Any quiet excitement Olivia felt about coming to the city of Sanctuary was quickly stripped away when she saw the two blue and white police boats pulling up alongside their vessel. Scarlet ordered the Captain to follow their directions until they were led into a public marina where a large crowd was already gathered. Thankfully, the police boats veered their course at the last minute, and they were guided into a private boat house where only a handful of people were present. A few deckhands moved in to tie the boat off at the dock, then they rushed outside. Near the edge of the dock stood a woman with black hair, fair skin, and a light gray dress. A woman that, at a distance, looked remarkably similar to Scarlet and Olivia.
“That’s Olivia Sun,” Scarlet said, reaching Olivia’s side. “Not really, of course. Her real name is Susan Munn. She looked kind of like me, and she had the right mindset, so I let her take a placeholder position until you showed up. When you didn’t show up… she just assumed a position as our permanent leader.”
“And now I’m here…” Olivia surmised.
“Scarlet Sun,” the fake Olivia spoke, cutting them off. The woman’s eyes met Olivia’s and she frowned. “So the rumors are true then? Your daughter has finally emerged?”
“In some ways, yes,” Scarlet answered. “Though it’s not what you think, I assure you.”
“I think that you’ve brought home your prodigal child,” fake Olivia said. “The only logical assumption is that you will be asking me to step down.”
“No,” Olivia spoke up. “Wrong. I am not here as a guest or a leader. I’m here because my mother has taken me, prisoner!”
Scarlet sighed. “That’s not what this is.”
“I don’t want to live here. I’m from the Lower Level of this World Ship. My mother has been lying to all of you since she started this place. There are thousands of citizens out there beyond your bulkhead, and—”
“Enough,” fake Olivia snapped. “Child, do you think your mother put me in charge without filling me in on all of the details? I am fully aware of your mother’s plots. I have been helping her maintain her lies. Her dishonesty runs deep. That’s why I know she’s here to dispose of me.”
“I am not here to dispose of you. Good gracious woman, when did you get so paranoid? Besides, even if I was planning to put my daughter in charge, you were the one that agreed to step down when she emerged.”
Fake Olivia seemed to relax slightly. “Fine. If you’re not here to take control of the city, then why are you here at all?”
“I want my daughter to see what I built for her,” Scarlet answered. “She may not want what I have to offer, but she should at least know the truth of it.”
There was a moment of silence, then fake Olivia nodded. “Very well. You two are free to make your way about. I’ll have an escort stay with you. While you’re—”
A young man rushed into the building and moved to fake Olivia’s side. He whispered something in her ear, then handed her a tablet. The woman looked at the screen and her body stiffened. She looked at Scarlet with a new expression … anger.
“Guards, arrest these two!”
“What?” Scarlet asked. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Our long-range scanners have detected a large object moving toward the city. Your attack force, no doubt, is coming to take over!”
“No,” Scarlet replied. “I have no force coming. Show me.”
Fake Olivia scoffed. “You can see it once I have you properly contained.”
“Olivia… Susan, I am not attacking. Please.”
“I can’t take any risks. Take them away.”
Olivia and Scarlet were loaded inside a van, and as it left the marina it pulled onto a long coastal road at the city’s edge. As they drove, Olivia saw that Sanctuary was a bustling hub of activity, but not in the same congested way that the Hub had felt during Olivia’s time there, nor was it as relaxed and calm as Town. It was a strange merger of the two, with a larger size, and more organization.
“This place is amazing,” Olivia said, as they passed by a massive building. Olivia saw the sign and realized it was a luxury hotel. Several citizens were heading inside the spinning doorway. “How did you get building materials for all of this? You don’t have access to the Warehouse.”
“You have a lot to learn about World Ships,” Scarlet said, her eyes on the water.
“Really? Do you have access to the Warehouse?”
Scarlet looked at her for a moment. “That’s right. We can issue orders from command systems and the supply drones use special pathways to reach the Warehouse, then transport materials directly to us. It functions much the same way as the Core. The World Ship is designed in a way that we can’t get to those tunnels, of course, only the drones. Ronin and I theorized that if we could just get in there we could move from population groups with record time, but we never found a way in.”
“Even with access to the Warehouse, you built this place fast,” Olivia noted.
“It wasn’t my first time,” Scarlet said with a chuckle.
“So you thought I’d come here too?”
“I’m glad I didn’t.”
