It took three days with heavy equipment to dig the crawler out from under the cliff it had toppled on itself. The only major damage aside from an engine being ruined in the explosion was the cockpit. The control panel was totally shot, filled with fragments of the shattered pilot’s chair it had embedded itself in. Anything between them would have been as broken as it was.
Birch waited quietly on her guests through the glaze of pain that still covered her, but tried to keep a clear head. She was a lucky one. Her body could do in hours what took others days.
Rimares, Sr. looked at her critically, waiting without a word. Dr. Pac sat in the corner, trying hard to not be there, looking uncomfortably at the last man in the room, who had called the meeting and who now waited with a patience that could wear down stone. He had stayed on to research some things he wasn’t supposed to even know about. After two years he knew more than anyone except, perhaps, the Sisters themselves. He had discretely contacted the others in his order and all had, in the end, agreed with him. The information would never be recorded, anywhere, until after the fates had played their hand.
When we were test floating it, it sat pretty low. It was heavy. But with the engines on it just hung there, barely above the water, with the water underneath skittering around madly, trying to figure out whether it was supposed to get out of the way or not. The engines were meant to push off things, not to make the crawler float through the air, that it why it was called a crawler. If you were lucky, you could survive ending up under one of those engines while it was holding the crawler up in a way you couldn’t if you ended up under the crawler itself, but they still pushed things down and around in weird ways.
“Take her to the test site,” Rimares said, and then climbed top side through the hatch above us. I stayed in the cockpit, taking in all the equipment and blinking lights. Birch got to take us out because she knew how to drive most anything with a working nav. Her already intimidating eyes always had a disturbing look of seeing things no one else could see. Though the nav, she could do just that.
Seji pounded on the snow-beaten door of the isolated monastery. She couldn’t feel her hand hitting the wood anymore, and she wondered if the noise could be heard over the howling wind. She was not entirely sure she could hear much of anything either, except the wind. Even properly prepared for the elements, she was reasonably sure she had died at least twice on her way here. Between the numbing cold, and the blinding wind, it was hard to tell anymore.
For the next year there was a lot or work and a lot of learning and plenty of getting my hands dirty. I started giving the four troublemakers who had scuffed my uniform fighting lessons. They’d been so busy studying books, they had never even learned to throw a punch. They didn’t want to at first, but I insisted. After all, it had been such an unfair fight. In six months, they were calling me “boss” as a joke and using their new found intimidation skills to keep the peace instead of pushing people around … most of the time.
“Look out, dear!” Mrs. Apothecary pulled her husband down as a blast of magickal fire ripped over top of them.
The entire chamber was engulfed in magick, fire, and chaos. The two of them were crouched behind a stone table in the entry hall of the High Wyrd of Farport. Chaotic energies swirled above them, crackling with the force to scorch and scar stone, let alone cloth and flesh.
“Wait for it,” she said calmly, gauging the storm above them. “Now!”
I spent three months cleaning the shop floor, or at least Rimares’ section of it. Most new apprentices spent six months at it, but I already had more experience cleaning shops than most of them, and working for the Apothecaries had made me very good a not spilling dangerous things on me. So instead of learning how to handle a broom, a mop, or a vacuum hose, or which chemicals to use when and which were safe and which would melt my hands off, I got to focus on what tools were for what, where they were stored, and how to clean them.
My spare time was spent making friends in town, doing things with mom and Officer Puppy, training with Blademaster Kasa, and visits from Maid, Dr. Pac, and the pirate Periwinkle. None of them really had any place to go while the ship was in for repairs. And, except for Maid, none of them were really interested in spending their time getting drunk in bars. Though Periwinkle did like a good wine bar, and would be praising each new one he found for days, even if it wasn’t really that good.
The monitor came to life at the flick of a switch, lighting up the room and presenting Seji with the face on the other end of the channel. She was almost painfully familiar with the face she saw, but it was still more pleasant to talk in something that was almost in person. She left the rest of the room dark and just let the glow from the screen light her face. No need to let others know how mother had insisted on decorating her room.
It was early in the morning on the twenty-second day of the Second Planting, the beginning of a new week. I was excited. The sun was just barely awake and hiding behind dark clouds, the clouds were hiding behind a heavy rain, the rain was hiding behind a good strong wind, and all of it was discretely wrapping itself in a veil of gloom, but I was excited anyway. I was starting on a new adventure. I was also pretty scared, because I was starting on a new adventure.
The next morning mom woke me up and did her morning routine like we had always lived here and she was getting me ready for school. I put on the leathers Ornery had gotten me. When I was ready to go, mom walked with me to my new school, following a little hand-drawn map so we didn’t get lost.
The streets were wide, with freestanding houses, mostly wood with broad porches to keep out the sun and sliding doors to let in the breezes. All the houses were bright with freshly painted walls and tiled roofs. The tiles looked like they were solar collectors, which they later turned out to be. There were plants everywhere. It was weird being in a city that was so green. But the weirdest part was the people. Not a single one of them looked at us funny. No one sneered, moved to the other side of the street, or found something in a vendor stall to distract them. No one cared who we were, though some did pause to welcome as a new residents. We were just people. It was almost creepy.
Dr. Pac sat in his office, dark except for a circle of light on the desk before him. He stared distractedly at two sets of documents, lost in thought and having long stopped looking at the details of each.
One set was recently created on paper, with notes in his own hand, and one was projected in the space above his desk from an information shard that lived as a pendant securely attached to his neck, normally hidden safely under his clothes. It was not a wyrd information shard, but something far older, and capable of holding far more information. It processed and analyzed what it held within, on its own, looking for patterns and connections and sharing what it found. Within its refracted shape lay the complete medical history of every pirate, wyrd, human, and other since the creation of the shard, or at least as complete a record as could be recorded. After all, there were only six of them, they could only do so much.
The Jewel of the Sea was a lush green island, maybe 8 kilomi in any direction, mostly ringed with high cliffs and big rocks. The repair depot was a small city on the east side of the island, with most of the repair shops built up on what used to be a sandbar that stretched out forever. All the repair shops might have ruined a nice sandbar, but it was downwind of the rest of the island and reduced the amount of damage caused by things blowing up.