- Crimson, an aging warrior once famous for his military exploits but now gone to seed, slower and past his prime
- Quark, a man of genuinely diminutive size (a dwarf, in fact), albino and considered monstrous in the gyre. A technical genius, drone pilot and artillerist
- Ryan, a 15 year old dragged to service from the booms, where his remarkable swimming abilities drew attention. Ryan is a rider, a rare type of person with a symbiotic relationship with a sea lion. Ryan’s sea lion is a 1 ton Steller’s sea lion called Arashi
These three are members of the Wind Guard, a small and tight-knit squad of agents who do specialist work for the Gyre. They had previously worked together on the Bobsled, a famous tug boat reconditioned for battle and renowned for its resilience in storms. The adventure starts with them meeting Captain Dilver at the Strategy Gardens in the Hulks. Captain Dilver is the highest-ranked person they have ever met in the Gyre, a leader in the Wind Guard who is infamous for having quashed a rebellion in the Hulks 20 years earlier. Through spies, treachery and violence he beat the rebellion and captured its leaders; he is famous for having joined them together by leg and hand with plastic ties. He then threw their children in the ocean and laughed as they struggled to save them. Once they had drowned, he made the controversial decision not to recover the bodies for recycling, because “we’ll not have their taint in our world.” He left them for the ocean. For the PCs, he is a figure of awe and command.
They met in the strategy gardens, a small space of peace and calm built onto the bows of the MV China 1, a huge bulk carrier forming one of the central parts of the Hulks. The strategy gardens have a small central shed, in which Captain Dilver is rumoured to meet and plan his strategies, inside a small garden of roses, strawberries, blackberry bushes and a few stunted lemon and plantain trees. A solar-powered antibiotic fermenter bubbles away in one corner, casting an acrid stench over the whole garden. The PCs met him at midday on a clear day in what was once early autumn. A gentle breeze blew over the gardens and clouds over the Gyre cast enough cover to enable them to meet without veils. Being midday, the call to prayer echoed across the Hulks, singing the song of the afternoon weather report to anyone who needed to know it. The characters approached Captain Dilver humbly, sitting on chairs around a small table and politely taking up cups of konbucha, nibbling daintily on candied grasshoppers, and waiting for him to speak.
Dilver offered them a simple job. After their work on the Bobsled they were deserving of a rest, and he had a simple job for them that, while it carried a small risk of violence, was basically a holiday. They were to travel to a raft on the edge of the Gyre and collect an old man. An oral history project conducted across all the raft communities in the Gyre’s areas of influence had recently finished, and as part of this oral history project they had discovered a raft city that had lasted for 50 years. On this city was an old man called Ken who knew the intricate details of the Gyre’s currents, fish movements and weather. This man was old and surely soon to die, and they wanted to bring him to the Gyre to learn his secrets before he did. The PCs were to take a ship to this raft, and buy this man. On the way they were to stop off at the Eiffel Tower and deliver medicines, because 4 of the 6 guards resident in the tower had fallen sick with some disease that could not be cured with the current stock of drugs on the island. They were to take the Windslip, a famous and beautiful trimaran that could move fast on the wind over calm seas, and use its high density solar cells to power a computer unit that was running a task for the Arc. Some scientists on the Arc had identified a satellite with a possibly stable orbit, and to test its orbit they needed a moving ship running a continuous GPS signal to the satellite. The Windslip was perfect for this job, and a 5 day journey the right length of time. The PCs were to run the computer tracking system over the whole 5 days of their journey, via the Eiffel tower, to the raft.
What could possibly go wrong?
