What Lies Beyond: Chapter 3

The knock on the door brought Corsair back to his senses. Startled, he slammed his hands down on the table, and started to stand up. Before he could answer it the door swung open, and Cross, Sabre, and a host of others filed in and sat down at his table.

I assume you know why we are all gathered here?”, said a woman Corsair did not know. There were assorted murmurs from his crew. The woman gestured to the wall behind him, where a complex map with a series of black dots was displayed. “The Cartwright Gang has gotten much bolder as of late”, she continued. “They’ve hit all of the places marked on this map in the last month”.
We have to crush them!” volunteered Sabre. Corsair doubted she knew any more about what was going on than he did, but she was always in favour of the aggressive approach.
Exactly right, lieutenant,” replied the woman, “but we haven’t been able to precisely determine their next target yet. We’ve narrowed it down to the warehouse on fourth street, and the factory on twelfth street”. She gestured to Sabre: “for your initiative, lieutenant, I’ll give you command of the factory. The captain and I will be in charge of the warehouse”. Sabre scowled as the woman turned to Corsair. “Choose your best men, this will be a difficult job”.
Corsair poked Cross, and whispered “go with Sabre. You deserve a break this time”. He nodded, and most of the rest of Corsair’s crew followed Sabre out the door. Soon Pegleg, Bungie, Archer, and the woman were the only ones left in the small office. “A small group for a delicate job”, she said smugly, and she led the four of them out the door into the brightly-lit hallway beyond.

Tall windows lined the hallway on either side, and various men and women were dashing about or ruffling through desks in the rooms beyond. Corsair glanced briefly at them as they walked along, but their pace afforded him only a quick look. Everyone was so busy, he thought, his own crew was rarely so productive. The woman continued to detail their mission as they walked: “We’ll need to remain well-hidden”, she said “the Cartwright Gang will high-tail it at the first sign of trouble, and who knows when we’ll get another chance.” Corsair wasn’t paying much attention, though, he was pretty confident they would find what they were looking for, those who stuck close to the stranger usually did. He was paying more attention to the woman herself, and trying to commit her appearance to memory: She was tall, thin, and smartly dressed, with brown hair and a blue cap. Actually, they all had one, he just hadn’t noticed he was wearing it until now. He pinched the brim of his hat between his fingers to adjust it, and they came to a big set of doors at the end of the hallway. Outside, the sky was grey and cloudy. Bushes lined the steps leading down from the doors on either side, and the woman led them to a lot filled with metallic vehicles sporting a two-tone colour scheme. “You’re with me, captain”, she said, gesturing towards a vehicle that was painted differently from the others. “Let’s roll”.

I hope we have better luck today,” the woman went on, fiddling with the wheel in front of her as she talked, “the commissioner’s been getting very impatient with the lack of results. Do you think I made the right choice, giving the lieutenant the command of the warehouse?” Corsair was looking out the window, watching a variety of tall buildings go by and wondering what was inside them.
She has good skills, though, I have faith in her”, the woman continued, with no pause whatsoever. “And besides, I think the factory is the more likely target. Her job should be an easy one”. Corsair did not think he had even spoken to the woman yet, but she didn’t seem to notice, she was obviously very wrapped up in her work. Corsair turned to look at her again. She wore a black shirt under her jacket, and she had a red medal pinned to her chest. Her face was long and thin, with a small nose and mouth. “We’re almost there”, she said, never taking her eyes off the path in front of her. He leaned forward to try to get a look into her eyes, but he had trouble making out what colour they were. They might have been grey, or blue, or even green. It was always difficult to see into a stranger’s eyes, that was one of the ways you could identify them if you thought to look. The vehicle came to a sudden stop, throwing him forward a little. “We’re here”, she said, and they stepped outside.

In front of them stood a giant brown building with a large metal door at the front. “Take up your position”, she said to him, in a hushed voice, and gestured towards some bushes to the side of the building as she darted off in the opposite direction. Corsair quickly surveyed the area: He saw Pegleg hidden in another bush, but there was no sign of the others or the vehicle they had taken. He squatted down behind a bush and drew the gun from his belt. No sooner had he done so than another, larger vehicle pulled up to the building. A group of men in dark clothes, probably a half dozen or so, climbed out. They skulked their way across the lot to the door and lifted it up, the two in the back checking about nervously. Once they had all gone inside, Corsair saw a hand gesture towards the door from a bush on the other side. Corsair and the stranger crept up to opposite sides of the giant door, and she held up three fingers. He nodded, and as she lowered the last finger, Corsair quickly ducked into the building, his gun at the ready...

