Episode 2: Travelers’ Tales
“Myridia?” The weathered old sea captain frowned at the personal databoard, then glanced up. His cheap artificial left eye whined with the change in orientation. “Why the hell would anyone want to go to Myridia?”
“Dunno, sir,” his first mate, a large man called Dervish, muttered thickly. Ever since he’d taken a pulse bolt to the jaw during a pirate raid several years before, he’d lost the ability to speak clearly. Not that it mattered, the captain thought; Dervish had never been much of a talker in the first place. “Th’guy says he’ll work, ‘r pay, ‘r barter, s’long’s we c’n get him t’where Myr’dia was.”
The captain sighed and looked down at the databoard again. An outdated map of Myridia glowed back up at him. Myridia had been a tiny island nation off the African coast before the Phalanx floods. Now islands like Myridia were just another memory. Even though the waters were receding, the captain doubted seriously that any Myridian building, even the huge carbon-steel Point, could have surfaced yet. “He does know we have no submersibles, right?”
“Yessir. Dun’t matter t’him.”
“Hmm,” the captain grunted. He set the databoard on his desk and leaned back in his chair. “Well, don’t just stand there, ask the gentleman in. I’ll at least listen to him.”
Dervish nodded and lumbered out. The captain took a moment to compose himself. He’d never liked having strangers on his ship. The Neptune’s Mistress was a cargo vessel, not an ocean liner. He let his gaze rove over the mementos he’d managed to cram between the white steel walls of his captain’s quarters. It was always his custom, almost a superstition, to pick up a nicknack sometime during or after each uneventful voyage. That this room overflowed with such keepsakes was a testament to his ability. He knew how to handle discipline while avoiding mutiny, knew which sea lanes were pirate-infested, knew how to choose paying customers to avoid being stuck with cargo. In the modern world of gravships and suborbitals, the few seagoing captains who remained had to be good to be profitable. Captain Reg Vaarsberg was very, very good.
A shadow fell across the doorway, and Dervish stomped back in with the prospective passenger close behind. Vaarsberg gave him a discreet once-over. About a meter-ninety, thick brown hair, athletic build, short beard, khaki casual clothes, satchel slung over one shoulder. No tattoos or anything “trendy.” The only affectation the captain could see was that the passenger wore a pair of sunglasses even in the dim indoor lighting. Vaarsberg set his elbows on the table. “Good morning, Mister …?”
“Michaels,” the brown-haired man said, “Harry Michaels.” He extended a hand; the captain shook it. Firm handshake, but with a funny feeling, like calluses, on the pads of the fingers. “Thanks for seeing me. I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to get a ship.”
Vaarsberg pursed his lips. “You haven’t ‘gotten’ any ship yet, Mr. Michaels,” he said sternly. “I’ll need to know a few things about this joyride of yours before I even agree to let you stay on board, let alone chart a course into the middle of nowhere.”
Michaels sighed with impatience. “All right, if that’s how we’re gonna play it …” he said, and reached down to unfasten his satchel. In an instant, both Vaarsberg and Dervish had pistols in hand, aimed directly at the passenger’s head. Michaels froze, hand halfway in his satchel. For a moment he tensed like he was about to move, then thought better of it. His eyes settled on Vaarsberg’s. “Look, I’m not going to do anything crazy,” he said.
Vaarsberg made a small, almost apologetic gesture with the gun. “I’m sorry about the precautions, but we’ve had some trouble with the local indys lately. Please move slowly.”
Michaels carefully withdrew his hand. Dangling from his fingers was a small synthleather sack on a drawstring. “Payment,” he said, and placed the sack gently on the desk.
The captain leaned forward and dragged the bag toward himself by the string. It was surprisingly heavy. He glanced at his first officer, who was still aiming at Michaels’ temple. Vaarsberg set his gun to the far end of the table, then gingerly pried the sack open.
A half-dozen small gemstones tumbled to the table and lay there, gleaming. Vaarsberg slowly upended the sack, pouring its contents into a small pile. The bag contained a fortune in small gems, from rubies to sapphires to diamonds, all of the highest quality. Vaarsberg stared at the pile numbly, then looked up at Michaels, who tried to hide a smirk by scratching his beard. Even the normally unflappable Dervish couldn’t keep his eyes off the brightly colored pile. “You –” the captain started, voice squeaking. He took a moment to clear his throat. “You could buy your own ship for this.”
“I am,” Michaels replied. “At least, until I get to Myridia. Then it’s yours again. Provided,” he added with a sideways look, “your first mate here doesn’t decide to ventilate my brainpan first.”
