“Is it aboard yet?” asked Wilson.
“Don’t be so awful Hilly, they’re just the same as us really,” whispered Alicen to her fellow submariner.
“They may look the same as us but inside they’re different, not human!” replied Wilson, she didn’t like Novae and didn’t care who knew.
“Quiet, the scunung’s in the conning tower,” hissed another crewman.
They watched the reception party descend the ladder, first was Frumlida Barleton. “Ten “shun!” he yelled, the bridge crew stood smartly to attention clicking their heels as their guest climbed down to face them, she wore a black uniform with silver omega symbols on the collar and was of course wearing the short sword known as the seax but curiously for a Psi also had a holstered pistol on her right hip. Her attractive face was surmounted by an unruly mop of copper red hair and her eyes with their unnatural lilac irises only added to her unearthly beauty.
Wilson hearing a gasp from Hoggard, was seized with jealousy, you’re going to pay for that later.
Undercapitan Trelago was last down. “My fellow crewmen this is Omega Minto and as explained previously, she is to be our mission specialist.”
“Are we mere mortals permitted to know anything more sir?” asked Wilson.
“You will be briefed when we are under way Aeglaedere,” answered the Omega before the First Officer had a chance to speak, she had a light but noticeable Kernowek accent. “Until then we will head out on the course supplied.”
“Ya exactly,” said Trelago a little taken aback. “Well Minto, the Capitan is waiting to see you in the wardroom.”
“What’s wrong your face Wilson?” asked the Frumlida as Trelago led her out.
“I don’t like Novae sir and I’m not afraid to say so.” The other crewmen nodded in agreement.
“Well Aeglaedere Wilson like it or not we’re stuck with her till this mission is over and that comes from the highest on high no less!” he informed them. “I’ve met plenty of Novae before and she seems most charming,” at this Hoggard nodded discretely.
“As you wish sir” Wilson replied tartly, glaring at Alicen.
Trelago tried to make polite conversation as he escorted Minto to the wardroom. “You’re a Kernow girl then?”
“Born and bred Mr Trelago, name’s Pandora but you can call me Pan, my handsome,” she replied with a sweet smile. “And you are?”
“Mark er… Pan.” he felt hot under the collar.
Eshe Baako, commander of the RSF Rusalka sat at the table in the wardroom, she could have greeted Minto in her cabin but it was less cramped here. The Capitan had no idea what this was about but the Admiral of the Fleet, Brimwisa Standforth himself, had personally contacted Baako, informing her that an Omega was being assigned to the vessel bringing orders that must be complied with. One year to go and Eshe could retire, all she desired was an easy trip, this has got to mean trouble I know it! She read the letter with the royal stamp for the second time and looked at the lilac eyed apparition. “This is a suicide mission isn’t it?”
“If it was would I be here?” answered Minto.
Baako didn’t honour her with a reply but said instead. “Shift change is in an hour and I’ll tell the crew the good news then,” spotting Pan’s raised eyebrow she informed her. “Life on a syndigbat is quite informal Omega, there’s no rigid sticking to the rules like you dry-landers do. We all live on top of each other and we all have to get on.”
“I don’t follow rules Mz Baako I can assure you,” she gave her most disarming smile. “You don’t trust me do you?”
“No of course not, you can read our minds.”
“All Psi, even Omegas, swear an oath not to probe anyone without their consent” unless we deem it absolutely necessary, she didn’t bother to add.
“I’m relieved to hear that” replied Eshe thinking, liar!
With the exception of those on necessary duty, the entire crew had assembled on the bridge to hear Minto’s announcement. “As you may know since the increase in maritime traffic between Frankia and Akebu-lan a number of vessels have either disappeared or sunk in the region of Malua, which is as close to the contaminated zone as shipping is recommended to travel. The few survivors found have reported feelings of fear and paranoia immediately prior to a glowing “tentacle” rising out of the sea to destroy their vessel! The Palace Research Wing does not believe in sea monsters and has ordered me to make an investigation into the real cause of this loss in shipping.”
