was no room for discretion any more. The Colonies had been shut down,
their inhabitants recalled. Every billet had doubled up, and tripled
up in some cases. Cots and sleeping bags were being lined up along
corridors all over the Ark-Hive, below Gold Sector. The Museum long
packed away, the Observation Dome was always full of people, just
waiting for things to happen.
the lower levels, the equipment that had been running for hundreds of
years was silent, some of it being crated up for shipment to the
surface, some of it just left in low-power mode to spare the workers.
had been made, then checked, then redone, then rechecked. Drills ran
in preparation for the real thing. The stacked Domes of the Ark-Hive
itself would be released from moorings that had held firm for
hundreds of years. Work was being done on them constantly, making
sure they would work as needed.
patrolled every level. Not just to keep control, but to maintain
order. The population of the Ark-Hive had jumped by thousands over
the previous few weeks. Every spare inch was full of storage
containers, full of people. They were getting packed in too tight,
getting on each other’s nerves. Fights were breaking out as the
knew what was coming, what was expected. Though nobody would admit
it, everyone knew someone who didn’t want to go back to the
surface, either out of Philosophy, or simple fear of the unknown.
Everyone knew that someone would try to prevent Landfall at some
point, and time was running out.
was going to happen, it would be soon, and it would decide the fate
of the human race.
when it started, it still took people by surprise.
the Ark-Hive, all roads led to the ocean. Cora was an Aquan, and
knew all the ways to the ocean that a human could fit through. The
fish had the run of every ocean conduit, and so did the dolphins.
a place where they could get to the Water Conduits was fairly simple.
Finding a place where they could do so unobserved was much harder.
you have any idea how hard it was to get my wetsuit without anyone
asking me where I was taking it?” Nix complained as she came into
couldn’t have been any harder than getting a room without people in
it for ten minutes.” Cora shot back. “As it is, we’re going to
have to pump up the atmo in this room another few points just to keep
the ocean from
sighed and started changing. Cora knelt down to the floor with her
multitool and started pulling up the floor panels. “By the way,
what cover story did you use?” Nix asked as she started fitting her
told Maintenence that there was a leak in the floor, through one of
the Conduit Pipes.” Cora pushed the floor plating aside and started
unscrewing a panel in the pipe below. “Was I lying?” She quipped
as the seals opened and seawater came bubbling up. “Keep an eye on
the air pressure in here.” She directed Nix. “Too high and we’re
going to get caught.”
Also our heads will implode.” Nix grated as she fit the facemask
shut. “Sealed.” She called to Cora.
heaved the panel up properly, and the ocean came in faster, rushing
out through the open section of pipe, but only ankle high. And then
the gap in the pipe revealed they were not alone. Delphi chattered
out greetings as he stuck his head up. “New room!” He squeaked.
right.” Cora started translating her words through her TABB.
“Remember when we practised stealth swims? For observing other subs
and other fish without getting noticed?”
and swim! Delphi fast and quiet!”
right.” Cora agreed. “I need you to take Nix to the Memorial Sub.
It’s too far to swim freehand, at least if you don’t want to get
caught, so you’ve got to tow her there fast, and bring her back
swim fast! Nobody see!”
boy.” Cora smiled at her friend, and then looked to Nix. “You
know what to do?”
the Terminal on the Memorial Ship, plug in the Burner TABB, get out
of there fast.” Nix recited the plan.
you get back to the Ark-Hive, join one of the crews out there
already. There’s dozens of people looking over the Release Clamps
for Landfall. If those clamps don’t open, Landfall doesn’t
happen. The crews are being watched, but the thing about keeping your
eye on something in front of you?”
looking over their shoulder.” Nix nodded. “As long as nobody sees
us on our way to the Memorial Ship, and my transponder stays off, I should get away with it.”
might know the transmitter is somewhere on the Memorial Ship.” Cora
told her. “With Tai caught, he may not be watching anymore, but
just in case, keep your mask on and the plate polarized, so nobody
can see your face. Like when you’re using the cutting torches.”
my face might protect me, Cora; but if he’s watching the Memorial
Ship from the inside, he’ll know exactly where the transmitter is,
or at least the controls. Tai was able to do it by remote. We don’t
have that option.”
know.” Cora nodded. “With any luck, it won’t matter. This is
the Pirate Station’s last Broadcast.” She helped Nix down into
the pipe, and gave Delphi the signal. There was barely enough room
for a human. Nix was still small enough to fit. “I have to make
sure I’m seen when that transmission hits. Good hunting.”
silent, run deep.” Nix waved, and Delphi pulled her away.
forced the panel back into place, even against the water, and secured
it again. She couldn’t get the seals all the way shut with the room
ankle deep in water, but she didn’t really have to. “Maintenance!”
She barked into her TABB. “That leak is getting worse! You want to
get someone up here before it overflows the corridor too?”
is a bad idea.” Alison told Don as soon as he came into the room.
“Two meetings in a month? Has that ever happened before?”
got right to the point. “It’s taken me a week, but I’ve managed
to get a few of the larger transport submarines in the same Dry-Dock
all at the same time. With the Colonies shut down, there was just
enough transports left over.”
respect, Don; but that sub sailed once the Colony was discovered. Our
standing orders, upon discovery, are to scatter, vanish and wait for
new orders. Our people are already doing that.”
know.” Don said shortly. “But with the Manta Ships all out
getting ready to strike the Colony, it’s the first time in three
weeks, and the last time before Landfall that the waters around the
Ark-Hive are undefended.”
felt her eyes bug out. “It’s today! The Exodus is today!”
Waters Run Deep!” The Pirate Station declared on every screen.
of the Ark-Hive, you have been Deceived.” The modulated voice
narrated the images of medical bays, sickbay beds, flashing by so
fast it was hard to register what they were.
almost a month, the Ark-Hive has been simmering; trying to decide if
the news about Weir Syndrome is true. It is.” The voice told them
flatly. “But what you didn’t know was that there is a Cure for
of Don’s face flashed past the screen. Candid shots, official
pictures, surveillance images…
Sciences Director Don has had the Cure for two years, and has kept it
a secret, even from the Ark-Hive leadership. Because whoever has the
Cure, has the power over Life and Death for everyone over the age of
Director Bridger, and Department Head Donaldson are willing to
sacrifice more than two thirds of the population for their goals.”
final image lingered until the screen faded to black. A picture of
the Director, and of Don, standing side by side on the podium, during
one of the Graduation ceremonies, surrounded by people.
that true?” Alison asked softly. “Don? Is that true?”
seconds, Don’s TABB was buzzing.
scowled at the screen. “Okay, change of plans.” He said shortly.
“In two hours, there will be a massive disruption to the command
structure of the Ark-Hive. I would have prefered to take our time
with this, but The Director forced our hand the second he started
organizing a raid. Two hours. Be ready to escape.”
no way we can get everyone organized in that kind of time.” Alison
shook her head. “We’re a Cell network. I don’t know who half
the Aquan Groups are. By the time I tell the people I know, and they
tell the people they know, and so on…”
in two hours there’ll be no such thing as ‘organized’.” Don
said grimly. “Have all your cell contacts get ready to take control
of those submarines, and take them out to the Macallan Trench. On
arrival, their orders are to dump their cargo into the trench, and
collect the people in our Colony for evac.”
looked awkward. “Don… Cora Bridger sent out a manifest to all Sub
Crews, and Commanders this morning. It included a list of
equipment that couldn’t be scrapped, no matter what.”
she?” Don said grimly.
did. And, if memory serves, that manifest included the subs currently
in dock, and what was on them. Cora’s one of us, and Resource
Management is her call. And from what I understand, scrapping that
cargo would effectively cripple the Ark-Hive’s ability to
manufacture sub parts and equipment for a few years. Dumping it all
in the Macallan would likely put lives in danger, once the stores ran
we’re not killing people. We’re keeping them busy until we can
make our escape. The Aquan leadership, plus what we’ve managed to
build, all of it has to be protected.”
this about protecting our people, or dealing a blow to the Stingray,
and the Director?”
the same thing, today.”
was stunned. “You think Cora turned! You think Cora is going to
give up your name to the Director, and you want us out of here before
that happens. They’ll send everything they’ve got after us.”
that to me.” Don was already moving. “Two hours! You have your
don’t think this is going to force Don’s hand?” Nix asked.
“You’ve backed him into a corner now. He’ll tell your father
he will.” Cora nodded, as though that too was part of the plan.
if we never get to send another Pirate Broadcast, why not the one
about Morgan and your mom?” Nix pressed. “Morgan would be
know.” Cora wasn’t concerned. “Nix, I have to do it this way. I
have to give them both one last chance.”
be the men I hoped they’d be.” Cora said quietly. “I’m going
to offer them both what they want on a plate, but the price will be
that they make peace.”
if they won’t make peace?”
there’s only one option left.” Cora sighed. “First Contestant:
Don. What will he do first?” Cora took a deep breath. “When my
father found out about Weir Syndrome, he tore every plan to shreds
and dedicated everything to getting me on the surface before it was
too late. When a Colony sounds the evacuation order, it’s always
‘women and children first’. Sudden Death means you only have time
for one move, and I’m still holding out hope that Don has something
still more important to him than saving his own gills.”
other Aquans?” Nix guessed.
has to know that he can’t possibly succeed in an Exodus now.”
Cora explained. “With the Colony discovered, there’s no way a
fleet of submarines can make an escape. Stingray are surrounding the
Trench with their Mantas. Enough firepower to destroy any transport
convoy.” She took a breath. “That’s why he put Randall in the
and told Tai I was coming out there. So that Randall would discover
them and report back. The Exodus happens while all the Stingray are
taking their attack subs out to hit the Trench.”
blinked. “But if Tai was telling the truth and there are over a
hundred people out there…”
fish, compared to the Exodus, to say nothing of the people he would
have let die without that Cure.” Cora returned grimly. “Now that
we’ve just put Don’s head on the chopping block, our next move is
to make sure he can’t escape; with or without the rest of us.”
was almost afraid to ask. “And then?”
Contestant Number Two gets a turn.”
