people still paused at sunset, to watch the sky burst into flame.
had ceased to be the monster they all thought it was. In fact, some
seemed to enjoy lighting a bonfire every night, when the day shift
had been hard work, at first. They had nothing set up. Exploring the
land was fun, but it took them a while to realize what they were
looking for. The Dome, now Home Base, had been anchored securely on
the coastline. Ships had gone out to catch fish for food. Every week
or so, the Ark-Hive would float a container full of foodstuffs that
they recognized, or some processed ore for construction. A sub would
go out to tow it back, and bring along letters and news.
Communications were a little spotty. It had been centuries since
people on land had called anyone on the bottom of the ocean. There
was much to relearn.
had ceremonially broken ground on the first building, first road,
first dormitory. Little by little, they were expanding.
had acted in good faith, knowing how tenuous his position was, and
crops were planted, species were tank-grown and reintroduced. Cora
had personally released the first synth-birds into the air, and
hundreds of people had shouted in awe, watching something that could
was jealous. Birds could move in three dimensions, and she couldn’t
anymore. Not without being underwater.
first, nobody had wanted to move out of the Dome, but little by
little, people were establishing themselves properly on The Land.
Families were forming, babies on the way.
was happy for them. But Ano could see the melancholy behind her
the only one here who’s like me.” Cora confessed to her. “All
my friends, all the people I planned to spend my future with; they’re
all staying below.”
been really busy.” Ano pointed out. “When was the last time you
even went for a swim?”
can’t even see below the water any more.” Cora sighed. “So easy
this was not the day for such thoughts. Green Sector had just
arrived, coming in to land. There were a new crowd of people to house
and put to work. Cora had greeted people as they came out, welcoming
faces she knew; giving directions here and there. She was surprised
when she saw that the statue of her mother had apparently been taken
from the Memorial Ship and sent to the Surface. That would have been
surprising enough, but then she saw that Green Sector had an escort.
dolphins had followed.
took some doing, to refit a large enough section.” Cora had been
told. “But the tunnels still run through the whole Sector. Almost a
dozen dolphins came with us, pressurized to this depth. They’re
shallow-water fish again.”
had made all the right noises, taken it in stride. She had organized
a place for the statue of her mother, in the centre of what was fast
becoming their little town. As everyone applauded, she had placed her
father’s ashes at the base of the statue, right where he’d want
the moment her shift ended, she had almost run to the beach; harness
in one hand, TABB in the other. Delphi stuck his bottlenose up to
meet her, squealing happily. “Cora! Found Cora!”
had hugged the dolphin tightly. “You’re here! You know you can’t
go straight back! You depressurized with-”
Swim!” Delphi was having none of that. He had already prodded
Cora’s legs to get her floating; trying to wriggle into his
harness, even without her help. She put it on him properly, and they
were instantly off like a shot. She understood. They would talk. But
what they were doing now was more important. They raced around the
Dome, then around Home Base, then along the beach.
a full hour of this, Delphi let her go, and raced along on his own
for a while. The dolphin seemed to delight in leaping out of the
water, doing flips, making perfect dives; getting to know the surface
in his own way. “Waves fun!” Delphi chattered to her.
laughed, feeling years younger. “You know, this is how it was for
your people, before it all went bad. My ancestors gave yours gills;
but this is how it was for you, way back then.” She lay on her
back, floating, looking up at the stars. “I’ve missed this.”
She said quietly to her friend. “I told Tai once that in the water
you don't feel heavy anymore. You just... Close your eyes and let it
hold you up, hold you still. If there's movement in the water, you
don't even feel it as you move. When you just let yourself be in the
water, you're part of it… It becomes you. Tai thought it was like
being born." She turned over and hugged him. “Thank you for
this. I’ve been working so long, I forgot how the ocean lets you
just… be still.”
nudged her. “Better than still.”
than being still is going very fast.” Cora laughed. “Okay, let’s
swim again.” She turned to grip the harness. “One day we’ll go
back, Delphi. We’ll go back and we’ll ride the deeps. You, me,
Nix... Tai. We’ll go back to where we’re meant to be.”
chattered in approval, and the two of them took off again.
Note From The Author: I hope you all enjoyed The Ark-Hive, in its serialised format. If you prefer to take it with you, you can head over to Amazon, and buy the whole book; in a complete ebook format, or in paperback.
Delphi fetched Cora's suit and brought it to her. It
was just after midnight when Cora made it back to the Ark-Hive.
Nobody tried to stop them, too stunned by the sudden upheaval, and
unwilling to declare either way when Cora led Tai by the hand through
Gold Sector. Cora and Tai didn’t talk about it for a full day. They
had gone to her quarters and sealed the door. They didn’t come out
again for a long time.
had approached them when they came back to the Ark-Hive. In fact,
there was dead silence when they passed. Everyone wanted to know what
would happen next, but nobody dared be the one to ask first.
