Shelly stared through the mist at the red neon in front of her, not quite ready to concede that this was it. She’d got used to things not making sense down here but this was getting way beyond weird. Signalling to her buddy to follow, she swam through the open outer door and pulled it water-tight behind her before thumping the button with her clenched fist. As with all the other entrances, she could sense more than feel the water being pressured out and stared blankly as three lone droplets slid awkwardly down the now misting glass.
As with all the other entrances, as her legs began to take the weight they’d been designed to, she heard the muted clunk of the closing valves and her suit exhaled as the pressure normalised again and the remaining moisture dried. Pressing an open palm against the inner door she stepped through into the new room and heard it click lightly behind her. She wiped her boots on the mat.
This was the sixth that they’d been in over the past three days and as she swung off her helmet and ran a gloved hand through her hair, she knew it was going to take much longer to clear than the others. She took a generous breath and marveled again at the engineering that maintained this place after so long; she knew in her head that the pressure locks and anti-decay systems were much more complicated to build and keep powered, but it was the neon signs in each of the buildings that kept her in awe.
And with the power stores as well sealed as they were, it was the neon signs that had been detected – not by the crunching circuitry of her team’s equipment, but by her own eyes.
As Tam made her way through the second door, Shelly ran a finger across one of the shelves, noting how much louder the door sounded without the insulating helmet, but how even at that volume it didn’t disturb the mood of the room. These guys really knew what they had been doing.
“Wow. This isn’t quite what I’d expected from the sign.”
“Me either Tam. We’ve covered four square nauticals and just when you think you’ve got a handle on this place…”
She took Tam’s hand in hers and together they walked wide-eyed through the deserted entrance hall, aware of the grand ceiling probably eighteen feet above them seemingly supported by the shelves lining both sides and seeming to rise stright out of the floors.
Hand in hand they walked through the central aisle past a dozen long tables on each side, many strewn with some of the contents of the shelves, some piled atop each other on the tables, some left open in front of where someone had once been sitting.
“Wow,” said Tam again, breaking the reverent hush that seemed to lie on this place like dust. “You ready?”
Shelly squeezed her hand in affirmation as they approached the only other door and they walked into the main bar.
Directly ahead of them and raised 18 inches above the floor on a podium they recognised the Benches of the Inn and either side of them, arcing away from them like two huge broken horseshoes, the Lower Benches with loose seats behind them.
“Wow,” said Shelly as her thoughts escaped into words “I think it’s my turn to ‘wow’… this is exactly like it is in some places on the surface!”
Tam grinned back at at her and pointed. “So the Pupillage students would have sat there, and the Junior Counsel and QCs over there, right?”
Shelly couldn’t help keep the grin from her face. The first place they’d found in Mission was the mess hall, then the apartment buildings and the two trading stores, and now a Bar. What was this place? And what the hell was it doing at the bottom of the Atlantic?