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The Pilot – Episode 2

Ardene had discovered sabotage on the hull of their skimmer. The smooth, bolted metal surface was marred by clumsy scrapes and scratches, evidence that the area had been hastily damaged. While they might have normally gone to the skimmer-dock’s supervisor to report the crime a wave of paranoia washed over Ardene’s thoughts; it could be anybody in the hangar. It could be anybody who’d visited the hangar. But why? Wracking their mind for an answer Ardene flipped through their equipment manifests, shipping logs, anything that might present even a shred of evidence. When it dawned on them that they didn’t need to be looking at the past, but rather the future the breadth of suspicion quickly became narrower; in a day’s time Ardene was scheduled to fly across the gap between Syntonisma and the Nexus. Without the protective outer hull of their vessel possession would certainly be imminent. A spirit, on Nexus of all places, right through the hangar doors.

This wasn’t unheard of. Extremists, the disillusioned and those who simply enjoy causing pain have poked holes in the domes ever since they were constructed, but this was personal. Ardene swallowed whatever misgivings they might have, and came to the foreman with the news. A large, older woman with skin striped like a tiger was there to greet the ace pilot. Her name was Caraway, and Ardene told her everything. Caraway expressed her shock and anger, and the two of them immediately set upon brainstorming their suspicions. While no real answers could be found, drink and conspiracy kept the two occupied deep into the night.

The very next day Ardene was scheduled to fly. Caraway double checked, but they were insistent, especially after the repairs to their skimmer were double checked by the foreman herself. Ardene donned their flight goggles, and carefully manipulated the controls to check the maneuverability of the vessels’ gossamer blue wings. Everything was in order, and so with a deep breath and a signal to the outside the mystical shield around the dock port was opened, just wide enough for a skimmer. With expert precision the vessel lifted and flew through the opening only to drop once it left the very edge of the dock. Gossamer wings unfurled with the sound of suddenly full cloth, buffeted by the powerful winds above the clouds.

The sky that day was clear. While there was no need the collection tendrils that Ardene used to gather fresh water were out. A few extra coins never hurt. Below the clouds where these tendrils skimmed, though, was a familiar off-green mist which with close inspection revealed faces, bodies and more within it’s shapes. The haunted surface of the world, beneath his ship packed claustrophobic with supplies.

The ride was not very long, about five minutes of finding an air current and five more maneuvering towards the Nexus. As they approached Ardene was sure to call in to the dock. They were expected, there were no issues, really. Everything was proceeding as it should; the shielding was opened just wide enough for their skimmer, the landing area was cleared, and dockworkers hurried out of the way, either dragging their tasks with them or dropping them where they were for the moment. Stepping out of their skimmer Ardene made the perfunctory greetings and signed the manifest so that their ship could be unloaded. That’s when they saw her. Margot was standing at the very back of the hangar, her arms crossed as if in expectation. She was already leaving though, and while Ardene only caught a glimpse of her expression it seemed… disappointed.

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