Stingray Guards became very gentle, very quickly. Everyone knew that
Cora was in charge now, and every Stingray in the Ocean had seen
their Commander murder the new Director’s Mother, and now her father too.
truth about what Don had done came out very quickly through word of
mouth alone, and the Aquans were stunned, wondering if this was their
last chance to escape. Those that knew Cora’s allegiance quietly
spread the word to the rest of the Network. A risky move, but they
knew how to keep secrets from the wrong people.
entire human race was holding their breath, waiting to see what Cora
Bridger would do next.
had woken up sobbing in the middle of the night. Tai hadn’t let go
of her for hours, and she loved him for it. She was holding onto him
like a life preserver. “Well.” She croaked finally. “You always
said that I’d be running the place in a day if I wanted to.”
kissed her face tenderly, and just let her cry it out.
the things he could have chosen for his last words, Tai. He couldn’t
even stop being The Director for his last breath.” Cora sobbed.
know.” He just held her tighter.
had a good plan." Cora admitted. "Have everyone above you
take each other out, until you're left in charge. It worked
perfectly. Just not for him."
but I know you. This wasn’t what you wanted.” Tai remarked.
was… my backup plan.” Cora sighed. “I told my father, Tai.
First time in my life I had the nerve to face him and tell him
everything.” She tried to smile for him. “My perfect plan would
have been to give him a way. I wanted so badly for him to learn the
truth and just… give an inch. If he’d made peace, we could have
had it both ways. His Weir Syndrome would be cured, and he could lead
the Earthers all the way back to the surface. They would have lived a
normal lifespan, and he would have been the one to lead them back. He
decided he’d rather throw his daughter in the Quay than compromise,
even for me.”
duty of the Ark-Hive. Only priority for The Director.”
about for a father?” Cora reached out a hand and cupped his face.
His skin was cooler than she remembered it being. “A job that now
falls to me, because there’s nobody else left.” She sniffed. “It
was my plan, but now that it’s worked, I don’t know if I can keep
gave her a tight hug. “Well, if it matters, I believe you can.”
looked at the door. “Come with me?”
nodded, and the two of them made their way through her family
quarters, out to the elevators. It was the middle of the night,
nobody on the move. There were a few people on duty, but they gave
the new Director a wide berth.
know what the worst part is?” Cora asked softly once they were
alone again. “Part of me was actually surprised. As much as I
wanted his last words to be anything else… Deep down, I always knew
he wouldn’t give an inch. Not even for The Cure. Not even for me.”
why I had to take over.
came off the elevator, towards her father’s office. Ben was there,
at his post, asleep in his chair. The sight made Cora feel warm for a
moment. “Ben.” She shook him awake. “Ben, go home.”
saw her and stood up quickly. “Anything you need, ma’am?”
home. It’s not good to sleep in a chair.” Cora told him. “Have
you been here all night?”
all saw it. What happened.” Ben said softly. “I wasn’t sure
when you’d be here, but I know it’s where I’m meant to be when
sighed hard. “Okay… well… Good work. Um. There isn’t a Board
of Directors any more. Make an announcement over the PA during
Morning Chow. Tell them that I’ll make a statement at the
Observation Dome at 0930 Hours. Until then, go get some sleep.”
Director.” Ben nodded, and headed for the elevator, giving Tai a
had turned to stone behind him. Once they were alone, Tai reached out
and held her hand. “First time anyone’s called you that.” He
Cora said, so soft he barely heard it. She lead the way into her
fathers… into her
office. She stared at his desk for an endless moment, before stepping
around it, and sitting down. Tai came around the desk and sat on it’s
edge so that he wouldn’t have to release her hand.
chair.” She declared finally.
"So. Director Bridger. What do you plan to do now?"
only thing I ever wanted to do." Cora said quietly. "A
future for the Aquans... and nobody gets hurt." She looked at
Tai, almost pleading. "That's not so much to ask, is it? For
people to just... have what they want, and not hate people who want
Tai whispered. “You could let someone else do it.”
The Vote was 90% in favor of Landfall. The actual number is about
70%. The Aquans have Cell Leaders. The Earthers... They don't have
anyone left. My father, the Board... even Commander Morgan. They're
all gone. Casualties of the old men’s stubbornness." Cora said
with bitterness. “And I made it happen.”
nearly killed yourself giving them both a dozen chances to make
peace.” Tai hugged her tighter still. “I’m really proud of you.
You’re going to get them all to where they want to be. The entire
human race, on the same side at last.”
know. Which makes this... so hard." Cora sighed hard. "I
love you, Stripes."
