Davis has had enough of the introductions.
“We have to talk about our assault” He states.
Trace turns serious and nods in agreeance.
“But first, you guys need a shower, because, how do I put this…”
“We stink” Blister finishes.
“Yes” She replies plainly.
“Ooh Trace do we have any of that clean slime” Blister excitedly asks.
Trace nods with gleaming smile.
“Fuck yeah…” Blister rejoices.
“…Come on Elix, I’ll show you how to use it”
“No thanks, I’ll figure it out”
“Blister…” Davis calls, in that tone only Blister knows is the one to stop.
“…Help Nox alright, Trace and I need to talk”
Elix, Blister, Jones, Korvo and Nox leave the bridge, downward to the showers.
“Malcom, Maxine, set the sub to an auto course and give us a few minutes to talk”
Maxine flicks some switches and pulls a few levers before leaving hastily. Malcom protests.
“You don’t want to fill me in on what’s happening here?”
“Malcom, Take the or…” Davis starts before spotting Trace’s stern face and raised hand.
“That’s an order Malcom. This sub does have a brig if you’d like to continue your tantrum in there”
Malcom exhales swiftly from his nose in an angry grunt before he leaves.
“I was going to ask you before Davis, and then I saw you all, I knew you’d been through a lot, but…”
“What happened?” Davis finishes her question.
“Yeah…” She replies.
Davis inhales deeply through his nose before beginning; he hoped it would calm him, hoped it would give him some kind of strength, or at the very least stop his next words from shuddering under his rising guilt. It didn’t.
“I Los…” He chokes up; turns his face down and away from trace and Amani.
He begins again.
“…Everyone in that station is gone. The Hûms Nox was with are dead and the rest are Assimilated now” He goes quiet.
A moment passes and Davis feels a touch on each of his shoulders. He looks up.
“We’re going to save them all Davis” Says Trace.
“I’m sure you did everything you could” Amani adds.
Anger takes Davis not at what either of his friends had said, but at himself.
“No, I should have fucking stayed with my Cluster, I never should have left, maybe then I could have…”
“What?…” Amani spits.
“…Given your life to save theirs? Then where would we be Davis? You realise if you were Assimilated, all of this would just fucking end, there wouldn’t be a second chance”
Davis hadn’t even thought of the notion. He’s been trying to fill his bucket with a puddle when there’s an ocean right in front of him.
“You’re being too hard on yourself Davis, you saved Nox” Trace states.
Davis stands and walks through the space between Amani and Trace to the pilot’s chair, spins it to face the girls and sits with his foot on the seat and his eye socket buried in his knee.
“He doesn’t even recognise me…”
Davis’ face grimaces trying to hold back his tears, but they weigh too much and he cries onto his tightly hugged leg.
“…And then he called me Dad…”
Davis looks up to Trace.
“…It had been so long since I’d even though about my old man. His face was fucking tattooed on my eyelids; I couldn’t get rid of it…”
Amani hides her frowning cry behind her hand. Trace walks closer.
“…I swear if I hugged him any tighter I would have killed him”
His foot slips to the floor and Davis collapses his head into his hands on his lap waiting to catch his tears. The two women gather around Davis and gently embrace him into their arms.
He twitches as they touch him, peeking through his spread fingers at what’s happening, and the two girls hug him. They’re warm and smell of grease, paint and sweat. Neither of them had showered since they left but they were a pleasant reprieve from the stink Davis has burned in his nostrils.
Amani speaks quietly in his ear:
“You saved Nox, and you saved the others too, you have to know that protecting our mission will save everyone in the end, this is a victory for us”
“ARRGH…” Davis roars.
Trace and Amani back away; unsure of Davis’ intentions.
“…AND THEN LANCE SOLD US OUT. There were thousands of them, of us in there, and Lance threw them away, Mac’s gone, that whole fucking station is lost…”
Davis paces angrily in the control room.
“…I went there aiming to sacrifice myself for my brother, instead I managed to gather two thirds of the uprising to one convenient location to be Assimilated. Well, if we’re lucky they’ll be Assimilated”
“DAVIS…” Trace shouts, shocking him into looking at her.
“What? It’s true, right now it’s better than dying and I, WE, get another chance to save them, a chance to redeem MY actions”
“We’re in this together Davis…” Amani starts.
“…We’re all to blame; those actions belong to all of us. Just like the Encephalon is to blame for the Assimilated”
Davis looks to Amani; somehow her words are calming to him, made him feel less shit about his transgressions. He smiles at her, then Trace too.
“I better wash this stink off of me, before this sub turns into a bio-hazard” He says.
Trace and Amani laugh, but the seriousness of their previous words doesn’t echo away with their forced syllables; as much as they’d like them to. Davis leaves the control room, and takes the laugh with him.
Only enough time for four Hûms to shower, has passed, when:
Beep, beep, beep… Beep, beep, beep.
An alarm sounds throughout the submarine.
“The proximity alarm” Amani tells Trace.
Trace dashes to the intercom, her voice resonates with a tinny sound.
