Author Topic: Part 51: Offshore  (Read 10342 times)

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Offline Daen

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Part 51: Offshore
« on: June 27, 2023, 01:10:43 PM »
Their initial launch from the shore had been absolutely exhilarating. Moss and Rane had shared the excitement and trepidation within their own little network, as the sea-cart pushed its way outwards into the water. The waves rocked them up and down, but nothing their sturdily-built vessel couldn’t handle. The sandkin knew their designs, to be sure.

That had been yesterday, though. A test journey, out to a certain distance, and then back again. He’d relayed what they’d experienced out there to the others, and offered a few tweaks to the sea-cart’s design. As well as a possible name: the Splitter. After all, it did cut the waves in two, just as the land-carts’ wheels left tracks on the ground.

Today was another matter. They’d spent most of the morning launching from the same point on the shore, again and again. Each time they propelled themselves out to a certain distance, before the cable connecting the… Splitter to the shore became taut. Then Moss would use his new manipulator limb to start pulling them back in. A simple device by comparison to the Combustion machine he’d helped build earlier; it simply rolled in one direction, hauling them inexorably back to shore.

Then they’d done it again. And again, and again. This was their fifth trip out, in a different direction each time.

Rane was still marveling at the sensation, but Moss carefully kept his emotions hidden. He was starting to worry that Trejuna was farther away than anyone had thought possible. He hadn’t been expecting to stumble onto their homeland in his very first foray, but what if he never did? And then there was the water to consider as well. Ocean water might be mesmerizing to feel as it beat against the Splitter’s sides, but they couldn’t drink it. Finding soil out here would be an impossibility as well. They had maybe five days’ worth of supplies on this cart, and then they’d be out.

On land, he could use his newly regrown oscilli to sense a fair distance around himself. Not as far as an animal, even something as small as a qar, but still a respectable range. Out here, he could barely sense one span away from himself! The motion of the waves, and the noise of the water, and the salt air around him were all crushing in on him, distracting and disorienting him. How did the fish do it?

He’d only recently learned about the water-dwelling animals. Noq had lived much closer to the shore, but not actually on it, and he’d been Moss’ only real friend outside of Grove Praska. However, Kolser had spent his entire life with an ocean on one side and a stream on the other, and had sensed many different kinds of life in the water. He’d shared some of the enzyme images, and they’d been fascinating. He’d also theorized that much, much larger fish existed in the deeper water out here. For a moment Moss had to hold back fear. What if one of those fish was big enough to eat him and Rane? Granted, the Splitter probably woudn’t taste very good, but even a small hole in the side of the cart could be disastrous!

“Almost there,” Rane put in, jolting him out of his fears. Moss checked the cable to the rear of the Splitter, and confirmed that it was true. Very soon now, they would either sense a change in the water around them, or they’d hit the end of the cable’s length and be jerked to a halt.

Or not. Finally, Moss realized that he’d had enough. They’d been at it for hours, and every day they delayed, could mean thousands of lives lost on both sides. On an impulse, he extended his manipulator limb and severed the end of the cable.

“What are you doing?” Rane blasted out, but Moss was already keying their radio.

“Kolser, can you hear me?” He asked, as steadily as he could. It was a good thing the radio limited emotional enzymes for simplicity.

“I can,” the other guy’s enzymes came back clearly. “What’s wrong out there? Your cable just went slack.”

“I cut it on my end,” Moss explained. “It’s time, Kolser. Now or never, and we were already going at near full speed.”

Peripherally, Rane’s fear and confusion dissipated, replaced with chagrin. “Understood,” Kolser responded after a slight delay. “Good luck out there, guys. I hope to hear from you again soon. I’ve drawn a line in the sand as straight as I can make it. Core warm you in your task.”

That last bit surprised Moss. None of the sandkin had seemed particularly religious, and Kolser and his neighbors certainly hadn’t picked up Core-worship from the Union. Perhaps they’d got it from him and Rane. Moss was something of a celebrity after all, as disturbing as that was. This whole journey was a huge scape of faith, after all. He and Rane had planted their future in deep, undrinkable waters, and were hoping against hope that it would grow and thrive.

“What line is he talking about?” Rane asked, after Moss shut off the radio to preserve its accumulator power.

“Oh, that’s so people will know where we went. If they ever build another sea-cart like this one, and anyone wants to find us, they just have to move in the exact same direction we did. Kolser said he’d move the line back to his grove, so the tides wouldn’t wash it away.”

“Do you really think anyone will come looking for us? What with the war and all?”

Confusion and uncertainty were dripping all over his words, and Moss put out a surge of reassurance. “They won’t need to,” he responded with as much certainty as he could muster. “We’ll come back on our own, someday. With a Coreworthy story to tell.”