By the time Olivia said farewell to Bainbridge, the afternoon sun was dipping below the western horizon. The harbor pointed toward the west, so the sunlight glistened and reflected across the ocean’s surface. The pathways around this port were all made of old timber, and they groaned and moaned as she walked by the various homes and businesses that had been thrown together. The folks that worked and lived here all seemed to be in high spirits, though they all slowed when they passed, giving them a side-eyed glance. The news had spread quickly that outsiders had come to this section of the World Ship. Olivia wasn’t sure if folks here at this harbor knew secrets that Sanctuary did not, but it certainly seemed that this place was special.
Captain Bainbridge had made the rounds, catching as many of his crew members out and about as he could, letting them know they’d soon start work on repairing the Ulysses. Olivia followed along for a while, then stayed out to watch the artificial stars as they appeared in the darkening sky. Eventually, she was approached by a seemingly random individual that informed her Scarlet had arranged a place for her to sleep. She was led to a local tavern and given a small room, no more than eight feet by eight feet.
The night was long.
Olivia was anxious about her upcoming journey, and the drafty wood walls groaned every time the wind blew outside. The weather was hot and muggy, and the thick blanket on her bed wasn’t comfortable at all. She threw it to the side and listened to the constant sounds of people walking about in the tavern below, people bellowing in deep laughs, and some singing in drunken stupors. The sounds of blissful ignorance.
When she finally drifted off, she had fits of dreams about her mother. Her mother, someone who still had all her memories. Starla thought of Kaurshi as she tossed and turned, knowing how excited he’d be to meet someone that had remembered it all.
Before she knew it, the sun was rising again, and Olivia hadn’t rested at all.
The door to her room finally opened, and Olivia sat up to see Captain Bainbridge standing at the threshold with a grim look on his face. He raised a brow at her, and the cold look thawed just enough for him to grin.
“Sleep alright?” he asked.
“No,” she answered, crawling out of her bed. “You?”
“It was a lot like coming home after a long life away from it.”
“So you enjoyed it?”
Bainbridge chuckled. “Nostalgia wears fast when you go home.”
“How is the crew holding up?” she asked, standing and pulling her hair back so the wild strands were a bit tamer.
“They’re doing better than I anticipated. Most of the folks from the Ulysses are explorers at heart. Getting a chance to meet a whole new population group is a pretty exciting prospect for them.” He looked back out of the room for a moment, then looked back at her. “They’re excited to fix the Ulysses too, of course,” he added with a chuckle. “I just hope we can save the beds. I think I slept on a sack of grain.”
“Mine wasn’t much more comfortable,” Olivia said, looking at her bed. “Alright. No point in delaying. Let’s get to the harbor.”
“Stay alert on this trip,” Bainbridge said, following Olivia’s lead. “We don’t know anything about this place, and mother or not, Scarlet may have other motives.”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Olivia replied, feeling as uneasy as ever.
Olivia had expected to be boarding another sailing ship, but when she reached the harbor that morning, she was shocked by what she found. A vessel with twin hulls, a massively tall sail, and modern amenities like glass windows and a big radio antenna.
It was a large metal ship that looked the opposite of anything she’d seen so far, with a sleek metal framework and glossy white paint that was accented by brilliantly vibrant colors. This vessel looked like something William Everett might have cranked out if he had the interest.
She realized she’d opened her mouth in wonder and closed it as Scarlet stepped off the boat and walked toward her. She seemed so incredibly out of her element now, with her pirate attire backed against such a modern vessel.
“I don’t… I don’t understand,” she said as her mother reached her side.
“Here I’m the pirate queen,” Scarlet replied. “In Sanctuary, I’m just another citizen. I can explain more when we’re on the water. The trip won’t take long in our research ship. It has all the technology you’re more acquainted with, and a top speed nearly triple what our clippers can make on a good day.”
Olivia followed her mother aboard the large boat. She was greeted by a man in a sleek cotton uniform, and he bowed to her as though she was someone of importance. She forced back an impolite response and chose to simply ignore the gesture for now.
The man didn’t seem to mind at all.
The ship’s floor began to vibrate, and she heard the sound of motors rumbling below the decks. They started to back out of the dock, toward the ocean, and Olivia looked back once more at the harbor, the tavern, the sailing ships… It was like a picture from another time.
Scarlet called her into the main cabin, and Olivia followed her to find fresh fruit and plush cushioned seats waiting for her. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. If they had access to this technology, why in the world were they living in literal wreckage and sleeping on sacks of grain?
“Help yourself,” Scarlet said, taking one of the tall glasses from the counter and pouring herself a mixed drink. “I don’t know how soon we can eat once we get to Sanctuary, so you’ll want to have something on your stomach.”
“How big is Sanctuary?” Olivia asked. “How big is this section of the World Ship?”
“It was my original intention, dear daughter, for you to live in Sanctuary with me,” Scarlet said, ignoring Olivia’s question. “We would have been safe together, away from the chaos that had haunted our lives, but in my rush to find safety, I overlooked some of the finer details about this World Ship.”
