“Flick!” A voice shouted in my ear, drawing my attention away from seeing through Rahanvael’s eyes. Suddenly, I was back in the locked room, facing the others. Shiori’s hand was on my arm as she shouted my name, with Asenath and Twister right behind her. Tabbris was to one side, with Persephone, Stasia, Judas, and Robin a bit further back. All of them were staring at me intently, wanting answers about what the hell had just happened.
My mouth opened, then shut, as a wave of confusion, fear, and guilt washed over me. Guilt that I hadn’t noticed anything wrong with my mother, no matter how ridiculous that was. Fear over what she was being forced to do and why. And confusion over what we were supposed to do now. Finally, I swallowed and quickly told them what I had seen.
The revelation made them all reel backward. Stasia was the first to find her voice. “Denuvus? He is just a myth, a story!”
“No, she’s not,” one of the Robins put in before adding that Denny’s power had come from Denuvus, by way of Ammon.
“Yeah, she’s definitely more than a story,” Asenath murmured, frowning at the wall. “Even if she’s spent a lot of time and effort muddying the waters as far as that goes.”
While they were explaining that, I looked back to the emergency containment wall. “We’ve gotta get out of this place. And then we’ve gotta find that ship, stop Mom from doing whatever Denuvus is trying to make her do, and–” I stopped myself. Focus. First we had to get out of here. Then I could think about the next part.
“Well, you can’t break it down.” That was Judas, speaking remarkably calmly considering the situation as he stepped up closer to examine it. “I’ve studied a lot of this stuff when I was trying to track down Charmeine, and this sort of seal is meant to hold in dangerous things.”
“We can’t even break it with Robin?” Twister looked that way pointedly. “You guys are really strong, aren’t you?”
“It’s not a matter of being strong enough,” Judas informed us. “It’s the fact that if you do break it down, the station goes with plan B.”
“What’s plan B?” Shiori put in, giving me a quick, worried glance.
“It vents all the atmosphere,” came the flat response. “And if that doesn’t do the trick, it gets rid of everything else. By which I mean it transports everything that is not marked as belonging in this structure out into the nearest star. Which, believe me, is harder to survive without one of those special stations you do your math homework on.”
“He is correct, Flick,” Percy confirmed after reaching out to poke the metal wall. “This sort of system is designed to ensure that any dangerous thing–most dangerous things that might escape confinement are killed before they can become a threat.”
Which, of course, meant Tabbris’s wings were out. She couldn’t destroy the wall that way. She and I exchanged a quick, meaningful glance. We’d both been thinking the same thing.
Asenath sighed softly, fingers brushing the wall. “So we need a better way.”
“Yeah, and I have one,” I agreed, turning back that direction. “My ghosts. We can send them to find the control room and undo this lockdown. This place can’t be that big.”
So, that’s what I did. Sitting down cross-legged on the floor, I focused on summoning up more of the ghosts I had brought with me, including pulling Rahanvael back and bringing Seth and Grover out. In total, I sent about twenty ghosts through the facility, telling them to look for anything that could control this security lockdown and to give a tug at our connection if they found something.
Once they were all moving, I opened my eyes and focused on the others. They were staring at me again. Immediately, I glanced away before muttering, “I didn’t know she ever had any contact with Denuvus. When? Was Denuvus here on the station? Could she–”
“No,” Asenath interrupted, taking a knee in front of me. Her gaze was gentle, yet I could still see the intensity buried behind it. She was suppressing all the emotions she was feeling right then, over yet another obstacle being thrown up between her and answers about what had happened to her father. “It had to be while she was with Fossor. Don’t you see? Whatever actually happened, the trigger was clearly her coming to his world. Denuvus had to have set that up while she was still with him, because she thought he’d take her back there.”
“She’s right, Flick,” Shiori agreed, dropping down to sit next to me. “You said yourself that Fossor had a bunch of randos in that place watching his fights or whatever, right? She probably got in that way. It wouldn’t have taken long to talk to your mom and give her… whatever orders. Maybe she even told her to check in now and then without anyone knowing, so she could update them.”
