It took us about half an hour to extract the water filters from the pipe web. The entire time we were expecting the intercom voice to send some armed goons to stop us. We wanted them to send someone to stop us. Martialla was filled with a lot of tough talk about how we’d take whoever they sent hostage and force Lizzie McGuire to let us in to the facility but the shape we were in, it was a pipe dream. See what I did there? But it could have done something. We could have talked to them. We could have begged them. Something. The intercom voice did come on a couple more times to ask us not to mess with their water supply but we ignored it.
Once we had the filters, we debated for a long time if we should stay anyway. Walking away seemed insane. This was it. This was the oasis in the desert. But Martialla had a very compelling point – if we were the ones on the other side of the glass, would we let us in? Even so, we probably stayed in that metal room for another hour after we decided to leave. At least it was cool and dry in there.
After having made the decision to leave, once we started moving we figured we would still probably wander around underground like moles until we died because we couldn’t find a way out, but instead it was actually super easy, barely an inconvenience. Right next to the piperoom there was a ladder-tunnel that looked like what you might climb to get to a secret drug lab. I know that because a French Portuguese guy I dated once took me to his drug lab. Which probably turns some women on. Didn’t work on old Ela.
We sat down at the bottom of the ladder in theory because there might still be fighting above ground and/or the Invincible might be hanging around but in reality it’s because neither of us were confident that we had the strength to climb up it. I barely had the strength to pull out one of the vials of blue stuff we took off the dead man and unstopper it to get punched in the face by the stench.
I jerked back from the ceramic tube “Jesus, smells like rotting feet!”
Martialla leaning forward slightly and sniffed, her mangled nose bouncing like that of a little bunny rabbit “I can’t tell, I think I busted my nose, I can’t smell anything.”
“Consider yourself lucky.”
Martialla gestured weakly to the muddy hole we were squatting in “I got a bad break, but I consider myself the luckiest girl on the face of the earth. And I don’t even have Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
I frowned “What?”
She rolled her hand in a vague fashion “You know, Lou Gehrig’s speech.”
I frowned more “Lou Gehrig made a speech about not having Lou Gehrig’s disease? That doesn’t make any sense. Unless the disease was made by the Nazis to try and get him and he avoided it.”
She frowned back at me “Nazis? Lou Gehrig was a baseball player.”
“What? Why would the Nazis bioengineer a disease to kill a baseball player?”
“They . . . there were no Nazis . . . I . . . forget about it.” She looked up at the ladder “You know the longer we sit here the harder it’s going to get to climb up there. We’re not getting any stronger and the ladder isn’t getting any shorter. We should just go now.”
I glanced up as well “Maybe if we wait a little bit we’ll get our second wind.”
“I’m not sure that’s a real thing.”
“How about a runner’s high?”
“We’re not running a marathon currently so that seems unlikely.”
“Alright well I’m going to drink this stuff and if I don’t die then we can go.”
Martialla’s eyes widened “Why would you do that? It’s probably oil or lubricant or something, I don’t think it’s a beverage.”
I shrugged and took a drink. I was expecting an immediate seizure of the bowel, like someone Mola Rammed into my body, grabbed my stomach and squeezed and twisted. If I was expecting that, why did I drink it? Good question. My mouth was so dry I would have drunk just about anything. Anything other than Diet Mountain Dew anyway. Instead of a stomach rip and twist, I felt like my head exploded, but in a good way you know? It smelled like death but it was some manner of extremely sweet moonshine. It was akin to some kind of alcoholic simple syrup. I’m sure in an empirical sense it tasted awful but it was so delicious I started dry-sobbing.
Martialla halfway got to her feet, or tried anyway, in alarm “What’s happening?!”
“I looked at her with raw, dry eyes “Shakthi degi Kali ma.”
Her head whipped around desperately “What?!”