Director sat at the head of the table as the Board of Directors were
assembled. Morgan wasn’t in his usual chair, standing by the door
instead. Don was the last to arrive, a satchel under his arm.
it true?!” Almost half the room roared the question the instant Don
Life Sciences Director reeled back at the sudden wrath, steeled
himself, and came in. “Since when do any of you people take the
Pirate Station at face value? Aren’t you the ones calling it
dishonest rebel propoganda?”
tapdance, Don; IS IT TRUE!?” The Director roared.
met their angry gazes head on and stepped up to his usual seat and
set the satchel down. “Gentlemen, the claims made by the Pirate
Station are blatantly false. I have here, written proof that the cure
was never successful. I also have…” Don checked. “I also have
samples, which were apparently left in the lab. Give me ten minutes
to get them, and I can not only refute these claims, but I believe
I’ll be able to narrow down the exact identity of the Pirate
Station…” He sent a glance to Morgan. “...since it seems you’ve
arrested the wrong person, twice now.”
Director also sent Morgan a look. Both ‘wrong people’ were very
close to his family.
you’ll pass this around, I’ll go and get the physical evidence.”
Don said, holding out a folder full of actual woven papers. “I have
samples of every attempt made to cure Weir Syndrome. That file can
explain why they don’t work, and once I bring them back, you can
even compare the originals to be certain the data wasn’t doctored.”
Don headed for the door, and found Morgan getting in his way.
“Commander, I’m not trying anything. There has been a charge made
against me, and I have the means to refute it, if I can just get it
from my laboratory. I’ll be right back. If I was going to run,
would I have come to this meeting at all?”
sure, but if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go with you.” The
Director said tightly.
if he goes with you, so do I.” Morgan put in.
set his satchel down, beneath the desk, handing the files over to the
nearest colleague, who passed the pages around. “As you wish,
though I don’t know where you expect me to go. The Colonies are all
shut down, the subs all docked and locked. I can hide, but I can’t
they rode the elevators to Blue Level, Morgan’s TABB signalled a
message. Without even giving the caller a chance to speak, Morgan
switched the device off, not taking his eyes off Don.
made it halfway to Don’s Laboratory, when The Director’s TABB
chimed next. “Dad, please report to the Docking Bay immediately.”
Cora called. “And if Morgan is with you, tell him to answer me when
I call. I need him too.”
in the middle of a meeting, Cora.” The Director told his daughter
time, this is urgent.” Cora told him, just as hard. “I need both
of you down here, right now. The Boardroom isn’t going anywhere.
I’m not so sure about what I’m looking at.”
and The Director traded a glance. Such a statement was out of
character for Cora. Something had shaken her up. They both sent Don
their most forbidding look.
held up both hands. In one hand was a flat plastic box full of
microscope slides. “Seriously, gents. Where do you think I’m
going to go?”
two most powerful men in the Ark-Hive came into the Docking Bay. The
Bay was as busy as it always was, and the Bays were all full. It was
the first time in years that the Docking Bay had every berth full.
The huge transports were locked in, filled with the equipment needed
for the surface, waiting to run out the clock.
Docking Bay doors were shut. Something that Morgan noticed
immediately, even as Cora came hurrying over to meet them.
are those doors shut?” Morgan called. “There are still Manta's
to launch, and we’re on a tight schedule! That Rebel Colony will be
ordered them shut.” Cora told them. “I didn’t want to risk it,
and when I tell you why-”
you have every right to be pissed at us, but now is not the time.”
Morgan said with admirable restraint, at least for him. “We’re in
the middle of three urgent situations and-”
isn’t about Tai.” She told them both. “When I saw the Pirate
Hack, I admit, I wondered if it meant you’d arrested the wrong man,
but then I realized something.”
The Pirate Hack is true, it means Don was never on our side. You guys
are wondering about the Cure for Weir Syndrome. I started wondering
what else he might have lied about… Dad, there was something I
didn’t put in my report about the Cousteau.”
The Director was surprised she mentioned it. “The Cousteau?
That was pilot error.”
was the ruling, so I didn’t bother to fight it, but… I saw Don
talking to Wayde before he took that School Trip out. At the time, I
didn’t think of it, but after this morning, I started to wonder if
maybe it was more than just Wayde that made her sink.”
think Don sabotaged it?”
idea. The evidence is all hacked up for parts.” Cora blew right
past that. “But then I saw all these subs getting ready to make an
attack on an Aquan Colony, and I got suspicious.” Cora explained.
“Some of the Mantas hadn’t launched yet, so I came down here
then you called us.” Her father finished. “What did you find?”
Cora told them. “Every Stingray ship still in Dock is rigged.”
Morgan was stunned. “How?”
pressure sensitive circuit in the regulators. Once these subs hit a
certain depth, they would have flooded.”
Trench. No doubt about it, dad. The strike force was being sent on a
suicide run. The Manta's are gathering half a kilometre from the Trench. The minute they got into strike range, they would have gone down,
all of them.”
did you know?”
started thinking, after Randall died. He told me that Don was there
when it was decided to send me along. I wondered why Don would
involve himself in that, and then the Pirate Hack outed the Cure, and
I realized that Don would have something to gain… if he’d kept
the cure a secret.”
is in a closed door meeting with the Board of Directors, right now,
answering those charges. He swears they’re untrue.”
spun, with a look of horror on her face. “And Don’s with them
Board of Directors were waiting impatiently. They had all passed out
copies of the files Don had given them, but Don was the head of Life
Sciences. They only understood about a third of what they were
reading. And neither Don, nor The Director, or even Morgan had
broke first, rising to his feet. “It occurs to me, gentlemen, that
perhaps we need someone who can read this jargon, without being on
Don’s list of trusted employees. I’m going to find Cora Bridger.
She could at least help us see if Don’s lying.”
was a general sense of agreement, and Amos went to the door.
moment later, Amos became aware of a faint hissing sound, and an odd
smell in the room. He noticed others hearing it too. Hissing sounds
were usually aerosols, or air-seals leaking. In an underwater
community, that was the sort of thing that everyone had to take
went to the portholes, listening. “It’s not the externals…”
He said. “It’s coming from inside the room.”
went looking for a moment, and found the sound coming from under the
was Don’s bag. Amos ripped it open, and found a large aerosol
container inside. It was open, hissing out something that was making
tried to smother the container, seal it back up, while others tried
to call for help, or run for the door… But the door wouldn’t
open, and the tank wouldn’t seal. Others had given up trying to get
the door open, and were beating at it weakly, trying to get someone
was coughing harder now, vision starting to blur, everyone clutching
at their throats...
had the first group of Aquans ready, and they went to the Moon Pool
in the Life Sciences Department. Most of the people on shift were
already part of the Aquans, or they wouldn’t have gotten away with
it, but it was the largest tunnel that led to the ocean by the most
the plan.” She told them hurriedly. “Don will get the Docking
Clamps released on the large transport subs. You board them, and take
them to the rendezvous point. The Dolphins will collect everyone that
we can’t sneak out today. Reports say that Cora’s done her part
and called off the Manta’s patrolling the waters, so we have a
Moon Pool exploded upward, as Nix and Delphi both broke up through
the surface quickly. The twenty or so Aquans preparing to dive all
jumped back in shock.
pulled up her facemask. “Abort!” She told them all quickly.
“Don’s plan won’t work, they’re already onto him. Cora says
to Abort, and make sure your alibi’s hold up. The Exodus is off!”
Alison was stunned, trying to regroup. “But Don… I mean, less
than two hours ago, he said-”
has bigger problems right now.” Nix told them.
with that, the entire group started calling questions, looking over
their shoulder, wondering if they should make a break for it,
wondering if they should believe Nix...
Nix let out a loud whistle to get their attention. “Guys, I know
that I’ve just derailed a lot of work, but believe me when I tell
you that things have changed. I can’t stay to explain everything,
because I have to stop eight more groups from making their own dives.
Trust me, going outside is a death sentence right now. Cora says to
be calm, because this time tomorrow… either Landfall will be
cancelled, or Cora will be The Director.”
is everyone?” Don hissed to himself, running the pre-launch checks
again. “There should be a hundred more people in this submarine right
now…” He craned his neck, trying to see out the front windows,
looking for any of his people. Aquans knew how to stay unnoticed in
plain sight, but even if Stingray had caught onto the plan quick
enough to stop some of them, at least a few should have made it on
checked the time again and decided he couldn’t risk it. He tapped
his authorization code into the Ship’s Computer and ordered the
Docking Bay doors to open.
Don entered the codes again, making sure he’d gotten the twenty
digit password exactly right. The doors remained sealed. An instant
later, he felt the ship’s balance grow solid as the docking clamps
slapped shut around the Heavy Transport.
it, Don contacted the Control Room. “Open the doors.” Don
directed them, forcing his voice to be calm. “Release all moorings,
sorry sir, I can’t.” The answer came. “The Docking Computer has
locked me out.”
sent my override codes to the Docking Computer, why are the doors
still shut? This should be automatic!”
we’re trying to get two more Board Members to input their codes
also, but we can’t raise any of them. It takes three of that rank
to override the Lockdown.”
felt a cold sweat gather on his brow. “What Lockdown?”
order came in a few minutes ago, using Director Bridger’s Personal
switched off the radio before he could articulate his first response
to that. Straining his eyes, he could make out people coming closer,
some in the water, some along the gantries.
were Stingray, coming straight at him.
came slowly into the Conference Room. The bodies were all left
untouched while the Stingray took careful pictures, collected samples
of the poison. The Director himself was in the room, looking at
everything with empty eyes.
came over quietly, aware of how numb and silent the room was. “We
won’t be able to keep it a secret, obviously.” He said quietly.
“But Cora was right about Don’s next move. We found him trying to
override the Docking Bay doors. He’d chosen one of the Heavy
Transport Subs. If he’d managed to get away with that, you could
kiss Landfall goodbye, all the equipment he would have taken with
Director said nothing for so long that Morgan wondered if he was even
aware of the room. “But you caught him.”
