Fear The Dawn: Chapter 28

It was really true, Banshee's tail trick worked. He could sense the direction of the other ships in the ocean, as though they were sending out some secret signal that he had only just learned to understand. Was there some way to gauge the distance as well, perhaps by the strength of the pulse or the frequency? If only Banshee had told him more, but as it stood he had only barely been able to get it working. He was actually a bit afraid to get out of the water in case he was never able to do it again, but his arms were getting very tired from holding onto the rudder and if he fell into the water he might not be able to get out. He dragged himself back onto the deck and collapsed onto the ground, surprised at how worn out he was. It didn't matter, though, he had something to work with now, he could afford to rest for a moment. For the first time since he had returned, he felt a faint glimmer of hope that didn't immediately fade away.

Of course, he still needed to choose his next course of action carefully. Even though he knew roughly where the other ships were, he didn't know which one belonged to that woman, and it was still unlikely that any of them would want to help him. Would they understand that he had changed? It seemed unlikely, until he had gone away his vision had been so clouded that he barely understood himself or those around him. It had only been through Line's naive good nature that he was able to have a friend, and even Line eventually saw him for what he was. “You're a monster!”, he had declared, the endlessly trusting Line. That was the last he had spoken to the only real friend he ever had. He put that thought out of his mind before it squashed what little optimism he had. He would have to do this alone, that was his path now. With the tail trick and his ship's black sails, he could pass close by the other ships without risking detection. Then all he would have to do was watch carefully until he found which ship belonged to Lapse.

It seemed simple enough. All that remained was to choose which signal to investigate first. Now that he had been out of the water for a while, it was a bit hard to remember the exact position of all four ships. One had definitely been directly ahead of him as he held onto the rudder, the same direction the ship was currently travelling. That seemed as good a choice as any, but tomorrow night he would have to remember to take more accurate measurements. The other ships were moving as well, he would need some way to track their positions so he wouldn't get them mixed up. There was something else, too, he needed some way to observe them, even from atop his sail he could only see so far. A spyglass would work, he had used one in the mornings on occasion, but he had never had any need for one during the nights, until now the precise movements of the other ships had never interested him. Might there be one on the ship somewhere? He still had time before the sun came up, so he decided to take a look around.

He first ventured into his cabin. It was sparsely furnished, containing only a desk, a single chair, a small bed, and a round window on one side. He opened the drawers in the desk, but they were empty, there were no tools to be found here. He took a deep breath. There might be something below deck, if anything there remained intact. He feared he would come upon the very tool he needed only to find it broken beyond repair, dooming his quest to failure before it even began. Yet he had come this far, and learned things he had never known in all the time he had wandered these oceans, he had to try.

Looking upon the destruction below deck once again, he was overcome by conflicting emotions, not knowing whether to cry or to scream. Karma clenched his paws and took a deep breath, pushing the painful emotions down as he pressed onward. The first few rooms below deck were small cabins. Banshee must have used one of these, though he had never cared enough to know which one. They were all equally dusty now, and several had been damaged in his rampage, one had a broken chair lying on the ground, while another had all the drawers pulled out of its dresser and one door no longer closed properly. There was nothing for it but to turn them all upside-down, so he started rummaging through the drawers one by one. The first two rooms held nothing, they had likely never been used by anyone. In the third room he came across something interesting, a little black bottle in one of the drawers. “What's this?”, he wondered, unscrewing the cap and dipping a claw inside the bottle. It came back covered in some kind of sticky black liquid, much the same colour as his fur, and when he cleaned it off on the dresser it left a neat-looking black mark. He put the bottle back where he found it. The rest of the drawers were empty. He turned his attention to the bed. It was terribly dusty, so he smacked the fabric with his paws to clear the dust, and when he did so, a cloud of white hairs puffed up into the air. There was no mistaking it, this must have been her cabin. He took a quick look under the bed, but there was nothing under there. He was about to leave when he noticed the pillow seemed to be a bit lumpy. He lifted it up, and was astonished to find a small silver spyglass.
Why did she have this? Had she been trying to find Line? That must have been it. He walked over to the little window and peered out of it, as she had likely done, looking for her friend. “I'll make good use of it”, he said, to no one in particular, taking the spyglass and replacing the pillow. He was not sorry to leave that place, as he returned to the deck he finally felt like he could breathe again.

He climbed up to his perch at the base of the dark sail. With the spyglass in his paw, he could see for leagues, but none could spot him, camouflaged against the sail. “I'm ready”, he thought, eyeing the rising sun on the distant horizon. He couldn't risk the spyglass dropping to the deck when he went away, so he safely stored it inside the desk in his cabin before heading back to the deck to meet the morning.


