Episode 96: Sanctuary Under Siege (Pt. 2)

Olivia and Scarlet flee Sanctuary with the Evercrystal in a bid to save the city.

          The driver, Officer Lete, had abandoned his vehicle in the resort lobby. Olivia and Scarlet decided to claim it for their own use, climbing back inside and driving out of the building. Behind them, thick black smoke was billowing from the shoreline.

          “How did the Yunai escape from its containment?” Scarlet asked as she slammed the gas and swerved between several other vehicles fleeing the scene. “We were quite certain it was trapped in its… prison.”

          “It was,” Olivia answered, her voice shaky. “The problem wasn’t the prison, it was the power. As your World Ship started shutting down, the shield that kept the Yunai’s spirit contained was shutting down too. Ronin and I decided that we could lure the Yunai to its physical body while we escaped from the dying World Ship. It was the only way to stop the spirit from following us.”

          “There were two crystal blades in the Yunai’s containment system,” Scarlet said, still focusing on the road in front of her. “Please tell me you have those here too.”

          “Oh, yeah, we have one of them.”

          “One will have to do,” Scarlet replied. “We’ll head there first.”

          “Wait. What about the bulkhead door?”

          Scarlet chuckled. “I control that bulkhead, Olivia. I can open it whenever I want. I wasn’t going to lock my people in here without a means of escape.”

          Olivia frowned, biting her tongue as a renewed sense of anger washed over her. Right now, her own opinions of her mother’s management were trivial compared to the creature that was coming after them.

          “Why hasn’t it come straight at us?” Olivia asked, daring to glance at the power crystal.

          “The crystal gives off its own energy readings,” Scarlet explained. “Think of it like your nose. At this distance, you’re so bombarded with the smell of the crystal that you can’t really figure it out. It feels like it’s all around you at this point.”

          “So the Yunai is going to just ransack the city until it finds it…”

          “Once we start flying away, the energy will dissipate and the creature will follow us like a hound on the scent of blood.”

          “Flying away?” Olivia asked. “Do you have a vehicle like the Intrepid?”

          Scarlet scoffed. “No. Not exactly. In fact, it’s best if you just see it for yourself.”

          They drove to the edge of the city, which ended rather abruptly, similar to Town’s own design, and then continued driving on a dirt roadway that left the besieged city behind. For a few minutes, Olivia started to worry, but then they came over the crest of a large hill and she saw another long stretch of paved tarmac.

          She’d seen a runway before. Explorer One and Explorer Two used runways just like that to land after their launch missions. At one end of the large runway was a winged vehicle, not entirely unlike their own exploration vehicles, but lacking rocket engines in exchange for what appeared to be something else.

          “You’ve got airplanes in the Lower Level, right?” Scarlet asked.

          “No,” Olivia replied. “We built rocket engines, but a vehicle like this… it’s different.”

          “Turbine jet engines,” Scarlet said. “Generates enough speed to provide lift. The Albatross is our greatest achievement here. A ship for the skies.”

          “And it takes off from the tarmac?”

          Scarlet looked at Olivia with extreme confusion. “You’re telling me that you’ve been to other World Ships, mastered repulsor tech well enough to reach the Upper Level, but you don’t have a grasp on how to build an airplane?”

          “We were working on aerodynamic designs for some sky vehicles like this, but their use case was limited compared to our ambitions. We went with a rotor design instead, and once we had a good grip on repulsor lifts, we didn’t need to invest in traditional methods.”

          “Yeah well, that traditional method is about to fly us out of here, so it has at least one use case.”

          Olivia smiled despite the situation. “Fair enough.”

          Scarlet didn’t add anything else, and as they came down the hill toward the tarmac, they rode in relative silence. The moment offered Olivia a brief chance to reflect on her life and where it had led her. A week ago she had been ignoring her past, enjoying a trip on the seas, and then that past had shown up again. Discovering her father, and learning about her old home had all been too much. Now she was sitting next to her mother and wondering if she had finally bit off more than she could chew.

          A part of her wanted to flee. She wanted to close her eyes, leap from the vehicle, and pretend that none of this was happening, but she couldn’t run from this as she’d run from Ronin. She’d have to face this calamity head-on, with her mother, and when it was over she’d have to finally swallow her fears and embrace the past that haunted her even now.

          Instead, she sat there as Scarlet drove them alongside the pink and white aircraft. When they stopped, Olivia climbed out and watched Scarlet hand off the crystal case to another woman, one who was wearing a pressed uniform. That woman quickly moved the case up a set of stairs and into the aircraft while a third woman appeared, this one wearing a similarly pressed uniform, but also adorned with some kind of marking on the front.

          “It’s good to see you again, Captain Knight,” Scarlet said with a smile.

          The Captain nodded. “You as well, Scarlet.”

          “Knight, I would like you to meet my daughter.”