Cora was able to block his override with your own codes.” Morgan
explained grimly. “Something we’ll have to sort out later. She
was still in the Docking Bay, and…” He shook his head. “I had
my people turning his lab inside out for clues, Cora spotted him
making a run for it before any of us.”
Don was the leader of the Aquan faction the whole time. I can't
believe it." The Director murmured, voice hollow. “Tell your
people to be careful in his laboratory. He had a trap waiting for us
here; there could be more. Do we know what he used?”
we’d usually get someone from Life Sciences to run the autopsy, but
I don’t know which of them we can trust right now.” Morgan
commented. “But I think the aerosol was an improvisation. From the
smell in the room I would say it was probably fire retardant. Not a
difficult thing to get if you happen to have a passkey that will get
you into storage. It’s the same stuff we use to smother fires.
Heavy CO2 particles, coated in-”
get it.” The Director sighed. “These people were… well, not
exactly friends, but I appointed most of them, Morgan. These were the
people who worked closest with me… and with Don. He flat out
Morgan nodded. “The Docking Bays all remain on Lockdown. I’ve
ordered my Manta-Class ships to return to the Ark-Hive for patrol.”
Colony in the Macallan?”
scattered to the entire ocean by now.” Morgan conceded. “But it
looks like Cora was right about Don’s plan to rig the Stingray attack craft to sink
once they reached the Trench. The Colony may even be a feint.”
I don’t buy that.” The Director shook his head. “That last
Pirate Hack came from somewhere, and we know there are people in the
Trench. Your own scout subs saw one of them.” The Director rubbed
his eyes. “It’s happening again, Morgan. Another war for control
of the Ark-Hive. Four weeks from Landfall, and a huge open world for
everyone, and we’re at war.”
war we would have lost already, if not for Cora.” Morgan sighed.
“How did she do it?”
figured it out before we did.” The Director said with pride. “My
girl was able to stop him from escaping. His codes would have
overridden every piece of equipment in the Docking Bay. We could have
lost half our ships, tonnes of supplies, heavy equipment… To say
nothing of Don himself.”
know she stopped his override codes by using yours.” Morgan pointed
out. “She’s not supposed to have those codes at all.”
I think we can safely say which side my daughter is on by now.” Her
glanced at his Commander. “Don’s allies? He had to have
confederates. Everything he was planning to steal, he would have
needed people to use it, plenty of pilots to steal the other
have a few suspects, but… looks like they scattered too. We have
one or two pilots that were also trying to get out on other ships,
but...” Morgan shook his head. “This was long planned, Director.
We’ve been catching bits and pieces of it for months, but we never
knew just how… orchestrated it was. The Docking Bay staff, my Manta
pilots outside, everyone who could have raised a flag were all
calling one Board Member or another. With them gone, there was just
enough confusion that… Don had it timed to the day. Material and
resources came flooding into the Ark-Hive in preparation for
Landfall, and at the right moment, they all would have just… left.”
we’re three weeks from the surface. They won’t get another
chance. Whoever Don’s confederates were, we can get their names out
of him.” The Director actually smiled. “And if that Pirate Hack
was right about the cure, we can get that too. Landfall is all but a
was about to answer, when they looked over and saw Cora in the
doorway. She was looking around at the bodies like she was going to
Director quickly went over and led her out into the corridor. He
stared at her for a moment, before wrapping her up in a tight hug.
The most genuine display of warmth that he’d offered in quite a
while. “Cora, the words ‘thank you’ aren’t enough!” He
enthused. “You have any idea… Any clue of how much you’ve saved
us all today? The whole Ark-Hive owes everything to you, my amazing
hugged him back, still looking through the doorway at the bodies. “It
wasn’t meant to be like this.” She said, so soft that even she
couldn’t hear the words.
Days To Landfall
Stingray kept Don locked away for two straight days, allowing no
contact with anyone. This was partially for his interrogation,
partially because The Director had a lot of cleanup to do.
had managed to convince her father that the Coup, and Don’s
subsequent Escape was obviously the last stage of the plan, and it
would take the Aquans a while to regroup. What The Director didn’t
know what Cora was so certain because she had helped the plan for so
long, and knew all the players involved.
about the Board of Directors spread quickly. The Director made the
announcement that it was an attempted Coup, and that Cora had almost
single-handedly prevented it. He encouraged his daughter to tell the
story to as many people as she could, in an effort to reassure people
that the worst of it was over.
used the opportunity to talk to as many Aquan Cells as she could.
Some of them viewed her as a traitor to the cause, but most of them
were stunned at what Don had done. The Aquans were organized as Cell
Groups. None of them had the whole plan, Cora included, and were
horrified to realize that lives were taken at all. Don had lied to
all of them, convincing them that an Exodus could be done clean, but
once Cora had shared the manifests, it was clear that hundreds of
people would have starved or suffocated if they had been left behind.
had been stunned to realize just how far it would have gone. Even
after she had realized Don couldn’t be trusted, she hadn’t had
all the pieces, and was only able to be sure after the fact. Don was
taking almost all the Life Support equipment on the Ark-Hive with
him. Everything that would allow them to start a new Ark-Hive. All
the equipment that the human race would need on the surface to
maintain a colony safely.
hunt for Don’s Confederates intensified, but there was almost no
new information on hand, though rumors about the Aquans still
existing started to grow. Cora and Nix had managed to head off the
rest of the team before they could do anything that would get them
was declared a hero again, and it was pretty clear how her career was
on the rise, given that almost everyone at the top of the Ark-Hive’s
leadership had suddenly died all at once. There had been some talk
about appointing a new Board, but with less than a month to go, there
was little more for the individual departments to do until they
reached the surface.
and Nix spent the time calming down the Aquans, who were all
terrified to realize their chance at Exodus had failed. The Director
spent the same amount of time trying vainly to identify Don’s
associates. His position meant he had to interact with a great many
people, some of whom were trusted, some of whom he had already
killed. It was clear after a while that there was only one way to get
information, and that was to ask their prisoner directly.
went to her father and managed to get one promise out of him. She
would get to speak to Don first.
the isolation door opened, and Don saw her, he didn’t even look
surprised. Cora looked him over quickly as she came in and sat down.
He looked tired, but his eyes were razor sharp in a way they had
never been before. He had a few bruises, but it didn’t look like
they’d been putting the questions to him roughly. Not yet, anyway.
tell me you haven’t spoken a word aloud since they put the cuffs
on.” Cora said quietly as she sat down across from him. His hands
were cuffed behind his back, his feet cuffed to the floor. Cora
pulled the Jammer out of her pocket, hiding it from the cameras with
her body. "Since you haven’t said anything, they won’t think
it strange that we’re not speaking now. This will give us a few
moments to talk before they realize it isn't usual static discharge."
Aquan knows how to block the listening devices. They probably think
their whole system is in worse shape than it really is; all that
static coming and going.” Don smirked a little.
you dare smile, old man.” She warned him. “You killed over a
other way. And frankly, you should be smart enough to realize that;
even if you don’t like it.” Don said pointedly. “A King Hit
like that? Enough confusion to get everyone out. I don’t know how
you called them all off, but I’m betting if the rest of the network
was caught, I’d be Black Bagged by now.” He gestured to his
cuffs. "You have a plan?"
get you out of here?” Cora said casually. “Now why would I do
that? I'm the one that got you caught."
look on his face was amazing to watch. It ran the whole spectrum from
shock, to rage, to horror, then finally numb surrender. An instant
later, the glint in his eye was back.
replaying every conversation we’ve ever had. Cora
thought to herself. Wondering
when he lost me. Wondering how long I’ve been playing him.
in Davy Jones would you do this?!" He hissed finally.
just say I’ve chosen my side.” Cora told him. “The side that
wouldn’t keep the cure a secret.”
you insane?! I told you, I thought that if I kept the cure a secret,
your father would cancel Landfall. But to keep his damn dynasty, with
you leading them back, he did it anyway. Two thirds of people were an
acceptable loss for him."
you, Don? What's an acceptable loss for you?"
had ten years to rectify the situation, once the Exodus was over."
not what I mean.” Cora moved closer, furious. "Tell me about
found the second receiver you wired into the Sonar Array. You had
total control over the nav beacons that Wayde could pick up. You
steered the school sub into that particular chamber, trapped it
there, and got me to get it out again, making your Synth's into
if you had failed, and those kids died?" Don countered. "Give
me some credit. If that was a plan, I would have let you in on it, so
it wouldn’t come down so close to the wire. It would have been a
It would have been even better for you." Cora spat. "Because
now it's all come out that over twentyfive-year-old's won't last more
than ten years on the surface. If those kids didn't make it, none of
their parents would have any reason to make the sacrifice. That many
families who refused to go back to the surface? That would shift
things a fair way against Landfall, wouldn’t it?"
rolled his eyes, fed up. "Let's talk about what we're talking
about. If I told your father about the cure, Landfall would have
happened a year ago. Our team would never had a chance of survival,
let alone escape. Keeping it a secret bought us more than time.
Because your father has been making all sorts of noises about
promoting you. As Director, you could make the Exodus official. You
could let us all go. But if your father had known there was a cure
for Weir Syndrome, he wouldn’t need you to take over, because his
terminal illness goes away. Now he knows. You'll never see Tai again.
So you either keep the Aquans prisoner, or you provide The Director
with his Dynasty. He won't see us as anything but traitors and
targets. You’ve known that for ten years. If he won't, why should
said nothing. She just gave him an unsettling smile.
wasn’t sure what that meant, but didn’t like it. “You think you
can get your father on side? Perhaps with that video I gave you, of
Meyrna’s confrontation with Morgan?”
tapped at the TABB in her pocket, unconcerned. “Ready to go.”
glanced at the door. “How long left on the Jammer?”
that.” Cora rose and headed for the door. “I lied. The Jammer’s
been off this whole time.”
a far distant room, Morgan was hearing the whole thing through his
headphones, with his jaw hanging open. “I can’t believe it.” He
breathed. “I can’t believe she just came out and said it…”
turned and ran for the elevators. He hit the button that would take
him to Gold Level…
elevator moved for two seconds before it shut down, coming to a
Morgan yelled in disbelief. He punched the buttons again futilely,
before giving up and tapping at his TABB. “Maintenance, this is
Morgan, please respond!”
swore under his breath and tapped at the emergency comms on the
elevator panel. “Anyone there?”
let out a breath, feeling her hands shake as she pulled the fuses.
