Anya stared at Susie’s outstretched hand, suspicion and curiosity mingling in the air between them. Her small feminine fingers morphed until it was Gramps’ calloused, hardened hand beckoning Anya forwards, and when she glanced upwards it wasn’t Susie’s but Gramps’ steely blue eyes that greeted her, a faint smile visible on his lips.
“Where do you keep your design software?” Anya asked, grasping Susie’s hand and nimbly rising to her feet. “Or is this project so secret it has to be done only on paper?”
Susie grinned, the first real smile Anya had seen from her thus far, and said simply,
“Right this way, Anya,” her words punctuated only by the click-clack of her nude pumps across the concrete path. Following Susie down the hall, Anya felt the familiar rush of adrenaline that always accompanied creating, a feeling she hadn’t experienced since before the Sea Wall broke. It was as if a dam had been erected in her mind, and only now was broken, allowing all the creative energy to flow out, as images of structural supports, angles, and geometric formulas swam around her head.
Suddenly, Susie stopped outside of what appeared to be a segment of the wall, but that, on closer inspection, turned out to be a door, completely invisible except for the hinges glinting in the fluorescent light. Susie reached into her pocket and pulled out a small key, fit it into the lock, and pushed the door inwards, revealing a large pristine room overflowing with boxes.
Anya’s eyes widened in awe as she crossed the threshold, taking in the long counter top in the middle, surrounded on all sides by shelves filled with boxes and boxes of blueprints, designs, and old files, each one labeled in Gramps’ distinctive careful handwriting. The air smelled musty, as though the room hadn’t been opened in years. As Anya wandered down the aisles, running her finger across each label in turn, a sense of calm wafted over her, the likes of which she hadn’t felt since before Gramps died.
“This is amazing,” Anya murmured, “I had no idea all this existed, he never told me.” Susie watched her wander among the shelves and subconsciously broke into a smile.
“You haven’t seen the best part yet,” Susie quipped, her heels clicking as she crossed to the very back of the room, stopping beside a large drawer with a gilded handle. Reaching into her pocket, Susie pulled out an ornate brass key, its edges filled with intricate curves and swirls reminiscent of Corinthian columns. Susie unlocked the drawer, pulling it open to reveal a singular black box, its surface shiny and polished as though it had been used only yesterday. Gently, Susie lifted the box onto the counter, lifting the lid to reveal a sheaf of papers, all neatly stacked and covered in more of Gramps miniature script.
Gingerly, Anya reached out and ran a finger across the lines of equations, angles, and structures written on the paper with painstaking detail. Closing her eyes, she lifted the papers to her nose and inhaled, catching a faint whiff of ink and something else, something she couldn’t have found anywhere else in the world.
“Gramps,” Anya whispered, a genuine smile unfolding across her features for the first time in months. Excitedly, Anya flipped through the pages, marveling over each blueprint, at the neat notes scrawled in the margins. Suddenly, she paused, lingering over a square piece of parchment near the bottom of the pile. Gingerly, Anya picked it up, eyes widening as she realized what all the tiny equations and margin notes were describing.
“Is this...?” Anya’s voice trailed off as her eyes roved over the various symbols and writing scribbled on the page. In the center of the paper Gramps had drawn a large half circle, the dome stretching up almost as high as it was wide. Running along the dome’s curve were hundreds of intricate pipes, their interlocking segments joined together at either end near the ground, where two large ventilators rested on both sides of the structure. Scribbled in the margins was a single phrase:
Water into air - H2O viable source?
Glancing over the blueprints again, Anya gasped as she realized the full extent of what Gramps had been working on.
“Susie,” Anya began, her voice hushed in anticipation, “If Gramps’ blueprints say what I think they do, then this project isn’t just about building an underwater shelter for flood victims.”
Susie’s eyes glittered intently, their dark brown depths fixed on Anya’s face.
“This structure is meant to be permanent,” Anya began, her eyes roving the page for more details. “See this,” she pointed to the junction between the dome, pipes, and ventilators. “These pipes suck in seawater from different points along the dome and transport it to these ventilators, which, according to the notes, should be able to separate the oxygens and churn out O2, rerouting the hydrogens as a fuel source for the dome. This vent,” Anya pointed to a large bump on the edge of the ventilator, “circulates the air, breaking down the carbon-dioxide which is then transferred to a second subunit that binds the remaining hydrogens to the leftover O2. Then, the newly formed H2O is pumped back out into the ocean, refueling the cycle again.”
Anya took a deep breath, eyes darting across the page of notes with an intense focus she hadn’t felt since building the Sea Wall.
Susie’s dark eyes were fixed on Anya as the latter suddenly froze, fingers hovering over a small subscript below the main blueprint of the dome and ventilator.
“When you first told me about this project,” Anya began, her voice deathly quiet, “I thought it was a temporary fix, that the undersea complex was only meant to last until ocean levels evened out again. But this,” she paused, looking up from the paper and into Susie’s dark, unblinking gaze. “This is meant to last for years. What Gramps designed wasn’t just a holding ground for displaced civilians, these blueprints are for an undersea colony.” Anya paused, her eyes widening as she read a note in the margins.
Sea levels too high, production to begin ASAP, was scribbled in Gramps; careful penmanship.
“Susie,” Anya began, her voice low and deathly calm. “What aren’t you telling me?”