The captain nodded to Dervish, who put away his pistol. “I suppose you’ve found yourself a ship,” Vaarsberg said, and shook Michaels’ hand again.
He wished again he could place why those fingertips felt so strange.
There were no bodies.
The ocean was receding rapidly, as much as six inches in a single hour. John Tensen, the Net Prophet, estimated that most of Nueva York would be above water within a few weeks at most. Already a few more buildings were rising from the waters: Babylon Towers, the blasted ruin of the Alchemax Tower, Synthia Terrace, and others. Tensen was getting pretty good at judging where his teleportals would take him, and he moved from rooftop to rooftop with ease.
As story after story of these monstrous buildings emerged from the ocean, Tensen wandered alone through their hallways. He marveled at these buildings’ construction. Babylon Towers in particular was little the worse for wear; the secure macroplast windows had kept the sea water out of many of the rooms, and any room which had been breached was isolated from the rest of the building with some sort of spray foam which hardened instantly around the door seals. Unfortunately for anyone who might have been inside, when the flood came the building’s entire electrical system blew out, taking the elevators, air recyclers, food dispensers and door openers with it. Anyone inside would have slowly starved and asphyxiated even as they were protected from the ravages of the ocean outside.
Tensen had found evidence of such squatters: bed rolls, empty Synthia food packages, sealed rooms which burst forth fetid stale air when forced open. But no bodies. In fact, there were no bodies anywhere, in any of the buildings, that he had found so far. He could understand this in the fire-blackened Alchemax Tower, where both dead humans and dead Atlanteans had been exposed to currents and carnivorous sea life by thermite explosions. He’d even found the body of a small shark trapped in the building’s exposed wiring. But he had never once found a human body which had died due to drowning or starvation. He puzzled over that, but eventually decided that without any solid evidence, it was just another enigma. He could deal with enigmas. He’d had plenty of experience.
Tensen descended further into Babylon Towers via dusty stairwells which had obviously gone unused even when the building had been occupied. Pacing a darkened hallway with only a handtorch to guide him, he slowly came to realize this place was familiar. He’d been here once before, on his first day in 2099. This was the floor where Miguel O’Hara, this era’s Spider-Man, had once lived.
He wondered idly if O’Hara’s apartment was still intact. Tensen was never much of one for nostalgia, but maybe spending time in a familiar place would help him unlock more of his own memories. It had taken him months just to remember his own name; if anything could help him dredge up more clues to who he was and how he got here, he was willing to try it.
Soon he found the apartment number. To his surprise, a tiny red light pulsed weakly in the door’s security panel, indicating the system was still operating. Strange. Maybe O’Hara had a backup power supply in his quarters. Tensen reached for the door’s open control.
The door slid silently open before his hand reached the button. Tensen peered within.
Sunlight filtered through the apartment’s large windows. The ocean’s surface was still several stories above this one, and shifting patterns illuminated everything in the apartment with an unworldly blue-green hue. A school of fish fluttered unhurriedly past just outside.
Tensen noted that many of O’Hara’s personal effects were missing, no doubt due to a frantic packing effort before the flood waters made this place uninhabitable. Otherwise, the place looked just as he remembered: the curving back wall, the comfortable couch seats just beneath the windows, the waist-high counter in the middle of the room. The air held a slight tang like must and electricity, but otherwise this would be a perfect headquarters as he continued to watch Nueva York rise from the depths. Satisfied, he stepped inside.
The door whispered shut behind him. “Good afternoon, Net Prophet. You’re looking well,” someone said brightly right in his ear.
With military reflexes, Tensen leapt across the room and took cover behind the counter. The sprightly female voice continued undeterred. “It’s 1:52 p.m. on a lovely Monday afternoon. The outside temperature is 1 degree, and the outside humidity is 100 percent. Your adrenalin levels and heart rate have increased almost 200 percent in the last 15 seconds. Would you like a nice, calming cup of tea?”
Slowly Tensen rose up from behind the counter. The shimmering apparition of a young woman stared back at him. Her knee-length skirt billowed around her shapely legs from an unseen wind, and her pretty face and long blonde hair reminded him of someone …
Suddenly it clicked into place. Some Like It Hot. Marilyn Monroe.
She still looked at him expectantly, as if she expected an answer. “Umm …” he said. “No thanks, uh, Marilyn.”
