Command Ship Leviathan, five days earlier
Derek heard the guns, but couldn't see them. Their haunting sound scared him however. It sent a chill up his spine that couldn't be shaken off. It was the sound you heard when hell was hunting you. He sat in his cell, a cube with a door, and tried to forget that sound.
He knew what ship he was on. The Leviathan, one of the most powerful warships that The Defender commanded. It was scavenged from old warships from the Roar, with numerous eighteen inch guns and armor that could withstand a small atomic bomb. It had the capacity to carry over two-thousand soldiers, along with seventy tanks. Derek had heard quite a lot about it over the radio, and it hard a confirmed kill count of seven major White Fleet battleships. It was, simply put, one of the most powerful warships the world had ever seen.
But Derek wasn't in awe at the ship's incredible power, nor was he concerned about the genocide being committed above. What he was really worried about was the fact that one of the most powerful ships in the world had been sent after him. Why him? He figured that he would be written off as a traitor to be shot on sight, but not actively hunted. And certainly not be hunted by The Sphere's prize battleship. He formed several theories, but none of them explained everything. Even if Colonel Cornwell opted for a near hopeless quest for revenge, he still probably wouldn't have the influence to get the Leviathan to aid him. And if The Defender had figured out the truth and arranged his transport home and a full pardon, why would he send Cornwell, the man who should have been getting charged, to pick him up? As Derek tried to think of something that would explain it, the bombardment stopped.
After about another hour of waiting, he heard the massive engines of the ship power up. A moment later the door opened and another prisoner was shoved in. She was burned and covered in soot, but Derek recognized Chan.
“How did you get caught?” he asked, surprised.
“We... we were running from the bombardment,” Chan said, panting heavily. “Zoey was knocked out by the shock waves. I went back to get her. I had to carry her, but it was too far. I dropped her, and couldn't keep on going. I hid under a log. Got lucky. I tried to find the ship after the bombardment, but Sphere soldiers were looking for survivors. They found me. Almost killed me, but the colonel guy ordered me to be brought back alive.”
“Colonel Cornwell,” Derek cursed. “He's the reason I'm stuck out here in the first place. Framed me for a murder he committed. Thought I killed him, but I guess I just got his eye.”
“Joshua was about to kill him,” Chan said. “But then the asshole got lucky. Joshua went into one of his fits just before the final blow.”
“He just won't die,” Derek said angrily.
The door opened again and a guard's head appeared. “The Wheeler kid comes with us now.”
Derek got up slowly and went to the door. “What for?” he asked.
“The colonel wants to see you.”
“I don't know,” the guard brandished a gun at him. “Come on now.”
Derek walked out into the gray corridor and was directed to Cornwell's cabin by two guards. They bound his hands with handcuffs. The ship was mostly devoid of activity, and the crew on duty seemed dazed or half asleep. Derek observed a guard who was sleeping peacefully near a door. The man opposite him had his eyes closed, but didn't have the steady breathing of sleep.
They went into the elevator and one of the guards pressed a button that said “captain's cabin.” He felt the strange sensation you get when you're moving but don't know how. Then the door's opened into a colorless room. Colonel Cornwell was standing in the middle of the room, across from the elevator. Waiting.
“I will interrogate him by myself,” Cornwell said. The guards pushed Derek into the room and then the elevator doors closed. “Good, no one to interfere,” the colonel smiled.
“What's going on?” Derek asked. “Why has the Leviathan been sent after me?”
“Oh yes you are self important aren't you?” Cornwell arrogantly. “There's a giant ship near the island, it must be for me!” he continued in a high pitched mockery of Derek's own voice. “Really, you're such an overconfident, ignorant, third class fool it makes me laugh. But since I am the one conducting this interrogation, you won't ask a single other question. Got it?”
“Yes,” Derek said.
Cornwell sighed. “What is special about your name?”
“What?” Derek asked. “There's nothing special about my name. It's just Derek.”
“You idiot!” Cornwell screamed, grabbing Derek by the scruff of the neck and pushing him to the ground. “Not that name! Your other name! Wheeler!”
“There's nothing special about my name!” Derek screamed back, trying to ignore the pain of Cornwell's hand digging into his neck.
“Come on! There must be something!” Cornwell screamed. He suddenly let go of Derek's neck and shoved him to the ground. “That was your only chance!” he said. “Now we do this the hard way!” He went over to a certain spot on the floor and grabbed a near invisible handle on it. He pulled it up to reveal a small pool of water. “Freezing cold,” he said gleefully. “I was hoping you wouldn't give up that easily. This is my favorite part.”
Derek tried to resist as the colonel grabbed and dragged him to the pool. But with his hands bound and there was little he could do. Any kicks seemed to bounce off. He could do nothing as Cornwell shoved his face into the water.
The world was suspended for a moment as a clean, freezing, silent abyss. Derek could feel the tip of his nose go numb. His eyes were shocked by the sudden on rush of water. He could not see the bottom of the tank. Anything beyond two feet was a dark nothingness.
His face came out of the water and he gasped for air. “Tell me what is special about your name.” Derek didn't answer. He might have if he'd known what the colonel was talking about. “Fine then.” Cornwell forced his head back under.
The world was painted dark blue again. Sparks danced in front of Derek's shocked eyes, and he could swear their was a whisper vibrating through the water. Or maybe a whisper of a whisper.
