“What the fuck do you want?” David Mulligan asked in annoyance as he strode onto the bridge. “Fiona’s goons found me. I was dealing with a potential Montoyan revolution during this time of crisis, thank you very much.” That’s not even a lie. Just a distorted truth.
Foyer suddenly looked concerned as he turned to face the Head Technician. “What?”
“Nothing to worry about anymore,” Mulligan said. “At least temporarily they’ve been dealt with.”
“How? How did you know about this while I didn’t?”
“With all due respect, admiral, I am closer to the crew,” the technician said. “I interact more regularly with them.” David stopped near the admiral and looked at Farthing, his eyes immediately drawn to the stringy mass of pulsating, alien flesh that was his leg. Mulligan’s face blanched. “What the flying fuck is that?”
“The reason we called you here,” the admiral said.
“And what the hell do you think I can do about it? I’m a technician, not a doctor! You need Dr. Williams for this!”
“Fiona is picking her up now,” the admiral said. “But in case you hadn’t noticed, Farthing’s leg is fused to the Victory. It will require both of you to detach him.”
Mulligan took a step closer, afraid to touch the thing. “And… Fiona’s goon said something about this being the way to get Lucy back?”
“Maybe,” Foyer said neutrally. “Lucy… offered herself to it as a sacrifice.”
“What?” Mulligan said evenly, slowly turning to face the admiral.
“She said some odd words and then his leg ate her.”
“What?!” Mulligan’s vision flashed red; what nonsense was the admiral spouting?
“Just go with it!” Foyer almost shouted. “We’re just as confused as you are! She is somehow inside the thing that is Farthing’s leg. The laws of reality don’t apply anymore; you should know that!”
Mulligan took several deep breaths as Fiona returned with the doctor. Dr. Williams immediately rushed over to Farthing and knelt by his leg. “What happened?” Kathryn asked. She tilted her head. “Ah. The Victory says that someone up here pushed away the pain of the new reality… but that this bit remained. Whatever this is, it’s hurting the Victory.”
“What?” Fiona asked. “The Victory talks?”
“For now, to me,” the doctor said. “Likely I can understand as a result of my implants. I can explain later. For now, know that the new universe has made the Victory conscious. It probably won’t last, and will vanish when we leave.” She pursed her lips, took a deep breath, and moved Farthing’s uniform to better see the mass of pulsing, stringy flesh.
“Does it hurt you?” she asked the navigator.
“A little,” Farthing replied, keeping his attention focused on navigating the ship, staying within sight of the Astral Dawn.
The doctor leaned back. Fiona spoke. “Before it ate Lucy, she said that Sanaer had failed to eject everything from the bridge. She seemed to believe that this leg was the remnant of the new universe Sanaer could not eject.”
Doctor Williams stood and sighed. “I’m sorry, but neither Mulligan nor I can help you. I think that this thing is here to stay as long as the energies outside the ship can sustain it.”
Before anyone else could respond, Lori turned around. ”Admiral! It’s the Eclipse! They’re requesting a check-in. They say they’ve established contact with the other ships!”
Foyer turned his attention to the Communications Officer. “Update the Eclipse on our current position. Tell them we have met up with the Astral Dawn. Give the Eclipse orders to lead us on the way out of here; they have the best sensors. If they can communicate with all of us, I am giving the captains of the Eclipse temporary emergency powers to command this fleet until the moment we exit this bubble. Authorization code ZZ67A. Apologize for me not communicating directly with them, but I have other things to deal with.” He smiled. “Still, it’s good to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Lori saluted and began to speak to the Eclipse. The admiral turned to Mulligan. “We need to talk. Now.”
Dr. Ignoscious looked up as Sanaer stepped through the walls of his laboratory. “You can move between worlds unharmed. Tell me, how is this?”
“Knowledge, my friend,” the ex-god said. “But even that is limited. Already, Farthing suffers from my lack of knowledge. I misjudged my abilities to combat the new universe. I cannot help them now, but when we leave this bubble of the attacking universe, that which has possessed his leg will vanish.”
Sanaer took a metal cylinder from his pocket. “Go now to the bridge and scoop up some of Farthing’s leg in this. Inside is stored the pure energies of the hostile reality. It will preserve the life of anything used to the other universe perfectly. Get a piece of Farthing’s leg, and you will have a pure astral daemon specimen to analyze to your heart’s content.” Sanaer handed Ignoscious the cylinder, whose eyes widened slightly. “Use this gift well, and surpass my own knowledge. I shall likely never set foot on this ship again. Move swiftly now, and do not mention my visit. My presence here will lead only to anger and frustration.” Without another word, Sanaer walked through the walls of the Victory and back outside.
