The bell has been raised
from it’s watery grave
Hear it’s sepulchral tone?
A call to all
pay heed the squall
and turn yourself toward home
Yo ho, haul together
Hoist the colors high
Heave ho, thieves and beggars
Never shall we die!
~Hoist the Colours by Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End)
“Damn it!” I stumbled as the ship shuddered like a dying beast.
“We’re entering the upper layer of the planet’s atmosphere!” Ebony squeaked in terror, and I couldn’t blame him.
“How long can the ketch withstand it?” I asked.
“I don’t know! We might burn up on entry! Even if we don’t, atmospheric pressure will be crushing for our jump ships in less than 2 minutes!”
The others were already far ahead: say what you will about Titans, but they can run at speed when the need is on them, and Magnus and Drake were blinking through time and space as fast as their Light would allow. I was hard-pressed to keep up. I could blink with Arc energy, but it was taxing and not nearly as quick as the Warlocks.
A shank barreled out of a door as I passed and I struck it aside with my sword.
“Bring our jump ships in!” Farstride’s order indicated that he’d reached the outer deck.
“We’re already at high pressure depth! You’ve got to transmat in the next 45 seconds!” Freyja, his Ghost, transmitted this helpful tidbit across the comms.
“We’re not going to make it,” I said. //Fear settled into my circuits with a cold certainty. The deck rang under my boots with each step. I could hear dregs and psions behind me, chattering with rage at my back.
I saw Drake and Magnus duck through the doors into the outer deck area, and they were already beyond the airlock by the time I made it: both of them did a swan-dive over the edge into the stormy gas of Saturn, barely visible, and disappeared in flashes of Light as their jump ships swept in. I raced to reach the outer deck as well: a wave of scorching heat and pressure that lit my warning systems washed over me and I stumbled again, the gale-force winds tearing at my cloak. I used the sword to channel my Light, offsetting the pressure, and pushed forward.
“Guardian, behind you!” squeaked Ebony.
I pivoted on //instinct, waiting for the blow, but none came.
The Captain stood behind me, as if he was waiting, as if he had always been there, wrapped in shadows and Darkness. His upper arms were crossed. A third arm rested on his hip, the last gripped the hilt of a blade as long as I was tall with its point in the deck. His eyes glowed in the shadow, and even in the obscuring gasses I could see his cloak billowing around his shoulders, the flag of the Corsairs.
I backpedaled away from him, toward the exit. He watched me go, no perceptible movement besides his cloak and his glowing eyes.
“We’re out of time,” said Ebony. I nodded, turned my back on the Fallen Captain, and leapt off the deck into the crushing atmosphere. The winds threw me around like a rag doll even before the transmat activated and deposited me into my jump ship.
“We’re too far down!” Ebony cried out as my hands gripped the controls. I looked outside at the Ketch in the howling Saturn storm. There was a flash of green and brown light…and it was gone, as if it had never been. The winds battered my own ship. I tried to right it, but alarms were shrieking all over as the hull buckled.
“We’re going down!”
There was a wrenching sound, a rush of atmosphere as the ship tore apart, and then…
“Ouch!” I yelped as an unexpected transmat ended.
“Comfy?” asked Telrik from his pilot seat. I was crammed in behind him, sprawled against a bulkhead and a monitor behind his pilot seat. “Glad your Ghost noticed me coming in, you were just about done there.”
“Thanks…I think.” I tried to shift but couldn’t, as my leg was jammed between the seat and the plating of the hull.
“We’re gaining altitude. Sorry about your ship…looks like you’ll need a replacement.”
I sighed. “Looks like.”
“The Reef has a few blockade runners for sale, you should take a look.”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “I had that ship almost 2 years, you know.”
“I hear ya. Oh look at that, we’re clear.”
The faint light of Sol pierced the canopy as we raced out of Saturn’s atmosphere.
“I got the Hunter,” said Telrik into the comms. “All fireteam members accounted for.”
“Everyone meet at the Reef.”
“Roger that.” Telrik kicked the ship into warp and we left Saturn behind.
“Well,” said M, staring at us balefully. “That doesn’t sound like an actual success.”
“The ketch was going down, it was damaged, and even as tough as ketch’s are, it couldn’t have survived Saturn.” Farstride projected more confidence than I had.
“Did anyone actually see it destroyed? Who was the last one off?”
Everyone looked at me. I shrugged. “It…it disappeared,” I said.
M sighed. “Well, you took out their Pilot Servitor and forced them away from the Dreadnought. I suppose it will have to do.” She paused. “Did you at least manage to salvage anything?”
“There wasn’t time,” said Farstride.
M shook her head. “Well, see the Quartermaster, I’ve set aside some gear and glimmer for you.” She dismissed us with a flick of her fingers.
We all trooped up to the flight deck of the Tower hangar, the roar of jump ships coming and going filling the space. I wandered over to the railing while the others went to the Quartermaster to sort out the disposition of the loot. I could see my new ship getting a coat of paint, the black and white of a Dead Orbit ship being put on the hull over the blue and silver of the House of Wolves.
“Not a bad run, all things considered,” said Drake, leaning up against the railing beside me.
“Something’s been bothering you since the Dreadnought,” he said. It wasn’t a question.
“Just…” I thought about telling him about the Tower, the voice on the wind. I decided against it for now. “Just thinking about the Corsairs. Not many factions have survived as long as they have, done what they’ve done. Do you think that ketch survived?”
“Between you and me?” Drake laughed. “Yes. I don’t think diving into a gas giant is enough to stop anyone that determined.”
“Do you think we’ll see them again?” I asked.
I nodded. We watched the ships come and go for a few moments more. “I need to go,” I said suddenly.
He nodded. “I thought as much.”
I looked at him, //surprised. “How?”
The Awoken laughed again. “You are easy to read, for an Exo.”
“Thanks. Racist,” I added, eliciting another laugh.
“Just don’t get lost out there, Hunter.” He clapped me on the shoulder and went to join the others. I pulled my hood up and made my way to my new ship.