“Whew, we’re on the hunt for the Kraken” someone joked.
“Why do we have the Waelcyrie on board” asked Wilson.
Baako regarded the submariner sternly, “it is believed this may be a manifestation of some kind of energy operating on a Q level, the Omega is here to determine what it is and if it can be controlled.”
“Bloody scunung, knew they’d be responsible somehow,” muttered a voice at the back.
“Who said that?” asked Barleton sharply. There was no answer.
“My fellow crewmembers,” the Capitan continued. “I have to inform you that in order to track down this “sea monster” it will be necessary to enter the waters off East Hispania.”
There was a stunned silence then. “Ma’am that’s off-limits, it’s contaminated” announced Downing, the Senior Weapons Technician.
“As long as we stay under water we will be safe,” stated Frumlida Rika, Baako had consulted the Chief Engineer before the briefing and he had concurred with the PRW”s findings. Minto felt the mood of the crew darken, knowing a lot of them were blaming her for this dangerous mission and she had been given specific instruction not to use her powers unless the mission was compromised.
The meeting broke up in ominous silence and Pan spoke to Baako in private. “I can sense that members of your crew, particularly an aeglaedere called Wilson, are very hostile to my kind and of course blame me for this assignment, can I rely on them to carry out their orders?”
“I can rely on them to carry out their orders and you can rely on me to issue them, as long as I don’t think you’re placing my crew in unnecessary danger. As for Hildegard Wilson she is a little confrontational but an excellent aegflota,” retorted the Capitan.
“Thank you.” Pan nodded curtly and left, almost bumping into Alicen Hoggard who was coming from the head.
“Oh sorry, Omega, I didn’t see you there.” She whispered coyly, flushing with embarrassment.
Pan smiled at the dark skinned girl. “Check! I’m as much to blame and call me Pan,” she began emanating charm, it was against the rules but she needed to start making friends.
“Thank you Pan,” she replied then a look of concern crossed her face.
Minto could feel the hatred behind her and knew it had to be Wilson. “You had better go,” she could tell the woman was a jealous bully. “Will you be alright?”
“Yes thank you,” she whispered and went quickly down the corridor.
Minto turned to watch the young woman walk to Wilson who was staring at Pan from her room and meekly enter it.
She located her allocated accommodation to discover she had been given an entire two bunk cabin to herself, either she was being shown special treatment or most likely no-one wanted to share with a filthy scunung, she picked the bottom bunk and lying on it contacted the Psi Wing. “The Capitan and the crew have been informed of their destination and to say that they are not happy would be an understatement, to say the least, there are few here I could rely on and some have shown me outright hostility.”
“Minto, you were aware when you volunteered for this mission that Seaforce still has the highest percentage of people who dislike us in the armed forces, it is too late to return now!” replied the Highest.
“I do not wish to return but I do have misgivings about the Capitan herself.”
“The mission must come first, Minto, it is a terrible thing to relate but the crew are expendable and must not be allowed to stop you. The situation is worsening I have received word that a village on the coast near Malua has been destroyed, our new allies on the coast must be protected.”
“Was it the energy tendril?”
“Not that alone, its influence made the inhabitants attack one another, we had an operative there and she was killed.
“And you still cannot detect its exact origin, Highest?”
“We know it comes from a region on the south coast of East Hispania but we have discovered nothing new, the flat zone hides much from us and when you cross into it we will no longer be able to contact each other.”
After the Q-war, so-called flat zones had sprung up around the globe and within these areas the effective range of both radio and telepathic communication was reduced to a few hundred yards. The whole of East Hispania was a contaminated wasteland and the largest flat zone in the world, once inside Pan would be cut off from all telepathic contact in a submarine full of people who at best mistrusted her.
There was a knock at her door. “Come in it’s not locked,” Pan said.
It was Undercapitan Trelago. “Hei I just wanted to see if you were alright, some of the crew are a bit…”
“It’s alright, I know they don’t they don’t like me, especially Aeglaedere Wilson.”
