7 minutes, that’s all it took, just 7 minutes to wreak havoc and take one of the worlds most secure facilities off line. You couldn’t have done better if you’d tried. At 3pm Monday afternoon a water pipe supplying the mens showers on sub level 3 became disconnected. I say disconnected, I could have said burst, fractured or ruptured, but being as we’ve had a team of subcontractors overhauling the locker room, I am going with disconnected…I was born cynical.
3 p.m. or 15:00 or fifteen hundred hours, as we are supposed to write in official stuff, is the time for the daily brief. It may appear to be an odd time to some, but this coincides with global news updates and the majority of embassy press releases, not that we take any notice of them, but it’s interesting to note which direction they want you to look.
Anyway, the result of all this is that the lower levels were virtually deserted, and with no one around to report the leak, until it was too late. In the case of the armoury, it was way too late, this isn’t an exaggeration, its literally underwater.
I descend the back stairwell to counter intel and end up in ankle deep water. It appears the water drained from the floor above, into the back stairwell and down into the armoury. The armoury, for all intent and purpose, is a reinforced concrete box, which is fine for containing any accidental discharges but lousy for draining away water. The upshot of all this, excuse the weapons pun, is that the weapons locker and workshop, as well as the stairwells, are underwater.
I join a couple of the armourers as they stand at the top of the flooded stairwell starring into the water. The emergency lighting giving our new water feature an eery glow. They stare with the concentration of cats on the hunt.
“So what did we lose? Anything ? Everything ?”
The thought of paperwork already filling me with dread. Their answer chilled me to the core.
“What ! Noah’s down…..there?”
I look at the swelling mass of floating paper, the detritus of office life. A lump begins to form in my throat that refuses to go away.
“Have…..have….the emergency services been called?”
“Oh…..he’s fine…when he’s not getting lost, don’t suppose the visibility is all that great. He pops up every so often, to get a fresh tank when he’s running low, and before….you know…getting back to it.”
My incredulity is interrupted by Noah emerging from below. He’s dressed as he normally would in the office, Chino’s, checked shirt and that stupid knitted tie he’s worn ever since he saw ‘Dr No.’, with the added addition of a bright yellow aqualung. Adjusting the respirator, he gives me a wave and a thumbs up before disappearing back below the surface.
Seeing the puzzled look on my face, his colleagues explain.
“He thinks he’s found a way of draining the water. There’s an abandoned underground tunnel below us. He’s planning to punch though and….well..drain the water.”
“Oh great….er….won’t that just flood the tunnel?”
“No, well not really, it’s 1/4 mile section abandoned some time in the 70’s, probably just about wet the floor. Unless they’ve stopped up both ends, but what are the chances of that ?”
“Just how is he planning to punch through ?”
“Shaped charge, about 8 to 10 ounces of Semtex should do it.”
“Oh Semtex that’s a good ide..….SEMTEX!”
Noah emerges from the depths and is barely out of the murky water, when a fountain of geyser proportions erupts behind him. What follows is the one of the strangest sounds I’ve ever heard, as gallons after gallon of water drains out of a grapefruit size hole in the armoury floor.
It will be months before the lower levels are back up in action. The clean up has only just begun. Noah got a commendation from the Chief for his prompt action, and a case of scotch from the rest of us. It turns out that the answer to the question ‘who’d be stupid enough to stop up the ends of a useless tunnel?’, is the tax man. Unbeknownst to….anyone…the office of the inland revenue decided to keep their main computer server in a secret secure abandoned tunnel. Apparently the tunnel offered optimum cooling for all their electronic equipment.
We have been informed that we’ll unfortunately have to submit estimates for personal expenditure for the last five years….records were lost in a flood.
I don’t know what would be more embarrassing, admitting it was our fault, or that we knew nothing about their secret server……oh well.