“You owe me big time, Cora.” She said under her breath before
answering the call, disguising her voice. “This is Maintenence.”
in Tube... 4-Charlie, and it’s stopped.” Morgan reported. “Get
me moving again! This is an emergency.”
that, Commander.” Nix said brightly. “Looks like someone boosted
the fuses. It’s been happening more often lately. Those fuses fit
in a lot of places, so someone will swipe a few components.”
don’t care, get me moving!” Morgan yelled.
have you on your way as fast as possible, sir.” Nix said as she
pocketed the fuse. “If it’s very urgent, is there someone I
Call every Stingray Checkpoint between Gold and Green Sector, and
tell them to take Cora Bridger into custody, immediately!”
smirked. “I’ll do that right away, sir.” She lied sweetly.
walked straight past Ben on the way to her father, then turned back.
me?” Ben was surprised.
me, Ben. You don’t want to be outside this door for the rest of the
night. Does my father have anything further scheduled?”
things, with… well…”
members of the Board?” Cora guessed. “Go get some sleep, Ben.”
didn’t outrank him exactly, but he wasn’t arguing the point.
Cora’s status with the people on the Ark-Hive had never been
higher. She felt electrified. She had spent ten years rehearsing this
moment in her head, and burying it whenever she was in the room with
her father. It’s
finally happening. It’s really happening.
father had his back to the door when she came in. He was gazing out
at the ocean. Cora pointedly closed the door, giving them privacy.
Director turned to look at her. “You’re back faster than I
thought. He wouldn’t talk to you?”
confessed everything.” Cora sighed. “What about the Aquan
undid the sabotage to two ships, sent them out. It’s empty. We have
no idea where they went. If Don’s Miracle Cure meant they could
handle the pressure, they could have moved as little as a few hundred
feet along the trench. We’d never be able to make a proper hunt for
them.” He shook his head. “It’s unbelievable. He was here in
this room. All this time, and I never knew.”
onto that feeling, dad.” Cora told him with grim irony. “I’m
afraid it’s not over yet.”
know.” The Director nodded. “And I haven’t forgotten: We’ll
sort things out about Tai. If he’s alive, I’ll make it right.”
you know about Don’s Experiments?” Cora asked him.
did not, but I do now.” He admitted. “And… I should have kept
an eye on it. But-”
you trusted Don not to be evil.” Cora finished. “Because it’s a
big ocean, and there’s a big job ahead, and you liked that you
could trust the people around you to do their part.”
Her father agreed.
dad. At last we find something we have in common.
Cora almost laughed, when it became clear that her father wasn’t
his ‘merman’ experiments have worked, then… well, I’m sure
it’s occurred to you that Don was using his section of the Quay as
an ‘escape route’ for his people. Which means there’s a chance
Tai might still be alive.” The Director bit his lip. “The Pirate
Hack outed the Cure, which means Tai is innocent, but it also means
he’s not allied with Don. I don’t know what that means for-”
can save you some time there, dad.” Cora interrupted. “Don let
Tai live. But he was guilty. That Pirate Station? It was Tai. He was
running it. But he didn't start it."
Director took that information in. "Well, that makes sense. The
broadcasts have been going since Tai was a child."
before mom died, in fact.” Cora put in. "Dad, she
was the one that started the broadcasts." If
he’s going to learn the truth about me, he may as well start with
the truth about mom.
Director blinked. “What?”
knew the Stingray Commander was dirty, and she couldn't prove it as
your wife without getting her sources killed. Sources like Tai’s
mother. So she did it anonymously.” Cora explained. “The Aquans
didn't kill mom. Morgan did."
the second time in an hour, she watched as one of the most important
people in her life tried to process a revelation she dropped on him.
Her father finally settled on disbelief. "Is that what Don told
you? He'd say anything to get his neck off the block right now-"
got proof.” She said over him. “Mom was the Pirate Station, and
Morgan killed her before she could transmit. I have the recording."
father was turning red, with white spots appearing at his temples. "I
don't believe you. If you had that proof, you would have used it
immediately. If your boyfriend was the Pirate Station. You could have
done it anonymously."
ironic part is, I couldn't do that. I only found out about Tai
recently, and he didn’t
know it was murder until we compared notes. By the time we both
showed our cards, hecouldn’t
have broadcast it anyway. If you’d seen the tape, you’d have
known where the transmitter was… And if I had just handed it to
you, you would have wondered where I got it."
Director was catching up swiftly. "Where did
you get it?"
Don.” Cora said simply. “It was his 'pledge of good faith'...
when he recruited me as an Aquan."
The Director croaked finally, weaving a little.
laid it out, just as she’d rehearsed a thousand times in her head.
"I'm Aquan. And I have been for most of my life."
took a long, slow breath; letting him process, before she put the
question to him. "Dad, you're in a box right now. You can't shut
down the Aquans without ending your own daughter, you can't go to
Morgan because now you know what he did to mom, and you can't start
again because you don't have the time. You also know that since
word's gotten out about our life expectancy up there, more than a few
people will live out their lives with a whole wide ocean around them.
You also know that your only hope of a dynasty is if I'm on your
side... and I'm not.” She let him take a moment to chew on that
before she spelled it out. “Your whole plan for recolonizing the
surface just went up in smoke."
no…” Her father groaned.
made the offer. "But I have another option for you: The Cure
works. Don has it right now, but it’ll work for Earthers too. We
could give everyone who returns to the surface an extra ten years.
Maybe fifteen. It took Don a year to make us borderline amphibious.
You have any idea what his guys could do in fifteen years of work?"
I'm sure Don would give us the formula, if we... asked him, just
right." Her father grated out.
you don't have to put the question rough. And who would you trust
with the interrogation?” She countered. “Morgan? After what I
just told you? I can get the formula myself. The price is that you
let the Aquans go. Informed choice for everyone. Stay, or go."
don't have the resources.” Her father raged. “There's nothing up
there! We can't split our people! You know how tight Resource
also know what the ocean can give up.” Cora insisted. “Ocean
Power can make up the difference. That all powerful Schedule was
because of Weir Syndrome. Take the deal, and you won’t have to
worry about it. If both sides can work together now... Just for this.
Just to get us back..."
now proposing that we give Aquan projects full equality?” The
Director had a harder time with this than all the other revelations
she’d thrown at him. “You're suggesting that I backflip on five
generations of policy and certainty? That I-”
saying it's the only way to save two thirds of the human race."
Cora implored him.
Not an option." He put his foot down.
sighed. "Don said the same thing about you when I suggested
making this deal."
I will not negotiate with criminals and traitors."
Don won't negotiate with 'the oppressors'.” Cora nodded coolly. “So
which category am I in, dad?"
was a long deathly silence. It had finally been said. It was all laid
bare at last. With no time left, no room to maneuver, father and
daughter finally stared each other down. Cora barely noticed that she
was holding her breath. After a decade of half-truths and careful
lies, the future of her family, her loved ones, and her species would
depend on what her father said next.
what felt like a million years, The Director reached for his desk,
slow and deliberate, pushing a button. "Commander Morgan, report
to my office immediately, please."
before he’d finished getting the instruction out, Morgan came
rushing in, breathing hard. He already had his weapon drawn, and he
aimed it at Cora the instant he saw her. “Sir, I have proof
positive about your daughter’s invol-."
has already confessed.” The Director cut him off, eyes glued to his
daughter. Another endless silence.
on, dad. Cora
just this once.
my daughter under arrest.” The Director said finally.
The hard way.
her. We are going for a ride."
trio avoided the Main Corridors. Cora was a hero to most people.
Having her own father leading her away in chains was not likely to go
called ahead, had several of the Access Corridors cleared out before
they arrived. Taking this roundabout Route, they made their way to
one of the Manta Docking Ports that Morgan’s Agents used to come
such corridor had a Plexiglas window. Neither of the two men
realized that they were being observed. Cora caught a familiar shape
from the corner of her eye. Delphi was seeing this, and her Dolphin
was smart enough to recognize handcuffs when he saw them.
had a hand on her left shoulder, her father on the right. Neither of
them noticed her sign to Delphi. ‘Get
dismissed the pilot of the Manta before bringing Cora aboard. Her
father settled into the Pilot Seat for the first time in years.
Morgan dragged her back to the Brig section, and secured her tightly.
A Manta was a combat craft. It only had the Cockpit, the Brig, and a
corridor between for the docking ring and escape hatch, so Morgan had
to sit in the back with her.
moving slowly.” Cora observed. “Where are we going?”
Quay.” Morgan checked her cuffs carefully. “But we’re hardly at
cruising speed. I get the feeling that The Director wants a few
won’t that be fun.” Cora sighed.
confess?” Morgan asked her. “That whole thing with Don? That was
a clear setup. I don’t know how you got my elevator to stop, but
you wanted to be five minutes ahead of me. Why?”
that I think of it, why any of this?” Morgan kept going. “I’ve
been trying to figure out what was off about you for months, but the
idea that you were in this deep? It wasn’t just your father
protecting you. I honestly didn’t see it. I figured, at most, you
were trying to work your way up to your father’s job. Except you
were already guaranteed to get it. So why force the confrontation?
With Don, or
your father? What did you stand to gain either way?”
it wasn’t me I was trying to win for.” Cora said finally. “Maybe
after ten years of trying to make both of them happy, only to find
out they would both rather write off half the human race than sit
down and make peace… maybe I was giving them both one last chance
what? Be your hero?” Morgan actually laughed at her. “Are you so
desperate for a dad you can look up to that you’ll sacrifice your
life, and play games with thousands of others, on the off-chance one
of them decides to be the bigger man?” He shook his head. “Figure
it out, little girl. There are no heroes in this story. Even you, the
Ark-Hive’s savior incarnate, were lying through your teeth the
said nothing to that. It was true enough. "Now, a small matter that's been bugging me. You assigned Ben as my apprentice. Why?" "The Director asked me to." Morgan shrugged. "He needed you to have an Apprentice that would make you a good assistant, once you were on the surface; as Director. Stingray had access to personality profiles for everyone in the Ark-Hive." He paused. "Though they aren't worth spit, apparently."
