See This One First
A feeling of fire climbed up Vale’s shoulder, yanking her back to consciousness. She stared around her, heart beating fast. The sky was alive with stars. The moon bright above her. She still hung from the rope, but she had tilted, and the rope and slipped, wrapping around her metal arm, tugging at the tear in her shoulder. A scream ripped from her as she felt the tear grow larger. She tried to reach up and grab the rope, but with every movement, the pain grew until all she could do was stay completely still and hope to fall into unconsciousness again.
Suddenly she felt the metal groan and rip free form her body, sending her falling into the ocean below, the metal arm swinging lightly in the breeze as she crashed into the water.
Vale was consumed with cold inky blackness, scrambling for air. The metal cast on her leg tugged her down, and her one arm wasn’t enough to fight for the surface. She watched the skymaran grow farther, the stars grow dimmer, and her chance at air become impossible.
She held her breath, continuing to struggle wildly, her mind going to her final thoughts as the air left her lungs. I wish I could have said a better goodbye to my mom. I wish I could have saved my crew. I wish I could have fought harder. I hope Dash finds Sky and saves him. I hope I did enough to help protect them all...
Water poured into her, encasing her insides, tugging her down and away from the light. She saw a flash of fire above her. The water swirled a shade darker. Something wrapped around her waist, gripping her firmly. Her vision faded as the darkness filled the rest of her vision, sending her world dark.
A face filled her eyes as she shot up, water pouring from her lungs. “Breath Vale!” the voice commanded. Vale struggled for air, coughing until she got a full breath inside. The face came into focus. Dash sat above her, his hair hanging in wet strands, water dusting his long black lashes as he looked down at her, his piercing green eyes flooding with relief as she took in several deep breaths.
“Dash!” she gasped. “How?”
“You put on quite a show tanking that whole ship,” he said between deep breaths. “Never seen anything like it.”
“Sky?” Vale asked as she looked around the skymaran.
The light in Dash’s eyes dimmed slightly. “They took him back to the ship.”
“I don’t know. I dove in after you. We’ll find out when we get back.” He looked at her shoulder and gave a tsk tsk sound. “But it looks like I have my work cut out for me. Where’d your arm end up?”
“Hanging under the skymaran,” Vale said with a shrug and then winced. Dash stood up and blasted off of the skymaran, reappearing a moment later with her metal arm, dropping it into her lap. He moved to the control panel.
Adjusting the settings of the skymaran, Dash had it fly off back towards The Ignis. He turned to look at Vale, placing his hip against the railing. The wind whipped his wet hair around angrily until he pushed it out of his face. “We have a few things we need to talk about.”
He ignored her and held up his fingers, counting off. “First, you convince one of my doctors to help.”
“Technically, she still told you-.”
“Second, you took one of my skymaran’s.”
“Technically it’s Sky’s-.”
“Third, you took my cousin with you, after you promised me to protect him.”
Vale winced. She had promised to keep him safe and now neither of them knew what state Sky was in. “Forth, I had to come and find both of you and save you both again.”
“What!” he shouted angrily, throwing his hands up into the air.
Vale lowered her voice, a soft gentle tenderness coming through each of her words. “Thank you. For everything... For saving Sky. For saving me multiple times. For trusting me enough to tell me about the Tradesmen, all of it. I should have said it sooner.”
Dash sighed, deflating slightly. “You’re right, you should have.”
“I didn’t know who to trust,” Vale said scanning the stars. “If I had just told you sooner, I could have warned you about the threat.”
Dash dropped to a sitting position. “Considering you’ve had a few run-ins with AI’s I can understand why you may not have wanted to tell me everything. It made you look very suspicious. But if I had my doubts about where your loyalties lied,” he glanced at her shoulder, bare of its metal. “They are gone now.”
He glanced down at his own legs. “We both wear signs of man-made creativity. Signs that they claim as theirs.”
Vale openly stared at Dash. “So let me get this straight, we are both wearing signs of open rebellion against AI rule?”
“Yep. No going back from that now. You are one of us, through and through. A Tradesmen. That list is just going to keep getting longer. The threats to the AI directive.”
“I guess we are quite the threat,” Vale said, unable to keep the smile from her face. “We are crazy.” She shivered as a cold wind wrapped around her.
“Yes,” Dash said standing up. Pulling a blanket from a nearby crate, he placed it over her shoulders before sitting back down. “And look at what those two crazy people did. Taking down a whole ship to save hundreds of human lives. You are just like the people on that list. People who dare to think they can fight for themselves. Imagine what would happen if we had more.”
“We could change things,” Vale said, her heart rate growing faster.
“That’s the goal,” Dash said with a nod.
“But first we have to warn the other Tradesmen,” Vale said, tugging the blanket closer around her shoulders.
“I can take care of that. But we need to find the others on the list.”
“The Alimentors and The Ignitors,” Vale recited from memory. The skymaran neared The Ingis. “Do you know anything about them?”
“Not really. But we should. Especially if we are all fighting on the same side.” Dash landed the skymaran on the deck. Scooping Vale up, he blasted off of the skymaran and down the hall at impossible speeds.
“How do you not hit people?” Vale asked as she tried to keep her stomach from flying upwards due to the uptick in speed.
“They hear me coming and know to hit the deck.” Dash stopped in front of a glass door. Shoving it with his hip, he walked inside, Vale still in his arms. Several doctors hovered over a figure on a table. Dash dropped Vale into a chair and the doctors moved out of his way as he placed himself in front of the table. “How is he?”
“Alive. Strangely. Did you add something to his tech?” A doctor Vale didn’t recognize asked.
Dash leaned over the figure, analyzing his vitals. “I didn’t, but knowing him, he probably did to keep himself alive. He’s always dodging death.” Dash took a few steps back allowing the doctors to swarm the figure again. “Let me know if anything changes.”
Dash moved back to Vale and picked her up in his arms. “We need to get you to sickbay.”
“Who is that? Dash?”
“No. Dash is our next stop. But I thought you’d like to see this one first.”
He walked over to the edge of the doctors and placed her on her feet. She hobbled forward a few steps and watched the doctors melt out of her way. Curiosity ate at her as she moved, wondering who this person was.
She gasped, eyes going wide, his name coming out in a whisper. “Mortem?”