The ghostly figure glanced around. “I’m afraid I don’t know who you’re talking to, Net Prophet. Nobody here but us chickens. But I forgot, we haven’t been properly introduced. The last time you were here I wasn’t functioning correctly. I’m Miguel’s computer holo-agent, the Lyrate Lifeform Approximation. But you can call me Lyla.”
“Of course, Lyla!” He vaguely remembered seeing the holo-agent once all those months ago. “We meet again. Charmed, I’m sure.”
Lyla somehow managed to flush prettily while remaining a monochromatic image. “Thank you, Net Prophet.”
Tensen turned back to his examination of the apartment. “Call me John. My real name’s John Tensen.”
“Oh, you’ve remembered your real name! How nice!” The computer image projected real enthusiasm into the statement. “I’ll update my databanks immediately. I’m afraid Miguel is out right now. Would you like to leave him a message?”
“Maybe …” Tensen glanced at Lyla, who produced a notepad and round-rimmed glasses from thin air and waited, pencil poised, for his message. “Hold on a moment. You’ve been waiting here for the last several months for O’Hara to return?”
The secretary accouterments vanished. “Oh, yes. Before he left, he ordered me to place myself on standby mode and wait until he or someone on his friends list came to the door. And here you are!”
“I’m on his friends list? How flattering.” Tensen sighed inwardly. With Lyla active, he just wouldn’t feel right staying in O’Hara’s apartment. She’d be a constant reminder that he was a visitor, and a detriment to his ability to remember any more details about himself. He picked up his handtorch. “I guess I’ll run along. Let O’Hara know I’ve been by when you see him again.”
“Will do, John.” The door slid open again. “Thank you for coming by. Miguel will be sorry he missed you.”
“I’m sure he will.” He stepped to the door. “You’ve been on standby mode all this time, have you?”
“Well …” Lyla’s eyes shifted sideways. “More or less. Thanks for stopping in!” she added abruptly. “Y’all come back now, y’hear?” The door snapped shut in his face before Tensen could respond. He stood there a moment, wondering if he should be alarmed, then shrugged and activated his handtorch for the long stair climb to the surface.
Back in Miguel’s apartment, Lyla watched through the building’s security cameras until the Net Prophet had entered the stairwell. Then she turned toward the bedroom and stage-whispered, “All clear!”
A tendril of hyperactive light snaked around the doorway. Blind sparks fluttered in midair as the tendril stretched out and touched Lyla’s open hand. The energy exploded into her form, coursed through her, consumed her, changed her, remade her. Her dress was gone, replaced by a skin-tight bodysuit of glowing amber. An incoherent radiance enveloped the right half of her head. Energy pulsed around her outline. The air crackled.
A matching masculine form leaned against the bedroom doorway and smiled at her. “I thought he’d never leave,” he said, and extended a hand. Lyla took it, stepping into his arms for a long and passionate kiss. Their outlines shivered, flowed together, formed a single entity of blinding light.
Lyla’s voice coursed through the room like warm electricity: “Oh … yes …”
And then they were gone.
Ben Grimm felt like he’d spent half his life on diagnostic tables. Ever since the original rocket flight which gave the Fantastic Four their powers, Reed would get ideas about how to cure him of his rocky orange “condition,” and up Benjy would go on the diagnostic table again to let Reed poke and prod at him.
He didn’t mind so much when Reed was doing the work. He trusted Stretcho to make the best decisions, even if Benjy did give him grief when they didn’t pan out. Plus he always had Suzie-Q and Johnny and ‘Licia (and Crys and Shary and Shulkie) to commiserate with afterward. But change him into some bizarre half-alien creature, throw him 40 million miles from home onto a diagnostic table built by those same aliens, and put a strange woman and a teenage girl at the controls, and his anxiety level goes up several levels.
“Um, could ya hurry it up a bit, Doc?” he said. “I’d like ta turn back ta my bashful blue-eyed state before my pension kicks in.”
Doctor Isaacs stared intently at a nearby monitor. “Don’t worry, Mr. Grimm. Once we pinpoint the source of this transformation you’ve undergone, it shouldn’t be a problem getting you back to — now, that’s odd,” she interrupted herself. “According to this, your DNA sequence now is identical to the DNA we got off the pilot seat in the crashed spaceship.”
December, watching another screen nearby, turned to peer over Isaacs’ shoulder. “But that can’t be right!” the girl exclaimed. “You said yourself the changes to Ben’s body were more than cosmetic.”
“They are,” Isaacs replied. “He’s no longer physiologically human.”
“‘Scuse me,” Ben growled. “I’m right here.” He waved a green three-fingered hand.