Ark-Hive was assembled. Everyone who wasn’t crammed into the
Observation Dome was watching on screens. There was an incredible
feeling of something about to erupt. Cora could have called for
another Purge. She could have called for war. And they would give it
loud silence intensified when Cora came into the room. Everyone
expected her to go to the podium where her father had called for
Landfall. But she didn’t. She stayed in the Audience. The
Observation Dome had multiple levels, and the Screens showed her, no
matter where in the Dome she stood, so everyone had a clear view.
has gotta stop.” Cora said simply.
human alive heard her say it. They kept holding their breath. It
could be taken either way.
of all, here’s what’s happening.” Cora told them. “There is
no secret Aquan Conspiracy. Yes, Don wanted Ocean Solutions for some
of our problems. So do I. But my father refused to compromise after
the Aquan Rebellion, no matter that it was over years ago. Recently,
Don lead a revolt. It failed. He knew that Weir Syndrome would affect
everyone, and planned a takeover. But when he discovered a cure, he
had a whole other plan in mind. It was a small group that has already
been identified. No grand cell network, just a few key people. We
have not confirmed that Morgan and Don had a deal, to peddle the
cure; but it’s clear Don was using the Quay for human
experimentation, with Morgan’s full consent.”
story fit the few facts that everyone had seen broadcast, and her
words set off a murmur. The Aquans in the audience relaxed. There was
some fear that Cora had switched sides, but she had just saved them
all by declaring the Aquans to be non-existent.
tried to take over, and when he failed to kill my father, he tried to
escape. He failed.” Cora said simply. “But my father, rest his
soul, was not innocent. He didn’t know about the Cure. But he knew
that going back to the surface was going to be fatal to most of us.
That’s why the race to Landfall has been such a breakneck priority
for the last six months.” Cora turned to look at each of them, her
voice growing hard. “This Has Got To Stop!”
was a rumble of agreement at that.
war has been going for far too long. When the Ark-Hive Project began,
none of us were born, but we were the last hope of our entire
species. The one fact of life in the Ark-Hive that has not changed in
three hundred years: We are all that’s left. We are all we’ve
got. And we’re killing each other. Our forefathers poured all their
hopes of everything into this place, and we very nearly put a torpedo
through it two days ago. This Has Got To Stop!”
was a simple, evocative phrase, and she grew more passionate every
time she said it. It was working. The crowd was nodding, being
lost my whole family to the question of who should be in charge, of
who’s opinion matters more, and I am sick of it. I’m the
Director, and here’s my first command. The War is Over. A war that
very few were fighting, but everyone was suffering for. A war that
put the innocent in prison, and the heartless in charge. If my father
had his way, more than half of us wouldn’t have made it more than
ten years. If Don had his way, the other half could say the same.
This Has Got To Stop!”
rumble of agreement.
all we’ve got down here!” Cora said again. “The Surface is
liveable. Outside that Dome, above and below the water, there’s a
great, big world that needs a little love and attention from all of
us. Our ancestors spent centuries making the ocean full of life and
hope and vitality. Then we spent a generation or two going to war
over it. This Has Got To Stop!”
louder rumble of agreement. Applause started breaking out.
here it is. I’m declaring a General Amnesty. We could spend the
next ten years figuring out which Stingray was taking bribes, and
which Board Member was pulling strings, and which prisoner was
innocent, and on and on and on. But that doesn’t change anything.”
Cora declared. “Don spent two years sneaking people out of Circular
Quay. I’m calling them all home. No charges, no cuffs, no questions
asked. It’s time to bring our lost ones back. And just to show you
all I mean it…” Cora walked through the crowd, to the side of the
Dome. “Shut It Down!”
visible to everyone in the Observation Dome, the lights of Circular
Quay suddenly shut down. The sight set off a roar of pleasure from
the crowd. The Quay had been an axe swinging over everyone for
releasing every prisoner. No more Circular Quay. No more Black Bags.
No more Fear.” She pointed towards the Memorial Ship, the wreckage
still in front of it. “I’m going back to the surface, and I’m
taking my father’s ashes with me.” She declared. “We have to
bury our dead, and get on with the job that we always had to do: To
make life happen in dead places. We’ve done it before.” She
turned to face them. “I know this is a loaded statement to make. We
all have more than a few grudges we want to see avenged. But I’m
not just speaking to you as your Director. I’m telling you this…
as an Orphan. If I can put it behind me, so can you. This Has Got To
Stop!” She put her back to the Ocean, looking them all over. “If
you agree, let me know it!”
crowd roared, loud enough to make Cora’s ears ring.
was a good speech.” Tai said to her later. “Reminded people who
was in charge, condemned both sides, forgave both sides. Made them
all feel sorry for you, and admire you at the same time.”
pulled it off, boss.” Nix put in.
three of them had met in Cora’s Quarters. Usually, they would have
had this conversation in The Hermit Shell. As Director, she had made
sure that her space was one of the few unmonitored places in the
Ark-Hive. It was only a matter of time until the monitors were gone
about our people?” Cora asked, rubbing her neck.