His face was pulled out again into the air that seemed so hot now. “What is special about your name?”
“I don't know,” Derek mumbled.
“Well then all you have to do is remember,” Cornwell said, shoving his face under once again.
More sparks were tossed in front of Derek's face. He wondered why the water wasn't catching fire. But there was still a whisper. It was like a glowing light, warm and welcoming. “Come,” it said, “Come to the-”
Once again his face was pulled out into the scalding hot air. “Tell me what is special about your family!”
“Nothing!” Derek screamed. “Drunks!” he added, as it was the first thing that came to mind.
Once again his face was forced in. His chest contracted and he felt his lungs freeze solid. He could feel them freezing. He'd never breath again. He was sure of it. And then the whisper came again, and the glowing light melted his frozen lungs. “Come to the City with Wet Feet Derek. I'm waiting for you. Bring your friends and allies, for here it is safe. It is there where the cure for all ills lies. You will need it.”
Up into the scalding heat once more. “Tell me something!” Cornwell screamed into his ear.
“Mom!” Derek screamed back, trying to gather more air for the next dunking. “First class!”
“What!” the colonel exclaimed. He was about to shove Derek's head back into the water but he hesitated. “Your mother was first class?”
“Yyyyy,” Derek shivered, trying to say yes. It was hard with the scalding air filling his lungs. “Mmm-my, mother wa-s fiRst classsssss.”
“And your father was third class,” Cornwell said disapprovingly. “She should have known better. No matter what is in their DNA third class citizens will always be scum. But...” he trailed off, and left Derek next to the pool, shivering. “If she was first class and he was third class, he would have taken her last name. Guards!” he called. Guards appeared in front of Derek like they'd been summoned by magic. “Take him back to the cell, I won't get any more out of him.”
As the guards quickly hauled him away, Derek's world passed into darkness.
Chan noticed that Derek's eyes were glassy and unfocused as the guards brought him back. His face and upper body were covered in water, and he was shivering. When she spoke to him he wasn't able to form a coherent sentience. Chan recognized the signs of torture and left him be.
What she was really worried about was her own injures. Much of her left side was burned, and unless she got some anti-biotic soon, she probably wouldn't make it. Any time she tried to use her left arm or form expressions with the left of her face penetrating pain would ring through her. Even if she did get anti-biotic it would be no guarantee of survival. When she asked the guards for help they practically laughed in her face. If she wanted to survive then she would have to escape.
But that was easier said then done. As far as she could tell, there were no windows or vents in the cell, and two guards were posted outside constantly. Under normal circumstances, she would have been able to take one of them while Derek took the other. But she could hardly move without pain, and Derek just mumbled to himself about “the City with Wet Feet” in the corner. An escape plan would have to be so cunning that a cat would be proud of it.
For two days she racked her brain, but was dumfounded. Derek slowly recovered from the psychical and metal effects of the torture, but he was still not in top shape. Even if he'd been perfectly healthy, he still wouldn't have been able to take on two guards.
After two and a half days in the cell, the door opened and Cornwell entered without his usual swagger, flanked by two guards with assault rifles.
“You,” he said, indicating Chan. “You are familiar with these waters, correct?”
“Yeah,” Chan said, “So what?”
“You're arm is burned,” Cornwell said coldly, “If you show us how to navigate out you will be brought to the sick bay and treated. If you refuse I will let you die, slowly. If you mislead us you will die instantly.” He pulled out a very official looking map and pointed to a spot on it. “We are somewhere in this area. But because of fog we do not know which way we are facing. Now we recently found an island that's not on this map. You're going to come above decks with me and look at this island. You will tell me where this island is on the map and then you will tell me which way we are going. If you cannot do this, then you will not be treated. Do you understand?”
Chan nodded, her mind racing. In the area Cornwell pointed to she knew there were no islands, or at least no islands that Joshua hadn't found, and those were few in number. Yet there was something that might be mistook for an island. “Let's get up on decks now,” she said. “No point in wasting time.”
It was a short elevator trip up on to the deck, and Chan happily took a breath of fresh air. It was immediately apparent how the Leviathan had gotten lost. A thick fog surrounded the ship, making most navigation impossible. Barely visible in the distance was a bumpy island covered in odd lumps. It looked rocky and unwelcoming.
“Oh, that's Zoey's Island,” Chan said smoothly, lying with the first name that came to mind. “If you want to get back to The Sphere...” Cornwell gave an affirmative grunt. “Then sail towards the island, as close as you can get. That should send you in the right direction.”
“Good, take her back to her cell,” Cornwell ordered the guards.
“What about the sick bay?” Chan asked hopefully as they took her.
Cornwell didn't even have to think. “No. There's no need to waste supplies on vermin like her. Take her back to her cell.”
“What!” Chan yelled in feigned anger. She'd been expecting Cornwell to be lying, but she had to act surprised if the plan forming in her mind was going to work. “You double crossing bastard!” she screamed as they hauled her back. “Damn you! I hope you go to hell!”
Cornwell smiled at her anger. He was delighted that this pathetic savage would die so distressed. After she was put below decks he ordered the helmsmen to sail towards the island. It never occurred to him that she might have been lying. After all, savages were so simple minded elaborate deception was well beyond them.
If he had thought differently, he might not have set sail for certain death.