Thoughtful - Chapter 18


‘Strychley, can you get us something to drink? From Turing’s secret stash perhaps, under the panel there?’ asked Lady, ‘I think we could all do with a drop.’

‘Ah sure,’ came her subdued reply, and as if in a daze Strychley moved over to the panel and opened it. It was a badly kept secret that Turing kept a prized bottle of Starward whiskey under his station. 

As Strychley handed everyone a glass, Fury began to revel what he knew.

‘It all started about two months ago, we’d picked up the signal for some really unique Mellion tech, I mean this shit was off the charts good, from the initial readings we were getting we figured it was some kind of terraforming equipment, or at least it had similar capabilities, but it was hard to pin point. The signal kept fluctuating, like it was breathing or something, and so our equipment kept confusing it with the weird creatures that live down here. For days it felt like we were on a wild goose chase, doing everything we could to locate this thing, and we soon realised we weren’t the only ones who were looking for it either. Demise and Degrasse were after it as well.’

‘Right,’ Lady nodded as she listened intently 

‘Now we all know Degrasse is pretty cool,’ Fury continued, ‘so I wasn’t too worried if he got to it first because I knew he’d share whatever it with us eventually anyway, but Demise well that’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned, when has he ever done the right thing or shared anything? Anyway, I started to get really worried when a submarine that I’d never encountered before started showing up on our scanners. You know we’ve all got an agreement right? All subs must register at Royale, each must be coded with their own signal and each flies its own colours,’ Fury paused for a moment to catch his breath and take a sip of his whiskey. 

‘Right, it’s how we recognise each other, it’s one of the few concessions we make as fellow scavengers slash scientists slash pirates,’ replied Lady, ‘so we know if we’re encountering friend or foe, and who we’re up against if it’s the latter.’

‘OK, so it’s not often you come across a Blank, so you know me, I didn’t want to let that go, I mean it might be newbies who needed our help, but really I suspected it was Overworlders sticking their noses in down here again, and I wanted to see what they were up to.’

‘But you still wanted to go after the tech right?’ prompted Lady.

‘Exactly, so I was stuck, part of me wanted to follow the Blank and find out what those sneaky sneaks were up to, but of course I also didn’t want to lose days’ worth of sleuthing, I wanted to get to that tech first.’

‘So what did you decide?’ asked Strychely.

‘Well that’s where it gets interesting, it turns out that whoever was in the Blank was after the tech as well! At first I had no idea how they would have found out about it, but then something happened that answered that little chestnut.’

‘What was it?’

‘I’ll get to that in a minute, but the fact that in such a vast expanse of water we came across one of these things got me thinking, you remember back when Starman got mutinied?’

‘Yeah, nasty business that, and pretty rare down here.’

‘Right, rare, so what if that’s not what it was? a crew isn’t gonna scupper their ride just to overthrow a Commander, it’s too risky, and no one wants to be buried 5 miles down with the crushing weight of the deep dark all around you.’

‘What are you saying?’

‘What if Starman and his sub was actually taken out by a Blank? And what if there are more of them down here than we thought? it can’t be good right? we’re outcasts living in huge metal tubes, we’re easy targets.’

‘What else happened to you back there Fury? This isn’t like you at all,’ Lady looked at him with concern marring her brow. 

‘I’m getting to that … as soon as I realised they were after the tech too, it made me determined to find it first, but we obviously didn’t want to be seen, so we hung back and followed them, triangulating their position against ours and where we were picking up signals from the tech … we were pretty sure that they didn’t know we were there …’

‘But they did?’ prompted Lady.

‘No, it was Demise, he did, and he attacked us, with no warning and full aggression, if it wasn’t for our force fields I hate to think, however that’s not even the half of it … it looks like he’s working with the Overworlders,’ Fury looked up at Lady expectantly, waiting for a reaction.

‘How do you figure?’

