mother started the Pirate Broadcasts?” Cora was gobsmacked. “And
my father didn’t know?”
mom wasn’t Aquan, but…” Tai sighed, lowering his eyes. “She
was the one person who both sides respected. Don, your father… They
both knew there was no path that was going to lead to compromise and
cooperation. Your mom… She was the one person they both listened
to.” He let out a breath. “Everyone liked her, Cora. And when my
mom died, she… Meyrna taught me everything about everything. You’ve
seen where Nix lives in Grey Sector? If it wasn’t for your mom, I’d
be in worse shape than that.”
nodded, feeling a catch in her throat. “I remember.”
when people had problems, when Stingray was coming down too hard, or
the rationing was too tight, they would go to your mom…” Tai
rubbed his eyes. “So when your mom got something… juicy?
Something she couldn’t make official, she had to find another way
to tell people.”
was married to The Director. What couldn’t she tell him about?”
sources.” Tai told her. “My mother was one of them. My mom found
out about the Stingray who rigged picks for the Population Control
Lotteries, and took what she knew to your mother. She went to her
husband. He went to Morgan, who wanted to know who the source was,
and my mom was never heard from again.”
shut her eyes. “There it is. The one thing I couldn’t figure out
is why mom took you on as her Apprentice so young. It was…”
Tai nodded. “She swore to me it would never happen again. She made
her first broadcast a week later. She showed me how she did it, and
when she died…”
took over the business.” Cora nodded. “You listened to me pour my
heart out about how mom died at the Memorial and you didn’t tell
I had no idea Meyrna's death wasn’t an accident.” Tai swore. “Your mom had
the transmitter installed, and I won’t tell you where. One day, I
get an email from her, marked ‘Urgent’. Instructions on how to
broadcast a Pirate Broadcast to the whole ocean. It was over a day
later than I heard that her sub had gone down, and… Well, I was
twelve. I hadn’t worked it out.” He took both her hands in his.
“When you told me your mom was killed by Morgan, for investigating
his side business, it fit with what I knew. My guess is, she was
getting a hack ready.”
didn’t tell you?”
don’t think Don knew about Meyrna’s Broadcasts, which meant it
had nothing to do with our ‘little club’.”
we need an understanding.” She said firmly. “No more secrets. Not
about anything. I’ve got something I’m keeping from Don and my
father, so do you. From each other? Never again.”
ever again.” Tai agreed and they came together for a tight embrace.
Once they broke, Tai leaned back. “So, now that I’m in
on the other secret, what do you plan to do?”
don’t know.” Cora admitted. “I can’t let my father send
everyone to the surface… Not without warning them. But if I- if you
put the word out, there’ll be a full on war!”
choice do we have?” Tai countered. “People need to know about
this! All our plans involved leaving the Ark-Hive and not looking
back, and doing it before Landfall. What are we supposed to do? Leave
shivered hard and pulled in close again. “If we could just buy some
time, cool things down a bit…”
order these days. The Ark-Hive is filling up with hungry people, and
it’s not going to get any better.” Tai told her. “It’s a
powderkeg; and all in the name of Landfall. How do you plan to slow
afraid I can only think of one way.” Cora whispered. “And it’s
going to involve breaking a few rules. You with me?”
with you.” Tai promised. “But people still need to know, Shells.”
find out.” She vowed. “But you’re right about how a Cell
Network is supposed to work. Don was informed of this, so for now, I
have to assume The Chief is working a plan of his own.”
returned to work, and Cora met Nix in the DJ Locker. “How are
things at Grey Sector?”
packed in tighter than the preserved sardines.” Nix shook her head.
“We thought it was bad before, but… Six guys, fighting for a
place to sleep on the same bench, Cora.”
know.” Cora shuddered.
you, Gold Sector?” Nix sneered, and then her face crumpled. “I’m
sorry. That wasn’t fair. I shouldn’t have said that.”
shook her head. “It’s a fair charge, I just…” She bit her
lip. “Look, anytime you want to get out of there, you can. Me and
Tai are the only two people who know about the… quiet place.”
already made the same offer with his dad’s old cot.” Nix snorted.