Olivia frowned. “I still can’t believe you’ve been here this whole time and you never reached out to me. I don’t understand it.”
“I didn’t know you had emerged from another Core exit. There are multiple delivery points on this World Ship. I, foolishly, assumed Anton would send all of the suspended passengers to the same location. I overlooked the random assignment protocol he installed. I spent most of my time here thinking you’d soon join me.”
“Help me understand this,” Olivia said, changing topics and gesturing at the ship they were aboard. “This boat looks like a modern marvel. Why are you sailing around with tall ships and dressing like pirates?”
“If I recall correctly, the ship we found you aboard was not so different?”
“Fair enough,” Olivia murmured. “The Ulysses was archaic, but it was one of a kind. Citizens didn’t have access to technology when they built it, at least not the kind they have now. I dare say the Ulysses is one of the last large sailing ships in the Upper Levels… at least outside of your section.”
“Intimidation,” Scarlet answered. “That’s the reason.”
“I know. You don’t understand. Sailing vessels require little to no power. That makes them valuable. They sail upon the winds generated on the World Ship, which are predictable and easy to utilize. The whole operation you witnessed back at the harbor is designed to monitor the bulkhead and prevent any citizens from Sanctuary from attempting to explore too far. When they see a massive tall ship on the horizon, they get spooked and run away, usually heading back home. Sometimes we have to drag them into the harbor and keep them for a few days to really give them a good scare. Then they run back home to the mainland.”
“So you keep them trapped in Sanctuary,” Olivia stated. “They have no freedom.”
“Freedom is dangerous.”
“Living a lie is worse.”
Scarlet paused for a moment, looking Olivia over, then raised a brow. “So, Ronin is alive?”
“He is,” Olivia replied, curious about the topic change.
“When did he make his way here?” she asked.
“Right after he left our home,” Olivia answered. “Anton got in the way of his plans to return and get us. Eventually, he got put in storage, just like we eventually were.”
Scarlet, for the first time since Olivia had met her, looked shocked. “Lies.”
“No. Thresher… Geoffrey… confirmed the events. We went back to World Ship Two-Two-Nine-Six and found survivors that had held out even after you left. Admiral Bainbridge was the leader by then.”
“This changes nothing,” Scarlet snapped.
Olivia smiled. She’d hit a nerve, though she wasn’t sure that was a good idea. She decided now was the time to push her advantage. Scarlet had been in charge for a long time, and she thought she knew all the moving pieces. Now she was unsure.
“So, you say Sanctuary is a city, right? Obviously, you need a power source. How do you accomplish this without connecting to the Grid?”
“Power crystals,” Scarlet said, her mind no longer on the here and now. “I’m afraid I’ve grown rather tired. If you’ll excuse me, Olivia, I must retire to my quarters.”
Her mother didn’t speak another word. She set her glass down, wiped her mouth, and marched to the side of the main living area. Each side of the ship had two small bedrooms. With her departure, Olivia was alone. For a time, she stayed seated, simply taking in the quiet hum of the engines, the scenic view out of the many windows, and even the underwater world thanks to the thick glass at the front of the ship that dipped under the surface when they came over large swells.
Then, she heard a bell from outside on the deck, and as the ship turned, she saw a beautiful skyline coming into view on the horizon. Olivia stood up and looked toward the sight. A city, not unlike the Hub, perhaps not as tall, but certainly stretching over more land. She felt a sudden surge of excitement at the idea of getting to visit a new city and people, even if it wasn’t under ideal circumstances. She heard a door creak and turned to see Scarlet had returned from her quarters. Olivia wasn’t sure how much time had passed, perhaps an hour or two.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Scarlet asked.
“It is,” Olivia replied.
The ship’s Captain, still in uniform, stepped into the living area and looked at Scarlet. She gave him a questioning look, and he shot a glance at Olivia. Scarlet groaned and waved dismissively. “Come on, out with it.”
“It’s about the Sovereign Ruler of Sanctuary…”
“Wait,” Olivia interrupted. “You’re not in charge?”
“It’s complicated,” Scarlet said. “Captain, tell me. What’s wrong?”
“Our Lady has demanded that we dock at the main marina rather than the royal harbor. We believe she’s gathering the city’s Peacekeepers to… arrest you. Shall I turn the ship around?”
Scarlet sighed. “She heard about Olivia. I worried this could happen.”
“That seems likely,” the Captain replied.
“Very well. I suppose the best way to deal with this is a head-on confrontation. Use the radio to reach Captain Snow and inform him that he’ll assume command of the harbor if I am taken into custody. He will know what to do.”
“What’s going on?” Olivia asked. “You’re being arrested!?”
Scarlet chuckled. “Family matters are best dealt with in person. Let’s hope we can resolve this before it escalates further. We’ll dock where the High Lady has demanded. No need to start a fight until it is absolutely necessary.”
“One prison cell to the next,” Olivia groaned.
“Not yet,” Scarlet replied. “Welcome to Sanctuary, daughter. Let’s hope we can keep things in order, shall we?”