Jack Alderman’s two hundred and seventeenth unsuccessful attempt to flirt with the Controller’s assistant, Marcie, was a particularly memorable one. It failed not, this time, due to Jack’s ineptness at movie star impressions, but because of the interrupting vibration that shook the walls.
Pictures rattled around their hooks, papers fluttered. Marcie’s mug shuffled off her desk, spilling coffee onto the threadbare carpet. Screams of surprise floated over from other desks. Then the door between the control room and the office flung open and the Controller appeared at full sprint.
“Jack, follow!” he yelled as he thundered across the room. His arms stretched out to slam open the double doors at the far end, and then he was gone. His footsteps echoed as he hammered down the stairs.
Jack looked at Marcie. Marcie shrugged. Jack placed his mug down where Marcie’s had been, and ran towards the staircase.
As he jumped the lower steps of each flight, an alarm started screeching. Jack caught up with the Controller five floors down. The Controller was still galloping but breathing heavily. The sweat was beginning to show through his shirt.
“What was that?” shouted Jack as they ran.
“Earthquake!” came the reply. “Red lights over the entire board!”
Two flights down the stairs became a spiral, digging further below the lowest floor. Another fifty steps took them towards the tunnels, and a sound, out of place, floated up to great them. The Controller halted, breathing heavily, shock creeping across his face.
“Water!” he gasped.
To be continued…