“One last thing I don’t get, Morgan.” Cora said lightly. “Now that we’re
being honest? Why didn’t you take apart the Pirate Transmitter years ago?
You alone knew my mom was the Pirate Station. But it kept going long
after you killed her.”
gave her a long look, then pulled Cora’s uniform jacket out of the
evidence locker. It took him a few moments to find the hidden pocket,
but eventually, he found the Jammer, and switched it on. “It’d be
pretty stupid of me to fall for the same trick you used on Don.” He
told her. “Now, first things first.” Morgan sat down across from
her, and drew her TABB from the jacket. She said nothing as he
searched through it and found the hidden partition. “That video of
me and your mother? We’ll just make sure that’s gone...” He
deleted it. “Now then, to answer your question: I knew where the
transmitter was, but I had no idea it could be accessed remotely.
That part was Tai?”
mother’s apprentice at the time.” Cora nodded.
had people watching the Memorial around the clock for a year when the
Pirate Station started back up. Nobody was at the Memorial Ship,
using the equipment, so I figured there must have been another
transmitter somewhere.” He actually shivered. “It was like she
was reaching back from the grave.”
looked him in the eye. “You want to know what Don promised me? I
wanted to stay in the ocean as much as any Aquan, but when I was
little, Don showed me that video and promised me one thing: That one
day, I’d get to dance on your grave. A promise I intend to keep,
even without Don’s help.” She gave him a toothy grin. “I spent
ten years smiling at the man who killed my mom, Morgan. You have no
idea how glad I am to be able to tell you this at last.”
himself, Morgan shivered. “You’ve confessed, you’re in cuffs,
and your own father is driving us to the Quay. I don’t know why
you’re still smiling.”
door opened, and The Director came in. “I can’t hear what you two
are talking about, and I assume it’s because one of you is blocking
this conversation somehow.” He glared at Morgan. “Commander, out.
I want to talk to my daughter.”
Commander left to take the controls, and The Director sat down. He
was apparently over his shock.
years.” He said flatly. “Ten YEARS!”
know.” Cora said quietly. “I wanted to tell you. But you were the
one person I couldn’t tell.”
years, lying to my face the whole time.” He scorned. “Living in
my quarters, calling me ‘dad’. Dammit, Cora; realizing that Don
was a traitor was bad enough, but you? Of all people?”
lies, dad. Secrets.” Cora sighed. “You know all about that. You
were keeping a few doozy’s yourself.”
don’t even begin to compare this. My secrets were about things that
couldn’t be helped, in the service of completing the entire mission
after four hundred years. Yours were… What? For all I know, the
Coup was your plan!”
me some credit, Dad. If I was in on it, would I have stopped Don from
escaping? Or confessed, come to that?”
you confess?” He asked, and she could tell it was the main thing on
his mind. “After ten years, why pick now
to lay all that on me?”
had tears rolling slowly down her cheeks. “I’ve rehearsed this so
many times. What I would say, what I thought you would say, what I
planned to say in response… Dad, when you declared Landfall, and
showed us those videos… For a moment, I was actually tempted. But
the surface is still in ruins, isn’t it?”
Director sighed. “Less than you think. Plant life, atmo is good...”
tells me that the phytoplankton we use to speed-produce oxygen? It
floats up at surface level. Back before the Ark-Hive, the ocean had
turned so warm and acidic that it couldn’t survive. It took our
people almost two hundred years to get the oceans full of life again.
The Ocean made the surface livable
again. Dad, this is where life begins.
It’s where my
life began. It’s my home. I don’t want to… leave…” She felt
her jaw drop. “You’re here.” She said suddenly. “You’ve
left the Ark-Hive! With your Weir Syndrome, you said you couldn’t!”
said it was a risk.” Her father told her. “My Life Sciences
Director confirmed it. But now that Don’s colors are shown, I’m
wondering about everything he’s told me. And if your little
revelation about the Cure is true…”
bit her lip, daring to hope.
father glared at her. “Don’t give me those eyes right now. I am
so mad at you I can barely breathe. It’s not like I can take you at
your word either, daughter.
After all, if you had proof your mother was murdered, I’d like to
think you would have forced the issue at some point in ten years.”
I had half a brain, I would have.” Cora admitted. “But I believed
Don. He told me it wasn’t time yet, and I believed him. I told
myself I didn’t need to know everything, because that’s how it is
in a secret group. I trusted him too much, and that made me complicit
in all the compromises he made, all the deaths that happened in his
name.” Her look hardened. “But you can say the same about
worked on the Cure at your order. That was sanctioned. But Don was
smuggling his people out of the Quay under guise of killing them in
human trials. You think Morgan didn’t know? Did you even ask what
his price was? You saw Mom’s Broadcasts, then Tai’s. All those
stories about Stingray abusing and stealing and Bagging whoever
happened to interest them? You gave Morgan total power over all of
us, and never asked what he was doing with it. And why? Because of
mom. You trusted too blindly, just as I did.”
still don’t believe you.” The Director spat. “If you had
anything like proof, you would have had it on hand to show me before
Morgan walked in. You had the time.”
father blinked. “Wait. That’s true, isn’t it? So what’s
happening right now?”
original plan was to get arrested, and have Morgan get me out of the
Ark-Hive. I could have showed you the video right now, but Morgan
deleted it from my TABB just a moment ago. So I guess I need to trust
my Plan B.” Cora said softly. “What time is it?”
Director checked his TABB. “Six minutes past the hour.”
Light Water around the Ark-Hive was arranged so that it was bordered
by the Ark-Hive, the Quay, the Memorial Ship, and the farms.
Absolutely nobody noticed when a lone Dolphin came powering along the
dark side of the Memorial Ship, towing a single passenger.
did not come in the main docking bay. There were other hatches, for
deep water probes and for releasing ballast. Too small for a diver to
fit through, they were left unguarded.
Tai wasn’t carrying a bulky rebreather, or heavy wetsuit and oxygen
tank. He was able to sneak his way into the Memorial Ship without
anyone aboard knowing about it. He found the hidden disk that Cora
had given him, and made his way to the Terminal, one eye on the door,
the other on the clock.
Shells.” He said under his breath. “The Pirate Station makes its
leaned back, shifted her cuffed wrists a bit. “Dad, I always wanted
to tell you. I know why you want to go back to the Surface. It’s
what your fathers expected of you. But there’s a great big amazing
universe out there in the ocean. We have everything we could ever
need, and everything we could ever want. Why leave, and spend another
two hundred years with our fingers crossed?”
Director just looked at her. “Because we’re not an Aquatic
species, Cora. We don’t have gills, or flippers. Our presence here
is long term, even sustainable, but not natural. If we stay in the
ocean, our presence will always be artificial.”
will our presence up there. For the first few generations at least.”
She countered. “But speaking for myself… I have never felt more
natural than when I’m out in the water.”
for yourself. There are others who feel the opposite, and without
that equipment, Don would have left them marooned.
It would have been a death sentence.”
know. That’s why I stopped him.” She said simply.
didn’t have an answer to that.
can have both, dad.” She flat out implored him. “I ran the
numbers. If the Ocean supported the surface, and the surface agreed
to leave some people behind, we could actually do both. The Cure
makes it so much easier.”
of all, I didn’t know about the Cure. Secondly, Weir Syndrome was
why we all had to go at once, but even if it didn’t matter, we’re
going. We have to. The whole point of the Ark-Hive is for the human
race to return to the surface. Four hundred years of purpose does not
change, just because people like you don’t want the things you like
to change. And third: What does that tell our children?” Her father
looked at her gravely. “Your glorious underwater civilization will
start with the understanding that if you disagree with whoever’s in
charge, you can get your way by killing them all.”
telling me that if I stopped Don before the Coup, you would have
negotiated? With me? With Don? You’ve told Morgan to have anyone
like me Bagged on sight. Exactly what was our other option?” Before
he could answer, she gestured. “Time?”
Director looked at his TABB again, just as the picture blacked out.
was another Pirate Hack, but this one was different. It came with no
effects, no slogans, no icons. This was a straight video clip,
Director was about to throw his TABB across the room out of sheer
frustration, when he recognized the face on the screen, looking into
the camera. It was his late wife.
was looking into the camera, adjusting the angle slightly, in a room
that was clearly identifiable as being part of the Memorial Ship.
"Alright." She was muttering to herself. “Now, first we-”
away, please." A voice said.
spun. In the background of the image, Morgan stepped into the room,
one hand resting on his weapon. “Morgan...” She hissed, suddenly
worried. She glanced back towards the camera, as if calculating
something. The camera could see her TABB as she tapped at it.
her, Morgan could not see her type, but he couldn't see her hands,
and he snap-drew his weapon. "Hands where I can see them!"
are you going to do? Shoot me twice?" Meyrna quipped, though she
turned to face him head on. The camera responded to her typed
commands and refocused to take in both of them clearly. "If
you're here, you know I'm the one that's onto you. And what you're
doing to prisoners in the Quay."
does that really matter to anyone?" Morgan asked, and it sounded
like a serious question. "Once that Bag goes over their heads,
does anyone really put up a fight to get them back? Resources are the
lifeblood of the Ark-Hive. Are you really that offended that we don't
spend too many of them on criminals? Three squares a day with no
work, as long as you commit a violent crime? So they do without, work
a little harder..."
all their possessions seized." Meyrna finished.
resources are tight. Who's to say where seized property goes?"
did Seamen Enty do, other than be rewarded with a priceless relic
from the caches?" Meyrna dared. "The Aquans are right about
that much, you know. About Ocean Solutions. The Oceans can provide a
whole lot more in the way of Resources, as long as we treat them
right." Meyrna said. "I had hoped that once things settled
down, my husband would see that."