Dilver gave them vague guidance on negotiations with the Raft for the old man. They were to carry an initial down payment consisting of a solar-powered antibiotic fermenter, 100 old screens, a new satellite dish, some weapons and a basic stock of drugs. They were to agree to any payment up to and including a small ship. Noticing the PC’s expressions of surprise at such a high price, he hastened to explain to them that, having discovered that the raft community had lasted 50 years they were thinking of inducting it into the Gyre proper. The Gyre is not a colonial enterprise, and the rafters had to want to join the Gyre. To facilitate this they wanted to make them wealthier and connect them more closely to the life of the Gyre. Currently only the raft community’s leaders held screens, but it was hoped that shipping in 100 screens would make raft culture available to a wider pool of people. That plus the wealth the raft could gain from extra drugs, independence in communications and drugs, and a small ship, would certainly make it look favourably on accession to the Gyre.
Unconvinced, the PCs set out for the Eiffel tower.
Poison and iron
They set off from the inner dock, the dock where the smaller ships hide from the full ravages of the world ocean. This dock is a sheltered spot under an oil rig, connected to the sea by a twisting canal some 100 metres long that winds through the poorest part of the Hulks. They met the Windslip‘s four crew in the breathless, still air under the rig, drawing first suspicion and distrust at the sight of the monstrous Quark, and then relief and confidence when the men learnt they would have a rider aboard. The Windslip set off, drifting out of the docks under its own electric power and then speeding to the southwest on a light but constant wind. The computer in the hold slid silently through its infinite cycles of tracking and counting, and in the gentle wind the PCs had little to do. The Windslip steered itself, skipping lightly over the vast world sea towards their destination. By the afternoon of their second day they could see a distant cloud, like a smudge on the horizon, and soon the first seabirds were mobbing their ship. An hour or two later and they were at the Eiffel tower, sliding gracefully in to dock at the small second wharf. The second wharf was a capsized ship, made fast against the side of the huge bulk carrier Silicon Dream by a complex web of chains and tires. They slid into this dock in the shadow of the tower itself, which loomed above them and glowed orange in the afternoon light. The whole tower screamed with the constant calls of a million seabirds of every shape and colour, and even separated from that horde by the full height of the Silicon Dream and the first spars of the tower the noise was nearly deafening.
They lashed the Windslip tight and alighted to the dock. Here they were met by the man in charge of the tower, Captain Jack, and the tower’s ornithologist Vlae. They greeted them warily, hailing them with the traditional greeting of “Fair Winds, brother” but standing well back out of fear of infection. Seeing their wariness, Jack led them straight to their cabins and offered to immediately introduce Quark to the four sick soldiers. Ryan went with him but Crimson had a deep fear of disease, having experienced cholera outbreaks before, and stayed as far away as possible. Captain Jack led Quark and Ryan through the vast cavernous holds of the Silicon Dream, some empty and some filled with supplies or precious materials – old wood, bales of soil, seed stock, ivory, steel, crates of guano ready for transport, endless shelves of eggs – until they reached a smaller cargo hold in the stern. This space had been converted into a medical facility, and through its door they could see into the chamber, in which 12 beds and a small nurses station were set out. The four guards lay in their beds, looking sorry for themselves and very weak. Quark entered and began investigating their symptoms, asking them about what they ate and how it was prepared, and looking especially for signs of the dreaded cholera. The eldest of the soldiers was an aging hero named Anna, who had led the attack that captured the itinerant warship the Gunfather some years ago, and who was famous for her calm and poise. A younger soldier, Adams, revealed that he had prepared the food – made a bowl of mashed pumpkin and taro, flavoured with honey, then gone personally to fish for snapper near the first dock. The group had eaten the pumpkin mash with fresh snapper sashimi an hour later. Quark realized that during that hour the food was largely unattended, and investigating their symptoms concluded they had all been poisoned, probably with rat poison.
There was a poisoner in the Eiffel Tower.
They returned to the living area of the ship, passing back through the silent halls of stored treasures and emerging on a narrow gantry. As they emerged, they ran into Vlae, walking along the gantry covered in blood. He was carrying a seabird in one hand, its neck ripped open and blood all over his face and coveralls. “Dinner,” he said by way of explanation, stopping in the sulphurous light of a decklamp. He had obviously torn its throat with his teeth, judging by the down still stuck to his bloodied chin. They edged past him, looking suspicious. Quark told Captain Jack that, being unsure about the possibility of contagious disease in the food, he and his crew would eat on the deck of the Windslip with their own food; Jack and Vlae could join them but bring their own food. He did not mention rat poison. This agreed upon they retired to prepare dinner, and Quark warned the others of his suspicions.