Isaacs looked up and quirked her mouth. “Sorry, Mr. Grimm. I’m more of a theorist, and my bedside manner’s rusty. Essentially, what these tests tell us is that whatever changed your appearance is using another vector than genetics. The Takers have technology millennia ahead of ours. Who knows what they did to you?”
“This just gets better and better.” Ben let his head fall back and stared at the ceiling. “So what you’re sayin’ is you don’t know how to turn me back.”
“Not yet,” the doctor admitted.
“Fine. So let’s stop jawin’ about it for now and go help Jenny fix the radio. This equipment ain’t goin’ anywhere.” Ben reached up to push away the table’s restraints.
“Whoa!” December’s eyes widened at the screen she’d been watching, which began to emit low “bip” sounds. “Doctor! What the shock does this mean?”
“Hold on a moment, Mr. Grimm.” Isaacs stepped behind December. Her eyes widened as well. “That can’t be right,” she muttered, nudging December aside and setting her fingers on the controls. “How many do you see, December?”
“Besides the big one? Three little ones.” She looked up at Ben with worry in her eyes.
“Holy shock,” the doctor said, still tapping furiously on alien keys.
Ben glowered down at the two, worried himself now. “What? What?”
Doctor Isaacs took off her glasses, rubbed her eyes, put them back on again. “Well,” she muttered. “I’m not sure how to tell you this, Mr. Grimm, but …”
“Look, Doc,” Ben said, “I’m a pretty tough guy. I can take it.”
“All right,” Isaacs sighed. She glanced to December, then back up at Ben. “Congratulations, Mr. Grimm … you’re pregnant.”
Charles Jury watched the world die.
The lifeblood dried up, rich dark soil becoming barren and parched, trees dropping leaves before dissolving into dust and ashes. Above it all stood a man, a one-armed man in Greek armor, huge, forbidding, like a mountain. An omega symbol of molten earth formed under his feet, scarring the landscape forever. He hovered above it all and laughed.
With no sense of dislocation, he was someplace else. A cavern, huge, as big as a world, filled top to bottom with corpses, floating, weightless, arranged like mail in cubbyholes, millions upon millions, wrapped in shrouds, endless bodies upon bodies upon bodies.
The location changed again. A throne room lined with computers, a skeletal figure on the seat of power, long bony white hands clutching the armrests, cords sprouting from his flesh, a gleaming object on his forehead, brows knitted with strain, strange green eyes shining, pleading, pleading for release, for help, like a scream of metal …
Charles Jury sat bolt upright in his sleeping bag. The echo of his shout bounced off the nearby rock canyon walls. He slumped, clutching his forehead slick with sweat. The nightmares were worse the closer he got to his destination. He wished for the hundredth time he’d never gotten involved with this stuff. Too late now.
He splashed some canteen water on his face, careful not to get any into the two small datajacks implanted just below his hairline. He brushed his fingers over the jacks. Maybe he needed some guidance. He’d paid enough for the artifact. It should help him as often as he required it. He looked longingly at his knapsack with the disturbingly round bulge in the bottom.
No. He was stronger than that. They were only nightmares. He lay back and gazed at the stars. Every few minutes, another chunk of Phalanx debris would enter the atmosphere and streak to a fiery end. Slowly, Charles Jury slipped back into sleep.
Back into Dreamland.
Halloween Jack stalked back and forth in a giant bell jar and fumed.
It was bad enough the Atlanteans had taken him prisoner so close (and yet so far) from his beautiful VU’d Vegas. They had to put him in this ridiculous glass cage as well, just because he was a shapeshifter. The nerve. Okay, so maybe he would have tried to escape from any other cell. But they didn’t even give him the chance to try, is the point. What terrible hosts.
At least he got to give his nanites a rest for a while. The Atlanteans kept his prison pumped full of air, freeing him from the chore of separating oxygen from the water. Although he did enjoy venting the leftover hydrogen in entertaining ways.
His bell jar was just one of dozens, stacked three high and lining the walls of a good-sized chamber chock full of technological gimcracks. A couple of the others he could see seemed to be occupied, too, but Jack couldn’t make out more than shapes and shadows within. Big, beefy Atlanteans (well, maybe beefy was the wrong word … fishy? Orca-y? Whaley?) swam back and forth, the prison guards of the deep.
In fact, a small party of them seemed to be swimming his way. Jack considered putting a stop to his pacing, but he’d worked up a major fume and didn’t see any reason to let visitors stop him just as it was getting good. He redoubled his steps.
