Chapter 3 - Deepworks

A rush of water surrounded Jerro. Like all beavers, his ability to manipulate sound waves warped the water and created a sphere within the torrent. He moved towards a control panel positioned among the web of pipes and gauges.

Another beaver moved up beside him, merging her protective bubble with Jerro's. “Keeper Aleese,” he addressed the beaver by her full title, surprised by her. “I’m... I’m not sure we are going to be able to close the breach from here, but I thought I could at least triage the damage,” Jerro shouted somewhat nervously over the sound of water blasting around them.

“Good thinking, Apprentice,” Keeper Aleese reassured Jerro in a calm and respectful demeanor. “We must know what the problem is to find a solution.”

Jerro pulled up a series of holographic monitors and began moving his paws about, quickly engaging with the translucent interface.

“There!” The Keeper pointed at one of the four displays. Three small cloaked figures moved hurriedly down a pipe-lined corridor. “Saboteurs?” Jerro questioned. “They must be...” Keeper Aleese responded, “That tunnel leads to The Deepworks. We can get there quickly. You can call in the repair location as we move.”

She moved towards some lockers and pulled out what looked like two large discs. After giving them a rhythmic tap, they sprung to life, hovering about a tail above the ground. She quickly jumped on one, and Jerro on the other. With their sound spheres shielding them from the torrent, they shot off down the hall where the water subsided.

“They’re going to breach The Deepworks before we catch them,” Jerro stated in a concerned tone. “Just call in the repair location to the third shift and stay on my tail,” she replied matter-of-factly. Jerro did as he was told, forming a mental link with the third shift, his paw bracing his temple. “They’ve been notified.”

They sped through the tunnels, making quick work of the route they knew so well, passing a Nutria security guard who lay pale and motionless on the ground. “Keeper...” Jerro addressed her with a gasp, “What happened to her?” She replied quickly with frustration and anger, “I don’t know... but we are going to find out.”

They were near the location where they had seen the figures moving on the holographic monitor. “We’re getting close. Stay vigilant.” Jerro pushed the disc to do a 360 while continuing the same forward trajectory, scanning the surroundings with a sonic pulse. They burst through a large door at the end of the tunnel and into The Deepworks.

A massive chasm opened up, filled with a series of large turbines and generators humming and glowing blue, coursing with energy.

“Stay quiet and stay close,” the Keeper communicated telepathically to Jerro. They silently dismounted their discs in a seamless transition. Jerro assumed a position just off the Keeper's left flank.

As they stealthily moved through the turbine room, a distant chatter arose. Some sort of squeaking? A language they both didn’t understand? A faint blood-red glow emanated from a corner obscured by several large pipes.

The squeaks grew louder as they closed the distance, and just before they could catch a glimpse of the scene, a deep guttural series of squeaks stopped them in their tracks. The Keeper looked over her shoulder at Jerro and telepathically told him to prepare for whatever these... “things” are.

They both reached up and flipped down a transparent monocular eyepiece, which displayed a small real-time visualization of their sound wave manipulation power.

They moved quickly around the corner. While combat was rare, they had trained for this, as all engineers were proficient in combat tactics.

Nothing could have prepared them for what they were now witnessing. The three small figures, which had now gone quiet, were suspended mid-air, their small furry heads now exposed as the cloaks had fallen back. Their bodies contorted, and limbs wrenched in pain. The source of the blood-red light revealed itself—tendrils of energy being pulled directly from the small creatures as if they were being drained of their life force.

In the center of all this, a larger but similar-looking pointy-nosed creature outstretched its arms, its sharp claws gesturing in a vortex-like manner. What stood out to Jerro, though, were the fangs—massive fanged teeth, the kind you would see on cats or other predators.

Before they could act, the larger creature made direct eye contact with the Keeper. She moved to supplant a suggestion, but it wasn’t quick enough. Jerro felt it—a wave of nausea and a splitting headache—but the Keeper was the target. She doubled over and released a guttural scream.

The blood-red energy began wafting through the air away from Keeper Aleese. The three smaller creatures had fallen to the ground and were starting to squirm. The Keeper began to lift into the air, and the large creature let out what sounded like a laugh.

Jerro had to do something... but what? He looked around the room for any ideas that might help. His monocular picked up an unusual vibrational frequency in one of the pipes. It was a high-pressure pipe coming off the turbine, and there was a compromise in the structure. He knew what to do.

Manipulating the water in the pipe, he created a zone of pressure that induced a water hammer effect. The pipe burst, and the rush of water distracted the creatures. For his final move, he would supplant a suggestion. He turned his attention to the smaller creatures and picked the one that seemed to be recovering the quickest from this energy drain.

Jerro reached into its mind. It was chaotic, full of malice and hate like he had never felt before, as if this was its only purpose... then nothing.

He looked up to see the creature gone, only a mist remaining where it stood. The large creature pointed its finger at the location with a sinister grin. The other two squeaked and ran behind the larger one, where they pulled out some sort of hoop-shaped object and threw it at a tank. The inside of the hoop filled with a dark, reflective, oily surface.

The larger creature pushed through the two smaller ones and walked into the oily plane, disappearing from view, and the two smaller ones followed quickly as the hoop drew to a point and vanished behind them.

Jerro and the Keeper ran over to the tank where these things had just disappeared... nothing. No signs of them; they were gone.

“What the heck were those?” Jerro said aloud. “I have absolutely no idea...” the Keeper responded, “but look over here, it looks like they may have been tapping into these generators.”

A large, almost tentacle-looking cable had rooted into the core of one of the generators. Veins of energy pulsed, and a strange fluorescent red liquid leaked from the broken end that was now severed from its connection. Another one led to the next generator over.

On the ground lay a loosely rolled-up parchment. Jerro picked it up and unrolled it. Images swirled in some sort of adaptive ink. He felt a gentle pull through his paw, not enough to be concerning but noticeable. Suddenly, a dot appeared, and amorphous forms outlined the parchment, slowly refining their shape. Details started filling in the forms nearest to the slowly flashing dot. Jerro recognized some of the shapes. “A map! Keeper, this is some sort of map!” He held it out to show her.

Jerro and the Keeper looked at each other, perplexed by the events and scene they now stood at the center of.

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