Aquan Colony called to make sure you were on the level about a
General Amnesty. Telling people the Aquan Conspiracy was a myth did a
lot to convince them you were going to protect us all.” Tai nodded.
be back, probably around the same time they empty out the Quay.”
Nix put in.
fact, I should probably go see to that.” Tai put in. “The
Colonists that escaped the Quay will need to know how to answer
questions. The story we’re going with is that Don was leveraging
them. Their lives, in exchange for his experiments. We’ve equated
Circular Quay with certain death for so long that’ll stick. As long
as nobody says the word ‘mermaid’ we should get away with playing
them as Don’s victims instead of Aquan Agents.”
Days To Landfall
Nix called softly. She had a tray of food with her. “You missed
at her father’s desk, Cora blinked slowly and sat up. “Oh.
put a tray in front of her, pushed the drinking glass into her hand.
“You haven’t been taking care of yourself, boss.” She had
spoken softly, because Cora looked ten years older. In the few days
it had taken to reabsorb the Quay Prisoners, and summon back the
Aquans at the Colony, the work towards Landfall hadn’t stopped.
Cora had taken almost all of it on herself, with nobody left that
could be trusted by both sides. She had drawn up the lists of who
would return to the Surface first, and how the Ocean would support
them. But Cora’s Agenda lasted for ten years, and she wouldn’t be
in the Deep for more than three weeks.
let out a slow breath and answered her Apprentice. “Today we
release the results of the Referendum. The vote will be more than 90%
in favor of Landfall. The Aquans all reported to Don that they would
play along, so that last ten to fifteen percent that voted to stay?
Those are people that weren’t recruited, but still wanted the
things we want…”
what about the people who actually voted to go back to the surface?”
Nix asked, more curious than worried.
rolled her head back, trying to work the kinks out of her neck as she
told her friend the history of things to come. “In a week, we’ll
begin Landfall. Pretty much the only part left to plan was to pick
who went up first. Now that I’ve revised the schedule and ordered
the Cure to be Mass Produced, we can take care of everyone’s
problem at at the same time.”
go to the Surface in Stages.” Cora explained. “Those that stay
below for now will support the surface colony, sending food, water,
material… Long before our forefathers moved down here, some surface
dwellers lived almost entirely off the oceans. It’ll take ten years
to make the surface a thriving colony that can support everyone. But
we’ll have time.”
bit her lip. “And the Aquans?”
Aquans will stay below, but nobody will know the real reason why. Tai
can handle that.” Cora explained. “Officially, we’ll use the
Referendum as a way to call for Volunteers to keep the equipment and
the farms and catchment areas running Down Below while we still need
them. Unofficially, we know who wants to go, and who wants to stay.
Every few months, we’ll transport a new load of people up to the
surface. Rigging that schedule will be easy enough.” She smiled.
“In five years, nobody on the Surface will realize it, but the only
people left in the Ark-Hive will be the Aquans.”
for Don.” Nix pointed out.
did a lot of evil to get us to this point, but we still need him.”
Cora explained. “His sentence for pulling that coup will be to
spend the next ten years making the surface liveable. At the end of
ten years, it’s possible I’ll have moved on enough to forgive him
and let him go back to the ocean.”
he’ll want to.” Nix pointed out. “When your father announced
Landfall, he did it by showing a lot of… well, very beautiful
surface things. If Don has a hand in restoring the surface to that,
he may want to stay.”
possible.” Cora agreed. “In ten years, Tai will announce that the
last people on the Ark-Hive will not want to leave.” Cora smiled
impishly. “Or, we may declare that there was a catastrophe, and the
people below aren’t coming. The majority of people will be on the
Surface by then, and they’ll congratulate themselves for getting
out of the ocean just in time.”
knows, maybe by then it’ll be okay to admit you want to stay in the
Deep.” Nix quipped.
I hope so. I’d like to think that we could have partnership between
the Earthers and the Aquans at some point. But either way, by then
the surface Colony will be stable, self-sufficient, and expanding.
Population laws will be repealed within five years. By then, there’ll
be enough food to go around, and a whole world to stretch our legs
in, both above and below the water.”
bit her lip. “Was that always the plan? The Referendum was your
idea. You were gearing up to take over before you knew Tai was alive.
Were you always planning this?”
a way.” Cora sighed. “I was in charge of Resource Management at
the time. I had hoped that if my Father gave me the Director’s
chair, then I could order Landfall to be done in stages anyway. If I
could, then I’d quietly move some names around, make sure that
nobody knew what was happening until all the Aquans were safely out
of reach. An Exodus would have been much easier if the Surface Colony
was already running.”
came over and gave her a sideways look. “What about you, boss?