“But what orders?!” I found myself blurting. “Why–what does Denuvus want with Fossor’s world? Why is she taking Mercury and Nevada with her?! I don’t–I’m lost right now.” I felt like flailing, but instead folded my arms tight against my stomach. Even with the reassurances, I was still terrified about what Denuvus might be having my mother do, and what she might make her do when she was done.
“We are all very confused.” That was Stasia, of all people. When I looked up, she met my gaze evenly. “And your fear is understandable. But fretting will not produce answers. Panicking will not produce answers.” She paused then before adding a bit more quietly. “Discussion can be helpful. Blaming yourself, or spiraling inside, is not.”
Tabbris, crouched next to me, gave a quick nod. “We’ll find your mama, Flick. It’ll be okay. You know, cuz if Denuvus had her take Nevada and Mercury, it’s gotta be because she wants her to do something big, right? I mean, something that’s gonna take time. And we can use that time to get out of here and find a way to follow them, right?” She offered me a faint smile, hand touching my shoulder. “Denuvus does big plans, not little ones. And big plans take time.”
“Besides,” Senny pointed out, “I doubt she would’ve allowed any leeway for your mom to leave the note telling you who it was if she intended to kill them. Murdering the founder of the Heretic Rebellion and letting everyone know who did it is… a bad idea.”
She was right. They all were. Squeezing her hand, I looked over at Stasia. “Yeah, I’m not going to blame myself. I think I’ll focus on blaming Denuvus. Especially once we find her. But before that, we’ve gotta get out of here, then find my mom and the others before they do whatever that puppeteering bitch wants them to do.”
Persephone spoke up then. “If this woman really set up these orders before your mother was ever rescued, it must be about something on that world that has been there for a long time. Something she could be certain wouldn’t be removed or leave before Joselyn could go there.” She paused then before adding, “Or die.”
I blinked up at that. “You know, that’s a good point. This can’t be about a specific person there, because that piece of shit killed his own people all the time. He sacrificed thousands on a whim. There’s no way Denuvus could be sure that any particular person would still be alive by the time my mother was sent there. So it’s not about a person, and it can’t have any sort of time limit. It’s not a specific day or hour or time of year. Denuvus must’ve sent her for something that’ll always be there. Maybe some sort of artifact that Fossor found at some point and put in a treasure room or something?” I shrugged helplessly.
We talked a little bit more, but didn’t really get anywhere important with it. We just didn’t know enough. Before long, however, one of my ghosts tugged at our connection. I focused on seeing through his eyes, and found myself looking at a small, twelve foot square room with a bunch of computer consoles around the sides of it and one chair with a few small beetle-like creatures crawling across it. Apparently even a place like this managed to have an insect problem somehow. In any case, I quickly thanked the helpful ghost and asked him to wait there. Then I relayed the information to the others before adding, “So, now what? How does my little buddy out there actually disable the security alarm?”
It was Persephone who answered, her voice steady and… kind of calming, actually. In this moment, she seemed completely at ease. “Tell him to look for a series of four small light bulbs in a vertical line. The second one down should be slightly larger than the others. And there should be a horizontal lever somewhere close to it, probably a bit to the right. Do not touch it, but find the lights and tell us what color they all are.”
So, I passed the message along and then watched through his eyes as he scanned the consoles before finding what she was looking for. Speaking aloud, I informed the others, “Okay, the top light is sort of light blue, then the bigger one under it is red, and the other two below that are yellow. There’s that lever you were talking about about six inches to the right of the third bulb. Well, sort of in between the second and third.”
“Good,” Persephone replied simply. “From the third bulb, moving to the left and slightly down, there should be a small toggle. It will be very difficult to see as it is quite small and the same color as the console, so he will probably have to look very carefully.”
Once again, I relayed those instructions, and once the ghost found the toggle (brushing another bug out of the way in the process), I sent along Percy’s message to flip it. That turned one of the bottom two lights from yellow to red, but Percy insisted that was a good thing. And from there, we continued that way. She described what she needed to look for, I passed on the message and he found the bit in question. He pushed buttons, pulled levers, moved a small plug from one outlet to another, even ripped a couple wires out. According to Persephone, we didn’t have the actual code to shut down the alert manually, and it wasn’t as simple as just hitting a button. But apparently she knew the system well enough to actually override it. Essentially, we were hotwiring the damn thing. I had no idea the Revenant girl knew how to do something like this. But then again, she was full of surprises.
