((75 — The Farthest Land))
July 1st, 802 AT.
The crystals hung in the air around them, silent witness to their long journey. After almost a month of freefall, they were finally nearing their destination. The two crew of the ship had found ways to occupy themselves, bit by bit. Owl had spent plenty of time practicing her editing, changing aspects of the world around her. Most of Emerson’s lab equipment had been changed into food or other living supplies. Skunk had convinced Owl to explain the basic workings of guns, and together they had edited and extruded the materials to make a pair of hand pistols.
Owl and Skunk now sat together on the top deck of Emerson’s ship, staring at the massive crystal ahead of them. Owl peered out at it, then back to the open notebook in her lap. "Snowflake!" she said aloud, jotting it down. "That's the word I wanted."
Skunk fiddled with a bullet, staring gloomily out at the huge crystal. She was impatient for something to do, something to fight. A month of almost complete inaction had left her with a severe case of cabin fever.
"Snow... flake...." The rememorist thought for a moment. "No. Those aren't as scary. I think." She crossed out what she'd written. "Unless it's a snowstorm. And you're a poet."
The radio on the control panel crackled. "Unknown ship, unknown ship, this is Sector One, do you read?" The voice was young, male, and sounded extremely tired.
Owl jumped. “Sector One!”
Skunk's face split in a rare, tiny smile.
Owl pressed down on the intercom button. "Hi, Sector One?"
“Hi. Another straggler from the refugee fleet?”
"Oh far-reaching fog... it's another person," Owl sighed. Into the intercom she said, "Not exactly. I don't think. We, um. We kind of… took this ship? But it wasn’t really stealing… it was, um.”
“Oh. Uh. From who?”
“Um. Doctor… what was it now… Emerson!”
"Crazy sonuvabitch he was, too,” muttered Skunk.
The voice fell silent a moment. "Uh. Okay. Who am I speaking to, exactly?"
"Oh, um. Owl?" Owl said. "And Skunk."
“…Owl. Right. Owl and Skunk.”
The voice over the radio let out a long sigh.
“Previously of Face,” Skunk said quietly.
Owl’s expression darkened. “Sorry. Um. Previously of Face,” she corrected into the intercom.
"Listen,” came the voice. “I've been landing ships for something like thirty-nine hours straight. So how about I send you the telemetry data for the landing fields, and then go back to sleeping on the console."
Owl frowned. "Young man, I don't think that's a very responsible thing to do," she reproached.
"Splendid," muttered Skunk darkly. "More lectures."
"Shh!" Owl hissed back.
"... I know it's not, but what with the riots, my co-workers are cut off." The voice sounded more and more tired by the moment. "So it's just me against the refugee hordes."
Skunk leaned over and spoke into the intercom. “That’s fine, great, just get us the stuff.”
Owl's face went blank. "The... the what now?"
"The refugees. Where are you from, lady? Sector Two or something?”
"No, I heard that. But you said RIOTS before. What riots?" Owl probed.
“You're coming from the direction of Sector Four..." He didn’t sound like he was listening.
"Um... Well. We were there,” Owl said. “But Face wasn’t.”
There was another long pause. "...I'm just gonna send you the telemetry data, okay?"
Skunk rolled her eyes. “That’s what I said to do earlier.”
Owl frowned, but answered, "Yes. We want the data."
"Now, unfortunately, the Outer Landing Fields filled up entirely, what with the refugee fleets and all."
"Okay... So where do we land?”
"Buuut Tanique Hall is shut down 'cause of the riots, so the roof of that is totally open."
"Send us this precious data already," Skunk growled.
"As long as you don't mind parking on top of a library, you should be able to set down there for the moment."
"Skunk, be patient, oka— LIBRARY?" Owl jumped up from her seat.
“Uh, yeah.” The radio operator paused. “Is that a problem?”
“Oh! No! We’ll land there! We’d be delighted!”
“Well, that’s settled then, yeah?” Skunk said. “So SEND US THE SHIT ALREADY.” Skunk's tone was bored and forceful. but her restless eyes betrayed her unease.
"Yeah, yeah. Coming up."
Owl giggled like a gleeful child. "Library," she sighed.
After a minute, the console beeped, a green light indicating receipt of the directions to land. "See you planetside. Sector One out."
"Thank you. Goodbye."
The beginnings of a tremendously loud yawn seeped through, then the radio beeped and fell silent.
"Okay, let's land!" Owl grinned, pressing a sequence of buttons.
"Yay," said Skunk unconvincingly.
“Oh, hey!” Owl said. “Want to try flying like we practiced?”
Skunk shrugged, but obligingly took the coiled wire from her belt. She walked to the back of the deck, and closed her eyes. Wrapping her hand around one end of the wire, she moved the other end out into the open air using her powers. It drifted along the deck, plugging into the metal of the control console.
With it connected, Skunk extended her consciousness into the panel itself, feeling out the metal levers and control knobs. Any touching metal was fair game, and she began to operate the controls from remote.
“Good, good!” Owl said. “A few more degrees forward.”
Slowly, working together, they brought the ship around the massive crystal, and towards the city.
After a few moments of no directions from Owl, Skunk opened her eyes. “Owl?” She looked over to see the older woman standing at the edge of the ship, looking down, jaw wide. Skunk walked to her, about to ask what she was looking at, when she saw it.
The city was a truly impressive sight. Skunk whistled. “Well, that’s… damn.”
“Uh huh.” Owl delightedly scanned the city below, taking in as much detail as she could. Halfway up one of the three large spires, she saw a broad expanse of green—what she recognized from her readings as a ‘forest.’ “Oh, trees!” She gushed, clapping her hands. “They make air!”
The screen in the console beeped again, scrolling up to show a map, all glowing green outlines. The data the young man had sent them was the coordinates to Tanique Hall, a spot most of the way up one of the spires.
“I’ll take control, Skunk,” Owl said, and the other woman detached her wire, recoiling it at her belt. Owl frowned as she stepped back to the console. “Ooh, I don’t like this angle,” she muttered.
“Hardly the worst thing we’ve said,” mused Skunk.
Tanique Hall was an old-looking building, a lone block set into the crystal slope further up than almost anything else. Massive columns lined its entrance, and large windows were set into the front of it. The top of it was large and flat, easily big enough to accomodate six ships the size of the one they were in.
“Impressive," admitted Skunk. “Now how about landing?”
"Hang on. This isn't like reading. It takes concentration." Owl wriggled her fingers on the wheel, then carefully positioned them above the roof. "Okay, here we go," she said, mostly to herself. "You can do this. We can do this we can do this we can do this..." Her shadow rearranged itself into the words we can do this we can do this we can do this... hey, I'm doing it right!
The engines on either side of the ship rotated softly, returning to directly vertical positions. With a quiet thunk, the ship came to rest on the roof of the building.
Owl let out the breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. “Okay. Library time.”
Skunk was staring off into the city, features blank and unreadable.
“Skunk? You ready to get out and about?”
The other woman sighed quietly. “At this point, I’m ready for anything.”