Three Deep

July.24.2407 12:46 pm – The Satyr, 12th floor, Apt. 1207

Kay was still amazed that the apartment was hers. She had graduated a year ago far too deep in debt too afford even a semi-decent place. And with the job market at an all time low it didn't seem like she was going to make any money any time soon – to get a place or pay back the loaners who kept calling. When she saw the ad in the newspaper it had been a Godsend. It offered to any one over the age of eighteen a chance to enter a raffle and win a new apartment in the New Government's latest project: a city in an underwater pressurized bubble. The city, called Senbunshi, had a theoretical life capacity of one hundred thousand, an open job market for those in need of one and every amenity available to the average person. She had sent in her papers immediately, knowing that they were giving away ninety thousand apartments all over the city and that she was more than likely to get one, however crumby it'd probably be.

When they'd written her back, one thought ran through her head over and over again: I hit the jackpot. Not only had she gotten an apartment, she'd qualified for a two bedroom on the top floor of a luxury building in the eastern quad of the city. The entire east side of her apartment had floor to ceiling windows that faced out directly to the Wall, allowing her a luxurious view of the water life that swam by 24/7. It was carpeted, furnished and free for the next six months or until she got a job – which ever came first. She'd lived in The Satyr for only two days and hadn't left her apartment, not even to explore the city.

Tomorrow, she promised herself, I'll go and check out the district. Maybe go look for a job. Who knows? I might get lucky again.

But for the moment, she'd dimmed the lights, put her Howard Shore mix into the CD player, and broken out a bottle of champagne. Half an hour later the kitchen was filled with the smell of herbal cooking. The mix of soft music and her rhythmic chopping of an unsuspecting tomato made her feel very much at home. On her left she could see a few small silver fish flit by beyond the Wall. To her right was the constant movement of the news feed the technicians had installed into her wall. She'd set it on mute – any accidents, murders or further drop in world economy that happened above water currently did not and would not concern her.

July.24.2407 12:59 pm – The Belt, East Quad

The city had only been open two weeks and already it seemed overcrowded to Jay. He'd liked it better when he could squat in the empty apartments and go into restaurants early and grab a bite from the unguarded kitchens. The first week had been heaven to him, even with a two year old girl tagging along. They'd both had an endless supply of beds to sleep in, places to eat at and things to do. But that first week had quickly melted into the second and empty places were drying up fast. He could tell Jean was already getting tired of 'camping in the wilderness.' He doubted he could pass off Median Park as 'the wilderness' anymore, anyway. The little girl may only have been two but she was as sharp as a knife. Sooner or later she'd notice that 'the wilderness' was a hell of a lot smaller than what they showed on TV.

At least I got some food into her, he thought as he glanced at her. She was bouncing on the balls of her feet, her large eyes focused and waiting for the floating hologram of the blinking red hand to change into the casual walking pedestrian. Her hand sporadically squeezed his impatiently, until finally the signal changed. He sighed as she pulled him onto the street and closer to the Belt.

Last night he'd unwittingly promised her that they would go to the Eastern Belt and watch as fish swam by. She'd insisted that they wouldn't leave until she saw a whale. Reluctantly he'd given his ascent, but already he was regretting that decision. The crowd at the Belt was huge and more than a few peddlers had set up shop.

Great – more distractions for the kid, he thought morosely.

July.24.2407 1:07 pm – The Catacombs, East Quad

Working at a crappy desk job for three years under Professor Higgins had finally paid off for Kira. She'd finally gotten the engineering job of her dreams in the New Government's latest project. Of course, she'd had to tweak the Dream just a little bit to fit her current situation. In the Dream she wasn't taking orders from a seventy six year old woman who should have been hooked up to a respirator, she wasn't forced to clock in at four in the morning and clock out at midnight and she certainly wasn't checking pressure gauges for six hours. In the Dream Kira lived in a penthouse by Times Square in New York and called in sick when she didn't feel like coming to work. In the Dream she was head honcho, not just at work but in life. She was the charismatic, alluring twenty six year old woman who had something to do every night and whose telephone couldn't stop ringing.