          The Captain stopped, turned to look at Olivia, then smiled. “Really? The prodigal daughter finally showed up, eh? Most of us started to think you might not be real.”

          “So I’ve heard,” Olivia replied.

          “My name is Starla Knight. Most folks just call me Starla, though your mother insists on calling me by my title. From what your mother tells me, we knew each other in the past… before our minds got scraped.”

          “I… wasn’t aware.”

          Starla grinned. “No harm there. I can’t remember either.”

          “Are we ready to go?” Scarlet interjected. “The Yunai is doing damage.”

          “Alicia is warming up the engines now. Shouldn’t be more than a few minutes. What about the Queen and the citizens? What are they going to do?”

          “I told the Queen to move the citizens to the Temple of Emergence. It’s their best bet if the creature doesn’t come after us.”

          Starla frowned. “I should have known. We’re the bait?”

          “I’m afraid so.”

          “Well, I suppose that makes sense. Come on then, let’s get airborne and run for our lives.”

          When Olivia stepped inside the aircraft she saw that it only carried around six or seven people, and it had not been meant for any actual level of mass transit. The Albatross, as it had been called, was clearly a vehicle used by a select few.

          Olivia walked to the vehicle’s cockpit and looked over the controls. She couldn’t help but feel memories of Explorer One rushing into her mind.

          A young woman in one of the cockpit’s seats looked over her shoulder. “Hello there,” she said warmly. “We’ll be off the ground in a couple of minutes. You’d better find a seat and get buckled in.”

          Olivia nodded, turning back to the rest of the cabin area where Scarlet and Captain Starla Knight were still chatting with one another. Starla looked concerned, but she nodded at Scarlet’s words and turned toward the cockpit, and closed the door behind her. That left Olivia all alone with her mother.

          For a long moment, there were no words. Then, Scarlet finally met her daughter’s eyes. The fire that she’d seen there was gone now, and her mother suddenly looked old… tired. She offered Olivia only a slight smile, then collapsed in one of the available seats.

          “I’m going to lose it all again,” she said. “It always slips away.”

          Olivia stepped closer, taking her own seat next to Scarlet as the sound of the engines spinning to life outside grew louder. Scarlet closed her eyes, but she didn’t speak again.

          “I’m sorry,” Olivia said.

          Scarlet looked at her at last. “You? Why are you sorry?”

          “The Yunai… we did this.”

          “I never should have let him take you from me,” Scarlet said, her eyes going vacant. “I thought I could control the situation. I thought this place would be the final stop on our journey. What a fool I was to think it could be that easy.”

          Olivia’s face hardened. She looked at her mother, then toward the closed door of the cockpit. The vehicle had started to roll, slowly, and the engines outside were roaring with life. There would be time to grieve but now wasn’t that time.

          “We need a plan,” she said aloud. “Scarlet. We have this crystal. You say the Yunai will want it. So, how do we use that to our advantage?”

          “There is no advantage,” Scarlet answered. “The Evercrystal must not fall into the Yunai’s grip. My plan is to keep it away from the creature as long as I can. Perhaps, if we can flee to the Lower Level we could put the crystal on a Traveler and send it into oblivion… maybe… but the most likely scenario is that the Yunai pursues and overtakes us.”

          “Then what?” Olivia asked.

          Scarlet looked at her again. “You had a life, didn’t you? I’ve retaken your future. I’m so sorry, Olivia. I don’t know that we’ll survive this, so I want you to understand I never meant you any harm. I love you, Olivia Sun, and I am so incredibly sorry for it all.”

          “I…don’t understand,” Olivia said.

          “If the Yunai gets too close, we must destroy the Evercrystal. When we fracture the crystalline structure it will release the crystal’s energy in a violent torrent. The blast would level Sanctuary and most of this section of the World Ship. Hopefully, a detonation like that would take out the creature as well.”

          The airplane started to wobble as it turned itself around on the tarmac. Olivia sat in stunned silence as her mother looked blankly past her. The truth was, Olivia hadn’t really considered that this could be the final hours of her life. The hum of the engines grew louder, and she felt herself being pressed into her seat. As the vehicle roared forward, the ground beneath her started to slip away, and they took flight.

          “We will fly to the bulkhead,” Scarlet spoke again. “If we can open it before the Yunai catches us, we’ll fly to the Lower Level. I… don’t expect us to make it that far.”

          Olivia nodded. “When we open the bulkhead, I want to talk to my people.”

          Scarlet didn’t object. “There’s a radio in the cockpit. We can use that.”

          Olivia was holding back her emotions, trying not to overthink the situation at hand. The Yunai had to be defeated. There had to be a way to overcome this. They’d all fought so hard to keep their home safe. It couldn’t end like this.

          No. She wouldn’t let it end like this.

To Be Continued…

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