...And found nothing. They were in a large, mostly empty room, with no other exits, and they were completely alone. “Not here?!”, cried the woman, “I was sure it was this one!”. Corsair quickly turned around and looked back out the door. Sure enough, the other vehicle was no longer there, and when he turned back around, the room was dark and the stranger was nowhere in sight. Corsair lowered his gun and walked out of the building. The sky was dark now, and he could no longer see the vehicle they had arrived in. He quickly looked about, and saw that to the left of the building was an inlet. He fired his gun in the air, and in the distance, he could just barely make out the white sail of his ship, and he began to walk towards it along the shore. He took one last look back at the building, but the entire area was dark and deserted, and his gun and the hat he had worn crumbled to dust and blew away right before his eyes. He heard the sound of the ladder being thrown to him, and he grasped onto it and began to climb.

Sabre was waiting for him at the top, leaning over the edge and peering down at him as he climbed the ladder. One glance was all it took to tell she was mad – her paws were folded across her chest, her tail twitched back and forth, and the look she gave Corsair could have pierced steel. “You didn’t miss anything,” he said, before she could start. “Is everyone back?”
Yes”, she growled, putting her paws on the top of the ladder to block him from climbing up, “you’re the last. You’re ALWAYS the last. Why is it always you?”
He gently pushed her away and climbed back on to the ship. “Because I’m the captain.” Corsair looked up, into the night sky. “We don’t have time to argue”, he continued, quickly, “we’re almost where we need to go”.
You should have sent me in your place.” Sabre went on, not willing to let the issue drop. “You could have said ‘no, I’ll lead the factory, she’ll go with you’, particularly after what happened yesterday. But you never do. You always have to be in charge”.
Corsair tried to duck around her, but she didn't let him past her. He threw up his paws. “Sabre, I’m fine now. If you really want to help me, you can fetch my journal and quill from my cabin. I’ll write my journal on the deck tonight.”
Sabre narrowed her eyes, and she whapped Corsair with her tail as she turned to go, but she did as he asked. Corsair was already at the helm when she returned with the journal, and she left quickly afterward. Paying her no heed, he intently scanned the dark waters ahead, expecting to come upon Sister’s ship at any moment. There was something in the air tonight, a kind of tense atmosphere that cloaked the ship in a sense of expectation. Corsair's tail flicked back and forth, he could feel that something was about to happen.

As it turned out, he had plenty of time to fill in his journal. Ordinarily, he would have been quite pleased with himself for remembering to note the details, but tonight he was just glad to get it out of the way. He scanned the seas carefully for any sign of a ship, but found nothing. He knew he had reached the place where they had last met, and he brought Cross up to the helm to confirm it, but there was nothing but calm, still waters in every direction. He spun the ship around and circled the area, hoping to come across something, yet as they sailed on it only became more and more evident that they were alone.

Feeling defeated, Corsair slumped over the ship’s wheel. He thought back upon his conversation with Captain Lay. Had Sister truly not made it back? Even at the time, he had not been sure – Sister was so gentle and delicate, when he thought of all of the close scrapes he had been through, he wondered how she would have fared in his place, but he had certainly not wanted to tell her that. “We just have to be patient and hope she comes back safe and sound”, Pack had said. Corsair buried his face in his paws, never before had he felt so helpless. The wheel shifted under the weight of his body, but he did not care. What difference did it make where he went now? He looked up at the night sky. The air felt very heavy now, almost as though it was pressing down upon him, grinding him into the deck.

But suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something on the horizon. He stood up immediately, and wheeled the ship around to face the distant object. “Full speed ahead!” he shouted to his crew, and as the ship began to close the distance, many of them came on deck, their eyes all focused on the same thing, straining to make out what it was.

It was Corsair who first realized something was wrong. It was a ship, all right, but Corsair was able make out the ship’s outline long before he could see its sails. As the sun began to rise in the distance, he finally saw the ship for what it was: A long, skinny craft, with three tall sails as dark as night itself. “The Black Ship!” cried out many voices from his crew, each more dismayed than the last.
We’re intercepting it!” Corsair announced, gripping the wheel tightly. It couldn’t be a coincidence; the Black Ship appearing here, where Sister had gone missing. No one had ever made contact with the Black Ship before or knew who captained it, but today Corsair was going to find out. “Be patient and hope”, he laughed to himself. He was the master of his own destiny. The Black Ship sailed onward towards the rising sun, with Corsair’s ship in close pursuit.


Corsair’s vision was blurred from staring into the light for too long. He rubbed his eyes, and as his sight returned he found he was staring not at the sun, but at a bright light hanging from the ceiling of a tall room. It was eerily quiet, but when he glanced around the room he saw that he was not alone. There were many people sitting on wooden benches in the tall white room, and Corsair did not recognize any of them. They did not seem to know him either, none of the people in the room paid him the slightest attention. A few were fidgeting or talking amongst themselves in hushed voices, but most were sitting quietly, their eyes focused on the double doors at the end of the room. Corsair knew something was coming that would break the silence, but waiting made him uncomfortable. He crossed his legs and fixed his eyes on the doors.