Where do you fit into this?”
shrugged like it was no big deal. “There’s nobody else left. My
father made no secret of the fact that I was his successor. Outside a
few Cell Leaders who know the plan already, nobody knew I was Aquan.
As far as the general population cares, a Rogue Board Member failed
to pull off a coup, and Landfall will go ahead unchallenged, at a far
more sensible pace, now that The Cure is available to everyone.”
you to lead them. You’ve been a hero to these people since the
the Food Riots… And then that scrap between Morgan and your father
lets you play Daughter in Mourning, Noble Peacemaker, and War Hero
all at the same time. All the Goodwill you’ll need.” Nix smiled.
“Your father got his wish. His daughter leading the human race back
to the surface. His Dynasty, remembered as the heroes of the future.”
right.” Cora sighed. “Once things are set up there, the Ark-Hive
won’t be needed, and the Aquans can have it. All the production,
all the equipment… everything they’ll need to expand and colonize
the whole Ocean Floor. Nobody will wonder why they stayed ten years
longer than the rest of us, because after all… They volunteered to
Don’s Plan B worked too. An Aquan as Director.” Nix said quietly.
“Think he expected to spend the next ten years in chains for it?”
do not.” Cora agreed.
chuckled. “If Don works hard enough, he may actually love it up
there. Anywhere you live is home.”
raised her glass. “I’ll drink to that.”
you didn’t answer my question before. What about you?”
told Tai it would take at least ten years.” Cora admitted. “He
was as sick about it as I was. But with Don coming to the surface in
chains, Tai’s needed here. The entire Ark-Hive saw him and me
together when my father died. They all know what side he’s on.
Every Aquan knows it too. I can’t send anyone else to the surface,
and Tai can’t have anyone else wrangle the Cell Groups without
starting another fight. Don wiped out every other candidate for
Director. But I’m under twenty-five, so I won’t need the Cure…
Unless I come back to the Deep in a few years; after the job’s
done.” She looked down, a little melancholy. “Ten years, and Tai
and I will see each other again.” She gave Nix a crooked smile.
“Think he’ll wait for me?”
bit her lip. “Us.” She declared finally. “I’m going with
don’t have to-”
know, but… If I go back to the Surface, I can at least take care of
my father. I’m still years from the twenty-five mark. Dad may not
have that many years left.” Nix held up a hand. “Besides, with
Tai staying down here, and Don in a prison uniform the whole time;
you’ll need someone.”
and Nix turned, and found Ano in the doorway, having heard most of
that. “She will have me.” Ano said seriously. “I promised
that no matter what, I would keep her baby safe and loved. I failed
to keep that promise for a while, but now I have a chance to make
that right.” She glanced at Nix. “Besides, I’ve spent my life
playing mother to a Director in Training. You’ve spent your life
training for life in the Deeps. You tell me, which one makes the most
sense to go, or to stay?”
bit her lip, and glanced at Cora.
smiled a little. “Tai’s going to need someone on his side too.
There’ll be an awful lot of work to do on this side of the deal.
The Ocean will be feeding the Earthers for some time yet.”
Days To Landfall
understand, right?” Cora said quietly.
clicked and whistled. A dolphin’s beak was always smiling, but it
was clear he wasn’t happy. “Cora leave. Delphi stay with Tai.”
right.” Tai said. “Cora will come back one day.”
Delphi.” The Dolphin clicked.
said nothing to that. Some dolphins could live up to sixty years. She
had told Tai it would take a decade to be sure the Surface Colony
would last without her. In reality, she had no idea what would
and Tai had been swimming with Delphi all morning, saying goodbye to
the ocean. They had powered their way in and out of the structure,
under the guise of an inspection. The Ark-Hive was in levels, stacked
on top of each other. The Domes all floated, geared to make the
transition back to the surface easier. She would be taking one
section back. Gold Sector, which included the Observation Dome, would
become Home Base once it reached the surface.
Stingray’s Headquarters had originally been the Control Room for
the Ark-Hive. Cora had ordered the surveillance shut down, and
restored the original purpose. For two weeks, her people had been
preparing for launch.
was the last one to learn that Cora would be leading Landfall after
all. Cora felt he took it pretty well. Now, after hours charging
around the ocean at breakneck speed, the three of them were sitting
on the edge of The Ark-Hive, right at the top of the structure. Cora
and Tai were sitting. Delphi was floating between them, more or less
at shoulder height.