Ignoscious thought for a moment, shrugged, and moved to do as Sanaer bid, deciding that he would tell the admiral he had devised this idea on his own. And then once he had a sample of a real living being from the other universe, he could find the light that would guide humanity out from the abyss.
Ra’guul smiled and turned his face up to the bleeding sun he saw so clearly in his mind’s eye. “Soon we will climb out from the black abyss mankind has thrown us into. Soon we shall have dominion over them.” His vagons and sorrows had already moved into position, ready to strike the moment they emerged from the bubble.
“Quite so,” an amicable voice said behind him. Ra’guul whirled around, claws lashing out, but Holy Father Napais LaPorte was just out of claw’s reach.
“You!” the trogloid hissed. “What are you doing here?”
“I am helping you achieve your revolution, remember?” LaPorte took a deep breath of the chaotic air around him and smiled. “The Lord is giving you dominion over mankind. I speak for the Lord.”
Ra’guul rolled his hidden eyes, turned around, and stalked away.
LaPorte followed. “The moment of revolution is almost at hand! And tell me, what will you do when that moment comes?”
Ra’guul stopped and turned around slowly. A toothy grin split his face. “We shall go to the Gulf of Nakai.”
“You want what?” Fiona asked as Dr. Ignoscious explained the reason for his visit. “Why? How? How did you make that?”
“You are not a woman of science, captain. The pathways of my mind elude you,” Ignoscious said, striding past the captain and over to Farthing. The Navigator was so focused on maintaining the Victory‘s course and remaining in contact with the Eclipse that he hardly spared the doctor a glance.
“Don’t touch it!” Fiona said, but it was already too late. Ignoscious whipped out a knife from thin air and sliced off a sizable portion of the mass that had taken over Farthing’s leg. The Navigator didn’t react at all. Ignoscious stuffed the flesh in the open top of his cylinder then sealed it.
“Thank you, captain, much obliged,” the scientist said, scurrying off the bridge without another word, heading back to his laboratory.
Fiona shook her head. “Farthing, you okay?”
“Hmm? What? Yes?”
“Did you feel that?”
Fiona sighed. “Oh good. Carry on.”
Farthing didn’t bother to reply.
Lori leaned back in her chair. “Its good that we’re back together now, at least in terms of communications.” She glanced at Farthing’s leg. “Hopefully that thing will vanish once the Eclipse leads us out.”
“One hopes,” Fiona said softly.
Foyer sat down opposite Mulligan in the Command Room. “So, Mulligan,” the admiral said. “What Montoyan rebellion?”
The Chief Technician shook his head. “Nothing much, admiral. I ran into one of their meetings accidentally. They said they would kill me unless I swore to join them.”
Foyer blinked. “And… did you?”
“Yes,” Mulligan said. Time to lie. “I did. And now you have someone on the inside.” Or rather, they have someone on the inside. “I can report to you on their movements. Together we can keep them under control.”
Foyer nodded and smiled. “You always were clever, Mulligan. Good work.” The technician felt a twinge of guilt; the admiral placed so much trust in him. Remember Lucy. His heart hardened.
“So what exactly were they planning to do?” Foyer asked, seemingly more at ease.
“Take over the ship while we were distracted by the crisis, and save the ship while you – we – appeared incompetent.” That’s true, at least.
Foyer shook his head. “Idiots. Can’t they see that without us, they would have killed us all?”
Mulligan pretended to laugh. “They couldn’t. I talked them into waiting a little bit more. That way we’re safe for now, and my cover isn’t blown.”
Foyer nodded. “Good work. I knew we made the right choice in you.” Mulligan bowed his head slightly. So now I’m a double agent. Or is it triple agent?
“And… what really happened to Lucy?” Mulligan said softly.
Foyer pursed his lips. “Exactly what I said. She said she would be a sacrifice, and then she said those words that the Fathomer’s disciples keep saying, and then a tendril from Farthing’s leg… consumed her.” The admiral’s eyes filled with sorrow, and he rested an arm on Mulligan’s shoulder. “I am sorry.”
David just nodded.
In his laboratory, Dr. Gadran Ignoscious hooked the cylinder up to his hodge-podge, all-purpose machine. It was a remarkable bit of work, that cylinder; when hooked up to the machine, it would let him do almost anything with whatever was inside. He could adjust frequences of any kind of wavelength, light levels, and even measure what he thought could be codified into the hostile reality’s equivalent of biological functions.
“Almost back to where I was on board the Radiance,” Ignoscious muttered as he got to work.
Lacey Tarrigan came to in the Weapons Module. It was surprisingly quiet, with everyone staying still, tethered to the sides, afraid to move for fear of distances suddenly changing and them falling to their doom. Lacey decided to keep doing the same. Hopefully they’d escape soon. She closed her eyes and was immediately plunged into darkness – but in the distance, she saw a speck of light.