Dinner passed awkwardly, with the PCs watching Jack and Vlae warily to try and work out which was the poisoner. Over dinner they discussed the guards’ “illness,” and discovered that both had an alibi, though unproven: Vlae “took his dinner on the tower” (i.e. he killed a seabird and ate it raw), while Jack ate in his office while filling in reports. After their awkward dinner Ryan slipped into the shadows and stalked them back to their rooms, where he was able to watch Vlae reading ornithology books and Jack communicating with his family by screen. No evidence at all of ill intent. With no proof of who was the poisoner, they went to sleep – Quark and Ryan on the Silicon Dream in their assigned quarters and Crimson on the deck of the Windslip.
In the early dawn Quark was shaken awake by Jack and led quietly through the ship to the tower. He and Jack climbed some stairs to a viewing gantry some 30m above the decks, and along the gantry to a harpoon gun. The night was clear and blissfully free of the scream of birds, most of which were sleeping; under a moonlit sky a gentle wind was blowing, raising the sea surface into mild choppy waves that gleamed white in the moonlight as they broke. The wind streamed cool and fresh across the ship and the tower, bringing with it the smell of salt and guano. From above them came a constant gentle sussurration of coos and gulling, as occasionally a few birds amongst the throng muttered or complained in its sleep. Hidden in the shadows of the harpoon gun, Jack pointed down to the deck of one of the giant carriers on which the tower rested. Down there in the shadows of the ship’s decking, tubes and crates, a tableau of iron piracy was playing out. Three men stood over a steel tube on the deck. One was cutting it with some kind of welder, while one ran a saw or wire through the red hot metal, and another pulled the metal slowly away from the cut. Nearby, standing in a patch of moonlight, a sentry of some kind stood, wearing whalebone armour that glowed in the moonlight like a ghost. Jack pointed at Quark and then at the harpoon gun, a silent question that Quark answered with a grim nod. He prepared to fire …
Meanwhile Vlae had woken Ryan and led him to meet Crimson on the decks of the Windslip, where he explained the problem. They needed to ambush these men and kill them, but first they needed to know by what ship they had come, and how many combatants might have come with them. Vlae wanted Ryan to take his sea lion Arashi and approach the area from which the men must have boarded the ship, and search it for their boat. Had they come in a tiny ship’s boat, or had they managed to get a whole warship to silently approach the tower? Ryan nodded and slipped away into the darkness on Arashi, with clear instructions: find the pirate ship, tell the others the situation by his cellphone, and then give the order to attack when he thought it was clear. As Ryan slipped off through the moon-streaked waves to find his prey, Vlae led Crimson through a complex network of corridors and gantries to a point in the ship beneath the pirates. From there, he said, Crimson could rush up a flight of stairs and out through a hatchway onto the deck, emerging right on top of the pirates. As soon as he got the signal to attack, he could charge.
Ryan slipped around the outside of the Silicon Dream and down to the point where the pirates had boarded the next carrier, the Batons Rouge. In the near-darkness he could not swim under the keel, for fear of getting tangled in chains and plastic in the darkness, so instead he had to swim the long way round, but pulled along by Arashi he was able to get to his target zone rapidly. Emerging from a short dive near the point where the pirates had boarded the ship, he immediately found their vessel: a small submarine pulled up near the Batons Rouge, its deck just beneath the water but its conning tower protruding from the gentle waves. A thick black cable ran from the submarine’s conning tower up to the deck of the Batons Rouge, indicating that the conning tower was open, and ropes hung down the side of the Batons Rouge. Ryan gave his sea lion the order to guard him and slipped through the seething waves onto the deck of the submarine. Somewhere out in the darkness his giant mount disappeared into the waves, to circle the submarine and wait for anyone to approach. Ryan crawled up the conning tower and took position behind the hatch, bone spear out. He then drew out his cell phone and sent a text: “Found a small submarine. Go!”