With you there, he might have." Morgan said honestly. "In
fact, he might have seen a lot of things." He smirked. "It's
inevitable, really. We live in a closed system. We purged hundreds of
Aquans to make sure the system never opened up. Sooner or later, the
best things go to the people in charge. They always do. There's a
reason why Gold Sector Quarters are so much nicer than most.
Privilege is the only thing that flows uphill."
camera had an angle on Meyrna's left hand as she tapped at her TABB
again. "And what do you call the only man with a gun in a room
full of unarmed people?" She said rhetorically.
man in charge." Morgan nodded, and his weapon barked. The
shock-shot paralyzed Meyrna instantly, and she dropped, unable to
scream. Morgan came over. "I know this won't offer you any
comfort, Meyrna." He said evenly. "But I am sorry. You're a
good person. I'm sorry the weapon is non-lethal. I would have
preferred to make this quick." He fired again, and again,
execution style. Mercifully, the video ended.
Director’s eyes were cold and dead, just like a shark. He had
turned into a killer shark, right before her gaze. He gripped his
TABB so tightly that it actually bent under his fingers.
question for you.” Cora said to her father as it finished. “Do
you think Morgan switched off my Micro-Jammer when he left the room?
Because if not, he’s the only one in the Ocean who didn’t see
that.” She lifted her cuffed wrists. “Either way, he’s the only
one on board who’s armed.”
Director moved forward slowly, checking blindspots and corners. The
forward hatch to the cockpit was sealed shut, and opened outward,
towards him. He turned the wheel on the hatch slowly and began to
open it, as quietly as possible-
flew as the shock-shot came through it instantly. Ready for it, The
Director ducked away, and slammed the door shut again. “So, I guess
you saw the video.” He called through the door.
you could say that.” Morgan called back.
the plan, Morgan? The whole Ocean saw that.” The Director reminded
him. “It’s not like you can run.”
know.” Morgan called back. “But I’m in the pilot’s seat.
Quite literally. I’ve got people at every level of the Ark-Hive,
and it won’t be hard to drive this thing to the Memorial Ship. I
could transmit a message myself, have my people take over. With you,
Cora, and the Board all having been removed, there isn’t really
anyone to challenge me. If I can come up with a good excuse, I doubt
anyone will care about the video. So I took someone out ten years
ago. I do it every day. Nobody will care.”
Director saw red. “She was my wife!”
the Cockpit, Morgan had his back against the side of the room, weapon
drawn, giving him clear shots toward the hatch. “Your wife is
dead!” He barked through the hatch. “And your daughter is on
board, remember that! I’m still at the controls, and the one with a
position isn’t as strong as you think, Morgan!” The Director
called. “You’ve got nowhere to go.”
thought for a minute. “Alright, look. I can drop you off at the
Memorial Ship. You can call for a pick-up from there. I take this
sub, and your daughter. The Colonies are all empty right now. We’ll
go to one. She’s Aquan. I’m betting she knows how to live off the
Ocean. Hell, if I can find the Aquans, I might even be a hero again.
I imagine she’s not too popular with them right now!”
was no answer.
better think hard, because Landfall depends on your choice!” Morgan
he still there?
Morgan wondered. Or
is he trying to draw me out?
spun. Cora was at the front window, in full dive gear.
let her out!?” Morgan raged at the silent door.
waved cheerfully, and held up a wrench. The kind that was part of the
Manta’s repair kit. With a cold smile, she made a throat-slashing
gesture at him, and pushed off. She vanished instantly.
went to the controls and tried to turn the submarine. It wouldn’t
turn, and he realized what Cora had done with the wrench. He tested
the pilot's controls, and then the co-pilot’s. He couldn’t turn
the boat, and the ocean floor wasn’t flat for long. It was only a
matter of time before he hit something.
could still control the speed, and he was debating whether or not to
pull it to a stop, when the hatch behind him flew open, and The
Murderer!” The Director yelled, going berserk. “You goddam liar!”
fight was ugly and confined. The Director had Morgan from behind and
was slamming him as hard as possible against the useless controls.
Morgan was the better fighter, but the Director was letting loose ten
years of rage.
gave up trying to push back and kicked out instead, stamping down on
the Director’s leg. It was enough to throw the other man off
balance, and Morgan twisted his gun arm to aim back. He pulled the
trigger blind, missed, but the weight eased instantly, and what was
an attack became a wrestling match over the gun. Non-Lethal or not,
it would end the fight with one shot.
was able to throw the Director against the co-pilot’s seat; aiming
to put him down. The Director didn’t even try to get up, kicking
out at the throttle. The Sub suddenly lurched into high speed, and
both men went sprawling.
Director got up first, and started slamming a fist down on the most
feared killer in the Ark-Hive, over and over. “You! Killed! Her!
You! Lied! You! Monster! Hate! You!”
had both hands up, covering his face as best he could. But then the
punches became weaker and weaker. Morgan dared a glance up and saw
The Director’s face. The man was turning grey, his eyes were
bloodshot, blood was leaking from his nose, though Morgan hadn’t
hit him anywhere near there.
Commander realized it before The Director did. “Feeling it, aren’t
you?” He grated, forcing the other man off him. “Weir Syndrome
must be getting worse, outside the Ark-Hive. All that exertion can’t
be good for you.”
Director was struggling to catch a breath, when he looked forward and
his eyes got real big. Morgan looked ahead and swore. An instant
later, both men were rushing for the hatch.
was trying to keep pace with the Manta. They were some of the fastest
ships in the fleet, but unable to turn, Delphi was able to keep it in
sight. When the distance grew vast enough that they couldn’t see
it, his echolocation still kept them locked on target.
suddenly whistled urgently, and put on more speed, though Cora could
tell he was wearing out. She didn’t dare bend to look at her TABB,
keeping herself as streamlined as possible, but a few moments later,
she didn’t need the translation.
Manta had crashed into the side of Circular Quay.
towed her straight to the point of impact. They hadn’t breached the
walls, but the forward Plexiglas had imploded. Under that much water
pressure, it would have had all the speed of a bullet.
as Cora swam closer, she realized that there were no bodies in the
cockpit, and the hatch had been sealed. Cora pushed up, getting some
altitude, trying to see in the inky black water. Circular Quay had
always been on the edge of the Light Water area, and this section of
it was away from the running lights that covered every inch of the
Ark-Hive’s surrounding environment. It was almost as pitch as the
Dark Water out on the Ranges. “Delphi, what can you see?”
partner clicked and whistled. His echolocation had no problem with
darkness, and she read the translation on her TABB. “Dolphins
coming! Still too far! Two humans swim to light!”
light?” Cora thought aloud. “Ah! The Main Entrance! Where the
Quay’s Docking Bay is!” She reached out and her partner zipped up
alongside her, putting his harness at her hand. “Let’s go!”
Quay was not the most crowded complex on the Ocean. Nobody wanted to
be there under any circumstances. When Morgan reached the Docking
Bay, there was nobody there. Docking in the Quay was a much smaller
affair than in the Ark-Hive itself. There were only two or three
ships. Two Manta’s for combat/escort duty, and one thick, clunky
Gulag ship for transporting prisoners.
hauled himself out of the Moon Pool and clambered over to the hatch.
One thing that Circular Quay had was no shortage of heavy prison
doors. “Le-t-t-t m-me in!” He shouted up to the surveillance
cameras, the ocean cold making his voice shake. He pulled off his
emergency breather, letting them see his face. “That’s an-n
was a loud silence from within the prison. “Commander.” A voice
said smoothly over the PA. “We’ve been trying to reach the
Director for clarification on… well…”
said, let me in!”
that!” Another voice coughed.
turned. The Director was also climbing up out of the Moon Pool,
though more slowly. His face was drawn, and his lips blue from the
cold. He didn’t look well at all. Morgan drew his weapon and pulled
the trigger for a warning shot.
The seawater had wrecked it. Morgan turned back to the cameras. “Who
is that? Glass? I know you’re on duty, Glass! And you don’t work
for him, you work for me! Get your guys out here right now!”
Glass, g-g-et your men out here, and place Morgan-n under arrest!”
The Director called, also glaring up at the camera. “C-commander
Morgan is under arrest for t-treason!”
having trouble getting the doors open.” The voice over the PA said
finally. “It’s probably just a technical hitch after the sub
collision, but if you give us some time, I’m sure we can straighten
all this out…”
you damned coward!” Morgan yelled, and turned to face the Director.
It was clear he was ready to kill the older man with his bare hands,
when the Moon Pool erupted. Another figure came hurtling out of the
water, propelled by her dolphin partner so fast she landed on her
feet, wrench still in hand.
didn’t even bother to take her mask off, taking in both of them
with a swift glance. “Been waiting ten years for this, Morgan.”
She snarled like a feral animal. She strode towards the Commander,
who did the math in his head and turned to run instead. He couldn’t
get into the Quay, so he had to get out of it; and he ran for one of
the Manta’s. Cora chased after him, but he got there in time to
seal the hatch.
the doors!” The Director shouted to the camera, and as desperate as
they were not to pick a side, whoever was within the complex obeyed.
The doors started to close.
even as the Manta started lowering on its clamps into the water,
Cora sprinted over the hull to the front windows, and started
hammering on it with her Wrench. The Plexiglas was sturdy stuff, but
if she could make even a small crack, the water pressure at the ocean
floor would end him.
could see Morgan inside, working the controls. The Manta she stood on
lurched, and she suddenly fought to keep her balance, pinwheeling her
arms as the Manta turned… and faced the other submarines in dock.
look out!” Cora yelled.
pulled the trigger, and a torpedo dropped off his sub, flew thirty
feet across the bay, and exploded the other submarine. The blast
shredded the walls, the Pool, the bay doors, and sent the Director
gave a roar of frustration, and started clambering over the hull. If
she could find a weak spot, an exposed bolt, anything she could
loosen or weaken, the ocean would crush Morgan for her.
blast had damaged one of the bay doors, but the other continued to
close slowly. Morgan had lined up a shot on the slower Gulag-Class
Prison Transport, but decided to escape instead, rotating to the
doors and speeding up. Cora tried to hold on, but was swept off by
was there almost instantly, and the two quickly gave chase, but a
Manta at full speed was more than a dolphin could catch up to.
on!” Cora raged at the retreating ship. So
close! I was so close!
clicked and whistled. “Big boat comes.”
blinked, and then heard it herself. The Gulag ship was coming up
behind her, her father at the controls. Cora pushed off from Delphi
and grabbed on as the Prison Transport passed her, chasing Morgan.
