The Captain, upon being shaken awake, would not agree that she’d had worse. The world was fuzzy, her head was swimming, and she was having trouble staying focused while the Bosun explained the plan to them. The Navigatrix was nodding very seriously, though, so that was good.
But then she and the Bosun left the tent together, and the Captain was alone. Time started slipping around, and she couldn’t tell if she was alone for hours, or only seconds, because she fell asleep again, and the Navigatrix had to shake her awake a second, or maybe third time.
She managed to connect a hand with her face and rub her eyes.
“Captain, we could really use your tactical mind right now.” The Navigatrix got an arm under her shoulder and pulled her to sitting.
The world wobbled a bit as the blood rushed to the Captain’s head.
“Please tell me you’re more awake than you look.”
The Captain squinted at her face. Had the Navigatrix gotten any rest at all? Her eye mask was perched crookedly on top of her head like a fascinator.
“Of course I’m awake.” Was that her own voice? This was bad. “Coffee?” she managed to yawn.
“Brewing it already. Double strong.” She managed a half-smile. “Can I tempt you with some cold leftovers?”
The Captain’s stomach lurched. “Yes. No. Maybe.” She frowned, desperately trying to focus. “What’s the situation?”
The Navigatrix held the bowl and explained while she ate.
“Can we get to the ship?” The Captain did feel more lucid with food in her. “It’s taken worse hits than falling stones.”
“It’s not low tide yet – but maybe we can dance around until then.”
That meant they’d barely gotten more than a few hours of sleep. No wonder she felt untethered.
“Let me grab the coffee. See if you can get your feet on the floor.” The Captain slowly maneuvered herself around, stretching out her good leg first, then the bad one. The splint was doing its job; she could rest her foot on the ground. The ground was vibrating? Was there an audible noise? Maybe?
“How close is it -”
The Navigatrix held up a hand with two mugs in it, the other holding the percolator, and whispered; “Too close for comfort. The Bosun’s been able to distract it off course with loud noises; so keep your voice down.”
The Captain took the proffered cup.
“She’s drawing fire for me?” That felt wrong. “I need to get out there.”
The Navigatrix had a hand on her arm immediately.
“No. You stay put, well hidden, till they come and grab you.”
The coffee was working quickly. The Captain’s brain started ticking again.
“Till they do? –”
“What the hell are you planning, then?”
The Navigatrix looked furiously at her own mug, and quickly downed half.
“Cryptic as in secrets of the universe? Or as in not telling your goddamned captain what’s going on.”
That didn’t help. She only looked angrier.
“I am allowed to do the right thing sometimes, Captain.” Her voice was very, very quiet. “And you can be as mad as you want after, if I don’t make it back.”
“Back from what?!”
“I’m going to go get the orb.”
“And do what with it?” The Captain could feel the coffee and the meds stewing into something like a manic hangover in her brain.
“I can hear him calling it. So I’m going to take it to him.”
Did she miss something? “To who? Who’s calling?”
The Navigatrix gestured vaguely.
“Is this like the orb talking to you?”
A bitter smirk. “Yes, actually.”
She stood up. “I see that you can’t hear him, but that’s probably for the best.” Her face was the hardest the Captain had ever seen it. “I hope you’ll forgive me eventually. I wish you’d forgive Lucy.”
The Captain felt like she’d missed a step on a ladder. “Why are you bringing Lucy into this?”
They both stared at each other for a moment. The Navigatrix looked close to tears.
“She loved you, Captain. She thought you were the smartest woman that ever lived. She was so proud to be your sister. And now you hate her?”
“I don’t – I don’t hate Lucy–”
“She didn’t want things to stay the same – she wanted something more – and–”
“I don’t understand! She never said that! And I don’t like your plan!” The Navigatrix flinched. “And I’m the captain and I say you stay put and we see this out together!”
How loud had she just yelled that?
In the awful silence that followed, they could both hear the tone of the rumbling change. It swept in a horrible circle around them, and they could hear the Engineer yelling as if from very far away, and then a loud hiss as fuzz grenades hit nearby.
The Navigatrix swept the tent door open, and they stared out onto an architectural marvel.
A ring of colonnades, stacked high beyond their line of sight, perfect and untouched by time. Behind them, walls were growing, bricks larger than their trike being pulled up from the ground and floated overhead; and then even the light from the planet was blocked out. All there was now was a blue glow and a low, musical, uncanny noise that the captain could no longer ignore. She watched the Navigatrix stand for a moment in the door of the tent, then she let the flap fall back in place, and crumpled to the floor.