“She’s a nasty bicce, treats Hoggard badly. I have tried to intervene but the Capitan thinks the sun shines out of her arse. Not everybody on board feels that way Pan, I like you.”
“I already worked that out Mark” she smiled.
“So you’re a Kernow girl?”
“We’ve already discussed that I think?”
“Oh umm, whereabouts in Kernow are you from?”
“I was born at the Huscarl Base in Helston, my family still live there” he’s trying to chat me up, Pandora realised, badly.
“Been there, I come from Pendinas me self.”
“Oh I know Pendinas well, dada used to surf there all the time.”
“I used to surf, that’s where I got a taste for the sea,” he seemed awkward.
She decided to make it easy for him. “Look my handsome, if you want to hump just say so…”
The Rusalka had stood off at a safe distance from the mainland and Minto, who was stood in the conning tower with Barleton and Hoggard, felt a massive surge in psionic energy and a thick tentacle of vivid blue burst from the waves into the sky several miles away, flicking wildly around as if seeking a target before grounding onto the barren coastline to the north and discharging violently.
“Gods, it’s a bloody giant elektric eel!” exclaimed Barleton in surprise.
“Na it’s no living thing, that was some kind of energy discharge,” remarked Minto. “We must be close to its source.”
“How could that sink ships near Akebu-lan?” asked the Frumlida.
“That was probably only a small tendril, it must build up over time then escape into the atmosphere and discharge itself on something, we were lucky it wasn’t us!” she informed him.
As they made to descend Pan noticed a small bruise on Alicen’s cheek. “Wilson?” she asked.
“It’s nothing I’ll be fine,” she whispered.
“Your Capitan has a slack hand on her crew Alicen,” Pan remarked.
“Baako doesn’t care, she’s happy as long as everybody toes the line.”
“Do you want me to say something?”
“It’ll just make things worse.”
Minto watched the girl walk off to the mess room, this ship is fucked up!
The Rusalka cautiously approached the area where the phenomenon had been sighted. Pandora’s power had diminished severely since entering the flat zone and she could no longer path to her fellow Psi, she had never really paid attention to the constant background babble of thoughts flowing around the telepathic network but now she found the psionic silence unsettling.
“Energy reading increasing Capitan, it’s going off the scale!” announced Aeglaedere Albus, who was monitoring the sensors.
“Give me visual” ordered Baako and the forward viewer was switched on to reveal the murky water lit with an eerie blue glow, in the distance could be seen a swirling blue mass like a monstrous eye looking out of the seabed.
“It must be half a mile wide” remarked Trelago.
“Reading’s show it’s grown by a micro-inch since we found it” stated Albus.
“That’s not very much” said Wilson under her breath.
“But Hilly, what if it doesn’t stop?” whispered Hoggard.
Baako looked to Minto. “Well it’s your call now?”
“I need to get closer,” she replied.
“Not in this syndigbat you don’t” said Baako firmly.
Minto was in a pickle, she didn’t know if she had enough power to change the Capitan’s mind against her will, if she did and the rest of the crew mutinied could she control them too? Coming to a decision she announced. “Fine, I’ll take a pressure suit and swim there.” Pandora had been asked to volunteer because she was an experienced diver, a rare thing among Novae who generally felt uncomfortable in water, she, like her father was a rare exception.
“Not on your own Pan, I’ll pilot the mini-bat and take you there,” volunteered Trelago.
Baako took him to one side “Undercapitan I will not permit you to risk your life like this.”
“I seem to recall we were to follow orders Capitan and not helping Minto is very much not following orders!” he continued. “If that thing is growing how long before it fills the Middle-Terranean Sea?”
“It won’t stop there” interrupted Minto who had overheard. “It could grow to engulf the entire world.”
“How, what caused it?” asked the Capitan.