“And if I’m honest, I’m almost ready to take him up on it. I
get why people put their names down for arranged matchings.” She
glanced back down the tunnel. “And speaking of that, I have news.”
saw a copy of a memo, sent by ULF. Praxis Outpost has announced that
they will not
obey the Recall order.”
paled. “Are you kidding me?!”
has already given Randall the order. Identify whoever’s making
trouble and Bag them. Your friends there have two days to live.”
switched on the jammers as soon as Tai came into his lab. "Did
Tai sighed. "Part of me is relieved." He looked at Don.
"Why didn't you tell me Morgan killed Meyrna?"
was family to you, Tai. I know you loved her. Almost as much as you
love her daughter. If I had told you, you would have taken it out of
somebody's hide, and I need you alive and clear. Dealing with Morgan was always part of the Exodus. It's a very patient goal. We're committed to
the plan now." Don sighed. "I'm amazed she didn't ask you
to splash the truth about her mother's death to every Screen in the
Ark-Hive, now that she knows."
"If she'd found out sooner, she might have. Cora
knows it’s way too dangerous to start a war between Morgan and her
father right now." Tai said darkly. "She trusts you to
handle it. Enough that it never even occurs to her that she could
handle it herself."
don't approve of loyalty?"
glanced at him. "You need her to stay loyal to you for reasons
far beyond keeping everything status quo. Cora could be running the
Ark-Hive inside a week if she had your kind of ambition." He
smirked. "And I'm not entirely sure that you aren't counting on
be honest here, Tai." Don countered. "If Cora ever did show
she had the 'killer instinct', she'd be Director very quickly, and
she'd lose you soon after. A Green Sector Sub Driver and the
Director's Daughter is bad enough, but if she actually ascended?"
know." Tai said softly. “If Cora becomes Director, I lose her
Days To Landfall
had spent days putting the pieces of her plan together. People had
kept trickling into the Ark-Hive. The rationing grew tighter with
every new mouth to feed, and the tension grew higher and higher.
Stingray guards at the kitchens and storage bays were doubled, which
only made it easier for thieves to steal rations from the living
not serious!” Lisa raged.
got your ration. Out of line.” The Stingray guard beside the
cafeteria line dismissed her instantly.
is not a ration. This is less than we feed the-”
was about to fight him on it, when she heard the entire line of
people catcalling and shouting her down. The line was out the door,
and probably halfway down the corridor; every one of them with hungry
eyes. There were more people in line every day, more guards behind
the counter to match.
Lisa put her head down and looked for a place to sit. There wasn’t
one. The Mess was packed out completely, wall to wall people, most of
them hunched over their trays like someone was going to attack them
for crumbs any second.
portions getting smaller with each meal. Lisa
I might be willing to do exactly that soon.
pinch in her stomach was getting harder to ignore. She was fighting
the urge to inhale the ration on her tray. She chewed each carefully
sliced portion until it was tasteless mush in her mouth, looking
around for someone in particular.
you’re looking for Tony, you won’t find him.” Alison said in
her ear, her own tray in hand.
He change shifts?” Lisa was surprised that Alison had come so close
without her noticing. “He didn’t say anything.”
not on shift. He’s… confined to Quarters.” Alison told her
gently. “He tried to steal a ration from Blue Sector. Got five
lashes, and was sent to his room without supper.”
winced hard. “He won’t heal without food.” She looked at the
laughably small bites on her tray. “In his quarters, you say?”
She picked up the few scraps that remained and hid them in her hand.
“Well, I wasn’t really hungry anyway.”
Alison said dryly as she licked her own tray clean of every smear.
Days To Landfall
Director was keeping a firm grip on things, personally marching the
corridors, keeping the Stingrays in line. He had the schedules
memorized enough to know when every sub was due to arrive, and noted
with some dismay that two submarines were leaving, when one should be
arriving, and he strode through the Observation Dome.
went over to the nearest comm line and picked up the handset.
“Control Room.” He called. “Status?”
put your latest Directive into effect, sir. Recall order has been
Director almost climbed through the handset. “WHAT?!”
Bridger swept into the Conference Room like an angry shark, and his
eyes went right to Cora. “Cora, I am-”
good, the Director is here.” Cora cut him off, not even looking at
him, and speaking quickly. “We can now start the meeting.”