Scarlet finally turned her attention fully to her daughter, rather than the coastline outside. She regarded Olivia with what appeared to be sorrow. “I truly lost you that day.”
“The day Anton took your memories,” she said. “I should have fought harder to convince him. I should have made him understand. What good was it to remember my daughter if I lost her anyway? Perhaps being stricken with amnesia would have simplified things. It should have been both of us or neither of us. He gave me a curse rather than a gift. I understand it now.”
“No, mother, it doesn’t sound like you understand it at all. I came here with suspicions. Anton told me about you. He said you were out there somewhere. I didn’t know you were here, with a city and secrets, but Anton gave me the gift of my memories in that way. He told me about you. He gave me a path to you. Then, when I got here… it was you that pushed me away. You locked me in this place, you brought me to this beautiful city and showed me the replacement you groomed when I was lost to you. No. Anton isn’t the one who cursed you, mother, you cursed yourself.”
“If that’s the case… perhaps I need to evaluate my own—”
The sudden rise of a loud horn interrupted Scarlet. She snapped her head to the coastline again, and Olivia followed her gaze to see something happening. Several lighthouses, at least they looked like lighthouses, were rising up from the shoreline. As they rose higher, they started to lean, until Olivia realized they weren’t buildings at all… they were long barrels, similar to the cannons on some of the tall ships from the Hub. These were much larger, smoother, and more mechanical looking…
Then, one of them fired.
A bright flash of light arched out over the water and then disappeared beneath the ocean’s surface. The shot sent a shockwave that shook their vehicle, and Olivia saw dozens of citizens at the beach rushing toward the shelter of the city.
“Driver!” Scarlet shouted. “Get us to the Megaplex!”
“We have orders to take you to the palace.”
“We need to figure out what’s happening—”
Two more cannons fired, their shots aimed considerably closer.
“The object is approaching!” the driver shouted. “We’re going to get to cover.”
Olivia’s eyes were glued to the water. She was watching, wildly curious about what might be looming under the surface. Then, she heard the driver grumbling at Scarlet about touching his stuff. She had a tablet, flipping through applications until she audibly gasped.
“Olivia, do your people have the ability to manipulate dark metal?”
“The object that is approaching… this can’t be right. It’s almost entirely dark metal.”
Olivia’s blood ran cold. “The Yunai.”
“What?” Scarlet asked.
“On your… our… World Ship. There was a creature there called a Yunai—”
“That spirit had no physical body,” Scarlet replied. “It was locked away below the Core.”
“I’m afraid ‘was’ is the key to that statement,” Olivia replied.
“You’re telling me you allowed the Yunai to reunite with its physical body… and then you allowed that creature to come here?!”
“We thought we escaped before it could get to us,” Olivia explained. “It has been over a year since we returned, and there’s been no sign of something like this. All that aside, we determined that the physical body was made of dark metal, at least an exoskeleton.”
They started to turn away from the beach and into the city, and that was when the swell in the water finally appeared. Two of the cannons locked on and fired directly at it, sending water spraying into the air. As the last of the water fell away, Olivia saw it. There was no mistake. The shiny black exterior was the same, and the glowing eyes and energy shards that littered its mechanical body were identical to the creature that had nearly destroyed them before.
It was here.
Their vehicle slipped behind a large building, obscuring her view of the creature.
“What is it doing here?” Olivia asked.
“The Evercrystal,” Scarlet replied. “Driver! Get us to the Megaplex. Now!”
“Did you see that thing?” the driver asked. “We need to hide.”
“If you won’t drive, then move over,” Scarlet demanded, stepping out of the vehicle’s back row and opening the driver’s door. “I am the one that gifted this city with the Evercrystal. I’m not going to let that monster have it.”
The driver nodded, sliding into the passenger seat.
“Thank you,” Scarlet said, taking the wheel and slamming the accelerator.
The vehicle came around from the back of the building, and Olivia saw the Yunai again. It had just stepped onto the sandy beach when one of the cannons repositioned and fired. The round hit the Yunai head-on. The explosion was a blinding white that made Olivia look away, but she still suffered from seeing spots in the aftermath. She dared to look back as the enormous fireball burned down. The Yunai, while having been knocked down and pushed significantly from the force, didn’t appear to have sustained any damage. The attack, however, did draw its attention. It stood and started to walk toward the cannon. It moved casually like it was in no real danger or rush, which only intimidated Olivia more.
