The emergency rescue operations aboard the Ulysses stretched well into the night. Eventually, the calls in the water went silent. They had lost five of their crew, but they had pulled eight from the water thanks to the return of daylight following the power outage.
As the clamor and chaos died, many of the crew started to panic at the condition of the Ulysses. From what Captain Bainbridge had explained, the ship handled the event as well as any wooden frame ship could be expected, but the forces exerted on the poor vessel had done their worst. The masts were gone, ripped away by the powerful waves, and the twisting and warping of the massive timber beams below deck had ripped tar and other protections away from the seams, so the hold was filling with water.
Thankfully, Bainbridge hadn’t banished all technology from the ship. A bilge pump was working to keep them afloat, and a small motor gave them a fighting chance of limping along until they could find land. If the pump failed, they’d manually drain the water with buckets, but there was doubt that it would be fast enough to stem the inevitable.
Despite all of this, Olivia was more concerned with the larger problem they were facing. The massive bulkhead doorway had sealed them inside this section of the World Ship, so they couldn’t leave, even if they had the means. She wasn’t sure how a fully equipped and able Ulysses would push its way out, but that wasn’t important now. The simple fact of the matter was that they were stuck here… in a part of the World Ship that had been sealed off, with no understanding of why that might be.
Bainbridge assumed that someone was living here, using something he called an Evercrystal as a font of power. He was also concerned that these people, whoever they may be, likely didn’t want to be found. He pointed out that it was like flying into a beehive without a protective suit. She didn’t particularly disagree, but they hadn’t come here on purpose. If they could find and explain that to whoever lived here, they might help them leave.
All of that, however, hinged on Bainbridge’s original theory about the Evercrystal energy and the idea that there were indeed people living in this part of the World Ship.
As the sunlight began to fade, the crew prepared for their first night of total darkness. Bainbridge had ordered the candles and powered lights are stowed away, for now, fearful that they might attract the wrong attention. Most of the crew was exhausted from the chaos that had erupted yesterday, and a quiet night without light meant a chance at getting some rest. The food supplies lifted their spirits, as it had mostly been strapped down below and survived the damage.
In Bainbridge’s quarters, Commander Everwood and Olivia had joined Bainbridge for a meal of apples and dried cheese. They were taking the chance to survey the lists of their remaining supplies.
“The communicator is the worst part of it,” Bainbridge said angrily. “I don’t know if the thing would have worked once the bulkhead was sealed, but it was definitely our best shot. When that slipped out of my hands I knew it was gone.”
“We have to assume the Hub will send help sooner than later,” Olivia said, musing on the topic as she looked over the list to see if they had missed anything. “If not the Hub, Elsie or Ronin will react. Our last report was due over an hour ago. They’ll have to be wondering what happened already.”
“You assume they’ll turn to the bulkhead,” Everwood said. “The waves that we were hit by would have churned all across the Upper Level. They’ll probably be forced to assume that the Ulysses sank.”
“Wait,” Olivia interjected. “This note says the bilge pump broke down twice already? Is this true?”
Everwood nodded. “I’m afraid so. We fixed the pumps each time, but it’s not a promising sign. I wouldn’t expect them to last more than a day or two at the rate we’re running them.”
“We can’t worry about the problems we can’t fix,” Bainbridge said firmly. “We focus on the ones that we can. Tend to the wounded. Keep everyone fed. When we have daylight, we’ll start scouting for nearby islands. I agree that the Ulysses is going to sink. I want to try and find somewhere to run her aground. It’s a long shot, but we may be able to do repairs and salvage her if we can get her to a sandy shore. For tonight, we keep her afloat. Start a shift of crew to run buckets of water out the viewing holes. If the pumps don’t have to work so hard, they might last longer.”
“Yes, Captain,” Everwood said with a quick salute.
“Olivia, get some rest,” Bainbridge said, turning to her. “You did great helping with the rescue operation. Not much else for you now.”
The sound was loud, and it was unmistakable.
Bainbridge stood straight up, while Everwood looked at him, confused.
“Cannon fire,” the Captain said. “Within 10 miles.”