‘Intercepted radio transmissions between Demise and the Blank, we didn’t get the why but it was clear he was helping them get their hands on this particular tech.’

‘That man has more twists to him than a mystery novel, I thought the last people he’d collab with would be Overworlders, but I guess it makes some kind of illogical sense, he must see an angle somewhere … remember I told you once he wanted to blow up the Arbour? He’s not only a total dick, he’s certifiable!’ said Lady, exasperated but not as surprised as she thought she should be.

‘That’s not the worst of it, while he was attacking us, Degrasse showed up, and he clocked what was going and tried to help us, but Demise took him out,’ Fury’s face was a mask of anguish, ‘he was just trying to do the right thing but I don’t know what he was thinking really, you know as well as I do that his vessel, the Universe is nowhere near as well armoured as the Anhinga or the Marvyl, and it literally just disintegrated, became an underwater ash cloud of black debris … I don’t even know what Demise threw at it, I’ve never seen a sub do that before, there was just nothing left, there was nothing we could do to stop it, we just had to disappear ourselves so he wouldn’t go at us again, so we cloaked up and kept watching them … then Demise let the Blank take the Mellion tech we were all looking for, he just bent over and let them take it!’ Fury’s voice rose until he was almost yelling now, reflecting the obvious disbelief he felt.  

It would never cross Fury’s mind to join forces with the Overworlders, let alone take any tech that he’d found, and he couldn’t understand why any Commander would put their crew, their sub and their own life on the line to help those that had cast them out in the first place. His heart also ached for Degrasse. He was a good guy and didn’t deserve to be vaporised.

‘So what happened next?’ Lady interrupted Fury’s introspection.

‘After they left with the tech, we got the hell out of there, we’d sustained considerable damage and I didn’t want to take any further chances facing off against Demise and the Blank together, only Bowie knows what other weapons they were packing, and I wasn’t planning on finding out.’

‘Fair enough,’ conceded Lady.

‘Over the coming weeks we put the feelers out to try and find out what had happened with the tech that was taken, or at least get an idea of what Demise was up to, but we got zip. No one knew anything. So we passed it off as a one-time occurrence, like maybe Demise was getting paid off for the tech, then we find you floating topside with a massive hole in your sub’s belly.’

‘It’s not been a great day,’ admitted Lady.

‘Yeah but I think this shit is connected, you recently picked up some good tech right?’

‘That’s right, but we haven’t had a chance to look at it yet.’

‘But you got heat as soon as you picked it up yeah? How many subs were trying to get a hold of that pickup?’

‘We didn’t have time to count,’ said Lady.

‘There were three,’ said Strychley without hesitating, Demise was one, Commander Ford’s Heart of Gold was another, and there was a third unidentified.’

‘A Blank?’ suggested Fury.

‘Damn it! Why didn’t you say something Strych?’

‘Well, there was the slight distraction of getting Persephone on board before she drowned in that toxic bilge,’ Strychley defended herself indignantly. 

‘But you think it was a Blank?’

‘It would explain a lot,’ admitted Strychley.

‘What’s this tech you think we picked up when we grabbed the girl Fury?’

‘Either another one of those machines, or a part that they need for the other one, the signatures are the same.’ 

‘How do you … have you been tracking us too?’

‘Not you, the tech, we were there when you picked it up, but our new cloaking device makes us undetectable … to anyone it would seem,’ Fury smiled over at Strychley.

‘Hey!’ she exclaimed, sitting straight up with a cloud of anger floating almost visibly around her head.

‘He’s not having a go, Strych.’

‘Like Bowie he’s not,’ she sulked, taking a sip of her drink.

‘So I assume you want to get a look at our haul?’

‘I’m dying to, but not here, we gotta get you to Royale and patch this baby up,’ Fury answered, patting the Anhinga’s console’s affectionately, ‘then we can start to try and unravel this thing, this story is just getting started, but I’m in it to the end, something’s not right in the Underworld.’