Director blinked, and suddenly noticed the other people in the room.
Cora had summoned the entire Board of Directors. “What’s going
know you were in a rush, dad; but I thought it was important that we
include the rest of the Ark-Hive Leadership in this.” Cora turned
to the Board. “Gentlemen, we’ve found a new food supply. One that
can cover everyone with minimal processing.”
was proof of how tight things had been getting that the usually
implacable, unreadable leaders of the Ark-Hive burst into relieved
applause, almost weeping at the news.
the Director fought to find the words, Cora took advantage and filled
him in. “On orders from The Director, I conducted an exhaustive
search of all the records we had, concerning underwater resources.
Specifically, edible ones. I found a passing reference to some
records made by a prospector who was looking for good Outpost
Locations over a century ago. I made a note of several coordinates he
made in his log, and dispatched Dolphin Teams to explore those
had worked around the words ‘ocean solutions’, and everyone knew
it, but she was hoping they were hungry enough not to care.
did they find?” Don asked, and only Cora detected the note of
warning in his voice.
Kelp.” Cora declared. “In seven different locations. Acres of the
in the world is Dwarf Kelp?” Amos asked.
a gene-spliced version of regular sea kelp that we experimented with
back when the Ark-Hive was newly established.” Don reported. “We
were planting everything we could think of in every place we could
find back then.” He looked to Cora. “I was under the impression
that they didn’t survive for long.”
apparently some of it did.” Cora reported. “And what’s more,
because it’s a hacked species, it doesn’t take nearly as much
processing to make edible. I’ve checked the maps, it’ll be faster
to have everyone collect their own food supply out at the Outposts
than to keep them all here. The relevant stats have been sent to each
of you.” There was a pause as everyone checked their TABBs, looking
for the information on quantity, harvest yields... Cora let them look
and gestured to her father. “Apologies for not informing you
sooner, but with the situation so dire, we thought it best to send
people home as quickly as possible.”
Director plastered a smile on his face. “Well, it was a good dress
rehearsal for the future. This sudden bounty means we’re back on
schedule again. The temporary recall order, thankfully unnecessary
now, has given us plenty of information on how to organize and
execute the Landfall operation.” He looked to his daughter. “But
you shouldn’t be so modest, dear. Cora has worked tirelessly in two
different jobs during this whole affair, scouring every record; and
managing the dreaded Resource Freeze at the same time. She’s no
doubt had to turn away more requests for help than she could accept;
and I want everyone in this room to know that it’s only thanks to
her hard work that we’ve rescued thousands of people from
received a standing ovation from the entire Board. She couldn’t
help but glance at Don, who’s eyes were blazing at her, no matter
how hard he clapped. She looked back at her father, who was watching
Stingray Commander was the only one not clapping.
didn’t have to give me the credit.” Cora said later, when she and
her father were alone. “I know I pulled a fast one on you with
not pleased, but you needed the credit.” Her father told her. “I
need political capital with those people for one thing only; and
that’s to make sure your transition to power is a done deal.” He
glared. “I would have appreciated a heads up that my orders had
every hour that passed-”
know.” The Director sighed. “Listen, if you’re any judge of
character you’ll know that Morgan didn’t buy your story about
finding edible plants in the old records. He’s going to have his
eye on you now. Morgan is a well trained shark. He’ll bite who you
tell him to, but if you don’t keep him on a tight leash, he’ll
turn on you.”
knew she shouldn’t ask, but she couldn’t help herself. “And
you, dad? Did you believe me?”
over the files? Please.” The Director scoffed. “I know you, Cora.
You have more sub time than any two other pilots your age. I’m sure
you ran across all sorts of things out there in your travels. That,
plus your unnaturally close bond with the Dolphins, and I’m sure
you have a better grasp of the Dark Water than our Sonar posts ever
wasn’t sure if the answer should make her feel safer or more
least he isn’t suspicious…Which
is almost worse.
waited as long as she could, and went down to see Don. She had
blatantly disobeyed him for the first time in her life, and gotten a
standing ovation for it, from the people that were the greatest risk.
saw her coming and smiled, rubbing his belly discreetly. Cora winced.