What terrors does the morning hold for me this time?”
It was noisy. He was sitting down, but he could hear a lot of strangers shuffling about, a cacophony of footsteps and scraping metal assaulted his ears. He opened his eyes and knew where he was instantly.
All right, class, I hope you've all prepared for today's final exam”, the stranger at the front of the room announced cheerfully. There was a collective groan from all of the people in the giant room, including Karma. Even before he went away he had hated these mornings, they were terribly dull. He looked down at the paper in front of him, as always it was completely incomprehensible, a mixture of nonsensical pictures and scribbles he didn't understand.
Oh no”, someone said from behind him, “I never studied any of this!”. Karma rolled his eyes.
No talking”, the man at the front of the room said. “We will be starting in a moment. Please make sure to put all of your bags behind your desks, and we will begin on my signal.”
No”, Karma replied, defiantly.
No?”, the stranger at the front repeated quizzically.
Karma stood up from his desk. “I'm far too busy to waste my time here. It's a big world out there, and there's important work to be done. The wind is calling for me, and I must answer. Good luck with your... 'Calculus', whatever that is.”
There was a great round of applause from the strangers in the room as he got up to leave. He gestured to them as he walked out as the man at the front tried to silence them to no avail. It actually felt kind of nice, to see them all salute him as he walked out. If only he had realized that sooner.
It's the start of a new era”, he thought to himself as he left that place behind. He climbed back up to his ship and took his rightful place upon the sail as the world of the strangers faded away into the night.

It was still very early in the evening, he'd have plenty of time to try to seek out the other ships tonight. So far the waters remained still out to the horizon, but they were out there, and he'd find them. Perhaps after he apologized to that woman he could become someone the strangers would revere rather than hate. “You'd like that, wouldn't you?”, he thought, thinking of Banshee. He had always been so cruel to her, but now it seemed like she probably had the right idea about a lot of things. If she could talk, things might have been very different. “Or maybe they'd have been exactly the same”, he remembered, grimly. He could scarcely believe how he had acted before, he wanted to believe he was a different person now, but every now and then he could feel the part of him that had been the Destroyer lurking deep within his consciousness, and that scared him more than anything. “It's just something I'll have to learn to live with.”

He decided to check the locations of the other ships again to take his mind off of his past and make sure he was still on the right course. He felt a bit apprehensive at first, part of him was still worried that he wouldn't be able to make it work again, but he needn't have worried. Mere moments after he climbed down to the rudder and dipped his tail in the water he began to feel that same pulsing sensation again, like waves running through his tail. He closed his eyes to focus on the source of those waves.
One pulse was coming through the rudder, the one he had followed last time. One was coming from his right side, perpendicular to his current course. Another was coming from behind, and a bit to the left. One, two, three, pulsing steadily in the night.
...Only three. Last night there had been four!
Maybe he was just counting wrong, two of them might be close together, or one might be weaker than the others. He shut his eyes harder and tried to clear all other thoughts out of his mind. One, two three. One, two, three. Again and again, one, two, three. There was no mistaking it, there were only three of them tonight. “Which one is missing?!”, he demanded of himself, wracking his brain, but he was new to this and he hadn't been paying much attention to where they were last night. It never even crossed his mind that one of them might suddenly disappear. Was it possible that they could just stop sending that signal, to hide themselves?
Despite his efforts to clear his mind of other thoughts, a long-buried memory drifted back to him.
I can't hear, but when I put my tail in the water and close my eyes... I can feel the other ships in the sea. But his ship is gone now. Gone forever!”
That's right, the disappearance of Line's signal was how Banshee knew he was gone, and she knew a lot more about this than he did. This was very bad. He had to figure out which one wasn't there.
Think”, he told himself. “Think back to last night. Remember.”
There were four pulses. One was straight in front of him. There had probably been one of to the right side, too. Then there were two more... somewhere. Unfortunately, unbidden memories were obscuring his vision. He still remembered the first time he had tried this, when Banshee had thrown herself into the sea. He remembered Line, and how Banshee's eyes had lit up to see him, and how broken she had been after he had gone. He remembered a panther, skulking through the woods, looking for revenge against the world, and a stupid man who had only realized too late whom his actions had hurt. He sat there, desperately trying to recall where he had felt those pulses until his arms grew tired and threatened to drop him into the sea, but he just didn't have it. It had slipped through his mind, much like the girl from the other world, carried away by the endless waves. Yet he knew if he let it get away now, he would never find it again.
I can't do it!”, he cried in anguish, his grip on the rudder beginning to slip. “I can't do this all on my own!”
His right paw dropped off the side. He quickly threw his left arm over the top and dangled there, in the water up to his waist now. There was nothing more he could do, he had to get out now or it would be the end of him. He tried to lift his leg, but he couldn't get it high enough to get a foothold. A sense of panic started to come over him as he realized that he might not be able to get back on the ship.
Then it happened. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth with exertion, and clear as the stars in the sky the fourth pulse shot through his body. It was only there for an instant, and then it was gone, but it didn't matter, he couldn't forget it now. It was behind him and to the right by about fifteen degrees. Somehow he managed to dig his claws into the wood on the side of the ship and lift his leg over the rudder, and that was enough to drag himself on top of it. He had to rest there a while, but his legs still had enough strength to stand, and he eventually managed to pull himself back onto the deck. He forced himself to crawl over to the helm and turn the ship about to face the missing signal.
Thanks again”, he told the girl from the other world as the ship slowly began to cruise towards its new destination. For just a moment when the signal appeared he thought he had even heard her voice, but perhaps it was all in his mind.

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