As soon as he received the text, Quark powered up the harpoon and fired at the gleaming ghost-soldier. At the same time Crimson hurled himself out of the depths of the ship, charging in to attack the group of soldiers. One died instantly in his charge, and the other slipped down to join the fight. Quark’s shot missed, as did his second, and in the struggle that followed one of the men jumped over the edge of the ship. Crimson joined battle with the remaining two pirates. From his position on the conning tower Ryan heard the man hit the water, and start swimming to the ship; soon he heard a huge crash, desperate panting, a curse; there was some splashing, another huge crash, and a more agonized series of moans; another splash and then just the silence of the waves. Up above, Crimson was being pressed back by two foes, one wearing terrifying armour of carved bone, until Quark’s third harpoon smashed into the bone knight’s leg and tore it off. Quark then fashioned himself a flying fox of shark leather and hurled himself down towards the deck on a nearby cable, but missed the deck and flew into the sea, where Arashi waited. Fortunately Arashi was feeling discerning, and as Quark scrambled up one of the pirates’ ropes Arashi’s head popped up from below, giving a knowing “whuff!” and pushing him up the rope.
Arashi is not renowned for showing discretion in the exercise of his guard duties, and he weighs 1 ton.
As the battle crawled to its bitter end up on deck a pirate emerged from the hatch of the submarine, looking for the reason the power had stopped flowing to the welder. Ryan struck him from the shadows, sticking his bone spear straight through the pirate’s neck and killing him instantly. Up above, Crimson took down the shark-skin armoured pirate while the bone-armoured man floundered and gasped. The greasy business of the kill done, he cornered the bone-armoured man against the railings, warned him not to jump, and offered him clemency for information. The bone man, feeling his life rapidly ebbing out of his speared leg, agreed, and told them all they need to know. Iron piracy is an automatic death sentence that the Wind Guard have the power to commute to a life sentence repairing nets; there is a small host of cages hanging on the lower levels of the Eiffel tower, in which Iron pirates are trapped alive while the seabirds eat them, that attest to the savagery of Gyre justice. The bone pirate was all too willing to give away his submarine and any hope of freedom in order to avoid that fate, even though it meant a life spent as a crippled slave. He revealed that there was only one more pirate inside the submarine (who Ryan had killed) and that there was a trap on the bottom rung of the ladder inside the conning tower, and a switch to turn it off further inside – anyone stepping on the yellow mark on the lowest rung would experience the full power of the submarine’s extensive array of batteries, in a millisecond. Ryan entered the submarine, avoiding the yellow mark, turned off the trap and explored. The submarine was almost entirely batteries and motor, with three tiny rooms reserved for the crew. One was a tiny common area, one a control room, and one a sleeping room. The sleeping room had four beds rolled out next to each other, and two more beds in the unused torpedo tubes. There was nothing to steal – these men had been living on the edge of nothing when they raided the Towers. There was, however, a half-empty container of rat poison …
The party retired for the night. They called Captain Dilver and he told them, “We’ll send a ship to secure the submarine. Continue on your path. This submarine is a wavegift. Offer it to the rafters if they demand a ship in exchange for the old man.”
The PCs went to sleep stunned. The Gyre was willing to offer a submarine for a single person?
The next day they set out for the raft community, leaving the bone pirate tied in the cavernous hold of the Silicon Dream. Their journey passed uneventfully, though it was delayed for a couple of hours after they stumbled on a school of tuna and pursued it for meat; they arrived slightly late on the second day bearing a gift of maguro. As they approached the rafts they decided to do some reconnaissance, and Quark sent up his drone to scan the area. It revealed a small collection of rafts built around a container ship, the bow of which was unimpeded by construction, plowing the waves like a real ship. The rafts fanned out from the rear, built around a series of semi-capsized ships that offered both wavebreaks and structural stability. The rafts themselves were a kind of campsite, scattered with homes made in containers or tents, or the ruins of old yachts dragged atop the rafts themselves. At the outer extreme of the fan of rafts as an open space built from the smallest and weakest platforms, and it was here that the Windslip would dock, and the negotiations would proceed. However, as they approached Quark identified a small, deadly-looking ship on the far side of the container ship, that looked too new to be part of the raft. Someone else appeared to be here, and their first fear was that it was a Himalayan ship.