Light Water was active again. The new schedule meant that there was
still a lot of work to do at the Ocean Floor. There were submarines
moving back and forth, divers constantly at work. It was almost like
it was six months ago, the last time the three of them went for a
Tai wasn’t wearing a full Dive Suit. Circular Quay was being
dismantled. The Memorial Ship now included the wreck of her father’s
last ride. Whatever happened next, their home and their lives had
been changed by the journey. In a few days it would change again.
and Tai didn’t say much. There wasn’t really anything left to
finally, it was time for one of them to go back inside.
could come with us. At least, for a bit.” Cora offered. “It’ll
take two weeks to return to the surface without decompression making
our blood fizz. The Domes are all set up to let us decompress on the
way. I’m amazed we can raise a whole Sector that precisely, but…”
She looked down. “You could come with us, at least for a while.
Head back after we cover some distance.”
could.” Tai agreed, not looking at her. “You could stay a little
longer. It’d be fairly easy for you to catch up with the Dome if
you stayed a few more days.”
could both say it, but neither of them had to. They’d said their
goodbyes and planned their futures. There was no point dragging it
out further. “I’ll come back?” Cora said finally. “No
judgements if you can’t wait that long.”
years.” Tai agreed. “No judgements if you end up staying.”
pushed off and swam out a few feet, turning to look back at him.
“Love you, Stripes.”
first group to go back to the Surface was chosen carefully. They were
all Earthers, with good health and needed skills. Cora went to the
Control Room in full dress uniform, to give the final instructions.
Hatches were sealed, elevator tubes were sealed, everything was
closed up water-tight. Power feeds were redirected, all of it
internalized, and everyone was on standby for falls or breakages.
she went to the Observation Dome, where most of the First Wave were
assembled. Outside, the ocean was crowded. Dozens of whales, dozens
of dolphins, and a huge proportion of divers. This was going to be
the most recorded event since the Ark-Hive was founded.
clock chimed the hour, and every eye swivelled to Cora.
Tai watched the whole thing, a single tear merging with the ocean.
Beside him, in full Dive Gear, Nix was wringing her hands nervously,
hoping she’d made
the right choice. Then, all at once, there
was a crunch that shook the water and made all the dolphins swim in a
loop for a moment. But then, with surprisingly gentle movement, the
top layer of the Ark-Hive lifted off.
could hear hundreds of people squawking about it around him. Gold
Sector was suddenly a submarine the size of their largest Deep Range
Outpost. After four hundred years of being as solid as the ocean
floor, The Ark-Hive was suddenly in two pieces.
crowd watched it as it started to move. The initial movement was so
gradual that it almost seemed to be drifting. Some of the largest
transport submarines, including the ones that Don had tried to steal,
were keeping the pace, connected by tethers. They all had supplies
for the surface.
boggled the mind, watching something that huge just… float away.
few months, and Green Sector will follow. Tai
The room I was born and grew up in will be on the surface.
whales sang, and began giving chase. So did the dolphins. They were
hundreds of miles from where the ocean floor rose to the surface.
Home Base would make the trip slowly, decompressing the crew gently.
Hundreds of miles laterally, hundreds of meters vertically, on a two
week cruise. The animals would escort them for a while, riding in the
remaining sections of the Ark-Hive still held air production, food
processors, and power generation for the Light Water. If all went to
plan, the last section, Grey Sector, would never actually leave; but
by then nobody would care. Tai considered the new shape of the
structure and waved for the rest of those watching. “Alright, back
to work!” He called.
Day To Landfall
looked up as the door opened, and Cora stepped in. She put a plate of
food in front of him. “Are we speaking, yet?”
snorted. “I still say the choice of jail cell for me was a little
distasteful. The Boardroom? Really?”
you didn’t plan to ever return to the scene of the crime?” Cora
this may be hard for you to believe, but I’m not even angry.”
right. It’s hard to believe.”
I’m hurt; no question. Obviously, this is not what I wanted for
myself. You can say the same.” Don conceded. “But you knew this
was my Plan B. You as Director? The minute I heard you declare that I
acted almost alone, and that the Aquans were long dead, I knew the
pushed the plate over. “Eat. We surface in about three hours. We’ll
have ‘landed’ a half hour after that. That’s when your work
really begins.” She tossed a TABB to the table. “There are the
most up-to-date probe scans we have.”
took it graciously. “One question: When the colony is established,
do you plan to go back? You’re under twenty-five. You don’t need
‘The Cure’. You could still take it when you return to The
if so, do I plan to take you along?” Cora guessed.
can’t be surprised by the question.”
looked at him. “I haven’t decided yet.”
shook his head, as though amused. “Cora, we’re still on the same
side. Two people with an amazing secret, and thousands of lives to
save. You know you can’t do it without me.”
do.” Cora acknowledged. “And you may think there will be statues
of you being built down there at some point, but you know you’ll
never go back without my approval.”
do.” He agreed. “But I can wait. I’ve waited my whole life for
a chance to live the Aquan Dream. I can wait a few decades more.”