“We did, all those years ago, a thing called the Q-war, remember?” Pandora informed them. “All those quantum bombs ripping up the planet and with the Hispanic Alliance being one of the main protagonists it got it bad, somehow a hole was torn in the fabric of space and that energy is leaking through from another dimension.”
“You seem pretty well informed?” asked Baako.
“That’s because it’s coming from where all Psi’ in fact all Novae obtain their power,” she shouldn’t tell them but… “A tiny amount leaks into each of us through a special organ in our bodies called a portal node and we channel it, but it’s nothing to what’s out there.” She nodded to the screen “I have to get closer and see if I can find a way to either control or close it.”
“I never understood how you people functioned before, this is classified information isn’t it?” asked Baako.
“Ya only you two know and I trust this will be kept secret?” she admitted.
Half an hour later Minto found herself sitting in the tiny submersible with Trelago at the controls, behind the large dark bulk of the Rusalka was vanishing into the blue-lit murk as ahead the glaring eye grew to regard them balefully.
Trelago stopped the vessel a hundred yards from the edge and Minto left the mini-bat alone to swim cautiously towards the glowing anomaly and as she approached she could feel its power resonating in her abdomen, reminding her of the frequency all Novae generated as a psionic fingerprint. As she got nearer it built up almost to the point of ecstasy, but now it was beginning to hurt, close to the eye revealed itself as a whirlpool of blue light pulsating as it span, the psionic background noise returned with a vengeance and her power seemed to increase a hundredfold.
Taking advantage of her reconnection to the network, Pandora path’d an urgent message to the Highest “I’m right at the rip, it is definitely Helm energy! It’s overwhelming me I can’t stay much longer.”
“Well done Pandora” replied the Highest “I have passed your co-ordinates to the Witangemot, now you must leave immediately you know why.”
“I understand.” She acknowledged before disconnecting, beads of sweat were running down her face, she was breathing heavily and the pain was almost unbearable. Minto wanted to scream and through her misting visor saw the blue glow increasing in intensity then a massive column of energy burst forth to hurtle towards the surface and Pandora was spun end over end feeling as though her portal node had exploded, everything went black…
“Hei Pan you had me worried for a while!” it was Trelago’s voice.
Minto opened her eyes. “Sorry to disappoint you but I’m not going to say where am I?” she felt as if she had been kicked in the stomach by a horse.
“The mini-bat was badly damaged but Mark swam back dragging you behind him, luckily for you your suit survived and very luckily for both of you, there was no contamination.” Doctor Carnforth the subs haeler informed her.
“The situation has worsened significantly since we left, Pan, everyone is on edge and tempers are fraying.” Trelago related.
Pandora remembered how her psionic powers had been boosted. “It’s being caused by the anomaly leaking psionic energy to affect normal humans, once we’re clear the crew will soon recover. Talking of which we have to be far away from here very soon!” after explaining the urgency they set off quickly towards the bridge to see Alicen Hoggard running towards them.
“It’s Hilly, she’s taken over the sub, most of the crew are with her and the Capitan’s a hostage!” she explained breathlessly.
“What about Frumlida Barleton?” Trelago asked.
“He’s dead, Wilson stabbed him in the back and Frumlida Rika has locked himself in the drive room with Bormann.”
“Downing?” the Undercapitan enquired.
“Joined the mutiny” Alicen replied and Minto noticed her bruised cheek now had a black eye as a companion piece.
“Well look who’s here? The scunung and her boyfriend,” Wilson and several others were further down the corridor with weapons raised. “I know all about you Psi, your Wicca powers are weakened in a flat zone, we’ve got you!”
“Hey Hilly, your squeeze has changed sides,” remarked a crewman and she regarded Hoggard with malice.
“Wilson, as your superior officer I order you and your men to stand down immediately!” ordered Trelago.
“Really, so you can lock us away then cosy up with the scunung? I’ve heard how the high up ones can control people and she’s an Omega, the highest fucking type, don’t take us for fools!” she retorted.
