Chapter 2

As dusk fell over the frontier of the Tangled Shore, the salvage crew assembled their shelters in a loose circle around the downed Ketch. The Dregs begrudgingly established guard posts on overlooks surrounding the camp, with nighttime sentry rotations to match, and the crew's scrap-work Shank orbited the site on alarm mode.

Savek seethed as she and the other Dregs dug out their guard posts. These precautions were meant to deter competing parties from biting the crew's claim, but it was a waste of energy this far out. The foreboding quiet would betray any approaching Pikes.

Once camp was established, each crew member received an Ether ration commensurate with their station. Savek tried not to hunger as she watched Kosis inhale three full portions of the life-giving essence; more than twice her own share. The Spider had given them just two tanks—partly as a cost-saving measure, and partly as an incentive to get the job done quickly.

Later that night, a crewmate woke Savek from her deep slumber. "You're late. Northwestern posting. Two-cycle shift," the Dreg grumbled. Savek clicked her mandibles in irritation and trudged wearily into the deep violet gloaming of the Shore.

Savek was nestled in her dugout at the top of a wide dune, trying not to fall back asleep, when she heard a faint whisper. An urgent, familiar call from the far side of the dune, away from camp. Savek bolted upright. Maybe someone wandered away from camp. Or maybe, she thought subversively, someone secured a portion of Ether and needs an accomplice. The latter possibility sent her scuttling down the dune.

When she reached the bottom of the slope, she found herself alone. Yet the beckoning whisper persisted, voluminous as an explosion and gentle as a caress. It came from a rocky cave no larger than Servitor.

Savek drew her rusted Shock Pistol, clicked on her light, and peered into the cave. There, she saw it: the small black tower, poking gently out of the ground, like a babe in swaddling.