He already knew. Word was getting out. She was waved into Don’s
Lab, and shut the door behind her. “Don?”
was facing his terminal, and came to attention at the sound of her
voice, not turning to look at her. Cora glanced at the control on his
panel that would mute the microphones. He always pushed the button as
soon as she came in; even if it was just for chit-chat.
time, Don didn’t even look at the button. “Miss Bridger. What can
I do for you today?”
Cora let out a breath. “Always on duty.” She said casually,
mindful of the omnipresent ears of Stringray. “Um… I was hoping
we could figure out how cancelling the Recall Order changes things
for the schedule.”
I have good news for The Director. Much of the space I was going to
need for culturing the surface ecosystems was being taken over for
Outpost Refugees. I can get back on schedule inside two weeks now.”
He finally looked at her. “You’ve won a huge victory in the march
for Landfall, Miss Bridger.”
translated in her head: You helped them, and you know their ultimate
goal is to wipe us out.
felt her heart crack a little. “Well, it’s made things better for
all concerned. Beyond that, what do I know?” She tried to make it
sound like she was waving off the compliment.
had to. People were getting sick, and I didn’t know what you were
I’ll let the Director know what kind of ecosystem we can conjure
from nothing once we get back to the Surface, but it will depend
largely on what we find when we get up there.” Don said. “Our
surface probes say that plant and insect life has returned, but
animal life is still debatable.” He turned back to his console.
“Fortunately, the bacterial and amino acid samples have given us
enough to adapt the crops we have in the Repositories. Animals will
have to come next, but we’ll get there.” He didn’t look back at
her. “I hate to say it, but with the Recall filling up every spare
room, there was less that I could do. It was almost a vacation on my
was able to prepare for the Exodus until you put Landfall back on
know, the only reason we got this far was because of you and the ones
before you.” Cora said kindly. “I read somewhere that the
majority of the atmosphere comes from plant life that lives in the
ocean. Centuries of work restoring the oceans was the only way to
restore the surface too. I get that we all wrestle over every last
scrap down here, but I promise, I’ll never let them forget the work
you guys do.”
We can both declare victory here.
of you to say, but that’s the sort of thing history decides,
Ma’am.” Don said coolly. “Anyway, quit fussing over an old man.
Get out there, sign some autographs, shake some hands. I would have
thought you have many people eager for your attentions right now.”
the only winner today, traitor.
Days To Landfall
had leaked out quickly, and Cora was a hero again. The rumors that
she was being groomed for leadership grew, as well as the realization
that they weren’t just rumors. Cora did her best not to get
sidetracked. Most of the Board of Directors had resented her at
first, but quickly read the situation and began being very friendly
to The Director’s Daughter. The math had changed, and those that
had their own plans for leadership were quickly realizing that they
didn’t have a chance.
had avoided Cora and retreated to his lab. He had to prepare surface
species in time for Exodus without risking anyone that went to the
surface. The Land Colonies would likely be living off their
greenhouse crops for a few months at least, until they had a better
idea of what was up there.
Recall was over, at least for a time. Most people were grateful to
leave, suddenly aware of what Landfall would be like, if only for a
little while. There was a feeling of having dodged disaster only
barely, and only because of Cora Bridger.
not everyone was so willing to declare victory and move on so
when do we tell people?” Tai asked immediately as Cora came into
their hiding place.
did it go with Don?” Cora blew past that.
nearly had to hit him with one of those Stingray Shock-Sticks, but I
got him calmed down.” Tai promised. “When are we going to tell
people the truth about Landfall?”
we just got a whole lot more breathing room, relax.”
a stop-gap measure, and you know it. The Director has taken all this
scheming and maneuvering and decided that it makes no difference to
his schedule, so we have to tell people what their options really
He flat out demanded.
jumped at his vehemence, and then suddenly put it together. It was
less than a week since he’d admitted that his mother had been
killed in a similar circumstance: A few people near the top knew a
terrible secret, and other people were going to die as a result. Tai
had taken it upon himself to shine a spotlight on the dirty secrets,
and now he was holding back, because of her, just as his mom had done
for Meyrna Bridger.
isn’t history repeating.” She promised him softly. “But I have
to buy some time. Morgan is already looking my way after last week.
