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Chapter 47

Chapter 47: Commandeered

Sighting the catamaran lights a fire under Sabonis. He careens down the ashen slopes to the pumice-strewn shore of the Loch. I can barely keep up.

Haurvil glides behind us like an unhitched shadow, impervious to our efforts to send him packing. Freed of flesh, he trots like a man on the moon, Lethe’s gravity equivocal against his sketchy mass.

Alecto’s crew is probably trailing us, although we can see no sign of them from the flats. Given our head start and pace, it seems unlikely they’ll beat us to the harbor. I hope.

We spook the tiny fish skimming over pebbled shallows all the way to Sixwing’s outer limits, studded with the impromptu shacks of the newly-arrived. These rude shelters give way to the sturdier huts of longer term residents. Their design and composition are as diverse as humanity: tepees, yurts, mud wattle, brick and sod.

People mingle in courtyards, sharing tea with friends from countries that, in life, they never knew existed. Here, every Squatter is a citizen of Lethe.

We pause before a lane with a clear view down to the salt marshes fringing the estuary. A pair of angled masts, sails lashed, drifts past the reeds.

“They’re comin’ in,” says Sabonis, trotting off down an eroded alley way, dodging puddles of offal and flocks of turkey-like fowl.

“Careful,” I say. “Remember, one of them had a gun.”

“Not no more,” says Sabonis. “Alecto’s bunch put that one down in Zion, along with the rest of Delgado’s crew.”

“Then who’s got the boat?”

“Beats me,” says Sabonis. “That’s what I aim to find out.”

The lane dead ends at a dusty lot with a wobbly dock made of lashed-together saplings. Dugouts and reed canoes line a slant of grey beach. We wait and watch from behind a cluster of birches. Haurvil climbs onto the roof of a hut, staring in the opposite direction towards the Loch.

The cat drifts in to the dock, manned by a quartet of bearded, long-haired men of diverse race and ethnicity.

Sabonis waits for them to tie up, and then bursts out from behind the birches. “Off my boat, you fucks.” He brandishes the obsidian spear.

Three of the men, bearing baskets of fish, mill about, startled. The fourth throws down an armload of nets and picks up an oar.

“What makes you tink dis your boat, mon?” says a wiry man in dreadlocks.

“Did you help carve these hulls?” says Sabonis. “I did, and I got the scars to prove it.”

“If dis boat is really yours, mon, you not be taking very good care of your property. We found dis boat wushed up on a sandbar.”

“Finders-keepers. The law of the beach,” says a man with greasy, blonde hair, circling behind Sabonis.

“You stay put,” says Sabonis. “In fact, all of you are gonna walk away from my boat or I’m going to carve you some new assholes.”

The fishermen set down their baskets, but they don’t retreat. Various knives and sharpened staves slip out of waist bands.

I sidle behind Sabonis. “Um, Marco,” I whisper. “You might want to tone it down a bit. There’s four of them. All we got’s this one spear.”

“Shut up and let me handle this!” says Sabonis, wheeling to track the fishermen as they fan around us, with a bounce in their stances, blades loose in their grips. “These guys don’t scare me. They’re all bluster. They ain’t got the balls to come after us.”

“Cute girl,” says the greasy man, leering. He wields a long shard of green glass from a shattered fishing float, mounted in driftwood. “I call first dibs. After we gut the boyfriend.”

“Oo-rah! Gang bang!” says a toothless man.

An arrow whizzes past Sabonis’ head and thunks into the chest of the greasy man.

“Facilitators!” says the dreadlocked man.

One of the fishermen kicks over a basket, spilling fish over the ground, and darts into an alley. The toothless one slips into the copse of birches. Arrows sprout from their peeling trunks.

Sabonis dashes for the boat, and I’m right behind him. He snatches up an oar, unties the lead and pushes out into the estuary. I duck into a shelter in the platform between the hulls.

As Sabonis drops sail, the dreadlocked man leaps on board and scrambles up to the bow. He grabs an oar and pushes off, nosing the cat around.

Arrows fly our way from archers yet unseen, all missing their mark, as Sabonis stays behind the masts and Mr. Dreadlocks stays low. Two Facilitators burst into the clearing, converge on the birches. They haul out the toothless man and force him face down in the dirt.

The sail billows open. The cat lifts and surges down the channel. The archers emerge and pursue us along the estuary shore until the marshy fringes bog them down. They send their parting shots. One barely misses me, zipping into the shelter’s opening and out through the front wall.

Another arrow catches in Mr. Dreadlocks’ hair, clipping off a twisted skein. He looks surprised at first, but then rips it out and waves it at the receding archers, mocking them.

Mr. Dreadlocks hops onto the platform, dark eyes glaring. I cringe deeper into the shelter, but he’s merely crossing over to the other hull to secure a line dangling free from the bottom corner of the sail.

Back up the estuary, a lithe figure appears on the rooftop besides the black smudge that is Haurvil. Alecto lifts her bow. The cat is well beyond her range, but she lets fly anyhow. Her arrow skips in our wake and drifts like a viper.
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