Gulag-Class was meant to carry a load of prisoners. No weapons, slow
moving, but built to be unstoppable. Cora found an access hatch and
aboard.” Her father called from the pilot’s seat.
does Morgan think he’s going to go?” Cora asked, peering over her
Memorial Ship. He knows the transmitter is there. He saw the video of
your mother. He can figure out which room, which terminal.”
why? What can he do if he sends a message?”
message everyone can see? He could tell all his people to come help
him, or take over the Ark-Hive. Even if only one in ten Stingray’s
are willing to side with him after the revelation about Meyrna,
that’s still a lot of people with weapons.” Her father told her.
“Or if he can get word to your people that you flipped on Don, you
can kiss your shot at a happy ending goodbye.”
can you read me?!”
grabbed for the radio. “Cora! I’m here!”
on his way to you! We’re trying to catch him, but his ship has
weapons and ours… doesn’t. Get out of there! Kill the transmitter
if you can.”
bit his lip. “That’s one idea. I have a better one. I’m hooking
this feed into the transmitter. Give me ten seconds!”
you think any of his people will-LOOKOUT!” Cora suddenly shouted,
as the radar changed.
wasn’t running. He was attacking. They saw him circling to meet
them head-on a split second before the Manta launched a torpedo at
them. Her father yanked the controls and they both felt the torpedo
go past, close enough that the wake shook them. The Director had
turned them toward the same path Morgan’s Manta was taking, and the
two ships barely avoided colliding.
didn’t have guidance lock! We’re in too close!” Cora grunted,
trying to hold on. “He’s stuck with Line Of Sight, if he can’t
get any distance on us!”
hundred meters. He’s trying to circle. Stay starboard, or we’re
we have to go to port.” The Director grunted, working the controls.
“We go hard to starboard, and he takes a shot? Even if he misses
us, the Torpedo will go straight through the Observation Dome.”
to sound uncaring, because I’m not, but what about the torpedo that
goes straight through us?”
on it, sweetie.” The Director’s knuckles were white on the
controls. “It’s not like we have any offensive options here.”
He peered into the murky water ahead. “I can’t see him. Does this
thing have a sonic overlay?”
hit the controls, and the sonar was displayed across the Plexiglas,
giving them a view of the world outside the submarine, regardless of
the dark. “There he is. He’s heading for the Memorial Ship.”
Director nodded grimly. “He’s going for distance, so he can lock
on, and he’s keeping the fight in the Light Water, in case he has
to eyeball a shot…” He paused, looking ahead as a strange cloud
of fast moving objects came towards them. “What the hell makes a
sonar signature like that?” He asked quizzically.
Cora said grimly. “Delphi called for reinforcements.”
in the lights cast by the Ark-Hive area, Morgan put his Manta into a
tight turn. His Sonar said that the Gulag Ship was closing on him,
and he got a lock before they got too close. The Radar tone told him
he had a lock for less than half a second before he fired.
the same moment he squeezed the trigger, his screen was filled with
rapid movement, erupting right in his face. They were moving too fast
for him to even register that they were dolphins. The dolphins barely
made it out of the way before another was right in his face. It was
an insane dance of break-neck speed and near-miss turns. Morgan
honestly wasn’t sure if the Dolphins were doing it for fun, or if
they were actually taking him on.
he’d already twitched at the controls, and already pulled the
got a guidance lock!” Cora warned.
know!” Her father hissed, trying madly to evade. “We don’t have
countermeasures on this thing!”
torpedo came roaring towards them, the high pitched whine of the
turbine was piercing in the cockpit, and Cora threw her arms
uselessly across her face, bracing for it… Tai,
I love you!
The sub lurched, reeled like it had taken a punch, and it took Cora a
moment to realize she wasn’t dead. “What happened? Did he miss?”
Dolphins.” Her father gasped, pale as a ghost. “One of them took
the hit for us.”
covered her mouth with one hand. “Not Delphi. Oh, Hades; please!
Not Delphi too!”
don’t know, but we’ll make him pay for it!”
raged as his enemy came in far too close to shoot. The damned
fish-freaks had thrown off his perfect shot and-
The two submarines collided. Morgan let out a shout as sparks flew
from every panel, and the controls jumped in his hands. His Manta was
less than half the size of the Gulag Ship, and in a straight
collision, he would quickly come off second best.
the two ships scraped across each other, Morgan fought for speed. If
he was going to take another shot, he needed some space.
sub-fight was happening in the Light Water, in full view of the
Ark-Hive. Packed in tightly, the Observation Dome was crowded with
people, watching the whole thing with worry. A stray shot would kill
them all, to say nothing of the fact that there hadn’t been a
straight up battle since The Purges.
other Manta’s surrounded the Ark-Hive, weapons bristling outward.
then, from every speaker, from every screen, came a voice over the
radio, relayed from Tai to the whole Ark-Hive. “This is Cora
Bridger to the Ark-Hive! I’m on the Gulag ship!” She called
urgently. “The battle taking place in the Light Water right now is
between Commander Morgan, and The Director himself. Repeat, Commander
Morgan is committing high treason, right now, attempting to kill
myself and my father! The Stingray Commander is attempting a coup in
the wake of the murder of the entire Board of Directors! Any Stingray
attempting to assist Commander Morgan is now guilty of treason! All
Stingray personnel in the sound of my voice can prove their innocence
of his crime by turning their weapons over to anyone else, right now!
Manta Crews are to stand down! Repeat, break off, all of you! Return
words set off a roar. There were Stingray guards in the Observation
Dome, watching as eagerly as everyone else, and suddenly each and
every one of them was surrounded. Hundreds of people, spooked again,
packed in tight enough that they could feel the tension rising in
each other, glaring balefully at their own guards.
knew who broke first, but one at a time, the Stingray Guards handed
over their weapons to whoever was closest. Starting a fight in the
Ark-Hive was far less interesting to them than the show going on
could ask the Manta’s for help, you know.” The Director grit out.
“At least one of them on our side wouldn’t hurt.”
and one of them on Morgan’s side would be a death sentence.” Cora
grit out, hanging on for dear life. “We don’t know which way
they’ll go, and if there’s more than one combat sub out here
choosing sides, we’ll have a shooting war!”
we’re way too close to Base for that to be a good plan!” The
Director agreed. “But this thing steers like a dead whale, and the
second he got behind us he had-”
was another high-pitched whine, the sound of a torpedo closing in,
and they couldn’t tell from which direction. An instant later, the
universe seemed to fly apart. Cora felt her head snap back and forth,
flopping like a ragdoll, as the impact ripped apart their submarine.
She tried to hold onto her harness, just to stop her limbs from
flopping around as the world spun…
had half a second to see the ocean floor jumping up at their screens,
and then the world tumbled again as they crashed.
lights were out instantly, but they were in the Light Water, so there
was still a glow from the front windows. The Plexiglas spiderwebbed, but Cora could tell it was the outer-layer, so they
weren’t dead yet. Every console was blank, every screen was dead.
The phrase floated up into her punch-drunk mind. She wasn’t sure
where she had learned it. She had never seen a duck before…
to think clearly, Cora reached a shaking hand and released her
harness. She dropped instantly, and she suddenly realized they were
The Director was moaning. “Get clear, Cora. While you still can,
not leaving you… here…” Her voice trailed off when she turned
to look at him again. Beaten up, half-drowned, shocked and
battle-weary, her father's injuries were beyond bad. She could see
the symptoms of Weir Syndrome gathering strength from his injuries.
Blood was dripping from his ears and mouth.
bit her lip, torn, looking outside for help. Morgan’s Manta was
heading for the Memorial Ship. “He’s breaking off.” Cora
coughed. “Why doesn’t he finish us?”
he heard your radio call to the Ark-Hive.” The Director moaned. “He
has to convince his people before they surrender to anyone who’s
finally found the First Aid Kit, and did her best to staunch the
bleeding from her father’s injuries. At least, the external ones.
just go.” Her father hissed weakly. “...get him. Remember: A
Manta is an attack craft. He’ll have armed himself with something
waterproof this time.”
bared her teeth and found her Breather. “Well, if he’s heading
for the Memorial Ship, he’ll have a surprise.”
reached the Memorial Ship and docked. There was no other sub there,
and not likely to be many people on board. He hadn’t stopped to
confirm the kill, and was in a hurry. If he could contact all his
people, he could turn the tide of this. If she was alive, Cora still
had a wetsuit, and would be giving chase. Morgan took a moment to
make sure his submarine wouldn’t move again, no matter what.
statue was still there, unchanging as always. Morgan threw ‘her’
a dirty look as he ran. In a way, this was all her fault. He’d seen
the video, and knew where she accessed the transmitter from. Aside
from the large Memorial Chamber, there were only a few small rooms,
left over from when the Tulley
had been a working submarine. Morgan headed straight to the one he
second he saw the Terminal, he knew he wasn’t alone. The entire
console had been torn up, destroyed beyond repair. So had the lights,
the storage lockers, or anything else in the room that he could use.
His weapon was in his hand before even he thought of who it could be.
“Tai!” He sing-songed, with a shark grin. “I know it has to be
you. Come out, come out!”
can’t call for help, Morgan.” Tai called, and Morgan followed his
voice into the dark corridor. “It’s over.”