“Malcom; control room NOW, Elix, Blister, torp room one, Davis, Korvo, torp room two”
Jones has been in the control room since she showered; talking with Maxine about every switch and button in front of them, while she tries guessing the meaning of ‘Merops’
“What should I do?” She asks.
Trace turns and Jones is right in front of her face. Trace processes her abilities in a flash.
“Targeting. That chair next to Malcom, tell me how close the blips are to the centre every two seconds”
Trace turns back to the intercom and blares her voice again.
“Elix, Blister; Red-stripe, Davis, Korvo Blue-dot”
The four Hûms below efficiently manoeuvre the appropriate torpedoes into position. Their bodies reflect their clean and agile minds.
“Primed” they sound off; Elix first.
“What’s going on out there, guys?” Blister asks.
Trace doesn’t reply, instead she asks:
“It looks like a squadron of subs, three small revolving a bigger, but I can’t fully identify them, their movements are too erratic to be Assims” Jones states.
“Malcom, Maxine dive, see if they chase” Trace orders.
“Diving” he spits, with a focused stare at his control panel.
The submarine sinks into the murk, creaking with every hundred metres it descends.
Beep, beep, beep… Beep, beep, beep.
“There’s something else out there…”
Jones starts, her words turn frantic.
“…Fuck there’s thousands of them” She adds.
Malcom sets the engines into reverse without uttering a word.
“Malcom what the fuck” Maxine shrills.
“Malcom, what are you doing?” Trace commands.
Malcom resumes his fixated gaze at his controls, he flicks some switches, turns a dial while everyone watches on; confused.
The intercom speakers crackle and squeal with distortion as the submarine slows to a stop and then a creeping reverse. Once still, over the speakers; out of the calm, dark sea comes a song of warning through the hydrophone, that can only be described by vocalising:
Eeeoorrroo… Areeeoorr… Weeooarr…
“Whales…” Malcom begins.
“…The whales are dissuading our route”
“No way! you can speak whale?”
“No, I can’t…”
The control room is overcome again with confusion.
“…But judging by the lack of imagination in the placement of those thousands of dots, I’d say they we’re calling out a warning about the mine field, I’d say they think we’re one of their own”
“Malcom, I apologise…” Says Trace
“…You just saved us, thank you. Now we need to plot a course around these mines, you two get to it”
“Yes ma’am” Maxine replies.
Malcom stays silent, his face is stuck in its all too natural brooding fashion. Trace feels as though something is wrong but has since learnt that querying his moods always seems to makes it worse.
The intercom crackles into the conversation break.
“So are we under attack or not?” Blister asks curiously frustrated.
Trace blushes, but conceals it from her ship mates; she’d forgotten about her friends in the torp rooms. She clears her throat.
“Un-prime that ordnance crew, it was just some whales and a mine field”
Blister and Elix look to each other with a gleeful intrigue carved deep in their face, they run; like they were racing each other to the ladder. Trace, Jones and Maxine look at each other confused at the sudden end to their transmission. Blister knocks Elix with his hip and shoulder, Elix retaliates and with her bionic arm she holds Blister behind her with ease.
“Fucken cheat” He says.
She laughs maniacally and climbs the ladder with a victorious grin.
“Where are they?” Elix asks, as her head emerges through the ladder chute before clambering up further.
Blister’s right beneath her, his head comes up through her legs, and he lifts her up on his shoulders.
“Where are they?” He repeats.
Malcom chuckles at their lack of knowledge.
“You can’t actually see them” He dismisses.
Elix zips over to his control panel, Malcom gets flustered that she has invaded his space. She scans the interface and goes to press a few buttons. Malcom slaps her hand out of the way each time.
“Stop it Elix, you don’t know what you’re doing” He professes.
And then Elix spots a switch and reaches for it, Malcom doesn’t swat her hand away, she flicks it. The screen surrounding the control room shifts aside from the centre out to reveal the fathomless black of the ocean surrounding them.
Malcom sits quietly with his arms folded and eyebrows nearly toughing in the middle.
“I thought you knew everything Malcom” His giggling continues.
The crew look out into the dark; bewildered at its depth.
“Malcom…” Trace starts “…Can you find the light switch?”
His silence endures as he presses the button right next to the screen switch. The black takes on the blue of the submarine’s spotlights.
Biogenic substance and pelagic sediment float into and around the submarine, the group stares rapaciously and just when they think the whales have disappeared, Malcom turns on the hydrophone, and once again the whales sing. But the tone is different, playful even, as though the ocean mammals were telling the land mammals how silly they were being just now; about the enter the mine field head first.
The mother whale cruises by the open visor of the submarine to inspect what it thinks to be the weirdest looking whale in existence. She paddles away quickly. Malcom and Maxine share the same thought and engage the engines to make chase.
Quietly and as though she were in a trance, Trace says to Malcom:
“Follow those whales, they’re going to lead us right to the Encephalon”
And like a little game the Merops follows the pod; indulging in a brief solace from their daunting mission. They sway and dive, merrily racing with something man hasn’t fully tainted with its technologies.
Even though the Encephalon has forced the migrations of these majestic creatures; with their ocean crust, to one spot on the planet. Today, it has proved to be advantageous for the Uprising, and they are thankful.