Maybe five people on the Ark-Hive have access to this information,
and you aren’t one of them.”
establish an alibi.” Tai told her. “I can do something to the
data that gives a specific time or place, and then you just have to
be elsewhere, and have everyone know it.”
will, but not just yet.” He wasn’t happy, and she made sure he
was listening. “There will be plenty of time for people to make a
decision, love. I don’t want anyone
die.” She moved on. “Now, how bad was it with Don, really?”
hot enough to boil seawater.” Tai sighed. “How did you think he’d
be? He gave you an order to do the exact opposite of what you did.”
couldn’t let it go the way it was.”
wondered what other orders of his you’d overruled.”
easy. None of them.” Cora snapped. “I’ve always known that I
wasn’t in the loop on everything, and sometimes I just had to trust
Don’s judgement. And that’s fine… But I had a conversation with
Don during the shortages… I didn’t like what he was implying,
you really think Don would let all those people suffer?”
think he’s as determined to see ‘the enemy’ as my father is. I
think he’s looking out for his own team to the exclusion of
is a reason for that.” Tai reminded her. “If we thought anyone
would be okay with the idea that we were Aquans, we wouldn’t worry
so much about anyone finding out.”
know, but that doesn’t make them ‘The Enemy’ and it doesn’t
mean we want them to starve.” Cora told him.
at it this way: If Don had planned to tell people where to find food
after we left, then it meant there would be nobody to chase us.”
Tai said. “Keeping them healthy now means we’ve just lost our
headstart for the Exodus.”
that Don’s plan?” Cora dared. “Because I don’t know, do you?”
I don’t; and what’s done is done; so I don’t care. We’ve got
bigger fish to fry.” He pressed on. “What about the Landfall
Trap? Don knows just as much as your father does, and he hasn’t
made a peep about telling anyone. So when do we do it?”
not entirely sure that Don is even against the idea of everyone who
isn’t on the team being left up there to…” Cora couldn’t
finish the sentence. “This is Don. We know him. We love him. We
trust him… mostly. The things I don’t trust I can make allowances
for, and I just overruled him once. I have to believe that Don will
do the right thing.”
scowled. “Is that why you’re hesitating? Because you want to
believe that Don will announce it himself? Or for that matter, than
your father will?”
bit her lip. “I have faith, Tai. I know you don’t, but I have to.
At least, for a while yet. This isn’t what happened with your mom.
I promise, we’ll break the news in time.” She rested a hand over
his heart. “And while I’m on the subject, I want you to know that
I still trust you implicitly. More than anyone else. Because you
could have told the world what I told you about my mom, and you
didn’t. You could have told everyone about the Kelp Farms, and you
didn’t. I do
trust you with my secrets.”
isn’t like any other secret I’ve outed before, Shells.” Tai
can’t just tell everyone.” Cora insisted. “What happens when
word gets out? It’s a hull breach waiting to happen.” She was
about to say more when there was a tap at the end of the section.
“That’ll be Nix. I asked her to cozy up to Ben for me.”
more secrets.” Tai said. It was a plea.
more secrets.” Cora promised, and called Nix in.
observed them both, read the room quickly. “Are we all still
worry, kid. Mom and dad are fine.” Tai teased, trying to lighten
the mood. “What’s up on your end?”
asked me to investigate where Don was in the leadup to the Cousteau
Sinking.” Nix reported. “I’ve been talking with Ben, and it
looks like he has an alibi. The Cousteau
was only in dock for four hours, from the time it finished its cargo
run, to the time it left with me and the rest of the class. Those
four hours, Don was in session with Amos. They were discussing
overlap between their departments for Landfall.”
and Tai traded a look. “That’s bad.” Tai said. “Don hates
private conferences with Amos. The two of them can’t be in the same
room without someone having to pull the fire alarm. Don usually sends
someone to fill in for him.”
usually sends Corwin.” Cora thought aloud. “He’s been the old
man’s second for as long as I’ve been alive. He runs most of the
department’s day-to-day when Don is busy Synthing and Inventing and
doing whatever geniuses do.”
where was Corwin during this time?” Tai finished.
both looked to Nix, who sighed and shrank into herself a bit. “Fine.