At least I have something to do every night, she thought as she glanced at gauge number eighty nine. There was still four more hours of gauge checking before she had to go into the office fill out two hours worth of paper work and then head over to join the reconnaissance team that was supposed to scout the rest of the Catacombs of the underwater city and make sure nothing was out of whack.

She rolled her shoulders in the tired, bored sort of way she'd developed ever since she'd gotten here and flipped through the papers on her clipboard. The sound of popping gum echoed hollowly through out the empty, metal room reminding her at every octave that she really did have to break that habit – it was disgusting. She sighed as she checked the last gauge in the room before moving on to the next.

The next room didn't have any gauges. It was a storage garage that the government was using to hold escape vehicles in case anything went wrong and they had to mass evacuate the city. Not many people expected anything to happen, but there were enough conspiracy theorists working on the Project to warrant the issuing of billions of US dollars so that there were enough Hydro-Sleekers to evacuate the entire city. They weren't going to be issued to the citizens for another two weeks but until then it was her responsibility to make sure they stayed in good condition. Today that meant fixing the first car on the left.

Once under the Hydro she could see the problem. Two wires hung down loosely, having been severed from one another.

"Why'd they send over this pile of junk," she muttered as she took hold of the two disconnected wires. She pulled them closer together, expecting them to cinch together automatically. Irritated, she rolled her eyes when they failed to do so. She was determined to get her rounds over with. The boss had promised everyone a shorter day if they finished early. But if Kira was stuck in the garage fixing a Hydro-Sleeker she was going to be working overtime instead. For a moment she hesitated, knowing that it might cost her the Dream job; but after promising herself that tomorrow she'd come by and fix it first thing in the morning she took the gum in her mouth and jammed it between the two wires.

That should hold.

July.24.2407 1:19 pm – The Belt, East Quad

"Mama?" Jay scowled angrily and stared out determinedly at the water and the silver fish that darted by. He wouldn't respond. He wouldn't. Mentally he cursed the day he'd decided to respond to the two year old girl when she'd first taken it into her head to call him that.

"Mama?" He turned his head away from her, though he still kept a firm grip on her hand. Now that she was tugging on it he was scared she'd get loose and run out into the swarming crowd. The tugging became more insistent.

"Mama!" She shrieked angrily and stomped on his foot, far too hard for a two year old girl. He swore loudly, earning him angry, disgusted looks from a few surrounding mothers. He spun around and glared down at the two year old girl. There was something decidedly sinister in the way she looked at him. As if she knew that he wasn't 'mama' and that it irked him when she called him that, but she didn't care. Even though she was only two he was sure she that she had the mind of an evil genius. She understood too much, comprehended too much – but most of all, she called him 'mama' too much.

Jay gritted his teeth as he knelt in front of her and tried to smile at her. He was sure it came out as a scowl.

"Jean," he started, "You can call me Jay – you can even call me dad if you want. But I'm not your mama."

Her eyes narrowed and she leaned in, staring at him stonily. He could see it in her eyes, the battle between good and evil, struggling inside of her. But evil, he saw, won out as she crossed her arms across her chest and said emphatically, "You. Are. Mama."

He sighed angrily, "What'd you want anyway?"

"Wassat?" She asked innocently, all traces of evil genius disappearing as she pointed at the transparent Wall.

"What's what?" He asked irritably. All he could see were a few pockmarks across the wall and then water – lots and lots of water.

"That!" She repeated, moving forward to touch the wall. He squinted at the spot she was pointing to, moving closer to get a better look. There was an irregularity, however subtle in the wall that he couldn't place. He reached out, his fingers tracing the plastic like wall. When they came away they were wet.

"Well?" The two year old asked impatiently.

"Um…" he touched the wall again, tracing his fingers against it, pressing it gently.

"I think it's a crack," he muttered to himself. A moment later the sound of synthetic alloyed metal cracking rent through the air.