They sent Ryan to investigate. He slipped away with Arashi, diving under the container ship and aiming to surface just beyond the Himalayan ship. This time, driving fast on Arashi in a calm sea in daylight, he could go directly under the ship, staying in the sunlit zone where the autumn sunlight struck through the waves in beautiful golden lances, trusting to Arashi to guide him through the thick reeds and garbage growing under the ship and to drag him back to the surface before his prodigious lungs gave out. Five minutes underwater being carried forward by a ton of sleek death was as nothing to Ryan, who hung in that liminal space between sunlight, air and limpid darkness with a confidence borne of years of experience. Beneath him lay the long-abandoned stones and temples of the Tibetan plane, longed-for but lost; above him the glorious interplay of sunlight and ocean, all that Ryan had ever known; a sleek line of bubbles streaked by him as Arashi sped through the semi-darkness to their prey. Bound to that mighty beast like a silent sibling, Ryan guided it through the dancing golden rays, under the shadow of the container ship and the vicious-looking interloper, to emerge exactly where he intended, drawing deep breaths but controlled and quiet. The waves chopped, Arashi gently whuffed, and in the near distance the lethal-looking ship floated, tied to the old container ship. There was no sign of movement on board, and no one stirred at the sight of a sea lion on the edge of the rafts. The ship had a nasty-looking deck gun, and writing in a language Ryan could not understand – but Ryan could barely read his own language, let alone identify another. After a few minutes’ watching, with no sign of movement, the teenager gave up. He and Arashi slipped below the waves and returned the way they had come, no knowledge gained.
They docked with the raft, and immediately a delegation of elders met them. At the centre was The Matriarch, leader of the rafts and a powerful presence in her own right. A pavilion was set up near the sea edge, and a conclave sat around the old woman as she prepared to negotiate. The down-payment was unloaded from the ship, and the old man, a stumbling, halting and ancient man came forth, accompanied by two children. In the course of negotiations it became obvious that the Matriarch wanted the two children to be sent to the Arc to do an apprenticeship. She also wanted an ocean-going fishing vessel – not a submarine, but something capable of real fishing work. How could she think a single old man was worth so much? Crimson had to make a call to check if such an offer was acceptable, but as he pulled out his mobile phone to make the call everyone’s phones started ringing. The dial tone was the emergency tone reserved for Captain Dilver. Crimson answered.
“Dilver. Do you have the man?”
“No, we’re negotiating now. What’s wrong?”
“Change of plan. Grab the man and get out. Turn off the computer in the ship and get away as fast as you can. Something’s coming.”
“Don’t waste time, just do it. Move now!”
The phone went dead. Dilver had spoken. No one argues with Dilver. Crimson moved. He pushed forward and grabbed the old man, announcing the change in plan to his colleagues. As he did so they heard the crack of rifles and three bullets shot past their heads. Up on the ridge of rafts near the container ship’s stern, three men were moving forward, carrying carbines and intent on combat. It was immediately obvious from their size and armour that they were Gurkhas. The Himalayan kingdom had sent its soldiers after the old man. Why was he worth so much?
They ran for the ship, rifle shots cracking around them. Ryan ran for the water, calling Arashi. The old man struggled, and somehow Crimson couldn’t move him. The Gurkhas came closer, shooting. Someone hit Ryan in the leg, but he managed to hit the water. Crimson dragged the old man into a channel of water between two rafts, and would have been trapped there moving slowly except that Ryan and Arashi slid down the channel, grabbed him and hauled him out as fast as they could. They all slid to the Windslip, Arashi pushing them on board. Quark was on the deck gun, firing nail bombs out at the Gurkhas to keep them down and away from the ship. Crimson ran below with the old man to tie him down where he wouldn’t be able to escape, as their crew started the ship away from the docks, moving as fast as they could.
