed deeply. “Just try not to let me die, okay? Just… just try.”
“Want to borrow my boots?” Hey said. “Steel-capped toes. Might give you some protection from murderous trilobites.”
“That’s… Actually, that couldn’t hurt.”
The boots were a little tight, but Jacobs could walk in them. He opened the door and dipped a toe into the dark briny water that lay on the ground in the room below.
“Maybe the floor of this room shouldn’t be below the level of the corridor,” he said. “But too late to fix that now.”
Clenching his teeth, Jacobs gathered up all of his courage and stepped into the water. Instantly, a line of ripples started coming towards him.
“Now, Hay, now!” he shouted. With unexpected accuracy, Hay tossed a chunk of meat ahead of the line, and the ripples came to a stop.
“Shh, don’t shout!” Hay said. “It upsets them. Makes them angry. They hunt by sound.”
“How do you know that?”
“Made it up. Might be right, but.”
With a grunt that was equal parts exasperation and fear, Jacobs continued. His eyes were kept fixedly on the door of the electrical cupboard. Could he feel movement in the water even through his boots? Or was it his imagination? Either way, he could hear the occasional splash of rancid meat, and not much else.
He didn’t know how long it took to reach the cupboard. For a moment his heart thundered as he wondered if he’d remembered the keys, but there they were in his pocket. He opened the cupboard door as quietly as he could and…
A hatch opened in the wall above. Jacobs looked up, shocked, to see a be-mulleted man with an eyepatch looking down at him.
“Oh, you’re not a ninja,” he said, loudly. “Thought you were… Turns out you’re not. Funny, huh?”
Jacobs looked around and sure enough a solid dozen different ripple-trails in the water were heading in his direction. Hay was desperately pelting them with meat – to no effect. He looked up at the newcomer with horror and confusion.
“‘Cause if you was a ninja, I’d have to be quiet too,” the man said. “But since you’re just a regular, non-ninja bloke, I guess it’s okay to be as noisy as fuck.”
Jacobs could feel the trilos scuttling over his boots. As he clenched his teeth so as not to scream, a massive flatulence boomed from the hatchway.
“Oh, that’s better out than in,” the newcomer said.
The trilos were gnawing on the leather of his boots, but it wasn’t until he saw the first one climbing up his trouser leg that he started screaming out loud.