But the event didn't come. No one went in or came out from those doors. Corsair saw a man stand up and walk around the room, but then he took his seat again, and the stillness returned. Corsair could hardly stand it, he shifted restlessly around on the bench, and continued to survey the room, waiting for something, anything, to happen. “I’m waiting for Sister”, he suddenly realized. It was exactly as Pack had said – Despite all of his efforts, he could do nothing, except wait, and hope. Suddenly, he felt powerless and afraid in a way he had never felt before. Part of him felt that he should stand up and force his way through those doors, but he could not bring himself to do so. Instead, he simply sat there, waiting apprehensively.

At last, the doors opened, and a dark-skinned man in a white robe stepped out. “McDougal”, he called, in a deep voice. Corsair was about to stand up, but a group of strangers had already crowded around the man in the robe. He heard a woman's anguished cry, and there was a load crash as a man struck the wall beside the door, leaving a little hole in it. The man in the robe seemed unsurprised by this, he merely placed one hand on the man's shoulder and he started sobbing into his robe. He said something to the sobbing man that Corsair could not hear, and he released him. The dark-skinned man turned about to take the strangers into through the doors, and Corsair caught his eyes just long enough to see that they were yellow, like his own. The doors swung shut behind them and closed with a soft click, and with that the room was silent again.

Puzzled, Corsair took another look around the room. Those who remained in the room seemed unmoved by the recent commotion, they continued to sit and stare at the doors as they had before. However, it seemed to Corsair that there were fewer now than there had been earlier. The lights also seemed a bit dimmer, and he thought he felt a slight draft in the air. He folded his arms and returned his attention to the doors, wondering if he was imagining things. After a short while, the doors swung open again, and the same dark-skinned man stepped out. This time he seemed to be in a hurry, and he headed straight for Corsair. “You shouldn’t still be here!” he said, a hint of urgency in his deep voice. Suddenly, Corsair felt a sharp pain as the man grabbed him roughly by the arm and pulled him to his feet. He began walking briskly towards the doors, half-dragging Corsair as he went. As they reached the doors, Corsair took a quick look back into the room and saw it was empty, and the lights had nearly gone out. The man in the robe pushed the doors open and pulled Corsair through into the darkness beyond.


Beyond the door, there was nothing at all. Not just simple emptiness, he was used to that well enough, but a profound nothingness that consumed everything. He found himself unable to see, hear, or feel, and even his thoughts took leave of him, leaving only his awareness of the lack of sensation. The dark-skinned man was gone, or perhaps he was right there with him, Corsair had no way of knowing. In the darkness, there was only his consciousness, floating through an endless sea of space and time.

For how long it lasted he could not possibly say, but in the end it was the waves that called him back. The gentle rise and flow of the sea came softly to his ears, but he recognized it instantly, like the voice of an old friend. His thoughts filtered back to him one by one, and he remembered the ship, the ocean, his friends, and finally, himself.

Corsair opened his eyes, and found that he was standing at the helm of his ship, staring out across the dark ocean. Dazed, he placed his paw on the ship’s railing to steady himself, but a sharp pain shot through his arm when he leaned upon it. He placed his other paw on the spot where the man had grabbed it, and when he removed it the pad was streaked with red. He stared at it incredulously as he tried to piece together the events he had just been through. He recalled the tall room, and the dark-skinned man, and the distraught people, and… the Black Ship! He had been pursuing it, but his ship was no longer moving, and the Black Ship was nowhere in sight. “What happened to the Black Ship?!” he demanded to no one in particular, slamming his paw on the railing, which instantly made his arm hurt again and he quickly regretted it.
Are you finally back?” came Sabre’s voice from behind him, “Took you long enough. You’re going to want to see this.”
Corsair turned around to face her, but in the process he caught sight of another ship with a familiar white sail stationed off the starboard side of the ship.
We found it drifting-“ she started to say, but Corsair was already halfway across the boarding plank.

Corsair leapt onto the deck of Sister’s ship and quickly surveyed his surroundings, but there was no one in sight. He started off towards the helm when Cross appeared from below deck: “It’s all the same down there- Corsair! You’re back!” His head drooped. “I've never seen anything like this...” Apprehensively, Corsair paced slowly towards the helm of the ship. He saw Sister immediately, her body slumped over the ship’s wheel, eyes still closed. Gently, he lifted her off the wheel and sat on the deck with her body in his arms.

No comments:

Post a Comment