Olivia watched Bainbridge rush out of his quarters, and she followed him onto the broken deck of the Ulysses. It was pitch black, with almost no artificial starlight. Olivia thought it might be cloudy, but then she realized she couldn’t see far in front of her at all. A thick fog had settled on them, and their visibility was almost completely gone.
They listened, Olivia feeling anxious, but as time stretched on it became clear that there wasn’t going to be another boom. When Bainbridge finally returned to his office, he grabbed Olivia by the arm as he passed and leaned close to her.
“Get some sleep. This changes things. We’ve got work to do in the morning.”
The loud sound of a bell shook Olivia out of her uncomfortable sleep. She rolled off what she thought might have been a sack of potatoes, stepping gingerly through the water on the floor of the hold, which seemed higher than last night, and made her way to the main deck.
The entire crew had gathered, clamoring over one another to see what the alert was about, and Olivia joined the fray, pushing her way through until she finally got a look at the cause of the alarm.
A tall ship, ornately decorated in black and white and gold, sailing directly toward them with the wind at their backs. Olivia looked around for a moment, locating the morning sun, then checking to make sure her assumption was right. Then, she started across the deck where Bainbridge and Commander Everwood were looking over some papers.
“They’re coming from the east,” Olivia said. “The bulkhead is to the west.”
“If you’re attempting to tell me that they’re not our people, I am aware.” Bainbridge sounded as calm as ever. “The ship is moving at an impressive speed. It’s likely what we call a clipper… looks to be a brigantine.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Olivia replied.
“It’s big. There’s a lot of cannons… a lot of crew.”
“You’re sizing it up for battle?” Olivia asked. “Shouldn’t we be asking for rescue?”
“There’s more to it…” Bainbridge grumbled. “It’s too… clean.”
“I’m not following.”
“Commander Everwood. Prepare to be boarded. Inform the crew that we’re not to resist. These folks will have us outmanned and outgunned.”
“Captain… are they going to take us as prisoners?”
Bainbridge rubbed his chin, still thinking. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
Everwood nodded and rushed off to do as he was told. Olivia, realizing Bainbridge had no use for her, went back to the deck to watch the approaching ship. The light of the sun was reflecting off the decorative gold pieces that adorned the ship’s bow. The glossy black paint contrasted against the white hull in a striking way. It looked perfect, like it had never been in the water before now.
As they drew close, Olivia watched crewmembers scramble on the large ship’s top deck, grabbing large ropes and throwing them toward the Ulysses. Olivia and the others caught them and quickly tied them off to the most secure anchors they could find. In a few minutes, the two ships were side by side, and a boarding plank slid across to make way for several well-dressed officers as they quickly marched over.
Just before reaching the Ulysses, the leader stopped. He looked around for a moment, but he clearly didn’t see Bainbridge. He had a ruggedly handsome quality that betrayed his pressed uniform. He had a deep tan, stubble on his face, and the hair that stuck out from under his hat was curly and unkempt. He flashed a smile as one of the officers behind him spoke, revealing pearly white teeth. There wasn’t a threatening thing about this man in the slightest. He just stood there, looking at the Ulysses and her crew until he finally asked aloud. “Permission to come aboard?”
There was a pause, then Bainbridge stepped forward, parting his crew so the officers could step on. “Permission granted.”
The man nodded, and the three of them officially stepped foot on the Ulysses.
Olivia understood Bainbridge’s comment now. The ship, this close to their own, looked like it had just been finished. The three men wore uniforms that had no creases, no wear or tear, and no real signs that they’d ever worn them before. There was something more to this than they understood.
“My name is Captain Bainbridge,” he said, stepping up to the leader of the three men. “I am in charge of this vessel and caretaker of these souls.”
“Of course,” the man replied. “My name is Captain Robert Snow. I appreciate your formalities Captain Bainbridge, but they aren’t necessary. Your ship is severely damaged and you’re well beyond the acceptable sailing lanes of Sanctuary.”
“Sanctuary?” Olivia heard herself ask the question before she could stop.