Another cannon fired, knocking the creature again. As it recovered from that shot, a third cannon hit it, blasting it back. Each time it was hit, the Yunai started to stand up again. Unfortunately, before Olivia could see any more, they drove away from the beach. She looked forward and saw that Scarlet was, presumably, driving them toward a large building about a block inland. The driver was on his radio calling out various codes and alerts, and Olivia heard the thundering chain of cannon fire, in rounds of three, until a longer than normal pause, followed by only two shots.
The Yunai had claimed its first target.
Scarlet didn’t stop when she reached the face of the large building. She drove directly through the front doors, into the lobby, and stopped only when she reached the elevator doors. Around them, people were screaming and running in every direction.
“Come on,” Scarlet said, climbing out and pressing the button to summon the elevator.
“Where are we?” Olivia asked, scrambling out of the vehicle and joining her mother at the elevator door.
“We call this the Megaplex,” Scarlet answered. “A massive resort where citizens come to relax, party, and enjoy the company of others. It’s peaceful, and entirely paid for by the energy it generates for the city.”
“How does this place generate energy?”
The elevator dinged. Scarlet stepped inside, and once Olivia was on she held the door for a moment, looking at the driver. “Are you coming?”
The driver shook his head.
“Fine. I already have your tablet, and you’re a terrible driver, by the way.”
She moved her hand and let the elevator close as the driver looked at her, stunned.
They started going up, and when the bell rang again, the door opened to reveal a large open room. There was nothing special here, aside from the massive window that looked out over the beach and city. It was beautiful to see it from this high.
In the center of the room, however, was a single pedestal, with a glowing crystal housed inside a glass container. It was almost yellow in color, and the light it emitted was bright enough to illuminate the immediate area around it.
“This is the Evercrystal,” Scarlet said. “It’s one of only three ever created. An endless source of power. A relic from our lost World Ship.”
“That is a power crystal,” Olivia surmised. “How much power can it provide?”
“All of it,” Scarlet answered. “Every single thing that draws power in this city.”
Olivia had heard about the Hub’s power crystal. She had assumed it must be some kind of massive object, but this… no… it wasn’t possible. “How is that possible?”
“It might as well be magic,” Scarlet said, looking at the crystal with a frown. “The short answer is, the more it shakes the more it generates power. This machine maintains a high pitch wavelength that keeps the crystal excited and the power flowing. There is a reaction, which I cannot explain to you. I sometimes doubt anyone still lives that could explain it properly, much less attempt to recreate it.”
Olivia was fascinated, of course, but the desire to learn more was drowned by the large windows that gave them a display of the Yunai attacking the second cannon along the beach. Scarlet didn’t bother looking at the creature, instead typing on a keypad that caused the pedestal to shut down. The glow slowly dimmed from the crystal and Scarlet popped open a compartment that had a small case, seemingly designed to house the crystal.
“What do we do?” Olivia asked. “If the Yunai wants this—”
“We run,” Scarlet said, holding up the driver’s tablet and pressing several buttons. The device opened a call, and after a moment a young woman answered. “Benoit? What is it?”
“Sorry, Benoit is distracted at the moment,” Scarlet replied. “I’m securing the Evercrystal and heading toward the strip. You’ll have the Albatross ready to roll?”
“Of course. It’s true then? Doomsday protocol?”
“I’m afraid so. Bring Reyes with you.”
“Very well. Commander Knight out.”
Olivia started to speak, but Scarlet held up a finger as she made another call.
“Officer Lete! Where are you!?” Fake Olivia’s voice was immediately recognizable.
“I relieved him of duty,” Scarlet answered on his behalf.
“So this is you?”
“No,” Scarlet answered honestly. “That creature is far more fowl than anything I could dream up. I’m initiating the doomsday protocol. We’re taking the crystal and fleeing. The Albatross will be ready for departure soon.”
“You can’t be serious?! Without the crystal, the city’s power reserves will run out in hours.”
“If that creature gets this crystal, the city won’t survive long enough to care.”
“That’s not how this works, Scarlet. I am the leader of this city.”
“I’m aware of that. You want to lead, so now is the time. That creature might not leave when we take the crystal out of here. Evacuate the city right now. Tell everyone to make for the Temple of Emergence. The tunnels there are made of dark metal, so the creature won’t easily follow you. Get to safety and stay there until the Yunai is gone.”
Fake Olivia started to complain, but Scarlet ended the call and finished securing the crystal in the storage case. She stood up, looked at Olivia, and offered a slight grin. “Ready to go?”