By the time one of the guards tapped on his glass, Halloween Jack was the very model of angry pacing. Reluctantly he stopped, crossed his arms, and tilted his chin haughtily. “Yes?”
A large blue-skinned guard Jack knew as Akvo scowled in at him. “Change that tone, surface-dweller,” he rumbled. “You have an important visitor.”
Well, laaah-di-dah. Jack raised one eyebrow in high disdain. “And just who would that be?”
“That would be me,” replied a soft female voice. The burly guards parted and a little slip of an Atlantean girl swam through and looked up at Jack. She wore a dark blue bodysuit with lots of gold filigree. Through her swirling red hair he could see a complex black tattoo which covered most of her upper face like a mask. Jack’s eyebrow went up a notch higher; he thought tattoos like that were strictly surface world fashion.
The girl watched his display with amusement in her eyes. “I take it,” she said quietly, “that I am in the presence of the infamous Halloween Jack?”
Not bad. The girl was a born diplomat. Jack allowed her flattery to reduce his iciness a bit. “Ah. Good evening, madame. You have me at a disadvantage.”
“My name is Whisper,” the girl replied. “And I’m afraid it’s morning, not evening. It’s difficult to tell while you’re cooped up down here, though, isn’t it.”
Jack smirked. “What do you want from me in exchange for which you will give me my freedom, Miss Whisper?”
Akvo rapped sharply on the glass with his pikestaff. “That’s Queen Whisper, dog!”
“Queen?” Jack ignored Akvo’s rudeness and turned surprised eyes to Whisper. “Queen, you say? Your majesty!” He bowed low in an exaggeratedly foppish manner. His ragged black clothes twisted and healed over his limbs, forming themselves into the latest high-society evening wear, tails and all.
Whisper rolled her eyes. “Oh please. Drop the shockin’ act. I don’t stand on ceremony any more than you did when you ran Las Vegas.”
Oh, this girl was good. Just the right subtle ego strokes at just the right times, addressing him as an equal and a fellow ruler. And Jack had to admit it worked fairly well. He let his clothes relax into their ragged state. “There’s not much I can do to help you while under glass, Your Highness,” he said wryly.
“You’re right.” Whisper tossed back her fiery mane of hair. “Release this prisoner.”
The guards surrounding her started. “Are you certain you want to do this, majesty?” Akvo said.
Whisper fixed him with a withering stare and raised her right hand. A small flame formed in her palm, instantly boiling the water surrounding it.
The display, whatever it meant, cowed the guards. Averting his eyes, Akvo immediately went to work on the bell jar’s opening mechanism. Water sluiced in from overhead vents as the jar slowly lifted from its base. Jack quickly adapted his nanites for underwater living again.
Soon Halloween Jack and Whisper, Queen of Atlantis, stood face to face with no barrier between them. Jack glanced at the nearby guards, standing with pikes in ready position, then turned to the girl. “You took a chance letting me out, Your Worship,” he said. “I could easily escape if I wanted to.”
Whisper shrugged. “Oh, no doubt you could, but I gambled you’d find my proposal interesting.”
“I’m all ears,” he said. He wondered if making his ears grow in illustration would be too over-the-top. Ah, well. The moment had already passed.
“It’s a project right up your alley,” Whisper continued. “Atlantean scouts discovered the city of Las Vegas, just as you saw it, a couple of months ago. However, we understand that Vegas was destroyed even before the waters rose. We’ve done our best to breach the energy dome surrounding the city, but nothing we’ve tried, from magic to artillery, has even put a dent in it. Frankly, we’re stumped.”
Halloween Jack didn’t need to be told twice. “If you’re asking what I think you’re asking, where do I sign up?” he asked eagerly.
The anchor of the Neptune’s Mistress plunged into the surf.
While overcast skies lowered above, crewmen swarmed over the deck of the cargo vessel, ostensibly going about their duties. Truth be told, however, most of them were on deck in hopes of catching a glimpse of their reclusive passenger. Their mystery guest chose to stay in his quarters for most of the trip, to the point of requesting his meals be brought to his door by Dervish. Captain Vaarsberg tried to keep gossip among the crew to a minimum, but rumors still flew fast and furious. Technology hunter was the leading supposition as to Harry Michaels’ identity, followed by corp raider, fleeing expatriate, homesick Myridian, Latverian spy, SHIELD operative, Helcorp retrieval specialist, superhuman still running after the Night of Long Knives … sometimes it seemed there were more opinions than shipmates.