I think I’d almost rather kill you than get away.” Morgan called
back. “I never knew who it was, making those Broadcasts after
Meyrna. You were making me crazy! I’m not someone who likes leaving
loose ends, Merman.”
caught a glimpse of movement and fired. Sparks skittered across the
metal walls, and Morgan crept forward, watching every corner.
patter of footsteps. Something darted across the hallway into an
opposite room. Morgan fired again, too slow to track the target
properly. He made his way to the doorway, waited for half a breath,
threw the door open, and started shooting.
the room was empty. Seawater splashed over his feet as he charged in,
and Morgan saw the same small pipe that Tai had used to enter the
Memorial Ship. Too small for Morgan to even think about chasing, even
if he had a wetsuit.
he gets to the Docking Bay before I do, he can flank me. Unless I get
turned and ran through the ship. He was in such a rush that he didn’t
stop to check the room first. He got to the Bay, weapon drawn,
waiting for Tai to emerge from the water…
howled as a wrench came slamming down on his wrist. He felt something
break, the gun went flying. He had half a second to recognize Cora,
in full dive suit, before she swung the wrench back up at his face.
He reared back enough that the wrench clipped only a piece of his
ear, but she had lost the element of surprise. They both darted back,
and started circling, looking for an opening.
know why you and Don never had a chance?” Morgan hissed at her,
spitting blood. “It’s because you never got the point. You had to
make the big, noble moves; for a big, noble dream! You wanted Utopia,
and all you had to build it with was people like me!”
Cora spat back. “I had better.” She lunged again, swinging the
wrench. He darted back, and she tried to stay close enough to hit
him, far enough that he couldn’t hit back. It made it harder to hit
him, but she started working him back toward the corridor, where he’d
have no room to evade.
next swing would have caved in his ribs, but he was close enough to
the corridor that he was able to duck back, and let the hatch take
the blow. Cora’s swing stopped dead, and she wasn’t able to pull
back fast enough. He caught her wrists in one hand, the wrench in the
other, wrestling for it. She rammed her head forward. Her wetsuit
helmet met his exposed nose and Morgan reeled, seeing six of her.
tried to pull free of his grip as he stumbled, but he had the chance
to plant his boot in her ribs and send her rolling back into the Main
Chamber, beneath the steel wings of her mother’s statue.
rolled to her feet, and Morgan lunged, her wrench in his hand. He
struck once, twice, three times, and the faceplate of her mask
shattered. Cora yelped and shut her eyes, trying to keep the shards
out. Time enough for him to swing again. She ducked behind her
mother’s statue and the wrench glanced off the steel. Cora dove for
the corridor, looking for some breathing room.
give you credit for one thing, girl. You knew when to cut your
losses!” He almost cackled as he strode after her, adrenaline
making him wild. “Your father never got the point. He didn’t want
to leave the Ocean, he wanted to beat it! He wanted to conquer a
force of nature that he never so much as tried to look at. That’s
why he lost!”
about you?” Tai asked casually.
spun. Tai had apparently made his way back inside, dripping seawater,
but ready to join the fight.
grinned. He could take them both at once. “Me? I’m a realist. I
don’t care who wins, just who’s left…”
heard quick footsteps behind him and spun as Cora lunged, turning her
attack into a throw that sent her rolling. Tai used the opening to
tackle Morgan back into the corridor.
got her feet under her, ready to join the battle again, when he
suddenly noticed Morgan’s gun laying on the deck. She’d taken it
out of his hand with the wrench, and neither of them had made a grab
for it again. She picked it up, feeling her blood boil. She had him.
and Tai were wrestling with each other in the corridor. They were
both trying to force each other headfirst into the walls, when there
was the sound of a shot, and sparks flew off the wall beside them.
They both stopped, turning to face Cora, aiming the Stingray Weapon
immediately dropped to the floor, being as small as possible. Cora
had a clear shot.
a fight between three people, Morgan?” Cora said, cold as death.
“What do you call the only one holding a gun?”
dove aside, not even looking where he was going. When he looked up
and saw the shattered Console that Tai had sabotaged, he realised it
was the Transmission Room. The Pirate Station that had been exposing
his secrets for ten years. Morgan
no time on the realization, trying to swing the hatch shut, but it
and Cora both stepped into the doorway, in no particular hurry. “When
I tore apart everything useful in the room, did you think I would
forget the hatch?” Tai remarked.
did the math. His back was to the wall, he was outnumbered, and Cora
was aiming his own gun straight at his throat.
lieutenant.” He said to Cora easily. “I surrender.” He held out
his hands, wrists-first; as though waiting to be handcuffed.
regarded him a moment, as though watching from far away. “Hey. You
know something, Morgan?” She observed. “This is the same room
where you killed my mom.”
had half a second to realize what she meant before Cora squeezed the
trigger, and Morgan fell. Fire raced through his every limb, seizing
up. Morgan had Shock-Shot dozens of people, but it was his first time
taking such a hit. His brain was reeling from the overload, but he
fought to tell himself that a hit was non-lethal, unless…
strode over, and zapped him again. Again. Again, until he stopped
kicking. She fired, the same way Morgan had done to her mother, in
almost the same spot. She bent and checked his pulse, just to make
you okay?” Tai asked softly.
rubbed her eyes. “I admit, I enjoyed it more than I should have.
But what’s the other option? We take him back for trial? We tell
all his secrets, he tells all our secrets…”
know.” Tai admitted. “I didn’t have a better option, it’s
just… It’s what he would have done.”
had no answer to that. She threw the gun away, not liking the feel of
it in her hand any longer. The two of them suddenly realized it was
over, and they were together, and alive. They threw their arms around
each other, like they’d never let go.
do we do now?” Tai asked. “We can take Morgan’s Manta…”
I checked it when I came aboard.” Cora shook her head. “If you
hadn’t been here, I would have just taken his Manta and blown up
the entire Memorial and he knew it. That Manta won’t move without
some serious repairs.” Cora took off her useless helmet and held up
her broken faceplate. “No wetsuits in the Memorial Ship, because
nobody’s assigned here permanently. You’re the only one that can
leave at all.”
bit his lip. “I have no idea who will get here first, but whoever
it is will shoot one of us, and rescue the other.”
could go.” Cora said softly. “You don’t need a wetsuit. That
emergency tank would probably get you clear before they catch you,
Tai agreed, before leaning in to kiss her soundly. “Love you,
Director was dying, and he knew it. He was in a wrecked submarine,
and his daughter had gone after a dangerous man. He would die without
ever knowing what happened to his daughter.
could barely move his limbs, but he didn’t mind, because there was
nowhere to go. He tried to reach his TABB, to record a message for
Cora, but it was too badly damaged.
like me. He
thought distantly, feeling his body shut down.
felt a rush of coldness covering his legs, then his hips. Something
touched his face, and suddenly the breathing came easier. He opened
his eyes as the icy coldness kept climbing. It took several seconds
for his eyes to focus, but eventually he saw.
had put an oxygen mask over his face, and was fitting the heating
elements from Cora’s Wetsuit around his torso. The water had come
pouring in from the next chamber. Cora hadn’t been able to leave
without flooding the rear of the upside-down Sub, but Bridger had a
mask over his face and was breathing fine.
took him several seconds to realize that he was breathing Tai’s
oxygen. Tai was just holding his breath.
I dead? We weren’t sure if Tai was alive. Is he a ghost, carrying
Observation Dome was dead silent. Hundreds of people had watched the
sub fight end. Hundreds of people had watched as the Dolphins took
sides in a battle, even taken casualties. At that distance, it was
possible to tell that one of the divers was Cora. It was equally
obvious that the young man who returned to the wreck was not wearing
a dive suit, though nobody could make out his face.
two Dozen Dolphins were still surrounding the wreck, as the merman
emerged, carrying what looked an awful lot like a body.
of the Manta’s came creeping forward, shining a searchlight on
want to see!” Someone in the Observation Dome shouted. “The Manta
has a gun camera! Let us see it! Let us see!”
proved to be a popular opinion, and very quickly the crowd was
repeating the cry. “LET! US! SEE! LET US! SEE!”
of the Stingray Guards had the good sense to keep the people calm and
made a quick call to the Quay. A few moments later, the Manta’s gun
camera was being transmitted to the Observation Dome, and everyone
got a good look.
recognized Tai. He was Cora’s co-pilot, and a hero to everyone on
the Ark-Hive. There was shock when they recognized his face, as he
was meant to be dead. When they saw he wasn’t even masked, everyone
gasped. The Director was in his arms as the dolphin team pushed them
back to the Memorial Ship.
Ark-Hive was able to see through the Plexiglas docks around the
Memorial Ship as the Ocean gave their Leader his final Escort. Not
well enough to hear them, but well enough to see Cora, alive and
waiting by the water, wringing her hands.
of the people started to cry. The Director was a controversial
figure, but he’d been in charge for longer than most of them had
been alive. If they wouldn’t shed a tear for him, they would for
came running when Tai did his best to lift her father gently. The
look on Tai’s face was clear. The Director didn’t have long. The
two of them carried him away from the water, into the Memorial Ship.
Cora said softly in his ear. “Look up.”
did so. His blurry, weakened eyes took in the face of Meyrna, smiling
down at him, as Cora laid him gently beneath her outstretched steel
wings. The older man was soaked through, but it was clear he was
shedding tears. “Meyrna…” He rasped. “...’s been so long…”
long.” Cora agreed. “We got him, dad. You and me and Tai. We
avenged Mom. We made it right.”
Her father rasped, desperate. “You have to do it now. You have to
lead them back to the surface.”
please.” Cora was weeping too. “We don’t… Not right now!”
me!” The Director insisted. “I’ll forgive you if you do it.
Please, you have to finish it...”
please.” Cora insisted. “I love you, and…”
“...three hundred years, Cora…” Her father rasped, his breath rattling…
and finally stopping.
the Observation Dome, one eye watching the screens, the other
watching out the Dome. They all saw Cora lay her father alongside his
wife’s memorial… and then weep on Tai’s shoulder.
was in the Observation Dome, with Ben standing on her left, and
Alison on her right. The Earther with a crush on her, and the Aquan
who owed her life to her.
looked to them both. “I think Cora’s in charge now.”
Note From The Author: I hope you're all enjoying The Ark-Hive, in its serialised format. if you'd rather not wait until the next chapter is published, you can head over to Amazon, and buy the whole book; in a complete ebook format.