Before long, even as a part of me was saying it was taking forever, Persephone passed along one last instruction, and when the ghost touched that final button, there was a loud buzzer that rang throughout the entire facility. Then, with a whooshing sound that was positively beautiful, the security door retracted. We didn’t waste another moment. As soon as it was out of the way, we were all running down the corridor. From my pocket, I produced the two tiny glowing rings from that power I had inherited from that Olympian ghost, Elemiah. Tossing them ahead of me, I made the rings flip around and grow so we could all run through the acceleration sides, picking up speed as we went. Soon we were running several times faster than usual. Obviously the vampires and Mevari could go even faster if they wanted to, but we were sticking together.
We didn’t head for the hangar bay, however. We already knew that was empty. The ship we had arrived in had been the only one in there, and Mom had taken that. However, Grover had actually found another ship while he was searching for the security console. We weren’t sure what sort of shape it was in yet, considering how dark it was in the area where he found it, but it was our best shot.
Grover and Seth had used the time while we were getting the security lockdown lifted to carefully find a path through the corridors for us to take that didn’t involve needing to go through walls like a ghost. I followed that path now, with everyone else trailing right behind me. There was absolutely no time to waste. Whatever that woman had sent my mom to do, we had to catch up with them and make sure it couldn’t happen.
The area this other ship was in was some sort of maintenance hangar. Thanks to the investigation the other ghosts had done, we knew there was a sort of long, winding tube thing leading from here to the actual hangar bay. Or rather, the area underneath. We were pretty sure there was a lift or something that would carry the ship up into that so we could get out into open space once more.
First things first, however, we had to get this ship up and running. I just hoped it being in the maintenance hangar didn’t mean it was completely broken. I was pretty sure we didn’t have time for all of us to become expert space mechanics or whatever. Even if we did apparently have a head start with Percy.
As we went into the small hangar itself, Shiori, Judas, and I all set off light spells to illuminate the place so we could see what we were dealing with. And what I saw wasn’t exactly encouraging. My first impression was that I was looking at a Volkswagen bus. That was seriously what it looked like, though maybe a few feet longer than one of those. The main body was red, with a white trim. There were two ovular wing-like structures sticking out of the middle on either side, both of which were kind of an ugly off-green with spots of blue. The hatch on the side was actually missing. Well, it wasn’t actually missing, I could see it laying on the floor nearby. It just wasn’t attached. And the rear of the ship was open with several components lying around on the floor behind it. Also, there were more of those bugs crawling around, most heading for darker shadows. We all stood there and grimaced at the sight. So much for just jumping in this thing and turning it on. Which, to be fair, really wasn’t that surprising at this point, but still. Not surprising, and not frustrating were two different things.
“Tell me you know how to fix this.” Judas was saying that while looking over at Persephone, his fingers visibly crossed. “Like you fixed the lockdown.”
“Eh, I think we can do something about that ourselves.” Robin, whose eyes had shifted to purple, grunted the words while rubbing their hands together. They were staring at the bits of ship eagerly, as if they couldn’t wait to get started. Purple eyes… I didn’t know that one off the top of my head.
“Grease?” That was Judas, blinking that way with what looked like surprise. “Haven’t seen you out for a while. I was starting to think you didn’t like us anymore.” Glancing to the rest of us, he added, “My old friend Grease here is a she/her facet. She runs most of their mechanical knowledge.”
“Ain’t no reason for me to pop out willy nilly,” the purple-eyed Robin, Grease apparently, retorted. “But it looks like y’all need some help getting this puppy up and running.” She looked over toward Persephone. “That said, I wouldn’t mind a couple extra hands if’n ya got some idea of what you’re doing. Especially hands as lovely as those.”
