Chapter 2

This page is blighted with mold and the imprint of a memory…

The words seep experience into your open mind…


Our disheveled Thresher rattles through lean Nessian atmosphere. Calus's words ring in my ears over the storm-rush of reentry: "The ship is yours to claim."

Most of the seats in the drop-hold are empty. A Psion officer named Qinziq sits across from me. Her eye hasn't left me since she boarded. To my right, a craggy Cabal Centurion, complete with demolition satchels and Projection Rifle, adjusts the connectors on his pressure suit. He'd been assigned to make sure none of the other Cabal try to kill me. Seems news of my command had rendered a number of the crew indignant.

I prod first: "I can't imagine hiding a ship from the Legion was easy on Nessus. To be honest, I'm surprised they haven't tried to storm the Leviathan."

"They would die," grumbles the Centurion. "Bad strategy."

"What does it matter? Calus saw fit to give you a ship, Katabasis." My Ghost, Gilgamesh, glares at me.

Qinziq sneers and leans forward. Her voice seethes from her helmet. "The Legion is stirred by Caiatl's rousing, Human…" I recognize the tinge of malice in her address. "…and the fall of Torobatl. She sends heralds of her fleet. Ships come and go without stories recorded. We pass unnoticed for some time."

The brute bows his head.

"First I'm hearing of it. You're saying they won't notice this ship taking off?" I ask.

"For some time," Gilly quotes the Psion.

"But normally they would… because it's a Legion ship, and you've set me up to commit thievery?"

"All Cabal ships belong to Calus," the Centurion growls. "And Qinziq does not answer to you."

"Right." My shoulders slump forward, head resting in my hands, as the Thresher touches down. We disembark onto prickly milk-rich soil, turning away from the sun as the deep green sky slowly bleeds out. A congested Cabal shipyard glows in the distance against the crest of dark riding the horizon.

"You are Katabasis." The Cabal is speaking to me. He gestures to himself. "Bahr'Toran."

"You're my skull-cracker." I point to my Ghost. "Name's Gilgamesh, or Gilly."

Bahr'Toran considers for a moment and nods. "I do that. But you will need to know my name if we find battle."

"I'm not looking to have a shootout with an entire base. I think the plan is more a quiet reappropriation of goods, Bahto."

"I do not like that."

"Gilly's didn't take at first, but time wears ya down."

Gilly nods to Bahto, who nods back with a grunt and begins walking. We follow him across the bluffs toward the yard, into flatland desolace and sunless gloom.

The shipyard is a massive pulverized flat of rough tarmac and shanty barracks surrounded by a barrier fence. It overflows with craft ranging across eras of the Cabal Empire. On the far end of the strip, Gilly spots Arc-lights shining. A figure draped in azure raiment stands above a throng of Cabal, drawing attention like thunder. Whatever he's saying, they believe it. Gilly catches a few words. It's the same talk you hear anywhere else someone's been forgotten: blame, looking for a hole to fester in; wrestling at the edges with tepid hope; at risk of falling back down into the past.

FRENETIC SCRAWL INKED IN THE MARGIN READS: Maintenance hall off the cargo bay door. Cozy spot floor-side.