149/366 – The Accident

Day 7 of 100 Word Prompts: Fish

The support tower for the space bridge stood huge and looming, a fifteen hundred feet tall. It was a massive undertaking with a base of concrete hundreds of feet wide extending into the sky for the first third with steel tethers ten feet wide extending off it. About the concrete, the engineers had attached a series of cables and rods to extend it high enough. Even from the ground, the massive space station attached to it was visible on clear nights.

Ian stood on the balcony of his hotel, looking up at it in awe. He had never been so close to it before.

“Crazy, isn’t it?” Greg asked, stepping out on the balcony.

“Yeah, you could say that. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ian replied, letting his eyes wander up the structure.

“Well, you’ll be going up it tomorrow with me,” Greg said as the floodlights attached to it flared to life. “I hope you’re ready.”

“Me too,” Ian replied, nodding.

“Check it out,” Greg said, drawing Ian’s attention to the horizon.

Ian looked to see a straight line of bright white dots in the darkening sky. The dots twitched slightly, then moved in a pattern not dissimilar to a school of fish. He watched as they drew closer and grew larger. What initially had been white dots, quickly became tiny hovering bots with illuminated teacups for heads and clicking and swirling servos for bodies gliding through the air. As they got to the tower, they began to swarm the base of it at the ground.

“What are they doing?” Ian asked.

“Those are service bots,” Greg said. “The company that built the bridge built those to save time. They are autonomous but scan and send reports and alerts to the maintenance department. Those are what we’ll be working on tomorrow.”

Ian watched the service bots begin to bump and flash as they spiraled around the base and slowly ascended the tower. Fifteen minutes later, the bots had made it more than two hundred feet up when the pattern suddenly changed. Several of them stopped and hovered around the same area.

“Greg?” Ian said, looking over his shoulder.

“Yeah?” Greg asked.

“Come here for a second,” Ian said.

Greg came back out to the balcony carrying a sandwich in one hand and a beer in the other.

“The pattern changed,” Ian said, pointing to the few of the bots that had stopped while the rest continued.

“They probably found a flaw,” Greg said. “It’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” Ian replied, feeling a twitch at the back of his skull. The hairs on his arms stood on end as the sound of clinking metal echoed from the tower.

With a massive boom, a crack exploded from the point the bots had been. Several pieces of concrete the size of small cars rolled down the side of the structure, slamming into the ground below.

“Oh, my-” Greg said as, even from where they stood, the crack spidered out around the base. “Run!” Greg said as the structure began to tilt toward the hotel.

Before Ian could even react, Greg was out of the room. He watched the tower tilt, jarring twenty feet at a time toward the building. His heart raced and sweat beaded on his skin as the base finally broke, sliding off its mounts. Though Ian didn’t want to be anywhere near the thing as it moved, he knew the worst part was on its way as the broken piece sank into the soil.

Ian’s eyes followed the tether into the sky, where he could barely make out the bridge. When it was taut, he could scarcely see it, but not he could see it whipping and writhing on its way back to the earth. At the far end, the spaceport grew more and more clear in his vision.

Ian placed his shaking hands on the railing as he followed the trajectory of the space station. He saw a flash of light where the station was, and the line went tight again. The base of the bridge shuddered and began leaning once more in his direction.

“Shit,” Ian muttered as he looked down and saw the pool. He was on the fourth floor, so he could likely survive the fall as long as he landed in the deep end. It was dicey at best, but couldn’t think of a faster option to get down.

Ian climbed over the railing, took a few deep breaths, and leapt for the water. He felt the familiar rush of weightlessness on his descent to the water, but only had an instant to process it before he met the water’s surface. Though he didn’t land flat, he still hit the bottom of the pool harder than expected. Quickly kicking off, and swimming for the side as he surfaced, he could hear more pieces of concrete hitting the ground from the falling structure.

Ian pulled himself from the water and ran south toward the parking lot. When he thought he was safely far enough away from the building, a few hundred feet maybe, he turned to see the space station ablaze as it rocketed toward the earth.

“Oh, my god,” Ian said a few seconds before it vanished from view. The tether attached to the base yanked and slammed into the earth, straight through the hotel, collapsing it in on itself.

Ian heard sirens blare and people scream for the first time as he looked at the massive structure lying on its side. He sat on the curb of the parking lot and shook his head. He tried to think of anything that could have explained what happened, but nothing could. His ears felt hot, and his chest tight as he leaned back against the bumper of the car. His heart slammed inside his chest as though it were trying to escape.

“Ian!?” Greg said as he ran around the building covered in dust. “You’re okay!”

Ian didn’t respond. He just witnessed something that could have happened while he was up there. He watched hundreds of people plummet to their death, if they were still alive through the fall, and knew that countless more would die or be injured as the thirty-foot-wide cable slammed into the earth with it.

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