He smirked. “Thanks to me, so can everyone else.”
shook her head. “You really are
indomitable, aren’t you? How can you possibly declare victory after
you did it, Cora.” He said simply as she walked away. “After
years of violence, hiding, half-truths, secret cell groups, and Black
Bags; you personally
did it. You made sure all our people would be free. You led The
Earthers to the surface and you gave The Aquans the Oceans. You
achieved The Cause. This is a victory for both of us.”
paused, halfway out the door. Very deliberately, she turned back to
him. “You could have done it too, you know.” She said seriously.
“If you and dad could have sat down and had one conversation… A
straight up swap. The Cure for the Exodus. It would have been so
Not easy.” Don countered. “If I had told your father, would he
have let us go? You need me on the surface, gene-hacking plants and
insects and livestock. Your father wouldn’t have let me leave. He’d
be alive, but I’d still be in chains; and you know it.” He gave
her a hard look. “Look me in the eyes and tell me there was room
for compromise on his part.”
father’s last words were him begging me to keep going with
Landfall, even knowing what I was.” Cora said flatly, genuinely
curious now. “But if he had
been willing to act in good faith and let us all go; would you have
done the same? If he was willing to bend, would you?”
considered that. “Probably not.” He admitted.
sighed. “I’m not even surprised.” She rose from the table.
“Sad, but for a lot of years, I clung to you as the one who would
do the right thing.”
blood, Cora. I wonder sometimes if the reason we don’t live forever
is because the future needs fresh eyes and fresh ideas every
hope so.” Cora observed. “Enough generations of the human race
made the same mistakes. Enough that we had to go to the bottom of the
ocean for a chance to survive.”
looked at the TABB she had left him. “Those Probes have a limited
range, you know.” He commented with a wry grin. “They may be a
whole city full of humans beyond those mountains, blissfully unaware
that the Ark-Hive was ever built.”
the thought.” Cora laughed sickly. “Looked outside lately? The
ocean is changing colors.”
nodded. “Yeah. We’re coming out of the Euphotic Zone. Natural
light can actually reach this deep. I wonder how different our UV
lights are from actual sunlight. I may yet be curing more than Weir
came to the Observation Dome. There were always people there now.
Most people preferred the Dome to their Quarters when their shift
ended. Cora wandered up to Ano, who was bouncing on her toes like a
little kid. “Blue!” She told Cora excitedly. “The ocean is
blue! Not black!”
Cora agreed. “Ben tells me people are collecting samples of
shallow-water-fish. They’re smaller than we’re used to, but good
eating.” She made a face at Ano. “The human race returns. There
goes the neighborhood.”
chuckled. “How long until the Dome breaches the surface?”
hour or two. We expect it to be dark, actually. We’ve spent so long
in a place beyond sunlight, the clock doesn’t really… I mean,
we’ve been on a twenty six hour clock for three hundred years, but
never a day/night cycle. It’ll take a while to adjust.”
four hours.” Ben said, suddenly appearing at Cora’s elbow.
“According to the surface probes, twelve hours light, twelve hours
dark up here.”
shrugged. “Okay. Longer to get used to the time difference than I
thought.” She turned away from the Dome. “What do you need, Ben?”
scouts and Sonar Probes have picked up the coastline. We’re trying
to pick an appropriate spot for Landing.” Ben reported. “The
Pilot’s Guild has a few thoughts, some of the Life Sciences Teams
are going over the surface probes… Oh, and your instruction to make
the probe scans and pre-Ark-Hive Database available to Public Access
is proving popular.”
remains to be seen if it was also good judgement.” Cora said
grimly. “A lot of what was up there… just isn’t anymore. Not
until we get to work.”
Ben chewed his lip. “Is it true? Whole freshwater rivers, just…
pouring into the ocean? I mean, I’ve heard stories about ‘rain’,
and frankly, I don’t know if I believe it. Drinking water just...
falling on people outta nowhere?”
nowhere.” Cora told him. “From the sky.”
rolled his eyes, like she’d just told him a joke. “The sky.
Right. What do you think ‘sky’ is like?”
know.” Cora admitted. “We’ll find out soon enough.”
had spent almost half an hour trying to find Cora, and finally found
her in one of the Science bays. It had been a Blue Sector industry,
but it was needed immediately on the surface, so the lab had been
packed up, and promoted two sectors. Almost everyone was in the Dome,
eyes glued to the highest part of the Dome.
when Ano came to fetch The Director, she was alone, staring at a
large plastic tub. “Cora? I’ve got your UV-Screen paste.”
waved her over. “Look at this. They’re called ‘earthworms’.
Don tells me they were borderline extinct three hundred years ago, but
when we get busy planting surface crops, we’ll be ready. Hard to
believe, all life above the surface depended on worms.”
below depended on microscopic organisms. Insects are a promotion.”
