The silver-shrouded man hangs in the air, suspended by a power that existed before time.
Granite walls and floors gleam dully in the soft light filling the otherwise empty room. The light doesn’t come from the room, but from the power: the circle that surrounds him, the symbols inscribed within the circle, all glowing with enough strength to reach the very end of the long room, to reveal the door—plain, almost shabby compared to the room—that sits, closed, at the far end.
“OK,” CB says, leaning forward over the table to glower at Robert. “Please tell me this is some kind of sick joke.”
They’re all sitting in a conference room at the Nautilus’ stern. The bulkheads are a latticework of steel polymer and a transparent sheet of something significantly stronger than glass. At the moment, the windows (portholes? CB isn’t sure what to call them) show nothing but solid darkness—they’re too deep for light from the surface to filter through, and they’re not running with external lights at the moment—so the only light in the room comes from fixtures in the ceiling. The interior lighting combined with the near absolute darkness of the water outside serves to turn windows into mirrors, reflecting the interior of the room from nearly every angle. CB finds it disconcerting.
WHEREIN A Lack of Good Options Makes A Bad One Look Better
“What exactly is going on out there?”
It was the seventh or eighth time Morgan had asked the question. In that space of time, he’d moved from irritation, to anger, to confusion, and had finally settled comfortably into a state of utter bewilderment. Grif couldn’t blame him. The repetition was starting to wear thin, but it was a legitimate one to ask. Station Authority wasn’t making any sense.
“No clue, Morgan. The best I can come up with is ‘general bureaucratic incompetence,’ but I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s going on.”
True to his word, David has the cargo plane waiting for them on the runway when the bus finally hits the airstrip. CB has to swerve to avoid a curiously man-shaped indentation in the road, causing all the passengers to shout in alarm and protest. Once they pass the strange pothole CB eases off the accelerator, allowing inertia to slow the bus a bit before he tries the brakes. He’s a little worried about those brakes. He suspects they might be holding a grudge.
The bus shudders, the brakes squeal, and the strong smell of the wrong thing burning fills the interior. The bus finally stops fifteen feet from the cargo plane, and the loud bang and clatterclank that immediately follows suggests that it will never move again under its own power.