The Sky Was Full of Fish 19

Fortunately, my feet touched solid ground in less than a second. Unfortunately, the “ground” was very smooth, at a steep angle, and ankle deep in fast-flowing water. I immediately lost my footing and went sliding down a chute or pipe of some kind. As I was twisted and spiraled about, I was reminded strongly of an amusement park water slide. The water ensured that I would slide quickly and be unable to check my descent on the slick walls.

I weighed my options for a few seconds. On the one hand, I had been told that if I weren’t wearing gloves, the beloved quartet would die. On the other hand, I had never yet faced a situation where my right pinky finger and its contents hadn’t improved matters. I didn’t think of it in terms of betting the beloved quartet’s life on it, but that’s essentially what I was doing. I’m not proud of that, but I wasn’t at my best, what with careening down a hellish water slide in total darkness. In the end, I decided to use my finger.

I struggled tentatively, testing my bonds, but I soon gave up; it was pointless. I realized that there was only one way I was going to be able to get my right pinky finger open. Sadly, that method was extremely painful.

I stuck my finger out at a bizarre angle and thrashed about until I managed to crush it between the side of the chute and my body. My finger broke, and it sucked. I grunted, and then did my best to block out the pain and do what needed doing.

With my finger in its mangled state, there was now room in the glove for me to open my right pinky finger the tiniest crack. It wasn’t much, but it was plenty of room to let the nanobots out. I set all three squadrons to work on getting through the gloves and the tape that bound my hands.

The nanobots had the glove off in a second or two. At the same moment, the chute steepened to an almost vertical angle and abruptly ended. I was falling through empty space, with who-knows-what at the bottom. I was very unhappy, and yelped again in panic and alarm.

Then I hit water. I was at a bad angle and got a painful ear-full, but I was otherwise unharmed. My momentum carried me down a good ten feet, but I didn’t touch bottom. As I started floating upwards, I collected my wits and popped my right pinky finger loose. I activated my personal inertial dampener to deal with any gunfire that might ensue, and engaged my automatic levitation matrix.

My head broke the surface of the water. At the same instant, I felt the nanobots finish getting through the tape that bound my hands, and the levitation matrix finished sliding into place around my torso.

For good measure, I got out my mysterious glowing orb. It always helps me calm down, and I was fairly agitated. The luminous sphere floated around the room like a soap bubble, illuminating a large natural cave complete with a pond. There was a man-made waterfall pouring out of the circular hole in the ceiling from which I had emerged mere moments ago. By the light of the orb, I saw figures at one end of the pond. I turned towards them as I rose up out of the water.

“Shit!” said one of the figures. Then there was a shot from a silenced pistol. A bullet was stopped short by the inertial dampener and dropped into the pond at my feet. I began moving towards the figures.

“Hold your fire,” said another voice, this one loud, deep, and gurgling. “His pinky’s in play. Go kill the woman.”

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