I’ll go be nice to Ben again.” She walked out. “Just remember,
you owe me.”
left them, and Cora turned to Tai with a sigh. “I hate it when we
do I. But this is one of the few times we’ve fought while we
actually agree with each other.”
a moment when they wouldn’t be observed and an auxiliary docking
port was relatively easy. They’d done it a thousand times when
taking prisoners out. Using the same entrance to have a quiet word
with a pilot wasn’t unusual either, or so Morgan hoped.
his prized Black Bag Man stepped out of his Manta, and saluted.
Morgan nodded to him, the only one there. “I’d offer you
something to eat, but as it happens, our own larder is bare at the
moment. But that will change.”
I heard.” Randall nodded. “Word got out just as I was reaching
Praxis Outpost. They were back to work before I even docked.”
was not smiling. “And why? Because, at the last minute, like a
miracle, the Director’s Daughter managed to find enough food to go
around.” He gave Randall a significant look. “Just... found it,
in the records. Hundreds of years, and she found some obscure file
that nobody had heard of? Cora Bridger manages to find a perfect
solution to an impossible problem.”
notably said nothing to that.
pulled him to his feet. “None of our people see anything wrong with
this. They are not concerned with where the solution came from,
they’re only glad that it came. So it is with most of the Ark-Hive,
in fact. What do you think?” He saw Randall’s look. “And speak
plainly; it’s just us here.”
hesitated a moment longer. “I think that coincidence seems to
follow The Director’s Daughter around, sir.”
agree.” Morgan nodded.
that much permission, Randall dove in. “What I can’t see, is what
the angle is. Was she making a play for something? Did she want the
credit? Was it a bargaining chip in some deal we don’t know about?
Did someone else set it up?”
glanced around. “Use your discretion with this information.” He
said quietly. “The Director has Weir’s Syndrome. He’s keeping
it a secret, obviously. But he won’t reach the surface.”
froze. “Cora’s making a grab for his job?”
do not think so.” Morgan said quietly. “I’m quite convinced
that the food riots and shortages were not engineered. And unless
she’s a far better actor than I thought, Cora Bridger finds the
idea of becoming Director a fate worse than death.”
why?” Randall asked.
what I need you to find out.” Morgan directed his man. “There’s
something about Cora Bridger that doesn’t add up. Find out what it
is. Start with the transmissions from her Dark Water Expeditions.”
last two or three Pirate Hacks have involved information that she was
privy to. Others were too, but it’s not a long list.”
I’m sure that’s true, but it’s not like anyone can keep a
secret in the Ark-Hive.”
Days To Landfall
Screen lit up with the same image. A rotating water droplet curved on
a black background, which rotated into a perfect sphere. The sphere
changed shape to show an undersea map of the earth, with the
landmasses drawn in black.
Members of the Ark-Hive, and all her Outposts." A heavily
modulated voice reported. “You have been deceived.”
of the Landfall broadcast scrolled by, giving quick fleeting shots of
the show The Director had shown everyone when he announced Landfall
less than two months left until Landfall, not one statement has been
made to warn you of the truth. Weir Syndrome is a malady that affects
roughly fifteen percent of the population. All of them are put into
immediate forced retirement, their names added to the Lottery. It is
series of quick shots, showing medical files, flashes of sickly
people in Medbay...
the Board of Directors doesn’t want you to know, is that the cause
of Weir’s Syndrome is environmental, and not limited to pilots who
work Dark Water Routes. What you have not been told is that The
Ark-Hive Director and the Life Sciences Director have determined that
Weir Syndrome is carried by almost everyone over the age of
twentyfive. It hasn’t been noticed, as all Habitats are limited to
within two hundred vertical meters of the Euphotic Zone.”
series of images flashed by, of submarines, cell doors…
report has been classified, with all copies destroyed, save the one
in The Director’s Office. They know, and they have chosen not to
tell you: Anyone over the age of twentyfive that returns to the
surface will suffer from Weir’s Syndrome. A disease that is always
fatal within eight to ten years of symptoms appearing.