Suddenly there was a huge explosion, a bright flash and a moment of confusion. Quark and Ryan were hurled from the decks of the ship, Crimson and the old man pushed deep down into the water and stunned. Boiling water streamed over them, and moments later they were all floundering in the water. Arashi lay stunned and gurgling, Crimson struggled in the water near death, the old man struggled in the hot sea, his legs melted. A huge wave of displaced water rolled over the rafts, knocking down children and elderly and Gurkhas alike. Somewhere near them the ship’s crew screamed and thrashed. The Windslip, broken and melted, sank beneath the waves with a horrible gurgling roar, and they were all left floundering in the water.
Crimson struggled in the water next to the old man, holding him up and looking in horror at his melted and wrecked lower legs, when his phone rang, the same emergency tone.
“Dilver, are you out? Do you have the old man?”
“Something hit us. He’s dying.”
“Get the code. Whatever you do, get the code!”
Crimson stared in dumb shock at the phone. He had been about to abandon this stupid old man to the waves. What was this? Floating in the water, still half stunned, he turned to the old man and grabbed him by the neck. “What is the code?”
The old man hissed, “There is no code.” But Crimson noticed that as he did so the old man reached for a strange necklace he wore. This necklace was a piece of plastic in the shape of the character 源、strung onto a strange thick plastic cord. Was that the code? Crimson tore it off and stuffed it into his sharkskin tunic, then dragged the man to shore.
Another brilliant flash and the sea exploded behind them, a wave of super-heated salty steam roared past them, and they were tumbling over and over in the water. The remaining crew, floundering there in the centre of the blast, disappeared and never came up. More waves of warm water rushed past them.
When he righted himself, Crimson was closer to the raft and somehow still holding the old man. He thrashed forward in the water, hauling himself to the raft. As he did so Arashi, recovered from his temporary stun, surged behind them and hurled them onto the raft with a satisfied “whuff!” Almost immdiately, rifle shots cracked into the deck around them. Looking down, Crimson realized he was badly hurt, possibly dying. Quark and Ryan also struggle onto the deck, and Arashi cruised the verges of the rafts, ducking in and out of sight.
The Gurkhas had run out of ammunition and were charging forward now. One charged towards Crimson and two towards Quark where he was attempting to tend to the old man’s wounds. Crimson charged his mark, leapt into the air and delivered a solid kick to the man’s chest, knocking him off the raft and into the water. Quar, saw two coming for him and hurled a grenade at them, managing to blow the legs off one but barely hurting the other. He fell back until Crimson could join the battle, sword join, and Crimson and the remaining Gurkha began a deadly duel, kukri against cutlass. Behind them the Gurkha in the water died horribly, battered away from the rafts by Arashi and savaged from below whenever he tried to swim. His desperate thrashings soon calmed.
Crimson was too badly injured to hold off the Gurkha, who began to press his advantage. Quark watched in horror from his position over the old man, unable to do anything. But Ryan still had his crossbow. He took aim and fired at the Gurkha’s unarmoured head, scoring a spectacular blow under the jaw; the bone bolt blew out of the man’s face, and he fell dead on the spot. They had beaten their attackers.
The phone rang. Dilver.
“Where’s the old man. Did you get the code?”
“There is no code, just a necklace. We’re fighting.”
“Fighting who? What?”
“Gurkhas, there’s a ship here.”
“Do not let that ship get away on pain of death. No message can reach the Himalayans. Kill everyone.”
The phone went dead. Though they were all nearly dead, they charged off to the ship.