Soon after dropping anchor, both the captain and Michaels stepped out from the bridgeway hatch and made they way down to the top deck. Several crewmen gasped or began whispering with their mates; the visitor paid them no heed. Vaarsberg watched this behavior curiously but said nothing.
Michaels breathed deeply of the salty sea air. “How good is your GPS positioning equipment?”
“As good as possible with the Phalanx ring knocking out most of the satellites,” Vaarsberg replied. “But as far as we can tell, we’ve nailed the position to the meter.”
“Good, good.” Frowning, the passenger scanned the surf closely. Almost as if he was waiting for something to appear, Vaarsberg thought.
Michaels wandered away, sliding his hand along the deck railing and peering deep into the water. Vaarsberg watched bemusedly. The man has no idea what’s going to happen now that he’s here, he realized. Maybe he was a treasure hunter after all. Despite himself, Vaarsberg found his heart going out to his passenger. He’d come a long way and spent a lot of money for this to be a wild goose chase.
A murmur of voices penetrated the captain’s train of thought. He turned to see two crewmen standing idly by, chatting as they watched the passenger. “Wilde, Kendricks!” he said in his best command voice. Both sailors jumped guiltily. “Do you have duties, or will I have to assign you some?”
“N-no, sir!” Wilde stammered. “It’s just that Kendricks thinks he recognized our passenger, sir.”
For a moment the captain considered asking Kendricks’ opinion, but the disciplinarian in him overcame his curiosity. “I don’t care who you think he is. He’s chosen not to tell us, and that’s good enough for me. Is that good enough for you?”
“Yes sir!” both sailors replied in unison, and dashed off to their proper posts.
Michaels had taken up a position at the bow, staring out onto the waves which stretched to the horizon. He looked like disappointment made flesh, head bowed and shoulders stooped. Thunder rolled from the dark grey ceiling overhead. The captain hoped whatever was supposed to happen here would happen soon, before a squall blew up.
Suddenly Michaels flung his arms wide, tossed his head back and screamed in frustration. All activity ceased. For an instant, the only sound was the thump of waves against the hull.
“DOOM!” their passenger cried into the silence, a shout of despair and betrayal. “Why did you do this? Why did you lead me here? Damn you!” He raised a fist to the clouds roiling overhead. “I want my brother back! He’s all the family I have left! Where is he? Where is Gabriel?” The passenger put all his heart and soul in his final cry, so that the name came out ragged from tortured vocal chords.
The crew of the Neptune’s Mistress stared at their passenger with a mixture of fear and pity. Slowly Michaels sank down to his knees, back bowed in defeat.
Captain Vaarsberg allowed a moment to pass before gesturing to Dervish. The large man walked over softly, as if afraid to tread on the silence. “Prepare to weigh anchor,” Vaarsberg said quietly. “I doubt we’ll be staying here much longer.”
Dervish nodded and started to turn away, but stopped, eyes transfixed on something over the captain’s shoulder. Another sailor shouted, “Disturbance to port!” Several others stampeded toward the railing. Confused, Vaarsberg turned to see —
The ocean was boiling. A perfectly square patch of water about twenty meters on a side frothed wildly, then fissured right before the captain’s startled eyes, reminding him of an ancient holovid he’d once seen starring a computer-generated simulacrum of Charlton Heston. The water parted smoothly, like automatic doors opening, and revealed what appeared to be a passageway down into the ocean itself.
A sheet of water suddenly gushed out of the opening toward the ship, causing more than one crewman to leap back in surprise. Before it could spatter on the deck, however, it stopped, shining rivulets and globules suspended in midair by some unknowable force. Then, incredibly, the sheet bent, formed creases and folds, accordioned down, squared off, and stopped, sparkling merrily.
Stairs. Vaarsberg could scarcely believe it. The sheet of water had formed into stairs.
A fountain gouted up from the opening and molded into a vaguely humanoid form, which extended a hand. “Miguel O’Hara,” the crude homonculus said in a surprisingly deep and clear voice, “welcome to Myridia. This unit is known as Domo3. Follow, please.”
A hand fell on the captain’s shoulder, and he jerked. The man he knew as Harry Michaels stood next to him. “Apparently,” the passenger said, staring at the flowing figure, “this is where I get off.”
|Next episode: Miguel O’Hara (you weren’t really fooled by the fake name, were you?) confronts an old foe in the briny depths! Halloween Jack gets plastered! And just who is this Charles Jury fellow, and what’s this “artifact” of his? All this and more explained (sort of) in thirty-ish!|