Ano offered as she
the protective salve into Cora’s
skin. “It’s time. You should be there.”
sighed. “How long do you think it’ll take everyone to realize
that I’m just faking confidence?”
chuckled. “Your mother asked the same thing once. So did your
father, back when he was open about things.” She gave Cora a look.
“Besides, you were able to keep ‘faking’ for a good long while.
Even to me.”
flushed. “I never apologised, did I? For lying to you?”
gave her a hug. “I decided a long time ago to be the one part of
your life that wasn’t wrapped in your ‘destiny’. That hasn’t
gave Ano a kiss on the cheek, and made her way out. “I don’t
deserve you, Ano. But I’m really glad you’re here.”
reached the Observation Dome, and walked into a party. Everyone who
wasn’t actively on duty was crammed in, watching as the water level
slowly rolled down the sides of the Observation Dome like someone
rolling back a curtain.
Someone screeched. “Sky!”
fought to keep her expression even, though she had to admit to being
somewhat shattered by it herself. It was immense, and it was
everywhere. Cora had never once, in her life, looked up and seen
anything but straight darkness. The sky was just an area of water you
didn’t bother to swim through since there was nothing there.
now it was something else entirely.
tugged on her sleeve. “Gold Sector was meant as a Home Base for
Landfall. The Gold Sector Quarters are actually terraces. They had
covers put on, but they were removed for-”
can go outside?”
Cora breathed and turned to Ano. “All right. Let’s go. Come on,
Ben; you too.”
had moved her things into her father’s room. Her old bedroom had
the Plexiglas walls removed, turning it into a balcony, as it was
designed four hundred years before.
had the overwhelming
urge to go suit up anyway,
tapped in her code to unseal the doors, and gasped when they opened.
For the first time in her life, for the first time in generations, a
human felt the wind on her face. It was so unexpected, she flinched,
and so did Ano and Ben, hovering behind her.
rushed out, head craned back. “Davy Jones preserve us all.” She
whispered. “Are those… stars?”
I think so.” Ano nodded.
beautiful.” Ben breathed. “I never expect-” He clutched at his
throat. “What’s wrong with my voice?!” It had dropped a full
octave since he’d started talking.
used to that, kid.” Cora smiled, wincing a bit as her own voice did
the same. “Down at high pressure, we breathe a different ratio of
in our Air-Mix; because the oxygen content is corrosive. Up here,
there’s a much lower helium content in the air. We’ll be sounding
like this the rest of our lives.”
that’s freaky.” Ben moaned a little.
was gazing back at the sky. “Y’know, now that I look at it, it’s
not… it’s not really black. It’s more like a really dark blue.”
She looked back at them. “It’s amazing.”
and Ano were looking up. Ben was looking down. “Look!”
looked. The water was slapping against the dome, crashing in small,
frothy curls. The blue ocean turning white for an instant. “Smaller
ships will be tossed around by that. I think it’s called ‘waves’.
They’re like getting caught in something’s wake.” She looked
forward. “Look at it. The ocean just… Stops. The ocean actually
stops, and the sky begins!”
Horizon.” Ben nodded. “Don told me once that’s where we get the
name for the ‘horizon’ instruments on the submarines. This was
the first Horizon a sub-driver saw, centuries ago.”
just stood, and stared at the stars for a while. And then they
started to fade.
Ben pointed, naked fear on his face.
Horizon was starting to burn. It was a glow, then a light, then a
blaze of color; an explosion of red and pink and yellow and a
thousand other colors that Cora hadn’t seen on the Reefs, let alone
anywhere else. The sky, a deep nurturing blue, was suddenly exploding
into bright fiery white.
stared at it, affected in a deeply primal way. Fire was a death
sentence in the Ark-Hive. And now… It stretched from one end of the
world to the other.
should get downstairs.” Ano said in her ear. “Having ‘sky’
burst into flame might be freaking some people out.”
came off the elevator, expecting people on the verge of panic, but
they weren’t. In fact, they were all silent. Not in a scared of
numb way, just… enraptured, captured by the moment. Cora came
slowly into the rest of the crowd, and saw they all had more or less
the same pose. Standing upright, eyes closed, facing the sun, arms
out a bit, palms facing the dome as the light fell on them.
Cora felt it herself. Dawn was giving way to day, and she felt it on
her skin suddenly. She had never felt warmth from a light source
before. It was… nurturing. It felt right. It felt good. Cora let
out a breath and closed her eyes, leaning into it like everyone else.
sky was everywhere. So much of it that she wondered if it might fall
and land on them. She could see the clouds, up above. They were
moving. The sky was a living, changing thing. It would never be
exactly the same again.
soft, friendly spell lasted for almost an hour, and Cora watched as
the ‘sky-fire’ started to fade, until the whole sky had changed
into a gentle light blue.
Cora admitted aloud. “Maybe this won’t be so bad.”
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, or in paperback.