There were two men on the ship, already moving it into open water. A gun battle followed, but Quark managed to shoot out their radio, and Crimson and Ryan boarded the ship and killed both the crew. They had stopped the ship escaping, and no Gurkha survived the battle. Crimson was nearly dead, Quark and Ryan both badly injured, and the rafters in uproar. Crimson called Dilver.
“Dilver. Do you have the code?”
“We got something. The ship is stopped. We lost the Windslip.” Losing the Windslip is a death sentence.
“No matter. We’re sending a sloop, the Gunfather. We’re sending seaplanes. I’ll be there in a few hours. Don’t let anyone send any messages, keep the old man near you and find the Matriarch. We’re going to have a serious conversation with her.”
They waited. Within hours, as promised, three seaplanes arrived. Seaplanes fly on biodiesel, a rare and precious commodity. Sending three large ones for any mission is unheard of. They taxied up to the rafts and disgorged scores of soldiers, men the PCs had never seen before: large, heavily armoured, carrying terrifying guns. Shots were fired. Rafters were rounded up, beaten, corralled. From amongst the mess Dilver emerged, wearing full combat armour, carrying his helmet, accompanied by two men in full armour none of the PCs had ever seen.
“Fair wind, brothers. Where is the matriarch?” They dragged out the matriarch.
Dilver then proceeded to show the same steel he showed those years earlier, when he made his name. He turned to the matriarch. “I am taking hostages, including your family.” As the PCs watched one of his soldiers dragged off the two children she had earlier tried to bargain with. “If anyone ever hears about what happened today from anyone on this raft I will hang your children from the Towers, to be eaten by birds. I will then come here and sink your rafts, the waves will take you and no one will know you were ever here. Fifty years of your history will be gone like raindrops on the waves.” Behind him a protesting rafter was shot, as if for emphasis. “Keep today’s events secret for one year and your raft will join the Gyre. Do you understand me?”
She nodded, silent tears running down her cheeks, as her children were bundled into a plane.
Dilver looked at the PCs. “You. Come with me.”
Dilver ushered them into a seaplane with the children and a few other moaning rafters, who he pushed and slapped out of the way. They were soon airborne, Dilver yelling over the roar of the engines.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t tell you all the details. Before the world submerged, near the end, the Chinese government built a kind of arc, filled it with rare materials that can’t be found on the open ocean, and left it for the flood to cover. It has a nuclear powerplant at its centre, which will activate and power it to the surface when called. The idea was that the government would call it up when they had stabilized after the flood. A good idea but the Chinese government expended itself fighting for the Himalayas, and everyone thought the codes to control the arc were lost. We knew where it was, but no one could activate it. But one of our spies in the Himalayan kingdom heard of a bundle of diaries that revealed some old Chinese scientists who survived the flood and the wars and were somewhere on rafts in the area, who might have the code. That’s why we instituted the oral history project, and the old man ken was one of them. So we sent you to get him but we didn’t want anyone to know why, which is why we told you a story about him knowing the currents. We didn’t realize the Himalayans had found him too.
“But the real mistake was the computer we had tracking that satellite. Our science guys didn’t realize that the satellite was a military satellite. They realized this morning that their hacking had triggered an emergency system. They warned me immediately and I called you, but it wasn’t fast enough. The satellite is an orbital laser. The scientists who made this mistake are already dead, I saw to it myself this morning.”
“We lost the Windslip but we gain a Gurkha warship, and more importantly we get this.” He took the necklace from Crimson. “The story is that this arc holds 100,000 tons of steel, a seed stock, another 100,000 tons of soil, it has huge quantities of wood, cement, medicines, vaccuum-packed rice, medical facilities, glass. And at its centre is a nuclear powerplant. The Himalayans know where it is, but if they think their ship was lost to storms without any record, and they don’t realize we have the key, they may not be there when we raise it from the depths. So we can take possession of the whole arc.”
“You have done well, boys. Even the loss of the Windslip will not count against you. But next time, follow my instructions a little less tardily, yes?”
He pocketed the necklace, and that was all the thanks they ever received from Captain Dilver – that, and their lives.