I swore Persephone actually blushed a little bit, reflexively looking down at her hands before giving a quick nod. “Yes, I believe I can help. But it would be good for you to take the lead. I am not an expert at putting space boats together.”
“I know a thing or two about regular cars back on Earth,” Asenath noted. “It might not mean a lot when it comes to this sort of thing, but I can chip in.”
“We will all help,” Stasia put in. “At the very least, to be extra pairs of hands. Just tell us what to do.”
While they were starting to work on that, I turned to Grover, who was hovering in the background staring at the ship anxiously. When he saw me looking, the small ghost boy came closer, shaking his head. “Sorry, boss-lady. We tried to find something better, but that’s the best–”
“Stop,” I interrupted. “It’s fine. It’s great. You did great, all of you. Seriously. This is a random defensive security station Fossor threw up. The odds that there would be anything we could use were pretty freaking low, dude. We can work with this. We’ll find my mom and the other two, and we’ll find this Denuvus bitch. And then–”
“Stabbing?” Grover piped up, sounding hopeful.
Smirking just a little despite myself, I nodded. “Definitely a lot of stabbing. As much as you can handle.” By that point, I could see Seth coming near, so I looked that way and met his gaze. “Hey, we’ll get to Fossor’s world, and find Rasputin so he can tell us what happened to Tiras.”
“You’re right,” he agreed, “we will. But one thing at a time. You ready to see what we got?”
As he asked that, a dozen more ghosts appeared, all of them holding or dragging what looked like large pillowcases made of the same stuff they themselves were made of. Another thing I had learned from my studies was how to help my ghosts make these bags. It took a good bit of energy to make them solid enough to hold things, but I managed it. And they had put that to use while looking around for a ship we could use, grabbing as much of Fossor’s tucked away treasure and trinkets as possible. Anything that looked like it might be special.
“No time right now,” I replied, tugging a real bag (this one with its own extended space inside so it could fit anything) from my pocket before tossing it that way. “Can you guys put all that stuff in here? We’ll look through it later. And… and thanks, without you we’d still be stuck in that room. We–I owe you guys.”
While they were busy with that, I turned back to face the partially disassembled ship once more. The others were already starting to go about putting the thing together under Grease and Percy’s supervision. From the look of things, this wasn’t going to be easy. Some of the components literally fell apart as they were picked up. But Shiori had already found a crate of replacement parts, which she and I started sorting through together to find stuff that wasn’t completely busted. I pushed all my worries about my mother as far down as I could for the moment, and just focused on helping to get our ride working.
In the end, it took us two and a half hours, and a lot of broken parts. But finally, we stepped back, covered in (lower case) grease and dirt. Asenath was alone inside the ship itself, and as Grease (upper case) called out for her to ‘hit it,’ she did so. There was an initial whine of protest, then a few stuttering coughs from the engines, followed by a thick plume of purple smoke, then nothing for about three seconds. But just as my heart started to sink, the engines caught and thrummed steadily, as the junky-looking little ship rose a few feet off the floor and hovered there. It was working. We’d done it. Step one was done. We had a ride.
“Hang on, Mom,” I murmured while everyone celebrated. “We’re com–” In mid-step after catching a hint of movement, I stopped myself and looked down. Sure enough, another of those beetle-like bugs was there. It looked unique and kinda cool, so I gestured toward Robin. “Hey, can you like, scan this thing or whatever? Is it dangerous?”
Robin, eyes shifting to green for Med, looked it over before shaking their head. “I detect nothing venomous or poisonous. It does look unique, however.”
“Yeah, it does,” I agreed. Tentatively, I put my finger out. “Hey, little guy. You wanna come on a trip off this station?” When the beetle crawled up my finger, I straightened and grinned toward Shiori. “See? New friend. He’s coming with us.”
Yes, I was trying to distract myself from my total panic when it came to what was going on with my mother. Seriously though, the beetle looked really cool, with its metallic, almost neon pink and blue shell, three antennae instead of two, and what looked like a tiny unicorn-like white horn coming off its head. But really, it was the small, yet clearly prehensile tail sticking off the back that really made this beetle unique.
It almost looked like a monkey tail.