July.24.2407 1:42 pm – The Satyr, 12th floor, Apt. 1207

Kay hummed along to the music as she waited for the tomato soup simmering over the stove to give its self proclaiming 'I'm finished' ding. A glass of champagne, half empty, stood by the cutting board. The knife she had been using to chop up tomatoes stood solemnly, the blade lodged into the wood. Her hands worked reflexively as she tore up lettuce to make a salad.

She didn't notice as the news feed began to flash urgently, beaming a fire engine red. Her feet tapped along to the music and she opened her mouth, letting out a frightening attempt at opera. She spun away from the counter dramatically, now finished with the salad. Her movements were exaggerated as she gesticulated dramatically, continuing on with her frightening performance, acting out the story that the music was meant for. Even as she spun around the room, reveling in her newly found luxury, she never once glanced at the flashing news feed. The ding for the tomato soup went by unnoticed as she turned up the volume on her music and raised her voice with it.

It took her a moment to realize that resounding crash in the background wasn't the adrenaline pounding climax of the current musical set. Her movements not nearly as exaggerated as before, she spun around and watched as first the Wall and then her windows gave way under eight hundred feet of hydro-pressure.

July 24.2407 1:45 pm – The Catacombs, East Quad

Kira's heart pounded as she ran full tilt through the halls, pushing past panicking employees and confused professors. Her left hand gripped the silver keys she'd grabbed out of storage room number 582. Red lights flashed in the dingy halls and a high pitched keening noise carried itself through the entirety of the Catacombs. She resisted the urge to clap her hands over her ears and forced herself to keep running through the knee deep water that had gotten through the pressure resistant walls of Senbunshi.

Pressure resistant my ass, she thought grimly as she shoved a forty year old man into the wall and out of her way. The numbers inscribed on the keys pounded in her head over and over like a mantra as her heart counted down the amount of time left for her to get to the garage, get in a Hydro-Sleeker and haul herself out of there.

When the door to the garage came into view she nearly collapsed into tears. But the self sufficient portion of her mind steeled her against what ever emotion wanted to overcome her at the moment and pushed her forward. She slammed her shoulder against the door, willing it to give. After several tries and a few more inches of water the door gave way.

Now that the toughest part was over panic was starting to set in. Her legs and arms trembled with fear as she stumbled through the water, counting off serial numbers.

"996, 997, 998 – oh God! 999!" It was the first car on the left. Heart pounding, breath short and hands trembling she shoved the key into the lock and after several tries got the door open. She rushed into the car with out thinking. She'd forgotten about her rounds that morning, about the crummy apartment that she lived in, about how different her life was from the Dream. Right now, all she wanted was to get out alive.

She turned the ignition and that was it.

July 29.2407 2:00 pm – Above Water, New Government Forensics Office

Trace Cavanaugh liked working with dead people. He always thought they understood a hell of a lot more than living people. They never complained when you decided to pour your heart out and they never looked at you like you were crazy. More often than not dead people where quiet and accepted you for who you were. That was how Trace Cavanaugh saw it.

He squinted at the detective who had come in to check on the four bodies that were laid out on four steel tables. He liked these four especially, two women, a little girl and a man. The little girl he had like especially – she wasn't older than three but she was clearly an individual. He liked the oldest woman the least. For one thing she looked like she was screaming at him for some wrong he wasn't aware of. In addition, she was a nasty shade of gray and partially melted – a sad side affect of being alive. That and the half open jaw.

The man had lost a few fingers to the fishies. Trace snickered under his breath.

Fishies.

The last woman, she was the most interesting. Her eyes, a faded, waterlogged blue seemed to gaze at him understandingly. And it seemed drowning wasn't what had killed her. There was a nasty, long gash along her neck that had bled her thoroughly. Yes, Trace liked this one especially.

"So what can you tell me about these people?"

Trace glared at the detective – he really didn't like living people.

"Well, the little girl is Zoë Crenshaw. The girl who went missing two months ago…"