“Curse it, Wilson, the government are dropping a bloody great Q-bomb right here in less than an hour, at least get the sub away if nothing else, tell Frumlida Rika to make full speed out of here!” ordered Trelago.
“Rika’s dead!” she snapped.
“We should do as the Undercapitan says just in case he’s telling the truth Hilly” ventured one of the mutineers.
“Yes, yes, you do that contact Engineer Bormann and tell him full speed ahead!” her face took on a look of panic. “Why are they doing this?”
“To close the anomaly, the Psi’ believe it will work and that’s why Minto came here,” he explained calmly while trying to get closer to Wilson. Then the sub lurched violently as the less experienced Bormann started the drive and taking advantage of the confusion, Carnforth, who had remained loyal to the Capitan, stepped out of the sickbay with a pistol and downed one of the mutineers.
Trelago attempted to disarm Wilson but she shot him dead and Pan dragged Hoggard into one of the cabins as the doctor was cut down in a hail of bullets. The Omega loosed several shots from around the door frame with her pistol, winging Wilson and forcing the rebels to retreat.
“Alicen, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll come to me right now!” snarled a furious Wilson.
“Fuck you Hilly, I’ve had enough of your bullying!” she shouted by way of reply.
“Alright, have it your way you traitorous bicce let’s see if a grenade changes your mind!”
“Grenade, we’re in a fucking syndigbat?” yelled Minto, the woman was crazy!
Going into quickspeed she blurred from the cabin and knocking Wilson to one side she twisted one man’s neck then drove a flat palm against another’s nose before punching the final man in the chest to smash his ribcage, all three now lay dead at her feet.
“Fucking scunung bicce!” shouted Wilson, back on her feet and aiming her pistol. She fired five times and five bullets splashed flat against an invisible barrier.
“You see Hilly, I’m an Omega, we can store energy in our bodies and my encounter with the anomaly has supercharged me!” she telekinetically threw Wilson against the closed bulkhead door and flattened her against it, her bones breaking audibly before sliding lifeless to the floor. “Is there any way off this sub, like an escape pod or something?” Pan asked a shocked Hoggard, who was regarding the carnage with horror.
“Yes fore and aft,” she replied shakily.
“Right aft it is then, lead the way.”
“But the Capitan?” asked Alicen, unknown to her Baako had tried to escape during the sub’s lumpy start-up and was already dead, shot by another mutineer.
The crew are expendable the Highest’s words came back to haunt her, no I’m not like that. “You’re right of course we’ll go forward, I can deal with the rest of them.” she glanced at Trelago’s body, poor Mark I could never think of you as expendable.
There was a roar and the hull screamed as if in pain. “Oh shit, it’s the shock wave from the bomb!” she cried in shocked realisation.
“Hold me!” cried Alicen in panic as water rushed in from the door ahead of them.
As Pandora clutched the girl tightly a crazy idea ran through her head, a force wall, to protect us both against the blast, it’s never been done before but I’m so supercharged at the moment, then how do we breathe? Summoning her boosted power she screwed her eyes tight shut as the syndigbat vaporised around them. We need to not be here!
Pandora sat up and looked around, she was on a beach with the girl lying next to her. She took her hand gently. “Alicen?”
Hoggard slowly opened her eyes. “What happened? There was a roaring noise.” she sat up. “Where are we?”
Staring across the sea to where a blue glowing cloud was mushrooming into the sky, Pandora ventured. “I would say this is Akebu-lan, probably somewhere near Malua?” a gyropter could be seen in the distant sky approaching them.
The Highest’s thoughts broke in. “Minto, I don’t know how you survived that but first indications show the Q-bomb worked. The Malua militia are on their way to pick you up, you’ll probably get a medal for this did anyone else get out?”
She looked at the girl shivering on the sand. “Just Foresteora Hoggard but the others should all receive a commendation.” The bewildered Omega sat next to Alicen to put an arm around her and as the girl nestled up tight Pandora had the sudden realisation.
“Fuck me!” she exclaimed. “I’ve just teleported us out of the sub.”