The man, Captain Snow, looked over to her. He tilted his head, scrunching his face as though something about her face completely baffled him. Bainbridge started to say something, but Snow raised a hand at the Captain and gave his full attention to Olivia. She wasn’t sure how to read his expression, but she felt panic welling up inside. He shouldn’t be this bothered by her words. She suddenly worried she’d committed some terrible crime against authority.
“I spoke out of turn,” Olivia said, her concern peaking. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not that,” Snow replied. “Do I know you?”
“I highly doubt it,” Olivia said, suddenly struggling to hold back a smile.
“Are you sure?” Snow pressed. “What’s your name?”
“Olivia Sun,” she answered.
Now Captain Snow was the one that was grinning. “Alright. You don’t have to say. I don’t mean any trouble.”
“She just did,” Bainbridge chimed in.
Snow spun around, finally turning his attention back to Bainbridge. “Come on then,” he said, looking confused. “You can’t expect me to buy that. You’re Olivia Sun. The sovereign ruler of Sanctuary… out here at the world’s edge.”
“You’re thinking of the wrong Olivia,” Bainbridge assured him. “This is Olivia Sun, firstborn of Ronin the Lightbringer and daughter of Scarlet Sun.”
Captain Snow looked back at Olivia, then his eyes went wide. He didn’t say anything, but… had he recognized her?
“Captain Snow,” Bainbridge pressed. “We are in dire need of assistance.”
The man, looking more uncertain by the minute, glanced at the crew of the Ulysses, though his stare came back to Olivia and lingered once again. He finally seemed to make a decision and nodded to himself. “Alright. to the crew of the Ulysses, we have hot meals, dry clothes, and comfortable cots. If you’re able-bodied and interested, we could use your help hooking up the Ulysses for towing. It’ll be a slow trip, but if we can get your vessel to the bay we can potentially repair it.”
Everyone on the Ulysses turned to Bainbridge. He nodded, and they slowly responded by lining up to cross over the boarding plank. As the crewmembers went, Bainbridge pulled a few of his best out of the line, telling them they’d be helping with the anchoring process to tow the Ulysses home. They would also need to man the bilge pumps and make sure the ship didn’t take on too much water.
When the last of the crew had transferred over, Captain Snow saw to their bunk assignments and gave them directions to the galley, sending a few of his own crew along to guide them. Once that had been settled, Snow returned to the Ulysses where Olivia and Bainbridge had remained.
As he approached, Bainbridge started to speak, but he held up his hand and then pointed to Olivia. “I want to hear more about you.”
“Your mom is Scarlet Sun? Is that your claim?”
“She is,” Olivia replied. “Do you know her?”
“Tell me something that only she would know.”
“Scarlet is from World Ship Two-Two-Nine-Six,” Olivia started. “Her husband is Ronin the Lightbringer. He got that nickname when his team of aquanauts inadvertently discovered that a Yunai could be overwhelmed with high concentrations of light. I assume you know what a Yunai is, Captain Snow? Regardless. Scarlet brought many survivors from her home World Ship to this one. I was among them. Unlike the others, her memories were not deleted by Anton Mertins. Are you following all of this, Captain?”
“Alright. Enough of that,” Snow groaned. “She thinks you’re dead. This will be a shock.”
“Until today, I feared the same of her,” Olivia replied, her heart racing. “Tell me, Captain, what kind of woman is my mother?”
“She’s a leader,” he answered. “You’ll have to judge the rest yourself. Wow, this is going to change everything. You two head over to my ship. We’ll finish the work on the Ulysses and set sail by nightfall.”
Bainbridge shook his head. “I stay here. I still have crewmembers aboard.”
Snow groaned again. “Fine. Stay. Olivia, however, I must insist comes with me.”
Olivia nodded in agreement. “Yes. Okay. I’ll go.”
The Captain smiled at her. “Thank you. Now, come on. We’ll get the food rolling and send over a meal for those working on the tow. Captain Bainbridge, you and I need to have a long conversation when we set sail.”
“I expect we do,” Bainbridge replied. “I look forward to it.”